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best web hosting

Choosing The Best Web Hosting For Small Business

The Internet has opened up access to global and local markets. We live in a highly connected world today, where people discover brands, products and services by searching on the web. Businesses without an online presence have a daunting task to keep up with competitors who do.  Small businesses simply cannot afford to miss this lucrative opportunity of reaching potential customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through their website. Setting up a website requires proper planning, creativity and execution but it should be pretty painless provided you have the right tools at your disposal. The most critical tool in creating your business website is having the right Web hosting service to publish your site online.

What Is A Web Host?

web host is a business that provides the technologies and servers to store and deliver the audio, video, documents, and other files that make up your website and its content so that it can be viewed by anyone on the web.

You can opt for shared, virtual or dedicated servers.

  1. Shared– As the name suggests, your website gets stored on a server with hundreds of other websites.

 

  1. Virtual Private Server– You are still sharing the server but with far fewer websites therefore, your site gets allocated more of the server’s power, memory, and storage space.

 

  1. Dedicated hosting- if your website gets a ton of traffic and it requires maximum data privacy then dedicated hosting is the way to go. You can lease your own server that hosts only your website.

Small Business Hosting Basics

Besides publishing websites, strong hosting companies will take on all technical responsibilities of running and updating your website so that you can focus on business-critical functions. Good web hosting services will also provide businesses with an integrated control panel for easy site management, top notch support and many more useful features such as custom domain names, email functionality, rich website creation tools, one-click installation of supported apps and database support.

Features You Definitely Need From Your Web Host

Before pulling out your credit card and signing up with a web hosting service, it is important to understand the resources you will need based on the type of website you will be running. Though different sites have different needs, here are some factors you must consider when looking for the best web Host for your small business.

  1. Reliability

It is important for small businesses to have reliable web hosting partners so that your site does not experience any downtime. The last thing you need to be worrying about is whether potential customers can access your web page. While most web hosting companies will have the occasional outage, the real differentiator is the recovery speed. Selecting a good web host that can handle a lot of traffic and guarantee high uptime will fetch you the most return on your website investment.

  1. Speed

The difference between visitors landing on your site and backing out or staying on to convert may depend on their web experience. Page load speed and performance rates matter to online users. If a web host is slowing down the speed of your website you definitely need to make changes. What you need is a robust host that can handle large files easily and deliver the performance your visitors expect.

  1. Support

Small businesses often do not have an on-site IT team. When something goes wrong with the site, you need Web hosting services to provide helpful and friendly technical support. Ideally you are looking to get an immediate response from your hosting company when you need help the most. A good host should offer 24/7 phone support, and have options for help through email and live chats so that you find a solution to your problem very quickly. Select web hosts that have active user forums, video tutorials and blogs for additional customer support.

  1. Price

Do not fall for the cheapest web hosting plans. Instead try to get the best services and features for your money.  Shared hosting deals are often sold very cheap on signup prices but are significantly hiked on renewals. So do check the terms of service and go over the renewal prices before signing up.

  1. Security

Web hosting services must have highly secure servers to keep your data safe from frauds and cybercriminals. The best Web hosting companies will offer precise security features to protect against the latest malware or virus trying to affect computers accessing your site. Good web hosting companies will have multiple data centers, offer regular data backups, provide free domain privacy and even have servers with RAID pre-installed  to keep your files safe even if the server crashes. For e-commerce sites that accept payment transactions, choosing a web host that lets you set up Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to secure the data being transmitted to and from the website is a must.

Get Started Now

Pick a web hosting company with the most features that best align with your website-building goals. Instead of finding the best in the world, your focus should be on finding the RIGHT web host for YOU.

Lunarpages hosting service offers an array of plans for small businesses with robust features at wallet-friendly prices. Try our Lunarpages Business Web Hosting for reliable services, higher resource limits and faster server hardware.

Web Applications

Understanding Web Applications

Without even knowing it, most of us are using web applications on a daily basis.  In fact, Gmail and Yahoo email, Twitter, Facebook, and eBay are used by most of us daily—and they are web applications. We generally confuse these web applications tools for websites.  So, what is a web application and how is it different from a website? What are some different types of web applications?  We will help you decipher which is best for the business functions you want to achieve- a website or a web application.

Website vs. Web Application

The best way to elucidate the difference between websites and web applications is to think in terms of purpose.  Do you want to provide information or do you want to get it?

Websites are simple, static, single page sites or marketing websites for distributing information. Websites generally feature and promote products, services, and organizations through articles, images, video, and files. A site informs the world about who you are and what you offer. For instance, you can check your local Italian restaurant website as a customer to check out the ‘Day’s Special,’ or hours of operation without giving away any information about yourself.

Web applications on the other hand are less focused on marketing and more on functionality to fulfill specific business purpose (submitting, storing, searching, and retrieving data). Web applications are software that runs on the web to provide some kind of service or to improve efficiency. Web applications generally always use databases, and are therefore called dynamic. It requires user interaction, as in the user has to provide information in order for the application to work. The big advantage of a web application is that it does not need the developer to build a client for a specific type of computer or a specific operating system because it runs in a web browser. Users can even be using Internet Explorer, Chrome or Firefox, though some web applications may require a specific Web browser.

An Example:

Think of the website of your bank, which promotes the brand and provides customers vital information about their services, and security features. Any member of the public can view the bank’s website but for account holders, the bank also offers web application tools focused on providing specific functionalities. For instance, to help check the balance on their account, submit an online loan application form, or pay bills online.

Technical Foundation

Websites and web applications both are collections of programming code for delivery of content and functionality on the web. The software run on web servers and is accessed through web browsers on a variety of devices.  Both use the same coding languages and tools (HTML, JavaScript, CSS and others) to develop the software. Web applications commonly use a combination of server-side script (ASP, PHP, or Python etc) to deal with databases, storing and retrieving information and client-side script (HTML, Javascript, CSS and others etc.) to present that information, along with frameworks like Rails, Django, etc. to develop and maintain the application.

