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5 Email List Building Mistakes That Kill Your Sales (and How to Avoid Them)

The post 5 Email List Building Mistakes That Kill Your Sales (and How to Avoid Them) appeared first on HostGator Blog. Building your email list is the key to boosting your sales. Email marketing is an opportunity to directly engage with potential customers. With this communication channel, you become a trusted friend in your subscribers’ pursuit to find the right product solution. Entrepreneur VIP contributor Susan Gunelius offers her perspective: “Email marketing doesn’t work unless you build a list of people to send messages to who are interested in your products or services. If you’ve captured email addresses from your prior customers, then you have a great head start.” Steer clear of roadblocks when building your list. Here are five mistakes to avoid. Mistake #1: Buying Email Subscribers As a business, it’s tempting to take the easy route. You’re juggling multiple responsibilities, and a quick growth hack seems reliable. Most companies will attempt to buy their email subscribers. But honestly, that’s not a sound business idea. For starters, these subscribers didn’t sign up to receive messages from your brand. Sending unsolicited emails may result in legal violations, while annoying people. Subscribers who haven’t expressed interest in your products are less likely to engage with your messages. Everyone involved loses and lots of precious time gets wasted. So, what happens to your unsolicited messages? They end up in a person’s spam folder, never to be read. The result equals no sales for your business and a poor brand image. Rather than purchasing subscribers, work with your team to capture consumers when they visit your blog, exit a product page, or scroll down a sales page. Building a co-marketing campaign with another brand is also a creative way to cultivate your list. This strategy will introduce new buyers to your product offerings and get potential consumers excited to receive your emails. Are you seriously thinking about purchasing subscribers to build your list? Skip the hassle and grow your list in an organic way.   Mistake #2: Asking for Too Many Details List building is very much like a friendship. When you’re getting to know someone, you don’t bombard the individual with intimate questions. If that happens, you may startle the person and never hear from him or her again. In a similar manner, you can scare away potential subscribers by requesting too much information up front. It’s not necessary on the first encounter to ask for an individual’s mailing address or phone number. “It sounds counterintuitive, but more choices is not better for your users. In fact, the more choices you give people, the less likely they are to take action. And even if they do ultimately make a decision to take action, they will be less happy with that decision than if you had only given them one choice,” writes Mary Fernandez, a professional blogger. Moreover, you want to minimize the time it takes to subscribe. Requiring only a name and email address takes a few seconds, while a laundry list of form fields may take a few minutes. Progressive profiling is one solution to gaining more details about your subscribers. It’s the process of requesting additional information at specific points in the consumer relationship. For instance, you may send an email talking about the origin of your business, leading your brand to ask for the subscriber’s birthdate. Be mindful of when and how you ask for consumer information. Give the subscriber time to learn about your brand.   Mistake #3: Offering a Weak Incentive Nowadays, your consumers understand how marketing works. You can’t trick someone (nor should you) into being part of your mailing list. It will quickly damage your brand reputation. You can entice customers with an incentive. But if you’re wanting to give away a superficial trinket, your business should rethink that strategy. Competition is stiff across several industries. So, copying your competitors’ tactics will not work for your business either. To join your newsletter, consumers want more than empty promises. Instead, they desire information that will strengthen the brand-customer relationship. Your action plan may translate into offering offering 15% coupons, invitations to brand events, or even access to exclusive product launches. The goal is to give subscribers a compelling reason to sign up and stay on your list. Below is a pop-up box on the Nike website. The footwear and apparel company tempts consumers with “exclusives, offers, and the latest” from the brand. Strong incentives will satisfy your subscribers and persuade them to buy from your business. Plus, your consumers will likely spread the word to their friends and family members, resulting in more sales. It’s time to drop any and all weak incentives. Do the research to learn what will attract consumers to join your brand family.   Mistake #4: Failing to Send a Welcome Email Once a consumer signs up, your team’s job isn’t over. You must follow through on your promise to send an incredible email marketing campaign. Let’s begin with the basics. You need a welcome email that will deliver your incentive and intrigue your new subscribers to not touch the delete button. Treat your welcome email as a greeting and as an add-on to the onboarding process. Subscribers should feel delighted to join your brand’s journey. Bria Sullivan, Constant Contact contributor, explains in more detail: “A welcome email is the perfect way to greet your new subscribers and ease them into your list before they start getting your regular communications. With a welcome email, you increase the likelihood that your subscriber stays engaged with your business and becomes a great, loyal customer.” A captivating welcome includes an engaging subject line, relevant visuals, concise copy, and a clear call to action. If you promised a $10 off promo code, be sure to add it to the message. Welcome emails serve a distinct purpose in email marketing. Use them to your advantage to connect with consumers and earn their trust for future sales.   Mistake #5: Forgetting to Ask for Feedback Your email list is only as valuable as the insight you receive from subscribers. Learning how and why they remain on your list and buy your products can help you make better business decisions. Feedback loops are an integral part of your marketing and sales funnel. It’s the cycle of asking for feedback and receiving it. When asking for feedback, stick to one topic. You don’t want to flood your consumers with various questions. Also, keep your feedback survey short. It should take less than 5 minutes to complete. Below is a feedback email Little Black Bag sent to its subscribers. It expresses how much the brand values the consumers’ thoughts. Learning about your flaws isn’t helpful to customers if you don’t take action. After you receive their suggestions, you’ll want to take steps to rectify their concerns. For instance, customers may demand your support team offer more ways to communicate. If your team adds a live chat feature as a response, you’ll want to notify your customers of the improvements. Feedback is a valuable asset for your brand. By learning from your subscribers, you walk the path to increasing your revenue.   Don’t Make the Same Mistake Twice Email marketing plays an essential role in growing your company’s sales. It’s your chance to connect with your target audience. Stay away from buying subscribers who will delete your emails anyway. Avoid offering a sign-up incentive that doesn’t correlate with the consumers’ needs. And always immediately send a welcome email. Build your email list, and boost your sales without the mistakes. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Launch Your Website Using Gator Website Builder

The post How to Launch Your Website Using Gator Website Builder appeared first on HostGator Blog. HostGator’s new product, Gator Website Builder, is an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop website builder for anyone that has an idea for a website and wants to get started quickly. Gator is a full-featured solution that includes the website builder and website hosting in a convenient package. Your package comes with HostGator’s powerful cloud hosting included, which means you have the ability to upgrade your web hosting package as your business grows. In addition, the Gator website builder comes with security basics like an SSL certificate and a free domain name if you don’t already have one. While some other website builders limit what you can do, Gator Website Builder delivers a complete package to fit every need. No more shopping around for a site builder that has either blog or eCommerce functionalities, Gator website builder is for blogs and eCommerce. No matter what type of website you want to start, you’ll be ready to go in a few steps with this easy website builder. 6 quick steps to launch your website using Gator Website Builder:     1. Decide which plan is right for you. Gator by HostGator has three different plan choices. The starter plan comes with everything you need for your new website – a free domain, access more than 200 professionally-designed templates, a frustration free drag-and-drop editor, and integrated website analytics. If you want access to priority support, choose the premium plan. If you’re starting an eCommerce business with an online store, choose the eCommerce plan. Each package comes with free cloud hosting included. Once you’ve decided which plan is right for you, click “buy now.” You’ll be directed to a page to set up your account. 2. Set up your domain. The domain is the web address that your business will be known by. While you can create a 301 redirect and change this in the future, be sure to choose a domain address that is easy to remember and represents your business. Need some help? We put together a list of ideas for how to choose the perfect domain name for your business. If you don’t already have a domain, Gator Website Builder comes with a free domain.  Start typing in the “find a new domain name” box to see if your top choice is available. If you already have a domain, you can quickly connect it to your Gator website with the “connect it here” button. 3. Create your account. Now that you have selected the perfect domain name, it’s time to set up your account. Gator makes it easy – you can create an account with your email address or quickly connect to your current Gmail or Facebook account. Select your preferred billing cycle, enter your payment information, and you’re ready to start building. 4. Choose a template. After you create your account, you’ll be directed to the “choose a template” page. This is where you’ll choose the visual design for your site. Gator comes with more than 200 professionally-designed templates included for free. Scroll through all the options available and choose the one that best fits your business. You can sort the templates by categories such as music and entertainment, photography, portfolio, online store, wedding, professional services, and more. All of the designs are fully customizable so you can change the fonts, colors, or text style to match your business’ brand. Click the full screen preview to see all the features and secondary page layout options for your favorite themes. Plus, the designs are fully customizable – you can quickly change the color scheme, fonts, or text style to match your business. All of the professional design templates included with Gator come with a mobile-friendly version installed. You don’t need to do anything to activate the mobile version, but with Gator, you can control the content if you want to. You can even edit content in the mobile view without affecting your main website. 5. Add content to your website. Once you have selected a theme for your website and clicked the button to “Start Editing,” you will be directed to your main account dashboard. At first glance, you’ll see that a few pages have already been created. You can add, edit, or delete any of these pages by clicking the “pages” button on the left side of your dashboard. Gator comes with an easy step-by-step guide to show you how to set up the different sections of your site. Click the menu icon next to the Gator by HostGator logo and select the “getting started tour.” This tour will guide you through the steps to edit pages and add elements such as text blocks, images, buttons, and more. You can customize your pages by adding more elements. Click on the elements tab, to see the types of elements you want such as an image, text block, or button. If you want to start a blog… Gator comes with an easy blogging feature integrated. Some website builders make you choose either a basic website or a blog function. Gator offers both. Select the “blog” tab from the left sidebar and then click “start a blog.” Not ready to start a blog now? Check out these five reasons to start blogging whenever you’re ready. The blog feature comes with all Gator packages and is available for anyone to easily add a blog as their business grows. If you want to start an eCommerce business with online store… Choose the “eCommerce plan” (or upgrade your account to the eCommerce plan) to access the online store feature. Click the Store button from the left side of your dashboard to add a store. You’re now ready to add and manage your own store. The website builder will automatically populate the store with example products so you can see what the store will look like when it’s done. Follow the next set of instructions to complete the setup process for your store. 6. Review and launch your website. When you’re done adding information and are ready to “go live,” the process to publish is simple. First, you’ll want to do a final review by clicking the “preview” button at the top of your dashboard. Click through the pages on your website and make sure the design and content looks great. When you’re finished previewing, click the “finish preview” button at the top and then the “publish website” at the top of the dashboard. Follow the steps to go live. If you have an eCommerce Store upgrade, you’ll see a pop-up asking you to add products now or after you publish your website pages. If you choose to go live without your store products added, no problem, simply select “Publish Without Store.” This means people will be able to see your websites pages (or storefront) but they won’t be able to shop your products or purchase. Otherwise, you can select “Setup Store Now” If you would rather set up your store for selling before you go live. Now your website is live! Congratulations! Now that your website is published, you’re ready to grow your online business or website and build your network. What did you think about building your website with Gator? What’s the number one Gator feature you want to try on your new website? Let us know in the comments below. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

The Best Free WordPress Themes for Lifestyle Blogs Now

The post The Best Free WordPress Themes for Lifestyle Blogs Now appeared first on HostGator Blog. Lifestyle blogging is a popular hobby and it’s easy to get started. Earning an income from a lifestyle blog? You’ll need more than good writing and images to make that happen. You’ll need technical tools to give your blog a fresh and appealing look, make it easy to find, and help you earn money through advertising, an online store, affiliate marketing, or a combination of those income streams. A good WordPress theme is the key to creating the right look, getting found, and making money from the content you to create. Here are a few lifestyle blog themes we like for their features, looks, and free versions. Fashion Lifestyle This mobile-friendly theme from Blossom Themes is tailored for fashion but can be altered to suit any type of lifestyle blog, thanks to its customizable elements and mobile-friendly design. The basic layout includes an image slider above the fold, image-based menu categories, an understated but impossible-to-miss newsletter opt-in box (so you can start sending your blog email campaigns), and merchandise displays. Fashion Lifestyle is built to work with the WooCommerce plugin for WordPress so you can set up an online store. There’s also a built-in Instagram section to make social media marketing easier, and schema.org compatibility means it’s easier to format rich content that performs well in Google search results. The Pro version of Fashion Lifestyle ($49) gives you the ability to change the color of your blog’s header, footer, and buttons. It also adds more header, homepage, banner, and slider layout options, and includes AdSense-optimized spots and affiliate marketing capabilities.   Travel Lifestyle This free lifestyle theme from The Bootstrap Themes loads fast and displays cleanly on a variety of devices. Travel Lifestyle’s image-centric layout is ideal for travel photos and features as well as other types of photography, special events, destinations, and décor. Like Fashion Lifestyle, Travel Lifestyle has a built-in Instagram section and other social media integration tools and it’s WooCommerce compatible. The layout and customization options are more limited in the free version of Travel Lifestyle than Fashion Lifestyle—one layout, banner slider, and header option, plus a limited menu of Google Fonts. The premium version ($49) adds theme and menu color options, ad management and ad-blocker bypass capabilities, and more layout choices. Premium users have the option of a right sidebar, left sidebar, or full-width single column layout in desktop mode, and a full-width column or left sidebar below the fold on mobile.   Chic Lifestyle If you’re the kind of blogger who likes to feature snappy headlines with your posts’ featured images, Chic Lifestyle is a theme worth exploring. The image-grid layout leaves room for short blocks of text under each image, to encourage viewers to click through and read your posts. Like Travel Lifestyle, Chic Lifestyle is published by The Bootstrap, and it has the same free and premium features and pricing.   WP Mint Magazine Bloggers who want a clean, tech-oriented look and who update their content frequently may like WP Mint Magazine. This free lifestyle theme from ProDesigns looks somewhat similar to Chic Lifestyle  at the top of the page, with a row of images coupled with blocks of text and a full-width newsletter opt-in section. But there’s a more complex category-based image hierarchy further down on the page, so you can display lots of content to encourage your visitors to stick around and explore. Like the other themes in this list, WP Mint Magazine is responsive so it displays well on mobile. There’s no paid-upgrade version, so you get this theme’s multiple layout and widget options for free.   Savona Savona from Optima themes is a theme with classic style. Its layout is similar to Fashion Lifestyle – banner slider, category images, and a sidebar with room for a bio and photo, Instagram, and recent posts. But Savona has a more traditional range of fonts than Fashion Lifestyle, and the free theme is available in several variations: Savona Classic, Blog, Bold, Lite, and Minimal. Each Savona theme has a free version that’s WooCommerce compatible, optimized for search engines, and responsive for display on mobile and desktop screens.   Online Blog Online Blog from Thememattic is for bloggers who have big personalities and want to stand out from the lifestyle blogging crowd with unique web design. Bold, animated splashes of color add movement and visual interest to your pull quotes and images and they keep the reader’s eye moving down the page for more of your content. Three featured post images and headlines make up the eye-catching banner slider, giving visitors a quick glance at several of your posts at once, even before they click the slide arrow. The free version of Online Blog gives you live editing previews in Customizer, an author bio sidebar, WooCommerce compatibility, SEO-ready structure, and support for some social media content. The pro version of Online Blog ($49) adds the ability to change fonts and theme colors, an Instagram slider, more social media options, and logo and title customization tools.   Choosing Your Lifestyle Blog Theme Each theme publisher offers a live demo on their site, but it’s a good idea to try out the themes you like with your content to make sure they look good before you commit. Things to think about as you decide: What type of content do you feature the most, images, text, or videos? You’ll want a theme that puts the most emphasis on what you do best. How do you plan to monetize your blog? Your plans can affect your theme choice, especially if you want to have ads or sell merchandise in a store on your site. How will your audience view your blog? Do they read it at their desks on coffee breaks, or on their phones while they’re in the carpool line? Choose a theme that makes it easy for them. Once you set up your theme, keep tabs on metrics like your traffic, bounce rate, and conversions. If, after a few weeks or months you’re not seeing growth, you may want to try a different theme—and there are plenty to choose from. Check out this blog post for more tips on selecting a WordPress theme for your blog.  Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Do You Need a Dedicated IP for SSL?

