Author Archives: Steve Joiner

GDPR: What is it? And what does it mean for your website?

GDPR

Last month your inbox may have been flooded with notices about updates to privacy policies.  This was the result of companies trying to accommodate and make their policies compliant with GDPR.

What is GDPR?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation. This is an EU law on data protection and privacy. It’s specifically for all individuals within the EU and European Economic Area. The goal is to help citizens and residents maintain control over more of their personal data while unifying regulation within the EU.

Ok, but what does that mean for me and my website?

First of all, Alter Endeavors shouldn’t be considered the final say on how to handle GDPR on your site.  We believe this is ultimately a legal decision between you and your counsel.  However, a good question to start with is:

How often do you interface with EU visitors on your site?

And also: What do you do with the personal data you collect from them?

If your website asks visitors to voluntarily provide data on your forms and it only tracks cookies in a very general sense (and most websites built by Alter Endeavors do this), you are probably doing enough.

If someone from the EU asks to be removed from your list or asks for an inventory of all the information you have on them, then please comply with the request!

We always advise (not only in regards to GDPR) that it is best practice to ONLY use the data you get for the purposes you state, i.e. newsletters and updates about you. Never sell the data or give it to other people.

If you find that people complain that you don’t have cookie opt-outs or something like that in the future, then maybe you should consider implementing cookie opt-out options (which we can help you with!). If you legitimately have people provide their information and you treat it with respect and privacy, you shouldn’t have a problem with your website!

There certainly has been a lot of fear-mongering about this issue, but we feel large companies with questionable privacy practices are the primary target and smaller entities who legitimately collect information freely given have little to fear. Don’t be fooled by people offering expensive solutions, when in reality, you may not need to take any action. If you have specific questions or need help assessing your website needs in regard to GDPR, please reach out to us and we will help you find a sensible solution.

6 Website Logins All Website Owners Should Know (Part 1)

As your favorite local tech support person, it’s a constant battle for us to maintain our client’s websites because so often our clients don’t know crucial access information needed to setup and maintain their websites.
Too often clients rely solely on a friend or trusted associate to handle all of this information. However, as time passes and people come and go in their lives or businesses, they often lose track of this information.
It’s important that you, as the owner of the web property, have accurate access information for these 6 key website logins that you or your tech support person will need. You should find out what they are, make sure they work and store them in a safe place.

Domain Registrar 

What is it?
Remember way back when you first reserved your domain name? Domain registrars are companies that are accredited to reserve, sell and maintain domains for you. Domain names are usually reserved in 1-year increments.
Why is it important?
A domain registrar serves several very important functions. Reserving and renewing the domain name is obvious, but just as important, the domain registrar is also where you specify the DNS host. We’ll talk more about that later, but this means it’s essentially the place where you specify the primary domain name server (like a phone book, only for a computer) which allows people to find your website when they enter your domain name in a browser.
Other facts about Domain Registrars:
When you reserve your domain name, you will be asked to specify contact information for the registrant (the person who owns the domain name), as well as administrative, technical and billing contacts. Most people use the same person, but you may want to include alternate emails in case they can’t reach the original email.
If you don’t know your domain registrar, you can visit a site such as WhoIs, enter your domain name and get a wealth of information about your domain, including who your domain registrar is.
Well known Registrars?

DNS Host (Name Server)

What is it?
A DNS host (name server) is a service that keeps copies of your DNS information on a bunch of different servers so that when somebody enters your domain name, it quickly returns the IP address (sort of like a phone number) to visitors so that they can find (call) your website. This is so that people looking for your website can remember visitmysite.com rather than 123.1.34.56. When someone enters visitmysite.com in a browser, it looks up that name on your DNS hosting’s server and provides the IP address so that your website can be found.
Why is it important?
If you move your website to a different server, for any reason, you have to have this information to re-point the DNS information to the correct IP address. Add it to your list of key website logins, you will definitely need it in the future.
Other facts about DNS Hosting:
In most cases your domain registrar will provide this service for free as part of their domain registration service, so your domain registrar and DNS host are often the same company utilizing the same website logins.
If you don’t know who is hosting your DNS you can usually find out with a WhoIs and look for the name server. Sometimes the name server is a bit cryptic, but you can usually figure out who it is by Googling the name server name.
Well known DNS Hosts?
Cloudflare, Rackspace, FreeDNS, ClouDNS and many major domain registrars such as GoDaddy and BlueHost.

Website Host (Control Panel)

What is it?
Web hosts are services that allow organizations and individuals to publish a website or web page on the Internet. A web host, or web hosting service provider, is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for the website or webpage to be viewed on the Internet. Websites are hosted, or stored, on web hosting servers.
Why is it important?
Clearly, if you need to make changes to your website, it’s important to have access to where the files and images are that make up your website. Without it, you cannot update your content.
Other facts about Web Hosting:
Websites with low traffic visitation are usually found on shared servers, often with dozens of other sites.  Busier ones may be on dedicated servers, with increased pricing. The login that controls your website is often called a dashboard or control panel.
Many domain registrars will also provide website hosting. So your registrar and web host are often the same company with the same login.
If you don’t know who is hosting your website, visit WhoIsHostingThis? and enter your domain. There you will see the name of the company who is currently hosting your website.
Well known Web Hosting Companies?

