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      Want to Build a Website in 2019? Here’s Your Game Plan


      Feeling committed to making this year better than the last? You’ve probably got your personal goals all set for the new year: read more books, call your mom, eat less pizza, walk off that holiday pie.

      How’s this for a New Year’s Resolution: build a successful website from the ground up. Sounds like a lofty goal, but trust us, kid: you’ve got the makings of a champion.

      via GIPHY

      Building your website is like running a marathon. Those exhausting 26.2 miles require long-time endurance built over months of training. Marathoners train one step at a time and compete one mile at a time.

      This guide is your training plan. As your trusty web host and coach, we’re here to keep you on track as you build, grow, secure, and promote your new site. We’ve broken this website workout plan into goals and tasks to complete each quarter throughout 2019, but feel free to work at your own pace. You do the sweating, and we’ll be right beside you with water cups and cheese-tastic motivational signs.

      Sound good? Then tie up your Nikes, pull on your gym shorts, and let’s get to work.

      First Quarter: Build Your Website

      Step 1: Decide on Your Mission

      Ready to race right off the starting block into building your website? We love the enthusiasm. But before even reaching the starting line, you need to get in some warm-ups and conditioning to establish a solid foundation. Every good website begins with a thoughtful plan. Open a fresh new digital doc (or grab a pen and paper if you’d prefer to go old school) and complete the following exercises.

      Find Your Purpose

      Why do you want a website in the first place and what do you hope it will accomplish? Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this website?”

      The possibilities are endless — but you need to spell out what you want and who your target audience is. Write down what you decide; you’ll use this purpose to guide everything else you do this year.

      Set Goals

      Time to dive deeper into the reflecting and set some specific goals for your website. Grab your pen (or ready your typing fingers) and, below where you wrote your website’s purpose, jot down a few goals.

      Think about things like how much revenue you hope your site generates, number of readers, number of website visitors, increase the number of customers in your store, build your brand, or engage with an audience. These goals should accomplish your website’s purpose and drive the rest of your plans.

      Don’t lose sight of your finish line — and don’t be afraid to adjust your goals over the coming months.

      Outline Your Content

      You probably shouldn’t bake a cake without a recipe. Likewise, you can’t build your website until you know what components you need to make it a success. So go ahead and outline your content to make sure you hit your goals. Consider these components:

      • Start with your website’s menu. What should its offerings include? And in what order? Rank what’s most important to you — and your goals — at the top.
      • Do you want to include a blog? This will be helpful for search engine optimization (SEO) — more on that in a minute — encourage engagement and community, build your reputation,  and establish you as an expert. If the blog is the cornerstone of your site, take some time to outline (or, for overachievers, write) your first few posts and plan some topics you might write about over the next year.
      • The about me page is your place to tell your story and describe your business. Don’t skip out on this chance to connect with your customers.
      • Do you need a spot to describe the products or services you’re selling, either online or in your physical store? If your objective is to drum up business directly from the web page, this is essential. Think about categories and subcategories of products, and consider how you might describe or sell them to your website visitors.
      • What is included on the homepage? Your contact information? Maybe, although that could easily be its own page. A memorable photo? Definitely. Another home-page must-have? A call to action (CTA). Your CTA should invite visitors to do something: check out your offerings, sign up for your newsletter, or delve into your blog.

      Step 2: Choose a Domain and Platform

      Ready. Get set. We are inching closer to launching your website, but before we can get going, it first needs a name, an address, and a place to live.

      Pick a Domain Name

      Basically, a domain is what you type into the bar at the top of your browser to point to a specific website. For example, to find us a DreamHost, you type in dreamhost.com. A domain consists of two parts:

      1. The top-level domain (TLD) — In dreamhost.com, the “.com” part is our TLD. More common TLDs include .net, .org, .info; and recently, a batch of new TLDs hit the streets: .party, .site, .pizza, .limo, .store, and more. At least for now, though, “.com” is still the most common TLD.
      2. The second-level domain (SLD) — In our domain name, that’s “dreamhost.” This is the keyword that will serve as the address for your website. Make sure it is specific, descriptive, and memorable so that customers can easily find and remember it.

      Jot down a dream domain and see if it is available for purchase. If you can’t find (or afford) your first-choice domain name, we’ll help you find other great options.

      Pick a Hosting Plan

      If your domain name is your website’s address, hosting is the physical space (spoiler: a server) where your website lives. The hosting plan you choose for your website will impact many things — like how fast your site loads and what kind of maintenance you have to do.

      DreamHost offers several great options to cover a variety of web hosting needs (not that we are biased about this at all, ahem).

      For beginners, we recommend shared hosting. It is affordable, fast, and meets the needs of any basic website (and includes a free domain registration!). You can always upgrade as your website grows.

      Shared Hosting That Powers Your Purpose

      We make sure your website is fast, secure and always up so your visitors trust you. Plans start at $2.59/mo.

      Choose a Platform

      To build your website, you’ll need to pick a platform — and there’s no content management system (CMS) better, in our opinion, than WordPress. And 75 million websites agree with us. Like any powerful tool, there is a learning curve to WordPress, but the open-source software is free to use and pretty beginner friendly.

      As great as WordPress is, it isn’t always the best solution for every website. Website builders are an even easier way to get online. If you want an even easier way to get online, check out Remixer — our click-to-edit site builder. You can get a website online in literally minutes with our pre-designed themes. No website developer needed.

      For the rest of this article, we’ll focus on WordPress since it makes it easier to add a blog or e-commerce functionality down the road.

      Step 3: Design and Launch

      OK, with a set of goals; a content outline; and a domain, web hosting, and platform picked for your new website, it is finally time to get building!

      Build Your WordPress Website

      Head over to DreamHost’s WordPress hosting page, pick the plan that’s right for you, install WordPress, configure your settings, and start building your website. Pull out the list of goals and content outline you made in step one, and use it to guide you in choosing a theme that matches your brand.

      Learn About Web Design Trends and Best Practices

      No, you don’t need to become an expert overnight. And never fear: those WordPress themes we just mentioned are beautiful and will save you from major design blunders. But here are a few basic pointers to keep in mind as you get started in designing your site.

        1. Keep things quick and straightforward — From blog posts to homepage copy to navigation options, think short and sweet.
        2. Don’t fear the blank space — Don’t feel the need to fill every nook and cranny; elegant emptiness can go a long
        3. Keep your menu front and center — Keep it easy to find or risk losing visitors.
        4. Mind your typographyWhat you say matters as much as how you say it — and what it looks like.
        5. Pick a color scheme that matches your brand — Color communicates, so pick ones that fit the ethos of your website.
        6. Make it accessible — Expand your audience by make sure your website is usable by everyone, including individuals with disabilities.

      If you don’t have the skills (or time to learn the skills) to design a website—and wiggle room in your budget—consider hiring a professional designer to help you out.

      Launch!

      Go ahead. Send your website out into the world. Take a quick victory lap — you’ve earned it! But don’t lose your momentum; the work has only started.

      Second Quarter: Grow Your Website

      So now you have a website. Yay!

      Time to beef it up with some strength training. That’s right. Once your site is up and running, turn your attention to attracting more visitors and bringing in some income.

      Step 4: Monetize Your Site

      Ready to bring in the big bucks? Let’s get you set up.

