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Thursday, 24 October 2013

Top 10 Ways to Reduce Your Website's Server Load Time and Increase Page Load Time

There are many reasons why you'd want a web page to load fast while using minimal server processing resources. Here are the top ten ways to achieve it and the major reasons why you should always strive for the most efficient website!

Following from the post on the differences between a Wordpress site and a static site, this article presupposes you are already well versed in HTML code and know how a web page is constructed.

Why A Fast Loading Web Page is Desirable


As already mentioned in previous posts on web page load speed optimization, there are three major reasons for working toward achieving the most efficient web page code for your site.

The first is for your visitors. A fast loading page will keep them on you page, whereas a slow loading page may lead them to leave and find a faster website to get their information. Keep visitors on your page and they will read your content and if your site is monetized, may buy your product or click your ads. Either way, keeping visitors happy can make you more money!

The second is appeasing the search engines, especially Google. Search engines will rank your page higher if it loads fast and thereby send you more traffic that you can convert into customers. But if it loads slowly, the opposite may apply and you could lose ranking and all that free targeted traffic.

The third is keeping your hosting company happy. While you will have a certain amount of headroom for using the server's resources, it pays to try and use the minimum. When sites using a server are not resource hungry, the server will run faster, pages will load faster and the two points above will be satisfied.

One last thing: If your site takes too many resources every time a page is loaded, your host can disable your account to protect its hardware.

So you see having fast loading pages is a no brainer.

Ten Ways to Ensure Fast Loading Web Pages


The first five points concern static sites, while the second five cover Wordpress s or other database reliant CMS (Content Management system).

  1. Build a simple static site rather than using Wordpress unless you really absolutely need a blog. I see so many websites out there that really don't need to be blogs and don't behave like blogs but use blogging software to display a handful of pages often overloaded with plugins and that load way slower than they need to. Keep it simple unless you really need additional functionality.
  2. Keep HTML code as clean as possible and only use programmatic processing if it is absolutely necessary. Us the latest version of HTML and rather than try and control page layout and display criteria within the HTML , use a well formed CSS style sheet instead.
  3. Double check your code for improperly closed tags, missing close brackets, duplicate lines of code and unnecessary statements. Comply with W3C constraints and use a code checker to make sure there are no errors on your page. Errors can cause unnecessary additional server processing and  while one may only slow things down a nanosecond or two, many errors can add up to fractions of a second or more and search engine bots will take notice of this, as will your host.
  4. Watch the size of images. Anything around 30kb will load almost imperceptibly slowly for a broadband user, while files over 100kb will load more slowly. Remember that a sizable percentage of the world's Internet users are still using dial-up modems and a 30k image can take 3 seconds or more to load!
  5. Video can affect the load time of your page even more than large static images if it's hosted on-site, while embedded video such as Youtube items will load only as fast as the connection between Youtube and your visitor. Aim to serve smaller video files if possible or choose a smaller dimensioned video to embed from Youtube. If visitors want to see the full size clip, they can always clock through and visit the Youtube site!
  6. Wordpress (or other CMS such as Joomla, Drupal etc) require much more server side processing than simple static sites. You can still serve a fast loading blog page as long as you keep things as simple as possible. Such as: Do you really need this or that plugin? Keeping plugins to the absolute minimum to serve up the kind of site you want will help increase page load times and reduce server load.
  7. As with static sites, keep image sizes to the barest minimum. It's too easy to use the "insert image" or "insert media" button and upload a huge .png image that will take until the end of next week to load up, without bothering to pre-process and optimize that image first. It is far better to do some image processing on your computer using Photoshop or similar program to reduce the file size and create an image of the exact size in pixels and perfectly optimized you want displayed on your web page.
  8. Themes differ surprisingly widely in the way they handle internal processing. While most themes are correctly optimized, there are some free themes that have not been optimized as best as they should and can cause problems server side. If your page loads slowly using your current free theme, try changing it and see if there is a difference. If there is, change your theme!
  9. Keep your Wordpress install up to date. One common irritation with Wordpress is the constant updates. But nevertheless it is important from a security aspect as well as an optimization one to ensure your site is running on the very latest version. There may have been processing issues with an older version that a newer one fixes, so stay up to date!
  10. Keep your site secure as possible. If hackers get in, they can inject malware that will be served to visitors, insert thousands of outbound links to all sorts of bad neighborhood sites, hijack your administration panel and change you settings. A hacked site is the saddest thing to see for a webmaster who may have spent countless hours creating and evolving their site. Stay up to date with the latest security patches, installs and plugins and make it as difficult as possible for hackers to get into your database!

