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  • 10 Essential Components of A Successful Website

    Thursday, March 15, 2018 by
    10 Essential Components of A Successful Website

    10 Essential Components of A Successful Website

    Building your own website is easy and fast, thanks to website builder services and template/CMS tools like WordPress. But like any DIY project, your new site will work better and look better if you plan a bit before you jump in. That means understanding and including the most important elements of a good website: features that help people find your site, navigate it, connect with you, and more. Let's group these essential website components into two categories: things that work “behind the scenes” and things your visitors will notice when they come to your site. You need both sets of elements to have an effective website, and when your site is built well, they all work together. Here's what you'll need.  

    Must-Have Behind-the-Scenes Components of a Website

    Not a technical person? Not to worry. These basics are easy to find and implement, and we've got resources to walk you through each step. Once you choose your domain name, you'll need:  

    1. Reliable Web Hosting Service

    Think of your web host as similar to a landlord who rents you space for a physical store. They provide and maintain the server space where your site files “live” and make it possible for visitors to come by and explore your site. Like a good landlord, a reliable web host, whether you choose a basic cloud hosting plan or an enterprise dedicated hosting plan, will provide fast service, ongoing maintenance and improvements, and good customer service and support. If you choose a host with a website builder included (like HostGator!), you can snap together the framework of your site in just a few minutes.  

    2. A Content Management System (CMS)

    Your content management system works behind the scenes to help you organize and maintain parts of your website like your site pages and meta data, and it makes it easier for visitors to find their way around your site. You can create your own, if you enjoy coding. Or you can use WordPress, the most popular CMS around. There are thousands of templates, themes, and plugins to help customize WordPress sites. Learning how all those elements work together can take time. To get a site up and running faster, especially if it's your first site, a website builder will include its own content management system as part of its all-in-one service. Need more help deciding which route to take? Look more closely at your basic website building options or ask yourself a few questions to decide how to build your site.  

    3. SEO Basics

    snappy improve your traffic seoOptimizing your site so it appears in search engines is a must. With millions of sites on the internet now in competition for a spot on the 1st page of search results, you'll need to follow a few search engine optimization (SEO) best practices to get found. To do this, figure out which keywords visitors are using (or will use) to find your site – the more specific and local the better, especially if your site serves a local or regional audience. Use those keywords wisely in your site copy, your meta data, and your media tags and file names. There are other important aspects to SEO your site needs to include, like mobile-friendly optimization and fast page load times. Test your knowledge of SEO basics and learn more.  

    4. Analytics Tools

    You'll want to know how people are finding your site, which pages they spend the most time on, and how well different elements of your site convert. Google Analytics is the most popular and easy to use resource, it doesn't cost anything, and it integrates easily with WordPress and some website builder tools. Learn the basics of using Google Analytics here.  

    5. Inventory Management

    When you're selling products on your site, you'll want to make sure you keep track of what you have in stock, what's sold, and what's on order. That's where inventory management tools come in. When they're integrated with your checkout process and your shop pages, you and your customers will both know whether an item is available to buy.

    Website Components Your Visitors Will Notice

    Now that we've mentioned customers, it's time to talk about must-have website elements that your visitors will see and interact with. Whether you're selling, blogging, or both, your site needs these things to make visitors feel welcome and want to stay.  

    6. Mobile Friendly Template and Theme

    Your site will need to look great on all kinds of screens: laptops, desktops, tablets, and especially smartphones. Choose a mobile-optimized or responsive design so your site is fast-loading, easy to read, and easy to navigate on phones, which are the way most web users search now. Having a mobile-friendly site will also help with your SEO, because Google looks for it. responsive web design

    7. Sections That Visitors Expect

    Have you ever visited a new website that didn't feel quite right, or an online shop that felt a bit off? Chances are that feeling of wrongness was because the site was missing some elements you've come to expect: a home page that lets you know what the site's for, an about us section that shows there are real people behind the site, and contact information so readers or customers can reach you if they have questions or feedback.  

