Monday, June 26, 2017 by Kevin Wood
How to Launch a Successful Membership Website or ForumHow does earning a consistent income, month after month, all from a loyal community, sound? Oh, and you get to engage, interact, and discover new ideas in the process. You create in-depth content once and get paid for it, time and time again. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Well, that dream can be yours with a membership site.
What Is a Membership Website?A membership-based website is a style of site with exclusive content that people pay a monthly fee to access. No doubt you’ve come across membership sites and forums in your time online. But, you might not realize how easily you can run your own, thanks to the amount of tools available today. Even if you have no previous experience, our guide below will walk you through how to create, launch, and run your very own membership site from scratch. Let's get started.
Why Membership Sites Are a Solid ChoiceMembership sites are a great way to present a lot of information and create a community around it. When you create an eBook it’s usually just a one-off purchase. If you develop your material into a course, then it’s usually the same as well. When you create an active membership site, you’re building a community around the high quality content you create. If you add a forum to your site, too, then you’ll be able to continue the conversation surrounding whatever kind of content you choose to create. A membership site allows you to create a nice stream of recurring income for yourself.
Step 1: Finding Your NicheOnce you’ve made the decision that you’re going to start a membership site, it’s time to decide on your niche. The smaller your niche, the better. Whatever it is, it should be something that you’re passionate about. When doing your research see if there are already any existing membership sites in your niche. This is actually a good thing. Competition automatically verifies that the niche you’ve chosen is profitable. Other ways to test the viability of your niche might include looking for existing blogs, books, and magazines on the topic. If there’s a wealth of information surrounding your niche, then you know the market is big enough.
Step 2: Membership Site or Forum?There’s a ton of different membership models you can choose from when starting your site. The most common model is a membership site that drip feeds the content out over a set period of time. Usually, you’ll have other evergreen resources like webinars, classes, and forum access as well. You can also create a paid forum. Running a strict forum can be more difficult from scratch, as you’ll generally need a large audience to make it successful. However, it can work for some niches. A good way to test before diving in completely is by driving traffic to a landing page.
Step 3: Building Out Your SiteBuilding out your membership site or forum doesn’t have to be difficult. If you choose a platform like WordPress, there are a number of plugins that will add membership functionality to your existing theme. When designing your site keep your user in mind. You’ll want your site to be very intuitive and have a content layout that makes sense. Confusing your visitors, or providing them with content in an illogical manner, won’t be much to keep them subscribers.
Step 4: Create Your ContentWhen planning out what kind of content you’re going to create, you’re going to have a lot of options at your disposal. The most basic includes long-form blog posts and video content. You can even have interviews, webinars, forums, relevant resource lists, and much more. With membership sites you can really go crazy with the quantity of content you’re providing your subscribers. Just make sure that you present the information in a way that’s easy to follow and consume. Need inspiration? Check out how these subscription sites do it.
Step 5: Attract New MembersOnce you’ve created the initial content and have your site built out, it’s time to starting bringing in members. It can be helpful to let a few initial members in for free. If you already have an existing blog or website, you can gift these memberships to people who have been incredibly active over the years. This will help you to discover any content gaps you might have and provide your site with that initial engagement. Plus, there’s a chance these people will become your biggest fans and help you get the word out when it’s time to launch. Here are some more ideas of how you can generate new leads for your membership site:
Content MarketingDepending upon the niche you chose, doing things like guest blogging might be a good way to build initial interest. Simply find a few authoritative blogs in your niche that accept guest writers, and create an incredible post that links back to your site. In this link back to your site, make sure it points to a landing page that you’ve specifically created to capture a reader’s email addresses.
Paid AdvertisingWith paid advertising you have all sorts of options, from Facebook ads, to Twitter ads, to Instagram, and even Google Adwords. Your ad should send the traffic back to a specific landing page similar to the one you would create for the guest blogging strategy above. This landing page will allow you to gauge user interest and create a simple email campaign to sign people up for your site.
Your Existing ListIf you have an existing email list or audience, then this should be the first place you start. This list is already familiar with you and your work and will be much more likely to hop on a new project you launch.
