Disaster Recovery

dr_imagePicture the scene, you go to check something on your website, and horror of horrors it’s not there any more! A white screen displaying some cryptic error message is there is its place! Your site is not available. The question is what do you do now? The answer lies in having a good website disaster recovery plan. Often the issue is the web-hosting server. Your website is fine it’s just that the server can’t or won’t display it just now. A call to your website hosting company will usually solve this problem. However, in some cases, the server is fine and the problem is with your site. Then what? In these circumstances, it is likely that your site has been compromised or “Hacked”. The best way to minimise the risks of hacking is to keep your website up to date, Regular readers will know that I am a great fan of WordPress. It is a fantastic website development platform; in 2014 it was estimated that around 18% of all websites were based on WordPress (source: https://managewp.com/14-surprising-statistics-about-wordpress-usage). 2 years later this figure has risen to 26% (source: https://managewp.com/statistics-about-wordpress-usage) This phenomenal success also means that WordPress attracts the attention of the internet underworld who like to disrupt things! The best protection is to keep your WordPress files current with the updates that are released regularly (many newer sites can update automatically) Whilst you can do much to minimise the risks of hacking, (we have never had a hacking problem with any up to date site) but it would be unwise to assume your site is 100% safe. For this reason, we would always recommend a good disaster recovery plan for your website. In essence, this means taking and maintaining up to date backups of your site files and data, and maintaining copies of these backups remotely, at a different location from where your website is hosted. This way, even if the data centre hosting your site has a complete meltdown, you will have a simple route back to a working website.

Effective Backups

So what do you need to back up? For a WordPress site (the platform on which we build our sites) the core system is common to every WordPress website. Because of this, a clean up to date copy is easily obtained from www.wordpress.org. With the WordPress core covered, the things you need to back up are:

  1. Your theme files – the bit that makes your site yours
  2. You images & media files
  3. The database – that contains all your site’s content

In reality the theme files rarely change and the media files are usually uploaded from your local computer so are easily recovered. Backing these up once per week, or once per month on a fairly static site should be ample. The key, especially on e-commerce sites is to make sure you have a recent backup of the database. This is where all day to day changes are stored, and in the case of e-commerce where all customer & order data is kept. We would therefore recommend backing the database up daily, or even more frequently on busy e-commerce sites.

Effective backup routines

Having covered what to back up and how often, the final consideration is how long to keep your back ups. Here the key is to remember that issues with websites are not always immediately obvious. It is possible that you discover an issue with the site that actually occurred a while ago. In these circumstances ensuring you have a back up old enough to predate the issue is key. Whilst there is no hard and fast rule, a sound regime would be to keep your backups  for 1 month (4 weekly backups plus 30 daily backups). Storage is relatively cheap these days, and for most websites the free 2Gb on a Dropbox account will be ample,

Backups made simple

We build all our sites in WordPress, and one reason is because of the great add-ons that are available. One such addon is UpdraftPlus, a back up plugin that we use on every site that we manage. Whilst other WordPress backup tools are available, we have found UpdraftPlus to work well.

UpdraftPlus comes in 2 versions, Free & Pro.The free version will do everything you need to keep your site backed up, including the facility to automatically schedule backups, and send email reports when there are issues,  the pro version has some neat additional features that make it well worth the modest price tag – you can find full details of Upraft here.

Peace of mind

Lets face it, a good website is now a critical business tool, so making sure you can get it back if disaster strikes is essential.

In our experience, ensuring you have a reliable back up means that whatever might happen, you can get your site back up and running quickly and with minimal data loss.

What Marketers should really know

If you read this blog regularly, you will know that I have a slightly jaded view of “marketing” in the 21st Century and the fact that there are armies of businesses touting themselves under the name “marketing” when actually their skills (considerable though they may be) lie in a small subset of the broad Marketing discipline – most commonly related to creative design. I am always very interested, therefore, when I see articles from other people with a similar view. Once such article appeared in Econsultancy’s blog this week

Forget learning to code; what should marketers really know?

If you are interested in the question “What really makes a good marketer”, it’s definitely worth a read.

The Danger of Summer

I’m writing this article as snow is falling! This may seem a little after the event… but important all the same!

