It appears that 2018 has started with an avalanche of Spam e-mails from self professed SEO Experts, Marketing Consultants, Promotional Analysts.....and various other surreal titles that these people dream up. And the content of these mails all contain serious warnings.
The mails usually emanate from the Indian subcontinent, and for reasons best known to themselves these individuals will be doing business under some ludicrous pseudonym like Buck Rogers, Rhett Butler, or Troy Tempest.
Their modus operandi is basically to panic you by forecasting imminent doom for you and your business due to multitudes of technical problems with your site! And they'll know all this just by getting the e-mail address off it! Because that is all they've actually done!
This approach can be viewed as an unethical and misleading practice designed to take advantage of end users who don't understand the technical aspects. Or maybe they're just that inept that they believe it themselves. Either way, they want your money.....and they'll tell you anything to get it.
Their usual sales pitches, based on total fiction, go along these lines:
1. Your site can't be found on Google. Call me cynical, but I don't think they've thought this one out very well. Because if you can't be found on Google, how did they find you? Crystal Ball? Ouija Board? The Voices in their Head?
2. No metatags on the pages! These are the keywords that can be put in the header of each page.....visible to search engines only. Problem is they've actually been obsolete for over 10 years!
Just see what Google said back in 2009: Google does not use the keywords meta tag. So putting in metatags is irrelevant! Nobody can see them and search engines don't use them! But these "experts" are quite happy to charge you to put them in anyway.
3. Not enough Keywords! These are still relevant today but in a contextual and natural manner, and used in moderation. Don't look to jam them in wherever you can or you'll end up getting penalised for poor quality content.
Simple rule to follow: Deliver information on your site in a natural manner as if you were speaking to somebody face to face. As an example, if you are an estate agent in Spain would you actually stand in front of a prospecive client and say something like this? "Property for Sale Spain, Best Spanish Property, Spanish Property Costa del Sol etc etc". Of course you wouldn't.....so why do it on your website?
Google has analysed your site as a human would since 2015.....using it's Artificial Intelligence System RankBrain. So just write for humans because that's what Google wants. Jamming keywords will only diminish your credibility as far as Google is concerned.
4. A specific type of website application is better for SEO! Totally wrong! Google doesn't care whether you use Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, or even basic HTML. They are only interested in the end result.....which is whether you have a quality site that delivers value to users. The actual software application that is powering it is irrelevant. So somebody using this pitch will be trying to get you to order a new website from them by dangling the carrot of SEO enhancement.
5. You don't have enough H1, H2, H3 tags on your site! While it is still good practice to use them if required, the practice of stuffing them everywhere has no bearing whatsoever. And may even be viewed as spammy in some cases.
Basically, it's the quality of the content covered by the tags that is evaluated.....not the tag itself. Start putting them everywhere with insufficient depth of content to warrant it sends a clear signal to Google. And not a positive one.
6. Social media likes and shares boost search engine rankings! The simple act of liking or sharing has no bearing on your site's search engine positioning at all. If it drives traffic to your site then that is a different matter and is viewed as a positive signal. Social media activity is highly recommended to get your business and brand directly in front of potential clients ......thereby eliminating them searching on Google where your rankings may not be so good. There's more ways than Google to generate business these days.
But selling you Social Media promotional services under the guise of it somehow enhancing your presence on Google is incorrect. You'll only enhance your presence on the Social Media channels....nowhere else.
So what is the Reality?
The reality is contained in Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. What they stipulate as essential requirements are Page Quality, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness, Supplementary Content, Quality User Experience, Functionality, Mobile optimisation, SSL Security, and Page Loading Speed. Remember that there's a wealth of articles on this site that cover these areas.....and all with links to Google for validation.
As I always say, we do not provide SEO services......we just build websites properly based on Google's guidelines! Nobody elses's!
We follow their directives and then implement those processes in the best way possible for your business.
So what Buck Rogers says, what a Kiddie Blogger says, what the man in the pub says, or what a friend of a friend who knows about this stuff says......they're not relevant to me! Don't let them be relevant to you either!
Are you popular on Google? Irrespective of your current status on the search engines, do you actually know what needs to be put in place to get a good ranking? The problem is there's so much conjecture, speculation, misinformation, and in some cases outright lies, that it's difficult to know who or what to believe!
Let me clarify our position! Unlike many others we do not offer additional SEO services. We just build websites properly, rather than put something together than sell a range of payable add-on services to maximise profit and generate perpetual income. We have no vested financial interest in advising you in this area.....so we just give you the truth!