The post Do You Need a Dedicated IP for SSL? appeared first on HostGator Blog. Maybe you’ve heard the news about the importance of installing an SSL certificate on your site? Or, maybe your site sells goods or processes sensitive visitor information and you want to secure your site with SSL? Whatever your reason, adding an SSL certificate to your site is close to becoming a necessity. But, how do you actually install an SSL certificate? For beginners, it might seem a little technical in nature, but overall the process can be quite simple. Still, one age-old question remains: Do you need a dedicated IP for SSL? The short answer is no. The long answer is below. Although it’s no longer a requirement across the board, some hosts still prefer that you have a dedicated IP address before they’ll allow you to install an SSL certificate. Below we examine this in-depth and take a look a the history between dedicated IPs and SSL certificates, along with the different types of certificates available, and the reasons you still might want to use the two together. What is a Dedicated IP Address? To understand what a dedicated IP address is, let’s first look at what a standard IP address is. An IP address acts as a locator for any computer that’s connected to the internet. So, in the case of your website it most likely refers to your server where your website is hosted. IP addresses are then mapped to specific domain names, so in some cases, you can actually enter an IP address into your address bar and visit a website (no domain necessary). Most people will be using shared IP addresses, which are IP addresses shared between multiple users who are using the same server. But, with a dedicated IP address you’ll have an IP address that’s dedicated to your website and only your website. In some cases, you can have a dedicated IP address and shared hosting, but typically it will be linked to a single website.   What is an SSL Certificate? An SSL certificate encrypts any data that’s shared between a person using your website and your server. It’s a small data file that binds a cryptographic key to your organization. This cryptographic key will bind together both your domain name (or server name, or hostname), along with the name of your company and its location. Think of it as a way to verify that you are who you say you are. This certificate will also enable a secure connection between your server and a user’s web browser. This connection will help to prevent data theft, and ensure your visitor’s that any information they input into your website is kept safe. There are a few different types of SSL certificates available:   1. Domain Validated Certificates This is the lowest level of validation available. It’s used to verify that an organization does indeed have control over a given domain. These are generally the lowest cost type of SSL certificates available, and can be installed very quickly.   2. Organization Validated Certificates This certificate is one step up from a Domain Validated Certificate. You’ll have to verify ownership of a domain, plus there will be additional steps to verify that you are indeed who you say you are. This will show visitors who is behind the organization that owns the domain.   3. Extended Validation Certificates This level of SSL certificate requires the most extensive form of validation. For this level of certificate, you’ll have to verify ownership of a given domain, plus go through a thorough vetting process. You’ll have to provide proper documentation to verify things like: The physical and legal existence of your business The organizational identity can be proven through official records The organization has the right to a given domain name For most website owners a Domain Validated Certificate will be enough. This is the most common type of certificate that will be provided by your web host. However, some websites that process transactions, or need to better secure user data might need to upgrade to a higher level of SSL certificate.   Why is SSL Used? Today SSL is commonly used to help secure any credit card data, personal information, or any other kind of information that’s exchanged between a user and a website. However, a recent Google Chrome update has made SSL certificates a necessity. Per this update, without an SSL certificate installed on your site, there’s a chance it could show up as insecure when a user lands on your site. So, instead of viewing your actual site they’ll get an error message. If a visitor is greeted with this message, instead of your actual site, the chances are high they won’t come back to your website again. There’s a good chance that other web browsers will start to implement these standards as well. So, it’s not a question of do I need an SSL certificate? It’s how do I install an SSL certificate on my site? Beyond an SSL certificate slowly becoming a necessity there are two big reasons why they’re used.   1. Securing Data Between a Browser and Server Hacking and cyber crimes are on the rise. Thousands of sites are hacked every single month. For this reason, you should do everything in your power to protect your website. There are various ways to secure your website from hackers, but one of the first things you can do is install an SSL certificate on your site. This will immediately add a layer of security and encryption between a visitor’s browser and your server. This will help to prevent any data theft when your visitors are entering information on your site. Helping to protect information like, their credit card details, personal email address, home address, and more. Basically, any data that they enter on your website will be encrypted and secured.   2. Building Customer Trust If you run an eCommerce store, or are collecting your visitors information in any way they’ll want to now that their information will be protected. Have you ever landed on a website and were ready to buy, but you didn’t fully trust the website? Trust is the backbone of any successful website. Without actively building visitor trust, you’re going to have a hard time turning visitors into subscribers or customers. One of the easiest ways to start building trust is to actively secure your site with an SSL certificate. Of course, there are additional steps you’ll need to take. But, by installing an SSL certificate your users will now that your site is legit and that you actually care about their data. As consumers grow more educated about the importance of protecting themselves online, the security of your website will only grow in importance. Adding an SSL certificate to your site is a great place to start.   Dedicated IP Address and SSL: The History To install an SSL certificate on your site a dedicated IP address used to be a requirement. But, if SSL certificates could only be installed on dedicated IPs a lot of website owners would be out of luck—especially with the growing importance of SSL certificates today. Luckily, there’s a technology known as Server Name Indicator (SNI) which makes it possible to install an SSL certificate on a shared server. SNI allows a web server to use a single IP address to create thousands of virtual host environments, these individual virtual environments can then host their own SSL certificates. The SNI will indicate the hostname for a given site and refer to that instead of the shared IP address. However, not every host will support SNI. So, there’s a chance you still might need to use a dedicated IP if you want to install an SSL certificate. Reach out to your hosting provider to see if a dedicated IP is a necessity for an SSL certificate, or if they support SNI instead. The type of SSL certificate you require can also influence, whether or not you’ll need a dedicated IP address for SSL. For example, Domain Validated certificates are much easier to issue and install, while higher level certificates require additional steps, one of which might be securing a dedicated IP address.   Why Else You Might Want a Dedicated IP Address Even though a dedicated IP address is no longer an absolute necessity for an SSL certificate there are still some other reasons you might want to upgrade to a dedicated IP address. Beyond upgrading to a dedicated IP for the benefits highlighted below, you might also want to consider upgrading your web hosting with a dedicated IP. This will not only provide you with a highly customizable server environment that’s optimized for performance, speed, and security, but you’ll also get a bundled dedicated IP address. Regardless of the type of web hosting you decide upon, here are some of the other benefits of using a dedicated IP address:   Compatibility With Older Browsers In some cases using SNI to install an SSL certificate won’t be a perfect solution. Some older browsers have technical issues that won’t display your site properly. This might not be a deal breaker, but if you analyzed your traffic and found that you have a lot of users who prefer older browsers, then you might need to use a dedicated IP address.   Visit Your Site by IP Address With a dedicated IP address, you can access your website without a domain name. This can be very useful if your domain name hasn’t propagated yet, or you want to start building out your website, but you haven’t decided on a domain name. Having the ability to access your site via IP isn’t a common need, but you might fall into the small group where it’s a requirement.   Run a Gaming Server If you’re interested in running your own gaming server for your favorite online game, then you’ll probably also need a dedicated server for games. This will help you hurdle common issues like gameplay lag and lack of bandwidth and memory.   Reduce the Chances of IP Blacklisting IP blacklisting is rare, but it’s something that could happen to your site if you’re using a shared IP address. IP blacklisting occurs when someone else on your shared IP is undertaking activities that could be classified as spam. This often occurs when people are sending emails through the host. All it would take is a single user on the same shared IP to affect your website and email abilities.   Run an FTP Server Running an FTP server can be a great way to share files with team members, clients, family, and friends. But, it can be difficult to run your own FTP server without a dedicated IP address. You probably won’t be using FTP if you have a small and simple website, but as your site grows, it might be something you’ll want to add to your overall workflow. As you can see there are a variety of reasons to consider using a dedicated IP address, along with dedicated hosting, even if an SSL certificate isn’t the main deciding factor.   Closing Thoughts Dedicated IP addresses used to be a necessity if you wanted to install an SSL certificate on your site. But, with changing technology it’s no longer a requirement. Typically, if you are using a dedicated IP address this will be because you’re using a dedicated web server. However, some hosts might not support SNI, so you’ll need to utilize a dedicated IP address if you want to install an SSL certificate. It all comes down to the dedicated hosting you’re using and the technology they support. Most users today will end up upgrading to a dedicated IP address, because they want the other features a dedicated IP offers, not simply for SSL compatibility. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how dedicated IP addresses and SSL certificates are related, along with the history they share. Learn more about how to compare cheap dedicated server hosting plans from the experts at Hostgator today. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Top 5 Dedicated IP Benefits

The post Top 5 Dedicated IP Benefits appeared first on HostGator Blog. When the time comes to choosing a hosting provider you’re going to have a lot of decisions to make. Finding the right type of hosting and a quality hosting provider along will take a lot of work. As you’re sorting through different hosts there are a lot of different features you’ll come across. One of those that bring about the most confusion is a dedicated IP address. You’re probably wondering what is a dedicated IP address? And will using one actually benefit my website? Learn what a dedicated IP address actually is, the dedicated IP hosting benefits, and how it relates to dedicated server hosting, so you can make the best decision for your new website. What Is an IP Address? Before we jump into dedicated IP addresses, it’s important to understand what an IP address actually is. You’re probably already familiar with what a domain name is, but IP addresses, not so much. An IP address is a unique string of numbers that are used to identify a computer that’s connected to the internet. In the case of an online IP address, this computer is a server provided by your hosting company. You can think of your domain name as the address of your website, while an IP address identifies the location and type of device that’s being used to access the internet. IP addresses are part of the Domain Name System (DNS). How domain names work is they are mapped out to various IP addresses. When a domain name is typed into an address bar your ISP will look up the associated IP addresses and display the correct website. In the case of a shared IP address, the web host will forward the domain request to the proper site. While if your web hosting is with a dedicated IP address you can literally input the IP address into your web browser and you’ll be taken to the correct site. The IP address and associated domain are synonymous.   What is a Dedicated IP Address? A dedicated IP address is an IP address that you have sole access to. Since IP addresses are tied to a specific physical server and you have sole ownership of that server, then the IP address is yours to do whatever you wish. In some cases, you can have a dedicated IP address and shared hosting on the same account. This is rarer as the hosting provider will have to configure certain software, but it is possible. This will enable you to take advantage of the benefits of having a dedicated IP address while remaining on a cheaper hosting plan. While there are cheap dedicated server hosting plans available, it’s still wise to do extensive research before settling on a specific one. However, the most common usage of a dedicated IP address is being paired with a dedicated server. With a dedicated server, you have complete control over your server environment. Typically, when you have a dedicated server you’ll have an associated IP address. This can be used for a single website or multiple sites that you’re hosting on a single dedicated server. Your web hosting provider might also be able to configure multiple dedicated IP addresses on a single dedicated server as well.   How Do Dedicated and Shared IP Address Differ? The most common type of IP address is a shared IP address. In this section, we will answer the question what is shared hosting and discuss how these two differ. This is mostly because shared hosting is the most commonly used type of web hosting. With shared hosting you’re sharing server space with a multitude of different users. This helps to keep costs low, while still offering you enough server resources for your site to run. When defining dedicated hosting, you have access to the resources of an entire physical server. You won’t be sharing these server resources with any other users. This includes your IP address. On a shared hosting environment you’re also sharing your IP address with any other websites on the same server. Depending on your host this could end up being hundreds or even thousands of other sites. With a shared host your host has certain forwarding technology in place that ensures the user will be able to access the correct site. Like a dedicated server, with a dedicated IP address you’re the only person using this IP address.   Dedicated IP Benefits A dedicated IP address usually won’t make or break the success of your site. However, it can offer some advantages to certain kinds of website owners. Here are some of the biggest benefits you’ll receive when using a dedicated IP:   1. Improve Email Deliverability If you’re like most website owners, you’re probably sending emails with a branded email address. Instead of using a classic Gmail address your email address will look something like james@newdomain.com. If you’re a business owner this can help to create a higher level of credibility. However, if you’re using a shared IP address, then you could run into email issues. The biggest one being deliverability issues. This means that when you send an email you can’t be sure that it’ll actually end up in the recipient’s inbox. If another user on the same shared IP address is sending a high volume of emails that get classified as spam, then you’ll get this same classification. Instead of landing in the inbox, your messages will get sent straight to spam. With a dedicated IP, you’re the only user who will be sending emails via this IP address. This can be a great way to protect your reputation while ensuring that your emails go where they’re supposed to go. If you’re sending a very high volume of emails, then you might want to use a third-party email provider from the start. These services are set up in a way that will support you in sending massive quantities of emails while ensuring a high level of deliverability, and protection against IP blacklisting.     2. Greater Server Control With a dedicated IP address, you have a much higher level of server access. Instead of simply relying on a tool like cPanel to manage your server, you’ll be able to remotely manage your server, upload files, create a file sharing server, and a lot more. You’ll also be able to do things like creating your own dedicated gaming server. If you want to host your own online games, create custom gaming environments, or have the ability to play games with a very high level of performance, then a dedicated server for games is the way to go. Usually, if you want this level of server control and customization you’ll also be pairing your dedicated IP address with a dedicated server as well. To get the most from your server environment you’ll want to be using a dedicated server as well. It’ll be very difficult to unlock this level of customization while using a shared server environment.   3. View Website Via IP Alone A dedicated IP address gives you the ability to access your website via IP address. This means you could technically build out and view your website without even purchasing and setting up a domain name. This can be useful if you can’t decide on a domain name registration, but want to start building a website. Or, you don’t want to wait for the domain to propagate before you start building out your website. Not every user will demand a feature like this, but it can offer you more flexibility, especially if you’re running into issues with your domain name.   4. Potential SSL Requirement Installing an SSL certificate on your site is now becoming a requirement. Browsers like Google Chrome are now marking sites as insecure if they don’t have the encrypted HTTPS connection, which can be enabled by installing an SSL certificate. An SSL certificate will elevate the level of security across your site by encrypting any information that’s exchanged between a user’s web browser and a your server. This is a must-have for sites that exchange sensitive information, like for those building an eCommerce site. You used to need a dedicated IP address for an SSL certificate. However, today there’s a technology called Server Name Identification (SNI), which allows those who are using a shared IP to install an SSL certificate. However, not every host will support this technology, so you still might need to upgrade to a dedicated IP address. For higher level SSL certificates, you still might need to use a dedicated IP address.   5. Potential Application Requirement If you’re running any custom software on your server then you might require a dedicated IP address. Some types of server software will require a dedicated IP in order to function properly. If you’re using a shared IP address the page might re-load while the script is still running. This will cause the script to malfunction and your website or server might not function properly. If your website requires a custom server setup in order to function properly, then you might need a dedicated IP to aid in this functionality.   6. Direct FTP Access Some users might require a greater level of website access. Instead of having to log in via cPanel, you can remotely access your server via FTP. If you need to do this on a regular basis, you’ll quickly realize the benefit of having direct FTP access. You can also create an FTP server that lets your users download files anonymously. This can allow you to quickly share files with friends, family, or even site visitors. Most website owners won’t really need to run an IP-based FTP server. But, for users who demand this feature, a dedicated IP is a must-have.   Do You Need a Dedicated IP Address? Not every type of website owner will benefit from using a dedicated IP address. Here are the biggest reasons you’ll want to upgrade to a dedicated IP address: You want to view your website by IP address alone Your host requires a dedicated IP to install an SSL certificate You want to regularly access your site via FTP You want to customize your server environment, like a gaming server Using a dedicated IP address doesn’t automatically mean you’re using a dedicated host. You can still have a dedicated IP address while using a shared server, or you can have an IP address you’re sharing between a few of your own sites while using a dedicated server too. Overall, the biggest reason you’ll probably want a dedicated IP address is to install an SSL certificate. Your hosting provider might not require it, but if they do, then it’s worth the upgrade.   What is Dedicated IP Hosting? Dedicated IP hosting is any form of hosting that utilizes a dedicated IP address. This can be either a shared hosting environment with a dedicated IP address, a dedicated IP server with a dedicated IP address, or even something like cloud or VPS hosting with a dedicated IP address. You’ll typically find a dedicated IP address as a feature that’s bundled with most dedicated hosting packages. The chances are high that if you’re thinking about upgrading to a dedicated IP for the advantages highlighted above, then you can also benefit from using dedicated hosting as well. By using the combination of a dedicated server and a dedicated IP address you’ll get the most benefits for your site. A dedicated server can offer you very high levels of performance, security, control, and customization. However, a dedicated server will require a higher level of technical proficiency in order to setup, optimize, and maintain the server properly. Your host might be able to add a dedicated IP address to a shared hosting package, but it does require certain software and technology that your host might not support.   Is a Dedicated IP Right for You? Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what a dedicated IP address is, how it can benefit your website, and how it relates to dedicated IP hosting. Most website owners probably won’t need to upgrade to a dedicated IP address, at least right away. As your site grows and you demand higher performance from your host, along with more niche features, then it might be a worthwhile add-on. If you’re looking to get the most out of your site, then you’ll probably get the most value in upgrading to a dedicated server that comes equipped with single or multiple dedicated IP addresses. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