These are the ten major points for ensuring you are serving up a fast loading, well optimized site and an all-round great user experience for any visitor who comes upon your site, while keeping you reseller or shared hosting company happy by not hogging its resources and helping to ensure better uptime. There are many more things you can do to keep things ticking along smoothly, so use common sense and don't over complicate things when the simple solution is the best!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

How to Make Your Hosting Pay for Itself

If you chose to host your sites on a reseller plan, you can make that hosting pay for itself by doing a few simple but effective things that I will tell you about here.

Before I get into the workings of what you need to do, I should first point out that this is not some trick to defraud the hosting company or get your hosting for free in any way. This is a legitimate business strategy that people are using to make their hosting work for them. Here's how:

How to Sell Hosting Yourself


You need a reseller account to do this properly, but it's as easy as anything to set aside some of your resources to sell other website owners some hosting on your account. A Hostgator reseller account comes with a front end called the WHM (Web Hosting Manager) panel that you use to maintain your websites each in its own sub-hosting account within your reseller. At least that's what you should be doing!

Each account is literally its own "shared" hosting account that you manage within you own WHM. This means that you can allocate one or more of these accounts to other people in return for a small monthly or annual (or other periodic) subscription from your "client(s)".

How to Attract Hosting Clients


To attract clients, you can make use of a variety of mediums such as Internet Marketing or web hosting forums, your own website or blog, an email list or other social media such as a Facebook page. The method you choose should be suitable as I'll set out below:

  • Forums: You need to have already built up some standing and respect from your fellow forum members before you start offering them hosting on your reseller host. People don't much appreciate new forum members coming in and offering such services right off the bat, so if you want to be successful with this method, make sure you are well known, active and respected in the forum before you start making tentative steps to offering hosting services.
  • Social Media: Places like Facebook are ideal for advertising your services in this way, but be a little careful how you go about it. Don't spam your family and friends with the hard sell because you'll only end up annoying the hell out ot them! Same goes for people in your circles as you don't want to alienate people.
  • The List: If you have built up a substantial email list over time and are working it correctly, that is sending subscribers lots of useful informative newsletters and only the occasional sales email, then you could make a special offer of cheap hosting for the subscribers in your list. Tread carefully because people are quick to unsubscribe if they think they're being treated as cash cows, so easy does it.
  • Your Website or Blog: On your own site you can do pretty much whatever you want as long as it is useful to visitors and of course you are already attracting relevant traffic to be able to sell to. The best way to advertise is to write a big article about hosting and drop plenty of hints that you are providing this service.

How Much to Charge Your Clients


How much you charge depends on what you are offering them and what you are able to offer depending on the size and resource level of your reseller account. If you have sufficient resources, you can offer unlimited bandwidth but limit storage as a reasonable percentage of your account's allocation. Remember to set aside sufficient for several sub-accounts should you be lucky enough to attract them.

You could advertise that you offer unlimited domains, which looks good but few people ever end up hosting more than a handful of domains on any one account, so you should be OK there. You should also be careful to make sure you don't charge any more than your host charges for their cheapest shared hosting account, or why should anyone use your service when they can go direct through the hosting company themselves.

Also bear in mind that there are lots of cheap hosting companies out there that are already vying for business and some are so cheap they almost give it away. That doesn't mean you should try and match them. Chances are your reseller will be more robust than a really cheap host and you'll be providing a better service.

With relatively good shared hosting available for under $5 a month, you will probably want to pitch your price a little less than that to attract business. That will be up to you and what you think you can get away with charging and still make enough to cover your own hosting costs.

An Alternative Way of Attracting Business


Do you flip websites? Then one additional source of clients could come from this and make a selling point for the sites you are selling. You could include an extra bonus that the buyer of your website gets 6 months free hosting and after that you can start charging them.

Many website owners will readily accept the free hosting and be too lazy to bother changing when the free period is up as long as you come in with an affordable price, they'll likely stay with you. This is especially so if you sell your websites with a Wordpress setup.

This is a good way of getting clients to host sites on your reseller and pay you for the privilege.

When you have enough people hosting with you, you'll find you're soon covering your costs and then making a nice profit every month. And it doesn't take long before this builds up using this method and you need to buy a second reseller to cope with demand.

A nice situation to be in, wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Considerations for Hosting a Wordpress vs Static Site

Many website builders turn to Wordpress for a simple blogging solution, but there are some hosting considerations that can potentially cause problems at some point that many are unaware of. There is a trade off between ease of website building and the consequences of the increased server load that people ought to be aware of.

While not too serious and often dismissed by many, some concerns over hosting sites on a CMS platform like Wordpress are very real. So this article takes a look at these in relatively simple terms that can be easily understood.

