Every company out there with a web presence has heard of the struggle of getting your website to appear at—or at least near—the top of Google search results. It’s an age old SEO quest, tales of which have been passed down from an age that pre-dates the Covid-19 pandemic (which has seemingly gone on for so long that anything that existed before it qualifies as legend).
The truth about said quest is it’s not easily accomplished without putting a good bit of time and effort into some smart SEO practices. But if you are willing to spend the time and money to get to the top of Google organically, perhaps you’ve got what you need to skip the line and reach the summit more consistently—almost immediately. How? Well, you could do so via paid SEM—Search Engine Marketing.
Ever notice those search results that appear at the top of your Google search with the [maybe not so] inconspicuous “Ad” notation to the left of the URL? That otherwise look like just another search result? Those are actually ads from campaigns written and targeted on a platform called Google Ads, a.k.a. Google Ads. Tricksy, yes. Effective? Also yes.
Google Ads is the premiere SEM solution on the Google machine. And “paid” doesn’t have to equate to “expensive.” In fact, Google’s Ads platform is super flexible. You choose your daily budget, create your keywords, write up one ad to start, and—whammo!—Google will do your bidding. Quite literally, as automated keyword bidding is the device that gets your ads placed in the Google search results of prospective customers.
There are no minimum daily budgets on the Ads platform, though experts will tell you you’ll be hard pressed to get the sort of results you’re looking for with just $2/day. That said, with just $10-$15 per day—roughly $300-450 per month—you can reach folks and begin to generate more web traffic and phone calls to your business. Enough for you to start to feel a noticeable difference.
Google Ads doesn’t just limit your ads to Google Search results either. By selecting “Search Network with Display Select” as your campaign type, you can also push your ads to other Google real estate out there on the interwebs—at no additional cost. The Google Display Network can help you reach people while they’re browsing their favorite websites, watching a YouTube video with friends, checking their Gmail inbox, or using apps on their smartphones and tablets.
With budgets you can set yourself, swanky geo-targeting features, the ability to pause and enable ads and campaigns on the fly, and even the option to schedule your ads for certain periods of the day, Google Ads is a powerful asset to have in your marketing tool belt. And one we definitely recommend to a business looking to make an immediate imprint on the internet.
Need some help running your first Ads campaign? We can help! Send us an SOS and we’ll get back to you lickety split.
We have a hunch that a lot of you are using the internet a bit more these day. Call it clairvoyance.
But what if your search for content is fruitless? What if you scour the internet in search of information and land… where there is none?
This, fellow surfers, is a space reserved for the world wide web’s most notorious numerical error: 404.
The 404 error, sometimes also referred to as the “Page Not Found” error, is what you encounter when you follow a URL that directs to a page that is simply not there. This can happen as a result of a bad link, a typo, or if you visit a page that used to exist but now—for whatever reason—does not.
If you have your own website, having this page is generally built in by default, for the most part. But you also have the ability to customize it to fit your brand. Doing so is highly recommended, as it can help to redirect lost visitors, setting them back on the correct path, possibly with a smile on their face—if your customized page is clever enough.
We recently spent some time trying to find out what cool somethings we could turn up when aiming to find, well, nothing. Here are some of our favorite 404 pages from brands you know:
Sometimes the best 404 pages deliver by having the simplest, snarky messages. Probably.
This 404 page is smart. Abundantly clever. Relevant to its brand. Features lots of internal links. And did we mention abundantly clever?
Unique on every refresh, this Page Not Found error features the dog days of 404 pages.
Few 404 pages are interactive. But sometimes when you find you’ve wandered down the wrong path, it’s time to stop and smell the roses. Or at least pet the pigs and chickens. No really—try.
The 404 is strong with this one. Always.
The revolution is upon us. And we all know—one good turn(table) deserves another.
If you have an idea for your own 404 page, or need some help customizing it, give us a shout!
One question we get a lot around here is: Why do hackers hack? The simplest answer is, well, lots of reasons. And a majority of them aren’t good. Shocking, we know.
If you find your website has become a target, more than likely it’s for one of the following reasons: distributing malware, using your site to attack other sites, spamming the internet, or stealing information.
