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The Four Horsemen of Your Small Business Website Apocalypse

Small businesses depend on their websites to drive leads, search engine results, and — most importantly — credibility. So when your website isn’t performing the way it should, or the way your customers (or Google!) expects, your bottom line suffers.

This deck includes the four biggest issues that bring good websites down, and how to fix them.

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The Four Horsemen of Your Small Business Website Apocalypse

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  4. 4. ere patient where people w After all, it Once, there was a time bsite to load. enough to wait for a we wasn't that long ago that load screens and lengthy ' ations were common practice. But, d and as our broadband speeds and ave increased, our patience has times have change smartphone usage h decreased. d is now considered one of the b design and f usability in the we Google made site development community. 5 years ago, performance a major component in their search algorithm, and the weight they give ‘ creased since then. Site load spee cornerstones o Yes, that's correct: search engine «rankings ov
  5. 5. So, what’s driving the sudden need for speed? More than anything else, it’s the staggering growth of the mobile segment and the evolution of the smartphone and tablet devices that have become staples in our everyday lives. Statcounter estimates that about 33% of ALL web browsing now is done on these types of devices — devices with less horsepower, less memory, less storage, and that operate on slower networks than a decently-appointed laptop running on a high-speed home or office connection.
  6. 6. But even though we know deep down that browsing on our phones is not the same as on our computer. we still WANT our web experience to be similar. When we wait for 10. 20. 30 seconds for a website to load we get frustrated. Simple as that. Bottom line. a website that loads quickly is plain old BETTER than one that doesn't and Google is 100% correct in their assertion that the faster site with the superior user experience likely deserves a better ranking than the slow site. I ‘I: V
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  8. 8. There are a lot of ways to squeeze more perfonnance out of just about any site. Images can be optimized for faster loading. Scripts like sliders, videos, galleries, and special effects can be minimized, made more efficient, or removed altogether. A CDN (or Content Delivery Network) can be used to store files like images and stylesheets, allowing web browsers to simultaneously pull data from two servers, your web server and the CDN, enabling faster load times. Site caching — not generally a favorite method for designers and developers but a “necessary evil” in today's speed-first environment - is also extremely helpful in trimming valuable seconds off a site's load time.
  9. 9. A site running a CMS (or Content Management System] like WordPress builds pages “dynamically" or “on demand" when they are requested by combining page templates with content stored in a database. A "static" web page, by contrast, has all the information necessary to load the page all ready in a single pre-made HTML file. So loading a static page is faster than a dynamic one driven by a CMS. Essentially, caching makes your CM8driven site behave like a static site. storing “prebui| t" versions of all your pages on the server, allowing your site to load faster. Designers and developers are often frustrated by caching because it can make maintenance and debugging slower and more difficult. But, in a world where a few tenths of a second in load time may make the difference in being found online or not. caching is a big help.
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  12. 12. In one respect, that's true. .. you're probably not a "target" like a big, high profile business would be. On the other hand, you don't have to be a target in order for your site to fall prey to any number of security issues A good parallel for website security today would be the proliferation of computer viruses on Windows machines, especially on the late 1990's and early 2000's. Why would anyone want to hurt MY computer? The fact is, nobody cared about hurting YOUR computer- people with antisocial tendencies used the fact that so much of the world was on Windows to spread bad software around simply because they could. Home computers were made useless and entire businesses were ground to a standstill primarily because they had not taken the proper precautions to guard against such an unlikely attack Nowadays, people with antisocial tendencies are spending their time finding security gaps in WordPress websites. like Windows 1520 years ago, WordPress commands a greater market share by a wide margin over any competitor and so - as with any market leader- they have become a target.
  13. 13. Is it time to switch off of WordPress because it's unsafe? Absolutely not. In 2006, Apple began running the famous “I’m a Mac and I'm a PC” ads which claimed that Macs were safer, that they never got viruses. This was not exactly true: Macs were only safer because there were so few of them being sold that cybercr: 'uninals didn't see the point in writing viruses for them. Similarly, especially at that time, it would have been a big mistake for businesses to abandon their PC-based architecture for Macs, which were not known as good business machines at that point and IT support vendors for Mac were virtually nonexistent. -rj I / "'7 *‘ -'Z'T, "*~"* . . . ¢——-—‘——-— --. ..AP»u%u
  14. 14. WordPress sites have been targets of brute force attacks, denial of service attacks, and malware simply because WordPress is popular. WordPress is popular because it works and it has a robust ecosystem of developers and support vendors. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater — systems that are safer than, WordPress are safer by and large because they are less popular and don’t have that ecosystem that your business depends on. The best business decision you can make is to stay on WordPress but get it as secure as possible/ practical.
