Wix.com Review

I’ve been hearing a number of people talking about the easy build system called wix.com over the last few years.

wix-com

With around 62 million users at present, they’re clearly making great progression in offering websites that are comparatively easy to build for the novice

What surprised me however, in some recent technical support for a client, was the cost of the various ‘optional add-ons’ available through their system, and also their comparative ineffectiveness.

What Wix currently offers:

  • For around $45, you get to display the ‘built by wix’ advertising on every one of your webpages (at the top right, and the base)
    • You can upgrade to their next package at around twice the price, to remove that advertising (but it still seems to appear on mobile phone and tablet browsers)
  • You can have your own domain name for around $15 a year, but to have email addresses hosted by Gmail at your domain (ie info@mydomain.com, sales@mydomain.com, etc.), are $5 per email address per month!  (this kind of email forwarding from your domain to Google should not incur such high prices, particularly when the set-up is a simple one-off automated digital process, and there’s no actual hosting of email bandwidth by Wix.com).
  • They offer a ‘Shout Out’ option to send newsletters to your subscribers.  This is limited to 5,000 emails per month (which is reasonable).  However, as part of the email tracking, the email appears in the recipients inbox as a remotely hosting image of your email text (effectively a screen grab of an html email).  Thus your email is not accessible to people with various visual impairments (the actual text cannot be easily extracted by character screen readers), the text itself is not scalable for different browsers (for your small mobile phone screen, your tablet, or your desktop, etc.).
  • You can of course ‘design your own website’ (although if you’re not a skilled designer, experienced with usability and accessibility, etc. this is fraught with likely errors).
  • Worst of all, is the way your website is displayed within your browser source code.  They claim Search Engine Optimisation using an AJAX method.  However, if you click on ‘view source’ of any page of a wix.com website, you’ll see a mass of code loading remote areas of content, but effectively no real text content within your browser.  This does make it more difficult for search engines to naturally ‘crawl’ your website pages.  In fact, the only ‘real’ content of your website kept in plain text (hidden deep in all the superfluous code) links purely to the hosting of wix.com.
    • In essence, if you have regular text on your website, for easier accessibility by all, you want to display this in as little superfluous code as possible.  The more code you hide your content behind, the longer the page will take to load (bad for limited bandwidth on mobile phones), the harder it will be for search engines to index (thus lower search rankings), and the harder it will be for people with some disabilities to use your website (which can be a breach of the Disability Discrimination Act amongst others).

So what can be done instead?

  • With very limited experience, you can build a free website in WordPress instead, using a free OpenSource ‘theme’ design which can also be modified easily to your preferred colours and layout.  Or you can buy more customised themes ‘off the shelf’ from various developers, or even have your own unique design commissioned.
  • You can have your own domain hosted with a reputable reseller, with as many email accounts as you want, for a fraction of the Wix.com prices (often free with many standard hosting packages)
  • You can send newsletters via MailChimp more effectively (which is also free for up to 12,000 emails with up to 2,000 subscribers)
  • And your website content will be more accessible, across multiple device options, with cleaner code, which should also appear higher on Google natural search results, with faster load times, and fewer errors.

Please do get in contact if you have any queries.

DOMAIN REGISTRATION! – SCAM

The scammers are back out again, now by email.

This time, trying to get us to pay 5 times the regular price, for a domain name we already own, under the misdirection that if we don’t, we’ll loose it’s search engine submission.

Once again, this is a load of *%#!

Firstly, the email address it’s sent to, is the default email for all our hosted domains, at no point was it used to subscribe to any list (as detailed below).  They are not a ‘Search Engine Optimisation Company’, they are scammers.

If you receive any email similar to this, do not click on any links.

 ———-

ATTENTION: IMPORTANT NOTICE   
Domain SEO Service Registration Corp.
Order#: 616860
Date: 12/10/2014
EXPIRATION NOTICE

DOMAIN: jasonparlour.net
Notification Offer
EXPIRATION DATE: 12/18/2014

Bill To: Jason Parlour, Jason Parlour       
16 Hambledon Close|LOWER EARLE
READING       
Berkshire, RG6 3TD, UNITED KINGDOM       
Domain Name:

Registration SEO Period:

Price:$64.00

Term:

jasonparlour.net      01/01/2015 to 01/01/2016        1 Year

SECURE ONLINE PAYMENT

Domain Name: jasonparlour.net

Attn: Jason Parlour

This important expiration notification notifies you about the expiration notice of your domain registration for jasonparlour.net  search engine submission. The information in this expiration notification may contain confidential and/or legally privileged information from the notification processing department of the Domain SEO Service Registration. This information is intended only for the use of the individual(s) named above.
If you fail to complete your domain name registration jasonparlour.net  search engine service by the expiration date, may result in the cancellation of this domain name notification offer notice.
PLEASE CLICK ON
SECURE ONLINE PAYMENT

TO COMPLETE YOUR PAYMENT.
Failure to complete your domain name registration jasonparlour.net  search engine service process may make it difficult for customers to find you on the web.
CLICK UNDERNEATH FOR IMMEDIATE PAYMENT
PROCESS PAYMENT FOR
jasonparlour.net
SECURE ONLINE PAYMENT
ACT IMMEDIATELY

This domain registration for jasonparlour.net  search engine service notification will expire 12/18/2014.

Instructions and Unsubscribe Instructions:

You have received this message because you elected to receive special notification offers. If you no longer wish to receive our notifications, please unsubscribe here or mail us a written request to Domain SEO Service Registration Corp., 5379 Lyons Rd. 452, Coconut Creek, FL 33073. If you have multiple accounts with us, you must opt out for each one individually in order to stop receiving notifications notices. We are a search engine optimization company. We do not directly register or renew domain names. We are selling traffic generator software tools. This message is CAN-SPAM compliant. THIS IS NOT A BILL. THIS IS A NOTIFICATION OFFER. YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO PAY THE AMOUNT STATED UNLESS YOU ACCEPT THIS NOTIFICATION OFFER. Please do not reply to this email, as we are not able to respond to messages sent to this address.

Hiding content with OpenCrypt

If you’re using a WordPress website (such as www.digi-pole.com) and provide secure member content using the build system called ‘OpenCrypt‘, then whenever WordPress is updated, the modifications to the source code gets overwritted, and the hidden text is no longer hidden (although items stored in the secure members area is still secure).

The file you need to update is:

/wp-includes/post-template.php

Around line 302, you should see something along the lines of:

    if ( $preview ) // Preview fix for JavaScript bug with foreign languages.
        $output =    preg_replace_callback( ‘/\%u([0-9A-F]{4})/’, ‘_convert_urlencoded_to_entities’, $output );

    return $output;
}

This needs to be changed as follows (with the additions in red)

    if ( $preview ) // Preview fix for JavaScript bug with foreign languages.
        $output =    preg_replace_callback( ‘/\%u([0-9A-F]{4})/’, ‘_convert_urlencoded_to_entities’, $output );

   # OpenCrypt Modification
    require “opencrypt_plugin.php”;
    # OpenCrypt Modification

return $output;
}

 

 

Updating the tag cloud text size in WordPress

If you use a WordPress blog system for your website, something which of course is very useful, is the list of ‘tags’ (keywords) you can assign to each of your blog posts.

However, in the current versions of WordPress, whenever you do a WordPress update, it returns the tag cloud to the default settings (ie the size varies considerably, depending on the number of times the tag is used throughout your website):

/wp-includes/category-template.php

Then around line 613, you should see something like the following:

$defaults = array(
  'smallest' => 8, 'largest' => 22, 'unit' => 'pt', 'number' => 45,
  'format' => 'flat', 'separator' => "n", 'orderby' => 'name', 'order' => 'ASC',
  'exclude' => '', 'include' => '', 'link' => 'view', 'taxonomy' => 'post_tag', 'echo' => true
 ;

Simply change the font size of ‘smallest’ and ‘largest’ to your preferred point sizes (the default is normally around 12pt)

I personally prefer to change the smallest to ‘1’, the largest to ‘1’, the unit to ’em’, and then change the ‘separator’ from “\n” to “,\n” (thus adding a comma immediate after each tag, and prior to a space before the next tag).

$defaults = array(
 'smallest' => 1, 'largest' => 1, 'unit' => 'em', 'number' => 45,
 'format' => 'flat', 'separator' => ",\n", 'orderby' => 'name', 'order' => 'ASC',
 'exclude' => '', 'include' => '', 'link' => 'view', 'taxonomy' => 'post_tag', 'post_type' => '', 'echo' => true
    );

How can I improve my natural listing position on Google?

There are of course huge numbers of people claiming to be experts in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), the largest Search Engine of all of course being Google.


