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10 SEO Myths That No One Should Listen To

If you were to Google SEO myths, dozens of results would show up. Does this mean they are all to be absolutely disbelieved and discarded when you are optimizing your own online content? Certainly not! Some SEO tips are less like myths and more like bad practices, while others simply have less impact on page rank than other strategies might. While some myths do contain a measure of truth, there are still plenty of SEO ideas out there that should be stricken from existence to prevent further damage to your marketing efforts. Myth #1: SEO is dead. No doubt you’ve heard this myth bandied about the water cooler on more than one occasion, and some variation of it has been resurrected to refer to any number of things over the past decade. Despite the claims otherwise, SEO has not died an untimely death or been replaced by content marketing, user experience or mobile-friendly optimization. In fact, those particular aspects work with SEO and contribute to the overall success of search optimization. Myth #2: Anchor text must have keywords for proper optimization. In truth, it really doesn’t matter what your anchor text says, as long as you don’t use the same anchor text for all your internal links. If anchor text is keyword-rich and appears to be over-optimized to search engines, it could actually hurt your SEO efforts. Myth #3: Keyword-rich URLs improve page rank. If you’re seeking visible improvement, forget keyword-rich URLs. This myth is often perpetuated simply because humans think it’s easier for other humans to read URLs that look like sentences (and have keywords in them). They don’t make a difference to search engines when indexing pages, and can often only be found in searches that use exact match queries in parentheses. Myth #4: Social signals do (or don’t) impact search results. Do they? Don’t they? Google denies it, SEO experts claim they’ve proven it and, in the end, no one really knows for sure. While there’s no true rule of thumb here, building out social media marketing plans can’t hurt you and can ultimately bring about more brand awareness. Myth #5: Canonicalization isn’t really that important, so don’t bother. On the contrary, canonicalizing URLs if your site can be accessed by several different ones is very important for page rank purposes. Otherwise, each individual URL gets its own page value, instead of all the points and popularity going to one dominant URL. Myth #6: Personalized search results have nullified the power of organic search. While Google does use personalized search results for users based off of browser cookies, the difference in results is negligible. Organic results still trump personal ones, primarily because people don’t continue to search for the same things day after day. Myth #7: Outbound links are just as important as inbound links. Outbound links have essentially no ranking power when compared to inbound links. This is because they have no authority or value since they are coming from your site. Where they point to is insignificant in terms of your page rank, because you could otherwise attempt to artificially elevate your rank by pointing to dozens of expert and authority sites. Do your own research and find even more SEO myths that you should stop listening to right now. Use caution, however, and make sure you’re not actually disregarding what could be a valuable piece of advice in favor of public opinion.

The Art of Training Your Brain to Improve Your Entrepreneurial Focus

Developing your focus as an entrepreneur can be one of the greatest challenges you’ll ever face starting a business—all the talent, creativity, people skills, and funding in the world can’t help you succeed if you lack concentration. Fortunately, the art of staying focused is a skill, or perhaps a muscle—one any motivated individual can strengthen over time. Here are six ways to do exactly that, and start your path to focused, effective entrepreneurship. 1. Start the Day with Challenges Though this may seem unnatural, those who start their days with the most difficult tasks have proven time and time again to perform better throughout the day. Perhaps it’s a matter of establishing expectations first thing in the morning, or maybe it’s because you’re more energized at the beginning of the day, or clearing a difficult task could generate a jolt of endorphins. Whatever the mechanism, it works. Getting the difficult tasks out of the way first thing motivates you to stay focused on finishing everything you need to get done. 2. Allocate Time Mindfully Though you don’t need to schedule every minute of every day, when you spend time on a task (or a break), it pays to be attentive to how much time you are dedicating toward that particular thing. Avoid working aimlessly—anticipate how long it will take you to do certain tasks, then schedule yourself throughout the day so you don’t spend too much time (or get distracted) thanks to your set time limits. When you have a schedule, even a loose ad-hoc one, you’ll find it far easier to ignore distractions and stay on task. 3. Practice Makes Perfect Simply trying to focus for a few minutes each day can make it easier to do so in the future. Studies suggest concentration is somewhat like physical stamina: With regular effort, you can train up to Herculean feats. Try this easy concentration exercise: Set a timer for 10 minutes and slowly count to 100, forward and backward, until the timer runs out. Something as simple as focused counting can help you stay alert and more concentrated throughout the day. 4. Rest and Recharge The smartest entrepreneurs know the importance of a work-life balance. Working hard all day may sound enticing, but an entrepreneur who tries to focus for eight hours straight will have less done at the end of the day than one who took a few breaks. The trick is to find your best method of relaxing. Maybe you need to take a lap around the office after each call, or step away on one noon break to go for a nice lunch. Experiment and find the right way to resets your focus. 5. Organize Everything Clutter distracts from focus, so keep your workstation tidy. Few things kill concentration and build frustration faster than hunting for some vital document, a sticky note, or a pen to jot down an important piece of information. 6. Consider Why You Lose Focus One of the biggest things behind building concentration is noticing when you lose focus and then figuring out what happened. Did you put off tasks or open yourself up to surprises in your schedule? Get sucked into reading emails or browsing Facebook? Wander down the hall to speak with a co-worker? Anything that distracts you from your focus can be overcome, put aside, or avoided. Acknowledge those distractions and make a concerted effort to minimize them.