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  16. 16. The first thing you should do is implement a backup program. There are a number of services that can help you do this, including uJordPress plugins like UauItPress and Backup Buddy and backups can happen automatically. Be sure though that backups are being stored OUTSIDE your site/ server because if your site or server are compromised, your backups can be as well.
  17. 17. Your next line of defense is actually in keeping WordPress and all your plugins and themes up to date with the latest version. Often these updates contain important security patches which can help keep your site safe. Be sure to take a backup before perfonning any ; major upgrades just in case something unexpected happens It's also important to be diligent about removing any plugins and themes that aren't being used as well as any authorized WordPress users that you no longer need - former web vendors, employees, etc Be sure that all your passwords are secure and difficult to guess and that you are not using "admin" as a username when you log in. Bnlte force attacks (basically hammering at a website’s long page with different combinations of logins and passwords until they ultimately get in) love it when your usemame is "admin” - it gives them 50°Io of the necessary infonnation to break your site light off the bat
  18. 18. BEYOND THESE VERY SIMPLE FIXES, THERE ARE A LOT-OF MORE ADVANCED THINGS THAT CAN BE DONE FOR YOU BYA PROFESSIONAL TO EXPONENTIALLY REDUCE THE RISK OF BRUTE FORCE ATTACKS, DENIAL OF SERVICE ATTACKS AND MALWARE INFECTIONS. NO SITE IS EVER 100% SAFE, BUTAN EXPERIENCED CONSULTANT OR FIRM CAN GET YOU VERY CLOSE.
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  20. 20. We’ve already discussed how the proliferation of smartphones and mobile browsing have impacted the small business website, and believe it or not, we’re going to do it again even after we’re done with this section. The average website gets a third of its total traffic by way of mobile users. in our practice we’ve seen that number range anywhere from 25-45% recently and it means two supremely Important things for your business. ..
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  22. 22. And that’s only the beginning — the second way that ignoring mobile is impacting your business comes directly from Google. As of spring, 2015, Google is blocking non-mobile sites from mobile searches, which means that if I need your help and I pull out my phone to find a business like yours, that I will ONLY find your mobile-friendly competition. This change in the search algorithm essentially ensures that desktop-only websites are bleeding traffic every day and that the gap between me and my mobile-friendly competitors will continue to get wider and wider until I embrace mobile.
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  24. 24. Of all the issues we’ve put forth in this document, this is the most cut-and-dry and probably the easiest to rectify. You could redesign your website. Just about every current WordPress theme is mobile responsive out of the box and if you haven’t done a significant update in some time, this is a great excuse (more on that when we get to the Fourth Horseman).
  25. 25. You could also add software to your site that would take your existing site with no changes in design or to the desktop version and add a secondary mobile view. Often these solutions are limited with regard to design. but don't forget that the most important thing is to get mobile as quickly as possible even if your mobile site isn't perfect This can be a great way to extend the life of your current site and buy you some time as a stopgap between now and when you're ready to do a full responsive redesign / ",/ r“, . 7% _ I‘ I l ‘ r W «' r/ T
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  27. 27. Most of us are familiar with the idea that different things age at different rates It's common knowledge, for example, that my dog will age about 7 times faster than I do. Most people don't know, however, how quickly their website will age. Just like there are 7 “dog years" for every calendar year. there are about 5 “website years” for every calendar year. That means that if you did your last meaningful website upgrade 4 years ago, your website is about 20 years old with regard to its design, its underlying technology, and its security.
  28. 28. A lot of business owners will scoff at the idea that a website that they spent $3,000 on 3 or 4 years ago could really be that out of date, but it’s true. The web evolves very quickly: in 2011, only 35% of Americans owned smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center — today, estimates are routinely more than double that. Four years prior to that, less than 10% of Americans owned smartphones. There are about 34% more Apple Macintosh users today than there were in 2012 — a time span that saw lntemet Explorer lose about tvvo-thirds of their user base. WordPress has grown from powering about 5% of all websites to about 24% and we haven’t even discussed the countless Google search algorithm updates and browser technology updates. .
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  31. 31. First, make sure you’re following the advice already given in this deck — make sure that your site works properly on all major devices, make sure that your web software is secure and up to date. Then sit down with your web people and put together a quarterly plan to evolve your site. Things that are being worked on and examined regularly tend to age better than things that are not. Yes, the same common sense that says that good diet and regular exercise will make you look and feel better and extend your life, the same common sense that suggests that a car that is well maintained will age better than one that is simply driven into the ground also applies to your website.
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  33. 33. The web moves quickly and, unfortunately, we can't just let our sites sit for years unattended. The good news is though that all of the issues addressed here are solvable — some of them easily solvable — provided that you act decisively and build a plan for ongoing maintenance.
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