Liquid Web Official Blog

Why Do I Need a Business Email Account For My Business?

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: Tom@widgetsforyou.com Tomtestaccount@gmail.com The well-known proverb holds: “perception is reality.”  Get insight on how to grow your business. Subscribe to the Liquid Web weekly newsletter to receive more content like this sent straight to your inbox. 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.

How Do I Start a Customer Loyalty Rewards Program?

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. Get industry-leading tips on growing your store. Subscribe to the Liquid Web eCommerce newsletter and get content like this sent straight to your inbox.  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. Need a Solution Designed For eCommerce? Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting includes premium plugins from IconicWP, Beaver Builder for landing pages, and cart abandonment technology from Jilt to help retain more customers. The post How Do I Start a Customer Loyalty Rewards Program? appeared first on Liquid Web.

How Can I Improve My Customer Service and CRO For My eCommerce Store?

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. Get industry-leading tips on optimizing your store. Subscribe to the Liquid Web eCommerce newsletter and get content like this sent straight to your inbox. Homepage Design 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. Site Search 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. Product Pages 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. Incentives 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. Social Proof 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: Client testimonials Press mentions Customer reviews Expert/Celebrity testimonials Product Images 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. Checkout Process 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. Account Required 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.  Covered by Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting Jilt comes standard with Managed WooCommerce Hosting. Shipping Charges 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. Personalization 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 Charts 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. Color Swatches 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. Recommendations 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. Ready to Try a Hosting Solution Built for eCommerce? 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. The post How Can I Improve My Customer Service and CRO For My eCommerce Store? appeared first on Liquid Web.

WebsitePlanet.com Shows How Liquid Web’s Targeted Hosting Solutions and Exceptional Support Help Web Professionals

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 The post WebsitePlanet.com Shows How Liquid Web’s Targeted Hosting Solutions and Exceptional Support Help Web Professionals appeared first on Liquid Web.

Your New 16-Step WordPress Maintenance Checklist: 2019 Edition

I think you’ll agree with me when I say: WordPress maintenance can be a pain. Almost all WordPress users have heard stories about plugin updates or theme updates breaking sites, or worse, websites getting hacked. This WordPress maintenance checklist will take away the pain from keeping your website running stable and secure. It’ll give you a framework to structure maintenance into simple recurring tasks which you can partially automate. You can literally save days throughout the new year by using this checklist. I’ve broken down this checklist into multiple areas to account for maintenance tasks you should perform on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. You’ll find that most of the daily tasks can be automated with ease. The weekly and monthly tasks can sometimes be automated as well, but there are some things you will want to do manually. All tasks from this checklist come from my team’s experience of managing 100+ WordPress websites on behalf of our clients. I’m not saying this to sell you on my service but to demonstrate the practicability of this WordPress checklist. This is no fluffy checklist written for the purpose of creating a checklist. It’s a tool you’ll want to have in your belt. You don’t need to be a WordPress developer to follow along with this checklist. In fact, you won’t have to write a single line of code or touch any server setting. This checklist provides you with instructions for maintenance tasks on a high level – so you know that your site is set up properly. If your site breaks (e.g. because of a faulty plugin update that causes an error in combination with your theme) you might still need a developer at hand. But you’ll also be in the position to simply bring back a backup of your website to get it back up and running in no time. While this WordPress maintenance checklist gives you a glimpse into all of the areas that go into keeping a WordPress site running smoothly, it cannot hide the fact that WordPress maintenance is tricky. However, it will act as a beacon guiding you in the right direction. And if you’re on Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting plan, you’ll find maintaining your site even easier. Subscribe to the Liquid Web newsletter to get more WordPress content like this sent straight to your inbox. Daily WordPress Maintenance Tasks I’m fully aware that daily WordPress maintenance might not fit into your schedule. It certainly does not in mine. I’m a WordPress developer running my own business for maintenance services and loading speed optimization, a writer for Liquid Web (I love their approach to support the WP community), a full-time lead developer for a German agency, and a husband and friend. Surely you’ll agree that the daily WordPress care program should take as little time as possible. But no matter whether your business depends on your WordPress site (think of lead generation, e-commerce, etc) or whether your site is for your hobby, daily maintenance is important. Hence, I’ll give you three tasks you should perform on a daily basis. All of those can and should be automated because you want those maintenance tasks to be executed no matter what life throws at you. Software can do these things a lot better than humans. 1. Back Up Your Website Daily Having a backup of your website is mandatory. You never know when things could go south because your website can break for so many different reasons. It doesn’t even need to be a problem with WordPress itself, but could also be related to your hosting company’s servers or their infrastructure. The great news is that some professional WordPress developers have thought about this problem and created rock-solid solutions for us. While reliable hosting companies like Liquid Web do include backups in their Managed WordPress hosting plans, I like the security of having a second backup of my website somewhere in the cloud. As a free plugin, I rely on UpdraftPlus most of the time, including my own website WP Mastery. I’m happy to start my WordPress maintenance checklist with this particular plugin because it served me and my clients well for years. You can simply install it from your WP dashboard and then configure automated daily backups that get stored to whatever cloud service you prefer (I have my backups in Dropbox). If you’d like a paid alternative with a support team you can reach out to 24/7, I highly recommend you check out blogvault.net. Their founder Akshat Choudhary gave an interview for Liquid Web recently, outlining how he runs his two businesses and what he thinks about WordPress security. 2. Get Notified About Downtime Every second in which your website isn’t accessible matters. You’re losing visitors and, more importantly, damaging your brand’s reputation. Just think about how people go crazy when Facebook isn’t online. Those incidents even make it to media outlets like USA TODAY. While your brand likely isn’t as big as Facebook, you still want to know when your website goes down so that you can bring it back online fast. Here are a few services that help monitor your site for uptime. UptimeRobot is a free service you can use to automatically test your website every five minutes. If a test fails, you’ll get a notification from their platform so you can reach out to your hosting company or website team to fix the issue. If you’re looking for a more complex and powerful website monitoring, have a look at Pingdom. That service isn’t free but gives you plenty of automated checks to ensure that your site is performing at its peak capacity at all times. 3. Protect Your Site Against Hackers With WordPress powering a third of the Internet, hackers love it as a target. Imagine how many websites they can attack that all use the same platform. Since most attacks are automated nowadays, you shouldn’t believe that your website will not be attacked just because it’s small. That’s why Liquid Web thinks security is important and why you should add your own measures as well. You can install tools like WordFence to have your website files monitored for unwanted changes (e.g. caused by malware). Weekly WordPress Maintenance Tasks 4. Install Pending Updates Installing updates isn’t a task you should take lightly. Always ensure you have a backup in place. Next, install the updates on a staging website first. Read this article on creating a staging site on Liquid Web or talk to your hosting support team if you’re not with Liquid Web. If you cannot test updates on a staging copy of your website first and still want to follow this WordPress maintenance checklist, install the pending updates one by one. Install your updates in this order: WordPress core updates Theme updates Plugin updates 5. Monitor Your Traffic And Rankings Do you currently know if your traffic went up or down over the past few weeks? Chances are that you don’t. However, knowing how your traffic and rankings develop can be a game changer to your business. You can base decisions on that data: How your content marketing campaigns are performing How your visitors respond to your content (time on page, bounce rate, etc) How your SEO strategy is working Whether your site got blacklisted (organic traffic dropped) Whether one of your content pieces got more attention than usual. Leverage Google Analytics to report last week’s data via email every Monday. You only need to include the most relevant numbers in that report so you can skim through it within a minute and only dive deeper if a number stands out from the rest. 6. Run Malware Scans As I already mentioned in the checklist (see #3), protecting your website against hackers is crucially important. The plugin WordFence which I mentioned earlier can run automated malware scans, but there are more tools you might want to leverage. Sucuri’s Sitecheck platform is one of my favorite malware scanners. It’s a free tool that analyzes your website for known WordPress malware and provides other helpful information as well. 7. Moderate Comments Depending on whether you have comments activated on your blog, you’ll want to moderate them on a weekly basis (or more often if necessary). Delete spam comments to free up space in your database and reply to relevant comments. This is not just a great way to declutter your WordPress site, it also helps you keep an active relationship with your readers. 8. Go Through Your Site Visually Perform a visual check of your website at least weekly. You’ll want to be sure that your site looks the way you want it to! Don’t just perform this check in your favorite browser you use all the time, but also test your site in other widely used browsers. At least include Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer / Microsoft Edge, an Android phone and an iOS phone. If this checklist item sounds too labor intensive, move it to the monthly section of my WordPress maintenance checklist. Just ensure you do it regularly! Monthly WordPress Maintenance Tasks 9. Clean Up Your Database From Junk Data Having a clean WordPress database helps with making your site load faster. Junk data can be spam comments, settings from plugins that were uninstalled but not deleted, post revisions, and other data that is a bit more technical to explain. My go-to plugin for optimizing WordPress databases is Swift Performance Pro but since that is paid, you can use WP Sweep as a free alternative. Just be sure that your database is backed up before you start the cleaning process! 10. Remove Unnecessary Users Having outdated or unnecessary users active on your website is a serious security risk. Those users could be co-workers that switched divisions or had to be let go, logins for plugin or theme support, authors that aren’t active anymore, and so on. You never know whether their passwords are secure, whether they share their passwords with others or whether hackers know their email addresses and can thus launch targeted attacks against your site. Hence, I recommend you go through your list of users once per month and delete all users that aren’t absolutely needed. Especially have a look at the users with administrative capabilities and double-check if those users need to be admins. 11. Delete Unused Themes And Plugins Similar to the unnecessary users, there’s also no reason to keep unused themes and plugins in your WordPress site. Delete those plugins and themes you don’t need any more to remove those files from your server and the settings from the database. Remember to clean your WordPress cache after this step, so that your site loads with only those plugins necessary. 12. Check The Loading Time Of Your Website Besides security, this WordPress maintenance checklist also focuses on making websites faster. Make sure you check your site’s loading time regularly. I run my site through GTmetrix weekly to ensure that my changes to not negatively impact my loading time. By doing this every week, it becomes easier to identify bottlenecks that limit the performance of your website. 13. Search For Broken Links In Your Content Broken links are links that go nowhere and result in error messages. You don’t want those to be in your content, because it makes your content look like it’s researched badly. There is a very popular plugin called Broken Link Checker, which I do NOT recommend at all. Even though it reliably points out all broken links on your site, it’s known to slow down loading times – which is a no-go in my eyes. Instead, you can use deadlinkchecker.com to find links on your site that are broken. If you insist on using Broken Link Checker, be sure to measure your site’s loading time carefully. 14. Check The Google Search Console The Google Search Console is a free tool that provides you with an abundance of information on how Google thinks your site is performing. It’s a good habit to look into your console once per month to check if there are any errors creeping up, such as content that can’t be found on your site, indexing errors, or other problems. Yearly WordPress Maintenance Tasks 15. Review Your WordPress Setup Once per year, set aside 2-3 hours to review your entire setup. You might need more time than that depending on your experience with WordPress, but you should take the time to: Review your hosting company, see if it still fits your requirements and how it compares it to other hosting companies that specialize in WordPress hosting. Review the theme you’re using and check for alternatives that might load faster, look better or are easier to use. Review the plugins and search for better performing alternatives. Review 3rd-party services like CDNs, analytics tools, split-testing tools, and others. With these review items, you can be sure that your site is ready for another year of high-performing online marketing instead of letting components of your site get older and older without even noticing. 16. Review Your Content Strategy Similarly to reviewing the technical components of your website, you also should take time to review how your content strategy is performing. While your content strategy heavily depends on your marketing goals, budget, team capacity, and other factors, there are a few metrics that are worth including in almost any content strategy review: Use Google Analytics to get an idea of which posts and pages get the most visits. Check which traffic sources have the highest time on page and conversion rate and the lowest bounce rate. Find out which geographical areas seem to value your content most (this might be a potential for targeted ads). Review the performance of your opt-in forms and calls to action. Ensure that event tracking (e.g. clicks on important buttons) is set up and running. Check which content gets the most shares and comments to double down on those topics. This WordPress maintenance checklist gives you a more than a solid overview of key factors that can turn your WordPress site into a valuable asset. At the very least, it’ll help you save time in your regular maintenance tasks and will ensure you don’t miss important steps. Managed WordPress Can Help Liquid Web can take care of many of these things for you automatically with Managed WordPress Hosting. From daily backups to automatic core WordPress and plugin updates, they can streamline your process. The post Your New 16-Step WordPress Maintenance Checklist: 2019 Edition appeared first on Liquid Web.

