Filter: Monitoring

Solutions To Resolve High CPU Usage on Websites

The Central Processing Unit (CPU) work like the brain of the machine to handle any tasks that the server has been sent. The CPU typically processes requests for running PHP scripts, handles MySQL queries, sends email, etc. Resources on a server are limited and therefore the CPU usage and disk usage are monitored for problematic levels of usage. While temporary spikes in CPU usage are normal, consistently high CPU usage may be indicative of a problem. The acceptable levels of resource usage differs according to the type of hosting you have, whether shared, VPS, or dedicated. 

What Is High Resource Usage?

In comparison with desktop CPU activities, the level of CPU processing for a website should be minimal and in fractions of a second of CPU time for execution. A shared server CPU will start running into problems when even a few of the websites on it start running more intensive CPU activities.  These intensive activates require more processing power, leading to an increase in ready time and processor queuing on the host. Every server has a fixed number of CPU cores.  Therefore, the processing time that can be requested per user account from the CPUs is limited when you are on a shared hosting platform. In a shared hosting environment, when a single user requires an excessive amount of CPU time, it can lead to delays for other user’s website requests. Being aware of the impact of your website on the server’s CPU can help prevent any potential account suspensions for high resource usage.

What Causes High CPU Usage Problem?

If your site receives a lot of traffic, it may lead to high CPU usage but in most cases there are other factors responsible for it. The following list describes some common software issues that can cause high CPU usage:

  • Inefficient scripts and excessive add ons/extensions/modules/plugins
  • Multiple WordPress websites
  • Frequent cron jobs or scheduled tasks
  • Hacked website
  • Comment spam
  • Uncontrolled search engine crawlers and automated robots activity
  • High volume of web traffic

1. Inefficient Scripts And Excessive Add Ons/Extensions/Modules/Plug-in

Computer code is as a set of instructions for the machine to follow in order to receive the same expected end result again and again. Generally for web hosting, the set of instructions will be in a scripting language, such as PHP. If the scripts on your website are custom coded efficiently, it should typically have under a second of execution time each. Not all websites are the same though when it comes to memory usage, as some scripts have built-in optimizations or extensions, such as the cache feature in Joomla. Depending on the level of traffic that your site receives, even a single poorly coded or resource intensive active script/plug-in can become resource intensive. So it is best to limit the number of extensions, modules, or plugins in use and uninstall ones that are no longer active. An out of date script/plugin/module may often contribute to resource abuse issues, so all installed scripts including any 3rd party add-ons have to be updated. Developers also have to constantly improve their scripts and patch security holes to boost performance.

Despite these measures, if high resources usage issues persist, then the problematic script has to be isolated and fixed by re-configuring, disabling, or replacing it with a working script. Profiling of entire PHP pages in XAMPP, WAMP, and EasyPHP environments can expose specific scripts or individual functions consuming major resource time. It is possible to detect the plugin causing the issue using P3 Profiler plug-in, which can then be replaced with a better alternative.

2. Multiple WordPress Websites

Most dynamic Content Management Systems, like WordPress, use a database back-end to store information, so that every time a visitor comes to the site, the PHP scripts interact with the database to recall that information for hand-off to the web-browser. On shared hosting platform, if your site gets decent traffic, using this default system of WordPress to regenerate the same HTML page for each visitor’s request is highly inefficient.

With advanced WordPress users, it is recommended that you typically use a caching plug-in, like the W3 Total Cache plug-in.  And for basic WordPress users consider optimizing with WP Super Cache plug-in, to reduce the resource load by 90%. If you have multiple WordPress websites on a single host, it will require more RAM and CPU to run proficiently on a shared hosting account so consider investing in additional hosting space for some of your blogs.

3. Frequent Cron Jobs or Scheduled Tasks
A cron job lets you setup a scheduled task for your website, without the need to be present in order to initiate the task. Running particularly resource-intensive cron jobs too frequently can cause problems with your server performance.
It is better to run cron jobs only as often as necessary.  When on a shared hosting account, the shortest interval for cron jobs should be at least 15 minutes. If any database backups or set-up of other maintenance jobs are causing high CPU usage then you can temporarily disable it.  It is also possible to automate and schedule activity in a cron job to reduce usage. WordPress, for example, has its own scheduling script so disabling its wp-cron.php will help reduce the overall resource usage.

4. Hacked Website

A hacked site often leads to abnormal and extra CPU resource usage on your account because of the additional automated multiple activities it will generally try to do on top of a page load. Malicious users often try to hack into your website to redirect users to a compromised site or just indulge in spamming.

Besides using a secure password and keeping all software up-to-date, you may install a plugin, such as Sucuri, to scan your site and warn you of the possibility of it being hacked. It is wise to protect your hosting account by having a full backup of your account for the last 30 days so that you can easily restore it from any previous unhacked version. If your website has already been hacked, then it has to be manually resolved by an expert who may have to clean up the htaccess code or a code injection attack, to stop hackers from re-directing traffic from your site.

5. Comment Spam

Your website is open to the entire digital community and there will generally be a section for visitors to leave comments on your website. Unfortunately comment boxes and forums can also allow spammers to fill up your pages with malicious junk and fake comments, trying to lure people back to their own websites. Comment spam on your forum or WordPress blog can impact the CPU usage as it increases the size of your database, reduces loading speed, and it can also potentially affect your search engine ranking if the spam content is left intact.

Inspect your account for old installations that you can remove, or for automated comments and spam postings. You can disable commenting but it may not be the ideal solution. Do consider disabling the WordPress default commenting system in favor of a 3rd party commenting system, like Disqus. The best way to eliminate spam comments is by implementing CAPTCHA protection for your website to make it harder for automated bots to create fake accounts. 

6. Uncontrolled Search Engine Crawlers And Automated Robots Activity
Automated robots from various search engines, such as Google and Bing, crawl the net to find and index new content for faster dissemination of information.  Even one automated bot visitor to your website can end up consuming the resource usage equivalent to hundreds of normal human visitors. Automated bot visitors crawl from the front page and spider out to every link on your site in order to locate all content on your site. This results in an excessive amount of resource usage coming from your account that can cause your account to be suspended. 

