Shrewdies http://shrewdies.com Online Business Support Thu, 31 Jul 2014 08:33:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Virtual Currency with myCRED and BadgeOS http://shrewdies.com/virtual-currency-with-mycred-and-badgeos/ http://shrewdies.com/virtual-currency-with-mycred-and-badgeos/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:12:56 +0000 http://shrewdies.com/?p=260 Today, I created my own Virtual Currency. I show you how to start yours by installing myCRED and BadgeOS. These are two WordPress plugins that support creation of virtual currencies.

I need to integrate social networking in my online business model. I believe a virtual currency can support social networking by rewarding activities that benefit the group. Those activities also help learning and support by inspiring hands-on interaction. Finally, the virtual currency is a flexible alternative to real money so that profitability can be maintained whilst offering discounts for active members.

This is my first step towards offering learning and help through social networks, as an alternative to paying directly for courses and support contracts. Thus, I engage the widest audience, where members can chose to :

  • Contribute time as they learn
  • Contribute cash for direct help
  • Any mix of the two

Here is a quick guide to installing 2 plugins that are at the heart of administering my virtual currency. I will focus mainly on myCRED here. Later, I will cover the details of BadgeOS beyond simple plugin installation.

Since myCRED uses BadgeOS, I install BadgeOS first, though it can be added anytime.

BadgeOS Installation

BadgeOS installation is standard, except for one small detail.

Install as you would for any WordPress plugin by:

  1. Enter BadgeOS in the search box at Admin-Plugins-Add New. To make it easier, you can just paste the following onto the end of the browser URL when you are browsing your home page:/wp-admin/plugin-install.php?tab=search&s=BadgeOS&plugin-search-input=Search+Plugins
  2. Install from the list or by clicking ‘Details’ link, then Install Now, or click ‘Install Now’ link
  3. Click Activate link after plugin has installed

The small detail that makes this plugin install slightly different, is that you will now see a message:
Note: Credly Integration is turned on, but you must first enter your Credly credentials to allow earned badges to be shared by recipients (or Disable Credly Integration to hide this notice).

I will cover Credly Integration in my next post, so please ignore it for now, and let’s get on with myCRED installation.

myCRED Installation

Repeat the standard WordPress plugin installation routine for myCRED. You can find it quickly by pasting this link to the end of your home page URL:
/wp-admin/plugin-install.php?tab=search&s=myCRED&plugin-search-input=Search+Plugins

Now, when you Activate, you will see:
myCRED needs your attention. Run Setup

You cannot use myCRED until you complete the setup, but first consider some of the features you might need. I am only going to cover common basics here. If you have complex requirements, you have at least 3 sources of help:

  1. Ask in Shrewdies Website Support Network
  2. Ask in the Author’s myCRED support forum
  3. Ask in WordPress plugin repository myCRED support

It pays to think carefully about how you will operate myCRED as your internal currency system before you run the Setup process. Most parameters can be changed later, but the number of decimals cannot be changed. I believe that you have most flexibility by using the default setting of 2 decimal points, which is what most of us are familiar with. However, if you want to keep it simple with just whole numbers, you must decide now.

Tollar Virtual Currency imageYou will also have to think of a currency name, if you do not want to use the default ‘Points.’ You might want to choose a name that fits the subject of your website. I’ve opted for Tollars, a simple contraction of Keith Taylor Dollars ( T ). This makes it generic enough so that I can use myCRED across several websites, which is a useful feature built into myCRED’s Remote API.

myCRED initial Setup

The myCRED ‘Run Setup’ link invokes a simple wizard that prompts you for the following information:

myCRED Setup Step 1 / 3 – Points
Numeric punctuation, e.g. comma for thousands, period for decimals, and number of decimals if required. Number of decimals cannot be changed after setup. Points name and symbol, if you require your own virtual currency.
myCRED Setup Step 2 / 3 – Security
Security option defaults are usually acceptable, unless you have non-standard WordPress roles.
myCRED Setup Step 3 / 3 – Confirmation
Confirm your settings, or ignore this to run startup later.

