Tag - WebDevelopment

How to Login to Gmail Using Your Domain Email Address

How to Login to Gmail Using Your Domain Email Address

I host email for the majority of my clients and forward their domain email (@yourdomain.com) to a Gmail address. The reason I do this is the convenience and functionality of Gmail. Also, most business clients have multiple email addresses and don't want to login multiple different places to check their email. Forwarding email to a Gmail address and using Gmail's 'Send Mail As' feature gives my clients the ability to send and receive their domain email from Gmail. I will write an article on that process in the future, but for now, see this article on how to do that.

Being able to sign into Gmail using your domain email address is another way to streamline the entire process. Follow these steps to allow that feature:

  1. Login to Gmail
  2. Click on your profile photo on the top right and select 'Google Account' below your name
  3. Click on the 'Personal Info' tab on the left
  4. Under 'Contact Info' click on 'Email'
  5. Click on the Advanced dropdown, then under 'Alternate Emails' select 'Add Alternate Email'
  6. Once you've added an 'Alternate Email' you will be able to sign into your Gmail account using the domain email address you entered in this field.

If you have the money to spend, another option is using GSuite, in which Google actually hosts your email and allows you to manage multiple users. GSuite costs $6/user/month for 30GB of Google Drive storage, or $12/user/month for unlimited storage. Many of my clients don't want to spend that money when they can forward their domain email to Gmail and use this login feature to get a very similar product for FREE. If you want to learn more about this topic contact me today and I'd be happy to walk you through everything.

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Signs Direct - Quality Signs at a Great Price

Signs Direct – Quality Signs at a Great Price

Today I want to share with you a great company that I use for all types of sign printing. Signs Direct is a company based in Bloomington, IL that offers yard signs, sidewalk signs, freestanding signs, lighted signs, sign hardware and much, much more. I do a lot of research before I work with a print company and I assure you that for the price you can't find a better deal. They even have stock signs for common things such as indoor and outdoor safety signs and road / parking signs.

The most common product I order from Signs Direct is their yard signs. Their production and shipping is always incredibly fast and I've always been happy with their quality. I am a bit partial because they're not only based in the US, but my home state of Illinois. If you don't live in Illinois they don't charge sales tax. If you live in Illinois... well you know.

If you need signs designed for printing through Signs Direct contact me today. I'd love to help you out.

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RemotePC - Remote Access From Anywhere

RemotePC – Remote Access From Anywhere

RemotePC is a tool that is used to remotely access and control computers from anywhere 24/7. There are quite a few different tools that perform a similar function to RemotePC, but none better for the cost. You can use RemotePC for free, but you can only leave one computer in an 'always on' state for remote access. If you only need one then you're good to go! The most popular package that RemotePC sells is their 'Consumer/SOHO' plan which allows up to 10 computers to have unlimited remote access for $52.12 for one year or $104.25 for 2 years (pricing as of 5/23/2019).

I've been using RemotePC for a while now after switching from a MUCH more expensive competitor. Having the ability to remotely access home or business computers when you're not in your home or business is invaluable. The setup is really simple and their interface is easy to use. If you want to learn more about RemotePC be sure to contact me today.

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Why Your Business NAP is so Important

Why Your Business NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) is so Important

NAP is short for your business name, address and phone number. When Google scans various databases on the internet for your company it's absolutely crucial that these three items are EXACT and consistent. If I was on Yelp as "Brian Houdek The Web Designer" or "Brian Houdek Web Design LLC" or "Brian Houdek Web Design Inc" Google would look at that as a completely different company than "Brian Houdek Web Design". If your address is "123 Test St" it's crucial you write it exactly the same throughout the internet. "123 Test St." (dot after St.) or "123 Test Street" will be looked at as different and therefore not the same company. Finally, your phone number must remain consistent. Did your number change over the years? Do you have a local number and an 800 number? Make sure you always pick one primary phone number and always enter that phone number as the primary one.

The more LEGITIMATE databases your company information is in the better for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). These directories give your business validity in the eyes of Google. Most of them link back to your website, which is another ranking factor Google uses. As a rule of thumb, I recommend my clients use their Google My Business listing as the "master" listing, ensuring all other listings have the same information.