You can control rule abiding robots by implementing a standardized robots.txt rules file, with a Crawl-delay setting of 30 seconds or higher. But the bad news is that not all automated robots are going to comply with your robots.txt rules.  Therefore, you have to block those unwanted bots from your site using htaccess in order to prevent them from using your account’s resources. 

7. High Volume Of Web Traffic
Surges in traffic can occur for any of the following reasons:

  • When automated bots crawl your site
  • If your website is being comment spammed
  • Due to other ongoing malicious activity
  • You have legitimate traffic going to your website in a short span of time.

If your website is popular, then your site may see consistently high CPU usage and you probably need to look at upgrading to a dedicated server from a shared one. If there is an unexpected large surge of traffic in your site all at once, your hosting account will require more system resources to handle such high volume traffic. A completely static website with just HTML files and images, are much lighter on shared server resources than a dynamic website based on Joomla, Drupal or WordPress.

When your web traffic rises, the jump in website requests increase the demand on the server’s resources.  You can upgrade your account to a VPS (Virtual Private Server) or dedicated server, so that you have access to more resources.  The most common ways to optimize your website for larger volumes of traffic is by implementing caching (page and browser caching) to reduce duplicate database calls and by limiting dynamic content such as plugins/modules.

Is Your Web Host To Blame?

It may also be that the high CPU usage is not your fault and your hosting provider is the one to blame for not supplying sufficient system resources to your hosting account. This may be particularly true for shared hosting with multiple companies offering cheap hosting for very low CPU usage limit. To resolve any issues with your web host, confirm the CPU usage limit and hardware configuration of the shared server on which your site is hosted.

Now that you are aware of some of the major issues behind high system resource usage, you can easily fix them. But if you still continue to experience high resource usage problems on your current hosting platform, you can either upgrade your hosting plan to have a higher resource usage limit for your account or you can change your web host provider.

‘CAPTCHA’ Annoying Spam Mongers

All experienced web surfers have heard of spam. Not the canned, pre-cooked meat product but the time wasting junk messages that end up stealing links, eating up network bandwidth, and wasting your time. Website owners and web administrators alike are well aware of malicious web robots that crawl the web, filling out forms with their junk postings or leaving annoying spam comments on the site, thereby also impacting your site’s SEO. There are innovative ways to design efficient sign-up and log-in forms to fight off these pesky spam bots and one such tool is CAPTCHA.

What Is CAPTCHA?

A CAPTCHA is an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.  It is a verification process to distinguish if a user is human or a computer. The most common type of CAPTCHA requires the user to enter a code correctly from an image of obscured letters or number sequence displayed in a box. CAPTCHAs are highly effective in stopping automated bots from spamming and abusing a site’s resources, as well as deterring brute-force attacks, because the task of reading the images correctly is easy for humans but proves difficult for computers. When spam bots fail at this challenge they are unable to submit the form.  CAPTCHA was first used by Alta Vista to prevent automated search submissions but now it is used to prevent spam from automated form submissions that jam your site with junk messages, spam user accounts, and this process can even identify security holes that can be exploited on your site.

While using CAPTCHA does ensure that only real live humans fill out your web forms, verification systems that are prohibitive often become an obstacle for users browsing your site, which can hurt conversion rates. However, when the CAPTCHA system is used properly and for the customer’s protection, sites of all sizes stand to benefit from it.

How Can CAPTCHA Be Used?

Use a CAPTCHA to help reduce spam, increase security and prevent hacking. 

To reduce spam, use a CAPTCHA submission form at the end of your contact page/form. It will block most of the junk emails that would otherwise wind up in your Inbox, wasting your resources and time.  Most website administrators find it frustrating to deal with spam comments. While there are plugins that can capture spam comments from bots and send them to the spam folder in your dashboard, they can’t stop these comments from being submitted all together. CAPTCHAs help in blocking a large portion of spam comments from even being submitted.

A website is the digital presence of a company, brand, or person and protecting it from any security risks is essential in preventing loss of reputation for the brand. The simple CAPTCHA has proven to be an effective way of preventing automated attacks. For instance, you can make modifications to the login page on your site by adding a custom CAPTCHA field in your login form for security reasons.

CAPTCHA also helps prevent brute force attacks that try to steal customer data. CAPTCHA prevents any automated mechanisms from trying to crack into a customer-focused site to get access to their sensitive data. The notifications you receive from failed CAPTCHA entries should be examined for security issues, as an increase in CAPTCHA code failures from unknown areas may be a sign that your site is a target for improper advances. You must increase security protocols for the safety of your website and the protection of your customers.

Where Do I Need To Use CAPTCHA?     

CAPTCHA protection can be added to your web site in these areas:

  • Naked forms for processing user-submitted data through contact forms, e-mail forms, comment forms, and registration forms
  • New user sign up forms.
  • Surveys or polls.
  • Account change or password request pages.
  • Pages that accept file uploads or downloads by users.
  • For all user-submitted data.

The Best CAPTCHA Codes
The best CAPTCHA code for your website helps protect the users’ private information by using sets of numbers or letters that could be case sensitive. The visual sequence is generally obscured in some way, or set against some complex background, to make it more difficult for bots to pick out the letters. But the CAPTCHA code should not be too long or too difficult for users to read as it will end up frustrating the users on your site, resulting in a poor user experience. Overuse of the CAPTCHA windows may force users to give up on your site. So carefully place CAPTCHA codes only in the areas of the site where it is most needed. The best CAPTCHA’s allow users to request a new code if the one given cannot be read.  Include audio options and an enhanced version of the code for as alternative ways for the user to identify the CAPTCHA.

Types of CAPTCHA

There have been different types of CAPTCHAs designed over the years in order to block spam.

ReCAPTCHA
It is a code system used by Google with two words or numbers for users to decipher. It is used by Google to assist with automatic digitization of books and recognition of street signs. The reCAPTCHA widget can be added to your website to prevent spam and to make sure that the visitors signing up are actually human.

