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  • 9 Online Tools for Mom Bloggers

    Monday, June 19, 2017 by

    Mommy Bloggers online ToolsThe Mommy Blogger's Online Toolkit

    If you have a kid, a computer, and a love of sharing stories and opinions, you've probably thought about starting a mommy blog. You're not alone – there are about four million moms in the US and Canada with their own blogs, according to mommy blogger coach Candis Lynn Hidalgo. Clearly, blogging is a popular hobby, and for some bloggers, it's also a source of income. So how can you start your own mom blog? First, you'll need to assemble your online toolkit. Here's what you'll need. Create Your Blog  

    1. Your mommy blog needs a goal

    Decide before you begin whether you want your blog to be a hobby or a business. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that if you're approaching it as a hobby, you can skip some elements of the toolkit, like finding marketing affiliates, and focus on crafting your posts, photos, videos and/or podcasts. Another reason to clarify your goals early on is because if you plan to make money from your blog, you'll need to treat it like a part-time job, with a regular posting schedule, professional networking, and outreach to brands.  

    2. Choose a niche within the mommy blogger universe

    If you're purely a hobbyist blogger who wants to experiment with words and images, do what you like. However, if building an audience matters to you—whether you're a hobbyist or a professional—you'll do better if you choose a niche. With millions of moms blogging, it's not enough to write up your kids' antics and share recipes. Today's most successful mom bloggers describe life through a lens that's both unique and relatable. Here are a couple of very different but successful examples of moms who started blogs and have gone on to become authors, media figures, and experts in their own niches. Lenore Skenazy at Free Range Kids has been pushing back against helicopter parenting for nearly a decade. She's taken heat and won praise for things like letting her son ride the New York City subway unsupervised when he was 9 years old. She's built her blog and her niche by calling out intrusive laws that restrict kids' freedom to play outdoors and by collecting statistics on child safety. Free Range Kids mom blog Emma Johnson at WealthySingleMommy.com combines two concepts that often don't go together in American culture -- the notions that a mom can be a single parent and financially successful. Always direct, sometimes profane, Johnson has built a following of professional single moms who want to thrive at home, at work, and on the dating scene. One way to find your own niche is to think about what motivates you as a mom, your own personal interests, and goals you have for your family. Maybe that means you're an attachment parent who also knits and wants to raise llamas on some land you own. Maybe you're the mom of special-needs teens, so you've not only learned the ins and outs of dealing with schools, IEPs, and the healthcare system, but you've also helped those kids get into to college. (I know this mom, by the way, and I wish she'd start a blog.) Whatever makes your life and family yours, that's your niche.  

    3. Your blog needs a web host

    Your blog will need a web hosting service that you pay for, rather than a free third-party blogging platform or a social media account. That's because if the third-party site or social media provider decides to suspend or close your account (or shuts down, like Vine did in 2016) you no longer have access to your content or your followers. That's bad if you've built an audience for a hobby blog. It's a disaster if you're blogging for money. For less than $10 a month, you can have your blog hosted with a service like HostGator's WordPress Cloud Hosting that keeps your blog up and running, loads your content fast, and won't arbitrarily vanish.  

    4. Your blog needs a name and a URL

    Naming a mommy blog, like naming a baby, is a big project, not to be taken lightly. First, you'll want to choose something that clearly tells readers what your blog's about (Attachment Mama with Llamas, for example) and that's not already taken by another blogger. Then you'll need to see if the URL for that name is available. If it is, you can register it, and then you've got an address for your blog-to-be. Dive into the details of choosing a domain name for your blog here.  

    5. Your blog needs a design

    Just like decorating a nursery or a playroom, there's no limit to the time and money you could put into designing your site. But when you're just starting out, the most cost-effective approach is to use a WordPress theme that saves you lots of time and will display nicely on desktops and mobile devices. Later, if your blog is profitable or you feel like spending more on design, you can.  

    6. You'll need a blog-related email address

    Another advantage to having your blog hosted by a professional service like HostGator is that it gives you the ability to create email addresses using your domain name. This looks more professional than a third-party email address—important if you're looking for sponsors and affiliates—and it can help you sort out your personal email from your blog correspondence. It also makes it easier to set up your email list.  

