POP or IMAP Email?

POP and IMAP email are 2 ways that your computer or portable device can connect with a mail server to retrieve your email.  When you setup your email account on any device, you have the choice of setting it up as a POP account or an IMAP account.  If it matters, Wikipedia describes POP here in detail.  It describes IMAP here.  This article is really intended to give you the 10,000′ executive summary, so you can see the advantages that IMAP gives most of us in this modern age (speaking in Internet age terms).

FYI: “mail client” is the software on your computer or other device that gets and sends email from/to the mail server.  For example, Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail.

Although most POP clients have an option to leave mail on server after download, e-mail clients using POP generally connect, retrieve all messages, store them on the user’s PC as new messages, delete them from the server, and then disconnect.  IMAP provides more complete and complex remote access to typical mailbox operations. Most email clients support POP and IMAP to retrieve email messages.

These days the vast majority of us use smart phones, and they provide a very easy way to stay connected to email wherever we are.  But most of us also use email from our computers, either in our office or at home; usually both.  Some of us have even more places and devices from which we regularly connect via email.  The most basic cool thing about setting up our email accounts on these various devices using IMAP is that the folders on the mail server keep track of the “read” or “unread” status of each message.  This status is then synchronized in practically real time between all the devices via the mail server.

This means that if you read all your new email messages before leaving the office, your iPhone (or Android) smart phone will show that you have zero new email messages at that time.  After you leave the office and as soon as the next message arrives in the mail server inbox, your smart phone will indicate that you have 1 new message (so will your other devices).  Once you read that message on your smart phone, then all messages on the mail server will show a “read” status.  So when you arrive home and login to your email account, the only messages that will will show as “new” (i.e., “unread”) email will be any that arrived to the mail server since you last checked email from any device.

You can also usually set up additional mail folders under the IMAP inbox folder.  Those folders would be located on the mail server.  That means that any email in those folders would be accessible from any of your email devices.  So, you could create a folder called “Travel” in the IMAP folders.  Any travel reservation confirmations emails that came in, you could move them into that folder.  Then they would not clog up your inbox, but yet would be available from your smart phone as you travel and need them to check to hotels, etc.

Other messages are not critical to have from every device, but you want to archive them for later reference.  Emails that serve as the documentation of a client’s project, and the detailed threaded discussion of it are one example.  You probably don’t need access to that whole thread all the time.  In that case you could create a folder in your email client on your main computer and move all those emails to that folder when you are working within your email while at that machine.  The process of moving the mail to that folder usually deletes it from the IMAP inbox folder.  This is good, because simply leaving all or lots of your email on the IMAP inbox folder applies against your allotted email space from your provider.

Since both protocols retrieve emails in a different way, the way we access our emails is also different. When using POP, messages are downloaded to our device, along with any attachments, visuals, etc. This is especially handy when we have an unstable internet connection or don’t plan to have one for a while (for example, on a flight). Even then, we’ll be able to access all emails. We could also respond to them but the emails will only go out when the connection is established again.

With IMAP, emails are synced when the internet connection is available. Email clients fetch just the headers and sometimes a brief preview of a message. Only when you click/tap on a particular email, the client downloads the content of a message. This is, of course, not a problem if you have a stable internet connection. It’s even useful as you don’t clog your device’s memory with unnecessary data. But it’s something to keep in mind the next time you board a shuttle to Mars and feel like check your inbox to kill some time.

If you’re curious to learn more, the Mailtrap’s article on IMAP vs POP3 should be a compelling read. Check it out!

It is important to keep your used email space allotment within the specified value.  This will insure that your email keeps working smoothly, and that it won’t stop flowing in because the “tank” is full.

Thinking of your email inbox as a tank is a great analogy.  Incoming email fills up the tank.  Downloading/deleting read mail (as a POP account does) empties the tank.  Moving email from IMAP inbox or from IMAP sub folders to archive folders on your computer also empties the tank.

Sending email uses a different protocol; namely SMTP.  This is used whether you use POP or IMAP to receive email.

A little geek detail: The standard POP port is 110.  The standard IMAP port is 143.  Some mail clients don’t let you convert an account already setup in them as POP to IMAP and vise versa.  You may have to set up the account again and specify the POP/IMAP within that new setup.  Some versions of Microsoft Outlook are like that.  Be careful when doing this that your mail client does not delete your existing email folders.

