DDoS attacks have become a nightmare for companies with an active online presence. From BBC to Twitter and from Donald Trump’s website to Netflix, 2016 saw some of the most unprecedented cyber attacks in the history of the internet.
Running a business is difficult. The constant juggling of responsibilities and playing many different roles often leaves little time for setting goals and planning into the future. Regardless of your time constraints, planning is imperative for success because as the great Yogi Berra said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up some place else.”
All business owners go into a new year with hopes that it is better than the last. Let’s identify and focus on some of the “low hanging fruit” that can be addressed right away and will pay dividends into the future. These 5 website tips will save you time, energy, and money helping to build a solid foundation and online strategy.
#1 Security: In 2016 we saw an unprecedented number of malicious digital attacks that were delivered by everyone from state agencies to highschool students. No one is safe when it comes to nefarious actions on the internet, therefore, ensure your website host is prepared to defend your business and shield your customer’s privacy from DDoS attacks. Here at RivalHost we provide enterprise grade security without all the cost.
#2 Website Speed: Customers have a certain expectation when they visit your website. Whether conscious of it or not, studies show that the consumer is more likely to abandon a website if it loads slowly. Speeding up your site is a simple task more often than note. Run a free tool like Hubspot’s Website Grader to identify the primary cause and their proposed solution. Another quick fix that helps 9 times out of 10 is upgrading your hosting provider. There are many choices in the market when it comes to which provider you go with, but what sets us apart at RivalHost is not just our live 24-hour customer support, but also our ability to deliver the speed you need to convert your audience.
#3 Keep it Simple – As a business owner it can be hard to have an objective outsider’s view of your website. We waste time on the smallest minutia that prospective clients are likely to never notice while missing out on more important matters, like generating revenue. If you fall into this category, make a commitment to yourself to focus on what is really important to your success in 2017 and make the investment necessary to leave the minutia and other non-core website issues to a professional.
#4 Email Lists -having an email capture form on your site is both free and easy to set up. There is a myriad of options in the market to get this up and running in minutes. Capturing the emails of people who tell you they are interested in your business
#5 Marketing/Content Strategy – regardless of the cliché, there is no denying ‘content is king’ when it comes to getting found online organically. There is an endless amount of expensive marketers who likely pitch you on a weekly basis, but if you do not currently have a social media presence and/or a blog, a site like Fiverr is a great place to start on a budget.
Plan for success in 2017 by taking advantage of the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to your website. These 5 tips alone won’t make you successful, but they will certainly help protect you from a worst case scenario and set you on the path to a fruitful 2017.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are a growing concern with far-reaching effects for businesses and organizations of all sizes. DDoS attacks are used by criminal enterprises, politically-motivated cyber terrorists, and hackers hoping to bring websites down for fun or profit.
Denial of service occurs when a target machine is flooded with malicious traffic until resources are exhausted and the system goes offline. Distributed denial of service works much the same way, except in this particular instance the attack is amplified by enlisting other machines and computers in the attack. Most large-scale DDoS attacks rely on botnets.
DDoS Attacks Are Getting Stronger, More Sophisticated, and Difficult to Stop
The current climate of cyber threats has been well documented and highlighted in the media. Banks and financial institutions faced countless attacks during 2012 and attacks have evolved to become more effective. Distributed denial of service attacks have also been used as distractions to divert attention from fraud and network intrusion.
Now, more than ever, it is crucial for organizations and online retailers to measure their risk of attack and create a DDoS attack protection plan in advance in order to mitigate risk and enable a fast recovery.
Our reliance on technology and the growth of the social web brings with it its own unique set of concerns. Security is at the forefront of everything you do online, whether you realize it or not. Go ahead: “meh” security all you want. Just know that every time you login to Google; every time you hop on Facebook; and every time you make a purchase online, security plays an important role in how your data is handled, and who has access to it.
If your website collects information from your visitors, security has to be paramount to the operation of your website. All it takes is one breach to receive all the bad press in the world. Look what just happened to Target. Look at the vulnerability discovered in SnapChat. These our prefect examples of how security guffaws damage trust with consumers and weaken the appeal of your product.
At Rivalhost, we have been powering ideas since 2003. We’ve been in business for 10 years now. Over the course of that time we’ve served thousands of customers, answered thousands more emails, phone calls and support tickets, and met a lot of great people in the process.
But the one thing that remains constant is the importance of being relentless in our approach to delivering a quality service that is personable. We strive to do better each year, and with 2014 on the horizon, we’ve had some time to reflect back on what we’ve learned over ten years in business.
1) Listen to your customers.
