Why Do You Need a Website?

kostax Web Design

In today’s world, first impressions of a business are typically made online through the internet. What’s interesting is that you may not get a second chance to make an impression if your online presence isn’t portraying your business at its best.

Without a website, your business relies on information from third party websites and reviews others have written about your business which may, or may not, show your business in the best light.

Having your own website gives you the chance for others to learn about your business straight from your own words, and who wouldn’t want that? Don’t miss the opportunity to make your first impression a great one!

The Importance of Website Maintenance

kostax Web Design

I want you to get the MOST out of your website. My success comes when I deliver a project to a customer that gives them a return on investment. Essentially, I succeed when I help my customers succeed. I also have some in-depth knowledge about what makes websites successful that many clients haven’t been exposed to yet. I really want to change that. A website can’t just be published and left to grow. Like anything else we want to see flourish, we need to give it time, attention, and effort in order to see it become all we hoped for.

Your website must be maintained. By you, by me, or by someone else, it just has to get done. There are two main reasons your website must be maintained: Security & Software Updates. These things have some cross-over (and they don’t cover the continual improvement you want to make to the content of your site) but they are the foundations of keeping your website open for business.

Number 1: Security
The internet has completely changed our lives, and I cannot imagine a world without it now. But like anything in life- with the good comes the bad. We’ve seen how hackers can disrupt financial markets, cripple businesses, and interfere with governments. But it’s not just the “big fish” these troublemakers are after. Anyone who has a presence online is subject to hacking and viruses. Even a small business who runs a simple website. Your website’s goal is to bring you prospects, customers, brand awareness, sales and overall a good return on investment. A vulnerable website is putting all that at risk.

Number 2: Functionality
The software that powers your website is being produced by programmers around the world, and technology is in a constant state of improvement. It wasn’t long ago that websites were impossible to navigate on a cell phone (heck, it wasn’t long ago we didn’t have cell phones!). But all that has changed. And what is the standard today will be soon replaced with future technology. A lot of these improvements are things that help customers find, navigate, and use your website. We’ve all been to a website that looks completely outdated, and that can be a direct reflection on the company. If they aren’t keeping up with their website, are they keeping up with the times? Will they be able to help me? Those are NOT questions you want your visitors asking about your website.

Let’s talk a bit more about security.
Why on earth would someone want to hack onto your site anyway? There are actually many things hackers stand to gain from accessing your website. It’s likely their first mode of operation would be to scrape any financial information in your database. This could be customer’s credit cards, your account numbers, passwords to your financial accounts, etc. These things can give the hackers instant access to cash- typically with complete anonymity. But it’s not just money they are after. Once in your website, they can insert malicious scripts or code that work to infect the computers of anyone who visits your website. This can be a complete nightmare for you, and the angry customers that aren’t likely to come back and visit you. Not sure it’s true? I wasn’t either when I first started… But the truth is, hackers don’t need to personally come find your website, they’ve build sophisticated bots that can crawl thousands of websites with the click of a button.

There’s also the “software-side” of your website, which needs to stay up-to-date.
The typical website we build has over $1,000 worth of software behind it. Those software costs are ongoing and typically billed yearly.

WordPress is an open-source platform. This means there are thousands of developers producing software on the network. All of them working independently of one another. All the software must work in harmony together, and when they are all being updated and improved constantly, ensuring that they all play nice together is critical. When a software update arrives, it’s important to understand what changes are being made and if they might have an impact on any other software on your website. There can be conflicts that can cause anything from small annoyances all the way to completely shutting your website down. Blindly updating the software, or setting it update automatically is a recipe for disaster. But because of the security and functionality improvements the updates bring, it’s critical you keep them up to date.

A Website Care Plan can eliminate your headache entirely.
Website Care Plans are a typical offering of website development companies. That’s because developers understand the importance of keeping websites properly maintained. While every company’s Care Plan is different, typically they include keeping software up-to-date, security measures, and software licenses. Instead of spending your days away from your actual duties as a business owner, agencies can take these tasks off your plate and handle them for you. Not only does this save you time, but it will save you the headache of troubleshooting, diagnosing and implementing fixes when things inevitability break.

Sure, you can change the oil in your vehicle, but by the time you buy all the supplies, get completely filthy, find a way to dispose of the oil, and in my case become extremely frustrated, you could have paid $29 at the Jiffy Lube and been on your way. It’s this type of convenience that makes Care Plans a no-brainer for business owners.

