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  • How To Create An Online Portfolio Website That Will Get You Hired

    Friday, August 26, 2016 by

    Online Portfolio Website

    There are a variety of reasons for which you’ll need a professional portfolio. Especially, if you’re in a creative field where your ability to get jobs depends upon the body of work you’ve built up. Whether you’re a freelance designer, developer, or writer, you’re going to need a portfolio that represents you and your skills.

    There’s no way a potential client, or employer, is just going to “take your word for it.” By taking time to create a stellar portfolio you’ll be able to represent yourself in the best manner possible. Your portfolio can either make or break you.

    Below we dive into what you need to know to make the most out of your website and your creative portfolio.

    Build your online portfolio with a sleek website from HostGator.

    Click here to get started.


    Crucial Portfolio Website Elements

    A portfolio is all about promoting you, your work, and your existing skill set. Below we highlight five different elements you’ll want to make sure that your portfolio website includes.


    1. Logo and Tagline

    Your logo is one of the first things a visitor will see when they land on your website. If you’re a designer, then this element is going to be even more important. This is your first chance to really wow your visitors.

    Your tagline is equally important. This is how you set yourself apart from the rest of the field. You’ll use this to explain what you do, while at the same time being memorable.


    2. Actual Portfolio

    Since this is your portfolio site you’ll need to include an actual portfolio. Some people prefer for this to be their homepage, while others prefer to have a separate page dedicated solely to showcasing their work.

    You’ll always want this page to showcase your highest quality work. It can even be helpful to add any testimonials you’ve received from the client in regards to the project you’re highlighting. It can also be helpful to spell out project goals and what you hope to accomplish.


    3. Service Breakdown

    Your services page will spell out in detail what you actually do. You don’t want to make your clients guess. If you make them think too hard, they’ll probably just end up clicking away.

    Map out your services in as much detail as you can. Highlight your experience, and any testimonials, or blurbs you might have received.


    4. Your Story

    On your About page is your chance to get personal. No one wants to do business with a website that seems like it’s been created by a robot. Show some personality.

    How did you get into your field? What’s your unique background? What experiences do you have that set you apart?

    By sharing your story you build trust with potential clients. This will go a long way towards convincing them to work with you.


    5. An Active Blog

    A blog can truly make your website some alive. A lot of portfolio website end up looking like a virtual business card. By running a regular blog you’ll be able to further communicate your expertise and give people peace of mind that you actually know what you’re talking about.

    Your blog can be a great way to teach people and cement your status as an expert in your field.


    Portfolio Best Practices

    The above steps will help you to create a fully built-out portfolio website. Below we showcase a few more things you’ll want to keep in mind as you grow out your website.


    1. It’s Focused

    When building your portfolio site it’s important that you keep your ideal user in mind. Who are you speaking to? What kind of person is most likely to hire you? What will they be looking for?

    Speak to a specific niche, rather than trying to talk to everyone in the entire world.


    2. It’s Easy to Use

    Along with being focused your site will need to be incredibly easy to use. If you have clunky navigation, or a site that takes forever to load, then you won’t be doing your credibility any favors.

    Pare your website down to the basics while still reflecting your unique brand and identity. Remove any elements that are out of place, or don’t actually fit into your goals of showcasing your best work, and getting you hired. Review your site to ensure you're not making any of these common website mistakes.

    Keep in mind when creating your website that it’s important to strike a balance between usability and creativity. Showcase your creativity, but don’t do it at the expense of the usability of your website.

    What common online portfolio errors do you see? Share in the comments below.

  • How To Attract Students To Your University By Blogging

    Thursday, August 25, 2016 by

    How To Attract Students To Your University By Blogging

    Recruiting is an important part of any university’s lifeblood. Students (rightfully) see choosing the best school for them as a high-stakes decision that has to be made with careful consideration. Their high standards mean you have to figure out how to tell the right story to show them what your school is and why it’s a strong choice.

    Your university blog can be a powerful tool for that.

    Your university website already has to do a lot of work in providing prospective students the basic information they need, while also serving current students, faculty, alumni, and anyone else seeking information about your school. You don’t have a lot of room there to paint a picture for your visitors of what it means to be a student at your school. A blog gives you a chance to dig into the details and show prospective students more clearly what they can expect. And students today know blogs. As of 2007, almost a third of all teens had done some blogging themselves.

    Having a blog will only help you with student recruitment if you use it well. Here’s how to make sure your university blog helps win students over to your college.


