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Never Assume Your Database is Immune to Attacks

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While the technologies of the Internet offer a great deal of useful tools and delightful entertainment, they’re not without their particular perils. Increasingly, individuals and businesses have built robust websites that are rich with features, and many operate extensive databases to provide valuable information.

Whether you run an eCommerce website that sells goods to customers or maintain an extensive mailing list on your heavily trafficked blog, the information is stored in a database. But many website developers don’t grasp how vulnerable their systems may be.

Open-source solutions

Although open-source projects allow users to create robust sites for free, certain costs may have to be paid when you begin to use those applications. The most notable is the potential risk that’s involved with development.

There’s very little true direct support for implementing many open-source applications. They’re usually distributed with the caveat: “use at your own risk.”

Database programming availability

Because open-source databases are available for free use, many businesses and private entrepreneurs have chosen to utilize them in order to save money. But it’s much easier to hack a database when you have the source code available to you.

Open-source projects are available for programmers on the coding level. This means that it’s easier for intruders to discover vulnerabilities within open-source applications.

Content management systems

Applications such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and a vast selection of others are known as content management systems. Like the databases cited above, these pieces of online software are susceptible to easy attacks.

It was discovered last year, however, that 41 percent of WordPress hacks were committed through security vulnerabilities on the hosting platform. This kind of security leak happens outside the CMS and is the fault of the hosting company.

Testing the integrity of the database

One of the most prominent ways of finding vulnerabilities within your database protection is through the use of Ethical Hacking.” Essentially, this practice entails an organization hiring an individual or group to attack its network on purpose in order to find the security flaws.

If this is done by someone that has extensive experience in cyber-infiltration, a great deal can be learned about the security of your system.

Properly secure your information

While basic security may be more cost-effective and less intrusive to your daily routine, you may be leaving yourself open to break-ins. Even if you believe your information isn’t important enough to steal, it could still be used for nefarious purposes.

For instance, the email list for your blog about dogs and cats can be sold to third-party vendors for marketing and spam. Addresses within your eCommerce site may be stepping stones for stealing identities.

You mustn’t assume that your database will never be the target of an attack. The only true method of preventing theft of this information is to store it outside of network access.

Even then, bots could be lying in wait to send the information as soon as a connection is detected. Do what you can to safeguard your information and protect yourself, your business, and clients from being victimized.

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Nine Common E-commerce Website Mistakes

Most e-commerce websites have problems when they first launch online. From large and elaborate shopping venues to simple or turnkey solutions, new sites often experience glitches. No website — and no site designer or developer — is perfect.

While it’s hard to predict the problems a website may encounter, companies can often prevent them with a little forethought and planning. Most mistakes are also easy to fix after they are discovered. Here are nine common e-commerce website mistakes, along with a few solutions.

1. Wrong Shopping Cart

E-commerce businesses should do their homework before they choose a shopping cart for their websites. With so many platforms available, it’s important to pick the right one. The best shopping cart meets all of a company’s needs regarding features, functionality, integration and budget.

2. Inadequate Site Security

Some people are hesitant to shop online due to security concerns. Many businesses, especially small ones, have a problem convincing shoppers to use their sites. In an era when significant hacks have stolen sensitive customer data, digital certificates and encrypted connections just make sense.

3. Poor Site Navigation

Customers will leave a website if they can’t find what they want quickly and easily. Companies should make sure their shopping sites are easy to navigate so customers can find what they’re looking for. Their contact information should also be easy to find.

4. No Search Function

People who can search for products on-site are more likely to make a purchase. Many turnkey systems don’t provide adequate search functions. Fortunately, businesses can use website plug-ins to integrate search capabilities into shopping carts.

5. Low Quality Photographs

The Internet is a visual world. Customers who shop online give up the ability to hold a product and inspect it. For this reason, it’s important for e-commerce businesses to provide good photographs. Professional photos are better than stock images, and photographers should shoot the products from all angles.

6. Stock Product Descriptions

Many retailers use manufacturer descriptions to sell their products. While stock descriptions are an easy way to create content, they do nothing to differentiate a business from its competitors. The solution is simple: Companies should write unique product descriptions or hire a freelancer to write them.

7. Difficult Checkout Procedure

A long or difficult checkout process can drive away customers. One-page checkouts are the best option; they take customers through account creation, billing, payments and shipping — all on the same page. Merchant account services make the process easier for shoppers and businesses alike.

