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  • Does Your Company Really Need a Blog?

    Monday, December 5, 2016 by
    Does My Company Need a Blog Does your business really need a blog? Nope. You’re good. Oh, but you want sales, referrals, lead generation, customer loyalty, and engagement? Then yes, you absolutely need a business blog. First, understand this: the numbers don’t lie. Let’s also understand that creating and maintaining a business blog is no simple task. You must carefully consider your blog’s content, and cadence. Having said that, though, Hubspot shows us that the more posts published, the higher the customer acquisition. HubSpot Blog Post Frequency Chart However, what you publish and how frequently you publish it entirely depends on your audience. There’s unfortunately no hard and fast rule to business blogging or content marketing for that matter, so the best you can do is to test what works, then test, and test again. To help you along, let’s take a look at some powerful blogging insights from two extremely well-known and successful blogs. Create Your Blog Pro tip: To measure the success of your blog posts, track unique post and overall site traffic using Google Analytics. Here’s how to install Google Analytics on your WordPress blog.  

    Insight #1: Seth Godin’s Blog

    Multiple business founder and best-selling author Seth Godin (Purple Cow, All Marketers Are Liars) receives an estimated 640K visits a month to his blog. SimilarWeb Pro tip: SimilarWeb is a free Chrome plugin. Use it to spy on your competitors or to get an idea of average site rankings, bounce rates, and visits. At first, Godin thought the Internet was stupid, but when he realized how powerful a tool it was in directly reaching his audience, he eventually committed to his current cadence of publishing one blog post a day. In a recent interview on the Tim Ferriss Show, Godin says “[Blogging is] one of the top 5 decisions I’ve ever made. I have a practice that resonates with people that I can do forever.” [bctt tweet="Why Your Business Needs A Blog: Speak directly to your audience in a way that resonates with them." username="hostgator"]    

    Insight #2: The Smart Passive Income Blog

    Pat Flynn’s blog is a tremendous resource for anyone aiming to make extra cash through multiple income streams. On blogging, Flynn writes, “Although a blog isn’t passive in nature, it’s one of the best platforms for launching other passive income opportunities.” In addition to providing endless tips for small business owners and marketers (check out the podcast), Flynn suggests that a stand-alone blog won’t make money, but that the eBooks, products, print books, courses, consulting that you write about and sell will boost traffic and rake in the cash. Flynn should know. From his very humble beginnings, he’s now passively raking in over 100K/month. If that’s not a great reason to start business blogging, we’re not sure what is! [bctt tweet="Why Your Business Needs A Blog: It's one of the best platforms for passive income opportunities." username="hostgator"]  

    Insight #3: MySocialSuite’s Blog

    New social media marketing startup MySocialSuite rivals the likes of Hootsuite and SproutSocial for helping businesses boost productivity through social posting automation, analytics, and more. We recently spoke with co-founder Luke Clifford who launched the MySocialSuite blog in June 2016. He says, “Carefully selecting the content you publish puts you in the SEO driving seat and in control of your site’s organic audience.” Clifford says he’s seen tremendous site traffic growth since the launch of the blog which he credits for dozens of direct product purchases. While Clifford agrees that business blogging is about point-of-sale, he says “It’s also about building customer loyalty and carving out a meaningful space as an industry leader.” [bctt tweet="Why Your Business Needs A Blog: Build customer loyalty and carve out your space as an industry leader." username="hostgator"] There’s a reason HostGator has a blog and even more reasons why our blog is segmented into these categories: web hosting, marketing, small biz & Snappy (the adventures of everyone’s favorite gator mascot). We’ve studied our audience. We know who you are and what you want, but we’re always testing, tuning, and improving. We recommend studying these blogs for content ideas, calls to action, and key selling points. Discover what it is about the blogs and specific posts that invite you to continue clicking and reading. Do you enjoy other blogs? Share your faves in the comment section! We’d love to know who you’re reading for inspiration (did the HostGator blog make your list of favorites?).  

    Are you ready to start making money from your business blog?

    Create Your Blog With HostGator!

  • 6 Must-Have WordPress Plugins For Real Estate Agents

    Friday, December 2, 2016 by
    WordPress Plugins for Real Estate Agents Whether you’re a realtor or a developer, it’s important to have an understanding of how you can build the most effective and useful WordPress site for your needs. WordPress is an incredible framework for most website builds, as it’s extremely flexible, functional, and easy to use. Luckily, there are literally hundreds of plugins for you to choose from that will help to increase the functionality of your real estate website. However, with the sheer number of plugins available it can be overwhelming deciding which plugins will be the best fit for your needs. To simplify your search we’ve decided to break down a handful of the very best plugins for real estate agents. Let’s dive in! Recommended WordPress Hosting  

