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For more than 15 years WordPress has been in existence, powering blogs, websites, and even eCommerce stores. One could argue that WordPress is a big deal in the web development space. Of all sites with a known content management system, WordPress accounts for 50-60% share of the global CMS market and powers 35% of the internet. Before we take a look at WordPress history, from whence it came to where they are today, I’d like to give a brief overview for the uninitiated.
What is WordPress?
So just what is WordPress? It is a free and open-source Content Management System or CMS. The main features are the template system and plugin architecture. Templates allow developers to build on a predefined structure as opposed to building out a site from scratch. Plugins allow for additional functionality to extend the tools that come “out of the box.”
The founders of WordPress operated on the philosophy that great software should work with minimal setup. They aimed to make the tools easy to use and intuitive so that developers and designers spend their time creating. No matter what tools you use to build sites, there are many reasons why so many web agencies use WordPress.
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WordPress History: Origins
WordPress began as a fork of b2/cafelog in 2003 by Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg. They were looking to create an elegant and well-architected personal publishing system. B2/cafelog was developed in early 2001 by a French programmer named Michel Valdrighi. It was a unique concept that brought about a new way of creating web pages. This new concept, which gave birth to WordPress, was the idea of creating pages dynamically from MySQL database contents. By doing this, they were able to expand the power of the blog.
Even before this, the main reason for the beginnings of WordPress was the fact that developer support for b2/cafelog became non-existent in December of 2002. While Michel Valdrighi worked throughout 2002 on the project, it was abandoned leaving users with concern over the future of the project. One of those concerned users was Matt Mullenweg.
Fast forward to January 2003 where Mullenweg uses the source code of b2/cafelog to create a new platform based on the things that he thought was cool but with added features. He wanted it to have the flexibility of MovableType, the parsing of TextPattern, the hackability of b2, and the ease of setup of Blogger.
The year 2004 saw tremendous strides for the platform and was arguably the turning point for WordPress moving from another blogging platform to the CMS we know today. The first thing they accomplished was obtaining the GNU GPL. What that means is that WordPress is now free and open source. The contributions of developers around the globe help open source projects thrive.
Around the same time, Ryan Boren created the plugin system. This key feature revolutionized WordPress’ capabilities. It allowed them to offer functionality outside of the core elements of WordPress, maintaining the core while users explore other things that work for them. Version 1.2, the first major update to WordPress, included support for plugins.
In 2005, we saw the branding of WordPress with the creation of their logo. Through private email communications, six developers and designers close to the project began the early workings of what would become the “W” we know now. After a process that lasted several months, May 15th was the day they finalized the logo.
By 2008 WordPress launched their Theme Directory. Having a directory for themes allowed users to develop and upload themes for the public to use. Today, there are over 2,500 free themes that are available.
The creation of the WordPress Foundation completed in 2010. Automattic, the company that held WordPress’ trademarks, formed the foundation following the intentions of some of the founding contributors. The idea was to keep them separate from the company, and to prevent abuse and dilution should acquisition of the trademark guardian take place.
REST API Infrastructure
WordPress made considerable strides in 2015. This year saw the merger of the REST API infrastructure into the WordPress core. The integration of REST allowed for less complicated creation of custom API’s.
REST, also known as RESTful API or RESTful web service, is based on REpresentational State Transfer technology. It is an architectural style and approach to communications often used in web services development which uses HTTP requests to GET, PUT, POST and DELETE data.
Today, WordPress powers more than 20% of all self-hosted websites. Its architecture is mostly similar to that starting b2/cafelog foundation: PHP, a server-side scripting language for Web development, and MySQL (pronounced My-sequel or MY S-Q-L) which is an open source relational database management system. It is highly flexible and customizable. Matt Mullenweg was indeed successful in creating the very platform he talked about in his original 2003 blog post.
Other technologies used for WordPress web server environments are Apache with the mod_rewrite module, Nginx, and Varnish cache. These tools are used to help your website run lightning fast.
A recent major addition to the WordPress platform was the introduction of the Gutenberg editor, helping beginners and developers alike to easily create beautiful websites at any scale using the new Gutenberg Block. Gutenberg, coupled with a Managed WordPress host, could help streamline processes for digital agencies, developers, and freelancer with multiple clients and websites.
What Kinds of Sites Can WordPress Host?
WordPress for Personal: With all of the tools available through WordPress, the types of sites you can create are almost endless. Do you have a personal website used for informational purposes? There are plenty of tools WordPress offers to help enhance your site. You can even use it for an electronic resume or portfolio sites.
WordPress for Blogs: Whether it is a public or private blog, there are plenty of themes and plugins to make your blog site pop. WordPress centers around bloggers as a platform for them to create and deliver their content. Blogs are one of the areas that it shines but not the only one.
WordPress for eCommerce: eCommerce is another area that runs on WordPress. No matter the store plugin of choice, WordPress has many options for online stores to set up stunning websites. WooCommerce and WP eCommerce are among the popular platforms with tools developers need to transform a standard site into a fully functional store. We’re proud to say that our Managed WooCommerce Hosting platform has WordPress as its backbone.
WordPress for Business: WordPress is not just for eCommerce businesses, by the way. Companies such as the New York Post, TED, USA Today, CNN, Fortune.com, TIME.com, and TechCrunch all use WordPress for their CMS. It is easy to quickly build and launch your site and grow as your business expands.
WordPress for Non-Profits: Some businesses, such as non-profit organizations and religious groups, don’t exist in a profit-seeking capacity. Having access to free services wherever possible is of critical value to these groups. WordPress has many free and open source solutions that still allow businesses that don’t derive income from profit margins to create professional websites.
WordPress for Directories: Job boards, business directories, and forums can all be created using WordPress. Building community is everything in today’s online climate and having the right online presence can prove valuable to your project. There are several plugins devoted to this task, like the bbPress forum.
WordPress for Many Cultures: You can install WordPress in many languages. Multi-lingual support is a massive factor for developers that may not speak the same language as their clients or the intended site audience. Not only can your administrators have this feature, but you can also create sites in other languages as well.
An Overview of WordPress Basics
A WordPress theme is a collection of templates and stylesheets used to define the appearance and display of a WordPress powered website. Changes to your design will alter how your site looks and what visitors see on the front-end. There are thousands of free WordPress themes available in the WordPress.org Theme Directory and many developers sell premium WordPress themes with additional functionality and support. Many WordPress sites also use custom themes for their website designs.
Themes are what allow you to store your content in WordPress and then take the content and data and display it in the web browser. They let you decide the look of your site and how visitors interact with it. Even within the themes are customizable ways to display your content. Choose from static or responsive layouts and use columns where necessary.
Beyond these basic forms, you can also choose where you want content to be displayed. Use tools to specify how your site looks on different devices or what actions make your content visible. Images and videos are additional elements that can be included anywhere in your theme.
WordPress themes are amazingly efficient. There is more to them than meets the eye than color and layout. Having the right themes enhance engagement with your website’s content.
Out of the box, WordPress comes with a pair of default themes. If they are not up to your standards or do not fit the direction of your site, you can use the theme directory to create an elegant website. You can choose from single page layouts to multiple pages with menus.
Perhaps the most useful aspect of WordPress theming is the freedom to code or not to code. Change the typography and design elements by dragging and dropping or by entering your CSS code. What happens when all of these options still don’t meet your needs? You can create your custom theme, of course. With the click of a button, you can upload your custom coded, entirely original website theme.
As you might understand by now, WordPress is full of features for every creator and developer. Still, there can be an instance where some features you may want don’t come included. Not to worry, there’s a plugin directory as well with thousands of plugins.
As with anything else in WordPress, you can use the plugins of other developers or write your own. By making your plugin, you further extend WordPress and its limitless functionality.
Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress
With all of the tools and tricks to WordPress, there’s no wonder that many creatives and agencies look to a hosting provider to manage their environment. Liquid Web is ready and equipped with a Manage Applications team to take care of the heavy lifting.
With Managed WordPress Hosting, you can focus on your sites and content while we concentrate on the environment.
Liquid Web Managed WordPress hosting features include:
Easy to use dashboard that focuses purely on the management of WordPress sites
Automatic Plugin updates using our Visual comparison tool
Ability to add additional users
Painless, plugin-based migrations make it simple to move websites
Create multiple website templates at once using Stencils to save time
Automatic core updates to WordPress ensures greater security and peace of mind
Automated backups make it simple to restore from earlier points as needed or to download a backup any time they need to
We don’t limit the number of installed plugins, allowing for even greater flexibility
SFTP and SSH access for simple file management
1-click staging provides an easy way to try new themes or plugins without any risk to a live site if something needs tweaking
Liquid Web manages the entire WordPress optimized backend, leaving our customers free to design and develop, rather than focus on administration
Free, automatically installed SSLs on each site
We make getting started easy, with helpful information on common tasks available right in the dashboard
Easy database management utilizing phpMyAdmin
iThemes Sync Pro is a dashboard that helps those managing multiple client sites save time by providing them with the tools and resources they need. Get back to developing and building websites for clients:
White-labeled client reports for WordPress maintenance
Control over what clients see in their WordPress dashboard (wp-admin)
Site uptime, downtime, and performance monitoring
Tracking and viewing Google Analytics data
Mass install or update of commonly used plugins
WordPress Is Changing History
WordPress has changed much over the past 15 years. From the original self-publishing system adopted by Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg from b2/cafelog in 2003, all the way to the number one Content Management System powering 14.7% of the top 100 websites in the world, WordPress continues to grow and thrive. And with the introduction of the new editor in WordPress 5.0, also known as WordPress Gutenberg, WordPress continues to evolve.
Need a WordPress Host?
Managed WordPress hosting from Liquid Web makes it easy to manage multiple customer websites. Stop worrying about plugin updates, backing up websites, or compressing images so you can focus on developing beautiful websites for your customers.
The post The History of WordPress: From B2/Cafelog to Managed WordPress Hosting appeared first on Liquid Web.
Finding customers is a challenge faced by businesses of all sizes.
Sure, there’s the initial buzz and influx of new customers that comes in the early days when your brand is shiny and new, but how do you sustain that interest over time and bring in new faces month after month?
That’s where most companies look to a customer acquisition strategy.
The trouble is, if those efforts are impacting how you maintain your relationships with current customers, you could be leaving money on the table. Obtaining new customers is important, but acquisition is not the only focus. Other activities around customer experience and content should be top-of-mind, too.
And for many, it is. According to Econsultancy’s Digital Trends 2018 report, 38 percent of companies cite content and experience management as a top priority.
What does this tell us? It tells us it’s not enough to sell customers on a product and expect them to continue to make future purchases based on that sale alone. Instead, you have to think about how customer journey will evolve over time, across touchpoints, and through different channels. That’s customer experience.
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But let’s circle back to the value of customer acquisition. We know it’s a critical part of growing any business, but how is it possible that something so important can sometimes be so distracting?
How Much is Getting New Customers Really Costing You?
You know the familiar song and dance. Your team spends time, money, and effort trying to get potential customers to convert … only to be met with little return. Cue the frustration and crescendo of pressure to fulfill this month’s quota around new customers.
There’s no denying that acquiring new customers is a facet of sustainability and growth for any business. However, there can be a major (costly) downside when it comes to finding them.
Customer acquisition can cost up to 7 times more than selling to existing customers — while the probability of selling to a new customer hovers around a mere 5 to 20 percent. Meanwhile, the likelihood of selling to an existing customer is between 60 to 70 percent. That’s quite the jump.
Despite these figures, there’s still hope for cost-effective customer acquisition.
With the recent influx of analytics software and tracking tools, marketers can now monitor every move potential customers make, and gain insight from their various journeys. This insight can then help determine how much is being spent on customer acquisition. Businesses can more accurately calculate ROI, and make data-driven decisions.
By calculating your customer acquisition cost (CAC), you can accurately determine whether your efforts are profitable. This simple calculation can not only help you identify your best and worst efforts, but it can also help you make smarter investments that widen your profit margins.
Calculating Customer Acquisition Costs
Your CAC can be found by dividing all costs spent on acquiring more customers, otherwise known as your marketing expenses, by the number of customers acquired during the time that money was spent.
For example, if your company spent $1,000 on marketing in one year and acquired 500 customers as a result, your CAC is $2.00.
This simple calculation makes it easy to see how your money is being spent and if you’re actually seeing a return as a result. It may seem counterintuitive, but spending the majority of your time trying to attract net-new customers may end up costing you more in the end if you don’t have a pulse on your CAC.
What About Customer Retention?
You can’t let existing customer relationships fall to the wayside. After all, data shows repeat buyers can be some of your biggest spenders over time, making up for around 40 percent of a company’s total revenue. The same report showed that repeat customers often spend an average of 30 percent more per purchase than first-time buyers.
It’s clear that maintaining positive relationships with your existing customers can be one of the best things for your business. Finding net-new customers isn’t always the right way to grow or increase your profits; there is a lot to be said for the customers who know your brand and have made a purchase in the past.
Did you know that U.S. companies lose around $136.8 billion per year due to customer switching? That’s a ton of cash out the door for no good reason.
So how can you prolong those existing customer relationships? The answer is simple: provide unmatched customer service.
Top-notch Customer Service as a Retention Strategy
Customer service is one facet of the overall customer experience, and 89 percent of companies see it as a key factor in driving customer loyalty and retention. It is also significant that more than half of U.S. consumers have decided not to go through with a planned purchase or transaction due to bad customer service.
Our world of constant connectivity demands customer service that can keep up with customer behavior, and the difference between good and bad customer service could cost you.
From live chat to designated customer service agents, there are several ways to take your customer service to the next level. Customers expect their issues and questions to be resolved on their schedules to make it easy for them. Provide a variety of channels where they can contact you.
In addition to making it easy for customers to reach you, it’s important to collect feedback at different touchpoints. One example is after a customer makes a purchase.
Customer feedback provides insight and can help you resolve key customer experience issues.
This email from car2go makes it easy for customers to provide feedback by encouraging them to share their experience and ideas. This feedback creates a dialogue between the brand and customer which can be beneficial for both parties. Giving customers a voice can help you improve your customer experience and shows them their opinions are important and valued.
Ways to Increase Customer Retention
Let’s take a look at a few other ways you can improve your customer retention and nurture your existing customers.
Personalize, Personalize, Personalize
Whether it’s a tailor-made shopping experience in the form of product recommendations, a roundup of articles they are likely interested in, or a series of discounts based on a customer’s shopping history, personalization is powerful and makes every interaction feel tailor-made.
Amazon is an excellent example of the power of personalization at work. Based on data it collects from the time you spend browsing the site, Amazon creates a list of high interest items which encourages more purchases.
Use Referral Programs
The “you win, I win” mentality is one that can work for you twofold when it comes to customer retention. By leveraging referral programs, you can inspire brand advocacy and gain new customers as well.
Incentivizing existing customers to refer friends who may be interested in the brand can build brand loyalty and grow your customer base. Your existing customers have relationships with people you may not otherwise be able to reach.
A/B Test Everything, Then Test It Again
A/B testing can be used for a myriad of purposes. Whether you want to test the layout of an email or the effectiveness of a CTA button, you can learn what works best (and what doesn’t). As you make more money (and have less to spend on re-engaging customers), it’s crucial to understand the entirety of your online shopping experience.
