HostGator Blog

How to Make Product Videos That Are Guaranteed to Sell

The post How to Make Product Videos That Are Guaranteed to Sell appeared first on HostGator Blog. Video is an effective marketing tool to sell your brand’s products. By 2022, online videos will drive more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic. It’s imperative for your small business to explore how video can attract and maintain your audience’s attention. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. To grow your website traffic, you must give consumers informative, entertaining video content. Start getting more customers to your site today. Below are five video formats to help sell your products. 1. Product Videos Product videos help consumers better understand your product line. Research shows that viewers are 64-85% more likely to buy a product after watching a product video. A product video is a marketing ad. So, you want to develop a straightforward video that doesn’t confuse your audience. It should include the logo of your small business and align with the brand’s overall mission. You also don’t want to bore people once they press play. Aim to capture their attention with a compelling story. In a few seconds, your content should intrigue people to continue watching the video. Apple takes a modern approach to their product videos. They combine simple camera angles with the latest hip-hop music to tell their story. Stay away from scare tactics in your product video. Rather than focusing on the negatives, give consumers a sneak peek into how they would feel once they make the purchase. Moreover, make sure to include calls to action in your product videos. What’s the next step you want the viewer to take? It’s not always a link to the sales page. You might guide them to an email offer or another video. 2. Demo Videos Demo videos are essential sales tools. These videos should provide clear instructions for your audience to understand. If done well, they will help you secure more sales. When creating your demo video, think about the value of your product and how it solves the consumer’s problem. Your goal is to show them how your product makes their lives better. “Demo videos aren’t generally considered top-of-funnel content so you can go a bit longer on length, but don’t bite off more than your viewers can chew. Keep your demo videos to the point, walk viewers through one action, and do it succinctly,” says Jon Spenceley, former content and social media manager at Vidyard. The demo video below gives the viewer step-by-step instructions. Each statement follows an action by the person demonstrating the product. They also don’t rush to the next step—giving the viewer enough time to process what’s happening. Your on-air talent for these videos must bring his or her infectious personality. You want the video to exude enthusiasm. Record someone who can deliver happiness and trustworthiness with a big smile. 3. Testimonial Videos Testimonial videos build the trust factor with your consumers. It’s an opportunity for them to hear honest feedback from actual customers. This type of video works well when hesitant buyers need an extra push. They already recognize the problem and need. The testimonial video influences them to visit the checkout page and click purchase. When asking customers to appear on testimonial videos, it’s important that you respect their time by mapping out what you want to achieve. Prepare specific questions to ask them. Avoid asking anything that triggers a vague response. You want questions to trigger thoughtful answers. A simple format is to set up the situation, state the problem, and elaborate on the solution. Omada Health’s testimonial video starts with the customer explaining how their company outshines the competition. Then, the video continues by highlighting other major benefits. Record your testimonial video in a comfortable setting. Scout all available options in your office space; you may even decide to shoot outside in a park. You also don’t want customers to memorize lines. It will seem disingenuous to your audience. Follow these tips for collecting great customer testimonials. 4. Company Culture Videos Company culture matters. Consumers no longer buy from brands just because they have something they need. Potential customers also want to know more about your brand’s culture. A company culture video helps tell your small business story and sets expectations for your audience. Consider it a matchmaking tool to connect you to buyers with shared values. It represents how you want the public to perceive you. The company culture video should help increase trust amongst your audience. Let actual employees talk about what makes your brand unique. This technique will establish a personal connection with viewers. “Corporate culture videos need to showcase real employees, as opposed to just the c-level and hardcore brand advocates. When we see a smile that’s a little too big, we question the credibility of the content,” states Phil Strazzulla, founder at NextWave Hire. In the company culture below, Annie’s Homegrown showcases what makes their brand special. Employees express why they love the company and how the company supports its customers and staff. Company culture videos also can attract new hires to your small business. So, it’s an effective promotional tool for your company’s growth. 5. Thank You Videos A simple thank you means a lot. By producing a thank you video, you open doors to connecting with your audience with no-strings attached. Give your thank you video a clear objective. What do you want to say? Why are you thankful? Who will receive the video message? In your video, let consumers know the impact they have had on your business. You can highlight the number of products sold or how their support led to a huge charitable donation. Thank you videos work well during the holidays. It shows customers that you value their business, and you’re committed to selling high-quality products. Experiment with different settings to capture your on-camera gratitude. Maybe you’ll stand in front of your office building. Or you might decide to click record on your laptop. iZotope’s thank you video is a genuine without any marketing jargon. It’s unscripted and explains why the company loves their customers so much. Thank you videos are meant to illustrate authenticity. No one likes a contrived thank you message. Instead, you want to create a heartfelt video that shows your appreciation. Produce More Videos Video offers your small business an opportunity connect with consumers. From demos to testimonials, you can highlight every aspect of your brand. Once you produce your videos, it’s time to share them with the world. Make sure to embed your videos on your website, and promote them via social media. To host videos on your website, you’ll need quality web hosting behind you. For maximum site performance, try HostGator’s dedicated server hosting. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

7 Tips to Choose a Website Design That Converts Customers

The post 7 Tips to Choose a Website Design That Converts Customers appeared first on HostGator Blog. Your website design has a lot of work to do. It should look professional, make it easy for visitors to find what they need, and show visitors why you’re the person to do business with. But the most important thing a good design does is help to close the deal. How can your website’s design help convert visitors into customers? Here are 7 must-know tips to get you started. 1. Start with SSL SSL certificates aren’t part of your website’s design, but I’m including them here because your site’s SSL status is often the first thing visitors notice. It can be the element that determines whether they stay or flee. When you have an SSL certificate for your site, your domain name starts with https instead of http. And the green padlock symbol will show up next to your URL in visitor’s browser bars. People trust the padlock. SSL is important for three reasons: Most browsers flag sites without SSL as “not secure”. Sometimes that warning scares visitors off. SSL matters for SEO. Google has used SSL status as a ranking signal since 2014, and in a search-result ranking tie between one site with https and one with http, https wins. SSL encrypts the data your customers enter on your website. That stops hackers and data thieves from stealing personal and payment information. This protects your customers and your business reputation. Did you know? All HostGator plans come with a free SSL certificate. 2. Mobile Formatting Matters Your website must display beautifully on a mobile screen. Mobile-first design is the cornerstone of modern websites because so many of us spend so much time browsing on our phones. You can find mobile friendly templates for WordPress websites or you can hire a designer with a strong portfolio of mobile-first designs. 3. Make a Great First Impression With Your Product Pages This doesn’t mean you have to throw all your company information on every product page, but it’s important to remember that any of your product pages maybe the first impression a visitor has of your website. Let’s say you sell gear and supplies for exotic birds. You may have a fantastic home page, but maybe visitors are arriving at your site through searches for cuttlebones or parakeet playgrounds or parrot perches—and they go right to those product pages from their search results. Each of those pages needs to include your company name, a brief summary of your shipping and returns policies, pricing, and a navigation menu that lets them quickly explore the rest of your website without having to hunt around. 4. Invite Visitors to Linger with Category Landing Pages We’ve blogged before about the importance of structuring your product categories so they’re easy for search engines and human beings to navigate. And each category page is prime real estate for product photos, keywords, and informative content that can help your customers decide what to buy. Back to our exotic bird website example. Let’s say your product categories are food, treats, grooming, health, habitats, and toys. Your habitat category page should include photos of your most popular cages, perches, and playscapes, along with descriptive text that includes the keywords people use to find your products. This is the ideal place for a guide explaining how to choose the right enclosure or a checklist of must-have elements in a bird enclosure. All this content, if it’s tagged and written properly, can help boost your SEO and show customers that you’re a resource for information as well as products. 5. Make Your Calls-to-Action Count Every page on your site should include a call to action (CTA). A CTA is a short statement telling your visitors what you’d like them to do next. For example, on your exotic bird habitat category landing page, your CTA is “find your bird’s new roost now.” On product pages, the CTA is “add to cart.” You can also have a secondary CTA for people who aren’t quite ready to take the plunge—”add to wish list” or “save for later.” On the cart page, the CTA is “checkout.” At every step of the way, your CTA gives customers a little nudge to take the next step toward conversion. That’s sales psychology 101. It’s also super important in an age where most of us have a bunch of browser tabs and apps open at once and our attention is highly fragmented. 6. Create a Low-Friction Checkout Experience So, you have a parrot parent visiting your site, reading your content, choosing a new enclosure, adding it to their cart, and hitting the checkout button. This next part of the website must be designed properly to keep that customer from abandoning their cart. Between 70 and 85% of all e-commerce carts get ditched before customers complete their purchases. Part of the reason is bad checkout design that makes customers work too hard to give stores their money. Design your checkout so it requires as little effort from your customers as possible, while remaining secure and protecting you from potential fraud. Let your customers auto-fill their name and address information. Don’t make them create an account to check out. Let them use an online payment service like Square or PayPal so they don’t have to fish around for a credit card. Design it right, and your customers are more likely to convert.   7. Consider Outsourcing Your Website Design to Experts There are plenty of resources for designing your own website, especially if you’re using WordPress, because there are so many templates you can buy or use for free. If you’re not confident in your design skills or would rather focus on other aspects of your business, you can hire a design service with experience building mobile-friendly websites. Ready to get started? Sign up for professional website design services from HostGator and outsource that process today. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Create a Membership Site with WordPress (Step by Step)

The post How to Create a Membership Site with WordPress (Step by Step) appeared first on HostGator Blog. Are you considering creating a membership site for your courses, products, or services? If so, it can be a great way to cater to your target market and increase your business’ revenue among many other benefits. A membership allows you to build a list of loyal members, create an active email list, and position yourself as a leader in your industry if it gains enough traction. But what exactly is a membership site? Put simply, it’s gated content that’s only accessible to members and subscribers. Most of the time there is a fee or recurring payment involved, but sometimes it can be as simple as signing up for an email list. Why Create a Membership Site? A membership site means you can sell practically anything: online courses, ebooks, coaching, you name it. What makes it exciting is its exclusivity and the perks that come with an engaged subscription. Premium services tend to offer subscribers more value to the point where paying a monthly or yearly fee is worth their money. If you’re able to rack up a solid list of subscribers, your revenue will increase drastically. It’s also a great way to build a list of loyal subscribers who genuinely enjoy your content to the point that they’re willing to pay for it. Think of Youtube Premium or Spotify Premium. Sure, with their free options you get to enjoy their content, but you’re bombarded with ads and can’t enjoy the full, uninterrupted experience. What makes these services powerful is that they deliver an optimized UX and, therefore, have a customer base that consists of happier customers. Gating your content allows you to offer your target audience the products and services they want while your business expands its subscriber list and grows monetarily. Before getting started, you need the following: A domain name. This is your website’s URL and it’s crucial that it matches your brand and the products and services you’re selling.WordPress web hosting. HostGator provides quick and easy set up so that even beginners can create their own website. You can also register your domain name here at HostGator.A membership plugin. MemberPress is simple to install and requires no coding knowledge to set up a membership site you’re proud to call your own. What to Look for in a Membership Plugin There are many options to choose from when it comes to membership plugins, but what it really comes down to is what best suits your business and its customers. It’s essential to keep them in mind when creating your membership site. Here are a few questions to consider when choosing a plugin: What is your budget?What are your measurable goals?How well do you know how to code?How many membership levels will you need? What payment gateways do you want customers to be able to use?Are there extra features you want to be included, such as add-ons and integrations? If you want to create a fully functional, easy-to-use membership site with WordPress, here’s how to get started. Install and Set Up MemberPress The very first step to creating a membership site is to use a plugin. This is what’s going to turn your regular WordPress site into a members-only website. MemberPress allows you to sell physical and digital goods, downloads, subscriptions, and more. It’s easy to set up payment gateways, restrict access based on different subscriptions, and design beautiful pricing pages so you can create the look you want. First, you need to create an account with WordPress. Then, purchase a subscription with MemberPress that suits your budget, goals, and business needs. Consider what features are most important to you when choosing your pricing plan. Sometimes it’s worth it to pay a little extra to give your customers exactly what they want. Plus, your membership fee could end up giving back to your business with an increased ROI. Once you choose the plan that’s right for you, go to MemberPress and download the .zip file. From your WordPress dashboard, click on Plugins > Add New > Upload. Select the file and click Install Now. Then click Activate Plugin and your MemberPress plugin will be activated. You should now be able to see a MemberPress menu option in the sidebar on your dashboard. From the menu, click Options where you can configure the plugin’s settings to your liking. Your plugin is now fully installed and ready to be optimized for your business! Getting Started with MemberPress Creating a membership site is a way to target a specific audience and cater to their specific needs. It makes selling products and services easy and builds a list of happy customers who enjoy content that matches exactly what they’re looking for. MemberPress is a fully functional plugin that makes creating a membership site on WordPress an easy and pleasant experience. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

What Are “Sticky” Sidebar Widgets in WordPress

The post What Are “Sticky” Sidebar Widgets in WordPress appeared first on HostGator Blog. A sticky, floating, or fixed, sidebar widget in WordPress is a widget that’s locked into place, so when a user scrolls down the page, it doesn’t disappear. In other words, the information found in the sticky sidebar is accessible at any time. And it’s something all site owners should strongly consider using if they want to direct users to other content, build a bigger email list, and so much more. The sidebar is an important part of any WordPress website. It’s a place for displaying extra information for site visitors, without overwhelming them or disrupting the user experience. Plus, the sidebar gives people an easy way to navigate your site, which boosts engagement and helps increase conversion rates. The problem is, many people don’t take advantage of their WordPress site’s sidebars, especially when it comes to sticky sidebar widgets. That’s why today I’m going to share with you what a sticky sidebar widget is, why it’s beneficial, and how to add one to your WordPress website. So, let’s get started. Why Use a Sticky Sidebar Widget? A sticky sidebar widget is a great way to grab and keep people’s attention once they land on your website. Here are just some of the reasons why sticky sidebar widgets are so helpful: Increased Visibility: since sticky sidebar widgets never disappear, they are always visible. This is great for times you want to ensure site visitors see certain content. Higher Conversions: since floating sidebars are so visible, the chances of people converting are higher. Create calls to action asking people to sign up or make a purchase, and watch your conversion rates increase. More Subscribers: adding a sticky sidebar widget to your WordPress site that lets people subscribe to your email list is a great strategy. After all, email campaigning is the most cost-effective way to market your brand, and is just one of the reasons you should build a bigger email list. Improved User Experience: sticky sidebars give your users a chance to navigate your site with ease. Additional Revenue Streams: whether you sell ad space on your site or are an affiliate marketer, a sticky sidebar used correctly can increase the chances people will see your ad and click on it. According to Smashing Magazine, sticky menus are 22% easier to navigate and 100% of people preferred sticky menus without even knowing why. It’s because of stats like this, as well as the benefits mentioned-above, you should learn how to add a sticky sidebar widget to your site. But first, let’s take a look at some good examples before you get started. Sticky Sidebar Examples Knowing why a sticky sidebar is a good idea and seeing one in action are two totally different things. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the best sticky sidebar examples around. 1. “Sticky” opt-in form example If you’re looking for a sticky sidebar in action that offers site visitors a simple way to subscribe to a newsletter, hop on over to Young Digital Lab’s guide to starting a blog. Not only does the email opt-in form follow users as they scroll through the post, there’s some very convincing social proof, and a content upgrade up for grabs for anyone that subscribes. 2. “Sticky” navigation example Quora does a great job of improving the usability of their website by adding a sticky sidebar with related questions to their website. Sometimes people need to dig deeper into an issue after seeing some of the answers Quora presents. So, rather than have rephrase their question and hope for better results, Quora provides a list of sticky questions that are sure to relate to the present topic. 3. “Sticky” call-to-action example Website Hosting Rating knows the power a sticky sidebar has on users looking for a great deal. That’s why on the web hosting review pages there is a sticky sidebar that includes a clear CTA button that invites users to click and sign up for hosting. Making the CTA sticky increases the chances people will see the button and click on it. Now, let’s see how to create a sticky sidebar in WordPress using the free Q2W3 Fixed Widget plugin. How to Create a Sticky Sidebar in WordPress Step 1: Install and Activate Q2W3 Fixed Widget Plugin The first thing you’ll need to do is install and activate the free Q2W3 Fixed Widget plugin on your WordPress website. You can do this by going to Plugins > Add New in your WordPress dashboard and searching for “Q2W3 Fixed Widget.” Click Install Now and then Activate. Step 2: Configure Plugin Settings To configure the sticky sidebar widget plugins, go to Appearance > Fixed Widget Options in your WordPress dashboard. Here, you’ll see 3 sections: General Options, Compatibility, and Custom IDs. In these sections, you can configure setting such as: MarginsStop IDRefresh intervalDisable width/height You’ll also be able to enable/disable things like: Auto fix widget IDMutationObserver Sticky widget for logged in users only Widget width inheritance jQuery(window).load() hook You can leave the default settings as-is. After you save your changes, be sure to clear your site’s cache, especially if you use a caching plugin (which you should!). Step 3: Turn a Widget Sticky To turn any of your current sidebar widgets sticky, start by going to Appearance > Widgets in your WordPress dashboard. Find the widgets you currently have in your site’s sidebars and check the box labeled Fixed Widget on widgets you want to turn sticky. In our example, we’ll turn the search bar and recent posts widgets sticky so people can easily navigate our site without having to scroll away. Click Save Changes and check out a preview of your website. Summary Remember, the easier it is to navigate your website, the bigger your email list, and the more action you can convince people to take on your site, the better. So, leverage the power a sticky sidebar offers and reap the benefits so many website owners are after. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

