Websites are being Encrypted and held to Ransom

Encrypted Website Database - RansomThere is a new security threat for website owners to contend with.

Similar to Crypto-locker and other Ransomware, there is a new threat that will encrypt the core database files of a website.

Dubbed “RansomWeb” by Security firm High-Tech Bridge, database files are encrypted, and an email is sent to the admin demanding the payment of a Ransom to unencrypt the files. In one case, the Ransom demanded was US$50,000.

Stop your website from being encrypted and being subjected to a Ransom

Now even though this particular website was doing backups of the database, they were doing automated backups that remained on the Server. Unfortunately for them, their website was compromised months before the attack occurred, and consequently all their backups were compromised. This is why it is so important to download backups and keep them separate from the Server.

One of the things that we do here at Website Design by Spotty Dog Computer Services as part of our Monthly Maintenance and Backups Service is to download backups of your website to a local hard drive. We will keep up to 12 mths of backups so that in the event that something like this happens to your website, we can restore an uninfected and uncompromised backup.

Apart from downloading backups to a local hard drive, the best thing you can do is have a secure website. That means installing security plug-in’s that close security holes, and keeping WordPress and all Plug-in’s up to date as new releases are made available. This is of course part of our Monthly Maintenance Services too.

So if you have a WordPress based website, we can take steps to protect your website (and your sanity), but please do not wait until it is too late!!!

Just one of the many services we offer.


Should you be using Domain Name Email?

Domain Name Email

So let’s start off by defining what “Domain Name Email” is.

What I mean by this is using an email address that ends with your Domain Name.

For example,

Over the years I have seen plenty of businesses (even though they own a Domain Name and have a website), that continue to use either their ISP Domain Name, or a Gmail or Hotmail email address.

It is my opinion that you are probably doing your self a disservice if you adopt this practice.

I believe that it is a bit unprofessional to do this, and could even impact on your potential customers perception of the business.

I read an article from New Zealand recently that stated, “Close to nine in ten (89%) of these consumers know what a domain name is and believe that it’s very important for businesses to use a company specific email address”.

So it would seem that I am not the only one with this opinion.

There really isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t use Domain Name Email. Most Hosting accounts offer a minimum of 5 email addresses, or in the case of our Website Hosting, you get up to 100 email addresses on the Basic Account, and even more with the Standard and Business Accounts.

The other advantage to using Domain Name Email is that you can setup a number of them to use for different aspects of your business.

For example, you could have an email address specifically for Accounts, Enquiries, Technical Support and so on. This allows you to very easily sort and separate email types making it easier to find and refer to emails.

If you like to use a 3rd party email service like Gmail because you can use Google Apps for Business, then fear not. You can still have Domain Name Email because Gmail can be setup use with your Domain Name.

This is what I do and all my emails are across all devices and they are all synced with access to your Contacts and all emails including “Sent” items and “Drafts”.

Get yourself a WordPress Test Website in 2 seconds!!

To put it simply, this is absolutely brilliant!!!

I regularly have a need to create a WordPress Test Website for either customer development reasons, or to test theories and/or plug-in’s, and I usually do it in a sub-folder on one of my existing websites.

This works fine, but there are implications.

For one, there is a drain on my Server’s resources, and I need to exclude the development website from backups. I also use up a spare SQL Database, and then there is the time involved in doing all these things.

And if you experiment on a Live Website and something goes wrong, there is the hassle of troubleshooting and fixing that up too. So it makes sense to use a WordPress Test Website.

But I just found a new FREE service by qSandbox (yes you read that right, a Free Service), where you can not only setup a Test Website for free, but it literally takes only two seconds to setup.

You just visit their website at, and create an account by filling in 3 fields on a Form that include your Website Name, your Email Address and your chosen Password, then click “Create Account and Setup Site”

Free WordPress Test Website

You can watch their informative video below:

The Free Account only includes one website with the following Features:

Basic Free Test Website Features

But for as little as $2/month, you can get a whole lot more including the ability to Import an existing Website and Upload and Edit Themes.

