Charles Tips – Checking Your Site

Something many folks overlook is occasionally checking their website’s functionality. I recommend doing this every couple weeks, but at minimum once a month.

Most websites and the servers they are on are subjected to ongoing software updates. Unless you are paying an additional fee for maintenance checks, it’s normal for things to occasionally break due to updates.

Most website owners are not paying additional fees for such maintenance. This means you really need to take the time to check:

– that the site appears to work properly
– that your hours of operation are correct
– that any website forms are working
– that email addresses are correct

The site operation and forms are most susceptible to software updates. If you have a good web developer, the fixes will happen quickly and it will not cost you too much.

Website maintenance should be thought of like automotive maintenance. We get oil changes. We get inspections. We even make modifications and do repairs to keep our vehicle operating the way we want. And our older vehicles can cost more to upkeep – just like older websites. As websites age, more work needs to be done to keep them secure and working as originally intended.

So check your site every now and then to keep things working and have the correct information out there!

Charles Tips – Engagement

Engagement, in military terms, is described as a fight or battle between armed forces. In web terms, engagement could be thought of as the process of getting an idea across to accomplish a goal.

There are a couple major goals with websites, as I see it. One is to simply share information. Another is to sell products. Make no mistake about it – whether you are selling widgets or ice-cream or trying to increase your congregation – the goal is the essentially the same – getting people engaged.

The first, sharing information, definitely is a precursor to the second. I’d like to focus on the second here.

Websites that are more engaging with their visitors will encourage more sales. With that in mind, it follows that engagement is a result of information and aesthetics.

Aesthetics costs for a website can vary greatly. Graphic design can be time consuming. This equates to higher labor costs. Information in written form, however, is usually the least expensive part of website development. Text can usually be pasted into web pages. This is not usually as labor intensive. Having more information in text format on a website usually equates to more exposure to the public. This is because website visitors can arrive using search engines. And the search engines find your site based upon pertinent content – mostly text.

In a nutshell, if you want an engaging website – which will increase your probability of success on the web – make sure there is plenty of information in text form on it. Search engines will help get folks there and your aesthetics can do the rest.

Charles Tips – Blogging

A popular website sales pitch over the past ten or so years has been about blogging. Many web developers believe that blogging is an absolute must to get found on the web. However, believing doesn’t necessarily make it a fact.

Whether blogging will be a benefit your particular web presence is complicated. There are a number of factors to consider.

A major factor is that blogging requires time to be effective. The time has to be spent by someone entering blog material pertinent to your business or topic into your website. Otherwise you have to pay someone to keep up with it.

Keeping blogs interesting to keep site visitors engaged is another ongoing endeavor. Site visitors won’t return if the material doesn’t hold their interests.

The real power of blogging lies with search engine placement. Search engines rank websites on how pertinent they are to a particular topic or search terms. Search terms are generally words or phrases people type into search engines when they are looking for something. The more pertinent – the higher the ranking. Having more pertinent material on a site increases ranking.

So when considering whether a blog is right for your web presence or not, bear in mind that a blog must be an ongoing, continuing effort. It may be just as effective to simply have a lot of static material on your site explaining details about all your offerings.

Charles Tips – Persistent Scammers

I’ve written several articles about specific scams that are occurring on a regular basis on the Internet. They seem to subside for a short time – a very short time – and then a wave of them happens again.

One of the worst – as far as I am concerned – are the ones where the email recipient is being told they must verify their email. These have some common traits with most Internet scams:

1) A sense of urgency – they want you to take care of this immediately

2) A time limit – they give you within 24 hours to act

3) A threat – they tell you your email will be locked.

The first thing you have to understand is that nearly everyone gets these on occasion. I have received them myself in which they are made to look like they are from CharlesWorks. So when our clients get these they tend to become very worried very quickly.

I can’t stress enough that most legitimate companies will not send out messages like these. To fall prey to these can be a real nightmare. With access to one’s email these days the bad guys can wreak havoc in one’s life. The worst cases are called identity theft!

Don’t be the unfortunate one who falls prey to these scammers. If you have been “notified” of something serious – call your provider up and speak with a representative. Just like at my company – it’s a lot easier for us to allay your fears than to have to try to clean up the mess that can happen with compromised accounts.

Charles Tips – Trademark and Copyright Familiarity

In the web world, copyrights and trademarks can get business owners in hot water. Many experienced web developers have an awareness of when legal assistance may be required to resolve such issues.

While I am not an attorney, I can say with a fair degree of certainty what items are safe to use on one’s website.

First and foremost are graphics that you create yourself or have created for you by someone you hire to produce them. However, an exception to that is if the graphic created is similar enough to a copyrighted work to create confusion to the viewer.

Next are photographs. Usually using your own photographs is pretty safe. Photos not taken by you is always risky unless you have permission to do so.

There are various sources on the Internet for pictures and graphics that allow unlicensed or licensed use – otherwise “free to use” graphics or photos. Pixabay.com is one example. It has many items that can be used covering many topics, classifications and so forth.