No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA
The update to reCAPTCHA minimizes the attempts made by a user, by limiting the number of times that a CAPTCHA gets displayed to the user. This analyzes browser behavior of the user and his engagement with the CAPTCHA to either present a difficult CAPTCHA if the system detects a bot or else display a simple checkbox to be ticked.

BotDetect CAPTCHA
BotDetect is a traditional CAPTCHA code with different kinds of letter and number sequence images. It offers a number of different languages and CMSes on its site, such as PHP, ASP, Java, and WordPress.

Image CAPTCHA
The image CAPTCHA presents a set of images to the user for identification.  For example, the user is asked to pick the odd one out or select all images in the same class.

Put It To Use

Code snippets are given by the service provider for whichever CAPTCHA you decide to use on your website. You can drop the code snippets on those forms where the CAPTCHA window is supposed to appear. Spam is an annoying problem for all websites and CAPTCHA forms along with other popular spam blocking plugins can help in eliminating the spam mongers. Go ahead and CAPTCHA the spam bot battlefield!  

5 Ways to Use Content to Build Authority: Ready To Live Like A King?

More and more companies are appreciating the value that a content marketing strategy brings to their overall success.  A recent study by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) states that 75% of the most effective enterprise content marketers have a documented strategy. By comparison, only 11% of the least effective have a documented strategy.  The old adage “Content is King” is still holding true; but I propose a new interpretation on the old phrase.  A King has authority and influence over his people.  Effective content marketing could make you a King (influencer) over your people (your target market).  Here are 5 activities that you can implement today to help raise your royalty level.

Publish Ebooks and Case Studies

Long form content such as ebooks and case studies provide you with the opportunity to showcase your knowledge, experience, and expertise on a specific topic.  Ebooks offer an opportunity for more in-depth analysis than a blog post and can be broken down into smaller chucks of content to be shared on social media or in emails—helping you to expand your reach.   One of the most effective ways to tell your story is by showing your target audience what you can do.  Case studies are a great format for showing how you have helped customers solve their problems in the past.  All in all, you can consider long form content as a great opportunity to establish your thought leadership.

Use Webinars

The CMI study also reports that 84% of companies surveyed use webinars in their content marketing programs.  Offering a variety of forms of content broadens your reach and will attract different audiences.  Not everyone wants to read long form content. Auditory learners would much rather spend an hour listening to you present your expertise via a webinar.  Webinars are interactive, cost-effective, and convenient.  They offer instant feedback and behavior scoring gives marketers a wealth of information about attendees that they would have otherwise spent hours of research time collecting. 

Create Content Partnerships

Gain recognition by offering to be a guest blogger or guest speaker for a reputable industry organization or association.  These organizations and associations are packed with the niche audience that you’re working so hard to target.  Offering to contribute to their content efforts is win / win.  They get to fill their editorial calendar with original content generated from outside their organization and you get to expose yourself to a new audience that may not know about you.  Be careful when pitching your ideas.  Carefully look over their existing editorial and make sure you’re topic fits with their messaging and isn’t self-promotional.  Forming content partnerships gives you opportunity to generate inbound links to your site, giving your site more online authority and boosting your search results.

Start The Conversation

A good rule of thumb for you to evaluate any content marketing post is to ask: “are we delivering value or just content?”  If it’s the former, throw it away.  It’s the latter that you want to focus on.  Creating, posting, and commenting on other people’s content is great and very important, but don’t be afraid to start the conversation.  If you’ve done a good job listening, you will know what to say.  Better yet, you will know what to ask.  Start the conversation with a question.  Seek out the opinions of your target market; don’t preach to them.  The most engaging content is created when you have a passion to share your knowledge or expertise, and not when you have the passion to drive leads. 

Be Consistent

As human beings, we like routine and consistency.  Don’t take that for granted.  Be consistent with your content.  Your target market will come to expect your social media post every Tuesday or your podcast every Thursday, so don’t let them down.  Consistency builds familiarity and trust, which leads to authority.  Not only must your timing need to be consistent, but so too does the quality of your work.  It’s better to have no blog at all than have to have a blog that has varying messages, inconsistent tone, and random postings. Remember: the more your target market sees your brand, the more they will begin to view you as a reliable source of information.

Just To Be Clear
Implementing any or all of these authority-building strategies will mean nothing if your message isn’t clear.  It might be tempting to show off by using big, industry-based jargon; however, give your readers some credit—they can smell arrogance from a mile away.  Great content is written without unnecessary words, by using sensory language, and by focusing on user benefits.  Building authority through content will not come overnight.  It’s a long and steady race but one you can’t win if you’re not in the game. 

If you want to get in the game, improve your online royalty status, and increase your return on marketing investment, but don’t know where to start, contact our partner, GlobalDirective. They are an agency that specializes in helping you set up and optimize your content marketing program for maximum value.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Content and Social Media Marketing, at GlobalDirective, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact GlobalDirective today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524.

5 Tips to Help You Increase Your Website Conversion

The average ecommerce website conversion rate is 2-3%.  Even a small shift of just 1% could mean a 50% increase in revenues.  If your site isn’t an ecommerce site, don’t stop reading.  All websites could benefit from increased conversion rates.  Conversion rate is defined as the number of people who come to your website and “convert” by taking whatever desired action you want for them to take.   A conversion could be filling out a form or downloading a document.  It doesn’t have to be completing a monetary sale.  Additionally, having a website that is optimized for conversion means more than having the correct button color or call-to-action. Ask yourself these questions: are you doing all you can to tailor your website experience to speak to your target audience? How are you guiding visitors to a desired action? Are you highlighting essential information? Have you identified and removed friction points?

Other KPIs That Factor Into Conversion Success

Before we get into the tips you can implement to help increase your website conversion rate, let’s take a look at what other key performance indicators (KPI’s) impact conversion.  Google Analytics provides us with a plethora of metrics that can sometimes be overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for.  When it comes to website conversion success, it is a good idea to start by looking at bounce rates and time on site.  These two metrics show engagement.  When you’re audience is engaged they will more likely participate in the conversion goal you have set in place. 

