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  • Pros and Cons of Free Website Builders

    Friday, October 21, 2016 by

    Free Website Makers

    So you’re finally ready to start building a website for your business! There is a plethora of website builders available on the web that you can use. Like most, you’re searching around for the best deal and are starting to notice ones that are offering free services. You’re intrigued! They look simple enough—and if you’re like the vast majority of people out there who aren’t web designers by trade—you might think that what they offer is pretty attractive.

    But as it is with many things in life, free is never free.


    Free Website Builders Are Never Really Free

    Yes, almost all website builders offer free plans and that’s not to say you shouldn’t use them. Many of the best ones on the market offer free plans as a starter. Pretty much all website builders, in general, offer a free plan in order to acquire new business. It’s a great marketing strategy for them. It works, and drives millions of signups. After all, who wouldn’t want something for free?

    Even HostGator offers a free plan with their new website builder. So, why this post against free website builders?

    The problem with most free website builders is that while they are a great starting place, they're typically inadequate for fully building out a professional website. 

    In most cases, you’ll sign up and invest a lot of time and effort building your free site, only to find the result to be inadequate. At this point, you will either have to upgrade or switch to a new service and repeat the process all over again. Either way, you’ve caused yourself a lot of undue frustration.

    This is one of many ways HostGator's builder is different. They offer a free plan like everyone else, but once you decide you want to unlock additional features, it's a seamless upgrade and all of your previous work is saved. HostGator didn't want to come out with just another website builder. Instead they sought to improve upon what was already out there.

    In reality, a business cannot—and in my opinion, should not—offer you a service for completely free. Everyone needs compensation for offering a service. Free is never free and here are some reasons why:


    Limitations of Free Website Builders

    Although every website builder may differ, here is an overview of some common limitations that come with free plans.


    Limited number of pages

    Many free website builders typically limit the number of pages you’re allowed to create. For example, they may allow you to publish up to five pages per website. Most sites will need more pages and in order to expand your content, you will be required to upgrade to a paid plan. 

    How is HostGator's website builder different? HostGator's free plan allows for six pages.


    No domain name

    Free plans often do not allow you to use your own URL. They will assign you a free URL to use which consists of your business name plus their own URL. For example, instead of, you’ll be stuck with All in all, not very professional.

    How is HostGator's website builder different? HostGator includes the free builder with their web hosting, so you can use the product on your own domain.


    Company branding

    Almost always, free builders require their branding to be displayed on your web pages, either in the body of the page or in the header or footer. For example, Wix's free plans come with branded badges that aim to direct users away from your site to purchase their own builder plan:

    Create A Wix Site Ad How is HostGator's website builder different? HostGator's free plan does include a default Snappy favicon (the small icon that appears next to your website name in the browser tabs), and a link to HostGator in the footer. You can remove both of these once you upgrade your plan. Snappy Favicon  


    This is another big one. Many ‘free’ website builders will require ad placements on your site. This is how they justify the free-ness of their offer. You pay nothing, and they get to serve their ads to your people. Some may even go so far as to inject affiliate links onto your page. You may be getting something for free, but it’s taking you down a notch or five in the eyes of your potential clientele. You may even lose a lot of people along the way who click on these ads, just because you thought you could save a few bucks. 

    How is HostGator's website builder different? With the exception of the two branding elements mentioned above, none of HostGator's builder plans place ads on your site. The only ads you'll have will be the ones you place there of your own volition.


    Limited storage

    Both free and paid builders will limit your allocation of bandwidth and storage, but with free builders you’re given much less. You may only have a couple megabytes of storage to use, which will severely limit you in terms of content and prevent you from hosting high quality images or other media.

    How is HostGator's website builder different? Because HostGator's free builder is included with your hosting plan, you can enjoy the unmetered bandwidth that comes with all of their plans.


    Limited or no customer support

    You might not even get any customer support at all with a free builder (which is understandable—after all, it is free), so if your site is having issues, you’re pretty much on your own.

    How is HostGator's website builder different? HostGator provides 24/7/365 Live Chat and telephone support for all of its products, including the free builder plans.


    Restricted features

    Free builders limit the variety of nifty features that you might find useful or want to have. These might include an SSL certificate, access to an online store (ecommerce), website analytics, plugins, add-ons and domain-based email accounts, or it may be as basic as not being able to use the fonts you like or being stuck with a site template that you don’t like. Frustrating, either way.

    How is HostGator's website builder different? HostGator's free builder plan comes with PayPal integration, SEO markup tools, and 100+ mobile-friendly templates. Since the free version comes included with hosting, you'll also receive unlimited domain-based email accounts, $100 credit offers for Google AdWords and Yahoo/Bing, and more depending on which hosting package you choose.

    HostGator Website Builder


    So Free is Not Best. What Now?

    Now that you know what the limitations are on free, it should be easy to understand why the value just isn’t there as a long-term solution. Free website builder plans are great for trying out different site builders and getting the hang of how they work. Once you've found one you like, you can upgrade to unlock all the features you'll need to fully build out a professional site.

    Website builders are complicated and sophisticated tools. They undoubtedly took a lot of time and resources for the company to create and manage, so it’s understandable that these free builders are limited. It is rather unfair to expect a company to provide a complex service such as this, for free.

    Keep this in mind: you get what you pay for.

    It’s unrealistic when people say they want a website, but they don’t want to spend any money on it. If you have a budget, even a small one, there are professional website building solutions that are easy enough, affordable enough, and accessible enough that you shouldn’t have to think twice.


    How Much Should You Pay?

    Hiring a professional web designer could cost thousands. Doing it yourself will cost significantly less, but 1) you’re not a web designer and 2) you will need to allocate enough time to get the job done.

    It’s true, website builders can be more expensive than hand-coding it yourself, but keep in mind these are complex, feature-rich tools that provide an all-in-one service and hosting platform. Aside from their monthly or yearly subscription fees, you won’t likely need to pay much more than their nominal fee to get your site up and running. Just pick a template, customize it with your branding and away you go.

    Depending on the plan you choose, a website builder can cost anywhere from $10/month to $20 or more. Options such as eCommerce, email hosting, and bandwidth, are some of the things that might drive your cost up. At $6.99 and $15.99/mo, respectively, both of HostGator's plans are especially affordable, given the marketplace.

    The most important thing here is not to skimp out on your budget. Already, you’re going to save yourself a significant amount by doing it yourself, but it’s still going to be challenging. It takes time and it takes money. And as a new business owner, you’re probably already realizing what a precious commodity those two things are.



    Hopefully, this article has given you a little insight as to the potential pitfalls of free website builders. Sure, they might be great for your personal page or for that zen dog yoga blog you’ve been thinking about starting, but if you’re serious about what you do, you probably want to appropriately convey that to your customers. Ultimately, you want to look professional, and building your site with a free website builder is just not going to get you there.

    If you feel confident that a website builder is what you need (and there are some pretty cool ones out there), bypass the ‘free’ options and sign up for a premium builder offered by a well-known company. You will need to invest in something that will deliver the design tools, as well as the functionality required, to support your business practices.

    So put aside some time, because you’re going to need to do some planning. You’ll definitely learn a lot about web design best practices and current trends along the way, but the time you invest into your website now will pay dividends in the future.

    Try the HostGator Website Builder today!

    Build My Site!

  • Happy Birthday, Snappy!

    Thursday, October 20, 2016 by
      History of HostGator In honor of our fourteenth birthday, we present to you a timeline of our favorite milestones in HostGator and Snappy's history.

    A birthday gift for you!

    Did we mention we're hosting a BIG sale on our cloud, shared, and managed WordPress hosting plans today? Head over to our home page to enjoy your special birthday discount (ends Saturday, October 22nd at 11:59pm Central).  

    October 22, 2002

    HostGator is founded in a dorm room at Florida Atlantic University. Fun Fact: The company was almost called instead of! Snappy is born. Hatchling Snappy  


    HostGator celebrates our 100th customer in February. Snappy celebrates his first birthday and says his first word: “web site.” Baby Snappy  


    Just one year later, HostGator reaches 1000 customers. Snappy reaches his terrible twos and accordingly has his first temper tantrum when he loses his favorite stuffed teddy bear. Order is restored once he realizes it was hidden under the covers all along. Sleeping Snappy  


    HostGator gains customers in the tens of thousands, and gets recognized for our award-winning reseller hosting with a Best Reseller Hosting Award from At age three, Snappy starts riding a tricycle around his neighborhood. This will come in handy later when HostGator sponsors the Tour du Rouge for five years from 2010 to 2014. HostGator Tour Du Rouge  


    HostGator launches our first international office in Toronto, Ontario. Oh, Canada! The company relocates our headquarters from Boca Raton, Florida, to Houston, Texas, where we've been ever since. HostGator Texas Now four years old, Snappy learns how to tie his shoes and discovers his favorite candies are blue M&Ms. He also adopts his first dog!



    The HostGator blog publishes its very first post. In international news, HostGator opens an office south of the equator in Brazil! HostGator Brazil Office Five-year-old Snappy graduates from kindergarten, where he quickly became the class pro at playing leap frog (the big alligator tail helps). Snappy Graduation  


    HostGator reaches our first 100,000 customers in the summer and starts offering unmetered space and bandwidth as part of all hosting packages. Snappy joins a Little League team. The six-year-old loves playing shortstop! Baseball Snappy  


    Just a year later, HostGator reaches 200,000 customers. We also begin offering toll-free numbers with all Business-level hosting packages for no additional cost. Now aged seven, Snappy gets into comic books and decides he wants to be a superhero when he grows up. Superhero Snappy  


    HostGator opens our second Texas office in the state capital, Austin. We also win a Customer Service award from The Best Web Hosting Service. At age eight, Snappy spends a lot of time building forts with his friends and learning to play basketball. Basketball Snappy  


    HostGator reaches over 500 employees and our support team receives its 5 millionth LiveChat. HostGator India launches! Nine-year-old Snappy goes to his first summer camp and discovers his passion for painting. Check out his self-portrait below. (Just kidding; this was drawn by a child of one of our customers.)
    Snappy Drawing Artist Snappy


    HostGator is acquired by Endurance International Group. Snappy reaches his double digits and throws a pool party in honor of his tenth birthday! Snappy Pool Party  


    Endurance International Group, HostGator's parent company, goes public. Aged eleven, Snappy debuts a new look at the Houston Aquarium. He found the stingray exhibit fascinating.



    HostGator stretches its global reach, launching HostGator China and HostGator Russia. Snappy stars in his first live-action advertisement!


    HostGator launches managed WordPress hosting and integrates MOJO Marketplace into our QuickInstall platform. A teenager at last! Snappy gets his first cell phone. Snappy Cell Phone  


    HostGator announces our cloud hosting and website builder products. Now that he's fourteen years old, Snappy suffers from teenage angst. He regularly puts a KEEP OUT sign on his bedroom door. We think he's developed his first crush, but he's too busy Snapchatting to let us know who it is he's dreaming of. Snappy Dreaming

    Bonus Offer! Get Your Free Snappy Gift Today!

    NOTE: This promo is now over! Thank you to everyone who participated. Snappy was so happy to receive your birthday wishes! Be sure to share a photo of you with your Snappy when it arrives and tag @HostGator! The coveted Snappy plush. It's our most requested item on social media. Customers and Snappy fans often tweet us asking for their own. HostGator Snappy Tweet In honor of Snappy's birthday sale, we are giving away free Snappy stuffed animals for a limited time!
  • How To Start An Online Store In 10 Steps

    Tuesday, October 18, 2016 by
    How to start online store You have dreams of entrepreneurship, but you know you’re not ready to quit your job and go all in. If you’re good at making things or spotting a great deal, you don’t necessarily have to go all in to start.  Starting an online store doesn’t require the same level of investment or sacrifice that full-time entrepreneurship does. You can start small while keeping your regular paycheck, and potentially build up to working for yourself exclusively if your online store does well enough. That doesn’t mean it won’t be work (most things worth doing are), but it’s doable without having to uproot your life as it is now. There are a few key steps you have to take and you’ll have several moments where you have to decide what level of investment you’re prepared to make into the endeavor to start. If the ten steps on this list sound doable to you, then you’re ready to get your feet wet as an entrepreneur.    

    1. Decide on your product.

    If you’ve been pondering setting up an online store for a while, then you may well already have a product in mind. Whether it’s something you make, like handcrafted furniture or handmade soap, or something you’ve found a source for at wholesale prices so you can sell it off at a profit, every online store has to start with a product. Do some research to make sure your product is viable. If you’re selling something fairly unique of your own creation, ask around amongst friends and in online communities to see if there’s an interest. If you’ll be selling something that will have a fair amount of competition online, research what similar products people are selling online and if the prices they’re charging would make for a sustainable business model for you. If your initial research shows you that an online store for the products you have in mind is likely to lose money, then you should look to other options.  

    2. Set your pricing.

    Pricing is one of the hardest parts to get right in running a new business. If you price too low, you’ll lose money or just barely break even – which won’t make the time and effort you put into your online store worth it. If you price too high, you won’t make enough sales and still risk losing money on the whole endeavor. To figure out the pricing that makes sense you have to first figure out your own costs. That includes the cost of materials, web hosting, taxes, the percentage credit cards or Paypal will skim off the top, and any marketing costs you choose to take on to help promote your business.  Then you should figure out how much you want to add on top of that to account for your own time and labor, and add some extra on top of that to make a profit. You should also do some research into what your competitors are charging. If the number you came to is below what others are charging, you can bump up your numbers a bit. If it’s higher, then you’ll either need to consider if you can provide enough unique value with the products you sell to account for the higher price, or determine if you can afford to go lower based on what the market will bear.  

    3. Research shipping costs and options.

    Your impulse may be to pass on the full cost of shipping to the client, and many online stores do take this route. Be warned though that shipping costs can have a strong psychological impact on consumers, with 44% saying they’ve abandoned an online purchase due to high shipping and handing costs. In some cases, offering free shipping and upping your product pricing to cover those costs may result in more sales. As an alternative, some online stores provide a flat fee that’s clearly noted on the website, so consumers know before they reach the checkout page exactly what to expect. [bctt tweet="44% of customers say they've abandoned online shopping carts due to high shipping costs. " username="hostgator"] Another popular option for online stores is to offer free shipping for orders of a certain size. That encourages customers to spend more in your online store than they may have otherwise, and makes the cost of shipping more worth it to you. You’ll have to figure out what makes sense for you and your business. Research the shipping options available from each of the main providers and figure out what the numbers are likely to look like for packages at the size and weight that will be typical for your products.  

    4. Choose your eCommerce platforms.

    Now you need to choose the platform your online store will live on.  All websites have to be hosted somewhere, so you’ll need website hosting first unless you choose to build your store on a website that already exists like Etsy or Amazon. If you want a website and brand that’s all your own, many website hosting platforms (including HostGator) make it easy to find compatible eCommerce options that you can work with in the same space you use to work on your website. An ecommerce software will make it easy for you to list your products, set your price, and add a shopping cart to the website. They take care of ensuring the process is intuitive for both you and your customers, so you can just focus on selling.  

    5. Pick a name and brand.

    When you start trying to figure out a name, you’ll probably feel like all the good ones are already taken. While your business name is important, try not to get too hung up on this step. Brainstorm words and phrases that say something about the products you’ll be selling, and words and phrases that mean something to you. And be sure to stay away from names that have already been copyrighted by other businesses. Depending on your goals for your online store, you may also want to invest in working with a marketing professional or firm at this point to more fully develop your brand. They can help you design a logo, figure out your positioning, and create a plan for promoting your online store once you launch. They’ll also be a big help with the next step.  

    6. Build your website.

    Many hosting platforms can make at least part of this step easier by providing free website templates or a site builder you can work from rather than having to build a website from scratch. If you want something more unique, you can hire a graphic designer or work with a marketing firm to help you create a website that’s more distinctly yours. At this stage, you’ll also need to work on writing copy that describes your wares and helps persuade website visitors to buy. This is something else you can take a DIY approach to if you want to stick with a shoestring budget, or invest in a professional copywriter or marketing firm to help with. If you do go with the DIY option, take some time to research best practices. It’s not as simple as you may think. Copyblogger and Copyhackers are good resources to start with. HostGator Website Builder  

    7. Set up a merchant account.

    Online stores need a way to receive money – specifically, a way to receive credit card payments. A merchant account does the very important job of ensuring you can get paid. You have options that range from big, familiar brand names like Chase and Paypal, to companies more focused on small businesses like BluePay and PaySimple. You will have to pay something to the company in order to get your money, but the ability to accept the money your customers send should make the fees well worth it.  

    8. Get your SSL certificate.

    Now you need to get secure. If customers are going to hand you their private payment information (or more accurately, enter it into a form on your website), you need to make sure the sensitive details will stay safe. An SSL certificate for your website encrypts all the sensitive information customers provide so that hackers won’t be able to grab that credit card information as it’s sent over the web.  

    9. List your inventory.

    Now that your website’s set up and secure, you can get the store itself set up. Whatever inventory you have ready to go should be added to your store and assigned its proper price. Once potential customers make their way to your page, all they’ll need to do is click to add an item they want to their shopping cart and check out.  

    10. Start selling.

    Finally we’ve reached the stage where you can start making money.  If you launch your online store and don’t get much traction, then you should start thinking about promotion. Content marketing, social media, and paid promotion are all areas worth looking into to start getting people to your website. If you’re not quite ready to make that level of investment in your online store, start with old-fashioned word of mouth. Talk to your friends about it, mention it to professional acquaintances, and bring it up at any events around town likely to attract the kind of people interested in what you’re selling. Once your online store is up and running, take a moment to pat yourself on the back. You’re an entrepreneur now. Then get back to work. Part of entrepreneurship is that there’s always something else you can or should be doing to launch your business toward greater success.

    Are you ready to start selling online?

    Create Your Online Store With HostGator!

  • Introducing The HostGator Marketplace – For All Your Website Needs!

    Monday, October 17, 2016 by
    HostGator Marketplace Introducing the all-new HostGator Marketplace! Snappy and his friends have been hard at work creating the perfect place to find what you need for your website. Whether you’re looking to give your new WordPress site a shiny new look with a professional WordPress theme, set up your email with Google for Work or you just need some extra security to ensure your website is locked down, the HostGator marketplace is the place for you. With the new HostGator Marketplace, you can...
    • Shop the HostGator Marketplace right inside the control panel!
    • Keep track of all your websites and purchases in one place!
    • Purchase using your hosting account to make buying a snap!
    • Shop WordPress themes, easy setup services, email, security, plugins and more!
    In addition to the web hosting, domains, script installs and database tools you’re accustomed to, now you’ll be able to easily access a full suite of products to help you build, grow and even protect your websites. We’ve even included business productivity tools and news and how to articles from the HostGator Blog to help you with your day to day.  

    Site Builders & CMS:

    Build your website easily with our simple drag-and drop editor, or use WordPress, the world's most popular blogging platform.

    Site Builders  

    Themes & Design:

    Do you want a beautiful website, but you're not a designer? No problem. Choose from thousands of themes available in Mojo marketplace, or have one of our experts design your site for you. You can also request one-off graphic design projects.

    Website Themes  

    Productivity Tools:

    Take your business to the next level with our productivity and growth tools. With Google Apps, you can collaborate seamlessly with your growing team and share documents with clients. goMobi makes your website responsive, so your site still looks good and is easy to use whether someone visits from a desktop computer or mobile phone. Supercharge your social media with Facebook advertising.

