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  • 5 New Year’s Resolutions for Online Entrepreneurs

    Friday, December 30, 2016 by
    New Year's Resolutions for Online Entrepreneurs Every year, right around the time December 31st begins to approach, we may find ourselves reminiscing on the prior year's happenings, for better or worse. Our thoughts soon turn to New Year's Resolutions. The word resolution in many definitions is intended to be the action of solving a problem, making a firm decision to do, or not to do, something. As an online entrepreneur, the very nature of succeeding is to try, and with trying, it is practically guaranteed we're going to experience failures along the way. Failures, however, aren't an aspect to business you should be setting resolutions to abolish; instead, pat yourself on the back for opening up opportunities to learn which strategies are worthwhile. This year we've chosen to emphasize resolutions catering to your health, happiness, and vitality as an online entrepreneur. Running your business from the online space takes an enormous amount of time and energy. This year let's plan to take some of that time and energy back, so you can keep pushing forward professionally. HostGator Website Builder  

    1. Take Control Of Your Time Spent Working

    For the typical American, a forty hour work week is the standard expectation when it comes to time spent on the clock. For the typical entrepreneur, forty hours a week sounds like the amount of time spent working on their last vacation. Entrepreneurs do not have the luxury of always specifying when or how long they're going to work. When business comes knocking on the door you answer it; when business is feeling scarce you dig deeper to find it. Working away your life, however, isn't the reason you became an entrepreneur in the first place. This year make it your number one priority to divide your time between all the areas of your life that matter, be it entertainment, friends, time at the gym, or just getting enough sleep. Balance will always be key to long-term business sustainability and growth. Ask yourself a few questions:
    • Am I actually focused on work, while I work? Or am I constantly checking my phone?
    • Can I give myself a quit time everyday?
    • Do I do too much work while I'm at home or around friends?
    • Can I stop working on the weekends?
      [bctt tweet="40 hours: a typical American workweek or a week of vacation for the typical entrepreneur? #hustle" username="hostgator"]

    2. Sharpen Up Your Financial Knowledge

    Whether you've hired a personal CPA, or have to run the books all on your own, there's always more to learn when it comes to saving money for your business. Starting a new year means all of your expenses get reset, and the knowledge you carry with you starting January 1st will greatly improve your quarterly tallies. Here are a few smart spending tips for 2017:
    • Maximize your deductions by meeting with a  reputable CPA who will refresh your memory on which lunches can be written off, in addition to all the other business expenses you want to keep fresh in your mind.
    • Still have bad debts with high APRs? Get rid of them this year for good. It may seem difficult but swallowing interest costs will really add up over time.
    • If possible, lower your operating costs without sacrificing noticeable quality.
    • If you're debt free, but actually could benefit from a loan, work on raising your personal credit as this is a major factor in getting business loans.
    • Use 2016's revenue as a prediction for which months performed best, and learn to anticipate future efforts for improving these numbers.
     

    3. Make Health A Priority Everyday

    Of all the cliche New Year Resolutions, “eat better and workout” has to be among the most prevalent. Sadly most people start with a burst of motivation, only to quit once the Super Bowl party or box of Valentine's Day chocolates disrupts their determination. How do you make health a priority everyday? You mix it up, and set one realistic goal every morning. No one, except professional athletes and devout gym rats, can find time to exercise everyday. So don't tell yourself you're going to, only to feel like you've broken a resolution when you don't. Make exercise a craving. Do it in the middle of the day, opposed to after you're done working. Do it in the morning. Squeeze it into your schedule every given opportunity just like every other aspect of being an entrepreneur. Below are some healthy tips to follow besides exercise. Successfully implementing one of these everyday will allow you to achieve micro goals which add up to long term healthy habits:
    • Buy a large water bottle, 32oz or more, and make it a goal to refill it several times a day. Being hydrated is often under prioritized for most people.
    • Get into making nutrient dense smoothies in the morning. They’re quick, easy, and will keep you running until well past lunch time.
    • Spend less time on your screens, and more time outside.
    • Take a five minute breather every 30 minutes. Just because you sit in front of your desk for three hours, doesn't mean you were actually working.
      [bctt tweet="How do you make health a priority everyday? Set 1 realistic goal every morning. #NewYearsResolution" username="hostgator"]  

    4. Give Back To Your Community

    Leaving politics aside, 2016 was a pretty rough year for a lot of people. This cloud of negativity has given the impression things in the world are not okay, and our general attitude towards one another is divisive to say the least. As a business person dependent upon the support of your community, whether locally or in an online sphere, it's up to you to play a role in bringing people back together.
    • Use your technical skills to assist a non-profit organization.
    • Sponsor events catered to less fortunate community members.
    • Mentor other entrepreneurs just starting out to provide a sense of support and guidance.
    It really is true that the more you give, the more you're going to get in return.  