Which Intel Xeon Dedicated Server Should You Choose for Your Business?

The industry is growing, your business is growing, and Liquid Web’s hardware offerings are changing to keep up. Liquid Web is happy to announce new offerings under our standard US Zone Dedicated packages featuring the Intel Xeon E3-1230 V6, Intel Xeon Silver 4108, and Intel Xeon Gold 6130, all coupled with fully integrated motherboards. Intel Xeon E3-1230 Dedicated Server The E3 line has been around for several years now and has continued to outrank the other processors in its class, both in performance and value. Even though this chipset is currently the smallest of Intel’s product offerings to boast hyperthreading, the performance is exceptional. Even with only four cores, the eight threads offer processing power to maintain great computational performance across your production environment. Intel also removed the integrated graphics unit from this product, unnecessary in a server environment, which allows us to keep the price point very competitive. The Intel Xeon E3-1230 V6 is an ideal offering for our clients with a business model focused on incoming traffic. The 1230 package, featuring 16GB of RAM and 2x 240GB of SSD storage, all coupled with the seamlessly integrated motherboard and processor combination, allows for enough processing power to handle high-traffic websites, small application processing, or multiple website platforms — which makes this package great for resellers. Intel Xeon Silver 4108 Dedicated Server The Intel Xeon Silver 4108 showcases a fully hyperthreaded, eight-core processor with 16 logical threads, which is perfect for database read/writes and application hosting or setups which require more processing than the average website. Coupling this processor with 32GB of RAM and 2x 480GB SSD drives makes this offering perfect for a reseller looking to maximize capacity across a single device. And, if the processing power wasn’t enough (thanks to the motherboard integration) the package can be ordered with dual sockets effectively leveraging two Xeon Silver 4108 processors simultaneously and doubling the processing capacity. Further, the 4108 sports Intel’s Turbo Boost technology, which dynamically increases processor capacity to the utmost of the immediate environmental tolerances. Intel Xeon Gold 6130 Dedicated Server Intel’s Xeon Gold 6130 offers all the benefits and perks of the 4108 and the 1230, including hyperthreading, Turbo Boost technology, a fully integrated motherboard with dual socket options, and a great price point; but the 6130 defaults to 16 cores, a total of 32 threads. This processor is the top-tier offering across the industry and packs a benchmark that blows away your standard packages in hosting. That type of processing power, along with two 480GB SSD drives and 32GB of RAM, makes this precisely what our clients need who focus on large databases, multi-user applications, and virtualization: speed, efficiency, and processing power strong enough to eliminate the necessity for multi-server modules and reduce complexity with many applications. As always, all our offerings come standard with 5/8/8TB bandwidth packages, respectively, and a backup disk to offer peace of mind in the case of a catastrophic event. Finally, all these offerings can be fully customized to match your personal management preference and can include matching off-site backups and our polished Server Protection and Malware Remediation products, keeping your server secure and running smoothly. To learn more about our new upgrades, visit: https://www.liquidweb.com/products/dedicated/ The post Which Intel Xeon Dedicated Server Should You Choose for Your Business? appeared first on Liquid Web.

Liquid Web Upgrades their Managed Dedicated Server Solutions with the Latest Intel Xeon Scalable CPU Technology to Improve Performance and Security for Their Customers

LANSING, Mich.– February 5, 2019 – Liquid Web, a managed hosting company purpose-built for mission-critical sites, stores, and applications for small and midsize businesses announces the refresh of their Managed Dedicated Server offerings, now featuring the new Intel Xeon Scalable processors. The new lineup includes the Intel Xeon E3-1230 v6, Intel Xeon Silver 4108, and Intel Xeon Gold 6130. These technology improvements enhance speed, reliability, and security across the Managed Dedicated Server portfolio and signal Liquid Web’s continued commitment to growing their customers’ online potential. “Our goal is to provide our customers with the best available server technology backed by the Most Helpful Humans in Hosting™. This makes Liquid Web the best choice for web-dependent businesses and the designers, developers, and agencies who serve them,” said Melanie Purkis, Director of Managed Hosting Products. “This new Intel Xeon Scalable technology provides workload-optimized performance, improved hardware security, and serious processing power that our customers require for their mission-critical sites, applications, and databases,” said Purkis. Liquid Web’s Managed Dedicated Servers come standard with DDoS protection, advanced security, and built-in backup disk. And, as with all Liquid Web customers, Managed Dedicated Server users benefit from our wholly-owned data centers that are staffed 24/7/365 with highly-trained administrators and engineers who are always available by phone or live online chat in 59 seconds or less — guaranteed. All of this comes without the need for contracts, long-term commitments, or hidden costs. All Managed Servers at Liquid Web also include the following hosting essentials and uptime guarantee: Security Performance Enhancements (CloudFlare) DDoS protection Built-in server backup solutions 100% Power and Network Uptime Guarantee 24×7 proactive monitoring Optional off-site backups and Server Protection/Malware Remediation To learn more visit: https://www.liquidweb.com/products/dedicated/ About Liquid Web Liquid Web powers online content, commerce, and potential to 30,000 SMB entrepreneurs spanning 150 countries. An industry leader in managed hosting and cloud services, Liquid Web is known for its high-performance services and exceptional customer support. The company owns and manages its own core data centers, providing a diverse range of offerings, including bare metal servers, fully managed hosting, Managed WordPress, and Managed WooCommerce Hosting, and continues to evolve its service offerings to meet the ever-changing needs of its web-reliant, professional customers. As an industry leader in customer service*, the rapidly expanding company has been recognized among INC. Magazine’s 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies for eleven years. Liquid Web is part of the Madison Dearborn Partners family of companies, Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC (“MDP”). For more information, please visit www.liquidweb.com, or subscribe to our Blog at www.liquidweb.com/blog. *2018 Net Promoter Score of 65 Contact: Mayra Pena, mpena@liquidweb.com The post Liquid Web Upgrades their Managed Dedicated Server Solutions with the Latest Intel Xeon Scalable CPU Technology to Improve Performance and Security for Their Customers appeared first on Liquid Web.

