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  • Affiliate Marketing: 4 Reasons Why You’re Not Raking in the Cash

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017 by

    affiliate marketing mistakes

    4 Common Mistakes of Affiliate Marketers

    We live in the age of multiple income streams. My neighbor works for a bank 9 to 5 and instructs Zumba classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. My brother is a former carpenter turned electrician’s apprentice who regularly picks up contract work as he moves toward his master electrician license. Me? I dabble in freelance dev work and WordPress troubleshooting, manage a web hosting reviews site, and handle social media marketing for my aunts’ monogramming business on the side. Affiliate marketing is an excellent way to get some extra cash flowing into your bank account, but there are about a dozen ways to mess it up. Whether you’re looking to make some extra dough while blogging or you want to become the next web leader in product reviews, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s go over some of the most commonly missed opportunities in affiliate marketing.
    • If you haven't yet, consider joining HostGator's affiliate program and earn up to $125 per qualifying signup! Learn more here.
     

    1. You’re Not Specializing in a Product Category or Niche

    When it comes to deciding what you should promote on your site, casting a wide net doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never go hungry. Affiliate marketing is one of those cases where broader isn’t always better. Carefully choose your product recommendation specialty and stick to it. There are many reasons for this: First, visitors want honest, credible recommendations from authoritative sources; a blog that shamelessly promotes retail promo codes, reviews multivitamins, and compares the top online dating apps in one breath is probably not an authority on any one of those niches. Web visitors will likely write you off as a sleazy affiliate site only out for their hard-earned money. Secondly, Google knows what your site is about, and links (including affiliate links) are a key to seeing your site through Google’s eyes. If a site about health and fitness is ridden with links to Health Magazine, WebMD, and a bunch of nutrition blogs, Google will get the picture. That site’s rankings will likely climb for health-, fitness-, and nutrition-related search terms (barring the presence of any other search engine ranking faux pas). It’s worth noting that it’s equally important that other resources link to your site to back up your authoritativeness in your industry. Finally, you should choose a specialty to hone in on because it’ll make you better able to do your job, which, in this case, is to recommend quality products and services to your website visitors. It’s really hard to be a source for quality information on a dozen different verticals.  

    2. You Look Spammy Rather Than Authoritative

    This is possibly the kiss of death for any affiliate-based site: You come across as spammy. There are many dos and don’ts of affiliate marketing, and this is no-no #1. A few telltale signs that you’ve become a spammy affiliate site:
    • Your content is laden with typos, grammar errors, and inconsistent styling.
    • Your pages load too slowly due to poor-performance hosting and too many ads.
    • Your site is updated infrequently and looks or holds information that is outdated.
    • You’ve overdone it with keywords and/or affiliate links.
    • You’ve got internal 404 pages, overused H1 tags, or hidden links.
    Not only do these red flags turn away users, but they could warrant a Google penalty, too.  

    3. You’re Not Optimizing Your Pages to Convert

    Maybe it sounds like a no-brainer, but adding affiliate links or banners to your site is not a magic switch that makes money fall from the sky. You have to put in some work to encourage potential buyers to click on your affiliate link and follow the conversion funnel—i.e., convert! What makes a click-worthy, conversion-friendly page? Make sure you avoid conversion leaks, or missed opportunities to monetize. While you don’t want to stuff your blog copy with affiliate links, you also don’t want to write an entire article about saving money on business printing costs without mentioning your VistaPrint promo code, either. And while you’re at it, it’s helpful to create custom pages or posts for whatever you’re hoping to drive conversions around (rather than haphazardly throwing in links or banners anywhere). For example, if you’re a HostGator affiliate, having a HostGator-specific landing page is more powerful than occasionally dropping in a link to HostGator at any mention of websites or hosting on your business blog. HostGator affiliate landing page Do your homework, conduct keyword research, and check out what others are writing about whatever product you’re hoping to promote. In addition to competitor research, you’re advised to test your landing page conversion rates often—and consider what you’re really getting out of each individual offer.  

