Cybersecurity for small business websites

All too often the media shares stories of large organisations and companies that have been hacked through their website; stealing customer data and private information that can be extremely damaging both in the short term and the long run. The unfortunate truth however is that it’s not just these large-scale companies that are being targeted. Small businesses are just as likely to be targeted – we’re just far less likely to hear about it.

Recovering from a security breach is expensive and can be catastrophic for a small business without the necessary cybersecurity measures in place. Read on for some of the most basic ways you can protect your site and your business from harm.

Keep your domain information private

If a hacker has access to your name, your email address or even your mailing address, they can use this information to hack into your website or worse. The more personal information they can collect about you, the easier their job is, and you could find yourself facing a case of stalking or identity theft. Employ domain privacy to shield all your personal details from hackers and identity thieves.

Invest in an SSL certificate

Many internet users now will not trust any website without an SSL certificate in the browser bar, and we know Google relies heavily on SSL certification for a good ranking. However, this isn’t just a good investment for business – it also protects your site from hackers by encrypting all the data stored on it. All of our hosting packages come with free SSL certificates as standard!

Automatic backups

One of the most damaging ways a hacker can destroy your business is to crash your entire website or cause such problems that customers can no longer access your site.

With an automatic backup, you can work safe in the knowledge that should anything happen, you know you have everything you need to get the site up and running again quickly and easily. Ensuring that the automatic backup updates itself on a daily basis is key to being able to restore as recent a version as possible should it become necessary.

Malware scans and removals

It sounds like something out of Doctor Who, but cybercriminals are now a very real threat to small businesses that work online. With access to coding that can steal data and allow access to your site at the click of a few buttons, cybercriminals can attack a site before you even realise it’s happening. That’s why automatic malware scans are so vital.

These malware scans perform regular automated scans on your entire site; identifying and removing any potential threats to your security. By investing in one of these, you can be sure that any vulnerable areas will be identified and fixed before a hacker can exploit them.

Domain renewals

Another thing worth investing in simply because it can be done automatically, is domain renewal. After an allotted period of time, your domain will come up for renewal and if you don’t act quickly you can lose control of your business domain name. Not only is this bad for business, but it also leaves you expired domain open for exploitation and unregistered access, whereby any cybercriminal could find out yours and your customers personal data and email addresses.

This can be prevented with automatic domain renewal – an easy way to register your domain name so that when the time comes for renewal, your site will do so automatically. This can generally be managed through the billing information on your domain registration account.

Automatic updates

Staying up to date is one of the best ways to ensure fool proof security, not least because it ensures your cybersecurity is working to its newest and most effective version. Many updates that become available have been created to patch up the flaws left open in an old version, and so neglecting to update with them can mean that your site is still open to those flaws. And once a hacker gets in, it’s too late.

By setting up your WordPress and plugins to update automatically, you will be protected with the latest versions without even having to think about it.

Check your passwords

Creating a password is often a toss up between choosing something easy to remember, and choosing something that no one will ever guess – but that you might well forget. Trust us, the latter is much safer.

It’s important that not only you but anyone with access to your site uses a secure and unique password, as hackers can find a different way into the site even if your own password is super secure.

Login Forms

If your site includes a feature where customers can log in to their own accounts, you’re at risk of letting in a bot. These cyber bots are designed by hackers to try multitudes of potential login credentials until they strike gold with one that works; allowing them into your site where they can release malware to damage the business from the inside.

By adding protection layers to your login forms, this should be avoidable. Things like the reCAPTCHA tools we see all the time – where the login asks you to identify all the images with one thing in common – are good examples, as automated bots are unable to identify these. It’s also worth enabling a tool that gives customers a set amount of login attempts before they become locked out, as this annihilates the potential for trying multiple logins until one works.

These ideas are just some of the basis in cybersecurity, but they will ensure increased safety for both your business and your customers. And we think that’s an investment worth entertaining.

How to earn more with a side hustle!

Most commonly known as the ‘side hustle’ there is a distinct rise in the number of people who are taking on a secondary business to supplement their salary and open up their professional opportunities to new avenues and adventures.

For many of these business-savvy individuals, what starts as a side hustle can often become their primary passion and main working focus. So, what makes for a successful side hustle and how can you make it work for you?

What makes a side hustle successful?

