Thursday, April 12, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
Does Blogging Help SEO?For just about any question or need you have, you know Google is there. For many people, the wildly popular search engine is their first stop when trying to look for just about anything. That means that no matter what type of website you have, if you want people to find it, you need it to show up in the search engine. And that’s hard. One of the best things you can do to improve your chances of ranking high in the search engines is to start a blog.
Does Blogging Really Help SEO?Yes, it does. That’s the simple answer. But having a blog isn’t in and of itself a ranking factor. Blogging is good for SEO because it helps with a number of things that are important ranking factors. When you have a blog that’s updated regularly with blog posts that are high quality and on topics relevant to your audience, it can make a huge difference to how your overall website performs in the search engines. There are six main reasons why.
1. Blogging keeps your website fresh and current.If you ever happen upon a website that you realize hasn’t been updated in years, you probably immediately lose some trust in the information you’re seeing. The company it represents could have gone out of business completely or the website could be providing information that’s been completely debunked or changed since that last update. Google doesn’t want to deliver its searchers outdated information. Websites that are regularly updated signal to them that the website is alive and offering fresh content. It also gives the search engine algorithms more reason to index your website more often, keeping it more on their radar over time. You’re probably not going to have reason to update your homepage frequently (and it wouldn’t necessarily be a good business move to do so), so a blog is a more practical tool for adding new content to your website on a regular basis.
2. A blog keeps people on your website for longer.Google’s number one priority is providing the people performing searches with the information they’re looking for, so they’ll keep coming back to use Google again. If someone who does a search clicks on the first link, then finds it unhelpful and immediately leaves to go back to the search page – that tells Google that the first result wasn’t as helpful as they thought. On the other hand, when someone clicks on a result and stays on the website for a while, that signals to Google that this website is actually very helpful. While Google hasn’t said outright that dwell time, or the time that people spend on your website once they land on it, is definitely a ranking factor, they’ve made other statements that make it clear it’s something they pay attention to and impart value to. Someone who comes to your website from a blog post that shows up in the search results is going to have more reason to stick around for a while and read the whole thing than someone who lands on a page with less text or information. And that becomes even more the case with longer, more comprehensive posts. SEO researchers have found that longform blog posts tend to perform better than shorter ones – the average first-page result on Google is nearly 2,000 words long.
3. Blogging helps you target long-tail keywords.A lot of people start out doing SEO wanting to aim for the most relevant keywords for your business. For example, if you sell camping gear, you want to show up on page one for the term “camping gear.” While that’s a nice goal, unless you’re the biggest camping gear brand in the country, you’re probably going to have a hard time landing a top spot for that search. SEO is really competitive. The best bet for most brands is to look for longer, more specific keywords people are searching for that are relevant to the business and try to rank for those. These are called long-tail keywords and they’re extremely important for any SEO strategy – half of all searches are for terms that are four words or longer. But they can be awkward to try to fit into your product pages. However, they’re the perfect kind of terms to target in a blog post. A store that sells camping gear can use their blog posts to provide information on terms like “best camping gear for cold weather” or “what do you need when you go car camping?” These searches don’t attract as much traffic as “camping gear” does, but they come from people clearly in your target audience of campers and, if you can make it onto page one, you’ll get way more traffic from these topics than you would on page five or ten for broader more popular terms.
4. A blog gives you opportunities for internal linking.So much of SEO is about links and internal links are the easiest ones for you to get since you can create them for yourself. Failing to include internal links on your website that point users from one page on the site to another is one of the simplest SEO mistakes you can make. While you can probably find some good internal linking possibilities on the main pages of your website, once you start publishing blog posts, the opportunities will really blossom. As you add more pages on various but related topics, you add more opportunities to naturally link those pages to each other. Every time you do so, you can strategically use the anchor text to better tell Google what the page you’re linking to is about – strengthening its connection to your target keywords in how the algorithm sees it.
5. A quality blog gives others sites more reasons to link back to your site.Those internal links matter, but the hardest part of SEO is earning external links. For Google to see your website as trustworthy and authoritative, other sites (and respected ones) have to link back to yours. It’s not impossible to get external links without a blog, but it’s much, much harder. When you write a blog you fill your website with page after page of valuable information. Any time another website decides it’s valuable to their readers to point them to useful information on a different site, there’s a far higher likelihood that your website will provide that information that’s worth linking to if you’ve got a bunch of great blog posts. Research bears this out. HubSpot has found that companies that have a blog on their website earn up to 97% more inbound links. It just makes sense that more websites will link to that really helpful post you wrote about how to find the best Mother’s Day gift for a picky mom than to your homepage.
