What’s Domain Pointing? How to Link an Existing Domain to a New Web Host

The post What’s Domain Pointing? How to Link an Existing Domain to a New Web Host appeared first on HostGator Blog.

This article is part of HostGator’s Web Pros Series. In this series, we feature articles from our team of experts here at HostGator. Our Product Managers, Linux Administrators, Marketers, and Tech Support engineers share their best tips for getting the most out of your website. 

Here at HostGator, one of our goals is to make it as easy as possible for customers to transfer domains they’ve registered somewhere else to us for hosting, or to host sites whose domains are registered with another company. For the most part, the process is simple enough. 

But there’s one small and important aspect of using an existing domain with a new host that can trip up domain owners if they’re not expecting it. That’s domain pointing

When your domain points to the server your host has assigned to you, people see your website when they type in your URL. If your domain doesn’t point to your hosting service, they’ll get some variation on a “this site can’t be reached” error message—and you’ll miss out on those visitors.

Some site owners never need to worry about domain pointing. For example, if you register a domain with HostGator when you sign up for hosting, that domain will automatically point to the name server addresses assigned to you by your host.

But what if you registered your domain name with another provider and you want to set up your website with HostGator or another web hosting service? That’s when domain pointing matters, because something has to bridge the gap between your registered domain and your web host—to “point” the domain name to the server where your website data lives. 

This may be unfamiliar, so let’s walk through it. 

register domain name

The Basics of Domain Pointing

To understand domain pointing, it’s helpful to keep in mind the key elements you need to set up your website: 

To connect these two elements, you’ll need to share some information with your domain registrar. You’ll need to tell your registrar who does your domain name resolution, which is your web host. Your registrar will also need your name server records from your webhost. This is the information they’ll use to point your domain to your new hosting service. 

What (and Where) Are My Name Server Records?

Your host will assign name servers to store your DNS zone files—files that contain information about your website’s IP address. The quickest way to find your name server records is to look up your welcome email from HostGator, which includes them. 

Can’t find your email? No problem. You can look up your name servers online.

If you have a shared hosting plan, you can log in to your cPanel to find your name server information. On the lower left column of your Account Information panel, you’ll see two URLs that end with hostgator.com

hostgator name servers in cpanel

Your name servers won’t be redacted like our example. 

If you have optimized WordPress hosting, log in to your HostGator control panel, select Domains from the left sidebar, and click More for the domain whose name servers you need. When the Domain Overview panel opens, you’ll see your name server addresses in the upper right corner. 

Copy both name server addresses, because you’ll need to share both of them with your domain registrar. But before we do that, let’s talk about the possibility that your site may be offline while the domain pointing actually happens.

Factor in DNS Propagation Time Before You Make Your Changes

Just as it takes time to send change-of-address details when you move to a new office or home, it takes time to update your website’s name server information across the web. This is called DNS propagation time, and it can last anywhere from 24 to 48 hours in most cases. 

During DNS propagation, visitors to your site may see the old version or the new version, or your website and site-based email might be unavailable.

Because of this, it’s a good idea to post a notice on your site before you point your name servers to your new host. This notice should let visitors know that you’ll be making changes, when they’ll happen, and when you expect the site to be fully operational again. It’s also a smart plan to time your name server switch for a time when you typically have the least amount of traffic.

Once you’ve let your visitors know to expect a bit of digital remodeling dust and planned your switch for minimal disruption, it’s time to move ahead.

Share Your Name Server Records With Your Domain Registrar

Now it’s time to change your name server information with your current registrar, and you have to do it yourself for security reasons. Otherwise, anyone could point your domain name anywhere. 

To help you out, HostGator has a list that includes step-by-step instructions for changing your name servers at more than a dozen popular registrars. 

For example, if you registered your domain with BlueHost, you’ll log in, select Domain Manager, select the domain you want to point, and then click the Name Servers tab. 

select domain you want to point and enter nameserver fields
Bluehost’s name server change fields

On that panel, you’ll select Use Custom Nameservers, enter the name servers you copied from your hosting control panel, and then save the new name server settings. Then you just wait for the DNS propagation process to happen, and within 24 to 48 hours your domain will point to your new host. 

That’s all you have to do in most cases. But…

What if you want to transfer your domain to a new registrar?

Maybe you’d rather have your registration and hosting handled by the same provider, or maybe your web host offers better domain registration pricing and support. Maybe you’ve sold a domain to someone and need to give them control of it.

In these cases, you can transfer your domain to your web host or your buyer’s registrar. This is a multistep process that requires some preparation and takes a few days to complete, but it doesn’t usually involve downtime. 

If you’re transferring a domain you’ve sold, you’ll need to change the name servers with your current registrar to the ones your buyer shares with you, so the domain points to their website.

If you’re transferring a domain registration to HostGator, first check that

  • The domain is valid and registered with another registrar.
  • The domain has been registered somewhere for at least 60 days.
  • The domain is unlocked. (You can unlock it through your current registrar’s control panel.)
  • You have an authorization code from your current registrar. 

Then you can enter your domain into HostGator’s Domain Transfer tool and we’ll handle the rest. 

transfer domain to hostgator

Want to learn more about getting the most from your HostGator account? Check out our Web Pros Series post on 5 cPanel Mistakes to Avoid with Your Website

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What Is a Domain Name?

The post What Is a Domain Name? appeared first on HostGator Blog.

You’re here because you want to know what a domain name is, and how domains work? It seems like an easy enough question to answer, but it can still trip up a lot of beginners.

When you’re building your first website there are a lot of technical terms you’ll come across. And there are a handful of things you’ll need to get right if you want your website to not only work properly but thrive and grow.

It’s easy to confuse a website with a domain name, your hosting provider, or even understand what does domain mean?

Below you’ll learn everything you need to know about a domain name, how they function, and why they’re necessary.

register domain name

What Is a Domain Name?

A domain name is what you type into a web browser to access a website. The domain definition is a unique name that identifies a website. Chances are you’ve already typed in a few domain names today.

For example, the domain name of Twitter is https://www.twitter.com. While the domain name for this website is https://www.hostgator.com.

Domain names are completely unique to a website, which is why they are so valuable.

Domain Names and IP Addresses

When we look at the internet as a whole it’s essentially a network of computers connected to each other. Each of these computers is assigned a unique IP address that identifies that computer alone. IP addresses resemble a random string of numbers, which look like 67.454.66.3.

But, could you imagine having to remember that unique string whenever you wanted to visit a website?

It would be a pretty frustrating experience.

So, instead, we have domain names that stand in place of these unique IP addresses. For example, we can look at an IP address as the GPS coordinates of your home, while your domain name could be your street address, or even the more informal name, “Jim’s House”.

They all reference the same thing, but some methods are easier to remember.

How Do Domain Names Work?

Now that you’re equipped with the basics of domain names and IP addresses, let’s dive a little deeper into how they actually work. This will give you a deeper background on what happens behind the scenes when you type a domain into your browser.

Once a domain name gets typed into a browser that request gets sent out to a network of servers known as the Domain Names System (DNS). This network then looks up the nameservers of that domain and forwards the request to the appropriate server.

The nameservers are managed by your hosting company, which will then forward the request to the specific server where your website is stored.

The server then locates the website, or web page, that was requested and sends the data back to the user’s browser.

That’s a lot! Right? All of this happens in under a second. This request occurs so quickly, you don’t even notice it’s happening.

Different Types of Domain Names

When you’re trying to find the perfect domain name you’ll be able to choose between dozens of different domain name extensions. These are the final part of the domain name, for example, .com, .net, and .org.

Here are the most common types of domain names you’ll come across: 

1. Generic Top-level Domains

Top-level domains are the most popular types of domain names. There are hundreds of these available and will generally be the best type of extension for your domain.

Here are some of the most common:

  • .com (commercial)
  • .net (network)
  • .org (organization)

Ideally, you’ll choose a domain that uses one of the above extensions. However, there are hundreds of these available. The entire list of available TLDs can be found on the IANA website. Keep in mind that not every TLD on the list will be available for you to register.

2. Country Code Top-Level Domains

Country code TLDs are assigned to specific countries and generally used for websites that are based (or serving an audience) in those countries.

However, some ccTLDs are used in other circumstances as well. For example, the ccTLD .co is for the country Colombia. But, you’ll find a ton of new websites and startups use that domain as well.

Here are some common ccTLDs:

  • .us (United States)
  • .co.uk (United Kingdom)
  • .ca (Canada)
  • .de (Germany)
  • .fr (France)

3. Sponsored Top-Level Domains

rTLDs are a group of top-level domains that are reserved for specific organizations and agencies. To register one of these you’ll need to meet the specific requirements. If you operate under the category that each domain is reserved for, then you can use that TLD.

Otherwise, pick one from one of the other categories. 

Here are a few examples:

  • .gov (these are reserved for government organizations)
  • .mil (these are reserved for military operations)
  • .edu (these are reserved for educational institutions)
  • .int (these are reserved for international organizations)

Domain Names vs Websites

Domain names and websites are related, however, they aren’t the same thing. For example, let’s look at your phone number and existing phone. Although you need both working together, they aren’t the same.

Your phone number is like your domain name, while your website will be whatever phone you’re currently using.

You can get a new phone (website), but you’ll keep your existing number (domain name) no matter if you upgrade your phone, or even move to a new provider.

Let’s look at another example:

Say you’re running a website that offers running tips and your current domain name is “letsrun.com”. However, you found a new domain that’s even a better fit, so you buy it. All you have to do is connect your new domain to your existing website and everything will be the same, except your domain.

Your domain name is never stuck with any website. You can disconnect it and use it for another website, or purchase a new domain and connect it to your current site.

Understanding the DNS System

The Domain Name System (DNS) is managed by an organization named Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). They’re a non-profit that creates policies and manages the existing domain name system.

Any registrar that sells domains must get permission from ICANN to conduct business.

Domain name registrars (like the one here at HostGator) can sell domains, and help you manage your records, renew your domains, conduct domain transfers and more.

Choosing the Right Domain Name for Your Website

There’s a lot that goes into finding the perfect domain name for your new website. It needs to convey what your website is about in a few characters, it needs to be brandable, memorable, and a lot more.

Your domain is responsible for creating a first impression, it can impact your SEO, and needs to be in alignment with your brand. It’s also important to consider the domain meaning, you’ll want to ensure the meaning of the words is in alignment with your brand, and doesn’t have an alternative meaning in other languages. That’s a lot for a few simple words!

Luckily, we’ve written an entire article on finding the right domain for your needs. 

How to Purchase a Domain Name

Now for the fun part. It’s time to purchase your first domain name. If all the information above seemed like a lot, don’t worry.

