Charles Tips – Inflated Maintenance Plans

Along with all the many scams out there on the Internet are what I’d call the “inflated monthly maintenance plans”.

Paying expensive expensive maintenance fees
Paying expensive expensive maintenance fees

These are usually fixed monthly pricing plans that include hosting and website maintenance. Such plans are touted as providing the business owner with a means to budget ongoing website maintenance, so-to-speak.

I’ve seen many of these offerings since 1998. I’ve also spoken with many website owners who have had such plans. They’re almost never advantageous to the business owner.

In most cases, business website owners had paid up to several hundred dollars a month for these plans – for many years in some cases. Most never had any work done to their websites. Those who did have work done indicated it was far less value than they had paid for with their “budget”.

Put specifically in dollar terms, some had paid thousands of dollars for only about a hundred dollar’s worth of web updates over time. For that reason I highly recommend businesses avoid such plans.

In short, be very careful about doing business with web companies or web developers that want to sell you these inflated monthly maintenance plans. Paying for website work on an as-you-need-it basis will almost always cost you much, much less in the long term.

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 – Halloween Spoofs

It’s Halloween time again so I thought I’d mention Halloween Spoofs! Well, actually email spoofing happens year round.

Halloween Spoof Ghost - Okay - Spoofing has nothing to do with Ghosts!!An example of spoofing is when emails are sent that are addressed from you (and maybe to you) but you didn’t send them. In that case your address has been “spoofed”.

Spammers and scammers alike do this. There are a couple reasons it’s done.

Sometimes it is malicious. Let’s say someone goes onto numerous websites to sign up for information as XYZ Company. So a ton of spam is sent to XYZ. XYZ finds itself barraged with email and phone spam – wasting lots of their time.

More often XYZ is spoofed to appear to be the sender of spam. Folks local to XYZ are more likely to open the spoofed emails. The spam really isn’t from XYZ – just made to look like it is. So recipients think XYZ is spamming them. They’re annoyed with XYZ and report them as spammers and complain and so on.

Fortunately, spoofing doesn’t account for most Internet issues. It just makes life miserable for XYZ – the target – for a while.

The good news is that usually spoofing usually only lasts a few days. The actual sending server is identified and blocked or shut down.

Always report these issues to your email administrator. Early intervention saves lots of headaches in the long term.

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 – Hosting Includes Encryption

Website visitor safety is extremely important. I’ve mentioned terms here before like SSL, encryption, security and so on. A padlock that shows with an encrypted site using https in some browsers.These involve that little green or grey lock in front of the web address in your browser. Clicking on that tells you whether the encryption is valid and what site it’s issued to.

Providing encryption was traditionally expensive for website operators. However, it can be had for free these days. There’s no reason not to have it.

Encryption refers to a method on website servers that helps ensure you are actually on the website you think you are on. This greatly reduces the risks of fraud.

Ripping you off is a top priority for many nefarious individuals and organizations on the web. One method is tricking you into giving your credit card or other personal information on a “fake” site or web page. These pages often look exactly like those of your bank’s or credit card company’s or even your email’s login pages.

There’s usually a small one-time charge for initial setup. Website owners should check with their hosting company or web developer to ensure website encryption (SSL) is included in their monthly hosting at no extra charge. If need be, it’s worthwhile to move to a company whose hosting provides this.

Charles Tips – Rampant Phishing

When working in the web world as I do, Internet scams appear to be everywhere.

Phishing is defined as the act of attempting to trick the recipient of a malicious email into opening and engaging with it.

It’s amazing how people fall for phishing scams. They fall for them mostly because the emails are designed to appear like the writer isn’t too bright. So immediately the recipient thinks they have the upper hand. Many count on the recipient’s greed – believing they’ll get something for nothing.

The bad guys that develop these schemes are experts. All they do is work scams – day and night. They wouldn’t continue if it didn’t pay off in the long run.

Phishing
Phishing – Will you bite?

I read someplace that billions of dollars annually are conned out of people through the various scams out there on the Internet. For the most part – I hate to say – they can’t be stopped. They are sent from all types of email addresses, all types of servers, from all over the world.

Bottom line is that you should keep deleting them. The best course of action is to stop responding to them and opening them. Report them as spam or report them as phishing attempts. Your email provider may provide insight with how to do this. They will ultimately stop coming.

Remember that if the bad guys can’t trick you into parting with your money they will focus on someone else – until they find someone who does. Just don’t be that someone.

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 – Forming Reciprocal Relationships

It’s always great to get referrals from others. That’s why it’s important to deal with a web company that understands your community and reciprocates by referring business to you.

Businesses built upon reciprocity help each other with success
Businesses built upon reciprocity help each other with success.

As a point of curiosity I usually ask when the last time was that a company received referrals from their web hoster or web developer. Usually the answer is never. I am amazed to usually find out at that point that even their local folks they give their web business to don’t bother to refer others back to their own clients.

You need a web developer that does that as a rule rather than as a request. You need a developer that one or more of its staff are in high powered networking chapters and experienced at referring business back to their own clients.

That’s what reciprocity is all about. You need a web company that practices that at every opportunity.

One way that can be done is if the web development company has a directory they can be part of. That helps clients get found on the web and increase their web traffic by keeping information about them on thousands of sites on the Internet.

If you have been feeling that your relationship with your web company is rather one sided, it’s time to deal with one that cares about you!

Charles Tips – Where Are They?

