Category Archives: Websites

Who and what visits government websites?

Have a look at analytics.usa.gov. You’ll see statistics for the aggregate of most federal government websites: Number of Visits, Top Pages and Domains, Visitor Locations, Top Downloads, Devices, Browsers, and Operating Systems.

Thanks to Steve Gibson of grc.com.

WordPress adds encryption

letsencrypt-logo-horizontalI notice that this blog now by default provides its content to visitors in encrypted form, using the HTTPS [Hyper Text Transfer Protocol over SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)] protocol. This is great news. I congratulate WordPress.com. They’ve used the new Let’s Encrypt Certificate Authority, which removes the relatively high cost barrier of encrypting websites.

A big “thank you” to both WordPress.com and Let’s Encrypt.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

When I first investigated WordPress, I was confused by the differences and similarities between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.  If you’re in the same boat, Sanj Sahayam’s article, 4 Reasons You Should Never Use WordPress.com (And 4 Reasons You Should) clearly explains the tradeoffs between the two platforms.

By the way, this blog is currently hosted by WordPress.com.  I also host some clients’ websites using WordPress on Linux servers.  WordPress is remarkably versatile.

Which countries host Internet bad guys?

I’m impressed by the effort to take down Internet bad guys at Project Honey Pot.  Website owners can use Project Honey Pot’s tools to redirect spammers and other misbehaving visitors who appear on a blacklist to a “honey pot” page.  There, continued bad behavior is logged and the naughty visitor receives more demerits that bury him or her deeper in the Project Honey Pot blacklist.

Website owners may choose how many days of good behavior a blacklisted IP address must exhibit before he or she is allowed to use the owner’s website. This allows dynamically assigned IP addresses who behave, to eventually be removed from the blacklist.

Here’s a summary of bad guys who have been trapped by Project Honey Pot, by country (as of 7 November, 2015):

Bad guys, by country
Bad guys, by country, as of 7 Nov, 2015
from Project Honey Pot

If you have a self-hosted WordPress website or blog, you can implement Project Honey Pot by using the http:BL WordPress Plugin plugin for WordPress. It’s easy to install, and works fine with WordPress v 4.3.1, even though it’s guaranteed to work through only v 3.3.2.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

A tale of two e-commerce platforms

I’ve been developing a few websites with storefronts.  I used Nopcommerce three years ago, and it was impressive in many ways, but its poorly-defined technical support steered me elsewhere.

Two attractive e-commerce offerings with better-defined tech support are Volusion and SquareSpace.  Both offer mobile-responsive templates, and both products include hosting with tech support.

Volusion logoVolusion is more mature, potentially more flexible, and able to handle large volume needs. If you use it out of the box for online sales only, you may not need to write any code. If you need a physical store, you will need at least some HTML, CSS, and Javascript programming skills.  If your pages contain more than just simple paragraphs of text, you’ll need to write mobile-responsive code.  Volusion provides many options for every aspect of a business’s storefront, and its 24/7 telephone tech support is excellent.

Squarespace logoThe “drag and drop” SquareSpace templates allow a developer to quickly place a rudimentary SquareSpace site into production, but I don’t recommend it for sites of more than about twenty pages or a business with complex product inventory or special payment processing needs.  One could quickly roll-out a good-looking modest SquareSpace e-commerce site without writing one line of code.  Just don’t expect to easily expand this simple site into a large complex site, and your payment processing options are limited.  Unlike Volusion, SquareSpace does not seem to offer 24/7 tech support via telephone — only via email.

One beauty of both Volusion and SquareSpace is that you don’t need to host them.  Just pay a modest monthly hosting fee and let them keep your site on-line.  An attractive alternative to both is BigCommerce, but I have no personal experience with it.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Defend your WordPress site

WordPress can be a terrific website platform. However, its popularity and its open source nature make it a favorite target for attackers. Two real-time defenses:
WordPress logo

  • WordPress Simple Firewall plugin: detects bad behaviors by comment spammers, blacklisted clients. and brute force password crack attempts
  • http:BL WordPress plugin: redirects visitors who are on a public dynamic blacklist to a honeypot page, which is seeded with unique email addresses that can give away spammers.

