HostGator Blog

How to Start an Online Store

The post How to Start an Online Store appeared first on HostGator Blog. Analysts predict that global eCommerce sales will reach $4.9 trillion by 2021—showing a growth of 265%. People are only getting more comfortable buying products online, and entrepreneurs are rushing to provide them more options for doing so.  Starting an online store isn’t just attractive because of the potential profits. In comparison to other forms of business ownership, it also has the lowest barriers to entry.  You don’t have to worry about the real estate a storefront requires. And you don’t have to hire staff to man that storefront. Your startup costs are lower and the initial steps involved in getting started are far less complicated. But there’s still a lot you need to know if you want to start a successful eCommerce business. These are twelve of the most important steps not to skip when starting an online store.  How to Start an Online Store in 12 Steps Step 1: Determine your products. Before learning how to start an ecommerce business, you have to know what product or service you’re going to sell. Picking the right products to sell on your eCommerce website is essential to the success of any online store. Sometimes, people go into business because they already have a great product idea in mind. Other times the desire to start a business precedes the step of choosing products. In either case, you’ll benefit in this step from doing two things: Researching the level of need or interest in products you considerFiguring out how to supply or create them Even if you’re confident the product you have in mind is an awesome idea, if there’s not a market need for it, your business won’t get off the ground. A CB Insights analysis found that 42% of startups that fail do so because they’re trying to sell a product that no one needs. So do some consumer research to make sure there’s an audience that will actually want to buy your product to begin with.  For physical products, you also need to decide who your supplier will be before you start selling through online marketplaces. If you’re creating a new product to sell, that will mean identifying vendors for both the supplies needed to make the product and those for putting it together.  If you’ll be selling products that already exist, you need to find a high-quality supplier that provides items in your chosen categories. You have two options in this stage. You can either order the products to come directly to you—then store, package, and ship them yourself. Or you can use drop shipping, and find a reputable company to store inventory and deal with order fulfillment for you.  For digital products, you need to create them. That could mean creating information products like courses or ebooks. Or it could mean software development, which is more involved and may require hiring skilled help.  Across product types, for new online businesses it’s smart to start small. Pick a focused niche to stick with when starting an online shop. That will make figuring out your marketing and positioning much easier than if you’re trying to sell dozens of products in different categories to an array of audiences. Step 2: Do competitor and industry research. Once you have a firm idea of your products, seek to understand the industry and online marketplaces you’ll be entering into. You want to make sure it isn’t oversaturated, as that will make it much harder to get your foot in the door. Identify who your main competitors are, and spend some time reviewing their websites.  Learn how they price their products, how they position them, and the kind of language they’re using with their online shop. They’ve likely already done audience research and analyzed how certain tactics perform, so you can get a headstart on figuring out what works in your space by paying attention to what they’re doing.  Identify some of the top industry publications as well, so you can learn about the top trends people are talking about and any potential issues to be aware of.  You don’t want to enter an industry only to learn that pending legislation will mean heavy regulations that make it harder to get started. Make sure you have a strong understanding of the space before you take the leap.  Step 3: Figure out your brand and positioning. Understanding the state of the industry will help you figure out how best to position yourself within it. At this stage, you’ll want to develop (or at least start thinking about): Your unique value proposition (UVP) – The line that describes what your online store does and what makes you different from comparable choices. The goal is to be able to sum this up in a sentence. Defining your UVP will help you with many of the steps to come.Your buyer persona – A description of the person most likely to buy your products. Knowing who you’re trying to reach will improve your marketing, since you’ll know who you’re talking to, their priorities, and where they hang out online.Your visual branding – Your logo, color scheme, and the images you’ll use across social media sites. If possible, hire a graphic designer to help you with this part. Your brand name – Go for something short and easy to remember. It’s great if you can figure out something that relates to what you’re selling, but it’s more important that it be original. Check to make sure someone else hasn’t already staked a legal claim on it. And bonus points if the .com is available.  If you have the resources, hiring a marketing consultant or agency to help with the branding is worth it. If you’re starting your online store on a tiny budget though, you can learn a lot about branding best practices through online research.  Step 4: Create a business plan. A business plan will help guide you in your early days of building your online store. It’s how you turn big ideas to specific steps. The research you did in the first few steps will be invaluable to working out all the details of making your business a reality. Some good items to cover in your business plan include: Your budget – Work out your anticipated costs for the first yearFunding sources – Identify how you intend to cover the costs of your budget. Do you have enough saved, or will you look into loans or investors?Timeline – Create a timeline for each of the steps you still need to complete to get your business started. Give yourself deadlines to help you stay on track.Return policy – Returns are an inevitable part of running an eCommerce business, so it’s important to make handling them part of your plan from the outset.Shipping policy – Getting your shipping policy right is a huge part of running an eCommerce  store. You need to figure out if you’ll be passing those costs onto customers (which could lose you sales), or building them into your product costs. Customer service – No matter how big your business will be to start, you want a plan for customer service. Figure out what channels you’ll offer for support (phone, email, social media, etc.), and whether you’ll hire someone devoted to providing it, or handle it yourself to start.  Inevitably, your business plan will undergo some changes. There’s a lot about running a business you can’t predict or plan for. But having a plan in place will help you gain clarity and organize the rest of the process of building your online store.  Step 5: Decide on your pricing. Pricing will often be part of your business plan. But it’s an important enough step that we’re giving it its own section here.  Pricing can be one of the hardest parts of running any business. If you price too low, you won’t make enough money to break even. If you go too high, you’ll lose sales to customers and, well, won’t break even. Finding that pricing sweet spot is essential. Start by revisiting your competitor research. Make note of what your competitors are charging and how much range there is between them. This will give you an idea of what your audience expects to spend, and what the market will bear for the types of products you want to start  selling.  Now think carefully about how your products and positioning compare to your competitors. If you price higher, can you make a case for why in your marketing? Can you promise higher quality, better customer support, or something else that sets you apart?  Try to avoid pricing on the lowest end of the range, as that will make it harder for you to make a profit. But unless you have a strong differentiator for your brand, you also shouldn’t aim for the high end of the range or people will go with someone else.  Consider how much you’ll need to make to cover the expenses in the budget you created. And for each price point you consider, calculate how much you would need to sell to make a profit.  Step 6: Register your domain. Just as soon as you’ve decided on your brand name, snap up that domain! Registering a domain name (if it’s available) is quick, easy, and affordable.  Even if you’re not quite ready to design and launch your website, claim the domain now in case someone else has the same idea and gets there first.  Step 7: Cover your legal bases. While opening an eCommerce  store brings a lot less liability than a physical storefront does, you still need to make sure you do everything required of you by law to set your business up legitimately.  Because laws and requirements differ based on where you live, where your customers will be, and what type of industry you’re in, you should really meet with both a lawyer and an accountant for this step. They’ll help you figure out details like: What business licenses you need to apply forWhat type of business entity to create (e.g. LLC, partnership, S-corp, etc.)How to register for your business trademarkWhat permits you need to getHow much sales tax to apply Applying for a tax IDDeveloping your privacy policyEstablishing copyright for products or content you create If you’re trying to keep costs low in the early stages of your business, hiring a lawyer and accountant may seem like a big expense. But they can potentially help you save money and avoid legal trouble, which makes the cost worth it.  Step 8: Invest in web hosting. For an eCommerce business, your website is the main way people will interact with your brand. And every website requires web hosting to be accessible online. Choosing the right web hosting provider and plan is important, because it influences: How frequently your website will be available (uptime)How fast it will loadHow secure it isYour ability to grow in years to come A good eCommerce web hosting plan for a small business can cost as little as $6 a month. And it’s easy to sign up and get started.  Step 9: Choose how to build your website. Now you’re finally ready to build the website that will serve as your online store. Creating a great website is hugely important for any eCommerce business, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. It’s now easier than ever to build an online store with the help of a website builder.  If you have a really specific vision and you have the resources to hire a professional designer, you’ll have more power over how your website looks and works. But if your priorities are to get your website up quickly and affordably, you can create a functional, professional eCommerce site with a website builder. Put the work you did in the branding step to use here. Make sure the images and color scheme you use match your overall visual branding. And write copy that reflects your UVP, or consider hiring a copywriter who can.  If you opt to use a website builder, you can get an online store up quickly. But you may want to devote some time to getting the look and messaging just right.  Step 10: Choose your eCommerce software. A store builder will help design your overall site, but an online store needs an extra set of features beyond what a typical website has. In particular, it needs: A shopping cartA check-out processSecure payment processing Those are the basics. In addition, you may want some other helpful features: Easy account creation for customers to make future purchases easierA wish list function, so people can mark items they like and offer gift ideas to friendsA recommendation engine to show people other items they may want, based on what similar customers purchasedAbility to offer and process discount codesFeatures to help simplify and/or automate the shipping and sales tax processes Some eCommerce software options are actually free, such as WooCommerce (for WordPress sites specifically). Consider what eCommerce features you consider important, which you consider nice-to-have, and research your options to find the software that seems to be the best fit for your needs and budget. Step 11: List your products. After you use a store builder to set up your online shop, begin adding your products. Any good ecommerce software will make it easy for you to start loading your inventory. Add each item to your  eCommerce site, and fill in product descriptions, as well as details about pricing and availability.  Add high-quality images of your products. And optimize each product page you create for SEO, by adding target keywords into the page title, headings, and image tags.  Step 12: Develop a marketing plan.  Getting to the point where your online business is established and your eCommerce website is ready for launch takes a lot of work. But unfortunately, you’re far from done. If you’re learning how to boost your ecommerce sales, make sure people can find your website. That means marketing. Research your online marketing options, and put together a plan to start getting your website in front of people. That may include content marketing, paid promotion channels like Google Ads, social media integration, or all of the above. Consider promoting your items on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to drive even more consumers to your online shop. Getting those first visitors can be an uphill battle. But if you create and follow a marketing plan, and update your plan based on the results you see as you go, you’ll start to gain traction. Start Your Online Store  l Starting an online shop takes work. But if you develop a strong strategy, build a great site through ecommerce website builders, and put in the work to promote it, you’re likely to see success. And the benefits of eCommerce businesses are plentiful.  HostGator can help you check several boxes on this list. We offer domain registration, web hosting plans, and an online store builder that includes eCommerce themes and features. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Local Business Temporarily Closed? Try Remote Shopping & eCommerce

The post Local Business Temporarily Closed? Try Remote Shopping & eCommerce appeared first on HostGator Blog. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders are a must to prevent the spread of covid-19, but they’re creating huge challenges for small local businesses. How can you protect your community and your business? Explore your options for doing business without in-person contact with your customers. That may mean local pickup, local delivery or quickly adding eCommerce capabilities. Let’s walk through your options.  First, understand what you can do from your brick-and-mortar location  Social distancing is a smart move everywhere right now, even if there are no official orders to close or stay home. That means moving to curbside pickup and delivery instead of in-store shopping. In some places, temporary stay-at-home orders may require your brick-and-mortar operations to close if your business isn’t classified as ‘essential.’ Each locale will have its own specific wording, but in general, essential businesses that can stay open may include: retailers that sell medical, veterinary and health care suppliesshops that sell food, personal care and cleaning suppliesstores that sell supplies for food gardening, fishing and livestock caregas stations and convenience storeshardware and supply shopslaundromats office supply storesmoving suppliesauto supplies and dealerships Other types of businesses may be temporarily closed, even to local pickup and delivery. Once you’ve reviewed any stay at home rules that apply to your location, you’ll know whether you can offer local pickup and delivery from your brick-and-mortar store. If you can, here’s how. Local pickup, local delivery and shipping If you’re closing to maintain social distancing but can still work in your store, you could offer curbside pickup or delivery (local or shipped).  This is a good temporary step, especially if you don’t yet have eCommerce set up on your website, to keep going without exposing your employees or customers to close contact.  For example, in mid-March, By George boutiques in Austin announced that customers could browse the stores’ website and Instagram and then DM or email to make a purchase for pickup, delivery or shipment:  Home retailer Williams-Sonoma took a similar approach, with in-store pickups where that’s allowed:  Let your customers know what’s up and how to reach you As these stores have done, you need to let customers know about the changes you’re making. If you don’t know how long your physical locations will be closed, that’s OK. An end date is a best guess right now, anyway.  The key here is to let customers know their options for getting their purchases and who to contact to make a purchase and arrange pickup or delivery. You can use our crisis business-update checklist to make sure you get your message out on all your channels. Get your order process in order Next, make sure you have a single point of contact for taking orders over the phone and via email. Put one person in charge of all incoming orders so you’re not fulfilling them (or billing customers for them) twice.  However, it’s wise to designate a backup person or two, with access to all the order information, in case your order taker gets sick or has to stop working to care for loved ones.  Follow safe practices for curbside pickup  Make pickup contactless. Arrange for payments online before pickup, so you and your employees don’t need to handle cards or cash. You can ask your customers to call when they arrive so you can bring their package out and set it down for them to pick it up while you watch from a safe (6 feet or more) distance. Follow safe practices for local delivery Again, contactless is the way to go. Prepaid deliveries can include a tip so you or your employees aren’t handling money or getting within arm’s reach of customers at their door. Call or text when you get there so the customer knows their order has arrived. Depending on the value of the order, you may want to wait at a distance to make sure they claim it. If you don’t have the staff to make deliveries, look at local options like Favor and rideshare drivers, who may be willing to make deliveries from your shop.  Set up a shipping process Setting up a full-blown shipping program for your store takes time and planning. If you’re starting from scratch right now, it’s best to start with a single option, like USPS, UPS or FedEx. Buy and print your labels online and arrange for pickup so you don’t have to go into a post office or shipping location.  Both FedEx and UPS have said that deliveries may be slower than usual in areas that are severely affected by the covid-19 pandemic. Manage your customers’ expectations by letting them know before they order.  Local pickup and delivery are good stopgap measures if you can offer them. But if your location has to close completely, online sales are your only option. Even if you’re still open now, it’s wise to set up or expand your online store now. Adding eCommerce for your local business You can set up a simple eCommerce site for your business in 8 steps with a website builder. This is an ideal option if you aren’t experienced in setting up websites on a platform like WordPress, because you can pick a theme, drag and drop the elements you need to customize it, and use built-in eCommerce tools like inventory management.  You can also build an eCommerce site in WordPress or add eCommerce to your existing WordPress site. With WordPress, you have more themes to choose from and more freedom to set up the site exactly as you want. This can be a good option if you’re already comfortable with site design and have specific eCommerce needs that require an integrated platform like WooCommerce. After you have your website up and running, let your customers know via email and social media. With a website, you can also promote your store on eCommerce marketplaces. This can help you reach new customers and drive more traffic to your store’s website.  Need more information about running your business right now? We’re building a library of covid-19 business tips to help you through. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Find a Good Free WordPress Theme