    8. Media

    It's a rare site that can build an audience on words alone. Our eyes are naturally drawn to images, especially if they move and make noise, and images are a must if you're selling merchandise online. People will also want to see a photo of you in your about us section. Choose images that are optimized to look good and load fast, and be sure to tag and name your website's images in ways that use your SEO keywords.  

    9. Social Media Links and Integration

    You don't have to be on every platform, but you should link your site's social media accounts to the site itself. Depending on how often you update, you may want to include a widget that shows your latest posts. Some website builders will help you integrate with your favorite platforms so you can post your site updates to your social media accounts at the same time.

    10. Shopping Cart and Payment Tools

    If your site includes a shop, you'll want a reliable, easy to use shopping cart and payment tools like PayPal or Square that are popular with most online shoppers. Most e-commerce platforms integrate well with WordPress, and many website builders can help you set up shopping and checkout tools in a snap.  

    Time to Build Your Site

    Now that you know the basics your site needs to succeed, you're ready to get started! Check out our options for getting it done, including HostGator's Website Builder service that includes all the elements on this list. HostGator Website Builder
  • How To Make A Business Website That Converts

    Monday, March 12, 2018 by
    How to Make a Business Website That Converts

    How To Make A Business Website That Converts

    It's a truth universally acknowledged that if you have a business, you need a website. Even if you're not a site designer, there's plenty of information online to help walk you through the basics to create a professional-looking business website. As you're planning and designing your site, remember that there's sometimes a big difference between knowing how to make a business website that looks cool and how to build a business website that does its most important job: getting customers to do business with you. Here are some key elements your site needs to get customers to convert from browsing to buying.  

    1. Help Shoppers Find Your Site

    Customers can't shop in your store or hire your services if they don't know your business exists. So every step of building your business website should focus on performing well in search results. Start by choosing a professional, on-brand domain name and top-level domain (.com is still considered the most trustworthy). register domain name Then use a keyword finding tool like Soovle (and your own customer inquiries) to choose the long-tail keywords to include on each page of your business website. For example, if you are a professional dog walker in San Antonio, your long-tail keywords might include the specific neighborhoods you serve: “professional dog walker in Olmos Park” or “professional dog walker in the King William District.” Why not just go with “professional dog walker” or “dog walker in San Antonio”? Because people who are looking for something very specific near them are usually ready to make a purchase or hire a professional. That means they're more likely to convert when they find your site. And once you know which long-tail keywords make the most sense for your business website copy, you can use them in other SEO best practices on your site, too.  

    2. Help Shoppers Use Your Site

    Now that visitors can find your business website, will they convert? Maybe. It depends in part on how easy to use your site is. Choose a web hosting service that loads sites fast, because visitors will move on to the next site if yours doesn't load in a couple of seconds. Most local searches are done on mobile devices now, which means your site also must display well on smartphones and tablets. One of the most important factors in raising your conversion rate is well-crafted calls to action. Every page on your site needs a call to action to let visitors know what next step you'd like them to take. For example, on your home page your call to action could be Find Your Perfect Prom Dress Now or Book Your Prom Hair and Makeup Session Now. What else makes a business website easy to use? A lack of clutter. Before you add sliders, autoplay videos, or infographics that require both vertical and horizontal scrolling (no, just no), ask yourself if they will help or hinder visitors to your site. In most cases, you're better off without those extras.  

    3. Make Buying From Your Site Easy

    If you sell products on your site, make them look great. High quality product photos and videos are must-haves, because those images plus your written descriptions are all the sensory input customers can gather about your product online. Keep written product descriptions simple but include the details customers want, and format descriptions in a mobile-friendly way – bullet points and short paragraphs rather than big blocks of text. Your business website's checkout process is a make-or-break point for conversions. The more complex, time-consuming, or repetitive the checkout process is, the fewer customers will complete it. Think about how you can make the process as easy as possible for a busy customer who's using a smartphone to make a purchase while they're also doing at least one other thing:
    • Avoid roadblocks like requiring guests to register before they can add items to a shopping cart.
    • Offer a guest-checkout option. Busy people may abandon a cart rather than register as new customers.
    • Choose e-commerce tools that your target market prefers to use, like PayPal, Square, and Stripe.
    • Make payment and shipping information entry as easy as possible, ideally by using data your customers have already shared with PayPal or another payment service.
     