Coming next time: Website Logins Part 2 – FTP, WordPress, and email services.

Need Website Support? AE’s Hosting Plans May Just be the “Ticket”

website support

There are so many working parts to a website it won’t be long before it needs some help. Perhaps the content is dated, or in your images, you have that funky old haircut. Exactly what were you thinking? Or even worse, text is floating in the left margin, one of your menu items returns a 404 and your contact form notifies aliens when completed because no one you know gets an email. And then everyone’s favorite. “What on earth is my password?”

Looking at the website support landscape we knew it was difficult for small, independent organizations to get friendly, timely and helpful support for anything ranging from DNS problems to new pages to bad punctuation. Countless clients have complained to us that their last developer is out of business or won’t respond in a helpful way. Perhaps their site is hosted at one of those companies that spend too much money on questionable super bowl commercials to have excellent, timely and friendly support. Dealing with big companies, especially when there may be more than one involved, can be so frustrating and unproductive.

We listened. Alter Endeavors has combined flexible hosting and web management options with a helpful, responsive and easy to use support ticketing system where you can get help with your website issues no matter how big or small.

Alter Endeavors offers three options to help manage your website. Two are ongoing plans and a third option provides help only when you want it.

Basic Website Hosting Plan (Ongoing)

This plan is best for individuals and small companies that have websites that are important to them, but require only occasional, less complicated updates. It provides safe, secure and best-in-class hosting. We lease and manage our servers from Media Temple and we take care of support issues through them for you.

The plan is priced at $35 per month or $348 yearly. If you should need it, the opportunity to use our ticket support system at our standard rate of $125 is also available.

The base price on this plan covers standard backups and maintenance as it relates to basic hosting (keeping your site up!) It does not cover items or issues that may break or become outdated within your website or happen outside of our control such as problems at your registrar. For that, you will need to use our ticket system and pay the $125 per hour.

Deluxe Website Management Plan (Ongoing)

For those of you that place super importance on keeping your website in tip-top operating shape and have the need to update it fairly often, we offer our deluxe website management option.

It includes so many benefits and I don’t like super long paragraphs, I’ll include a bulleted list!

  • Everything included in the basic plan mentioned before, plus:
  • Monthly Site Backups
  • Hacking Protocols – In the very unlikely event your site goes down from hacking or a code update glitch, Alter Endeavors will recover the last working version of your site from our site backups (no more than 30 days old) to be sure you have a working site. We will then dive into the issue to determine the root issue and resolve it at no additional cost to you.
  • Necessary WordPress theme and plugin updates for security and stability
  • Quality Assurance checks after updates to be sure nothing on your site broke after an update
  • 1 hour of support to be used however you wish (towards design, content, coding, training, etc.) – Can build up to 3 support hours in reserve at a time (if you don’t use an hour one month, it will roll over to the next month with a max of 3 hours in reserve at a time). Our response time on support tickets for this service is within 8 business hours.
  • A reduced hourly rate of $100/hour (instead of our agency $125/hour) for additional support time during normal business hours – (9AM-6PM CST Mon – Fri)
  • A reduced emergency hourly rate – $175/hour (instead of $250/hour) for any immediate support time needed outside of our normal business hours
    Whew! That’s a lot for only $200 per month, so if keeping your website up and available, updated and looking good is important, this is the program for you.

Ticket Website Support Only (Hourly rate)

If these plans are not quite what you’re looking for, consider registering with us for hourly support. You can do this by sending an email to steve@alterendeavors.com and we’ll put you down as a person that is entitled to our excellent support system at our standard hourly rate of $125/hour.

You can read more about the details of our hosting plans at this link Website Support and Hosting.

Soon Your Site Might Be Flagged As “Not Secure”- What Do You Do?

not secure

Google has announced that their popular Chrome Browser, starting in October 2017, will flag all websites that are not encrypted and ask for any information through forms, as “not secure.” Website encryption is used to secure data that is given by the visitor while on that website. Google started doing this in January for websites that asked for personal or purchasing information, but starting in October, they will flag websites that ask for ANY information forms as “not secure”. So, to further explain what this means, our Director of Website Management at Alter Endeavors, Steve Joiner, is here to help tell us how this may affect your website.

Wait, What?

Today most websites are not encrypted, although the number that are is growing fast. If your website isn’t encrypted, it uses the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and doesn’t have Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates. This means that the information passed between website visitors and the website is more easily intercepted and successfully read. Websites that are encrypted, use Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) and have SSL certificates installed. The SSL certificate ensures that the information passed between the website visitors and the website is encrypted which makes it much more difficult to intercept. SSL Certificates typically have to be renewed periodically in one, two or three year increments.

