Industry Buzz

Cloudflare outage caused by bad software deploy (updated)

CloudFlare Blog -

This is a short placeholder blog and will be replaced with a full post-mortem and disclosure of what happened today.For about 30 minutes today, visitors to Cloudflare sites received 502 errors caused by a massive spike in CPU utilization on our network. This CPU spike was caused by a bad software deploy that was rolled back. Once rolled back the service returned to normal operation and all domains using Cloudflare returned to normal traffic levels.This was not an attack (as some have speculated) and we are incredibly sorry that this incident occurred. Internal teams are meeting as I write performing a full post-mortem to understand how this occurred and how we prevent this from ever occurring again.Update at 2009 UTC:Starting at 1342 UTC today we experienced a global outage across our network that resulted in visitors to Cloudflare-proxied domains being shown 502 errors (“Bad Gateway”). The cause of this outage was deployment of a single misconfigured rule within the Cloudflare Web Application Firewall (WAF) during a routine deployment of new Cloudflare WAF Managed rules.The intent of these new rules was to improve the blocking of inline JavaScript that is used in attacks. These rules were being deployed in a simulated mode where issues are identified and logged by the new rule but no customer traffic is actually blocked so that we can measure false positive rates and ensure that the new rules do not cause problems when they are deployed into full production.Unfortunately, one of these rules contained a regular expression that caused CPU to spike to 100% on our machines worldwide. This 100% CPU spike caused the 502 errors that our customers saw. At its worst traffic dropped by 82%.This chart shows CPU spiking in one of our PoPs:We were seeing an unprecedented CPU exhaustion event, which was novel for us as we had not experienced global CPU exhaustion before. We make software deployments constantly across the network and have automated systems to run test suites and a procedure for deploying progressively to prevent incidents. Unfortunately, these WAF rules were deployed globally in one go and caused today’s outage.At 1402 UTC we understood what was happening and decided to issue a ‘global kill’ on the WAF Managed Rulesets, which instantly dropped CPU back to normal and restored traffic. That occurred at 1409 UTC.We then went on to review the offending pull request, roll back the specific rules, test the change to ensure that we were 100% certain that we had the correct fix, and re-enabled the WAF Managed Rulesets at 1452 UTC.We recognize that an incident like this is very painful for our customers. Our testing processes were insufficient in this case and we are reviewing and making changes to our testing and deployment process to avoid incidents like this in the future.

Let’s get rid of all the passwords

Name.com Blog -

By Gary Stevens Can you imagine an online world without passwords? Probably not, but the fact is that passwords have always come with risk. No one understands that better than Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The 21st century was barely underway when Gates predicted that technology would one day replace passwords with options that are more […] The post Let’s get rid of all the passwords appeared first on Name.com Blog.

Debunking WordPress Hosting Security Myths

Nexcess Blog -

WordPress hosting is complex. Every WordPress site depends on a stack of software and hardware created by companies and communities with standards and values that are difficult to understand from the outside. This gives rise to misunderstandings and myths, especially where security is concerned. In this article, we look at some of the most pernicious… Continue reading →

Should I Switch Web Hosts? How to Know When It’s Time to Migrate Your Site

DreamHost Blog -

When it comes to starting a website, web hosting is one of the most crucial yet most confusing aspects to tackle. With dozens of providers on the market, it can be hard to cut through the noise and figure out which one offers the best plan for you. Fortunately, several signs will make it clear when it’s time to move to a new host. While they’re not so pleasant to deal with in the moment, these issues may lead you to a better service provider that can help you boost your site’s success. In this post, we’ll discuss these signs and how to spot them on your website. Then we’ll explain how to migrate your site to a new web hosting platform. Let’s get started! Have a website? We’ll move it for you!Migrating to a new web hosting provider can be a pain. We’ll move your existing site within 48 hours without any interruption in service. Included FREE with any DreamPress plan.Choose Your Plan How to Know When It’s Time to Migrate (6 Tell-Tale Signs) It’s possible you’ve been experiencing problems with your website for a while now without really knowing why. In some cases, it may be that your web hosting provider isn’t a good fit for your website. These six signs will let you know it’s time to switch web hosts. 1. You’re Experiencing More Downtime Than Usual Any time your website is unavailable to users, it’s considered ‘down.’ Even if your site is only unavailable for seconds at a time, it could cause serious problems. For starters, downtime makes your website appear unreliable and low-quality to both users and search engines. If your site is experiencing frequent outages, your users will come to find they can’t rely on it to be available when needed. The Google algorithm will account for this, and your search engine rankings will fall as well, hurting your site’s visibility. Plus, if your site generates revenue, you’ll be missing out on income every time your site has an outage. If your site is down often or for long periods of time, you could be losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars. When you’re running an online store, uptime truly affects your bottom line. Web hosting is one of the most common causes of website downtime, as there are many ways in which your server can impact your site’s availability, including: The quality and reliability of your hosting equipment The type of server your website is on, as shared servers tend to become overloaded more quickly than other types of servers. Your host’s security features, since malicious attacks can lead to downtime. So, if you keep finding your website is down, there’s a fair chance your host may have something to do with it. Moving to a more reliable server is the best thing for your site in a situation like this. 2. Your Website’s Loading Speed Is Slow Site speed is also key to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), users’ opinions of your site, and your conversion rate. It’s wise to test your site’s speed every once in a while using tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom to make sure your loading times are staying low and to fix any performance issues. While a crowded server can certainly slow your loading times, your server’s location also plays a role in how fast your site delivers information to visitors. Servers located far away from end users aren’t able to serve them content as quickly. An easy way to determine if this is the case for your website is to use Pingdom to test your site speed from a variety of locations. If your site loads quickly from some places yet takes a long time to load in others, you’ll know server location is causing speed issues for users in those regions. If your host only has servers in one location and doesn’t offer a Content Delivery Network (CDN), it’s almost guaranteed that some portion of your users will experience less-than-ideal site speed. It may be worth looking into hosts with more or different locations, or ones offering a CDN. 3. Customer Service Isn’t Helpful A solid relationship with your web host is priceless. For starters, there are going to be times when server-related errors occur on your site. In these instances, you’ll need to be able to get ahold of your host quickly to resolve the issue and get your site back up. Plus, you may sometimes have questions about billing or other account details. However, the best hosts also offer support in other areas of website management. For example, many hosts provide troubleshooting guidance for different types of errors on your website or support for platforms such as WordPress. If your host is difficult to get in touch with, provides inadequate solutions, or doesn’t offer support in areas directly related to your hosting account, consider switching to a new provider. While you may be able to get by without quality customer support, at some point, you’ll have to reach someone for help with a server-related problem, so you’ll want a reliable team at your back. 4. You Need More Space Than Your Current Provider Can Offer Most websites start small and grow over time. Your current host may have been a great fit when you were first launching your site, but if your traffic levels have increased significantly, this may no longer be the case. As your site accumulates more recurring users, you’ll need a server that can handle more traffic as well as more and larger website files. Moving from shared hosting to a dedicated server can help, but switching hosts can often provide a greater benefit. Some providers specialize in shared or Virtual Private Network (VPN) hosting and may not offer dedicated servers. As such, if your site continues to grow, you’ll need a dedicated web hosting service at some point — so a switch may be inevitable. Other hosts may have dedicated servers available, but still not offer as much storage as you need. Ultimately, you’ll want to compare plans between companies to see which one offers the most space for the best price. Related: The Ultimate Guide to Dedicated Hosting 5. It’s Getting Too Expensive to Stay With Your Current Host Web hosting is a recurring expense. It’s also sometimes the largest expense associated with running a website, especially for WordPress users working with a free Content Management System (CMS) and mainly free plugins and themes. It’s true that you often get what you pay for with hosting. However, there are also times when an expensive plan isn’t necessary. If your site is still small and not using the amount of server space you’re paying for, or if your current hosting plan comes with several features you never touch, you’re probably paying too much. There’s no sense in breaking the bank to host your website when there are plenty of affordable options available. For example, we offer high-quality managed WordPress hosting plans for as low as $16.95 per month. If you’re shelling out more money for web hosting than what your website brings in, you might want to consider downsizing or switching hosts to stay within your budget. Plus, it never hurts to pocket a little extra cash each month. 6. Server Security Is Sub-Par As we mentioned earlier in this post, hosts are responsible for securing their servers. Not every provider is as diligent as they should be when it comes to security, and hackers will sometimes exploit weaknesses in your server to gain access to your site. This can be detrimental to your website for multiple reasons, including: The loss of parts or all of your site due to a malicious attack that destroys key files and data. Compromised user data, including sensitive information such as private records and credit card details. Decreased credibility, as users will see your site as less reliable if it’s hacked. Investing in secure hosting is a smart move. Even if you have to pay a little extra or go through the trouble of migrating to a new host, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble down the line. Some security features you may want to keep an eye out for are Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates, malware scanning, and server firewalls. Of course, no matter how secure your server is, you should always follow security best practices for your site itself, too. How to Migrate Your Website to a New Hosting Provider If you’ve considered the signs mentioned above and determined you should switch hosting providers, you’ll need to migrate your website. This requires you to copy all your website’s files and move them to your new hosting account. Typically, the migration process is pretty involved. You’ll have to contact your current host, back up your site files, then use Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) and a client such as FileZilla to connect to your new server and upload your files. You’ll also want to consider transferring your domain since there are benefits to keeping your domain registration and web hosting under one roof. Related: How to Transfer Your Domain to DreamHost As you might imagine, there are a lot of things that could go wrong during this process. For example, corrupted backups are always a possibility, and using SFTP still poses a risk to your site’s files as you could mistakenly delete some or all of them (we recommend users always have a recent backup of their site on hand). These things considered, it’s helpful if you can get an expert on board to migrate your site for you. Fortunately, if you’re a WordPress user and have decided to switch to DreamHost, our managed WordPress hosting plans include free website migration services. We’ll handle moving your site at no extra cost. If you’d prefer one of our shared hosting plans or have a website built without using WordPress, never fear. You can still take advantage of our migration service for just $99. Our migration experts will get your site moved to your new hosting account within 48 hours of your request. You’ll also avoid downtime altogether, so you don’t have to worry about negatively impacting your users’ experience while you move your site and get acquainted with the DreamHost control panel. Looking for a New Hosting Provider?We make moving easy. Our hassle-free, high-performance WordPress hosting includes a FREE professional migration service ($99 savings)!See DreamPress Plans Switching Web Hosts Hosting can be one of the most confusing aspects of owning a website. With so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to know if your web hosting provider is the best one available for your needs. If you’ve noticed these issues on your website and have decided it’s time for a change, consider checking out our DreamPress hosting plans. Our managed WordPress hosting service will provide you with the speed, support, and security your WordPress site needs. Plus, you’ll be able to use our site migration services for free. The post Should I Switch Web Hosts? How to Know When It’s Time to Migrate Your Site appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Best Windows Hosting