The domain registration process only takes a few simple steps.

1. Choose Your Registrar

The first step in buying a domain name is deciding where you’re going to register it. There are dozens of different domain name registrars to choose from. Some only register domains, while others are a service offered by hosting companies, like the domain registrar here at HostGator.

You can purchase hosting via the same company you use to register a domain, or you can do the two separately.

If this is your first time building a website, then it can be helpful to take care of both from the same company, so you cut out a few technical steps.

To do this, head over to HostGator Domains. Here you’ll be able to search for domains, choose your extension, and add hosting to your plan.

register domain name with hostgator

2. See if Your Domain Is Available

It’s time to see if your chosen domain is available. All you have to do is type your domain name into the search box and click ‘Search’.

On the next screen, you’ll be able to see if your domain is available. As you can see from the image below, this domain is already taken.

results showing domain name is unavailable

So, we can start a new search. Or, choose one of the other domain name extensions, or even an alternative domain that’s recommended by the tool.

3. Purchase the Domain

Once you’ve found a domain that’s perfect and available all you have to do is click ‘Continue to Checkout’ and complete your order.

complete domain name checkout

Once you complete your order you’ll have your very own domain name, and it’s time to start building your website!

Domain Name FAQ

Even with all the information above, you probably still have a few questions related to domain names.

Here are some domain name frequently asked questions that should clear up any confusion that’s still lingering:

Free vs Paid Domain Names: What’s Best?

Maybe you’re trying to save money, so you’ve been looking at free domain names. These are domains that typically come with website builders and will look something like yoursite.wordpress.com. Your site will be a subdomain of the primary domain.

Usually, you’ll want to avoid using free domains as they don’t look professional. Plus, you don’t own the domain, so you can’t bring it with you. Also, your domain will always have the domain of the service provider, so it’s very difficult to build a brand and it’s never truly yours.

How Much Do Domain Names Cost?

In general, a domain name will cost around $ 10 to $ 15 per year. However, if you’re purchasing a domain that has a lot of value and is already owned by someone this number can shoot up to the hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Think of domains like cars.com or credit.com.

However, most people will be registering a domain for the first time, so it’ll fall within the $ 10 to $ 15 range.

Also, a lot of hosting companies will include a free domain name when you sign up for hosting.

What About Transferring Domain Names?

Yes, you’re never locked into a single provider when it comes to your domain name. As long as you keep paying the annual fee, you own the domain name.

You can transfer it to another registrar or hosting company, you’re never locked in. However, if you do transfer your domain to another provider make sure it’s pointed towards the location of your host.

What’s the Best Domain Name Extension?

Ultimately, this will come down to your business, but there are some general rules you can follow. Most people tend to prefer TLDs like .com, .org, and .net, along with ccTLDs for businesses targeting a local market.

You can get more creative with your domain name, for example, “mysite.coffee” or “mysite.ventures”.

But, it’s recommended you stick with the domain name extension that’s the easiest to remember.

What’s a Subdomain?

Subdomains are a domain that’s nested under the primary domain. For example, here at HostGator, you’ll find the support resources using the subdomain “support.hostgator.com”.

Once you register a domain you can create as many subdomains as you’d like. Some common uses for subdomains include hosting an online store at “shop.mydomain.com” or even a blog at “blog.mydomain.com”.

Can I Cancel a Domain Name Registration?

Yes, but it depends on the length of time of your initial domain contract. For example, if you registered your domain for three years, then you might have to wait for it to expire.

It depends on the registrar you used to register your domain, some allow you to cancel whenever, while with others you’ll have to wait for your domain name to expire.

However, if you haven’t enabled auto-renew, then your domain name will expire on its own and become available to the general public.

Can I Sell a Domain Name?

Yes, once you purchase a domain name you can sell your domain whenever you’d like. There’s actually a huge market for domains that are brandable and unique.

Some people even build entire businesses around domain flipping, which is the process of buying, holding, and selling domain names. There are all kinds of domain marketplaces where you can sell your domain like Sedo and Flippa.

Does Domain Privacy Matter?

When you’re going through the domain registration process you’ll have the opportunity to hide your domain registration information. Normally, this information can be looked up via a tool called ICANN.

If you don’t want these details exposed to the public you can register your domain privately, but keep in mind that these registration services come with an added fee. 

In Closing

Hopefully, by now you can answer the question: what’s a domain name? As you can see, there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes the moment a domain is typed into a browser. 

Choosing a domain name is an important decision for your website and one worth investing time and energy into. 

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What Is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?

The post What Is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)? appeared first on HostGator Blog.

You’ve heard the classic tale of the tortoise and the hare and their illustrious race, right? If not, spoiler alert!

In the end, the tortoise’s slow and steady pace wins the race. And, the hare is left feeling foolish for running most of the race fast as can be, and then piddling around while the tortoise crosses the finish line.

While this is a great anecdote to motivate people to take one step at a time toward their weight loss or career goals, it’s not a great anecdote for how users want the internet to run.

No one wants to sit around and wait for days for a website to load, even if it is making that tortoise-like slowwwww as tar progress.

Cue throbber icon followed by a frustrated yell into a pillow.

website loading icon

When people search for your website on the internet, they want sprint of the hare website speed. In fact, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, and 40% of consumers will wait no more than three seconds for a web page to render before abandoning the site.

Now, what does this reworked fable have to do with the question you Googled? Google search: What is a content delivery network?

hare

Content delivery networks (CDN) are the hares of the internet (but they are 100 percent reliable when it comes to finishing the race, as opposed to the hare in Aesop’s fable, just to get that out of the way).

In more technical terms, a CDN is a group of servers that reduce website latency time and provides speedy delivery of internet content.

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How Does a Content Delivery Network (CDN) Work?

The more you want your website to do, the more power it will need to load quickly. Think about some of the world’s favorite websites: Netflix, Facebook, and Amazon.

All of these industry giants use a CDN to speed things up. These websites have billions of daily searches and a lot going on behind the scenes to make their websites the obsessions that they are, and that means they need more power and speed.

A CDN works by placing servers at exchange points (IXPs) between different networks, offering an opportunity for different internet provides to link to each other and give each other access to resources on their respective networks. 

Additionally, a CDN places physical servers in data centers across the globe to help move traffic as quickly as possible. These CDNs provide speed and connectivity securely, cheaply, and reliably (again, a better hare than the one in Aesop’s fable). 

With the help of a CDN, these top websites can deliver content effectively and quickly, no matter what browser they are using, what internet service provider they use, and regardless of where they are located.

Can Smaller Website Benefit from Using a CDN?

It’s a given that huge companies like Facebook will use a CDN, but what about smaller websites? 

Do you really need to invest in a CDN? Well, it depends on how much you are doing on your website, and what your current website load times are.

If you use assets like HTML pages, javascript files, stylesheets, images, and videos, then you’re asking your website to do a lot of hard work, and it may need additional help.

 If you use all these assets and notice your website isn’t loading quickly, then a CDN is an easy and affordable answer.

What Are the Top Benefits of a CDN?

It’s already been stated that main benefit of CDN services is they help with latency and improves website load times. But, how?

Here are some primary ways CDN services reduce load times:

  • Since CDN servers are distributed globally, it reduces the distance between users and website resources. This means less cyber travel and faster service.
  • CDNs help reduce the amount of data transferred by compressing file sizes. Smaller files = faster load times.
  • CDNs boost the speed of sites that use TLS/SSL certificates through an optimized connection.
  • CDNs also come with hardware and software optimizations that transfer data quickly.

Let’s look at some additional benefits of a CDN.

CDNs boost reliability 

The last thing you want is for your website to go offline. When your website is down, you lose potential sales and/or the interest of your audience members.

A CDN works to help you deal with things that could potentially cause your website to go offline, such as hardware failures, spikes in traffic, malicious attacks, and boosts in your website’s popularity.

Here’s how a good CDN helps protect your site:

  • Load balancing distributes traffic evenly across several services. This makes it possible to manage boosts in traffic.
  • If one or more of the CDN servicers go offline, there are still other CDN servers working. Your traffic will be redistributed to other servers that are still working. 
  • Similarly, if one data center has technical problems, another data center can pick up the slack.

But, that’s not all! Content delivery networks also help keep your site secure. Let’s take a closer look.

CDNs improve data security

The more you can do to protect your site from hackers and security breaches, the better. 

Here’s how a CDN will help:

  • A CDN keeps your site secured with current TLS/SSL certificates. 
  • These certificates ensure the ability to verify provided identifications, the ability to encrypt info sent from one host to another, and the ability to detect forgery and tampering.
  • It provides DDoS mitigation, which means it protects a targeted server of a network from a specific type of attack and mitigates incoming threats.

If you’re looking to increase the security of your website, a CDN is a helpful tool.

CDNs reduce bandwidth costs

It’s no secret that websites can get expensive. The more bandwidth your website consumes, the more you’ll have to pay.

CDNs are capable of reducing the amount of data an origin server provides. This helps reduce hosting costs for website owners.

If you know your website will require more bandwidth, then look into a CDN now.

Wrap Up

Investing in a content delivery network is a sure-fire way to speed up your website, especially if your company operates globally.

As with any other outstanding product, when you opt to use a CDN, other critical elements of owning and operating a website won’t suffer. In other words, you’ll still be able to ensure reliability, data security, and keep your operating costs down.

For more information about web hosting or to learn more about CDNs, visit HostGator today.

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WordPress Plugins vs. Widgets: What’s the Difference?

The post WordPress Plugins vs. Widgets: What’s the Difference? appeared first on HostGator Blog.

The latest version of WordPress (5.3) has already been downloaded over 49 million times, and that number is growing every day. WordPress even has a webpage dedicated to showing off how awesome they are…aka WordPress displays a real-time count of downloads.

how many times has wordpress been downloaded counter

To give this impressive count a bit more context, it means that, currently, WordPress powers 35% of the Internet, including 14.7% of the top 100 websites in the world—even Disney! 

WordPress is also available in over 100 languages and owners publish content in over 120 languages. WordPress works tirelessly around the clock to share over 20 billion pages to over 409 million people every month.

This is all just to say that WordPress is the most popular CMS platform and it’s extremely user-friendly. WordPress is built in a way that both Fortune 500 companies and your 70-year old grandpa can build the perfect website. Seriously, grandpa can build a WordPress website all on his own.

While WordPress is popular and intuitive, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a slight learning curve. In fact, right after you download WordPress and login to your account, you’ll be met with features you may have never heard about, including widgets and plugins.

