Recently there has been much conversation about free or do it yourself vs. hiring an website professional to develop your site. It can be so confusing.
If you are a very small business, just starting out, you need to analyse your start up costs with the $ of sales. Do not overbuy your first website, in that case it may be prudent to do it yourself or have a one pager for credibility until you have enough sales to support your marketing. Often in a start up, the website we create first is not what you will need in 12 months.
The definition of a website professional is being morphed and changed by the “new people” on the scene. We recently ran across a company that is specializing in “Wix” sites and calling themselves a web designer. Same with Shopify, WordPress.com, square… While excellent platforms, they do have limitations and you are completely tied to their platform. You will not have the ability to develop custom functions or add programming if required.Often people are frustrated with the level of customization available these platforms.
If you are looking for a new website, redesign or developer, it is harder than ever to compare pricing and skill sets.
Here are 10 tips;
There is a large difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org When developing a corporate site, you will be quite limited on wordpress.com because you can not add custom coding, there is no sftp protocal and it is a multisite environment. There is no option to add your own premium theme and custom plugins.
A business web site should be done in a quality hosting environment using http2, php 7.2 + and an ssl certificate.
Your web designer should be familiar with inbound marketing, content creation, e – newsletters, lead pages, Google Analytics and search console.
Graphics are extremely important and a well rounded web designer will be experienced with graphics, photo editing and resizing. The designer will develop a colour pallet using your logo and /or industry and carry the branding forward into the website.
SEO is one of the most important considerations and the web site should be developed with this in mind. We always develop using WordPress.org on a independant hosting space using a top level domain. Keyword and competition research is critical.
Your designer should include a back up protocol and security software. These days we are even recommending Securi for monitoring, malware scanning, firewall and uptime.
Talk to your web designer about the marketing approach, they should be very familiar with content layout, marketing language, user experience and conversion techniques.
Each web designer has a toolbox of skills and that should be extensive. The more experience the better. If an agency, ask who the developer actually is, if outsourced, it could be an issue later when you need changes.
Interview the web designer, you need to develop a relationship, as your site will be around for 2-3 years and then you probably need to change it up. The website will need regular maintenance and you can be trained on the content management
In case of site crash, what is the response time. Do they know how to fix it? Technical ability is important as we know, anything can be hacked. Proactive is always better.
Often we get clients calling wanting a website but have no plans to blog or use social media, videos etc. Part of our job is to educate customers on the fact that just the website alone is not enough. Each business should have a clear content creation plan to complement their inbound marketing strategy. Gone are the days of build a website and leave it. With millions of websites online, we must stay competitive on the content/ information driven internet.
We work with clients to help them understand the strategy of inbound marketing and how the website works in conjunction with blogging, social media, video, newsletters, lead magnets, e-commerce etc.
Your website should be the HUB that ties all your marketing efforts together. Conversions happen on your website; whether the visitor picks up the phone, buys something or signs up for an offer. The website is the hub of all your business information.
The concept is to lead the viewer back to the website at any opportunity so that they have the opportunity to see the products and services you have. Here are some examples of some marketing strategies and how they work with your website.
Example: You see a beautiful blouse your friend shared on Instagram, you think, I want that blouse, so you click the link in the post and land on the website that sells the blouses. You can then investigate what else they have and buy the blouse.
Another example; your child is acting out at school, you Google “child acting out at highschool” the search results indicate a local phychologist written blog article that discusses parental strategies, you read the article and are impressed with the tips so you look on the website further and find you can go for family counselling. This same example holds true with videos as well, as long a detailed description is used with the video.
More and more experts are telling us about the importance of video and about how crucial it is to connect with customers in a visual way. It IS important – we won’t dispute that. But it’s not the only way to connect with your customer and sometimes it might not even be the best way. If you’ve been wondering if there is still space for the written word when it comes to promoting your business, the answer is a resounding yes.
