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  • 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!
  • How To Create Superior Landing Pages That Convert Cold Traffic

    Friday, February 10, 2017 by
    Create landing pages that convert Converting cold traffic into warm leads and eventual customers can be quite the difficult process. After all, cold visitors don’t know what your website is about, and aren’t familiar with anything you’re doing. One of the best methods to transform this traffic into new subscribers is through utilizing the power of a landing page. However, not just any landing page will do. You need a landing page that’s properly optimized to address the concerns of your audience in such a way they literally can’t wait to hand over their email address. Below we cover a few central elements that every high converting landing page needs to have to be effective. Ready? Let’s dive in.  

    You Truly Need a Compelling Offer

    Today’s web users are more inundated with information than ever before. They’re also bombarded with popups and dozens of requests to enter their email information. Because of this people have become more defensive over exactly who they allow into their inboxes. One of the most effective ways around this is to create a downloadable opt-in offer your visitors can’t refuse. Your opt-in offer should speak to a deep need, or underlying problem they haven’t been able to solve. However, make sure the problem you’re addressing isn’t so large, that you can’t deliver on the promise inside your downloadable PDF.  

    5 Must-Have Landing Page Elements

    Once you’ve solidified your offer your visitors can’t wait to get their hands on you’re going to build a page around that offer. Below we highlight some of the must-have elements you’ll want to feature on your page.  

    1. A Benefits-Oriented Headline

    One of the most important elements of your page is your headline. This is the first thing people are going to read, and it needs to grab their attention immediately. Your headline needs to be clear and speak to the exact need you’re going to be solving for them.  

    2. A Relatable Video

    Recent research has continually shown that pages with video tend to convert higher than those who don’t. Is it an absolute necessity? No. But, think about it this way. When a visitor lands on your website for the first time they have no idea who you are, so a video will allow them to connect in a deeper way. A video can even help to convince the reader to enter their email address, as it can be a lead in to the full solution you’re presenting in your downloadable offer.  

    3. “Less Salesy” Page Elements

    Sometimes, a landing page can feel a bit too much like a sales page, which can put pressure on your reader. To create a more relaxed environment you could consider adding the little sidebar share buttons to your page. This will make it seem more like a blog post, and could also lead to some social shares and more traffic for you.  

    4. Easy to See Signup Boxes

    Your signup box needs to clearly stand out from the rest of your page. If your page does include a video, then include the box directly below the video, with a reference to the location of the signup box in the video. If you don’t have video, or you have a longer landing page, then consider adding the signup box to multiple locations throughout the page.  

    5. A Clear and Compelling CTA

    Your call-to-action is equally as important as the headline. It’s what’s going to make the visitor input their email into the signup box. It doesn’t have to be spectacular, but it should be very clear. Think of it as explicit instructions telling your visitor what to do next. Don’t be afraid to spell it out for them. Vague call-to-actions will only leave your reader feeling confused, unsure of what to do next.  

    Conclusion

    Turning cold traffic into email subscribers is time well spent, especially if you receive large amounts of new traffic to your site on a regular basis. By implementing the tips above you’ll be on your way to building a high converting landing page that your visitors love.
  • How to Transfer From Blogger to WordPress In 6 Steps

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017 by
    Transfer from Blogger to WordPress Blogger is a great free tool for those just getting started online. But, if you’re starting to take your online efforts seriously, then you’re probably going to run up against the limitations of the platform rather quickly. If you’ve made the decision to switch from Blogger to WordPress, then you probably don’t want to lose all of the content you’ve created thus far. That's exactly why we created this guide. Read on to learn how to switch from Blogger to your new self-hosted WordPress site.  

    The Limitations of Blogger

    Blogger can be a great tool for people just getting started with blogging. In fact, it’s one of the most common beginner blogging platforms out there. But, if you’re taking your online presence and website seriously, you’ll probably reach a point where you’ll want a little more control. One thing that Blogger lacks is customization options. Even if you do manage to turn a profit with your blog, you run the risk of a third-party being in control of your work. Create Your Blog If you want to grow your website and turn it into a full-time business, then you’re going to need the level of customization and control that WordPress provides. But, if you already have a lot of content on your Blogger blog, then you probably want to take it with you. We show you how in the steps below.  

    Transferring from Blogger to WordPress

    When making the transfer you probably don’t want to lose any hard earned rankings or traffic. The steps below will help you easily migrate your site without the usual headache.  

