Tag Archives: search-engines

How to Improve SEO

The post How to Improve SEO appeared first on HostGator Blog . Your website can only do its job if people can find it.  SEO (search engine optimization) —a collection of tactics website owners can use to increase your ranking in the search engine results—is one of the best ways to make sure your audience can find you.  But on-page SEO is challenging. And many website owners struggle with the question of how to improve SEO for their websites.  The search engines are fairly tight-lipped about how the algorithms that determine how search engine rankings work . But between the information they have shared and an analysis by SEO experts of what the ranking web pages have in common, we have a pretty good understanding of how to improve Google search results. Improving SEO involves a mix of things you can do on your own website and offsite strategies.  How to Improve SEO on Your Website On-site SEO is mostly about two main things: making sure Google can tell what your website is about, and ensuring the site has a good user experience for users. To do that, there are eight main steps you should take.   1. Review your website analytics. If you already have a website, then your first step is to review your website analytics to better understand how people find and interact with your website now. If you haven’t set up Google Analytics for your website, do that now! You won’t have any data to review to start, but you can come back to this step once you do.  In Google Analytics, you’ll learn how much traffic you’re getting now, and what share of it is coming from Google (labeled “Organic Search”). The Acquisition section gives you an easy snapshot of how often people are finding you through Google now. In addition, you can find a list of any keywords you rank for now and what your average ranking is. Click on Acquisition, Search Console, and then Queries.  This gives you a good understanding of where you are now in terms of your SEO strategy. That’s helpful in setting goals for where you want to be, and working out a plan to get there. And any relevant keywords you rank for now (even if you’re not on page one) are a good place to start your optimization efforts, since you already have a headstart.  2. Identify your keywords. Keyword research is the cornerstone of SEO. Before you can do any of the other steps involved in SEO, you need to know what keywords to target. Sit down and write every word or phrase you can think of that’s relevant to your business and products. Once that’s done, use keyword tools to figure out how valuable the terms on your list are, and build out your list further.  Google’s free Keyword Planner provides data on the average number of searches a keyword has, and how competitive it is. It also provides suggestions for long-tail keywords relevant to your website that you can use to build out your list. To get new ideas, start by plugging either your URL or a starter list of your main keywords into the tool. You can export the list of long-tail keywords they suggest to better organize it based on relevance, popularity, and competitiveness. Using these keywords throughout your website or a blog post will help tremendously when trying to drive organic traffic.  Google’s tool may give you enough information, but many businesses that have an SEO strategy go further and use paid SEO tools that provide more detailed keyword information. With these, you can learn what keywords your competitors rank for, and get more analysis on the value of a keyword based on factors like the search engine results page (SERP) features, level of competitiveness, and the number of clicks the top results are likely to get. 3. Optimize every page on your site for SEO. Once you know what keywords to target, it’s time to get to work on your website. For each page and blog post of your website, determine the most relevant keyword from your list you want to rank for. To optimize the page for the selected keyword, look for natural ways to include it in these parts of the page: The URL – Always edit your URL so it’s relevant to the content of the page and uses your primary keyword.  The heading tags – Using headings and subheadings (in the HTML, these look like , , etc.) break up your page copy for readability and provide more opportunities to naturally get your keywords onto the page. The image names and alt tags – Before you load an image to a page, give it a name that includes your keyword. Then add an alt tag that includes it as well.  The title tag – Write a short title for each page (50-60 characters) that uses your primary keyword.  The meta description – The meta description is what shows up underneath your link on the SERP. Like your title tag, they don’t directly affect rankings, but they can increase your click-through rate (CTR). Write a meta description for each page that describes what’s on the page in under 160 characters, includes your keyword, and has a call to action that encourages people to click.  The page copy – Look for opportunities to use your keyword in the words on the page where it makes sense naturally. Google wants to deliver relevant results for every search. All of this helps signal to Google what the page is about so they know what keywords it makes sense for it to show up for.  4. Create relevant content. Creating and publishing content on your website accomplishes a few important things for SEO: Fresh website content signals to Google that your website is current and active—they don’t want to show outdated results. It gives you a chance to create more pages optimized for more of the keywords on your list. It gives your visitors a reason to stick around, and time on site is a metric that signals to Google that people like what they see when they visit your site. When you publish valuable content on your site, it gives other websites more of a reason to link back to you. Creating high-quality content that’s relevant to your audience is therefore an important part of good SEO. Use your keyword research to help guide your content strategy. Knowing what topics people are searching for tells you what your audience is interested in.  