The post HostGator vs Bluehost appeared first on HostGator Blog.
One of the first and most important decisions you have to make when starting a website is which hosting provider to go with. And we get it, there are a lot! How are you supposed to determine which one is the best?
For individuals and small businesses, there are a few main hosting providers associated with the kind of affordable, simple web hosting services that make the most sense. To help you understand how your options stack up against one another, this is one part of an ongoing series on how the top small business web hosting providers compare.
In this installment, we look at: HostGator vs Bluehost. Here’s how they’re different in a few of the main categories that matter most to new website owners.
HostGator vs Bluehost on Hosting Plan Options
Every web hosting provider offers an array of different plan types. Understanding what your plan options are is important to making sure you get as much web hosting space and bandwidth as you need, without overpaying for more than your website requires.
Knowing the different options included under one provider is valuable, because your website needs may well grow in years to come. Upgrading to a new plan with your initial provider will be easier than switching to a new company at that point.
While there’s some overlap in the kinds of plans offered by HostGator and Bluehost, the list of options isn’t the same.
HostGator’s Web Hosting Plans
HostGator offers six different types of web hosting services, with three plan levels available for each. The categories included are:
Shared Web Hosting – For new website owners shared hosting services are usually the best place to start. HostGator offers three different plans at this level:Hatchling – The simplest, most affordable plan on the roster. The Hatchling is a good choice for new website owners with a limited budget and simple needs. Even so, it offers some of the most important basics, such as a free domain, SSL certificate, and unmetered bandwidth.Baby – Another simple, affordable shared web hosting plan. The baby plan is similar to the Hatchling, but allows for unlimited domains, instead of only one.Business – For small professional websites, the business plan provides the affordability of shared hosting, with the addition of key business features like a dedicated IP and a positive SSL.Cloud Web Hosting – Cloud hosting services allow for more flexibility and useful analytics to better manage your site. HostGator offers several cloud hosting options, that line up pretty similarly to their shared hosting options:Hatchling – For smaller, newer websites that want the flexibility of a cloud plan but don’t expect that much traffic, Hatchling plans come with 2GB memory, 2 cores CPU and the ability to support one domain. Baby – Baby is a step up from Hatchling to unlimited domains, 4 GB, and 4 cores CPU.Business – And business goes up to 6 GB and 6 cores CPU, and includes a positive SSL and dedicated IP. WordPress Hosting – Many of the world’s websites run on WordPress, and web hosting plans that specialize in WordPress ensure proper compatibility. HostGator has three levels of WordPress hosting plans:Starter – Supports one site and is good for up to 100k visits a month and 1GB backups.Standard – Supports up to two sites, 200k visits a month, and 2GB backups.Business – Steps it up to three sites, 500k visits a month, and 3 GB backup.VPS Hosting – Virtual private server (VPS) hosting is a step up from shared hosting. While you still only rent part of the web server your website is hosted on, you lay claim to a larger portion of it, and your section is partitioned off from the rest so your website is unaffected by other sites on the server. HostGator offers three VPS plans:Snappy 2000 – Comes with 2 GB RAM, 2 cores CPU, and 1.5 TB bandwidth. Snappy 4000 – Offers 4 GB RAM, 2 cores CPU, and 2 TB bandwidth.Snappy 8000 – Scales up to 8 GB RAM, 4 cores CPU, and 3 TB bandwidthDedicated Server Hosting – For bigger websites and those that expect high traffic numbers, dedicated hosting plans ensure you get all the space you need for your website. HostGator offers three levels of dedicated hosting plans:Value server – You get a server with 4 core, 8 thread, and 8 GB RAMPower server – This server has 8 core, 16 thread, and 16 GB RAMEnterprise server – The highest-level plan has a server with 8 core, 16 thread, and 30 GB RAMReseller Hosting – For businesses that intend to offer web hosting to their clients, HostGator also has three levels of plans for resellers:Aluminum – Comes with 60 GB of space and 600 GB bandwidthCopper – 90 GB space and 900 GB bandwidthSilver – 140 GB space and 1400 GB bandwidth
With so many options, HostGator’s plans will easily match the needs of most website owners. And they provide plenty of room to grow with you if your needs change in years to come.
Bluehost’s Web Hosting Plans
Bluehost offers plans in some of the same categories as HostGator, as well as a couple of others focused on different types of WordPress sites. Here’s a rundown of their plans:
Shared hosting – Bluehost also offers affordable shared hosting plans for smaller websites. They have four options at the shared plan level:Basic – Supports one website, one domain, and provides 5GB of storage spacePlus – Has no limit on the number of websites and domains and adds access to their SpamExperts featureChoice Plus – Offers everything the other shared plans have, plus domain privacy and backups Pro – Has everything in the other plans, plus a dedicated IP addressVPS hosting – Bluehost has three VPS plans:Standard – Includes 2 cores, 2 GB RAM, and 1 TB bandwidth Enhanced – Offers 2 cores, 4 GB RAM, and 2 TB bandwidthUltimate – Comes with 4 cores, 8 GB RAM, and 3 TB bandwidthDedicated hosting – Like HostGator, Bluehost also has three dedicated hosting plans:Standard – Offers 4 cores, 4 GB RAM, and 5 TB bandwidthEnhanced – Has 4 cores, 8 GB RAM, and 10 TB bandwidthPremium – 4 cores, 16 GB RAM, and 15 TB bandwidthShared WordPress hosting – Three of the categories of hosting Bluehost provides are focused on WordPress. Their first level of WordPress hosting is shared WordPress hosting, which they have three plans for:Basic – Supports one website and 50 GB of storagePlus – Supports unlimited websites with unmetered storageChoice Plus – Offers unlimited websites, unmetered storage, and adds in backupsManaged WordPress hosting – Their managed WordPress plans provide more resources for building and managing your WordPress site.Build – Comes with a basic Jetpack plan, marketing center, free WordPress themes, daily backups, virus detection, and domain privacy Grow – Comes with everything in Build, plus Jetpack premium, SEO tools, and 10 GB video compressionScale – Includes everything in the other managed plans, plus Jetpack Pro, unlimited backups, unlimited video compression, and chat supportWooCommerce hosting – For ecommerce websites built on WordPress using WooCommerce, Bluehost has three plan levels:Starter – Allows for one online store, 100 GB storage, and includes domain privacyPlus – Supports unlimited online stores, unmetered storage, and domain privacy and backupsPro – Offers everything Plus does, as well as SEO tools
Like HostGator, Bluehost has a lot of different plan options. But the types of plans and the features that are included differ.
HostGator vs Bluehost: How Do They Compare on Web Hosting Costs?
HostGator and Bluehost are both web hosting providers with a reputation for being affordable. For anyone starting a website on a budget, they both have a number of low-cost plans available. But for anyone with limited funds, seemingly small differences in price can make a big difference—especially for a recurring cost like web hosting.
The price of Bluehost and HostGator web hosting varies based on the type of plan you buy, and any extras you decide to invest in. While most of their pricing is pretty similar, there are enough differences for those who are especially price conscious to take note.
While you can find detailed pricing info for every plan type on each of the web hosting company’s websites, we’ve provided a comparison overview for the main plan types below.
A Simplified Comparison by Plan Type:
For shared website hosting plans:
HostGator’s pricing starts at $2.75 for the basic plan, and goes up to $5.95 for the business plan.Bluehost’s rates start at $3.95 and go up to $5.95.
For WordPress hosting plans:
HostGator’s WordPress plans start at $5.95 a month, and go up to $9.95.Bluehost’s WordPress hosting starts at $3.95 a month for a shared plan, and their fully managed plans go up to $49.95 a month.
For VPS web hosting plans:
HostGator’s VPS plans start at $29.95 a month and go up to $49.95 a month.Bluehost’s plans start at $19.99 a month and go up to $59.99 a month.
For dedicated hosting plans:
HostGator’s dedicated hosting starts at $119 a month and goes up to $149 a month.Bluehost’s dedicated hosting starts at $79.99 a month and goes up to $119 a month.
As you can see, there’s no pat answer to which of the two wins on price. It all depends on what you need and what plan you choose.
Both companies do have a money-back guarantee policy, so you can try them for a certain amount of time before fully committing. For Bluehost, it’s 30 days. With HostGator, you have 45.
HostGator vs Bluehost on Hosting Features and Extras
Both web hosts have a unique set of features they’ll include for some or all plans, and extras you can invest in as an add-on to your plan.
Common features for both:
Secure socket layer (SSL) certificate – Both companies include an SSL certificate in all of their plans. SSL certificates are how you get an https for your website, which adds an extra layer of encryption to protect your visitors, and signals to them that the site is secure.Domain name – Both companies have plans that include free domain name registration for the first year, as well as the option to register a domain through the company as an add-on to any plan that doesn’t include it, and the ability to manage it within your web hosting account.Control panel – All of the plans from both web hosts include access to a control panel (commonly called cPanel), which makes it easy to manage your web hosting account.Backups – Both companies offer automated backups, sometimes included as part of a plan, and sometimes as an add on for extra money. Domain privacy – Domain privacy hides your personal information from the public directory when you register your domain. Both companies offer it as an extra you can invest in, and some plans come with it included. Dedicated IP – With shared hosting, you’re on the same server as other companies, which means you share their IP address by default. A dedicated IP can ensure you don’t end up on email spam lists because of something another website on the server does. Both companies provide it as an add on, and in some cases as part of a plan. Advertising credits – Creating and publishing your website is just the start. To get people to visit, you’ll need to do marketing. Both companies offer free credits on advertising platforms such as Google Ads and Bing to help you get started. Marketing services – And because marketing is a lot of work, both HostGator and Bluehost provide marketing services to customers for an additional fee.
HostGator’s Features and Extras:
Website builder – Many of HostGator’s plans come with the basic version of their website builder included for free. The website builder includes over 100 templates and a drag-and-drop website editor, which makes it easy for anyone to use. Security software – Every day we hear about new data breaches and website hacks. HostGator also offers the security software CodeGuard as an easy add-on to their plans. Application hosting – HostGator’s web hosting is compatible with all the main applications website owners use, including Joomla, Drupal, and phpbb.
Bluehost’s Features and Extras:
SpamExperts – Some Bluehost plans include their SpamExperts web filter that catches most of the spam that hits your email inbox before you have to deal with it. For those that don’t include it, you can purchase it as an add on.Jetpack plans – Bluehost’s managed WordPress hosting plans come with different levels of Jetpack plans included with them, which provides additional security and management features. Marketing dashboard – Some Bluehost plans comes with a marketing dashboard to help you manage and track your marketing activities. WordPress themes – Bluehost’s managed WordPress plans come with a number of free themes you can use to make creating your WordPress site easier.