8. No Mobile Version

It’s a mistake to ignore mobile customers. According to Business 2 Community, mobile commerce made up one-fourth of e-commerce sales in 2013. That number will continue to grow as more people rely on their smartphones and tablets for research and shopping.

9. No Social Presence

Many companies underestimate social sharing. By making content easy to share on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites, companies can maximize their web presence. A social presence will drive awareness and sales.

 

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last update: October 23, 2014

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How Modern Tech has Made Home Buying a Breeze

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In the days before the Internet, home buyers had to research homes the hard way. The process was tedious and drawn out. You couldn’t just hop on a website such as GuaranteedRate.com and get your pick of the latest mortgage and loan options.

But today, with all the online, one-stop shopping websites for home buyers, the process has been tremendously simplified. With the abundance of tools at a prospective home buyer’s fingertips, many people leave the real-estate agents in the dust and do their own research from the comfort of home.

1. Easier access to comparables

It used to be standard practice to depend on a real-estate agent to run the numbers on homes in a given neighborhood that are similar to the one you’re looking at. Many home-buying websites provide you with automatically generated facts about homes that have the same features — complete with the age, number of rooms, number of bathrooms, type of construction, and even price.

In no time at all, you can access such information and generate your own comparables, thus saving loads of time, before you ever meet with a real-estate agent for a walk-through on a house.

2. The virtual walk-through

In the old days, you met with a real-estate agent and scheduled a time to do a walk-through on a promising home. This could force agents to reschedule until everyone was able to agree on a time.

More and more websites provide a digital walk-through for residences on the market. This is especially great when you’re trying to research a new home to purchase from out of state.

3. Mortgages and loans

Another area where technology has changed the process of buying a home is in locating financing. Online sites now put consumers in touch with banks that compete to give home buyers the best rate on mortgages and loans.

An example of an online trend is a hard-money loan. Instead of obtaining financing through a traditional bank, hard-money loans are funded by investors who simply want to earn a return on their money.

The interest rates on hard-money loans are typically higher than at a traditional bank, but they often don’t require the person seeking the loan to jump through as many hoops to get financing. The recent introduction of Dodd Frank regulations has made it more difficult to obtain loans from both hard-money lenders and private lenders.

4. County records

Another extremely useful move was to put county tax and real-estate records online. In the old days, if you wanted to do any extensive research on a home, you had to drive down to the courthouse or county records office and poke through the hard files.

Now a person who’s seeking to buy a home out of state can get access to a lot of important information. If you visit the county appraiser’s website for the region you plan to move to, you can easily determine the just value of a property according to the county assessment.

That will tell you if other websites are inflating local prices or a home is being offered at a significant discount with respect to the county’s assessment of its overall worth. In addition, the annual taxes on a property can be researched. And if you’re fairly adept at reading a property’s hard file, it’s also possible to perform your own quick-and-dirty title search, and make sure there are no clouds on the title that could pose a problem down the road.

No matter how you slice it, advances in technology have made the online real estate-purchasing process a lot smoother for the home buyer.

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4 Things Virtual Startups Need

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Tech startups are finally getting attention for thriving outside of Silicon Valley as entrepreneurs are wising up. Many businesses don’t require any type of physical office at all, and those that do don’t need to be in high cost of living areas such as San Francisco and New York. There are more and more small businesses and startups going old school with modern versions of garage businesses and offering telecommuting up to 100 percent of the time for most employees. Ready to find out what you need for a virtual startup?

First, make sure your business idea is a good match for this environment. Unless you need to physically see customers in person, such as if you’re opening a brick and mortar shop, you probably don’t. If your dream is to be a business owner and be able to work from anywhere in the world, there are plenty of industries where this is possible. Simply find a great storage unit deal and you can call “the office” anywhere from Minnesota to Mumbai.

Here’s what you need to get started:

1. The right cloud technology

Storing, sharing and editing documents in the cloud will keep your entire team on the same page. This also minimizes the odds of double work (there won’t be any “old copies” to mistakenly work from) and is also more environmentally friendly. Plus, you’ll save money on ink and paper, too.

2. A solid video conferencing option

There will come a time when you’ll need to meet with big shots such as angel investors via video, and scheduling team meetings on video chat can be a lot more effective than phone calls since much of the body language can still be read. Choose an affordable (or free) option that works with your needs.

