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I recently got a call from a client. Terrible news, and could I help in some way?

He had received a call from a vendor that something was wrong with my client’s site – there was one odd photo on the homepage and nothing else… No pages, no content. His company’s expensive investment, their site, was nowhere to be found.

Together we called the host, who confirmed that someone or something had gotten into the back end of the website and deleted files (files comprise a website), and replaced them with files named after expletives and “Viagra”… The host asked if there was a back up of the site.

“No” was all my client answered. We set about helping them prepare to rebuild the site that afternoon. You see, his web developer built him a gorgeous site, but never covered protecting it.

So many entrepreneurs are to be commended for learning about technology and being capable of managing their websites in-house. Unfortunately, the above true story happens all too often because we know just enough to be dangerous. Are you taking the proper precautions to make your website secure?

I asked our friend Karl of Site Mechanix, a WordPress website expert, to outline for us the steps that every company can and should take to prevent these kinds of mishaps. Do you have technology or social media questions? Email me at jennifer@redballooninc.com and the answer to your question could be featured in an upcoming post.

Why is it important to protect your website?
“Certain care should be taken to protect your website from hackers. If a hacker gets hold of your website, it could be used to spread malware in the form of redirects which will send your site visitors to a malware site possibly infecting their computers. At the very least they can take over your site and advertise what ever message they want. It is usually embarrassing.”

What are some basic protections for a WordPress website?
“First you need to make sure that your domain and hosting accounts have tough passwords. Mix it up with special characters or use the password generator found in the password reset pages. Make sure that you copy and paste the password to a text document for future reference.

One other problem is your computer. Make sure that you have anti-malware and anti-trojan software to make sure that you are not already broadcasting your passwords.

Make sure that you are not logging into to WordPress with the user called “admin”. This used to be the default user when WordPress was installed. Don’t just change the user name, create a new one. Once you have created the new user, login with the new account and delete the old one.

Make sure that your WordPress version is up to date as well as the themes and plugins. The frequent updates can be annoying, but they are usually patching vulnerabilities.

Above all make sure that you have all of your login information in a safe place.”

Is it important to have a backup of your website? How often?
“These days Yes! It is very important to have ongoing backups of your WordPress site. The frequency of the backups depends on how often you post on your blog. Usually once a week is sufficient unless you are creating content on a daily basis, then backing up more often would be better. If you are an occasional blogger, once a month.”

Is there a backup plugin that you recommend?
“I like the plugin BackUpWordPress by Human Made Limited. It simple and effective. It is free and can be found through your plugin search panel in your WordPress admin.

You can set the frequency of the backup and what time of the day. It will email to you a zip file until the backup is too big to send. But it will email you the notice that a backup has been completed. It can store as many backups as you want as long as it is within 1 Gigabyte.

You can choose to have just the database backed up or both the database and the uploads. If you are uploading large images to your WordPress Media section your backups could be quite sizable. A typical backup for someone who blogs with images can be 100 Megabytes and possibly an additional 1MB added to each consecutive backup after that.”

Any final thoughts to share?
“Sometimes when your WordPress website is down it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been hacked. I first check to make sure both the domain and hosting accounts are paid up. A common problem is that website services like hosting and domain registration often renew automatically, but if the credit card on the account has expired the site will shut down.

Other times a website will be down temporarily because of issues with the host server or even with other servers on the internet. Checking in with the support people at your web hosting service to see if there are any server issues can eliminate that possibility.

Even your own connection can be the issue, so rule that out by seeing if you can browse to a web site the you have not visited. Other websites that you routinely visit are cached on your computer and create the illusion that you are online when you might not be.

Also, software is constantly being updated, WordPress, the plugins, themes and the software on the host server. While it is important that software gets updated for vulnerabilities it can also create havoc on your website.

