Wednesday, May 3, 2017 by Casey Kelly-BartonDeciding to go freelance is a big decision, but it’s not as daunting as it used to be. Today, about a third of US workers are freelancers or independent contractors, and they’ve blazed a clear trail for everyone comes along after them. If you’re considering going full-on freelance, here are some tools and apps to make the transition and your new line of work easier.
Thursday, April 27, 2017 by Greg NarayanIf 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.
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: 1. 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 youBefore 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 lateBack 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 mindNow 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 friendI’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 idolNo 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 mattersMeasure 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.
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 youIn 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 ruleThe 80/20 rule applied to blogging can mean either:
- 80 percent of the success you achieve comes from a small 20 percent of your activities, or
- You should spend 80% of your time blogging away from your blog and 20% blogging at your blog, not the other way around.
7. Get self-hosted WordPress and a host you can fall in love withThe 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"]
8. Your email list is your #1 priorityI 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.
9. Behind every success story is heaps of blood, sweat and tearsEvery 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 advantageThe 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 successDo 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.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017 by Shayla PriceAn impressive online presence matters. It’s the difference between visitors learning more about you or losing interest in your brand. To grab your target audience’s attention, upgrade your copywriting skills to engage with visitors. “You can’t transform a crappy painting into a masterpiece with a few brush strokes. Likewise, you can’t transform crappy copy into a persuasive message with a few minor tweaks. You need good copy at the heart of your message,” says Nick Kolenda, author of Methods of Persuasion. Effective copy helps your business sell more products, boost brand awareness, and dominate the competition. Try these seven copywriting tips below to create a memorable visitor experience. Sujan Patel, co-founder of Web Profits. Targeted copy will pinpoint the solution you offer visitors. You’re not just a food blogger or a website designer. People want to know how you can help them with their problems. In the image below, The Art of Sculpting tells you exactly how they serve their potential customers—taking their fitness to a new level.
2. Make the Visitor the HeroLet’s set the record straight: your copy isn't about you, your business's achievements, or even your latest TV appearance. If your desire is to transform visitors into leads (or customers), your copy must focus on your audience and their needs. All the copy should center around helping the visitor. It starts with telling a great story and creating a journey that involves the visitor. Much like the movies, the copy will discuss the challenges and the triumphs of the hero. Copy isn’t always about getting someone to take action. It’s also about etching a unique memory into their minds. That emotion will stay with them after they leave your site.
3. Express Your ValueVisitors are interested in knowing how you can change their lives. What value will you provide to customers to improve their outcomes? This value will separate you from the competition. In-home care startup Honor establishes value quickly on its homepage. Their team offers services to help seniors live better, while offering families peace of mind. Be descriptive in your language and avoid the over-the-top tone. It’s perfectly fine to boast about the benefits of your product. However, you don't want to over-exaggerate. “People don’t want to be sold to. Tone down the hype and write your web copy like you’re talking with your ideal customer face-to-face. Your audience can tell the difference, and will be more likely to participate,” says Christina Walker, a professional freelance web copywriter. To show your value, highlight the results of your services. Get people engaged in doing things differently with your business.
4. Craft a Compelling Call to ActionEffective copy leads visitors to your desired next step, and that's where your call to action comes in. Your website consists of several pages with different purposes. If you’ve worked with marketers, they may have suggested creating pages consistent with your sales funnel. For instance, with new visitors, your goal may be to turn them into qualified leads. The call to action might convince your audience to sign up for a free ebook or checklist. While for your returning visitors who already possess interest in your products, the call to action would be a 10% coupon or a bonus gift after an initial purchase. No matter the call to action, it should speak to the audience’s needs and desires. They should be eager to receive your offering and ready to move down the sales funnel.
5. Add Social ProofYour brand centers around perception. It’s about credibility in the eyes of your future customers. They want to know that your products and services are worth their hard-earned money. Moreover, visitors are curious about whether or not they should associate themselves with your brand. With so much competition in the marketplace, sometimes the only differentiator is the prestige and external validation of your brand. People want to be affiliated with success. We buy cars to transport us from one place to another. So why would anyone want to purchase a Lamborghini or a Tesla? Because customers also seek vehicles to represent their status in society. Leverage social proof, like customer testimonials, to influence your audience. Entrepreneur contributor Gail Goodman agrees: “Do you have a great customer quote that you can include in your e-mail? A brief and convincing quote can add credibility to your campaign. The more real you can make the person to your readers, the better.” Check out this example from Backlinko. Brian Dean backs up his expertise with quotes from industry influencers.
