Friday, August 23, 2019 Tom The Blog

Website maintenance is as important for keeping a website in good shape as household maintenance is for keeping a house in good shape. Nothing will continue to work efficiently if maintenance is ignored. Most people realize maintenance is important, but I get a lot of questions about what maintenance needs to be done on a website. I break it into the following three categories:

On-Demand Website Maintenance

On-demand maintenance involves anything a client contacts us and asks us to do right away. Examples of on-demand maintenance would include changing a photo, editing some text content, adding new content or changing a link.

Monthly Maintenance

Monthly maintenance involves things we do every single month, without the client requesting them. Monthly maintenance would include updating plugins, installing software patches, emptying server cache, updating malware scanning applications, checking for server-side software updates and creating backups.

Quarterly Maintenance

Quarterly maintenance involves things we do each quarter, without the client requesting them. Quarterly maintenance would include full-site backups, checking server resource usage and potentially increasing allotted space or server bandwidth as a result, checking to see if plugins used on the website were added to the at-risk plugin list, checking accessibility (WCAG or Section 508) and running a robot scan to see if there are any potential SEO problems and then fixing them.

Conclusion

Those are my three general categories of maintenance. The exact requirements vary from client to client.

My goal is to make sure client websites stay up and running at top performance at all times. To accomplish that, on-going maintenance is an absolute requirement. If you’re not paying someone like me to do maintenance, you should be doing it yourself. Don’t ignore it!

If you want to find out how much it would cost for me to handle things for you, contact me via the link below.

– Tom

Tom Broadwater
TCE Media
Click right here to contact me!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019 Tom The Blog

A WordPress child theme is a sub-theme that inherits all of the styles and functionality of a parent theme. By using a child theme, you can customize a theme without making changes directly to it. All of your custom changes would be made to the child theme and those changes would override matching design, features or functionality in the parent theme.

Why use a WordPress child theme?

I started using child themes to prevent problems with theme updates breaking custom code added to a theme. When a theme developer releases an update they’re either adding functionality or fixing a problem with the theme. Whenever you install the update, it overwrites all of the core theme files and will also overwrite any custom stuff you’ve added to those files. That is why updating a theme will sometimes break parts of a WordPress website.

With a WordPress child theme, your custom code is located in the child theme, which acts as your site’s main theme. You install both the parent theme and the child theme inside your WordPress installation (both absolutely have to be there for the child to work), then activate the child theme as your theme. The child theme will pull in (aka inherit) all of the styles, functions and features of the main theme but custom code built into the child theme will take precedent over matching styles and functions in the parent theme. Because of this setup, theme updates won’t break your custom styles and functions.

How do you get a WordPress child theme?

There are three main options – you can create a child theme if you’re a good coder, use a plugin to create a child theme or buy a theme that comes packaged with a child theme. I’m not going to go into detail about how all of these options work but will plan to post a video on my YouTube channel covering each. If you pay for a theme it will usually come packaged with a child theme.

I would recommend setting up a WordPress install that you can uses to play around with child themes before attempting to use one on a production website. There is a bit of a learning curve and there can be problems. After you learn how to use them, they’ll save you a lot of time and trouble!

– Tom

Tom Broadwater
TCE Media
Click right here to contact me!

Friday, July 19, 2019 Tom The Blog

WordPress plugins thumbnailThere are currently around 50,000 plugins available for WordPress. The large, diverse selection of plugins is one of the reasons so many businesses decide to build their websites with WordPress. The plugins make it easier to add the features they want to their websites. While the vast majority of plugins are very well built and secure, installing plugins can increase security risks.

Let’s take a look at what a plugin is and how it can be a security risk.

What is a WordPress plugin?

A WordPress plugin is basically a small software application that is built to plug right into WordPress. Plugins have their own built-in functions and make use of features already available in the WordPress core to add new capabilities. Plugins are built by members of the WordPress community and offered on the WordPress plugin directory that can be found here:

https://wordpress.org/plugins/ (Opens in new browser tab)

Examples of functionality that can be added to a site with WordPress plugins would include:

  • SEO tools
  • Website backup and recovery tools
  • Page builders
  • Security and anti-malware tools
  • Forums
  • Custom forms
  • Anti spam tools
  • Video tools
  • Membership managers
  • A whole lot more!

Why Can a WordPress Plugin Be a Security Risk?