10 Reasons to Love HostGator’s New Gator Website Builder

The post 10 Reasons to Love HostGator’s New Gator Website Builder appeared first on HostGator Blog. HostGator is pleased to announce our new website builder, Gator Website Builder. Gator was created for anyone who has an idea for a website and wants a frustration-free solution to build and launch a website with ease.   Gator is a full-featured website building and hosting tool with an easy to understand, drag-and-drop page builder so you can get started quickly. In addition, Gator comes with some of the basics you need such as free website hosting, security basics like an SSL certificate, and a free domain name. Unlike other website builders, the Gator Website Builder offers a breadth of tools to fit every need. No more shopping around for a site builder that has either blog or eCommerce functionalities, Gator has it all. Plus, it’s backed by HostGator’s powerful website hosting, so you can upgrade your website as your online business grows.   Unlike other website builders, Gator by HostGator offers a breadth of tools to fit every need. No more shopping around for a site builder that has either blog or eCommerce functionalities, Gator has it all. Plus, it’s backed by HostGator’s powerful website hosting, so you can upgrade your website as your online business grows.   10 reasons to love Gator Website Builder by HostGator:   1. Drag-and-drop elements   Using Gator, you can add dynamic elements to your site, without the help of a professional designer. Some of the things you can add to your website with our easy website builder are buttons, images, maps, text blocks, videos and more! When you set up your account, the first thing you’ll see is a quick, interactive tour that shows you how to add sections and make revisions  to your site. Follow these instructions and you’ll be designing a website in no time! 2. More than 200 professional design templates to choose from.  These design templates are so good that you might wonder why they’re free. Where other website builders limit your options, Gator comes with more than 200 professional design themes, all of which are scalable to fit your business. When you set up your account, scroll through all the options available and choose the one that best fits your business. The templates are organized by category so you can quickly find find a theme that is suitable for your type of business. There’s even a full screen preview so it’s easy to see all the theme’s features. Plus, the designs are fully customizable – you can quickly change the color scheme, fonts, or text style to match your business. 3. Mobile-friendly design templates.  Search engines give a boost to rankings of mobile-friendly sites and can penalize websites that are only optimized for desktop computers. Since so many people are browsing websites on their phones, in the long run, you’re hurting your business if you don’t have a mobile-friendly version. With Gator Website Builder, all of the professional design templates come with a mobile-friendly version. You can view the desktop and mobile version of your site individually to be sure the necessary information is correct and looks great no matter which device your site visitors use. In addition, you can make changes in the mobile editor that won’t affect your main website. This is handy if you want to reduce some content for mobile website visitors.   4. Stock photo library included and integrated.  No more searching for stock photos, downloading, and then uploading to your website. Gator Website Builder comes with an integrated library of high-quality stock photos courtesy of Unsplash. These photos are available in all Gator packages at no charge and are license free, meaning you can use them however you want. Best part? The photos are searchable and sorted by category to make it easier to find what you need. If you have your own photos, that’s great! You can upload and store them in your Gator “my images” library. 5. Integrated website analytics and tracking.  Analytics can be intimidating, but with Gator, you can keep on eye on the backend of your website right within the platform! Easily keep track of pageviews, bounce rate and visitor demographics with a few clicks of your mouse. This detailed data about your website visitors will help you make informed decisions about what to do with your website and how to promote your business. But, of course, if you’re already using Google Analytics, Gator has an easy way to insert your tracking code in the “manage site” section. 6. Easy blogging feature.  Some website builders give you the choice of either a basic website or a blogging platform. However, Gator Website Builder gives you both options on the same website. If you’re ready to start a blog, Gator has blog templates that seamlessly integrate with the design of the rest of your website. The “blog” tab allows you to easily organize your blog posts into one place so you can create, edit, and schedule your posts with confidence. If you’d rather start a blog later, the blog feature comes with all Gator packages so you can easily add a blog as your business grows. 7. Build an online store with eCommerce plans. Our special eCommerce Plan has all the functionality you need to sell your products or services in a professionally designed, mobile-friendly store. Simply choose your favorite eCommerce template then add your product images and details. Gator includes inventory management and coupon features to help you run your business efficiently. The eCommerce store also comes with our integrated statistics feature. Using this feature you can explore which products are your top performers so you can continue to drive more sales, more revenue, and more growth. 8. Add and manage all your social media accounts.  Quickly and easily communicate with your customers by cross-promoting your social media accounts from your website homepage. This drag-and-drop feature allows you to seamlessly connect your live-feeds from popular social networks like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Additionally, Gator has a social media productivity tool, My Social Suite, that allows you to seamlessly engage and communicate with your customers as you make updates to your website. My Social Suite is an add-on product that makes social media marketing easier than ever by allowing you to manage multiple social media profiles from one dashboard. 9. Website Security.  HostGator offers free SSL certificates for all of our customers!  An SSL certificate shows website visitors that your site is secure and that they can shop or browse confidently knowing that their personal information will be protected. 10. No ads.  Some website builders promise that your website will be free, only for you to later find out they will add advertisements to your site. With Gator Website Builder, you don’t need to worry about unwanted ads on your site because all Gator plans have zero ads. After all, we know that your customers should focus on your business, nothing else. Ready to get started? No matter what type of website your business needs, Gator Website Builder has you covered. Gator gives you access to customizable design templates, image libraries, live social feeds, and integrated analytics to help you keep tabs on your website performance. The frustration-free, drag-and-drop website means that creating and editing your website requires no prior website building or coding experience. Simply choose a template for blogs, business sites, or eCommerce sites from a category that aligns with your goal, and get online fast. Choose your Gator package and get online today. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Dedicated Hosting Defined

The post Dedicated Hosting Defined appeared first on HostGator Blog. When you’re trying to find the best style of hosting for your website you’re going to have a lot of different options to consider. One form of hosting you’ll probably come across is called dedicated hosting. This style of web hosting isn’t going to be a great fit for most website owners. In fact, if you’re just getting started online you can probably get away with a basic shared hosting package. But for those who own fast-growing websites and need higher levels of performance, security, and scalability dedicated hosting could be a great fit. Below you’ll learn what dedicated hosting is, how it works, why it’s beneficial, and the type of website owner who would greatly benefit from dedicated hosting.   Dedicated Hosting Defined So, what exactly is dedicated hosting? To keep things simple, dedicated hosting is when you have an entire server to yourself. When you compare dedicated IP and shared hosting, there are many differences that you should be aware of. With shared hosting, you’ll be sharing server resources with hundreds or maybe even thousands of other websites. With shared hosting the server is divided between multiple different users and accounts, each user is given a certain amount of bandwidth, storage, and other hosting features. With dedicated hosting, you have the entire server to do whatever you want with it. So not only will you get access to greater levels of server resources, but you can optimize this server to your website’s unique requirements. Dedicated hosting functions similar to other styles of hosting, where you’ll still be paying a monthly fee for access to the server. This form of hosting pack some serious power and will help you transcend the limitations of other styles of hosting. While there are some cheap dedicated server hosting plans available, most can be quite expensive, which is why you should look around and do your research before your selection.   How Dedicated Hosting Works By now you have a little better understanding of what dedicated hosting is. Let’s dive a little deeper into how dedicated hosting works. Dedicated hosting is a very powerful form of hosting that gives users complete control over the server hardware and software. Essentially, you’ll be given a server that’s a blank slate. Like building your website from scratch, you can do the same with your server. Only adding elements that improve the functionality and performance of your site. Compare this to shared hosting where you have to fit your site’s requirements into a predefined box. You’ll also be able to customize your server depending on the amount of RAM and overall storage you require, along with the type of CPU and operating system. This makes dedicated servers for gaming a great option. . Dedicated servers are also commonly used by financial services and other companies who need to securely store and protect their data. For this reason, when you sign up for a dedicated host you get a greater level of onsite security as well.   Benefits of Dedicated Hosting There are a number of dedicated hosting benefits for the right kind of website. If you’re considering upgrading your current level of hosting, you’ll want to know what it can do for you. Dedicated hosting is typically the best fit for sites that receive a large volume of traffic, deal with sensitive user data, or have a unique software configuration. Here’s a look at all the great things that dedicated hosting can bring your website:   1. Improved Website Performance Dedicated servers not only provide you with a much-improved performance, but they also provide you with steady performance. This means that your site will have the same level of loading speeds, whether you’re receiving a viral amount of traffic or your typical amount of daily visitors. This consistency can be incredibly important, as one of the main reasons you’re probably migrating to a dedicated web host is due to the large volume of traffic your site receives. In a dedicated hosting environment all of the server resources, including bandwidth, RAM, and CPU all exist to support your website. This helps to ensure an extremely high uptime (meaning your site will virtually never be offline). Also, since you’re not sharing the server environment with any other sites your site’s performance won’t be affected by any other sites who are being resource hogs. Ensuring a high performing and steady connection is incredibly important for the site’s that value user experience or need to process payments, or store other sensitive personal or financial information. Everyday users are growing more concerned about privacy and data, especially in the online space. With dedicated hosting, your site can lead the charge in securing and protecting your visitor’s data.   2. Increased Flexibility and Optimization With a dedicated IP server, you’ll be able to have superior flexibility and control over your website. Your first choice will be choosing between a Linux or Windows operating system. This choice will depend on the configuration that suits your website the best, however, most users will opt for a Linux server setup unless they’re running a piece of software that’s Windows-only. With custom server setup you’ll be able to install whatever software your website requires to function, plus you’ll be able to allocate resources however you see fit. However, to get the most out of your server environment you’ll want a technical team that’s able to maintain and optimize your server environment for you. So, if you’re a non-technical website owner, you might need to think about bringing on technical staff. If you don’t have the capacity to bring on team members for server maintenance, then you also have the option of choosing a managed dedicated server environment. With this, you get the same levels of performance and benefits. But instead of having to complete all the technical tasks yourself, you’ll be able to rely on the team of your hosting provider. They’ll be able to provide you with services like server maintenance, optimization, and more.   3. Greater Levels of Security Dedicated hosting also offers you the added benefit of being incredibly secure. By only having a single website deployed across a server environment you’re already bolstering security. Compare this to shared hosting where you’re literally sharing a server with thousands of other sites. Using dedicated hosting can give you greater peace of mind as you’ll avoid any security issues and vulnerabilities that are associated with neighboring sites sharing the same server. You also have more control over what security measures you’re implementing both on your server, and across your website. You’ll be able to control and implement firewalls and anti-virus software that are more targeted towards your style of website. If your site deals with sensitive user data, such as health or financial information, then you can greatly benefit from web hosting with a dedicated server environment. This also has the added benefit of helping your site remain compliant with any regulations that deal with the secure storage and transmission of data.   4. Rock Solid Reliability and Scalability Has your site ever gone offline when one of your posts went viral? Or, how about during a big product sale? If you’ve experienced this, then you know how frustrating it can be. You can’t afford your site to go offline when you need it the most. For a lot of sites any time your site is offline, it’s costing you money. Dedicated hosting has a big advantage in that it can offer you stellar uptime. Now, 100% uptime is almost impossible to guarantee (maintenance has to be done sometime), but you’ll want as close to this number as possible. With dedicated hosting, you have the advantage of never having to compete for server resources. This means you’ll always have the necessary server resources available when your site is experiencing increased levels of traffic. Dedicated hosting also affords you the ability to scale your site. It’s not as instantly scalable as something like cloud hosting, but when you sign up for dedicated hosting you’ll have a built-in buffer to handle increased traffic. You can also expand your server resources in time as well, depending on the provider you choose.   Drawbacks of Dedicated Hosting Dedicated hosting isn’t perfect. Yes, you’ll have much-improved levels of performance, security, and reliability. But, you do have to deal with a higher monthly price point, and increased technical requirements. Here’s an in-depth look at the main drawbacks of dedicated hosting:   1. Higher Monthly Cost One of the biggest drawbacks of dedicated hosting costs is that it tends to be one of the more expensive hosting options available. Since you have an entire server to yourself you’ll have to pay for all of the associated costs. Compare this to shared hosting where you’ll split the cost of an entire server with hundreds of different users. You also have the consider the added costs of hiring and paying your own technical staff to manage your server for you. This won’t always make sense for your business, but it’s an expense you might have to consider. You always have the option of choosing managed dedicated hosting as well, so you’ll have your hosting provider’s technical staff to help you. But, this might come with an added cost as well.   2. Steeper Technical Requirements If you’re planning on switching from shared hosting, all the way up to dedicated hosting, you’re going to have to deal with a steep learning curve. Depending on the provider you use, you might have to handle all of the server configuration, setup, and maintenance yourself. If you’re not familiar with the intricacies of running your own server, then you’ll need to hire out additional help. If your website is big enough that you need to use a dedicated server, then it’s probably not the best use of your time to learn the technical requirements of running a server yourself. However, some providers do offer a style of dedicated hosting plans, known as managed dedicated hosting. With this, you’re paying for a technical team provided by your hosting provider to help to server maintenance, setup, and optimization.   Does My Business Need Dedicated Hosting? Dedicated hosting isn’t for every style of website. In fact, shared hosting will probably be a better fit for many websites out there. Unfortunately, most sites don’t grow to the level where dedicated hosting actually makes sense. For some sites cloud hosting or VPS hosting might even make more sense. It all depends on your unique needs as a site owner. For starters, dedicated hosting is expensive, usually ranging into the hundreds of dollars per month. Although you can probably get by with a cheaper dedicated hosting plan. If your site doesn’t receive a large volume of traffic, or you’re building out your first site, then by all means, start with shared hosting. If your site does receive a large volume of traffic, or it’s growing towards that trajectory, then you need dedicated hosting. Especially, if you’ve seen that your site’s performance has been dropping due to your current style of hosting. Dedicated hosting can easily support sites that get millions of visitors per month. Also, your site might require a custom reserver setup or higher levels of security like a SSL. For example, maybe you have a massive eCommerce store that requires unique software and custom security functions. A dedicated hosting environment can easily support your unique setup.   Closing Thoughts Hopefully, you have a better idea of what dedicated hosting actually is, how it differs from other forms of hosting, and how it can benefit your business. Dedicated hosting isn’t for everyone. But, for sites with a lot of traffic, or very specific server requirements, using a dedicated web host can greatly improve your site. With dedicated hosting plans, you’ll easily be able to support growing traffic levels while getting improved levels of reliability, security, scalability, and most of all control. However, not all dedicated hosts are created equal. Keep an eye out for these features when choosing a dedicated hosting provider: The servers run on the latest server hardware for high levels of performance and security. The servers should have added onsite security policies in place. Look for the ability to choose between unmanaged and managed dedicated hosting. Should have at least a guaranteed 99.9% level of uptime. Have a dedicated technical support team that responds to your requests quickly. For further questions on our web hosting plans or if you’re getting started with building a website, please feel free to contact HostGator today. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Dedicated IP and Shared Hosting: What’s the Difference?