Summer

Over the summer months, focus changes as people are on holiday and resources become stretched. This can sometimes mean lose some focus where marketing is concerned. Things (such as marketing!) can slow down or completely grind to a halt, and if nothing is planned, there is often a danger they don’t start up again. It’s the same every year. This is normal! The important thing is to plan and to use it to your advantage.

Planning

Planning for the summer is important. Accept that you may not have enough resources to do your usual “full” content marketing. Formally acknowledging summer is a good thing to do. For example, at BSA, we slow down our content marketing throughout August. This is often much better than worrying that you’re not publishing enough content. Consider how you can go about firstly planning for summer and then how to role our your plans throughout summer. Plan your content in advance. For all those heavy pieces of content, try to create some alternatives for people to read. It will give your company a different dimension when it comes to content marketing.

Action

I know it’s winter and soon to be the new year but all the hard work put in throughout these months can soon be undone without due care, attention and focus in the summer. Summer can also be used as an opportunity to do something a bit different. It’s the perfect time to push lighter topics. For example:

  • Anecdotal/lighthearted news articles
  • Quizzes
  • Videos & Cartoons
  • Info-graphics

The lighter content will give readers a break from the usual, corporate stuff. Start thinking about Summer in advance!

Marketing Hierarchy – do you understand yours?

Marketing HierarchyAnyone who has done any form of formal business training is likely to have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow presents the idea that a person has basic requirements, the absence of which will make them unhappy, but that to be truly fulfilled they have more esoteric requirements like prestige and the ability to fulfil their goals. After over 30 years in business, I am recognising that marketing has a similar hierarchy of needs. These range from the basic requirements of any professional marketing activity, through to those things that turn marketing into a truly effective strategy for business development. However, too often this marketing hierarchy is turned on its head leading to an approach that could be more effective.

The Marketing Hierarchy

Maslow divided his hierarchy into 3 categories:

  • Basic Needs
  • Psychological Needs
  • Self Actualisation

In marketing, I suggest the equivalents are:

  • Basic Requirements
  • Operational Requirements
  • Business Objectives

Let’s look at these in turn.

Basic Requirements

The key factors here are things like design and content. While specific focus and priority will differ depending on the market you are in, these are the things that, if done badly, mean you won’t get past first base when trying to get your message out to your market. Get them wrong, and your marketing will look amateurish and unprofessional. Even if you can deliver real value and benefit, your risk potential customers not seeing this as they don’t get past a poor first impression. In short, the basic requirements just have to be right. However, just because you have got them right does not mean you marketing will work. Like Maslow’s basic needs, whilst customers probably won’t acknowledge, or even realise, their presence, absence of the basics will make someone unhappy,

Operational requirements

Anyone who has done any marketing will probably have a pile of unused flyers/posters/brochures etc cluttering up their offices. These are a great example of what happens when you focus on the basic needs without thinking about broader objectives. Getting marketing collateral produced and looking great, including websites and online material as well as print, is relatively simple. There are armies of designers and copywriters out there who will produce a brochure or website for you, but the real question is what are you going to do with it once you have it? How it does your website or brochure fit into your marketing mix and how is it going to support wider marketing activities. Too often “The new website” can become THE END rather than THE MEANS to achieve a wider marketing goal.

Business Objectives

You may get the first two elements right but to be truely effective you should place your marketing activities in the context of your overall business objectives to create a broad marketing strategy backed up by a series of joined up, measured marketing activities. The question, underpinning all your marketing should be:

"What are we trying to achieve as a business and how do our marketing activities support this objective?"

Having a clear understanding of your goals is the key to good marketing.

Where it all breaks down

The SME Perspective

In large organisations with well resourced and diverse marketing functions, seeing marketing activity in the context of business objectives is the norm. However, in the SME world, marketing is usually either handled by the man at the top or more usually by a Marketing Manager with a small department. Here the focus tends to gravitate to the Operational Requirements of the hierarchy and become activity focused…

  • Buidling a new website
  • Taking part in an exhibition,
  • Bringing in specialists to focus on Google ranking.

These can all generate loads of activity and create the appearance that there is lots of “Marketing” going on, but the fact is that this isn’t  necessarily being effective.

