The Sorry Tale Of A Hacked Website – Or How I’ve Wasted Three Days And Counting Trying To Sort It Out!

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Just a starting point, this isn’t this particular website, it’s about another one of my sites. Now sadly just a holding page, until I’ve stopped being cross about it!

I’m writing this so that hopefully you won’t experience the same.

I’m writing about a WordPress site, with an SSL Certificate, hosted by Bluehost with a product called ‘Sitelock’ Some of this blog is a rant about Bluehost – honestly, think twice about going with them. You might also read it and think ” surely she should have known that?” Well, I’m pretty IT literate and not complacent about data security in any way. It still happened to me though. I also have top level security on my Mac, so knew I hadn’t been hacked in that way either.

Last week, I received what I thought was a phishing email from an IT security company. It said that my site was being used to scam people in the Philippines. It was essentially hosting a fake bank login page. My initial thought was ” b*llshit” and I promptly deleted the email.

A couple of hours later, I received an email from Bluehost, saying that my website appeared to have been hacked and I needed to deal with it quickly. Surely not I thought. I have ‘ Sitelock’ to protect it, Jetpack on WordPress and also an SSL certificate as an added bonus. I then started my first of many online chats with Bluehost. No exaggeration, I’ve spent 8-10 hours on online chats with them since it happened. Most of them making little sense, being full of misinformation. The initial email told me that my Bluehost hosting account was suspended.

So, chat number one, Bluehost confirmed that my site had been hacked and had a load of malware on it. They couldn’t tell me how or when it had happened. I asked them what to do, they said they’d put a file in my file manager called ” malware.txt” and that I needed to delete the files. I asked them if everything would be ” ok” once I’d done that, they said “yes”

In I went and deleted the files. Now, as I said, I’m ok with technology but it wasn’t crystal clear what I needed to do. The malware.txt file was difficult to read and I then had to locate every file on the document, within the directories and delete them. I did it. But, it wasn’t easy.

Having deleted the files, I had another torturous online chat with Bluehost where they confirmed that all was well and my account was now active.

Woo-hoo! Only it wasn’t….. That afternoon, I’d been sending emails via the connected email account. I was receiving emails and my outbox was clear. All looked fine. But guess what, despite showing as ‘ sent’ my emails weren’t sending at all! Cue a rather miffed potential new client who was waiting for a proposal and even more hassle for me. Another online chat with Bluehost showed that yet more malware was on the website. I said, ” more since this morning?” Apparently so. I’ve missed a bit here. I’d gone and changed all my passwords in the meantime, so I can only think that it was always there or the hackers were pretty efficient.

So, I went through the deleting files process again. Only this time, Bluehost had a solution. It seems that the ‘ Sitelock’ that I’d purchased in good faith last year, is pretty useless. The only way to protect my site properly was to upgrade. To their ‘ Prevent’ package – at a whopping £500 a year. Having just renewed my hosting with Bluehost (mistake) there was no way I was paying that. So, I asked what my other options where. Just Sitelock apparently…. The Bluehost chat person advised that I’d be ok with Sitelock ‘ Fix’ at still a hefty £100, which I paid.

Fast-forward a few days and lo and behold, I get an email from Sitelock saying my site isn’t secure. I query it and they tell me that according to their records, I only had the very basic protection. Hmmm, ” you’re mistaken” I told them. I’ve paid for ” Fix” via Bluehost. Apparently not….. Then, and this is no exaggeration, I spent an hour chatting with Bluehost who said I had paid, then another chat with Sitelock, who said I hadn’t. At which point, I lost my sh*t with them both via a series of social media direct messages! Ultimately, it was agreed I had paid. Sitelock ” Fix” however is also not a full solution. It doesn’t include a firewall for the website. I have one by the way, from another source. I asked Bluehost why they were insisting on pushing a solution that isn’t really a solution? They weren’t up for answering that.

I take responsibility for not having a 100% secure website. I honestly thought I did though. I also thought I’d been super careful with my security. I then remembered giving my WordPress login to someone once. Did I change my password after? I’m not 100% sure I did. Have they lost my data somehow? Did it fall into the wrong hands? I’m so careful with other people’s data. Have I been lazy with my own?

So, the moral of this story is: if like me, you do your own websites, check and double-check that you’re as secure as can be. Also, if you’re looking for hosting, please think twice about Bluehost. They’ve driven me crazy over these last few days and they’re keen to push Sitelock as the only security solution available.

Blimey, now to get back to work!





Sadly, You Can’t Rely Solely On Facebook For Your Business

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Depending on how much you’re ” into” social media, you may have read recently about the demise of ‘LittleThings’ At their height they had 100 employees. Recent changes to Facebook’s algorithms purportedly killed off the business almost overnight, as a huge proportion of the traffic to their website came via Facebook. Their reach crashed through the floor, meaning the income earned via their website disappeared too. Here’s why your business can’t solely rely on Facebook.