    1. WP-Property

    WP-Property - WordPress Powered Real Estate and Property Management This is an intuitive plugin that can benefit both real estate agents and property managers. You can easily create, edit, and manage the property listings across your website. WP-Property has a very easy to use user interface, so adding properties to your site is a breeze. Some of its features include:
    • Supports translation into Italian, Russian, and Portuguese
    • Allows for Google Map integration and the use of included shortcodes
    • Can allow you to display different types of templates for a wide variety of property-types
    • Well optimized for SEO purposes, to increase traffic to your listings
     

    2. IMPress Listings

    IMPress Listing - A Plugin For Realtors IMPress Listings is a free open source plugin that allows you to create a more effective listing management system for your website. The plugin was designed by the team Agent Evolution, who specializes in web solutions for agents and brokers. This plugin easily integrates into your existing theme with its pre-made templates. Features include:
    • Can create featured listings to show your favorite properties up top
    • Fully responsive, so it displays well across any screen
    • Very high number of data fields to easily customize your listings
    • Can create a default sorting structure for your listings
     

    3. Estatik

    Estatik - Full Featured Real Estate Plugin For WordPress Estatik is a relatively new WordPress real estate plugin. It seeks to be a clean and minimalist version of the other real estate plugins that are currently out there. The free version includes all of the features highlighted below, but is also available in two premium packages, including the Pro version, and the Pro version plus an additional theme. Some of its features include:
    • It’s fully responsive, so it’ll look good across multiple screen sizes (perfect for agents on the go)
    • It comes with its own custom themes, but can still integrate with most other themes in the marketplace
    • You can completely customize every listing
    • You can allow other agents to modify the listings from the front end
    • It has several other widgets that include advanced search, property slideshows, and location maps
     

    4. Easy Property Listings

    Easy Property Listing Through WordPress Easy Property Listings seeks to be the best plugin for easily adding real estate listings to your website. It works with most themes that are currently available without causing too much fuss. This plugin focuses on a single feature, and does it very well. In addition to the free features highlighted below there are also paid add-ons, which will enhance its functionality even further. Check out some of its features below:
    • Contains a “theme compatibility mode” to help with integration into your existing WordPress theme
    • Gives you multiple listing and pricing options for simple listing customization
    • Caters to international listings by allowing multiple currencies and locations
    • Can make showing and inspection appointments through the calendar function
     

    5. WP-Real Estate

    WP Real Estate - A WordPress Plugin WP-Real Estate is a great all-around plugin that will help to build your real estate website. If you’re looking to add additional functionality to your existing website, or truly unlock the potential of your site from the start, then give this plugin a go. Features include:
    • Can easily add and customize property listings
    • Has a translation feature to translate your site into multiple languages (perfect for cities where multiple languages are the norm)
    • Has an in-depth property search website to easily navigate between properties

    6. WPL Real Estate

    Real Estate Plugins - WPL Real Estate WPL Real Estate is a great plugin choice for real estate agencies. This plugin is designed to help improve your data management and listing management processes as a realtor. However, it can also be used for several other purposes, such as:
        • Adding properties to your listing wizard, and enable other agents to add listings as well
        • Easily categorizing your listings based upon property type, number of bedrooms, etc.
        • Displaying your listings on Google Maps to better gauge location
        • Sharing your listings to Facebook, email, Twitter, and more
    As a realtor it’s important to have a plugin that will help you achieve your goals and more easily manage your listings. The plugins featured above will help to improve the overall functionality and usefulness of your site.
  • How To Start An Online Business

    Friday, December 2, 2016 by
    How To Start an Online Business In the past, all businesses needed real estate – a storefront or office space. Many still do, but the growth of online business means it’s not the necessity it once was. Budding entrepreneurs can now start businesses without having to make as big of an investment or take on as much risk – which is great. All you need is a good idea, some money and time to get started with, and you can start an online business. To be clear, the risk is still there, but the barriers to entry are lower than they once were. If you’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, starting with an online business is one of the easiest ways to get your foot in the door. And online businesses, when run well, can be extremely profitable. Online business contributes to the economy to the tune of $966 billion. If you’re ready to claim your part of that number, here are the first steps to take.

    Download a FREE checklist to chart your progress!