There has to be a better way – And there is

By focusing on the Marketing Hierarchy it is possible for even the smallest organisation to get it right. Continue to focus on the “essentials” like good design, copywriting and content creation but make sure that this activity take place in a broader context centred on, and driven by, the objectives of the business. If you’d like to read more, here are a three posts on our blog that you might find interesting:

If you want to get a grip of your marketing and focus on delivering real business objectives, drop me an email to duncanw@bsamarketing.com. I’m always ready to chat.

Christmas ideas to boost your seasonal email campaigns

Sorry to mention the ‘C’-word already, but one of the things about marketing is that you always have to be planning ahead of the game. Now really is the time to start coming up with some Christmas ideas for your marketing over the seasonal period. The company Christmas card is becoming an endangered species with the norm now being the sending Christmas Greetings by email.

Aren’t Christmas e-mails just “Cheap”?

While there is no doubt that email greetings are substantially cheaper than cards, it is very easy for email to be seen as nothing more than a ‘cheap alternative to save some money’. Unfortunately, this approach can have a negative impact and give people the wrong impression. Do you really want your business to be put in the same category as Scrooge at Christmas!?

Add a little creativity

As with many web technologies, email can look like no more than a low cost alternative to the ‘off-line’ options. In fact, it can be so much more. A creative Christmas message sent by email can engage your contacts, make people smile and present your business really positively. Over recent years we have delivered a wide range of Christmas-themed emails on behalf of clients including:

  • Top quality design
  • Online games
  • Quizzes
  • Charity donations
  • Animations

….and many others.

We have some great deals on Christmas emails at the moment. If you would like to discuss how you can use email to make a strong, positive impact on your customers and contacts this Christmas, please give us a call

Does your website work? Free site review

does your website workDoes your website work? For many (probably most?) businesses, your own website will be the one that you see the home page a lot but use least. This can give you a false impression of your site – you get bored with it! I regularly hear this…

My website is looking tired, I think we need an update

This can just what many web companies are waiting to hear; you are bored of your site and want an update, a new look. Maybe it is just that you see your site more than most? My response is: STOP! Your website is a business tool so don’t look at it from a point of view of whether you like it (OK, that is important but bear wlth me.), look at it from a business perspective and ask yourself these questions:

How does your site compare to those of your competitors?

Take a look at the websites of some of your competitors and compare them with your own site. Ideally, ask others (colleagues and customers) for their opinions too. This will give you a more objective view of how your site sits in your marketplace. If the consensus is that your you do need to refresh your own site, so be it, but taking an objective approach is likely to give you the most meaningful answer.

Does your website work?

As well as what a site looks like, the other focus of many business owners is Search Engine Optimisation and Pay per click: Can my site be found? While having a site that ranks well in search engines is clearly important, there is often so much emphasis on SEO that the other critical part of the picture is ignored: What do visitors find when they get there? Getting people to your site is one thing but just as important is their experience when they arrive. Does your website give them what they are looking for and can they find their way around?

In short: does your website work?

To answer this question you need to look at 2 things:

Content

Does your website tell people what you do? Does it demonstrate your expertise and show how you deliver value? Dies it give people reason to do business with you rather than your competitor? Is your site up to date? A site that shows it has been updated and added-to recently sends a great message that you are an active business. A news or blog section that has dated articles is an easy way to achieve this. Grammar and spelling are also important considerations. Your site may have compelling content but poor grammar and bad spelling can distract from your message.

Functionality

Is your site easy to navigate? Do the links work? Do all images display? Similar to poor spelling and grammar, broken links or missing images detract and distract from your message.

Free Site Review from BSA

Want to get the low-down on your website? Drop me an email to davidw@bsamarketing.com with your website address and we will prepare a personalised report for your site covering:

  • Spelling
  • Broken Links
  • Page by page keyword analysis
  • ..and much more

Engagement

Any article about website effectiveness wouldn’t be complete without a word on engagement. Your aim should be for your website to reach out and talk to your target market, customers, prospects and contacts. Remember, no business website is truly working unless it engages your audience. Monitoring and managing engagement opens up the world of website analytics. Look out for an article on this in the near future.