5 Ways to Drive Leads to Your Website

The post 5 Ways to Drive Leads to Your Website appeared first on HostGator Blog. Lead generation is an important part of business operations. As a freelancer or small business owner, you want interested buyers to visit your site and learn about your services. It all begins with attracting qualified traffic to your website. It’s not a complicated task, but you will need to invest your time and some resources. Here are five ways to get leads to your site. 1. Boost Organic Search Results Search engines have become the gateway to learning everything you need to know. For consumers, it’s a tool to do quick research on a brand, find a coupon code, or just casually shop for clothes on lunch breaks. Juno reports that 81% of people perform some type of online research before making a large purchase. Therefore, it’s imperative for your business to rank in search results. If not, you risk the competition swiping your leads. Search engine optimization (SEO) centers around knowing the intent of your ideal visitor. What words do they use? What questions do they ask? Google’s Keyword Planner is a valuable resource for conducting your keyword research. You can discover new phrases that match your services and narrow your keyword list to the ones that really matter. Once you’ve nailed down your keywords, you’re ready to write content. Use on-page SEO best practices, like adding the keyword in the header, to earn more leads. Then, tailor your content to keep visitors engaged. 2. Develop Partner Campaigns Partnerships are key to growing your small business. When you connect with partners, you get access to their resources and audience. In return, you can leverage those assets to influence people to check out your site. Co-marketing campaigns help partners bring their expertise to the partnership and gain a mutual benefit. Jyoti Mali, head of digital marketing at TIS India, agrees: “You can set up partnerships with reputed companies to start your co-marketing campaign. This will help the users to know more about your products and services because they will get a wider platform for exploring your offers.” Your campaign doesn’t have to be super complex. You might partner with a business to create a social media video or run an exclusive promotion. If you got the time, you could host an intimate VIP event in your local area, too. Whatever you decide, stick to your goal of driving leads to your business. Make sure all promotional signage includes your website. It’s also a clever idea to capture people’s email addresses to send them future updates. 3. Advertise on Social Media Small businesses operate on tight budgets. You don’t have the luxury to throw money at every marketing idea. Totally understandable. However, most small businesses suffer when they don’t want to spend any money. They constrain their budgets to where there isn’t any room to execute on sound strategies. If you’re willing to step into a growth mindset, your business should consider testing social media advertising. It’ll drive more leads to your site, in addition to spreading brand awareness. Start with the social media platform that your typical buyer uses. Then, determine your weekly or monthly budget. It can be a few hundred dollars. Next, follow the on-screen directions on the platform. For example, Twitter helps you build your ad from start-to-finish with helpful tips along the way. Make sure your ad uses an eye-appealing image and concise copy. Look at how Walmart crafted their Facebook ad below. The graphic is colorful with the logo prominently displayed, and the copy talks directly to the consumer with a coupon. Don’t be afraid to spend your marketing budget. Social media advertising can be effective for your company. 4. Participate in Online Communities The online world serves as a home for people with different interests, ideas, and beliefs. You can literally find a community for anything, from Star Wars’ fan clubs to dog lovers’ support groups. You can tap into these online communities to drive more leads to your site. Megan Biondi, former social media marketing specialist at Blue Fountain Media, highlights the benefits: “Participating in these conversations increases your exposure as well as the odds of engaging with other group members. If you’re focusing on a select few groups to participate in, it’s the most time efficient to participate in groups that get a lot of views, discussions, and traffic.” Before you go spamming everyone with your marketing messages, it’s critical that you join these communities with a genuine interest to bring value to its members. So, don’t talk about your services every time you engage the group. Plus, you’ll want to join communities that fit your business’s purpose. For instance, it’s not cool to push your floral arrangement businesses in a group focused on college basketball. 5. Send Creative Emails Email marketing is one of the hidden gems of small business. Companies usually get bogged down with executing so many other tactics that they forget about their email subscribers. The first step is to continue building your email list. You can add pop-ups to your homepage prompting visitors to give their email addresses in exchange for a discount. Or you can encourage your social media followers to sign up for your weekly newsletter. Next, focus on sending emails with worthwhile content. The message should entice leads to click to learn more. For instance, if you’re a boxing gym owner, you may send a list of the top five tips on how to be a better boxer. You would include two of those tips in the email and have the subscriber go to your website to get the additional three strategies. Blue Apron is creative in their approach to getting leads to their website. In the email below, they offer their subscribers a $40 off coupon and simple instructions on how to get started with their service. Your subscribers are eager to hear from your business. So, dust off your email list to generate more leads. Get More Customers to Your Site Now is the time to craft your lead generation strategy. Bring more leads to your website through organic search, social media advertising, and email marketing. Customers are waiting to buy from your business. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

4 Ways to Make Money With Your Small Business Website

The post 4 Ways to Make Money With Your Small Business Website appeared first on HostGator Blog. You’ve finally got a website for your business, because you know it’s the key to getting found by new customers who start most of their searches online. But your website can do more than raise your visibility in search results. It can also provide another revenue stream for your business. Whether you sell physical goods in a brick-and-mortar location, provide in-person services to a local market, run a restaurant, or offer your freelance expertise online, there are ways you can make your website work harder for you. One or more of these options may be just right for your small business site. 1. Build an Online Store If you have a brick-and-mortar retail shop, selling your products online is an obvious choice to expand your market, but other businesses can benefit from having an online store, too. Own a coffee shop or bakery? You can offer your branded merch (t-shirts, mugs) online along with special coffee blends or cakes and gift baskets. And any type of business can offer gift certificates online. No physical products? No problem. If what you sell is expertise, consider putting some of it into e-books on topics that matter to your clientele, and sell them in your online shop. (We’ll talk more about expertise in a moment.) Setting up an online store is easier than you may think. Gator Website Builder’s eCommerce plan gives you the templates and drag-and-drop tools you need to set up shop online fast. The eCommerce plan supports HD video and audio so you can create compelling product videos, and you get tools to manage your inventory, calculate shipping and sales tax, and offer coupons to your customers. 2. Let Customers Book Appointments Online Worldwide access to global knowledge is great, but I think the real benefit of the internet is being able to book appointments without a phone conversation between two harried people who toss out days and times until one works. Setting up appointments online is easier for everyone—your receptionist can focus on other tasks, and your customers don’t get stuck on hold. Online booking also lets customers reserve a spot whenever they’re ready, instead of having to wait for office hours to make a call. When you make people wait, they sometimes forget—or find a competitor who lets them book online, so you lose out. You can add booking capability to your WordPress website with a plugin. One of the most popular is Booking Calendar, which lets you customize the fields customers will fill in, notifies you of new booking requests, and stores all your booking information in a single database so you don’t have to toggle back and forth to manage your client list and appointments. 3. Share Your Knowledge Online Once you’ve been running your business successfully for a while, you’ll probably have insights other people will pay to learn. Writing, design, and coaching businesses are a natural fit for online one-on-one entrepreneur mentorship programs and group courses aimed people in the same field who want to learn more about some aspect of the business. Other businesses can use this approach, too. Maybe you grew your landscaping business from zero to six figures in under two years. Other new landscapers will want your advice on marketing and customer retention. Does your HVAC repair company have the lowest employee-turnover rate and the best customer reviews in town? Other contractors will want to know how you retain top talent. There’s one big difference between selling this type of expertise online and setting up an online store or booking tool: You’ll need to reach a different audience from your regular customer base. That requires some research to see if there’s a demand for your knowledge, and to find out where your potential customers hang out online so you can start connecting with them. You’ll also need to establish yourself as an expert, with a blog, podcast, or videos that gives away some of your knowledge for free. You can set up a blog fast with the Gator Website Builder and its blogging templates. You’ll want to make sure your business website’s hosting plan can handle more traffic and load audio and video content fast. It may be time to upgrade to cloud hosting if you expect spikes in traffic when you open new course registrations, or if you need faster load times for your instructional videos and podcasts. Building up this type of revenue stream takes some time, but it can be lucrative if there’s enough demand and you put in the marketing work. And if your main line of business is seasonal, like landscaping or air-conditioner repair, an online sideline can help smooth out income peaks and valleys. 4. Add Ads and Affiliate Links to Your Small Business Website With a decent amount of traffic, your site can also generate revenue through affiliate links and ads. Affiliate marketing is big business, and just about anyone with a website can take part. Simply defined, affiliate marketing lets you earn commissions on sales of other people’s products that you promote on your site. Let’s say you own a cupcake shop, and your shop’s website has a popular blog that features tips on decorating cupcakes. You might sign up for the affiliate program offered by your favorite decorating tools company, include links to their products in your posts (along with an FTC-required disclosure that they’re affiliate links), and earn a commission on each sale that comes from your links. You can also run ads on your website. Google AdSense is the most popular option, because it’s easy to integrate with your site, it gives you control over which ads appear, and it tailors ads to your content and audience. It can take a while for your AdSense ads to bear fruit—you need to reach a $100 threshold before you receive your first payment. But as far as revenue streams go, it’s a low-effort, low-maintenance way to start monetizing your site. Want more ideas for making the most of your small business website? There’s always something new and useful on the HostGator blog. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

5 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Website from Social Media

The post 5 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Website from Social Media appeared first on HostGator Blog. Everyone is spending time on social media. It’s the hangout spot for people to chat with their friends and get the latest updates on their favorite TV shows. It’s also a place for you to attract new customers to your brand. It’s important for people to engage with your website. However, social networks are doing their absolute best to keep people in-platform. But you can change all that! Here are five social media tips for your brand to get people to actually visit your website. 1. Optimize Your Profile It’s very likely for potential customers to learn about your brand on social media before they even land on your website. So, you’ll want to make a good first impression. You’ll need two key people from your team: a graphic designer and a copywriter. The designer will ensure your logo and profile images represent your brand well. You may need to adjust the color schemes or image sizes to maximize your brand’s visibility. Then, work with your copywriter to draft a creative message about your business. You can use your tagline or meaningful saying that will strike an emotional chord with your followers. Here’s an example from Califia Farms. Their Instagram profile shows a clear image of their logo. Plus, the copy sparks curiosity and spotlights their plant-based mission. Lastly, you want to lead people to your site with a link. Experiment with your homepage or a specific landing page. Your goal is to increase traffic and keep your new visitors’ attention. 2. Tease Exclusive Content Consumers love the velvet rope treatment. That’s when a few people receive access to a special offering. It gives people a sense of belonging and labels them as part of the “cool kids” group. Exclusivity can encourage more people to visit your site. Julie Neidlinger, writer, artist, and pilot from North Dakota, provides her perspective: “Exclusivity works because, frankly, people like to be in on the secret. Exclusivity makes people want something. If they can’t have it, they want it all the more. Some of us take a bit of pleasure when others are excluded (though we’d rather not admit that).” Use this strategy to your advantage by only posting links to specific content on your social media channels. For instance, let’s say you did an interview with a well-known expert. You can post the link to the video only on your Facebook account for 48 hours. That exclusivity will motivate your followers to click the link to your site. Another idea is to announce product releases on social media. It’ll prompt your audience to follow you on social media and visit the official announcement page. It’s a win-win for everyone: your fans get the exclusive perk and your brand gets traffic. 3. Engage Followers Directly Social media has earned a bad reputation because businesses like to rely on too many automated processes. This dependence on automation hinders brand engagement. Your customers want personal attention, not a bot sending them a canned response every single time they reply to your social account. To truly get people to your site from social media, you must engage them directly. So, invest in hiring (or outsourcing) a part-time social media manager to craft direct responses to your followers. Whether it’s a potential customer looking for a quick answer or a long-time customer needing assistance, you want someone to provide a unique reply in a timely manner. Footwear and apparel brand Vans offers a good lesson on how to connect with your social media audience. Below the company provides a friendly reply along with a recommended site for the customer to visit. When directing followers to your site, make sure it fits their needs. Matching the right page with their current issue ensures a positive outcome. 4. Connect with Influencers When building your marketing plan, don’t forget the power of relationships. Your team shouldn’t be tackling every task in a silo. Instead, recruit influencers to help you spread your message and get people to your site. Choose influencers within your industry that align with your brand’s values and goals. David Zheng, former contributor to The Daily Egg, offers his insight: “It can be excruciatingly overwhelming to track down influencers…The key to finding the right influencers is to remember that the more you know about your target, the better you can create a pitch that will engage and sell them on your idea.” You’ll want to draw up an agreement highlighting the expectations for the influencer partnership. Will the individual retweet specific posts? Or will the person post about your business three times a week on his account? Moreover, give influencers creative control to develop new social media ideas for your brand. Maybe they can post a series of funny videos or do a takeover on your Twitter account. These innovative approaches will earn your business more traffic. 5. Promote Special Deals A good deal is hard to find. That’s why customers are happy when they find a coupon for their favorite brand. Customers will even go the extra mile to locate a promotional code before purchasing products in their online shopping carts. You brand can leverage people’s need to save money. Start by offering special discounts on your social media accounts. It can be a one-time holiday offer or monthly deals just for your followers. These incentives will get people to your site, and it gives visitors a reason to buy from you now, rather than later. Check out this example below from Letterfolk. On Facebook, the brand is showcasing a special 20% discount on all their inventory for their Mother’s Day Sale. Like any good marketing strategy, don’t overload your customers. You shouldn’t post discounts every day. Also, state any restrictions about the coupon upfront. The last thing you want is followers upset because their coupon doesn’t apply to the items in their cart. Driving Traffic From Social Media to Your Website Social media is all the craze, but you need visitors to come to your site. From profile optimization to direct engagement, there’s an opportunity for your brand to get more traffic. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Build Your WordPress Website [Step by Step Guide]

