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  • 7 Easy Steps that Protect Your Website From Hackers

    Monday, February 6, 2017 by
    Protect your website from hackers As a website owner, is there anything more terrifying than the thought of seeing all of your work altered or entirely wiped out by a nefarious hacker? You’ve worked hard on your website (and your brand) – so take the time to protect it with these basic hacking protections! In addition to regularly backing up your files (which you should already be doing, for various reasons), taking the following seven easy steps will help keep your website safe: Recommended WordPress Hosting  

    Step #1: Keep platforms and scripts up-to-date

    One of the best things you can do to protect your website is to make sure any platforms or scripts you’ve installed are up-to-date. Because many of these tools are created as open-source software programs, their code is easily available – to both good-intentioned developers as well as malicious hackers.  Hackers can pore over this code, looking for security loopholes that allow them to take control of your website by exploiting any platform or script weaknesses. As an example, if you’re running a website built on WordPress, both your base WordPress installation and any third-party plugins you’ve installed are potentiallt vulnerable to these types of attacks.  Making sure you always have the newest versions of your platform and scripts installed minimizes the risk that you’ll be hacked in this way and usually takes very little time to do. WordPress users can check this quickly when they log in to their WordPress dashboard. Look for the update icon in the top left corner next to your site name. Click the number to access your WordPress Updates. Check for WordPress updates    

    Step #2: Install security plugins, when possible

    Once you've updated everything, further enhance your website security with plugins that actively prevent against hacking attempts. Again, using WordPress as an example, you’ll want to look into free plugins like iThemes Security and Bulletproof Security (or similar tools that are available for websites built on other content management systems).  These products address the weaknesses that are inherent in each platform, foiling additional types of hacking attempts that could threaten your website. Alternatively – whether you’re running a CMS-managed site or HTML pages – take a look at SiteLock.  SiteLock goes above and beyond simply closing site security loopholes by providing daily monitoring for everything from malware detection to vulnerability identification to active virus scanning and more.  If your business relies on its website, SiteLock is definitely an investment worth considering. Note: Our Managed WordPress hosting plan has SiteLock built in, along with other features to help secure your site. HostGator SiteLock Malware Protection  

    Step #3: Use HTTPS

    As a consumer, you may already know to always look for the green https in your browser bar any time you’ll be providing sensitive information to a website. Most consumers know to recognize those five little letters as an important shorthand for security: they signal that it’s safe to provide financial information on that particular webpage. PayPal SSL Certificate If you have an online store, or if any part of your website will require visitors to hand over sensitive information like a credit card number, you have to invest in an SSL certificate. The cost to you is minimal, but the extra level of encryption it offers to your customers goes a long way to making your website more secure and trustworthy.  

    Step #4: Use parameterized queries

    One of the most common website hacks many sites fall victim to are SQL injections. SQL injections can come into play if you have a web form or URL parameter that allows outside users to supply information. If you leave the parameters of the field too open, someone could insert code into them that lets them hack into your database, which may well contain sensitive customer information, like their contact info or credit card numbers. Obviously that’s information it’s your duty to protect. There are a number of steps you can take to protect your website from SQL injection hacks; one of the most important and easiest to implement is the use of parameterized queries. Using parameterized queries ensures your code has specific enough parameters so that there’s no room for a hacker to mess with them.  

    Step #5: Use CSP

    Similar to SQL injections, cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks are another common foe site owners have to be on the lookout for. They occur when hackers find a way to slip malicious JavaScript code onto your pages which can then infect the pages of any visitors to your website that are exposed to the code. Part of the fight to protect your site from XSS attacks is similar to the parameterized queries you use for SQL injections. You should make sure any code you use on your website for functions or fields that allow input are as explicit as possible in what’s allowed, so you’re not leaving room for anything to slip in. Another handy tool you have to protect yourself from XSS is Content Security Policy (CSP). CSP allows you to specify the domains a browser should consider valid sources of executable scripts when on your page, so the browser knows not to pay attention to any malicious script that might infect your visitor’s computer. Using CSP is simply a matter of adding the proper HTTP header to your webpage that provides a string of directives that tells the browser which domains are ok and any exceptions to the rule.  You can find details on how to craft CSP headers for your website provided by Mozilla here.  