    1. Get a New Host

    Before you make the switch you’ll need to purchase web hosting and a domain name. So, only move forward once you have those setup. You’ll also need to install WordPress on your domain. This quick post will show you how to do that (assuming you’re hosting your new site with HostGator). Don't worry, it only takes a few minutes.  

    2. Export Your Blogger Site

    The first actual step in the import is going to be exporting your current Blogger site. To do this, login to your Blogger dashboard and navigate to Settings>Other. On this page click on the Back Up Content button under the Import & Back Up section. Save your backup to a safe location on your computer. This file will be saved in a .xml format.  

    3. Import via WordPress

    Now, we’re going to login to your brand new WordPress site and import all of the Blogger data you just downloaded. To do this, login to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Tools>Import. WordPress Tools Import You’ll notice one of the options is Blogger. Click on it. If you haven’t used this feature before, then you’ll need to click Install Now to activate this feature. WordPress Import Blogger Once this is installed you’ll notice an option called Activate Plugin & Run Importer. Click on that. Now all you have to do is upload your .xml file from Step 2. After this finishes running through, you'll need to assign an author to all of the imported posts.  

    4. Switch Over Your Permalinks

    Your permalinks are how your URLs are structured. Since you’ve imported all that content from Blogger we want your URL structure to mimic that as closely as possible. To do this navigate to Settings>Permalinks. Select the box that says Month and name. This is the closest we can get to mimic the structure of your Blogger posts. WordPress Permalinks Settings  

    5. Redirect From Blogger to WordPress

    Next we’re going to redirect your blogger site to your new WordPress site. We’ll need to do this on a site-level and on a per-post basis. This will ensure everyone visiting your Blogger site will land on the correct page on your new WordPress site. We recommend using the help of a plugin to handle your Blogger redirects. To do this install the plugin called Blogger 301 Redirect. Activate this plugin on your existing WordPress site and follow the instructions to get this plugin up and running. Blogger 301 Redirect Finally, we’re going to redirect your RSS feed to your new WordPress feed. To do this, navigate to Settings>Other within your Blogger dashboard. Click on Add next to the Post Feed Redirect URL section. Now, add the URL of your current WordPress feed.  

    6. Import Your Images

    Sometimes, not every image will get transferred over to your new site. To remedy this, all you have to do is find the original images. Once you’ve downloaded the originals navigate to Media>Add New within your WordPress dashboard. Then you can drag and drop the images that got left out, and add them to the relevant posts and pages.   Migrating from Blogger to WordPress isn’t difficult, but it does take time. Once you’ve done the import and followed the steps above it’s a good idea to comb through every post and page on your old and new site to make sure nothing got left out. If you’ve completed the steps above you’re now the owner of a beautiful WordPress website, nice work!
  • Best WordPress Plugins for Musicians

    Monday, February 6, 2017 by
    WordPress Plugins for Musicians Having a website is basically mandatory for any profession, including musicians. In fact, with the ability to build an audience and sell directly to your fans, establishing an online presence is becoming even more enticing. Luckily, WordPress has a lot of tools available for musicians. Even if you’re not very tech-savvy, you can still use the power of WordPress to create a beautiful and functional website. Below we dive into a few of our favorite plugins that will help take you, or your band’s, website to the next level.  

    1. Manage Tour Dates With GigPress

    GigPress WordPress If you tour on a regular basis, then GigPress is a plugin you’re going to want in your arsenal. This plugin allows you to easily manage your upcoming and past performances. This plugin allows you to easily customize how you want your tour dates to look, so you can integrate your upcoming shows into your existing site. It even includes links for your fans to buy tickets, and is easy to organize your shows.  

    2. Stream Music With Soundcloud or Spotify

    SoundCloud WordPress plugin If you currently have your music uploaded to Soundcloud, then why not let fans listen while they're on your website? This plugin displays your Soundcloud playlists or tracks you’ve uploaded yourself. Spotify WordPress plugin However, if you don’t utilize Soundcloud and your music is on Spotify, then you can use the plugin called Spotify Master. This enables you to display entire albums, playlists, or even select tracks.  

    3. Connect To Your Fans With Thank Me Later

    Thank Me Later WordPress plugin As you grow you’re going to need a way to keep in touch with your fans. It’s easy in the early stages when you can take the time to respond to everyone, but over time it’s nearly impossible to respond to every request, comment, and email. One cool plugin we like is called Thank Me Later. Whenever a fan adds a comment they will receive an automatic response via email thanking them for the comment. Little personal touches like this can really go a long way.  