I am a firm believer that IMAP is a big step forward in being able to easily manage email from multiple devices.

How Can I Improve My Site Ranking?

How Can I Improve My Web Site Ranking in the Search Engines?

How to improve a Web site’s ranking is a common question asked by many Web site owners.  That question has complicated answers.  This article is intended to give some insight into this question to a Web site owner who does not maintain his or her own site, and may not be familiar with all that goes into improving a site’s ranking.

Many years ago there were some tricks and techniques that could be applied to help drive a site to the top of the search engine rankings for particular search terms.  Over the past several years Google has been constantly trying to eliminate the special “tricks” that many Webmasters used to use to improve rankings.  Google’s position is that they want Web sites with the very best content on any given subject to appear at the top of the search results.  They want searchers to have the very best experience possible.  Unfortunately, they alone define what that means.  It is very important to understand that what is considered acceptable and unacceptable to improve a site’s ranking changes over time; sometimes a great deal.

White Hat vs. Black Hat Techniques

Some of the old techniques and tricks are now considered so inappropriate by Google (“black hat” techniques) that they will penalize Web sites that employ them.  Penalties can result in sites being seriously demoted in the search rankings, even completely banned from the Google index so that the site will never appear in search results.  A few of the old techniques that Google now penalizes include (Make sure your Webmaster or SEO is not doing any of these!):

  • “Keyword Stuffing”; using your target key words as a certain percentage of the total number of words in your site copy.
  • Invisible or semi-visible text;  Another very blatant way of stuffing keywords into Web page code and copy without being completely obnoxious to viewers, only to spiders crawling the entire page code.  This is done using a number of techniques.
  • Buying/selling page links; since links to your site from other Web sites is a primary way to boost your sites rankings, this has always been a  major goal of Webmasters seeking better rankings.  However, it must happen naturally.  That means other sites link to your site because it has the very best content on your subject matter, and therefore it creates the need for other to pass that info along.  Buying links from “link farms” or engaging in other unnatural link schemes is seriously disliked by Google.  Google’s policy is explained here.
  • And, there is so much more, but you get the idea…

Don’t Put Your Web Site at Risk

Google is constantly changing and evolving what they consider to be “best practices” in Web sites.  Keeping up with their latest ideas and philosophies is a full time job for conscientious SEO’s.  Do not let anyone work on your Web site that is not completely informed of Google best practices.  We all know that there are people on every street  corner who can build a WordPress Web site, and just as many who can hand code a beautiful HTML site.  However, there are very few of those casual Web designers who understand all the detail and nuances of these best practices.  Be very careful!  I have been quite surprised lately at the Web sites build for important clients by a couple of  supposedly very reputable agencies in the LA area.

Keep These Points in Mind

Anyone seeking to improve the rankings of their Web site needs to be aware of several realities:

First, as discussed above, there are acceptable techniques for helping your site perform better in the search engine results.  However, many SEO’s practice black hat techniques, unfortunately.  As a Web site owner, it is absolutely in your best interest to avoid these techniques at all cost.  Some Webmasters use thes techniques because they are malicious, and some use them because they are ignorant.  It will not matter to the search engines why those techniques were used; they will simply penalize your Web site.  Search engine penalty recovery is a significant business earning those that do it a very good living.

Search Engine Results Page, or SERP

Search Engine Results Page, or SERP

Second, achieving better Web site ranking in the SERP’s (search engine results pages), takes a lot of time and work.  After that it takes elapsed time for Google to discover and index your site after you have spent all that time and energy getting keeping your site fresh, current, and the very best of any on your subject matter.  There is simply no way around doing the hard, consistent work of creating great content, and doing all the right detailed things to make your site rank well.

Third, it takes a much greater investment to create and maintain a serious Web property these days than ever before.  For many years we have been used to just spending several hours designing a nice Web site, finding nice images for it, and writing good copy.  Maybe even putting up some videos.  Perhaps also creating some special purpose forms for the convenience of our customers.  Then we simply hosted this on a Web server and went on with our lives.  Having a Web presence that allows your market to find you and your offerings is simply a much more costly endeavor these days.

It Requires a Lot More Investment These Days

One of the key components to a quality site that Google will rank well is current content.  Also, it is vital that this content is of very high quality.  That means that your content should be the very best information available on the subject that your site addresses.  That means content must be constantly created and published on your site.  It’s no secret that it takes massive amounts of time and effort to create this high quality content.    No simple matter, to be sure.