6. A blog helps you connect with your audience.This isn’t a direct linking factor like links are, but it is something that significantly contributes to linking factors. When your audience reads a post they love, they’re more likely to share it, drive more traffic to it, come back to your website again to see more of your content and maybe even sign up for your email list. When you get lots of traffic and repeat visitors, that shows Google that people like your website and raises your authority level in their algorithm. And while that’s pretty great from an SEO perspective, it’s ultimately more important to the success of your website than where you are in the rankings. People in your target audience visiting your website, connecting with it, and becoming regular followers is more valuable than any #1 spot on Google (that’s the whole reason you want the spot in Google to begin with). A blog is a good way to make those connections and start a continued relationship with the people you want to reach.
Friday, April 6, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
April Tech News & TrendsAs usual, the past few weeks have seen a lot of big tech news hit the press, some of which suggests some real changes to come in the tech and business worlds. For busy business people who have a hard time staying on top of new tech stories on their own, we have our monthly roundup of tech news to be aware of this month.
1. Facebook Faces ScandalFacebook has faced scandals and criticism before, but the recent news that Facebook data on 50 million user profiles had been harvested and exploited by the marketing firm Cambridge Analytica may be the biggest scandal yet. The firm used the company’s data to create targeted political advertising campaigns that may have helped sway the last U.S. presidential election and the UK’s Brexit vote. And internal documents suggest that Facebook was aware of the breadth of the data breach and did little at the time it was discovered. This scandal combines people’s worries about fake news with their cyber security fears. The outrage has inspired #deletefacebook to trend on Twitter (although with minimal follow through) and Zuckerberg is set to testify in front of Congress about the scandal. This probably isn’t the end of Facebook, but it’s definitely got a lot of users thinking twice about how they interact with the platform.
2. Snap Has an Even Worse MonthLast month we reported that Snap was having a rocky month between a new design that customers hated and a negative tweet from Kylie Jenner. Well soon after that things went from bad to worse when the platform approved an offensive ad that made a callous joke about Chris Brown’s famous domestic abuse offense against Rihanna.
Is it just me, or is this ad that popped up on my Snapchat extremely tone deaf? Like what were they thinking with this? pic.twitter.com/7kP9RHcgNG— Royce Mann (@TheRoyceMann) March 12, 2018
3. Hackers Disrupt Atlanta’s City GovernmentThe city of Atlanta had to halt a number of city services and operations last month due to a ransomware attack made by hackers. The hackers demanded a ransom of $51,000 in bitcoin to remove the threat to the city’s digital systems. Atlanta has managed to regain some of its systems, but the attack is a reminder of how much power someone with hacking skills can have over the functions of government.
4. Zscaler, Dropbox, Spotify, and DocuSign Go PublicIt’s a big month for tech IPOs.
- To start, Zscaler, the cloud security company had a strong start when it went public last month, making $192 million and watching stocks go up 75% on the first day of trading.
- Dropbox followed suit with a similarly strong offering, going up 49% in its first two days on the market.
- Just a couple of days ago , Spotify launched their IPO, which put their initial valuation at $29.5 billion.
- And sorry, you won’t get time to catch your breath, because DocuSign has also just filed for IPO with the goal of going public later this month.
5. Self-Driving Vehicles Forced to Slow DownUsually the talk around self-driving cars is excited and often brings a feeling of rushing – the companies behind them, the people working on them, and the consumers that want them all seem to be in a hurry for the tech to be ready and available. But last month, a woman was hit and killed by a self-driving Uber, forcing the company to take a step back and slow things down for a bit. The company pulled all its self-driving vehicles from public roads for the time being while they investigate the cause of the crash.
6. Cryptocurrency ControversiesThe city of Plattsburgh, NY made news last month by banning cryptomining. The practice, a way of gaining bitcoin, uses up a considerable amount of electricity and was taxing the city’s electric system. Because the city was using more than it was able to produce and had to buy electricity from outside sources, residents were stuck with much higher electric bills than usual. In response, the city government went ahead and banned the practice altogether. On top of that, Twitter joins a number of other social media networks in banning all ads for cryptocurrency. The move is a way to try to reduce fraud on the site, especially as “crypto twitter” is known for being generally shady. Even with these minor setbacks, bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies remain a notable part of our modern economy.