    7. Your blog needs an email list

    Part of your blog design should be an email signup form so visitors can subscribe to your blog and newsletters. This is a must if you plan to monetize your blog, because your subscriber count will matter to prospective affiliates, and because email marketing is an effective way to reach readers with your own offers of paid content like ebooks and courses. Sweeten the signup invitation by creating a compelling freebie for new subscribers. For example, Emma Johnson offers subscribers her free “15 Secrets to Thriving as a Single Mom” guide. Emma Johnson mommy blogger  

    8. You need a decent camera

    You don't need to buy a digital SLR camera just yet, but good photos and videos are an important part of blogging, so make the most of your smartphone camera and learn to light your shots well. If you're recording podcasts, the built-in mic on your laptop won't deliver the sound quality you need. It's worth investing in a standalone mic, and you can find a good one for under $100.  

    9. Your blog needs at least one social media account

    Don't try to do all the social media platforms. That way lies madness and burnout. Instead, go back to your niche and think about where people who are interested in the same things as you spend their time. Maybe it's Pinterest, maybe it's YouTube, maybe it's Instagram. Pick one for now, and use it to drive traffic to your blog.  

    As your blog grows...

    As your blog grows, if you're running it as a business, you can start adding affiliate links, a press section to show off your mentions in the media, and a resources section where readers can find your books, online classes, or mentorship groups. In the meantime, keep posting and growing your audience, and keep tabs on our HostGator blog, where you'll find tips on everything from creating video tutorials to monetizing your blog.
  • Content Audits: Why They Matter and How To Do One

    Monday, June 19, 2017 by
    Content Audit

    How to Do a Content Audit

    Content marketing requires creating a lot of content. Once you get going, often the impulse is to just keep moving forward with new content indefinitely. Keep producing, keep publishing, and hope for the best. But now and then, it’s important to step back and perform an analysis of what you’ve already done. Every business that does content marketing should commit to doing a content audit at least once every couple of years. While it can be hard to get buy in from your team to set aside the time for a content audit – it can feel like something tedious that keeps you from the more important work of creating – the benefits it brings are too significant to let it slide. Create Your Blog  

    The Benefits of a Content Audit

    A content audit will help you accomplish a number of important goals:
    • Figure out what works.  A content audit helps you identify which pieces of content, topics, and content formats are getting results, so you can invest more of your time and money into creating content that will pay off.
    • Identify the types of content that aren’t really working. Every business doing content marketing is going to end up with content pieces that just don’t hit. A content audit will help you ensure you don’t keep wasting your time on content you know doesn’t appeal to your audience and help you remove clutter from your website.
    • Find opportunities for repurposing. Too many businesses produce all their content from scratch. There’s a good chance you have old content that can be tweaked to fit new formats. You’ll save your team some trouble by identifying these pieces and creating a plan for re-purposing. 
    • Update old content. A blog post from five years ago could be filled with mostly useful information, but also some outdated stuff that makes it look less authoritative. Like re-purposing, updating old content gives you a chance to make better use of what you already have with less effort.
    • Clean up and organize your website. You probably have pages no one visits, either because your audience just wasn’t interested, or they weren’t easy to find. A content audit helps you identify what content you can remove, and how to make the rest of it more accessible.
    By committing time now, a content audit saves you future work so you can craft a path moving forward that will be more successful.  

    5 Steps to Complete a Content Audit

    Doing a content audit well does require some time, but by structuring the process and going in with a plan, you’ll be able to get more out of it.  

    1. First, clarify your goals.

    Before you do anything else, ask yourself what you hope to get out of your content audit. Most content audits will have multiple goals. You may want to improve the SEO on your website, figure out how to increase conversions, or come to better understand how specific personas respond to different types of content – just to name a few possibilities. Whatever your particular priorities may be, it’s useful to take the time to articulate in specific terms what you want to accomplish during your content audit so that you can structure your efforts around achieving what’s most important to you.  