At this stage, your myCRED installation is ready, but will not do anything until you:

  • Setup Hooks to determine which actions add and deduct points, or…
  • Setup Add-ons to determine how points can be bought and used, or…
  • Your mixture of both of the above

Your personal requirements will determine which Hooks and Add-ons you need, and how to configure them. I will describe my settings in later posts, with explanations of the circumstances they apply to.

For simple commercial systems, you can probably omit badges completely, and just focus on payment and spending configuration for myCRED points. For non-commercial social network systems, you can focus on badges, quests, and achievements. I will use myCRED as a hub for social learning networks and for commercial support services. I will explain how you can configure these plugins, and other Add-ons, in forthcoming posts.

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Do you need virtual currency with myCRED? Will you use basic myCRED Badge Add-on, or extend features with BadgeOS. If you need advice now, please tell me what you want from virtual currency.

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WordPress Security Essentials: Rename wp-login.php http://shrewdies.com/wordpress-security-essentials-rename-wp-login-php/ http://shrewdies.com/wordpress-security-essentials-rename-wp-login-php/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:45:39 +0000 http://shrewdies.com/?p=236 Rename wp-login.php is a simple plugin that closes one of the most abused security weaknesses in WordPress. Spammers and hackers frequently target wp-login.php to try and gain access to your website. If you do not think you are at risk, check your server logs, or install Wordfence. You will be amazed at the number of fake login attempts. I was similarly amazed how this dropped to zero when I installed Rename wp-login WordPress plug-in.

Once installed, wp-login.php will generate a 404 Page Not Found Error, and attempts to access /wp-admin/ when not logged in changes the display to:

You must log in to access the admin area.

Rename wp-login.php Weaknesses

Though the plugin performs excellently, you do need to be careful if you use the WordPress commenting system.

If comments are allowed, WordPress, by default, leaves a couple of links to your hidden wp-login.php. This negates the whole point of the plug-in, but fortunately it is easy to fix.

Login form revealed with no comments

L℮αve α R℮ply
Yοu must b℮ lοgg℮d in tο pοst α comm℮nt.

In every theme I have seen, this text is set near the end of comments.php. You should copy comments.php to your child theme, then edit the call to comment_form();

Though the ‘lοgg℮d-in’ link is most important, now is a good time to also change ‘L℮αve α R℮ply’

This phrase is frequently targeted by spammers to find pages to corrupt. Save yourself some useless bandwidth, and change the phrase to something more meaningful. To help your visitors focus, it is a good idea to ask a question based on your page title. The phrase is determined in the comment_form() function by an argument: title_reply.

The argument that will remove the default login link, and improve security, is must_log_in.

Therefore, amend your child theme comments.php to something similar to:

  $args = array(
      'title_reply' => 'What do you think about '.get_the_title().'?',
      'must_log_in' => '<p class="must-log-in">Login is required to add comments and questions.</p>',
      'label_submit' => __( 'Add your Comment or Question' ),
      );
  comment_form($args);

Note that I also changed the default text on the Submit button to something more inviting. As well as securing the login link, it is good to be creative with your text to encourage quality comments.

Login form revealed with existing comments

Each existing comment is headed:

Keith Taylor
February 3, 2014 at 8:56 am   Lοg in tο R℮ply

Getting rid of that link was harder, but thanks to a helpful code snippet to remove the log in link for comment replies, it now only takes a few seconds.

Many people recommend adding functions to the theme via functions.php. The problem with this is that you have to copy the functions.php file every time you change themes. I only use functions.php for changes that are theme specific. For everything else, I use the Functionality plugin. More on that in a separate plug-in review. For now, just install and activate Functionality plugin, then add the following:

if ( ! function_exists( 't5_do_not_ask_for_comment_log_in' ) )
  {
      add_filter( 'comment_reply_link', 't5_do_not_ask_for_comment_log_in' );
      /**
      * Replaces the log-in link with an empty string.
      *
      * @param string $link
      * @return string
      */
      function t5_do_not_ask_for_comment_log_in( $link )
      {
          if ( empty ( $GLOBALS['user_ID'] ) && get_option( 'comment_registration' ) )
          {
              return '';
          }
          return $link;
      }
    }

WordPress Security Essentials: Rename wp-login.php

WordPress Security Padlock Image
So there you have it. Make the theme changes and function addition first. Then install Rename wp-login.php, and set your new login link. Let your users know the new link privately, and ask them not to share it.

