HostGator Blog https://www.hostgator.com/blog Web Hosting and Marketing Tips for Entrepreneurs Fri, 19 Oct 2018 13:30:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.7 151369968 How to Install a WordPress Slideshow Plugin https://www.hostgator.com/blog/install-wordpress-slideshow-plugin/ https://www.hostgator.com/blog/install-wordpress-slideshow-plugin/#respond Fri, 19 Oct 2018 13:30:07 +0000 https://www.hostgator.com/blog/?p=20386 The post How to Install a WordPress Slideshow Plugin appeared first on HostGator Blog.

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Sliders have a multitude of uses. Whether you’re looking to show off your latest images, highlight your recent blog posts, or even showcase video content, a WordPress slider plugin can help you do just that.

A lot of WordPress themes actually come equipped with sliders right out of the box. But, if a slider isn’t included with your WordPress theme, then this post is for you.

WordPress has a multitude of slider plugins that you can easily integrate into your site.

Below you’ll learn why you’ll want to use a WordPress slideshow plugin for your WordPress-hosted site, how to choose the right one for your site, which plugins we recommend, and finally how to actually install the plugin on your WordPress website.

best WordPress hosting

 

Why Use a WordPress Slideshow Plugin?

By adding a WordPress slideshow plugin to your site you can create a more lasting impression on your site visitors. With a slider, you can entice visitors with dynamic and flexible content the moment they land on your site.

Dynamic and moving content is more engaging than plain text. Higher engagement and user interest mean more time on your site, increased interaction, and hopefully, more customers.

In the fight to grab your audience’s attention online, you’ll want to use every tool in your arsenal.

Depending on the slider plugin you decide to use, you’ll get access to a wide variety of features. For example, you can create full-page sliders that show off your best images. You can create sliders to insert into your post, creating a slideshow list post. Or, maybe you want to embed your YouTube video content, or even add animations.

With a WordPress slideshow plugin, you can do all that and more. You can even use WordPress shortcodes to simplify the process further.

Keep reading to learn what you’ll want to keep an eye out for when choosing a WordPress slideshow plugin.

 

How to Choose the Best WordPress Slider Plugin

There are tons of different WordPress slider plugins out there. Once you know that you want to add a slider to your site, it’s time to dig through the vast WordPress plugin library to find the right plugin for your needs.

Before you begin your search, it’s important to take a few considerations to heart:

  1. Do you have a budget for a premium plugin, or are you opting for a free plugin? This will help to narrow your selection.
  2. What will you primarily be using the WordPress slider plugin for? For example, are you solely creating image slideshows, or do you need video compatibility too?
  3. Is a basic plugin okay? Or, do you want advanced customization features and dynamic content support?
  4. Is drag and drop design and functionality important?
  5. Do you want the ability to upgrade your plugin in time with additional extensions, or a premium version?

Spend some time thinking about the questions above and keep your answers in mind throughout your plugin search.

Now you probably have a better idea of what kind of slider plugin you’re looking for.

Here are a few other considerations you’ll want to think about which will help determine the quality of the WordPress slideshow plugin you choose:

  • Does it have a large volume of downloads? Typically, plugins that have been downloaded hundreds of times (or hundreds of thousands of times) are higher quality.
  • What’s the general consensus of the user reviews? Is it four-stars or above? Do the negative reviews point out any glaring flaws that haven’t been addressed?
  • Does the plugin include a dedicated community forum? Or specialized support?

 

5 Best WordPress Slideshow Plugins

If you’ve spent any time browsing through the WordPress plugin repository, or on a site like CodeCanyon, then you’re probably overwhelmed with the sheer volume of choices.

Instead of making you sift through every plugin yourself, here are five of the top WordPress slideshow plugins currently on the market:

 

1. MetaSlider

metaslider plugin

MetaSlider is an incredibly popular free WordPress slider plugin. For being a free plugin it offers an incredibly rich set of features, such as several themes to choose from, a library of transition effects, and more.

To build out your slideshow you’ll use the drag and drop builder and built-in image cropping tool.

Once you install the slideshow plugin you’ll have four different slider types to choose from, which are all equipped with different features and advantages.

There’s also a premium version of the plugin which will unlock even more features. For example, you’ll get access to multiple plugin skins, animation effects, and the ability to include more dynamic content in your slides.

 

2. RoyalSlider

royalslider

RoyalSlider is one of the most downloaded plugins on the Code Canyon site. It’s even been used by massive companies like Coca-Cola and Land Rover.

This WordPress slider plugin is very versatile and can display a wide range of content types. From images to text, to video, animations, and more.

Those who are photo-obsessed will love the full-screen slider capability, along with the ability to pull photos directly from your Flickr account.

Some other features this plugin offers include:

  • Adding multiple sliders into a single page
  • Responsive slider capabilities
  • Multiple different navigation options and formats
  • Built-in slider templates and skins
  • A lot more

Currently, this plugin will cost you $24. That’s a pretty good deal considering everything you’re getting with this plugin.

 

3. Easing Slider

easing slider

Easing Slider is a great free plugin that’s very lightweight. That means it won’t bog down your site on the backend, or have a negative impact on your site loading speeds.

This plugin is incredibly easy to use and if you’ve used the WordPress post editor before, you’ll feel right at home.

