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  • America Just Gave Small Businesses A Big Thumbs-Up

    Thursday, August 27, 2015 by
    It's easy to get the impression these days that small business is on the decline in America. It seems that there are often news reports about small businesses that are killed off by big businesses. Mom-and-pop stores, for example, forced to close after decades of operation, run out of business because of the construction of a new big-box store nearby. Or an independent eatery hurt by competition from the construction of a new nationally franchised store like Micky Ds. But though it's easy to get that impression these days, it's only an impression. It's not the truth. Because while there certainly are isolated instances of small businesses succumbing to competition with large businesses, on a national scale it's a far different scenario.  

    The Survey Says…

    A recent Gallup poll provides an indication of just how healthy small businesses are in America. If you consider small business and big business to be antagonists competing for the favorability of Americans, there's a clear winner. And it's not even close. According to the survey, more than two-thirds of Americans report having "quite a lot" of confidence in their dealings with small businesses. And the percentage of Americans that report the same amount of confidence in dealing with big business? Only 21%. And that's an entrenched attitude; it's nothing new. Gallup has been conducting this poll for decades. Small business has always received a favorable response. And big business has always received a negative response. In fact, the highest favorable rating big business has ever received occurred 40 years ago. In 1975, big business received a 34% favorability rating. It's been all downhill ever since.  

    It's More Than Mere Perception

    But what about the numbers? While it's wonderful for small business people to have the trust and confidence of America, how does that play out in real numbers? Quite well, as it turns out. According to a recent report by Inc. Magazine, small businesses are faring quite well on a number of fronts. Some of the highlights include:
    • 7% of businesses that hire workers are small businesses
    • Half of the nation's workforce is employed by small businesses
    • Small business accounts for about half of the Gross Domestic Product
      And small business beats big business in another arena that's often overlooked: innovation. In a recent 4-year period, small business filed far more patents per employee than big business (among firms that filed 15 or more patents).  

    The Big Boys Are Envious of You

    If you're the owner or operator of a small business, you have your trials and tribulations to deal with. All businesses do. And likely you've faced some pretty stiff competition at times from big businesses competing for your clientele. But you have a gift, an astounding competitive advantage. It's an advantage that big business can't buy with all of their vast money and resources - though they've certainly tried. You have the trust and admiration of the American public. They want you to succeed. They're rooting for you. And they want to do business with you. The big guys can only dream of being so lucky.  
      Chris Delker is a freelance copywriter based in Dallas, Texas.
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  • Why You Should Regularly Backup Your WordPress Site

    Tuesday, August 4, 2015 by
    Why You Should Regularly Backup Your WordPress Site
    Editor's Note: the information in this post, while incredibly valuable, is simply non-applicable to those who use our Optimized WordPress Hosting, as HostGator manages all aspects of backups and security. Having said that, please enjoy the information contained herein, and do apply the same logic to non-WordPress sites as well:"   WordPress is the most popular content management system on the planet. And for good reason. It's easy to use, and offers an incredible wealth of functionality through plugins. Let's consider just one aspect of managing a site: performing backups. There are many reliable, easy-to-use plugins available for backing up a WordPress site. That's why you regularly backup your business WordPress site. Right?  

    No? You're Not Alone…

    A recent survey revealed that nearly half of WordPress users do not perform regular backups. So if you don't frequently backup your WordPress site, you've got lots of company. Perhaps that will offer you some measure of consolation. After all, according to the old saying, misery loves company. And if you continue to be lax about backing up your site, it's quite possible that you will end up miserable - but with lots of company. That’s because bad things can happen to any website - even WordPress-powered sites.  

    Updates, Break-Ins and Blunders

    According to a Small Business Trends report, regularly backing up your WordPress site may save you from one (or more) of three common occurrences that regularly vex website owners:
    1. Update Problems: Like any other well-maintained piece of software, WordPress code is frequently updated. That means that your WordPress site should be frequently updated. But with each update, there's a risk - a possibility that one of the plugins you use won't be in sync with the code update. And that can cause major problems, up to and including the complete failure of your website.
    If that happens, it's really not a major problem. You identify the problem plugin, replace or update it, and restore your site with the most recent backup. You say your backup is months old? Or you don't even have a backup? Umm, OK…now you have a major problem on your hands. And lots of miserable company.
    1. Attacks and Hacks: Your site is under constant threat of a cyber attack. In fact, the cyber security company Symantec recently reported that nearly a third of all cyber attacks target small businesses. There's much you can do to defend your site against cyber criminals. But alas, there's no way to assure that your site is absolutely invulnerable.
    So if the worst happens and your site does get hacked, having a very recent backup will go far towards minimizing the downtime - and the pain.
    1. Oopsies: Accidental file deletions happen with great regularity. In fact, there are really only two types of people: those who have accidentally deleted files, and those that will. So if an accidental deletion hasn't yet occurred at your business, it will. It's only a matter of time.
    And when it happens, it's not a big deal. Not if you have a recent backup. But if you don't have a backup? Well, you have our sympathies.  

