Wednesday, November 30, 2016 by Devesh SharmaDid you know that 55% of visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds on your website? As a conversion oriented marketer, you’ll need to grab the attention of your visitors as quickly as possible and encourage them to do what you want on your website—either to subscribe to your list or purchase the product you sell. And because the human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish–8 seconds–capturing your visitors' attention is difficult and turning them into leads or customers is even harder. This is why creating landing pages must be an essential part of your marketing strategy. Landing pages remove all distractions from a page and narrow your visitors’ focus to the opt-in forms or call-to-action buttons placed in it. This persuades them to take an action like filling out a lead form or making a purchase.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016 by Kevin WoodWhen it comes to building websites you’re going to have a lot of tools available at your disposal. In fact, it can be a little overwhelming when it comes to choosing the right tool to build the perfect website for your business. If you’re relatively new to building websites, or you want to create a website with the least amount of technical knowledge possible, then using a website builder can be a great place to start. Below we dive into what a website builder actually is and the pros and cons to using a website builder.
What Is A Website Builder?Website builders allow you to make a website without having to know any code. Pretty awesome, right? Not too long ago, if you wanted a beautiful and functional website you’d have to spend a ton of time learning how to code yourself, or you’d have to fork out a fortune for a web design team to build a site for you. Not anymore; today's website builders allow even those with zero coding experience to build a beautiful site. Of course, if you do have any coding or design knowledge you can take your website even further. But with website builders, it’s no longer a requirement. Website builders use WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get) software to allow you to drag and drop design elements to create a website. There are a variety of website builders available. To reduce confusion, we’re going to be focusing this blog post on online website building tools, instead of content management systems like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal. If you're interested, you can learn more about those here.
Why Should I Use A Website Builder?One of the biggest benefits to using a website builder is the ability to build a website very quickly, without any technical skills. You simply login to your website, pick one of the available themes, and begin customizing your site to your liking. Website builders have come a long way over the years, and the kind of site you’ll end up with can rival the design of sites that people have spent big money on. If you’re looking to get a website up as quickly as possible, and the thought of doing anything technical or messing around with code scares you, then using a website builder could be a great idea.
Are There Disadvantages To Using A Website Builder?Drag and drop website builders do have certain weaknesses. For starters, they aren’t as customizable and can’t do as much as other means of building a website. The kind of website you create with a website builder is usually rather thin, compared to sites you can build with a CMS or by hiring a design team. Sites built using a website builder are also hosted using the shared servers provided by the website builder. So, you don’t have full control over your site and your account could be banned for violating their terms of service. Also, sites built using a website builder tend to load slower, since you’ll be sharing bandwidth with other users. And you usually don’t have access to a site backup if something unfortunate arises, or if you want to migrate your site to another host.
HostGator Website BuilderThere are a variety of website building tools out there, including one right here at HostGator. The HostGator Website Builder includes over 100 mobile-friendly templates, pre-built sections and pages, and social media and SEO tools. The basic version is free for current HostGator customers, and available to new customers for a small monthly fee. Learn more by clicking here or the banner below. Did you use a website builder to design your website? Share your experience in the comments below.
Monday, November 28, 2016 by Kevin WoodChoosing the right web hosting environment is a decision you’re going to face time and time again as a website owner. Even after you make an initial decision, your web hosting needs may change and evolve over time. Below we dive into the differences between cloud and dedicated hosting, so you can make the best choice for your website and your business.
What Is Cloud Hosting?When it comes to cloud hosting, a lot of people begin to think about the ethereal cloud. A place that doesn’t quite exist, where all of their data is stored. They have no idea where it’s stored and how it got there, but it does, and it exists. The cloud is still a relatively new concept, but it’s based upon cloud computing technologies that allow an unlimited number of machines to effectively act as a single system. So, instead of a website being hosted on the actual server it’s being hosted on a virtual partition of the server, which is drawing its resources from a network of existing servers. Cloud hosting is extremely reliable, because it draws its resources from multiple different servers. If one goes down, the other servers can take its place. Cloud hosting can grow with your company as all you’ll need to do is add additional server resources if your site demands it. However, most cloud hosting does have a lower level of performance when compared to dedicated servers.
What Is a Dedicated Server?A dedicated server is exactly like it sounds. Your website and all of the necessary files are stored on a single physical server dedicated to your website. Most dedicated servers will come pre-equipped with certain hardware specifications, so make sure you choose a dedicated server that has the specs your website requires. This style of hosting is generally more expensive, but dedicated servers come with very high performance, as they can be configured to your exact needs, and provide a high level of security. This can be a great choice for larger businesses or websites that receive high amounts of traffic. Or, if you have a business that requires a very high level of security for your data storage.
