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Bloggade 2013 – Event Blog

Bloggade 2013 Live Event Blog

This is my event blog for Bloggade 2013 that took place yesterday (Wednesday 21st August). I’ll also be tweeting throughout the afternoon from my Twitter account @AdamOwenIT. You can also follow the conversation on the #bloggade hashtag.
A Kred leader board can be found here: http://bloggade.kred.com

Thanks again to Trefor Davies (@tref), Matt Russell (@mattdrussell), Andrew Grill (@AndrewGrill) and Neville Hobson (@jangles) for organising the event.

The afternoon started with roundtable introductions. Attendees at the event included a man who runs an eating challenge blog (a blog version of “Man vs. Food”), and a schoolteacher looking for ways to integrate blogging into the classroom environment.

 

Speaking about infrastructure
Michael began by talking about the options to consider when looking for blog hosting and the aspects to consider such as network connectivity (Timico has 2 x 10Gb/s redundant uplinks) and speed.

Whilst faster RPM hard drives (such as 15k RPM) offer faster access times, they are more expensive. So many larger companies will have regularly accessed information stored on fast drives, with less frequently requested files transferred to servers with slower and cheaper drives.

Michael from Timico then gave us a tour of one of WebHostingBuzz’s HP servers, demonstrating how redundancy is built-in to the server hardware to ensure minimal downtime in the event of a component failing. Here are a few pics:

DSC06024DSC05988

 

The panel discussion then began – with  Michael from Timico, Matt from WebHostingBuzz along with Phil from Spiral Media on the panel.

 

Organic traffic

The conversation turned to ways in which you can generate organic traffic to your blog. Some of the top tips included:

  • “Great content”
  • Abide by search engine guidelines (can be found online)
  • WordPress is very search engine friendly as standard
  • Use SEO Yoast which tells you how optimised the webpage is, and helps you improve SEO
  • Make sure the content is relevant to keywords you are targeting
  • Make sure META tags are correctly done and header is completed
  • Ensure your website loads fast
  • Plenty of unique content (you can be given a penalty for posting duplicate content)
  • Search engines want to see unique and original content
  • If someone has content similar to yours, change it
  • Then work on “building the brand”

Copyscape.com was recommended for checking if your website has been plagiarised elsewhere on the Internet.

“Google doesn’t want websites to be stagnant”

There’s no harm going back to old content and updating it.

But what about other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo?
“If you do well in Google, you’ll do well in Bing and Yahoo” Phil

What plugins are important and how many should I use?

The Lincolnite used to use around 45 plugins, but now uses less which increases page load time as a result.

“Update WordPress, update the plugins” Matt mentioned the security aspect of plugins and why you should make sure you update them on a regular basis to ensure there are no security flaws.

“5 is a good number” Matt

“You can’t do much with 5” Andrew

From what was being discussed, it sounded like it was a “balancing act” between having enough plugins to provide extra functionality, but not too many that your WordPress site begins to slow down.

Akismet can give “false positives”

One of the problems mentioned about plugins is that they can create ‘ugly’ URL’s.

If you get a 404 page, Google will be unhappy and possibly stop searching for that page.

So to keep Google ‘happy’ as such, make sure your sitemap is kept updated. SEO Yoast can help with sitemaps and automatically updates them too.

Google Webmaster

Google Webmaster is free, and let’s you have some control over how Google is scanning and listing your websites.

“Everyone should be using Google Webmaster” Phil

“Google’s way of talking to you” Matt

‘Page insights’ feature shows you how your website looks on various desktop and mobile browsers.

Google Analytics

Clicky.com is a million times better than Google Analytics” Andrew
Andrew gave us a tour of his Clicky account, and showed us how you can ‘spy’ on visitors of your website, and view in-depth information that you can’t see with Google Analytics alone.

Content authors can look at where traffic is heading to adjust their content in future for maximum hits.

Turning back to the topic of WordPress plugins, Tref then showed us the back-end of trefor.net and spoke about the plugins he uses.
Phil then compared Tref’s robots file (http://trefor.net/robots.txt) file to Lincolnshire.org’s robots file (http://www.lincolnshire.org/robots.txt).

SEO

“I’m not a techy” “SEO can be a dark art” Neville

Authentic content is key to ranking well in search engines.

Many see blogging as simply a marketing channel, but this just isn’t true.

Andrew mentioned how linking Google+ to your WordPress can improve your search ranking on Google.
Andrew’s Google listings are a great example of how social sites can boost your publicity online as when you search for “Andrew Grill” in Google, the first page is filled with his blog and also a number of Social accounts such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

If you’re running a blog, say who the author is, so Google can see you’re a real person and to build trust.