Don’t worry and abandon hope! This guide will cover exactly what widgets and plugins are, how you can use them to build a sweet website, and what the differences between the two are.

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What are WordPress widgets?

Widgets are part of the WordPress platform that helps you add, rearrange, and remove content to or from the sidebars and footer of your WordPress website. Widgets make it possible to customize the look and feel of your website without having to do any hard coding work.

Widgets primarily deal with the way your website looks and certain features you choose to include on your website. For example, you can include social share buttons, blog post archives, an audio player, a calendar, an image gallery, a navigation menu, and more.

When you first sign up for your hosting account and install your WordPress website, you have the option of choosing a WordPress theme. Popular themes will come with a set of pre-installed and common widgets that are ready to use. In other words, your website theme will already have a specific design, layout, features, and functionality on your sidebars and footers. Widgets are just one element that makes each WordPress template look slightly unique.

WordPress offers the following basic example of what widgets look like. If you look at the image below, you’ll see a basic navigation bar, and a sidebar with “my posts.” The navigation bar and “my posts” are both widgets that you can customize. You could choose to eliminate or reorganize the location of these website elements. 

wordpress widgets example

There are two ways you can view and edit your widgets.

1. Sidebar “Appearance” and “Widget” navigation

The first way you can see your widgets is by clicking on “Appearance” on your left sidebar and selecting “Widgets.”

find available widgets in wordpress

You’ll notice there are various “Available Widgets” on the left side of the screen. If you turn your attention to the right side of the page, you’ll see different pages that are included in your individual template. Keep in mind the areas on your website will vary depending on the template you selected.

To add a widget to your page, you can click on the widget and select where you want to place it, and then click “Add Widget.” As soon as you save your changes, WordPress works its magic and will place your widget where you directed it to place it.

add calendar widget to wordpress

You can also click on the widget and drag it from the left side of the screen to the right side of the page. In the example below, I clicked on the “Calendar” widget and placed it under the “Header Right” section of my website.

how to choose placement for wordpress widget

This is how you can customize the look, feel, and functionality of your website without knowing how to write code.

2. Click on “Customize” on the top navigation bar

The second way you can customize your widgets is by clicking “Customize” on the top navigation bar.

customize widgets through wordpress navigation bar

Once you click customize, WordPress will redirect you to a clean navigation bar on the right. You can click “Widgets” and WordPress will list every place on your template where you can add a feature.

customize widgets in wordpress

If I want to customize my right header, I can click on “Header Right,” and click “Add Widget.” Once I am here, I can select any of the widgets I have previously installed and then add the widget to my website in the respective location.

add widget to wordpress website

WordPress makes it easy to add widgets (customize the look, feel, and functionality) of your website, by providing these three different ways to do it.

What is a WordPress plugin?

Now that you know what a WordPress widget is, it’s time to learn about plugins. Plugins are a piece of software that performs a specific function to help your website run more effectively or to help your website do what you want it to do.

Examples of popular WordPress plugins include:

  • Social share buttons
  • SEO optimization
  • Website stats
  • Spam protection
  • Security scanning
  • Backups
  • Contact forms
  • Image galleries
  • Email subscriptions
  • And more!

There are thousands of WordPress plugins that help your website do what you want it to do without having to know how to code.

What is the difference between plugins and widgets?

Now, here is where people get WordPress plugins and widgets confused, so let me set the record straight. Widgets are always plugins. Kind of like how all apples are fruits. In other words, widgets have some sort of code that allows your website to perform a physical function that your website visitors will see when they visit your webpage.

However, not all plugins have widgets just like how not all fruits are apples. For example, to function properly, your website needs software that keeps things moving forward on the back-end as well as the front-end. Plugins are pre-coded software that works behind the scenes to keep your website moving forward or that provides you with information that only you need. 

A good example of a plugin (fruit) that isn’t a widget (apple) is Yoast SEO. Yoast SEO is a back-end plugin that will allow you to add a relevant keyword, meta description, alt images, and more SEO elements to your blog posts. 

Here is an example from the back-end of my website. This plugin (Yoast SEO) allows me to add a keyword and provides analysis of how my keyword will perform based on my blog post. As you can see, I have a lot of SEO work to do on this particular post.

yoast seo plugin
yoast seo plugin seo analysis

Also, my audience won’t see this plugin or any information related to how I have optimized my post on the face of my website. This plugin exists on the backend of my WordPress website purely for the purpose of making sure Google can more easily find and index my post.

Other plugins that are not widgets include spam comment checkers like Akismet, Google Webmaster Tools, and Jetpack, to name a few.

How do you install a WordPress plugin?

The best part of WordPress is how easy it is to install a plugin. Your website can do amazing things (e.g., show your Instagram feed, track website visitors, display an event calendar, etc.) and all you have to do is search for a plugin and activate it. You can also search for a third-party plugin, download the .zip file, upload it in WordPress, and activate it. Here’s how.

1. Click on “Plugins” on the left navigation bar

The first step of adding a plugin is to click on “Plugins” on the navigation bar. Plugins appear right underneath the “Appearance” section of your blog.

installed plugins in wordpress dashboard

Once you’re on the plugin page, you can either manage your WordPress plugins or add new plugins.

2. Click on “Add New” and search for plugin

Next, click on “Add New.”

add new plugin in wordpress

WordPress will redirect you to a page where you can search for WordPress plugins. 

search for wordpress plugins

3. Install and activate or upload your plugin

Once you have found the WordPress plugin you want to use, you can either press “Install Now,” or you can upload the plugin. Here is the difference.

“Install Now” is for plugins that are already in the WordPress library. All you have to do is find the plugin via search, click “Install Now,” click “Activate,” and then follow the directions. Once you do this, your new WordPress plugin will appear in your personal plugin library.

You can also download a plugin from a third-party website and download the .zip file. Then, press “Upload plugin” and choose the file, install it, and activate it.

add or upload wordpress plugins

You can follow this process for every plugin you want on your website.

Get Started with WordPress Widgets and Plugins

WordPress is one of the best website platforms on the market. Widgets and plugins make it possible for anyone to be able to design a website without knowing anything about programming. 

Now that you know the difference between widgets and plugins, it’s time to get your website up and running. HostGator provides affordable hosting and a one-click WordPress installation. This means you can get your website up and running today!

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7 Ways to Make Your Website More Interactive

The post 7 Ways to Make Your Website More Interactive appeared first on HostGator Blog.

How interactive is your website?

If your website isn’t interactive, visitors are just passively skimming it and not sticking around for long. So, do you want to learn how to make it more interactive, so people stay on your site longer and engage with you and your content? 

Your website is an important part of your marketing strategy, so it’s essential to make sure you’re encouraging people to interact with it as much as possible.

Engaged visitors will come to your site often, subscribe to your email newsletter, buy your products, and share your message with their networks.

Let’s explore the benefits that come with building more engaging experiences for your visitors through these seven ways you can make your website more interactive.

1. Encourage Social Sharing

We all know the value of sharing your content through social sharing buttons on all of your blog content and product pages. This way, if someone comes to your site and loves your content, they can easily share it with their networks and thereby interact with your brand. 

You can easily add social sharing buttons to your site with a WordPress plugin like Shared Counts. This plugin not only displays how many times your content has been shared, but also includes sharing buttons to encourage more engagement. 

Remember, it’s also essential to engage with fans and followers on social media. Many brands sign up for accounts on all the platforms and then do nothing with them. People like it when brands interact with them online, as it shows you’re listening to them. 

2. Add Quizzes, Surveys, and Polls

Encourage people to interact with your website through online surveys and quizzes.

People love quizzes and usually don’t mind taking a minute to fill one out. Plus, it will help decrease your website bounce rate since they’ll be on your site for longer, and if you ask for their email before revealing the results, you’ve got a bonus way of growing your email list

You can use a form plugin like WPForms to create engaging quizzes, surveys, and polls. With it, you can create polls and display the results in real-time on your site or create surveys that dynamically change based on people’s responses.

wpforms customer satisfaction survey for website on wordpress

Surveys and polls not only make your site more interactive, but you can also use them to understand the needs of your potential customers and get feedback on how you’re doing. 

3. Use Gamification

Gamification is a psychological trick that website owners and marketers use to improve the interactiveness of their sites and increase conversions.

Combining the fun of a game with the lead generating magic of an opt-in form or a coupon opt-in form makes your site more fun. People will want to see what happens when they spin the discount wheel, but they’ll only find out once they enter their email. 

discount wheel on website

You can create a coupon wheel opt-in form easily with OptinMonster and customize it to your offer, your brand style, and more. Or, use one of their professionally-designed coupon wheel templates to get up and running more quickly. 

4. Suggest Relevant Links

Once a visitor is reading one of your blog posts, your goal is to keep them on your website. Do this by showing relevant content within each of your posts that let visitors navigate easily to other articles on your blog. Seeing a link to an article that promises further information about the same topic encourages readers to click on the second link even more. 

The best place to do this is within the post itself and at the end of each one. HostGator recommends content in two ways at the end of their blog posts. First, by relevant subject, then by publication date, both of which are another way to leverage links to their content to deliver a ton of value to readers.

example of related articles for further reading on hostgator blog

5. Invite Conversations

Many site owners don’t see the importance of complete contact details and omit it entirely. They figure the information on the site is enough and there’s no need for people to contact them (or they’re trying to hide from complaints, but that’s another story.) 

Don’t be afraid to talk to your visitors. Publish your contact information openly on your website and show the world you’re available and open to feedback. Don’t forget to list all the ways you want people to be able to reach you.

Here, Constant Contact lists their office locations and the contact details for them, their main toll-free telephone number appears on every page, and visitors can choose a team to contact if they have a specific question. 

contact page for constant contact

Another way you can invite conversations with your site visitors is to encourage comments on your blog. Write engaging calls to action (CTAs) at the end of every post and invite them to tell you their thoughts on the subject. Respond to their comments and increase the interaction even more. 

6. Publish User-Generated Content

Let people interact with you directly by incorporating user-generated content on your website. Doing this signals that people’s time and effort at contributing is appreciated and valued, incentivizing them to engage with you even more. They’ll share more of your content, buy more of your products, and evangelize you to their networks. 

There are several ways to display user-generated content on your website, including writing articles based on comments from your blog and showcasing social media posts and images of customers with your products.

Be sure to encourage your site visitors to submit their user-generated content and make it easy for them to do so as well. 

Here’s how Lululemon does it:

Another way to create user-generated content is to show off your happy customers on a testimonials page. They’re a secret way of publishing more user-generated content, and they give you more insights into how they view your products and brand, while also acting as social proof for you. 