Consider A/B testing the following elements:
Copy on landing pages, product pages, ad copy, etc.
Site format and layout
CTA buttons and other icons like social buttons
Images or photos
Split testing will reveal how existing and potential customers interact with your site as they shop. You can use that information to optimize your pages and create a better overall online experience.
Find a Balance Between Customer Acquisition and Customer Retention
You can’t rely solely on your existing customers for revenue and sales, but they can be your most profitable customers. As for potential customers, you must grow your customer base at a sustainable rate and price.
Finding a way to maintain a balance between acquiring new customers and nurturing your existing ones will help you maximize your profitability and grow your brand loyalty.
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Our Managed WooCommerce Hosting platform reduces query loads by 95% while automatically handling image compression and backups, giving you more time to focus on testing and optimizing your store.
The post The Cost of Customer Acquisition vs. Customer Retention appeared first on Liquid Web.
We’re the employees you would hire if you could. Responsive, helpful, and dedicated in ways automation simply can’t be. We’re your team.
Each month we recognize one of our Most Helpful Humans in Hosting.
Meet Wade Wachs
In your eyes, what’s the difference between Liquid Web and other employers?
I have been in the hosting industry for over 10 years. At Liquid Web, I have enjoyed a lot of room to experiment, which has given me a lot of room to grow and learn. For example, early in my career at Liquid Web, I helped our software development teams experiment with processes and workflows, but during the last few years, I have been working with a team focused on understanding our customers through data and analytics. I love being able to try new things.
The space to experiment in my career with different paths and skills is something I see as unique compared to my peers at other companies.
What draws you to the hosting industry as a career?
The technical challenges of automating a data center are incredibly interesting to me, especially challenges like handling new products, billing, e-commerce and beyond. In addition to solving our own challenges, I love to see what our customers are creating. As I’m working on accounts, I often see domain names that pique my interest and I just have to check them out. I have stumbled across many interesting businesses based on fun domain names.
What is the biggest milestone you’ve accomplished?
In my six years at Liquid Web, I have seen lots of change, having been part of several major shifts in the Software Development organization. The project I am most proud of, however, is the creation of our entire Business Intelligence framework. One of the tasks we focus the framework on is a deep understanding of the reasons customers contact our support. After all, the best customer experience with support is when we fix the systems before a problem arises in the first place.
My role is to gather the data and help us look for trends of issues our customers are experiencing. Some recent examples of work that has come out of this analysis include recognizing a trend with spam issues in cPanel hosted email, as well as improving the SSL and domain purchasing experiences.
Tell us about a truly rewarding experience you’ve had with a customer?
One of my former employers hosted their own servers in our colocation space at one of our data centers. Even though it was a 6-hour round trip, they had to send IT folks down about once a quarter to swap drives, add RAM, move data, and perform maintenance on their servers.
On one of their trips, as I was giving them a tour of our facilities, I was able to teach them about our other products and offerings, including our Managed Hosting offerings. A former IT employee had chosen colocation services without any input from the rest of the company. After his departure, they were very happy to hear about our Managed offerings and decided to migrate to them almost immediately.
We were able to save their entire travel budget for managing their server. They were much happier, and so were we. A win-win.
Work aside, what are some of your hobbies?
I am a scoutmaster in a local Boy Scout troop, and I love to mentor and help boys grow different skillsets. I am also an avid juggler.
In the summer, I love having water balloon fights with my kids. We have anywhere from 5-10 big water balloon fights each summer. Believe me, you don’t want to cross me in a water balloon fight. Ask my family.
What is your favorite TV show?
Gilmore Girls (that’s right, I said it!). While I watch the show for the incredible writing, I do have some opinions on the Team Jesse vs. Team Logan debate. It may be because I work around a bunch of Star Wars nerds, but I consider myself on Team Wookie.
You can follow Wade on LinkedIn.
We hope you enjoyed our series, and stay tuned for the next Most Helpful Human in Hosting profile.
The post Meet a Helpful Human – Wade Wachs appeared first on Liquid Web.
Comments are the backbone of a thriving, engaged blog community and the number one way to begin conversations and build relationships with your readers. But if your blog is popular, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the management of blog comments and fall behind on responding to comments.
We have you covered with some plugins to automate your comment moderation.
9 WordPress Plugins To Make Comment Management Easy
Here are 9 WordPress plugins that can help make blog comment management easier and faster:
1. Commenter Emails
Commenter Emails allows you to export a list of the email addresses for everyone who has left a comment on your blog. You can use this list for personalized follow-up, the creation of a segmented nurture list, or to connect with engaged audience members on social media. Just remember that leaving a comment on your site isn’t an opt-in to your email newsletter!
2. Comments Not Replied To
Comments Not Replied To helps you quickly figure out which comments on your blog have not yet been replied to. It adds a new admin column on the WordPress comments dashboard that shows whether or not a particular comment has been replied to by the author of the post.
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3. Comment Notifier
Comment Notifier gives visitors the option to subscribe to the comments on a blog post so they receive a notification when someone has replied to their comment or other comments have been published. The notification emails can be personalized to display the author’s name, post title, post link, and more.
4. Lazy Load for Comments
Lazy Load for Comments improves the performance of your website and enhances the user experience by delaying the load of the comments section until a visitor begins to scroll down the page.
5. Simple Comment Editing
Simple Comment Editing gives anonymous users the ability to edit and/or delete their comments for five minutes. Advanced customization can be achieved using filters, but if you’re not a developer, the paid Simple Comment Editing Options plugin allows you to customize options without writing code.
CommentLuv visits the site of the comment author while they type their comment and retrieves a link to their last blog posts which they can choose to include at the bottom of their comment when they click submit. You can also invite visitors to register on your site to unlock advanced features like being able to choose from any of their 10 last blog posts when they comment or getting a dofollow link.
7. Jetpack Comments
Jetpack Comments replaces your default WordPress comment form with a new comment system that has integrated social media login options. When someone reads an article on your site and wants to comment, they can now use one of their existing social networking accounts to post a comment.
Replyable by Postmatic is a smart comment reply system. It lets your users subscribe to comments and makes sure only the best ones are sent to subscribers, and if a blog post starts receiving tons of comments, it will combine them into a daily digest or let users subscribe to only direct replies to their comments. Plus, you can reply to any email sent from Replyable to respond as a follow-up comment and authors can moderate comments with simple email commands.
9. Disable Comments
Not every site is a good fit for comments and in some cases, you may want to remove comments completely. Disable Comments turns off comments on all pages, posts, or custom post types with a single option. It gives you total control over where comments are allowed on your site.
Comment Moderation Can Be Easier When Automated
What do you think? Do you use a different plugin to make comment management easier? Have you found a solution you like better? Of course, you can also turn off comments altogether.
Share your opinion on our Facebook or Twitter pages.
Managed WordPress Can Automate More
With automatic updates to the core WordPress and plugins, website stencils, and nightly backups, you can focus on your business while Managed WordPress Hosting from Liquid Web handles the rest.
The post 9 WordPress Plugins To Simplify Blog Comment Management appeared first on Liquid Web.
Does your business rely on cloud services, databases, remote servers, or stored data of some kind? Of course it does. Are you in constant fear of downtime? Of course you are. In our 24-hour, always-on, always connected, someone-is-always-awake market(s), uptime is critical. Simply put, going dark is bad for business… and it is unacceptable. That’s why high availability engineering solutions—like ones offered by Liquid Web, and other modern web hosting companies—are so important. From high availability infrastructure and SQL databases, to redundant replication, transaction logs, and the elimination of single points of failure, a web host is only as good as its high availability (HA) engineering services.
Let’s assume your application will be hosted on a traditional managed infrastructure.
Now, let’s look at why a high availability server is a better solution.
High Availability Summarized
When it comes to HA, the three principles of reliability engineering must be considered:
Reduce or eliminate single points of failure.
In redundant systems, make sure crossover points are reliable.
The system in place must detect and react to failures in real-time.
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When these three principles are reliably implemented, a significant reduction in downtime is achieved. A quality web host will have these principles in mind when designing their services.
Reducing single points of failure in an HA system means redundancy in data—virtual, physical, or a combination of the two. An HA structure will have a primary volume, and at least one physical backup volume. A standard configuration is comprised of two, identical, primary volumes backed up by two, identical, Distributed Replicated Block Device (DR:BD) physical volumes, backed up by two DR:BD virtual volumes. DR:BD volumes perform selective, synchronous data replication, which means that only blocks of changed data (not the entire volume) are rewritten and backed up in real-time.
DR:BD volumes ultimately reduce backup times as they require less computing resources at one time. Each backup tier (two identical primary volumes, two identical DR:BD virtual volumes, etc.) is stored on separate physical servers—some hosts will even back up to a server at a remote location. A configuration with a remote location eliminates another single point of failure by protecting your data from natural disasters and other location-based issues like power outages and network failures.
What To Do With the Database
In an HA system, it’s recommended that your SQL database is stored on a separate, redundant server environment as it improves performance and reduces overhead on your primary server. A dedicated SQL server also works with/toward the principles of reliability engineering as it is specifically designed for high availability, including automated and reliable crossovers and real-time failure detection.
SQL databases also create incremental transaction logs; another guard against single points of failure. Transaction logs record every change in the database at set intervals as frequently as one minute—the SQL database can use the transaction logs as a dataset, writing to the backup servers in your HA configuration.
Liquid Web’s standard configuration for SQL database hosting includes a daily backup of the entire database and 24 rollings hours of hourly transaction logs.
Monitoring for Failover
At the very core of the HA configuration should be a monitoring system that is constantly and consistently keeping an eye on the health of the clusters and automatically performing failovers when necessary. The monitoring subsystem most popular across the industry is Heartbeat. Heartbeat is a Linux-based monitor that can reliably support multiple nodes. Heartbeat can quickly and accurately identify critical failures and automatically transition the system to a redundant server.
As you can see, each part of the HA system works with/toward more than one of the three principles of high availability engineering. The redundant data nodes (physical and virtual) reduce single points of failure and create reliable crossover points.
A dedicated SQL server creates another layer of redundancy, another guard against single points of failure, and has built-in, automated crossover points.
Finally, Heartbeat sits at the center of the entire configuration, monitoring the system in real-time and automating crossovers when necessary.
With a quality HA system in place, downtime is reduced or virtually eliminated, keeping your business on and operational all day, every day.
Check Out Our Custom Solutions
At Liquid Web, we know one size doesn’t fit all. We can help you design a high availability server hosting solution for websites, applications, and anything in between.
The post What are the Basics of High Availability Engineering? appeared first on Liquid Web.
Did you know that engaged customers represent a 23% share of profitability and relationship growth vs the average customer?
What does that mean? It means that engaged customers go straight to the bottom line.
So how do you increase customer engagement and drive sales? One word: personalization.
In this article, you’ll learn how to take customer data and turn their online shopping into a personalized experience that increases customer engagement and drives sales.
Sound good? Before we get started let’s consider some questions.
What is Customer Data? And Why Should You Care?
Customer data is any information about your customers that highlights how they are using your product or service, as well as how they are (or aren’t) interacting with your brand.
Customer data goes by a few names, including:
customer lifecycle data
digital marketing data
Whatever you call them, these insights are critical (and so is keeping customer data safe).
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Knowing what products a customer viewed on your eCommerce store, what landing pages they hit, any sales calls they had or any other interactions with your site are key to understanding your market.
What Kind Of Data Can I Collect?
You can collect all sorts of user data from your WooCommerce store, including:
number of orders made
first & last order date
lifetime customer value
billing country, state, and city
product reviews submitted
How to Collect Customer Data
There are three distinct ways you can go about collecting this information:
directly asking customers
indirectly tracking customers
using other sources of customer data to your own
Ideally, use a mixture of all three.
So you’ve got all this data. Now what? It’s time to understand customer engagement.
Customer Engagement 101
Customer engagement is the connection between consumers and your company or brand through your channels. It can come in the form of reactions, interactions, or overall customer experience. Customer engagement is all about compelling your customers to interact with your brand.
Done well, it is a strong and stable growth strategy. A solid customer engagement strategy not only encourages growth, but it also boosts brand loyalty.
There are different types of engagement including contextual, convenience, emotional, social, and post-purchase engagement.
Focusing on customer engagement flips around the buyer-seller business model. You as a company are no longer looking to extract revenue from your customers but instead, create value for them.
Customer engagement done correctly leads to stellar customer experiences, helps ease customer support, and can even lead to compelling original content.
Want to build a loyal customer following? Check out these customer engagement strategies:
prioritize customer experience
have a brand voice familiar to your audience
engage on social media
create useful content people want to read
listen and respond to feedback
But what if you want to engage by speaking more directly to a customer’s individual needs?
Enter Email Personalization
Email personalization is when you use subscriber data to tailor email communication to them and send subscribers only relevant content. This makes them feel like you are talking directly to them, like a trusted friend.
Personalizing your messaging for customers can help move the needle. In fact, it’s proven to increase open rates by as much as 50%!
Gathering subscriber data and segmenting subscribers into more detailed lists is key. No one wants to be a target for mass marketing.
Further reading: Email examples for your WooCommerce store.
5 Ways to Personalize Your Emails and Drive Sales
Remember all that user data you collected? Your customers’ names, the offers they like, and what they’ve ordered from you in the past? Well, now it’s time to put that data to use and personalize your email campaigns.
1. Your Copy
Use a personalized email subject line and email copy.
Talk to your customers like you are talking to a friend. You’ll get a better response and form a better relationship.
For example, this email from a B2B data provider could be to anyone:
It’s pretty generic and doesn’t really speak to the recipient. This email from Zapier however, directly addresses the customer.
Use of a name — a first name in this case — delivers a friendly tone along with helpful information.
2. Your Imagery
Personalizing the images you show to customers is a great way to increase engagement.
Change the images based on the available data you have. For example, change imagery to reflect locations for customers in different parts of the world.
Or like Booking.com, you can change images based on recent search activity.
3. Your Offers
Once you have enough data, you can create customer profiles — then show customers offers that are more likely to ensure engagement.
If you run a clothing store, it wouldn’t make sense to promote offers on women’s belts to customers who have only ever bought men’s slacks. Or, if you’re a travel site, promote family vacation packages to customers who only buy single tickets. It doesn’t have to be as clear cut as these examples. Prioritize the most relevant promotions.
The education company General Assembly provides classes on design, product management, and marketing. They highlight specific topics when promoting their free resources.
Your offer is only as good as the people you are showing it to.
4. Your Product Recommendations
Product recommendations offer a great opportunity to get customers to make additional purchases. You might as well increase the odds by using customer data to recommend products they’ll actually want.
You can get this information from past purchases, personal preferences, or if you have a wish lists feature.
Amazon injects items from customer wish lists into emails.
With the help of an email marketing provider like Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor, you can integrate customer data into your campaigns.
Using this data creates more relevant and therefore, higher-converting email campaigns. Plus, it builds up the trust necessary for a long-term relationship that increases a customer’s lifetime value.
5. Cart Abandonment Emails
Did you know that abandoned carts account for a massive $4 trillion of lost revenue each year?
