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Web Hosting vs Website Builder

The post Web Hosting vs Website Builder appeared first on HostGator Blog. In theory, anyone today can start a website. It’s easier than it’s ever been, and the basic tools you need to do so are affordable. But in practice, if you’re new to figuring this whole website thing out, it can be pretty confusing at first.  In your early research, you’ll likely come across references to both web hosting and site builders.  Both have a role to play in building a new website, but what do they each mean? What’s the difference between web hosting and a website builder? We’ll give you the rundown on how the two things differ, and the main information you need about both when getting started. What is Web Hosting? Web hosting is the service of providing and maintaining the physical servers that all the files that make up a website live on. Still confused?  For your purposes, all you really need to know about web hosting is that every website requires it. It’s a necessary component in storing all your website files and making them accessible to the rest of the world online. But if you’re curious about what web hosting is really all about, we’ll explain in more detail.    Most of us think of websites in terms of where they live on the web. Each website has an online address—two actually: the domain name and the IP address. But something we don’t think about as often is that all the different files that make up each website also take up physical space somewhere. They have to be stored on physical servers.  Because your average internet user doesn’t have to interact with the physical servers that host all the millions of websites that make up the internet, it’s easy to never learn they exist. We think of websites as existing in “the cloud” or “cyberspace” when that’s only part of the truth. In fact, there are huge rooms filled with website servers around the world, all of which have to be taken care of and kept in the right conditions to work effectively.  That’s what web hosting providers do. They invest in the (expensive) physical servers the internet depends on and the real estate required to house those servers. They hire specialists who know how to properly maintain them, and they make sure conditions in the server warehouses are optimal for keeping the servers in good condition.  All of this happens behind the scenes, so even your typical website owner never has to think of it. You just need to select and pay for a web hosting plan and let your web hosting provider do the rest.  What Is a Website Builder? A website builder is a software tool that makes it easy for anyone to create a website, without prior training.  In the early days of the internet, building a website required learning complicated coding languages. It was an option only accessible to skilled developers who had spent a lot of time learning how web design worked. Luckily, website creation is now much more accessible. Website builders are generally intuitive for even beginners to figure out. They include pre-designed website templates you can choose from, so you’re not building a website from scratch.  The details of the website editors for different website builder products will vary, but all are designed with the goal of making it easy to change out different elements and move them around to create something unique. In particular, most modern website builders offer drag-and-drop functionality that lets you move specific parts of the page around by clicking on an item, dragging it to where you want, and letting go of your mouse to drop it in a new spot. And processes like uploading new files and choosing new fonts use menus that look just like those people are used to from using more common computer tools, such as word and photo editors. All of this adds up to making website creation into a simpler experience that’s within reach for pretty much anyone. If you can use a computer, you can probably figure out how to use a website builder.  The Difference Between Web Hosting vs. Website Builders Web hosting and website builders are two different types of services new website owners often need, and each provides something unique. Here are some of the main differences between the two to be aware of. 1. Web hosting is required for all websites. If you want a website that other people can find on the web, web hosting isn’t optional. It’s a necessary component in getting your site online. A website builder, in contrast, is optional.  For many new website owners it will be the most convenient choice for building a new website, but it’s one of several options you have. You could always hire a graphic designer, or learn to code and build a new website from scratch (if you have time to give to doing so). A website builder is the easiest option for creating a new website, but it’s not the only one, which makes it an optional expense for new website owners.  2. Web hosting is where your site is stored. Web hosting services don’t have anything to do with how your website looks, it’s all about where the files that make up your website live. It does relate to factors like how quickly your website loads and how consistently it works for visitors, but that’s ultimately a different matter than the visual appearance of a website. A web hosting plan ensures that your website’s files have the space they need on a physical server. The rest is up to you and the other website resources you invest in.  3. A website builder gives you control over how your site looks. The functionality of a website builder is all about your website’s appearance. It lets you take charge of things like the website’s color, images, and text. Everything that your visitors see visually when they visit your website—that’s what you control when creating your site with a website builder.  Website builders also allow you to determine the number of pages you create, your site structure, and any menus you set up for easier site navigation. Web design isn’t just about how pretty a website looks, thinking about how best to design the user experience is also important. A good online website builder helps you figure that part out as well.  4. A website builder makes web design easy. The reason to go with a website builder over a graphic designer or trying to create a website from scratch is largely a matter of ease of use. Website builders are designed with beginners in mind. The goal is to make it intuitive for someone to design a website the first time they sit down to use the website builder, without having to spend time going through training resources. With the right website builder, you may be able to build a website within a matter of minutes or hours—depending on how complex your website needs are. If you want to get a website that looks good up cheaply, affordably, and quickly, an online website builder is usually the best path to achieving that.  Why Do People Confuse Hosting Services and Website Builders? Now that you know the basic definition of each, you understand that web hosting and website builders are two entirely different things. So why do they sometimes get confused? Both are terms likely to come up when a person’s in the early stages of researching how to build a new website. For many new website owners, they’re new terms they don’t understand yet, and need more information about. And perhaps muddying the waters even more, they often come packaged together. For example, here at HostGator many of our web hosting plans come with our website builder included. This kind of packaging of web services is pretty common, since most people who start up a new website will need multiple products and services—web hosting, a website builder, a domain name, an SSL certificate, email addresses, etc. Now that you understand the basics of what they are and how they’re different, there are a few other things you may want to know before choosing what web hosting plan or website builder to go with.  5 Things to Know About Web Hosting Plans If you’re new to owning and building a website, understanding the basics about web hosting will help you select the best web hosting company and plan for your particular needs. 1. Web hosting is an ongoing need. Web hosting isn’t something you purchase once and you’re done. Web hosting plans use a subscription model. Most companies will let you pay for a few years upfront.  If you know for sure your website will be up for the long term and want to save some money, you can make a payment now and not worry about it again for a couple of years. But you also have the option to pay monthly or yearly as you go. It costs more, but gives you the flexibility to cancel if you change your mind. Either way, make sure you budget for web hosting as an ongoing expense. It’s a service you’ll need to invest in for the full lifetime of your website. 2. Web hosting affects website speed. The quality of your web hosting—and choosing the right web hosting plan for your website’s needs—has a direct influence on website speed. A fast loading time is something people don’t just prefer, they expect it.  If your website takes too long to load, people will leave. And it hurts your search engine optimization (SEO), which is important for potential visitors to be able to find you.    3. There are different types of web hosting plans. When you start looking into your web hosting options, you’ll quickly notice a few main types of web hosting plans available: Shared hosting – This is a good option for new websites and small businesses that will be on the smaller, simpler side and don’t anticipate high levels of traffic right out the gate. Shared hosting is the most affordable option and where many website owners start.Cloud hosting – A bit more expensive than shared hosting, cloud hosting is the best option for any business that needs flexibility. If you want the ability to scale quickly if your website popularity spikes, or anticipate different traffic levels at different times of year, cloud hosting is a smart pick.VPS hosting – A virtual private server (VPS) plan is a step up from a shared plan in terms of performance. For a higher cost, you get a specific portion of a server partitioned off so that it’s just yours. That means you get more space and bandwidth than with a shared plan, and your website performance won’t be influenced by any other websites on the server.  Dedicated hosting – For enterprise businesses or especially popular websites, a dedicated hosting plan means you rent an entire server to host nothing but your website. Most new websites won’t require a dedicated server, but if you anticipate a lot of traffic or will be building a website with complex features, it may be right for you. There’s a wide variety in what web hosting costs, and which type of plan you choose has a lot to do with what you’ll pay. Simple, new websites can get by with a shared hosting plan that costs a few dollars a month. Bigger, more complex websites that get a lot of visitors may spend hundreds a month for a dedicated server that provides the level of service they need.  Figuring out which is right for you is important to make sure you don’t overspend, but still deliver the level of performance your visitors expect. 4. Your web host determines your website’s uptime. Uptime is the percentage of time a web host guarantees your website’s availability. All web hosting providers go offline occasionally when doing server maintenance, and some experience downtime when servers need repairs or warehouses encounter extreme weather events.  But ideally, you want a hosting provider that knows how to manage their servers so that the amount of time your website is unavailable is so minimal your visitors never notice.  5. Many web hosting companies offer packages that include other common website needs. When starting a new website, you definitely need web hosting, but there are a number of other services and products you’ll need as well. For instance, every website needs a domain name. And you’ll likely want additional features like an SSL certificate for security, email addresses at your domain, and a website builder.  It’s common for web hosting companies to package these products together, which can potentially save you money and make handling your payments and managing your website subscriptions more convenient.  5 Things to Know About Website Builders While a website builder is less of a necessity for new websites, most new website owners will benefit from investing in one. If you’ve decided a website builder is your best option for creating a new website, here are the main things to know when getting started.  1.  Creating a new website with a website builder starts with a template. Website templates are what saves you from starting from scratch when building your new site with a website builder. A template that comes reasonably close to what you want your website to look like will result in less work, since you won’t need to make as many changes to bring it in line with your vision. Your template gets a basic structure into place for you, then all you have to do is make tweaks from there. Choosing the right website builder should include a consideration of their template options. Do they provide a number of templates to choose from? Do they have any for the type of website you’re creating?  2. A drag-and-drop website editor is easy to figure out. With a drag-and-drop website editor, you can move things around the page by simply clicking on an item, moving your mouse to where you want it to go, then letting go of the mouse to drop it into place.  It makes design much easier than if you had to make changes using code. Plus, the website editors in most modern website builders let you make changes like adding images and changing out colors via intuitive menus that work similarly to those you’re familiar with from other computer programs.  3. Mobile functionality is a must. Mobile use has become so widespread that it actually surpassed desktop usage a couple of years back. That means when choosing your website builder, and creating your site with it, you need to be thinking about the mobile experience.  Consider if a website builder provides templates that are responsive—which means they automatically adapt to a device’s screen size so the website looks good no matter what. And check if it gives you a way to preview how your website looks on mobile as you work on it.  4. While free website builders exist, there are downsides. Technically, you could use a free website builder for your site. But any website builder that isn’t making money from subscription costs is making it in another way. That could mean they run ads on your website, include their own branding on your webpage, or put serious limitations on your website unless you shell out for an upgrade.  If you’re building a simple, personal website that will just be for friends and family, that might be fine. If you want your website to look legitimate and professional, you’re better off opting for one of the many affordable website builders on the market.  5. You’ll still need web hosting and a domain. Investing in a website builder won’t cover all your bases for starting a new website. Every website needs hosting and a domain name. Unless your website builder comes as part of a package that includes both those things, you’ll need to make a separate investment in them. For most new websites, a simple shared web hosting plan and domain name won’t cost you too much. And if you go with a provider like HostGator, all three can come as a package deal, saving you time and money. Web Hosting vs. Website Builder: Which Will You Choose for Your New Website? You can have your website up and running within hours if you go with a HostGator plan. We offer a wide range of web hosting plans, a drag-and-drop website builder, domain name registration, and much more. We make it easy for you to get everything you need, so you can start building your website today. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How Do IP Addresses Work?

The post How Do IP Addresses Work? appeared first on HostGator Blog. IP addresses are a crucial part of how the internet works. Yet if you asked the average person you met on the street how IP addresses work, they’d probably have no idea. That’s because the role IP addresses play happens mostly behind the scenes, saving most internet users from ever having to worry about them one way or another. But anyone who wants a better understanding of how the internet—that thing we all depend on every day—functions, understanding how IP addresses work is a big part of it. And anyone who works in IT or a number of other internet-dependent fields is likely to encounter the use of IP addresses in their work. Knowing how IP addresses work could help you do your job better.  Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about how IP addresses work.   What Is an IP Address? The IP in IP address stands for internet protocol. That term describes the set of rules or processes that determine how the internet works. In particular, it governs how data is sent over the internet from one device or network to another through a search engine.  The address part of the term is a little more straightforward. It’s the unique number used to identify every device and network that’s connected to the internet. Where your home address includes a street and a number, your IP address is usually made up of a string of numerals separated by periods. It’s easy to think of the IP address as your website’s destination for the traffic that’s coming to visit you. To see an example, you can look up what the IP address for the network you’re currently on looks like using HostGator’s IP lookup tool. For most of the people reading this, the IP address you see there will IPv4 (IP version 4), which means it’s four numbers, each between 0 and 255, divided by periods. But because there’s a limited number of addresses you can generate in that format and the internet is growing at an explosive speed, some IP addresses are now formulated using IPv6 (IP version 6). IPv6 addresses include up to 32 digits, combine alphabetical and numerical digits, and have sections separated by colons rather than periods. They look like this: 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334.  In order for a visitor to find your website and not your competitors, you will have to have a unique identifier number. That’s where IP addresses come in. These decimal numbers are what keeps your website connected to the web and allow other computers, mobile phones, and other devices to communicate with one another. . How Do IP Addresses Work? For the internet to work the way it does, different devices and networks all need a way to communicate with one another. While we, humans, give our devices names (think: Suzy’s iPhone or Joe’s Computer) and use domain names to access websites (e.g. www.hostgator.com), the machines we use to make those connections depend on IP addresses to identify each other. Every device that connects to the internet is hardwired to include TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), the communication system that dictates all the rules and processes by which devices are connected to the internet and share data with each other. That’s their language, and these unique identifier numbers are a part of how they understand and communicate with each other.  When a person uses their computer to access a website, the device needs a way to understand where that website is and pull up all the component parts it’s made of. To do that, the computer communicates with its network router, which then connects to the server the website lives on in order to access the files that make up the website.  Each device involved in this process—the computer, the router, the server—has a unique IP address that the other devices depend on to recognize it. The machines know which website to pull up and which computer to deliver it to based on those IP addresses What Does An IP Address Tell You? IPv4 addresses are made up of a couple of parts that each communicate something specific. The first part identifies your network, while the second part is for your specific device or host. If you look at the IP addresses for different devices connected to your home network, you’ll notice that they’ll have the first part of the IP address in common. That’s because they’re all connected to the same router and thus share a public IP (more on that later).  How much of the first part of the address is devoted to the network address isn’t consistent. That part has to do with the classes of IP addresses that were set up in the early days of the internet to designate between network sizes. For class A IP addresses, only the first section of the four is devoted to the network; for class B ones it’s the first two; and for class C addresses, it’s the first three.  Your computer network is programmed to recognize which part of an IP address is for the network, and which is for the host using something called subnet masks. The different IP classes and subnets come more into play when dealing with really large networks. For most home and business networks, none of these details make much of a discernible difference in what your IP addresses will look like or how they’ll work.  How Are IP Addresses Assigned? At the highest level, IP addresses are assigned by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The IANA allocates blocks of IP addresses to regional internet registries (RIR), who then divide those up between internet service providers, governmental organizations, schools, companies, and other institutions within their region.  For most home and business networks, you’ll be automatically assigned an IP address from the block of addresses the IANA allocated to your ISP. In most cases, they’ll provide you with a dynamic IP, meaning it won’t stay consistent. If you used HostGator’s IP tool above to see what your network’s IP address is right now, you may well find it’s something entirely different within a week. ISPs opt for dynamic IP addresses because it’s easier for them. They don’t have to make a special point of reconfiguring a network’s address every time a customer changes their location. Dynamic IP addresses have the added benefit of making your network more secure. Hackers will have a harder time slipping into your network if your IP address changes frequently.  Private and Public IP Addresses The IP address assigned to you by your ISP is your public IP address. That’s the one associated with your overall network. It’s sometimes described as your default gateway address, and it’s the address you’ll see associated with your router. Every network and device outside of your own network will recognize and track you via this IP address. It’s tied to all the internet activity that happens within your home or business. In addition to your main public IP address, every device connected to your router will have a private IP address. As discussed previously, these private IP addresses will generally all resemble the public IP address in the first part of the construction, with the last section being what makes each unique.  For example, if the public IP address for your network is 122.38.185.0, your private IP addresses might include 122.38.185.1, 122.38.185.5, 122.38.185.22, etc. Having a private IP address for each device is important so your router can distinguish them from one another.  In addition to the most obvious devices you use the internet on, like your computer and phone, every device that connects to bluetooth or uses smart technology will also have a private IP. That includes any bluetooth headphones, smart TVs, wireless printers, and smart lights—just to name a few examples of the kind of devices you may have on your network. Your router assigns each device a private IP automatically. You can also change the private IPs on most types of devices pretty easily if you so choose.  But generally, you won’t ever need to know or think about the private IP addresses on your network. The different devices will use their IP addresses to connect to and communicate with each other, but they’ll also have easier-to-remember names that either you created or that came supplied by the manufacturer (such as Suzy’s iPhone). Those will be what pops up in any situation you need to identify them.   What Is an IP Address Used for? The general answer is that an IP address is used to identify a specific device, website, or network when other devices need to connect or communicate with it. When it comes to specifics, what an IP address is used for depends on the type of IP address.  Private IP addresses are used to differentiate devices on one server. A router needs to be able to tell the difference between your computer and a pair of bluetooth headphones. And your headphones need to be able to recognize the phone you pair them with. Every time those different devices communicate with one another, they do so by recognizing each other’s IP addresses. Public IP addresses are used to identify a specific network. Even though they change regularly, your ISP is able to track the activities associated with your particular network based on your public IP address. This is how they’re able to identify and address instances of illegal online activity, such as downloading pirated material or sending spam emails.  The IP addresses of web servers are used to identify the websites stored on that server. They’re an important part of how your router and browser know how to recognize and pull up a specific website. For shared web hosting plans though, multiple websites will sometimes have the same IP address. In those cases, have no fear, your web hosting service provider will make sure each visitor is directed to the right website based on your domain name, which is what your visitors will be using to access the site anyway (only other machines use an IP address). How DNS Servers Work The domain name system (DNS) is an important part of how routers and browsers know how to translate domain names into IP addresses and vice versa. The DNS concept is often compared to a phone book—it’s the directory of which domain names are registered with which IP addresses. DNS servers are the technology that stores all those domain names and IP addresses and does the work of translating them for you. Your router will be configured to work with a specific DNS server (or a couple), probably whichever ones your ISP defaults to using. It’s just one more step in the communication process across machines that keeps the internet working the way we all want and need it to. Your device sends a message to your router about what website you want to see via your browser, the router connects to the DNS server, which translates the domain you entered into an IP address, which connects you to the specific website you seek and—voila!—you see this web page.  And with internet and website speeds where they are for most consumers today, all of that happens within a split second. And notably all of it occurs in the background, where you don’t have to worry about it. In Conclusion: What IP Addresses Mean for You If you’re a casual internet user (or even a frequent internet user, like most people are today), how IP addresses work doesn’t mean anything significant for what your day-to-day browsing looks like. All of these systems of communication are set up to work seamlessly behind the scenes, while you go about using the more consumer-friendly interfaces and processes that have been set up for humans.  You can name your internet-connected devices with names that will be easy for you to remember and identify. And when you set up a website or go to visit one, you’ll use a domain name that’s intuitive and much easier to remember than a string of numbers. But for some people who do work on the more technical side of things, understanding how IP addresses work is an important part of keeping things running smoothly for the rest of us.  If you’re a HostGator customer and want to understand more about your website’s IP address, you can learn about how to find and use the IP addresses associated with your account here. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How IP Addresses Are Tracked

