What to do when launching your new website

It’s a scenario I come across almost every month, a website gets relaunched after a major rebuild, perhaps the migration from an old site to something that’s (finally) mobile friendly or that’s the result of a corporate rebranding or a migration to e-Commerce or, or……well, you get the picture.

Then the problems start. Google Analytics starts reporting high Bounce Rates, the site falls down in the search engine results and visitor numbers start falling.

So, what’s happened?

Unless your relaunch is carefully planned, there’s a lot that can go wrong but one huge problem is Google. Your old site might have built a lot of respect with Google that hopefully translated in to great results when people were looking for you. However, if you just launch a fresh new site it’s highly likely that all of that respect is lost.

Not only that, but your old pages will keep popping up in search results, people might have added your old site to their favourites and when they visit – they are met with a 404 (page not found) error

What you need to do

Image result for 301 redirect

And yet, it’s so easy to prevent this. Before you press “go” to launch your new site you need to create a list of all of the pages on your existing site.

Then you remove all of your previous site from the internet (or just make it inaccessible). You can do this by deleting your web files or simply by copying them to a new folder. Keeping a copy is essential, just in case anything goes wrong with your new site you can always revert back to your old one provided you have a copy of it but you need to take it off line to avoid any confusion.

Now you map your old pages to new. So, for example,  mywebsite.co.uk/about on the old site should be mapped to mywebsite.co.uk/about-EOMS on the new site.

I use a spreadsheet with two columns to make this process easy to manage.

Finally you ask your web developer to put “301 Redirects” in place that map the old pages to the new. What now happens is any visit to one of your old pages will automatically transfer the visitor to the relevant new page.

Not only that, but a 301 redirect also carries forward a fair percentage of that Google respect I mentioned earlier,

If you need some help with the relaunch of your new website, need a new website, need help with your SEO or anything else to do with your online marketing then don’t hesitate to drop me an email andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or give me a call 01793 238020

Worries with WordPress, or what happens if you don’t keep up with updates

WordPress Logo

You might have a website that’s been build using WordPress. No one will blame you, after all it’s free and has become probably the most used Content Management Systems (CMS) out there. In fact, in 2018 around one third of all websites were built on WordPress.

You might have built the site yourself or paid a developer to design and build it for you. You might not even know that your site has been built using WordPress.

It’s popular because it’s free and pretty easy to use – well it is when compared to some of the alternatives out there anyway. Although popular and free, it may not be the best and although it It is OK it does have a number of issues.

WordPress Editing screen

Because it’s so popular it’s become a top target for hackers. This means that the people behind WordPress have to be on their toes, always on the lookout for weaknesses & flaws that the hackers can exploit to break into a website and create mayhem.

When the WordPress developers come across such a flaw they create a patch and release a new version of WordPress. As an example, the current version is 4.7. However within the next couple of weeks there will probably be a new version. 4.7.1 and then 4.7.2 and so on and so on and so on, releasing updates as and when flaws are discovered.

You and your web developer need to be on top of this by making sure that you’re running the latest version of WordPress. The newer versions, if set-up properly, should update themselves automatically but you need to keep an eye on things just in case. Older versions had to updated manually, by clicking the ‘Update Now’ link so it all seems pretty straightforward. But it’s not!

Why things may not be as easy as they seem

WordPress Menu

Most websites using WordPress use a number of Plug-Ins, small pieces of software that add extra functionality to the website and make it easier to manage.

However, you need to exercise caution when updating – especially if you use a lot of plugins to manage different elements of your site because some of the plug-ins may not have been updated to work with the latest version of WordPress.

This means that hitting the WordPress Update link might cause a plugin to stop working and this could break your website.

But what happens if you don’t update WordPress?

Well, you might find that your website gets hacked and will start to do things that you would’t want to be associated with. It could start to download malware to the computers of all the people who visit your site – software that could monitor their keystrokes and pass banking details back to criminals in Eastern Europe or China, for example.

Or you could find – as one news website found out to their embarrassment – a lot of unsavoury spam being inserted into the first paragraph of every news story on their website.

Hacked WordPress page
How did this happen?

The company were very lax – their site was built using WordPress and was last updated in June 2012. Since then, there have been 114 updates to WordPress, some to improve performance and some to improve security.

By failing to keep up to date this gave the hackers and “easy in”. The hackers were able to use automated tools to find websites using WordPress and to find out which version was being used. From there, it would have been simple for the hackers to target a known weak spot and break in. From there, it would have been the work of moments to install their own spammy code.

What should their website manager do?