     

    1. Identify a need.

    You can do everything else exactly right, but if you’re trying to sell something no one wants, your online business will fail anyway. Your first order of business has to be figuring out a product or service that people actually want or need. If you have an idea that you think people will be interested in, confirm that with market research. If you have enough money, you can hire a firm to do market research for you. If you really don’t have that much money, you can get creative and do it yourself. One option is to start building an email list before you build your business, to make sure there’s interest in what you have to offer. You can also dig into widely available stats on demographics to understand your target audience a little better. And you can make use of a number of resources that focus on helping businesses understand consumer behavior. A couple of businesses like Ask Your Target Market and GutCheck will connect you with members of your target audience so you can ask them questions directly and gain a better idea of what they’re likely to think of your product. [bctt tweet="Starting an online business? Step #1 is market research - confirm people will be interested." username="hostgator"]  

    2. Develop a business plan.

    Once you know your idea has a realistic customer base, you need to start working on your business plan. If you have any interest in attracting investors, then a business plan will be one of the most important tools you have for convincing them to buy in. Even if you aren’t explicitly looking for investors, creating a business plan will help you clarify your goals and figure out the specific steps you need to take to achieve them. Make sure your business plan includes an analysis of the competition and a clear positioning statement of where you fit within the market. It should also include information on your target audience, which your market research should have given you a nice head start on collecting. All of that gives you the information you need to make sure your approach is solid. With that in place, you’ll have an easier time working out the chronology of what to do when and what finances and resources you’ll need to complete each step. In short, your business plan should do two key things:
    • Make a case for why your business idea is a good one, and
    • Provide the roadmap to turn your a good idea into something actionable.
     

    3. Create your brand.

    As you’re steadily moving toward the point of your launch, it’s time to work out how your business will appear to the world. If your business is the thing you run behind the scenes, your brand is the face it presents to the audience once the curtain’s drawn back. [bctt tweet="Your business = the thing you run behind the scenes. Your brand = the face it presents to the world." username="hostgator"] If you’ve gotten this far without settling on a business name, then it’s time now to make a decision. Picking a name for your business is hard, but I don’t have to tell you how important it is. The name is the biggest decision to make as you work on your brand, but it’s one of many. You need a logo, a style, and a clearly defined positioning that communicates just what makes your product so worthwhile to your audience. If you’re still working on your own as you get to this step, then this is a good point in the process to start growing your team. If you don’t have the money to hire employees, consider looking for freelancers or a marketing agency to help. Determining the right look, feel, and messaging of your business is something that’s ultimately up to you, but having some experienced experts pitch in to make sure you get it right is worth it.  

    4. Build your website.

    If you do hire marketing professionals to help you develop your company’s brand, then creating the website should be part of what they help you do. You’ll need to purchase a domain name that’s close enough to your business name to be intuitive for users. If your business name is unique enough, you can go straight for the most obvious choice: YourBrandName.com. If the most obvious domain is already taken, then you may have to get a little creative.  You can either go with one of the other domain extensions like .net or .me, use a hyphen or underscore between words to change things up, or add a minor addition to the name, like a go at the beginning or a word that clarifies the industry afterward. Another option is to switch steps 3 and 4. You can avoid running into the problems stated above, by choosing your company name based on what domain names are available. Use our domain registration tool to see what's available. Make sure the website design matches with your overall visual branding and your website copy effectively communicates your brand positioning. The work you did defining your brand should shine through in the website you create. For an online business, your website is everything. You need it to look good, be intuitive to navigate, and make a clear case to visitors why they should buy.  Take time to get it right, and run the finished product by some other people (ideally people in your target audience) to get their take. HostGator Website Builder  

    5. Prepare your inventory.

    Now it’s time to create or stock up on whatever you’re selling. If you’re selling physical items, you want them ready to ship by the time any orders start coming in. If you’re launching a service-based business, this step is where you should clarify your process. If you’re selling digital products, like SaaS software, then you need to make sure the product is ready. Do user testing to ensure that it not only does what you’re claiming it does, but that customers will be able to use it without confusion or difficulty. Obviously this step will vary considerably depending on the type of business you’re launching. Just be sure that, before your actual launch date, you take whatever steps are necessary to ensure you’re ready to start providing what you’re selling by the time your first customer is ready to buy.  

    6. Create (and start executing) your marketing plan.

    Before you actually get going, you should establish your marketing plan. Your market research and branding work should have already helped you clarify your positioning and audience. Use that information to determine which marketing channels to pursue and the messaging to use for them. Every business is different and marketing isn’t one size fits all. Most online businesses will want to make use of a mix of content marketing, social media promotion, and paid search promotion.   If you don’t know much about online marketing to start, this may be a step to hire out. There is a learning curve to get started and some mistakes of ignorance can cause serious consequences – you wouldn’t want to find yourself facing a Google penalty due to trying an outdated SEO strategy, for instance. If you really don’t have the funding to outsource your marketing, then take some real time to research online marketing best practices. Sites like Moz, HubSpot and Copyblogger all have good, reliable resources for beginners.  

    7. Launch!

    Launch day will be a big day for your company. If your website isn’t already live, then you’ll definitely want it up and running on launch day. You should put out a press release, set up any PR interviews you can get, and start your marketing campaigns. And you should be prepared to start filling orders and fielding any questions that come through. Your first day in business is a big day, but your success will depend on what you do for every day that comes after.  Be prepared to work hard, learn as you go, and make a point of providing great customer service.  Running an online business isn’t easy, but if you take the right steps and do the work, the rewards can be great.

