Domains, Websites — and Mobile Homes

I commonly work with clients who are unaware of how the internet and World Wide Web function, despite using it every day. Similarly, most of us turn a key in our cars at least once a day and do not know what goes on there either! Because I’m often repeatedly explaining things about domains and websites and IP addresses and such to my clients, I figured I’d put all of this information into an explanatory blog post. And as I prefer to do — and because they typically make things easier to understand — I’ve put it into a metaphor or analogy.

Coming up with an airtight analogy for explaining websites and their place in the world of the internet is difficult and I’m not sure I know of anyone who’s written on this subject using this comparison. But as far as I can surmise, it’s a pretty perfect analogy (at least, in my brain and at this point in time it is!) so let’s see if I can cover everything and keep things simple and easy for you to understand.

Your Website = Mobile Home

The first step in this analogy is to consider your website to be a mobile home. I don’t mean an RV or trailer. Rather, I’m referring to a house where you might live permanently that is normally transported to one location and left there for a significant time. Most often, it is parked on a lot in “mobile home park” that is exclusive to this purpose. While a mobile home is typically dropped and left in one place forever, it can be picked up and moved. So, if the landlord raises the price of the rent for your space or you tire of your neighbours or the view, you can always move it somewhere else.

Your home is filled with furniture and stuff and we can draw a parallel between that and the content (photos, graphics, videos, words) that are on your website.

Although it’s unusual, you’ll have to give your mobile home a name. It’s important in the analogy to do this. Also know that you’ve had to register that name with a central authority, so nobody else in the world can have a home with the same name.

Your mobile home is going to be in a mobile home park where each lot has a street address. Strangely, in this park it’s possible that groups of mobile homes are on single lots. No, the landlord isn’t greedy, just practical! Because of this, it’s important that your home has a name. Visitors to your home are going to not only need to know your address but also the name of your home. Fortunately, you’ve conveniently put it on a sign that sits on the (tiny) front lawn of your part of the lot. All home names are unique — not only in your park but in the entire world.

Domain Name = Mobile Home Name

Your domain name is analogous to the name you’ve registered and given to your mobile home. That is “” or “” Only one person or entity can rent a domain name and while some might be similar (e.g. and, they are all unique.

Note that I indicated that you rent a domain name. That implies that, if you don’t pay your rent you don’t get to use it anymore — and that is totally true. There are dozens of stories over the past decades of large, multinational companies forgetting to renew their domain name registrations and having them get snapped up by someone else!

Domain name registrars handle domain name registrations and there are literally thousands of them, all functioning as virtual businesses on the internet. A typical domain name registration costs $15-20 per year, and it’s possible to purchase up to five years of registration at one time.

The characters that come after the dot in a domain name are called the TLD (top-level domain) and there are currently hundreds of TLDs in use these days, mainly referring to the countries of origin of the domain. Just because you’ve registered doesn’t mean that you’ve automatically got control of or Each version needs a separate “rental contract” (registration) from a domain registrar and different people or companies can own similarly named domains.

Website Hosting = Renting Your Lot

The registration of a domain name gives you the legal right to a name for your website, but your website — which is really just a bunch of computer files — doesn’t actually exist until it’s got a place to live on the hard drive of a web server. That’s why you need a website host. For somewhere typically between $5 and $50 per month a website hosting company will allow you to place your website files on one of their computers. A website host is analogous to the company that owns the land in the mobile home park where you’ve parked your house.

As a general rule of thumb, the cost of website hosting is proportional to the amount of space the mobile home park has given to you and your home. As I mentioned before, envision your house being potentially on a single lot with perhaps dozens of others! In this situation, not only are you sharing the physical space, but you’re also sharing all the utilities that are coming onto the lot. So, your electricity, water, and gas are all being shared — sometimes not as fairly as you’d like — between you and all the other cohabitants of your lot! In simple terms, that’s why the cost of website hosting can change so drastically; it all depends on who you’re sharing with and the quantity of those utilities you need to have your home run properly!

IP Address = Street Address

The “Internet Protocol” address is expressed as NNN.NNN.NNN.NNN where ‘N’ is simply a single number. Every computer on the internet needs a unique IP address and, commonly, several computers need to share an IP address on a web server.

This analogy holds because it’s a similar to the address that the mobile home park has given to the lot where your house — and potentially dozens of others — is situated.

Website Maintenance = House Maintenance

If the contents of your mobile home are analogous to the content of your website, then you’ll be constantly acquiring and disposing of those contents. Clothes, food, appliances, and other things in your mobile home regularly need replacing. And some of those things — like the appliances — occasionally need cleaning and upgrading.

Similarly, your website has an operating system consisting of several interrelated software programs that, likewise, need the occasional update or upgrade. Website maintenance happens for two reasons: It keeps your website running smoothly and quickly; and it prevents security breaches.

The Steps to Having a Live and Functioning Website

Based on my analogy, here are the steps required to getting a website up and running on the internet:

  1. You register one or more domain names (mobile home names) with a domain registrar company. This is the key first step, and I’d recommend keeping your domain name as succinct as possible, yet somewhat descriptive — just like a good brand name. If your brand is “Ace Computing” and you’re in Canada and you’ve chosen as your domain name (assuming it’s available), you might also consider registering the .com, .net, and perhaps other related TLDs in order to protect your brand. While I can do this domain registration task for you, it’s infinitely preferable for you to do this task because then you — and only you — possess and control this very dear and cherished asset.
  2. I design and build your website. Commonly I do this at a place on the internet where nobody but you and I can find and see your in-process website being constructed.
  3. Prior to the completion and go-live date of your website, you determine who your website’s host is going to be. (Remember that’s like finding a good mobile home park and contracting to rent a lot on it.) I lease space on internet servers for this purpose and can provide excellent service for a fair price. You are welcome to get hosting anywhere, but it must be capable of hosting the type of website I’m making for you.
  4. You provide me with the credentials (username and password) of your hosting account, if you’ve gone elsewhere for that. I need to get into that account to copy your new website from where I’ve developed it to where the world is going to view it. Your website host will provide you with an IP address. That’s the unique internet address where your website (and probably some others) will live.
  5. You provide me with the credentials for your domain registration account. I go in and fiddle with them and I point them to your host’s IP address (mobile home park address). This is called “configuring your DNS” where that acronym stands for Domain Network Service. Once done, it can take up to a day for the entire world to know your DNS configuration has changed. Once this information has propagated, someone typing “” into their browser will be automatically sent to IP address 123.456.789.012 which is where your website currently resides.
  6. If you want, I configure DNS to automatically send someone on the internet going to to be automatically forwarded to — assuming you currently own both domain names.

Transferring a Domain

It is possible to transfer a domain from one registrar to another. This is most commonly done because the current registrar has lousy service or is overcharging. In my analogy, it’s like changing the authority that handled granting you exclusive use of your mobile home’s unique name.

On at least two occasions I have watched my client go through hell because they allowed someone else (typically the person who previously built their website) to register their domain name. Now that you’re “moving on” and using someone else for your new website, it’s not uncommon for the current domain owner to hold the justified owner hostage at this stage because one cannot transfer a domain without being able to access the domain registrar’s account!

Once the domain account is accessed, there is typically a method for indicating the desired transfer of a domain. Sometimes this requires a phone call. Once achieved, they provide a very long alphanumeric code. When this code is given to the new registrar along with the domain name, the transfer may proceed.

I can handle all of this for you, but obviously I need to know your credentials from both the current and intended domain registrars’ accounts.

Note: This process can take anywhere from a week to three weeks to accomplish. Registrars can drag their heels and don’t want normally want to give up on a nice and easy recurring income stream.

Changing Hosts

Recall that this is analogous to having your mobile home picked up and transported to a new lot in another mobile home park. Your home’s name is going to stay the same, but the address where it’s parked is going to change and the internet world needs to know where that is.

Transferring the hosting of a website is easier than transferring registration because all I need to know are the credentials to get into your domain registration. Once in, I change the DNS to no longer point to your lot on the old mobile home park, but now your lovely, well-groomed lot at the nicer park!

