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Waterlink Web

In Memoriam: Lucie Bea

When my youngest daughter, then in 6th grade, confided she was afraid to go walking or running alone, I began to look for a dog. We found one, one that joined our family for 13 years. I named her Lucie because she her fur was red and because each time I came home I could say, “Lucie, I’m home,” in my best Ricky Ricardo voice. I loved doing that.

Lucie Bea and Kindra at the Oregon Coast
Lucie and Kindra at the Oregon Coast.

She was Kindra’s dog mostly, one who could lead an athletic junior high girl on a run or make sure I kept a quick pace on a walk. She loved everyone, greeted strangers like a family member, and never showed aggression while walking in our neighborhood.

Her exuberance at seeing us return home from work or school came out in wiggles, her butt moving left to right as she came to greet us in a wild sidestep, that let everyone know it was a joy to see them again … or even for the first time.

Lucie and Alexis at the Southern Oregon Coast
Lucie and our oldest daughter, Alexis, camping at the Oregon coast.

She was the most affectionate dog I’ve ever owned. Sit on the couch and Lucie would curl up next to you. Sneak off for an afternoon nap? Lucie would find you and join in. She was especially affectionate of my daughters’ boyfriends. It didn’t matter how awkward or tall, bring a boy home and Lucie wanted him to be her boyfriend too. She would ask to sit in their laps, all 64 pounds of her, and lick their faces.

One day we were alone in the house and I watched as she stood looking out an upstairs bedroom window intently observing the outdoors. I followed her gaze to see a squirrel. ‘She looks so observant and intelligent,’ I thought. Then I saw a stream of drool bubbling our of her mouth and knew the truth. “Yum, squirrel,” was what was really on her mind.

Needless to say, we kept screens on all the windows. Sometimes they got scratches and holes, which we repaired, but they did keep her from leaping out after a member of the local fauna.

Lucie Bea on a red couch with comforter and pillows
Lucie was soft and loved soft places to rest.

Lucie was blessed with the gift of softness. Her ears, her tummy, her fur … all soft. Kindra loved hugging her, we all did. My husband scratched her ears and nibbled on them too. It was easy to have her sleep in our bed. She would curl up at our feet, keeping them warm. It wasn’t until later in the night when she would migrate up to sleep between us, pushing one or the other of us out with her feet.

One of her joys was dog parks. She enjoyed the chasing and games. I was amazed at her agility the first time I saw her run alongside another dog, jump up on his back and off again landing on her feet and still running, as the front legs of her companion gave way from the weight that had been on his back and he tumbled into a summersault. After witnessing this a time or two, however, I realized this would need to stop. She could have hurt an older or weaker dog and, further, their owners did not approve. A few timeouts and she stopped the acrobatics but continued to enjoy dog parks.

Lucie Bea and Mary Ann Aschenbrenner
Lucie and I enjoying spring.

For the first years of Lucie’s life I was working outside of the home, maintaining and marketing carpooling websites for a local government agency. When our family would all be gone for a long day Lucie sometimes got to go to doggie daycare. At the end of the day when I picked her up I was always advised how Lucie never slowed down, how full of energy she was, and how she would be tired and go right to sleep when we got home. She never did. Sometimes I would buy her a chew toy and she would carry it home in her mouth, her butt sashaying as she walked pulling on the lead.

The years passed and my children grew, left home and went to college. One Christmas season when I was preparing for their return, Lucie came to find me busily cleaning house. She was sick. Her back arched up unable to eat. I took her to Dove Lewis. X-rays revealed bone spurs growing down her back from each vertebra. All the years of wiggling in joy when we returned home or greeting friends had taken their toll.

Lucie opening gifts at Christmas
Lucie enjoyed opening gifts, even if the gift was poop pick-up bags.

She got a lot of attention that Christmas. We lifted her onto the beds and helped her back down. The attention and muscle relaxants helped, and Lucie recovered.

After Kindra graduated from college, traveled, and found employment, Lucie became more my dog. I had changed careers and was working from home now building websites for small business and nonprofits. My office was upstairs and each day as I worked Lucie would join me, lying on the futon couch or alongside the desk at my feet. Often she slept and often she snored. Sometimes a client on the phone would ask, “What is that sawing noise?”  Then we would share a quiet chuckle.

