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  • How and Why You Should Use WooCommerce for Your Online Store

    Monday, July 31, 2017 by

    Create Online Store with WooCommerce

    How To Create an Online Store with WooCommerce

    Can we be honest about one thing? It would be really cool to run a great online store. It doesn't have to be the next Amazon, Wayfair, Target or NextFab. Just the kind of store where people actually buy your jewelry, accessories, coaching packages or eBooks every day, leaving reviews, reading your blog and helping fuel your passion. Honestly, I've never had the feeling of selling products - I provide others with it! I'm a web designer. I help people like you make an online store and interview store owners, setting you guys up with online shops that work well and get the job done. My product isn't jewelry or home decor, it's how-to videos on WordPress setup. But the people I've helped have made real stores that have dramatically transformed their businesses and bottom lines. And of all the online store eCommerce website setups I've gone through, one thing remains true: it's really rewarding and incredibly fun to get that store you envisioned finally launched. So, how do you create this online store? Well, here's the really good news - even if you're a total beginner: If you can setup a WordPress blog, your dream online store is closer than you might think. In this post we'll compare eCommerce softwares then look at why making an online store with your existing WordPress skills and one tiny little plugin I'll introduce you to could be your ticket to running the online store of your dreams. Recommended WordPress Hosting

    E-Commerce Software Is Literally Popping Up Everywhere

    Let's back up and address the fact that there's more than WordPress out there. Whether you've tried blogging and websites before or you still want to run a brick and mortar business, it's important that you do your eCommerce homework and learn how millions of your peers and shop owners are selling their products online. The most popular software by far used today include Shopify, Magento, Prestashop, BigCommerce, Zen Cart and WordPress. Doing a quick search in Google reveals the many options: This graph of best eCommerce platforms is also a must see. In short, you have your options. You can try them all and make a store with each one. While I don't recommend running 5 online stores, it's possible if you have the time and you'll almost certainly find success with one of them - or become someone like me in the process who has to know about all of them! Here's why we'll focus on WordPress in this article:
    1. It's much more affordable to create a WordPress blog (your only costs are domain and hosting, about $5/month); and
    2. You actually learn how to set up a website when you make a WordPress website (instead of having a company like one of the above do it for you).
    For example, the costs of running an entry level Shopify store are $29/month and you can make a Facebook store for $9. Either way, this is risky, because you give up control and you don't get to learn all the details of how to make a website. This skill alone becomes really valuable when you want to create other types of client or personal websites or move your websites later on. To sum up: while it's possible to create a website with every software, it's not cost- or time-efficient, so let's move on to the most popular eCommerce software most folks use and how to do it.  

    Use The Most Downloaded Plugin in WordPress

    Imagine if there were a plugin that could make your humble but lovely old WordPress blog into an online store. You wouldn't even need to learn a whole new software. You could just install a tiny little plugin and your blog becomes an online store as quickly as it takes you change fonts. There is: WooCommerce! WooCommerce. A massive software. Bundled into a tiny plugin. Delivered to you. Install and change your blog into a bustling store. Of course, WooCommerce isn't just any ordinary plugin. The average plugin in the WordPress plugin directory currently has about 20-30,000 downloads. WooCommerce has over 28,000,000 downloads. Thats a lot of online stores. Hardly a new tech trend, but if you're new to the online store party, welcome. So why is WooCommerce so popular, boasting about as many downloads as Katy Perry's songs on Spotify?
    1. Ease of use You can install WooCommerce in two clicks then the Setup Wizard guide your through about 10 more clicks to completion. Done and done.
    2. Theme compatibility WooCommerce is made for WordPress themes. You can look up whether your theme is compatible, as so many free WordPress themes for WooCommerce are.
    3. Full suite of pages When you install WooCommerce onto a WordPress blog you automatically get Shop, Cart, Account and Checkout pages, all of which I for one thought had to be custom coded by web designers.
    4. Customers stay happy Customers stay happy. I had to repeat that because when you give your users clearly labeled products and a shopping experience even easier than Amazon (yes, you can checkout on WooCommerce without logging in, which technically makes it an even quicker checkout than on Amazon!) then you have very happy customers who love your products, too.
     