    So How Frequently Should You Perform Backups?

    For most businesses, daily backups are best. Particularly active businesses may even wish to perform backups multiple times per day. But certainly no business should go more than a week without performing a backup. Backups, after all, are easy. They can be automated to occur seamlessly and behind the scenes. There are lots of options for WordPress users, ranging from free plugins to paid third-party services. And cloud-based backup options can even protect your business data from calamities such as natural disasters and fires.  

    Just Do It…

    As the old Nike commercial recommends, when it comes to backing up your WordPress site - just do it. Choose your preferred backup method, and just do it. And do it frequently. After all, misery may indeed love company. But your company doesn't love misery, does it?   Don't use HostGator's Managed WordPress solution? Try it today!

    Get Optimized WordPress!

    Chris Delker is a freelance copywriter based in Dallas, Texas.
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  • Top 4 Free WordPress Plugins For Bloggers

    Monday, July 13, 2015 by
    wordpress plugins How many plugins are available to WordPress users? A recent count put the number at nearly 40,000 plugins, most of them free. That places an astounding array of functionality at the fingertips of WordPress users. But not all plugins are created equal. Some are of more universal value than others. And while value is in the eye of the user, the Huffington Post recently published their take on the top 5 free WordPress plugins:  

    #1: Pretty Link

    Pretty Link helps you to "shrink, beautify, track, manage and share any URL on or off of your WordPress website." It's an elegant method of directing traffic to other sites as desired, or to other pages within your site. Both free versions and paid versions of the Pretty Link plugin are available.  

    #2: Google Analytics

    Google Analytics is an invaluable, free tool for measuring, tracking, and tweaking the performance of your website. And the Google Analytics plugin by Yoast makes it super simple to install GA on your WordPress site. This free plugin will deliver all of the benefits of GA, and has been installed on more than one million sites. And if you want some help with making the most of Google Analytics, there's also a premium version of this plugin available.  

    #3: WordPress SEO by Yoast

    WordPress is a great content management platform for search engine optimization. But the Yoast plugin for SEO builds upon WordPress' compatibility with SEO. SEO is a constantly moving target. And staying in the good graces of the search engines requires great expertise - or the Yoast plugin. This plugin is typically updated several times per year to stay up-to-date with SEO best practices.  

    #4: SumoMe

    It's bad news for a business website when most of the visitors are hit-and-run: they stop in for a brief visit and then flit away, never to return. But each visitor that arrives at your website represents an opportunity to cultivate a relationship, and eventually, a customer. The SumoMe plugin can help you to do that. SumoMe offers great value both for e-commerce sites and for bloggers.  

    Tip of the Iceberg

    With a field nearly 40,000 strong, there are certainly far more than 5 WordPress plugins that offer great value. And while the plugins listed above could be considered must-haves for most business sites, they represent only a tiny portion of a massive group of wonderfully useful plugins. Not all plugins are great, of course. Many aren't worth bothering with. But a fun aspect of managing a WordPress site is browsing through all the plugins available. If there's a job that needs doing on your WordPress site, odds are good that there's a great plugin ready to go to work for you - for free.  
    Chris Delker is a freelance copywriter based in Dallas, Texas.
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  • Is Your Business Cyber-Secure?

    Tuesday, June 16, 2015 by
    Is Your Business Cyber Secure
    Cyber attacks upon large companies are reported in the news quite regularly. In recent times, companies like Target, Ebay, Domino's Pizza, Home Depot, and AT&T were all hacked, resulting in varying degrees of damages. And it seems that cyber-criminals are getting better at what they do. The Heritage Organization reported that the cost of cyber crime against U.S. retailers more than doubled in just a year's time. But in spite of the regular news reports about attacks that have occurred, many attacks are never reported publicly. The Heritage report indicates that cyber crime occurs on a daily basis. And many companies that fall victim aren't even aware that their security has been compromised - at least not initially.  

    Small Companies Are Also At Risk

    Most cyber crime reported in the news involves large companies. And that fact might be feeding the false sense of security that exists among a number of small business owners. Many small business owners, in fact, believe that they simply aren't attractive targets for cyber-criminals. But unfortunately, that's wrong. That's very wrong. According to the National Small Business Association, half of small businesses were the victims of a cyber attack last year. Half! And the average cost of each of those attacks was nearly $21,000. So while big businesses are getting most of the spotlight when it comes to cyber crime, small businesses are doing their share of the suffering. It's true that large companies are attractive to cyber criminals due to the size of the potential payoff from a successful hack. But small businesses are also attractive targets because of the ease with which they can be compromised. Many small businesses just don't have an effective security plan in place for thwarting cyber criminals.  