    1. Focus on student interests and needs

    One of the biggest mistakes you can make with a university blog is making it all about what you think makes the school look good. You need to work on shifting your perspective to what your potential students are thinking. Talk to your current students. Talk to students who come for a visit to the campus. Figure out what they’re interested in and what kind of questions they have. Shape your strategy for the blog around what they tell you.

    Colorado State University does a great job on their ValuEd blog at covering topics of concern to continuing ed students. A group of prospective students that may generally feel underserved in college recruitment, they’re an audience that has a lot of questions and concerns about the process of getting a college education late in life. With topics like “Why Waiting to Go to College May Be The Best Choice You Ever Made” and “Should I Pursue a More Practical Degree” they go straight to the issues their audience is thinking about and make a larger case for why college is valuable, instead of making it all about CSU (although they do slip a link to learn more about CSU’s offerings at the end of the first post).

    CSU ValuEd Blog

    Your blog posts can’t be all about you. They have to emphasize what your prospective students are thinking, feeling, and entertained by first.


    2. Recruit student bloggers

    Even at a young age, students know how advertising works. They recognize that the person working at a university that sings its praises is being paid to do so (even though they might mean what they’re saying). The word of a university marketer, in whatever form it takes, won’t matter as much to them as the word of someone like them.

    That’s where student bloggers come in. Not only are they much closer to prospective students than anyone in your marketing office demographically speaking, but they’re also perfectly equipped to tell potential students exactly what they need to hear most: what it’s like to be a student at your school. In addition to the quality of education and resources the school offers, students want to be able to picture what their life will look like for the next few years. If you recruit a diverse array of student bloggers, their posts can show prospective students a lot of options for what that could be.Cornell Student Blogs

    Cornell highlights the student blogs of students from different years, studying a variety of different things.  From the Human Ecology and Nutritional Sciences major who writes about great restaurants in town to the Arts & Sciences and Government student who writes about her time studying abroad, the student blogs show the variety of subjects and extracurricular interests students at the school are able to pursue and brings some personality to a prospective student’s view of the school.


    3. Feature your faculty

    Student stories are extremely important to helping students picture themselves at your school, but one of the biggest components to what their experience will be like as a student is the faculty they work with. Invite your professors to contribute posts of their own that tell readers something about their experience, interests, and personality. Make sure these posts are written in a way that’s likely to appeal to potential students. A lot of the writing professors are most used to does require an academic tone, which you’ll want to avoid here. The posts shouldn’t just be about how much a faculty member knows or how many awards they’ve earned, they should show off the stuff that matters to their students – like their humor or ability to communicate what they love about their specialty.

    [bctt tweet="Do professors contribute to your university blog? Avoid sounding too academic #education" username="hostgator"]

    Boston University has a section on their website called Professor Voices that collects opinion pieces, research updates, and videos where different professors provide their opinions on a random topic. Importantly, these aren’t dry, academic treatises. They touch on issues that many students are likely to care about, like gun control and gay marriage, and the school mixes up formats, using videos as well as writing. 

    Boston University Professor Voices

    You can fold faculty pieces like this into your main blog so they’re easier for your students to come by. You can also do posts highlighting a particular professor and sharing a bit about their background and current research. In that case, be sure to include more casual information like how many pets they have, their favorite movie, or the best vacation they’ve ever had alongside information on their academic work, so your readers get a more casual and human look at who they are.


    4. Tell alumni stories

    Your students can paint a picture of what potential students’ lives will be like once they’re in school. Your faculty will help shape their lives during that time. Your alumni though, they’re the picture of the possibilities that will open for them once they finish school.

    24% of students in a recent survey cited alumni as some of the people most influential in their decision to attend a college. Alumni content shows students the various paths people have taken after getting an education at your school, and it shows that graduates are happy enough with their experience there to continue participating through the blog in the years after.

    [bctt tweet="24% of students cited alumni as the people most influential in their decision to attend a college." username="hostgator"]

    Forward-thinking students will be quick to pay attention to stories of how alumni are doing now, how they felt about their experience with your school, and any advice they might have to offer for those interested in pursuing a similar path. The University of Vermont has a series called Alumni Advice on their blog. Each entry in the interview series describes what the alumni is doing now, gives them the chance to talk about the process of getting to that point, and includes any advice they have for current students.

    UVM Alumni Advice

    That’s content that’s both useful to students in a tangible way – particularly any students hoping to go into one of the professions a highlighted alumni is in now – and that demonstrates the role the college plays in helping students develop and achieve their goals. 