What do you think of Rename wp-login.php as a WordPress security tool?

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Remove WordPress Child Theme Orphans http://shrewdies.com/remove-wordpress-child-theme-orphans/ http://shrewdies.com/remove-wordpress-child-theme-orphans/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 14:54:28 +0000 http://shrewdies.com/?p=230 Child themes are the only way to customize WordPress themes, unless you are building your own unique custom WordPress theme that will never be updated through the WordPress Theme repository.

If you ignore this advice, then you will lose any customizations whenever you update the parent theme. I’ve spoken before about the importance of child themes, and the usefulness of Orbisius plugin. My review of Orbisius is coming soon. This is not really relevant today, as I am explaining how to remove WordPress child theme orphans, and Orbisius does not help.

What are WordPress Child Theme Orphans?

A WordPress child theme orphan is simply a child theme in your WordPress installation that does not have a parent theme. These show up in your list of themes under Admin-Appearance as:

Broken Themes

The following themes are installed but incomplete. Themes must have a stylesheet and a template.

Name Description
WordPress Default Child 01 The parent theme is missing. Please install the “default” parent theme.

The name of the erroneous child theme will vary according to your installation, but do not worry about that. My process for removing the orphan child theme works for all WordPress themes.

Prepare to Remove WordPress Child Theme Orphans

Please note that this removal method is completely destructive. If you want to keep your child theme, then to access it, all you need to do is reinstall the parent.

If you are not sure if you want to keep the child theme, go to Admin-Appearance-Editor then select the child theme from the dropbox near the top right of the page and click the Select button. Use the list of files on the right to browse the contents of your child theme.

As with all changes to your WordPress installation, you should take a backup before you proceed.

Remove WordPress Child Theme Orphans

This is a simple way to remove child theme orphans without the “official” procedure of:

  1. Re-install parent theme
  2. Delete child theme(s)
  3. Delete parent theme

If you are not familiar with editing WordPress themes, that method is the bes way, but there is a quicker way if you are confident.

  1. Identify the filename of an existing theme. The current default is twentyfourteen. Note that this is the file name, not the Theme Name: Twenty Fourteen. I find the easiest way to establish the filename is to use the Live Preview, or hover over the file name list in the Editor. In both case, the link preview shows ?theme=filename at the end of the URL
  2. Use Admin-Appearance-Editor and select the orphan child theme name
  3. Edit the line: Template: default changing the missing parent name (default in this example) to the filename of an existing theme.
  4. Return to the list of themes, and delete the unwanted orphan

If you need help with any aspect of WordPress themes, please ask in Shrewdies Make A Website Network

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Web Security: Passwords http://shrewdies.com/web-security-passwords/ http://shrewdies.com/web-security-passwords/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 12:02:49 +0000 http://shrewdies.com/?p=215 In Website Security: Admin Author Basics, I explained the importance of separate Admin and Author usernames for WordPress. Equally important, is to use separate passwords for each username, and for every other account that you create on the Internet.

That makes for a lot of passwords to remember. I have a great solution for password security, but first I will explain why separate and strong passwords are important.

Web Security: Strong Passwords

Hackers break passwords by brute force or guessing. A strong password is very difficult to break by either of these methods.

Brute force means trying every combination of characters until the password is found. You can make this seriously difficult to do by using passwords with at least 8 characters. Characters should include a mixture of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and numbers. Most websites will also allow other symbols to be included in your password.

Password guessing techniques include common words and personal information. Never use password, opensesame, letmein, or other common passwords. There are lists of common passwords that hackers use. Similarly, people often use their name and birth date. Anyone can find that information, and use it to guess your password.

Web Security: Separate Passwords

Another common way to break passwords is to use one from a different website. Hackers commonly setup fake websites to entice you to create an account. If you have used the password elsewhere, the hackers will keep trying it on all the websites they have in their extensive lists.

They will also spot if you use the website name, or simple variation of it, as the password. You need to avoid using any method that links your passwords together. They must be completely separate, not variations of a theme.