To find the right web hosting plan and provider for you, consider which features are most important to you. In some cases, you’ll save money by going with a plan that includes the main features you need, rather than having to purchase them separately.
HostGator vs Bluehost on Customer Service
Both companies offer 24/7 customer service. The moment you need help with your web hosting, you should have little problem getting ahold of someone with either provider. That said, the places you have to turn for help are slightly different with the two providers.
Bluehost provides a phone number, live chat, and the option to open a customer support ticket. For those who prefer a self-service option, they also have a knowledge base with many support resources you can turn to.
HostGator also offers phone and live chat support to reach someone quickly. In addition, they have customer support portals and video tutorials to provide self-service. And they offer a forum that allows HostGator customers to help each other, so you can lean on the expertise of hundreds of other website owners.
HostGator vs Bluehost on Uptime
If you look at the tests performed by third-party websites, HostGator and Bluehost both have strong reputations when it comes to uptime. But HostGator tends to have an edge in the results. On Down.com for example, HostGator’s uptime was gauged at 99.97%, with Bluehost at 99.94%. Neither provide much room for complaint, but HostGator’s performance is a bit above Bluehost’s.
HostGator is also notably the only one of the two to provide a money-back uptime guarantee. If your website falls below the 99.9% uptime promised, they’ll credit your account. If uptime is a particular priority for you, HostGator’s the better choice.
HostGator vs Bluehost on Reputation
As someone new to running a website and navigating the world of web hosting, it’s hard to know where to start learning a company’s reputation in the larger industry. Rest assured that both HostGator and Bluehost are well regarded in the larger world of web hosting. You can find any number of third-party reviews for each that prove most customers are satisfied with their performance.
That said, Bluehost has the particular honor of being recommended by WordPress for those who choose to build their website with the popular content management system. And HostGator can boast a number of awards from third-party sites. In terms of reputation, either is a safe choice. But you can always dig into more of the details of what industry experts think by perusing reviews.
Find the Best Web Hosting Provider for You
At the end of the day, the right web hosting provider will depend on your particular needs and preferences. If you’ve determined HostGator is the best choice for you, getting started with one of our plans is easy. We’re pretty confident you won’t regret the choice.
Check out our other web hosting reviews:
HostGator vs GoDaddyHostGator vs DreamHostHostGator vs SiteGroundA2 Hosting vs HostGator
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The post 3 Powerful Chatbot Plugins for WordPress appeared first on HostGator Blog.
In a previous post, we looked at some tasks a chatbot can automate for small businesses.
Today, we’ll look at three popular chatbot options. Two are WordPress plugins and the other is one of the most widely used chat tools – Facebook Messenger. All three can help your business in different ways.
We’ll evaluate each of these options based on the tasks we talked about in our last chatbot post:
Instant customer serviceMarketing data collectionPersonalized product recommendationsHelp customers find what they’re looking forRemind customers about items in their cartSend campaigns via chat, email, text
Read on to find the right chatbot for your small business.
1. Facebook Messenger bots
Facebook Messenger for Business is the chat tool with the biggest reach, and it’s easy to get started. To add a full range of bot capabilities, it’s easiest to use a WordPress- and Messenger-compatible plugin, unless you have a Facebook developer to customize things for you.
Instant customer service
Some businesses use Messenger for live chat on their Facebook pages. You can also integrate a third-party chatbot template (more on that below) so your customers never have to wait for answers to their questions.
This one-woman custom embroidery business saves time with a Facebook Messenger bot that answers FAQs.
Marketing data collection
You can view Messenger data in Facebook’s Analytics dashboard. If you integrate your Messenger bot with Facebook ads, you’ll also get access to metrics for those campaigns.
Personalized product recommendations
You can use your customer chat data to create individual offers based on their interests.
Help customers find what they’re looking for
With a third-party bot tool (more on that below), your chatbot can act as a personal shopper for customers who’d rather buy something fast than browse your inventory.
Astrid is Lego’s 2019 gift bot on Facebook Messenger.
Remind customers about items in their cart
Reminders can boost your store’s conversion rate. You may find it easiest to use a paid WooCommerce plugin like CartBack or Abandoned Cart Pro for WooCommerce to send cart reminders through Messenger.
You can combine your Facebook Messenger chatbot with Facebook Ads to target custom audiences. “Click to Messenger” ads can get your audience to engage with your chatbot, find products and make purchases.
For most small businesses, Facebook Messenger is the easiest way to get started with chatbots. Facebook’s free online Messenger for Business courses can help you get over the learning curve fast.
All this is great, but what about reaching visitors to your website? With the right plugin, you can extend your Facebook Messenger chatbot to your site, too.
MobileMonkey’s WP-Chatbot is one of several that are Facebook-approved for Messenger integration. It can enable or enhance the six tasks we’re interested in.
WP-Chatbot also lets you add Facebook Messenger to your website so anyone with a Messenger account can use your chat without having to go to Facebook.
Instant customer service
You can build menu-based chatbots to answer common questions.
Marketing data collection
MobileMonkey’s marketing platform collects all your chat data from all sources for analysis. You can use this for several types of campaigns—more on that below.
Personalized product recommendations
MobileMonkey’s suite of chatbot tools includes a customized landing page builder, so you can tailor your audience’s experience to their interests.
Because WP-Chatbot integrates with WooCommerce, your chatbot can offer your customers product recommendations with links to those pages.
Help customers find what they’re looking for
WP-Chatbot lets you share category menus in your customer chats.
This can increase conversions by helping shoppers find what they want fast, without having to navigate your entire site.
Remind customers about items in their cart
Conversion form tools in WP-Chatbot let you automate follow-ups with customers. For example, if shoppers add items from chat to their carts but then leave, your chatbot can follow up with a reminder or offer to answer any questions they have about those products.
The plugin lets you create and send several types of campaigns, including chat blasts, drip campaigns and Messenger ads. It also integrates with several email marketing platforms so you can use your chat data to support newsletter and drip campaigns via email.
Many WP-Chatbot features are free. Some of the advanced marketing features require a subscription. You can see MobileMonkey pricing here.
What if your business isn’t on Facebook and you don’t want to join? You still have options. We’ll look at one of the best-rated WordPress chatbot plugins that’s also WooCommerce compatible.
3. Acobot AI Chatbot
This virtual shop assistant chatbot is designed to help WooCommerce stores increase conversions and build stronger customer relationships.
Instant customer service
Aco introduces itself as your personal shopping assistant and tailors its welcome messages to the page visitors land on.
Marketing data collection
Aco integrates with WooCommerce sales and marketing tools but doesn’t offer the same kind of one-stop data aggregation and analysis as Facebook Messenger and WP-Chatbot.
Personalized product recommendations
Because Acobot is AI-driven, it learns over time what your visitors are looking for. This allows the chatbot to provide a better experience for your customers. When it’s integrated with other WooCommerce tools, it can make upsell and cross-sell recommendations.
Help customers find what they’re looking for
Most of us don’t like using the search tools online stores provide. Acobot lets customers skip that process.
The chatbot asks customers what they want, shows them what’s in stock and opens the product pages they’re interested in.
Remind customers about items in their cart
Acobot emphasizes its abandoned cart recovery feature. The chatbot can send reminders to shoppers when they’ve left something in their cart.
Acobot doesn’t handle marketing campaigns on its own the way WP-Chatbot does. But it can offer coupons to customers as they shop, to encourage them to buy.
The basic version of Acobot is free. Other plans range from $9 to $29 per month.
Add a Chatbot to Your Online Store Today
Adding a chatbot can keep customers around, encourage them to buy and bring them back to your shop.
Want to learn more about using technology to drive sales in your online store? Read our step-by-step guide to setting up sales funnels in Google Analytics.
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When was the last time you saw a movie and instantly desired to share your opinion of it? If you know the difference between a smash cut and a jump cut, and you can spot the difference between a wide angle lens in The Shining and telephoto lens in The Graduate, then you’re a film critic and you need a website to start posting your articles on the web. If you work hard at it, pretty soon you may find yourself contributing to the Rotten Tomatoes score.
Continue reading How To Create a Movie Review Site at InMotion Hosting Blog.
The post How to Launch a Website for Your Dog Walking or Pet-Sitting Side Hustle appeared first on HostGator Blog.
The world is your oyster when it comes to the type of side hustle you can start. You can do anything from freelance design to registering with a ride-sharing app, and everything in between.
While there are several different ways to make extra cash with a side hustle, it’s critical to remember one thing. Your side hustle could eat up several hours of your week, so it should involve an element of passion.
After all, the more you enjoy your side hustle, the less it will feel like work, and the more time you’ll put into growing your business.
Now here’s some good news.
If you’re a lover of our furry friends, then a viable option for earning extra cash is to start a dog walking or pet-sitting side hustle.
There are several pet parents that are looking for someone to treat their dog well while they are on vacation, or to take their adorable dog on a walk when life gets busy.
However, business isn’t going to come out of thin air. To find pet parents in your neighborhood, it’s vital to set up a website for your pet-sitting side hustle.
This article will review why you need a website as well as how you can start a website in just six easy steps.
Let’s get started!
Why Do Pet-Sitters and Dog Walkers Need a Website?
The number one place people look for local services is online. In fact, 97% of people learn more about a local company online than anywhere else, and “Near me” or “close by” type searches grew by more than 900% over two years.
While it’s true you can (and should) register your pet-sitting and dog walking services on apps like Rover, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your own website, too.
There are several reasons, including:
Rover is loaded with the competition, and there is no guarantee a pet parent will find your information amid all the other dog walkers.You can compete for coveted spots in the local search results (think the top of Google’s search page) when you have your own website.You can design your website however you want, including adding all the content you want.A website gives you credibility and helps establish yourself as a real professional.
When it comes right down to it, owning your own website for your dog walking or pet-sitting side hustle is a must.
Now let’s talk about how you can start your own website with HostGator today.
How to Build Your Dog Walking or Pet-Sitting Website with HostGator in 6 Simple Steps
Building a website might not be your jam, and that’s okay. HostGator knows that everyone needs a website. HostGator also understands that not everyone is a web designer.
That’s why HostGator has already done the hard work for you. The developers at HostGator have made it easy for any website novice to get a website up in less than a day.
All you have to do is follow six easy steps. Here’s how to get started.
Step 1: Pick a hosting plan for your dog walking or pet-sitting side hustle website
The Gator Website Builder has three hosting plans available, but which one should you choose?