HostGator Blog -

The post Best Windows Hosting appeared first on HostGator Blog. When you’re in the market for web hosting services you’re going to have a lot of options to choose from, and a ton of decisions to make. You not only have to find a quality hosting provider, but choose the right type of hosting for your website. With each hosting type, you’ll find a variety of different options and features you’ll have to decide between as well.  One of those decisions will be which operating system is going to run on your server. Your operating system will influence the different applications and software that you can run, and that your server can support.  The most popular choice of server OS is Linux. But, some website owners will require the unique functions of a Windows server for their sites to function properly. If that sounds like you, then this post is for you. Below you’ll learn what Windows hosting is, the unique advantages and disadvantages it offers your website, and what to look for, so you can choose the best Windows hosting for your needs.  What Is Windows Hosting? Chances are you’ve heard of the Microsoft operating system Windows. You might even be using it on your computer right now. Well, just like there have been multiple releases of the traditional Windows OS, there are different versions of the operating system that are built for specific purposes. One of those is Windows hosting. This form of hosting was built to run on server environments, namely Windows Server. The use of Windows as a server operating system is on the rise, and for some website owners, it has become the preferred option. Linux still remains popular and widely used, but the name recognition of Microsoft Windows alone is helping Windows hosting rise in popularity.  When you see the term “Windows web hosting,” it refers to the fact that the server hosting your website is using Windows as an operating system as opposed to Linux. You might also see Windows hosting referred to as ASP.NET hosting.  Most of the other common hardware features will be the same with either form of hosting. You’ll have variations of storage, bandwidth, disk space, domain management features, and more, depending on your web hosting plan. The biggest difference is simply the operating system you’re choosing.  Keep in mind that you won’t need to choose Windows hosting services just because you’re running Windows on your home PC. The two are completely unrelated. You can host your site with Windows hosting even if you’re running Linux on your home computer! Why Windows Over Linux? The choice between the Windows and Linux operating systems is just one of many choices you’ll have to make when finding the ideal hosting provider. So, before you move forward with your web hosting decision you’ll need to choose between the two. If you’re in the market for a shared hosting plan, then you’ll find that most servers only run on Linux. But, Windows options are available, depending on the hosting provider. One of the biggest reasons to use Windows hosting services is if you’re building your site using ASP.NET. That framework requires a Windows host to properly support the site.  Here are some of the most common reasons you’ll want to choose Windows hosting: Your website is built with, or requires, programming that only works with WindowsYou’re building your website or application with the ASP.NET frameworkYou’re working with Visual Basic, FrontPage or MS SQL Basically, if you’re utilizing a Microsoft application to build your website, or if you require a Microsoft application for the ongoing use of your website, then Windows hosting is going to be a necessity.  Some people will also use Windows hosting, so they can utilize the Plesk control panel to manage their sites and server environment.  The Plesk control panel will help you manage and deploy websites and applications, configure email accounts, and a lot more.  The Pros of Windows Web Hosting Services Windows hosting can offer your site specific advantages if you’re a certain kind of website owner. Here are some of the biggest advantages to using Windows hosting:  1. Flexible Server Solution Windows hosting can afford you a lot of flexibility. For example, you have the ability to run Apache server software or even Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS). You also have the ability to use the ASP.NET framework, Visual Basic, or if you need to use MS Access or MS SQL for your databases.  Also, if you developed your web app or site using .NET, then you’ll need to use Windows to host it.  Same goes for using a program like Microsoft Exchange or Outlook. You’ll need a server configuration that’ll support any existing web applications or services you’re using through your website.  For those who have built their websites or web applications with Microsoft supported applications and tools, Windows hosting will be a great option that can help you get the highest level of performance and functionality.  2. Easy to Use A lot of people who choose Windows hosting do so out of familiarity. They use, know, and understand the Windows OS, so it makes sense for your server to run the same software as well. If you are going to be involved in running your server, then this knowledge might come in handy. If you’re running a Linux server, then you’ll need to understand how to use the command line and engage with the server in a different manner. Now, you might just be using the Plesk control panel to manage your Windows server, but the OS familiarity can be a benefit for some users—especially those who want to access their servers using the command line.  3. Windows Platform Compatibility Since your web server environment will be running Windows, you’ll also see compatibility with a variety of other Windows platforms and technologies. For example, if you use Outlook to manage your email, then you should be able to configure Outlook to work with your server environment as well. You’ll also find support for other software applications that have been designed specifically for Windows.  If you want to use other software on your server, you’ll still find compatibility with commonly used open-source languages like PHP, Apache, and MySQL. However, keep in mind that these languages and technologies might perform better on Linux machines.  If you’re unsure if the underlying technologies used to create and run your site or application will be compatible with a Windows host, then you’ll want to reach out to customer support before you sign up with a host.  4. Consistent Software Updates Like most other Microsoft products and services, you’ll receive a steady stream of updates with Windows hosting.  With regular operating system updates, you can ensure that your web server will be protected against the latest security risks that are lurking online. Plus, since they’re official company updates and releases, you may receive a higher level of support than what other open source solutions can provide.  Being able to access a team of Microsoft technical support specialists can be very valuable for some website owners.  The Cons of Windows Hosting Windows hosting won’t be the right fit for every kind of website owner. Some people will be a better fit for a Linux-based server. Here are the most common drawbacks of using Windows hosting:  1. System Reboot Issues One of the biggest downsides to running a Windows server is the frequent system reboots. If you currently use a Windows PC, then you’ll know about this issue. Now, the server edition of Windows you’ll be running will reboot less than the traditional operating system, but it does happen more often than with a Linux-based server. This can end up affecting your site’s reliability and performance. However, you can expect web hosts with long running Windows hosting packages to have the majority of these kinks worked out.  2. Can Be Less Stable Windows hosting can be less stable than a Linux-based server environment. Generally, a Windows server will be less streamlined than a Linux server. Simply because there’s more going on with a Windows server, there’s also a greater chance of things going wrong.  The chances are higher that you’ll experience reliability and stability issues with a Windows server. If server stability is very important to you, then you might want to explore different web hosting options.  3. More Expensive Hosting If the price of hosting is one of your biggest decision-making factors, then Windows hosting might not be the best option for you. Windows hosting isn’t the most expensive form of hosting you’ll find, but it is more expensive than a shared server running Linux. Since Windows isn’t a free and open source OS, the hosting company has to pay a licensing fee to install it on their servers. If you’re looking for the cheapest hosting possible, then you’ll probably end up going with a Linux-based server environment.  What to Look for in the Best Windows Hosting Provider If you’re looking for the best Windows hosting provider, then your options are going to be relatively straightforward.  Beyond ensuring that the hosting plan you’re choosing supports Windows servers, there are a few additional features you’ll want to take into account.  1. Support for Required Software If your website requires certain software, languages, or scripts, then you’ll need to make sure that it’s supported by the Windows host you choose. The worst thing you could do is go all the way with signing up with a Windows host, only to realize they don’t support the software that your site requires to function. If you’re running non-Windows software, programming languages, or platforms, then you’ll need to double-check that the software is supported.  2. Plans Within Your Budget One of the most important factors in choosing the best Windows hosting for you is finding a host that fits within your budget. Now, if you’re looking for quality, price alone shouldn’t be the biggest factor. Instead, you should look at the total value of the host. Do they provide the hardware and software you require? Are the servers high-performing? Do they provide Windows-specific support? Try to find a Windows host that fits within your budget, while also offering additional hosting benefits beyond strictly running the Windows OS.  After all, your operating system choice doesn’t matter a whole lot, if it doesn’t have the additional features you need, or you end up with a poor-performing website.  3. A Quality Support Team A customer support team isn’t something you’ll need to rely on all the time. But, when you need it, you want a support team that you can count on and trust. Make sure that your hosting provider offers support via a channel you prefer, whether that’s via phone, email, or even live chat.  Since you’re running a Windows server, you might also want to look for Windows-specific support. While running a Windows server should be less involved and easier to manage, a quality support team is always important to have.  4. Easy Site Management If you’re relatively new to hosting your site online, then you’ll want to look for certain tools and applications that’ll make your life easier.  For example, ensure that your Windows host offers the Plesk control panel. This control panel operates similar to cPanel and offers you an intuitive graphical interface that’ll help you accomplish technical server and website tasks.  You might also want to look for a bundled application installer that can help you quickly install dozens of applications on your server environment.  Is Windows Hosting Right for You?  Chances are, Linux hosting is going to be a better fit for most website owners. However, users who are building their sites with ASP.NET, or another Windows framework will require a Windows server to host their sites. Overall, Linux servers are more common, but Windows hosting does cater to a portion of the market who will require a Windows server for their site to function properly.  Even if you’re an absolute beginner, a lot of hosts offer dedicated technical support, along with the bundled Plesk control panel for easy site and server management. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what Windows hosting is, the types of circumstances you’ll want to use Windows hosting, along with the benefits to hosting your site on a Windows server. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