    Step #6: Make sure your passwords are secure

    This one seems simple, but it’s so important. It’s tempting to go with a password you know will always be easy for you to remember. That’s why the #1 most common password is still 123456. You have to do better than that – a lot better than that. Make the effort to figure out a truly secure password (or use HostGator's password generator). Make it long. Use a mix of special characters, numbers, and letters. And steer clear of potentially easy-to-guess keywords like your birthday or kid’s name. If a hacker somehow gains access to other information about you, they’ll know to guess those first. Password Generator And make sure everyone who has access to your website has similarly secure passwords. Institute requirements in terms of length and the type of characters that people are required to use so they have to get more creative than going with the standard, easy passwords they turn to for less secure accounts. One weak password within your team can make your whole website more vulnerable, so set expectations with everyone who has access and hold yourself to the same high standard.  

    Step #7: Lock down your directory and file permissions

    Now, for this final technique, we’re going to get a little technical – but stick with me for a moment… All websites can be boiled down to a series of files and folders that are stored on your web hosting account.  Besides containing all of the scripts and data needed to make your website work, each of these files and folders is assigned a set of permissions that controls who can read, write, and execute any given file or folder, relative to the user they are or the group to which they belong. On the Linux operating system, permissions are viewable as a three-digit code where each digit is an integer between 0-7.  The first digit represents permissions for the owner of the file, the second digit represents permissions for anyone assigned to the group that owns the file, and the third digit represents permissions for everyone else.  The assignations work as follows:
    • 4 equals Read
    • 2 equals Write
    • 1 equals Execute
    • 0 equals no permissions for that user
    As an example, take the permission code “644.”  In this case, a “6” (or “4+2”) in the first position gives the file’s owner the ability to read and write the file.  The “4” in the second and third positions means that both group users and internet users at large can read the file only – protecting the file from unexpected manipulations. So, a file with “777” (or 4+2+1 / 4+2+1 / 4+2+1) permissions would then readable, write-able, and executable by the user, the group and everyone else in the world. As you might expect, a file that is assigned a permission code that gives anyone on the web the ability to write and execute it is much less secure than one which has been locked down in order to reserve all rights for the owner alone.  Of course, there are valid reasons to open up access to other groups of users (anonymous FTP upload, as one example), but these instances must be carefully considered in order to avoid creating a security risk. For this reason, a good rule of thumb is to set your permissions as follows:
    • Folders and directories = 755
    • Individual files = 644
    To set your file permissions, log in to your cPanel’s File Manager or connect to your server via FTP.  Once inside, you’ll see a list of your existing file permissions (as in the following example generated using the Filezilla FTP program): chmod 1 The final column in this example displays the folder and file permissions currently assigned to the website’s content.  To change these permissions in Filezilla, simply right click the folder or file in question and select the “File permissions” option.  Doing so will launch a screen that allows you to assign different permissions using a series of checkboxes: chmod 2 Although your web host’s or FTP program’s backend might look slightly different, the basic process for changing permissions remains the same.  If you have any questions about modifying your folder and file permissions, please see this helpful link.  Don’t put off taking this important step – securing your site using all of these different strategies is a big part of keeping your site healthy and safe in the long run! At HostGator, we have created a set of custom mod security rules to aid in the protection of your website. If you're looking for a new hosting provider, you can click here to sign up for a great deal. For new accounts, we'll even transfer you for free! After you've created an account, you just need to fill out the form here.
  • 5 Effective Ways To Increase Your Blog Readership

    Monday, February 6, 2017 by
    Increase your blog readership Today, readers have several options to choose from when it comes to blogs. And with so many choices, it’s up to bloggers to separate themselves from the competition. The goal is to build a readership that believes in your values, shares your content, and engages with your community. “If you want to build a better blog, you need a thriving audience based around your blogging community. And you can only build a great community around your blogs when you have active readership,” states Harsh Agrawal, founder and CEO of ShoutDreams, Inc. Increasing your blog readership is possible. Here are five ways to get started. Create Your Blog  