7. MyFitnessPal App HackedThe data breach of the month (at least so far) is MyFitnessPal. The app, owned by Under Armour, was hacked, compromising 150 million profiles. They’ve alerted their members and are requiring everyone that uses the app to change their password. It seems like every month brings at least one new data breach. It’s a good reminder to keep your passwords secure and change them periodically for better protection.
8. U.S. Considers Requiring Social Media Info for All Visa ApplicantsThe U.S. state department has announced a desire to begin requiring all visa applicants to the country to provide details of their social media accounts. If the department moves forward with this plan, nearly 15 million people will be required to provide this information as part of their application – a requirement many feel is a serious invasion of their privacy. While the administration claims this requirement is a way to combat terrorism, many are skeptical that it would make a meaningful difference while also concerned that it oversteps reasonable boundaries of privacy. Before a final decision is made, the public has a couple of months to provide comments on the proposal.
9. Collision ConferenceMeeting from April 30-May 3 in New Orleans, the Collision Conference brings together over 25,000 attendees to network, view tech exhibits, and discuss and learn about topics ranging from AI to cryptocurrency to brand activism. For anyone looking for a good opportunity to learn more and meet like minds, it’s the best tech conference this month to consider.
Happy April!Like most months, April is a busy one for the tech world. Check back next month to see what tech trends to look forward to in May.
Tuesday, April 3, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
Review This Checklist Before Choosing Your New Web Hosting ProviderWhether you’re launching a new website or thinking about switching to a new plan for the one you already have, browsing web hosting packages can be overwhelming. There are so many different types of packages and features (like security add-ons and site builders) that it can be hard to truly understand what makes them all different and pinpoint which one makes the most sense for you. To help you navigate the process of choosing a web hosting provider, we’ve compiled a list of the main questions you should ask and things you need to know.
10 Questions to Ask to Understand Your NeedsBefore we get into the specifics of what different web hosting packages offer, you should take some time to define your particular needs. 1. How big is my website? Websites can vary from a few simple pages to huge sites with hundreds of pages and a complicated infrastructure to keep it all organized. Larger, more complicated websites will have different hosting needs than smaller, simpler ones. Think carefully about how large and involved your website is now, and what reasonable expectations you have for growth in the coming years. 2. How secure does it need to be? You don’t want to get hacked; so all websites will need some security. But any website that collects information from visitors needs to be extra secure, especially if you plan to make sales through the site. If customers will be trusting you with credit card information, you need to earn that trust by making sure your website provides adequate security. 3. Will I be selling products through the website? An e-commerce website needs to include the functionality for people to select products and make purchases. If achieving sales will be a goal of your website, then look for a web hosting provider that provides the right level of functionality and security to accomplish that, and that’s compatible with the e-commerce software you intend to use. 4. How much traffic do I expect to get? While guessing at potential traffic isn’t an exact science, you can probably make some informed assumptions. If you’re building an entirely new website, then you should expect to only get a little bit of traffic early on, unless you have a sizeable brand reputation already. If you have an already existing website, then you can look at your analytics so far to make an educated guess at what to expect moving forward. 5. How fast do I want it to load? Visitors expect websites to load fast. If they have to wait to see what you have to offer, they probably won’t bother. For that reason, you’ll want web hosting that enables your website to work quickly. Larger websites that receive more traffic will need a different level of hosting power to provide that than new websites with a limited audience. 6. How experienced am I at running a website? Are you figuring it out as you go along, or have you been building and running websites for years? If you’ll need a lot of help and handholding, then a web hosting company with strong customer support and beginner’s resources will be worth it. If you know the ropes already, then you may want to prioritize factors like software compatibility, customization options, and scalability over ease of use and support. 7. Will I be hiring a designer or putting it together myself? If you’re throwing together a basic site on your own, then you’ll be glad to have access to templates or a website builder to make the process easier. If you’ll be hiring a professional designer to put the website together for you, then you’ll want to check with them about any compatibility issues to be aware of when choosing your web hosting platform. 8. Will I have a blog? If your website will include a blog, or primarily consist of a blog, then you’ll want to consider which blogging platform you want to go with and make sure your hosting package is well suited to work with it. 9. How much customization do I want? With many more affordable shared plans, there are some limitations on what you can do with your website. For most website owners, it won’t be anything that affects what you want to be able to create and accomplish, but for some who want to be able to do website development entirely on their own terms (and have the skills to do so), considering VPS plans or a dedicated server will make that possible. 10. Will I need more than one domain? A lot of website owners have an array of business or website ideas they want to explore at some point. If that sounds like you, then getting a web hosting plan that covers more than one domain will pay off. In addition, if you want to make sure your register all the domains someone looking for your brand name might try (so you can direct them all back to your website), you’ll need a plan that allows multiple parked domains (all HostGator Baby and Business plans come with unlimited domains, by the way).