That being established, you'll see by the wealth of information on this site that I've advised people on best web practices for many years. But the problem is that the game keeps changing all the time. Additionally, Google are never really specific on what trigger factors are the most important at any given point......because the more people know, the more likely it is that unscrupulous self-appointed "SEO Experts" will try to cheat the system as they were doing 10 years ago.
So it's been a much debated topic for many years....but now the researchers at SEM Rush have published what I would consider to be the most conclusive data that I've seen in recent years. What they did was analyse data from 600,000 global keywords via a machine-learning algorithm called Random Forest. This process checked the pages’ positions in search results against a list of ranking factors. The objective was to conclusively determine the factors that influence positions in SERPs.
12 factors that influence page position were analysed in order of importance: from the most influential to the least. Then they limited the scope of the analysed data to the first 100 positions for each keyword.
The end result is a 40+ page PDF document which requires a lot of analysis to get to the real determining factors involved in search engine placement. But don't worry, I've been right through it in some depth to summarise the results. It covers all the bases, and the results are irrefutable.
Out of the 12 factors Google analysed, direct traffic seems to be the most important one! In other words, the more visits your website gets, the higher it is likely to rank. But it appears that search engine traffic is not the predominant factor in improving your ranking, it is organic traffic from other sources that seems to have the biggest effect.
What is organic traffic? This would refer to social traffic, referrals, and direct traffic. So what they're saying is if you create great content that people want to read, then you have to get it in front of your audience via social media, mailshots, and placement on other sites that are considered to be of high value. That will then drive organic traffic to your site that Google will track.
The next element is the users' time spent on your site. If they visit your site and navigate through multiple pages reading numerous articles then that's a positive. If they get there and immediately leave (because your content is poor quality or the user experience is lacking) your bounce rate goes up and that is considered to be a negative. Simply because this sends a clear signal to Google that your site is not meeting users' expectations. Google want to deliver the best quality results, so if your content is sparse and lacking in any value they're just not going to recommend you. Simple as that!
Referring domains! The pages that rank higher have more backlinks from quality domains. Just a warning here! Do not under any circumstances share links or buy links.....you need to earn them from influential sites! How do you do that? Produce quality content that people will link to.....as I'm doing with SEM Rush.
Content length! Short articles which just gloss over and generalise on subjects are not going to cut it. Research suggests that content should be at least 1000 words in length (this article is 1150 words) and go into subjects in depth. But be aware that content length is only important for your page’s success as long as it is valuable, well-written, and optimised. Also, in your articles you must link to recognised sources to validate your points as I'm doing in this article. If you don't do this then the content could be evaluated as your opinion rather than documented fact.
The next factor is HTTPS/SSL! I've been saying this for 3 years now......get an SSL in place! If you look at the chart you'll see that the more popular the keywords are, the more probable it is that the top positions will be occupied by HTTPS domains. So if you have high quality content, then having an HTTPS version of your site is extremely important.
Keywords! As you can see from the chart, having keywords in meta descriptions, titles, and content is still relevant. But it appears to be that on-page SEO now has less importance than it has in the past! It seems that all the catchy meta descriptions, H1 and H2 tags in the world are going to be of little help if the quality of the content that it references is of very little value.
As I've always said, even back in the days when people could cheat their way to the top, content should be the core of your online business.
Don't waste your time with self indugent trivialities and stupid gimmicks on your website because nobody's interested....least of all Google.
Of course, website optimisation is still important in order to deliver the content in the right way. But if the actual content you're presenting is garbage or plagarised from other sources, then the search engines (and users) will evaluate you accordingly.
I exploded the myth years ago that there is no SEO Magic Bullet and this research (which is probably one of the most extensive ever released) proves that to be in the game from now on you have to generate quality content and market it. Capture big audiences across all the Social Media platforms and build your brand. That's the world we live in now!
To summarise, you need to generate great content, market it wherever you can, and drive traffic to the site. That all starts with Content Creation and then moves on to Content Marketing! And it's an ongoing job......not a one off!
So as paradoxical as it sounds....in order to gain popularity, you have to be popular!
When clients come to us for a website they generally have a list of expectations or requirements. Of course, that helps us to identify exactly what needs to be implemented in order to meet their requirements......but one important thing is always missing in their estimation at that point! And that factor is User expectations!
People tend to focus solely on what they want or what they like, with no regard to what potential users actually expect when they visit a website. That's where we come in.....because we make it absolutely clear what aspects need to be prioritised! However, some people don't want to listen and will take no advice whatsoever. All that matters to them is what they want, to the point of total exclusion of their potential users' requirements.