9 Ways to Increase Your Messenger Bot Engagement

Social Media Examiner -

Do you want more people to interact with your Facebook Messenger bot? Wondering how and where to promote your chatbot? In this article, you’ll discover how to encourage people to engage with your Messenger bot on Facebook. #1: Incentivize Messenger Bot Subscribers With Exclusive Access Messenger bots aren’t the most conspicuous mainstream marketing channels, so […] The post 9 Ways to Increase Your Messenger Bot Engagement appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.

A note on unsupported rules in robots.txt

Google Webmaster Central Blog -

Yesterday we announced that we're open-sourcing Google's production robots.txt parser. It was an exciting moment that paves the road for potential Search open sourcing projects in the future! Feedback is helpful, and we're eagerly collecting questions from developers and webmasters alike. One question stood out, which we'll address in this post:Why isn't a code handler for other rules like crawl-delay included in the code?The internet draft we published yesterday provides an extensible architecture for rules that are not part of the standard. This means that if a crawler wanted to support their own line like "unicorns: allowed", they could. To demonstrate how this would look in a parser, we included a very common line, sitemap, in our open-source robots.txt parser.While open-sourcing our parser library, we analyzed the usage of robots.txt rules. In particular, we focused on rules unsupported by the internet draft, such as crawl-delay, nofollow, and noindex. Since these rules were never documented by Google, naturally, their usage in relation to Googlebot is very low. Digging further, we saw their usage was contradicted by other rules in all but 0.001% of all robots.txt files on the internet. These mistakes hurt websites' presence in Google's search results in ways we don’t think webmasters intended.In the interest of maintaining a healthy ecosystem and preparing for potential future open source releases, we're retiring all code that handles unsupported and unpublished rules (such as noindex) on September 1, 2019. For those of you who relied on the noindex indexing directive in the robots.txt file, which controls crawling, there are a number of alternative options:Noindex in robots meta tags: Supported both in the HTTP response headers and in HTML, the noindex directive is the most effective way to remove URLs from the index when crawling is allowed.404 and 410 HTTP status codes: Both status codes mean that the page does not exist, which will drop such URLs from Google's index once they're crawled and processed.Password protection: Unless markup is used to indicate subscription or paywalled content, hiding a page behind a login will generally remove it from Google's index.Disallow in robots.txt: Search engines can only index pages that they know about, so blocking the page from being crawled usually means its content won’t be indexed.  While the search engine may also index a URL based on links from other pages, without seeing the content itself, we aim to make such pages less visible in the future.Search Console Remove URL tool: The tool is a quick and easy method to remove a URL temporarily from Google's search results.For more guidance about how to remove information from Google's search results, visit our Help Center. If you have questions, you can find us on Twitter and in our Webmaster Community, both offline and online.Posted by Gary

Product Pages Matter More Than Ever. Here’s How to Make Yours Better

HostGator Blog -

The post Product Pages Matter More Than Ever. Here’s How to Make Yours Better appeared first on HostGator Blog. Pop quiz: Which matters more, your website’s homepage or your product pages? Thanks to the way most people search and shop now, one of your product pages will probably be their first contact with your store. In fact, they may never see your homepage at all. That’s okay–it means people are landing on your product pages when they’re ready to buy. But will they buy from you? It depends on how effective that product page is. Here are some ways to make yours convert. Use SEO to Help Shoppers Find Your Products SEO can be intimidating to new store owners because there are a lot of elements to consider, and best practices change when search engines like Google update the way they index and rank sites. It’s a good idea for any new eCommerce entrepreneur to master the basics of SEO and keep learning. To start, these are some of the elements you’ll want to optimize on your product pages: Page speed There are two things to keep in mind as you check how long it takes your product pages to load. One, this page may be a visitor’s first experience with your store. Two, if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds or less on their phone, they’re probably going to leave. How can you get a page full of high-resolution product photos and demo videos to load fast? Start with a host that delivers fast load times, like HostGator’s managed WordPress hosting. Choose a theme for your store like Astra or Schema Lite that’s lightweight and doesn’t slow down load times. And follow our recommendations for selecting image formats, sizes, and indexing for better SEO and, yep, faster page loads. Keywords and unique copy You might be tempted to save time by copy-pasting manufacturer descriptions or descriptions from other pages on your site, but this can ding your search rankings. Every product page needs its own unique description that includes the keywords shoppers use to search for that type of item. Go beyond basic keywords like “boys sandals” to so-called long-tail keywords that help people find exactly what they want to buy: “boys soccer sandals” or “toddler boys suede sandals.” This takes time, but it will help your product pages rank higher in the kinds of specific searches people do when they’re ready to make a purchase. Behind-the-scenes SEO Meta tags and schema markup are two elements that customers don’t see, but search engine crawlers do. The meta tags and descriptions on each page tell crawler bots what’s on the page, so make sure those robots can tell it’s a page for a “red enameled tea kettle” or “small martingale dog collar” for better click-through rates. You can also add schema markup to your product pages to generate rich results in Google searches. The easiest way to do this is with Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. Enter your page URLs and start tagging. Create a Good Customer Experience with Smart Web Design and Copy Google’s UX playbook for eCommerce is full of research-based recommendations for product page improvements. For example, each product page should include a value proposition—a free shipping deal, a coupon code, or something customers can’t get anywhere else.   Don’t be shy about putting product prices up front. Customers prefer it, and if they must hunt for the price they may move on to another store. Google recommends displaying prices above the fold (before a user has to scroll down) on product pages. Make your descriptions easy to read Google suggests bulleted lists, and I agree. No one wants to read a paragraph full of product details on their phone. Customers are more likely to buy if they get the details at a glance. Include customers’ product reviews This is important for any kind of eCommerce site, but it’s absolutely critical if your store has many similar products. This helps shoppers decide which option is right for them without having to leave your store to find reviews. Bonus: customer reviews can help with SEO. First, add reviews to your product pages. Then, use schema markup (see Behind-the-scenes SEO, above) to format your reviews for rich search results. Add secondary calls to action “Add to cart” is the most important CTA on every product page, but not every shopper is ready to buy right now. Maybe they’re on their phone and don’t want to enter credit card data on a tiny screen. Maybe they’re at work and their break is coming to an end. Secondary CTAs like “add to wishlist,” “save for later,” and “add to favorites” encourage your customers to come back later to complete their purchase. Test, Adjust, Repeat How will you know if your product pages are working well? Test them! Marketers use A/B testing to compare the effectiveness of two different versions of one element—an image, a headline, a call-to-action button, even the color of your page background. Once you know whether version A or version B gets better results (more click-throughs, more sales), you know which one to stick with. For an in-depth example of A/B testing, you can read how we A/B tested 300 million emails to find the best design elements. To begin A/B testing elements on your pages, you can register for a free Google Optimize account. Optimize integrates with your site’s Google Analytics, and it walks you step-by-step through the process of optimizing your online store. The very first step? Create an A/B test. You’ll get a tutorial that shows you what to test, how set it up, how long your test should run, and how to manage and get reports on your tests. Ready to start setting up your online store? Choose one of HostGator’s managed WordPress hosting plans for fast load times, easy set-up, and free SSL certificates for site security. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