CMS versus Static Site Build


There is an ongoing debate over which kind of site build is best for certain types of website. There are two basic types, which are often referred to as "static" and the other type which is the "database driven", CMS (Content Management System) or "interactive" or simply "blog"

Most people are not so technical that they could be bothered with the rather steep learning curve that comes with coding a static website in HTML/CSS. So most opt for the easy way out and simply install Wordpress on every new domain they buy. This is mostly prevalent in Internet Marketers who are looking to make money by increasing their traffic through various methods.

But is it the right thing to do and is it the best thing to do? Let's look at the differences.

Static Site


A static website is easy enough to define, since it consists of a set of "flat" files that are hard coded in HTML and are created individually and manually by the webmaster as needed. A template is often used to ensure all pages are created with the same basic layout and color scheme, so all that is generally needed when adding new pages is to copy/paste the text from a word processor and fill in the spaces and other formatting with "tags".

Static sites typically have a low server load as pages load very fast thanks to minimal processing required server side when a visitor opens a page on the site. With no active database and associated processing required, this is an efficient solution for hosting on a small, low resource server.

A big upside to static sites is their lack of database, meaning there is not that aspect of a site for hackers to attack, which seems to be an on-going battle between CMS based sites and those that try to infiltrate sites and inject malware or steal information.

Database Driven Site


Wordpress sites typically consist of a user front end that they must log into with a password so they can add posts and embellish their site with themes that can be chosen from a wide selection along with software plugins for a huge variety of functionality. These sites are driven by software that utilizes a mysql database for storing and accessing data.

This kind of site has a higher server load because much more processing is needed server side when a visitor lands on a page and opens it in their browser. Depending on the extent of additional software from plugins, page load time is generally slower than static pages and can get slower the more "bloat" is added from more processor hungry plugins.

An added concern is the apparent relentless pursuit by hackers for a crack in a database driven site's defenses through which they can gain access to your site, its database and the data contained in it. There are many plugins that can be used to increase security, but these add extra bloat that increases processing and further slow sites down.

When All is Right With the World


When things are going fine, the balance of power definitely goes to Wordpress installs over static sites for things like user interactivity, quick and easy site build and embellishment and tech-free content posting. Wordpress is relatively easy to learn and is accessible by even the most technically challenged of website owner. Score one for ease of use!

Static sites, on the other hand are more "hands-on" when it comes to updating, embellishing and maintaining them. If user interactivity is needed (and these days, it seems it is almost compulsory) then specialist coding is required to provide this functionality. Either the webmaster must pay for this or learn to do it for themselves.

When Things Go Wrong


Unfortunately, the domain of the world wide web is rarely so happy feely nice and perfect. Things go wrong and sites go down for one reason or another. Ironically, it is generally the more hands-on static sites that fare better when problems arise than their database driven counterparts.

The reason is pretty obvious when you think of it. With no database to process in order to serve pages to end users, a static site can ride the wave of a slow server without too much of a slow down itself, whereas a database site can hang, causing the visitor to lose patience and reach for the "back" button.

That can mean loss of traffic with the resulting loss of potential sales if the site is monetized in one way or another. What use are all those bells and whistles when a site fails to load?

Moving Hosts


There is another huge gap between static and Wordpress sites when the time comes to move hosts. The spectre of the much feared database move can raise its ugly head and things can go disastrously wrong in a number of ways:

  1. You may no know how to move a database site between hosts, so help will need to be sought. Some hosts like Hostgator are happy to help you move a Wordpress site, although not all are so accommodating.
  2. The database can be corrupt and will not load into its new home. In that case, a backup will be needed, which is fine of you remembered to take a backup before you moved your site, but a fatal blow if you didn't!
  3. The old host might refuse to release your database. This can happen when there is a dispute and you hot-headedly decide to move away from a host because of an issue, only to find the host is not so keen to just let you walk away with your site intact. The author has had this happen to him, where several sites were hosted with a certain provider and following a dispute, the host denied access to the account so I couldn't export my database. Lucky for me, I only had one Wordpress site on there, with the others being static.
  4. Static sites do not need to be moved as such. It is common to keep a live copy of all files on your computer's hard drive that you work on as necessary. So if you need to move a static site to a new host, it is simply a case of uploading those files via FTP and changing nameservers at your registrar. A host cannot hold your static site to ransom as it can with a live database!

Conclusions


The choice between whether to build your website on a static or Wordpress platform is often out of your hands if you don't have the necessary technical know how to write the appropriate code. In such a case, a Wordpress site is the only choice for many users.

However, if you have some coding skills or are keen to learn new ones, there are many benefits to choosing a static platform. The choice then boils down to how much work you are prepared to put into developing and building a site using your skills or leaning new ones.