What about software licenses? Yes, remember that $1,000 worth of software I mentioned was on the sites we build? They work off of licenses that allow you access to all of the updates they push out. A website owner needs a license in order to get the updates. These licenses range in costs, but typically go anywhere from $30-$200 per year for each piece of software. But developers and agencies typically have bulk licenses that allow us to install the software on multiple websites under one license and re-distribute it to our customers. This means our license can be installed on your website and kept up-to-date without you having to buy them all on your own. Because we purchase a bulk license, and spread the cost out among many customers, you can save hundreds of dollars per year being under our license instead of purchasing one of your own. This could be compared to buying into a group insurance policy.

In essence, a Care Plan is built to be a win-win for developers and business owners alike. Business owners can save money and focus their time on their business, not worrying about the upkeep on their website. Developers can keep their clients websites performing optimally (saving on support requests and reviving broken websites) and use their bulk licenses to make it affordable for themselves and clients.

Now that you have a better understanding, here’s the action you need to take. Like I mentioned before, someone needs to be taking care of your website. While it is possible to do this entirely yourself, many business owners find the convenience and time-savings worth the cost of a professional Website Care Plan from a reputable vendor.

Take inventory of all the software on your website, and make sure you have the proper, and active licenses to be receiving all the updates. Assess your website for any potential security threats. Common things like simplistic passwords are easy targets for hackers. There are many security platforms that can help safeguard you against malicious attacks. If you feel uncomfortable, or realize you don’t have time to handle this on your own, reach out to us to discuss which plan is best for your needs.

How to Promote Your Website

kostax Web Design

Now that your website has launched, it’s time to let the world know about it!
With over a billion websites on the internet, “build it and they will come” isn’t a viable strategy (especially not when you’re just getting started).
It’s crucial that you promote and market your website address at every opportunity — after all, you now have a salesperson that works 24/7 for your business — let’s put it to good use!
Below, I’ve put together a list of places you’ll want to consider adding your website address — the more you can do on this list, the better!
Doing this will help increase traffic to your website, and can even help improve your rankings in search engines — so don’t skip this step!

Social Media Profiles
Most social media profiles have a place for you to include your website — add it here so your followers can find your new website. While you’re updating, post an announcement about your new website letting your followers know it’s live!

Email Signature
Your email signature should include a link to your website alongside any of your other contact information.

Directory Listings
Listings like Google My Business, Yelp, and even your local Chamber of Commerce or other associations typically have a place for your website address. Make sure anywhere you have an online business listing includes your website address too.

Other Websites
If you know other websites are talking about or promoting your business (partners, vendors, etc.), ask them if they can update that content with a link to your website.

Marketing Collateral & Print Ads
It’s time to think about updating your business cards, brochures, flyers, or any other marketing collateral or printed ads with your website address. These items are often limited on space, but by including your website address you can direct viewers to much more information.

Invoices & Stationery
Customers might not be aware of all you offer, by including your website address on things like invoices and envelopes you give them an opportunity to learn more about your business.

Vehicle / Fleet Graphics
If you have graphics / decals on any of your vehicles, get the website address added to it. You can order decals like this online or at your local print shop.

Front Doors / Windows
Add your website address to the graphics on your front doors or windows of your locations so people who visit you in the physical world know they can find information online too.

Signage
Instead of trying to squeeze all your services, phone number, email address, and more onto your signs — include your website address. It includes all that information, and more!

Promotional Items
If you have promotional items (like pens, cups, bags, etc.) with your company name on them, make sure the next time you order you update the artwork to include your website address.

Apparel
If you or your staff wear company t-shirts, don’t forget to add the website address on the artwork for your next order.
When you’re adding links online that will be “clickable”, it’s best if you copy and paste your full website address (including the part that starts with “https://”. This will ensure that visitors are taken directly to the secure version of your website.

For physical things (like signs, marketing materials, apparel, etc.) where you can’t include a clickable link, you don’t have to include the “https://”or “www” and you can use a combination of both uppercase and lowercase letters to make your website address more legible (eg. use ‘HomeDepot.com’ instead of ‘https://www.homedepot.com’). Letter case won’t affect anything, and the “www” just isn’t necessary!

Finally, make sure your staff members, partners, and anyone else invested in your business are familiar with your website. Consider going over the website with everyone in your business so they have a clear understanding of what’s available online and how it fits into your marketing strategy. These are the folks who are on the “front lines” in many cases and can help you spread the word even faster!
If you need help with any of this, don’t hesitate to ask — that’s what I’m here for!