Types Of Web Applications

There are three different types of web-based applications depending on the roles performed and logic placed and distributed by the server and the client browser.

Server-side HTML Web Application- In this type of web development architecture, the server generates HTML content and sends it to the client as a full-fledged HTML-page.

JS Generation Widgets (AJAX)- The page displayed in the browser shows widgets, where data is uploaded through AJAX query from the server into the content of the page. Any updates from the server show up only for the part of the page requested by the client.

Service-oriented Single-page Web Apps– An HTML-page is downloaded from the server, which acts as a container for JavaScript code to address a particular web service and retrieve business data only. The data is used by the self-sufficient JavaScript application, which generates the HTML content of the page.

It’s also possible to implement hybrid architecture to meet specific business requirements. The architecture of this collection of logically related interactive functions can consist of a number of components, including-

  • Business application functionality
  • Security
  • Browsers such as Internet Explorer
  • E-Mail functionality
  • Forums or bulletin boards
  • Custom-built Advertising

Web Applications Are The Future

Web apps can be customized and tailored for business purposes, like accounting software, reminder systems, order forms, and sales tracking for time saving efficiencies. Web applications can also be designed to strengthen both internal and external communication and improve data delivery and distribution. Advanced web applications are now available as online portals and eCommerce, which delivers content and the functionality of searching, adding to cart, and online financial transaction.

Most business owners understand the value of websites in their marketing plan but not many know the benefits of web applications and how they can offer stronger products and services, improve SEO, reduce cost significantly and help expand their business. Ultimately, whether you choose a website or a web application depends on your assessment of what you want to achieve.

Unscrambling Bandwidth

Unscrambling The Bandwidth Puzzle

We often hear- “You can never have enough bandwidth.” But how much truth is there to that? Our internet usage patterns have changed drastically since the late ’90s, when Yahoo messenger was the hottest communication channel, and email a nice novelty and not a necessity yet. Consumers now have come to expect a rich multimedia web experience with streaming video, music and social media updates. Residential users are heavy bandwidth users too. Thanks to Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Pandora and online gaming services from Playstation to Xbox. Today bandwidth needs for business is complex too, with more juice required for cloud-based services, VoIP telephone systems, video conferencing, Google Apps, Office 365 for email and collaboration platforms. Let’s try to make sense of what all this means for businesses.

How Does Bandwidth and Data Transfer Affect Internet Browsing?

Almost every action a user takes online involves downloading some amount of data. The bandwidth and data transfer rate mostly affect the speed at which we browse websites or download files for personal or office use. For instance, your bandwidth would directly affect speed when you download images, songs, videos, movies or access any file across the Internet. The larger the bandwidth, the faster a given file can transfer across the network at any given time. Internet users with more bandwidth also find that web pages load faster and there are no lags when video streaming.

How Does Bandwidth Affect Your Website?

It is also especially important for website owners to understand bandwidth allocations in their hosting accounts. Failure to find the right bandwidth offer can result in an underperforming slow website and additional charges.  Websites and apps require different bandwidths depending on how complicated their design is and how content-rich they are. When someone arrives on your site, all of the assets that are required to display the requested webpage in a person’s browser are downloaded from the server to their computer, which takes up bandwidth allocation. Even if anyone downloads or sends emails through your hosted domain then the size of those emails counts towards your bandwidth usage too.  For example, if your website contains a 1MB picture, which 3,000 visitors view, it uses 3,000MB (3GB) of bandwidth.

As your site begins to attract more visitors, the traffic between the web server and local computer slows down the loading time of your site for visitors, regardless of their internet connection speed. Your hosting company cycles through each user request and transfers a small portion of the data at a time, as visitors are forced to line up in a queue. And if there is a huge spurt in visitors at the same time, you may well find that your site is unavailable because the server has transferred the maximum amount of data for the allowed bandwidth.

Bandwidth And Web Hosting

When picking a web host to run your website, you should look for the best server resources available to keep your site online and consider factors such as bandwidth, data transfer, and disk space. Imagine you’re moving goods from your warehouse across a highway using trucks for delivery to customers. Bandwidth can be likened to the number of lanes on the highway and the volume of goods your trucks transfer across that highway would be data transfer rate. And disk space could be compared to the space your goods take up in the warehouse. With high bandwidth, your site will cope better because more people can visit your site at the same time and fully enjoy the optimum web experience you created for them. So, understanding traffic patterns is extremely important when choosing a bandwidth option.

Most web hosting companies offer a variety of bandwidth options for their tiers of hosting packages from 1 G to 100 G, with some even offering unlimited bandwidth. Lunarpages can provide the maximum bandwidth you need within its cheapest hosting account too. It is also easy to upgrade should you need to.

For businesses that have “bandwidth-heavy” content such as video, online apps, large images, audio files and those with a lot of traffic, a dedicated server with about 1TB of monthly bandwidth allotment should be enough to handle the data moving in and out of the network. Feel free to discuss with us about which web hosting option would be best for your bandwidth needs.

website banner ideas

Ideas For Designing Website Banner Ads

We come across banner ads everywhere, so much so that they have become intrinsically linked with our web experience. Banner ad clicks may be dropping but we can’t afford to ignore the power of this prolific online advertising format in spreading the brand message to a large audience. Just seeing a web banner ad creates recall and user preference for that product or service. But our senses get assaulted every day with some really obnoxious examples of banner ad designs so it is time to turn the tide. Lunarpages would like to arm you with some basic design guidelines so that you can create web banners that will make a favorable impression and bring in clicks.