What Is PPC?

HostGator Blog -

The post What Is PPC? appeared first on HostGator Blog. Marketers throw around a lot of acronyms.  For someone new to online marketing, it can be a little overwhelming to parse what people mean when they say PPC, SEM, SEO, CTA or one of many other common marketing acronyms.  This post will provide a thorough explanation for one of the most common and important acronyms online businesses should know about: PPC.  What Is PPC in Marketing? PPC in marketing stands for pay per click, the term used to describe a popular online ad billing model where the advertiser only gets charged for the ad when someone clicks on it.  This billing model represents a shift in how companies pay for advertising on the web versus what has long been common in other advertising formats such as magazine and TV spots.  Instead of paying a lump sum to reach a large number of people and hope some of them take an interest in your message, PPC marketing allows brands to pay only when consumers take a direct action. You don’t pay for the million people to view your ad, you pay for the hundred interested enough in your ad to do something about it.  The Different Types of PPC There are two main types of PPC marketing advertisers can take advantage of. Paid Search Ads Most of the time when you hear someone talk about PPC ads, they’re talking about paid search ads that show up on the search engine results page (SERP) of Google and the other main search engines. Depending on the search term and how much the advertiser has bid for the spot, these can show up above the list of organic results, to the right of them, or below them.  When you advertise with Google, you also have the option of placing PPC ads across their vast display network, which includes additional Google properties like Gmail and YouTube, as well as over 2 million other websites across the web, including popular media properties like the New York Times and Buzzfeed.  In other words, Google’s network for PPC search ads covers a significant portion of the web.  Social Ads The other main option for PPC advertising is social media. Most of the main social media platforms provide ad options using a similar PPC model to that of search engines. PPC social advertising is possible on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  With each social platform hosting over a million users (more than a billion, in the case of Facebook), many of them visiting the site multiple times a day, social PPC advertising is a strong option for reaching more of your audience.  PPC Terms to Know Before we get into more details of what’s involved in PPC advertising in digital marketing, you need to understand the language commonly used in the PPC world. Here are some terms worth knowing: CPA – This stands for cost per action. It’s a billing model offered on some PPC platforms in which, instead of paying for each click, you pay for a specific desired action, such as an email list signup or a purchase. In some cases, the acronym could also apply to the similar term, cost per acquisition, meaning you pay for every time you gain a customer.CPC – This stands for cost per click. In the PPC bidding model, keywords are assigned a value based on how competitive they are. So if there are a lot of businesses vying for a certain keyword, you can expect to pay more for each click than with a keyword that isn’t as popular to advertisers. Understanding the average CPC for the keywords you target is an important part of keeping your PPC campaigns profitable. CPM – This stands for cost per impression, or more accurately, cost per a thousand impressions. For ad campaigns where visibility is more important than inspiring direct action, most PPC platforms allow you the option of paying based on the number of times someone sees your ad, instead of paying for each click. CTA – This stands for call to action. It’s a term commonly used in all types of marketing, and plays an important role in PPC as well. It’s widely considered a best practice to include a clear call to action in every text ad you write. Some examples of common CTAs include “Learn more” or “Click here.”CTR – This stands for click-through rate. It’s a metric calculated by dividing the number of impressions (or times people have seen your ads), by the number of clicks they receive. It’s an important metric for gauging the performance and quality of your ads and campaigns.Long-tail keywords – The cost and success of paid search campaigns is directly related to the keywords and keyword phrases you choose to target. The term long-tail keywords is used to describe search terms that are more specific and therefore less competitive than broad keywords. For example, “flower delivery” is a broad keyword, while “same day flower delivery austin tx” is an example of a long-tail keyword that would cost less to target, but still reach a relevant audience. Quality score – The placement of PPC ads depends on two main factors: the amount a brand is willing to spend, and their ad quality score. The search engine ad platforms want to deliver ads that are relevant to what people are looking for—they value delivering a good experience, in addition to getting money from advertisers. They assign ads a quality score based on factors like CTR and the bounce rate for people that click. If your ads are high quality, you’ll end up paying less for each click. Remarketing – Any time you’re browsing the web and see an ad for a product you viewed recently, you’re the target for remarketing, sometimes called retargeting. On Google’s display network, you can target past website visitors with ads based on the pages on your website they viewed. This helps you stay top of mind for past visitors and increase the chances of a conversion.ROI – This stands for return on investment, and is a common business term. You may also encounter the similar acronym ROAS, for return on ad spend. It refers to figuring out how what you’re spending relates to the amount of new revenue you’re bringing in from your ads, so you can determine if your PPC campaigns are paying off.SEM – This stands for search engine marketing, the catch-all term for all digital marketing and advertising efforts focused on getting noticed in the search engines. It includes PPC and SEO, the paid and organic versions of gaining spots in the search engine results.SEO – This stands for search engine optimization. Where PPC ads help you gain spots in the advertising sections of the SERP, SEO is how you gain spots in the organic results. SEO is distinct from PPC, but most companies that do one will benefit from having a strategy for the other as well.  Now you can talk about PPC with your peers like an expert, and dig deeper into resources that explain how to do it well. 4 Reasons to Use PPC Marketing Businesses have a lot of different marketing tactics to choose from, and limited budget and resources to put toward them all. PPC is far from your only choice, but it’s one of the most popular online marketing tactics for good reason.  Here are four notable benefits of doing PPC advertising. 1. PPC advertising is targeted. PPC channels—both search and social—allow you to limit who will see your ads based on factors like demographic categories and online behavior. If your product’s target audience is middle-aged women who are really into sports, you can use your PPC platform’s targeting options to set up a relevant audience for your ads that’s more likely to respond to them.  2. You can reach a huge audience with PPC ads. A significant majority of people in the United States now use social media, and an even larger number of people use search engines. The main channels for PPC advertising allow you to reach a massive portion of the people online today—and that’s before you factor in the rest of the Google Display Network, which Google says reaches over 90% of all people on the internet.  