7. Run a Giveaway

People love prizes, which is why many websites use giveaways to boost interaction. You can offer a free product or service in exchange for someone’s email address. The giveaway helps people get to know you and your business, making it easier to convert them into a paying customer in the future. 

RafflePress has easy templates you can use to create your giveaway, and they look good on desktop and mobile devices. Embed your giveaway on your site or create a customized landing page for it to get the best results. 

rafflepress giveaway example for wordpress website

This giveaway tool also offers verified bonus actions that can help skyrocket audience engagement. Users can perform certain tasks like answering a poll, watching a YouTube video, or following you on Twitter, to receive extra giveaway entries. 

Make Your Website More Interactive Today

With all the content available online, customer interactions are increasingly valuable to websites and businesses. Use these tips to make your website more interactive and encourage people to comment on your posts, click on surveys and quizzes, and share their thoughts and feedback. 

Try out a few of these to start and see which encourages customers to stay on your site more. You’ll create a more interactive experience online and learn more about your audience at the same time.

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How to Create Your First Blog Posts [It’s Easier Than You Think]

The post How to Create Your First Blog Posts [It’s Easier Than You Think] appeared first on HostGator Blog.

There is a reason why it seems everyone is starting a blog these days. Blogging is a good way to make extra money. It’s an excellent avenue to get your voice and expertise out into the world. And, it’s a fun way to document and journal your life’s adventures and accomplishments.

It doesn’t matter why you want to start a blog, what matters is that you do start a blog.

And, here’s the good news.

No matter what you have heard, or what you have been telling yourself, it’s easy and inexpensive to start a blog. You don’t have to know how to code, you don’t need to know a lick about web design, and it takes less than a day to publish your first post.

To help you get started, here is a quick overview of what to consider when starting a blog, and how to get started with either WordPress or a website builder.

Creating a blog

How to Create a Content Strategy for Your Blog in 4 Steps

Here’s the deal. If you start a blog, but then never post, you don’t really have a blog. You won’t make money or engage your audience. Before you even sign up for a blog hosting plan from HostGator, it’s a great idea to plan your content strategy.

Here are some tips on how to do this.

1. Start by listing your goals

What are you trying to accomplish with your blog? Is it a tool to grow your business? Are you looking to share expertise? Hoping to get started with affiliate marketing in a particular niche? Write your goals down as your first step.

Your goals will determine what you post, what tone your blog takes, and your content calendar. For example, if you are trying to increase your website traffic to sell eCommerce products, then you will need to post often. You’ll also want to heavily optimize your posts for increased SEO. 

If you are starting a blog for personal reasons, then you may not need to post as often. Also, the tone of your posts will be more friendly and casual and you won’t need to put as much effort into SEO.

2. Identify your target audience

As you are listing your goals, your target audience will become more apparent. However, it’s important to solidify in your mind exactly who will be interested in your content.

Are you writing for tech-savvy youths? Maybe you are writing for an older generation that is interested in homesteading and gardening. Perhaps you are running a blog on the most relevant pop music.

The target audience for various types of blogs will be very different. Your audience will determine the tone of your blog, the depth of your articles, and your voice.

For example, if you’re targeting tech-savvy Gen Zers, you’ll probably want to develop a tone that’s a mix of professional and cheeky. A blog geared toward people interested in pop culture will need to be fun and quirky. And, a blog that people interested in homesteading and gardening may need to be more conversational and to the point.

Your audience will affect how you write, so it’s important to determine who they are before you put fingers to the keyboard.

3. Create a content calendar

Did you know that 44% of marketers have identified content production as their top challenge? You may not be in charge of an entire marketing department, but you are in charge of marketing your blog and may experience the same challenges.

To eliminate this problem, create a content calendar. Consider your audience, what information they will find interesting, and your bandwidth.

Brainstorm topics and then select the ones that you know will resonate with your blog readers. You can also write down topics that occur to you and add them to your calendar later. 

To help you stay on track, use a productivity tool like Asana, CoSchedule, or even your email calendar. These tools will help you plan out your calendar and will send you automated reminders.

Here are some ways to come up with topics:

  • Look at what your competitors are doing and then add something unique to your post
  • Ask your audience what kind of posts they want to see you produce
  • Answer the most common questions your audience has and develop them into how-to posts
  • Tell a story that is interesting and relatable
  • Use Google as a tool to see what topics are trending (Google even has a free tool for this)

4. Learn how to write for the internet

Another thing that is critical for new bloggers to know is blogging requires a different format than any other type of writing.

You may be an excellent storyteller, which will help you keep the interest of your readers. But, to really crush it, you have to write the way people read on the internet. Here are some tips:

  • Create great titles. The title is important for two reasons. First, it tells Google what your post is about, so make sure to include your keyword. Second, those 4+ words will tell your reader exactly what your post is about and helps them decide if they want to continue reading.
  • Put the most important things first. The average reader spends 96 seconds reading a blog post. This stat means you shouldn’t wait until the end to get to the good stuff. Put the most important things first. 
  • Make your posts scannable. It would be weird and boring if a novel had a bunch of bullet points and headlines, but it’s awesome for blogs. When writing for the internet, break up your content as much as possible with headlines, subheadlines, and bullet points. This strategy makes it easy for readers to quickly glance through your copy.
  • Use images. Not only are images interesting, but people can understand what your story is about in the glance of an eye. Additionally, people can recall 65% of the visual content that they see almost three days later. Infographics and videos are also powerful tools to supplement your blog posts.
  • Include a call to action. Bloggers usually have some sort of motivation for sharing information on the internet. In other words, they want readers to do something. Don’t be shy about telling your users exactly how you want them to act. Include your call to action in your post. For example, you can say “call us today for more information,” “download a free sample,” or “start a free trial today.”
  • Optimize your blog posts for search. SEO optimization is an involved process, but there are a few things you can do that will always help Google catalog your posts in the search results correctly. First, identify your keyword (what a user would type in the search box to find your post). Then, use your keyword in your title, in a few of your headlines, throughout your post, and as the name of one of your images. Just don’t overdo it. Learn more in our Beginner’s Guide to Keyword Research.

How to Create Your First Blog Post in WordPress

The best thing about hosting your site with HostGator is it makes setting up your WordPress blog a cinch.

The first step is to go to your web hosting control panel (cPanel), and click on “QuickInstall.”

quickinstall wordpress blog with hostgator

On the next screen, you’ll select WordPress and then enter all of the necessary and relevant website details.

quick install wordpress

This step includes naming your website, enter your login information, and then clicking “Install.” With a click of a button, the HostGator software will do all the hard installing work for you. All you do is sit and wait.

Congratulations! If you’ve gotten this far, you officially have a WordPress blog up and running. Now, it’s time to make it pretty. Here’s how.

Login to your WordPress dashboard via a link that looks like ‘yoursite.com/wp-admin.” If you forgot your login details, don’t worry. HostGator emails you your login details automatically, so just check your email.

Once you’ve successfully logged into your site navigate to Appearance>Themes, then click “Add New.”

choose wordpress blog theme

Once you get to “Ad Themes,” you can browse through the 200+ beautiful FREE templates and select the theme you like best. Your WordPress theme is the precoded foundation for how your site looks and functions. Since WordPress is primarily a blogging platform you’ll find that most themes come with extensive blogging-related features.

Selecting a theme will give your blog a basic layout, but you can customize it however you want. To further customize your site, look at your side navigation bar, and navigate to Appearance>Customize

customize appearance of wordpress blog

Under this tab, you will be able to customize all of the following:

  • Site identity – Site title, site tagline, and the site icon.
  • Header image – Image at the top of your home page.
  • Menus – Primary and secondary navigation menus that you create.
  • Widgets – Any plugins or sidebars you want to add to various sections of your template.
  • Home page settings – Your latest post or a static page.
  • Theme settings – Color, layout, and other options.
  • Additional CSS – You only need to worry about this if you know how to code. If not, don’t touch it, or you might regret it.

And that’s it! By clicking through those options and making the desired changes, you’re well on your way to publishing your first post.

Creating and Publishing a Blog Post with WordPress [Step by Step]

To create a blog post in WordPress, head over to your WordPress dashboard. Then, click on Posts>Add New from the left-hand navigation menu.

add new blog post in wordpress

Doing so will bring up the post editor screen where you can enter your title, your post content, add social media, and any post metadata.

add new blog post with wordpress

Once you’re satisfied with your blog post click “Publish”’ and your post will be live. If you’re not ready to publish your post, you can always save a draft and return to it later.

How to Create your First Blog Post Using the GATOR Website Builder

WordPress is one of the best blogging platforms on the market, but there is also a learning curve to using WordPress. Thankfully, WordPress has gotten leaps and bounds better throughout the year, but if you’re not someone computer-savvy, an easier option may be best.

The GATOR website builder is a website builder that’ll allow you to build your blog in the shortest amount of time possible.

This tool is beginner-friendly and super easy to navigate. You can create your own blog without having to touch a single line of code. Not to mention, you’ll find plenty of blogging-oriented themes that come with your hosting package.

To select your blog template and start building your site, you have a lot of options. You can search via keyword or category, or simply browse through the entire collection until you find the perfect theme.

choose blog template with gator website builder

If you want to get your blog up and running quickly, skip to the “Blog” category and browse through the themes. Once you’ve found the perfect template, hover over it and click “Select.”

Next, you will see an editor pop up. This editor helps you to customize your site with the drag and drop builder.

design website easily with hostgator website builder

Once you spend some time navigating the editor tool, you’ll be amazed at what you can do.

Creating and Publishing a Blog Post with GATOR [Step by Step]

To publish a blog with GATOR, all you have to do is click on the “Blog” section on the left-hand editor, and click “Add New Post.”

add new blog psot with gator website builder

From here, you can enter your post title, author name, meta tags, featured image, and your content.

Once you’re satisfied with your first blog post, click “Save Post” and your first post is officially live.

Over to You

Creating a blog is not only a fun side hustle, but it’s something you can do completely on your own. If you’ve been dying to start a blog, the time is now. As soon as you’ll get started, you’ll be shocked to learn how easy it is, and will be wondering why you didn’t start years ago.

For more information on how to get your blog up and running, visit HostGator today.

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How To Use WHM to Manage Your Clients’ Websites

The post How To Use WHM to Manage Your Clients’ Websites appeared first on HostGator Blog.

This article is part of HostGator’s Web Pros Series. In this series, we feature articles from our team of experts here at HostGator. Our Product Managers, Linux Administrators, Marketers, and Tech Support engineers share their best tips for getting the most out of your website. 