Web Security: Remembering Passwords

Web Security iconLike me, you must now be wondering how on earth you can remember all your passwords, when they all have to be different, yet cannot be based on a pattern. I felt very exposed to password theft before I found the best way to keep my passwords safe.

One option is to keep a list of accounts and passwords in a password protected spreadsheet or other type of list. This has many advantages:

  • You only have to remember one password – the key to your password list
  • You can easily copy and paste usernames and passwords
  • You can include other information such as the link to the login page

A better option is LastPass. It does all of the above, and also works with your browser to avoid copy and paste. It handles multiple accounts very well, and has many more useful features including a strong password generator. Best of all, it is free. However, LastPass has even more features in the premium version. Especially useful is unlimited use of LastPass Mobile for all popular smartphones and tablets. This only costs $12 per year, but I have even more good news for you.

If you sign up to LastPass using this link, you will get 1 month of LastPass Premium free. After your first month, you can continue with the basic LastPass account, or pay for LastPass Premium.

Every LastPass user gets their own personalized link to invite friends and associates. That link allows new users and the link owner to get a free month. I get a free month when you use my link, but I’m not greedy. I get more free months from referrals than I can use, so I change my website links to other people most of the time. I call this my Safe Friends List. If you sign up using my link, and you want to go on my Safe Friends List, please tell me in the comments below.

Web Security: Next Steps

It’s very easy to be safe with your passwords:

  1. Sign up to LastPass using this link
  2. Change weak passwords for strong ones – LastPass helps you do this
  3. Optionally request to go on my Safe Friends List

What do you think about secure passwords?

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Website Security: Admin Author Basics http://shrewdies.com/website-security-admin-author-basics/ http://shrewdies.com/website-security-admin-author-basics/#comments Sat, 24 May 2014 08:13:33 +0000 http://shrewdies.com/?p=211 This is my first of a mini-series on website security. Once finished, I’ll add a comprehensive checklist to my Install WordPress guidelines. I’ll also offer some website security services. If you need help managing your website security, please ask now.

You might wonder why I am introducing website security now, when I am already busy with so many important topics. It’s because website hacking is on the increase, and if you do not manage the basics of security, you risk losing your website. I have recently installed Wordfence to help protect my websites, and it shows the threats we face every day. Established websites, especially with forums, are under constant attack. Brand new websites are not exempt, and I have seen attempted administrator hacking within a week of installing WordPress on a brand new domain.

Website Security: Basic Rules

A basic rule for self-managed WordPress websites is: never call your Administrator account admin, or the name of your website/domain. These are tried immediately by hackers, and Wordfence makes it easy to stop and block these.

A second basic rule for self-managed WordPress websites is: never post content when logged in as administrator. In practice, this means you should maintain at least two separate accounts. Your Administrator account is only for managing WordPress configuration. Your Author/Editor account is for writing posts, pages, and any other published content. Most WordPress themes will show links to Author archives, making it easy for hackers to identify account names that they can target. If they attack author accounts, it is annoying, but they are less likely to cause extensive damage to your website.

My third, and for now final, basic rule for self-managed WordPress websites is: always move the Administrator account away from the first user. The first user is the one with the lowest ID, normally 1. This is easy to see if you have direct access to your database via phpMyAdmin, or similar. You can easily see it in the WordPress Users list by hovering your mouse over the Username, where the ID shows in the target URL.

Website Security: Remedial Action

  1. If your Administrator account username is admin or your site/domain name, setup a new Administrator account with an unguessable name. After logging in with your new Administrator account, change the old one to a low access level, or delete it.
  2. If you have published content authored under an Administrator account, action as 1 above, or change the author on all affected content. If you need to change authors, it is easiest from the Posts and Pages lists. Show all posts for an author by clicking on the author name, then use Quick Edit.
  3. If your first user ID has Administrator status, follow 1 above.

Check these now, and whenever you export your website to a new hosting server.

Website Security: New Installation

  1. Install WordPress, using an unguessable Administrator account username, if your installation procedure gives you a choice.
  2. Add New User accounts (s) for posting content
  3. Add a new Administrator account with unguessable username.
  4. Delete original Administrator, or change Role to low privilege status

Are your WordPress Administrator accounts secure?