Pet-sitters and dog walkers don’t typically sell services online, which means you don’t need the eCommerce plan. You just have to choose between the starter plan and the premium plan.
The starter plan includes a free domain, 200+ customizable templates, a drag-and-drop editor, cloud hosting, and website analytics.
The premium plan includes everything the starter plan has, but also includes priority support. If you know you’ll need priority support while creating and maintaining your website, opt for the premium package.
Once you’ve picked either the starter plan or premium plan, click “buy now” and you can set up your account.
Step 2: Pick a domain name for your dog walking or pet-sitting website
Every website needs a domain name. As a pet-sitter or dog walker, it would be fun to brainstorm a creative domain name related to dogs, dog walking, or pet-sitting. If you already have a business name, then pick the name of your dog walking business.
To choose your free domain name, all you have to do is type something in the “get domain” box. If your top choice for your website isn’t available, then select another until you find one that is available.
If you already have a domain name, then you can connect it to your HostGator account by clicking “connect it here.”
Step 3: Create your HostGator account
Once you have selected a domain name, it’s time to connect your HostGator account.
Enter your email address or connect via Facebook, enter your payment information, and you’re all set.
Step 4: Pick a template for your dog walking or pet-sitting website
Another advantage of HostGator is it comes with more than 200 professionally-designed templates. This means you don’t have to design your website.
All you have to do is pick a template that you like and customize it with your unique content.
Step 5: Add pages and content to your pet-sitting website.
Once you have selected the perfect template for your side hustle website, you can start customizing your pages. Clicking “start editing” will send you to your dashboard where you can add, edit, and delete pages.
For a dog walking or pet-sitting side hustle website, you may want to include the following pages:
Home. The home page provides an overview of who you as a pet-sitter or a dog walker. You may want to include information about your experience, your values, and your approach to caring for dogs.
About. The about page offers insight into who you are, the experience you have, and any qualifications you may have. If you’ve been a dog walker or pet-sitter in the past, include that information on this page.
Services. The services page includes a list of what dog walking or pet-sitting services you offer. You can include prices on this page, or discuss them later over the phone.
Testimonials. When it comes to hiring a pet-sitter, dog parents want to know they are getting someone who will care for their dog. Consider collecting testimonials about how awesome you are from previous families you’ve helped.
Contact. A contact page helps potential customers reach out to you via email, phone, or contact form.
Gator Website Builder is a drag and drop builder that makes it easy to design your pages and add content. All you have to do is point and click. However, if you have any questions, it also includes a free and easy step-by-step guide for reference that you can access at any time.
To access this guide, click the “menu” icon next to the Gator by HostGator logo and select the “getting started tour.”
Step 6: Review your content and launch your dog walking or pet-sitting website.
The last step is to review your website, make any changes, and then publish your dog walking or pet-sitting website. By clicking “preview,” you can see your site in full, and make sure it looks perfect.
During your preview, review your website and make sure everything is correct.
If everything looks great, then click the “finish preview” button at the top and then “publish website” at the top of the dashboard.
Build Your Pet Side Hustle Website Today
If you sit around dreaming that you were walking a dog or pet-sitting a pup, then it’s time to start your side hustle. You may as well get paid for doing something you want to do anyway, right?
Get started building your side hustle website with HostGator today!
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Enterprise software seems to get more complicated every day. Larger systems require special training or the dispatch of special consultants. Meanwhile, smaller pieces of software often win the day. Smaller software, like browser extensions, can provide a lot of value even in a smaller package.
The extensions represented here emphasize simplicity. They don’t promise a lot, but they deliver big-time on a specific, important action.
These extensions provide a nice array of features that will appeal to developers and designers.
Continue reading Top 5 Must-have Chrome Extensions for Developers and Designers at InMotion Hosting Blog.
I recently finished my 6-week blogging challenge that encouraged me to recommit to my passion project that I started in...
The post Embracing All Things Awkward: My 6-Week Blogging Challenge appeared first on Official Bluehost Blog.
Nexcess Safe Harbor is the Haven Magento Stores Need
The currents and undercurrents of Magento’s strategy are ever changing. One day it’s smooth sailing with technology that simply performs, propelling sales and service; the next day they are raising the anchor, and creating a wake of disruption that the entire ecosystem must brace themselves to withstand. Every ecommerce based solution relies on understanding what lies beneath the surface, so it’s vital that your platform delivers the speed, security, scalability and service demanded by today’s pace of online business. These tenets are the four points of our operational compass here at Nexcess – relied upon and trusted by our customers as they navigate their best paths forward.
Recognizing that Magento’s (M1) platform end of life (EOL) is now just a few months away, we’re excited to offer Nexcess Safe Harbor designed especially for those who can’t afford to – or need more time to strategize – or don’t wish to migrate to M2. As the leading hosting provider for M1 stores for more than ten years, we come to this changing tide with deep experience to accommodate whichever direction keeps you afloat and ensures your online stores remain uninterrupted. All buoyed by the expertise that is embodied in every single one of our amazing people who stand by ready to assist you today and support you tomorrow.
Nexcess Safe Harbor is designed to align with your long-term growth plans because it’s optimized by open source efficiencies – to include costs and community-based expertise. This is a stark differentiator for us compared to closed (SaaS) platforms like Shopify which can cost you more time and money, while limiting your options and future innovation opportunities.
There are three core options to consider over the coming weeks:
Stay the course on M1 with Nexcess Safe Harbor via a simple dev supported free migration that comes with regular updates, patches, scans, modules, and extensions;
Migrate from M1 to M2 with support from us at every turn as you implement your migration plan to a new platform that will accommodate your increase in customers and inventories.
Connect with us about alternative platforms that can meet the needs of ecommerce enterprises large and small, from high-paced to mid-level to newly launched. You are never without resources and expertise when working with the Nexcess team.
As you explore what steps to take in the coming months, I hope you will call on our team to help answer any questions you have to make the most informed decision for your business. We can show you the pros and cons of a particular path, and help you decide which platform best meets your needs for near and long-term growth.
Your business journey is never-ending and ideally always enjoys smooth sailing. But we know that rough waters are unavoidable – so don’t settle for just any port. Your livelihood relies on keeping a vigilant eye on the horizon, and Nexcess Safe Harbor will see you through the storm.
The post Don’t Settle for Just Any Port in the Storm appeared first on Nexcess Blog.
The post Black Hat SEO Tactics Your Small Business Should Avoid appeared first on HostGator Blog.
You know you should be thinking about search engine optimization (SEO)—you see recommendations for it everywhere you look. But wow, does it look difficult and expensive. For a small business, investing that much in something that takes so long to show results can be a hard sell. You may be tempted to figure out shortcuts.
The problem is, with SEO, shortcuts can really hurt you. Some of the more affordable so-called SEO experts you come across may steer you toward outdated and scammy tactics. These have earned a bad name for themselves among SEO experts. They’re known as “black hat SEO.
We definitely don’t recommend following these tactics for your website—unless you want to earn a penalty from Google. However, it’s important to understand what these tactics are for two reasons. First, you’ll be able to recognize them if a shady SEO company ever pitches them to you. Second, you’ll be able to create a more informed SEO strategy for your website that steers clear of them.
What Is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO describes any tactic used to increase a website’s search engine rankings by trying to game the system. Black hat SEO exists for a reason: SEO is hard. And it’s slow. And doing it well is either expensive, time consuming, or both.
Black hat SEO practitioners try to speed up results by finding shortcuts that trick the search engines by appealing to the way the algorithms work, rather than what makes sense for humans. And at certain points in internet history, some black hat tactics have worked—for a time.
How Black Hat SEO Hurts Business
Every day, the search engine algorithms get more sophisticated. The goal is always the same: to get better at providing results to people that are genuinely useful. That means many of the big Google updates in recent years have specifically targeted the kind of black hat tactics we’ve described here.
Attempts to game the system and get websites ranking higher based on tricks rather than providing genuine utility can provide temporary gains. But once an algorithm update goes into effect, those websites risk seeing penalties that hurt far more than the momentary gains ever helped.
Google doesn’t look kindly on websites that try to trick the algorithms. Why would they? They’ve long told SEO professionals and website owners the right way to increase rankings: create great content that’s relevant to what your audience cares about. And make sure all the technical stuff— like website speed and the mobile experience—works right to create a solid user experience.
If you focus on tactics related to providing a consistently valuable experience to your visitors, you’ll stay on the right side of Google. It’s harder. But it’s the only way to build the kind of website authority that delivers long-term SEO results.
10 Black Hat SEO Tactics to Avoid
If you encounter someone suggesting any of these black hat SEO tactics, steer clear.
1. Keyword stuffing
To determine what a web page is about, search engine algorithms pay attention to what words are used on the page. The reason so much of SEO is based on keyword research is because the words you use are directly related to what terms a page on your website will rank for (although it’s just one of many ranking signals).
In the early days of search engines, when the algorithms were much less sophisticated, keyword frequency played a big role in SEO. Using your keyword as many times as possible on the page made it extremely clear to the search engine—without any room for doubt—that your page was about that keyword. And that made it more likely to rank.
But pretty quickly, the search engines learned that spammy websites were awkwardly stuffing keywords onto their pages in ways that made no sense in order to game the system. To ensure they provided actually useful results to their users, they updated the algorithms to not only give keyword frequency less priority in the rankings, but to penalize the websites guilty of keyword stuffing.
Nonetheless, keyword stuffing is still one of the most common black hat SEO tactics employed by disreputable SEO practitioners. While it’s still true that strategically using keywords in your copy can be good for SEO, overdoing it definitely isn’t. You want every web page to make sense to human visitors, not just search engines. If anyone recommends cramming more keywords onto a page on your website than makes sense, don’t listen.
2. Paying for backlinks
Building backlinks is arguably the hardest part of SEO. You have to convince other people that your website is worth linking to, even when there’s usually not much in it for them. That’s why it’s a part of SEO that’s frequently abused.
Black hat SEO firms will offer to sell you links for affordable prices. But with SEO (as in much of life), if sounds too good to be true, it usually is. This type of “link building” usually involves link farms or spam websites created for nothing other than to link back to their client’s sites. And Google doesn’t just care how many backlinks you have, the search engine pays careful attention to the authority of the sites they’re hosted on.
As with keyword stuffing, paying for links still happens because at one time it did work. But as the search engines have wised up and refined their algorithms over the years, low-quality links will now hurt your website authority. Quantity of backlinks is less important than quality. So focus your strategy on building links legitimately and avoid anyone that offers to sell you backlinks.