Bounce rates are a good indicator of whether or not your website is attracting the attention of the visitor.  Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who arrive on a page of your website and leave without viewing any other pages.  High bounce rates suggest that visitors aren’t connecting with you content in some way or that they can’t find the information they were seeking.  It also might be an indicator that your page is taking too long to load or maybe the visitor is being bombarded with intrusive content or ads that pop in their face upon entry to your site.  There are plenty of reasons why visitors bounce but one very good reason to be concerned about it: When they bounce they don’t engage.  And when they don’t engage you may lose them as a customer.

Time on site or visit duration can be an indication of the level of interest or involvement that a visitor has with the website. It is also a good indicator of the success of a campaign or other promotional activity that brings visitors to your website.  Websites that have good organization and design typically see higher time on site numbers.  When your visitors spend more time reading your content, they are more likely to share it, purchase or download something; in other words, convert.

5 Tips to Increase Website Conversion

Now that we understand some important metrics surrounding website conversion success, let’s get to the core of the topic.  Here are 5 tips to help you increase conversion on your website:

  1. Create sales funnel content: It has been said that it takes a prospect 7 contacts with a company, on average, before they purchase.  Make sure your content is written to speak to visitors at every step of the sales cycle.  Certain copy formats speak better to consumers at different phases of the sales funnel.  Be sure to include images, videos, infographics, FAQs and other forms of content that will engage with your market at various stages of the buying process. At each stage in the funnel there are objections or concerns and issues.  Be sure to know those considerations and write your copy to address them head-on. 
  2. Develop personas: Customer personas rely on a wealth of advanced data to produce a composite sketch of your ideal customer. Everything from demographic information to customer hobbies, lifestyle choices, and buying and entertainment preferences are factored into the composite sketch of your customers. This sketch is the “sweet spot” of your target audience, and the data it relies upon is so comprehensive that it allows you to accurately anticipate what your average customer would choose or do in any given situation. Creating personas lets you visualize the purchase flow and checkout process through their eyes.
  3. Test and test some more: Test different offers, different colors, different call to actions.  If you can test it, test it.  It is through research that you will uncover the most effective option to help increase conversions.  One test to consider is different payment options.  Will your customers be more likely to purchase your product/service if they get a discount if they pay in full or if they have the option to pay in installments?  Having said all that, don’t test frivolous things.  If you have done your persona research test the things that your research tells you are important to your target market.
  4. Establish trust and authority: No matter how long the Internet is around people want to buy or do business with businesses they trust.  Some ways you can build trust is to include a physical location on your website, make it easy for potential customers to contact you, use testimonials, avoid hype-based copy, create a professional looking site and get an SSL certificate for added security.  Also, consider including third party trust seals such as Verisign, BBBOnline or Hackersafe to increase credibility.
  5. Choose images wisely: Use images that show your product or service in use. A picture says a thousand words so make sure your pictures say “must have”, “easy to use”, and “satisfied customers.”

Putting It To Use

While there are far more than five ways to help increase conversion rates on your website, we recommend starting with these elements.  A solid website built with few errors, engaging, up-to-date copy, and hosted on a trusted server all play into your conversion success. 

If you want to improve your website conversion rates and increase your return on marketing investment, but don’t know where to start, contact our partner, GlobalDirective. They are an agency that specializes in helping you set up and optimize your Google Analytics platform for maximum value.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Content and Social Media Marketing, at GlobalDirective, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact GlobalDirective today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524.

The Impact of Information Technology on Politics

In the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, the Obama campaign’s use of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were widely credited with helping secure the historic victory of President Barack Obama.  While this may have been the most publicized use of social media in politics, it certainly wasn’t the first time that technology and social platforms found their way into the US political realm. The Internet enables citizen participation, giving people a platform to mobilize and voice their opinions, holds politicians accountable and in a larger context, even improves human rights. Information technology tools are influencing political events and revolutionizing political processes all across the globe, in both developed and developing nations alike. Technological tools have been used in novel ways for improving responsiveness and contributing to the welfare of people during the Ebola epidemic, Syrian refugee crises and the Nepalese earthquake. Social media is reconnecting citizens with democratic processes in both political parties. YouTube and Twitter have become the main tools of communication used by both governments and dissidents, as seen in the Libyan and Syrian uprising.

The Historical Use of Technology in Politics

For nearly 20 years, the Internet and technology has been playing a role in US politics.  Here are a few historical highlights of how it has been used over the last two decades:

  • The GOP Internet forum FreeRepublic was set up in February 1997.
  • The political community MoveOn was constituted in response to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998, in the same year Google was formed.  
  • In a then record for online fundraising, Sen. John McCain’s successfully raised more than $500,000 over the Internet in less than 24 hours after his 2000 primary win in New Hampshire.
  • In 2000, the Bush campaign used phone bank technology and email lists for get-out-the-vote initiatives action. An AdRelevance Nielsen Online’s service study reported that Republicans used a targeted advertising approach with 20 unique banners on thirty five sites, while Democrats ran only one banner ad on Yahoo. Republicans also used online marketing tools to build a database of 700,000 names.
  • In 2001, popular liberal leaning political websites such as Instapundit cropped up.  Jerome Armstrong initiated Internet based political activism through writing on MyDD. This political strategy came to be referred to as netroots.
  • 2002 saw the rise of popular political bloggers. Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos was one of the first bloggers to be given press credentials for covering the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
  • Arizona became the first state to implement online voter registration in 2003. In the same year, the Howard Dean campaign embraced technological innovation to run political campaigns, such as Meetup to organize monthly meetings, Dean TV to run online videos, experimented with SMS and used an online event tool Get Local.
  • Rock the Vote campaign partnered with Motorola in 2004, to register an estimated 1.2 million new voters to receive information on their mobile devices. The Democratic online fundraising outfit ActBlue was registered in the same year.
  • In early 2005, the popular video sharing site YouTube was formed by Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim. It changed the face of political campaigns by empowering citizens to post their own video from campaign events, exposing politicians and their faux pas.
  • The Rightroots coalition was created in 2006 to support and raise money for GOP candidates online.
  • Blue State Digital created My.BarackObama.com in 2007, which advanced the cause of online political campaign further. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube saw a lot of political activity this year. CNN held its first YouTube Debate for the Democrats in Charleston, S.C. followed by the GOP’s November 28 YouTube Debate in St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • Ron Paul created the money bomb for online donations, which raised $4.3 million in 24 hours on November 5 and $6 million again on Dec. 16, 2007.  2007 also saw the launch of the Ustream.tv platform for live online interactive video broadcasts.
  • Tech innovations, such as the free Obama08 app for iPhone and Facebook Connect, played a huge role in the election of Barack Obama. The release of the Facebook API helped in the development of Act.ivi.st, which integrates a campaign with online communities in Facebook or Twitter through messages.
  • Democrat Scott Murphy’s Google Blast Advertising Campaign for special election in New York’s 20th congressional district used Google AdSense to run targeted ads to people in his district in 2009.
  • Smartphone apps, like the Walking Edge, were created in 2010, to come up with a database of voters and supporters using geo-location tools and Google Maps.
  • In 2012, instead of the big donor strategy Obama’s campaign encouraged small donations using the social media and mobile, and successfully raised nearly $1billion in contributions. In 2012, memes entered into political cultural discourse. Romney used custom ad targeting browser tools to harvest data and display banner ads. The Presidential elections of 2012 showed the importance of big data, and campaigns driven around state-by-state election data, public opinion to draw up political campaign strategy.

What Has The Impact of Technology Been?

Technology has impacted everything from how we hear about political and worldwide events to how to register to vote.  The new breed of politicians have embraced technology and harnessed the power of new communication mediums through channels like iTunes, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or podcasting websites, to sway public opinion. Some have fallen victim to technology, while others have reaped benefits. The Internet has liberated communication channels from the powerful gate-keepers in  traditional radio and television media networks. Social media enables peer-to-peer dialogue, public discourse and political messaging to reach more potential voters during campaigns.

Through the clever use of technology, politicians have woken up entire generations of new potential voters.  A candidate without some sort of online presence would now be at a terrible disadvantage over other candidates who are exploiting technology to help them gain attention, money, support and votes. 

Technology has given political candidates a platform to speak to constituents openly through Twitter and Facebook without any editing from campaign managers. Podcasting and blog writing has also allowed self-proclaimed political pundits to spread their message and influence voters.

As we described above, social media strategies were skillfully employed during Obama’s 2008 campaign and impacted how he was able to stay connected and engage with supporters, while big data drove the 2012 election campaign to reach new voters through targeted messaging.

What’s To Come In 2016?

With the Presidential election upon us again, 2016 may see new forms of Internet political activism take shape. It is highly likely that the next President of the United States could be elected by persuading voters through a targeted campaign using social media management and big data analytics, drawing on the huge cache of data available on social media, mobile and other sources. Big data and mapping technologies already gather intelligent information about the American public to determine the best way to get our votes. This year, the big data puzzle is all coming together by connecting social interactions, mobile geo-location data and CRM assets to better display campaigns delivered online seamlessly between mobile, video and Facebook, across multiple devices. Political parties are no longer skeptical about technology and online platforms. Rather they are ready to harness its potential to win elections. One thing is for certain: the Internet and technology will likely be part of our political landscape from here on, even as its shape changes with the changes in new technology.

Website Conversion Optimization Using A/B Testing and Multivariate Testing

Contrary to the common misconception, building a highly converting website is not a single time exercise. It is not an event. Based on empirical evidence provided by web analytics platforms such as Google Analytics and proven concepts such as the goal of achieving high conversions that requires a layout defined in terms of content, images with a particular website layout to achieve those higher conversions. However, when dealing with prospect-to-client conversions, there is always room for growth and improvement. This continual process of making systematic changes to the website for improving the website performance and increasing the conversions is called ‘conversion optimization.’

Website conversion optimization is backed by the data insights rather than guesses or intuition. Conversion optimization is generally carried out using A/B Testing and/or Multivariate Testing.

A/B Testing
A/B Testing or split testing is the most commonly used method of testing and an easy way to test a landing page. It is used to test two variations of the same page. It can be used to test a small, single variation as the color of a button on the webpage or larger tests, such as different layouts of the webpage.

A variation of this is the A/B/n testing in which one or more variations can be tested against the original, existing version. The traffic is randomly and equally distributed among the variations to analyze how users interact with the webpage. The desired actions or the conversion rates are then measured across these variations to find the one that performs the best. The winner is determined based on the statistical significance of the results. So, the winner is determined based on both the conversion rates and the number of observations or the users who visited the webpage.

Multivariate Testing
Multivariate Testing is conducted to identify how combinations of different elements within a webpage work the best. For example, you can test the placement and size of the image, different content types, colors etc., all at the same time. The total number of variation of a page will be equal to the number of variations of Element 1 X the number of variations of the Element 2 X the number of variations of the Element 3 and so on. If you are testing 4 variations of home page image and 5 variations of the content that will go along with the image, you will have 4*5=20 combinations that will be tested. The traffic will be equally distributed among these twenty variations to come up with the specific combination of elements that works best.

A/B Testing or Multivariate Testing?
A/B testing is generally used while making broad, large changes to the webpage. Multivariate Testing is generally used when few key elements or sections of the page are being tested. Also, your choice will be highly dependent on the website traffic you receive because you will have to receive enough traffic to each variation to statistically determine a winner. In order to get meaningful results quickly, you will have to choose pages that have high traffic. And, when considering multivariate testing versus A/B testing, in order to obtain statistically significant results, you would need higher traffic to run multivariate tests compared to A/B tests. Finally, consider sequencing A/B Testing and Multivariate Testing, since they complement each other. While you can assess the impact of major changes using A/B Testing, Multivariate Testing can help you in refining the internal elements thereafter.
Website Conversion Optimization can have a huge impact on your bottom line. It helps you improve results from your marketing efforts, lower customer acquisition costs, maximize ROI and most importantly, drive increased conversion through the sales funnel. You will not only drive a higher number of customers taking the first step in your funnel, but you will also see improvement in every step, which will lead to an outsized percentage increase in the final conversions.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director Content and Social Media Marketing, of GlobalDirective.  She is a strategist and blog contributor for the digital marketing agency.