DIY Website Care & Maintenance

kostax Web Design

Learn how to care for and maintain your WordPress website and ensure it’s security and long-term success for your business.

DIY Website Care and Maintenance

While most of my clients opt for a Website Care Plan to ensure continued success of their website, it’s not for everyone. If you’re considering handling the upkeep of your website, it’s important to know what things you’ll need to be on top of to ensure the investment you made on your website continues to provide a return.

I’ve heard far too many stories of website owners who ran into problems with their website when it wasn’t being properly maintained… Their entire investment hanging in the balance— it’s not what I want for my clients, past or present.

I know the clients on my maintenance plan are covered, but what about the ones (like you) who are handling the website maintenance themselves? Hopefully, this article helps.

In this article we’ll be going over things that need to be monitored 24/7, daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks, as well as things you’ll need to be aware of and handle on an as-needed basis. Let’s dive in!

24/7 Monitoring
The items on this list need to be monitored around the clock. Don’t worry— you won’t have to pin your eyelids open and sit in front of a computer screen all day— but you’ll want to set up some alerts and automation that will get your attention as soon as a problem arises.

Things in this category can be critical to your website’s health and failure to fix these issues as they arrive could lead to costly repairs or lost visitors and sales.

Uptime Monitoring
Your website is only valuable if your ideal customers can load it up and view it. Unfortunately, website hosting is never 100% reliable. Choosing a good host is crucial, but no matter who you choose, your website could still go down from time to time.

Uptime Robot
You can use a service like Uptime Robot which will check your website (up to every 5 minutes on the free plan, or every minute on a paid plan) to make sure it is online.

Visit the Uptime Robot website, sign up for an account, and setup an alert for your website’s URL. I suggest having the alerts come to an email address you monitor regularly— as you don’t want to go very long with your website offline.

Security
Just like any piece of software, your website can be vulnerable to website hackers or viruses that seek to use your resources for their own benefit.

This can often be things like redirecting your traffic to their site, placing ads on your site, or even infecting visitors with a virus if they visit your site (you don’t want your customers angry about this happening to them on your site!).

There are many ways you can implement website security. I deploy a few methods for websites covered by my Website Care Plans that I’ll suggest here.

Good hosting— Security starts with your host. Make sure you choose a host that has a secure setup and will protect your site. As a rule of thumb, if your hosting seems “cheap” then they probably aren’t doing much in the way of security. You want to avoid any “shared hosting” options as these are more vulnerable to attacks.
WebARX Security— WebARX provides a website firewall that helps prevent you from attacks. Not only will their software help protect your website, they will also alert you if any of your website software becomes vulnerable. Their plans start at around $15 per month.
iThemes Security— iThemes features both a free and paid plan that comes in the form of a plugin for your website. One of the biggest benefits here is a “Brute Force Network” which helps ward off bots trying to get into the backend of your website.
You don’t have to have WebARX and iThemes (with WebARX, iThemes isn’t necessary) but you do want to combine one of the two with good hosting.

5 Essentials for Keeping Your Website Safe
Do you know what it takes to maintain your website? Download our free guide to understand how to keep your WordPress website safe and learn about the regular maintenance that your website needs to stay secure.

Get Your Copy
SSL Certificate
An SSL Certificate is crucial for your website visitors security as well as your rankings in search engines (Google pretty much demands it today). The SSL ensures that the information transmitted over your website (like customer details from a form, payment information, or login information) is encrypted.

While these certificates are free (from Let’s Encrypt or from your website host), they do have to be renewed often and updates to your website could affect their validity.

Why No Padlock
You’ll want to ensure that you install the SSL certificate, monitor frequently if it’s working properly, and fix any issues that are causing your SSL to be invalid.

Errors Search Console
Google’s Search Console allows website owners to gain insight on how their website is performing in their search engine. While it does more than this article will go through, one thing you need to make sure to be monitoring around the clock are notifications of errors from Search Console.

They will let you know if their bot found any errors on your site and give you instructions (albeit not that clear) on how to fix the problem.

If these problems are left unresolved, Google may decide to lower your rankings in search results (which for many businesses is a scary thing!).

Daily Task
Next we’ll discuss the most important task you need to take care of on a daily basis. Similar to the 24/7 tasks, these have some levels of automation to help free up your time— but you’ll still want to be checking in to make sure things are working properly.

Backups
The most crucial things you can do to ensure the health of your website is to keep regular backups in place. At a minimum you’ll want to have daily backups of your website (though some sites with lots of traffic, or eCommerce stores will want to do this more frequently).