You (and your website) have already done the hard work. You brought a customer to your site, directed them to a product, they’ve made a selection, and added it to the cart. Then for whatever reason, they’ve decided not to complete their order.
You don’t want to be leaving revenue like that on the table, so give them a nudge with a cart abandonment email to recapture their purchase.
It doesn’t have to be complex. Just send a gentle reminder.
You increase the likelihood of cart abandonment emails when you personalize these reminders based on customer data. Using their name is a good place to start. You could also offer a discount or related products to further entice them.
Making Your Data Go Further
So you’ve collected all this customer data, analyzed it, and personalized your email campaigns. Now what?
Pick some eCommerce metrics to work toward. You’ll want to track and measure your progress so you can improve.
Don’t track too many goals. Too much tracking can lead to analysis paralysis — you spend too much time looking at numbers and not enough time implementing. It’s a balancing act.
Think of the questions you want to answer, and then work backward.
Figuring out answers to these questions will help your business grow and help boost your customer engagement.
How Collecting Customer Data Adds Up to Success
Gathering customer data is a never-ending task, but collecting it, storing it, and analyzing it can be the key to turning your business into a long term and profitable business.
It’s a simple equation:
Customer Data + Customer Engagement = Sales
Get an All-in-One Service Instead
Instead of buying or compiling individual tools for building customer engagement, save time and money by investing in Managed WooCommerce Hosting, which comes with analytics and cart abandonment solutions out-of-the-box.
The post How Do I Use Customer Data to Increase Customer Engagement? appeared first on Liquid Web.
With all of the cloud technologies available on the market these days, there are a lot of options and services available to you. Depending on your business needs, cloud hosting can greatly benefit your organization by offering you a virtual infrastructure that is accessible anywhere and at any time. Some of the cloud hosting options available with Liquid Web include Cloud VPS Hosting and Private VPS Parent Hosting which offer similar technologies but serve different purposes.
So, which product is right for your business, a Private VPS Parent or Cloud VPS Hosting? Let’s take a look at each one and determine the best fit for your business.
What Is a Cloud VPS?
A Cloud VPS is a virtual system comprised of emulated hardware that runs inside of a physical machine, called its parent server. Our cloud platform consists of a large volume of these parent servers, built with superior hardware specifications.
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A single parent server can house many independent child instances which run isolated from one another in their own server environments. These child instances are known as Cloud Virtual Private Servers, or Cloud VPS for short.
Figure 1 illustrates how you can imagine Cloud VPS with each parent server divided up many different ways.
What Are Some Examples of How I Can Use a Cloud VPS?
Consider a parent server with 64 processing cores. We can run 64 single core child instances, or two 32 core child instances, or any other combination which add up to 64 total cores. This same resource division applies to both memory and disk space as well.
Our Cloud VPS is great for hosting many system types such as web servers, email, databases, Linux, Windows, cPanel, Plesk, and other servers.
Also, Cloud VPS are scalable systems. Their on-demand modification allows for adding or subtracting resources as necessary. This makes certain you only pay for the resources you need. Scalability allows growth and eliminates the need for complicated migrations when upgrading. We handle all the hardware component aspects since the Cloud VPS parent servers are part of our own core infrastructure. This allows you to focus on your applications and running your business.
Sounds great, huh? So what is the difference between a Cloud VPS as a Private VPS Parent?
What Is a Private VPS Parent?
The Private VPS Parent is a robust, flexible and isolated virtual solution. Instead of Cloud VPS instances running on a parent server within our public cloud platform, the Private VPS Parent gives you sole control over the parent server and its resources.
We build these parent servers to order based on your capacity needs. Once built, they get all the same scalability and features as any of our typical Cloud VPS systems.
However, with a Private VPS Parent, we give you the keys to the kingdom.
You can create as many Private Cloud VPS instances as desired for your business.
This is limited only by the hardware available on the Private VPS Parent server. You won’t be charged by the instance, only for the Private VPS Parent itself.
You can even run both Linux and Windows instances together at the same time on the same Private VPS Parent, which is extremely flexible.
Another key aspect that you get with a Private VPS Parent is privacy. These parent servers only have a minimal connection to the rest of our public Cloud platform. The connection is enough to enable access to the backup and imaging features within the Liquid Web Manage Interface.
However, you get to operate under isolation which means you do not share network bandwidth with other tenants as you would on a traditional Cloud VPS. This isolation reduces the frequency of neighboring DDoS attacks from impacting your systems.
You’re not limited to a single Private VPS Parent either. Adding extra parents expands your capabilities and resources, allowing you to shuffle your instances between your Private VPS Parent servers at your leisure. You can adjust resource allocation to make room for new instances as needed. You can also move any instances over to our public cloud platform right from your Manage interface. This allows for easy conversion of instances into traditional public Cloud VPS when desired.
How Can I Use a Private VPS Parent?
There are many ways to leverage our Private VPS Parents. Each instance uses our cloud technology in its own way. The granular control over your virtual infrastructure has limitless possibilities.
Here are some real-world examples to help paint the picture:
Private Virtual Office
Cloud VPS Reseller
Web Developer/Design Firm
Example 1: Private Virtual Office
A virtual office scenario may look something like this:
Web server (WHMCS): internal billing server
Web server: internal utilities server
Database server: stores customer and employee data
File server (Windows): internal document storage and sharing
Windows Server 1: virtual work-station 1
Windows Server 2: virtual work-station 2
Secured with Cloud Firewall and VPN
This scenario helps secure your infrastructure in one virtual location. Users can remotely access their desktop clients on the workstation servers. This enables our free Cloud Firewall to protect the servers from any other outside traffic. In addition, users can connect to the free Cloud VPN to establish secure connections to the virtual private network.
Example 2: Cloud VPS Reseller
Another common use case for our Private VPS Parent is for our Reseller Partners. With the Private VPS Parent, you can slice off sections of your hardware for any number of clients. These individual instances function exactly like our Cloud VPS servers, and provide a superior infrastructure to build a client base with that will scale with you. If you exceed the parent resources you can add another parent.
In order to make this process simple for our partners, we even have a WHMCS Plugin that works with our Cloud API to make this process easier and automated.
Example 3: Web Development/Design Firm
Another partner that can take full advantage of the versatility offered by the Private VPS Parent is a web design firm. In this example, we use a single Private VPS Parent. This doubles as both a company hosting setup and a development lab.
The servers involved in this type of setup may look like this:
Web Server (cPanel): Company Site
Database Server: Company Database
Web Server (WHMCS): Billing Server
Web Server (Development 1)
Web Server (Development 2)
Web Server (Development 3)
In this example, we carve up the Private VPS Parent to handle a company’s hosting needs. We then create small instances for each client’s development work. Once the site meets the clients’ standards, the client has a few options.
Accept delivery of the completed source code.
Opt-in for a resold private instance hosted by the firm.
Opt-in to buy the instance where it’s exported to the public Cloud and ownership turned over to their own account with LiquidWeb.
Find Your Optimal Cloud Solution
Now that you understand the differences between our Private VPS Parent or our Cloud VPS Hosting, you can select the product that best suits your cloud hosting needs. If you are just getting started, VPS may be the way to go, but if you need more control and the ability to scale to more instances on the fly as Reseller or web developer, the Private VPS Parent is for you.
The post What is the Difference Between the Private VPS Parent and Cloud VPS Hosting? appeared first on Liquid Web.
Business owners across the globe are thinking about new eCommerce marketing strategies to implement, now that the holidays are over. Christmas filled the pockets of eCommerce businesses and now in January and February, people’s overall intention to spend money has decreased. Everybody is looking to keep new budgets and stay healthy as part of their New Year’s Resolutions and are looking to save more money in 2019.
Which brings up an important question for eCommerce businesses: which eCommerce marketing strategies should you employ to keep sales high after the holidays are over?
In this article, you’ll learn three different approaches that might spark some ideas for your marketing. I’ll show you not just the theory but will also provide instructions you can implement on your shop right away.
Focus on products that accompany your holiday bestsellers
Retarget your new audience pool from the holidays
Use spending thresholds to unlock selected discounts
These strategies have been tested over and over again. I talked to eCommerce experts in the field to get their opinions and also cite one of the world’s best marketers. And the best thing is that these strategies aren’t specific to the holidays revolving around Christmas. They can be used for any big holiday season.
So let’s dive in!
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eCommerce Marketing Strategy 1: Focus on Products That Accompany Your Holiday Bestsellers
This strategy comes from Robert Cialdini, author of “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”. It’s arguably one of the most impactful books on marketing, being translated into 30 languages and has sold more than three million copies since its release in 1984. In the book, Cialdini shares his experiences of working in various markets to analyze sales strategies of market professionals.
Finding Yourself In a Shop After The Holidays
In one story, he finds himself in a toy shop, spending money on a toy he promised to give his kids to Christmas. He noticed that he also was in that same shop last year at the same time of the year, and started to think about why that was. During a conversation with a neighbor that worked in the retail space, he came to an interesting conclusion. Cialdini learned about a strategy retailers use which should also become one of your staple eCommerce marketing strategies.
Big retailers sometimes promote toys for the holidays which are then short on supply during the holidays, so that customers have to buy different toys. They short the supply on purpose because they’re aware of a strong psychological principle being at work during a holiday season.
Think about how the toy market works over holidays such as Christmas. TV ads and advertising on social media bombards us with the latest toys and makes children want them. Kids then beg their parents to buy them this one special toy they saw on TV, and parents often agree to gift this toy as a Christmas present. Nobody wants to disappoint their children during Christmas, right?
So, when Christmas season arrives, parents go shopping and start hunting for that special toy they promised to their children. If that toy is short on supply, however, they will end up not finding it in the shops. The retailers force them to shop for a different toy so that their children don’t get overly disappointed. Parents have to find a way to still make their children happy, even though they won’t get the toy they originally desired.
Now imagine what happens if their children see an ad for that special toy after Christmas is over. They’ll immediately remember how badly they wanted this toy and that their parents promised to buy it for Christmas. And it’s that promise that retailers are exploiting in this scenario. You don’t want to set an example that promises can easily be broken, do you?
Furthermore, it’s difficult for humans to not follow up on statements made. Think about the last time you stated a bold opinion in the public (among family or friends, for example). Would changing that opinion and publicly announcing you were wrong come easily to you? For most, it wouldn’t.
Hence, once their children start begging for that special toy again, parents will feel the urge to get it for their children. And retailers win twice at this point. Firstly, parents bought different gifts than planned before Christmas (which might even be more expensive, to make up for not getting the gift their children wanted) and secondly, parents are shopping for gifts again after the holidays.
Remember, even though Cialdini uses Christmas in this example, you can use this technique in any big holiday season. It works as well for Easter, Halloween or any other bigger season where children expect to receive gifts.
Implementation Tip: Leverage the Reports Your Online Shop Provides
Have a good look at the sales statistics of your shop and hunt for the three best-selling products during this holiday season. Then discover which products may accompany those bestsellers nicely and start new promotion campaigns for those products.
In this article, BigCommerce outlines 29 metrics eCommerce businesses can utilize to grow their business. Even though BigCommerce is a different platform than WordPress, it sometimes is worth looking into different niches to learn.
eCommerce Marketing Strategy 2: Retarget Your New Audience Pool
Retargeting your website visitors and social media followers is nothing new, but don’t skip over this marketing strategy just yet. When running retargeting campaigns after the holidays, your eCommerce marketing strategies need a certain angle.
During the holiday seasons, everyone and their brother are shopping for gifts online. The volume in search terms related to gift shopping increases heavily and you’ll likely see an increase in traffic on your website as well as more interactions with your social profiles. In other words, your audience grows quite a bit over the holidays. And that should become one of your assets for the time after the holidays.
My friend William Harris, eCommerce Advertising Expert at Elumynt.com says:
“When you’re retargeting people after the holidays, you have to remember what’s going on in their minds. Many people just spent more than they usually spend in a month and they need to pay off their credit card. Then they jump right into New Year’s Resolutions which often means, getting healthy – good news if you’re selling workout gear, but a bit harder if you sell something else.
By focusing on what’s going on in the minds of your ideal customer, you can come up with the perfect way to reach them. People still love to buy things – it makes them feel good. So if you retarget them with a “clearing out 2018 mega sale”, there’s a good chance you will get their attention.
Other things that work well are talking about how this will “save” them money, how this is a “healthy” decision or something else that shows how this will help them with their goals.”
Ad Spend Competition After The Holidays End
To put this statement into perspective, also think about how your competition behaves after the holidays are over. Before the holidays, they start to increase their ad budgets which results in sometimes massive price increases in your cost per customer acquisition and cost per conversion. But what do most of your competitors do once the holidays are gone? They’ll cut back on their ad spend again – and likely so will you.
Prices on advertising platforms normalize again and give you a good opportunity to start a fresh campaign to retarget your grown audience. We don’t pay the extra fee caused by many players entering the ad market anymore and use our regular calculations to plan our budgets.
With the increased audience size you gathered over the holidays, it’s the best time to run specific retargeting offers that build on the stories you told in your holiday marketing. Continue raising your brand awareness with people who didn’t buy yet, so that you have a bigger pool of people to retarget during the next holiday phase.
Again, don’t let William’s statement about the New Years Resolution trick you into thinking that this only works after Christmas is over. It’s a tradition that we spend money during special seasons. And it’s as big of a tradition to become painfully aware of our spending once that season is over.
If you can speak to this feeling in your retargeting campaign, you’ll be golden.
Implementation Tip: Implement Tracking Pixels Properly Using Google Tag Manager
While countless tracking plugins exist for WordPress, my preferred way to integrate tracking scripts into a WordPress site is Google Tag Manager. It’s much cleaner to install a single code snippet into your page, rather than having a plugin for Google Analytics, one for the Facebook Pixel and another one for Adwords conversion tracking.
With Google Tag Manager, you simply add a code snippet to the <head> of your website and another one right after the <body> tag opened. You can either add the Google Tag Manager snippets directly to your child theme in the “header.php” file or via the “functions.php” file, or you can use a plugin like Tracking Code Manager to do it for you.
With Google Tag Manager, you have granular control on where your pixels will fire, what events you are tracking in your analytics reports, and how those events are labeled. By using the Google Tag Manager and keeping your WordPress plugins to a minimum, you’ll also less likely slow down your WooCommerce shop, and speed is key to a high converting store.
It can be tricky to set up though, so you might want to have a technical partner who can help you implement the tracking. In my experience, most shops have room for improvement when it comes to conversion tracking and event-based tracking. But I have yet to find a shop that didn’t benefit from implementing better tracking, as you’ll be able to make much more informed decisions in your day-to-day business.
eCommerce Marketing Strategy 3: Use Spending Thresholds to Unlock Selected Discounts
The final tip in this series of eCommerce marketing strategies after the holidays is a simple yet powerful one. It leverages a psychological principle that we can see being used by old school print catalogs for ages: the free gift that unlocks after a certain cart value.
Chances are that you are already tracking your average order value in your shop or a dedicated spreadsheet. The formula is fairly straightforward.