3. Hiring content mills
Content marketing is an important part of SEO. But it requires a ton of time and resources to do well. Many small businesses therefore start their search for content creators with companies that promise cheap content, in the range of $10 to $50 a blog post. The companies that charge those kinds of rates are known in the business as content mills.
Hiring one early on is a common and understandable mistake to make, but you’ll usually realize quickly that the work you get is barely readable, or filled with awkward keyword stuffing. A lot of small businesses that use content mills end up rewriting or heavily editing the pieces they get, so that the money saved still costs big in time.
The fact is, writing content that your audience will actually want to read takes time and skill. For content marketing to actually be worth your while, you need to be willing to make a real investment in it, not go for the cheapest option.
4. Using hidden text
Sometimes called “cloaking,” this tactic has mostly gone out of style, but is still worth knowing to avoid. Some sneaky SEOs in the past would squeeze more keywords onto a page for search engines without stuffing them into the copy for humans by making the text the same color as the page’s background, or by hiding them in the page’s code.
Either way, if it means the page shows up in rankings for keywords that aren’t what the page is actually about, your human visitors won’t be satisfied. And Google and the other search engines want to provide their users with content that matches what they’re looking for. Websites that do this are unlikely to make it into the rankings for competitive terms to begin with, but if they do and the algorithm quickly registers that visitors aren’t sticking around on the site after the click, they’ll fall back down in the rankings because of it.
5. Duplicate content
We’ve established that creating high-quality content is hard, so one tactic many a small business has been tempted to try is essentially self-plagiarizing—take the copy you wrote for one page of the site, change it slightly to focus on a new keyword, and voila, you have a new page. But duplicate content is one of the things Google penalizes.
Even if you’re only copying yourself—not plagiarizing someone else (which would be worse!)—it still looks bad in the eyes of the search engines. They prefer original content and are unlikely to rank multiple pages that provide essentially the same information. So make sure each page on your website is entirely original.
6. Gateway pages
Now and then when you’re browsing the web, you may come across a page that’s little more than a list of links that may or may not be related to your original search. These are called gateway pages. Their entire purpose is to try to gain rankings for a popular keyword, in order to drive more traffic to their other sites or pages.
As an internet user, you probably find these obnoxious. You were looking for actual content or answers, not a collection of links. Knowing that pages like this don’t create a good experience for their users, the search engines don’t like them either. This is another spammy tactic that may have once worked, but is unlikely to get you very far with the way the algorithms work today.
7. Bait and switch
You wrote a piece of content that’s getting a lot of traction. Finally! Other sites are linking to it and it’s starting to rank for one of your target keywords. A very black hat thing to do at this point would be to change up what’s on the page to something more directly about your products or services.
Don’t do it! That tactic is called the bait and switch. You write about something that’s clickbait or more general interest to get that initial boost, then change what’s on the page to try to drive more conversions. Obviously, visitors won’t like it and neither will Google. At best, you might keep your ranking for a few days, but over time, the search engines will pick up on the trick and your rankings will drop.
8. Comment spam
If you have a blog open to comments, then you’re probably all too familiar with this one. People (or bots) that leave a comment on your site can include a link. At one time, those links could deliver authority back to the site, thus making it an easy way to build new links.
Now, the vast majority of websites have any links in the comments set up to be nofollow, meaning they don’t deliver any SEO authority. And many sites have disabled comment sections entirely because of how tedious dealing with comment spam became. In short, this is a tactic that is both a total waste of time, and one that will make you enemies of anyone annoyed to see your comment spam pop up on their website.
9. Sneaky redirects
There are plenty of valid reasons to set up redirects on your website. If you’ve combined old pages into one or if you’ve changed domains completely and want to direct traffic from your old website to your new, for instance. Redirects exist for good reason.
But as with so many things, they can be abused by bad SEO actors. Some black hat consultants will set up redirects that send search engines to a different page than humans, or redirect a high-performing page to an unrelated page to get more traffic to the new one. Either way, it’s the kind of thing the search engines will pick up on, so any benefit you may get from it in the moment won’t last.
10. Private blog networks
Private blog networks are a more sophisticated technique than many on this list, which can make them seem like a more legitimate option to try if someone pitches you on it. The idea is to buy up sites that already have some authority, continue publishing new content on them, and use that content to include links back to your own site.
You get backlinks from websites that look authoritative, because you now run the websites they’re on. And if you buy up a few of these, it starts to look like a number of authoritative sites are suddenly impressed with your content enough to link to it. It may take Google longer to catch on to this tactic than some of the other more obvious ones, but it’s unlikely to pay off in the long term.
Anything that’s not about providing content your audience will truly benefit from and building real authority in your larger industry isn’t going to yield the kind of long-term results you want from SEO.
Instead of gaming the system, set your website up for long-term success with a solid SEO strategy created by experts and driven by best practices. Get your free SEO review from the SEO pros at HostGator.
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1997: the year the Pathfinder landed on Mars, Madeleine Albright was sworn in as Secretary of State, and Titanic demolished box office records.
It’s also the year the term “weblog” was officially coined (even though the first blog is said to have existed in 1994, at the near genesis of the internet). For two decades, starting a blog has been a powerful way to connect with internet audiences and share creative content.
Yet, with blogging’s established rep as a powerhouse (and dominant) form of web content, it’s easy to witness the ever-changing and ephemeral landscape of the internet. Blink and virtual crowds have abandoned one novelty social media platform for another. Viral memes and web fads frequently give internet audiences virtual whiplash. Content creators are fighting to garner the ever-depleting attention spans of web users.
So are the web’s 31.7 million blogs losing relevance anytime soon?
Not at all.
It turns out 77% of internet users read blogs regularly. What’s more, 61% of Americans spend three times the amount of time-consuming blog content than they do email content.
Blogging is still very much a crucial part of a thriving brand and a next-level content marketing strategy in 2020. Whether you’re a brand or a business, you want to attract traffic and offer something of value to visitors. Blogging is a major key to that engagement — having a blog on your website increases your chances of ranking higher in search engines by a massive 434%. Plus, bloggers wield immense influence on the web — giving your brand the opportunity to grow in a big way.
So do you have everything you need to be a blogging success? Let’s find out. Passion? Check. Website? Check. Fueled by a great *ahem* web hosting company *ahem*? Double-check. You’re ready to share your own unique content with the world wide web.
Power Your Blog with DreamHostWe’ll make sure your blog is fast, secure and always up so your visitors can engage with you. Plans start at $2.59/mo.Choose Your Plan
OK, wait. How do you write a blog post? If you want to create value for readers and attract traffic to your site, it’s not as easy as typing up a few sentences in haste and clicking Publish. No, writing a great blog post requires creativity and smart crafting. And with the abundance of bloggers and the influx of ideas out there, you need to be at the top of your blogging game to cut through the noise and get eyes on your content.
But don’t worry!
We’re here to help. This everything-you-need guide covers it all: the reality behind blogging (aka vital stats to know), the ins-and-outs of crafting a great blog, and what handy resources are available to help with every aspect of writing your article.
Dig in and study it word-for-word or just jump to the sections you need:
Why Does Writing a Great Blog Post Matter?
What Makes a Good Blog Post?
How to Write a Blog Post (In 6 Steps)
Helpful Blog Post Resources
Before we dive in too deep, let’s address something really fundamental: Why is writing a good blog post so important? Why does it even matter?
So glad you asked (we love this topic)!
Related: How to Start a Website in 5 Minutes with WordPress
Why Does Writing a Great Blog Post Matter?
So what difference does a quality blog post make anyway?
Well, the difference between a so-so blog post and a can’t-stop-reading blog post is a matter of only a handful of factors, but they’re crucial.
An exceptional blog post not only helps attract your target audience to your site, but it helps establish you as an authority in your field and motivates visitors to continue engaging with you.
In fact, 30% of people rank quality content as the top factor that adds credibility to a blog, so not only do you need to start a blog, you need excellent blog content. As you provide valuable content, readers will be more likely to develop loyalty to your brand. They’ll share your content with their friends, and trust us, social shares are the virtual word of mouth you need to flourish online.
If you want authentic growth, you need killer blog posts.
What Makes a Good Blog Post?
So let’s break it down. What makes a perfect blog article? Here are the nine key ingredients.
1. Targeted Message
Or, in other words, Know Thy Audience. Ideally, you already know who you’re trying to reach with your brand or business.
Similarly, your blog posts should be geared toward reaching and influencing a particular target audience — your specific niche — and addressing their needs. With a focused target, you are more likely to connect with audiences and build your brand. Casting an overly-wide net with your message will cause you to miss out on the key audiences that are most important for the growth of your brand.
Brittany Jepsen of House That Lars Built knows her audience — creative DIY crafters — and tailors content for them.
2. Clever Headline
Your headline is often the make-it-or-break-it factor between someone clicking on your blog post or passing it by for some other site (likely a competitor’s content!)
Your headline should grab readers, make them want more — tease and tantalize! — while still giving them a roadmap for the journey you’re going to take them on as well as an idea of what prize they’ll earn by adventuring. Invest the time to craft a good headline — it makes a big difference. Choose each word carefully.
Pro-tip: Use a headline analyzer tool to get insight into the efficacy of your title and ways to improve.
The author of this Disney Food Blog post entices readers with a behind-the-scenes look at Disneyland happenings.
At One Good Thing by Jillee, this headline explains that the post will address a very common pain point — needing room-temperature ingredients in a pinch.
Using numbers is a solid way to quantify what value you’re offering to readers, like this post on author K.M. Weiland’s writing blog.
3. Interesting Intro
Kudos! You got a reader to click on your post, interested in finding more about your topic. Now — how to keep them reading (and keep your bounce rate steady)?
You need a hook. You need to start your blog post with a captivating intro to draw the reader into your post. Whether you lead with a shocking stat, an engaging anecdote, a thought-provoking question, or an innovative idea, make your intro so compelling that your visitors can’t stop reading. Lure them in and hook ‘em.
But take note — the introduction needs to satisfy the intent you hinted at in the headline or your audiences (and search engines) will punish you with lower traffic and rankings.
This post from Greatist hooks readers with an unexpected, intriguing intro.
4. Valuable Content
What does your blog post offer audiences? Readers are more likely to read and engage with your blog content if it offers them something of value, addresses a burning question, or solves a particularly deep pain point. Are you providing them with info they can’t find anywhere else? Is your content exclusive, comprehensive beyond your competitors, or outfitted with freebies or rich resources? Does it solve a problem?
If so, then you’re on the right track.