PPC advertising allows you to get information about your brand, products, and content in front of just about anyone that uses the internet. 3. PPC produces detailed analytics. In addition to (hopefully) driving new visits and conversions, PPC campaigns produce another valuable result: rich analytics.  Every PPC campaign you launch will result in data that helps you better understand who your audience is, what language they’re using, and what kind of messaging they respond to. Those insights not only allow you to continually improve your PPC campaigns, they can also be applied to your other marketing efforts. You can strengthen your SEO strategy, your social media marketing, and content marketing plans based on what you learn from your PPC efforts.   4.  PPC gets results. Google estimates that businesses get a return on investment of $2 for every $1 they spend on the platform. Your success rates will depend on the quality of your campaigns, how good of a job you do targeting the right audience and keywords, and how well you monitor and adjust them over time. But if you do PPC well, you can count on gaining new leads and customers from it. How to Do Pay-Per-Click Marketing Well Anyone that decides to include PPC as part of a business marketing strategy needs to know a few main things in order to do it effectively. Here are eight PPC best practices to follow.  1. Perform keyword research. For paid search marketing, finding the right keywords is crucial for getting the results you want. Keyword research allows you to identify the terms and phrases your target audience is commonly using when they search for products like yours and answers to questions that you cover on your website.  When you enter a starter list of terms you’ve brainstormed into Google’s Keyword Planner, the tool uses historical data to provide: An estimate of how many times people will see ads that target that term (impressions) in a given period of timeAn estimate of how many times people will click on those adsThe expected click-through rateThe average cost per click, as well as the maximum cost per click The Google Keyword Planner will also help you build out a larger list of relevant keywords. You can plug in the list you have now, and the tool will both provide helpful data on your current keywords (average monthly searches, level of competition) and a list of related keywords with the same data provided.  There are also a number of other keyword research tools you can use to supplement the data and suggestions provided in Google’s Keyword Planner. Using what you learn, you can build out a campaign that targets the most relevant keywords your audience is using. 2. Set your budget. Once you set up your PPC account, the platform will let you set a specific budget for your ad campaigns and provide a daily maximum amount you’re willing to spend. Since PPC uses a bidding model, your ad placements will depend on the budget you set. If you’re hoping to show up for competitive keywords with a high CPC, you need a big enough budget to account for that.  Figure out what you can afford to commit to PPC advertising and consider how much the keywords you’re targeting cost in order to work out a budget that makes sense for your business. 3. Use negative keywords. With PPC for search, you have the option to include negative keywords that you explicitly don’t want to show up for. This can help you further refine who will see your ads based on relevance, so you don’t waste money on clicks from people looking for something different than what you offer.  For example, a florist that sells pre-made rose arrangements doesn’t need to show up for people looking for tips on how to grow their own roses. So they might add terms like “how to grow roses” or “rose pruning” to the negative keyword list.  4. Create relevant ad groups. PPC advertising platforms also let you set up specific ad groups so you can tailor your ads based on the specific keywords and audiences they’re most relevant for. That means a florist can use different messaging for a set of keywords related to Mother’s Day flowers than one related to bereavement, and can change the wording of ads targeting middle aged men looking to buy flowers for their wives than those for young couples selecting floral arrangements for an upcoming wedding. With ad groups, you can make your ads more relevant to the specific people who will see them, increasing the chances of success. 5. Choose your audiences. Very few businesses need to reach everybody. What you’re selling is most likely to appeal to a specific subset of the population. If you sell business software, then you need to reach professionals from certain types of businesses in specific roles. If you sell skateboards, you want to reach young people with an interest in skateboarding.  Both search and social PPC options let you choose who will see your ads based on some common categories such as demographics and interests. A click from someone in your target audience is worth much more to you than one from someone unlikely to buy your products. By setting up a specific audience for each of your campaigns, you ensure the clicks you pay for are more worth the cost.  6. Optimize your landing pages. Getting someone to see and click on your ad is a big goal, but that’s just the first step in what you ultimately want them to do. For your PPC spend to be worth it, you also need for them to take the next step you want them to, whether that’s clicking through to read more content, signing up for your email list, or making a purchase. Make sure that the web page those PPC clicks lead to is optimized to match the specific keyword and ad you use. The landing page should always be relevant and designed to achieve your specific campaign goal. Always design a landing page with a clear CTA, and try out different wording and designs to learn what works best.  7. Analyze your results. One of the big benefits of PPC is that you end up with a lot of valuable analytics you can learn from. Don’t set your PPC campaigns on auto pilot and hope for the best. Spend time analyzing the data so you can learn what your audience responds to and tweak your campaigns for better results over time.  In your analysis, make sure you factor in conversions, as well as clicks. In order to properly determine the ROI of specific keywords and campaigns, you need to know how often they drive people to take the specific actions you want them to, beyond earning that initial click. Analyzing your metrics can help you cut out costly keywords that aren’t producing the results you want, and help you put more of your budget toward ads that produce new sales and subscribers.  8. Use retargeting. How many times have you visited a website, checked out a product you liked the look of, but decided that you’d better not spend that money right away. It doesn’t mean you’re uninterested in the product, just that the timing wasn’t right.  Retargeting gives you a way to reach the people who like your products, but for whatever reason just weren’t ready to buy right away. You can re-capture the attention of someone who might otherwise forget about your brand. Get More Sales with PPC  A strong PPC strategy can help you gain more visibility with your target audience, and turn that attention into conversions. But it takes work to learn the ropes and do PPC effectively. If you want to give it a try, but aren’t sure how to get started, hiring a team of skilled PPC professionals can take most of the work off your plate, while increasing your chance of getting great results. Contact HostGator to learn more about our PPC services today. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