    4. Make It Easy for Customers to Reach You

    Some businesses make conversion less likely by serving up every possible contact option: a contact form, email, two phone numbers, a fax number for the customers reaching out from 1991, and half a dozen social media badges—the perfect conditions for option paralysis. A more effective practice is to limit your contact options: phone and email, or text messaging. Why? The way you present your contact information is another type of call to action, so keep it simple and direct.  

    5. Show Visitors Why They Should Do Business With You

    Limiting contact information doesn't mean you can't invite customers to connect on social media. Including your channels can help develop a sense of trust in customers—but it's better to display that information separately from your preferred contact methods. Other ways to build trust include:
    • Clearly stating your shipping and return policies on every page.
    • Including your preferred contact information on every page.
    • Including customer reviews and testimonials.
    • Displaying the trust symbols that show how your site protects customers' information. Your web hosting service should offer you a range of security options and badges you can display.
     

    6. Test Your Tactics

    There's one more step to raising your conversion rates: test your tactics. You can test virtually every element on your site to see how usable it is and how if affects conversion rates. With an all-in-one website builder service, you can make changes easily to improve your business website's conversion rates based on your testing. HostGator Website Builder
  • How To Design A Website For A Small Business

    Monday, March 12, 2018 by
    How to Design a Website for a Small Business

    How To Design A Website For A Small Business

    As a small business owner, you've probably researched all the reasons you need a website for your business. You may also already know what your site should include: a mobile-friendly design, media elements that load quickly and look good, tools to help you get found in searches, social media tools, and tools to make selling online a snap. But unless you're in the website design business, you may not feel confident pulling these elements together on your own. Today, we'll cover the must-have elements of a good website for a small business and go over your options for creating those elements.  

    1. Overall Design or Template

    The first and most important element for effective small business websites is a design that works well on all types of devices, especially smartphones. That's because most online searches happen on mobile devices now, and Google is in the process of rolling out a new mobile-first index that will rank mobile-optimized sites higher in search results that websites that aren't mobile-friendly. For a small business website design that meets mobile-first standards, you can hire a designer, if you have the funds and the time to wait for a custom-built site. You can also shop around online for a mobile-optimized template you can adapt to your needs. Or you can use a website builder that comes with a library of mobile-friendly templates to ensure your site works well, even if you choose another look for it later on. hostgator website builder themes While you're looking at mobile-friendly templates, keep in mind that there are certain pages and sections that customers expect to find on every business site. These include your home page, a contact page (although you should include contact information somewhere on each page of your business site), an about us page, a portfolio if you sell services, and an online shop page if you sell products. To simplify and speed up your site creation, look for a website builder that has pre-built pages and sections you can tailor to your business needs.

    2. Multimedia Elements

    These days, pictures are probably worth more than a thousand words, because smartphone users would rather browse images and watch videos than try to read lots of text on a tiny screen. When they're properly formatted, tagged, and optimized, images and videos can help your site rank higher in search results so more prospects come your way. And a custom favicon (that little image at the top of the browser tab, like the wee Snappy on the tab you're reading right now) not only helps your business with branding but also makes it more useful as a bookmark or toolbar icon for your frequent customers. website favicon You can find downloadable tools and WordPress plugins to help you with tasks like image optimization, schema markup, HD video embedding, favicon design, and more. If you decide to use a website builder, those tools will already be baked in and accessible in one place, ready to use.

