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Unwanted Ads and Malware on Your Website

This week’s tip is about removing unwanted ads from your website. In the past few weeks, I’ve had questions from clients about advertisements popping up on their websites. Their concern was whether I had put ads on their websites or whether their websites had been hacked. This is a good question and I thought I’d write up a post about it because it happens fairly often. The short answer is that, unless we’ve discussed putting advertisements on your website, you should not have pop-up ads appearing on your site. Most times, the issue is not that there are ads specifically on your website. Instead, your local computer has probably been infected by a virus or malware and you’re seeing pop-ups on many sites — not just on your business website. Here are a couple of examples of what these ads may look like:

Spam adSpam ad

While most times these ads are being generated by malware on your computer, there is a chance your website may have been hacked, so it’s always important to check with your webmaster to verify your site is secure. If the pop-up ads are from malware or a virus, I recommend using Malwarebytes to scan and remove any unwanted programs from your computer. They offer a free and premium version and I’ve always had success with the free version. Depending on the type of infection you have, you may need to take further action to remove the malware/virus.

Image by Bes Z (CC BY 2.0) via flickr

Security and Limiting Login Attempts

This week’s tip is about increasing the security of your website. No one likes to think about their website being hacked. In addition to losing control of your site, it can feel like a personal violation and it also can take a lot of time and money to have a website fixed. All admins should have a secure password and you should backup your website regularly (or make sure your host and/or webmaster is backing it up for you). One more way to add security to prevent your site from being hacked is to limit the number of times someone can attempt to log into your website.

If you’ve logged into your own WordPress site, you know the login is at or This is the case for almost every WordPress site. So, it’s pretty easy for a hacker to know where they can log into your site. At that point, they can just try over and over again to get into your site, guessing username and password combination after username and password combination. This is where the Limit Login Attempts plugin can help. This simple plugin limits the number of times a wrong username/password combination can be guessed by any IP address. With the default settings, after four incorrect logins, the plugin locks the IP address out for 20 minutes. After additional incorrect logins, the IP address is recorded and locked out for 24 hours. This plugin helps prevent against brute force attacks – an attack that just tries usernames and passwords, over and over again. By limiting any user only 16 tries to guess a username/password combo, you’re making it very difficult to guess any strong password.

The only downside to this plugin is that if you forget your username/password combo, you could be locked out of your own website. If you don’t remember your password, simply click the “Lost your password?” link on your website’s WordPress login screen and you’ll receive an email with instructions for resetting your password.

I highly recommend this plugin to all of my clients. If you’re not sure if you have this plugin installed and you’d like to try it, just send me an email!

creektimeP.S. My weekly tips have been a little spotty, now that summer has arrived. That’s because we’re having way too much fun around here, enjoying the beautiful weather. It’s hard to sit in front of my computer when a warm, sunny day is calling my name…




Image by Bes Z (CC BY 2.0) via flickr

Helpful Tips When Requesting Tech Support

This week’s tip is how to request tech support. I get a lot of support requests on a daily basis. These range from adding something to a website to fixing an email problem to connecting a website to Google Analytics. When a support request comes in via email, I read it, then decide if I have enough information to act on the request. Many times, I receive some but not all of the information needed to complete the support request. This means I have to reply back to the email and request additional info. This is the normal ebb and flow of support and it may take a few back and forth communications for me to understand the issue or request. Today, I read a great article on uncluterrer about being organized when requesting tech support to help speed up the tech support process. Here are the key points and tips when requesting support:

  1. Write out problem in detail. Be as specific as you can.
  2. Learn to take a screenshot. Screenshots can capture what you’re seeing on your screen and can help me understand your issue. If you can’t get a screenshot, write down any errors or messages you see.
  3. Have any relevant passwords, user names or login information on hand. If I need to connect your website to your Google Analytics account, I’ll need your login information to make this connection.
  4. Identify what browser and version you are using. Different browsers — Chrome, IE, Safari, Firefox — can all display or produce different results when viewing a website. It helps me to know what browser you’re using.
  5. Is this a new problem or has it happened before? If you can remember when you first saw the problem, it may help me pinpoint the cause.
  6. Can you reproduce the error? If you can reproduce the issue you’re seeing, let me know the steps you took to do so, as I’ll try to reproduce the error on my computer before debugging.
  7. What have you already done, if anything, to troubleshoot this issue? You can save me some time by sharing what you’ve tried to fix the issue.

I’m always happy to help add a new feature to a website or debug a problem and these tips will get us off to a fast start!

Image by Bes Z (CC BY 2.0) via flickr

Testing and Improving Website Speed

This week’s tip is about testing your website for performance and speed. It’s important for your website to load quickly. We live in a fast-paced world where users expect to see a website pop up within a few seconds before they move on. Here are two sites that can test your website’s speed and also provide suggestions for improvement:

Pingdom Website Speed Test
Google PageSpeed Insights

Both sites provide feedback and data to show what’s bogging your site down and also how you can make improvements. Here are a few easy ways to improve site speed:

  • Ensure you’re using images properly sized for the web – if you simply drop in a photo from your camera that’s 3.2 MB, that will take quite a while to load. There are plugins that will auto-resize your photos on upload and I also recommend WP to optimize images.
  • Enable caching using a plugin like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache
  • Reduce the number of plugins your site uses – while I don’t have a hard and fast rule of thumb for plugins, the more plugins your site uses, the slower it may run
  • Minify CSS, javascript and HTML – I’ve been using Autoptimize with success, although it does require some tweaking depending on the theme and plugins your site uses

Want some help speeding up your site? Send me a message!

Image by Bes Z (CC BY 2.0) via flickr

Tip of the Week – Finding Your People

This week’s tip is about finding a group of people that share your interests. Working from home can be a bit lonely at times. And beyond the workplace socializing and chit-chat, there are times when I just want to run an idea by someone or get an opinion. There’s something about talking with others face-to-face that can’t be replicated with an email or a phone call.

About a year and a half ago, I was feeling a need to talk with other web developers – specifically WordPress developers – so I hopped on and found that there was a Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup group. I RSVP’d to attend a Meetup and I’ve been attending ever since. Every month, we meet at restaurant in Chester or Montgomery county. We socialize for a bit, then there are two shorter and one longer presentations, all related to WordPress. I always learn something new when I attend this Meetup, whether it’s from the presentations or just from conversations with other WordPress users and developers. I look forward to this Meetup and it fills that need to chat with others that share a similar interest.

How do you meet people interested in the same things you are? Do you use Meetup?

Image by Bes Z (CC BY 2.0) via flickr

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