The post Dedicated IP and Shared Hosting: What’s the Difference? appeared first on HostGator Blog. If you’re in the market for a new host there are a lot of things you’ll need to consider. Not only are there multiple types of web hosting available, but there are probably hundreds of different web hosting providers to choose from. Beyond choosing between the hosting provider and style of hosting, you’ll also need to sort through a lot of different technical terms and hosting requirements. After all, it can be difficult to find the right kind of hosting when you don’t know what you’re looking for. Below we look at two very common forms of hosting, shared hosting and dedicated IP hosting. Learn about what dedicated IP and shared hosting actually are, how they differ, as well as the pros and cons of each, so you can decide what style of hosting is best for your business. What is an IP Address? An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a way to reference and locate a computer that’s connected to a network. In this case, your IP address will reference the location of a server that’s connected to the internet. Every domain will be assigned an IP address. IP addresses are then mapped via the Domain Name System (DNS). This system works like an address book. When you type in a domain name into your web browser, your ISP will perform a DNS query. This query will then look up the name servers associated with your domain and finally send you to the requested website. That’s a lot of steps, but all of these tasks happen behind the scenes, and all take less than a couple of seconds. Without the DNS system, we’d be stuck typing in IP addresses into our browsers, instead of easy to remember domain names.   What’s a Dedicated IP Address? A dedicated IP address is an IP address that’s assigned to a single domain name. Think of this as your personal cell phone, as opposed to a home phone line that can be answered by anyone in your home. Here are a few of the most common benefits of a dedicated IP address:   On-Demand Website Access Sometimes you’ll want to start building your website or access it before the domain has effectively propagated. With a dedicated IP address you have direct server access, so you can view your website without having to change the DNS settings.   Improve Email Deliverability Most businesses have business email addresses that are associated with their domain names. In this case, you might also be sending emails over through an app on the server. If another site using the same IP address is using shady or spammy tactics, then this could have a negative impact on your email deliverability rates. With a dedicated IP address, your site is isolated from these negative consequences.   It’s a Requirement for Some Applications Some applications and server-side software might actually require that you have a dedicated IP address in order to function properly. This requirement isn’t as commonplace as it once was, but if you’re running a customer server, or require a unique server configuration, then a dedicated IP address might be a necessity.   Some Hosts Require Them for SSL Before, you needed a dedicated IP for SSL. Today, it’s no longer an across the board requirement, but some hosting providers might require it. It’s worth checking with your current hosting provider, to see if a dedicated IP is required for SSL.   What is Dedicated IP Hosting? Dedicated IP hosting has a variety of different meaning depending on your hosting provider. For example, it could mean that you have a dedicated IP address, but you’re still using shared hosting. Or, it can mean that you have a dedicated server, along with a dedicated IP address. Web hosting with a dedicated IP refers to your IP setup, rather than the type of hosting itself. Most hosts will be able to offer you a dedicated IP address no matter the kind of hosting environment you’re currently using. However, dedicated IP hosting typically refers to dedicated hosting. To define dedicated hosting, it is a style of hosting that provides you with your own physical server. Compare this to shared hosting where you’re sharing a single physical server with hundreds, or even thousands, of other websites.   Dedicated IP Hosting Pros and Cons The benefits of dedicated IP hosting depend on what you mean by dedicated IP hosting. If you’re strictly referring to a dedicated IP address (no matter the type of hosting you’re using), then refer to the dedicated IP address benefits above. However, if you’re referring to a dedicated IP server, then these are the benefits your site will receive:   Rock Solid Performance With a dedicated server, you have access to all of the resources of your server. This means that you’ll never run into bandwidth, disc space, or memory issues. Your site can receive a nearly unlimited volume of traffic without negatively affecting your site’s performance.   High Level of Security With a dedicated server, you not only receive a dedicated IP address, but you’ll have much higher levels of server security. With a dedicated server, you can create custom security protocols that are engineered to your unique websites. Plus, since you’re not sharing the server with any other users, a spammy or insecure website won’t affect your server.   High Level of Uptime Dedicated servers have very high uptime. You won’t experience any issues of your site being taken offline due to resource consumption.   Drawbacks of Dedicated Hosting Still, dedicated hosting isn’t perfect. Here are some of the biggest drawbacks of choosing this form of hosting:   It Can Be Expensive With a dedicated server, you’re paying for the entire physical server yourself. So, instead of splitting the costs between multiple users you’re responsible for the entire server cost yourself. However, with the higher dedicated hosting costs you’re getting direct access to a high-performance server. If you’re thinking about upgrading to a dedicated server plan, then you’re probably the type of website owner who can afford it. There are also cheap dedicated server hosting plans available, but with these it is highly recommended to do your research and know what you’re getting before purchasing.   High Level of Technical Expertise With a dedicated server, there’s a higher level of technical experience required. For example, you or your team will be responsible for server configuration and maintenance. If you don’t have the necessary technical skills, then you may need to bring on additional team members or consider using a managed hosting provider.   What’s a Shared IP Address? A shared IP address is an IP address that’s shared between multiple domains. It’s probably one of the most common IP address setups today. Hosting providers today are able to utilize a single IP address for multiple domain names, while still delivering users to the web page they specify. But, just because you’re using a shared IP address doesn’t mean that it’s shared hosting. With shared hosting, you’ll be sharing the server resources amongst multiple users on the same server. They often go together, but it’s not always the case.   What is Shared Hosting? In this section, we will discuss what is shared hosting so you can have a better idea of which hosting plan is best for you. Shared hosting is by and far the most common type of hosting. It’s well suited for beginners and can usually benefit sites up until they’re getting tens of thousands of visitors per month. Like we mentioned above, with shared hosting you’re sharing the server hardware and resources with dozens, hundreds, or maybe even thousands of other sites. This is done through server partitioning. Every user will have an allotted amount of storage, bandwidth, and more that they can use however they wish (within the host’s terms of service of course). Shared hosting is commonly equipped with an easy to use control panel, along with additional tools to help you get your site online as fast as possible, plus it’s usually the cheapest form of hosting you’ll be able to find!   Shared Hosting Pros Shared hosting is the most commonly used form of hosting in the world. It’s oriented towards beginners and can greatly aid in the site building process. Most site owners will start their online journey with a shared host, eventually “graduating” to other types of hosting as their sites expand.   It’s Cheap One of the main reasons people turn to shared hosting is because it’s incredibly cheap. Since you’re sharing server resources with other site owners you’ll be splitting these costs as well. When you’re just starting out online and don’t have much of a budget, the cheap monthly rate can be very beneficial.   Easy to Setup Shared hosting is incredibly easy to use. A shared hosting environment typically comes with pre-installed software scripts, or at least the ability to quickly install whatever kind of technology your site requires to function. For example, with a shared server environment you’ll have access to tools like WordPress, Joomla, website builders, and more. Any technical task can be accomplished through an app within cPanel.   Shared Hosting Cons Shared hosting can be very beneficial for the right kind of website owner. However, it’s not without its drawbacks. Although shared hosting can be the perfect fit when just starting out, some sites will quickly outgrow the service and need to upgrade to a higher package.   Limited Server Resources Shared hosting is limited with its disk space and bandwidth. Most websites won’t run into these limitations unless they’re growing quickly or are receiving a very high volume of traffic. However, in some cases, another site on the same server who’s experiencing a heavy load of traffic can actually negatively affect your website’s performance too.   Can’t Support Custom Setups With shared hosting, you’re given a wide range of software to choose from, but there isn’t much you can do to the actual server environment or underlying technology. You’re stuck with the customization options that are offered by the server environment, usually things like choosing your CMS or website builder, configuring email addresses, and more. If you need higher levels of customization that allows you to optimize your server environment for performance, or for your unique website needs, then you’ll need to upgrade to another form of hosting.   Dedicated IP Hosting vs Shared Hosting The main difference between dedicated IP and shared hosting is the IP address. The most common type of IP address is a shared IP address. In this scenario, multiple websites that are sharing the same server environment will also share the same IP address. With a dedicated IP address, your website is the only site that’s using the IP address—it’s yours and yours alone. When you choose dedicated server hosting it’ll typically be equipped with a dedicated IP address. It can be server specific (and you’ll receive a dedicated IP address for the server no matter how many sites you’re hosting). Or, you can have multiple dedicated IP addresses on a dedicated server environment (for each site that you’re hosting on the server). With shared hosting, you’re sharing the server resources, along with an IP address. It is possible to have a dedicated IP address on a shared server, but you’ll need to make this request through your host. Not every host has the underlying structure to support a dedicated IP address on a shared hosting environment.   Closing Thoughts Dedicated IP hosting and shared hosting both address very different needs in the hosting market. Shared hosting is a perfect choice for those just getting started online. It’s easy to use, simple to set up, and can support your site until you’re receiving pretty decent levels of traffic. However, you may run into performance issues, depending on the other site’s you’re sharing the server environment with. While if you’re using dedicated IP hosting, then you’re most likely on a dedicated server environment. Dedicated servers are oriented toward high-level sites, and and you can even use dedicated servers for games as well. A dedicated server offers you greater levels of server customization, security, control, and support for very high levels of traffic without any issues in site performance. Hopefully, you have a better idea of the differences between dedicated IP and shared hosting, so you can better choose the right hosting package when building a website. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Create Product Categories for Your Online Store

The post How to Create Product Categories for Your Online Store appeared first on HostGator Blog. There are so many things to get excited about when you’re setting up an online store—your website design, your cool product videos, your social media marketing plans, your product categories. Yes, your product categories. What may seem at first glance like boring labels are a tool that can help you get found in searches and guide your customers through your site to buy what they’re looking for. Here’s how to make those labels work harder and smarter. 1. Create Categories that Make Sense for Your Customers Set up your categories based on how your customers shop. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised. For example, if your store sells clothing for everyone, customers will expect your main categories to be women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing, each with subcategories like tops, pants, skirts, dresses, shoes, and outerwear. But if you have certain subcategories that your store sells a lot of, you can not only have them as subcategories, you can also elevate them to top-level categories of their own to boost visibility and help customers find those popular items faster. Here’s an example. Lands’ End sells clothing for women, men, and kids, along with home goods and bags, and all of those are top-level categories on its homepage navigation bar. Within the clothing categories, the brand has a solid reputation among its target market for swimwear and school uniforms. The site design could force customers to drill into the clothing categories to find those items, but it saves them time by including them as their own main categories in the nav bar. What if you’re selling something that’s a little harder to sort through? If you sell parts or supplies of any kind, you may have a lot more main categories and subcategories than the average clothing retailer—and that’s okay. Again, the key is to think like a customer as you group your items. Here are a couple of ways to do that. Online needlecraft supplier KnitPicks organizes its nav bar categories to match the way crafts shop. These customers go looking for yarn or needles or patterns or maybe a kit. All those main categories are above the fold. But sometimes yarn shoppers need yarn that’s a specific color, weight, or fiber content. Setting each of those variables up as subcategories would make the menus enormously long and not very useful. So, the site gives shoppers two options. Scroll down the homepage and click on the icon for the color, weight, or fiber they need. “See more” under the yarn tab and use the sidebar navigation tools. Dropdown filters for weight and fiber keep the other subcategory options visible above the fold. Another retailer with a lot of products takes a different approach. AutoZone categorizes its inventory by parts, accessories, tools, and other top-level categories that make sense for the DIY auto maintenance customer. But “auto parts” is a huge category on its own and could quickly become unnavigable. AutoZone has done something like Lands’ End. When customers mouse over “auto parts” they get a pop up subcategory menu that features the most popular subcategories (with their most popular subgroups) on one side and an alphabetized list of all the subcategories on the other side.   2. Use Keywords to Name Your Product Categories Once you’ve got a handle on how to set up your categories, name them with care. Use keyword research to see which terms people search for the most before you commit to anything. Why? You want your categories to appear higher in those searches. Knowing how many people each month search for, say, “handknit baby hats” versus “hand knit baby hats” can help you choose more popular category names. It almost goes without saying that category names are not the place to get wacky and creative. Naming your baby hat category “lids for tiny kids” is cute, but it won’t help customers or search engines find your store, and it won’t help you make sales.   3. Make Your Category Pages Pop Shoppers who are truly browsing through your store—like someone who’s buying a gift—and people who aren’t sure exactly what they need will appreciate it if your category pages include useful or fun information. Target, for example, creates an online browsing experience for its patio furniture category by segmenting its products into collections, followed by links to each subcategory—all enhanced with product photos. Meanwhile, REI includes “helpful advice and inspiration” on its camping and hiking product category page to help new outdoorspeople and gift shoppers decide what they need. If you include relevant keywords in your category page content, it can also help with your store’s SEO.   4. Be Consistent When You Categorize Your Products Category filters (to refine category results by color, size, or something else) help customers find what they want quickly, if you’re consistent about tagging every product in your store with the proper categories and attributes like color and size. Otherwise, when customers use category filters to search for a “women’s brown leather belt,” all your relevant products might not show up, and you might miss out on a sale. And if your store offers dozens or hundreds of women’s brown leather belts, add more filters (size, width, hardware color) to help shoppers narrow their results to a manageable list.     Analyze Your Product Categories for Success Featuring popular product subcategories is a great tactic if you know what they are. If your store is new, or if you regularly add new types of products, you may not know exactly what’s hot. You can (and should) regularly review your sales to see which categories are strong sellers. It’s also a good idea to set up Google Analytics to get insights about how your visitors move around your site. Are they following your category trees from homepage to product, or do they bail out halfway through? Are they using your elevated navigation tabs for popular subcategories? Do their clicks lead to conversions, or do they leave without buying anything? You can use all this data to refine your subcategories, decide which ones to make into top-level categories, and make other improvements. Ready to set up your store? Gator Website Builder helps you get started quickly and easily, with drag-and-drop site design tools, e-commerce functionality, analytics, and more than 200 mobile-friendly, customizable templates. Be sure to add an SSL certificate to protect your customers’ data, keep your site safe from attacks, and get better SEO. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