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Website Content Starts With Good Habits http://shrewdies.com/website-content-starts-with-good-habits/ http://shrewdies.com/website-content-starts-with-good-habits/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 15:36:36 +0000 http://shrewdies.com/?p=205 Every website owner has to create great content. It is the only way you build a following for your online business. It is important that you say the right things, but it is also important how you say them.

In Start Your Online Business: Planning or Flying?, I introduced my first flyer project. This is to develop a counseling website that will create revenue for Phil’s mom.

Today, I will focus on basic principles of website content publishing that all audiences require. You have to match your presentation to your audience. In a forum, or chat room, you will use informal language that matches the temporary, informal setting. On a web page, you have to write as your audience expects you to.

Only the website owner can judge how formal or informal to make their presentation. You might have a specialized market. However, the average Internet surfer requires certain basic standards. If you do not meet those standards, your visitor will leave, and is unlikely to return.

Website Content Presentation

Is Your Website Content Clear screenshot
In my screenshot, I have chopped of the right-hand sidebar. Most people ignore it, and I’m going to join the movement for getting rid of sidebars. I realize now that they are just a distraction. If you have something important to tell your visitor, it should not be in the sidebar, because it will be ignored. If it is not important, it should not be on your page. My new article on getting rid of the sidebar is coming soon.

I have deliberately shrunk the screenshot, and added some distracting Shrewdies text. When someone visits your website, especially the first time, they are not focused on you. Their first view is a bit cloudy, unless you make it clear to them.

The words do not register until your visitor starts reading. If it looks hard to read, the visitor will leave before reading a single word you wrote. It might be exactly what they are looking for. It might answer every question they ever had about your topic. If they leave without reading, your words have no meaning.

With practice, and the tips I’ve given you below, you can avoid losing visitors this way. You need to start as soon as you can. You can go back to your pages any time, and make them look better. This is important as your site develops when you identify pages that are not performing as well as you intended. Start today, and establish your own good content habits.

Good Content Habits

It is very important to get good habits early on. The most important habits that will improve your audience participation are structure and proofreading. They work together.

Web Page Structure

Structure breaks your page down to manageable chunks. If your page is not structured well for a search engine, you lose results ranking until you improve it. If your page is not structured well for your visitor, you lose that visitor forever. There are many things that cause you to lose visitors. You might not be able to change them all, but you can always add structure to a page.

Headings

If you are writing a novel, you can create structure over several chapters. For a web page, you have to use headings. Your web page should be about a specific topic, but within that you might have sub-topics, or different aspects of your topic. By breaking your page into manageable chunks, separated by headings, your reader is drawn down the page.

The other great thing about headings is that they prompt you into writing clearer content. Some people prefer to write freely, then go back and add headings in the appropriate place. Others prefer to write the headings first to anchor the key aspects of their chosen topics. I prefer to set out headings first most of the time, but sometimes it is easier to write whatever is in your mind first.

You are not carving in tablets of stone, so write however you like. Just don’t publish your page without headings, unless it is a very short piece about a limited topic.

Paragraphs

Within each heading, you need to break sentences into paragraphs. In some respects, these are more important than headings. The average Internet surfer will not be able to read more than 3 or 4 sentences without a paragraph pause.

Lists

Bullet points, or numbered lists can help your page to flow. They make much easier reading than long sentences. Use them whenever you can to highlight key points. Let your content flow with:

  1. Headings
  2. Paragraphs
  3. Lists

Proofreading

During proofreading of this article, I realized it was too long. I will publish Proofreading For Profit another day.

Website Content Starts With Good Habits

Start your good habits today. The more you practice, the easier it gets.

Do you understand why page structure is important? Do you need any specific help on structuring a page to attract customers for your online business? Please share your thoughts below.

I have more thoughts about structure, with special relevance to search engine ranking. I also have to complete my proofreading for profit article. If you want to be notified by email when I publish more on this project, please subscribe to my update service:

Stay informed about online business.

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Read more about Shrewdies Online Business Updates.

