Owner/Director"If your website isn't working so well, get in touch and let's see what we can do about it. My aim is to give you an effective website that pays for itself and more. That's why you have a website - isn't it?"
Your website has to be about your business – the products/services that you provide. That comes first. When visitors land on your website (however you drive them there), they’ll be looking to check they’ve come to the right place. So Step 1 is to provide whatever it is that lets the visitors know that you are a potential match for whatever they are looking for.
But then what? We have someone who’s confirmed that you are potentially able to provide the solution required. S/he has seen enough to think it’s worth pursuing.
Here is the 2nd Most Important Thing your website should have. The fabled “Call To Action“. In other words, don’t leave the interested visitors hanging – guessing what the next step should be. Do they phone you? Email you? Fill in an online enquiry? Can they buy it there and then? It’s up to YOU to tell them – and the easier you make it, the more likely it is to happen.
Don’t ask for a long form to be filled in with lots of deep-thought answers, unless it’s important to you that they do. On this website, I have a quick and easy Contact form (see that “Contact” link up in the menu). But I also have a much more involved form for potential clients that may want to work with Winch Websites, in the Project Enquiry form – this is an essential pre-qualification to see if the business owner knows enough and cares enough to be able to clearly set what the project is to achieve. It saves time on both sides if we both know what we’re doing, why, who for, and for what objectives.
So look through the home page on the Winch Websites site – you’ll regularly see a big orange button asking for the visitor to get in touch. These lead to a short and easy form – and the less a form asks for, the better (less ‘friction’ = more submissions).
Make sure ALL your webpages include a Call To Action (or CTA, in marketing-speak). Each page, at the top, the middle, the bottom, tell your potential clients exactly what you prefer they do next to go to the next step. Then make that action as easy and simple as possible (and make sure it runs on both desktop and mobiles!).
Is your website working for or against you? If you’re missing CTAs and you think it’s time to get a website that is effective and pays for itself, get in touch. (See what I did there? CTA again!)
A change in your business offerings is always going to be a catalyst for a review of how you market and publicise your business. At Enhanced Power Virtual Office Assistance, the principal Roneta had worked hard to gain certification as a Registered BAS Agent. This gave her a whole new arm to her business – in addition to the paperwork, book-keeping, editing and administration services she could now prepare and submit the Business Activity Statement (BAS) on behalf of her small-business clients.
Roneta wanted to make this major extension to her business front and centre. Her website was about 5 years old, and while perfectly acceptable the technology it was built with was behind the times – as was its design and layout.
So a revamp was on the cards. The core business service features prominently as the first thing visitors see. But it’s not a dry “We do BAS”. The site focusses on the visitor and how s/he can benefit from Enhanced Power Virtual Office Assistance. Time. We all want more time, and if your business isn’t administration, papework, and BAS, odds are those things are what you’d rather NOT do. This theme carries on through the site. Roneta is about taking off you what you don’t want to do anyway – doing it for you professionally and economically.
Client testimonials add social proof of Roneta’s capabilities and ethos. Contact details include a quick online query form. And a video adds extra visual appeal. A separate page breaks out more detail on what Enhanced Power Virtual Office Assistance can do.
Roneta didn’t want to go much further online because each client has unique needs and aspects, so it’s important to discuss with each lead what she can do and therefore what sort of pricing will apply. This is a small 2-page website that is all about lead generation. Let visitors know what Roneta does (and why that’s of interest), and encourage them to get in touch.
How about your own website? Do you know what you want from it? Does it actively work to achieve that? Our “Project Enquiry” form will help you work that out if you aren’t too sure – you don’t need to submit it, of course, unless you would like Winch Websites to put together a proposal customised to your needs. That form will get you thinking though.
In the first of this series of 3, we saw just what a ‘domain name’ is, and making sure that it’s registered in YOUR name.
In the second of this series of 3, we saw how a domain name by itself is useless, it needs to be linked to associated services like a website or email accounts.
In this the last of the series, we consider what else you can do with your domain name. Because it’s more than just having an email and/or business email addresses.
Your domain name can be used to customise a huge range of online services. There are all sorts of clever online tools that help you grow your business, manage your business, improve your business. Say for example you want to create laser-focussed marketing campaigns for one particular service or product. Well – “there’s an app for that”!