It’s easy to cure – all they have to do is identify and delete the malicious software and then update to the latest version of WordPress, although they are so behind with their updates that they might find their site gets broken by the update so they might be caught between a rock and a hard place.

If you are worried about WordPress, then don’t hesitate to get in touch. Give me a call on 01793 238020 or drop an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk for a free, confidential and obligation free chat.

4 plug-ins every WordPress site should have

A Content Management Systems (CMS) is a tool that business owners, web developers and others use to build their websites. There are loads to choose from, depending on your specific requirements, and WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, Umbraco, Squarespace, and Wix are some of the most popular.

If your website uses WordPress(WP) then you find yourself in good company. It’s by far and away the most popular CMS, being used by 32% of all websites. WordPress is popular for a number of reasons, the software is free (but you’ll still need hosting that will cost), it’s pretty easy to use and there are thousands of “themes” (designs and templates) that you can use to define the way your website looks and many of them are free to use. There’s lots of places you can turn to for advice and support and lots of professional developers who can customise your site so that is does exactly what you need.

Customising WordPress

WordPress is not perfect though, it may not do everything that you need. However, it’s an open system which means that if you understand how to write software you can create your own enhancements. You don’t even need to be a software developer to benefit. Somebody, somewhere has probably already had a similar need to yours and written something to do the job. Thousands of people have created additional enhancements and have made their tools available to everyone. These enhancements are called plug-ins. A lot are free whilst others require a payment, although the majority of these are inexpensive.

Plug-Ins

The downside to plug-ins is that each one you use makes your website run a little slower, and with Google beginning to penalise slow sites the speed of your website is something you need to keep an eye on. This means that you shouldn’t just keep adding plug-ins. You should make your choice, install your plug-in, give it a test and if it doesn’t do what you need then uninstall it.

Example of WordPress Menu

Not only should you keep your plug-in count to a minimum but each plug-in MUST be kept up to date.

The authors regularly update them, some updates patch security flaws, some improve performance and/or add extra functionality and some updates are required to make sure the plug-in runs with the latest upgrades to WordPress itself – so you need to be regularly checking, unless you have a program that monitors then for you. Best case scenario is that nothing happens, worst case scenarios are that the un-patched plug-in breaks your website or a security hole lets a hacker in .

Three Ss and a B

Security, Speed, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) & Back-up

Security

WordPress Plug-in Menu

Your WordPress site needs to be secure so that hackers can’t break in and do their hacking thing. Which could be to use your website host malicious software and force it on the computers of all that visit. They might create pages with links to their web pages, or look to capture details identifying visitors to your site. Thankfully, there’s a plug-in that will fortify your WordPress website against attack.

Speed

Your website has to be fast. To stop people drifting away, your pages need to open within 3 seconds. Slower that that and people will not wait. Slower than that and Google may start to penalise your site by pushing it down in their search results pages. There’s a plug-in that will keep WordPress running as fast as possible.

Search Engine Optimisation

In order for your customers to be able to find you in Google (or Bing, or Yahoo or one of the other search engines) the search engines have to be able to understand what it is your website is offering. The discipline that enables the search engines to understand your website and hopefully put your site on Page 1 of the results is called Search Engine Optimisation. There’s a plug-in that makes it easy to search optimize your site – so long as you know what you are doing.

Back-up

Hopefully you regularly back-up your business data. Well, you also should be backing up your website too. If you make an editing mistake and break your site, you can restore a working version, if something else breaks your website then you can restore a working version and if you have a problem with your host then a back-up will make it relatively easy to move your site to a new host. Guess what, there’s a plug-in for that too

So, which are the best plug-ins to use?

I can’t tell you that because there are thousands of the things but I can tell you which are the first ones that I install and configure on every WP website that I work with, in my mind they are essential and should be installed before you even think about developing your WP website

4 free plug-ins every WordPress site should have

WordFence for security

WordFence is a security enhancer. It is an “endpoint” firewall which means it cannot be bypassed, unlike a Cloud Firewall. This means that everybody trying to access the admin area of your site (both you as the site admin and the bad guys – the hackers) have to get past WordFence first.

It defends against “brute force” attacks, where a hacker attempts to guess usernames and passwords and after a certain number of failed attempts (you set the limit) it blocks the attacker, effectively making your website invisible to them. WordFence keeps a blacklist of known hackers (by their IP address) and automatically blocks them. WordFence also sends you an email when one of your plug-ins requires updating, making plug-in management a whole lot easier.