Before you write a piece of content, do some research to learn what’s on the SERP for it. Seeing what’s ranking there now shows you what Google likes for that keyword and what you need to beat. In addition, if there are rich results on the SERP for a term, you want to know so you can optimize your content to claim them.  5. Update your old content. This is a step many people skip, but a regular content audit can be really valuable for improving your SEO. Make a point of returning to your old content to update it periodically. Google likes content that’s fresh and up to date, so changing outdated information can go a long way to making sure the search engine (and your visitors) still see an old piece of content as valuable.  6. Use internal linking. An internal link is any link on a page that goes to another page on the same website. Google’s algorithm factors a link’s anchor text into its analysis of what a page is about. The anchor text is the words that are hyperlinked, the part that usually shows up in blue with an underline.  For internal links, you get to choose the anchor text. That gives you another opportunity to use your primary keyword and signal to Google what keywords to associate with your page. 7. Make your website mobile friendly. While Google keeps a lot of the details about its algorithm under wraps, one of the things they’ve been upfront in telling people is that mobile matters . For the sake of both SEO and your visitors—many of whom will be visiting your website on a mobile device— make your website mobile friendly .  8. Improve your site speed. Speed is another ranking factor Google has told people about outright . They know people care about how fast a website loads, so Google does, too. Taking steps to improve your site speed will both improve the user experience of your website, and improve Google search results for your site.  How to Improve Google Search Results Using Off-page SEO Many of the steps involved in on-site optimization require a lot of work, but the harder part of SEO happens offsite. In order to determine a web page’s value, Google pays attention to how often other websites link to it, called backlinks . A link is seen as an endorsement of what’s on the page. When a lot of websites with authority link to a particular page, it suggests that whatever’s on it is useful.  Building backlinks is challenging because you can’t control the decisions other people make about what they put on their websites. But there are a few strategies you can use to encourage other websites to link to yours.  1. Promote your content. Publishing great content is only worth the work if you get people to read it. Make promotion part of your content strategy. Share your pieces on social media. Send them to your email list. Highlight industry influencers in your content and let them know when it’s up. Consider paid promotion like pay-per-click (PPC) or social ads if you need that extra boost.  2. Sign up for relevant directories. This is one of the easiest ways to build links, but it’s important not to abuse. Add your business information to sites like Yelp and Google’s My Business. Research industry organizations that have member directories, and consider joining local organizations like your Chamber of Commerce that have one.  Only sign up for directories that are legitimate and relevant to your business. A lot of links from low-quality directories will look spammy and could hurt rather than help you.  3. Guest post. A guest post on a blog in your industry is a good way to bring awareness of your brand to a new audience and gain a backlink to your site at the same time. Identify blogs that cover topics relevant to your business that accept guest posts, and start pitching. It takes time, but it can pay off in both links and new traffic.  4. Become an expert source. Whatever your business does, you’re an expert on it. When a blogger or journalist is writing a topic that relates to your expertise, providing a quote or interview will often result in a link back to your site. You can hire a PR consultant to help you find these kinds of opportunities, or sign up for email alerts from Help a Reporter Out to find opportunities yourself.  5. Develop industry awards. People (and businesses) love getting awards. The recognition feels good and is something they’re likely to talk about on their own website. Handing out awards for your industry is therefore a good strategy for earning more links. It’s one employed by successful internet businesses like TripAdvisor: Figure out what categories to include in your awards. Research businesses doing good work in each of them, or open them up to nominations. When you’ve decided on nominees and winners, alert them to the award. Create a badge they can share on their website to encourage them to post about it with a link back to the awards page on the website.  6. Create a relevant certification program. This requires a lot of work, but is a good way to position your business as an ultimate expert on what you do as well as a strong link building strategy. Anyone who completes your certification program will want to let others know they’ve done so. As with awards, create a badge people can add to their websites to show they’re certified.  7. Do broken link building. Some SEO tools will help you find links around the web with your target keywords in the anchor text that no longer work. These are a link-building opportunity. If you track down the website owner, you can alert them that there’s a broken link on their website that needs fixing, and propose the content you have on the topic as a replacement. Because you’re helping them fix a problem they have at the same time that you’re asking something of them, it increases your chances of getting your desired response.  Improve SEO with Less Work SEO is difficult and time consuming. You know you want better SEO results, but reading over a list like this may have you feeling hopeless. How will you find the time for all this? While there’s no good shortcut to getting better Google search results—someone has to do the work—that someone doesn’t have to be you.  You can hire the skilled SEO professionals at HostGator. We know how to implement all these SEO strategies and more to get your website to start showing up for your target keywords. It saves you time and work, and will also net better results since they come to the job with more knowledge and experience.  Find the post on the HostGator Blog Continue reading

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What Is SEO?

