Friday, April 28, 2017 by Casey Kelly-BartonOne of the perks you’re supposed to enjoy when you’re self-employed is the freedom to take time off when you need it. The reality is that for solopreneurs and small business owners, the cultural pressure to keep working is magnified by the fact that you’re ultimately responsible for everything. Americans are famously “under-vacationed,” with less than half of employees taking all the days they’re given. However, you definitely need time to rest and replenish your creative thinking and problem solving skills. Here’s how to make those breaks happen.
Thursday, April 27, 2017 by Greg NarayanIf you just started a blog then you need to learn blogging lessons. You don't need more posts, you don't need a new Facebook page, you need to learn the blogging lessons those ahead of you already know. I know "lessons" doesn't imply too much fun. Don't worry, this is just one blog post and takes 3 minutes to read. You can skip down to the good stuff below if you'd like.
Why keep reading?Alternatively, you can plunder through the blogosphere head first if you want, assuming people will read whatever you write and generally making every mistake we all make. It will still be fun to create a blog but it will take you longer to reach success. You could find yourself three months down the road without any results to show off other than your lonely blog itself. I know because it happened to me (more on that down below). In this article I'm going to give you a head start ahead of other blogs by explaining 10 lessons I learned in my first year of blogging. Nine years ago I was new to blogging. But I observed and questioned everything and now for the past few years have been able to blog for a living. Without that first year, the other eight wouldn't have happened. Granted, this is only one man's advice, but I've interacted with thousands of bloggers and gathered a lot of insight in my time. I hope at least a few of you can benefit from this.
Which types of bloggers should read this?Some of the posts I write go way off track into abstract land and we talk about which images are most profitable and whether PageRank will make a comeback. This is not one of those posts. I want to make sure that if you're one of these types of bloggers you know that this post (and the lessons it contains) are for you: 1. Topical experts If you're an expert on a topic, whether it's gadgets or gardening, you need blogging lessons to work those huge paragraphs of your advice into something more manageable and readable. 2. Business bloggers Anyone who has signed up to blog for their business has to please the CEO, and they're often smarter than you think. A little finesse will go a long way. 3. Ghost writers The ghost blogger is assumed to be the craftiest blogger of all. You must know hundreds of styles and pick from your arsenal which to use at any given moment. So a post like this, where I'm letting you steal my styles, is ideal! 4. Developers Developers often just write in shorthand. It's great for other developers, but you need to learn your audience's voice to get common folks (like your future investors) to read through it all. 5. Personal bloggers who want to blog for a living It's personal bloggers who want to make a living off a blog who need these lessons the most. The ghost writer gets $250 per post on big tech blogs and the developer blogs their notes to make millions off an app someday. They don't necessarily need the income from their personal blog like we do. As I said, it's the solo bloggers who can benefit the most from a fast rise on the learning curve. Read the blogs of anyone who started small and now is a big blogger and they'll constantly talk about what they learned. This was me. We don't have the guidelines corporate bloggers might and have to create our own. For these reasons, let's focus the messages of this post on solo bloggers.
Why you need to learn from those ahead of youBefore I go into several bite-sized lessons you can take away from this post, I want to share a story. This story is about a kid who could have made a huge blog in university and been a success story of his alma-mater. This kid was me.
A topic too lateBack in 2008, I started a blog about stocks. It sounded like a million dollar idea and there were many fewer blogs back then (100,000+ start each day). I was new to stocks and hadn't invested but was taking a course called Money and Credit that made me super curious how it all works. This blog was going to be about my rise to fame trading stocks! Well the stock market crashed the next year. My advice was basically useless and my rise to fame was cut short. In 2010, I turned to blogging about college advice. I recruited about 50 guest writers and we blogged endlessly about advice for new freshmen. This one had more success - we even got free laptops and beverages to review! But the larger sites like College Confidential and College Humor dwarfed our blog and stole our traffic. My rise to fame was basically at a standstill. Thankfully (and this is my first lesson for you) I had knowingly followed one strategy of many of the best bloggers: write about it as you learn it to take people along your journey. [bctt tweet="#Blogging Lesson #1: Write about it as you learn it to take people along your journey." username="hostgator"] The college blog had resulted in several questions about how to even start a blog in the first place, and in mid 2011 I was able to start a free blogging advice community with the few dollars I could spare. By salvaging the value in it, I was able to "fall forward" and land on a newer, more successful venture. The message? My rise to fame was returned to me, but I spent three years learning in order to get there. When you start off blogging assuming it'll be a hit you enter with confidence, but you kick yourself later for not knowing what worked. You need to optimize your time early on if at all possible. The good news is if you generate a whole trail of advice for others to follow, then you'll distill something very valuable to a beginner audience.
