Your blog is your real estate on the internet.
Even though it is perfectly fine to focus on writing and leave the technical aspects to a webmaster, it is always good to develop knowledge about some important concepts as your blogging career advances.
This is especially important if you intent to host your own blog using WordPress.
Keeping this in mind, here are some important concepts covered in the most easy to understand way. Knowing these concepts will help you strengthen your foundation so you can easily build upon it.
So let's get started:
1.) What's the difference between a domain name, webpage, website and URL?
Here's what each of them represent:
a.) Domain name: A domain name is simply your website name. An address using which people can access your website. It is also know as the 'host name' or the 'site name'.
A domain name is connected to a web hosting account using name-servers (DNS - Domain Name-servers) . The name server tells the browser (Chrome, Firefox etc.), which hosting account the files belonging to a domain name are located at. This way, when someone types in your domain name in his/her browser, they get access to your website files (blog content).
b.) Website: A website is a collection of web pages. The term 'Website' is used to denote an entire site with all the web pages and the homepage.
c.) Web page: A web page is any single page within a website. Eg: http://sitename.com/new-page.php
d.) URL: The URL (uniform resource locator) specifies the location of a particular webpage in the server.
Example of a URL: 'http://sitename.com/new-page.php'
A URL contains three elements,
- the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP or HTTPS).
- the host name (Domain name).
- and the file name.
In addition to these, a URL can be loaded with or without a 'WWW'.
WWW version: http://www.sitename.com Non-www version: http://sitename.com
This is why it is advised to redirect the WWWversion of your site to the non-WWW version so as to not have two pages with the same content.
Note: The domain name of a website is also a URL. In-case of the domain name, the file name is either index.php or index.htm or index.html
When you type in a domain name, the index file present in the server is what loads.
E.g. : http://sitename.com/index.php
The index.php is generally not visible in the browser.
e.) Homepage: The homepage of a website is the first page on that site. It is the page that loads when you go to the domain name of the website. (Eg: http://www.sitename.com/)
Also known as the Frontpage or the 'Index Page'.
f.) Sub-domain: A sub domain is a domain which is part of the main domain.
In this example, sitename.com is the main domain and blog.sitename.com is the sub domain.
Note: Website, webpage, URL and domain name are generally used interchangeably.
2.) What is HTTP and HTTPS
HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. It's a protocol that defines how information is transmitted between web servers and browsers. HTTP is an insecure protocol and it allows for information to be transferred without encryption. This means, passwords transmitted using HTTP can be stolen.
HTTPS on the other hand is a secure protocol that transmits information in an encrypted way.
3.) What is a web hosting server?
A hosting server is like a computer that stores your website's files, images and other media and makes them accessible online.
When someone visits your website through a web browser like Chrome, Firefox or IE, the hosting server, sends them the requested HTML file/media for viewing. So a server pretty much needs to be online 24/7 (also known as Uptime).
A server can run on a windows operating system or the Linux operating system. Linux is Open source and free.
Linux servers use,
- Linux as the operating system.
- Apache as the web server software. (Sometimes Litespeed or Nginx)
- MySQL as the database management system (or database server).
- PHP as the programming language. (Sometimes Perl or Python)
You need a Linux server to run WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and other PHP based Content management systems.
4.) What is an IP Address?
An IP address is a numeric representation of a domain name.
Every domain name has an IP address associated with it. It is just that it works in the background and hence is not visible to us.
Your hosting provider allocates an IP address to be associated with your domain name. If you are on shared hosting, it will be a shared IP. But you can always buy a dedicated IP from your hosting provider.
Shared IP: When you are on a shared IP, a single IP is used to represent various domain names.
Dedicated IP: A dedicated IP, a single IP is associated with one domain name. If you have a dedicated IP from your hosting provider, you can load your website by visiting the IP in your web browser.
For example, you can visit Google.com by visiting this IP: 126.96.36.199
To check which IP address is associated with your domain name, visit this tool: https://www.site24x7.com/find-ip-address-of-web-site.html
5.) What is Cpanel and WHM?
CPanel is a popular control panel offered by all Linux web hosting providers. Cpanel allows you to manage your hosting account. If you are on a Linux web hosting server, chances are that you have access to Cpanel.
