Stop losing your little black book. We have a safer place to keep your passwords!

Those of you that have been with us for a while will recognize this post; it’s a re-post from September 2014, and again August in August 2015. Some may not have seen it before, and it’s information worth repeating regardless.  I’ve tweaked it with some updated information so it is still relevant.  Please let us know if you have any questions; we can help you implement a password management solution if you are interested. It’s not that hard, and can really save your bacon.

How many passwords do you have?  Wait, let me rephrase that:  How many websites or applications do you have to enter a password into?  “What’s the difference” you might ask.  The difference is huge.

If you have one password (or maybe a couple) that you use for everything, you make a hacker’s job that much easier.  Once they get a password for one login, it’s just a matter of trying the same credentials on other popular websites.  And if all your passwords are the same, it won’t take them long.

Here’s another question:  How strong is your password?  How long will it take a hacker to crack it?  I challenge you to find out; chances are you’ll be surprised.  Head over to Password Game.  It will tell you how many days (or years) it would take for a hacker to crack your password, and has tips on how to create a strong password.  Here are some examples:

  • password = 8 characters = 0 seconds to crack
  • [email protected]$$w0rd = 8 characters w/ upper case, lower case, numbers, and special characters = 4 hours to crack
  • zh4p!Wm^Sm72zAsvFz& = 19 characters w/ upper case, lower case, numbers, and special characters = 144,883,728,284 years to crack

Now, you’re probably thinking “How am I supposed to remember multiple complex 19 character passwords?  There’s no way!”  Unless you’re Rain Man, you’re probably right. Nicole and I now have over 700 sites that require a username and password to log into.  I’m not always the sharpest tool in the shed, but I’m no slouch either.  I know for a fact I can’t remember that many passwords, let alone think up a unique password for each site.  Writing passwords down in a notebook is okay, right up to the point that it gets lost or stolen.

Time to call in reinforcements.features_3_centralize_your_data

We use a password manager from Marvasol, Inc called LastPass.  It remembers our passwords so we can get on with more important things in life.  We use one complex password that we both can remember to secure our vault.  On top of that, we have multi-factor authentication enabled by using Google Authenticator on our smart phones.  Not only would someone need to guess our super secret password, they’d need to have our fingerprint or phone’s passcode in order to get into Lastpass.

The data is stored in the cloud, protected by 256-bit encryption.  Passwords and sites sync between all our devices (phones, tablets, and computers) so we never have to worry about forgetting a login.  The best part? LastPass comes with it’s own password generator, which lets you define the length of the password, and which characters should be included (numbers, upper & lowercase letters, and symbols).  That’s how I came up with “zh4p!Wm^Sm72zAsvFz&”.

This isn’t a sales pitch.  You won’t find LastPass in our Affiliates section.  There are other password managers out there that perform the same basic function.  PC Magazine did a review on many popular apps which you can read about here.  Notice Lastpass is listed in the top two.

Take the time to evaluate your password situation.  If you use the same password (or a variant thereof) and someone nefarious figures it out, how much of your life are you going to lose?  Worse yet, if you’re using easy to crack passwords, or the same password on multiple sites, how much are you going to lose to hackers?

A few minutes of education and exprimentation, and you’ll be well on your way to a more safe and secure situation.

features_1_svgn lastpassfillmenu-1-e1383337960866 features_7_strongpasswordn

We welcome your questions or comments. Its simple...just click HERE!

WordPress 4.4 “Clifford” Released

wordpressWordPress 4.4 was released yesterday.  You can read the full announcement here.

Items of note include the new theme Twenty Sixteen, oEmbed functionality, and many other behind the scenes enhancements.

If you are updating to 4.4 yourself, please make certain that your themes and plugins are not only up-to-date, but are compatible with WordPress 4.4.  A backup of your site is never a bad idea either 🙂

Customers that subscribe to our Maintenance Services will have this update applied in the very near future.  Please give us time to test it with your unique site.


We welcome your questions or comments. Its simple...just click HERE!

 

Yoast SEO 3.0 Released

Yoast SEO 3.0You might notice something new as you craft a new post or page in WordPress, especially if you’re one of our maintenance subscribers.  Yoast SEO has released version 3.0 of their of venerable WordPress plugin, and it streamlines how you craft your content to become more search engine optimized.

The most notable change, aside from the way the Yoast looks, is the way snippets are designed.  Gone are the title and meta description fields; they’ve been replaced by the snippet editor. If you want to change how the title, permalink, or description look, you simply click and edit them in the snippet editor.