10 blogging lessons to keep in mindNow it’s time to get into the bulk of this post. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you'd like to borrow my lessons from nine years in this crazy industry:
1. Direct response copy is your friendI’m starting strong with a tip I’d usually not give out, it’s that good. You will always get more attention on your post in the form of reads, comments and shares if you start out with the problem clearly explained. Then go into the solution. Us laymen readers need to know why you're writing, so follow the steps in direct response copy any time you want to convert knowledge into an actionable article people will respond to.
2. You must find an idolNo matter what type of blogger you are, the easiest way to get inspiration and know that there's more out there for you is to find an idol who's already killing it in your field. Read this person every day and subscribe to their email list. Learn, learn, learn then apply it.
3. A good domain name mattersMeasure twice, cut once. If you're the best blogger ever with a confusing or just misleading domain, you will face unnecessary setbacks. Pick a domain name that reflects your work and the community you hope to build. Humor is a-okay. But blogging on an old domain or a subdomain, like greatidea.tumblr.com, can hurt your credibility.
4. Don't wait for roadblocks to move. Move around them.A big key to rising to success in blogging (quickly) is the ability to avoid roadblocks. Don't try and blast through your writer's block or force a topic that hasn't worked for you. Move on to a new topic. Ask yourself: is what you're working on worth the time, and is it going to get you more of what you want? I see bloggers constantly dwell on a certain design only to trash it later. Don't get bogged down! Step back and focus on what you really want out of your blog (things like comments, shares, popular articles, and a large audience). [bctt tweet="You don't have to move blogging roadblocks! Just stealthily move around them. #inspiration" username="hostgator"]
5. People want to write for youIn every niche and every time, even as I write this at 12:50am, there are people who want exposure. Even if your blog is two weeks old, someone can still help your growth and their own resume by guest posting for you. If you're trying to build a community of readers, consider building a community of authors first. Everyone will share their own work!
6. The 80/20 ruleThe 80/20 rule applied to blogging can mean either:
- 80 percent of the success you achieve comes from a small 20 percent of your activities, or
- You should spend 80% of your time blogging away from your blog and 20% blogging at your blog, not the other way around.
7. Get self-hosted WordPress and a host you can fall in love withThe sooner you get on self-hosted WordPress the happier your life becomes. Instead of wondering why you can't do something, you have the full set of tools used by the web's most famous, profitable, prolific bloggers. HostGator is the solution I used to get my first Wordpress.org site setup using the most basic option available anywhere on the internet, Hatchling, but they now have managed WordPress cloud hosting too. So it's just a decision of whether to get basic WordPress.org, or get super-charged lighting-fast full-throttle WordPress.org. [bctt tweet="The sooner you get on self-hosted WordPress the happier your life becomes. #bloggingadvice" username="hostgator"]
8. Your email list is your #1 priorityI say #1 there because #4 doesn't sound quite as urgent, but the truth is this: if you run a blog you should hook it up with an email list ASAP to start building your community and to show every reader that you're serious about what you're creating. Even if someone doesn't join your email list right away, they'll always be intrigued by some inner community with secret offerings you've created. Just knowing your email list exists will actually make someone a lot more likely to interact with your blog.
9. Behind every success story is heaps of blood, sweat and tearsEvery blogger who packages their advice into a beautiful eBook, course, or blog post has gone through many hard nights and long days to get their blog where they need it to be. You have to love the journey. It's never as easy as they say it is, which makes it all that much more rewarding when you do succeed.
10. Use blue shirt trust to your advantageThe phrase "blue shirt trust" describes the phenomenon that if you wear a blue shirt to interviews or appearances, people are more likely to believe you and inevitably choose you over the competition. My final tip is a lesson that truly applies across blogs and niches and the lesson is this: if you can present yourself in a trustworthy way, you will be far more successful than if you do not, regardless of the content you provide. Whether it's leading with a positive quote, using a reliable WordPress theme, writing in a trustworthy tone, or simply using a blue color scheme, you want to do this.
Learning for blogging successDo not underestimate the value of learning from your blogging ancestors. I don’t want to see you start several blogs before hitting it big - I want the first blog you make to go big. Take responsibility — humble yourself — and pride in learning in every corner of the web. I really hope this post helps, and if you're interesting in going deeper with some more hands on blogging lessons, check out my WordPress blog tutorial below.