To login securely to your Cpanel, simply go to the following URL:
https://sitename.com/cpanel (replace 'sitename.com' with your domain name)
You can get the Login ID and Password from your web hosting provider if they have not already supplied you with the same.
WHM (Web hosting manager) on the other hand is an extension of Cpanel. It allows you to manage many different Cpanel accounts. WHM is available to you on a reseller hosting account, or a VPS or dedicated server.
If you are on a shared hosting, you will only have access to Cpanel.
6.) What are MySql databases?
MYSQL is an open source database management system. It allows for a structured way to storing and retrieving data.
Most Linux servers come pre-installed with a MYSQL database.
Your hosting company will have allocated at-least one database with your account. Some plans even give you access to unlimited databases.
As an example, check out the shared hosting plan offered by Hawkhost - the basic plan includes unlimited databases.
You only need one database per domain name to work with a CMS like WordPress.
A database is part of the overall web sever space allocated to you. So your hosting space includes the 'server space' + 'MYSQL database space'.
MYSQL Database Server: This is where your website content and other data is saved neatly arranged in tables.
7.) What is PHPMYadmin?
PHPmyadmin is a graphical user interface that allows you to admisnister your MYSQL database. You can also manually download and backup your database using PHPMyadmin.
PHPmyadmin is available with every Cpanel account.
8.) What is Public_HTML?
Most servers running a Linux OS with CPanel as their control panel, will have a ROOT directory named 'public_HTML'.
As the name suggests, any file that you save under the 'Public_html' folder/directory (also known as the ROOT directory), will be publically viewable. You can block a file from getting viewed by changing its permissions.
For example, if I save a file named 'laptop.php' in the public_HTML folder, then I will be able to view this page in my browser by going to the following URL:
In order to block this page from being viewed, I will need to change the permissions of this page using FTP or Cpanel.
9.) What is FTP and how do I FTP to my server (securely)?
FTP is a medium to transfer files from your computer to your hosting server.
Think of FTP as a ship that transfers goods from one port to another.
To transfer files via FTP, you need a FTP Client (FTP software) like Filezilla or WinSCP.
Using this software, you can simply upload files from your computer to your server and vise versa (download files from the server to your computer).
For example, you can upload files into your Public_HTML (as discussed above) folder so they can be viewed online.
But FTP is an insecure mode of transferring files. FTP does not encrypt your data, hence your server username, password and the data you are transferring is open for anyone to intercept and read.
A better mode of transferring files is to use SFTP (SSH FTP or simply Secure FTP). SFTP works exactly similar to FTP, except that it connects to a secure port on your server.
FTP programs like Filezilla and WinSCP also allow you to transfer files via SFTP.
Remember that you cannot FTP to a MYSQL database. You can only FTP into a web directory.
Note: FTP is the general term used to represent both FTP and SFTP.
10.) What are the alternatives to FTP?
As few other options that can be used to add/edit your server files are as follows:
a.) Accessing files via Cpanel's File manager: Cpanel offers you an option to open your site's files via Cpanel's filemanager.
You can edit individual files directly or upload files from your computer.
To do this, simply login to your Cpanel and go to 'File Manager'.
b.) SSH: SSH (Secured Shell) allows you to connect to your server securely using a command line interface. A popular SSH client is Putty.
SSH is only recommended for advanced users as it requires you to use command line.
c.) Using a CMS: A CMS (Content management system) like WordPress, automatically adds/updates files to your server without you having to use FTP. You will need FTP though to add/edit some files like .htaccess, robots.txt etc.
So as you can see, learning how to FTP can be highly beneficial for you in the long run as you can reduce to need to depend on your webmaster for minor file updates.
11.) What is .htaccess file?
Simply put, a .htaccess is a configuration file. It can be placed within a directory or folder.
The .htaccess file placed within the root directory (Public_HTML), controls the entire website.
Before loading a website, the web server first reads the .htaccess file and checks if there are any rules that it needs to follow.
For example, you might want to block a certain directory from access. If you add a rule to block the directory in .htaccess, the server will not allow anyone to access it.
Similarly, you might want to redirect one URL to a new URL. You can write a rule for that in .htaccess too.
Here are some things you can do with .htaccess:
- Block/Allow access to a file, folder or directory.
- Block/Allow certain IP addresses to access your website.
- Redirect website, directory, folder or file to a different location.