You can upload images in bulk. Then this tool will optimize them for you, so you can begin creating and customizing your sliders.

You can also extend the functionality of this WordPress slideshow plugin by purchasing one of the premium add-ons. With these additional features you’ll be able to do things like add video, insert captions, add the lightbox effect, or even include touch and swipe compatibility for mobile devices.

 

4. Soliloquy

solilouy plugin

Soliloquy is one of the best selling slider plugins on the market. It’s a very lightweight plugin and is incredibly fast.

If one of your biggest concerns is speed, then this plugin can’t be beaten. Beyond its speed, it also has top-notch security measures in place.

In regards to building out your WordPress slideshow, this plugin couldn’t make things easier. It’s equipped with a drag and drop builder so you can effortlessly rearrange elements as you see fit.

It also offers a ton of different customization options, so you can embed images and video. You have a wide range of transition options available as well.

This plugin currently costs $19 for a single site. However, there is also a basic version of the plugin available if you’d like to give it a trial run before you decide to purchase.

 

5. Slider Revolution

slider revolution responsive wordpress plugin

Slider Revolution has been a top selling WordPress slider plugin for quite some time. Just one look at the quality of sliders you can create and it’s easy to tell why. This flexible plugin lets you easily create eye-catching sliders that are intricately layered.

You can even add animations to different parts of your slider while incorporating elements like text, images, video, buttons, HTML, and more.

Even though it might seem complex combining all of these different elements into a single slider, using the plugin is actually pretty intuitive. You can either use the drag and drop feature, or the graphical interface to build out each slide.

Finally, you’ll have the option to easily add content from sources like YouTube, Twitter, previous WordPress posts, and a lot more.

Overall, there’s really nothing that you can’t do with this plugin. It’s infinitely flexible and can help you create the perfect sliders for your WordPress site.

You can currently pick up Slider Revolution for $26 from Code Canyon, which is a steal considering all the uses of this plugin.

 

How to Install a Free WordPress Slideshow Plugin

Once you’ve found the WordPress slider plugin of your dreams, installation is pretty straightforward. If you’ve ever installed a WordPress plugin in the past, then you’ll just follow those same steps.

But, in case you forgot, you can follow the steps we’ve outlined below.

 

1. Login to Your WordPress Backend

Your first step is to login to your WordPress dashboard (or admin panel). This link, along with your login information, should have been provided when you installed WordPress.

The URL will look something like this, http://yoursite.com/wp-admin.

Enter your username and password and you’re good to go.

 

2. Navigate to the Plugin Install Screen

Now that you’re in the backend of your site find the Plugin tab on the left-hand side. Then select Add New.

add plugin in wordpress

Here you’ll be able to search for and install the plugin right from WordPress itself.

 

3. Search for Your Preferred Plugin

For the sake of this tutorial, we’re going to assume you went with the free MetaSlider plugin.

In the little search bar in the upper right-hand corner type in MetaSlider.

Then, find the plugin that looks like the one below and click Install.

search for plugins in wordpress

Once the plugin has been installed the button will switch over to Activate.

Click this, and you’ve successfully installed a WordPress slider plugin on your site!

 

5. Start Configuring Your WordPress Slider Plugin

Now you can start configuring the plugin and adding a slider to your site.

With the plugin installed you’ll now find another menu option on the left-hand side.

In the case of MetaSlider, you can access the plugin by going to the tab labeled MetaSlider on the bottom left-hand side.

install metaslider to wordpress

How to Install a Paid WordPress Slideshow Plugin

If you decided to purchase one of the plugins from the list above, then you’ll have a slightly different order of operations.

Typically, you’ll have instructions from your plugin provider on how to install and set up the plugin. But, if not, then follow the steps below.

 

1. Purchase and Download the Plugin

If you’re going with a premium plugin, then you’ll want to purchase and download the plugin from the provider’s website.

Then, you’ll have a .zip file, which we’re going to upload to WordPress.

 

2. Upload Via the Plugin Screen

Once again navigate to your WordPress dashboard, then select Plugins>Add New. Then select Upload Plugin at the top of the screen.

add plugins by upload

On this screen, you can either drag the file into the box or click Choose File, then locate the file on your computer.

Boom! You’ve successfully installed a premium slider plugin on your site.

 

3. Setup and Configure Your Plugin

Now it’s time to set up and configure your plugin. Since it’s a premium plugin you’ll have access to extensive documentation, support, and even tutorials to help you successfully use the plugin.

What you do with your slider plugin is up to you!

 

Time to Create Your WordPress Slideshow

Hopefully, by now, you have a better understanding of what WordPress slider plugins can do and why you might want to add one to your site.

Adding a slider to your site gives you a lot of flexibility. Today’s sliders offer a lot more than a basic image slideshow.

Overall, your selection will depend upon your budget and the overall features you’re looking for. Any of the WordPress slider plugins above will be a great choice, but if you’re looking for the ultimate in flexibility and display options, it’s a good idea to upgrade to a premium plugin.

The free options highlighted above are great choices, but if you’re serious about the look of your slider, then it’s hard to beat a premium option.

If you’re still unsure about which slider will be the best fit for your needs, then it’s a good idea to check out the demo of each plugin or install a free version to get a feel for how you can integrate it into your existing site.