What's a blogging lesson that stands out for you? How did it impact your online career? I know the HostGator audience is a savvy group of bloggers and website owners so I’m really curious to hear your thoughts. See you down below in the comments.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017 by Kevin Wood
When you own a domain there’s a lot of things you’ll be able to do with it, beyond building a website on the domain. Naturally, talking about domain name transfers and name servers can get a bit technical and overwhelming, so we’ll bring the process down from the clouds for you.
Below we’re going to examine the differences between transferring the domain to another registrar or user, and changing the name servers altogether. HostGator customers can learn more here.
What Are Registrars?
When you register a domain you choose a certain registrar to register your domain with. Usually, you end up choosing a yearly contract where you’ll have ownership of that domain for a year before you need to renew it again.
Some common domain name registrars include: HostGator, Domain.com, and GoDaddy. The domain name registrar you choose doesn’t matter all that much, but most will differ based upon pricing and the benefits included with your domain.
Remember, your web host and your domain name registrar can be different companies, in which case you’ll just need to change the name servers, which we’ll get to below.
Why Would You Want to Transfer a Domain?
There are a variety of reasons for transferring your domain, but we highlight a few of the most common reasons below:
- You want to merge your host and domain name registrar together.
- You’ve bought a domain that’s currently registered at a different registrar.
- You’ve sold a domain name and need to transfer the domain to the buyer.
Domain Name Transfer Prerequisites
Before you begin the domain name transfer process you’ll want to review the prerequisites below to ensure that you’re not creating any additional headaches for yourself.
- Your domain must be over 60 days old and not have gone through other transfers with 60 days.
- You must know whether or not the name servers will also need to be changed when you switch to a new registrar.
- In some cases, you might need an authorization code and remove WHOIS protection before making the switch.
- Make sure you update all of the domain contact information, as this will be needed to complete the request.
The Domain Name Transfer Process
The domain name transfer process will begin with your current registrar. You’ll put in a request to transfer your domain to a new registrar and be given a set of processes to follow on their end.
The steps required will differ based upon the registrar you’re currently using, and where you’re moving your domain. The transfer usually takes a few days to complete, as there are steps in place to prevent unauthorized transfers.
What Are Name Servers?
Name servers are the secret key for your website to actually show up when people search for it. Essentially, when someone types in your domain name, the name server will then point to the web host where your site is hosted.
Transferring Name Servers
Transferring name servers is the process of pointing your domain to a specific host. Your existing name servers will usually look something like this:
To change your current name servers all you have to do is change the existing name server information to your new host.
Name servers allow you to point your domain towards whatever web host you’re using currently, while transferring a domain deals with the registrar where your domain lives.
Hopefully the post above helped to clear up any confusion between actually transferring a domain and simply changing the name servers.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017 by Shayla PriceAn impressive online presence matters. It’s the difference between visitors learning more about you or losing interest in your brand. To grab your target audience’s attention, upgrade your copywriting skills to engage with visitors. “You can’t transform a crappy painting into a masterpiece with a few brush strokes. Likewise, you can’t transform crappy copy into a persuasive message with a few minor tweaks. You need good copy at the heart of your message,” says Nick Kolenda, author of Methods of Persuasion. Effective copy helps your business sell more products, boost brand awareness, and dominate the competition. Try these seven copywriting tips below to create a memorable visitor experience. Sujan Patel, co-founder of Web Profits. Targeted copy will pinpoint the solution you offer visitors. You’re not just a food blogger or a website designer. People want to know how you can help them with their problems. In the image below, The Art of Sculpting tells you exactly how they serve their potential customers—taking their fitness to a new level.
2. Make the Visitor the HeroLet’s set the record straight: your copy isn't about you, your business's achievements, or even your latest TV appearance. If your desire is to transform visitors into leads (or customers), your copy must focus on your audience and their needs. All the copy should center around helping the visitor. It starts with telling a great story and creating a journey that involves the visitor. Much like the movies, the copy will discuss the challenges and the triumphs of the hero. Copy isn’t always about getting someone to take action. It’s also about etching a unique memory into their minds. That emotion will stay with them after they leave your site.
3. Express Your ValueVisitors are interested in knowing how you can change their lives. What value will you provide to customers to improve their outcomes? This value will separate you from the competition. In-home care startup Honor establishes value quickly on its homepage. Their team offers services to help seniors live better, while offering families peace of mind. Be descriptive in your language and avoid the over-the-top tone. It’s perfectly fine to boast about the benefits of your product. However, you don't want to over-exaggerate. “People don’t want to be sold to. Tone down the hype and write your web copy like you’re talking with your ideal customer face-to-face. Your audience can tell the difference, and will be more likely to participate,” says Christina Walker, a professional freelance web copywriter. To show your value, highlight the results of your services. Get people engaged in doing things differently with your business.