The Secret to Building Quality Backlinks Unveiled

Source: iStock Did you know that according to a survey by Moz, approximately 37 percent of online businesses spend an estimated $10,000 to $50,000 per month on link-building alone, deploying tactics like content and outreach, paid links, press releases, and more? While investing such a staggering amount into building backlinks is certain to be successful in one way or another, it simply isn’t necessary anymore. The point of building quality backlinks is for Google to recognize new Web pages as well as to determine how a Web page should rank in the search engine’s results. Familiarizing yourself with SEO basics, using the right SEO tools, and building a smart SEO strategy can go a long way when it comes to developing high-quality links back to your site. As always, practice smart online etiquette and remember Google’s rules about spamming. High-Quality Sites Before you begin your backlink-building journey, it’s important to understand that not all links are created equal. In order to get the most out of your link-building experience, it is essential that you understand the difference between links from high-quality sites and those of lesser quality. While the right inbound links can significantly boost your Google ranking, links from the wrong sites can leave you penalized. A high-quality site is one that provides relevant, useful information, and is free from common SEO mishaps. In most cases, a high-quality site is linked to by other high-quality websites and contains trustworthy, reliable content that is optimized for search engines without being “over-optimized.” A great way to test the quality of a site is to run it through Moz’s Open Site Explorer and see the site’s number of backlinks, MozRank, and other metrics. Simple Link-Building Strategies While you could spend tens of thousands of dollars each month investing in the art of link-building, there are a number of other affordable strategies that can prove to be just as beneficial. The No. 1 thing to keep in mind with link-building is that ALL campaigns should begin with something worth linking to. Create valuable content: The first step toward earning links is to build content that is relevant and garners the attention of your target market. Great content has the ability to be shared across the web, which indirectly and organically builds quality links back to your site. Check link value of sites: As mentioned earlier, Moz’s Open Site Explorer is an incredible tool to check out a site’s link value. Simply search a URL (or download the toolbar for even easier access to data) and see metrics like page authority, spam scores, social stats, inbound links, top pages, and even link opportunities to help you access whether or not you want to be linked on that particular site. Outreach and PR: Bloggers on high-quality sites are a great source to strengthen brand awareness as well as get a link back to your site. Send a personalized email to blogs in your niche and let them know about your products or services that are relevant to their readers. Ask if they might think your product or service is worth sharing, and be sure to include a link. Find unlinked mentions: Setting up Google Alerts and using tools like Buzzsumo or Mention.net are great ways to see when people are talking about your brand. If they mentioned your product or service but didn’t link back to your site, try sending them an email. Putting these powerful strategies into practice can not only increase the number of high-quality backlinks you receive at virtually no cost to you, but significantly increase your site’s traffic, building both your revenue and your brand. Sources: http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/growing-popularity-and-links https://www.reliablesoft.net/what-is-a-high-quality-web-site-in-the-eyes-of-google/ http://backlinko.com/17-untapped-backlink-sources http://neilpatel.com/2014/12/30/how-to-build-high-quality-backlinks-in-a-scalable-way/

Is your Blog Getting Enough Hits? 6 Steps to Help Boost Your Traffic

Source:Christian Schnettelker According to Hubspot, nearly 40 percent of businesses in the United States use blogs for marketing purposes. That may be because in 2013, 79 percent of businesses that blogged reported a positive ROI for inbound marketing. However, blogging does not automatically guarantee traffic. A successful blog features amazing content to establish strong readership, but this sometimes isn’t enough to get quality backlinks or traffic. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to not only increase overall traffic, but generate qualified traffic that leads to lifelong customers. Target Your Content Toward Your Customers Get in touch with your customers’ interests and create blog posts that appeal to them. Using demographic data, put together buyer personas and use them as guiding principles when planning your editorial calendar. While narrowing your base seems counterintuitive, speaking to your target audience’s interests and pain points will show your blog has merit to people who actually matter—your potential customers. Vary Your Content Straight text is not enough. To keep readers interested, mix up your content by adding images, infographics and videos. If you do not have the budget to create your own media, curate content from the web and provide commentary as to why it’s relevant to your customers. Also, include statistics and cite authoritative sources to build your own credibility and to make posts more sharable. Advertise Your Blog There are many ways to advertise your blog without spending money. For example, add a link to your blog in your Twitter bio or send out a blog article in an email or newsletter to your current contacts. Your email signature is another great place to add a link to your blog. If you see an active forum that is relevant to your business, join the conversation—but be sure to take the time to add value and build your character in the community before casually linking to relevant posts on your blog. While this can be a useful tactic, be careful. Remain genuine and add value—nobody likes a used car salesman on their forums. Other ways to advertise include posting articles on your professional and personal social networking accounts and sending other websites relevant native content. Become SEO-Friendly In 2014, Google fielded more than 6 billion searches daily, and that number is expected to increase significantly in years to come. Before publishing your post, spend five minutes doing keyword research and look for terms that are relevant to the post and have adequate search volume. Use these keywords within the copy (but don’t stuff!) and within meta data. There are many CMSes that allow easy on-page integration through SEO plugins or widgets. Install Google Analytics Google Analytics is free to download and is a goldmine of useful information, such as which keywords bring traffic, where visitors are coming from, demographic data, and engagement metrics that can tell you if your content is resonating. Using Google Analytics can help you decide which paths to pursue and which to avoid. Make and Accept Guest Posts Pay attention to popular sites and other blogs that contain information similar to yours. Chances are some of your current readers are checking out the same sites, so there is likely an abundance of potential readers lurking there. Research a blog you would like to be featured on and pitch titles that would resonate with its readers. Be sure to accept guest posts on your blog as well, since the guest poster will more than likely promote his or her article on your blog, increasing your traffic even more. Generating traffic can have a significant impact on the success of your blog—and, in essence, your entire business. Remember, companies that have created successful blogs are 13 times more likely to experience a positive ROI. While promoting your blog can take a substantial amount of effort in the beginning, the payoff is well worth it. Sources: http://www.forbes.com/sites/dorieclark/2013/11/01/how-to-drive-more-traffic-to-your-blog/ http://moz.com/blog/21-tactics-to-increase-blog-traffic-2012 http://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics

4 Simple Practices That Could Change The Way You Do Business Online

Operating your own online business is hard work. You and your employees have likely put a lot of time and effort into making sure your organization thrives, but even the most successful small enterprise has room for improvement. By taking time to identify your company’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as setting goals for the future, you can dramatically change and improve the way you do business. The following are four simple practices that can help you accomplish this. 1. Get to Know Your Customers Businesses in even the most stable industries have to deal with ever-changing customer needs and demands. Even if your customers are consistently happy with your products or services, it never hurts to put your ear to the ground and get to know them a little better. Try conducting surveys and interviews with your clients to find out what they like about your business and, most importantly, what they don’t. Paying attention to what customers are saying about you on social media and review sites is a great way to see what consumers think about your company. Being present and in the conversation helps you develop a deeper understanding of your customer base and their wants and needs. 2. Take Care of Your Employees Happy employees are much more productive and loyal than their less satisfied counterparts. Whether you’re a small operation or have a larger staff, taking care of employees can help increase office morale and productivity. Look to provide unique benefits, such as flexible hours and childcare solutions, and find ways to further your workers’ professional ambitions. If you’re working for yourself, chances are you rarely give yourself the time off you deserve. Though you’re the boss and working 24/7 might seem productive stepping back to take care of yourself and attend to your own needs will help you relax and take a much more balanced approach to running your business. 3. Forecast the Future It may come across as simple advice, but one of the most important goals you can set for your small business is to plan ahead for the future, especially when it comes to selling online. Even if you have an existing plan for the next six months or year, take some time to reevaluate and refine it. Incorporate what you’ve learned from accomplishing your previous goals and set new ones for your business to meet. By measuring online sales and website data, you’re able to see what works and what didn’t, and identify areas on your site to continuously improve. Remember, goals aren’t set in stone and it’s important to always plan for change. 4. Utilize What Is Free Running your business online comes with its own set of obstacles, as well as benefits. There are hundreds of free tools companies large and small can use to measure data, market online, and facilitate day-to-day corporate operations. A few favorites are: Google Analytics for measuring website metrics and data. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter for marketing and advertising. Moz Open Site Explorer for SEO insight. Asana for productivity. Google Alerts to see who is talking about you. Utilizing these free tools will not only help grow your business but keep you on track to meet your goals of business growth. These small improvements go a long way when it comes to ensuring the health of your small business. It may not seem like deploying a customer satisfaction survey or taking some personal time to relax will impact your company, but these quick practices have a tremendous effect. Online small business owners can turn to IX Web Hosting for their web hosting needs. We offer a variety of flexible hosting plans with unlimited shared hosting, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited server space, SSL certificates, and incredible hosting support.

4 Ways to Boost Traffic by Bettering Your Keyword Research

Source: Christian Schnettelker Once upon a time, marketers could research a few keywords for a website or a blog post with Google AdWords, and they were good to go. Since Google launched Panda in 2011, the process of optimizing keywords has become more complex. Sites with low quality or “thin content” and generic keywords no longer rank nearly as well as sites with rich, high-quality content and long-tail keywords. This means your content needs more than just broad keywords and to keep rankings high, you’re going to have to do some serious keyword research. If you’re unsure where to go for keyword research tools beyond AdWords or are simply looking for some new keyword strategies, consider one or more of the following. Free SEO keyword tools In 2013, Google rolled the Google Keyword Tool into the Google Keyword Planner. Planner is a great resource for finding exact phrase volume, competition, and similar keyword ideas. There are a number of other free tools that can provide even more keyword suggestion ideas to plug into the Keyword Finder, including: WordStream: Wordstream offers free keyword, keyword niche finder, keyword group, and negative keyword tools. Soovle: Soovle lets you search suggestions and completions from the top providers online. It’s quick, efficient, and user-friendly. Ubersuggest: Ubersuggest is a free keyword suggestion tool that makes efficient use of different services to streamline the process. Keywordtool.io: Keywordtool.io gives you more than 750 Google keyword suggestions for free. When Google AdWords became obsolete seemingly overnight, many companies were left unsure where to turn for free keyword tools. The good news is that there are other options out there, such as WordStream’s free SEO keyword research tools. You get more SEO keywords than ever before, including long-tail keywords, as well as structured, actionable data. For example, you can put a list of keywords into the Keyword Group, and within seconds, you’ll have a concise set of applicable keyword niches. Google autocomplete algorithm If you’ve used Google any time in the past few years, you’re familiar with the autocomplete algorithm that allows Google to predict what you’ll type next. For example, if you type “how to cook,” Google may suggest “how to cook chicken” or “how to cook the best ribs.” The more people use Google, the more intelligent the algorithm becomes. This feature is invaluable for marketers because it suggests a wide range of popular keywords, include long-tail keywords. The more popular the keyword, the higher it will rank. Related search results Once you’ve exhausted the autocomplete algorithm, take a look at the related searches. Start by typing in your keyword in the search box and hitting enter. Scroll to the bottom of the results list, and you’ll find a list of searches related to your keyword search. It’s worth your time to browse the related results because these display your keyword mixed up with other words in a way that autocomplete doesn’t. Amazon keywords One reason that Amazon is so successful is that it has completely dominated the organic search results for virtually every purchase-related keyword. With a myriad of keywords and reviews, there is no shortage of keyword ideas on Amazon. Make sure to check the “show results for” menu, main header, items listed, product description, customer questions and answers, and “customers who bought this item also bought.” Keep in mind that keyword research is an ongoing process. As Google continues to unroll new algorithms, you must make tweaks to your keyword search process accordingly. Don’t let your efforts stagnate or you’ll quickly find your company left in the dust. Learn everything that you can about SEO and keep improving your keywords to remain competitive within your industry. Digital marketers turn to IX Web Hosting for their web hosting needs. We offer a variety of flexible hosting plans with unlimited shared hosting, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited server space, SSL certificates, Dedicated IP’s, and incredible hosting support. Please visit us here.