Like many areas of business, there is no exact formula to making something work. Each business is individual, with its own recipe for success and growth. Obviously, time management is key when working a traditional job and a side hustle, and the more time you are able to channel into your secondary business – the more successful it will likely be.

The benefit of a side hustle is that it isn’t your main source of income (at least, not yet), and so you are free to give it as much time and attention as you wish. Once you’ve decided how much of your life will be run by the side hustle, there are a few things you can do to maximise your success.

Trial and Error

The first thing to do is ensure that you’re spending your time on something worthwhile. Whether it’s a product or a service that you’re offering, encourage friends and family to be your guinea-pigs and provide constructive feedback, so that you don’t end up spending your time on something that will become a flop.

Keep it on the side

It’s important not to jump in too quick. You may be loving the work you get on the side, and may think that the more time you give it the more it will grow. But the reality is, it’s unlikely you will be able to switch your side hustle from a small idea to a full time job overnight, and so giving up on your day job would be a risk too far. Ensure you’re still channelling plenty of energy and enthusiasm into your day job, as it can be easy to lose motivation and start turning in bad work once your priorities shift. Your day job is still important – both financially and professionally – and you don’t want to lose the great reputation you’ve spent your career building.

Work-Life balance

The age-old work life balance is something some people really struggle to entertain, yet it is so important to your own wellbeing. Make sure that, even with your side hustle, you’re still allowing yourself adequate time for rest and personal activities.

Invest in what’s important

Don’t just throw money at your new venture in the hope that it will delivery a good return. Spend your money on what’s important – whether it be a website or a physical workspace in which to conduct your side hustle. Buying a brand-new laptop if you’ve already got one, when you don’t yet know the value or anticipated success of your side hustle, is unwise and likely a waste of money.

Having said that, ensuring you have the right tools to maximise your success is important, and you should think carefully about which tools you need to progress your side hustle forwards in a positive direction. Do you need a website? Would an app help you to manage your time and keep a handle on the tasks that need completing? These are questions only you can answer.

Enjoy it!

If you’re going to be spending much of your spare time on a side hustle, make sure it’s something you enjoy doing and that you are passionate about. Motivation is everything when it comes to a side hustle, and so choosing to progress with something you enjoy is vital.

Set goals

Set yourself small and large goals and make sure you keep track of them. So many people write themselves checklists and goals, only to lose the paper they wrote them on and forget about them entirely. There is no point in having goals if you aren’t going to check in with them, so use it as an opportunity to start small and work your way up – and who know, maybe one day you’ll look back and be proud of all the goals you’ve achieved!

Whether your primary reason for starting a side hustle was to earn some more money or to engage in one of your passions, a side hustle can be a great way to use your time to both a personal and financial advantage. Pick something you enjoy and that you can envision growing – after all, there’s a chance that one day this may become your sole working commitment, and so you want to make sure it is as successful as it can be!

Are you looking for a side hustle? If so, why not check out our affiliate program. We pay a very generous commission of 50% recurring for each referred client that signs up and you earn every month they remain a customer of ours!  Click here to find out more.

Unpicking SEO: How to boost your rankings

SEO is one of those buzz-words that floats around the online world, without much understanding behind it. Individuals claiming to be SEO experts will constantly inundate your inbox with offers to optimise your SEO and perform SEO checks – but what does it all mean?

The purpose of SEO is to make sure your website stands out for the powers of a search engine. Often what the search engine is looking for doesn’t even make complete sense to us, but we do it because it leads to good “SEO”. This guide to unpicking SEO is designed to simply help your website rank a little higher and perform a little better, without the need for outsourced experts and lengthy reviews.

Pick your Keywords and stick to them

When using WordPress, there are special plugins and accessories that have been created just to make your SEO life easier – use them. Yoast SEO is one of the best; rating your posts according to how well they have been written in light of your SEO targets. Yoast is a content creaters dream, engaging one simple tool that will change the way you write. It allows you to pick a keyword and it makes sure you stick to it.

By telling Yoast what the focus of your post is, in one word, the plugin will make sure everything you create is working to your advantage – from the post heading to the content body and image captions. Good SEO means tying everything together to one common focus, and Yoast makes absolutely sure that is what you do.