Blogging helps position you as an expert
Someone with subject matter expertise and who blogs regularly about what they know helps to both obtain and maintain a position on Google as an expert. Add in a dash of humor and people will keep clicking on your site because they know you to be entertaining too!
Blogging is shared across multiple platforms
You’ve heard of “old school” and “new school?” Well, if you want to appeal to a wider demographic it’s best to incorporate a variety of strategies into your marketing campaign. Some folks still prefer to read content and some platforms are more reader friendly. Think about LinkedIn. People who are posting blogs regularly to a forum like LinkedIn are business and thought leaders considered to be leading experts in their field. The written word holds more value on a medium like LinkedIn. Know your audience and where (and how!) to reach them.
Blogging is offering and / or sharing information of value, for free
Want to build some customer and / or brand loyalty? Give something away for free. What you are trying to accomplish here is building your “know, like and trust” factor amongst a wider audience. It costs very little to share some of your knowledge with potential customers for free but it could cost you a whole lot more if your competitors are doing it and they’re getting all the website traffic.
Blogging leads back to your website
Writing an article or blog is a great way to actually increase your Google reach. Search engines LOVE new content so blogging regularly and linking your blogs back to your website will help drive traffic to your website too. Make sure when you’re blogging you’re finding ways to incorporate key words into the paragraphs you write in order to capitalize on search engine optimization.
Blogging must be current to be relevant
Blogging frequently keeps you top of mind and helps keep content on your website fresh. You might not always be able to update your website but writing and posting a blog, that links back to your website, is a surefire way to stay current.
Blogging also encourages reader engagement and interaction because it allows followers to comment, share and post on your social media channels. Just make sure that you are as equally committed to engaging with customers as you are to writing the blogs in the first place!
Need some tips and tools on how to get started? We asked Sheralyn Roman, of Writing Right For You, to comment. Here’s what she had to say:
Be scheduled and consistent. Frequency isn’t as important as the consistency of your posting schedule.
Your goal is to create an audience and encourage reader engagement.
Offer something of value for free.
Write from your own life experience.
It’s not a novel! K.I.S.S. (Keep it short and simple!) About 500 – 800 words.
Practice “spontaneous” creativity – if you don’t write regularly you might have to practice. Think of it as a muscle that needs developing and start training!
Keep a diary – use the “Notes” app on your phone to jot down ideas you have that could later be turned into blogs.
Write what you know – stick to your area of expertise and become known for it.
Your first 5 blogs? – Answer the 5 W’s. Who you are, What you do, Why you do it….you get the idea……
Stay relevant by incorporating current events into your blogs.
Always include a call to action – it’s fine to do so…make it a part of your final sentence or a tag line at the bottom of every blog.
Use Key Words – make sure to maximize SEO by incorporating key words from your business / website into every blog you write.
Commit to engagement – interacting with your followers is crucial – create a two-way conversation!
The bottom line – blogging is still relevant. In fact, we would suggest blogging must absolutely form a part of your marketing platform. We design stellar websites that exceed customer expectations but if you want to keep customers coming back, your website needs to stay current and be updated frequently. A blog is just one of the ways to drive traffic back to your core website content. Don’t have time to blog? Hire an expert to do it for you. From art scratched on a cave wall, to text recorded on papyrus, mankind has relied upon some form of “graphics” and the written word to communicate since the dawn of time. Websites and blogging are just the most current method! Words and art were important then. They still are today!
If you’re old enough to remember that line from the movie Field of Dreams, you might also remember the official grand opening of Skorski Web Design! This year they are celebrating 15 years of providing exceptional web design for small business clients and in computer years – that’s practically ancient history! Just five years ago an article appeared in Snapd Dufferin about Skorski Web Design as they celebrated their 10th anniversary and we can tell you – since that time a lot has changed. It’s time for an update, starting with the concept: “if you build it (that is – a website) they (your potential customers) will come.” If that website is built by Skorski Web Design you’ll certainly see an increase in Internet traffic but these days, you have to do so much more. Liz Skorski and the team at Skorski Web Design, are up to the challenge. In addition to websites design and development, they also build inbound marketing strategy, Search engine optimization and empower you to manage your own online presence for maximum impact.