The post How to Find a Good Free WordPress Theme appeared first on HostGator Blog. One of the great things about WordPress is that you can create a professional website without investing a ton of money. Beyond the cost of hosting and a domain name, you can build a site pretty much for free. This makes WordPress a very attractive and affordable option for users who want to validate the success of their site before they start investing a ton of money. However, the WordPress free library is massive, and not every theme is worth installing on your site.  Sometimes, a low-quality theme can end up doing more damage than good, and lead to poor website performance and even leave you open to security risks. Still, you can avoid these risks by educating yourself on the steps you can take to find a high-quality free theme. Below we dive deep into how you can find the absolute best free WordPress theme for your needs, the risks you need to look out for, and how you can install and start customizing your shiny new theme.   Free vs Premium WordPress Themes: What’s the Difference, and Does It Matter? The focus of this post is on free WordPress themes, but it’s still important to understand how the premium theme marketplace works and the main differences between free and premium themes. Free themes are easy to understand. They’re an entirely free WordPress theme that you can install on your site and start customizing. Usually, they aren’t as feature-rich as a premium theme, but they can get the job done if you don’t require an extensive set of features. Premium themes typically have a higher-quality design, and a much larger feature set. You’ll also get access to a premium support team to help walk you through any website issues, and you get access to premium theme updates. Free themes are a great starting place for the majority of website owners. They’re often easier to set up and give you the chance to experiment with WordPress without putting any money down.  WordPress Security Tips: What Are the Risks Involved With a Free Theme? Free themes are a great way to get started with WordPress for no money down. But, not all free themes are created equal. Sometimes using a free theme is more hassle than it’s worth. Here are the biggest risks that come with using a free WordPress theme:  1. Bad Code One of the biggest downsides to a free theme is the code might not be high-quality. This means your site will be less secure, might not function properly, and it could leave you open to hacking.  Other issues with bad code include not being able to optimize your site for SEO, and it can be hard to customize. It can also lead to conflicts with other WordPress plugins and even the WordPress core itself. Issues like these can end up taking your site offline.  2. Lack of Theme Support Lack of a dedicated support team can be an issue for some website owners. If you run into an issue with your site and don’t have technical support to rely on, it can be difficult to fix your site.  Instead, you’ll have to turn to Google and try to troubleshoot the issue yourself.  Beyond dedicated support, there also might be an issue with theme updates. Themes are updated regularly to patch for security holes, add new features, and ensure it stays compatible with the WordPress core.  Over time, your theme might become outdated and unable to function with the current version of WordPress.  3. Waste of Time/Money If you run into a bunch of issues with your theme like having to fix things yourself, or even recover from a hack, then you’re going to be investing a lot of time and money into your site.  All of this could have been avoided by using a premium WordPress theme, or a free theme that has higher quality standards.  4. Avoid Pirated Themes Sometimes you’ll find websites that allow you to download free versions of a premium theme. You must avoid these sites like the plague.  It might seem like you’re getting a great deal, but these themes are often infected with malware, ads, spammy links, and redirects.  These can cause a ton of damage to your website and even your online reputation. If something seems like it’s too good to be true, it probably is.  How to Find a Safe Free WordPress Theme Even with the risks mentioned above, using a free theme might still be a great choice for a lot of website owners. If you can get around the issue of not having a premium support team behind you, you can mitigate the other risks highlighted above. Here are two steps you should take before you install a free WordPress theme on your site:  1. Verify Your Theme Before Installing Before you install a free theme you’ll want to make sure that installing the theme won’t harm your site. Below we cover a handful of vendors that are known for producing quality themes, but if you’ve already downloaded a free theme, then this section is for you. There are all kinds of tools you can run your theme through that will check the legitimacy of the theme. These include: 1. Themecheck Themecheck is an online tool that will scan your theme for any security issues and issues with code quality. It’ll run your theme through a series of checks to see if there are any problems with the code, or if there are any elements that shouldn’t be there.  To use this tool, you’ll need to upload the zip file of the theme, and the tool will get to work. Once it’s done scanning your theme you’ll get a detailed report, along with warnings of any problems that it’s found.  2. Exploit Scanner Exploit Scanner is a WordPress plugin that will check for any malicious code. Once you install and activate this plugin it’ll scan through your entire site, including any themes that you have installed.  This plugin is very useful, beyond checking for any theme security risks, as it’ll also search through your WordPress databases, posts, comments, and more.  3. Theme Check Theme Check is another WordPress plugin that’ll scan through any themes you have installed on your site. It’ll run through a series of checks to make sure that your theme is up to the latest WordPress standards. If the theme you want to use fails any of the checks offered by the tools above, then it’s a good idea to choose a different theme. The WordPress theme marketplace is so large you’re guaranteed to find a high-quality and secure theme with similar features.  2. Download a Theme From a Reputable Source One of the easiest ways to ensure you’re installing a quality theme is to download it from a reputable source. The origins of your theme are incredibly important.  When you download a theme from a reputable vendor you can ensure that it’s up to the latest quality standards, doesn’t have issues with malicious code, and will support you in your website creation goals.  Here are some trusted websites for finding free WordPress themes: WordPress Theme Directory Here you’ll find the largest collection of free WordPress themes. You can filter the themes by certain features, and every theme listed here has been tested by their internal team, so you’ll know your theme is up to the latest WordPress standards.  Elegant Themes Elegant Themes offers two high-quality WordPress themes. The flagship theme Divi is one of the most flexible themes on the market today and can be used to build virtually any kind of website.  StudioPress StudioPress is the company behind the Genesis framework. You’ll also find a huge library of niche-specific child themes. They have a very strong reputation throughout the WordPress space.  iThemes iThemes is another WordPress theme and plugin development company. They have a wide range of themes that can be used for virtually every niche and are all very high-quality. If you’re in the market for a free theme, then the WordPress Theme Directory will probably be your best bet. While, if you’re looking for a premium theme, then any of the options mentioned above are great choices.  What About the Free Theme That Come Installed With WordPress? On a fresh installation of WordPress, you’ll find a free theme that’s already installed. This default theme is created by the company Automattic, who is the company behind WordPress. Depending on when you installed WordPress, the theme should be called Twenty Nineteen or Twenty Twenty. Twenty Twenty is a very high-quality theme and uses the WordPress block editor to allow you to create custom website pages and layouts.  If all you require is a basic WordPress blogging theme, then this can be a great theme to start with. Most people will opt to go with a different theme, but it’s high-quality and can support your site if you like the overall design.  If you love using the Gutenberg block editor, check out these 10 Free Gutenberg-Ready WordPress Themes. Finding the Best Free Theme for Your Industry When you begin your search for the best free theme you’ll probably be overwhelmed with options. Keep in mind that there really isn’t a “best” theme, but instead, it’s the “best theme for your needs”. Even if you’re in the same industry as another website owner, you could have different overarching goals for your website.  One great place to start in your theme search is Google. Just type in “[your niche] WordPress theme” and you’ll be able to find a series of post roundups that break down the best themes in the niche. We have many of these on the HostGator blog, including: Best WordPress Themes for eCommerceBest WordPress Themes for Small BusinessesBest WordPress Themes for Lifestyle BlogsBest WordPress Themes for Travel BlogsBest WordPress Themes for Food BlogsBest WordPress Themes for FreelancersBest WordPress Themes for Affiliate Marketing You can also use the filters in the WordPress Theme Repository to find a list of industry-specific themes. A lot of themes are very flexible and can be heavily customized to suit any niche. So, often the niche of the theme isn’t as important as liking to overall design and layout.  How to Install a Free Theme on WordPress By now you’re well equipped to find the best free theme for your new website. If you’re not using one of the default themes that come pre-installed on WordPress, then this section is for you. Here are two ways you can install a new WordPress theme on your site. Before you move forward with the methods below you’ll need to be logged into the backend of your WordPress site: 1. Upload a Theme Once you’re logged into your WordPress dashboard navigate to Appearance>Themes. Then on the next screen click the ‘Add New’ button at the top of the page. Then, on the next page click ‘Upload Theme’. A box will drop down and here you can drag and drop your theme’s .zip file, or you can search and upload from your computer.  Note that you’ll need to have your theme downloaded previously to upload your theme in this way.  2. Install from the WordPress Marketplace If you don’t already have a free theme downloaded. Then this is the approach you’ll want to take.  You’ll follow the same steps to the section above by navigating to Appearance>Themes, then select ‘Add New’. On this screen, you’ll be able to access the entire WordPress Theme Repository. You can search for themes if you’re looking for a certain theme name. Or, you can browse by most popular or the newest themes. Finally, you can use the feature filter to search by specific features. Once you’ve found a theme that you like hover over it and click ‘Install’ then ‘Activate’. With the theme activated you can now start customizing the design of your WordPress site, adding pages, and content.  Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how you can find the perfect theme for your new WordPress site. Free WordPress themes can be a great way to build out your website without investing any money into the design. A lot of website owners start their online journeys with free themes and upgrade to a premium theme once they require more features, or are generating revenue to cover the cost. By following the tips above you’ll be able to find the perfect free WordPress theme for your website, and avoid any pitfalls that are commonly associated with other free themes.  Find the post on the HostGator Blog

5 Popular Order Tracking Tools for eCommerce Websites

The post 5 Popular Order Tracking Tools for eCommerce Websites appeared first on HostGator Blog. Customer experience is one of the hottest topics in eCommerce right now, and part of a great customer experience is letting people know when their stuff will arrive. Nearly all customers (97%) expect to be able to track their online orders, according to ProShip.  But not all order tracking tools are the same. The more steps your customers must take to see what’s up with their orders, the more friction (or hassle, or work) your delivery tracking system creates. Customers hate friction (or hassle, or work), so the easier your store makes it for customers to keep track of their purchases, the more likely they’ll be to shop with you again.  Here are a few apps and plugins you may want to consider for your online store. Some generate text messages with order updates, some let you create branded shipping updates, and some serve as an easy bridge from your store to your carrier’s tracking information. 1. ShipStation  ShipStation is a comprehensive shipping app that handles orders from all your e-commerce channels, finds the best rates among multiple carriers, updates customers on their order status, simplifies customer returns, tracks inventory and provides analytics.  Which platforms is it compatible with? WooCommerce and Magento both work with ShipStation. So do several marketplace platforms, including Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba, Etsy, eBay, and Jet. ShipStation supports major shipping carriers and offers discounted rates. How does it update your customers? ShipStation lets you build a branded tracking portal for mobile and desktop that shows your customers where their order is and how soon it will arrive. This keeps your customers on your site, where they can shop, rather than sending them to the carrier’s website.  How much does it cost? There are six plans. They range from the $9/month starter plan for up to 50 shipments to $159/month for up to 10,000 shipments. Can you try before you buy? Yes, ShipStation offers a 30-day free trial.  2. Shippo  Shippo lets you fulfill orders, create branded tracking updates, allow easy returns and find the best shipping rates.  Which platforms is it compatible with? Shippo is Gator Website Builder’s integrated shipping partner for eCommerce sites. Shippo also supports Magento and WooCommerce, plus the Mercari, Etsy, eBay and Amazon marketplace platforms. Shippo supports major US and international carriers, with deeply discounted rates available. Shippo also supports national postal services in selected countries outside the U.S.  How does it update your customers? Shippo’s paid plan gives you the ability to brand email and text shipping updates to your customers, and you can create branded tracking pages on your website.  How much does it cost? Shippo offers a no-fee pay as you go service for 5 cents per package, plus postage costs. For Shippo’s branded customer experience, you’ll need the professional plan that starts at $10/month. Can you try before you buy? Yes, Shippo’s pay as you go plan is fee-free, and there’s a 30-day free trial available for the professional plan.  3. Status and Order Tracking  This order tracking plugin for WordPress keeps customers and customer service reps on the same page when it comes to order status and delivery tracking.  Which platforms is it compatible with? This WordPress plugin is compatible with WooCommerce. The upgraded Ultimate Status Tracking version also integrates with Zendesk customer support software. Status and Order Tracking comes with Gutenberg blocks for drag-and-drop formatting on your site. How does it update your customers? You can set up a responsive delivery status page, customize email notifications to your customers, and automatically send email updates when the order status changes.  How much does it cost? There’s a free version, which does not include WooCommerce support. A one-site lifetime premium license costs $35, plus $30/year for support after the first six months. Can you try before you buy? You can test out the free version and then decide whether to upgrade to the premium version. 4. YITH WooCommerce Order Tracking  YITH’s order tracking tool keeps customers up to date in English, Spanish, Italian or Dutch, with WPML support for translation into other languages. Which platforms is it compatible with? The name gives it away – YITH is a WordPress plugin for the WooCommerce platform.  How does it update your customers? The premium version of YITH Order Tracking inserts carrier tracking links in your customer email messages and sends them as soon as orders are shipped. It also auto-fills tracking data in the customer’s order dashboard, so they can click and view the current status without having to copy-paste order numbers or tracking codes.  How much does it cost? A one-year single-site license costs $66.  Can you try before you buy? You can try the free version, then decide if you want to upgrade to access the automated tracking features. 5. YITH WooCommerce SMS Notifications What about your customers who would rather get a text message than check their email? YITH has a plugin for them, too. Like YITH’s Order Tracking plugin, this one is for WordPress and WooCommerce online stores. How does it update your customers? YITH SMS Notifications lets you text-message your customers with order status updates, select the status changes that trigger an SMS message, and incorporate shortened links by Google and Bitly in your messages. You can also use the plugin to manually send texts to individual customers if you have questions about their orders.  How much does it cost? A one-year, single site license costs $64. Can you try before you buy? There’s no free version of this plugin, but you can launch a one-hour live administrator demo from the plugin page. Finding the Right Order Tracking Tool for Your Online Store To get the most out of a trial period or free version, start by benchmarking a few important numbers. How many calls and emails do you get each day or week from customers who want status updates? How many of those customers return to buy more from your store? How are your customer satisfaction ratings, feedback and reviews? At the end of your trial period, review those numbers again. If they’ve improved, you may have found the right tool for your customers. If they’re unchanged, declining or uneven, you may need to keep looking until you find the right order tracking tool for your store.  Want more eCommerce tips? Check out our recommended WordPress plugins for inventory management. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Why You Should ONLY Load jQuery from Google Libraries

