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  • Pros and Cons of Free Website Builders

    Friday, October 21, 2016 by

    Free Website Makers

    So you’re finally ready to start building a website for your business! There is a plethora of website builders available on the web that you can use. Like most, you’re searching around for the best deal and are starting to notice ones that are offering free services. You’re intrigued! They look simple enough—and if you’re like the vast majority of people out there who aren’t web designers by trade—you might think that what they offer is pretty attractive.

    But as it is with many things in life, free is never free.


    Free Website Builders Are Never Really Free

    Yes, almost all website builders offer free plans and that’s not to say you shouldn’t use them. Many of the best ones on the market offer free plans as a starter. Pretty much all website builders, in general, offer a free plan in order to acquire new business. It’s a great marketing strategy for them. It works, and drives millions of signups. After all, who wouldn’t want something for free?

    Even HostGator offers a free plan with their new website builder. So, why this post against free website builders?

    The problem with most free website builders is that while they are a great starting place, they're typically inadequate for fully building out a professional website. 

    In most cases, you’ll sign up and invest a lot of time and effort building your free site, only to find the result to be inadequate. At this point, you will either have to upgrade or switch to a new service and repeat the process all over again. Either way, you’ve caused yourself a lot of undue frustration.

    This is one of many ways HostGator's builder is different. They offer a free plan like everyone else, but once you decide you want to unlock additional features, it's a seamless upgrade and all of your previous work is saved. HostGator didn't want to come out with just another website builder. Instead they sought to improve upon what was already out there.

    In reality, a business cannot—and in my opinion, should not—offer you a service for completely free. Everyone needs compensation for offering a service. Free is never free and here are some reasons why:


    Limitations of Free Website Builders

    Although every website builder may differ, here is an overview of some common limitations that come with free plans.


    Limited number of pages

    Many free website builders typically limit the number of pages you’re allowed to create. For example, they may allow you to publish up to five pages per website. Most sites will need more pages and in order to expand your content, you will be required to upgrade to a paid plan. 

    How is HostGator's website builder different? HostGator's free plan allows for six pages.


    No domain name

    Free plans often do not allow you to use your own URL. They will assign you a free URL to use which consists of your business name plus their own URL. For example, instead of sarahsbakery.com, you’ll be stuck with sarahsbakery.wix.com. All in all, not very professional.

    How is HostGator's website builder different? HostGator includes the free builder with their web hosting, so you can use the product on your own domain.


    Company branding

    Almost always, free builders require their branding to be displayed on your web pages, either in the body of the page or in the header or footer. For example, Wix's free plans come with branded badges that aim to direct users away from your site to purchase their own builder plan:

    Create A Wix Site Ad How is HostGator's website builder different? HostGator's free plan does include a default Snappy favicon (the small icon that appears next to your website name in the browser tabs), and a link to HostGator in the footer. You can remove both of these once you upgrade your plan. Snappy Favicon  


    This is another big one. Many ‘free’ website builders will require ad placements on your site. This is how they justify the free-ness of their offer. You pay nothing, and they get to serve their ads to your people. Some may even go so far as to inject affiliate links onto your page. You may be getting something for free, but it’s taking you down a notch or five in the eyes of your potential clientele. You may even lose a lot of people along the way who click on these ads, just because you thought you could save a few bucks. 

    How is HostGator's website builder different? With the exception of the two branding elements mentioned above, none of HostGator's builder plans place ads on your site. The only ads you'll have will be the ones you place there of your own volition.


    Limited storage

    Both free and paid builders will limit your allocation of bandwidth and storage, but with free builders you’re given much less. You may only have a couple megabytes of storage to use, which will severely limit you in terms of content and prevent you from hosting high quality images or other media.

    How is HostGator's website builder different? Because HostGator's free builder is included with your hosting plan, you can enjoy the unmetered bandwidth that comes with all of their plans.


    Limited or no customer support

    You might not even get any customer support at all with a free builder (which is understandable—after all, it is free), so if your site is having issues, you’re pretty much on your own.

    How is HostGator's website builder different? HostGator provides 24/7/365 Live Chat and telephone support for all of its products, including the free builder plans.


    Restricted features

    Free builders limit the variety of nifty features that you might find useful or want to have. These might include an SSL certificate, access to an online store (ecommerce), website analytics, plugins, add-ons and domain-based email accounts, or it may be as basic as not being able to use the fonts you like or being stuck with a site template that you don’t like. Frustrating, either way.