The most common offenders in WordPress are the plugins. If you can login, disable all the plugins. If the site is functioning correctly, try adding the plugins back one at a time. I find that many times two plugins are not compatible with each other. It is best not to use too many plugins.”

portfolio_imageWhy you need a Web Buddy
Having someone like Karl at Site Mechanix in your business arsenal takes the stress out of treading water on the open web. Karl is an experienced web swimmer and knows what to do in the event of a website outage. If your WordPress website is down, call Karl to have your situation diagnosed. Site Mechanix has been faithfully serving it’s clients since 1998.


entrepreneurs find balance

If you’re at all familiar with my backstory, my opinion about work-life balance will not be a surprise to you. I started my first business in 2005, took on a partner, hired a bunch of people and managed to become really successful while the rest of the economy was in the tank.

While it looked great from the outside, though, I was working most nights until 1 or 2am. I wasn’t seeing my husband or my baby boy as much as I wanted. I was sick all the time, and I was generally unhappy and unfulfilled. A few years later in 2009, all in the span of about six months, the stress was taking its toll – I miscarried, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and then we discovered that our two year old son needed surgery for a brain tumor. I completely lacked balance and I was falling apart.

I finally learned just how important balance is, which is why I get frustrated when I read irresponsible business advice like this from Jason Saltzman for Entrepreneur:

The reality is that if you are building your business, you are spending 99 percent of your time working on it or thinking about it. The reality is that your business has become your life. Screw this balance crap; you need to be obsessed.”

Screw this balance crap? Really?

At one time, I was defined by my business, it had become my life. So when things went well, I was happy with myself, but when things were outside of my control (which happens a lot when you own a business), I experienced a lot of self-loathing. My priorities were totally screwed up, but because I lacked balance I couldn’t see the problem, let alone figure out how to fix it.

I agree that building a business takes obsession, but it also takes recharging and gaining new perspectives. A healthy person knows that she is not the business, she runs the business, she has the kind of obsession that makes her resilient, and keeps her coming back day after day. She is not some crazy wackadoo one dimensional Super-Preneur.

Surround yourself with smart people. Look, this is a simple and logical statement. If you are around dumbasses, they are going to distract you and make you feel crazy for working so hard. Screw that. You are trying to take over the world.”

“Smart”, experienced business people will tell you that it’s not crazy to work hard, but they will tell you that non-stop work will have you creatively tapped in no time. When you don’t take breaks, you lose your ability to see the forest for the trees. You become tired, inflexible and miss opportunities.

This is when your true loved ones will shine through. If you are getting bitched at from every angle about why you are coming home late and working too hard, you need to drop that person like a bad habit.”

This one takes care of itself, because guess what? You’re a selfish shithead, and you’ll be all alone.

Let’s keep the self-importance to a minimum. Growing a business does not mean that your family should have to do without you. Your partner should not feel they’re responsible for holding down the fort alone, while you’re off pursuing your own thing.

In fact, many of us entrepreneurs are building businesses for the freedom to spend more time with our families, or to go on more vacations, or pursue other passions. You’re going to need support, and you’re going to need love. Because while entrepreneurialism is exhilarating, it’s also soul-crushing some days.

The reality is, we human beings needs balance in our lives. Most extremes are unsustainable for long periods of time. Something will give. Your health. Your marriage. Your children. Your sanity.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, try to be realistic about timelines and what you want to accomplish, and then commit. Prioritize, and realize that every time you say ‘yes’ to something, you are saying ‘no’ to something else.

Balance doesn’t have to happen on a day to day basis, don’t make yourself crazy. For me, balance happens over the course of a week, a month, or even a year. I might have to be out 2 or 3 nights a week for work, but my kids each get a date night with me about one night a week, too. My husband and I buckle down for the busy seasons in our businesses, and then take a week off a few times a year. Our kids are busy with school, while we’re busy with work, and then we take half days off with them all summer.

One last bit of advice, don’t sell your soul. The world is full of business advice to ignore, people like Mr. Saltzman will have you believe that you have to give everything all the time to be successful… but I suppose that depends on your definition of success. You may grow a great big business, but if you don’t have time off to enjoy your accomplishments, and the people you love aren’t around to celebrate with, it won’t be a fulfilling experience anyway.

new-Yelp-feature-video Yelp, the trendy review site, is getting in on the popularity of video by rolling out a new feature this week, which allows users to upload short 3-12 second video reviews, or videos taken at your business.