6. Avoid JargonHave you ever sat in a meeting where you didn't understand anything? Everyone was talking in your native language, but every word seemed foreign. You probably felt confused or as if you didn't belong. It’s an overwhelming feeling that just makes you want to stand up and exit the room. That’s a similar feeling your visitors experience when landing on a site stuffed with jargon. They don't understand the content, so in a split second, they decide that this brand isn't for them. To keep your target audience interested, you must speak their language. Instead of using unfamiliar terms, stick to words your audience knows. Pay attention to the words your current customers use to describe your business. Use social media to learn how your audience talks about your brand. With this insight, you can create copy that invites them into your website experience.
7. Experiment With Different VersionsYour first draft of copy isn’t your last. Just like other aspects of business, the best way to learn if something works is to test it. So try not to fall in love with your copy. Remember that every word on the page is to help visitors understand you better. It’s important to keep that principle in mind when A/B testing your copy. Experts suggest changing only one variable in your experiments. You might test the headline, then the call to action. If you test everything at once, you’ll lose sight of what your visitors actually like about your copy. Below is an example of an A/B test on the call-to-action-button text. The new variation focused on what the company’s offer provided the visitor. Be willing to experiment with your copy. It’s the best way to learn what connects with your visitors.
Conveying Your Brand MessageWhen visitors land on your site, your goal is to gain their interest and establish trust quickly. Copywriting is a critical component to telling your story to your audience. Write compelling copy that makes every visitor the hero, and use social proof to add to your credibility. Improve your website with better copywriting.
Thursday, April 20, 2017 by Casey Kelly-BartonYou’ve launched your website. You avoided the most common website design mistakes and you keep your blog content fresh and interesting. You built and segmented your email list with care, and your social media is on point. So why aren’t you making more sales? It could be that you’re not asking for them, or not asking clearly and in a way that prompts a response. If you're like most, your website lacks what marketers call a “call to action” on its main page. You may not have calls to action anywhere else, either, and that’s a problem.
What is a call to action?“If you don’t ask, you don’t get” Human psychology being what it is, people are more likely to do what you want them to do if you let them know what you want them to do. Maybe you’d like them to join your email list, listen to your latest podcast, share your social media posts to build your audience, or buy something from you. In each case, you’ll need to guide your visitors’ behavior by asking them to do something. This act of asking for the sale is the call to action (CTA). CTAs are important because most of us encounter so much information each day that it can all run together. The experience of visiting a site or following a blog can be like walking into a big grocery store and forgetting what you came to buy—especially if the website is cluttered with information or hard to navigate. Even though you may think it’s pretty clear that you’d like visitors to your customized kids’ clothing site to place some orders, or that you’d like visitors to your email signup landing page to sign up, you’ll get better results if you ask. Before you can do that, you need to know what you want to accomplish with each piece of content you create.
What’s the goal of your content?Whenever you create content for your business, whether it’s a page on your website, a blog post, a video, a social media post, or something else, it should include a call to action that lets the reader or viewer know what you’d like them to do next. Your calls to action will depend on your goals, your business, and your audience. For example, let’s say Snappy’s getting into the vintage jewelry business and selling exclusively online. Here’s how he might use calls to action in his content.
CTAs on your websiteSnappy’s goal is to have visitors starting browsing products in his online shop. The landing page may have some information about where he finds his jewelry and how he researches its history and prepares it for sale. There will definitely be high-quality close up images of some of the best pieces. There will also be a button that stands out: Explore the Collection. That’s the call to action to go to the online items – the next step that the history and the gorgeous pictures are leading up to.
CTAs in blog posts, videos, podcastsThis is where the calls to action can be highly focused. Let’s say Snappy’s building a loyal YouTube audience that eagerly awaits his latest videos on styling prom and date-night outfits with vintage jewelry. The call to action at the end of each video could be Visit the Prom Shop Now and a link to the shop page that features a selection of pieces that will appeal to—and be priced for--teens and young adults. Maybe experienced collectors are another segment of Snappy’s business. The blog might cater to these customers with individual posts about unusual or valuable finds, a little backstory on those pieces, and highly detailed photography of each piece. Here, the call to action could be Shop Our Collectibles Now, linking to a shop page with rare, higher-priced pieces for vintage jewelry connoisseurs.
