Websites

50 Ways To Know Your Server

Ok so not exactly 50 but I’m hoping some of you comment with your lines and reasons and I can rewrite this post with 50 someday. I just had to invoke that song which I LOVED as a kid! (Back in the day, we had to listen to whatever our parents were listening to in the car and I associate this with summer road trips in our Caravan.)

Now if you listen to the song, there’s really less than 10 reasons, so I feel ok giving you five examples here. And rather than leaving, we should just get to know our server first. Note: I am going to use server and web host interchangeably in this post. I can see Matt Baya cringing about this now but to the layperson, they are a similar idea. Web host = server = where your website lives on the internet.

For most people, web hosting, servers, all that stuff seems boring. But I encourage you to know your server…

Know the access, Francis.

Don’t wait until there is a problem to want to know how to access your web host. After looking up your name server with a tool like WhoIs.net, you should see something like ns1.nicoleisawesome.com and ns2.nicoleisawesome.com. NicoleIsAwesome.com would be your web host.

Now some big web hosts (like GoDaddy) might have slightly different or generic URLS. So if you see something like ’ns1.domaincontroler.com’ and ’ns2.domaincontroler.com’, a quick Google search for ‘hosting company domaincontroler.com’ should give you the company name.

If instead of reading the last two paragraphs you want a video guided tour, here’s a blast from the past:

Once you have the company name, you can either search your old emails for an old welcome message with access info or you can contact them. Get ready to prove who you are though, but I assure you access to your hosting is worth jumping through a few hoops. Once you can get in, you can do it all! (Well, not everything in life but everything with your website.)



Back it up, Chuck. (That one is from Leslie- I will link to her site when it’s live.)

If you don’t know your web host’s backup schedule, you should. Most web hosts do nightly backups but DON’T assume they do. I have met at least one web host who has admitted to ‘forgetting’ sometimes (not anyone I do business with- gulp).

In addition to your web host regularly backing up your website and email, you should be doing the same on your end. If you don’t have a backup plan, talk to your website person. It’s your website insurance policy.

What about webmail, Dale?

Most web hosts offer email services (ex: if I owned nicoleisawesome.com, I could make a yasqueen@nicoleisawesome.com email address). What you may not know is most all of them have webmail services. What does that mean?

Well, let’s pretend you are in Bosnia visiting your friend and you have to check your email. Your friend’s parents say ‘Do you want to use our computer?’ and you can check your email right from there using webmail. (I did this!) Typically most webmail addresses are something like: ’http://www.nicoleisawesome.com/webmail’ and then you type in your full address and password and you are in.

Webmail is a nice backup. Because you may be on the road, drop your phone in water, lose your computer for 8 days because someone mistakenly takes it at a TSA screening place. (All these have happened to me or people I know.)

Think of webmail as a backup way you can check your email. It’s not as pretty as your way but, when in a pinch, invaluable to know.

Where is it at, Kat?

Where is your server in the world? Is it in your friend’s basement? Galveston Texas? Knowing where your server is part fun fact, part ‘Oh they’re having a hurricane so maybe that’s why my website is being glitchy’. Some US based companies prefer to know their servers are in the US. I personally like to picture my server in a nice air-conditioned concrete building in the middle of a field surrounded by dairy cows. Since I learned where my server is, I have found this is not accurate. But still, nice to know where your service provider is located.



What version of PHP, G?

If you are a technical person reading this blog post, it is probably very clear that I don’t know much about web hosting. And it’s true, I am NOT a web hosting company but I need web hosting to do my job. But I also know a bit more than the average person.

I’ve had two instances that I would like to relate that make me look like a big idiot but may help you out. And both involve PHP.

As far as I can tell PHP is a software that runs on a web host. It has different versions and needs to be periodically updated. This is the extent I know about it. Until it effected me in another way.

Situation 1: Client’s website (which runs on a software I don’t entirely understand) broke when our server’s PHP was updated. Had to go and fix the individual pages. Not catastrophic (as it was quickly noticed and fixed) but weird to just have random error code show up on your website.

Situation 2: We wanted to upgrade a Wordpress plugin for a client but the server didn’t have a high enough version of PHP. Server ended up setting up a separate area we could put this client’s website only (see situation 1 as to why changing it for everyone in that moment wouldn’t have been a great idea) but it changed where they checked their email, etc. Another slight pain.

