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  • 7 Ways to Speed Up Your Website

    Sunday, January 8, 2017 by

    How to speed up your website

    There’s no doubt about it – website speed matters now more than ever before!

    As average internet connection speeds increase around the world, web users are becoming less and less tolerant of slow load times.  At the same time, Google has stated unequivocally that it prefers to reward fast sites with higher positions in the natural search results.

    To take advantage of these dual benefits, you need to make site speed a priority on your site.  Any of the following seven tips will help to get you started on this important path.

    Test your HostGator server upload/download speed here! Recommended WordPress Hosting  

    Tip #1 – Size images before uploading them

    If you use a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla, you’ve probably noticed that you can upload images at full size and then adjust their display size within your website’s backend.   However, doing so forces web browsers to execute multiple commands – pulling up the initial images and then re-sizing them on the fly – which can slow down your site. To prevent this from occurring, use an image-editing program to adjust images to the correct size before adding them to your site. Most of us will have access to a simple tool like Preview (on Mac), or even Microsoft Paint (on Windows). With these programs all you have to do is open up the image and re-size it in your editor of choice. Once you’ve done this you can take your image editing to the next level with a compression tool. Even after re-sizing each image the total file size might be pretty large and this will slow down your site’s loading speed. One of the best tools available is an online tool called TinyPNG. All you have to do is click the link, upload your re-sized image and this tool will reduce the file size without reducing the resolution. TinyPNG image compression Then, all you have to do is download the image and upload it to your site. With this tool your images will look exactly the same and will load much faster.    

    Tip #2 – Eliminate unnecessary plugins

    The huge number of plugins and scripts that are freely available today makes it tempting for website owners to add more than they truly need. Keep in mind, every plugin you add requires resources to run – and more resources mean a slower site. Before adding any new plugins to your site, ask yourself if the functionality you gain is worth the trade-off in site speed, or whether the plugin’s content could be coded into your site’s theme instead. If you notice your site is running slowly, or you believe it could be running much more effectively, perform a plugin run-through. This involves you disabling every plugin on your site, one by one. After you disable a plugin, run your site through a tool like GT Metrix. This will show you the speed of your website. Google Page Speed If you find that the speed of your site greatly increases after deactivating a plugin, then you’ve found your culprit. If you absolutely require that specific plugin’s functionality for your site to work, then experiment until you find another plugin that doesn’t affect the speed of your site. Plus, getting rid of plugins can prevent plugin conflicts that arise when you have too many active plugins at once. The more plugins your site has active at any given time, then more likely their code may conflict and cause them to not work properly.  

    Tip #3 – Make sure your site’s scripts are up-to-date

    Depending on the CMS or e-commerce platform your site uses, you may need to check back regularly to determine whether new releases of your site’s scripts are available.   If they are, upgrade your site as soon as possible (making sure that you have a current backup file in place first).  Site script developers are always working on improving their code for future releases, particularly when it comes to site speed.  Updating your scripts to the latest versions could go a long way towards eliminating coded roadblocks that prevent your site from loading quickly. Now, remembering to check-in and update your website can be tough. After all, you have so much stuff on your plate already. Lucky for you this isn’t something you have to do on a daily basis. Often, once a month is enough to do a simple run-though of your site and install any updates that might be available. If your site runs on WordPress, then you’ll find these updates within the Updates tab of your WordPress dashboard. Just one click and your site will install the latest software updates. No need for anything else on your end. WordPress Updates Set a recurring event on your calendar and set aside an hour every single month. Usually, it’ll take much less time than this, but it’s important to build the habit of always ensuring your site and plugins are running the latest version. Plus, having all of your software up to date will help to patch up any holes that could lead to your site being hacked.  