    4. You’re Recommending Based on Payout, Not Product Quality

    Having been on both the consumer side and the affiliate side of this very transactional business relationship, I can’t emphasize this affiliate marketing gaffe enough: DO NOT sacrifice your integrity for a CPA, CPC, CPL, or any other payout model! It’s not worth it. Website visitors don’t appreciate lies; your affiliate partner won’t appreciate the inevitably unhappy (and short-lived) customers you send them; and any success you have won’t last. Plus, you could get black-balled by search engines—shudder. In the industry, they often call it “pay to play” tactics. It’s when an affiliate sells premium placement to the highest bidder, even if the brand or product is garbage. Experts will warn you: Quality trumps quantity in the affiliate game. Your best bet is to leverage a combination of your own experience and other customer feedback:
    1. Test the product yourself and provide an honest assessment and review or rating.
    2. Let the customers do the rest. If users consistently pass over one affiliate offer in favor of another, they’re telling you they like product #2 better. Price may be a strong pull factor, but quality likely plays a role as well.
    “The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing,” or so they say. Affiliate marketing shouldn’t feel like a sketchy agenda with ulterior motives. It should feel like a friend recommending a cool tool they tried or a team they loved working with to another friend. Aim to sound human—crazy, right? It’s simple, but effective.  

    Final Tip: Form More Than a Financial Relationship With Affiliates

    Affiliate marketers often get a bad rap. They’re painted as sleazy, shady, dishonest, and greedy—and those are the nice words. The truth is, affiliate marketing is one of the world’s biggest networking games. Those who are good at relationship-building, and who understand numbers, thrive. By forging actual relationships with your affiliate managers, you establish trust. They have confidence in the work you do for them, and you both know you have one another’s backs. When they come out with new deals, like discounted rates on HostGator servers, you’ll be the first to know and reap the rewards. When issues come up with your account, you won’t be stuck waiting for a chat bot because you’ll have the direct contact info for your personal account manager. My favorite affiliates to work with feel like friends when we get together at conferences. We talk regularly throughout the week, and we want one another’s businesses to do well. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, but, as with all relationships, it takes time and a little effort to make it work!

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  • A Quick Guide to Getting Your Own Branded Email Address

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017 by

    Get Your Own Email Address

    How Do I Get My Own Email?

    In navigating the line between professional and unprofessional, email addresses have an especially important role to play. Just think of how you regard a person differently if they email you from a beiberluvr@aol.com email address versus if it comes from suzy@suzysbusiness.com? Whether or not it seems fair to you, if you want to be taken seriously professionally, having a professional email address matters. And if you run a business (even if it’s a one-person business), then you need one that matches the domain name of your website. Domain Name

    Why Having a Branded Email For Your Business is Important

    If you’re still skeptical about the importance of a branded email address, there are a few main reasons to re-think your position.

    1. It makes you look more professional.

    This is the most important reason on the list. If you want people to take your business seriously, one of the most important things you can do is create a quality business website and have an email address to match. It shows people that you’re not just someone dabbling; you take what you do seriously. In a world full of scammers, knowing you have a legit website and email address sets you apart and lets potential customers know you’re trustworthy.  

    2. It makes it clear who the email is coming from.

    If your email address in no way resembles your business name, people will have a hard time connecting the two.  In one survey, the biggest factor people named for why they decide to open emails they receive is who the sender is. Your recipients are more likely to write you off as a stranger and ignore your email if they don’t know to associate the unfamiliar email address with the business they have a relationship with.

    3. It lets people know where to find your business website.

    As an added bonus, if someone who receives your email is interested in learning more about your business, they can see the domain name embedded within the email itself. It’s easy to figure out where to go to get more information on what you sell and make a purchase, if they’re so inclined.  

    How to Set Up a Branded Email Address

    Now that you know you need it, how can you make it happen?

    Step 1: Invest in a web hosting account.

    If you already have a business website, then this step is already complete. If not, it’s an important prerequisite to having both a website and a personalized email that matches the domain name. Many hosting plans (including those offered by HostGator) come with free email addresses – sometimes even an unlimited number of them. If yours doesn’t, then it’s time to consider switching to one that does (like HostGator).

    Step 2: Decide on a naming convention.

