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  • What is VPS Hosting?

    Thursday, December 29, 2016 by
    What Is VPS Hosting VPS web hosting is a relatively new form of web hosting that has grown in popularity over recent years. The hosting you choose can make or break your website. There are several different styles of hosting. Which one is best for you will depend upon the needs of your site. Below we dive into VPS hosting, what kind of person uses this style of hosting, and the drawbacks of using a VPS compared to other kinds of hosting. If you’re confused about VPS hosting, then this post should help you get on handle on it!  

    What is VPS Hosting?

    VPS stands for virtual personal server. A physical server is housed in a data center, the location of which depends upon the hosting provider you’re using. A VPS is a portioned part of one of these servers that contains it’s own operating system, bandwidth, and disc space. These physical servers will generally be divided into multiple different VPS, dedicated, or shared servers. A VPS will be used like a dedicated server, and can be customized to the liking of the user. Most shared servers come with an existing hosting environment and certain settings already built-in. A VPS acts like a dedicated server without the cost of having a dedicated server. Plus, they can be customized to your liking, if you have the technical chops. [bctt tweet="Benefits of #VPSHosting: A VPS acts like a dedicated server without the cost of a dedicated server." username="hostgator"]  

    The Pros of VPS Hosting

    Whenever you’re trying to determine the best hosting option for your needs it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each service. Here are some of the most common benefits of a virtual personal server.
    • They are less expensive than a full-fledged dedicated server.
    • They can be customized to your liking and you only pay for what you need.
    • You have a lot more control over your hosting environment.
    • A VPS can grow with your website as its server needs increase.
    • Generally, the support staff are very helpful and can help solve complex technical issues.
     

    The Cons of VPS Hosting

    Of course, a virtual private server isn’t perfect. Just like any kind of hosting environment, there will only be the best hosting for your existing needs. Probably the biggest drawback of VPS hosting is the cost. It’s usually more expensive than shared hosting and does require a lot more knowledge and work on your end. So, if your website isn’t profitable yet, then you might be better off starting with a cheaper hosting package. Also, since the existing market for virtual personal servers is smaller there’s a chance the host you’re using won’t correctly allocate the server resources you need. Think of it similar to airlines, which tend to overbook the airplane, banking on the fact that some people won’t show up. Of course, this leads to people getting booted and having to reschedule their flights. Some server companies oversell their servers, hoping that every site currently using their server won’t have a peak traffic day. When choosing a VPS host, just make sure you choose wisely and do your research.  

    Who Uses This Kind of Hosting?

    Shared hosting is generally for more basic websites. As your needs and traffic levels increase you’ll usually want to upgrade to another style of hosting environment. People generally switch to a VPS hosting environment, because they want more customization and control options. Sometimes website owners will end up using the same settings that they were using with a shared host, but they enjoy having more control over their hosting environment. A VPS is also less technically heavy than a dedicated server, and can be a great bridge into an eventual dedicated hosting setup.   Hopefully we’ve cleared up some of your questions in regards to virtual private servers. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask away in the comments below.
  • Your Post-Holiday Small Business Checklist is Here

    Wednesday, December 28, 2016 by
    Post Holiday Small Business Checklist You may be so over wrapping paper and rush orders by this point, but successful online shop owners know they aren’t finished with the holidays until they’ve done a thorough review of what worked and what didn’t during the holiday season. This will give you the information you need to refine your marketing and product offerings for 2017’s holiday season, and it can help you retool your marketing, fulfillment, and shipping practices ahead of late-winter and spring gift-buying holidays like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and graduation. Recommended WordPress Hosting  

    Define your business holiday season

    First, decide what period you’re including in your holiday review. There’s no official definition of the holiday shopping season, but many retailers start with Black Friday and end with Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, or another date in that range. Use the same date range for all the elements of your checklist below.  