    5. Make sure your blog is optimized for mobile

    Nobody reading this will be surprised to hear that teenagers spend a lot of time on their mobile devices. 67% of teens have smartphones and about 46% of the time they spend on any device, they spend on their mobile devices.  Even if the main audience you’re hoping to reach is adults interested in continuing education, nearly a third of all internet traffic now happens on mobile.

    While the content you include on the blog is extremely important, the kind of experience your prospects have when they land on your mobile website matters too. Many of them will now be coming to your blog on mobile devices and you need to make absolutely certain that they can read the posts you publish without too much effort, or they’re more likely to give up on the content than continue, no matter how great it is.


    6. Encourage and interact with comments

    Blog comments are the best way for readers to interact with the content you create. Not every blog post will inspire prospective students to leave comments, but when they do, make sure you’re paying attention and ready to respond. The ideal for a blog that’s used for recruitment should be to develop a community that has an ongoing conversation.  For there to be a chance of that happening, you have to be part of the conversation.

    Your blog comments could become a valuable resource for providing insights into what your future students are thinking. What kind of topics do they care about? What questions do they have? How do they feel about your university and the content you’re putting out there? Pay attention and let those insights guide your blog strategy as you go.


    7. Promote your blog on social media

    Most teenagers are on social media. You knew that already. There have been enough trend stories written on the subject that pretty much everyone does. If you want people to find the content you put out there, you have to do the work of promoting it. If you want the people you’re trying to reach to find it, then you have to meet them where they are in your promotion efforts.

    For most universities, that means social media. Don’t just push out the content and leave it there. Keep an eye on how people respond. Some of the comments you get will be left on your social media platforms rather than on your blog. The same rules apply. Respond and interact. Having a conversation with prospective students in the spaces they’re most likely to hang out in should be seen as a valuable opportunity.

    [bctt tweet="Kudos to @ColoStateOnline @Cornell @BUexperts @uvmCDE for their outstanding #education blogs!" username="hostgator"]

    Blogging is one of the most frequently used tools for all sorts of marketing today. For universities, which are full of strong writers and out to reach an audience that spends a lot of time online, using a blog as a recruitment tool is just obvious. Make sure you keep your prospective students top of mind at every stage of planning, writing, recruiting writers, and publishing. By focusing on audience first, you’ll be far ahead of a lot of the blogs out there.

    Jumpstart your university blog with HostGator. With our one-click WordPress installs, you'll have the world's most popular blogging platform at your fingertips. Learn more here.

  • 5 College Entrepreneurs Whose Online Businesses Paid For Their Education

    Wednesday, August 24, 2016 by
    College Entrepreneurs

    Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have become household names in recent years, as they’ve enabled the launch of such products as the Pebble Watch and the Veronica Mars movie. According to Business Insider, now university students are cashing in on the trend, with “the number of GoFundMe campaigns specifically mentioning ‘tuition’ having risen 4,547% from 2011 to 2014.”

    With the increasing cost of university tuition, it should come as no surprise that students are unearthing whatever revenue streams they can.

    While some students turn to crowdfunding to help with tuition costs, others question why they should have to wait until graduation to start their own business. Five of these enterprising students shared with HostGator how their online businesses grew from ideas to cash cows.


    1. Pandy Apparel

    Founded by Kate Delossantos, University of Maryland at College Park

    Pandy Apparel

    Kate hopped on the crowdfunding trend to test the viability of her business idea. “Back in the summer of 2015, I held a successful Kickstarter to print my very own line of clothing. After I sent out the clothing to my backers, I was really happy and excited that people liked the clothes I made. That's when I decided to start my own online clothing store, which I named pandy apparel.”

    In addition to designing the clothing, Kate creates all the graphics and photography for the site and codes the layout. She credits this experience for helping her decide her college major. “After putting so much work into it, I realized that this was the kind of thing I was really passionate about, and I changed from a computer science major to an art major.”


    2. Board Blazers

    Founded by Greg Rudolph, Arizona State University

    Board Blazers

    They say all it takes is one good idea, and in Greg’s case, that idea was based on something as simple as duct tape. Greg is now a graduate student pursuing his MBA, and he still marvels at how one innocuous observation grew into a worldwide business:

    “After I spotted a student who had duct-taped Christmas lights to his skateboard riding around the Arizona State University campus one night in 2011, I was inspired with the idea for Board Blazers LED Underglow Skateboard Lights. I risked most of my personal savings and started the company while an undergrad at ASU at age 20 in March 2012. Since then, the company has grown surprisingly to sales in all 50 states and 35 countries around the world. Our lights have been featured at SXSW, by celebrity Casey Niestat, and by pro skater Tech Na$ty.”


