Protect yourself from online brute-force attacks

Protect yourself from online brute-force attacks

Protect yourself from online brute-force attacks

Owen Yorio

The Cowbell Agency

If you own a website, or have used any type of online account before, you may be familiar with a brute-force attack. If you are unaware, a brute force attack is a common way hackers or malicious sources could try to access your sensitive information. Essentially, nefarious code is executed that attempts hundreds of passwords a second in an attempt to gain access to locked content. There are a few simple ways to protect a website or user from these types of attacks, we’ll go through two of those now.

Good Password Management

The most simple way is to be diligent with your passwords. If your password was created with extra symbols, numbers, and cases, that greatly increases the time it would take for a program to brute force into. There’s a cool website that proves this point with simple math, https://www.passwordmonster.com/. This tool shows how long it would take for a brute-force attack to break a password. Let’s try an easy password, “tomorrow.”

According to this tool, it would take less than a second for a brute-force attack to crack this password, notably because it is an actual word, with no special characters, numbers, symbols, or case changes. Now, let’s try to make this password a bit more secure by trying a different approach.

In doing this, we’ve made our password virtually impossible to break. No need to worry about a brute force attack anymore! This number is astounding by the way, 4 thousand trillion (sextillion) years works out to about 289 billion times longer than the universe has existed for. There are other tools to use that can help you manage complex passwords like this as well, Google Chrome has some built right in.

Lock account after too many login attempts

Most people have encountered this measure before, almost all sites enforce this one by default, others may not. Nearly all websites you could have an account with use this function to protect you, not just to frustrate you when you’ve forgotten your password. So why shouldn’t you use it on your own website if you’re not already?

If you need any help with website security, give us a call or contact us here on the site!

Take more advantage of Google My Business

Take more advantage of Google My Business

Take more advantage of Google My Business

Owen Yorio

The Cowbell Agency

Google My Business (GMB) is a crucial element to your online presence. With a proper account, you are eligible for all of the advantages the platform offers. So as a start, make sure you claim your business. If you’ve been operating your business without creating a GMB profile, there’s a good chance Google has automatically created a shell of one for you already. This does make it easier for potential customers to find your business, but it doesn’t come with all of the bells and whistles that can optimize traffic to your business or website. Simply search for your business on Google, if a widget displays on the side with your information, you can claim the business (there should be a button). If you do not, you’ll have to navigate to the Google My Business homepage and set up your profile there.

Once you’ve claimed/set up your business (it should guide you through some relatively easy steps to do so), you can begin adding additional information. You’ll want to take the time to do this if you want to get the most out of GMB. You should see a tab on the left displaying different sections of your GMB profile:

All of these are important to most businesses, except for Products and Website, and we’ll get to those in a bit. Let’s go over these in order:

Home

This is your dashboard, it displays broad information at a glance, and allows you to monitor aspects of your business while giving you various alerts.

Posts

This section allows you to create content for your GMB page, like COVID info, offers, updates, events, and products. It is useful to keep updating in this section as our business changes. Google likes to reward sites that keep their GMB page up to date with posts that reflect what your business is actually up to.

Info

In this section you can change information about your business, things like hours and social links. You probably won’t be in this section too often after you create your GMB profile, but it is important to make sure you fill out as much information as possible here, so potential customers know enough about your business to make a decision on it.

Insights

This is a great place to get information on the visitors of your GMB page and people who call directly from GMB.

Reviews

This section compiles all of your reviews, and allows you to respond to them. One of the most important tips we can give is to reply to all reviews, good and bad. Potential customers can see all of these reviews as well as your responses to them. If you don’t respond to reviews, it gives the impression that you don’t care about your customers. A simple “We appreciate your kind review! Thanks for doing business with us!” or a “We’re sorry we didn’t serve you to the best of our ability, we hope to make this up to you the next time you visit!” can go a long way. Obviously, you’d want to make it more personalized than that, but generally a response is better than no response. 