Steal? What’s to steal, precious? Welp, hackers may be looking to acquire a variety of things when they attempt to digitally chisel their way into your site and server. Things like:
Absent information to take, they may leave something behind. Hackers can inject malicious code into your site to execute “malvertising” or affiliate spam directed at your visitors. Alternatively, code can create SEO spam directed at search engines.
In some cases, hackers may be scheming to use your server as a resource for a larger hack. More computers equal more processing power and quicker results. Ever hear of SETI@home? It’s a scientific experiment based at UC Berkeley that recruits Internet-connected computers to join the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Participants run a free program on their home computers to help with the analyzation of radio telescope data.
Hackers do the same thing, amassing a network of machines—albeit without permission—for a common, nefarious purpose. Multiple hacked servers mean more power and more bad things. Same principle, less aliens.
We’ve covered this before when it comes to WordPress sites, but here are some ways to combat and prevent these types of intrusion attempts—no matter what platform your site is built on.
Always have an SSL certificate in place and active for your website. Keep on top of it. Constant vigilance.
You need strong passwords for everything. That means the trickiest of credentials for your content management system (CMS), hosting account, registrar, FTP, database and any email accounts associated with those things.
Enable this option wherever it is offered. Seriously. Sure, it could be an added inconvenience for you when you have confirm logins on your phone each time you log in somewhere. But trust us, it’s far less inconvenient than cleaning up and restoring your site after it’s been infiltrated by a legion of covert hackers.
It’s Valentine’s Day you love birds, so we figured it’s a perfect time to share the love and wax poetic on some of our favorite websites these days. So kick back and have a read as we spin a yarn that includes fire-breathing dragons, gustatory Instagram hamburgers and maybe your next Scrabble play.
You might have seen this one on Instagram, tucked between a picture of your one-time acquaintance’s new puppy and your uncle’s most recent hamburger binge. Dorsal Bracelets is trying to sell you something, sure—hint, you wear it—but their website does a great job of visually presenting its signature product while also conveying the company’s mission—saving the ocean. Every purchase on Dorsal promises to remove one pound of trash from our beaches and oceans—18,411 pounds and counting as of this post. Visit for the lovely photography mix of ocean views and simple, hand-crafted bracelets. Stay—and maybe purchase—for the righteous cause.
The animation intro on Tilt’s website is top notch. Like really. Off-the-charts cooler-than-cool. Another Baton Rouge area marketing company, Tilt does a fantastic job of showing you—from the moment you load up the site—what its team is capable of doing for your brand. (We could watch Pac-Man eating the word “Interactive” all day.) Beyond the snazzy intro, the entire site really puts it together in the presentation department, showing off with humble brags throughout several case studies in its Work section, and also talking it up in Labs—that’s the place for company news and some self-deprecating humor, if you’re keeping score. But all of it moves and shakes and flows—we’re looking at you, fire-breathing “distinctive” dragon—and feels oh so artfully authentic.
Like wildlife? Nerd out on CSS-based interactive experiences? Well, surf on over to the Species in Pieces project to see those things mashed up in a polygonal presentation that exists to bring awareness to 30 endangered species and the threats to their survival. Scrolling through this site is one of the most satisfying experiences. Each threatened animal is built out in what is essentially a pixel origami medium. While resting, you’ll see a unique animation, but scrolling to the next species sets off a transition that shuffles the pieces before assembling the next featured creature. Check it out… but don’t blame us when you realize an hour has gone by and you’re still surfing with the Vaquita. P.S. You can download desktop wallpaper of your favorite animal. You’re welcome.
Merriam-Webster Word of the Day
This one isn’t so much a site, but part of a site. Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day feature is just what all aspiring writers or already practicing world wranglers need in their life. One word each day, including definition, audible pronunciation, examples, a video clip that includes all these things, and a short two-minute podcast about said word. And if that’s not enough, there’s a little Did You Know section as well—if what you need in your life is more knowledge. Merriam-Webster is on target with this feature. Word.
So you’re launching (or perhaps relaunching) your website. You can surf around the internet and find countless checklists to guide you on your way to launch success. That said, we’re going to take this in another direction and address some common mistakes to avoid. Let’s make your launch day a little bit easier. Onward!
And make sure they work.