So before you upgrade your software in a major way or add new software that does important stuff (like, say run an online shopping cart), check what version of PHP (and any other software) it requires and what version your server has. I did an example screenshot here of Event Espresso, an online booking system I’ve used a fair bit and my settings (which I see when I expand my stats after I log into my web host).

what-ee-needs

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 10.33.26 AM

So in my example above, I have the right PHP and MySQL software, all I have to do is check I have the right level of Wordpress and I am good to install version 4 if I want.

There are lots of ways to know your server but those are some of my favorite. Remember, so long as you have access, you have options, with your web server or anything else for that matter. And you can leave it (or use it) however you want.

Please comment (with a link back to your website) with your way of knowing a server (Use subdomains, Duane? Forward that email, Gail?) and I’ll add it to the second version of this post (with hopefully 50 examples)! Let’s try to outdo Paul Simon and be really nerdy about it!




Would You Like to See A Menu?

So, you’re a restaurant (or, a food-selling establishment of some sort) and you want to share your menu with the internet. Which is a great call, considering 89% of consumers will do some online reconnaissance before dining out. As with many things on the web, there are countless options (which can be good and bad). Where should your menus go? Here are some options to consider:

On Facebook. There is a free-mium app called Menutab for Restaurants. This app allows you to put your whole menu on Facebook, for fans and other potentially hungry people to peruse. It’s pretty handy: when someone checks your Facebook page for hours of operation or location, they can check out your menu, too!menu facebook

You can even add a thumbnail image to each menu item. Since it’s free, there are some limits with what you can do.



On Your Website. If you have a website, you 99.99% want a menu on there somewhere. I’m not sure what the 0.01% would be…maybe someone pays you a million dollars a year only if you don’t post your restaurant’s menu on your website. If that’s not the case, one important consideration with your website is making sure it’s responsive and/or mobile friendly. This advice is about more than improving your Google rankings- when a group is on the go and deciding where they want to eat, their reflex is to pull out their phones and check the menus of nearby restaurants. Think of it this way: having a mobile friendly website can lead to more feet in your doors.

How you set your menu up on your website may vary. If you just want people to see the options and prices, setting up a page for each category (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Drinks, etc) with price listings and some pictures is a standard solution. PDFs do the job, but aren’t helpful for mobile folks. Plus, once you have everything set up, it’s much easier to go in and change a price here and there rather than uploading new PDF files every time something changes (and you wouldn’t let inaccurate information sit on your website for long, right?). But, if you want to add online ordering or reservations, things become a bit trickier, and become a matter of adding software that handles these requests (OpenTable, for example).

WebsiteMenu

An example of a restaurant website that not only has a menu, but reservations and a photo gallery.

If you have a Wordpress site, there are lots of different themes and plugins designed exclusively with restaurants in mind. Plugins include OpenMenu and Easy Menu Manager, both are free, and you can always upgrade later on (because, once you have an online menu going on, you’ll probably start having some extra piles of cash).

Perhaps the biggest benefit of putting your menu on your own website is that you have the most control in this jurisdiction (as opposed to Facebook or Yelp). It also opens the opportunity for some data collection, if you have Google Analytics set up, you can see what people are visiting your menu and learn a bit more about them, which you can use for marketing efforts later on.

On Yelp: If you’re on Yelp, you can add your menu to your restaurant profile. Yelp decided a few years ago to add this feature, which is just as helpful for businesses as it is for customers. You can also add pictures to your profile that show off menu items and storefront, and encourage users to add their own pictures. In one of the profile sidebars, Yelp also displays “What’s Popular Here” (based on user feedback). YelpPopular

And, fun fact: if people are looking for a restaurant and happen to be nearby, the mobile version of Yelp will put your restaurant in front of them (so to speak). Here’s an example of what a Yelp menu might look like:

YelpMenu

On Foursquare: Personally, I’ve never used/been on Foursquare, but restaurants can add their menus there (in addition to coupons and other fun offerings). Unfortunately, it’s not like Facebook or Yelp where you can add your menu directly the site. Foursquare pulls your menu information from third-party sites Locu and SinglePlatform, which means there’s an additional set-up step required. On the bright side, it seems pretty straightforward and easy to update (and yes, people do still use Foursquare).