Apply Standard Banner Sizes

Banner ads work within the specs of the site where you plan to advertise. And since most sites use a set of common sizes, it is advisable to design in the size you will use the most. Google AdWords, lists the most popular standard banner ad sizes on the web as –

  • 728 by 90 pixels for leaderboard at the tops or bottoms of pages
  • 300 by 250 pixels medium rectangle, either embedded in text elements or floating on the right
  • 336 by 280 pixels large rectangle
  • 300 by 600 pixels half page
  • 320 by 100 pixels mobile banner

You can take elements from the design in your most preferred banner size and reflect it in other sizes too. When you don’t take the time to resize or recreate your ad specific to the networks specs, your creatives become distorted and displeasing to the eyes of your target market.  Check out the banner ad for FatCow to see how your layout can work for a number of different banner sizes.banner sizes

Create Hierarchy

All banner ads need to have a brand logo, clear message within 2-10 words about your offer  (High quality, Free Signup, Limited Time Only) and encouragement to click (Watch Now, Click Here, etc). The real challenge lies in the fact that there is not much room to do this so there has to be a right balance between these elements. Create a simple hierarchy of elements using size, space and color to draw attention to each.jumpcloud

This banner ad from JumpCloud showcases the company logo first, followed by the value proposition which calls attention to itself and the CTA button is smartly placed right at the bottom inviting clicks.

Pair Stylistic Typography With Images

Banner ads only have small spaces to play around with so make the most of it by using strong, easy to read typefaces with striking images. Make sure to use tight images and detail shots as there is a lot of competition for eyeballs. This banner ad by Cavender’s pairs playful text, handwritten type and great photography to effectively announce the brand and product.

Use Colors And Texture Appropriately

Color is generally the first thing we notice in banner ads. Different colors have distinct associations, and your choice of color will depend on the kind of emotions you want to evoke in your audience. Look up this great resource on color theory to know how best to use color in ads. Banner ads do not always have to be subtle so feel free to use contrasting and bold colors to draw the eye in. In this banner ad, the bright yellow rectangle ties in with the National Geographic logo and is highlighted even more against a black or blue background. The yellow CTA reinforces the brand and also invites quick action.nationalgeographic

Incorporating texture within a banner ad can also create interesting dimensions, movement and depth to drive home the brand image. Check out the unique geometric polygon pattern in the limes of this ad for Corona by Vasiliy Yusov. The angularity of the fruit adds in dimension and edge to the product being advertised that you just wouldn’t get from a simple image or illustration.

Incorporate Stylized Illustration

Adding in illustration to your web banner ads can be simple or detailed depending on the message you are trying to deliver. Illustration can often speak volumes, especially if you add in animation to it. Illustration can be edgy and modern or fun and playful. Adidas ran a Line Runner sidebar ad campaign where the viewer was provided a black pen and prompted to draw a line which became a course for the runner with trees, buildings, hills, lamp posts popping up for an interactive digital adventure.

Focus On The Product

The ultimate goal of an ad is to sell so it helps to shine the light on the product. Tell your story using the product. Ikea is known for its space-conscious furniture and it highlighted this point by making the most of banner ad real estate too. Hovering over the ad would bring a product into focus and a click would send the person to the site to purchase.

Better Banners

Banner ad placements can certainly help users connect with your brand. And following some of these design guidelines will definitely improve your click-through rate and help you achieve your campaign goals.

wordpress seo

Top WordPress SEO Tips To Stay Ahead Of The Competition In 2017

What is the point of having a beautifully designed WordPress website without any traffic? It is possible to skyrocket traffic on your site and dominate your competition through search engine optimization. If you believe that “SEO is dead,” then you may have already lost the SERPs game. With the Google Panda update, Google may have brought down the hammer on black-hat methods and loopholes but white-hate SEO practices are still encouraged. The SEO landscape is constantly evolving and the goalposts may have changed but it certainly is not dead. Organic search is alive and well. Knowing what notable search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing care more about can help your business take unique approaches to ensure a perfect search-engine optimized website that is focused on; clean code, keywords, alt tags, XML sitemaps, links, good content and more. If you’re running a WordPress-based site, you do not have to scratch your head anymore about what to do from an SEO standpoint. In this post we are going to share the top trends in WordPress SEO to help improve your visibility in search engines page results for a winning play in 2017.

WordPress Search Engine Optimization Trends In 2017

Avoid cutting corners and taking back alleys for better and faster ranking. Also remember that search engine optimization is more than a plugin; it is a continuous process. So, even though you can use popular WordPress SEO plugins like, WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin or All-In-One SEO Pack to get the work done, you also need to put in effort to analyze and improve the optimization of your WordPress site. The aim of all SEO strategies is to deliver a high-quality web experience with interesting and relevant content. Here are some of the SEO trends that you can use to come out on top in the New Year.

SEO HTTPS For WordPress

From 2017, Google has made HTTPS mandatory for all websites, including WordPress powered websites. Because of the aggressive push from Google in the direction of secured websites, it may be more work for website developers but it will ensure better security for users. If you are building a new WordPress site in 2017, you should implement HTTPS for your WordPress site before launching because switching from HTTP to secure versions or HTTPS is not easy.

Setup Pretty Permalinks

Permalinks are the unique addresses of your website pages, blog posts, images, etc. For SEO purposes, your permalink structure should be readable so that crawlers can easily access your website’s content. By default, WordPress creates permalinks (URL structure) that are not efficiently set up for SEO. It currently inserts the day and name into the URL by default, which makes it seem dated to Google. There is a need to adjust the URL to post name manually to maximize the potential of your website for SEO. Google prefers URLs that contain your title and or keywords in the post, and shorter URLs fare better. Although (Post Name) is an ideal option, some prefer using (Category Name) though there may be issues with optimization of contents of categories in the latter case. The “Post name” permalink setting is both clean and you can reap the benefit of using the title or your keyword in the URL If you are changing the permalink structure after your posts go live, all your previous links will be useless so make sure to redirect previous URLs to the new permalink by editing the .htaccess file or through a third party plugin like Change Permalink Helper.

