5 Winning Ways to Optimize Your Online Store

Business is booming in the world of eCommerce and just about anyone can set up an online storefront – even on the slimmest of shoestring budgets. Success depends on making sure potential customers can find your store and receive the best possible shopping experience when they visit. Paid publicity can help, but there are a number of things you can do to optimize your store for maximum visibility right on your website without spending a dime. Here’s a look at five low-cost ways to increase traffic to your website and boost customer engagement.

Optimize Your Store for Organic Search

Paid advertising and other kinds of marketing strategies can play an important part in promoting your new online shop, but it’s also essential to make a plan to rank high in organic searches by practicing search engine optimization – the natural way that people search for information or products online. These searches respond to keywords or questions submitted to search engines like Google or Bing and deliver the best matches to the searcher. Ranking high – on the first page of search results – is the goal of just about every online business, since nearly two-thirds of searchers never click to the second page of their search results.

Long-tail keywords aren’t the only criteria for ranking high or improving your online presence through search engine optimization. Google and other search engines operate on a mysterious algorithm system that also factors in many other features of a website when assigning rankings. These can include a site’s authority, which can be established by quality backlinks, or links back to the site by other reputable websites, and the quality of the user experience it offers visitors. That’s why Google’s recent algorithm changes heavily penalized spammy, keyword stuffed sites with low value to visitors.

Learning how to optimize your website for easy searching and engaging user experience can not only boost your search engine rankings but also establish your site as an authority in your niche and enhance your brand’s visibility. Additionally, you don’t need to be an expert in web design and development to make small but significant changes that will make your site more search friendly.

Include Quality Content – Everywhere

If you visited a brick and mortar store and found empty shelves, a vacant front window and no one available to serve you, you would probably turn around and leave. The same is true for your online store. Make sure that your product pages include a range of products, not just one or two, and that they’re packed with keyword rich descriptions of your products and organized in intuitive ways. Add featured content, testimonials, or reviews to a visually appealing homepage. Add a blog to your site and keep it updated with a mix of topical and evergreen content that is relevant to your customers’ interests and needs.

Since search engine crawlers regularly search sites for new, relevant content, having an active, interactive site that is updated on a regular basis shows visitors and search engines that your store is a thriving online concern.

Make Your Store Interactive

Search engines also consider factors such as “dwell time,” – the amount of time a visitor spends on your site and what they do there – in search rankings. Making sure your site is attractive and easy to navigate can encourage visitors to stick around, but you can also engage visitors by encouraging them to interact with your store and your brand. Adding features such as comments and live chat can encourage them to ask questions and express opinions. Consider showcasing customer content, such as sharing product photos, or running contests for things like naming new products. Beyond selling products, these kinds of strategies can build brand awareness and create a loyal tribe of supporters willing to share your content with others.

Make Your Site Mobile Friendly

More than half of all online shopping now takes place from mobile devices, rather than desktop or laptop computers. For that reason, Google and other search engines now consider mobile responsiveness a key factor in higher search rankings. Consider installing a mobile-responsive theme for your WordPress site, or add a plugin to make an existing theme more mobile friendly. To improve the mobile experience, even more, eliminate intrusive “interstitial,” content such as large popups or overlays that block a user’s view of your pages.

Use Keywords Where It Counts

Although Google penalizes poor quality and keyword stuffed sites, it rewards sites that use keywords smartly. Incorporate keywords, especially “long tail,” keywords of four or more words, into key areas of your site, including page and post titles, headers, subheaders, and product descriptions. Don’t forget to add them to image alt text and site metadata, and set custom URLs for all pages, so that they include keywords rather than default strings of numbers.

Include Navigation Tools and Site Maps

Make sure navigation and user tools, such as your site’s menus, are up to date and point clearly to the relevant content – a key feature for making your site easier for visitors to navigate. Make sure that contact information and other essentials about your store and your products are easily visible. Submit a site map to Google, as well. A site map includes all the pages on your site, with their relevant keywords, and helps to ensure that all the pages on your site will be crawled for indexing. If you change or update content on the site, be sure to update your site map too, so that it stays current.

It’s never been easier to open your own online store, thanks to an array of free and paid tools for building your dream website and reaching potential customers from around the world. You can optimize your new storefront for maximum search visibility and user-friendliness from within your website using resources you already have – all for free, no development experience or digital marketing budget required.

Ready to build a website? Learn more about our web hosting options from our customer support experts at Bluehost today.

WordPress vs Wix Why WordPress is Better

WordPress is the most popular website builder in the world, but it isn’t the only one. Easy to use, drag and drop page builders like Wix offer site owners with no technical background the tools to create attractive, fully functional sites within minutes. Wix and self-hosted WordPress both make beautiful sites, but they are very different in terms of features and costs. Here’s a look at the differences between WordPress vs. Wix and what they both have to offer.

Website Builders and Content Management Systems

Wix is a full-service site builder that makes it easy for even the newest of users to quickly set up a website in a variety of different niches. The self-hosted version of WordPress from WordPress.org makes a number of different page builders such as Elementor, Gutenberg, and Divi available to its users – but WordPress was conceived as a content management system that features a bare-bones content editor and can be populated with text, media, and links. Both Wix and WordPress can be used to set up a working website without knowledge of code, but there are significant trade-offs between the fully hosted Wix and the mix and match the flexibility of self-hosted WordPress that new site owners may want to consider.

Ease of Use

As many already know, there are many benefits of using WordPress, which is why so many users turn to this platform. However, it’s also important to note that Wix also offers a variety of features that are highly desired among website owners as well. Wix advertises itself as a full-service site builder that anyone can use. Using one of the more than 500 website templates Wix offers, users can drag and drop elements to create a site in minutes without any coding. Because Wix is a hosted platform, its developers maintain control over all the available tools and applications, so users can’t import outside tools from other sources. Once a new site owner chooses a template, they’re stuck with it. Website templates can’t be quickly changed as a site’s identity evolves, but the Wix interface is user-friendly, made with beginners in mind, and it offers round the clock support for troubleshooting and answering questions.