The post How to Build Your WordPress Website [Step by Step Guide] appeared first on HostGator Blog. You’ve decided to build a website. Whether you’re building a site for your physical business, a personal project or you’re gearing up to launch your own online business, then this post is for you. Luckily, you’re reading this today and not ten years ago. Technology and the internet move so fast, that once impossible or laborious tasks can be done in a single afternoon. The same can be said for building your website. Back in the old days of the web, before content management systems, and beginner-friendly website builders existed you’d have to code every aspect of your website yourself. If you didn’t possess the ability to code or didn’t want to learn, then you’d be out of luck. Unless you had the budget to pay a professional of course. But, today’s web is much different. Anyone with the desire to build a website can go from no website to a published website in a single day. Below you’ll learn everything that you’ll need in order to build your first website, including a variety of website building tools you can consider using. The most difficult thing you’ll face isn’t actually building your site but choosing which approach to take. 1. Choose the Right Platform Like we just mentioned you have a ton of different options for actually building your website. Choosing the right approach is important and might be one of the most time-intensive parts of the process. For example, you can build your site entirely from scratch, using languages like HTML, CSS, and more. You can use a website builder to drag and drop your way towards creating a basic website. Or, you can rely upon a CMS to provide you with a customizable framework to build your site from. The best options for beginners are using a website builder or an intuitive CMS like WordPress. If your plan is to build out a fairly basic website, then using a website builder will be the easiest course of action. Website builders are designed with complete beginners in mind. With these the process is simple: You pick a website builder Choose a payment plan for your site and traffic needs Add your domain Select a theme or template Customize your site Publish it live on the internet! If you’re going to take this approach, then consider using the HostGator website builder. If you’re already a HostGator customer and want to create a simple site, then this is a no-brainer. For those with more complex site requirements, then WordPress is the way to go. With WordPress, your customization options are nearly unlimited. Plus, it’s built to help you create content and get the most out of your site. Nearly every single host will let you quickly install WordPress in a couple of clicks. And even though it’s a more complex platform the learning curve is very small, making WordPress an ideal choice for beginners. For the sake of this walkthrough, we’re going to assume you went with WordPress as the CMS you’re going to use to build your site.   2. Secure Your Domain Name and Host In order to have any site live on the Internet, you’re going to need a domain name and host. Without a domain name there’s no way for people to access your site, and without a host, there’s no place to store the files that make up your website. There are ways to get a free domain name and hosting, like using a subdomain of a larger site, like “yoursite.wordpress.com”. However, this doesn’t look very professional, and you’ll have a hard time building a following without a professional domain name. Same goes for purchasing your own hosting. There are a ton of different options to choose from, but for those building their first sites, a basic shared hosting plan will suit you just fine. In time you may want to upgrade your package, but there’s no need to complicate things from the start. With shared hosting, you’re sharing server resources with other sites using the same server. This effectively spits costs between a ton of different users, so your monthly bill will be very low. Like anything online, there are multiple ways you can secure your domain name and hosting. You can spend time researching all your available options, or to keep things simple, just follow the process below. Here’s how you can purchase a shared hosting plan from HostGator. First, head over to this page and select your plan. On the next screen you’ll be asked to enter more information, and even have the option to add a domain name. Complete the steps, enter your payment information, and you’re all set. If you have an existing domain name, then you’ll have to point it towards your new host. You also have the option to purchase your domain name from another provider entirely. However, if you’re already purchasing hosting from HostGator it’s much easier to add a domain to your order.   3. Install Your CMS on Your Host With your hosting and domain name taken care of, it’s time to install WordPress. Most beginner hosts make this easy by including software that lets you install your CMS of choice with a few clicks. Instead of having to download your CMS yourself and upload it to yourself, this software will automate all of those technical tasks. To do this we’re going to need to access your server. If you went with a host like HostGator, then we’ll be doing this with a tool called cPanel. This software is installed on your server and makes it incredibly easy to manage your server environment. Here’s how to do it: First, log in to your server via your control panel. You should have been provided your login link, along with your username and password when you signed up. Next, locate a tool called ‘QuickInstall’. You’ll see that there are numerous other content management systems you can install, but for this tutorial, we’re going to be using WordPress. So, select ‘WordPress’, enter your relevant site details and click ‘Install’. Once the installer is finished WordPress will be installed on your site. Just a few more steps and your site will be ready for the world.   4. Choose Your Theme WordPress will form the foundation of your site. But, in order to make any customizations to how your site looks you’re going to need to install a WordPress theme. Essentially, a theme is a collection of files that determine how your site looks and functions. You can think of WordPress as the foundation and scaffolding for your house—it’s basic structure. While your theme is the color your home, your wood floors—what it looks like. Since the WordPress ecosystem is so large you’ll have thousands of different themes to choose from (and that’s just including the free themes). There are also premium themes that provide you with even greater functionality, features, support, and a lot more. Premium themes generally look and function better than paid themes, have higher-quality code, and have dedicated support teams behind them. The cool thing about WordPress is that you can switch up themes at any time. It won’t have any effect on your existing blog posts, pages, and other media. If you’ve done a lot of customizing it might not display properly, but your content isn’t going anywhere. Here’s how you can select and install a theme on your site: From the backend of your WordPress dashboard navigate to Appearance>Themes. Then click the button that says ‘Add New’. Here you’ll be able to browse the massive selection of free WordPress themes or even search for a theme. Once you’ve found a theme that you like hover over it and click ‘Install’, then ‘Activate’. Now you’ll be able to customize your theme to your liking. If you want to use a Premium theme, then the installation process will be a little different. First, you’ll need to purchase and download a theme. There are dozens of places you can purchase high-quality themes online, including: Elegant Themes StudioPress ThemeForest Once you purchase and download your theme you’ll have a .zip file that contains all of the theme’s files. Now, you’re going to upload this file to WordPress. Navigate to Appearance>Themes, then select ‘Add New’. On the next screen select ‘Upload Theme’, then either drag and drop or locate the .zip file on your computer. WordPress will then upload and install your theme, just click ‘Activate’ and you’re all set.   If you want to more features to your site, then you’ll be relying on the nearly endless library of WordPress plugins. There’s a wide variety of both free and premium plugins that can help you add whatever features you desire to your site. To install any plugins navigate to Plugins>Add New. Here you can browse by popular plugins, recommended plugins, or search for a plugin you’ve found online.   5. Customize Your Site By now you’ve gotten your domain name and hosting, installed WordPress, selected your theme, and maybe even installed a few plugins. Now is where the fun really begins—it’s time to customize your site. The first thing you’ll want to do is create a few necessary pages. Home page Contact page About page Blog page Depending on your site there are probably additional pages you’ll want to create as well, like a services page, resource page, or anything else really. Adding pages to your WordPress site is very easy. Once you’re in the backend of your site navigate to Pages>Add New. This will open up a screen where you can add a page to your site. Just add your title, text, any images, or media, then click ‘Publish’. If you want to add any blogs to your site, then you’ll be following a similar process. Click on Posts>Add New, and you’ll be taken to a screen that looks nearly identical to the page editor. Write your blog post and click ‘Publish’. The approach you take to customize your theme depends upon what theme you’re using. For example, your theme might have its own customization options which you’ll control from a different tab. If you’ve purchased a premium theme, then check the documentation that came with your theme to see how to make customizations. However, you’ll also be able to make general customizations by navigating to Appearance>Customize. On this screen, you’ll be able to do things like change your site’s color scheme, header elements, menus, general theme settings and a lot more.   6. Launch! Once you’re satisfied with how your site looks and functions it’s time to launch your site. If you’ve done everything above then your site should already be online! Just type in your URL to the browser and you should see your site live. If you want to build out your site without people being able to see it in an unfinished state, then you might want to use a coming soon, or maintenance mode plugin. To do this you can install a plugin like ‘Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode by SeedProd’. Head over to Plugins>Add New, then search for ‘coming soon seedpod’. Then, install a plugin that looks like the one below: Once you’ve activated the plugin head over to Settings>Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode, here you’ll be able to customize the appearance of your coming soon page. Then, when you’re ready to launch just make sure to disable the plugin.   Closing Thoughts Building your website isn’t as difficult as it once was. If you followed the steps above you’ll be on your way towards having a fully functional website live on the web. Note that there are multiple approaches you can take, some are easier than others. For example, if you’re already using HostGator hosting, then one of the simplest options will be using the bundled website builder. This tool is very straightforward and intuitive to use and is equipped with a variety of templates to suit your needs. For those looking to create a more robust website, then consider using WordPress. This widely used CMS is the foundation for a lot of the largest and highly-trafficked sites on the entire Internet. With its flexibility and ease of use, you can create whatever style of site you desire. The route you choose is up to you. Just make sure you take stock of your needs, current skills, and overall goals of your site before you choose the best approach for building out your site. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

What Is VPS Used For?

The post What Is VPS Used For? appeared first on HostGator Blog. You may be here because you’ve heard the term VPS thrown around a lot, and you’re wondering what this acronym actually means. VPS stands for Virtual Private Server, and the term is usually used when referring to VPS hosting. It’s also often confused with VPN, although VPS and VPN are two different things. Of course, there’s a lot more you can do with a VPS server than just host a website, but we’ll get into that below. VPS hosting is typically a natural next step after you’ve run into the limitations of a traditional shared hosting plan. Below we’ll answer the questions what does VPS stand for, and what is VPS used for in depth. By the end of this post, you’ll know if a VPS is going to be right for your needs. What Does VPS Stand For? As you learned in the introduction, VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. This kind of server environment operates similarly to a dedicated server. However, instead of a single physical server, you’re sharing multiple physical servers, which are linked together through virtualization technologies. You can think of VPS like a cross between a shared server and a dedicated server. You’re sharing a physical server with other website owners, but it’s divided up in a way so there are multiple virtual dedicated servers present, hence the “virtual” aspect of VPS. What is VPS Hosting? If you have asked yourself “What is VPS hosting?”, this section will provide you with an in-depth look at this hosting service. VPS hosting is a step up from basic shared hosting. When you’re just getting started online, shared hosting will probably be the form of hosting you start with. With shared hosting, you have a single physical server which is then divided up between multiple different user accounts. In this scenario, you’re splitting physical server resources, which helps to keep costs low. On a basic level, VPS hosting has a similar setup. When you sign up for VPS hosting you have a guaranteed amount of server resources allocated to you, but you’re still sharing space on a physical server with other users. There are many differences between VPS hosting and shared hosting due to the virtualization technologies employed in VPS hosting. Even though you might be sharing the same physical server there won’t be any overlap in resource use, and the other VPS accounts won’t affect your site in any way. Think of it as a single dedicated server that’s split over multiple physical server environments. VPS hosting is a great choice for website owners who have outgrown shared hosting, yet aren’t quite ready for the price tag or features offered by a dedicated server. You can easily migrate from shared hosting to VPS hosting while still staying within a reasonable price point. Pros of VPS Hosting For some website owners, VPS hosting will be a godsend. Acting as the intermediary between shared and dedicated hosting, VPS can provide you with a lot of benefits. Here are the most common reasons website owners decide to upgrade to VPS hosting. 1. High Level of Performance If you currently have a slow loading website, then you’re doing a disservice to your visitors and your website as a whole. If you’ve been utilizing shared hosting and have been noticing a drop in performance, then one of the first things you’ll notice is an improvement in your loading speeds and overall site performance. VPS hosting is equipped to handle higher traffic levels right out of the gate. Plus, you have the ability to scale your server resources if your needs expand over time. 2. Improved Overall Security When your site starts to grow in popularity there’s a chance you’ll start to experience more security threats. Even if you’ve done everything in your power to harden your site’s security you could still be experiencing issues. In this case, it’s time to upgrade your hosting. VPS hosting offers you very high levels of security. You’re not only completely protected from other sites using the same physical server, but you’ll be able to implement other security hardening protocols as well. 3. Great Value Pricing VPS hosting might not be in everyone’s budget, but it offers a great value for the resources you have access to. Essentially, you’re getting access to a dedicated server at the fraction of the cost. Plus, with VPS hosting you’ll be enabling higher levels of performance and elevating the security protocols surrounding your site. When compared to shared hosting you’re getting a serious upgrade in hosting quality without a massive jump in price. 4. Greater Server Access and Customization VPS web hosting will generally provide you with a greater level of server access, along with the ability to customize your server environment as you see fit. Some, like WordPress VPS hosting, will have certain restrictions for plugin use and overall configuration. However, others will operate more or less like a clean slate, allowing you to choose your operating system and build whatever configuration will supercharge your site the most. Keep in mind that some hosts will also offer managed VPS web hosting, which means that the majority of the technical tasks required to manage your server will be taken care of by their teams. This option will help to free up your time and ensure your server is always fully optimized according to your website’s specifications. Cons of VPS Hosting Even though VPS hosting seems pretty great it’s not the perfect fit for every kind of website owner. Here are some of the most common reasons people decide not to go with VPS hosting: 1. Prohibitive Pricing Even though VPS hosting is quite cost-effective, especially with all of the features, the pricing can still be steep for some website owners. If a basic shared hosting plan is stretching your budget, then VPS might not be the right option for you. VPS hosting does seem cheap when compared to the more expensive dedicated hosting plans. However, it’s still a pretty sizable step up from shared hosting. 2. Poor Resource Allocation With Low-Quality Hosts VPS hosting relies upon proper resource allocation. If you’re using a low-quality host, another site that’s on the same physical server may impact your site, or your site otherwise won’t be able to perform at the level you’ve grown used to. However, using a high-quality host should help you easily avoid either of these issues. What is VPS Used For? Beyond hosting a website, VPS servers have a myriad of other uses. Even if you’re currently happy with your existing hosting plan, you might want to check out VPS hosting for the other types of scenarios it provides. Here are the most common VPS use cases beyond your standard hosting plan: 1. Hosting Your Own Personal Server There’s a multitude of reasons to run your own server environment, outside of simply hosting your website. A VPS server gives you your own virtual playground for additional online activities. For example, maybe you want your own dedicated servers for games? For some people, the cost of a dedicated server might be prohibitive, but instead, you could run a VPS server to host smaller game matches or create your own custom game environment. Not every hosting company will allow you to run a gaming server via VPS, so make sure you read the terms and conditions, or contact support, before you decide to go this route.   2. Testing New Applications If you regularly deploy web applications or test out custom server setups, you’ll need your own server environment to test these things out. But, an entire dedicated server might be too expensive to warrant simple testing. In this case, a VPS will fit the bill perfectly. This will give you a playground to do whatever you wish without incurring high monthly costs. 3. Additional File Storage Sometimes, you want to create another backup of your files, but using cloud storage accounts can become expensive. If you want to create secure and easily accessible backups, then consider using a VPS server. Overall, this might end up being cheaper than a cloud hosting account, depending on the overall volume of the files you need stored. However, keep in mind that not every hosting provider will allow their VPS accounts to be used for pure file storage, so double check the terms and conditions before you move forward. VPS Hosting Showdown By now you understand what a VPS hosting solution is, and the other reasons you might want to deploy a Virtual Private Server. Now it’s time to see how VPS hosting compares to the other forms of hosting out there. For those thinking about upgrading their current hosting package, this section is for you. 1. VPS vs Shared Hosting We went into shared hosting a bit above, but it’s worth digging in a bit more detail. With shared hosting, you’re renting space on a physical server that’s being shared with multiple other users. The server is partitioned between users, but there is a chance that other sites on the same server could impact your site. With a VPS hosting solution you’re still sharing a physical server with other users. But, the underlying technology is much different. A VPS utilizes what’s known as a hypervisor. This ensures that you always have access to the guaranteed level of server resources as specified in your hosting plan. Shared hosting is a great place to start, but once you’ve run into its limits, VPS is a great next step. Plus, VPS hosting has the added benefit of being able to scale with your site. 2. VPS vs Dedicated Hosting Dedicated hosting is pretty simple. You’re renting an entire physical server that’s yours to do whatever you want. It’s one of the more expensive forms of hosting available, but it’ll provide you with very high levels of performance and security while offering you the ability to customize your server however you see fit. A VPS server vs. a dedicated server will behave differently, in that you have your own virtualized dedicated server to use how you see fit. However, you don’t have your own physical dedicated server, just a virtual one. If you have a very high traffic website, or require very high levels of security, then a dedicated server might be a better fit. However, keep in mind that you’ll need a larger budget when compared to VPS hosting. But, if you don’t have the budget for a dedicated host, then VPS hosting will suit you fine until it’s possible to upgrade. 3. VPS vs Cloud Hosting Cloud hosting is one of the newer forms of hosting on the block. Overall, cloud hosting is similar to VPS in that it uses virtualization technologies to create a server environment. However, when comparing cloud hosting vs. VPS hosting, there’s a network of servers that are grouped together to create a cloud server cluster. This setup provides you with very high levels of reliability and scalability. So, if your traffic levels swing up and down from month to month, then this style of hosting could be advantageous. VPS hosting operates in a similar fashion by creating a virtualized web server environment across a few physical servers (if your resource needs require it). However, with VPS hosting you should have a more stable volume of traffic per month, even if it’s rising on a consistent basis. In Closing: Do You Need to Use VPS? VPS hosting is a perfect fit for those who require the resources that a dedicated server can provide, but aren’t quite ready for a dedicated web server. When it comes to your website, using VPS hosting will offer you higher levels of performance, storage, and scalability if the need arises. However, you might also think about utilizing a VPS for deploying and testing projects, running your own personal server, or even for additional file storage or website backups. Whether or not you need to upgrade to a VPS depends on if you’ve currently hit the limits of your existing hosting package, or want to test out a VPS for any of the reasons highlighted above. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what a VPS is used for, even beyond the realm of hosting your website. If you’ve currently hit the limits of your shared hosting account, then upgrading to VPS hosting can be a great decision for the future of your website. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

What Is ASP.NET Hosting?