The Humble Contact Form: What It Is, Why You Should Have One, and How It Can Be so Much More

contact form from law firm

Most every modern website has at least one built-in form that visitors can complete and submit and I highly recommend these for several reasons. If nothing else, having an online form provides an obvious vehicle for visitors to use for enquiries and starting communication with your firm or organization.

I’ll use the terms “form” and “contact form” somewhat generically and interchangeably in this post. In all cases, I’m not necessarily just referring to a simple online form that prompts for a name, email address, and comments. That’s because online forms can be and do so much more for you and your enterprise – besides simply getting the basic information.

It’s common to ask, ‘If I provide my business’ primary email address on my website, why would I need a contact form?’ While it’s always my advice to have that email address both obvious and clickable (i.e. when clicked automatically starts a “send an email” event on the visitor’s computer), having a contact form provides a visitor with an obvious point-of-contact with you. It also allows you to receive that information in a standardized way. Subsequent processes then smoothly unfold.

Form Design

Fortunately, my first actual career job was the design and sale of business forms. The company I worked for over six years prided itself in training their people to understand that most of the costs of forms weren’t in the cost of the actual forms, but in the processing costs associated with them. Therefore, I got a pretty excellent lesson in efficient forms design, which actually translates over pretty well into the online forms realm!

Generally, an online form takes the user through the fields in a logical and well-ordered manner. Space is provided for short and long text responses and sensible field types are used for the data they are recording. For example, we don’t want to ask the user to type the words “yes” or “no” when clickable radio buttons serve the same purpose and are much easier to use.

Other than the obvious, these are the other most common field types in an online form:

  • Radio buttons that restrict the user to one in an array of two or more possible responses
  • Check boxes that allow the user to click any or all responses in a single array
  • Drop-downs that allow the user to choose one (or sometimes more) item(s) from vertically expanding list
  • Conditional fields. If the user answers ‘yes’ to a specific question, three other related questions automatically appear.
  • Required fields that, if not filled out, will prevent the form from being submitted
  • File upload fields that allow the user to upload computer files to you

All forms end with a ‘submit’ or ‘send’ button. Once clicked, I can have your website simply issue a “Thanks for submitting our contact form.” message, or take the visitor automatically to a specified page on your website. It can then do a bunch more, as you’ll read further along.

Add Some Fields to the Form

One thing I always ask my clients to consider is collecting one or more bits of further information from an enquirer on their contact form. Of course, we don’t want to overwhelm a potential customer with a hundred questions! But a bit of added information that’s quick and easy for the submitter to add to their submission might be of significant benefit to you.


  • I have an accounting client that asks her form submitters to indicate what services, from a list of the four main ones she provides, they are interested in. Now, when she phones or emails them, she’s immediately got something to address.
  • My window coverings client asks her potential customers to indicate which part of Edmonton or the surrounding area they’re in so that she can more efficiently plan her in-home consultations.
  • My arborist (tree-cutter) client can get photos from his potential customers of the bushes that need trimming or the dead tree that need removal. This often saves him a visit and allows him to come with the proper equipment.
  • My machine shop client can receive CAD (computer-aided drafting) documents from clients prior to even talking to them, providing them immediately with details and scope of a potential project.

Think to yourself, ‘Is there any piece of information I might initially ask from my potential customer that would increase my service level to them and/or make responding to their enquiry easier or more informed?’ If so, let’s pop it into the form, make it not required, and see if most people make use of it.

Form Processing

All submitted enquiry forms end up as an email, sent out by your website to one or more designated email addresses. Later on you’ll learn more about how it’s important to understand that it’s the website that’s actually sending out the email(s). The subject line of these emails can be configured by me (e.g. “Contact form submitted on Acme Widgets’ website) and typically the body of the email simply contains the field names on the form (e.g. name, email address) and whatever the submitter has filled in. It is common for the receiving email account to be one that is regularly monitored and that the person responsible for monitoring it prudently responds to inbound emails or forwards them to the person responsible for responding.

If one of the fields in the form records the sender’s email address, it is relatively easy for me to automatically send a boilerplate response email to the sender. The subject line can be whatever you want and included in the body of this email we might show what the sender had indicated on the submitted form. (If nothing else, this may prove later on that they accidentally mistyped their phone number into the form!)

A submitted online form might also trigger any of the following other processes:

  • send the form data into a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software program
  • send the form data into a Google Sheets spreadsheet
  • send the form data to MailChimp, MailerLite, or a host of other mailing list/newsletter software programs
  • automatically send a follow-up email to the submitter X hours or Y days after they initially sent off their enquiry
  • send a coupon or special offer to the sender, immediately or after a set amount of time
  • send the form data, in an email, to a specific recipient, based on what the sender might have indicated on the form (e.g. email sent directly to customer service or technical support department)
  • automatically make an appointment in an automated booking system
  • literally dozens of other automated processes

The Website’s Email Account

As I mentioned earlier, your website actually needs an email account. It doesn’t need an exclusive account, but it must have one associated with it. That’s because whenever your website sends out an email – and this could be in processing a submitted contact form or sending an operational warning message to the website’s admin account – it needs to use the credentials and authority of a bona fide email account.

Many businesses and organizations use free personal email accounts (e.g. Gmail and Hotmail) and I really think this is exceptionally poor practice for many reasons. (I go into detail about these in two other blog posts I’ve written: Why Freebie Email Accounts Are Not A Good Thing – Especially if They’re Associated With Your Website and Branding and Your Email Address) One of the biggest reasons is that it is technically difficult to have your new website send its emails through one of these not-very-private accounts which are really intended for personal use.

One other important aspect of using a corporate email account (e.g. ) is email deliverability. Because routing the sending of emails through one of these accounts is more configurable, I can ensure a much higher probability of emails coming from your website not ending up in people’s spam filters. If you’ve told a form submitter that your website will immediately respond with an email containing the details of their submission, that benefit loses a fair bit of its lustre when it apparently is never received but is found the next day in their spam folder.


A contact form is an opportunity to collect some important information about the person submitting it at the outset of communications. It’s also potentially a way to get further automate processes that you manually handle today. If nothing else, a well-designed and -executed contact form shows your potential customers that some thought has gone into it, which reflects well on you and your reputation.

What Exactly is a High-Performance Website?

high-performance race car

I use the term “high-performance” several times on my website and may often use this phrase when talking to clients. We all know what a high-performance car is like or a high-performance athlete. But what does this term mean when applied to your company or organization’s online presence through its website?

Back in 1995, websites were totally passive; they just sat there and waited for someone to visit them. Mostly, they were “online brochures.” We drove traffic (people) to them through our business cards, advertising in newspapers and other traditional media, or by word-of-mouth. They served their purpose well to support and enforce our business and its brand. Their owners often designed and constructed these sites, modeled by mimicking the designs of the commonly distributed brochures and other printed materials at the turn of the millennium.

There are still occasional cases for having these electronic brochure websites, but their numbers are dwindling. And business owners who continue to think as they did 20+ years ago will watch their precious enterprises fail when their competitors eclipse and then bury them with websites that not only look and function better but do so much more than digitally displayed paper brochures.

To me, a high-performance website does one or both of these things:

  1. Convert.
  2. Add business functionality.

I’ll get into more detail about these later on in this post. For the time being, think of the term “convert” meaning you want to change a website visitor from a “looker” into a “doer.”

The second point above is that your website can do more than just act as a marketing vehicle. It’s relatively easy these days to add functionality to a website ranging from actually selling things (e-commerce) to appointment booking.

A Website Is An Employee?!

It’s actually both relevant and logical to think of your website as being an employee. Aligning with my two stated points above, an employee’s job could be to convert people into customers (sales or marketing) or handle regular business functions (e.g. reception or order entry). As businesses grow, they naturally hire people to help them with the burgeoning workload, or they employ them immediately before that expected increase in business. So, describing the two potential aspects of a high-performance website by using an employee analogy is totally valid.