The Content Analysis is displayed prominently under the Focus Keyword field, making it easier to see what Yoast suggests to improve your post.  And with the new real-time content analysis, suggestions are provided on the fly, changing as you type more words, add images, or reference your keyword more often.

The stoplight feature is visible in multiple areas, and is also tied into the real-time analysis, so it cha
nges colors as your SEO improves.

I could repeat everything that Yoast has posted on their blog, but that doesn’t seem very efficient…follow the link to read the whole article and a full listing of improvements.


We welcome your questions or comments. Its simple...just click HERE!

Tech Tip: Create Your Own Search Engine

When we include images in our posts, they usually come from free stock image websites.  Unfortunately, we regularly use 10 sites, and it can be a pain to go from site to site searching for just the right graphic.

Then I found Google’s Custom Search Engine (CSE).

In a matter of minutes, I was able to take the 10 sites we regularly search for images, and add them into CSE.  I now have one link to visit, customized to the sites I want to search; Google returns hits from only the 10 sites I’ve defined.  Talk about a time saver!

CSE is free, and easy to use.  You can create your own custom search engine by going to https://cse.google.com, and signing in with your Google account.  Like videos?  Here’s a great one I found on YouTube that walks you through the process.

Here’s the URL to our CSE that we use to search images.  The URL can be shared publicly, or made private so that only you can use it.  There is also code so it can be embedded in a website if you so choose.

If you have any questions, or need a little help, be sure to let us know!


We welcome your questions or comments. Its simple...just click HERE!

Tech Tips: Password Security & Strength

Those of you that have been with us for a while will recognize this post; it’s a re-post from September 2014.  Some may not have seen it before, and it’s information worth repeating.  I’ve tweaked it with some updated information so it is still relevant.  Please let us know if you have any questions; we can help you implement a password management solution if you are interested.

bigstock-the-concept-of-thinking-backg-33314345How many passwords do you have?  Wait, let me rephrase that:  How many websites or applications do you have to enter a password into?  “What’s the difference” you might ask.  The difference is huge.

If you have one password (or maybe a couple) that you use for everything, you make a hacker’s job that much easier.  Once they get a password for one login, it’s just a matter of trying the same credentials on other popular websites.  And if all your passwords are the same, it won’t take them long.

Here’s another question:  How strong is your password?  How long will it take a hacker to crack it?  I challenge you to find out; chances are you’ll be surprised.  Head over to Intel’s Password Game.  It will tell you how many days (or years) it would take for a hacker to crack your password, and has tips on how to create a strong password.  Here are some examples:

  • password = 8 characters = 0 seconds to crack
  • [email protected]$$w0rd = 8 characters w/ upper case, lower case, numbers, and special characters = 4 hours to crack
  • zh4p!Wm^Sm72zAsvFz& = 19 characters w/ upper case, lower case, numbers, and special characters = 144,883,728,284 years to crack

Now, you’re probably thinking “How am I supposed to remember multiple complex 19 character passwords?  There’s no way!”  Unless you’re Rain Man, you’re probably right. Nicole and I have over 250 sites that require a username and password to log into.  I’m not always the sharpest tool in the shed, but I’m no slouch either.  I know for a fact I can’t remember that many passwords, let alone think up a unique password for each site.  Writing passwords down in a notebook is okay, right up to the point that it gets lost or stolen.

Time to call in reinforcements.features_3_centralize_your_data

We use a password manager from Marvasol, Inc called LastPass.  It remembers our passwords so we can get on with more important things in life.  We use one complex password that we both can remember to secure our vault.  On top of that, we have multi-factor authentication enabled by using Google Authenticator on our smart phones.  Not only would someone need to guess our super secret password, they’d need to have our fingerprint or phone’s passcode in order to get into Lastpass.

The data is stored in the cloud, protected by 256-bit encryption.  Passwords and sites sync between all our devices (iPhone, iPad, computers, etc) so we never have to worry about forgetting a login.  The best part? LastPass comes with it’s own password generator, which lets you define the length of the password, and which characters should be included (numbers, upper & lowercase letters, and symbols).  That’s how I came up with “zh4p!Wm^Sm72zAsvFz&”.

This isn’t a sales pitch.  You won’t find LastPass in our Affiliates section.  There are other password managers out there that perform the same basic function.  PC Magazine did a review on many popular apps which you can read about here.  Notice Lastpass is listed in the top two.