    If you have a one-person business, this might not seem important now, but if your business ever grows, you’ll want consistency. Try one of the following traditional formats: firstname@yourbusiness.com firstname.lastname@yourbusiness.com firstinitiallastname@yourbusiness.com Whatever you choose now, it will be easier for customers down the line to know how to contact you and your employees if you stick with it.

    Step 3: Create your email account.

    How this step works will vary depending on the web hosting provider you use. Check the support articles on your provider’s website for step-by-step instructions. If your hosting is with HostGator, then you can watch a video tutorial on how to create an email address here, or follow a few simple instructions:
    •      Sign into your cPanel account.
    •      Find the Mail section and select Email Accounts.
    •      Fill in the Email field with the name you want to use, and the password fields with your desired password.
    •      Click Create Account.

    Step 4: Set up your email client.

    Chances are, you don’t want to keep up with your emails through cPanel, so you'll need to set up your new email address in the email client of your choice. Some of the most popular options are Outlook, MacMail, Eudora, Thunderbird, and Gmail. You can find specific instructions for getting set up with each email client here.  

    How to Use Your New Business Email Well

    Now you’ve got your professional, personalized email address set up and ready to go. However, you should know that having a professional-looking email address isn’t enough to ensure you always look good in your emails. There are a few other tips you should follow to gain the respect of the people you communicate with and keep your professional relationships positive.

    1. Have a clear signature.

    A signature makes it easy for anyone you correspond with to figure out how to contact you if they need to do so through some means other than email. It’s a nice courtesy for them and gives you a chance to do some additional branding, since you can include a link back to your business.

    2. Never email angry.

    One of the nice benefits of email in comparison to other forms of communication is that you’re never put on the spot. If you’re feeling emotional and likely to say something unprofessional that you might regret later, you can always close the window or step away from the computer for a bit. Wait to send business emails until you’ve had a chance to cool down and think through the best way to communicate what you want to say.

    3. Read over all your emails.

    Typos happen to everyone, but they can quickly make an email that seems clear to you become incomprehensible to the recipient. Read over each email before you send it to make sure that you haven’t made any embarrassing errors and that what you’re trying to say is clear. You’ll be amazed at all the little mistakes you catch when you do this.

    4. Don’t be a spammer.

    Anyone who uses email professionally needs to be careful about this. If you’re not, your domain name could be blacklisted so that all your emails get caught in spam filters rather than reaching their recipients. The most important way to avoid being a spammer is to keep an opt-in philosophy: only send marketing emails to people who have already said it’s okay to do so. When you send out mass emails, make sure to use an email marketing software like Constant Contact (note: HostGator customers that subscribe to Constant Contact through HostGator can enjoy an extended free trial). And avoid all the tricks you see used in the spam emails in your own spam folder, like deceptive subject lines, misleading claims, or the overuse of language associated with pushy salesmen like “free” and “prize.” Having a personalized email that matches your domain name is an important step in showing your potential customers that you’re serious, but from there you still have to run your business and email account in the right way to keep up that professionalism. Following a few best practices can ensure your business email account stays on the up and up and represents the business well.
  • 25 of the Best Design Blogs You Should Be Reading

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017 by
    Best Design Blogs

    The 25 Best Design Blogs to Follow

    Good web design is something most of us encounter every day. When a website is designed to be intuitive, we often don’t even notice the design behind it that makes that happen. On the other hand, when a website is ugly, hard to navigate, or otherwise appears unprofessional, we notice. 94% of people say a badly designed website makes them lose trust in the business behind it. Whether you’re a professional designer or website owner who understands the importance of good design, it’s always good to keep your design skills fresh and your knowledge of trends and best practices current. These design blogs are all great resources for helping you do so. Create Your Blog

    1.  Smashing Magazine

    Smashing Magazine is one of the most reliable and thorough resources for information on web design and UX out there. Every designer and developer, as well as a good number of business owners, can benefit from following the information published on their blog.  

    2.  CreativeBloq

    CreativeBloq is another well known and trusted resource in the design world that publishes tutorials, reviews of design-related products, and inspiring examples of good design.  

    3.  The Design Blog

    The Design Blog says what it is right there in the name. The blog celebrates all things design by highlighting good designers and good examples of design. It’s a great site for inspiration by example.  