Average order value (AOV) = total store revenue / total store orders
AOV is one of the most important metrics for any eCommerce marketing strategy because it gives a good starting point in calculating related numbers such as cost per acquisition, average revenue per customer, etc. And there’s another way we can leverage AOV in our eCommerce marketing strategies toolkit: to use it as a threshold for unlocking discounts or free gifts!
Most often on the back of print catalogs, you’ll see an order form that already has a product entered with a small note. That note usually says you’ll receive the product for free if your order is above a certain threshold. Why not implement that exact strategy in your eCommerce shop?
By knowing your AOV and your best-selling products, it should be possible for you to find a bestselling item that’s below your AOV and could serve as a free gift. Or you can add a discount automatically, once your customer’s cart value reaches a certain amount.
You can implement this strategy in countless ways, but the end result should always be the same: to reward your customer for spending more than your current AOV. Testing needs to show where you want to set the threshold and how big the reward needs to be, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula here. But if you have the guts to implement automatic discounts or free gifts, you’ll almost certainly see a higher AOV over time.
Order bumps work completely independent from holiday seasons. While they can be specifically powerful when used in conjunction with your holiday marketing campaigns, they can also add quite a bit of revenue throughout the entire year.
Implementation Tip: Do Your Research on Plugins That Can Add Discounts or Free Gifts
If you’re running a WooCommerce shop, you’re in a lucky position. You’ll find many so-called “order bump” plugins that let you add discounts or upsell products in the checkout process. I’m not going to recommend any particular plugin here on purpose though, as plugins that might be good today might not be optimal choices three months from now.
Here are some things you need to have in mind when researching these plugins:
Ensure that the plugin does not cause any friction in the order process. Customers should be able to add products with a single click and discounts should be applied automatically to their carts.
Everything needs to happen on the cart or any pre-checkout page. We’re not talking about funnels here that offer upsells/downsells after an order has been done. You want to incentivize adding more products to the cart before checking out.
The order bump needs to automatically load order data like shipping address, shipping method, payment gateway, etc. so that the customer does not have to enter data twice.
Ready for an eCommerce Hosting Solution?
As you start thinking about implementing these eCommerce marketing strategies, you want to ensure your shop is running at peak performance. Check out Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting if you want to take customer service, stability, and performance to the next level.
The post What Are 3 eCommerce Marketing Strategies To Leverage After The Holiday Season? appeared first on Liquid Web.
A data breach happens when an unauthorized party gains access to sensitive or private data. Some examples of sensitive data include passwords, financial records, database information or HIPAA protected documents.
These breaches can cost companies (and users) time and money, and can affect public relations. While it is important to mitigate the effects of a data breach after it occurs, this article will provide you with information to help prevent these breaches from ever occurring in the first place.
Businesses are often targeted for these attacks because they have swaths of private information and credentials located on one network or a handful of servers. Because of this, it is important that your servers are up to date with the latest OS and security patches, as well as having strong antivirus and security precautions in place.
Today, we are going to cover the following areas on data breaches:
The top five reasons data breaches occur
Eight ways you can secure your server and prevent a data breach
The three things you need to immediately perform if a data breach occurs
Ways that Liquid Web can help prevent data breaches in the first place
Let’s get started!
How Do Data Breaches Occur?
Data breaches can happen via a wide range of attack vectors. From weak passwords to out of date software, there are many ways that attacks can occur. Each of these vectors needs to be secured properly.
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Here are the five most common causes:
Weak passwords are one of the primary ways that servers and data get compromised. If your server is connected to the internet, it is very likely under attack. Hackers use automated programs to search the internet for unprotected servers; these programs brute force passwords by trying thousands of password combinations to attempt to gain access to your server.
These attacks can occur against RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol), Web Applications, Mail Servers, SQL services, and more. Having common or weak passwords is an easy way for attackers to breach your systems.
Out-of-Date Operating Systems and Software
Out-of-date operating systems and software are one of the most abused vectors for hackers to breach your servers. Anytime a major operating system or software vendor becomes aware of an exploit in their systems, they create and distribute updates and patches to correct the issue and prevent it from being further abused by attackers.
By not having updated systems and software, your servers become prime targets for targeted and automated attacks from hackers. It is important to keep your systems up-to-date to fix major security holes that hackers can, and will, exploit.
An Exploitable Website
An exploitable website can also be targeted by attackers to breach your data security. An improperly coded web application or a website using out-of-date software packages can be compromised by automated attacks carried out by hackers. A common method for infiltrating secured data is SQL injection. If your website interacts with an SQL database, there are potential security vulnerabilities which could allow attackers to send specific requests to a public facing form, which may reveal sensitive information normally secured in your database.
Tactics like this make it imperative that you secure and audit your existing and future code for your web applications.
Phishing and Malware
Phishing and malware are often causes of internal security breaches and data loss. Users at your network may be targeted by hackers to divulge personal information or passwords by spear phishing. Spear phishing is an attack targeted at select individuals or departments, where hackers send personalized emails or messages to users pretending to be a legitimate notification or login page, with the intention of tricking users to type in their password or account details.
An alternative form of phishing is to convince a user to open an executable file or an infected Word document that gives hackers a direct backdoor into the system it was run on and lateral networks. It is important to train your employees and clients to be aware of such targeted attacks and to be wary of messages that may even appear legitimate.
Breaches of Physical Security
Breaches of physical security are one of the least expected sources of data breaches but can have the most devastating consequences. Data breaches can occur through physical security breaches such as a user finding and inserting a rogue USB device into their computer, a determined attacker falsifying their identity at your offices, or unsecured workstations left unattended. Even if your servers are completely secured, if a bad actor gains access to an employees workstation or network, they may still be able to traverse your network and gain access to servers through this normally authenticated user.
While breaches of physical security may seem very rare or movie-like, they do happen and can cause considerable damage. Make sure your physical locations are secured and your employees or users are trained in identifying suspicious persons or hardware. For example, employees should not be holding locked doors open for anyone and every employee or visitor needs identifiable information for logins and doors.
Securing Your Server and Preventing a Data Breach
Here are a few ways to secure your server from a data breach.
Setup a Firewall with Proper Rules
The first step to securing your server is to implement a strong firewall, whether it be hardware, software, or both. If you are with Liquid Web, we can help set up a hardware and software firewall for your servers to protect your connections with strong default settings. Your firewall settings should be strong enough to prevent most unwanted access.
Block All Unnecessary Traffic and Ports
Your firewall should have strict rules that only allow the services you need and the appropriate IP access. For example, if you are not using FTP over port 21, then this port should get blocked for everyone. It is important to know how your server interacts with your applications and public/private clients. By using this information you can secure your data with solid traffic rules and close down unused services from being accessed.
Limit Access to Data
There is no sense in giving access to services to those who do not need access. If only one computer needs to use RDP, then only that IP address should be allowed access. If only your local IP range needs to access a sensitive area of your web application, limit this access to only those that need it. By implementing these changes, you start allowing only needed users and instantly block all other connections. This secures your systems to specific access points and workstations, which immensely increases your data security.
Setup Automatic OS Updates and Patch Out of Date Software
To ensure your operating system is always updated to the latest release, configure automatic updates at the OS level so any new patches are installed on your systems. An out-of-date operating system leaves servers vulnerable to public exploits that were corrected by your OS vendor.
Additionally, be sure to update any additional software you may have running on the server. Whether it is mail services, PHP, WordPress, or any other package, you will want to be sure these stay up-to-date as well. Attackers often exploit vulnerabilities in things like WordPress plugins or out-of-date code libraries to gain access to sensitive data.
Install Anti-Virus Software
Firewalls will help prevent unauthorized access to your servers from outside the network but it is important to install anti-virus software to protect your server within. If something does reach your server, your A/V software can block it internally and automatically. Anti-Virus software also helps protect your server from users accidentally (or purposely) downloading infected files. At Liquid Web we offer ESET File Security and Server Protection Packages for protecting your servers.
Train Employees on Proper Security Measures
Hardware and software protection mean nothing if your employees are not following the correct procedures for handling data and sensitive information. Train your employees to be aware of possible phishing attempts, proper login procedures, and install antivirus software on individual workstations. Employees should be able to detect fraudulent or suspicious emails, attachments, and phone calls. Be sure employees know the proper procedures to authenticate clients and for handling logins between co-workers.
Security starts with users!
Thoroughly Investigate Code
You will want to thoroughly investigate the code your web applications are using, to clear them of possible SQL injections and exploitable forms or URIs. This is not an easy task but it is one of the most important places to secure on your server, as these web applications are usually publicly accessible and crawl-able by visitors and attackers alike.
Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for securing your web applications, as the code will differ site to site. Hire a security consultant to audit your code and find possible exploits so that you can patch them quickly and effectively.
Deploy Off-Site Server Backups
It is important to keep your servers and files backed up to an off-site location. In the event that your data is breached, you will want a clean and uninfected copy of the data to either restore or look for possible attack vectors to clean up on your current server.
If all else fails, you will have regular backups of your data and systems to get you up and running again as quickly as possible. You will want to be sure these backups are not being stored on the same server they are backing up, as it is no use to you if the original server itself gets compromised.
When backups are located off-site, you can be sure the data is safe and unaffected by any breaches.
What Should I Do Once a Data Breach Occurs?
If a data breach has just occurred, speed is of the essence. You need to immediately:
Call a lawyer
Call a security consultant
Immediately deploy your business continuation plan or disaster mitigation strategy
How We Help Prevent Data Breaches
At Liquid Web, there are numerous ways we help protect your servers and data. We strive to implement security measures that protect as much information as possible from malicious attackers. Whether that is secure firewall rules, industry-standard antivirus, or continuous server monitoring, Liquid Web is prepared to help protect you.
For Windows Customers
Malicious Activity Detector (MAD) is an in-house tool developed by Liquid Web to monitor and protect requests to your server. It works by identifying malicious login requests and blocking the IPs that are making these requests. If an IP is attempting to log in many times to your server very quickly with bad credentials, MAD will act fast and block these requests from ever reaching your server.
ESET is Liquid Web’s preferred antivirus solution for your servers. ESET is fully licensed anti-virus software that can identify bad executables and files on your server in real-time.
At $10/month, ESET will actively monitor files on the server, automatically scan for new issues, and stay updated with the current release. We highly recommend ordering ESET for each of your servers to continuously scan and protect your files.
For Linux Customers
ClamAV is our recommended product for antivirus on Linux servers. ClamAV is a free and open-source solution for protecting your server against viruses.
By default, ClamAV only scans emails but this can be configured to scan any part of the server. ClamAV is installed by default on our cPanel managed servers.
Maldet is a popular and free malware scanning tool. It can search and detect malware across your entire server. Maldet can be used to detect, quarantine, and remove viruses and malware for infected servers.
For All Customers
Hardware Firewalls are available for Dedicated and Cloud servers with Liquid Web. Our hardware firewalls are designed to provide the most robust security for your servers by default. They can also be modified to suit your specific needs, allowing or blocking IP addresses and ranges to your server or specific ports.
Off-Site Server Backups are available with Liquid Web. For most customers, Guardian backups will be the preferred method for backing up your server and files. Guardian can backup databases, specific files and folders, or everything!
Basic Server Monitoring is included with Liquid Web hosting packages. Our monitoring service will alert our in-house technicians if a particular port or service goes down on your server. With this information, our technicians further investigate the cause of the downed service right away. This allows us to potentially identify greater threats at the first sign of trouble.
While monitoring itself does not protect the server against data breaches, it allows us to keep an eye on services such as HTTP, FTP, and mail to ensure your servers are working as intended.
Next Steps For Protection Against Data Breaches
Now that you know everything there is to know about data breaches, take the time to audit your servers, software, and applications to ensure you are protecting your data properly. Make sure you are properly protected from disasters with off-site backups, firewalls, server and application protection and more.
The post What is a Data Breach? appeared first on Liquid Web.
Whether you’ve got an eCommerce site, a brochure site, or a thriving blog, if you use images on your website, you’re going to need to also think about image optimization.
7 Image Optimization Tools For Your WordPress Site
Here are seven tools that get the job done:
By default, the free ImageOptim exactly preserves image quality, but if you adjust the settings, it will use more aggressive optimizations to get the biggest results. ImageOptim reduces image file sizes so they take up less disk space and download faster by applying advanced compression that preserves quality, and removes invisible junk like private metadata from digital cameras, embedded thumbnails, comments, and unnecessary color profiles.
2. EWWW Image Optimizer
EWWW Image Optimizer has a suite of WordPress plugins to help speed up your site through faster loading images. The free plugin uses available optimization tools directly on your web server or using the EWWW I.O. API to compress and resize JPG, PNG, and GIF images and PDF files.
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Make your website faster by optimizing your JPEG and PNG images automatically with using the Compress JPEG & PNG Images WordPress plugin. This plugin comes standard with Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting, making it even simpler keep your images optimized.
Imgix transforms, optimizes, and intelligently caches your entire image library using simple and robust URL parameters. With imgix, you first share where your images already live, then you resize, crop, and enhance your images with simple URL parameters while intelligent, automated compression that eliminates unnecessary bytes. Finally, customers see images fast thanks to caching and global CDN. Plus, with a pay as you go plan, you only pay for the images and bandwidth you actually use.
Compressor.io is a free online tool that allows you to reduce the size of your images while maintaining quality so there is almost no difference before and after compression.
Optimus targets a lossless compression of PNG images and a slightly lossy compression of JPEG images of media uploaded to WordPress — while focusing on protecting your data. The Optimus WordPress plugin slims down the original image and all preview images of an uploaded image file and only compresses images that are uploaded to the WordPress media folder after the plugin has been installed.
7. Jetpack Site Accelerator
Keep Optimizing Your WordPress Site
Image optimization isn’t the only way to optimize your WordPress site for speed. You can also try using a lightweight and trustworthy theme, WP Disable to decrease bloat, and GTMetrix reports for speed analysis.
Optimization never ends, and you need to always be on the lookout for the latest tools to keep your site faster than the competition.
Need a Managed WordPress Solution?
The Compress JPEG & PNG Images WordPress plugin has been vetted by our team and comes automatically packaged with your site as part of Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting.
The post What Are The 7 Tools I Need To Optimize Images For My WordPress Site? appeared first on Liquid Web.
Organizations of all types and sizes use VMware virtualization, and quality managed services make VMware private cloud a cost-effective upgrade for many small and medium-sized businesses. VMware private cloud is a premium solution with particular benefits for a certain range of workloads. Popular uses include backups, disaster mitigation, test and development environments, devops, and handling sensitive or regulated data.
Organizations considering deploying a private cloud or hybrid cloud solution should take their time and plan their environment carefully, as getting maximum value from any kind of architecture requires getting the details right. A managed service provider with expert support that takes the necessary time to understand businesses’ needs can provide valuable guidance on the optimal infrastructure.
Most Common Use Cases
Use cases in which businesses benefit from the Private Cloud are those which have the flexibility to create new environments for workloads and change the resources that are deployed to environments as needed, resulting in more efficient utilization of guaranteed resources. VMware makes creation and management of virtual machines (VMs) easy. Even in potentially catastrophic situations, such as a hardware failure, VMs can be moved in real-time to keep them functioning, with the necessary reboot happening nearly instantly, and invisible to the user.