    1. Create Quality Content

    Creating remarkable content is one of the top priorities for bloggers. Without it, your blog will lag in comparison to others in your industry space. But what is quality content? And how do you produce it? The best content speaks directly to your audience. It will address their interests and provide solutions to their problems. When writing blog posts, make sure you avoid jargon and convoluted details. Stick to telling stories that will earn and maintain the person’s attention. “Quality content is easy to read and understand, and matches the preferences of the audience for which it’s intended. Using a tool like the Readability-Score will help you ensure your content matches the reading level, expectations and preferences of your audience,” writes Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers. Research shows that “40% of people will respond better to visual information than to plain text.” So, experiment with adding photos, infographics, and even GIFs to your posts. [bctt tweet="40% of people respond better to visuals than text, so add photos, infographics, GIFs to your blog." username="hostgator"] Joy the Baker blog is very effective at including mouthwatering pictures along with its recipes. Readers not only receive step-by-step directions on how to prepare meals, but also see enticing images to encourage them as they cook. Food blog image content To grow your audience, first focus on producing quality content. Give people a reason to scroll through your posts.  

    2. Ask Readers to Subscribe

    One of the reasons why your blog readership isn’t increasing is simple. You’re not asking readers to subscribe. Avoid falling into the trap of thinking people will do something without a distinct call-to-action. Offer readers the option to subscribe to your RSS feed or to sign up for your email announcements. [bctt tweet="One reason why your blog readership isn’t increasing? You’re not asking readers to subscribe." username="hostgator"] There are several ways to persuade your casual visitors to become devout readers. You can insert a subscription call-to-action within the post. This tactic makes it unavoidable for the individual to forget to sign up. You also can include a static sign-up form on your sidebar, so no matter what page the reader lands on he or she can take the necessary steps to subscribe. In the example below, Ramit Sethi of the I Will Teach You To Be Rich blog takes a different approach, he uses pop-up boxes that offer readers a small gift to convince them to take action. Email subscribe popup How can you lure more people to become active readers? Try giving away a free ebook, a quick checklist, or access to an exclusive event. If you want more readers, then start asking. And give your subscribers something in return for their loyalty.  

    3. Host Creative Contests

    You get a prize! You get a prize! And you get a prize! Contests are the hallmark of active community participation. People love competing in competitions with the chance to earn cool rewards. Think about the last time you entered a contest. The anticipation drives you crazy. And if you’ve ever won a contest, you probably were ecstatic and told all your friends. [bctt tweet="Contests are the hallmark of active community participation. Use them to draw people to your blog." username="hostgator"] When hosting a contest, create rules that are simple for everyone to understand. Tell readers what they need to do to participate and how prizes will be determined. It’s also wise to post deadlines in bold, red font. Rewards should appeal to the readers’ interests. If you’re a food blogger, a cookbook or a private cooking lesson would be perfect. If you’re a sports blogger, try a team jersey or an autographed cap. Protect your blog from any legal action. To ensure you’re adhering to local laws, contact your legal team or hire an attorney to discuss online contests. Use competitions as a tool to draw people to your blog. It’s an added perk to building relationships with readers. Contests really work to increase readership. When we hosted our HostGator Holiday Weekend Giveaway during Black Friday, we saw 4 times as many blog signups than we typically do in a similar timeframe.  

    4. Build a Social Media Community

    Your blog isn’t just a conversation between you and the reader. It’s also an opportunity for readers to meet and talk with one another. As you build your brand, invest time in creating a social media community for your audience to share and discuss topics together. This engagement will bring camaraderie and expand your blog’s reach. [bctt tweet="Your blog isn’t just a convo between you & the reader. It’s also for readers to talk w/each other." username="hostgator"] Select one to two social networks that your readers love. Then, observe how they use the platforms in their everyday lives. As you gather this information, focus on how your blog can add to the conversation. For instance, if you’re a fashion blogger, you might post weekly polls about what’s hot and what’s not. And don't feel like every social media interaction needs to be about your brand. It’s actually better to focus on the reader’s interests. “Build a personal communications plan that will enable you to stay engaged with your community. You don't need to be the center of the conversation, but your community members need to know you are there and that you CARE. Ongoing, reliable communication is vital in helping you build and maintain long-term relationships,” says Ravi Shukle, the community king at Post Planner. Aimee Song, a Los Angeles-based interior designer, engages with her readers on Instagram. With more than 4 million followers, she posts inspirational images around her apparel and jewelry lines. Instagram Community Building Take advantage of social media to jumpstart your readership. Community building leads to an active audience.  