5 Things Any Web Hosting Plan You Consider Should OfferNo matter what your unique needs are, there are five things every website owner should insist on in a web hosting package. 1. A reliable server You want to know with confidence that anytime someone tries to navigate to your website, they’ll see the site you designed. Otherwise, what are you paying for? Good web hosting providers promise high levels of uptime (the amount of time your website is live). If a provider you’re considering doesn’t promise at least 99% uptime, then you’ll be better off looking elsewhere. Note: All HostGator plans provide 99.9% uptime – even independent reviewers have confirmed how consistent the performance is. If you want to make sure people see your site every time they go looking for it, our plans are worth a look. 2. Compatibility with your web design needs Whether you need an easy way to design a website yourself, or your developer is pushing for something that works with WordPress, PHP, Ruby on Rails, or some other specific website software, your web hosting package needs to work with what you’re using. 3. Ability to handle the amount of traffic you receive For most new websites, this part isn’t hard – it takes some time to build up traffic and shared hosting accounts can manage in the realm of 30,000-40,000 monthly visitors without much issue. But if you anticipate more traffic than that, you’ll need to consider splurging for a higher-level plan that can accommodate those higher numbers. 4. Cost you can afford You can only invest in what you can afford. Have a general idea of your budget going into your search. Shared hosting plans are good enough for a lot of website needs and are typically very affordable – just a few bucks a month. More expensive plans offer more features, more customization options, or better bandwidth and speed for higher levels of traffic. There’s no need to pay for all that if you don’t need it, but if you do, the extra cost will be worth it. You can keep an eye out for good signup deals, but make sure you know what the ongoing costs will be. You must be able to afford the monthly or yearly fee once the signup deal has worn off. 5. Quality, accessible customer service Whether you’re a newbie who could use the help of a human to walk you through the basic processes of setting up your website or you’re a veteran web designer who just needs to be able to get someone on the phone immediately when there’s a problem, you want to know the customer support will be there when you need it. No matter the type of website you launch or hosting package you go with, research the reputation the provider has for customer service.
Match Your Needs to Your OptionsNow that you’ve identified some of the main things you should look for in a web hosting package, here’s a basic rundown of some of your main options to help you match what you need to what’s out there.
The Different Types of Hosting[caption id="attachment_17043" align="alignright" width="193"] Want to share our web hosting infographic? Click to enlarge.[/caption] You can get a more detailed explanation of how different web hosting plans work here, but here are the main categories to be aware of and who they’re usually for. Shared Hosting Shared hosting is the best option for new website owners that are just starting out. If you want an easy, affordable plan that will work for a smaller website with moderate traffic, shared hosting will do the trick. And if you choose a web hosting provider that offers some of the other types of plans on the list, upgrading down the line if or when your website grows will be easy. Cloud Hosting Cloud hosting is another affordable option, but one that offers impressive speed. If you want to be extra sure that people who visit your site will see fast load times – particularly if you have a lot on your site that could slow the load time, like high res images or videos – then this is a good option. The main reason to go with cloud hosting is for affordable speed, but it also offers easier maintenance and better response to sudden spikes in traffic. VPS Hosting For websites that are getting bigger and growing their visitor numbers, VPS hosting is a step up from shared hosting in terms of the amount of traffic and storage it can handle. You’re not sharing a server with as many other websites, so your website can take advantage of a bigger share of the bandwidth. And for web developers looking for more customization options, VPS puts those possibilities into your hands. WordPress Hosting Many websites that include blogs are built on WordPress, as the platform is designed specifically for blogging and has an intuitive back-end that makes it easy for website owners of all skill levels to make changes. For any website built on WordPress, a managed WordPress hosting plan can supply you with all the features you need for your website to run smoothly. Dedicated Server For websites that anticipate having lots of traffic and needing a significant amount of storage space, your safest bet is to go with a dedicated server. This option ensures your website will keep going strong no matter how many unique visitors you get or how many gigabytes of storage you load to the site. It also allows for any customization options your developer could need. It does cost the most, but it also offers the most.
Additional Features To ConsiderDeciding on the type of hosting you need is a big step, but there are a number of additional features to consider based on the needs you defined:
- Website builder – Some web hosting packages either include a website builder as part of the package, or as an extra add-on you can buy. If you’re building your first website and want to save money on hiring a designer, this offers an easy way to do it yourself without having to learn to code.