- Redirect HTTP version to HTTPS version of a website.
- Redirect WWW to non-WWW and vise versa.
- Password protect a file/folder/directory.
12.) What is HTML, CSS, PHP and JS
a.) HTML: HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is a language used to markup (tag) content to add style and other functions to a web page. A web browser reads the markup, and styles the web page accordingly before displaying it.
For example: To bold a text, you can surround the text with HTML bold tags as follows:
<b>This text will be bolded</b>
b.) CSS: CSS (Cascading style sheets) works in tandem with HTML to style the text, images and layout of a web page. It helps reduce redundancy. You can use one CSS style sheet to style all pages on an entire website.
c.) PHP: PHP is a scripting language that can be used to generate dynamic and interactive web pages. PHP can also be used to connect and make changes to your MYSQL database. It can get data from a database and create pages dynamically.
Example: You can add a quiz to your website, store the answers in the database and then generate an overall ranking to be displayed to the user.
Example, a drop down menu appears when a user places a cursor on a link.
e.) Ajax: A technology used to create changes to a page without actually reloading it.
Example: When you submit a contact form, the contact form goes away and you get a 'Thank you message' without the page reloading. If there was no Ajax used, the page would reload before displaying the message.
13.) What is the HTML Source of a page and how to view it?
You can look at the HTML source of any webpage and on any browser using the following short keys: CTRL + U.
14.) What is Fixed, Fluid and Responsive Layout?
These are different ways of using CSS to design the layout of a website.
a.) Fixed Layout (Static Layout): The layout of the website remains fixed irrespective of the resolution of the screen it is viewed on.
For example: You can view the website on different devices - like your computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone, but it will render with the same fixed width. This means, you will have to use side scrolling to see some parts of the website on a smaller device like a smart phone.
b.) Fluid Layout (Liquid layout): A fluid layout automatically resizes itself (resizes the width) to fit the screen. This means, on a smartphone a fluid layout will shrink down to fit the screen and hence the text size would automatically become small and unreadable. In this case, you will need to magnify the text portion of the site to read it.
c.) Responsive Layout: A responsive layout changes itself based on the screen resolution in such a manner that the readability of the site remains the same on all devices. For example, on a smartphone, a responsive site will automatically drop down its sidebar and make the content take up 100% of the screen width. This way the text does not shrink down like in case of a fluid layout.
A responsive layout achieves this by using 'Media Queries'. Media Queries are set in the CSS of the site. Changes are made to the style (CSS) of the site based on the screen resolution (screen size).
Mobiletest.me offers a great tool to check how your responsive site renders in different mobile screens.
Google gives extra preference to sites that are responsive in their mobile search results. In other words, if someone searches for a keyword in his/her mobile then responsive sites will be given higher preference in the mobile SERPs (Search engine results page).
You can take the Google Mobile Friendly Test to see if or not Google thinks your website is fully responsive.
If you think your site is responsive and yet you fail the mobile friendly test, check out this article on how to rectify this error.
d.) Mobile site: Some websites have a different mobile site designed specifically for mobile users. This means, they have a regular version of the website (desktop version) and then a mobile version. These sites use redirection to redirect traffic to a mobile website when someone visits the site using a mobile.
e.) AMP: AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages is an initiative taken by Google to increase page loading speed of websites in Mobile phones. An AMP website is similar to having a separate 'Mobile site'.
So by using AMP, a site owner can have three separate versions of his website - a regular (desktop) version which may or may not be responsive, a mobile site and an AMP site. AMP is still in its nascent stages.
15.) What is a hyperlink, internal link, external link and a backlink?
a.) Hyperlink: A 'hyperlink' links one document on the web to another. You can click the hyperlink on one document to reach the linked document.
In HTML, the 'a href' tag is used to create a hyperlink.
An example is as follows:
<a href="http://sitename.com/contact-page.php">Click here to Contact me</a>
In the above example, 'Click here to contact me' is the anchor text and clicking on the anchor text will take you to the contact page which is http://sitename.com/contact-page.php
b.) Anchor text: As shown in the example above, an anchor text is the clickable text that takes you to the linked URL.
c.) Internal link: An internal link is a link that links to other 'webpages/URLs' within the website.
d.) External link: An external link is a link that links to a 'webpage/URL' on another website.
e.) Backlink: If Website-A links to Website-B, Website-B is said to have a backlink from Website-A. Website-A on the other hand has an 'external link' to Website-B.