I want to first give you an example. A few years ago, I became aware of a business that seemed to be doing really well, trading on Facebook. No website, very little other social media. When I say ” doing well” I mean thousands of followers/likes. I followed the page and could see the level of engagement received on each post, so even if only a small percentage led to actual sales, I think it’s fair to assume that they were doing well.

I unfollowed a few months back as I didn’t feel the posts were relevant any more to me, but remembered them straightaway when I read about LittleThings and their Facebook woes…. Well, I had a Facebook ” stalk” the other day and wow. I looked at their ten most recent posts. Obviously, I haven’t got access to their full stats, but when you’re looking at an average of 8 engagements (👍🏻 ❤) etc per post when you’ve got over 40K followers, then that can’t be good for business. Their reach must have bombed. Please understand that I’m not wishing them ill here. I just hope they have a ‘Plan B’

Then, there’s ‘ Facebook Jail’…… If you’ve ever experienced it, it’s a lonely place! Facebook aren’t interested in hearing your explanations. I’ve heard of business pages being closed, with no right of reply. I’ve heard of personal accounts being deactivated for periods of time. I’ve even experienced myself Facebook closing an advertising account, yet they wouldn’t explain why. I’m still none the wiser. Fortunately, I’ve resolved it and they reactivated it. Thankfully! Now, if you’ve got all of your chickens in the Facebook basket, what are you going to do?!

You can’t avoid Facebook. If your dream clients/existing clients – whoever are using Facebook then your business should be on there too. Just please consider the worse case scenario for you. No access to Facebook. How are people going to find you then? At least get a website. They don’t have to break the bank. They really don’t. Give people a chance to find you online, other than on Facebook!

Facebook Groups Are Driving Me Nuts!

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With organic reach being a bit ” hit and miss” on business pages, many of us are gravitating towards groups. Many social media ” gurus” are advocating the use of them for brand awareness, building your ” tribe” etc, etc. To be quite honest, they’re doing my head in!

I’m a member of a very active and growing Facebook Advertising group, run by a well-known Facebook Ads expert. Initially, I thought ” yes!” somewhere to bounce off ideas, speak with other people experiencing what I am, possibly even get some work out of it……. It’s a mess. The number of posts like this:

  • My client wants me to run ads and I’ve no idea where to start (hmm, there’s PLENTY of resources out there)
  • I’ve been paid £1k to run ads and they’re bombing, what do I do? (how about not taking money off people if you’ve no clue what you’re doing)
  • Why is this ad not working? (cue crap image and copy)

I can of course leave the group, but I’m sort of fascinated by how it’s running and starting to police itself. For a start, the group owner is very rarely seen unless selling something. There appears to be no admin infrastructure, or if they’re present, they’re very quiet! Engagement on posts is falling, as there are so many posts and most of them are crap. I reckon eventually, people will drop off and it will become more focussed again. Or possibly not, who knows!

I’m also a member of a few more local business networking groups. There is little relationship-building, chat or camaraderie. There’s a hardcore of posters who advertise their business – subject to the rules of the group of course! What’s the point? If we’re not going to actually chat and just sell, we may as well just stick to looking at our timelines. There are enough people selling to us!

So, what’s my advice? Stick with the business pages. I manage a number of Facebook pages that have really good organic reach and engagement? Why? because we’re posting useful information and focusing on growing relationships with people. This sort of brings me on to something else, stop using personal profiles to sell. It sucks. I want to be your mate. If I want to buy your products, I’ll seek them out separately.

Sarah x



Farewell Brown Owl and Thank You

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Yesterday I heard the sad news that a family friend had died. Mrs G was my ‘Brown Owl’ during my time as a Girl Guide and I’ve got a lot of happy memories of our time together.

Growing-up as a chubby kid, I definitely lacked confidence in my own abilities. My default position was ( and sometimes still is) that if something didn’t go to plan that it was more to do with my appearance than any external factor. This was backed-up (in my head) by minor mishaps that I played over in my head, for years. A throwaway comment by a teacher about not fitting into a costume for a school play really hurt. Then there was the time that the other “big” girl in my class ‘bagged’ the only country dancing skirt with an elasticated waist and I had to try on the others, in front of my classmates knowing that they wouldn’t fasten-up. Add to this never fitting into anything from Tammy Girl properly and being called “fat” by any kid that I happened to annoy, and well, I’m sure you get the picture.