For my business (websites and everything that go with them) for example, I could build and maintain my own service for clients to check availability of new domain names, and then let them register them through Winch Websites. Or I could tap into a service already provided by my wholesaler to provide a customised domain registration portal. See domains.winchwebsites.com.au for what I mean. I didn’t build it, but I can offer customers a quick and easy way to register a domain name at my own pricing, using a webpage with my own branding on it.
Do you send formal proposals to your potential customers? Or would it improve how your business is seen if you did? There are a number of proposal-management online services you can use to make it quicker, easier, more professional and more convenient to generate and handle proposals. Proposify is the service I use. I login to their site, create a Winch Websites-branded proposal from a pre-prepared template, customise and price it to the recipients requirements, and send it away. They get to see that proposal online at proposals.winchwebsites.com.au, again with my branding around it.
There are 1,001 similar services that you can take advantage of, yet keep your branding and domain name in front of your clients and/or potential customers. Often, it’s simply a matter of making a small change or addition to your domain name’s records. Clear instructions are usually given, and so long as you have your domain name login details (which you should!) it is easy enough to do.
I hope you found these 3 domain name articles useful!
In the first of this series of 3, we saw just what a ‘domain name’ is, and a very important aspect when registering one – that it must be registered in YOUR name, not whoever is doing it on your behalf.
We now turn to what happens once you’ve finished the registration process (or someone’s done it for you, in your name). It’s a bit like wandering into a Telstra store and getting a new mobile phone number. They take your details, charge you an initial amount, and give you a wee little chip aka Sim Card for you to put in your phone. That’s essentially all you need to get a new mobile phone number – an active Sim Card.
But of course a Sim Card is useless by itself. Likewise, a domain name is useless by itself (unless you’re simply stopping anyone else from having it, but don’t intend to use it. Not legal in Australia!). In the same way you need to put your Sim Card into a phone before you can make/take phone calls, you need to link a domain name to web services eg. website, email.
Now if you get someone else to sort all this stuff out for you, you won’t need to do anything. Even if you DIY, it is very likely that whoever you use to register the domain name will offer you those linked services when you are going through the registration process. “Want webhosting with that?”
However, you are not tied to those web services. If you registered a domain name a while back and the same business hosts your website and/or does your email, it is very easy to switch to someone else. A very popular and highly recommended example is using the business version of GMail for your email accounts. $5 per month per account for buckets of storage space, state of the art anti-spam and anti-virus built in, nothing to backup, and easy access from just about any device that does internet. When you sign up, they will run through what you need to change in your domain name so that all the world knows that GMail is handling your email now. These changes are called DNS record changes. Your domain name keeps a list of what is where, and in this case when a mail-server has email to deliver to you, it will ask your domain name “Who do I give this email to?” and your domain name will say “Head over to GMail at this address”.
The same thing applies to your website. If you’re not happy with the performance of your website where it is, it is easy to find someone else to host it. Again, it’s a case of changing your DNS records to say “My website is now living over here“. If you do this, don’t forget to stop paying for the original webhosting though! You can bet they won’t go out of their way to ask you to stop sending them money…
The upshot of all this is that a domain name is independent of the services that attach to it. Your website can be managed in the USA, your email can be based in Singapore, your domain name registered in Australia. You are not stuck with who you start with. In fact, even the domain name can be moved to someone else without affecting anything else. Say you wanted Winch Websites to make sure that your domain is re-registered whenever required, and all its DNS records are copied to strategic locations around the globe to speed things up and make you more bullet-proof – easily done. So long as you are the Registrant!
In Part 3, we talk about what where you can go with a domain name beyond a website and business email accounts.
If you’ve got a website, you’ve got a domain name.
Well, not necessarily, but in the same way as you have a phone, it has a phone number – stop paying someone somewhere for your phone number service, and you’ve got a piece of equipment that isn’t able to live up to its purpose. Likewise if you have a website, if you aren’t paying someone somewhere for the associated domain name, then people can’t visit your website.
So the domain name is your unique name out there in internet-land. Just like a phone number, nobody else can have the same thing. Every domain name has to be registered and then occasionally renewed (how often depends, we’ll get to that). While you can register the domain name through 1,001 different resellers or providers, ultimately all domains are managed by a country’s Registrar.