    Ready to start your online business?

    Step 1: Download our FREE checklist to stay on track!

    Step 2: Build your website with HostGator.

    Step 3: Launch!

  • 4 WordPress Landing Page Builders To Inspire You

    Wednesday, November 30, 2016 by
    WordPress Landing Page Builders Did 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.  

    Creating a WordPress Landing Page

    You don't have to be a designer to create a landing page for your website. You can create landing pages yourself with a WordPress landing page plugin such as Thrive Landing Pages or OptimizePress. As there are many different choices, you’ll need to compare their features and find the right one that fits your need. In this post, I’ll introduce four WordPress landing page builders and example landing pages built with them. I hope this will inspire you to create a conversion-oriented landing page for your next marketing campaign. Recommended WordPress Hosting  

    Landing Page Builder #1: OptimizePress

    OptimizePress is the most popular landing page builder for self hosted WordPress sites. The product is available as a two core parts, both plugin and theme. Beyond landing pages, you can use it to build membership websites as well. If you’re looking to create landing pages with a design consistent with the rest of your site, or to build a membership website, using the theme option for your site would be the right choice. Alternatively, you may use the plugin version if you don’t want to change the entire theme just for the sake of building a few landing pages on your website. Below are two successful landing pages that were created using OptimizePress.  

    Expert Voice Book

    This landing page is designed to build an email list that offers a free ebook written by Kristen White. The landing page uses the latest OptimizePress theme that supports responsive design, as well as a WP Video Lightbox plugin to beautifully embed Vimeo video on the page. ebook landing page   What this page does well: By embedding a convincing video and displaying media company logos at the top, the page establishes the author as an authority. Apart from explaining the opt-in offer, the page also explains who the author is and includes testimonials as a social proof.  

    Healthier Fat Loss

    This site used the OptimizePress theme to build landing page that promotes their weight loss program.  Landing page example   What this page does well: The landing page briefly explains what the program is and its benefits by using beautiful images. The video is not hosted on a third-party platform like YouTube, so it doesn’t contain a link that takes away readers from the site. They also use various certification logos beneath the CTA button along with doctors’ endorsement, which gives a sense of security to potential buyers to make a purchase. CTA with trust signals  

    Landing Page Builder #2: Thrive Content Builder

    Thrive Content Builder lets you create visually impressive content right from the visual editor of your WordPress site without the need of touching a single line of code. Better yet, it also allows you to pick from more than 150 templates, so you don’t need to create everything from scratch. Let's take a look at a landing page that was created using this plugin.  

    EJ Insider

    The EJInsider website sells various information products, such as this premium ebook, How To Buy and Sell Websites landing page for ebook   What this page does well: The landing page has followed all the recommended practices for boosting conversion: placing the CTA above-the-fold, removing distractions like external links that may take visitors away from the landing page, and including positive testimonials.  

    Landing Page Builder #3: LeadPages

    LeadPages is a stand-alone landing page builder. Unlike other plugins featured in this post, LeadPages is a hosted solution, so you’ll need to pay a monthly subscription fee for the service. You can either create a sub-domain or use your own website's domain for your landing page. Once you installed the plugin, it connects your WordPress site with LeadPages server so you can easily start creating landing pages right from your WordPress website. LeadPages is a perfect choice especially if you have a decent advertisement budget for driving traffic to your landing pages. It also enables you to boost your conversion rate by A/B testing your pages.  

    Loud Rumor

    LoudRumor is a marketing agency for fitness studios and gyms. They use LeadPages plugin to create squeeze pages for their Facebook ad campaign. This is one of the successful squeeze pages by LoudRumor created to promote a list building campaign. Their goal here is to explain the program using a video and encourage visitors to opt-in. Once the CTA button is clicked, an opt-in form will appear as a popup where visitors can submit the details. Video landing page   What this page does well: The page is distraction free and it attracts highly targeted traffic through a PPC campaign. The page explains their program using the video without bragging too much with text-based content.  

    Landing Page Builder #4: Landing Page Builder

    Landing Page Builder is a free WordPress plugin that lets you create unlimited number of pages. Best of all, you can pick from over 50 templates and it supports mobile responsive design.   

    UC Baby

    This landing page was used for a contest entry. Participants will need to opt-in for entering the contest. Of course, the entry has closed now but still the landing page is live. This landing page is created with the free Landing Page Builder plugin. Contest landing page   What this page does well: This one is a perfect example of how simple a landing page can be to attract user entry. With over 900 entries, the page was a success.   Have you used any of the above landing page builders? Share your landing page in the comments!
  • What Is A Website Builder?

    Tuesday, November 29, 2016 by
    What is a website builder When 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 Builder

    There 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. HostGator Website Builder   Did you use a website builder to design your website? Share your experience in the comments below.