Converting Website Visitors

Every business – and even a charity – is involved in selling something. Whether it’s a product, service, belief, cause, or movement, people need to be informed, swayed, and convinced to “buy in” to whatever is being pitched. So let’s use a quick story about two salespeople in my high-performance website/employee analogy.

You have two salespeople in your imaginary business, which is involved in the sale of large appliances such as stoves and washing machines. Both are paid a straight commission rate of 6% on everything they sell.

Hugh is a good-looking, smooth-talking, well-dressed fellow who epitomizes the word “gentleman.” He can close most every prospect that walks in the door of your shop because he knows his stuff. People immediately like Hugh when they meet him and he’s happy to be paid totally on commission. Last year he made $90,000 working for you, selling appliances worth $1.5 million. Not bad for the industry. If Hugh has any fault, he’s not really what you’d term a “go-getter” and his typical sales routine is that he waits for potential customers to walk in the door or relies on referrals from his past customers. Oh, and incidentally, Hugh is your brother-in-law, so he’s pretty well “unfireable.”

Daphne is young and a bit rough around the edges. She’s average-looking and not nearly equal to Hugh in the first impressions department. Daphne has analyzed her employer’s place in the market really well and fully understands the buying process of most of her customers. Her closing rate is equal to Hugh’s, but surprisingly she has a lot of new customers that walk in the door and actually ask for her.

Daphne figured out soon into her new job that investing in it was going to be up to her because you’re a bit of a cheap boss. (Sorry about that!) So, she spends a few hundred dollars a year subscribing to a service that sends her information about new home building permits in her city. Using this information, she uses a good part of her day calling these people who are building new homes who will obviously be in the market for as many as a half dozen new appliances sometime soon. Even though she’s only in contact with these prospects by phone and email, she immediately establishes a good rapport with them. In fact, she’s got her prospective customers virtually sold before they even walk into the store. Daphne has also invested $50 each month on an online system where her prospects make appointments to come and see her – and they like this! Daphne’s selling system is so efficient that she works ten fewer hours each week than Hugh, yet handles 30% more customers. This resulted in last year her making $150,000 on sales of $2.5 million.

But this year has been different. There’s a pandemic that’s swept the world and affected your appliance business – and everybody else’s. People aren’t building as many new houses, and they sure aren’t spending their savings on upgrading their appliances. It’s come to where your revenue has dropped to where it can no longer support two salespeople. You’re going to have to let one of them go.

But Hugh is your sister’s husband. He’s part of your extended family and you’d feel terrible to have to lay him off. But this isn’t the time to be sentimental. You’re now considering the survival of the business.

It’s pretty obvious to me (and it should be to you) that Daphne is the salesperson worth keeping.

In this little analogy of mine, Hugh is your current website. He’s reliable, and he does the job. You like him and feel comfortable with him, and you sure don’t want to cause a rift in the family — but the job he’s doing is just not up to what it demands of an appliance salesperson in the 2020s. He’s passive and just waits for people to come and almost demand that he sell them something. Nothing he’s been doing really brings in business for the company.

Similar to Hugh, your website is functioning like it was still 2000 when nobody “pre-shopped” brick and mortar stores by looking them up online. Nobody then made any buying decisions before actually going to the store. But that sure isn’t the case anymore, is it?!

Daphne is your new high-performance website. She doesn’t just welcome in the prospective customers that darken your door — she actively pursues them by purchasing data to target and connect with new, high-value potential customers who are actively researching new appliances. Daphne then invests in and leverages technology to make herself more efficient by having her prospects book time with her.

Similar to Daphne getting advance notice of building permits, people use the internet to troll for information prior to purchasing something. Knowing what search terms people are using to find businesses like yours means you can skew your website’s written content to include those words and terms. That way, visitors to your website are effectively “pre-qualified” and are already in the mindset to be using your product or service. Designing the website in ways that effectively “funnel” visitors through a pre-defined process makes converting them from “lookers” into “consumers” far more probable.


A high-performance website has one primary purpose: to convert. That is, to move and motivate visitors to your website to perform a specific action. Almost everything on a high-performance website is geared this way. To put this in different terms, a high-performance website does more than simply inform — it motivates action.

So what could that action be?

In the most simple sense, it could be to have the website visitor contact you. Immediately. If this were by phone, then suitable CTA (call to action) buttons or links would be strategically placed through the site. With up to half your website visitors using a cellphone to view your website, they would, of course, be “clickable” on a smartphone. That way the user wouldn’t have to transcribe your phone number when they want to call you. If you wanted them to reach you by email, then you’d have CTA-connected links to your primary email address. Even better, you’d have a neat and concise contact form that not only captured their name and email but also some pertinent and helpful information about what they’re interested in.

For an e-commerce website, the obvious action would be to purchase something. Most all of us have been through “shopping cart hell” in such websites that were poorly designed or didn’t execute properly and efficiently. And how many of us have bought add-ons — items that we didn’t originally intend to purchase from an online store?! A high-performance e-commerce website has built-in upsells, down sells, and cross-sells.

Another common conversion action for a website is having the visitor sign up for a newsletter or a mailing list for future emailed sales and offers. While we might provide something in exchange for this personal information, most of the time we simply expect people to willingly surrender it. A high-performance website will streamline this sign-up process into the design of the website and make the offer to give this personal information irresistibly compelling.

Under the Covers

What most people wanting or needing a new website seem to misunderstand or avoid comprehending is that much of the work in creating a high-performance website is in the things that nobody sees! Simply designing, building, and posting a gorgeous website on the internet does not automatically list it with Google or Bing or make it popular. It certainly doesn’t make it suddenly and easily “found.” And even if it does, is it listed for the best possible search terms? Is it on the first or second SERP (seach engine results page) or buried on the fifth? Finally, when a new visitor arrives at your website, does all the language, graphics and photos, and structure of the website direct and focus them to performing your desired action? These take thought and a significant amount of expertise, something that few business owners have the time to acquire and learn how to implement.

Websites are the same as human beings, in that beauty is only skin deep. A gorgeous-looking website that makes people ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ when they view it is nice to have, but not very useful if it doesn’t help our business or organization. Getting a website to be useful and become high-performance requires a lot of behind-the-scenes thought and work.

High-Performance Websites as an Investment

A high-performance website will always cost more than a typical website — and so they should! There is significantly more work, time, and expertise required to design and build such things. And there are often higher ongoing costs to operate and maintain HP websites. But there’s almost always a payoff, an ROI (return on investment) that might be only a few months away. There’s a point in time where the website begins to actually make you money and no longer be seen as something that costs you money.

What smart business owner wouldn’t invest in purchasing a machine that spits out widgets three times as fast as the current widget-maker and offers a half-year ROI based on current sales?! Even borrowing money to buy such a piece of equipment at loan-shark rates would give a dramatically quick payback!

I often find it frustrating when my potential website clients can’t make the same connection. If a high-performance website were to:

  • increase your annual sales by a modest amount
  • free up a few hours of your life each week
  • add an additional source of income to an already-existing business
  • give your customers a higher level of pre- or post-sales satisfaction
  • create a community around your brand
  • provide an alternative way for your customers to buy your products or services

wouldn’t it be worth it?


In the world of websites, we can divide them into two groups: those that are high performance and those that are not. Those in the latter camp will never increase the sales or awareness of their owners’ business or organization because it bases their primary purpose on a decades-old way of doing business.

Like an employee (that doesn’t complain or take holidays), enterprises and institutions will benefit financially and in other ways by adopting high-performance websites that serve them, increasing both visitor conversions and convenience.

While I am happy designing and building online brochures (AKA low-performance websites), I truly get a much bigger kick from making those that serve purposes beyond the traditional ones. After all, who wouldn’t get satisfaction from watching a client’s website increase sales or the overall productivity of their enterprise?

A Privacy Policy for Your Website: Do You Really Need One?

privacy policy

I’ve written a lot of Websmithian blogs over the past few years and apologize at the outset for coming up with such a boring title for this one! Nevertheless, I’ve learned that pretty well every website design and build project I’ve been involved in since the conception of Websmithian really should have one of these. Admittedly, I’m a little late to the game in writing and telling you about them.