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 Continue reading

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7 Tips to Choose a Website Design That Converts Customers

The post 7 Tips to Choose a Website Design That Converts Customers appeared first on HostGator Blog . Your website design has a lot of work to do. It should look professional, make it easy for visitors to find what they need, and show visitors why you’re the person to do business with. But the most important thing a good design does is help to close the deal. How can your website’s design help convert visitors into customers? Here are 7 must-know tips to get you started. 1. Start with SSL SSL certificates aren’t part of your website’s design, but I’m including them here because your site’s SSL status is often the first thing visitors notice. It can be the element that determines whether they stay or flee. When you have an SSL certificate for your site, your domain name starts with https instead of http. And the green padlock symbol will show up next to your URL in visitor’s browser bars. People trust the padlock. SSL is important for three reasons: Most browsers flag sites without SSL as “not secure”. Sometimes that warning scares visitors off. SSL matters for SEO. Google has used SSL status as a ranking signal since 2014, and in a search-result ranking tie between one site with https and one with http, https wins. SSL encrypts the data your customers enter on your website. That stops hackers and data thieves from stealing personal and payment information. This protects your customers and your business reputation. Did you know? All HostGator plans come with a free SSL certificate . 2. Mobile Formatting Matters Your website must display beautifully on a mobile screen. Mobile-first design is the cornerstone of modern websites because so many of us spend so much time browsing on our phones. You can find mobile friendly templates for WordPress websites or you can hire a designer with a strong portfolio of mobile-first designs. 3. Make a Great First Impression With Your Product Pages This doesn’t mean you have to throw all your company information on every product page, but it’s important to remember that any of your product pages maybe the first impression a visitor has of your website. Let’s say you sell gear and supplies for exotic birds. You may have a fantastic home page, but maybe visitors are arriving at your site through searches for cuttlebones or parakeet playgrounds or parrot perches—and they go right to those product pages from their search results. Each of those pages needs to include your company name, a brief summary of your shipping and returns policies, pricing, and a navigation menu that lets them quickly explore the rest of your website without having to hunt around. 4. Invite Visitors to Linger with Category Landing Pages We’ve blogged before about the importance of structuring your product categories so they’re easy for search engines and human beings to navigate. And each category page is prime real estate for product photos, keywords, and informative content that can help your customers decide what to buy. Back to our exotic bird website example. Let’s say your product categories are food, treats, grooming, health, habitats, and toys. Your habitat category page should include photos of your most popular cages, perches, and playscapes, along with descriptive text that includes the keywords people use to find your products. This is the ideal place for a guide explaining how to choose the right enclosure or a checklist of must-have elements in a bird enclosure. All this content, if it’s tagged and written properly, can help boost your SEO and show customers that you’re a resource for information as well as products. 5. Make Your Calls-to-Action Count Every page on your site should include a call to action (CTA). A CTA is a short statement telling your visitors what you’d like them to do next. For example, on your exotic bird habitat category landing page, your CTA is “find your bird’s new roost now.” On product pages, the CTA is “add to cart.” You can also have a secondary CTA for people who aren’t quite ready to take the plunge—”add to wish list” or “save for later.” On the cart page, the CTA is “checkout.” At every step of the way, your CTA gives customers a little nudge to take the next step toward conversion. That’s sales psychology 101. It’s also super important in an age where most of us have a bunch of browser tabs and apps open at once and our attention is highly fragmented. 6. Create a Low-Friction Checkout Experience So, you have a parrot parent visiting your site, reading your content, choosing a new enclosure, adding it to their cart, and hitting the checkout button. This next part of the website must be designed properly to keep that customer from abandoning their cart. Between 70 and 85% of all e-commerce carts get ditched before customers complete their purchases. Part of the reason is bad checkout design that makes customers work too hard to give stores their money. Design your checkout so it requires as little effort from your customers as possible, while remaining secure and protecting you from potential fraud. Let your customers auto-fill their name and address information. Don’t make them create an account to check out. Let them use an online payment service like Square or PayPal so they don’t have to fish around for a credit card. Design it right, and your customers are more likely to convert.   