We are always to help you improve the effectiveness of your Web properties by improving your search engine ranking.  We only use reputable, white hat, best practices.  Contact us if you need help improving your site’s ranking.

How Do I Make an XML Sitemap?

What is an XML Sitemap Anyway?

An XML sitemap is a small file with lines of simple XML machine readable code that list the HTML files, the image files, and the audio and video files that are part of a Web site.  Google uses it to easily see what pages and other files make up your Web site and how they are organized so it can crawl your site more efficiently.  Every site should have an XML sitemap to help the search engine bots to know what files to find, crawl, and index on the site.  Of course, the XML sitemap must be updated when the site has pages added or deleted from it as well.

Two entries from the XML Sitemap for our Web site

This image shows two entries from the XML Sitemap for our Web site

Without making your eyes glass over from looking at raw code, just notice a couple things about this brief snippet.  First, there are two entries; each begins with <url> and ends with </url>.  Second, each of those entries has two pieces of information; first the URL of an HTML page of our site (inside the <loc> and </loc> tags), and second the last modified date & time of that HTML file (inside the <lastmod> and </lastmod tags).  Pretty simple, yes?

The entire file has a header with other information in it, and can have separate sections for each of the various file types listed; HTML, image, video, etc.  We have spared you that complexity here since we just want to give you an introduction.

A couple of items of note about these entries:  We must be very specific in how the location and date/time information is specified.  Getting these wrong can cause the XML sitemap file to not work properly.

So, How Do We Make an XML Sitemap?

You could hand code it in a plain text editor, however, unless you are used to doing this it is not recommended.  There are also some free tools that will crawl your site and create one for you.  Google actually has a great resource listing showing a variety of tools available to do just that.  We have used both online tools and desktop utilities to generate these files for us.  If you have a completely WordPress site, then there are WordPress plugins available to generate the XML sitemaps for you.  If your site is a combination of  static HTML pages and a WordPress blog, then one of the  online tools is probably the better solution.

Once you have a created or modified your XML site file you should test it using the testing tool that is available on your Google Search Console account.  BTW, Google Search Console was also known as Google Webmaster Tools until earlier this year sometime.  If you don’t have an account for your site, that is another “must have”.  It’s free, and you can use it to test your XML sitemap, then submit it to Google once testing shows that it’s correct.

The XML sitemap should be located in the “Web root” of your Web server file structure.  That is where your home page is located.

If you need help creating or updating an XML sitemap, or testing it, please feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to assist with that and all your needs for maintaining an effective Web presence for your business or organization.

Help Your Google Ranking with SSL?

Really??  So a secure Web site will rank better in Google than an unsecured site?  But I thought we only needed to have a secure site if we were doing online transactions involving credit card info, or if we were requesting certain kinds of info from viewers.

It’s true; Google announced recently that they will start considering whether or not a site is protected with SSL as a ranking signal.  They are considering this a very lightweight ranking factor now.  It will increase gradually over the coming months and years.  They have explained their thinking here and here, among other places.

Why is Google Doing This?

Google has indicated that security is a very big deal to them.  They point to being concerned about the security of their own systems, and also to helping ensure the security of sites they return to searchers.  That’s  where your Web site comes in.  It’s important to realize that in the future, not having an SSL secured Web site will adversely affect your search engine rankings within Google.  It’s even more important to realize that not having an SSL secured Web site may cause your viewers to see warnings about their privacy possibly being compromised if they view your site.  See the example below.  Needless to say, this could have a devastating on your site traffic!


When Should You Implement SSL For Your Site?

Since this is a policy decision made by Google, there really is no way to know when it will become a “big” issue with site ranking.  Many of the experts we follow feel that the right time frame for this to move from a very new factor that now carries little ranking weight to one that carries very important ranking weight is probably about two years.  This does not mean that you should wait for two years or even one year to implement SSL on your site, however!  Like other recommendations from Google, all of us that administrate Web sites should start planning for this right now, with the thought of implementing as soon as practicable.