    4.  Onextrapixel

    Onextrapixel is a blog that covers tips, how to articles, and design-related news and reviews for designers and developers. They’re a good resource for staying on top of useful tools and trends in web design.  

    5.  Web Designer Depot

    The Web Designer Depot provides posts on useful tools for designers, roundups of good design examples, news relevant to designers, and good deals and freebies that are useful for web design.  

    6.  99designs

    The 99designs blog covers design trends, especially (but not exclusively) in the world of logos. They share examples of good design, posts on trends in the design world, and marketing advice.  

    7.  Abduzeedo

    Abduzeedo collects examples of first-in-class design to serve as inspiration for designers in a variety of fields – from apps, to advertising, to video games. If your creativity’s ever running dry and you could use an inspiration boost, the site’s a good one to check out.  

    8.  HOW Design

    HOW Design is a blog providing content on an array of topics relevant to designers. In addition to posts on design tools and tips, they also help with information on having a successful career as a designer, top design firms to be aware of, and general design news.  

    9.  Design Bombs

    Design Bombs offers blog posts on design tools, WordPress themes, fonts, colors, and more. Their focus tends towards design topics related to using WordPress, but they also include posts about more general design topics as well. Recommended WordPress Hosting  

    10. Creative Nerds

    The Creative Nerds blog provides tutorials, design examples, and articles on great design tools and resources. Some of their content is focused on helping to round up other helpful content on the web, so they’re a good place for discovering new resources.  

    11. TrendList

    TrendList is another great blog for finding visual inspiration through great examples. The site posts images of design examples that demonstrate current trends that designers should be aware of.  

    12. Good Design Makes Me Happy

    Good Design Makes Me Happy is a blog run by a woman who appreciates good design (hence the name). The site is devoted to collecting examples of design from around the world that the blog owner Hannah finds inspiring and thinks other people might too.  

    13. CreativeBoom

    CreativeBoom is a blog that covers projects that exhibit visual creativity. While its focus is much broader than web design, the blog can provide inspiration to anyone working in a field that involves putting those creativity muscles to work.  

    14. Vandelay Design

    The Vandelay Design blog posts about resources and tools that are valuable to designers, roundups of inspirational design examples, and general tips for doing design well.

    15. Eye on Design

    The AIGA Eye on Design blog provides cultural news and designer interviews for graphic designers. The blog is more about covering the world of art and design than providing specific tips and resources for designers, which gives it a bit of a different bent than many of the others on this list.  

    16. Eye Magazine

    The Eye Magazine blog is the online location for a print magazine devoted to graphic design. The blog provides posts on design and visual culture, including coverage of important events, releases, and trends.  

    17. DesignShack

    DesignShack publishes posts on a wide-ranging array of design-related topics, from design productivity to current trends to design software recommendations and tips. It’s yet another site designers can turn to for tips and resources to help you do your job well.

    18. Co.Design

    Co.Design is Fast Company’s design blog. It tackles design-related news and trends taking a broad view that includes product and city design as well as visual design and UX.  

    19. LogoDesignLove

    Like it sounds, LogoDesignLove is a design blog with an emphasis on logos. The blog collects examples of logos, along with stories of how they came to be. For some inspiration and a little bit of the history of the design world, it’s a blog worth checking out.  

    20. 99u

    99u is focused on creative and design career information. The site’s blog posts highlight well-known professional designers, tips on working in a creative field, and examples of impressive professional creative work.  

    21. Typewolf

    The Typewolf design blog has a much narrower focus than most of those on the list: it’s specifically focused on highlighting different fonts. The site publishes roundups of sites around the web that demonstrate typographic leadership and provides font recommendations.  

    22. Designer Daily

    Designer Daily publishes examples of inventive design, highlights design deals worth considering, and provides posts on general tips and trends for design work.  

    23. DesignBeep

    DesignBeep provides educational posts on an array of design tips and techniques. Their posts include topics like design for advertising and mobile, the best color schemes for web design, and free fonts you can use.  

    24. VisualNews

    VisualNews is another site focused on the career side of things, covering information useful to anyone who works as a visual creative. The blog shares interesting data visualizations, information on the general industry and some of the best places to work within it, and tips for how to turn data into visuals.  