Don’t Let These Mistakes Doom Your eCommerce Site

Online shopping isn’t just the domain of eCommerce giants like Amazon and eBay. According to a study conducted by UPS, 70 percent of shoppers prefer to visit their favorite retailer online. With that in mind, no online store—regardless of its size—can afford to ignore eCommerce marketing. That said, far too many small businesses commit mistakes that could potentially doom their eCommerce sites long-term. Fortunately, we’ve not only identified the four most common missteps made by online business owners, but also ways to avoid them. Too Many Choices If you drove by a restaurant that served sushi, hamburgers, Tex-Mex and Indian food, would you think it did any of this well? The same principle applies to selling online. To be competitive in a $1.5 trillion global eCommerce market, you can’t be average, you must be great. You are competing not only against corporations that sell products by the thousands and can survive on much smaller margins, but also against foreign companies with low labor costs that can do what you do for half the price. Besides diluting your competitive advantage, over-diversifying your product offerings eats up valuable capital in stock that may or may not sell. Identify your core business niche and build your eCommerce marketing strategy around that one category. Later, when you have built your brand and carved out a place for yourself, you can consider expanding your offerings. Difficult Checkout Process Sales are the entire purpose of your eCommerce site, so why make it difficult to complete a transaction? According to British research company Baymard Institute, 67 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned, meaning people add items to their carts, but do not or cannot complete the purchase. So, how can you prevent that? If you make it easy for a customer to find a product, you make it easy for him or her to buy the product. Make sure your site has an intuitive navigation menu that reduces the number of clicks it takes for customers to find what they’re looking for. From there, creating a shopping cart that doesn’t make people jump through hoops is key. Asking customers for unnecessary information will make customers abandon what’s in their cart, as will a bad checkout design. Keep the process simple with easy navigation and only one checkout page. Adding SEO as an Afterthought eCommerce search engine optimization is critical to attracting new customers, but too many small businesses only think of integrating it into their strategy once they have already built a site. SEO entails more than just the use of keywords, it includes: URLs Meta data Title tags User experience and more Since SEO encompasses virtually the entire site, it ties into why narrowing down a niche is so important for your company, since it will help you identify the keywords that will be most useful for your site. By optimizing your site based on your offering and what people are searching, you’re ultimately bringing in new audiences and building your customer base. Ignoring Valuable Data What do you know about your customers? When consumers shop in person, you learn many things about them, such as their age and gender, and can naturally build a bond with them based on these indicators. Online, every consumer appears the same, so it’s more difficult to build the kind of brand loyalty that leads to repeat business. Here are a few options for comprehensive data capture that will help you to cultivate the type of profile that allows you to send personalized recommendations and offers to create repeat customers. Google Analytics—this is an incredible tool that showcases the demographics of your site’s visitors. Shopping Profiles—offering your customers the ability to build shopping profiles will help capture data like birthdays and gender and can help track shopping habits long-term. Remember that when it comes to online shopping, you aren’t the only store in town, as a customer has literally thousands of places to shop on the Web. If you avoid the mistakes outlined above and develop an effective eCommerce marketing strategy, your online B2C sales stand to become very lucrative. When looking to host an eCommerce site, factors like a private SSL certificate and having a dedicated IP are key to your site’s success. Having a dedicated IP as well as an SSL certificate for your site will make your customers feel safe because it protects their sensitive data, like personal information and credit card numbers. SSL certificates require dedicated IP’s and luckily our web hosting plans offer that across the board. We’re compatible with all online stores and offer easy-install shopping carts, SSL certificates, and your very own dedicated servers.

Being an Online Entrepreneur Isn’t Easy: 7 Ways of Thinking to Increase Sales

Online business success doesn’t always happen overnight. In fact, in many ways, successful business owners are everyday people like you and me—the difference is that they have cultivated a unique mindset that takes them beyond the bounds of a normal employee or small-business owner. They take a small idea and turn it into something that sells simply by changing their mindful approach to business. If you want to become a successful entrepreneur, especially in the online realm, you have to prepare yourself to think big. Here are seven key mindsets from some of the most successful business owners in the world that you might consider adopting if you want to make it big: Constructive discontent: Entrepreneurs are not happy with the way things are. They continuously strive to make things better and to be better, which means driving innovation; they don’t let their businesses settle into a routine and are constantly looking for ways to improve and grow. Photo via: Biography Take Steve Jobs, for example. Did he settle with just the Macintosh? No. He took his business above and beyond, creating innovative technology for Apple users all over the world. Raise your iPhone high as you salute Mr. Jobs for consistently striving to create better and smarter products, year after year. Courage: Entrepreneurs recognize that playing it safe only puts limits on what is possible. They are up for a challenge, setting aside fears to take risks in order to do something beyond what is comfortable. In business, smart entrepreneurs do not let fear keep them from bold action. Photo via: Biography Mark Zuckerberg took a huge leap of faith when he created Facebook. At age 30, he ranks as one of the richest people in the world, all thanks to his genius idea of creating a site to connect friends. Without his courage and ability to remove doubt from his mind, Facebook would not be what it is today. Confidence: Entrepreneurs exude confidence and positivity. They don’t tolerate negative thinking, poor attitudes, or self-doubt. They trust that they make smart decisions and don’t let minor setbacks affect their way of doing business. Confident entrepreneurs allow mistakes to mold them and help them build strong enterprises. Photo via: Tell Me Nothing Self-made billionaire Mark Cuban is a great example of a confident entrepreneur. His father once told him, “Do the work. Outwork. Out-think. Out-sell your expectations. There are no shortcuts,” and he has followed that advice to a T. His confidence has molded his business above and beyond anything he could have ever imagined. Clarity: Entrepreneurs have laser focus. They don’t allow themselves to get taken off-track by distractions. A smart entrepreneur has self-selected goals that he or she pursues with tenacious focus. If something does not contribute to business success, a good entrepreneur is going to cut it out. Photo via: New York Times SumALL CEO Dane Atkinson says that the key to any business success is focusing on what you do best and believing that saying no to certain ideas leads you to more brilliant ideas down the road. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted; follow this simple formula and pursue those goals. Vision:Successful entrepreneurs have the big picture in mind at all times. They don’t get bogged down in the details, but instead see the purpose behind every business activity and pursue why they got into this business in the first place: because they love it. Photo via: Daymond John FUBU founder Daymond John has learned over the years that there are more important things than chasing the almighty dollar, namely doing what he loves and not getting caught up in the everyday bustle. When your eyes are fixated on creating a business that serves what you enjoy, success will follow. Passion: Entrepreneurs on top are always personally invested in their work. By loving what they do, entrepreneurs inspire their teams to do more than merely show up. They get all their employees engaged in the business and motivated about the future of the company. Photo via: Corporate Executives When Larry Page co-founded Google in 1998, he never imagined it being the giant that it is today. He was passionate about connecting people to what they were searching for. When you stay passionate about what you’re doing, your business wins. Comfortable with failure: Entrepreneurs deal well with failure. They know that falling short of their goals is just a way to learn more about how to succeed. Because entrepreneurs never give up and are passionate about what they do, they are able to keep moving forward despite any setbacks. Photo via: Yahoo Finance Lululemon founder Chip Wilson realized early on that setbacks were bound to happen to every business at some point or another. He believes learning to be comfortable when you don’t know it all is key, as is asking for help when you need it. Falling and getting back up is critical to the success of any company. There are no magical steps for success when it comes to being a smart online entrepreneur. It all boils down to having the right mindset. Once you’ve changed your ways of thinking, you too can lead your team to a successful small business and beyond. Entrepreneurs can turn to IX Web Hosting for their web hosting needs. We offer a variety of flexible hosting plans with unlimited shared hosting, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited server space, and incredible hosting support.