The best time to implement SSL for an entire Web site is when you are:

  • Launching a brand new Web site at a brand new domain
  • Making a major change to the URL structure on your existing Web site, like a site redesign
  • Changing domain names

If your Web site requires any of these actions then you absolutely should be including a change to an SSL secured site along with it.  If your Web site does require these changes, then you should probably wait on making the change to SSL for now.  However, in that case you should begin planning for making the change to SSL sometime in the next year or so.  It should be combined with other large scale changes to your site if possible, because the kinds and scope work required.

So How Do We SSL Secure Our Web Site?

The process of converting your site to an SSL site involves several steps.  We will give you the 30,000 foot view here.

First, your Webmaster needs to purchase an SSL certificate for the exact domain that you want secured. He or the Web host then installs the certificate on the Web server, and the browser then is able to verify the identity of the certificate (and therefore the Web site) when connecting.  The SSL certificate encrypts the connection between the Web server and a viewer’s Web browser.

SSL certificates come in a variety of types, ranging in price from free to quite expensive.  Free certs are issued by the server itself and are “self signed”, meaning there is no way for a viewer to verify the identity of the server, and therefore the Web site.  SSL certs with even a very modest cost are issued by a certification authority; the entity from whom the cert is purchased.  You are paying for that entity to verify that your domain name is real, that it is registered to you, and therefore can be trusted.  Very inexpensive certs, however, are not fully compatible with all browsers.  This means that even though you are real and your Web site is trustworthy, your viewers’ browsers may still complain that your site may be untrustworthy.  This is totally unsatisfactory in terms of creating trust between you and your viewer.

More expensive “DV” (domain validated) SSL certs also verify your domain name and Web site are who you say they are, but they are also compatible with virtually all browsers, so the chances of your viewers getting trustworthiness warning messages while attempting to view your secure pages are very much reduced.

Another class of SSL certificate is the “OV” (organization validated) cert.  When purchasing this cert, the issuer will verify the identity and ownership of the organization owning the domain name, as well as the domain name itself.  These certs are more expensive because of this additional validation.

Our opinion, and the opinion of most other experts on this subject is that a DV (domain validated) SSL certificate is perfectly sufficient for the purposes of being seen to Google as a secure site.

Secondly, if your Web site is being converted to a secure site (https://…) from an insecure site (http://…) then you will need to permanently redirect your insecure pages to their secure counterparts.  This is normally done by specifying “301 redirects” for each of those pages.  More complicated situations may require variations of this.  This is something your Webmaster will do for you.  It is a process that requires care in order that errors are avoided.  There is potential for creating errors that will cause the search engines to stop crawling your site, or to create massive “duplicate content” issues.

Thirdly,your Google & Bing Webmaster Tools accounts, and your Google Analytics accounts need to be reconfigured to refect the changes to HTTPS of your Web pages.

Fourthly, your Web developers will have to pay even closer attention to page download speeds.  HTTPS (secure Web browsing) is inherently a bit slower than HTTP (unsecure).  That makes download speeds another issue to pay very close attention to, because that also affects Google page ranking.

And there is more, but these are the main points.

We will have more detailed articles on secured Web sites in near future, so please stay tuned.

If you would like our assistance in navigating this new issue of concern for your Web site, please contact us.  We have been providing SSL certificates for many of our clients for many years.  This is a subject to know very well.

I’m Not Receiving My Email!

We often get calls to help clients who are having problems receiving email.  Email is a medium we have all come to absolutely rely on 24/7.  Most of us are even plugged into our various email accounts on our smartphones, all the time and everywhere.

But occasionally we notice that we have not received any email in awhile, or we get a call from someone who sent us an email and they are wondering if we received it, because they have not received a reply from us and it is something urgent.  Upon closer examination it becomes apparent that our email is not working.

What Do I Do?

First, are you connected to the Internet?  Open a Web  browser and see if you can surf the Web.  I like to go to cnn.com or a similar site that has a date-time stamp displayed so I know I’m not looking a cached page.  Is your Internet access working?  If yes, read on…

If you use more than one device (say, your computer and smartphone or tablet) to access your email, then first check to see if any of the other devices is receiving email successfully.  You would see this if there are new messages on that device that are not on the devise that is not getting email.  If that second device does have newer email, then that shows that the mail server is working and therefore the problem is the original device connection to the mail server.