It is certainly worth checking out if you need a WordPress Test Website to test plug-in’s.

VPS? – What is a VPS?

VPS - Virtual Private ServerSo just what is a VPS?

VPS stands for “Virtual Private Server”, and as the name suggests, it is literally a Virtual Server or Virtual Web Host. In other words, it is a “Virtual Machine” on a Computer (a Server), provided by a Web Hosting Company. It is sometimes referred to as a Virtual Dedicated Server or VDS.

Most basic websites are hosted on a “Shared Server”. A Shared Server means that your website shares the Server with 100’s and possibly 1000’s of other websites. What this means is that when there are peak loads, or lots of traffic to these websites, it can affect your website causing it to slow down, or even prevent it from loading at all and “timing out”.

A VPS gives you a way of having your own “Dedicated Server” without actually needing the physical hardware. Strictly speaking, a VPS is a Dedicated Server in a Shared Server environment. ie, multiple VPS’s are located on the one big Server.

Confused yet? It can be a little difficult to get your head around.

Advantages of a VPS

The biggest advantage that I see with a VPS is that apart from the increased speed, you can host more than one website on the one Server. So in my case, I have six websites on a VPS, and because I have Administrative access to them all, I have greater control over what can be done without the need to rely on the Hosting Company. In addition, unlike Shared Hosting, no other websites/users on the Server (that hosts the VPS) can affect your websites because the VPS is isolated from them.

So, given the advantages of a VPS, I made the decision recently to move my websites (including this one) and Spotty Dog Computer Services to a VPS. It’s only just happened, so I’ll reserve my judgement for now on the cost vs speed and reliability, so stay tuned for updates.

How can I compete against big companies and big websites?

Google AnalyticsWell the short answer to this is, you really can’t.

The reality is that most Home Based and Small Businesses just don’t have the time and resources to do everything that is required. Things like continually adding relevant content, continually adding content to Social Media, continually building back-links and so on. This all takes time and money, and we just don’t have the dedicated staff and finances to do compete with this.

So what can you do? Well all you can really do is adopt best practices and do what you can, and if your competition isn’t doing that, then you will more than likely out rank them.

So try and set yourself small achievable targets. Like a new Blog Post every two weeks, or even once a month. Once a month is better than never or very rarely. But whatever you do, make sure it is a quality Post, and not just some drivel to fill a page. Make sure that what you are talking about in your Post adds some value to your website, and that is relevant to what you sell or do, and it is something that people are likely to want to read. If it is interesting, if it answers burning questions, if it is worth knowing about, then it is more likely that people will read it, and share it, and link to it. But even then, make sure that when you do create a Post, that you do some SEO on it. Spend some time creating a properly constructed Page Title and Meta Description, and keep in mind what keyword or phrase you want to target for the Post.

When you publish the Post, make sure you paste a link to it in your Facebook page (if you have one, which you should). When you post in your Facebook page, make sure that in addition to your Link, you have sufficient text so Facebook creates the “See More” link. When someone clicks on this, it counts as an “Engagement”, and they are also more likely to click on your Link.

If at all possible, include at least one image and make sure you do the SEO on it as well including a proper Image Title and Alt Description.

But there are other things you can do too. For example, if you are competing against other businesses in the same retail space, do some research on them. See what they are doing and what is working for them, and adapt it to your business and improve upon it. You will find, for example, that if a website is ranking well for certain search terms, the business may well be complacent and are not bothering to continually add content. This gives you the opportunity to exploit that and do it better than them. If you consistently do it better than your competitors, then over time, your website will rank better than them.

But you too cannot fall into the same trap once you get that number one or high ranking position. Let’s face it, that is why I am writing this Post right now. Apart from the fact that I wish to impart this knowledge to my customers (or potential customers), it also gives me a means of adding relevant content to my website.

It’s also a good idea to be able to quantify where your traffic is coming from and what keywords people are using to find you. This will help you “tweak” your content to better reach your Target Market.

