Alexandra Leslie – HostGator Blog Web Hosting and Marketing Tips for Entrepreneurs Wed, 26 Sep 2018 21:30:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 151369968 Affiliate Marketing: 4 Reasons Why You’re Not Raking in the Cash Tue, 18 Jul 2017 20:39:08 +0000 The post Affiliate Marketing: 4 Reasons Why You’re Not Raking in the Cash appeared first on HostGator Blog.

4 Common Mistakes of Affiliate Marketers We live in the age of multiple income streams. My neighbor works for a...

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affiliate marketing mistakes

4 Common Mistakes of Affiliate Marketers

We live in the age of multiple income streams.

My neighbor works for a bank 9 to 5 and instructs Zumba classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. My brother is a former carpenter turned electrician’s apprentice who regularly picks up contract work as he moves toward his master electrician license. Me? I dabble in freelance dev work and WordPress troubleshooting, manage a web hosting reviews site, and handle social media marketing for my aunts’ monogramming business on the side.

Affiliate marketing is an excellent way to get some extra cash flowing into your bank account, but there are about a dozen ways to mess it up. Whether you’re looking to make some extra dough while blogging or you want to become the next web leader in product reviews, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s go over some of the most commonly missed opportunities in affiliate marketing.

  • If you haven’t yet, consider joining HostGator’s affiliate program and earn up to $125 per qualifying signup! Learn more here.


1. You’re Not Specializing in a Product Category or Niche

When it comes to deciding what you should promote on your site, casting a wide net doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never go hungry. Affiliate marketing is one of those cases where broader isn’t always better. Carefully choose your product recommendation specialty and stick to it.

There are many reasons for this:

First, visitors want honest, credible recommendations from authoritative sources; a blog that shamelessly promotes retail promo codes, reviews multivitamins, and compares the top online dating apps in one breath is probably not an authority on any one of those niches. Web visitors will likely write you off as a sleazy affiliate site only out for their hard-earned money.

Secondly, Google knows what your site is about, and links (including affiliate links) are a key to seeing your site through Google’s eyes. If a site about health and fitness is ridden with links to Health Magazine, WebMD, and a bunch of nutrition blogs, Google will get the picture. That site’s rankings will likely climb for health-, fitness-, and nutrition-related search terms (barring the presence of any other search engine ranking faux pas). It’s worth noting that it’s equally important that other resources link to your site to back up your authoritativeness in your industry.

Finally, you should choose a specialty to hone in on because it’ll make you better able to do your job, which, in this case, is to recommend quality products and services to your website visitors. It’s really hard to be a source for quality information on a dozen different verticals.


2. You Look Spammy Rather Than Authoritative

This is possibly the kiss of death for any affiliate-based site: You come across as spammy. There are many dos and don’ts of affiliate marketing, and this is no-no #1.

A few telltale signs that you’ve become a spammy affiliate site:

  • Your content is laden with typos, grammar errors, and inconsistent styling.
  • Your pages load too slowly due to poor-performance hosting and too many ads.
  • Your site is updated infrequently and looks or holds information that is outdated.
  • You’ve overdone it with keywords and/or affiliate links.
  • You’ve got internal 404 pages, overused H1 tags, or hidden links.

Not only do these red flags turn away users, but they could warrant a Google penalty, too.


3. You’re Not Optimizing Your Pages to Convert

Maybe it sounds like a no-brainer, but adding affiliate links or banners to your site is not a magic switch that makes money fall from the sky. You have to put in some work to encourage potential buyers to click on your affiliate link and follow the conversion funnel—i.e., convert!

What makes a click-worthy, conversion-friendly page?

Make sure you avoid conversion leaks, or missed opportunities to monetize. While you don’t want to stuff your blog copy with affiliate links, you also don’t want to write an entire article about saving money on business printing costs without mentioning your VistaPrint promo code, either.

And while you’re at it, it’s helpful to create custom pages or posts for whatever you’re hoping to drive conversions around (rather than haphazardly throwing in links or banners anywhere). For example, if you’re a HostGator affiliate, having a HostGator-specific landing page is more powerful than occasionally dropping in a link to HostGator at any mention of websites or hosting on your business blog.

HostGator affiliate landing page

Do your homework, conduct keyword research, and check out what others are writing about whatever product you’re hoping to promote. In addition to competitor research, you’re advised to test your landing page conversion rates often—and consider what you’re really getting out of each individual offer.


4. You’re Recommending Based on Payout, Not Product Quality

Having been on both the consumer side and the affiliate side of this very transactional business relationship, I can’t emphasize this affiliate marketing gaffe enough: DO NOT sacrifice your integrity for a CPA, CPC, CPL, or any other payout model! It’s not worth it.