Let’s spend some time on this. Great blog posts are really all about understanding your audience — what they need, what they care about, how they behave. This type of research is crucial. Get to know them by reaching out to them, soliciting feedback, and asking questions. Get to know them and show you care.
Related: From Bounce Rate to Conversions — The 4 Metrics Bloggers Need to Track
Next, do some internet research. Look at what people are searching for, what types of questions they’re asking (Google Auto-Complete anyone?). Browse Reddit, scout out competitor sites, and read comments.
Simply put: Do your homework.
Based on the intel you gather, develop a list of blog posts and content ideas that address the needs of your audience. You can start out with broad topics and then narrow the scope as you hone in on your niche. Plan what you need to distinguish your blog and beat out competitors in what you’re offering audiences.
The blog at CSS-Tricks clues readers into popular content and entices with the promise of answering a burning question.
Need ideas on what kind of content to offer? Here are some well-received examples:
5. Captivating Stories
Visitors are more likely to connect with content that is relatable, human, and engaging, so gather your readers around the campfire (metaphorically, of course) and share relevant, captivating tales.
This post from Expert Vagabond hooks readers immediately with a captivating story.
6. Easy-to-Scan Text
Here’s an important stat for you. The average person spends only 37 seconds reading a blog post. If your text is long and clunky, it could be even less.
Make your content easy to consume, organizing your snackable text in bite-sized pieces that’s easy to digest.
Break up text into short paragraphs often, guided by informative subheads, emphasized text, and bullet points. Vary the length of your sentences, and utilize white space to provide visual breaks for readers’ eyes. Making text easier to read with consistent and organized formatting will help keep eyes on your content.
Related: How to Increase Your Website’s Conversion Rate with Typography
7. Thoughtful Design
It’s not just the content of your blog post that matters. Design (and blog structure) plays a big part in getting audiences to consume your content and engage with your brand. Pairing strong content with aesthetically-pleasing design makes your blog post that much more impactful.
Thoughtful design includes smart use of white space, an attractive color scheme, easy-to-use navigation and menus, and other guiding design elements like leading lines and composition.
It should also take into account the typical f-shaped scanning pattern when laying out design elements.
The blog at Joi Knows How is united by a cohesive color scheme and engaging design elements, and thoughtful navigation.
8. Authentic Writing
The quickest way to turn off your audiences? Write content for them in an inauthentic voice. Visitors to your site don’t want salesperson speak, overly-technical jargon, academic mumbo-jumbo, or an unapproachable narrator — they want YOU. Your real, one-of-a-kind voice will keep them coming back for more.
Jessica of How Sweet Eats brings appeal to her blog posts not just by sharing delicious recipes and food photos — her writing feels real, relatable, and fun.
Mobile is king. Mobile internet usage has grown exponentially in the last few years, now dominating its share of traffic over desktop usage.
Plus, more than five million people have smartphones, meaning that if audiences can’t access your blog post on mobile (or if your post isn’t responsive or attractive on their phone or tablet), they’re likely to hop to a competitor’s site.
Prioritize a mobile-friendly blog to grow your brand. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to test out your site for possible responsiveness issues (this includes keeping things speedy!).
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How to Write a Blog Post (In 6 Steps)
Now, it’s time to write that blog post! Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and do this step by step.
First, you need to sit down and prep your post. Planning is imperative to crafting a home-run blog post, especially if you want to stand out amongst your competitors and garner the attention you need.
First off, you need to get yourself organized. Keep a running list of post ideas based on the research you’ve conducted on your audience and on valuable keywords. Brainstorm and mind map your thoughts. When planning your content calendar, consult your ideas and choose what would be the most useful for your target audience.
Once you’ve settled on a winner, use a blog planner (like this one) and map out your topic. Create an outline with basic points and conduct the necessary research to flesh out important details. Visitors can get fake news anywhere on the web, so you owe it to your audience (and your brand) to only plan and create well-researched, high-value posts.
And remember, it’s great to have a lot of content — more blog posts will draw more traffic. BUT. Make sure you’re prioritizing quality content over mere quantity and that you’re passionate about what you’re writing about.
If you are, it will be evident — and contagious.
2. Craft a Headline
Your headline is crucial, remember? It’s got to be strong, or it’s not going to draw readers in.
Remember: you want to entice and hint at what readers are going to get out of clicking on your article instead of someone else’s. A few headline pointers:
Optimal headline length is 11-14 words, both for social shares and search engine efficacy.
You need a captivating hook, plus enough info that your readers know what to expect and what value you’re offering them. Don’t just use throwaway clickbait phrases or pack in keywords. Trim the fat and use each word with intention.
3. Write Your Post
Time to start tickling those virtual ivories — meaning, it’s time to start writing your blog post. The average time spent writing a blog post has been increasing, so give yourself enough time (at least a few hours) to get your thoughts down and fully engage the writing process.
The optimal length for blog posts is 2200-2500 words, so keep an eye on word count as you write. For now, don’t worry about making it perfect on the first go-around. Just keep those fingers moving and get the words down.
Make sure to include a CTA (Call to Action) as you wrap up your post — you want your readers to be motivated to do something. And if they’ve stuck with you through a whole blog post, there’s a good chance they will.
4. Find Images
A blog post without images earns a big whomp, whomp, whomp — and gets little interest from readers and higher bounce rates. Blog articles with images get 94% more views.
This means images — relevant, good quality ones — are absolutely necessary for your posts.
DIY some of your own photography, get proper photo permissions for others’ work you want to share, or use a royalty-free site like Pexels or Unsplash to add images to your post and edit as necessary.
You can also consider including alternative elements like infographics, charts, and graphics to create unique visual interest.
Eye-catching images are a hallmark of the Our Travel Passport blog, drawing readers in with visual interest.
5. Edit Your Post
Wait! Before clicking Publish, you need to edit your post. And no, a simple run of your standard-issue spell check isn’t enough.
Here are some editing best practices:
Take a Break. Polish your post by stepping away from your keyboard for a time, then returning later with a fresh pair of eyes. The break will help you see errors you might have missed before.
Play Editor. Proofread your post with a fine-tooth comb and correct any grammar and spelling errors. Also take the opportunity to edit your text for clarity.
Think Syntax. The same type and length of sentences can get really boring — and difficult — to read. Vary your sentence length to keep things interesting.
Pack a Punch. Flimsy, weak-sounding copy turns off readers and leaves them unsatiated. Eliminate weak verbs and passive voice. You want your words to be strong and meaningful.
Get a Sounding Board. Read your text aloud to ensure it flows smoothly and sounds authentic and on-brand. Have a friend or colleague read over it and give feedback for an outsider’s perspective.
Fix Formatting. Make sure your text isn’t wonky when published. Preview it to ensure that it looks the way it’s supposed to — professional and well laid-out — providing plenty of visual space for eye breaks.
Your blog content is a representation of your brand, so make sure it reflects a professional and polished image.
6. Promote Your Post
If you’ve followed the steps above, you’ve likely got a great blog post on your hands. That’s all fine and good, but if no one sees it, all your hard work is for naught! You’ll need to put in the content marketing legwork to get your post in front of your audience.
Whether you use social media promotion, email marketing, paid advertising, or search engine optimization — ideally, a balance of all of these tactics — work to promote your post in ways that make sense for your target audiences.
Related: 10 Social Marketing Tips for Your Small Business
Helpful Blog Post Resources
Don’t worry. We’re not done yet! We’ve got a handy-dandy toolbox of resources to help you make writing blog posts easy (and fun) — and above all, to help you build a successful blog and grow your brand. We know starting and maintaining a blog isn’t easy, but we’re here to help.
Here are some super useful tools for each step of the writing process.
Building a Website
If this is your first website rodeo, check out Website Building 101 for a step-by-step tutorial.
Identify your blog’s niche with this comprehensive guide to starting a blog.
Need a specific setup? We’ve got walkthroughs for food blogs, fitness blogs, and photography blogs.
Before you begin, learn from the pros. Review these expert blogging tips.
Do your homework and don’t skimp on keyword research.
Use an online, printable, or plugin content calendar template to keep blog content organized.
Utilize mind map templates for creative blog content brainstorming.
Schedule blog posts so you don’t have to be glued to your screen 24/7.
Block distractions while working from home (or the coffee shop) with the SelfControl or Freedom apps.
Add Calmly Writer to your browser to simplify the user interface so you can focus on writing.
If you don’t work well in silence, turn on Coffitivity to enjoy some ambient coffee-shop noise without leaving the house.
Remember that not everything you write has to be brand new — reworking old content is a great strategy!
Don’t miss any details by using our WordPress Blogger Checklist before you hit Publish.
Let Grammarly edit all the content you write in real time.
Improve the clarity — and boldness — of your writing with The Hemingway App.
Heads up! Avoid these common blogging blunders.
New to social strategy? Start with this guide to promoting your blog on social media.
Learn the marketing tactics that will drive organic traffic to your website
Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) helps your posts appear higher in search results.
Ready yourself for criticism from internet trolls.
Email marketing is essential for creating a following, so build that subscriber list.
The Final Word on Starting a Blog
Ready to craft some kick-butt blog posts? You’ve got everything you need to write great posts; now you need to team up with a great web host.
We’ve got you covered.
We’re experts at making things easy with top-tier tech support and resources for any SOS moments. Plus, we’re your biggest fans. Go you! Our Shared Hosting plans + your epic blogging skills = the perfect pair.
The post How to Write a Blog Post: A Step-By-Step Guide appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.
The post Web Hosting vs Website Builder appeared first on HostGator Blog.
In theory, anyone today can start a website. It’s easier than it’s ever been, and the basic tools you need to do so are affordable. But in practice, if you’re new to figuring this whole website thing out, it can be pretty confusing at first.
In your early research, you’ll likely come across references to both web hosting and site builders.
Both have a role to play in building a new website, but what do they each mean? What’s the difference between web hosting and a website builder? We’ll give you the rundown on how the two things differ, and the main information you need about both when getting started.
What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is the service of providing and maintaining the physical servers that all the files that make up a website live on. Still confused?
For your purposes, all you really need to know about web hosting is that every website requires it. It’s a necessary component in storing all your website files and making them accessible to the rest of the world online. But if you’re curious about what web hosting is really all about, we’ll explain in more detail.
Most of us think of websites in terms of where they live on the web. Each website has an online address—two actually: the domain name and the IP address. But something we don’t think about as often is that all the different files that make up each website also take up physical space somewhere. They have to be stored on physical servers.
