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  • 6 Best WordPress Plugins for Travel Blogs

    Monday, July 11, 2016 by

    Best WordPress plugins for travel blogs

    There are countless tools you can use to promote your blog across the Internet. Getting traffic back to your site is important. But, even more important than having swarms of traffic is turning that traffic into dedicated readers and customers.

    As a travel blogger you probably have a lot of different business goals, but a well functioning site will play a role in all of those. Below we highlight seven different plugins you can use to get the most from your travel blog.

    1. Yoast SEO

    This plugin should be used no matter the style of blog you’re running. This plugin simplifies the SEO process, so it’s much easier to optimize each post for keywords you’re trying to rank for.

    Trying to do SEO without the help of Yoast is much more difficult. Download Yoast SEO to simplify your SEO efforts and have your site ranking faster.

    2. Geo Mashup

    Since you run a travel blog, chances are you want to give people as much information about your destination as possible. One great way to do this is to provide a map of your recent visits. You can do this by using the plugin Geo Mashup.

    This plugin allows you to insert a customizable map using the Google Maps API anywhere into your site. A must have for those looking to create in-depth destination posts.

    3. W3 Total Cache

    Your website needs to be fast. But, spending time trying to optimize your codebase and do all the necessary tweaks will do nothing more than give you a headache. Luckily, there’s a plugin that can handle all of the technical stuff for you.

    It’s called W3 Total Cache. Essentially, this plugin will minify your codebase, so it loads quickly and performs much better.

    If you want your travel blog to compete, then you’re going to need to provide a great user experience. This plugin will help you get there.

    4. Revive Old Post

    What happens when you have a lot of older content you want to share and promote, but don’t want to spend a ton of time searching through your archives?

    You use the plugin called Revive Old Post. This plugin will automatically connect to a variety of your social media profiles and promote your older content for you. You can automate the tweet/share messages, as well as, how often your content is promoted.

    This is a great time saver and allows you to work smarter, not harder.

    5. Photo Dropper

    Flickr Creative Commons can be a great source of images to spice up your blog posts. But, searching though the database, finding the perfect image, downloading it, re-sizing it, and uploading it again with proper accreditation takes a lot of time.

    Luckily, there’s a plugin that can greatly speed up this process for you. It’s called Photo Dropper and it lets you search their database and upload an image in a number of clicks.

    6. Ewww Image Optimizer

    There are dozens of image optimizers you can use to reduce the file size of your images, without compromising quality. This is very important if you want your blog to feature high quality images, but you don’t want your loading time to be impacted.

    Slow loading sites don’t rank as high in Google as their fast loading counterparts, and having images that take too long to load tend to turn off your readers.

    Ewww Image Optimizer will easily optimize every image that you upload to your media library. This saves you time from having to do it manually and will definitely please your readers.

    There are probably hundreds of plugins you can use to grow your travel blog. However, we’ve found the plugins above to be very effective. Try them out and let us know what you think.

    If you don't want to deal with downloading your own plugins and monitoring your traffic, consider optimized WordPress hosting from HostGator - we'll take care of the heavy lifting so you can focus on your travel! Click here to get started.

    Any plugins we missed in the collection above? Share your favorites in the comments below. Happy travels!

  • How to Use Instagram to Generate Sales

    Friday, July 8, 2016 by

    How to use Instagram to drive sales

    Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social media networks, and one that is becoming increasingly important to brands and businesses.

    Generating sales on Instagram requires re-thinking traditional marketing tactics, and using a more indirect style to create the necessary trust and loyalty.

    Grow your brand, build loyalty, and then generate sales

    Young consumers are a savvy bunch: They’re comfy with brands but they hate traditional advertising. They skip TV commercials and use ad-blockers on the Internet. What they want from brands, more than anything, is authenticity

    What does this mean for your Instagram presence? It means traditional sales tactics won’t work there - in fact, those tactics will probably alienate your newfound followers and turn them against you. So no hard sells, no constant “buy now” appeals - nothing at all that reeks of actual commerce.

    Instead, create an aesthetic your target buyer will love and a community to which they want to belong. Create beautiful images that don’t just show off your product, but that directly relate to your customers’ lives and aspirations.

    This is true across most social media. Nike’s Facebook feed, for instance, isn’t just nice pictures of shoes and jackets with links to their website. Instead, 60% of their feed is lifestyle content - images aimed directly at their core demographic of hardcore fitness enthusiasts.

    Nike Instagram

    Note: Nearly every post from Nike’s recent Instagram page has over 1 million likes. None of them expressly demands a sale or provides a call to action.

    Ironically, focusing on lifestyle content increased the effectiveness of Nike’s more traditional call-to-action posts, which received an average of 993 shares. (By contrast, Adidas, which posted much less lifestyle content, received an average of only 122 shares on their call-to-action posts.)