    5. Do Not Let Others Define Your Success

    Part of obtaining health and happiness is remembering how to be grateful for what we have, and not focus on what we think we're missing. Being an entrepreneur is undeniably competitive; however, measuring yourself against the highlight reels and successes of your peers is not a formula for having an excellent 2017. The best thing about “success” is that it is entirely subjective. Someone may make more money than you, but do they have the time to enjoy their earnings. How is their health? The point is, define your own success. Which of these resolutions do you plan to follow in 2017? Let us know in the comments! We wish you a happy new year filled with success, growth, and new opportunities!
  • 5 Plugins To Improve Your WordPress Website

    Tuesday, December 27, 2016 by
    WordPress Website Plugins Part of what makes WordPress so incredible is the ability to simply install plugins which act to enable greater functionality as well as improve the appearance of your website. WordPress now has over 30,000 unique plugins, allowing users to execute their greatest imaginations when branding themselves online. The trouble for most is not having enough familiarity with how plugins operate to sift through such a massive inventory. Luckily, we've created a list of five plugins that have been shown to help users of all industries so you can start getting the most from your WordPress website.  

    1. Yoast SEO

    Yoast SEO Formerly known as Wordpress SEO by Yoast, this plug-in is one of the best available for guiding you through the process of optimizing your website to appear in the search engines. Some of the key features include:
    • Post Titles and Meta Descriptions: Every time you search in Google, you'll see the title of a web-page and a description underneath. With the 'Snippet Editor' you get to edit this section manually to have complete control over the SERPs appearance for your website.
    • Visual Feedback: Yoast lets you know when your copy is ready to post from an SEO standpoint.
    • Set Focus Keywords: Yoast lets you know if you're using your focus keywords too much, too little, or if you've used them before.
     

    2. Google Fonts

    Easy Google Fonts You may have noticed while creating your first blog posts that WordPress only houses a very limited amount of fonts to choose from. Well, with this free plugin, the font resource is one of the most exciting developments in typography in a very long time. Not only does this plugin add the necessary Google code for you, it also gives you the ability to assign the Google fonts to specific CSS elements of your website. The Google Directory has hundreds of font families to choose from, which is an excellent way to add a touch of personalization to your blog.  

    3. Akismet

    Akismet Have you ever gotten a comment on one of your Wordpress blog posts that at first glance seemed genuine, but may actually be spam? While these comments are mostly dirty tactics used by Internet spammers trying to get you to use their service, or visit their site, sometimes these comments can link to malicious downloads, or at the least be a large waste of your time. Askimet is an anti-spam service that analyzes masses of data and prevents these comments from being posted on your blog.  

    4. Google Analytics

    Google Analytics Dashboard for WP Google Analytics is one of the most powerful tools on the web for monitoring nearly all of the traffic related data on your website. With the free Wordpress plugin, you'll quickly be able to run reports on where your visitors are coming from as you work to build a target audience.  

    5. W3 Total Cache

    W3 Total Cache W3 Total Cache improves the user experience on your site by reducing download times, increasing server performance, and by providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration. Other benefits include:
    • 10x improvement in overall site performance.
    • Improved conversion rates will up your rank on Google.
    • Reduced page load time, which allows visitors to view more pages, and spend more time on your site.
    • The ability to sustain high traffic.
    Have you used any of these plugins? How was your experience with them? Let us know in the comments!
  • 6 Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Budget For Social Media Marketing

    Thursday, July 7, 2016 by

    Social Media Marketing

    It's never been a secret that in order to run a successful business, you need to invest in marketing to ensure your brand is visible among the noise. While SEO and content creation are huge aspects to focus on, ignoring social media is no longer an option. People have come to expect finding all sorts of brands online, and your business is no exception.

    Social media can provide benefits the best advertisements and email lists cannot compete with on their own. While it's entirely possible to use your own time to run a commanding social media campaign, it's often easier and a better investment to budget for social media opposed to using your valuable hours of the day.

    What are some effective ways to spend on social media?

    Spending money on social media marketing boils down to a few different strategies, all or one of which may work best for your small business:

    • Use your budget to boost and purchase advertisements.
    • Hire an additional employee(s) to be your official social media marketer.
    • Pay someone to create photo/written/video content for your brand.

    Here are six reasons why creating a budget for social media is an excellent decision.

    1. High ROI Potential

    Over the last two decades the world of advertisements and marketing strategies have rapidly shifted towards focusing on the Internet.

    And where do people spend most of their time online? Social Media.

    Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram know this better than anyone and have provided incentives for businesses to purchase advertisements for less than you would pay for most other advertisements based on potential reach. Due to social media's targeted approach, you're much more likely to have the right potential customers viewing your ads.

    2. It Gives Your Business Direction

    The best businesses take the needs of people, however large, and fulfill them on a regular basis. The best advertisements figure out who these people are, and send them directly to your business. As previously mentioned, social media excels in targeting by seeking out audiences based on data patterns, or as we call it in the tech world, analytics.

    As your business ages, you can use analytics to determine which products, services, and advertising strategies are (and aren't) working for you. Paying for ads or hiring a social media analyst will be key in being able to use the data beneficially.

    3. Unlimited Reach

    The thing about social media ads is they don't have a specified limit for how many people can view them. Since ads are integrated right into the social platform there's an unlimited potential for people to share, tag, and re-post your content all over the Internet.

    This is why companies create advertisements that often have nothing to do with their product until the last few seconds. If you can engage people for 15-30 seconds with something memorable, no matter how ridiculous, the amount of people who will see it can be endless, and for years after the time it's released. If your business doesn't have any team members capable of creating dynamic content, this might be an area where you should focus spending your budget: hiring creative content creators.

    4. One Click Away

    Printed advertisements have been on the decline for a number of reasons:

    • Tracking ROI is difficult and usually comes down to word of mouth.
    • The expected reach for print ads is more finite, and can be capped at how many copies are printed.
    • Print ads lack in-depth analytics about who is seeing them, and where viewers are coming from.

    Internet ads, however, don't have to deal with any of those pitfalls. Best of all, if someone feels the need to take action on your advertisement they're only a single click away.

    5. Developing A Customer Relationship

    Have you ever left a comment on an advertisement you saw in a magazine? Me neither, an artfully-drawn mustache perhaps, but never a comment I would expect someone might reply to.

    With social media you have the unique opportunity of creating advertisements that also develop a personal relationship with your customers. If anyone has a question, or something to compliment you on, you can answer it on the spot and thank them personally for using your service.

    6. Looking Towards Permission

    Even though this whole article has been discussing the benefits of ads, I have to talk about advertising as a whole. People are sick of ads.

    With things like Netflix, subscription music services like Pandora, and the option to skip ads on YouTube it's very apparent people are over having sales pitches thrown at them, and will even pay to have ads turned off. Nowadays we want to define ourselves through the brands we spend money on, and that means looking at choice.

    On social media people choose to like your page. People choose to say “I find this ad annoying.” Instead of paying to have it crammed down peoples’ throats, pay to have your ads put where people are actually looking, their social networks.

  • What You Need To Know About Page Speed

    Wednesday, June 8, 2016 by
    What You Need To Know About Page Speed

    To most people, page speed is usually a reflection of their Internet Service Provider, and never really thought of as an internal issue. While download speed and Internet packages definitely play a part in how quickly your website loads, there is an entirely separate list of factors that determine how quickly your content appears in someone's browser.

    Back in 2010, Google determined page speed was such an important aspect to how people experience a website, they included it in their ranking factors, which now greatly affect how your website appears in the SERPs. Nearly half of all consumers on the Internet expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less; while the experts at Google believe an optimized website worth their top ranking should load in under half a second.

    Recommended WordPress Hosting

    These figures are backed by countless studies that show page speed can lead to serious losses in transactions solely due to the extra time in which people become frustrated and abandon a purchase in the online sales cart.

    That's why we've chosen to look at page speed from the small business perspective, and give you the resources to examine where your website could stand some improvements.

    What Factors Determine Page Speed?

    On the surface, it's generally impossible for the average website owner to know what is preventing their pages from loading efficiently. Generally speaking, each of the following can contribute to your overall page speed:

    • Your Web Host: Where you host your site pays massive dividends when it comes to customer experience. If you’re coerced by a cheap offer it could be the first mistake in regards to slow page speeds. Avoid this mistake by hosting your site with HostGator!
    • Large Images: There is a big difference between the necessary resolution for print and screen based imagery. For most purposes 1000 pixels at 72 dpi should suite your needs; however, larger file sizes can also be compressed to strip unnecessary data.
    • External Media: Embedding YouTube videos and other content is a great idea but make sure it's only as large as you need it to appear in terms of frame size.
    • Un-optimization for certain browsers/devices: Your website will behave differently on every web browser and device. While this isn't a problem most of the time, if your website is working great on Google Chrome, but isn't formatting correctly on Safari then your ranking will take a penalty.
    • Too many ads: Too many ads can make your speed drag so only use them if they're worth the extra processing.
    • Your theme: If you're operating on WordPress or another site builder the theme you chose may have complex coding which adds to your load times.
    • Widgets: Widgets can be coded very densely requiring significant processing power.
    • Code: The true back-end to every website comes down to the coding. If your HTML or CSS is too heavy it will lower your page speed.