    4. Sell Digital Downloads With Music Store

    Music Store WordPress plugin Some musicians prefer to be in complete control of how their music gets distributed. A great plugin that allows you to sell your digital music directly to your fans is called Music Store. This plugin also includes an audio player, so your fans can profile the track before they decide to buy. The free version of this plugin lets you share basic tracks, but if you’re looking to sell entire collections of music, run discounts, and offer coupons, then you’ll have to upgrade to the premium version.  

    5. Sell Your Merchandise With Foxyshop

    FoxyShop WordPress plugin As a musician you make most of your money selling music and playing live shows; however, a good portion of your income can also come from merchandise sales. Most of this stuff is usually sold at a booth at your live shows, but you can still sell the same goods online. Luckily, there are a variety of plugins you can use to sell your merchandise to those fans who desperately want a t-shirt with your latest album cover. One of the most common storefront plugins is Foxyshop. This plugin connects to their hosted shopping cart service, which enables you auto manage your inventory from within your WordPress dashboard. Foxyshop also has support for selling digital goods and subscriptions too.   The above plugins are a great way for you to connect with your fans and bolster your income as a musician. Did we miss any must-have plugins? Share your favorite WordPress plugins for musicians in the comments below.
  • 7 Easy Steps that Protect Your Website From Hackers

    Monday, February 6, 2017 by
    Protect your website from hackers As a website owner, is there anything more terrifying than the thought of seeing all of your work altered or entirely wiped out by a nefarious hacker? You’ve worked hard on your website (and your brand) – so take the time to protect it with these basic hacking protections! In addition to regularly backing up your files (which you should already be doing, for various reasons), taking the following seven easy steps will help keep your website safe: Recommended WordPress Hosting  

    Step #1: Keep platforms and scripts up-to-date

    One of the best things you can do to protect your website is to make sure any platforms or scripts you’ve installed are up-to-date. Because many of these tools are created as open-source software programs, their code is easily available – to both good-intentioned developers as well as malicious hackers.  Hackers can pore over this code, looking for security loopholes that allow them to take control of your website by exploiting any platform or script weaknesses. As an example, if you’re running a website built on WordPress, both your base WordPress installation and any third-party plugins you’ve installed are potentiallt vulnerable to these types of attacks.  Making sure you always have the newest versions of your platform and scripts installed minimizes the risk that you’ll be hacked in this way and usually takes very little time to do. WordPress users can check this quickly when they log in to their WordPress dashboard. Look for the update icon in the top left corner next to your site name. Click the number to access your WordPress Updates. Check for WordPress updates    

    Step #2: Install security plugins, when possible

    Once you've updated everything, further enhance your website security with plugins that actively prevent against hacking attempts. Again, using WordPress as an example, you’ll want to look into free plugins like iThemes Security and Bulletproof Security (or similar tools that are available for websites built on other content management systems).  These products address the weaknesses that are inherent in each platform, foiling additional types of hacking attempts that could threaten your website. Alternatively – whether you’re running a CMS-managed site or HTML pages – take a look at SiteLock.  SiteLock goes above and beyond simply closing site security loopholes by providing daily monitoring for everything from malware detection to vulnerability identification to active virus scanning and more.  If your business relies on its website, SiteLock is definitely an investment worth considering. Note: Our Managed WordPress hosting plan has SiteLock built in, along with other features to help secure your site. HostGator SiteLock Malware Protection  

    Step #3: Use HTTPS

    As a consumer, you may already know to always look for the green https in your browser bar any time you’ll be providing sensitive information to a website. Most consumers know to recognize those five little letters as an important shorthand for security: they signal that it’s safe to provide financial information on that particular webpage. PayPal SSL Certificate If you have an online store, or if any part of your website will require visitors to hand over sensitive information like a credit card number, you have to invest in an SSL certificate. The cost to you is minimal, but the extra level of encryption it offers to your customers goes a long way to making your website more secure and trustworthy.  

    Step #4: Use parameterized queries

    One of the most common website hacks many sites fall victim to are SQL injections. SQL injections can come into play if you have a web form or URL parameter that allows outside users to supply information. If you leave the parameters of the field too open, someone could insert code into them that lets them hack into your database, which may well contain sensitive customer information, like their contact info or credit card numbers. Obviously that’s information it’s your duty to protect. There are a number of steps you can take to protect your website from SQL injection hacks; one of the most important and easiest to implement is the use of parameterized queries. Using parameterized queries ensures your code has specific enough parameters so that there’s no room for a hacker to mess with them.  