Happy Blogging and FaceBooking 😉

A whole lot of New Domain Names available

New Top Level Domain NamesOver the last couple of months, there have been a raft of new Top Level Domains (TLD’s) released. A Domain Name is the www address of your website. For example, the Domain Name for this website is The choice of a Domain Name is a pretty important one, so having all these new TLD’s will give a lot of people the opportunity to get a Domain Name that better reflects their businesses or what the website is about. Most of the popular choices were snapped up years ago, but now the opportunity exists to have a variation of a traditional .com or For example, you might have wanted to register, but it was unavailable. However, may well be available. When most people are trying to come up with a Domain Name for their new website, they will immediately be thinking about a .com or a or possibly a etc. But the TLD landscape has changed a lot, and you now have some pretty interesting choices. Below is a list of just some of the newest TLD’s:
  • .associates
  • .bargains
  • .bike
  • .boutique
  • .build
  • .builders
  • .camera
  • .care
  • .catering
  • .cheap
  • .cleaning
  • .clothing
  • .club
  • .coffee
  • .company
  • .computer
  • .contractors
  • .construction
  • .cool
  • .cruises
  • .dance
  • .dental
  • .engineering
  • .equipment
  • .events
  • .fish
  • .florist
  • .gallery
  • .gift
  • .industries
  • .institute
  • .kitchen
  • .lease
  • .lighting
  • .management
  • .marketing
  • .menu
  • .parts
  • .photo
  • .photography
  • .pictures
  • .plumbing
  • .properties
  • .recipes
  • .rentals
  • .repair
  • .services
  • .sexy
  • .shoes
  • .solar
  • .supplies
  • .tattoo
  • .technology
  • .tools
  • .toys
  • .trade
  • .training

You can purchase your chosen Domain Names from Spotty Dog Computer Services

Google to give preference to Encrypted websites in search results

Secure SSL and Google Search resultsWell it’s been 5 minutes since Google moved the goal posts, so I guess it’s time for them to make another change. Can you tell I am being sarcastic?

Now it seems that in an effort to make the web a more secure place, Google will favour encrypted websites (those websites with an SSL Certificate and having the https prefix) over standard non-encrypted websites.

This will place an additional cost burden on website owners, but it may or may not be a bad thing depending on your point of view.

Encouraging website owners to do this will indeed make web surfing a safer past time, but unless your website is collecting data, I don’t see that it is a real necessity.

But on the other hand, it certainly won’t hurt.

SSL Certificates

I guess it is already having the desired effect.

The impending move to penalise a websites ranking because it is unencrypted has made me purchase an SSL Certificate and install it on this very website.

Those of you who are astute may have noticed that all the pages on this website are now prefixed with https instead of http. The ‘s’ after http denotes that it is a secure connection.

It was a relatively painful exercise in the end, but it did require the Host to install it and set it up on my behalf.

So get ready boys and girls. If you don’t want your search rankings to fall, you may need to consider purchasing an SSL Certificate!!!

FYI, there are several types of SSL Certificate available. They are the Standard SSL Certificate (from $33/yr), the Premium SSL Certificate (from $75/yr), and the Wildcard SSL Certificate (from $500/yr).

Click on the links above to see pricing and to purchase one.

All SSL Certificates are 128/256 Bit Encryption, and trusted by all Browsers.

There is also a fee of $88 to set it up if you cannot do it yourself.


For the time being, Google won’t be penalising sites heavily if they don’t enable HTTPS. The company describes it as “a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content”. But once webmasters have been given time to switch their sites over, the search firm warns that “we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”

Do you understand what it is you’re seeing when you do a Google search?

Quite often I find that when I am discussing Google search results with clients and the general public, they don’t realise that in most instances, the first 3 results in a Google search are “paid for advertising”.

And just as surprising is that they don’t realise that the results shown down the right hand side are also “paid for advertising”, even though they are clearly labeled as “Ads”.

The first three in particular because they have a shaded background colour making them stand out more.

Nonetheless, quite a number of you out there just don’t notice.