The post What Is ASP.NET Hosting? appeared first on HostGator Blog. One of the most important decisions every website owner must make is choosing the right type of web hosting services. And there are a lot of different types of hosting plans out there. Selecting the best web hosting solutions for your website depends on a number of different factors, including the programs you use to build and maintain your website. For a certain subset of website owners, that makes considering ASP.NET web hosting services an important part of the process of finding the best plan for you. Before we can provide a good explanation of what ASP.NET web hosting is and who it’s right for, we need to define what ASP.NET is. What Is ASP.NET? ASP.NET is an open source framework programmers can use to build dynamic websites, apps, games, and online services with the .NET platform. In ASP.NET, programmers build web forms that become the building blocks of the larger website or app they work to create. While ASP.NET is not as commonly used as PHP—the most ubiquitous of the programming languages used to build websites—it provides some distinct benefits for web designers that make it a strong choice for many websites. 10 Pros of Using ASP.NET ASP.NET isn’t for everybody, which is why it has a much smaller market share than PHP. But the pros of using ASP.NET to build your website or app are notable enough to make it well worth consideration. Here are ten top reasons to consider using ASP.NET. 1. It’s open source. As an open-source framework, any developer or programmer can make changes to the ASP.NET architecture to make it work the way they need. And often developers will share any updates or improvements they make with the larger community, so you can benefit from the work being done by a wide number of talented, skilled ASP.NET programmers. Any open source piece of software or program gets the benefit of all the great minds that use it. Every programmer that sees a way to make it more flexible, secure, or feature-rich can contribute to it. With over 60,000 active contributors, you can count on ASP.NET to just keep getting better. 2. It’s known for being high speed. ASP.NET makes it easier to build a site while using less code than other programming options. With less code to process, websites and apps load faster and more efficiently. ASP.NET packages also uses compiled code rather than interpreted code. Compiled code is translated into object code once, then executed. And every time after that, it loads faster. In contrast, interpreted code has to be read and interpreted every time a user accesses it, which slows things down. While you always have options for speeding up your website, no matter what you build it with, ASP.NET means you’re starting off with a website that will work and load that much faster than with other options you could choose. 3. It’s low cost. In addition to being open source, ASP.NET is also free. You can download the latest version of the software from the website for nothing. You can write ASP.NET code in any simple text editor, including free options like Microsoft’s Visual Studio application. In some cases, as with Visual Studio, the most useful text editors have a free basic plan you can use to start, and paid versions that provide more useful features for the common needs of big businesses, such as collaboration options. You may end up spending some money to get the full use of it you need, but businesses on a budget have the option of using ASP.NET for free. 4. It’s relatively easy to use. While PHP has a reputation for being easier to use, ASP.NET also has many features that make it intuitive for programmers or reduce the amount of work required to create a website or app. For one thing, programming with ASP.NET requires creating less code than most other options. That both means less time spent working on code for developers, and that your pages will load faster because it takes less time to process the code that’s there.   For another, it offers code behind mode, which separates the design and the code. This creates separate files for the design part of a page, and the code part of a page. That makes it easier to test things out and make changes as you go without messing anything up. Finally, ASP.NET allows for template-based page development and server-side caching, both of which mean you can make the design elements you build go further and easily re-use them for different parts of the website or application. While ASP.NET is primarily a resource for professional developers rather than beginners, they have a range of free resources available for those who want to learn the ropes. 5. It has a large developer community. Even though ASP.NET is relatively easy to use, many website owners will want to hire a professional developer to help with the particulars of building out a website or app. Luckily, the ASP.NET community is big enough that finding a skilled developer to hire who has experience in using the framework shouldn’t be a problem in most cases. And having a large community also means that, as an open source software, there are more smart minds working to improve upon ASP.NET on a regular basis. Many of the issues it had in the past have been fixed, and anything about it you don’t like today may well be taken care of in the months or years to come. 6. It requires less setup for Windows users. If your business already uses Windows products, then picking a Windows framework to build your website or app on will make the overall process easier on your team. Since it’s made by Windows, ASP.NET works seamlessly with other Windows applications. Getting your various products to play nice together and work in tandem will be simple. And you won’t have to worry about an update to ASP.NET or any of your other Windows applications screwing up compatibility. Windows will make sure that updated versions of its various products and applications still work well together, even as they all evolve over time. 7. It offers support for multiple languages. Programmers using ASP.NET have a couple of different programming languages they can choose from: C# and VB.net. C# in particular is a popular option with many developers because it’s powerful, flexible, and easy to learn.  It’s one of the most popular programming languages today and is known for being particularly well suited for building Microsoft applications, games, and mobile development. 8. It’s now compatible with all servers. Some articles on ASP.NET list one of the main disadvantages as being that it only works with Windows servers. In fact, several years ago Windows released the ASP.NET Core which made the program compatible with all types of servers—Linux, MacOS, and Windows. While it still may work best with a Windows server, since it was initially designed with that compatibility in mind, you can use ASP.NET no matter which type of web server you prefer. 9. It’s supported by Microsoft. Microsoft is one of the biggest and most powerful tech companies in the world. Any product that has their backing can count on regular maintenance, updates, and improvements. With some free products, there’s always the risk that their creators will stop supporting them and anyone dependent on them will have to start from scratch, but ASP.NET has the power of a company that’s not going anywhere behind it. 10. It’s got a great reputation for security. One of the main areas where most experts agree that the ASP.NET service beats PHP is for security. The program supports multi-factor authentication protocols that allow users to control who has access to the website or app they create with the framework. And ASP.NET includes built-in features that protect against common hacker protocols like cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL (structured query language) injection attacks, open redirect attacks, and cross-site request forgery (CSRF). Website security is an increasingly important issue for all website owners to consider, especially as hacks and high-profile data breaches become more common. Choosing ASP.NET is one of several steps you can take to make your website more secure. 5 Cons of Using ASP.NET That’s a long list of pros, which may have you wondering why so many people still choose PHP over ASP.NET. It’s not all positives, there are a few downsides to choosing ASP.NET as well. 1. It’s not compatible with fewer CMSes than PHP. One of the main reasons that some people prefer PHP is that it works with popular content management systems like WordPress. For people more comfortable using a CMS, which makes creating and updating a website easier if you don’t know how to code, ASP.NET puts a serious limitation in their path. With over a quarter of the entire internet running on WordPress, and content management systems like Drupal and Joomla powering much of the web as well, that makes PHP the natural choice for a majority of websites.   2. It has fewer templates and plugins. Because ASP.NET has fewer users, it also has fewer extras. With fewer people to develop useful features like templates and plugins, there just aren’t as many available to users of ASP.NET. These kinds of extras extend the functionality of a program and can make it easier for people to create the exact kind of website or app they want. While there are still definitely options you can take advantage of with ASP.NET, fewer choices means getting your website where you want it to be will be harder. 3. It’s potentially expensive if you’re not already using Windows. As we already mentioned, using ASP.NET is technically free. But using it tends to make the most sense for companies that already have access to a number of Windows products. One of the big benefits it offers is working seamlessly with all those other Windows solutions, so if you need something a Windows product offers while working on your website in ASP.NET, you’ll likely have to shell out for an additional product. Not everyone that uses ASP.NET will feel the need to spend money on other Windows solutions, but some will. If you end up deciding you need the additional functionality various Windows products provide, the cost can quickly add up. 4. It has a smaller community than PHP. While ASP.NET has a community that’s devoted, it’s much smaller than the community that uses PHP. That means fewer support resources and fewer developers working to make the framework better. It also means businesses will find it harder to find professional developers that are skilled in ASP.NET than PHP (although far from impossible). And you won’t have as many forums or user groups to turn to with questions. While that is an inconvenience, there is enough of a community out there that you may not feel a lack if you do choose to go with ASP.NET. But if having a supportive community is an important part of your decision when choosing what to build your website or app with, other options beat ASP.NET in this category. 5. It’s harder to learn than PHP. ASP.NET is relatively easy for developers to learn, but it has more of a learning curve than PHP. And because you can’t use intuitive content management systems like WordPress with it, it’s generally out of reach for many beginners that can’t afford to learn programming languages themselves or hire a professional when building out their website. For big businesses with a budget to put toward building a website or app, this is likely to be a non-issue since finding skilled ASP.NET programmers to hire won’t be too hard. But for smaller businesses and individuals building a more basic website, it’s a good reason to pick a simpler solution. What Is ASP.NET Hosting? Now that we’ve covered the basics of what ASP.NET itself is, we come back around to the main question at hand: what is ASP.NET web hosting? ASP.NET hosting is any web hosting plan designed to be compatible with ASP.NET. In many cases, that means Windows hosting, but since ASP.NET is now compatible with other types of servers, it doesn’t have to mean that. Two main things define ASP.NET hosting services: 1. It promises compatibility with ASP.NET and all associated web applications. ASP.NET hosting solutions must provide seamless compatibility with ASP.NET itself. But you’ll also want to make sure your web hosting plan provides compatibility with other web applications you’re likely to use with ASP.NET, such as the Plesk Control Panel and any other Windows products you use.   2. It has an easy installation option. A good ASP.NET hosting plan will include simple one-click installation that lets you add ASP.NET to your web hosting platform within seconds. You have enough work to do building your website, game, or app—you don’t have time to spend on a complicated installation process. A good ASP.NET hosting option ensures you don’t have to spend any longer on this step than necessary. What to Look for in an ASP.NET Web Hosting Plan If you determine that using ASP.NET is the best option for your website, then an ASP.NET hosting plan is a smart choice. When researching your options, look for a web hosting plan that includes: A 99.9% Uptime Guarantee – Uptime is the amount of time your website is working and accessible to visitors. It’s one of the main differentiating factors between different web hosting companies. The best companies promise at least 99.9% uptime and back that claim up with a money-back guarantee. 24/7 Customer Support – The moment you have an issue with your website, you want to get it fixed. 24/7 customer support means you can reach someone right away and get the problem taken care of faster. Plenty of Bandwidth – Look for an ASP.NET hosting provider that offers plans at different levels, especially if your website or app will need a significant amount of bandwidth. If you need it, make sure you can get an enterprise-level plan compatible with ASP.NET.A Reputation for Security – Choosing ASP.NET to build your website is one smart step you can take for security, choosing the right web hosting provider is another. A web hosting provider that uses strong firewalls and offers security features like an SSL certificate that will provide an extra level of protection that keeps your website and its visitors safer. HostGator’s ASP.NET web hosting services offer everything on the list. We make it easy to add ASP.NET to your hosting account so you can get started faster. And we have one of the top reputations of any web hosting company in the industry. If you’re still not sure about the right web hosting provider or company for your ASP.NET website, our sales representatives and support team are available 24/7 to answer any questions you have. If you’re looking into a different service like dedicated server hosting, cloud hosting, or shared hosting plans, our experienced team can help you find the best package for your needs. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

What Is Windows Hosting?

The post What Is Windows Hosting? appeared first on HostGator Blog. When figuring out which web hosting plan is the right choice for your business, you have two main server options: Windows hosting and Linux hosting. If you don’t know anything about what they are and how they’re different, you could risk making the wrong decision out of the gate, and face trouble down the line getting your website working the way you’d like. To help you make the best decision for your business, we’ve put together this guide on what Windows hosting is, who it’s for, and what to look for in a Windows hosting provider. What Is Windows Hosting? Windows hosting is website hosting that uses a Windows operating system. Because the most common web hosting plan options operate on Linux, you can usually assume that anytime a web hosting company doesn’t specify a plan is Windows hosting, it’s Linux hosting. But for a certain subset of website owners, Windows server hosting is the better choice and it’s important to seek out a plan that provides the particular features that come with it. 3 Pros of Windows Hosting Windows hosting isn’t for everyone, but it offers some unique benefits for the businesses that it’s a good fit for. 1. It runs on the familiar Windows operating system (OS). Windows is the most popular operating system in the world. The current OS version alone has over 400 million users, and some estimates put the total user base at more than 1 billion. The Windows system is familiar, and using it is straightforward for millions of people around the world. That said, when it comes to web hosting, most website owners don’t access the web server’s operating system directly. With Linux hosting, you typically use the cPanel, and with Windows server hosting you have the option of the Plesk control panel. But for anyone who plans to use the server user interface directly, Windows hosting provides a much more intuitive user experience than the Linux user interface. 2. It provides compatibility with other Windows tools. For a lot of business, this is the main reason to choose Windows hosting. If your business depends on a number of other Windows tools, then choosing a web hosting platform that plays nice with the various other software products and solutions you depend on will make your life easier. If your website was built using ASP.NET web hosting, then you’ll need to use a Windows server.. Companies that use a Microsoft structured query language (SQL) server for their website and databases will also need to stick with Windows server hosting. Same thing goes if your business uses Microsoft Exchange for your company’s email server and Microsoft Sharepoint for your project management and team collaboration. Basically, the more your business depends on Windows programs, the more likely you are to need Windows server hosting. You can always trust that your web hosting platform will be compatible with all your other legacy programs. And notably, you can trust that whenever your OS and related programs have an update, you don’t have to worry about losing functionality of other programs that depend on them since everything comes from the same company.   Another point worth considering is that most businesses that use a number of Windows-based tools will already employ a lot of tech support professionals that are experts on using, maintaining, and updating Windows programs. The people that already know how to manage your Windows products will have no problem also using your Windows server hosting. 3. It comes with the easy-to-use Plesk control panel. Where Linux web hosting has the cPanel, Windows hosting has the Plesk control panel (although it should be noted that Plesk is also an option available with Linux hosting, just not as commonly used with it as cPanel).  While many users that are already familiar with the OS can directly use the Windows server hosting interface, those that want something a little more user friendly can count on the Plesk control panel to make it easier to make updates and changes to your website. Plesk provides an intuitive user interface that lets you create and manage multiple websites and domains, set up email accounts, and manage reseller accounts. Unlike cPanel, it’s more specifically focused on the needs of commercial website and app owners. It’s compatible with content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. And Plesk offers a number of different extensions companies can use to add more functionality to the control panel, including many that increase the website’s security, improve website performance, or add new applications to the website. 3 Cons of Windows Hosting While the benefits of Windows server hosting are significant, there’s a reason that Linux is the default for web hosting solutions.. Windows hosting is great for what it does, but it has a few notable downsides as well. 1. It’s not as secure as Linux hosting. Websites that run on Windows have been the victims of ransomware attacks in recent years with more frequency than Linux ones have. For that reason, Linux hosting is widely considered to be the more secure option for websites. For business websites, security is an important consideration, especially if you sell products through the site and thus collect sensitive financial information from your customers. But even if you don’t have an eCommerce website, if hackers take your website down for hours or days, it’s bad for business and for your overall reputation. While Linux web hosting beats Windows hosting in the security category, which of the two you pick is just one of many factors that influence website security. Even going with Windows hosting, you can do a lot to keep your website protected from hackers by making sure the web hosting company you choose invests in basic precautions, adding additional security software or extensions to your website, keeping all the website software you use up to date, and being careful about the levels of access you provide different people working on the site. 2. It’s more expensive. Windows hosting does cost a bit more than Linux hosting, but the difference is fairly minimal. For instance, HostGator’s Linux-based plans start at $2.75 a month, and our Windows hosting plans start at $4.76. For both types of web hosting plans, the costs do go up as the website’s needs increase, but even for an enterprise-level plan, Windows hosting only costs $14.36 a month. For most of the businesses making a decision—especially for enterprise businesses that already depend on a number of Windows products and systems—those numbers should be manageable, even as Windows hosting costs more. 3. It can be less stable. Linux servers are known for being extremely reliable. They rarely need to be rebooted and can smoothly handle many functions at a time. Windows servers, in contrast, tend to have a little more trouble consistently handling a large number of apps and tasks at a time without interruption. As with any technology on the web, Windows servers have improved in this area over time and can be expected to continue to do so, but they’re generally not quite as consistent in their performance as Linux servers. That said, this is another area where choosing the right web provider can make a big difference. A Windows hosting company that includes a 99.9% uptime guarantee is promising they’ve taken all the precautions to keep their Windows servers working as consistently as possible. With the right attention to maintenance and preparation, a good web hosting provider can help overcome the difference in server reliability between Windows and Linux hosting. Who Should Use Windows Hosting? For most new businesses starting out on the web, getting a shared hosting or cloud hosting plan based on a Linux server makes the most sense because of its affordability and reliability. Where Windows hosting really makes the most sense is for businesses—mostly enterprise or other large businesses that have been around for awhile—that have built their website and other systems on Windows programs. If a lot of your business’s tech relies on Windows, then Windows server hosting is the natural choice. It will work seamlessly with all the other programs you use, and won’t require you to rebuild or work on anything from scratch. And the tech professionals your company relies on to keep all your systems working properly will already know how to work with the Windows hosting OS. In short, if Windows hosting is the right choice for your company, your IT team will likely have strong feelings on the subject. Make sure you bring them into the conversation and let their input determine your web hosting choice. What to Look for in a Windows Hosting Provider If you’ve determined you do need Windows server hosting, then it’s important to find the right web hosting company and plan for your needs. When researching your options, here are a few good features to look for. Software Compatibility Any Windows hosting plan should provide the proper compatibility you need for all your Windows-based programs and software, including: ASP ClassicASP.NETMSSQL (Microsoft SQL Server)MS Access (Microsoft Access)Visual Basic DevelopmentC#Remote Desktop Microsoft ExchangeMicrosoft SharePoint If your business is reliant on any of these though, it doesn’t hurt to double-check that the Windows web hosting plan you choose will work seamlessly with them. In addition, if you use a popular CMS, like WordPress, check that the web hosting plan is compatible with that as well. If you add website tools like Google Analytics and AWstats, or eCommerce software like Magento or Woocommerce for an online store, be sure to check those as well.. Often, web hosting companies will advertise compatibility with common software solutions on the website, but if you don’t find the information there, you can check with the sales team for more information. Stability While as previously mentioned, Windows hosting has a weaker reputation for stability than Linux, finding the right web hosting provider can make all the difference in ensuring your website works consistently. The thing to look for here is a promise of at least 99.9% uptime. That’s how often the company guarantees your website will be up and accessible to your visitors. Some companies, like HostGator, even back that promise up with a money-back guarantee, so you know they’re serious. Even if Windows servers aren’t quite as reliable as Linux ones, the right company that knows how to take proper care of them can help make up the difference. Security Every business has to prioritize website security. The stakes are too high not to. Windows hosting may have more vulnerabilities than Linux hosting, but by choosing a reputable provider with a strong reputation for security, you can avoid much of the risk. Look for a company that uses firewalls to protect their servers, and that provides SSL certificates as part of their offerings. And check if they provide additional security software or other options to help you further protect your website from hackers. Reputation Reviewing the different plans available from various web hosting companies and the promises they make is just one part of making an informed decision. Also look into their reputation in the larger industry. Check out websites with third-party reviews to gain an unbiased look at the company’s reputation and determine if it’s in line with what you’re looking for. Customer Service Even if you have a tech team full of Windows experts, you may occasionally need customer service help from your web hosting provider. Confirm that your web hosting choice offers 24/7 customer service. If your website ever fails, you need to be sure you can get it working again right away. And make sure they offer multiple ways to get in touch. You should be able to use the communication format of your choice, whether that’s phone, live chat, customer portal, or email. Find the Best Windows Hosting Plan for You If Windows hosting is the right choice for your company, make sure you find the particular Windows hosting plan and provider that offers what you need. HostGator’s Windows hosting solutions cover all the bases we’ve covered here, and you can choose between two levels based on whether you’re running a SMB business or have a larger enterprise company. Either way, you can count on the compatibility and features you need at a reasonable price. Whether you are looking to do Windows hosting, Virtual Private Server hosting, or dedicated server hosting, HostGator has got you covered. Contact our team of experts today to get started. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Create a Style Guide for Your Website in 5 Steps