The post How IP Addresses Are Tracked appeared first on HostGator Blog. Want to find out what your public IP address is? At any given time you can easily check it using HostGator’s IP address tool, or one of a variety of other websites. Calling it a “public” IP address isn’t just talk—it really is easily accessible information.  On the one hand, it’s nice to know that it’s easy to learn your current IP address any time you need to know it. On the other, in an era with lots of online privacy issues, knowing your IP address is readily available to so many sources may be concerning. You may wonder who else can find this information, and what they can do with it. If you’re worried about how IP address tracking works and what it means for you from a privacy perspective, we’ve collected all the most important details you need on the topic.   What is an IP Address? To start, you need to know what an IP address is. IP stands for internet protocol, which is the set of processes that dictate how information is shared across the web. If you’ve ever wondered how one machine knows how to connect to another and what information to share with it, all internet-connected devices use the internet protocol for that. That, in a nutshell, is how IP addresses work. Devices that use the internet are all programmed to follow the internet protocol so they know how to interact with each other and keep the internet functioning the way we need it to. For different machines and networks to effectively communicate with each other via the internet protocol, they need a way to identify one another. For that, each device has an IP address. In most cases, IP addresses are a string of numbers separated by periods. If you used HostGator’s tool to learn what yours is, you probably saw an IP address that fits this description and looked something like: 95.132.204.8. That’s your network’s address. Anytime you send an email or visit a website, that’s how the machines your network communicates with will see you. And that last part is what makes some people uncomfortable. What exactly do we mean when we say that other devices and networks can see you (or at least your IP)?  How Are IP Addresses Tracked? Every time two devices connect to one another using the internet protocol, they have to acknowledge each other. In internet parlance, this is generally described as “shaking hands.” Your IP address needs to let the device at the other IP address know where to send the information that’s being requested. That hand shake is how IP addresses are tracked. For example, when you’re trying to visit a website, your network sends out an information packet that includes your IP address and port number. Then the server that hosts the website you’re seeking accepts the packet, learns what network is asking for access, and knows where to send back its response in the form of all the files that make up the website.  That website and the server it’s on now know your IP address has visited. And your internet service provider (ISP) also has a record of that visit. In most cases, that’s where the tracking stops. A random person curious about your internet history won’t be able to find out what websites you’ve visited just based on knowing your IP address. But ISPs keep a record of IP address activity, which means that, in rare cases, they can share that information with others. And while your IP address only provides limited information to the servers your network communicates with, it does give them some data about you.   3 Reasons to Track an IP Address Why does anyone have to track your IP address to begin with? Why can’t you just browse the internet in peace with total privacy? For the most part, your IP address’s activity is your business alone, assuming no one’s looking over your shoulder or checking the browser history on your device.  But there are three main instances where that information will be used or accessed by a third party.  1. Legal Concerns IP addresses are how we as a society identify people who commit illegal activities online in order to hold them accountable. This ranges from small offenses to large. When someone downloads media or software illegally, the company that holds the copyright can find out and track the action to a particular IP address. They don’t know right away it’s you, but they can find out which ISP owns the address and send them a threat to pass along to you. Because your ISP has a record of which IP address was assigned to you at a given time and the activity tied to it, they’ll know who to blame for the offense. IP addresses are also used in identifying the offenders behind spam and phishing emails. Email clients and email marketing software platforms keep a record of which email addresses look like spam based on the content of the email and subject line, as well as when recipients click on that “mark as spam” button. While they don’t have the power to find the individuals behind the email address, they can add the IP address it came from to a blacklist to keep the emails from that address from reaching people’s inboxes in the future.  While that’s a useful tactic to protect all of our inboxes from the thousands of spam emails that go out on a regular basis, it can have an unintended side effect. Because ISPs generally provide customers with dynamic IP addresses, meaning they change regularly over time, there’s always a risk that someone with a newly assigned IP address will be stuck with the consequences of the behavior of the guy who had it last week. It doesn’t happen often though, and it’s a problem easily fixed by changing your IP address. And of course, there’s the occasional bigger criminal offense that triggers use of an IP address to identify someone. If a person sells or distributes something illegal online or talks about committing a crime on an online platform, law enforcement can demand their personal information from your ISP. Again, as with these other cases, a cop or lawyer won’t be able to tell just from your IP address who you are or where to find you. They’ll have to take the extra step of going through your ISP. But if someone’s suspected of a serious enough crime, ISPs are likely to cooperate and hand over that information.  It’s worth noting here that while tracking an IP address linked to illegal activity can eventually lead to someone learning the name and address of the person behind the computer, it’s not information your ISP will hand out lightly. Most internet service providers have strict privacy rules they abide by, so the average person asking for information is unlikely to be successful. But a law enforcement representative or copyright lawyer that comes equipped with evidence will be treated differently.   2. Marketing In some legal cases, an IP address can be tracked back to a specific individual. When it comes to marketing uses though, IP tracking is more anonymized than that. Marketing and analytics software includes the capability to track the location data of IP addresses and provide that data to website owners.  So when your IP address contacts a server to access a specific website, the website can track where the visitor is coming from. In real time, that information can be used to personalize the page you see. For example, when you visit the website of a national movie theater chain, often the page will automatically detect where you’re coming from and provide showtimes for the closest theater location. In addition, that information will be saved and provided to the website owner through tools like Google Analytics. They won’t know your name and home address or anything like that, but they’ll be able to see that they got a website visitor from your city.  If the website uses cookies, which are packets of information that track and collect additional information on your website behavior, they’ll also be able to connect your visit to other data about you. For example, they can see if you’re visiting the website for the first time or if you’re returning, and which specific pages you visited.  The IP address alone isn’t enough to do this; it has to work in connection with cookies. But many of the websites you visit will be set up to use cookies for this kind of tracking. Due to recent legislation, you’ll generally know if a website you visit uses cookies, since they’re required to provide a message telling you so.  If you see ads for websites you’ve visited before following you around the web, that’s the result of cookies tracking your internet activity. While your IP address provides information about your location, it’s the cookies that provide websites and advertisers with more details about your specific online behaviors. 3. Scam Detection Consumers aren’t the only ones who have to worry about online scammers. Many credit card companies and eCommerce businesses now use security software to help spot purchases that are likely fraudulent. If someone makes a large purchase, the software can flag it to be reviewed before it goes through. If the purchase is coming from a different location than where the credit card owner lives, they may check with the owner before processing it. This is another case where IP address tracking won’t point anyone back to you as an individual, but can help companies learn valuable information about you based on location. The fact that IP addresses provide generalized location data (usually based on where your ISP is located) can help protect you, your credit card company, and the vendors you do business with from costly fraudulent purchases.  IP Address Information: What Can Someone Learn? In most cases, the information someone can learn based on your IP address is limited. They can find out your city, your zip code (or one nearby), and the area code associated with the area. They can see what internet provider you use, and whether the IP address is on any blacklists. In order to gain any more personal details than that, they would need to go through your ISP, which is only likely to provide your details if a lawyer or law enforcement agent provides them with evidence your IP address was linked to a crime. So most people don’t have to worry about their IP address leading any online strangers to your location.  How Can I Keep My IP Address from Being Tracked? We’ve established that people generally won’t be able to find out personal details about you from your IP address beyond your general location. But if you’re uncomfortable with them even knowing that much about you, or if you don’t like the idea of your internet activity being traceable back to you, you have some options for shielding your IP address. Invest in a VPN Service. A virtual private network (VPN) is a paid service that will mask your IP address when browsing the web. It encrypts all your internet activity and shields sites from recognizing your geographic location. A VPN service comes in handy for anyone concerned about internet privacy, or those looking to get around geographic restrictions for accessing a website.  A VPN can ensure your personal data stays secure when you’re using public WiFi networks, such as at coffee shops or the airport. It can also keep your general geographic location hidden, if you’re worried about stalkers or just want that extra level of security when browsing on a search engine. And it can ensure you’re still able to watch your favorite show on Netflix, even when you’re traveling out of the country.   Use a free proxy server. VPNs don’t come for free, so if you want some level of protection from IP website tracking, but don’t want to spend any money, another option is a proxy server. A proxy server obscures your IP address by using a middleman IP it shows up as instead. It’s not as secure as a VPN, since it doesn’t provide encryption for your data, but it does keep your IP address from being accessible to your average website user.  Set up Tor.  Tor is a free, open-source browser add-on that will bounce your internet connection off several different nodes each time you access a website to make your original IP address nearly impossible to trace. It’s not quite as secure as a VPN, as you’d expect from a free service, but it provides an extra level of encryption and anonymity.  IP Tracking (Usually) Won’t Hurt You Privacy concerns in the internet era are absolutely real and valid. But IP tracking is fairly low on the list of things you should be worried about. The generalized geographic information people and websites can access via your IP address usually isn’t enough to do you any real harm. There are more important cybersecurity issues to keep an eye out for, such as whether the websites you visit use https—meaning they offer the proper encryption to keep your data safe— and knowing how to spot phishing emails.  Understanding how IP addresses work makes you a more informed internet user. But it’s one aspect of using the internet that shouldn’t keep you up at night. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Install WordPress Plugins

The post How to Install WordPress Plugins appeared first on HostGator Blog. WordPress is an incredibly flexible platform. This flexibility is the reason it can be used to build massive sites like TechCrunch and The New Yorker, all the way down to brand new blogs with nothing more than a handful of posts. WordPress is versatile and can be used to build any style of website you desire. The key to this flexibility and customization lies in your theme choice and plugin selection. Your theme sits on top of the WordPress CMS and will provide you with your initial set of customization options. You use WordPress plugins for further customization and to add new features to your site. Below you’ll learn about the ins and outs of WordPress plugins, and how to tell if a plugin is high-quality (and worth installing). Finally, we’ll walk you through a few different ways you can install WordPress plugins on your site.  What Is a WordPress Plugin? Essentially, a plugin is a piece of software that you can add to your WordPress site. There are thousands of different plugins you can choose from. Some add new features, while others help with designing your website, adding social sharing functions, improving SEO, integrating your email list, and a lot more. Plugins are written in the same code that powers WordPress, so they integrate seamlessly with your site. This makes it incredibly easy to add new features to your site without having to touch a single line of code.  There are thousands of free plugins for you to choose from, and hundreds of premium plugins that can take this functionality even further. You can probably get by with a handful of free plugins, but premium plugins will usually come with additional advanced features, high-level support, and a lot more.  When installing a plugin on your site, you should always ask if it’s essential. By installing too many low-quality plugins, you run the risk of slowing down your site and leaving it open to security holes. We cover this more in-depth below.  How to Find WordPress Plugins A simple Google search of “WordPress plugins” will give you millions of results to search through. But going through plugin overwhelm isn’t fun for anyone. Instead, use the tips below to quickly find the exact kind of plugin you’re looking for, every time.  1. Use the WordPress Plugin Repository The WordPress plugin repository is the holy grail of WordPress plugins. No matter what kind of plugin you’re looking for you’ll find it listed here. All you have to do is search for the type of plugin you’re looking for, and you’ll have a wealth of options to choose between. For example, here are the results when we search for “SEO”: You can also search for plugins by keyword, top downloads, ratings, and more. Keep in mind when looking for plugins here, the higher the star rating and the more websites it’s installed on, the better. This means that it’s currently functioning great across a high volume of sites.  However, don’t let this be your sole metric to judge the quality of a plugin, as you might pass up some incredible plugins that are brand new. 2. Look Through Plugin Roundups When looking for plugins, Google can be your best friend. The key is to get specific with your search. For example, let’s say you’re a photographer who’s looking for the best plugins to install on your site. Head over to Google and type in “best WordPress plugins for photographers,” and you’ll see results like this: By combing through a few search results, you’ll have a handful of quality plugins you can install on your site.  If you’re looking for a more basic list, then go for popular WordPress plugins. This will help to lay a solid foundation for your site, which you can then build on with niche-specific plugins. The resources below are a great place to start: 24 Must Have WordPress Plugins for Business Websites in 201950 Best WordPress Plugins For 2019 (Across 10 Different Categories)The Top 15 Most Popular WordPress Plugins You’ll even find a handful of specific WordPress plugin roundups here on the HostGator blog: 5 Best WordPress Email PluginsTop 5 WordPress Portfolio Plugins5 Best WordPress Security Plugins 3. Use High-Quality Plugin Marketplaces Beyond the official WordPress plugin repository, you can also search for plugins on several quality plugin marketplaces. This is a great way to find premium WordPress plugins.  One of the biggest is CodeCanyon. They currently have over 7000 different premium WordPress plugins. If you’re looking for a premium plugin, then this is a great place to begin your search.  It operates similar to the WordPress plugin repository. You can filter by category, price, stars, reviews, and a lot more.  Beyond looking through marketplaces, you can also use quality sources as a vetting mechanism. For example, since WordPress is so popular, there are many sites dedicated to helping you get the most out of WordPress.  Just like searching for plugin roundups in the tip above, we can use the search function at WordPress-related sites to find what we’re looking for.  For example, head over to WP Beginner and search for “SEO plugins”, this will give us a few posts we can look at which will provide us with some plugins to consider installing: Many WordPress theme developers share their own plugin recommendations, including Elegant Themes, StudioPress, ThemeGrill, and Themify. If you’re using a WordPress theme from one of these providers, check out their blog for suggested plugins they’ve tested and confirmed will work well with your theme. How to Ensure You’re Only Installing Quality WordPress Plugins If you’ve gone through all of the resources above, then you probably have a ton of WordPress plugins you’re thinking of installing. But, keep in mind that when installing WordPress plugins, quality matters more than anything. The number of plugins you install won’t impact your site, as long as they’re all high-quality. For the sake of example, we’re going to be using the plugin data from the WordPress plugin repository. However, you can use the same general principles when evaluating plugins from other sources. Here are a few factors to compare when you’re considering installing a plugin: 1. Plugin Rating On the right-hand sidebar of the plugin page, you’ll find the star ratings. Five stars are the highest, and one star is the lowest. This will give you a consensus of what people think of the plugin.  The more stars a plugin has, the better, but some plugins are so new that people might not have had the chance to rate the plugin yet.  2. Plugin Reviews You can view individual reviews of the plugin by clicking on the respective star rating. For example, when you click on the five-star section, you’ll get reviews of everyone who rated the plugin five stars, as shown below: It can be helpful here to check out the negative reviews as this might tell you issues that others have had with the plugin. However, take the negative reviews with a grain of salt as some people might not have been able to get the plugin to work on their site.  3. Updates and Number of Installs Other useful information you’ll find on the right-hand sidebar includes the total number of installs and how frequently the plugin is updated. The total number of installs will tell you how popular the plugin is. If a large number of people have the plugin installed on their site, you can bet that it’s a quality plugin.  Also, make sure that the plugin is updated frequently. The WordPress core is updated consistently, which means your plugins need to be updated as well. Otherwise, you run the risk of leaving open security holes and having plugins that don’t work correctly with your site.  4. FAQ/Tutorials/Support In the plugin description, look for additional walkthrough, tutorial, and FAQ information. This information will help you set up the plugin correctly and answer any questions you might have. If a plugin doesn’t have this information, you might want to pass on the plugin. Otherwise, if you run into any issues with the plugin, you’ll be left on your own.  5. Support Team On the right-hand side, you’ll also be able to view the level of support offered by the plugin’s developer. You’ll be able to see the support threads and how frequently the support requests are resolved.  Ideally, you’ll be looking for a plugin where the developer is active in the support threads. For premium plugins, dedicated support is typically provided via other means.  How to Install WordPress Plugins Now that you have a list of quality of plugins that you’re ready to install it’s time to show you how you can install them. Like most things WordPress, there are multiple ways to complete a task, so below, you’ll find two different methods for installing a plugin on your site.  1. Install From Your WordPress Dashboard The simplest way to install a plugin on your site is by using the search feature within your WordPress dashboard. However, keep in mind that this only works for free plugins that are currently listed in the WordPress plugin repository. First, you’ll need to login to your WordPress admin area. If you’ve never done this before, then you’ll need to login via a link that’ll look like this, https://yoursite.com/wp-admin. Then, enter your username and password. You should have received this once WordPress was installed on your site. Your WordPress dashboard should look similar to the image below: Now, navigate to Plugins>Add New on the left-hand sidebar. On the next screen, you can search for plugins by typing the name of the plugin into the search bar, or type in a keyword to get a list of plugins to browse through: Now, we’re going to install a SEO plugin. We want to install Yoast SEO, so we’re going to click ‘Install Now.’ Once the plugin is installed, the button will change to ‘Activate,’ click this, and now the plugin will be active on your site. You’ve installed your very first WordPress plugin, congratulations! 2. Download and Upload to Your Site This second method is for plugins that aren’t listed in the WordPress plugin repository. But, don’t worry, the approach is just as simple. The first thing you’ll need to do is download the plugin. This will be a zip file like ‘pluginname.zip.’ Make sure you don’t unzip the file you’re going to be uploading the plugin as-is. Now, head over to the same plugin screen via Plugins>Add New. At the top of the screen, you’ll see a button at the top titled ‘Upload Plugin,’ click this. Now, all you have to do is select the plugin that you downloaded, click ‘Install Now’, and WordPress will install the plugin for you.  Your final step is to click ‘Activate Plugin’ once it has finished uploading, and that’s it! Now you’ve mastered two ways to install any WordPress plugin to your site. These two approaches will let you install any WordPress plugin on your site, from free to premium plugins. There are a few additional methods of installing a WordPress plugin on your site, like using WP-CLI and uploading plugins via FTP. However, these approaches are much more technical and won’t be used by most people, unless you’re managing multiple WordPress sites at once. The two methods highlighted above will be more than enough for 99% of website owners.  Ready to Install Your WordPress Plugins? Hopefully, by now, you know exactly how to install WordPress plugins on your site. Once plugins are installed, you’ll be able to configure them and modify the settings. This will be different depending on the plugin you’ve installed. Some will create a menu item on the left-hand side of your WordPress dashboard while others will be listed under existing menu items like Settings or Appearance.  Finally, remember only to install quality WordPress plugins on your site, and keep them up to date. Regularly log in to your WordPress dashboard to ensure your plugins, theme, and WordPress core are always running on the latest version.  Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Launch Your Nonprofit Side Hustle