    Tip #4 – Make use of CDNs

    Content Delivery Networks, or CDNs, are vast networks of servers that are housed around the world. Typically, if you’re not using a CDN, then your users will have to access your web host’s server at its central location. This can lead to slow site speeds, especially if your visitors are located far away from the central location of your server. Additionally, if you’re just using a single server, there’s a chance it could get overloaded and cause your site to crash. CDN’s solve both of these problems by letting your users access a cached version of your site from the web host that’s closest to them. Better yet, if one of your server locations is overloaded, then they can be switched to a new server location. The result? Faster load times that will make your customers and the search engines happy. To get started, look into the CDN services offered by SiteLock TrueSpeedMaxCDN, or Cloudflare.  

    Tip #5 – Enable browser caching

    Browser caching is a technology that allows a website visitor’s browser to store copies of your site’s individual pages so that, when the visitor returns in the future, the content can be called up from within the cache rather than reloading the entire page. This saves the number of resources used to display your pages, resulting in faster overall load times for your visitor. The easiest way to enable browser caching is with a plugin like WordPress W3 Total Cache. To install this plugin on your WordPress site, follow the steps below:
    1. Navigate to your site’s Dashboard, then Plugins>Add New, and search for W3 Total Cache. Click Install, then Activate.
    1. Once the plugin is activated, navigated to the new Performance tab at the top or lefthand side. This is where you’ll control all of the features of the plugin.WordPress Dashboard W3 Total Cache Performance
    1. There are a ton of features that you can turn on or off with this plugin. If you want to fully configure this plugin, then check out this post by WPMU DEV.
    Alternatively, talk to your web developer about ways to integrate browser caching into your server-side scripting.   

    Tip #6 – Turn on Gzip compression

    Gzip compression is a technology that minimizes the size of browser-based HTTP responses – sometimes by as much as 70%.  If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry. Long story short, using Gzip compression can speed up your site’s load times significantly. There are three ways to turn on Gzip compression on your site.  You can: 1. Add the following code to your site’s .htaccess file:
    # compress text, html, javascript, css, xml: AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript
     
    # Or, compress certain file types by extension:
     
    <files *.html> SetOutputFilter DEFLATE </files>
     
    2. Add the following code to the top of your HTML or PHP page:
     <?php if (substr_count($_SERVER['HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING'], 'gzip')) ob_start("ob_gzhandler"); else ob_start(); ?>
     
    3. Install a Gzip compression plugin like the W3 Total Cache tool for Wordpress (just keep in mind what we said earlier about installing too many unnecessary plugins!). HostGator Website Builder  

    Tip #7 – Keep CSS files at the top of your page and Javascript code at the bottom

    Finally, keep your site’s code neat and tidy by adding CSS files to the top of your page’s code and Javascript snippets to the bottom when working with raw HTML pages.   Adding your CSS files to the top of the page prohibits progressive rendering, saving resources that web browsers would otherwise use to load and redraw elements of your pages.  Adding Javascript to the bottom prevents your pages from waiting on full code execution before loading – leading to a faster browsing experience for your visitors. Although these are only a few of the different techniques that can be used to speed up your site, they’re some of the easiest to implement.  This list is a great place to start if you notice your site slowing down.   Having said all of the above, sometimes a slow site is simply caused by inadequate hosting. With HostGator, your site will be served from industry-standard technology and backed by 24/7/365 award-winning technical support via email, telephone, and LiveChat. We make it painless to transfer and are happy to assist every step of the way.

    Get Started With HostGator!

  • 7 SEO Tips for New Bloggers

    Tuesday, January 3, 2017 by
    SEO Tips for New Bloggers When you’re just starting to blog you’re going to have a lot on your plate. Beyond learning how to write for the web and mastering the technical side of posting, you probably have one large question floating around your head. How am I going to get traffic to my blog? You’ve probably already come across dozens of methods to get traffic back to your website. One of the most tried and true methods for sustainable long-term traffic is SEO. But, when it comes to SEO there are a few things you’ll need to get right from the get go. Below we offer seven of our best SEO tips for new bloggers, so you can make sure you’re laying the right foundation for future rankings. Create Your Blog  

    1. Get Your Titles Right

    Your titles are more important than you might think. Your titles matter a lot when it comes to your rankings. For starters, you should try to include your target keyword in your title, if possible. Second, your title will determine if people are actually going to open and read your posts. People will only share and read titles that are intriguing, so make sure your titles are interesting and relevant. Unsure of how to create epic titles for your blog posts? Then make sure you check out this post from HubSpot.  