With WordPress, many more functions are left up to the user. Self-hosted WordPress sites come with an administrative dashboard that provides access to the tools needed to install a theme, make basic customizations, compose a page or post, and add any plugins needed for added features.

Learning to work with the WordPress dashboard and the many available theme and plugin options requires a somewhat steeper learning curve than Wix does. Additionally, finding support can be a do-it-yourself effort that involves sifting through thousands of forums, tutorials, and websites devoted to the workings of WordPress. However, although WordPress users don’t have direct access to a dedicated user support portal, the worldwide WordPress community offers advice and information on just about any aspect of using WordPress.

Flexibility and Versatility

Depending on your website’s purpose, you may need to consider future expansion and the ability to scale up to meet additional demands as your business grows. Although Wix offers tools for creating and running a fully functional website, it may not include all the features you need to accommodate growth. Wix is fully hosted, which means that its shared platform allows storage and bandwidth among Wix users, depending on the hosting plan they have purchased. This could be a problem for a site that experiences a sudden surge in traffic or needs more resources to run secondary applications.

Wix also limits a user’s options for customizing the site. Although Wix users have access to hundreds of well-crafted templates for setting up a site, it isn’t possible to import one from an outside source. And although Wix allows users to add extra functions by choosing from its library of “applications” (analogous to plugins in WordPress), users may have to pay additional monthly fees to use them and, again, they are limited to only those applications provided by Wix itself.

One reason for the enduring popularity of WordPress is its virtually limitless versatility. Once the core WordPress code is installed, users can draw from the official WordPress theme and plugin directories, as well as from the products of developers worldwide to customize their site, and add features to meet its unique needs. WordPress makes it easy to switch themes as a site’s identity changes and to add and delete plugins as needed. Also, while WordPress users don’t need to know to code in order to set up and run a site, those with development skills can fine-tune WordPress even more by working with the core code, as well as theme and plugin files to fine tune the site’s appearance and features.

Costs for Setup and Maintenance

The cost of setting up and running a website depends on a wide range of factors, and that can change considerably over time as a site evolves. Because it’s a hosting platform, as well as a site builder, Wix makes it easy for users to calculate costs with a tiered series of monthly plans that also include a domain name and varying levels of storage, access to add-on apps and more. There is also a completely free starter plan, but it has limited features and requires users to accept advertising on their site. As a site grows and changes, users, can scale up to a higher pricing plan that offers the features they need.

Because Wix offers all of its tools in packages with fixed monthly fees, users don’t need to factor in external costs, such as hiring developer services or purchasing assets from outside sources. This kind of one-stop shopping makes it especially attractive to new users looking for an easy and relatively economical way to set up a site, even though it limits options for customization and specialized functions.

WordPress itself is free to download and install – and it is possible to set up an entire site nearly for free with a basic hosting package and free themes and plugins from the official WordPress directories. But depending on the features and functions a particular site needs, the actual cost of setting up and running a WordPress site can be highly variable. Those costs include buying and registering a domain name and can also include purchasing any premium themes and plugins needed to get the right look and functionality for the site, or hiring a developer to work with the site’s core code.

E-commerce Support

E-commerce is booming – and just about anyone can set up an online store with both Wix and WordPress. Wix includes a number of e-commerce themed templates for setting up your site, but to get full e-commerce functionality that includes the payment gateways PayPal and Authority and other key e-commerce tools, you would have to buy their e-commerce web hosting package at a higher monthly price than the standard fees.

With powerful e-commerce plugins like the worldwide favorite Woocommerce, WordPress offers an array of e-commerce themes and plugins to create an online store of any kind and scale it up as the venture grows. Installed on any basic WordPress site, Woocommerce and similar free and premium plugins allow users to choose from a variety of payment gateways, product display layouts, and shopping cart configurations to do business both locally and globally.

Both Wix and WordPress put the tools for creating a visually appealing and fully functioning website within the reach of any user. Wix is a hosted site builder that promises an all-in-one site building solution, but users are limited to the features and tools created by its own development team. That’s a trade-off new users with small sites might be willing to accept – but for site runners who crave control over all aspects of their site and the flexibility to build in new features as it evolves, self-hosted WordPress offers unlimited options for unlimited growth. Now that you know the differences between WordPress vs. Wix, you can now choose the one that’s best for you and your site.

For further questions regarding our WordPress hosting vs. regular web hosting packages, check out our website or contact our customer support team today. Our website offers a variety of WordPress products to help you get your site up and running.

3 Ways To Be The Superhero Of Your Site

Building a site that engages your audiences and makes you feel like you’re winning the internet can be a challenging feat. It takes a special combination of superpowers to create a site that captivates your visitors, but your WordPress website can be a bright online presence with a few tips and tricks.

Are you ready to win the hearts of audiences on the web? Grab your cape and read about the 3 ways you can be the hero of your site.

1.) Inspire Your Audience With Your “About Us,” Page

The “About Us,” page is extremely important when you’re first creating your site because it tells a story that will stand out to visitors. You want to humanize your brand by providing a description that will help people connect with the product or service on your site. Your “About Us,” page shouldn’t be formal and robotic, it should be friendly, engaging.

Need the formula to help you get your About Page started? Here’s our 5 step process to creating a larger than life “About Us,” page.