    Review your holiday sales data

    The best way to start is to prepare a profit and loss statement just for your holiday sales period. If you’re not already doing P&L statements, now is a good time to start. Over time, these documents can show you whether your business is growing, shrinking or stuck in place. QuickBooks offers a free P&L template here. While you’re looking at your sales numbers for the P&L, make a note of your:
    • Total holiday season sales
    • Peak days for transactions
    • Peak days for sales totals
    • Best-selling items
    • Worst-selling items
    • Average transaction amount
    • Most common billing ZIP codes
    • Most common shipping ZIP codes
    • If you offered holiday promo codes, percentage of transactions that used them
    • If you offered a free shipping deal, percentage of transactions that used it
    • If you offered gift wrap (free or paid), percentage of transactions that used it
    These numbers will help show you which products and offers performed best, which areas contain most of your customers (and gift recipients), and how your daily transactions and sales totals compared to other times of the year. [bctt tweet="Reviewing how well your holiday sales went? Start with a P&L statement. #bestpractice" username="hostgator"]  

    Calculate your holiday sales season costs

    This information can go into your holiday season P&L sheet. Remember to include seasonal expenses such as:
    • part-time help
    • gift-wrap and additional shipping supplies
    • higher payment processing and fraud-prevention costs
    • seasonal print and/or digital advertising costs
    If you paid for holiday-season print or digital advertising, be sure to include it in your total, too.  

    Review your customer feedback

    Round up all the holiday-season reviews left by your customers on social media and review sites, customer survey results, and feedback from emails and calls, and you’ll get a sense of how well you served your holiday shoppers.
    • Where did you excel?
    • Where can you improve?
    • What were the most common questions from customers?
    Take the time now to sort out any unresolved customer issues to bolster your reputation, maintain those relationships, and save time next holiday season.  

    Think about how you spent your time during the holiday sales season

    Being busy due to holiday sales is a good problem to have, but being too busy can harm your customer service, order fulfillment, reputation, bottom line, and even your personal life. Ask yourself:
    • Did you have enough time to manage your business during holiday sales peaks while still answering customer questions and dealing with problems as they arose?
    • If not, how can you head off those problems next holiday season?
    The solution might be as simple as streamlining your packing and shipping processes. Or it may be that you need to hire seasonal help during holiday sales peaks.  

    Evaluate your holiday season profit (or loss)

    If you made a solid profit during the holidays, scored great reviews from your customers, and had time to manage your business well during the rush, congratulations! You won the small business holiday trifecta. If you were overworked, you can start planning to hire help for next year, and if your reviews were only so-so, you have a roadmap for delivering better customer service. What if your sales, reviews, and time allocation were good but you still didn’t make a profit, or didn’t make as much of a profit as you’d hoped? In that case, it’s time to review pricing and costs to see where you can make adjustments. Pay special attention to these areas:
    • Packing. If you sell and ship fragile or delicate items, your packing supply costs will increase along with your sales. Shop around for better prices on boxes, tape, bubble wrap and other must-haves, and hold onto recycled packing materials for peak sales times.
    • Shipping. If you offer free shipping, make sure the cost is built into your product prices. If shipping rates are proving to be a turnoff to your customers, compare your carrier and delivery speed options along with the costs of tracking and insurance. There’s no reason you can’t offer shipping options with more than one carrier if those options will cover your customers’ expectations at rates they’re willing to pay.
    • Advertising. Track your ad results very carefully to see which types of ads converted customers and which types underperformed. Going forward, focus just on the ad types that worked.
    • Pricing. If your shipping, advertising, and other costs are as low as you can get them, sales are strong, and you’re still not profitable, consider that your pricing may be too low across the board. As a small business owner, you’ll never be able to compete with retail giants on price, but you may be able to outdo the competition on customer service. In fact, that’s what experts recommend. The Harvard Business Review in 2015 noted, “Perhaps the most successful retailers this holiday season will be the ones who compete on customer experience.” Make sure your customer service is excellent, then raise your prices and monitor the results.
    The good news about making cost and price adjustments now is that you have plenty of time to test and refine them before Black Friday 2017. Consider Valentine’s Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day, and graduation season early test runs for improvements to your business, and get your business ready for the 2017 winter holidays
  • 5 Tips To Rejuvenate Your Creativity And Brainstorm Great Blog Topics

    Tuesday, December 27, 2016 by
    How to brainstorm great blog topics The word blog is originally derived from the phrase web log. By its very definition a blog is a consistent online log that is regularly updated. The question is… are you consistently publishing posts to your blog? Because if you’re not, you’re missing out on site traffic, customer engagement, and sales opportunities. We understand that writer’s block gets in the way, plus who has time to write on top of running a business? However, we assure you that if you can stick with some of these ideas, you’ll be better positioned for entrepreneurial success. It’s worth it. And you may even find that they won’t take up as much of your time as you think.  