    Test your HostGator server upload speed here!

     

    How To Determine If Your Website Is Loading Slowly

    Fortunately, there a several accredited web tools that assist you in finding where the weak points in your website are occurring.

    My first recommendation would be PageSpeed Insights from Google. The whole point to page optimization is to make Google happy, so knowing what they recommend for better page ranking is critical.

    As you can see in the image below, even HostGator.com has a few flags they recommend fixing, but not everything can be optimized when choosing your sites functionality. Fortunately, our user rating ranked 100/100 which is the ultimate goal.

    Page Speed

    Some additional resources for analyzing your page speed include:

     

    SEO Page Speed Best Practices

    In order to comply with Google's Best Practices for page speed, implement the following:

    • Enable Compression
    • Minify CSS, Javascript, and HTML
    • Reduce Redirects
    • Leverage Browser Caching
    • Improve Server Response Time
    • Use A Content Distribution Network
    • Optimize Images
    Now that you know what factors can contribute to page speed, be sure to check out 7 Ways To Speed Up Your Website.
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  • Which Social Media Sites Are Critical For Your Small Business?

    Tuesday, June 7, 2016 by

    Social Media Sites for Small Business

    In order for anything to be critical in relation to the success of your business, the impact of not incorporating that thing should be noticeably negative. In other words, deciding to put your business on a social media site should be an informed decision based on the benefits of devoting your time to using it as a marketing tool. A platform should only be considered critical if you stand to lose business without it.

    Certain business owners might tell you that they've managed to avoid social media entirely, but in today's socially-obsessed culture, not being on any platforms may actually be harming your bottom line. Social media marketing is so cost effective that other traditional forms of marketing have begun to disappear. The question is no longer if you should have a social presence, the question is which platform, and how many platforms, are critical to maintaining a successful marketing campaign.

    In this article we're going to explore which sites have shown to work the best for small businesses, and bring up some key considerations for why your business would choose to make an account.

    Number Of Active Users

    Curating content for social media can be time consumptive, and if you've gone as far as creating your own blogs, videos, or photos then it can also be expensive. That's why when we take additional time to post content online, we want to guarantee the most potential customers are going to see it.

    One of the easiest ways to determine if a social media platform is worth making the account, is to see how many active users it claims, along with how many users a platform has per day. By the numbers here are the top four in the United States:

    • Facebook: 1.59 Billion Users, 1.09 Billion users per day
    • Tumblr: 555 Million Users, 100 Million users per day
    • Instagram: 400 Million Users,  75 Million users per day
    • Twitter: 320 Million Users, 100 million users per day

    Although these four have large numbers, there are still dozens of other platforms to explore for more niche advertising such as Reddit, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+.

    Demographics Of Users

    While the total number of users you can expect to reach are important, perhaps even more crucial are the demographics within each platform. Pinterest for instance has a 68.2% to 31.8% female to male ratio, while Snapchat users are primarily aged 13-24. Platform demographics vary greatly by region, ethnicity, and personal interests. The best way to determine if a platform will contain your target audience is to look into the demographic statistics.

    Type Of Content

    Right after you look into the types of people on each platform, the next step is measuring how much of your content can be shared. Facebook allows practically everything to be posted, from status updates, to photos, videos, links, and private messages. Instagram, however, is primarily image based and doesn't cater to links or shares as well as other platforms.

    As a photographer, I find Instagram to be one of my greatest business assets as people expect to find photography there. In contrast, I never use Twitter as it doesn't seem to be quite as effective. This same philosophy should be considered when looking at how you promote your own business.

    Analytics

    Tracking your marketing analytics is the proverbial line in the sand when it comes to business vs. personal use. Sure, everyone in the world will check to see how many “likes” or “retweets” their post received, but truly understanding the extent of your posts reach is the most important aspect to using a platform for business.

    Some platforms come with built-in analytics, like Facebook, but for others it's incredibly useful to invest in third-party applications that pull data you would have never thought to consider. Apps like Buffer, Social Metrics Pro, or for all the Instagram fans there are several apps to track your posts through your phone.

    In Closing

    The distinction you need to make with social media for business is that it's more about performance than social points. Just because you receive a lot of likes, doesn't mean your efforts are stacking up to transactions. Spend plenty of time analyzing what's working, and what's eating into your marketing budget.

    Which social platforms do you use the most for business? Let us know in the comments section!

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