The post How to Create a Style Guide for Your Website in 5 Steps appeared first on HostGator Blog. Websites are online storefronts for small businesses. Because they play a pivotal role in the customer experience, your team must make it a priority. A style guide helps your small business develop a cohesive look for your website. Without a clear branding style, customers will disengage and leave your site. Style guides also ensure there aren’t any discrepancies in your branding strategy. Let’s streamline your online presence. Here are 5 elements to consider in your website style guide. 1. Brand Voice Branding is the overall perception of your small business. It’s how you differentiate your products and services from others in the market. Brand voice is part of building your website. You get to show visitors your brand personality and unique qualities. Voice can range from casual and calm to vibrant and risky. In the chart below, each voice characteristic corresponds with suggested actions (and inactions) for businesses. For instance, a company aiming for an authentic voice should portray honesty and ownership of mistakes and stay away from marketing jargon. A description of your brand voice isn’t always enough. When developing your style guide, you also should include explicit examples for your team to follow. This tactic eliminates any uncertainty when posting copy to your site. Web design affects many internal departments. Your sales team needs to know the appropriate messaging to secure customers. The finance team is interested in the actual costs, and human resources wants to attract new employees. Therefore, it’s helpful to get input from your entire team when making key brand decisions. Choose a brand voice that inspires your customers. Then, you can start developing a website that represents your brand story.   2. Navigation Laying out your website is just as critical as selecting the right words and images. When visitors land on your site, they should easily tell where to go next. It’s vital that your team craft a straightforward roadmap for their visit. For starters, keep your main heading options under six. Too many choices can overwhelm visitors and can cause them to take no action at all. Drop-down menus also can offer structure, giving visitors access to additional pages without multiple clicks. When mapping out your navigation, conduct customer research and examine data from conversion optimization tools like heatmaps. You’ll want to begin with what’s important. Andy Crestodina, the co-founder and CMO of Orbit Media, provides his perspective: “In website navigation, just like any list, items at the beginning and the end are most effective, because this is where attention and retention are highest. Always seek to put the things that are most important to visitors in the most visually prominent places.” Effective navigation helps customers buy your products. So, streamline the navigation bar to increase engagement.   3. Colors Red, blue, purple, yellow. The colors on your website matter to your visitors. They can either spark an invitation to stay or ignite a reaction to leave your site immediately. Colors influence consumers’ perceptions of your brand. While each color represents something different for every individual, humans do recognize specific colors to represent different emotions. Yet, studies recommend that companies select colors that support the brand personality they want to portray, instead of aligning with stereotypical color associations. Your team then can add meaning to the chosen colors through other branding aspects. The diagram below shows the connection between a color and a meaning. For example, lime green can translate into competence with a brand personality of reliability and intelligence. Colors relay an essential message your customers. Don’t force your brand to adhere to the traditional norms of what a color embodies. Find the right palette for your small business.   4. Fonts Fonts are usually the last thing on a small business owner’s mind. However, fonts help communicate your brand’s voice. Script fonts can portray a young, playful company, while a slab font can mean a bold, established brand. Google Fonts is an interactive library of more than 900 fonts. It’s an easy-to-use tool to experiment with fonts and compare your top choices. Avoid fonts that aren’t legible or clear. Consumers shouldn’t have to squint their eyes to read your text or take a second look just to be certain. Jill Chongva, a WordPress website designer, says: “It’s best to use fonts that complement each other and work together without being jarring for the reader. This usually means choosing a combination of a serif font and a sans serif font that don’t fight for the reader’s attention.” It’s also wise to not select fonts similar to well-known brands, like Coca-Cola or Nike. You want a distinct font that separates your small business from the competition. What font expresses your brand? Do your research and select one that will grab your consumers’ attention.   5. Images Images impact how consumers see your small business. With a couple of pictures, buyers can quickly determine whether they can see themselves with your product. In your style guide, outline the type of images that are acceptable for brand promotion. Specify the recommended file format and display size. You also may want to limit the number of images per page—leaving some white space. That way, your visitors don’t get bombarded with too many visuals at once. Invest in quality product photography. You want images that display the fine details of your product. For example, if you sell purses, consumers should see every pattern design. The image should give them a sense of how the product would look and feel in real life. Customers can become accustomed to the same old stock photos. For your website to stand out, you may want to shoot your own photos. Most smartphones are capable of taking high-quality pictures. So, encourage your team to share their photos from the last company retreat or team-building outing. Choose your images carefully. The image specifications make a huge difference for your website.   Your Website’s Style Guide Websites are open invitations for customers to learn about your small business. Style guides create a roadmap to establish your brand. With the right elements, your team can build a better customer experience. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

What Is a Domain Name Registrar?

The post What Is a Domain Name Registrar? appeared first on HostGator Blog. Every website you visit online has a domain name, which means that every website owner went through the process of buying and registering that domain name. It’s one of the first necessary steps involved in starting a new website, along with getting web hosting and building out your site. And it’s a step that requires working with a domain registrar.   What Is a Domain Registrar? A domain registrar, sometimes called a DNS registrar (short for domain name server), is a business that sells domain names and handles the business of registering them. Domain names are the main address a website uses on the web—they’re the thing that usually starts with www and most often ends with .com. While technically, computers identify websites with a different sort of address—an IP address that’s a long string of numbers separated by periods (e.g. 111.111.111.111)—humans wouldn’t be much good at remembering and using that kind of address. So for us, websites also have an address made up of alphanumeric letters, that usually spell out a word or brand name. And there’s a specific type of process behind how people claim domain names. There are registries that manage the different top-level domains. The registries are large, centralized databases with information about which domain names have been claimed and by who. But the registries don’t sell the names directly, they delegate that job to DNS registrars. Registrars must be accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Then, each time they sell a domain to a customer, they’re expected to register it with the appropriate registry by updating a record with your information.   Domain Registration FAQs For the most part, this process happens behind the scenes for website owners. Part of the service a good domain name registrar provides is making the process of finding, buying, and managing a domain (or multiple) simple and intuitive. You don’t have to know how the sausage is made, but if you’re curious to learn more, we’ve got the answers to the most common questions about domain name registrars. What is the role of a domain name registrar? The domain name registrar handles the process of updating the registry when a customer purchases a new domain name. As part of that, they keep track of which domain names are available and typically provide customers with an intuitive search tool to find out what options they have. They handle the financial transaction with the customer, and provide the tools needed to maintain the domain name subscription over time. You can’t buy a domain name outright, you can only rent it for up to ten years at a time. DNS registrars usually provide the option of annual renewals or multi-year subscriptions, sometimes offering a discount for registering the name for a longer period of time upfront. Domain registrars will often provide a user account where you can keep up with your domain registration status, and features like automatic renewal or email reminders. What is a domain registrant? That’s you! Well, assuming that you, the person reading this, is planning to buy a domain name or already has one. Once you take the step of selecting and purchasing a domain name from a domain registrar, you become the domain registrant. And the title will continue to apply for as long as you keep up your domain subscription. In most contexts though, people are more likely to call a “domain registrant” a domain owner, or a website owner once their site is up. What is a domain registry? A domain registry is the database that includes all the information about a specific top-level domain (TLD). The term is also sometimes used to refer to the organization that manages the database, as well as the database itself.    Domain registries have relationships with domain registrars, who submit domain name registration requests and record updates to them on behalf of customers. One of the biggest examples of a domain registry is Verisign, which manages the databases for several of the most common TLDs, including .com, .net, .gov, and .edu. What is private domain name registration? Part of the domain registration process includes providing the registrant’s information to the database of domain owners. In addition to the domain registries, the WHOIS directory tracks information on every website domain that’s registered, who owns it, and their main contact information. That’s because someone needs to be able to identify website owners who use their site for illegal purposes. But in our age of high-profile data breaches and growing concern around internet privacy issues, not every website owner wants to put their name and contact information out on the open web. And it shouldn’t be a requirement for running a website. Thanks to the private domain name registration options now offered by many DNS registrants, it’s not. Domain registrars usually charge a little more in order to shield you from having your own name and information included in the directory. They provide enough contact information to the WHOIS to keep you on the right side of the law, typically an email address associated with the registrant’s company, and keep the rest of it private. What is a domain name server? We talked earlier about how computers don’t use domain names to recognize website addresses, they use IP addresses. Domain name servers are the technology that translates between the two. The domain name system is the protocol established to ensure machines exchange the right data for the average internet viewer to see the correct webpage when they type a domain name into their browser or click on a link. Domain name servers play an important role in that system, storing all the information required to connect a specific domain name address to the correct IP address. Each time a computer queries a domain name server for a particular domain name, it finds the appropriate IP address to serve up. How do I register a new domain name? Now that we’ve covered much of the back-end technical stuff, you’re probably wondering how this all translates into what you, a would-be website owner, need to do to get the domain name that you want for your site. Luckily, the process for you is pretty easy. Start by finding a domain registrant you want to work with (more on how to do that in a bit). Most of them make it easy to search for available names, see the different top-level domain options you can consider, and go through the purchasing process. Provide your name, contact, and payment information through a secure form on the registrar’s website, and you should be set! How do I find an available domain name? This part can be trickier. With billions of websites already out there, all of them with a unique domain name, a lot of your options are already taken. Finding an available domain name that’s easy to remember and describes what your website does can take some work and creativity. Expect to spend some time using your domain registrar’s domain name search tool. Try out different variations on the names you have in mind. Consider synonyms and creative spellings. While a .com is usually the easiest option for visitors to remember, consider if you’re willing to go with another top-level domain like .website or .biz. The TLDs that aren’t as common will have more domain name options available. What is a top-level domain? A top-level domain is the last part of the domain that follows a period, such as .com or .net. ICANN controls which TLDs are available, and used to be pretty strict about opening up new ones. Early on, most specialty TLDs related to a specific industry, type of website, or geographic location. For example, .com was for commercial businesses, .gov for government websites, and .org for nonprofit websites. But as the internet has grown, the need for more available domain names has caused ICANN to lift the restrictions on how many TLDs are available, and who can use different ones. As such, when you do a domain name search on your chosen registrar’s website, you’ll see an array of TLD options at different price points. If the name you want isn’t available as a .com, you may be able to get it for cheaper at a .us or .site TLD address. How does domain name transfer work? When you choose a domain registrar to purchase your domain name with, you don’t have to make a long-term commitment to working with them. You have the option of switching over to a different registrar down the line, although you have to wait at least 60 days, due to an ICANN policy designed to reduce domain hijacking. If you’re past that sixty day point, you can transfer your domain name to a new provider by unlocking your domain name at your current registrar, disabling any other privacy protections such as WHOIS domain name privacy, and obtaining a domain authorization code from your current registrar. Once that’s done, follow the domain transfer steps provided by the new registrar you’re switching to. For HostGator, you can start the domain name transfer process here.    What to Look for in a Domain Registrar Now that you know all the ins and outs of what a domain registrar is and how domain registration works, you’re probably ready to find a good domain registrar and get started. You have a lot of different options. Some companies only provide domain registration services. Others, like HostGator, offer domain registration along with other services like web hosting, so you can take care of multiple basic website needs all under one account. With so many options to choose from, you need to know what to look for. Here are some of the most important factors to consider. 1. Pricing Some of the cost of registering a new domain name is related to the name you choose. In particular, different top-level domains come at different prices. But you’ll also see some variety in what different companies charge. When considering the pricing of different domain registrars, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind, First, the prices advertised are generally for a one-year time period, but you should check to be sure. A domain name isn’t a one-time purchase, you have to plan on continuing to pay for as long as you keep your website. You want to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, and not putting one company’s one-year price against the price another advertises for a longer period. Also, it’s fairly normal for companies to advertise an introductory price that you pay for year one that goes up in the second year. Don’t just consider what you’re paying right now, think about what you can afford on an ongoing basis. And as with most things, sometimes a cheaper price will mean you pay in other ways, as with weaker customer service or a worse customer experience. Don’t just jump at the first low price you see without researching the company to find out if they’re cheap for a reason. 2. Reputation While domain name management doesn’t involve that much interaction with the company, you still want to choose a domain registrar that will be easy to work with and reliable. Spend some time reading customer reviews and doing general research on the company. Are they well known as a legitimate domain registrar? Do they have a reputation for solid customer service? Do people find the registration and renewal processes intuitive? Your domain name is an important part of running your website and maintaining it over time. You can always transfer your domain later, but you’ll be better off picking the right DNS registrar from day one. 3. Extras Most domain name registrars provide services beyond just domain name registration. It’s very common for registrars to also be web hosting providers, and bundling the two services can increase your ease of use for managing each. Other good add-ons to look for are: Domain name privacy, which helps you avoid spam and any risk that comes with making your personal information more public. Auto-renewals, which allow you to put the renewal process on autopilot so you don’t have to worry about forgetting or doing any extra work to keep your domain name registration up to date.Email addresses that you can set up for yourself and people in your organization at the domain, making your communications look more official.A multi-year purchase option, so you can secure your domain name for longer without worrying about renewal. If any of these are features you know you want, find a domain registrar that provides them. Register Your Domain Today As you know by now, HostGator is a domain name registrar that provides an intuitive domain name search function and easy registration process.   We offer domain name privacy, automatic renewals, and the option to buy your domain for up to three years at a time. And on top of all that, we’re one of the most respected web hosting providers in the industry. If you want the convenience of managing your web hosting and domain name registration in one place, you can count on HostGator to be a reliable option for both. If you’re ready to move forward and buy a new domain name, get started searching. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