7. Consider Outsourcing Your Website Design to Experts There are plenty of resources for designing your own website, especially if you’re using WordPress, because there are so many templates you can buy or use for free. If you’re not confident in your design skills or would rather focus on other aspects of your business, you can hire a design service with experience building mobile-friendly websites. Ready to get started? Sign up for professional website design services from HostGator and outsource that process today. Find the post on the HostGator Blog Continue reading

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How to Optimize Your WordPress Robots.txt

The post How to Optimize Your WordPress Robots.txt appeared first on HostGator Blog . What is a Robots.txt File? The robots.txt is a very small but important file located in the root directory of your website. It tells web crawlers (robots) which pages or directories can or cannot be crawled. The robots.txt file can be used to block search engine crawlers entirely or just restrict their access to certain areas of your website. Below, is an example of a very basic WordPress robots.txt file: This can look a little confusing at first so I will go over what some of this stuff means. User-agent: is there to specify directions to a specific robot. In this case we used “*” which applies to all robots. Disallow: is there to tell the robots what files and folders they should not crawl. Allow: tells a robot that it is okay to crawl a file in a folder that has been disallowed. Sitemap: is used to specify the location of your sitemap. There are other rules that can be used in the robots.txt file such as Host: and Crawl-delay: but these are uncommon and only used in specific situations. What is the Robots.txt File Used For? Every website that is crawled by Google has a crawl budget. Crawl budget is basically a limited number of pages that Google can crawl at any given time. You don’t want to waste your crawl budget on pages that are low quality, spammy or not important. This is where the robots.txt file comes in. You can use your robots.txt file to specify which pages, files and directories Google (and other search engines) should ignore. This will allow search engine bots to keep the priority on your important high-quality content. Below are some important things you might want to consider blocking on your WordPress website: Faceted navigation and session identifiers On-site duplicate content Soft error pages Hacked pages Infinite spaces and proxies Low quality and spam content This list comes straight from the Google Webmaster Central Blog . Wasting your crawl budget on pages like the ones listed above will reduce crawl activity on the pages that do actually have value. This can cause a significant delay in indexing the important content on your website. What You Should Not Use the Robots.txt For The robots.txt should not be used as a way to control what pages search engines index. If you’re trying to stop certain pages from being included in search engine results, you should use noindex tags or directives, or password-protect your page. The reason for this is because the robots.txt file does not actually tell search engines to not index content. It just tells them not to crawl it. While Google will not crawl disallowed areas from within your own website, they do state that if an external link points to a page that you have excluded, it may still get crawled and indexed. Is a Robots.txt File Required in WordPress? Having a robots.txt file for your WordPress website is certainly not required. Search engines will still crawl and index your website as they normally would. However, you will not be able to exclude any pages, files or folders that are unnecessarily draining your crawl budget. As I explained above this can greatly increase the amount of time it takes Google (and other search engines) to discover new and updated content on your website. So, all in all, I would say no a robots.txt file is not required for WordPress, but it’s definitely recommended. The real question here should be, “Why would you not want one?” How to Create a WordPress Robots.txt File Now that you know what a robots.txt is and what it is used for, we will take a look at how you can create one. There are three different methods and below I will go over each one. 1. Use a Plugin to Create the Robots.txt SEO plugins like Yoast have an option to create and edit your robots.txt file from within your WordPress dashboard. This is probably the easiest option. 2. Upload the Robots.txt Using FTP Another option is to just create the .txt file on your computer using notepad (or something similar) and name it robots.txt. You can then upload the file to the root directory of your website using an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) such as FileZilla . 