Laser Red mentioned that all of their bloggers have branded avatars so people can see that the person works for Laser Red.

A view shared by many at Bloggade was that Google+ not created simply to be a rival to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, but rather a way for Google to identify real people when

SEO Yoast can help with Google+ integration.

Lincolnshire.org
Matt started building the site to promote Lincolnshire. While Philippines bass good English, the site hit a peak bounce rate was huge 90% Phil came on board to help terror the site page by page.
Bounce rate is important. Low bounce rate generally shows good content.
“45% or lower is a Google bounce rate.”
“If it’s a blog, I’d like to see it a lot lower than 45%.”

“I don’t have a strategy.” Tref
“Does it matter?” Neville

“It really depends on what you want to gain from having a blog as to if you need a strategy.”

 

Andrew spoke about how he uses his blog to generate speaker requests for events –

“The more times I get asked to speak at a conference, it proves the worth of my blog”

“Does he have a blog? Is he relevant? Does he know what he’s talking about?”

“My brand is online”

 

Top tips:

  • Install SEO Yoast
  • Use meta tags such as meta description, (although this is mainly for click-through conversion), and make sure there is enough content on page (SEO Yoast shows how readable the content actually is)
  • Google picks up on tags, so make sure they are filled out properly and correctly
  • Phil spoke about making sure tags are clean
  • Ensure you have a good HTML to text ratio

“Tags or categories?”

“As a blogger, I’d use both”

Examples of blog posts that have lots of traffic:
Tref’s son election campaign tagging rival candidates and ranking first in Google for rival candidates.

“Every page I look at, I treat it as a human” Phil

SEO Moz – Tell’s you any technical issues which as a blogger you can edit and fix.

Dipti Bhatia from KCom asked “should I use WordPress.com for hosting, or should I host it myself with my own hosting?”

The majority of people in the room said that the best option is host WordPress on your own server with your own hosting package/domain. It doesn’t take long either – within half an hour you can have a brand new site ready to blog on.

Personally, I think websites ending in  .wordpress.com look rather unprofessional.

Matt has a blog post about how to install and setup WordPress in just 5 minutes.

Ben Luong mentioned how he runs his own eating challenges website (http://www.eatingchallenges.co.uk) which ranks first in Google for ‘eating challenges london’.
I would have liked to have heard more about this, but we had to move on.

 

“How can a blog work for you?”

Andrew kicked off the discussion talking about his experience with EE (Everything, Everywhere), and how he wrote an a blog post about EE’s poor service. This post went ‘viral’ and senior management at EE got involved. After a couple of months of discussions, Andrew helped launch the ‘EE Advocate Program’, and he was given a free iPad. Perks of having a blog, eh!!
If you search for ‘EE Fail’ on Google, his post is one of the first you see.

Tref’s son spoke about how he setup a Tumblr blog with photos of people with long necks!

If you suffer from unwanted cold calls, a tip which was mentioned is to write a short blog post about each one with the number which then generates organic traffic from people searching for a number. This way, you’re actually benefiting in a way from the cold/missed call as you’ll generate traffic to your blog.

Tref spoke about how a blog post has fixed a problem he had with BT Openreach.
He got a call from his wife one day when he was in London saying that the Internet wasn’t working. After getting home, he found that the VDSL modem had ‘died’ and was no longer working.
Has to be engineer installs by BT Openreach

Although off-topic a bit, Ian Ransom mentioned how he gets better broadband in rural Tattershall than he does in Milton Keynes, and how many ISP’s simply read from a ‘script’ when you call their customer service with a problem.

Offline writing
Windows Live Writer is based on Word.

(BREAK)

Where to buy WordPress themes?

– ThemeForest

Themes and editing them

– Use Thesis or Genesis to create a child theme which you can work on

 

Andrew created a page of bookmarks which can be found here.

We then went on to a local pub for food and drink – kindly provided by Tref/Timico.

It is hoped that further ‘bloggade style’ events will take place every 6 months or so.

HostGator vs. WebHostingBuzz

Having my website and blog hosted with WebHostingBuzz, I’m always interested to see how they compare to other web hosts.
I’ve got a friend who currently has his website currently hosted with HostGator, so I thought I’d use the opportunity to do a comparison/review of the two.

When I was initially looking for a web host a few years ago, I made the (bad) decision to go with Arvixe. It wasn’t long before I began to regret my choice of host. Yes, the hosting was cheap but I was suffering from constant downtime and very poor support. So when it came to renewal time, I spent a while researching for a web host which would be reliable and affordable. WebHostingBuzz had lots of good reviews and the pricing was competitive, so I decided to go with them.