    5. Partner with Brands

    You can’t accomplish your goals alone. Therefore, it might be time to enlist the help of others. Partner with brands that already engage with your targeted reader. From clothing retailers to local bookstores, your audience can be found interacting with various brands. Find out where people shop, play, and eat. Then, contact those businesses to learn about or propose partnership deals. But before you take the plunge, make sure the brand fits your values and represents a positive perception. You don't want to be attached to a partner that devalues your readers’ goals and lifestyles. “Taking ‘vanity projects’ that aren’t actually a good fit for your readers doesn’t help anyone. Look for opportunities to find a brand that’s an ideal fit for your readers, regardless of the name recognition the company already has,” states Jeni Elliott, founder of The Blog Maven. Also, decide how you will collaborate with brands. You can focus on advertising space on websites. Or you may want to host a Facebook Live event together. It’s essential to discuss the stipulations of the agreement. Your blog and your partner should both benefit from the relationship. Take your blog to the next level. Team up with a brand to increase your blog subscribers.  

    Boost Your Readership

    It’s time to get more people interested in your content. So, adopt a plan to grow your audience. Create quality content that connects to the reader. Ask people to subscribe with easy to find sign-up forms. And host contests that engage people to visit your blog regularly. Build your blog community to increase your readership.
  • How To Set Pricing for Your Online Store

    Friday, February 3, 2017 by
    Set pricing for your online store So many parts of starting a new business are exciting. You have dreams of wild success and enjoying the freedom of working for yourself. But every business owner has to deal with one especially tricky problem: figuring out pricing. Setting the pricing for items in your online store is one of the hardest parts of setting up a new business. If your prices are too high, you’ll lose sales. If they’re too low, you won’t make enough profit. Either way, your business faces a real possibility of failure. Your success depends on getting this right, yet there’s no clear right answer to what you should charge.  Here are a number of steps you can take to make an informed decision when setting your pricing. HostGator Website Builder  

    Step 1: Consider your business costs.

    Consider your business costs for online storeEvery business has expenses. Your pricing needs to account for the amount you’re paying into the business if you ever want to make a profit. Hopefully you’ve been tracking your expenses as you go and have a fairly clear idea of the budget you’ll need moving forward. If not, then your first step needs to be tallying up all your costs so far and those you expect to take on in the near future. Your list will likely includes the cost of items such as: -Inventory -Any supplies needed to make the product you sell -Various supplies needed to run your business – ranging from higher-cost items like computers and furniture, to smaller items like pens and paper Web hosting for your business website -Designing your website (or hiring someone to do so) -All your marketing efforts -Any labor your hire – including employees, contractors, and specialists like your accountant Even if your business is relatively simple, your costs do add up and you need to be confident your pricing will help you make that money back (and then some).  

    Step 2: Consider your time.

    Just as you track your expenses, you should be tracking your time whenever you work on your business. You can find a number of free time-tracking tools, such as Toggl and My Hours that will help you gain a complete picture of how much time you’re putting into this store. Cost of time for online shop ownerIn the early days when you’re just getting set up, you likely won’t be making anything back for that time, but eventually you need to for the effort to be worth it. Your pricing therefore needs to consider your labor, as well as your costs. Figure out two numbers: 1. How much would you like to be paid for your time – if you’re being ambitious? 2. What’s the bare minimum you feel you need to be paid for your time for this business to pay off? That range will help you clarify how much your business needs to make for you to be happy with the profits you earn for the amount of work you put in.  

    Step 3: Research your competitor’s prices.

    The first two steps make it easy to think big and might make you inclined to price high, but this is the step where you have to figure out what’s realistic in your industry. Spend some time browsing the websites of people selling similar products. Think like a customer: do searches for the terms they’re most likely to use to find products like yours and check out what’s typical on the websites that show up first. Record what you find as you go in a spreadsheet so you can better see the trends in pricing in your industry and track how prices vary across products with different sets of features.  At the end of this exercise, you should have a good range in mind.  You want to know both the low and high ends of pricing in your industry, and have an idea of what’s different about the brands that charge prices on the higher end.  

    Step 4: Figure out your unique positioning.

    If seeing what businesses were charging on the low end of your range in step three was disheartening, don’t let it get to you.  You can go higher than your competitors if you can figure out what makes your business or product special. Whether it’s because your products look better, last longer, or work better in some key way, if you can find the thing that differentiates what you’re selling from the low-end options out there, then you can convince customers it’s worth paying more when they buy from you. A marketing consultant can help you with this step if you’re having a hard time on your own. It’s part of their job to help clients figure out clear brand positioning.  