Guide to A/B Testing Tools for Beginners

Which version of these introductory sentences do you prefer? (A): “Online store owners must conduct tests of their marketing elements with scientific precision.” (B): “Online store owners are really just mad alchemists—standing in the lab of their websites, trying to find the magical elixir for converting website visitors into customers.” Version A is a little dry, but it delivers the point quickly. Version B is more engaging, but it also takes longer to read. Maybe you like your sentences to get to the point, or maybe you like them more poetic. (Remember your answer. You’ll need it later.) Either way, you just participated in a round of A/B testing. We hope you feel smarter. As both of these sentences suggest, A/B testing is a scientific approach that every marketer and online store owner needs to master to improve their conversion rate optimization (CRO). Why? Because it’s a proven strategy for converting more customers and selling more products and services. Now that we’ve covered a real-world example of A/B testing, let’s look at an academic definition. What Is A/B Testing? A/B testing is the process of identifying the more preferred version of two or more examples of marketing content. During the A/B testing process, marketers run versions of a web page, observe which gets more interaction (e.g., likes, clicks, views), then use that version to optimize conversion rates. A/B testing is also known as split testing, variant testing, or bucket testing. Get industry-leading tips on optimizing your store. Subscribe to the Liquid Web eCommerce newsletter and get content like this sent straight to your inbox.   Although web pages are a common subject of A/B testing, you can split test virtually any marketing element. At the micro-level, a store owner could try varying the color of a “Buy Now” button to see which one got more clicks. At the macro-level, a firm could run two versions of their checkout process to see which one resulted in fewer carts abandoned. Why A/B Test at All? A/B testing is not just a thing you do. It’s an attitude towards your business that keeps you dedicated to constant improvement. Plus, split testing is simple to execute, affordable to maintain, and applicable to every part of your business. These qualities make it a low-risk endeavor. A/B testing is the way you can fail fast and break small things. Use it to improve these areas of your business: Engagement Traffic Marketing ROI Bounce rates Conversion rates Sales Content quality The A/B Testing Process A/B testing is basically an experiment following the scientific method. Here are the seven basic steps of A/B testing. 1. Identify What You Want to Test Gather what conversion rate optimization (CRO) data you currently have. What specific conversions are you trying to raise? More subscriptions? Higher email opens? Increase your newsletter sign-ups? Now, identify the marketing asset responsible for these conversions—like form field design, email copy, and landing page layout. 2. Decide What “Success” Looks Like You’re doing testing because you’re dedicated to improving your site. So, you know what underperformance looks like. But what does success look like? You have to decide on that before you continue with testing. Otherwise, you can’t correctly interpret the results. You won’t have any data points to compare. Is it a percentage increase in page opens you’re after? Maybe it’s a rise in revenue over the quarter. It could simply be a true vanity metric, like more positive customer feedback on your website redesign. Whatever “success” looks like, decide now. 3. Find a New Strategy You may know what your goals are, but do you know how get there? Start by gathering best practices. For example, if you want to split test a landing page, include these nine key elements every converting landing page has. Maybe you want to try out a new blog post format. Follow these seven tips on improving any blog post’s conversion rate. Finally, make some hypotheses about your outcomes that match up with your success goals. 4. Create a “B” Version of the Original Create a variation of the asset you want to test. Find online tools like a CTA Button Generator or Headline Analyzer to test out new approaches. If you’re using WooCommerce, try an A/B testing plugin to manage your tests. Or use complete A/B testing platforms like Unbounce or Optimizely, which have easy-to-use page builders that don’t require developer resources or site integration. Of course, you can have a version C, D, E,…, which can give you more data points, but that’s more creating, tracking, and analyzing you have to do. 5. Deploy Your New Strategy Run the test and take measurements. Randomly assign visitors to interact with your control version (A) and experimental (B) version. To keep your test valid, control all variables external to any changes you’re making. For example, you’ll usually want to test both variations at the same time and for the same duration, unless time is what you’re testing. If possible, target customers using the same browser and devices (e.g., Chrome and Desktop). Different browsers can vary in page load speeds depending on bugs, fixes, and software versions. 6. Analyze the Data Now that you’ve run your experiment, it’s time to look at the results. But just because landing page A got more newsletter sign-ups than B doesn’t mean you’ve got a winner. The difference in the two may not be statistically significant. You can’t control for every variable, and randomness could be the explanation for different results. Upload your data to a free A/B test calculator to see if your results are actually meaningful and not the result of random chance. 7. Repeat Ad Infinitum If you want real results out of your CRO strategy, make A/B testing a mainstay of your overall marketing efforts. A/B testing is never finished, only abandoned. It’s a simple idea: The more you optimize, the better your conversion rate will get. A/B Testing Example Here’s a real-world example of the A/B testing process at work. The analytics company ComScore wanted to increase leads for their sales team through social proof and customer testimonials. So, the company decided to A/B test around the effectiveness of these campaigns. ComScore’s Director of Web Marketing, Ferry Gijzel, began by gathering existing company data. Gijzel ordered an audit of demo requests to see how effective the company’s lead forms on their product pages were at generating requests. The audit revealed lower numbers than were expected—something definitely needed changing. But change how? The answer lay in A/B test results. Gijzel and team investigated their existing product page design, researched ways to adjust them, and hypothesized probable outcomes. At the time, ComScore’s pages included a product description, customer testimonial section, and a CTA for a demo request. Gijzel hypothesized that making the customer testimonials more prominent on the page would lead to an increase in demo requests. If more prospective leads saw a recognizable brand singing ComScore’s praises, then demo requests should increase. The ComScore marketing team created three product page variations—changing the placement of customer logos on the page—and kept their current one as a control. Then they tested the new variations on 2,500 new visitors and tracked the page views of the last step in the funnel—the “Demo Request Confirmation” page. The A/B test results showed a clear winner—a variation using a vertical layout with a prominently displayed logo on top of the testimonial. The new product page increased leads by 69% compared to the original one. Google-Safe A/B Testing When running multiple variations of a landing page, you’re redirecting traffic to multiple URLs. If you’re thinking that A/B testing might affect your SEO ranking, you’re right. Google understands and advocates for split testing. But you have to follow Google’s Webmaster rules for A/B testing if you want to keep from being penalized. If you follow the rules, you’re good to go. Here’s how: No Cloaking Cloaking is the practice of presenting different content or URLs to human visitors versus Google Bots. Basically, Google doesn’t want you dividing your audience up this way because it can’t accurately “read” your pages if you send its bots to different content than your human users see. The mismatch creates inconsistent search results. Cloaking is banned by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and will get you demoted and possibly removed from the search engine completely. Use rel=“canonical” When running an A/B test with multiple URLs, use the rel=“canonical” link attribute on all of your alternate URLs to show that the original URL is the preferred version. Google recommends rel=“canonical” rather than a noindex meta tag because it matches your intentions better. Avoid 301s, Use 302s When your A/B test redirects users from your original URL to a variation URL, use a temporary (302) redirect not a permanent (301) redirect. This tells Google you’re only diverting traffic for a short amount of time—that you’re experimenting. The 302 will keep the original URL in Google’s index rather than replacing it with the test page. Keep Your Tests Short Google advises site owners to keep testing periods as short as possible. The search engine suggests two weeks as a guideline for most tests. Once the test is finished, update your content to the preferred versions and remove all of the other variants. If you wait too long, Google will think you’re trying to trick them. Google gets especially suspicious when you have only one variant that you’re serving to a large percentage of your visitors. A/B Testing Tools There are plenty of A/B testing tool options to choose from depending on the size of your site and testing needs. These tools fall into two categories. A/B Testing Platforms All-in-one platforms like Optimizely or VWO have plans to meet the needs of small or enterprise- level stores. These paid testing platforms make it easy to manage multiple experiments at once. And most feature a page builder or visual editor for customizing your page variations with your own branding. So, building out your variations won’t require developer resources. Testing platforms track your incoming A/B testing data, reporting on results and automatically testing for statistical significance. These platforms are easy to use and integrate with your site, but their monthly pricing plans may cost more than you’re willing to spend. A/B Testing Plugins Testing plugins are an affordable alternative to all-in-one testing platforms. If you’re using an eCommerce solution like WooCommerce, you have access to WordPress-supported A/B testing plugins like these: Nelio AB Testing Convert Experiments by Yoast Marketing Optimizer for WordPress WordPress Calls to Action Content Experiments With Google Analytics If you’re into using Google Analytics, you can use Google’s Content Experiments to track changes to features of your website. The process is a little complicated and requires some experience with Google Analytics. But Content Experiments is free to use, and you can do things like this: Compare how web page variations or app screens perform using a random sample of your users Define what percentage of your users are included in the experiment Choose which objective you’d like to test Get updates by email about how your experiment is doing  Covered by Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting Beaver Builder page builder comes standard with Managed WooCommerce Hosting. To use Content Experiments, you’ll need to get a Google account, create a Google Analytics account, and add tracking codes to your web pages. After you set up Content Experiments, you can manage your experiments more easily by setting up A/B testing with WordPress page builders like Beaver Builder. A/B Testing Keeps It Real Testing removes the subjective component from your decision making. It eliminates common contaminants within the decision process—like relying on the highest paid person’s opinion. Ideas can actually move from whiteboard sessions to real-world implementation. In short, A/B testing keeps your marketing real. Store owners who attribute their success to making “gut decisions” won’t be in business long. It’s a romantic notion that is quickly being replaced by experimentation and testing, which brings us back to this question: Which version of the sentence did you pick? A or B? (A): “Online store owners must conduct tests of their marketing elements with scientific precision.” (B): “Online store owners are really just mad alchemists —standing in the lab of their websites, trying to find the magical elixir for converting website visitors into customers.” On a gut level, version B is the more engaging, less bland introductory sentence, but it may be the worst at converting. Or, it may make no difference at all. The point is, you can’t know unless you test it. Need an eCommerce Hosting Solution? 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 Guide to A/B Testing Tools for Beginners appeared first on Liquid Web.

What is the Best Live Chat Software for eCommerce Customer Service?

Live chat is pretty remarkable when you think about it. You can have a back-and-forth, real-time conversation with a business—all for no charge. Calling into a business comes with the maze of “press 1” menu options and endless strains of muzak. With live chat, you simply type your question and wait for a response. With simplicity like this, it’s not surprising consumer demand for live chat grew 8.3% in 2017. In fact, recent surveys show more consumers (41%) now prefer live chat over calling (32%), email (23%), or a social media (3%). Smart eCommerce owners want the best live chat software to meet customer demands. Get industry-leading tips on growing your store. Subscribe to the Liquid Web eCommerce newsletter and get content like this sent straight to your inbox. How Can Live Chat Help eCommerce Businesses? Here are some ways live chat benefits your online business. Increase Conversions Online stores that use live chat convert more. Visitors who chat are 82% more likely to convert than customers who don’t. And chatters pay 13% more! Customers like having a direct channel for getting questions answered. The access and transparency increase trust in the brand and its products. Use live chat on landing pages to nudge visitors to explore a product, download a PDF, or subscribe to your newsletter. Lower Cart Abandonment Rates Around 70% of online shoppers will abandon a product in their carts. There are many cart abandonment solutions to recover lost revenue. And live chat is one of them. Use live chat to engage hesitant customers at checkout. For example, prompt idle customers with full carts the question: “May I answer any questions about the products you selected?” Replace Lead Generation Forms Customers hate filling out forms. They’re impersonal, confusing, and one-way communication. Forms with many options may not include a customer’s specific answer. Or a form may ask too much information or have confusing instructions. Live chat is a less formal, more direct way to gather the same customer information and provide instant feedback for questions. You can also integrate live chat software with your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Export information you gather during the live chat to your CRM for lead gen purposes. Data Gathering Use your live chat to gather customer feedback data. Customers are more likely to fill out a “moment of your time” survey if you’ve answered their question. Use post-chat surveys to rate/identify things like: Your agents’ effectiveness at solving a problem The live chat’s effect on the customer’s purchase decision Customer interests and confusions Specific ways to improve the live chat experience Discount Offers Offering incentives like discounts and coupon codes convert more visitors to customers. Online businesses like LogoDesign.net use their live chat software to deliver these incentives in real time. CEO and Founder Zaheer Dodhia says offering incentives through live chat helps them customize customer orders on the fly. “For example, if our list price for a design is $100, we often offer a 50% discount. But the visitor might want some tweaks to the stock design. With live chat, we can immediately customize the package and give them a new quote on the spot. Instant customer conversion!” And, if you’re willing to negotiate prices, live chat offers an effective communication channel. You need immediate feedback to win a retail price negotiation. Imagine price haggling through email. Direct back-and-forth negotiation raises the stakes for buyers, prompting them to buy. Live chat is the closest thing you can get to a real life, brick-and-mortar sales rep. Live Chat Software for eCommerce Here are some of the best live chat software for eCommerce businesses today. Nextiva Nextiva chat software is a full-featured live chat software that works for any size eCommerce store. It includes a shortcut feature that lets you type out often-used responses with the stroke of a few keys. That can save your chat agents hours of time each week. Nextiva is a modular platform with add-on tools including CRM, analytics platform, and surveys. So, you can build your chat platform around your current needs, with pricing plans ranging from basic to enterprise. Nextiva helps cut down on cart abandonment by offering proactive chat, letting you reach out to customers before they start chatting. Activate Nextiva’s proactive chat feature on specific web pages to engage customers at critical conversion moments. For example, set prompts to trigger a live chat message after a visitor has spent a minute on your homepage with the message: “What type of products are you looking for today?” Bold360 If you need a 24/7 live chat service and/or full automation, Bold360 is a good option. The app uses chatbots to answer customer questions. So, you can use artificial intelligent (AI) to have realistic conversations with site visitors. Or, you can mix it up—using human agents during peak sales hours and chatbox support for slower times. The platform’s AI directs questions it can’t answer to a human agent. This mix of approaches keeps costs low while making sure your customers get the answers they need. Bold360’s integration features make it ideal for your customer service teams. It connects to your email and text. So, your human or robotic agents can respond to multi-channel inquiries. Or you can set up automated responses. Bold360 also integrates with Facebook Messenger and Twitter. Agents can respond to questions inside social media accounts. No third-party software needed. All three of Bold360’s pricing plans are “request a quote” options. So, they’re willing to work within your budget to a point. But AI and social media integration aren’t cheap. Also, you’ll need to opt for the more expensive plans to get high-end features like AI. Tawk.to Tawk.to is a free live chat app and service that is easy to get started with. The service can also staff you with call agents for $1/hour. So, it’s a workable solution for small startups with little or no customer service. Tawk.to offers automated messaging triggers so you can initiate live chats with visitors. Customize Tawk.to’s chat widget to match your store’s branding. Tawk.to has Android and iPhone apps for responding to customer questions on the go. Tawk.to’s mascot, Mel the Parrot, explains why “Money is the Message!” Tawk.to runs ads on your chat widget if you use their free service. But you can remove the ads for $12/month (annual payment) or $15/month (monthly payment). Tawk.to doesn’t have as many features as other chat services—it doesn’t include email, social media integration, or chatbots. But if you want a low-entry price and hiring flexibility, Tawk.to is worth considering. SnapEngage SnapEngage designed its live chat to connect your sales and customer support teams. It comes with features like reporting, website monitoring, and team chats. SnapEngage streamlines the lead generation process, too. Use the software to capture names and emails addresses through the chat box. SnapEngage will then deliver that lead data to your sales team. The chat platform works in an internet browser, so there’s no software to download. SnapEngage integrates live chat with in-house team messaging. Help desk members can message customers while having open chat windows with other members of your organization. Cross-team integration gets your customers better answers. You can also use SnapEngage to conduct post-chat surveys to rate agents or ask about interests or product preferences. ZenDesk Chat It’s likely you’ve heard about ZenDesk or used this popular customer support software. But the company also offers a robust live chat feature you can use as a stand-alone service. Like Bold360, Zendesk Chat lets agents engage customers through social media platforms like Facebook Messenger and Twitter. And it integrates with popular CRMs like Salesforce and website creation tools like WordPress. ZenDesk Chat excels in delivering in-platform analytics. Besides evaluating individual agent performance, you can also track visitor activity on your site. For example, you can track which product pages were driving higher chat rates, then optimize those pages to convert higher. Use the same data to identify problem areas on your website. If a specific page is prompting similar questions, answer the question on the page. This will increase your page’s relevance rating and rank it higher in organic search. The Rise of the Chatbots The rise of the chatbot is going mainstream in eCommerce. AI improvements are making chatbot “talk” difficult to distinguish between human speech. And chatbots excel at completing simple, recurring tasks like answering basic product questions. This makes them a cost-effective alternative to human agents. While enterprise-level companies are meeting consumer demands, smaller businesses are dropping the ball. Small online stores have seen a 19% increase in the number of missed chats in 2017. You may have a live chat service, but if you miss a quarter of your customer engagements, you’re not taking full advantage. Choosing the right live chat software helps you solve the missed call problem. Live chat isn’t just a tool for answering customer questions anymore. It’s becoming an important “voice” of your brand—robotic or otherwise. Need an eCommerce Hosting Solution? Our Managed WooCommerce Hosting platform reduces query loads by 95%, handles image compression and backups, and includes comprehensive plugins from IconicWP and cart abandonment technology from Jilt. The post What is the Best Live Chat Software for eCommerce Customer Service? appeared first on Liquid Web.