    How is HostGator's website builder different? HostGator's free builder plan comes with PayPal integration, SEO markup tools, and 100+ mobile-friendly templates. Since the free version comes included with hosting, you'll also receive unlimited domain-based email accounts, $100 credit offers for Google AdWords and Yahoo/Bing, and more depending on which hosting package you choose.

    HostGator Website Builder


    So Free is Not Best. What Now?

    Now that you know what the limitations are on free, it should be easy to understand why the value just isn’t there as a long-term solution. Free website builder plans are great for trying out different site builders and getting the hang of how they work. Once you've found one you like, you can upgrade to unlock all the features you'll need to fully build out a professional site.

    Website builders are complicated and sophisticated tools. They undoubtedly took a lot of time and resources for the company to create and manage, so it’s understandable that these free builders are limited. It is rather unfair to expect a company to provide a complex service such as this, for free.

    Keep this in mind: you get what you pay for.

    It’s unrealistic when people say they want a website, but they don’t want to spend any money on it. If you have a budget, even a small one, there are professional website building solutions that are easy enough, affordable enough, and accessible enough that you shouldn’t have to think twice.


    How Much Should You Pay?

    Hiring a professional web designer could cost thousands. Doing it yourself will cost significantly less, but 1) you’re not a web designer and 2) you will need to allocate enough time to get the job done.

    It’s true, website builders can be more expensive than hand-coding it yourself, but keep in mind these are complex, feature-rich tools that provide an all-in-one service and hosting platform. Aside from their monthly or yearly subscription fees, you won’t likely need to pay much more than their nominal fee to get your site up and running. Just pick a template, customize it with your branding and away you go.

    Depending on the plan you choose, a website builder can cost anywhere from $10/month to $20 or more. Options such as eCommerce, email hosting, and bandwidth, are some of the things that might drive your cost up. At $6.99 and $15.99/mo, respectively, both of HostGator's plans are especially affordable, given the marketplace.

    The most important thing here is not to skimp out on your budget. Already, you’re going to save yourself a significant amount by doing it yourself, but it’s still going to be challenging. It takes time and it takes money. And as a new business owner, you’re probably already realizing what a precious commodity those two things are.



    Hopefully, this article has given you a little insight as to the potential pitfalls of free website builders. Sure, they might be great for your personal page or for that zen dog yoga blog you’ve been thinking about starting, but if you’re serious about what you do, you probably want to appropriately convey that to your customers. Ultimately, you want to look professional, and building your site with a free website builder is just not going to get you there.

    If you feel confident that a website builder is what you need (and there are some pretty cool ones out there), bypass the ‘free’ options and sign up for a premium builder offered by a well-known company. You will need to invest in something that will deliver the design tools, as well as the functionality required, to support your business practices.

    So put aside some time, because you’re going to need to do some planning. You’ll definitely learn a lot about web design best practices and current trends along the way, but the time you invest into your website now will pay dividends in the future.

    Try the HostGator Website Builder today!

    Build My Site!

  • How To Start An Online Store In 10 Steps

    Tuesday, October 18, 2016 by
    How to start online store You have dreams of entrepreneurship, but you know you’re not ready to quit your job and go all in. If you’re good at making things or spotting a great deal, you don’t necessarily have to go all in to start.  Starting an online store doesn’t require the same level of investment or sacrifice that full-time entrepreneurship does. You can start small while keeping your regular paycheck, and potentially build up to working for yourself exclusively if your online store does well enough. That doesn’t mean it won’t be work (most things worth doing are), but it’s doable without having to uproot your life as it is now. There are a few key steps you have to take and you’ll have several moments where you have to decide what level of investment you’re prepared to make into the endeavor to start. If the ten steps on this list sound doable to you, then you’re ready to get your feet wet as an entrepreneur.    

    1. Decide on your product.

    If you’ve been pondering setting up an online store for a while, then you may well already have a product in mind. Whether it’s something you make, like handcrafted furniture or handmade soap, or something you’ve found a source for at wholesale prices so you can sell it off at a profit, every online store has to start with a product. Do some research to make sure your product is viable. If you’re selling something fairly unique of your own creation, ask around amongst friends and in online communities to see if there’s an interest. If you’ll be selling something that will have a fair amount of competition online, research what similar products people are selling online and if the prices they’re charging would make for a sustainable business model for you. If your initial research shows you that an online store for the products you have in mind is likely to lose money, then you should look to other options.  