A year ago on the way home from a walk, Lucie began to limp. The vet diagnosed it as a torn ACL. She had laser treatments, medicine to block nerve pain, a steroid to reduce swelling, and another tablet that acted as a hormone replacement. It all worked. Despite “old dog lungs” (that was the vet’s term), arthritis in her hips and back, and, of course, the bone spurs she continued, not as wiggly as she had once been, not as agile, but sill a happy dog.

In September Kindra married in a remote park on a lake in Southern Oregon. Lucie and the groom’s family dog served as ring bearers. Despite the distance dozens of relatives and friends made the trip. The toasts, dinner, and party lasted past dark. When we were getting ready to leave I found Lucie curled in a ball asleep close to the banquet tables.

John Aschenbrenner with Lucie Bea playing in the St. Johns snow
John and Lucie playing in the January snow in St. Johns.

In January, the night of the big snow, she took a walk with my husband and I carefully leaping to catch the loose snowballs John threw out for her. It was a beautiful snow covered night in St. Johns and, while Lucie walked slowly, she seemed to enjoy the beautiful night as much as we did.

Time is a cruel master. Despite our best preparations and precautions, it taxes us all.

The last time she made it up the stairs I had to hold her and help her lie softly just to keep her from collapsing in exhaustion. The last two weeks of her life Lucie needed help to stand. When she was up and outside each step seemed to be painful. She never wined or cried out, but the last few days when she went out I saw tears from her eyes down the furrows of her muzzle. The medication had helped, but it was no longer enough.

In the late winter, we called a vet to our home. Lucie was lying on her bed in our living room. I had spent time in the afternoon talking with her, caressing her soft ears, and enjoying my last moments with her. The end was peaceful. Today she is out in the garden with a new hydrangea growing from the deep grave my husband dug.

Mad River Beach, California.

Since her death, each time I return home and unlock the front door I think, “Lucie, I’m home.” I no longer say the words aloud. I miss her and her sweet generous and joyful spirit.

Lucie Bea, January 21, 2004 to March 17, 2017. Rest in peace, beautiful dog.

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learn WordPress

Why and How to Add an SSL Certificate to a WordPress Website

Mary Ann Aschenbrenner
Mary Ann Aschenbrenner, President of Waterlink Web

Follow these five steps to add an SSL Certificate to a WordPress website in a quality hosting environment.

Why Add an SSL Certificate?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is the standard technology for establishing an encrypted link between a server and a client. When a website shows the https:// version of the URL it means that all traffic to and from the website is encrypted. Only the website can read credit card details or passwords entered there. The “s” in https stands for secure.

Some users will not leave personal information on a website without the encryption. Because of this and because users spend more time on secure websites, Google and other search engines include site security as a ranking factor.

From HTTP:// to HTTPS://

Moving a website from http:// to https:// can seem daunting but is easier in a good hosting environment. In this post we will go over the steps to add an SSL Certificate using SiteGround hosting, one of the few hosting services recommended by WordPress.

First, Add Lets Encrypt

On SiteGround, in your website cPanel, go to the Security section and select Lets Encrypt.

Yes, it really is that easy. You will now have two identical websites. One that begins with http:// and the other with https://.

Second, Update Content to HTTPS://

Update your content to https:// by adding the SSL Insecure Content Fixer plugin. This plugin updates content to https:// as soon as it is activated.

Again, that is easy, but there may be come glitches.

Third, Confirm all Content is Linked to HTTPS://

If the green lock to the left of https:// is gray or there is a yellow triangle in front of it, then some of your content is still linked to http://. Check your website by entering the URL at WhyNoPadlock.com. Any problem content will be indicated here.

When I added the SSL Certificate to my own website the images in the widgets near the footer were still linked to http://. In the Dashboard I went to Appearance -> Customize and opened the widgets. Then I edited each image URL to include the “s” after http. After updating I checked the site on WhyNoPadlock.com again and the problem content had been fixed.