One of the last things you’re going to do when launching is update the DNS settings (name servers and A records, among others) to point to your host server. But one of the first things you should do is make sure you have the correct login credentials for the registrar of the domain where you plan to launch your site. Especially the CORRECT registrar. Nothing is worse than getting to launch day and having to scramble to find the right login credentials to the right registrar. No one needs an extra hour of stress making phone calls, sending emails and/or participating in various “Forgot Password” shenanigans. It’s already a stressful time as is. Get this out of the way in advance so you can focus on your launch.
Often times plugins are downloaded during the development phase to assist in building out a new site. These might include sitemap generators, database importers or some other tool to help transfer a lot of information from your old site into your new one. But there is no need to leave dormant plugins hanging around. The extra code will only negatively impact your site loads. It also adds to your upkeep time, and additionally gives those pesky hackers another potential window to jump through. So do yourself a favor and deactivate and remove any unneeded plugins.
This is an easy one to overlook. After all, you’ve been spending weeks and possibly months designing and building pages that you intend to exist. But this is the one page you need to cover all of those pages that don’t exist. Don’t forget it.
Again, this is easy—as long as you remember. Make sure your SSL certificate is installed correctly and working. The last thing you need is for users to be deterred by a security warning when trying to visit your site. The Google and Bing crawlers won’t like it either. Play it safe and go secure.
Lots of so-called “SEO” companies out there take shortcuts and try to trick the system in order to improve a website’s site rankings on the Googles and Bings of the world. But search algorithms aren’t wallflowers—they’re the movers and shakers on the dance floor that is the world wide web. You can’t just set up the party and expect some things to not get knocked over eventually. Your SEO party needs a chaperone.
So how do you win at SEO? Easy. Just do these two things correctly (and the second consistently).
Sure, additional steps can—and should—be made to drive traffic to your site, including things like paid per click advertising and a social media presence that links to your newly posted content. But for the most part you can drastically improve your search ranking position by building a proper foundation and then giving the content structure a fresh coat of paint at least quarterly. #winning
Let us elaborate just a tad. Building your website foundation properly means setting it up for success. Optimize your site by using clean, efficient code for load speeds and mobile performance. Build in a proper structure for page hierarchy and fill your CMS with appropriate areas to populate relevant meta information.
Then it’s time to talk to your site visitors. Shockingly, words matter. If your site content is relevant and valuable to your target audience, search engines will take notice and your rankings will improve. So speak the language of your customers. Said more simply, include the words and phrases people use to try to find you in your site’s pages and articles, and a digital match will be made. They search, the find, you win.
If you want more information on the basics of search engine optimization, or if you have an interest in our SEO package and services, send us an SOS!
The WordPress core provides an excellent foundation for a site with basic features out of the box, but what’s really great about it is just how customizable this content management system can be. We mentioned this in our previous post about custom plugins. If you know what you are doing, it is easy to modify and enhance a WordPress site to make your website vision a digital reality.
Just as they do with security, WordPress offers programmers roadmaps and guidance when it comes to adding on to the core platform. They also encourage it in their ‘Bill of Rights,’ which lays out four core freedoms:
1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
2. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.
3. The freedom to redistribute.
4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others.
That second one. Teary eyes. Actually, all four of them are worthy of the crying face emoji—in a good way, obviously. These rights are as important individually as they are together, and are a big reason why we really enjoy working with WordPress. We are empowered as developers to create, modify, use, share, repeat. We get by with a little help from our friends, and WordPress is definitely in our fave five.
To continue our series, WordPress is our Jam and Let Us Tell You Why (we know, it’s a ridiculous name), we thought we’d talk next about one of our favorite WordPress features: plugins. Specifically, custom plugins. You’re probably familiar with plugins—programs that can be installed in your site’s WordPress backend that allow you to add a specific set of features to your website. Need a quick contact form? There’s a plugin for that. Need a calendar of events? Yep, plugin. Additional security? Why of course! Plugins are a convenient and seemingly simple way to crank up the functionality of your site.
(You saw that coming, didn’t you?)
As with all good things, there is a caveat. In this case there are multiple. Often times these plugins that allow you to flip a switch and turn on some much needed functionality come with some downright junky code. They also may come with additional features you don’t need, giving you some extra—and for your purposes, useless—code that may slow down your site’s loading speeds or make things more complicated than necessary. Finally, if you ever run into an issue with a plugin and you don’t know the developer, you may be stuck on the phone or waiting forever for an email from Support staged in a far off place.