Meet a Helpful Human – Adrian Luna

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 Adrian Luna Jr. Is there something specific at Liquid Web that you just love? I love that the executive team here at Liquid Web allows me to put my entrepreneurial instincts into action and impact the strategic vision of our Partner Department. Not many companies hire a new team member with the intent of listening to what you have to say, much less allowing you to act on it. From the first time I walked the floor of the office, I immediately felt like I had an opportunity to make a real impact instead of just being a robot in an office desk. I’ve been a part of a Fortune 500 company as well as a few startups worth less than $1M and Liquid Web has a culture that is a unique mixture of both. Employees have the flexibility of a small business with the benefits of a much larger company, which is perfect for me. What is the biggest milestone you’ve accomplished? Initially, I was given an opportunity to be part of our Web Solutions team at Liquid Web. Within a few months, I was given a chance to take part in laying the foundation of what has now become our Strategic Partner Department. I started by spending countless hours speaking with web professionals within our account base to learn what was actually important to them and what they valued in a partnership with a hosting company. Over the course of a year and a half, I started to get a true understanding of the role our partners expected us to play in the development of their business. The work we put in, and the feedback received from our partners, started to generate enough of a need to structure an entirely new team. This team would be sales and marketing folks dedicated to strengthening the bonds within our Partner Community. It became truly amazing to watch it take on a life of its own. Having a vision turn into the need for the creation of an entire department has been something that I will never forget being a part of. No single milestone is more important than the countless hours spent doing my part to join leadership in building and executing this partner initiative. What’s your favorite part about the company culture at Liquid Web? I recently found myself needing some more flexibility in my schedule while I helped support my mom during a tough medical emergency. The leadership team rallied around me to pitch in and help in any way they could; family always comes first at Liquid Web. The leadership team absorbed my day to day responsibilities and made sure that I took the time I needed to be with my family. Feeling like I’m a part of a culture of people that are willing to help out in a serious time of need is something I’ll never forget. It’s not very often that you get to say you work with a group of people that care about you as a person outside of the office. Tell us about a truly rewarding experience you’ve had with a customer. In my department, our customers are our partners. One partner, in particular, comes to mind. They are a small business and came to us needing more than just a web host. They needed guidance in solving multiple business problems. After spending a few hours on the phone with their team, we came up with a plan to standardize their product offerings to live on pre-configured servers here at Liquid Web. Through our work in a newly formed partnership, we solved multiple small business support, sales, and marketing pain points that in turn increased their close rates, shortened sales cycles and drove a new stream of revenue through our partner commission model. This partner has grown from a small account here at Liquid Web to one of our most successful partnerships. Of course, I’m happy about our success with this partner, but I am even more excited to have built such an impactful relationship with a small business owner that turned into real growth for them. What are you known for at Liquid Web? What do people specifically come to you for? Work-related… ALL THINGS PARTNER. As I mentioned before I have been a part of laying the groundwork for the Partner Program and have been lucky enough to work side by side with leadership in Marketing, Operations, Enterprise Sales, Support and Product. By doing this, I’ve been somewhat of a connector between departments when it comes to partner relationships. I’d say a close second is my amazing falsetto singing voice. I have to say it’s majestic and truly brings people to tears, although I’m not sure they are tears of joy. What is your nickname at Liquid Web and why? I’m not sure I have any nicknames that I’ve heard people say to my face but I have been called Fancy Pants before. Seriously, my wardrobe is something I take serious pride in. I like my clothes like Goldilocks likes her chairs. They can’t be too big or too small. They have to fit juuuuuust right. You can follow Adrian 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 – Adrian Luna appeared first on Liquid Web.

12 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting A Blog

There’s a reason people always say “hindsight is 20/20.” It’s much easier, when you have more experience, to look back and see what you could have done differently or better. Blogging is no different. Every seasoned blogger, now that they have more experience and education, has a laundry list of things they wish they would have known and done differently when they started blogging. Here’s our list of 12 things new bloggers need to understand and learn about getting started blogging and building a successful blog: 1. It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect When you first start blogging, your blog posts aren’t going to be amazing. In fact, they might even stink. You’re not going to be doing your best work when you’re brand new to blogging and that’s okay because it’s the same for everyone who starts blogging. The more you blog, the better your blog posts will become because over time you’ll discover your voice, find your groove, and get more comfortable sharing your thoughts, stories, and experiences. Likewise, once you’ve been blogging for a while, it’s easy to fall into perfection paralysis, thinking every blog post needs to be a creation of epic proportion, but that’s just not true. Don’t let your need for perfection stop you from hitting publish. 2. You Don’t Have To Be A Writer If you want to start a blog, but you don’t think you’re a writer, do it anyway! Few bloggers ever begin as writers. They begin because they are passionate about a topic and want to share their thoughts and ideas with others. You already write emails, notes, reports, lists, and maybe even journal entries. If you can do that, you can blog. Also, don’t let a dislike for writing hold you back from blogging! You don’t have to be a writer to publish blog posts and create good blog content. Instead, you can publish video posts and audio posts and use a transcription company like Rev.com to transcribe your words for better SEO. Subscribe to the Liquid Web newsletter to get more WordPress content like this sent straight to your inbox. 3. Start Building Your Marketing List Now Don’t wait to begin building your email list for marketing list and don’t rely completely on social media to build your following either. The money—your future money—is in your email list and it’s critical that you own it completely. If you’re waiting to begin building your list until the perfect lead magnet is ready, your new headshots are done, or you buy webinar software, stop! Stick a basic email opt-in on your blog with a call to action to subscribe with to your newsletter and just get started. Trust us, you’re never going to look back and think, “Wow, I’m glad I didn’t start building my list any earlier!” 4. Marketing Is Just As (Or More) Important As Publishing While it is important to focus your time and effort on creating new blog content and publishing quality content regularly, you can’t just focus on content creation. Just because you publish a blog post doesn’t mean anyone will see it or come to your website. That’s why marketing your blog and driving traffic to your blog is just as important as publishing new posts. 5. Search Engine Optimization Matters Every single piece of content published on your blog needs to be optimized for search engines and people, and luckily they both want the same thing. Don’t forget to add a unique, descriptive, keyword-rich HTML title and meta description to every blog post and page on your website. Links, images, and content also provide additional opportunities for optimization and every little bit helps. 6. Always Include A Call To Action Be sure to include a call to action in every blog post, even if it is a simple invitation to subscribe to your blog and get all new posts delivered right to their inbox. Get your readers used to see calls to action in your posts so when you have something to sell later, the calls to action feel normal, natural, and on-brand. 7. You’re Going To Need To Spend Some Money While there are lots of ways to start a blog for free, it’s best to understand that at some point you’re going to need to spend money. Whether it’s purchasing a premium theme, hiring a professional designer or developer, buying a premium plugin, or investing in quality hosting, if you want to take your blog to the next level by making money with your blog, you’re going to need to invest in quality tools and resources. 8. You Need To Like What You’re Blogging About Please don’t start a blog just to make money or because you think the topic is a moneymaker. When you start a blog on a topic you’re not passionate about, you’re going to find that consistently creating new content and dedicating the time needed to grow the blog isn’t enjoyable. Over time, you’ll find that you dedicate less and less time to it until eventually the blog gets abandoned. Instead, make sure you’re interested in and passionate about the topic you’ll be blogging about. When you enjoy what you’re writing about, you’re more likely to write and publish more often, your marketing will be better and more consistent, and you’ll see better results. 9. You’re Not Going To Please Everyone You’re not blogging for everyone and that’s okay. Your blog isn’t going to be read, shared, or liked by everyone, because your voice, your perspective, your writing style, and your topic isn’t going to be for everyone. Focus on those who resonate with your message and support you. Those people are your tribe and those people are why you’re going to keep blogging. Also, when someone you know doesn’t follow, subscribe, or like your blog, don’t let it hurt your feelings. There are many reasons they may not subscribe to or follow your blog and it doesn’t mean they don’t love, support, or care about you. 10. Setup Google Analytics Right Away From the first moment you set up your blog, before you even publish the first blog post, make sure you have Google Analytics installed so you can begin collecting data about how your blog is performing. Google Analytics lets you see where your traffic is coming from, what pages and posts on your site are the most popular, where your readers are located, and more. Analytics won’t be of much help at first, but over time it will give you amazingly powerful insights into how your website is being used and how you can improve it. 11. Choose The Right Blog Platform There are numerous Content Management Systems (CMS) platforms available to start a new blog. At Liquid Web, we’re partial to WordPress. From the design to the content and the functionality, WordPress allows you to control every aspect of your website or blog. WordPress plugins allow you to add almost any feature you can dream up. Plus, there are more than a thousand WordPress Meetups and more than 100 WordPress conferences called WordCamps located around the world, so help is more than likely closeby. 12. Never Compromise On Hosting The only feeling worse than waking up to the “white screen of death” (receiving a message that your website is down) or finding out your website has been hacked is also realizing that your site hasn’t been backed up in months and you’ve lost all of the content you worked so hard to created. Make sure your hosting provider is performing daily backups offsite. Try Managed WordPress Hosting If there is one thing you must invest in, it’s quality WordPress hosting. At Liquid Web, our Managed WordPress Hosting handles the updates to WordPress and your plugins, along with image compression, so that you can get focused on making stellar blog content. The post 12 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting A Blog appeared first on Liquid Web.