Take the time to evaluate your password situation.  If you use the same password (or a variant thereof) and someone nefarious figures it out, how much of your life are you going to lose?  Worse yet, if you’re using easy to crack passwords, or the same password on multiple sites, how much are you going to lose to hackers?

features_1_svgn lastpassfillmenu-1-e1383337960866 features_7_strongpasswordn

Know What You’re Paying For

Currency Question Mark Integrant ServicesWe’ve had a recent influx of customers that have been burnt by their previous web designer.  For some, a substantial amount of money had been paid, but they couldn’t stand the sight of their site when it was ‘finished’.  Others liked the design of their site, but had no idea how to use it because they were used to another platform.  Sometimes it was a combination of both.  In all cases, the designer stopped responding to emails once they decided the site was “finished”.

This makes us sick.

Please, know what you’re getting before paying someone for ANY service.  Contact the designer if their site isn’t clear about what you’ll be receiving.  Stay in touch with them through the design process, and be clear about what you want, especially if you’re not getting what you’re asking for.  Save those emails just in case you need them for ‘clarification’ later on.

Here at Integrant Services, we try to be as transparent as possible.  You not only get a customer information form for pertinent account information, but a graphics design questionnaire as well.  This gives us insight as to what you’re looking for as we craft your new site.  Did I mention that we have a secure customer portal for you to submit your information through?  It’s not for us, it’s for you:  We don’t want you sending usernames and passwords through email.  Yes, we care that much.

We also think our terms of service are plainly worded and easy to understand, as are the descriptions of our products & services.  And if you ever have a question about anything we offer, we encourage you to ask first, buy later.

We always do our best to keep our customers happy, and knock on wood, we have yet to have a complaint.  Mainly because we love what we do, and what we do is help you.

Have a horror story you want to share?  Something you need to get off your chest?  Leave us a comment…we’re good at listening too! 🙂

Sticky Posts

 

Yellow-Sticky-Note

Ever found yourself wishing you could keep a post ‘on top’ or at the beginning of your blog?  Maybe a welcome message?  You can…the sticky posts option is built right into WordPress!

In order to make a post ‘sticky’, either create and save a new draft, or choose which existing post you’d like to use.  On the ‘All Posts’ view, hover over the post you want to make sticky, then click on ‘Quick Edit’.

Wordpress post Quick Edit

This will expand a view many of you haven’t seen before.  It allows changing many of the settings of a post (or many posts using the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down) without having to edit the post directly.  As you can see, one of the options is ‘Make this post sticky’.  Check the box, and ‘Update’.

Make this post sticky

That’s it!  From here on out, this will be the very first post visible on your site.  Posts published after this will be appear below the sticky post.  You can have more than one sticky post, and should you want to ‘unstick’ the post, simply follow these instructions again and uncheck the box!

Let us know what you think…do you find these hints helpful?

TinyMCE Advanced = Font Family Changes

Last week I alluded to introducing a way to change font sizes, font families, and more when editing a post or page in WordPress.  For those that have been asking for that functionality, your patience has paid off!

WordPress uses TinyMCE, a JavaScript ‘what you see is what you get’ (WYSIWYG) front end visual editor.  There are dozens of configuration options, most of which aren’t enabled by default.  In order to enable these options, you would normally need to code them in.  If you’re like me, you have better things to do, but if your curious, dig through the site at http://
www.tinymce.com/wiki.php.  Don’t blame me if your eyes cross and you get a headache though.

The good news is that there is a plugin titled TinyMCE Advanced, developed by Andrew Ozz, that makes configuring some of these options very easy.  Our current maintenance plan subscribers can get this plugin installed for free; just ask!  If your not one of our customers, to install, log into your WordPress site, navigate to Plugins, then click on Add New.  Add New
In the search box, type in TinyMCE Advanced, hit enter, then click on the title of the plugin.  Once the screen loads, click on Install Plugin, then activate the plugin.  Once activation is complete, navigate to Settings / TinyMCE Advanced.Settings

From here, you’re presented with the editor settings.  This is a live preview of how your toolbar will look when editing a post or page.  Not only is there a drop-down menu added to the top of the toolbar, you have four rows to use, instead of the default two.

Editor

 

Below this is the Unused Buttons area:

Unused Buttons

You can add, remove, and reorder any of the buttons in the editor.  If you want to add a feature that doesn’t exist in your editor, simply click and drag from the Unused Buttons area to where you want the button on your toolbar.  Likewise, if there are buttons you don’t want to see, you can drag them down to the Unused Buttons area.

Move Button

 

 

Here’s my customized final product.

TinyMCE Final

 

If you want the same options as I’ve selected, you can copy the code below (courtesy of the TinyMCE Advanced ‘code’ button).  Click on the Import Settings button under Administration at the bottom of the screen, and paste the code in.