Because your average internet user doesn’t have to interact with the physical servers that host all the millions of websites that make up the internet, it’s easy to never learn they exist. We think of websites as existing in “the cloud” or “cyberspace” when that’s only part of the truth. In fact, there are huge rooms filled with website servers around the world, all of which have to be taken care of and kept in the right conditions to work effectively.
That’s what web hosting providers do. They invest in the (expensive) physical servers the internet depends on and the real estate required to house those servers. They hire specialists who know how to properly maintain them, and they make sure conditions in the server warehouses are optimal for keeping the servers in good condition.
All of this happens behind the scenes, so even your typical website owner never has to think of it. You just need to select and pay for a web hosting plan and let your web hosting provider do the rest.
What Is a Website Builder?
A website builder is a software tool that makes it easy for anyone to create a website, without prior training.
In the early days of the internet, building a website required learning complicated coding languages. It was an option only accessible to skilled developers who had spent a lot of time learning how web design worked. Luckily, website creation is now much more accessible.
Website builders are generally intuitive for even beginners to figure out. They include pre-designed website templates you can choose from, so you’re not building a website from scratch.
The details of the website editors for different website builder products will vary, but all are designed with the goal of making it easy to change out different elements and move them around to create something unique.
In particular, most modern website builders offer drag-and-drop functionality that lets you move specific parts of the page around by clicking on an item, dragging it to where you want, and letting go of your mouse to drop it in a new spot. And processes like uploading new files and choosing new fonts use menus that look just like those people are used to from using more common computer tools, such as word and photo editors.
All of this adds up to making website creation into a simpler experience that’s within reach for pretty much anyone. If you can use a computer, you can probably figure out how to use a website builder.
The Difference Between Web Hosting vs. Website Builders
Web hosting and website builders are two different types of services new website owners often need, and each provides something unique. Here are some of the main differences between the two to be aware of.
1. Web hosting is required for all websites.
If you want a website that other people can find on the web, web hosting isn’t optional. It’s a necessary component in getting your site online. A website builder, in contrast, is optional.
For many new website owners it will be the most convenient choice for building a new website, but it’s one of several options you have. You could always hire a graphic designer, or learn to code and build a new website from scratch (if you have time to give to doing so). A website builder is the easiest option for creating a new website, but it’s not the only one, which makes it an optional expense for new website owners.
2. Web hosting is where your site is stored.
Web hosting services don’t have anything to do with how your website looks, it’s all about where the files that make up your website live. It does relate to factors like how quickly your website loads and how consistently it works for visitors, but that’s ultimately a different matter than the visual appearance of a website.
A web hosting plan ensures that your website’s files have the space they need on a physical server. The rest is up to you and the other website resources you invest in.
3. A website builder gives you control over how your site looks.
The functionality of a website builder is all about your website’s appearance. It lets you take charge of things like the website’s color, images, and text. Everything that your visitors see visually when they visit your website—that’s what you control when creating your site with a website builder.
Website builders also allow you to determine the number of pages you create, your site structure, and any menus you set up for easier site navigation. Web design isn’t just about how pretty a website looks, thinking about how best to design the user experience is also important. A good online website builder helps you figure that part out as well.
4. A website builder makes web design easy.
The reason to go with a website builder over a graphic designer or trying to create a website from scratch is largely a matter of ease of use. Website builders are designed with beginners in mind. The goal is to make it intuitive for someone to design a website the first time they sit down to use the website builder, without having to spend time going through training resources.
With the right website builder, you may be able to build a website within a matter of minutes or hours—depending on how complex your website needs are. If you want to get a website that looks good up cheaply, affordably, and quickly, an online website builder is usually the best path to achieving that.
Why Do People Confuse Hosting Services and Website Builders?
Now that you know the basic definition of each, you understand that web hosting and website builders are two entirely different things. So why do they sometimes get confused?
Both are terms likely to come up when a person’s in the early stages of researching how to build a new website. For many new website owners, they’re new terms they don’t understand yet, and need more information about. And perhaps muddying the waters even more, they often come packaged together.
For example, here at HostGator many of our web hosting plans come with our website builder included. This kind of packaging of web services is pretty common, since most people who start up a new website will need multiple products and services—web hosting, a website builder, a domain name, an SSL certificate, email addresses, etc.
Now that you understand the basics of what they are and how they’re different, there are a few other things you may want to know before choosing what web hosting plan or website builder to go with.
5 Things to Know About Web Hosting Plans
If you’re new to owning and building a website, understanding the basics about web hosting will help you select the best web hosting company and plan for your particular needs.
1. Web hosting is an ongoing need.
Web hosting isn’t something you purchase once and you’re done. Web hosting plans use a subscription model. Most companies will let you pay for a few years upfront.
If you know for sure your website will be up for the long term and want to save some money, you can make a payment now and not worry about it again for a couple of years. But you also have the option to pay monthly or yearly as you go. It costs more, but gives you the flexibility to cancel if you change your mind.
Either way, make sure you budget for web hosting as an ongoing expense. It’s a service you’ll need to invest in for the full lifetime of your website.
2. Web hosting affects website speed.
The quality of your web hosting—and choosing the right web hosting plan for your website’s needs—has a direct influence on website speed. A fast loading time is something people don’t just prefer, they expect it.
If your website takes too long to load, people will leave. And it hurts your search engine optimization (SEO), which is important for potential visitors to be able to find you.
3. There are different types of web hosting plans.
When you start looking into your web hosting options, you’ll quickly notice a few main types of web hosting plans available:
Shared hosting – This is a good option for new websites and small businesses that will be on the smaller, simpler side and don’t anticipate high levels of traffic right out the gate. Shared hosting is the most affordable option and where many website owners start.Cloud hosting – A bit more expensive than shared hosting, cloud hosting is the best option for any business that needs flexibility. If you want the ability to scale quickly if your website popularity spikes, or anticipate different traffic levels at different times of year, cloud hosting is a smart pick.VPS hosting – A virtual private server (VPS) plan is a step up from a shared plan in terms of performance. For a higher cost, you get a specific portion of a server partitioned off so that it’s just yours. That means you get more space and bandwidth than with a shared plan, and your website performance won’t be influenced by any other websites on the server. Dedicated hosting – For enterprise businesses or especially popular websites, a dedicated hosting plan means you rent an entire server to host nothing but your website. Most new websites won’t require a dedicated server, but if you anticipate a lot of traffic or will be building a website with complex features, it may be right for you.
There’s a wide variety in what web hosting costs, and which type of plan you choose has a lot to do with what you’ll pay. Simple, new websites can get by with a shared hosting plan that costs a few dollars a month. Bigger, more complex websites that get a lot of visitors may spend hundreds a month for a dedicated server that provides the level of service they need.
Figuring out which is right for you is important to make sure you don’t overspend, but still deliver the level of performance your visitors expect.
4. Your web host determines your website’s uptime.
Uptime is the percentage of time a web host guarantees your website’s availability. All web hosting providers go offline occasionally when doing server maintenance, and some experience downtime when servers need repairs or warehouses encounter extreme weather events.
But ideally, you want a hosting provider that knows how to manage their servers so that the amount of time your website is unavailable is so minimal your visitors never notice.
5. Many web hosting companies offer packages that include other common website needs.
When starting a new website, you definitely need web hosting, but there are a number of other services and products you’ll need as well. For instance, every website needs a domain name. And you’ll likely want additional features like an SSL certificate for security, email addresses at your domain, and a website builder.
It’s common for web hosting companies to package these products together, which can potentially save you money and make handling your payments and managing your website subscriptions more convenient.
5 Things to Know About Website Builders
While a website builder is less of a necessity for new websites, most new website owners will benefit from investing in one. If you’ve decided a website builder is your best option for creating a new website, here are the main things to know when getting started.
1. Creating a new website with a website builder starts with a template.
Website templates are what saves you from starting from scratch when building your new site with a website builder. A template that comes reasonably close to what you want your website to look like will result in less work, since you won’t need to make as many changes to bring it in line with your vision. Your template gets a basic structure into place for you, then all you have to do is make tweaks from there.
Choosing the right website builder should include a consideration of their template options. Do they provide a number of templates to choose from? Do they have any for the type of website you’re creating?
2. A drag-and-drop website editor is easy to figure out.
With a drag-and-drop website editor, you can move things around the page by simply clicking on an item, moving your mouse to where you want it to go, then letting go of the mouse to drop it into place.
It makes design much easier than if you had to make changes using code. Plus, the website editors in most modern website builders let you make changes like adding images and changing out colors via intuitive menus that work similarly to those you’re familiar with from other computer programs.
3. Mobile functionality is a must.
Mobile use has become so widespread that it actually surpassed desktop usage a couple of years back. That means when choosing your website builder, and creating your site with it, you need to be thinking about the mobile experience.
Consider if a website builder provides templates that are responsive—which means they automatically adapt to a device’s screen size so the website looks good no matter what. And check if it gives you a way to preview how your website looks on mobile as you work on it.
4. While free website builders exist, there are downsides.
Technically, you could use a free website builder for your site. But any website builder that isn’t making money from subscription costs is making it in another way. That could mean they run ads on your website, include their own branding on your webpage, or put serious limitations on your website unless you shell out for an upgrade.
If you’re building a simple, personal website that will just be for friends and family, that might be fine. If you want your website to look legitimate and professional, you’re better off opting for one of the many affordable website builders on the market.
5. You’ll still need web hosting and a domain.
Investing in a website builder won’t cover all your bases for starting a new website. Every website needs hosting and a domain name. Unless your website builder comes as part of a package that includes both those things, you’ll need to make a separate investment in them.
For most new websites, a simple shared web hosting plan and domain name won’t cost you too much. And if you go with a provider like HostGator, all three can come as a package deal, saving you time and money.
Web Hosting vs. Website Builder: Which Will You Choose for Your New Website?
You can have your website up and running within hours if you go with a HostGator plan. We offer a wide range of web hosting plans, a drag-and-drop website builder, domain name registration, and much more. We make it easy for you to get everything you need, so you can start building your website today.
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Cybersecurity continues to pose a challenge for businesses (and websites) of all sizes, and today, organizations face an evolving list of security threats and concerns. Businesses that fail to secure their digital experiences are increasingly vulnerable to attack from a growing number of bad actors, and the fallout from a security breach can expand well…
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Fundamentals and Implementation of WooCommerce Cache
Speed is paramount when it comes to ecommerce. Whether you’re chasing down better search rankings or attempting to curb cart abandonment, the speed at which a store loads can determine how many customers convert. Caching in WooCommerce is an essential performance tuning tool that can dramatically decrease page load time. In this article you’ll learn about two techniques to help you cache your WooCommerce store and how it can increase the performance & speed of your store.