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The Ultimate Guide to Building a Successful Website https://www.hostgator.com/blog/building-successful-website-guide/ https://www.hostgator.com/blog/building-successful-website-guide/#respond Thu, 18 Oct 2018 18:01:33 +0000 https://www.hostgator.com/blog/?p=19883 The post The Ultimate Guide to Building a Successful Website appeared first on HostGator Blog.

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You’ve got an idea for a web property – whether it’s for a business, to share your thoughts and ideas with the world, or to simply find and connect with other people who share your passions.

The challenge now is to build your website.

If you don’t know anything about web design or HTML, then building a website can seem like a daunting prospect. But getting all the elements of a successful website into place is just a matter of knowing the right steps to take and tools to use.  

This guide will cover all the main things you need to know to get started.

HostGator Website Builder

Step 1: Determine Your Website Goals.

You’re starting a website for a reason. What is it you want the site to accomplish?

Before you actually start working on the website itself, sit down and really work out what you want your website to achieve.

If it’s a business website, your main goal will be increasing your business profits, but you’ll want to break that down into more specific and transitional goals as well, such as raising brand awareness or driving traffic into your store.

If you’re hoping to write blog posts about what you love and eventually monetize your blog, then your goals will be based on driving traffic and building a community.  

Even if you just want to use your website to put your thoughts out into the world or share your creative projects, you probably want other people to find and connect with them.

Successful website design depends on what you want to get out of the website. Whether you want visitors, sales, subscribers, fame, community, or something entirely different, you have to start by clearly defining and writing out your website goals.

 

Step 2: Pick a Domain and Hosting Provider.

While you can take each of these steps separately, they’re lumped together here for a reason. Most hosting providers include a domain name (or multiple) in the cost of hosting, so you can save yourself some money by registering a domain through the hosting provider you go with.

 

Picking Your Domain Name

Choosing the right domain name can be challenging. You need to pick something that makes sense for your websites, is easy for your visitors to remember, but that’s still available. With millions of websites already out there, a lot of your options are already taken – especially if you want to use a .com option, which is recommended since it’s what your visitors will automatically type in when looking for you.

If you have a business name already, you’ll ideally want to come up with a domain that matches it or is at least similar. If you’re still figuring out what to call your brand or blog, then you have some more room to get creative here.  

Brainstorm different keywords and concepts that you like and that are relevant to what you’ll be offering on the site. Put together different combinations of terms that you like the sound of and check the availability with HostGator’s domain name search until you find an option you like that’s available.

register new domain name with hostgator

Some domain registrars, including HostGator, allow you to bundle your domain purchase with your hosting plan. Let’s review how to choose a hosting plan next.

 

Choosing Your Web Hosting Plan

When you start looking at , you may find it all overwhelming at first. The main things you need to cross off your web hosting checklist are:

  • Does the provider have a reliable server? Research a web hosting provider’s uptime to make sure you pick one you can be confident will keep your website consistently active.
  • Can the plan handle your traffic? Unless you have an established brand, your website probably won’t get that much traffic to start. But you want to make sure you choose a plan that can handle the amount you plan on getting.
  • Is the plan compatible with your web design needs? If your website will be on the simpler side, then you don’t have much to worry about here, but if you have a developer that insists on using a specific type of programming language or software, you may need to choose your web hosting plan based on compatibility.

A good web hosting provider will have salespeople that can help you navigate the differences between the various plans they offer and customer support that will help you learn the ropes when getting your website set up.

If you’re considering HostGator for your provider, our staff can help with any questions you have and most of our plans come with at least one domain name included.

 

Step 3: Plan Out Your Site Organization.

A successful website design requires proper organization. You need the website to be intuitive to users. And if you care about being easy to find, you also need it to be organized well for SEO.

Before you work on the website design itself, sit down to figure out the main pages and categories your website will have. The most important pages should go in your main menu, which should be included on every page so it’s easy for visitors to navigate to the most important parts of the site.

If your website will just have a few main pages and be pretty basic, figuring out your site organization won’t be too difficult. But if you’ll have a bigger site with a lot of different pages, categories, and subcategories, then it’s even more important to get a plan into place for how it will all be organized now.

Think first and foremost when planning out your site’s organization about your future visitors. What are the categories that will make the most sense to them? What site structure will make it easiest for them to find what they’re looking for? You’ll be doing some guesswork at this point (and your analytics after you launch will show you if you got it right or need to make changes later), but do your best to put yourself in their shoes now.

 

Step 4: Develop a Successful Website Design.

Once you know the main pages you’ll be creating and the way you’ll be organizing the site, it’s time to design your website. If you’re not adept at web design yourself, you have two main options here:

 

Option 1: Using a Website Builder

You don’t have to learn coding to build a success website anymore. Now you can turn to website builders that make creating a website on your own much easier. Website builders usually offer a number of templates you can choose from to start with and let you make tweaks to personalize the site from there.

You can load your own images and copy, easily change out colors, and drag and drop images and other page elements to where you want them on the page.

For someone without coding skills that has a limited budget, sticking with a website builder is worth it to keep things easy, while still producing a website that looks good.