You don’t have to be on all the things, and there are certainly places I haven’t listed in this post. Each place has it’s own benefits and a slightly different user base, so it’s worth doing a bit of research to find out what sites your customers are using. Use the resources available to you, and start putting your menus out there (well, online anyway).



Don’t Be Afraid of Google Changes

I got no short of 50 emails in the last two weeks asking me the same question:

clientafraidofgooglechange

Fear mongering much?

Some of you may be wondering ‘Why now?’ Well, Google changed it’s algorithm April 21. Some called it ‘Mobilegeddon’ which is something that would make many people 1) pay attention and 2) freak out.

The link above is to an entire archive of Google’s changes. Yes, Google changes. several times in one year (at least 6 times a year according to that link). But a few things to keep in mind when dealing with this (or other) changes from The Google:

1) Dealing with a neg artist is not really fun.

If you get an email out of the blue from someone you barely know (or even better, someone you don’t) negging your website, this means you are dealing with a certified d-bag.

Negging is a term I am borrowing from the pickup artist world. It means when you subtly (or not so subtly) insult someone as a way to get their attention and bring down their confidence a bit. This guy will tell you all about it. (Note comments disabled on the video, wonder why.)

Don’t let the web guru equivalent of this dude insult your website. It’s not their place to give you feedback. When you are ready for feedback, a website person you trust will happily (and nicely) give you constructive advice when asked.

Negging in the dating world works on insecure people. Someone negging your website will only work if you are insecure about your website, which brings me to…



2) Coming to decisions from fear and lack of information ensures they won’t be good ones.

Take some time to understand about this Google change if you are concerned about it. Moz and other trusted search engine specializing websites and blogs will have information when Google does a shift: http://moz.com/blog/day-after-mobilegeddon (Nicole summary: Um, the world didn’t end. At all. There was a bit of an uptick though in traffic for mobile-friendly sites.)

My point is don’t listen to some random person emailing you to scare you. Do research and understand the change as much as you can, so you can make the best decision for you and evaluate the advice you are geting.

3) Your customers AND Google want you to have a mobile friendly site.

If you look at your website data, you can see mobile versus non-mobile user behavior. Not just percentage of people who come to your website but how long do mobile visitors stay? What information do they look at? What device are they on? etc.

So Google is now giving some juice to sites that are mobile friendly. OK but guess what? Your customers also want you to have a mobile friendly website so if you are going to make the change, do it for them too.



4) You aren’t just relying on Google to get people to your website.

The people I meet who truly panic about changes like Google made a couple weeks ago are those who only rely on Google traffic for their customers. When you go from the #1 ranked, say, coffee mug dealer to #3 in Google and you ONLY get customers from Google search, of course you’ll panic as a Google change, however small, means less dollars in your pocket.

But most of you have multiple ways you reach your customers online. You do social media. You have an email list. You do paid ad listings occasionally. You have a blog on your website. You crosspromote stuff with your online friends.

In other words, the faucet is not ever being completely shut off for you because you smartly are NOT putting all your eggs in one basket.

5) Do your thing, don’t care if they like it. -Tina Fey

I know a lot of people make a game of ‘tricking’ Google. Oh hyperlinked keywords are now being more heavily weighted? Let’s go through all 1,100+ blog posts we have and change all the link text we have.

Um no.

In general, just follow the rules Google has always says it wants you to follow and you’ll be fine. If one year, Google decides to prefer search engine friendly links higher to, say, h1 tags, you don’t have to worry because you’re doing both!



Common sense stuff to do (for Google and the people who visit your website):

1) Have words people are searching for on your website.

2) Use tools like bolding and larger fonts for more important concepts.

3) Have search engine friendly URLs (ex: breakingeveninc.com/about versus breakingeveninc.com/p=1967)

4) Name photos and use alt text/captions to describe what is in the photos.

5) Make sure your website loads fast. Here are some tools if you need to check.

Things spam websites do (to make sure you aren’t doing them):

1) Use content that has appeared elsewhere before. (A lot of spammers copy content from other websites and put it on theirs.)

2) Pretending your website is about X topic when it is really about Y topic. (Anything deceptive really.)

3) Ads all over the place.