1. Write out your mission statement
2. Tell your company/brand story
3. Share how you’ve grown
4. Pinpoint your target audience
5. Explain who you’ve worked with

2.) Identify Your Target Audience

Whether you’re new to site building or an experienced pro, knowing your target audience is a superpower to harness. Who you are addressing on your site is not only important for high conversions but can help you craft the voice and tone of your content. There are several factors to consider when deciphering your target audiences like interests, passions, and buying habits.

As you get familiar with your target audience you’ll be able to craft messages and curate services that speak directly to that consumer. It takes time— while possible, you probably won’t become a superhero overnight. Stay patient, it won’t take forever to identify your audience, but it will require you to study the habits of your visitors and engage with the people who frequent your site.

If you’re looking for online assistance that can help you identify your target audience, Google Analytics or social media are prominent tools that track engagement and traffic.

3.) Keep Your Messaging Consistent

Consistency is key. We can’t say that enough. Clear messaging can help you alleviate confusion and unclear communication on your site. You have to create a reliable and authentic relationship with your audience in order for your brand to resonate with your site visitors. Don’t have fragmented messages, narrow down what’s important for your brand and strengthen those messages across your site.

Look over your site and see if items like your logo, header, and content are consistent with your brand voice. If you can recognize a few inconsistencies with the message of your site, it’s time to put your hero cape on. Tackle the content gaps head on and monitor how audiences respond to the improvements.

Your website building journey is going to be full of transformation, action, and reinvention. There may be a few twists and turns, but WordPress has a great community of users who have your back if you need feedback on how to improve your site! Even heroes can use a helping hand and with WordPress features like free plugins and customization tools at your fingertips, there is no doubt your site will soar to new heights.

5 Tips To Start Preparing Your Business Website For The New Year

We’re saying goodbye to 2018 and looking ahead to a year that is going to bring more business, web traffic, and growth for your website. The new year provides an opportunity to build your brand and acquire new customers to keep your business flourishing all year long.

Are you ready to be one step ahead of the competition in 2019? Here are 5 tips to consider when preparing your business website for the new year.

1.) Review Your Site’s User Experience (UX)

Having a user-friendly site with optimal UX is essential for creating a positive online experience for your visitors. When a user is on your site, anything that conveys a message like an image, video, or product description can influence how they interact with your site. Are your visuals appealing? Is your site mobile responsive? UX has become increasingly vital to a site’s success because a visitors opinion of your business can be directly impacted by what they are experiencing on your site. These are a few factors that can change a negative UX to a positive one.

  • Increase your site speed
  • Update your website design
  • Make sure you have a readable font
  • Ensure your site is accessible for physically disabled and visually impaired

Reviewing user comments or common issues people can experience on your site will help determine your site’s functionality. Usability testing is also a method of evaluation that can help you identify more finite issues a user could be experiencing with your site. Tweaking site components for your visitors to have a favorable UX has the potential to grow your traffic in 2019.

2.) Protect Your Customers With Security SiteLock (SSL)

As a business website selling goods or products, keeping your customer’s information protected is of top importance. Installing an SSL certificate on your site lets customers or visitors know that any personal information they submit through your site is protected. An SSL certificate also helps enhance customer trust on your site, improve conversion rates, and increase your Google rankings.

If you plan to process any credit card or personal information through your site, you will need an SSL certificate in order to be Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI) compliant. Being PCI compliant is essential to help protect your site and the customers who are sharing their credit card information. Whether you are a small or large business, your goal should be to build and maintain a secure network for visitors.

There are several types of SSL certificates you can add to your site and Bluehost offers a great variety for our customers. An SSL certificate can appear as an image at the bottom of a webpage indicating the certificate, a padlock, or the words “SSL,” or “Security.”

3.) Increase Your Site Visibility With Relevant SEO keywords

Making your website search friendly in 2019 is an actionable goal that you can conquer with a little help from search engine optimization (SEO). SEO has become increasingly important to how a site ranks on a search engine because it can increase site awareness and drive traffic to your site. Keeping track of SEO on your site is an excellent way to generate traffic that is organic and free without depleting your wallet.

Creating quality content with natural keywords or phrases helps people to find your site via search engines. Developing a list of relevant keywords specific to the product or services you offer is the best way to ensure potential visitors land on your page versus a competitor. There are several SEO search tools that can you use to find the best and most relevant keywords to assist with traffic and conversions on your site. Relevant keywords are always changing so setting up a weekly or monthly schedule to review your words for SEO visibility is imperative to keep your site ranking high.

4.) Use A Staging Site To Test New Plugins Or Themes

The new year is the perfect time to update your theme or install new plugins on your site. A website refresh is a great way to introduce new products and services, but you want to ensure your existing site content is compatible with any new installs. Bluehost customers have the opportunity to test out their site before making any final changes that can affect their public site.

The AllinwebIT staging environment allows customers to test and see if any new themes and plugins will work on your site. A staging site allows you to make and save changes without your public site being affected. Once you’ve perfected your site in the staging environment you can publish it to your live site. You can use this opportunity to be creative and experiment with an updated design or install a plugin you’ve been itching to try without any worry it will cause your site to crash or malfunction.

5.) Identify The Best Social Media Platforms For Your Site

Social media has become an essential component of how brands market themselves to billions of users across each channel. Having a social media platform is vital for marketing and promoting your company, but not every social platform is best for your business. If you spent this past year scrambling to post on multiple platforms, now is the time to focus on what social media can best support your business.

Here are a few suggestions to find the best social media channels for your brand.

  • Write out your social media goals

Establish a publishing cadence and how you’ll identify whether you are successful or not.

  • Understand your industry

Doing your market research can help develop brand awareness and identify your target audience.

  • Know the purpose of each platform

Each platform has different benefits that can strengthen your social media presence.

  • Go where your audience is

Only use your time on social platforms where your customers frequent.

