SafetyDetectives spoke with David B. Wright, best-selling author and President and Founder of W3 Group Marketing, a full-service marketing agency that focuses on increasing web traffic for their clients. He spoke about how his writing led him to start the company, his thoughts on web security, and what people can do to improve their online security.
Hi David, can you tell me about your background and how you got involved in online marketing?
I built my first website way back in 1998, and boy was it ugly, but it got me started.
I was living in Tokyo at the time, and by 2000 I started working for an IT and systems integration company. We worked within a number of areas providing IT services and maintenance, including helping with network and data security. Web security was fascinating to me, so I learned more and more about it.
After September 11 happened, I moved back to Atlanta and worked in the corporate world for a couple of years. After that, I started my current business, which was originally was geared to publish my first book, a best-seller called “Get a Job! Your Guide to Making Successful Career Moves.”
Then, while marketing the book, I discovered I had a talent for getting found on search engines. So, I shifted my focus to providing those services, and we’ve since expanded into a full-service marketing agency. Everything we do is designed to help our clients increase their revenues and bottom line profits. Part of that involves ensuring they’re safe online and their websites remain up and working like they should.
So, the motivation to start W3 Group Marketing was to promote your book?
Initially, the company was formed as W3 Group LLC, to publish the book, give career advisory services, resume writing, and so on. After ranking #1 on Yahoo! Out of over a billion results, (back when it was still an important search engine) then Bing and Google, I figured it made a lot more sense to start helping other business owners get found by more of their ideal clients, patients, or customers instead of trying to market a premium price book to a mostly unemployed job seeker market.
What kind of services to W3 Group Marketing offer?
We’re a full-service marketing agency. Some of our sweet spots are in SEO (search engine optimization), and video SEO, which uses a video to get to page one of Google at ludicrous speed. My record of getting to the first page of Google is 28 seconds. To get much faster than that, we’ll probably need a DeLorean!
What makes your company unique in a crowded SEO market?
Well we’re a lot more than just an SEO agency. Some things are really easy to rank for because it doesn’t really even matter if you rank for them because it won’t impact your bottom line. But the more competitive and the more potentially profitable a search term is to rank for, the harder it generally is to do so. We started as an SEO agency and then evolved into a digital marketing agency. But really, what we are now is more of an ROI agency. Everything we do is designed to help our clients grow their top line revenues and bottom line profits. I’m also Six Sigma certified, and I’ve done quantitative analysis and benchmarking in my previous life as well. So, I use that to add value to clients.
What are some of the web security challenges that you’ve encountered?
It reminds me of the old constant battle between weapons makers and armor makers. The weapons makers are constantly trying to figure out ways to make stronger weapons to get through the armor more easily. At the same time, the armor makers are trying to make armor that withstands newer and more sophisticated weapons.
It’s the same way with web security. A lot of the websites we do are in WordPress. And it’s fantastic for a lot of uses, but because it’s so widely used, it’s also a big target. Now the hackers have tools that automatically crawl the web looking for specific vulnerabilities and exploiting those when they find them. It’s very important to make sure that we monitor our clients’ websites regularly and make sure that we update the latest plugins, updates, patches, and so on to make sure that they stay safe. It’s not a one-time thing but rather a constant battle.
Do you have specific plugins that you recommend for securing a WordPress website, or can one just trust the WordPress platform?
WordPress on its own is usually pretty good, but there are also a number of different tools, such as Wordfence for example, that we use a lot for smaller sites. The more robust e-commerce sites might have a more enterprise-level security system in place. For that, a client might have a dedicated team focusing specifically on ensuring the site gets as close to 100% uptime as possible and that any vulnerabilities are patched as quickly as possible.
The worst part of the problem is sometimes, the newest updates are designed to mitigate security risks or patch flaws, but they might also have a negative impact on the functionality of the site itself. So, you’ve got to balance that approach with security and usability. Because obviously, if your site’s getting hacked or infected with malware, Google notices that, and they’re going to drop your rankings because of it, and you won’t be found as easily by your potential clients. Plus, website visitors will leave if a site isn’t working or if it’s loading slowly.
It could also have an impact on your other marketing strategies, like paid ads. Ultimately, your site needs to be functional since usability is a very big factor in search ranking.
Do you have any tips or advice for business owners or website owners to improve their online security?
For starters, make sure that your security software is up to date the with the latest definitions for viruses and malware. Those are constantly changing, so it’s good to try to update that on a very regular basis.
Use good strong passwords and use unique passwords. Don’t keep using the same passwords for your banking information, your website login, your email, and so on. That’s a big common mistake because if somebody cracks one password, and if you use the same password on other sites under profiles, then they can figure that out pretty easily.
There are a number of tools on the market for password generation and storage that are secure such as LastPass. That way, you can use a different password for every single site and make sure they’re still extremely complex. You really only have to remember one core password to log into the app.
And then that can automatically fill in your logins for you.
Also, don’t put your passwords on post-it notes on your desk! I had a major financial institution as a client once, whom I won’t reveal the name of, and they had key card access to the offices, and many other security measures in place. But then I noticed some of the computers had login info right there in the open. Now maybe it’s mostly the employees who work there that could potentially see that, but guess what? The cleaning crew also has key cards, so what would have stopped someone from getting a temp job, stealing those passwords, and making off with millions of dollars?