    Step 5: Consider shipping.

    Shipping costs are an inevitable part of online business. People hate paying for shipping and the added expense immediately makes your products look more expensive. In one survey by UPS, 44% of customers said they’ve abandoned an online purchase because of high shipping costs. 44% of customers said they’ve abandoned an online purchase because of high shipping costs. #ecommerce Click To Tweet Cost of shipping for online storeYou have a few options here: Option A: You can stick with passing the cost of shipping onto your customers. Many businesses do this, but you increase the chances of shopping cart abandonment. Option B: You can offer a flat fee for all shipping – say something like $5 – so it doesn’t look too high to customers, but also means you’re not having to cover the full costs of shipping yourself. Option C: You can offer free shipping for orders over a certain amount. This is becoming an increasingly common option businesses offer as it encourages customers to spend more, so while you do have to pay more in shipping costs, you end up making more on the order as a whole. Option D: You can offer free shipping on all orders and raise your prices to account for the difference. The main risk here is that your products will look more expensive at a glance, which could drive customers away. Any one of these options can work and you could potentially try out different ones over time to see what gets the best results. Having a clear idea of how you’re going to handle shipping is important as you reach your final step.  

    Step 6: Set your prices.

    Even all your prior research won’t make this step easy, per say, but it will give you the information you need to make an informed decision. At this point, you just have to do it.   Set pricing that falls within the range of what you found your competitors charging, while being high enough to cover your expenses and allow for some healthy profits besides. Make sure the prices are high enough to leave some room for discounts and specials. You don’t want to lose money when great sales opportunities like Black Friday roll around.   Determining your pricing isn’t fun, but it’s an important step toward making money (which is fun). You might not get your pricing just right on the first try, and it’s okay to change it later if you need to. By doing the proper research and really thinking through each of these steps though, you should come close to finding pricing that will work for your business.

    HostGator Business Hosting includes a private SSL, dedicated IP, and your own toll-free number.

    Launch your online store today!

  • Is Your Small Business Making the Most of Online Reviews?

    Thursday, February 2, 2017 by
    Small Business Online Reviews Are you intimidated by the prospect of customers reviewing your business online? A string of positive reviews of your business from satisfied customers can help you win new customers. Even the occasional bad review isn’t necessarily bad news if you know how to handle it right. Here’s a rundown of online review site do’s and don’ts for small business owners.   HostGator Website Builder  

    3 Online Review Do's for Small Business Owners


    1. Do thank reviewers for their feedback

    Your customers’ time is valuable, and feedback is information you can use to improve your business or keep it on the right track. Whether your reviewers leave a positive, negative, or middling review, take a moment to thank them for sharing their experience. This shows each one that you value their input. Try to leave a slightly different response on each review, though, to show that you’re responding personally and not just copy-pasting boilerplate replies. Thank-yous also show prospective shoppers that you’re paying attention to the customer experience. This can increase the likelihood that they’ll buy from you, because they know that if there’s an issue, they can trust you to work to resolve it. HostGator Google+ Reviews  

    2. Do invite customers to contact you directly with concerns

    The simplest way to keep customers from leaving negative reviews is to keep their experiences with your business as positive as possible. Customers leave bad reviews when they’re frustrated and feel disrespected, so do your best to avoid slighting your shoppers. Provide great service, follow up with customer satisfaction surveys to spot problems before they spill over onto review sites, and treat each problem as an opportunity to show your customers how much you care about their experience. That said, listening to upset customers isn’t easy. It can be hard to hear criticism of your business without jumping immediately to your own defense, but it’s something every successful business owner must learn to do. Effective listening is a business skill that you can master with practice, and it’s the best way to resolve customer concerns before they turn into an angry online review. [bctt tweet="The best defense against negative reviews is providing outstanding experiences for customers." username="hostgator"]  