The main reason a WordPress plugin can create security risks is poorly written code. The people who use WordPress, and build plugins for it, have widely varying levels of skill when it comes to writing code. If they fail to follow proper protocols when coding out their plugin they could leave access points wide open for malware.

The WordPress core is very secure and a team of individuals monitor it to keep it secure but when you install a plugin the code associated with it isn’t monitored by the team. The plugin code is the responsibility of the person who created the plugin. They have to monitor it and make sure it is secure and remains secure. If they fail to do that, malware can infiltrate your entire site through the door left open by the plugin.

Whenever I try to explain WordPress plugin security risks to someone who isn’t a coder I tell them that it would be like having a house that is fully secure, hiring a contractor to install a new front door and then having them install the lock backwards giving full access to your otherwise secure home. That’s basically what happens when poorly coded plugins leave open access points for malware.

How Does Malware Find Access Through WordPress Plugins?

A lot of malware is automated. Some idiot writes a script that goes out and checks all kinds of websites for various features and when it finds those features, it executes some kind of process to try to exploit them. We refer to these applications as “bots” in the industry, which is short for robots.

There usually isn’t a skilled hacker sitting in front of their computer with lines of code flying by, as shown in movies and on TV, working to find a way into your website. The process is much less dramatic (as is life in-general). It’s usually a software application scanning the Internet looking for a site with a plugin installed that is known to have a hole in it. When it finds a site with that plugin it then tries to exploit the hole.

How Can I Use Plugins and Avoid Problems?

The number one thing you should always do with a website is create regular backups that can be used to restore the site if malware infiltrates it or some technical problem takes it offline. This is the best thing you can do to protect your website. It’s impossible to keep a site from going down but you can ensure it is only down a short time if you have a good backup available.

  1. Check to make sure the plugin isn’t on the list of hacked or vulnerable plugins, which can be found here: https://firstsiteguide.com/tools/free-fsg/hacked-dangerous-vulnerable-wordpress-plugins/ (Opens in new browser tab)
  2. Do a quick Google Search to see if anyone else is having problems with a plugin.
  3. Check the star rating and number of installs before installing plugins. If the star rating is high and there have been a lot of installs, it is probably reliable.

Plugins add useful features to your WordPress website but make sure you install well-built plugins to avoid security problems.

– Tom

Tom Broadwater
TCE Media
Click right here to contact me!

Saturday, March 02, 2019 Tom The Blog

small business online advertising responsive layout wireframes

During my more than 18 year career, I’ve met with numerous local businesses owners who were interested in trying Google Ads, Facebook Ads or some other online advertising platform. Many of these business owners were overwhelmed by the options available, the technology associated with each option and had no idea where to start. Here are some tips to help you figure out a starting point for advertising your local business online:

Set Goals

Figure out what you hope to achieve with online ads. There are different types of ads for accomplishing different things. If you want to spread the word about your existence, a strategy focused on getting impressions would work. An impression is a view. If your ad gets one view that view equals one impression. A CPM, or cost per thousand impressions, campaign would require you to pay some set amount per 1,000 impressions.

If you are more interested in conversions, you would set up a CPA campaign, or Cost Per Acquisition. With a CPA strategy, you pay a fee when someone clicks on your ad and does what you want them to do (fills out a form on your site for example).

Geographic Targeting

All of the major online advertising platforms have tools that let you target specific geographic regions. I usually target counties with my locally-focused ads. Targeting ads to a specific geographic region will ensure they only show up in front of potential customers in that region. If you primarily serve a specific county you can easily target that county. You can also target zip codes, states and metropolitan areas, just to name a few options.

Start Small

Start with a small budget and then increase it as you learn the ropes. Learn how things work and let the data collected help you fine tune  your strategy. A big investment doesn’t always equate to a big return on investment.

Think Like Your Customers/Clients

When customers search for your products or services they all usually enter similar search terms (aka, keywords) into their search engine of choice. For example, if you sell New York Style pizza in South Florida, it would be a good strategy to use the keywords “New York Style” and “pizza” in your ad while targeting residents of counties in Southern Florida, because potential customers will probably run their search using those terms and you want to target that region. There are a lot of helpful tools available from Google and many other companies designed to help you figure out what people are searching for in your target areas based on historic search data .

I hope these tips will help you find a place to get started with online ads. Feel free to contact me anytime with questions.

– Tom

Tom Broadwater
TCE Media
Click right here to contact me!