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  • How to Build a Website

    Monday, June 20, 2016 by

    How To Build A Website

    Building a website can seem like a ton of work, especially when you’re in the beginning stages; a lot of people simply hire a web designer to do the heavy lifting for them. However, with the numerous tools and tutorials available any person can build a high quality site from scratch, in minimal time.

    There are distinct advantages to working with a professional web designer, however a lot of us don’t have the budget to hire out from the very beginning. Once your site is profitable you can then invest into a hiring out for a website redesign if you choose.

    If you’re looking to have a professional website up and running as soon as possible, then keep reading. Below we walk you through the process of building your very first website and showcase the tools we recommend.

    First, Setup Your Hosting and Domain

    The first step towards building your website is making sure your domain is purchased and your hosting is all set up. You can purchase your domain from a variety of sources, including HostGator. The same goes for hosting, as HostGator is a great hosting choice for beginners as it’s very easy to setup.

    Once your website and hosting are good to go you’ll have your basic framework setup, so you can begin building your new website.

    Second, Choose the Right Framework

    There are numerous website frameworks and builders that you’ll be able to choose from. We highlight a few of the most popular choices below:

    1. Use HostGator’s Site Builder

    HostGator provides you with a Weebly site builder that allows you to easily setup a website in a matter of minutes. If you have a shared hosting plan through HostGator, then this service is included for free with your hosting package.

    There are a variety of templates to choose from within the site builder. Just choose a template that you feel is in alignment with the goals of your website. Customize it to your liking and save your website. For a full list of Weebly customization options, you can check out this link.

    2. Use a CMS like WordPress

    If you have a little more technical know how and want to use a full-fledged content management system, then we recommend giving WordPress a go. If you have HostGator hosting, then you can use the QuickInstall process that’s located on your cPanel, to install WordPress for free.

    Once you have WordPress installed you can customize your site by choosing from the plethora of paid and free themes. Just download the theme, and upload it by navigating to Appearance>Add New>Upload Theme.

    You can then customize your theme by navigating to Appearance>Customize within the WordPress dashboard.

    3. Build One From Scratch

    Creating a website from scratch will take a lot of experimentation and trial and error. However, this can truly be worthwhile process if you’re up to the learning curve. If you enjoy doing things yourself and getting your hands dirty, then you’ll want to teach yourself the basics of coding.

    W3Schools and CodeAcademy both have a set of great resources to help you learn how to code. The languages you’ll need to learn to get your website up and running include HTML, CSS, and PHP. This will allow you to build a website exactly how you see fit.

    It can be beneficial to pick up some basic coding skills, even if you aren’t thinking about building a site from scratch. Having basic coding knowledge will enable you to become more comfortable with customizing and maintaining your site, regardless of platform. Check out our HTML cheat sheet for a quick primer.

    Which Should I Choose?

    The route you go down will depend upon the overall goals of your website. For instance, if you want a website that acts more like a virtual business card, then you can use the Weebly website builder tool provided by HostGator.

    If you’re looking for a full-fledged website suite that will enable you to build and grow an online business, then WordPress is a great choice, as it can grow with your company.

    If you’re truly a do-it-yourself person and want to know the inner workings of your website, then you can build one yourself. Just know that this will take a lot of time and it might even be a few months before a basic version of your website is live.

    My personal favorite is to use HostGator’s hosting, coupled with the QuickInstall of WordPress. Then, pick up some coding knowledge so you feel comfortable customizing your WordPress theme to your liking.

    Of course, there are dozens of ways to build a website. The three mentioned above are some of the most common ways HostGator users choose to build out their sites. Click the button below to get started making your website!

    Get Started With HostGator!

    What’s your favorite way to build a website? Please share in the comments below.
  • What Is A Top Level Domain?

    Thursday, June 16, 2016 by

    Top Level Domain

    If you’ve already secured your web hosting and purchased your domain, then chances are you already have a top-level domain. Still, you might be wondering what a top-level domain actually is?

    Below we dive into the purpose of top-level domains, the hierarchy of domain names, and go into a few of the most common top-level domain extensions.

    What Is a Top Level Domain?

    A top-level domain is the final segment of the domain name. They’re also known as domain suffixes. It’s the section that follows the final “dot” in your URL. Top-level domains are broken down into two different categories, country-specific top-level domains, and generic top-level domains.

    Top-level domains help to identify certain website elements, such as, the type of business, the country of origin, whether it’s a government site, school website, and more. The guidelines for top-level domains used to be very strict, however, in 2010 The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) relaxed their guidelines when it comes to generic top-level domains and company trademarks.