Links Help

Search engines rank authoritative domains higher and the best way of building this authority is through quality organic links. This will remain highly important through 2017 and you must work hard on building your links strategy.

· Canonical URL

Canonical links are important in building smart link hierarchy for search engines indexing the same content that is available under different URLs.

· Affiliate Links

Affiliate links help track a commission or referral of product/services or signup between websites. Since Google generally frowns upon affiliate links, they should always be nofollow. Nofollow links do not give your website any link juice, but can still generate natural traffic. Use a WordPress affiliate plugin such as Pretty Links to track your affiliate links and make sure they are nofollow.

· Interlinks

Work on adding more internal links between one page of blog post, or even a product page to another on the same site. This will ensure that you keep the users within your site for longer thus spreading link juice throughout your site. It helps to establish hierarchy of information and structure within your site. Moreover the Google spiders should have a clear way to reach the internal links so make sure to reline all possible related pages.

· High Domain Authority External Links

Work on adding some external links to high domain authority sites within your content to improve your WordPress SEO. This helps Google know that you are linking to an external high quality content to provide users with additional information. You can make the link open in a new tab or window so that people can come back and browse your site later on if needed.

Evergreen Quality Content

Even in 2017, content will still be king. Search engines and users love high-quality content and longer-form content. To be able to rank high on the search engine pages, you need to ensure that your top articles are detailed and contain the right keywords, including long-tail keyword variations. Check out Neil Patel’s article on how long-form content can boost your SERPs. But there is a place for short posts like reviews and other brief articles too, as long as the content is well-researched and appealing. It is hard to overestimate the importance of evergreen content for the website SEO as it stays relevant for a longer period of time and keeps delivering new traffic and social shares. WordPress offers plenty of resources to help improve your content and make it more optimized for the search engines, such as the Readability option of the Yoast SEO plugin.

Website Speed

Website speed is hugely important when it comes to WordPress SEO. Page speed matters to visitors and search engines alike. Website owners have less than 5 seconds to engage visitors before they abandon the site and over 74% of users accessing the mobile site will click out if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load. The best way to fix this is by using a fast such as Lunarpages, implementing a Content Delivery Network like MaxCDN or Photon option from Jetpack , and optimizing your site to boost page speed accordingly. For example, by using cache plugins for a WordPress powered site, such as W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache.

WordPress- The Only Way Up

SEO trends keep growing quickly but you do not have to spread your resources for everything all at once. Just keep up with the current trends, and filter out the rest to build your SEO strategy slowly. Follow simple steps like embracing Google Analytics for tracking your performance, changing the default media settings, focusing on updating and enhancing the quality of your content to make your WordPress site rank high in search engines.

Most web hosts offer some form of optimized or managed WordPress services with site-friendly features, including automatic data backups, page caching, and automatic CMS updates. You can get online support 24/7/365 via the Lunarpages Help Desk or check out our WordPress tutorial guide for beginners.

WordPress Design Trends

WordPress Design Trends For 2017

WordPress is an incredible Content Management System for website content creation and design, cornering over 59% of the market share. WordPress-based websites are more dynamic with built-in blogging features, news feeds, sliders, ability to re-design ‘on the fly’ and easy interactive social media integration. Design choices are a vital part of every web development project and your layout is just as important as elegant code, so be sure to have an outstanding WordPress web design expert to maximize returns on your investments. In 2016, new web trends such as hamburger menus and one-page themes relegated old styles such as sidebars and sliders to obscurity. While some of the most popular WordPress design trends of last year will still influence web fashion in 2017—including mobile-friendly designs, vertical split screen, custom illustrations, extraordinary navigation, bold typography and more—it is time to embrace the latest design trends too. WordPress is only getting better with fantastic new features and improvements. Following some simple design rules can turbo-charge the overall design sensibility of your WordPress website in 2017 to make your website discernible from the competition.

Get To Know Current Design Trends

Research and analyze major design trends to stay current and create visual engagement. There is the effective motion design technique of parallax scrolling for added depth and infinite scrolling which have become popular because of the scroll-heavy design trend in favor at the moment. Instead of flipping from page to page, readers can scroll through the site, reducing the number of clicks needed for the user to get the information they need. Parallax creates visual interest in the page design. Another trend that is gaining popularity is material design, which is an effort by Google focused on a mobile-first approach. The idea is to provide a seamless design experience across platforms, products and services. Then there is the card-based design which emphasizes the eye-catching visual display of condensed information to draw in readers.

Importance Of Stylized Fonts

The days of limited fonts are thankfully gone and improved browser support for web fonts means that the focus is firmly on fonts, font sizes and font styles. The ideal stylized fonts and font sizes should draw attention to the content itself and it should suit the overall design of your site. No more safe and boring Comic Sans, Times New Roman and Georgia. Designers are flexing those design muscles to find the perfect font that will make the text in your site more interesting. The way we view text on the web is changing with easily accessible web fonts from Google Fonts, FontArk or Typekit. The coming year will be about making a strong statement with dramatic fonts such as Matthew Butterick’s Typography for Lawyers.

Mobile Usability

Mobile is the future, with more people already using mobile devices to browse the web than desktop devices makes mobile optimization no longer optional, but rather required. Even Google just announced testing of mobile-first websites in November 2016. Google algorithms will soon be indexing content primarily using the mobile version of a site to rank pages. So having a responsive site design is of utmost importance. Check to see if your WordPress site passes the test using Google’s mobile-friendly tool. Mobile-first WordPress themes that are fully responsive and optimized for all mobile devices will be popular in 2017.