Recently I checked search engine placements for some web clients. I landed on a property maintenance website. The site was quite interesting. However, the site had no address information on it!

It should be simple to find where a business is on the Internet. If you can't figure it out, choose a different business to spend your money with.
It should be simple to find where a business is on the Internet. If you can’t figure it out, choose a different business to spend your money with.

I navigated everywhere in disbelief – curious to find an address. My search left me wondering how a site visitor would know if this outfit would be able to help them or not. Further investigation (I’m sure a standard Internet surfer looking for a service would likely never do) showed the site’s domain was registered to someone in California.

Looking for a property maintenance companies in the Keene NH area, a company from California wasn’t going to be any kind of a fit!

Besides the above issue – not having at least a city and state on a website – if looking for someone local for services – you don’t know if they’re local – even if they are. Most web visitors won’t bother to check – they’ll just move on to the next search result.

Business owners – particularly those providing services – should make their geographic location fairly obvious on their website. If their original web developer didn’t, it’s usually an inexpensive change to make to a site. It will increase business from the web and filter out callers who are too distant to be a good fit.

Charles Tips – Web Developer Checklist

It’s increasingly difficult sorting good companies from bad ones on the Internet. There are still ways to find the best, reliable web development companies. We’ve compiled this recommended checklist as a starting point. The order these are in isn’t necessarily important since ALL points are important!

Check to see if your web development company:

will ensure that YOU own your website when it’s paid for
is legitimately registered to do business within its State: NH MA ME VT
has been in business for at least 10 years
has several or more people
carries workman’s compensation on its employees
carries liability insurance
maintains a committed presence in networking groups
is accredited and has a good rating with the Better Business Bureau (https://BBB.org)
understands your community and reciprocates by referring business to you
has a phone contact where one can at least leave messages
has an email contact where one can send information
provides automatic site updates at no additional ongoing charge
backs up websites every night for at least a month
provides website encryption (SSL) at no additional ongoing charge
does not require hosting or domain contracts
does not overcharge you by selling sell inflated monthly maintenance plans
provides partial hour web work billing (9 minutes work charged 9/60 of hourly rate)
can respond to most maintenance requests in 3-4 days
has general familiarity with trademark and copyright issues
is proficient with WordPress through experience and training

Over upcoming weeks check here for details about each. Contact us with any questions, we exist to serve you!

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.

Charles Tips – About Ten Seconds

People purposely search the web, looking for services or information. Ten seconds is what websites have to grab their attention.

They land on your impressive looking site with beautiful graphics moving all about the page.

The clock’s ticking. “Come on already!” they’re thinking. They hit that back arrow – they’re off to another website!

Or they’re at your page with oodles of information! They scan left to right, top to bottom. “Oh, that looks interesting over there!” and in the blink of an eye, they’ve clicked on an ad – and off to someone else’s website.

Viewers always judge websites by clarity, design, and detail.

Do your aesthetics relate its message, using appropriate colors, fonts, graphics, etc.?

Is content structured to quickly determine:
•What is your website about?
•How you can help them?

Is your website cluttered with ads or distractions, diluting its message?

Whether you or a professional designed it, have someone unfamiliar with your website or your business sit down and give their opinion.

Ten seconds is about all you have to gain a viewer’s trust and interest. Both the design and structure of your content are crucial elements in keeping a viewer on your site – and turning them into a customer.

Charles Tips – Businesses on Facebook

Many tell me “Facebook is a waste of time – a real time-sucker.” That’s true for those who believe it. Yet, there’s great value in a Facebook presence.

Many business startups think just a Facebook page can grow their business. While not impossible, it’s as likely as winning the lottery.

Sending potential customers to Facebook subjects them to Facebook’s ads promoting one’s competitors. I’ve also seen embedded Facebook information on business pages listing the business’s competitors. Part of a web presence is to only have one’s business put in front of potential customers. That’s what effective advertising is about.

Facebook is free. It’s amazing what people do NOT notice when they think they are getting something for nothing.

Many forget Facebook is online to make money for Facebook. Businesses exist to generate income and keep the people running it employed. Nothing wrong with Facebook doing that. We just need to understand when it’s helpful for our own cause – and when it is harmful.

Links from other websites to your own are very helpful for increasing search engine placement. The very best value of Facebook business pages is to have lots of information on them that links visitors back to your own website.

Charles Tips – The Cloud Defined

So many services try to persuade us to access, link to, or download from “The Cloud.”

What is “The Cloud” anyway? A magical portal in the sky wherein lies knowledge and wisdom? Information stored in the atmosphere’s ionized particles? Aliens storing our information in flying saucers accessed by our Smartphone’s?

“The Cloud” simply refers to computer networks connected to the Internet. We’ve renamed something that’s been around for a while now.

When you’re using any device – whether it’s a desktop, laptop, smartphone, iPad, table, or whatever – that is connected to the Internet, you’re accessing a massive network of computers. This is often called accessing “The Cloud.” There really are no “clouds” involved at all. All of the servers and machines that supply all of the information we access all reside in various physical machines in many places all over the planet.

While all of what’s necessary to make the Internet happen is complex, it’s not magic. Dealing with local companies – a local “cloud” – really helps local economies. By lumping everything Internet into “the cloud” it’s easy to be helping distant economies instead of your own.

Local web companies can set people up in a LOCAL “cloud” where they can store the files needed to operate their websites to do business.