    By the way, Snappy’s adventure travels on the HostGator Instagram don’t exactly tell customers to “buy HostGator’s stuff!” It’s just another fun way of getting our brand out into the world, literally.

    HostGator Instagram

    Harness the mighty power of the hashtag

    Like all social media platforms, Instagram posts have a limited shelf life. A few hours after they’re posted, they basically drop off the face of the earth.

    Hashtags are a way to give them a longer life, and to put your brand’s content in front of users who don’t already follow you.

    Hashtags on your posts should be relevant and specific: For instance, #cookies will probably cast a wider net, but #snickerdoodles or #hamantaschen will put you in front of people with a real interest in your product.

    Don’t overdo hashtags, either - a few well-chosen ones will do nicely. Any more than that and you risk looking like you’re trying to sell something.

    Reward your followers with special promotions and secret sales

    In addition to posting content they consistently love, you should also give your followers a little something extra: early access to sales, special discount codes, and Instagram-only promotions.

    It’s another way to make your customers (and potential customers) feel valued, to make your business appear generous, and to generate sales without seeming to actually “sell” anything. Instead of asking for business, you’re bestowing a gift.

    Your followers are themselves a great asset: You can encourage them to post pictures of themselves using or wearing your product, along with a promotional hashtag that’ll help boost their pic beyond their own followers. That cements their attachment to your brand, and also puts your product in front of potential customers in a way that feels organic and, oh yes, authentic.

    Be patient, and the sales will come

    For those used to the old marketing models, generating sales on Instagram can feel counterintuitive. But by creating an engaging and active community, your Instagram feed will attract more fans and followers, and those loyal and engaged followers are more likely to become paying customers.

    [bctt tweet="3 #Instagram Tips for Biz: Use hashtags, share lifestyle content, reward fans with secret sales." username="hostgator"]

    * * *

    By Lauren Barret

  • Support Austin Pets Alive with HostGator!

    Thursday, July 7, 2016 by
    Austin Pets Alive Did you know July 16th is Love Your Rescue Pet Day? HostGator has been a long-time sponsor of local pet rescue organization Austin Pets Alive! (if you love cute puppies, be sure to check out this post). We are so excited to be a part of this year's fourth annual Love Your Rescue Pet Day, which benefits Austin Pets Alive! At HostGator, we're all about supporting local businesses and helping them get online. We also happen to love puppies, and so does our mascot Snappy. If you don't believe us, just check out the clip below:

    What is Love Your Rescue Pet Day?

    Love Your Rescue Pet Day is an Austin, TX-wide fundraising event that celebrates the love Austinites have for their rescue pets. Austin has been a no-kill city for 5 years now, and Austin Pets Alive! (APA!) plays a big role in keeping that trend alive. On Love Your Rescue Pet Day, local businesses show their support by donating 10% of the day's sales back to APA! You can find the full list of participating businesses here. HostGator's Austin office is the proud sponsor of the day's official adoption event at Town Lake Animal Center. Austin Pets Alive! has hundreds of adorable dogs and cats waiting to meet you. Don't miss out on the chance to cuddle with furry friends and find your new FURever friend!

    Support Austin Pets Alive with HostGator!

    If you stop by on Saturday, be sure to say "hi" to one of our Austin team members! Our trusty mascot Snappy will be there, and he'll be handing out exclusive gator-shaped treats for all the new dog owners. The homemade treats are baked right here in the U.S. and are sold by local Austin business, Grand Dog Bakery. The day is set to be a fun- and fur-filled event! Happy new pet owners will get the chance to post with their pet and Snappy. During your Snappy meet-and-greet, our team will be asking you all sorts of questions like, "What's your new pet's name?" or "How'd you guys meet?" or "Let's say your pet had a website. What would it be about?" Admittedly, the last question is kind of kooky, but we ARE a web hosting company, after all. Inquiring minds want to know! If you won't be able to make the event, we still want to hear from you! Share your rescue pet's story in the comments below and let us know what kind of website she or he would have. You can email me a photo at awillson@hostgator.com. We'll choose our favorites to highlight on HostGator's social media channels. See you on July 16th! 7/18/16 Update: Love Your Rescue Pet Day was a success! Austin Pets Alive reported 41 adoptions for the day. Congratulations to all of the new pet owners! Snappy was so happy to share delicious dog treats with his new furry friends. Snappy Austin Pets Alive HostGator Free Dog Treats
  • 6 Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Budget For Social Media Marketing

    Thursday, July 7, 2016 by

    Social Media Marketing

    It's never been a secret that in order to run a successful business, you need to invest in marketing to ensure your brand is visible among the noise. While SEO and content creation are huge aspects to focus on, ignoring social media is no longer an option. People have come to expect finding all sorts of brands online, and your business is no exception.