Managing your website with cPanel works great if you’ve only got one or two sites to manage for your small business. But what if you’re building a small business that creates or maintains websites for your clients? 

Managing multiple sites for different clients through cPanel is possible, but it’s difficult, doesn’t help you build your brand and can create security vulnerabilities for your clients. 

There’s an easier way to keep your clients’ websites in top shape, keep them secure and grow your small business brand–WHM (Web Host Manager). In this post, we’ll cover the basics of what you can do with WHM.

What Is WHM?

WHM is an advanced cPanel interface that gives you more tools and capabilities than cPanel. WHM and cPanel work together seamlessly because they’re made by the same company, so you can focus on managing your clients’ sites and building your business. 

WHM access is free with HostGator Reseller, VPS and Dedicated Server accounts. All these accounts give you access to basic WHM. Let’s look at what you can do with basic WHM. Then we’ll cover what VPS and Dedicated Server customers can do with root access WHM.

best dedicated server hosting

What you can do with basic WHM

The thing most users notice right away when they get access to WHM is that they no longer have to manage all their customers’ websites through a single cPanel. WHM lets you create multiple cPanels, so you can set up one for each of your clients. When you give each of your customers a separate cPanel, you start to see the other upsides of WHM, too. 

WHM makes your clients’ sites more secure

One of the biggest WHM benefits is that you can provide your clients a level of security and privacy that you can’t really get when you’re managing multiple client sites on one shared hosting account. 

That’s because on a shared hosting plan, you get a single cPanel on your shared server. The security and privacy issue with managing multiple client websites through one cPanel is that depending on your configuration, all of your clients can potentially have access to each other’s sites since they’re all stored in your cPanel home directory. It’s unlikely that your website clients will deliberately get into your other customers’ sites, but they could do so accidentally and wreak havoc. 

With WHM, you can set up your client Bob’s lawnmowing business website on its own cPanel. That way Bob only has access to his own space on the server. When you then set up your client Jenny’s blog on her own cPanel account, Jenny and Bob never have the opportunity to access each other’s site controls.

Creating separate cPanels for your website clients also helps protect the data they collect on their customers, so they (and you) can stay in compliance with data regulations like GDPR and California’s new Consumer Privacy Act. 

WHM lets you extend your brand 

Many of our clients who resell hosting and manage client websites want to build brand recognition and set themselves apart from other businesses. 

If you’re managing multiple sites with our shared hosting, the sites you create have our name servers—something plus hostgator.com. One of the benefits of WHM is that you can start to set up private name servers with your business domain name. It looks more professional when your customers see your brand in their domain information panel and DNS lookups.

You can also add your logo to the cPanel you create for each customer so they see it when they log in. That makes your business look more professional, creates another touchpoint for your brand and makes customers feel like they’re getting the best possible service from you.

Another way WHM helps you brand your business is that you can set up a branded default page for your customers’ hosting in each cPanel. So, if they don’t have their webpage set up yet, their domain can display a default HTML page that says they’re hosted with your brand. 

You can also make customer service part of your brand with WHM. Instead of telling your customers they need to contact HostGator to reset their passwords, change their disk usage or adjust the number of email accounts they can create, you can have them contact your business, and you can manage those things for them.

What you can do with root WHM

All of those functions make WHM valuable to resellers, design agencies and other businesses that set up or maintain client sites. Some businesses need even more functionality, and for those customers, there’s server-level WHM access.

HostGator offers this root-level WHM access to VPS and Dedicated Server customers. That means you have Super Administrator privileges—you can essentially access and modify everything that’s on the server. That frees you up to modify process limits, MySQL, Apache, PHP and install new software at your convenience. 

What kind of WHM access do you need?

If you want to manage your clients’ websites and do simple maintenance, a Reseller account with basic WHM access is probably the right fit for you. 

If you’re setting up and managing highly customized sites that need specific resource allotments for disk space, CPU usage or PHP variables, you’ll have a better time with a VPS or Dedicated Server plan that offers root WHM access. For example, some Magento eCommerce sites require more resources than you can access with a shared hosting or reseller plan. 

You can always move from a plan with one type of WHM to another, depending on your business needs. For some resellers, basic WHM is a good tool when they’re starting their business. As their client list and technical skills grow, they may decide they need root-level WHM access later on so they can offer more customized sites for their clients. 

What’s the WHM learning curve like?

Let’s say you’re a brand-new reseller and you’re getting started with WHM. How much time should you plan to spend getting up to speed?

The exact time it takes to get comfortable with WHM will depend on your technical skills and your familiarity with cPanel. Based on my customer support experience helping new WHM users get started, I suggest that you give yourself a couple of days to a week to master the basics. Then for advanced functions, you can learn as you go. (cPanel has a virtual WHM tour you can take to see for yourself what the interface looks like.)

The WHM learning curve is worth it. It’s efficient, more secure and far easier to brand your business when you have cPanels for each of your clients rather than 20 or 30 customer domains hosted on a single cPanel. 

Want to know more about using WHM to boost your business? Check out our WHM Getting Started Guide.

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Best 50+ WordPress eCommerce Plugins [The Ultimate List]

The post Best 50+ WordPress eCommerce Plugins [The Ultimate List] appeared first on HostGator Blog.

WordPress is a flexible content management system helping novices and professionals create a variety of different websites. It began as a simple blogging platform but has grown into a full-fledged website building machine. 

Whether you’re planning to sell just a few products on your WordPress site or want to build an expansive eCommerce store, WordPress offers a solid foundation to get started today. Plus, with WordPress plugins, you can enhance your website to include even more features for your customers.

Lucky for you, we’ve compiled seven of the best WordPress eCommerce plugins along with a host of 50+ other plugins that can add value to your site.

best WordPress hosting

7 Must-Have WordPress Plugins for Any eCommerce Store

The best eCommerce stores make it easy for potential customers to shop online. No matter what you’re selling, you can provide a positive website experience using these must-have WordPress plugins below. 

1. WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a powerful eCommerce solution. This WordPress plugin is suited for sites of any size and can easily grow with your website as your product line expands.

woocommerce ecommerce plugin for wordpress

This tool comes with several paid and free themes and extensions, allowing you to customize your store to fit your brand’s personality. Some of the most commonly used features include:

  • Store analytics
  • Payment integrations
  • Inventory management
  • Automated tax calculations
  • Dynamic pricing rules
  • Multiple shipping options
  • Coupon implementation

WooCommerce is built for store managers to operate eCommerce stores themselves, without hiring a web developer. Also, there’s a fast-growing, online community of store owners willing to offer you guidance. You can attend any of the free, 80+ WooCommerce Meetups happening in cities across the world.

2. MonsterInsights

Data helps you measure the growth of your eCommerce business. That way, you can make critical decisions on how to allocate your time and resources. Bernhard Schroeder, a senior contributor at Forbes, agrees: 

“Today, the gold is in the data your company generates or the data you can acquire to better understand your customer…Track and actually analyze your data in order to make better decisions on current and future products and services.”

MonsterInsights displays the website data that matters to you. Without leaving your WordPress dashboard, you can see all your Google Analytics reports. You’ll have access to customized reports about how people find your website and which content gets the most visits. The setup process requires no coding, and you can see insights in under 15 minutes. 

3. Constant Contact Forms

Forms help your eCommerce business capture information from your visitors. Research found that “74% of companies use web forms for lead generation, with 49.7% stating their online forms are their highest converting lead generation tool.” 

Constant Contact Forms simplifies the form building process for you. This plugin automatically changes your forms to fit the theme and style of your website. You can customize data fields to ask visitors for their names, email addresses, and any other relevant information. These forms are mobile responsive for visitors to view on any device.

constant contact email list form for wordpress

Moreover, with a Constant Contact account, this tool will add visitor data to your email lists. Then, you can nurture your new leads by sending engaging emails to encourage future purchases. 

4. Easy Digital Downloads

If you’re just looking to sell digital products, then you’ll want to check out Easy Digital Downloads. This simple plugin has an array of features, including multiple payment methods, customer purchase history, downloadable PDF invoices, and affiliate program integration.

You can sell anything from software to photos to ebooks. eCommerce business owners like selling digital products because it’s less than demanding than physical inventory. Hanna Brooks Olsen, writer and editor for CreativeLive, explains:

“Digital products can be sold and delivered even without you actually putting in any time to make sure they get out the door. That doesn’t mean, though, that they don’t require some labor — they take time, and they should be worth the money purchasers spend.”

The Easy Digital Download plugin adapts to your eCommerce store. Several paid extensions are available to sell recurring subscriptions and to restrict access to page content.

5. LiveChat

According to a Zendesk report, customer satisfaction ratings for live chat (85%) are second only to phone support (91%), beating out help center articles (83%) and email support (82%). Live chat is an opportunity to deliver high-quality customer service to your visitors. 

LiveChat allows you to easily add live chat support to your eCommerce website. It comes with a proactive chat invitation feature where chat agents can automatically send personalized messages to visitors based on specific conditions, such as time spent on your site.

livechat ecommerce plugin for wordpress

On top of that, LiveChat provides a built-in ticketing system for 24/7 customer service. So, when no chat agent is available, the chatbox is replaced with a ticket form for customers to contact your business with their questions or concerns. It’s an easy solution to support all your customers.

6. TrustPulse

Social proof is a driving force for consumer purchasing decisions. TrustPulse helps your eCommerce business display social proof with its easy-to-use notification builder. You can create FOMO popups that customize to your brand colors. 

trustpulse fomo plugin for wordpress ecommerce websites

These messages will entice visitors to buy your products. Seasoned entrepreneur Matthew Hodges writes:

“People are natural procrastinators, and when it comes to purchasing a product or service, they need to be fully confident in their decision…Social proof helps give you an edge over the competition by playing on the herd mentality of people (wanting to go with what’s popular or trending).”

TrustPulse uses real-time event tracking to show what live visitors are doing on your website. Its on-fire feature also shows the number of people taking action in a given period. All these social proof functions help you get more sales.

7. WP EasyCart

WP EasyCart gives you everything you need to sell physical and digital products as well as memberships and subscriptions. This plugin offers SCA-compliant payment solutions, such as Stripe, Square, and PayPal Express, to reduce fraud and make transactions more secure.

wp easycart wordpress ecommerce plugin

The free version allows you to sell unlimited products while managing orders and using the basic shipping and taxing features. When you upgrade, you get access to order editing, subscriptions, 30 payment processors, and other marketing options. More importantly, the setup process is easy because the tool automatically creates three new pages in WordPress for you.

You want potential customers to find your store on search engines. So, WP EasyCart comes with SEO editing for every product, menu, and category. There’s also a social sharing feature allowing visitors to share product links with their friends and family members.