    3. Do carefully encourage your customers to leave reviews

    There are different schools of thought about asking customers to leave online reviews. Yelp officially discourages businesses from explicitly requesting customer reviews. Instead, Yelp recommends that businesses link to their Yelp profile on their site and in their email signature line. “Find Us on Yelp” signs can steer customers toward your reviews without making a direct ask. Other marketing experts, though, advise asking for reviews in a variety of ways, such as inviting fans to upload video reviews to your YouTube channel and offering incentives for leaving any type of – whether it’s good or bad. Ask for online reviewsIf you decide to ask your customers directly for reviews, tread carefully. Most consumers are bombarded with review and feedback requests from every business they interact with and can feel annoyed by multiple requests. They may take their business elsewhere if your review requests or incentive programs make them uncomfortable or call your ethics into question. One effective strategy that got me to leave a review for a cleaning service was the knowledge that my cleaners would get a performance bonus if I left a review that described their work and mentioned them by first name. I was happy to do so, because
    • The cleaners were different at each service call, so if I didn’t leave a review, I wouldn’t have to face disappointed workers during the next housecleaning.
    • The incentive encouraged the cleaners to do great work, while I didn’t get any compensation beyond a clean house, which I was already paying for.
    • There was no request for a positive review, only a review that described my experience and mentioned them by first name.
    • This company already had a track record of following up with me after each service call for feedback as part of their continuous-improvement program.
    Because I felt the review request came from the business owner’s motivation to make her business better, rather than to coerce me into saying something positive, I was glad to leave a review. Knowing that the cleaners would get a bonus for their work made me feel good, too. Those are the do’s. What about the don’ts?  

    3 Online Review Do's for Small Business Owners


    1. Don’t respond right away to negative reviews

    Most of us don’t enjoy hearing criticism, especially if it’s public and/or harsh. As tempting as it may be to dash off an immediate response to defend your business, wait until you’ve had some time to cool off and think through the best way to respond. Read over this list of ways to respond to negative business reviews, and respond appropriately when you’re ready. A sincere apology, an offer to make the situation right, and private communication with the reviewer can help defuse the situation, show review readers that you care about your customers, and possibly even lead the negative reviewer to come back with a more positive review later on.   [bctt tweet="Take a breath before responding to negative #onlinereviews to avoid reacting emotionally." username="hostgator"]  

    2. Don’t disclose private or personal customer information

    Even when you’re responding to glowing reviews, don’t include private or personal information about the customer or their purchase, even if you know them in real life. You may end up tipping off a surprise gift recipient about what they’re getting from Aunt Edna, or you may embarrass a power reviewer who doesn’t want his followers to know what he buys to treat his chronic elbow rash. Discretion in review responses is especially important for healthcare providers, due to HIPAA regulations. The Washington Post has reported on the fines, lawsuits, and other bad outcomes doctors have faced for revealing protected patient information when responding to reviews. If your business falls under HIPAA’s scope, respond to reviews with the utmost care, to avoid violating HIPAA and to show potential patients that you respect their privacy.  

    3. Don’t fake reviews or “pay for play”

    Writing online reviewsEven experienced businesspeople can be tempted to impersonate positive reviews to talk up their business. (Remember the media uproar over Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s embarrassing alter-identify as WFM stock enthusiast ‘Rahodeb”?) Don’t do it, because you’d likely be unmasked at some point, and then your customers’ trust in you will be gone. Along the same lines, don’t tarnish your ethics by offering customers incentives to leave positive reviews. It’s perfectly acceptable to encourage your customers to check out your business profiles and reviews on Yelp, Google, and other platforms. However, your customers’ choice to review--and what they say in their review--should be entirely up to them, uninfluenced by offers from you. If you have a good customer service program in place and are good at responding to customer concerns, those reviews will almost certainly be positive. Want to know how to embed your review site profiles on your website? HostGator Support has the answer for you.   What are your tips for managing online reviews? Please share in the comments!
  • The Grammys, Snappy Edition

    Wednesday, February 1, 2017 by
    The Grammys, Snappy Edition On February 12, many of the world’s greatest musicians will gather to be honored for their craft. Many of those musicians aren’t just good at music though; they (and their marketing teams) have built websites that offer great examples of how to do web marketing well. To honor their skills at another type of craft, we at HostGator have decided to provide our own awards to Grammy nominees based on the marketing savvy on display on their websites. Without further ado, here are 2017’s winners of the Snappys. HostGator WordPress Hosting  

    Best Landing Page

    Winner: Lukas Graham

    A good landing page is focused on trying to get visitors to do one specific thing.  That means the action you want your visitors to take should be clear, the case for doing so briefly made, and the page designed to minimize distractions. People who navigate to Lukas Graham’s website are hit with a page that is a perfect case study in all the best practices of a good landing page. Lukas Graham Landing Page First, you know right away what action this page wants you to take: Sign up. Then, they sum up in just a few words what you get when you do so: exclusive updates and special offers. Other than those words and the sign up box, the only other thing on the page is the small link in the top right to enter the main website. The page checks all the boxes for a high-converting, well-designed landing page.  