    3. Get Found and Track Your Performance

    Images and mobile-friendliness aren't the only elements your site needs to rank well in search results. There are a number of SEO best practices your business website should follow, like using the right keywords and other metadata to help local shoppers or prospective clients around the country find your business easily. How will you know how well your SEO is working? That's where Google Analytics comes in. Tracking the performance of your posts, social media campaigns, keyword search results, and more is critical to getting the most from your business website. Google Analytics Acquisition Overview As with the other elements of your site, you can take on these tasks one by one, using resources like Google Analytics Academy to walk you through the steps you'll need to follow. You can also find WordPress plugins to help you with SEO and analytics, or you can use a website builder to save time by providing all those tools.  

    4. Social Media Tools

    Social media is important for reaching new customers, establishing your professional expertise or product awesomeness, and making sales. Many small business owners start out ambitious and motivated and end up overwhelmed by their social media programs, because it can feel like a full-time job to manage your social media posts, comments, offers, and sales. It doesn't have to be that much work. To get the most from social media without focusing on it constantly, get the right tools. If you have the budget, you can hire a social media manager to handle your posts and responses for you. A less expensive option is to use a third-party tool like HootSuite or Buffer to post your content on your channels at pre-set times, although it will still be up to you to load those links into your schedule. There are also plugins that will optimize your website posts to display well on different social media platforms. Buffer social media automation The simplest solution is to choose a website builder that gives you all the tools you need to handle your social media program. A good site builder will make it easy for site visitors to follow you, share your content, and buy your merchandise while they're on Facebook.

    shopping cart cta

    5. E-commerce Tools

    For online retailers, e-commerce tools are the main reason for having a website. These include your online store, an inventory tracking system, an easy-to-use shopping cart, popular payment tools like PayPal and Square, and a way to run promotions with coupon codes. You can add the elements you'll need one by one and follow the integration tutorials for each one, or you can use the suite of e-commerce tools provided by your website builder to get your shop up and running faster.  

    Design Your Small Business Website

    Designing a website for a small business takes some time, research, and experimentation to get things set up just the way you want them. With an all-in-one service like our eCommerce website builder, you can spend less time working on your small business website design and let it work smarter for you. HostGator Website Builder
  • What Is A Mobile Friendly Website?

    Monday, March 12, 2018 by
    What Is a Mobile Friendly Website

    What Is A Mobile Friendly Website?

    Spend some time researching how to build a website and you'll see terms like mobile-optimized, mobile-friendly, and “mobile first.” Mobile is a hot topic in website design because we do most of our searching and a lot of our shopping on our phones now, but most websites were built with desktop users in mind. Mobile users need sites that work well on small screens, use touch controls, are easy to navigate, and load fast. What does your site need to be mobile-friendly? Let's go over the basics.  

    What Does a Mobile-Friendly Website Look Like?

    Let's focus first on the way a mobile-friendly site looks, because visitors will decide at a glance whether they want to stay on your site based on its appearance. There are four basic elements a good mobile-friendly template or custom design will include:

    1. Responsive Page Display

    Responsive design is the foundation of a mobile-friendly website. Without it, a smartphone or tablet user who visits your site will see a miniaturized version of your desktop site, which means they'll have to scroll vertically and horizontally to find anything—and that means they'll just leave and go somewhere else. A responsive site design, whether custom-built or based on a template, automatically displays your site properly on whatever type of device a visitor is using, whether they're using it in portrait or landscape orientation.

    2. Readable Fonts

    Mobile friendly templates will include fonts that are easy for mobile users to read, but you may want to play around a bit with the fonts, especially if you have a logo that uses a particular typeface. Sans serif fonts with clean lines are generally the easiest to read on mobile devices, where glare and screen size can make serif fonts and novelty fonts like script hard to see clearly. And go up a size on your fonts—no one wants to try to read tiny text, even if it's sans serif.

    3. Proper Text Formatting.

    Keep your blocks of text short and break them up with headlines and bulleted lists when it makes sense to include them. It's hard for our eyes to track close-together lines of text on small screens, so big paragraphs make it more likely that your visitors will lose their place and get frustrated.

