Monday, 30 August 2010 09:14

DIY Web Design Mistakes: #1

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I'm starting a new series, DIY Web Design Mistakes, quick examples of real-life problems caused by DIY design.

Today's candidate is The Boat Shed Restaurant in Maroochydore.

DIY Mistake #1: Not checking your site's listing in organic search

Otherwise, this can happen:

DIY Web design mistakes #1, not checking your search results

Yes. That's the Joomla! default description Meta Tag. Why this is bad and how to fix it, after the jump.


Leaving the default description meta tag in place is a bad idea for several reasons:

  • You're failing to describe your business in any search results
  • You're actively turning searches away by not being relevant to their needs
  • You're providing an easy way for hackers to discover your site

It's a pretty simple equation: if you don't give people relevant results for their search, then you'll get fewer people arriving at the site. You'll show up in fewer search results and get less traffic than you might otherwise.

Similarly, if you present users with a description that wholly fails to meet their needs, the site manages to look unfinished even before the user visits!.

If you use a content management system, in this case Joomla, you're vulnerable to hacking attempts simply by advertising the CMS your site is running. All content management systems have security vulnerabilities which become more well known with age. Ensuring your sites are secure requires a decent knowledge of basic server security, that the CMS itself is kept up to date and that any extensions used don't create vulnerabilities.

However, if you have any security holes, they'll be more easily exploited if hackers know where to find you. If you've left the standard Joomla description meta tag (and the slightly more obscure generator meta tag) then you make it much easier for malicious entities to find you and exploit those known weaknesses.

How to fix Joomla meta tags

To fix your site's description meta tag, simply go to the Site Menu and look for 'Global Configuration'.

On the first page there's a section named 'Metadata settings'.

Change your description to a succinct and evocative statement that you feel will entice users who find you from a search listing.

While you're there, you might as well add a few keywords (no more than 10 or so) that are relevant to people trying to find you. Note that the keyword meta tag is of very little importance these days, but every little bit helps.

When Google indexes your site again, search results will show a listing much more relevant for user's needs.

However, hidden away in your site's code is another meta tag, also created by Joomla. The 'generator' meta tag isn't seen by the average visitor, but anyone snooping into the code of your site can see this:

<meta name="generator" content="Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management" />

It's a good idea to get rid of this too, fortunately it's a simple fix. Just go to the Joomla Extensions Directory and download the ByeByeGenerator plugin.

If you feel the need to harden your site even further, then I recommend the use of the GuardXT extension. Run it, follow the instructions and you'll have a much more secure plugin. While you're at it, install the Joomla Update Manager extension and make updating your Joomla site a much less arduous process!

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