16.) What is Googlebot and how does Google index the web?
Google is a search engine that displays a list of websites that it thinks relate closely to the search being conducted. Results are generally displayed in a fraction of a second.
To display these results so quickly, Google indexes the entire web (all websites present on the internet) and stores the information in a database.
When someone makes a search in Google.com, Google simply accesses this database and displays the results. The results are arranged based on an algorithm (ranking algorithm) that ranks websites in terms of relevancy and quality.
Google uses a program to index the web. This program indexes the web by following links (hyperlinks). This program is also known as Googlebot.
So in general terms, we can say that Googlebot crawls and indexes the web by following links. It follows internal links to index a single website and follows external links to reach other websites. So on and so forth.
When Googlebot crawls a website, it only sees the HTML code of the website. This is the code you can find by viewing the HTML source of a page as discussed above.
17.) What is the Robots.txt, Robots Meta Tag and NoFollow Attribute?
a.) Robots.txt: As a website owner, you can use the Robots.txt file to instruct robots which pages on your site to crawl and which ones to avoid.
This file typically resides in the root (Public_HTML) of your site, but just like the .htaccess file, you can put this file in any directory. The Robots.txt file in the Root directory (Public_HTML) governs the entire site.
b.) Robots Meta Tag: A Robots meta tag can be added in thesection of a page to instruct Googlebot and other search engine bots if or not to crawl/index the page.
Here's how the tag looks:
<META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW">
The above meta tag instructs Robots, not to index the page and not to follow links on the page. This is similar to adding a NoFollow attribute to all links on the page.
<META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, FOLLOW">
The above meta tag instructs Robots to not index the page but follow links on the page.
c.) NoFollow Attribute: A nofollow attribute can be added to individual links instructing bots not to follow the link. Read complete tutorial on NoFollow here.
18.) What is a SERP?
SERP is the 'Search engine results page' of a search engine.
When you conduct a search in Google, the results displayed form a part of the SERPs.
SERPs contain both organic results as well as paid results.
a.) Organic results: Free results that Google ranks based on its ranking algo.
b.) Paid/Sponsored results: Paid results work on a CPC (cost per click) model and are displayed as per an auction. Sites paying a higher amount per click are displayed higher. Paid results are generally displayed on top and bottom of organic results and in the sidebar. Paid results are part of Google's search Ad Network that can be brought via their Adwords program.
Note: Results displayed in a mobile phone are known as Mobile SERPs.
19.) What is SEO - Search Engine Optimization?
SEO is the process of optimizing your website so it ranks higher in search engines like Google and thereby attracts more organic/free traffic.
SEO can be split into two parts:
a.) On-site optimization: Optimizing your website to make it more search engine friendly. Eg: Adding informative title tags, meta tags and alt tags, removing duplicate content, removing bad quality pages, writing good quality content, adding internal links etc.
b.) Off-site optimization: Offsite optimization involves building backlinks to your site's pages and thereby increasing the site's authority.
c.) Social media optimization: Social media optimization/marketing involves marketing your site using social media like Facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest etc. The basic idea is to generate awareness, get more followers, get more shares/likes and there by more traffic.
20.) What is Google search console?
Google search console (formerly webmaster tools) is a free service by Google that helps you monitor and optimize your website to perform better in Google's search results.
Here are some things you can do with Google search console:
- You can check if your site has duplicate title/meta tags.
- Check and monitor backlinks to your site.
- Monitor your organic traffic and rankings in Google search results.
- Check if your site has mobile usability errors.
- Check if your site has crawl errors - if you are blocking Googlebot from crawling pages.
- Test your Robots.txt file.
- Add structured data.
You can register your site for Google search console by going here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/
Bing offers a similar service known as Bing Webmaster tools.
21.) What is Google Analytics and how is it different from Google search console?
Google Analytics is another free service offered by Google (that has a paid upgrade) that allows you to track your website visitors.
Here's what you can do with Analytics:
- Track real time visitors to your site.
- Track traffic sources - where you visitors are arriving from.
- Get audience overview - demographics, interests, language, location of your site visitors.