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The other option for businesses adopting cloud computing is the public cloud. As with other types of environments, the public cloud is optimal for certain kinds of situations, but in others can have significant drawbacks. A public cloud does not run on specific hardware, and therefore does not guarantee resource availability. Private clouds are also typically preferred for environments running regulated or particularly sensitive workloads.
Spikes In Resource Needs
Some businesses adopt a VMware Private Cloud because they can anticipate sudden increases in resource demand, such as happens when an online store runs a sale or special promotion, or a piece of content served by a media company goes viral. If a certain application used by the company has widely varying usage, at a certain point the improved efficiency possible with an agile ecosystem makes the business case. Anticipating this before your current environment starts costing you money is not necessarily easy, but a service-oriented hosting provider can help you do just that.
VMware Private Cloud enables businesses to automatically pull resources from VMs running less critical workloads, and reallocate those resources to the most important workloads to ensure they continue running.
Need to add more resources quickly? Scale up your cloud on-demand, and scale it back down to match your actual needs at the time.
Handling Sensitive Data
There are several different situations in which organizations typically choose to deploy a private cloud to meet security or regulatory needs. Roughly three-quarters of healthcare organizations use cloud infrastructure as of 2017, for example, and though most end up with a hybrid cloud environment, they choose private cloud over public by almost a three-to-one ratio.
The reason, simply put, is isolation. Cloud architecture isolates workloads from each other in their sandboxed VMs. In a private cloud, the VMs are also isolated from running on the same hardware as anyone else’s VMs. While no specific infrastructure type is required by HIPAA, for example, most healthcare organizations choose to limit their exposure with a solution like Managed VMware Private Cloud.
As businesses increase the amount of development they do, and as they modernize their development processes, they are increasingly reliant on virtualization. Application development and testing processes take a varying amount of resources. Without virtualization, provisioning the resources necessary to complete tasks at the demand peak of the development cycle in a timely fashion is expensive, and that investment is wasted in the less-demanding duration of the cycle.
A test environment can be scaled up to accelerate processing overnight, with resources that were used by other applications during the business day. Need to catch up? Scale up to complete the job, and then scale back down to conserve costs.
Any of these situations make a Managed Private Cloud running on VMware the optimal infrastructure solution for enterprises or small businesses.
Hybrid: Match Workloads To Environments
The benefits of a premium private cloud for certain kinds of workloads make it particularly suitable as part of a hybrid solution. In many cases, large global enterprises will opt for a hybrid cloud environment. For businesses with dozens or hundreds of employees, private cloud is often deployed in combination with a fixed-resource environment.
It makes sense to keep some workloads that have consistent resource usage on a shared or Dedicated Server, while those workloads that are likely to cycle up and down, like dev-ops, or that need to run silently in the background before springing into action when needed, like backups, are moved to the cloud. The organization is able to upgrade its capabilities and application performance without additional capital expenditure. In the case of a Managed VMware solution, the business gets enterprise-grade resource allocation tools while also avoiding adding the technical and maintenance responsibilities associated with the cloud infrastructure.
Step Into Virtual Infrastructure
For many companies graduating from a traditional server environment, such as a shared hosting solution, a fully managed private cloud is a logical next step. Virtualizing your infrastructure enables you to run each of your workloads in an environment optimized for it. Storage and computing resources are allocated, the operating system chosen, and all necessary software deployed to run each application.
This makes a managed VMware private cloud ideal for companies that want to optimize their infrastructure spending and performance, but do not want to dedicate in-house time and expertise to become proficient in cloud infrastructure management. A service provider that offers high-quality service and support can help the business determine its needs and set up the private cloud to meets them. A VMware Private Cloud architected by experienced professionals should start yielding benefits in flexibility and reliability immediately, and depending on the specifics of your business, could also start generating application performance and cost efficiency benefits right away.
Dealing with variable workloads, security, regulatory compliance, and maturing development processes are just three of the common use cases for customers of Liquid Web’s Managed VMware Private Cloud. Some organizations will want to upgrade their entire hosting environment, while others will want to take leverage the best of the environment they already have with a hybrid approach. To figure out whether a VMware private cloud is the right fit for your business, contact the Most Helpful Humans in Web Hosting™ and ask to speak to a managed hosting advisor today.
Evaluating Your Current Hosting Infrastructure?
Still getting value out of your existing infrastructure investments? Hesitant to move everything into the cloud right away? Liquid Web’s Managed Private Cloud powered by VMware could benefit your organization, serving those workloads you are confident of running more efficiently, with greater resilience, right away.
The post What Are The Common Use Cases for VMware Private Cloud? appeared first on Liquid Web.
To do any job right, you need the right tools, whether you’re building an adult treehouse or optimizing your conversion rates (we’d rather be doing the former too).
But conversion rate optimization (CRO) matters to your marketing ROI. For every $92 spent acquiring customers, only $1 is invested in converting them. So, a substantial chunk of the budget is dedicated to generating leads, while only a small part is used to actually turn those leads into customers. That’s a massive budget discrepancy, which probably explains why only 22% of businesses are satisfied with their conversion rates.
Maximize your CRO budget with CRO tools that will get you the most bang for your buck. Here are a few we recommend for eCommerce marketing strategies and websites.
Usability Testing Tools
If your customers can’t easily read and understand the written and visual elements of your website, product pages, and checkout, they won’t convert. Usability tests examine the basics of your website. Here are some online tools to test the overall usability of these marketing elements.
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Use Readable.io to increase the readability of your landing page copy, blog posts, or email copy. The service tests your copy for unnecessary words, technical jargon, and passive voice. These bad writing practices stand as verbal barriers between your audience and your content. Readable.io will grade score your copy and indicating trouble areas. You can score your entire website or a single PDF.
The Golden Ratio is the mathematically perfect measure of proportion, which gives viewers the most pleasing experience. Since your page layout and text blocks are also visual, you can apply the Golden Ratio to it too. The Golden Ratio Typography (GRT) Calculator is a mouthful, but this tool will have your copy layout matching golden ratio standards in no time. Input your current font type, size, and the GRT Calculator will output the optimal line height and column width to make your copy easier to read.
Five Second Tests
With the free Five Second Test tool, you can create small focus groups of users to see if your website pages are quickly communicating the right messages. Upload a screenshot of the page(s) you want to test, and the service will show them to participants for 5 seconds. Then it will give them a short survey, asking questions like these:
What’s the purpose of the page?
What are the main elements you recall?
Who do you think the intended audience is?
Did the design/brand appear trustworthy?
What was your impression of the design?
Five seconds is about the limit for making a first impression with online visitors. Five-second impressions give you valuable feedback to test against your expectations and to make usability adjustments that increase conversions.
Optimize With A/B Testing Tools
Split or A/B testing is a must if you’re going to move the needle on your conversion rate. The main goal of A/B testing is to minimize your marketing guesswork. But just running two versions of a landing page and measuring which converted the best isn’t the end of CRO. Both landing page options could still be sub-optimal versions—it’s just that one is less bad at converting. So, you have to dig deeper. Here are some A/B tools that help you throw out the guesswork and get down to increasing conversions where it matters.
If you’re looking for an entire A/B testing solution, Unbounce will give you plenty of tools and options for testing your marketing strategies. The platform comes with page builder tools for branding and designing your own landing pages, pop-ups, and sticky bars. You can create A/B variants of these assets and make small adjustments to headings, button placements, and forms. Run the tests, then interpret your results. All-in-one platforms like Unbounce are perfect for businesses that don’t have developer resources. With these A/B testing services, you build and test your assets on the platform’s website.
A/B Test Calculator
Even if your A/B test shows your email respondents are converting better with one email over another, that doesn’t mean the results are statistically relevant. The difference could just be random chance. Use the A/B Test Calculator to see if your results are worth doubling down on.
Your page title or blog header tag is the first thing the majority of shoppers will see. So, your headlines need to meet customer expectations. Use the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer to increase the conversion power of your headlines. The analyzer looks at the overall structure, grammar, and readability of your headline. And it even scores the emotional connotations of your titles, suggesting revisions if they fail to excite, delight, or intrigue.
CTA Button Generator
Your call-to-action button is the key to conversion. It literally holds the conversion act up like a flashing neon sign for your customers to see—“Buy Now”, “Subscribe”, and “Get Started.” What your CTA button says, what it looks like, and where it’s placed changes its effectiveness. So, study call-to-action button best practices, then use the CTA Button Generator to customize your A/B versions.
Dive Deep With Data Analytics Tools
Analytics tools underpin your CRO by showing you insights into customer behavior, where traffic is coming from, and what channels are working. Data-driven insights help you find CRO opportunities. The better your data, the more accurate your CRO strategy.
Paid analytics platforms like Glew.io generate detailed reports—and they build them on their own servers, not yours. This way, you won’t slow down your page load times with heavy data processing. Here are some other analytics tool options.
Covered by Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting
Glew.io comes standard with Managed WooCommerce Hosting.
Use Google Analytics to get conversion metrics like cost per conversion, a total number of sessions, or time-on-page. With Google Analytics, you can drill down into device types to see what browsers or mobile devices aren’t converting well. There’s likely a patch or update that could increase your overall conversion rate for older versions with bugs. You can also create custom reports that locate conversions based on the source of your traffic. From there, you can allocate more resources to those areas or optimize your messaging.
Kissmetrics is a customer engagement platform that analyzes customer data with the goal of increasing conversions. With Kissmetrics you can see all of your customer behavior analytics, audience segmentation, and email campaigns in one place.
Kissmetrics tracks people, not just page views. Google Analytics can also track individual customers. However, it takes some skill and advanced knowledge to pull it off. Although Kissmetrics doesn’t have an A/B testing feature, it can easily integrate with third-party split testing services like Unbounce or Optimizely.
If you’re looking for an affordable and effective analytics solution, Crazy Egg is a good option. Crazy Egg is a paid marketing and analytics platform that aims to reduce shopping cart abandonment, maximize registrations, and increase subscriptions. Crazy Egg offers visual reports and heat maps that show where customers are coming from, what they view and use on your site, and suggestions for optimizing conversions. The platform also anonymously tracks individual site visitors so you can dissect their every move. As a bonus, Crazy Egg also has A/B testing features, an easy-to-use page editor, and analytics reports to track results.
Uncover Customer Attitudes With Surveys
Maximizing your conversion rate requires an in-depth understanding of your customers’ attitudes toward your brand and your products. Here are some survey tools that’ll shine some light on your customers’ feelings.
Create customized surveys to send to a variety of audience segments with SurveyMonkey. With a service like Survey Monkey, you can run your own market research and get instant feedback from customers. And you don’t need a developer. Build surveys and track results right on SurveyMonkey’s platform. Create surveys that look at broad metrics like a Net Promoter Score or ask questions about website design.
Google Forms features unlimited surveys and responses. There are many themes to choose from, and you can customize the survey forms, adding images and videos. Google Forms is the only free survey software with skip logic, which is a feature that changes what question or page a respondent sees next based on how they answer the current question.
Skip logic (aka conditional branching) keeps you from overwhelming respondents with irrelevant questions by skipping unneeded sections of your survey for them. This increases the accuracy of your surveys and cuts down on dropout rates.
Improve the Customer Experience With Site Speed Tools
Over half of your store’s visitors will leave your site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Slow page load speeds can kill your bottom line. Make sure you’re meeting customer expectations by testing your site with these speed tools.
Use GTMetrix website tester and reports to not only find your loads times but identify your biggest speed problems. A GTMetrix test will grade your site and rank your issues from most to least impactful. Plus, the service gives you suggestions on how to fix the problems. Some of the issues are easy for the average store owner to resolve themselves, while others may require developer services. But you’ll at least know where to start when trying to increase your conversion rate.
Pingdom is a monitoring service that keeps critical conversion points like signups, logins, or checkouts working fast. Their free website speed test will grade your page load time and give you optimization suggestions. For a fee, Pingdom will monitor your site 24/7 and notify you of any problems.
The paid service also comes with reporting features that show you speed rates over time, letting you find problem areas quickly and identify the root causes. Use Pingdom to smooth out your website interactions and keep a consistent experience—a prerequisite to converting customers.
Get an All-in-One Service Instead
All of these tools are indispensable to converting more visitors to customers. But instead of buying individual tools, save money and time by investing in a hosting service that comes standard with CRO tools for page load speed monitoring, analytics, and cart abandonment solutions.
The post What Are The Top Conversion Rate Optimization Tools? appeared first on Liquid Web.
When I was starting my web development business, I made the mistake of putting all my effort into getting new clients. New clients would get my attention when I was trying to win the work, but then we’d move from the “dating” phase and into the “real relationship” phase as they became a client. Unfortunately, I underperformed during this transition period when crucial client care was needed.
I had set expectations about my services as we negotiated before the project began, but I came up short on service after the contract was signed deposits were made.
Today we’re going to look at what steps you should implement if you’re going to blow your clients away as you get started with their eCommerce project.
Things To Have In Your Onboarding Process For Client Care
An efficient business is built on systems. You need to have a system that reliably gets you leads and turns them into clients. Similarly, you need to also have a system to get these new clients set up with your company.
Let’s walk through five easy steps you can take to ensure you have industry-leading client care.
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1. Confirmation of Start Date and First Payment Receipt
The first step in starting your projects well is confirming that you have received the payment from your client as expected and give them a start date for their project. In general, I only give clients a start date once they have made the payment because until then they aren’t clients, they’re prospects. That also means the finish date is up in the air because it depends on when we start. Lock those dates down for the client quickly so that they have their expectations set correctly.
2. Set Expectations Up Front
The next step should be making sure your client knows what it’s going to take to have a successful project. I ask them to read my client success page, which I talked about in my previous post on building an ideal client profile. This page lets them know what a good bug report looks like, and what type of communication they can expect from me during a project.
3. Regular Communication Is Key To Client Care
Communication is so important though that you can’t just leave defining how your clients will hear from you to your project success page. You need to include it in their first confirmation email as well. To be ready for big projects your clients should expect a minimum of:
An email on Monday detailing what is planned for the week
An email on Friday recapping the week and laying out the plan for next week
Yes, that means your Friday email will layout the week, and then on Monday, you’ll repeat the same information. Saying it twice means that your clients don’t have to go looking for it later, they have the crucial information right there in their inbox. Make sure that your forecast for the week includes any schedule changes on your end. If you have to head out early one day, then your clients should be aware of it so that they can set their communication expectations correctly.
4. Introductions Between Teams
Next, who specifically on your team will your clients be working with? The first email is the time to make those introductions. Even better, schedule a kick-off call with any team members that will touch the project to make sure that the client knows them. If at all possible, make it a video call because the closer you can get to shaking someone’s hand the more trust is built. Smooth projects happen because both parties trust each other.
5. Setup The Client in Your Project Management System
Make sure that your client, and anyone on their team, is set up in your project management system. Do this before your project kick-off call so that they have a chance to look through it and can come with any questions they may have about how the system should work.
The best way to interact with your project management system should have been laid your in your project success documents as well, but it never hurts to go over it a third, or fourth time. Also, make sure that you link them to the help documentation for the project management system that you use. Think from your clients point of view, and see ways to make it easier for them to access what they need to be successful with you. Having access to the help documentation can head off any questions that your clients have about the basic functions of the system so you don’t get bogged down in training and can keep moving their project forward.
