Bottom Line: Having the support of reliable, amazing tools + resources to reduce the work load.
You’ve been in my tribe for awhile and probably know that website maintenance and security isn’t my specialty, but as a web designer, it’s my duty to preach and share the basics of keeping your website safe, sound and hacker free to all my clients.
The biggest share of this email: Maintaining your WordPress website by updating to the latest version of WordPress, plugins and themes to dramatically reduce the risk of your site being hacked!
I know, I know… This isn’t exactly a sexy topic but I keep hearing about sites being hacked (not my clients – thank goodness) and it makes me a little sad when this happens because it IS avoidable.
I don’t want to plant fear-based notions in your head but the reality is that there are things you could be doing now to protect your site.
And I know you’ve worked damn hard on your website and getting hacked would be a blow to any business!
I’m sharing this information so we’re not gonna let that happen – right??
Recently I considered offering a web maintenance + security package for clients to benefit from AFTER developing their online brand + website. I decided that there were other businesses out there who specialize in this and could offer this at a much cheaper rate than I could.
I’ve kept this info as simple as I can.
Here are some simple, basic resources + info of what you need to know, right now! (Click each title bar to toggle through the content inside each topic)
UPDATING YOUR SITE
Many of you have requested web updates support (for theme updates etc) and I’ve been including this free of charge to those who’ve asked – and did it for some, just because. Since I’m no longer able to continue doing this – I recommend working with a Virtual Assistant (VA) to give you the flexibility + options.
Here are 2 of my fabulous “go-to” VA’s:
Brandi is a pro in many areas administrative, technical and creative.
Ultimate Virtual Assistants
They have a full team of VA experts in almost every area you can imagine. So if you’re looking for something more than web maintenance support, such as launch support or ecommerce integration, they can help you!
TOOLS to DIY your own WEB MAINTENANCE
If you choose to DIY your web maintenance, that’s cool too if you have the time and you’re okay with rolling up your sleeves and taking on this moderately “techy” roll. Here are a couple of ‘must-have’ tools to help.
Backing up your site
I probably mentioned this one before because I share it ALL THE TIME. If you do or even if you don’t have a hosting company that backs up your entire website (photos, posts, etc..) daily or weekly, grab this plugin.
This is YOUR site and yours to protect and save an additional offline backup. If anything was ever to happen to your site – hacked or it broke suddenly and all you see is a white blank page (been there, done that!) – this plugin will help you restore everything! A complete lifesaver, right?!
Again, if your hosting company doesn’t offer this (many don’t or only backup the data base, not images, posts etc) and if you choose to do this DIY, it is do-able.
Just know there are some potential risks to be aware of, so make sure to back up your site every time before you update WordPress or plugins.
WordPress + Plugins Updates: These can be manually updated directly in the Dashboard of your site.
Themes: These must be updated via FTP (using a File Transfer Protocol software). You’ll need to know your FTP username + password. If you’re not sure what this is, log into your account in your Hosting company’s website and search for FTP. Create a new one if you have to.
(For your laptop or desktop – not WordPress specific at all)
A secure a safe way to store your online passwords. Isn’t your drawer full of passwords written on Post-it stickies driving you cray cray? I could NOT live without this one!
Check with your hosting company to find out if you have additional security protection with your plan. WP Engine is who I use and personally love because they do bundle their plans with some security: Firewall + Malware Scan protection.
If “Admin” is your Username make a new one (+ make it a tricky Password, while you’re at it).
Since “Admin” is the default username that WP gives us when creating our WP account, hackers will use this to try to access websites. Let’s make it even harder for hackers to break into your site. Check out this great video by Natalie Real on how to edit your Username + Password.
There are several security plugins out there but below are my fav’s.
Here’s another excellent article by Natalia that talks about overall website security.
Wordfence: This is an excellent and inexpensive plugin to secure your WordPress site from nasty attacks and keep it safe from harm. It’s the most popular WordPress security plugin online.
THE WEBSITE (BARE-BONES) BASICS
Here are some go-to favourites for the initial setup of a website.
As long as the company is reputable, the customer service is good, and their website is easy to navigate, it doesn’t really matter where you purchase your domain.
Specifically for WordPress.
Ranked #1 hands down is the best. You’ll see why when you check out what they offer! Not the cheapest but they offer the most value. ie. Full backup, security scans, etc.
A Small Orange
Along with WP Engine, A Small Orange is ranked the highest among my web developer peers – however I have not used them before. Keep in mind that they don’t have the same features as WP Engine.
Current top ranking themes in Themeforest – which offer the highest quality themes online.
For entrepreneurs, I suggest purchasing a “Multi-purpose theme” because it offers many loaded features, additional plugins, demo pages, style options with a ton of flexibility.
* Look for the top 5 multipurpose themes that have the highest sales.
A favourite of mine is Bridge – that has a whopping 71+ demos.
Headway Themes is a popular framework system that uses a simple Drag n’Drop feature.
* Warning: There are no bells and whistles that come with this. Unlike the themes mentioned above, it’s up to you, the user, to incorporate all the plugins, styles, well – everything! That said, it’ll give you the flexibility to create pages anyway which way you want!