SEO vs. PPC

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The post SEO vs. PPC appeared first on HostGator Blog. After all the hard work you put into designing and launching your website, now you get to the even harder part: getting people to visit.  A website can be a powerful tool for driving more awareness of your business and convincing people to buy, but it can’t do any of that unless people find it. And in an overcrowded online marketplace, getting noticed by the people you want to reach is a serious challenge. Once you start looking into online marketing tactics to promote your website, you’ll notice two marketing options get a lot of attention: search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click advertising (PPC).  Often, new website owners with a limited budget try to figure out: “In the argument of SEO vs PPC, which should take dominance?” Before you can determine which tactic makes the most sense for your business, you need to understand what they are.  SEO and PPC are the two sides of search engine marketing (SEM). They have one main thing in common: they help you get found by people searching for what you do on the search engines, especially Google.  But they also have some notable differences. What is the Difference Between SEO and PPC? The difference between SEO and PPC is all about where on the search engine results page (SERP) you show up and how you get there.  What is PPC Marketing? With PPC, you buy spots on the SERP that show up at the top of page (if you pay enough), at the bottom, or to the side. PPC results often have the word “Ad” next to them, or show up in an image carousel with shopping details at the top of the page.   Brands get those spots by paying for them. Search engine ad platforms use a pay-per-click bidding model to sell ad results. The businesses willing to spend the most, get the best placements for the keywords they bid on, but they only pay when someone actually clicks on the ad, hence the name “pay per click.”  An SEO strategy operates differently. What is SEO Marketing? With SEO, you work to earn spots in the organic results—that’s the term for all the results on the page that haven’t been paid for. For many search terms, that means they show up below PPC results, but not always. Sometimes organic results can claim a rich snippet, like the answer box that shows up at the top of some SERPs. SEO results can’t be bought, they have to be earned. You claim organic spots by practicing a number of SEO tactics, including: Working to optimize your website for relevant keywords you want to target.Making sure your website provides a good user experience, especially when it comes to things like site speed and mobile friendliness. Working to build authority for your website by earning backlinks from other sites.  Those are the basic differences between SEO and PPC to be aware of, but what does that mean for website owners? SEO vs PPC in 7 Categories Small business owners don’t have a lot of money to spend on an online marketing strategy, so what you really want to know about SEO vs PPC is how they shake out in comparison to each other in terms of things like cost and performance.  Here’s how the two SEM tactics compare in seven main categories.  1. Cost This is a tricky category for comparison. While it may seem like there’s an obvious answer, since PPC is paid advertising and SEO must be earned with work, you may assume PPC is more expensive. In reality, measuring SEO vs PPC in cost is complicated, as which costs more will really depend on how you approach each. To truly see results with SEO, most website owners will need to hire an SEO expert to help. A recent survey found that SEO consultants charge an average of around $500-$1,000 a month. While technically, you can spend nothing on SEO but time, more realistically, you should expect to spend around this amount.  One benefit of PPC is that costs are within your control. You can set a maximum daily spend within Google Ads, and the network will stop running your ads once you’ve gotten enough clicks to reach that amount. That means you can name your budget and never go over it. But if your budget is too low, you’ll run through your maximum spend too early in the day to get the results you want, and it will take longer to accumulate the data you need to build better campaigns.  According to one survey, small businesses that do PPC spend an average of $9,000-$10,000 a month. That doesn’t mean you’d have to spend that much, but it probably means that’s the amount others have found gets the best results. Winner: SEO, usually 2. Control SEO is all about doing your best to signal to Google the keywords you think you should rank for, and proving you’re authoritative enough to gain those rankings. While you can target specific keywords, you ultimately have very little control over what terms you’ll show up for, where you’ll show up in the rankings, and how your website will show up on the SERP.  For that last point, you can provide your own meta descriptions and use schema markup in the hopes that Google will display the information you’ve provided on the SERP. But it’s still up to the search engine how your website shows up—if it shows up at all.  With PPC, on the other hand, you have much more control. Paying for ads means you can decide: Which relevant keywords your ads show up for Who sees your ads, in terms of categories like demographics, geography, and consumer behaviorWhat your ads look like, since you decide on what the ads says, and can include elements that increase clicks like images, or ad extensions that provide useful information such as special deals and delivery information. Winner: PPC 3. Speed of results SEO is a long game. Expect to spend months, or even years, practicing SEO tactics before you start to see results. And even then, your first results won’t be for high-competition keywords.  For example, a small business that sells hot sauce will see results for long-tail keywords—the SEO term for keywords that are less competitive—like “hot sauce shop san antonio” or “ghost pepper hot sauce” long before it has the chance to claim a broad term like “hot sauce.” That doesn’t mean SEO isn’t worth doing. It absolutely is! There are plenty of benefits to SEO. It just requires patience.  With PPC, by contrast, you can start showing up on page one and getting new traffic the first day you launch a campaign. PPC is often a smart choice for businesses who are doing SEO, but want to start driving traffic faster while they’re waiting for SEO results to pay off. Winner: PPC 4. Amount of work Both SEO and PPC require ongoing work. With PPC, you need to complete keyword and audience research to figure out the best targeting for your campaigns. Then you need to set up your campaigns, monitor them to learn what’s working, and make updates to improve your results and make sure your budget goes further.  As with PPC, SEO should start with keyword and audience research, then you have a list of tactics to stay on top of: Optimize each page of the website for your chosen keyword by including it naturally in the title, headings, page copy and meta tags of the page.Consistently create high-quality content to keep your website fresh and target more of the keywords on your list.Undertake link building strategies to get other websites to link back to yours. Maintain a SEO-friendly web design On the whole, doing SEO well usually requires more work than PPC. Winner: PPC 5. Trust As you’d expect, people generally trust the results that have earned top spots more than those that paid for them. 46% of people said they consider organic results more trustworthy than PPC ones, and 65% said they were more likely to click on an organic result for product-related searches. SEO is therefore a better way to earn the trust of people searching for the kind of products you sell. That said, a sizeable portion of the population—around 57%— don’t even register the difference between the paid and organic results on the SERP.  Google’s always changing how the SERP looks, so that number is subject to change, but there’s a certain type of consumer that won’t think any less of your PPC ad than if you earned that top organic spot. Winner: SEO 6. Click-through rate Recent data shows a clear winner in this category, but also shows that a lot depends on the type of device people are using. The click-through rate (CTR) for organic results on desktop computers is at over 65%, as compared to a little under 4% for PPC ads. On mobile devices, organic results get around a 40% CTR, with mobile earning a little over 3% (many searches on mobile don’t result in a click at all).  Either way, organic results get more clicks, making SEO rankings more valuable for traffic once you get them.  Winner: SEO 7. Analytics Analytics give you the power to consistently learn from everything you try, improve your campaigns based on that knowledge, and get better results over time. With both SEO and PPC, you can tap into valuable analytics.  Google Analytics, which is entirely free, provides a lot of data on how much of your traffic comes from organic search, where you rank for target keywords, and which pages people are finding through SEO.  And you can supplement all that free information with the additional data included in paid SEO tools that helps you clearly identify how your website compares to your competitors in rankings and what they’re doing differently to achieve the rankings they have, such as their backlink profile and the keywords they’re targeting. While SEO tools can provide a lot of useful information, ultimately there’s still a lot of guesswork behind why certain pages rank higher than others.  By contrast, the analytics provided in PPC campaigns can tell you exactly which ads perform well. And because you control every part of the ad, you can do A/B testing to gain insights into what your audience responds to—providing information you can apply not only to your future PPC ads, but also to every other part of your online marketing campaigns.  Winner: PPC SEO vs PPC Frequently Asked Questions Even with that extensive rundown, you may still have some questions. Here are answers to some of the common questions website owners have about the difference between SEO and PPC. Which Is Better: SEO or PPC? It depends on your priorities.  PPC drives faster results. You can start getting visibility and traffic on day one, but you have to continually pay for every person it sends to your website.  SEO is slower, but once you gain relevant rankings, the results last longer. A good ranking will continue driving traffic for as long as you stay near the top, and you can count on getting more traffic from a good SEO ranking than a PPC one. And while there’s a cost to the work involved in getting on page one, once there all the traffic it sends your way is free.  Does PPC Traffic Help SEO? Not directly, but some of the metrics SEO experts commonly believe to be ranking factors require getting more relevant traffic, which PPC sends your way.  For example, when people click on your ad and like what they see long enough to stick around, it results in a lower bounce rate and longer time spent on site—both metrics that signal to Google that people are happy with the page they land on.  You can’t buy SEO results with PPC ads, but getting traffic from relevant visitors is one of the first steps to doing a lot of things that do pay off in SEO. How do PPC and SEO Work Together? Good question! While the framing of this piece has pitted SEO and PPC against each other, for most businesses the goal should be SEO and PPC working together.  PPC helps you get the initial boost you need in visibility and traffic when your website’s new, or when it’s underperforming based on your goals. It’s a good strategy for short-term wins while you’re waiting for your SEO work to start coming through. SEO is the long-term strategy that delivers bigger and more reliable results once it starts working. But it’s hard when you’re starting from scratch, and PPC can bring some of the initial traffic and attention you need to get your SEO efforts off the ground.  For the Win: SEO and PPC Integration A good online marketing strategy combines the two tactics. If that sounds like a lot of work, well, it is. But you don’t have to learn both SEO and PPC from scratch to start getting more traffic for your website.  You’ll get better results, faster if you outsource the job to someone who already knows what they’re doing. HostGator offers both SEO and PPC services. Our team includes skilled professionals with years of experience in both types of SEM. If you’re ready for your website to start delivering bigger results, let us help. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

What Is SEO?