The first task I always assign to my clients is reading that project success page. Having this step listed as a task assigned to a client does help hold them accountable for reading the project success page.
Standing Out Above the Crowd
So far, everything we’ve planned to do to start up a client project is the bare minimum that a good eCommerce consultant will provide. That’s what it takes to be a top consultant, but it won’t help you stand out from the crowd. To have exceptional client care, you need to take it all one step further.
This next step is figuring out what will help make the client feel like they just entered the “family” of your business.
What will make them feel like they’re working with a premium consultant, one that is not only providing the value to justify their rates but one that is head and shoulders above all other competition?
I always start by sending them a handwritten card. Don’t use a plain note card, it doesn’t make you stand out. I grab some nice cards, give them to my kids, and let them go to town decorating the front of them.
These cards suit my business because, in my expectations, I explain to my clients that I’m a husband and father first, and a business owner second. My clients know that, and I tell them that their expectations need to be set accordingly. When they get a handwritten thank you card with my kids “art” on it, it helps seal the deal on the type of interaction they can expect from me.
If that doesn’t fit with your company, or you serve too many clients to give this kind of detail, then you can look at a service like SendOutCards to handle this process for you. By leveraging SendOutCards, you can upload a list of the recent customers that need a card, and then SendOutCards takes over and puts something just a bit more personal in the hands of your clients. Always be on the lookout for ways to automate while keeping it personal.
You can even take it a step further by paying attention to your customers and what they say during your meetings. I’ve had a client mention they like coffee so I’ve sent them a few pounds of a local coffee that they would never be able to purchase.
By taking a few extra minutes and spending just a bit of extra money, you can take a good client and turn them into a raving fan for your services. These extra touches will also give you a bit of extra leeway if something comes up and you have an issue with delivery on your end of the project. Because you’ve treated them so well, they’re more likely to roll with the punches and help you get the project back on track.
Extra Steps if You’re not Starting The New Project Right Away
If you’re busy and aren’t getting to your client’s project quickly, then you need to take some extra steps to bridge the gap between signing and starting.
While you don’t have Monday and Friday update emails to send, you can send them a weekly update email to let them know that their project is still going to start on time. You can also use this time to encourage them to gather any other materials you’ll need to hit the ground running on their project.
Have a list of the logos, content, or server access you’ll need and then use the few weeks before you start to make sure that you have these items. When it comes to the weekly update email, double check your list and see what you’re still missing and remind your client that you need these items to get started right away.
The point with the project onboarding is to make sure that your new client feels special and cared for. Far too many businesses sign a client and then drop all communication until they’re ready to start. This isn’t convenient for this client. Always try to see it from their point of view.
Make sure you use the window between signing and starting to show them how much you value their work. By using this time well, you can establish your credibility as a top-notch service provider.
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With a fully managed hosting service handling your web infrastructure, you can focus on getting more clients and improving your onboarding process. Download our eBook on Building Out Your Digital Agency With Managed Hosting.
The post How Do I Blow My Clients Away As I Start A Project? appeared first on Liquid Web.
Loyalty is practically its own form of currency, especially for eCommerce stores. When customers are loyal to your store, they offer greater customer lifetime value (CLV) which in turn, generates more revenue for your business.
If you want your eCommerce store to be as successful as possible (and who doesn’t?), measuring customer loyalty with key customer retention metrics will show you how many of your customers are coming back to your store again and again. With that data, you can make smart improvements to your business to further boost customer loyalty.
Let’s take a closer look at how customer loyalty and customer retention are related and which key customer retention metrics you can start using right now to gauge and track your customer loyalty.
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Customer Loyalty & Retention
Customer loyalty is a term used when a customer continues to buy from a particular brand, company, or business. It results from positive experiences and interactions with your business.
The main implications of customer loyalty are:
Loyal customers generate more referrals.
Loyal customers will continue buying from you.
Loyal customers aren’t actively looking for alternate suppliers.
Loyal customers are less susceptible to competitors’ marketing.
Loyal customers are more receptive to your other products and services.
Loyal customers are more understanding of issues and troubleshooting.
Loyal customers are more likely to provide feedback and reviews which you can use to improve your retention.
Customer retention is your ability to sell to customers who have already made purchases from you. It’s a unique metric because it accounts for both your ability to acquire new customers as well as your ability to keep those customers. In short, your retention metric is about turning new customers into repeat customers which makes it a useful metric to measure and track.
The Importance of Retention
Retaining a solid base of loyal customers is highly profitable. For one thing, returning customers spend up to 67 percent more than new customers. And when you consider the high cost of marketing, acquiring new customers is on average, 6 to 7 times more expensive than retaining your current customers.
Most businesses see an average of 25 to 40 percent of total revenue coming from their returning customers. However, it’s estimated that a mere 5 percent increase in retention can result in a revenue increase of between 25 and 95 percent, so customer retention is an invaluable metric that happens to be particularly useful for measuring customer loyalty.
What Influences Retention?
Price influences retention in an obvious way. When your products or services are priced competitively, your customers are more likely to come back when they need your offerings in the future. However, if your prices are too high, they’ll be unlikely to buy from you again.
Site performance is an easily overlooked but major influence in retention. If it’s difficult to navigate your website, the checkout process is buggy or confusing, or the site is slow, customers will likely give up and simply find what they need elsewhere.
Delivery refers to how quickly you ship orders, the speed of delivery, and how much you charge for shipping. If you charge too much for shipping or if it takes too long to deliver orders, customers are unlikely to order from you again.
Customer service can either boost or reduce your retention. Strong customer service can be reassuring to customers who are considering buying from your store.
Loyalty programs have become a great way of encouraging repeat business. In effect, a loyalty program rewards your customers for their patronage and offers an incentive to make additional purchases in the future.
Saved payment details is one you may not have expected, but being able to store payment details for future purchases is a huge convenience for online shopping. With many people making purchases on mobile devices, it’s inconvenient to input payment details for every transaction. Plus, offering the ability to store payment methods for future use significantly reduces cart abandonment rate.
Retention Metrics for Measuring Customer Loyalty
Customer retention measurement is important as it offers a way of measuring customer loyalty. Fortunately, there are a number of useful retention metrics with which you can measure the loyalty of your customers.
Customer Retention Rate (CRR)
Your customer retention rate, or CRR, is the quintessential customer retention metric and an ideal place to start measuring customer loyalty. Basically, your customer retention rate reflects the percentage of customers who remained loyal over a specific period of time.
Customer retention rate is important because it offers a quantitative interpretation of a qualitative attribute. If your rate is low it means you’re keeping fewer customers, and customer loyalty is low; however, if your retention rate is high, more customers are loyal to your business.
Though 100 percent retention is the ideal maximum, all businesses see some amount of customer loss, or churn. Studies have shown that while it varies from industry to industry, the average retention rate usually falls below 20 percent.
Customer Retention Rate Formula
You need three data points to calculate customer retention rate: number of customers at the start of a period (CS), number of customers at the end of a period (CE), and number of customers acquired during that period (CA).
To calculate, subtract CA from CE, divide that number by CS, then multiply that figure by 100 to convert it into a percentage.
How To Improve The Customer Retention Rate:
Set realistic expectations. If you make promises to customers that you might not be able to keep, they’re unlikely to become repeat customers.
Implement anticipatory services. If your eCommerce store offers services, send reminders for upcoming invoices. If you can anticipate your customers’ needs, it shows your customers that you’re on top of things.
Set (and monitor) your team’s key performance indicators. Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor the performance of your employees. If customer retention rate and your team’s KPIs are low, improving customer service with some behind-the-scenes improvements could boost customer loyalty and retention.
Leverage social media. Interacting with your customers one-on-one on social media is how you build relationships, which inspire loyalty and retention.
Solicit feedback from customers. Surveys can be a great way of gauging customer experience. If multiple customers mention a problem or shortcoming, addressing the problem could boost customer retention rate.
Customer Churn Rate (CCR)
Customer churn rate, or CCR, represents the ratio of customers you acquire and lose soon thereafter. Customer churn rate and customer retention rate are like two different sides of the same coin; the churn side represents customers lost over a period while the retention side represents customers retained over a period.
Your churn rate — also called attrition rate — is a great metric for gauging customer loyalty. A low CCR is indicative of higher customer loyalty because there are fewer customers lost, but a high CCR indicates a larger percentage of customers lost and implies lower customer loyalty.
Customer Churn Rate Formula
There are two ways to calculate the customer churn rate. The first way is to piggyback off your customer retention rate because, in essence, customer churn rate is your retention rate subtracted from 100 percent.
Alternately, CCR can be calculated using a simple formula that requires just two data points: the number of customers at the start of a period and the number of customers lost over that period. To calculate, you simply divide customers lost by the number of customers at the start of that period, then multiply that value by 100 to get the percentage.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
Of all the retention metrics we’ll cover, customer lifetime value is arguably the most important to measure, but it also happens to be one of the most confusing to calculate.
Customer lifetime value indicates the health of your store by showing you how much your customers are spending during their customer lifecycles. When your customers are loyal, they tend to spend more at your eCommerce store, yielding greater lifetime value.
In theory, it sounds like it should be a simple thing to calculate, but it requires you to know a number of other metrics for your eCommerce store.
To calculate customer lifetime value, multiply the amount of money the average customer spends per year by the average customer lifespan. This will give you a value for how much revenue on average you should expect from every customer over his or her lifecycle.
Repeat Customer Rate
Ultimately, loyal customers are the ones that make multiple purchases. Therefore, it follows that your repeat customer rate would be a great measure of customer loyalty.
Your repeat customer rate is simply the percentage of your customer base that has made more than one purchase. To calculate your repeat customer rate, divide the number of customers who have made multiple purchases over a period of time by the number of total customers for that same period, and then multiply by 100 to get a percentage.
Though repeat purchases don’t necessarily equate to loyalty, the likelihood that a customer becomes loyal to your eCommerce store grows with every purchase.
The most loyal customers are receptive to products in addition to the one they intended to buy. For instance, if a customer goes to your eCommerce store for a specific type of item and ends up buying both the intended item and an item from a totally different product category, there’s a strong indication the customer is loyal to your store.
So your upselling ratio is a measure of customers who were “upsold” and added unrelated products to their orders, against the number of customers who bought only one product. The formula is the number of customers who made multi-item purchases divided by the number of customers who made single-item purchases.
Retention Metrics for Loyalty Programs
Loyalty programs offer lots of opportunities for using retention metrics to gauge customer loyalty. The idea behind customer loyalty rewards programs is to retain more customers by giving them incentives to make additional purchases. So if your loyalty program isn’t performing very well, it’s a strong indicator of poor customer loyalty.
When you offer a loyalty program, your participation rate is the percentage of your customers who are enrolled in your customer loyalty rewards program. To calculate your participation rate, divide the number of customers who are enrolled in your loyalty program by your total number of customers.
Redemption rate is a metric that indicates the success of your loyalty program. Basically, the idea is to determine what percentage of your loyalty program participants are actually using the perks that are offered or earned through the program. Calculating your redemption rate is quite simple: Divide the number of perks redeemed by the number of perks issued.
Active Engagement Rate
Similar to the redemption rate, your active engagement rate reflects the percentage of your total customers who are engaging with your loyalty program. The formula for active engagement rate is the number of customers who have used your loyalty program divided by your total number of customers.
Use Retention Metrics to Gain More Loyal Customers
To be clear, this isn’t an exhaustive list of retention metrics. While every metric is illuminating for one reason or another, we focus on the retention metrics that are most directly tied to customer loyalty to allow you to get a read on how many of your customers will come back to your eCommerce store again and again.
While some of the metrics we’ve highlighted may not be relevant to your business — like the metrics for loyalty programs — most referenced here will give you a solid start in measuring customer loyalty. As you use these metrics to gauge and track customer loyalty, you’ll recognize the importance of cultivating loyalty from your customers for the longevity of your eCommerce business.
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The particular type of virtualization a private cloud is built on needs to be fully considered by businesses trying to decide whether a private cloud is for them. The private cloud can involve a few different types of hypervisors, however, and a few different infrastructure arrangements. They are not all the same.
VMware is an infrastructure virtualization provider and is used by about 75 percent of businesses that use virtualized servers. About three-quarters of businesses with 50 or more employees use virtual machines, meaning many businesses of all sizes use VMware. There are also many kinds of organizations much smaller than 50 people that benefit from running a VMware-powered private cloud. Spiceworks’ 2019 State of IT report shows that 15 percent of the average IT budget for businesses with less than 100 employees is dedicated to virtualization.
Why is it so popular? VMware is recommended by most IT professionals as the best virtualization solution for the widest range of business infrastructure needs, and while it is often compared with a single competitor, VMware and Microsoft’s Hyper-V are best suited to different sets of requirements. VMware is the original innovator of server virtualization and has been an enterprise virtualization leader since the early 2000s.
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What Does VMware Do?
VMware vSphere is software used to build flexible, high-performance private clouds. It includes the ESXi hypervisor, which is a Tier I or “bare metal” hypervisor, meaning it does not run on a separate operating system. Network administrators generally consider vSphere to be intuitive to use and appreciate the flexibility it offers for different types of virtual servers and governance capabilities.
Virtualization is the infrastructure change which enables cloud computing. The hypervisor is the software that creates and runs virtual machines, which can run different types of environments, sharing a single hardware processor. They are used to, for instance, run environments with different operating systems for different applications. Virtualization allows resources to be dedicated as needed, without the normal constraints of legacy on-premise networks, in which different applications run on their own particular physical servers.
A private cloud runs best on Dedicated hardware, which guarantees resource availability. Managing and maintaining the cloud, however, makes running your own VMware Private Cloud inefficient for many businesses. When bundled with other services, like a NetApp storage area network (SAN), a managed VMware solution bridges the gap between global enterprise-grade cloud performance and the limited resources most companies have to dedicate to cloud infrastructure management.
Businesses running a VMware Private Cloud can scale their VMs up or down on demand, and quickly and easily add, deploy, and load-balance a new node. A hardware failure can be detected, repaired, and the node brought back online without users noticing. In the event of a failed hypervisor, a live migration of VMs to an online hypervisor by vSphere’s vMotion keeps your site running the entire time.
Because it powers high-performance private clouds, VMware is often characterized as being most appropriate for large organizations. Just as an increasing number of small and medium-sized businesses can benefit from the agility and flexibility of a VMware Private Cloud, however, quality managed VMware solutions have made the same performance now just as achievable for businesses without large IT departments.
The one catch for administrators to keep in mind is that the value of a managed service is reduced if the service provider is not responsive enough to perform any required management within the flow of the business process. This is particularly true for solutions like private cloud, which provide value by making infrastructure more flexible. That flexibility is ultimately ensured by the SLAs and real-life support response times of the managed service provider looking after that infrastructure.
How Can It Help My Company?
There are several benefits that private clouds can provide businesses with, but the main reasons are to improve the efficiency and flexibility of their resource use while keeping full control of the underlying hardware and ensuring resource availability. Some organizations deploy a private cloud for enhanced security, resilience, or regulatory compliance if they deal with certain kinds of sensitive data.