{"settings":{"toolbar_1":"bold,italic,underline,strikethrough,superscript,subscript,hr,wp_code,blockquote,bullist,numlist,alignleft,aligncenter,alignright,alignjustify,link,unlink,table,undo,redo,wp_adv","toolbar_2":"fontselect,fontsizeselect,forecolor,backcolor,outdent,indent,pastetext,removeformat,charmap,emoticons,searchreplace,wp_help","toolbar_3":"","toolbar_4":"","options":"advlist,menubar","plugins":"anchor,code,insertdatetime,nonbreaking,print,searchreplace,table,visualblocks,visualchars,emoticons,advlist"},"admin_settings":{"options":"fontsize_formats","disabled_plugins":""}}

Now you can change your Font Family, Font Sizes, and more!  You may notice the font selection is limited; there are ways to add more fonts to choose from, but that is a decidedly more advanced topic.  Should you want specific fonts, contact us!

 

 

WordPress and the Kitchen Sink

I know, the title sounds like the beginnings of a fable, but its true:  Wordpress has a kitchen sink.  You may not fit a lot of dishes in it, but its just as indispensable as the iconic fixture in your kitchen.

If you don’t know what the kitchen sink is (in relation to WordPress), its the second row of icons in your post or page editor toolbar.

 

Kitchen Sink Before Integrant Services

Press this button!

 

Kitchen Sink after Integrant Services

And get this row of icons!

By adding the kitchen sink, you now have access to the following: change the font size, underline, justification (of text), and font color.  Paste as text is useful if you copy and paste information from Microsoft Word, or from another web page; it removes the formatting style that was associated with the original copy.  Clear formatting will reset any special formatting of the text you have selected.  The ‘Omega’ symbol allows you to insert a special character, followed by decrease and increase indent, undo and redo, and a complete list of keyboard shortcuts.

I hope this helps some of you that may not have known these functions existed.

Stay tuned, soon we’ll share a way to include different fonts and font sizes in your post editor!

 

WordPress 4.3 – Coming Soon

WordPress 4.3 has been in development since version 4.2 was released in April, and is due to be released sometime soon (tentatively August 18th).  While it contains a number of improvements, some of them you won’t even  notice.  WP Beginner wrote a good article, based on a Beta version of 4.3, describing the upcoming changes.  You can read their full article here.

If you’re one of our maintenance plan subscribers, you’ll be upgraded as soon as we make sure there won’t be any conflicts with your existing installation.  If you’re not a maintenance plan subscriber, be certain that your blog is backed up prior to upgrading.

WordPress: Make it your first choice

WordPress.org logo photo Integrant Services

We subscribe to marketing emails by Derek Halpern, successful entrepreneur and founder of Social Triggers.  In one of his recent videos, Derek talks about Building An Audience, then Selling Stuff.  Six minutes into the video, he said something that really resonated with us:

“How do you build an audience?  I believe the best way to do it is by starting and growing a blog.”

If you want to watch the video to see what he has to say, you can see it here.

While Derek’s statement in itself isn’t revolutionary, what he goes on to say makes perfect sense and is what prompted me to write this post for our “Audience”.

WordPress is one of the only platforms that allows you to build and grow an audience, yet maintain ownership (and control) of your content.  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media platforms own your information.  And if you want to advertise further, you have to pay them to do it.  TypePad, Blogger, and other blogging platforms also make it difficult to get your original content back.  Ever try to retrieve one of the original files you uploaded in TypePad?  It’s not easy, and it’s been renamed by TypePad, so good luck picking it out of a lineup.  And perish the thought, but what if a blogging service closed its doors?  Years of your hard work down the drain.  Even if you had a backup, it wouldn’t contain your images, just your posts.

That’s why, when we started our business, we chose a self-hosted WordPress blog.  Its also the only platform we support.

You might ask why I specify self-hosted WordPress blog.  Here’s a blurb I wrote a while back that explains the differences in WordPress:

If you are researching WordPress as a blogging platform, you might wonder what the differences are between WordPress.com, WordPress.org, and Self-Hosted WordPress.

  • WordPress.com is a blogging service provided by Automattic, Inc.  They offer free and paid plans to host your WordPress blog.  The happiness engineers at WordPress.com manage the server, therefore limiting what plugins and functionality can be added to your own blog.  Wordpress.com also expressly prohibits Multi-Level-Marketing (MLM) based companies from using their blogging services.  Those found violating their fascinating Terms of Service will have their accounts suspended.  A forum that discusses MLM blogs on WordPress.com can be found here.  Stamin’ Up! is considered by WordPress.com to be a MLM, and some of our customers have had their accounts suspended.
  • WordPress.org is the basis of all things WordPress.  Here can be found plugins (extending functionality of your blog), plugin support, themes, etc.
  • A Self-Hosted WordPress site is owned and managed by you (or us, if you choose).  It requires you to own or obtain your own domain name (www.mysite.com), a hosting provider, and to install WordPress on your hosting provider.  While this might sound overwhelming, it really isn’t.  We can easily guide you through the process of securing a hosting provider and your own domain name.  Our Setup and Transfer services include installation of WordPress on your new site, so all the difficult work is taken care of for you!  The best part?  You own your site, can display what you want, and design it to be as simple or complex as you’d like.