Step 6: Retain Your MembersThe overall profitability of your membership site will ultimately rely on your ability to retain your members. You can’t just create content once and expect the site to take care of itself. The best way to keep members engaged year after year is to consistently create new content that caters to their evolving needs. If you have an active forum or blog section, make sure you pay attention and engage with what’s going on. You can even create a survey that goes out every few months to see what kind of new features your members would like for the site. Creating, launching, and running a membership site isn’t easy work, but it can be incredibly rewarding. If you’ve been looking for an online business model that allows you to explore your passion in a new way, then membership sites might be worth checking out. Now over to you. What big questions do you have about running your very own membership site? Have you created one in the past and had success? Share your tips!
Monday, June 19, 2017 by Kevin Wood
6 Tips for Building Your Restaurant WebsiteYour restaurant’s website is one of your most important marketing tools. Many of your customers will check you out online before they decide to visit, so your website needs to provide them with a stellar experience. On the other hand, if your website is poorly designed, it could turn them off from actually visiting your restaurant. When people visit your restaurant website they have very specific needs in mind. Address these and you’ll have one happy customer. Luckily, it’s never been easier to build a great website for your restaurant. However, your restaurant website needs to have certain elements in place if you want it to show up in Google and actually be useful for your customers. Let's take a look at what those are!
1. Display Your Menu ProminentlyYour menu is one of the core features of your site. When potential customers visit your website they want to know what kind of food you’re serving and what your prices look like. You should make this information as easy to find as possible. A lot of restaurant websites make the mistake of displaying their menus as downloadable PDFs, or make their visitor’s search for the menu. This is a big mistake. Feature it front and center as a regular page on your website! This way Google can easily scan your menu and display it in the search results. Also, make sure you choose a font that makes your menu easy to read, even on small screens.
2. Feature Your Hours of Operation and Contact InformationOnce a customer looks at your menu and has found it appetizing, then they’ll start looking around to see where you are and if you’re open. Make this information easy to find on your site. A lot of restaurants hide this information on a contact page, or aren't consistent with updating their hours. By displaying this information prominently and keeping it updated regularly, you’ll have visitors putting down their phones, leaving their homes, and enjoying a delicious meal at your restaurant in no time.
3. Offer Online Reservations Through Your WebsiteIf you decide to include an online reservation system, then you better make sure it works. If a potential customer goes through the process of making a reservation and the app crashes, or the reservation doesn’t go through, this will create a poor experience once they arrive at your restaurant before they even sit down. With so many restaurants to choose from, a single negative experience is often enough to stop someone from coming back again. The same can be said for your online ordering system. If you’re using a third-party ordering system, or have it natively installed on your site, then it needs to work. Make sure you spend time testing both systems for any errors before you make them available to the public.
4. Show Off Your Food with Beautiful ImageryYou want the feel of your website to mimic the ambiance of your restaurant. Now, this doesn’t mean it’s time to populate your site with cheesy photos of families smiling. If possible, try to get actual photos of your restaurant and the food you serve. It can even be helpful to hire a professional photographer to take these photos for you. You want your food to look incredibly appetizing and just snapping a quick picture on your iPhone often won’t have the same effect. Since your visitor is already hungry, you want to invoke these senses even more with incredibly appetizing photos. Your goal should be to have your customers salivating and getting ready to place an order or come by your restaurant.
5. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile FriendlyPeople search for restaurants when they're already out and about. Chances are a large proportion of your visitors are going to access your site via their mobile phones. If your site doesn’t load properly on a smartphone you’re going to miss out on a ton of potential customers. Plus, if your site isn’t mobile friendly this will have a negative impact on your search engines rankings in Google. This means that when someone searches for restaurants in your area you’ll be nowhere to be found. On your mobile website make sure your location, hours, and menu are very easy to find. When someone is on the go these crucial pieces of information will help them decide quickly whether to not to visit your restaurant.