So, here’s what I’ve learned and how I can help you:

Some years back, our federal government came up with Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, commonly known as PIPEDA. (I’m not sure if you’d say that ‘pip ee dah’ or ‘pipe dah’ – or perhaps some other way. No matter.) With the internet becoming part of all of our daily lives and businesses recording more and more information about its customers, it was inevitable that legislation was required to put some rules on it. This is especially true when the data are all in electronic format and can be copied and moved in a matter of milliseconds.

PIPEDA applies to private-sector organizations across Canada that collect, use or disclose personal information in the course of a commercial activity. That obviously applies to businesses but, somewhat strangely, doesn’t include non-profit organizations and political parties. Go figure. Just about every website in the world collects some sort of information about its visitors, either passively or actively. It might passively record where the visitor came from, their IP address, and other types of data that are often recorded by tools such as Google Analytics. Actively, data might be collected via online forms, ecommerce transactions, newsletter signups, and other situations where the visitor is willingly providing their personal information.

An excellent – and relatively brief – webpage on the Government of Canada’s website outlines PIPEDA and what constitutes “personal information.” Most of you will, in some way, be recording such information through the website I’m making for you.

In short, you are responsible for indicating, on a page or in a document, to the visitors of your website what information you are recording about them, how you’re recording it, what safeguards you’re going to employ to ensure it remains private, and how you’re going to use the information. You’ve also got to indicate how long you’re going to keep that information before erasing it and you’re going to give them access to the information – and the right to have you immediately delete it – if they ask you to do so.

Doing Business in Canada

If the majority of the visitors to your website are Canadians and most or all of your business is done in Canada, then fortunately a Privacy Policy is pretty well the only legal-type document your website needs to have. As you’ve probably noticed, many websites these days warn you that they use cookies and ask you to acknowledge your awareness of that fact. Fortunately, we still don’t need to do that in Canada. We also don’t have to post messages on our Canadian websites that pertain to GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which is a law enacted by the European Union, or similar laws enacted in California and elsewhere.

Many Canadian websites have a Terms and Conditions page. Such a document basically sets the rules for using your website. This is a necessity if, for instance, you allow visitors to post comments and engage the website in similar ways. It also spells out your rights to the content that is on your website, disclaims your liability from content errors, and limits your liability from content submitted by a third party (e.g. a commenter), that might be offensive.

Obviously, an ecommerce-based website should have a T&C page, as should any that publishes blog posts and allows visitors to publicly comment. Otherwise, you don’t need one, nor do you need any statement about cookies on your Canadian website.

That being stated, anyone who’s lived for more than a couple of decades in any country knows that laws change and what I’m stating here is only valid and applicable at the time of writing.

How Does One Get a Privacy Policy?

There are a number of ways to put together a PP for your website:

  1. Find somebody else’s, copy it, then edit it for your own purposes.
  2. Have your lawyer create one for you.
  3. Use an online service to generate a PP.

I would obviously not recommend option one. There are just too many potential “gotchas” there that, if your PP was ever challenged – legally or otherwise – might not be all that good for your situation!

Lawyers love work like this because they essentially take an off-the-shelf PP and then edit it – which is essentially what you would you’d have been doing in option one. The obvious advantage here is that it’ll be airtight and it’s more your lawyer’s problem if there’s an inaccuracy. The biggest disadvantage is that, if the laws change – even one iota – you’re going to be going back to your lawyer for a rewrite and another stiff bill!

Fortunately, many online tools have been developed to generate pretty good quality PPs that are probably as high in quality as what your lawyer would provide to you, for a fraction of the cost. I’m going to go into more depth about these in the next section.

Online Privacy Policy Generators

If you Google “privacy policy generator Canada” you’ll find a good selection of online resources for this task. All of these basically function in the same way: You go through a few dozen questions that you respond to through an online form. When you’re done, you pay the company that runs the software. This is typically $30-50. Once the transaction is complete, a PP document is automatically generated for you. I then post it on your website and build links to it from logical places and you’re in business!

Similar to the situation I described above in the lawyer scenario, if PIPEDA changes or other federal or provincial acts come into being, you’ll have to go back and generate a new PP. Of course, it’s going to cost you once again to do this. And, once again, someone is going to have to upload this new document to your website and potentially edit any hyperlinks leading to it.

But there’s another style of PP generator out there that I like a lot better. Fundamentally, it takes you through the same arduous question-and-answer process so that the tool can know about you and what your PP circumstances and needs are. However, when it comes time to generate the PP it does so – but it doesn’t provide you with a downloadable document. Instead, it posts the PP on the service’s website and it’s that online document that I will link to from your website.

Why is this better? It’s better because, if something changes in Alberta or Canada over the next few years, then the service will automatically update your PP to reflect the changes in legislation! You’ll have your butt covered continually and you won’t have to do any work to your website to link to the new PP. Everything will happen automatically.

Fortunately, I’ve secured a deal with one of the most reputable services in the world, Iubenda, who are based in Italy. For a bit more cost than Iubenda’s one-year subscription, I can provide you with a lifetime subscription. And, I’ll even help you fill-out and submit the form. Contact me if you need more details.


Yes, CYA (covering your ass) remains one of the biggest concerns of Canadian businesses and organizations that have any online presence in our country through a website. Many visitors to your website – paranoid or not, they’re all potential customers – will get an added degree of assurance that the personal information they’re about to provide to you will be taken care of securely and only used for the purposes intended. Additionally, if anything ever arises from your website’s operations as they’re related to acquiring data about visitors, you’ll already have an accessible, clear, and legal document on your website to back you up.

Why Freebie Email Accounts Are Not A Good Thing – Especially if They’re Associated With Your Website

email graphic

Back in the old days, when the internet began to take off, one of the first revelations was the use of email. I remember a friend telling me, “This email thing is amazing! You really need to try it.” Based on that, I got an email account and began to figure out how to use it.

One thing that was common with those original email accounts was that they were actually accounts; you paid for them and, in turn, you got the expected privacy and exclusivity. In order to access your email you needed an “email client” — which meant that you needed a copy of a software program, something like Microsoft Outlook or Thunderbird, to access your email account.

While these first email accounts were initially used for both personal and business purposes they were all common in that they were connected to a domain name that was corporate in nature. That is, the words that followed the @ character were connected to a business or organization. That’s why they came to be known as “corporate emails” or “business emails.” This article is centred on corporate emails and I’ll continue to use that term.

So, email communication across the internet began with corporate email accounts – and then things changed.

Hotmail appeared, as did Yahoo! Mail. And then, along came the biggie: Gmail. All of a sudden the world was awash with dozens of different types of free email accounts. Not only did you avoid having to pay for them, but you also didn’t even need software to use them; full access to all of the needed functionality of email could be had through your browser! At first, most folks didn’t realize the implications of giving up control of their email and an entire generation has now come to consider a free email account akin to the right to free speech and democracy.

Unfortunately, this way of thinking has found its way into businesses and literally, millions of enterprises are currently run using Gmail and other freebie email accounts. Frankly, based on the truly low cost of having a private, corporate email account, I don’t know why any self-respecting and security-conscious business or organization would ever use a free email account.

Just consider the primary reasons:

  1. Your email will not reflect the branding of your enterprise and will stigmatize it as being cheap and/or not very security-aware. I wrote a whole other blog post on this very subject! Please read it.
  2. Your company’s intellectual property, assets, inventory, and client list are all yours, but your email account is not your property, nor are its contents.
  3. If someone leaves your organization or business in a situation that isn’t amicable, you could find you have lost control over one of your main methods of communications to your business community — and the rest of the world.
  4. If whoever controls your email suddenly dies or becomes incapacitated, just refer to item 3 above.
  5. The disc space used by free email accounts is often taken into account when calculating the total space allotted and you may find yourself with no storage capacity and a lot of bouncing incoming emails that never get to your inbox.
  6. Website-generated emails.
  7. Many businesses won’t engage with a business that doesn’t have a corporate email account.