    Most Intuitive Web Design

    Winner: Drake

    You want anybody landing on your website to be able to find whatever they’re looking for easily and quickly. Drake’s website has a simple, clean design that puts all the navigation options front and center (well, to the left) where any visitor can find them. Drake Website All the information you could need is right there in the left-hand menu. Our only complaint about Drake’s website: he falls prey to one of our top ten homepage mistakes by including an autoplay video.  

    Most Unique Web Layout

    Winner: Rihanna

    Part of the appeal of a pop star like Rihanna is that she’s always bringing something new and fresh to the scene. In her website, as in her songs and style, Rihanna doesn’t bother with the conventional. She does something entirely different. Rihanna Website While she keeps the left-hand menu for intuitive navigation, the rest of Rihanna’s home page provides a unique visual layout that looks great and allows users to navigate the site via images. When you scroll over each image, you get a little more information to help you decide whether or not to click. In spite of being different than the design choices commonly used on websites, Rihanna’s layout is easy for visitors to figure out and it looks good.  

    Best Website Visuals

    Winner: Sturgill Simpson

    Sturgill Simpson’s website has a distinct illustration style that immediately gives the website character and provides a visual theme that ties back to the artist’s album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Sturgill Simpson Website The whole website keeps up the visual style, making it thematically resonant and attractive throughout.  

    Best Website Photography

    Winner: Beyoncé

    While Simpson does a great job with illustrations, Beyoncé is the queen of great photography. Her website’s design centers on beautiful photos of Queen Bey herself, her costumes, her performances and any other great visual mementos she chooses to share with her followers. Beyonce Website When you photograph like Beyoncé does, why not make that the centerpiece of your website? For bonus points, her website also has a whole section, #Beygood, devoted to highlighting the singer’s philanthropic efforts and actions fans can take to do good.  

    Best Website Animation

    Winner: Anderson Paak

    Some basic animation turns a colorful, alluring image into something you can hardly take your eyes off of, in spite of its simplicity. For a cool touch, the animation on Anderson Paak’s home page is even slightly interactive. Anderson Paak Website On top of the neat effect the animation has, the page manages to clearly communicate the main thing it wants every visitor to know: where to buy the artist’s music.  

    Best Mobile Site

    Winner: Adele

    With nearly 60% of all searches now happening on mobile devices, no website can afford not to have a mobile friendly version. Adele’s website works great on mobile.  It’s visual, the CTA buttons are all big enough to see clearly and click comfortably on a mobile device, and you can scroll down to see your different options.
    Adele Mobile    Adele Mobile    Adele Website
    Adele’s marketing team clearly gets how important mobile is and how crucial it is to provide an intuitive, easy experience to visitors on a mobile device. Her mobile website gets it right; many brand websites could learn a thing or two from it.  

    Best Website

    Just as the Grammys do, we’ve left the most important category for last. With so many websites to choose from, all of which show different strengths, this isn’t an easy category to choose a winner in, but decisions must be made. For 2017, our choice for Best Website from a Grammy contender goes to….

    Winner: Sturgill Simpson

    The illustrations on the website look great, they tie into the album’s theme, and the website checks a lot of important marketing boxes. The main page has clear CTAs: Sturgill Simpson CTA The navigation options are clear and intuitive: Sturgill Simpson Navigation Every page has a CTA to sign up for email updates at the bottom: Sturgill Simpson Bottom CTA And it’s optimized for mobile:
    Sturgill Simpson Mobile Website   Sturgill Simpson Mobile 3   Simpson Mobile Website 2
    All in all, it does enough right to merit our biggest award of the year. To some degree, musicians have different marketing goals and best practices than a lot of other brands, but every business can learn from looking at good website examples and analyzing why they work. Consider if there’s anything you can borrow from this year’s "Snappys" winners to make your own website stronger.