    Discover Who Else Uses WooCommerce

    WooCommerce has a silly name but it's used by some very serious companies, including Duracell, Ripley's Believe It Or Not, and Men's Health. WooCommerce even has an entire section of online stores that sell coffee. (The link above will take you to the full WooCommerce eCommerce WordPress showcase page too.) You don't need to be a web designer to use WooCommerce, and that's part of the beauty of it. As they say on their homepage, it's the best solution for Store Owners and Developers. They even made an easy to use WordPress Theme called Storefront (with over 1.4 million downloads!) where you can create the most simple online store ever and start selling your products. Of course, there are more complex themes for WooCommerce you might prefer. Many of the best WooCommerce eCommerce themes are sold on ThemeForest for under $100, a relatively small price to pay considering you're creating an online store! But through the parallax banners and video sliders the focus always stays on one thing: selling your products easily.  

    One Last Question

    Why have you not already built an online store with WooCommerce? No, that would be too cheesy of a question to end with. The question that remains is this: How do you actually get people to buy your products once you've installed WooCommerce? That is, how do you find the right products, create them in physical form, upload them to your store, hunt down beautiful images, and gain the confidence to launch an online store? Good thing there's a video for that:
    The video provides a comprehensive hands on demo explaining how to make an eCommerce website online store for beginners using WordPress. It takes about 5 hours to complete, but at the 1.5 hour make you'll have a WordPress website with WooCommerce and can basically start selling (and hold off on the detailed designing if you'd like). Make sure to read the blog post guide that comes with this tutorial!  

    Now Get Started Today

    There is so much demand for your goods and services online nowadays that if you have a product or product idea and aren't trying to sell it, you're losing money. Even if it still seems difficult to get started and build your eCommerce website, if you start today it will be that much easier - and you'll be that much closer to sustainable sales - one year from today. Contact our support team if you have any questions as you create an online store with WordPress and its popular WooCommerce plugin. Whatever you want to sell, we want to help!
  • Starting a Blog? Educate Yourself With These 10 Blogging Lessons

    Thursday, April 27, 2017 by
    Blogging Lessons from first year of blogging If you just started a blog then you need to learn blogging lessons. You don't need more posts, you don't need a new Facebook page, you need to learn the blogging lessons those ahead of you already know. I know "lessons" doesn't imply too much fun. Don't worry, this is just one blog post and takes 3 minutes to read. You can skip down to the good stuff below if you'd like. Create Your Blog  

    Why keep reading?

    Alternatively, you can plunder through the blogosphere head first if you want, assuming people will read whatever you write and generally making every mistake we all make. It will still be fun to create a blog but it will take you longer to reach success. You could find yourself three months down the road without any results to show off other than your lonely blog itself. I know because it happened to me (more on that down below). In this article I'm going to give you a head start ahead of other blogs by explaining 10 lessons I learned in my first year of blogging. Nine years ago I was new to blogging. But I observed and questioned everything and now for the past few years have been able to blog for a living. Without that first year, the other eight wouldn't have happened. Granted, this is only one man's advice, but I've interacted with thousands of bloggers and gathered a lot of insight in my time. I hope at least a few of you can benefit from this.  

    Which types of bloggers should read this?

    Some of the posts I write go way off track into abstract land and we talk about which images are most profitable and whether PageRank will make a comeback. This is not one of those posts. I want to make sure that if you're one of these types of bloggers you know that this post (and the lessons it contains) are for you: types of bloggers1. Topical experts If you're an expert on a topic, whether it's gadgets or gardening, you need blogging lessons to work those huge paragraphs of your advice into something more manageable and readable. 2. Business bloggers Anyone who has signed up to blog for their business has to please the CEO, and they're often smarter than you think. A little finesse will go a long way. 3. Ghost writers The ghost blogger is assumed to be the craftiest blogger of all. You must know hundreds of styles and pick from your arsenal which to use at any given moment. So a post like this, where I'm letting you steal my styles, is ideal! 4. Developers Developers often just write in shorthand. It's great for other developers, but you need to learn your audience's voice to get common folks (like your future investors) to read through it all. 5. Personal bloggers who want to blog for a living It's personal bloggers who want to make a living off a blog who need these lessons the most. The ghost writer gets $250 per post on big tech blogs and the developer blogs their notes to make millions off an app someday. They don't necessarily need the income from their personal blog like we do. As I said, it's the solo bloggers who can benefit the most from a fast rise on the learning curve. Read the blogs of anyone who started small and now is a big blogger and they'll constantly talk about what they learned. This was me. We don't have the guidelines corporate bloggers might and have to create our own. For these reasons, let's focus the messages of this post on solo bloggers.  