Liquid Web Partners With VMware to Offer a Flexible, Secure, Scalable Managed Private Cloud

LANSING, Mich., January 29th, 2019 — Liquid Web, LLC, (www.liquidweb.com), the market leader in managed hosting and managed application services to SMBs and web professionals, is pleased to announce the launch of their new Managed Private Cloud powered by VMware and NetApp. This new offering expands their Private Cloud portfolio, demonstrating their commitment to growing their customers’ business potential. “Today’s customers are not only looking for security and flexibility with a private cloud but also the management that frees them up to focus on their business. Managed hosting and services comprise the core of Liquid Web. That makes this new offering a perfect fit for our customers,” said Melanie Purkis, Director of Managed Hosting Products, Liquid Web. Liquid Web’s Managed Private Cloud offers enterprise-level features and functionality at affordable prices to small to midsize business. “The Private Cloud powered by VMware and NetApp will allow our customers all the benefits of a traditional public cloud — workload flexibility, scalability, and rapid provisioning — with the security of an isolated, high-performance dedicated infrastructure,” said Purkis. The new VMware Private Cloud is a VMware environment that makes it possible to provision multiple virtual machines from a single cluster of physical servers. The server nodes will support both Windows and Linux VMs, which can be used concurrently on the same hardware. A Private Cloud is a preferred choice when security, performance, high-availability, and scalability are a top priority. Mission-critical applications, regulatory and compliance requirements, and disaster recovery are just a few of the reasons to utilize this type of solution. The Liquid Web Managed Private Cloud powered by VMware and NetApp offers 3 key benefits: Truly Managed Private Cloud. Liquid Web will manage the entire infrastructure, including all hardware, the VMware virtualization platform and the operating systems on the VMs themselves. All services are proactively monitored 24/7/365. Efficient and Secure. Each single-tenant Private Cloud solution includes a firewall, load balancer, and a dedicated vCenter for your VMs to isolate infrastructure and safeguard data. Performance Built to Last. The server node is built on premium dedicated hardware along with ultra-fast NetApp SAN storage for VMs to deliver maximum speed, scalability, and reliability. “We are excited about the opportunity Private Cloud powered by VMware and NetApp will allow our customers. It will give customers flexibility without the complexity of exploring private, hybrid, and multi-cloud solutions” said Kelly Goolsby, Director of Enterprise Sales and Solution Architecture. To learn more about the Liquid Web Private Cloud powered by VMware and NetApp visit: https://www.liquidweb.com/products/private-cloud/ About Liquid Web Liquid Web powers online content, commerce, and potential to 30,000 SMB entrepreneurs spanning 150 countries. An industry leader in managed hosting and cloud services, Liquid Web is known for its high-performance services and exceptional customer support. The company owns and manages its own core data centers, providing a diverse range of offerings, including bare metal servers, fully managed hosting, Managed WordPress, and Managed WooCommerce Hosting, and continues to evolve its service offerings to meet the ever-changing needs of its web-reliant, professional customers. As an industry leader in customer service*, the rapidly expanding company has been recognized among INC. Magazine’s 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies for eleven years. Liquid Web is part of the Madison Dearborn Partners family of companies, Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC (“MDP”). For more information, please visit www.liquidweb.com, or subscribe to our Blog at www.liquidweb.com/blog. *2017 Net Promoter Score of 66 Contact: Mayra Pena, mpena@liquidweb.com The post Liquid Web Partners With VMware to Offer a Flexible, Secure, Scalable Managed Private Cloud appeared first on Liquid Web.

Is Your Site Speed Losing You Customers? How Site Load Speed Impacts CRO

Like Dr. Frankenstein, we tend to overlook flaws in our own creations. So, if you suspect your eCommerce website is a bit slow, it’s probably seriously under-performing. That’s okay because there are plenty of options to fix the problem—and a serious problem it is. Here are some eye-opening stats about site load speed: 47% of customers expect web pages to load in 2 seconds or less 57% of visitors will leave your site if load times are longer than 3 seconds Of those 57% who leave, 80% will never return to your site Of those 80% never-returners, 44% will tell their friends about their bad experience These stats read like the slow death of an under-performing eCommerce site. Customers are impatient and have high expectations. When those expectations aren’t met, they leave and never return. Then, they go out of their way to tell friends and family to avoid you. This cycle spirals as your traffic slows, visitors stop converting, and your revenue tanks. Your site’s load speed and page load times are the bedrock on which you build your conversion rate optimization (CRO). Your product page might be flawlessly designed, but if it doesn’t meet the expectations of an impatient customer anxiously holding their credit card, it won’t get you the sale. Get industry-leading tips on speeding up your store. Subscribe to the Liquid Web eCommerce newsletter and get content like this sent straight to your inbox. How Website Speed Affects Your Conversions The purpose of CRO is to streamline your marketing and web design to get visitors to convert to customers. It’s about enticing them to click, follow, like, or download, and removing hurdles to those actions. Your conversion rate is a measure of the effectiveness of this strategy, and your site load speed has a tremendous impact on it. Here are a few problems you’ll encounter with slow page load speeds. Higher Bounce Rates When your page load times are slow, your carefully constructed site architecture designed to funnel traffic to product pages is full of twists, turns, and barriers. If your home page loads in a snap, but the product page takes twice as long, the inconsistency is annoying to customers. Instead of waiting, visitors will hit the back button or close the browser window, and you’ve lost a potential conversion. Too many of these swift exits will increase your bounce rate. Google interprets bounces as a signal that your content isn’t relevant and will push you down in search results. Over time, this adds up to lower traffic rates and fewer conversions. To get the lowest bounce rates, studies show you need a load time that’s under 1.2 seconds. Shorter Session Lengths Sessions are a measure of visits, not visitors. So the metric is always higher than total unique visitors because each visitor can have more than more session. Lower sessions mean visitors are returning to your store fewer times. There are many reasons for this—seasonal trends, shifts in organic rankings—but a major cause is slow site speeds. An Akamai report showed that a 2-second delay in page load speeds correlates to a 51% decrease in session length. Fewer return visits mean fewer opportunities to expose visitors to your brand or products—oh, and fewer conversions. Lower Brand Sentiment Visitors who bounce from your store because of slow load times won’t keep it to themselves. They’ll tell friends about the time they wasted trying to use your site. Website performance is a big part of the first impression you make to visitors—and that impression is highly contagious. Word-of-mouth recommendations or warnings are powerful influencers, and eCommerce businesses rely on them to bring in new customers and retain current ones. Lower Investment for CRO Performance studies estimate that for every 1 second it takes for your eCommerce site to load, your conversion rate drops 7%. If we assume all conversions are sales, that would total $25,000 in annual revenue loss for a store that brought in an average of $1,000 per day. Not only is that lost revenue for you, but it’s also less money you have to re-invest in social media ads, email campaigns, and all of the other marketing strategies that underpin your CRO. If you can’t invest in conversions, your customer base won’t grow, which means your profits won’t either. It’s difficult for small eCommerce businesses to escape the pull of this negative feedback loop. Avoid it by maintaining good website performance from the get-go. How to Increase Your Page Load Speeds While there are many ways to improve your conversions, speeding up your website performance should top your CRO list. Here are some ways to get those product pages popping up in front of customers quickly. Test Your Site’s Speed First, see how slow your site really is. Use a website performance tester like GTMetrix to identify your biggest problems. The service will analyze your page speeds, give them a grade, and suggest fixes. Optimize Your Media Even though images and videos can improve your CRO, you pay the price in longer page load times. So, make sure you optimize your images and compress your videos for the web. When media is optimized, your server can push out files faster and your pages will load quicker. Instead of relying on HTML or CSS to resize your images, upload them at the smallest sizes you can get away with. Leverage Browser Caching If optimizing and compressing your media isn’t boosting your website performance, have your developers leverage browser caching. Browser caching stores frequently used data on your customer’s memory for a short period of time. So, when they visit your site again, the data is already stored locally, making it load faster. Ask your IT team to enable browser caching or try one of these WordPress caching plugins. Clean Up Your Code Minification is the technique of “cleaning” your code—eliminating all of the spaces and extra characters you don’t need. Use minification to clean up your website’s source code and make it run faster. Although minification removes characters and spaces, it doesn’t alter its function—just tidies things up a bit. You can minify your code with online compressor tools for CSS and HTML. Get a Content Delivery Network Internet traffic flies through thousands of miles of network cables, flying through space, and around the planet. The farther customers are from you, the longer it takes to load content for them. Content delivery networks (CDNs) are strategically placed servers that help speed up delivery by storing your cached web files closer to your customers. The shorter distance means CDNs load your pages faster, even for customers that live halfway around the world. Avoid Landing Page Redirects When you have redirects on a landing page, it delays the page load as the redirect processes. And your customers wait. If you have a redirect, have it execute on the server side instead of the client side. This reduces client-side round trip requests. The time it takes for your customers to send a request and your server to send a response is called the round-trip time. Keeping HTTP redirects from one URL to another at a minimum cuts out additional round-trips, which means shorter wait times for your customers. Use Lazy Loading When a customer opens one of your product pages, the entire page’s content is downloaded, rendered, and cached. That includes all of the products on that page, which could include dozens of images. However, there’s no guarantee that the customer will view all of these images. They may only look at what’s “above the fold” of the page, without scrolling down. But all of that data has to be loaded anyway. This adds to your load times. Lazy loading is a web design strategy for saving precious loading resources by delivering only the images and text that the customer needs. Website platforms like WordPress feature lazy loading solutions like Infinite Scroll that continuously load content as the user scrolls down the page. Similar lazy loading plugins exist for eCommerce platforms like WooCommerce. Enable GZIP Compression Any file your server sends to a browser can be compressed before delivery. Compressed files are transferred faster, cutting down on bandwidth usage and increasing page load times. Run a GZIP compression test to ensure things are running smoothly. And have your IT team configure your server to return zipped content when possible. Choose a Dedicated Hosting Plan If you really want to affect your website performance find the right host for your eCommerce needs. The right host serves as a website speed optimization service because it continually monitors your performance and automatically adds resources when they’re needed. Often, smaller eCommerce sites choose shared hosting plans because they’re inexpensive. However, the trade-off is in speed. Check to see if you’re on a shared server hosting plan. If so, you’ll want to switch to a managed hosting account that’s optimized for your eCommerce platform. If you have an IT team, choose a virtual private server or dedicated server set up. Improving your website performance is challenging but worth the effort. Don’t feel like you need to implement all of the changes at once. Optimization will take some time. Locate the issues that are having the biggest effect and tackles those first. If you have an IT team, most of these are easy fixes. But even if you take on the task alone, remember your conversion rate depends on delivering content to match the speed of your customers’ expectations, not your own. Managed WooCommerce Hosting Is Build For Speed Our Managed WooCommerce Hosting platform reduces query loads by 95% while automatically handling image compression and backups, giving you more time to focus on more important tasks like getting more sales. The post Is Your Site Speed Losing You Customers? How Site Load Speed Impacts CRO appeared first on Liquid Web.