You can go on and on chasing marketing trends and trying to think about “what’s hot”, but the reality is that if you stop to listen, your customers will tell you what they want. Always reach out to your customers, learn about their business, and find what’s most important to them. They will repay you by staying a customer.
2) Never stop improving.
A relentless commitment to being better is how you have to approach business. There is never a time when you can rest on past accomplishments. Everyday you walk in the doors you need to be thinking to yourself, “what can I do to help us improve for our customers?”
3) Have a sense of urgency.
Never procrastinate when it comes to your business. Whether it is responding to an email, developing partnerships, or adding new services, you always have to be eager to get started, and eager to see the job through.
4) Go the extra mile.
Don’t rest with delivering the bare minimum. Any time you have an opportunity to go the extra mile, do it.
5) Be a step ahead.
In order to remain competitive you have to stay on the cusp of innovation and be on the leading edge. The more aware you are of your industry the easier it will be for you to recognize gaps and find ways to improve either your service or delivery.
6) Be critical.
It’s not easy to be critical of your own work, but it’s important to take stock of what you offer and look at your business from your customer’s shoes. Removing your feelings from the process will help you see areas that need improvement and will help you make better decisions.
7) Sweat the small stuff.
You absolutely have to sweat the small stuff. If you don’t, who will? Every nuance of your business is ultimately in your control so improve wherever you can and keep a list of ideas for improvement.
8) Know what you’re doing.
This is the best thing you can do for your business and your customers. You have to develop written processes for your business, with clear instructions for responsibilities and best practices. The more organized your business is the better you will be able to respond to customer needs.
9) Lead the way.
If you are at the head of your business it is vital that you work on the business, not “in it”. As the leader you have to be the one entering uncharted waters and setting the course. Don’t get so caught up in the day to day tasks that you can’t step back and see the big picture.
10) Set goals.
You will never know if you are improving without defining clear goals. From response time to sales goals, down to traffic numbers you need to set goals.
The web has become more social, each and every year. Social media has become so much a part of our lives that social media has become just as relevant as a tool for communication as the telephone, perhaps even more so. There is no arguing that companies need social presence — it builds trust with customers, doubles as a support channel, and makes communication quick and easy. With the new year almost upon us, it’s time to start thinking about your social media strategy for 2014.
Here is what’s to expect in the New Year:
Audience behavior will define your social strategy
Big data is the driving force behind a lot of the marketing changes on the horizon. More and more social networks are opening up data to make it easier for social media managers to grasp how their audience is responding to posts. Facebook and Pinterest already make this data available, while other platforms, like Twitter, are slowly rolling out these features. In Twitter’s case, conversion tracking is available for paid advertising only, but it only stands to reason that more social companies will follow the trend and build analytics tools for their users.
- A Beginner’s Guide To Facebook Insights
- How To Use Pinterest Analytics: 6 Metrics Worth Measuring
- Free Twitter Analytics Tools: The Ultimate Guide
Paid-advertising on social media will become a factor in 2014
As social media giants seek to appease shareholders and increase revenue, paid promotion on social media will become more of a necessity, rather than just an added boost. Facebook admitted as much already, revealing that posts are showing up less frequently in people’s timelines. Google+ also recently announced promoted posts. It’s too early to tell, but it would not be surprising to see Google follow the path of Facebook (that is why there is a Google+ in the first place).
To keep up the visibility, marketers will need to learn how to leverage paid promotion, and gauge the effectiveness of each social channel they use. The move to paid social reach will potentially lead marketers to exploring other alternatives.
- Facebook Promoted Posts: A Proven Strategy to Target Fans and Non-Fans
- Your Simple Guide to Launching a Twitter Advertising Campaign
- A Blogger’s Step by Step Guide To Using StumbleUpon Paid Discovery
- How To Advertise On Reddit: My Experience & 9 Ideas for Advertising on Reddit
Google+ will become more and more relevant
If you haven’t set up Google Authorship by now you are doing yourself an injustice. Having your picture appear in search increases the click-through rate to your website and helps to add the human touch to search results — but that‘s only part of the benefit. Another aspect of Google+ that makes it so valuable for businesses is that when people have you in their “circles” your posts can potentially show up in their search results. That’s right! When you post something on Google+ that matches a search query done by someone who has you in their circles you will show up on the first page.
Think of the potential: how many people stay logged into their Gmail when they’re online? If you are posting updates relevant to your audience there is a good chance that you will be showing up in their search results. Even if they decide not to click, this is an extraordinary opportunity for exposure and brand recognition.