- Find out technology used by your visitors - browser, operating system, system type (computer, tablet or mobile).
- Track traffic from social media like Twitter, Facebook etc.
- Track User flow - how a user navigates your website.
- Track popular landing pages and common exit pages.
- Track visitor behavior - eg: Which link did the visitor click on?
- Track conversions.
- Track page load speeds, bounce rate etc.
- Get Google Adsense insights - Pages earning maximum revenue, CTR etc.
You have the option to integrate Google search console with analytics to view data within a single program.
22.) What is Google Adsense?
Adsense is a program by Google that allows publishers (site owners like you and me) to publish Ads on their site and thereby make money. The Ads are mostly Pay Per Click - so you get paid if a visitor clicks on the Ad. Though, even CPM (Cost per thousand impressions) Ads are also available where you get paid a certain amount for every thousand impressions for the Ad.
23.) What is Google Adwords?
Adwords is a program by Google that allows advertisers (businesses as well as individuals) to purchase ads on the Google network - the search network and the display network.
a.) Search network: The search network consists mainly of Google search (and some subsidiaries like Ask.com and AOL.com). Paid text Ads displayed on the search results page (SERP) consist of the search network ads.
b.) Display network: The display network consists of all sites that run Adsense ads on their site. Display network supports both text as well as banner/Rich Media Ads.
Advertisers have the option to restrict their ads to the Search network alone or extend it to the display network.
Adwords and Adsense both work in tandem.
24.) What is wordpress?
WordPress is a PHP application that uses a MYSQL database to manage your website content.
When you login to your wordpress dashboard and publish an article, the article gets saved in the MYSQL database.
When a visitor requests a particular article, wordpress retrieves this article from the database and sends it to the server, and then the server displays the article on the visitor's browser.
WordPress uses the database to store content in a structured manner. The database helps wordpress display content dynamically when requested.
25.) What's the difference between wordpress.org and wordpress.com?
WordPress.com is a self hosted platform. It's a free service that lets you create a blog under their domain name as a sub domain. Eg: blog-name.wordpress.com
If you want to run a blog under your own domain name, you will need to pay wordpress.com to host it for you which is not worth it.
WordPress.org on the other hand is just a blog software that you can download for free and upload to your server and then start blogging from there.
So more often than not, when someone mentions wordpress, they mean WordPress.org.
26.) What's the best alternative to WordPress?
The best alternative to WordPress is Blogger(Blogspot) which is a free service offered by Google.
The best part about blogger is that you can run a site under your own domain name for free on blogger. All the technical side of running a website including web hosting, server security, spam blocking, software updates, backups is taken care of by Blogger.
You are also free to run ads and monetize your blog. That makes blogger the perfect alternative to wordpress for someone who does not want to deal with the technical aspects.
27.) Where does wordpress save my website files?
The actual wordpress installation files are stored in the web server, under a folder named 'Public_HTML' ('WWW' in some cases). But all your posts, pages, categories, tags etc. are stored in the MYSQL database.
a.) Public_HTML folder on the Web Server: All your images, media, WordPress installation files, WordPress theme files, plugin files, CSS, JS, robots.txt, .htaccess files are stored in your web server.
b.) MYSQL Database: All your posts, pages, categories, tags, archives and comments are stored in the database.
This is why, when you back-up your wordpress files, you need to take a back-up of your wordpress database plus you also need to take a back-up of your images/media and theme files under the wp-content folder.
Back-up programs generally take a backup of both of these and zip them up into a single tar or zip file.
28.) Different ways to back up your wordpress installation
As mentioned before, to back up wordpress, you need to back up the following:
1.) Your MYSQL database.
2.) Your UPloads folder. (This folder contains your images)
3.) Your Themes Folder (If required)
4.) Your Plugins Folder or Specific Plugins (If required)
You have three options to back-up your site:
a.) Back it up manually: To back up your MYSQL database, login to your cpanel, and go to PHPMYAdmin.
You can back up your uploads and themes folder by downloading all files via FTP. Takes time.
b.) Back up using SSH: You can download the entire content as a .zip file using SSH and then download the zip file to your computer.
c.) Use a plugin: You can use a plugin like updraft plus to do the backup for you.
So that covers a wide range of technical aspects related to web hosting and running a website. If you have any queries, feel free to leave in the comments.