Vibrant Hand-drawn Iconography and Illustrations

Icon trends this year will directly impact web design especially WordPress design trends. So, put your sketching skills to use in website design framework—from the site’s background to hand-drawn icons or other web design elements. Vibrant and bold illustrations can be really effective as contrast against clean and simple typography. How about adding a touch of whimsy to your otherwise formal site with illustrated outline icons? Designers also prefer using hand-drawn illustration for Call to Action pointers such as ‘Contact Us’ as a contrasting visual lead-on to increase conversions. This style works seamlessly with almost any design.

Video Headers

WordPress recently introduced Twenty Seventeen in 4.7 or “Vaughan,” as the first default theme for business websites. This new theme has four customizable panels on the front page for displaying content, custom logo upload and extends the Custom Header feature to introduce core support for video headers. Video headers are decorative header images with motion. They play automatically and loop by default. Video headers and video backgrounds have been around in the web design industry but it was rarely seen on WordPress themes. But WordPress developers are now looking to adopt this new WordPress design trends to attract the attention of visitors. Locally hosted mp4 and mov files, as well as YouTube videos, can be used for video headers by default, but it is possible to create custom video handlers for additional sources as well. 2017 will see more WordPress themes with video headers for an enhanced visual experience.

Multipurpose WordPress Themes

Multipurpose themes are going to get even more popular among WordPress users and developers in 2017. Multipurpose themes are extremely customizable and offer more freedom for users to build a more personalized theme for their websites no matter what type of brand, company, organization or cause it may be. WordPress theme frameworks, such as Genesis are set to become trendy. Check out some of the most popular multipurpose WordPress themes including Uncode, Impreze, Brooklyn, Kallyas or Kalium for unparalleled ease of use, flexibility and robust creative power.

What Else?

Designers continue to develop visually captivating and bold styles to convey the brand message, while improving ease of use for the visitor. These are just a few of the WordPress design trends that can help you build a modern and trendy personal or business website also there are may web builders available as plugins for WordPress such as Beaver Builder and Page Builder by SiteOrigin. If you think that there are other WordPress design trends or web design techniques that should have been mentioned in this post, please Tweet your reflections with us using @Lunarpages

Start Your Dream Blog In 5 Easy Steps

Blogging is a hugely popular means of communicating and disseminating information and news nowadays. There are millions of blogs online as more people are taking to it to express their ideas and creativity. Your blog can be exactly what you want it to be from a simple web log, or a public journal to even a collaborative space for people with similar interests. The only roadblock in the way of aspiring bloggers is not having adequate knowledge about the technical basics of how to go about getting their first blog up and running. We have put together a simple Blogging 101 guide to help you get started right away.

Guide To Create a Dream Blog

Here’s a quick look at the few simple steps you will need to run through in order to start your dream blog:

  • Choose your blogging platform
  • Get a domain name and set up your own webhosting
  • Configure and design your blog
  • Start producing content for your readers
  • Marketing your blog

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of each step in the guide to help you start your first dream blog.

Step 1- Choose Your Blogging Platform
You first need to select a blogging platform so that you can get your content up onto the web. There are many open source platforms around for building your blog and they are supported by most web hosting companies. The main blogging platforms you can choose from are:

WordPress – is a massively popular blogging platform with countless plugins/add-ons and customizable content management system (CMS) offering superior features built for bloggers so that they have complete control over how their blog looks

Ghost – is the new kid on the blogging block and it has created a lot of buzz in the blogosphere

Drupal – is a popular blogging platform but it is difficult for novices

Joomla – has a great CMS but there is a steep learning curve involved
For those who want to avoid paying for a blogging platform – however small the cost—you can grab one for free from Blogger, WordPress.com or Tumblr. But before you take a decision, know that free blogs have downsides too, including:

  • You won’t be able to get a custom domain name with many of the free blogging platforms, which can seem unprofessional to potential subscribers and customers.
  • There are many limits to free blogs such as level of customization or available bandwidth for uploads. Moreover you will not be able to fully monetize your blog.
  • With Blogger or Tumblr or the free version of WordPress you don’t actually own your blog and they can shut you down anytime without any prior warning. All your site content can be deleted with no way to recover it for even minor indiscretions such as using copyrighted images by mistake.

Step 2- Get a domain name and Set up Webhosting
Next you will need a domain name, which is the URL or the site address for your blog online. Every blog should have its own domain but it can be hard to find a domain name that isn’t taken! For your blog, choose a short name that can be easily remembered. Also consider its uniqueness and what the domain says about your brand. Do remember to take into consideration copyright and trademark factors when selecting your domain name.  Once you have a domain for your blog, you need to think of where your blog will be stored online. Selecting a reliable webhost is essential because this company will be responsible for putting your website up on the internet so that anyone online can see it. All the content for your blog will be saved on there. Investing a little money on domain registration and a good webhost will ensure that your site gets backed up regularly and you can recover your website for any reason. It is wise to get your domain registered from the same place that you get your blog hosted to save you from future headaches.

You can get your dream blog up and running with the Starter Blog Hosting package from Lunarpages at a super affordable rate of $3.95/mo. Lunarpages offers fast and easy setup for WordPress installation, intuitive control panel for easy website file management and 24/7 technical support.  If you already have a domain registered, Lunarpages will provide you with the necessary information to easily transfer your domain. You can install WordPress on your blog in just a few clicks through Lunarpages and then make changes from the WordPress administrator area.

