Modifying Hosts File

During web design and web development, it is important to simulate the environment that your website will have when it is officially released. You can simulate your website on a development server as if it is live and hosted on its correct domain name, while keeping the website private and in your local area network.

Be sure to check out our previous blog post where we learned how to setup a Virtual Machine for development.

What is a hosts file

A hosts file is a used by your operating system to map hostnames (or domain names) to an IP address. If the hostname is not found in the hosts file your operating system will look for the IP address through your Internet Service Provider.

Finding the hosts file

In Windows your hosts file is located at:


In MacOS the hosts file is located at:


In most Linux distributions the hosts file is located at:


Modifying the hosts file

In Windows you need to edit the file as an administrator. Open notepad as an administrator.

Open notepad as administrator.

The default contents of the file should look like:

# Copyright (c) 1993-2009 Microsoft Corp.
# This is a sample HOSTS file used by Microsoft TCP/IP for Windows.
# This file contains the mappings of IP addresses to host names. Each
# entry should be kept on an individual line. The IP address should
# be placed in the first column followed by the corresponding host name.
# The IP address and the host name should be separated by at least one
# space.
# Additionally, comments (such as these) may be inserted on individual
# lines or following the machine name denoted by a '#' symbol.
# For example:
#          # source server
#              # x client host

# localhost name resolution is handled within DNS itself.
#       localhost
#	::1             localhost

Find the IP Address to your local development server and append the desired domain to the hosts file. For example:

Save the file and open your browser (some browsers require that you close them before the addresses in the hosts file are updated). Type in If you already have a virtual host configured on your development server, it will now point to your website. If you don’t have a virtual host configured it will point to the server’s default website.

When it’s time to release don’t forget to remove this line from your hosts file or you may be wondering why changes your clients make to the website aren’t showing when you look at them on your computer.

10 Steps to Improve SEO

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a process of improving the visibility of a website in a search engine’s organic (un-paid) results. Improving your website’s visibility on a search engine can be a great way to bring interested customers to your website.

Compared to the costs of other forms of advertising such as pay-per click advertising or social media advertising, SEO provides a better overall ROI.

In this article I will explain ten ways that you can improve your web page’s search engine optimization using webpage best practices and Google Webmaster Tools.

Google | Yahoo | Bing

1. Page Navigation

In order for a web page to be effective with your users it should be easy to navigate. It is recommended that you set up breadcrumbs at the top of your page’s content. A breadcrumb is a secondary navigation scheme that reveals the user’s hierarchical location in the web page. This will allow the user to identify where they are in a website and how they can get back to what they are searching for.

As an example and breadcrumb for this blog post:

Blog / Home10 Steps to Improve SEO

2. Page Titles

The page title tells users and search engines the topic of the page. If the user’s search terms are included in the title tag they will be highlighted in bold. This allows the user to quickly identify that your page contains the term they are searching for.

Don’t just fill the title with every search phrase that applies to your product. Search engines like Google typically display only the first 50-60 characters of the title tag. Keeping a title in this range will result in the title displaying correctly.

Page title:

Okanagan Web Developer – Kelowna Penticton Web Developer

3. Page Sitemap

Creating a public sitemap will help search engines learn which pages it should index on your website. It also helps users locate the page they are looking for.

You should also create a XML sitemap and log in to Google Webmaster Tools to direct it to your XML sitemap.

4. Content Keywords

When writing content for your website such as a new blog post you should focus on phrases that a user will be searching for. Users won’t necessarily have the same level of understanding of a subject as you do. They may search for something generic like “web page company” when you have focused on advertising yourself as a “web application software developer”.

Google provides an excellent tool for searching for the popularity of a phrase and identifying new phrases and their popularity.

5. Anchor Text

Search engines prioritize text that is located in anchor links. They give a quick preview to the search engine that can improve visibility of the targeted URL. Try adding your own targeted search phrases to links in your articles or web pages.

Below is an example link:

Contact us for a free quote today.

A more search engine friendly link would be:

Contact us for your web development. Get a free quote today.

6. Image Descriptions

Not only does adding descriptions to image tags improve usability of your website, but it also improves your search engine visibility. An image description can be added in the “alt” attribute of the “img” tag:

<img src="image.png" alt="A nice picture of a cat.">

An alt attribute allows you to specify alternative text for an image if it cannot be displayed. Why use this attribute? The alt text for an image will be treated similarly to the anchor text of a link.

You should also optimize your image filenames to make it easier for image search engines to understand and index your images.

7. Heading tags

Use heading tags to emphasize important text. Heading tags are used to emphasize sections of page’s content. Search engines treat text inside a heading tag as important. Consider placing search phrases that you want targeted inside a heading tag in your content.

<h1>Web Developer</h1>
<h2>Hutz Media Ltd. provides web development services to the Okanagan.</h2>

8. Mobile Content

Response Web Design

Mobile web page design is becoming more important every year. Search engine companies have also noticed this trend and are considering adjusting their algorithms to reward mobile-friendly websites with a ranking boost. It is also important to have a mobile-friendly website from a user experience perspective as well.

A mobile friendly website should automatically adjust itself to fit inside the viewport of a browser, mobile or desktop with the need to zoom in or out.

There is no reason to wait for Google to change their ranking algorithm. Have your website upgraded or created to support responsive web design.

9. Utilizing rel=”nofollow”

Setting the “rel” attribute of an anchor link to “nofollow” will tell search engine’s that links on your site shouldn’t be followed. This will prevent your page’s reputation from being shared with the page that is linked to.

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>Google</a>

Obviously when creating content that links back to your own content you will not need to worry about this. If your blog or website has user editable content such as a blog comment or a message board you should set all links to nofollow by default.

Linking to websites that search engines consider spammy or malicious can affect the reputation of your own website.

10. Back linking

The core of the search engine ranking system is links. Each link from a website with high reputation to your own website will increase your own website’s reputation. A higher reputation will mean that your website is more likely to appear in the search phrases that you are targeting.

  • Consider adding your website to a free listing service. Find listing websites that are related to your website’s business and get them to link back.
  • Post your content on social media such as Twitter or Facebook.
  • Submit your blog’s RSS feed to public RSS feed directories.
  • Post video content on Youtube or other video sharing websites relating to your product or business.

Bryan Wiebe is a web developer for Hutz Media Ltd. Hutz Media provides SEO content creation and optimization.