Check out Squarespace!
You can sign up for a 2 week trial *free*.
Here’s a great article addressing the pros + the cons when using Wordpress vs Squarespace.
LANDING PAGES (SALES PAGES/WEBINAR PAGES)
DIY (Simple Do-it-Yourself)
Maybe you’re looking to create a DIY landing page, either a sales page or one-page website, (you know, those loooong single pages that contain a full website but the navigation links to specific locations on the page?) here are a couple of solutions:
Instapage is great non-Wordpress solution for building a fast landing page for non-techy people. It’s incredibly simple AND it has a free version.
I’m a huge fan of Optimize Press due to it’s versatility and control. It’s only $97/year and it can do everything that Leadpages can do and it’s much more customizable. Plus, you have all your forms and layouts saved and backed up in your system. It’s both a WordPress theme + a plugin that you access in the Dashboard of your site.
Leadpages is a bit more expensive with a monthly membership but to many, it’s worth it due to it’s variety of templates and it’s slightly easier to use than Optimize Press. Keep in mind that you’re working off their system. Your layouts can only be functional and accessed through their online system/program, if you have a paid account.
WORDPRESS PLUG-INS (for added functionality)
They also have inexpensive membership templates available.
Engages + stylizes newsletter email signup on your website – both popups and static. This one is the best I’ve found and the easiest to use.
Optin Landing Pages
They also have inexpensive membership templates available.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have an excellent, and easy to use, backup system in place for your site. Backup Buddy is the only one I’ll use.
If it’s on this list, either I’ve used it myself or I’ve helped a client implement one of these and heard rave reviews about it. Just to be clear, no one has paid to be on this list and I’m not an affiliate to any of these resources… yet!
There will come a time in your business when you’re going to be juggling, hustling, marketing, designing, and writing your butt off – and you’ll have so many balls in the air that something’s GOT to fall. Unless you’re a marketing guru, chances are you’ll drop marketing… or maybe design because you may be under the impression that you don’t need this for your business to survive.
That’s a costly mistake. I’ve made it myself! (Hey, at least you can benefit from my mistakes, right?)
On the contrary. Using tools and resources to automate your marketing strategy is what every business needs to THRIVE!
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NEED SOMEONE TO WRITE SOME MESSAGING…
YOUR WEBSITE, YOUR STORY, A SALES PAGE, AN EMAIL?
Tania Dakka is an uber-talented full-service copywriter and editor.
Ash, from The Middle Finger Project, is one of the best copywriters and sassy entrepreneurs out there. Even though she no longer takes on copywriting contracts personally, she does have a team who does. She also has some fantastic digital courses on how to write your own (authentic) copy and a kick a** blog with relevant, helpful marketing tips.
The Persuasion Revolution
Bushra Azhar is a copywriter and writing consultant who uses “The Psychology of Persuasion to Sell Ideas, Your Work and Yourself!” She’s a talented, rising star and The Persuasion Revolution is now available as an online course.
Online Scheduler + Appointment Booking System
To schedule appointments, meetings, facilitates payment, etc. They all offer a free trial for the paid version or a free version. Be sure to check the pricing for more details because they’re all slightly different with what they offer.
Email Newsletter Providers
Mail Chimp is ideal if you’re just starting out or have a small-ish list. It’s one of the most intuitive email services to set up and it’s free up to 2,500 subscribers.
This is low cost monthly fee. Their strength is: how easy it is to get set up and their auto-responders. It also integrates really well with Optimize Press.
This is noted to be the best email provider and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Just recently, they’ve included a more accessible $79 monthly package for up to 1,000 subscribers.
Wisestamp offers a free version or paid for your email signature. You can add an image such as your logo or photo of yourself.
Landing Page Layout
Optimize Press is a great solution if you’re on a budget and if you want to customize your landing pages. It’s also so much more than a landing page plug-in. It offers templates that make it super simple to set up. This is what I use and it allows me full customization and the files all reside on my own website!
Lead Pages is a great solution if you want something fast, simple and cookie-cutter. Many of my clients use this and love it due to it’s simplicity. Keep in mind it can be a bit expensive for the newbie entrepreneur and you use their own framework. Meaning: If you decide to stop using Leadpages, you no longer have access to any of the pages you’ve built. It’s still a great product though and very popular!
Social Media Management
Do you ever get overwhelmed with your social media communities and performing your due-diligent tasks to make sure you’re being heard?
Here are a couple of management tools that’ll help with that!
I’ve used the Pro version and I really love it. There’s different pricing available depending on your needs.
Edgar is an excellent product that’s simple to use – albeit it’s more expensive than Hootsuite (but similar to the Hootsuite Small Business version). And it’s fair to say that it has even more sophisticated features than Hootsuite.
Dropbox acts as a type of online storage file space that allows sharing of individual files and folders. It’s free to try up to 2.5GB (after that there are paid versions). I use it daily with my clients and prospective clients for file sharing of content. Download the app to use it either on your mobile device or desktop to make file transfer super easy.