If you are an administrator needing to provision a new application without adding network or storage resources, VMware makes the process fast and easy, the environment stable, and the application performance consistent. VMware allows admins to prioritize their virtual machines, allocating resources to critical workloads when necessary, and reallocating them as the demand returns to normal.
In combination with a NetApp SAN, a VMware Private Cloud provides enhanced protection against disasters. Load balancing prevents individual VMs from being overwhelmed. Beyond that, by spinning up an extra server to create an N+1 server array, a redundant environment is created, in which a given server can be updated, rebooted, or repaired without causing downtime. VMware is also very secure, with virtual machines fully isolated from and invisible to each other, and a small attack surface at the infrastructure layer.
One of the main competitors of VMware in the hypervisor space is Microsoft. Microsoft’s Hyper-V, while another quality hypervisor, runs on Windows, and comes with all of the attendant costs and upgrade requirements. VMware also does not require secure patches, which require virtual machines running on Hyper-V to be taken offline. Liquid Web recommends VMware for maximum flexibility and performance.
For many businesses, some workloads, such as testing and development, are best run in a private cloud environment, while other workloads can remain in their legacy environment. Businesses often deploy a private cloud as part of a hybrid network architecture in order to maximize their agility with the greatest cost-efficiency. This is another case in which a managed service backed by quality support makes it easy for a small or medium-sized business to take advantage of the best technology available without drawing employee time away from core responsibilities.
Growing businesses with diverse applications often evolve towards managed hybrid environments to leverage the best technology for each workload. Businesses with applications running in shared hosting or entry-level cloud environments that want to improve the efficiency of their resource use should consider upgrading to a VMware Private Cloud.
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When starting a blog and setting up a WordPress website, it’s inevitable that you’re also going to want to add some key features and functionality like link and spam management, a contact form, image galleries, and more.
Here is a list of blogger WordPress plugins you need to consider:
Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights
MonsterInsights allows you to connect your WordPress website with Google Analytics so you can see how visitors find and use your website and keep them coming back. MonsterInsights is simple to set up and requires you to write no code. The WordPress plugin adds a Google Analytics Dashboard to your WordPress admin area with real-time stats, universal tracking, and much more.
Pro Tip: You can also add Google Analytics to your WordPress site directly by adding code to the WordPress theme functions.php file.
Yoast SEO allows you to manage the search engine optimization of your website pages and posts so you can get found online more often. Yoast SEO helps you handle XML sitemaps, breadcrumbs, canonical URLs, HTML titles and meta descriptions, and even the text and images to use for social media sharing. This blogger WordPress plugin also integrates with Google Search Console and supports you in writing SEO-friendly content.
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Pretty Links allows you to shorten links using your own domain name, track each hit on your URL, and see a full detailed report of where the hit came from, the browser, operating system, and host. Pretty Links also enables you to create clean links for affiliate links, download link performance data in a CVS file, create nofollow/noindex links, organize links into groups, and more.
This blogger WordPress plugin also has a paid upgrade called Pretty Links Pro. This upgrade includes priority support and more redirect options including cloaked redirects, timed redirects, geographic redirects, split test redirects, and tracking pixel redirects. It also features Google Analytics plugin integration and the ability to create expiring links and QR codes.
Broken Link Checker
Broken Link Checker allows you to easily search your WordPress blog or website for broken links so you can fix them before they affect your search engine rankings, damage your brand, or cause grief for visitors. Broken Link Checker monitors links in posts, pages, comments, and custom fields. It also alerts you to links that don’t work, missing images, and broken redirects, all while helping facilitate correction of the broken links. This blogger WordPress plugin also has optional features like preventing search engines from following broken links and displaying broken links differently.
Safe Redirect Manager
Safe Redirect Manager allows you to create a variety of HTTP redirects to forward one URL to a new URL of your choosing. This blogger WordPress plugin is the simplest redirection plugin available and makes it easy to create redirects for old links, URLs removed from your website or blog, affiliate links, and more.
Simple Page Ordering
Simple Page Ordering allows you to easily reorder pages and custom post types in the dashboard with drag and drop functionality. To organize your pages, just drag and drop the page into the desired position. It’s that simple. No new admin menus pages or clunky, bolted-on user interfaces. Just drag and drop on the page or post-type screen.
WP Zero Spam
WP Zero Spam hasn’t been updated in a while, but it still remains a top choice for spam control and works better than Akismet. WP Zero Spam blocks registration spam and spam in comments automatically without any additional config or setup. Just install, activate, and enjoy a spam-free site.
WP Forms allows you to add mobile responsive contact forms, subscription forms, payment forms, and other types of forms to your WordPress blog or website in minutes. WP Forms uses an easy-to-use drag and drop online form builder that lets you add custom form fields and rearrange them, or use a pre-built form template.
Send Images to RSS
Send Images to RSS replaces the images in your RSS feed with smaller, email-friendly images and adds markup email clients can handle. It also makes it easy to create beautiful, email friendly RSS campaigns with minimal setup required, regardless of your feed setup. If you offer subscription by RSS for your blog, this plugin is for you.
Jetpack is a beast of a blogger plugin with a huge number of modules that adds all sorts of features to your WordPress blog. While you definitely won’t need many of them – and you should turn off the modules you don’t use with Manual Control For Jetpack – there are some compelling modules that keep this plugin at the top of my recommendation list, including:
Monitor: monitors your website’s downtime
Protect: helps secure your website against brute force attacks
Related Posts: creates a related posts display at the end of your blog posts
Photon: speeds up your blog by using the WordPress.com CDN
Publicize: allows you to automatically share your blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
Sharing: gives readers the ability to share your blog posts to their social networks from the end of your blog posts
Tiled Galleries: displays your images in three different ways: a rectangular mosaic, a square mosaic, or a circular grid.
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The post Starting a Blog? Don’t Forget These 10 WordPress Plugins appeared first on Liquid Web.
We all know that having a professional business email platform is important, but you may not know exactly why.
Business start-ups have a typical path that’s followed.
An idea grows into a business plan, creating a small business. The growth in a small business typically begin slowly, and over time picks up more speed as it continues. This can cascade quickly.
The growth inevitably leads to the normal business staples (i.e. business cards, marketing, designing a company logo, first website, etc.) Even the website itself can start as a Facebook page and evolve from there as the company grows.
These new small businesses excel at creating new concepts, products, and have a real think-outside-the-box mentality. However, studies show that 80% of small to medium businesses still use Gmail or Yahoo for their primary email address.
This might be okay for one to two person operations that have a small online presence, or those that simply have no need for an email product. However, the majority of that group do require a substantial presence on the web, which can require a more robust email solution.
One of the most simple and cost-effective ways to market a new business using a custom email domain service.
Think about how the first time a prospective client sees your email address and notices that your company name is prominently displayed within the email address credentials. It creates an important first impression on a client.
Think about the impression generated between these two email addresses:
The well-known proverb holds: “perception is reality.”
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That’s Fair. How Do I Choose The Right Business Email Service?
There are a number of usual concerns about using a professional business email service. These myths can include the following:
It is too expensive
It is difficult to set up
It won’t have the features you are used to like shared calendar and spam filtering.
Let’s take a look at each of these myths in depth.
1. Creating a Business Email Account Is Too Expensive
This is a common myth amongst those new to the process of setting up a business email. While there certainly are very expensive options, there are also very reasonable plans and even some options at no cost to you. Some of the low-cost options can provide a great mix of both custom domains and all of the features you may desire, such as calendar, chat and mobile function.
Keep in mind that most of the free services do tend to lack common features you may be used to, but they do provide a custom domain.
2. Business Email Is Difficult To Set Up
It can be intimidating to set up a new service, be it a phone service, internet provider, or a new email platform. The good news is that it looks more difficult than it is. Most providers have easy step-by-step guides on accessing your newly purchased email service or setting up your domain with the service and offer personal assistance with the setup process.
Finally, once it is set up, it’s a smooth process to add additional users.
3. Business Email Accounts Lack Features I Need
This can be a concern with some of the free platforms, but most paid email services offer features to rival the large personal free accounts such as Gmail or Yahoo.
You’ll find some examples below:
Premium Anti-Spam/ Antivirus – Multi-layer scanning helps keep your inboxes safe
Shared Calendars – In-depth calendar functionality such as creating meetings or recurring events, allowing specific people to edit your calendar and color-code for easy viewing across multiple calendars.
Intuitive Webmail – Access to mail, calendars, contacts, tasks, and notes from one application. Create a group and company-wide contact lists that can be shared with other users on the same domain.
Mobile Sync – Access mail on your iPhone®, Android®, Windows® Phone or BlackBerry® device. Each user has access to the support center that provides an easy walkthrough for any desktop, tablet and mobile device with easy to follow instructions with clear instructions and pictures.
All of the above features are available in Liquid Web’s Premium Business Email.
Sounds Good. How Do I Get Started Creating a Business Email Account Today?
As a provider of business email services, Liquid Web specializes in small to medium-sized businesses and the agencies and freelancers they work with. The vast majority of customers that are moving to Liquid Web are looking for additional features and performance as they take this next step from a free email service to a professional business email platform.
Many of the reasons above may resonate with you as to why you might wish to stick with the free personal accounts from Yahoo or Gmail. Remember, 80% of small to medium businesses have also not moved to a business email platform; you are not alone. Also, Liquid Web has many tutorials for those that are unsure about how to proceed once the service has been ordered. We even have a free migration tool for the do-it-yourselfers.
There are very few products that cost less than a candy bar a day that will provide the same value to your business, both now and into the future.
How Much Does Premium Business Email Cost?
We believe business email should be transparent and simple. Liquid Web’s Professional Business Email starts at a $10 fee for the account and $1 a mailbox with the ability to upgrade for additional features, such as:
Shared cloud drive
Syncing your calendar and contacts to your mobile device
Online editing of documents and spreadsheets.
Additionally, setup couldn’t be any easier with the Most Helpful Humans in Hosting available 24/7/365. Whether your need is assistance in migrating from another provider or starting fresh, we have the support team that can help.
Ready to Get Started with Premium Business Email?
With premium anti-spam/antivirus, shared calendars, intuitive webmail, and mobile sync, Liquid Web’s Premium Business Email is the perfect solution for SMBs that have outgrown Gmail or Yahoo and are ready to take their business to the next level.
The post Why Do I Need a Business Email Account For My Business? appeared first on Liquid Web.
Companies in every industry — from apparel to electronics to beauty products to automotive and everything in-between — are competing for the same consumers, but the most successful companies have realized that retention is critical.
Studies have shown it’s between 5x and 10x more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. In fact, even if you improve your retention by just five percent, you could see an increase in profit of 25 percent to 95 percent.
Whether you’re an up-and-coming eCommerce store looking to boost retention or an established digital superstore with a loyalty program that needs a facelift, we’re here to share what you need to know about eCommerce loyalty programs and how to start a customer loyalty rewards program for your own eCommerce store.
What is a Customer Loyalty Rewards Program?
Though reaching a larger audience and attracting new customers is a piece of the puzzle, being able to retain the customers is how you achieve lasting, long-term success. After all, returning customers spend significantly more than first-time customers, and roughly 80 percent of your future profits will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers, according to the Pareto Principle.
If there’s so much to gain from repeat business, how do you encourage customers to return and make more purchases? Since 84 percent of customers are inclined to stick with brands or businesses that offer customer loyalty programs, starting your own eCommerce loyalty program is an effective way to boost retention.
Customer loyalty rewards give customers the ability to earn points or credit by making repeat or higher-volume purchases, or for other behaviors a company may want to incentivize. As for specific rewards, customers can earn things like merchandise discounts, coupons, advanced access to products that haven’t yet been released, or any number of other special benefits.
Customer loyalty programs benefit both the customer and the company. The customer benefits by earning perks and the retailer sees repeat business (and increased profits) from customers who want to earn those perks.
Among a number of different loyalty programs, there are three types that are most effective for use as eCommerce loyalty programs.
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Best Customer Loyalty Programs For eCommerce
Points-based loyalty rewards programs
Tiered loyalty rewards programs
Subscription-based loyalty rewards programs
Points-based loyalty rewards programs are a common type of loyalty program that assigns a certain point value to each product, service, or transaction. The points accumulate as the customer makes purchases over time and can be redeemed for rewards. An example of this type of loyalty program is Starbucks Rewards. Each purchase earns points, or “Stars,” that can be redeemed for a free drink or snack.
Tiered loyalty rewards programs are another common type of customer loyalty program. In such a program, each tier is associated with either a cumulative amount spent, a number of transactions, or a number of products purchased over a period of time. The perks get better with each tier, which incentivizes customers to make more purchases so they can access better perks. Tiered loyalty programs are commonly (but not exclusively) offered by hotel chains such as Marriott Rewards, IHG Rewards, and Hilton Honors.
Subscription-based loyalty rewards programs — also known as fee-based rewards programs — offer access to perks for an up-front fee, often paid annually. Amazon Prime is a subscription-based loyalty program, costing $119 per year for perks like free two-day shipping with no minimum purchase, exclusive savings during the company’s annual Prime Day, and access to Amazon services like Prime Video, Prime Music, and Twitch Prime.
There are other types of customer loyalty programs, too, including value-based programs, cash-back programs, and coalition programs, but these are either difficult to implement or less effective for eCommerce.
Benefits of Customer Loyalty Programs
In summary, customer loyalty rewards programs are beneficial for three fundamental reasons, which are:
Retention: Customer loyalty rewards programs are an effective tool for businesses to improve retention. Since these programs offer perks, customers are encouraged to continue making purchases to either take advantage of their existing perks or to gain access to even better perks.
Referrals: When customers earn valuable perks from a loyalty program, they often share their good fortune with family and friends who might also sign up for the program to experience those perks for themselves. Members of your rewards program can become your brand crusaders, driving more growth and revenue than advertising.
Cost Effective: It’s simply less costly to invest in a customer loyalty rewards program that keeps existing customers coming back than it is to gain new customers through marketing.
Important Customer Loyalty Program Considerations
Loyalty programs can be an invaluable tool for your eCommerce store. However, if perks are too hard to earn or don’t offer enough value, there’s no incentive to be loyal to your store, meaning less repeat business.
Here are some important considerations as you’re creating your eCommerce loyalty program:
Attainable vs. aspirational
Short-term vs. long-term value
Generosity stands out
Be wary of loyalty killers
Attainable vs. Aspirational
Take your time to figure out how the tiers will work if you choose a tier-based program. Customers should be incentivized to make additional purchases by the perks of higher tier levels, so higher tiers should be aspirational and not too easy to reach. But if the upper tiers are too difficult to reach, your customers could get discouraged and may not even try to reach those tiers.
Short-Term Vs. Long-Term Value
Single-use coupons and discounts are short-term benefits commonly associated with points-based rewards programs. They can be both earned and used quickly. However, long-term perks are aspirational. Long-term benefits tend to involve achieving a higher tier or unlocking a certain status to earn perks of increasing value.