The 15-Minute Morning Routine That Will Make You Entrepreneur of the Year

While it’s easy to spend the first few minutes of your day pressing the snooze button and hiding under the covers, many highly successful individuals know that their most powerful moments—the ones that have the most significant impact on the rest of their days—are those first few minutes after waking up. Stick with this simple, 15-minute morning routine and before you know it, you will have a leg up on the competition as you begin each day with a fit mind, less tension, and a clear vision of your success.   Make Your Bed (two minutes): While many people tend to crawl out of bed leaving rumpled sheets in their wake, taking two extra minutes to make your bed sets the tone for how you view the rest of your day. By tidying up your bed, you are placing an emphasis on organization and order. Additionally, making your bed gives you an immediate sense of accomplishment, which will drive you to succeed throughout your day. Drink Water (one minute): After you sleep, your body and brain need replenishing with water to function at their full potential. Drinking a large glass of water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach helps purify the body’s internal system. With help from water, your body is able to produce new blood and muscle cells, allowing you think more clearly. This will help bring forth new ideas for success Stretch (three minutes): Taking a few minutes to stretch your body can be vital to your well-being throughout your day. Not only will you experience physical relief from using muscles that have been inactive for hours, you will also enjoy mental release first thing in the morning. Stretching can speed up the release of mood enhancing endorphins, improve circulation, and increase your mental flexibility as you proceed throughout your day. Map Your Day (five minutes): Planning out your day can help you focus on what events lie ahead, helping you to stay organized and on track with your goals and tasks. Put together a calendar of events, make a list, or even add your tasks to your cellphone. When you envision each task as a step toward completing your goals, you can actually increase your motivation to work and get things done. Dream (four minutes): You haven’t been out of bed long and may even have just woken from a dream, but believe it or not, daydreaming can be a very important motivator when it comes to an entrepreneur’s ability to soar. Choose a peaceful vision that makes you feel successful, think about how you will feel once you have reached your goals, and allow yourself to dream big. As an entrepreneur, you know that your productivity level is significantly based on your ability to manage time effectively. Starting your day with a routine that combines the maximization of your time with an emphasis on motivational activities is essential. Entrepreneurs can turn to IX Web Hosting for their web hosting needs. We offer a variety of flexible hosting plans with unlimited shared hosting, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited server space, and incredible hosting support.

Breaking Down the Basics: What is SEO Anyway?

Did you know that the heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, often abbreviated as Cat or CAT, ranks above the domestic animal of the same name, as well as the insect, in a search on Google for the word “cat”? How can a company that has been around for little more than a century outrank an insect and a feline that have been around for thousands of years? There’s always something else ranking higher than you on a Google search results page. That, my friends, is the awesome power of search engine optimization, or SEO. So, What Is It? As the full name of the abbreviation implies, SEO involves the optimization of online content to appeal to various guidelines, standards, rules, and preferences used for displaying search results to Internet surfers, searchers, and shoppers. People use search engines, primarily Google, to find things on the Internet. If you want to be found, you either have to give your website address to each individual personally (which is impossible), or you need to optimize your content so the search engine will find your site worthy of being included in a result list. Why Should I Care? The goal is to have first-page ranking because studies show that many people don’t even look beyond the first page. Even more so, such as in the case of Caterpillar, you want to have the No. 1 rank, because 33 percent of search traffic goes to that coveted position. Some things search engines like to find on websites when considering them for search placement include the following: Contextually relevant keywords and key phrases within the site copy that pertain to the search terms, including long-tail and geo-targeted keywords for niche and location-specific searches. Content that is original, valuable, and meaningful. Duplicate content can get penalized by search engines. Authority, content that’s back-linked on relevant expert sites, and a large quantity of social shares. Optimal site performance in terms of page load times, functioning links, bounce rate, and easy navigation Log into your control panel at my.ixwebhosting.com There are also things search engines do not approve of, like keyword stuffing, duplicate or “thin” content with little substance or value to the visitor, back-links to questionable sites, and the use of coding tricks to superficially create visitor or search engine appeal.  Some of these techniques are referred to as “black hat SEO” because they are unethical, improper, or frowned upon by search engines and marketing experts. When you’re ready to take your online marketing to the next level and gain the exposure you need to achieve your marketing goals, start thinking about SEO. Ensuring that your site is properly optimized for search engines is an essential requirement, and there are plenty of tools to help you along the way. For more information on web hosting that makes implementing your SEO processes easier than ever, check out our selection of affordable web hosting plans.    

WordPress- The Incredible Content Management System

WordPress has been around for a while now, but that doesn’t mean that people automatically know everything there is to know about it. WordPress, despite starting from pretty humble blogger beginnings, has turned into a complex, feature-rich, incredible Content Management System. If you’ve been on the Internet at all in the last 10 years, you’ve been on WordPress sites. So to answer your questions about WordPress, what it can do, and to give you some history…we’ve created a great little infographic that’ll run you through the details. Even if you’re using WordPress today, chances are you’ll learn something new about it. And if you’re not using WordPress yet, this might inspire you to. It’s FREE and it’s so powerful. Check it out! Pretty cool! Interested in trying WordPress? If you’re hosting with us already and want to know how you can get started using WordPress, you can give us a call or open a chat today and we’ll help you get set up. It usually doesn’t take longer than 5 minutes. If you want to install it but don’t feel like socializing with us, all you have to do is: Log into your control panel at my.ixwebhosting.com Click “Manage” for your hosting account Go to the “Easy Apps Collection” icon, select WordPress, and then hit “Install” You have WordPress! And it’s FREE! Look through some free themes here: https://wordpress.org/themes/. If you see one you like, you can activate them pretty easily following the instructions on that site. And if you get stuck at any time, IX is staffed 24/7 with WordPress experts. We have people who live, breathe, eat, and sleep WordPress and they’re on site, ready to help you figure things out when you get stuck. WordPress and IXWebHosting are a pretty good combination. Not hosting with us yet? Get started on our Expert plan, which gives you one free domain, unlimited space & bandwidth, 24/7 support, and access to easy installs of great free apps like WordPress. It’s only $3.95/month too! Thanks for reading. Happy hosting!  