    2. Do Keyword Research First

    Before you begin writing you should have a solid understanding of the keywords you’re going to rank for. At the very least, understanding which search engine keywords your market is based around will point you in the right direction towards creating useful content. It will also help get you traffic, as having a keyword focus for each post, and optimizing that keyword properly will increase the chances of your post ranking.  

    3. Quality Matters

    One of the biggest elements to focus on should be the quality of your post. In the old days of blogging and SEO you could throw up a crappy, keyword-stuffed post, and the thing would rank. Today search engines are much smarter than that. They want to rank high-quality content as it provides more value to their users - the people who use search engines like Google and Bing to find answers to their questions. Plus, people are more likely to share high-quality content, and other bloggers are more likely to link to it. The quality of your post is directly related to how valuable others find it.  

    4. Know the Power of Linking

    Onsite SEO is just as important as offsite SEO. One great onsite SEO strategy is interlinking all of your content together. Go to Wikipedia to see a site that’s done this effectively. Every single article on their site links out to other content they’ve written dozens of times, at least. Interlinking your content makes it easier for the search engine robots to crawl your site; it helps to disperse link juice throughout your site, and provides more value to your readers.  

    5. Consider Using a Plugin

    There are a lot of technical elements you need to get right when it comes to optimizing your blog posts. Instead of trying to do all of these things yourself it can be effective to utilize a plugin like Yoast SEO. This is one of the most commonly used SEO plugins for WordPress, and for good reason. This plugin will help you optimize every single post on your site for SEO, while educating you about the basics of SEO in the process.  

    6. Focus on Readers Over Robots

    Your biggest focus as a blogger should be making your readers happy. By focusing on user experience you’ll improve certain metrics across your site that are good for SEO. For instance, if one of your posts has a low bounce rate and an increased site dwell time (how long a user stays on your site), Google will mark this piece of content as very high-value and it’ll rank much higher. You can watch these metrics using Google Analytics Delight your readers and see your rankings improve.  

    7. Know Your Network

    Chances are there’s already a network of existing blogs that serving your space. It’s in your best interest to become very familiar with these blogs and network with those who run them. If you continue to produce stellar content, link to them on a regular basis, and share their content across social media, you’ll start to build up a reputation. Often, just a single share or link from these massive sites can do a lot for your traffic levels and rankings. SEO is constantly evolving, but by implementing the practices above, you’ll set yourself and your site up for success in the long run. Having a long-term focus will always be beneficial when it comes to SEO.   Any beginner SEO tips we failed to mention above? Share your favorites in the comments below.
  • What is VPS Hosting?

    Thursday, December 29, 2016 by
    What Is VPS Hosting VPS web hosting is a relatively new form of web hosting that has grown in popularity over recent years. The hosting you choose can make or break your website. There are several different styles of hosting. Which one is best for you will depend upon the needs of your site. Below we dive into VPS hosting, what kind of person uses this style of hosting, and the drawbacks of using a VPS compared to other kinds of hosting. If you’re confused about VPS hosting, then this post should help you get on handle on it!  

    What is VPS Hosting?

    VPS stands for virtual personal server. A physical server is housed in a data center, the location of which depends upon the hosting provider you’re using. A VPS is a portioned part of one of these servers that contains it’s own operating system, bandwidth, and disc space. These physical servers will generally be divided into multiple different VPS, dedicated, or shared servers. A VPS will be used like a dedicated server, and can be customized to the liking of the user. Most shared servers come with an existing hosting environment and certain settings already built-in. A VPS acts like a dedicated server without the cost of having a dedicated server. Plus, they can be customized to your liking, if you have the technical chops. [bctt tweet="Benefits of #VPSHosting: A VPS acts like a dedicated server without the cost of a dedicated server." username="hostgator"]  

    The Pros of VPS Hosting

    Whenever you’re trying to determine the best hosting option for your needs it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each service. Here are some of the most common benefits of a virtual personal server.
    • They are less expensive than a full-fledged dedicated server.
    • They can be customized to your liking and you only pay for what you need.
    • You have a lot more control over your hosting environment.
    • A VPS can grow with your website as its server needs increase.
    • Generally, the support staff are very helpful and can help solve complex technical issues.
     