The post How to Launch Your Nonprofit Side Hustle appeared first on HostGator Blog. One of the top reasons to start a side hustle is to rake in a little extra cash when the going gets tough. However, a lack of cash isn’t the only reason people start a side hustle. What about the people who want to give back to the community, but either don’t have the time or the means to volunteer in the traditional way?  For these types of people, starting a nonprofit side hustle may be the perfect answer. A nonprofit side hustle may help you bring in a little extra cash, will definitely help you give back, and may place you on a path to building the type of organization you always dreamed existed. This post will cover some of the basics of what a nonprofit side hustle is, why you need a website to start a nonprofit, and how you can get your nonprofit side hustle website up and running in less than a day. What Is a Nonprofit Side Hustle? The cool thing about starting a nonprofit side hustle is there are so many different directions you can go with your nonprofit. All you need to do is combine your desire to help others with a particular talent, and you’re ready to roll.  Let’s look at a few examples of nonprofit side hustles to give you an idea of just how broad your options really are. 1. Use your talents to make a difference Nichola Cotto is one nonprofit side hustler that uses her talents to make a difference. Cotto explains how she started her nonprofit: “I founded a nonprofit because I wanted to make a difference with my photography talents. I started We are Not Broken to photograph women and girls who have physical scars from either domestic abuse, cancer, collisions, combat, surgeries, self harm, and suicide attempts.” Cotto continues, “Whatever the scar comes from, I want to combat the thought process that these women and girls are now broken and should cover up. I want to highlight their beauty because of the scar. Their scars represent life, because without those scars they would surely be dead. What is more beautiful than life and living it.” There are several potential side hustles you could start with a photography talent. You could start a wedding photography business, a stock photography business, or even provide photography services for Instagrammers. What’s inspiring about Cotto is instead of taking a traditional route, she uses her photography talents to promote awareness about survival.  Cotto offers some excellent advice to others looking into turning a talent into a nonprofit: “Do what you love everyday to make a difference, and it won’t feel like a hustle. It will feel amazing, like you were meant to do it.” 2. Tap into local needs and resources Another idea for starting a nonprofit side hustle is to evaluate local needs and resources. The needs and resources vary from locale to local, and if you can identify ways to help your community, you’ll be able to build a successful side hustle all while making a difference. Jon Mattis is a nonprofit side hustler that took this approach. He started Graceful Acres as a way to help people in need benefit from therapeutic horseback riding. Mattis explains how he got started: “I had a dream that I needed to use a gift that I was given to help individuals with extraordinary needs thrive in the community they are from by providing a unique horseback riding experience. Living in a rural area, I saw the need for a facility like this so I approached my grandfather about using the family farm to transition it into a riding facility. Many of the families in the area don’t have the funds or the support needed for their loved ones to succeed. Graceful Acres is a way that we can get them closer to this goal.” What’s particularly interesting about Mattis is his ability to recognize a need in the community and answer that need by building from a local, even familial, resource—a family farm. Graceful Acres has proved abundantly successful. Mattis says, “Over the last seven years, Graceful Acres has been blessed with helping 80 individuals covering five different counties in the Central Pennsylvania area. Our most recent accomplishment has been winning the Jefferson Award in 2018, and now we have been elected to represent Pennsylvania in the [2019] National Multiplying Good Ceremony held in Washington DC.” But recognition isn’t the only reward of this nonprofit. “Even though this is a huge award for us, I have to say helping to save a young lady that was once suicidal and has now found the love of a horse and has been without suicidal thoughts in 3 years [is the biggest indicator of our success],” Mattis explains. If you’re looking to start a nonprofit side hustle, consider evaluating your local needs as well as local resources, and determining what you can do to merge the two together. 3. Consider nonprofit consulting What if you already work at a nonprofit, but want to expand your services? Another solid option for starting a nonprofit side hustle is to offer your services as a nonprofit consultant. Instead of starting your own nonprofit, you can get in contact with other nonprofits that are struggling and provide resources and consulting services that will help established nonprofits regain their bearings or continue to grow.  Regardless of what type of nonprofit side hustle you start, one thing is certain: you need access to the right side hustle resources, especially a website, if you want to advertise and/or grow your services. Why Do Nonprofits Need a Website? If you’re settled on starting a nonprofit, congratulations! You’re taking a giant steps in making a difference in the world, earning extra money, and creating meaningful service opportunities. To get a successful start, however, it’s imperative that you build a website. Why? Let’s look at the top reasons every nonprofit should have a website. 1. To get found online First and foremost, it’s critical to remember that people look for nonprofits on the internet, and they look to donate to nonprofits online. In fact, online giving grew by 12.1% over the last year.  While it may be true that some people will learn about your nonprofit via word of mouth, it’s also true that donors will most likely go to your website to actually send financial support. 2. To establish credibility Without a website explaining who you are, what you do, and how your funds are distributed, it’s difficult to establish credibility. If you truly want to run a credible nonprofit, then having a website will help you. You will have one central location on the internet where you can tell your story, control the story, and allow donors to read up about you and your organization. 3. Help with trustworthy fundraising When is the last time you made a donation to a nonprofit in person? It was probably a long time ago, right? Now, when is the last time you made a donation to a charitable organization online or via mobile device?  Chances are it was a lot easier to remember the last time you made a charitable donation online. Having a website provides a place donors trust where they can make a donation or a place for you to advertise your fundraising efforts. No matter what your nonprofit side hustle is, it’s critical to have a website. Now, let’s talk about how easy it is to set up your nonprofit website. How to Build Your Nonprofit Website with HostGator Are you finally ready to take the plunge and start your nonprofit? That’s excellent news. The first step to making your nonprofit a reality is to launch your website. If you’re worried about getting a website up and running, here is the good news. You don’t need to worry for one second. Why? Because with the help of HostGator, you can get your website up in less than a day by following six easy steps. That’s right. You don’t need to know how to code. You don’t even need an eye for design. HostGator’s website builder comes with predesigned templates, and an easy drag and drop builder. Here are the six steps to follow to get your website live by the end of the day. Step 1: Pick a hosting plan for your nonprofit website. HostGator has three website builder plans you can choose from for your nonprofit website. You can pick your plan depending on your needs and how much functionality you need for your site. The starter plan includes a free domain, 200+ templates that will work well for a nonprofit website, a drag-and-drop editor, cloud hosting, and website analytics. Since you most likely won’t be selling anything on a nonprofit website, the starter plan is a great hosting plan. If you are nervous about building your own nonprofit website and want access to priority support, you can choose the premium plan. This plan provides everything in the starter plan but includes extra priority support whenever you need it. Once you’ve picked a plan, click “buy now” and you can set up your account. Step 2: Pick a domain name for your nonprofit website. Good news! Every Gator Website Builder package includes a free domain, so there is no need to purchase a domain from a separate domain hosting company. To pick your domain, all you have to do is type something in the “get domain” box. If your top choice for your nonprofit website isn’t available, then select another until you find one that is available. If you are set on your domain name, but the .com version is already taken, you can select another top-level domain such as .org. For some types of side hustles, it doesn’t make sense to to select a different top-level domain, but nonprofit side hustles often work under a .org. The domain name you end up selecting will depend on you and the goals of your nonprofit, but don’t be afraid to explore both .com top-level domains as well as .org top-level domains. If you need help picking the perfect domain name, here is an article on how to choose the perfect domain name for your business. If you already have a domain name, then you can connect it to your HostGator account by clicking “connect it here.”  Step 3: Create your account. Once you have a domain name, it’s easy to connect your HostGator account. All you need is an email address or Facebook account to connect. Then, enter your payment information, and you’re all set. Step 4: Pick a template for your nonprofit website. Did you know the Gator Website Builder comes with templates? All you have to do is pick the one that matches your nonprofit. That’s right! You don’t have to know how to code to get your nonprofit website up and running. Once you create your account, HostGator will direct you to the “choose a template” page. You can scroll through more than 200 professionally-designed templates, and select the template that works for you. You can also customize any of the templates to match the colors and theme of your nonprofit. Step 5: Add content to your nonprofit website. Once you have selected the perfect template, click “start editing.” This will send you to your dashboard where you can add, edit, and delete pages as you like.  The included drag and drop builder makes it easy to design your nonprofit website. All you have to do is point and click. However, if you have any questions, Gator Website Builder also includes a free and easy step-by-step guide for reference that you can access at any time. To access this guide, click the “menu” icon next to the Gator by HostGator logo and select the “getting started tour.”   Step 6: Review your content and launch your nonprofit website. The last step is to review your nonprofit website, make any desired changes, and then go live. By clicking “preview,” you can see your nonprofit website in full. During your preview, you can look at your website and make sure everything looks perfect. If everything looks right, then click the “finish preview” button at the top and then “publish website” at the top of the dashboard. Gator Website Builder will present a series of quick steps to help you go live. Build Your Nonprofit Website Today There is no better time than now to start your nonprofit side hustle. And, getting your website up and running is the first step in turning your dream into a reality. To get started with building your website, check out HostGator’s Gator Website Builder today. You’ll be pleased with how quick the process is, and how many resources are available to help you along the way. Looking for more tips on creating a successful nonprofit website? Check out these eight best practices for nonprofit websites. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How Do Updates Work with Our Managed Hosting Plans?

The post How Do Updates Work with Our Managed Hosting Plans? appeared first on HostGator Blog. This article is part of HostGator’s Web Pros Series. In this series, we feature articles from our team of experts here at HostGator. Our Product Managers, Linux Administrators, Marketers, and Tech Support engineers share their best tips for getting the most out of your website. Unless you build and host websites for a living, you may not realize how many elements go into even a simple website—and they almost all need to be updated at some point. For brand-new site owners, seeing everything on your site’s control panel can feel a bit intimidating, especially if you have a non-technical background.  In particular, you may have questions about which software updates your managed (or semi-managed) hosting plan takes care of for you, and which are your responsibility. In this post, we’ll explain who handles what, so you can focus on what you need to do and let us take care of the rest. Who Keeps My Website’s Server Software Up to Date? That depends on the type of hosting package you have with us. We have different types of hosting packages, but by and large they break down into managed and what we call semi-managed. Most of our customers are on managed hosting plans, including our  shared packagesreseller packagescloud packagesoptimized WordPress packages For these managed hosting environments, HostGator will ensure that all the software running on the server is kept up to date. To keep things updated, we work with our vendors. The two primary ones are cPanel and our operating system, CentOS.  For our semi-managed VPS and dedicated server customers, we schedule routine updates for cPanel, the operating system and the underlying software. So those updates go through automatically. In the case of a major security vulnerability, we may go in and push patches when they’re necessary, or we’ll reach out to the customer with the information they need.  We strongly encourage our semi-managed server customers to make sure that they have update settings that meet their needs. For example, if your site generates high revenue and uptime is critical to that, we generally recommend choosing a long-term support tier that offers regular but less frequent updates. On the other hand, if you’re a semi-managed customer who’s interested in having new features as soon as they come out, there are shorter release tiers that you can choose.  What Happens When There’s a Vulnerability That Needs to Be Fixed? Sometimes, a software vulnerability is discovered and has to be repaired before bad actors take advantage of it. For example, maybe someone finds a security gap in the version of the PHP scripting language we’re running. We’re going to fix that vulnerability to keep our customers’ sites safe, but we want to do it in a way that doesn’t risk breaking their websites. To do that, we work with our vendors to backport the update that fixes the vulnerability.  What is backporting? A super-simple answer  Here’s an example of how backporting works. Let’s say we’re running version 7.1 of PHP, the scripting language I mentioned. News comes out that someone’s discovered a vulnerability in 7.1, but it’s fixed in version 7.2. We wait to upgrade customers to the new version until we’re very sure that everything will be stable, but we want them to be secure right away. So in the meantime, we take the small section of code that fixes the vulnerability in version 7.2 and apply it to version 7.1. That way, we know our customers’ server software is secure without the risk of breakage from a full update. When Does HostGator Install New Versions of Server software? When new versions of software come out, we normally install them on the server and make them available. But we don’t change the server configuration to make the websites use the new versions by default unless and until we’re confident the update won’t break things. How Will I Know When There’s been an Update to my Site’s Server Software? When there are major updates, we email our customers to let them know, especially if we think there’s a lot of value for them in updating to the new software. For example, maybe the update is much faster than the current version. In cases like that, we’ll let our users know there’s a new version available, why they might want to switch, and how to move over to it through cPanel.  For small updates that aren’t going to make a major difference, we leave our customers alone. And the reason for that is that notifying customers about every small update would mean an overwhelming number of messages.  You can think of the servers that run your website as a big office complex. There are always little changes being made to the wiring or to the plumbing to fix small problems or add new features, but the people who work there don’t want to hear about every little update and repair.  On our servers, there may be frequent small updates to MySQL, which is our database software. Or maybe there’s a change to our operating system that affects the efficiency of how RAM is managed. There are a lot of those types of updates coming in from our vendors all the time.  Behind the scenes, while our customers are focusing on their businesses, we work a lot with cPanel and our in-house technical operations team to review all those updates. We test every single update before we push them out to the servers. Our goal is to keep the server software up to date and make sure that patches are compatible so that things run smoothly and are secure for our customers.  What Updates Do I Need to Handle? While we manage and update the server-level software, each customer gets to decide when they update their website software. That includes updating WordPress, themes, and plugins for their sites.  The reason is because every website is different, and we don’t want to break anything on our customers’ sites by pushing automatic software updates. The only time we’ll push that kind of update is: 1. When we learn about high-risk vulnerabilities in WordPress or some other website software.  and 2. When we can make the update safely, without breaking sites.  For all other updates, it’s the customer’s choice when to do them. However, just like our server software is constantly getting small updates that improve security and function, website software is always getting updates, too.  Because there can be a steady stream of site software updates to make, we strongly encourage allowing automatic updates. We enable that by default for WordPress, and you can set up most plugins to auto-update as well.  How Can I Make Sure I’m Choosing the Best WordPress Plugins? When you’re choosing plugins for your site, check the last time they were updated. A recent update is a good indication that the plugin is being maintained, which means if any security vulnerabilities are discovered, you’ll probably get an update that fixes the problem.  Last updated three months ago? You can expect future updates. Last updated four years ago? You can’t count on new updates. On the other hand, if the plugin hasn’t been updated in two years, it’s probably not going to get updated again. In that case, you might want to look for an alternative plugin to keep your site secure.  Want to learn more about keeping your website in great shape? Check out Sean’s Web Pros Series post on best practices for site maintenance and security.  Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Make Your WordPress Site Secure from Hackers