Asked what’s changed in the last five years, here is what Owner and Web Designer Liz Skorski had to say: “We are in an era of empowerment,” she comments. “The small business owner can actually be very empowered when they have access to the right tools and know how to use them. In 2004, when I first started, these tools did not even exist….NOW we are in an age where a web designer like myself can not only set you up to succeed but also give you some tips and tools to be able to move forward on your own.” She describes, in addition to building websites, the ongoing training she now offers as part of the evolution of service levels available at Skorski Web Design. Some clients can do updates themselves and manage their own postings to the website / blog, doing so with confidence but knowing too that Liz can support them at anytime.
For others, they just don’t have the time to manage their own technology no matter how tech smart they might be and that’s ok. Skorski Web Design does that too. Liz matches clients with the right technology for their business and says a pet peeve of hers are businesses that sell a “website package” including upgrades or maintenance features that the customer (and/or the size of business) just doesn’t require. Liz offers unique and custom tailored website and SEO tools that best suit the individual customers size, business requirements and their level of comfort in handling their own technology. It is not a “one size fits all” kind of world.
Something else that has changed is the need for websites to be more secure than ever before. Each requires an SSL certificate and must be professionally optimized for SEO. You’ll want to ask about and ensure that all system back ups are in place. Of course websites these days must also be fully mobile friendly and responsive. A huge chunk of the potential market for any business is now accessing the Internet solely from their cell phones and you need to be mobile friendly to leverage any advantage that offers. That’s definitely a little different from 15 years ago.
Here’s what hasn’t changed. Fifteen years ago, Skorski Web Design was focused on “maintaining old fashioned values while incorporating new world technology.” Customer service is still the focus today. Creating new and unique websites that help clients achieve local, and global, business success is still what they do best. Now though, in addition to the research, design and implementation of new websites for customers, SWD helps clients determine an entire marketing strategy that will include a focus on social media and blogging. “Often – business owners assume if they build a website, business will come.” That’s not always the case Liz states. “Rather, your website serves as a hub but your broader marketing plan should include social media that links back to your website.” It’s not the cure-all but rather, an essential part of your marketing plan. Social media for example, should link back to the website, your blogs should link back to the website – you have a broader plan but your website is the hub. “Blogging,” she explains, “is a key part of offering something of interest and value to your customers but which also serves you by driving customers back to your website. Frequency and added value content are crucial. Building a regular schedule of blogs is a great tool for building connectivity with your customers.”
Here’s something else that has been consistent throughout 15 years of successfully designing literally hundreds of websites for satisfied customers: commitment to her own ongoing training and education as well as her commitment to community. About personal growth Liz says; “I service what I build. I enjoy staying up to date on trends and technology and I spend a lot of time reading articles, doing research, making sure I’m on trend – my business reflects 15 years of commitment to improving daily.” As for community work, Liz gives back in a variety of ways including extensive involvement with Dufferin Women in Business, sitting on the Board of Directors of the Dufferin Board of Trade and 100+ Women Who Care Dufferin.
We’ll end the way we started, with another expression you might be familiar with: “the more things change the more they stay the same.” Like our first quote, it too seems to apply here. That is, that at Skorski Web Design the emphasis remains on collaboration and great customer service, even during times of dramatic advances in website design, new accessibility tools for the “hands-on” customer and a focus on staying active on social media. Either way, Liz Skorski always has the best interests of clients top of mind. Whether you’re a small business owner and need someone to do everything, or a business who has someone on staff available to help with the technology once you’re up and running, Skorski Web Design will put you on the path to success – creating an online presence that starts with great website design, steller SEO and inbound marketing strategy and ends with providing great customer service and support – now and in the future!
A nameless, faceless hacker is extorting you. Pay $857 in Bitcoin or videos and screenshots from your “dark secret life” — plus the browsing history on your phone, tablet and computer — will be shared with family, friends and the world.