I Only Have One Device…

If you only access your email account with one device, then try this.  The first thing we suggest is to login to your email account using a Web mail interface if you have that available (our clients do).  This means you open a Web browser and navigate to the proper Web address for your Webmail.  You will need your username and password to login.  Obviously you will need to have your password…

Once logged into your Web mail, see if there are recent unread emails in your inbox that have not downloaded to your device.  If there are, then your computer (or whatever device you’re using) is not connecting to the mail server.

My Computer Is Not Connecting to the Email Server

For a computer, the best first course of action is to close your email software and restart it.  If that solves the problem new unread email should start downloading.

If that does not work then try rebooting the computer.  This can solve a host of problems including any WiFi or other local network issues you may have.

If rebooting your computer does not work, you can also reboot the router to see if that fixes the problem.

Email STILL Not Working?

Is your email hosted at your own or another private domain name?  If so, check to see if the domain name registration may have expired.  You can do this by using any WHOIS query tool.  We have one located here.  Look at the renewal date shown at or near the bottom of the returned record.  Is that date in the past?  If so, this is the first problem to solve!  It will likely fix the broken email problem.

If your email is still not working and none of the above, you should contact your email hosting provider technical support.  If we are your email hosting provider, call us.

Subject: Important Notice Regarding Your Domain Name(s)

What is This Email Notice About?

Domain name registrars are governed by ICANN (Internet Corp. of Assigned Names and Numbers).  This is an international organization who’s job it is to oversee the domain name system worldwide.  It is explained fully here in Wikipedia, if you’re interested.  ICANN requires all registrars to verify the registrant and contact information annually for each domain name.

Your registrar does this by sending an email to the Administrative Contact and Technical Contact email addresses of record each year.    The subject line of that email will look similar to the title of this Article.  In fact, if we are administrating your domain name for you, then your email will look exactly like this:

ICANN Contact Verification Email

Click to enlarge

Why Is My Name Wrong?

It starts “Dear ___ ___,” .  The first name and last name are taken from your domain name record.  You may have weird entries here, because maybe your first name and last name was specified as “Executive Director” or some other functional name, instead of a personal name.  This is something we have done in past for organizations that might have some change in the personnel, and eliminates the need to update the record needlessly.  Most registrars now include a field for first name, last name, and position.  It was not always this way, however.

Verify Your Contact Info!

A link is provided to allow you to view the contact information for the registrant, Admin Contact and Technical Contact.  You should check this information carefully and make sure it is accurate.  The really important part of these records are the email addresses, since that is how virtually all communication between the contacts and the registrar are handled.  Also important are the telephone numbers and the addresses.  If we handle administrating your domain name for you, and any changes should be made to the contact information, let us know and we will update the record for you.  If you handle your domain name yourself, then update that record as needed, but don’t put it off.

Domain Names Are Valuable Assets, Protect Them!

Who Is My Domain Name Registered to?

It is very easy for anyone to go register a domain name from any number of online vendors. However, from our experience most people do not take proper care of their domain name properties once they have registered them.  When you register a domain name for yourself, or someone does it on your behalf, you should make absolutely certain that you or your company are rightly named as the Registrant.  You should also make sure that you or the proper organizational position in your business is named as the Administrative Contact.  The appropriate person or position should be named as the Technical Contact.  Use our WHOIS tool to check the registrant and contact info of your own domain names to see whether that is actually the case.

When we register domain names on behalf of our clients we always make sure we are all clear from the beginning who the registrant and admin contact should be.  We normally name ourselves as the tech contact.  One of the things that we do is review and update if necessary the conatct info for each of these annually.  This includes names addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.  Not only is this an ICANN requirement, it’s simply good management of a valuable asset.

Where Is It Registered?

Also remember what vendor you registered your domain name through (ie, Network Solutions, GoDaddy, Enom.com, …).  Also remember which Top Level Domains (TLD’s) you own (ie, .com, ,org, .net, etc.).  The world is full of people that send fake “renewal” notices for TLD’s that registrants do not own.  You would be surprised how often these fake invoices get paid by people who are not up to speed on what they really have.  If you know what TLD’s you own, and where you have them registered, then you can easily recognize any of these spam notifications that come you.  And they come via FAX, postal mail and email.

I recommend you see our earlier blog post, “Where Are Your Internet Properties?” for more on how to manage the info required to access your asset.

