I feel like smaller companies where I’m able to leverage all of my skills are the best for me and my experience so far at Fortrus Financial only serves to reinforce that feeling.
In my first month at Fortrus Financial, I’ve had the opportunity to use everything I’ve learned and all the financial advice I’ve received over the last fifteen years to move the company’s website and IT setup in a direction that I’ll be able to manage and grow quickly. This is the first time I’ve entered a company where there is a huge amount of content waiting to be properly leveraged without a long-term guiding hand requiring me to make slow, massive course corrections.
The first thing I started to tackle was moving the website and blog, minus the membership system over to WordPress. Migrating the content over was a bit of a pain, but through some trial and error, I got it to work. This project was set aside in the latter half of the month though to try to get Joomla working better. I couldn’t easily get WordPress to mimic the Joomla design, and we need time to review all of the design changes I want to make.
I have been digging into Joomla as much as possible. I’ve used it previously in other jobs, and found it to be lacking, and I still do, but I’ve been able to get it running a bit better. Things like the comments form, trying to set-up a call to action beneath posts, removing the calendar from the sidebar, and other minor tweaks to tighten the professional look of the site were the highest priorities. Now, I’m mostly just adjusting and tightening something that doesn’t look too bad to me… at least on desktop browsers. In month two, I hope to tackle some of the mobile browser issues.
I made the whole site go through its SSL (HTTPS) as this is a ranking consideration for Google now, and while it was easy to do initially, there were lots of code related things I had to resolve to make it work. Did you know that iframes have to be pulled in through HTTPS to load properly on an HTTPS site for most browsers? That was just one of many things that broke temporarily when I enabled full-site HTTPS.
I dealt with the huge amount of spam the site was getting, and hopefully have reduced future incidents of it. I have removed comment forms from pages that didn’t need comment forms. I’ve set-up firewall rules both in CloudFlare and using the RSJoomla Firewall plugin to hopefully mitigate some of the security risks. I have updated everything to the latest version, since it needed it, and then reviewed the site to make sure it was still working as expected.
All of Fortrus’ domain registrations and hosting have now been consolidated to a single place. For now, this is Godaddy. I am hoping to move off of Godaddy for hosting and domains sometime in 2016 for A Small Orange and Hover.
Godaddy’s hosting is just too inconsistent in terms of time to first byte. Sometimes it takes a full ten seconds before the website does anything, and that’s not good for someone like me that wants to take advantage of every small bump in search rankings Google will give us for having a site that loads quickly.
I hope to move us to a VPS with A Small Orange to get a more consistent experience at a reasonable cost. Hover is a domain registrar service that all of my friends rave about. Either way, I want to extend the main domain registration for as long as possible, as a signal to search engines that we are in this for the long haul. The only reason I haven’t taken care of this yet is cost. Domain registration is inexpensive, but Whois protection adds up quickly when you apply the cost over multiple years.
To try to speed things up as much as possible to make up for some of Godaddy’s slowness, I’ve removed some code that wasn’t needed, put CloudFlare’s CDN in place, and I am continuing to work on optimizing the page load speed. It is certainly a slow and methodical process, especially with a CMS with various plugins and modules in play to contend with.
Matt has also entrusted me with admin access to the company Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn profiles, and I’ve been working on optimizing those, in hopes of earning a few conversions and being able to better push the content he is creating in front of more eyeballs. It has been a few years since I’ve had to do this kind of a marketing push, and I am spending almost as much time reading about what has changed since I last worked in this arena as actually trying things out. I feel like I’ll be moving more towards experimenting with my own approaches as I come into month two.
In my first month at Fortrus Financial, I was able to increase twitter followers from 49 to 84, which isn’t too bad, but not really the skyrocketing growth I’m hoping for going forward.
Another change I’m hoping to make soon is to move things off of being managed through Joomla. Currently, the website, blog, newsletter, and membership sections are all Joomla features. If the website is down, we can’t send newsletters. If the blog is down, so is the membership area. The newsletter and membership areas are the money-making parts of the business. If the website is down or the blog is unreachable for a little while, that doesn’t affect our bottom line the same way the paid systems would. I am hoping to move the newsletter management to Mailchimp. It looks like it was partially done by the previous contractor, but I’ll hopefully move it all the way over in February, so we can still send them out to subscribers, even if the website is down. Also, I think Mailchimp will allow better design opportunities and easier management control.
One of the last things I did this month was to set-up baselines. I now have spreadsheets tracking the site’s ranking on various keywords, its page speed, and a variety of other metrics. At the start of the month, I set-up the site on Google Analytics and added it to Google Webmaster Tools. I’ve been slowly using that data to better refine the site and hopefully increase its rankings in the near future. Typically, I would use something like RavenTools or SEOMoz to track all of this information, but the cost is too high right now. Once we start getting some traction, I will create a proposal to move towards using one of these services. If you know where to buy quality backlinks – you know it is not difficult to tell the difference in quality between some Fiverr gig and appropriate, natural content backlinks.
Moving into February, my goals are to increase traffic by thirty percent over January while keeping the bounce rate the same or lower, double Fortrus’ twitter followers (ideally getting them to 200), start building a diverse backlink profile (4-5 good links from in niche websites), move the newsletter management to Mailchimp, extend the domain registration by five or more years, finalize the call to action box on the individual blog posts without it having to be manually embedded, and otherwise continue to refine the site.
As for the rest of my duties, we are going to be working on recording videos for YouTube on investing and the macroeconomic market, as well as taking new headshot photos for marketing and promotion. We also want to make the technology system a bit more seamless, so I’ve been working on moving everything to Google for Domains and training staff on its use. The email transition was relatively easy, but I still have to get everyone using Google Drive effectively, especially Matt, since he uses three different computers.
It is also my hope that in February, we will move the website management and blog control over to WordPress. This will leave Joomla only being used for the membership management and training modules access. It is going to be a busy but short month.