When I joined the Guides, Mrs G saw something in me and she took me under her wing. I was made a Patrol Leader when I was 11, much to the contempt of the older guides. That small amount of responsibility gave me huge amounts of confidence. When I was 12, I got the chance to travel to Europe with a ‘pack’ from Canada and it was incredible. Mrs G was on form throughout the holiday and was a force to be reckoned with! Such a strong woman. Her “girls” were number one and she made sure that we had the best. I remember her clearing a whole section of a cafe in Germany, so we could all sit together. Ushering confused-looking locals onto other tables!

Mrs G and I formed a tight allegiance. When at Guide Camp, she always looked out for me. There were secret stashes of chocolate, special treatment and always so much praise and affection. She encouraged me to actually lead and I soon took younger Guides and Brownies under my wing. I remember staying up late one night at camp, comforting a new recruit who was missing her mum. Mrs G just let me get on with it, but when everything had settled down I remember her handing me a cup of hot chocolate and saying ” what a fine young lady you are” – well, I think she said that. Mrs G had a strong, Scottish accent that she never lost, despite living in Macclesfield for years and years!

I got to 13/14 and discovered that I preferred hanging-out with my friends, obsessing over boys and Take That and I ditched the Guides. I saw Mrs G over the years and she was always so warm and caring. She remained a friend of my mum and I know that she was kept informed of all of my activities over the years.

I don’t think I ever said thank you to her but I always will be grateful. Fly high Mrs G. You will be missed.

Social Media Packages for Accountants and Bookkeepers

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Are you an accountant or bookkeeper who is stressed-out by social media? I’m currently offering a straightforward package, just for you.

Spend your time doing what you get paid for and not worrying about posting to Facebook!

For £100 a month, I will post on two platforms for you daily. This is usually Facebook and Twitter but I’m also happy to run Instagram and LinkedIn if you prefer.

You can also ‘bolt-on’ blogging and email marketing services, for a very reasonable price.

For more information, fill in the form below or give me a call on 07545 072809.

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Stop Shouting At Your Followers – It Won’t Work

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Engaging your online community and then convincing them to buy is an art. As is keeping them interested and encouraging them to tell their mates all about you with a share, retweet etc.

It’s not an art that is out of everyone’s reach (Van Gogh original) it’s more of a print that you’d pick up at an art gallery. Still costs you a bob or two, but most people can achieve it if they want to.

I’ve had two conversations this week with lovely people who are working their socks off on their social media, to no avail. One pointed me in the direction of a competitor who on the face of it is ” winning ” on Facebook. “Look at all their followers.” Yes, but all that glitters isn’t gold. When I looked through their posts, almost of all of them had little or no engagement on them. I’d say 90% of their posts were self-promotional. If not more. I’d be very surprised if they were converting to sales.

So, how had they grown their page if it was all too ” salesy?” By having an attractive product. Products that are glitzy, aimed at women are likely to make it easier to grow an audience on Facebook. The hook is there. It’s what happens next that counts.

Post after post offering your services is shouting. Saying “buy me, buy from me, this is why you should buy from me” etc is ok, but not all the time. What value are you giving your online community? Mix it up a bit!

The 80/20 has been around for a while: 80% content that interests your audience, 20% that includes a direct sales call-to-action. There’s also the 5:3:2 – 5 x 3rd party content, 3 x your own content and 2 x personal, fun content . – memes etc!

Then there’s the 30/60/10 and the 4-1-1! What we’re all saying really is, offer a good spread. Think buffet rather than a fixed menu. Mix-up your images, videos, memes, links and copy.

There is of course no magic wand here, but think about who you’re writing for. Not what you’re trying to sell.


Facebook Ads Training

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I’m running a training session on Facebook Ads, Tuesday 10th October in Hyde. It’s 2.5 hours of learning, relaxed networking and pastries. What’s not to like!

Click here for more info.

Facebook Ads can be a bit of a ‘dark art’ but you don’t need to be a member of MENSA to see a return on your investment. It all goes wrong when you’ve not got a strategy and/or you don’t get your audience targeting spot on. Add to that the poor layout of the Ads Manager ( my opinion) and the ease of spending money and it can become a waste of hard-earned cash.

Most businesses dabble with Facebook Ads with the ‘boost post’ option. Now, this can work if you’ve got the right audience and the post is decent. That’s a mean combination. Often though, you’re throwing away cash as you think ” Oh, I’ll just boost this post”  – it is so easy after all. You might, might hit the jackpot. It’s unlikely though.

My training sessions are focused but also relaxed. I don’t believe in ‘ Death by Powerpoint’ and I actively encourage participation from everyone. I train at all different levels and everyone is welcome.

Now, just need to sell some tickets!

I’m Feeling All Creative…..And I Love It

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I’ve just moved house. I’ll spare you the details, but it was horrendous! I’m almost unpacked and the broadband is up-and-running. It’s starting to feel like home. I used to live on a busy, main road. I now live on a quiet side street, overlooking the hills. I’m sleeping better already.