Take a look at the image below for the search term “website design morayfield”:

Google Search Results for website design morayfield


Arrow “1” is the actual number one ranked search result. Or in other words, it is the number 1 organic search result.

Yet it is the area indicated by Arrow “2” that most people believe are the first three organic results.

Now this can be a problem, not because advertisers get the number 1 spot, but because the bad guys can advertise here just as easily as legitimate businesses, and you can potentially be directed to something that may not be what you are searching for, or something that you may be manipulated into downloading and installing on your computer.

For example, you may be searching for “Adobe Reader”. If you don’t take note of the web address, you’ll just look at the first Advert result and assume it’s the Adobe website, and you’ll visit that website and download something that may or may not be malicious, or at least not what you were looking for.

The last Arrow, number 3, shows the other advertising that Google serves up to searchers. Again, these Ads may or may not be relevant to your search, and may or may not be relevant to you.

So just be aware of what is advertising and take note of the web address or URL and be diligent.

Backlinks – How important are they?

The importance of backlinks in Page RankingsWhat is a Backlink?

Let’s start off by explaining what a backlink is. A backlink is a hyperlink on someone else’s website that links to your website.

An example of a backlink is Spotty Dog Computer Services. This links to my other website which mainly focuses on Computer Repairs.

A backlink from another website to mine that looked like the one shown above is great, but it could be even better if the Anchor Text was related to a Key Word I was targeting.

Google places a high value on backlinks. Backlinks tell Google that other people value the content on your website enough that they want to tell others about it.  Google considers each backlink as a vote that someone thinks your content is worth reading, and consequently places a high value on it.

But what gives a backlink an even higher value is having the Anchor Text reflect a keyword or phrase that you are targeting. The Anchor Text in the example shown above is “Spotty Dog Computer Services”.  Anchor Text that would be of a greater value would be something like “Computer Repairs Morayfield”, which highlights the keywords that I would target. So an example of a higher value backlink would be Computer Repairs Morayfield.

So how important are Backlinks?

To give you a real life example of how a properly constructed backlink can assist in elevating your website ranking, I have a story about this very website.

After creating this website with the intention of trying to rank Number One for the keywords “Website Design Morayfield”, and after spending a lot of time creating relevant content and pages, the best this website could rank was around Number four, and it stayed that way for weeks. It wasn’t until I gained a few backlinks, Website Design Morayfield, that I suddenly shot to the Number One position. So immediately you can see the value of having backlinks with the appropriate Anchor Text.

The trouble is of course, getting the backlinks and getting appropriate Anchor Text. If you have friends or associates with a website, you have a much better chance of being able to achieve this.

Has your website been hacked?

Hacked WebsitesEvery day, somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000 websites are hacked or compromised in some way.

What do we mean by hacked and compromised? Well what we mean is that someone has breached the security on your website and inserted some malicious content. That malicious content can be in the form of viruses, trojans, worms, keyloggers, spyware and so on.

Typically, if your website has been hacked or compromised in some way, and a visitor views your website, they will be redirected to another website that contains malware, or malware on your own website will attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in the visitors Browser and or Operating System.

Once your computer has been infected, it can be used to send out Spam, or information can be stolen from you and used for fraudulent activities and Identity Theft.

This is why it is so important to keep your computer up to date for things like Java, Flash, the Browser itself and Windows. To further complicate matters, if you are using Windows XP, it is inherently less secure that Windows 7 and 8, but worse still, Microsoft will cease to support Windows XP after April 2014.  So at this time, expect to see a spike in infected PC’s.

So back to whether your website has been hacked or compromised.

If your website has been hacked, it is likely that the first time you will know about it is if a visitor notifies you that they have received a message in their Browser informing them that your website is a known attack site. Google for example scan millions of websites looking for malicious content, and will mark your site as an Attack Site and warn visitors.

Reported Attack Site

The other way you may become aware of it is through the Google Webmaster Tools website, if you have your website setup there of course.

Google have a series of videos explaining what it means to be hacked and how to remedy the hack and get your website off the Blacklist.

Here is the first video in the series: