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  • What’s a Progressive Web App, and Does Your Site Need One?

    Monday, May 21, 2018 by
    progressive web apps

    Why So Many Sites Are Building Progressive Web Apps

    Remember a couple of years ago when everyone was telling site owners to implement responsive design for smartphone users? Responsive design still matters, but the mobile-usability goalposts are moving toward progressive web apps (PWAs). register domain name

    What are PWAs?

    PWAs occupy the space between desktopssites with responsive mobile display and full-blown mobile apps that users have to download and install. PWAs load fast, get right to the point, use minimal data, work offline, send push notifications and put icons on users' homescreens, all without the development investment in an app. Is a PWA right for your site? If so, how can you build one? Let's take a look. Google has the definitive list of PWA criteria, but in very simple terms, PWAs are web sites that act like apps. PWAs are at least twice as fast as responsive websites, which means that even if you have a responsive template to make your site as mobile-friendly as possible, a progressive web app may still offer some specific advantages, depending on what your site does and what your goals are.  

    What are the advantages of PWAs?

    Progressive web apps can benefit retailers, information providers, NGOs, and their users.  

    1. PWAs can boost sales

    Many retailers who add PWAs report mobile sales growth, because PWAs help overcome some of the issues that cause mobile shoppers to bail out before buying, such as difficult navigation, slow load times, and fussy data-entry at checkout. After launching its progressive web app, cosmetics company Lancome saw a 17% increase in mobile revenue in the US market. AliExpress, the China-based merchant marketplace, saw conversion rates rise by 104% after its PWA went live. Clearly, customers are happy to make purchases on their phones as long as the process is easy, and PWAs can make it so.

    2. PWAs load fast and use less data

    Most smartphone users will wait 3 seconds tops for your site to load. After that, they're gone. A PWA speeds up load times, which is good for all users, whether they're impatient city dwellers who are multitasking at top speed or people in rural, backcountry, or developing areas who want to make the most of their limited connectivity. A good non-retail example of a PWA is the UN's ReliefWeb. The huge humanitarian-crisis information portal has a full site (below, left) with maps, slideshows, a Twitter feed, and more. The site loads fast for people using the type of internet connection common in major Western cities. But for aid workers in remote locations and disaster zones, it's not as useful as ReliefWeb's “lite” site (below, right), which debuted in December 2017. The PWA distills the content to easy-to-scroll headlines and a small navigation menu.
    progressive web app vs regular websiteprogressive web app example website</center

    3. PWAs work offline

    Your visitors can pin your site to their smartphone homescreens, and every page on a PWA will load while the user's device is in airplane mode. If you want your site visitors to be able to scroll your archives—or browse your store—even when they're on an actual plane, in a tunnel, or without internet access for any reason, a PWA may be the way to go. All that said, if you run a site that doesn't sell products or serve people in low-bandwidth areas, and your mobile site already loads fast and is easy to navigate, you may not strictly need a PWA. But because PWAs are easier to make than an app, you might want to have one anyway.  

    How can you build a PWA for your site?

    The good news for site owners who aren't code-savvy is that there's a WordPress plugin for PWAs. After searching in vain for easy PWA conversion options for my own site, which uses WordPress on the Genesis framework, I tried the free version of WordPress Mobile Pack, which comes with a free theme and takes just a few minutes to set up. After I activated the plugin and chose the most current version of the Obliq theme, my desktop site still displayed with the Enterprise theme I've had for a couple of years, while the Obliq theme displayed on my phone's browser. In the plugin's quick start menu on my WordPress dashboard, I set the PWA to display only to me while I played around with the settings. I had the option to upload an icon for users' homescreens, and I picked a color scheme that I liked. The only thing I wasn't sold on in the free version of WordPress Mobile Pack was the Obliq theme, which I think would work better for an image-heavy site than a text-heavy one like mine. The developer offers some paid themes that I think would better showcase my content, and I'll probably end up going with one of those once I'm ready to take my PWA live.  

    What if you want to build your own PWA without using a WordPress plug-in?

    Here are a few resources to get you started.
    • Google Codelab has an 8-step tutorial to walk developers through the basics of converting an “old-timey” desktop website to a PWA.
    • Google's Baseline Progressive Web App Checklist includes some elements that even non-programmers can tackle, like checking the PWA's mobile-friendliness and verifying that the site is served over HTTPS, along with more advanced tasks like installing a service worker and a web app manifest.
    • Once you've met the baseline requirements, there are more than 20 elements on the Exemplary Progressive Web App Checklist, including schema markup, cache-first networking, credential management for sites that require users to log in, and a lot of UI/UX elements.
    • When you're done, you can audit your PWA with Lighthouse in Chrome DevTools to see what works and what needs to be tweaked.
      Adding a PWA to your site can be the work of a few minutes or a big project, depending on whether you use a plugin or get into your site's code. Either way, the time investment can pay off in terms of more sales, better accessibility for users with intermittent or slow connections, and a better mobile user experience.
  • How Your Online Store Can Reach Millennial Shoppers By Reviewing Your Pricing

    Monday, May 21, 2018 by
    review online store pricing and product mix

    Why Now Is a Good Time to Review Your Online Store's Product Mix and Pricing

    Millennials are upgrading their lifestyles. Is your store ready to help them do it? Shoppers age 20-36, as we mentioned in our future of e-commerce post, are driving growth in luxury online retail sales. In the US, Europe, and China, young consumers are spending more freely than before on luxe items—and are expected to do so for years to come. This means that if you've been holding off on adding more expensive products to your shop, this could be the time to go for it, to keep your customers from leaving you and to see better profit margins. But before you invest in new products, you'll want to do a market analysis, find your break-even point for those products, come up with a plan to market your luxury items to young adult shoppers, and create an online shopping experience they'll enjoy and want to experience again. best dedicated server hosting

    How Can You Analyze the Market for Your Luxury Items?

    In general, interest in luxury goods is high among young adults. Consultancy Deloitte found that 55% of US Millennials are “very interested” in “high-end fashion or luxury items.” The percentage is even higher in Italy, the UK, and China. But you'll want more details before you decide whether to invest in high-end products for retail or develop your own brand of luxe goods. Let's say you sell handmade leather wallets but you'd like to add handmade shoes, which are a much costlier product. Through a combination of surveying your existing customers, studying demographic data, and online marketing research tools, you'll want to answer these questions:
    • Who are the target customers for your product?
    • Do they need and/or want what you're planning to offer?
    • Do you have (or expect to attract) enough of these customers to make your investment in the new product profitable?
    • How is the competition presenting these products or similar ones?
    • How can you set your shop apart from competitors selling the same product? (Remember, competing on price is usually a losing proposition.)

    What's Your Break-Even Point?

    Once you know that there are customers who will buy your handmade shoes, you'll need to fine-tune how to price them and figure out how many you'll have to sell before you break even and start turning a profit. To find your break-even point for different retail prices, you can use this clever break-even analysis tool from Harvard Business Review. breakeven point analysis for online store You'll need to know, or have a good estimate of, your:
    • Fixed costs, which are the expenses you'll rack up in developing your shoes, like design software, shoemaking equipment, and the money you're budgeting for general promotions. (If you're buying finished products from a supplier, you can substitute the wholesale cost of your initial goods purchase for product development costs). Let's say setting up your workshop costs you $10,000.
    • Variable costs per product unit, which include the cost of materials and your time to make each pair. Variable costs can also include pay-per-impression digital marketing campaigns. Let's put your materials, labor, and digital marketing costs at $200 per pair.
    • Revenue per unit, which is your retail price. Small-brand handmade shoes are typically priced around $300 per pair.
    • Unit margin, or how much money you'll get to keep after each pair sells.  In this case, it's $100 per pair.
    Plugging these numbers into HBR's calculator (or using their equation) yields a break-even point of 100 pairs of shoes sold at $300 per pair. Raise your retail price to $350, and your unit margin rises to $150 while your break-even point drops to 67 pairs, although it may take you longer to reach your break-even point at the higher retail price.  

    How Can You Market Your Luxury Items to Millennials?

    With your shoes ready to go, your price set, and your break-even point calculated, it's time to let luxury shoppers know you've got the goods. How can you do that? Start with your email list and social media followers. (If your shop doesn't have an Instagram, know that it's a popular channel for major luxury brands trying to reach Millennials.) millennials find luxury items online on brand websites and social media In your messaging, you'll want to include great, share-worthy photos and text that emphasize the “quality and uniqueness” of your items. That's because Deloitte found those two things matter more to the under-35 luxury shopper than legacy brand names do. Promote your company's ethics and sustainable practices, too—89% of US Millennial luxury shoppers in Deloitte's study said they always or sometimes make sure a luxury brand is ethical and sustainable before buying.  

    How Can You Create a Luxury Customer Experience?

    There are two basic elements that can take a basic online shopping experience to luxurious new heights: product details and excellent customer service. Deloitte found that a slight majority of young luxury shoppers in the US prefer shopping online to buying in-store. However, these Millennials also said that being able to try products and get a sense of how they feel are important benefits to in-store shopping. If you're selling your handmade shoes online only, how can you give customers a clear sense of what your goods are like? Invest in high quality product photography, add product videos, and write brief but detailed descriptions of each luxury item you sell. To further encourage new customers to try your products, you'll want to highlight your fair and reasonable return policies, free shipping and expedited shipping options, and guarantees on what you sell. If you're doing double duty as chief shoemaker and customer service rep, remember to make each interaction with your customers as positive as possible. Answer questions about products as quickly as you can, and when people do buy from you, make sure the packaging is impressive, too. If your first foray into upscale products goes well, you may want to expand your offerings to include more high-end, high-margin items. In each case, remember to do your market research first so you can get the most return on your luxury-goods efforts.
  • What Do I Need to Start a Blog?

    Monday, May 21, 2018 by
    what do i need to start a blog

    Follow This Checklist for Starting Your Blog

    You’ve decided to join the ranks of the world’s bloggers. That’s a great idea. A blog can bring so many benefits. But now you have to figure out how to get started. Here are the main steps you need to take to start a blog.

    First, do you already have a website?

    If so, jump to the next section. If not, you need to start your website first. There are four things you must have to launch a website:   1. Domain Name Your domain is the main address for your website on the web. It’s what people will type in to reach your website directly. register domain name A  domain name should be as close to the name of your brand as possible. If the .com for the name you most want isn’t available, brainstorm alternative names or variations on the one you have that will be easy for people to remember. You can buy a domain on its own, but in most cases, you can get one for free when you buy the next thing you need.   2. Web hosting All websites must have web hosting. It’s what keeps your site on the web and accessible to visitors. Most web hosting plans include at least one free domain name and many include helpful add-ons that make creating your website easier, like templates or website builders. Some hosting plans are especially suited to working with popular blogging platforms, so if the blog is the entire reason you’re starting a website, look for a plan that’s designed to support that particular need.   3. Web design Once you’ve claimed your space on the web, you have to actually create the site itself. If you’re not skilled at web design, you can still easily put together your own website with the help of a website builder. hostgator website builder themes If you want something that looks more professional or unique, look into hiring a web designer to create your site for you. If you want the blog to be the main focus of the site, make that clear going in. Your website should be designed to drive people directly to your content.   4. Copy When people land on your website, they’ll want to know where they are and what the site is all about. Before you launch your website, you’ll need to figure out the best words to use to explain to people what your website is and why they should stick around. It’s worth considering a professional copywriter for this part, particularly if you want your website to encourage people to take a specific action – like buying a product. If your goal is mostly just to share your ideas with the world, then you might not need to hire someone for this, but be sure to spend some time researching online copywriting if you do it yourself so you do it right.  

    The 5 Things You Need to Start Blogging

    With all the website basics in place, you can start thinking specifically about the blog now. There are five main things you need to create a blog.   1. A blog strategy Chances are, you want your blog to accomplish something. Otherwise, why not just put your writing into a personal journal? For your blog to be effective at achieving whatever your goals are, you’ll need to take time before you start writing to clearly define a strategy. Determine what your main goals for your blog are and brainstorm a specific plan for how best to achieve them. Think about things like:
    •      Who you want to reach
    •      How often you want to publish new posts (be realistic here!)
    •      The types of content you want to create
    •      How you’ll measure success
    •      How to reach the audience you want
    •      How to keep the audience you find
    Blogging isn’t easy. You’ll get more out of it for the time you put in if you spend a little time upfront deciding exactly what you want to get out of it and how.   2. A blogging platform You have a number of blogging platforms to choose from. WordPress (pictured below) is by far the most popular and is designed to be easy to use, even for brand new bloggers learning the basics. But some other platforms provide benefits you may appreciate, like more customization options or simpler functionality. Review your options and determine which one is right for your needs. WordPress add new post 3. A content schedule And now we reach the hard part – the nitty gritty of keeping a blog going. Creating new content regularly takes time and energy. If you’re going to keep up with it, you need to consistently commit time to getting it done (or hire someone to do it for you). Brainstorm topic ideas in advance and have a calendar planned out for what you’ll be publishing when - before you start writing. Devote time on your schedule daily or weekly, based on how often you plan to publish. Set separate deadlines for writing, editing, and publishing. Your schedule (and your ability to keep it) is one of the most important parts of keeping a blog going. Without it, you’re likely to let it fall off soon after starting.   4. Images At this point, readers expect blog posts to include images. They’re 80% more likely to read your posts to begin with if you add an image to it. Plan on devoting some time (and possibly budget) for finding at least one image to go with each post. You can find high-quality images for free on a number of websites, or even better, make your own. Original images tend to perform better than stock photography, but they do take more time to create.   5. A promotion plan Blogging is competitive. If you’re going to get people to pay attention to your blog posts out of the many, many others out there, you have to do something to get their attention first. That means content promotion is a necessity. Look into different online marketing tactics for increasing awareness of your blog. Consider getting involved in social media, guest posting on other relevant blogs, and teaming up with influencers. You’ll probably need to try out a few different types of promotion tactics to get a feel for what works best for your audience and blog. Pay attention to your analytics as you go so you can measure what promotion efforts get you results.  


    Several of the things you need to start a blog are simply a matter of getting the structure into place, but some of the most important parts of the process are ongoing. Be prepared to commit real time and energy to the process. For your blog to be successful, you have to put the work in. But if it connects with the audience you most want to reach, it will be well worth it. Creating a blog
  • The Small Business Guide to Performing Market Research

    Monday, May 21, 2018 by

    marketing research 101 small business guideMarket Research 101 for Small Businesses

    “Do your market research” is standard advice to people thinking about starting a business. But what does that really mean, and can you afford it? The good news is, there's a lot of useful free market data—although you may have to get reacquainted with your local library to access some of it. In this post, we'll go over the basics of market research, helpful resources, and DIY tools to help you gather the business intel you need. Recommended WordPress Hosting

    What is market research?

    Market research is the homework you do before you start your business to learn as much as you can about your prospective customers, the geographic market where you'll operate, and your industry. The great thing about market research today is that, thanks to massive amounts of consumer data collected by government agencies and research firms, you can get as detailed a picture of your customers, market, and industry as your time and budget allow. At a minimum you'll need to know:
    • Who is the target market for your product?
    • Do they need and/or want what you're planning to offer?
    • Do they have money to spend with you?
    • Do enough of these customers exist to support your business now and in the future?
    • How's the overall health of your industry?
    • Who's your competition?
    • What sets you apart from the competition?
    To find the answers, you'll need to do two types of market research. Primary market research is research you do. Secondary market research is all the demographic and industry data that's out there for businesses to use. The names don't mean that you should do primary market research first and secondary market research second. To be efficient at planning your business, you need a good understanding of the industry, geographic market, general customer characteristics, and projected trends before you invest time and money in conducting surveys and focus groups with primary sources.  

    How do you do primary market research?

    You'll need to identify people who fit the profile of your ideal customers – people who are interested in what you want to sell, have the money to buy it, and will continue to have money to spend with you over time. The way to do this, usually, is with online and maybe phone surveys, based on demographic data you've gathered from secondary sources, in-person connections you've made with your target market, trade and professional groups, and more. The Small Business Administration has a handy 7-page Market Research Worksheet that not only guides you through the basics of setting up a primary research questionnaire but also helps you avoid some newbie mistakes as you go. For online surveys, SurveyMonkey is the most popular option. Not only does the service offer free tools you can use to collect data, there's also a resource library where you can learn how to design your survey, how to finesse tricky topics, how to structure numerical rating scales, and tips on market research. market research surveys If you've already started building your business email list, you can share your surveys with your subscribers to start collecting info. You can also embed SurveyMonkey surveys on your Facebook pages. You can use both SurveyMonkey Audience and Facebook Ads to share your surveys with audiences that match your target customers.  

    How do you do secondary market research?

    There's a lot of good data online, but for some of the most valuable secondary market data, you'll need to either buy access or find a library with access to those databases. Free online resources to get you started include:
    • SizeUp from the Small Business Administration, which lets you research local competitors, benchmark your business against them, and find advertising outlets.
    • American FactFinder from the US Census Bureau can help you determine the size of your target audience, get general demographic data, and gather industry information by state, county, or city. The Census Bureau site has other resources you can explore, too.
    • The Bureau of Economic Analysis has a trove of national and regional data, including personal spending, income, and savings data displayed by quarter. Wonder whether spending on shoes is rising? Find out here.
    At the library, look for these resources:
    • The State and Metropolitan Area Data Book – The more recent, the better. This covers general demographic data like population, employment, education, and more.
    • The Statistical Abstract of the United States – Again, the most up to date edition you can find. This includes data on everything from sexual orientation, healthcare usage, veterans, and lots more to help you refine your research.
    • Databases – Each library system has access to a variety of databases that cost too much for individuals to tap into on their own. Cardholders may be able to use some of these databases online at home, but others may require you to make a trip to a branch.
    These are just a few secondary sources, and there will be a learning curve as you explore, but that's true for just about every aspect of starting a business. Stick with it, ask your library's information specialists for help, and remember that learning to do identify worthwhile market research sources is a skill that will help you as your business grows.  

    How long do you have to do market research?

    After you launch, you always should keep tabs on market trends that affect your industry, your competitors, your geographic market, and your target customers. This can help you when you want to introduce new products or expand into new areas, and it can help you serve your customers better as their needs and income levels change.
  • HTTPS for WordPress: Why and How to Add It To Your Site

    Friday, May 18, 2018 by
    https for wordpress

    HTTPS for Your WordPress Site

    Switching your site over to HTTPS is important in a lot of ways. It’ll not only improve your search engine rankings, but it’ll encrypt any data that’s being transferred from your user’s browser to your server. Overall, you’ll improve your site’s security, trustworthiness, and make your website look good in the eyes of Google. Below we’ll look at why you’ll want to add HTTPS to your WordPress site and offer a series of steps to help simplify the process.  

    What is HTTPS?

    You’ve probably heard of HTTPS, but you’re still not quite sure what it is. For starters, it’s readily visible on most larger websites. You’ll see that their URLs start with “https://“ instead of the standard “http://“. It also includes a small padlock next to the URL as well, which means the site is secure. PayPal SSL Certificate HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transport Protocol Secure and utilizes an SSL certification to establish a secure connection between a user’s web browser and your server. Any information that gets exchanged over this connection is encrypted. This data encryption makes it much more difficult for people to read, or translate, any of the information that might get intercepted over the connection.  

    How HTTPS Can Benefit Your WordPress Site

    You aren’t required to move your site to HTTPS, but it does come with some benefits that might make switching a good idea.
    • Secures sensitive information. If your site handles credit card information or other potentially compromising information, then moving your site to HTTPS is a necessity.
    • Makes your site trustworthy. Moving to HTTPS will not only secure the transfer of information, but it will help make users feel safe and trust that your website is authentic, and you’re actually who you claim to be.
    • Improves your SEO. Having an SSL certificate is a Google ranking factor. It probably won’t give your rankings a huge push, but when it comes to SEO every bit helps.
    It seems that HTTPS is going to be the future of the web. By moving to HTTPS sooner rather than later will help to establish you as the go-to authority in your space, instead of merely waiting and playing catch up. HostGator SSL Certificate

    How to Move Your WordPress Site to HTTPS

    Moving your current WordPress site to HTTPS is pretty straightforward. All you need is an SSL certificate, a host that supports SSL (like HostGator!), and a few plugins to help with URL migration. Below we outline the steps you need to take to move your site from HTTP to HTTPS.  

    1. Install Your SSL Certificate

    The first thing you’ll need to make the switch to HTTPS is an SSL certificate. Your host may provide one for free with your hosting package, or you might be able to purchase or get a free SSL certificate through them. If not, a solid choice is Let’s Encrypt. They’re one of the most popular SSL certificate providers. However, before you purchase an SSL certificate from a third-party source make sure that it’s supported by your host. The process of installing the SSL certificate will depend upon your host, but if your host is using the standard cPanel, then you can install the certificate through your dashboard.

    2. Move Your URLs to HTTPS

    To complete the installation there are a few issues you’ll need to fix. Namely, you’ll need to migrate any internal URLs and links to HTTPS instead of HTTP. One of the easiest ways to do this is to install a plugin called Really Simple SSL. This plugin will update the URL of your site within your site settings and it’ll add a 301 redirect from all the HTTP pages and media to the new HTTPS URL. All you have to do is install and activate this plugin and it’ll get to work adjusting your site’s settings.  

    3. Verify Your Certificate is Active

    With your certificate installed and the Really Simple SSL plugin active, it’s time to verify that everything you did actually worked. To check your site open up your web browser and type in the HTTP version of your website. You should then see this redirect to the HTTPS version of your site. Your new URL should have a green padlock next to it and your URL will read “https://“. Finally, the last thing you’ll want to do is update any offsite link to your new HTTPS URL. The redirect plugin above will take care of this for you. But, you’ll want to adjust any of the links that are in your direct control, such as your social media profiles.   Moving your site from HTTP to HTTPS can be very advantageous. Hopefully, the post above has helped you understand what HTTPS actually is, and how you can move your WordPress site to HTTPS. HostGator customers can add SSL certificates to their site here.