What is a Content Management System?

The post What is a Content Management System? appeared first on HostGator Blog. To be a successful business owner, one of the important skills you need is the ability to identify the right tools that enable you to run your business effectively. For many businesses, that will include using a content management system (CMS).   What is a Content Management System? A web content management system is software expressly designed to help you create, edit, organize, and publish your content online. It provides an intuitive interface for editing your web pages that saves you from having to deal with coding directly, or call your developer each time you need to make an update. And it makes it easy to provide the right level of access to every person in your company that contributes or makes changes to the website. Within a CMS, you can store all the content you’ve already created and any media you want to include on your website. You can easily keep track of which content is published, which is scheduled, and which is in draft form. And many CMSs allow you to track changes to pieces of content, so you can see how versions differ and revert to an earlier one if needed. Does My Business Need a Content Management System? For small businesses, “need” might be too strong a word here, but most businesses will benefit from having a CMS. A CMS will particularly be useful for any business where: Anyone in charge of making updates to the website lacks coding skills. Whether you have a one-person business or over 100 employees, if anyone in a position to add content to the website or make tweaks to the pages already there isn’t skilled at coding, they’ll struggle to do their job without a CMS. And since small coding errors can sometimes bring down a whole site, you don’t want to take that risk. Multiple people have access to the site, each of them for different tasks. A CMS lets you set up accounts for the different people in your company that need some level of access to the website, but you can define what level of access they have with WordPress user roles to improve security. If you hire a blogger to write and publish blog posts, you don’t have to give them the ability to make changes to your home page. A CMS gives you control over who can change what, and helps you protect your website from accidental errors and malicious changes alike. You already have or plan to create a lot of content. If your business is doing a content marketing strategy, a CMS provides a centralized location for you to store and manage all the different pieces of content you have. Everyone involved in content creation, editing, and scheduling can easily access everything they need and keep track of its status. A good web content management system will make managing your website a lot easier—both for you and anyone else you employ to help out. And it will help you keep your content and web pages organized and looking the way you want them to.   How Much Do Content Management Systems Cost? As a business owner, it sometimes feels like you can’t go a whole day without hearing about some new product or service you need. You only have so much money to spend, so even if the argument is persuasive, learning that there’s one more product you should invest in is often dispiriting. So here’s the good news: almost all of the most popular content management systems are free. They have add-ons and plug-ins that cost more, if you want additional features. And in some cases, hiring a web developer or someone to help you get your CMS set up or get more out of it is worth it. But a good CMS in and of itself doesn’t have to cost you anything. Even with a CMS though, you will still need to invest in web hosting and register a domain name, if you haven’t already. And a CMS isn’t usually the best tool for doing web design—you’ll want a professional web designer or a good website builder for that part. But once you have those basics covered, a CMS enables you to maintain and update your website over time without any added cost.   What to Look for in a Content Management System Every business is different, so what your business will value most in a CMS depends on your particular goals and needs. Even so, there are a few main features most businesses will want to consider when deciding which CMS to go with. Look for a CMS that: Is within your budget. This may seem strange to mention when we just told you that most content management systems are free, but there are potential costs involved you need to consider. To start, a couple of CMS options that provide specialized features or functionality do have a price, so there’s a small chance your best option won’t be free. Secondly, even with free CMS tools, you’ll likely want to use some plugins or extensions to get the full functionality you need. So before you make a decision, research the cost of the additional tools you expect to invest in, so you get a more accurate picture of the full cost of your choice.   Is intuitive. Some content management systems are more user friendly for beginners than others. Sometimes that means a tradeoff: a CMS that’s harder to learn and work with could provide more options for customization, if you know what you’re doing. If you value ease of use over being able to realize a very specific vision, then you want to look for a CMS that you’ll be able to start using without having to spend a lot of time learning the ropes. Lets you define permissions and roles. If more than one person will be involved with updating the website, you want the power to control who has access and what kind of access they have. A CMS that makes it easy to set up other users and define their level of permissions reduces the risk of letting people into the backend of your website by making sure each one can only make the kinds of changes you’ve assigned. Makes it easy to apply proper formatting. Strong copywriting can improve your website tremendously. Generally speaking, good writing for the web includes using headings and formatting to organize your content for readability. Applying that formatting with HTML can be confusing, so a good CMS should provide easy options for doing so within its interface. Adding headings, italics, bolding, and list options should be a simple as clicking on a button. Helps you organize your content and media. The more web content you create, the more important it will be to have a good method for keeping it all organized. Consider if your CMS provides options for categorizing the content, blog posts,and media you upload, and easily finding the specific piece you need at the moment you need it. Provides support. Technology is complicated and you’ll inevitably hit up against questions or challenges when using your CMS. Choose an option that has plenty of online resources for helping you find the answers you need and/or customer support staff you can reach out to. Because the most popular content management systems have huge communities of users, you can usually find good support resources in spite of not paying for the software. Is compatible with your other software. If you already have software you use for things like e-commerce, website analytics, or customer relationship management (CRM), then you want to make sure your CMS will play nice with the tools you have. Provides on-site optimization features. You want people to find your website, so SEO should be a top priority. A CMS can simplify optimizing your web pages for SEO with features that allow you to customize page URLs, title tags, headings, and alt tags—all without having to touch the page’s code. Has an extensive library of plugins. The CMS will provide the basic functionality you need, but most businesses will want access to an array of different features that don’t come with the CMS itself. For that, you’ll need plugins or extensions. The most popular content management systems have huge libraries of plugins made by hundreds of developers that you can use to add functionality to your website. Offers security options. The flip side of choosing a CMS that’s popular is that it could become the target of hackers. But you can protect yourself from that risk by making sure the CMS provides basic security options such as two-factor authentication, security software and plugins, and regular updates to fix any security vulnerabilities they find. You may not need every one of these features, but consider which ones you’d like your CMS to have and how much of a priority each one is. Once you get set up with a CMS, it’s easier to stick with it than to switch to a new new one, so making the right decision to start will make your life a lot easier.   5 Most Popular Content Management Systems When starting your search for the right CMS for your business, there’s a good chance one of the most popular content management systems out there will satisfy your needs. Here are the main ones to check out.   1. WordPress Easily the most popular CMS, with well over half of the market share, WordPress is a great choice for many websites. There are endless benefits of WordPress as a content management system. Because of its popularity, there are loads of experts and developers working to provide a vast library of resources for the CMS. That includes over 50,000 popular WordPress plugins, thousands of themes to choose from, dozens of thorough WordPress blogs, and a huge community of users who can help with any questions you have. WordPress itself is free. Many of the plugins and themes will cost you, although often the cost is reasonable. And you can even find WordPress web hosting plans specifically designed to work well with this content management system. For lots of small businesses, WordPress will provide just what you need.   2. Joomla Joomla is one of the other most popular content management systems out there. While its community isn’t nearly as large as that of WordPress, it still boasts over 2 million sites and 1,400 volunteers who help keep the CMS running smoothly and improving over time. Joomla has a reputation for being a little harder to learn than WordPress, but it’s still pretty easy for beginners and advanced users alike. And they provide a comprehensive library of resources to help users learn how to get started with Joomla and get the most out of it. Like WordPress, Joomla is free, but you can invest in extensions that add functionality at a cost.   3. Drupal Drupal is the third most popular CMS option, with over 1 million websites using it. They have a reputation for being better suited for developers with some skill than for beginners, and for providing more options for customizing your site and powering more complex solutions. Like the others, Drupal itself is free, and there are many integrated modules you can use to customize your website that are also free. But since taking advantage of the CMS’s flexibility to do more with your website requires skill, you may need to spend money on a developer to get your site where you want it to be.   4. Magento Magento is a CMS that’s specifically designed for ecommerce websites. Magento has both a free open source version and paid versions that pack greater functionality. The free version includes ecommerce features like mobile shopping and integrated checkout, payment, and shipping functionality. The paid version includes additional analytics and marketing features. For ecommerce businesses, it’s worth looking into.   5. Blogger Blogger is a simple and straightforward CMS for anyone primarily interested in learning how to start a blog. It’s free and easy to use, but somewhat limited in its functionality in comparison to the other content management systems on this list. It’s not an open source CMS, which means there’s less flexibility and fewer plugins or other add-ons you can use to customize your website or add functionality. For simple websites, it can be a good enough choice. For many businesses, it won’t offer enough features for your needs.   Choosing a Content Management System for Your Website The easier it is to update your website, the more power you have to improve how well it works over time. The right CMS will put control of your website into your hands, without having to learn complicated programming languages. Determine which of these solutions makes the most sense for your business and get started. HostGator supports all of the most popular content management systems with our web hosting plans, including WordPress, Magento, Drupal, and Joomla. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Free Webinars You Don’t Want to Miss in February

The post Free Webinars You Don’t Want to Miss in February appeared first on HostGator Blog. The HostGator team is pleased to announce not one, but two, FREE webinars we’re hosting this month to help you get more out of your website and web hosting! Learn more and RSVP at the links below: February 13: Build Your Website with the Gator Website Builder! It’s now easier than ever to build a professionally-designed, reliable website without needing a ton of technical skills – thanks to the new Gator Website Builder from HostGator! Join us February 13th for a FREE webinar as the product team from HostGator.com demos the powerful new Gator Website Builder.It’s time to make your website dreams a reality. Register now. February 20: Live Demo: HostGator’s New Customer Portal The updated HostGator Customer Portal arrives March 2019, with an intuitive new look designed to make your life easier, so you can get back to focusing on what matters – creating great content for your website and managing your business. Join us February 20th for a FREE webinar where we’ll share an exclusive sneak peek and guided demo of the new customer portal. Register now. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

5 Reasons to Set Up Your Email List with Constant Contact

The post 5 Reasons to Set Up Your Email List with Constant Contact appeared first on HostGator Blog. Email marketing plays a critical role in engaging your customers. It’s an opportunity to build a quality relationship beyond website visits. With the help of email, small businesses can level the playing field against their large corporate competitors. Sending a personalized message to each subscriber opens the door to more revenue. However, your team needs the right platform to facilitate the behind-the-scenes action. Constant Contact makes it possible with its powerful features and benefits. Ready to take your email marketing to the next level? Here are five reasons to use Constant Contact today. 1. Customizable Templates Small businesses run on limited resources. It’s not feasible for your team to know every aspect of email marketing. So, when it comes to designing email templates, your team may get stuck on what to do next. You all may decide to send plain-text messages or stick to the cookie-cutter templates. Constant Contact gives your small business more options with hundreds of customizable templates. Each template is easy to edit with a reliable drag-and-drop experience. Your team can personalize the colors and fonts to match your brand. Research shows that 46% of all email opens happen on mobile devices. Therefore, it’s imperative to build mobile-responsive email designs. But no worries, Constant Contact handles the heavy lifting for your small business. Moreover, templates should coincide with your intended message. From holiday designs to event invitations, your team can fit the right design with the right copy. No more generating templates from scratch, too. These reusable templates offer flexibility for every campaign. Forget the hassles of creating your own templates or hiring an expensive designer who can. With Constant Contact’s customizable templates, you get high-quality designs at your fingertips.   2. Targeted Campaigns In email marketing, it’s not good enough to just send any message to your subscribers. An irrelevant email gets quickly ignored, leaving your customers confused and frustrated. Personalization is important when developing your campaigns. You want every message to have a purpose and offer value to the recipient. As Forbes contributor states: “All your email messages should offer some value to your users. That could be showing them your best content, offering discounts, or letting them in on news they won’t find elsewhere—whatever it is, it needs to mean something to your target audience.” Segmentation helps you deliver the right message to your consumers. Your segments may differ because of your marketing goals. You can send specific emails based on purchasing behavior, shopping habits, or even geographic location. Constant Contact’s click segmentation feature lets your team automatically add a subscriber to a list every time the contact clicks a link, a button, or a clickable image in your email. You then can send more targeted, behavioral messages. Avoid the trap of placing your subscribers inside a marketing box where they all receive the exact same message. Instead, your team should aim to customize the inbox experience with smart email marketing automation.   3. Contact Management As your small business begins to grow, you’ll want to keep accurate records of your contact list. Performing a regular check of your contacts ensures everyone in receiving relevant messages. A healthy email list is one free of inactive subscribers who haven’t opened your emails in a long period of time. For some companies, this period may be six months or one year. List maintenance acts a safeguard. Your goal is to connect with interested buyers desiring to hear about your products and announcements. If you already possess a list, Constant Contact offers the option to upload it from Excel, Gmail, or Outlook. Still in the list building stage? No problem, the platform also lets you add new contacts from your Facebook page and website. Contact management is essential to your small business operations. Rather than forget or neglect it, take action with Constant Contact.   4. Performance Tracking Before email became a legitimate marketing tool, companies sent out random emails to announce an upcoming sale or remind subscribers about a local event. No one really thought about measuring the effectiveness of each campaign. Over the years, tracking the performance of your emails has become a major aspect of email marketing. Teams are evaluating everything from open rates to click-through rates to bounce rates. Constant Contact provides real-time tracking to observe who’s opening, clicking, and sharing your emails. The in-depth reporting allows you to measure campaign performance over time and see who is engaged and who isn’t. Take a simple approach to improve the performance of your campaigns. John Grimshaw,  analytics and data manager at DigitalMarketer, offers his advice: “An easy way to improve click-through rate is to avoid over-selling your products or services through email and instead focus on getting people to click your link. The body of the email only has one job: sell the click.” Performance tracking is crucial to understanding your small business’s email marketing efforts. Constant Contact makes measuring your impact easier.   5. Loyalty Incentives For small businesses, customer retention is a key part in sustainability. You want customers to stick with your brand, rather than purchasing one item and never seeing them again. Loyalty is often earned in the customer relationship. It’s unrealistic to assume if a customer buys from you once that they will repurchase. You need to offer something in return to entice them to revisit your brand. Offering loyalty incentives is one solution to maintaining your customer base. An incentive can include anything from a 10% coupon on the next purchase or a special invitation to an exclusive event. With Constant Contact’s PLUS plan, your team can create a mobile-responsive coupon within an email and track when it’s claimed, shared, and redeemed. This tactic helps boost referrals to your small business. Keep your customers coming back for more with loyalty incentives. Email is the vehicle to drive engagement and sales.   Email Marketing With Confidence Leveraging email marketing will equip small businesses to compete in today’s marketplace. With Constant Contact, your team can save time and money with customizable templates and targeted campaigns. Skip all the hassle and add Constant Contact to your email marketing toolkit. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Use Content To Build Trust