IX Outage – Post Issue Technical Report

As many of you know, last week we experienced a major outage, affecting multiple email and database servers for just under 5 days. It was, without a doubt, the worst technical issue we’ve ever experienced as a company. Thankfully, all systems were brought back up without any loss of data.  Although we’re happy that we could restore all your data, we know the duration of the incident, as well as the incident itself, is unacceptable. To make certain that something like this never happens again, we launched a full investigation to determine the root cause of the issue, outline the steps we took to handle it, and help us take preventative measures against this type of problem in the future. I want to share this report with you, both to satisfy the curiosities of our more tech-savvy customers, and to illustrate the amount of time, work, and research it took to resolve this difficult issue.  I also want to share the steps we’ll be taking to prevent this issue in the future, which are included at the end of the report. So, here is the post-issue follow-up my system administrators delivered to me this morning. I think you’ll find it informative, and I hope it sheds some light on the mess that was last week: Incident Name: Storage Outage – sas3 Incident Date: 2014-03-02 Report Date: 2014-03-14 Services Impacted: Storage sas3 on dbmail01 93 Shared vms (mail and mysql of cp9-11), resources of 30366 accounts were affected. Incident Root Cause: The affected SAN is comprised of an array of drives in a RAID 50 configuration that consists of two RAID 5 groups (one parity group consisting of the even numbered drives and one parity group consisting of the odd numbered drives).   The array can handle two disk failures at the same time as long as they are not part of the same parity group.  In the case of our outage, drive 6 failed and drive 10 was added to the RAID to rebuild the group.  During the rebuild process, drive 0 failed causing us to lose the even-numbered parity group.  This occurred just before 4AM EST on 3/2/2014 and caused the RAID to go into an unrecoverable state. We contacted our hardware vendor’s support line before acting, because there was a large potential for data loss, and were escalated to their engineering team.  Total call time was 10 hours. Response: In order to regain access to the data, we had to manually disable slots 10 and 15 (the spare drives) so that the RAID would not attempt to rebuild.  Next, we reseated drive 6 which brought it online, but not as part of the RAID.  This allowed the entire RAID to come back online in a degraded state with drive 0 active.  Because drive 0 was still failing, we knew the RAID was in a very fragile state and that we had to move forward with great care or we would risk losing data. Our hardware vendor showed us a binding procedure that allowed us to move the affected volumes from the storage system.  We learned that if we triggered another failure in drive 0 at any point during this process, the RAID would go offline and we could lose access to the data.  With this in mind, we began to migrate the volumes, one at a time (that way, it would reduce the stress on drive, thereby reducing the chance of it failing again).  We were methodical and deliberate in the way we approached this and thankfully, we were successful in migrating all data from the storage without triggering another failure in drive 0.  The process completed, and all customers were back online as of 3/6/2014 just after 6PM EST.  The whole process took almost 5 days. Timeline: You can find a timeline of events on our status blog–from the initial outage to the final server’s reactivation. What We’re Doing To Prevent This: Improve Monitoring Currently, our automated hardware checks are set to notify us when a storage system has an issue of any type.  While sophisticated, it’s not specific enough to tell us what the actual problem is.  For instance, if a drive fails, we get a general notification, rather than a ‘drive x has failed’ message.  We are looking into using more specific, granular notifications for individual disks. Proactive Hardware Replacement It may be possible to check via SNMP for things like disk errors on specific disks before they actually fail out of the RAID and trigger a rebuild. This will result in less drive failures and less rebuilds. Switch All Arrays to More Stable RAID Our RAID currently rebuilds on storage arrays using RAID 50. Although this is standard, it can take more than eight hours to complete a rebuild. This is an 8-hour window where we risk losing two drives from the same parity group.  We can decrease this risk by moving to a significantly faster RAID 10 setup, which can rebuild in about 3 hours. Thanks for reading and again, we’re so sorry about this inconvenience. If you have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments. Conclusion Along with the steps we’ll be taking to improve our hardware, we also need to work on improving our speed and accuracy when it comes to identifying affected services and affected customers. This information should then make it to the blogs quickly so the customers know we are aware they are affected, and that we are working to fix it. The faster we can do this, the easier it is to pinpoint problems and implement fixes. During this current outage, we took too long to get detailed technical information (especially ETAs) communicated to you. We think it’s better to get some good information out – even if we have to admit that they’re rough estimates and it’s the best we have right now – than to delay providing any real information. Many of you agreed. Now that we understand the details of this issue, we can sleep a little better knowing that this won’t be likely to happen again and we’re all on the same page about what went wrong. We’re incredibly grateful for your trust, and we will continue to work tirelessly to regain and keep it.

Happy Holidays from IX!

Raise your hand if you spent the last few days running around like crazy, buying, wrapping and giving gifts for what feels like forever. A lot of really tired hands just went up at IX! We do all this running around, buying presents, making food, trying and failing to avoid crowds, because we want to see the people we love smile! The “smile countdown” has officially begun. And this year, the IX team got together to make 127 disadvantaged kids smile, and smile they did! Supporting the Franklin County Children Services Holiday Wish charity has become an IX family tradition, and this was our most successful year to date! Have you ever seen what a IX-Mas Tree made out of gifts looks like?  Watch below. Enjoy these times, savor the smiles, and don’t forget to smile yourself! Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year from IX Web Hosting! Your Team at IX PS:  Leave us your comments below! We’d love to hear what you think!