    Social media can provide benefits the best advertisements and email lists cannot compete with on their own. While it's entirely possible to use your own time to run a commanding social media campaign, it's often easier and a better investment to budget for social media opposed to using your valuable hours of the day.

    What are some effective ways to spend on social media?

    Spending money on social media marketing boils down to a few different strategies, all or one of which may work best for your small business:

    • Use your budget to boost and purchase advertisements.
    • Hire an additional employee(s) to be your official social media marketer.
    • Pay someone to create photo/written/video content for your brand.

    Here are six reasons why creating a budget for social media is an excellent decision.

    1. High ROI Potential

    Over the last two decades the world of advertisements and marketing strategies have rapidly shifted towards focusing on the Internet.

    And where do people spend most of their time online? Social Media.

    Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram know this better than anyone and have provided incentives for businesses to purchase advertisements for less than you would pay for most other advertisements based on potential reach. Due to social media's targeted approach, you're much more likely to have the right potential customers viewing your ads.

    2. It Gives Your Business Direction

    The best businesses take the needs of people, however large, and fulfill them on a regular basis. The best advertisements figure out who these people are, and send them directly to your business. As previously mentioned, social media excels in targeting by seeking out audiences based on data patterns, or as we call it in the tech world, analytics.

    As your business ages, you can use analytics to determine which products, services, and advertising strategies are (and aren't) working for you. Paying for ads or hiring a social media analyst will be key in being able to use the data beneficially.

    3. Unlimited Reach

    The thing about social media ads is they don't have a specified limit for how many people can view them. Since ads are integrated right into the social platform there's an unlimited potential for people to share, tag, and re-post your content all over the Internet.

    This is why companies create advertisements that often have nothing to do with their product until the last few seconds. If you can engage people for 15-30 seconds with something memorable, no matter how ridiculous, the amount of people who will see it can be endless, and for years after the time it's released. If your business doesn't have any team members capable of creating dynamic content, this might be an area where you should focus spending your budget: hiring creative content creators.

    4. One Click Away

    Printed advertisements have been on the decline for a number of reasons:

    • Tracking ROI is difficult and usually comes down to word of mouth.
    • The expected reach for print ads is more finite, and can be capped at how many copies are printed.
    • Print ads lack in-depth analytics about who is seeing them, and where viewers are coming from.

    Internet ads, however, don't have to deal with any of those pitfalls. Best of all, if someone feels the need to take action on your advertisement they're only a single click away.

    5. Developing A Customer Relationship

    Have you ever left a comment on an advertisement you saw in a magazine? Me neither, an artfully-drawn mustache perhaps, but never a comment I would expect someone might reply to.

    With social media you have the unique opportunity of creating advertisements that also develop a personal relationship with your customers. If anyone has a question, or something to compliment you on, you can answer it on the spot and thank them personally for using your service.

    6. Looking Towards Permission

    Even though this whole article has been discussing the benefits of ads, I have to talk about advertising as a whole. People are sick of ads.

    With things like Netflix, subscription music services like Pandora, and the option to skip ads on YouTube it's very apparent people are over having sales pitches thrown at them, and will even pay to have ads turned off. Nowadays we want to define ourselves through the brands we spend money on, and that means looking at choice.

    On social media people choose to like your page. People choose to say “I find this ad annoying.” Instead of paying to have it crammed down peoples’ throats, pay to have your ads put where people are actually looking, their social networks.

  • Drupal vs Joomla: In Search of the Best CMS

    Wednesday, July 6, 2016 by

    Drupal vs Joomla

    While WordPress powers a whopping 24% of all websites on the Internet, it’s certainly not the only open source content management system (CMS) available. In fact, there are two highly effective software platforms, Joomla and Drupal, that warrant great attention when considering a CMS for your website. 

    With Joomla raking in over nearly 50 million downloads and Drupal housing more than 1,000,000 elite websites, these powerhouses are worth investing the time to see which platform will best serve your business and site goals.

    Although each CMS provides the basic functions of adding, deleting, publishing, and storing various types of content, each tool has different strong points and weaknesses which should be explored prior to making your final decision.  The purpose here is to provide a comprehensive overview of Drupal vs Joomla to give you clarity for your next (or current) business website.   

    Joomla

    Joomla is becoming an increasingly popular content management system.   Actually, after WordPress, it’s considered the world’s most accepted CMS, currently supporting over 3 million websites.  Joomla has the power of being extended to provide state of the art functionalities. It has been presented with the Packt Open Source Awards multiple years in a row, making it highly credible to be used as a CMS for your web application.