If you take this course of action then your website is unlikely to succeed......irrespective of how attractive it looks. Because if people can't figure out how to use it, or can't find anything on it, they'll leave and never return. Simply because you prioritised what you wanted over what they wanted.....thereby making it difficult, irritating, and time consuming for visitors!
So what is it that users expect?
1. Site Speed! Don't overload pages with giant images or introduce additional elements where data is retrieved from outside sources. Things like Live Chat boxes, Facebook and Twitter streams, Weather forecasts etc are an example of this!
Be aware that if you insist on bogging it down with resource intensive elements, slow page loads are going to be the end result. You'll then get a high bounce rate (which Google tracks) so your site rankings will drop as a result! Keep it as lean as possible, and avoid irrelevant, superfluous, and self indulgent elements that deliver no value to the user whatsoever.
2. Intuitive Navigation! Ensure that you have clearly visible and intuitive menu and sub-menu structures, along with categorisation of the elements contained within. Basically, don't throw everything into one place and then expect users to be able to hunt for what they want. Make life easy for them.......then they're more likely to bookmark the site and return in the future.
3. An Organised Site! No enormous paragraphs of text that go on forever! Short, sharp, straight to the point, introduce benefits, and accompany it with a great quality image to get their intial attention.
4. Aesthetics! When a visitor gets to your site you've got less than 10 seconds to make a positive impression. If your site looks a hideous and cluttered mess while resplendent in a myriad of migraine-inducing dayglo colours then you probably haven't got off to a good start! Your site must attract visitors straight away......first impressions count! But be aware that this is the point where you now need to actually validate yourself professionally, which brings us to the next point.....Value!
5. Value! In this context I'm referring to delivering on what you initially promised when you presented them with an attractive looking site!
On the intial front page intro you should be clearly defining what you deliver! But it's no good just saying it.....you need to actually deliver it in terms of quality written content that informs, educates, and advises.
Examples of poor value would be spurious unsubstantiated claims, ludicrous cliches, and sales pitches....all accompanied by a couple of generic paragraphs and a blurry image that you copied from Wikipedia! If you go down this route then site visitors (and Google) won't take you seriously.
6. Mobile Compatibility! Over half of the searches on Google now come from mobile devices.....so if you don't have a mobile site by now then you're not even in the game! Every site we've built since 2012 has been mobile compatible as standard and at no additional cost. Mobile must be at the core of everything you do!
7. Safety and Security! Visitors want to know that their identity, information, and even their computer is not at risk from malware, browser hijacks, viruses, trojans, hacking, or phishing attempts. Google is very interested in this factor as well........and everytime they visit they're running checks on your site to ensure that it's safe for visitors.
They're very clear on this.......all sites should now have SSL encryption in place to protect visitors. If you don't, then realistically it'll only be a matter of time until you drop off the radar on the search results. After all, do you think Google are going to send it's users to websites that they consider to be unsafe? And without SSL in place to provide an encrypted connection for visitors then your site status with Google is unsafe!
As you've seen, all those points were categorised as User expectations! Are User expectations important to you?
Maybe not.....but what if I changed the title to Google expectations? Would that now get your attention?
Because the fact is that what Users expect and what Google expects in terms of front end viewing is exactly the same thing!
So stop thinking about what You want.......and think about what Users want! Because your Users, and Google, will take you a lot more seriously if you do!
Is your Business worth a cup of Coffee a week? Because it seems that many site owners out there don't seem to think so!
And unfortunately for those people, Google are now telling their site visitors exactly how much value they actually place on it.
I'm talking about SSL encryption! Because for the past few years Google has been telling people how important it is to have SSL security encryption on their websites. We first brought it to your attention over two years ago in SSL for SEO.
Since that time we've updated you on the increased importance that Google (and other search engines) have been applying to it. In fact Google has even gone as far as to confirm they are interpreting the presence of an SSL certificate as a criteria in search engine positioning.....as we announced back in July 2015 in GOOGLE AND SSL SECURITY.
Now things have moved on again! In the past Google were giving incentives for site owners to put this in place. Now they're potentially penalising insecure sites by warning users that it could be a risk to their personal security. Effectively they're saying "We've given you two years to put this in place.....you haven't bothered, so now you're going to be penalised".