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Start Your Online Business: Planning or Flying? http://shrewdies.com/start-your-online-business-planning-or-flying/ http://shrewdies.com/start-your-online-business-planning-or-flying/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 10:07:59 +0000 http://shrewdies.com/?p=204 Due to my background as an accountant, I find it impossible to start an online business without planning. Every fiber of my being tells me to plan my budget before running my actuals. As I write this, I’m slotting it into my business plan. I just can’t help it, but there is another way.

Planning Your Online Business Startup

Though I find that planning gives me impetus to achieve my goals, other people hate planning. It puts them off starting a project. I am fortunate to be in a place where someone who I’m working with seems to hate planning. This is a real opportunity to present two different approaches to starting an online business. You can choose the one that suits you.

For my planning project, I’m going to be working with PROSPRA. You can see the start of this in the comments below Start Information Marketing with Business Purpose. It’s no secret that PROSPRA is just Keith Taylor again with another hat on. If you want that planning project to be for your online business, then add your Business Purpose Statement in the comments.

For want of a better name, I’m going to call the planning-free method a flying project or flyer. A flying online business startup is where you get an idea and take a flyer on it’s success. It relies on determination and a strong will to succeed. It also suits projects where you know you must do something, but you cannot define what that something should be.

I have absolutely no idea where this flyer is going, but that is what makes it interesting and exciting. Let me finish by explaining what the flyer project is about, then I will create details in subsequent posts.

Flying Your Online Business Startup

You can see how the project started at Start Information Marketing with Business Purpose, and related articles. I was trying to enforce my methods on Phil Beck’s project, but I didn’t have the structure in place to demonstrate the complete process. I now realize it is far too much to ask someone to commit serious amounts of time, without a clear view of how the project will proceed.

Today, I was rewarded with Phil’s efforts at his new counseling site. This might be a blog for him to collect his thoughts prior to launching a separate site. It might become the website that he craves will create revenue for his mom. It doesn’t matter at this stage – it is a start for us to develop the best methods to achieve a goal, even if that goal remains to be quantified.

Next, I am going to respond to Phil’s pages by suggesting improvements that I think will help him get more clients faster. I will keep my suggestions as general as I can so that they will apply to many more websites.

If you want to avoid missing any installments in this fascinating project, please sign up for Shrewdies Update Service.

Do you Intend to Plan or Fly?


You can see my intentions. I intend to plan one project, and fly with another. How would you start your online business? Sit and plan, or just take a flyer on success? Please share your thoughts below.

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Unverify Google Webmaster Tools Site http://shrewdies.com/unverify-google-webmaster-tools-site/ http://shrewdies.com/unverify-google-webmaster-tools-site/#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 08:44:20 +0000 http://shrewdies.com/?p=202 I’ve written about the importance of Google Webmaster Tools many times. It’s a vital tool for improving website traffic. But what do you do when you no longer need your website? How do you stop Google warning you that Googlebot can’t access your site? Let me explain how to unverify your Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) site.

Unverify your Google Webmaster Tools Site

When you abandon a website, you no longer need it cluttering your GWT list of websites. It is easy to remove it from the list. Select the Manage Sites dropdown on the right of your site name, and click Delete Site. Unfortunately, this is too easy.

What you should do first, is click Add or remove users, to access GWT Users and Site Owners admin. Then you can remove all users, including yourself. In most cases, you will be the site owner, in which case, hover your mouse over the disabled Owner Permission button. A box will popup with a link telling you: “To change or remove a site owner, please go to owner verification page.” When you click that link, you can Unverify your ownership of the obsolete website.
GWT Users and Site Owners Screenshot

Now, when you return to your GWT home page, your website will be included in the list of unverified sites at the end of the list. You can now delete it from your list, as above. But what do you do if you miss the unverification?

You will probably become aware of the problem with an email: “[Webmaster Tools] your-obsolete-site․com/: Googlebot can’t access your site”

That email contains a link: “You can see more details about these errors in Webmaster Tools.” But clicking the link takes you to an error:

Site not in account

You are verified to see your-obsolete-site․com, but it’s not in your account.

So, what can you do? You are getting error reports for a non-existent website, but you cannot access that site in GWT. After much searching, clicking, and testing, I finally found the answer. You need to use Webmaster Central – Verification Home.