The post Why You Should ONLY Load jQuery from Google Libraries appeared first on HostGator Blog. You probably already know that it’s better to load static files from a Content Distribution Network (CDN). JavaScript, CSS, and image files fall into this category. However, there’s another step beyond a CDN – hosted libraries. These hosted libraries are high speed, geographically distributed servers that serve as content distribution networks for popular, open source Javascript libraries. You can call on these well-known JavaScript libraries and add them to your site with a small bit of code. There are many well known hosted libraries – the two most famous being Google and CDNJS. It might seem like a good idea to serve all your JavaScript files from these libraries, but that might not be a generally good idea. In this article, I’ll show you that the most important use-case for using them is jQuery. And that too ONLY from Google’s network. Buy Hostgator Plans with an In-Built CDN Both hosted libraries and CDNs share the same goals. They serve your content from servers located geographically close to users at very high speeds. But not all web hosting plans include a dedicated CDN. For example, Hostgator’s optimized WordPress packages use the SiteLock CDN network, but not the shared hosting plans, which rely on Cloudflare. Here’s the Hostgator coupon list to help you find the best deal! However, there are a few differences between hosted public libraries and traditional CDNs. DNS Resolution Some CDNs like Cloudflare use a “reverse proxy” setup. What this means is that your static files will be served over your site’s URL like this: https://www.yoursite.com/jquery.js, instead of this: https://yoursite.somecdnnetwork.com/jquery.js This has an important side effect. It means that for the first URL, the browser won’t have to perform an additional DNS lookup to retrieve the file jquery.js. The second URL however, is hosted on a different domain name compared to your own site, so there is an added lag while the browser gets the IP address for the new domain. Ideally, we want to reduce the number of DNS lookups as much as possible. Internal testing has convinced me that in most cases, the additional DNS lookup isn’t worth it. Therefore, I prefer CDNs that function on a reverse proxy model like Cloudflare instead of traditional networks that change the static file URLs. However, public libraries are by definition hosted on an external URL. Google’s URLs start with “ajax.googleapis.com” and CDNJS URLs are “cdnjs.cloudflare.com”. This means that unless the browser has already cached the response from another site, there will always be an additional DNS lookup. This makes public libraries very tricky to use, compared to reverse proxy CDNs, or just hosting the files on your own server. Globally Distributed Networks Comparison Not all CDNs are built the same. While most try and do a fairly decent job of spreading out their servers across the globe, there are some locations that are chronically underserved. Africa is one glaring example. None of the well-known retail CDNs that I’ve tested, serve the African subcontinent well enough. They usually have just one location in Johannesburg and that’s it. However, publicly hosted libraries like Google and CDNJS have a much stronger network than most CDNs. CDNJS now uses Cloudflare’s network, which means it has a very strong presence across the globe with multiple server locations for any given area. Bottom line: Large public JavaScript libraries are faster than ordinary CDN networks. Not All JavaScript is Equally Important – jQuery is Unique jQuery holds a distinguished position amongst JavaScript libraries. Currently, almost 75% of all websites use it as shown here: It’s also quite large compared to the other external JavaScript files on your site. So if you had to choose one JavaScript library to speed up, it would undoubtedly by jQuery. jQuery is Usually Render-Blocking I’d written earlier on the Hostgator blog about how to optimize your site for speed. There we see that you should “defer” or “async” all your JavaScript so that it doesn’t block your site from rendering. Unfortunately, jQuery is referenced often by both external and inline scripts. This means that generally speaking, you should keep jQuery loaded in the header, and this slows down your page rendering. If you ignore my advice and load jQuery via “defer” or “async”, your site will break one day, and you won’t know why. Just trust me on this. I would love to defer the loading of jQuery, but it’s just too unstable to do so. For this reason, I want to use every means possible to speed up the delivery of jQuery. And for that, publicly hosted libraries are the best. This is true for two reasons. Public Libraries Are Ideal for Browser Caching Perhaps the biggest difference between a traditional CDN network and a public library, is that the former is accessed by only your website, and the latter is accessed by thousands – even millions – of people. Browsers typically cache the JavaScript they receive for differing periods of time – even up to a year! The idea is that if it sees the same URL again, it doesn’t need to download it again. It can simply use its cached copy and bypass the process entirely. This is the absolute best-case scenario for us. Ideally, the visitor’s browser will already have jQuery cached in its memory and thus solve our render-blocking problems in one go. But for this, we need to use well-known public libraries that everyone else is using. A private CDN will not bring the same caching and performance benefits. This is one huge advantage in favor of public hosted libraries. The Same Goes for DNS Lookups Browsers cache not just files, but also DNS lookups. So if millions of people are using a certain public library, the chances are that an average user will already have the DNS entry in their browser, and thus avoid the lookup altogether. This sidesteps the penalty of DNS lookups. But again – it will only work with a public hosted library where everyone uses the same URL. Not a traditional CDN. Which Public Library is the Best? To test this, I downloaded a simple program that probes the cached files in a variety of browsers. I searched for the two most well-known CDNs in today’s market – Google and CDNJS. Here are the results for Google’s library: And here are the results for CDNJS: As you can see, both Google and CDNJS files are cached in my browser from one site or the other. So from a DNS resolution point of view, both Google and CDNJS are on par. Both public libraries are likely to have been used, and they’re both spared the penalty of a DNS lookup. But Google Wins for jQuery But look at the results more closely. Out of the two, you can see that CDNJS has only one version of jQuery cached – 2.2.4. Whereas Google’s library has 11 of them! So unless your website uses JavaScript version 2.2.4, the Google library will be far better for you than CDNJS. This is because for one reason or another, more people use Google’s libraries to download jQuery than any other file. I don’t know why this is the case, but that’s just the way it is. WordPress Doesn’t Use the Latest jQuery Version At the time of this writing, WordPress still uses jQuery version 1.12.4. This is for compatibility, since a lot of plugins rely on the older versions and they don’t want to break them. Looking at the screenshots above, you can see that only Google’s library has served jQuery version 1.12.4. If I were to use CDNJS as my source, most browsers wouldn’t have it in their cache and would need to download it. So it’s not enough for a hosted library to serve jQuery. They need to be popular with a lot of different versions of jQuery, to maximize the chances that any particular version will be in a random browser’s cache. Using Google’s Library to Server jQuery on WordPress The procedure will be different for each software framework. But if you want to use Google’s library for jQuery with WordPress, paste the following code into your theme’s functions.php file. function load_google_jquery () {         if (is_admin()) {                 return;         }         global $wp_scripts;         if (isset($wp_scripts->registered[‘jquery’]->ver)) {                 $ver = $wp_scripts->registered[‘jquery’]->ver;                 $ver = str_replace(“-wp”, “”, $ver);         } else {                 $ver = ‘1.12.4’;         }         wp_deregister_script(‘jquery’);         wp_register_script(‘jquery’, “//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/$ver/jquery.min.js”, false, $ver); } add_action(‘init’, ‘load_google_jquery’); This code checks the version of jQuery that WordPress is using, and then constructs the URL for use with Google’s library. Moral of the Story: Google is Best for jQuery I have nothing against CDNJS. In fact, I prefer them from a philosophical point of view since they’re FOSS, and partner with Cloudflare – another company I like. But numbers are numbers, and technology doesn’t allow for sentimentality. In the contest for which library is better to serve jQuery, Google comes out head and shoulders above the competition. And as we’ve seen above, jQuery is the one JavaScript library that shouldn’t be deferred or asynced. And so using Google libraries is a no-brainer. For the remaining JavaScript files, it doesn’t matter that much since they don’t block your page. But pay special attention to jQuery – it can make or break your page speed times! Find the post on the HostGator Blog

4 Ways to Stay Cybersecure When You Start Working from Home

The post 4 Ways to Stay Cybersecure When You Start Working from Home appeared first on HostGator Blog. Are you one of the millions of workers who’ve suddenly gone from days at the office to working at home because of the coronavirus outbreak? Working from home takes some adjustment, especially on short notice. And one of the most important adjustments is thinking differently about cybersecurity at home.  When you work in an office, your company’s IT people focus on keeping hackers out of the system. When you work at home, it’s your responsibility, too.  That’s because hackers are exploiting the rapid shift to remote work by targeting employees with malware and phishing attacks. Often, they’re doing it by impersonating health officials and setting up fake websites that say they provide news about covid-19. Ugh. It’s a lot to deal with all at once. But taking these four steps can protect your company—and your livelihood—while everyone hunkers down at home. 1. Got a company-issued laptop or phone? Keep it safe If you’re lucky enough to have tech tools provided by your employer, protect them from data thieves. Here are three keys to locking hackers out of your company-issued gear. Store your company laptop and phone securely when you’re not using them. Thieves will break into cars to steal electronics, and sometimes those robberies lead to data breaches that cost companies their reputation, customers and fines or settlements. Use your company tech only for work. Save the social media and personal emails for your own phone and computer. Why? There’s a world of phishing websites, social media scams and email phishing fraud related to the covid-19 pandemic.  If you accidentally click on one of those traps, you could end up with malware on your company device—and in your company’s network. Worst case scenario, ransomware locks up your company’s databases until your employer pays up or shuts down.  Don’t install any new software or apps on work devices without company approval. Every new application comes with vulnerabilities, a responsibility to keep them updated and the risk of installing something corrupted. Stick with what your company wants you to use.   2. Connect to work securely Ideally, your company will have a virtual private network (VPN) that you must use to log in to your work email and files. If so, you’ve got a secure, encrypted connection to work, and no one can see the data you’re sending and receiving.  If your company has a VPN but you don’t have to use it to log in, use it anyway. Yes, it will likely slow down your connection, but it will cover any gaps in your home internet security (which we’ll look at in a bit). If you’re using a public Wi-Fi network for work, yikes. You’re putting your company’s data at risk—including things like your email ID and password—unless you use a VPN.  Check your cybersecurity setup at home. Many of us are relaxed about cybersecurity at home because we don’t think cyberthieves go for small targets. However, thanks to the magic of the internet, hackers can search online for vulnerable IP addresses and go after them from anywhere.  Stepping up your home internet security makes your personal information safer. And when you work from home, it protects your company, too. Here’s what to check: 1. Do you have malware protection on your devices? This is important whether you’re using a company-issued computer or your own. Regular scans and firewall protection can keep viruses and other crud off your computer and phone, where they could otherwise find their way into your employer’s system. 2. Do you keep your operating systems, apps and programs up to date? It’s true—Windows and Android updates can take longer than you’d like when you’re busy with work. But when a security update announces itself, the time to install it is now.  That’s because by the time the company sends that security update out, hackers know about it, too—and they’re busy looking for machines that aren’t updated yet so they can break into them. (Unpatched software is how the Equifax hack happened.) 3. Is your home Wi-Fi network password strong and unique? A strong, unique password will keep snoops and opportunists out of your home network—and out of your work at home. Especially if you live in a crowded area where plenty of people nearby can see your network when they search for Wi-Fi, you need a good password.  Strong means your password is at least 8 characters long, with a random mix of letters, numbers and characters. Unique means you only use that password for your home Wi-Fi network, not for any other accounts like email and social media. That’s because if someone guesses your Wi-Fi password, they could then also get into those other accounts. 4. Can anyone with an internet connection log in to your home internet gateway? You might be surprised. Even if you’ve created a strong home Wi-Fi password, you should still check your internet hardware.  That’s because your router may have arrived with default login credentials of “admin/admin.” Those are weak, but who’s going to get close enough to your router to mess with it? Anybody who cares to look it up. Hackers can search for IP addresses with default router login credentials, log in and take over—all from the comfort of wherever they happen to be.  If that happens, attackers can see everything that happens on your network. That means they can easily steal your work email login information and then go on to hack your employer. Here’s a basic walk-through of how to change the password on your router and other network hardware. 3. Step up your password security Strong and unique passwords aren’t just for your home Wi-Fi network. Ideally, you would use a unique password for every single account you have and use a password manager to keep track of them all. But at the very least, you need strong, unique passwords for your work email and other work-related accounts, plus your personal email, social media, banking and utility accounts.  When you use a different password for each account, it prevents hackers from using a stolen password of yours like a skeleton key to unlock your other accounts. And that can keep criminals out of your company data as well as your personal information. 4. Watch out for phishing  There’s so much malware out there right now related to the coronavirus. Scammers are going after people in their inbox with fake cures and offers of “new information” designed to trick victims into giving up their email or Office365 login information.  Other coronavirus scams are dumping ransomware into health care providers’ systems at the worst possible time. And still others are tricking workers into paying fake invoices related in some way to the coronavirus outbreak. What can you do? Practice good email hygiene.  Check the sender’s email address (not just the sender’s name) before clicking on links or attachments in an email, especially if you didn’t expect to receive it. Scammers often impersonate company owners or executives to trick employees into making funds transfers.Verify unusual or urgent email requests from others in the company by phone, video or chat before you act. Scammers know that creating a sense of urgency can cause people to rush into actions they wouldn’t otherwise take. Don’t click on any links, attachments or pop-up boxes if you’re not certain who sent them and why. You could end up with malware or stolen login credentials.Be careful about visiting unfamiliar websites, especially if you’re looking for covid-19 information. A lot of malicious websites with “coronavirus” in the domain name have cropped up in recent weeks, designed to steal visitor information or spread malware.Report suspected phishing emails to your company’s IT people. You may not be the only employee who’s getting them. So that’s the basics of cybersecurity for the new remote worker: Protect your company-issued devices, connect securely, use strong and unique passwords and watch out for phishing. By following these steps, you can protect your company and everyone who works for it.  Run a small business? Read our checklist for securing your employees’ remote workspaces. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Improve Your Online Store Navigation for a Better Customer Experience

The post How to Improve Your Online Store Navigation for a Better Customer Experience appeared first on HostGator Blog. Want more customers to buy from you? Help them find what they’re looking for fast. Today’s customers expect a frustration-free experience when they search for products in online stores. Sixty-five percent of them say finding stuff fast is their top priority when buying online. But many stores—even those with websites that cost millions to build—aren’t giving shoppers what they want.  The solution? Better site navigation and product search tools. Before you yawn, consider what the Baymard Institute learned when it tested user experience with the product listings and filtering functions on 19 eCommerce websites: “Despite testing multimillion-dollar sites, more than 700 usability issues related to product lists, filtering and sorting, arose during testing.” That’s an average of 37 ways to frustrate customers on each of the sites they tested. And when customers get frustrated, they leave. Baymard’s testing found that eCommerce sites with “mediocre product list usability” had abandonment rates ranging from 67% to 90%.  However, sites that were just a little bit better at helping customers find what they wanted had much lower abandonment rates, ranging from 17% to 33%. This is good news for smaller online stores, because clearly, a huge budget doesn’t guarantee a good product search experience.  What do you need instead? A good understanding of how customers look for products in online stores now is the place to start. Then you’ll know if you need to reorganize your product categories and add new tools to your site.  How Online Shoppers Search on eCommerce Sites Today Back in the olden days of the internet, product lists, menus and category tabs were the primary ways to find specific items. This was fine on a desktop, and there was a novelty factor to online shopping that made it kind of fun to see how categories and lists were set up.  Lists and categories are still useful, but a store that only offers those navigation tools is going to lose customers. What changed? Smartphones, for one. Mobile screen sizes required an alternative to scrolling through sidebar lists and product filters. The other big change is that eCommerce companies like Amazon poured resources into developing new ways to search in their store, and customer expectations for speed and convenience have been rising ever since. Shoppers now expect easy mobile site navigation. And some would rather use a search bar, voice search or a virtual shop assistant to find what they want. Here’s a quick example of how many ways customers can search a store now. Every element at the top of Amazon’s mobile homepage offers a different way to search, including a “hamburger” menu icon to browse categories.an Alexa icon to tell the virtual assistant to find what you’re looking for.a cart icon to see what’s already in your basket and what you’ve saved for later.a search bar that uses text or voice input and offers autocomplete suggestions, even if you misspell a word.a camera/code scanner icon for image and code searches.tabs for browsing popular categories. Not every online store can offer all these options. But remember, even small improvements can keep more customers on your site. Let’s explore ways you can make your product search and navigation better.  Categories, Menus, Product Lists and Filters for Your Online Store The product category tabs on your desktop site should guide your customers toward your most popular items as well as to your top-level product categories.  For example, Nordstrom’s category tabs include designer collections, sale items and brands even though those could be included as subcategories within the women, men and kids categories. But customers who like specific designers and brands, plus those who love deals, are more likely to shop if they can go right to the good stuff from the homepage. The same principle applies to your category menus.  See how new markdowns are the top menu item for Sales subcategories? Nordstrom wants frequent bargain hunters to be able to check out fresh items fast. If you have a lot of products, filters can help shoppers narrow their choices to a manageable number, although many customers now like to get relevant results faster in the search bar, which we’ll talk about below.  eCommerce platforms include basic navigation functions that let you set up categories and filters. But to help your customers find things faster, you may want to add layered navigation.  For example, WooCommerce’s Ajax-Enabled, Enhanced Layered Navigation extension gives you granular filter options like color swatches and size selections. Ajax Layered Navigation for Magento 2 lets you include an “add to wishlist” function on your menus. It also updates pages as shoppers apply filters without reloading the entire page, so customers can see their filtered results faster.  Search Bars on eCommerce Sites Your store needs to have a search bar, but not just any search bar. WordPress offers one for its sites, but there are more feature-rich options available for eCommerce platforms.  Why upgrade from the built-in search function? Because customers say relevant results are the most important part of a store’s on-site search, according to a survey by Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights. A search tool designed for your eCommerce platform can show customers what they’re looking for in ways a basic search can’t–and make them more likely to buy. Features to look for in an on-site search tool are:  Autocomplete suggestions.Rich search results with product suggestions and thumbnail images.Compensation for misspellings.AI-driven personalized search results.  Magento 2 users may want to try Fast Simon’s free Instant Search +, which also automatically generates product filter options based on search queries. For WooCommerce users, the Advanced Woo Search Plugin from Illid offers similar features. Its pro version can display stock status in search results and lets shoppers add items to their cart from search results. Chatbot Assistants for Product Search A chatbot “shop assistant” can help your customers find the exact product they need from your store, or it can offer them options. For example, if you’re looking for a blue T-shirt, a good chatbot assistant can show you several options with links to their product pages. It can learn to recognize customers and their shopping preferences for more personalized service with each visit. For WooCommerce users, the AcoBot AI Chatbot plugin for WordPress is an option worth trying. WP-Chatbot for Facebook Messenger is another option that works with multiple eCommerce platforms.  As you test out different options for improving your site navigation and search, remember to track your conversion and abandonment rates, and listen to customer feedback, so you can see which changes deliver the best results.  Want to learn more about improving customer experience in your store? Check out our 10-step guide to website usability testing. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