They're doing this by showing a warning icon in the browser address bar if SSL security is not in place. Prior to this, it was just a fairly innocuous blank icon of a page.....but now it's a large "I" denoting important information. Here you can see the difference between safe and unsafe sites:
As you see, WebSpain is in green with the padlock displayed, while the insecure site has the "I" icon. And when the user clicks that icon they are told "This page is not secure".
We didn't even notice that this system had been put in place! It was only when a client contacted us about one of their customers being reluctant to fill in an online form due to the risk of data theft, that we became aware of it.
As we've covered before, SSL encryption protects you and your clients from the risk of data theft and phishing. It also gives you potentially improved search engine positioning, while enhancing professionalism and client confidence. Additionally, you are protected from anybody else on the server getting the shared IP address blacklisted.
Ultimately it's your choice on whether you choose to implement it......we are just making you aware of the direction that things are headed. Taking this further, if they decide to redirect straight to their full page insecure message then users will see this:
Personally, I wouldn't bet against them putting an "Unsafe Site" warning in the search listings as well. Be aware that this isn't going to go away! If anything, they'll up the ante even further! So I would suggest that you address this issue now.....before your business starts getting disrupted.
Look at the benefits of SSL encryption......and balance that against the cost! It isn't even 2 Euros a week, which basically equates to a cup of coffee! Our businesss is most definitely worth a cup of coffee a week......is yours?
We've now entered the CloudLinux era, as our main UK server is now running on this commercial operating system. CloudLinux is purely designed for shared hosting environments, and delivers numerous benefits to you as a user, and to us as a web host.
1. Each account is contained within a “Lightweight Virtualized Environment” (LVE), that totally isolates each user. This means that tenants cannot jeopardize the stability of anybody else's site, or the server, because each one will be allocated a specific amount of memory, CPU etc that they can use.
2. CloudLinux OS also “cages” tenants from one another using a component called CageFS to minimise the risk of security breaches. This way, unstable scripts or malware are unable to spread across other sites causing defacement. This short video is a bit simplistic but it shows how individual users are caged to prevent them causing harm to anybody else's site.
3. LVE Manager will limit all CPU, IO, memory resources, numbers of processes, and concurrent connections per each user to maintain stability right across the platform.
4. CloudLinux comes with a PHP Selector which will allow users to define the version of PHP that they use. But unlike others, we will not be using this component to continue to run outdated and vulnerable versions of PHP.
If PHP have discontinued security updates for a particular version then it will be removed, because we won't abuse this feature by turning it into a "workaround" for potentially vulnerable software. That's just asking for trouble.
5. We have also implemented the additional security initiative known as Kernel Care! This automatically updates the linux Kernel of the operating system as soon as vulnerabilities are discovered. There's no waiting weeks for patches to be released while you remain at risk......it happens instantly!
The implementation of CloudLinux was something that we have been working towards for many months. Earlier this year we doubled the server memory to 32GB, and changed the PHP handler to FPM-FCGI, in order to take full advantage of CloudLinux and recent advances in server processes.
And when the time came to implement it, we didn't just get the datacentre support staff to handle the process, we took the unprecedented step of paying for the services of an external CloudLinux specialist to carry it out. Simply because we wanted to ensure that all aspects of this operating system were deployed in the most effective way possible.
It's a very specialised system, and a generic "one size fits all" installation is not what we wanted. We wanted it fine-tuned and optimised just for our sites!
As I've stated before, not all web hosting is the same. We know for a fact that we were already offering a far superior hosting platform to our competitors anyway.....the majority of which only operate on reseller accounts on other companies' shared servers. I'm not knocking that......we all have to start somewhere, and that's where we were 15 years ago.
But the reality is that you can't compare that environment to the type of infrastructure that we deliver via our own private dedicated servers. Now with the addition of CloudLinux, we've taken a big step forward once again!
We're determined to offer our clients the very best in all areas......and we'll make whatever investments that need to be made in order to achieve that, at no additional cost to yourselves!
Bottom line is that nobody else does what we do.....in the way that we do it. That is absolute fact, and for those of you who've been with us for many years......I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.
As we get older, we tend to look back and think that life was better in the past! It was certainly simpler then that's for sure.
But time moves on for all of us and the only option that we have is to go with the flow! There's no pause button to lock our life into one moment in time!
And never is this more true than with technology.....it just keeps advancing. I know that some people tend to resent change in these areas.....but ask yourself, would you like to go back to the pre-mobile era of basic flip-up phones? Ten years ago we could never have dreamed that we'd be walking around with the internet, and in many cases our business, right in the palm of our hands. These sort of advancements require change, as older technologies and applications are gradually replaced by more efficient versions. You're getting the benefits of these developments every day....in everything you do.