- E-commerce features – If you’ll be selling products on your website, then you’ll need the functionality to allow people to add items to a shopping cart, check out, and ensure the whole process is secure. You need a web hosting platform that offers e-commerce features or is compatible with e-commerce software that does.
- Software compatibility – In general, you need to make sure that any web hosting package you consider will be compatible with the software you’ll be using for web design and e-commerce.
- SSL – E-commerce websites or any other type of site that will collect personal information from visitors should have SSL for protection. This feature encrypts all sensitive information you share through your website. It comes with many web hosting packages and can be bought as an add-on for many others.
- Easy migration – If you’re moving your website from one provider to another, you want the process to be simple. Web hosting providers that make the migration process easy and offer any support you need to get it done will make your life easier.
- Tutorials and other educational materials – If you’re new to running a website, access to educational resources will make a big difference to finding your way around the process. Many web hosting platforms will offer helpful tutorials and articles as well as customer support to help you get set up.
- Easy to use control panel – While those resources are good to have, not needing them is even better. An intuitive control panel can cut down on how much you need to learn in order to work with your website effectively.
- Site backup – Nobody wants to lose everything they’ve worked on in a moment. Just like you backup your work, you should backup your website. Some web hosting packages include automatic backups so you never have to worry about losing everything. Others let you purchase automatic backup services on top of the cost of your plan. This option can give you peace of mind and save you in a pinch.
ConclusionThere’s a lot to consider when choosing your web hosting plan. Knowing the basics of what to look for will make your selection easier. If you could still use more information to help you make a decision, our hosting experts are on hand to answer any questions.
Thursday, March 22, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
Take a Deeper Dive into Search Engine OptimizationWhat’s the point in having a website nobody can find? If you want people to actually see the website you’ve put so much work into, SEO’s an important part of getting it in front of them. But you probably already knew that much. You’re not a total newbie. If you’ve had a website for any length of time and have done at least basic research on online marketing, you’ve probably read enough to have the SEO basics covered (especially if you read our first ebook on the ABCs of SEO). But in learning all the SEO 101 stuff, you also figured out that SEO is competitive and you’ve got more to learn. That’s where our advanced ebook on SEO 2.0: Advanced SEO Tips for Non-Beginners comes in. In this ebook, you’ll learn all about important ranking factors to be aware of and online marketing techniques that will make your SEO efforts stronger. To give you a taste of what to look forward to in the ebook, here’s a sampling of what you’ll get if you download.
1. A Top SEO Ranking Factor and How to Achieve ItWhile Google keeps a lot of secrets about how its algorithm works, there are bits and pieces of information they’ve shared publicly to help website owners out. Our ebook will get into one of the most important ranking factors Google has admitted to, why it matters as much as it does, and specific steps that website owners can take to make sure their websites perform well in this area. And a lot of the steps you can take for this one are relatively easy. Most of them can be done within a day. What ranking factor is it? Well, you’ll just have to download the ebook to find out, won’t you?
2. How to Make Your Site More Intuitive to Users, While Also Improving SEOA lot of the best practices for good SEO double as best practices that improve your visitors’ user experience. The second chapter of our ebook on advanced SEO practices dives into an important topic that’s all about making sure your website is easy for visitors to find their way around on – while also providing the search engines the information they need to understand what each page on your website is all about. Does that sound vague? Intentionally so! Trust us that this is an important part of the equation for SEO and something that will make your website both easier to manage in the long haul and more useful to your visitors.
3. The Most Important Ongoing Strategy for SEO ResultsTo be fair here, different people have different arguments about what the most important strategy for SEO is, but we’ve got a pretty clear idea of where our vote goes and it’s the tactic Chapter 3 is all about. This chapter will make a case for why this type of strategy is so important and provide helpful details on everything you need to do to get started on this path, and what you need to do to keep up with it and get the most out of it over time. At this point, you know we’re not going to give away what that strategy is here in the post. You’ll have to check out the full ebook for that.
4. What the SERPs Can Tell You About Your SEO StrategyAnd finally, the last chapter of the ebook will look at what’s going on in the SERPs (search engine results pages) and why that matters for your overall SEO strategy. You’ll learn detailed steps for doing useful SERP research, understanding what you see there, and using what you find to your advantage to be more competitive in your SEO efforts. Even though this SEO ebook goes deeper in advanced SEO best practices, we’re still providing it to our followers entirely free. Click here for important insights and useful tips to strengthen your SEO strategy. Your website will be better for it.