6. Stay True to Your BrandIt's possible your restaurant website will be the first experience that a customer has with your brand. For this reason your website needs to make an impression and be in alignment with your restaurant. If your brand is quirkier and caters toward a more vibrant crowd, then make sure you highlight this in your website copy and imagery. While, if your restaurant is very upscale, then you’ll want to speak to this. Your colors, layout, font choice, logo, and images all work together to convey what your restaurant is all about. You’ll want your visitor to have the same experience on your website that they do the moment they step foot into your restaurant.
Using a Website Builder to Create Your Restaurant WebsiteNow that you know what elements to include in your restaurant website, it’s time to start building! There are a variety of options you’ll have at your disposal, from full-fledged content platforms to online web builders. It can be a little overwhelming trying to decide the best option for your needs, which is why we recommend using a website builder. HostGator's website builder is incredibly easy to use and has a number of beautifully designed templates perfect for any restaurant of cafe. All you have to do is plug in your unique restaurant details and you’re all set. Use a restaurant theme or customize one of the other pre-built layouts to your brand. Best of all, all of the templates are mobile optimized, SEO-friendly, and easily integrate with your social media channels. Bring on those Instagram pics! Your restaurant website is the virtual face of your restaurant. By focusing on the elements above you’ll have a restaurant website that’s enticing and makes your customers fall in love. Just make sure your online experience is just as good as in person and you’ll be all set.
Monday, June 19, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
How Domain Propagation WorksYou found the perfect name for your website. You have big ideas about what you’re going to do with it and you’re ready to get started. You just registered the domain and launched your site, but when you go to pull up the URL to excitedly check it out…it’s not there. Domain propagation, the process of transferring a domain to a new owner, takes some time. You should expect to have to wait around 24 to 48 hours before the full switch is made and your site starts showing up at the new domain. It’s a small setback, but it works that way for a reason.
What is Domain Propagation?Domain propagation, also sometimes called DNS propagation, is the process of updating every server across the web with new information. That’s a lot of servers that require updating and, as such, there’s a lag between when the change is made and when all the servers have registered it.
How DNS Servers WorkDNS servers do the job of translating IP addresses into domain names. While as far as you and your visitors are concerned, your website is located at an easy-to-remember website name like www.yourwebsite.com, it’s actually located at a less easy-to-remember numerical IP address that looks something like 123.456.789.101. Each time you go to a website, a DNS server is taking the domain name you type in and processing which numerical address it has in order to send you to the right place. It’s a process that works pretty quickly and seamlessly, which means most of the time, you don’t have to notice or think anything about it. The only real time you have cause to think about it is when you make a DNS change.
What Happens During a DNS ChangeWhen you move to a new hosting provider or change your domain name, every DNS server in the world has to register that information before they’ll know how to properly translate your domain name to the right IP address. Complicating things, different servers will receive that updated information at different times, so it’s possible for you to type in the domain name and see your new website in the right place, while a friend of yours across the street is still seeing old, outdated information. Because DNS changes are relatively rare, most DNS servers cache the information they’ve gathered in previous searches. So if someone searched www.yourwebsite.com last week and the DNS server was able to translate the domain to a particular IP address, then it will default to directing you to that same IP again at first. But eventually – and it doesn’t even take that long – it will learn that a change has been made and it should now send people looking for that domain name to the new IP address where your website lives. It can be confusing, but it’s a temporary problem. Little by little over the next couple of days, you can trust that all the DNS servers will get the memo and register the update. Note: While it’s a different issue, it’s also worth being aware that browsers will often cache the information they get from specific websites, so even after a DNS server has updated, users may still need to re-load the page or clear their browser’s cache to see the correct website.
How Can I Tell When Domain Propagation is Complete?This is tricky because, as previously mentioned, your DNS server can register the update before your friend’s does. So you can’t assume once you start seeing your website at the new domain, everyone else will as well. You can get a pretty good idea of when domain propagation is complete by using a tool that checks your website from multiple locations around the world. The results won’t give you a guarantee that every web user in the world will see the updated version, but it can help you confirm when the change has been completed for most people. It’s frustrating to be ready to launch your new website or domain name and have to wait, but the update will take effect. Have a little patience, and know your site will be live around the world within a couple of days.