    1. Above all, know your audience.

    If you have no honest clue what kind of people make up your audience, back up and figure that out by creating an audience persona. Everything you write should be filtered through what your audience wants. You’ll need an authentic voice, but use it in a way that speaks to your customers and makes you relatable. Filtering your thought process through your average customer’s day will enable you to generate endless content ideas. Ask yourself: what are they searching for?; what will make their day easier?; what will make them more successful?; what do they do for fun?; what inspires them? Then write about some of those ideas. Create Your Blog  

    2. Check an annual calendar.

    Holiday sales and events are a great blog-writing starting point. From Small Business Saturday to Valentine’s Day, or even more local events in your neighborhood -- these are all opportunities to engage your audience. To start, we recommend checking out:  

    3. Expand your About Us page.

    Web content on your site is for your About Us page, while a blog can be thought of more as your About Everything page. This doesn’t mean you need to publicly write about your relationship with mom, but do use your blog to share more of who you and your team are. Be real with your customers and expect big returns. Consider writing about:
    • Vacations
    • Milestones: Births, graduations, marriages
    • Pets
    • Fun office activities
    • Customer testimonials  
    • Employee success
    • Customer success
    • Philanthropy
     

    4. Create long-lasting evergreen content.

    Evergreen blog content is the key to success because it’s designed to last a looooooooooong time. The more relevant a piece of online writing is over time, the better it is for SEO and for your business. These can be things like:
    • FAQ’s - Listen to your customers and you’ll find that they often seek answers to the same frequently asked questions. Write these down and publish them in a blog post. Save yourself the time of answering them later, and proactively help out new clients.
    • Product Descriptions - Describe the benefits of each of your products.
    • Product Walkthroughs - How to use a specific product or service.
    • Resources - Share tools or business resources that make you successful. Your customers will perceive you as an authoritative industry leader and thank you for it. Bonus: If you’re an affiliate, this is a great place to make a sale.
     

    5. Write what inspires you.

    Finally, write about what motivates you to succeed. Write about why you started your business in the first place and why you continue to carry on. Not sure what else inspires you? How about…
    • Favorite movies
    • Music
    • Podcasts
    • TED Talks
    • Books
    • Public speakers
    • Family, friends, church
      Robert Rose, the Chief Strategy Officer at Content Marketing Institute says “Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content Marketing is showing the word that you are one.” Use these blog-writing ideas to show your audience who you are. Have other blog-writing tips? Anything particular topics that have been most successful for you? Let us know in the comments!
  • 5 Steps To Start Your Fitness Blog

    Tuesday, December 27, 2016 by
    Start Your Fitness Blog If you’re here, then I’m guessing you have a passion for health and fitness and you’d like to share that with the world. Luckily for you that’s exactly what this blog post is about. With the new year upon us, it's the perfect time to launch your blog, as people are looking for help to improve their fitness more than ever. There are hundreds of blogs started every single day, so it’s important you do a lot more than just start a blog without a plan of attack. As a lover of health and fitness you’re probably extremely familiar with plans of all kinds. So, our blog launch plan below shouldn’t be too much of a stretch. Below we outline the steps you need to follow if you’d like to start your very own fitness blog. Create Your Blog  

    1. Understand Your Niche

    As much as you’d like it to be true, not every person in the world is going to read, or even enjoy, your blog. Your blog should be focused on a very specific group of people. This might seem limiting, but the internet has truly made even the smallest niches extremely profitable. Plus, the smaller your niche in the beginning the easier it’ll be for you to build authority, which then stays with you as you expand out into other areas of the fitness landscape. For example, do you create fitness routines for women who’ve just had their first child? Or maybe you specialize in bodyweight fitness for those sick of the gym? For example, take a look at the successful Fit Found Me blog run by HostGator customer Stephanie Miller. She creates motivational content for women over 40.Fitness blog niche Remember, the niche you start in doesn’t always have to be the niche you finish in either. Your blog will evolve over time, just like you do.    

    2. Choose Your Domain and Platform

    When choosing your domain name it can be helpful to think of something brandable. However, you want to make sure the domain name you choose isn’t incredibly trendy, or could become outdated rather quickly. Some fitness professionals choose to use their own names and build a brand around that. While, others choose a brandable domain that speaks to their target market, such as Nerd Fitness. After you’ve settled on your domain name it’s time to decide what platform you’ll rely on to build your blog. There are literally dozens of choices, but one of the best platforms available for blogging is WordPress. It’s free and there are hundreds of fitness-related themes you’ll be able to use that you can customize to your liking.  