And if you chose HostGator to be your web hosting provider in step two, we offer a free website builder with many of our web hosting plans, so you won’t have to spend any additional money to get started. Here are just a few of the websites designed using our free templates:

Website builder templates

Option 2: Using a Professional Designer

For more complicated websites, a website builder may not cut it. If your website will have a lot of pages, include a difficult-to-build feature like creating a forum, or if you have a really specific vision in mind – then you’ll be better off hiring a professional to design your website for you.

Research the design firms and freelance web designers in your area and set up interviews with anyone whose style you like. In each interview, make sure you discuss your main goals for the website and clearly describe what you’re looking for. Pay attention to the questions they ask you and the tips or suggestions they provide – that’s how you’ll get a feel for their level of knowledge and whether they’re a good fit.

Developing a successful website design with the right professional will ultimately be a collaborative effort, and finding the right person to hire is the most important step of that process.

 

Step 5: Write Your Website Copy.

The design’s important, but one of the other crucial elements of a successful website is good copy. Website copywriting is a skill set in and of itself and, especially for business websites, the words you choose will make a big difference in how successful your website is at achieving your goals.

For many websites, your best bet at this step is to hire a professional copywriter who knows what kind of writing works well on the web and can help you clarify your business positioning and messaging so that it resonates with your target audience.

If your website is more of a passion project than a business website with a profit goal, then it might not make as much sense to spend money on a professional copywriter. If you’ll be writing your website copy yourself though, take some time to read up on web copywriting best practices.

 

Step 6: Optimize for SEO.

If you want people to find your website, then you need to be thinking about how to design your website for search engines as well as people (although people should always take priority!). That means learning the basics of SEO and optimizing each of the pages on your website before you publish it.

Search engine optimization is a big topic, but to give you the short version, it includes:

  • Performing keyword research to learn the terms your audience is using (and how competitive they are)
  • Including relevant keywords in your URL structure, title tags, headings, image meta tags, and copy.
  • Adding meta descriptions for every page on your website.
  • Including natural internal links on your web pages using relevant keywords in the anchor text.  

Start doing this before your website goes up on the web and keep doing it for every new page you add over time.

 

Step 7: Plan for Marketing.

A successful website doesn’t start and stop with a good design. You also have to plan on taking steps to promote your website. SEO is one part of that, but you may also want to consider using tactics like paid advertising, social media marketing, and content marketing to get users to your website.

New websites often need an extra push to get those first visitors. If gaining an audience is important for you to meet your website goals, then you’ll benefit from creating a marketing plan even before your website launches.

 

Step 8: Review All Pages for Any Errors.

With your web design and website copy in place, you’re so close! Now you just need to make sure everything looks good before you actually put your website out on the wide web.

Take time to read over every page and look for any errors. Make sure all your links point to the right place and all the information is accurate. Check how it looks on mobile devices and in different web browsers.

This is a good phase to bring in some outside eyes. Have a friend go through the website as well to see if they find it intuitive and everything looks good to them too. You’re so close to it that someone else will have an easier time spotting usability issues than you will.

 

Step 9: Launch!

Once you’re pretty confident that everything looks good and you have exactly the website you want, publish it to the web.

Make sure to set up a Google Analytics account and add the tracking code to your website at this point (or before) to help with our last step.

 

Step 10: Monitor Your Site.

No matter how hard you try, you won’t come up with the perfect website design on the first try. To fully understand what works on your website with your audience, you’ll have to wait and see what they do once your website is out in the world.

Pay attention to your analytics and use the data to find opportunities to improve your website’s design, your copy, and the marketing tactics you use over time.

A successful website is only a little bit about what you do when you’re building it (although all that matters!). It’s much more about what you do after it has launched. Make sure you build the best website you can, but also have a plan for what to do beyond launch day to achieve success.

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The 10-Step Holiday Sale Launch Checklist for Online Stores https://www.hostgator.com/blog/holiday-sale-launch-checklist-online-stores/ https://www.hostgator.com/blog/holiday-sale-launch-checklist-online-stores/#respond Wed, 17 Oct 2018 22:02:16 +0000 https://www.hostgator.com/blog/?p=20434 The post The 10-Step Holiday Sale Launch Checklist for Online Stores appeared first on HostGator Blog.

The holiday season is coming! For eCommerce businesses, it’s not so much the most wonderful time of the year as...

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The holiday season is coming! For eCommerce businesses, it’s not so much the most wonderful time of the year as it is the most important.

For the next couple of months, people will be in spending mode as they collect gifts for loved ones and prepare for various holiday celebrations.

For retail businesses, holiday sales account for 20-30% of all sales for the entire year. A lot of your online store’s success for the year could depend on these next few weeks — you don’t want to do anything wrong.

And yet, even big sites like Target and Paypal have taken a hit in the past on the biggest shopping days of the year for not being adequately prepared. If your website isn’t doing its job right during the holiday season, you’ll lose sales.

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Your Holiday Sale Launch Checklist

Do everything in your power in the weeks leading up to the holidays to make sure your online store won’t have any issues when it counts most.

To make that easier for you, here’s a handy checklist of steps to take.