However, the only real Google Experts, are those that actually work for Google right now.  They’re constantly trying to improve their search results, making them more intuitive to humans, and more like human rankings.


People will often find little loopholes on how to artificially improve your ranking position, with ‘black art’ techniques (things that will typically get your website blacklisted from Google, and therefore hidden entirely from view for at least 3 months).  So as I’ve mentioned before, do the things primarily for the human user.. and Google will follow.


So assuming that your website is already accessible to people with visual challenges (and therefore search engines can read it more easily too).. you’ve already made sure all your images have ‘alt’ text.. and of course you have lots of good readable text on each page (especially the homepage), etc.


Google likes a few key things in particular:

  • Old websites (so you must therefore be an ‘established’ business)
  • Websites with lots of good real content, related to the search terms (so you have something worth looking at, when the visitor gets there), especially content that’s updated, and added to regularly.
  • Lots of links to your website from other websites (meaning lots of people like it enough, to want to share it with other people)
So what is your speciality area?  If your business is about hair extensions, talk about it through your integrated blog.  Also, if you’re a geographically based business (ie in Reading), then talk about things going on locally too.


Typically, the more often you update your website, the more often Google (and others) will think it’s worth looking at, which means the higher up the natural search rankings you’ll appear.

So, for example, write about things related to hair extensions, or even anything to do with  hair!  i.e. your thoughts on the Royal wedding, any celebrities you see or know about with hair extensions in the press.. or even “if you’d like to have hair like ‘xxxx’ we have just the hair extensions for you”…  It doesn’t really matter what you blog about, just blog more!
If you can get your website talked about on related web forums (ie the types of forums your clients might read.. ie young mothers’ forums, rock, grunge, tattoo, etc..), with links back to your website, that will help too (try to keep it natural though, when mentioning your website).
You could also reply back on other people’s related blogs, with genuine comments (and links back to your website in the signature).  Any links through newspaper article websites, or the BBC would of course be very good for your natural search ranking.
Having a Facebook Group for your business, that people can ‘like’ is of course also a very popular choice these days, with links back to your website (and photos on your Facebook page too of course).
You could also try shooting a video of you doing what you do best.  Put this on YouTube.. and this can then also help a lot with rankings too (as Google owns YouTube, and seems to really like links from popular videos back to related websites).
All of the above should essentially be free!

Why you can’t believe what you read in spam!

Had another one passed through today, from a company claiming to offer financial reports of the top 600 companies in that particular business sector, which included the client company they were emailing.

However, although this particular client has a limited company in the trading name, all of their trading actually went through a different company entirely, so the company details listed in the email, who was apparently performing in the top 600 of that industry (totalling tens of thousands across the UK), actually has the equivalent of a dormant company!

Would you think it’d be appropriate to provide money to a company starting off with this false information?

This is why it’s so important to not share your primary email addresses with mailing lists (or anyone who subsequently makes a mailing list out of your details).  Once you’re on the spammer’s list, there’s no escape from junk like the one above (apart from shutting the email address down entirely).

Web Designing – spam email

Although I run Parlour Design, I’m also involved with a number of other businesses too.  One of these businesses has a generic info@ email address (which will get spam, regardless of how well the email address is encrypted on your website).  I’ve advised the client to remove all traces of it, but historically it is still used by some genuine clients.

They’ve ensured that everywhere the email address was published, is now changed, including the main client website.  However, I do also know that this info@ email address appears on a number of spam mailing lists people can buy into.  It was therefore humorous to receive the following email today:

Hi
Hope you are well.
My Name is Joy, and I am a web consultant with a website design/development firm with offices in the US/UK, and development center in India.
I was browsing websites from your domain and came across “www.client-domain-hidden.com“. From what I could notice, your current website does not have an appealing design that visually caters to your client demographic.
One of the great things about the Internet is that it has leveled the playing field when it comes to competing with the big boys. You have one shot at making a good first impression. With a well- designed site, your little operation can project the image and professionalism of a much larger company. The inverse is also true. I’ve seen many big company websites that were so badly designed and hard to navigate that they completely lacked professionalism and credibility. Good for you, too bad for them.
Do let me know if you are willing to discuss a possible redesigning of your website, to make it more appealing and comply with the International web standards. In fact, it would be best if you could send in your phone number, location (city) and a convenient time for you to speak.
Before I end, I thought it may help for you to know that our pricing packages start at USD 199 with no monthly fee and that, we have delivered more than 5000 websites over the past 6 years.
I look forward to your mail and to speak with you.
Kind Regards
Joy
PS A call now could get you our inaugural discounts.
Disclaimer: The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) establishes requirements for those who send commercial email, spells out penalties for spammers and companies whose products are advertised in spam if they violate the law, and gives consumers the right to ask emailers to stop spamming them. The above mail spammers-email@gmail.com  and we ensure you will not receive any such mails