50 More Plugins to Explore for Your eCommerce Store

You’ll need more than just the foundational tools to upgrade your eCommerce store. In this next section, we’ll cover additional plugins that will attract new visitors and maintain customers’ attention on your website.

WordPress Video Plugins for eCommerce Sites

Video is an opportunity to quickly deliver your message to your audience. It’s a convenient way to explain a product or service while keeping visitors engaged. Check out these recommended video plugins for WordPress eCommerce sites. 

1. Envira Gallery

In just a few clicks, you can create an engaging video gallery with this plugin’s drag-and-drop builder. You can add videos from multiple platforms, including YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia, and self-hosted videos.

2. Video Gallery WordPress Plugin for YouTube

This tool allows you to display YouTube videos in a gallery or grid view on your eCommerce website. Each video also gets its own page with WordPress comments enabled.

embed video in wordpress website with plugin

3. YourChannel

Show your product videos on your own website. This tool’s visual builder generates a shortcode to add videos to pages. You also can control the display options, like banner images or total views.

4. uTubeVideo Gallery

Get unlimited video galleries for your YouTube and Vimeo videos. You can set the size of the video player, select the starting video resolution, and arrange video albums by newest or oldest.

utubevideo gallery plugin for wordpress

5. Video Gallery

This responsive WordPress plugin comes with seven different video gallery views, including thumbnail, blog style, and popup. Also, you can add a title and description to each video to give your visitors more context. 

Learn more about the best WordPress video plugins.

WordPress SEO Plugins for eCommerce Sites

Search engine optimization makes it possible for your site to get ranked on Google, Bing, and Yahoo. More organic traffic means more visitors landing on your website. 

1. Yoast SEO

This well-known WordPress SEO plugin helps you rank higher in search engines with title and meta description templating and schema implementation. You’ll also have full control over your site’s breadcrumbs.

2. All in One SEO Pack

For beginners and developers, this tool automatically generates meta tags and notifies search engines about changes to your website. You can redirect attachment pages to parent posts, too.

all in one seo pack wordpress plugin

3. Google XML Sitemaps

With this plugin, you can improve SEO by creating special XML sitemaps to help search engines index your site. It’s easier for the crawlers to analyze the complete structure of your site and retrieve the data more efficiently.

4. Broken Link Checker

Get a status check of all the broken links on your eCommerce website. This tool detects links that don’t work, missing images, and redirects. Edit your broken links directly from the plugin’s page, without manually updating each post.

broken link checker plugin for wordpress

5. WP Super Cache

Site speed is one factor determining your SEO ranking. You can speed up your site’s loading time using this tool. It generates static HTML files from your WordPress site to make pages load faster.

Get more details about WordPress SEO plugins.

WordPress Affiliate Marketing Plugins for eCommerce Sites

Affiliate marketing helps you monetize your WordPress eCommerce website. You’ll generate additional income by promoting other brand’s products when your visitors make a purchase using your referral link.

1. ThirstyAffiliates

No more complex setups for your affiliate marketing. Now, you can manage your affiliate links with just a post and button in your WordPress dashboard. You can even group your links into categories.

2. Amazon Link Engine

Trusted by Amazon associates, this tool converts all your Amazon links into localized links. Shoppers who click your link will go directly to the Amazon store in their region.

amazon link engine wordpress plugin for ecommerce affiliate marketing

3. Pretty Links

This plugin allows you to create clean, simple affiliate links on your WordPress website that redirect to any other URL. You can track each click and get a detailed report.

4. EasyAzon

Tired of manually creating affiliate links on Amazon’s website? With this tool, you can create text affiliate links for any product in WordPress. It also offers training to maximize your commissions.

eazyazon wordpress plugin to create text affiliate links

5. AmaLinks Pro

With a couple of clicks, you can create, preview, edit, and insert Amazon affiliate links within your content. This premium plugin offers three types of affiliate links: text, image, and call-to-action buttons.

Learn more about the best WordPress affiliate marketing and Amazon affiliate plugins.

WordPress Email Plugins for eCommerce Sites

Email marketing is an effective way to nurture the relationship between visitors and your brand. With email plugins, you can capture visitors’ email addresses and communicate with them later. 

1. MailPoet

This newsletter builder helps you create beautiful emails from scratch or with ready-made responsive templates that display on all devices. You don’t have to leave your WordPress dashboard to schedule your newsletters anymore.

2. SendPress Newsletters

You’ll get a code-free experience with this email plugin. Create unlimited responsive newsletters with an easy-to-use theme styler. Also, you can maintain the quality of your email list with a single or double opt-in.

3. Newsletter

Built with a drag-and-drop composer, you can develop unique emails to send to your subscribers. Its advanced targeting feature offers newsletter statistics, like open rates and total emails sent.

newsletter wordpress plugin for ecommerce email marketing

4. Constant Contact Forms

Capture more emails for your list with the Constant Contact Forms plugin. This WordPress plugin makes it easy to design your email signup form with your brand colors and style guide.

5. Sumo

This popular plugin grows your email list by collecting email addresses using high-converting forms. It also integrates with WooCommerce to send customized emails to reduce cart abandonment and win back customers.

Learn more about the best WordPress email plugins.

WordPress Social Media Plugins for eCommerce Sites

Social media raises your brand voice and sparks people’s interest in your website. Popular social media channels, like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, can entice customers to learn about your products.

1. MashShare

Give your visitors an option to share your valuable content. This plugin displays a large share counter on your website along with two share buttons for Twitter and Facebook.

2. Social Login

Visitors don’t like creating new website accounts. So, get rid of long forms and allow your visitors to comment, log in, and register with more than 40 social networks.

social login plugin for wordpress

3. Floating Social Media Icons 

Encourage visitors to share your content with these dynamic social icons. The icons will fly from the top to the bottom of your website and will move as the visitor scrolls the page.

4. TweetDis

Increase traffic from Twitter by adding quotable tweets to your site. By prompting visitors to share specific content, they are more likely to communicate your message with their followers.

tweetdis plugin for wordpress adds quotable tweets to website

5. Flow-Flow

This plugin aggregates your multiple social feeds into a responsive social media wall on your eCommerce website. Quickly engage your visitors and wow them with your social capital.

Check out more WordPress social media plugins.

WordPress Form Plugins for eCommerce Sites

Forms serve as a lead generation tool to get your visitors into your nurturing stream. Using these form plugins, you can persuade people to sign up for a free gift or coupon. 

1. WPForms

With this drag-and-drop form builder, you can create any type of form, ranging from contact forms to feedback forms to payment forms. Setup only takes a few minutes and doesn’t require technical expertise.

2. Everest Forms

This lightweight plugin offers an intuitive admin to build responsive forms along with spam protection. It supports several form fields, including radio buttons, drop-downs, checkboxes, and dates.

everest form builder plugin for wordpress

3. Ninja Forms

Quickly build forms with pre-built templates for contact forms, registration forms, and application forms. It also integrates with email marketing tools, like Constant Contact, to grow your mailing lists.

4. weForms

This contact form builder is loaded with useful features, like customizable templates, real-time live preview, and form expiration dates. You can even redirect any submitted forms to your WordPress eCommerce website to boost traffic.

weforms contact form builder plugin for wordpress ecommerce

5. HappyForms

Say goodbye to clunky forms. With this tool, you can easily add forms to any page or post on your site. Design your forms with multi-column layouts and send confirmation emails directly to visitors.

Get more details about WordPress form plugins.

WordPress A/B Testing Plugins for eCommerce Sites

Growing your eCommerce store includes running website experiments. That way, you can understand how to position your site to boost engagement and increase product sales.

1. Thrive Headline Optimizer

This A/B testing tool tracks click-through rate, scroll rate, and time on content to find the right headline for your website. It also offers bulk testing to optimize all of your existing content at once.

2. Nelio A/B Testing

Use this plugin to define, manage, and keep track of all your A/B tests. It’s designed to test featured images, product descriptions, site menus, and page headlines. 

nelio ab testing plugin for wordpress

3. Split Hero

You can create up to four different page variations to see which one leads to more conversions. This easy-to-use tool records metrics, like unique visitors for each variation, the number of conversions, and the overall percentage.

4. WordPress Calls to Action

Convert more visitors into customers by testing your call-to-action buttons. This plugin lets you clone existing buttons and run multiple testing variations.

wordpress calls to action testing plugin

5. Google Optimize

This platform helps you easily identify problem areas on your website and create actionable insights to deliver a better online experience. You can run A/B, multivariate, and redirect tests to find what content resonates with your visitors.

Here’s a full list of WordPress A/B testing plugins.

WordPress Discount Wheel Popup Plugins for eCommerce Sites

Discount wheel popups are fun, interactive forms to get visitors to play a game and win a prize in exchange for their email address. This marketing tactic will encourage more people to join your mailing list.

1. OptinMonster

Create eye-appealing popups using this simple drag-and-drop builder. Smart triggers help you display the right campaign to the right visitor at the right time.

2. WP Optin Wheel

Design your popup by editing the slice colors, background image, or the brand logo. You can even include tick sounds when the wheel turns or display fireworks when visitors win.

wp optin wheel plugin for wordpress

3. OptinSpin

Link coupons with specific segments of your discount wheel popup. Then, this tool will email the coupon to your visitors, helping increase product sales.

4. Popup Maker

Get more leads in your email list with 70+ pre-made popup templates. Exit-intent triggers also persuade visitors to finalize their purchases and reduce shopping cart abandonment.

popup maker wordpress plugin for ecommerce

5. Wheel of PopUps

Install this tool in less than five minutes to boost your sales. You have control over how often a visitor wins a small or big discount.

Get more details about WordPress discount wheel popup plugins here.

WordPress Dropshipping Plugins for eCommerce Sites

Dropshipping plugins simplify your store workflow by automating specific tasks. You’ll find it easier to manage several products, communicate with suppliers, and quickly fulfill orders for your customers.

1. AliDropship

This all-in-one solution offers a single control panel for managing your products, pricing, and sales. With its advanced pricing markup formula, you can apply rules for particular items in your store.

2. DropshipMe

Easily search and import the best products from AliExpress suppliers to your eCommerce store. Plus, get professionally edited product descriptions to earn more sales. 

dropshipme wordpress plugin for ecommerce

3. WooDropship

This premium tool allows you to add and sell AliExpress products directly from your WordPress store. You can even fulfill orders with just one click of a button. 