At this point the padlock had turned green and the yellow warning triangle was gone.

Fourth, Redirect HTTP:// to HTTPS://

At this point your https:// website should look good and show a green padlock and the https:// at the front of your URL should also be green. You will still have an http:// version. Search engines actually consider this an entirely different website, one with the exact same content.

To save your standing in search engines, redirect the http:// version by adding a piece of code to your .htaccess file. This code will force anyone going to your website to see the https:// version. Even if they enter http://yourwebsite.com it will reconcile at https://yourwebsite.com.

Below is the piece of code you will add to the .htaccess file. Before making any changes in the .htaccess file, be sure to save a copy of the original. If something goes wrong and your site breaks, you can always put the original back and fix the site.

RewriteEngine On
Rewrite Condition %{Server_Port} 80
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://yourdomain.com/$1 [R=301,L]

It should be entered into the .htaccess file right after this line: # BEGIN WordPress

Fifth, Ensure You Can Measure Site Performance

Even if your site was already added to Google and Bing using the http:// version, you will need to add it again with the https:// version. Add the new version of your website to Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and Bing Webmaster Tools if you want to measure your website performance, learn how users are finding your website, and which pages are the most popular.

Portland WordPress MeetUp

This presentation was delivered at the Portland WordPress MeetUp on Monday, February 6th, 2017 at the U.S. Bancorp Tower Conference Rooms. For more information on this MeetUp or to view the discussion please go to this event at Portland WordPress MeetUp. The Portland WordPress MeetUp is an opportunity to learn about WordPress and get help with specific questions.

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grow a business on the web Waterlink Web

Value of a Tagline: one thing we learn about marketing from Donald Trump

Learning how to write a tagline and leverage its marketing value will help a new business owner start in a successful direction.

When I sit down with a new client to begin designing her or his website, one of the first questions I ask is, “What is your tagline?”

A good tagline sums up a company’s mission and promise and sets it apart from competitors. The tagline is such an important tool in marketing that there are agencies whose one specialty is crafting them.

Most us are not wordsmiths. Whether we are a solo entrepreneurs, artists, or run a small company, we already have enough responsibilities. Writing our company tagline can get overlooked.

This is a big miss. You can learn how to write a tagline. A well-written tagline used consistently will help even a small business rise over their competitors.

Tagline Marketing Lesson 101 From Trump University

Rum, make America great again. Donald Trump knows how to write a tagline
Will Rum make America great again?

This season’s Presidential contest reminds me, particularly on the Republican side, of the value of a tagline.

“Make America Great Again” is, frankly, a great tagline. After all, who doesn’t want to be great? The Trump tagline accomplishes all three of the important qualities of a good tagline: mission, promise, and brand. In four words the Presidential candidate lays out the mission of his campaign, makes a promise to voters, and brands himself as great.

This post is not an endorsement of any candidate. My intention is to encourage small businesses to think about their tagline and provide some guidance in how to write one.

–Mary Ann Aschenbrenner

Logo and Tagline Should Work Together

Nike swoosh with tagline, Just Do It. This is an example of how to write a tagline
The Nike swoosh and tagline are inseparable.

Think of it this way. A logo is the visible representation of a brand. The tagline is the audible representation of a brand. Like the logo, the tagline rarely changes. It is part of the company brand identity.

Large companies will spend millions marketing their logo and tagline. Consider Nike: the swoosh is inseparable from, “Just Do It.” In this case, the tagline implies activity and that Nike is a company of activity. The promise is that their products will make customers fit and active. Nike has done such a masterful job marketing their logo with their tagline that we can’t see one without remembering the other.

This season’s Republican presidential candidate gained status and recognition with free publicity from the media. His early marketing work in the Republican primaries, his volatile and entertaining pronouncements, garnered him millions in free media exposure. All along, at every public opportunity, he repeated his tagline.

As a small entrepreneur we often underestimate our ability to market our ourselves and our businesses. We may not have Nike’s budget or a billionaire’s ego, but we do have a network, a circle of business associates and customers. Each of our customers should know our tagline. Friends should also know our company tagline. They should know our tagline because we repeat it in conversation, on our websites, and on our business cards.

