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HostGator is one of the most popular website hosting services. I recently had an opportunity to ask the company’s CEO, Adam Farrar, a few questions. I really enjoyed how open he was with his thoughts on a variety of topics, from picking a domain name, to mobile web design.
What are the main services that your company provides to small businesses?
HostGator offers a wide range of web hosting services and products, from shared hosting to VPS and dedicated servers, and because all our services come with 24/7 US based customer support, we make getting on the web easy and affordable.
Do you have any suggestions for a small business trying to find a domain name?
It is getting more and more difficult to find the perfect domain. As a result, businesses need to get creative. We suggest that small business owners stick to the core of their website’s focus, while experimenting with hyphens or alternative spellings. What you don’t want to do is get so clever that your customers will never be able to find you. Right now, the .com suffix is still the primary choice, but with a wave of new TLDs launching soon, you shouldn’t be afraid to branch out – .blog, .photography, and .boutique are just a few TLDs that are coming soon and may present exciting opportunities to find the perfect domain.
How many domain names does a typical small business register and why?
This really depends on the size and type of business. Most hosting plans allow for unlimited domains and most businesses purchase additional TLDs to expand their web presence to secure their brand. Some small businesses also purchase similar domains with misspellings, or generic keyword domains that redirect to their site. When using this strategy, be sure to forward the additional domains to your primary domain, so you are not presenting duplicate content, which can hurt your SEO.
Is website hosting a commodity product? If not, what are the most important difference between providers that a small business should consider?
We think you should always start with what you want your website to do. Is it a space for you to express yourself, conduct business, or sell through an e-commerce solution? Beyond that, we have found that customer service is a huge differentiator between providers. It can be difficult to set up and manage a website, and at some point, you’re going to need help. Our team can help you learn how to build your own website, or even have a designer create it for you. As your business grows, your needs may change — we can help you adapt. Maybe you’re experiencing a large increase in traffic and need to upgrade to a new server to keep your site speed up – our experts can help you make the transition. In other words, we’re like your digital sidekick — we’re with you every step of the way, providing support and guidance as needed.
What type of web hosting services do you provide? (ie shared servers, dedicated machines, cloud based)? How should a small business decide between these services?
HostGator offers shared, reseller, VPS, and dedicated web hosting through a variety of different plans. We recommend starting with shared hosting for small businesses – it’s the most cost efficient option and suitable for most websites that do not receive a large amount of traffic. VPS, the next step up, offers more control and functionality. For larger businesses or heavier trafficked sites, we recommend dedicated hosting, due to its ability to provide full control and dedicated resources to better handle your busy site.
What are the most popular content management systems used by Small Business? Do have a recommendation on which one is best for a business setting up their first website?
WordPress is by far the world’s most popular content management system and we spend a great deal of time helping our customers take advantage of all that WordPress can offer. WordPress can handle just about everything. It’s no longer just a blogging platform but has evolved into a fully functional CMS that allows users to accomplish pretty much anything they can imagine with their site.
What are some common mistakes or oversights made by small businesses when setting up a website that impact their search engine rankings?
What is a good page loading time for a small business site? How much does hosting play into page loading time? Any tips for speeding up loading time?
It’s important that sites stay “lean” and by that I mean, limit the number of plugins used to only the ones you really need, plugins (especially those that aren’t optimized, or load content from remote sites) can add overhead slowing your site down. We always recommend optimizing images/videos and cleaning up code to shorten loading time. The truth is, you need the right content in the right environment. All hosts – and plans, are not created equal. If you have a lot of high quality images or complex code, you may want to upgrade your service. Many customers find a great deal of value in CDN solutions, that typically assist in providing that quick load time we all want.
Do you provide e-mail as part of your hosting package? Do most small businesses take advantage the ability to have a company email address?
Yes and yes — company emails are extremely important to our small business customers. Having an email with your business name in the domain increases confidence of your end customers and validates your business presence both online and off. Email is one of the most essential things for a small business, which is why HostGator allows you to set up as many email addresses as you want, making it easy to add new employees as you grow.
For mobile sites do you recommend responsive or adaptive design? Do you have any tools that help small businesses make their website mobile friendly?
Society today is already transitioning from computers to mobile Internet usage, so responsive and mobile-friendly design will be a necessity, not a “nice to have” in the very near future. Again, WordPress makes responsive design simple to design for all screens, with a quick and easy set up. For adaptive mobile-friendly design, we offer Go-Mobi, which creates a new mobile website as a subdomain of your site, which can be a great solution allowing you to customize what is presented and how.
If you were a small business and wanted to test out online advertising, what would you recommend as a first step?
Online advertising is booming! There are more opportunities than ever for businesses to advertise online and get in front of their target audience. Many of our plans come with Google Adwords credits which allow businesses to test out Google PPC. Social media solutions, like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter can be a great first step because of their amazing targeting capabilities. You can target almost anything, from local customers to people who “like” one of your competitors that would be great candidates for your next trial offer. It’s perfect for small businesses because it is easy to execute your offers and campaigns and allows you to test them on a smaller scale. And don’t forget, Google+ pages and Pinterest for exposure and engagement with your customers. The options are growing at a tremendous rate and most are fairly inexpensive to try. I recommend trying many of them out to find out what really works for your business.