Step 3- Configure and Design Your Blog
Take your time to configure WordPress themes as it controls the look and feel of your blog. You do not need coding expertise or design knowledge to design your dream blog. WordPress theme is a pre-designed template for you to customize your blog exactly how you want it to look. There are two aspects to every theme: the framework and the design element. To make your blog standout in the crowded blogosphere, first impressions with an impressive design theme count for a lot. You may select from thousands of free themes available online, but investing in a premium theme can help improve your brand image. Additionally, they are secure, fast, easy to navigate, and responsive designed for both mobile and desktop. You will find that they are also easy to customize and install. You can find themes for your blog at Themeforest, StudioPress or the WordPress Library.

Installing your theme is even easier as it comes in a .zip file format and you can upload it direct to your WordPress Dashboard by logging into your WordPress blog. If it is a free theme, you can click Install on the preview screen of your WordPress dashboard. WordPress also allows you to switch themes or go back to your old theme with just a few clicks and without fear of losing any precious content or images.

WordPress allows you to install and use plugins through its dashboard to make your blog feature rich and more functional. Do keep your added plugins to a minimum and install just the best ones you need.

Step 4- Start Producing Content For Your Readers
The soul of a successful blog is in its writing. If no one wants to read your content then your blog will not get too many subscribers. The two main types of content that you can create for your blog in WordPress are ‘Pages’ and ‘Posts’. Pages are static pages that will not see much change and it helps link to and from your navigation area/menus on your blog, such as the ‘About Page.’ Regular posts are what appear on the front page of your blog, with comments and the date of publishing.

The aim of a blog is to ultimately provide valuable content that people actually want to read and share with their friends. To create great content, you need to put thought into more than just words. Blogs should not be huge block of text without any visual breaks (such as bulleted lists). Posts should include images or videos and you can use stylized fonts and colors to make your content stand apart from the rest.

Step 5- Marketing Your Blog
You may have setup your blog properly and published great content but this is no guarantee of anyone ever discovering it online. For your blog to grab more eyeballs, you need to promote your blog correctly. There are several methods you can utilize to properly market your blog including:

  • Social networks– When you publish your blog post do make sure to post a link on your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account. Promoting your post on social media platforms improves your chances of getting more shares and you may also see an increase in traffic to your blog.
  • Commenting on other blogs– You can access people with similar interest areas by leaving a comment on other related blogs with a link back to your own blog. Make sure not to abuse this method and only submit a useful comment to get people interested in wanting to learn more from your blog.
  • Guest posting– You can also get readers of other blogs to hear about your blog by writing guest posts. Get in touch with other blog owners and offer to write a post for their site with a link to your blog.
  • Online forums– Make sure you join popular online forums related to your topic to make helpful posts on the site. Most forums do allow you to post a link to your site in the signature at the bottom of every post you write. If your forum posts are high quality and informative, people will surely want to click on your blog to read more.

Now that you know the technical side of setting up your blog, let the fun times roll. There will be a lot of learning along the way but don’t let that overwhelm you. Welcome to the blogosphere and enjoy expressing yourself in your new blog.

How to Effectively Manage Your Website

When investing in a new website, many people mistakenly believe that designing and launching a site is all the work that is needed to maintain a presence on the Internet. Unfortunately a website is never a finished product because it needs to be constantly evolving in order to keep up with advances in the fast-paced digital world. Visitors will click out of your website disgruntled, if there are broken links, pages load slowly, or content on it is not updated regularly. The lack of proper web management also gives the impression of a business not paying attention to its customer experience. On a security point, hackers too are regularly trying to exploit sites by stealing data.  The fallout from a website hack can be huge.  The costs of a hacked or broken website far outweigh the investment on regular site management to stay secure within its operating environment. Therefore, websites cannot work flawlessly without regular maintenance to keep everything up-to-date and secure.

Whether you do the tasks yourself or hire out the work for website maintenance, it still needs to get done. To effectively manage your site, you need to consider five key areas:

  • Content
  • Code
  • Performance
  • Backups
  • Security

1. Managing Your Site Content

It is so important to keep creating fresh and relevant content for your site—which can include text, product information, images, videos, free giveaways and more—to draw in new visitors and engage existing customers to read, share and comment. It will benefit you to publish regularly, support content sharing, and manage comments on your site to encourage people to check back often because it will give you a boost in your search engine rankings. To stay on track, decide on a publishing schedule and the types of content to publish. Consider the following types of content for your site-

  • Product updates– Announcements for launch or discontinuation of products and price changes. You will need to update navigation and create a new page for the product or remove the pages of discontinued offerings.
  • Company News – Update all information about your company and employees, whether it is media mentions, news articles related to your site or products, new staff announcements, etc as social proof to build trust among visitors.
  • Feature Addition– Go over your site and make improvements to features as and when necessary, such as adding a blog or buttons/links to social profiles, FAQ section, etc.
  • Giveaways – Consider including free downloads, giveaways or running a contest periodically to create buzz around your site.

To get your content noticed by visitors and search engines, you need to get the word out using available tools discussed below.

  • Subscription – You can lure subscribers to your site with free offers of downloadable e-book or whitepapers.
  • RSS Feeds – Create an RSS feed for your regular readers and use a widget to make subscribing easy.
  • Social media – Identify the right social media platforms for your target audience and build your presence on these networks by scheduling regular posts.  Use available social media plugins like WP to Twitter, Postcron and Share This to post new content and prompt readers to share it through their own social media accounts.

If you are running a blog or a community site then it is absolutely essential to enable comments so your readers feel more engaged with your content. Even though you want your readers to voice their opinions, you still have to moderate comments before they are published and decide on how to respond to them.

2. Managing Your Site’s Code

None of the content will be displayed in browsers without some code to power your site. All websites, particularly those with databases and built on Content Management Systems, depend on complicated lines of code and specific software on your web host. Third party software, like WordPress and Joomla are always updating their software for bug fixes, security patches or feature enhancements. Your website may quickly become outdated if the code, database tables, or software is not upgraded regularly with the latest patches and security releases. The plugins, extensions and themes on your site should also have code that is efficient, reliable, and compatible.