Which One Is Right for Me?The pricing of each of the server options - cloud or dedicated - will depend upon the hosting company you’re using. Generally, dedicated servers are more expensive and you’ll be paying an up-front monthly fee for the server space you’re using. Cloud hosting is usually sold on a sliding scale and you’ll end up paying for the total amount of server resources you’re actually using. If you’d like to experiment with different hosting environments and have something more flexible in nature supporting you, then cloud hosting might be the best option for your needs. Before you make the jump into choosing a web host, or upgrading your current package, make sure you take the needs of your website into account. If you have questions about either of these options, contact HostGator's support team for more information. Which style of hosting do you prefer? Please share in the comments below.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016 by Kristen Hicks
You took a big step. You grabbed that domain name you wanted. It’s officially yours. Now what are you going to do with it?
To Start, What Are Your Goals?There are three main reasons to buy a domain name:
- You want to build a new website.
- You’re investing in domain names.
- You want this domain to point toward a website you already have.
To Launch a New Website at Your Domain NameFor most people reading this, chances are you fall into the category of people looking to build a new website to launch at your new domain. Here are the next steps for you to take.
1. Purchase website hosting.Owning the domain and owning the space a website lives on are two different things, but often hosting companies also sell domains. If you got your domain as part of a hosting purchase, then this step is already taken care of. If not, then finding the right hosting platform and plan is the next thing you need to do. Hosting packages usually come as monthly or annual subscriptions and often include some nice extras along with the hosting itself, like a website builder and tech support for those launching a website for the first time.
2. Load an “In Construction” page.If your website isn’t ready to launch yet, then the next thing to do is let people know what’s coming. An in construction page can provide a simple teaser to inform any visitors that happen upon your website that, while they’re a little bit early, they will find something great there if they come back later. If you already have a logo or a color scheme in mind for your website, then you can design the in construction page so that it matches the branding to come. If you know for sure what day you’ll be launching your website, you can let people know when to check back – but be careful not to oversell. If you end up launching late, you could lose people’s trust and interest.
3. Design your site.Before your site goes live at the domain you’ve registered, you want it to look just right. You can either build a website yourself, which you can expect to take some serious time, or you can hire people to help. Option A: Build It Yourself Many hosting companies (including HostGator) offer website builders as one of the features that comes with your hosting subscription. Even if you’re entirely new to website design, these make it possible to do it yourself, with some time and work. Your other option is to go the more old-fashioned route and design a website using html or a design software like Adobe Dreamweaver, but those options are best for people who already have extensive experience with website design (in which case, you know who you are). Option B: Hire Someone If you’d rather hand over this part to someone that’s an expert, you can outsource it to a web designer or web design firm. Do a little research to make sure you hire a web designer that can do what you need. If you have the money to spend, hiring a professional can save you a lot of time and effort and mean you end up with a website that looks closer to what you had in mind. HostGator offers design services for current HostGator customers. Click here to learn more and request a quote for your site. Don’t Forget the Copy! Writing copy is a different process than designing the website itself, but it’s an important step to making sure your finished website says what you need it to. You can whip up some copy yourself, but for words that are persuasive and do a good job of communicating what your website is and why it matters, hiring a professional copywriter or marketing agency is likely to pay off.
4. Launch!Once your website looks just how you want it to and all the copy is written, you’re ready to launch. You can upload your website to the hosting platform using an FTP client or the File Manager in cPanel. If you’re using HostGator as your hosting platform, follow the instructions here. Once everything’s loaded, go check out the new website at your domain!
To Treat Your New Domain as an InvestmentDomain investing is harder now that the internet’s been around for a while and a lot of the domains with the best keywords have been snatched, but if you manage to purchase a domain name that you know will generate interest, you can resell it at a profit. One of the first things you can do to advertise the availability of your name, if you’ve invested in a hosting plan, is put up a page at the domain that says it’s for sale. In addition, you can find a number of auction sites that help publicize domain names that are for sale, such as Sedo, Flippa, and Snapnames. Make sure you have a realistic idea of what the domain is worth. If the name is useful and the price is right, potential buyers will find you.