CTAs in other contentOn those shop pages, a “buy now” or “add to cart” button is the call to action. Make it bigger than the other text so it’s impossible to miss. Email newsletters can include seasonal calls to action, such as Shop the Halloween Collection Now or limited-time calls to action like Get These Deals Before They’re Gone. Snappy’s social media posts could be as simple as individual photos of new pieces with a link to their sales pages to Snap It Up Now. Or maybe he’s using social media to get more people to Join the Email List or Read the Vintage Jewelry Blog. Whatever he wants his audience to do, he’s asking clearly.
What are some CTA best practices?Remember, the call to action is a deceptively simple piece of copy that moves your visitors to take action, and fast. The ‘fast’ part matters, because typical site visitors spend a whopping 10-20 seconds on the site and read no more than 25% of your copy. Your CTA must catch visitors’ attention immediately and get them to do something that allows you to stay connected – usually joining your email list or subscribing to your blog—so you can build a relationship with them. Here are four simple ways to improve your site’s CTAs for more conversions.
1. Add a call to action to your site’s homepageJust by having a call to action on your homepage, you’ll be ahead of most websites. In 2013, a survey of 200 B2B companies with fewer than 100 employees found that 70% had no call to action on their homepage. Calls to action are what help businesses (and blogs) establish relationships and trust with potential customers—and one simple way to do that is by asking for further contact. For many businesses, the goal is to add subscribers to the company email newsletter. For bloggers, the goal is typically getting folks to subscribe to the blog. In both cases, you’re collecting email addresses you can use to reach potential customers later on with giveaways, surveys, and promotions. For some businesses, the goal is to get visitors to call or email so you can answer their questions and discuss what they need. This is especially true for consultants, designers, and writers who sell customized solutions, rather than service packages or physical goods. In these cases, the call to action can be a simple “Contact Me” (or a more compelling variation – see below) plus a phone number and email address above the fold on the homepage. According to that same B2B survey, though, 68% of sites don’t have the company email address on the homepage. This lack of easy-to-see contact information is madness, and now that I’ve mentioned it, you’ll probably notice it all the time as you navigate the web. Unless your business is already wildly profitable and your brand is ultra-exclusive in-the-know-only cachet, make it easy for potential clients to contact you.
2. Create calls to action that serve you and your audienceSeth Godin, the entrepreneur, author and blogger, has a call to action on his blog that offers a benefit for readers: “Don’t Miss a Thing.” Subscribers get Godin’s new posts in their inbox and avoid the fear of missing out (FOMO). They’re happy to keep up with his ideas, and Godin’s email list keeps growing. Meanwhile, over at Copyblogger, the goal of the blog is to get visitors to try out their free marketing training, so that’s the call to action you’ll see in the sidebar next to each post. As with Seth Godin, they’re gathering email addresses and offering something in return, although in this case it’s a freebie rather than blog updates.
3. Make your call to action fresh and compellingBland "Sign Up!" and "Join Now!" CTAs are better than nothing, but there’s a lot more you can do to motivate visitors to take action. Productivity expert Carson Tate has an email opt-in on her homepage with the CTA, “Step One: Enter your info to get expert tools and coaching.” Taking “step one” makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something already, and I would much rather get expert tools and coaching than sign up for a general newsletter. The pop-up CTA on the Knitpicks yarn and fiber arts website takes a different but equally creative approach. For crafters, it’s hard to go wrong with “Why, hello there! Be the first to know about special offers, new yarns and inspiration galore!” This one hits a lot of the right notes in 16 words. There’s a friendly greeting, a cure for FOMO (fear of missing out), the promise of deals, and creative ideas -- much better than “join our list.”