With a self-hosted WordPress blog, YOU own your content.  Pictures, files, and even the words belong to you.  You can back it up, restore it, move it, and even delete it.  Upload an image and the file name stays the same, so you can find the original later if you want it back.  WordPress is extremely flexible, and has tens of thousands of addons (plugins) that extend its functionality.  If you can imagine it, there’s a way to do it.  Basic blog, photo gallery, e-Commerce store front…it’s all possible.

THAT is why we only support and recommend self-hosted WordPress.

By the way, if you’re already on another blogging platform, its not too late to move should you choose.  Your entire blog can be transferred, and I happen to know a company that does that 🙂

SNAP, Part 2 (Facebook)

Facebook-Logo-On-Fire Integrant ServicesOn June 1st I introduced you to the Social Networks Auto Poster (SNAP) plugin, and promised I’d cover the individual settings in more detail. Let’s talk about settings unique to Facebook.

While editing a post, scroll to the bottom of the page until you see the SNAP section. You should see your Facebook account, along with several options.  First, things first; make sure the box next to Facebook is checked. Otherwise your post won’t get sent to Facebook.

The next option is to schedule a publishing time for your Facebook post. It defaults to ‘immediately’, which is in relation to when your blog post is published. If you schedule your blog post to publish at a certain time, that’s when it will publish to Facebook. If you want to publish your post immediately, but delay publishing it to Facebook, set a time here.

The next section of options deals with how your post looks on Facebook. At any point you can click on the “what’s the difference” link for a visual reference. Selecting ‘text post’ won’t include your blog post, and you’ll have to type what you want to say in the ‘message format’ box. Same for ‘image post’, only it includes a photo.

The third option, ‘text post with attached blog post’ is the most common. It comes with its own two options, and like before, you can click the link to see the differences. I’m partial to the second option, attaching the blog post, but you should experiment to find what works for you.

Facebook CaptureThe ‘message format’ box is where you put text or links that appear at the beginning of your Facebook post.  Here is an example of the last post I published.  The words to the right of the picture come from the body of the post (or your SEO plugin).  The words above the picture come from what is put into the ‘message format’ box.  TIP:  Use the message format to add words that are different from your post; the example I’ve shown is NOT a good way to do it.  This is a good place to convince your readers to click and visit your blog.

If you don’t feel like including anything special every time you post, there are a few shortcuts you can use.  Typing %TITLE% in the block will display the title of your post when it publishes.  %URL% will include the web address of the post.  %CATS% will include the post categories, and %HCATS% will include the categories as hashtags.  You can incorporate these into a sentence as well, and save it as default in the SNAP settings.  For example, “A new post %TITLE% has been published on %URL%.  %HCAT%”

After Capture FacebookI decided I didn’t like the Facebook post I’ve used here as an example, so I deleted it from our business page.  Using the ‘Re-post to Facebook’ button in SNAP, I sent out an updated version.  I changed the wording so it didn’t sound the same as the embedded post, and included %HCATS% and %HTAGS% at the end.  You can certainly tell the difference.

The final two options are pretty simple.  Leaving the ‘Images to use’ box checked will result in SNAP deciding what gets sent to Facebook.  For those that are in the habit of using a Featured Image, it will generally choose that one first, and if there isn’t one, it will try to use one from the content of the post.  You can also uncheck the box, and choose a specific photo.  Leave the ‘URL to use’ box checked.

Hopefully you find these tips useful.  Stay tuned…in our next segment, we’ll be covering Twitter settings!

Stampin’ Up! Category ID Changes

Stampin’ Up! changed the IDs for most of its categories.  This important for you if:

  1. You’re a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator – and –
  2. You have links to Weekly Deals, Clearance Rack, etc. on your blog.

Links that go directly to your store, such as Shop 24/7, aren’t affected.

The two most common links are listed below.  Simply replace the ### with your Demo ID, and when clicked, customers will be taken straight to your store.

If you’re a maintenance plan subscriber and want us to update these links for you, just ask!