Once you are able to identify which social media accounts are helping to enhance your business goals you’ll be able to work on strengthening your online presence. You can invest your efforts into growing those accounts by creating a social media strategy that will engage conversation and make the best use of your ad dollars for marketing.

As we transition into the new year, preparing your business website for the new year can set you up for long-term success. Using the holiday to identify the strengths of your site can help you take the first step to make small tweaks or updates you need in 2019

16 Productivity Tools Every Blogger Needs to Succeed

Admit it. You’ve procrastinated once or twice…or several times. As a blogger, you need to be on the Internet, meaning it’s all too easy to become distracted. However, if you want to succeed as a blogger, there is a lot of hard work to be done and only so many hours in the day!

Stop procrastinating by adding these 16 productivity tools to your blogging toolbox.

Writing Tools

Naturally, writing is one of the most important tasks a blogger has on their plate. Keep these writing tools handy to create top-notch content.

1. WriteRoom

Ever get tired of the endless notifications, obnoxious screen views, and clutter when writing? If so, download WriteRoom. WriteRoom is a laptop app designed to help writers hone in on their work with zero distractions. If you often find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of buttons and options on the screen, an app such as WriteRoom can help.

2. Ommwriter

Ommwriter is similar to WriteRoom in that it helps you concentrate solely on your writing. However, in addition to a focused view, users are also treated to calming audio tracks, typing sounds for creativity, and natural backgrounds for inspiration.

Give Ommwriter a try the next time you need a creativity boost or time to focus.

3. Grammarly

All bloggers know editing and proofreading are key. However, how long do you spend doing this? You could be far more productive if you cut this time in half with Grammarly. In addition to spotting grammatical, sentence structure, and spelling errors, Grammarly helps strengthen your writing with wording suggestions.

While Grammarly is a phenomenal editing tool, nothing beats a final human-eye proofread.

4. Hemingway App

While it’s no secret that becoming a better writer takes practice, you can also use the Hemingway App to improve your writing in the meantime. As noted on their website, Hemingway App seeks to make your writing bold and clear. The tool has a readability score along with formatting options and a writing mode for a full-fledged writing app. Meaning, you can use Hemingway as a writing app and an editing tool at once.

Project Management Tools

Do you find your productivity flies out the window as a result of too many tasks? Or, are you less productive due to multitasking or task mismanagement? If so, these project management tools are exactly what you need to organize your work day and reclaim your productivity.

5. Trello

Trello is a collaborative project management software which uses boards and cards to organize projects and tasks in a visually appealing and simple format. At any time, you can see the status of projects, to-do lists, and more thanks to the easy-to-use platform.

Rather than scribble down a to-do list every morning (only to spill coffee on it later), all your tasks for the day are in one place. Plus, using this app cuts back on “What’s the status of this project?” conversations with teammates, leaving more productivity time for you in the long run.

6. Asana

Similar to Trello, Asana is a project management app which focuses on tracking work for the ultimate productivity. Using Asana’s calendar mode, My Tasks mode, and other views, you can get a quick glimpse of your workload for the day. Plus, you can see the progress of projects, who’s responsible for specific tasks, and more all within seconds.

To up your productivity game, connect Asana to the Harvest Time Tracker. You’ll be able to see how long it takes you to complete your blogging tasks. The time tracker also connects to invoicing software to help you maximize your time.

Task Management Tools

If you prefer a to-do list approach to managing your workload, these task management tools are exactly what you need.

7. Todoist

Todoist is a free task management app that helps you organize all your work in one place. The appealing design and simplistic functionality make it the perfect to-do list tool for busy bloggers. With color coding capabilities, team sharing options, and visible progress charts, you’ll be able to see your workload at a glance anytime you want.

8. Toggl

Are you blogging for others? If so, you may be charging by the hour or be required to submit a timesheet. To ensure you know exactly how long you worked, use Toggl. Toggl is a free time tracking app available for multiple browsers and operating systems.

In addition to tracking your time, the app also allows you to assign your time worked to specific projects, tasks, and objectives. Plus, Toggl can also act as a task management tool with the ability to assign projects, tasks, and responsibilities and track overall progress.

9. Zapier

Have you ever thought to yourself, “There needs to be an easier way to connect these two tools” or “I wish there was a way to expedite my tasks.” With Zapier, you can!

Zapier is a tool that connects apps with the intent of automating processes by creating workflows. For instance, you can tell Zapier to automatically send your published WordPress blog post to Buffer to be scheduled for your selected social media channels.

The workflow possibilities are endless! Use Zapier to amplify your productivity and focus on your blogging.

Focus Tools

As most bloggers know, it is all too easy to get distracted. When you need to put your head down and work, take advantage of these tools designed to help you focus.

10. Coffitivity

Based on extensive research which proves a coffee shop has the right amount of ambiance for focused work, Coffitivity brings the sounds of a cafe to you. Choose between different cafe environments, from a bustling university coffee shop to a lounge at lunchtime.

11. Hipster Sounds

Just like Coffitivity, Hipster Sounds offers ambient noise designed to get you in the zone. In addition to coffee shop chatter, Hipster Sounds also provides Premium users with sounds such as calming rain and the hum of a library.

12. Focus Booster

If you want to track and maintain your concentration, the Focus Booster app is for you. The app is based on the Pomodoro concentration technique and helps you visualize your distractions, focus habits, and also tracks your work time.

13. StayFocusd

Do you find yourself veering away from your work to scroll aimlessly through social media, news websites, or video channels? If so, you need to install the StayFocusd Chrome extension! This Chrome extension blocks the websites you tell it to, so you can spend less time scrolling and more time blogging.

Social Media Tools

Every blogger knows just how imperative social media marketing is for growing a blog audience. Use these tools to automate your social media tasks and improve your productivity.