    25. Format Magazine

    Format Magazine covers news in the world of visual art, photography, and design work. It highlights interesting projects for visual artists to know about, tips and tricks for visual artists of all types, and stories that relate to the intersection of current events and the visual arts. Good design makes everyone’s lives better. Seeing great examples of it and learning more about how to do it well can benefit you, your business, and the people who come to your website. Take some time to check out these blogs and see if they get the creative juices flowing. Your website will be better for it.
  • Are Website Builders Worth It?

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017 by

    Are Website Builders Worth It

    Should You Use a Website Builder?

    When you’re building your very first website you’re going to have a lot of options to choose from. Choosing the right one for your needs can be a little daunting. You have DIY website builders, CMS platforms like WordPress, and even the option to hire a designer to build your site for you. In recent years we’ve seen an explosion of new website builders come on the market. These builders are great ways to build out your very first website. But, they’re not perfect for every style of website. Below we take a deep look at the question: are website builders actually worth it? By the end of this post, we hope you’ll be able to make the decision of whether or not to move forward with a website builder.  

    First, What Are Website Builders?

    Website builders are tools that enable you to quickly build a beautiful website without any previous coding knowledge. They usually exist as entirely separate platforms like Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix, or as add-ons for certain hosting packages. They’re mostly used to build out smaller websites, as opposed to large-scale content websites. These online website builders typically allow you to choose a template and drag and drop different elements until you’re satisfied with the design. Some are equipped with built-in hosting, while others you have to pay for hosting separately. HostGator Website Builder

    Advantages of Using a Website Builder

    Using a website builder can be quite useful for a certain kind of website owner. If you want to create a simple and functional website in the least amount of time possible, then they’re worth testing out. Below we take a look at some of the biggest reasons people decide to use website builders when creating their first website.  

    1. Zero Tech Skills Required for a Beautiful Site

    Website builders are designed for those who have little to no tech skills. Since website builders mostly use drag and drop technology you can visually arrange your website until you have something you like. You can do things like upload images, change the text and font, alter the color scheme, and much more with the simple click of a button. The templates are also designed by professionals so you’re virtually guaranteed to end up with a professional looking site.  

    2. It’s a Fast and Efficient Way to Get Your Site Online

    If you have limited time, then a website builder is definitely the way to go. Website builders are designed to make the building process as fast and efficient as possible. You begin the process with a set of pre-designed templates and themes, ready to go tools and add-ons, and sometimes they’re even equipped with pre-populated content. So, all you have to do is input your own content and images and press publish.  

    3. You Can Start With a Very Small Budget

    Overall, website builders are an incredibly cheap way to build out your website. Instead of having to buy a separate theme and potentially hire a web designer to build out your website, you can do it all yourself for a low monthly fee. Even with the higher paid plans offered by some website builders, they still end up cheaper when compared to hiring outside help. Plus, a lot of website builders (like HostGator's) are bundled with hosting, domain names, and website technical support.  

    Disadvantages of Using a Website Builder

    With all the benefits above, website builders still aren’t perfect for every kind of website. They’re great if you’re looking to get a simple and functional website online as quick as possible, but there are also some limitations, which we'll get into below.  

    1. It Can Be Difficult to Scale

    With website builders, you’re often limited by how large you can scale your site. If you’re trying to build out a massive content site, you’re going to run into some restrictions with a builder. It is possible to build out sites that have hundreds of pages, but you’re going to be working against the platform, instead of having a tool that supports you. If your goal is to build out a massive content website, then you’re much better off using a CMS like WordPress.  

    2. You Don’t Have Complete Control Over Your Site

    With many website builders, you don’t technically own your website. Instead of buying a virtual property it’s more like renting a space on the web. If you want to migrate your site it’s usually possible, but it will be quite difficult to modify your site without your previous builder. There’s also the chance that your site can be taken down because you don’t comply with their terms of service. Since you generally don’t have your own separate hosting account, the future of your site is out of your control.  

    3. Overall Functionality Can Be Limited

    With site builders, you are limited to what you can do with your website. If you want something simple, then they work perfectly. But if you want to build out custom features and have complete control over the future of your site, then you’re going to come up against the restrictions of the platform. If you want to build out a feature heavy site, you’ll have to come up with a workaround, or work without the feature entirely.  