Weekly Deals:  http://www.stampinup.com/ECWeb/ItemList.aspx?categoryid=100100&dbwsdemoid=###

Clearance Rack:  http://www.stampinup.com/ECWeb/ItemList.aspx?categoryid=100300&dbwsdemoid=###

Social Networks Auto Poster (SNAP), Part 1

Computer-Keyboard-With-Social-800w Integrant ServicesDuplicating tasks is a waste of time (and effort), wouldn’t you agree?

So why would you craft a post and publish it on your blog, only to copy and paste it to your social media accounts?  You have to log in, copy the text from your blog post, paste it into a new entry, then upload and insert a photo.  Sound an awful lot like what you had to do for your blog post already?  Now, rinse & repeat for every social media account you actively use.

Or, you could just publish your post and let your crafted content publish automatically, thanks to SNAP.  Social Networks Auto Poster (SNAP) is a WordPress plugin developed by Nextscripts.com.  With a little configuration, it will take your post and publish it to most popular social media outlets.

The free version (and who doesn’t love free?) will publish to Delicious, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn (personal account only), Stumbleupon, Tumbler, Twitter, and Xing, just to name the most popular platforms.  A full list can be found at Nextscripts.com.

While Facebook and Twitter are enough for most, the good folks at Nextscripts know that ‘enough’ isn’t always enough.  Their paid API adds in 10 more social networks, of which you’ll recognize Google+, LinkedIn (company pages), and yes, Pinterest.

Pricing can be a little confusing for their paid services.  I covered this on a post a couple of months back.  Not to worry; it’s still on sale for $49.95.  Support our cause by using our affiliate link if you want the power of publishing to Pinterest and Google+.

Just to recap, SNAP is free if you just use Facebook and Twitter.  If you want to publish to Pinterest and Google+, you’ll need Nextscripts’ APIs, which are on sale for $49.95.

Our Maintenance Plan subscribers get the free version of SNAP installed and configured automatically  If they purchase the paid version, we’ll configure that as well.

The remaining parts of this series will discuss how to maximize the usefulness of SNAP on your WordPress blog!  Part 2 covers Facebook…stay tuned to learn more!

How to get the most out of your SEO plugin

Web traffic button pointing high position with two fingers blue and grey tones Conceptual image for internet seo.Visibility in search results is vital for any small business owner.  After all, how are you going to get new customers if you’re not listed in search results?

Enter Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Understanding how SEO works is kinda like rocket science.  Complicated algorithms make up the bulk of it.  You don’t have to worry about those, unless you have your Doctorates in Mathematics and are genuinely interested.  What you should worry about is writing good content, and in return, drawing your customer’s interests.

I recently read a very good article on SEO.  What the research boils down to is this:  Write Good Content.  For example, if your intended audience buys Widgets, and you want to sell Widgets, write about Widgets.  Don’t write about Gadgets if all you want to sell are Widgets.

What We Do For You

So, what does Integrant Services do for you when it comes to SEO?

Every one of our maintenance plan subscribers has WordPress SEO by Yoast installed.  While this plugin doesn’t solve all your SEO problems, it does assist you in Writing Good Content.  You can find the WordPress SEO by Yoast area on any Page or Post you’re creating, right under the text editor window you type in.   Follow the slideshow below, taken as I wrote this very article, and I’ll show you how.

 

For our Gold and Platinum members, we also monitor your site with Google Webmaster Tools.  This ensures your site map is up-to-date, and that Google’s Bots haven’t encountered any errors while crawling your site.

Hand writing Content SEO crossword with marker on transparent wipe board.The SEO Bottom Line

There’s more to SEO than just writing good content.  However, good content is a great place to start, and by using the tools we’ve provided you, will take care of a large piece of the SEO puzzle.

Other SEO Resources

WordPress Post Signatures

pen for signatureAre you a WordPress user?

Do you have a self-hosted blog, not hosted by WordPress.com?  Do you have information you want to appear every time you publish a new post (like a signature)?

Are you tired of cloning posts?

Great news…I have a solution for you!

I recently stumbled across a plugin called Add to All.  It allows you to do exactly what it sounds like:  Add information to all posts (and pages).  You can add text, graphics, or links to the top or bottom of every post you publish from here on out.  Or all the posts you published in the past.

The reality check?  It’s not point and click; text, images, and links have to be added by code.  While simple HTML, some won’t be comfortable with this.

The bonus?  If you’re one of our maintenance plan subscribers, we’ll install and configure this for you for free.  We just need to know what you want it to display.

If you’re not a paying subscriber (yet), install the plugin.  Go to ‘Settings / Add to All’, then scroll down to ‘Content Options’.

