Website support terminology
If you’re new to website design and support, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the buzz words, acronyms, and technical jargon. It bugs us too, so we gathered some brief descriptions to help clarify our website support plans.
Our Level 01 support plan includes the following features:
Daily website backups
A website backup is a complete and exact copy of your website — text content, images, settings, plugins, everything — that is compressed into a “zip” file and stored in a secure location on your host’s server. This is an automated process, done on a daily basis, that stores backups for the previous 30 days. If needed, we can restore your site instantly from any backup at the click of a button.
Benefit: If your website crashes, we can restore it from a backup that’s less than 24 hours old.
Monthly offsite website backups
In addition to daily server backups, once a month we transfer a complete copy of your website to an offsite digital storage facility — A different location than your host. This is done to protect you in the unlikely even that your host has a complete meltdown and loses all of your data. We currently use Amazon Web Services (AWS) for offsite backups.
Benefit: If your host — and all of their storage facilities — crashes, we can restore your website with a backup that’s less than 30 days old. (We’ve never had this happen, but you never know.)
Regular security audits
Once a week, we run a thorough scan of your website using Sucuri, a website security and protection platform. These scans not only check for code vulnerabilities and malware (malicious software), but make sure that your website is not blacklisted by any internet auditing firms.
Benefit: If your site ever gets hacked or blacklisted, we’ll know and respond appropriately.
WordPress is the content management system (CMS) platform on which your website runs. It’s a fairly complicated beast, so its code is revised frequently to make enhancements, fix bugs, and patch any security weaknesses. It’s important that these updates are reviewed and applied as soon as possible.
Benefit: Timely platform updates keep your site fast, safe and reliable.
A plugin is a separate helper application that provides additional features or functions. Some plugins are created by the same folks that built the platform (WordPress), but most are built by third-party developers. Most are free, but many are not. In any case, just like WordPress itself, these plugins need to be updated to the latest version on a regular basis.
Benefit: Expedient plugin updates keep your site secure and functioning properly.
Every WordPress website starts with a theme — A collection of styles, colors, typefaces, navigation elements, page layouts and user interactions. These are typically created with a template structure to ensure consistency throughout the website. Some themes are custom built on high-performance frameworks, others are sold cheaply at online marketplaces. Not unlike WordPress and plugins, themes must be updated occasionally also.
Benefit: Themes don’t need updating that frequently, but when they do it’s generally important. We want your site to always look its best.
Browser compatibility testing
Desktop web browsers — like Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge — are the software programs you use to browse the web. All browsers render things a bit differently, so it’s important to check your website on the most popular ones.
Benefit: Your site will look its best in the latest version of all browsers (and usually the prior three versions as well).
Mobile device testing
Similar to browser compatibility, mobile device testing involves checking your website on a collection of popular mobile devices (smart phones, tablets, etc) from various manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and Motorola. Over 50% of all web browsing now occurs on mobile devices, so this is a critical component of website evaluation.
Benefit: Your website looks as good on dinky devices as it does on giant desktop screens.
Website performance audits
Google recently introduced a new collection of page ranking factors referred to as Core Web Vitals. We won’t go into the gory details, but in a nutshell it means that your website has to load fast and be immediately usable if you want to rank well in Google search results. We regularly test your site to make sure its “vitals” are as healthy as can be.
Benefit: We want your website to be as speedy as possible. All else being equal, the fastest site wins.
Access to premium plugins
WordPress plugins come in two varieties: Free and paid (premium). We actually prefer the premium kind because they’re usually better written, more secure, have superior performance, and much better support. When we find exceptional plugins, we like to share them with our regular clients. Usually at no charge.
Note: To clarify, most premium plugins aren’t terribly expensive; the better ones range in price from $100 to $300 per year, depending on features and support level.
Benefit: Your website deserves the best built plugins available — And that’s all we use.
Advanced form processing
This is a biggy. Most businesses want an online presence to generate leads of some sort: sales, appointments, information requests, or just general inquiries. Usually this involves some sort of online form that visitors complete and submit, with a notification being sent to the business owner.
Unfortunately, most website hosts aren’t set up to process email effectively and reliably — Nor should they be. The machinery required to process email and form notifications is a completely different contraption than web hosting, and requires complicated software and rigorous monitoring. Every site we support has access to our transactional email processing servers at no additional cost. Plus, we test your forms religiously every month.
Benefit: If your livelihood depends on website leads, you can’t rely on flaky technology to deliver them. We share the most robust systems available.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic (free) search engine results. To simplify things, SEO can be broken down into 5 distinct disciplines (sometimes called pillars):
- Technical SEO
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
- Brand awareness
Technical SEO involves building sites that search engines can easily find and understand. It covers all of the technical aspects of your website that affect SEO, from hosting and site speed, to XML sitemaps and meta robots tags. The three elements of good technical SEO are:
Note: SEO is a controversial and monstrous topic. For a broader discussion of the underlying principles see Fundamentals of SEO.
Benefit: It takes time and discipline, but SEO can help improve your search engine rankings — Leading to more traffic and more customers.
Website Operations Manual
We create a Website Operations Manual specifically for each client and their unique configuration. The purpose of the manual is to provide a simple and direct method to access all critical information about a website. For reference, it also includes a recommended maintenance schedule, a few training resources, and some quick troubleshooting tips that may come in handy if you can’t get hold of us.
Benefit: No searching for login credentials when you have a website emergency. And that day will come.
Unlimited support by email
You can contact us by email at any time, and as frequently as you like. We usually respond within two (2) hours. We never call in sick and we always work weekends.
Benefit: Stuff happens when you least expect it. We’ll be there.
Monthly Activity Report
Every time we touch your website — whether to update a plugin or revise content — we record that activity for future reference. In the event something goes haywire, this can help us pinpoint activity that may have contributed to the problem. At the end of each month we compile these log entries into an easy-to-read report that we share with you. It also includes details regarding performance audits, security probes, and even minor content revisions.
Benefit: These reports can be a lot to wade through, but they’re an invaluable tool for reference and troubleshooting.
This sounds a bit vague, we know. Content revision is simply re-arranging, improving, or correcting text content that already exists. Often it’s just fixing typos or deleting stuff. Sometimes there’s a fine line between revision and creation, but we’re not real picky about it. In short, we’re happy to fix stuff already there, and add content that you provide.
Benefit: You don’t need to worry about typos, minor content changes or swapping out a photo or two. Just send us instructions and we’ll handle it for you.
In addition to all Level 01 features, the Level 02 support plan includes the following:
Content creation is a marketing process: From industry research to topic selection to final editing and publishing. In short, we do all the work — With your approval, of course. Most web design studios insist that the client provide all the content, in ready to publish form. Not us. We’re happy to help.
Benefit: Great written content is the key to being found, indexed and ranked by Google.
Social media sharing
Social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc) sharing is simply the process of sharing existing content — yours or someone else’s — on your social media news feed. This is usually accompanied with a short caption or description. Technically, it involves little more than copying and pasting a website address and clicking a few buttons. It’s not terribly complicated, but should be done regularly and in alignment with your overall marketing strategy.
Benefit: Regularly sharing stuff on social media demonstrates “proof of life.” And a lot of folks check your social media profiles before visiting your website.
Introduction to Google search tools
We’ll help you install and decipher two free Google search gadgets. These tools aren’t mandatory, but if you’re into statistics — and the minutiae of website traffic — these are pretty much the standard:
- Google Analytics: Provides information on how website users interact with your site.
- Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools): Provides insights on how search engines interact with your site.
Benefit: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. We can help you sort through the nonsense and focus on a few key metrics — And how to use them to get more customers.
Scheduled phone support
We’d be happy to speak with you by phone at any scheduled time. Just get in touch by email and we’ll set up a specific time when we’re both alert and available.
Benefit: We’ll have more productive conversations that are planned, uninterrupted, and have an agenda.
Document and PDF creation
Sometimes a web page just won’t do — You need something more portable and shareable. In that case we’d be happy to help you create a suitable short-form document (no books) and convert it into a handy PDF (portable document format) file for easy downloading.
Benefit: PDF downloads are immensely popular and can be used for guides, press releases, simple forms, and more.
Great photos can make or break a website, but few clients have the time or inclination to research and find acceptable images. And, sourcing custom imagery can be an expensive task if you’re not sure how to navigate the complex world of commercial photographers. We can help take the sting out of this process.
Benefit: Great website images help boost visitor engagement and conversion rates.
In addition to all Level 02 features, the Level 03 support plan includes the following:
Social media publishing
Social media publishing is similar to sharing, but involves posting original content created by us. This content can initially be created for your website, then shared, or it can be created for a specific social channel. A good example of social media publishing would be the creation of unique images and carousels for your Instagram account.
Benefit: Original social media content has a better chance of getting shared by others. This drives engagement — A strong social authority signal for search engines.
Email marketing is the act of sending a commercial message — typically to a group of people — using email. Despite all the hype about Facebook ads and YouTube videos, there’s still no better way to connect with your customers and grow your business than through email marketing. Yet the vast majority of businesses aren’t using it effectively. Why? Because it’s complicated and a lot of work.
Benefit: Get permission from your potential customers before you contact them. Sound confusing? It is.
Third party review
It’s always nice to have an unbiased second pair of eyes to look at your website content. A third pair is even better. For special clients we regularly enlist the assistance of objective third parties (friends, colleagues, industry experts) to review your website content for readability, relevance, accuracy, usability and usefulness. This is one of the coolest services we offer.
Benefit: The more feedback we get, the better your website will be.
There’s nothing more effective and rewarding than a face-to-face conversation. Unfortunately — times being what they are — this isn’t as simple as it used to be. No matter, when possible we try to engage on a personal level at least once every three months.
Benefit: Holler at us in person.
Google Business Profile management
Google Business Profile (GBP) (formerly Google My Business) is a free Google listing tool for local businesses and organizations to manage their presence on Google Search and Google Maps. That’s the good news. The bad news is that GBP changes frequently, and isn’t terribly consistent or intuitive. We’ve been fiddling with it for years and have it pretty much figured out. For now.
Benefit: Make it easier for customers to find your business, understand your story, and get in touch with you.
Everyone says WordPress is easy to use and manage. The truth is, it’s not. WordPress is complicated, even for experts. If you’d like to get some deeper knowledge of the platform but are anxious about going it alone, we can help with some one-on-one instruction.
Benefit: Get more comfortable using the most popular content management system in the world.