The post How to Make Your WordPress Site Secure from Hackers appeared first on HostGator Blog. A lot of website owners don’t think about keeping their WordPress sites secure until it’s too late. The best time to do something about a hack is before one takes place. Luckily, there are a variety of things you can do to your WordPress site to elevate your levels of security. Taking a proactive approach to website security is one of the best things you can do for your website and your sanity. No one wants to wake up in the morning, only to find that their sites have been compromised. Below we’re going to show you seven different ways that you can make your WordPress site more secure from hackers, including installing some of the best WordPress security plugins out there today.  Just How Secure is WordPress? In general, WordPress is a pretty secure platform. The biggest reason it gets a bad rap is that site owners aren’t following website security best practices. As it currently stands, WordPress does lead as the most commonly hacked website platform. However, this data is skewed a bit, because WordPress is also one of the most popular website building platforms out there–it currently powers over 30% of the web! Here are some of the most common ways that WordPress sites are hacked: Failing to update the WordPress core or plugins consistentlyUsing nulled plugins or themes (i.e., illegally obtained software)Having poor user admin practicesUsing a low-quality theme or plugin As you can see, a lot of these security risks can be managed just by keeping your site and plugins up to date and only downloading themes and plugins from reputable sources.  With the vast nature of WordPress, security holes do exist. The thousands of different themes and plugin combinations are near impossible to test. But, by implementing the WordPress site security tips below, you’ll significantly elevate your levels of site security across the board.  7 Ways to Keep Your WordPress Site Secure There are a ton of different factors that go into keeping your WordPress site secure. Just running a clean installation of WordPress isn’t enough. Below you’ll find seven WordPress security tips that you can implement today to strengthen the security of your site: 1. Use Strong Passwords A lot of websites are hacked because hackers will use password generation tools to brute force attack the admin area. If you’re using a weak password or a password that you use other places online, then you’re significantly increasing your risks of suffering from a brute force attack. One simple fix to keep this from happening is to use a strong password. When you’re setting up your WordPress site, there are a few different places you’ll need to create a password: admin access, when creating WordPress databases, and when connecting to your website via FTP. Creating a strong password is one thing, but remembering that password can be even more challenging. One great way around this is to use a password manager. A password manager is a secure and encrypted tool that stores your website passwords. Then whenever you need to input a password for a particular site or application, the tool will input the password for you. There are a variety of password managers out there, but here are a few worth checking out: LastPassDashlaneKeeper Security 2. Keep Your Core, Themes, and Plugins Up to Date A straightforward way to keep your site secure is keeping everything up to date; this includes your WordPress core, your theme, and the plugins you’re using. At the core, WordPress is incredibly secure and has a team of expert developers who are continuously working to patch security holes and improve the platform. Like most software, updates and patches are released after security risks are discovered. So, if you’re running an older version of the software, you’re basically leaving your back door open.  Installing too many plugins can also make your site more vulnerable to hackers. Plugins can add a ton of useful functionality and features to your WordPress website, but this comes with the added risk of potentially installing a poorly coded (and therefore vulnerable) plugin. Whenever you install a plugin, you should take additional time to vet the quality of the plugin and the team behind it. You also need to update plugins whenever an update is released. You might not know if an update has been released, so it’s essential to log in to your dashboard regularly to look for updates.  A poorly coded theme can also leave your site open to security backdoors. Installing a theme from a quality source can decrease your chances of your theme becoming hacked, but you also need to keep your themes updated and running the latest version.  3. Restrict Site Access and User Roles WordPress allows you to create multiple different user accounts. This can be helpful if you have a team running your site, or you’d like your writers to upload articles directly into WordPress. However, the more logins and passwords you have floating around, the higher the chances of a single user having a weak password—or their account becoming compromised in other ways. When you’re creating new user roles for your WordPress site, you should only give them access to the parts of your website, they need to do the job effectively. For example, you could provide a writer access to the posts section, but not the plugins, themes, or site settings areas. It’s also helpful to enable two-factor authentication across your site. This is a process using an app or plugin that verifies the identity of the user who’s logging into the website.  4. Enable a Website Firewall A WordPress firewall will essentially create a forcefield around your site. Think of it as a failsafe for if you forget to update your site for several months. In some cases, you might not be able to update individual plugins due to a specific software configuration.  In these situations, a website firewall will keep your site secure, even when specific plugins or themes aren’t running the latest software version. One common version of a firewall is known as a website application firewall. This acts like a filtering mechanism that all your website traffic passes through before reaching your site. It will filter out bad traffic or even hacking attempts and only let the good traffic reach your site. As a benefit, this can also help to keep your site online when you’re experiencing a traffic surge, or are undergoing a DDoS attack on your website.  Here are the biggest benefits of running a WordPress firewall: Hackers and bots are automatically blacklisted, so they’ll never reach your siteMalware infections, DDoS attacks, and SQL injections will all be preventedBrute force attacks will be a thing of the pastYour site could run faster and perform betterYou’ll sleep better knowing your website is protected 24/7 Below we’ll highlight some great WordPress plugins that also have built-in firewall protection.  Even configuring your site to work with a CDN like Cloudflare will help to protect your site from DDoS attacks, because your website’s traffic will be routed through their network of servers instead of directly going to your website.  If you’re currently hosting your site here at HostGator, you’ll be able to integrate your site with Cloudflare directly from your website control panel.  5. Have a System for Site Backups Website backups won’t help to keep your site more secure, but they can help you if your website does get taken offline during an attack. With a backup system in place, you can ensure that you’ll always have an operational site that you can restore from. Having a backup is always helpful when you’re experiencing any issues with your site. If you’ve been hacked, or your site is malfunctioning for some reason, you can always restore your site to a previous version. Some hosts will include bundled backups with your hosting plan. But, there are a number of WordPress backup plugins that can help you with backups as well. It can also be helpful to create multiple website backups and store them in different locations. Here are some popular backup plugins worth exploring: UpdraftPlusBlogVaultBackupBuddy A WordPress backup plugin can help you from losing all of your hard work. Plus, you’ll always have a backup plan if your site ever does experience a hack.  6. Limit Login Attempts The login screen on WordPress is especially vulnerable. Having a strong password will help a lot in ensuring a hacker won’t gain access to your site via a brute force attempt. But, if you want to harden the security even further, then you should consider limiting the number of times a user can input their password before locking them out. For example, you can limit the number of login attempts to 4 times. So, after the fourth attempt, you’ll receive a notification of that user and their IP addresses. You can even ban specific IP addresses if it becomes a persistent issue. One of the best plugins for this is aptly named Limit Login Attempts Reloaded.  Best of all, this plugin is entirely free and currently trusted by over one million other WordPress site. Just install the plugin, configure the settings, and your WordPress login screen will be much more secure.  7. Install a WordPress Security Plugin A lot of WordPress security plugins will have most of the features highlighted above. WordPress security plugins are great, because you just have to install the plugin, configure it, and your site will now be secure from most risks lurking online.  A lot of WordPress security plugins will have features like: Malware scanningBuilt-in firewall protectionLogin screen protectionLetting you know what plugins and themes are out of dateDDos and protection from other online attacksAnti-spam protection for a clean comments section Here are a few WordPress security plugins worth installing: WordFenceMalCareiThemes Security ProVaultPressBulletProof Security Most of the security plugins highlighted above have free versions available, but if you’re serious about securing your site, then upgrading to the premium version is a worthwhile investment.  You can always start with a free version of the plugin and upgrade to premium once you’ve been able to explore all the features and see how well it protects your site.  The Importance of a Secure Host With everything above your WordPress site should be incredibly secure. But, beyond securing your actual website you’ll want to host it with a secure hosting provider. Your hosting provider needs to value security and have your site hosted on a server that’s up to the latest security standards. Some solid features to look for in a secure hosting company include: Multiple methods of keeping your server secure, including redundant backups, on-site security and backup generatorsServers that are running the latest server hardware and softwareCertifications that show the facility has been vetted by third-party security providers No matter if you’re choosing a shared hosting, VPS, cloud, or dedicated server, the security standards should be the same. In Closing: Keeping Your WordPress Site Secure Hopefully, you have a better understanding of the steps you can take to elevate the security of your WordPress site and make it hacker-proof. It’s important to implement the security tips above sooner rather than later. You never know when an attack might occur, and you want to be protected and prepared. The easiest course of action is to install one of the WordPress security plugins mentioned earlier in this post. Think of it as your one stop shop for WordPress security. This will add a firewall to your site, lockdown your login screen, include a regular malware scanner, protect you from malware and DDoS attacks, and more. Finally, even by working through every tip in this post, it will all be for naught if you don’t have a secure hosting environment. Your host will act as the foundation for your website’s security. So, make sure you invest in a hosting company who values the security of your hosting environment and website.   Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Fix the WordPress White Screen of Death

The post How to Fix the WordPress White Screen of Death appeared first on HostGator Blog. The WordPress white screen of death is something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. One minute your site works, the next you’re greeted by nothing but a white screen. This can be a scary experience, but it’s more common than you might think. Nearly every single WordPress site owner has experienced this sometime during the life of their site.  Although this isn’t the most fun situation in the world, it can be remedied, and usually, it’s a pretty quick fix. There are a few common reasons for this to occur. Below we dive into the most common causes of the WordPress white screen of death and what you can do to fix the problem.  What is the WordPress White Screen of Death? The WordPress white screen of death is an error that occurs with your WordPress site. You can tell this has happened to your website because when you visit it, you’ll see nothing but a white screen! Sometimes, you’ll see an error message, but often it’s just a white screen. Some of the most common reasons this error occurs are due to: Running into a memory limitEditing a core file like functions.phpA plugin conflict which breaks your siteUsing a WordPress theme with faulty code If those scenarios sound confusing, don’t worry. We’ll get into how you can diagnose and fix these issues below.  How to Fix the WordPress White Screen of Death Below we’ll cover the main reasons the white screen of death occurs and what you can do to troubleshoot and fix the issue. Before we move forward, you’re going to need to access and edit your WordPress files. You can do this via an FTP client like Filezilla, or via the File Manager within your hosting control panel.  If you’re a beginner, then the easiest option is going to be using the File Manager. It operates similar to accessing your site via FTP, but instead you’ll just login to your server via cPanel and open the ‘File Manager’ app. Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like: When you’re experiencing the white screen of death you probably won’t be able to access the backend of your site via the WordPress dashboard. So, you’ll need to feel comfortable editing and removing website files. It might look a little complex, but it’s a pretty straightforward process.  That being said, here’s how you can fix the WordPress white screen of death depending on the error that caused it:  1. Resolve a Browser Issue We’ll start with the easiest fix. Sometimes it might not even be an issue with your site at all, but instead an issue you’re experiencing with your browser. This is common when you’re making changes to your WordPress site, and you don’t see the changes reflected live until you empty your cache. To do this open up your browser of choice and locate the browsing and history section. This will allow you to view and clear your history, cookies, and cached images and files. Clear all of the existing data and wait for the process to run its course. Then, close and reopen the browser and see if the issue disappeared.  2. Increase WordPress Memory Limit If your WordPress site is large and growing, then you might have run into a WordPress memory issue. The more traffic your website receives the more memory you’ll need for your site to function correctly (and to avoid the white screen of death). To increase your memory limit, you’ll need to open up your wp-config.php file.  Then add or edit the line of code that looks like: define (‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT,’ ‘64M’); For most sites, 64 MB of memory will be more than enough. However, if the problem still exists after making this change, then it could be an issue with your host as well. So, it can be helpful to reach out to your web host’s support team and see if they can upgrade your memory internally, or upgrade you to a higher hosting plan.  3. Disable All WordPress Plugins A lot of times, the issue can be with one of your plugins. Not every WordPress plugin is going to be high-quality. In some cases, there will be an issue with the plugin’s code that conflicts with your current theme.  Sometimes, when the WordPress core gets updated, plugin developers may not have updated their plugin to remain compatible, resulting in a conflict with the code that brings your site offline.  In this case, you’ll need to manually deactivate all of your installed plugins, then activate them one by one until you’ve found the culprit. If you disable all of your plugins and your site is back online, then you’ve found the issue! Congratulations! Then, you can systematically narrow down the plugin that caused the problem.  Here’s how you deactivate your WordPress plugins automatically: Navigate to your wp-content folder.Find the plugins folder inside and rename it something different like plugins-off. This makes WordPress think that the folder doesn’t exist, so it’ll disable any active plugins. Now, load your website. If the white screen of death goes away, then that means it was due to a faulty plugin. Here’s what to do to figure out which one caused it: Rename the plugins folder back to the original plugins name.Open up the folder and go through each plugin, one by one, by renaming each folder. Each time you rename a plugin folder, try loading your site.If your site loads, then you’ve found the plugin. Now delete that plugin’s folder, and the problem is solved! Going forward, make sure that you avoid that plugin like the plague. See if you can find another similar plugin that provides the same features instead, or ask yourself if you can make do without the plugin’s functionality? 4. Deactivate Your Current WordPress Theme If it wasn’t a memory or plugin issue, then there’s a good chance it’s an issue with your WordPress theme. If you recently installed a new theme, or updated your theme, and this issue started, then there’s a good chance it’s your theme. To deactivate your current theme, we’re going to follow the same approach as the plugins section above. Here’s how you disable your current theme: Navigate to your WordPress theme’s folder by going to wp-content/themes.Locate your currently installed theme and deactivate it by renaming the theme’s folder, so instead of themename, it’ll be themename-bad. This will automatically disable the plugin, and WordPress will revert to the default theme. If this worked, then it was an issue with your theme! Now, it’s time to find a quality WordPress theme that won’t lead to this issue in the future.  5. Fix an Error in a Core WordPress File If you were recently editing any WordPress core files before you experienced this error, then the likely culprit is going to be an error in the file that was being edited. Fixing this is going to depend on the file that was being edited. But, you can generally resolve this issue by uploading a fresh version of the file you were editing. If you were editing a theme file, then you can locate a new version of that file by downloading a new version from the theme repository, or wherever you purchased your theme. If you were editing a WordPress core file, then download a fresh version of WordPress from WordPress.org. Once you’ve downloaded the new WordPress core, or a fresh version of your theme, unzip it and locate the file. Then access your site via File Manager or FTP, delete the file you changed, and upload the brand the new version. Next, load your website to see if this removed the white screen of death. Recovering from the WordPress White Screen of Death? Experiencing the WordPress white screen of death can be a pretty scary experience, but thankfully the situation isn’t as bad as it seems. Usually, deactivating your plugins or activating a different WordPress theme will fix the issue. The above five tips will account for 99% percent of the time you experience the white screen of death.  To avoid this from happening in the future, keep the following best practices in mind: Only install WordPress themes and plugins from reputable sourcesRegularly backup your site, so you can install from a previously working version of your website if need be. (One excellent solution for this is CodeGuard, a service that automatically backs up your website on a daily basis.)Never edit WordPress core or theme files on a live site. Always use a test environment.Make sure any hosting or other web services you use offer high-quality support, in case you need the assistance of technical staff. Hopefully, by now you’ve resolved the WordPress white screen of death issue you were experiencing, and you’re well-equipped to handle this issue if it ever occurs again in the future. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Launch a Website for Your House Cleaning Side Hustle

