Tips and Tricks
Written by Taylor Hawes
Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
These days, building a website doesn’t require that you launch Dreamweaver and spend hours poring over the raw HTML code that’ll ultimately form your website. Instead, beginning and advanced webmasters alike can take advantage of a whole host of tools designed to make website creation and management as easy as possible – including everything from web host-specific site building tools to third-party content management systems (CMSs) like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.
If you’re in the process of choosing between all these different site design options, one platform to consider is the popular WordPress system. Although WordPress was once a simple blogging platform, it has very much become a one-stop shop for building virtually all types of websites. To see how exactly this system can benefit webmasters, check out all of the following reasons to power your website with WordPress:
Reason #1 – WordPress sites are easy to build
HostGator provides a “one-click” installation of WordPress via QuickInstall, which takes roughly one minute to complete. From there, everything from adding content to customizing the look and feel of your site can be done by even the greenest of webmasters – making WordPress a good solution for beginning and advanced site owners to manage.
Reason #2 – WordPress sites are easy to manage
One common complaint from webmasters whose sites are built on dated platforms or raw HTML code is how difficult it can be to make even minor changes to their sites. In the worst cases, changing a single website sentence represents an undertaking that requires expensive service calls to marketing agencies and/or independent web developers.
WordPress, on the other hand, can be easily managed and updated. Because the program has its roots in the blogging industry, WordPress posts and pages can be modified using an intuative interface that even non-technical staff members can navigate easily (though more technical modifications can be made to the site and theme code if desired).
Reason #3 – The WordPress platform is built for SEO
It’s widely known that optimizing your site for discovery and indexing by the search engines is a top priority for webmasters. While standard HTML sites require extensive modifications in order to highlight the information search engine robots want to see, WordPress comes pre-built with many of these same features.
In addition, webmasters who want to go beyond the default WordPress SEO offerings will find a number of valuable plugins that serve to maximize natural search exposure. These comprehensive SEO packages – including the popular All-in-One SEO Pack and SEO Ultimate plugins – take your site’s SEO to the next level with the inclusion of features that would otherwise require significant effort to code into standard HTML sites.
Reason #4 – WordPress sites allow you to manage different levels of user access
If several different people within your organization will be updating your website, there’s no need to worry about granting access to your full site to all contributors within WordPress. This popular CMS program comes with five built-in user roles – administrator, editor, author, contributor and subscriber – that enable you to dole out access rights according to different security levels, minimizing the risk to your main site.
Reason #5 – The tremendous number of WordPress themes available
One of the beautiful things about CMS systems in general is that your content is stored separately from your site’s design. Tired of your site’s current look, but don’t want to pay a developer thousands of dollars to come up with something new? Simply swap out your existing theme with a new one!
In this area, in particular, WordPress shines. Because of the platform’s open source nature, thousands of different developers have created a huge range of WordPress design themes – including everything from simple-yet-effective site templates to more complex web destination designs. Best of all, the fees associated with WordPress themes are quite modest, making design changes accessible to just about everyone running a site using this platform.
Reason #6 – WordPress is highly extensible
In addition to the number of WordPress themes that are available, WordPress plugins – small code snippets that add extra functionality to your site’s operation – are widely created and distributed as well. Using plugins, you can take your site from simple blog to fully-fledged e-commerce provider with just a few mouse clicks (and for a much more reasonable fee than crafting your own custom shopping cart).
Of course, it’s worth noting that using too many of these plugins can bog down your site’s operation. Before installing any plugin, ask yourself whether you really need the feature you’re about to add, as well as whether or not the same feature could be coded into your site’s theme in order to keep your load times low.
Reason #7 – WordPress makes mobile optimization easy
Mobile browsing is huge, with mobile internet usage expected to outpace desktop internet access as early as 2014. Long story short – if your website isn’t mobile-optimized, you stand to lose a serious percentage of your traffic to competitors who have taken this necessary step.
Unfortunately, creating a mobile website version for standard HTML sites can be both complicated and expensive. WordPress, on the other hand, makes the process easy through the deployment of responsive site themes (which automatically adjust display parameters to suit digital devices) and plugins like WP Touch, which create mobile website versions on the fly.