    3. MOVE

    Founded by Ashley Olafsen, University of Massachusetts Amherst

    MOVE Official

    When they were just teenagers, Ashley and her best friend Lexie Phipps founded MOVE, which stands for Motivate. Overcome. Value. Empower. The duo is “dedicated to working with middle and high school aged girls on body image, media, self esteem, mental health, and more.”

    Not only do they host workshops and summer programs, but Ashley has already achieved one of her life goals, giving a TED Talk. You can shop MOVE’s products or sign up for a workshop at their website.


    4. Ace Work Gear

    Founded by Max Robinson, Imperial College London

    Ace Work Gear

    Max had made a hobby out of building websites for fun, but it wasn’t until a friend introduced him to e-commerce that he considered doing something similar.

    Based in Fife, Scotland, Ace Work Gear sells and ships hardware tools and workwear to construction businesses worldwide. “It took me quite a while to build the site properly and I had to find a company that was willing to rent the website from me, but I'm very happy with how it turned out and continue to make updates and adjustments on a weekly basis. I've even been able to use the website as part of my college portfolio!”


    5. Game Learners

    Founded by Ravel Charles, Northeastern University

    Game Learners

    Game Learners serves as an online resource to help gamers and parents tap into the educational power and health benefits of video games. Not only did Ravel start Game Learners as a student, but he was also inspired by one of his classes.

    “I realized how similar one of my favorite video games was to the concepts I learned that day in my Project Management class. That day I learned about the project management life cycle and managing a project. As I was learning about it I realized that the concepts came easier to me because it was very similar to how I play Franchise Mode (Called MyGM Mode) in NBA 2K16 and manage my own sports team. In the video game, the owner of the team will give directions and I will have to make sure to complete them in a timely fashion, with goals that needed to be achieved along the way. This is similar to managing a project in real life. From there, I thought, how can other children benefit from this type of learning?”

    Ravel keeps the website open-source and free for members, making money off of advertising.

    Are you inspired by these student entrepreneurs? Start your online business today with your very own website from HostGator.

    Get Started With HostGator!

  • Airbnb, Uber — Now: The Rise of Online Lending

    Tuesday, August 23, 2016 by

    Online Lending

    Cash flow. It’s the #1 priority for any business owner.

    We can (and should) talk about passion, leadership, and full-stack/content/social marketing, but at the end of the day (and Shark Tank’s Mr. Wonderful would concur), cash is king.

    In the past, if you needed a loan for your business, you had to go to a bank. You had to dress up in your best suit, provide a ton of records, and go through an arduous application process.

    And after all that, there was no guarantee you'd be approved. It was stressful, tedious, and frustrating. Now there’s a faster, easier way to get the funding your small business needs. In a sense, it's an Uber for lending.


    Wait, There’s an Uber for Borrowing Funds?

    With online lending, you not only don’t have to go to a bank to get a loan, you don’t even need to leave your house! Instead of putting on your best suit, you can apply for a loan in your footie pajamas. (We don’t judge.) And your chances of approval are based on the health of your business rather than just your personal credit score.


    How Does Online Lending Work?

    Online lending lets you apply for a small business loan in just a few minutes with a few keystrokes (or taps on your phone). You’ll be spared the long wait to see if you’ve been approved, as most applicants hear back within minutes to just a couple of days. You could have access to the money your business needs as soon as the same day.

    Online lending has exploded in the last decade as nimble upstarts, armed with the insights of data and unburdened by the capital requirements of traditional banks, aim to disrupt lending the same way Uber has disrupted transportation and Airbnb has given hotels a run for their money.


    But What’s Wrong with Traditional Banks?

    Following the financial crisis, many risk-shy banks seriously cut back on their small business loans. Regulations designed to rein in the excesses of the subprime mortgage bubble further contributed to the crunch. According to Biz2Credit, only about 17% of small business loan applications are approved by big banks.

    That’s less than a one-in-five shot for any business owner needing an infusion of cash.


    Online Lenders Save Small Businesses

    Enter online lending, which, as an industry, has doubled in size every year since 2010. By 2014, it accounted for more than $12 billion in loans. While that’s just a growing slice of the lending pie, these new lenders are eager to expand to serve increasing numbers of customers.

    The loans (and lines of credit) given out by these companies can range from as little as $2,000 to as much as $100,000 and beyond. The terms of the loans can range from six months to several years. Interest rates vary, and some companies, like Kabbage, don’t charge interest in the traditional sense; rather, they assess a monthly fee, usually a small percentage of your principal, when you qualify.

