5 Popular Web Hosting Companies Vulnerable to Simple Takeover Hacks

Security vulnerabilities are nothing new when it comes to tech. Every day, we are increasingly and often unknowingly putting ourselves at risk for digital intruders. Doorbells, hot tubs, baby monitors, Facebook, Google+ and yes, website hosting companies to name a few. The consequences include potential access to your accounts, sensitive information, or worse.

A recent report by Paulos Yibelo, an experienced security researcher, found that five popular web hosting companies were easily hacked by one or more means:

  1. Bluehost
  2. Dreamhost
  3. HostGator
  4. OVH
  5. iPage

Paulos identified dozens of bugs that vary in severity and allow hackers access to sensitive information, full account takeovers or both.

Given the importance of security, it’s worth noting that the article says the vulnerabilities have been fixed. That said, it may be time to invest in a higher quality hosting company, especially if you use a popular content management system (CMS) like WordPress.

Leaving WordPress Drops Traffic by 44% (and Tangentially, Why Mockingbird is Awesome)

Sometimes our clients leave us. And it always makes me sad…especially when they move to a different provider, who insists on them paying for an “updated” website and locking them in for a multi year contract. Especially, when they were already on a very good, well built WordPress site. But it’s even worse, when this website redesign underperforms.  Immediately and drastically. Our ex client, experienced this as a 44% decrease in website traffic that rolled out immediately after her new site launched. No new content, no changes in backlink profile, no changes to her local tactics or platform. Just a new website on a vendor’s proprietary platform, that frankly can’t compete with her, ahem, “old” (and in this case, the site was about 4 years old) WordPress site.

In the off chance that this was a random change in tracking infrastructure, we further validated the data above in Google Search Console – the results mirror the significant drop in search traffic – 44% in fact – once the law firm migrated away from WordPress.

Take this as yet another example of the value of a well coded WordPress website, which intrinsically outperforms proprietary platforms.

Now, not all WordPress sites are created equal – in fact many of the widely available and utilized templates are extremely poorly coded from an SEO perspective. (This is the part where I tangentially brag about our developers’ collective coding prowess.) And not all WordPress sites are fast – great hosting (in our case, WPEngine) is important – efficient code is important – expertly compressed imagery is important. In our case, we tend to obsess over those things. Now our ex client is seeing a 44% drop in her website traffic.  And because she is heavily dependent on the web for client development, presumably a 44% decrease in business. And it’s a real shame if she’s locked in for a multi-year commitment. I’m not saying you have to work with us – just be aware that platform matters. I apologize if this comes across as bitter…and yes, there’s a little bitter taste in my mouth…but I hope you can avoid the same mistakes she made, even if it’s not with Mockingbird.

How To Market to People Who Hate Lawyers in One Easy Picture

I just bumbled across the Browne Law Group while doing some competitive research in the greater Phoenix, AZ market. Sometimes I see work that I wish we had done, that I wish was mine so we could point at it and tell you…we’re awesome. And this is one of those sites. (But we didn’t, so I can’t.) Instead, I’m sharing this to try to inspire your mind to think beyond typical lawyer branding and positioning.

And let me tell you, this might not work for you. Your lawyerly sensibilities may be completely insulted by law books turned into a dumbbell, or triceps that are bigger than your thighs.

But you are totally wrong.

The anti-lawyer lawyer branding speaks deeply to prospective clients when evaluating a lawyer. You either love him or hate him. And because of that, a prospect’s consideration set when selecting a counsel among the entire legal market gets split in two: the anti lawyer vs. everyone else who pretty much all look the same. For those of you who live under a rock, the legal profession suffers from an overall negative perception among the general populace. So, being the non-lawyer lawyer seems like positioning with extremely broad appeal. And as a side note – it’s more than just killer branding and content – the underlying code on the site is solid as well.

I’ve been writing about this for years – prospects want to hire people who happen to be lawyers, instead of lawyers who happen to be people. Stop spending so much effort branding yourself as a lawyer and instead work on letting the person behind you shine. As for me…”hire lawyers with tattoos not combovers” kind of resonates with me (have you seen my melon?)

It’s not our work, but I wish it was. Byron – when you stumble across this post, know that I wish you’d fire your agency and give us a call. But don’t. You don’t need to – they are really good. But to anyone else, who has the guts to pull some real genuine branding (with or without ink), give us a call.

Rumor Mill: FindLaw transitioning sites to WordPress????

UPDATE: A second, well placed and completely unrelated source has corroborated FindLaw’s intent to migrate to WordPress.

On the phone with another law firm prospect today who told me her FindLaw rep had told her that they were transitioning websites from the proprietary FindLaw platform to WordPress. Now, this would be a major change in the online marketing world for lawyers and something that would really shake up the industry. I received two competing perspectives on this after I posted on Facebook:

Not surprising. Everyone has been leaving for years for their own WordPress sites so strategically it’s probably their only move. Be interesting to see how it pans out for them. – Shelly Fagin

 

We’ll see. My guess is this is just an instance of the FindLaw rep not knowing anything. You could honestly put 20 of them in a room together and still not have the cumulative web knowledge to update a paragraph on their own proprietary system…   – James Eichenberger*

Now – the theoretical economist in my believes that Shelly is right. Having spoken to perhaps a hundred FindLaw clients in detail over the past decade, the long term, captive nature of the proprietary platform and contracts is something clients resent. No one wants to be beholden to a vendor, especially when cheaper, better alternatives exist. This has been, perhaps, the primary reason we’ve easily been able to score deals with FindLaw clients. (To be 100% fair, I did lose one client back to FindLaw about two years ago and that eats at me like maggots feasting on a forgotten hamburger.)

Alternatively, the pragmatist in me suspects James is right…I just can’t see the impetus to move with the market, while you can still squeeze a little more profit (and captive clients) out of your big box brand recognition.

So – in the comments…anyone from Minnesota care to weigh in and let us know?

* – and oh, hahahahahaha I went to link out to Shelly and James’ respective sites, only to find I couldn’t find anything for James, so I moseyed on to his Facebook profile looking for a website (and a lawyer in need of serious SEO?), but no…James’ Work and Education on FB…

Oh James – a beer on me should you ever find yourself in Seattle.

 

How to Inadvertently Hide Your Content (And Gut Your Site) with Pop Ups

Got another call from a lawyer whose website, he thought, was underperforming. A quick review of the site shows why….

While the site is visually fine, note that all of his practice areas display as pop ups on the same URL…the individual practice area content doesn’t actually exists at his URL: http://grenierlawgroup.com/practice-areas/. (Note below – the URL for this practice area is stuck at /practice-areas/, as is all their other practice area content.

And you can see that Google can’t find any pages about specific practice areas:

I’ve seen this with attorney profile pages as well. So…when you are DIYing (and you really can) your websites…be sure that all of your content has a page (read: distinct URL) on which to reside.

It May Not Be Our Fault, But It’s Still Our Problem

In our lobby, we’ve recently installed The Mockingbird 10 Commandments – a list of simple principals through which we operate our business.  Every time anyone enters the office, they are reminded of the way we do business. (And yes, that’s a beer tap in the picture, and yes, I deliberately included it to communicate tech-nerdy, progressive, kind-of-out-there online agency.) One of my favorite commandments is the following:

It May Not Be Our Fault, But It’s Still Our Problem.

We worry about anything and everything online (and frequently offline) that may impact our clients’ business and take ownership of those issues, even if we had nothing to do with them.  One awesome example is the uptime monitor we built to ensure all of our clients’ sites are up and running – and we simply get pinged if there’s an issue. I suspect none of our clients actually know that we do this on their behalf, but we do. (It’s also fun to give a heads up to clients who leave us for a cheaper solution when their site goes down, but I digress.)

And when things go down – we’re the ones who deliver the news – which brings me to Commandment #4:

Proactively Deliver Bad News

So when our client (who is still on a third party

host – yet another reason to work with WPEngine, but I digress again) had their site go down at 4:28am this morning, we got pinged.  And we got on it.  And we are solving his problem – we found his hosting provider, notified them of the problem (turns out a bunch of their sites went down and they were unaware).  We’re working on getting his back up relaunched asap.

Even though it wasn’t our fault… it’s still our problem.

 

 

Authentic Images Are Worth It

Business Man Shaking Hands

We have all seen one of these photos. The man in a suit with the perfect smile doing “business things” in front of a blurry background. Stock photos are all over the internet. Many are high quality, but they often lack personality. Images can help humanize your brand. Instead of using images of freakishly good-looking young professionals in business suits, hire a photographer and block out an hour to take some group shots around the office. If money is tight and you have a digital camera, go the DIY route (just do some research on correct lighting as that will make a huge difference).

Don’t refrain from using an image of yourself or images of your team. Not only will it make your website more personable, there’s a good chance it will help your conversions. Marketingexperiments.com ran a case study on a consumer credit counseling service’s home page. The experiment ran a stock photo of a woman with a headset against a photo of the company’s actual founder. When the photo of the company’s founder was displayed, visitors were 35 percent more inclined to sign up for a free consultation.

If you have no choice but to use a stock photo, make sure it is high quality and relevant to the message you are trying to convey. Just because you like a photo, doesn’t mean you should use it. Make sure the image isn’t used too often or (more importantly) by any of your competitors. If you are using Google Chrome, right click on the image that you are considering and select “Search Google for Image.” This will bring up all locations and websites where that specific image is being used.

Google Reverse Image Search

No matter what your budget or time constraints may be, keep in mind that your customers want to relate and connect with you and your team. If there is any way to incorporate your own style over a stock image, you will stand out in the crowd.

Should law firms have a blog?

law firms with blogs
Not every law firm has a blog. In fact, most don’t.

The number of firms with blogs has been holding steady at about 26 percent. Still, the fact that only one in four law firms has a blog doesn’t stop the common misperception that it’s a marketing necessity. Like most things related to marketing, the question of whether you or your firm should have a blog has an unsatisfyingly vague answer: it depends.

The reality is, blogging can be an extremely effective tool for building a brand, differentiating your business, and driving inquiries. On the flip side, it can also be a huge time suck that detracts from other easier opportunities that would yield greater results.

A post from Above the Law on the value of lawyers having a blog makes the point nicely, stating:

“The thing about blogging, despite whatever anyone says, is that it’s work. It takes time and effort to regularly sit down in front of a blank screen and churn out 1,000 words. You have to enjoy writing or you’re not going to do it… blogging is a pie-eating contest, and the prize is more pie.”

What does that mean for you? Should your firm bother with having a blog?

Before you decide, answer the following questions.

  • Do you like writing?
  • Do you have a distinct voice or something interesting to say?
  • Will you be consistent in your efforts?
  • Is this the best use of your time?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no” then you have a pretty clear answer as to whether your firm should have a blog. As tempting as it is to follow the (perceived) norm, there’s a reason 75-percent of law firms aren’t making blogging a part of their marketing strategy. I can guarantee you it’s not because 3 out of 4 firms are too lazy to blog consistently (although some most certainly are) but rather because they’ve decided other efforts will yield better results.

You don’t need to blog to be successful

Anyone who tells you blogging is an essential part of your marketing strategy is being misleading at best and dishonest at worst. A great blog is a fantastic way to market yourself and your firm, but it’s also only one possible component of a successful marketing mix. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for being successful, and authenticity matters. If you’re not a natural writer, don’t have an interest in publishing content regularly, or have a laundry list of other items that need to be addressed, you should scrap the idea of blogging all together.

The only thing sadder than a “blog” page on your site with a list of articles that hasn’t been updated since 2015 is having an external blog that’s costing you a couple hundred dollars each month to be a “thought leader” no one knows about.

Be honest with yourself and set your firm up for success by only taking on a blog if you’re committed to making it work. You can’t dip a toe in and expect anything. You have to genuinely enjoy it, and even then, it’s hard work finding an audience. However, if time is money, think long and hard about what you’re giving up in order to write another post that gets 4 or 5 visits and 0 comments.

Optimizing Images for Search: The Basics

Images are important. They can improve SEO as well as break up text and help make your website or blog post aesthetically pleasing. However, large uncompressed images can slow your page speed and impact your ranking factor. With the majority of people using their mobile devices for web browsing rather than desktop pc’s or laptops, making sure that your images are optimized is vital. Follow these steps and you will be on your way to becoming an image optimizing machine.

Finding The Right Image

Whether it is the header image for your website, a featured image for your blog post or a product image for your web store, make sure that you are using an image that reflects what you are trying to accomplish. There are many great resources that provide free stock images however it is best if you can supply your own images or have professional images taken. Original images will always be better than stock images, but if you do not have the resources to take your own photos, free stock images will work as long as they are high-quality and not too tacky. A couple website that I frequent are:

There are plenty of other stock image sites, however make sure that you can legally use them and whether or not you need to provide attribution.

Choosing The Correct File Format

Whether you are using Adobe Photoshop, Affinity Photo, or any of the other photo editing programs available, you will need to figure out which filetype will be the best for your image. This could be confusing considering how many file options are available. In this post I will be going over two popular file formats, JPEG and PNG.

  • JPEG: This is one of the most common image file types on the internet. JPEGs do not support transparency within images like PNGs do. JPEGs keep file sizes small and is pretty much supported universally.
  • PNG: Unlike JPEG, PNGs support transparency and possess a better color range. On the downside, file sizes are larger than a JPEG.

Unless you need transparency, JPEG should be your first choice when deciding file format.

Correctly Naming Your Image

Using a proper file name for you image is important because you want Google and other search engines to know what the image is about. For example, let’s say that you took a photo of a sunset at the beach in Hawaii using your own digital camera. When you upload that photo to your computer, you might have seen something like DSC1234.jpg as the file name. When looking at the image, you can instantly tell that it’s a picture of a sunset at the beach. Unfortunately this isn’t the case for Google. Instead you want Google to see that the image is sunset-hawaii-beach.jpg.

Optimizing Your Image For Web

When posting an image on the web, your main goal is to decrease the file size as much as possible without losing too much quality. With websites like compressjpeg.com and compresspng.com this process is incredibly simple. Simply upload your image to the site and it will do everything for you. After the image has been compressed, you can make further changes to the image when you hover over the image and click on “settings” (shown below).

Once you’re happy with the changes you have made, simply download the image and you are ready to go!

If you have access to Photoshop and want an in-depth “hands-on” approach, you can read about compression and how to compress images in Photoshop here.

What Alt Text Is and Why You Need It

Alt text is the text that search engines use to understand what the image is. When we look at a picture of a sunset at a beach, we understand what is going on in the picture. At this time, search engines cannot recognize images unless you include alt text. If you are uploading your image to WordPress, all you need to do is update the alt text option within the edit image options. Another way to include alt text is simply through html. For example:

<img src=”sunset-hawaii-beach.jpg” alt=”Sunset Hawaii Beach” />

Done!

It’s that simple. By following the steps previously outlined, you will have images that look great and load quickly.