Website visitors don’t appreciate lies; your affiliate partner won’t appreciate the inevitably unhappy (and short-lived) customers you send them; and any success you have won’t last. Plus, you could get black-balled by search engines—shudder.

In the industry, they often call it “pay to play” tactics. It’s when an affiliate sells premium placement to the highest bidder, even if the brand or product is garbage. Experts will warn you: Quality trumps quantity in the affiliate game. Your best bet is to leverage a combination of your own experience and other customer feedback:

  1. Test the product yourself and provide an honest assessment and review or rating.
  2. Let the customers do the rest. If users consistently pass over one affiliate offer in favor of another, they’re telling you they like product #2 better. Price may be a strong pull factor, but quality likely plays a role as well.

“The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing,” or so they say. Affiliate marketing shouldn’t feel like a sketchy agenda with ulterior motives. It should feel like a friend recommending a cool tool they tried or a team they loved working with to another friend.

Aim to sound human—crazy, right? It’s simple, but effective.


Final Tip: Form More Than a Financial Relationship With Affiliates

Affiliate marketers often get a bad rap. They’re painted as sleazy, shady, dishonest, and greedy—and those are the nice words. The truth is, affiliate marketing is one of the world’s biggest networking games. Those who are good at relationship-building, and who understand numbers, thrive.

By forging actual relationships with your affiliate managers, you establish trust. They have confidence in the work you do for them, and you both know you have one another’s backs. When they come out with new deals, like discounted rates on HostGator servers, you’ll be the first to know and reap the rewards. When issues come up with your account, you won’t be stuck waiting for a chat bot because you’ll have the direct contact info for your personal account manager.

My favorite affiliates to work with feel like friends when we get together at conferences. We talk regularly throughout the week, and we want one another’s businesses to do well. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, but, as with all relationships, it takes time and a little effort to make it work!

Ready to join HostGator’s affiliate program?

Sign up here.

Alexandra Leslie manages as the Tech Vertical Manager of Digital Brands, Inc. Boasting 50+ years combined experience in various tech fields, the HostingAdvice team is the web’s leading source for information on all things web hosting.

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Keys to Keyword Research: 4 Reasons Your Rankings Are Tanking Tue, 09 May 2017 11:56:12 +0000 The post Keys to Keyword Research: 4 Reasons Your Rankings Are Tanking appeared first on HostGator Blog.

4 Mistakes You’re Making With Keyword Research We live in a content-driven online world, and writing for the web is...

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Keyword Research Mistakes

4 Mistakes You’re Making With Keyword Research

We live in a content-driven online world, and writing for the web is a tricky business. That’s not to say you can’t have great success with the right mix of keyword optimizations and authoritative content resources.

Quality keyword research (and how you leverage your findings) can mean the difference between your brand being nobody to Google and being on the first page of search results. We’re talking about the difference between tens of visitors and tens of thousands of visitors each month. Let’s face it: Organic web traffic means money. And who doesn’t like money?

I decided to take a look at some of the most common mistakes people make when conducting keyword research. We’ll cover some specifics—what tools to use and when to use them—as well as some specific examples of what not to do as a business aiming to capture all the keyword volume you come across at the data-collection stage.

Dedicated Server


Mistake #1: You’re Answering Questions You Think People Are Asking

This is the blogging mistake to rule all web content mistakes: You’re arbitrarily writing what you think readers are interested in, rather than writing what you know web users are searching for.

The whole point of keyword research is data-driven decision-making, so don’t assume you have all the answers before doing your homework. Even if you do have all the answers figured out, you can’t possibly know every single question, or who might be asking it and what their background is. This is where keyword tools come into play.

A smattering of my favorite tools for targeted keyword inspiration and a pro tip for each:


Mistake #2: You’ve Got Keyword Tunnel Vision

There’s a phenomenon in psychology in which you assume what you know to be true to be the whole truth, and you interpret any new evidence as reinforcement for that truth. It’s called confirmation bias—and I think it’s extremely common in SEO keyword practices.

Picture this: You’re a 10-year-old “startup” in the health IT sector, and your business has experienced extreme growth in recent years. You’ve decided it’s time to upgrade from your managed shared hosting account and have opted for a dedicated server due to your unique security and compute requirements. You take to Google: “best dedicated hosting provider.”

Your intent is pretty clear: You want a server from a well-reputed dedicated hosting provider.