4 Free or Inexpensive Resources to Help You Start Your Online Business

The post 4 Free or Inexpensive Resources to Help You Start Your Online Business appeared first on HostGator Blog. There’s a lot to learn before (and after) you start your own business, and if you don’t have a business degree or previous experience running an online business, your exciting plans can feel a bit overwhelming. So can sorting through all the advice and information out there for new and would-be business owners. To help you get off to a strong start on a small budget, here are some reliable free and low-cost resources to help you plan, launch, and grow your new business. 1. Mentoring from Experienced Professionals Want answers to specific business questions or insights from someone who’s been there and done that? SCORE is a nonprofit supported by the US Small Business Administration that provides free, confidential mentoring for entrepreneurs in person, online, and by phone. With more than 10,000 volunteers providing advice nationwide, the odds are good that you can connect with someone in your niche. You can enter your location on SCORE’s Find a Mentor page to see all the SCORE volunteer mentors near you, search for mentors by industry or keyword, and find the closest SCORE office. The SCORE website also has a resource library full of blog posts, webinars, podcasts, videos, and templates on thousands of topics. Some of the webinars charge a small fee but most of the resources are free.    2. Courses to Build Your Business Skills Khan Academy has a group of videos in its Careers section that feature different small business owners and freelancers talking about what they do, how much they earn, how they work, and how they got started. The range of careers covered is relatively small, but even if your niche isn’t included, there’s good advice on running a business in several of the presentations, and you can get an idea of all the tasks that go into being your own boss. If you’re ready to tackle business topics at the college level, check out OpenCourseWare from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The site provides free access to the materials for most of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate-level courses. You can search by academic department for classes on accounting, marketing, and other business topics. Or you can explore OpenCourseWare’s Entrepreneurship portal, which includes dozens of classes covering planning, pricing, finance and accounting, marketing, patents, sales, operations, and much more. The only catch? It’s up to you to download and work through the course materials on your own. Coursera also offers college-level instruction, and it provides graded assignments and feedback in courses from universities around the world. Unlike traditional distance-learning classes, Coursera courses don’t come with a traditional tuition price tag. Some courses can be audited for free, and if you want to earn a certificate or access all the course features, a subscription plan runs about $50 per month. One Coursera option for budding business owners is Michigan State University’s 6-course specialization program called How to Start Your Own Business, which is designed to walk students through the process of starting their own businesses as they launch it. The classes you may need will depend on the type of business you want to run. Planning an e-commerce business? OpenCourseWare’s undergrad-level Economics and E-Commerce course materials cover pricing, sales taxes, different types of e-commerce, advertising, and search. One recommendation from me: If you’re planning a service business like freelance design or writing, event planning, or repairs, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about negotiation before you begin, both to earn what you’re worth and to build good relationships with good clients. Becoming a good negotiator can help you in many areas of your business, from setting rates and writing bids to working with vendors and hammering out the fine print in contracts. Coursera offers more than 50 negotiation courses, and MIT OpenCourseWare offers materials for several negotiation classes from the Sloan School of Management’s curriculum. Whatever you decide to study now, remember that successful business owners are always learning. Free and low-cost courses are a low-stress way to keep up with trends and innovations in your niche. 3. Guidance for Building a User-Friendly eCommerce Website In late 2018, Google published its UX Playbook for Retail: Collection of best practices to delight your users. Google reviewed hundreds of retail sites to come up with its recommendations, and the result is probably the best free resource you’re going to find for learning what to include on your site and why to include it. The free-to-download playbook uses Sephora, Warby Parker, Boots, ThredUp and other best-in-class e-commerce sites to show you exactly what works for six key areas: the homepage or landing page, menus and navigation, search, products and categories, conversion, and forms. For each area, there are details on what to include and what to avoid, to help you create a site that looks professional and is frustration-free for shoppers. There are also charts showing the ease of implementation, impact, and key metrics to track for each suggestion in the playbook. Don’t let the playbook’s 108-page length discourage you from diving in. The guide’s design—lots of screenshots, checklists, and charts—makes it a fast, informative read you can consult as you plan each section of your site. 4. Easy Tools to Create Your Website DIY website design used to be reserved for hardy amateurs who enjoy coding and don’t mind spending time tinkering and consulting support forums. For the rest of us, website builders have opened up high-quality site design to anyone who can drag and drop. Site builders like Gator Website Builder make setting up a small business website or even an online store fast and easy by packaging everything you need to get started and making the design process a snap. For example, every Gator plan includes site hosting, domain name registration, an SSL certificate to protect your data and your customers, analytics to help you measure and improve your site’s performance, and support. You also get unlimited pages, storage, and bandwidth so there’s no limit to how much your site can grow as you add products, services, and testimonials from your best customers. You can also upgrade to Gator Premium for priority support or to Gator eCommerce for priority support plus online store functionality. Ready to get started? Choose your Gator Website Builder plan now. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

What Is phpBB Hosting?

The post What Is phpBB Hosting? appeared first on HostGator Blog. The idea of community used to be much more tied to geography. For a group of people to come together to have discussions, share information, and learn from each other, they had to live close enough to do so in person. The internet has changed all that. The idea of connecting with people in online communities is now second nature to us. And one of the common options for creating and maintaining communities online is the forum software phpBB. Below we dive into everything there is to know about phpBB hosting, from how it works to why you might choose it to power your own forum. What Is phpBB? phpBB, which stands for PHP bulletin board, is an open source forum software that enables users to create a space online where communities can gather and share information in an organized format. Forums created with phpBB let creators define the main categories and topics the community forum will cover. Users can create accounts, load their own questions and contents in the appropriate categories, and respond to the posts of other community members. All participants in the discussion board can track the number of conversations and posts in all of the categories, and click to view each category and conversation they’re interested in. The forum model is basic and intuitive, making it easy for just about anyone to use. And for individuals or businesses interested in starting a forum, phpBB makes setting one up relatively simple as well. 6 Reasons to Start a Forum phpBB is best used for the specific function of building and running an online forum. Before you decide if it’s the best application for your purposes, you should figure out if creating a forum is right for your particular needs. It’s possible to create a discussion board for its own sake, in order to create a gathering place for people with common interests. It’s also common to create one as part of a business or brand that already exists, to give your customers or followers a place to connect with each other. If you already have a website and are wondering if a forum makes sense, there are a few main benefits it can offer. 1. Forums create community. Humans are social animals who have always sought out community and connection. An online forum gives people a chance to get to know other users, help each other out, and feel like a part of something. In some cases, that will take on a straightforward and professional tone, and in others it will have a more fun or emotional one. In either case, when you can provide people with a sense of community, you’re adding real value to their lives. And if you become a regular participant in it as well, you may find it brings value to yours also. 2. You can get to know your site visitors better. For brands, this is a big benefit. For both businesses and media sites, understanding your audience is a big priority. In order to deliver information and products that are relevant and useful to the people you want to reach, you need to know who they are and what they care about. When your audience comes together to interact with each other in a forum, they’ll voice the common questions and opinions they have. All that information you’re always trying to learn about them when crafting buyer personas or creating a content strategy? With a forum, they’ll bring it straight to you. 3. Your visitors can learn from each other. For many tech and software products, this is one of the big roles online forums play. When you’re struggling to figure out how to take a particular action in your software and head to Google to find the answer, often what you’ll find is a forum page where one user of the software asked the same question, and a fellow one provided an answer. This is a major reason why we have forums here at HostGator: That use case extends beyond tech products to any type of issue your forum users might be able to help each other with. A forum for teachers could include advice about lesson plans or how to handle particular student issues. A forum for fans of a TV show could include conversations about the show’s influences or themes that introduce ideas some fans hadn’t considered before. In every case, both the people learning something new, and the people providing the information (and in many forums, members will take turns in each role) are getting something valuable out of the interaction. 4. Forums can increase traffic to your site. If you add a forum to your website, you give all the members that participate reasons to keep coming back again and again. And when users have questions that relate to content you already have on your website, you have the perfect opportunity to share the link and drive more traffic to those pages on your site. All that adds up to more visits to your website. And even better, much of it will be return visitors who are actively engaging with your brand during their visits. For website owners, that’s a big win. 5. Forums can improve search engine optimization (SEO). The search engine algorithms like fresh content. When they see that a website is updated often, it shows that the website is current, which suggests it has more value than one that’s potentially outdated. Forums generate tons of fresh content—every time someone posts a new message or response, they’re creating new content on your site. And if your forum is available to the public, it creates a lot of new pages that can be indexed by the algorithms and show up in search themselves. If one of the conversations in your forum answers a question searchers have better than other websites do, it could get onto the first page of the search results, driving more traffic and increasing the authority of your website. 6. Forums help you generate new content ideas. One of the best ways to improve your website’s authority is to consistently create content your visitors care about. But creating large amounts of high-value, relevant content is challenging. In order to keep it up, you need a way to brainstorm topics your audience are most interested in. A forum gives you a window into the topics your audience is thinking and talking about. You can learn the common questions they have, and then create content that answers them. And by spending time following the conversations they have and the language they use, you’ll get better at creating content in a style that they can relate to. Why Use phpBB? If a forum sounds like the right choice for your website, you do have a few different options to choose from in selecting your software. But there’s a reason that phpBB is one of the most popular options—a good number of reasons in fact. In particular: It’s free. Setting up a forum with phpBB costs nothing. You can save your money for hosting and marketing. It’s open source. The code for phpBB is freely available to use and change as you need. And because it’s open source, other users can also develop features and extensions you can benefit from.It’s secure. The team behind phpBB runs security audits and work to quickly release updates to the software anytime they spot a vulnerability in the code. As long as you keep your software up to date and take basic website security measures, like choosing a trusted web hosting provider and using strong passwords, you’ll be able to keep your website safe from hackers. It enables user preferences. For your forum to attract the community you want and get them to stick around, you want it to be user friendly. phpBB allows individual users some control over their experience of the forum. For example, they can load unique avatars and signatures to personalize their accounts, and customize the order they view categories in.  It gives you the power of moderation. In our era of spam bots and trolls, a good community is a well moderated one. To keep your forum valuable, positive, and on topic, you need the power to review and approve the posts that go live. phpBB allows both the forum owner and any users you assign moderator status to the ability to remove or approve specific posts. It offers public and private messaging options. Much of the value of a forum is the visibility of the conversations to all members, but sometimes individual members may want the ability to take part of the conversation private. phpBB allows the option of private messaging between members as well as public discussions. It allows posters to include rich features. These days, online conversations are rarely just text. phpBB lets users complement their written messages with popular gifs, images, and emojis, as well as adding rich media like video or interactive features like polls. It has anti-spam features. It’s hard to go anywhere online without encountering spam, but phpBB can help you avoid dealing with too much of it in your forum with features like captcha confirmation and the ability to ban users as needed. You can customize your forum’s look. You can use your own coding skills to change up the design of your forum, if you’re able. Or you can choose from the hundreds of styles other phpBB users have developed and made available, mostly for free.  You can control permissions. Ther forum owner, administrators, and moderators will need different types of access and abilities in the forum than everyday users. phpBB makes it easy for you to determine which users are able to access which features.There are lots of extensions available. The functionality available in the core phpBB software is rich enough, but many users have created extensions that add additional features and functions to phpBB, many of them for free. You can expand what you and your members are able to do, based on your priorities. What Is phpBB Hosting? phpBB hosting is a type of web hosting that’s compatible with the phpBB software. phpBB provides a lot of the important functionality you need to build a forum, but it doesn’t come with web hosting. For your forum to become available online and accessible to your members, you’ll need to invest in application web hosting. If you already have a website, you may be able to get started by adding your phpBB forum to the hosting plan you already have, but if you didn’t choose an application web hosting plan specifically designed to work with phpBB, there’s a chance you’ll face compatibility issues. A good phpBB web hosting plan will promise easy one-click installation, so you can spend your time focusing on getting your forum started, not on messing with complicated technical processes to get everything working. Here’s a look at how easy it is to install phpBB with HostGator: A phpBB web hosting plan will be 100% compatible with your phpBB forum—so there’s no chance of surprise issues down the line. Plus, a strong phpBB hosting choice will provide adequate security through strong firewalls and security software options, so that you can trust your forum will remain active without the threat of malicious hackers or viruses. Finally, you’ll also want to be sure you choose a web hosting option that provides enough bandwidth for the website to handle regular visits from all your users, especially if the community starts to grow in the months and years to come—which is exactly what you want! While a number of web hosting plans may work for hosting your phpBB forum, your life will be a little easier if you go with a reputable web hosting company that offers a phpBB-specific plan. Get Started with phpBB Hosting Services With the right phpBB hosting plan, you can get your forum up and running fast, and keep it running functionally without issues for as long as you want. When considering your options for phpBB hosting, make sure you go with a web host that has a strong reputation for providing quality service. HostGator can promise 24/7 customer support, a 99.9% uptime guarantee, and a great reputation in the industry. Many of the benefits of having a community forum fall by the wayside if your visitors can’t access it at the moment they need it. With the right phpBB web hosting plan, you can be confident that your forum will deliver on the speed and accessibility that your users want and expect. Get started today with HostGator application hosting. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

What Is Wiki Hosting?