The same principle applies to the software applications that power websites and servers. They all get better, quicker, more efficient, and more secure. And I want to touch on just one aspect of that.....PHP. PHP is a widely used scripting language for web applications that powers most of the sites that you visit every day. Including your own!
Those of you on older sites are aware of the upgrade to PHP 5.6 this month which could render some of these obsolete sites as unuseable. We are able to relocate these sites to alternative hosts that are still running older PHP versions, so the sites will still be able to run. But all you're doing is hitting the pause button and trying to lock yourself into a moment in time that's now gone. And it's not just the time that's gone......it's the security and efficiency as well. Security always has to be the predominant factor in the equation.
As we've touched on PHP, let's examine how it's improved over the years by looking at the graph below. This only relates to speed, but you'll get an idea of the groundbreaking improvements that have been made.
We originally started on the PHP 4 series, and then started moving incrementally through the PHP 5 versions.
By 2008 we were on PHP 5.2.....and due to the advancements it made, the time had dropped to 4.2 seconds.
In 2012 we upgraded onto PHP 5.3, and the time went down to 2.9 seconds.
In 2014 we moved to PHP 5.4....which dropped the time down to 2.18 seconds.
Last year it was time for PHP 5.5 which resulted in yet another drop to 2.03 seconds.
June 2016 and it's time for PHP 5.6, as PHP 5.5 is end of line. And we're now below the two second mark at 1.92 seconds.
Compare the times from 2006 (over 12 seconds) to 2016 (under 2 seconds)......that's an incredible difference in speed. And also in efficiency, because it uses less server CPU and memory doing it, while being totally up to date on security.
The next PHP upgrade after this will be PHP 7.......and that will be at the start of 2019. Current tests seem to suggest that it will cut the PHP 5.6 time by 50%, and come in at under a second to run that task. Now that is amazing, and it just shows how far we've come!
So why would anybody want to run on old, outdated, and insecure versions of PHP? Every version of PHP below 5.6 is now a serious security risk, and every website running on obsolete software is also a serious security risk. Put the two together and you've got the perfect storm!
If you have a current and viable business, with your website being an integral part of it.......can you seriously afford to take the risk of Living in The Past?
Remember the old record players from the past when a record would get stuck.....and one part would keep on repeating endlessly? Well that's me that is! Simply because I've been endlessly repeating for many years that quality content on a website is the key factor in getting good search engine positioning.
In fact I even demonstrated it with the tests in the article Is Content Still King? Plus, the continued dominance of this site on Google Searches is a fairly clear indication that my ideas, if implemented correctly, will produce results.
However.....that's still not enough for some people! They insist on clinging onto a belief that what the man in the pub told them, or what info some spammy SEO company has sent them, is actually true. Well it's not! And after years of battling with people who insist on recounting third party BS, my good friends at Google have at last come to my aid.
Good friends? Well I've never made any secret about it....I love Google! They've introduced superb applications to us at no cost (GMail being one), transformed mobile computing into what we see today, and are always innovating and advancing the technology. Compare that to the dubious practices of other major companies over the years who have made billions by delivering substandard and inherently flawed applications at totally unrealistic price points.
From my point of view, the best aspect is that Google have run the cheaters out of town. Because years ago some "businesses" made a lot of money by cheating their clients' sites into good positioning. They knew full well that it was a blinkered short term strategy that would eventually result in these sites disappearing from Google permanently. But money talks! In later years these people have rebranded themselves as link cleanup and reputation management companies where they're now making even money by cleaning up the mess they created in the first place. You couldn't make this up could you?
Anyway, Google has now come to my rescue by releasing their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines for everybody to analyse. But be aware it's 160 pages long......so I've highlighted the critical points for you.
1. Page Quality: The keyphrase is E-A-T......which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness!
Your site should have a “satisfying amount” of high-quality main content, and be authoritative, trustworthy, and informed about the relevant subject matter. The site should have a good reputation, along with about us, contact, and customer service information clearly displayed. Google also states that pages will be considered low-quality if they are created “without adequate time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill".
2. YMYL (Your Money Or Your Life) Pages and Expert Content. This means that if you're writing on a subject then you need to demonstrate that you're an expert on it. Do you know your business? You're the only one who can answer that......and if you do, then you need to demonstrate it.