    The Cons of VPS Hosting

    Of course, a virtual private server isn’t perfect. Just like any kind of hosting environment, there will only be the best hosting for your existing needs. Probably the biggest drawback of VPS hosting is the cost. It’s usually more expensive than shared hosting and does require a lot more knowledge and work on your end. So, if your website isn’t profitable yet, then you might be better off starting with a cheaper hosting package. Also, since the existing market for virtual personal servers is smaller there’s a chance the host you’re using won’t correctly allocate the server resources you need. Think of it similar to airlines, which tend to overbook the airplane, banking on the fact that some people won’t show up. Of course, this leads to people getting booted and having to reschedule their flights. Some server companies oversell their servers, hoping that every site currently using their server won’t have a peak traffic day. When choosing a VPS host, just make sure you choose wisely and do your research.  

    Who Uses This Kind of Hosting?

    Shared hosting is generally for more basic websites. As your needs and traffic levels increase you’ll usually want to upgrade to another style of hosting environment. People generally switch to a VPS hosting environment, because they want more customization and control options. Sometimes website owners will end up using the same settings that they were using with a shared host, but they enjoy having more control over their hosting environment. A VPS is also less technically heavy than a dedicated server, and can be a great bridge into an eventual dedicated hosting setup.   Hopefully we’ve cleared up some of your questions in regards to virtual private servers. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask away in the comments below.
  • 5 Steps To Start Your Fitness Blog

    Tuesday, December 27, 2016 by
    Start Your Fitness Blog If you’re here, then I’m guessing you have a passion for health and fitness and you’d like to share that with the world. Luckily for you that’s exactly what this blog post is about. With the new year upon us, it's the perfect time to launch your blog, as people are looking for help to improve their fitness more than ever. There are hundreds of blogs started every single day, so it’s important you do a lot more than just start a blog without a plan of attack. As a lover of health and fitness you’re probably extremely familiar with plans of all kinds. So, our blog launch plan below shouldn’t be too much of a stretch. Below we outline the steps you need to follow if you’d like to start your very own fitness blog. Create Your Blog  

    1. Understand Your Niche

    As much as you’d like it to be true, not every person in the world is going to read, or even enjoy, your blog. Your blog should be focused on a very specific group of people. This might seem limiting, but the internet has truly made even the smallest niches extremely profitable. Plus, the smaller your niche in the beginning the easier it’ll be for you to build authority, which then stays with you as you expand out into other areas of the fitness landscape. For example, do you create fitness routines for women who’ve just had their first child? Or maybe you specialize in bodyweight fitness for those sick of the gym? For example, take a look at the successful Fit Found Me blog run by HostGator customer Stephanie Miller. She creates motivational content for women over 40.Fitness blog niche Remember, the niche you start in doesn’t always have to be the niche you finish in either. Your blog will evolve over time, just like you do.    

    2. Choose Your Domain and Platform

    When choosing your domain name it can be helpful to think of something brandable. However, you want to make sure the domain name you choose isn’t incredibly trendy, or could become outdated rather quickly. Some fitness professionals choose to use their own names and build a brand around that. While, others choose a brandable domain that speaks to their target market, such as Nerd Fitness. After you’ve settled on your domain name it’s time to decide what platform you’ll rely on to build your blog. There are literally dozens of choices, but one of the best platforms available for blogging is WordPress. It’s free and there are hundreds of fitness-related themes you’ll be able to use that you can customize to your liking.  

