Team Member Profile: Ryan Balikian

Team Member Ryan BalikianHometown: Thousand Oaks, CA
Position: Marketing Specialist
Been with InMotion Hosting since: June 2014

How did you get started in the web hosting field?
I’ve worked in the digital space for my entire professional career, ranging from Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies, advertising agencies and as a freelance web developer. Learning more about the web hosting vertical and all of the intricacies of what happens behind the scenes of websites and complex applications was something that interested me and the position at InMotion Hosting seemed to be a perfect fit for my skill set and desire to learn.

What is your current role at InMotion Hosting? What do you like most about it?
I am currently the marketing lead for both our Virtual Private Server Hosting and Shared Hosting products. I enjoy the variety of responsibilities that comes with this position. One day I might be developing a brand new landing page and the next day I might be calculating pricing models for my product. Every day brings about a unique and interesting challenge.

Coolest gadget you own, want to own or have read about?
Oculus Rift

What would you like to tell us about yourself?
I come across as an idiosyncrasy of a human. I’m an ex All-American water polo player who is really much more of a nerd than an athlete. California kid who loves the ocean, gaming and live music.

Describe your personality in one word?
Amorphous

2015: The Year of Productivity

Staying productive is one of the most challenging things we face in our daily lives. Whether working or taking care of things at home, we are busier than ever. And while it may seem that every day a new tool is developed to help make our lives easier, sometimes these tools serve as more of a distraction than an aid. So let’s cast all distractions aside and make 2015 the year we commit to being more productive. Here is a list of 9 things to help you do just that.

9 Ways to be More Productive

1. Synchronize – In an age of digitalization, we have calendars on our computers, phones, daily planners, social profiles, and more. It can be difficult trying to maintain updating tasks across that many platforms, which can lead to unnecessary confusion and miscommunications. So let’s start by ditching the numerous calendars we have and stick with just one if possible. If that’s not possible, at least make sure they are synced and accurate. One suggestion is Google Calendar; an easy way to keep track of all tasks and events in one place.

2. Keep Track of Time – Over the course of a week, keep a log to see how much time you are spending on tasks that are unimportant or that can become automated. This way you will be able to see where the majority of your distractions are coming from, what time of day they occur, if more happened on a specific day, etc. Once you have this data, you will have an easier time eliminating tasks, distractions, and interruptions that are wasting valuable time.

3. Prioritize – Set benchmarks for yourself and prioritize tasks based on value. Start with the most important task for the day, then the next important, etc. That way you will always know what the most important task for the day is, and when your most important tasks are completed it is much easier to find time for less important tasks. Also, if anything interrupts or changes your day, you will be able to rest easy knowing you have already accomplished your most important tasks of the day.

4. Minimize Distractions – Schedule a daily period of time where you prevent yourself from being distracted unless absolutely necessary. Concentrate on one activity by turning off your cell phone (if possible), Twitter alerts, Facebook alerts, and other distractors. Utilize tools like IFTTT (think “gift” without the “g”) which is an abbreviation of “If This Then That.” It’s a service where you create recipes that trigger when another service has an update. For example, you might create a recipe that consists of downloading any photo you are tagged in on Facebook to Dropbox.

5. Take A Break – After about 45 minutes our ability to focus tends to fade. So have 45 minute sessions where you apply complete focus to your task, then take a 15 minute break and regroup. Take those 15 minutes and do anything not related to the current task at hand. When your 15 minute break is up, return to the task at hand.

6. Get Organized – A disorganized work space can make it hard to focus. Keep your area clutter-free, organize your digital assets and clear your mind and office free from unnecessary distractions.

7. Set Deadlines – Give yourself a deadline to complete a task (breaks included). One of the reasons deadlines work so well is because they can make large projects more manageable. It also serves as motivation when you successfully meet a deadline. When you can see the finish line, it’s easier to stay focused. Using a Smartsheet is a great tool for setting deadlines and prioritizing tasks. You can also share your sheet with others for easy coordination.