Monday, June 12, 2017 by Jeremy JensenWhether you’re running a successful solo operation, or have 50 employees working for your company, you may be looking to streamline your efficiency by setting up shop in the Google application suite. Formerly known as Google Apps, the tech giant has rebranded its services under the title of G Suite. Even more significant, Google officially announced that the Google for Work brand has been updated and will simply be called Google Cloud. The transformation is a move Google claims will allow them to target a wider audience by placing less of an emphasis on the work element, and paying more attention to the collection of apps that are incredibly useful in everyday life. In this article we will be discussing the former to arrive at the latter: Google apps has become the industry standard for internal workflow, and as a result, has made the lives of the working individual much less complicated and stressful. But, before we begin talking about the benefits, there are some FAQ’s that need to be addressed.
I Already Have A Gmail Account, What Am I Paying For?Ownership. That may sound underwhelming, but when you use an ordinary Gmail account you do not have the option to have it read email@example.com. From a B2B perspective, it is much less likely your emails will be opened without having your official company name in the address. It is also a tremendous tactic for brand recognition, especially if your company is continually expanding with new employees. On that note, the ownership also applies to an administrator being able to give out company email addresses in times of hiring or firing. If an employee decides to go work elsewhere all rights, including emails and contacts, are kept within the company. So what does it cost? For one user it is a flat $5/month, or $50/year. If you wish to have unlimited storage space within Google Drive then you can upgrade to $10/per month, or $100/year. This is known as G Suite Business. For additional employees the cost works like this: Since many companies are prone to fluctuation in employee numbers, this plan is flexible allowing you to add or subtract the subscriptions you pay for. Most importantly, having your entire team integrated under one room is going to open up collaborative potential like never before.
The Benefits of Using G SuiteExpanding upon the ownership of the email account are several benefits exclusive to using the G Suite paid subscription.
1. File OwnershipA large concern of the previous generation was keeping track of important files being collaborated on within the bounds of a company. On G Suite granting access to documents stored on the cloud is worry free by granting the creation and ownership to the administrator. The product also allows for you to synchronize an employee’s machine so that all of their files on the desktop will be uploaded where you can access them upon an employee’s termination.
2. Sharing DocumentsBy integrating an entire team under one roof, you can easily share documents across the same storage portal with the click of a button. The sharing setting also permits ‘view-only’ and ‘can edit’ assignments on a per case basis.
3. Email Address GroupingYour company is probably broken up into several different departments and operational roles. Rather than trying to remember every individual email upon sending out a message to a specific department you can compartmentalize people who should be receiving the message into categories: Accounting, Marketing, Art, Staff, etc. There are no additional costs for grouping, and the number of groups you can include is unlimited.
4. Unlimited AliasesFor every G Suite account, you’re permitted the use of multiple aliases. For example, I work for a newspaper that is broken up into several editorial departments. I receive emails under three aliases: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org This diversification allows you to create specific and indicative starting points for potential clients to get in contact. The different aliases can also be applied to multiple accounts as a way for your staff to handle incoming emails as a team.
5. Greater Storage CapacityThe default for Gmail accounts is 15GB, spread between your email and anything you keep in the drive. For a G Suite account that capacity is bumped up to 30GB at the $5/month level. As previously mentioned, storage can be immediately upgraded to individual accounts by paying $10/month. For a complete list of storage options, find out how to get more storage space.
6. 24/7 SupportSurprisingly, the free Gmail option does not come equipped with customer support. With G Suite you’re completely covered 24/7 with phone, email and live chat customer support. If this is your first time integrating Google Apps with your website information having this asset is of great value.
7. 2-Step AuthenticationCyber security is entering an era of increased vulnerability. With major tech firms experiencing breaches in their cloud systems throughout the past few years, it’s crucial to know your sensitive business documents are protected by layers of encryption and verification. G Suite offers 2-step verification that can enforced on all of your company’s users to ensure every device connecting to your network has been verified through phone and email.
8. Integrate the G Suite Control Panel Directly Through HostGatorTo verify your domain name and begin using emails with your domain name’s URL you’ll need to follow a series of steps with your hosting service. Fortunately, we made it easy and have all the steps written out on our support pages.