Customise the web address

How many times have you clicked through to a blog and wanted to send it to someone else, only to see that the link is a random string of numbers and characters that takes up half a text message? Not only is it annoying, but it looks unprofessional and means you are automatically rendering your article unlikely to be shared on the likes of LinkedIn and other social media.

Editing the web address is easy in WordPress, and by making sure that focus keyword we discussed is also in the web URL, your SEO will be even better – not to mention it will look better and allow readers to understand exactly what the post is about before they start to read it.

Divide your content into different categories

The best bloggers out there know how to divide their work into sub-divisions and categories; not only to make navigation easier for their readers, but also to improve SEO for your site. Search engines trawl through your content to assign an SEO rating – why not make it easy for them by dividing the content up and doing half the work for them?

Get rid of the junk

If you have posts that you know aren’t good, or duplicated content that you copied from years ago because you had no new inspiration last month, get rid of it. If you don’t want to permanently delete it, then at least set the page to ‘no index’ so that they cannot be found by the search engines, as these pages are likely harming your SEO and making search engines think your website is full of junk.

Make the images smaller

Large pictures can completely dwarf a great website, no matter how spectacular the content is, simply by damaging your load time. A slow load time means a badly ranked site in the eyes of a search engine, and they will subsequently be unlikely to position your site high up in their options for visitors. By reducing the size of your images, you will see a drastic change in the load time for your site, which will translate into better SEO ranking and more website visitors.

All the changes mentioned in this post are designed to be quick and easy fixes to help your SEO perform better. Everything you create no longer simply needs to satisfy your end reader – search engines are your biggest judge, and if you don’t cater for their requirements then it’s likely that your website won’t even be found by the desired target audience. Give yourself the best possible start by engaging these tips from the word go, and watch the visitors flock to your website.

The building blocks of a website

Building your own website has never been easier. With the tools now available, building a website today is easier than the building blocks we played with as children – with far fewer instruction manuals and trip hazards.

Whether it’s a small marketing site for your business, a blogging hub or an ecommerce online shop, we’ve compiled a list of the tips and tools you need to employ to safely build a website of your own.

Let’s start with the set up – what to do before the building begins.

The Foundation

First up you need to determine what route your website creation is going to take – on the assumption that starting from scratch is not the best way forward (unless of course you are a technology whizz in which case this post probably isn’t for you!) The most obvious route is to start with a Content Management System or website building tool – populating templates with the relevant content and images of your choice.

By Content Management System (CMS) we tend to mean WordPress, so your choice here is between WordPress and an alternative website builder. WordPress is responsible for over 30% of all the websites currently available in the world, showcasing its popularity and ease of use. After all, if 30% of the website population can use it, I’m sure you can too. WordPress is ideal for everything from small blogs to large online publications and even online stores – all in a highly customisable and professional format.

If customisable and flexible isn’t what you’re looking for however, a website builder is the best option. These tend to follow similar designs and patterns and allow the user to input their relevant information easily and quickly. It’s simple to use and quick to customise, with no added dragging and dropping of different features and content blocks. Essentially you pick a template and you stick to it.

The Build

So, you’ve reached the build. The first thing you need to do is secure your hosting and a solid domain name. The host of your site is where all your online files will be stored so must be reliable with adequate space. The domain is what you will get your visitors to type into their browser to access your website. Typically, it’s easiest to purchase these as a package deal, as this saves technical admin further down the line, although you can get these separately if needs be.

To sign up for website hosting you need to select a plan through your chosen host site. These tend to start from a basic package to a more premium option, and which you opt for depends entirely on your requirements for the website you want to build. Ensure you read all the fine print before agreeing to any package. Once this is selected, you will be asked to enter a domain of your choice – if your first choice is taken, keep trying variations until you’re happy with one that is also available.

Assessing the building site

Do research. What do your top competitor’s sites look like? What are they focussing on? What will make your site stand out? What is the purpose of your website? Only when you know the answer to these questions can you start to build an idea of the visual aspect of your site and how it should appear to your visitors. This in turn will inform your template decision.

Once that’s decided, you need to create some kind of structure plan. Generally, these are not complicated – after all, we’re creatives not techies. However, making sure you have an idea of which pages need to build will make your job easier down the line.

The Design

Everything available to you both on WordPress and a website builder has been created by a professional website designer. They’re user friendly, easy to personalise and all already available. You’d be a fool not to use them.

