Does my website need an SSL certificate?


Google has started favoring websites with SSL certification (websites with “https”) over regular websites (sites with “http”) in it’s search results.

SSL certification shows that your website is using encryption to protect users and their personal information.

By January 2017, the Google web browser, Chrome will treat all regular “http” websites as non-secure.

With this in mind, yes, I suggest you add SSL certification to your site.

The actual SSL certificate costs about $150/yr (based on a single medium-size website) or $300/yr for an e-commerce website. You will also need some help from a website manager to ensure the certification is handled properly.

There’s no rush on this, but it is something to consider before 2017.

Common mistakes that small-business websites make

My take on some points made in the article “These Website Mistakes Are Costing You Money” from

  • Poor SEO – “I can’t find your website on Google.”
  • No mobile  – “I can’t see your website on my phone.”
  • No social media links  – “I can’t share your website with my friends.”
  • No website manager – “Your website is a security risk, it also looks outdated or unattended.”
  • No metrics / analytics  –  “Without analytics you won’t know what’s working and what’s not working.”

I think fixing the SEO issue should be #1 on your list, if no one can find you, none of the rest matters.

Mobile is #2, more than ever people are looking for you with their mobile device and your website must support that.

You don’t need a big budget to fix these mistakes, most can be fixed quickly and inexpensively with a good freelance website manager. – Mike

How much does a website cost?

How much does a website cost?

The name: $25 / year

The name: The name of your website is the ‘domain name’. Your domain name should be something that is easy to remember and easy to spell (and your name should explain who or what you are).

My domain name is “”

A domain name must be registered and managed by a hosting company. Expect to pay about $25 per year for your name.

The host: $120 / year

The host: The host of your website is the place where the actual files that make up your website are stored (hosted). The hosting company will also provide ftp and email services for your domain name.

Expect to pay about $120 per year for a shared hosting plan. A shared hosting plan is good enough for a personal or small business website.

The site: $50 + $500

The actual website: There are many options when it comes to designing and building your website. I recommend using a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla.

Customizing an existing WordPress theme is the most cost effective way to build a website.

A WordPress theme will cost $50-$75 and customizing the theme could cost anywhere from $500-$1,500 depending on the complexity of the site.

The management: $50 / month

The management: Now that your website is up and running, someone needs to watch over the site and keep it up to date and safe.

To keep your site secure, your CMS (WordPress theme) and plugins will need regular updates.

This type of freelance website management can cost as little as $50 per month.

How much does a website cost? 

$695 to start, then $745 per year.

Good luck with your website! If you need any help or advice, feel free to contact me .

What are my options for setting up an on-line store?

Short answer?

Get a PayPal button!

paypal_logoAssuming you already have a website, adding a standard-account  PayPal button can be a simple solution for basic transactions and invoice payments. PayPal is considered safe and legit by most on-line shoppers.

For a more robust on-line store (with shipping, invoicing and tax options) consider a PayPal Business account.

  • Upside: A free standard account is a simple, small scale do-it-yourself solution.
  • Downside: No real check-out or shopping cart functionality without an upgrade to a business account.

Cost: Free. A Standard account allows you to accept Visa, MC, AMEX… etc. No monthly fees.

Add $10/mnth for customized check-out (Advanced account) -or- $35/mnth for the Pro package!  Fee details.

Transaction fees: 2.9% plus .30 per transaction.

Try Shopify!

shopify-defaultYou don’t even need an existing website. You build your on-line store from the templates available and you’re ready to sell. Shopify will even register and setup your domain name. Shipping and tax options are built-in.

  • Upside: Easy to use. Built-in POS.
  • Downside: Cost. Less flexibility.

Cost: $29/mnth (for a Standard account). Spotify is pay-as-you-go, so you can cancel anytime.

Transaction fees:  2.9% plus .30 for credit card transactions (2.7% for in-person transactions).


woocommerceIf you already have a website running on WordPress, setting up a your store, invoicing and shipping options can be done pretty quickly (with a little WordPress knowledge – or – the help of a Freelance website manager).

  • Upside: It’s “free” and it’s all yours! The store, the software, everything is on your site.
  • Downside: Regular maintenance and updates are required to keep things running smoothly and securely.