The post How to Launch a Website for Your House Cleaning Side Hustle appeared first on HostGator Blog. Do you have more elbow grease than the average person? Are you so organized that you could teach Marie Kondo a thing or two? Do you instinctively know the best and quickest methods for cleaning up a mess? Do you notice dust and grime in places where others wouldn’t? If this describes you, and you’re interested in starting a side hustle to make extra cash, then starting a house cleaning business might be the perfect fit for you. Starting a house cleaning service includes steps like purchasing supplies, deciding on pricing, and registering your business with the local municipal office. This article, however, will cover one of the most critical aspects of starting a business—why you need a website and how to set up your house cleaning website yourself. Why Do You Need a Website for Your House Cleaning Side Hustle? When it comes to landing clients for your cleaning business, you have to market your services in places where people look for house cleaners—local online search results. Did you know 97% of people learn more about a local company online than anywhere else? Additionally, 88% of searches for local businesses on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours. These stats mean if you want to find customers, you have to have a website.  You may be wondering if it’s sufficient to list your house cleaning services on websites like Angie’s List and Care.com. While it certainly won’t hurt your marketing efforts, it’s important to remember two things: Autonomous websites optimized for local search appear first on Google, andThere is so much competition on aggregated service lists that it’s challenging to stand out in the crowd. When you create your own website, you have a high chance of ranking in the local search results, and your website visitors will see your contact information only. Not only will a well-designed website help you attract new house cleaning clients, but it will also help you explain your services, establish credibility, and provide a surefire way for potential clients to contact you. When push comes to shove, starting a website for your side hustle is the only way to go. How to Build Your House Cleaning Website with HostGator You’ve already done the hard work to get everything ready to start your house cleaning side hustle. It’s time to give yourself a break and let HostGator do the hard work when it comes to setting up your website. You don’t have to know how to fiddle with code or do web design to get your website up and running with HostGator. All you have to do is follow six easy steps, select the perfect template, and use a drag and drop builder. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting started. Step 1: Pick a hosting plan for your house cleaning side hustle website. HostGator’s intuitive Gator Website Builder has three hosting plans available. Which one should someone looking to build a website for a house cleaning service pick? Since you won’t be selling anything online, you probably don’t need the eCommerce plan. The starter plan includes a free domain, 200+ customizable templates, a drag-and-drop editor, cloud hosting, and website analytics. If you know you’ll need priority support while creating and maintaining your website, opt for the premium package.  Once you’ve picked either the starter plan or premium plan, click “buy now” and you can set up your account. Step 2: Pick a domain name for your house cleaning website. Now that you’ve picked out your web hosting package, it’s time to select a domain name. This is the URL people will type in to access your house cleaning website. Every Gator Website Builder package includes a free domain, so there is no need to purchase a domain from a separate domain hosting company.  To pick your domain, all you have to do is type something related to house cleaning in the “get domain” box. If your top choice for your website isn’t available, then select another until you find one that is available. If you are set on a specific domain name, but the .com version is already taken, you can select another top-level domain.  Need help picking a domain name? Read our guide to choosing the best domain name for your business. If you already have a domain name, then you can connect it to your HostGator account by clicking “connect it here.”  Step 3: Create your HostGator account. Once you have selected a domain name, it’s time to connect your HostGator account. Enter your email address or connect via Facebook, enter your payment information, and you’re officially part of the HostGator family. Step 4: Pick a template for your website. As mentioned above, Gator Website Builder comes with pre-designed and proven templates. That’s right. You don’t have to design anything yourself or know how to code. Scroll through more than 200 professionally-designed templates and select the one that works for you.  Step 5: Add pages and content to your house cleaning website. Once you have selected the perfect template for your side hustle website, you can start editing. Clicking “start editing” will send you to your dashboard where you can add, edit, and delete pages. For a cleaning side hustle website, you may want to include the following pages: Home. The home page provides an overview of your side hustle business.About. The about page offers insight into who you are and the experience you have.Services. The services page includes a list of what cleaning services you offer.Contact. A contact page is a perfect way to let potential customers reach out to you via email, phone, or contact form. When it comes to building a website for your house cleaning side hustle, it’s best to keep it simple.  You’ll also be pleased to know that Gator Website Builder includes a drag and drop builder to make it easy to design your pages. All you have to do is point and click. However, if you have any questions, Gator Website Builder also includes a free and easy step-by-step guide for reference that you can access at any time. To access this guide, click the “menu” icon next to the Gator by HostGator logo and select the “getting started tour.”   Step 6: Review your content and launch your house cleaning website. The last step is to review your website, make any changes, and then publish your house cleaning website. By clicking “preview,” you can see your site in full.  During your preview, review your website and make sure everything looks perfect. If everything looks right, then click the “finish preview” button at the top and then “publish website” at the top of the dashboard.  Gator Website Builder will present a series of quick steps to help you go live. That’s all it takes!  Launching Your House Cleaning Website Starting a house cleaning side hustle is a great way to make additional money. And, owning a website is the perfect way to market your services and get clients. For more information about how to get started with your website, check out the Gator Website Builder today. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Google SERP Trends to Know in 2020

The post Google SERP Trends to Know in 2020 appeared first on HostGator Blog. When you do a Google search, sometimes the answer you need pops up right there on the search engine results page (SERP) without you having to click a link to get to it.  As the person doing the search, that’s great! It’s convenient and saves you time. As someone who runs a website, it’s less great. Google is the main way new visitors will find your website, but only if your pages show up in the results for relevant search terms.  And if one of your web pages does show up, but Google pulls out the most important information the searcher is looking for and puts it right on the SERP, what reason do they have to click through? Website owners have long known the importance of paying close attention to Google updates. You probably see the flurries of articles on it everytime Google announces a big update to the algorithm. But changes in SERP layout are arguably just as important.  The days of a typical SERP being a couple of ads followed by a list of 10 links are behind us. Now, organic search results frequently show up alongside (or below) a variety of types of rich results.  10 Takeaways from New SERP Research In late 2019, Perficient released new research analyzing how those rich SERP features affect the behavior of people doing the searches. Here are the main takeaways to consider when shaping your SEO strategy.  1. Over a third of searches on desktop result in no click. Snagging that top spot is a challenging goal, but 33.45% of the time, even that’s not good enough to earn you a click. With Google increasingly putting information directly on the SERP, a decent portion of the people searching find what they need without clicking on any of the links in either the paid or organic results.   2. That number increases to over half on mobile devices. 33% is a significant enough number, but when the researchers looked at the same data on mobile searches, the numbers were even more notable. 54.58% of all searches on mobile devices end on the SERP without a click.  Mobile searches made up 37% of all the searches analyzed in the study, so these numbers amount to a significant portion of all searches total.   3. Paid search only claims about 5% of all clicks. For both desktop and mobile devices, paid search ads garner less than 5% of all clicks. On desktop, ads get 4.61% of clicks. On mobile, that drops to 4.52% of clicks.  That doesn’t mean doing paid advertising on Google isn’t worth it—you only pay for the clicks you do get, and they tend to be relevant ones—but it’s worth knowing the limitations of relying too much on paid advertising alone. Even with the number of no-click searches, organic results are still clearly important.  4. Branded queries see a very high click-through rate (CTR). Someone searching directly for your brand is very likely to click through, whereas people searching non-branded keywords are much more likely to be in the no-click category.  So over 70% of people searching for “hostgator” will click on the organic results. But for those searching something like “web hosting,” only 38% do so.    5. Featured snippets cause a slight increase in CTR. You might think that the appearance of any rich results on the SERP would reduce the chances of someone clicking an organic result.  But SERPs that include featured snippets, even though they give a brief answer to the query on the SERP itself, actually see a slight increase in clicks over those that don’t. The difference is minimal, but since it goes contrary to what you might expect, it’s notable.  6. People Also Ask boxes cause a slight decrease in clicks. Many searches include a section of related questions searchers can click on under the title People Also Ask. The researchers found that SERPs that include a People Also Ask section see about a 10% decrease in CTR for organic results. SERPs without this feature see around a 45% CTR, while those with it drop to around 35%.  Presumably some of the clicks that would go to organic results are going to the questions in the box instead—where a click produces an answer right there on the page.   7. Knowledge graph results have a bigger impact on CTR (though not huge). The knowledge graph information is usually displayed in a box on the right side of the screen and collects a variety of useful facts about the term the person searched. For non-branded searches, SERPs that include knowledge graph information see about a 10% reduction in clicks.  8. An image carousel increases organic CTR. In contrast, when there’s an image carousel—a collection of images across the screen, usually displayed above the results—the click-through rate increases by over 12%. 9. Related searches cause a noticeable decrease in clicks.  SERPs that include a Related Searches section of links see a fairly dramatic decrease in clicks—an over 20% difference.  The researchers guess this might have less to do with the links in the section driving away clicks, and more to do with Google deciding to display this section for searches that already have a low CTR. 10.  Video carousels also lower clicks. Unlike image carousels, video carousels cause a decrease in clicks of a little under 10%.  The types of keywords Google displays video carousels for are very likely those the search engine knows people prefer video results for, so it makes a certain amount of sense for the videos featured to drive clicks away from the organic results.  How to Use These Findings to Inform Your SEO Strategy in 2020 Now that you know the research, what does it mean for you? To get more out of your SEO strategy in 2020, the data suggests doing a few key things.  1. Make sure you win for branded keywords. Since branded keywords get the biggest share of clicks when people search them, you want to make absolutely sure that anytime a potential visitor comes looking for you, your website is the first one they see.  The good news is, this is generally easy. As long as your website doesn’t share a name with a common keyword, Google usually puts the brand that’s being searched for at the top of the SERP.  Check now to make sure that you claim the top spot for branded search terms. If not, make that a top priority in your SEO strategy, and consider bidding for your brand name in paid search so you show up at the top of the page during the time it takes to win that top organic spot.  2. Always do SERP research to learn what features are on the page. It pays to know what the SERP for your term looks like. Your approach to ranking for a SERP that has a featured snippet will be different than one that has a video carousel, which will be different than one that has a knowledge graph, etc. You’ll do a better job of getting the results you want if you know what you’re aiming for. Any time you work on creating content or building a webpage with the intent to target a specific keyword for it, one of the first steps to always take is doing a Google search for the term to see what comes up.  3. Prioritize your keyword strategy based on the SERP features. Now that you know which types of SERPs are most likely to earn you clicks from searchers, you can prioritize your SEO strategy accordingly. So targeting SERPs that include image carousels and featured snippets are probably more worth your time than those that include People Also Ask boxes and knowledge graphs. That doesn’t mean ruling the keywords that produce those features out entirely. In many cases, they’ll still be well worth including in your strategy.  But knowing how likely the search is to produce clicks if you win the top spot is valuable information to have when deciding which keywords are most important to put more resources toward targeting.  4. Incorporate snippet optimization into your strategy. While there’s a lot of overlap in the best strategies for claiming the top spot in search results and for winning the featured snippet, there are some specific best practices that are worth employing for the latter.  Anytime your SERP research reveals that a keyword produces a featured snippet in the search results, make sure the content you create is optimized to win that snippet.  A big part of that is formatting your content based on the type of snippet it is. So for an answer box, you’ll want to ask the question in your content and provide a brief version of the answer immediately following it. For a list snippet, make sure your content is in a list format.  And as you would with any keyword you research, check the current winning content to see how it looks—that will tell you something about what Google likes as a response to that term. 5. Always include images in your content. Image carousels increase clicks, and Google has to pull those images from somewhere. If you want to increase the odds of your website being included in an image carousel, you need to have images on your website.   Readers also like images, so this is a good tip on multiple counts. Find relevant images to add to your webpages, and be sure to optimize them for search by customizing the image name and alt tag to match your target keywords. SEO Still Matters in 2020 Even if a number of keywords now see fewer clicks because of SERP features, that in no way decreases the importance of SEO for website owners. Many of your visitors are still going to turn to Google when they’re looking for what you offer. If you want them to find your website, you still have to play the SEO game. But understanding the relative value of different keywords based on what the SERPs look like will help you spend your time more effectively.  This research helps with that. Pay attention to the features on the SERP for every keyword you target, and take the typical CTR for each one into account when crafting your SEO strategy. You’ll get better results for the time and resources you put into it.  Need help crafting a winning SEO strategy for 2020? Contact the SEO experts at HostGator. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Do a SEO Audit [12-Step Guide]

The post How to Do a SEO Audit [12-Step Guide] appeared first on HostGator Blog. Search engine optimization (SEO) requires ongoing work. It can feel like you’re always scrambling to keep up with the basics. But sometimes, it’s actually valuable to take a step back from the day-to-day execution of your strategy to perform an SEO audit. HostGator recently polled our Facebook followers to learn when they did their last SEO audit.  Turns out, more than 50% of them had never performed one. In a way, it’s not that surprising. Website owners are busy, and an SEO audit is the kind of thing that’s hard to prioritize fitting into your calendar. But taking the time to analyze your website’s current SEO status can help you strengthen your strategy and make the work you’ve already put into SEO go further.  What Is an SEO Audit?  An SEO audit is a review of how your website performs now in all the key areas that influence SEO. It helps you spot easy-to-overlook issues that could be negatively affecting your website authority. And it reveals new opportunities to include in your SEO strategy moving forward.  12 Steps to Complete an SEO Audit An SEO audit will require a considerable time commitment, but the good news is that most of the steps involved are something your average website owner can complete on your own, without having to hire a specialist.  1. Google your brand name. Easy enough, right? This may seem like a strange step to include here, since your brand name probably isn’t on the list of top keywords you focus on in your strategy. But as long as your brand name isn’t comprised of a common term, if your website has the SEO basics covered, claiming the top spot for it should be a given.  With this step you can confirm that you are, in fact, the top spot for your brand name. If not, that alerts you to a problem you need to identify, such as a Google penalty or a serious technical issue with your site.  If the basics are covered and you do show up, this step also shows you how your website looks on the search engine result page (SERP), so you can check: What shows up in the meta descriptionIf there are sitelinks—links to specific pages on your site that show up under the main resultIf there’s a knowledge graph listing on the right side of the page—a box all about your brand that includes relevant information about you Google decides which pages to display as sitelinks automatically, so you can’t choose those yourself. But if you don’t have any showing up at all, there are a few steps you can take to increase the likelihood of Google adding sitelinks moving forward, such as developing a clear site architecture for your website and submitting a sitemap in Google Search Console.  If you don’t have a knowledge graph now on the SERP, you can increase your chances of getting one by setting up a Google My Business listing (if your business is eligible). Having an accurate Wikipedia page and using schema markup also helps.  2. Confirm your website has no Google penalties. If your website has been hit with a Google penalty, it’s crucial that you figure it out sooner rather than later so you can take steps to lift it. To find out if you have a manual Google penalty—one that targets your site specifically—check out Google Search Console.  Once logged in, click on Security and Manual Actions in the left-side menu, then click on Manual Actions. If it says No Issues Detected with a green check, then you don’t have a manual penalty. If you do have a manual penalty, you’ll see details on the problem in this section, along with steps to take to get it lifted. 3. Test out your website on mobile. Having a website that provides a good mobile experience is a requirement in 2020, both for SEO and to keep your visitors happy. If your website doesn’t work well on mobile, it will hurt you in the search engine rankings. So double check and make sure your website is intuitive and easy to navigate on mobile. Test it out on any mobile devices you have access to and take a few actions on the site, like signing up for your email list or making a test purchase to make sure you’re testing to the whole experience. Supplement the testing you do on your own with QA testing tools, which will help you see how your website works on different device sizes and browser types than those you use.  If your testing shows your mobile experience leaves something to be desired, make creating a mobile-friendly website a top priority.  4. Check your website speed. Website speed is a key ranking factor. Google knows that people prefer websites that load fast, so their algorithm does too. Google provides a speed testing tool so you can easily check how fast your website is loading. It will provide you with a score, along with information on what’s slowing your website down and recommendations to fix it.  If the speed test suggests your website needs to be faster, there are a number of steps you can take to speed it up, such as compressing your images and getting rid of unnecessary plugins.  5. Make sure browsers default to one version of your domain. You want all the SEO work you do to bolster one version of your website, not be split between several. That means you want to be careful you don’t end up with different versions of your domain, such as: www.yourdomain.comhttp://yourdomain.comhttps://yourdomain.comhttps://www.yourdomain.com You want all of those URLs to bring up your website if someone types them into a browser, but you also want them all to resolve to one consistent version, so you’re not spreading your domain authority between so many places. Choose one version to stick with—probably one of the https options—and set up 301 redirects for all the others.  6. Identify and fix broken links Broken links create a bad website experience for your visitors, which can end up hurting your SEO in turn. Luckily, you don’t have to go page by page on your website and click on every link to spot ones that are bad. You can use a free tool like Dead Link Checker to automatically find all the broken links on your website. Then make a project out of updating or removing them. 7. Make sure your website is secured with https. With data breaches and website hacking on the rise, taking the simple step of purchasing an SSL certificate (or choosing a web hosting plan that includes one) upgrades your website from an http to an https. That immediately signals to both Google and your website visitors that your site is more secure. Google has been upfront about its algorithm favoring https sites, so check that your website is https, and invest in an SSL certificate if it’s not yet.  8. Perform a review of your analytics. You may be regularly reviewing your website analytics as part of your ongoing SEO strategy—that’s definitely recommended! Add in an extra review as part of your SEO audit. You can find pretty much everything you need in Google Analytics, but may want to supplement that data with the analytics included in an SEO tool that makes tracking your rankings easier.  Some of the top things you want to identify here are: Most popular pages – Which of your pages consistently earns the most traffic? Identify them and analyze what they have in common, and what they can tell you about what works best.  Best converting pages – Which pages are driving your visitors to take the actions you most want them to take, like signing up for your email list or making a purchase? Highest ranking pages – There will probably be a correlation between this list and your most popular. Determine which pages have made it onto page one for target keywords, and which have snagged those top spots on the page.  What keywords you rank for – Determine which keywords you’re ranking for now, and what pages have those rankings.   Sudden changes in traffic or rankings – Look for trends in how your website and individual pages perform over time. Are there any sudden increases or dips in traffic or rankings? That may point to a penalty or algorithm update.  Pages on page two of the SERP – Pages that come close to making page one, but just miss the cutoff are a prime SEO opportunity. Create a list of all your web pages that currently rank on page two for a target keyword, so you know to prioritize strengthening them.  Underperforming pages – Pages that get little to no traffic or that get traffic but don’t convert should either be scrapped or updated to make them stronger. Put together a list of these as well, so you can determine how best to handle them.  9.  Create a content update plan. Your analytics review will give you a heads up on this, but flesh out the information you gained there with a content audit. The longer you’ve been doing content marketing, the more pages devoted to content you’ll have. Some of these will be woefully outdated, or not up to your current quality standards. Create a spreadsheet that lists all your content, and put it into categories: Content doing well nowContent doing okay, but that could use an updatePieces that are underperforming Use this spreadsheet to create a plan for which pieces to update, assigning dates for doing so based on priority level.  Those pieces that are on page two or in spots 5-10 on page one now should be a high priority, since you can potentially drive a lot of new traffic by getting a small rankings boost for them. Your top-performing pieces may not need much work, but slight tweaks to keep them up-to-date, add internal links to other pages, and include new calls to action (CTAs) can help you make their success go further. And the underperforming pieces either need a total rehaul, or to be scrapped altogether, with the old URL redirected to another relevant page.  10.  Identify new internal linking opportunities. Most brands concerned with SEO get into the habit of including relevant internal links in the new pages they publish. Fewer do a good job of going back to old content and adding in internal links for newer pieces. Your SEO audit is a good opportunity to do this.  You know the target keyword for each page on the website, do a search of your site to identify all uses of each target keyword you have. Then go in and turn those keyword uses into anchor text for the appropriate page. Building more internal links is an easy way to give Google more signals to associate each page with its target keyword.   11.  Implement or update schema markup. Does your website have schema markup on the relevant pages yet? If not, make part your SEO audit process implementing it. If you have it already, check that it’s set up correctly. Google offers a free tool for testing out structured data. Just enter your URL, and it recognizes structured data on your website, and alerts you to any errors.  Schema markup gives you an additional way to communicate to Google what your page is about, and the type of content it is. That makes it more likely to show up for relevant searches, and also influences whether or not your web pages are likely to show up for certain types of rich snippets, like recipes or local business results. 12.  Evaluate your backlink profile. This is the main step where investing in a paid SEO tool can really pay off. Use it to gain information on which websites are linking back to yours, what pages on your site are earning the most backlinks, and their anchor text. Backlinks are a really important part of SEO, and one of the hardest parts of building website authority. And making matters even more complicated, links from websites Google sees as low authority can hurt your overall SEO performance. It’s just as important to identify low-quality links so you can disavow them, as it is to understand where your good links are coming from. Analyzing your backlink profile also provides useful fodder in the brainstorming and planning you do for your link-building efforts moving forward. Seeing which websites link to you now and to which pages helps you gain clarity in your link-building strategy, so you know the best types of sites to reach out to when promoting specific pieces of content.  Why an SEO Audit is Important All of this looks like a lot of work because, well, it is. You’re already busy with creating content and building links based on the strategy you already have—can you really fit all this in? An SEO audit is absolutely worth your time because it helps you evaluate all the work you’ve done so far. You don’t want to keep putting work into tactics that aren’t helping you. And by taking a strategic approach to improving and boosting the work you’ve already done, you can make all the effort you’ve put into SEO already go a lot further.  An SEO audit is an important process for making sure you still have all the basics in place and your SEO strategy makes sense. And you’ll learn important insights to apply to your strategy moving forward. Fortunately, you can make the audit process go faster, with a free SEO review from the experts at HostGator. Get yours here. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Web Hosting Hot Topics: Caching, Themes & Customer Service