10 Popular WordPress Plugins You Should Be Using

WordPress is the most popular and easy to use content management systems (CMS) utilized by millions of entrepreneurs, businesses and webmasters across the globe. Because WordPress is a free open source platform, it allows developers to contribute themes and plugins that extend the design and functionality of your website. The best part for many businesses is these added features come without the need to know how to code. Developers have generated thousands of useful free WordPress plugins in addition to premium plugins that carry a price tag. This article will guide you in making the best plugin choices for your website.

1. W3 Total Cache

Your site’s speed plays an important role in search engine rankings. W3 Total Cache helps you optimize your WordPress site for speed and performance. It allows you to easily setup page and browser caching, compress pages for quicker downloads, and setup a content delivery network for your static files.

2. Hello Bar

HelloBar is one of the more popular lead generation tools available.  It allows you to add eye-catching notification bars to the top of a webpage which can be used for driving traffic to a designated landing page. Any WordPress blogger can easily integrate HelloBar onto a blog with this simple WordPress plugin.

3. Akismet

Say goodbye to content spam.  Akismet is a content spam filtering service that is able to identify anything that appears to be spam and automatically moves the content to WordPress installation’s spam folder. You can look in your dashboard to check Aksimet Stats for a breakdown of your spam, missed spam, real comments, and false positives that have been mistaken for spam by Akismet that you can flag as genuine.

4. WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin

Yoast SEO is an absolute must to boost any WordPress site’s search engine optimization; enabling more potential customers to find you. This plugin allows you to manage page titles, add meta descriptions, homepage descriptions, sitemaps or keyword stuffing. There is also a premium version with many additional, helpful add-ons.

5. Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms is the most beginner and developer friendly contact form plugin for WordPress. It can be used to add almost any kind of online form to your WordPress website. It comes with powerful add-ons which allow you to create online survey, user submitted posts, web directory, or almost anything where a user input is required.

6. Broken Link Checker

Broken Link Checker is a great plugin that can help improve the user experience on your website. Why? Because clinking on links that don’t work can be frustrating and often times a visitor will just leave the website. This plugin will check your content for broken links and missing images and notify you.

7. Google XML Sitemaps for videos

Google XML sitemaps is the best plugin to help you in submitting a XML sitemap of blogs containing video to search engines so that the search engines can easily recognize and index them.  Your Video Sitemap will include web pages which embed videos from YouTube or which links to videos on YouTube. If a YouTube video that you have in your blog has been removed from YouTube, the record in the Sitemap file will be ignored by Googlebot.

8. Floating Social

Social media share buttons are a must have for every site, but they can significantly impact your site’s speed. The floating social bar was created to maximize your social media visibility without impacting your site speed.Floating social bar is a light-weight WordPress plugin that adds a horizontal floating share bar to your blog posts, pages, and other post types. The floating ability allows this eye-catching social media bar to get you maximum shares.

9. Disqus

Enabling comments on your blog is one great way to engage with your readers.  Disqus makes commenting easier and more interactive, while connecting websites and commenters across a thriving discussion community.

10. Sucuri Security

Everyone wants to keep their WordPress site protected and secure from hackers. Sucuri Security is a useful web based security toolset plugin for security integrity monitoring, activity monitoring, malware, malicious coding scanning, or bug detection, blacklist monitoring, security hardening, and security notifications. This plugin is the best way to ensure your site is secure, especially if you are running an online retail store or if you store sensitive customer information. Sucuri Security works in the background to actively monitor your site for potential threats and warns you immediately to take post-hack security actions.

The List Doesn’t End There

There are many more useful WordPress plugins such as WordPress Importer and Next Gen Gallery. The one caveat is more is not always better. Sometimes plugins can conflict with each other or your theme, and the possibility of this happening increases with the amount of plugins you use. Your best bet is to use only the plugins you need. The good news is, if you do find that a plugin conflicts, there is probably a similar plugin that works perfectly with your set up.  This flexibility is one of the features that makes WordPress and its plugins such a popular platform.

Google Analytics 101: What you Need to Know

The rise of digital media not only provided new avenues of marketing, but it also provided the opportunity for businesses to more completely understand the prospective customer buying process and consumer lifecycle behavior on the web.

We now have readily available general insights on demographic information, how a visitor interacts with different content on your site and what content is most popular. More specific information is available as well. For example, you can see all the pages that someone visits before taking a desired action (like making a purchase or completing a form). 

All of this is made possible with analytic tools such as Google Analytics (Google’s free analytics platform for webmasters).

While tracking user actions through analytics platforms is of great value, what’s even more valuable is figuring out how to use the tools to best benefit your growing business. In other words, the real power of Google Analytics is when it moves from merely providing ‘descriptions’ of behavior to when it helps you arrive at ‘predictive’ analyses of behavior. This is when you begin using Google Analytics data to drive greater revenues and greater profitability for your business.

Why Businesses Need Analytics
Understanding how to use analytics will increase your ROI, period. And what you need to know is not difficult to access, if you set it up right to start with.
For instance, if you are buying traffic via Adwords or Facebook, would it be helpful to know that Facebook visitors interacted with your website completely different than Adwords visitors?
If you are creating content for inbound marketing, would it be helpful to know what topics are most popular and what content actually created new leads or customers?

Many businesses are doing a lot of marketing activities online including:

  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Email Marketing

The question is, what is working? What should you do more of and what should you stop doing? Google Analytics can help a business make those types of decisions, so your limited marketing resources can be used most effectively.