The post What Is Wiki Hosting? appeared first on HostGator Blog. When you’re seeking out information on a topic online and you head to Google, in most cases the top result you see will be from Wikipedia. The massive Wiki has become the go-to source for knowledge of all types online. But Wikipedia is just one example of a larger category of websites: wikis. What are wikis, and how can you host one of your own? We explain everything you need to know about wiki hosting plans below. What Is a Wiki? A wiki is a popular type of website  that enables open collaboration from users. The main thing that sets it apart from other websites is that anyone with an interest in the topic at hand and relevant knowledge can go in and add or change information on the page. In addition, the structure of wikis centers interlinking between related topics. This both encourages visitors of one page to move to related pages to gain additional knowledge, while also making it easier for people to learn contextual information that improves their understanding of the topic at hand. As many fans of Wikipedia, the most dominant of all online wikis, are well aware, the wiki format can inspire meandering and varied—but fruitful—explorations of knowledge. There’s even a term for this kind of exploratory knowledge gathering: the wiki rabbit hole, likening the experience to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland moving from one interesting experience to the next. Wikis are therefore great tools for sharing, organizing, and gaining knowledge through many types of resources. And for learning from the minds of many who can bring a diversity of experiences and knowledge to the format. Why Should You Start a Wiki? If you’re at the stage of trying to decide what kind of website to start, you should know that a wiki isn’t right for all possible websites. For example, if you’re building a business website, you want to keep control over what information goes on each page. And while providing helpful information may be part of your business website strategy, it wouldn’t be the central focus—getting people to buy your products or services is. Wikis aren’t for every use case, but for the particular situations where they do make sense, they can be a great choice. If you want a website that matches these four main attributes, then a wiki may be for you. 1. Wikis are collaborative. This could potentially be the main benefit or the biggest reason not to start a wiki, depending on the type of website you’re building. Whether you want strangers who share your passion to be able to add their knowledge of the subject your website is centered on, or if you want to allow employees or colleagues to weigh in on the business information provided, a wiki allows for that. If a colleague has a great idea for improving one of the business processes you describe on a wiki page, they can chime in in a format where everyone can see their contribution and build upon it. Or if a visitor that shares your love of your favorite TV show or author remembers a key point not initially included on a character’s page, they can add it to make the description more thorough. If your goal is a site that collects as much relevant knowledge as possible from multiple sources, then a wiki makes a lot of sense. 2. Wikis enable wide accessibility. A wiki can be easily accessed by anyone with internet access on any device they have. For businesses or organizations that want a centralized location where everyone can access all the company’s important information, a wiki provides that benefit. You can keep all your documentation, including the comments and responses other people have shared, in one place where anyone can get to it at the moment they need it. Wiki platforms provide accessibility both in terms of making it possible for everyone relevant to weigh in on the topics covered, and when it comes to where and how people can view the information included. 3. Wikis are an intuitive way to collect and organize information. Part of the success of sites like Wikipedia is that they organize information in a way that makes it easy to get the exact information you’re looking for. Wikis break information up into individual pages that each have a clear focus. Instead of packing all the information about a TV show into one page, for instance, you have separate pages about each character, each episode, each actor, and each of the main themes in the show. While the information is divided into one page for each topic, the related pages are also interlinked to make it easy to find additional relevant information as you go. As an example, if a character’s page mentions that they’ve married another character, it would include links to the spouse’s character page and the episode the marriage happens in. All of this makes it easy for anyone visiting the wiki to quickly find answers to the particular question they have, and any related information they decide to seek out as well. 4. Wikis are easy to set up. With the available wiki software, building out a wiki from scratch is fairly easy and intuitive, even for someone new to the whole process. And installing the wiki software on your web server is simple if you choose a Wiki hosting plan (more on that in a bit).  You will want to spend a little time planning out the kind of information you want your wiki to cover and how to organize it, but getting a wiki up and available to other users isn’t all that hard. 6 Main Types of Wiki Software Once you’ve decided to create a wiki for your website, you have two main choices to make: which wiki software to go with, and which wiki web hosting to choose. For the first question, you have a number of different options. These are the most popular wiki software solutions to consider. 1. MediaWiki MediaWiki is the most popular and well known of the wiki software options, as it’s the software behind Wikipedia. It’s a free and open source software that’s powerful enough to host a wiki of virtually any size. It’s relatively easy to use and extremely scalable, with hundreds of configurations and extensions available. Mediawiki is best for wikis that you intend to make publically available to anyone interested. It doesn’t provide good features for restricting access to a particular group of people. If you’re building a wiki for business purposes or to enable collaboration between members of a specific organization and you want your wiki to have a level of privacy, then Mediawiki probably isn’t the best choice for you. For any publically available wikis though, it’s a popular choice. 2. Tiki Tiki is another open source, free wiki software that’s been downloaded over a million times. It’s primarily developed for businesses to help enable collaboration between employees and departments. Tiki’s wiki features make it possible to create and edit a virtually unlimited number of pages, but unlike MediaWiki, it lets the wiki creator set permissions for specific pages and lock pages to keep others from editing. It also tracks the version history for each page and allows you to restore a page to a past version. For businesses or organizations wanting a wiki they can control access to, Tiki is a good choice. 3. PmWiki PmWiki is another popular wiki software that provides useful features for businesses, while remaining free to use. It’s a fairly basic version of wiki software, providing the most essential functions you need for a business wiki. You can easily change the appearance of your PmWiki site using skins—either ones you design yourself, or pre-made options that are available. As with Tiki, PmWiki lets you control which users have editing access to specific pages of your wiki site using password protection. If you’re looking for a good software to build a simple business wiki, PmWiki is a solid option. 4. WikkaWiki WikkaWiki is a lightweight wiki software that provides similar functionality to many of the other wiki engines mentioned on this list. WikkaWiki makes editing wiki pages simple for a variety of users, and like the other business-friendly wiki options, allows the wiki creator and administrators to control which users have access to specific pages both for viewing and editing. It also allows you to track and view a page’s revision history and restore prior versions as needed. 5. Dokuwiki Dokuwiki is a free and open source wiki software that boasts a simple design. The core features are basic and intuitive, but the software is also extensively customizable using available configurations and plugins. Dokuwiki is a popular choice for business use cases, including collaborative corporate workspaces and project management. As with many of the other options, Dokuwiki has access control features that allow wiki creators to limit who can view and edit particular pages, as well as specific sections of pages. And they provide revision tracking and management. 6. Matterwiki Matterwiki is a simple, easy-to-use wiki software made specifically for small businesses. All wiki articles are stored under a specific topic for intuitive organization. The software also tracks revisions, as well as who made each change. The editor is easy for employees at all levels of knowledge to use, so for small teams that want a simple interface for their wiki, Matterwiki is a good option to consider. What are Wiki Hosting Services? Wiki hosting is any web hosting plan that has the specific features and compatibility to work with wiki software. All websites need web hosting in order to be published to the web and accessible to visitors, and there are a wide range of web hosting options available when it comes to choosing a plan for your website. Application web hosting plans are specifically designed to work effectively with the particular type of application you used to build or run on your website. Wiki hosting is a type of application web hosting that promises support for wiki websites, whatever type of wiki software you choose to go with. What to Look for in a Wiki Hosting Plan If you’ve picked out your wiki software and are ready to choose a wiki hosting plan to launch your website, there are a few specific features to look out for: Easy installation One of the benefits of going with wiki hosting services, rather than a more general web hosting plan is that adding your wiki software to your web hosting account will be a breeze. Look for wiki hosting plans that provide one-click installation for your wiki software. Specific compatibility Most wiki hosting plans should work with any of the top wiki software options, but to be safe, check and make sure that the web hosting plan you consider works with the specific wiki software you’ve selected. HostGator wiki hosting supports many of the wikis we mentioned above, including MediaWiki hosting, Tiki hosting, PmWiki hosting, and WikkaWiki hosting Proper bandwidth This is especially important if your wiki will be publically available on the entire web, but also matters for private business wikis as well. Bandwidth will affect how much information (especially media and images) you can include on your wiki, and how many visitors the wiki can handle. If you expect a lot of people to access and use your wiki, then select a web hosting plan that can handle a lot of traffic. 99% uptime Whether your wiki will be for the broader public or just for a select few, you want it to be reliably accessible. Uptime is the term that describes how much time a web hosting provider keeps its websites up and available. The best web hosting companies promise at least 99% uptime, but a select few go further and offer 99.9% uptime with a money-back guarantee.   Customer support While building a wiki is relatively easy, with any type of website there’s always the chance you’ll face occasional technical snafus or issues you need help with. Find a wiki hosting company that provides 24/7 customer support so you can always trust there will be help available at the moment you need it. Find the Right Wiki Hosting Plan for You Building a wiki can offer a range of great benefits. It helps you connect and collaborate with other people, and enables a number of people to build upon each other’s knowledge. Whether your wiki provides information about a hobby or piece of culture you love, or helps your company manage projects and organize documents more effectively, it’s the right tool for a number of jobs. To make sure your wiki site is available to everyone that needs it, reliably and consistently, make sure you choose a wiki hosting plan that’s up to the task. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Benefits of Magento Hosting

The post Benefits of Magento Hosting appeared first on HostGator Blog. Your eCommerce business is starting to come together. You have your business plan and an idea  of what the design of your eCommerce website will look like. But you still need to figure out the right eCommerce software and web hosting plan to get your eCommerce website working and ready for business. When considering your web hosting options, you may come across an option that addresses both needs in its focus: Magento hosting. What Is Magento? Before you can know if Magento hosting is right for you, you need to decide whether you’ll use Magento for your website. Magento is the third most popular eCommerce platform on the market (falling only behind WooCommerce and Shopify). It supplies the main functionality you need to run an eCommerce site, namely: A shopping cartCheck out functionalityAccount creation and guest check out optionsIntegration with payment processing apps to accept paymentAbility to list your products and track availability Those are the basics you need, but Magento has a vast array of features that go beyond the basics. Between the core functionality of the platform itself and the extensions you can add to it, the software packs a lot of power into the framework it provides for your eCommerce store.   Why You Need eCommerce Software You know now that Magento is a type of eCommerce software, but maybe you’re wondering if you can get by without an eCommerce platform to begin with. eCommerce websites have unique needs that won’t be served by a web hosting plan or content management system alone. If you want to make sales through your website, then you need a way to list your products, track inventory, provide a secure checkout, and accept payments. If you think about the online stores you buy from the most often, they probably have additional eCommerce features like the ability to set up a wishlist, mark your favorites, set up subscriptions, or take advantage of coupons. For all of that, you need the right software. If you’re building an online store, consider eCommerce software a necessary part of the process. 12 Reasons to Use Magento for Your eCommerce Website Magento isn’t your only option, but it’s one of the most popular CMSes for eCommerce websites for a number of reasons. 1. Magento is free. Few things in life are free, and it’s even rarer for something with as much usefulness as Magento to be free. But the Magento core is freely available for anyone to use. You may incur some costs for extensions you add on, or for developers you hire to help you use Magento. But the platform itself won’t cost you a thing. 2. It’s open source. Magento is open source software which means that anyone with the skills to develop a new module or extension can do so. Magento boasts a community of over 300,000 developers. They have an active forum with thousands of contributors, all working to make Magento do as much as business owners need and want it to. One of the nice things about using an open source solution is that you can count on it to improve in quality and functionality over time as people work to make it better for the benefit of all users. 3. Magento’s advanced security is ideal for eCommerce. Website security is important for all website owners, but when you run an online store that regularly takes sensitive financial and personal information from customers, security takes on an extra level of necessity. In the eCommerce community, Magento is widely considered a strong choice for security. And while the core software provides security against hackers, you can make your Magento website more secure with any of the hundreds of security extensions available. In addition, Magento lets you control how much access you allow each person who updates your website to have. Security permissions help you limit the risk of an angry employee making malicious updates to your website, or someone accidentally breaking something on the site due to ignorance. 4. Magento supports huge eCommerce product catalogs and order volume It’s understandable to wonder just how much a free product can actually do, especially if you have big goals and expect to see significant traffic numbers or list a high number of products. Magento really can handle a lot. You can add up to 500,000 products to your store on one Magento site. And the platform can handle over 80,000 orders every hour (as long as your web hosting plan is also up to the task). Plus, Magento’s reporting dashboard shows you at-a-glance how those sales are translating to your bottom line: That means it should work for you in the early stages of building your business, and allow you tons of room to grow as your sales and customer numbers increase. 5. Magento’s flexible extensions make it easy to customize your online store. Magento is extremely customizable, especially when it comes to the changes you can make using the large library of extensions. You have a lot of power to make the backend of your website look the way you want it, as well as making the website itself intuitive for your visitors. And Magento has a lot of different features you can choose to incorporate if you so desire, such as using categories to better group your different products, allowing different payment options, and letting you manage orders through the platform. With Magento, you can configure your website to have the features you want it to, both on your end and the user end. 6. Magento’s shopping cart functionality is responsive. With over half of all web use now happening on mobile devices, it’s integral that all online stores make their website mobile friendly. Magento’s shopping cart functionality is fully responsive, which means it works just as well on tablets and smartphones as it does on desktop computers. The last thing you want is for half of your visitors to bounce because they find your website difficult to use on their particular device—or worse, bounce right before a sale because the checkout process is a pain on the small screen. Magento will help you avoid that fate. 7. Magento’s powerful product search helps customers quickly find what they need. Nothing else about your eCommerce site will matter if customers find using it more difficult than it’s worth. Your website has to provide an experience that’s intuitive and pleasant from the moment they first land on the site, to when they complete their purchase. Magento helps you realize that by letting you organize your products in user-friendly ways, so visitors can browse and filter results based on their particular preferences. You can enable features like auto-suggestion for search terms or display popular search term clouds that can further help customers find what they need. And you can load multiple high-resolution images for each product to help customers make a better decision. 8. Built-in features are designed to boost your conversion rate. Magento also has a number of options you can use to increase conversions and upsells. You can offer free shipping and discounts to incentivize sales. You can also add in areas for customers to add their own promo codes at checkout: You can enable one-click purchases (just like Amazon!) with their Instant Purchase feature: You can set up your website to display recently viewed products, so customers are more likely to go back and buy items they’d considered. You can have your website show related products, or items commonly bought together, to encourage customers to buy more products at once. Finally, you can make it easy for customers to share items they like on social or with friends. 9. Magento follows SEO best practices. The minds behind Magento knew the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) for a website and built a platform that made optimizing your pages for search simple. You can easily customize your URLs, fill in the relevant meta information on each page, and create an auto-generated sitemap to submit to the search engines. 10. Magento enables personalization. Personalization is an eCommerce tactic gaining steam and showing significant results. Magento’s core platform provides some personalization options, but you can go even further with tailoring the way customers experience your website with extensions that offer additional personalization features. With the Magento core, customers can create unique accounts so you can better track their behavior over time and show them products and ads based on past purchases or views. You can automate the process of serving up personalized recommendations for each visitor. With extensions, you can generate automated recommendation and reminder emails based on their past behavior and deliver personalized ads across other sites to help get past visitors back on your site. 11. Magento works with third-party applications. Magento helps power a lot of useful features and functionality on your own website, but what happens on your own website is only part of running an online store. You also need to think about marketing your store in various channels around the web to get customers to your website to begin with. Not to mention all the work you have to do to keep up with your business’s finances. Magento is compatible with a wide range of third-party applications that help with those parts, including email marketing software, Google analytics, accounting software products, and payment processing apps. Easy integration with the various apps you need to run your business make all the extra business tasks you have to take care of easier. 12. Magento tutorials abound online. Nothing is perfect, and one of the downsides of using Magento is that it has a learning curve. If you’re not a professional developer, or you don’t have the budget to hire one, learning the ropes of using Magento can take some time and work. But you can find a lot of useful information to help you get started online. Free tutorials are available on sites like TutorialsPoint. Or for a more thorough introduction, you can take one of the courses offered at Magento U for a fee. What is Magento Hosting? Magento hosting is a web hosting plan that provides compatibility with the eCommerce software Magento. While Magento is free and provides a lot of useful features for running an online store, one thing it notably doesn’t provide is web hosting. Magento hosting plans will often provide the additional important business features an eCommerce website needs such as an SSL certificate and compatibility with third-party solutions commonly used by businesses, such as email marketing and Google Analytics. While many web hosting plans that aren’t specifically Magento hosting may make it possible to use Magento, an application web hosting plan that provides specific functionality related to using Magento can often better meet the needs of eCommerce stores that depend on the shopping cart software. 5 Benefits of Magento Hosting When choosing the best web hosting option for your eCommerce store, you’ll benefit from prioritizing Magento compatibility upfront. There are five main reasons to specifically seek out an application hosting plan that works with Magento specifically. 1. Easy installation With a Magento hosting plan, you can trust that adding Magento to your web hosting account will be quick and easy. With HostGator’s Magento hosting, you can add the application in one click once you’re signed into your web hosting account. You can focus your time on building your website, rather than figuring out how to get your eCommerce software and web hosting service to work together. 2. Assured compatibility If you’ve already made the choice to power your eCommerce options with Magento—and especially if you’ve already put the work into using it in designing your website—you really don’t want to realize after you sign up for a web hosting plan that there are compatibility issues in getting Magento to work right with your plan. Save yourself the trouble of having to work to get the two programs to support each other, or worse, having to switch over to a new web hosting provider after you’re already eager to launch. Start with a plan you know will work seamlessly with Magento from the get go. 3. No performance issues One of the complaints you’ll occasionally see about Magento is that some sites face performance issues, such as slow loading times. In fact, the issue isn’t usually Magento when that occurs, it’s that the website owner went with a web hosting plan that wasn’t up to the task of running the Magento site. To avoid performance issues, find a Magento web hosting plan that provides the degree of power and bandwidth you need. 4. No hidden fees Some web hosting plans will advertise an upfront price, then hit you with unexpected fees when it comes time to add the apps you need to your account.  With Magento hosting, you not only know that your web hosting plan will be compatible with your Magento site, you can also trust that you won’t have to pay anything extra to use Magento with the plan you buy. 5. Proper security As we’ve already established, security is paramount when you’re running an online store. Choosing a secure web hosting provider like Magento is one step to making your eCommerce site secure. Finding a web hosting plan that also promises top-notch security is another. A good Magento hosting plan will have strong firewalls in place to protect your website from hackers and offer additional security features, like an SSL certificate and security software you can add to your website. Get Started with Magento Hosting Starting an eCommerce website is a big deal. If you make the right choices, it can put you on the path to big profits. Early on, two of the most important choices you can make are which eCommerce software to go with and which web hosting plan to choose. If you go with Magento, picking a Magento hosting plan to go along with your choice just makes sense.Get started with HostGator’s application hosting. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Write Blog Posts for Your Buyer Personas