On that page, you can unverify any sites you no longer need access to, including those already deleted from Google Webmaster Tools.

If you have a growing list of websites, and especially if you have shared GWT access to websites, today is a good day for checking site admins. An annual review keeps your stats safe and tidy. What do you think of unverifying Google Webmaster Tools websites?

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Get Google+ Working For You http://shrewdies.com/get-google-working-for-you/ http://shrewdies.com/get-google-working-for-you/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 10:42:03 +0000 http://shrewdies.com/?p=200 Social networking for business can be a significant time commitment, Here’s how to get Google+ working for you.

In Where are Online Business Models going?, I explained that, to promote your website content you need to become a social publisher. In that way your public profile grows, more people become aware of your content. They share your good stuff, and that attracts visitors to your website.

Since becoming aware of that, for my main website, I now own my niche on Google+. My health subject is not widely discussed on Google+, but when it is, I am involved in most cases. That has only happened because I listened to the people who understand how social networking becomes effective for online businesses:

successful network building means putting others first. You build friends by being a friend, and you build online business networks by being a useful resource.

But this isn’t about me. It’s not even about you. It’s about the network you want to build to get Google+ working for you.

The foundation for building networks is sharing. You share because you want to, but also expecting that some of those favors get returned. There are three ways to share on Google+: share content, share interest, or share mentions.

Share Content

Sharing other peoples content is a great way to make friends on Google+. It is very easy to share Google+ posts, as there is a big share button next to the +1 button at the end of every post. It is not much harder to share content from a website. Just go to Google+ Share, and paste the link where it says link.

It is best to add interesting comments, but you do not have to.

It is pitiful to beg for friends, so I will not ask you to share my content. At least not in public. You stand the best chance of getting your content shared if you make it Interesting and Useful. I work on the basis that, for every 100 shares I make, I will get 1 share in return. If you write better content, your ratio will be higher.

Share Interest

If you see an Interesting or Useful post, the Google+ code says you must +1 it (unwritten rule). Take that a step further, and add a Useful or Interesting comment. Your comment should add value to the original post.

You can also apply this to comments. Interesting or Useful comments must be +1′d. If someone asks a question in a comment, feel free to answer it, or endorse the question with your own similar question. Again, you must add value to the comment, but you must also respect the original poster. How would you react if the conversation was physical, in your group of friends? Be a friend to make a friend.

Share Mentions

Mentions are very important in Google+. In a physical conversation you can use eyes and touch to gain attention and make it clear who you are talking to. In Google+ conversation, hit the + button and select who you are talking to. Use mentions in posts and in comments whenever it makes sense to do so.
Your Network Works With You graphic

Enjoy getting Google+ to work for you

It should never be a chore to go out and try to make new friends. Just follow your heart, and acknowledge what is Useful or Interesting. When you find Useful or Interesting posts and comments, that is it’s own reward. When you have Useful, Interesting people and pages in your circles, time spent on Google+ becomes very enjoyable. You enjoy making content, and soon, your contacts start working for you.

Actually, your network is working with you when Google+ is working for you.

Please tell me, how do you build social networks to help your online business?

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How much business do you want? http://shrewdies.com/how-much-business-do-you-want/ http://shrewdies.com/how-much-business-do-you-want/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 06:55:23 +0000 http://shrewdies.com/?p=196 When you are building a website to generate leads for an offline business, you need to know who to target. But first, you need to know how many leads will justify the time required to build that website. Though a website can be created without much financial capital, it takes time and effort. Here, I look at the rewards you need to make that effort worthwile.

Rewards is the second step in my process for planning an online business. In the first step, Start Information Marketing with Business Purpose, I looked at the reasons why we are creating a business. One respondent wants a website to generate leads for an offline service business. Many of the techniques for creating a lead generating website are similar to information marketing websites. However, the Rewards step is totally different.

For information marketing, our rewards come from targeting a subject area. For lead generating, we must identify potential customers, and target them. For those of you who are anxious to skip rewards planning, and just start publishing a website, let me explain why this is important.