14. Social Media Scheduling Apps

Scheduling social media posts manually and natively can be cumbersome. Instead, rely on these social media scheduling tools to improve your overall productivity:

  • Buffer
  • Hootsuite
  • MeetEdgar
  • Sprout Social

Each platform allows you to schedule social media posts in advance for a variety of networks. Additionally, the tools also offer a multitude of functionalities designed to speed up your social media work.

15. Pocket

Content curation is an excellent tactic for drawing in a blogging audience. Save articles to read later with Pocket. The app and browser extension allows you to save articles “in your Pocket” and access them later without needing to bookmark the page or leave the tab open.

16. LastPass

How much time do you waste trying to remember your social media and blogging passwords? Reclaim this time by using LastPass. This secure tool saves all your passwords in one place.

What tools do you use to enhance your productivity and blogging processes? Let us know in the comments.

How to Prepare Your Business for Growth

Businesses grow over time and should have a website that can scale with them. There will be more clients, products, sales, and more potential opportunities to expand business reach. But how can you prepare your business to grow with you online?

To start, you can prepare your business for times of growth by developing a website equipped to grow with you by preparing for traffic spikes and creating a scaleable brand.

Plan for brand growth

Preparing your business for growth begins with at the brand level. A brand is your customer’s perception of your business based on your message, design, and content. By understanding what it means to your current customers, you can create a meaningful and lasting connection.

Preparing growth includes knowing where you’re headed, being fluid with what changes can or cannot make, and what consistent elements need to be incorporated no matter where your business grows.

By knowing where your company is heading, you can take advantage of your niche. Understand where your competitive advantage and skills lie. By knowing you want to be the best at printing, versus the best at copywriting, you can position your skills and grow in a different direction.

Brand fluidity means letting your messaging grow with your customers to remain relevant. Your core messaging and promise may remain the same, but how you deliver on that message, new capabilities, and additional products or services will change.

Make sure you have maintained your consistency among all of the places customers come into contact with your brand, from packaging to your site and more.

Plan for website changes

Rather than building a web without consideration, think to where you might grow your business. Consider if you’re going to grow into e-commerce, become national, or even expand internationally. If you want to have a blog or another type of capability in your site, you’ll want to build it this way from the beginning.

Think about what type of relationship do you want to have with your site:

  • Do you want to manage it?
  • Do you want someone else to manage it?
  • Do you need a custom site?
  • By considering the types of growth you may experience in your business, it will help you plan to make an investment in the right website platform, rather than beginning on one and then having to transfer to another.

Your website will need to reflect your brand. When creating or changing it, make sure it reflects your personality and message. By choosing a platform you can grow with, you ensure consistency as you scale.

By choosing a website platform plan, you are at an advantage to purchasing for the year. You can get a price break of up to 25% by paying yearly instead of monthly. Be sure of which platform you choose, you want to make sure you can stick with it for at least a year.

Plan for traffic to your site

While there can sometimes be unexpected traffic to your site, plan ahead for the type of traffic you receive. The last thing you want is for your product or service to be covered on a TV station, or have some type of hype driven, only for customers to crash your site when they visit.

Some ways to prevent a site from crashing because of too much traffic include:

  • Switching to a Virtual Private Server (VPS)
  • If you need more space, consider cloud hosting
  • Higher or unlimited bandwidth with your hosting account
  • While traffic is to be expected, make sure to plan your site and hosting for spikes in traffic so that visitors don’t cause your site to crash.

Implement tracking and data collection methods

Understand what data you want and need about your sales, customers, and online experience. When it comes to sales and processing orders, it’s much easier to implement tracking from the beginning. If you add it later, you lose the benefit of early research, tweaking of collection methods, and ease of implementation.

Tracking and measurement is an important part of your businesses processes that help you understand what growth you are experiencing, when, and where it’s coming from. Utilizing online tracking with Google Analytics, site tracking with HotJar, or traffic tracking through email campaigns in conjunction with services like Google Analytics give you a more insightful picture into what is going on with your business.

Benefits of Shared Web Hosting

Small business owners, entrepreneurs, and independent creatives know that a website is an essential tool for spreading their message and building their brand, but the costs of hosting that website can create an insurmountable obstacle for new site owners on a tight budget. Offered by a wide range of hosting providers, shared hosting is an affordable option that lets users set up an online presence quickly and easily. While shared hosting has definite drawbacks, especially for high traffic sites, this kind of hosting is inexpensive, accessible, modestly scalable, and requires little or no knowledge of website design and development.

What is Shared Hosting?

Before we talk more about the most notable shared hosting benefits let’s first what it is by definition. Shared hosting is one of a number of hosting options offered by providers around the world. As its name suggests, in a shared hosting environment multiple websites, potentially thousands of them, are hosted on the same server, which is owned and maintained by the hosting provider. All sites on that server must share the server’s resources, which include bandwidth, memory and computing power, and those are allotted equally to all accounts on the server. Users can set up multiple websites under a single account as long as they don’t exceed the limitations on resources that are set by the provider.

The hosting provider maintains the servers and takes care of security and upgrades, but users are responsible for setting up and running their own sites, usually with installable scripts available from the host or with the help of the host’s support staff when needed. Because shared hosting involves many websites, but the resources of only one server, providers can offer this kind of hosting for extremely low costs – often less than $5 per month on many promotional plans.

Who Should Use Shared Hosting?

Shared hosting packages for these prices typically have minimal features and support services, but users can often upgrade to a higher shared hosting tier that offers added services for additional fees. For some users, shared hosting plans are the only kind they’ll ever need, but a site might “outgrow” a shared hosting situation as it acquires more visibility and traffic, and require more hosting resources than shared hosting can offer, such as managed or dedicated server hosting that reduces or eliminates the sharing of servers and offers a long list of additional features.