      • Review your offerings — Take a look at the products and service you are selling. Is there anything else you can add, especially to entice back past customers? Have you thought about adding an online course or premium for-pay content to your blog?
      • Add some ads — Include a bit of subtle, tasteful advertising on your WordPress blog to bring in some additional revenue.
      • Affiliate links — Incorporating affiliate links on your blog or website is another way to add to your revenue stream. Basically, you’ll promote another brand’s product and provide links to their site. If your readers click and make a purchase, you’ll get a cut of the sale in thanks for your referral.
      • Investigate e-commerce solutions — How are you planning to sell and accept payment on your website? You’ll need to get that squared away before promoting your website. If you’re using WordPress, we recommend Woocommerce (so much so, that we’ve even got hosting just for Woocommerce users). Study up on the world of e-commerce and pick an online payment gateway.

      Step 5: Adopt SEO Best Practices

      Once your site is built and prepped to be monetized, you are ready to reel in the traffic with SEO.

      SEO is a group of strategies website owners can (and should!) use to appear closer to the top of the results on search engines.

      Think about it: when you search for something on Google, you probably only scan the first the first few entries before clicking — and so will your clients. Since Google bases its results ranking on a variety of factors, it’s essential to do the following:

      • Brainstorm keywords relevant to your site — What search phrases do you think (or hope) would most likely lead readers to your website? Use Google’s Keyword Planner to research and discover new keywords.
      • Optimize your blog posts — Plan content around these keywords and make sure to use them in your posts and headings — but be careful and creative with your placement to avoid creating content that sounds forced.
      • Keep it fresh — Regular updates and new content will give you a search-ranking boost. But don’t be afraid to freshen up and repurpose old content.
      • Create a sitemapSitemaps, which are basically a hierarchical list of all the pages and content on your site, help Google’s search engine crawlers see and connect the pages on your site, making it easier to present relevant information in search results.

      Step 6: Take Care of the Details

      Now that your site has been up and running for a while, it’s time for some spring cleaning. Let’s make sure your website is up to par and easy to access for all your potential customers.

      Clean and Polish

      Start with a few routine upkeep tasks, and set reminders to do them again in another six months:

      • Check for broken links.
      • Review and edit website copy and high-traffic blog posts.
      • Update contact information and your “About Me” section.
      • Test functionality of forms and checkout.
      • Think about your user experience. How can you make it better?
      • Review your hosting plan — are you ready for an upgrade?

      Go Mobile

      Take a look at how your site looks on the small screen. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile — that is, if it doesn’t look as good and load as fast on mobile devices as it does on a computer — you’re missing out. Responsive design matters in 2019.

      Many potential customers use phones or tablets in place of a home computer, and some shop on the go. Plus, your Google search rankings could hurt if your website isn’t mobile-friendly. Pull your website up on your smartphone, and make any necessary changes.

      Review Your Traffic

      If you haven’t already, install Google Analytics onto your WordPress website. Google Analytics is a plugin that tracks and analyzes key data about your website, including:

      • Page views — At a glance, this stat will reveal your most popular pages and posts in the past day, month, and year.
      • Unique visitors — Using IP addresses, Google Analytics will track how many unique visitors your site attracts.
      • Bounce rate — Sometimes visitors will click away from your site after viewing only one page; this stat will let you know how often that dreaded “bounce” happens.
      • Session duration — When someone visits your site, how long do they stick around? Check this number for the answer.
      • Traffic source — You might suddenly see an increase in traffic to a particular page, and Google Analytics will help you pinpoint what link is sending the visitors.

      Studying these statistics will help you find changes to make to draw more visitors and encourage them to stay longer (and hopefully make a purchase).

      Third Quarter: Secure Your Website

      Time to work on endurance: you want your website to stick around for the long haul. Now it’s time to beef up your security practices and protect your data.

      Step 7: Tighten Website Security

      When it comes to security, you can rest easy at night: you’re already on the right track to keeping your information and customer’s data safe with WordPress and DreamHost. But there are a few additional steps you can take to tighten up security.

      • Switch to HTTPS — The “S” in HTTPS stands for “secure,” and it is (surprise) the more secure version of HTTP, encrypting your data as it is transferred from your website to a user’s browser. Add that all-important “S” by getting an SSL/TLS certificate (offered for free with all DreamHost hosting plans).
      • Enable a firewall — You probably have a firewall on your computer, protecting you from unwanted attacks. And, if you’re one of our customers, lucky you: DreamHost includes a built-in Web Application Firewall (WAF) to offer your website similar protection.
      • Use two-factor authentication — This will require you to sign in to your site with a code that’s first sent to your mobile phone. While it can be a bit of a hassle on your end, this step goes a long way in keeping your site secure. Use a WordPress plugin like Two-Factor Authentication.
      • Backup your site — Hackers gonna hack. Even with all your efforts to secure your site, security breaches and other disasters are still a possibility. So make sure to regularly backup your website. That way, if the unthinkable happens, you won’t lose all of your digital property.
      • Scan for malware — Hackers can really mess things up for your website by installing malware, which can mess with the code and steal secure data. Scan your site regularly to make sure it’s clean. DreamHost customers can sign up for DreamShield, an add-on that will automatically scan your site for malware.
      • Pick a strong passwordDon’t make it easy for just anyone to walk into your digital front door; choose a password that is long, uncommon, and used only for your website.

      Step 8: Speed Things Up

      Nothing is more of a drag than a sluggish website. Keep your website up to speed by:

      • Installing a caching plugin for faster load times — The “cache” is where your computer stores recently used information, such as the files of a recently visited website. A caching WordPress plugin pulls data from the local cache instead of reloading it fully every time, thus speeding things up.
      • Optimizing your images — High-res photos can take an extra-long hot second to load, but there’s no need to sacrifice quality.
      • Testing your speed — Even if it seems like your page is loading normally, get in the habit of regularly testing your speed. Simply type your URL into Google’s PageSpeed insights for a quick analysis and tips to get a faster score.

      Step 9: Prepare for Trolls

      By the time you’ve reached this step, you’ve probably got fans. But as your site builds a community, it will also attract some of the slimier creatures lurking in the anonymity of the web: spammers, trolls, and cruel commentators. Keep these thoughts in mind as you deal with the underbelly of the web:

      • Don’t feed the trolls — This is rule No. 1 when it comes to trolls. Don’t engage; it will just feed the fire.
      • Understand the difference between trolling and disagreement — Not everyone who disagrees with you is a troll — usually they are legitimate readers with a different viewpoint. Feel free to defend yourself and your arguments, and be open to changing your mind — and to reminding aggressive commenters to play nice.
      • Establish a commenting policy — Spell out for your readers how you expect them to behave, what the consequences are for violations, and make clear that trolls are not invited to the party.
      • Block or delete — If a trolling post gets too out of hand, don’t be afraid to step in and shut it down.

      Fourth Quarter: Promote Your Website

      Congratulations! You’re officially three-quarters of the way through this marathon [splashes water on face]. Don’t lose that momentum; continue strong and steady to the finish line. Think of all the orange slices awaiting you. To get there, your next task is promotion.

      Step 10: Advertise

      You’ve got a great thing going, and it’s time to tell the world. Advertising, even for the beginner website owner, is a no-brainer that can be simple, effective, and affordable. Try your hand at two basic types of targeted advertising:

      Pay-Per-Click Advertising

      A good SEO strategy will organically move you to the top of the search results. With Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads, you’ll take matters more into your own hands by paying to land atop the searches. The best part? You only have to pay for premium placement if someone clicks on your link. You choose the keywords you want to bring up your ad, and you can set and limit your own budget.