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The post What Is SEO? appeared first on HostGator Blog. You finally started that website and now you’re trying to figure out what’s next. Chances are, you’ve encountered friends, articles, and ads all alike telling you that what’s next is organic SEO. If you’re fairly new to the web though, you might be wondering what SEO is and how it works. What Is SEO? SEO stands for search engine optimization. It describes the actions you can take to increase the chances of your website showing up in major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo when people search for what you do.  SEO is a complex industry. The big search engines keep a lid on most of the details of how their search engine algorithms work. That leaves SEO experts using a mix of long-term observation, trial and error, and research studies to figure out how best to optimize a website to land better search results.  While organic SEO is complicated and some of the details of how it all works are hazy, nonetheless a number of best practices for improving your website’s search results are well known. This post will dive into much of the most important information that we do know about what SEO is and how it works. The 2 Types of SEO One of the most important things every website owner needs to know about SEO techniques is that while doing it well can be a boon for  your business, doing it badly will hurt you more than not doing it at all.  Of the many companies providing SEO services, there have always been a category of practitioners that try to find shortcuts to getting search engine results. The major of search engines prioritize delivering the best, most useful results to people. When low-quality websites make their way into the results because of people trying to game the system, they take note and make changes to the algorithm. And those changes don’t only serve to correct the problem, in many cases, they also actively work to punish the websites that gained rankings through sketchy SEO techniques and practices. As a result, any business that decides to invest in SEO must learn the basic differences between white-hat SEO (the good, legitimate tactics) and black-hat SEO (the spammy tactics the search engines hate).  White Hat SEO White-hat SEO is any approach to search engine optimization that falls within Google’s guidelines and aims to gain rankings through legitimate means. The best way to figure out if an SEO tactic is white hat is to ask yourself: how will this affect the experience for everyday visitors to the website? If it will provide a positive or neutral effect for human visitors, then there’s a good chance it’s a legitimate tactic worth pursuing. If it will make the visitor’s experience worse or more confusing, then it’s definitely a black-hat tactic.  All the tactics explored in the How SEO Works section below count as white-hat tactics, so if you want to get started on the right foot, stick with those or seek out another form that only uses  legitimate SEO practices.  Black Hat SEO Black-hat SEO describes all the scammy tactics that people have used to try to game the system. Many of them are now well known to have negative effects on a website’s SEO. But because they worked—even if briefly—at some point in the past, some SEO providers still use them.  Many well intentioned small businesses have inadvertently hired an SEO consultant that used black-hat tactics and suffered the consequences. Don’t fall into this trap! Here are some common SEO mistakes to steer clear of. Keyword stuffing  Using keywords in your content is an important and legitimate part of doing SEO effectively. But if you overdo it, it goes from being a smart part of your SEO strategy to a spammy tactic that can get you penalized.  Don’t awkwardly fill your content with keywords, whether they make sense or not. Only use keywords in a way that makes sense naturally in the text. Always ask, would this sound good to a human reader, or is it sloppily shoehorned in?   Link buying Link building is arguably the hardest part of SEO, so it’s tempting to look for easy shortcuts for getting links. Many companies offer to sell lots of backlinks for your website, sometimes for cheap. But Google explicitly frowns on this practice and the algorithm has ways to recognize low-quality links that have been paid for.  If you buy a lot of low-quality links for cheap, your website will be penalized in search and you’ll have to go through the work of disavowing them later.  Duplicate content You need a lot of content for SEO that utilizes the specific keywords you want to rank for. When you have many keywords that are similar, it can be tempting to reuse the content you’ve already created with slight variations.  For example, a divorce lawyer that serves a number of different neighborhoods might create five copies of the same page with the term “neighborhood A divorce lawyer” subbed with “neighborhood B divorce lawyer,” “neighborhood C divorce lawyer,” etc.  That may seem like a clever way to cover your bases and target more keywords with less work, but the search engines don’t like duplicate content and it’s another way to get your website penalized. For each keyword you target, you need to create entirely unique content.    Spam comments Many blog comment sections allow commenters to include a link with their comment. As such, some black hat SEO practitioners try to use blog comment sections as a way to build new links to their website. This may have been a worthwhile tactic at some point, but now it’s mostly a waste of time.  Most websites have anti-spam filters on their comments section, which means most spammy link building comments won’t make it through to begin with. And on top of that, on most sites that accept comments, the links included are nofollow (meaning they don’t deliver any SEO authority).  For the rare times that you can get a link in a blog comment that’s dofollow, Google’s algorithm doesn’t count it for much anyways.  Cloaking Cloaking is a shady practice that involves designing your website so it appears to be about one thing to Google’s algorithm, while visitors will encounter something entirely different. Any website trying this tactic risks being blacklisted.  And it’s ultimately shortsighted anyways. Why would you want to rank for keywords unrelated to what visitors will find on the page? You’ll get irrelevant organic traffic that’s looking for something else.  Invisible or tiny text A similar tactic to cloaking, and equally shady, is including text that’s in the same color as the background or tiny enough to be overlooked by humans. The thinking behind this one is that you can cram a few more keywords in that the algorithm will see, without it negatively influencing the user experience. This is yet another sleazy tactic the search engines have caught onto and will penalize when they catch it. Cheap, low-quality content For a long time, the content and SEO industries were dominated by cheap content mills that paid writers a few bucks a piece to churn out high quantities of low-quality content. Because having lots of fresh content was a key part of getting higher search engine results, it made sense (or at least seemed to) to publish as much content containing your keywords as possible—whether or not it was providing useful information to readers.  Many of those content mills went out of business as Google’s algorithm changed to increasingly penalize low-quality content and reward the sites that were providing more substantial, useful content. But some SEO companies still promote quantity over quality, to the detriment of their clients.  How SEO Works Now you know what not to do, these are the white-hat tactics that are worth spending your time and money on. Keyword Research One of the main benefits of SEO is that it delivers relevant traffic specifically. If you sell chocolates, you don’t need visitors that are looking for flights to Hawaii. And if you sell flights, you don’t need visitors looking for caramel truffles. With SEO marketing, you can help the people who are actively looking for what you offer find you more easily.  That makes keyword research an important component in any SEO strategy. It shows you what terms your target audience is using when they’re looking for information about your products and industry, so you know what language and topics to craft your strategy around. Keyword research involves a few main things: Keyword tools – To identify the best keywords to target, you need data on what people are searching for. There are a mix of free keyword research tools, like Google’s Keyword Planner, and paid SEO tools, like Moz, you can use for this.Website analytics – While Google has limited the amount of keyword data it provides in Google Analytics, it’s still useful to stay on top of which terms people are using to find your website now. Pay attention to the keyword data that is provided, and the data on which landing pages visitors are coming from, which can often lead you back to the keywords you’re ranking for. Long-tail keywords – A smart keyword strategy includes looking beyond the general, high-level keywords that tend to be especially competitive, like “chocolates,” and also targeting long-tail keywords that are more specific and less competitive, like “milk chocolate with pecans” or “best healthy chocolates for mother’s day.”  SERP research – Another important role keywords play is that, once you know what term you’re targeting, you can do some research to find out what’s currently ranking for it. Figure out if there are any rich results on page one and what the top-ranking results look like, so you can design the content you create to beat them.  On-Page Optimization The next important component in SEO is on-page optimization. This is everything you do on your own website that makes it easier for search engine algorithms to understand what the pages on your site are about, and that ensures visitors have a good user experience (UX). This includes four main things: Site speed – Both Google and your visitors care about how fast your site loads. Take the steps needed to make sure it loads fast. Meta tags – On each page of your website, you should customize meta tags such as the title tag, heading tags, image alt tags, and meta descriptions to include your target keywords. Site architecture – The way you organize your site and, relatedly, structure your URLs is also important for SEO. Mobile friendliness – Google has been clear about the algorithm prioritizing websites that are mobile friendly, so make sure you build a responsive site that works as well on small screens as on desktops. Content Creation Regularly publishing fresh content provides two big SEO benefits: It signals to the search engines that your website is up to date and consistently adding new, valuable information.It gives you the opportunity to create new pages targeting a range of relevant keywords.  Content creation is therefore a huge part of any good SEO strategy. Make sure you create a strategy for your content based on what your keyword research shows your target audience cares about, and what your website analytics show you they respond to.  And as we discussed earlier in the post, prioritize providing valuable information to your readers over publishing a high quantity of content. While more content can add up to better SEO results, that’s only the case if the pieces you’re publishing are also good.  Link Building Our final difficult, but crucial, component of SEO is link building. One of the main factors Google considers when determining the authority of a website is the number of links on respected, relevant websites pointing back to it. Every time another site chooses to include a link to a page on your website, they’re telling Google that they consider what’s on the page to be valuable. As long as that website is considered reputable by the search engine algorithm, it gives you a boost in SEO authority. Link building is hard to do well, but there are a number of legitimate link building strategies you can employ, whether you’re a blog, local business, or online store. A few common examples include: Guest posting – When you write a guest post for a relevant website, you can usually include a link back to your own website, as long as you do so naturally. Broken link building – SEO tools can help you find places around the web where links using your preferred anchor text (the words that are hyperlinked) no longer work. These are opportunities to contact the website to suggest replacing the broken link with a working one to your content. Brand mention link building – Any mentions of your brand around the web are an opportunity for a link. SEO tools will help you find them, then you can contact the webmaster to ask them to add a link where your brand is mentioned.  SEO Is Complicated, But Important SEO isn’t easy and it can take a while to start seeing results, but it’s important for any website that cares about organic traffic and visibility.  But you don’t have to learn everything about SEO from scratch entirely on your own. Now that you know the main things to look for and, just as importantly, the main things to avoid, you can find a good SEO provider to do the work for you.HostGator’s skilled SEO experts help clients with all the components of white-hat SEO marketing described here. And you don’t have to make a commitment until we’ve proven to you that we know what we’re doing with a free SEO review. Contact us now to learn how we can help your business rank better in the search results. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Agency Spotlight Series: Brand Knew

WP Engine -

A key part of our business at WP Engine is the partnerships we’ve built with digital agencies. With emerging technologies and trends, increasing competitiveness, and the pressure to deliver memorable digital experiences, agencies have enough to worry about. WP Engine allows agencies to focus on creation and execution instead of worrying about performance and security.… The post Agency Spotlight Series: Brand Knew appeared first on WP Engine.