3. Create the Robots.txt in cPanel If neither of the above options works for you, you can always log into your cPanel and create the file manually. Make sure you create the file inside your root directory. How to Optimize Your Robots.txt For WordPress So, what should be in your WordPress robots.txt? You might find this surprising, but not a whole lot. Below, I will explain why. Google (and other search engines) are constantly evolving and improving, so what used to be the best practice doesn’t necessarily work anymore. Nowadays Google not only fetches your websites HTML but it also fetches your CSS and JS files. For this reason, they do not like it when you block any files or folders needed to render a page. In the past it was ok to block things like the /wp-includes/ and /wp-content/ folders. This is no longer the case. An easy way to test this is by logging into your Google Webmaster Account and testing the live URL. If any resources are being blocked from Google Bot they will complain about it in the Page Resources tab. Below, I have put together an example robots.txt file that I think would be a great starting point for anyone using WordPress. User-agent: * # Block the entire wp-admin folder. Disallow: /wp-admin/ # Blocks referral links for affiliate programs. Disallow: /refer/ # Block any pages you think might be spammy. Disallow: /spammy-page/ # Block any pages that are duplicate content. Disallow: /duplicate-content-page/ # Block any low quality or unimportant pages. Disallow: /low-quality-page/ # Prevent soft 404 errors by blocking search pages. Disallow: /?s= # Allow the admin-ajax.php inside wp-admin. Allow: /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php # A link to your WordPress sitemap. Sitemap: https://example.com/sitemap_index.xml Some of the things I included in this file are just examples. If you don’t feel like any of your pages are duplicate, spammy or low quality you don’t have to add this part. This is just a guideline, everyone’s situation will be different. Remember to be careful when making changes to your website robots.txt. While these changes can improve your search traffic, they can also do more harm than good if you make a mistake. Test Your WordPress robots.txt File After you have created and customized your robots.txt it’s always a good idea to test it. Sign in to your Google Webmaster account and use this Robots Testing Tool . This tool operates as Googlebot would to check your robots.txt file and verifies that your URL’s have been blocked properly. Similar to the picture above you will see a preview of your robots.txt file as Google would see it. Verify that everything looks correct and that there are no warnings or errors listed. That’s it! you should be set up and ready to go now. My Final Thoughts As you can see, the robots.txt is an important part of your website’s search engine optimization. If used properly, it can speed up your crawl rate and get your new and updated content indexed much faster. Nevertheless, the misuse of this file can do a lot of damage to your search engine rankings so be careful when making any changes. Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of your robots.txt file and how to optimize it for your specific WordPress needs. Be sure to leave a comment if you have any further questions. Find the post on the HostGator Blog Continue reading

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Web Design Trends 2019

The post Web Design Trends 2019 appeared first on HostGator Blog . Looking at the latest web design trends will allow us to peer into the future of where the web is headed. This doesn’t mean you need to fully switch up your current design to adhere to the latest trends, but they’re good to keep an eye on nonetheless. If your website has been in need of a makeover, then maybe this will be the year you finally switch things up. If you want to learn how to create a beautiful website that follows the latest web design trends, HostGator can help. If anything this year bodes well for web experimentation. It seems that people are bored with the same old same old and want a new and exciting take on classic design. This doesn’t mean making sites so experimental that they’re hard to use, but instead more interesting, engaging, and unique. Learn about the biggest web design trends in 2019 and what they mean for the future of your website. Then, we’ll include a website builder comparison to help you decide on the best option for you and your needs. find the best website builder to bring these to life on your website. 1. A Focus on User Experience Offering your visitors a solid user experience should be at the top of your list. Today’s web users demand an enjoyable user experience above all else. If your website is confusing and hard to use you’re not only going to be annoying your visitors, but you’re going to cost your business a lot of money. This is doubly true if you’re directly selling anything through your website. The act of finding a product, adding it to the cart, and completing the purchase should be entirely seamless. In the past it seemed like web design trends and most websites would neglect the journey of the user and instead placed a focus on having a trendy design. No matter how “cool” your website looks, there’s really no point unless it’s converting your visitors and they’re actually enjoying their experience. As competition online continues to grow more fierce, expect those websites that place a focus on user experience first to have long and successful futures. 