    3. Plan Your Launch

    It’s important not to over-plan. Often, pulling the trigger is more important that spending too much time planning out your blog and never launching it. You know what they say... started is half done. You learn more in the day-to-day trenches of blogging than you do just sitting back and thinking about it. To plan your launch effectively we recommend setting a date a month into the future. That’ll give you enough time to create a catalog of blog posts, so you can deliver a steady stream of content while you focus on other aspects of your launch. Remember, your website doesn’t have to be perfect in the beginning either. Often, the simplest websites convert and perform the best. Pick a theme that you love, customize to your liking, and forget about it. HostGator customer Ashley Pitt is the fitness blogger behind A Lady Goes West. Her website combines a simple and clean design with a pop of color to give it a bit of personality. Fitness blog inspiration   

    4. Launch With a Bang

    Your launch is your chance to let the world know you exist. You only have one chance to launch, so you might as well give it your all. If you’re starting completely from scratch one of the best ways to build an audience is to tap into existing audiences that already overlap with your own. Chances are there are a ton of existing fitness blogs that will love what you’re writing about. All you have to do is find them and pitch them a guest post with a call-to-action back to your website. Combine this with the existing content already being published on your blog and you can bet that some of those readers will become fans of your work. It’s important to queue these guest posts up in advance, so they can all go live around the same time as your launch. This will make it appear as if you’re everywhere online and give off the aura of authority.  

    5. Focus on Your Content Strengths

    As you grow your platform one thing you’ll want to focus on is traffic. After all, what’s the point of blogging if no one is going to read what you’re writing? We focused on guest blogging above as a great way to build initial relationships with readers in your niche. But, there are still multiple ways for you to reach your ideal market. For instance, if you’ve discovered that guest blogging and writing isn’t quite your thing, you could try video blogging instead. Or take pictures and create tutorials for the various workouts you’ve created. Share these on Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. #FitnessBlogger Decide what you like best and where your strengths lie. Then create content that’s in alignment with that. We hope the steps above will be enough to help you get your fitness blog started on the right path.   Any questions about getting your fitness blog started? Feel free to reach out in the comments below.
  • Everything You Need To Include On Your Social Media Calendar

    Tuesday, December 27, 2016 by

    Social Media Calendar

    Social media marketing could conceivably be done in 30 minutes a day, once you get into the full swing of things. A lot will depend on how large and popular your brand is, how much you are able to automate, and how much social media experience your people have in the first place.

    One of the biggest mistakes people make for their social media calendar is creating a calendar for just the things you publish. But you will be doing much more than publishing. 

    • You will need time to come up with unique campaigns and content for each network.
    • You will need to spend time reviewing what has been said about your brand, your products, your services, and your industry.
    • You will need to respond to your potential and current customer inquiries throughout the day.
    • You will need to review analytics to determine what is working and what isn't.
    • You will need to read about what new features are being released on each network your company uses to ensure that your strategy is as relevant as possible.

    In other words, social media requires commitment. Hence, think about how many people will be handling your social media and how long they will have every day to handle your social media, and consider the following for each social network when planning the social media calendar for you and your team.

    HostGator Website Builder

     

    Facebook

    HostGator Facebook

    With Facebook, you can create different entities to help you market your business: personal profiles, business pages, and groups. You have to have a personal profile to create a business page, and you have to have a personal profile to create and participate in groups where your ideal customers are active.

    Here are some of the main tasks you must complete to have a successful Facebook presence:

    • Create a Facebook page and post updates at least once a day. You can actually publish daily or schedule your updates once a week via a variety of social media management tools.
    • Utilize video when possible to get better reach. Live video is the most popular (at time of publishing).
    • Promote your page on your website, email signature, and other social networks to build up your Facebook audience.
    • Monitor your notifications and reply to incoming messages, comments, visitor posts to your page, and reviews.
    • Use your personal profile to invite your friends to become fans (if applicable), link to your page as your current workplace (under the about tab), and share your most recent Facebook page posts publicly.
    • Use your personal profile to engage with your target customers in Facebook groups. The goal isn't to advertise your business, but to simply bring more visibility to you and your business. Unless advertising is allowed, in which case, advertise.
    • If there isn't a group that your ideal customers can come to discuss issues regarding your industry, create it. For example, a vet that creates a local pet owners group would have the ideal group for their ideal customer base.
    • Create retargeting ads to people who have visited your website but did not complete a specific conversion goal (submit a lead form or make a purchase) and remind them of the services or products they viewed.
    • Create ads targeted towards your ideal customers to introduce them to your products and services.
     