The post Web Hosting Hot Topics: Caching, Themes & Customer Service appeared first on HostGator Blog. This article is part of HostGator’s Web Pros Series. In this series, we feature articles from our team of experts here at HostGator. Our Product Managers, Linux Administrators, Marketers, and Tech Support engineers share their best tips for getting the most out of your website. One of the best things about working at HostGator is helping customers set up and run great websites. That means we do a lot of listening and answering customer questions. In December, HostGator held a customer gathering in Austin so we could meet some of you and answer your pressing website questions in person.  Of course, not everyone could drop by Austin—although if you get a chance, you should. So here I’ll go over three of the big things our meetup attendees wanted to know more about. Hot Topic #1: Why Does Your Website Need Caching? One of the biggest topics at our event was caching, and why customers need it for their sites. The short answer is that your site needs caching because it’s best practice for making websites load as quickly as possible, even those on superfast servers. Pretty much every fast website that you’ve ever been to is using caching at multiple layers.  If your site doesn’t use caching, you’re not meeting the standard for site performance. It’s probably going to load more slowly than visitors expect.  Make visitors wait and they’re likely to bounce. Caching can help you avoid that. Why does caching make a site load faster? A super-simple answer You’ve probably heard of read-only files. They’re files that don’t get changed, only displayed. Well, in simple terms, most websites are what we could call “read mostly.” They do get read, and site owners do make changes to them.  But for the most part, websites are read way more frequently than they’re changed. Because all the content doesn’t change often, it can be stored in a cache for fast access instead of retrieved from the server every time.  Why does caching make a site load faster? A less-simple answer Without caching, every time you load a webpage, the browser has to go to the site server’s hard disk, pull out the PHP files, and then run those files, which go to the site’s database. So the browser also has to read the database.  Then, between the PHP and the database, you have to generate HTML along with some JavaScript and some other things that finally get sent back to the browser to display the site content. Running the PHP files and reading the database takes a lot of time compared to just sending the data. In terms of actual time elapsed, this process doesn’t take too long. But in internet-user time, it feels like forever. By the five-second mark, most visitors are ready to bounce.  What caching does is leverage the read-mostly aspect of your website. Instead of running PHP and loading data from the database every time a visitor comes to your site, the cache saves the resulting HTML, JavaScript, images and other elements.  That cache gets stored in RAM, the fastest option for accessing it. Now, when the first person comes to your website, the load time might be a little bit slower for them because the browser has to go through the PHP and database process to generate the HTML and other elements for the cache.  But for the next visit to your website—and all the visits after that—the cache has everything they need. The browser can just go directly into RAM, grab the HTML and show it to the visitor. That gives them the fastest possible load time, which improves user experience. Faster page speeds can improve your SEO, too.  How do you set up a cache for your WordPress site? If you’re only going to install one plugin on your WordPress site, it should be a caching plugin. We recommend WP Super Cache from Automattic. There are other good WordPress caching plugins out there, too. We’ve worked with most of them, and WP Super Cache is the one that’s given us the best results. Step 1 of HostGator’s WP Super Cache guide Downloading a plugin is easy. Configuring it can be confusing without a guide. When you’re ready to install WP Super Cache, check out our support article on how to set it up. It’s a short article that shows you exactly what to check. It also explains how those selections help the plugin work best for your site. Hot Topic #2: How Should You Choose Your Site Theme? There were a lot of questions about website themes at the customer meetup. Obviously, picking a theme is important because it creates the look and feel of your website. But with thousands of themes available, how do you find one that works for you and your business? Here are a few suggestions.  A good theme will fit your content Yes, your theme is important, but your site’s content is more important. Your content is what delivers value to your visitors, keeps them reading and gets them to buy from you or subscribe to your blog.  It’s helpful to start by thinking about your content before you think about a theme. Your content should provide the information your audience wants in a format they can use, whether that’s blog posts, photos, videos or something else. When you understand what kind of content you want on your website, then you can look for a theme that supports it.  A good theme makes your site easy to use Creative content is appealing. Creative site navigation, not so much, because it can confuse users. The easier your site is for visitors to use, the more time they’ll spend on it. A few of the most popular themes at WordPress.org Look for a theme that supports the navigation standards your visitors are going to expect. If you’re not sure that those standards are, go look at your competitors’ sites or other sites in similar industries. A good theme will follow those standards for things like menus, pages, product catalogs and more. A good theme won’t require HTML or CSS changes  Find a theme that gives you the native flexibility to change the things that you want to change, while minimizing the amount of customization that you have to do. If you have to modify a theme’s code to make it work for your site content, you probably want to look for a different solution.  I say this for two reasons. First, modern themes shouldn’t require HTML changes very often, if at all. Second, people who are brand-new to websites and are starting a business need to focus on their business and their site content instead of fiddling with the code of their theme.  And changing theme code isn’t a one-time thing. Every time you change those elements, you have to maintain those changes going forward. As time goes on, you’ll end up spending more time working on your theme and less time working on your content, and content is where your site’s value is going to come from. Try out lots of themes My recommendation would be to try a lot of themes without putting a lot of time into customizing any of them early on. We’ve written a lot about different WordPress themes that can work well for different types of websites, like eCommerce, affiliate marketing, freelancers, small business and many types of blogging. Those blog posts can help you find some options to try. Test them on different devices. Look at them on your phone. Go into the theme’s settings to see what you can change and what you can’t. But resist the urge to tinker with the settings in each theme you try in order to make your content fit.  Identify the right theme for your site When you get a sense of which theme is going to provide you the look you want, the right format for your content and the flexibility that you need, you can tailor that theme to suit your needs.  Hot Topic #3: We’re Here to Help Most HostGator customers want to get a great website up and running for their business, not become accidental web hosting experts as they figure out how to make their site work. That’s why we make the site setup process as simple as possible.  But there’s at least a slight learning curve for everything. Customers at our meetup wanted to know more about how to reach us when they have a question and how we can help. We’ve got many ways for you to get in touch and find the information you need.  You may find your questions answered in our knowledge base. It answers FAQs on domains, design tools, cPanel, security and more.  Our YouTube channel is full of how-to videos and webinars to guide you through basics like file uploads and SSL certificates. You can also find more advanced topics that can help you once your site is up and running, like successful SEO and site traffic statistics. Sometimes, though, you need a real person to guide you through the unknown. We’ve got you.  Live chat help Our live chat team can help you with domains, email, security and more. Many of our customers say they like our live chat because they can copy-paste the information our support team gives them. That creates a transcript that customers can look back on later if they need a refresher.  Phone help with screensharing You can also give us a call if you’re stuck. We may be able to talk through the problem with you. We can do other things too. For example, we have screen-sharing tools you can opt in to, so we can see what you’re looking at on your screen in real time. Then we can walk you step by step through the tasks you want to do. That helps you get your site working the way you want it to faster, so you can get back to your core business. Have more questions about caching, themes or any other element of your site? We’re ready to answer! Find the post on the HostGator Blog

HostGator Customer Spotlight: Michelle Visser of Souly Rested

The post HostGator Customer Spotlight: Michelle Visser of Souly Rested appeared first on HostGator Blog. Starting a side hustle can feel like a big risk, but here is the good news. Many other people and companies that have come before you started as side hustles.  In fact, HostGator started out as a college project. So, we know how hard it can be to stay motivated when creating a business on the side.  That’s why we make it part of our mission to help side hustlers get their feet off the ground. We do this by providing a website builder that helps customers get an affordable and smart-looking website up in no time, with no previous expertise needed.  We also like to make the process fun and rewarding. That’s why we sponsor the Side Hustle Stars Awards, and highlight some of our successful customers. To help you stay motivated as you create your own side hustle website, here’s a look into the inspiring story of 3rd place Side Hustle Star Awards Winner, Michelle Visser, the creator of the blog Souly Rested. Who is Michelle Visser, and What is Souly Rested? Souly Rested is a blog based on life on a 219-year-old farm in rural New England. The blog includes everything from tutorials on tapping maple trees to cooking with maple and everything in between. We wanted to learn more about Michelle Visser her fun blog, Souly Rested, so we asked her a handful of questions. Since Michelle Visser is an avid niche blogger, the first thing we wanted to learn was what her most successful blog post was. Visser said, “My most popular post is about how we trained our dog to be friendly to our free-ranging chicken. When I saw its numbers rising not long after I wrote it, I quickly realized that my readers just want genuine solutions to everyday problems that we all face. It also helped the post’s popularity that I couldn’t find any other blog post at all on this topic.” As you start your own blog, you may consider answering everyday questions as well, and see how your posts perform. Monitoring your post performance is a great way to generate more ideas for your blog. We were also dying to know what Visser’s most popular social media post was, since social media is a stellar way to promote a website.  Visser said, “My most popular social media post was when I asked readers to vote on their favorite cover design for my book. That taught me that readers love to have a say and tell me their opinion, which works out great for marketing research. If I want to know what my readers want, I just need to ask them.” What better way to find out what your readers want than to ask them via social media? Overall, we learned that Visser has grown a successful homesteading community, offered countless blog posts with practical advice, designed and started selling a product for backyard sugarmaking, and even launched books. What Challenges Come with Blogging? While Visser has experienced loads of success with her blog, it hasn’t always been easy for her to keep up the rapid pace of creating continuous and relevant content. Visser said one of her biggest challenges has been “hanging on and continuing to create great content when only your aunt and a few friends are reading it.”  However, her motto is close to what Kevin Costner says in Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come.” Visser adds, “ if you build it right,” then they (website visitors) will come. As Visser has continued creating and publishing content, she has shared her expertise on baking with maple syrup, making DIY kombucha, gardening, and real-food recipes. She has also provided encouragement for homesteaders and built a robust following. What Advice Do You Have for Other Bloggers? We also asked what advice Visser has for other people interested in starting a blog. She says, “Don’t sugar coat it. If something’s hard, be real. Share why it’s hard. Then explain why—for you—it was worth the work.” Visser also says to not be afraid to “tap into your reader’s needs and fears and find a few great products that you love that help you meet those needs or squelch those fears.”  She explains that selling products, and even finding affiliates that meet the needs of readers, are great ways to make money on a blog.  Visser has experienced this success herself. She says, “I’ve established myself as both a maple and a kombucha expert, sell related e-products, sold $28k worth of related merchandise via my affiliates and via my blog, and am hoping I sell tens of thousands of printed books when Sweet Maple hits bookstores this fall.” Why Choose HostGator? When it comes to building a website, business owners and bloggers have several options. We wanted to know why Michelle Visser chose HostGator to build her blog.  She said, “Honestly, I was just starting a blog and I didn’t make a penny for years. The most important thing to me at the time was saving in every way that I could. HostGator was the most cost-effective hosting company I could find that also had great reviews.” HostGator started as a side hustle. The team gets what it’s like to penny pinch. That’s why we offer 3 affordable hosting plans for our website builder, starting at just a few dollars per month. We also make it our mission to help our customers build a successful website. Michelle Visser appreciates this about HostGator.  She said, “It blows me away how friendly and non-condescending folks are when I call with (sometimes silly) questions. And, I’ve never once hung up from a call without a resolution.” For help getting your own website started, check out the Gator Website Builder today. We can’t wait to help you build your website. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

What is WebAssembly and How Do You Learn It? A Quick Guide

The post What is WebAssembly and How Do You Learn It? A Quick Guide appeared first on HostGator Blog. You’ve heard about HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. But, what is all this new chatter about WebAssembly?  In short, WebAssembly is the newest web language, brought to the world by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).  This new official web standard can be run in modern web browsers and offers a safe, low-level assembly-like language with a compact binary format that provides “efficient execution and compact representation of code on modern processors including in a web browser,” according to a WC3 press release. It also runs alongside JavaScript, and also makes it possible for languages like C/C++ and Rust to run on the web. In other words, WebAssembly is a modern and safe way of enabling high-performance applications on the web when using Open Web Platform technologies. It provides a smart way to run code written in various languages on the web at near-native speed. This article will offer a quick look at the benefits of WebAssembly and how you can learn it. What Are the Benefits of WebAssembly? The purpose of WebAssembly is to provide a virtual instruction set architecture that allows high-performance applications. High-performance applications that can use WebAssembly include things like video, audio codecs, graphics, 3D, multi-media, games,  cryptographic computations, and portable language implementations. The main benefits of WebAssembly are as follows: Fast and efficient. WebAssembly is encoded in a binary format that executes at near-native speed on a wide range of platforms. Secure. With advances in machine learning and AI, maintaining safety is key. WebAssembly has a memory-safe, sandboxed execution environment that can be implemented inside existing JavaScript virtual machines. If embedded in the web, WebAsdsembly uses the same security policies of the browser.  Possible to debug. WebAssembly is printed in textual format, making debugging, testing, optimizing, learning, teaching, and writing programs by hand possible. Open. WebAssembly is part of the open web platform, and also supports non-web embeddings. Enhances web performance.  WebAssembly enables near-native performance, optimized load time, improved streaming capabilities, and a compilation target for existing code bases. Additionally, a web page can execute and code can download simultaneously. Hardware, language, and platform-independent. WebAssembly works with all modern architectures, devices, and embedded systems, and doesn’t favor one language, programming model, or object model over another. Additionally, it can be implemented on browsers, stand-alone systems, and in other environments. Compact. WebAssembly has a binary format. This format is fast to transmit because it is much smaller than typical text or native code formats. These are the main benefits, but the list of reasons why you would want to use WebAssembly is robust. For a more comprehensive look into all the advantages of WebAssembly, check out the WebAssembly Core Specification document. How Do You Learn WebAssembly? When it comes to learning WebAssembly, there are a few typical prerequisites—no matter what your learning preferences are.  Before diving headfirst into WebAssembly, you should already be a programmer that understands JavaScript in the Browser environment. If you don’t have this knowledge, then back up and get a working knowledge of JavaScript. Additionally, you should be capable of basic Command Line (Terminal) usage. Another helpful prerequisite is to have experience with C/C++. If you don’t have this experience, it’s typically not too much of a problem as many training courses will teach you this in addition to learning WebAssembly. One of the best ways to learn WebAssembly is to take an online coding course from one of the many online learning platforms like Udemy. There is also plenty of free supplemental material on YouTube and guides from popular developer websites like Mozilla.  Let’s take a deeper look at both options. What to look for when taking a paid WebAssembly course If you opt for a paid course, find one that first provides an in-depth look into what WebAssembly is and why it’s so powerful. Before you start learning the techniques, you’ll want to understand why you would want to learn WebAssembly over, or in addition to, HTLM, CSS, and JavaScript. A good course will offer you this information. You’ll also want to find a course that provides an organized and detailed look into how WebAssembly works. This includes how WebAssembly allows you, essentially, to do more with less, or how it enables high-level applications on a low-level infrastructure. Finally, find a course that helps you create WebAssembly modules from scratch, teaches you the latest web development technology, and that matches your current developer proficiency level. Remember, when you pay for a course, you shouldn’t have to do any of the hard work yourself. The course should take you from step one to being proficient in WebAssembly in an organized fashion. What are some good free resources for learning WebAssembly? If you would rather save the money and teach yourself via developer websites, it’s important to remember that you will have to do additional work to find the most relevant information and sort the information yourself. To help you get started, here is a quick list of helpful resources: W3. What better place to learn WebAssembly than to look to the organization that created it? W3 provides a core specification document with loads of valuable information. You’ll glean insight into the design goals, scope, security considerations, structure, validation, execution, numerics, binary format, text format, and more. Thankfully, this manual is free and well-organized. Codelabs. Codelabs is another excellent source if you’re looking for quick training. They offer a 60-minute training that helps you get the dependencies, build a pure C-model, instantiate and the Game of Life with JavaScript, and more. It’s imperative to remember that you should have some working knowledge of developer basics before taking this course. Mozilla guides. Mozilla guides are another fantastic resource if you’re looking to learn WebAssembly from resources from the internet. Guides include things like WebAssembly topics, compiling a new C/C++ module to WebAssembly, compiling an existing C/C++ module to WebAssembly, compiling from Rust to WebAssembly, loading and running WebAssembly code, using the WebAssembly JavaScript API, understanding WebAssembly text formats, and more. This is a great resource if you’re looking to spruce up knowledge of WebAssembly while using one or more particular types of languages. There are several other free online training resources, but these three options will give you an excellent place to start. Looking to the Future The introduction of WebAssembly is an exciting new addition to the web and an excellent way to help developers do more with less. If all of this sounds like Chinese to you, but you’re still interested in building a website, don’t worry. HostGator is here for you. With HostGator, you don’t have to know any web language to get a website up and running. All you have to do is choose your web hosting plan, pick the perfect template, and customize it to your liking with our drag and drop Gator Website Builder. You can get started building your website today! Find the post on the HostGator Blog