Reason #8 – Widespread WordPress support is available
Have a question about your WordPress site? Never fear – the internet is here!
From WordPress user forums to developers who work exclusively with this platform, there are tons of different resources out there that can give you the support you need to both get your site up-and-running and to keep it performing at peak efficiency over time.
Reason #9 – WordPress site updates can be easily automated
Running a company blog can be a great way to connect with consumers, but finding the time to write and upload new posts can be challenging, given the packed-full days and overstuffed “to do” lists that many of us maintain.
For this reason, one of the WordPress features that users love most is the ability to schedule website updates in the future and then have them go live at specified times. This feature alone can be a life-saver, allowing busy webmasters to sit down, write out a few posts at once and then have them deploy at given times over the next weeks or months.
Reason #10 – It’s free!
While you might wind up paying a small fee for professional themes or plugins (or a much larger fee, should you hire out for a custom WordPress theme), the basic WordPress installation is free to use – making this specific site design platform a great option for webmasters who are just beginning the process of creating their companies’ online presence.
Of course, WordPress isn’t right for everyone. The system does have its limitations, and there are certain situations that require more advanced developments that WordPress can provide (as in the case of major e-commerce outlets and some online training courses).
However, for a large number of people, WordPress represents a quick and easy way to get a professional website created and uploaded with the smallest amount of hassle possible. If the benefits described above appeal to you and your unique situation, go ahead and give this innovative and highly accessible platform a try!
Written by Sean Valant
Sunday, March 3rd, 2013
Today’s ProTip from Snappy is going to be the one-two punch of accessing your website via a “temporary” URL and then applying that knowledge to accessing your webmail as well.
What is a “temporary” URL, and why do we keep enclosing it in quotation marks? Let’s answer the last part first: it’s not actually temporary, in fact it’s very much permanent. We can elaborate on that by addressing what exactly is this thing to which we refer as a temporary URL. First things first, here is the associated KnowledgeBase article: https://support.hostgator.com/articles/hosting-guide/lets-get-started/temporary-url
A temporary URL is simply a means to access your website’s files without invoking the use of an actual domain name. There are multiple circumstances where this might be beneficial, one of which would be while your domain name is in propagation. As you can see in the KB article, the actual syntax of a temporary URL varies dependent upon your hosting platform. For our purposes, we’ll stick with cPanel for our lesson here today, but the same logic applies across all platforms.
Let’s use the following information:
Primary Domain – ninjas-are-awesome.com
Username – ninjas
Server – gator1337
IP address – 22.214.171.124
Assuming that my domain name is not yet propagated, I can still access my website via both of the following “temporary” URLs:
Note that in both instances, we simply declared a server (either by hostname or IP address) and then used a tilde (~) followed by our cpanel username, which then will deliver us to the contents of the primary domain on our account (logically this would simply be the public_html folder).
What if we want to access an addon domain, or a subdomain? The same logic applies to both; simply continue down the file structure within your account in order to arrive at the desired location. In other words, if we have an addon domain called pirates-are-awesome.com and it is located in /public_html/pirates-are-awesome.com, then we would access that website via either of these URLs:
We now see that “~username” will deliver us to our primary domain (or public_html) and we can then expand from there to literally access any file or website within our hosting account simply by exercising logic and following the file structure that we created anytime we upload a file or created an addon- or subdomain.
How does this then apply to accessing our webmail accounts? Any email address created within your cPanel will result in a corresponding webmail account. Before we proceed, here is the related KB article: https://support.hostgator.com/articles/specialized-help/email/how-to-log-into-webmail
Again, using cPanel as our example, the actual webmail service resides on port 2095. Ports are accessed by using a colon in the URL, directly before the port number:
Instead of using the port, we can also simply use /webmail:
We would use our email account credentials (including the full email address) in order to log in at the above URLs.
Let’s apply what we’ve learned about temporary URLs in order to access webmail via URLs other than those presented above. Keep in mind that you can any domain pointed to your account in order to access webmail (or cPanel, for that matter), it does not have to be the primary domain, but it does have to be a domain that is pointed to your hosting server.