4) Use so many keywords and phrases that it sounds like your robot wrote your website.



Google’s Algorithms as the Cast of “Mean Girls”

Google_Mean_Girls

You may have heard- Google is updating its algorithm at the end of the month (April 21, to be specific) to rank mobile friendly sites higher in search results. This was always vaguely the case, but no one could definitively figure out the amount of weight it carried. Which made me think, Google is the most popular girl in school who we all wait on to decree what’s important and what isn’t. We’ve been saying mobile friendly is cool for years now (hence the switch to responsive design only a couple years ago), but now that Google has declared that it’s definitely “in,” everyone is going to scramble to make sure their websites are compatible. Perhaps due to the excitement of using the stand desk all most of the day and Anchorspace opening to the public tomorrow, my brain decided that Google operates in very much the same way as Regina George. The rest of the Plastics are the algorithms that she has decided (in the past or present) are important. Get ready, because we’re about to crack open the internet’s Burn Book (well…sort of).

Google as Regina George. Like Regina, Google decides who comes and who goes, what’s in and what’s out, and we all clamor to meet it’s expectations. Ponytails once a week and pink on Wednesdays are the current expectations, but that could change at any moment. Below is a comprehensive infographic from Hubspot that details all of Google’s algorithm changes since 2003.

infographic google algorithm changes keyword seo

 

As you can see, there have been several updates to the algorithm every year, most go by without us noticing. Panda in 2011 and Penguin are considered the two largest updates based on the number of sites affected. Keep in mind that although your current method is doing well, this guarantees nothing about your site’s future performance. Regina can always change her mind and throw you under the bus.



Authorship as Gretchen Weiners. Google Authorship was declared dead in August ’14. As this article so eloquently says, “Google [Regina] has repeatedly demonstrated that nothing it creates is sacred or immortal.” Meaning, just because Gretchen/Authorship is “SUCH a good friend,” Regina/Google may still decide there are bigger fish to serve as your right hand man and then fry.

For those who implemented authorship on their website and gave it a lot of time and effort, the decision to pull authorship was a pretty big bummer. There were blog posts detailing the importance of integrating authorship, complete with how-to instructions for various software, so of course people thought “Hey, I should probably do this.” Remember the girl who bought  army pants and flip flops because she saw Regina George wearing army pants and flip flops? Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to cater to Google’s rules, but don’t get caught in the web of having all your eggs in one basket. As the chart above demonstrates, the things that Google considers important are a shifting territory, and you have to be prepared to make changes when the time inevitably comes. In other words, don’t rest on your website laurels. The rules, much like Gretchen Weiners’ popularity, are fleeting.

Sorry Gretchen.

Sorry Gretchen.

Mobile Friendly as Cady Heron. Mobile Friendly sites have been around for a bit now, and are a huge determining factor in the amount of time visitors will spend on your site (more statistics on mobile users in this blog post). Yet, some people weren’t entirely sure if having a mobile friendly site was “worth it” until Regina/Google decided “Cady/Mobile Friendly is IN.” Once Google officially pronounced mobile friendly as relevant, even those who had formerly been on the fence were buzzing about how cool and necessary mobile visitors are for websites.

Creating a mobile-friendly site will only become more important, so if you’re not already on the bandwagon, you’ll want to hop on soon.

Loyal friends are always good to have around. Or at least, people to help you with navigation.

Loyal friends are always good to have around. Or at least, people to help you with navigation.

 SEO as Karen. Obsessing over search engine optimization is about as rewarding as trying to teach Karen algebra. The theory of keyword stuffing to increase search engine rankings is pretty outdated (I mean, it was a good idea in the 90’s, but so were scrunchies and mom jeans). This quote from the aforementioned Hubspot article perfectly articulates the early life of SEO: “Ranking high in search results could be accomplished by essentially using a simple, two step procedure: Step 1, stuff your keyword phrase into your page/website as many times as possible. Step 2, get as many gosh darn inbound links as you possibly could.” In the Plastics, simplicity comes in the form of Karen, who doesn’t fully understand carbs or weather.

Keyword stuffing as a method of increasing search engine results for your website is old school (and not in a good way). But, if you’re really interested in keywords, consider instead using something like Google AdWords. Our friend Colin at Root Deeper Marketing is an AdWords guru, if you want to learn more about this type of service.