A quick note before getting started: Underlying code and database performance issues should be addressed before implementing a caching layer.
What slows a website down?
On a web server, complex computer processes are most often triggered by code (ex. PHP for WordPress and WooCommerce) and database queries (ex. MySQL).Submitting commands (whether PHP, MySQL or another programming language) for a computer to process generally happens quickly.
What takes precious time is waiting for the computer to process the information and deliver the results to the potential customer waiting in front of their computer screen. When requests become complex or there are too many requests for a server to process then you’ll want to look into three methods to speed the interaction up: caching, concurrency (increasing PHP workers), and reducing complexity (making code more efficient).
What is caching?
When a user requests a web page (like a homepage) that isn’t cached, every time the page is requested, database queries are executed, PHP code runs, and the resulting page is displayed in the customer’s web browser. The entire process can happen pretty quickly.
If many database queries are required, the logic to draw a page is complex, or you have a high volume of traffic, the process of outputting the page to the visitor can slow considerably, which means longer than normal wait times.
Caching is the process of converting a piece of dynamic data into a static resource. Or put another way, caching is the process of saving the results of a request from a complex computer process and re-routing future identical requests directly to the result, skipping the computer processing.
Output caching, also called full page caching
When it comes to pages that don’t change very often (like content pages such as an About Us page), output caching is a great technique to create a fast experience for potential customers. Here’s how it works:
A web page (for instance a product category page) is requested by a potential customer.
When the page is requested, WooCommerce interacts with the database to determine which products to show along with the pricing, description, images etc.
This cached HTML is served every time someone visits the same page.
There are a ton of full page / output caching plugins on the market. My favorite is WP Rocket because it has a slick user interface that makes configuration a snap. A great free option is Cache Enabler, and it’s available in the WordPress.org repository.
Object caching, and speeding up database access
In some common ecommerce use cases, we might not want to cache the entire page of the website. For instance, we might not want to cache order status, shopping cart, or product pages with customer specific pricing as these pages might change more often than an output cache is refreshed.
So, if we can’t cache the entire page, and the database is the bottleneck, caching queries to the database is a great way to speed things up — that’s exactly what object caching is all about.
Consider for a moment that a customer might switch between a product page with customer specific pricing, shopping cart, and order status pages multiple times during their logged in session. On a site not integrated with an object cache, the database would receive a request to process a search every time a user switched between these dynamic pages.
Here’s how object caching works to make database interactions quicker:
A query is presented to the database server via PHP code.
When query results are requested, the database searches to find the result.
After the database finds the results, they’re saved in a cache on the database server.
This cached result is served every time a piece of code requests the same query.
When object caching is enabled, dynamic parts of a WooCommerce website will load quicker and put less strain on the database server leading to a better experience for the end user.
Setting Up Redis
Redis a popular object caching tool and can be difficult to set up depending on your skill level and the level of server access that’s provided by your host.
For a simple setup, Redis comes automatically set up for all Managed WooCommerce plans at Nexcess.
Or if you want, you can set it up yourself.
A quick note on troubleshooting
While implementing caching can lead to awesome performance gains, it can also make it more difficult to troubleshoot output issues. Remember to disable caching when trying to uncover an output issue.
Caching in WooCommerce is an essential tool for dramatically improving the performance of your store. Have caching questions? Feel free to give us a shout day or night. We’re here for you.
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If you joined us for the “How to Use Social Media to Share Your Project Webinar” we covered all the...
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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a popular topic, and for good reason. We all use search engines every day to help us find websites relevant to our searches. Naturally, if you have a website, you will want it to show up in those search results. SEO can help you make sure, at the very least, that your site (through code or content) will do no harm to your chances of ranking. But the job of creating good content, which is one of the most important ranking factors, is your main task.
Continue reading Keeping an SEO Checklist Can Help You Stay on Target at InMotion Hosting Blog.
The post How Do IP Addresses Work? appeared first on HostGator Blog.
IP addresses are a crucial part of how the internet works. Yet if you asked the average person you met on the street how IP addresses work, they’d probably have no idea. That’s because the role IP addresses play happens mostly behind the scenes, saving most internet users from ever having to worry about them one way or another.
But anyone who wants a better understanding of how the internet—that thing we all depend on every day—functions, understanding how IP addresses work is a big part of it. And anyone who works in IT or a number of other internet-dependent fields is likely to encounter the use of IP addresses in their work. Knowing how IP addresses work could help you do your job better.
Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about how IP addresses work.
What Is an IP Address?
The IP in IP address stands for internet protocol. That term describes the set of rules or processes that determine how the internet works. In particular, it governs how data is sent over the internet from one device or network to another through a search engine.
The address part of the term is a little more straightforward. It’s the unique number used to identify every device and network that’s connected to the internet. Where your home address includes a street and a number, your IP address is usually made up of a string of numerals separated by periods. It’s easy to think of the IP address as your website’s destination for the traffic that’s coming to visit you.
To see an example, you can look up what the IP address for the network you’re currently on looks like using HostGator’s IP lookup tool.
For most of the people reading this, the IP address you see there will IPv4 (IP version 4), which means it’s four numbers, each between 0 and 255, divided by periods.
But because there’s a limited number of addresses you can generate in that format and the internet is growing at an explosive speed, some IP addresses are now formulated using IPv6 (IP version 6). IPv6 addresses include up to 32 digits, combine alphabetical and numerical digits, and have sections separated by colons rather than periods. They look like this: 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334.
In order for a visitor to find your website and not your competitors, you will have to have a unique identifier number. That’s where IP addresses come in. These decimal numbers are what keeps your website connected to the web and allow other computers, mobile phones, and other devices to communicate with one another. .
How Do IP Addresses Work?
For the internet to work the way it does, different devices and networks all need a way to communicate with one another. While we, humans, give our devices names (think: Suzy’s iPhone or Joe’s Computer) and use domain names to access websites (e.g. www.hostgator.com), the machines we use to make those connections depend on IP addresses to identify each other.
Every device that connects to the internet is hardwired to include TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), the communication system that dictates all the rules and processes by which devices are connected to the internet and share data with each other. That’s their language, and these unique identifier numbers are a part of how they understand and communicate with each other.
When a person uses their computer to access a website, the device needs a way to understand where that website is and pull up all the component parts it’s made of. To do that, the computer communicates with its network router, which then connects to the server the website lives on in order to access the files that make up the website.
Each device involved in this process—the computer, the router, the server—has a unique IP address that the other devices depend on to recognize it. The machines know which website to pull up and which computer to deliver it to based on those IP addresses
What Does An IP Address Tell You?
IPv4 addresses are made up of a couple of parts that each communicate something specific. The first part identifies your network, while the second part is for your specific device or host. If you look at the IP addresses for different devices connected to your home network, you’ll notice that they’ll have the first part of the IP address in common. That’s because they’re all connected to the same router and thus share a public IP (more on that later).
How much of the first part of the address is devoted to the network address isn’t consistent. That part has to do with the classes of IP addresses that were set up in the early days of the internet to designate between network sizes. For class A IP addresses, only the first section of the four is devoted to the network; for class B ones it’s the first two; and for class C addresses, it’s the first three.
Your computer network is programmed to recognize which part of an IP address is for the network, and which is for the host using something called subnet masks. The different IP classes and subnets come more into play when dealing with really large networks. For most home and business networks, none of these details make much of a discernible difference in what your IP addresses will look like or how they’ll work.
How Are IP Addresses Assigned?
At the highest level, IP addresses are assigned by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The IANA allocates blocks of IP addresses to regional internet registries (RIR), who then divide those up between internet service providers, governmental organizations, schools, companies, and other institutions within their region.
For most home and business networks, you’ll be automatically assigned an IP address from the block of addresses the IANA allocated to your ISP. In most cases, they’ll provide you with a dynamic IP, meaning it won’t stay consistent. If you used HostGator’s IP tool above to see what your network’s IP address is right now, you may well find it’s something entirely different within a week.
ISPs opt for dynamic IP addresses because it’s easier for them. They don’t have to make a special point of reconfiguring a network’s address every time a customer changes their location. Dynamic IP addresses have the added benefit of making your network more secure. Hackers will have a harder time slipping into your network if your IP address changes frequently.
Private and Public IP Addresses
The IP address assigned to you by your ISP is your public IP address. That’s the one associated with your overall network. It’s sometimes described as your default gateway address, and it’s the address you’ll see associated with your router. Every network and device outside of your own network will recognize and track you via this IP address. It’s tied to all the internet activity that happens within your home or business.
In addition to your main public IP address, every device connected to your router will have a private IP address. As discussed previously, these private IP addresses will generally all resemble the public IP address in the first part of the construction, with the last section being what makes each unique.
For example, if the public IP address for your network is 220.127.116.11, your private IP addresses might include 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199, etc. Having a private IP address for each device is important so your router can distinguish them from one another.
In addition to the most obvious devices you use the internet on, like your computer and phone, every device that connects to bluetooth or uses smart technology will also have a private IP. That includes any bluetooth headphones, smart TVs, wireless printers, and smart lights—just to name a few examples of the kind of devices you may have on your network.
Your router assigns each device a private IP automatically. You can also change the private IPs on most types of devices pretty easily if you so choose.
But generally, you won’t ever need to know or think about the private IP addresses on your network. The different devices will use their IP addresses to connect to and communicate with each other, but they’ll also have easier-to-remember names that either you created or that came supplied by the manufacturer (such as Suzy’s iPhone). Those will be what pops up in any situation you need to identify them.
What Is an IP Address Used for?
The general answer is that an IP address is used to identify a specific device, website, or network when other devices need to connect or communicate with it. When it comes to specifics, what an IP address is used for depends on the type of IP address.
Private IP addresses are used to differentiate devices on one server. A router needs to be able to tell the difference between your computer and a pair of bluetooth headphones. And your headphones need to be able to recognize the phone you pair them with. Every time those different devices communicate with one another, they do so by recognizing each other’s IP addresses.
Public IP addresses are used to identify a specific network. Even though they change regularly, your ISP is able to track the activities associated with your particular network based on your public IP address. This is how they’re able to identify and address instances of illegal online activity, such as downloading pirated material or sending spam emails.
The IP addresses of web servers are used to identify the websites stored on that server. They’re an important part of how your router and browser know how to recognize and pull up a specific website. For shared web hosting plans though, multiple websites will sometimes have the same IP address. In those cases, have no fear, your web hosting service provider will make sure each visitor is directed to the right website based on your domain name, which is what your visitors will be using to access the site anyway (only other machines use an IP address).