    2. Set your pricing.

    Pricing is one of the hardest parts to get right in running a new business. If you price too low, you’ll lose money or just barely break even – which won’t make the time and effort you put into your online store worth it. If you price too high, you won’t make enough sales and still risk losing money on the whole endeavor. To figure out the pricing that makes sense you have to first figure out your own costs. That includes the cost of materials, web hosting, taxes, the percentage credit cards or Paypal will skim off the top, and any marketing costs you choose to take on to help promote your business.  Then you should figure out how much you want to add on top of that to account for your own time and labor, and add some extra on top of that to make a profit. You should also do some research into what your competitors are charging. If the number you came to is below what others are charging, you can bump up your numbers a bit. If it’s higher, then you’ll either need to consider if you can provide enough unique value with the products you sell to account for the higher price, or determine if you can afford to go lower based on what the market will bear.  

    3. Research shipping costs and options.

    Your impulse may be to pass on the full cost of shipping to the client, and many online stores do take this route. Be warned though that shipping costs can have a strong psychological impact on consumers, with 44% saying they’ve abandoned an online purchase due to high shipping and handing costs. In some cases, offering free shipping and upping your product pricing to cover those costs may result in more sales. As an alternative, some online stores provide a flat fee that’s clearly noted on the website, so consumers know before they reach the checkout page exactly what to expect. [bctt tweet="44% of customers say they've abandoned online shopping carts due to high shipping costs. " username="hostgator"] Another popular option for online stores is to offer free shipping for orders of a certain size. That encourages customers to spend more in your online store than they may have otherwise, and makes the cost of shipping more worth it to you. You’ll have to figure out what makes sense for you and your business. Research the shipping options available from each of the main providers and figure out what the numbers are likely to look like for packages at the size and weight that will be typical for your products.  

    4. Choose your eCommerce platforms.

    Now you need to choose the platform your online store will live on.  All websites have to be hosted somewhere, so you’ll need website hosting first unless you choose to build your store on a website that already exists like Etsy or Amazon. If you want a website and brand that’s all your own, many website hosting platforms (including HostGator) make it easy to find compatible eCommerce options that you can work with in the same space you use to work on your website. An ecommerce software will make it easy for you to list your products, set your price, and add a shopping cart to the website. They take care of ensuring the process is intuitive for both you and your customers, so you can just focus on selling.  

    5. Pick a name and brand.

    When you start trying to figure out a name, you’ll probably feel like all the good ones are already taken. While your business name is important, try not to get too hung up on this step. Brainstorm words and phrases that say something about the products you’ll be selling, and words and phrases that mean something to you. And be sure to stay away from names that have already been copyrighted by other businesses. Depending on your goals for your online store, you may also want to invest in working with a marketing professional or firm at this point to more fully develop your brand. They can help you design a logo, figure out your positioning, and create a plan for promoting your online store once you launch. They’ll also be a big help with the next step.  

    6. Build your website.

    Many hosting platforms can make at least part of this step easier by providing free website templates or a site builder you can work from rather than having to build a website from scratch. If you want something more unique, you can hire a graphic designer or work with a marketing firm to help you create a website that’s more distinctly yours. At this stage, you’ll also need to work on writing copy that describes your wares and helps persuade website visitors to buy. This is something else you can take a DIY approach to if you want to stick with a shoestring budget, or invest in a professional copywriter or marketing firm to help with. If you do go with the DIY option, take some time to research best practices. It’s not as simple as you may think. Copyblogger and Copyhackers are good resources to start with. HostGator Website Builder  

    7. Set up a merchant account.

    Online stores need a way to receive money – specifically, a way to receive credit card payments. A merchant account does the very important job of ensuring you can get paid. You have options that range from big, familiar brand names like Chase and Paypal, to companies more focused on small businesses like BluePay and PaySimple. You will have to pay something to the company in order to get your money, but the ability to accept the money your customers send should make the fees well worth it.  

    8. Get your SSL certificate.

    Now you need to get secure. If customers are going to hand you their private payment information (or more accurately, enter it into a form on your website), you need to make sure the sensitive details will stay safe. An SSL certificate for your website encrypts all the sensitive information customers provide so that hackers won’t be able to grab that credit card information as it’s sent over the web.  

    9. List your inventory.

    Now that your website’s set up and secure, you can get the store itself set up. Whatever inventory you have ready to go should be added to your store and assigned its proper price. Once potential customers make their way to your page, all they’ll need to do is click to add an item they want to their shopping cart and check out.  

    10. Start selling.

    Finally we’ve reached the stage where you can start making money.  If you launch your online store and don’t get much traction, then you should start thinking about promotion. Content marketing, social media, and paid promotion are all areas worth looking into to start getting people to your website. If you’re not quite ready to make that level of investment in your online store, start with old-fashioned word of mouth. Talk to your friends about it, mention it to professional acquaintances, and bring it up at any events around town likely to attract the kind of people interested in what you’re selling. Once your online store is up and running, take a moment to pat yourself on the back. You’re an entrepreneur now. Then get back to work. Part of entrepreneurship is that there’s always something else you can or should be doing to launch your business toward greater success.