    When it comes to complexity, Joomla places somewhere between simple WordPress and comprehensive and advanced Drupal.  Using Joomla means that there may be a slight learning curve particularly for beginners, yet webmasters are usually very happy with the features it incorporates. 

    There are many advantages including better architecture as compared to other content management systems.

    The Advantages:

    • Simple to install
    • Knowledge of CSS, PHP, or HTML is not required
    • Manage users with various permission levels without switching tabs
    • E-commerce made easy
    • Several thousands of free extensions available for increased functionality and interaction for your site
    • Amazing support with programmer tools and tutorials for users
    • Advanced administration panel offers many functions for complete optimization
    • URLs generated are SEO friendly thus better positioning in search
    • Update installs are easily done through web browser
    • Application framework makes it effortless for developers to create sophisticated add-ons
    • Highly strong and active community support

    The Disadvantages:

    • Although simple to use, beginners may initially be intimidated by the multitude of functions and possibilities…there is some learning involved
    • Some of the plugins and modules are paid
    • Limited adjustment options particularly for advanced users
    • May experience compatibility issues with some of the plugins, requiring some PHP knowledge to get the functions to work properly
    • Limited access control list (ACL) support

    The Challenge:

    The structure may seem complicated and you may have to go through a learning curve before you master the layout system.

    Brands that Use Joomla:

    • IKEA
    • Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs
    • IHOP
    • Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
    • University of Notre Dame - Alliance for Catholic Education

    If you have some experience with CMS systems and you're looking for something more than WordPress, but you're still intimidated by Drupal, Joomla might be a solid option.

    Drupal

    Currently over 1 million websites run on Drupal, widely known to service entities like governments, higher education institutions, NGO’s, and global enterprises.  This CMS proudly services The White House and prides itself on its top-notch security element.  Its incredibly powerful and comprehensive framework is suitable to house virtually any type of website.

    The beauty about Drupal is that it was designed especially for search engine optimization.  Placing high value in security, reliability, and flexibility, this CMS is indeed the cream of the crop.  Its large robust community is also highly responsive to inquiries and concerns.

    This CMS is definitely for the advanced with developer expertise…it is not for all users like Joomla.  Installing Drupal for your next project will require an experienced web developer on staff (or a contracted one).  Using Drupal is indeed a great choice with the ability to create amazing looking sites.

    Here are the advantages, the disadvantages as well as the challenges users may experience with Drupal:

    The Advantages:

    • Top notch enterprise-level security
    • Great ability to handle large amounts of content and data
    • Lots of functionalities including advanced menu management, polls management, graphics modification tool, and users management
    • Built for high performance
    • Advanced control over URL structure
    • Pages load faster because of its defaulting caching features
    • Features countless modules, themes, and extensions
    • Ideal for community platform sites that require complex data organization with multiple users
    • Supports multiple site stakeholders (admin, editors, logged in users requiring customized content, private groups, etc.)
    • Very clean, professional look
    • Flexible with lots of versatility
    • Stable and scalable
    • Downright powerful platform!

    The Disadvantages:

    • Upgrades need to be completed with developer knowledge
    • Not user friendly
    • High learning curve
    • Requires technical expertise
    • Hiring a web developer to install is more expensive than a Joomla installation
    • Premium themes and plugins (modules) cost a lot more than WordPress

    The Challenge:

    It is very difficult to install…you will likely need an expert.

    Brands that Use Drupal:

    • The White House
    • University of Oxford
    • The Weather Channel
    • Bruno Mars
    • Verizon
    • The Economist
    • Fox
    • Forbes
    • New England Patriots
    • NBC
    • Rutgers University
    • Twitter
    • Australian Government

    Drupal is an advanced CMS system offering plenty of functions that make it possible to create simple or advanced websites, blogs, discussion boards, social networking pages, etc. However, it does require experienced knowledge of PHP and HTML languages as well as CSS.  For those with at least basic knowledge of these languages, there's a very good technical support to guide them through the process.

    How to Choose the BEST CMS for Your Business

    Being clear on your business goals, objectives, and intentions is the first step towards selecting a CMS that is optimal for your business.  This clarity will guide you as to what type of website is congruent to your needs while better serving your unique target audience. 

    Joomla is also a good option for small to mid-tier e-commerce stores or for building a community or a network with a membership features, newsroom, forums, articles, input from external authors. If you want something more powerful for large projects in which stability, scalability, and power are essential, or for more enterprise use, then consider Drupal.

    Choosing the right CMS for your project will save you a great deal of headaches later.  A reliable web host also saves you from headaches. Fortunately, with HostGator you can get both reliable hosting and the CMS of your choice, be it Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, or Magento.

    Get Started With HostGator!

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