Protect Access & Keep It Renewed

Occasionally we get a call from a client stating that their email is broken, or Web site is down.  When this happens, one of the first things we look for is to see if their domain name is active.  And often is is not, but has expired because the annual renewal fee was not paid.  If we catch this within a day or two of the expiration we can pay the renewal fee and the name will be reactivated.  After a few days, though the name is past the grace period for renewal.  When this happens it is snapped up by a domain name reseller.  It must then be purchased back from them at whatever price they are demanding.

Extortion?  Well, maybe, but more importantly you have lost a possibly very valuable asset.  One of our clients found himself in this situation and the company who grabbed his domain name wanted $10,000 for it!

Just as we discussed in the article referenced above, make sure the username and password to access the domain name registration account are strictly protected, too.  Obviously with that information, anyone can access that record and update the password to lock everyone else out.  After that it is a trivial exercise to update all the contact and DNS info.  Then, voila! suddenly they own your domain name, are the named registrant, and your name can point to any other Web server they choose!  Use strong passwords, not the same one you use for everything else (like so many people do).

Be sure to call or contact us if we can help with any domain name problems you encounter.

Considerations for Choosing a Domain Name

What’s a TLD and Which One Do I Want?

This article is intended to help if you do not yet have a domain name registered for your business or organization. Domain names ending in “.com” are usually preferable to those of other Top Level Domains (TLD’s); such as .org or .net. If you are a learning institution you may be able to get a “.edu” TLD. There are many other TLDs available, and most are not worth considering.  Additionally, the .com TLDs have been available for almost 20 years, and there are not many good ones left. Having said that, it’s not difficult to create a version of a “.com” domain name that is likely to be available. Just a couple of years ago we registered “prismpartnersllc.com” for ourselves.

Consider registering the “.org” and “.net” TLDs in addition to the .com version of whatever you choose; if they are available. Do this if for no other reason than to keep a competitor from underhandedly grabbing them and then using them to your disadvantage. We also grabbed prismpartnersllc.org & .net when we registered the .com version.

How Do I Choose a Domain Name?

Before registering a domain name, make a list of the “key words” important to your business. Sometimes these will be 2, 3, or 4 word phrases. These are the phrases that people will search Google, Bing, and Yahoo! with to hopefully find your business. Then look for domain names that are available that contain these keywords. The best one of these is the domain name you want. An example would be “LegalDocsByNina.com”, or “SoCalJazzAndBluesEventBookings.com”.

In general, long domain names are problematic. And domain names with special characters can be problematic. However, sometimes these are the only choices available. If that’s the case, do not stress over this. For example, we own 2 domain names that are hyphenated: the‐networks.com (our company’s primary domain name), and the‐internetworks.com. When spelling our email addresses on the telephone, the hyphen is a problem about half the time. But again, if this is your best choice, make it and move on.

What If I Have multiple Domain Names?

If you end up with more than one domain name, and many of us do for various reasons, please be mindful of this next consideration: Do not use more than one domain name to point to a single Web site. The search engines consider this “duplicate content”, and they will penalize your site’s pages in the search engine results. Instead, use a secondary domain name to point to some other page that contains info on your company and links to your main Web site.

Once you have a domain name, keep it forever! The older a domain name is the more credibility the search engines give it!  In fact, consider acquiring the domain name of a valuable competitor if you ever have the opportunity. This can provide your business some added search engine benefits.

Also, always make sure you or your business are named as the “registrant” and as the “administrative contact”!

Do you need to discuss your specific circumstances regarding choosing and registering a domain name?  If so, please call us or contact us and we will be happy to help.  Then we can register a domain name for you if you wish.

How Does Your Web Site Look?

When you ask yourself this question you probably think about how long it has been since your site has been updated, and the fact that the look and feel is just soo dated. Or that the colors and graphics are soo “yesterday”, or that you’re just simply tired of it. Not to mention that the descriptions of products, services and offerings of your business are not accurate anymore. You may have even been fixating on the fact that the copyright date in the footer says some year other than 2014…

How does It Look on Mobile Devices?

None of that is what we are driving at here, though. You have probably seen your Web site on a computer more times than you can count. Probably on lots of different systems with different size monitors, and running various OS’s. Have you looked at it lately on an iPhone? An Android phone? iPad, of whatever generation? How about an Android tablet? What did you think?