Calls

This is a new offering of GMB, so it isn’t as fleshed out as other functions. But if you set it up, it’s helpful to have call history information to track.

Messages

Once this option is activated, customers can message your business directly through GMB, a helpful offering.

Photos

The photos of your business is one of the first things people will see when they come across your GMB page, so give them something nice to look at! Interior and exterior shots to give them a good sense of the space. It’s also helpful to keep this relatively up to date.

Products

This area allows you to upload product information, allowing people to see what you offer right on Google. If you offer any type of product, this is a great option for you, but as we said earlier, this doesn’t apply to all businesses.

Services

If you offer services, this area is extremely important. You want to display what you can do to potential customers as soon as possible, so make sure this section is as up to date and accurate as possible. This also helps Google index your website and GMB profile, and offer it to people who are searching for your services.

Website

If you’d like a barebones website, this section allows you to make one through GMB. We don’t recommend this, as the sites that come out of this have no personality or much in terms of functionality or style.

Users

The last option here is to add other Google users to have permissions on this GMB page. Helpful if you’d like other team members to help you out in creating or monitoring your business information. 

It is important to keep all of your pertinent business information up to date and accurate on Google My Business, as it helps you and potential customers. Don’t put it off as a waste of time, because you could lose out on business, it’s worth the time to set it up and update it. If you need any help setting up an optimized GMB profile, let us know by giving us a call or commenting!

Domain Extensions: Looking Beyond .COM

Domain Extensions: Looking Beyond .COM

Domain Extensions: Looking Beyond .COM

Suzanne McBride

The Cowbell Agency

This month, our agency begins the celebration of its 20-year anniversary. Since late August 2001, this award-winning agency has evolved from U.S.Ad & Marketing to McBride Woodbridge Marketing to McBride Marketing Group and finally Cowbell Agency. Looking back at 2001, the internet was relatively young and .com and .net ruled the domain names. Today, things are different.

Most everyone knows what a domain is, but what about Domain Extensions?  A domain extension is the suffix at the end of your web address that specifies an internet category and/or the country code of the location the domain is from. We’re all familiar with .com, .net and .gov, but did you know there are over 280 extensions delegated globally?

First, let’s look at how they are categorized. They are divided into 2 main categories:

Why are Domain Extensions important to your business?

People associate certain things with different domain extensions, for example, whether the website seems trustworthy (for example “.gov” for government) or even modern (for example “mobi” – for mobile).  And they do it unconsciously. It also becomes part of your branding so you need to choose wisely when registering.

 

What happens if the domain/extension is not available to you?

If you are frustrated that the domain name you want is already taken, try looking into another domain extensions. Here are a few extensions and their meaning:

.museum (museums)

.pro (professionals like legal, medical)

.name (individuals)

.club (club)

.life (wellness, charities, bloggers)

.xyz (means “little universe” – a new trendy extension , and easy to remember!)

.tel (online directory, virtual business cards)

.travel (travel industry)

.store (store)

 

And if you have more than one domain, they can be forwarded to one main domain. So have some fun with it. 

How You Can Use PageSpeed Insights To Optimize Your Website

How You Can Use PageSpeed Insights To Optimize Your Website

How You Can Use PageSpeed Insights To Optimize Your Website

Owen Yorio

The Cowbell Agency

Last month, Google released an update to their ranking algorithm that puts a larger emphasis on page speed and UX (User Experience). The results of this update are hard to calculate, and it is still too early to see exactly how damaging it is to have a poorly optimized site, at least in regards to page rank. A poorly loading site, however, has always been a major issue to have. The average person won’t wait on a page for longer than 5 seconds to see your content, regardless of how Google decides to rank your page. So, if you don’t already, you should know how to use Google’s website speed tool, PageSpeed Insights.

If you read the article we released last month, you’d know about the three main factors that contribute to Google’s new ranking system, Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). These aren’t the only things you should keep in mind when running your page through PageSpeed Insights, but they are the main three. 

Simply enter your domain into the “analyze” bar to begin.