    Are you ready to start selling online?

    Create Your Online Store With HostGator!

  • What Are DNS Records, And How Do They Work?

    Monday, October 17, 2016 by

    What Are DNS Records

    The domain name system or DNS is a system that makes it easy to access websites. Without this system in place we would all have to remember complex IP addresses instead of easy to remember domain names.

    Below we highlight what DNS records actually are, and how to change one of the main components of the DNS records, your name servers.


    What are DNS Records?

    DNS refers to the large-scale system of information that contains the IP addresses, domain names, hosting, and other registration information across every site on the Internet. Before this system was created the only way for people to access your website would be by typing in your IP address.

    DNS records act as instructions for the DNS server, so it knows which domain names each IP address is associated with.

    DNS records contain a lot of different syntax and commands for how the server should respond to the request. Some of the most common forms of syntax are highlighted below:

    • A” This record refers to the actual IP address that’s associated with the domain.
    • CNAME” This record is used to indicate subdomains that might be listed under or associated with your current domain.
    • MX” This refers to any mail servers that might be used in accordance with your domain.
    • NS” This shows which nameservers are currently being used for your domain.
    • SOA” This record has crucial information about your domain, like when your domain was last updated and relevant contact information. 
    • TXT” This can be edited to include any additional information about the domain that isn’t currently listed.

    As you can see, there are numerous components of your DNS records, but most of this information can’t and shouldn’t be altered. The main component of your DNS records that will concern you, and you might have to change at some point are your name servers.

    Recommended WordPress Hosting


    What Are Name Servers?

    Name servers are the portion of your DNS records that enable people to use your domain name to access your site, rather than your complex IP address. Your name servers are an aspect of your registrar, and the purpose is to point your domain to the place where your site is being hosted.

    Changing your name servers allows you to change your web host without having to move your domain to a new registrar.

    Name servers can also be referred to as DNS servers, which can lead to some confusion of the two terms.


    How Do I Change Name Servers?

    Most registrars make it easy to edit your name severs. The simplest setup would involve using the same host and registrar. But, if your domain isn’t registered and hosted in the same place, then you’ll follow the general steps below.

    HostGator customers can follow the instructions here to change their name servers, or watch the video below.


    1. Locate Domain Management

    Every registrar has a set of domain management tools that allow you to edit your name servers. These will usually be found on the dashboard of your account.


    2. Find Your Name Servers

    Under each individual domain you’ll be able to change your name servers. Your name servers will look something like this:



    You’ll need to change both the primary and secondary name servers. The second server exists in case the first one crashes, or another error prevents it from being used.


    3. Change to Your New Name Servers

    Then all you have to do is change your existing name servers to the new name servers given to you by your host. Remember, these changes don’t take place immediately and it’ll usually take around 24 hours for the changes to take effect.

    There you have it. Hopefully you have a better understanding of what your DNS records actually are and the role they play in making your site accessible.

  • 5 WordPress Plugins For Note Taking

    Thursday, October 13, 2016 by
    WordPress Plugins for Note Taking Note taking is as old as the world itself. Trying to stay on top of hundreds of things at once is a task that not many people have the ability to cope with, and needless to say that keeping notes is fairly inexpensive, yet one of the most productive things we can do. Whether it's writing down the list of things we need to do, or important points from a talk we have just attended, keeping notes help us remember the most important things when we most need them. WordPress as a blogging platform could be considered one big notekeeper in itself, but not all of us see it that way and not all of us want to see it that way, which is why a select few developers have gone out of their way to publish WordPress plugins for keeping notes, in several different categories. For the most part, using these plugins is going to extend the functionality of your WordPress publishing platform as a platform that you can also use for direct content editing, though most importantly -- to keep notes. If you're still looking to build your WordPress site, check out HostGator's WordPress hosting.  

    1. WP Notes Widget

    WP Notes Widget WP Notes Widget is an amazing notes keeping widget that will add a separate panel to your WordPress Dashboard that you will then be able to use as an separate content publishing platform, only for notes. If you plan on making announcements with sticky notes-themed notes, then you can take advantage of the content displaying widget that comes integrated within the plugin itself. It's the most simple and effective way of managing your notes on WordPress.  