Get Your Site Featured with IX’s New Website Directory

Earlier this year, we mentioned a few of the features that would be launching alongside MyIX, and one of the first ones is ready for you to see: Introducing the IX Web Hosting Website Directory! With this new catalog, we’ve made it possible to see how similar sites and competitors in your industry are creating their websites. You can also browse each others’ sites to get some ideas for your own, as well as cross-promote your services to help improve your SEO. Additionally, we will pick new websites from our network every week to be featured on our site directory. Those customers will get a badge to add to their site so they can show off their cool new status! And guess what? YOU can be part of this new feature! Check out the sites we currently have featured at http://www.ixwebsites.com/. While you’re there, browse through the different categories and see if anyone has a site that has a similar focus to yours. And, if you want to add your site to our directory, just login to your control panel at my.ixwebhosting.com and follow these steps: 1. Click “My Profile” on the top tool bar. 2. Click “Website Information” on the left. 3. Click “Add Website Profile” at the top and fill out the information about your site! The more detail you provide, the more information we can be list for your site in the directory! So go ahead and check it out now! You can be one of the first to get your site added and viewable by other IX customers. Have fun!

Keeping the Crazy out of Your Comments

Recently, Google announced that they are rolling out comment moderation abilities to a handful of YouTube users, with plans for a widespread release in the future. This is a welcome addition to the YouTube community, and anyone who has ever been brave enough to view comments on even the most innocent of YouTube videos knows exactly why. For beneath nearly every YouTube video lies some of the most ignorant, racist, and profane collection of nonsense you could ever imagine. So, I started thinking… if a universally popular site like YouTube is experiencing these problems, what about our customers here at IX? What is an upstart blogger or online business owner supposed to do if they want user feedback, but want to avoid this type of online nastiness? The Problem Comment spam a very odd phenomenon that takes place on the internet. The ability to anonymously say anything you want, coupled with the absence of accountability, turns some people into raving maniacs who choose to take out their frustrations and insecurities anywhere they can. This problem isn’t only affecting YouTube, either. Take a look at the comment section of any website that handles movie reviews, news, politics, or gaming. You’re sure to find your fair share of senseless aggression and filth. So, the question is, how do website owners defend themselves from these malicious parties? Know Your Enemy First, let’s identify where all of this garbage is coming from. There are 3 major categories of inappropriate comment sources that you’ll want to filter out: 1. Trolls – Trolls are people that get a kick out of ruffling feathers. They will purposely try and start a online ruckus by presenting a ridiculous opinion in a serious manner, or play devil’s advocate just to rile people up. They rarely believe what they write, but they take pleasure in getting under people’s skin. 2. Bots – If you ever see a comment that sounds like an advertisement, it’s most likely a spam bot. Much like spam emails, these automated bots leave comments on popular videos and blogs with promises of great wealth for minimal effort. Here’s an example: Note: Finding this bot spam took me literally 30 seconds. It was the most recent comment on the popular Gangnam Style music video on YouTube. 3. Genuine Craziness – Even though a lot of comment section trash is generated by people just being jerks to rile people up, there are some folks out there who have an agenda and legitimately believe in what they’re saying. These people can be particularly off-putting to level-headed comment posters because they’re typically angry, offensive, illogical, and relentless. Filter out the Filth Now that you know where all the junk is coming from, here are some methods to keep it out of your comment sections and message boards. Turn off Anonymous Comments – If your blog software or comment section of your site has a setting that allows people to comment anonymously, make sure to switch it off. This will cut down on a very large amount of spam bots and trolls. Captcha – This free program prompts the user to type in a series of letters or numbers before they make a comment to ensure that they are a live human being and not an automated spam bot. You may have seen these at one time or another on an online store or when signing up for a newsletter.   Captcha plugins are available for popular blogging and CMS software like WordPress, MediaWiki, and ASP.NET. Check out their website for more information. Text Filters – Check to see if your blog or forum software of choice has a plugin that will filter out profanity, sexual references, and racial slurs. Some of these filters will just replace offending words with asterisks, while others will restrict an offending message from being posted at all. This should drive away or at least censor people who want to simply coat your comment section will four-letter words. Don’t Over-Censor Not all confrontation is necessarily bad when it comes to online comments. While filtering out the bad apples makes a comment area a better, more peaceful place, don’t be tempted to start banning people because of minor disagreements or legitimate gripes. For instance, if you sell a product, and someone leaves a message on your comment board that says, “Your product broke after 3 days. Not a happy customer,” you might be tempted to remove the content or ban the user so they don’t spread any more ‘bad press’ about your company. However, this is a huge mistake and can backfire for a number of reasons. For one, your customers are your revenue base, so it’s best to keep them happy. Ignoring or deleting users that have real complaints doesn’t fix the underlying problem, and will only cause more headaches in the future. Secondly, if you’re caught intentionally ignoring or censoring displeased customers, you’ll soon find yourself in a firestorm of bad press. Nothing shows your customer base that you don’t care about them more than deleting bad reviews to skew public reception into your favor. People will take to Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and anywhere else that people will listen to decry your name and shady business practices. When it’s all said and done, the act of censoring a negative review can hurt far more than the negative review itself. It’s best to address gripes and complaints head on, and in public. Make your own comment profile and respond to customers’ concerns directly. Let your users and customers see that you’re not afraid to address the issue and help someone who’s unhappy. It demonstrates your willingness to work with people and your openness to criticism. Conclusion These tips should help you ward off the majority of cyber-crazies, but there isn’t an everlasting cure-all. You have to be a constant gardener when it comes to your website’s forums. So, periodically check your comment boards and user forums from time to time to make sure they haven’t been consumed by the internet’s darker side. Thanks for reading, and good luck!