Even on a small scale, even for a small business or artist entrepreneur, a tagline will improve your marketing and help you stay in your customer’s minds.

Waterlink Web Example

Waterlink Web: connecting your customers with you. We can teach you how to write a tagline
The logo and tagline for this website design agency.

My company is an example of a small business using a logo and tagline combination for marketing. Our tagline is, “connecting your customers with you.”

I wrote this tagline because we include onsite search engine optimization in each website we build. Our websites come up in search results for the products and services that our clients build or sell. But, saying all that can leave clients who are unfamiliar with technology confused. The tagline sums it up: connecting your customers with you.

Our company mission is to help businesses grow by connecting our clients with their customers through quality websites. The tagline’s promise is that a website by Waterlink Web can do this.

Both online and in our printed material our tagline is shown with our logo. Our logo is a bridge, an image of connection. In this case it is an artist’s rendering of the St. Johns Bridge in North Portland where Waterlink Web is located.

When people ask me what, I do I include the phrase, “Connecting your customers with you,” as part of the conversation while describing my work. This sets Waterlink Web apart from our competitors who generally list website and marketing services when describing their businesses.

Truth in Taglines

M&M's package
“Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” Really?

Taglines are not always honest, and occasionally we can live with that. As a child I remember wondering why the M&M’s were melting in my hand when the promise was, “melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” The M&M’s tagline may lack veracity, but this Halloween that won’t stop me from buying them for the trick-or-treaters who come to our door.

For business owners (and politicians), however, I recommend you keep your tagline truthful. Only promise what you can deliver.

Our fond memories from childhood will help us forgive M&M’s. Your customer’s memory of your service, products, and attention to detail will only be a pleasant one if those memories meet with the promise of your tagline.[divider_flat]

More Tips on Writing a Tagline

Keep it simple. Three to eight words is plenty. You can add more copy and description on your website or brochures. A short and memorable phrase will stay in your customer’s minds.

Keep it natural. Avoid the soulless version that a marketing committee might write. If it doesn’t feel right to you as the business owner, then it probably isn’t.

When I talk with a new client who doesn’t have a tagline we will begin the process of writing one. My client may not be a wordsmith, but I am. It may take a few days and a series of edits, but at Waterlink Web our clients come away with a website and a tagline. I can help teach you how to write a tagline.

For more tips checkout “10 Tips for a Remarkable Tagline” on the Inc. blog.

Categories
grow a business on the web

Write a Post that Ranks

Search engines, like Google and Bing, have a goal. They want to serve up quality content to their users. 

You also have a goal. You want your customers, clients, and fans to find and read your blog posts and, by extension, your website. Your goal is for search engines to recognize that your posts are the quality content their users want and to rank your posts organically at or near the top of search results.

Follow these five steps to write a post that ranks. The steps cover content, formatting, image accessibility, categories and tags, and on-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Done correctly they will help you write the content your customers want in a format that meets search engine requirements.

Good content and proper formatting will help your posts rise to the top in search results, maybe even the very top.

1) Write what your clients are searching for

Two women enjoying coffee and discussing business.
Mine your client’s questions for ideas to write your next blog post.

Don’t indulge in random posts about topics of mostly personal interests. Ask yourself, “What questions are my clients asking me?” Then answer those questions in your blog posts.

For every question a client asks, you can bet that hundreds of others have asked the same question on Google or Bing. Search engines are looking for the answers to users’ questions. Write those answers.

Include keywords, but don’t overdo it

What terms do your clients and customers use when they ask you a specific question? Make sure to include those key phrases or something similar in your content.

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grow a business on the web

2016 Guide to Prosperity

This is a little-known guide to prosperity, happiness, and finding love: look inside.
It will work in 2016, just as it works every year.

When we look inside to discover our own unique and untapped potential, train our minds and improve our skills we are investing energy in ourselves. Each of us is our own best asset.

Four years ago I set out on an extraordinary journey that included studying for a career that didn’t exist the first time I attended college. Along the way I launched Waterlink Web, met life-changing mentors and remarkable clients, and enjoyed the freedom as well as the responsibility of running my own company.