To Point it Toward A Finished SiteIf you bought a second domain that you’d like point to a website you already have, then you simply need to create a parked domain in your cPanel. If you’re a HostGator customer, the process of adding a parked domain is simple. A new domain name comes with exciting potential. Whatever your goal is snatching up that online real estate, now you have a chance to do something with it. Go and make the most of your little section of the web.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016 by Casey Kelly-Barton
Every new business should have a website, whether it’s for lead generation, e-commerce, or just general branding. Having even the most bare-bones site puts your business ahead of more than half of US small businesses, which don’t have a website at all. However, your site may not be helping your business as much as it could, or should. In fact, marketing researchers have found many design problems that work against the business the site is supposed to promote. Here are some common web design mistakes that confuse visitors, erode their trust, or run them off, along with suggestions for design improvements.
1. Slow-loading, wordy landing pages
Web users wait no more than 250 milliseconds for a page to load before they give up and leave, according to the New York Times. The Nielsen Norman Group found that many site visitors spend 20 seconds or less on a page unless the content grabs their attention, and they only read about 25% of the text on a page.
That means your home page needs to load fast and explain your business quickly, in as few words as possible. Anything that negatively affects page load times, such as complex graphics or auto-play videos, should be removed (or at least moved off the home page). Long blocks of text are a waste because visitors almost never take the time to read them. Focus on clean graphics, a strong logo, a short explanation of your business, and an easy-to-navigate menu on your home page.
Speaking of your home page, make sure you're not making these mistakes, either.
2. Design without market research
Effective web designs factor in the target audience’s age, educational background, and purpose for visiting the site. For example, businesses catering to customers over age 60 should follow design guidelines from the National Institute on Aging. They include the best fonts and type sizes, color combinations to avoid, and recommendations on graphics and content. Businesses catering to working parents, busy professionals, and Millennials – many of whom who rely on their smartphones for product research and shopping – should make sure their site is optimized for mobile use.
3. Cluttered pages
Too many graphics, too much text, clashing colors, and confusing navigation tools are common problems. Visual clutter makes it hard for your audience to find the information they want. It also damages your credibility. In a study reported by Forbes, design elements including busy layouts and obnoxious ads were among the factors that created feelings of distrust in site visitors. Remove page elements that distract visitors from the main purpose of their visit.
4. Too-trendy design
Every year, there’s a fresh crop of web design trends to watch and another crop that’s declared dead. Just-because-we-can trends like tag clouds and photo carousels are dated for a reason: Almost no one finds them useful. Adopt trends only if they offer value to your visitors. For example, a custom illustration for your site builds authority better than a thousand cheap stock photos.
5. Stale content
Fresh content helps your site rank more highly in search results, and it also guides visitors through your sales funnel. Abandoned blogs, neglected Twitter feeds, and Instagrams with three old photos say your business is neglected, overwhelmed, or doesn’t finish what it starts. Your site should only feature a blog or social media feeds if you can regularly update them.
6. Poor-quality images
Even when you’re starting up on a shoestring, high-quality images are an important investment. Low-end and free stock photos don’t build credibility, and they often don’t do a good job of illustrating your business services. As marketing psychology expert Derek Halpern says, “If you pulled your image from Flickr or a popular stock photo website, you probably have the wrong image.” Use high-quality product images, include professional shots of you and your employees, and leave it at that.
7. Broken links
Broken links frustrate visitors, erode their confidence in your business, and hurt your site’s search engine performance. Review all the links on your site regularly to make sure they’re still good, and fix broken ones right away.
8. Bad logo design
Your logo is a central piece of your branding, and its design should involve the same level of care and research that you put into your business plan and site design. Consider your audience, your company’s “personality,” how the colors affect your message, and more. If you already have a homemade or cheaply done logo, work with a designer who specializes in logos to improve or replace it.
9. Hard-to-read or silly fonts
Remember, most users will only spend a few seconds glancing over your page while they decide to stick around or leave. Stick with fonts that are readable and professional-looking – and make them big enough for the average glasses-wearer to read them easily. When it comes to font size, “14 is the new size 12,” according to Halpern.
10. Hard-to-find contact information and calls to action
Your contact information and call to action should be above the fold on each page of your site, not buried on a “Contact Us” page. Speaking of contact pages, don’t offer a contact form as they only way customers can contact you. They probably won’t – especially if they can call the competitor with a phone number at the top of their site. Unless you’re willing to optimize your form carefully (and maybe even then) you’re better off listing a phone number and email address so customers can reach you in the moment.
Each of these design mistakes is fixable with the right combination of audience research, expert help, and effort. Each mistake you fix can increase your audience’s trust in your business, the amount of time they spend on your site, and the likelihood that you can earn their business. That’s when your site becomes a true asset to your business.