3. Supplementary Content: Google emphasise the importance of supplementary content, such as sidebar info and links to other related articles. I've always told people this, so I'm glad to see them come out and confirm it after all this time.
4. Page Design: Let's make this clear.....Google doesn't care if your site is blue or red, and it doesn't care if your images have little twirly effects if you put your mouse on them. You may care......but Google and your users don't. What Google (and users) want is a functional, streamlined, intuitive page that is easy to navigate with main content front and centre. Google values functionality over beauty.
5. Mobile optimisation: It goes without saying that if your site is not mobile responsive today you may as well not even bother doing anything else, because you're not even in the game.
6. Trust: Websites should be trustworthy! What constitutes trustworthy? SSL certificate, linking to credible, relevant sources to substantiate what you're saying, and building a good interaction for your content with social media particularly Google Plus. That way you're establishing yourself as an expert in your field. So it's not just the site that needs to be established....it's YOU!
7. User Experience: Are you meeting the needs of your visitors? They want clear information.......so are you providing it? Users want to be able to find content that is relevant to them.....so are you making it easy for them? If people visit your site and give up trying to get information within a few seconds because you've insisted on some ludicrous system of navigation, it sends Google a clear message that it's not meeting users' expectations. Which means Google will class you as a low quality site.
However, if they stay on the site and navigate to different pages because they find the content of value, that sends a positive signal to Google and will help your rankings. What a user wants from the site may not match your vision of what it should be.....but if you prioritise your choices over theirs then don't expect to get good positioning on search engines.
8. Satisfying Content: For content to satisfy a user’s needs, the Guidelines state that the content must be “fully satisfying for mobile user,” require minimal effort to locate, and provide value to the reader. Does yours?
9. Fails To Meet Content: This is where your information is sparse, copied from other sources, unrelated to the query, filled with incorrect facts, or needs supporting information to validate it's claims. If this occurs then you lose trust and credibility with Google and users.
10. Keywords: Use them sparingly and only when necessary in content! If you start keyword jamming you're going to be penalised. This isn't 2005.
To summarise.....you need high quality, expert content! Simple as that! And if you create pages which demonstrate high levels of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness within your area of business then you will reap the rewards!
Now that Google have openly published their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (they've never done it before) you should look back over the articles that I've published over the years and compare them. If you do that, you'll see that what I have been saying on every aspect of SEO for many years has now been officially confirmed by Google.
So now, officially, I am no longer a stuck record! Strange but True!
Let's talk FACTS! The reality is that there are many good web designers in Spain who you could choose for your new website, and there's also some who may deliver a less than stellar experience. So how do you know who to choose? Well in my case, I'll actually suggest the ones I know who are totally professional. Like us, they've been around a long time, and have an excellent reputation. We're quite open about this, and despite the fact we're all doing the same thing, we're generally using different platforms and systems to do it.
It may be the case that one of them would be a better fit for you than us.....and if so we'll give you all their details. No designer can be all things to all men, so beware of any that claim that they are. Simply because a project emanating from a knowledge base that is one mile wide and only one inch deep is never going to deliver the experience that a specialist can.
It's in your interest to check any potential designer's work, and always take up references from existing professional clients. Any experienced Pro will have a lot of them, not just one or two from a couple of very low key projects. You can see some of ours HERE!
Now whether you know this or not, it's a fact that you're going to need ongoing help and support after you've taken delivery of your website. If you get a site from a "sell it and forget it" type of operation then I guarantee that it's not going to end well.
I know because of the number of people who get referred to me when a serious situation occurs with their current designer.
It can get very messy indeed involving loss of money, loss of site, loss of domain name etc.....so do your research. If you make a purchasing decision based on the cheapest you can find, and without practicing due diligence, then be aware there could be a trainwreck up ahead. And you're going to be in it!
We've always felt that the level of after sales service and ongoing support that we provide is outstanding. And our clients think so too! After all, we have over 500 of them.....and there has to be a reason for that. Here's some facts for you to consider:
1. A client contacted us with a problem on Xmas Day. They got a two minute response and five minute resolution. FACT!
2. Contact your current web designer at 11PM on a Saturday night and see how long before you get a response. If you're a client of ours it'll be 5 minutes. FACT!
3. Unlike many others who only run reseller accounts from web hosting providers, we run our own Dedicated Servers in London and Chicago. Essentially, we are the host, there's nobody else involved apart from the on-site technicians within the respective datacentres. The only people on our servers are our web design clients with the sites that we built.