 

1. Review last year’s analytics so you know what to expect.

You can learn a lot about what to expect this year by looking to last year. Pull up your Google Analytics data from last year’s holiday months to see:

  •      How your traffic volume changed during the holiday season
  •      Which pages got the most traffic
  •      Which products were the most popular
  •      What keywords brought the most people to your website (and are they different during the holiday season than the rest of the year?)
  •      Which channels drove the most traffic (search, social, email, links from other sites, etc.)
  •      The demographic break down of your visitors during the holiday season (and whether it’s different than the rest of the year)
  •      What devices your visitors are coming from

All of this information will be useful in forming a more effective strategy for your holiday marketing,

If your primary audience is usually 15-year old boys, but during the holiday season you notice their moms are usually the ones visiting your site, then you’ll know it pays to shift your marketing strategy to the audience making the purchases. If your past data shows that paid search ads work especially well the week of Black Friday, then you know to increase your PPC ad spend during that time.

Turning to your site analytics during the holidays can provide a wealth of insights that enable you to truly make the most of the season this year.

 

2. Create a plan for discounts and specials and how you’ll promote them.

People are ready to spend money, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still want to save anywhere they can. Your competitors will definitely be offering deals and promotions during the holidays so if you want a chance at winning business, you need to promote attractive offers as well.

Decide on the discounts you can offer on popular products this season to get people to buy. Consider other specials that may push potential customers to buy, such as free gift wrapping or shipping.

And create a plan for promoting your offers to your target audience(s) on all your main marketing channels (especially those that your analytics showed worked best last year).

 

3. Make sure your website’s organized for holiday shoppers.

For some online stores, the way your website is organized the rest of the year may work just fine for the holiday season.

For others, you can benefit from trying to see your store and products with fresh eyes: what pages and categories would someone looking for holiday gifts or items find useful?

If you have a lot of small, affordable items, creating a category for Stocking Stuffers or White Elephant Gifts might help your visitors find something specific they need this time of year, and help you optimize for some holiday keywords.

best buy stocking stuffers page for holiday season

Make sure any changes you make to your store’s organization are intuitive — keep your target audience top of mind in this step.

 

4. Confirm all new holiday pages are optimized for SEO.

Every new page you add to your website for the holidays should follow the same SEO best practices you use for the rest of your website. Namely:

  •      Do keyword research to determine the best primary and secondary keywords to target on the page.
  •      Customize the page URL so that it’s both intuitive and includes your primary keyword.
  •      Update the page’s title tag to include the primary keyword.
  •      Update all the heading tags on the page to include keywords, where relevant.
  •     Optimize all your images by including keywords in the file name and alt tags.
  •      Add a meta description with a strong CTA to encourage click-throughs from Google. 

But as always, make sure all the elements of your page combine to provide a positive experience for your visitors first, and search engines second. Don’t sacrifice clarity to get your keyword in there a few more times.

 

5. Review (and possibly update) your return policy.

There are a lot of wonderful things about gift giving (and receiving), but the one big catch is that you usually don’t know for sure what the other person wants. During this time of year more than any other, having a good return policy is important for ensuring your customers choose to buy from you and have a good experience when they do.

If your customer excitedly hands your product over to their loved one only to learn it’s the wrong size or something they already own — how will they feel if returning it is a difficult process, or worse, you don’t allow returns at all?

If your return policy is at all strict throughout the rest of the year, consider updating it at least through the holiday season. A generous return policy will make people more likely to do their holiday shopping with you and return to your brand for future purchases.

 

6. Test out the checkout process on your website.

If there’s anything about the checkout process on your website that’s difficult or inconvenient, you want to know about it before you lose customers over it. Use a company credit card to make a few test purchases on the site.

Don’t just do this once on your usual computer and browser. Try it out on various computers, in different browsers, and on as many mobile devices as you can access. If possible, ask a friend to make some test purchases too so you can get an outsider’s perspective on the process.

If you notice anything that slows the checkout process down or makes it even slightly more difficult, change it before the holiday season is in full swing.

 

7. Test out all important links and forms.

If any of your links point to the wrong place, your visitors won’t be able to find what they’re looking for and are more likely to leave the site. And if your forms don’t work properly, you could miss out on important contact attempts and lose sales because of it.

Have an employee spend a day going through the website to try out all the links and confirm that they take the user where they should. Test out all the forms on the site, too. As you did with the checkout process, make sure to do so on various devices and in different browsers to be comprehensive.

 

8. Calculate shipping speeds so you can advertise “delivery by” dates.

While people care about how long they have to wait on an order year-round, it becomes especially important once you get into late November and December. Anyone browsing your website close to the main gift-giving dates will want to know they’ll get their items in time.

You can increase conversions during that time by providing clear information on when your customers can expect to receive an order based on the shipping option they choose.

Here’s an example from Nordstrom:

nordstrom holiday shipping speeds

Keep in mind that the winter months bring weather patterns to many areas that can slow packages down, so be prepared with a plan to make amends if a customer doesn’t get a package when they expect to because of a storm or icy roads. Even if the delay isn’t your fault, it’s your job to turn a disappointing experience into a good one.

 

9. Check that your hosting can handle higher traffic.

It’s every online store’s nightmare: your website crashing on one of the biggest shopping days of the year. It even happened to Amazon on Prime Day this year, proving that it can happen to anyone. But you can reduce the risk of it happening to you by upgrading your hosting if you’re expecting a big increase in traffic.