Back to the question at hand. Here are all the ways to access webmail, via temporary URL, using our same example account from above:
We now see that that there are a total of six unique URLs that can be used to access webmail, via domain name and temporary URL. We also understand that “temporary” URLs are actually quite permanent, and only referred to as temporary because, generally speaking, you will only need to use them temporarily. By and large, you will simply use your actual domain name to access your files. It’s always good to understand the use of temporary URLs though, as they can be utilized for a broader scope of purposes than what we’ve covered in this article.
Just for fun, access your website via temporary URL.
As always, please leave a comment with any questions or suggestions.
Written by Taylor Hawes
Thursday, February 28th, 2013
If you aren’t yet familiar with the benefits that Google’s free analytics tracking program offers, it’s time to get with the program!
Google Analytics is a comprehensive web data tracking suite that – once installed – allows you to monitor the number of visitors your site receives, as well as how these users move through your site. Going further in-depth with the data that Analytics provides, you can even use this powerful tool to determine which of your site’s pages are the most popular, how often your articles are being shared on social media websites and even how many of your visitors are converting into buyers.
Over the course of this article, we’ll cover all of the different things you can do with Google Analytics – as well as a number of resources that you can use to get more information on the specific topics that interest you. Be sure to bookmark this page so that you can come back to this ultimate resource again and again as your specific Google Analytics needs change.
Setting Up Your Account
The first step to getting the most out of Google Analytics is – as you might expect – setting up an account.
In general, the process is quite simple. You’ll need to register for a Google Account (if you don’t already have one), identify the site on which you’d like to install Analytics, confirm that you own the website through one of four different verification measures and then install a small snippet of tracking code onto your website.
The following resources will walk you through the process of signing up with Google and installing the necessary tracking code on your site, depending on the specific website platform you’re using:
- “Get Started with Google Analytics” – Google Help
- “How to Set Up Google Analytics” – Sprout Social
- “How to Use Google Analytics for Beginners” – Mahalo
- “Google Analytics Tutorial: Setup” – Portent
- “How to Install Google Analytics in WordPress” – WP Beginner
- “How to Put Google Analytics on a Drupal Website” – Chron.com
- “How to Install Google Analytics on Joomla 2.5” – CMS Teachings
Basic Analytics Monitoring
Once your Google Analytics account is set up correctly, it’ll begin generating data based on the visitors your website receives and their activity on your site. When you first log in to your Google Analytics account, you’ll see the Standard Dashboard, which contains a broad overview of the following traffic metrics:
- Traffic trends – This blue-lined graph is the most noticeable feature of the Standard Dashboard and represents a visual overview of your site’s traffic trends over the last thirty days. To change the period that’s displayed, click on the dates in the upper-right hand corner of the graph and select your own parameters.
- Visitor stats – Below the graph, you’ll see a number of different visitor stats, including your site’s visitor count, number of unique visitors, page views, pages per visit, average visit duration, bounce rate and percent new visits. Each of these metrics provides important information about your site’s performance, so take some time to study up on what each measurement means and what it can tell you about visitor behavior on your site.
- Demographic information – Finally, the last thing you’ll see on the Standard Dashboard is a collection of information on your visitors’ demographics, their languages, the systems they’re using and how they’re accessing your website from their mobile devices. Again, pay attention to these statistics, as they can give you valuable information on how to better target future website updates to your audience’s preferences.
For more information on how to interpret the information generated through basic analytics monitoring, take a look at any of the following resources:
- “Getting to Know Your Google Analytics Dashboard” – WebShare Design
- “Beginners’ Guide to Google Analytics” – Flyte
- “Google Analytics Tutorial: Basic Stats” – Portent
- “Web Analytics Demystified” – Avinash Kaushik
- “The 8 Google Analytics Features Every Site MUST Have Enabled” – KISS Metrics
- “Basic Google Analytics Checklist: Getting Started with Google” – More Visibility
- “What Basic Google Analytics Can Tell a Marketer” – Peg Corwin
- “Understanding Basic Google Analytics Terminology” – Koozai
Google Analytics Tips & Tricks
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the Standard Dashboard and the information contained in this area, you’ll want to start looking for ways to take your interpretation and usage of web data to the next level.