    The Domain Name System

    The Domain Name System (DNS) is the naming system for online services, computers, or any resources that are connected to the Internet. It works to associate domain names to each company, website, or service. It also translates the domain name into the numerical IP address that’s needed for the network protocols to functional correctly.

    Common Top Level Domain Extensions

    There are a variety of extensions you’ll be able to choose from depending on your style of business or organization, while others can purely be for fun. It’s important to choose a domain extension that’s in alignment with your business. We highlight the most common below:

    General Top Level Domains

    • .com (used for a variety of purposes, but are mostly used for online businesses)
    • .edu (commonly used for educational institutions)
    • .net (used for a wide variety array of reasons, from online companies to personal projects)
    • .org (commonly used for non-profit organizations)
    • .co (used for companies)
    • .biz (used for company names)

    There are also more region specific domains, called Country-Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLD), such as, .co.uk (United Kingdom), .au (Australia), .de (Denmark), .fr (France), and more. For a full list take a look at this article from Wikipedia.

    Creative Top Level Domains

    • .tv (used for online television shows and other video-related projects)
    • .me (used for personal branding related projects)
    • .expert (used to convey your authority in a specific niche)
    • .guru (same as above)
    • .io (commonly used for technology-related companies)
    • .name (used for sites catered around an individual)

    Restricted Top Level Domains

    • .post (used for the post office)
    • .gov (used for different government sectors and resources)
    • .mil (used for military related websites)
    • .museum (used by museums and related industries)
    • .aero (used by the aerospace industry)

    The top-level domain that you choose will also communicate a lot about your business. By far the most common top level domain is .com, but you’re free to choose the extension that’s most in alignment with your website.

    You can purchase any of the common top level domain names with HostGator. If you're looking for something more unique, like .beer or .accountant, you can get those at Domain.com.

    Any common top-level domains we missed? Share your favorites in the comments below.

  • Make Your Own Minecraft Server

    Wednesday, June 15, 2016 by
    Make Your Own Minecraft Server

    If you’ve been gaming online for anytime at all, then you’ve probably been drawn into the world of Minecraft. Playing Minecraft is fun, but what about when you want to customize the rules of the game and have your friends join in on the fun?

    The answer is running your own Minecraft server. Below we show you how you can create your very own Minecraft server. It is a bit technical in nature, but if you’re up for the challenge, then keep reading.

    Before you get started, you'll need a dedicated server that comes with a higher level of security, speed and uptime. HostGator dedicated servers are provisioned, secured, and delivered within 24 hours of purchase. Get one here.

    Make Sure You Have the Right Hardware

    You computer hardware must be able to support the multiplayer gaming environment. You don’t need to have a high-end machine, but usually netbooks or smaller notebooks won’t work properly. First, you’ll need to have enough RAM. A good rule of thumb is 1GB of RAM for every four to five players you’re going to host on your server.

    Beyond RAM you’ll need to have a fast and stable Internet connection for gameplay to work properly. Navigate to CanIHostaMinecraftServer.com, enter the amount of RAM your machine has and the connection speed, and this tool will show you how many players you can support at once.

    We just ran a test using the HostGator basic dedicated server plan, which comes with 4 GB of RAM and 100 Mbps speed. You can support 48 people playing at a time, including yourself!

    Can I host a Minecraft Server

    Note: installing a Minecraft server is a technical process, so don’t move forward unless you feel comfortable and have basic server-side tech skills.

    Install and Setup the Server

    Once your computer is ready to go you can begin setting up your server. Below we’ll dive into installing the server on Windows and Mac machines.

    Windows Installation Instructions

    Installing the Minecraft server on your Windows machine is a fairly straightforward process, as you’ll see below.

    1. Update Java

    For the server to work properly you’ll need to have the latest version of Java installed. To see if your machine is running the latest version of Java navigate to the download page.

    2. Download the Server

    Head over to the Minecraft download page, and download the .jar file under the ‘Multiplayer Server’ section. Create a dedicated folder on your computer where you’ll have all of the server files stored.

    Download Minecraft Server

    3. Install the Server

    For Windows all you have to do is double click on the downloaded file and all of the necessary files will be created, and the server will open.

    For the server to run properly you’ll need to accept the user agreement. Look for a .txt file titled eula.txt. Open the file and change ‘eula=false’ to ‘eula=true’. Save the file and you’ll be all set.

    If you’re looking for ways to further customize your server, then check out this guide from Minecraft, scroll down to the section titled ‘Configuring from the command line’, and you’ll see a list of options.

    Mac OS Installation Instructions

    Installing a server on Mac OS machines will be a little more difficult (but it’s nothing you can’t handle), for the visually inclined there’s a nice video tutorial:

    1. Download the Server

    Download the latest version of the server from the same page as above, found here.