5 Quick Website Updates You Can Do in 30 Minutes or Less

The post 5 Quick Website Updates You Can Do in 30 Minutes or Less appeared first on HostGator Blog. This article is part of HostGator’s Web Pros Series. In this series, we feature articles from our team of experts here at HostGator. Our Product Managers, Linux Administrators, Marketers, and Tech Support engineers share their best tips for getting the most out of your website.  So you’re working from home now. The kids are finally busy working on a craft project and the barking dog fell asleep.  You’ve got less than an hour before the “you know what” hits the fan again. And you want to do something that can quickly move the needle for your business.  Here are 5 quick website updates you can make in 30 minutes or less.  Note: You can’t do all of these things in 30 minutes. But one task at a time, with 30 minutes at a time, you’ll get it done! 1. Update your business hours on your website & on Google My Business. Maybe your city has gone on lock down that required your physical location to go on revised hours. Or maybe you’re temporarily closed on a week-by-week basis. Make sure your customers and clients know your new, current operating hours by updating your contact page.  Consider adding a “current as of X date” tag or a note that calls out “our current hours during COVID-19” so customers know they are truly seeing your current, updated hours.  You may also consider a call out banner on the homepage so your customers can easily find this information.  Next, update your temporary business hours on your Google My Business listing. This is important because it will populate the store listing that customers see when searching for your physical location on Google Maps app.  Recently I was out for a late night run to the local drug store and looked up the hours on Google Maps. The hours listed regular hours and then this week’s hours. Sweet! They’re still open 24 hours. I arrive, and JK, the store is closed and there’s a sign on the door with early closing hours. Super frustrating! There are three ways you can update your business hours on Google My Business. Check out the “holiday hours” option.  2. Review & update your metadata.  Meta what? This is a search engine optimization thing. And we all need those positive SEO vibes right now.  Metadata is what appears in the search engine results when your website comes up for a query. Like in the example below.  If you don’t have metadata set up, the search engine will create this for you. But it will likely not be what you want and the meta description will be truncated by character limit.  If you’re on a WordPress website, you can tackle this 30 minute SEO task by setting up the Yoast SEO plugin. Yoast makes it easy to change the page title and meta description directly within the editor of each post.  Another added bonus – you don’t have to remember the latest standards for metadescription length. Yoast will highlight the text in red, yellow, or green to let you know how much space is remaining.  Got more than 30 minutes? Watch our Intro to SEO webinar to learn more about metadata.  3. Add your phone number (or preferred contact method) to your site header.  Now more than ever, your website should be easy to use so people can quickly find the information they need.  Consider adding a phone number or your preferred method of contact to your website header so people can easily see it. If you have a form or an informational update they should see first before contacting you, draw attention to that as well.  Southwest Airlines used this method by listing important links in the top header and a “High Call Volumes” notice so customers know what to expect. I was quickly able to find their policy about cancelling a flight in the “information for you” links, and didn’t even have to call! I’m sure they’ll appreciate one less phone call in these crazy times.    4. Write a blog post and share it on social media.  A blog post is a great way to show that your business is still up and running. Need an idea for a quick post? Write about your top selling item of the year.  Got an item or service that could help people during these challenging times? Write a product highlight in a blog post and share it on your social channels. This doesn’t have to be long, but make it informative and helpful.   5. Review and update your navigation menu.  Now is a great time to review the buttons and options in your navigation menu. Are these items still relevant to your customers or shoppers, given the current environment?  On the HostGator blog, we’re working hard to pump out a lot of content to support our customers during the new state of work. I wanted to be able to point website visitors to one link where they could see all this great content. And so it doesn’t get lost in our steady stream of new articles that are publishing each day.  So I added “COVID-19 Business Tips” to the main navigation. Now this content – which is currently our priority focus – is highlighted and easy for people to find.  While I was in there, I also changed “Resource Library” to “Webinars & More.” This seemed more descriptive of the content and would catch attention while people are coming to our site to learn new things about going online.  Wrapping Up… When you want to make some meaningful changes to your website on a time crunch, these ideas will get you started. Now, hurry up! Pick your fave and get it done before the dog wakes up! Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Employees Working Remote?Cybersecurity Checklist for Small Business Owners

The post Employees Working Remote?Cybersecurity Checklist for Small Business Owners appeared first on HostGator Blog. Millions of Americans are “working from home” due to the COVID-19  pandemic. However, the sudden transition to working at home leaves many businesses vulnerable to cybersecurity threats.  But new cybersecurity threats could shut businesses down, hold their data for ransom, and cost them big in stolen funds. As if you didn’t already have enough to worry about, am I right!?  Big businesses have the resources and IT staff to help secure their remote workforce. But most smaller organizations don’t—and hackers know it. If your SMB recently transitioned to remote work or is about to, here’s a cybersecurity checklist to keep your business safe.  First, why should SMBs worry about remote work security right now? There are 3 big reasons why SMBs need to focus on cybersecurity as their people work from home.  With every new device and network used to access your company’s data, your attack surface grows. What that means is that there are more potential ways for hackers to break into your systems. For example, if your payroll manager logs into your accounts from a phone over a public Wi-Fi network, hackers could steal their login credentials and get into your accounts, too.Cybercriminals profit from chaos and stress. Our current reality delivers both, which is why fraudsters are launching all kinds of coronavirus-related scams aimed at businesses, consumers, even hospitals. When your administrative assistant gets an urgent email from you directing them to make an online donation to a COVID-19 charity in the company’s name, they might do it without question—without realizing the email came from a scammer impersonating you to steal company funds.Most of us are less cybersecure at home than at work. Even if your cybersecurity game is perfect in your workplace, out-of-date or unpatched software on an employee’s home computer could give hackers the security gap they need to worm their way into your business.  OK, so how can you protect your SMB while your people work remotely? Here are 7 security steps to make your business more secure while everyone’s working from home. 1. Talk to your employees and leadership team about phishing Even before the coronavirus emerged, scammers were sending out 3.4 billion phishing emails every day, per TechRadar and Valimail. Now, scammers are targeting remote workers with COVID-19 related: scams designed to steal their login credentials to Office365, OneDrive and other cloud data storage services “urgent” email impersonations of company leaders requesting that employees transfer funds, pay invoices or make donations online. For real. It’s even happened to us at HostGator.messages that encourage recipients to click on a link or attachment for COVID-19 information, only to download ransomware. To help keep your employees from getting phished, David Johnson, Chief Information Security Officer for HostGator, recommends reminding them to watch for emails containing: Mismatched or misleading informationFake shipping or delivery notificationsFake purchase confirmations and invoicesRequests for personal informationPromises of rewardsCharity or gift card requestsUrgent or threatening language (like “your account will be terminated”) Unexpected emails Encourage (and frequently remind) your employees to  Check the email header to see if the sender’s display name and their email match. Scammers can set up a free email account with any name they choose—even yours—so it’s important to check the address.If the email appears to come from a fellow employee, manager, customer or vendor, verify the sender via voice, text or video chat before you follow “urgent” instructions, especially requests for money. Be cautious about clicking links, opening attachments or putting information into pop-up dialog boxes. When in doubt, don’t.Report suspicious emails to you or your IT person.  2. Protect your website from crashes and takeovers Because ransomware attacks are on the rise, it’s also important to make sure your website has regular backups and continuous malware scans.  Check with your IT person or your web hosting provider to make sure you have automated site backups at least once every 24 hours that include file and database backups. That way if your site goes down, you have a recent version you can bring back up while you sort out the problem. You’ll also want to check to see if your site gets regular scans for malware infections and the kinds of vulnerabilities that could allow attackers to inject malware into your site. The quicker these problems are spotted and removed, the better. HostGator customers can add CodeGuard and SiteLock to their websites for regular backups, scans and protection from bot attacks.  3. Protect company equipment from hacking and theft If your employees are using company-issued computers and mobile devices, make the rules for safe use clear.  Company devices should be used for work only. Many companies mandate that company computers should be used for company work only, not as a personal computer. But the employees may not think about how using company tech for personal tasks and leisure creates risk. All it takes is one wrong click for your company data and logins to be hacked. Company devices should be securely stored when not in use. When company laptops and phones get stolen from people’s cars, the data on them gets stolen, too.  4. Keep everyone’s apps and OS up to date Remember that huge Equifax in 2017 data breach that affected more than 143 million people? They could have prevented that by keeping their software patched and up to date. Instead, they let a known vulnerability in one of their apps sit unpatched for weeks, and hackers exploited it.  Keeping your company’s software updated, and patching vulnerabilities as soon as patches are available, are easy ways to keep hackers from walking right into your system.  The need for real-time updates also applies to company-owned devices that your employees are using at home—and to their personal computers and phones if they’re using those to work remotely.  5. Make employees’ remote connections as secure as possible How your employees access company email, databases and files matters, because unsecure connections are another potential entry point for bad actors. Let’s look at connection methods from least to most secure. Public or free Wi-Fi and computers. This shouldn’t be much of an issue right now, because so many of us are confined to home. But just in case, it’s wise to make clear that no employees should be logging in to work from public Wi-Fi or public computer terminals.  Home networks are safer than public Wi-Fi, if they’re set up correctly. Encourage your employees to make sure their home Wi-Fi network password isn’t easy to guess, and that it isn’t used for any other accounts.  If your workforce is at least moderately tech-savvy, you can encourage them to change the default password on their home router. Often, it’s “admin/admin” which makes them vulnerable to hackers who use search tools to scan IP addresses on the web, find those with default router credentials and hijack them. Read our guide to setting a secure password. Your company’s VPN. If you already have a virtual private network (VPN), make sure it’s up to date and require your remote employees to use it.  Don’t have a VPN? Now’s the time to invest in one. A VPN encrypts the data that moves between your company’s system and your remote workers so there’s no way to steal it en route. Not sure where to begin? TechRadar has business VPN recommendations.  6. Have everyone use the same tech tools Even though everyone’s out of the office, they should all be using the apps and services you’ve selected for your company—or alternatives you approve. When employees start using new apps to do their work without an OK from the company, that’s called “shadow IT.” It can result in “serious security gaps,” according to Cisco, in part because shadow IT increases your attack surface. For example, if your company shares documents, slide decks and spreadsheets through Google Drive, no one should also be using Dropbox or OneDrive to share company data. If you’re using Slack for work conversations, employees should stick to Slack and not break off into Skype or Hangouts groups to work.  7. Encourage good password hygiene Reminding your employees to use strong, unique passwords may not seem like an important security step. After all, we’ve been hearing that advice for years but people still use terrible, insecure passwords like 123123.  But terrible, insecure passwords are an easy way for hackers to get into your employees’ accounts and then into your business. One way to ensure better passwords is to use a password manager service for your SMB. With this kind of tool, you can require strong passwords, require two-factor authentication if you like and schedule required password changes. You can find a guide to SMB password managers at InformationWeek’s Dark Reading.  How can you get your employees to follow these recommendations? Too many recommendations at once may overwhelm your people. A more workable approach is to focus on one security task per workday or per week, depending on everyone’s bandwidth. With a planned approach, you can make your business more secure and give everyone one less thing to worry about. Ready to make your SMB site more secure? Get daily site backups with CodeGuard and regular malware scans with SiteLock.  Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Bootstrap Tutorial: Simple Tips for Beginners and Beyond

The post Bootstrap Tutorial: Simple Tips for Beginners and Beyond appeared first on HostGator Blog. There was a time when professional web design was out of reach for all but large corporations. Now, anyone can Bootstrap a website without sacrificing quality or functionality.  What is Bootstrap? Bootstrap is “the world’s most popular front-end component library” for building responsive, mobile-first websites. Back up…what’s a component? Carousels, buttons, nav bars, etc., all the pieces you need to build a site by quickly copying and pasting snippets of HTML.  It’s the ultimate front-end framework that was created to make web design fast and virtually effortless. Bootstrap was first used to build Twitter, and it’s still a popular open source platform that almost anyone can use with a little knowledge and experimentation.  Using this tool allows developers to focus on fine-tuning the front-end look and functionality, building on current HTML and CSS-supported style sheets to create any feature you need to make your user interface mobile-friendly and hassle-free.  The JQuery plugins allow you to place carousels, provide pop-outs and tool-tips that users can mouse over, and add any buttons needed for their website to function. It focuses on three areas, grid layouts, mobile-first functionality, and flat design. With Bootstrap, you can: Create multi-form layouts with distinct classesBuild prototypesShowcase images and other content by creating carousels or slidersCreate dynamic tabs to handle large blocks of contentAdd components like modals and accordions without needing to touch any JS Responsive website design that’s big on user experience (UX) should be the goal of all website owners, regardless of the purpose of your site or the intended audience. Our goal is to give you some tips and tricks to get the most out of this platform regardless of your level of tech knowledge or skill.  Tip 1: Begin With the Basics You can get started with Bootstrap by opening it with a content delivery network (CDN). It’ll load faster and streamline the process of creating your first web page with this platform. Once you install jQuery and JS libraries in the footer of the index.html file, you’re ready to open your code editor and create a sample html file. Please note that jQUery is required to use Bootstrap’s JS plugins. Hopefully, this will change some time in the near future. Make sure to place the meta tag inside the header section to enable touch zooming and proper mobile rendering. You can try it out using this example: This can be converted from plain HTML to a Bootstrap template by using their links to include Bootstrap CSS, JS files, any required jQuery, and Popper.js. Include JS files at the bottom of the page just before you close the body to get better page performance. It should look like this: Website visitors that already have Bootstrap CSS and JS files installed using the same CDN as yours during their browsing sessions will be able to load your web pages directly from the browser cache, which will further reduce page loads.  Once you’ve created the template, you can save it to your desktop for easy access later.  Tip 2: Getting Used to Grids You won’t truly see the beauty of Bootstrap’s front-end flow until you get the hang of the grid system. The responsive design mechanisms just glide over the templates and create an environment with great UI across all mobile devices which, thanks to Google’s mobile-first indexation, can lead to higher exposure in search engine results.  With now more than 50 percent of all internet traffic of the mobile variety, this becomes a huge deal. The grid itself is created on a framework of containers that are designed to snap into place, with an impenetrable gutter surrounding them to keep each design element in place and prevent overlap.  Grids are easy to learn but can be difficult to master. They provide you with a template that can be used to build quite complex sites, but once you get the hang of them there are endless possibilities.  Here are the basics. The grid template contains 12 columns labeled “navbar,” “headers”, “cards,” and other functions you’ll want to add to your pages. The way the containers work, columns are created that allow content to flow freely within each column, and it’s controlled by nesting the offsets and rows in a way that always ensures the right amount of space between each.  This process offers some symmetry to the layout without bleeding too close to the browser edges or crowding content, and so lets you focus on your design without worrying about how it will look on different displays and browsers.  The grid widths are expressed as percentages so they can be resized in relation to their parent element. You can remove the gutters – the horizontal padding on column sides – for those times when you just need one column with no padding by adding this bit of code: Bootstrap themes are designed to work with your templates. A bootstrap theme is essentially a package of code that provides the style elements and structure that you’ll end up using on your site. Themes are different from your templates in that themes contain HTML, CSS and JavaScript code that sits on top of your templates. Your templates provide the large-scale structure of your site; themes provide styling, UI components and page layouts. In essence, they are pre-built website templates for you to adapt and build upon.  Themes are built on top of the Bootstrap core code and ultimately add and improve upon its features. When you download a Bootstrap theme (here is a good place to find them for free), it will come with two folders. The documentation file contains all of the asset files, CSS, JS, and the other contains the theme. Bear in mind that your project is divided among three elements. The HTML contains your project, the JS file holds all of the interactive bits, and the CSS determines the visual layout features like fonts and colors.  This discussion of themes and templates might sound like a bit much. After all, isn’t Bootstrap supposed to be a lean framework for developing blazing fast, responsive mobile websites? If you need themes and templates, it raises the question why one wouldn’t just default to using a tried-and-true CMS like WordPress. Well, Bootstrap has some key advantages over more basic CMSs like WordPress. It allows a far greater level of control over your site at a far more fundamental level. In other words, whilst you can certainly build a complex website in WordPress, it’s going to be slow because you’ll have to add plenty of plugins and Javascript to achieve your vision. With Bootstrap, you can build in advanced functionality at a “lower” level, and so your customers will get a site that is both fast and functional. Tip 3: Creating Responsive Embedded Video Image from Oculu Video Platform One of the biggest advantages of working with Bootstrap is how easy it makes responsive web design. This is easily demonstrated by the procedure for embedding video using a helper class to create iFrames.  It should look like this, with your specs added: <!– 16:9 aspect ratio –> <div class=”embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9″></div> Adding this code to your markup will allow Bootstrap to normalize any awkward borders or outlines without the need to define the frame borders. This is the essence of responsive design.  Now What? Great website design is only as good as the platform that’s hosting it. In today’s world, you can find affordable hosting solutions that are secure, reliable, and ideal for any type of website. Don’t let the word “cheap” put you off; it’s meant in relative terms.  Affordable hosting by a reliable provider will allow you or your clients to focus on branding while avoiding common network vulnerabilities that could cause downtime.. What should you look for in a hosting service? Responsive, 24/7 customer supportSite backup availability with client accessCompetitive registration and maintenance costsLack of caps on bandwidth and storageAbility to add domains as neededReliable, guaranteed uptime percentages, security, and performance Final Thoughts Even if you’re an experienced developer, there’s something to love in this platform. Bootstrap fits right in with Google’s new mobile first indexing, which can help with SEO and compliance. Since it’s an open source platform, you have the flexibility to customize and tweak to your heart’s content. When time is of the essence from design to launch, anything that can get you off the ground faster is worth a second look. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Website Updates to Make During Crisis [Small Business Checklist]