    Why you need to learn from those ahead of you

    Before I go into several bite-sized lessons you can take away from this post, I want to share a story. This story is about a kid who could have made a huge blog in university and been a success story of his alma-mater. This kid was me.  

    A topic too late

    Back in 2008, I started a blog about stocks. It sounded like a million dollar idea and there were many fewer blogs back then (100,000+ start each day). I was new to stocks and hadn't invested but was taking a course called Money and Credit that made me super curious how it all works. This blog was going to be about my rise to fame trading stocks! Well the stock market crashed the next year. My advice was basically useless and my rise to fame was cut short. In 2010, I turned to blogging about college advice. I recruited about 50 guest writers and we blogged endlessly about advice for new freshmen. This one had more success - we even got free laptops and beverages to review! But the larger sites like College Confidential and College Humor dwarfed our blog and stole our traffic. My rise to fame was basically at a standstill. Thankfully (and this is my first lesson for you) I had knowingly followed one strategy of many of the best bloggers: write about it as you learn it to take people along your journey. [bctt tweet="#Blogging Lesson #1: Write about it as you learn it to take people along your journey." username="hostgator"] The college blog had resulted in several questions about how to even start a blog in the first place, and in mid 2011 I was able to start a free blogging advice community with the few dollars I could spare. By salvaging the value in it, I was able to "fall forward" and land on a newer, more successful venture. The message? My rise to fame was returned to me, but I spent three years learning in order to get there. When you start off blogging assuming it'll be a hit you enter with confidence, but you kick yourself later for not knowing what worked. You need to optimize your time early on if at all possible. The good news is if you generate a whole trail of advice for others to follow, then you'll distill something very valuable to a beginner audience.  

    10 blogging lessons to keep in mind

    Now it’s time to get into the bulk of this post. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you'd like to borrow my lessons from nine years in this crazy industry:  

    1. Direct response copy is your friend

    I’m starting strong with a tip I’d usually not give out, it’s that good. You will always get more attention on your post in the form of reads, comments and shares if you start out with the problem clearly explained. Then go into the solution. Us laymen readers need to know why you're writing, so follow the steps in direct response copy any time you want to convert knowledge into an actionable article people will respond to.  

    2. You must find an idol

    No matter what type of blogger you are, the easiest way to get inspiration and know that there's more out there for you is to find an idol who's already killing it in your field. Read this person every day and subscribe to their email list. Learn, learn, learn then apply it.  

    3. A good domain name matters

    Measure twice, cut once. If you're the best blogger ever with a confusing or just misleading domain, you will face unnecessary setbacks. Pick a domain name that reflects your work and the community you hope to build. Humor is a-okay. But blogging on an old domain or a subdomain, like greatidea.tumblr.com, can hurt your credibility. Domain Name  

    4. Don't wait for roadblocks to move. Move around them.

    A big key to rising to success in blogging (quickly) is the ability to avoid roadblocks. Don't try and blast through your writer's block or force a topic that hasn't worked for you. Move on to a new topic. Ask yourself: is what you're working on worth the time, and is it going to get you more of what you want? I see bloggers constantly dwell on a certain design only to trash it later. Don't get bogged down! Step back and focus on what you really want out of your blog (things like comments, shares, popular articles, and a large audience). [bctt tweet="You don't have to move blogging roadblocks! Just stealthily move around them. #inspiration" username="hostgator"]  

    5. People want to write for you

    In every niche and every time, even as I write this at 12:50am, there are people who want exposure. Even if your blog is two weeks old, someone can still help your growth and their own resume by guest posting for you. If you're trying to build a community of readers, consider building a community of authors first. Everyone will share their own work!  