    2. Install and Update Java

    You probably already have Java installed on your machine, but if not, then you need to download Java and ensure you have the latest version running. You can download Java from this page.

    3. Setup the Server

    Before you setup the server make sure you’ve created a separate folder and put the minecraft_server.jar’ file into it. Then, open Textedit and paste the following code into it:

    #!/bin/bash

    cd "$(dirname "$0")"

    exec java -Xms1G -Xmx1G -jar minecraft_server.jar nogui

    Save the file as ‘start.command’ and place the file into the same folder as the server file above.

    Next you’ll need to change the file permissions. To do this open Terminal, and type in chmod a+x with a space after it, drag the ‘start.command’ file into the terminal window and press enter.

    To start the server, just double-click on the ‘start.command’ file you created.

    In order to customize your server to your liking you’ll be editing the ‘server.properties’ file. Configuration instructions can be found here, and the full list of server properties can be found here.

    Invite Your Friends to Play

    After you’ve created and installed your own server, then you’re probably ready to invite your friends to join in on the fun. Below we outline three different methods of connecting to the server depending on how the users are accessing the server.

    1. Same Machine, Same Server

    If you’re playing on the machine that also has the server running, then simply select the ‘Multiplayer’ option on the game screen. Then, type in ‘localhost’ instead of an IP address.

    2. Connect Via the Same Network

    Users who are connecting on the same Internet connection as you can connect via your internal IP address. To find this type ‘ifconfig’ into the command prompt and look for the address that follows ‘ipv4’.

    3. Connect Outside Your Network

    Any players you’re inviting to play with you who aren’t on your local network connection will need the IP address of your server in order to connect to the game. You’ll also need to port forward port 25565 to your server IP address so they can access the server. If you need help with this process, then check out portforward.com.

    Keep in mind that a lot of the Minecraft server is undergoing testing, so there’s a chance bugs will arise now and then. However, the steps above will enable you to begin playing Minecraft on your very own server with your friends.

    Have you had success with running your own Minecraft server? Share your experience in the comments below.

  • What You Need To Know About Page Speed

    Wednesday, June 8, 2016 by
    What You Need To Know About Page Speed

    To most people, page speed is usually a reflection of their Internet Service Provider, and never really thought of as an internal issue. While download speed and Internet packages definitely play a part in how quickly your website loads, there is an entirely separate list of factors that determine how quickly your content appears in someone's browser.

    Back in 2010, Google determined page speed was such an important aspect to how people experience a website, they included it in their ranking factors, which now greatly affect how your website appears in the SERPs. Nearly half of all consumers on the Internet expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less; while the experts at Google believe an optimized website worth their top ranking should load in under half a second.

    These figures are backed by countless studies that show page speed can lead to serious losses in transactions solely due to the extra time in which people become frustrated and abandon a purchase in the online sales cart.

    That's why we've chosen to look at page speed from the small business perspective, and give you the resources to examine where your website could stand some improvements.

    What Factors Determine Page Speed?

    On the surface, it's generally impossible for the average website owner to know what is preventing their pages from loading efficiently. Generally speaking, each of the following can contribute to your overall page speed:

    • Your Web Host: Where you host your site pays massive dividends when it comes to customer experience. If you’re coerced by a cheap offer it could be the first mistake in regards to slow page speeds.
    • Large Images: There is a big difference between the necessary resolution for print and screen based imagery. For most purposes 1000 pixels at 72 dpi should suite your needs; however, larger file sizes can also be compressed to strip unnecessary data.
    • External Media: Embedding YouTube videos and other content is a great idea but make sure it's only as large as you need it to appear in terms of frame size.
    • Un-optimization for certain browsers/devices: Your website will behave differently on every web browser and device. While this isn't a problem most of the time, if your website is working great on Google Chrome, but isn't formatting correctly on Safari then your ranking will take a penalty.
    • Too many ads: Too many ads can make your speed drag so only use them if they're worth the extra processing.
    • Your theme: If you're operating on WordPress or another site builder the theme you chose may have complex coding which adds to your load times.
    • Widgets: Widgets can be coded very densely requiring significant processing power.
    • Code: The true back-end to every website comes down to the coding. If your HTML or CSS is too heavy it will lower your page speed.

    How To Determine If Your Website Is Loading Slowly

    Fortunately, there a several accredited web tools that assist you in finding where the weak points in your website are occurring.

    My first recommendation would be PageSpeed Insights from Google. The whole point to page optimization is to make Google happy, so knowing what they recommend for better page ranking is critical.

    As you can see in the image below, even HostGator.com has a few flags they recommend fixing, but not everything can be optimized when choosing your sites functionality. Fortunately, our user rating ranked 100/100 which is the ultimate goal.