    Step #5: Use CSP

    Similar to SQL injections, cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks are another common foe site owners have to be on the lookout for. They occur when hackers find a way to slip malicious JavaScript code onto your pages which can then infect the pages of any visitors to your website that are exposed to the code. Part of the fight to protect your site from XSS attacks is similar to the parameterized queries you use for SQL injections. You should make sure any code you use on your website for functions or fields that allow input are as explicit as possible in what’s allowed, so you’re not leaving room for anything to slip in. Another handy tool you have to protect yourself from XSS is Content Security Policy (CSP). CSP allows you to specify the domains a browser should consider valid sources of executable scripts when on your page, so the browser knows not to pay attention to any malicious script that might infect your visitor’s computer. Using CSP is simply a matter of adding the proper HTTP header to your webpage that provides a string of directives that tells the browser which domains are ok and any exceptions to the rule.  You can find details on how to craft CSP headers for your website provided by Mozilla here.  

    Step #6: Make sure your passwords are secure

    This one seems simple, but it’s so important. It’s tempting to go with a password you know will always be easy for you to remember. That’s why the #1 most common password is still 123456. You have to do better than that – a lot better than that. Make the effort to figure out a truly secure password (or use HostGator's password generator). Make it long. Use a mix of special characters, numbers, and letters. And steer clear of potentially easy-to-guess keywords like your birthday or kid’s name. If a hacker somehow gains access to other information about you, they’ll know to guess those first. Password Generator And make sure everyone who has access to your website has similarly secure passwords. Institute requirements in terms of length and the type of characters that people are required to use so they have to get more creative than going with the standard, easy passwords they turn to for less secure accounts. One weak password within your team can make your whole website more vulnerable, so set expectations with everyone who has access and hold yourself to the same high standard.  

    Step #7: Lock down your directory and file permissions

    Now, for this final technique, we’re going to get a little technical – but stick with me for a moment… All websites can be boiled down to a series of files and folders that are stored on your web hosting account.  Besides containing all of the scripts and data needed to make your website work, each of these files and folders is assigned a set of permissions that controls who can read, write, and execute any given file or folder, relative to the user they are or the group to which they belong. On the Linux operating system, permissions are viewable as a three-digit code where each digit is an integer between 0-7.  The first digit represents permissions for the owner of the file, the second digit represents permissions for anyone assigned to the group that owns the file, and the third digit represents permissions for everyone else.  The assignations work as follows:
    • 4 equals Read
    • 2 equals Write
    • 1 equals Execute
    • 0 equals no permissions for that user
    As an example, take the permission code “644.”  In this case, a “6” (or “4+2”) in the first position gives the file’s owner the ability to read and write the file.  The “4” in the second and third positions means that both group users and internet users at large can read the file only – protecting the file from unexpected manipulations. So, a file with “777” (or 4+2+1 / 4+2+1 / 4+2+1) permissions would then readable, write-able, and executable by the user, the group and everyone else in the world. As you might expect, a file that is assigned a permission code that gives anyone on the web the ability to write and execute it is much less secure than one which has been locked down in order to reserve all rights for the owner alone.  Of course, there are valid reasons to open up access to other groups of users (anonymous FTP upload, as one example), but these instances must be carefully considered in order to avoid creating a security risk. For this reason, a good rule of thumb is to set your permissions as follows:
    • Folders and directories = 755
    • Individual files = 644
    To set your file permissions, log in to your cPanel’s File Manager or connect to your server via FTP.  Once inside, you’ll see a list of your existing file permissions (as in the following example generated using the Filezilla FTP program): chmod 1 The final column in this example displays the folder and file permissions currently assigned to the website’s content.  To change these permissions in Filezilla, simply right click the folder or file in question and select the “File permissions” option.  Doing so will launch a screen that allows you to assign different permissions using a series of checkboxes: chmod 2 Although your web host’s or FTP program’s backend might look slightly different, the basic process for changing permissions remains the same.  If you have any questions about modifying your folder and file permissions, please see this helpful link.  Don’t put off taking this important step – securing your site using all of these different strategies is a big part of keeping your site healthy and safe in the long run! At HostGator, we have created a set of custom mod security rules to aid in the protection of your website. If you're looking for a new hosting provider, you can click here to sign up for a great deal. For new accounts, we'll even transfer you for free! After you've created an account, you just need to fill out the form here.