Google Drive is similar to Dropbox – only it’s FREE. It’s also an online storage space that enables users to file share. One other unique feature is that it also allows for file sharingcollaboration. Meaning, 2 or more people can be reviewing and editing the same document at the same time. How cool is that?
The storage limit is a whopping 15GB! And it’s free! Well, for now anyways… I’ve recently seen that there will soon be a charge involved if your storage reaches a certain size.
The only draw back to some: You must have a Gmail account to use it.
Google Business Apps
For $5/month ($10 for the next level of pricing and to get unlimited storage), you’ve got a vast number of business tools at your disposal. This includes Email Name Account, Analytics, Drive etc… I personally think it’s money well spent for what you get!
Your Website Traffic
Seeing the actual numbers and charts of how well (or not… ouch!) your web pages are converting, can be a sobering experience. That said, it’s empowering + useful to see the ACTUAL numbers and stats of: Who’s visited your website? Which pages? For how long? And… where did they click?
This tells us whether or not each page is performing the way we intended it when we built it. The compiled data and information we derive from this is called the conversion rate.
Google Analytics is free and it monitors the results of your website traffic in a visual chart and text form. This is a remote-hosted service which means you got to your Google account to view your analytics. For WordPress users, plugins are available to download if you wish to view the data directly on your website WordPress Dashboard.
Piwik is the leader in open source web analytics software. The difference between Google Analytics and Piwik is that you have more control of your data because it’s stored directly onto your server (host). There’s a free and premium version.
With spending nearly 30 years working in some capacity in the marketing and sales industry, and almost 2 decades in graphic + web design (yeah, I’m old!), I cannot imagine a successful marketing strategy that doesn’t involve visual branding.
Here’s a short n’ sweet list of resources to boost your marketing efforts. I’ve organized this to support you for any DIY design or marketing collateral project where your brand needs to shine – on a budget!
(Click each title bar to toggle through the content inside each topic)
It’s important to note that online stock photography is a great resource, however, nothing can compare to the investment of hiring a talented photographer to create custom branded photos. It’s particularly crucial if you have a Personal Brand.
I personally like working with these because none of them require a photo credit/link and you can use them for either personal or commercial use. Bonus – these all have a search option so no painful, time-consuming scrolling through a kagillion images to find the “right” one!
5) FoodiesFeed (Foodie specific)
8) Getty Images
Some FREE images that will embed their copyright with a link (for blog use only).
Getty is one of the largest online stock photography sites.
Not free, but inexpensive. For those times where you’re looking for something specific.
Likely my fav due to it’s cheaper price tag, massive library and hands down the BEST quality out there. You’ll find stock photography, illustrations (vector) and music (great for videos).
One of the cheapest, paid image stock sites.
The only potential drawback with free typefaces is that it often doesn’t come with a full set. Often it’s a demo or a shortened, incomplete set. Regardless, it’s still generous and incredible that these are so accessible.
I think most of us online business owners are familiar with Google fonts but felt it was worth mentioning – just in case you’re not.
Font Squirrel is a gold mine and is 100% free for commercial use.
These may cost a few dollars but definitely affordable and BEAUTIFUL solutions!
This one is a “go-to” resource for me. And you’ll be delighted to see that they have so much more than fonts!
They offer both free and paid products. The paid versions of fonts will have a more complete set than the free. Another thing to be aware of is that if you purchase a web version you cannot use this on your desktop. So – if you plan on DIY’ing design layouts, grab the Combo version of both web & desktop.
What a smart DIY design business this is! There are many free layouts and images that come along with Canva. Impressively so. Some paid as well that are higher quality. All and all, I recommend Canva – in fact, I’m currently creating some DIY tutorials that will include Canva work-arounds. Stay tuned for that!
This one is similar to Canva – however there are some differences. ie. PicMonkey has a better photo editor, and it’s cheaper to have a paid account.
I know I have. Because I have zero favourites and love them ALL. If you’re like me, and most of my clients, you’ll appreciate these.
One of my favourite tools for colour inspiration. Most of my clients love this too and find these super helpful when creating a Pinterest vision board.
Adobe Color CC
Allows you to upload an image and it will extract + create a full custom colour palette based on that image! Plus, you can save + send the colour palette to your email!
People are visual and every online entrepreneur will agree… Pinterest is THE BEST online tool for vision boarding, and also provides some serious visual inspiration! Raise your hand if you’ve ever lost track of time whilst surfing Pinterest? (Um.. who hasn’t??)
Here are my Pinterest boards that I share with clients.
Vision Boarding is a powerful intention-setting tool. This one is a little different than Pinterest because it guides you – prompting you with specific questions and image requests.
So there you have it! I use many of these almost daily and hope these resources are as helpful to you as they have been to me.
With HUGE appreciation + celebration of YOU + your genius!
** Some links on this resource page are affiliate. Which means I believe in them so much that I not only use them myself and for my clients, but also promote them – and receive a small financial benefit from any potential sale.
3 Steps to Develop a Beautiful Brand That Converts!