Why Google Decided To Make HTTP “Not Secure”

Google has long been a proponent of a safer, more protected internet. When Google considers who to rank for any search term, they want to send searchers to safe and secure sites. Thus, Google has started to rank sites that have encryptions higher in search engine results. Google wants to alert searchers when they are visiting a site that isn’t encrypted, which is why they have decided to start flagging sites that aren’t encrypted as “not secure.”

Should you consider switching your website to HTTPS and encryption? 

While it may seem hard or stressful to switch your website to HTTPS and encryption, it is definitely something you should consider doing. First, encryption will make your site safer and more secure for your visitors. Second, Google will give your site more “ranking points” for search engine results allowing your site to potentially do better than sites without encryption. Lastly, your site won’t be flagged as “not secure” when you are asking your visitors to provide information in a form. While a SSL certification may not be necessary, it can improve your overall success and traffic to your site.

What is involved in switching from HTTP to HTTPS?

For starters, an SSL certificate must be purchased. Before purchasing the certificate, you must get your server set up and make sure it has the correct company name and address. Next, you need to submit a Certificate Signing Request (CSR). Then, you will have to submit the CSR to the Certificate Authority and get your domain and company validated. Once it is purchased and you receive the certificate, you must get it installed on your site. In some cases, websites may include assets that are provided by unencrypted websites. Those must be reviewed and resolved. Lastly, this change should be reflected in Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools to help protect your existing search rankings.

Help! This is way too technical!  Can Alter Endeavors help?

Yes, Alter Endeavors can definitely help you with this. To start, we can purchase the SSL certificate on your behalf. Then, we can install it on your website for you. Next, we would review your site and identify potential problems with the switch over to encryption. Lastly, we can notify Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools that your site is now HTTPS/encrypted to help improve your search rankings and make sure your website is no longer marked as “not secure.”

How much will this cost you?

The two costs to consider would be the cost of the SSL certificate and the cost of our Alter Endeavors developer’s time. The cost of the SSL certificate is approximately $75-$150. If you wanted to hire AE’s developer, it would probably take anywhere between 2-5 hours. Once you Contact Us, we will review your site and let you know ahead of time what our estimate is.

We know that this topic can be too technical at times, but we hope this article has helped explain what this update will mean for your website!

A Layperson’s Guide to SEO

airport

We know SEO is important, but what is it? And what does it do?  We interviewed SEO specialist, Steven Joiner of Searchography, to help give the layperson an elemental understanding of SEO and best practices.

What is SEO?

SJ: SEO (search engine optimization) is the practice of making your website more visible to search engines by focusing your content, improving user interaction, and getting other sites across the internet to link to your content (backlinks).

What are the benefits of SEO?

SJ: If you follow the rules of SEO and target specific keyword search terms, you can rank for these terms which will presumably bring your business potential clients.

Successful SEO can potentially bring you more business by increasing the number of search terms your website ranks for, which in turn should bring visitors looking for your services or products to your website.

Why should someone pay for SEO? 

SJ: Putting up a website and not doing SEO is akin to printing business cards and not handing them out.  The web is a vast place (over 1 billion websites) and without a considerable amount of effort or money, it’s difficult for people to find your website.

For popular keyword terms entered into search engines, there maybe thousands, even millions of website owners that want to rank for that term.  What is a search engine to do?  You have to get your message to the search engines.

What are a few easy things that a layperson can do to increase their rankings?

SJ: There are lots of fairly easy things to do to make your website more visible, but keep in mind that SEO is a process where you need to get LOTS of things done, some easy, some hard, before you will start to see real results.  

Some of the easier things are to submit sitemaps, use Google Analytics and Google Search Console for monitoring and success, get a Google My Business page, get as many reviews on Google, Yelp and other directories as you can get. Also, for better local search results, make sure your business name, address and phone number are consistent across social media and business directory sites.

What are a few SEO best practices that everyone should know?

SJ: There are so many areas, it’s hard to cover, but remember a few general rules about what search engines like and don’t like.

  1. Keep your website content fresh by adding interesting blogs
  2. Target your content for keywords, but don’t overdo it so much that it makes your content look weird – keep it natural and interesting
  3. Share, share, share. Cross promote your web content to social media sites, friends, colleagues and use your targeted keywords in anchor text whenever possible
  4. Ask happy clients to relate their experiences on review sites, but don’t pressure them or ask for specifics
  5. Make sure you standardize your business name, address and phone number.Do you have a favorite SEO resource that you like to read or subscribe to to help you keep up on the latest happenings in the field?

Do you have a favorite SEO resource that you like to read or subscribe to to help you keep up on the latest happenings in the field?

SJ: There are many, many websites that write about SEO, but moz.com and searchengineland.com are excellent resources. Even Google itself has blogs and a wealth of information.