The first two blocks will apply the options to the beginning (or end) of every post or page you’ve ever created.

The second two blocks will apply your options to the beginning (or end) of every post or page you create from today on.

A word of caution:  If you choose to put information in either of the first two blocks (every post) AND in either of the second two blocks (from today forward), you’ll get BOTH sets of information in every new post.

Happy Blogging, and let us know if you want this configured for your blog!

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Tech Tips: Get Organized With Evernote

Stuffed File CabinetWe don’t just talk about blog related topics here; we share tips, tricks, and secrets we’ve learned over the years with you.  All to make running your business easier.

Do you have a drawer full of receipts you’re keeping for tax season?  Is your desk covered with post-it notes? Maybe you have a well organized filing cabinet, but you’re worried about losing all your records due to fire or natural disaster.

Enter Evernote.

Evernote is a digital filing system based in the cloud, and has been around for years.  Write your own notes.  Scan and email documents directly to your filing cabinet.  Save emails, photos, and documents electronically.  Organize tax related documents regularly throughout the year, instead of scrambling for receipts on April 14th.

Use the mobile app on the go.  Capture business dinner receipts.  Take photos of business cards.  Jot down ideas and notes.  And then access all that information anywhere.  Search for anything; Evernote has a powerful search engine built in.

Have a team you need to collaborate with?  Share tasks, files, and folders with them.  Collaborate via chat to make sure you’re all on the same page.  Then use the presentation function to show it all off.

Evernote has three pricing tiers:  Free (the most exciting!), Premium, and Business.  Its also available for both Windows and Mac, as well as from the Apple App Store, Google Play, and the Windows Store for mobile devices.

Try the free version and see how it can help you get organized!

 

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Tech Tip: Thank Me Later

Tech Tips LogoEarlier this week I told you about Comment Redirect by Yoast, a wonderful customer engagement plugin for first time comments.

How would you like to repeatedly thank your followers for leaving a comment?

There’s another plugin for WordPress called Thank Me Later.  Simply put, it sends an email to anyone that leaves an approved (versus spam) comment.  You craft the message and set the time delay before delivery, and Thank Me Later does the rest.

Delivery delay can be set anywhere from minutes to weeks, and customized to the post title and commentator’s name.  The number of times an email is sent to each commentator can also be defined.

Finally, you can create separate Thank Me Later messages, and apply them to separate categories, tags, and posts.

Just like Comment Redirect, if you subscribe to one of our maintenance plans, we’ll install this for you if you’re not comfortable with doing it yourself.  Just drop us a line and let us know you want it!

Have a great weekend!

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Comment Redirect by Yoast

Tech Tips LogoIt can be a challenge to keep your audience engaged.  They may stop by your site and leave a quick comment, then forget to ever come back.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could redirect a visitor after leaving their first comment?  Maybe to a landing page where they can sign up on your mailing list?  Follow you on Facebook?

Comment Redirect by Yoast does exactly that.  Create a landing page you want your followers to see the first time they leave a comment on one of your posts.  Install and activate the Comment Redirect plugin from WordPress.org.  Open the Comment Redirect plugin (Tools / Comment Redirect) and choose the page you want your first timers to see.  That’s it; nothing more to configure.

Now, after leaving their first comment, you can engage your followers even further!

Want it even easier?  If you’re a maintenance plan subscriber with us, we’ll install this for you for free.  Drop us a line, and we’ll get you set up!

 

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Why Blog Security Is Important

Security ButtonIf you’ve been a subscriber for a while, or have taken the time to browse our blog archive, you know that I talk frequently about security.  Even the most vigilant of us get affected from time to time, as Internet villains find new ways to practice their nefarious deeds.

Our new hosting provider (InMotion Hosting) sent an email last night to notify us that our account was experiencing a “Account Resource Overage”.  I immediately panicked, thinking that something was wrong with our WordPress install, or our disks were full, but nothing seemed amiss.  I sent a response back to InMotion asking for more details.

Turns out we were the target of a brute force attack.

A hacker tried to log into our site over 1,500 times in the matter of a few minutes.  InMotion blocked the offending IP address.

The hacker never got in.  No accounts were compromised.  “How is that possible”, you may ask?

Strong passwords, and an excellent security plugin.  A HUGE lifesaver.

So why the account resource overage warning?

By virtue of attempting to log in, the hacker used processor power from our server.  Many, many times more processor power than was normal.  All in the hope that they could guess a password.  The more attempts guessing, the more power used.  Eventually, it would have made our site unusable.

It can happen to you!  So, how to stop that from happening…

One way is to require yet another username and password before even getting to the WordPress log in screen. See “Password Protect wp-login.php” in the brute force attack article.  Not a realistic option.  I already have enough passwords, thank you very much.