4. Make your call to action easy to seeYou don’t need to make your CTA huge or tacky. The simplest approach is to eliminate visual clutter that distracts visitors from your CTA and make sure the CTA is “above the fold,” an old-school newspaper term that now means an item is at the top of a web page so visitors can see it without having to scroll down. Be selective about what occupies your above-the-fold space. When I launched my professional website, it had icons for all my social media channels displayed above the fold, next to my email and phone number. During a site critique, the reviewer asked me what the point of my page was. Did I want prospects to contact me or to follow me on Twitter? As someone with bills to pay, I decided to move the social media icons below the fold so they didn’t distract from my call to action, which was for clients to call or email with their project requirements. It’s not only freelancers who indulge in CTA overload. A promotional-product retail site I shop at has, as of this writing, two online chat tabs, one giant phone number, one coupon code link, a Shop Now button, and a field to enter a promo code all above the fold – plus a blinking light GIF. It’s hard to know where to look or what to do first. A competitor’s site, by contrast, is promoting a seasonal sale with one large button. There’s nothing pulling the viewer’s eye away from that big sale button above the fold. By making your CTAs easy to see, interesting to read, and appealing to potential customers, you should see better results from your marketing efforts. For more insights on creating compelling offers and tracking your marketing efforts, check out our post on boosting site traffic. [bctt tweet="A good CTA uses simple wording to encourage readers or viewers to take immediate action that will benefit them." username="hostgator"]
Parting thoughtsRespect your audience’s time and make the call-to-action process easy for them. Keep it simple, think about what you want each piece of your business content to do, and you should start seeing better results from your marketing efforts. It wouldn't be right if we didn't end this post with our own CTA, so here goes...
Strong CTAs are key to having a successful business. So is having a great website. You can have both with HostGator.
Learn more about our award-winning web hosting. We offer free site transfers!
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 by Henry Green
“Looking for a new job is SO FUN!”
- No One Ever
We get it, but as digital experts we’re here to help you discover a few clever ways to make the process easier and dare we say... fun?!
Your end goal, we presume, is to land an awesome job with great benefits and a kickass salary. While there are no guarantees, we can certainly help you on your journey.
Resumes are essential for the majority of job candidates. Why not stand out even more with a website resume?
Your Website = Your Digital Resume
A website or digital resume is a great way to share more of your personality and to show what you have to offer far more than a humdrum piece of resume paper and Times New Roman font.
In the online realm, you have access to color, video, GIFs, and so much more to help you stand out from the crowd of candidates. Most potential employers Google search prospective employees anyway. You may as well give them something to find that shows off your best qualities.
First, get a website. Consider locking down a domain name that is the same as or similar to your name. For example:
Keep it simple and straightforward so that your site is easy to find.
Once you’ve got your site ready to go, here are some ways to put it to work for you as you hunt for a new career.
1. Let the people know.
Don’t keep your job-hunting a secret. Let your audience of website-viewers know that you’re searching for a job. Write up a quick blurb or blog post tell your story. Build a resume with your skills and experience, but use the visual perks of site-building. You now have access to fancy colors and fonts, videos, images, and logos -- all things that wouldn’t go (or would look weird) on a resume.
2. Make it interactive.
Freelance designer Robby Leonardi’s design portfolio and interactive resume went viral earlier this year. Robby takes his online viewers through a video game scenario in which users scroll their way through his designs, skills, and experience while witnessing first-hand his commitment to his craft.
3. Show and tell.
Resumes traditionally adhere to a very specific fancy paper format, but keep in mind that technology has updated quite significantly. Most hiring managers first view your resume on a screen, so sharing links to your email address, digital portfolio, and website is the right thing to do. Tell them with your resume, but show them (and show off) your capabilities with a website. Here are some general things to include regardless of your industry:
- A professional image of yourself on your site helps to humanize your application.
- Screenshots or icons of work-related or educational awards you’ve received.
- Images or videos of you at work, giving a presentation, leading a meeting.
- Pictures from work-related events you’ve attended or helped to organize.
- Testimonials from colleagues or clients that speak to your stellar work ethic and creativity.
- Published papers, articles, or press releases that you wrote or that mention you.
- A bio of your accomplishments.
- Professional alumni groups to which you belong.
- Clients you’ve helped -- you can include their logos and website as long as you have their permission.
- Contact information -- always make it easy for an employer to get in touch with you.
We do suggest that you tailor your site to your particular industry. If you’re an artist, show your art. If you’re a product developer, show your product.
Do you have a website resume or have you hired anyone who used a website resume? Let us know what’s worked best for you!
Build your digital resume today with your very own website.