Now imagine you’re the host trying to attract said user. Here’s what not to do as a web marketer, using HostGator as a stand-in for the host:

  • Attempt to drive sales to a product or service unrelated to the targeted query (e.g., shared hosting when the search is “dedicated hosting”)
  • Say everything else about the topic but ignore the main qualifier (e.g., talking about HostGator’s history, team, and industry reputation with no mention of server specs)
  • Lie. If the thing users are searching for doesn’t exist, don’t try to trick them (we all hate that)

Just because a product type or market niche is popular doesn’t mean it’s what everyone needs or wants. And just because you really want to sell your business to a potential customer doesn’t mean your product is the best one for that user. Your best bet is to focus on providing honest information and hope your product sells itself (with some other marketing efforts, of course).


Mistake #3: You’re Pulling Your Keyword Data From A Single Source

Remember the trusted keyword tools I suggested a couple sections ago? Use them—all of them! Or, at least, use more than one. Just as your high school English teacher taught you to cite multiple sources when writing an authoritative research paper, you shouldn’t put all your keyword eggs in one basket.

Leverage any and all tools at your disposal, and stay up to date on the latest search engine studies. The Moz blog is one I refer back to regularly to stay in the know on all things SEO.

Mistake #4: You’re Not Answering the Question at All

Funnily enough, I’ve seen way too many cases in which web content producers do extensive keyword research only to throw it out the window. Seriously, imagine spending hours and money on resources to analyze a user question (the search queries) and then flushing that information and serving up an answer to a tangentially related question instead. People do it! All. The. Time.

I’ll use credit cards as an example. Say someone wants to find a good cash-back card to kickstart funding to design their new site and launch their online business. Unfortunately, this someone hit an unlucky strike with student loan debt in the past, so their credit score isn’t the greatest. They might turn to Google for the “best cash-back credit cards for fair credit.”

Off the top of my head, I can think of about a dozen types of credit cards. The top credit card comparison sites break cards down by issuer, by level of credit needed, and by features such as air miles or 0% APR, and, you guessed it, credit cards with the best cash-back perks. It would be wasted effort to promote premium cards on a page supposedly optimized to capture “fair credit” searches. It would be like Forbes trying to run a story on a political rally in Washington and sending a reporter to interview a group of middle schoolers in Utah. What?

Internet users are, for the most part, pretty specific about what they want out of a Google result. The more modifiers they’ve thrown onto a query—e.g., “best,” “free,” “green,” “for women,” “no ads,” etc.—the more fed up they are with existing search results. And if you don’t focus on actually answering the question, no matter how trivial, minor, or seemingly non-monetizable it is, they will bounce from your site, too. And that’s bad. Listen to your searchers!


One final tip

My last piece of advice is to remember to treat search engines as a platform for consumers to voice their questions about anything (some questions will be relevant to your business, but most will not). Each search term is a user question, and your #1 goal as a content writer for the web should be to answer those questions better than anyone else has previously.

Alexandra Leslie manages as the Tech Vertical Manager of Digital Brands, Inc. Boasting 50+ years combined experience in various tech fields, the HostingAdvice team is the web’s leading source for information on all things web hosting.

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How to Migrate From Shared Hosting to VPS Mon, 06 Mar 2017 15:10:10 +0000 The post How to Migrate From Shared Hosting to VPS appeared first on HostGator Blog.

We often talk about hosting options in terms of real estate. Your first shared host is much like that apartment...

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Migrate from Shared to VPS

We often talk about hosting options in terms of real estate.

Your first shared host is much like that apartment you moved into when you were 19 and shared with a few roommates. When one of them, or perhaps a neighbor, decided to blast music or stumble in drunk at 2 a.m., it affected you.

Once you moved into your own townhouse after graduation, you had more room and more responsibilities to maintain the space, just as a VPS user does.

To keep the analogy going, a dedicated server customer is akin to a homeowner. They’ve got the most expenses, the most space with which to work, and the most responsibility should anything go wrong with their property.

College dorms, apartments, rental properties — they’re all steps on the road to home ownership. You’re not ready for a mortgage right out of the gates of undergrad, but each upgrade in living situation takes preparation, and there’s an art to the moving process.

Hosting transfers are no different. Here, we’ll talk about how to make the move from a shared hosting plan to a VPS.


4 tell-tale signs you’re ready to consider a VPS migration:

  1. Your site is loading super slowly.
  2. You’ve received the 509 Bandwidth Limit Exceeded error too many times.
  3. You need to run certain software, and your hosting plan can’t accommodate it.
  4. You’re growing (your traffic, business, profit etc.), and you want more security and support.

If you’re seeing two or more of these signs coming from your website, it’s safe to say you’re ready for an upgrade. Let’s talk migration steps.