Now more than ever, it’s crucial that you claim your business page on Yelp and respond to positive and negative comments, and report unusual or inaccurate comments to the site to be considered for removal.

You can find out more about this update on the Yelp blog. Have questions about claiming your business listing, or how to manage reviews? In this day and age, you MUST manage what people are saying about you – good or bad. But you don’t have to do it alone. red balloon offers review site management, for platforms like Yelp, Urban Spoon and Trip Advisor, contact us for details.

Facebook updatesThis month we’re talking about consciously casting off negative habits and taking on healthier, more productive habits, here on the website and on our Facebook page. Speaking of Facebook, at red balloon, we’re always looking for ways to humanize social media and to create a stronger and more authentic connection between companies and their audiences. That being said, a large part of social media is technical, and in this post I share some habits for increasing your Facebook reach.

Facebook recently made some changes (yet again) to their algorithm, or the script that determines what posts show up in your news feed. This time it will affect third party apps that automatically post to Facebook. For example, if you use an app such as Goodreads, and you mark a book as read, the third party app may automatically post to Facebook, but this kind of post will now not have as high a ranking as other content. This is Facebook’s way of pushing users to create more active posts (posting directly on the site as part of conversations or sharing important life milestones), rather than passive posts that you probably forgot were being sent to the site (through automatic services like the Goodreads example above). What does this mean for a brand? Honestly, it doesn’t mean too much. Not many brands auto-post from an outside app, but it’s good to know. If you use Hootsuite to schedule your posts, no need to worry as these posts will not be deemed less relevant.

However, with these tweaks to the way Facebook ranks the importance and relevance of content, reach (or how often your posts are shown to Facebook users) may suffer. It’s crucial to stay on top of how Facebook rates content and create posts accordingly.

Here are some simple habits to get into so that Facebook will rate your content as being more relevant and meaningful so that it shown more often to Facebook users:

1. Read your stats. Facebook Insights give you everything you need to see what posts do well, and more importantly, which ones do not. Take a little time and read how posts are doing and what the percentage of engagement is.

2. Focus on timing. Think about when your audience is likely using Facebook – you can also find this info via Insights. It is a great way to gauge when to post your content so the most followers will see it. This is a little bit different for each brand, and while it may seem counter-intuitive, you might do better to post at “off peak” times when there is less content being published to compete with your posts. Check reporting to see what times are working best for you.

3. Encourage engagement. Find interesting content and ask for feedback. Ask what people think about an article, or crowd source for opinions. Have fun with it, everyone has an opinion and wants to be heard.

4. Be personal. Be authentic to make a strong impact, the reason you believe in a brand is because you have a personal connection, so share that connection and your passion for your products or services.

5. Always respond. If someone leaves a comment or asks a question, answer. Always. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you will find out, then follow through. You can have the greatest brand and content in the world, but if you ignore your followers, they won’t come back.

6. Get aggressive. Ok, maybe you shouldn’t get in the habit of being aggressive :) But a quick sidenote: You can always investigate Facebook ads to ensure more eyeballs see your posts. You can efficiently target your audience for as little as $10/day. This is by design, Facebook wants brands to pay for readers, investing a little money in promoting strong content can be key in developing a loyal following.

Get into these habits and ensure that your important message is received! Need help or have questions? Email me anytime, I love to help – Jennifer@redballooninc.com, or check out red balloon social media services here :)

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I’m super excited to invite you to red balloon’s two year anniversary party! We’ll have live music from local band Ruca, food from Chestnut Fine Foods & Provisions, a very sweet candy buffet, and more.

I’d also like to take a minute to thank Cheyenne, founder and owner of Simply Party Box – she’s taken the ball red balloon and run with it, helping us to extend our party vision beyond anything we’ve ever done before!

We have a lot to celebrate, including some exciting news we’ll share first at the party – RSVP by emailing Dani@redballooninc.com, hope you can join us!

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