The post How to Write Blog Posts for Your Buyer Personas appeared first on HostGator Blog. Quick quiz for business bloggers: In one sentence, describe the audience for your blog. If you had your answer ready, you’re ready to write must-read content for your customers. If you had to stop and think about who your audience is, or if you said “everybody,” it’s time to get a clear picture of your readers so you can create more effective content. In both cases, the key is to research, build, and use buyer personas. Write for a Specific Persona If you aced the quiz, it’s because you have a customer persona. Personas are like character sketches for marketers and bloggers. They define types of audience members by their interests, age range, online behaviors, and shopping habits. You create personas based on data from your site analytics, social media monitoring, site-visitor surveys, and interviews with your readers and customers. If you’re just starting out, research the types of people you’d like to have in your audience. Start with the persona that represents the largest part of your audience. Let’s say you have a blog for your hobby farming supply business. Your primary persona might be a retired banking executive (let’s call her Daisy) in her early 60s whose partner is also retired. She recently bought a vintage farmhouse on a small acreage. Her interests are raising flowers and herbs for market and she’d also like to set up a duck pond and a rental cottage on her property. Daisy likes to carefully research purchases and she prioritizes quality over price. Here’s a sample persona template you can use to create your own website personas: Speak the Same Language as Your Customers Whoever your persona is, write in a voice that they’ll understand. Let’s stick with the hobby farm supply example for a bit. Maybe your background is in agribusiness. Daisy, your retired banking-executive persona, won’t know the ag jargon that you do. She searches for terms like “how much to feed ducks,” not “how to formulate balanced poultry rations.” Include the keywords she’s likely to use in your posts to show her you’re speaking to her, so she’ll stick around. Bonus: Better SEO is a natural outcome of using the phrases your personas use. Not sure how your persona talks about or searches for their interests? Look at your blog and social media comments and email messages from your customers. Monitor your Google Search Console data to see which keyphrases bring readers to your blog. And check out other blogs, vlogs, and podcasts in your niche. The goal isn’t to copy anyone else’s voice but to connect with prospective customers by speaking their language. Tailor Post Length to Your Audience and Your Goals How long should your business blog posts be? That depends on your goals for each post and the time your persona has to read it. Daisy is retired and has time to focus on her interests, but an audience of mid-career professionals with small children will have less time to read. Short and long posts both have their place on your posting schedule, but you’ll want to skew toward what your audience prefers. The Case for Short Blog Posts Short blog posts of at least 300 words are a great way to tackle niche topics. That’s good for readers who want specific information. It’s also good for SEO, because narrowly focused posts can help you rank well for longtail search phrases. For example, if the persona you’re writing for is a pet rabbit owner, it’s going to be hard to rank well for “rabbit care,” which generates more than 443 million results. By going into more detail with posts on “elderly rabbit grooming,” “safe chew toys for rabbits,” “how to build a rabbit castle” and so on, you’re more likely to reach readers searching for those topics. You can later compile all your short posts on one topic into a PDF to give away to readers who join your list. The Case for Long Blog Posts Long posts—1,000 words and more—are more challenging to write and require a bigger time commitment from you and your customers. Long content typically does well in search results, so it’s worth your time to create at least a few. These can be mega-posts that combine and expand on previous short posts. They can also be new content, like a list or a how-to guide, to promote an upcoming launch or new product. For example, if you’re preparing to start selling an online course, a long post that includes a sample of the class material can help prospective students decide to register. Take your time writing and editing long posts to make sure they deliver what your personas want to know, using the same language they do. And if you’re planning a product launch, review your current site hosting plan to make sure it can handle launch-related spikes in traffic. You may want to upgrade to a more powerful plan like HostGator Cloud Hosting for more speed and bandwidth, and add on CodeGuard daily backup service to easily restore your site if your launch-prep site changes temporarily break things. Pace Your Blog Posts Properly Ask your readers how often they want to hear from you, then build a calendar to match your persona’s preferences. If you don’t have a big audience yet, remember that most people are happy to read one or two new posts a week from a blog they value. Less than that is probably okay, too. Too-frequent posts may overwhelm subscribers and lead them to drop your blog. Save daily posting for when you can hire help, have a large audience, and have specific marketing goals that require lots of new content. Keep an eye on your blog, email, and sales metrics. Over time, you should see how your publishing schedule affects page views, time on the site, email opens and clickthroughs, unsubscribes, and conversions. Tweak the schedule if you need to so your readers stick around. Close with a Call to Action What separates good bloggers from great bloggers? Great bloggers who build thriving online communities and businesses have a clear goal for each blog post before they write it. Before you write, decide what you want your readers to do when they reach the end of your post. Do you want them to join your email list? Share your post? Buy your duck brooders? Once you know, ask them to do it. Don’t assume it’s obvious. Life is filled with distractions, so make your calls to action clear: Join the list. Get the book. Register now. Reserve your appointment. There’s one other benefit to building personas before you blog. It helps to make your posts more conversational and builds rapport with your audience. So, whenever you’re ready to write, think about your persona, what they want to know, how much time they have to read, and the keywords they search for. Then you’re ready to write posts that will connect. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Create Services Pages that Showcase Your Work and Win You Clients

The post How to Create Services Pages that Showcase Your Work and Win You Clients appeared first on HostGator Blog. Every kind of service business has the same basic challenge: You need to let your target customers know what you offer, why you’re the right person for the job, and how to contact you. That’s why it’s so important to have a well-written, well-designed services page on your website. 5 Tips for Building a Service Page that Wins Clients Here are our top five tips for building a services page that works. 1. Know the ideal audience for your services. Who is your services page for? A good services page speaks directly to the needs of your best customers—or, if your business is brand-new, the customers you hope to have. Think about your customer personas, if you’ve developed them. If you haven’t yet developed customer personas for your marketing, do that before you create your services page. 2. Decide whether you want one services page or a page for each service. If you already know you’re going with a single-page website, then your services section will be part of that single page. Otherwise, you need to choose to have one or multiple service pages. When you should have one Services page Putting all your information on one page makes it easier for visitors to scroll through your offerings on a phone. Some SEO experts and theme developers also say putting all the information on one page moves visitors through the conversion funnel faster, so they’re more likely to subscribe or contact you. One services page may be best: Your business is new and you don’t have a big portfolio yet.You offer a small range of easy-to-understand services.Most of your customers find your site through mobile search. When you should have multiple Services pages You can also have a services overview page that links to individual pages for each service. This gives you more places to use focus keywords to boost your SEO. The trick here is to limit the number of subcategories, so your site remains easy to navigate. Multiple services pages may be your best bet if: You have portfolio examples and testimonials to show for each type of service.You offer a large range of services or services that require explanation.You’re in a competitive niche or location and want to raise your SEO game. 3. Create content for your services page Every service page needs your unique selling proposition, service descriptions, social proof, and calls to action. Your USP You don’t have to write a novel, but this is the place to brag on yourself. Do you have years of experience? Thousands of positive customer reviews? Case studies showing how your services helped clients reduce costs or increase revenue? Link to or embed that information here. Service descriptions Go into some depth on each service, because longer copy with relevant long-tail keywords can help your page rank better in search results. Does your premium dog grooming package include a canine massage? Do your birthday party packages include gluten-free cupcake options? People searching for this level of detail are often ready to buy. Help them find you! Social proof If you have them, include or link to portfolio samples, reviews, testimonials, or case studies somewhere on your services page—either in your USP at the top or in each service description. A call to action Put your call to action (“call us now” or “request a quote”) at the top and bottom of your page. Signup content To stay in contact with undecided visitors, offer free content in exchange for their email address. It can be general, like “A guide to choosing a home renovation contractor.” You can also create several pieces of content tied to individual services, like “How to decide between wood and vinyl siding” and “Which replacement windows are right for your home?” You can segment customers who sign up by the types of content they request and nurture those leads via email. 4. Make your services page easy to navigate. Now that you have the information you want to include on your services page, make that information easy for potential customers to use. Scan-friendly copy Organize your text so it’s easy to scan. Subheadings, short paragraphs, and bulleted lists are easier to read on small screens than long paragraphs. Consistent style Keep your headings consistent. On a single services page, use the same heading level (H1 or H2) for each service you offer, with descriptions underneath. This helps readers grasp your services at a glance, and it’s better for SEO, too. If you make separate pages for each service, keep descriptions, heading usage, and page formats consistent across those pages. Consider turning on breadcrumbs, so users can easily see where they are. Appealing design You can design your services page with the Gutenberg drag-and-drop editor when you choose one of HostGator’s managed WordPress hosting plans. These plans come with more than 100 free template options to help you design a great-looking site fast. You can also install other WordPress themes to get the look you want. Some of the free themes we like for small businesses and solopreneurs are Experon, Life Coach, Ryan Grid, Astra, and Schema Lite. Want to have a pro design your services page? You can save time and get great results with HostGator’s Website Design Services. In addition to a professionally designed site, you also get expert SEO guidance, individual training, and monthly marketing help. 5. Monitor your services page metrics. After you debut your services page, watch your metrics in Google Search Console. When you click the Performance tab, you’ll see a list of the search queries visitors have used to find your site, the click-through rate from search results, and the pages they visited. Over time, you’ll see whether your services page keywords match the keywords your visitors use to find your page. You’ll also see whether they’re sticking around, signing up for your free content, and more. You can adjust your keywords, calls to action, and other page elements if you need to, based on your Search Console data. Ready to get started? Check out the services pages for HostGator’s managed WordPress hosting plans and Website Design Services today. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

What to Look for in a Web Host

The post What to Look for in a Web Host appeared first on HostGator Blog. In those exciting early stages of launching a new website, you have a lot of decisions you need to make. You need to clarify your brand, choose your domain, and plan out your website’s design. On the long to-do list of getting a new website up and running on the web, one of the most important choices you need to make is what plan and provider to choose for web hosting. Luckily, this step is easier than a lot of the other items on your list. Designing your website and promoting it once it’s live are much harder and more time consuming tasks than selecting a good web hosting service provider. But nonetheless, you do want to take a little time to consider your options and make sure you choose the best web hosting plan for your needs. If you choose the right web hosting service provider from day one, you’ll save yourself the headache of having to migrate your site to a different company later. But if this is your first website, then how are you supposed to know what to look for? Especially if you don’t entirely understand what website hosting really is. We explain. What Is a Web Host? Before we can choose a web host, it’s important you first understand the web hosting basics. Web hosting is essentially the physical side of the web. Every website you see online is made up of various images, media, apps, and other files that take up storage space. While we tend to think of the internet as something that exists outside of physical space, all those files have to be stored in a physical server somewhere. In order to contain all the files that make up your website and serve them up to every person that visits it, a physical server must have a lot of power. For most website owners, owning and maintaining a server that powerful isn’t practical. That’s where website hosting companies come in. Web hosts own a large number of servers that have the power required to provide consistent, reliable service for thousands of websites. When you sign up for a hosting plan, you rent some of the space on their servers. A good web host isn’t just selling that space, they’re also selling their expertise in keeping their technology running smoothly, efficiently, and securely—so that your website runs consistently without problems. Do I Really Need a Web Host? If you want your website published online where anyone can find it, the short answer is yes. Every website needs web hosting because it’s the mechanism that takes the pages you’ve designed on your personal device and makes them accessible to people on other devices across the world. But in addition to making it possible for people to access your site, web hosting companies also offer some important additional value. They invest in the proper firewalls and other security precautions that make your website less likely to get hacked. And they keep experts on staff to provide any maintenance needed to ensure your website stays up consistently. By investing in the right tools and talent to keep web hosting servers functional all day every day, they make sure that your website is available and loads quickly and without problem whenever your visitors want it.   10 Things to Look for in a Web Host To get all the best benefits of web hosting, you need to find the right web host. With so many options out there, a newbie will understandably struggle to figure out how the different providers compare and which criteria are really the most valuable to judge each option by. No matter what type of website you’re launching, these are ten of the most important features to look for in a web host. 1. They have a strong reputation in the industry. One of the best measures of a business in any industry is their overall reputation. When a business consistently serves customers well for years, word gets around. But how do you find out what a company’s reputation is? Look for evidence from third-party sources. Have they earned any web hosting awards from reputable organizations or websites? Can you find reviews of them from tech publications? If so, what do they say? Just as importantly, what do reviews from their actual customers say? A little bit of sleuthing on Google will uncover a lot of information about what people have to say about the web hosting company you’re considering. If it’s generally positive, then you can trust you’ll be in good hands. 2. They promise at least 99% uptime. If your website is for a business, any time it’s not available loses you money. Even if this is a website you’re starting for fun, you risk providing a disappointing experience to visitors and losing followers if they can’t access your website each time they try to visit. The main job a web hosting company has is to keep your website up and accessible online. Every web hosting company will have to do occasional maintenance that will temporarily take your website offline. And if servers aren’t properly maintained, they could overheat or break down, which means more time your website is inaccessible. One of the big differentiating factors in the quality of web hosting providers is how well they manage the types of issues that can take your website offline. In industry parlance, the amount of time a web hosting company guarantees that your website will be available is called uptime, and reputable web hosting companies routinely promise at least 99% uptime. The best web hosting companies go even further, offering 99.9% uptime with a money-back guarantee. 3.  They offer a variety of plans. Today, you’re looking for a hosting package that delivers what you need right now. But you have big dreams for your new website. You hope that in the coming years, the number of people that find your website and become regular visitors will grow. Maybe you hope to continually create new content to add to your site as well. In either case, you need room to grow. Most new websites get everything they need with an affordable shared web hosting plan, but as a website grows in size and popularity, at some point you’ll want to upgrade to a cloud hosting, VPS hosting, or possibly even a dedicated hosting plan. When that time comes, you’ll have a much easier time making the transition if you can stick with the company you choose from day one. An upgrade is simpler than a full migration to a new company. So before you choose the right hosting package for today, take some time to think about what you’ll need tomorrow and beyond and see if your provider has plans to match your future needs as well. 4. They provide 24/7 customer service. When you’re up late at night working on those website fixes you’ve finally gotten around to, the last thing you want is to hit an issue you need customer support to resolve and realize you have to wait until the morning to get an answer. Any time your website has a problem, you want it fixed fast. And you should be able to work on your website on your own schedule, without having to wait on the business hours of your web hosting company’s support reps. So make sure your web host offers top-notch customer support at all hours of the day. Bonus points if they offer a number of ways you can get in touch, so you can choose between phone, email, or live chat based on what works best for you.   5. The price is right. Web hosting is a necessary cost if you want to have a website, but that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Simple shared web hosting plans start at less than $3 a month. When deciding on the right hosting plan for your site, keep in mind that web hosting isn’t a one-time cost. Web hosts use a subscription model for billing. Make sure that the cost is something you’re comfortable with moving forward, and that it seems in line with what the plan is worth. While many new websites will manage just fine with the cheapest type of hosting plan, some will find it well worth spending more for additional features and higher bandwidth. Sometimes spending more is worth it, just make sure the value matches the price. 6. Their account interface is intuitive. While the main service web hosts provide is keeping your website published and accessible, they also provide an interface that allows you to do a number of important web management tasks, such as: Domain name managementSetting up redirectsManaging your SSLManaging your domain email addressesAdding new applications or databases to your websiteManaging your backupsUpgrading or renewing your hosting solutions You don’t want to spend a lot of time learning how to do some of the basic, but important work involved in running your website. Look for a web hosting provider that makes it all intuitive with a good interface and simple processes. 7. They provide ample resources for getting started. Even if the overall design is intuitive, you’re still likely to have questions about how to do certain things with your website. Before choosing your web hosting provider, look into the type of resources they provide to help you learn how to use their products. They should have comprehensive support materials such as tutorials and how-to articles. What’s even better is also having an active support community where you can turn to other people who use the web hosting provider for help with your questions. See if the company has an active forum, in addition to their other support resources and customer service team. 8. If you have a site already, migration is supported. The idea is to find the right web hosting platform from day one, but not everyone meets that ideal. If you’re on the search for web hosting solutions because you’re not happy with your current web hosting company, then you want to find a provider that will help you with the process of transferring your website over. Look into what the migration process is like. Consider talking to a support person there for details, so you know what you’re getting into. If they can make the process relatively simple and painless, then you’ll be able to switch over quickly and get back to focusing on the work of running your website. 9. They support domain name management as well. Web hosting is one of the necessary elements all websites need, a domain name is another. One of the most important steps in starting a new website is finding and registering your domain. And it’s just as important to keep your domain name registration current for as long as you keep your website. While it’s entirely possible to register your domain with a different service than the web hosting provider you choose, you’ll have a much easier time staying on top of domain name management if you keep it all in one place. Make sure your web hosting provider allows you to manage your domain registration and renewals in the same interface you use for managing your web hosting. 10.  They offer satisfactory security options. Hackers and data breaches are an unfortunate part of the online world today.  Every website owner ought to prioritize security. While there are a number of steps you can take to make your websites more secure, one of the best things you can do for website security is choosing a web host that treats it as a priority. A good web hosting company invests in powerful firewalls, includes SSL certificates as part of their plans, and offers affordable security software or other add-ons to enhance your website security. Research the company’s reputation for security to make sure you’ll be in good hands. Bonus Feature to Consider: A Website Builder If you already have a great professional web designer in mind for your website, or have the skills to do it all yourself, then this feature won’t be necessary. But for anyone wanting a quick and affordable way to build a website, in spite of lacking programming skills, an intuitive website builder will make your life much easier. And opting for a website builder from a web hosting provider means you keep all your website management tasks in one place. It’s one less log in to remember and account to keep up with. Choose Your Web Host Today If you’re ready to make your decision and get started with a web host now, consider one of HostGator’s plans. We offer a range of options, so there’s plenty of room to grow. We have a money-back guarantee of 99.9% uptime. We also provide 24/7 customer support and lots of helpful resources to help you get started. And we’re one of the most respected web hosts in the industry, as evidenced by third-party reviews and awards. Ready to learn how to build a website? Give our experts at HostGator a call today and we’ll help you find the best hosting plan for you and your needs. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

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