With WordPress you need to first install the app on your host. Once this is done you can add a theme – this will inform the design of your entire site. Spend some time going through the available themes and when you finally find the right one, click ‘Install’ and then ‘Activate’ to set it on your own site. Once selected, the theme becomes customisable through the settings, allowing you to add new pages, changes the colours and fonts, alter the display of the menu and many more options. You can also add plugins to increase your cybersecurity and SEO, as discussed in other blogs.

A website builder is far simpler to use, with a multitude of potential themes available for all manner of industries. The theme you select will become the template for your site – what you see in the theme selection box is very like how your final site will look, though perhaps with different colours. So, choose wisely and make sure you play around to work out the extent of the changes you can make.

Building a website is as easy as it has ever been, and with our simple instruction manual you should be up and running in no time. The choice between WordPress and a website builder is one that should be made after considering the time scale you have for the build, as well as the ongoing time it will take to manage and update regularly.

Keeping the Hackers Out – the Basics

Hackers are the enemy of the online world, and can destroy everything you’ve worked on with the click of a button. Whether it’s an entire website of content, or accessing and destroying your client database, a breach of your website is a horrible blow to your hard work and can often feel like a very personal attack.

Protecting your website from hackers is one of the most important investments you can make into your online security, and not all of them require a tech-whizz – some of them you can employ right now. So, without further ado, read on for our top ways that you can keep the hackers out.

Security Plugins

We talk a lot about plugins – some can help improve your SEO and some may make your developers life easier. Security plugins do a different job; actively preventing hackers from breaking into your website.

Content management systems are designed with a number of built-in plugins that do just this, and each one addresses the most vulnerable areas of security on the different platforms; whether you use WordPress, Magento or Joomla.

Another thing you can do to further tighten your online security is look into SiteLock, which acts as a daily monitor across your website; identifying everything from a virus to active attempts to break in to the site. Picture the online version of a burly bouncer on the door of a nightclub – that’s SiteLock, and it’s well worth the time spent on installing it.

HTTPS

If you’re inputting personal information into a website, for example payment details during an online transaction, chances are you know to look for the green padlock at the beginning of the website address in the browser bar. Next to the green padlock you will see the letters HTTPS – these five letters show you that the website is safe from hackers, and that you can safely input your personal details without risk of theft.

Historically it has always been important for ecommerce websites to hold an SSL certificate, because it secures the transfer of important and private information and ensures the safety if your website visitor’s data. Since July 2018 however, Google has taken to informing website visitors of every site that doesn’t have an SSL certificate, no matter what your website provides or does.

If you want your visitors – and Google – to trust your brand and your website, investing in a SSL certificate is a valuable investment as it will ensure your site is ranked highly on Google and will make visitors feel safe when visiting your site.

Keep your content management system up to date

This applies to everything from content management system to your plugins, apps and any additional scripts employed to create your website. If any of these are left outdated for too long, the chances of a hacker being able to find a way in increase greatly.

Checking that your website is up to date is easy enough on WordPress, by checking directly through the dashboard. Employed as a way to keep you informed of any important changes or updates required, the dashboard will instantly tell you if the version you’re running is up to date.

Keep your passwords new and unique

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as recalling the name of a favourite pet. Passwords are there for a reason, and setting something that’s super easy to remember is very likely going to lead the hackers straight to you.

When choosing a password, make it long and use a mixture of letters, characters and numbers to create something that really is unique.

And it’s not just you. If you work within a team who all have access to your website, making sure they all have strong and secure passwords is just as important as your own. After all, the website is your business and something as simple as a bad password can allow hackers in to quite literally destroy your business and livelihood.

Don’t take the chance!

Automatic back-ups

One of the worst things that a website hacker can do is erase all of your work – particularly if it isn’t backed up or if you were relying on the idea that what goes online will stay online forever.

Making sure you have a recent back-up of everything you do, therefore, is key to limiting the damage a hacker can do if they do get in. An automatic backup service will enable you to do this without even having to think about it.

There are a handful more ways in which you can secure your website from hackers, but these require a more technical skillset and understanding of how the backend of websites work.

For now we suggest employing the above techniques in order to keep your site safe from hacker harm, and will explore the more technical tips in a future post.