I was blessed in 2015 with opportunities to learn, company growth, good health and happiness. 2016 will be even better. Just as there are every year, 2016 will bring challenges from which we should learn and difficulties that can make us stronger. Building on the success of 2015, this year to come may also bring prosperity.

As we move into 2016 consider the ways to “look inside” to train your own mind, improve your own skills and become your own best asset. One resource you may consider is Me Comma You. Using writing to look inside can help develop qualities and ideas you did not even have words to express. Kelly LeFave, the instructor, works one-to-one with her students to help them improve their writing skills and rethink their limitations. Make a resolution to become your own best asset in 2016. Look inside.

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Waterlink Web travels

Driving Across America

In late August I had the opportunity to drive across America from Portland, Oregon to Western Pennsylvania and then to Buffalo, New York before flying back to Portland. I’ve traveled in the past, flown to Mexico and Hawaii, driven to Canada, California and Montana, but this adventure – all the way across the United States – was new for me, inspiring, and worthy to share.

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Waterlink Web clients

Speaking at the Stonewall Inn

When I first met Martha Shelley I knew her as a quiet writer of feminist historical fiction, researcher, and neighbor. She gave me the opportunity to build a website for her company, Ebisu Publications. As I worked with Martha and her wife, writer Sylvia Allen, I learned more. I discovered that Martha was one of the founders of the Gay Liberation Front and part of the ’69 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village.

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Waterlink Web gives back

How Do You Decontaminate a Polar Bear?

Greenpeace protest on the St. Johns Bridge with protestors dangling from the Bridge
First morning of the Greenpeace protest with volunteers in place on the St. Johns Bridge.

Last week was a hot one in St. Johns. The temperatures exceeded 100 and the St. Johns Bridge, which never takes a bad photo, exceeded the usual expectations of beauty with the addition of dangling Greenpeace volunteers, pennants waving in the breeze, and blue lights shining through the night. If the Bridge were a woman, she would have been Halle Berry dressed for the Oscars.

I walked down each morning and each evening to see and to marvel. I work from home, designing websites for small businesses and nonprofit organizations. My skills are in demand, and it’s not often that I take time during the work day for a walk. Still, for this event, I took the time.

I went even though I am conflicted. Yes, I walked there in sandals made, at least in part, from petroleum. Yes, I own a car. Yes, my home uses oil to heat. Of course, I am conflicted.

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learn WordPress

Get Searched … In a Good Way

Every day web visitors use Google or Bing to search for a solution to their problems. So, how do you go about submitting a website to Google or Bing? Did you know that WordPress has site analytics as part of the JetPack plugin?

Mary Ann Aschenbrenner leading a Portland WordPress MeetUp.
Mary Ann Aschenbrenner leading a Portland WordPress MeetUp.

At yesterday’s Portland WordPress MeetUp I walked about 40 WordPress users through the steps of submitting a website to major search engines and then what to do with the data.

Review the presentation below. I enabled full screen and the pan and zoom feature we have come to expect from Prezi.

Or, contact me to have your website optimized for organic search engines.

Categories
grow a business on the web

Growing a Business

Growing a business is somewhat like growing a garden.  It requires an economy that is loamy and workable, the fertilization of your creativity, ideas or seeds that are fresh and the favor of fortune shining on your work.  It also requires the hardships of chilly rain to strengthen your resolve and business savvy.

Sunflowers on Dog Mountain

The past year blessed me with all of the above while growing Waterlink Web!  I know that this economy is workable because small businesses ready to succeed are coming to me.  Each new website that I design and develop brings out more creativity.  None are alike.  Just as each client and his or her business is unique so are the websites I make.

Website design and development is a field constantly changing and adapting to new technology, new coding languages and new design requirements.  Every day I gather these fresh seeds while I study, research and learn about the latest techniques and search engine optimization updates.

Fortune has also favored me in 2014 as one client lead to another and contacts and referrals blossomed into friends.  There were hard times, of course. Weekends when I stayed in the office, days when the demands of children, husband and home took priority and, of course, occasional technical difficulties. I am grateful for 2014 and look forward to 2015.

Happy New Year!