I could easily think up a half dozen more reasons, but those are the main ones. Here are some more details about them:

Email Property

As I trust it is clear to you, a free email account bears no direct financial cost to you, but it does cost you a significant amount of privacy. Realizing that free email isn’t the product and that you, your business, and their data is the product is the first step in weaning yourself off of running business information through an account that someone (or more correctly, something) is eavesdropping on.

On the other hand, a corporate email account (i.e. one with your domain name after the @ character) is totally private. You’ve paid for it and you can be the only one on the planet with the password for the account. And if you’ve done a good job of using a secure password, it’ll be as bullet-proof as anything can be on the internet.

The Disgruntled Employee

Your primary company email is and you’re happy and lucky to have grabbed that address when Google began giving out free Gmail accounts because your company name is “My Widgets.” How appropriate! But a few minutes ago, you fired Joe Blow because he was taking too many washroom breaks. Prior to going out the door and unbeknownst to you, Joe has quickly accessed the company Gmail account and changed the password to it.

Five minutes after Joe went out the door, you’re wondering why you no longer have access to your email account. You can’t correspond with customers or suppliers. Leads that come into your business through your website are inaccessible.

This situation is probably repairable, but not after spending many hours trying to make contact with somebody at Google who has the authority to put your “personal email account” (because that’s what free email accounts really are) back into your hands. Do you know who to call at Google (or Microsoft if it’s an account, or Yahoo! if it’s a account)? I don’t.

Here’s the good news: A corporate email account always has a “back door.” That is, a way to go into the account and change the password associated with the email account. Note that I didn’t state that one could see or know the password, only change it. (I stated earlier that “you are the only one on the planet with the password for the account” and I stand by this because it’s true.) Such authority is typically only given to two people: me and the owner of the email account, never to the user of that address.

casket at funeral

The Dead Organization Volunteer

This is similar in circumstance to the previous situation with the same eventual complications. But the middle of the story is slightly different:

Your organization “Good Folks” has been using the email for all of its online correspondence. Potential volunteers and givers use that email address and it is linked with dozens of related and linked charitable websites.

Because there was a perceived threat a few days ago, the organization’s secretary changed the password of the email account to something different; something she could easily remember. Unfortunately, because the organization is all run by volunteers, she didn’t tell anyone else and now she’s dead – or perhaps she’s just incapacitated to the point where she can’t speak or be conscious. Do you want to be asking her family what the potential password to the charity’s email account might be?

As I pointed out earlier, if you had a corporate email account there’s a quick fix to this – and it is an exceptionally quick fix. That is, you or I just access the administration area of the email account and change its password. Since the disgruntled employee or deceased volunteer doesn’t have access to this function, it’s pretty easy to do this task.

hard disc drive

Uh Oh! You’re Out of Disc Space!

Almost all free email accounts have a limit to how much disc space their contents can fill up until they reach a limit. Most people have no idea of what that limit is or whether they’re approaching that limit and many free email account providers don’t tell you in advance. To complicate things further, many of these providers (e.g. Google) consider the space used by your Gmail account to be part of your Google Drive’s capacity.

Some paid-for email accounts provide an infinite amount of disc space – with the word infinite being a bit of a misnomer. Nevertheless, under normal circumstances, you shouldn’t ever run out. Even the ones that have a cap are very generous. The email service I provide gives 25GB of disc space. If you exceed that, you have an underlying email management problem that needs to be addressed.

Did You Know That Your Website Sends Emails?

It sure does! If you have a contact form on your website, then it’s actually your website that’s sending a copy of it to your designated email inbox — and sending a copy of it to whoever completed and submitted the form. Your website also has the ability to send out emails about its performance and other technical related issues. (Those typically come to me as the designated website administrator.) If you’ve got any form of e-commerce on your website, all emails to you and your customers all come from your website.

One of the technical aspects of having a website these days is that it will inevitably be on shared hosting. Whether I put your website on one of my leased servers or you go elsewhere, there are dozens (sometimes hundreds) of other sites sharing the same computer hardware. Without going into a long and technical discussion, to prevent bad people from taking over the email-sending functions of websites, we have to effectively “bind” a sending email address to your site. Doing this with a freebie email address is a dozen times more complicated than doing so with a corporate email. It’s also likely that, sometime in the future, free email hosts will no longer allow this to happen any longer, requiring you to have a proper email account in the end anyway.

Don’t Have a Corporate Email? – Sorry.

I’ve recently encountered this situation and know it’ll only grow in use. My client wanted to sign-up with MailerLite, an online newsletter and mailing list program. (MailChimp is its biggest competitor.) In order to enroll, MailerLite required a corporate email account. That is, any email that ended in or or whatever was unacceptable. This is understandable because a throw-away email address can indicate that someone is not wanting to use the service for legitimate reasons. Only bona fide companies use corporate email addresses, right? I foresee other SaaS (Software as a Service) vendors going this direction in the future.


If you’re a one-person show and plan on staying that way, you’re in total control of your email — freebie or not — and much of what I’ve written might not apply to you. Regardless, having a corporate email account will, if nothing else, make you appear to be much bigger to the outside world and certainly more professional.

The monthly cost of a corporate email account will typically cost what one or two nice coffees at Starbucks go for. Many website hosting companies include one or more corporate free email accounts in their plans. When you consider the potential costs — both financial and reputational — that go along with the stigma (or some might even say “bad smell”) of a free personal email account, I don’t know why anybody would ever use one.

Protecting Your Website’s Intellectual Property

leonardo da vinci

Leonardo da Vinci died over 500 years ago. He was not only one of the greatest painters of all time, he also had a mind for science and invention and technical ingenuity. What methods would he have devised in the 21st century to protect his great works of art?

One of the great things about the World Wide Web and websites in general is that more information is available to us in a few seconds than we ever could have imagined just a couple of decades ago. And, through our browsers or other means, it’s also very easy to copy that information.

Intellectual property (IP), according to Wikipedia, is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect. The most well-known types of IP are copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. So, unlike the land your house is sitting on or the car in your driveway, intellectual property doesn’t really have any physical substance. But that doesn’t make it any less the property of a person, corporation, or organization.

At one time, things like music, artwork, and photos existed mainly in the physical realm; music was expressed in notation on pages of paper and artwork and photos were things that could be touched and held. These days, such things can now also be manifested in digital forms and they are well within the definition of IP.

When it comes to your website, pretty well every single element is “free for the picking” — not necessarily by choice. So, not only are those well-crafted words easily copied onto somebody else’s computer in the blink of an eye, but also any of the website’s graphical or other visual components. Photographs, logos, graphical elements — all can all be easily “borrowed” by anyone visiting your website. Of course, I use the term borrowed as a euphemism for what it really is — stealing.

How Is the Stealing Accomplished?

There are free software tools available to literally copy an entire website to one’s local hard drive. (I often use such things when I’m renovating a website and want to have all of its assets close-at-hand.) Once there, the possessor can then pick through it and grab whatever elements it desires. If they are then reused in some way without the owner’s knowledge or permission, I think most of us could then define them as “stolen.” That could be as seemingly-innocuous as printing a high-resolution photo of a painting for framing and hanging on the thief’s wall.

Most of the time, website content is stolen simply by right-clicking. (Windows and Linux users will understand this term, which refers to clicking the right button of their mouse. Apple users will know this as a control-click.) That is, once your mouse pointer is hovered over a graphical image or photo, or you’ve highlighted some text on the page, right-clicking then gives you the option to save whatever you’ve targeted as a file to your computer. It’s as simple as that.

As I’ve aluded to a few paragraphs before, what you actually then do with what you’ve just copied constitutes the difference between simply putting the content into a different form for your personal consumption, or outright larceny.

While recorded music (or sound in general) is an IP and can be stolen from websites and words can be plagiarized, the subject of this post is going to mainly centre on the protection of a website’s graphics, which includes photographs.

The Conflict of Fidelity

While fidelity can mean faithfulness, know that I’m using its other definition: “the degree of exactness with which something is copied or reproduced.” The recorded music term “hi-fi” is really a compact form of “high-fidelity.”