The post Website Updates to Make During Crisis [Small Business Checklist] appeared first on HostGator Blog. How is your small business coping with the coronavirus outbreak? In many places, social distancing, shelter-in-place orders and other necessary steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 are taking a toll on local shops. Even many online sellers expect a drop in sales through autumn because of declining consumer spending.  What can you do to keep your customers, your employees and your business as healthy as possible? We’ve put together a checklist of steps you can take now.  Download this as a PDF checklist! 1. Update your customers on changes to your business The COVID-19 outbreak is forcing many businesses to change the way they operate, like: Reduced hours or days of operation for businesses that need extra time to restock and deep clean.Limited inventory and shipping delays for sellers facing high demand and/or supply chain interruptions.Changes in service availability, especially for restaurants and cafes in areas where dine-in service has been limited or temporarily banned.Reduced staffing when employees become ill, have to self-quarantine or have new caregiving responsibilities at home. Most customers understand that things are different now, but it’s important to communicate your changes clearly so they know what to expect.  Add a pop-up or banner to your website for updates Apple’s decision to temporarily close its retail stores made global headlines, and the company has a homepage banner to make sure customers get the info.  You can use a banner like Apple has, or you can create a pop-up message that grabs visitors’ attention.  Hustle is a popular WordPress plugin you can use to quickly build pop-ups, promote social sharing and grow your email list. That’s convenient, because you’ll also need to share your changes and updates on social media and via email.  Update your online profiles  Start by updating your Google My Business profile. Google has step by step instructions for setting special hours. If you have a Facebook page for your business, you’ll need to change your hours there, too.  It’s also a good idea to schedule more than one post about your changes to each social network where your business has a presence, to make it more likely that your audience will see your update. Email updates to your list Let your email list know about your temporary changes as soon as possible and let them know you’ll send more updates as things change. The website pop-up or banner you use to announce changes can also include a subscription box so visitors can sign up for updates—a way to grow your list and keep everyone up to speed.  Promote delivery and carryout options One of the biggest changes for many local eateries is the need to reduce seating capacity, limit counter lines or close their dining room without driving away customers completely. Here’s how one Austin cupcake bakery with a small seating area and frequent long lines has updated their homepage to let customers know their options for getting treats.  Manage delivery-time expectations  If you sell online or are adding local delivery options, make sure you and your customers are clear about how long it will take items to arrive. Most people are understanding right now, but they want to know before they order.  Here’s an example of both what to do and what not to do. Amazon has been slammed with Prime Now orders as people stay home and try to avoid grocery stores. This banner on the Prime Now homepage makes that clear, which is good.  However, as of this writing you have to add items to your cart—items that are in stock, hooray!–and start checking out to learn that you can’t get those items because there are no delivery slots open.  Yes, this is life in a pandemic. But it’s also not a great use of customers’ time. A better option? Be up front about when delivery is available before customers load up their virtual cart. This information can appear in a pop-up or a banner that you update as needed.  For online sellers facing supplier slowdowns, you need a different kind of delivery-time transparency:  If popular items are out of stock, use your website banner or pop-up to let shoppers know, along with when you expect to get more of those items. If you have alternatives in stock that might meet your customers’ needs, suggest them.  To keep customers in the loop after they place an order, you can add plugins like YITH WooCommerce Order Tracking and YITH WooCommerce SMS Notifications. These tools will show your customers exactly where their stuff is via your website, email and text messages. That’s handy at a time when shipping may also be delayed, and you may be short-staffed and struggling to respond to customer inquiries. 2. Show customers what you’re doing to keep everyone safe Customers want to know how you’re protecting them and your employees from coronavirus. (If you haven’t reviewed the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines for businesses yet, now’s a good time to do so.)  Explaining the social distancing and deep-cleaning steps you’re taking is good customer relations and good citizenship. For example, here’s the homepage banner for a popular Austin nursery: Clicking through takes you to a message about how they’re protecting staffers and customers.  Consider adding a COVID-19 FAQ section to your business website  The pandemic and responses to it are changing by the day. You may want to add a section or page where you post regular updates and feature a link to it on your homepage. Regional grocery chain H-E-B offers a great example. The company’s newsroom page is full of articles that explain how the company is cleaning stores, adjusting hours and trying to make sure there’s enough stuff to go around: This level of communication answers customers’ questions quickly and helps maintain their trust. 3. Explore ideas to keep business moving One reason the coronavirus outbreak is so unsettling is that no one knows how long it will last. Because of that uncertainty, it’s a good idea to think now about new ways your business can bring in revenue or find support over the coming weeks and months.  Can you sell your products online? Invest in eCommerce hosting for your website. If you haven’t built your website yet, get one up quickly with an eCommerce website builder.Can you pivot? If customers aren’t buying what you normally sell, think about what necessities you might offer instead. For example, a pastry-chain owner in Seattle is keeping her business going by adding bread to her bakeries’ sweet and savory snack menu. Her business also offers home delivery and lots of pickup locations—ideal at a time when foot traffic in Seattle is basically nonexistent. Do you offer gift cards? If not, now’s the time to start. If you do, now’s the time to promote them heavily, because people are not going to shop for gifts in person for a while.What about gift baskets and gift wrap options? Travel restrictions mean we won’t get to see far-off friends and family as often, but we can still send presents. Can you create a splashy presentation with your products to help your customers make someone’s day?Can you offer subscription boxes? Regular home delivery of pet treats, coffee, tea or other staples gives your customers one less thing to worry about trying to find. Subscriptions for snacks, games or toys seem tailor-made for a world where children may be out of school and stuck at home for weeks or months.  You can also start looking into resources to help your business with cash flow. The Small Business Administration has earmarked money for low-interest loans in areas hit hard by the coronavirus. You can also check with your city and state small business development agencies to see what resources they have for you.  And if you’re in a cash crunch, talk to your bank or credit union sooner rather than later. They may be willing to waive service fees or work out a plan with you to help your business get through the COVID-19 crisis.   Finally, keep in touch online with other small-business owners in your area and your industry to share ideas, find resources and get the peer support you need to keep your business running and your people healthy during this challenging time.  Download the PDF checklist to help with your website updates! Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Add a Live Sales Popup to Your Website

The post How to Add a Live Sales Popup to Your Website appeared first on HostGator Blog. If you’re looking for new ways to build trust with your website visitors, have you considered adding a live sales popup to your site? Live sales popups appear in the corner of the screen so visitors browsing your site can see customer activity in real-time. These types of notifications are great at generating leads, boosting sales, and building your email list because they convince users to take action. Why Use a Live Sales Popup? There are several benefits to using live sales notifications on your site. If you run an eCommerce store, it depends on accumulating customers so it can produce enough sales to see ROI. However, If you’re going to move customers through the sales funnel, building brand credibility first is a must. Live sales notifications use FOMO, the fear of missing out, and social proof to convince customers to purchase. Visitors don’t want to feel like they’re missing out on a popular product enjoyed by many others, so they feel compelled to check it out. In the same way, when they see other people purchasing your products, it intrigues them to learn more.  Using live notifications also builds trust between brand and visitor. When customers don’t have products up close and personal to examine before they buy, the real-time activity of other users eases their doubts and pushes them in the right direction.  A whopping 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from earned media. People feel more comfortable engaging with your products and services when they know others are doing the same.  If you want users to take a specific action or navigate to a specific part of your site, live notifications can help. Let’s say you want users to sign up for your lead magnet. You can create a live popup that shows visitors signing up in real-time.  For visitors near the end of the sales funnel who are still weighing their options, live sales popups push them to make a final buying decision. It can be the factor that turns someone from a visitor into a paying customer as it wipes away their doubts.  It’s easier to increase conversions, drive sales, and build better customer relationships when you take the time to reassure your visitors. Live notifications do a great job of navigating users through buying decisions so they feel confident buying from your brand.  In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to add a live sales popup to your site so your business can boost engagement and generate sales.  How to Create a Live Sales Popup 1. Install the Plugin and Create an Account You need a sturdy, reliable WordPress plugin like TrustPulse to connect your site to the popup software. TrustPulse is a social proof plugin that’s proven to increase site conversions by 15 percent. It drives user engagement by directing visitors to a specific product or to take a specific action.  Once live, it looks like this: For the first step, download and activate the TrustPulse plugin so it’s added to your WordPress dashboard. You then need to create a TrustPulse account. Go to their website and click “Get Started For Free.” Enter your information in the field forms provided and select “Start My Risk-Free Trial Now.” 2. Create Your Campaign Once the formalities of signing up are over, it’s time to create your live popup campaign to convert more customers.  From your TrustPulse dashboard, select “Create Campaign.” Now it’s time to add the basic details, such as the campaign name and type. There are two options for campaign type:  Recent Activity – shows your website activity in real-timeOn-Fire – shows the number of people taking action on your site For this tutorial, we’ll choose “Recent Activity.” 3. Design Your Campaign Now it’s time for the fun part: designing and formatting your campaign. It’s important for any marketing campaign that you’re able to tailor your message to your brand. You see the best results by creating strategies that work for your target audience.  In the Design and Appearance section, you can customize your notifications to send the proper marketing messages and convert visitors. This includes the language, the location of the notifications on your site, and much more. Use the live preview feature to see how it looks on your site: Don’t be afraid to get creative with your campaign and test different elements to see what brings the best results.  4. Capture User Activity Now, you need to decide how you’ll capture users’ activity on your site. TrustPulse lets you choose between two platforms, AutoMagic and Zapier. For the sake of this tutorial, we’re going to use AutoMagic, which is easy for beginners. However, feel free to use Zapier if that’s the option you’re comfortable with. Select AutoMagic: Then, fill out the rest of the form fields to indicate where you’re capturing activity from. When you’re done, select Next Step. 5. Set Display Rules Now, you must decide where you want to display your live sales popup on your website. You can put it on every webpage or only a specific page depending on your goals.  Use the settings to pick where you display your popup notifications, choose how long to display them, and more.  6. Publish Your Campaign It’s finally time to publish your campaign and start showing visitors the real-time activity taking place on your website. You’ll see a live preview of your live sales popup. Once you’re satisfied with how it looks, click “Launch your TrustPulse campaign” to save and publish your campaign.  Start Making Money With Your Live Sales Popup If you’re going to attract visitors and turn them into paying customers, you need to build brand credibility through social proof. Adding social proof to any marketing strategy will boost your conversions and increase sales as you continue building trust with your customers.  Now that you’ve created your first live sales popup campaign, it’s time to sit back and wait for the conversions to flow in.  Find the post on the HostGator Blog

7 Ways to Still Get on Your Audience’s Facebook News Feeds WITHOUT Paying for Ads

The post 7 Ways to Still Get on Your Audience’s Facebook News Feeds WITHOUT Paying for Ads appeared first on HostGator Blog. Getting your blog or website onto your Facebook fan’s news feed used to be easy – after all, they were your fans and you already put in the work to win them over! They Like you, you post, they see it. Then, almost overnight, it became really difficult to reach your fans when Facebook introduced Boosted Posts. Now you had to pay a tiny bit to get eyeballs. Even with boosting, it’s still difficult to achieve that organic 1-1 fan relationship feeling again, right? So how are the coolest, most personalized brands still talking to their fans, and getting new fans right from the newsfeed for free? In this post I’ll show you 7 actionable ways to still get on your fan audience’s news feed without paying for Facebook ads. In fact, these 7 methods will results in MORE traction than ads would get you. If you have 500-1000 or more fans just waiting for your next post, this info could help you really mobilize people and get them talking about your brand! What Matters on Facebook in 2020: Engagement is Everything So it’s no secret anymore that more Likes don’t really matter. In fact,SocialSamosa did a study showing that only 1% of users who like a business page will actually visit that brand’s Facebook page. In order to understand how Likes are useless, think about all the pages you like. There’s a good chance you like that page either because Facebook suggested it, or you got something for it, or you just at some point wanted to show some support. So what does matter for your brand on Facebook? Engagement. The Dave Ryan in the Morning Show began with just three friends in a basement and now dominates Midwestern radio air waves every morning.  Engagement, aka your ability to use Facebook to connect with real users and show them you’re a real person too. This big “E” word is one reason Groups are the new Pages. The Dave Ryan in the Morning Facebook page is one I always think of when it comes to engagement. They publish simple, relatable questions that often have to do with talk show topics. Simple questions + relevant topics = tons of Engagement Take one look at theirPage posts and you’ll see tons of engagement. I often chime in too just because it’s easy, and you know others will see your response. Engagement also affects the visibility of your content. If you just link blast your new content, while it may be amazing and revolutionary, this isn’t really an engaging way of using Facebook, and you’ll be disappointed with the visibility you get then probably think “well, Facebook doesn’t work anymore.” But if you post a relevant, timely question to your fans, you’ll get a lot more engagement because among other reasons it sparks conversation. This engagement will snowball into more visibility and more engagement and so on and so on. Finally, from Neil Patel’s blog, a new way to look at your Facebook efforts: If the viral power of Facebook has dried up, then work on generating conversation. Talk to your fans. Use it as a communication portal, rather than a way to build up likes. Now that we know what still matters on Facebook in 2020 (Engagement and Conversation) let’s look at how to tailor your efforts to get in on the action. 7 Ways to Still Get on Your Fan Audience’s News Feeds for FREE As I mentioned above, Groups are slowly becoming the new Pages and are sending a ton of quality traffic to valuable pages on brand websites. Facebook is the largest social network by far and being the first to the scene has allowed the to boast over1.23 billion monthly active users. Why wouldn’t you want to stir things up on Facebook? For every reader your acquire through blood sweat and tears working on your blog, there are probably 100 more just like them with the same interest profile on Facebook. Here’s how to get in on the action: Create a Facebook GroupAs we mentioned above, Groups are the new Pages, but why? It’s simple really. Groups are a place where you have to be invited or actually allow in, while Pages are open to anyone. That one simple exclusivity characteristic can make people feel a belonging and relationship to others. It probably doesn’t hurt that Facebook advertises Groups these days (which hints at their increased importance in the Facebook Newsfeed algorithm).Post Relevant Questions to your Group/PageOnce you’ve got your new Group or old Page, it’ll be tempting to link blast but DON’T. Think about questions on your readers mind and ask them. The more intriguing and relevant the question, the more likely you’ll get a response. The key is also not to get down if you get zero interaction. It often takes several post to get people’s attention, and break down that natural laziness barrier we almost all possess when we’re online.Repost Questions from Your Other Social SitesAlready have traction on Twitter, YouTube, or maybe your newsletter? Reposting questions is a great way to get new people talking about topics you’ve already covered. After your repost the question or a screenshot of it, answer the question but not completely, so you still leave room for discussion. If you’re still not getting any engagement, ask your friends personally to respond to the questions with something funny!Create Banners with Weekly ThemesTime to get a big coffee from your favorite shop and create some unique promotion content around your brand. Things like “WordPress Wednesdays” which is a weekly topic on the WPBeginner Group are amazing for bringing people together each week. You can use the same banners each time, too!Use PollsPretty simple here, you can use Facebook’s built in polls or any number of apps to ask questions and poll folks for the answers. Try to ask questions where people will be surprised about the answers, and maybe even feel a little personal involvement in the issue.Find Your Fans Posts, and Interact!I know it’s a little bit of leg work but it’s worth it. Maybe you’ve just helped Ann Doe signup to your online course, and are super excited about her participation. Go thank this person on Facebook and mention your own product in a savvy way. There’s nothing wrong with tooting your own horn a little and begin excited about someone’s participation in your work. I think it was Pat Flynn who said, “Try to sell to people on Facebook is like butting into a conversation at a cocktail party and asking if someone wants to buy your duct tape”. So, think of Facebook as a big open party where lots of people are talking, but also a party you want to be respected at, and you’ll be in the right mindset to find people.Go Live!It’s a little bit scary to go live because what if your hair looks awful, but it’s actually a fun and empowering activity. Try going live during important national events or important personal events and use hashtags. Maybe it’s Thanksgiving and you want to thank your fans for allowing you to work through social media and blogging. Just being a part of these big moments shows your Fans you’re thinking about them, and gives you the stage for a few minutes. I hope the above 7 ways to generate more Facebook engagement for free have given you some inspiration to use Facebook in new and interesting ways. Remember: If you hear crickets at first, keep at it! It takes EVERYONE a few times seeing a person or brand before we give in and interact. Seriously! Conclusion: How will you grow Facebook engagement for free? Were you down in the dumps with your Facebook efforts before reading this post? Do you have hundreds or even thousands of fans on a Page just collecting dust? Let us know where you’re at with Facebook content marketing, and we’ll try to help out in the comments! Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Work-From-Home Tips for the Avid Office Dweller