PageSpeed Insights will give you an overall speed rating first, going into more detail below. This is an average of your scores over the main three categories mentioned earlier as well as First Contentful Paint (FCP). This is a measure of when the first image/text is shown on your page. This metric is more meaningful in diagnosing issues than it is for page rank, however, it is still a factor.

Note that this tool will give you the speed rating for your mobile site first, you can switch between site versions with the toggle in the upper left.

After analyzing your overall page speed score, you can review the elements on your site causing speed and user experience issues. You can even filter these problems by how they affect your site, in the top right corner. You can then begin to start optimizing your site, by removing loading issues bit by bit!

Overall, the PageSpeed Insights tool is incredibly useful. Google has provided a way to see behind the curtain, and allow its users to see and do exactly what they are asking of us. These issues can stem from many different things, as websites tend to be complex machines. If you are in need of a web speed touch-up, let us know here at the Cowbell Agency, and we can have your page loading in no time.

Is your website under attack (or can it be?)

Is your website under attack (or can it be?)

Is your website under attack (or can it be?)

Suzanne McBride

The Cowbell Agency

Is your website under attack (or can it be?)

The average website is Cyber Attacked 44 times per day!

With the recent cyber-attacks fresh on everyone’s minds, now is a good time to think about the security of your website. Hackers are far more sophisticated, automated and organized these days. They root out vulnerabilities in web servers and share them with the expanding hacker universe. What’s worse is that hacked websites can be blacklisted by Google as dangerous and go dark with online searches. To battle this, we offer a couple of services that can help ease your mind.

First, you have an SSL on your site. Perfect! But that’s the minimum that should be done. But what else can be done?

Monthly Website Maintenance:

Cowbell Agency will perform monthly maintenance on your site, such as keeping plugins updated, scan for malware, performance tests, site backups, among other services. Outdated plugins can not only bring your site down, but worse–make it vulnerable for cyber-attacks.  Almost 2/3’s of WordPress website vulnerabilities are caused by out of date or sketchy plugins/themes. Remember, just like you take your car in for maintenance, websites require the same love and attention as your car. 

Security/Firewall Protection

We work with GoDaddy with their Website Security Program. The firewall blocks attacks on the site while the malware scanner searches your site for malicious content and alerts you if any are found.

Contact us if you are interested in a quote or have any questions.

info@cowbellagency.com

Google’s Core Web Vitals Update

Google’s Core Web Vitals Update

Google’s Core Web Vitals Update

Owen Yorio

The Cowbell Agency

This month, Google will be releasing a new update to how they rank pages in SERPs (search engine results pages). Among many other ranking factors, Core Web Vitals will now be included in determining page rank. But what are core web vitals, and how will this change how pages are ranking now? To better understand this update, we should break down what Core Web Vitals are, and the metrics on which we focus.

Core Web Vitals (as determined by Google) are three page speed metrics that can measure user experience on a given website. Those three page speed metrics are: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). These three metrics can be attributed to a page’s load speed, user interactivity, and visual stability respectively. Let’s look at each one:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – How long it takes to load a full viewport of a page. This should be below 2.5 seconds.

First Input Delay (FID) – How long before a user on a page can interact with elements on it. This should stay below 100 ms.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – A value attributed to how much elements on a page move while others are loading. This should stay below a factor of 0.1.

What Does This All Mean?

Google has done their research, and has seen that users prefer sites that load faster and are easier to use. Pretty simple, but accommodating these changes can become laborsome. Luckily there are tools to measure these factors like LightHouse and PageSpeed Insights. There is also a new section in Google Search Console dedicated to Core Web Vitals, so site owners can hear back from Google exactly what they think needs to be improved on individual sites.

Overall this change is designed to force site owners to design with the user’s experience in mind, which is a great thing. It is not difficult to find sites that are slow, unresponsive, or just not user friendly. If you’re worried about how your page ranking will be affected with this coming update, email us, or give us a call here at the Cowbell Agency.

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