We don't provide web hosting to outsiders simply because we don't want anything introduced onto the server that could have a negative effect on our business clients' sites. Yes.....we turn away hosting business on virtually a weekly basis so we can have a clean house. FACT!
4. Every site has a remote monitoring system connected to it. So if a site fails to load we'll have a notification within 5 minutes.....and we react immediately to get it running again. If your site is running on a reseller account with another designer then you'll be the first one to notice it.....and maybe it's been down for days and you didn't know?
At that point you'll need to contact your designer and wait for them to respond to your mail. Unfortunately it doesn't end there, because then they have to wait for their hosting provider to respond to their support ticket. Timescale? Your guess is as good as mine on that......but it certainly won't be the five minute action that we provide. FACT!
5. Site backups? Most people don't think twice about this, and if you're one of those, you'd better start now because your business may depend on it. Our system is that we use the commercial R1Soft Backup platform. This makes 10 incremental backups over the course of a month: At 1AM on every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the application copies all your data to a remote server. So think of it like the Windows restore points on your PC......the site can be rolled back to a previous date.
That system takes considerable investment in both time and money to operate, plus we have to pay for the additional 1TB storage space that it needs. But that's what we do, and it's there for your protection! FACT!
6. Every site has an additional database backup every night at midnight. This actually gets stored in a secured folder under our WebSpain domain name account so it's instantly accessible by us at anytime. That's a database restore in minutes! FACT!
7. Every site that we build has security updates applied to it through the lifetime of that particular version. As a rough guide, each version will run for about 3 years before it becomes end of line. During that time we could have updated it up to 25 times to keep it as secure as possible. Cost to the client? Zero! We do it because that's the professional way things should be done. We do not compromise on Security! FACT!
8. We monitor server logs and security alerts throughout the day. If there's any potential malicious activity occurring then we'll know all about it, and take appropriate action. If you are hosted on somebody else's reseller account they'll never even see these notifications because they don't have root access. So our level of vigilance is considerably higher than most! FACT!
9. Sometimes E-mails can't be delivered because there's a problem on the recipient's server! We let you know if this happens, so no more disappearing mails and possible loss of business. We cover all of that as part of our service! FACT!
10. We do not sub-contract any of our work to third parties......never have and never will. In rare circumstances we do bring in a specialist coder if you have bespoke requirements relating to XML property imports, but we'll put him in contact with you direct. You pay him, and unlike many others, we don't add any additional charge to that. Everything we do is completely transparent! FACT!
There's actually many other elements to our service that you'll never know about until you become a client. But you'll see that some of them are mentioned in What The People Say by our clients. The point here is that with us, the response, interest, and level of personal service don't cease to exist after purchase. If anything, it gets better. We've got many clients who've been with us for over 10 years now, and in our industry that's pretty remarkable. What does that tell you?
If you're comparing web designers......then compare on a like for like basis! We've listed above some of the things that we bring to the table.....so go ahead and check how many of those aspects that other web designers actually deliver!
It comes down to this: Back in 1998 my goal was to build a business that would last a lifetime.....rather than some cowboy outfit that wouldn't even last a lunchtime. And in that respect I've succeeded.....because WebSpain will outlive me for sure! Now that's a FACT......and who else can say that?
What I want to do in this article is hopefully give you some ideas on how you can make your life so much easier......while being much more efficient. I know that some of the options may not be what you want to hear.....because the older we get, the more resistant we become to change. But over the years I've made these changes, and it's made a big difference in the way I work.
1. Stop using Windows! Though if you happen to take some perverse pleasure in paying for an operating system that compels you to battle with your computer in an endless cycle of computer crashes, registry errors, defragging hard drives, and battling viruses and Trojans......then ignore this!
Me, I can live without all that angst.....and I have done for 10 years by using Linux. None of those scenarios ever occur, it just works. And even better, the operating system is free forever.
I know some of you will say......I'm too used to Windows! Actually you're not! Because if you own an Android phone, a Tablet, or a Chromebook, you're already using Linux! Android is a Linux based system. The servers that run your websites are Linux, 95% of the world's supercomputers run Linux, and even NASA and the International Space Station run on Linux!
Seeing a pattern here?
2. This one actually goes hand in hand with my first point. If you stop using Windows then you can kiss Outlook goodbye.
But if you're one of those masochistic types who feel that they can't live without the misery-inducing trauma of a Windows system.....then just get rid of Outlook. You wouldn't believe the number of clients I've seen over the years lose all their data because they insisted on clinging to this application. And you also need to be worried about Ransomware (where you have to pay €350+ to get your computer unlocked), along with malware sending out thousands of hardcore mails.....in your name.