    2. Create a list of all the pieces of content you have.

    Your next step is to list out all the content you have now. This should include every blog post you’ve ever published, any current landing pages, your videos, your podcasts, other site pages, any long-form assets you have, and anything else you’ve ever created as part of your content marketing that's still live on your website. Get it all into a spreadsheet, then start to organize and build out the various fields you want to track as you go. How this spreadsheet should look depends on the goals you lined out before you started, but you should probably include fields or categories for:
    •      All metrics you want to track in relation to each piece of content (e.g., page views, downloads, conversions, email signups, social shares)
    •      The goal for each piece of content (awareness, email signups, clicks to other content, etc.)
    •      The content format
    •      Primary topic covered
    •      The target keyword (if applicable)
    •      The audience or persona it was meant for
    •      Number of links that point back to the content piece
    •      Comments or feedback from your audience
    •      Whether a CTA is included
    Think of everything you could possibly want to check about piece of content and get a field into the spreadsheet for it. If you'd rather plug and play than DIY, Moz and Buffer both have solid content audit templates you can use. how to perform a content audit  

    3. Review the analytics you have for each piece.

    Every tool you have for collecting analytics should be put to use during your content audit. For most businesses, that should include Google Analytics. In some cases it will also include tools like HubSpot, Kissmetrics, and the analytics provided by your main social media channels. Any metric that tells you something about the success of a piece of content – especially any that relate to the goals you established at the beginning of the process – should be included in your analysis and plugged into the spreadsheet you’ve started.  

    4. Make a decision about what to do next with each piece of content.

    You’ll be able to start dividing your content into a few main categories at this point:
    1.      The pieces that perform well now;
    2.      The pieces that aren’t doing great, but have potential; and
    3.      The pieces that aren’t getting any attention or results.
    Let's review what to do with each category in order. For the Content Doing Well: A good performance doesn’t mean you just leave well enough alone. Figure out if there’s a way to make it better. Brainstorm ways to get more out of this content. Promote it more. Figure out ways to re-purpose it by breaking it into smaller pieces, expanding it into a longer piece, or covering the same topic in a new format. See if there are ideas within the content pieces that can be turned into new pieces of content. When you hit on what works, use it as inspiration and keep it up. For the Content with Potential: Perform an analysis to determine what the problem most likely is. In some cases, it could be as simple as a bad title or a little bit of outdated information; in others, it could be a bigger issue like targeting the wrong audience or not providing accurate information. Try to diagnose the issue with each piece in this category so you can determine the best steps to take moving forward to improve it. You may want to make some simple updates to these pieces, rewrite them completely to be meatier, or figure out how to make them more focused on a target keyword. For The Content Not Getting Results: For the last category, you’ll have to make some hard choices. It feels counterintuitive and wasteful to remove content someone worked hard on from your website entirely, but in some cases it’s the best choice. Decide what content can be discarded entirely and put it in the “to be removed” category. Some of the content not getting results could be improved upon with some changes. If you feel that’s possible with some of the pieces in this category, bump them into the “content with potential” category.  

    5. Craft it all into a content strategy with clear deliverables and deadlines.

    Everything you’ve put into your spreadsheet so far will help you with this step. Turn all the information you’ve collected and insights you’ve gleaned into a clear plan. Assign each task you want to take on to someone on your team (the writer, designer, editor, SEO, or content marketer) and start working up a list of realistic deadlines. Get to work on a new, better content strategy based on the wealth of knowledge you’ve just gained. And to hold yourselves to staying on top of things in the years to come, go ahead and put a date on the calendar in a year or two for your next content audit. You’ll never get to the point where a bit of analysis won’t do your content strategy a world of good.   What has been your experience performing a content audit? Share your successes (or mistakes to avoid) in the comments below!
  • How to Make an Enticing Restaurant Website