Cost: WooCommerce is a free plugin, however special shipping, invoicing or taxation add-ons can cost anywhere from $19-$129.

Transaction fees: Regular credit card fees apply depending on which payment method you choose (example: Paypal  = 2.9% plus .30 per transaction).


ecommerce-plugins-ecwidTake a look at Ecwid  (pronounced as “eck-wid”, short for “e-commerce widgets”) to instantly add a store to your existing website. Ecwid ingrates really well with WordPress, Joomla and Wix. Store pages (shop, cart, check-out) are created inside your own site. Ecwid also integrates well with your Facebook page.

  • Upside: Ease of use. Lots of built-in invoicing, shipping and taxation options.
  • Downside: Cost.

Cost: A starter “Venture” account (up to 100 products) is $15/mnth (plus 12.50/mnth paid yearly).

Transaction fees: None.

Things to THINK about…

  • Start small. Start with just a few items and grow your store over time.
  • Don’t just sell. Your store should offer more than just your products, you should also provide information about your products, how-to videos, customer reviews and comments.
  • Just having a store won’t bring customers, you will need to advertise (Facebook, Google, YouTube… etc).
  • Be descriptive about your products to improve SEO. Search engines read words not pictures.
  • Hire someone (like a freelance website manager) to keep your store secure and manage updates.

Should you put money into SEO or SEM?

To successfully stay at the top of search pages, you’ll need both SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) working together.


Search Engine Marketing (SEM) covers the paid listings that appear at the top of most searches.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works at getting your website to show up in unpaid search results (organic listings).

In this example, someone searching for a ‘freelance website manager’ would see two paid listings and then the organic listings below.

Paid listings are usually sold at a “cost per click” rate.

Organic listings are determined by a website’s SEO score. Your SEO score can be improved by managing your website with the following considerations:

-have relevant and valuable content
-have no impediments to searchers
-be built for sharing (on Facebook, Twitter…)
-be built for mobile (Google loves responsive websites)
-have a functional layout (easy to find what you want)

If you need help (or free advice) with either SEO or SEM (or both), contact me here.

For more on the difference between SEO and SEM, check out this link at Webopedia.

Why customers leave without buying



Here’s an infographic that I’ve seen on a few sites (including Shopify and ECWID), that I think clearly illustrates the importance of not just a stable and secure on-line store, but also a clear and upfront explanation of costs.

A lot of your customers are making it all the way to “shipping” and deciding not to buy because of unexpected shipping costs.

Be upfront about all shipping costs, taxes and fees. Customers will leave if there are any surprises.

New Year’s resolutions for your website

Six things you should be doing for your website in 2016.

Lose weight.

Pare down large images,  graphics, outdated plugins and overweight code. Your customers and Google both appreciate a website that loads quickly. Check your site speed with Pingdom.

Be a better friend.

Make sure your website is connected to social media. Allow people to share and comment on your content (whether you’re selling swing sets or mortgage rates).

Be more responsive to others.

Your website should be available and usable whether your customer is on a phone, a tablet or a PC. Check your website responsiveness here.

Think about others.

I know it’s your website, but don’t make all about you. Make sure your content is useful to  your customer.

Keep in touch.

Use analytics and track your performance. For expert advice and bulletproof analytics, sign up for Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. They’re both free!

Get a personal trainer.

If you’re too busy to stay on top of all this, get some help! A freelance website manager can make all this happen and make sure your site is secure and up to date all year long.

Is your website mobile friendly?

When was the last time you looked at your website… on your phone? Was it hard to read? Was it difficult to navigate?

Studiopress has a responsiveness test page that will load your website in four mobile sizes, so you can see just how mobile friendly your website is.

The page displays your website in…
240 x 320 (small phone)
320 x 480 (iPhone)
480 x 640 (small tablet)
768 x 1024 (iPad – Portrait)
and desktop

Click the link, add your URL and see how you look to the mobile world.

Here are my results for this site… Responsiveness test Responsiveness test

If your website isn’t responsive to mobile devices, maybe it’s time for an upgrade. Upgrading to a more responsive theme can be a pretty simple process, especially if you’re using a content management system like Joomla or WordPress.

Let me know if you need any help (or free advice).