If you’re not sure if your website hosting plan can cover the amount of traffic you expect this year, get in touch with them and ask. If they can’t give you the answer you want, consider switching to a new web hosting provider or a more advanced plan.

 

10. Make sure you have plenty of stock.

This one requires moving off your website to check that what’s on the website is accurate.

Check your inventory to make sure that every product listed, and especially those you plan to promote heavily, are in stock. Use last year’s analytics to determine if you should buy more of a particular item so you don’t risk leaving money on the table if it runs out too early.

Just as importantly, make sure you have all the packaging materials you need to handle the orders that will come in. You don’t want orders held up because you ran out of boxes or tape.

 

Be Prepared With Our Holiday Sale Launch Checklist

Your website has a big job to do, but you have to make sure you’re ready to fulfill everything the website promises to your visitors.

Go through our Holiday Sale Launch Checklist to make sure you’re ready for the season this year. A profitable holiday season will put your online store on strong footing as you move into the New Year.

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How to Secure a Website from Hackers https://www.hostgator.com/blog/3-easy-steps-that-protect-your-website-from-hackers/ https://www.hostgator.com/blog/3-easy-steps-that-protect-your-website-from-hackers/#comments Tue, 16 Oct 2018 16:00:23 +0000 http://www.hostgator.com/blog/?p=5422 The post How to Secure a Website from Hackers appeared first on HostGator Blog.

As a website owner, is there anything more terrifying than the thought of seeing all of your work altered or...

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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 it’s important to take the time to protect it with these basic hacker protection tips! This article will also teach you how to check if a website is safe and what you can do to ensure your website is completely from hackers.

In addition to regularly backing up your files (which you should already be doing, for various reasons), taking the following these seven easy steps will help protect your website from hackers:

Recommended WordPress Hosting

 

Step #1: Install security plugins, when possible

Once you’ve updated everything, further enhance your website security with plugins that actively prevent website hacking attempts.

Again, using WordPress as an example, you’ll want to look into free security 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 security vulnerabilities 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 #2: 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 hacker security: they signal that it’s safe to provide financial information on that particular webpage.

PayPal SSL Certificate

In July 2018, Google Chrome released an security update that alerts website visitors if your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate installed. An SSL certificate is important because it secures the transfer of information – such as credit cards, personal data, and contact information – between your website and the server. Search engines are taking website security more seriously than ever because they want users to have a positive and safe experience browsing the web. Taking the commitment to security further, a search engine may rank your website lower in search results if you don’t have an SSL certificate.

What does that mean for you? 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 need to invest in an SSL certificate. The cost of an SSL certificate 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.

At HostGator, we also take website security seriously, but most importantly, we want to make it easy for you to be secure. All HostGator web hosting packages come with a free SSL certificate. The SSL certificate will be automatically applied to your account, but do need to take a few steps to install the free SSL certificate on your website. 

Step #3: Keep your website platform and software up-to-date

One of the best things you can do to protect your website from being hacked is to make sure your content management system, plugins and apps, 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 accessible – to both good-intentioned developers as well as malicious hackers.  Hackers can pore over this code, looking for security vulnerabilities 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 potentially vulnerable to these types of cyber 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 #4: 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 to prevent login attempts from hackers and other outsiders.

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

You also want to make sure everyone who has access to your website has similarly strong 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. Creating strong passwords can prevent a hacker from being able to gain access to your accounts.

One weak password within your team can make your website susceptible to a data breach, so set expectations with everyone who has access and hold yourself to the same high standard.

 

Step #5: 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 allows access your database. It’s important to protect your site from this because of the amount of sensitive customer information that can be held in your database.

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 #6: Use CSP

Similar to SQL injections, cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks are another common threat 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 that can help protect your site 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 or malware that might infect your site 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 #7: Lock down your directory and file permissions

Now, for this final technique, we’re going to get a little technical – but stick with us.

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 website 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.  Our support portal has solutions for how to modify your folder and file permissions.

In conclusion…

Don’t put off taking this important step. Securing your site and learning how to protect against hackers 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.

Don’t worry about getting tripped up in the process. HostGator has world-class support available around the clock! Our customer support specialists are available 34/7/365 via email ticket, chat, or phone. We can help you get secure!

 

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Selling Products on a Website: A Helpful Guide https://www.hostgator.com/blog/selling-products-website-guide/ https://www.hostgator.com/blog/selling-products-website-guide/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 13:52:55 +0000 https://www.hostgator.com/blog/?p=20124 The post Selling Products on a Website: A Helpful Guide appeared first on HostGator Blog.

The way people shop today has largely moved online. Any business that sells products from a storefront now will benefit...

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The post Selling Products on a Website: A Helpful Guide appeared first on HostGator Blog.

The way people shop today has largely moved online.

Any business that sells products from a storefront now will benefit from selling products on a website as well. Selling through an online store is an easy way to increase your market and get more sales from customers who value convenience.

And anyone starting a new business can save on upfront costs and work by making it an eCommerce store. The costs of building a website are much lower than what you’d spend to rent space and staff a physical store.

Selling products online is a much easier and more affordable way to start down the path of entrepreneurship.

create your website

Why You Should Sell Products On a Website

For people to buy your items, they have to be able to access them. When you only sell them in one location (or even if you have a chain of specific locations), you’re limited to selling products to the people who are willing and able to come to you. That means there’s a huge market you miss out on.