Note: Hosts With a Comprehensive List of Services Will Probably Do This for You

It’s worth noting many of the best web hosts offer various migration services. For example, if you’re already a HostGator customer, you can upgrade at any time by ordering a VPS and requesting a migration transfer. However, this can’t apply if your current web host doesn’t offer VPS plans.

This brings up a word of caution I give folks at the beginning of their hosting journey: Consider the long-term goals for your site before signing up for a host.

If you aim to surpass the 100,000 visitors/month threshold one day, go ahead and scope out a potential provider’s VPS and dedicated plans early. Even if you only sign up for a shared account at first, choose website hosting services that will help you grow. You want a hosting company with rave reviews for shared, virtual, and dedicated servers because a full-spectrum hosting provider offers more long-term value. This is why hosts like HostGator give customers greater flexibility as they’re building online brands.


Step 1a (Optional): Transfer Your Domain to a Domain Registrar

As someone who’s experienced serious frustrations with domain name transfers, I feel compelled to suggest transferring your domain name to a domain registrar. This step is completely optional, but it may save you a few headaches down the road, should you ever need to switch hosting providers. There’s an obligatory 60-day wait period after initial registration or any subsequent transfer, but then you’re free to reach out to the registrar to which you’d like to migrate your domain. The new registrar should send over an Initial Authorization for Registrar Transfer form and maybe a Confirmation of Registrar Transfer Request form. If you don’t know who your registrar is, you can do a Whois search to find out.


Step 1b: Export Your Site Database and Download Site Files

Now for the formal first steps. Whether you’re running WordPress, Joomla, some other CMS, or none of the above, you’ll need to export your site database and download your site files.

If your site uses cPanel, Plesk, or any control panel, you can simply run a backup using their various wizards or backup and restore interfaces:

In the case of cPanel, you can back up your entire website, download the backup file, and later upload the file to your new virtual server. Tools like cPanel’s Backup Wizard are ideal for shared hosting customers or those who are nervous about messing with site files directly.

Now let’s cover exporting databases manually. Since you’re migrating from shared hosting, you’re probably still using a control panel, so log in and navigate to phpMyAdmin within the dashboard.

  • cPanel → Databases section → phpMyAdmin
  • Plesk → Websites & Domains tab → click “Databases” under “Functions” → WebAdmin

Select the database that contains your website. If you’re not sure what yours is called, you can check your configuration file (e.g., wp-config.php for WordPress sites, configuration.php for Joomla sites, etc.). Click “Export” at the top of the screen. You should walk away with an .SQL file containing all your site data.

To manually download all your site files, including themes, plugins, and media uploads, you’ll use an (S)FTP client like Filezilla, which you can download for free here.

Once it’s downloaded and opened, toggle to the File menu and click “Site Manager,” then “New Site.” You’ll need to fill in the following fields:

  • New Site: Enter your site’s name
  • Host: Enter your domain name
  • Port: 22 is the default port for SFTP; leave blank for FTP
  • Protocol: Select one of the options below

    • SFTP → SSH File Transfer Protocol
    • FTP → File Transfer Protocol (select “only use plain FTP” in the Encryption box)
  • Logon Type: Select “Normal”
  • User: Enter your cPanel username

  • Password: Enter your cPanel password

Click “Connect” and you’re ready to transfer files. There will be a Local Site pane and a Remote Site pane. You’ll want to grab any site files in the Remote Site pane and drag them to the Local Site pane, meaning they’ll be found on your local computer. You can also simply double-click files in the Remote Site pane, and they’ll be downloaded automatically.


Step 2: Upload Your Files and Import Your Database to Your New VPS

Now it’s time to move your files and database to your new VPS.

Log into your control panel in your VPS hosting account and open phpMyAdmin again. Click “New Database,” then “Import.” Find the .SQL file you exported earlier and click “Go.” You can also do this via the command line.

To upload the site files located on your local computer, you’ll open up Filezilla again and this time double-click the files in the Local Site pane to upload them.


Step 3: Point Your IP Address to Your New Server

You’re almost done! Now it’s time to go to your DNS provider and change the value assigned to the A record (IP address) so that it’s pointing to your new server. This can usually be done with an email to your domain name registrar.

And voila! The knick-knacks have been packed and unpacked, boxes loaded and unloaded, and you’re ready to experience the joys of nesting in a new space. I wish you luck as you settle into your new hosting home!


Is it time to scale to support your growing business? Choose from multiple VPS hosting plans to find the right fit for your website.

Experience the power of HostGator VPS!

Alexandra Leslie manages as the Tech Vertical Manager of Digital Brands, Inc. Boasting 50+ years combined experience in various tech fields, the HostingAdvice team is the web’s leading source for information on all things web hosting.

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