    4. Optimized Media Display.

    Test your images, infographics, and videos to make sure they look right on phones and tablets, without requiring users to scroll or resize their display to see your media.  

    What Does Mobile-Friendly Navigation Mean?

    Once your mobile visitors arrive, how will they find what they need? Mobile friendly navigation factors in the hardware and user-interface differences between desktops and mobile devices.

    Think Touches and Taps Rather Than Mouse Clicks.

    Websites designed for desktop users are easiest to navigate with mouse clicks, not swipes, taps, and touches. There's no mouse on a smartphone, so you'll need to give mobile users a way to navigate using touch controls.

    Reduce the Need for Data Entry.

    Trying to type on a smartphone keyboard is just the worst. Between the tiny keys, random auto-corrects, and auto-fills that may or may not populate fields correctly, it's something most mobile users prefer to avoid. Voice-to-text isn't much better, and it's not always an option (say, on the train during morning rush hour). Organize your mobile site so people can find what they need without having to type in the search field, or contact with you without filling out a contact form.

    Shorten the Distance from Point A to Point B.

    Flat site architecture is your friend, because it helps mobile shoppers find things on your site without having to tap through too many layers along the way. A retailer that does this well is 6pm.com. Their store contains a vast number of items, but the mobile site's menus and filters are easy to access, so it only takes a few taps to go from the home page to sandals in my size. The mobile site also offers visitors the option to download a lightweight (17 MB) app, which offers a modular menu design that's easy to read on a phone.
    example of mobile friendly website with flat site architecture that's easy to navigate  example of mobile friendly website with flat site architecture that's easy to navigate  example of mobile friendly website with flat site architecture that's easy to navigate

    How Fast Does a Mobile-Friendly Website Need to Be?

    Faster is always better. A mobile-optimized template or design that streamlines the number of requests a user's browser makes to load your site, plus a web hosting service that loads your pages fast, will go a long way toward making your site more mobile-friendly. Want to see how your site fares now and track improvements? You can use Google's PageSpeed tools to compare how quickly your site loads on mobile and desktop devices. There's also a Mobile-Friendly testing tool that evaluates speed plus other elements. Both of these tools give you a list of tips to make your site faster and more mobile-friendly, along with links to resources to help you make those changes. Want to really speed things up? An accelerated mobile page (AMP) is a lightweight app-like tool that's easy to build and use. The AMP was created to help solve the problem of laggy load times on mobile devices, and if your current mobile site isn't performing well on Google's page and mobile tests, an AMP may be the answer.  

    How Does a Mobile-Friendly Website Help Your Business?

    All the work you put into making your site mobile-friendly can pay off in the form of more business. Google says that 94% of American smartphone users “search for local information on their phones,” even if they have access to a desktop. And when people are searching for local businesses, they're usually ready to make a purchase. By making your site easy to find and easy to use on mobile devices, you're more likely to earn their business. To rank well in local searches, claim your Google My Business listing and make sure you're following other SEO best practices.  

    Build Your Mobile-Friendly Website

    Get started on your mobile-friendly site today with the HostGator Website Builder. Choose from over 100 mobile-friendly templates! HostGator Website Builder
  • Want More Site Visitors? Step Up Your Voice Search Game

    Tuesday, February 13, 2018 by

    want more site visitors step up your voice search game4 Ways to Improve Your SEO for Voice Search

    There was once a time, pre-internet, when sitting at home or in your car asking questions of no one was considered odd. Now it's the next great iteration in internet search. Echo and Google Home-style devices are trendy, and surging mobile use means more people want to ask questions, not type in search phrases, to find what they need. But how, exactly, can you help your site get found in voice search results? Here are four ways to improve your voice search rankings and make it easier for people to find your site. register domain name

    1. Go Local If It's Relevant to Your Business

    Does your business serve a local or regional market? If so, it's time to claim all your local business listings so that you appear in results like “find a garden center near me” or “where's the nearest doggie daycare?” Start with Google, Yelp, and Bing and then claim other listings like Yahoo, the Better Business Bureau, Angie's List, or other platforms that are relevant to your type of business. Not sure how to set up your Google My Business listing? This post walks you through the best practices for Google local-listing SEO.  