8. Don’t Overschedule – Having too much on your schedule is an easy way to begin to feel overwhelmed. Feeling rushed and inundated can actually detract from work productivity. Try to be aspirational yet realistic when scheduling your day/week/month.

9. Be In the Now – Remember that if you get off track, tomorrow is a new day.  Don’t get stuck on the little things that happened yesterday. Focus on the positive things you have accomplished up until this point and apply that attitude toward your tasks going forward.

With a myriad of distractions available at our fingertips, productivity blockers are always just a click or a swipe of the finger away. The information age is going nowhere, so rather than blaming these distractions, take measures that help you stay productive.  Learning what steps help you personally prosper is key to success in the workplace. Try some of these ideas and see what works for you!

Choosing a Template: What to Look for and Why

Choosing a Template ImageIt’s not exactly news, but choice of template for your WordPress site is extremely important WordPress has an expansive collection of free and premium templates to choose from. But how can you decide which is the right one for you? Some websites, like TemplateMonster.com for example, have helpful filters that separate themes into categories and sort them by functions or features. But even if you do have specialized search capabilities to aid you in your endeavor, it still helps to have a comprehensive idea of your criteria.

Said criteria will be determined by the type of website you’re looking to launch. Will it be a business? A news blog? A station for content curation? Or are you just looking for a space to share your thoughts? Whichever happens to be your M.O. it will have a determining effect on the type of functionality your website will require. Today we’ll go over the basics of picking and choosing among the many potential templates subject to your scrutiny.

Universal Concerns

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While template choice is often a very subjective experience, in this day and age there are certain interdisciplinary “must haves” that every website owner needs to take under consideration.

How much do you want to $pend?

Budgetary concerns are invariably near the top of the list in regards to priorities. You can always go the basic route and download a free template, but don’t expect any bells and/or whistles. You get what you pay for, and if you’re getting a free downloadexpect the bare minimum.

Therefore it might be wise to loosen your purse strings a bit. Fortunately, most premium WP themes don’t hit the wallet too hard. You can usually procure just about any theme you like for between $50 and $80.  The only time you’ll really have to stretch your dollar is while shopping for a custom theme.

Custom themes are built from scratch by a developer, and since you’re paying for labor, it won’t be so easy on the bank account. Depending on what you want in terms of looks, function, and complexity a custom theme can be quite costly. You can save a little bit of dough by starting out with a premium theme and then having your hired help tweak it to a minor degree, rather than building from scratch.

Support

We all need a little help here and there, and purchasing a premium theme usually goes hand in hand with excellent support. Though you shouldn’t just assume that this is the case. Do your research: read reviews and see what the brand perception of a theme provider looks like before committing.

SEO

Search Engine Optimization is always an important consideration when establishing any sort of web presence. The way your website is organized, the keywords you use to attract attention, and a myriad set of other factors all combine to make your website scannable and easily indexible to search spiders.

The obvious goal is to make the front page, and that’s completely impossible if your template doesn’t have a framework that’s compliant with the latest Google SEO standards.

WordPress usually comes SEO friendly out of the box, but you need to be careful if you’re paying to build a custom theme. This is another reason why support is so important. With an active support community, you can be sure that your template will be updated to match the latest web standards.

Responsive

Responsively designed websites are those that display attractively across multiple devices, regardless of screen size, and without any mobile redirects. Web templates need to be built responsive these days because mobile use is so extremely prevalent.

Unless you’re positive that your visitors won’t be browsing your site on a smartphone or tablet, it’s best to take care of this concern from the get go by purchasing a responsive template.

Specifics

DESIGN DETAILSNow that we’ve covered some of the universal concerns, it’s time to speak with specificity. This choices described in this section will largely be determined by your personal preferences, as well as your unique needs.

Aesthetics

You know what’s useless? A WordPress template that you don’t find attractive. If it doesn’t look good, then what good is it? Your web presence needs to say something about your company, and your company should be a reflection of your personality. So make sure you actually like the look of your template.