    Website Productivity Tools  

    Security & Backups:

    If you have an online business, it's essential that you secure your website, both for yourself and customers. Protect your site from hackers with SiteLock and save copies with CodeGuard. eCommerce site owners can keep customer data private with a SSL certificate.

    Website Security Tools  

    Email & Online Marketing:

    Grow your blog subscriber list or notify customers of new promotions with email marketing from Constant Contact. Our SEO services will help you get found online.

    Email Marketing Tools  


    Whether you want to incorporate Google AdSense, add a contact form, or personalize the shopping cart experience, you can customize your ultimate website with plugins from WordPress, Magento, and other software.

    WordPress Plugins  

    Professional Website Services:

    Looking for an out-of-this-world web designer? Need help boosting your local search results? Transferring from another host? Whatever it is, our team is here to help with all your website needs.

    Professional Website Services   We hope you enjoy the new HostGator Marketplace and find it convenient and useful. Have feedback, requests or suggestions? Let us know in the comments or contact our support team

    Get Started With HostGator!

  • What Are DNS Records, And How Do They Work?

    Monday, October 17, 2016 by

    What Are DNS Records

    The domain name system or DNS is a system that makes it easy to access websites. Without this system in place we would all have to remember complex IP addresses instead of easy to remember domain names.

    Below we highlight what DNS records actually are, and how to change one of the main components of the DNS records, your name servers.


    What are DNS Records?

    DNS refers to the large-scale system of information that contains the IP addresses, domain names, hosting, and other registration information across every site on the Internet. Before this system was created the only way for people to access your website would be by typing in your IP address.

    DNS records act as instructions for the DNS server, so it knows which domain names each IP address is associated with.

    DNS records contain a lot of different syntax and commands for how the server should respond to the request. Some of the most common forms of syntax are highlighted below:

    • A” This record refers to the actual IP address that’s associated with the domain.
    • CNAME” This record is used to indicate subdomains that might be listed under or associated with your current domain.
    • MX” This refers to any mail servers that might be used in accordance with your domain.
    • NS” This shows which nameservers are currently being used for your domain.
    • SOA” This record has crucial information about your domain, like when your domain was last updated and relevant contact information. 
    • TXT” This can be edited to include any additional information about the domain that isn’t currently listed.

    As you can see, there are numerous components of your DNS records, but most of this information can’t and shouldn’t be altered. The main component of your DNS records that will concern you, and you might have to change at some point are your name servers.

    Recommended WordPress Hosting


    What Are Name Servers?

    Name servers are the portion of your DNS records that enable people to use your domain name to access your site, rather than your complex IP address. Your name servers are an aspect of your registrar, and the purpose is to point your domain to the place where your site is being hosted.

    Changing your name servers allows you to change your web host without having to move your domain to a new registrar.

    Name servers can also be referred to as DNS servers, which can lead to some confusion of the two terms.


    How Do I Change Name Servers?

    Most registrars make it easy to edit your name severs. The simplest setup would involve using the same host and registrar. But, if your domain isn’t registered and hosted in the same place, then you’ll follow the general steps below.

    HostGator customers can follow the instructions here to change their name servers, or watch the video below.


    1. Locate Domain Management

    Every registrar has a set of domain management tools that allow you to edit your name servers. These will usually be found on the dashboard of your account.


    2. Find Your Name Servers

    Under each individual domain you’ll be able to change your name servers. Your name servers will look something like this:

    You’ll need to change both the primary and secondary name servers. The second server exists in case the first one crashes, or another error prevents it from being used.


    3. Change to Your New Name Servers

    Then all you have to do is change your existing name servers to the new name servers given to you by your host. Remember, these changes don’t take place immediately and it’ll usually take around 24 hours for the changes to take effect.

    There you have it. Hopefully you have a better understanding of what your DNS records actually are and the role they play in making your site accessible.