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The Downside of Free Weebly Websites

Posted By abod on February 1st, 2012

So you want a website that you can easily customize and keep updated yourself? A lot of people choose free website builders like Weebly, Google Sites, Yola, Wix, or others to create a website. But like a lot of things that are free, the value is lim

ited.

Why should you invest your time, and perhaps more significantly for a small, emerging business, your money, in a professional website?

Many clients meet with me after first building a website with Weebly. It offers many great templates and even allows you to import your own, has an easy drag-and-drop user interface, and it will even host your site for free, including if you install it on your own domain. In short, Weebly gets sites off the ground quickly and easily.

But after a while, it isn’t enough. And here is why.

The Downside of Weebly Sites

Weebly is cheap and user-friendly, but there are some significant drawbacks. In my view, here they are from the minor to the most critical:

  • Many of the features they advertise are only free to Pro Account members. This covers things like being able to insert a video player and removing the unprofessional looking Weebly ad at the bottom that says “Create a free website with Weebly”. A Weebly Pro account will set you back $4 a month, which is more than website hosting costs.
  • If you want to display ads with their AdSense modul, Weebly will take a hefty 50% of your revenue. You can add the code in yourself if you’re familiar with HTML and have accesss to the code by becoming a Pro paid member.The module-style way of building really limits customization. Let’s say you add a photo, and then later you want to add a caption. You’ll need to reset the whole thing and select the photo & text module, instead of the plain photo module.
  • To truly create a unique and professional look and feel, you’ll need to make changes in HTML and CSS.
  • No community features. Unless you consider a contact form “community”.
  • Poor ability to optimize for SEO. Clients have complained to me about ranking low for their keywords even in non-competitive fields, and even when using Weebly’s SEO tool.

So is a website built with Weebly truly free?

Your Options

Weebly

If you have lots more time than money, sure, build your website with Weebly. As far as free websites go, they are one of the best site builders out there.

WordPress.com

But if you plan on growing into a fully-customized, robust website, you might want to consider building your site in via wordpress.com, which is also free, and will easily import into self-hosted wordpress (wordpress.org) when you’r'e ready to grow. WordPress.com doesn’t allow for the plugins that make WordPress so wonderful. But hey, no free lunch, right?

If you plan on advertising on your blog, WordPress.com makes much more financial sense. Via WordAds, WordPress allows you to put ads on your blog via several partners. In order to keep this service free, they run some ads on your space, but you can opt out of this by paying an annual $30 fee.

WordPress.org

But if you have even a small budget, you can create some beautiful basic websites with plug-and-play themes on WordPress.org. For a longer term investment in the future of your web presence, WordPress is the easier, safer bet.

Using Images to Boost Your Blog

Posted By abod on January 25th, 2012

I recently wrote about some resources for finding free, no-attribution images to add to webpages and blog posts. But m

aybe you’re wondering why it’s so important to include images to begin with. There are 3 major reasons I try to include images in as many pages and posts as possible.

  1. images increase blog readershipIt’s much more visually engaging to look at text that is broken up by images. Readers are more likely to continue through blog text that is broken up by images and more likely to read them even in the first place. Additionally, most readers scan, rather than read blogs, and images keep things interesting when scanning and sometimes can convey information more quickly with a glance than text could.
  2. Posts with images are much more likely to stand out and be read when they appear in someone’s Facebook news feed. According to Facebook marketing guru Mari Smith, images increase a post’s EdgeRank score, which dictates how long it stays in a user’s news feed. So cut through all the Facebook clutter and use images to stand out on the Facebook news feed.
  3. Images make great opportunities for inserting SEO keywords. By inserting alt tags that are descriptive and also keyword inclusive, they give your page an additional on-site SEO opportunity. See this post by Debi’Z SEO for more information about why and how to insert alt tags on your images.

Securing Your WordPress Site Against Hackers

Posted By abod on January 17th, 2012

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hackers can take down your wordpress website if you don’t protect it” width=”100″ height=”75″ />After hackers shut down the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and the website of El Al Airlines today, anyone with a website should think about what they can do to protect their websites, if they haven’t already. While this is hardly the first time hackers have taken down major websites, sometimes we need scary reminders that the worst can happen.

As I build most of my websites using the WordPress CMS, I’m most concerned about keeping those sites secure. WordPress is awesome and a growing platform, and much of the content is relevant to any website.

5 Tips to Protect Your WordPress Website From Being Hacked

1) Edit admin. Make your admin username something besides the default “admin”.

2) Use a strong password. The name of your first child is easy to remember, but it’s also easy to figure out, unless you think Rbj357qr is a cute boy’s name.

protect your wordpress website from hackersSome tips on coming up with strong passwords you can actually remember:

  • Pick a phrase or song lyric and use the first letter of each word, or the second letter.
  • Use your phone keypad to convert a word to its numerical equivalent to use as part of your password.
  • Separate two words with symbols and numbers

3) Password protect the admin area. Most hosting control panels allow you to password protect a folder on your website with an HTTP popup to enter a username and password. This can be a great way to prevent even the most basic of attacks to your admin area. This double layer of password protection may seem a tad inconvenient but the extra protection is worth it.

4) Keep WordPress updated. Upgrades usually fix loopholes and bugs that can be exploited by hackers. This is especially important to keep in mind if you don’t update your site frequently (and therefore don’t see reminders and updates in your Dashboard). Once you see there is a new version available, you can update it quickly with literally the click of a button with an automated install. It’s a good idea to do a backup before executing this, or any other major change to core files. Set up a calendar with regular times to check in and see if WordPress or any of your plugins need to be updated. Check for any compatibility issues, and then update! At the hosting level, also be sure to keep your PHP updated.