4. Craft a Compelling Call to ActionEffective copy leads visitors to your desired next step, and that's where your call to action comes in. Your website consists of several pages with different purposes. If you’ve worked with marketers, they may have suggested creating pages consistent with your sales funnel. For instance, with new visitors, your goal may be to turn them into qualified leads. The call to action might convince your audience to sign up for a free ebook or checklist. While for your returning visitors who already possess interest in your products, the call to action would be a 10% coupon or a bonus gift after an initial purchase. No matter the call to action, it should speak to the audience’s needs and desires. They should be eager to receive your offering and ready to move down the sales funnel.
5. Add Social ProofYour brand centers around perception. It’s about credibility in the eyes of your future customers. They want to know that your products and services are worth their hard-earned money. Moreover, visitors are curious about whether or not they should associate themselves with your brand. With so much competition in the marketplace, sometimes the only differentiator is the prestige and external validation of your brand. People want to be affiliated with success. We buy cars to transport us from one place to another. So why would anyone want to purchase a Lamborghini or a Tesla? Because customers also seek vehicles to represent their status in society. Leverage social proof, like customer testimonials, to influence your audience. Entrepreneur contributor Gail Goodman agrees: “Do you have a great customer quote that you can include in your e-mail? A brief and convincing quote can add credibility to your campaign. The more real you can make the person to your readers, the better.” Check out this example from Backlinko. Brian Dean backs up his expertise with quotes from industry influencers.
6. Avoid JargonHave you ever sat in a meeting where you didn't understand anything? Everyone was talking in your native language, but every word seemed foreign. You probably felt confused or as if you didn't belong. It’s an overwhelming feeling that just makes you want to stand up and exit the room. That’s a similar feeling your visitors experience when landing on a site stuffed with jargon. They don't understand the content, so in a split second, they decide that this brand isn't for them. To keep your target audience interested, you must speak their language. Instead of using unfamiliar terms, stick to words your audience knows. Pay attention to the words your current customers use to describe your business. Use social media to learn how your audience talks about your brand. With this insight, you can create copy that invites them into your website experience.
7. Experiment With Different VersionsYour first draft of copy isn’t your last. Just like other aspects of business, the best way to learn if something works is to test it. So try not to fall in love with your copy. Remember that every word on the page is to help visitors understand you better. It’s important to keep that principle in mind when A/B testing your copy. Experts suggest changing only one variable in your experiments. You might test the headline, then the call to action. If you test everything at once, you’ll lose sight of what your visitors actually like about your copy. Below is an example of an A/B test on the call-to-action-button text. The new variation focused on what the company’s offer provided the visitor. Be willing to experiment with your copy. It’s the best way to learn what connects with your visitors.
Conveying Your Brand MessageWhen visitors land on your site, your goal is to gain their interest and establish trust quickly. Copywriting is a critical component to telling your story to your audience. Write compelling copy that makes every visitor the hero, and use social proof to add to your credibility. Improve your website with better copywriting.
Monday, April 24, 2017 by Kevin WoodYour wedding is an incredibly special day in your life. Building a beautiful website around the day is a great way to keep guests informed and it can help commemorate the magic. With a wedding website you can communicate the details about your wedding like: location, directions, accommodations and gifts. All the needed information will be in one place, there is no need to spend hours on the phone speaking to each guest. Beyond highlighting certain wedding details, you can use your site to showcase beautiful pictures, videos and more, so you can remember your big day anytime you’d like. If you’re utilizing WordPress for your wedding site, then there are all kinds of plugins you can use to extend the functionality of your website and make it do whatever you wish. Below you’ll find five plugins that are invaluable additions to any wedding website.
1. WeddingPressWeddingPress is the perfect all-in-one wedding plugin for your WordPress site. This plugin is great in that you’ll really only need this single plugin to make your wedding site more functional and useful. Whether you’re looking for a way to add a gift list, create a way for guests to RSVP, or even create meal lists, then this plugin is a good choice. Some of the most useful features of this plugin include:
- Creating an online gift list that syncs with PayPal for easy payment
- Social media and email list integration
- Easily create an online guest list for quick RSVP
- Let guests choose their preferred menu options
- Easy event registration
- A built-in form manager
- PayPal integration (if payments are necessary)
- Confirmation emails for all registrants
- Classic Google Maps and Street-view support
- Widgetized for easy placement
- Re-sizable to fit your site
- Can add map markers, animations, and images
- An easy process to add items to registry and link to existing stores
- Large number of stores to choose from
- Easily add your URL through a shortcode