“You are not my only victim,” the hacker writes. “I usually lock devices and ask for a ransom. But I was struck by the sites of intimate content that you very often visit.”
Several near identical versions of this “phishing” email have been sent out to hundreds of thousands of people in North America over the last few months.
Known by cybersecurity experts as “spray-and-pray” attacks, they are ultimately empty (just don’t click on any attached links) but surprisingly successful threats, say security consultants and police. On Monday, Peel police released a warning to the public about these and other scams.
To make your heart race faster, this wannabe extortionist — he or she identifies as a “programmer” — includes what can be a shocking bit of detail: A password you have used in the past and may still be using. The hacker also claims to have “uploaded malicious code” to your operating system and has “a complete history of visits” you have made to various internet sites.
Oh, and one other chilling element: the threat you just received appears to have come from your own email address.
Attacks like this are on the rise as hackers, stymied by increasingly stronger corporate security, are turning more and more to individuals, who are viewed as much easier marks.
“At our core, human beings are not very complicated. We are motivated by hunger, fear, greed, money and sex,” said Eldon Sprickerhoff, founder of Cambridge-based cybersecurity company eSentire.
“These people throw as many baited hooks out as they can and a steady, though small, percentage of people pay.”
A recent research report by Microsoft said these so-called “phishing” attacks now dominate the cybersecurity landscape. That’s because corporate security is improving, making it harder to crack into a company’s system. Microsoft estimates that 53 per cent of cyber attacks today are “phishing” expeditions, in which a hacker is trying to fool a person or company into paying money or providing credentials or banking information.
Cyber experts say there is no firm number on how many phishing attacks occur in Canada or the United States in a given year, although a conservative estimate suggests hundreds of thousands are received by individuals and companies.
There are two types of phishing: the so-called “spray and pray,” and the targeted type referred to as “spear phishing.” In the latter, a hacker masquerades as a company’s president or chief financial officer and emails a junior accounting executive at the same firm, directing them to transfer, for example, $50,000 to a company as part of a “special project.”
“The person might say we are doing a deal and it will not be announced until next week,” explained Brian Bourne, co-founder of Black Arts Illuminated, an organization that brings information technology security specialists in Canada together to share findings and discuss strategies to defeat hackers. “The person in accounting, who is three levels down, would think, well, it is my boss’s boss, so I had better do it.”
It is actually very simple to make an email appear as if it is came from a known and trusted source. That’s because few safeguards were built in when the simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) that everyone sending regular emails now uses was set up in the 1970s — and it would take a co-ordinated world wide effort to do so now.
Here’s the anatomy of a recent spray-and-pray attack, and how the anonymous e-mailers most likely obtained the passwords of their targets. After receiving a few of these emails, I took an interest.
There are an estimated 5 billion email accounts in the world today, each with a password chosen by the account holder. From time to time, widely used applications with poor security have been hacked and emails and passwords suddenly became vulnerable. One of the biggest known breaches ever was of the networking site LinkedIn in 2012. The email credentials of 167 million people were stolen and now trade on the dark web, a part of the World Wide Web only accessible using special software. Alongside the hacked LinkedIn accounts are the stolen credentials from many others, including MySpace, which was hit by a hack that exposed 360 million user accounts in 2013, and Ashley Madison, which suffered a breach of 30 million emails and passwords
(Those email addresses and passwords remain out there on the dark web. You can check if your information is among them at Have I Been Pwned, a free service maintained by Australian web security expert Troy Hunt.)
In their response to the public back then, LinkedIn and other sites boosted security protocols, and instituted a mandatory reset of compromised accounts. The problem is, according to security experts, many people reuse the same password for other sites.
Enter our hacker, who had an old password of mine.
When I received the hacker’s email, I recalled the particular password he boasted he had “cracked” was one I had used once, many years ago, to join LinkedIn. Others who received the same email have similar recollections. Security experts warn that you should take care to use only one password per site, change it frequently and do not make it obvious — don’t use your dog’s name, for example.