So, apparently, Joy has had a look at the website, and now wishes to help us make it more appealing to web design standards (even though the site has been completely redesigned, optimised, made accessible, etc. in the last two months).

However, even though she’s apparently ‘seen’ the website, she didn’t use any of the contact details from the website (as the email address she contacted the client on, isn’t listed anywhere on the website), similarly, all the other questions are also answered clearly on the contact page!

I thought I’d do a quick check on how many times this email has been sent out.. (by taking a copy of a big bulk of text, and putting it in quote marks into Google)… however, rather than finding websites showing this email, I actually found 14 web design companies from around the world, using the same exact words on their own website!  I doubt all these web design companies are the offices mentioned in the email.

So these guys apparently redesign websites around 1,000 times a year, but they don’t look at them first but want you to contact them with your own details so they can sell you things.  It’s true that the gist of their email is correct.  But for them to claim to be part of the CAN-SPAM movement, send spam themselves, and not actually read anything of the people they contact (just send a generic email to people on a spammers list).. doesn’t give me the impression of an honourable business, just yet more people out to make money on the internet from people who don’t know any better!

Making digital content accessible by everyone

Thankfully, the Government, industry workers, and members of the voluntary sector have come together in an eAccessibility forum, to develop an action plan to help make digital content accessible by more users.

Parlour Design works hard to ensure all their websites are accessible in a wide variety of formats, using:

  • Logical page structures for all the content (even with style sheets switched off), 
  • Not using ‘flash’ animation for layout or content purposes (just for pleasing design aesthetic features)
  • Always using ‘alternative text’ for images (and only then when text is not appropriate in the first place).
    • (rather than the common technique by many designers of using images for text, because they’re being lazy designers and can’t work out how to make the text appear how they want to, in it’s pure form!).
  • Placing the bulk of navigational links at the base of the page (even if on display, it seems to be before the main text)
  • Helping the page render differently, depending on the type of browser being used.
  • Using flexible font sizes (rather than fixed pixel dimensions), so users can easily increase the size of any text with a simple mouse action.
Thankfully, this particular group mentioned at the outset are also working on expanding the roll out of these simple methods, along with many other ideas as featured in this initial report:
(The report is also due to be updated every 3 months, with new developments).
One key area I was interested in, is point 3, Website Services:

3. Websites services work stream

Websites are the gateway to almost every business, voluntary organisation, or provider of information about public services. Whether or not they are direct sales and marketing tools, they are key contributors to the financial efficiency of each body. A well designed website draws in more users, and reduces the need for other means of customer support such as call centres. Although there are internationally recognised standards and guidelines of website accessibility, these are poorly adhered to by the public sector or by the private sector. This work stream will explore the reasons for this and assist both government and private sector to develop websites and online services that conform appropriately to web standards, guidelines and best practices, such as WCAG 2.0 AA and relevant W3C specifications. It will also take forward plans for a One Stop Shop for information on eAccessibility, and look at how the website designers of tomorrow can be trained to design accessibility into their products and services.

I’m very often so disappointed with the incredibly poor ‘housekeeping’ of so many website developers, and just how much extra code has been thrown in to most of the source code, particularly when using ‘design software’ to try and make things look like they think (rather than understanding the language behind it, to just use the ‘pure ingredients’).

I look forward to the further adoption of these developments, and seeing how the working party get on.

Super fast broadband nationwide by 2015

You may have heard in the news today that the government is trying to get everyone in the UK (including rural areas) access to super fast broadband in the next five years.

Obviously, this will be of great benefit to the online world as such, and will enable a great degree of rich website content (with video streaming, faster downloads, etc.), also paving the way for increasingly popular technologies like TV on demand, and interactive contents.

For those who have been using broadband for a while (I’ve personally had broadband for 10 years, and was one of the first 1,500 BT Broadband customers!), almost no-one would go back to dial-up now.