That’s not to say that as long as you like it, it’ll be perfect. Certain things are expected from different types of websites. Corporate sites are generally reserved, minimalist, clean, and adhere to a color scheme that promotes trust, calm, and tranquility. Whereas templates dedicated to design are far more artistic, colorful, and fancy.

Read up on design basics if you’re not already familiar and make some informed decisions.

Needed functionality

Here we arrive at the really important stuff. What do you absolutelyneed your website to do? If you’re opening an online store, then you’ll need a usable system for product imports and exports, featured products on a slider, an opt-in form to gain new leads, and so much more. If you’re web presence is all about event promotion, then you’ll need a calendar function. Do you need to interact with your visitors? Then you’ll have to have sections for them to comment on your content, live chat boxes, etc.

All of your WP template’s needed functionality is completely determined by your personal needs, so carefully consider what you want and need from your theme.

Flexibility

Finally, you want your WP theme to be flexible. The World Wide Web is constantly in flux, and so are expectations regarding webpages. It shouldn’t have to be a problem to alter or edit according to your shifting priorities. For example, you should be able to change the color of a banner or background without much trouble. You don’t want to be buried underneath lines of complex code for the simplest of aesthetic choices.

Nor should it be an issue to add widgets/plugins as you see fit. Sometimes the addition of certain plugins can slow a website down or seriously hinder some vital parts of its functionality. If this is going to be the case for your chosen template, then you’ll want to know up front. The idea is to look for seamless backend editing.

These are just a few of the concerns you’ll want to look out for when choosing the perfect theme. If you’re ready to begin browsing, then take a look at some of the powerfully functional premium templates here.

SSL for SEO?

DOES A SECURITY CERTIFICATE EQUAL A RANKINGS BOOST?

Back in March 2014, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam, said he personally wanted SSL to be a ranking factor. Well that time has come, and probably quicker than most people may have expected.  Well, somewhat.  As of now, adding an SSL 2048-bit key certificate will only provide a minor boost to your site.  In fact, Google says it affects “fewer than 1% of global queries” and does not carry as much weight as “other signals such as high-quality content” which only goes to show you, as always, content is king.

Google has said it wants all “website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web,” so there’s a good chance we could see that ranking signal strengthen over time.

According to Google, more information on this will be released in the future, but in the meantime, Google has provided the following tips:

  • Decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate
  • Use 2048-bit key certificates
  • Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
  • Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains
  • Check out our Site move article for more guidelines on how to change your website’s address
  • Do not block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt
  • Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible. Avoid the noindex robots meta tag.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN IN TERMS OF SEO?

Installing an SSL is not going to miraculously boost your website to the top of the search results, but as Google continues its “HTTPS everywhere” push, it is definitely something you want to be aware of. Especially if it is something Google is encouraging all website owners to do.

HOW TO MAKE THE SWITCH

In order to make the switch to HTTPS your website will need a Secure Sockets Locket (SSL) Certificate.  SSLs are protocols that establish a secure link between a web server and a browser.  It is a way for social security numbers, passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information to be securely transmitted without being intercepted by a third party.

PURCHASE AN SSL THROUGH INMOTION HOSTING

Purchasing an SSL Certificate through InMotion Hosting can be accomplished in just 5 simple steps:

Step 1. Login to AMP (Account Management Panel)

Step 2. Click the Purchase SSL Certificate button.

How to Purchase an SSL Certificate
How to Purchase an SSL Certificate

Step 3. Select the SSL Certificate’s subscription length (ie. 1 or 2 years) and the Desired Certificate Name.

Step 4. Enter the contact information for the owner of the SSL Certificate.

Step 5. Choose how you want the SSL billed, then click Submit. You will then see the following message, “Your order has been submitted for processing. Please look for a follow up from our staff shortly.” 

The typical turn-around time is up to 48 hours.  However, there are many reasons why an SSL may take longer to be issued.  Once your SSL certificate has been installed successfully, you will receive an email notification to your primary email address on file.  After you get the SSL installed, you can show the Secure Comodo Seal on your website.  Check out our guide on how to show the secure seal for your site.

We also have a guide with more in depth instructions on how to purchase an SSL through InMotion Hosting.