If you’ve been hesitant to do the work of building an eCommerce website to sell products, there are a few good reasons to move it up on your to-do list.

 

1. People spend money online.

In 2017, people spent over $450 billion making purchases online and that number has been growing over the last few years. Any business owner that stays offline is missing out on their piece of those profits.  

growth in online ecommerce sales

While some shoppers certainly still make a routine out of heading to their local shopping district or mall, many now skip the trip and do a lot of their buying while sitting at home.

If your competitors make their items available to them there and you don’t, you’ll lose that business.

 

2. An eCommerce website costs less than a storefront.

Running a storefront requires paying:

  •      Rent for the space
  •      The paychecks of enough staff to be there during business hours
  •      Proper licensing and permits
  •      Utility bills
  •      Furniture and decorations
  •      Building maintenance
  •      Cleaning supplies
  •      Selling supplies like POS systems and cash registers

All of that adds up to a lot of expenses – and most of them are ongoing.

Selling products on a website, on the other hand, cuts out most of those costs. You will still need to pay for things like web hosting and marketing and may need to hire some staff, depending on the size of the eCommerce store you run, but the costs are overall more manageable and easy to plan for.

 

3. Online shopping provides convenience.

When you’re tired, busy, sick, or just feeling a little lazy – you probably don’t want to spend time driving somewhere and browsing a store for the items you want to buy. People have a lot going on and sometimes there just isn’t room in their lives for a trip to the store.

By comparison, browsing an eCommerce site online and making selections is easier, faster, and requires a lot less energy. People are more likely to spend their money when it doesn’t feel like work to do so.

Online shopping isn’t 100% effortless – but it’s pretty close.  When you sell your products through an online store, you remove a lot of the barriers to buying that exist with a physical store.

 

4. An online presence gets your products found in search.

85% of people turn to Google for product discovery and shopping. Without an eCommerce website, your products have no chance of showing up when potential customers start looking for what you sell online.

top sites where people research products online

But when every product you sell is listed on a page on your eCommerce site, all of them will be indexed by Google. That’s the first step to your products showing up in search results.

If you want those product pages to show up on the first page of Google, that requires an investment in SEO best practices. But before you can even start thinking about that, you need an ecommerce website for your products.

 

5. The growth in mobile means people can buy from anywhere.

Mobile shopping trends show that almost a third of all shopping people now do online is on mobile devices.  

Mobile shopping makes it possible for people to make purchases at the exact moment they decide they want something. Whether they’re at a dinner party, strolling through the park, or lounging on the beach – if they think of something they want, they can make the purchase right then.

That creates more opportunities for sales. You don’t face the risk of a potential customer deciding they want an item you sell, only to forget about it by the time they get home to their computer.  That’s good for your customers, and it’s good for your bottom line.

 

How to Sell Products on a Website

The reasons to start selling your products online should be clear at this point. If you’re convinced, here are the main features you need for an ecommerce site.

 

1. Choose your website hosting.

For your website to live on the web, you need hosting. One of your first steps is therefore to research what type of web hosting you need and select the right plan and web hosting provider.

Be sure to look for a provider that can support ecommerce options. You want a web hosting plan that provides the level of security you need to accept purchases. And it must be compatible with ecommerce software that supplies shopping cart and checkout functionality.

 

2. Pick and register your domain name.

Your domain name is essentially your address on the web – it’s what people type in to reach your website. You want it to be something easy to remember that people will immediately know to associate with your business.

If possible, a domain name that includes popular keywords people use when searching for your products is a nice plus since it helps with SEO. But that’s a lower priority than making sure it’s intuitive and clearly connected to your brand.

Unless your business already has a unique name, the hardest part of this step will likely be finding a domain name that works and is available. A lot of options will already be taken – especially the .com options.

Before you settle in on an idea, check the domain availability. You may have to do a little bit of brainstorming and searching before you find a domain that’s the right fit for your business.

register domain name

3. Design your ecommerce website.

Your website needs to look professional and have a design that guides your visitors toward making a purchase. You have a couple of options here:

  •      You can hire a professional designer.
  •      You can build it yourself.

Hiring a designer will come with a bigger price tag and may not be necessary, even if your web design skills are limited (or nonexistent).

But an intuitive website builder allows even beginners to become designers. You can work from pre-created templates that are optimized for search and mobile, and use a drag-and-drop editor to make changes to the design without knowing anything about coding.

Website builder templates

Make sure if you use a website builder that you choose one that makes it easy to include shopping features on your website. And definitely choose one that offers responsive website templates that work well on mobile. With how common mobile shopping is today, you don’t want to miss out on the consumers who prefer to make purchases from their mobile devices.

 

4. Get your SSL certificate.

How many news stories have you seen about business data breaches? By now, most consumers have learned to take basic precautions when handing sensitive information over to a business.

The main thing every conscious online shopper knows to look for is the little lock icon and https that show up in the browser when you’re on a secure website.

website with ssl certificate shows green lock icon

As small and simple as it is, this lets your visitors know that they can safely provide their credit card information to you without it becoming easily accessible to hackers. Many consumers won’t consider buying anything from your website if you don’t have this as a way to secure a website from hackers. And as a business owner, it’s your responsibility to take this basic step to keep your customer’s data secure.