If your website is hacked, gets a virus, or a software update (more on this later) causes an issue, you can restore a backup copy of your website and having things working again in no time.

I cannot stress the importance of this enough— absolutely mission critical.

Your host may provide daily backups for you, which is great (and you’ll want to select a host that does) but they aren’t always reliable. In fact, I don’t recommend having one form of backup no matter what it is.

UpdraftPlus
On top of having your host backing up your website daily, you’ll want a 3rd party service that stores your backups off-site. UpdraftPlus is a nice little plugin that will do this for you (for free) on a schedule— but they will not provide the storage for the backups. You’ll need something like Google Drive or Dropbox to store all the files.

Updraft’s WordPress plugin will walk you through the steps to connect the backups they generate with a storage solution of your choice.

While this setup is helpful, there are situations that could cause the backups to not be easily restored. In this case you’ll likely need to hire a professional get into your server and manually deploy the backups.

Weekly Tasks
Next we’ll look at some of the tasks you want to perform on a weekly basis. I like to setup a calendar appointment so I can go through all of these each week without fail. While it can feel cumbersome to take these things on each week (as these tasks are less automated), skipping them is a big mistake.

This will often lead to bigger headaches as things are more likely to breakdown when they are not being routinely monitored and updated.

Plugin Updates
Your WordPress website has small pieces of software that produce different parts of the design and functionality of your website— these are called plugins.

Just like any piece of software, these are regularly updated for both functionality and security purposes.

It’s important (especially for security reasons) to keep your plugins updated, however along with updates you can have some unexpected consequences.

Some of these updates could cause things to break on your site or cause conflicts with other plugins. While updating a plugin is easy, you’ll want to first make sure you understand what the update is doing (so you can be aware of any conflicts that may arise) and give your site a visual inspection after your update the software.

If updating your plugin causes a problem, your backups will be here to save the day! You can always revert to a backup and contact the plugin author to tell them about the trouble your experienced with the update and they will (should) help you find a solution.

Theme Updates
Just like plugins, every WordPress website has a Theme— and these need to be updated from time to time too. The same precautions exist and you’ll want to give your site a visual inspection after an update to ensure that everything is still working properly.

I do recommend having at least 2 themes installed on your website at all times (and you need to keep them both up-to-date). This way you can debug issues that may be being caused by your theme (by trying the secondary theme you have installed).

Malware Scans
While your security system and host should be monitoring this too— I would rather be safe than sorry. You can visit Securi’s malware scanner to check for any malware on your website.

Sucuri Security
Just pop over to the link above and put in your website address. Their system will scan your website for any known malware, viruses, blacklisting status, website errors, out-of-date software, and malicious code.

Monthly Tasks
The monthly tasks you’ll want to look at have more to do with optimization of your site and ensuring that it is operating at peak performance. Just like the weekly tasks, you can setup a recurring appointment on your calendar to make time to go through all of these.

Traffic & Analytics
Using Google Analytics and Search Console you can monitor the traffic of your website. This is important to see how your website is being found and what people are doing once they get there. You can extract valuable insight that will help you make better decisions on how to improve your website in the future to increase conversions or provide better user experience.

Clean Your Database
Your website’s database can become bloated with drafts and revisions. A plugin like Breeze (which I use for website caching) will help you safely clean up the database and rid your server of the unnecessary data.

It’s just a good habit to get into to clean these things out so they don’t build up over time. If you let this go, you might end up with a slow website or one that is harder to clean in the future.

Test Loading Times
When I hand your website over to you, I’ll ensure that it’s loading quickly— but as you do updates to your website and over time as software updates happen you might end up with issues causing your website to load slower.

Just about half of website visitors expect a page to load in less than 2 seconds— and if it doesn’t you’re likely losing traffic. Not good!

I like using the GTMetrix site to test my loading time. If you sign up for a free account you’ll have more ability to choose where you’re testing from and save old tests.

We don’t have the time or space in this article to cover everything you’ll need to consider if your website isn’t loading quickly— but your goal is always to be at 2 seconds or under. If you see that your website isn’t loading quick enough, you should reach out to a developer and ask for their recommendations.

Search for Broken Links
Sites you link to externally could change their URLs, or you might change a URL (or delete a page) and forget to change any links going to that page. Broken links mean you’ll leave your visitors without being able to find the information they were looking for (and unhappy with your site).

On top of that, Google really hates broken links. Too many broken links and you run the risk of losing your search engine rankings.