3. Everyone having access to quality technology

It’s certainly legal to require new employees to use their own equipment to do a job, but you can’t require them to have certain equipment unless you pay for it. At the very least, ensure everyone is either Mac or PC, and if you really want to attractive better talent provide your employees with work computers and any related accessories.

4. The right crew

Not everyone is cut out for telecommuting, and some people need a boss physically breathing down their neck to accomplish things. However, everyone really wants to be a telecommuter type. Vet your applicants carefully.

Virtual environments can thrive or flounder, but you can make a huge difference starting with the setup of the landscape.

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It’s 2014 … and Yep, Content is Still King

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As we head into the downhill side of 2014, technological advances are continuing to alter the arena of Internet marketing. In addition to placing more primacy on responsive web design and mobile optimization, this year marks the era in which the design and maintenance of high-quality apps has become an integral element of effective online advertising campaigns.

Despite the perpetually evolving nature of Internet marketing, however, content remains king. This means that if you want to build their brand in the online sphere into the future, you should still place your primary focus on the creation and publication of high-quality content.

If online growth is indeed your current business objective, consider implementing the following three strategies:

1. Stop spinning

As more businesses understand that content creation and publication is an integral piece of Internet marketing campaigns and they act on that knowledge, you will likely find it ever more challenging to devise or locate blog posts and web articles that have a distinct and innovative flair. Creative, original content is uniquely eye-catching, but it may be harder to recognize amid all the noise on the Web.

It’s not even a question of avoiding plagiarism; even useful content can be lost in the shuffle if it doesn’t sound lively and interesting. So if you want to catch and keep the attention of prospective clients for your business, you need to do all you can to avoid posting content that contains phrases and concepts that are generic, trite, or derivative.

2. Guest post

In discussing the reality of guest posting in its article ”A Guide to Navigating the Politics of Guest Posting and Hosting,” Supple Solutions comments: “For the most part, guest posting and hosting are both worthwhile. They are an acceptable means of generating backlinks, for instance, and for expanding the perspective of a blog.”

In other words, if you’re interested in moving forward this year, you need to invest time in creating exceptional content that’s worthy of guest posting. In addition to reaching a new pool of potential readers and customers, guest posting gives you the opportunity to develop relationships with web domain owners who might become your business partners.

3. Make it scannable

As more people go online to do business and shop, research regarding how people analyze the content they encounter has become prominent. Among other things, it’s been found that most people who read online do not examine content in its entirety.

Rather, they skim through it to find the information that’s of greatest value to them. Since this is the case, making your content “scannable” is an effective way to ensure that people gravitate toward your blog posts and/or web articles when they’re searching for information.

To ensure that your content is as scannable as possible, remember to include textual elements that divide it up and highlight, such as headers, bullets, and numbered lists.

In order to develop a substantial reputation online, you have to enact the proven strategies that will accomplish your goal. By using some or all of the content-boosting ideas outlined above, your company should be able to build brand awareness and the dynamic, expansive online presence you desire.

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Why Local Content Matters

No matter what type of online presence you have, from a blog to managing a website, are you focusing on local? Search engine optimization (SEO) has a subset of localized SEO (LSEO) for a reason: Geo-targeting your audience can help improve the quality of your content, loyal followers/customers and also with where you appear in search engine rankings. It’s not for everyone (such as huge corporations like Amazon with zero local focus) but for many smaller websites, it’s crucial.

For example, let’s say you provide contracting services in a metro area and want to reach as many of your neighbors as possible. The content on your landing pages, blogs, social media and anywhere else you manage needs to be geo-specific but still organic. You don’t want to stuff “Kansas City” or “Phoenix” into awkward places, but a reputable content creator can do so seamlessly to ensure more locals find you online.

The local approach

There are some websites that shy away from local content because they might serve a certain region but want to appeal to a national or international audience. A good example is a florist in Houston that also ships domestically. They may or may not have a brick and mortar location (but if they do, going local is even more important). Focusing on national customers is a good idea, but ignoring the appeal of “supporting local” means they’re bypassing what is probably a very lucrative and loyal market.

More and more consumers are looking for local businesses to get their business. You can see it in the thriving farmer’s markets, and you can even ask a premium price when reaching out to your local customers. Retailers and service providers can maximize on this trend by highlighting their family owned, local, Main Street style of business. You should have two focuses if this suits you: A local content marketing strategy and a generic one.