On the Internet there are four major data aggregators that store your business information. These are Neustar Localeze, InfoUSA, Acxiom and Factual. These data aggregators take your business information and push it out to many smaller databases on the Internet. In addition to these aggregators, there are also many big name directories your business should be in. Examples are Bing Places For Business, Apple Maps, Angie's List, Manta and many, many more.

I have multiple tools to scan these databases and see where your business information is missing or inaccurate. I can easily update this information and charge a flat fee. If you want me to run a free scan for your business contact me today.

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Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

Happy Saint Patrick's Day from my family to yours! According to Ancestry DNA, I'm 43% Irish but this weekend we are all Irish. Did you know Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival? Enjoy your corned beef and cabbage responsibly :)

Looking for a talented website and graphic designer who listens to your needs and gets your business noticed? I'm a freelance website and graphic designer who understands the difficulties of small businesses. I have helped business owners from many industries grow their business by implementing a comprehensive website and advertising strategy. Interested in learning more? Contact me today.

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What to do if your email server gets BLOCKED

What to do if your email server gets BLOCKED

Let's say you have an employee that wants to send out a promotional email to thousands of customers using their company email address. They send it out and a day or two later you start noticing that you're sending emails but they're not being delivered. Perhaps you're receiving bounce emails saying your server is blocked or clients are saying they're not receiving your emails. The reason... SPAM. If you have to send an email to a large group of people I recommend using a service like MailChimp. Anytime you send a promotional email you are REQUIRED to have an unsubscribe link so customers can remove themselves from your mailing list. If you don't include that a customer can report your email as spam and start a chain reaction that's tough to stop.

Spam is a big problem. We all get it and it's really annoying. When you're the one sending the spam the internet has many tools to make sure you never send an email again. If someone marks an email from you as spam in Gmail that doesn't necessarily mean you'll end up on a block list, but if multiple people in a short period of time mark your email as spam you can be in big trouble.

The Internet has numerous Domain Block Lists (DBL's) that keep track of spammers IP addresses and domains. Block Lists are lists of IP addresses that have been reported and listed as “known” sources of spam. There are public and private blacklists. Public blacklists are published and made available to the public—many times as a free service, sometimes for a fee. There are hundreds of well-known public blacklists.

To get off a block list, or more typically multiple block lists you have to use some tools to find out who is blocking you and why. Below are some of my favorite tools to scan your domain name/IP address to see if it's being blocked.

Depending on which block list you're on the removal process varies. It's best to first figure out who is blocking you and follow their instructions to remove you from the list. In addition to intentional spam you may end up on these lists if your server is improperly configured or even hacked. I use RBLmon to regularly check my email servers and my clients' servers to ensure I stay ahead of the issue should it ever arise.

Is your email server getting blocked? I've been through this process before and I've helped many clients get off these block lists. Contact me today and I'd be happy to help you get your email server off these block lists and keep it off.

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Google Fonts - Great Free and Open Source Fonts

Google Fonts – Great Free and Open Source Fonts

Google Fonts says their goal is to make "the web more beautiful, fast, and open through great typography." They certainly have done that and their selection of fonts continues to grow. Every Google Font is free and open source, meaning that you don't have to worry about licensing issues. At the time of this article there are 915 to choose from.

I have been using Google Fonts on my websites for years. However, even if you're not a web designer you can download the fonts to your computer and use them in any document. To the right of each font you'll see a + symbol. Once you press that Google "adds" it to your downloads (a popup menu that appears in the bottom right after adding the font). If you click on the downloads (it will say # Family Selected) you will notice a download icon on the top right. To download the entire font family with different font weights and italic styles click on "Customize". On this screen you can select the entire font family if you want. Once you have everything selected, download the fonts and install them on your computer.

Do you have a website that needs better use of fonts? Interested in learning more about Google Fonts? Contact Me today and I'd be happy to show you how Google Fonts can improve your website.

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Buffer Makes Multi-Channel Social Media Posting Easy

Buffer Makes Multi-Platform Social Media Posting Easy

It has been proven that a business who is active in social media ranks higher. It's part of Google's ranking algorithm. Another important part of Google's ranking algorithm is having fresh content on your website (ie a blog). How nice would it be to make a blog post on your website and have it automatically go to multiple social media platforms... That's what Buffer can do (with some plugins).