As an added benefit, Google has a preference for https sites. Getting your SSL certificate will not only make you more trustworthy to your visitors, but also help your SEO efforts by increasing your authority in the eyes of the search engines.

Some web hosting plans include a free SSL certificate, so this may be a step you can knock out at the same time as signing up for a hosting plan.  

 

5. Set up a merchant account.

To sell products online, you need a way to accept payments. A merchant account is a business bank account that enables the processing of credit card payments. Any merchant account you create will charge fees for the payments you process, but the specific fee structures they offer vary.

In most cases, you can expect to pay a fee for each transaction as well as a percentage of the amount charged. You may also encounter monthly fees, setup fees, statement fees and others. This is one of the costs of doing business online and should be factored into any business budget.

You have to spend something to accept payment, but do spend some time researching the different payment options available so you don’t end up spending more than necessary.

 

6. Figure out your pricing.

Now that you know how to get paid, it’s time to figure out how much. Setting the pricing for your products is often one of the hardest parts of doing business. If you charge too much, consumers will go to your competitors. If you charge too little, you’ll leave money on the table and may not make enough profit to stay afloat.

The first step here is to research what other businesses are charging for similar products. Look up a number of your top competitors and make a note of the prices you see on their website. Capture this information in a spreadsheet or database so you can more easily compare what you find.

Make note of how your competitors handle shipping costs as well. Shipping is a significant part of the cost involved in online shopping. Passing the full shipping cost on to your customers can lose you sales, but swallowing too much of it can end up costing you big. Seeing how similar businesses handle shipping will help you stay competitive there as well.

Next, figure out your own expenses. Tally up everything from the cost of buying or creating your products or to the fees you’ll pay to process orders to cost of maintaining your website. If you’ll be hiring help, that’s another big expense to factor in. Do the math to figure out how much profit you need to make for the business to be worth it.

Pricing is notoriously difficult. The information you obtain by doing everything in this step will give you a starting point for now, but you should also do price testing over time to figure out if the initial prices you chose should change.   

 

7. Take high-quality product photographs.

Many people are image driven. And for many types of products, being able to see what you’ll get plays a big role in the decision to buy. So your product photography needs to be effective.

If you can afford it, consider hiring a professional photographer. They’ll already have a good handle on the best lighting and angles to make your products look great.

If not, at least invest in the right equipment to take the best photographs possible yourself. Use a good camera, a tripod, lights, and a background to set up the shot just right. Take a lot of different shots so you can choose the best one.

The right photograph can make the difference in whether or not a customer decides to buy.

 

8. Write effective sales copy.

The photos will tell consumers part of what they need to know, but you need the right words to fill in the rest. This is another area where you’d benefit from hiring a professional. Sales copywriters know the best strategies and techniques to get visitors to take action.

If that’s not in your budget at this time, do the research yourself to get up to speed on copywriting best practices. Websites like Copyblogger and Copyhackers are good resources to educate yourself on writing copy that drives sales.

 

9. Create a plan for packing and shipping orders.

Online shoppers expect to get their orders fast. You need to be ready to package them and ship them out soon after they come in. Make sure you have a system in place for this. Buy the packing materials you need. Create a system for storing your products that makes it easy to find the item you need at the moment you need it.

Set up business accounts with the carriers you plan to use and figure out how you’ll be getting the packages out. Most carriers offer the option to schedule a pickup (sometimes for a fee), or you can get the packages to the carrier’s office yourself.

The amount of time customers spend waiting on an order has a big effect on how satisfied they’ll be with their experience.   Having a system in place for dealing with shipping will make you more efficient and prepared when you start getting those orders.

 

10. Promote your website.

Building an ecommerce website isn’t enough to start selling products online. Now you need to help people find you. Online marketing is an important part of any business website’s success. Look into the tactics available to see which ones sound right for your business.

Some of the main ecommerce promotion tactics to consider are:

  •      PPC advertisingBuying ads that show up on the search engine results page and other sites around the web that you only pay for when someone clicks to visit your site.
  •      Social media marketing – Developing a social media presence by starting accounts on different platforms, interacting with relevant people, and promoting your website to your followers.
  •      Content marketing – Creating quality content that’s helpful to your target audience to improve SEO and build trust with your readers.  
  •      Email marketing  – Building an email list and sending marketing emails and promotion offers to your subscribers.
  •      Affiliate marketing – Affiliate programs and partnering with bloggers and other content creators around the web to have them promote your products in exchange for a cut of the profits when their followers make a purchase.

You don’t have to do all of these, but commit to doing some marketing activities to start getting your website out there where people will find it.

Online marketing is an ongoing process and a lot of the most effective tactics take time to pay off. But if you want people to find your website and buy your products, it needs to be a part of your business plan.

 

Ready to Sell Products on Your Website?

The option to sell products on a website has put entrepreneurship into the hands of many people who wouldn’t have been able to afford the costs of starting a business otherwise. While it does still require time and work – like any business does – the upfront costs are comparatively low, making it a less risky way to run a business.

Whether you’re a long-term business owner that’s been dragging your feet on getting online or a hopeful entrepreneur-to-be trying to learn the ropes to get started, building an ecommerce website could be the path to higher profits and long-term business success.

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