The post How to Use Content To Build Trust appeared first on HostGator Blog. Running a small eCommerce business is hard. Every day it feels like competing with the big guys is a bigger challenge than ever. You can’t afford offer the convenience and low prices of businesses like Amazon and Walmart, so how are you supposed to compete? One of the areas small businesses can win on is trust. But where past generations would develop trust by getting to know the person behind the counter each time they came in to shop, today you need to figure out how to build a comparable relationship online. For most businesses, the best option is with content marketing. Why Trust is So Important to Business Consumers have limited money to go around, so every spending choice they make has to count. If you’ve ever had the experience of buying something only to realize the product didn’t perform as needed or the business didn’t offer adequate support, then you know how emotional the experience can be—it can feel like a betrayal, even if the financial cost itself was small. Consumers want to buy from brands they can trust. This is backed up by research. PwC found that 43% of consumers name trust as an important factor when choosing a brand—falling only behind price. And if anything, finding ways to build trust is even more important for eCommerce businesses, since your customers can’t see and feel the products they buy before they hand over their money. How do they know they’ll receive their order and that it will be what they need? Or if it’s not, that they can work with the company for a painless return? They have to trust you.   How Content Marketing Builds Trust If your main source of interaction with customers is your website, you have to use that space to show your customers who you are and why you’re trustworthy. And telling them they should trust you isn’t as powerful as showing them. Content marketing is how you show rather than just tell. And it works. The Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) 2018 research found that 96% of the top performing B2B marketers say they’ve built trust with their audience, and 81% of B2C marketers that do content marketing say their audience views them as a trusted resource.   Content marketing successfully builds trust for a few main reasons.   It emphasizes helping over selling. One of the core tenets of good content marketing is that you can’t make it all about you. CMI’s research found that 90% of the businesses that are most successful in their content marketing efforts say they put their audience’s needs first. If you think about all of the people you trust in your life, you’ll probably realize that a key feature of those relationships is that they’re not all about what the other person can get from you. Good relationships include mutual care and effort. While the relationship between a business and a consumer is obviously different, this part holds true. If the only messaging your audience ever sees from you is pushing the hard sell, you’re not giving them any reason to trust you. But when you commit time and resources to creating content that’s genuinely helpful to them, you show them you care about them beyond the bottom line.   It demonstrates your expertise. This is especially important for service-based businesses. You can use content like blog posts, videos, podcasts, and ebooks to show your audience that you have the necessary skills and knowledge to do the work you want them to hire you for. Even for businesses that sell products, content gives you a chance to show your audience that you understand what they care about—a necessary step in providing products designed to better meet their needs.   It shows the humans behind the brand. People will never feel the same kind of connection to a logo or brand name that they do to another human being. But your business isn’t just a brand, it’s made up of people. Creating original content gives you the chance to show more of the people behind the business and humanize the brand for your visitors. When consumers associate names and faces with your business, as well as products, it makes you more trustworthy.   5 Tips for Creating Content that Earns Customer Trust Doing content marketing isn’t enough on its own to earn customer trust, you have to do it well. To help you put together a content strategy that will earn you the trust of your audience, here are five important strategies to employ.   1. Put the customer first. It’s human nature to think about your own needs and priorities, but when it comes to content marketing, you have to put real effort into putting your audience’s needs and interests first. Take time to understand who your audience is and what they care about. Then craft your content strategy around them. That means not centering your products and services (although you can mention them anytime doing so is useful to your audience). Focus first on providing value and building a relationship with your audience, and only later on selling. If you build trust first, you’ll be more successful when you do make the sales pitch.   2. Create unique content. This was one of the main suggestions Cathy McPhillips, Vice President of Marketing at the Content Marketing Institute, offered on a recent call. She’s noticed way too much content out there from different brands that cover all the same topics. “Why would you trust one company over another if they’re pushing out the same information?” she asks. There’s no room for differentiation if you’re repeating information someone else has already provided, and it doesn’t give your readers any good reason to trust you over another brand. So look for gaps in the information that’s out there. Or make sure that if you do tackle a topic your competitors have already covered that you bring a unique spin or angle to it.   3. Use your subject matter experts. This is another point Cathy made: marketers aren’t always the best experts on the industries they’re working in. “Just because they’re the best writers and the best communicators in the business does not mean they know their product the best,” she pointed out. But you don’t have to create content entirely on your own. “Lean on your other departments,” Cathy said. “Use all your internal resources to help you be an expert and be someone your customers trust.” As an example, she brought up Indium, a company in the specialized and highly technical industry of solder supply. The marketing team there will never understand the products and industry as well as the engineers in the company do. So they made the engineers a part of their content by creating video interviews. The video content provides valuable information to their audience while also positioning the company as experts in the industry. 4. Be authentic. People can recognize pandering. If it looks like you’re trying too hard to relate to your audience—while they always know that just underneath your actions is the desire to sell you something—it will drive them away. That means you have to find the right mix of focusing on what they care about, while also staying true to yourself in your marketing. If your research suggests your target audience is full of people likely to love Star Trek, slipping a reference into your marketing can be a way to connect with your audience on a more human level—but only if you’re also enough of a fan to get the reference right. Do try to incorporate the language and interests of your target audience into your marketing, but only insofar as you can do so naturally. If a marketing choice feels forced, you’re probably better off not using it.   5. Be transparent. People have come to expect the worst from many companies they work with. When you hear about a big company covering up a data breach or attempting to silence employees that complain about harsh working conditions, are you ever surprised? You can set yourself apart by embracing radical honesty. Some brands are already doing this with their content marketing and seeing great success. Publishing about your failures, providing the numbers about where your earnings go, sharing employee salary information, or even highlighting use cases where your competitor’s product is a better choice are all ways to boldly tell your audience who you are. Someone who’s just as upfront about their flaws as their strengths will always be more trustworthy than someone’s who’s all bluster. If you’re not ashamed to admit the truth, even in areas where it’s not entirely flattering, that shows your audience that they can trust what you have to say.   Build Trust, Build Business For the customers that will never meet you in person, you need to find a way to still connect with them as a human being. Content marketing provides that opportunity and enables you to build relationships with your audience while demonstrating all the reasons they can trust you. That’s more valuable than just making a sale, it’s the path to creating loyal customers.   Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Use a Website Builder to Create Your eCommerce Site in 8 Steps

The post Use a Website Builder to Create Your eCommerce Site in 8 Steps appeared first on HostGator Blog. Today building an online store is easier than ever. As a result, eCommerce stores have been exploding in popularity. Before, you’d need to hire a professional developer to build the complex elements required to sell products online. But, with today’s web builders you can literally drag and drop your way towards creating your first eCommerce store. Below you’ll learn how a website builder can help you build an eCommerce store in record time, the benefits to doing so, and the steps you’ll want to take to get started. Why Use a Website Builder? When you’re building an eCommerce store you have a lot on your plate. You not only have to research your market, name your store, determine what products you’re going to sell, set your prices, calculate shipping, and market your store, but you need to build a website on top of all that. To make your life much easier, you can simply choose from dozens of professionally designed and created eCommerce themes available with a website builder. Then, all you have to do is customize them to your liking. This will not only save you a ton of time, but it takes the guesswork out of designing a store that looks good and converts.   What to Look for in an eCommerce Website Builder You’re going to have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to choosing the right eCommerce website builder for your needs. There are a ton website builders out there, but ultimately you’ll want to choose a builder that’s best suited to the needs and goals of your store. Here are some features to keep an eye out for: An extensive theme selection with niche-specific theme choices. A selection of responsive themes that look good and function properly on any screen size. A drag and drop builder to quickly customize your eCommerce site. Bundled eCommerce features like inventory management and coupon creation. A high-performance hosting environment behind the builder. A solid support team to walk you through any issues. Once you’ve settled upon an eCommerce website builder, it’s time to start creating your store. If you’re still unsure about what builder will be best suited for your needs, then take the new Gator builder for a spin. It includes all of the features above and more.   How to Use Gator to Create Your eCommerce Store Building out your eCommerce store with a website builder is a pretty simple and intuitive process. If you’re using the Gator builder, you can follow the simple steps below.   1. Select Your Theme Gator has over 100 responsive templates you can choose from, all of them designed by skilled professionals knowledgeable about web design best practices. And to save you time and make the choice easier, they’re categorized based on common types of websites, so you can quickly find a template that matches the kind of online store you’re starting. Every Gator template is responsive, so you don’t have to worry about doing any extra work to make sure your website looks good on mobile—which is crucial in an era when a significant amount of online shopping happens on mobile devices. But you can also quickly check and see how your website will look on a smaller screen during the design process by clicking on the mobile icon at the top of the editor. Take some time to browse your options and find something you like. The closer your template comes to the design you have in mind, the less work you’ll have to do to bring it line with your vision. And when you get your website done faster, you can launch your store and start making money sooner!   2. Customize Your Design Once you’ve selected your template, get to work customizing it for your business. Easily move any element on the page to where you want it to be by clicking on it, dragging it to a new spot, and dropping it into place. Add unique copy and change out fonts and text size by clicking on the text already on the page, or adding a new text box. You can do that by clicking on the plus sign in the editor, or in the Sections setting on the menu on the left side of the page. Change out the images included in the theme by uploading your own in the Style section on the right side of the screen, and add new ones by selecting Images when you go to add a new section. In the left side menu, you can add Elements to the page, such as buttons, contact forms, a map to your business site, and your social feeds. Also on the left side menu, you can easily change out the color scheme and backgrounds in the template, and add any new sections to the page you want included. The editor is designed to be easy for even beginners to use, so spend some time playing around in it to get a feel for what you can do.   3. Decide How to Organize Your Site Organizing your website well is important both to make sure it’s intuitive for your visitors and to improve your SEO. For an eCommerce store, a good site organization requires considering two main things: What are the most important pages to include on your main menu. What are the most customer-friendly categories to divide your products into Your main menu should include the most important pages on your website. For almost all businesses, that will include your Home page, About page, and a Contact page. For customers that provide services, it may also include a portfolio or gallery that collects examples of your work. For those with product-based businesses, you can include a general Products link in your main menu with the main product categories listed underneath it. Or you can include the main product categories in the menu themselves, if there aren’t that many. In Gator you can update the Menu by scrolling over it, clicking on Pages Menu, then selecting Manage Pages. You can drag different page names to the place in the menu you want them to be in. Delete a page from the menu by clicking on it, then clicking on the trash can that shows up to the right. And add a new page by clicking Add Page and filling in the information for it in the form that comes up. Gator will helpfully create a unique URL for you that reflects the page name, but you can edit the URL if you’d prefer it to be something else. When determining the best categories to use, try to get inside the heads of your customers and think about their priorities when looking for your products. If you sell floral arrangements, useful categories may include the main occasions people buy flowers for (weddings, sympathy, romantic gestures, etc.), price points, or the primary colors present in an arrangement. Think about what customers most consistently ask for when coming to you. In Gator you can manually create your most important category pages in the main editor, and also add more categories in the Store app, as you’ll see later in step #5. To add relevant subcategories that will show up in the dropdown for your main menu pages, add a new page for each subcategory and drag it underneath the page you’ve added to the main menu. You can use this page to highlight all the relevant products that fall into the category, and to optimize your site for the relevant SEO keyword. Figuring out your site’s organization will help you determine the different pages you need to create, which prepares you for our next step.   4. Create Your Main Pages Your template will come with a number of pages already created. Now you just need to make any changes to the pages already supplied so they match what you need, and add any new pages you want to the site. Common pages to consider creating (or modifying) in this step include: Your homepage that communicates your unique selling proposition (USP) and highlights your most popular products. An about page that tells visitors what your store is about and highlights your mission. A gallery or portfolio that showcases your work. High-level category pages that group similar products based on attributes your customers will be looking for A blog where you can post educational information, product updates, and more. A contact page that tells customers how to reach out and get in touch, and includes your address and hours if you have a physical location. For any pages you create that don’t come supplied with your theme, you can simplify the creation process by copying a similar page you already have and going from there. For each of these pages, take a few minutes to optimize them for SEO for keywords relevant to your online store. And consider opportunities to promote your email list or include CTAs to drive sales wherever relevant.   5. Upload Your Products With the above steps taken care of, it’s time to start adding your products to the website. In Gator, click on Store in the menu on the left side of the page, then Manage Products and Orders. This will take you to the Gator store app, where you can start adding your products. The app will walk you through the process in a number of easy steps. Select whether it’s a physical product or service. Fill in name, pricing info, and your description. Upload your product photo. And voila! You’ve created your product. You can add each product you’ve added to the relevant pages on your website by going into Elements, selecting Products, and dragging the product box to where you want it on the page.   6. Setup Your Payment Processor Without setting up and integrating a payment processor your customers will have no way of actually paying you. In the Gator store app, you can get your payment information set up by clicking on Settings, then Payment Providers. The app makes it easy to add PayPal and Stripe to your store, so you can securely process credit card payments. 7. Setup Your Order and Shipping Details Also in Settings, you can fill in the main information needed to complete orders, such as shipping costs, the address order emails will be sent to, and the tax rate that should be applied to all orders. Filling all these in will help automate the process when orders come in, so that you have an easier time processing them in a timely manner and tracking them over time. You can also add relevant legal documents, tracking details for shipments, and create templated customer emails to automatically go out when orders are made, shipped, and delivered. In the Advanced Features section, you can enable discounts, offer variations of products (such as by size or color), and simplify the shipping process with Shippo integration. You can also set up product categories that allow customers to display products grouped by attributes they have in common. While you can also create category pages in the Editor, this automates the process and makes it easier for you build out the different possible categories your customers may want to filter product results by.   Finish Your eCommerce Store and Launch! With Gator, you can build out a simple eCommerce store in a matter of hours. And while stores that include a lot of products or categories will take more time than that, adding everything you need will be a simple process. The faster you can get your website up, the sooner you start making money from it. Dive right in and start building now! Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Why Your Online Store Needs Omnichannel Marketing