I recommend you use an experienced, seasoned web developer. A general familiarity with trademark and copyright issues is more apt to be found by using a seasoned website developer. When in doubt, as a business owner you should consult a trademark or copyright attorney.

Charles Tips – The big SEO Scam

I’ve mentioned SEO (Search Engine Optimization) throughout many articles. While it is important – I believe it’s the most abused area of website development.

SEO scammers are great liars
SEO scammers are great liars

It’s important for your business website to be found in the search engines. That is best and most inexpensively done by having pertinent material in your website so the search engines see your website as pertinent or closely related to a topic.

There are many unscrupulous individuals and companies out there selling just plain bogus SEO. It’s often impossible to discern the truth. There are no regulations or meaningful certifications in this field.

As an example – let’s say you receive a dozen Viagra spam messages in a month. Does that mean you need it? Certainly just because a number of spam messages are saying you need something doesn’t turn it into a fact.

Why would you believe the same about SEO regarding your search placements on the Internet? Our web clients are bombarded with spam and with phone calls saying they need this and that for their websites. Some fall prey to these sales pitches and some even go out of business as a result of spending hundreds of dollars each month on scams.

Your web developer should care about you as a client – should want you to be as successful as possible and not up-selling you right out of business.

The worst part of the SEO scams is they can oftentimes hurt your placement with the search engines.

Don’t fall prey to the scamsters selling these bogus “services”. Check with your web developer FIRST about such offers to find out if they are for real or whether you actually need them.

Charles Tips – No Domain or Hosting Contracts

Two components of a website are the domain and hosting. Websites are accessed easiest with these.

Domain names are labels typed into web browsers that point to a particular website. Usually they’re a word or words pertinent to the website. Each domain is unique. There can only one of each in the world.

Hosting is a server space for a website. It’s available 24-7 for anyone anytime it is accessed. Websites usually contain coding that shows what the site visitor would view as a website.

Finally, the website coding can reside in the hosted web space. That’s what makes the site appear. Or the coding may just jump off (redirect) to go to a different address.

My favorite analogy is to a house. There’s an address (domain name). It’s rented each month (hosting) so one can show off its furniture (web coding). It doesn’t matter whether there’s a little or lots of furniture – they pay rent (hosting).

No Written Hosting or Domain Contracts Required
No Written Hosting or Domain Contracts Required at CharlesWorks

Does your web company require hosting or domain contracts? Reputable ones won’t. They’re willing to ALWAYS provide the best service to you instead of just before contract renewals.

Contact your hoster to determine whether they’ve locked you in or you’re free to move where you can get the best service.

Charles Tips – Nightly Website Backups

Your website is an important investment. Whether you made it yourself or paid to have a professional develop it for you – you wouldn’t want to lose it. We have taken on clients who were with the largest company in the world who lost their website because of having no backup. The terms for doing business with that company even state they are not responsible for the loss of the website.

Nightly Backup Server

I couldn’t imagine not backing sites up. Nowadays the technology is ever present to back everything up. In the not too distant past, hard drives were much more expensive than they are now. Hard drive space is extremely inexpensive nowadays – so there’s no excuse for a company to not make backups.

One third of today’s sites are on a platform called WordPress. Security updates happen often and changes can be readily made to WordPress sites – so they need backups at least every day. Whether there’s a server catastrophe or simply one of your employees blowing up your site while making changes – it can be recovered.

Definitely protect your website investment by hosting with a company that provides daily backups of your WordPress website every night for at least a month. That will avoid having to restart your website from scratch.

Charles Tips – An Email Contact is Essential

This week is a closely related follow up to last week’s article. As I mentioned then about a lack of a phone number, it seems like it would go without saying that a website trying to sell something should have an email contact someplace on it.

Last week I was referring to a web developer’s website with no telephone number or email address on it. Some developers put forms on their sites to try to get out of displaying an email address. The main issue with forms – besides the fact that form output is more often than not considered spam by many mail servers – is that people generally don’t want to fill them out. It’s much easier these days to click on an email link and send off an email saying exactly what you want to say. Of course you can speak it even more clearly but email may be the next best thing.

If you can’t find an email address to contact someone, my advice is to just move along to the next prospective web developer on your list. You want to deal with a web development company that makes it easy to be reached.

Charles Tips – Carrying Liability Insurance

Carrying liability insurance is yet another important part of maintaining a legitimate, caring, responsible business. I’ve come to realize that in the web business many businesses operate without insurance. When something goes wrong, they just change the business name and open as another name.

Businesses operating in this fashion create problems for their potential clients. First and foremost is that should something happen that triggers the need for insurance, the client is stuck totally. The client in such a case may have no recourse or might not even be able to recover damages.

Folks who operate their “businesses” this way are fundamentally dishonest fly-by-nights. It’s easy enough to ask a web developer who handles their insurance needs and a quick check with their agent can verify that.

Avoiding dealing with a dishonest vendor can save you a ton of headaches in the long run.

On the other hand, good, honest businesses are always thinking in terms of the long run. They are thinking in terms of developing healthy business relationships with their clients. Part of that is staying in business so they can continue to provide services to their clients.

