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      The Smart Way to Scale Your Business Online


      You’ve started your own business. Congratulations! Whether you’re selling cupcakes using Grandma’s secret recipe, photographing chic weddings, hosting events, running (around) a preschool, selling handicrafts, or building the next must-have app — pat yourself on the back. The challenge of starting a small business and raking in those first few dollars is no joke.

      But don’t you dare rest on your laurels, ahem.

      You’ve got a steeper mountain to climb: scaling up. If you are serious about your business and its success — and we know you are — you’ve got to grow, and keep growing, to survive year after year. Once a business is well established, a concentrated focus on scalability can move it from initial profits into big-time revenue.

      And you’re in luck: when it comes to scaling your business, the secret ingredient to success is affordable, accessible, and omnipresent. That’s right, the internet is your new best friend.

      It’s the 21st century, folks; simply having a website — an essential, indispensable first step — won’t cut it. Real scale and success can be yours by smartly leveraging your business’s presence online. When you combine a great product or service with some internet savvy, any summit you set is in sight.

      If you are ready to grow, let us help! The following tips will set you on the path to scaling your business online, the smart way:

      Optimize Your Business with DreamHost

      Our automatic updates and strong security defenses take server management off your hands so you can focus on sustainable growth.

      Starting Off Right

      Scaling isn’t as hard as it looks, but it isn’t for the faint of heart either. Before you attempt any growth strategies, step back and consider your destination and your starting point. Begin your reflection with these questions:

      What Are Your Goals?

      Consider your endgame. What does growth look like for you and your business? Do you want to scale a scrappy software startup (alliteration unintended, I swear) or just build a second (or third or fourth) location? Attract higher-paying customers or convert online traffic into more sales? Either way, set a timeline, know your goals, and let them define your next steps. Keep re-evaluating your progress based on your goals — and don’t be afraid to adjust them as you move ahead with your small business.

      Is Your Business Really in a Good Place?

      Be honest with yourself. If the answer is “no,” scaling is not your next step. “If your business stinks,” as marketing bigwig Dan Kennedy famously said, “the last thing you want to do is get the word out about it.” Nail your model and perfect your product before attempting any business growth.

      Are You Working in or on Your Business?

      If you are going to expand your restaurant’s menu and attract more clientele, you can’t be the one chopping and frying potatoes during the lunch rush. As a small business owner, your first priority is the big picture.

      If you haven’t made it a point to get out of the kitchen and into your head, planning your daily activities around building the business and brand, you won’t have the bandwidth or focus to scale successfully. You may need to hire more employees to take the day-to-day operations off your hands.

      Who’s Paying for This?

      Evaluate your financing and fundraising options, and know what kind of capital you have to play around with. Do you need to take out a small-business loan, and are you in a position to qualify for one?

      The amount of cash you have can skyrocket or ground your growth — luckily, using the internet to scale can be, for the most part, easy on the wallet. As you look at your finances, you may brainstorm ways to cut costs — for example, instead of hiring a cadre of new employees to help you scale, try contracting out the work to freelancers.

      Building Your Presence

      Are you committed to scaling your business online? Awesome. It’s time to get our hands dirty.

      Get Online

      Do you already have a website for your business up and running? If so, pass “Go” and collect $200.

      If your business doesn’t have a home online yet, there’s no time like the present. Even if you have a traditional brick-and-mortar store with nothing to sell directly online, a website will give customers around-the-clock access to information about your business. You’ll be able to advertise, promote specials, and seek out new customers 24/7, on the clock or off.

      Nervous about getting your technical skills up to snuff? It doesn’t get any easier than DreamHost’s WP Website Builder, a suite of premium tools and plugins designed to simplify starting a website and make it easier to edit and manage as it grows.

      If you’re looking to sell items online, we’d recommend building a WordPress website and utilizing an e-commerce tool like WooCommerce or Shopify to power your store. We’ve even identified five WooCommerce templates to help you boost sales.

      No matter what, make sure to utilize reliable web hosting that can scale up with your business as it grows and attracts more online traffic. And you guessed it: DreamHost can help you there as well.

      Simplify Your Site

      You have five seconds or less to convince website visitors to stick around, so what you’re offering has to be simple, clear, and attractive. If website visitors can’t tell immediately what you are selling and how to buy it, they will move on and take their credit cards elsewhere.

      Make sure website navigation is clear and consistent from page to page. Don’t plaster videos, photos, and other content all over for the sake of filling up your website; everything should have a purpose that enhances your website’s message.

      Create and Maintain a Useful, Relevant Blog

      Update your blog regularly with company updates, profiles on customers, information on products new and old, and free content relevant to your area of expertise. These blog posts can be shared on your social media accounts (more on this later, hang tight!) to draw in more page views. Don’t simply recycle posts from similar websites; create fresh, original, and SEO-friendly content to attract new traffic and keep visitors coming back for more.

      Not a writer? Consider hiring (or contracting) marketers and copywriters to give your content a fresh face and professional polish.

      List with Google My Business

      When internet users — which, these days, is almost everyone — have a question or are looking for a specific service near them, there is only one source of information: the almighty Google.

      One of the best ways to make sure your small business is discovered is by doing everything you can to make sure it tops Google searches when potential customers are looking for similar products or services. One of the best ways to improve your search engine hits, especially if you own a brick-and-mortar shop, is to register with Google My Business.

      Google My Business is Google’s online directory listing for businesses. Millions of companies, big and small, have registered their address, phone number, website, and other details with Google. Registered businesses will show up in Google Maps, which will help you attract more local foot traffic. Customers can add pictures or reviews to your listing, so make sure to encourage people to rate your business, and respond quickly and sensitively to any negative feedback.