The post Why Your Online Store Needs Omnichannel Marketing appeared first on HostGator Blog. Your online store is up and running. You’ve got a blog, an email list, and social media accounts on the platforms where your ideal customers spend the most time. You’re marketing your store through lots of channels, but are you coordinating those efforts or missing opportunities? Omnichannel marketing can help you connect all your marketing pathways for better results. Here’s a primer on what omnichannel marketing is, how it can help you grow your business, and how to begin. What Is Omnichannel Marketing? Despite the “omni” in the name, omnichannel doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean marketing in every channel in existence. And it’s not the same thing as multichannel marketing, which is—you guessed it—marketing in multiple channels. Instead, omnichannel marketing creates a single, holistic view of customer behavior by collecting and analyzing data across channels to create customized offers and consistent customer experiences in every channel where they encounter your business. For businesses, the benefits are more and better data for more effective promotions, more conversions, and a greater likelihood of attracting the kinds of shoppers who make more purchases. SAS found that consumers who shop in more than one channel spend “three to four times more than single-channel customers do.”     Imagining Omnichannel Marketing Here’s a simple way to think of the omnichannel approach to building customer relationships. Let’s say the owner of your favorite restaurant knows your name, your favorite table, and your partner’s favorite dessert order. When you see her in your neighborhood, she always says hi and asks how you’re doing. That’s roughly analogous to an omnichannel customer experience—the restaurant owner always recognizes you and keeps up with how you’re doing and what you like, even when she’s not actively trying to sell you dinner. You’re probably going to dine at her place often and enjoy it. But what if she only sometimes gave you a warm welcome at the restaurant and didn’t recognize you at other times, or made it weird at the grocery store by telling you about her restaurant like you’d never been there? How likely would you be to dine at her restaurant again? That’s the kind of awkwardness and lost business that omnichannel marketing can help avoid. Think about how your marketing channels work together and where you can improve.   How Can You Make Your Marketing Omnichannel? The first step is to gather all your data in one place, or as few places as possible, so you can get a good view of how people find your store and shop there. Using the same payment service provider across all your sales channels—web, social media, in-store—can go a long way toward setting up your omnichannel marketing situation. That’s because payment providers (like Square) collect data you can use in your marketing efforts. This omnichannel sales data can help you get started by providing the same types of data in the same format so you can easily track customers’ purchase behaviors in each channel. It can also streamline your loyalty program so customers can earn and use points online and in-store if you have brick-and-mortar or pop-up locations. Once you’ve got your sales data centralized, check in on your web and social media analytics. Google Analytics is the best-known tool for website traffic analysis, and you can use it to analyze your email and social media data, too. To keep things simple, you can use a WordPress plugin like MonsterInsights to bring your Google Analytics data into your WP dashboard. You can also use the Google Analytics tracking code for your site in your marketing emails. For example, Constant Contact walks its users through the process of adding the code, checking links for known issues, and gathering data from email campaigns to see who’s opening your emails, what they click, and what they buy. Google Analytics can track your social media traffic, too. Neil Patel’s walkthrough of Google Analytics’ social media reports is filled with details you can apply to your omnichannel marketing program. Maybe the most important thing is that Google Analytics can report on conversions sorted by your goals. And it breaks down conversions into last-interaction and assisted categories, so you can see whether a particular visitor from social media to your site bought during that visit or later on. With all of this traffic data and your sales data, you’ll have a better map of how all your channels work together (or don’t yet) to bring customers to your social media channels, your email list, and your store, and what those customers do along the way. Then it’s time to start refining and testing your efforts so that the journey from potential customer to loyal customer is as easy as possible. For example, you can use your data to improve your customer segmentation for more highly targeted and specific email and social media campaigns. You can also use this data to create more effective retargeting ads—another way to ensure that your customers and site visitors see the things that interest them and make them want to return to your store.   The Omnichannel Marketing Takeaway Discussions about digital marketing and data analytics can get very detailed and technical. If you’re interested in going down that path, there’s a world of information online for you. If you’d rather keep things simple, here’s the takeaway: Omnichannel marketing uses data from all your channels to show you where your customers go and what they do so you can get to know them and keep up with them. Omnichannel marketing uses data from all your channels to make your customers feel recognized and welcome through personalized and targeted email, social media, and other campaigns. Omnichannel marketing tools that collect and analyze your data are inexpensive or free. With good data and and a carefully thought-out omnichannel approach, you can give your customers what they want, earn their loyalty, and grow your business. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Today’s 5 Best Free WordPress Themes for Freelancer Websites

The post Today’s 5 Best Free WordPress Themes for Freelancer Websites appeared first on HostGator Blog. Every freelancer needs a website for one major reason: Clients can’t find you if you don’t show up in their search results. Other reasons freelancers need websites are to show your work to prospective clients, to let prospects know which kinds of services you provide (and which you don’t), and to give people an easy way to get in touch with you. To make the most of your website, you’ll need a theme that loads fast, looks good and is easy to use on phones and computers, and establishes your professional brand. Here are five free WordPress themes that work well for different types of freelance businesses. 1. Bootstrap Journal Bootstrap Journal from Bootstrap Themes describes itself as feminine, but perhaps a better word is fun. The fonts are what give this image-heavy theme a slightly whimsical look, which can work for freelancers in businesses that require an outgoing personality, like wedding and event planners, independent travel agents, stylists, makeup artists, and hair stylists. This theme is best for freelancers who have a strong visual portfolio to display. On my laptop, the full-width header image fills the space above the fold. Beneath it are page navigation tabs and a 5-image grid with post titles over the images. Post excerpts with large images follow, and there’s a subscription box to encourage visitors to join your email list. On a smartphone, everything converts to one column. Bootstrap Journal is responsive, fast, SEO friendly and WooCommerce compatible. The pro version ($49) adds ad management tools, multiple design customization options, and an editable copyright text option.   2. Clean Fotografie Clean Fotografie from Catch Themes, as you might guess from the name, is a good choice for freelance photographers. It’s also useful for freelancers in other businesses whose portfolio is mainly visual, like makeup artists, fine artists, interior decorators, and landscape designers. Clean Fotografie’s responsive design puts images front and center on computers and phones, gives you hero image options for your home page or the entire site, a portfolio feature, full-screen HD image capabilities, and Instagram compatibility. The free version also includes customization options for text excerpts, menus, header media, and layouts. On a laptop screen, the header media includes a call-to-action button to get visitors moving through the site. Beneath the header, a three-column row of images for categories is followed by a header image and text block, featured images in another three-column row, and news items with large featured images. On a smartphone, the content shifts into a single column but keeps the focus on images rather than text. Clean Fotografie’s pro version ($55) is WooCommerce ready and adds more customization options,  featured slider tools, and font families.   3. Experon Experon from ThinkUp Themes looks like a good option for freelancers who work in a field that requires precision and a sense of understated style, thanks to the hexagonal category icons below the slider banner. Because of the design, the above-the-slider-banner tabs for pages and social media, and the three-category row just beneath the banner, Experon is a good option for a freelance agency or solo freelancer that offers multiple services they want to describe in depth on the site. Experon’s free version loads quickly, is SEO friendly, and is optimized for HD screens. It’s compatible with WooCommerce for selling on the site and Elementor for drag-and-drop page design. The free version also gives users access to regular security and feature updates. The pro version of Experon ($35) adds full-width and boxed layout options, more than 100 shortcodes to add features to the site fast, hundreds of Google Fonts, and unlimited color and sidebar options.   4. Life Coach Life Coach from Blossom Themes is a great choice for freelancers who are serious about building their email list through content marketing. Designed for—you guessed it—life coaches, this theme also works for writers, teachers, and speakers. On both laptops and smartphones, there’s a sign-up section where visitors can enter their email in exchange for a free info product (a checklist, eBook, or some other marketing content). Next comes page navigation tabs and a hero image with another subscription section. Next, there’s a social proof section for the logos of media outlets, websites, and events where your work has been featured. About, services, learn more, testimonials, and articles are next, followed by contact information and a contact form. Life Coach’s free version is fast, SEO friendly, Schema.org optimized, responsive, and WooCommerce compatible. Coach Pro ($49) adds more layout and design options as well as sections for case studies, pricing, podcasts, and events.   5. Ryan Grid Ryan Grid from ThinkUp Themes has a black-and-white palette and a focus on text blocks that’s good for writers, editors, tutors, transcription, and other freelancers whose work is based on text. On a laptop, Ryan Grid is similar to Experon, with two unobtrusive menu headers for social media icons and pages, followed by a slider header, then three category text blocks. On a smartphone, that first text block is where you’ll want to put your most important information, because it’s the most prominent element on the smartphone-screen homepage display. If you do have images to include, Ryan Grid is HD Retina-ready. The free version has an options panel for easy customization of the design and it’s Elementor-compatible for drag-and-drop page building. It’s also WooCommerce compatible, which is helpful if you have information products you want to sell on your site. Ryan Grid’s pro version ($35) adds unlimited color and sidebar options, Google Fonts, and more than 100 shortcodes for easy customization.   Choosing a WordPress Theme for Your Freelance Website Once you’ve decided on a couple of themes you like, download them and try them out with your own content to get a sense of which one will work best for you. After you make your choice, ask for feedback from your peers, clients, and prospects about how easy it is for them to find what they need on your site. If you need to make changes to your theme, or pick another theme, you’ve got lots of good free options. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

7 Things You Can Do with Gator Website Builder

The post 7 Things You Can Do with Gator Website Builder appeared first on HostGator Blog. Choosing the right website builder can be a little overwhelming. You’ve got a lot of options and reviewing the different features in each can lead to as much confusion as it does answers, especially if you’re new to building websites and don’t really know what you’re looking for. To help you out, we’ll explain seven useful things you can do with our new Gator Website Builder in clear terms anyone can understand—no confusing jargon for beginners or vague references to features you don’t really understand, just simple explanations of actions you can take once you invest in Gator. 1. Choose from hundreds of mobile-friendly designs. Part of what makes website builders easy to use is that you can start from a template—that’s a design that gets the basic structure and style of your website in place. Then all you have to do is change what’s there to bring it in line with what you want. Gator provides over 200 templates that have been designed by professionals that each: Are responsive, which means that the template can adapt to whatever browser or device size your visitors come from. You don’t have to do anything extra to make sure your website is mobile friendly, since you’ll be starting with a responsive design. Adhere to web design best practices. You don’t have to learn all the tips for what people respond to best in a website, because our designers have already done that and made sure your website design incorporates what works. Are useful for common website purposes. Whether you’re starting a small jewelry eCommerce business, building a website for your auto shop, or launching a photography blog, you can find a template designed with your purpose in mind. Having a good template to start with goes a long way to making the rest of the process of building your website easier. Gator has you covered on that front.   2. Personalize your website’s style and color scheme. With Gator’s intuitive editing software, you can easily change out the colors of your template to bring them in line with the color scheme you have in mind. Changing colors is as simple as clicking on the element you want to change, clicking on the color icon in the menu, and choosing your color. You can change the general layout of the page by clicking on “Change Design” and selecting from the options provided. You can change the background image, add in visual effects, or even bring an animation component in with the Style section. And you can move different parts of the page by clicking on the element you want to move, dragging it to the place you want it to be, and dropping it there. Even though you start from someone else’s design, you can quickly and easily make the website’s look and style your own with these intuitive features.   3. Load unique images, media, and copy. The other easy way to make the website your own is to add your original images and media to the site. Loading your own logo, photographs, or images you designed yourself is easy enough. You can use them to replace images already in the template, or drag them to the spot you want them to be in. You’ll also need to update the placeholder text in the template with words that accurately reflect what your website is all about and why your visitors should care. Simply highlight the text that’s there and type in new words. Or, to add text where there the template doesn’t have any yet, choose text in the Elements section of the menu and select either heading (for larger text that will introduce a section of the page) or paragraph (for smaller, longer blocks of text that provide more detail).   4. Easily find free stock photos. Images are a crucial component of any website. Not only do they make your web pages look better, but they play a big role in how people interact with them—to the degree that 80% are more likely to read your content if you include an image and they’re 64% more likely to remember what they read. But finding good, affordable images to use for your website can be a difficult and time consuming process. And it’s even more challenging if you’re hoping to stick with images you can use for free—unless you use Gator. Gator comes with dozens of stock images included. Each time you want to add an image to a page, you’ll have the option to click on a tab that says Stock Images, and browse photographs that are divided into useful categories. Easy access to a variety of high-quality images can make your life much easier when designing a new website.   5. Create and manage a blog. Blogs are useful for all sorts of websites. If you’re building a personal site, it’s a good way to share your thoughts with the world. For business sites, blogging is a powerful marketing tool. And for anyone who wants their website to be easy for visitors to find, it’s one of the best ways to help your website show up more often in Google. For anyone using Gator, adding and maintaining a blog is simple. You can choose your blog design and add new posts in the same menu you use for the rest of designing your website. Consistently writing really great blog posts that your visitors will love will still take time and work, but the technical side of things is taken care of when you use Gator.   6. Set up a store. Not everyone building a website needs eCommerce capability, but if you want the ability to sell products or services through your website and securely accept payment, then these features are a must. In Gator, a simple upgrade enables you to list your products, include a shopping cart, and set up a secure checkout experience for your customers. If you want your website to start making you money fast, Gator provides all the functionality you need without requiring any special skills.   7. Track your visits and visitor actions. If you want your website to be successful, you should pay attention to how people interact with it. Gator puts useful website analytics right in the same dashboard you use for the rest of your web design and management, including: The number of people who have visited your site How many of them are visiting for the first time (unique visitors) How many different page visits you got (which tells you how many visitors went to more than one page while on your website) And how many visitors clicked away soon after coming to your website (your bounce rate) That information will help you understand if your website is doing what you want it to. If you’re not getting as many visitors as you want, you can figure out the best online marketing strategy to make it easier for people to find you. And if people aren’t sticking around or taking the actions you want once they’re on the site, you know to change up how your site looks or what your pages say to see if you get better results.   Get Your Website Going with Gator Website Builder Gator provides advanced capabilities accessible with a beginner’s level of knowledge. And it’s not only affordable, with plans starting at $3.95 a month, but it also comes with web hosting included in the price. That saves you time and trouble, while helping you get your awesome new website up ASAP. Build your website with Gator now. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Charge Sales Tax and Shipping for Your Online Store