Still, yet another benefit of Google+ is the communities. Think of them like a forum, filled with people that are gathered around a specific topic. Just a quick search through the many communities will yield you with thousands of potential prospects. And, networking in Google+ communities is great for driving traffic back to your site and increasing your social SEO.
- How To Really Use Google+ For Inbound Marketing
- The One Reason Every Blogger Should Use Google+
- How To Use Google Authorship And Author Rank For Your Business
And a few more…
The holiday season is upon us! It may be Friday the 13th, but today is your lucky day. We’re counting down the days to Christmas with 12 days of deals on everything we offer. Starting today we will be releasing one deal per day on a different product. From servers to domains, DDoS protected servers to ecommerce solutions, there will be something for everyone.
And here are the deals…
$5 Domain w/ Free privacy protection — use code 5buckTLD at checkout. Applies to .com/.net/.org.
1 Penny Shared Hosting Deal — click the link to claim your shared hosting deal.
BOGO offer on all shared hosting plans — Whatever plan you purchase, get double.
Get FREE help setting up and fine-tuning your website when you order any shared hosting plan! Just mention this deal.
Get 50% off remote DDoS protection!
Get an SSL for only $10 — just mention this deal!
Get DOUBLE RAM on any dedicated server you order.
Get DOUBLE the storage on any dedicated server order.
Get double RAM on any DDoS protected cloud server.
Add R1 backups to any VPS for 50% off.
The holidays are fast approaching and if you have an ecommerce website and are hoping to end the year on a high note you have a bit of work in store. It’s time to get moving. You’ll find that the best way to promote your website for the holidays is by preparing in advance. The sooner you can devise a game plan, the faster you can put that plan into action. With that said, we don’t have too much time to waste so I imagine it is time to get started.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of launching a holiday campaign for your business I think it best we mention what’s at stake. According to the National Retail Federation, 20 to 40 percent of yearly sales for small and mid-sized retailers take place within the last two months of the year.
That’s something to take note of. In fact, I would argue that this is the ‘make or break’ time of year for businesses of all sizes, regardless of location or product. The holiday season puts shopping at the forefront of most people’s to-do lists. If you want to people scratching items off that list by visiting your website you have to make sure you get in on the festivities and offer up something that will attract those customers.
Adding The Holiday Touch To Your Website
First things first, if you want holiday shoppers you need to spruce things up a bit. There are certain areas of your ecommerce site that you should be optimizing for holiday shoppers. This list will help:
1. Dress up for the season. You don’t have to completely redesign your website, but you should add some holiday cheer. Start with adding a banner or image that matches the season. The small touches help and adding a holiday decor to your website can pull focus towards your holiday specials.
2. Make shopping easy. Now is the time to make things as easy as possible. People are busy this time of year and most want to find what they need, make a purchase, and be on their merry way. Make sure your website has a simple checkout process that is easy and not confusing in the least.
3. Contact information should be highly visible. Adding a telephone number and business address to your site can immediately boost trust for shoppers. You should place your contact information in an easily viewable area that site visitors can see no matter what page they are viewing. You can also take it one step farther and add live chat to your website.
4. Don’t let customers get away. You only get a few moments to “close the deal” when a visitor hits your site. Even if you are not after a purchase, chances are you are interested in building your email list or growing your following on social media. One effective strategy that can help you in all of these areas is using a popup ad.
I know. Popups can be incredibly annoying, but they do work. Sometimes you have to separate your own biases from your marketing efforts. Check out these case studies here and here if you don’t believe me. One good strategy for the ecommerce set is to set your popup to activate if the visitor goes to leave your site; a last minute deal or special offer may earn you a customer.
5. Be very clear about holiday deadlines. Holiday shopping can be a stressful time and if you’re like me you tend to do things last minute. Not the best approach to the holidays, but to each his own. The key here is to make sure your customers know your deadlines. If you have to ship products be very clear about what dates orders need to be placed in order to arrive in time for the holidays. On the same token, make sure you are able to meet those deadlines. Dropping the ball on a holiday gift will be the quickest ticket to a customer service nightmare.
6. Have support on standby. The holiday shopping season can bring in a lot of sales, but that also means you may need to help customers who have questions or need help with their purchase. Patience seems to be thin around the holidays so your best defense is preparing in advance. Make sure you are quick to respond to any customer service issues.
7. Have an insurance plan. There is another thing that the holidays bring: online scams. From past experience, we tend to see an uptick in DDoS attacks during the holidays. The motivations for these attacks can range from the unknown to extortion, to a competitor. The nature of DDoS can make the trail hard to trace back to the attacker, but if there is one thing you should keep in mind this holiday season is that uptime is important.