      Best of all: the listing is completely free!

      Fine-tuning Your Site

      Once your site is up and running well, it’s time to dig in and really make it work for your business.

      Add a Call to Action

      Every piece of content on your website (page, post, or anything else) should invite your visitors to do something — otherwise, you could be driving visitors away. Your calls to action can range from simply asking for comments or social media engagement, to inviting users to opt into a newsletter or come to your store for a special sale, to straight out asking or encouraging to purchase your product or service.

      Most of us need a little nudge to spur us into action. The purpose of your website should be to offer that nudge, as clearly as possible, and inspire potential customers to commit. Use the goals you set for how you want your business to grow to guide your calls to action.

      Build a Public Profile

      Marketing is not about selling products; it’s about people and their stories. This is why an “About Us” page on your website is essential and not just filler. The content on this page can actually be a powerful marketing tool.

      People buying your product want to know you and will be charmed by an interesting origin story and captivating “person-behind-the-product” narrative. Cultivate your story; create a public persona for the company and share the passion that led you to create your small business. Make sure to be authentic, but dig in to find a story that will resonate with your target market and paint the face behind the business.

      Study SEO

      Learn everything you can about SEO basics and best practices. SEO is an essential skill; it is no longer optional if you want your voice to be heard among thousands upon thousands of competing messages on the internet. Creating optimized content will drive your website up in search engine results and drive traffic to your website. At times, SEO can be a time-consuming headache for small-business owners, so make sure to hire employees who understand SEO and content marketing or consider outsourcing.

      Make It Easy for Customers to Make Purchases

      Like, ridiculously easy. Try navigating through your website with fresh eyes — or maybe recruit a friend or generous family member, ideally one not closely acquainted with your business, to give an honest opinion.

      How hard is it to figure out what products or services you are selling and where to go to purchase them? Both should be clear and intuitive.

      Consider ways you can fine-tune the checkout process (you should be doing this as part of your regular website maintenance anyway), or how you can improve how you offer your product. For example, can you create a form or questionnaire to offer online quotes, rather than requiring potential customers to email you or pick up the phone and call you?

      Consider Your Offerings

      You may have perfected your product or service, but is there more you can add? If your business is anchored in a brick-and-mortar model, is there something supplemental you can sell exclusively online?

      For instance, these DreamHost customers expanded their product line and switched to an online-only model to grow their herbal remedy business.

      Or maybe you already offer online or in-person consultations. Think about adding more options — shorter (or longer) consultations or a cheaper option for customers to ask a simple question via email or a Skype session. A lower price point may reel in more customers, and maybe even convert to bigger sales in the future.

      Reaching Out

      Once you’ve nailed your site, it’s time to look outward to help draw traffic in and drive growth.

      Build a Database of Potential Customers

      Then draw past ones back in — through smart email marketing. Targeted email marketing is much more affordable and more effective than print or other advertising. Anyone who visits your website is a hot lead. Web surfers landed on your page for a reason, so don’t let them slip away — or rather, don’t let your business slip out of their minds.

      When they first visit your site, offer a free product or special offer in exchange for their email addresses. This could be a discount code emailed to them, a printable coupon to bring by your store, an email offering free but relevant information, or a subscription to an email newsletter. Do everything you can — that isn’t sketchy or illegal, obviously — to collect email addresses to encourage further interaction.

      Create a Useful Email Newsletter

       Offer an opt-in subscription to an emailed newsletter to your social followers, website traffic, and customers. Build your newsletter so that it doesn’t look and read like junk mail, and send it out regularly to any and every email address that you collect. If the content is fresh and compelling, email newsletters can inspire opens and clicks that drive traffic to your website.

      Announce company milestones, build community, offer “subscriber only” sales and coupons. Draw on your website’s blog content, and include a call to action in every email. A regular email newsletter will help you build a long-term relationship with customers, and will help you measure responses to your products and marketing techniques.

      Work the Weekends

      Get the word out and drive foot traffic to your website or physical storefront, even when you’re off duty, by automatically sending out coupons and special promotions on slow days and holidays.

      Follow up with Past Sales

      People who bought from you once are likely to buy again. Don’t let past customers slip through the cracks; follow up with them and keep reaching out regularly. Consider offering products similar to the purchase they made, request feedback, send coupons, and invite them to subscribe to your newsletter.

      Scope out the Competition

      You’ve got a pretty good website now — and, as luck would have it, so does your competitor. Time to do some snooping. Check out the websites of any competing businesses, and take a look at their offerings, their calls to action, their free content and newsletters, etc. And then ask yourself what you can offer that is unique or different.

      Seek to compete not only in price, value, and quality but by offering something new and more convenient or helpful. Keep tabs on competitor websites to stay apprised of trends.

      Getting Social

      Second in importance only to getting a website is getting on social media to build your brand and cultivate clientele. Don’t feel pressured to join every platform all at once; consider focusing your efforts on one or two, especially if you target a niche market that tends to prefer a specific platform.

      Targeted Social Media Advertising

      With targeted Facebook ads, you can reach the customers who would most benefit from your offerings and drive them to your website and store. Social media advertising for your online business can be very affordable and effective because you can create customized advertising and posts that reach the demographics and parameters you specify. Carefully tease relevant content from your website to give your products face time and make clicks irresistible.

      Create a Brand

      Social media is often the public face of your small business, so name your accounts carefully and consistently. Make sure to pick a handle that is easy to remember and connect with your business. Cultivate a persona that jives with your business and its market across all platforms, and be strategic about what, when, and where you post. For a professional edge, consider hiring or contracting a social media manager.