6 Benefits a Chatbot Can Offer Your Small Business

The post 6 Benefits a Chatbot Can Offer Your Small Business appeared first on HostGator Blog. If you’ve ever wished you had a business assistant who didn’t cost much but took care of time-consuming tasks, good news. You probably can have that, thanks to some big improvements in the way chatbots work. Chatbots used to be good for answering only the simplest questions but now they can do a lot more. Thanks to advances in chatbot tech, a growing number of chatbot plugins and Facebook Messenger’s chat tools for business, bots can handle several important customer service and marketing tasks for you. Here are 6 ways a chatbot can make your small business better. 1. Instant Customer Service Nobody wants to wait for answers to basic questions about your business. With a chatbot, they don’t have to. No matter what time of day people visit your site with questions, and no matter how busy you are, chatbots can take care of those basic Q&As for you. You can set up your chatbot with a menu of questions and answers relevant to your business and customers. If your chatbot has AI-backed natural language processing capabilities (and some WordPress chatbot plugins do), your customers can have real conversations with your bot to get answers to their questions.  WPBot’s demo customer service chat combines natural language conversation and a menu What if someone asks a question your bot can’t answer? You can configure your bot to connect the customer to your customer service team via email or phone.  2. Marketing Data Collection Chatbots are a great way to build your marketing lists. If your customers sign into the chat with their Facebook profile, you can receive their public profile data. You can also request an email address and phone number to build your marketing lists.  Estée Lauder and some other retailers require a name and email address to begin online chats. As the bot grows your list, you can create marketing campaigns with better reach and segmentation (more on that below). 3. Personalized Product Recommendations  Sephora’s chatbot on Kik does a great job of delivering personalized recommendations to its shoppers.  The bot’s Beauty Uncomplicator feature helps users find foundation, eyeliner and other products that match their skin type and style preferences. That can move shoppers from browsing to making purchases without leaving the chat.  With a bot that can offer personalized suggestions, your business can meet one of the make-or-break standards of personalized customer experience. The others include a frictionless shopping experience and help making good purchase decisions. That leads us to… 4. Help Customers Find the Products They Want With the right chatbot, your customers can find what they’re looking for while they chat, without having to click around the site on their own. For example, some WordPress chatbots integrate with WooCommerce to support product searches, upsells and cross-sells within the chat feature. This creates a customer experience that’s more like in-store service than online click-and-search shopping.  Why would you want customers to shop through your chatbot instead of browsing your site? Because unless a site is exceptionally intuitive and easy to use, they’d rather not. “Hard to navigate” sites were the number one frustration of online shoppers in a 2018 report. More than 1/3 of the respondents said they’d been frustrated with an online store’s navigation within the past month. 5. Remind Customers About Items in Their Shopping Cart The average cart abandonment rate for online commerce hovers around 70%, year after frustrating year. There are a lot of factors that make customers ditch their carts, like a clunky checkout process and high shipping fees. But sometimes shoppers just get distracted, or have to get back to work, and forget there’s something they meant to buy languishing in a digital cart. Chatbots can help with that, by sending a reminder to shoppers about those products, or an invitation to ask questions, or a discount offer on the items in their cart. That can raise your conversion rates without any effort by you. 6. Send Campaigns via Email, Chat, and Text The real power of today’s chatbots is how much data they collect and organize for business owners. When you have a chatbot that gathers Facebook Messenger information, email addresses and phone numbers, you have instant marketing lists. And when you combine that contact information with details about how those shoppers used the chatbot and your site, you have an easy way to segment those lists and create more effective campaigns. We’ve already talked about the ability of some chatbots to remarket to shoppers who’ve left items in their online cart. But you can also use your chatbot data to quickly create campaigns based on  Past purchases. Maybe 10 people bought dog crates from your store last week? Those customers might need a special offer on chew toys their pups can enjoy during crate time.Product searches in your store. Were shoppers looking for fall jackets before you had them in stock? Let them know as soon as you have them available. Questions shoppers asked your chatbot. Did a shopper spend a lot of time asking about and looking at your store’s woodworking tools? Update them whenever you have new woodworking items in stock. Some chatbots will let you send chat campaigns to your whole list or segments. Some integrate with other marketing tools so you can build email and text campaigns, too.  Now that you’ve seen how chatbots can help your small business, how do you get started? We cover that in an upcoming post that looks at the most popular and powerful chatbot plugins for WordPress, including plugins to help you integrate Facebook Messenger into your site.  Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Install and Delete a Theme in WordPress

The post How to Install and Delete a Theme in WordPress appeared first on HostGator Blog. There are thousands of different WordPress themes to choose from: free themes, premium themes, even custom WordPress themes built to your specifications from scratch. Usually, throughout the life of your site, you’ll go through a handful of themes. What served your site in the initial stages might not offer you what you’re looking for a few years into the future. As a result, you’ll want to know how to install and delete WordPress themes.  Below you’ll learn how to install and delete a WordPress theme. Without learning how to install a new WordPress theme, you’ll be stuck with the default stock theme that WordPress installs. Learning how to delete a WordPress theme is a skill that will help you keep your WordPress site running lean and mean. If both of those sound confusing, don’t worry, by the end of this post, you’ll be able to both install and delete WordPress themes in your sleep. What is a WordPress Theme? A WordPress theme is a collection of files, templates, and stylesheets which will create the appearance for your site. Once you have a fresh installation of WordPress, you’ll need to install a theme to customize your website. Every theme will have its own appearance, layout, features, and design rules. The way you customize your theme will also depend on the theme that you installed.  As a general rule, premium themes (themes that you pay for) will offer you more customization features and generally perform better overall. There are thousands of free themes you can choose from, which isn’t a bad starting place. But, if you’re serious about the success of your site, you’ll probably want to upgrade to a premium WordPress themes eventually.  Regardless, here are a few things you’ll want to look for before you install a new WordPress theme: Quality reviews. One of the first things to look for is what others thought of the plugin. Wherever you download or purchase your theme, look for user reviews which dive into the things they loved and hated about the theme.Features you need. Before you install a theme make note of the features you require in a theme, like parallax scrolling or eCommerce integration. Then choose your next theme based on these requirements. Customer support. Most free themes are supported by their developers, but look for an active support forum. Premium themes often come with higher level support and even dedicated support staff.  What to Do Before You Switch WordPress Themes If you already have a WordPress theme you’ve been using to customize your site, but you want to upgrade to a new theme, then there are some things you’ll want to do before you switch. WordPress does make it very easy to switch themes, but if you want to ensure the process goes smoothly, then go through the steps below before you install a new WordPress theme. 1. Take a Site Inventory The first thing you’ll want to do is take an inventory of your existing site. When you switch themes, there are a lot of things that will transfer over, like your pages, posts, existing plugins, and more.  But, any modifications you’ve made to your existing theme will no longer be there. Plus, if you’ve been using shortcodes that came with your current theme to modify your site, then these will no longer work either. Go through your site page by page and take note of any customizations you might have made to the theme’s codebase. You’ll need to find a way to implement these changes into your new site if you want the same changes to take place. You’ll also want to note existing performance data you have on your site. There’s no point in upgrading your theme if the new theme you install slows down your website. So, before you switch over your theme, run your existing site through a tool like Pingdom or GTMetrix. Then, once you install a new theme, you can run it through the same tools, to see if your performance has improved.  2. Backup Your WordPress Site It’s always a good idea to backup your site regularly. But, it’s even more important to backup your site before you’re making any large-scale changes, like switching WordPress themes.  There’s nothing worse than losing all of that hard work you put into your site when it could have been avoided with a simple backup plugin. The way you backup your website isn’t as important as having a backup in place. For example, you could have regular website backups through your host. But, if not, you can use a WordPress backup plugin like BackUpBuddy or Updraft Plus to create a full site backup.  Even if you don’t need to use the backup, it can help prevent unfortunate incidents from occurring, like having to rebuild and rewrite all of your content from scratch.  3. Turn on Maintenance Mode If you’re getting regular traffic to your site, then you probably don’t want your users to see your site while it’s amid a facelift. Even though switching themes is a simple process, there are all kinds of little tweaks and customizations you’ll need to make to get your site back in working order. One way to do this is to use a WordPress maintenance plugin, like Coming Soon & Maintenance by SeedProd, or Under Construction. When a visitor navigates to your site, they’ll be taken to a maintenance page, instead of your work-in-progress website. You don’t have to keep this plugin activated very long, just during the time it takes to switch to your new theme and make sure your settings are 100%.  If you don’t want to install a maintenance mode plugin, then you can always switch over your WordPress theme during an hour of the day when you don’t get as much traffic. Usually, this will be close to midnight, but it depends on where in the world you’re located.  4. Don’t Forget Your Tracking or Analytics Plugins If you have your site synced with Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools, then you’ll want to make sure you don’t sever this connection. When you connect your website to these tools, you usually have a tracking code that you insert into your site. You can either enter this code into your theme’s files, your theme’s settings page, or you can use a plugin. If you used either of the first two approaches, then you might need to copy this code into a file and add it to your new theme. If you’re using a plugin to handle the connection between these tools, then your site should still be linked. But, it’s worth double-checking nonetheless.   5. Test That Everything Still Works Once you’ve installed your new WordPress theme, you’ll want to make sure any existing plugins still work with your site. Go through your plugins one by one and make sure they don’t create any theme conflicts or issues with your website.  Finally, go back through the initial notes you made in the first step and add any functions not currently present in your existing theme. Before you reveal your new site to the world, you’ll want to go through every single page on your website to make sure it looks good and is functioning the right way.  It can also be helpful to go through any interactive elements on your site like your comment section, search function, email subscriber box, social sharing buttons, and more, and make sure everything works the way it should.  How to Install a WordPress Theme If you want to install a free WordPress theme, then the best way to do this is via the WordPress theme directory within your WordPress dashboard. To do this, you have to first login to your WordPress dashboard. If you haven’t done this before, then you’ll need to look for an email that you received once WordPress was installed on your site. This email will contain your login URL, your username, and password.  Once you have this login, to your site via a link that’ll resemble the following: https://mysite.com/wp-admin. Enter your username and password, and you’ll be taken to your WordPress dashboard, which will look like the image below: Once you’re there look for a menu icon on the left-hand side titled ‘Appearance,’ hover over this, and on the drop-down menu click on ‘Themes,’ then click on the blue ‘Add Theme’ button: On this next screen you’ll be able to search for a specific theme, or you can use the ‘Feature Filter’ option to search for a new theme that has the exact features you’ve been looking for, like a WordPress theme for blogging:  After we’ve run the feature search, we’ll look through the list until we find a theme that catches our attention. In this case, we like the Modern Store theme. So, hover over it and click ‘Install.’ The WordPress theme installer will do its thing, and then the button will change to ‘Activate.’ Click this if you want to activate the WordPress theme and have this become the theme you’re using for your site.  That’s it! You’ve now successfully installed a WordPress theme on your site.  Now, let’s say you’ve downloaded a theme from somewhere else on the web. So, instead of browsing for themes, we’re going to upload it from your computer.  This section already assumes you have a WordPress theme downloaded as a .zip file on your computer.  Since we already have a theme we want to install this will be much easier. Navigate to Appearance>Themes on your WordPress dashboard. Then click ‘Add New.’  Now we’re on the same screen where we previously searched for a theme. But, instead of using the search or filter functions, we’re going to click the button that says ‘Upload Theme.’ Then, click on ‘Choose File’ and locate theme on your computer, then select ‘Install Now.’ WordPress will install the theme for you, then if you want to activate the theme, click ‘Activate’ on the next screen: Now you’ve mastered two different ways you can install a WordPress theme on your site.  How to Delete a WordPress Theme Maybe you’ve gone a little theme crazy and installed one too many themes on your site. Or, you want to get rid of themes that you’re no longer using. Whatever the reason, knowing how to delete WordPress themes is an important skill. Although you can delete a WordPress theme by connecting to your site via FTP, the easiest way is to remove a theme via your WordPress dashboard. This approach will probably be suitable for 99% of WordPress site owners. First, we’re going to login to our WordPress dashboard. If you don’t know how to do this, then refer to the beginning of the ‘How to Install a WordPress Theme’ section above. Once you’ve logged into your WordPress dashboard we’re going to navigate to Appearance>Themes, then hover over the theme we want to delete and click ‘Theme Details.’ This will bring up any relevant theme information. Then, in the lower right-hand corner, click the red ‘Delete’ button. A dialogue box will pop up asking if we want to delete the theme, and click ‘OK.’ The theme will now be removed from your site.  Before you delete a theme from your site, make sure that you’ve already activated a new theme. You don’t want to delete a theme that you’re currently using, as WordPress will switch over to another theme and the design of your site might get messed up.  Managing Your WordPress Themes Hopefully, by now, you’re confident in the process of installing and removing themes from your WordPress dashboard.  The beauty of WordPress is that it makes customization easy; you’re never stuck with your current theme choice. With the tutorial above, you should be well equipped to install and delete themes until you’ve found the perfect theme for your website. Don’t be afraid to test out multiple different themes until you settle on what’s right for your site. The beauty of this site is the more you play around with various themes, the better you’ll understand WordPress, and be equipped to better customize the theme you settle on.  Find the post on the HostGator Blog