4. Spocket

Source high-quality products from around the world to add to your store. Never sell an out-of-stock product again with real-time updates on your stock level.

sprocket dropshipping plugin for wordpress ecommerce sites

5. Dropified

Scale your eCommerce business with an automated process to check product availability and vendor price changes. In the order dashboard, you’ll have access to all your customer data.

Here’s a full list of WordPress dropshipping plugins.

WordPress Inventory Management Plugins for eCommerce Sites

Inventory management includes the overseeing of your store purchases, from both suppliers and customers. You’ll want to keep track of stocked products to reduce costs and optimize order fulfillment. 

1. WP Inventory Manager

Designed for car dealers and art collectors, this plugin helps you manage and keep track of all your inventory in one place. It supports multiple categories and customizable labels. 

2. Smart Manager

Save time managing and bulk editing your WooCommerce products, orders, and coupons. You control your business operations from changing order statuses to inventory levels.

smart manager inventory management plugin for wordpress ecommerce

3. Z Inventory Manager

This inventory management plugin allows you to organize your sales, purchase orders, and shipments. Also, keep track of products as they arrive with purchase receipts.

4. RentMy

In real-time, you can manage and increase your rentals for your eCommerce business. Get a suite of features including, rental booking, inventory asset tracking, and a point-of-sale system.

rentmy wordpress plugin for rental ecommerce business

5. WP ERP

This premium plugin offers an interactive system to sync your inventory with invoicing. Get a complete overview of all stocked products and get a detailed report to share with your team.

Get more details about WordPress inventory management plugins.

WordPress Chatbot Plugins for eCommerce Sites

Chatbots give you a second set of hands to operate your eCommerce store. These useful tools can answer customer questions, collect market data, and send automated campaigns.

1. Acobot

This plugin serves as a virtual assistant, helping your customers shop by answering questions and encouraging purchases. Use the chatbot to upsell products and give coupons.

2. WP-Chatbot

Add a Facebook Messenger chat widget to your eCommerce website. Visitors will receive 24/7 customer service, and you get a chat history to segment customers for future engagement.

wp chatbot plugin for ecommerce

3. Chatbot with IBM Watson

Support your customers with a chatbot that offers your visitors useful information. Set up the tool with real-life interactions, including images, pauses, and clickable responses.

4. WPBot

No technical experience required for this plugin. Your chatbot will talk with your website visitors using text responses you’ve created. In addition, visitors can ask the chatbot to email you for additional customer support.

wpbot chatbot plugin for wordpress ecommerce

5. ChatBot for WooCommerce

This standalone tool integrates with WooCommerce to help shoppers search and find the right product quickly. You can choose the location of the chatbot on your site and upload a custom chat icon to match your brand. 

Check out more WordPress chatbot plugins.

Enhance Your eCommerce Website with WordPress Plugins

WordPress is one of the best tools to build your eCommerce store. Any of the plugins we highlighted above will help get your online storefront up and running. Start building your WordPress site today with HostGator’s WordPress hosting!

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How to Build Your Freelance Website [Step by Step Guide]

The post How to Build Your Freelance Website [Step by Step Guide] appeared first on HostGator Blog.

A website is an essential tool in every freelancer’s toolbox. Your website is your virtual home.

It’s where you’ll showcase the kind of work you can do, the services you offer, and past client testimonials and case studies. Plus, it will help you build a long-term brand as a freelancer.

Trust us: it will be difficult for you to succeed long-term as a freelancer without a website behind you. 

Below you’ll learn the benefits of having a freelance website, how to choose the best website building platform for your needs, and finally how to get started building your website (along with the five must-have pages every freelancer website needs).

start your business with gator website builder from hostgator

5 Benefits of Having Your Own Freelance Website

No matter what industry you’re freelancing in, you need a website. Before any prospective clients decide to work with you, there’s a good chance they’ll check out your website, past testimonials, and current portfolio.

Here are five reasons why every freelancer needs a website: 

1. Generate Consistent Leads

If you’re using freelance bidding sites to continuously generate new clients, then you’re doing your freelance business a disservice. By having your own website you can get clients coming to you.

With a professional design, your website can help you make a memorable first impression.

Plus, once you get leads coming to you, you can use your website to help you onboard new clients. For example, on your contact page, you can have a form that has clients answer questions before they get in touch with you. This will allow you to filter out low-quality leads.

If you’re using a platform like WordPress to build your site (we’ll discuss this in detail below) there are all kinds of options to embed a booking calendar, questionnaires, and more into your website. 

Plus, when you have your own website you can create a content marketing strategy to generate traffic and leads to you passively. It will take some time, but imagine having new clients come to you consistently, without any prospecting work. Sounds great, right?

2. Create a Professional Image

By having a professional website, you’re in complete control over how you present yourself as a freelancer. With a high-quality website, your business will be taken more seriously and it will be easier for you to generate clients and charge higher prices. 

Think about it this way: when you come across a low-quality website, what type of feelings does it invoke? It definitely doesn’t inspire confidence. 

Luckily, there are a variety of tools at your disposal, including the WordPress CMS and website builders, which can make it easy to build a stunning website. 

3. Stand Out in a Crowded Marketplace

Like any other business, there’s a lot of competition, no matter what niche you’re in. Your website gives you a great way to stand out from every other freelancer out there. 

For example, you can choose to highlight your personality, your past successes, namedrop any big clients you’ve worked for, and more. 

With your own website, you can more easily communicate your USP. This helps you stand out in a crowded field and more easily attract clients that are right for you. 

4. Show Off Your Freelance Portfolio

Your portfolio can speak for you as a freelancer. Without a solid portfolio, potential clients only have your word to rely on. Even though you may be great at what you do there’s no way to prove it.

Instead, you can use your website to create a compelling portfolio that has clients begging to work with you.

Once you have a handful of projects under your belt, it’s time to build a quality portfolio that highlights these successes. 

A freelancer website can do just that. 

5. Build a Tangible Freelance Business

If you’re relying on third-party bidding sites to generate clients or relying on word-of-mouth, it will be challenging to build a consistent business.

But with your own freelance website, you can use content marketing and other marketing approaches to consistently generate leads to your site. 

When potential clients are coming to you this not only gives you more power with negotiation, it also allows you to create consistency and predictability with your business. 

Should You Use WordPress or a Website Builder to Build Your Freelance Website?

When it comes to building your site there are all kinds of routes you can take. Two of the most popular, which are well suited for beginners, include using the WordPress CMS or a website builder

Website builders were created with beginners in mind. The goal is to help you build a professional-looking website without having to touch a line of code. 

The process is simple, just select a template that’s in alignment with your niche, customize the template via the drag and drop builder, add your content and images, and you’re all set.

WordPress operates in a slightly different fashion. It’s a more robust system from the get-go. It’s highly flexible and can be used to create nearly any kind of website you can imagine. Plus, since it’s a Content Management System (CMS), you can use it to build out content-heavy websites with ease. 

Once you install WordPress on your server, you can choose the perfect theme, then start customizing. The theme you choose will form the foundation for your website’s appearance and its general functionality. 

Put simply, website builders have a much lower learning curve, but the site you build won’t be as easy to customize and scale. WordPress will require a bigger time investment upfront but gives you greater flexibility moving forward. 

5 Pages Every Freelance Site Needs to Have

You’re welcome to get as creative as you want with your freelancer website. However, there are a handful of pages that will be hard to succeed without. 

Here are five pages every freelance website needs to have:

1. About Page

A lot of creatives will just use their about page to list their accomplishments. Although this might help to convince some people, it’s not the best use of this page.

Instead, your about page should focus on the relationship between you and a potential client working together.

Spell out exactly what you do and why you’re best for the job. Make your about page stand out by speaking to your client’s deep needs and aligning this with your skillset and past achievements. 

2. Services Page

Your services page dives even deeper into your skills and what you’re selling. 

What do you do? What’s your process like? And who do you typically work for?

Your service page should also be written similarly to your about page. Even though the focus is on exactly what “you” provide, you’ll still want to show your clients what’s in it for them.

Another thing worth mentioning: usually the fewer services you offer, the better. Think about what you enjoy doing and what you’ve received the most praise for. 

You can even consider offering different service-level tiers or packaging up your services into different packages. 

Finally, you’ll need a solid CTA, this can direct people to book a discovery call with you, sending an email, or even purchasing your services directly. 

3. Portfolio Page

With your portfolio page, your work should speak for you. Your about and services pages will spell out exactly the kind of work you do, while this page will show them the end result.

The layout of this page will differ, depending on the kind of work you do. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, then this page can include screenshots of websites you’ve designed, or just showcase clips of your work.

freelance portfolio website templates from gator website builder

If you’re a freelance writer, then this page might be as simple as the headlines of your articles with links, so people can read your work live on the web. 

4. Testimonials Page

If you have a roster of past clients, then you should try to source testimonials you can display on your website. A handful of really solid testimonials can do a lot of the selling for you. 

You can also just display logos of past companies you’ve worked with. This is a subtle design element that can go a long way towards convincing a prospect to take a chance of working with you.

5. Contact Page

Finally, you’ll need a way for new clients to get in touch with you. You’ll want to make it as easy as possible for new people to reach out. So, make sure that you offer multiple forms of contact on your contact page.

Typically, you’ll have a contact form that has the required fields. But, you’ll also want to list your physical email address and even phone number. You don’t want to lose out on a prospective client, because they were on the go and wanted to call, instead of email.

Another cool thing you can do with a freelance website is add an in-depth form to your contact page. So, instead of the standard name, email, and message, you could include fields that are specific to the kind of work you’re going to be doing for them. 

This can help to speed up the onboarding process and ensure you’re weeding out low-quality prospects from the get-go. 

How to Build Your Freelance Website With a Website Builder

By now you should have a better understanding of why you need a website as a freelancer, the kinds of pages you’ll want to create and which tool you want to use to build out your website.

Here’s how you can get started building out your freelance website with a website builder. For the tutorial below we’re using the Gator Website Builder.

1. Fire up the HostGator Builder

The first thing we’ll need to do is fire up the Gator Website Builder. To do this navigate to your HostGator control panel and locate the ‘Website Builder’ icon.

find website builder in hostgator cpanel

2. Select Your Freelance Website Theme

As soon as you open up the Gator Website Builder you’ll be presented with a variety of different templates to choose from. 

You can sort by category, or search for your respective niche. Here are some of the potential templates you’ll find in the portfolio category. 

website templates available with gator website builder

Once you find a theme you like hover over it and click ‘Select’. 

3. Customize Your Website Template

Once you select your template you’ll be able to start customizing via the drag and drop builder. Once you hover over any existing website element you’ll be able to customize it. 

edit logo on website template

Any element that you click on will give you additional customization options. 