      Cross-Pollinate

      Promote website content on each of your channels, but also use social media posts to drive traffic to your other accounts to build followers across each one. A simple post encouraging your Twitter followers to connect on Facebook — complete with a link to your page — would do the trick.

      Don’t bore your followers by posting the same content everywhere; again, keep a consistent voice, but experiment with the opportunities unique to each platform to delight and hook your followers.

      Connect and Network

      Connect with businesses and leaders in your field. Like their Facebook pages, comment on posts; invite them to your website, invite them to lunch. Don’t be afraid to rub shoulders with the competition online. It will help you gain exposure among your target audience.

      Crowdsource

      Is there a product that you know your customers would love, but you don’t quite have enough funds for? Whether your business model is primarily online or not, try a Kickstarter or other crowd-funding campaign to attract — and gauge — interest in your product and get the funding you need to expand your business’s offerings.

      A crowdfunding campaign also builds brand loyalty and is very shareable and clickable on your social media accounts. Include links to the campaign on your website, and point visitors to the campaign page back to your website for more information about your other products and services.

      Establishing Expertise

      You can help your business grow by helping it establish a reputation — a good one, hopefully. Leverage the internet to become known within your market and beyond as an expert in your field.

      Create a Community

      If you build it, they will be able to come. Create a community space online for your customers and like-minded people to congregate, learn, and share ideas. One way to do this online is by creating a Facebook group, not just a company page, especially if you cater to a niche audience.

      Invite your customers to ask questions and build relationships. Use the space as a place to offer sales, exclusive offers, and giveaways for your product. If your group takes off, it can be a great way to know and understand your audience — and for them to understand you and build long-term loyalty. As a side note, you will need to set group ground rules and find someone to moderate posts and resolve conflicts.

      Offer Free Content

      People search the web for information to learn and solve problems. If you provide bits of expert, useful information for free — like we try to do here on the DreamHost blog, wink — you will get more hits and better search engine rankings. Create shareable videos, articles, infographics, etc., and spread it on social media.

      The goal is to create something useful and creative enough that people already within your network will want to share with their friends and family, which will build more exposure for your brand and bring in more potential customers. Always include a link back to your website or a call to action offering more information or encouraging a purchase.

      Teach Classes

      Share your expertise for free and not just as a marketing stunt. Teach or host classes of interest to your customers in your store or broadcast and archive them online. Or make a how-to video to share on your website and tease with your social media accounts. Encourage your customers and followers to share their ideas and suggest future topics.

      Host a Free Q&A

      Consider regularly asking your customers, on your social media accounts or website blog, to send you questions related to your product or service or its subject area. This works especially well if you are a consultant of some sort.

      For example, a baby sleep consultant may ask for specific questions from parents weekly and create a video or blog post answering those questions. This establishes the consultant’s smarts and attention to specific problems while encouraging potential customers to commit to more specific advice. It might be helpful to include an archive of past Q&As on your website.

      Spread the News

      Gain exposure and develop your reputation for expertise by registering and participating with Help A Reporter Out (HARO). HARO is a free website database that connects reporters and sources.

      When you register, you’ll get a regular email with queries from reporters and journalists looking for an expert source to comment on their stories. So if you’re a dietician and spot a query from a journalist looking for a quote for a story on the latest diet fad, you have the potential to position yourself as an expert in front of the audience that you are targeting.

      A mention in a news outlet builds credibility for your business and provides a great link back to your website (if the article is published online). Include any mention of your business in the news on your website and share on your social media accounts for additional exposure.

      Adding Things Up

      When you’re scaling your small business online, you have to know your numbers. The internet makes it simple to track your efforts to scale and test which methods are most — or least — effective for your business with your specific market.

      Track Key Metrics

      Check clicks, opens, page views, and more. Learn what kinds of things work and what doesn’t. What kinds of discounts, free content offers, blog posts, and email headlines attract more clicks? Don’t be afraid to experiment and track responses to your campaigns. Try your hand at A/B testing and fine-tune your marketing plan based on what entices the most clicks, opens, subscriptions, and purchases from your potential customers.

      If you really want your business to scale, you are never going to “set and forget” your website or any of your marketing techniques. You’re not making slow-cooker pork. Everything must be carefully monitored, measured, and adjusted as necessary.

      Know Your Costs

      As you work to scale and grow your business online, it is important to track your costs, down to the nickels and dimes. Money can be tight in a small business, and you need to know where and how to spend it best. Here are two important metrics you need to watch closely on a regular basis:

      Cost per Lead

      A lead is whenever someone downloads your app, signs up for your newsletter, requests a quote or more information, etc. Whether you are collecting names at a trade show, gathering email addresses through a newsletter or other offer, or creating shareable social media infographics, you need to know if how much you are spending is actually paying off in the number of people who respond to your campaign.

      Calculate this by dividing how much you spent on marketing (make sure to account for the time you spent and how much you paid for advertising, writers, employees, etc.) by the number of new leads. Regularly ask yourself if the cost is worth the leads generated, and if it is time to experiment and try a new tactic.

      Cost per Sale

      How much time, effort, and money are spent per actual sale? Calculate this by measuring the amount you spent on finding new customers by the number of people who purchased your product or service. If your cost per sale and your cost to create your products are less than the sales price, you’re making a profit. Yay!