I was fortunate to meet a very senior person within the telecommunications industry a few months ago, who helped explain to me how this could be achieved, (as I was puzzled over the knowledge that broadband quality decreases significantly, depending on your copper cable distance from the phone exchange.  similarly, it wouldn’t be affordable to run fibre optic cable many km to just one house in a remote valley).

As you may know, from 2012 analogue tv is being switched off entirely (many parts of the UK are already digital), and when this happens, the digital signal will actually become stronger (because the analogue signal, interferes with the broadcasting of the digital signals, from the same arial).

Because the analogue signal uses up quite a large portion of frequencies for TV (ie like your FM radio broadcasts on a range of frequencies), when the digital switch happens, because digital can be broadcast on a smaller isolated frequency, it opens up a lot of spare frequency space.  Which can be reused.

In the more rural areas, you might also already be aware of satellite phones (that enable two way communication with satellites, virtually anywhere in the world).. well this same type of technology will also enable very fast broadband speeds in rural homes (and is capable of speeds much greater than we can can currently get via cables at the moment in the UK).

All this means that my dream of living in a remote sustainable farmhouse in the valleys of North Wales, whilst maintaining my website design and development on-line, will soon be a real possibility! 🙂

Interflora Vs Marks and Spencer – Adwords row

Some of you may haven heard in the news today about the Interflora Vs Marks and Spencer row, over the use of the search term ‘Interflora‘:

This screen clipping was taken a few moments ago, and as you can see, in the ‘sponsored adwords’ listing, both Interflora, M&S, and ASDA are all bidding on the search term ‘Interflora’, in the ‘Pay Per Click’ ‘sponsored links’.

Firstly, from the people I’ve already spoken to today, there is some misunderstanding between paid listings, and natural listings:

  • Natural listings are the search results that appear with a white background, on every search results page.  Whereas sponsored listings are paid for advertising links (which may or may not take you to the product or service you’ve searched for).
  • Natural Search listings can be improved through having a great website, and naturally working on your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).  This are the most valuable placements to have, as many users will prefer to click on the natural links, rather than the paid links.
  • The PayPerClick (PPC) advertised listings, as seen in the above example (with the faintly shaded background) are the search results which either appear above, or to the top right of every search page. 
  • With PayPerClick, Companies can thus pay Google (which is part of the reason the stock value of Google is so high) to appear high on this listing.. the more you offer to pay Google for each person who clicks on your link, the higher in the rankings you will appear.

The minimum bid is 1p (or in reality it’s more like 2p), but there is no upper limit I’m aware of (you just need to work out the value to yourself of someone clicking through..

  • If you have a product that sells for £10, and you make £1 profit on each item: if 10% of the visitors to your website purchased one item, then the value to you of each click would be 10p (so you’d need to set your bid to a lower value to ensure you can still cover your costs, unless of course this £10 product is a ‘loss leader’ to help get customers to buy other products too).
  • However, if your product sold for £10,000, with a £2,000 profit margin, and 10% of the visitors who visited your site from your chosen search term, then the average value of each click would be £200, so the amount you bid on each click could of course be much higher.

This is the reason why companies cold call many businesses, and guarantee you ‘first page on Google’.. this is easy, if you pay enough for the relevant search term, you can appear as high as you like for those search terms.

However, the interesting thing about this case is that Marks and Spencer are using a worldwide registered trade-mark as a means to promote their own competitive services (even though the trademark phrase itself doesn’t appear in the advert, nor on the associated page with it).

I know that Red Letter Days used to be very clear to their resellers, that as part of the agreement to resell Red Letter Day vouchers, the resellers were not allowed to bid on the search terms directly related to their brand (ie ‘Red Letter Days’).  However, in this case, M-and-S have not entered into such an agreement, as they are attempting to sell their own competitive product/service instead.

So it’s understandable for the case to now reach the high court.  Trademark and Copyright rows are rarely simple.
By my understanding, you are typically only allowed to quote someone else’s trademark; with their permission, if you are a licensed reseller of their product (ie Starbucks coffee), or for a news feature or similar.

But then, many trademarks/brand names have become a generic description of a product (ie ‘Tannoy’ rather than a ‘public address system’, ‘Hoover’ rather than ‘vacuum cleaner’, etc.) so in these cases, you could argue it would be ‘fair’ to associate your competitive product or service with such a name.

I look forward to seeing how the case continues.