The conflict I refer to in this section title is simply this:

We want to give your website visitors the best experience possible and that means delivering your content in the most hi-fi form possible. The trouble is, by providing those high-quality assets for your visitors to view, you’re also giving them something to easily make perfect, pristine copies of! I guess this is a bit of an irony. If you’re an artist you wouldn’t want to display fuzzy, poor-quality photos of your artwork because they wouldn’t be representative of the quality of your talent. However, the better the image you give the thief, the more inclined they might be to avoid paying you for it.

Anti-Theft Tactics

That section title sounds as if I’m trying to implement those tags that we find in retail stores on expensive clothing and such — but effectively it’s much the same thing! You don’t want people to easily steal and use your IP!

The simplest method of stopping digital thieves is to simply disable the website visitor’s ability to right-click. This can be done easily with a free WordPress plugin. Know that this is an “all-or-nothing” thing and it’ll not only prevent someone from grabbing your website’s graphics and such but also literally any piece of text that’s on it. So, for example, an email address or a website URL in literal terms on your website is going to frustrate users who’re used to simply cutting and pasting it to their email software or browser URL area. (Fortunately, this won’t be an issue if you’re a conscientous websmith like me and embed such things into hyperlinks on websites!) But other things like someone’s name or other text aren’t going to be able to be easily grabbed by your computer-literate website visitors.

The trouble with this seemingly-perfect strategy is that getting around the right-click method is child’s play for someone who knows what they’re doing. All browsers have the built-in ability to view the source code of any web page. Someone merely has to look at it and they’ll get the direct links to all of your beautiful photos and such. From there, it’s a pretty easy steal.

In summary, this “kill the right-click” strategy only stops the user who has a low or moderate level of internet knowledge.


The only other way to stop a direct steal is to alter the photo in such a way that its reuse would be cumbersome or burdensome to the thief. The most common method for that is an embedded watermark.

Watermarks have been used for a long time to authenticate everything from currency to stock certificates and the term has been borrowed for the digital world. There’s nothing tangible about the computer file that holds your artwork image, so we’re left to embedding “an image within an image,” so to speak. The idea is that, this added image will be hard to remove – even digitally. This is because it must be replaced with something and the thief (or more accurately the computer graphics software he or she is using), needs some significant “conjecture power” to try and replace what’s been removed.

mona lisas

Three watermarking strategies are displayed above for your consideration. There are obviously some definite pros and cons with each. In any case, a watermark lowers the quality of the image, hopefully not too much.

Digital Watermarks

For high-value digital assets, digital watermarks are possible, but you need to understand just what they are and how they function. In short, a “marker” is hidden somewhere within the digital file that doesn’t obviously change the asset, whether it’s an image, audio, or any other “art” that can be expressed in digital form. Were someone to copy your artwork from your website, you could use this technique to prove that it was originally yours; buried deep within the file would be that marker. However, the point of the marker is to be virtually invisible, so it wouldn’t prevent someone from grabbing a high-res photo of a painting and then have it reproduced on a poster that they hung on their living room wall.


In summary, there is no “perfect solution” to preventing digital thieves from making off with your website content. What you are willing to settle for will be the deciding factor and the hope that karma, in some form, will eventually find its way into the life of the poacher.

So, You Want to Build Your Own Website!

woman w computer

Building a website is something that most any computer-literate person with a bit of an eye to graphic layout can do these days. And there are amazing site-building tools out there like Wix, Weebly, and SquareSpace that make — if you believe their hype — the whole process a total joy! Many folks even go down the WordPress route, even though the learning curve can be steep, thinking ‘Who’s better to build my website than the person who knows my business best?!’

I am, admittedly, a very big DIY’er. I’ve been the general contractor — and the provider of much of the labour — for a house I built when I was in my 20s; I’ve handled most every home or backyard renovation project in the past 40 years; and I’d much rather plan my own holidays than employ a tour company to do it for me. In summary, I’d much rather get the satisfaction of doing the work and getting the accolades from friends and others for doing so.

In my business life, I learned early that I had to weigh most every potential DIY project I could tackle. I had to ask myself, ‘Is the time and energy being spent on this quest worth it? Am I really getting better value doing it myself when someone else could be doing it for me?’

Decisions like this were easy when it came to my professional business needs. A good accountant might save me more in taxes than they cost me. A capable lawyer might help me avoid a costly liability or mean the difference between winning and losing in court. And a creative graphics person could always make my brochures and business cards far better looking and more effective than anything I could design myself.

And that brings us to your website project and the fact that you are not going to have a professional to design and build it for you; you’re going to do it yourself!

Crafting your own website is a really good idea if:

  • You can’t afford to pay for someone to make it properly for you.*
  • Your website is only there to be an “online brochure.” That is, a place for you to direct potential clients to, to inform them more about your products and services and to legitimize your business.
  • You can live with something that looks “cookie-cutter” and perhaps has a few rough edges.
  • You want friends and family to tell you what a beautiful job you’ve done of making a website.
  • You want to continue to consider your website as one of the costs of doing business (like rent and a business permit) and not think of it to be something that actually generates income.

* Some very blunt people might go so far as to state you have no business being in business if you can’t afford a proper website.

With that in mind, here’s a list of some very valid reasons of why you shouldn’t be making your own website:

Being Found

As I mentioned before, perhaps you have no need to be found by people searching online using Google or Bing or Yahoo! If so, then your customer base is solely going to be built from who you direct to your website through advertising, word-of-mouth, or your business card. So, for example, if you’re a florist, people will probably never find your business through a Google search using the terms “flowers” or “florists near me.”

Getting listed high in SERPs (search engine results pages) requires SEO (search engine optimization). (Sorry about those two acronyms being in one sentence!) That is, crafting your website in a way that it is accessible to search engines and is using the proper words and terms (in the right proportions) to properly represent your website to Google et al.

Do you have the SEO knowledge to have your new website be found by searchers? If not, do you have the time to devote to learning about keywords and backlinks and how to get Google to crawl and index your website when it goes live or you add new content? Are you ready to learn why your competitors are higher in SERPs than you and then employ the same tactics that they are?


DIY website builders work with templates and offer little in the way of customization. If there’s something unique to your business or its offering, you might not be able to express it properly in a pre-fab website that lacks functionality, originality, and is not very interactive. And that template you’re using? It’s been used by hundreds or perhaps even thousands of other businesses — some of them probably in the same arena as yours! You now have a website that looks like everyone else’s — and how original is that?!


Do you really think you can learn that website-building tool and get a complete website up and running in the same (or less) amount of time as a pro? Perhaps the hours you’re spending learning that one-time significant task might be better used in growing your business and expanding your customer base.


Something you make will never look as good or function as well as what an experienced website developer will provide. First impressions count and competition in your business space, especially online, might be extremely fierce. Your website has to look and function better than those of your competitors because, these days, almost everybody checks you out online.


How is your new DIY website going to look when viewed on tablets and smartphones? Will it be easy for your visitors to use and navigate? Statistically, at least 40% of internet browser traffic these days originates from these smaller screens and that number will only continue to rise. Google automatically gives higher rankings to websites that are responsive (mobile-friendly) and visitors touring your website with a small screen will stay longer if they’re having a good UX. (Sorry. There’s another acronym: “user experience.”)

Website Analytics

Do you know that there are ways to track each and every visitor to your website? That is, what brought them there? What pages did they view? What actions did they take?

This is all amazing and exceptionally valuable information about your website, both at the outset and into the future. Do you know how to set this up?

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

I’m not going to get long-winded about this. Suffice it to state that there are at least a dozen other really good reasons for not doing this on your own. What is boils down to is that, if you haven’t done this before, you really don’t know what you’re getting into until you’re into it. And at that point, you’re in that “in for a dime, in for a dollar” mentality where you’re experiencing what seemed so straightforward at the outset taking up more and more of your time and energy. In the end, you and your business suffer and you settle for less than you want because you just want it to be over.

Do You Still Want to Do This?

So, even after all of those reasons, do you still want to design and build your own website? If so, kudos to you for taking the initiative and devoting the time and effort to learning something new.