For .com.au type domains (eg. winchwebsites.com.au), the country is Australia (hence the “.au”) and our Registrar is auDA (.au Domain Administration Ltd) who is the “policy authority and industry self-regulatory body for the .au domain space”. In other words, the top dog. They make the rules, and have final say in who can or cannot have a domain name.
If you’d like to register a domain name, you can’t go to auDA. You need to go to an official licenced Registry Operator or more likely a reseller who has a wholesale account with a Registry Operator. I’d recommend Netregistry as the place to go – their prices are good, their service and reputation are good. You’ll need to provide the required information (eg. ABN, Business Name) through an online application, submit your payment, and usually within an hour or two the domain is yours unless there’s a hiccup of some sort. Of course, Winch Websites would be happy to do it for you and make sure it’s done properly, just get in touch.
Many small businesses, however, outsource the domain registration, often as part of a package deal to get a website. But here’s the thing – the domain MUST be registered in YOUR name. Not the name of the business registering it on your behalf. If your own details, including email address, are not used as the “Registrant” (ie. owner), then the domain does not belong to you!
A domain name will have contact info for;
Each has name, email, address and phone (for domains ending in .au). It is quite normal, safe and even recommended to have Admin, Tech and Billing all show the contact details for your webby person. But the Registrant must be you and your business. I have seen several cases where a business owner and the web people have gone separate ways (eg. the web business closed up/disappeared, or there was an argument) and it is a painful bureaucratic process to wrestle back control of a domain name. In some cases, it’s a case of “Too bad, you can’t have it”.
So to close off this first blog post all about domain names, remember this – it’s easy to register a domain name, and quite cheap to do. Just make sure that you are listed as the Registrant. And don’t forget, the email you give will be the one used to send you renewal reminders.
In Part 2, we talk about what happens after a domain name is registered. To use the phone analogy again – you have a phone number, now you have to associate it with a device so you can tell people to use it.
There’s a bit of pressure on a business, any business, to have a website. Is your website there because you felt you should have one, or is it there as an active promoter for you and what you do?
Have a scan of your competition’s websites. You’ll quickly be able to rank them according to first-impression – the good, the bad, the ugly! Which ones do you think are a ‘positive’ for the business they are promoting? Which of your competitors have a website that encourages more business in some way? Put the competitor websites in order, best down to worst (find at least half a dozen).
Now take a look at your own website, and slot it into the rankings. Is it a website with a bit of information, or is it actually trying to ‘sell’? Does it give a good first impression? Does it tell visitors what you do and equally importantly, what THEY should do next if they want to find out more or even buy your product/service?
Your website is a business investment, which by definition means you should be getting more OUT of it than you put IN. It’s easy to say “measure everything”, but if you don’t already have a gut feel on whether your website is pulling in new business for you, then you need to find some easy ways to get that information. Ask people how they found out about you, whether they referred to your website, what they thought of your website if they did. Make it part of the conversation when you get a new enquiry or customer.
A poor website built just to tick something off a to-do list will lose you business as potential clients go elsewhere. A good-looking website built to encourage customers to do business with you is a business tool that builds and promotes and sells.
(Another way to look at website “investment” – how much do you need to sell to generate enough profit to pay for a $3,000-$5,000 website? Read the Price or Value blog-post to find out more)
WordPress is a software package that makes it easy (well, easiER) to build, manage and maintain a website. About a quarter of the world’s websites are powered by WordPress. If your website is powered by its own independent WordPress package, then someone needs to make sure that software is kept up-to-date. Some frequently-asked-questions (FAQs) about all this;
Ask whoever built your website for you – “what content management system does my website use?”. This is something you ought to know, as a bit of background info. There are lots of other systems around, of course – some are for building ‘independent’ websites where you are free to do as you please with it eg. add whatever bells & whistles you like – some are ‘umbrella’ systems, where you get a set of facilities and tools but can’t add your own eg. Wix, Weebly, Shopify, Squarespace and many more.
One clue though is what you see when you login to manage/administer your website (and if you don’t login, then either someone else is looking after your site for you OR you aren’t maintaining it at all. Get in touch if it’s the latter, because someone needs to. Read on!). The typical WordPress Dashboard looks something like this;
There is a very high chance that your WordPress-powered website has more than just the base WordPress system installed. The WordPress package by itself definitely provides all you need to build and launch a website – but you really, really shouldn’t. It’s a bit like buying a new computer with the latest version of Windows or Mac OS and no other software packages installed. You just need more tools and facilities for it to be really useful. For WordPress, essential extras include things like security (much like a PC has to have internet-security software), search-engine-optimisation boosters, webpage speeder-uppers (nobody will wait 10 seconds for your images to load). These extras are called “plugins”. There are THOUSANDS of plugins to choose from. If you want your website to do it, there is bound to be a plugin to make it happen!
So we have this WordPress software package (the “content management system”). And we have these extras on top of it (the plugins). Like any software, the developers that created them are constantly improving things – fixing errors or bugs, adding new or better features, preventing the bad guys from doing bad things. So an “update” is simply a newer version of WordPress or a WordPress plugin that has been improved in some way.
Nowadays, you can set your WordPress to automatically update itself to the latest version of the package whenever a new one comes out (every couple of months or so). Alternatively, when you login to your website as an Administrator, you can click a button or two and make it upgrade. It’s really that easy.
Likewise the plugins – when a newer version is available for your website to retrieve and install – click a link or button, and it gets done. Easy. You will probably find updates for your various plugins several times a week.
Of course not. You don’t have to have internet-security software for your computer. You don’t have to have home insurance. You don’t have to put petrol in the car. But if you want to avoid potentially BIG trouble, you should. Really should. A website that gets built and published and then left is a website that;
It is. Looking after WordPress updates is probably not what you regard as a core activity for your business. Luckily, it IS a core activity for Winch Websites. We will not only make sure that your WordPress system and its plugins are all kept up-to-date, we do a few more things too (like take backups every day, perform security scans, monitor your site 24/7, and more). Get in touch to find out more, or see our Websites Care page.
SAAS is huge, and it IS changing what you do and how you do it. SAAS is Software As A Service, a collective term for anything that you can do online where you used to have to buy, install and manage software packages on your computer(s). If you made the move from Outlook to GMail/YahooMail/Hotmail, you started using SAAS. If you moved your accounting from MYOB or Reckon to Xero, you started using SAAS.
Software As A Service provides you with the tools, facilities, functions that you need via the internet – while someone else does all the maintenance, management, backups, security, etc etc etc. You’ll nearly always pay a monthly fee for the privilege, although there are other charging models of course.
SAAS can give you exactly what you need to run an efficient, effective, low-cost business where you can start small and grow as you need to. Take up the lowest-cost plan, and as you need more, you simply change to the next plan up (and pay a bit more). Perfect for systems to grow as you grow.
Well, the world is your oyster. There are literally thousands of SAAS providers covering an immense array of tools and functions. Just a few examples that might pique your interest;
These just scratch the surface of what you could do in your business to grow it and manage it – the old ‘doing more with less’. SAAS offers you great potential to extend what you do, save you time, save you costs, and scale up as your business needs more. Keep your eyes peeled, there’s a good chance that there are tools out there now that could make a big difference to your business!
PHP is a bit like the petrol in a car engine. Without petrol, it stops. Dirty petrol, it stutters and stops. Stale old petrol, it stutters.
For another way to look at it, PHP is like the interpreter between your website’s coding and your webserver. The webserver actually carries out the gruntwork for your website, receiving requests from your visitors (“send me the Home page again”) and doing what’s necessary to retrieve everything that your website says makes up the ‘Home page’, then sending it all back to the visitor’s device. Your website is highly likely to be a software package that assembles pages and carries out functions as and when requested. It will be passing instructions to the webserver computer (“get me that logo image”). However, the webserver needs something in between that understands website-speak on the one hand, and webserver-speak on the other. Enter PHP.
Your website has a webhosting account, like its own apartment in the overall skyscraper that is the webserver. It shares many resources with all the other occupants – PHP is one of those resources. So your PHP translator is also being used by other websites simultaneously. PHP is a busy bee.
Now as is always the case with any software, new versions keep coming out. PHP Version 5 has been around for a long time, gradually moving from 5.1 to 5.2 to 5.4 to 5.6… Well, there’s a big jump happening at the moment, up to PHP Version 7. Does this matter to you? Absolutely!!