“Hello!” was the introduction line on the hacker’s email, which popped into my inbox on a Monday evening in October. Seemed like a friendly enough fellow.
“I’m a hacker who cracked your email and device a few months ago. You entered a password on one of the sites you visited, and I intercepted it. Of course you will change it, or already changed it. But it doesn’t matter, my malware updated it every time.”
The address the hacker had sent his email from appeared to be my own email address. Except it was not, it just looked that way. This is called “spoofing.”
My hacker was interested in only a modest payment of $857. He provided helpful instructions on how to use Google to learn how to make a payment to a Bitcoin “wallet” he provided.
“I give you 48 hours to make a payment. If this does not happen, all your contacts will get crazy shots from your dark, secret life,” the hacker wrote.
The hacker made a series of claims, all bogus as it turned out. One was that he had uploaded “malicious code to your Operation System” — untrue, our security techs at the Star say.
Experts in cybersecurity say that although people do pay this ransom, these hackers actually do not have access to your account, the camera on your phone or your browsing history (although clicking on links in the email could upload malware to your device).
What is most likely to have happened is that my hacker purchased a portion of the LinkedIn data from the dark web — perhaps for as little as $2,000, experts say — and then went “phishing.”
The best advice cyber experts have is to use unique passwords, never re-use them, and change them often. The data is still out there, hundreds of millions of emails and passwords being traded on the dark web.
“Every time any website gets knocked over, whether it is a car forum or LinkedIn or Uber or Ashley Madison or insert breach of the day, those credentials get posted on the dark web and are scraped by unsavoury individuals,” said Bourne. “At that point, it is pretty much public domain, your user name and what password you used.”
As to how many people bite on a phishing attack and pay, there is no reliable data, since people who pay do not generally come forward. Few arrests are ever made. The RCMP did lay charges this year against Jordan Evan Bloom, 27, of Thornhill, who they say operated a database of 3 billion email credentials and sold them on the dark web. Police alleged that he earned $247,000 selling the passwords. The case remains before the court.
And proof that Canada is a bilingual country came this past weekend: the same email from a hacker — but in French.
Text of the first hacker email:
I’m a hacker who cracked your email and device a few months ago.
You entered a password on one of the sites you visited, and I intercepted it.
This is your password on moment of hack: (removed)
Of course you can will change it, or already changed it.
But it doesn’t matter, my malware updated it every time.
Do not try to contact me or find me, it is impossible, since I sent you an email from your account.
Through your email, I uploaded malicious code to your Operation System.
I saved all of your contacts with friends, colleagues, relatives and a complete history of visits to the internet resources.
Also I installed a Trojan on your device and long tome spying for you.
You are not my only victim, I usually lock computers and ask for a ransom.
But I was struck by the sites of intimate content that you often visit.
I am in shock of your fantasies! I’ve never seen anything like this!
So, when you had fun on piquant sites (you know what I mean!)
I made screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device.
After that, I combined them to the content of the currently viewed site.
There will be laughter when I send these photos to your contacts!
BUT I’m sure you don’t want it.
Therefore, I expect payment from you for my silence.
I think $857 is an acceptable price for it!
Pay with Bitcoin.
My BTC wallet: (removed)
If you do not know how to do this — enter into Google “how to transfer money to a bitcoin wallet”. It is not difficult.
After receiving the specified amount, all your data will be immediately destroyed automatically. My virus will also remove itself from your operating system.
My Trojan have auto alert, after this email is read, I will be know it!
I give you 2 days (48 hours) to make a payment.
If this does not happen — all your contacts will get crazy shots from your dark secret life!
And so that you do not obstruct, your device will be blocked (also after 48 hours)
Do not be silly!
Police or friends won’t help you for sure …
p.s. I can give you advice for the future. Do not enter your passwords on unsafe sites.
I hope for your prudence.
Kevin Donovan is the Toronto Star’s Chief Investigative Reporter. He can be reached at 416-312-3503 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at @_kevindonovan