If your industry (or your business) has a history of dealing with distributed denial of service attacks you should set up remote DDoS protection prior to launching your sales blitz. There is no need to switch your hosting and protection can happen in minutes.
Are you ready for the holidays?
Anytime you shell out more than $600 million on website development I would imagine you would be expecting a little more than a meltdown in the press. Except that is exactly what has happened since Healthcare.gov was launched. It’s been met with criticism from the start, but with a high price tag, high expectations, and a website that is not living up to its publicity that is exactly what you can expect.
It’s a position that no one wants to be in: you pour money into a website, ratchet up enthusiasm, publicize the launch date — and nothing works as it should. Granted, a multi-million dollar software and website development project is not as simple as setting up a WordPress site, or launching a blog for your business, but the steps to take prior to launch are one and the same.
I’ve compiled the lessons learned from the Healthcare.gov fiasco and distilled them into problem areas that can plague any project, as well as, actionable solutions that will help you prevent these errors when launching a new product, software, or website.
First, we’ll take a look at what happened. This will shed light on the mistakes that ended up causing site outages, poor user experience, and bad press.
Next, we’ll move to the solution, which will tell you exactly how you should be approaching these issues.
And we’re off…
1) Make sure your server can handle expected traffic
What happened: Website taken offline after launch; not able to handle traffic.
The solution: Common sense? I hate to use sarcasm, but the reality is that this was a terrible oversight, one that had been outlined prior to launch. According to the documents released by MSNBC, people were quite aware of this problem, which makes it hard to understand why it was not addressed.
From the document (look towards the bottom):
- Capacity: 1,100
- Expected: 55,000
- Actual: 250,000
The expected visitor count on launch day was 55,000 — yet the system could only handle 1,100 visitors at once. When launch day came though, a whopping 250,000 showed up. This consumed resources so quickly it had the same effect as a DDoS attack. The site quickly went offline.
It’s always important to overestimate the resources you need when launching your website, more so if you’ve put a lot of investment into marketing and PR prior to launch. A lot of the bad publicity could have been avoided if this rule was followed. Most of the arguments now are centered around the website. People were sold high expectations, and the delivery sucked. It will be hard for Healthcare.gov to recover from all the negative press, but at the end of the day it’s still a government website. Chances are it will recover because it’s mandated. If this was a startup vying for customers and good press they would have missed their chance.
2) ALWAYS test prior to launch… and then test some more
What happened: Countless problems with accessing the site and signing up.
The solution: I cannot underscore how difficult a project this had to have been. It’s a massive undertaking. The design isn’t really where the problems come in — it’s how the site operates. Healthcare.gov was riddled with errors causing people not to be able to sign up for healthcare. The way that this could have been sidestepped is pretty basic: test.
Anytime you are launching a web property; whether a site, software, or app you have to make sure that everything is working as it should. The more visitors you expect to visit your site, the more extensive your testing should be.
Some key areas to test:
- Does the signup/subscribe/checkout processes work correctly?
- Can visitors navigate the site easily?
- Are all the links working correctly?
- Have we checked all content for typos or errors?
- Do we have a help desk or support system? Is it working?
- Do all forms on the site work? Do they display entry errors properly?
- Is all of the content being loaded securely?
- Are all of the database functions working as they should?
As you can see there are quite a bit of things you should be looking at. You need to approach the site as a visitor would, not like the person who developed it. This is why third-party testing can be a good idea. Often times, other people will uncover errors you haven’t and you’ll get an idea how random people will navigate the site.
3) User experience is never an afterthought
What happened: People became frustrated with the difficulty in signing up for plans and/or accessing the site.
The solution: Much of this was covered in the last section: to avoid the pitfall of poor user experience you must test your website before launch. It does extend a bit beyond that though. It involves user experience. A great design is key, but never sacrifice usability for a pretty look. You want your website to do what it is intended to do. If your goal is increasing sales, it should be easy for your visitors to purchase products. The same goes for subscribers. You want a big mailing list? Make it easy for your visitors to subscribe. You want people to sign up for health care coverage? Make the process seamless.
I can think of a long list of startups that could have pulled this off under budget and with better results.
What’s your take?
Just because you don’t have the time or money to roll out a brand new design for your website, doesn’t mean you have to pass on updating your website for 2014. Here’s 5 simple tweaks that will help give you more oomph in the online department before the year is up.
It’s pretty common to see new website designs roll out when bringing in the new year, but if your pocketbook (or coding skills) isn’t up to the task, there are still a few ways you can make your trusty website shine — and all it takes is a few simple tweaks.