Every so often, a voice in my head says ” why don’t you write a book?” I have a few ideas, which I’ve pondered over the years, but I’ve never actually written a word. I’m not 100% sure I’ve got the talent or the imagination, but then again, I’ve read books that have been distinctly average. Could I be “average” too – and still get a book published?!

I love stories. I always have done. When I was younger, I’d devour books. One after another. I’d stay awake until the early hours, just to read the last page. I’d lost that love. Especially since I had my youngest child. His sleep habits (or lack of sleep habits) have definitely affected my cognitive abilities. Sometimes, I’d struggle to read a few sentences. I gave up reading for pleasure.

Perhaps it’s my new positive ‘vibe’ or maybe it’s just the passage of time but I can read again! Ok, I’ve not got hours to spend now, but it’s enough to just sneak ten minutes when I can.

So, writing. I’ve sketched-out a few characters and the plot. I know where it’s based and I’d say it’s a story of lives weaving together. A few events are based on stories I’ve heard from my family. Nothing contoversial. Just stories of life, love and fun. It could be absolute drivel. But, at least I’ll have created it myself.

Perhaps this house move is the fresh start that I’ve needed, without realising that I needed it. Who knows, I could be painting in my garden next! Well, that would be an event. Those that know me well are aware of my complete lack of artistic skills. I wasn’t allowed to do GCSE Art. That’s how bad things are!

I might have a book within me. Who knows? Let’s see.


Sarah x


Seriously, Stop It!

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I didn’t ” win” a client last week. A training client. Instead of learning with me, they’ve gone elsewhere. Shock, horror, ” get over it!” I hear you say…. I am over it. I am, but it’s got me thinking.

The client justified their decision clearly. Why should they pay me, when they can get training for free? Indeed. I offer primarily one-to-one and small group training. It’s bespoke. I listen to your needs and develop a plan around it. I have years of training experience too. This is why I charge a fee. My competitor is offering free group training. Generic training on ‘ social media for business.’

I understand the dilemma for a small business on ‘free vs fee’ but you need to consider what you’re trying to achieve. This competitor (god, it sounds like I’m seriously miffed!) is not running a digital marketing business. They offer social media management as a service. One look at their own social media tells me that they don’t have a grasp on the basics. Posts without images (come on!) Generic sales posts, repeatedly – no value for their followers. Offering training on social media for business shouldn’t be in their remit. My concern is that people receive their training, not get value from it and either walk away demoralised or then pursue other training options, having wasted time.

I know a fair bit about SEO and can put together a WordPress website. Would I offer training? No chance. I believe that a trainer has a responsibility to their client and also to the industry that we work in. There are enough charlatans about, believe me! Whether it’s offering free training (unless subsidised, what’s the motive?) social media management for dirt cheap prices, or ‘free’ websites – that aren’t free at all, there needs to be a shake-up. There is enough crap for a small business to navigate, without wasting time with poor marketing advice and services.

Is this a rant? Sort of. Am I perfect? Of course not. But, I wouldn’t dream of offering a service that I can’t deliver on.




When The Summer Holidays Are Just A Guilt-Fest

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I’m writing this in our lounge, laptop on my knee. Number one child is playing with her ‘little life pets’ whilst number two child is binge-watching CBeebies. It’s only a matter of time before one of them needs my attention. Hopefully, I’ll get 20 minutes or so to finish this blog! So far today, I’ve answered emails, taken two phone calls from clients, sent a proposal to a potential client and ensured that everyone whose social media accounts I manage, has had content go out.

I no longer do video calls when the kids are around. I did, but after the occasion when one kid accidentally turned off the TV and all hell broke loose, followed by the time when my youngest could be heard shouting ” mummy, wipe my bum” from the bathroom, I ditched that plan.

I can’t afford to pay for full-time childcare over the holidays for both children, so I’m managing with a combination of favours, late nights and just winging it. It’s not fun. I try and give the kids a few hours each day of undivided attention. No work, out of the house, 100% mummy but I’m struggling. I miss calls, respond late to emails and it all just makes me feel crap.

Being self-employed gives me so much freedom and most of the time, I love it. But currently, I wish I was out of the house each day. Earning a defined salary, having that comfort.  I wish that there was cheaper childcare available. A flexible workspace with a pay-as-you-go creche would be amazeballs! I wish I didn’t have this constant guilt hanging over me.

I re-launched my business in June and it’s been fab. This is my first real challenge. I’m not writing this to gain sympathy. I know so many people in this situation. I know there are people struggling more than I am. I just wanted to say that if you’re in the same pickle as I am, I hear you.