And please keep in mind that, if you try and the outcome isn’t as amazing as you’d hoped, you’re welcome to give me a call and discuss having a pro “pick up the ball” for you. If nothing else, I’ve learned that my best clients are those who’ve tried to do it on their own. Seems that, in the trying, they’ve learned just enough to be really good clients! That is, they’ve gained enough vision through the process to be really helpful to me in passing along their website needs and dreams that I can then fulfill for them.

The Heart of Your Website: The Blog

blogging - old typewriter on wood

Your website’s home page, contact page, and about us pages (as well as some others) are the “bones” of your website; they’re seldom changed and become the structure that your website is initially built to hold. However, as I might have repeatedly mentioned to you, these pages contribute very little to your website’s discovery by searchers and Google likes websites that are dynamic and ever-growing and rewards them with higher rankings on SERPs (search engine result pages). The expansion of your website is, therefore, critical to its success and I’ve probably provided you with the means to enable this: The Blog.

Whether you call it a blog or refer to them as posts, articles, case studies, or blog posts – they’re really all the same thing. This area is where you get to expand the content of your website, enhancing the its SEO (search engine optimization) capabilities and perhaps giving your website visitors what they want in the way of information. Regardless, a website with 20 pages has twice the probability of being found through an online search than a 10-pager because there’s just more content there for a search engine to index.

One of the great things about the WordPress platform is that its original roots are in blogging; WordPress was originally exclusively a platform for bloggers and it has extensive built-in features for that purpose. My aim is typically to provide you with the structure of the blogging section of your website and to then have you fill it with content for as long as you are able. The primary purpose of search engines like Google (other than to make money!) is to provide the content that searchers are looking for. And the more words there are on your website about your business or organization and the products and/or services it provides, the better chance you are of being found.

The point of me providing this document to you is for you to understand what features and functions are available to you so that we initially structure this section of your website properly. There is no single way to build or present blog posts on a website and you’re going to have to think of both the present and the future as together we design this area.

The General Structure

When dealing with blog posts, consider two primary page layouts/designs, each with a different but very related purpose:

  • The post layout.
  • The archive layout.

The Post Layout

The post layout is repeated for every post that is written for your website. That is, there are specific spots for specific information that are part of the post (for example, the title) and each has a predetermined format. Here’s an example blog post from my website:

Note that I’ve shown the top and the bottom of the post separately left and right because there’s really no point in showing you what’s in between for this discussion.

Described from top to bottom, my blog post layout begins with a graphic image that’s associated with the post. Then, there’s a small picture of me with my name beneath. The title of the post is then below, followed by the content of the post. This content might include words, or media such as graphics, photos, or even a video. Any of these elements might have embedded hyperlinks (“links”) that, when clicked, take the visitor to somewhere else on my website or to another website page.

When we get to the bottom of the blog post, there are some specific links to related posts on my website, then there is a batch of icons. Each of these, when clicked, might allow the reader to share this blog post on various social media outlets, or write an email with the link to the page automatically embedded in it. You may have used links like these on other websites and they make the post easy to share or pass along — and we like that!

Everything I’ve described to you is there by design and there’s an underlying layout that will be applied automatically to all of the blog posts I might write in the future that are posted on my website. So, when writing the post, I just need to enter or indicate the specific aspects that are unique to this post. For examples, the text that forms the body of the post and the graphic that’s displayed at the top. The post template takes care of everything else, like formatting the title to the proper font type and size and popping in those share icons at the bottom.

The Post Archive

Typically, I’ve arrived at a particular blog post because I chose it on a post archive. This is a page that typically holds a whole bunch of synopses of blog posts. On my website, my post archive looks like this:

I’ve arranged my archive in a grid-like fashion. The other common format for post archives is with each element being arranged in a row. Either way, the page might be infinite (i.e. reveal more and more post archive elements as we scroll down) or might be limited to X elements before the user needs to click to go to the next page of more displayed post archives.

Typically, each element on this page contains a short synopsis of the blog post. Like on the blog post itself, any field that’s been recorded (blog post fields are discussed later), such as the title and feature image, can potentially be displayed on each of these elements. The typical strategy is to place some enticing words – which may or may not be the opening words of the blog post – here to inform and compel the reader to click and open the blog post.

Maintaining a grid or row structure on the entire archive page is not a necessity. Often, an archive page might have two or more sections. For example, a featured blog post archive might be shown separately and larger at the top of the page, indicating the newest or most-read article, with the remainder of the posts being arranged in rows or a grid below.

Also, if lots of blog posts are in the archive and they had subject tags associated with them, a clickable control at the top of the page might allow the visitor to choose a subject and have only archives relating to that subject be dynamically displayed on the screen.

Post Fields

Beneath all WordPress websites is a database and there are many database tables within. At least one table will relate to your blog posts and any or all of the available post fields might be employed in the design of your post layout or archive layout. What follows is a list of all of those fields along with further information about what they contain.

  • Title – The title of the post.
  • URL – The link to the post on the website.
  • Excerpt – A custom-written summary of the post’s content. (This is not, by definition, just the first X number of words in the post.)
  • Content – The actual content of the post, including all embedded images and other media and employing a hierarchy of headings (H1, H2, H3…) to give structure and context.
  • Author – The name of the person who published the post.
  • Username – The WordPress username of the author.
  • Author image – The photo or avatar image associated with the post author.
  • Author biography – The biography of the author.
  • Featured image – A specified single graphic image that is associated with the post. Note that the featured image should be of a standardized proportion and size so that it formats properly on both post and archive pages.
  • Type – It’s possible to group posts by type.
  • Status – Published, draft, scheduled to be published in the future, etc.
  • Menu order – A numeric value used for ordering posts on a page.
  • Previous post link – A link to the post that was published before this post.
  • Next post link – A link to the post that was published after this post.
  • Date – The date of the post’s publishing or last edit.
  • Time – The time of the post’s publishing or last edit.

The date and time fields bear some further discussion because often they are significant in search engine results. Google et al typically desire to serve up first the most recent content to searchers and having a recent date associated with a blog post might boost it somewhat. However, a competitive website with a newer article with similar content might “leapfrog” your content in rankings, compelling you to manually revise the publication date of your blog post to a more recent date. But if the content of the post hasn’t changed significantly, as it would if you’d truly done a revision of it, you might find the rankings of your page degraded — or even obliterated — by the search engine!

Custom Fields

Know that it is relatively easy – and entirely possible – for me to create custom fields to be associated with your blog posts that don’t come standard with WordPress. For example, a subtitle field or other graphic image (e.g. logo) are possibilities. When writing your posts, you’d simply “fill in” these fields and they’d appear in their predetermined location and format in the resulting published post.

Post Comments

All WordPress blog posts can possibly be “opened up” to allow for comments. That is, you could have visitors to your website who’ve read your posts offer comments and perhaps even begin discussions with you regarding your posted articles. While at the outset this might seem alluring and an informative benefit for your website visitors, I typically strongly advise against doing this. The obvious reason is the prevalence of online “trolls” whose primary purpose is to disrupt civil discussions and inject vitriol into public forums. The other is the prevalence of “bots” which, likewise, are only there to disrupt and annoy and do their dirty work automatically. Even the best and most civil comments must have an assigned human moderator and maintaining such things can consume many hours of maintenance time and provide little benefit to you.


Having a way to dynamically add content to your website is important – very important if you want Google to raise your rankings and have more people find you. The way to do this is through a blog – or whatever you want to call it – because it’s the quickest and easiest way for a website layperson to add content. Having predetermined templates for both your archive page and your blog pages means that, whatever content you create, it’ll just flow nice and neatly into a design that’s universal across your website, supporting your image and brand.

Some Google Ranking Factors You Actually Have Control Over

google up

Getting high on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) should be the aim of every website owner. Because, if you’re not getting good results organically, you’ll have no choice but to actually pay for them. This would be using services such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and others.

But since the “great Google search algorithms” are a great mystery and an ever-moving target, we’re left to do the things that are proven through past experience to contribute positively to high SERP rankings, helping us to get to as close to the top position as we can.