A tool like Dead Link Checker will analyze all the links on your site and give you a report of any failed tests. You can go relink these items to relevant content.

As-Needed Tasks
The rest of the tasks on this list weren’t quite to the “24/7 Monitoring” status, and don’t have a set schedule— but that doesn’t mean they are not important. Keep in mind these are things you’ll want to be on top of as the need arises.

Software Licenses
Some of your plugins (and possibly your theme) require a paid license to use and receive updates. Most software work of yearly plans which you’ll need to pay for and renew as they expire.

I would suggest keeping a spreadsheet of all the premium (paid-for) software on your website along with the expiration date so that you can anticipate the upcoming expenses.

I have to mention here that this is one of the reasons so many customers love the Continued Success Program. Enrolled clients don’t have to pay for software licenses! As a developer, I have access to plans that allow me to keep multiple sites updated at a discounted rate. I pass along these savings to you by never charging you to keep your software updated. In some cases the software licenses alone make enrollment cheaper than paying for these things individually.

WordPress Core Updates
More updates? Yeah— just like the plugins and themes, WordPress itself has to update. You’ll get similar notifications and it’s a similar process to update the software, but the updates can be infrequent.

Go through the same precautions when updating WordPress itself and give your website a visual inspection (and make sure you have current backups before you hit the update button!).

Website Content Updates
Your website is not a static document— you’re likely going to want to make changes to it as time goes on and your business evolves. Make sure you understand how to effectively swap out content on your site (like text, photographs, videos, etc.) so that you can keep the information on your website up-to-date.

Both your visitors and Google demand that website be kept current with the times. Leaving stale and out of date content on your site is a sign that you aren’t serious about your business (even if it’s not true!).

Continuing Education
Technology moves quickly. Very quickly! In fact, I’ll need to come back and edit this article frequently to keep up with the pace of technology.

It’s important you keep up too. Having a website that generates leads for your business is often crucial. What might be working well today, could cease to be effective just a few months down the road.

I’m not saying you have to become a full-time web developer— but you should invest in keeping up with what’s going on.

You could subscribe to blogs, listen to podcasts, or even join a Facebook group. By understanding what’s going on in this world you can have a more effective website that delivers better results.

Wrapping Up
Wahoo! You made it to the end!

I know this article was longer (and probably more boring!) than you hoped for it to be— but I hope you can understand how important it is.

You’ve made a big investment into your website, and to throw that all away due to poor maintenance is a shame. Imagine buying a brand new car and never filling it with gas or changing the oil— the same principle applies.

If this article left you feeling anxious, worried, nervous, or unsure if you are ready to take all these tasks on— then there is an alternative.

While some of my clients are unsure about the ongoing fees in my Continued Success Program (which I understand), I’ve worked very hard to ensure that it’s packed with value.

Everything you read in this article is covered for you if you enroll. In fact, it was specifically built with you in mind. Built to ensure that your investment is well taken care of and so that you don’t have to stop down each day, week, month, and year to take care of it yourself.

It’s peace of mind for you.

If you were to do all of the things I’ve suggested in this article, you’ll probably be spending 4 or 5 hours per month completing the tasks (you’ll get quicker as time goes on).

What is your time worth?

I can’t answer that for you, but I feel confident in assuming it’s worth a whole lot more than the enrollment fee for our program.

I’ve spent years perfecting my systems, and invested in (sometimes expensive) software to aid me. Because of this I’m able to more effectively carry out these tasks for you (and many other clients) for a price that I think is more than fair.

If you want to have a talk about how the Continued Success Program might work for you, or if you just have questions (or get stuck) on some of the tasks in this article, don’t hesitate to teach out to me and I’ll be more than happy to jump on a quick call and help you out.

I truly want to see you succeed— even if it’s not with me working with you on an ongoing basis. I do believe that your website has the power to transform your business and the only way it can live up to that potential is to give it the care, attention, and ongoing love it needs.

Soul Gastrolounge

kostax Audio Branding, LIVE!

soul_gastro_flame

Highly regarded as one of Charlotte, NC’s top hotspots is Soul Gastrolounge. The tapas lounge created their own formula for success, and in my opinion it’s comprised of three main elements; Savory foods that have you coming back for more, innovative hand-crafted cocktails, and a unique DJ-driven soundtrack that ties the overall experience together.

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Why Choose a Professional?

kostax Uncategorized

should_choose_professional_designer

I hate to see this happen. There’s many reasons why you should choose a professional over a cheap alternative or a do-it-yourself solution, but let’s focus on what matters most; It saves you time and money.

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