Buffer by itself allows you to schedule posts, analyze performance, and manage all your social media accounts in one place. Supported platforms are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. You can link to three social media platforms for free. If you want to post to them all (highly recommended) they currently charge $144/year. You can create posts within Buffer's website, schedule posts and very easily post to a single social media platform, or all at once.

The real power of Buffer is revealed when you integrate your WordPress blog with it. Wordpress to Buffer Pro is an awesome tool that allows your WordPress blog to connect to Buffer. You can choose to either send the posts to Buffer and review them there before posting, or just automatically post the article to ALL your social media platforms at once. That's what I do and I LOVE it. It saves me a ton of time.

I have implemented this solution for numerous clients and they have reaped the benefits by ranking higher. As I've mentioned before, SEO is not one or two things. It's many things that have to be followed in order to improve your ranking. This solution not only satisfies Google's need for fresh content on your website, but it also satisfies the social media aspect of SEO. If you're interested in implementing this solution on your website, contact me today.

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Keeping WordPress Secure

Keeping WordPress Secure

Occasionally I'll get a question from a client asking if WordPress is secure. If properly maintained and monitored, WordPress is one of the most secure CMS (Content Management System) platforms available. With that being said, if not properly maintained and monitored WordPress is currently the most popular target for hackers. WordPress powers over 30% of the ENTIRE internet and 60% of CMS powered websites use WordPress. For hackers it's simply a game of numbers.

WordPress MUST be Updated on a Regular Basis

If you don't update your WordPress website on a regular basis, or monitor its security, there's a good chance it will get hacked. I update my clients WordPress plugins on a daily basis. A little tool called MainWP makes that an easy task for me since I manage a lot of WordPress websites. I'm able to login to one place, scan my managed websites and update everything with the click of a button. Plugins are a source of many security vulnerabilities within WordPress installations. WordPress plugin updates often contain security-related fixes. When a plugin developer discovers a security flaw and pushes an update to fix it, the hackers take note. Hackers use scripts that are constantly scanning the internet for known vulnerabilities.

WordPress Security Monitoring

My favorite tool for monitoring the security of my WordPress websites is Wordfence. Wordfence is a great firewall with a ton of options and also has a malware scanner. I always like to show my clients their "Live Traffic" feature that shows every single IP address that tries to access your website, what they were trying to access and where their IP address is located. In the past 24 hours, I had IP addresses from the Philipines, Hong Kong, Russia, France, Turkey and India try to probe my website for various vulnerabilities. This happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The WordPress Login Page is the Most Popular Target

The WordPress login page located at /wp-login.php is the most popular target for hackers. There are numerous ways to combat this. Wordfence allows you to limit the number of login attempts before blocking an IP address. I set that number to 2. They also allow you to immediately block any login attempt with an invalid username. It's important to create a username that can't be easily guessed (and NEVER use admin). Once a hacker has your username they will use a brute force attack that will keep trying to login to WordPress with different passwords. In addition to using Wordfence, I limit access to the /wp-login.php page by IP address. If your IP address doesn't belong to me or my client, it will get blocked. This can cause some issues when trying to login from a new place, but I've found that minor inconvenience is overshadowed by the high level of security it provides.

Is Your WordPress Website Secure?

Is your head spinning yet? I just touched on the basics of WordPress security. If your website is not being properly managed or maintained contact me today and I can get you back on the right track.

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Background Image Generator By SiteOrigin

Background Image Generator by SiteOrigin

Small repeating images that create a background pattern are something I use in every website I design. Background Image Generator by SiteOrigin is my favorite tool for creating these patterns. They give users the ability to use ANY hex color (There are 16,777,216 hex colors) to change the color of their simple background patterns. Their customizable background images come from another great website, Subtle Patterns. They have hundreds to choose from. You can also add filters, change the intensity of the pattern and add noise to the background image. The patterns are well optimized so they load fast on websites.

There are other background image generators out there, but none with the great features Background Image Generator provides. It's also free so you can't beat that! Check out my portfolio to see the many different patterns I've used on clients websites or contact me today to learn more.

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