Pitfalls of content creation newbies

Now that you see the benefits of local content, can’t you just freshen up existing content yourself by peppering in some local language? Not necessarily, and it won’t be done as well as a professional. By utilizing keyword search technology that’s constantly changing, a professional can pinpoint the right “keyword density” to maximize your exposure while also using the most popular and trending words. You might know a nickname for different neighborhoods that are searchable, but you don’t know which are most searched.

Local content can make a huge difference in your visibility and ultimately success. Stop ignoring it.

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Build Your Business with a Strong Web Presence

Do you want more customers and sales? Are you trying to gain exposure online? If so, you’re not alone. Millions of companies are competing against each other on the Internet. The World Wide Web offers great opportunities for those who want to make money and reach new clients. The key to success is to build a strong online presence. This involves creating a website and blog, staying active on social networks, and sharing quality content.

If you want to expand your business, go online and make a name for yourself. Promote your brand to the target market, interact with your prospects, and post unique content on your company’s blog. Here are some tips to build a solid online presence for your business:

Set Up a Website

It is estimated that more than 47 percent of small businesses don’t have a site or blog. A professional website can enhance your reputation and give you a competitive edge. About 97 percent of U.S. customers use the Internet to find products and services. Over 61 percent have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog.

Invest in a quality website and promote it on social networks. Business owners who blog generate up to 88 percent more leads than those who don’t. Your website is a valuable marketing tool that can increase sales and put your brand in a positive light.

Optimize Your Site or Blog

Simply building a website is not enough. You also have to choose an eye-catching design and optimize your content for search engines. If you can’t afford to hire a Web designer, use WordPress. This blogging platform includes thousands of free and paid themes that will make your website look amazing. The best part is that it can be installed with one click and then customized according to your needs.

Once you choose a theme and a domain name, search for relevant keywords. Ask an SEO expert to help you pick the most relevant terms. Many freelancers offer keyword research services at competitive rates. When this step is complete, start posting content on your blog. Add your targeted keywords, upload pictures and videos, post infographics, and share your work online. A well-optimized website with quality content will rank high on Google and attract traffic.

Stay Active on Social Networks

Social networking is an important tool for every business seeking to build a strong online presence. Start by adding social sharing buttons on your blog. Create a Facebook page for your company, post pictures and text, and encourage your prospects to become fans. Reward them with free eBooks, bonuses, and special discounts.

Share all types of media, including photos, slide shows, infographics, statistics, and blog posts. The content should be relevant to your fans and help them solve a problem. Be consistent and interact with them as often as you can. Social media gives businesses a chance to show their human face and learn about their target audience. Take advantage of this opportunity and connect with your clients on a deeper level!

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SEO+Product Descriptions. Mission Impossible?

If you’re charged with search engine optimization (SEO) for a company, you know it’s crucial to organically place key words and phrases on every landing page. However, that can be tricky when you’re dealing with product descriptions for a mega e-tailer, especially when many of the descriptions are inherently nearly identical. This can also pose a problem for keyword stuffing and duplicate content even when that isn’t really the case.

How can you get around such a conundrum? It’s going to take serious skills that only an SEO writer has. This is why it’s important to hire the write SEO agency that tackles SEO from all angles, including the requirement for high quality content at all times. Not all writers are SEO professionals, which is why who you hire can make all the difference. Luckily, there are some SEO gurus who can handle this problem.

Variant skills

Every key phrase has variants, but you need to look beyond the variant tools and suggestions from Google AdWords. A good SEO writer will know how to pinpoint these variables and use them in correct balance. Plus, “duplicate content” is somewhat subjective and Google algorithms are smart enough to differential genuine duplicate content from “duplicate content” that isn’t black hat trickery but rather a common phrase (such as, for example “garden hose”).

If you’re staring down a site that offers a variety of different tapes, writing unique product descriptions that abide by SEO best practices can seem maddening and it is. That’s why the best SEO pros get paid well for what they do. Trying to do this yourself solely to save money is going to drive you crazy and lead to poor results. SEO writing requires a type of patience that most people don’t have.

Digging out the unique

The good news is that even very similar products have big differences (otherwise they wouldn’t be a separate product). Your mission is to find out what that is, highlight it and still work in those keywords like a boss. While it might not seem like it, a job like thousands of product descriptions is actually more challenging for an SEO writer than drumming up creative content from scratch.

Most SEO writers are also naturally talented writers to begin with, so the creative side of things come easily. It’s the daunting and repetitive tasks that can be a struggle (just like with non-writers). However, practice makes perfect, and that’s what product pages need.

 

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