    6. The 80/20 rule

    The 80/20 rule applied to blogging can mean either:
    1. 80 percent of the success you achieve comes from a small 20 percent of your activities, or
    2. You should spend 80% of your time blogging away from your blog and 20% blogging at your blog, not the other way around.
    Both 1 and 2 are very much related. You achieve way more success on your blog by blogging for other blogs and promoting your content in places that already have readers. Like Derek Halpern of social triggers says: "It’s smarter to find another 10,000 people to consume what you’ve already created as opposed to creating more."  

    7. Get self-hosted WordPress and a host you can fall in love with

    The sooner you get on self-hosted WordPress the happier your life becomes. Instead of wondering why you can't do something, you have the full set of tools used by the web's most famous, profitable, prolific bloggers. HostGator is the solution I used to get my first Wordpress.org site setup using the most basic option available anywhere on the internet, Hatchling, but they now have managed WordPress cloud hosting too. So it's just a decision of whether to get basic WordPress.org, or get super-charged lighting-fast full-throttle WordPress.org. [bctt tweet="The sooner you get on self-hosted WordPress the happier your life becomes. #bloggingadvice" username="hostgator"] Recommended WordPress Hosting  

    8. Your email list is your #1 priority

    I say #1 there because #4 doesn't sound quite as urgent, but the truth is this: if you run a blog you should hook it up with an email list ASAP to start building your community and to show every reader that you're serious about what you're creating. Even if someone doesn't join your email list right away, they'll always be intrigued by some inner community with secret offerings you've created. Just knowing your email list exists will actually make someone a lot more likely to interact with your blog. Email list for blogs  

    9. Behind every success story is heaps of blood, sweat and tears

    Every blogger who packages their advice into a beautiful eBook, course, or blog post has gone through many hard nights and long days to get their blog where they need it to be. You have to love the journey. It's never as easy as they say it is, which makes it all that much more rewarding when you do succeed.  

    10. Use blue shirt trust to your advantage

    The phrase "blue shirt trust" describes the phenomenon that if you wear a blue shirt to interviews or appearances, people are more likely to believe you and inevitably choose you over the competition. My final tip is a lesson that truly applies across blogs and niches and the lesson is this: if you can present yourself in a trustworthy way, you will be far more successful than if you do not, regardless of the content you provide. Whether it's leading with a positive quote, using a reliable WordPress theme, writing in a trustworthy tone, or simply using a blue color scheme, you want to do this.  

    Learning for blogging success

    Do not underestimate the value of learning from your blogging ancestors. I don’t want to see you start several blogs before hitting it big - I want the first blog you make to go big. Take responsibility — humble yourself — and pride in learning in every corner of the web. I really hope this post helps, and if you're interesting in going deeper with some more hands on blogging lessons, check out my WordPress blog tutorial below.
    What's a blogging lesson that stands out for you? How did it impact your online career? I know the HostGator audience is a savvy group of bloggers and website owners so I’m really curious to hear your thoughts. See you down below in the comments.
  • 5 Signs You Were Born to Be a Blogger

    Monday, February 13, 2017 by
    Born to Be a Blogger Ace the SAT writing section? Desire to work from home someday? Always look at the world wondering, hmm, could we do that one thing better? If this sounds like you, these may be signs you were born to be a blogger. Stop ignoring the signs and embrace your calling! In this post I'll reveal five common examples from the real world which could be your calling to start a blog, along with a few examples from my own blogging-filled life. Each example includes a "what it means for you" section where I share advice on what you should look out for in the real world. Hopefully you can use these tidbits to gain an edge on your competition, make a blog, and start blogging for life, too. If you just know this is you - maybe you already saw the sign (Ace of Base, anyone?) - then HostGator can help! Launch your blog easily today like thousands of other new bloggers have done with one of their shared web hosting plans. Create Your Blog  

    Sign #1: You're the most tech savvy person at your company

    born to be a tech bloggerLet's start right off with the stark reality where you're the go-to (or maybe even the only) tech-savvy person in your office space. In this scenario, everyone comes up to you asking, "How do I fix my internet?" or, "What's wrong with my emails?" and you end up helping them. You are over-talented at technology and have a knack for problem solving, but maybe your company doesn't recognize because they want you to complete certain other tasks. When I worked for the NYC City Hall this was day to day reality - I was the quintessential "web-guy." I put up with it for two years before realizing these skills were more valuable in the blogosphere and never looked back. What it means for you: It's only fun for so long doing tech support for a business or company without recognition, especially when you can go get that recognition by starting a blog. With your own blog, you get to build a readership who appreciates your work through comments, shares and real social media statistics. Real bloggers and bloggers-to-be recognize their technical talent is valuable and put it to use for the benefit of the world, not some corporation.  