      Social Media Advertising

      Facebook is a well-oiled, data-collecting machine, and you can use its power to target advertising directly to your ideal audience. You can create a Facebook ad that reaches users based on specific info such as age, gender, interests, etc. As with Google Adwords, you’ll set a budget and pay for clicks. Get on Instagram and leverage your feed and stories for some great free advertising for your brand. Follow this guide to narrow down which social networks you should use for your business.

      Step 11: Market with Email

      Email is one of the best tools you have for finding new customers, bringing back previous ones, and maintaining relationships.

      Learn the Basics

      Study up on email marketing, a tried-and-true marketing method that involves collecting email addresses as a way to share content and build relationships with current and potential customers.

      Collect Email Addresses

      You can’t send any mail if you don’t know where it’s going. But don’t be spammy and shady about it; create opt-in forms directly on your site inviting visitors to subscribe. Try offering something in exchange for an email address, such as a discount off a first purchase or access to a free ebook.

      Create an Email Newsletter

      Email newsletters remain one of the best ways to connect with your customers, so create one and make it the center of your email marketing strategy. Use it as a way to showcase your voice and your brand, share news and upcoming events for your business, and introduce new products (but don’t be too pushy). Send it out regularly, loaded with fresh content, and then solicit feedback.

      Be Awesome on the Internet

      Join our monthly newsletter for tips and tricks to build your dream website!

      Bring Your Customers Back

      Beyond a newsletter, what other types of emails will engage your customers? Always send purchase receipts and make sure to welcome new subscribers. Consider reaching out to past customers to announce sales, share discounts, and invite them back to the fold.

      Step 12: Get Creative

      Now that you’ve covered your bases with advertising and email marketing, dig deeper and get a little creative in extending your website’s reach. Try out these promotion ideas:

      You’ve made it to the finish line! You’ve worked hard, and your website is certainly one to be proud of. Now, hit the showers, champ.

      — Reporting by Sara Atwood



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      Stop Trying to Get Lucky — Here’s How to Design Landing Pages That Convert


      Don’t be so humble: you’ve spent a lot of time developing your website’s marketing strategy, right?

      Between developing social media posts (and outsmarting that tricky Facebook algorithm), choosing quality web hosting and branding your website, and learning the ins-and-outs of SEO, you’ve spent countless hours — and probably a pretty penny — getting internet crowds to notice your content.

      For that, you deserve a pat on the back and a big gold star. Hooray for you!

      But here’s a kicker: have you thought about what visitors experience when they click your ads and visit your site? You’ve got people heading towards your page, but what do they do when they get there? You’re acing the marketing push to drive traffic to your site, but . . . then what?

      If they’re not converting — that is, if you’re not generating leads — then red flag! There’s a problem. If conversions seem out of reach, what do you do? Rub your lucky rabbit’s foot? Wish on a shooting star?

      Nope, you don’t need to go hunting for four-leaf clovers to generate leads. Getting site visitors to convert isn’t a matter of luck — it’s about killer landing pages. Armed with the right knowledge and tools, you website owners can attract more traffic to your site — and convert visitors — with top-of-the-line landing pages.

      Our comprehensive (we mean it!) guide covers all the need-to-know info, like the key elements of a strong landing page, best practices for copy and CTAs, and more. Plus, we’ve loaded it chock-full of real-life examples.

      What are you waiting for? Let’s dig in.

      What is a Landing Page?

      A landing page is a web page where you send visitors with the goal to convert them into paying customers, subscribers, etc. It’s typically a standalone page, meaning it’s sole purpose is to receive traffic from your marketing campaigns and generate targeted leads with a focused Call to Action (CTA).

      Related: 7 Tips for Writing Winning Calls to Action for Your Website

      The best landing pages are simple and showcase benefits for the user, while helping a visitor to opt-in (like, to an email list) and convert them into buying customers or loyal subscribers. For example:

      Uber’s landing page is focused on getting users to sign up with a simple opt-in form.

      Slack’s A+ landing page focuses on building an email list with a bold CTA button.

      Think about it this way: you’ve invited a large crowd to an event. When people come, how are they received? What type of environment do they arrive at? Disorganized chaos will obviously turn crowds off at the door, while a clean and inviting space will encourage them to stay and engage.

      It’s the same with landing pages. How you receive traffic on your site determines who comes to stay — and what they do — on your site.

      In terms of grabbing the attention of audiences and generating leads, landing pages are one of the most important elements you need to get right. Already feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry! We’ll demystify the elements of strong landing pages and how you can DIY-it on your site.

      Determine Your Objectives

      Sure, you want to drive traffic to your page. That’s important. Your site needs to attract eyes. But you also want visitors to do something on your site. Your landing page is the targeted platform that should make it simple — and compelling — for users to act, whether that be to buy, read, subscribe, or like.

      The truth is, landing pages sometimes get a bad rep. Website owners complain about low conversion rates from their pages, which is true: many landing pages don’t increase conversions. But, that doesn’t have to be your site’s reality. Your landing page can be a positive lead generator if done right.

      To begin, you really want to know what you’re after. Landing pages will differ based on industry, products or services being offered, your call to action and purpose, and of course, the people visiting the page — your audience. You want to figure out what your goals are so that you can design your landing page accordingly. And ideally, you’re creating a new landing page for each campaign. Most people don’t, even when it’s proven to increase conversion opportunities.

      Take a minute or two to map out what your objectives are — for your site as a whole (no fancy program needed; a spreadsheet should do the trick). Consider your audience and what their needs are (we’ll discuss this later). It might even be helpful to flesh out buyer personas.

      Also think about: what is the reason for the campaign in the first place? To build brand awareness? Increase sales? Establish a healthy email list? Whatever the reason, understanding your primary aim helps bring purpose and vision to your goal setting and the design of your landing page. With the overarching goal in mind, you can increase the chances of getting your visitors to do what you want them to. Score!

      Let’s start building our pages.

      6 Elements of Strong Landing Pages

      It’s true, there’s really no such thing as a one-size-fits-all landing page since your goals, offerings, and audiences are unique to your website. But luckily for you, landing pages with high conversion rates do have certain crucial characteristics in common.

      When in doubt, (or, if you’re just a landing page newbie) you can fall back on these tried-and-true elements before tailoring your page to meet your specific needs. A strong landing page must have:

      1. A Headline and Subhead

      Yeah, we know you checked out that catchy “32 Things You’ll Only Find Funny If You Loved ‘Stranger Things 2’” article when you were supposed to be responding to an email. And there’s a reason for that. The headline grabbed you, right?

      Now, you don’t need to be BuzzFeed or name drop the Kardashians to garner attention. The principle is this: if your headline is captivating, persuasive, benefit-driven, and appealing, you’ll have a much better chance of getting your audience to stick around and do something on your site.

      In fact, it’s crucial: more than 90 percent of visitors who read your headline also read your CTA copy, so it has to hook them if you want action. Your headline also largely affects your page’s shareability; thus, more eyes equals better chances of gaining conversions.

      The headline is easily the most important element of your landing page. It’s the first thing readers will see, and with attention spans at an all-time low, you’ve got less than ten seconds to captivate your audience before they try another site.

      Yep, that’s all the time you have. (No pressure.)

      If you want to increase conversions, your headline is a great place to start, offering about 80 percent of the opportunity for improvement to boost rates.

      When crafting your headline, make sure that it is:

      • Clear
      • Creative
      • Focused on benefits
      • To the point
      • Matching with ad text

      Take a look at these smart landing pages:

      Hello Fresh’s headline quickly and clearly identifies a benefit to their meal-kit delivery service — an easy dinner option for people who don’t have the time to grocery shop. Bam, we’re hooked.

      WordPress’ landing page headline is captivating and creative. Twenty-nine percent of the internet? Wow. We need to know more.

      A winning headline might not happen on the first try, and you may need to test more than one headline option to see which ones are the most effective for your landing page (more on testing later).

      Don’t know where to start?

      Experiment with a tried-and-true formula to get the juices flowing. Or, craft your headline last, after you’ve written copy and developed other page elements — then you might have a better idea of what you want to convey.

      Also consider the formatting of your headline. Remember: Periods. Stop. Eyes.

      You want your headline to flow easily for readability, so when it comes to punctuation, use sparingly. If you need to give “eye rests” or visual spaces for design purposes, try an em dash ( — ) or ellipses. Use the title case and make sure that your headline is big, bold, centered, and distinguishable in an above-the-fold location.

      Also, make sure that it matches your ad copy. Whether a visitor lands on your page via a social media push or an email campaign, they should know what to expect.

      Now to the subhead. Think of it like the Robin to your headline’s Batman.

      Like a great sidekick, a subhead adds further detail and context to your headline. It helps to funnel your readers down your content and gives them a reason to keep reading. A headline and subhead make a great — and essential — team, so don’t forget to pair up.

      Stitch Fix’s subhead provides additional context and continues to build interest in the product.

      A great subhead contains information that is relevant and to the point (this is not a place for distracting fluff). Communicate the value you offer and make every word count.

      2. Body Copy

      If readers have made it past both headline and subhead to your copy, give yourself a high five. You’ve created quality titles, and you’re off to great start.

      Now, your body copy: another key element that helps to explain your offerings and build interest.

      Like the other aspects of your page, it has to be tailored to your overall goal. If your CTA is higher risk — say, committing to a trial subscription — you’ll probably need a longer body copy to adequately explain the benefits of your offer. In some cases, longer-length forms have proven to increase conversions.

      On the other hand, if you’re just requesting an email, you can probably get away with shorter, bite-size-piece copy. It just depends on what you’re selling and what promotes a positive user experience.

      Graze’s bite-size copy is easy to skim and chock-full of benefits.

      Regardless of length, copy should be easy to skim (remember our short attention spans?) so:

      • Break text up with bullets or shorten paragraphs into digestible chunks if necessary to increase readability.
      • Highlight value by working to answer the question: what’s in it for me? Sell an idea, not just a product or service.
      • Use urgency (like a sale countdown timer or number of items remaining) or a discount to encourage hasty action.

      Remember to choose your words carefully, and give the copy cognitive flow — our brains like logical, wrapped-with-a-bow endings. And don’t skip editing steps. Have a second pair of eyes scan for errors.

      3. Images and/or Video

      What do paintings like Starry Night or photographs like Migrant Mother teach us? For one thing, it proves that visuals are powerful.

      They are processed by the brain faster than text, so they’re easily going to be one of the first things noticed on your landing page. Quality visuals, whether they be illustrations, product images, graphics, screenshots, photographs, or videos are essential for any strong landing page.

      And more than the science behind it, visuals play an important role in establishing an emotional connection. Take videos for example. Incorporating them on landing pages can increase conversions by 86 percent.

      Videos are persuasive and can accomplish a hefty list of challenges, like promoting retention (helping visitors remain on your page longer), increasing trust, and giving your brand a voice. Plus, you can actually show your visitors how to use your product or service. And it’s no secret: users like videos over lengthy text. Give the people what they want and include video elements on your landing page.

      With Storyline, visitors aren’t dredging through loads of copy. Rather, they’re presented with a simple and appealing video which makes staying engaged easy.

      Consider how different audiences might respond to your visuals, keeping in mind that one type might appeal to them more than another. But whatever type you use, your page’s visuals should be relevant to your product/service and to other page elements. Stay authentic and on brand.

      4. Trust-Building Elements

      If you want your landing page to start producing higher conversions, it’s wise to build the confidence of your audience. These virtual trust-building exercises might include:

      • Reviews/testimonials from current clients/customers
      • Positive press blurbs
      • Real-time social proof (“So-and-So from City XYZ just bought Product A”)
      • Logos of popular clients/users
      • Security badge icons
      • Smart, creative design (more on design to come)

      You can display these on your site to create a positive user experience and one that promotes a safe digital environment. Plus, it boosts your brand image.

      Edible cookie dough company Edoughble proudly displays the media outlets that have showcased their product. I mean, if Jimmy Fallon likes it, shouldn’t we?

      And in the case of testimonials, you’re infusing your landing page with voices of actual customers, which helps foster authenticity and makes human connections for those new or on-the-fence visitors.

      Keurig makes customer’s lauding a key part of its landing page, using a human connection to encourage buying.

      5. Clickable Call-to-Action

      Yeah, text, headlines, and photos are all great, but if there’s no way for your audience to actually do or click something on your page, it’s all in vain. 

      To boost conversions and start generating quality leads, you need a clear CTA. Whether it’s a shiny button, an easy-to-use opt-in form, or a colorful link, your page should have a CTA that’s easy to recognize and use (and it should be mobile friendly, folks).

      The whole goal of your page is to get visitors to do something. Your CTA is the means.

      You can spot Trello’s CTA a mile away. It’s clear, distinguishable, and a complement to the rest of the page — in both design and benefit offering.

      CTAs should be clearly distinguished on your site; they should be big, bold, and compelling. Give it an above-the-fold spot and a contrasting color for quick spotting. Also, make sure to test out phrasing options for your CTA buttons — simply inserting “FREE” or relying on the usual “Sign Up” won’t translate to automatic conversions for every landing page.

      6. Contact/Social Buttons

      An oft-overlooked element: further ways to engage.

      While you don’t want to incorporate any items on your landing page that distract visitors from completing the desired action, you can promote increased engagement and shareability by providing contact buttons and icons that link to your social media platforms.

      Chronicle Book’s landing page earns an A+ for contact and social buttons. We can easily find social media icons to lead us to more content and easy contact info.

      Social icons can act as free marketing — visitors have an easy way to share what they find with their own network and give you more exposure. Score!

      Contact buttons increase trust with your audience as you visibly make yourself available to their concerns and questions. As usual, test these elements to determine effectiveness on your page.

      Now that you know what elements make up a successful landing page, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: the how of designing a landing page that converts.

      The 3 Core Principles of Landing Page Design

      Now, whether you’re a developer whose coding your landing page into existence or you’ve decided to save time by picking from a range of pre-made templates, you need to be aware of the principles that guide strong design.

      Along with a captivating headline, killer copy, and a powerful CTA, your design plays a big part in conveying your message. And even though we know not to judge a book by its cover, most audiences will judge the appearance of your landing page. So don’t underestimate the power of design, and award it the attention it deserves.

      Have we hammered that idea into your brain enough? Moving on. Here are some design principles to guide your building.

      1. Navigation/UX

      We know you don’t want to hear this, but we have to say it: it’s not about you. Welp. We know. But when it comes to the design of your landing page, every visitor is an opportunity, so it has to be all about them. The elements you include, the ones you don’t, and the way they’re arranged have to be oriented to the audiences who interact with your site.

      It needs to be a simple, straightforward, and pleasant experience for them, or they’ll ditch you for another site — probably your competition. Design every element with them in mind.

      Return again to your campaign’s main goal:

      • Is it to build an email list?
      • To increase sales?
      • To bolster your social following?
      • Improve brand awareness?

      Whatever it is, do it well. It should be crystal clear for visitors to come to your page what their next steps should be. Your interface should be simple, clear, and guide users to action — on the desktop and on mobile.

      Make all elements user-friendly; this includes type, links, visuals, menus, and buttons. And remember: your landing page elements shouldn’t be placed willy-nilly on a page. Rather, they should be consciously constructed for optimum impact.

      MailChimp’s interface is clean and user-friendly. Their goal is clear.

      To help users stay on your page and engage, limit navigational elements. You’ve brought audiences there — don’t encourage them to leave by placing distracting links on your page. You want them to act on your landing page CTA, so keep exit options limited and implement a bare (or shall we say, simple) interface.

      Lastly, consider that web audiences typically read in an F-shaped pattern. Let this telling shape principle guide where you place page elements.

      2. Visuals

      Even with handy landing page templates, there is plenty of room for creativity within your design. Plus, good design is essential for guiding your visitors through your page to complete the desired action.

      A well-constructed page design contributes to high lead generation, while poor design can confuse, frustrate, and even repel visitors.

      Use design to create a path for the eye. Users shouldn’t have to think about where to go next. The design should automatically lead them through. Use images and design elements to guide viewers’ eyes to your CTA.

      We process Warby Parker’s visual first and then are drawn to the CTAs. Even with very little text, the benefit is clear. This example showcases how design is impactful in generating leads.

      3. Colors

      Think of your favorite brands or products. You probably remain a loyal customer because you associate their products or services with pleasant emotions or feelings. And often, those good vibes are built through the use of color. Don’t just take our word for it. It’s true: there’s a whole psychology behind it.

      Think of music streaming service Spotify:

      Its colors evoke calmness, peace, a “chill” vibe, — moods typically associated with listening to good music. Blue is also a popular color for marketing and sales efforts, as it often stimulates feelings of security and stability. Colors can be extremely powerful in getting people to respond and act.

      Whether they realize it or not, your visitors are being affected by the colors implemented in your design. It can encourage them — subconsciously, even — to feel certain emotions and be more likely to respond in certain ways.

      It’s true: in a study, researchers found that 90 — yes, 90! — percent of consumer decisions about products are based on color. Yep, it’s that important. Effective use of color will improve your landing page conversions.

      In addition to building an environment, it’s important to be smart about your user of color as it can largely affect user experience and brand awareness, thus, affecting your overall conversion goals.

      Related: How to Brand Your WordPress Theme — Tips for Making a Template Work for You

      Some additional hints:

      • Your CTA button is the most important element you can differentiate by color. It needs to be an obvious, clear, and an attractive standout on your page, while still conveying the right emotion for your message. Test out various color schemes and find what works best.
      • Be aware of background colors, as you don’t want to obscure text, visuals, or other page elements. And don’t be afraid of white! White backgrounds can give your site a minimalist, clean feel and highlight key pieces of information.
      • It’s not really wise to have outbound links on your landing page — hey, you want users to stick around on your site. But if you do, be aware of link color.
      • While there are guidelines for color psychology and tried-and-true landing page design templates, there really are no hard-and-fast rules for color (or many other elements of landing page creation), so test out what works for you. If popular sites have blue backgrounds, but that doesn’t work for you, toss it. Industries and audiences vary. Appeal to your users. And always: test, test, test.

      6 Landing Page Best Practices to Keep in Mind

      Wow. Your page is coming along great! But wait — there’s more to learn. Here’s a handful of landing page best practices to pay attention to as you continue to fine-tune your pages.

      1. Do Your Homework

      Bleh, homework? Don’t worry, this type is fun! After you’ve established your goals for a new marketing campaign, do some research. You’ll automatically create stronger landing pages if you take the time to collect information about your target customers and audiences. You’ll also want to study up on the popularity of your topic and trends over time.

      Armed with this vital knowledge, you can better tailor your landing pages to provide the highest value and most positive UX for your visitors. Some tools for conducting market research:

      Customer Profiles

      • Remember buyer personas? This HubSpot tool helps you build them to visualize your customer profiles.
      • Want to get an idea of who might like your product? Create a mockup profile of customers who like certain products or brands with YouGov Profiles.

      Feedback

      • Don’t wait for customers to come to you. Go ask them for direct feedback with survey-building tools like SurveyMonkey, AYTM, or FieldBloom. Bonus: it’s budget-friendly and helps you improve your brand and UX.

      Trends

      • What’s popular in internet conversation? #WorldWaterDay? #MeToo? Explore trends in your topic over time in comprehensive detail with Google Trends.
      • Want to put a finger on the pulse of social conversation? Analyze real-time social media trends by monitoring on tools like HootSuite.
      • Research the popularity of certain keywords in your industry and discover intent by utilizing Google’s Keyword Planner. Keyword intent research helps you understand what users really want, not just the phrases and words they use to search. That’s key insight.

      Data

      • Clicks heard across the world: let Google help you understand how the world is using the internet with its Consumer Barometer.
      • Need some scholarly stats? Access raw datasets in a host of fields from the Pew Research Center.
      • Think with Google is a beneficial tool from the web giant designed to share useful stats, tools, trends, and insight. An example? Explore shopping trends and product popularity with Google’s Shopping Insights.

      Remember, when it comes to building strong landing pages and increasing conversions, ignorance is not bliss. Get smart.

      2. Make it Fast

      Sad, but true: the one thing your site visitors don’t have is patience. Your visitors aren’t going to stick around forever — in fact, a measly one second delay in page speed can decrease conversions by seven percent. Slow speeds kill conversions.

      On the other hand, mobile pages that loaded only one second faster were able to increase their conversion rate by 27 percent. That can dramatically affect your business in a big way.

      Yes, load times on your site are that important — not only for optimal page design but for increasing conversions. There could be many culprits to blame for your sluggish site, like bulky code or unoptimized images. Unless you want a mass exodus, you’ve got to speed things up. Luckily, you’ve got us. As your web hosting gurus, we know a thing or two about how to pick up the pace. Try these tips:

      1. Choose a good hosting provider (Check! We’ve got your back).
      2. Optimize images.
      3. Minify your resources like JavaScript and CSS.
      4. Leverage caching.
      5. Get rid of outdated or unused plugins.

      After implementing these simple fixes, you’ll want to continue to test your site often. Google’s PageSpeed Insights can help with that. Get key info about the real-time performance of your site and suggestions for optimization.

      Slow and steady won’t win this race.

      3. Be Responsive

      No, we don’t mean like answering your backup of emails or text messages (though, that’s important, too). Being responsive means having a landing page that functions seamlessly across devices.

      More and more, having a responsive landing page is a deal breaker for web users — and for the success of your landing page. Currently, there are more mobile internet users than desktop users — a staggering 3.5 billion globally as of August 2017. If you’re not catering to those mobile visitors (only 50 percent of companies are), you’re cutting off your opportunities for increased conversions.

      With audiences turning more to their smartphones and tablets to shop and make purchases, you need to think mobile in a big way. Make sure your landing page is accessible (with all parts functional) on any device — whether your target users are riding the subway or checking out e-deals on their lunch break — and you can triple your chances of increasing conversions by 5 percent (or more).

      If you’re using a handy landing page-building software, be sure to outfit your site with mobile-ready templates. Then test: you can use Google’s program or MobileTest.me.

      Always concern yourself with how to make your landing page more mobile-friendly. You’ll see the returns with increased conversions.

      4. Be Magnetizing

      We’ve talked a lot about how every element on your landing page should be geared toward getting your visitors to take action.

      Now, it’s time for a new vocab word to add to your marketing repertoire: lead magnet. What is it? Well, it’s useful (free) content that you give away to offer value to site visitors. Maybe you haven’t heard the term before, but you’ve definitely seen examples of it:

      Floret Flower company makes sure that subscribing to their email list is worth your while by offering a lengthy ebook in exchange.

      A good lead magnet focuses on value offered and not overly on your company or your product or service. It encourages users’ clicks and engagement and is constantly improving your brand. Even if sales or other rewards aren’t immediate, it’s a profitable practice.

      Because you’re offering valuable content, users are more willing to give up their info — say, their email for an ebook download — thus, helping you towards your goal of increased conversions.

      Does your landing page make a compelling offer? If not, edit it to showcase more value.

      5. Address Your Audience’s Pain Points

      Ideally, you want to be in the business of relieving pain. No, you don’t need to brandish bandaids or stock up on gauze. The kind of pain we’re talking about has more to do with the psychology of consumers and their clicks, aka pain theory.

      Whether it’s frustration over paying too much for cable or the lack of gluten-free meal options, people are looking for solutions to their most aggravating problems. To influence your audience and increase conversions, you must understand and solve their pain points.

      The Promptly Journals company is capitalizing on a simple pain of parents: forgetting the details of life. The desire to treasure the small moments of everyday urges visitors to shop.

      In your field, what nagging concerns might your visitors have? Cater to them by providing solutions (or products) to relieve those pains.

      • What keeps your audience up at night?
      • What do they worry about?
      • What would make their lives easier?

      Be there when they need you. Expend the effort to figure out what solutions you can offer them and do it well.

      You’ve showcased what they will gain when they answer your call, but what will they lose? Make it impossible to give up. After all, when you’re the answer to their problems, they’re likely to come back (and bring their friends).

      But a warning: make sure you understand their pain points and deliver what you’re promising. Few things irritate web users more than not receiving what they were promised. Don’t disappoint them.

      You can highlight how your product or service alleviates pain by showcasing real-person testimonials, embedding solutions in your benefit-and-optimism-ridden copy, or through impactful visuals.

      Pesky diaper leaks and sensitive skin: they’re pain points for many parents. The Honest company highlights how their diapers offer the solution with a real-life customer testimonial.

      6. Be (Very) Specific

      Ever stood in an aisle of the grocery store, staring at shelves of endless items, unable to choose a product — say, a type of cereal or brand of cookie — because of the multitude of choices? We all have.

      This dilemma is encapsulated in a principle called the Paradox of Choice — the simple truth that the more choices consumers have, the harder it is to make a decision. They might even leave the store empty-handed, too overwhelmed to choose.

      The same applies to landing pages: Even though 48 percent of landing pages out the web contain multiple offers, the strongest landing pages focus on one specific ask.

      Their purpose is to get visitors to act, not wade through a slew of daunting options. This overwhelms users and decreases your chances of converting those visitors into leads. If you try and pull double duty, conversions will be low.

      So remember, when it comes to CTAs, less is more. Focus on promoting one thing, and be specific, based on your goals. Generic asks aren’t effective; specific CTAs help build trust with your audience as they come to see your focused efforts as authoritative in your field.

      Hulu’s landing page goal is very specific: start a free trial of its streaming service. Every part of the page leads toward it, and there are few other elements to distract visitors from action.

      Make sure your design caters to promoting your specific CTA and remove elements that distract or divert attention. The design’s purpose is simple: get your site visitors to act on your CTA, whether it be clicking a button, downloading an ebook, filling out an opt-in form, or following your social media platforms (or whatever you’re asking for). Every element on your page should be aligned and directed toward your one purpose.

      Resources and Tools to Design Your Landing Page

      Now, it’s not required that you hire an expensive squad of designers, copywriters, or developers to ace your landing page game. We know not everyone has the budget to hire a team to build custom pages for your site. If your purse strings are tight, we’ve got some top-tier tools to help you DIY-it (no hot glue guns or glitter necessary).

      Just like you wouldn’t use scissors to cut your grass, you need the right tools to create successful landing pages. Using the wrong tools can even hinder your lead-generating results, while the right tools can help you effectively automate tasks (yay, less stress for you), streamline your website processes, and ultimately, increase conversions. That’s the goal, right?

      Here is our virtual toolbox of essential instruments, divided by category. Try them out and see what works best for you — and your budget.

      Design Tools

      Guess what? It’s possible to set up a landing page on your current site using WordPress, and it doesn’t take an advanced programming degree to do. Or, if that’s not what you’re looking for, try our Remixer site builder to craft a customized one-off page quickly and easily.

      Copy Resources

      So you haven’t really worried about grammar since college. That’s OK! Writing tools on the web exists for a reason, so use them!

      To write better copy, try Hemingway, a desktop app that acts as your digital editor, helping to make your writing more clear and powerful (like warning you to avoid that pesky passive voice). Grammarly is another popular proofreading option that you can install to your Chrome browser to help you write error-free wherever you write (even when crafting a Facebook post!).

      If you’re missing that classroom feel, you can hone your writing skills by signing yourself for a Udemy copywriting course — flexible e-classes you can take on your (busy) schedule.

      Visuals Resources

      In terms of professionalism, your own photography is best. But there are still many options for free, copyright-safe photos on the web that can provide you with vibrant and impactful graphics — a must have for a killer landing page. A host of good options:

      Related: Edit Your Website Photos Like a Pro with These 8 Tips

      CTAs/Opt-in Tools and Plugins

      Whether you’re implementing a pop-up opt-in or a simple email registration box, there’s a tool available to make your life — and the design of your landing page — easier.

      There are tons of tools out there, so do your research and compare options before committing to an opt-in service. Look for a tool that lets you customize design and track performance. And take into consideration that many email marketing service providers often have their own suite of tools. For you WordPress users, we recommend OptinMonster, one of the best (and most popular) options on the market. It offers a variety of campaign choices so you can customize it to your needs.

      Before you go po-up crazy, though, check out our guide about the dark-side of UX design. You don’t want to scare off visitors with shady tactics.

      How to Measure Your Landing Page Success (4 Metrics)

      Lucky for you, focusing your landing page on one specific goal often makes analytics simpler. So how do you know if your landing page is effective at increasing conversions? What numbers are the most important to focus on when measuring success?

      For advanced users, there are many metrics you can track to give you insight on your page’s performance. But for those of you just getting starting, begin by keeping tabs on the following metrics:

      1. Conversion Rate

      This is a no-brainer, of course. The conversion rate measures how often visitors are answering your ask, whether that be buying something, subscribing to your email list, or following a social platform.

      As far as metrics go, this is probably the most important. After all, that’s what your landing page is trying to accomplish: more conversions.

      Note: the average conversion rate is just over 2 percent. The highest converting landing pages often reach 11 percent or higher.

      2. Traffic Source

      What platforms are driving visitors to your site? A Facebook ad? A Google search? Referral from another blog? Determining traffic sources can help you understand where to spend your marketing budget and how to optimize other aspects of your landing page, like increasing responsiveness.

      3. Form Abandonment Rate

      As you utilize opt-in forms on your landing page, you’re asking visitors to provide you with information, like their name and email address. The form abandonment rate is the frequency at which users are leaving these opt-ins without completing the necessary fields.

      If this rate is high, you might be asking for too much information and driving away leads. Test opt-in forms to determine the ideal number of fields that visitors are willing to fill out in exchange for your lead magnet or offering.

      4. Time on Page

      How long are users spending on your site? Understanding this number can help you understand how engaging your content is, and how likely visitors are to convert.

      Another word on testing: you might be shocked to learn that only half of companies and agencies that use landing pages test them. HALF. To find ways to continually improve your pages and increase conversions, you need to test.

      Most analytics programs will allow you to test different versions of your site, and this is key. Metrics clue you into what you need to change, and by conducting A/B split tests, you can determine how to implement those changes.

      Related: A/B Testing — How to Improve Your Website Through Trial and Error

      A/B testing is the most widely-used improvement method and involves creating two versions of a page to evaluate how one key element changed between the two makes a difference, and which is more effective. It can also help you get to know your audiences better and what their web preferences and behaviors are.

      Did You Know? The 2008 Obama campaign made an additional $60 million by conducting A/B testing on elements of their website!

      Keep refining your landing pages so they are as effective as possible. This will take time and some work, but it’s well worth the effort. Just like it takes several drafts to polish prose, it’s likely that you won’t get a blockbuster lead-generating landing page on the first try. These things require tweaking (and more tweaking) to get right. And they’ll need to be tested for each campaign you run.

      But don’t worry — there are tools for that.

      For A/B testing and analytics, utilize Google Analytics, Optimizely, VWO, or Kissmetrics. Crazy Egg can help you see what specific parts of your website users are interacting with, which can help you improve design.

      DIYing your stats? Here’s a math guide to help crunch those numbers.

      Stick the Landing

      We’ll bite on it: you’re never going to visit another website without first stopping to evaluate the landing page, are you? These often-underutilized pages have the power to turn page visitors into customers and loyal subscribers.

      Yep, they’re powerful — if done right.

      Combine a captivating headline, killer copy, engaging visuals, and powerful CTA with smart design, and you’ve got a solid recipe for higher conversions. No luck required.



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      What Is Malware? Here’s What You Need to Know to Keep Your Website Safe


      Malware is one of the great boogeymen of the internet. It’s been around longer than the web itself and continues to be a threat to website owners, developers, and internet users to this day. If you don’t understand what malware is and how it can affect your site, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable.

      However, as malware evolves, so do the tactics for protecting against it. While malware can affect almost every site and device, if you educate yourself on how it works, you’ll have a good foundation for protecting yourself. Even better, there are a number of basic techniques you can use to strengthen your website against attacks.

      In this guide, we’ll go all the way back to the early days of the internet and discuss malware from its beginnings to the modern day. We’ll also explore some of the most common forms of malware and how they affect your site. Finally, we’ll show you how you can protect your WordPress site from malware. Let’s get started!

      The History of Malware

      Malware refers to any software developed with the intention of causing damage or gaining access to someone else’s system. In fact, the word itself is short for malicious software. Malware is sometimes simply referred to simply as viruses, but that is a reductive description. In reality, malware includes a wide variety of programs with multiple purposes and methods.

      The history of malware stretches almost as far back as the dawn of personal computers. It’s thought that the first piece of malware to reach the public was Elk Cloner, written by 15-year-old student Rich Skrenta as a joke. It was spread on a game disk that would display a poem after a certain amount of time. The program would also copy itself onto the computer’s memory and, after that, be automatically copied onto any disk that was inserted into that machine.

      While Elk Cloner did little actual harm to the infected devices, it was only the harbinger of things to come. As personal computers became more common from the mid-1980s onwards, malware also became more prevalent. Few programs were as harmless as Skrenta’s creation.

      One early example is CIH, which would cause massive damage to both software and hardware. It’s estimated that CIH infected over 60 million devices for a total of $1 billion in damages.

      At the time, malware was primarily delivered via disks so it was mainly spread on shared networks (such as those in universities and libraries). However, with the appearance of the internet, a new era of malware emerged. Today, malware can be spread online much faster than before and infect more sites and devices than ever.

      How Malware Works Today

      The trickiest thing about malware is that it’s often delivered under the radar so you don’t notice anything until it’s too late. It can be sent via email, added to a website so that it infects visitors, or hidden within a seemingly innocent program. There’s even such a thing as fileless malware, which affects your memory but doesn’t leave any trace on your hard-drive (to avoid detection).

      In short, malware is a lot more sophisticated today than when it relied on floppy disks. It’s also a lot more insidious and dangerous with a more focused purpose. In the past, viruses and other malware were usually created with the intent to brag or annoy others. Now it’s a money-making industry, encompassing networks of developers who are working full-time to create new ways of spreading unwanted, harmful software.

      If that sounds frightening, it probably should. As a website owner, malware can affect you in several ways. In the worst case scenario, attackers could access your site and leak sensitive information. They can also insert malware that infects the devices of people who visit your site. For example, this could be done by adding JavaScript to banner advertisements.

      The sad fact is that no device or site is ever completely secure. Malware is an industry that’s continuously improving and changing its methods, so you’ll never want to assume you can rest easy. Not even Internet of Things devices are safe. To defend yourself against this threat, you’ll need to learn as much about it as possible.

      Be awesome on the internet. Join our monthly newsletter to get tips and tricks for making the most out of your online presence.

      9 Types of Malware (And How They Affect Your Site)

      We’ve spoken about malware from a general perspective up until now. However, as we mentioned earlier, there are many different types out there. Let’s look more closely at some of the most prevalent kinds of malware and how they can impact your WordPress site.

      1. Computer Viruses

      This is arguably the most famous type of malicious programming — to the point that virus is commonly used as a synonym for all malware. In reality, a computer virus refers to any software that replicates itself and adds its own code into other programs. That’s why we use the term infected to describe the affected system.

      Since it hides its own programming inside some other software’s code, a virus can be used to perform almost any task. This task is known as its payload and can affect your site in numerous ways. For example, a virus could be used to access sensitive information, delete important data, hog site storage and server resources, or replace your content with spam.

      To protect yourself, you’ll need antivirus software. It’s likely you already have this installed on your computer and devices, but it’s a must for websites as well. Some web hosts offer built-in protection as part of their plans, which will help to stop most common attacks. You may also want to consider a WordPress security plugin that will scan your files for unwanted content, including viruses.

      2. Trojan Horses

      The Trojan horse myth is the story of how the Greek army managed to enter the besieged city of Troy in order to destroy it from the inside. They did so by gifting the Trojans a giant wooden horse that was secretly loaded with Greek soldiers. Surprise! When the horse was brought inside the city gates, the hidden soldiers jumped out and overtook the city.

      The horse’s modern-day namesake functions in much the same way. A trojan horse is a piece of software that appears to be doing one thing, while hiding its true functionality. For example, this could take the form of a screensaver that secretly corrupts files or drains your device’s memory.

      On WordPress websites, trojan horses can be plugins that claim to do something helpful while actually running malicious code in the background. This usually happens when you install pirated plugins or themes, which attackers can use to add backdoors and access your site’s data.

      To avoid this, make sure you’re careful about what you add to your site. It’s vital to always use trusted plugins from reputable, secure sources. This probably goes without saying, but pirating software is a lose-lose situation, both for you and its creators. Just say no.

      3. Cryptocurrency Miners

      The growing popularity of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin has had many strange side effects. For one, it’s caused the prices of graphics cards to rise. It’s also led to the creation of something called bitcoin mining. If this sounds confusing, that’s because it is.

      The short version: bitcoin is a type of virtual currency that can be mined (or collected) by using some of your computer’s processing power. This is why so many people buy graphics cards to mine it themselves. However, some people have naturally found a way to force other people’s systems to do the job.

      By installing mining software on a device or site, hackers can use that system’s resources to mine for bitcoin. It may not even be that noticeable, since many of these schemes infect thousands of devices and only use a fraction of each system’s resources to stay hidden.

      Protecting your site from this type of malware involves tracking your files to make sure none of them are malicious. You should make sure that you have a Web Application Firewall (WAF) and the ability to scan your site. If your site does get infected, you may need to perform some cleaning.

      4. Spyware

      As the name suggests, spyware is a program that hides on your device and collects information. This makes it one of the most dangerous types of malware as it can be used to gather sensitive data. Common uses for spyware include tracking your keyboard to collect passwords. It can also be used to watch your web activity or private conversations.

      Spyware usually spreads by either using the Trojan horse method of hiding inside other software or by being added to a website. When the latter occurs, the spyware will infect the devices of anybody who visits the site. In 2015, several WordPress sites were compromised in exactly this way.

      An important way to avoid spyware is by making sure every aspect of your site is always updated. This includes your WordPress install, theme, and plugins. You may need to perform these updates manually, but if you’re using managed hosting, your web host will usually take care of this for you.

      5. Adware

      Most of the malware variations we’ve discussed are purposefully designed to remain hidden. However, some take the opposite approach. Such is the case with adware, which forces the user to interact with an advertisement.

      Most of the time, this type of malware is harmless beyond being intentionally irritating. The goal is to make money by getting people to click on banners and links. Adware can also appear as pop-ups you can’t close or that will infinitely reopen until you click on them.

      Related: The Great Pop-Up Debate (and Other Dark UX Problems)

      Once again, the main vulnerability for WordPress users has to do with plugins. This was demonstrated in 2016, when the Simple Share Buttons plugin exposed thousands of users to adware. After an update, the plugin placed a message on the dashboard that you couldn’t remove without clicking on it.

      For this reason, it’s important to continuously scan your files, especially whenever you add or update a plugin. You could also use a tool like Plugin Security Scanner, which checks your theme and plugins daily.

      6. Ransomware

      If adware is the beggar of the malware world, ransomware is the bully. This is another type of malware that doesn’t hide in the shadows but proudly makes its existence known. Ransomware will threaten you with some action or disrupt your system unless you pay to have it removed.

      A common method of extortion is to encrypt your files and make them inaccessible. The attackers will then demand payment if you want to have the files decrypted. However, ransomware can also be used in reverse — to stop attackers from leaking information or damaging your system in some other way.

      Ransomware is often spread via emails, masquerading as attachments that infect the network once opened. It can also be used to target WordPress sites. In these cases, the ransomware typically encrypts each site’s files then tries to make the owner pay to get them back again.

      The best way to thwart these attacks is by keeping regular backups of your site. It’s also important to keep every aspect of your site safe as it could otherwise contain vulnerabilities attackers can take advantage of.

      7. Wiper

      In software terms, the word wipe is rarely attached to good news. As you might suspect, wiper malware is used to destroy the device or network it infects, making it one of the most overtly destructive types of malware.

      Wiper malware is primarily used as a type of cyber warfare. The goal is almost always to attack and destroy, rather than to sneakily use another device for illicit means. One of the most famous examples is the Shamoon attack, which was used to steal files from computers before wiping their storage clean. There’s also the Petya software, which purports to be ransomware, even though it doesn’t actually recover the destroyed files once a payment is made.

      Once again, keeping regular backups is your most important defense. This way, you’ll ensure that your data is recoverable even if your site is hit by a wiper. Avoiding a wiper entirely will require you to use all possible methods of site security. You’ll also want to be prepared to clean up your site if the worst-case scenario comes to pass.

      Related: How to Back up Your WordPress Website — A Complete Guide

      8. Computer Worms

      Computer worms are similar to viruses, with the exception that worms spread autonomously. A virus requires something else to help it move between systems, but worms can work on their own.

      For example, a virus could be triggered when you start an application or insert a disk into your hard drive. Meanwhile, a worm can automatically spread itself, such as through email. In that case, the worm will look at your address book and send itself to all the contacts within. It can then repeat this process more or less forever. In fact, some of the most long-lasting examples of malware are worms, such as the slammer worm, which has been around for more than 15 years.

      Protecting your site against worms is also very similar to securing it against viruses. Consider using a hosting plan that protects against automated attacks.

      9. Botnet

      A botnet isn’t malware in the strictest terms, but it often affects the same sites and exploits similar vulnerabilities. In short, a botnet refers to a network of infected devices that can be controlled from a single point. This network can be used to run tasks or to perform Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks.

      The botnet works by attempting to insert its code into targeted websites. When a site is successfully infected, it can be used to perform tasks by an external command center. It basically becomes a remote-controlled robot — one that can be used for malicious purposes.

      Many security plugins will protect against injection attacks. This can help prevent your site from becoming part of a botnet. You should also have a means of tracking the activity on your site. This can help you see when injection attacks occur and take measures to fight them before it’s too late.

      How to Protect Your WordPress Site Against Malware

      We’ve already covered numerous ways of protecting your WordPress site against malware. However, keeping your site secure requires a lot of planning, work, and know-how. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone.

      Here at DreamHost, we offer tools that can help you safeguard your site. For example, our Malware Remover keeps your site safe from malware by scanning it and removing threats before they can destroy your files.

      The Malware Remover is a powerful tool that will help prevent your WordPress site from falling victim to the malware variations we’ve discussed. Some of its key features include:

      • Automated protection. Malware issues will be dealt with and cleaned up automatically.
      • Weekly website scans. Every file on your site is scanned each week to find any vulnerabilities or possible exploits.
      • Software update notices. We track all updates and inform you when you need to upgrade your software.
      • Whitelisting functionality. You can tailor the system to permit specific processes that the remover perceives as false-positive threats.

      You can add the Malware Remover to your DreamHost account for just a few extra dollars per month. It’s a perfect complement to the standard security features offered by our hosting plans. Your site will thank you!

      Stay Safe Out There

      Malware is an ever-present threat to any website owner; it has been since the dawn of the internet. Plus, it’s something you need to stay vigilant about as new types of malware crop up regularly. Fortunately, keeping your site safe is easier than you might expect.

      Do you have any questions about protecting your WordPress site against malware or how DreamHost can help? Find us on social and let’s start the conversation!





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