So that's your credibility gone, along with your domain getting blacklisted all over the internet of course. There's better options!
3. Internet Explorer....and whatever this ludicrous new Windows 10 browser is called! Stop using them! I've seen enough virus infestations and browser hijacks over the years that can be traced back to IE to know that you don't go there. There's better options!
3. We all use E-Mail......it's a critical tool for us. So why are some of you still storing it on your computers via something like Outlook? This isn't 2005....we now live in the mobile era so you need to be platform and computer independent. Instant access to all your data wherever you are and whatever device you use is now a critical part of moderrn business. The key to all this? GMail.
Hands down it's the best tool for the job! If you use the Chrome browser (which is what I recommend) then you have so many extensions available that allow you to tweak it to exactly what you want. And remember you can set up your business mail address as an alias, so as far as everybody is concerned it actually came from your private mail account. The power of having every e-mail you've ever sent, along with full contact details of all your clients in the palm of your hand is a revelation.
You don't need to be detached from your business communications and all your data.....just use Gmail.
4. Of course when you store all your data within GMail contacts it becomes accessible via other mobile applications......in particular, Whatsapp! Free calls to anybody in the world opens up a whole new world of business opportunities, so make sure you get both Whatsapp and Skype details from all new contacts. You now have an easy way to keep lines of communication open for business, and remember that if you don't do it......your competitors will.
5. This one is common sense.....but I doubt many of you reading this article actually do it! And it's backup the data on your PC's every week! Plug in external USB, copy the data from your documents folder, then disconnect from the PC. Do not leave it connected. In my 28 years in IT I've known businesses go under because they failed to listen to this advice.....so take this very seriously.
Now here's the bottom line! You can continue to pay for commercial software that complicates your life.....or you can use free open source applications that will make your life easier. The mobile era has completely changed the game! But have you changed with it......or are you still clinging to the way you've always worked?
My way of thinking is if you're still stuck in the 2005 way of doing things, then maybe it's time to move on?
Speaking to clients I invariably get a negative reaction when I suggest they focus on using Google Plus to promote their businesses. Normally it goes along the lines of "I don't like it", "I find it confusing", "Nobody goes on there".....in fact I've even been told "Why bother.....I've heard it may be closing down?"
Unfortunately within this industry so much misinformation and disinformation gets circulated by self appointed "experts" it's sometimes difficult to establish who is actually talking common sense rather than just idly speculating. Not wanting to appear to be one of those radical, free thinking individuals who base their mantras on everything other than cold hard facts, I'll buck the trend and just give you the reality of the situation. Then you decide!
1. Let's debunk the myth of "closing down". The fact is that Google Plus has over 300 million active users. I would suggest that not even the legendary Gerald Ratner would be crazy enough to close down something of that magnitude!
2. Google Plus is directly linked to Google Search. Absolute fact!
3. When you post content on your Google Plus page, you increase your chances of getting ranked and found in searches.
4. Any content that you promote gets indexed in search results virtually immediately.....whereas it could take weeks for Google to spider it on your site.
5. When you add your business address to your Google Plus page, you have a good chance of it appearing in the search results along with a full Google Map, directions, and business profile.
6. It enables you to promote your own profile along with the business profile, introducing the personal element rather than just a corporate entity. In fact, your Google Plus profile photo will show up in the rankings drawing peoples' attention immediately. That's a a great way to stand out from the crowd.
7. By getting more friends and followers on the network you increase your chances of getting more +1's on your article.....which then get picked up via the indexing process. So it snowballs!
8. Author Rank! This is a fairly new development and represents a shift in direction from Google which focusses less on SEO elements within the site, and more of a focus on the individuals who actually generate and distribute the content. This enables you to potentially establish yourself as an authority figure within your industry.
9. Google Plus profiles are now appearing in the search results on the right hand side, and these include all the recent posts that you have made. So people are encouraged to look at you much more closely.
10. We all want Google to recommend us highly in their natural organic searches, and Google Plus is an integral part of their company. So it only makes sense that you embrace their initiatives. Bottom line is.....if you want them to promote you, then actually give them something to work with.
I'd summarise by saying that what we're seeing now is a move by Google to integrate their search engine dominance and their social media network. So I can forsee a situation where social marketing on their platform and SEO initiatives are going to be inextricably linked.
Don't get left behind on this......just make sure that you're really concentrating on your Google Plus promotional activity!