Instead, I choose to Deny Access to No Referrer Requests.  I won’t bore you with the details; you can Google or read it in the linked article it if you’d like to learn more.

What can you do?

Read the security articles I wrote (if you haven’t already).  Create strong passwords, especially for your WordPress log in (if you haven’t already).  Change your passwords occasionally.  If you’ve purchased a site setup, transfer, or maintenance plan from us, you already have a solid security plugin installed.  Check that off your list.

What we’ll be doing:  Over the next week, I’ll be applying the same No Referrer Request patch to all current Integrant Services customers, even if you aren’t on a maintenance plan.  Free of charge.

It’s what we do.

You shouldn’t notice anything different; if you do, contact [email protected] ASAP so we can fix it.

Happy (and safe) blogging!

Tech Tips: Blog Security

Internet security padlockWatching the news yesterday, I thought it might be a good time to remind everyone to practice good internet security.  I know, I know; you can’t go 30 minutes without someone clamoring about hackers.  There’s a reason for that:  They exist.  They’re busy.  And they’re after your site.

If you don’t think you are a juicy target for hackers, and there’s no good reason to get into your blog, think again.  They’re not always after bank accounts, credit cards, or other personal information.  Simply using your server resources can be enough of a reward.

Stay with me here; it’s important to understand this:  Among other things, hackers will try to use your site for what is called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

In computing, a denial-of-service (DoS) or distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users.

Although the means to carry out, the motives for, and targets of a DoS attack vary, it generally consists of efforts to temporarily or indefinitely interrupt or suspend services of a host connected to the Internet.

As clarification, distributed denial-of-service attacks are sent by two or more persons, or bots, and denial-of-service attacks are sent by one person or system. As of 2014, the frequency of recognized DDoS attacks had reached an average rate of 28 per hour.[1]

Perpetrators of DoS attacks typically target sites or services hosted on high-profile web servers such as banks, credit card payment gateways, and even root nameservers.

(Denial-of-service attack. (2014, November 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:23, November 18, 2014)

Security ButtonWithout you even knowing about it, hackers can be using your site to orchestrate attacks on other, more lucrative sites.  Not only will they have used your site to accomplish this, you may become labeled as “infected” or a spammer.

Most of our current customers have the free version of WordFence installed, which is one of the highest rated free security applications for WordPress.  I customize the security options for you, keeping hackers from using common login names like “admin”, and even blocking forgotten password attempts for usernames that don’t exist.  If you are a customer, and are ever curious how many people have tried to gain illegal access to your site, just ask.  I’ll show you how to find out, or just give you the answer.  For example, one of our customers had over 40 login attempts from Moldova, China, Ukraine, and Russia in the last three days.

WordFence offers a premium upgrade as well.  Among other options available with the upgrade is the ability to block individual countries from even viewing your site, let alone log into it.  Read more about the premium features at www.wordfence.com.  If you decide that the premium version is worth having, just ask.  We get volume pricing on the licenses, currently $20 / year.

One final bit of advice:  Create complex passwords, and change them occasionally.  Ideally, every 90 days, but even I dislike the thought of that.  Read my article on password strength & security for more tips.

Safe Blogging!

Tech Tips: Missed Scheduled Post

Tired of WordPress Scheduling your blog posts to go live automatically is a real time saver if you don’t have time every day to write the next day’s post.  Use the plugin WordPress Editorial Calendar, and you get a great visual understanding of what posts you have scheduled.  Nicole turned me on to this plugin, and it’s great!  Whenever you get time to write, you can schedule out a week or month’s worth of posts, and see them on the calendar.

But what happens if those blogs never get posted?

This happened to me the other day.  I had a post all set and ready to go live at 5 A.M. and my MailPoet newsletter was scheduled to send new posts to my subscribers at 6 A.M.  However, WordPress slept through the alarm clock and never posted.  My newsletter never went out because there was no new content.  You never got to experience my creative genius that day.  Bummer, right?

This isn’t a new problem; the Missed Schedule error has been around for years.  I could link all kinds of technical mumbo-jumbo about cron jobs and scheduling, but it’s really not necessary.  Not to mention, if you’ve had this happen to you before, I’m sure you really just want to know how to fix it.  If it hasn’t happened to you yet, I suggest being proactive and installing this plugin if you intend on scheduling posts.  Just to be safe.

The Fix:  This little plugin will check your posting schedule every 5 minutes, every day, to make sure WordPress didn’t miss the bus.  You won’t even know it’s there.

Happy Blogging!