Shared web hosting costs far less than those other types of web hosting and allows users on a shoestring to find an online home for their site. But, security risks come with the shared technology and resources on a single server packed with many different kinds of sites. And, what happens with one site on the shared server, such as a spike in traffic that suddenly gobbles up large amounts of computing power, can affect many others with downtime or slowdowns. Still, for new site owners and those with small, low traffic sites, the benefits of shared hosting can significantly outweigh those drawbacks. Here’s why.

Shared Hosting is Affordable

As we’ve noted, shared hosting plans are typically very inexpensive, typically costing only a few dollars per month on a provider’s introductory promotional rates. Those rates typically go up to the site’s standard package rate after that promotional period ends, but even at those standard rates, shared hosting remains the least expensive option for basic website hosting. And while shared hosting generally offers relatively few extra features, it does include the essentials for setting up and maintaining a small website.

Shared Hosting is Accessible

The low cost and easy availability of shared hosting make it possible for just about anyone to open an account, sign a contract and begin setting up a site. This kind of hosting is offered by most general web hosting providers, although it may not be available from hosting providers that are dedicated to serving specific niches and website types.

A new shared hosting account typically includes the basic tools for getting a small site up and running, too. Some, such as one-click installs of content management systems like WordPress and easy website builders like Wix are free and included with a new account, while others can be added for additional fees. Depending on their level of expertise, users can use the host’s built-in tools to develop their site elsewhere and upload it to the hosting account or stick with the site building and content management options offered by the host.

Shared Hosting Can Scale

Shared hosting works best for new sites and small sites that don’t see much traffic. That allows them to remain within the limits established by many users drawing from a shared server’s finite resources and allows sites room to grow – to an extent. Once a site reaches a certain level of monthly traffic or uses its allotted disk space, it may need to upgrade to a different tier of shared hosting or switch to another kind of hosting entirely.

Shared Hosting Doesn’t Require Design Skills

Opening a shared hosting account can be a new site owner’s first foray into the world of website creation – and they may not have the means to hire a designer to create and manage their site. Most shared hosting providers offer basic site creation tools for setting up a small site without the need for specialized website development skills or familiarity with code.

From a central control panel, users can do tasks such as customize the site’s theme and settings and manage its content without any specialized knowledge of web design. Widely used site builders and CMS options also allow more web-savvy users to make more customized changes, as long as they’re within the terms of the provider’s contract.

Although shared hosting users generally set up and manage their own sites, they can turn to the hosting company’s support staff for help with a wide range of problems ranging from basic setup issues to troubleshooting specific problems as they arise. Tutorials and FAQs on the host site can also help users solve problems and make needed changes to their sites. For an additional fee, many providers also offer site setup using a variety of site builders.

Every business needs a website, and there’s a hosting option to meet every need. Shared hosting may not be right for large sites and those with a high volume of traffic. But, because this kind of hosting service is affordable, accessible and even moderately scalable, this user-friendly option offers webmasters on a budget a way to easily establish an online presence.

Top Tools for Small Businesses

Building a robust online presence is a must for small businesses of all kinds, as it offers new opportunities to boost brand awareness, build relationships, and compete in a rapidly growing global marketplace. Many free and premium tools are available to help both online-only entrepreneurs and owners of “brick and mortar” businesses to expand their brand in the digital world, and the list continues to grow. But, which ones make the most sense for your business?

Here’s a look at some of the top online business tools for essential functions to help small businesses grow an effective – and lucrative – online presence.

Build Your Toolkit With Goals in Mind

Hundreds of apps and free WordPress plugins are available to perform just about every kind of business-related task, from scheduling meetings to bookkeeping. Every business has unique needs related to its niche, company culture and mission, and building a “go-to,” kit of online tools to keep the company running smoothly needs to keep those things in mind. In general, though, just about every business needs management tools for organizing finances and handling payments, communication, marketing, and social sharing, and handling documents. These popular online tools for handling those and related tasks are all available in a cloud-based form, so users don’t have to install software on local computers in order to use them.

Financial and Accounting Tools

Businesses of all sizes and types need reliable and accurate ways to track finances and manage taxes, and a variety of online apps exist to fill the bill. The most versatile and user-friendly of these, according to business accounting specialists, is the well-known Intuit QuickBooks. QuickBooks is a one-stop solution for handling billing, preparing taxes and managing day-to-day accounting tasks. It’s available both for purchase in the traditional desktop software bundle or by subscription in the cloud, with monthly plans for users ranging from independent contractors to small business owners and providers of both services and products.

Payment Gateway Tools

For businesses that take online payments for services or products, a secure payment gateway is essential for keeping transactions and customer data safe from theft or compromise. Major e-commerce platforms provide their own payment frameworks, but a variety of free and premium gateway applications with features including SSL (Secure Socket Layer) technology and encryption to keep transactions secure, but users can download and install a variety of cloud-based payment portals for taking payments directly from a company website. The best known of these is, of course, PayPal, which offers both personal and premium business versions, along with a variety of other business services such as invoicing. Related products offering secure payment options for credit and debit card transactions include Stripe and Square, with a variety of tiered plans with additional services available.

Communication Apps for Far-Flung Teams

A variety of communication and scheduling apps are available to help company staff stay connected and in sync on projects that involve coordinating the efforts of individuals working in locations around the country – or around the world. Topping the list is Slack, a cloud-based messaging and connectivity app that helps teams brainstorm as well as share documents, images, and video. Slack allows users to create multiple workspaces with direct and team messaging, with a variety of extensions for additional functionality in its tiered plans for business and enterprise users.

For video conferencing and in-person calling, apps such as Skype and Join.me create virtual chat rooms for live discussion and meetings, while GoToMeeting allows users to schedule webinars, online workshops, and conferences with users around the world.