How to Monetize Your Blog Without Ads

In the early days of blogging, blog owners could make a profit with banner ads. However, Adsense is now paying a fraction of what it once did, and other ad networks like Outbrain and Taboola can only fill some of the revenue gaps that online publishers have relied on in the past. At first, bloggers made up for the difference by increasing advertising agreements. Often, the result was a barrage of ads overshadowing great content with irrelevant product suggestions. Visitors were turned off, and rightly so. Today, both professional and amateur bloggers are finding new ways to monetize their blogs without relying on traditional banner ads. Here are some alternative revenue sources you can try. Subscriptions Monthly subscribers bring a reliable source of income. Adding membership options is easy, but convincing your readers to buy them is difficult. Some sites like Patreon can help by providing a platform and landing page template for telling readers exactly what value you’re offering in exchange for their support. These membership platforms also provide a way to reward different membership tiers with exclusive content or other offers. If you have a large audience built already, you may be able to deliver a strong membership experience yourself through great copywriting, and a membership plugin for WordPress, such as MemberPress. For newer bloggers without a big following, we recommend sticking with a third-party platform like Patreon to take advantage of their process and user base. Subscribe to the Liquid Web newsletter to get more WordPress content like this sent straight to your inbox. Bloggers Bryon Powell and Meghan Hicks use Patreon to fund iRunFar, a blog for trail running and ultrarunning. The blog owners offer memberships from $1 to $500 per month. As the levels increase, memberships come with more exclusive content like monthly online hangouts or personalized letters. Membership platforms go well beyond simply placing a “Donate” button at the bottom of your page. Subscriptions not only give you the freedom of a regular income, but they also let you connect with your readers on a different level — by giving them access to exclusive content and a larger sense of ownership and connection to your work. Subscriptions are great ways to get a steady income from a captured audience. But they’re mostly feasible only for high-value publishers. The average blogger may have trouble at first getting enough patrons to make it worth their time. Affiliate Marketing Affiliate marketing is a way to earn commissions by referring your readers to specific products and services outside your blog. When a visitor clicks a link on your website (the affiliate) and purchases a product on the company’s website, you get a commission for the referral. Bloggers can join affiliate programs pretty easily with larger programs, like Amazon Associates. Other programs can be more selective, or hard to track down in specific niches and topics. Affiliate programs are also available outside of just eCommerce sites like Amazon — any website that can track online sales can set up their own affiliate program if they choose. Other common examples include digital products (like courses or eBooks), lead generation websites (such as credit card signups or similar products that have an application process), or software companies that charge membership fees. The easiest way to find affiliate programs is to search for “[topic] affiliate program” and see what you find. Also, try looking at the products that other bloggers in your niche are promoting, to see what might be working well for them. Another option instead of signing up for tons of affiliate programs directly is to use a platform like Skimlinks, a service already signed up for thousands of affiliate platforms. These platforms let you install code that automatically adds affiliate tracking to existing links on your website without you having to create the links manually. They do this by detecting those links on your pages using Javascript, and redirecting the user through an affiliate link to reach the same destination URL. For an established blog with hundreds or thousands of existing pages of content, affiliate networks can be a fast and effective way to add a new revenue stream, depending on the type of content you’ve written in the past. For a new blogger, it’s one of the fastest ways to get accepted into affiliate programs that may not be interested in accepting small websites until you have a bigger audience. Instead of affiliate content links, some WordPress website owners add eCommerce functionality with plugins like WooCommerce to promote products. Rachel Porter’s vegan-test-kitchen.com blog has WooCommerce product pages devoted to showcasing products relevant to her customer’s needs (e.g. blenders, kitchen gadgets, and pantry essentials). If you’ve already started producing your own digital or physical products on your blog (something we’ll cover more in a moment), you may even want to start your own affiliate program. Encourage other bloggers in your space to help sell your products by offering them a commission. Affiliate marketing is great if the products and services are relevant to your area of expertise. If you’re blogging about pets, selling pet products is a natural fit. If you’re blogging about economic theory, you may have a harder time encouraging your readers to buy things without losing credibility. Follow the 10 Commandments of Affiliate Marketing to improve your odds of success. Digital Products One way to make extra money on your blog is to create and sell your own products and services. Here are a couple of ways to earn extra income using your own sweat equity. Premium Content By creating and selling your own online courses, ebooks, guides, templates, and other exclusive digital products, you can tap into a reliable source of passive income. Offering these digital products to customers is also an effective way to capture email addresses and grow your email list. Porter sells three of her own creations in her Vegan Test Kitchen Shop: two Smoothie Challenges and a Vegan Smoothie Bowl recipe eBook. For those who’ve purchased the challenge, Porter sends daily emails to inspire them to stick to the program, along with tips tricks, and product recommendations — all of which are affiliate links. Porter says email is a big driver of sales for her own products. She explains her strategy: “Say I wanted to make an additional $1k one month, I can do so by sending my [customers] an email offering them the chance to purchase my products at a discounted rate for the next 24 hours. The urgency really drives sales, and because my list is already engaged, they are much easier to sell to than someone who’s visited the blog once.” The fashion site EffortlessGent offers free dress tips for men along with premium paid content available behind an email sign up. To guide visitors to their premium content, the site uses long-form landing pages filled with tons of tips along with a welcome by the site’s founder. Throughout the landing page are “Let’s Get Started” buttons that take visitors to an exclusive 8-week program that costs $97. Online courses also make profitable premium content. You can opt to sell courses on your own WordPress blog using online course plugins or by using a course hosting platforms like Teachable or Udemy. Digital products take some upfront work, but they’re the best option for maintaining a consistent brand for your blog, and they have higher potential margins than affiliate partnerships. Perhaps more importantly, once they’re created, they have a long shelf life. In many cases, you can continue selling them for years. Market Research & Insights In the world of eCommerce, consumer data is the Holy Grail. Companies, especially those in niche markets, want to know everything about the likes, dislikes, habits, and proclivities of their target customers — and they’ll pay to get it. As a content publisher, you can gain access to this valuable data with polls, surveys, and browsing habits. Use your unique position to gather and sell market research and customer insights to companies. GoodFirms is a research and review platform that helps business find agencies and consultants. Kim Smith, a content marketing manager at the company, believes bloggers have an opportunity to profit from data collection: “Selling facts and insights for a niche is another way to monetize a blog,” she says. “Stats obtained from blogging efforts could aid businesses to enhance and polish their product/service for the targeted audience. Bloggers can earn a profit by “bridging the gap between the market and marketers.” One example of a publisher selling market insights about their industry is Skift. They offer some publications for free, but their research subscriptions are a great example of how a publisher can turn their knowledge of a topic or industry into high-value insights. Publishers can sell these insights to advertisers and brands who need to better understand a specific audience, company, or other research areas. Market research takes some skill and knowledge about how to gather and analyze customer data. Companies looking to buy data will probably look for bloggers with premium content and larger followings. In the end, even if you can’t sell your data, at least you’ll have completed some valuable market research for yourself. Services If your blogging topics don’t align with digital products, consider selling your talents, knowledge, and expertise as a service. Consulting If you’re a blogger, you’re probably already giving readers advice in some form. Consulting is just professional advising that pays. All types of groups, firms, and people look to those with expertise in a specific area or topic to help them solve problems or guide their future decisions. You have expertise. So focus on building a network of people and groups who would pay for your advice. Write a consulting resume and begin shopping it on online job sites like Indeed or ZipRecruiter. Use salary aggregators like Glassdoor to find yearly salaries for consultants. Use that information to build pricing plans for your own services. Freelance Blogging You’re a subject matter expert, so use your knowledge to help others grow their blogs. It’s easy to get started. The job listings for freelance bloggers is endless, and covers almost every niche topic you can imagine. Job sites like Freelancer let you create freelance profiles and bid on projects posted by companies. Online job boards for freelance writers are another good source to find side hustles. Private Label Rights If you’re cool with selling the rights to your work, consider producing private label rights (PLR) content for marketers. PLRs are a way to license generic content to brands and businesses who want to purchase and adapt it to their brand. For example, an online pet supplier might need an e-book on “Training Your Cat” they can adapt to their brand or break up into a series of blog articles. The pet company might use a PLR platform to buy your ebook along with the copyrights. You would get a cut of the profits. Alternative Ad Models There are other ways to advertise for companies aside from traditional display ads. Sponsored posts and job listings are two alternatives that will get you paid without cluttering up your blog. Sponsored Posts Brands often approach bloggers to write sponsored posts promoting, reviewing, or endorsing their products and services. So, a sponsored post sits somewhere between a traditional ad and a blog post. If you’re a good fit for their brand, a company may offer you free products, discounts, gift cards, payment or other compensation for writing a sponsored post. The amount of input into the post depends on the company. Some have a heavy hand in the copy, images, etc. Other brands have fewer stipulations and input. Brands pay anywhere from $1k+ per post, so it’s an excellent source of revenue, according to Rachel Porter. However, the author and blog coach warns there’s a downside for your site’s SEO: “Sponsored posts also drive traffic away from my blog … Search engines boost websites that have a high rate of time on page. But if a reader is clicking away from my blog to check out the product I’m blogging about …Google sees this as a higher ‘bounce rate’ and drops my website in the rankings. Whereas, if my readers stay on my blog and are clicking from one recipe to another, Google views that as a positive sign and boosts my blog in the rankings.” Job Boards Another good source of passive income for your blog is a job board. After installing a job board plugin, you can charge individuals and companies to advertise their listings. Start up is easy, but there is some up front costs to purchase the plugin. Or you can opt for a “free” job board plan that takes a cut of your profits instead of charging you for the plugin. Job boards can also help increase your pageviews if you integrate them with popular job aggregators like Indeed or SimplyHired. Integration lets you automatically share your jobs to these aggregators and bring job seekers and traffic to your blog. The downside: most of these aggregators aren’t paid listings. Physical Products Of course, you can always make extra money by turning your WordPress blog into a full-fledged eCommerce venture. It takes some investment of time to make the transfer from selling ideas to selling products, but online stores are good sources of extra income. You will need to research your new buying audience and the niche topics you‘ll need to write about to draw them into your store. If you sell products relevant to your blog, you’re almost there anyway. You might even think about starting a subscription box service. To get started, WordPress site owners only need to install WooCommerce and set up a dropshipping partnership with a company in their niche. Owners can then handle other eCommerce basics like sales tax and processing orders. Get Started Monetizing Your Blog When choosing the best way to monetize your blog, consider how much extra money you want to make. As with any business venture, the number of resources in time and money you’re willing to invest will determine your level of profit. Since each of the monetization strategies has different startup costs, choose the one that fits your goals. And don’t just settle on one option either. Think about using multiple strategies that work together. For example, a dropshipping store is a natural fit with also selling affiliate products and exclusive digital content. You’ve put a lot of time and energy into building your content and growing your audience. Don’t turn your readers off with salesy display ads that get in between your audience and your content. That’s good advice whether you’re a blog looking to start eCommerce or an online store looking to start a blog. Managed WordPress Can Help While you get your new subscription, online course, alternative ad or affiliate network up and running, let Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting solution take care of the WordPress and plugin updates, image compression and daily backups on your blog. The post How to Monetize Your Blog Without Ads appeared first on Liquid Web.