WebHostingBuzz operate in the UK and US (with .co.uk and .com websites), so you can choose a server location based on which side of the Atlantic the majority of your audience are.
Also, if you manage a website which has a lot of traffic or you want to implement a level of redundancy, they give you the option to buy servers at two or more datacentres and then load balance the traffic. I haven’t taken advantage of this, but can imagine it would be beneficial for businesses.

However, HostGator only have servers in the US which isn’t ideal as I’m based in the UK and so are the majority of my visitors. Also, they don’t give you a choice of datacentre like WebHostingBuzz do, and your server location will instead be chosen at random.

Locations:

The locations each provider has servers at are:

 webhostingbuzz_logoedit
us Atlanta, GA (Primary datacentre)
us Dallas, TX (Primary datacentre)
us Clifton, NJ (Secondary datacentre)
us Phoenix, AZ (Secondary datacentre)
gb Newark, UK (I’m currently hosted here!)

cropped-hostgator
us Provo, UT (Ace Data Centers)
us Dallas, TX (Softlayer)
us Houston, TX (Softlayer)

 

Uptime:

I use Pingdom to monitor the uptime and ping of my sites, nameservers and webservers – here are a few screenshots comparing the uptime of each provider:

WebHostingBuzz:WHBIP

HostGator:
HostgatorIP

As you can see, HostGator recently suffered from downtime which was quite severe (more info can be found here). I had around 3-4 hours of downtime, but from looking on forums it seems some had 12 hours and more of downtime.

 

Ping:

Here’s a comparison of ping times using Pingdom (with faster ping times in green, fading to yellow green and yellow indicating slower ping times):

WebHostingBuzz (Newark, Nottinghamshire, UK):WHBRESPONSE

HostGator (Provo, UT, USA):

HostgatorRESPONSE

As you can see, whilst my server with WebHostingBuzz is located in the UK, it offers a consistent fast ping across the world. HostGator’s US server does offer a good ping in the US, but as soon as you access a website from across the Atlantic the ping time slows substantially. This may be a problem if you manage a high traffic website with visitors from across the globe (specifically outside of the US).

You will also notice that some countries in Europe are missing on each of the world maps – this is simply down to the ping servers and their availability, and doesn’t mean there was a connection issue.

 

I’ll wrap this post by saying that you really do get what you pay for when it comes to web hosting. If you go with a cheap host, don’t expect the same level of service you would get from a more expensive provider. It may be wise to invest a little more so you have the extra capacity and 24/7 expert support if you need it in the future.

My journey from Arvixe to WebHostingBuzz

Having had my website and email hosted with Arvixe over the past few years, I’ve had ongoing issues with websites loading slow, regular downtime and general bad service, so I decided the time was right to upgrade to a better provider.

Having seen Web Hosting Buzz had a relatively local UK location, I decided to have a look at the services they could offer which included web hosting, virtual private servers and dedicated servers.

Rather than going for a basic web hosting plan, I decided to rent a Virtual Private Server (VPS) which would give me extra processing power should I need it.

I’m on the Silver plan (£28.95/mo), which has the following specs:

VPS Silver
Disk Space: 40GB
Bandwidth: 5000GB (5TB)
CPU: 1.5Ghz
RAM: 1.5GB (Burstable to 2GB)
Dedicated IP’s: 2

I also went for the cPanel/WHM upgrade which is £6/month and well worth it as it can make the setting up of websites and emails a lot easier.

After placing the order, I received an email from the billing/admin department to confirm that the order was being processed. Not long after, I then had an email from informing me that my VPS was being installed and configured.

Once it was setup (which didn’t take long!), I asked if they would be able to migrate my old files from Arvixe over. This was no problem, and I simply gave the details of my previous provider and the rest was taken care of.

The whole process took maybe an hour (the majority of the time being the time taken to backup and copy the files). Compared to Arvixe who used to take a day to respond to my tickets and shrug off issues, I’m fairly pleased with the support I’ve had so far.

As the package provided two dedicated IP’s, I decided to set up two personal nameservers (ns1.adamowen.co.uk & ns2.adamowen.co.uk).

It’s running CentOS, and I’m hoping to use it to host my personal website, blog and a couple of other things. I’m also testing Boundary and NewRelic monitoring software with it.

Having bought the Raspberry Pi last year, as a relative newbie to the world of Linux I’m hoping to gain further Linux sysadmin experience with this new VPS.

I’ll be updating this shortly with uptime stats. After having my services hosted with WHB for a week, here are the uptime stats for my website. 100% uptime with a great ping!

Pingdom

UK site: webhostingbuzz.co.uk
US site: webhostingbuzz.com

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