IX’s New Kitty Commercial

Everyone knows the internet wouldn’t survive without its two most vital ingredients: 1. Web hosting. No web hosting means no web sites, and no web sites essentially means no internet. 2. Cats. It’s common knowledge that the internet is dependent on people sharing cute cat pictures and videos in order to remain relevant. So, when our VP of Operations adopted an abandoned kitten that was rescued from an empty storage facility, we took the opportunity to combine both major components of the internet into one adorable commercial. Click here to watch! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyfkmfiTjDQ

Important Information about HIPAA Compliance

As part of IX Web Hosting’s ongoing compliance initiatives, we have identified recent changes in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) that may impact some of IX’s customers. Specifically, these changes require Covered Entities and all of their Business Associates who create, receive, maintain transmit or have access to protected health information (or the possibility exists that the protected health information in the business associate’s custody or control could be compromised) to independently comply with HIPAA. To help identify those customers who may be impacted, IX is asking its customers to notify IX if they are considered a Covered Entity or Business Associate under HIPAA and store or transmit electronic protected health information using IX’s services. IX will assume that the recent changes in HIPAA do not impact IX customers who do not identify themselves as a Covered Entity or Business Associate. IX has also updated its Terms of Service with customers to prohibit the use of protected healthcare information on websites that IX hosts. If you answer “yes” to both of the following questions, please contact legal@ixwebhosting.com no later than 09/23/2013. Is your business a Covered Entity or a Business Associate as defined by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or HIPAA (45 CFR 160.103)? If so, are you maintaining or transmitting Protected Health Information or PHI (defined in 45 CFR 160.103) using any of the IX services? If you did not answer “yes” to both of the above questions, there is no need for further action Please see below for some frequently asked questions. We appreciate your cooperation and look forward to continuing to serve you. ******************************************************** If I answer “yes” to both questions will my service be impacted or change as a result of the new regulations? What if I answer “no”? If you answer “yes” to both questions your services will change. You must transfer to another hosting provider. Upon request, we can provide you with the name of a provider who is HIPAA compliant and operating in a HIPAA compliant data center. If you answer “no”, there will be no changes to your services at this time. If I answer “yes” to both questions what will IX do with the information that I provide? IX will use the information to recommend you transfer your account to a provider who can supply HIPAA compliant services. Will I be contacted by an IX representative whenever new regulations apply to my business? Not necessarily. We may contact you if the regulations apply to and affect IX’s provision of services to you.

Important Yahoo Mail Update

On Monday, July 15th, Yahoo Mail will be removing all inactive email accounts (specifically, those that haven’t been logged into for the past year) and will be releasing them back into the public domain. This could potentially affect anyone who currently has a mailing list that includes these unresponsive Yahoo email addresses, because if someone else picks up the released email address and gets an unfamiliar email or newsletter, they may end up marking it as spam. If you have a mailing list that may include some of these email addresses, you may want to identify and remove them as soon as possible. If someone re-registers one of the released emails, gets your newsletter by mistake, and marks it as spam, it can easily cause ISPs like Google and Gmail to block any further emails you attempt to send. It’s never pleasant to have to delete subscribers, but it’s better than being marked as spam. Remember, Yahoo is making this change on Monday, July 15th, so try and contact your Yahoo contacts ASAP.  

Nice Try, Tornado

As some of you may have read on our official Facebook page, IX Web Hosting was recently hit with a pretty nasty storm. The high winds lifted the roofs off of surrounding buildings, toppled tractor-trailer rigs, and shattered windows, both vehicle and building alike. And, while the subsequent power outage has disrupted many businesses in the area, the employees at IX Web Hosting are still here, chugging away to keep this situation from affecting our customers in any way. Though the storm struck without warning, we were able to make sure our customers’ accounts were completely unaffected by this incident. Our emergency generators are running at full power to make sure our servers are operating without interruption. We are having additional fuel delivered as needed so that we remain up as long as the power remains out. This means our shared, VPS, and Cloud services are currently up and running, and should remain unaffected until the power outage is over. We will, of course, update you if anything changes or if we have any reason to suspect that this might change. Fortunately, no IX employees were injured during the storm, and our building missed sustaining any physical damage. As for an ETA for when the local power outage will end, we’ve heard from our power provider, AEP, that power should be restored by 11:00 PM EST. [UPDATE: Power is restored! We had our generators refueled again just-in-case, but we're back on grid power!] In the meantime, check out this video we captured of the storm touching down across the street, featuring our videographer, Stephi Kurz, and me, Mike Nichols, correctly identifying the storm as a “thing.”

Important WordPress Security Update

.entry p { padding-bottom: 20px !important; padding-top: 0 !important; font-size: 12pt !important; line-height: 140%; } #blog_left ul { list-style: disc !important; padding-left: 39px; } ul, ol { list-style: disc !important; } If you’re a customer who uses WordPress, you have probably already noticed the issues concerning logging into your WordPress control panel. We wanted to send out this notification to alert anyone who hasn’t been briefed on the situation, as well as give some additional explanation about what is going on, how we’re handling it, and why we’re handling it in this manner. A global brute force attack on WordPress’ wp-login.php file began on April 11th. This attack affected WordPress users worldwide and was experienced by virtually every web hosting company. A ‘brute force’ attack is when an automated program (sometimes referred to as a ‘botnet’) repeatedly attempts to log into a password protected site by trying different passwords over and over again until it finds the right one. We implemented a server side check to reduce the number of wp-login requests, but found that the attack started to increase the time between login attempts. On April 12th, we noticed the botnet activity ramped up dramatically, and we were forced to block all traffic to wp-login pages. This was a temporary solution that remedied the brute force attack in the following ways: Customer WordPress sites were able to stay up and running All incoming brute force requests were stopped This also kept out any unwanted, malicious intrusions into our customers’ sites By blocking the malicious incoming traffic, it also stopped the slowness issues we were having on our Linux servers. In the meantime, we began collecting attackers’ IPs so we could start blocking them. On April 13th, we began using the data we’d collected on the attackers’ IPs to begin blocking them from connecting to our servers. This was a slow process that took time to refine and put in place as a permanent solution. On April 16th, we removed the block on each server for wp-login once the new system was implemented across all of our servers. Users should now be able to log into their WordPress sites. Once you log in, we recommend that you change your password to something very strong (e.g. a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters like #, $, and &). You can find instructions on how to change your password here: http://codex.wordpress.org/Resetting_Your_Password. The tactics used in the attack are changing daily (sometimes even hourly), and we are responding with adjustments of our own. While we currently have the situation under control, we are still watching and reacting to the attack to make sure it doesn’t begin affecting our servers again. Although we can’t announce too many details about our attempts to block the attack (because we don’t want to give too much information to the attackers), we still want you to know that we are aware of the situation, and are working on it. Keep an eye on the status blog for major updates as the situation progresses. Thank you for your patience as we continue to defend against this attack. Sincerely, Lisa Grice Director of Customer Operations IX Web Hosting

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