    Monday, June 19, 2017 by

    Make Restaurant Website

    6 Tips for Building Your Restaurant Website

    Your restaurant’s website is one of your most important marketing tools. Many of your customers will check you out online before they decide to visit, so your website needs to provide them with a stellar experience. On the other hand, if your website is poorly designed, it could turn them off from actually visiting your restaurant. When people visit your restaurant website they have very specific needs in mind. Address these and you’ll have one happy customer. Luckily, it’s never been easier to build a great website for your restaurant. However, your restaurant website needs to have certain elements in place if you want it to show up in Google and actually be useful for your customers. Let's take a look at what those are! HostGator Website Builder  

    1. Display Your Menu Prominently

    Your menu is one of the core features of your site. When potential customers visit your website they want to know what kind of food you’re serving and what your prices look like. You should make this information as easy to find as possible. A lot of restaurant websites make the mistake of displaying their menus as downloadable PDFs, or make their visitor’s search for the menu. This is a big mistake. Feature it front and center as a regular page on your website! This way Google can easily scan your menu and display it in the search results. Restaurant website in Google search results Also, make sure you choose a font that makes your menu easy to read, even on small screens.   

    2. Feature Your Hours of Operation and Contact Information

    Once a customer looks at your menu and has found it appetizing, then they’ll start looking around to see where you are and if you’re open. Make this information easy to find on your site. A lot of restaurants hide this information on a contact page, or aren't consistent with updating their hours. By displaying this information prominently and keeping it updated regularly, you’ll have visitors putting down their phones, leaving their homes, and enjoying a delicious meal at your restaurant in no time.  

    3. Offer Online Reservations Through Your Website

    If you decide to include an online reservation system, then you better make sure it works. If a potential customer goes through the process of making a reservation and the app crashes, or the reservation doesn’t go through, this will create a poor experience once they arrive at your restaurant before they even sit down. With so many restaurants to choose from, a single negative experience is often enough to stop someone from coming back again. The same can be said for your online ordering system. If you’re using a third-party ordering system, or have it natively installed on your site, then it needs to work. Make sure you spend time testing both systems for any errors before you make them available to the public.  

    4. Show Off Your Food with Beautiful Imagery

    You want the feel of your website to mimic the ambiance of your restaurant. Now, this doesn’t mean it’s time to populate your site with cheesy photos of families smiling. If possible, try to get actual photos of your restaurant and the food you serve. It can even be helpful to hire a professional photographer to take these photos for you. You want your food to look incredibly appetizing and just snapping a quick picture on your iPhone often won’t have the same effect. Since your visitor is already hungry, you want to invoke these senses even more with incredibly appetizing photos. Your goal should be to have your customers salivating and getting ready to place an order or come by your restaurant.  

    5. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile Friendly

    People search for restaurants when they're already out and about. Chances are a large proportion of your visitors are going to access your site via their mobile phones. If your site doesn’t load properly on a smartphone you’re going to miss out on a ton of potential customers. Plus, if your site isn’t mobile friendly this will have a negative impact on your search engines rankings in Google. This means that when someone searches for restaurants in your area you’ll be nowhere to be found. On your mobile website make sure your location, hours, and menu are very easy to find. When someone is on the go these crucial pieces of information will help them decide quickly whether to not to visit your restaurant.  

    6. Stay True to Your Brand

    It's possible your restaurant website will be the first experience that a customer has with your brand. For this reason your website needs to make an impression and be in alignment with your restaurant. If your brand is quirkier and caters toward a more vibrant crowd, then make sure you highlight this in your website copy and imagery. While, if your restaurant is very upscale, then you’ll want to speak to this. Your colors, layout, font choice, logo, and images all work together to convey what your restaurant is all about. You’ll want your visitor to have the same experience on your website that they do the moment they step foot into your restaurant.  