The post How to Charge Sales Tax and Shipping for Your Online Store appeared first on HostGator Blog. Building your online store involves fun tasks like picking your product photos and writing catchy descriptions of the items you’re selling. But some elements of your new store may be a bit intimidating, especially if this is your first online retail business. How do you figure out sales tax for your orders, and which orders require you to collect sales tax? What should you charge for shipping, and how do you avoid losing money on it? The answer is plugins. If you’re setting up a WooCommerce-powered shop, you have lots of options for plugins to automate sales tax calculation and collection, set shipping rates based on actual costs, and let you get on with building your store. We recommend WooCommerce on a WordPress-powered site because there are so many plugins and extensions (beyond sales tax and shipping) to help you develop a good-looking store with the functionality and security you want. It’s also important to get an SSL certificate for your online store to protect your customers as they enter their payment and shipping data at checkout. Once you’ve got those elements in place, it’s sales tax and shipping time. What You Need to Know about Sales Tax for Online Businesses Until recently, the sales tax rules for US online retailers were simple: Collect and file sales tax on orders from states where your business has a physical presence, like an office, warehouse, or factory. So if you had a home-based online business in Dallas, you were responsible for collecting and filing sales taxes on orders from fellow Texans, but not from customers in, say, Georgia or New York. (Not every state has a statewide sales tax. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon don’t.) This setup was easy for online sellers, but some states argued that out-of-state internet retailers were depriving their budgets of much-needed sales tax revenue. In June 2018, a Supreme Court ruling opened the way for all states with sales taxes to require online sellers to collect them, regardless of which state the business calls home. In other words, your home-based business in Dallas might now be required to collect sales taxes at different rates for customers in states across the US. However, the new rules may not have a huge impact on your new business—at least not while it’s just starting out. A state-by-state chart from the Sale Tax Institute serves up the latest rules, which vary by state. For example, if you’re based outside Alabama but have customers in the state, you’ll need to collect and pay sales tax there, but only if your in-Alabama sales top $250,000 per year and you meet some other legal requirements. Meanwhile, California is set to enact a rule that out-of-state retailers must collect sales tax if they sell more than $100,000 in-state per year or have at least 200 separate California-based orders per year. Sell more than $300,000 a year into New York and have at least 100 orders from the state? You’ll be collecting Empire State sales taxes, too. All these rules are subject to change, depending on what new laws state legislatures enact, what goes to court, and what laws get upheld or overturned. The big takeaways here for new business owners are to keep up with the rules and automate your sales tax collection as much as you can to save time and headaches.   Sales Tax WordPress Plugins for WooCommerce If your online store is built on WooCommerce and WordPress, you have several options for plugins that will take care of figuring sales tax on orders, adding it to order totals, generating reports, and in some cases, filing your state returns for an additional fee. Here are three of the most popular sales tax plugins for WooCommerce shops.   1. AvaTax AvaTax is a plugin for subscribers to its service, which offers paid plans based on the number of taxable transactions your store has each year. AvaTax service plans start at $50 per year for 250 transactions and include a 60-day free trial period. AvaTax lets you set up exemptions for certain categories of sales (like government or charitable group purchases) and calculates international VAT, duty, and customs fees.   2. Simple Sales Tax Simple Sales Tax is the plugin for Tax Cloud, a service that’s free to online businesses in two dozen states, because those states pay for the service. For other states, Tax Cloud rates start at $9 per month. Simple Sales Tax automatically calculates current sales tax rates by jurisdiction, which is helpful when you sell in states that allow cities, counties, and other taxing entities to add on their own varying tax rates to the base statewide sales tax.   3. TaxJar TaxJar’s plugin and subscription service (starting at $17 per month) cover your WooCommerce site with tax rates, exemption tools, reports, and automated filing options. TaxJar supports multichannel collection and reporting, so if you sell on eBay, Amazon, or other marketplaces in addition to your online store, you can keep all your sales tax info in one place. Once you’ve got a plan in place for dealing with sales tax compliance, you can focus on delivering the goods.   Shipping WordPress Plugins for WooCommerce In an ideal world, your customers get their purchases delivered as fast as possible, as cheaply as possible, and you don’t lose money on shipping. Your goal? Get as close to the ideal as possible in a world where shipping rates go up every year and vary widely by distance, weight, speed, and other factors. Good thing there are plugins that can help.   1. Flexible Shipping for WooCommerce Flexible Shipping for WooCommerce has a free version that covers a lot of ground. This plugin calculates shipping rates based on weight, total order value, and delivery zone. It also lets you set up free shipping rules. The pro version (starting at $79 per year) adds more extensive and customizable shipping rules, lets you set maximum shipping costs, and supports different shipping class options.     2. Woo Weight Based Shipping Woo Weight Based Shipping is a free plugin that bases calculations on item weight and dimensions, gives you options for flat rate and weight-based rates, and sets free-shipping threshold rules. The paid version, Tree Table Rate Shipping ($39 per year), lets you define rates by local, national, and international shipping zones. It also integrates with multiple carriers, including USPS, UPS, and DHL, to give you and your customers more options.   3. WooCommerce Advanced Free Shipping WooCommerce Advanced Free Shipping is a free plugin that’s all about what consumers want most: free shipping. You can use this tool to set your own rules about when to apply free shipping to orders. You can set your rules by order value, quantity ordered, shipping class, destination, product category, and lots of other criteria.   Get Started with WordPress and WooCommerce With your sales tax and shipping plugins set up to automate these parts of your customer orders, you can focus on growing your business. Ready to get started? Start building your online store with WordPress hosting and WooCommerce. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to find out which theme a WordPress site is using?

The post How to find out which theme a WordPress site is using? appeared first on HostGator Blog. Have you ever come across a website that you simply loved in terms of design and functionality? Better yet, have you ever found a website that you were so impressed with, you felt you just had to have it for yourself (with your own branding elements, unique style and content of course!)? If you find yourself wanting to give your WordPress website a makeover, without starting over from scratch and re-doing everything from blog posts to pages, media uploads to comments, you’re in luck. All you have to do is change your site’s WordPress theme. In fact, WordPress is popular in part because its design is so flexible and can be changed at any moment, without affecting too much of your site’s foundation. Finding a fellow WordPress website that you want to draw inspiration from is great – until you realize you have no idea what WordPress theme it’s using. That’s why today I am going to walk you through how to manually find which theme any WordPress website is using, as well as share some helpful online tools that may speed up the process for you, so you can start your site redesign right away. So, let’s get started. How to Find the Theme of Any WordPress Website There are many online tools dedicated to helping you determine what theme WordPress websites are using (more on those later). But the problem is, sometimes website owners change the name of their WordPress themes, preventing these tools from recognizing the theme they’re using and spilling the beans to you. That’s why knowing how to manually find the theme of a WordPress website is so helpful. And the best part is, it’s not that hard to do! Each WordPress theme has what’s called a style.css file. This file contains information about the theme in use such as the name of the theme, the theme author, the stylesheet URL, the theme version, and more. It also has the CSS styles used by the theme. This file is what you need to find if you want to learn what theme a WordPress site is using. Step 1: Find the Style.CSS File The first thing you’ll want to do is go to the WordPress website you love. For this example, I’ll use my very own website https://www.websitehostingrating.com. Next, right click anywhere on the screen of the website you’re investigating. From the options available, choose the one labeled “Inspect.” Note – You can click on the “View Page Source” option as well, though I find that Inspect Element makes searching for the specific theme file a whole lot easier. That said, if you do choose to use the View Page Source option, you can always use Ctrl + F (on Windows) or Cmd + F (on Mac) to open a search bar near the bottom to find the style.css file. Step 2: Inspect the CSS File When you click on Inspect Element, you’ll see a bunch of crazy looking code appear at the bottom of the screen. Don’t panic, you don’t need to understand all of this. All you need to do is find a line of code that looks something like this: <link rel=’stylesheet’ id=’academy-pro-css’  href=’https://www.websitehostingrating.com/wp-content/themes/academy-pro/style.css’ type=’text/css’ media=’all’ /> This is the theme’s stylesheet – the css file. The easiest way to find this line is to enter the word “theme”, “style.css” or something similar into the search bar and click enter. This should bring up the line of code you’re looking for. In the above image, the line of code we’re looking for is highlighted in blue. Now, this bit of code may be enough for you to find the information you want, which is the name of the theme being used on the website. For instance, you can see that I use the theme Academy Pro, which happens to be a StudioPress theme built on the Genesis Framework. Notice the places the name Academy Pro appears. If you didn’t know that Academy Pro was a WordPress theme offhand, a simple Google search will bring it right up for you. If you’re looking for more information about the theme, you might be able to click on the URL in the style.css file and see data such as the theme’s URL or author. When you do this, it should look something like this: Theme Name: Academy Pro Theme URI: https://my.studiopress.com/themes/academy/ Description: The theme for online course creators, membership site owners, and educational content marketers. Author: StudioPress Author URI: https://www.studiopress.com/   Unfortunately, because WordPress themes are all different, and the code that comes with each theme file differs too, you may end up seeing a screen like this: I don’t know about you, but I have the theme name and that’s enough for me! I should also mention that this method won’t work for custom made themes or where the site owner has renamed, or deleted, the name of the WordPress theme he or she is using. Using an Online Tool to Determine a WordPress Theme Now that you know how to manually find the theme of any WordPress website out there, it’s time to make things easier by using an online theme detector tool. There are plenty of online WordPress detection tools to choose from, but in my opinion these two are the most accurate: WP Theme Detector WP Sniffer (Google Chrome extension) They both work really well, however some of them will also report the plugins that are being used on a website, which can be really helpful for that added functionality you might be after in your site’s redesign. For our example, I’ll use WP Theme Detector and see what pops up when I enter the URL: https://www.websitehostingrating.com. As you can see, this online tool determined that I am using the Academy Pro WordPress theme, which is a child theme of the Framework Genesis, which is authored by StudioPress, all of which I already determined manually. And there you have it! You now know how to manually find the theme any WordPress website is using should you want to look into using the same theme for your own website. And if you’re lucky, and the code is correct, you can find this information even faster using a free online tool such as WP Theme Detector and begin your site redesign right away! Have you ever had to manually determine the theme being used on a WordPress website? I would love to hear all about it in the comments below! Find the post on the HostGator Blog

8 Best Apps to Process Credit Cards on Your Website

The post 8 Best Apps to Process Credit Cards on Your Website appeared first on HostGator Blog. The internet makes it easier than ever to start a business or reach a larger clientele for the business you already have. But one of the most basic things you need in order to make money online is a way to accept payments on your website. In this article we review the top apps for processing credit card payments on your website, and walk you through how to choose the right app for your site. What You Need in a Payment Processing App No matter what type of business you’re in—or even if you’re just a blogger ready to accept donations— to accept payments through your website, you need to make sure of two things:   1. It’s secure. If people are going to give you their sensitive financial information, it’s your responsibility to make sure that doing so doesn’t put them at risk. You have to take the proper precautions to make sure you can accept payments securely. That means investing in basic security measures like an SSL certificate and security software, and using a reliable program for processing payments. Some hosting providers offer security packages that cover most of your bases, and picking the right credit card processing app will cover the rest.   2. It’s easy. Convenience is key when selling online. People aren’t going to take the time to write a check and put it in the mail or provide their bank account information for a transfer. In short, you have to accept credit cards. All of the best online payment processing apps make this possible and keep it convenient for your customers.   8 Top Credit Card Processing Apps for Websites Luckily, there’s a whole industry of products designed specifically to enable websites to safely and easily accept online payments. Here are eight of your top choices.   1. Flint Flint was specifically developed with small businesses in mind, so it’s easy to use and affordable. They promise security measures that are in compliance with PCI standards. And you can easily get it setup on your website within minutes, without having to use any coding. Their Pro plan costs $99.99 a year and allows for unlimited online sales.   2. Flagship Merchant Services Flagship’s online payment product enables processing for all major credit cards, as well as bank transfers. As with other payment processing apps, they offer a secure and convenient transaction process. They also have features to make recurring billing easier for repeat and subscription customers, and can be set up to sync with Quickbooks to easily import your sales details into the accounting software. They offer a number of pricing models that businesses can choose based on what works best for the way you do business.     3. Stripe Stripe’s payment processing app allows you to accept both credit cards and wallets (like Google Pay and Apple Pay). They have a UI toolkit that lets you build your own checkout form. And they use an encryption process for security that’s in compliance with all the highest industry standards. They price per credit card transaction, with each sale costing 30 cents, plus 2.9% of the total charge.     4. Braintree Braintree allows you to accept payments via credit cards, PayPal, Venmo and wallets.  They offer both a drop-in UI you can use to easily set up your checkout process, or a custom UI that allows you to tailor the details. They offer Level 1 PCI compliance for security, as well as additional features you can use for fraud protection. And they have features that make it easy to save billing info for repeat customers to make check out easier. They charge a per transaction fee of 30 cents, plus 2.9% of the total purchase.   5. 2Checkout 2Checkout’s shopping cart product is easy to get set up and provides both an inline cart you can use that’s designed to be intuitive, and a gallery of different templates you can work from if you want a different cart design. All of their cart options are responsive, so you can count on them to work seamlessly on mobile as well as desktop. They accept payments from all the major credit cards, Paypal, Apple Pay, and bank transfers, and can process payments from all over the world. Their fees start at 3.5%, plus 35 cents for each sale.     6. PayPal Payments Pro The familiar brand for all types of online payments and money transfers also provides a product for accepting eCommerce payments through a website. PayPal Payments Pro allows you to accept payments using credit cards or PayPal accounts. They offer a customizable API, if you want to create a particular checkout experience, and provide the option of financing, which can be useful for businesses selling big ticket items. They charge $30 per month, plus 30 cents and 2.9% for each transaction.   7. Authorize Authorize promises advanced fraud protection using a number of filters (velocity, IP, shipping, and transaction) to help you avoid scammers. They process all major credit cards, Apple Pay, PayPal, and Visa checkout. And they make recurring and repeat payments easier for customers. Getting set up is as simple as copying and pasting some html code into your site. The app costs $25 monthly, as well as 2.9% and 30 cents per charge.   8. Payline Payline promises PCI compliance for data security, as well as fraud protection features. They allow you to accept all major credit card options, as well as ACH transfers. They also offer free subscription billing features and integration with over 175 online shopping cart products. They charge a $10 monthly fee, as well as a 20 cent per transaction fee, and 2.3% for all credit card charges.   Get Paid Quickly and Easily The last thing you want is to make your customers feel like they’re jumping through hoops to give you their money. These payment processing apps make the purchasing process on your website quick and painless, so you get a higher conversion rate and more profits. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

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