The post Work-From-Home Tips for the Avid Office Dweller appeared first on HostGator Blog. We all have those “I wish I could stay home and wear my pajama pants instead of going to work” days. Enter the Coronavirus or COVID-19 and your “work from home” days come true.  With health and wellness in mind, companies across the globe are sending employees home to work.  So we polled our blog team and put together these tips for coping at home without your fav office buds.    1. Confirm the preferred method of communication that’s appropriate for your team.  First of all, follow the protocol set by your company and your boss. If your company tells you to work from home, do it. If your company tells you otherwise, follow their instructions.   “Work with your team to figure out the best ways to replicate the kind of communication you have in the office. Will you be better served by staying in touch via Slack throughout the day, sticking with emails, or having Skype or Zoom check-ins once a week?” – Kristen Hicks, HostGator blog writer  2. Work in a room with a door you can close.  Not everyone has an in-home office. If other people (or four-legged friends) are in the home with you, set up a temporary workspace in a room where you can close the door.  “Besides helping to shut out background noise when you’re on conference calls, closing the door – at least during meetings and when you really need to focus –  is a visual cue to kids and other people living with you that you shouldn’t be interrupted.” – Casey Kelly-Barton, HostGator blog writer  “If working from home is new to you, you may not have a spare room you can suddenly turn into an office. Resist the temptation to work from bed or the couch. As the saying goes about not mixing work and play, you don’t want to mix work and sleep. Working from bed creates a dangerous association in your mind of your bed as a place of stress and activity, instead of sleep and relaxation.” – Amelia Willson, freelance writer and HostGator customer.  3. Got kids at home? Plan a daily schedule to keep those cuties busy.  If you’re on your own juggling work and kids, give yourself permission to plop the kids in front of a movie when you’re working on your most high-value tasks.  “Don’t feel guilty over emergency screen time. Kids are resilient. This is an unusual situation, and the fact that you’re balancing remote work and childcare on the fly makes you the parent of the year!” – Casey Kelly-Barton, HostGator blog writer  Plan activities for the day to keep kids entertained while they are at home. Make a run to the local drugstore or dollar store for coloring books and crayons or other age-appropriate activities. Plan out a simple schedule for your children to follow, and schedule quiet activities – like a movie – during your high visibility meetings.  4. Keep pets out of your workspace during conference calls and video meetings.  “It’s easy to forget how disruptive pets can be until Fido starts barking like a maniac during a client phone call. Hand out chew toys during calls and conferences to buy their silence if you need to.” – Casey Kelly-Barton, HostGator blog writer  “My dog is really distracted by me being home. I’m waking up early to take her for walks and wear her out.” – Emily Hill, Senior Manager of Brand & Communications for HostGator  5: Take breaks & get some physical activity.  It’s natural to get up and move around the office. But you may find yourself getting up from the laptop less now that you’re working from home. A little prancercise, anyone?  “Consider exercise videos or going for a walk if your neighborhood allows you to keep a safe distance from people. Also, exercise is good for productivity and energy, so don’t feel guilty about making time for it.” – Kristin Hicks, HostGator blog writer  “A quick walk with your dog or listening to music or a podcast, are great ways to free the mind and help you context-switch between projects. During this time of social distancing, you might use your break to call and check in on a friend. Just limit your breaks to 20 to 30 minutes, tops. Otherwise, it’s too easy to fall into Netflix mode.” – Amelia Willson, freelance writer & HostGator customer  What tips do YOU have? Comment below! Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Use WordPress Website Builders to Easily Create Your Website

The post How to Use WordPress Website Builders to Easily Create Your Website appeared first on HostGator Blog. Building a website as a beginner used to be near impossible to do yourself. You had to either spend hours upon hours learning how to code, or you had to hire a developer to build your site for you. Luckily, those times have changed for the better. First, we had the introduction of WordPress, which allowed complete beginners to create and customize their sites. But even then, WordPress had a bit of a learning curve when making changes to the overall design of your site. In recent years, we had an explosion of website builders. These tools allowed complete beginners to customize the design of a site without any coding or development skills. Today we have the best of both worlds with the introduction of WordPress page builders. These plugins combine the power of WordPress with the ease of a website builder, which is what this post is all about. If you’re here to build your very first WordPress website with a drag and drop page builder, then you’re in the right place. Below you’ll learn all about WordPress website builders and how you can use them to build your very first website. What is WordPress? WordPress is a CMS, or content management system. It was originally built as a blogging system, but it has since evolved into a full-fledged website builder. Technically, WordPress is a self-hosted open-source content management system. You can build a site with WordPress, but it’s not technically a website builder (as you’ll learn below). With WordPress, you install the core version of WordPress on your website. Then, you choose and install a WordPress theme, which will form the foundation for your website. Your theme is what will control how your website looks and functions. Then, if you want to add more features to your website you can install a WordPress plugin. The true power of WordPress comes from its content management abilities. It’s used to run and manage some of the biggest content-driven sites across the web. Is WordPress a Website Builder? Technically, a website builder is a tool that allows you to build a website. Looking at this, WordPress is a website builder of sorts. However, the website builder market today is full of all-in-one website building tools, which are equipped with drag and drop features. Just sign up for a single service and you can do everything under one roof. WordPress isn’t really a website builder, per se, but it does have website building functionality. However, you can unlock the features of most other popular website builders, like drag and drop functionality, with the help of a WordPress page builder plugin. What Is a WordPress Page Builder? A WordPress page builder is a plugin that enables drag and drop design functionality on top of WordPress. Once activated this kind of plugin creates a beginner-friendly design environment that allows users to build custom websites with ease. Since it’s drag and drop, you don’t have to touch the backend code. The plugin automatically creates clean code for you as you design your site. It’s a great system for business owners on a budget, who want a custom website and want to use WordPress, but don’t want to hire an expensive designer to build their sites for them. Best WordPress Page Builder Plugins The page builder plugin market has exploded in recent years and it’s easy to see why. It’s hard to beat the power and content management abilities of WordPress, combined with the beginner-friendly features of a page builder. Here are some of the most popular WordPress page builder plugins on the market today: 1. Elementor Elementor is both a free and premium WordPress plugin. For a lot of users, the free version will be more than enough to build a custom website. The free version is a pretty powerful page builder. Plus, it’s incredibly fast, even being packed with features, all of the changes are reflected instantly. You can add a lot of cool effects to your site with this plugin, like animations, shapes, moving backgrounds, and more. Just choose any widget you’d like from the sidebar and drop it into the page you’re building. There are over 25 different widgets to choose from. You’ll also find a library of page templates you can choose from to give your site-building experience a head start. 2. WP Page Builder WP Page Builder is a free page builder plugin that’s been on the market for only two years, making it one of the newest plugins on the list. The design of this plugin is very simple, which makes it very easy to use. It’s equipped with a variety of pre-built elements, page sections, and complete layouts. These make it easy to create a brand new page of your site in a few minutes. Like other plugins it’s a live editor, so you can see your changes in real-time. Plus, it has drag and drop functionality, so you can quickly move any site element around the page. Overall, it’s packed with advanced features all at an affordable price. 3. Beaver Builder Beaver Builder is a premium drag and drop website builder plugin for WordPress. However, there’s also a free version of the plugin available with a limited feature set. When you first install the plugin there’s an in-depth tutorial that’ll get you up to speed on using the plugin quickly. This plugin supports designing your site in real-time, so you can see what the changes look like instantly. Just drop elements from the sidebar onto the page you’re building and rearrange them as you wish. There are all kinds of content modules you can choose from to add unique elements to your site like sliders, content blocks, buttons, media, backgrounds, and more. 4. Visual Composer Visual Composer is a WordPress page builder that’s built for beginners to experts alike. It’s packed to the brim with different design elements and features. For example, you’ll find over 50 different content elements and 100 different layouts. Plus, you’ll find over 200 different third-party add-ons. Whatever kind of content element or customization you want to make to your site, you’ll be able to do it with this plugin. The design process is a bit different with this plugin, as you have both a frontend and backend visual editor. The frontend editor lets you see changes that you make to the design of your site, while the backend editor is a grid-based system that affects the layout of your site. When you design a site with this tool you can enable a similar layout to the layers feature in Photoshop, which allows you to easily move between different elements. Benefits of Using a WordPress Website Builder Plugin If you want to create a custom WordPress website and you don’t come from a development background, then using a WordPress website builder plugin is going to be your best bet. Here are just a few reasons you’ll want to use a WordPress page builder when creating your new website: 1. Real-Time Website Editing Being able to see the changes you make reflected in real-time is a huge time saver. Once you start designing your site this way it’ll be hard to go back. You don’t need to write code either. Just select a pre-made template, and start adding new content blocks and rearranging other website elements, until you have a site that you love. As soon as you make a change to your site, you’ll immediately see how it looks and functions. You no longer have to go back and forth between saving changes and viewing your site, it all happens instantaneously. 2. Access to Advanced Features Most website builders are equipped with advanced site functions. You’re not just building a basic HTML and CSS website. You’re building a website with super-advanced functionality and features. And you’re doing it all on your own. Most website builders give you access to things like: Custom web forms. These are contact forms, sign up forms, opt-ins, and more. Plus, you can create all of these forms without having to install a plugin. Advanced image carousels. These are full-screen image sliders, and other image effects that you can use without additional plugins. Accordion text. This is a cool feature that can hide and expand text, making your site more interactive. Tables and pricing elements. Showcase your services and products in unique tables that allow you easy package pricing. Animated elements. Access a library of advanced animation effects you can use to draw visitors into your site. 3. Pre-made Layouts and Content Blocks Nearly every website builder is equipped with pre-made layouts and content blocks. These layouts are templates created by professional designers. Instead of starting from scratch you can start with a foundation and then simply modify to your liking. These layouts are broken down on two levels. The first is depending on the niche you’re in, and the second is based on the type of page you’re creating. For example, you’ll find templates for business sites, a local cafe, a massage studio, an online magazine and also templates for specific pages like about pages, product pages, contact pages, and more. 4. Built with Beginners in Mind If you couldn’t guess by now, WordPress page builders are built for complete beginners. Even if you’ve never built a website before, you can use a page builder to create a stunning website. It might take you longer than someone experienced with the tool, but the learning curve is very low. The visual nature of the tools removes all the technical aspects of creating a website and turns it more into an art project. Should I Use a WordPress Page Builder Plugin? The answer to this question will differ depending on the type of site you’re trying to create. Here are some considerations to take into account when trying to decide whether or not you should use a website builder, or just customize the standard theme without one. The real question you need to ask is: how much do I need to customize my site? If the theme you installed is very close to how you want your site to look, then you probably don’t need to use a page builder. You can just tweak the theme settings to get the kind of site you want. Page builders are best for when you want to create unique pages and redesign existing pages, or the complete layout of your website. How to Install a WordPress Page Builder Plugin By now you know whether or not you’re going to use a page builder plugin to customize your site. If you decided yes, then follow the steps below to install a page builder plugin and start customizing your site. 1. Login to WordPress The first thing you’ll need to do is login to the backend of your WordPress site. Once you’re there, click on Plugins>Add New. 2. Search for Your Plugin of Choice On the plugin screen, search for the WordPress page builder plugin you want to use, in this case we’re going to search for the “Elementor” plugin: Once you’ve found it, click ‘Install’ then ‘Activate’. If you’ve previously downloaded the plugin, then you’ll want to click the ‘Upload Plugin’ button and upload the zip file downloaded on your computer.  If you happened to go right for the premium version of any of the page builder plugins mentioned above you’ll need to upload the plugin as well.  3. Activate and Start Building Now, on the left-hand sidebar you should see a tab with the name of the plugin. Click on it and you’ll be taken to the plugin settings screen.  Here are the general settings for the Elementor plugin: With the plugin installed you can start creating different pages and editing existing pages with the site building tool. For example, here’s what the editing screen looks like with the Elementor builder active. With Elementor we can rearrange any existing elements on the screen, or drag different elements from the left-hand sidebar over onto our sites.  When you click on any existing site element the options menu will change to reflect how you can adjust and tweak the existing element.  Here are a few ways we can change the highlighted text: Regardless of whether you went with Elementor, or any other plugin from the list above, the process will be similar. WordPress website builders make it easy to customize your site without having to touch any code. Hopefully, this post has helped you choose the right website builder for your needs! 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Quick Answers to Common Support Questions Our Agents Receive