Facebook as Aaron Samuels. Google and Facebook have an on again/off again courtship. There are rumors that  having a Facebook account associated with your website increases your ranking in Google, but no one knows how serious this relationship is (and let’s face it, they’re probably both seeing other people). According to Matt Cutts of the Google webspam team, Facebook and Twitter do not necessarily factor into Google’s algorithm. In other words, Google is able to retrieve certain content on your Facebook or Twitter page, but it can’t sort out the number of page likes or posts. Being popular on Facebook does not mean being popular in Google search results.

All other search engines as Regina’s Mom. (This is purely for my own entertainment). Regina’s Mom is a lot like Bing or Yahoo. Sure, they’ve been around longer, but we all know who really runs the show.

BingYahooCoolMom

The internet, like high school, is tricky to navigate, unless you have the right information and the basic understanding that nothing is set in stone. Stay in the loop with internet related news (or, have someone in your circle keeping you up-to-date with this information), and you’ll do just fine. Also, I hope you enjoyed this comparison as much as I enjoyed writing it.



Selling Stuff Online: Your Time

The final in our series of ‘selling stuff online,’ is selling your time.

Now this is somewhat covered in the ‘events’ post but there we concentrated on ticket selling and more of the questions you’d need to ask if you were running an event with a group of people. Lots of people (massage therapists, internet marketing consultants, etc.) trade time for money and having a system that integrates with a calendar is their saving grace.

Instantaneous (Live) Support Versus Book Ahead

The first question you need to ask yourself is do you want live support or do you want to book time ahead. Most people don’t have the staffing (or general interest) to be available nearly constantly but I do know some consultants who hold ‘office hours’ where people can drop in unscheduled.

Most of the time though, there is some kind of way you can schedule time, like a calendar interface on the side of a page (as with paperfling.com):

paperflingsidebarscheduling

 

To a slicker landing page one a la blinds.com:

blindsdotcomschedulingscreen

 

Free or Paid

So a free consult could get people in the door but taking payment ensures people are truly booking something of value.

Some scheduling programs will allow you to take payment (or at least hold a credit card). There may be some additional fees (processing fees, monthly fees, etc.) for this, just as a warning but getting paid for your time up front may be worth a bit of cash to you. Sublime Canines won’t let you book a class without payment, which I’m sure makes sure EVERYONE shows up to their scheduled session:

sublimecaninestakespayment



Rescheduling

The more meetings you schedule, the more rescheduling you’ll have to do.

Having an email automatically go out to the client after they book (and also on the booking page) can communicate your rescheduling (and possibly refunding if you are taking payment then) possibility.

If not, you’ll want a way to handle rescheduling, whether it is setting aside your own time for admin or hiring out. I have been trying out Fancy Hands this month for rescheduling with clients and it has been AMAZING so far.

In any case, if you are going to think of exchanging your time for money, it is something to think about.

Taking Your Time Into A Marketplace

It’s one thing to have people book time with you through your website but there are a whole generation of websites that let people consult with people who will pay them.

Google Helpouts, probably the best known example, is shutting down in April but there are plenty out there: TaskRabbit, LiveNinja and other sites have let people sell their time/services for money in a general way.

liveninjabrowse

Depending on your service, there may be sites specific to your service (for example Uber with driving) or you can start on a more general website like LiveNinja.

So even if you don’t have any products, you can be selling something online. And that’s pretty powerful.

Other posts in our series:

Selling Stuff Online: Products

Selling Stuff Online: Events

Selling Stuff Online: E-products



Tech Thursday: What’s in a Domain?

Nicole solo hosts this week’s episode of Tech Thursday. What if you have an existing website, but the domain expires? Well, there’s a few options:

1) Don’t let the domain expire in the first place! whois.net- type in your domain name, can find out renewal date and where you purchased from. Renew BEFORE it’s due- preventative measures are the easiest to handle.

But, if not…

2) Check damage if you move your website. Check who is linking to your site (type in link:yoursite.com on Google,) things you have control over (FB) are easy to change, but if other blogs or directories link to the old address.

3) How much of a pain would it be to have to change all your offline and online materials to a new domain? Remember not to hand over money to unknown people or companies.



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