Finally, looking at all the items on the checklist we’ve provided in our Web Developer’s Checklist post will ensure you have the best possible shot at a positive experience having your website developed.

Charles Tips – Been in business for 10+ years?

The Small Business Association said in March 2019 roughly 30% of businesses failed during their first two years of opening. At the five year mark about 50% failed. At ten years around 70% had failed.

Remember this is ALL businesses – not just web businesses. I’ve seen many go under in the years since 1998 when I started in this business. Usually that news comes from our new web clients – who don’t even know what happened to their past developers – they just became unreachable or unresponsive.

Obviously there is no sure thing – no guarantee – that any business is always going to be there. That being said, there are many things that measure the likelihood of success. Look at factors like five to nine employees versus few or none. Look at employee longevity. Look at how they get their business – through referrals versus constant advertising. Look at whether they have a handful of web clients versus many.

Don’t risk having someone handle your web presence who won’t be there for the duration. Common sense dictates that a company that’s been around over ten years with a team that does most of its business through referrals for many, many clients is going to be way more reliable for you in the long term.

Charles Tips – Are they a Registered business?

Our exposure to thousands of web clients has shown us many folks who’ve been exposed to scam artists, fly by nights, and outright crooks over the years. We’ve had clients that had paid money down to previous developers with no work done whatsoever.

Luckily, most legitimate reliable web development businesses have ethics. Part of building confidence in one’s client base is doing what is necessary to be a legitimate business. Fly-by-nights don’t bother with registering their business or any of the other numerous details of doing business that being a legitimate business entails.

It’s very simple to check to see if a business is legitimate – i.e., registered. Here are links to websites where one can check out businesses in several states in and around New England: NH MA ME VT

Doing a little research like this can save you a ton of headaches later. Dealing with a business that is willing to do the initial work of operating legitimately greatly increases the odds they are going to be reliable and honest in their dealings with you.

While there’s never a total guarantee, coupling this with other items in our checklist helps narrow the field to give you the best odds of developing a good business relationship.

Charles Tips – Do YOU own your website?

This is a question that, amazingly enough, not everyone thinks to ask. We have had a number of people who received poor service from their web services providers come to us. Imagine their surprise when they discover that they do not own their website!

Our philosophy is very simple – anything you’ve paid in full for – meaning there is no open balance on your account – is yours. Period. We really have no reason to want your website. We just want to be paid for work done, your domains and services rendered.

Unfortunately there are many unscrupulous people in the web business. They use their ownership of your content as a method to hold you hostage – forcing you to keep paying them. It’s an unfortunate reality on the web. We have never operated that way.

Just about as bad are the large companies that you can build your website at quickly ans easily. However, there is no way to move that website from them. Your site operates ONLY on their proprietary servers so can’t be moved elsewhere. Folks usually discover that after realizing there are insufficient options for website expansion or customization. Then they’ve lost all the time and energy put into a website they don’t own.

We’ll be glad to tell you if you’ve been trapped like this.

Charles Tips – Checking Web Content

Whether face to face or on the web, there’s only one chance to make a first impression. This short checklist contains “must haves” for a website. It’s unbelievable to leave them off a website. We’ve seen web developers as well as web do-it-yourselfers not provide the following.

Phone number – You’ve lost credibility right away if there is no phone number. Many people – yes even today – understand that talking actually accomplishes more faster.

Contact email – We recommend posting an email address. Some use forms keeping email hidden. Forms are easily “spammed” making more work.

Business location – Tell visitors at least what city you’re in. Customers wanting to deal locally appreciate this.

Hours of operation – Whether you expect foot traffic or take appointments, there’s nothing worse than guessing whether you’re open or not.

Who to deal with – Let visitors know who they can deal with. Staff shrouded in anonymity don’t appear helpful.

Aesthetics – Websites should appear clear and organized. Visitors expect some things in certain places – like navigation. Make it easy find items/topics and get around the site.

Website success happens by building visitors’ confidence in your business. Providing as much information as possible will help immensely with this process. Contact your web services provider for assistance. They, just like we at CharlesWorks, should be there to help.

Charles Tips – Who owns your Domain?

Domain ownership is like home ownership. Domain fees are like home taxes. Stop paying taxes and see who really owns your home!

Domains are sold through hundreds of “domain registrars” around the world. It costs in excess of $50,000 to become a registrar. Registrars answer to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). It maintains a database of all domains to ensure domains can’t be duplicated.

Most domains are registered by web development companies. Accepted common practice is to obtain domains for their client, set it up and build a website accessible with it.

Losing a domain can easily be avoided. Common reasons I have seen for folks to lose their domain names are as follows, in the most common order:

1. Renewals ending up in spam buckets or returned with dead/outdated email addresses.

2. Church parishioners/employees who have a falling out.

3. Business employees who move on regardless of circumstances.

Avoid Gmail, Yahoo or other “freebie emails” with your domain. You’ve ZERO control over and can’t even call them.

Seek out reputable web developers OUTSIDE your organization to handle your domain names. Avoid “one man shows” and startup developers. Use BBB accredited businesses who’ve been at it at least 10-20 years. They’ll likely look out for you and protect your domains.