The post Quick Answers to Common Support Questions Our Agents Receive appeared first on HostGator Blog. At HostGator, we are responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation to ensure we meet the needs of our customers, while providing for the health and safety of our employees.  During this time, you may experience slower wait times when you contact customer support. But, our knowledge base website has answers to many common questions —  and without the wait.   Need help with your site? Here are some of our common requests and quick tips to get you started…  Account Issues Login to the Customer Portal – From here, you can access cPanel and everything else. DNS records – Already own a domain? Connect your domain to your hosting package by setting your name servers. Here’s how. Change your DNS or name servers – If you have an existing domain, your domain name needs to be configured to work with your new hosting account. Follow the instructions here to connect your name servers with your HostGator account.Domain not working? It could be because of domain propagation. If you bought a new domain or made a major change like changing your name server, it may take 24-48 hours to start working. Read more about domain propagation here.  How to find your name server – Not sure what your name server is? Or if you need to change it? Read more about name servers and how to find your name server. Email issues – Are you able to send emails but can’t receive? Here’s some troubleshooting steps. Transfer a domain – Ready to transfer your domain to HostGator? We recommend keeping your domain and hosting package with the same company. It just makes everything easier in the long run. Follow the steps in this article.Install your free SSL – An SSL certificate helps protect information that is passed from your website to the server. So when someone enters a credit card or fills out a form, that information will be protected. HostGator offers a free SSL certificate for all web hosting packages, and we have upgraded Positive or EV SSL Certificates for purchase.  cPanel Common tasks in cPanel – New to HostGator? Here’s a quick guide on how to use cPanel to manage your account. Email accounts, domain names, and more…How to use the customer portal – Check out this webinar on how to navigate the customer portal with common tasks like setting up email. cPanel File Manager – How to upload a file using the file manager Everything WordPress…  Quick install WordPress from cPanel – P.S. This is the quickest route! Install WordPress on your shared hosting package. Install WordPress manually – If you have issues with QuickInstall, for some reason…This might be helpful for our more advanced hosting packages like dedicated servers, resellers, or VPS. Get started with themes & layouts – Follow this guide to learn how to choose and install a WordPress design theme and get your WordPress site going! WordPress 101 webinar – Using extra time to build your first WordPress website? Watch this webinar for a guided tour of the dashboard and a run down of what you need to do to launch your first WordPress site.  Getting a website error message? Here’s how to fix common errors… 403, forbidden or no permission to access 404, file not found500, internal server Need more help? Type in your question at the knowledge base website or comment below.  Find the post on the HostGator Blog

8 Books Every Software Engineer Should Read

The post 8 Books Every Software Engineer Should Read appeared first on HostGator Blog. This article is part of HostGator’s Web Pros Series. In this series, we feature articles from our team of experts here at HostGator. Our Product Managers, Linux Administrators, Marketers, and Tech Support engineers share their best tips for getting the most out of your website.  What do software engineers read in their free time? What should you read if you’re interested in learning more about software development?  HostGator asked, and I answered with my top picks for programmers, people who’d like to know more about programming, and anyone who has to work with cross-functional teams, negotiate a pay raise or convince people to follow your vision for a project.  Let’s start with a classic introduction for people with a serious interest in software design. 1. Object Oriented Analysis and Design The number one book that I think most software engineers would recommend is Object Oriented Analysis and Design. It’s the big “how do I architect?” guide, and it provides a lot of the background theory as to why you would do object-oriented programming, which is the major programming paradigm that is used currently.  This book is a standard recommended read for anyone who’s interested in software development. However, as a software engineer, you don’t want to focus solely on being good at writing software.  You need to be good at that, of course. But you also want to figure out what other domains to build yourself up in because you’re going to need to communicate with people who aren’t technical. That leads to my next recommendation… 2. The Phoenix Project As part of your work, you’re going to need to convince people who aren’t technical to consider your ideas. To make the best engineering decisions, it’s important to have support outside of the engineering department.  The Phoenix Project isn’t a how-to guide. It’s a tech narrative about a fictional company that’s transitioning to the DevOps model from an older, less integrated model of working. It’s talking about the challenge of coordinating between operations and development, and how to bridge that gap and move forward quickly at scale.  It’s a pretty easy read and a good book to help you get a feel for where you want to start becoming more cross-functional. You don’t have to become an operations expert, but it’s a good idea to understand what operations is doing, so you can understand how your code is deployed beyond just, “I wrote it and now somebody else has to figure out how to get this thing to work.” On the flipside, this book can also help people in operations and other departments understand what IT has to do to make the transition to this newer working model. The more different teams can understand each other, the more effectively they can work together. Next, I recommend a couple of books that show engineers not only how to create new products quickly but also to decide if they’re the right products to create.  3 and 4. Lean UX and Sprint Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams is a great book, along with Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, for understanding how to build a product quickly and with low risk.  This is important because you don’t want to write a program and then see if the market likes it. These books work together to give you a process and a philosophy to follow, to test early and to test often based on what the customer wants. These are also good books for people who work in other departments who want to learn more about how the development process works.  The four books above aren’t new to me, but I’m always looking to learn more. Here’s what’s on my list and why. 5. Domain Modeling Made Functional Right now, I’m rereading Domain Modeling Made Functional. This book looks at domain-driven design in the framework of a functional programming language, rather than a programming language that’s object-oriented.  That’s a different programming paradigm, and the book makes a compelling case as to why and where you’d want to use a functional programming language—for example, when you need something customer-focused developed fast.  6. Domain-Driven Design: Tackling Complexity in the Heart of Software This book is on my to-read list because it’s supposed to address how you translate processes into software.  What does a process look like for somebody who doesn’t write software? How do you communicate about that process so you can translate it correctly into a software system? That requires communication among teams, maybe marketing, maybe sales in addition to engineering, to express those processes in terms of code.  Books 5 and 6 are aimed at readers who are familiar with software engineering principles. The next two books I recommend are for anyone who ever has to work with other people—in other words, all of us. 7. Never Split the Difference This book is about negotiation and effective communication with people with diverse opinions and perspectives. I recommend Never Split the Difference for just for anybody who’s trying to do anything.  For example, if you want to negotiate a better salary or make an argument for using a particular technology over another, this book is going to give you the tools to negotiate well.  8. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade Pre-Suasion is one of those books that changes your perspective on the world. It focuses on how to set up situations so that you can be more persuasive in your discussions. When you read this book, it helps you see the world through the frame of persuasion, and you can see that things that you don’t think are persuasion can actually convince people to agree with your ideas.  If you do any kind of marketing or negotiating with anybody, this book will give you the tools to be more persuasive even if you don’t have a natural understanding of those skills.  What Else Is Worth Reading and Watching? Technology changes fast, and there’s always something new to learn. Beyond books, I like to check out software conference talks on YouTube and see what looks interesting.  Hacker News, run by the startup incubator Y Combinator, is a great place to get the latest information from other users on things like programming, cybersecurity, 3D printing and other tech topics. It’s a great resource for spotting emerging industry trends and deciding what you’d like to learn about next.  What’s next on your to-learn list? Check out these HostGator blogs: 10 Places That Teach You How to CodeHow to Learn WordPress: 14 Online Courses, Blogs, and Video Tutorials23 Blogs and Podcasts to Help You With Your Side Hustle Find the post on the HostGator Blog

Benefits of VPS Hosting

The post Benefits of VPS Hosting appeared first on HostGator Blog. When you’re in the market for hosting, you’re going to have a lot of things to consider. You have to choose the right type of hosting, the plan that’ll align with your website needs, and pour through a myriad of different features.  But, choosing the right type of hosting for your website is probably the most important decision.  One form of hosting you’ve probably come across is VPS hosting. This unique form of hosting can provide a lot of tangible benefits to certain types of websites.  The use of VPS hosting has exploded and for good reason. Once you’ve outgrown shared hosting and are looking for a flexible and robust hosting solution, then VPS might be the perfect fit for your needs. Below we’re going to look into what VPS hosting is, how it differs from other forms of hosting, and finally, we dive into the benefits, so you can decide if this form of hosting is right for your needs.  What is VPS Hosting? VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. That might not mean much to you yet, but it’ll make sense in a bit.  The main feature of VPS hosting is the virtual aspect. It relies upon virtualization technology, which creates a virtual server on top of an existing physical server. So, you have a single physical server, and this is divided up into multiple virtual servers. These virtual servers operate entirely separate from one another. They all have their own dedicated server resources. So, you won’t have to share your RAM, CPU, or storage with other websites, even though you still might be on the same physical server. Compare this to shared hosting, where you’re sharing a physical server with potentially thousands of other websites. Plus, there’s a chance that other websites can end up negatively impacting your site when you’re using a shared server.  Essentially, a VPS will act similar to a dedicated server. But, it’s much cheaper, which makes it more accessible to a variety of different website owners.  You can think of VPS hosting like living in a high-rise apartment complex.  The overall structure of the building is being shared between every apartment in the building. But, each apartment is completely isolated from one another. You can customize your space however you see fit, and you won’t have any issues with other apartments impacting your space.  In this scenario, the physical server you’re all sharing is the physical structure of the building while each apartment is an individual VPS server.  The shared foundation of VPS hosting helps to keep costs lower, while still offering you the same benefits that a dedicated server can provide.  How Does VPS Hosting Work? With VPS hosting the virtual server environment emulates a traditional physical server. With virtualization technology (mentioned above) the physical server is broken up into multiple virtual servers via a partition. Each of these partitions operates as a virtual server that allows each user to install their own operating system, software, and more. Just as you would a traditional dedicated server. This type of partition is similar to when you partition your personal computer to run multiple operating systems, like Windows and Mac. Each operating system functions in a container in complete isolation from the other OS.  Even though a VPS server is virtual, it operates in the same fashion as a physical server. So, you don’t have to worry about issues with other sites impacting your website.  Hosting your website on a VPS gives you access to a guaranteed level of server resources that you’ll never have to split between other users.  VPS vs Shared and Dedicated Hosting Before we cover the benefits of VPS hosting, let’s see how it compares to other forms of hosting: Shared Hosting With shared hosting you’re splitting the cost of a server with hundreds of other users. This form of hosting is very easy to use and is well suited towards beginners, but there are some drawbacks.  For instance, there’s a chance that another site on the same server can use more than its share of server resources, leading to issues with your site. Shared hosting can also only support your site to a certain size and volume of traffic.  Dedicated Hosting With dedicated hosting, you have access to an entire physical server. You can host a single website on this server, or use it for multiple properties you manage. Dedicated hosting provides you with incredible levels of power, performance, storage, and security.  However, dedicated hosting is also the most expensive form of hosting, since you’re not splitting server costs. It also requires a higher level of technical expertise, since you’ll also be responsible for managing your own server.  7 Benefits of VPS Hosting We’ve already alluded to a few of the VPS hosting benefits above. But now it’s time to go deep into the tangible benefits your website will receive once you upgrade to VPS hosting. Here are the most significant benefits that VPS hosting will provide: 1. Improved Performance As your site grows in size and your traffic levels continue to climb, you’re going to need a host that supports your website. You’ll want lightning-fast loading speeds, no matter how much traffic your site receives.  If your site’s traffic levels have been growing, first of all, congratulations! Secondly, it’s time to choose a hosting plan that’s right for your website at its current stage and into the future. A VPS plan could be exactly what you’re looking for. With VPS hosting, you’ll have more server resources at your disposal, so you can support growing levels of traffic while maintaining a speedy website.  2. Greater Storage and Bandwidth With VPS hosting you’ll have access to very high levels of storage and bandwidth. This will help improve both performance (mentioned above) and reliability (mentioned below). If you’re migrating from a shared hosting plan, then you’ll be blown away by the amount of server space you have. The high levels of bandwidth can also support very high volumes of traffic without a hitch. This added space and bandwidth can support sites with hundreds of blog posts, media-rich multimedia sites, and a lot more. Here’s a quick look at the RAM, CPU, disk space, and bandwidth offered on the VPS plans here at HostGator: 3. Higher Levels of Reliability Shared hosting can be great when you’re just getting started online. But, due to the sheer volume of websites that are packed onto a single shared server, you might eventually run into issues with uptime. Although shared servers today have done away with a lot of past issues. It still isn’t the best choice if you’re looking for high uptime and performance. With a VPS, you’re the only website using the server’s resources. So, the only uptime issues you’ll run into will be from choosing a low-quality hosting provider or exceeding the current resources of your plan.  4. Greater Server Control and Customization Most VPS hosting plans offer you higher levels of server control and customization. So, if you require a unique operating system or a server setup that isn’t supported on a shared hosting plan, then VPS could be the right fit. You also get root access to the server (similar to dedicated hosting), so you essentially begin with a blank slate and can customize your server to your exact website specifications.  This is a must-have for certain websites that require a unique software or server setup.  Some types of websites, like eCommerce sites, might benefit from having VPS hosting right from the very beginning. A lot of eCommerce sites use software or require more strict security protocols that might not be compatible with shared hosting setups.  VPS hosting ensures that you can customize your hosting setup to perfectly match your website’s unique requirements.  5. Ability to Scale Your Server Setup VPS hosting is also pretty scalable. So, if your site traffic levels are trending upwards, you can trust on VPS hosting to be able to grow with you. Compare this to other forms of hosting, like shared hosting, where once you reach the limits of your plan, you’ll have to upgrade to another type of hosting entirely.  With VPS hosting all it takes is the click of a button to add more resources to your server. Plus, it’s easier to scale your server resources up and down. So, you can scale up when you’re running a promotion, or during the busy holiday season, and scale back down when traffic levels return to normal.  If you have variable traffic levels, of a site whose traffic continues to grow, then VPS hosting might be your best bet.  6. Cheaper When Compared to Dedicated Hosting Dedicated hosting is typically some of the most expensive hosting across the board, which makes it inaccessible to a lot of website owners. But, VPS hosting can provide you with the same level of features, without the substantial financial investment. You might not get as large of a server, but for most website owners, this will be more than enough.   With dedicated hosting, you end up paying for the entire server no matter what percentage of the server’s resources you’re currently using. But, with VPS hosting, you have greater control over the resources of the server, so you’ll only end up paying for the resources you’re currently using.  This makes it more cost-effective than dedicated hosting, even beyond the initial monthly price point.  7. Have Support From a Skilled Tech Team Running your site on a VPS server is a little more technical in nature. It’s a step up from shared hosting, which is incredibly easy to manage on your own.  If you run into an issue with your server, or your site goes offline for a mysterious reason you’ll want to ensure there’s a quality support team that can help you out.  Most VPS hosting providers will have a technical support team that can assist you. However, some providers also offer advanced technical support just for their VPS customers.  No matter your technical proficiency it can be helpful to have a support team to rely upon when you need it the most.  8. Higher Levels of Security Since you’re going to be the only website who’s using a single physical server you’re going to have higher levels of security right out of the gate. And that’s just the beginning. You’ll also have the opportunity to install custom security software, firewalls, and whatever other security features you desire to turn your website into a fortress. VPS hosting is known for its higher levels of security. Typically, it’s on par with dedicated hosting, which can offer you some of the most secure hosting around.  Of course, a lot of your website’s security has to do with how secure your actual website is too. So, even with a super secure host, you’ll need to implement website security best practices.  Is VPS Hosting Right for Me? Most users who outgrow their initial shared hosting plans will upgrade to VPS hosting. This form of hosting gives you more control over your hosting environment, along with added server storage and bandwidth. With this you can easily support larger sites that get high volumes of traffic.  However, some site owners may need VPS hosting from the start. For example, if you’re running an eCommerce website, or a site that requires higher levels of security, then it makes sense to start with VPS hosting right from the start. But, most website owners will grow into VPS hosting. Once you’ve reached the limits of shared hosting and are noticing a decline in performance, then it’s time to upgrade. Unless you have the budget and need for a dedicated server, VPS will probably be your best option.  Here’s a quick recap of the benefits your site will receive when upgrading to VPS hosting: A faster and more reliable server for high uptime and fast loading speeds.Access to a guaranteed amount of server resources.The ability to scale your server resources up as your site grows.Isolation from other websites, so another website will never negatively impact yours.Improved levels of security and server customization. Hopefully, you have a thorough understanding of VPS hosting and the benefits it can provide your website, so you’re well equipped to decide whether or not this style of hosting is right for you.  Contact HostGator today to learn more about our VPS hosting plans. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