    3. Plan Your Launch

    It’s important not to over-plan. Often, pulling the trigger is more important that spending too much time planning out your blog and never launching it. You know what they say... started is half done. You learn more in the day-to-day trenches of blogging than you do just sitting back and thinking about it. To plan your launch effectively we recommend setting a date a month into the future. That’ll give you enough time to create a catalog of blog posts, so you can deliver a steady stream of content while you focus on other aspects of your launch. Remember, your website doesn’t have to be perfect in the beginning either. Often, the simplest websites convert and perform the best. Pick a theme that you love, customize to your liking, and forget about it. HostGator customer Ashley Pitt is the fitness blogger behind A Lady Goes West. Her website combines a simple and clean design with a pop of color to give it a bit of personality. Fitness blog inspiration   

    4. Launch With a Bang

    Your launch is your chance to let the world know you exist. You only have one chance to launch, so you might as well give it your all. If you’re starting completely from scratch one of the best ways to build an audience is to tap into existing audiences that already overlap with your own. Chances are there are a ton of existing fitness blogs that will love what you’re writing about. All you have to do is find them and pitch them a guest post with a call-to-action back to your website. Combine this with the existing content already being published on your blog and you can bet that some of those readers will become fans of your work. It’s important to queue these guest posts up in advance, so they can all go live around the same time as your launch. This will make it appear as if you’re everywhere online and give off the aura of authority.  

    5. Focus on Your Content Strengths

    As you grow your platform one thing you’ll want to focus on is traffic. After all, what’s the point of blogging if no one is going to read what you’re writing? We focused on guest blogging above as a great way to build initial relationships with readers in your niche. But, there are still multiple ways for you to reach your ideal market. For instance, if you’ve discovered that guest blogging and writing isn’t quite your thing, you could try video blogging instead. Or take pictures and create tutorials for the various workouts you’ve created. Share these on Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. #FitnessBlogger Decide what you like best and where your strengths lie. Then create content that’s in alignment with that. We hope the steps above will be enough to help you get your fitness blog started on the right path.   Any questions about getting your fitness blog started? Feel free to reach out in the comments below.
  • Is Cloud Hosting Better Than Shared Hosting?

    Tuesday, December 20, 2016 by
    Cloud hosting vs shared hosting To have a site live on the Internet you’re going to need hosting. But, how do you choose the right kind of hosting for your business? Web hosting can be complex and there are a lot of options. It’s easy to get lost, so don’t feel bad if you’re confused at the starting point. Below we dive into the differences between cloud hosting and shared hosting. These are two of the most common hosting choices. Remember, there is no right choice for everyone; the right type for you depends upon the needs of your site. Let’s jump in!  

    What is shared hosting?

    Shared hosting is the cheapest, most popular and most widely available type of hosting. You’ll usually see it advertised for $9.99 or less a month. With shared hosting a single server is divided up between multiple users. Each user will get a shared amount of bandwidth. However, each user can also put an unlimited amount of sites on their account. So the server that’s being spilt up between multiple accounts can sometimes end up hosting thousands of sites! This means that your site could perform poorly if another site on the server is taking up too many resources. However, web hosts usually do their best to mitigate these effects. Shared hosting can be a great choice for those with a very tight budget or for people who are planning on keeping their sites very small.  

    What is cloud hosting?

    Cloud hosting, or cloud VPS hosting, allows you to use the resources of multiple servers, rather than having your site confined to a single server location. This allows for unlimited expansion and is a must-have for heavy traffic sites. Cloud hosting also allows for greater protection from an overwhelmed server. If one server is overwhelmed, you’ll simply be switched to another server.   

    Which one should you choose?

    Cloud hosting is widely seen as a better option to shared hosting because of its ability to handle large amounts of traffic, its improved security protection, and its reliability. However, these extras do come at a cost, and most cloud hosting options are much more expensive than shared hosting plans. But if you’re planning on growing your site and you need a site with a high performance rate, then cloud hosting will probably be the best option for your needs. That being said, if you’re just getting started and have a very small or nonexistent budget, then you could get by with a shared hosting plan until you have the cash to upgrade. What hosting plan do you have? Let us know in the comments below.