The left-hand menu allows you to add new site elements, create pages, and more. 

4. Add Additional Pages

You’ll probably be spending the majority of your time customizing the appearance of your website. But, you’ll also want to create the necessary pages for your freelance site. 

add new pages to freelance website with gator website builder

To add more pages click on the ‘Pages’ option, and here you’ll be able to manage existing pages that were created by the theme and even add new ones, like a services page, testimonial page, and more. 

How to Build Your Freelance Website With WordPress

Or, maybe you want more flexibility and customization options and prefer to use WordPress to build out your freelance website. 

If that’s the case, this section is for you. 

1. Install WordPress on Your Site 

To get started with WordPress you’ll need to install it on your site. If you don’t already have WordPress installed, then open up your control panel and install WordPress by clicking on ‘WordPress Installer’.

install wordpress on your domain

On the next screen, you’ll need to select the domain you want to install WordPress on, enter your relevant site details, and the installer will do the rest of the work. 

2. Choose Your Freelance WordPress Theme

One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is choosing the theme for your freelance website. With WordPress, there are thousands of different themes to choose from, both free and premium. 

You can choose from some of the most popular WordPress themes on the market, some of the top themes for freelancers, or even something more specific like WordPress themes for graphic designers.

You’ll want to spend some time researching the best theme for your needs before you choose one to install. 

Luckily, once you’ve found the perfect theme it’s easy to install and start customizing.

To install a new WordPress theme you’ll need to navigate to your WordPress dashboard. This will be through a link that will look something like “yoursite.com/wp-admin”.

Once you’ve logged into the backend of your site you can install a new theme by navigating to Appearance>Themes, then select ‘Add New’.

add new wordpress theme

On the next screen, you can either upload a theme (if you’ve already downloaded or purchased a theme), or you can search for a theme directly within your dashboard.

Once you find a theme you like just hover over it and click ‘Install’, then ‘Activate’.

3. Customize Your Site and Add Pages

Once your WordPress theme is activated, you’ll get access to a theme customization panel, along with a theme options panel.

Both of these allow you to make customizations to your theme. The theme options you have access too will depend upon the theme you choose. But you can always make visual customizations by navigating to Appearance>Customize

customize design of wordpress theme for freelance writer website

On this screen, you’ll be able to change your logo, color scheme, typography, widget areas, and more.

To add new pages to your site, just navigate to Pages>Add New. You can quickly add new pages to your site here. 

4. Install WordPress Plugins for Additional Features

One of the most powerful aspects of WordPress is the plugin library. Virtually any kind of feature you want to add to your site, you can do so with a plugin.

WordPress plugins are a lot like themes in that there are thousands of different options to choose from. But, no matter what features you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find the perfect plugin for your needs.

You can always choose from some of the most popular WordPress plugins out there, or you can search for a more unique plugin–depending on the features you require. 

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully, by now you’re well equipped to build an awesome new website for your freelance business. 

You understand the benefits of why you need your own freelance website, as well as some of the most important pages you’ll want to create.

Whether you decided to go with WordPress or use a website builder is a matter of personal preference, existing skill set, and the ultimate goal you have with your site. 

Get started building your freelance website today with HostGator!

Learn more about running your own freelance business:

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How to Add eCommerce Functionality to Your Website

The post How to Add eCommerce Functionality to Your Website appeared first on HostGator Blog.

Small businesses are scrambling to figure out how to adapt in the new world. Businesses that depended on customers visiting a storefront now face the need to shift to an entirely new business model to survive. But it’s not hopeless.

If you run a business that sells physical products, it is possible to transition to an eCommerce business to keep things afloat in the coming months. And for most businesses, adding an eCommerce store to your existing website is surprisingly easy.

The exact details of how to do so will depend on how you built your website to begin with. But if, like most small businesses, you either have a WordPress website or used a website builder to create your site, adding eCommerce functionality isn’t complicated. 

This post will cover how to add an online store to an existing website in WordPress and with the Gator Website Builder. If you don’t already have a website, here’s how to build an eCommerce site from scratch. And if you used a different website builder, check the site of the vendor you chose for instructions on adding eCommerce functionality. 

drag and drop website builder

How to Add eCommerce Functionality to Your WordPress Site

WordPress is by far the most common content management system businesses choose for building websites. If you have a WordPress website for your business now, you’ve got a number of free and easy options for adding an online store.

1. Choose and install your eCommerce plugin.

WordPress functionality is all about plugins. To add eCommerce features to your website, you simply need to pick your plugin. There are a few popular options to consider:

  • WooCommerceWooCommerce is owned by the same company that owns WordPress itself, which makes this plugin an obvious choice for many. It’s free to use and easy to get started with.
  • WP eCommerceWP eCommerce is a free, open source plugin. As such, developers regularly work to update it with new functionality and improvements. It’s intuitive for beginners to use. But if you expect to need some help, you also have the option to invest in their dedicated support plan for a fee.

You’ve got a wealth of good eCommerce options with WordPress. Peruse the features available with each and determine which you feel is the best fit for your business and needs. 

2. Follow the plugin’s directions to set up your store.

Whichever eCommerce plugin you choose will provide instructions for getting it set up. Since WooCommerce is the most popular, we’ll walk you through how to get started with it. But if you opt for another, simply look for an informational resource that provides details on each step to get started.

With WooCommerce, once you’ve downloaded it, click the button to Activate. 

active woocommerce plugin to add ecommerce to wordpress website

You’ll be taken to the WooCommerce wizard that walks you through each step of getting your store set up. Fill in all the information requested.

woocommerce setup wizard

The app has a couple of default payment processing options they suggest. Choose which to add now, and you can add more later if you’d like. Both Stripe and Paypal are secure processing options, which is crucial when you’re accepting payment information through a website. 

woocommerce payment method options

Shipping is one of the biggest and potentially most complicated parts of running an eCommerce business. By default, WooCommerce lets you choose between offering free shipping or a flat fee. If you want to choose another route for how you charge shipping, there are WooCommerce extensions that provide additional options.

Before you finish the setup process, WooCommerce will make a few recommendations for additional plugins to help power your eCommerce store, such as JetPack. Then it will provide you the option to start making product pages. 

3. Create pages for each product you sell.

Click on the button to Create a Product. 

create a product in woocommerce

As with the setup wizard, WooCommerce walks you through how to fill in your Product page as well. If you’re at all familiar with creating pages or posts in WordPress, then the process of adding a product page will look familiar. 

how to add new product in woocommerce
add product data in woocommerce

For each product, fill in:

  • The product name
  • The product description
  • Pricing
  • Inventory status
  • Shipping information
  • Product tags and categories

You can load product photography on the right side of the screen where there’s a box labeled Product Image. And WooCommerce makes it easy to encourage upsells by using the Linked Products option to note products that are similar or complement each other.

And that’s it! Well, that’s it for creating an online store. Promoting it and running it well is a whole other story (but more on that later). 

How to Add eCommerce Functionality to Your Business Site in Gator

If you used the Gator website builder (available with all HostGator web hosting plans!) to build your site, you can add an eCommerce store in four simple steps. 

1. Upgrade to the eCommerce plan.

The Gator eCommerce plan is $ 9.22 a month. To upgrade, when you’re logged into your Gator account, click on Edit Site, then look for the Store option in the left-side menu. Clicking it will give you the option to Upgrade Now. Select the eCommerce plan and fill out the form to check out. 

upgrade to gator website builder ecommerce plan

2. Add your products.

Now go back and click on that Store option again, and this time select Manage Products and Orders. 

manage ecommerce product and orders in gator website builder

The welcome page will include the option to start adding products. 

how to add first product in gator website builder

 Click to add your first product, and start filling in the details requested, including:

  • Product name
  • Pricing information
  • Product description
  • Product photo

For each product you create, you can later add it to all the relevant pages you want to feature it on across your website by going into Elements in the left-side menu, choosing Products, then dragging the selected product box to where you want it on each page. 

3.  Set up your payment processor.

Gator automatically provides Stripe and Paypal as options for payment processing. Choose which you want to use to process orders, select Activate, and follow the instructions provided to get set up. 

choose payment providers for gator website builder ecommerce site

4. Decide on and fill in shipping details.

In the Settings section, you can set up your preferred shipping details. Decide if you’ll offer free shipping, a flat rate, or another option. In this same section, you can supply additional order information such as your company’s tax ID, and the email address that will receive order details. 

set up shipping details in gator website builder ecommerce

And that’s it! You now have an online store as part of your Gator website. 

eCommerce Tips and Steps to Follow

Setting up an online store is a big first step, but it’s just the beginning. You have to make sure you have everything in place to supply the orders you receive—and ensure you get orders to begin with. 

1. Have a plan for order fulfillment.

How will you handle packaging and shipping? Do you already have packaging materials? Do you have an account with a carrier you can use to create and print out labels yourself, or will you need to set one up? Are you prepared to get your packages to the post office every couple of days, or will you schedule pick-ups with carriers?

Before your website receives its first order, you want to know the answer to all those questions. 

Customers will expect prompt service for their deliveries. Currently, they’ll be willing to give some leeway on slow delivery times, as the delivery system is more backed up than usual. But they’ll still want to see evidence that shipments are going out promptly, and information on when to expect their order. 

Pro Tip: Add a FAQ page to your website warning customers of potential shipping delays and low inventory.

2. Talk to your lawyer and accountant.

Running an eCommerce business brings you into different legal territory than a physical storefront did. Some things will be the same, but you need to consider factors like how sales tax works in all the different areas you’re selling to (different states have different laws), and how to develop a privacy policy and terms of use for your website.

Contact your lawyer and accountant to discuss any new documentation you need, and any steps you need to take to make sure your online store is on the up and up. 

3. Promote your new online store!

Now for the hard part. You need to get your website in front of people in a competitive space. The internet is vast—driving visits to your small section of it is a tall order.

Consider investing in online advertising options like Google Ads and social advertising. Look into online marketing tactics and put together a strategy to build up your website’s authority and visibility online. 

Online marketing is a long game, so a lot of the best tactics won’t drive people to your website tomorrow (online ads are better for that). But lay the groundwork now, and you can expect to get your eCommerce store to a place where it brings in regular business down the line.

And when things do start to go back to normal and you can reopen your storefront, your eCommerce store will remain as an additional source of income, and may even help drive more visitors to your physical location.

Expanding to eCommerce Is Just Smart

Times are hard, but people still have a need for a number of different products. If you can pivot your business model so that the customers who want what you sell can still access the items they desire, you can keep your business running—albeit in a different form than you’re used to. It may not be what you had in mind, but it could be just the lifeline you need. 

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