Google Analytics: What is it?
Google Analytics provide website owners with detailed information about how visitors interact with their websites. Analytics tracks stats such as how many pages different users visit once they are on the site, the amount of time they spent on the site, and even whether they left immediately. This last stat is called the bounce rate, and it’s generally seen as an important measure of how well the site is keeping the interest of its visitors.

Here is what Google says about their analytics tool,“Google Analytics lets you do more than measure sales and conversions. It also gives insights into how visitors find and use your site, and how to keep them coming back.”

How to Get More Leads with Google Analytics
Google Analytics can help you get more leads, but to be effective, you’ll need to have proper goals set up and tracking on all the pages. One that complete, Google Analytics can tell you exactly where there’s a problem in your conversion process.

Once you have identified the goal and pages on which you want to increase conversions, you can use basic conversion optimization strategies to improve your conversion rate. Things you are already familiar with, such as A/B split testing and analyzing and improving high drop off points in your marketing.

Hopefully, you have some ideas on how to use Google Analytics to improve your marketing and understand the importance of properly setting up your analytics and using the data to improve your marketing results.
Even though the bloggers aren’t talking about analytics like social media or content marketing, don’t fall into the “what’s hot” trap. Smart and seasoned marketers use analytics.

You should focus on your analytics as much as any other marketing tool you use.  If you don’t you are missing out on traffic, leads and sales – there’s no other way to put it.

If you want to improve your Google Analytics effectiveness and increase your return on marketing investment, but don’t know where to start, contact our partner, GlobalDirective. They are an agency that specializes in helping you set up and optimize your Google Analytics platform for maximum value.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director Content and Social Media Marketing, of GlobalDirective.  She is a strategist and blog contributor for the digital marketing agency. 

Performance Degradation Has Nowhere To Hide From New Relic

When I was a kid, I was a master at “Hide and Seek.” I was so good in fact, that most of the time the other kids just left me hidden and went home. Childhood trauma aside, New Relic is awesome at “seeking out” the cause of performance issues on websites.

If you have ever visited your website and wondered “Why is the site running so slow?” or you tried to look into an issue only to find several of instances of “index.php” running for EVERYTHING, or if you looked at the logs and saw only “An unexpected error has occurred.”, then New Relic is exactly the tool you need.

New Relic is a quick install, and in most cases does not require a reboot. Once the services are installed, New Relic starts sending data, including script load times, database queries (which are by default obfuscated for security), external calls, errors and even browser details like DOM rendering (how long does it take to display correctly based on CSS), and Network response times to data collectors. Data is then turned into graphs, trends and alerts to provide you with “near real-time” dashboards of information.

From the information found on the dashboards, your performance issue becomes much less than a game of “hide and seek” as you can see what is causing the performance issues on your sites with great detail and clarity. And if you ever get stuck, our support team is right there with you to review the information inside New Relic and help with recommendations and possible solutions to the problem(s).

Below are screenshots of New Relic’s Default Application, Application Stack Trace, and Database Trace Dashboards.

Default Application
[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_original”,”fid”:”89″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”height”:”296″,”width”:”500″}}]]

Application Stack Trace
[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_original”,”fid”:”91″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”height”:”284″,”width”:”500″}}]]

Default Application
[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_original”,”fid”:”92″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”height”:”296″,”width”:”500″}}]]

As a special offer, we are offering up to 15% off New Relic for the first month if you like us on our social media pages. Receive 5% off for each of the following: Facebook, Twitter and Google + by clicking on the share icons below.

 

Website analytics: Piwik

What are website analytics?

Measuring, collecting and analyzing data from your website is called web analytics. Using this data, a website owner can get a better understanding of the needs of its user and optimize their site accordingly.

What is Piwik?

Piwik is a web analytics application that allows site owners to view and create reports from the data collected from their website visitors. Piwik is an open source alternative to Google Analytics, and runs on a PHP/MySQL server.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_original”,”fid”:”116″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”height”:”297″,”style”:”width: 728px; height: 297px; margin: 8px;”,”width”:”728″}}]]

Some of Piwik’s Features:

  • Piwik is free to use.
  • Powerful customizable analytics dashboards.
  • Since Piwik is self-hosted, you own and control your data.
  • No data limits.
  • Track top keywords, search engine and website referrers, real time reports, campaign tracking and more.
  • Track file downloads.
  • Track cart abandonment.
  • Mobile Apps for both iPhone and Android.
  • Ability to track robot visits.
  • Available API for you to use to create custom apps and plugins.
  • and much more…

Installation

Installation of Piwik is simple! The easiest way to install Piwik is through the control panel on your Lunarpages web hosting account and Softaculous. You can also download the latest version from the Piwik.org website and install Piwik via FTP .

 

[image: ThinkStockPhotos]

Lunarpages Offers Its Clients an Additional Layer of Security with SecureLive™ at Half the Cost!

SecureLive™ Protection Special!

The most effective and economical global security system ever engineered. Over 200 million hacks blocked, thousands of hackers shut down and many active prosecutions. Now you can get this Proven Next Generation patented system for your website or server for an amazing low price of just $9.95 per month / domain (compare at $20.00 per month on SecureLive.net).

SecureLive™ Website Security

SecureLive is an advanced security system designed to seamlessly integrate into a variety of platforms including: Joomla! (Versions 1.5.x, 1.6.x and 1.7.x.), WordPress, Drupal, E107 and standard PHP websites. With a simple plugin installation and activation, customers will immediately begin blocking hackers and seeing reports of the malicious activity on their site. SecureLive goes one step further and reports the hackers to the appropriate authorities.

Below are some of the features of SecureLive™

  • (CST) Continuous Scan Technology
  • Live real-time monitoring
  • Tested 98% effective against hacking and online theft
  • Endorsed by industry experts in independent testing
  • Advanced custom user security controls to fit websites
  • Blocks intruders before attack through advanced recognition
  • Email alerts and text via mobile devices to client and monitors
  • Logs all violations and captures attacker signature
  • Forwards attacker profiles to proper authorities
  • Reduces attacks through systematic banning of violators

Frequently Asked Questions

What programming languages are supported by SecureLive™?