      Dive deeper and analyze this cost for each of your offerings, if possible, to find the lowest cost per sale, and see if there is something you can do to attract even more customers to purchase it. Are there products or services that are less profitable? What changes do you need to make to increase profit or decrease cost?

      Got a Growing Business? You’re Invited!

      Join DreamHost’s Facebook group to connect with like-minded website owners and get advice from peers and experts alike!

      Breaking the Scalability Rules

      The suggestions here are a great starting place to help you attract more customers so you can scale your business online. But if you follow every strategy and best practice suggested for small business websites, yours will start to go a little stale. Do you really want your message to get lost amid the thousands of websites employing the same tactics and templates?

      Probably not.

      So take the advice we’ve given as a place to start. Look at your analytics to see what works best for your e-commerce business and audience, and try breaking a few rules.

      For example, take free content. We all love free content, but you are going to find it everywhere. That’s how the internet works. But do you have something really valuable that you can charge for? Curated recipes, exclusive knitting patterns, customized diet plans; valuable content that deserves to be behind a paywall? Did you know you can charge for an email newsletter if it offers enough value to the reader?

      Recently an unknown tech blogger built his business by creating a daily email update with posts analyzing or opining on news and technology — and charging monthly for it. The small cost came with great value to the customer, and it proved to be a successful growth strategy.

      The internet is always changing. That means it’s a great place to experiment with both tried-and-true methods and the latest digital marketing trends to see what works for your revenue growth. However you go about building a successful company, DreamHost is here to support you! Learn more about how our affordable hosting plans make it easy for you to create and maintain a digital presence.



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      10 Smart Ways to Effectively Secure Your WordPress Website


      You’ve worked hard to create your website and likely spent a ton of time and effort maintaining it. Your site may even be vital to your livelihood — you need those sweet, dollar, dollar bills to keep your business afloat.

      And that, friends, is why making your website as secure as possible is vitally important.

      So let’s get real about security. 

      WordPress is an excellent, secure platform out of the box, but there’s more you can (and should!) do to keep your site safe from creepsters with malicious intent. Many of these security enhancements are easy to implement and can be performed manually in mere minutes. Others simply require installing a particular plugin.

      In this article, I’ll guide you through 10 different strategies for upping the defenses on your WordPress fortress. But first, let’s go a little more into the weeds on why website security should matter to you.

      Securing a WordPress Site? Partner with DreamHost

      Leave migrating your site, installing WordPress, managing security and updates, and optimizing server performance to us. Now you can focus on what matters most: growing your website.

      Why Taking Steps to Secure Your WordPress Site Is Vital

      If you’re looking to create a secure site (an obvious “no duh”), choosing WordPress as your platform is an excellent way to start. It’s not only a flexible, powerful platform for building websites — it’s also remarkably secure out of the box.

      That’s because WordPress developers care about security and are dedicated to “hardening” the core platform as much as possible. Plus, they frequently release security-focused updates and patches, which will be automatically downloaded and installed on your site. This means your site will be well-equipped to deal with any new threats that pop up.

      Of course, no platform can be 100% secure. Hackers are hard at work trying to find their way into even the most well-protected sites (if only they’d use their powers for good, amirite?) And since WordPress powers more than 30% of the web, it’s popular enough to be a constant target

      It should go without saying, but if baddies do manage to break into your site, they can cause a lot of damage.

      For example, they can steal or otherwise compromise sensitive information, install malware, make changes to your site to suit their needs, or even bring it down entirely. This is harmful to both you and your users, and if you’re running a business,  it can mean lost customers and revenue.

      Not good at all.

      It’s vitally important to take additional steps to secure your WordPress website. You’ll want to put just as much time and effort into this endeavor as you spent designing your site in the first place (if not more). Fortunately for you, dear reader, there are lots of simple, quick ways to improve your site’s security, as well as some more complex techniques you may want to employ. 

      10 Smart Ways to Effectively Secure Your WordPress Website

      Hopefully, I’ve convinced you about the importance of maintaining a secure WordPress website. If not, I’m going to have to re-enroll in Persuasive Writing 101. Please don’t make me do that. 

      Glad you’re convinced (wink, wink)

      Throughout the rest of this article, I’ll introduce 10 handy strategies for making your site safer and reducing the chances of it being compromised. Plus, I’ll point you in the right direction to get started with each technique.

      You don’t have to implement every suggestion on this list — although you certainly can — but the more steps you take to secure your site, the lower your chances will be of encountering a disaster down the road.

      1. Use a Quality Host

      You can think of your web host as your website’s street on the Internet — it’s the place where your site “lives.” 

      Like a good school district matters to your kid’s future (so they say; I turned out fine), the quality of your website’s home base counts in a lot of big ways.

      A solid hosting provider can impact how well your site performs, how reliable it is, how large it can grow, and even how highly it ranks in search engines. The best hosts offer many useful features, excellent support, and a service tailored to your chosen platform.

      As you’ve probably already guessed, your web host can also have a significant impact on your site’s security. There are several security benefits to choosing a solid hosting service, including:

      • A quality host will constantly update its service, software, and tools to respond to the latest threats and eliminate potential security breaches.
      • Web hosts often offer various targeted security features, such as SSL/TLS certificates and DDoS protection. You should also get access to a Web Application Firewall (WAF), which will help monitor and block serious threats to your site.
      • Your web host will most likely provide a way to back up your site (in some cases, even carrying it out for you), so if you’re hacked, you can easily revert to a stable, previous version.
      • If your host offers reliable, 24/7 support, you’ll always have someone to help you out if you do run into a security-related issue.

      This list should give you a good starting point to work from when looking for a host for your new site, or even if you’re thinking about changing hosts. You’ll want to find one that offers all of the features and functionality you’ll need, plus has a reputation for reliability and excellent performance.

      DreamPress is WordPress-specific hosting that’s fast, reliable, scalable, and, of course, secure. DreamPress includes a pre-installed SSL/TSL certificate and provides a dedicated WAF designed with rules built to protect WordPress sites and block hacking attempts. You’ll also get automated backups, 24/7 support from WordPress experts, and Jetpack Premium — a plugin that can add many additional security features to your site — at no additional cost.

      With DreamPress, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that your site is protected. Our hosting service even takes care of many of the following security-enhancing steps for you — although we still encourage you to read on to learn what extra measures you can take.  

      After all, safety first, kids!

      Get More with DreamPress

      DreamPress Plus and Pro users get access to Jetpack Professional (and 200+ premium WordPress themes) at no added cost!

      2. Switch Your Site to HTTPS

      Let’s talk more about an SSL/TLS certificate. This enables you to switch your site to HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) — a more secure version of HTTP. These are important security concepts to understand but simple to grasp even if you’ve never heard of them before.

      HTTP is the protocol that transfers data between your website and any browser trying to access it. When a visitor clicks on your home page, all of your content, media, and website code are sent through this protocol to the visitor’s location. 

      While this is necessary, of course, it does introduce some potential security issues. Baddies can try to intercept the data while it is in transit and use it for their own nefarious purposes.

      HTTPS solves this problem! It does the same thing as HTTP but also encrypts your site’s data while it’s traveling from one point to another, so it can’t be easily accessed. 

      Initially, HTTPS was used mainly for sites handling sensitive customer information, such as credit card details. However, it’s becoming increasingly common for all sites, and big names such as WordPress and Google have been pushing for its widespread implementation

      To switch your site over to HTTPS, you’ll first need an SSL/TLS certificate. This communicates to browsers that your site is legitimate and its data is properly encrypted. You can also get one for free from certain sites, such as Let’s Encrypt.

      A quality host will typically provide an SSL/TLS certificate as part o your hosting package. In fact, at DreamHost, we offer Let’s Encrypt certificates for free with all of our hosting plans!

      Once you have an SSL/TLS certificate installed on your site, you’ll simply need to implement HTTPS. Your host may take care of this for you, although it’s also fairly easy to do yourself. If you’ve chosen to go with DreamPress, the stretch limo of hosting, your site will be created using HTTPS from the start. Roll out!

      3. Create Secure Login Credentials

      This one is a “no s***, Sherlock” suggestion, but folks, it’s really important to select your login credentials carefully. Like really, really important! 

      Why? This makes it harder for a sketchy weirdo to break into your site. You probably have plenty of experience choosing strong usernames and passwords for other accounts across the web — doing the same for your WordPress website is a big deal.

      When you create your site, you’ll be given the opportunity to create a login username and password. The username will default to admin, although you can change it if you’d like (and probably should). But since there are various ways for people to find out what your WordPress username is, you can stick with the default option if you want to. 

      Your password, however, is crucially important, and you’ll want to choose a strong one. There’s recently been a U-turn of sorts on how to choose a strong password, with a recommendation of a simple four-word phrase trumping the classic mixture of random letters, numbers, and symbols. It’s a method that has been popular in some circles for a while.

      If all the talk of choosing a password makes your head spin, we recommend sticking with WordPress’ own password generator as it automatically generates an (almost) ironclad password directly within the WordPress back end. Just be sure to record your credentials somewhere safe, like an encrypted password manager, so you don’t forget them.

      If you’ve already created your site and chose less-than-ideal login credentials initially, you can still change them without too much trouble. You can alter your username by creating a new user, giving it the administrator role and attributing all your content to it, and then deleting your original account.

      As for your password, you can simply go to Users > All Users from your WordPress admin dashboard, click on your username and enter a new password on the Edit User screen.

      4. Enable a Web Application Firewall

      You’re probably familiar with the concept of a firewall — a program that helps to block all sorts of unwanted attacks. Most likely, you have some kind of firewall on your computer. A Web Application Firewall (WAF) is simply a firewall designed specifically for websites. It can protect servers, specific websites, or entire groups of sites.

      A WAF on your WordPress site will function as a barrier between your website and the rest of the web. A firewall monitors incoming activity, detects attacks, malware, and other unwanted events, and blocks anything it considers a risk. #winning

      If you’ve opted for our DreamPress package, you can relax; you won’t need an additional firewall. DreamPress includes a built-in WAF that will monitor your site for threats and block malicious users and programs from gaining access. No action required on your part.

      DreamHost also offers DreamShield, our in-house malware scanning service. When you enable DreamShield on your hosting account, we’ll scan your site weekly for malicious code. If we find anything suspicious, you’ll be notified immediately via email.

      Protect Your Website with DreamShield

      For just $3/month, our premium security add-on scans your site weekly to ensure it is free of malicious code.

      5. Implement Two-Factor Authentication

      Before we move on, there’s one more technique to address: two-factor authentication (which also goes by two-step authentication and a variety of other, similar names). The term refers to the two-step process you’ll need to follow when logging into your site. This takes a little more time on your end but goes a long way towards keeping hackers out.

      Two-factor authentication involves using a smartphone or other device to verify your login. First, you’ll visit your WordPress site and enter your username and password as usual. A unique code will then be sent to your mobile device, which you’ll need to provide to complete logging in. This enables you to prove your identity by showing you have access to something solely yours — such as a particular phone or tablet.

      As with many WordPress features, two-factor authentication is easy to add with a dedicated plugin. Two Factor Authentication is a solid choice — it’s created by reliable developers, compatible with Google Authenticator, and will enable you to add this functionality to your site without fuss.

      Another choice is the Two-Factor plugin, which is well known for its reliability and was built mainly by core WordPress developers. As with any plugin in this category, the learning curve is a little steep, but it will get the job done and is very secure. If you’re willing to spend a little money, you can also check out Jetpack’s Clef-like premium solution.

      Whatever route you choose, make sure to plan ahead with your team if relevant, since you’ll need to gather their phone numbers and other information to get started. With that, your login page is now secured and ready to go.

      6. Add New Plugins and Themes Carefully (And Update Them Often)

      The ready availability of themes and plugins is one of the best things about using WordPress. With these handy tools, you can make your site look just right and add nearly any feature or functionality you can think of. 

      Not all plugins and themes are created equally, though.

      Developers who aren’t careful or don’t have the right level of experience can create plugins that are unreliable or insecure — or, just downright sucky. They might use poor coding practices that leave holes hackers can easily exploit or unknowingly interfere with crucial functionality.

      This all means you need to be very careful about the themes and plugins you choose to add to your site. Each one should be vetted to ensure it’s a solid option that won’t hurt your site or cause problems. There are many elements to keep in mind, but the following advice will help you select quality tools:

      • Check user ratings and reviews to learn whether other people have had a good experience with the plugin or theme in question.
      • Take a look at how recently the plugin or theme has been updated. If it’s been longer than six months, chances are it isn’t as secure as it could be.
      • Install new plugins and themes one at a time, so if anything goes wrong, you’ll know what the cause was. Also, be sure to back up your site before adding anything to it.
      • Get your plugins and themes from trustworthy sources, such as the WordPress.org Theme and Plugin Directories, ThemeForest and CodeCanyon, and reliable developer websites.

      Finally, your work isn’t done once you’ve installed the plugins and themes you want to your site.

      You’ll also need to keep them up to date to ensure they work well together and are secured against the latest threats. Fortunately, this is quite easy — you’ll simply need to go to your WordPress dashboard, look for the red notifications telling you there are themes and/or plugins with available updates, and click on update now next to each one.

      You can also update your plugins in a batch by selecting all of them and then hitting the update button, either here or in the WordPress panel. This is a quicker option, but keep in mind, updating all of them at once could make it more difficult to diagnose any problems that arise as a result of the updates. If you’re making sure to only choose reliable plugins and themes, however, this shouldn’t be a problem.

      Before we move on, it’s worth mentioning that you should also keep WordPress itself up to date. Smaller patches and security updates will be added automatically, but you may need to implement major updates on your own (again, this is very simple to do). This probably goes without saying at this point, but DreamHost handles these updates for you, so you won’t need to worry. 

      Remember: leaving WordPress or any of your themes and plugins out of date is a risk you don’t want to take.

      7. Configure Your File Permissions

      Let’s talk technical for a moment. 

      A lot of the information, data, and content on your WordPress site is stored in a series of folders and files. These are organized into a hierarchical structure, and each one is given a permissions level. The permissions on a WordPress file or folder determine who can view and edit it and may be set to allow access to anyone, only to you, or almost anything in between.

      File permissions are represented by a three-digit number in WordPress, and each digit has a meaning. The first digit stands for an individual user (the site’s owner), the second digit for the group (for example, members of your site), and the third for everyone in the world. The number itself means that the user, group, or world:

      • 0: Has no access to the file.
      • 1: Can only execute the file.
      • 2: Can edit the file.
      • 3: Can edit and execute the file.
      • 4: Can read the file.
      • 5: Can read and execute the file.
      • 6: Can read and edit the file.
      • 7: Can read, edit, and execute the file.

      So if a file is given a permissions level of 640, for example, it means the primary user can read and edit the file, the group can read the file but not edit it, and everyone else cannot access it. This may seem overly complicated, but it’s important to ensure that each person only has the level of access to your site’s files and folders you want them to have.

      WordPress recommends setting folders to a permissions level of 755 and files to 644. You’re pretty safe sticking to these guidelines, although you can set up any combination you’d like. Just remember that it’s best not to give anyone more access than they absolutely need, especially to core files.

      You’ll also want to keep in mind that the ideal permissions settings will depend somewhat on your hosting service, so you may want to find out what your host recommends

      Note: You should be very careful when making changes to your permissions levels — choosing the wrong values (like the dreaded 777) can make your site inaccessible.

      8. Keep the Number of Users on Your Site Low

      If you’re running your WordPress site solo, you don’t need to worry about this step. Just don’t give anyone else an account on your site, and you’ll be the only person who can make changes.

      I call this strategy “With my, by myself.”

      However, many humans like other people and do eventually add more than one user to their website. You may want to let other authors contribute content, or you might need people to help edit that content and manage your site. It’s even likely you’ll find yourself with an entire team of users who’ll regularly access your WordPress site and make their own changes.

      This can be beneficial in many ways and is sometimes even necessary. However, it’s also a potential security risk. 

      The more people you let into your site, the higher the chance that someone will make a fat-finger mistake or that a user will cause problems just to be a putz. For this reason, it’s smart to keep the user count on your site as low as possible while not hampering its ability to grow. In particular, try to limit the number of administrators and other user roles with high privileges.

      Here are a few more suggestions:

      • Limit each user to only what permissions are necessary for them to do their job. Obvs.
      • Encourage users to use strong passwords (remember No. 3?).
      • Try to stick with one administrator, if possible, and a small group of editors.
      • Give users who have left the site or no longer need access the boot.
      • Consider downloading a plugin, such as Members, which provides a user interface for WordPress’ role and capabilities system.

      9. Track Your Admin Area Activity

      If you’ve got multiple users, it can be a good idea to keep tabs on what they’re all doing on the site. Tracking activity in your WordPress admin area will help you spot when other users are doing things they shouldn’t and can indicate whether unauthorized users have gained access. 

      When a weird change has been made or something suspicious installed, you’ll want to be able to find out who was behind the activity. Plugins got you covered.

      Most larger security plugins don’t provide this functionality out of the box, so you’ll want to find a dedicated solution. If you’d like to take a hands-off approach, Simple History lives up to its name by creating a streamlined, easy-to-understand log of important changes and events on your site. 

      For more involved tracking features, you can also check out WP Security Audit Log, which keeps an eye on just about everything that happens on your site and offers many useful, premium add-ons.

      Once you have a suitable plugin installed, it’s a smart idea to check the log periodically for anything out of the ordinary. If something happens on your site that you weren’t expecting or bugs suddenly pop up, look through the most recent activity. 

      10. Back Up Your Site Regularly

      I’d be lying if I said there was a magic solution for protecting your website from all threats. Even if you implement every suggestion on this list, there’s still a chance you may experience a security breach on your site. 

      Hackers are good at what they do. 

      You’ve just got to beat them at their game. A comprehensive security plan means preparing for what you’ll do if the worst happens, even while you’re trying to ensure it never does.

      Backing up your site on a regular basis is the simplest and best way to safeguard it in the event of a disaster. If you have a recent backup handy, you can restore your site to the way it was before it was hacked or otherwise harmed. This will help you fix the issue and move on as quickly as possible.

      Of course, you’ll want to be smart about the way you create and use your backups. The following tips are a good start:

      • Keep more than one backup. A good rule of thumb is to have at least three recent backups on hand at all times since it’s possible your most recent backup could have issues you haven’t yet noticed.
      • Save your backups in multiple external locations, such as cloud storage and physical hard drives.
      • Set up and stick to a consistent backup schedule. The frequency and timing are up to you, although there are plenty of solid recommendations you can follow.

      In addition to your regular backup schedule, it’s always smart to create an extra backup of your site before making any changes to it. So (nudge, nudge) before implementing any of these security-boosting techniques, make sure you have a recent backup ready to go.

      Ready to Tackle WordPress Security Issues?

      Whether you need help navigating the WordPress dashboard, fixing incorrect database credentials, or dealing with a brute force attack, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly digest so you never miss an article.

      WordPress Security: Locking It Up

      True fact: if your website is hacked, you’ll spend hours (even days!) trying to repair the damage. You may permanently lose data or see your personal information compromised — or worse, your clients’ data.

      That’s why you’ve got to put a whole lotta time and energy into making sure that situation never occurs. Otherwise, you’re likely to lose valuable business and income while trying to repair the damage.

      These 10 WordPress security tips should help. Some are simple tweaks. Others affect your entire site, such as switching to HTTPS or adding an SSL certificate. Of course, you’ll also want to make sure your site runs on a secured WordPress host.

      Our DreamPress hosting (with free WordPress migration) is specifically designed for the WordPress environment. Plus, if you ever do encounter a security issue, we’ve got you covered with automatic daily backups, a weekly malware scan, and our support team of WordPress experts!



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      How to Set SMART Goals for Your Website (In 4 Steps)


      When you run a website, it can sometimes feel like you’re pulled in many directions at once. There are sales to make, content to publish, and customers to respond to. With so many obligations, it can be easy to lose sight of why you started your business in the first place.

      However, setting Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely (SMART) goals for your website can help you focus your energy on what is most important. This concentrated effort can result in measurable progress toward a better site.

      In this article, we’ll explain what SMART goals are, discuss why they matter for your site, and provide you with a few examples. Then we’ll walk you through how to set SMART goals in four simple steps. Let’s get started!

      We’ll Support Your Dream

      Whatever your goals, we’ll be right there with you, making sure your site is fast, secure, and always up. Plans start at $2.59/mo.

      An Introduction to SMART Goals

      As we mentioned above, SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Goals that meet these five criteria tend to be more effective than overly broad, ambitious, or ambiguous ones.

      Making more money” is a fairly common goal, for example, but it doesn’t fit the definition of a SMART goal. However, with a little tweaking, it could.

      Here’s a quick breakdown of what each element entails and how it could be applied to turn the above goal into a SMART one:

      • Specific. A specific goal is narrow in scope and focuses on a single target. Getting as precise as possible with a goal comes in handy when building the necessary steps to achieve it. This gives you a clear bullseye to aim for. For example, how do you plan on making more money, and what resources will you use in the process?
      • Measurable. If a goal isn’t measurable, there’s no way of knowing if or when you reach it. Typically, creating a measurable goal involves choosing a number or quantitative metric to pay attention to, such as a percentage or dollar amount. For example, how much more money do you want to make? Whatever metric(s) you decide on, you’ll also need a way to track your progress, such as a bookkeeping system that measures your income.
      • Attainable. When it comes to your business, it’s not bad to dream big. However, you also want to be realistic. If your revenue has steadily grown by 5% per month, attempting to increase it by 20% may be impractical, especially if you’ve made no significant changes to your products, pricing, or promotions.
      • Relevant. No matter how small, every goal you set should align with and get you closer to your long-term objectives. Consider why you created your site in the first place. For example, increasing profits is a relevant goal if your site’s primary purpose is generating income. However, if it’s to showcase your writing in hopes of landing a book deal, a more relevant goal might be to increase readership.
      • Timely. SMART goals need to have a deadline or timeframe. Without a sense of urgency, you may not be motivated to achieve the goal. Therefore, give yourself enough time to work on your plan, but not so much that you procrastinate. For example, you might want to see your profits increase by the end of the quarter.