In this article, I’ll be referring to Google a lot. When I do that, know that I’m also referring to other search engines, such as Bing and Duck, Duck Go. While these other two aren’t nearly as big or influential as Google, if you succeed with Google you’ll generally get what you want from the other two as well.

The SEO (Search Engine Optimization) factors we can do something about are:

  • content matching search intent
  • page format
  • page speed
  • backlinks
  • internal links
  • EAT factors

I’m going to deal with each of these somewhat briefly in this blog post, with an aim to provide more details in a half dozen future posts, each dealing with these different subjects.

Content Matching Search Intent

What you need to understand here is that whatever content you have on your website, it has to align with what people are looking for. This “alignment” simply means that the words and phrases you use throughout your website have to mimic, to a great degree, what your target searchers are typing into the search box. But it’s not as simple as that because Google will try to assess the intent of the searcher. For example, are they looking to find out information about something or buy it? Are they looking for a specific website or want a comparison article or one that lists “The 5 Best?”

When you punch in some of the search terms you think your prospective customers are using, what kind of results are you getting? If they’re mostly informational, then you won’t be getting a lot of traction for your ecommerce product pages, for example.

In the end, you’re never going to rank high for the term “best pizza in Alberta” if those words don’t appear both frequently and along with other complementary words, such as tomato sauce, dough, mozzarella, hot, delivery, etc.

Page Format

Google not only reads the words that are on your page, but also understands its format. If the page has been made correctly, most text is categorized as paragraphs. But HTML – the page language of the web – also allows for categorizing and formatting other things, such as headings and text that is bolded and italicized and such.

Next to the paragraph test, headings are probably next important because they naturally infer subjects of importance on the page and the underlying hierarchy of the sections. Headings can be categorized into about a half-dozen levels with H1 being the most important and H6 the least. However, each page should only have one H1 on it. If you have two or more, Google will think you’re trying to trick it and will penalize you for it! Logically, H2-level headings should follow H1s and H3s should appear between H2s. All of this helps the search engine sort out the structure of the page and the subject areas it contains.

Another formatting aspect that’s important is to potentiall use structured data on the page. You’ll have experience this if you were ever looking for instructions of how to do something or were trying to find a recipe. Content that’s identified this way often shows up at the top of SERPs if that’s what Google thinks you’re looking for, either because you’ve stated that in your search term or it’s inferred by the syntax of your search term.

Page Speed

We all know that people’s patience when it comes to slow-loading websites is pretty well non-existent and that most searchers will abandon a site if it hasn’t loaded sooner than they want. Well, Google actually tracks how well your website performs speed-wise – on both desktop and mobile devices – and that factor contributes to your ranking!

There are lots of things I do to my clients’ websites to increase page-loading speed, including compressing images and even serving different images when being viewed with a mobile device. There are many other tricks and strategies – far too many to get into in this short post.

Of course, one of the simplest methods of speeding up your website is to have it served by a premium hosting company. In short, when you pay less the hosting company has to increase the number of websites sharing the web server where your website lives. And the more websites there are occupying that space, the more slowly each is being served up to the online world.


A backlink is when another website links to your home page or a page on your website. At one time, online companies existed solely to accommodate this. Alternately, backlink exchanges were arranged: ‘If you link to me, I’ll link to you.’ Google has seen through these tricks and will often penalize a website for doing this.

The idea of backlinks is simply that the more domains that link back to your pages and content, the more Google thinks that your pages are the best to serve to online searchers. The trick is to make these backlinks authoritative; come from legitimate and related sources.

So, for example, backlinks to your pizzeria from online food and travel bloggers would be solid gold, as would reviews from newspapers and magazines.

Inevitably, the best way to build backlinks is to reach out and build relationships with related and complementary businesses – which is something you should be doing anyway. After making contact with another business, they link to you might be an easy ask. Often, these can be mutually beneficial, such as a wedding photographer and catering company with backlinks going both ways.

Internal Page Linking

The menu structure of your website already clues Google into its overall structure – and that is not what I’m referring to here.

If you begin to add content to your website — through blog posts or articles or case studies or whatever — you’re inevitably going to find that it might make sense to reference to them. That is to place hyperlinks within the blog copy, referring to related posts, or putting them at the end of the post. “If you liked this article, perhaps you’ll like these…”

Interestingly, if you find one or more of these pages performing significantly better, you can often spin-off some of their success by linking to other, less-popular pages on your website.

Unfortunately, actually doing internal page linking becomes a bit of an ardous and tedious job. If you’ve just created Blog Post H and it warrants a connection to Blog Posts A and C, you should probably go back into A and C and create links in them to H. In the long term, this will often provide a better SEO payoff, so it’s usually worth the effort.

EAT Factors

That acronym stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness — and achieving such human character-based aspects in something as inanimate as a website can be a challenge! In short, you need to include things on your website that add to the legitimacy of the business, organization, and people behind it.

Ways you might do this are:

  • Whenever you create a post, state the name, expertise, and credentials of the author behind it.
  • Whenever you make claims in your website, cite the sources of those claims, and do your best to ensure that those sources are authoritative and legitimate.
  • Include a contact section on the website that indicates a real person (or group) is behind the website and that it has methods of communicating with visitors (e.g. phone number, email address).


In the end, the best way to achieve the highest Google rankings possible is to anticipate what searchers want and to give it to them. In the long run, anyone tricked into coming to a website will immediately leave — and remember that Google is always “watching” that activity which, when repeated, downgrades your website. On the other hand, giving folks what they came for results in long, multi-page visits to your website — and Google is watching and noting that too!

Why Most Businesses Are Crazy Not To Be Part of Google My Business


Although it’s not actually part of your website, a Google My Business page can definitely drive high-quality traffic to your website and any locally-based business that doesn’t have a GMB page is missing out on a big opportunity!

Have you noticed that very often the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) that shows up after doing a Google search based on a business type often lands you at something like this:

google my business

That’s a GMB listing and it’s primarily geared by Google to businesses that are considered local. Some examples of these are serviced-based businesses such as barbers, massage therapists, and chiropractors; trade-based businesses like carpenters or electricians; or retailers, restaurants, and a myriad of other enterprises.

A free GMB listing essentially gets you the right to own and operate a nice little mini-website, like what’s shown above. It can display your address, hours of business, questions and answers of prospective customers, and even photos and other graphics. Perhaps most importantly, it can accept and show customer comments, testimonials, and ratings. These are often used by online searchers as an indication of whether to go forward and click on the “website” button that’s on the GMB listing or move on to a competitor with higher ratings and/or better reviews.

Any business that qualifies for a GMB listing is crazy not to take advantage of it! After all, it’s free and potent advertising that could drive significantly more traffic to your website. This is especially true if your competitors aren’t using GMB or don’t rate as high as you.

Good and kind words extolling your business and five-star ratings don’t just appear passively on your GMB listing! You’ve got to drive happy and satisfied customers there to spend a few moments to rate your service and write some praise for the rest of the world to see. After all, what do you think is better: A website rating of five stars with two submissions, or a website rating of 4.7 with two dozen submissions? (I hope you think the latter is better, as I believe most people would!)

Know that you have the ability, as the GMB listing owner, to go into it and respond to both good and bad ratings and comments. If nothing else, responding, ‘Thanks for the kind words, Emily. It was a pleasure to serve you.’ shows your attentiveness to your customers and that you’re actively maintaining the GMB listing.

It can often take a few weeks to fully obtain a GMB listing, especially if you’ve got a physical address that Google will want to send a piece of mail (yes, snailmail!) to in order to confirm that your business actually exists at that location. So plan on it not being just a simple, online application. And also plan on spending an hour or two setting it up because there are lots of aspects of the listing that you can take advantage of. If you need some help here, I’m available.

How do you sign up? Well, you’ll need a Google account (if you’ve got a Gmail address, that’ll do). Just type “” into your browser and go from there!

There’s an excellent – and very short – video extolling the advantages of GMB here.

July 7, 2020 Addendum: I just read an excellent article about GMB that you might find useful.

And that's nothing compared to what I can do!