One plugin that logs malicious activity:

  • SEO Redirection plugin: logs 404 (page not found) errors. Reviewing the log file allows an administrator to block future access of IP addresses that attempted to discover cracks in his or her firewall or execute administrative PHP scripts.Caveat: Use care to ensure that you don’t mistakenly block search engines’ spiders and other legitimate robots. (I’d erroneously blocked three IP addresses that are used by the GoogleBot spiders. That explains why the website suddenly disappeared from Google’s search results.  D’oh!)

I use and recommend all three of these WordPress plugins on self-hosted WordPress installations. They work. I’m amazed by the persistence of attackers on my WordPress sites. (Most attacks originate from Russia, Ukraine, China, Netherlands, Germany.)

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

I have returned.

I’ve finished moving clients from various older website platforms to modern mobile-responsive website platforms. Now I need to finish moving my own website from its ancient foundation.

I’m moving my website (http://russbellew.com from Microsoft Office 365 hosting to a self-hosted WordPress platform. It will have all the mod cons, including mobile-friendliness. Once that’s settled, I plan to move this blog (rbellew.wordpress.com) to the new website. It’ll be more functional and free of advertising. I will move blog subscribers to the new platform. I hope to have my new website online within a month, and will move this blog about a month later.

The news has been full of stories that involve misuse and mismanagement of personal data by government and private sector entities. Let’s discuss this soon.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Google’s mobile-friendliness

website-mobile-friendly 480w

April 21 was the date that Google set for roll-out of their algorithm that was to deprecate websites that weren’t mobile-friendly. So far, I haven’t noticed any change in search results.

I’ve been busy. I’ve rebuilt three clients’ sites, and am finishing a fourth client’s site. Then I’ll rebuild my own website.

As usual, I’ve found that there is no “one size fits all” solution. I built two of the smaller sites using Squarespace. For these last two, larger sites, I’m using self-served WordPress platforms.

I’ve gotta get back to work.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

It’s time to update websites

Until recently, I’ve regarded websites that are mobile responsive as desirable, but not essential. Around last November, Google began adding the phrase “mobile-friendly” to search results for websites that are mobile responsive.

is your website mobile friendly 200wLast month Google announced that on April 21, they’ll update their search algorithm. It’s expected to reward mobile responsive websites with  higher search result rankings.

I’ve been busy updating clients’ websites to make them mobile responsive. This has meant moving them to new platforms. I’ve moved small websites to Squarespace without too much pain, but I’ve learned that Squarespace doesn’t allow navigation menu nesting deeper than two levels, which disqualifies it for websites of more than a couple dozen pages. I’m working with a few mobile responsive themes on WordPress; it’s probably the route I’ll follow for my own website.

As usual, I’ve learned (again) that there is no single perfect answer. We just have to work around flaws and hide the blemishes.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Websites 101

When I’m asked about creating a website for a business, I recommend that the owner first “buy” (it’s actually a lease) a domain from a domain registrar such as Network Solutions or Godaddy.  If the domain name is longer than ten characters, buy an abbreviated domain name as well.  You can point it to the full length domain;  it will be easier for visitors to type.

Think of your website as the hub of a hub-and-spoke system for your business.  Links on the spokes should point inward to your website. The more spokes, the stronger your website’s web presence will be. These spokes are called backlinks.

Your website should describe what you do and provide a phone number and alternative ways of reaching you.  Each page should contain your phone number.

SEO: Search Engine MarketingUnlike the movies, if you build it they will not come.  You have to drive visitors to your website. Create a big footprint on the web by ensuring that each web document that you create contains an inbound link to your website.

Install Google Analytics or Statcounter on your website so that you can count visitors and analyze their on-site behavior.

Where can I create “footprint” documents with inbound links?

  • answers.yahoo.com
  • youtube.com
  • Discussion forums for your industry
  • Directories: local, generic, and industry-specific
  • Google Plus. It’s becoming more business oriented each week.
  • Social networking sites
  • Blogs. You can create a free blog on WordPress.com, blogger.com, blogspot.com, and other hosts. Your blog’s home page and its articles should contain links to your website.
  • Article publishers. I like ezinearticles.com.  Write articles about your industry and create a link to your website in each block of information about its author.
  • Press release publishers. Write press releases about your business.  Each should contain a link to your website.

This is just an outline.  If you become obsessed with any one task, step back and make sure that you’ve paid attention to all “spokes” of your hub-and-spoke system.  If so, then they will come.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695