2. Clean and Clear Design Having plenty of whitespace has been an important web design trend for years. However, recently it’s grown in its importance and application. The biggest reason whitespace continues to be a dominating trend is because it makes your website much easier to use. By incorporating a lot of whitespace into your design you’re not bombarding your visitors with too much information. It also gives you the room to focus on important areas of your site. Or, direct your visitor’s attention to areas that are the most beneficial to them. Having plenty of whitespace is a central tenet of minimalist design. Minimalism will continue to be a dominating trend well into the future. By having a minimalist design you make it easier for your users to find what they’re looking for. As you’ll soon learn below other trends like increased use of video and scrolling-based websites both enhance this minimalism trend. 3. A Large Focus on Mobile Today more people access the internet from their mobile devices than they do from a laptop or standard computers. This means that your design must offer a stellar mobile experience. Offer a poor mobile experience or a site that doesn’t function properly on a mobile device, and you’re going to lose a lot of your users. If you haven’t gone responsive yet, here’s another thing to consider. Most users will start their search journey on their mobile devices. Plus, sites that aren’t mobile-friendly won’t rank as well in the search engines . So, not only will your site receive less traffic from the search engines, but any traffic that you will receive will have a difficult time actually using your site. Making your website mobile-friendly isn’t so much a “trend” as it is an essential web design best practice . The most effective way to embrace mobile devices is to upgrade your site to a responsive web design . With a responsive web layout your site will automatically adjust to the screen size it’s being viewed upon. 4. Embedded and Integrated Video Video is exploding in popularity online. All signs suggest that video is the future. Even social media networks like Facebook and Instagram are doubling down on video content. Plus, YouTube is already the second largest search engine in the world . If you haven’t embraced video, it’s not too late. In fact, one of the emerging web design trends is embedding video into your website . Video is an incredibly engaging medium. How many times have you continued to watch a video, just because it started playing on the site you’re on? And we’re not talking about annoying video pop-ups either that you can’t seem to turn off, no matter how hard you try. Instead, we’re talking about creating intentionally engaging videos that act as an actual part of the design of your site. Instead of standing out they play an integral role in keeping users on your site and informing them about your products and services. These don’t have to be incredibly long videos either. Think of them as moving design elements whose goal is to intrigue and capture the attention of your visitors. Adding videos to your website and content can also have the added effect of improving your site’s search engine rankings. Google has user engagement metrics which act as indicators of a quality site. Sites where users spend more time will be given a higher ranking, as these metrics suggests a site is very high quality. 5. Broken Grid Layouts You might already be familiar with grid layouts. A grid is essentially a hidden series of horizontal and vertical lines that your website’s elements will adhere to. You can see the classic grid at work on most existing websites. You have the logo in the upper left-hand corner, and the navigation menu extending across the top of the screen, along with any other elements arranged below it in an orderly manner. But, with a broken grid layout , you’ll see elements that make the grid seem broken. There will be overlap of design elements, along with text and photos that don’t adhere to the traditional grid. Usually, this is done to give emphasis to certain elements of your website. However, to be effective with a broken grid layout it needs to be done intentionally. Otherwise, you run the risk of having a website that simply looks confusing or jumbled. The worst is a website that ever-so-slightly breaks the grid. Upon first glance, it might not look like something is wrong, but you and your visitors will get the feeling that there’s something off about the website. Beyond the broken grid there’s also been an increase in the use of fluid and more comfort inducing shapes. With more natural and free form shapes you can induce a different feeling in your users when they land on your site. Instead of the purely rigid and geometric designs of days past, those pushing the edge of web design are introducing more natural shapes. 