All of the following articles contain tips and tricks that will help you to get more out of your website’s statistics. Take a look at these resources once you feel confident in your ability to understand and utilize the most basic Google Analytics features:
- “11 Google Analytics Tricks to Use for Your Website” – SEOMoz
- “How to Rock Your Google Analytics: 5 Tricks to Help You Out” – Econsultancy
- “Google Analytics Tips and Tricks” – Dejan SEO
- “Hacking Google Analytics: Ideas, Tips and Tricks” – Six Revisions
- “5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Google Analytics” – Analytics Results Blog
Using Google Analytics Goals
In particular, one of the more advanced features found within Google Analytics that you’ll want to adopt as quickly as possible is Google’s “Goals” program. Goals allow you to measure instances in which specific actions are completed on your site. There are currently four different types of Goals you can set up, including:
- URL destination goals (for example, a goal event that triggers whenever a new buyer reaches your site’s “thank you” page)
- Visit duration
- Event goals (as in, goals that trigger whenever a specific event – like a PDF download, a shopping cart checkout or a specific video being viewed – occurs)
One of the most powerful ways to use Goals is to determine the number of website visitors from different traffic sources that turn into paying customers, as gathering this information will allow you to make better informed decisions on how you’ll allocate your marketing budget in the future.
For more detailed instructions on how to set up this type of Goal – as well as all of the other types listed above – take a look at the following resources:
- “A Beginner’s Guide to Setting Up Google Analytics Goals” – Search Engine Land
- “A Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Goals in Google Analytics” – Search Engine Journal
- “Google Analytics Tutorial: Setting Goals” – Local Search Masters
- “4 Google Analytics Goal Types That Are Critical to Your Business” – KISS Metrics
- “Google Analytics In-Depth Goals and Funnels” – Six Revisions
- “Conversion Tracking versus Google Analytics Goals” – Search Engine Watch
- “How to Track Email Conversions in Google Analytics” – Smart Passive Income
- “5 Goals Every Blogger Should Set Up in Google Analytics” – ProBlogger
Advanced Google Analytics
After you’re comfortable with Analytics’ beginning- and intermediate-level features, take things to the next level with the instructions found in the following advanced articles.
In particular, pay special attention to the resources listed on “advanced segments,” as this allows you to observe the way visitors from different traffic sources interacts with your content. As an example, setting up advanced segments for traffic that arrives on your site from different guest posts will enable you to determine which specific audience is engaging with your content at a higher level – helping to inform your future guest posting decisions.
Complete instructions on this technique and many more can be found at the resources listed below:
- “Advanced Google Analytics” – CIL 2012
- “The Power User’s Guide to Google Analytics Hacks, Tips and Tricks” – Wordstream
- “Advanced Google Analytics Tips and Tricks” – SEOMoz
- “Google Analytics Advanced Segments” – Google Help
- “Top 15 Most Useful Advanced Segments in Google Analytics” – Koozai
- “Advanced Content Tracking with Google Analytics: Part 1” – Analytics Talk
- “Advanced Content Tracking with Google Analytics: Part 2” – Analytics Talk
- “Advanced Google Analytics for Social Sites” – iFinity Software
Google Analytics Reporting
Google’s basic reporting features enable you to easily print off attractive records of your on-site activities, which can then be shared with other members of your team or stored for future reference when observing visitor behavior over time.
In some cases, though, you may find that your reporting needs go beyond the default templates offered by Google Analytics. If you’d like to customize your reports – or even schedule them to be created and delivered automatically – take a look at the following resources on this important topic:
- “7 Time-Saving Google Analytics Custom Reports” – Search Engine Watch
- “How to Use the New Google Analytics Social Reporting Tool” – Social Media Examiner
- “Automate Google Analytics Reporting Using Google Apps Script” – Google Analytics Blog
- “Schedule Your Reporting in the New Google Analytics Blog” – The SEM Blog
- “5 Steps to Calculate Social Media ROI Using Google Analytics” – Search Engine Watch
- “5 Ways to Use Google Analytics to Track Social Media ROI” – Business 2 Community
Google Analytics Integrations
Finally, be aware that Google Analytics isn’t just a standalone program that can be used to measure on-site visitor activity. In fact, the program can be integrated with a number of other Google tools and other third-party products in order to provide a more robust web data and reporting environment.