    The application and approval process is also different for online lenders. Rather than require stacks of financial records, they review your business accounts, like PayPal QuickBooks, or a business checking account. They use technology to analyze your cash flow and give you a decision in just minutes. 

    Like with any source of funding, there are risks to online lending: Any business should be careful to invest funds in things that will provide a return and should only borrow what they can pay back. But used wisely, they can be an indispensable tool as you build your business from the ground up.

    Find out how much working capital you qualify for at Kabbage. HostGator is currently giving away $100 Amazon* gift cards to those with approved applications.


    *Customer will receive a $100 Amazon gift card upon submitting a qualified application to Kabbage by 11:59pm EST September 6, 2016 through the link provided in this post. The gift card promotion is being run by Endurance International Group. Gift cards will be delivered to qualified customers electronically October 6, 2016. Amazon is a trademark of Amazon Technologies, Inc. Amazon is in no way affiliated with or a sponsor of this promotion.

  • When Should You Upgrade To A Dedicated Server?

    Monday, August 22, 2016 by

    Upgrade Dedicated Server 

    Most businesses reach a point where they need to upgrade their hosting environment in order to continue to provide their users with a stellar browsing experience. Shared hosting can be an easy way to get started, however, if you’ve been aiming for growth since the early stages, then the time will come where you’ll outgrow your current hosting plan.

    But, it can be difficult to determine when is the right time to make the switch. By being able to see the potential limitations that a shared hosting plan might place on your website, you’ll be able to make the jump to a dedicated server at the right time.


    When is it Time to Make The Switch?

    Not every website and hosting environment is the same. It’s near impossible to make a blanket statement that covers every single kind of website and existing hosting plan available. Still, there are a few indicators that’ll tell you it’s time to make the switch to dedicated hosting.


    1. Slow Website Performance

    If your website performance has been slipping, then it might be time to upgrade to a dedicated server. If your visitors are continually hit with a server error page, or have to wait a long time for your site to load, then you could possibly benefit from making the switch to a dedicated server.


    2. Overall Traffic is Increasing

    Are your monthly traffic numbers steadily increasing? When your website is seeing steadily increasing traffic numbers it could be a good idea to switch to a dedicated host before it becomes a problem.

    A lot of webmasters have faced the dreaded server error page the very moment one of their posts went viral. Don’t let a poor server choice limit your business’s potential.


    3. Running Multiple Sites

    If you have multiple shared properties then it could be beneficial to bring all of your sites under a single dedicated server.


    The Advantages of Dedicated Hosting

    Dedicated hosting can be incredibly valuable to your business. But, upgrading to a dedicated server does mean you’ll have to increase your tech skills, or bring someone on board who knows how to manage a server. Server management can be tricky, but can be worthwhile once you explore the benefits of upgrading as shown below.


    1. Complete Server Control

    Being on a dedicated server means you have control of the entire server. You’re no longer sharing resources with a variety of different websites that you have no affiliation with. Sometimes other sites can end up hogging all of the server resources, which means that your site could perform slower as a result.

    Some dedicated servers do require a bit of added technical knowledge. You’ll need to be able to upgrade and maintain the server in order for it to run effectively. However, some dedicated server options do have dedicated support teams to help you.


    2. Increased Security

    If your business is at the point where you need to upgrade to a dedicated server, then you probably have a lot of valuable information stored on your website. For this reason increasing the security of your site is incredibly important.

    Dedicated servers are naturally more secure as you’ll be the only site using the server. If your site gets infected, or hacked, at least you know it’ll be your own doing. And not due to another site becoming infected on the server. This will make it much easier to take proactive action.


    3. Increased Website Speed

    Your website needs to be fast if you want to compete in today’s marketplace. If your site doesn’t load in under a couple seconds, then you run the risk of your visitor clicking away before they get a chance to experience what you have to offer.

    A dedicated server that’s configured correctly is a surefire way to ensure your site will always load quickly, even when it’s being inundated with a ton of traffic.

    Dedicated servers aren’t appropriate for every kind of website. But, if your site is experiencing some of the signs above and you think you could benefit from a dedicated host, then it might be worth making the switch. As long as you have the tech skills and the incoming profit to pay for the costs.

    Do you run a dedicated server? Share your experience in the comments below.

    If you're ready to make the switch to a dedicated server, HostGator offers a variety of plans based on your particular site needs.

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