6. Nostalgic Design Elements The 80s and 90s are back in full force, and we’re not just talking about shows like Stranger Things and books like Ready Player One. A previous web design trend that’s been in place for years has put an emphasis on flat and modern design, creating minimalist websites that look like they were born in the future. But, just like fashion moves in a circular fashion, so do our web design trends. This doesn’t mean you should create a 90’s site that looks like the first rendition of a Geocities page. Instead, you should take design cues from previous generations as a whole. This means embracing color schemes and taking typography cues from generation’s past. By embracing the past you can create a new and wholly unique design. Since the web didn’t really exist back then in the state it does now, you can create designs that haven’t been seen on the web before. If this web design trend speaks to you, consider implementing color schemes from times past. Or keep an eye out for a cool old-school font you can use for your headers or your logo. 7. Sites that Encourage Scrolling If you’ve had your website online for any time at all, then you’re probably aware of the term “above the fold”. This means that all of your important graphic design and branding elements should be above the fold of your site, so it’s the first thing your website visitors will see without having to scroll. It seems that web users of the past used to hate scrolling down the page with their mouse, trackpad, or thumb. But, today’s web users are much different. Most website visitors don’t mind scrolling in the slightest. This trend could be rising due to apps like Instagram, which actively encourage scrolling down the app. Combine this with the preference to access the web via mobile devices, and you’ve got a scrolling match made in heaven. As a result, this gives you more real estate to work with when designing the style and layout of your website. Instead of trying to cram everything into the space above the fold, you can utilize your entire screen. This allows you to create more logical and enticing pages that hook your visitor’s attention as they scroll further down your screen. In accordance with making sites more scrollable, you’ll also want to think about implementing thumb-friendly navigation. When people are using their mobile phones to navigate a website they take many different actions and interact with the website in a different manner. One of the easiest ways to ensure your site is in alignment with this growing trend is to include a hamburger navigation menu. This allows users to more easily select the page they want to visit. 8. Intentional Data Collection Most websites will collect some form of data. Today, with the recently introduced General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) , the collection and storage of data have become even more important. This has led website owners to evaluate how they go about collecting data and being more intentional with the kind of data they’re collecting. For example, if you have an intake form on your website do you really need their location data or even their phone number? Or, maybe you currently integrate with Facebook as a login alternative. Although this saves you time, it might not lead to the best impression for your company. No matter if it’s a contact form, email signup form, or even having tracking cookies on your site, you’ll need to be very transparent about the data you’re collecting, why you’re collecting it, and what you’re doing with it. When thinking about any forms you have on your site think about what’s the minimum amount of necessary information you can collect. Sites that place an importance on user privacy will not only ensure their sites stay compliant with the latest privacy guidelines, but will also be the sites that create a strong and trusting visitor relationship. What These Trends Mean for Your Website By keeping up with the latest web design trends you can help predict where the online world is going. If your website is a crucial part of your business, then it’s important to stay up to date with what’s currently going on online. Today’s web users are savvier than ever, and spend more time online than ever before, with the advent of smartphones and the advancement of the mobile web. Spend some time analyzing the trends above to see how you can apply any of them to your website, or where you can enhance your existing design. The quickest way to lose your visitors’ trust is to have a website that looks old and out of date. That doesn’t mean you need to adopt every single trend above, but instead see how you can bring your website into the future and in tune with the kind of website your users expect to see. Hopefully, you have a better idea of the trends you’ll start to see across the web this year. Whether you’re going to undergo a redesign or not, these trends are important to think about now and into the future. Ready to put these trends in web design into action? Get started with Gator Website Builder . It includes over a hundred mobile-friendly design styles and templates that were built with today and tomorrow’s graphic design trends in mind. Find the post on the HostGator Blog Continue reading

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