9 Tips for Building a Landing Page That Converts

Looking for a way to easily create an amazing landing page that converts? To explore this question, we asked Chris Lema, VP of Products and Innovation at Liquid Web, to give us a tutorial webinar on the topic. To make things easier for you, here is a summary on how to build a landing page that converts. Let’s get started! The Nine Key Elements Every Landing Page that Converts Needs to Have There are nine key elements you need to have on every single landing page that you create. 1. A Headline They Care About If you are building a landing page and do not include a headline, you are missing out. The headline is the first message that people read. Now, a headline is not a product that you are selling. A headline is an enticing string of text originally found on an ad that is intended to attract a specific audience, hopefully, enough to keep reading and eventually take some sort of action. The key word here is enticing. They read it and – boom – they are ready to read more! You might say something like “Stop paying for landing page software.” They then click or navigate to your intended location (the landing page) and the headline should be “Stop paying for landing page software.” When people read the same text in the headline on the landing page, people make the connection and know that they are in the right place. It is the eye-catching or reinforced message that you used to bring people from various locations to the landing page. Seattle’s iconic Space Needle recently underwent a remodel to remove structural objects that got in the way of visitors’ Instagram shots. Now, tourists looking to buy tickets are greeted by this headline that emphasizes the new look—and the amazing views that have always made the Space Needle a top attraction. What holds people back from finally getting organized? Evernote, the note-taking and organization app, understand that’s it’s simply the fear of how hard the task will be. Their headline tackled that fear head-on. This is exactly the message that people trying to get organized will want to hear. It confirms that their goal will be met, and alleviates their biggest concern about getting it done. Subscribe to the Liquid Web newsletter to get more content like this sent straight to your inbox. 2. The Problem(s) They Have Next, hit the audience with the problem you are solving for them. It doesn’t have to be one problem; it could be two or even three problems you are solving. Now, many of you will jump to selling or talking about your solution (your product). If you haven’t qualified the problems you are trying to solve, you haven’t built the relationship yet to a place where you can present a solution. First – articulate the problem. We all know what bad project management does to a person. The popular project management platform Basecamp shows us, with this cheeky illustration of a panicked office worker. Anyone swamped under relentless demands by modern business life will immediately relate. Nauto, a driver safety system, uses statistics to confirm to potential customers how big of a problem distracted driving is. You can imagine a fleet manager realizing that, based on these stats, the problem is actually much worse than they thought. And the statistics hit both the emotions and the practical sides of the brain by mentioning fatalities and overall cost. 3. The Benefit(s) You Can Provide This is where you can start talking about their pain points, which are the real reason why they navigated to this page in the first place. First, talk about the pain, and then you can talk about the gain. No pain, no gain right? Barefoot Buttons specializes in a pretty niche product — customized buttons that get added on to guitar pedals and similar musical accessories to “increase comfort and accuracy”. But if you’re in their target audience and you’re fed up with your current effects pedals, they put their product front and center to show you what an alternative could look like. Then, they reiterate why you’ll love it with a short introductory sentence. Aloompa provides technology for events professionals—think big gatherings like marathons and state fairs. Their homepage clearly defines the products that they offer—mobile app, web embeds, location intelligence, and live stream. A direct access point to the offerings of their business cuts out the guesswork for a customer base that’s typically working on tight deadlines. Next, show them a different route that they can begin to take… with your solution. It’s time to talk about your product(s). 4. The Solution You Have Finally! Introduce them to the reason that you brought them to the landing page in the first place. Make sure you highlight exactly how the solution you are providing ties to the pain points you just mentioned. The Hidden Grounds, a coffee bean retailer, does a good job of reminding people how disastrous it is to run out of coffee. Then, they connect that thought to the solution—their subscription. The web automation solution Zapier sells is more of a tool than a product. The simple, direct message on their landing page explains very clearly what that tool can do. For their audience of busy, tech-savvy professionals, the direct approach is very effective. But leads aren’t going to just take your word for it. They need social proof that your solution works and works well. 5. Provide Social Proof One of the most common forms of social proof is testimonials. Testimonials are highlights of why your product is amazing written by other people similar to your target audience. With social proof, people plainly see, “Hey, listen to all of these other people say how awesome this product is.” Pull reviews from your site, or if you are listed on Amazon, you can pull from there. Find ways to illustrate to your audience that people just like them are in love with your product. GameTextures.com sells digital design assets to video game designers so they can build new games faster. This case study highlights stunning customer designs and shows how they made them—with patterns sold by GameTextures. You can always say a customer is happy but isn’t it better to show a customer who’s happy? Hubspot puts their ecstatic customers front and center on a case studies page that isn’t just academic—the page includes a very clear call to action. Once you cover social proof, show the audience how you are credible. 6. Provide Credibility When people are wondering whether you are credible, they will wonder, “Why should I trust you for this solution?” If this same solution, or something very similar, is offered by ten different retailers or online stores, the potential customer will hesitate. They will wonder why they should choose your product instead of the others. Give them clear and compelling reasons why you and your product stand out. How do you get customers to trust you? By latching onto feelings of trust they already have. Hootsuite gives potential customers a powerful message by highlighting the big companies who use their product. Further down their homepage, they also note a recommendation from Forrester, a respected market research company. Magnatiles are a hot commodity for kids these days, and the company does a good job of reminding you on their homepage. Features like a store locator highlighting all of the stores near you that carry their products, and a call out section for their featured stories in publications like Business Insider make it clear their toys are highly sought after. 7. Pricing Yes, hit them up-front with pricing. Don’t make the audience dig through your site to find the pricing for your product, because most likely they will instead navigate to another landing page for a competitor that has their information more clearly displayed. Make it easy for them to eliminate all potential barriers to purchase so that they can be ready to purchase your product immediately. If the product is expensive, hiding the pricing until the end of the transaction will only frustrate them. You want to be as helpful as possible. If you have multiple options for pricing, make sure to list that on the landing page as well. The popular email marketing platform Mailchimp lets you estimate the cost of their product based on the number of subscribers you have. Bearded Colonel specializes in high-end shaving equipment, but they address pricing concerns right on their homepage tagline: “Top of the line razors. Delivered for a fair price.” This language is reiterated throughout the site, highlighted in the footer and in their features section on the homepage. 8. Call to Action (also known as a CTA) The call to action is the specific behavior that you are driving the lead to take after reading the landing page. Only include one call to action on the landing page for the best results. Yes, it is tempting to try and sell more than one product, sell add-ons, or build your email list. But it isn’t effective for landing pages to have more than one CTA. When you are building your landing page, decide this up front. Let this CTA direct the content for your entire page, as this will also be the way you determine how well your landing page performs. Include the call to action several places on the landing page, so that at any point during their journey on your page, they can decide to purchase without hesitation. It’s tempting to click around Adoboloco’s site just to see all the beautiful hot sauce bottles. But the company makes their offer clear on the homepage. “Build A Primo 3 Pack” pushes users towards ordering a 3 pack of hot sauce bottles, where many might have just ordered 1 or 2. For a product with moderate shipping weight and cost, this call to action likely pushes their average order value much higher than a call to action like “Shop Now” or “Find Your Bottle”. Winc, a wine subscription service, wants to build a relationship with customers rather than compel a one-time impulse buy. So their CTAs, while very bold, are light on the sales pitch. Instead, they draw you into an experience. 9. Include Objection Mitigators Objection mitigators are the questions that the audience already has running through their head by the time that they have hit this point on the landing page. These are the primary reasons they may end up leaving the page without purchasing your solution or product. You want to step into that conversation and address these up front so that they can make an informed decision without having to search elsewhere. Talk to your sales team to find out what the top questions being asked are, and include them on your landing page. These may also be located on your FAQ page. BetterBody Foods specializes in health food—their target customers care deeply about what’s going in their bodies. BetterBody makes sure to address those concerns clearly on their homepage, covering common food concerns like GMOs, Gluten, Dairy, Soy, and more through the rest of the page. On their pricing page—typically fertile ground for conversions—the data platform MonsterInsights emphasizes their money-back guarantee. You’d figure anyone on a pricing page is sensitive to cost, and the guarantee helps overcome that objection. Other potential objections are addressed in the FAQs further down the page. Building a Landing Page that Converts As you build your next landing page, make sure you have all nine elements present to convert as many leads to sales as possible. A headline they care about The problem(s) they have The benefit(s) you can provide The solution(s) you have Social proof from a similar audience Provide credibility Pricing for your product(s) One CTA placed throughout the page Objection mitigators to close the sale Ready to Take Your Site to the Next Level? Our Managed WordPress Hosting solution provides automatic plugin and platform updates, image compression, and daily backups so you can focus on creating an amazing landing page that converts while your site performs beautifully. The post 9 Tips for Building a Landing Page That Converts appeared first on Liquid Web.

What Is CRO and Why Does It Matter?