PHP 7 is twice as fast as PHP 5. That by itself is plenty good enough reason to make the move. However, just as importantly, at the end of 2017, PHP 5 is no longer supported (in other words, won’t be fixed if the bad guys find a hole or if it stops working in certain situations). Odds are, PHP 5 will keep going for a bit longer, BUT it is definitely a good idea to move to PHP 7 as soon as opportunity permits.
How easy is changing to PHP 7? Sorry, but it’s that old chestnut, “it depends”. It can be very easy if you have up-to-date webhosting, and your website is up-to-date. Simply change a setting in your webhosting, and you’re done!
So to summarise, your website is highly likely to be using PHP, and you will need to change to PHP 7 in 2018 or risk a broken website and a panicked reaction to fix it. The good news is changing to PHP 7 gives you a more secure and noticeably faster website. Look into it sooner rather than later. If you need any help, Winch Websites is here.
Websites need care & attention if they are to continue providing value to you (the website owner). Just like owning a car, a house, a computer – if you don’t maintain it, gradually things degrade. Small problems become big problems. And sooner or later there will be a failure, which of course is bound to happen at the worst possible time…
So the question is, what needs doing and why? (NB. the “how” very much depends on what you’re website has been built with, and can vary hugely).
It is a rare website these days that is not powered by a content management system (CMS) of some sort. WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Shopify and on and on. They are all basically a software package that assists you in creating and managing a website without having to do coding or computer programming. Some of them allow you to run your own independent system (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal), some of them are large umbrella systems managed on your behalf (Wix, Weebly, Shopify, Squarespace).
So you need to know if you are responsible for keeping this underlying software package up-to-date, or if someone else is. If it’s someone else, all good – just make sure they’re are doing what they said they would. If it’s your job – make sure you are checking for updates on at least a weekly basis. The content management system is like the engine for your website, it powers it and drives it and makes it work. A stuttery engine will give you stuttery website performance.
Why update the core CMS? Because there are frequent fixes and updates that address security issues (people breaking into or abusing your site), bugs (things that don’t work properly) and improvements (making things work better and more smoothly).
You are quite unlikely to be using the base-level CMS. For a website to be useful to you and what you want to do with it, you are going to add extra functions to the site – called ‘add-ons’ or ‘extensions’, or maybe ‘options’ in the big shared systems. For an independent website, these add-ons also need the same upkeep as the underlying website system. Again, is that your job or is someone else doing it? You need to know or you could wake up one morning to a day that is going to be wasted on fixing a broken website (not to mention the potential loss of business while it’s down, and the cost of repair).
Why update the add-ons? Because there are fixes and updates that address security issues (people breaking into or abusing your site), bugs (things that don’t work properly) and improvements (making things work better and more smoothly).
Often overlooked, the webhosting is where the website ‘lives’. Think of it as renting office space in an office block – there are multiple businesses not connected to you all sharing the same office block, and you have rented one corner of one floor. Your rented space is your own webhosting account, and the other businesses are other independent websites.
What if the owner of the office block never did any maintenance? And worse, you can’t do it yourself even if you wanted to because your contract forbids it? Now you’ve got a beautiful office in a shabby building with poor security. Not good.
So it’s important to know if the webserver that manages your webhosting is being maintained and managed for you. Once more, there are always ongoing changes, fixes, updates to the webserver software – and you are nearly always not allowed to do anything to the webserver (because you would affect all the other inhabitants too). Ask the question of your webhosting provider – “do you managed and maintain the webserver, and keep it up-to-date?”
Why update the webserver? Because there are frequent fixes and updates that address security issues (people breaking into or abusing the entire system), bugs (things that don’t work properly) and improvements (making things work better and more smoothly).
Effective and ongoing website maintenance is as optional as business insurance. You might not want it or have it, but you are exposed to serious business and financial risks without it. Prevention is definitely better than cure in this situation.
Winch Websites manages its own webservers and definitely keeps them up-to-date with the latest recommended systems and software, and follows industry best-practice to provide high-functioning, roomy webhosting with lots of bells & whistles.
We also offer a ‘Website Care’ service – you have a website, we’ll look after it. Updates, backups, monitoring, security and more – and we’ll even make changes to the pages for you. Saving you time, hassle and mental energy so you can get on with your business and leave the web stuff to someone else.