Our advice: choose simple. Don’t shoehorn a bulky, multi-faceted plugin into your site just for a minor piece of functionality. All those unused options are mistakes waiting to happen. Let us build you one, sleek plugin instead. We enjoy flexing our coding muscles to give our clients the right functionality for their site with the cleanest code solution possible. After all, not all plugins are one size fits all. We have done everything from adding the ability to get a customized moving estimate to creating a nifty page to capture a testimonial and cue it up for approval and publishing. For one client, we even created an entire suite of tools that allows their providers to document and bill visits with their patients! Collaborating with our clients to come up with the right solution is our bread and butter. Plus, we are easy to get in touch with– phone, email, Twitter, you name it. We’re here! We can’t wait to see what plugin you have in mind!
So, we sat down to write a post about why we love and use WordPress. Easiest task ever. I mean, we really love WordPress. And it is the content management system of choice for over 30 percent of the top 10 million websites on the internet, which means we aren’t the only ones. But as it turns out, there is way too much to love about it for just one post, which is why we are introducing our series called WORDPRESS IS OUR JAM AND LET US TELL YOU WHY.
For our inaugural post we thought we would focus on security. We already mentioned in our post on defending your site from hackers that updates are offered regularly to the WordPress core to patch any potential security issues found. You read that post, right? But it’s true – the WordPress team is constantly working to identify and resolve common security threats. They even work with HackerOne, a vulnerability corporation and bug bounty platform, to make it easy for developers (especially ethical hackers) to alert the security team of any potential issues found. The WordPress team also does a great job providing security-related best practices for developers to follow. Website security is a process, not a product, after all. (That same mentality goes for SEO, but that’s a story for a different day!) When it comes to security, it helps to have a roadmap for continuous improvement.
If you need a little extra peace of mind, you can always add a security plugin to supplement the base security features of WordPress. Though we typically shy away from plugins and prefer to build our own (again, another story for a different day), we can highly recommend Wordfence Security. And we can highly highly recommend the premium version! As the most popular WordPress firewall and security scanner available, WordFence has a whole suite of fun features that we love to geek out on. Like fancy firewall rules, live traffic monitoring, and the ability to block a single IP address, a whole IP range, or even an entire country. Just don’t let all that power to block go to your head.
Hackers. We all know they are lurking behind the code. And while some are “the good guys” and have the public’s best interest at heart, there are many (way too many) looking to steal information or just create chaos. As a website owner, it is your responsibility to make your site as difficult as possible to be hacked. So what can you do to make your site more secure?
One of the biggest offenses we’ve come across is the use of “admin” as the login name for a CMS. Terrible idea. If your username is basically just the default option you’ve already given half of the keys to your kingdom away. Need some ideas of what not to do? Start with the top 10 usernames and passwords hackers use to get into remote computers, compiled from Rapid7’s Project Heisenburg.
Next stop: a strong password. WordPress takes the stress out of creating a strong password by providing each user with one, but it’s one of those that will be too long and complicated to remember. We recommend using a password manager or copy + pasting from a secure document (one that is also behind a password). Sticking with the WordPress password generator is the way to go, but if you want to create a strong password you actually have a chance to remember, check out these tips on creating a complex password as shared by one of the good guy hackers.
Our last tips on passwords: change your password every quarter (at the minimum!) and use different passwords for different accounts. Trust us.
We love WordPress. We use it for the majority of the sites we build because it is powerful, flexible and easy for our clients to use. It’s also popular. So popular, in fact, that it is often targeted by hackers. Not to fear, though! The WordPress core is quite secure. They regularly offer updates to patch bugs or security issues found. Keeping your WordPress version up to date will make your site safer. Side note: Always remember to back up your site before updating!
Plugins and themes give you the ability to extend the features and functionality of your site, but some of them can also have major security flaws. Anyone can develop and publish for WordPress, so you will want to make sure that any plugin or theme installed on your site has good reviews and is made by a reputable source. To be safe, delete any from your site that you aren’t using, and make sure to keep those you do use updated. Not all plugins were created with security in mind, so it’s best to limit exposure by using as few as possible.
Did you see that coming? Yeah, we have one of those. We offer a retainer to keep your site’s security up to our standards. This includes making updates, backing up files, monitoring administration logins, and blocking hacker IP addresses. Contact us if you have any questions about it.