    Page Speed

    Some additional resources for analyzing your page speed include:

    SEO Page Speed Best Practices

    In order to comply with Google's Best Practices for page speed, implement the following:

    • Enable Compression
    • Minify CSS, Javascript, and HTML
    • Reduce Redirects
    • Leverage Browser Caching
    • Improve Server Response Time
    • Use A Content Distribution Network
    • Optimize Images
    Now that you know what factors can contribute to page speed, be sure to check out 7 Ways To Speed Up Your Website.
  • Why Non-Profits Need to Know SEO

    Monday, June 6, 2016 by

    Why Non-Profits Need To Know SEO

    The non-profit world is full of great organizations working on shoestring budgets to reach people in need, to care for the environment, to bring education to the underserved, and to generally care for the world and the people around us. With so much passion and purpose, and so little funds, many non-profits are learning SEO to reduce their overall advertising costs, to reach the right audiences, and as a part of integrated website and business management.

    Reduce Overall Advertising Costs

    For-profit business owners use money to manage their time, while investing the bulk of their time in managing their money; non-profit directors, administrators, and volunteers are often in the unenviable position of working with limited budgets of both time and money.

    Advertising is one of the processes that many for-profit businesses outsource. Rather than spending so much time learning what type of content brings customers into a business, a corporation will spend significant capital to have experts create a system of advertising and communication to customers.

    Since non-profits need to reach the same people that large for-profits do with much less money, SEO provides an attractive alternative to outsourced marketing. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is called organic marketing because it does not require dollars in to equal leads out. Once you build an optimized website, the website will bring in your targeted audience whether you put another dollar of marketing into your website or not.

    This is the primary reason non-profits need to know SEO, but there are many additional benefits of a great SEO-friendly website.

    Reaching The Right Audience

    Getting found is important for any business, getting found by the right people is essential. This is incredibly true for non-profits, and significantly more complex than for-profits. For a for-profit company, the primary audience is always potential customers, because they pay the bills. Secondary elements are employees and then shareholders (unless the shareholders are customers, like in a mutual fund).

    For non-profits, the different audiences are those in need, are the donors, and are volunteers/employees. Each of these appear to take on the importance of a customer because a non-profit often has to convince each audience why they need to join the non-profit. Each of these audiences are essential to running a non-profit and all of them need altruistic reasons to join your business, outside of traditional profit and market motives. A website needs to be designed in such a way as to present to donors and employees and volunteers and people in need. A tall order, but good SEO planning manages the website to do just that. 

    SEO takes the most important ideas behind your website and presents them in such a manner and to the right locations, to get your website found by people looking for it. For example, a homeless shelter needs to be found by people looking up housing solutions in the local city it serves. These searches could be from the indigent (library computers and cell phones are both options they have) or from potential donors or volunteers. So to optimize it, the content on the website needs to be primarily about homelessness and solutions for it, and your website needs to be attached to all the place listings for your shelter (Google, Bing, Apple Maps). (For more on this, check out our post on creating local SEO content.)

    Because the need you are trying to fulfill is what ties all the various audiences together, an optimized site will provide information that is relevant to donors, volunteers, and the recipients of your care because they are all looking at the need. Donors and volunteers want to help fill the need, while recipients need to fill it.

    Integrated Website and Business Management

    A good website provides many business management tools that a non-profit may use to automate business systems and reduce the costs of running business. SEO plays an important part in designing business systems on the website and in determining what content to put on the website.

    A website provides tools to manage communication with various audiences like calendars, forums, and internal email systems. It also provides access to documents relevant to your business processes, and it even is a useful tool in managing donations, accounting, income and outgo, and more.

    The more complex a website becomes, the more costs it will incur in both time and money, so determining how integrated you want to make a non-profit website with business systems is a matter of some care. Great website-business systems integrations will save time and money long-term even though they cost more upfront. For a non-profit leader, the question to ask is whether you can more afford to keep managing things the way you are or whether you need to build a business system in your website.

    Regardless of how integrated the website becomes with your business systems, it is an essential part of managing your constituencies, and SEO management is core to that process.

    SEO marries internal coherent content with external information to get your website as visible as possible. A non-profit needs SEO to be found, and the simplest aspect of SEO is to make certain that the content on your site (including tags and metadata) is relevant and listed in such a way that search engines can understand what your main thing is.

    Why do non-profits need to know SEO? Because non-profits focus on the relationships and needs that influence peoples’ lives, and people are looking for these needs online. While most people think SEO is just focused on the search engines, at its most basic, SEO is all about the people using the search engines, and that is where Google and your local animal shelter meet: the people who love animals.

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