For example, customers might unlock special pricing or gain access to exclusive products as they ascend to new tier levels. Make sure your customers’ shopping habits should match the type of value and perks your offer through your loyalty program.
Generosity Stands Out
The most generous loyal programs are the ones that get the most buzz, both from your customers and the larger industry in which you operate. In fact, a generous loyalty program can be a major draw for new customers while also making your business more competitive. Ultimately, you want your customers having such positive experiences with your loyalty program that they become crusaders for your brand.
Be Wary Of Loyalty Killers
Your eCommerce loyalty program should always work for you, never against you. Some of the specific loyalty killers to avoid include:
Reward delays (i.e. lapses of time between earning and receiving rewards)
Customers not receiving rewards they should’ve received
Excessive or irrelevant communications
How to Start Your Customer Loyalty Rewards Program
Though starting your own eCommerce loyalty program may sound complicated to implement, it’s actually easier than you might think.
Step 1: Pick a Catchy Name
While it’s true that a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, your customers will hear the name of your rewards program before they ever smell the sweetness of its perks. For this reason, taking some time to choose a name for your eCommerce loyalty program, something memorable and catchy, is the first step.
As you brainstorm, try to think of names that play off the imagery of your logo or your brand, business, or site name. Additionally, it’s a good idea to choose a name for the rewards “currency” your customers will earn, or to pick names for the tiers they’ll strive to hit. For example, customers enrolled in Starbucks Rewards earn “Stars,” which has much more personality than simple points.
Step 2: Choose a Loyalty Program Type
There are pros and cons to each type of rewards program, so you’ll need to consider the purchasing habits of your customers to make the most appropriate choice. For example, a points-based program that offers short-term perks is ideal if your customers make frequent purchases with a relatively low average transaction amount.
Alternately, if your eCommerce store offers a vast catalog of products or services, a subscription-based program that offers continuous discounts or perks like free shipping might be the best option.
Step 3: Invest in the Right Infrastructure
Investing in some infrastructure is the next step toward rolling out your own eCommerce loyalty program. More specifically, you’ll need some type of software, plugin, or a third-party service to implement the program.
For example, WordPress plugins like Gratisfaction by Apps Mav are ideal for those who use WooCommerce to run their eCommerce sites with WordPress. Using Gratisfaction lets you quickly and painlessly add a customer loyalty rewards program to both the customer-facing front end and admin-facing back end of your WooCommerce store.
Step 4: Offer Perks That Your Customers Value
When your eCommerce loyalty programs offer perks that your customers would legitimately love to get their hands on, there’s immediately a compelling reason to participate in the program. It’s even better when the perks your offer aren’t available anywhere else. Don’t offer the same coupons your customers can find on sites like RetailMeNot.
Step 5: Create the Structure of Your Loyalty Program
Now that you’ve gotten several steps into the process of starting a customer loyalty rewards program, you have to answer some important questions, such as:
How will your rewards program work?
Will you offer a points-based, tiered, or subscription-based loyalty program?
If it’s a points-based system, how are points earned?
And what’s the value of those points?
If you’ve chosen a tiered rewards system, how many tiers will there be?
What’s the criteria for each tier?
And what are the exclusive perks for each tier?
If you’ve chosen a subscription-based program, how will your customers justify paying the fee to join your loyalty program?
Expect your loyalty program to change and evolve as you answer these kinds of questions to better understand how your loyalty program will work. In fact, that’s actually the point of this step; you want to address all the minute details, allowing your rewards program to take its final (or nearly final) form. From here, you can iterate, making your loyalty program stronger and more compelling.
Step 6: Leverage Your Loyalty Program for Reviews
You can leverage your eCommerce loyalty program to gain more exposure for your WooCommerce store. A prime example would be to offer bonus rewards points to customers who write reviews of your products or services. This brings in a social element, creating a community of loyal customers who are encouraged by your loyalty program to share the experiences they’ve had with your products, services, or brand.
Step 7: Offer Fun & Excitement
If you want to take your eCommerce loyalty program to the next level, you might consider upping the fun and excitement levels a bit. Something as simple as offering achievement badges for hitting certain tiers or reaching high point levels can make your rewards program more social and give it the feel of a game.
In fact, you can even add game-like elements to your rewards program, such as a wheel to spin periodically for bonus perks or puzzles that temporarily boost discounts when they’re solved. This is called gamification, and it can make for a more effective loyalty program.
Step 8: Give Your Customers Emotional Value
If your business supports a cause or advocacy group, consider bringing it into your rewards program. For instance, you could donate a small percentage of purchases made by your rewards program members to an initiative that’s relevant to your business.
Since their purchases would have a positive influence on others, your customers could take pride in having invested in your business while also making them more likely to continue making purchases from your WooCommerce store.
Step 9: Marketing & Accessibility
The easiest way to market your new loyalty program is to include it in your existing marketing channels. Mention it in newsletters, promote it to followers on social media, and add links to the sign-up page in logical places throughout your site. There are even ways to have a pop-up prompt your visitors to join your loyalty program using any number of WooCommerce-friendly WordPress plugins.
Make your loyalty program accessible. Customers should be able to sign-up for your eCommerce loyalty program at any of the three key times: before, during, or after checkout. Add sign-up options accordingly.
Cultivate a Following With Your Own Customer Loyalty Program
A growing number of managed WooCommerce stores are recognizing the immense value that offering an eCommerce loyalty program provides for your WordPress store. Whether you choose a tiered program, a points-based program, a subscription-based program, or even some other type of rewards program, the idea is to offer your customers real value, which becomes an incentive to remain loyal to your business.
Now that you know the steps to take to create the best loyalty program for your WooCommerce store, you’re ready to turn loyal customers into your own word-of-mouth marketing team.
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With more shoppers moving online, eCommerce customer experience is becoming a more complex and critical part of acquiring and retaining customers. According to HubSpot, 80% of consumers say they would stop doing business with a company because of poor customer experience. And by 2020, a Walker study estimates that customer experience will dethrone product and price as the primary way to differentiate a brand.
Customer experience is the soon-to-be-crowned king of eCommerce, and you’ll need a good design and marketing strategy to compete. Here are some strategies for building an eCommerce customer experience to support your conversion rate optimization strategy.
What’s eCommerce Customer Experience?
Creating an eCommerce customer experience involves fulfilling the practical and emotional needs of your customers. Practical needs include intuitive navigation or an easy-to-use checkout process. When you meet a practical need, you make the customer journey easier. A customer’s emotional needs are satisfied through user experiences like enticing product images that inspire them to buy or an “About Us” page that builds positive brand affiliation.
By satisfying your customer’s practical and emotional needs, you’re able to nudge them into converting more. Without a simple process, customers get frustrated. Without an emotional connection, they lose interest. Effective customer experience satisfies both needs with a comprehensive design and marketing strategy that increases conversions.
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Customers need to know what you’re selling and how to find your products. Your store’s layout and navigation is the foundation of this experience.
Main Navigation Design
Your customers have a better experience when your main navigation is simple and displays all of your product categories. Customers can get confused when they hover over a “Products” button only to be overwhelmed by a drop-down menu of dozens of product names and categories. Keep it simple and streamlined.
Don’t hide all of you categories behind an “All Products” button. This makes it hard for the customer to see everything that you’re selling. They might think you only sell electronic gadgets when you also sell clothing.
Your main navigation should display your product categories on your homepage. At least 18% of eCommerce sites don’t do this, according to Baymard Institute.
Keep your navigation headings specific. Avoid general labels like “What we do” and “Products”. These descriptors are straightforward, but they don’t inspire clicks, and your customers aren’t searching for those terms anyway. Instead, use Google Keyword Planner to populate your navigation panel with relevant keywords to describe your various sections.
Having search functionality on your eCommerce site is the quickest way to connect customers with the products and services they’re looking for. So, make your search box prominent on the page, especially for the mobile version of your site. The most common placement is at the top of the page for both mobile and desktop.
Use contrasting colors for your search field and/or button so customers can find it. Design your search field with icons like the magnifying glass so customers immediately recognize its function. And put the search field on every page of your website.
Autocomplete helps customers find what they are looking for faster. Use the search bar plugin to deploy this technology on your store.
When a customer land on your product pages, you can increase their motivation to buy if you design your page and marketing strategies to include these elements.
The law of reciprocity states that a customer will feel motivated to repay you for something you’ve given them. That’s why incentives like free gifts or discounts are effective ways to compel customer conversion. By giving customers a small gift, you can then ask them for “payment” later, in the form of signing up for a newsletter or purchasing a product “recommended for you.”
It can be frustrating for customers on the edge of converting to wait a day to purchase, only for the item to sell out or for a sale to end. Keep shoppers up to date on current availability and sale timelines. By making it known when an item is popular and selling out, potential customers aren’t caught off guard by inventory shortages.
Fill your product pages with proof from others that you’re a reputable vendor. Customer trust is a major motivator and is affected by many different factors—from online reviews to what payment gateway you use.
One easy way to show social proof is to display trust badges on your product pages. Badges from the Better Business Bureau, PayPal Verified, or McAfee Secure all communicate that you run a legitimate business, improving your eCommerce customer experience. Here are some other types of social proof:
The happy customer is the one whose expectations match the product they receive. When done correctly, product images go a long way in setting customer expectations before payment and shipment happen. That cuts down on returns and improves customer experience.
Plus, attractive images of your products are enjoyable to look at. Get a variety of shots. Close-ups emphasize fine details, while different angles create an overall understanding of a product’s shape and size. To get the best of both, use medium shots of products and hover zoom tools for closer looks.
Pay attention to your image file sizes. Large files make your product pages load slower unless you have web hosting designed for eCommerce. You should optimize your images by compressing them and using browser caching to increase page load speeds. Here are some recommended image sizes for your product pages:
Small Thumbnails: 200 x 200 pixels max
Medium Sized: 800 x 800 pixels max
Hover zooms: 1,000 x 1,000 pixels max
Really amp up your customer experience by A/B split testing your images to discover which images drive the most conversions.
There’s no better place to look for barriers to conversion than the checkout process. Complicated checkouts can lose you almost a third of your conversions. Big or small, any hiccup in payment and shipping can cause a customer with the sincere intention of leaving with your products, to instead, leave a bad review. Here are some common checkout problems to avoid.
According to a Baymard Institute survey, 37% of shoppers say they will abandon their carts if the site requires creating an account. The sale you’re missing is more important than the gathering of customer contact information. Customers who don’t want to buy from you because of the extra step to purchase aren’t going to be enthusiastic about your emails either. Make guest checkout an option. It will reduce your cart abandonment rates and improve your customer experience. And use a cart abandonment plugin like Jilt to recover any lost sales you have.
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Customers often get sticker shock at the checkout process because of extra fees, taxes, and shipping rates. Up to 60% say they will leave an online store because of extra costs like shipping. Cut down on cart abandonment by throwing in shipping for free when you can. Roll the shipping costs into the product’s price to keep things simple and streamlined. The improved customer experience will offset any loss the higher price presents.
Customers love free shipping, so let them know you’re offering it every chance you get. Put it on your homepage, emails, banner ads, and social media ads. And use the advantage of free shipping to upsell and cross-sell. Offer free shipping for multiple items or as a “special offer” when sales slow. Customers know they can maximize the free shipping advantage with more purchases. So, they’re incentivized already.
The best customer experience is one that’s personalized. Forty-eight percent of consumers spend more when their experience is personalized. Keep it all about your customers with these features.
Sizing is a big reason why many customers opt for brick-and-mortar retail rather than online. Overcome this fear with a helpful sizing chart.
Give your customers enough sizing information in your charts. Provide numerical sizes (6, 8, 10) along with their standard descriptors (small, medium, large). Overall, try and include sizing information that doesn’t require measurements, since most customers won’t know their measurements, nor have a measuring tape handy.
To increase your sizing accuracy, encourage your customers to upload images of themselves wearing your clothing or using your products. Consumers can use them as a helpful fitting guide. Plus, the images are a highly effective form of social proof.
To add another level of personalization, include a color swatch selector next to your sizing chart on your product page. The color swatch lets customers easily cycle through the different color and fabric options you provide.
Product recommendations increase conversions. One Barilliance study found that 31% of eCommerce site revenues resulted from product recommendations. Recommendations also improve your customer experience. Customers who engage with recommendation widgets are 5.5x more likely to complete a purchase than those who don’t.
Recommendations fall into three categories:
Those based on data from individual customers (“You might also like…”)
Those based on data from other users (“Other people also liked…”)
Or a mixture of both types of data
Plugins like Recommendation Engines for WooCommerce give you the flexibility to offer recommendation within all three of these category types. In the Barilliance study, the best performing recommendation widgets were those making suggestions based on what other customers were buying.
To make your recommendations more effective, place them above the fold of your product pages so customers don’t need to scroll to find them.
Page Load Speed and Customer Experience
Website performance affects both the practical and emotional aspects of the customer experience. When customers have to wait for product images to load or transactions that take too long, their frustrations grow exponentially—and their experience suffers. Performance studies estimate that for every 1 second it takes for your eCommerce site to load, your conversion rate drops 7%.
Use a site speed tester like GTMetrix to get a performance benchmark. Then use the GTMetrix report to identify ways to improve your page load speed times. Also, consider whether your current website hosting is optimized for eCommerce. For example, some WordPress hosts are built for blogs, not image-heavy, high-traffic online stores.
The Future of Customer Experience
If the customer experience is soon to become the key differentiator of a brand, what are the big picture implications for online store owners? Online sales lack the personal connection brick-and-mortar stores enjoy. There’s no happy face to greet them at the door, no fast and friendly sales associates or dressing rooms for confirming a good fit.
These are limitations online store owners will need to overcome by anticipating objections before they happen. That means maximizing the personalization benefits online shopping does offer—like predictive algorithms for personal recommendations and targeted marketing campaigns.
Despite the anonymity and privacy online shopping affords, shoppers will always crave the need to feel special and connected to something. That something is your brand, which is nothing more than the collection of the dozens of small touch points that make up your customer experience. Make each one count.
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Speed plays an integral role in the overall experience a customer has at your store. Our Managed WooCommerce Hosting platform reduces query loads by 95% while automatically handling image compression, which enables your store to run quickly. It also includes premium plugins from IconicWP that help keep your store lightweight while providing additional functionality such as color swatches for your product pages.
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Joe Oesterling, the CTO for Liquid Web, was recently interviewed by Gail Lobel Rand from WebsitePlanet.com to discuss the hosting solutions that Liquid Web offers to SMBs and what differentiates us from the marketplace. The article breaks down, in detail, the focus that Liquid Web places on Web Professionals, an analysis of our Net Promoter Score of 66, and our Managed Application, Managed Hosting, and Custom Managed Hosting solutions.
The interview covers details about our Cloud Sites platform traffic-scaling technology and easy control panel for administration, an explanation of how our Support Teams provide exceptional proactive and technical support, and a few unique aspects of our Managed WordPress and Managed WooCommerce Hosting platforms, such as new Starter Plans starting at $39 and up. With WordPress powering almost a third of the Internet, Liquid Web is well positioned to provide exceptional service for these platforms moving into the future.
Read the Full Interview Here
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The Industry Buzz section is divided into three major sections, which is then subdivided into smaller sections.
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