    2. WP Dashboard Notes

    WP Dashboard Notes Any blogger or WordPress site owner that's running a site with multiple writers and editors will find great use for this Dashboard Notes plugin. With WP Dashboard Notes you can easily manage multiple notes that are accessible by your select group of people. You can make notes private, or you can make all notes public. List different types of notes that you want everyone to reader; never again will you have to chase each writer and editor individually, just leave them a note!  

    3. Plugin Notes

    Plugins in many ways are the lifeblood of WordPress, and while web development is not something all of us are able to learn that easily, perhaps keeping notes about the things we are building and learning will help that process a lot. If you are already a web developer, though, then Plugin Notes will make it easy for you to keep track of your development progress and the kind of ideas you're getting as you're developing, yielding more to the productive aspect of your time spent developing.  

    4. Note Press

    Note Press Note Press is an extremely easy to use note system for the WordPress Admin panel. Creating to-do lists, leaving instructions for clients, collecting code snippets or collaborating with other admins are just a few of the uses for Note Press. Unlike other note plugins, Note Press keeps thing extremely simple by using features familiar to all WordPress users. Simply click on the Note Press admin button and your notes are all there listed by date.  

    5. Notely

    Notely After installing Notely, whenever you will want to publish a new post or a page, or perhaps a product, you will be able to use a new meta-box within the right-hand side of your content management page. This new meta-box will then allow you to save notes separately for that particular piece of content. What other note-keeping plugs for WordPress have you found useful? Let us know in the comments!
  • Joomla vs WordPress: Which Is the Better Option for You?

    Friday, October 7, 2016 by
    Joomla vs WordPress

    Most websites today are powered by content management systems that enable you to easily build a very powerful website. WordPress and Joomla are both widely used and can help you create the perfect website for your needs.

    Choosing the right CMS can be a difficult decision, mostly because they are all good choices. However, even though the platforms are incredibly similar, there are some differences that’ll probably swing you one way or the other.

    Below we profile both WordPress and Joomla to help you finally decide which platform is the best choice for your needs.


    What is WordPress?

    WordPress is probably the most popular CMS on the market. What started as nothing more than a simple blogging platform has evolved into an incredibly powerful and flexible website builder.

    It’s a great platform for beginners and there are a number of tutorials and forums that can help to clear up any issues you might have.


    Benefits of WordPress


    1. Very Easy to Install

    WordPress is incredibly easy to set up. You can literally have a site up and running in about five minutes. As a plus, most existing hosts offer one-click installs.


    2. Highly Customizable

    WordPress has thousands of themes and plugins that make customizing your site as simple as clicking a button. Since it’s so popular, many developers have created free plugins and themes that enable you to create a professional-looking site with zero budget.


    3. Great Community

    If you run into any issues setting up or customizing your site, there’s a support community of millions who are there to help you. Plus, almost every theme or plugin you’ll utilize has a dedicated team of developers behind it.

    Recommended WordPress Hosting


    What is Joomla?

    Joomla is an incredibly flexible CMS and is currently being used as the backbone for several of the largest sites on the internet. It comes in a close second behind WordPress in terms of the number of sites powered by the CMS. All kinds of websites can benefit from using this framework from non-profits to businesses, corporations to schools, and more.

    However, Joomla is more technical and not as friendly to beginners. This means that you can build out some incredibly powerful custom features, but if you’re not great with coding, you might want to take another route.


    Benefits of Joomla


    1. Can Create a Social Network

    Joomla lets you easily create social networking websites from scratch. You can create a social network by using another CMS, but it isn’t as quick and painless.


    2. Easy eCommerce Store Creation

    Along with social networking websites, Joomla makes it easy to create eCommerce stores. Sure, you can hack together an eCommerce store with WordPress, but Joomla makes the process dead simple.


    3. Medium Level of Technical Ability Required

    For the level of power and customization Joomla provides you with it’s not overly technical. It does take a little more technological confidence than WordPress, but not enough to scare beginners away.


    How to Determine the Best Option for You

    There is no cut and dry best option. Rather, there is the best option for your needs and goals. Take some time to determine what kind of site you’re trying to develop and what features you’ll want to build out.

    If you’re a complete beginner and want to get a site up and running as quick as possible, then you should definitely go with WordPress.

    However, if you’re more technically savvy and want to build out a social networking or e-commerce website, then it’s probably a good idea to start off with a Joomla site.

    Hopefully the tips above will help you make a better CMS decision. Remember, there is no wrong decision. Pick a CMS and run with it, you can always redesign and switch to another CMS at a later date if need be.

    HostGator offers both WordPress and Joomla hosting. Build your site today!

    Get Started With HostGator!