In the first step, I emphasized describing the purpose of your online business. If you are not clear about purpose, you have no foundation, and your business will not prosper. I have seen many websites fail to generate traffic because the subject matter was too vague. It can also fail by targeting a niche where there is not enough interest to earn the rewards you need. Your purpose statement drives everything in the right direction.

In this rewards step, I know I must look at lead generation and must assess if the project is feasible. I’ve seen thousands of websites created with the owners having no clue about the number of leads they need to generate. If you are creating your website as a hobby, you can skip this step. Just identify your expected rewards as “The number of leads I happen to get.” But, if you are serious about making money from your project, you have to be serious about identifying your Required Rewards.

How much is a lead worth?

Every business has it’s own lead valuation profile, but the principles are the same for all businesses. Leads always funnel to you. That funnel starts wide, with visitors to your website. The funnel narrows until you finally get a paying customer. You will never know exactly how many visitors you need to create a customer, but you need to have a realistic estimate.

If you want my personal help to estimate your Required Rewards, add your Statement of Business Purpose as a comment to my previous post. For now, I will give a general guide based on artificial figures. If you start a project with me, I will help you identify the important numbers for your situation.

Let us assume that every sale is worth $100. Working back up the funnel, we need to know how many leads will generate a sale. Lets say your lead handler has superb selling skils, and can convert one in five leads. We now know that a lead is worth $20. If you do not want to build a website, you could approach a marketing agency and pay them $7 per lead, or whaever your marketing budget allows.

We want to avoid marketing fees by creating a website to attract leads, but how many do we need?

How many leads do we need?

This is simple. Take your monthly income requirement, and work back. Let’s say we need our website to boost income from the business by $2000 per month. Leads are worth $20, so we need 100 leads per month.

From 100 leads, we expect 20 sales at $100, giving our $2000. That’s our required rewards taken care of, but is it feasible?

How much traffic do we need?

We know that we need 100 leads per month. For a website, we have contact forms, telephone number, and email address to create those leads. If we are properly organized, we will add newsletters, and social networking. If we are excellent, our website will be good enough to attract attention in the local press.

All these channels have their own profile, and we want to target as many as we can. The important factors are reach and conversion. Local press and websites have wide reach, but low conversion rates. Social media, can have very high conversion rates, but only if you do it right.

This is where we need to think about resources. Do you have existing networks you can build on? Are your skills written or oral? Which channels will suit you best.

Is the project feasible?

How to Start an Online Business iconIf we only have a website, with conversion rates of 1%, we need 10,000 visitors per month. We need to look at our catchment area to see if it is feasible. How many local residents in our target market regularly access the Internet?

If that is enough, we can stop this Rewards step, and move forward to Objectives. If not, we need to look at more channels. Choose ones which suit you from:

  • Newsletter. Weekly, monthly, or what can you manage? Does your subject have enough news topics? If not, can you create new angles on old topics?
  • Training Course. Easier than it sounds. Provide a series of articles about your topic that teach the subscriber something useful.
  • Social Networks. How much interest can you generate on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+? Join existing groups or create new ones. Are there specialist networks in your subject area?

Lets suppose we can only expect 6,000 visitor per month that are likely targets. 1% will give us 60 of the 100 leads we need. We then have to look at newsletters, social media, etc. You should choose whichever interests you most. Do not worry about experience – interest is most important, as knowledge can be learned and experience gained.

A possible solution to our 40 leads shortfall might be to introduce a newsletter and develop social media.

We estimate that 200 per month will read our newsletter and provide 10 leads. That still leaves 30, so we turn to social media. Looking at local groups as well as social groups, we aim to build a following of 1,000 people. We estimate 60 leads per month from that. If we do everything, we can expect 130 leads in total, giving a 30% contingency over our 100 needed. This is a good place to be. It means we can prioritize website, social media, and newsletter, working on whatever interests us most. Indeed, for many local businesses who only want to generate leads, social media is much more rewarding than creating a website.

How much business do you want?

If you intend to start an online business, please add your comments to Start Information Marketing with Business Purpose. Once we have a business purpose that makes sense, I will generate a page similar to this. Rather than lots of explanations, it will have specific questions that need to be answered before you can move to the next step. If you want to move faster, add your comments to Fast Tracking Online Business Ownership

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