HostGator Customer Spotlight: Xcelencia

The post HostGator Customer Spotlight: Xcelencia appeared first on HostGator Blog. If you’re a side hustler, who is wondering whether or not your business will succeed, I have some good news for you. Many other HostGator customers that have come before you have built a website and started exceptional side hustles. Since HostGator started as a college side project, it’s not hard to believe that catering to side hustlers is one of our company passions and missions. We do everything we can to help other side hustlers get their businesses off the ground. How do we play our part? First and foremost, we provide a drag-and-drop website builder that helps even the most novice of computer users get a professional website up in no time, and at an affordable rate. But that’s not all. We also sponsor the Side Hustle Stars Awards to help motivate you to keep going when the going gets tough. To help you stay motivated as you build your website, here’s a quick look into the success of one of our favorite side hustlers, and this year’s 2nd place Side Hustle Awards winner, Xcelencia. Who Is Xcelencia?  Xcelencia is an independent, Latin, urban recording artist and music producer who is innovating outside the traditional music industry. Not only is Xcelencia a stellar recording artist and music producer, but we were impressed with his website and wanted to learn more about him. Here is what we learned about Xcelencia. Xcelencia explained to us how he first became interested in the music business: “I started producing music at around 14, I started off with songwriting lyrics and music and quickly moved on to production and engineering by the time I was 18. My family collected vinyl records, and I remember the cover artworks drew a lot of interest from me at the time, and I wanted to understand it at a deeper level. I also remember reading lyric books from albums and trying to understand how music works.” As a side hustler, Xcelencia now gets to work on his own projects and with a team of producers.  He said, “I am grateful to work both independently on the business side, but have an amazing team of individuals that help me produce music to get it to the next level, the internet allows for collaboration from people from different parts of the world, and I am happy to be a part of the ride.” With the help of Xcelencia’s website, he can digitally share his recordings and connect with like-minded individuals. What Challenges Did Xcelencia Face and Overcome? While the music business has been good to Xcelencia, running a side hustle hasn’t been without its challenges. He explained some of his initial challenges:  “Lack of funding was always an obstacle, especially in an industry where raising capital is very difficult outside of the traditional music system. This forced me to become more creative, not only with the product, but also on the promotional and marketing aspect. It’s important to remain within the box to conform to the average consumer; however, playing outside of the box allows you to innovate and find new gaps and strategies to overcome your obstacles.” Xcelencia overcame these challenges with creative marketing and trial and error. He shared, “A lot of marketing entails a strategy but also trial and error. One of my most successful strategies included planning way in advance of the product release day to make sure that all areas were covered before launching the campaign to promote it, however, be ready to adjust as you go.” Not only does he tout the importance of trial and error, but also patience. He gives the following advice to other side hustlers:  “Patience is important in very competitive industries. Some people think competition means that there is no room for growth or impact, but rather it means there is an opportunity. The difficulty is a bit higher compared to other fields, and being patient is the secret sauce after discipline and work ethic.” Xcelencia has been successful, not just in terms of revenue, but also in terms of “the amount of positive feedback and constructive criticism” he receives from listeners, colleagues, and more. Why Choose HostGator? Reviewing Xcelencia’s website was a pleasure, and we wanted to learn why he chose HostGator to build his music website out of all other potential choices. He mentioned that HostGator came highly recommended by some friends that had been entrepreneurs for several years at the time. As he started using HostGator, he came to love the user-friendly dashboard and how support is always very helpful whenever he needs it.  He also said, “I want to focus on the growth of my business website, and HostGator allows me to! My HostGator website allows me to quickly update it to reflect my moves on social media and other platforms where I showcase my work into a single platform that can be accessed quickly and efficiently.” For more information about how you can start your own side hustle website, get started with our step-by-step guide. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Launch a Website for Your Service Business Side Hustle

The post How to Launch a Website for Your Service Business Side Hustle appeared first on HostGator Blog. Did you know you can make a considerable chunk of change by starting a service-based side business? In fact, the average person with a handyman services business earns an average of $77 per hour. This may come as a shock to you, and it may even be more than you are currently making at your 9-5 job. If you have grown up learning the ins and outs of fixing up houses, repairing appliances, doing maintenance, or if you know how to fix electronics, now may be the perfect time to put your talents to use and to start your service business side hustle. This post will cover what’s involved in running a service business side hustle, how a website can help you launch your side business, and how easy it is to get your service business website up in no time. What’s Involved in Running a Service Business Side Hustle? The first thing that may come to your mind when running a service-based side hustle is providing handyman services. However, a service business side hustle can include turning any number of your service-based talents into a business. Of course, this can include handyman services, but it could also include pest control services, mobile detailing, fixing appliances, and more. Michael Espinal is one service business side hustler that turned a hobby into a business, with iTechFixIt. Espinal explains that he repairs cellular phones, tablets, and offers computer repairs. He says, “My side business began as a hobby and slowly grew. I now have over 350 contacts, and my part-time business is slowly growing.” Carl Larkin is another side hustler that provides a unique take on a service-based side hustle. He is a plumber and repairman by trade but found more monetary value in combining his plumbing knowledge and website acumen to create courses for other technicians. Larkin explains how he created a special order system for his family business, which eventually led him to start Trade Masters Online.  He says, “I’m a service and repair plumber. I graduated from college with an A- GPA. I did well in school, but I got married and needed a job, so I came back to work for the family plumbing business. The family business needed a system to make special order items, and we didn’t have an organized system.” Larkin seized this opportunity to create a special order system himself. He says, “On the side, after work, I spent more time learning how to create websites.” He successfully created a website, and charges clients every month they use the system. He also has plans to expand this special order website into a service program for other service contractors on the internet. His success with building the special order system for his family plumbing business led him to start online training courses for other technicians. Larkin says, “I now have another website helping teaching other technicians how to get their licensing.” Starting a service business side hustle involves identifying your key service-based talents, creating a website, and creating opportunities for yourself, just like Michael Espinal of iTechFixit and Carl Larkin of Trade Masters Online. Why Do Service Companies Need a Website? It’s safe to say that no matter what type of side hustle you are starting, the first step to success includes building a website.  Why?  The primary reason is that internet search is how the majority of consumers find businesses. In fact, 97% of consumers look for local businesses online. While it’s true that referrals go a long way and will be the majority of your business, it’s important to keep in mind that new customer acquisition will come from internet users using local search. It may seem obvious to state that having a website is necessary to draw customers to your business, but less than two-thirds of small businesses (64%) have a website. Let’s take a closer look at how having a HostGator website has helped various service business side hustlers experience success. Websites drive revenue. Another reason to have a website is that it can help drive customers and positively affect the bottom line of your business. Mike Carpinelli, the owner and operator of American Italian Construction, explains that his website is a huge revenue driver. He says, “My website is driving new customers to my side business, and I’ve gotten $320,000 worth of new business since Nov 2018.”  Imagine that. One platform—a website—is driving over $300K of revenue in under a year.  When push comes to shove, a website is a great way to drive visitors to your business, land new clients, and keep current customers coming back for more. Websites are low maintenance. Remember Carl Larkin? He is the creator of Trade Masters Online. A massive benefit of him having a website is he only had to create the system once and experiences residual income. Larkin says, “I invested 60 hours, and now I get a little bonus every week from my workplace as long as the system I made works and is maintained. Pretty much, I think about the website once every two months.” Building a website, especially an automated system or a hub for online courses, requires you to dedicate time upfront. However, once your website is up and running, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.  Websites provide accurate contact information. I recently had a personal experience with trying to find a handyman to fix my sink and some missing tiles in my bathroom. Like 97% of other consumers, I use Google any time I need to hire help a service-based business. I Googled “handyman near me,” and Google returned several third-party directories. It took me hours to sort through the directories and find accurate information. Not to mention, I had a difficult time getting in contact with these vendors and zero understanding of their availability. This failed search attempt doesn’t mean that Google search doesn’t work. It means that the handyman services in my area are severely under-utilizing one of the best marketing tools out there—a well-designed and search engine optimized website. It seems unbelievable, but it took me three weeks to find someone to hire. The craziest part? The second I got a hold of someone, they came to my house the next day and fixed the problems. I also gladly shelled out nearly $400 for a few hours of work. I know there are several service-based businesses in my area. I also know these side hustlers aren’t taking advantage of low competition when it comes to listing a website on Google. If you’re looking to attract more customers and help customers find you immediately, you need a website. Consider building a website where you list accurate contact information, include your availability, and provide access to an online schedule so that customers can book your services as soon as they find your website. How to Build a Service Business Website Now that you know how critical it is to have a website for your service business, let’s talk about how easy it is to start a website. As mentioned above, without the help of Google search, the success of your business will entirely depend on referrals. Referrals are an excellent way to capture new customers, but not the only way. To leverage your full potential, you also need a website. Thankfully, it’s easy to get a website up and running with the help of HostGator’s Website Builder. You don’t have to know how to code, don’t need any design skills, and it won’t break the bank to build a website. All you have to do is follow six quick steps, and you can get your website up in less than a day. Step 1: Pick a hosting plan for your service business website. The Gator Website Builder has three hosting plans for you to review. You can pick your plan depending on your needs and how much functionality you want your website to have.  The starter plan includes a free domain, 200+ templates, a drag-and-drop editor, cloud hosting, and website analytics, and is an excellent pick for someone looking to start a simple service business website. If you are nervous about building your own service business website and want priority support, you’ll want to select the premium plan. This plan provides everything in the starter plan but includes extra priority support.  If you are planning on selling online courses like Carl Larkin, then select the eCommerce plan. This plan will help you set up an eCommerce store where you can collect payments online. Once you’ve picked a plan, click “buy now” and you can set up your account. Step 2: Pick a domain name for your service business website. Every Gator Website Builder package includes a free domain. To pick your domain, all you have to do is type something in the “get domain” box. If your top choice isn’t available, select another. When it comes to picking a domain name for your service business side hustle, you can choose anything that describes what you do.  For example, Carl Larkin chose the name “Trade Masters Online” (www.trademastersonline.com) because it perfectly describes what he does. He provides online training to help people master a trade.  Mike Carpinelli is another excellent example of a service-based business side hustler with a great domain name. His domain name is https://americanitalianconstruction.com. This domain name aptly describes him and his business. Here is an article on how to choose the perfect domain name for your business if you need help deciding. If you already have a domain name, then you can connect it to your HostGator account by clicking “connect it here.”  Step 3: Create your account. Once you have a domain name, you can connect your HostGator account. All you need is an email address or Facebook account to connect. Then, enter your payment information, and you’re ready to go. Step 4: Pick a template for your service business website. Did you know the Gator Website Builder comes with templates, and all you have to do is pick the one that matches the vibe of your service business side hustle? That’s right! No coding involved. Once you create your account, HostGator will direct you to the “choose a template” page. You can scroll through more than 200 professionally-designed templates, and select the template that you love the most. You can also customize any of the templates to match the colors and theme of your service business. Step 5: Add content to your service business website. Once you have selected the perfect template, click “start editing.” This will send you to your dashboard where you can add, edit, and delete pages. Pages you might want to include are an about page, contact page, description of your services, and a page that links to your various online classes (if applicable). Gator Website Builder includes a drag and drop builder to make it easy to design your website. All you have to do is point and click. However, if you have any questions, Gator Website Builder also includes a free and easy step-by-step guide for reference that you can access at any time. To access this guide, click the “menu” icon next to the Gator by HostGator logo and select the “getting started tour.”   Step 6: Review your content and launch your service business website. The last step is to review your website and go live. By clicking “preview,” you can see your service business website in full. This is when you can look at your website and make sure everything looks how you want it to look. If everything looks right, then click the “finish preview” button at the top and then “publish website” at the top of the dashboard. Gator WebsiteBuilder will present a series of quick steps to help you go live. Start Your Service-Based Side Hustle Starting a side hustle is easier now than it ever has been before. This is especially true considering how many side hustle resources and online tools are available to you, and how easy it is to launch a website. With the help of a website, you can attract the right clients, and start making money.  For more information on how to get started, check out Gator Website Builder today. The process of building a website is intuitive, and you’ll be pleased with the results. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Whatever Happened to These Icons of the Early Internet?

The post Whatever Happened to These Icons of the Early Internet? appeared first on HostGator Blog. Do the words “dial-up modem” make you think of a screeching sound? Do you remember deciding whether you’d sign up for Prodigy or America Online? Did seeing an entire set of encyclopedias presented on one CD-ROM disk (complete with sound and video snippets) blow your mind?  If so, you probably had firsthand experience with some of the most successful innovations of the early internet. If not, you’ve probably heard of at least some of them.  Read on for a nostalgia trip to the heyday of slow connections, clunky site design, the dawn of chat and celebrity search engine mascots. What Happened to Myspace? Myspace then What didn’t happen to Myspace? Myspace, founded in 2003, went from zero to world’s biggest social network in four years. In that brief time, it won millions of users and launched countless careers (and derailed at least one) before slowly sliding into irrelevance. Teenagers and young adults flocked to Myspace to connect with each other and find new artists. Because users could upload songs and embed YouTube videos, Myspace became a hub for budding comedians, filmmakers and musicians who wanted to reach a big audience. Lily Allen, Arctic Monkeys, Ke$ha, Skrillex and Katy Perry all used Myspace to share their early work.  In 2004 Myspace had the chance to buy Facebook but passed, because Mark Zuckerberg wanted a seemingly outrageous $75 million. The next year, Myspace spawned an epic bidding war between Fox News parent company News Corp. and media titan Viacom. News Corp. won, Viacom’s CEO got fired for failing to land the deal, and Rupert Murdoch got to hang out with Myspace’s creators.  By the mid-to-late 2000s, the social network had more than 100 million users worldwide. Myspace’s time at the top was brief, though. Its site, according to a former VP, was a “spaghetti-ball mess” that was hard to manage and maintain, as the Guardian reported in 2015. It was also increasingly unappealing to users, compared to the sleek design of Facebook.  Once Facebook started gaining traction, Myspace started to fade. Sold numerous times after it peaked, Myspace was briefly owned by Justin Timberlake and a group of co-investors who were sadly unable to bring MyspaceBack. Myspace now But don’t let Myspace’s sad tale of lost fame and fortune fool you. The site still gets about 8 million visitors per month. And it’s still focused on music and videos–although it did lose 12 years’ worth of content during a botched server migration revealed earlier this year.  The lessons of Myspace: Buy Facebook at $75 million, streamline your site and back up your data before you migrate to a new server or host.  What Happened to Netscape? Old-school web browsing Compared to Myspace, Netscape practically emerged from the primordial mists of the early World Wide Web. Launched in late 1994, Netscape Navigator was the first web browser available to the average home or small business computer user—until Microsoft countered with Internet Explorer in the second half of 1995 and kicked off the browser wars.  By 1998, Netscape was falling behind Explorer, which Microsoft bundled with its Windows releases. That same year, Netscape made its source code public. Even though Netscape had lost market share to Microsoft and gave away its code, AOL (remember them?) spent more than $4 billion to buy Netscape in 1999. What followed was a decade of staff cuts, outsourcing and attempts to keep Netscape and AOL relevant. In 2008, Netscape was finished as a browser. However, several of Netscape’s innovations are still with us.  The Mozilla Foundation–named for Netscape’s mascot–used Netscape’s open-source code to develop Firefox, which topped TechRadar’s list of 2019’s best browsers. Netscape helped create the JavaScript programming language that underpins most websites and Android apps.Netscape also developed the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol. So the next time you renew your site’s SSL certificate, thank Netscape for protecting your customers’ data from man-in-the-middle attacks. What Happened to AIM? AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) debuted in 1997. It gave everyone, AOL user or not, a way to chat with people on their “Buddy List” and later with AIM’s chatbots. At a time before social media and smartphones, AIM turned users’ desktop computers into portals for real-time conversations. As its popularity grew, AOL released more versions of AIM for everything from the Palm Pilot and BlackBerry to iOS and Android devices. It’s hard to overstate what a huge deal AIM was, especially for kids and teens who wanted to keep in touch with their friends. Typing away at the family computer didn’t rack up long-distance fees, and it was less disruptive (and more private) than trying to have a conversation on the kitchen phone.  AIM was also the Millennial generation’s introduction to using the emoticons and abbreviations that are second nature to smartphone and social media users today. Among AIM’s fans was a young Mark Zuckerberg, who credits AIM for planting “a lot of the seeds of what would become Facebook.” By 2001, according to Technology Review, there were 36 million AIM users.  Alas, AIM never made much money for AOL, and as AOL’s star began to fade, so did AIM. When Facebook Messenger and Twitter came along, AIM suddenly looked stale.  AOL pulled the plug on AIM in 2017, but AIM made chat part of our daily lives. What Happened to Ask Jeeves? It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time in internet history when the only way to search was by typing keywords into a browser like Netscape or searching through different levels of information in a directory like Yahoo.  If you wanted to ask a regular question instead of thinking like a computer, you were out of luck—until Ask Jeeves arrived on the scene in 1997. Jeeves, a cartoon butler, was happy to find answers based on either written questions or keyword searches.  Like today’s internet users who happily use voice search on their mobile phones and assistant devices, ‘90s web surfers appreciated the humanity Jeeves brought to a jumbled and overwhelming internet. Within two years of launching, Ask Jeeves was answering a million questions a day. Soon, Jeeves had an agent in Hollywood and his own float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.  So why isn’t Jeeves still answering our internet questions? The dotcom bubble burst, the company’s value tanked, and Google started its march to domination of the search engine market. Eventually the company showed Jeeves the door, rebranded as Ask.com and focused on listicle-type content.  Still, the idea that drove Ask Jeeves – letting users communicate naturally to get information online – lives on in Siri, Alexa and other voice assistants today. Need more internet nostalgia? Check out these hallmarks of 1990s website design. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

A History of the Internet As We Know It

The post A History of the Internet As We Know It appeared first on HostGator Blog. Can you believe it’s been 30 years since the birth of the internet as we know it? Considering we’re a web hosting company and our entire business is reliant on the internet (aren’t all companies nearly reliant on the internet these days?), we’re feeling a little nostalgic. So let’s cheers to the internet as we know it and all the geniuses who make the world wide web spin! Here’s a look back at the pioneers. Speaking of pioneers… Wait. Who is Tim Berbers-Lee? Tim Berners-Lee is the guy we owe “it all” to. He is the inventor of the World Wide Web and is still the director of the World Wide Web Consortium, commonly known as the W3C. The W3C is like the governing body of the internet, and is responsible for setting the standards for the web such as coding languages, best practices, operating guidelines, and helpful tools. So of course, you’re going to see his name several times in our history of the internet below, starting with pre-Y2k. Imagine if the Y2K bug really did bring down the house… Thankfully, the crisis was averted and we have 20 more years of internet awesomeness to talk about! What’s missing? So, do you have a favorite “internet history” moment that is missing from the list? Or, what new internet craze do you have up your sleeve for the next 20 years? You could be a pioneer just like Tim Berners-Lee. Just get your ideas online and out for the wonderful world wide web to see! Find the post on the HostGator Blog

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