    Sign #2: You wrote essays overnight and still got A's

    Great writers make great bloggersIf you were someone like me who saved essays and term papers until the last night and were still confident you could get them done, that's a clear sign you were born to be a blogger. You can write fast and efficiently because your mind knows what it wants to say and you almost see the words on the paper before they are written! Anyone who wrote great essays in high school or college has a shot at being a great blogger. You would be amazed by how poorly some of the best blogs are written - and should know you can do it better on your own topic of choice! What it means for you: This one is not just a sign but also inspiration. If you were good at writing essays quickly, you'll likely be able to crank out blog posts for people to read, too. Here's where the inspiration comes in: your essays usually got trashed, while your blog posts will live forever and be seen by WAY more people!  

    Sign #3: You have held a variety of teaching positions

    teachers make great bloggersIf you were a tutor, assistant teacher or are just naturally good at explaining things, it's 100% a sign you can succeed in the blogosphere! Why? Because most great blogs use how-to articles in some shape or another to provide valuable information to the masses. Think "how to apply make up" or "how to beat level 5 in Call of Duty" or "how to create new designs in photoshop." There are blogs which cover all of these things! If not, your blog could soon become the go-to resource for any kind of necessary instruction as long as it's relevant and ideally heavily Googled. What it means for you: There is a ton of value in being a good teacher on the blogosphere. For every niche (finance, how-to, gardening, cooking, gaming, business, etc), there are a million questions people ask in Google every day and Google likes displaying blogs with good how-to's as the answers. Make your blog one of these resources and you're more than half way to becoming a well-known blogger. Of course, there is a ton of value in teaching in the real world, too, but why not do both?  

    Sign #4: You want to earn money on the internet

    Make money as a bloggerBlogging is an excellent way to make money online through basic and commonly accepted avenues like Google Ads, private ad networks, product referrals, affiliate programs, and even writing posts for compensation. If you have tried other means to earn some cash from time spent in front of the computer (investing, gaming, fantasy sports), but perhaps without much success, blogging is a more wholesome route that can certainly provide you with income in return for your hard work and time spent. What it means for you: The advice here is pretty simple: start sooner rather than later. Anyone who has seen the signs they should be a blogger and acted on them will tell you that starting soon is key. The sooner you start the learning process, the sooner you can start trying out different things to make your blog a profitable one. Not to make you feel too old, but there's a great Pat Flynn post from 2008 explaining his frustration at not starting sooner in light of earnings lost.  

    Sign #5: You've always been a natural creator

    Creative bloggersIf you have always created things, from poster boards to living room forts you could play with among friends and show off to your parents, it's a major sign blogging is in the cards for you. For me personally, it was always Lego and Lego competitions (not much success though, too many experts and big kids entered). Now on the blogosphere, I can write a post that I put long nights into and watch it get over a million views. Ask any blogger what their best posts are and they'll immediately glow with pride at how many people have seen and enjoyed their work. You should feel this awesome feeling too! What it means for you: Take your creative powers to the web. Start with a simple epic blog post, or a bunch of smaller posts that tie together into an ultimate guide. When you start a WordPress blog with HostGator, you get unlimited posts, pages, images, and space for uploading your work. Create a blog about any niche and start blogging immediately to show the world how great you are and reveal your hidden talents. Even it seems scary to be a creator on the web, you absolutely must try it out and have my guarantee that you'll enjoy it after a little practice.   There you have it, five out of perhaps hundreds of signs you were meant to be a blogger. As I said, it can be scary starting a blog from scratch, but that's why HostGator is here to help. Have you seen any of these signs? Drop a quick comment from your experience - who knows, odds are you're not alone and you could inspire someone with a similar experience to build a blog too!