    2. Get to Know Natural-Language Queries

    If you're used to thinking in terms of keyword phrases (like “voice search optimization” and “Google voice search SEO”), it's time to start asking questions (like “How can I optimize my site for voice search?” and “How does voice search affect SEO?”) That's because we don't search with our voices the same way we search with text. Instead of typing in the most important words and hitting enter, we ask Siri or Alexa, “Where can I find the best burgers in Milwaukee?” or “Is there a dry cleaner near me?” What that means for your site is that you need to include text that reads like natural language—the kinds of questions customers ask their phones or digital assistants. Not sure what those questions are? There are a few ways you can find out:
    • Make notes on the questions customers ask you in person, on the phone, and via email.
    • See what questions people ask about your type of business in forums and on social media.
    • Use tools like Soovle to autocomplete questions you enter and show you what people are asking about in searches. For example, type in “how do you cook brisket” and you'll see results like “how do you cook brisket on a grill” and “can you overcook brisket,” sorted by popularity on different platforms including Google, YouTube, Bing, and more.
    use Soovle to find autocomplete suggestions for voice search

    3. Use Natural Language Queries on Your Site

    When you see commonly searched questions that are related to your business, try to work them into your site's headlines, subheadings, and text. This aligns your content better with what potential customers are looking for, and it can also give your site a more conversational tone, which most people find appealing. Just don't go overboard with the questions. Remember the days when sites would try to game search results by dumping repetitive keyword phrases into their pages so that their copy read like it was written by a robot? You want to keep the questions and answers on your site natural sounding and relevant. Another way to fine tune how your site appears in results is to stay focused on long-tail keywords, which is another way of saying “be specific.” In a market with 15 businesses providing children's party entertainment, including “children's party entertainment” on your site may not even land you on the first page of local search results. But if out of those 15 businesses, only two provide hula mini-lessons for the kids, including “hula lessons for kids' parties” is more effective because it's more specific—it helps people find exactly what they want.  

    4. Post Videos That Answer Questions Your Visitors Ask

    There's another type of content you can use with natural language queries: videos. YouTube videos can perform better than text-only web pages in Google search results, according to Michael Peggs at MarketingProfs. If there are questions that lead people to your website, make a few videos to answer them. For example, if you sell something like Acme barbecue pits, you can create videos that answer questions like “How do I put together my new Acme barbecue pit?” and “What's the best way to smoke brisket in an Acme barbecue pit?” Making short explainer videos takes some work, but it's not as big of a production as you might think. Each video needs four to five elements: a script, a voiceover, visuals, some editing, and maybe music.  KISSmetrics has a great tutorial on putting together an explainer video on a tiny budget, with details about what should be in your script, how to record a voiceover that sounds professional, and how to source your visuals—something that can be as simple as doodles you've scanned into your editing program. If you create videos, you'll want to get the most search results mileage from them. Remember to:
    • Title your video as a search question using natural language and the keywords that lead to your site.
    • Use schema markup on your video if you embed it on your site.
    • End each video with a call to action that directs viewers to your business.
    Keep each video brief. There's a raft of data out there showing that two minutes is more than long enough for most viewers. And by keeping each one short, you can free up time to make more videos that answer different search questions for your target market.  

    Voice Search Is Always Evolving

    As you implement each of these strategies, remember that the goal is to help customers find your business. When you land new customers, ask them how they found you and you'll get a sense of which voice search strategies are working well for you and which you can refine more. And keep an eye on search trends, because the one sure thing about them is that they'll keep evolving as the way we use technology changes.