How DNS Servers Work
The domain name system (DNS) is an important part of how routers and browsers know how to translate domain names into IP addresses and vice versa. The DNS concept is often compared to a phone book—it’s the directory of which domain names are registered with which IP addresses. DNS servers are the technology that stores all those domain names and IP addresses and does the work of translating them for you.
Your router will be configured to work with a specific DNS server (or a couple), probably whichever ones your ISP defaults to using. It’s just one more step in the communication process across machines that keeps the internet working the way we all want and need it to. Your device sends a message to your router about what website you want to see via your browser, the router connects to the DNS server, which translates the domain you entered into an IP address, which connects you to the specific website you seek and—voila!—you see this web page.
And with internet and website speeds where they are for most consumers today, all of that happens within a split second. And notably all of it occurs in the background, where you don’t have to worry about it.
In Conclusion: What IP Addresses Mean for You
If you’re a casual internet user (or even a frequent internet user, like most people are today), how IP addresses work doesn’t mean anything significant for what your day-to-day browsing looks like. All of these systems of communication are set up to work seamlessly behind the scenes, while you go about using the more consumer-friendly interfaces and processes that have been set up for humans.
You can name your internet-connected devices with names that will be easy for you to remember and identify. And when you set up a website or go to visit one, you’ll use a domain name that’s intuitive and much easier to remember than a string of numbers. But for some people who do work on the more technical side of things, understanding how IP addresses work is an important part of keeping things running smoothly for the rest of us.
If you’re a HostGator customer and want to understand more about your website’s IP address, you can learn about how to find and use the IP addresses associated with your account here.
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As a technology company that helps customers win online, WP Engine strives to delight developers by providing them with the best platform for building and maintaining WordPress sites. This takes shape in a number of ways, like providing customers free access to the Genesis Framework and StudioPress themes or supporting different developer workflow methods that…
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The post How IP Addresses Are Tracked appeared first on HostGator Blog.
Want to find out what your public IP address is? At any given time you can easily check it using HostGator’s IP address tool, or one of a variety of other websites. Calling it a “public” IP address isn’t just talk—it really is easily accessible information.
On the one hand, it’s nice to know that it’s easy to learn your current IP address any time you need to know it. On the other, in an era with lots of online privacy issues, knowing your IP address is readily available to so many sources may be concerning. You may wonder who else can find this information, and what they can do with it.
If you’re worried about how IP address tracking works and what it means for you from a privacy perspective, we’ve collected all the most important details you need on the topic.
What is an IP Address?
To start, you need to know what an IP address is. IP stands for internet protocol, which is the set of processes that dictate how information is shared across the web. If you’ve ever wondered how one machine knows how to connect to another and what information to share with it, all internet-connected devices use the internet protocol for that. That, in a nutshell, is how IP addresses work.
Devices that use the internet are all programmed to follow the internet protocol so they know how to interact with each other and keep the internet functioning the way we need it to. For different machines and networks to effectively communicate with each other via the internet protocol, they need a way to identify one another. For that, each device has an IP address.
In most cases, IP addresses are a string of numbers separated by periods. If you used HostGator’s tool to learn what yours is, you probably saw an IP address that fits this description and looked something like: 188.8.131.52.
That’s your network’s address. Anytime you send an email or visit a website, that’s how the machines your network communicates with will see you. And that last part is what makes some people uncomfortable. What exactly do we mean when we say that other devices and networks can see you (or at least your IP)?
How Are IP Addresses Tracked?
Every time two devices connect to one another using the internet protocol, they have to acknowledge each other. In internet parlance, this is generally described as “shaking hands.” Your IP address needs to let the device at the other IP address know where to send the information that’s being requested. That hand shake is how IP addresses are tracked.
For example, when you’re trying to visit a website, your network sends out an information packet that includes your IP address and port number. Then the server that hosts the website you’re seeking accepts the packet, learns what network is asking for access, and knows where to send back its response in the form of all the files that make up the website.
That website and the server it’s on now know your IP address has visited. And your internet service provider (ISP) also has a record of that visit. In most cases, that’s where the tracking stops. A random person curious about your internet history won’t be able to find out what websites you’ve visited just based on knowing your IP address.
But ISPs keep a record of IP address activity, which means that, in rare cases, they can share that information with others. And while your IP address only provides limited information to the servers your network communicates with, it does give them some data about you.
3 Reasons to Track an IP Address
Why does anyone have to track your IP address to begin with? Why can’t you just browse the internet in peace with total privacy? For the most part, your IP address’s activity is your business alone, assuming no one’s looking over your shoulder or checking the browser history on your device.
But there are three main instances where that information will be used or accessed by a third party.
1. Legal Concerns
IP addresses are how we as a society identify people who commit illegal activities online in order to hold them accountable. This ranges from small offenses to large.
When someone downloads media or software illegally, the company that holds the copyright can find out and track the action to a particular IP address. They don’t know right away it’s you, but they can find out which ISP owns the address and send them a threat to pass along to you. Because your ISP has a record of which IP address was assigned to you at a given time and the activity tied to it, they’ll know who to blame for the offense.
IP addresses are also used in identifying the offenders behind spam and phishing emails. Email clients and email marketing software platforms keep a record of which email addresses look like spam based on the content of the email and subject line, as well as when recipients click on that “mark as spam” button. While they don’t have the power to find the individuals behind the email address, they can add the IP address it came from to a blacklist to keep the emails from that address from reaching people’s inboxes in the future.
While that’s a useful tactic to protect all of our inboxes from the thousands of spam emails that go out on a regular basis, it can have an unintended side effect. Because ISPs generally provide customers with dynamic IP addresses, meaning they change regularly over time, there’s always a risk that someone with a newly assigned IP address will be stuck with the consequences of the behavior of the guy who had it last week. It doesn’t happen often though, and it’s a problem easily fixed by changing your IP address.
And of course, there’s the occasional bigger criminal offense that triggers use of an IP address to identify someone. If a person sells or distributes something illegal online or talks about committing a crime on an online platform, law enforcement can demand their personal information from your ISP. Again, as with these other cases, a cop or lawyer won’t be able to tell just from your IP address who you are or where to find you. They’ll have to take the extra step of going through your ISP. But if someone’s suspected of a serious enough crime, ISPs are likely to cooperate and hand over that information.
It’s worth noting here that while tracking an IP address linked to illegal activity can eventually lead to someone learning the name and address of the person behind the computer, it’s not information your ISP will hand out lightly. Most internet service providers have strict privacy rules they abide by, so the average person asking for information is unlikely to be successful. But a law enforcement representative or copyright lawyer that comes equipped with evidence will be treated differently.
In some legal cases, an IP address can be tracked back to a specific individual. When it comes to marketing uses though, IP tracking is more anonymized than that. Marketing and analytics software includes the capability to track the location data of IP addresses and provide that data to website owners.
So when your IP address contacts a server to access a specific website, the website can track where the visitor is coming from. In real time, that information can be used to personalize the page you see. For example, when you visit the website of a national movie theater chain, often the page will automatically detect where you’re coming from and provide showtimes for the closest theater location.
In addition, that information will be saved and provided to the website owner through tools like Google Analytics. They won’t know your name and home address or anything like that, but they’ll be able to see that they got a website visitor from your city.
If you see ads for websites you’ve visited before following you around the web, that’s the result of cookies tracking your internet activity. While your IP address provides information about your location, it’s the cookies that provide websites and advertisers with more details about your specific online behaviors.
3. Scam Detection
Consumers aren’t the only ones who have to worry about online scammers. Many credit card companies and eCommerce businesses now use security software to help spot purchases that are likely fraudulent. If someone makes a large purchase, the software can flag it to be reviewed before it goes through. If the purchase is coming from a different location than where the credit card owner lives, they may check with the owner before processing it.
This is another case where IP address tracking won’t point anyone back to you as an individual, but can help companies learn valuable information about you based on location. The fact that IP addresses provide generalized location data (usually based on where your ISP is located) can help protect you, your credit card company, and the vendors you do business with from costly fraudulent purchases.
IP Address Information: What Can Someone Learn?
In most cases, the information someone can learn based on your IP address is limited. They can find out your city, your zip code (or one nearby), and the area code associated with the area. They can see what internet provider you use, and whether the IP address is on any blacklists.
In order to gain any more personal details than that, they would need to go through your ISP, which is only likely to provide your details if a lawyer or law enforcement agent provides them with evidence your IP address was linked to a crime. So most people don’t have to worry about their IP address leading any online strangers to your location.
How Can I Keep My IP Address from Being Tracked?
We’ve established that people generally won’t be able to find out personal details about you from your IP address beyond your general location. But if you’re uncomfortable with them even knowing that much about you, or if you don’t like the idea of your internet activity being traceable back to you, you have some options for shielding your IP address.
Invest in a VPN Service.
A virtual private network (VPN) is a paid service that will mask your IP address when browsing the web. It encrypts all your internet activity and shields sites from recognizing your geographic location. A VPN service comes in handy for anyone concerned about internet privacy, or those looking to get around geographic restrictions for accessing a website.
A VPN can ensure your personal data stays secure when you’re using public WiFi networks, such as at coffee shops or the airport. It can also keep your general geographic location hidden, if you’re worried about stalkers or just want that extra level of security when browsing on a search engine. And it can ensure you’re still able to watch your favorite show on Netflix, even when you’re traveling out of the country.
Use a free proxy server.
VPNs don’t come for free, so if you want some level of protection from IP website tracking, but don’t want to spend any money, another option is a proxy server. A proxy server obscures your IP address by using a middleman IP it shows up as instead. It’s not as secure as a VPN, since it doesn’t provide encryption for your data, but it does keep your IP address from being accessible to your average website user.
Set up Tor.
Tor is a free, open-source browser add-on that will bounce your internet connection off several different nodes each time you access a website to make your original IP address nearly impossible to trace. It’s not quite as secure as a VPN, as you’d expect from a free service, but it provides an extra level of encryption and anonymity.
IP Tracking (Usually) Won’t Hurt You
Privacy concerns in the internet era are absolutely real and valid. But IP tracking is fairly low on the list of things you should be worried about. The generalized geographic information people and websites can access via your IP address usually isn’t enough to do you any real harm. There are more important cybersecurity issues to keep an eye out for, such as whether the websites you visit use https—meaning they offer the proper encryption to keep your data safe— and knowing how to spot phishing emails.
Understanding how IP addresses work makes you a more informed internet user. But it’s one aspect of using the internet that shouldn’t keep you up at night.
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