5) Restrict IP Access. If you are the only administrator of your site and you always update from the same IP address, you can change the htaccess file to only allow updates from your IP.

Bonus: Check out the WP Security Scan plugin. This plugin scans your system and makes recommendations on how to improve many aspects of your site’s security.

For extra security:

SSL Encryption can secure and encrypt your data. To create the highest level of security, you want a private SSL for each one of your websites.

How Do Experts Use Twitter for Business?

Posted By abod on December 2nd, 2011

A lot of people think that Twitter is just a waste of time and that all of the “tweeting” is just a lot of noise that distracts them from getting real work done.

Here are a few basic uses for Twitter:

enerosenblum.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/briefcase1.jpg”>twitter can help grow your businessCustomer Support: Monitoring what is being said about your business and responding if necessary.

  • Creating Buzz: If you’re launching a new product or service, let everyone know about it. Consider Twitter as a way of distributing special offers in order to spread the word.
  • Establish Authority: Position yourself as a subject matter expert so people will listen to you and come to you for advice (and business!)
  •  

    I also asked some heavy Twitter users to chime in on how they use the social media network personally and in their business. Here is what they had to say:

     

    twitter helps you make useful connections

    Shoshanna Jaskoll, Co-founder of Reach 3k (@skjask): I’ve met & been introduced to so many people I’d never have met before and people l are so so helpful on twitter. People introduce me to others who they feel I’d like to know or work with. And I get to meet all kinds.

     

    Brittany Morse, Online Marketing Specialist at Sprout Social, Inc. (@britmorse): From my personal experience, examples of businesses who have surprised me with their Twitter use are:

    - PopChips Chicago (@popchipsChicago) – A coworker of mine tweeted that she was bummed that we had run out of PopChips at the office. Within 30 minutes, a huge box of PopChips had arrived at our door with a hand-written note thanking her for tweeting about them. Talk about acting quickly on a comment! While I had originally felt ambivalent towards the company, their social media manager totally changed my view and I’m now a huge fan – primarily because they took advantage of the opportunity to connect! They continue to engage with other users and respond to tweets quickly.

    twitter helps your business get in touch with customers- Ramon DeLeon of Domino’s Pizza (@Ramon_DeLeon) – Ramon manages a number of the social media accounts for Domino’s in Chicago. He’s done an exceptional job to help shift the public’s opinion of the pizza chain through social media engagement and use of videos. He even teamed up with a Twitter-using cabbie (@ChicagoCabbie) to deliver free pizzas to followers (which you can watch at http://vimeo.com/26947728 ).

    I think the key to a strong Twitter presence, as demonstrated by both PopChips and Domino’s, is to take advantage of those online conversations (since they ARE happening) surrounding your brand and connect with the customer on a personal level. If you can find a way to do that, you have a customer for life.

    How to Avoid Homepage Overload

    Posted By abod on November 23rd, 2011

    One of the biggest mistakes I see in web development is “homepage overload” – a homepage that has everything, including the kitchen sink! Your homepage is the place to showcase and direct your audience to your best work, not all y

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    our work.

    Think about what you want your audience to know about you and what you want to have them do in the first 8 seconds that they’re on your homepage. Eight seconds is how long it takes the average user to decide whether or not to stay on a page. So your message and what you’re about had better be clear. And you’d better direct your user to where you want them to go.

    This message might be commonsense to many, but a lot of companies and organizations find a clear, coherent, direct homepage message and batch of content difficult to present, because they are beholden to multiple interests. Everyone wants their piece of the homepage pie!

    Pick Your Winners

    Your homepage can’t please everyone, all the time. You have to hunker down and choose which content to feature. In addition to your global navigation and menus, you might add an e-mail signup form, taglines, special offers, and short “about us” video clip. Resist the urge to add distracting graphics, videos, or animations to emphasize “key” content even more.

    All too often, internal company interests compete for real estate and prominence on the home page. Over time, nothing gets taken away, and new items are added. This makes the page long and overwhelms users. Also, the aesthetic can take on a Frankenstein look.

    highlight only your most significant items on your websiteBy emphasizing too many items, you destroy visitors’ ability to find key information and paralyze them from making a decision. Think about a jewelry store. Don’t you think it’s more attractive and inviting to see a display case containing some of the most attractive and unique items that the store carries, rather than a pile of all of the jewels in stock? Show off your crown jewels!

    Lesson: If you highlight everything, you emphasize nothing.

     

    Set a goal for each page

    Now that we’ve established that your homepage shouldn’t display everything that your site offers, think about what you want a user to do when they land on the homepage. Focus on actions that have a measurable impact on company revenue or achieving your organization’s mission.

    This should be discussed and agreed upon company wide.

    direct users to take target actions on each webpageOnce you have your goals in mind, think about how the page visually encourages the user to conduct that action. Is there a clear call-to-action button? A popup lightbox with a form to fill out? Take note of what your graphic designer is pushing for. Are they highlighting what you feel is most important, or are they adding unnecessary visual embellishments that distract from the purpose of the page?

    Lesson: The purpose of the homepage is to get people off of the homepage and into taking action.

    Consult a pro and create a plan

    Otherwise you could end up in the situation outlined in this XKCD Cartoon, University Website