It scans your WP files for malicious software and if you need even more functionality (most users won’t) then the Premium version is just $99 

Learn more about WordFence

Updraft Plus – for back-ups

Updraft Plus is a back-up plugin for WP. Now that you have secured your site from external threats you should look to guard yourself from internal problems, accidentally deleted pages, server/host issues, and (in the unlikely event of an intrusion) issues caused by hacking and penetration. It could even be something as simple as a WP, or plug-in, upgrade that breaks your site

To do this you need to be making regular back-ups of your WP installation and your content. Updraft Plus will do this for you. You can set a schedule so if you want an automatic hourly, daily, weekly back-up you just set the plug-in and it does the rest. You can even save your back-up to your Google, Microsoft or one of many other Cloud accounts,

Should you need to restore your WP site, Updraft Plus makes this easy too.

Find out more about Updraft Plus

WP-Rocket – for speed

WP-Rocket is the only plug-in on this list that doesn’t have a free version. However, the cost for a single site won’t break the bank at just $39.

What WP-Rocket will do for your website is make it faster to open on a visitors computer.It uses a number of tools to achieve this. It compresses your site for faster transmission across the internet, it manages images so that the only images downloaded are those that are visible on screen, if allows a web browser to cache key elements of your site so that they don’t have to be reloaded every time a visitor navigates to a different page. You can see everything that WP-Rocket does here.

Yoast – for SEO

In order to stand a chance of being found on the internet, your website needs to be “Search Friendly” which means that Google, Bing, Yahoo, Duck Duck Go etc can find your site, visit all the important pages, understand what’s on offer and (hopefully) put your site on the first page of the search results when someone is looking for your products, goods or services.

However, WordPress doesn’t make it easy and this is where the YOAST plug-in comes in to play. As long as you understand the requirements for effective SEO then the YOAST plug-in makes it easy to implement key SEO requirements.

Find out more about YOAST

So, there you have it, four essential plug-ins for your website before you start working on the design, the look, the feel and your content and if you need more help with your website, no matter what CMS you are using, your SEO or digital marketing then all you have to do is pick up the phone and give me a call on 01793 238020 or send andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk an email

To Carousel or not to Carousel, that is the question.

Why you should not use an image carousel

Carousels, (aka Image Sliders) the name given to those annoying sliding images that seem to feature on most websites these days. As you might have gathered, I’m not a fan but is my dislike subjective (taste) or objective (they don’t add anything).

It’s objective and here’s why

1/ the human eye doesn’t respond well to movement – or maybe it responds too well.
We may not live in the jungle any more, but we did once. Our brains are wired to react to sudden movement, and this movement is called a saccade. It’s our retina’s uncontrollable response to movement, and the speed of movement during each saccade can’t be controlled. The eyes move as fast as they are able.

This might have been great when hunting prey in prehistoric times whilst trying to make sure the odd sabre toothed tiger can’t creep up on us, but today, it’s your slider fighting for your attention.

2/ They take control away from the visitor
Visitors like to be in control when they arrive on your website. They don’t want to see something they have no use for, and frankly, the whole point of your website should be to give your visitor what they came for.

When you put an auto-rotating image slider on your homepage you take control out of your user’s hands and give it to the slider. You know what follows? Disaster. Image sliders keep rotating, attention keeps being grabbed and web visitors loose patience. This is not only frustrating, but is terrible for usability according to UX Movement.

3/ They take up Space and hardly get clicked?
How many times have you watched a slider waiting for something useful to appear? If it’s more than once then you’re in the minority.

You already know image sliders are so fast and distracting, visitors tend to ignore them. Erik Runyon ran a study at Notre Dame University  to test and measure the number of clicks made on the sliders in comparison to homepage visits and you know what?

The study revealed a mere 1% of visitors clicked on a feature on the slider. That’s like the unicorn of bad conversions.

4/ They reduce visibility
The Neilson Norman group (founded by Jakob Nielsen, “the Guru of website usability” New York Times) group ran a usability study, where a user was attempting to search special deals on Siemens washing machines. The user arrived on the Siemens homepage that looked like this with a deal on a washing machine at the top of the page.

  • The user didn’t spot the deal
  • She ignored the offer placed in a small box in the left-hand corner.
  • Then she ignored the big banner splattered on the page, even though it had an image of a washing machine on it.

Because the image slider looked so much like an ad, she left the website without buying the machine, costing Siemens an easy sale.

Jakob Nielson also pointed out that international users and users with low literacy get easily distracted and frustrated by the image sliders, as they are unable to read through one offer before another slides into place.

If you need help with any aspect of your marketing, get in touch. Give me a call on 01793 238020, drop me an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or link up on LinkedIn or Twitter.