3. Managing Your Site Performance

For a high-performing site, you have to identify areas of improvement in your website ranging from design, user interface, and content. You have to constantly manage the performance of your site against its specific goals—such as generating more traffic, increasing conversions, etc.—to encourage visitors to return. To maximize your website performance, you also need to manage the following tasks:

  • Search Engine Optimization to help your site appear on the first page of the search results for the keywords/phrase your target audience may be using to look for content.
  • Conversion optimization to encourage visitors to take action such as consuming your content, joining your community, making a purchase, subscribing, or calling your business.
  • Gain a better understanding of your site, stats and conversions, and how people behave on it using plugins such as Google Analytics.
  • Track in-site activity like bounce rates, referring sites, geo-location of visitors to your site, etc. through your web hosting account.

Optimize your site through responsive design for all platforms your visitors may use, including mobile and touch devices as well as desktop PCs. Not only should the site’s layout automatically resize on smaller screens, navigation should be easy too. Alternatively use an adaptive theme to ensure responsiveness for layout across platforms, through the use of CSS and also server side techniques with the use of PHP.  You also have to ensure fast page load times by testing site speed regularly so that it does not impact traffic adversely.

4. Managing Your Site Back-Up

You can avoid potential headaches by backing up your website regularly. Even if your web host provides backup services for your site on their servers, it is wise to take a few minutes to create and store back-ups as soon as you make changes or edits to your site. Do not rely on doing this job manually.  If you do, Murphy’s Law says that you will forget to back-up your site the day before it goes down or is hacked. Rather install and configure a plugin to take regular automatic back-ups of your site and store them securely. Consider the times and days when you do most of the work on your site, and schedule backups accordingly.

5. Managing Your Site Security

People with malicious intent often trawl sites to discover vulnerabilities in code and backdoors to gain access to your site.  Therefore, it is vital to manage the security of your server and website software by implementing the latest patches and new security releases. It would be wise to take some additional steps to guard against hackers and spammers on your site, as outlined below:

  • Have secure site administration
  • Ensure correct configurations for added security
  • Use SFTP instead of FTP when editing or loading site files
  • Use strong passwords for access to admin directory
  • Only use plugins and themes from trusted sources.
  • Lock down parts of your site or restrict access by including Restrict access by IP address

If you’re running an e-commerce site or multisite installation, use SSL for added protection to encrypt data between the browser and the server.

Be sure to monitor your site for attacks so you can take action as quickly as possible. Once an exploit has taken place, hackers often leave depository code to continue manipulating your system for their benefits, so you also need to address the source of the hack and fix any damage it has caused, and then upgrade the website code.

Website Management Made Easy

For a high-performing and secure site that engages successfully with its audience, you will have to actively manage the following major tasks on an ongoing basis:

  • Creating content to engage with readers
  • Keeping your code and software up to date
  • Monitoring your site’s performance to improve reliability and page speed
  • Improving search engine optimization and conversion optimization to make your site valuable to visitors
  • Setting up regular automated back-ups so that you can restore your site anytime and anywhere
  • Enhancing your site’s security to protect from hackers and spammers

Your web designer should provide you with a bug & glitch-free, professional website and your web host should ensure a secure and reliable hosting environment with updated software, security patches, and backups of your website. But ultimately it is your responsibility as the site owner to ensure regular attention and maintenance for your website.

website design

Freshen Up Your Website- 5 Trending Website Design Tips

In the dynamic web design industry, trends are forever changing with advances in technology, tools and web platforms. Though some ongoing trends may prevail for longer, many keep changing to align with expectations of the target audience. But good web design, either when conforming or challenging current norms, will always incorporate principles of visual design, perception, and the human-computer interaction. Last year was all about user experience, responsive design and minimalist approach in websites but with developments in the most popular web frameworks, you can expect exciting and cutting-edge trends & styles in web design for 2016. Read on to know how you can use current web design trends in vogue to liven up your website.

1. Color Trends – Bold is Beautiful

To make your website stand out among similar looking sites, with the same WordPress themes and borrowed UI elements like buttons and menus, it is imperative to bring in variation. Use bold colors! The use of color is the most powerful and engaging design practice to easily grab the attention of the user. Breathe new life into the design of your site with vibrant, bright pastel color tones. Do not ignore the rich color palette any longer. Replace dull, understated and overused tones such as metallic chrome or muted blue with solid bold accent color shades like lilac, web green, cherry red. Do not be shy of using happy, rich colors to define your brand and help enrich the user’s journey online.

2. Make a Statement with Graphic Text

Typography has always been a vital component of great web design and branding.  The creative integration of texts and other graphic elements of images, textures and patterns can have a massive impact on the visitor’s perception of the overall site look. The way we view text online is changing with the focus on fonts, font sizes and styles moving from safe, plain and boring to bold, large fonts. It has become easier to make a design stand out with use of different web fonts due to its easy accessibility, thanks to Google Fonts and Typekit. It is possible for designers to make customizable changes by tweaking default designs from stroke thickness, character width, and serif typefaces, using Prototypo, and FontArk. Be adventurous and harness the power of artistic and dramatic fonts to make a strong statement.

3. Design Around the Customer Journey

Designers and site owners should preferably be guided by the customers’ journey through the website. Customer-centric web design does just that, with its emphasis on structuring and optimizing the site in order to make that journey better. Instead of focusing just on promotional offers and sales, concentrate on implementing a web design to attract your ideal buyer to further support them, speak to them and provide solutions to them as they go through your site. The goal is to allow the content on your site to speak to your audience in order to effectively convert visitors to valuable leads and sales. The customer-centric website design elements have to be in tune with the prospective customers. Most importantly, keep in mind Google’s algorithmic changes and customer behavior data. Your website has to load fast, be clearly organized & easy to navigate, have well-defined product/services, and contact information can never be more than a click away.