Whether you choose the ease and user friendliness of Wordpress to build your site with or prefer to roll up your virtual sleeves and get your hands dirty and build a static site is ultimately up to you.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

How to Increase Traffic with Long Tail Keywords

As a website owner, increasing targeted traffic is a primary concern when you rely on search engines to supply it. By targeting long tail keywords you can increase that traffic many fold by simple methods that I will explain in this article.

Lack of traffic to a website is frustrating, especially when you're doing everything "by the book" and not engaging in any methods frowned upon by the major search engine and the primary source o0f all organic search traffic, Google. By that I mean SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tactics that are contrary to the search engine's quality guidelines as I'm sure if you have even the most basic experience you'll know what I'm talking about here.

Where Many New Internet Marketers Go Wrong


Website owners who use their websites to make money online are generally termed "Internet marketers" and we make that money from collecting revenue from a number of sources such as PPC advertising (Adsense), CPA offers (affiliate marketing) and lead generation. There are other methods but I'll stick to these as they are probably the most highly used methods of monetizing websites.

So where are you going wrong, assuming you're not getting traffic to your site like you expected to?

One of the prime mistakes new marketers make is to target core, or "shirt tail" keywords as the main focus of their site. Sure, if you want to go after a term like "Weight Loss" there is a huge potential for earning if you get the right traffic. I should know as this was a niche (pronounced "neesh", not "nitch" as I hear all too often) that I excelled in back in the day before Google waged war on SEO and made it very difficult for the average mom and pop marketer to make money where they used to.

But even I wasn't so foolish to go straight after the term "weight loss" right off the bat, otherwise I would have been doomed to failure. I saw many train wrecks happen along the way from 2007-2012 but I wasn't one of them. How did I get to do so well in that niche?

Going After Low Hanging Fruit First


I went after the "long tail" and dominated one after another after another until my site had gained so much authority for those longer, less competitive terms that it eventually ranked well for the shorter, more competitive (and more lucrative) terms. It was literally a case of reaching up to pick the "low hanging fruit" or targeting easy keywords first that started the snowball rolling down the hill.

This is how you can dominate any niche that you choose. Just know that the easier terms can be ranked for faster, but the harder ones take time to conquer!

Of course, back before the not insubstantial impact of Google's now infamous algorithm updates codenamed Panda and Penguin that targeted low quality content and unnatural backlinks respectively, it was all much easier to rank for a given keyword if you knew what to do.

You simply wrote a bunch of big articles all focusing on various aspects of the core keywords in your targeted niche to exploit the "easy ranking" factor of long tail keywords. Then you backlinked the living daylights out of those articles and watched them climb up the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) onto page #1 and into the money!

What Can You Do Now?


Funnily enough, the tactics are relatively similar, with a few alterations to make sure you adhere to the criteria of the current SE algorithm and don't veer off the narrow path of quality guidelines. In short, you still need to write those articles and they better be good.

No more spinning garbage or unreadable gobbledygook, that stuff just won't cut it anymore. After all, what's the point of spending money of the best web hosting if you're just going to fill your site with rubbish?

Articles need to be lengthy, useful, readable and provide a good user experience for real visitors to your page. You need to make sure your website looks good and is easily navigable, while making sure it is hosted on a quality host that provides the best website up time.

If that sounds like too much hard work, then you should probably either consider spending money on outsourcing those articles, or take a look at the job vacancies at your local supermarket.

Here's why you should write long articles:


The more you write, the more variations of your core keywords will naturally fall into the text, so it mot only looks natural, it actually IS natural! The search engine bots will read your content and the algo will determine its relevancy. Because it is keyword rich without being stuffed, it should pass all the internal tests and be marked as high quality.

A high quality article will rank on its own without any backlinks as long as the keywords your are targeting are low competition and not spammy. You can help things along by publishing your articles on a domain that already has some authority and age and then lightly backlinking with a handful of quality in-post links from other sites that are relevant to your niche.

You do that by guest posting or commenting (with useful comments) on authority blogs where the author may (or may not) be curious about your site, go visit and be so impressed by your article that they feel justified on naturally linking to it from their site.

Is All This Work Worth All the Trouble?


If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well, right? You want to make money from your work, so don't cut corners. Do your best work and follow it up with more of your best work and you will be rewarded down the line by an increase in SE traffic that you got not by gaming the system but by working with it.

If you don't think it's worth your trouble to do this, your options are to go on doing whatever it is your doing (that obviously is not working or you wouldn't be reading this), or to try churn and burn tactics that usually result in very short lived projects, or give up and go get a real job!

Personally, I like working from home and I like making money from doing my best work online. So I just keep writing quality articles, target long tails and making bank at the end of the day from all the extra traffic I'm generating.