In particular, two popular integrations you’ll want to pay attention to include the ability to combine Google Analytics data with information from Google AdWords and Google AdSense. Pairing up Analytics and AdWords will allow you to monitor the behavior of your PPC visitors, while also enabling you to make better decisions about the keywords you target with your campaigns based on measurable ROI data.
At the same time, integrating Google Analytics and Google AdSense can help you to improve your ad effectiveness by measuring where your paid clicks are occurring and which pages of your website generate the most ad income. If you rely on Google AdSense as a revenue channel, setting up this integration is an absolute must.
For more information on the different integrations that are available with the Google Analytics program, take a look at any of the following resources:
- “Link Google Analytics and AdWords” – Google Help
- “Using Google Analytics to Improve AdWords ROI” – Jake Intel
- “A Primer on Google Adwords Remarketing Using Google Analytics” – Search Engine Land
- “Using Google Analytics with AdSense” – Google Help
- “Using Google Analytics to Track Google Wallet Orders” – Google Help
Hopefully, this guide has given you all of the information and resources needed to help you add Google Analytics to your website or to take your usage of this popular program to the next level. If you have another Google Analytics article or resource that you’ve found to be particularly useful, please share your recommendations in the comments section below so that other beginning and experienced users can benefit as well!
Written by Sean Valant
Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
The “Snappy’s ProTips” blog post series is an on-going effort to raise awareness regarding some of the most common support requests that we receive via ticket. By and large, all issues covered in this series can be resolved quickly and easily by utilizing information contained within the HostGator KnowledgeBase. As such, these issues can be addressed and resolved inrealtime, without necessarily needing to wait for a ticket response from a System Administrator. The issues covered in this blog post series account for hundreds of support tickets each week.
We receive many support requests each week regarding PHP, specifically what PHP modules are supported and how to enable specific version of PHP on our shared servers.
Typing “php” into the search field on the KB will result in an auto-suggestion for the article “PHP Modules”: https://support.hostgator.com/articles/hosting-guide/hardware-software/php-modules
The above link is a comprehensive list of every PHP module that is currently installed on our Linux and Windows shared servers. There is a very small number of caveats and exceptions, for example Imagic and Magicwand are currently only available on Linux servers and Oauth is installed, but must be enabled prior to use by adding the following line to the php.ini file: oauth:extension=oauth.so
As a rule, if the module is not on the list, then it is not compatible, or not allowed, on our shared environment. VPS and Dedicated servers are significantly less restrictive when it comes to requesting/applying PHP modules.
The next most common support request involving PHP is how to enable a specific version, usually PHP 5.3, on shared servers. As with every issue we’ll be addressing, full information is contained in the following KB article: https://support.hostgator.com/articles/hosting-guide/hardware-software/php-5-3
In a nutshell, this can be accomplished via a very simple addition to the .htaccess file:
# Use PHP 5.3
AddType application/x-httpd-php53 .php
It is very important to read and understand the associated KB article, because this can cause unexpected results relative to backwards compatibility issues with scripts; older PHP coding may not be compatible with newer versions of PHP.
If you are unfamiliar with the editing of an .htaccess files, the above KB article contains another link explaining that process. I cannot be stressed enough that you should make these modifications with care, and be sure to read the entire KB article before proceeding, in order to gather all the relative information to ensure you are as informed as possible regarding the changes you will be making. As always, you should create a full backup before making any changes of this nature to your account.
When in doubt, do join us in LiveChat so that we may assist you in realtime. If you are ultimately performing an action that will require a support ticket to receive assistance from a System Administrator, then we’ll certainly create that ticket for you via LiveChat.
Please leave us a comment if you have any topic that you would like to be addresses via the on-going “Snappy’s ProTips” blog series.