4. Layout Design- Centered Content or Split Content

Be goal-centric when choosing your layout design. Centered content layout is a powerful style, ideal for content-light pages, that is fast becoming an established practice on homepage designs. Centered content places the main message of the page right at the center of the screen with eye-catching visuals or smooth textures around it for a spectacular effect.  But if your pages are content- heavy, offering many products, services or categories, the preferred design layout is split-screen. Split content divides the content into wide sections, sometimes with a distinct look for each. Designers have more room for creativity, without endangering the clarity of content hierarchies. Split content gives users the choice of immediately heading where they want to, bringing them to the correct landing pages, thereby increasing the chance of converting.

5. Get Clever with Hidden Menus

There are many users that hate the omnipresent Hamburger Menu or navicon.  Help is at hand with the more intuitive navigation of clever menus. You can latch onto this new trend of using clever menus as it makes the user interaction simple and efficient through a clean design and by removing distracting menu objects. Hidden navigations only appear when the user is ready to move on and take action by clicking on the appropriate icon. Hidden menus work really well for responsive web design too, which is the standard for small screens. It may soon be fully responsive to even multi-directional scrolling.

Go From Drab to Fab!

These major web design trends along with essentials of flat design, material design, card layout, grid pattern and symmetrical sites are all going to change our web experience. Businesses should not shy away from updating their online presence to keep up with the demands of the modern, younger and more mobile consumer. Make sure your website is still hip and relevant in 2016. Incorporate these 5 hot design tips and your website will be sure to go from drab to fab!

10 Popular WordPress Plugins You Should Be Using

WordPress is the most popular and easy to use content management systems (CMS) utilized by millions of entrepreneurs, businesses and webmasters across the globe. Because WordPress is a free open source platform, it allows developers to contribute themes and plugins that extend the design and functionality of your website. The best part for many businesses is these added features come without the need to know how to code. Developers have generated thousands of useful free WordPress plugins in addition to premium plugins that carry a price tag. This article will guide you in making the best plugin choices for your website.

1. W3 Total Cache

Your site’s speed plays an important role in search engine rankings. W3 Total Cache helps you optimize your WordPress site for speed and performance. It allows you to easily setup page and browser caching, compress pages for quicker downloads, and setup a content delivery network for your static files.

2. Hello Bar

HelloBar is one of the more popular lead generation tools available.  It allows you to add eye-catching notification bars to the top of a webpage which can be used for driving traffic to a designated landing page. Any WordPress blogger can easily integrate HelloBar onto a blog with this simple WordPress plugin.

3. Akismet

Say goodbye to content spam.  Akismet is a content spam filtering service that is able to identify anything that appears to be spam and automatically moves the content to WordPress installation’s spam folder. You can look in your dashboard to check Aksimet Stats for a breakdown of your spam, missed spam, real comments, and false positives that have been mistaken for spam by Akismet that you can flag as genuine.

4. WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin

Yoast SEO is an absolute must to boost any WordPress site’s search engine optimization; enabling more potential customers to find you. This plugin allows you to manage page titles, add meta descriptions, homepage descriptions, sitemaps or keyword stuffing. There is also a premium version with many additional, helpful add-ons.

5. Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms is the most beginner and developer friendly contact form plugin for WordPress. It can be used to add almost any kind of online form to your WordPress website. It comes with powerful add-ons which allow you to create online survey, user submitted posts, web directory, or almost anything where a user input is required.

6. Broken Link Checker

Broken Link Checker is a great plugin that can help improve the user experience on your website. Why? Because clinking on links that don’t work can be frustrating and often times a visitor will just leave the website. This plugin will check your content for broken links and missing images and notify you.

7. Google XML Sitemaps for videos

Google XML sitemaps is the best plugin to help you in submitting a XML sitemap of blogs containing video to search engines so that the search engines can easily recognize and index them.  Your Video Sitemap will include web pages which embed videos from YouTube or which links to videos on YouTube. If a YouTube video that you have in your blog has been removed from YouTube, the record in the Sitemap file will be ignored by Googlebot.

8. Floating Social

Social media share buttons are a must have for every site, but they can significantly impact your site’s speed. The floating social bar was created to maximize your social media visibility without impacting your site speed.Floating social bar is a light-weight WordPress plugin that adds a horizontal floating share bar to your blog posts, pages, and other post types. The floating ability allows this eye-catching social media bar to get you maximum shares.

9. Disqus

Enabling comments on your blog is one great way to engage with your readers.  Disqus makes commenting easier and more interactive, while connecting websites and commenters across a thriving discussion community.

10. Sucuri Security

Everyone wants to keep their WordPress site protected and secure from hackers. Sucuri Security is a useful web based security toolset plugin for security integrity monitoring, activity monitoring, malware, malicious coding scanning, or bug detection, blacklist monitoring, security hardening, and security notifications. This plugin is the best way to ensure your site is secure, especially if you are running an online retail store or if you store sensitive customer information. Sucuri Security works in the background to actively monitor your site for potential threats and warns you immediately to take post-hack security actions.

The List Doesn’t End There

There are many more useful WordPress plugins such as WordPress Importer and Next Gen Gallery. The one caveat is more is not always better. Sometimes plugins can conflict with each other or your theme, and the possibility of this happening increases with the amount of plugins you use. Your best bet is to use only the plugins you need. The good news is, if you do find that a plugin conflicts, there is probably a similar plugin that works perfectly with your set up.  This flexibility is one of the features that makes WordPress and its plugins such a popular platform.