Digital Marketing and Social Sharing Apps

For businesses in niches of all kinds, online marketing through social networks can build awareness and attract new customers. Content creation, social media sharing, and search engine optimization plugins can help boost a company’s online presence and save time and resources. With robust features for promoting and sharing content on social media accounts and publishing sites like Medium, social media management plugins and apps such as Hootsuite and Buffer allow users to schedule content for posting to a variety of social media accounts, along with social media management tools to track engagement and activity. Both platforms offer a free basic version or free trial, with additional tiered plans for more features and business-related services.

Analytics tools can also boost the success of digital marketing, and Google’s suite of analytics and keyword planners provide tools for optimizing your website content and metadata for search rankings, and for tracking user engagement and the performance of different types of shared content. Both are available for free from Google.

Yoast is one of the most famous SEO tools that can help ensure web content such as blog posts or pages are optimized for search engine results. The basic version can be added to WordPress websites as a free plugin, and premium versions with additional features are available from the developer.

Document Sharing and Collaboration Tools

Whether a group is working on a publication or two people want to discuss a memo, sharing documents quickly and easily with all relevant parties is essential for smooth collaboration and communication. With online apps that can be accessed from any device, it’s possible to collaborate and keep projects on track in real time, with no need for downloading, printing, or emailing.

Google Drive/Google Docs is accessible from anywhere, offering options for storing documents in the cloud and allowing for editing and sharing right on the page. Google Docs can also be used as an online writing tool for creating new documents, and cloud storage make it easy to keep and share them. Another efficient and popular cloud-based document sharing tool, Dropbox is available in both free and paid formats, depending on the amount of storage needed, and links to the documents stored there can be shared with anyone.

With cloud-based functionality and free versions and trials, online tools for small business owners can save time, resources, and money. The top online marketing tools for small businesses are scalable, versatile, and easy to use – and no matter what the task might be, there’s always an app to help

Is WordPress Only for Blogs?

WordPress powers over a quarter of the world’s websites, including many, ranked in the web’s top 100. Although this free, open source site builder was originally designed for blogging, WordPress is now the platform of choice, not only for personal and business blogs but also for many other kinds of sites.

With the help of thousands of WordPress themes, plugins, and extensions, users of all skill levels can build in all the functions they need to create online stores, portfolios, membership sites, professional pages, and more. Versatile, flexible, and endlessly customizable, WordPress isn’t just for blogging anymore.

WordPress Makes Publishing Possible

WordPress was developed back in 2003 as a tool intended for bloggers – a way to make online publishing accessible to everyone, according to its founders Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little. That’s why WordPress remains free, an open source software platform that can be modified and shared by anyone in the worldwide WordPress community.

In the years that followed, WordPress was welcomed not only by bloggers looking for flexibility and control in a full-featured content management system, but also by entrepreneurs, creatives, and professionals in fields of all kinds who found that the basic WordPress platform could be adapted to meet the needs of many different types of sites. That’s because the three core WordPress elements – source code, themes, and plugins – can be modified, mixed, and matched to create unique, highly customized websites, even by users with no experience in website development.

WordPress Has Tools for Blogging – and Beyond

Many site owners do use WordPress for blog posts, and the origins of WordPress as a blogging tool is clear in its content editor, which is oriented toward creating text. With a clean, minimal text box that comes in both visual and HTML formats to meet the needs of both new users and experienced developers, the content editor is the key to fleshing out the basic WordPress structure with a full complement of pages, blog posts, and other elements. The basic WordPress content editor reflects its origins as a blogging tool with its array of text formatting tools, but it also offers options for adding images and embedding the video.

The content editor can be extended with plugins that add a variety of other content management tools for further customization options like visual elements through slideshows and galleries. And as WordPress has evolved toward a wider functionality, tools, such as the plugin Elementor and the new block-based editor Gutenberg, allows users to take a more visual approach to create content overall.

The WordPress Code Provides the Structure

The basic WordPress “package” is always free, and it can be downloaded from WordPress.org and installed on any web host. It consists of a set of HTML files that define the core functions of a WordPress site, and that includes the content editor – the essential tool for creating a site’s posts and pages.

In all its forms, though, WordPress remains an open source software, which means that individual WordPress users are free to modify it as needed for their own sites or to share those modifications with others. Experienced web developers can work directly with the source code to add features or alter the appearance of the site through different customization options, and new users can use preset customization features available with WordPress themes and plugins to get the look and feel they want.

WordPress Themes Customize the Look

The WordPress source code establishes the structure and essential functionality of your site, but its appearance is defined by its chosen theme – and there are thousands of WordPress free and premium themes to choose from. Many are available from the official WordPress theme directory, but more can be purchased – or downloaded for free – from WordPress developers around the globe.

WordPress themes allow users to expand the functionality of a site in many different directions, with themes designed for blogging, e-commerce, creative portfolios, and more. New users can customize a theme’s presets through settings on the site’s admin dashboard, while more experienced developers can make changes directly to its style sheets and scripts.

Plugins and Extensions Add More Functions

Plugins are the third essential element of the WordPress blogging platform, and they can be installed in any WordPress site to add niche-specific functions that turn a basic WordPress install into an online store, photo gallery, landing page, or any other kind of business or professional site.

Plugins allow WordPress users to add contact forms, collect money, create social networks, display their social media, and build online magazines. For example, e-commerce plugins like WooCommerce can add a complete online shop to your WordPress site. Gallery plugins allow photographers, artists, and other creatives to showcase their work. Additionally, a variety of business-oriented plugins add functions such as statistics, database management, and other functions for small and large companies.

Plugins can be installed directly into your WordPress theme from the official Plugin Directory, or they can be purchased separately from developers and asset marketplaces, and then uploaded to your WordPress install. Plugins can be customized through their setting options, and premium plugins typically offer user support, tutorials, and other features.