AWS Project Resilience – Up to $2K in AWS Credits to Support DR Preparation

Amazon Web Services Blog -

We want to help state and local governments, community organizations, and educational institutions to better prepare for natural and man-made disasters that could affect their ability to run their mission-critical IT systems. Today we are launching AWS Project Resilience. This new element of our existing Disaster Response program offers up to $2,000 in AWS credits to organizations of the types that I listed above. The program is open to new and existing customers, with distinct benefits for each: New Customers – Eligible new customers can submit a request for up to $2,000 in AWS Project Resilience credits that can be used to offset costs incurred by storing critical datasets in Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). Existing Customers – Eligible existing customers can submit a request for up to $2,000 in AWS Project Resilience credits to offset the costs incurred by engaging CloudEndure and AWS Disaster Response experts to do a deep dive on an existing business continuity architecture. Earlier this month I sat down with my colleague Ana Visneski to learn more about disaster preparedness, disaster recovery, and AWS Project Resilience. Here’s our video: To learn more and to apply to the program, visit the AWS Project Resilience page! — Jeff;  

OpsCenter – A New Feature to Streamline IT Operations

Amazon Web Services Blog -

The AWS teams are always listening to customers and trying to understand how they can improve services to make customers more productive. A new feature in AWS Systems Manager called OpsCenter exemplifies this approach by enabling customers to aggregate issues, events and alerts, across services. So customers can go to one place to view, investigate, and remediate issues reducing the need to navigate across multiple different AWS services. Issues, events and alerts appear as operations items (OpsItems) in this new console and provide contextual information, historical guidance, and quick solution steps. The feature aims to improve the mean time to resolution, making engineers more productive by ensuring key investigation data is available in one place. Engineers working on an OpsItem get access to information such as: Event, resource and account details Past OpsItems with similar characteristics Related AWS Config changes and relationships AWS CloudTrail logs Amazon CloudWatch alarms AWS CloudFormation Stack information Other quick-links to access logs and metrics List of runbooks and recommended runbooks Additional information passed to OpsCenter through AWS services This information helps engineers to investigate and remediate operational issues faster. Engineers can use OpsCenter to view and address problems using the Systems Manager console or via the Systems Manager OpsCenter APIs. I’ll spend the rest of this blog exploring the capabilities of this new feature. To get started, I open the Systems Manager Console, make sure that I am in the region of interest, and click OpsCenter inside the Operations Management menu which is on the far left of the screen. After arriving at the OpsCenter screen for the first time and clicking on “Getting Started” I am prompted with a configure sources screen. This screen sets up the systems with some example CloudWatch rules that will create OpsItems when specific rules trigger. For example, one of the CloudWatch rules will alert if an AutoScaling EC2 instance is stopped or terminated. On this screen, you need to configure and add the ARN of an IAM role that has permission to create OpsItems. This security role is used by the CloudWatch rules to create the OpsItems. You can, of course, create your OpsItems through the API or by creating custom CloudWatch rules. Now the system has set me up some CloudWatch rules I thought I would test it out by triggering an alert. In the EC2 console, I will intentionally deregister (delete) the Amazon Machine Image that is associated with my AutoScaling Group. I will then increase the Desired Capacity of my AutoScaling group from 2 to 4. The AutoScaling group will later try to create new instances; however, it will fail because I have deleted the AMI. As I expected this triggered the CloudWatch rule to create an OpsItem in OpsCenter console. There is now one item open in the OpsItem status summary dashboard. I click on this to get more detail on the open OpsItems. This gives me a list of all the open OpsItems, and I can see that I have one with the title “Auto Scaling EC2 instance launch failed” which has been created by CloudWatch rules because I deleted the AMI associated with the AutoScaling group. Clicking on that OpsItems takes me to more detail of the OpsItem. I can from this overview screen start to explore the item. Looking around this screen, I can find out more information about this OpsItem and see it is collecting data from numerous services and presenting it in one place. Further down the screen I can see other Similar OpsItems and can explore them. In a real situation, this might give me contextual information as to how similar problems were solved in the past, ensuring that operations teams learn from their previous collective experience. I can also manually add a relationship between OpsItems if they are connected. Importantly the Operational data section gives me information about the cause. The status message is particularly useful since it’s calling out the issue: that the AMI does not exist. On the related resources details screen, I can find out more information about this OpsItem. For example, I can see tag information about the resources alongside relevant CloudWatch alarms. I can explore details from AWS config as well as drill into CloudTrail logs. I can even see if the resources are associated with any CloudFormation stacks. Earlier on, I created a CloudWatch alarm that will alert when the number of instances on my AutoScaling group falls below the desired instance threshold (4 Instances). As you can see, I don’t need to go into the CloudWatch console to view this, I can see right from this screen that I have an Alarm State for Booking App Instance Count Low. The Runbooks section is fascinating; what it is offering me is automated ways in which I can resolve this issue. There are several built-in Runbooks; however, I have a custom one which, luckily enough, automates the fix for this exact problem. It will create a new AMI based upon one of the healthy instances in my AutoScaling Group and then update the config to use that new AMI when it creates instances. To run this automation, I select the runbook and press execute. It asks me to provide some parameters for the automation job. I paste the AutoScaling Group Name (BookingsAppASG) as the only required parameter and press Execute. After a minute or so a green success signifier appears in the Latest Status column of the runbook and I am now able to view the logs and even save the output to operation data on the OpsItem so that other engineers can clearly see what I have done.   Back in the OpsCenter OpsItem related resource details screen, I can now see that my CloudWatch alarm is green and in an OK state, signifying that my AutoScalling group currently has four instances running and I am safe to resolve the OpsItem. This service is available now, and you can start using it today in all public AWS regions so why not open up the console and start exploring all the ways that you can save you and your team valuable time.

The July 2019 code is sweet as can “bee”

Name.com Blog -

If you’ll excuse the terrible pun in the headline, we’ll get right to it: We’re back with another code for July that will help you save on any .com or .net renewals that are coming up this month. Use the code HONEY now through July 31, 2019 to renew your .com domains for $10.99 and […] The post The July 2019 code is sweet as can “bee” appeared first on Name.com Blog.

Rackspace Expands Application Modernization Expertise, India Footprint

The Rackspace Blog & Newsroom -

The average organization manages more than 300 applications. According to Gartner, application management consumes more than a third of most organizations’ IT budget. Application modernization can serve as the backbone of companies’ digital transformation efforts, boosting efficiency, agility, scalability and interoperability. But most organizations simply don’t have the in-house resources to properly create and execute a […] The post Rackspace Expands Application Modernization Expertise, India Footprint appeared first on The Official Rackspace Blog.

5 Questions for VP of Strategy and Operations, Americas Tracy-Ann Palmer

The Rackspace Blog & Newsroom -

5 Questions for VP of Strategy and Operations, Americas Tracy-Ann Palmer Tracy-Ann Palmer is a connector and pioneer. Whether it’s people or ideas, if she sees connections and new paths that need to be ventured down, she says it’s in her DNA to make them happen. That’s how she ended up launching and leading both […] The post 5 Questions for VP of Strategy and Operations, Americas Tracy-Ann Palmer appeared first on The Official Rackspace Blog.

Drupal vs. Joomla: Choosing a CMS for Your Site

Nexcess Blog -

Joomla and Drupal are two competing Content Management Systems (CMS) that help site owners to build and manage their content.  Both are well-established with large and committed communities, but the guiding philosophy of each is unique. For Joomla, ease of use combines with added functionality to create a platform for beginners and intermediates. For Drupal,… Continue reading →

Google's robots.txt parser is now open source

Google Webmaster Central Blog -

For 25 years, the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP) was only a de-facto standard. This had frustrating implications sometimes. On one hand, for webmasters, it meant uncertainty in corner cases, like when their text editor included BOM characters in their robots.txt files. On the other hand, for crawler and tool developers, it also brought uncertainty; for example, how should they deal with robots.txt files that are hundreds of megabytes large?Today, we announced that we're spearheading the effort to make the REP an internet standard. While this is an important step, it means extra work for developers who parse robots.txt files.We're here to help: we open sourced the C++ library that our production systems use for parsing and matching rules in robots.txt files. This library has been around for 20 years and it contains pieces of code that were written in the 90's. Since then, the library evolved; we learned a lot about how webmasters write robots.txt files and corner cases that we had to cover for, and added what we learned over the years also to the internet draft when it made sense.We also included a testing tool in the open source package to help you test a few rules. Once built, the usage is very straightforward:robots_main <robots.txt content> <user_agent> <url>If you want to check out the library, head over to our GitHub repository for the robots.txt parser. We'd love to see what you can build using it! If you built something using the library, drop us a comment on Twitter, and if you have comments or questions about the library, find us on GitHub.Posted by Edu Pereda, Lode Vandevenne, and Gary, Search Open Sourcing team

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