    Twitter

    HostGator Twitter

    With Twitter, marketing is a little simpler since there is only one thing you have to create: your Twitter profile. Here are some of the main tasks you must complete to have a successful Twitter presence.

    • Create a Twitter account and tweet from it several times a day. You can actually publish daily or schedule your updates once a week via a variety of social media management tools.
    • Promote your profile on your website, email signature, and other social networks to build up your Twitter audience.
    • Monitor your notifications and reply to mentions and direct messages.
    • Save a search for anyone who mentions your business, unique products, or services that may not have used your @username so that you can reply to them.
    • Save a search for people having conversations about products or services that you can sell to them. For example, if someone were to tweet that they need a new hosting company tool, @HostGator would be there to reply.
    • Create retargeting ads to people who have visited your website but did not complete a specific conversion goal (submit a lead form or make a purchase) and remind them of the services or products they viewed. Remember that ads will also need to be monitored for comments.
    • Create ads targeted towards your ideal customers to introduce them to your products and services. Remember that ads will also need to be monitored for comments.
     

    LinkedIn

    HostGator LinkedIn

    With LinkedIn, you can create different entities to help you market your business: personal profiles, company pages, showcase pages, and groups. You have to have a personal profile to create a company page, you have to have a company page to create a showcase page, and you have to have a personal profile to create and participate in groups where your ideal customers are active.

    Here are some of the main tasks you must complete to have a successful LinkedIn presence.

    • Create a company page and post updates at least once a day. You can actually publish daily or schedule your updates once a week.
    • Create showcase pages to highlight popular products you offer. For example, Microsoft has a company page, and they also have showcase pages for Microsoft Office, Microsoft Cloud, Microsoft Surface, and other products.
    • Promote your company page on your website, email signature, and other social networks to build up your LinkedIn audience.
    • Monitor your notifications and reply to comments on your page.
    • Use your personal profile to engage with your target customers in LinkedIn groups. The goal isn't to advertise your business, but to simply bring more visibility to you and your business. Unless advertising is allowed, in which case, advertise.
    • If there isn't a group that your ideal customers can come to discuss issues regarding your industry, create it. For example, a senior facility that creates a local caregivers group would have the ideal group for their ideal customer base.
    • Create ads targeted towards your ideal customers to introduce them to your products and services. Remember that ads will also need to be monitored for comments.
     

    Instagram

    HostGator Instagram

    Instagram has the simplicity of Twitter in the fact that you only have one entity to work with: your profile. The downside of Instagram is that it is not as easy to schedule updates to their network. Here are some of the main tasks you must complete to have a successful Instagram presence.

    • Create an Instagram profile and post images or video at least once a day. You can actually publish daily or schedule your updates once a week via a variety of social media management tools. The only difference is that instead of the update being published automatically, you will get a notification on your mobile device to publish the update at the scheduled time.
    • Utilize Instagram Stories to reach the top of your follower's news feed by updating it often.
    • Promote your profile on your website, email signature, and other social networks to build up your Instagram audience.
    • Monitor your notifications and reply to comments on your posts, mentions, and direct messages.
    • Convert your profile to a business profile when the option becomes available in your settings. This will give you access to insights, additional contact options for your profile visitors, and the ability to promote your posts from inside the Instagram app.
    • Create retargeting ads (via Facebook Ads Manager) to people who have visited your website but did not complete a specific conversion goal (submit a lead form or make a purchase) and remind them of the services or products they viewed. Remember that ads will also need to be monitored for comments.
    • Create ads (via Facebook Ads Manager) targeted towards your ideal customers to introduce them to your products and services. Remember that ads will also need to be monitored for comments.
     

    Additional Networks

    HostGator YouTube

    In addition to the above networks, you also have many others to choose from, some of which are industry-specific or simply more important to some industries than others. For example, these are the tasks you must complete to be successful on the following networks:

    • YouTube - Post videos or create playlists regularly. Create video ads. Review your analytics to determine view and engagement rate for your videos along with the subscription rate for your channel.
    • Pinterest - Pin images and videos regularly. Create promoted pins. Review your analytics to determine your top pins based on views and engagement.
    • Snapchat - Post content regularly (mobile only). Big brands could look into advertising and local businesses could look into Geofilters.
     

    In Conclusion

    As you can see, there is a lot more to consider when it comes to your social media calendar. When you are drafting next month's social media calendar, be sure to include everything—from campaigns to analytics. Then you will really see what it takes to maintain your social media marketing strategy.