Many plugins also come with the option of extensions: add-ons that provide even more functions on top of the basic ones. Plugins combined with extensions allow users to customize sites even more, so that it is possible to create virtually any kind of site, for any purpose, from a basic WordPress install. As the digital world evolves, new plugins are constantly being developed to add even more options for customizing WordPress sites.
WordPress may have started as a blogging platform to make the tools of online publishing available to anyone, not just experienced website developers, but thanks to its flexibility it has become much more than that. Today’s WordPress users range from newcomers to denizens of the blogosphere, to multinational corporations with complex websites that don’t even include a blog. All of these unique sites are based on the WordPress source code. With the core code files combined with themes and plugins that add the specialized functions you need, your WordPress website can be anything you want it to be – even a blog.

What is Dedicated Hosting?

For first-time site builders and owners of small websites, shared hosting can fill the bill for an affordable price, but that option may not be able to meet the needs of larger, more complex sites and those with high traffic volume. For those users, dedicated hosting offers a scalable, highly customizable alternative that bypasses the limitations and risks of shared hosting in favor of sole occupancy on a server reserved exclusively for a single website.

How Does Dedicated Hosting Work?

In all web hosting models, account holders’ sites are hosted and maintained on the servers of a remote provider that is also responsible for essential maintenance and some site management, depending on the type of hosting plan. To keep costs low, shared hosting providers put many accounts on the same server, where they draw from the server’s shared resources.

In this environment, any site can be affected by the behavior of its neighbors on the server. A surge in traffic on one site can cause others to run slowly or experience interruptions in service and the basic security measures put in place by the provider may not be able to stop the malicious activity that infects sites through shared technology. And, since shared hosting is designed for smaller sites with low traffic, when a site’s monthly traffic volume exceeds a cap set by the provider, the account can be terminated.

Dedicated hosting avoids those issues by providing a more flexible, efficient, and safe alternative for growing sites with an ever-increasing volume of traffic, as well as the established sites of large companies. In this hosting model, a provider makes an entire server and all its resources available to a single client, with varying levels of support and maintenance available depending on the provider’s hosting plans.

Although dedicated web hosting can cost considerably more than basic shared hosting, this kind of hosting environment offers far more flexibility, privacy and user control than other kinds of web hosting solutions. The benefits of dedicated web hosting include enhanced performance, better security, complete customer control, and a spectrum of support services from the hosting provider. If these are the kind of features you are looking for, get started with dedicated hosting today.

Enhanced Website Performance

In a dedicated hosting environment, all resources such as bandwidth, RAM and CPU output on a user’s contracted server are dedicated to supporting that user’s single site. That ensures maximum uptime with no “competition” from other sites on a shared server so that a site’s performance can’t be affected by shifts in the use of those shared resources. With all resources available at all times, dedicated hosting can also offer enhanced speeds and added stability for businesses whose computing needs involve sensitive financial transactions or the handling of personal information.

Superior Security for Unique Needs

Dedicated website hosting avoids many of the security issues that worry users of shared hosting services. Depending on the hosting plan, dedicated hosting users may be able to install security measures designed to meet their specific needs alongside – or in place of – those that are provided by the host. Because sites on dedicated servers don’t share space with others, they face no risk of becoming “infected” through shared technology by malware or malicious activity directed at a neighboring site on a shared server.

Each server used for hosting has its own IP address and, in a shared hosting environment, that IP address is also shared by all the sites, both legitimate and questionable, that are using that server. Because no other sites share a server in a dedicated hosting situation, each site has a unique IP address, which eliminates confusion and adds additional layers of security that can be essential for processing financial and medical transactions.

Flexibility for Customization

Dedicated hosting makes it possible for users to have virtually complete control over all aspects of their sites – or leave some or all of its management in the hands of the hosting provider. With managed hosting plans, the host handles ongoing site management along with maintaining the server itself, while self-managed hosting allows site owners complete control of all aspects of their site, with only server maintenance and support provided by the host. In both models, though, users are free to install software packages and security features of their choice to meet the specific needs of the site and the company behind it.

Dedicated hosting also provides scalability for the life of a site. Though a site can outgrow the limited resources of a shared hosting environment fairly quickly, the resources of a dedicated server make it possible to scale a site to just about any size – and to add the additional features and functionality it needs at every stage of development. Dedicated hosting packages allow for scalability, too, with tiered pricing that reflects added RAM, bandwidth, and other features as needed.

Ongoing Technical and Server Support

Dedicated hosting providers typically offer around the clock technical support from a well-trained staff with the expertise to resolve issues of all kinds – an important aspect of this kind of hosting, since users can opt to handle all aspects of site management on their own. Hosts also provide ongoing server support, including maintenance and installing upgrades and other features as needed for optimum performance and uptime. All costs for maintaining the server are assumed by the provider, but users can purchase and install any software they choose.

Who Needs Dedicated Hosting?

Dedicated hosting is not for everyone. This kind of hosting can be expensive, costing hundreds per month, although some providers offer self-managed economy plans for less. For new users with small sites or longtime sites with small amounts of traffic, shared hosting at a lower cost might be the right choice for both short and long-term needs.

For sites that have, or expect to have significant traffic, dedicated hosting provides the needed resources to accommodate site visits numbering into the millions. Dedicated hosting also supports complex sites that require extensive customization, such as those sponsored by large e-commerce businesses and other kinds of enterprises. This kind of hosting may also be right for sites that demand strict security, such as those involving financial transactions or the handling of medical data and patient information.

Shared hosting options may be all a small site needs for the duration of its life, but with exclusive server resources and extensive user support, dedicated hosting provides the flexibility and scalability that can sustain a website’s growth and development now and for the future.

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