    Using a Website Builder to Create Your Restaurant Website

    Now that you know what elements to include in your restaurant website, it’s time to start building! There are a variety of options you’ll have at your disposal, from full-fledged content platforms to online web builders. It can be a little overwhelming trying to decide the best option for your needs, which is why we recommend using a website builder. HostGator's website builder is incredibly easy to use and has a number of beautifully designed templates perfect for any restaurant of cafe. All you have to do is plug in your unique restaurant details and you’re all set. Use a restaurant theme or customize one of the other pre-built layouts to your brand. restaurant website builder Best of all, all of the templates are mobile optimized, SEO-friendly, and easily integrate with your social media channels. Bring on those Instagram pics!  Your restaurant website is the virtual face of your restaurant. By focusing on the elements above you’ll have a restaurant website that’s enticing and makes your customers fall in love. Just make sure your online experience is just as good as in person and you’ll be all set.  
  • A Local Business Guide to Crafting a Press Release

    Monday, June 19, 2017 by

    Press Release Local Business

    Create a Press Release for your Local Business

    In the right context, a press release can be a powerful tool for bringing new attention to your business and can help you gain connections with local news outlets that bring more value over time. In the wrong context, they can make you look like a nuisance and make people more likely to ignore your future press releases. Local businesses should definitely include press releases in their marketing plan, but you have to be careful about how you do so. HostGator Website Builder  

    When to Use a Press Release

    The main purpose of a press release is to alert journalists of something newsworthy so they might cover the news for their readers. Your audience here is different than the one you focus on for most of your marketing efforts. A piece of news your customers may be interested in, like a sale coming up, wouldn’t be something a reporter is likely to care about. As with any type of marketing move, you need to think of your audience when considering a press release. Ask yourself if the news you’re announcing is actually the kind of thing you ever see covered in your local papers (remember to include business sections and papers in this – they’ll be one of your key targets for press releases). If you can honestly answer yes to that question, then it’s worth proceeding with a press release. To give you an idea of the types of topics that usually make a good press release for local businesses, here are a few examples:
    • A new product release
    • Events
    • Important hires (like a new CEO)
    • Opening a new location
    • Winning an award
    • A charity drive
    • Community partnerships
    Once you’ve confirmed that your news is press release worthy, then get started working on the press release itself.  

    How to Craft a Press Release

    You want your press release to make it as easy as possible for any journalist or reporter reading it to glean all the information they need, and know where to go next if they want more.  

    Start with a template, but make it your own.

    Press releases often take on a standard format and that’s ok – it helps readers know where to look for the information they want. For that reason, it can be smart to start with a press release template that helps you get the structure right. Just make sure you update everything in the template to make it relevant to your own business and news.  

    Spend some real time on the headline.

    For the most part, a press release headline isn’t a place to try to be catchy or clever. Your main focus should be clarity. You want anyone skimming to quickly be able to tell what the press release is about and decide if it’s relevant to them.  That doesn’t mean your headline has to be dry and boring, but don’t sacrifice clarity in the name of trying to make it more interesting. Something like Acme Launches Charity Drive to Help Pay for Local School Lunches would be better than How One Local Company Hopes to Help Students. The latter might fly on social media, but it’s too vague for a press release.  

    Don’t bury the lede.

    Put the most important information right up top. Don’t make anyone read too far to learn what you have to say. There are some types of content where saving the most important or interesting piece of information for last can make sense as a way to keep your audience reading or watching, but for press releases, you’re writing for busy journalists who make quick decisions about whether or not a story is a good fit for their publication and audience. You want to make it as easy as possible to find the information they need to make that decision.  

    Include a good quote or two.

    Some reporters who choose to cover a story they see in a press release will reach out to get more information. Others will want to cover it based entirely on what’s included in the press release itself. To give them more to work with, have a couple of quotes from someone in your company that speak to the importance or value of the news you’re announcing.  

    Include your website and contact information.

    For those who do want to collect more information, make it easy for them to know where to go next. Include your website, as well as information on how to get in touch if they have further questions.  

    How to Distribute a Press Release

    Once your press release is written (and proofread), you need to work on getting it in front of people.  

    Use distribution platforms.

    Distribution platforms like PRNewswire and PR.com can help you get your news in front of a wide audience fairly quickly. Submitting your press release to these platforms is pretty quick and easy, so it’s worth doing, but it’s not the most effective way to reach the people most likely to cover your story, so don’t stop there.  

    Reach out to local publications and journalists.