Currently SecureLive™ is only offered for support of PHP and is being expanded to support ASP in the near future.

How effective is SecureLive™ at stopping hacks?

SecureLive is the most secure website security system available today. To date, SecureLive has blocked over 50 million hack attempts across the globe, and is still going strong. SecureLive’s success rate when installed on a clean website (no pre-existing hacks), is 100%. If you are unsure if your website is clean, we offer SecureRX as a diagnostics service to determine this. If you know you have existing viruses on your website, purchase SecureRescue to have our experts clean up the hacks before installing SecureLive to block future hacks. You may be surprised to find out how many people are trying to hack your website. We have had customers begin receiving Incident Reports only minutes after activating SecureLive.

How does SecureLive™ protect my website?

SecureLive works by filtering all the data being sent to your website by a user or bot. The user is checked for black list or white list status, and then the data undergoes a very advanced, patented hacker detection script. During this process, your personal preferences will be applied, allowing you change who is detected as a hacker, and how they are blocked and reported.

How will SecureLive™ affect my website’s performance?

SecureLive’s servers store your account data, global database, and the most advanced parts of our patented technology. This means that you will need to connect to our servers frequently, and speed becomes a concern for most webmasters. Most users see an average speed of 0.1 seconds added to their page load time. Our best speeds are around 0.03 – 0.04 seconds, and the worst being around 0.5 seconds. This performance can be improved by upgrading your server hardware. SecureLive’s servers are running very advanced hardware and software in order to provide reliable and fast service. SecureLive can handle tens of thousands of connections at once, and will grow along with our customer base.

What is conversion, and is it bad?

The overall terminology for “Conversion” isn’t bad, we discuss it in negative terms because the way other security solutions use it. Conversion is the process in which visitors to a site are “converted” into a customers via sales. For Businesses, especially for eCommerce this is a good thing. In fact if you have someone coming to your site from another site to “BROWSE” around, or to say they are “on the fence” about your product, then see something, whether it is an item, a security method giving them a safe feeling, etc, and it turns into a sale is something we all would like. Hours and hours of article writing, product placement, programming, whatever you may have done starts to pay off from the conversions that happen on your site. The problem we have is these other security suite applications talk about conversion because of their false hope in security to your customers. The other top name security products for your website DO NOT protect you from the NOW. SecureLive and SecureMember does, not only the NOW, but the future as well. Our patented technology delivers more than just conversion, it offers REAL security, REAL protection, RIGHT NOW. You don’t need to brag to your customers about how you made your business run extremely smooth, frankly because they don’t care. Prove it to them by getting their product to them in a safe manner. Let SecureLive protect them and you from thieves.

What are the PCI standards?

For Visa, Inc., PCI DSS compliance includes following their Cardholder Information Security Program (CISP), along with the incorporated PCI DSS standards. The CISP program includes compliance and validation requirements for the following entities:

  • Merchants-All merchants including retail (brick-and-mortar), mail/telephone order, and e-commerce.
  • Service Providers-Visa identifies service providers as organizations that process, store, or transmit Visa cardholder data on behalf of Visa members, merchants, or other service providers.
  • Payment Applications-Visa offers a “Best Practices” document for Payment applications, with the goal that the payment application must not retain full magnetic stripe data or CVV2 data. As well, as well the software must support a merchants and service providers’ ability to comply with the PCI Data Security Standard.

For MasterCard Inc., compliance and validation includes following its Site Data Protection (SDA) Program, along with the incorporated PCI DSS standards. The SDA program includes compliance requirements for the following entities:

  • Merchants-All merchants must become PCI DSS compliant through completing the PCI Self Assessment, PCI Onsite Assessment and PCI Quarterly Network Scanning. While all merchants are required to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, merchants that store, process or transmit MasterCard account data may also be required to validate compliance with their acquirer.
  • Service Providers-Third Party Processors (TPPs), Data Storage Entities (DSEs). Any service providers that store, process or transmit MasterCard account data on behalf of the merchant must also be compliant.
  • Vendors-Master Card provides a list of Approved Scanning Vendors (ASVs), based on the testing requirements laid out in the PCI DSS standard for ASVs.
  • Acquirers-MasterCard works with acquirers to help the acquirer’s merchants obtain SDA certification, as well as PCI DSS certification. The acquirer does not have to go through an SDA certification process, but the acquirer must manage the SDA process for their merchants. The acquirer must certify the merchants’ compliance validation tools, as well as registering the merchant with MasterCard.

You may need to research for more up-to-date information on PCI compliance programs for the payment cards you will be accepting.

Is SecureLive™ PCI Compliant?

The short answer is no, a little history on PCI is helpful to understand how it came about and why it is needed. In June 2005, American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB, MasterCard Worldwide and Visa International founded the PCI Security Council. These requirements are based on ISO 17799-the internationally recognized standard for information security practices. The main tasks of the council are:

  • Creating, owning and managing PCI DSS for credit card data
  • Classifying a common audit requirement to certify compliance
  • Overseeing a certification process for security assessors and network scanning vendors
  • Instituting minimum qualification requirements
  • Retaining and publishing a list of certified assessors and vendors

Under the PCI DSS, a business or organization should be able to assure their customers that its credit card data/account information and transaction information is safe from hackers or any malicious system intrusion. The way SecureLive works is it protects your ENTIRE website, including its database. PCI Compliance does not protect your database. If you store credit card, address, names, etc in your database and a hacker is able to access or download this, PCI did not work.

Does SecureLive™ support SSL Certificates?

SecureLive will work on both https and http addresses equally. There are no special requirements or changing of anything.

Ordering Options

Existing Customers

To add SecureLive™ to your hosting plan, please click the link below. You will be asked to log into your CAP account, then select ‘Add New’ from the dropdown menu next to SecureLive Protection. Customer Account Page

New Customers

In order to add SecureLive™ to your website you will need to have a hosting plan. To purchase a new hosting plan please visit our plan page.

[image: ThinkStockPhotos]