      As you can see, with a little fine-tuning, it’s possible to take a vague goal (such as making more money) and turn it into a SMART goal that is more helpful and effective. Now let’s dive into why it’s necessary to set these types of goals for your website.

      Why SMART Goals Matter for Your Site

      Setting a SMART goal isn’t as simple as just stating what you want. You need to do some research and serious thinking to develop a goal that matches the SMART criteria.

      So why is this strategy worth the effort?

      SMART goals can be a useful tool for your site because they can help you see what’s working and what isn’t. If you’re just starting out, having goals can encourage you to keep an eye on your site’s metrics, which can be a hard habit to get into.

      Tracking a goal can help you understand which metrics are crucial to pay attention to and provide you with some motivation to keep monitoring those numbers. What’s more, it can help you accomplish your goals faster by forcing you to focus on the most critical objectives of your website.

      Here are a few good goal examples:

      Overall, working on SMART goals can give you an idea of where you’re currently at, what you might want to achieve, and how you can get there. The extra effort that goes into setting goals like this can pay off in the long run.

      How to Set SMART Goals for Your Website (In 4 Steps)

      By now, you probably have a solid grasp on what SMART goals are and why they matter. Let’s move on to discussing how you can set them for your own website in just four simple steps.

      Step 1: Identify What Can Be Improved

      The first step is to find the aspects of your website that could be a bit better. One way to do this is by identifying and interviewing stakeholders, which usually means department heads. However, if you’re the only employee, get ready to put on all your different hats.

      Spend time exploring and thinking about your website from various perspectives, and note your observations.

      For example, have a look at your content. Is it engaging and valuable? Also, look at your content creation process and think about whether you can improve it or change it to be more efficient.

      Additionally, it’s smart to consider your site from a sales, customer support, and IT perspective. If you’re having trouble with this, it might help to dig into your sales reports or customer inquiries to try and pinpoint common or recurring issues that crop up.

      Step 2: Determine a Reference Point

      Next, you’ll want to set a reference point by determining where your website currently stands. If you don’t do this now, it will be difficult to tell if your efforts have any effect. This prep work can help you set goals that matter and actually move your business forward. In other words, this is a large part of creating relevant goals.

      For example, you may be planning to put some extra time and energy into getting more site traffic. However, if you ultimately want to make more money, you need to focus on getting the right traffic, not just more of it. After all, there’s a difference between visitors and customers.

      To increase the quality of your traffic, you may want to try creating stronger, more tailored content and making updates to what you already have. You can also try looking at your existing content from a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) standpoint.

      Yoast SEO can give you an idea of where you’re at.

      The Yoast SEO website homepage.

      This is a freemium WordPress plugin that analyzes your site content and makes suggestions for improving it using target keywords. It can also be useful for performing an SEO audit to use as a reference point.

      Of course, the SEO tools and solutions you use to figure out where your site stands depend on the goals you’re setting. However, it’s essential to have a performance baseline to work from.

      Step 3: Set Some Goals

      Now that you’ve gathered some information and determined a reference point, it’s time to start setting your goals. While it can be tempting to chase after a few at once, try to limit yourself to no more than two goals at a time.

      This can be difficult if you have a lot to accomplish, but you’ll likely make more progress if you laser focus your efforts. Also, some of your goals may be short-term in nature.

      For example, if you’d like to create a new lead magnet, you probably won’t need an entire month to do it. More likely, this is something you can take care of in an afternoon of dedicated work.

      Once you’ve selected the goals you’re going to pursue, make sure to write them down. Put them in your calendar, your day planner, on a sticky note on your monitor — any place that you’ll see them every day.

      Step 4: Track Your Goals

      As you work toward your goal, it’s critical that you track the key metrics that will inform you about your progress. Doing this can help you determine what is and isn’t working.

      If your goal is to get more traffic to your blog, increase engagement or conversions rates, or something similar, you might want to use Google Analytics to see if you’re hitting your desired numbers.

      Google Analytics data analysis tool.

      Remember: If you don’t meet your goal, that’s OK!

      Use it as a learning experience and try to figure out why you fell short. Perhaps the goal was too ambitious, or you just need to change your approach and try again.

      The important thing is to try not to be discouraged. Even if you didn’t reach your goal, you likely came away with valuable information to use in the future and make some improvements along the way.

      Ready to Set Some SMART Goals for Your Website?

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      SMART Goal Setting

      Working without a clear idea of what you want or how to accomplish it can be incredibly draining. Setting a few SMART goals gives you a better chance of directing your energy where it will result in the biggest payoffs.

      For best results, try following these four steps when setting your own SMART goals:

      1. Identify what can be improved. Take some time to evaluate your website and processes from different perspectives.
      2. Determine a reference point. You’ll have a much easier time setting SMART goals and measuring your progress if you have a clearly-defined starting point.
      3. Set some goals. Use the information you’ve gathered to create goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
      4. Track your goals. Monitor your progress as you work through your plan, and be prepared to make changes if you don’t hit your goal the first time.

      If your goals include driving more traffic to your website, you’ll want to choose a quality hosting provider such as DreamHost. Check out our high-performance, reliable managed WordPress hosting plans to learn how we can help!



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