How to Create a Coming Soon Page for Your Website

The post How to Create a Coming Soon Page for Your Website appeared first on HostGator Blog. When you’re building a new website or online store, there’s a lot that needs to happen behind the scenes before it’s ready for the world. You don’t want to have to wait until launch to start marketing and building interest, which makes a coming soon page a very valuable asset to have. With a coming soon page you can create an enticing page that is ready to show to the world. This page serves as the face of your website while you’re busy building behind the scenes.  Coming soon pages give you a way to build buzz, grow an email list, and even test ideas before the official launch day comes. Below you’ll learn about what a coming soon page is, and a handful of reasons and scenarios where you’ll want to build one. Finally, you’ll learn how you can quickly and easily build a coming soon page in WordPress, step-by-step.  What is a Coming Soon Page? First, we’ll get started with a little clarification, as you’ll hear coming soon pages referred to by multiple names.  There are two different types of coming soon pages: The first is a traditional coming soon page, which tells your visitors that a new website, app, store, or project is launching soon. The second is a maintenance page. This lets your visitors know that your site is currently undergoing routine maintenance or technical difficulties. Sometimes maintenance pages can be used when you’re making visual changes to your site as well. Instead of making these changes to a live website, you put up a maintenance mode page until the changes are complete.  You may also hear coming soon pages referred to as pre-launch pages. But, no matter what words you’re using to describe your page, they all serve the same general purpose: to help garner interest, gain user feedback, collect email addresses, and give visitors a place to go while your website is being developed or updated. Unlike other pages on your site, coming soon pages are temporary. They’re like an appetizer you can offer your visitors while the real meal is being made. For example, here’s a simple coming soon page created with the SeedProd Coming Soon plugin for a website that could currently be under construction: Here’s another super simple coming soon page created with the same WordPress plugin. You’ll notice that your coming soon page doesn’t have to be incredibly in-depth to be effective: Reasons to Use a Coming Soon Page A coming soon page gives you a temporary way to send traffic to your website while you’re busy in the backend building it. As you’ll soon learn, coming soon pages serve a variety of purposes, from giving you peace of mind while working on your site, to helping generate leads, assist with the website migration process, and let you easily test new ideas. Here are a handful of the most common reasons you’ll want to use a WordPress coming soon page: 1. Generating Leads Before Launch The last thing you want to hear when you launch your website to the world is crickets. You can avoid this fate by strategically building an audience while your website is still under construction. One of the best ways to do this is to start building an email list before you launch. A coming soon page is a fantastic way to do this. Since it’s basically a landing page, you can offer an incentive for people to join your list (more on this below). Then, you can start building a relationship with your new subscribers right away through email.  2. Building Up Buzz and Hype If you don’t have an existing audience or following to tap into when you launch, you can use your coming soon page to build this initial hype. For example, maybe you use your coming soon page to host a compelling giveaway, or you give away some great resources in exchange for an email address or social media post. Essentially, a coming soon page presents an idea. If your idea is compelling enough and you give your visitors a reason or incentive to share, you can naturally build hype around your launch—even if you’re starting with no audience.  3. Testing Website or Product Ideas Quickly You can create a coming soon page rather quickly. Depending on your existing WordPress skills, you can have a coming soon page live in a couple of hours. Then, with this skeleton of a product or idea created you can start sending traffic to it to see how people react.  If you’re not sure about the direction you want to take with your website, or you have a few different branding ideas, then this can be a fast way to test them and get real-world feedback. This way you know that when you launch your website you’re building something that people want, and not something you “think” people want. This will make a big difference in the success of your website.   Alternative Uses for a Coming Soon Page Beyond the main reasons above there are two alternative reasons you’ll want to use a coming soon or maintenance page. 1. Using a Coming Soon Page During Site Migration Coming soon pages can be used during a website migration. For example, let’s say you built your site using a website builder, but now you want to switch over to WordPress. If you want to start building your WordPress site but don’t want to take down your current site until it’s complete, then you can use a coming soon page to bridge the gap. The process for this is pretty simple. You install WordPress on your new site and install a coming soon page plugin (we discuss this in the final section). Then, you can build your new site completely in the background. You’ll have full access to the WordPress dashboard and the theme customization options. Once you’re finished building your new site, just turn off the coming soon plugin, and forward your domain that’s pointing to your old site to your new one.  This process allows for a seamless and stress-free site migration experience.  2. Creating a WordPress Staging Environment Another use of a coming soon plugin is when you’re doing routine maintenance or making changes to your site that you don’t want your visitors to see.  So, instead of trying to make these changes during the light of day you can activate a coming soon plugin and create a simple page that lets your visitors know you’re making changes to your site, and it’ll be back online soon.  Before you make changes to your site, one thing worth doing is installing a staging area plugin. This allows you to essentially create a cloned version of your site that you can work on.  With this kind of plugin activated, you can test out new changes without affecting your original site. You can also preview any changes in real-time. This gives you the freedom to test out design ideas and implement new features without the fear of breaking your existing site. Some popular WordPress staging area plugins include WP Staging, Duplicator, and WP Stagecoach. What Should You Include in a Coming Soon Page? Coming soon pages look different depending on their purpose. For example, if you’re trying to gauge interest for a new website you’re launching, this will look different than a maintenance mode page.  However, regardless of the purpose, most coming soon pages will have some similar elements. Here are the most common elements of a coming soon page: A message that announces what, exactly, is coming soon Your website logo and a color scheme that matches your brandingA timeline of when this project will go live, maybe even with a countdown timer to launchA sign-up form to collect visitor email addresses before launchLinks to anywhere else you can be found online, like social media profiles, or existing projects Let’s break down the details of some of these sections: What’s actually “coming soon” and why does it matter? Coming soon pages, when done the right way, can be incredibly valuable. They not only allow you to build buzz before you launch your website, but they can also give you feedback into whether or not your idea is worth pursuing. Make sure your page offers enough information so that your visitors know what’s coming soon. Curiosity can be a great way to get people intrigued about your new project, but they’ll need enough information to be curious in the first place. For example, is it a website that will help gardeners find the best natural products for their gardens? Or maybe you’re creating a website that shows dog owners how to best care and train their pets? Whatever your idea you’ll want to have a compelling headline, along with a brief description.  Ask yourself, why would this website matter for these new visitors? What’s in it for them? By teasing your idea you’ll be able to get valuable feedback from your visitors before launch. This will help with your positioning, messaging, and even design before you launch the final version of your site.  Finally, it can be helpful to include a countdown timer. Nearly every WordPress coming soon plugin will give you the ability to add a countdown timer to your site. These timers can help to build buzz and give your visitors something to look forward to. Also, if you’re using your coming soon page to generate leads, then this timer can give people a deadline to join your list. This leads us to the next section. Generate leads by offering an incentive Adding an email signup form to your coming soon page is a great way to start building your list before you launch. However, if a visitor is already checking out your coming soon page you’ll want to do everything you can to make sure they stick around. A great way to do this is to offer an incentive for a visitor to join. For example, in exchange for their email you could offer things like: Access to early bird pricing (if you’re opening an eCommerce store)A free guide or set of resourcesA free coaching or consulting sessionThe chance to win a contest (if you’re running a giveaway) Once you get their email list you can stay in touch with them, ask for feedback on your idea, inform them about the launch timeline, and more. By building an email list before you even launch you can avoid launching to a crowd of zero. Instead, you’ll have a ton of people excited about your new project and can help to spread the word.  Give visitors a way to get in touch and spread the word You don’t have to wait until you launch to get valuable feedback from your visitors. Right from the very start, you should encourage your visitors to get in touch with you to share any questions, ideas, or concerns. By opening this line of dialogue early on you can improve the quality of your website and ensure you’re building something your visitors want. This can be as simple as including your email on the coming soon page. Or, you can engage in dialogue later on, if you collect their email address.  These initial people to support your project can be your biggest advocates in getting the word out. So, you’ll want to treat them like gold. Another element you might want to add is a way for your visitors to share your coming soon page with their audience. This can be as simple as having a handful of social media icons. Or, try offering an incentive for sharing, such as entry into a contest you’re running.  How to Create a Coming Soon Page in WordPress By now you should be well versed in what goes into a WordPress coming soon page. You should have a thorough understanding of what you’re going to include on your page, as well as what the overarching goal for your page will be. Here’s how you can create your own coming soon page in WordPress: 1. Find the Perfect WordPress Coming Soon Page Plugin When you’re using WordPress there are always a dozen plugins you can choose from for any task you want to accomplish, or feature you want to add.  For adding a coming soon page to your site one of the best is called Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode by SeedProd. This plugin has both a free and premium version and has all the features you need to create an epic coming soon page. You can even use this plugin to create a simple website maintenance mode page as well, if that’s your goal. This plugin will help you quickly create a coming soon page on WordPress. You can even customize the page with CSS if you want it to match the design of your new site.  For the rest of this tutorial we’ll be using the Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode by SeedProd plugin, so to follow along you’ll want to use the same plugin. However, there are some alternatives that provide comparable features like the Minimal Coming Soon & Maintenance Mode and the Nifty Coming Soon plugins.  2. Install and Activate the Plugin To install the plugin you’ll need to login to your WordPress dashboard. Once you’re in the backend of your site navigate to Plugins>Add New. Then, click ‘Add New’ and search for Coming Soon SeedProd, and install the plugin that looks like the one below.  Once the plugin is activated you can access the plugin settings by clicking on the ‘SeedProd’ icon on the left-hand side of your dashboard. If you have a lot of plugins installed, you might have to scroll to find it.  3. Configure Your Settings For the sake of this tutorial, we’re using the free version of the SeedProd plugin, which will be more than enough for most users. However, if you want access to even more features, then you can upgrade to the premium version as well. The first thing we’ll do is navigate to the ‘Design’ tab. Here we can customize how the coming soon page will look. At the top, you’ll notice the theme selection options (note that this is only available for those using the pro version). If you scroll down you’ll notice Background, Content, and Text options. By customizing these we can set a background image or color, set the content width, and text colors. If you know CSS, then you can add that to truly customize your page. Once you’re satisfied with the design, let’s move over to the ‘Content’ tab.  This is where we’ll be adding the logo, page headline, and content. Spend some time with this section as this is the most important aspect of your coming soon page. Create a compelling headline and body copy that entices your visitors to learn more and get excited about your project.  You can also embed an email sign up form into this section as well. However, you’ll need to embed it with a shortcode or HTML form, as the free version isn’t equipped with integration abilities right out of the box (for instant integration, simply upgrade to the Pro version).  Finally, at the bottom of this tab, you can optimize the SEO settings for your page. This is how your coming soon page will show up in the search engines. Although the chances of ranking are pretty low (on a brand new website), it can be helpful if you’re going to have your coming soon page up for a while. You can add your Google Analytics code to this section as well. This can be helpful if you’re going to be trying a ton of different traffic generation methods and you want to see which marketing approach is the most effective.  4. Enable Your Coming Soon Page Once you’re satisfied with the design of your page and the copy, it’s time to make it live.  To do this you’ll need to be back in the ‘Content’ tab. Then, under the ‘General’ box select the ‘Enable Coming Soon Mode’ option. You might have noticed that once you turn this option on, nothing changes in the backend. But, now whenever someone comes to your site all they’ll be able to see and access is the coming soon page. When you’re logged into your site you’ll be able to see the version of the site that you’re working on. So, if you want to see what your visitors see when they access your site, then you’ll need to log out and maybe even view your site through an Incognito browser tab. With a coming soon page enabled, you now have the freedom and time to build your site as you see fit. Let your coming soon page do the work for you, while you build your perfect website in the backend.  Once you’re finished with your design, just return to the same tab and turn the option to ‘Disabled’ and your site will be available for the world to see. Alternatively, you can also deactivate and uninstall the plugin. Moving Forward with Your Own Coming Soon Page As you can see, a coming soon page can be a very valuable addition to your website. It gives you time to build your site as you see fit. You won’t feel rushed to build your site or make design changes while the world can see your site. Plus, by using a coming soon page the right way you can help to build buzz for your new project, generate leads before launch, and even make the website migration process less stressful. For this tutorial we used the free version of the SeedProd Coming Soon plugin. However, you can use any plugin you wish that has similar features. The specific plugin you choose doesn’t matter as much as it having the features you require and you being able to use it easily. You’re now ready to unlock the power of a coming soon page for your website. Hopefully, the tips above will get you moving in the right direction and one step closer to your website building dreams! Find the post on the HostGator Blog

HostGator Customer Spotlight: Afie Braimoh of SACFruits

The post HostGator Customer Spotlight: Afie Braimoh of SACFruits appeared first on HostGator Blog. While many of HostGator’s customers have high passion levels for their side projects, we know it’s also true that the daily grind can be tough, especially after working a regular, perhaps dull, 9-5 job. It can be challenging to take those initial steps to get started when all you want to do is veg out and watch the latest and greatest on Netflix. If you’re thinking about starting a killer side hustle, you need a website. And we’ve got some inspiration from one of our favorite HostGator success stories, Afie Braimoh, creator of the SACFruits business and website. Who Is Afie Braimoh of SACFruits? We first learned about Afie Braimoh and her company SACfruits when she entered her story in our Side Hustle Star Awards. And dude, were we impressed! (In fact, Afie won the contest!)  Afie worked hard to develop an excellent global health product, dried fruit from West African fruit. The product is tasty, 100% natural, and perfect for anyone at any time and on any day. What is even more exciting about Braimoh’s business—even more than the pure deliciousness of her product—is how she decided to start her side hustle.  How Afie Got Started With Her Side Hustle She started her health food side hustle while living in Nigeria after seeing so many West African farmers slip into poverty due to too much food waste.  Afie explains how her side hustle helps fight poverty in Africa. “I market and distribute dried fruit snacks from West Africa. I saw the poverty in the farmers because their fruits would simply rot away because of bad access to roads to get their goods to the market, so I started this side hustle. I have also built a very strong relationship with farmers across Nigeria, and have invested in some of their crops like mango trees and pineapple farms.” The SACFruits side hustle started small. Afie began by trying out her recipes and says, “I purchased a dehydrator and started drying fruits in season. Then I started sampling parties that comprised of friends, work colleagues, and family as well.” Then, Afie went through the process of getting FDA approval and launched SACFruits on Amazon in January 2019, and continues to see her business grow. Afie Braimoh knew her side hustle would be successful when she continually saw the global health trend on TV, social media, and expos where people are concerned about what they eat. Her dedication and belief in her side hustle show when you look at her results. “I spend every evening combing through websites learning ways to distribute this product. I am slowly identifying traditional and unique ways. I launched at the Macy’s Market, a supermarket in Miami, and also a coffee shop in NY. Given my full-time job, this has been a leap,” according to Braimoh. What Challenges Did Afie Braimoh Overcome? Starting a side hustle isn’t all roses and daisies. It can be difficult, and some side hustlers may get stuck and want to give up from time to time. We asked Afie what challenges she experienced with running a business internationally. Her answers included figuring out shipping costs, delivering goods on time for large orders, and understanding exchange rates. “It’s tough getting funding for a small business,” says Afie. “But, I constantly use my salary to cover my small business expenses including constantly advertising online. I am working with just one distributor who has a day job but believes in my products. I continue to manage my expenses as much as I can by being the only employee for the business for now. Everything is scaled back to be able to meet my expenses.” Even though she experienced several challenges, Afie also said she never wanted to give up during the process, and she plans to quit her full-time job in the future. Afie urges other side hustlers not to give up either. She tells fellow side hustlers to “stay focused and be passionate about what you do. The most successful people today have passion.” Why HostGator? While Afie experienced some initial challenges in getting her business off the ground, building a website with HostGator was not one of them. We asked Afie why she chose HostGator to host and build her website. She said she has been impressed with HostGator because of the “reliability and responsiveness” of our hosting platform. Whatever type of business you’re looking to start and no matter how much web experience you may have, HostGator can help you get online. Our flexible platform allows you to quickly start a website and scale your web hosting package as your business grows. For example, the drag-and-drop Gator Website Builder makes it possible for even the first-timer to create a professional website.  If you already have a side hustle in mind, we would love to help you get your website up and running. Thankfully, the process is easy. Here is a quick tutorial on how you can build a website today. We can’t wait to see you get started. Find the post on the HostGator Blog

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