    Is a Website Builder Right for You?

    It’s easy to see why website builders are such a common choice nowadays, especially for beginners who want a website online as fast as possible. However, they’re not the best fit for users trying to grow out a large scale website. If you’re unsure take one for a spin and see if it has the necessary features, but keep in mind it might not be the best choice over the long-term. With HostGator, our basic Website Builder is included with all web hosting plans. Start exploring how to design your site, and if you decide you want more features, you can easily transition to WordPress!
  • Tips for Setting a Secure Password That’s Easy to Remember

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017 by

    How to Set a Secure Password

    How to Set a Secure Password

    A strong password is your first line of defense online. But, how do you go about creating a secure password while still remembering it? After all, there’s no point in creating a strong password if you have to reset it every single time you want to login. Still, creating a strong password isn’t something you’ll want to slack on. Getting hacked is something you’ll never want experience and a strong password is one of the best ways to protect yourself. Below we go into strategies for creating the strongest password possible (that you can actually remember), and options for tracking your various passwords online.  

    Traditional Password Creating Advice

    Whenever you’re about to set a password you’ll usually come across the following generic password rules:
    • Include 12 characters as minimum
    • Include numbers, symbols, and mixed capitalization
    • Don’t use dictionary words
    • Don’t use obvious word combinations
    The recommendations above are a great place to start, but often won’t provide you with the strongest password possible. If you want an ultra strong password just run your fingers all over your keyboard. This will probably result in an impossible string of numbers and characters. This could be a good result, especially if you get something like hjw8p9GR48F;Ntyn89tgg.878vuO78. Great, right? Except this is nearly impossible to remember! If you want to keep your password strength high, while creating something you can actually remember, then try one of the methods below.  

    Three Methods for Creating Super Strong Passwords

    If you want something stronger than what following traditional password advice gets you, then we recommend testing out the methods below.    

    1. Use Bruce Schneier’s Method

    Back in 2008 security expert Bruce Schneier put forth a password method that he still recommends to this day. His advice is simple, but it works. All you have to do is take a sentence and turn it into a password. You assign each word a series of characters and letters that will help you remember it. The result would look like this.
    • My pet patches is a pug = MYp!P@iSaP?
    • I love peanut butter pretzels = 1<3PnUt.Btt3r.PtZL!
    I think you get the gist of it. The more random and strange your series of characters the better. Now, instead of having to remember a string of random letters and numbers, all you have to do is remember a sentence.  

     

    2. Choose a Random String of Words

    Another method is to create a truly random string of words; this is often referred to as a passphrase. The overall randomness and varying length of words will help make your password strong. For example, something like “Houses waterloo algebra connie kayak spine tissue earthquake Beyonce toolkit,” would be quite strong. When trying to remember your passphrase, see if you can build a story around the disparate phrases.   If you’re looking to create a truly random string of words, check out this tool from Diceware. You roll a dice and the numbers that come up correspond to certain words, which you then use for your passphrase.  

    3. Use an Online Password Generator

    If you don’t feel up to creating your own password, then you can use our password tool here at HostGator. This tool will create an incredibly strong password you can use anywhere online. Password Generator

    Remembering and Securing Your Passwords

    One of the most important aspects of creating a strong password is never reusing the same password. When you use the same password for multiple platforms you’re leaving yourself vulnerable. If one of those other platforms are compromised, then every other instance of that same password is no longer secure. When it comes to remembering your passwords, it’s all about repetition. Really hammer the passwords into your head. While you’re still trying to keep track of all your passwords in the beginning, you can write them down on a sheet of paper to refer to. Just make sure you properly destroy it once you have all of your passwords committed to memory.   If you’re having a hard time remembering your passwords, then keep a secure document that has password hints to help your remember. However, it’s never a good idea to keep a list of all of your passwords and corresponding platforms on file. If a master document like this is ever hacked, or stolen, then every single one of your passwords is vulnerable. Instead, look into secure password management software like LastPass. Hopefully the tips above will help you craft extra strong passwords to protect yourself online.   Now, over to you. Do you have any secure password tips we didn’t mention above? Share your best tips in the comments below.