    This is the most important step to getting the kind of coverage your press release is designed to encourage. Research local publications that may be interested in your news and try to identify the writers working there that most consistently cover similar topics. Then send your press release specifically to them. This more targeted approach will ensure you get the attention of the right contacts – the ones who spend time actively looking for information like what you’ve included in your press release. If they like what they see, it can lead to a story about your business and be the beginning of a relationship you can continue into the future.  

    Promote on your own platforms.

    Post it on your website and share it to your social network. If what you’re doing is newsworthy enough for the press, it’s probably something you want your customers and prospects to hear about as well, so promote away.  

    Should You Hire a PR Person?

    It’s possible to craft and distribute press releases without the help of a PR professional, but someone who’s been working in the field for a while will possess certain skills and knowledge that can ensure your press release goes further faster and does more for your company. They can save you the time and energy of having to learn to write a good press release from scratch. And most importantly, they probably already know some of the people you want to reach and how to frame your release just right to capture their interest. If the news you’re sharing is important and you really want it to get the attention you feel it deserves, a PR consultant will likely be a worthwhile investment. Press releases have been overused and abused by businesses in the past, but when you actually use them for their intended purposes, they can really pay off. When your business really does have something big and important to announce, use a press release to make sure everyone that needs to can hear about it.
  • How Long Does Domain Propagation Take?

    Monday, June 19, 2017 by

    Domain Propagation

    How Domain Propagation Works

    You found the perfect name for your website. You have big ideas about what you’re going to do with it and you’re ready to get started. You just registered the domain and launched your site, but when you go to pull up the URL to excitedly check it out…it’s not there. Domain propagation, the process of transferring a domain to a new owner, takes some time. You should expect to have to wait around 24 to 48 hours before the full switch is made and your site starts showing up at the new domain. It’s a small setback, but it works that way for a reason.  

    What is Domain Propagation?

    Domain propagation, also sometimes called DNS propagation, is the process of updating every server across the web with new information. That’s a lot of servers that require updating and, as such, there’s a lag between when the change is made and when all the servers have registered it. Domain Name  

    How DNS Servers Work

    DNS servers do the job of translating IP addresses into domain names. While as far as you and your visitors are concerned, your website is located at an easy-to-remember website name like www.yourwebsite.com, it’s actually located at a less easy-to-remember numerical IP address that looks something like 123.456.789.101. Each time you go to a website, a DNS server is taking the domain name you type in and processing which numerical address it has in order to send you to the right place. It’s a process that works pretty quickly and seamlessly, which means most of the time, you don’t have to notice or think anything about it. The only real time you have cause to think about it is when you make a DNS change.  

    What Happens During a DNS Change

    When you move to a new hosting provider or change your domain name, every DNS server in the world has to register that information before they’ll know how to properly translate your domain name to the right IP address. Complicating things, different servers will receive that updated information at different times, so it’s possible for you to type in the domain name and see your new website in the right place, while a friend of yours across the street is still seeing old, outdated information. Because DNS changes are relatively rare, most DNS servers cache the information they’ve gathered in previous searches. So if someone searched www.yourwebsite.com last week and the DNS server was able to translate the domain to a particular IP address, then it will default to directing you to that same IP again at first. But eventually – and it doesn’t even take that long – it will learn that a change has been made and it should now send people looking for that domain name to the new IP address where your website lives. It can be confusing, but it’s a temporary problem. Little by little over the next couple of days, you can trust that all the DNS servers will get the memo and register the update. Note: While it’s a different issue, it’s also worth being aware that browsers will often cache the information they get from specific websites, so even after a DNS server has updated, users may still need to re-load the page or clear their browser’s cache to see the correct website.  

    How Can I Tell When Domain Propagation is Complete?

    This is tricky because, as previously mentioned, your DNS server can register the update before your friend’s does. So you can’t assume once you start seeing your website at the new domain, everyone else will as well. You can get a pretty good idea of when domain propagation is complete by using a tool that checks your website from multiple locations around the world. The results won’t give you a guarantee that every web user in the world will see the updated version, but it can help you confirm when the change has been completed for most people. It’s frustrating to be ready to launch your new website or domain name and have to wait, but the update will take effect. Have a little patience, and know your site will be live around the world within a couple of days.