    How To Increase the Cyber-Security of Your Small Business

    Your small business certainly can't match the resources allocated to cyber security by a Fortune 500 company. But that doesn't mean that your company is unavoidably destined to become easy pickings for cyber criminals. The Small Business Administration offers a number of tips for tightening your cyber security, including the following:  
    • Protective Software. Install antivirus and antispy software on all of your company's computers. Make sure that the software is regularly updated (automated updates are recommended).
    • Cyber-Secure Policies. Put in place policies for the handling of sensitive customer data. Make sure that all employees understand and comply with those policies.
    • Up-To-Date Software. Software such as web browsers and operating systems are regularly updated with maintenance releases, and quite frequently the updates address security issues. Make certain that the software on your computers is kept up-to-date with the latest maintenance releases.
      A great way to get started in your quest to tighten your cyber security would be to utilize the Small Biz Cyber Planner offered by the SBA. It's free, and will help you to create an effective plan for making your business safer. And since knowledge is power, it might also be wise to invest some time in taking the SBA's free training course about small business cyber security.  

    The Bigger They Are…

    The bigger they are, the harder they fall. And that's why cyber criminals like hacking into big companies. The potential windfall is massive. But cyber crime against small business is also on the rise - big time. That's partly because of the resources that big companies are committing to increasing their cyber security. And small businesses can fall awfully hard too, relatively speaking. If your small company is the one out of every two that is hit, the consequences can be devastating. So if you haven't been putting lots of thought and effort into protecting your business against cyber crime, it's time to do so. In fact, it's way past time.  
    Chris Delker is a freelance copywriter based in Dallas, Texas.
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  • 3 Critical Mistakes You Might Be Making with Your Business Website

    Thursday, June 11, 2015 by
    3 Critical Mistakes You Might Be Making with Your Business Website
    A strange but true fact: roughly one out of every two small businesses still doesn't have a website. (If you fall in this category, what are you waiting for? You can get a great website up and running quickly with HostGator - learn more here.) That wouldn't have been particularly surprising 20 years ago. But today? It seems rather strange. Especially when you consider that nearly 100% of consumers now do at least some of their shopping online for products and services that interest them. So if you're a small business owner, and you do have a website, that automatically gives you a huge leg-up over about half of your competition. But what about the other half of your competition - the half that does have a website? If you're like many small businesses, you might not be faring so well against those competitors. That's because many small businesses have websites that are much less effective than they could be. And in fact, many small businesses are making the very same mistakes with their websites. According to the Small Business Administration, there are 3 critical mistakes that many small businesses are making with their online presence:  

    #1. No Call-to-Action

    Let's say that you have a website. And let's say that a prospective customer lands upon your homepage. Do you tell that prospective customer what you want them to do? Many small business websites don't. They seem satisfied to let visitors wander around aimlessly for a bit until they wander off the website - likely never to return. And that's a mistake that more than two-thirds of small business websites make. But it's important to let website visitors know what you want them to do. In fact, every single page of your website should have a designated purpose - a most-wanted response. And the copy and graphics on that page should work to elicit that most-wanted response. But you're not likely to get that most-wanted response without telling your website visitors what you want them to do.  

    #2. Mobile Incompatibility

    The world is going mobile. Only a few short years ago, most customers accessed your website via a desktop or laptop computer. But that's no longer true. These days, it's likely that just as many customers visit you virtually with a smart phone or a tablet. And that might be a problem for you. Because a website design that is perfectly fine for viewing with a desktop/laptop computer may not be particularly suitable for viewing with a mobile device. In fact, it's very likely that your website is not mobile compatible. Because fewer than 10% of mobile websites are mobile compatible. And if you think that mobile incompatibility is no more than a slight inconvenience for some of your website visitors, think again. Google takes mobile compatibility very seriously - and may seriously ding your site in search results if you're not mobile friendly. (Not sure whether your site is mobile-friendly? Use this free tool to easily find out.)  

    #3. Cold-Shouldering Social Media

    Social media is all the rage these days. Social media portals such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have become wildly popular. And many marketers are trying to tap into that popularity as a new way to reach customers. In truth, there's some dispute about the effect of social media marketing for businesses. But many marketing experts feel that social media holds far too much promise to ignore. As one expert noted in a Forbes article, there are a great many potential benefits to social media marketing. Even so, more than 80% of small business websites don't even bother to link to any social media accounts. And that might be a massive mistake.  

    It's A Bad News / Good News Scenario

    The three critical mistakes listed above are made by the majority of small business websites. So if you're the owner or operator of a small business, the odds are strong that you're in that group. That's the bad news. The good news, though, is that simply having a website places you ahead of half of your competition. And you can compound that advantage by eliminating any of these three critical mistakes that you might be making with your website. Do that, and you'll place your business in the rarified air of dominating your online competition. And that's a very good place to be.
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