If you have had your site redesigned lately, hopefully it looked good on any of those devices. Over the past year or more, Google has been strongly encouraging everyone to have a site that views well on any device. And when Google speaks about whatever it is they consider a “best practice”, it behooves you (and all of us) to listen! After all, they above all others determine how much exposure any of us get on the Internet.

There are different ways to achieve the “Web site that views well on any device”. You can design a second Web site that is just like your “regular” site but formats for mobile devices only. Then when your Web server sees a request for viewing your Web page come in, it detects what kind of device is doing the requesting. If that request is coming from a mobile device, the request is redirected to the mobile version of the site. Works great, right? Yes, it does. Except that now you have to keep two separate Web sites up-to-date and accurate (no typo’s, etc). Sheesh! Just keeping one Web site up-to-date and accurate is hard enough!

Solve the Problem With One Responsive Web Site

Another approach to this problem is to design a Web site that is “responsive” This means that the site see’s what kind of device is requesting to download the site page for viewing, just as before. But this time, depending on the screen size and resolution of the device, the coding of the Web files will format that page so that it formats appropriately for that screen size. Try viewing this page using different devices as a test, if you’re so inclined.  The image below is this page viewed on an iPhone.  You can see how the Blog post title and the text wraps appropriately, and how the search box formats as it should.  A more image heavy page would show the images swapping smaller sizes, and the head, sidebar, and body elements of the page formatting appropriately for the viewing device.  A look at any part of The Internet Works Web site will illustrate this principle for you.

Responsive design of this blog shown in this iPhone screenshot

Responsive design of this blog shown in this iPhone screenshot

If any kind of Internet marketing is an important part of your business strategy, then you need to think about incorporating a site design that properly formats for various devices ASAP. Google has been saying this for some time now, so be forewarned… And as you investigate this issue you will learn that there is much disagreement about which strategy is the best to achieve this goal. Google recommends, and we wholeheartedly concur that “responsive” design is absolutely the way forward here. That is what we use, and what we recommend to our clients when asked. Of course, the client is always right in our office!

Have Records of Your Internet Properties?

Keep a Record of Your Log Ins

Over the many years we have been in business, a recurring problem has been clients who don’t have a record of the logins for the various pieces and parts of their Internet properties.  This includes access to their domain name records, their Web host account, FTP account for their Web host, and so forth.  This usually becomes an issue when a problem arises and someone with the knowledge of how to fix that problem needs access to one of those pieces.

We have always provided our Web hosting clients with a summary of these various logins when we setup their Web host account.  However, many times features get added later, or their strategy dictates that other tools are pressed into service at a later date, and those additional items never get added to the list.  We make it a major priority of ours to maintain those logins for our clients as we encounter them, but we don’t always encounter all of them; sometimes others are handling these issues.

Our Record Sheet is a Handy Start

To help prevent the difficulties that come with not having this information we have created an Internet Properties Record Sheet that you can use to record all these various pieces of information for all the components of your Internet properties.  We have it available here for you.  We have to admit that we saw this same idea of the record sheet put out there by someone else, but it was several months ago and we do not have a record of who.  Otherwise I would give them credit here.  If I find the info, I will update it here.

Our sheet includes several items that were not on the the original that we saw.  However, an idea that was part of that previous offering is incorporated here.  That is the fact that this record sheet is offered as a PDF document; the idea being that you download it, print it, and complete it with a good old fashioned pencil (remember that you should update the passwords periodically).  The important reason for doing this is security; there is no electronic copy lurking in the depths of your devices that can be found and put to nefarious use by someone other than you.  So you complete the sheet by hand, then archive it in a locking file cabinet, a safe, a safe deposit box, or someplace similarly safe where nobody else can access it.  This is because it contains all the information necessary to take complete and total control of all your Internet properties.  Think for a second about how much damage this could cause…

There are a number of items on the list that may not apply to your Internet presence situation.  There are also a number of items that  you may not understand.  This is all intended to have you think carefully about what Internet properties you have and exactly what information you need to access them. If necessary contact the people you work with that have this access information and get it from them so the you have a record of it yourself.  Your Internet properties are yours.  Make sure you have the keys to them, just as you have the keys to your own house!

I am sure that we’ve left some things out, so we will update this as that becomes apparent.  We also welcome your comments on things we may left out, or good ideas we have not covered.  In the meantime, use our Internet Properties Record Sheet it to get yourself organized and to be ready for that inevitable problem.