Creating a site plan for your website

In this article, I discuss the two ways to organize information on your website: by topic or by visitor. Once you have made that decision, you need to start expanding into a more complete plan of the site content. Create a one-page plan in Word It is best to see the entire site on one page if you can, so that you can make sure everything has been included and you can easily move content around if you need to. I have found that one easy way to create your site plan is to use a landscape Word document. Insert a table on the page with two rows and as many columns as needed for the number of categories you wrote down when you decided on the method of organizing. In the first row, put one category in each column. Add a column for a category that has more information about you or your company (an About Us category). In the second row for each column, list the specific pages you will have in that category. You can use bullets under a page if you need to have a hierarchy of pages in that category. Here is an example of the site plan when I started this site. Determine what is necessary to launch & expect changes In any project, it is likely that there is more content than you have time, resources, or money to initially complete. In your plan, note which pages or sections are critical to be done now and which will be left to later. This is a decision that must be made carefully, as...

Using Google Analytics Campaigns to track clicks on links to your website in PDF files, slideshare presentations, emails, and more

Google Analytics will track traffic to your website in aggregate and break it down into broad categories like search engines and referrers. It would be great to break down that traffic even further so we know what is working and what is not in our marketing efforts. With the Campaigns feature of Google Analytics, you can do just that. Google Analytics Campaigns A campaign in Google Analytics is just a code you add to a link that allows Google to separately report on the clicks associated with each campaign. The traffic is still counted in your overall statistics, but you can now see the breakdown in finer detail. This is especially useful if you want to track different marketing initiatives. What links do people click on in a free PDF file you send out? While viewing a presentation on slideshare, which links do people click on? When you send a targeted email to a list, how many people clicked on which links? Campaigns can answer all of these questions. Parts of the campaign code The campaign code consists of three parts: Campaign Name: a code that uniquely identifies this marketing effort. For newsletters, I use issue 308, issue 309, etc. For a slideshare deck I might use a code like 3BigFinancialMistakesDeck. Make the code meaningful so it is easy to recognize when looking at your analytics reports. Source: a code that uniquely identifies the link that is being clicked. I suggest numbering links if there are multiple links to the same page in a single email or document. For example, if I had two links to more information on...

Two ways to organize your website: by content or by visitor

Before you start any website development project, you need to plan your site. One of the first decisions I think you need to make is how to organize the information on your site. The site should be organized so that your ideal prospective client can easily find what they are looking for. There are two options that most small businesses should consider: 1) by content or topic area, or 2) by visitor type. Let’s look at each of these options. By content or topic area Organizing your site by the different topics or areas of content that a visitor might be looking for works well when the topics or content is how the visitor will most easily identify with the solution they are looking for. For example, if you have an accounting business and chose this way of organizing your website, you may have categories such as Tax information, Bookkeeping information, Government Requirements, and other relevant topic categories. Within each category, you would list all of the content that applied, regardless of what type of visitor it applied to (ie. personal or business visitor). By type of visitor When visitors will look for information based on who they are or the role they play in an organization, having your content organized by visitor type can work well. If we look at an accounting business, this type of website organization may lead to categories such as Business Owners, Employees, Non-profit organizations, and other groups you serve. In each category, you would list content that is important to that type of visitor. The content would cover all the topics that type...

What a Brute Force attack on a WordPress website looks like – and what you can do about it

Over the last year and a half, my website has occasionally been subject to brute force attacks. As in most of these attacks against WordPress sites, an automated network of one or more computers sends an enormous amount of traffic to your WordPress login page in an attempt to break into your site. These attacks got more frequent earlier this year, and I finally had to take additional steps to ensure my site did not go down due to these attacks. Recently, I saw how my new measures protected me from one of these attacks. I’d like to show you what this type of attack looks like behind the scenes. On a typical Monday, my site gets 6,000 to 7,000 requests (my site traffic has a pattern across the days of the week). Of these requests, typically 200-300 are blocked by the service I use, Sucuri, because they are attempts to break into my site through a variety of methods. Here is what a typical Monday looks like statistically (screen shot from Monday March 24, 2014):   On Monday March 31, 2014, the automated network attacked my site. Here is the same statistic from that day: More than ten times the typical number of requests, with 92% of them being blocked. The cause of 99.7% of the blocked requests? A brute force attack. Here is a sample of the details of the brute force requests that were blocked: You can see that they are all trying to access my WordPress login page (wp-login.php) and there are multiple requests per second. Because these requests were blocked before they even got...

Know if your website is down within minutes

Do you know if your website is down right now? I’ll wait while you open a new browser tab and go check. OK, you’re back. I don’t have to go check, and neither should you. When your website is a primary marketing vehicle for your business, you should have a warning system that checks your website every few minutes and tells you if it is down. The one I use is from Pingdom. Go to https://www.pingdom.com/free/ to sign up for a free account that monitors one website. They offer paid accounts that have more features, but for most small business owners, the free account will work fine. After you have signed in, set up a new Check, the activity that will regularly check your website. You can set how often they check your site (5 minutes is fine for most sites, 1 minute would be recommended for sites with heavy traffic). Set up how you want to be notified: email, text message, or others. Set how long the site is down before you are notified. Don’t set this too low. There can be hiccups in service that can cause your site not to be accessible for a few seconds and you don’t want to get a notification unless there really is an issue. I set mine for 10 minutes, but you can choose a shorter time if you need to. This setting can be adjusted if you get too many notifications. Check the box to notify you when the site is back up so you know if the issue resolved itself. Now you know you will be notified if...

Why you need both Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools

Google offers website owners two tools to help analyze their websites. You need both. Google Analytics This is the most popular analytics site. You set it up using your Google account and it gives you a lot of useful information, such as number of visitors, what pages they looked at, how long they stayed, and much more. The one area it no longer gives information on is search terms people used to find your site. In 2013, Google finished implementation of a new search method that is more secure, but results in Google Analytics reporting almost all search terms as “(not specified)”. This is not helpful, but it is necessary to have the added security of the new method. Google Webmaster Tools Google webmaster tools gives more technically oriented information. It reports any errors Google has found with your site, which you should fix in order to rank better. It is now the only Google tool that will report what search terms were used to find your site. It shows how many times your site appeared in the listings when that term was searched, where you ranked, and the proportion of searches that resulted in a click to your site. When you are setting up Google Analytics, use the option to also set up Google webmaster tools. Links: Google Analytics Google Webmaster...