The act of walking into a physical store, paying for an item, and leaving has been replaced by a meandering, unpredictable consumer journey. For example, an online customer today might start his or her journey by clicking on your banner ad, arriving at your site, but leave without buying anything. Within the span of a week, they might receive a retargeting ad, hear a TV spot, read an online review, and get a recommendation from a friend before finally coming back to your store to actually buy.   The chaotic nature of today’s purchase journey makes predicting and prompting customer actions more necessary than ever. To get visitors to convert to customers, you have to optimize your entire marketing strategy and eCommerce store design. That means: removing barriers to purchase, enticing specific actions, and creating a pleasing and safe experience for customers. Conversion rate optimization is the way to do all of this. Get industry-leading tips on growing your store. Subscribe to the Liquid Web eCommerce newsletter and get content like this sent straight to your inbox. What Is CRO? Conversion rate optimization or CRO is the practice of raising your conversion rate by compelling visitors to your site to take specific actions like buying a product, downloading a PDF, or subscribing to a newsletter. Although CRO is often used to make small, incremental improvements, its broader purpose is to optimize your entire marketing process—to make everything work smoothly. And the more optimized your marketing, the higher your conversion rate. CRO and SEO Aren’t the Same CRO and SEO (search engine optimization) are slightly connected but essentially very different strategies. The distinction is that CRO is concerned with how humans experience your website, SEO is only concerned with how machines, algorithms, and Google bots interact with it. CRO and SEO focus on different stages of your sales funnel. Optimization for search engines happens earlier in the funnel—getting visitors to click through to your store. CRO takes it from there—visitors are here, now let’s convert them to clickers, shoppers, scrollers, and subscribers. CRO and SEO do interlap at times. For example, if you optimize your blog copy for specific keywords, you simultaneously improve its readability and clarity for human readers, too. Streamlining your website architecture is another example of CRO and SEO working together. Find Your Conversion Rate Calculating your current conversion rate is pretty easy if you have the data available. Use this formula: CR = Total number of conversions ÷ total number of visitors Example: You sell a downloadable e-book to 100 people. Divide the total buyers by the number of visitors to your site. If 100 people bought the e-book and 800 visited your site, your CR would be 12.5% (800 ÷ 100). Why Bother With CRO? CRO gives you better control over how your customers interact with your website and the paths they take toward conversion. But what are the actual benefits? Here are three: CRO Gets You Higher Profits If your conversion rate rises, that means more of your customers are making it to your product pages, opening your emails, and subscribing to your service. By making small marketing CRO tweaks, you pay the same amount to attract customers but raise the number of actual buyers. CRO Increases Your Traffic Higher conversion rates mean customers are finding it easy to navigate your site, locate the right products, and make a purchase. Higher converting visitors spend more time on your site, leave more positive reviews, and leave as satisfied customers. More importantly, these happy shoppers will convince their friends and family to visit your store. More traffic for you. CRO Keeps You Focused on Customers CRO always puts the customer front-of-mind. When you make a design change to your website, taking a CRO approach helps you look through the eyes of your customers, not the preferences of your web designer or your own proclivities. Customer-centric decisions about design, copy, or ad placement have a better chance of increasing your conversion rate. The Four Principles of CRO To achieve the best conversion rates, entrepreneurs and marketers stick to four basic CRO principles. 1. Have a Clear Value Proposition Customers take the next step in your sales funnel when they understand what sets you apart from the competition. If your value prop is your price, increase the font size and bold that price tag. If it’s the quality of your service, devote an entire section of your homepage to laying out your case. Customers will compare you to other businesses, and they’ll convert more when they understand the advantages you bring. 2. Incentivize Your Customers to Act Half-priced sales, 30-day trials, and free downloads increase conversions because they incentivize shoppers to act. But there’s way more to customer motivation than just giving away free stuff. Money-back guarantees and social proof also move customers to convert. The quality of your “About Us” page and FAQ page can determine whether a visitor clicks through to your product pages or bounces. Well-composed product photos entice customers to buy. Even the quality and usability of your blog articles incentivize customers to share your content and return for more. 3. Lower Barriers to Conversion Customers need incentives to act, but if there are obstacles in their way, all the giveaways in the world won’t make up for it. Remove anything that gets in the way of any conversion you’ve set up. Barriers can include things like: High prices Slow page-load times Forcing customers to register Hard-to-find “Buy Now” button Confusing product descriptions Having no product images Off-site checkout These are just a few of the biggest barriers to online purchase. Remove them and your incentives will work more effectively. 4. Make the Customer Feel Safe Like a deer in the headlights, customers who feel unsafe about your brand or your process are hesitant to act—no matter how big the incentive or low the barrier. Many things affect a customer’s comfort level, from your home page’s color design to the payment gateway you use. Some marketing strategies come with a tinge of distrust already attached to them. For example, pop-up ads on your homepage are effective at getting people to convert to subscribers. But they also carry a stigma because they’re used by cyber thieves to steal information. Plus, they’re annoying. Weigh the costs and benefits of every part of your marketing plan and never sacrifice customer trust for an easy conversion. Steps in the CRO Process Much like the scientific method, optimizing your conversion rate includes gathering data, running tests, and making conclusions. The insights you collect add to your overall understanding of your marketing plan and your customers. Here are the steps of the CRO process. Gather Data. Gather what customer and website data you have now. Identify what conversions you are trying to achieve. Establish a baseline for your future changes. Form Hypotheses. Using your data, make an educated guess about what you expect will happen. Identify the audience and metrics you need to measure (e.g., click-throughs, downloads). Run a Test. Prepare a test of your hypotheses and make your changes. Make sure you’re accurately tracking your conversion data. Analyze. Given the outcomes, can you say your hypothesis was correct? If not, what happened? Was your prediction flawed? Maybe something went wrong with the test. Repeat. Gather your new data and form a new hypothesis. CRO is a process that’s self-correcting, transparent, and honest. It keeps you from injecting your own biased perspectives about what’s working and what isn’t. How to Improve Your Conversion Rate Today Here are some immediate steps you can take to start optimizing your conversion rate. Make A/B Testing Your Friend One of the easiest, most effective methods for doing CRO is A/B testing. The testing method works for anything you want to change. So, it doesn’t matter if it’s a website design overhaul or a slight adjustment to your product page copy. A/B testing is multivariate testing, which means you set up variations (an A and B version) of something (e.g., landing page) and split your traffic going to them. Then you simply compare the conversion rates for both. When you analyze the data, you can use these A/B testing results to inform your next steps. There are A/B testing plugins available for WooCommerce users as well as entire platforms devoted to A/B testing your website and marketing strategy. Set Up Conversion Tracking You need to setup conversion tracking to see if and how your customers are converting. The process is essentially tagging a specific group of customers to see how they got to your site and what they do once they arrive. It’s a powerful tool for CRO. Setting up conversion tracking in Google Analytics is a quick way to get started gathering data about your customers’ behavior. A popular tracking method is to use conversion actions in Google Ads to determine the ROI for your ad spend. It’s easy to get Google Analytics connected to your WordPress site if you haven’t already. With Google Ads conversion tracking, you can view the number of downloads and purchases within your app. Or track a customer’s journey that starts online (e.g., clicks an ad) but finishes offline (e.g., signs a written contract). Keep Your Store Running Fast Here’s an eCommerce stat you’ll want to remember: 57% of all online consumers will abandon a site after waiting 3 seconds, and 80% will never return. The speed of your website underpins every CRO action you take. Your customer experience may exceed the next 10 competitors, but if your product pages load slower, they’re going to beat you anyway. No one wants to pay for a $75 steak if it takes an hour to get to their table … and it’s cold when it arrives. When you do a website audit, test your page load times to see if they’re up to spec. There are plenty of simple ways to improve your website speed. But start with your foundation—your web host. Not every web hosting service meets the needs of an eCommerce site. Find a web hosting plan designed for eCommerce and one that gives you the power of customization. Many eCommerce platforms offer templated storefronts that are difficult to customize. That certainly plays against any CRO strategy. You can’t optimize without changing things, and you can’t change things if your web host doesn’t let you. Visit Your Own Website Good CRO is about making changes that are informed with reliable and relevant data. But never forget the subjective component—your customers. Data analysis and conversion tracking alone don’t tell the whole story of your customers’ journey. CRO also requires you consider the subjective—how your customers feel when they visit your site. To run CRO like a pro, you’ve got to empathize with your customers, look through their eyes—surf a mile in their browsers. With that in mind, re-read your persona descriptions, clear your browser cookies, and peruse your own website like a new visitor. Sign up for your own newsletter. Talk to your customer support. Search for products and go through the checkout process. Note any barriers to your navigation. Go with your first instincts. What felt even a little awkward? What felt right? After doing a customer-centric site analysis that looks at these enticements and barriers, you’ll have a better appreciation for what your customers are seeing. Take those insights into your next CRO strategy meeting. Managed Hosting Made for eCommerce Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting was designed from the ground up to reduce query loads by 95%, ensuring your store runs quickly and converts more visitors. And with the customization WooCommerce allows, it is perfect for A/B testing and CRO. The post What Is CRO and Why Does It Matter? appeared first on Liquid Web.

The Hottest Trends from WordPress in 2018

The new year is here and thus we should take a minute or two to reflect on WordPress in 2018. What new features were released? What WordPress trends evolved? Which trends disappeared? 2018 has been an exciting year in the WordPress community with plenty of discussions going on, especially toward the end of the year. WordPress developers spent the year learning new frameworks and adapting their WordPress plugins to a new editor called Gutenberg, users had to learn this new editor too, and the look and feel of WordPress themes changed quite a bit. For this yearly review, I’ve selected the following topics to talk about: WordPress design trends in 2018 The new Gutenberg editor Page builder plugins for your own layouts The evolution of security plugins The better user experience on WordPress sites Subscribe to the Liquid Web newsletter to get more WordPress content like this sent straight to your inbox. WordPress Design Trends in 2018 There always have been a gazillion different WordPress themes but in 2018 there were a few design trends that became common among websites. Component Design Systems By breaking up your entire website into reusable components and setting guidelines for each component, your corporate identity can become much easier to manage. Those components can be headlines which need to have the same sizes and spacing, image positioning, color palettes, and so on. Jerry Cao defines design systems as: A design system includes design standards, documentation, and — one of its central advantages — a UI toolkit with patterns and codes. Bold Fonts and Shapes It’s nothing new that designers love bold and big fonts as well as using shaped backgrounds to break up layouts or add a bit of asymmetry to a website. In 2018, WordPress themes took this trend to a new level. Page builders added functions to easily add curved, triangled or wave-patterned section dividers, and Google Fonts allow for using outstanding typography. Just from looking at the sites featured on Awwwards for December 2018, we can see this common theme being implemented across all sorts of websites: The same holds true when you browse across the themes on platforms like Themeforest or TemplateMonster. It’s likely that, if you got a new site in 2018 yourself, your designer will have suggested some pretty bold fonts and beautifully crafted shapes. And it makes sense. Big fonts help capture the attention of your website visitors and ensure that your message comes across. Clever use of shapes and dividers also benefit the user experience of your website and support your visitors in dissecting your content. The New Gutenberg Editor Gutenberg is the new default WordPress editor and has caused all sort of #wpdrama in 2018. It was meant to entirely renew the way we create content by using the new Blocks in WordPress. I believe that Gutenberg will be highly beneficial to WordPress. Even though the reviews on the Gutenberg plugin say different, I think it was actually a good move (the timing of the release in December 2018 could have been more developer friendly). Ahmad Awais, a WP core contributor, recently got applause from Matt Mullenweg (creator of WordPress) on his create-guten-block framework. I reached out to him for his opinion on Gutenberg and this was his response: WordPress has taken a step forward to modernize the core with JavaScript. Gutenberg presents an opportunity of serious growth for WordPress both in general and with the large scale and Enterprise sector. The best parts of Gutenberg are yet to be explored. Don’t be too quick to write it off. I am all too excited about it. I have built create-guten-block and launching https://writy.io this year. More to come. Page Builder Plugins For Your Own Layouts Page builder plugins such as Beaver Builder have been all over the place in 2018, with many of them making plenty of progress in ease of use and functionality. This evolution has been to the advantage of the vast majority of WordPress users, as they help cut out the coding in building your website. While there have been page builders for a couple of years now, they only became easy to use in late 2017. With Elementor recently acquiring Layers WP, there doesn’t seem to be an end in the growth of WordPress page builder plugins any time soon. If you have ever tried building your own Contact Us page without using a page builder, you know how much time can go into this process. And a Contact Us page is a very simple layout. Usually, it only consists of a few headlines, a bit of text, a map, a contact form and maybe some social icons linking to your profiles. Imagine building an eCommerce landing page, displaying your featured products, best-selling products, call to action elements like buttons, headlines, texts, and other elements – and all of that being responsive. Page builder plugins come to the rescue in cases like that, giving you plenty of predefined blocks to use and configure. You can place each element via drag and drop directly where you’d like them to display and the page builder also makes the elements responsive by default. Personally, I’m super happy to see this trend continue in 2019. Users still struggle with many bulky themes that come with much more functionality and bloat than necessary. With Gutenberg and these drag and drop page builders becoming more and more refined, theme developers can focus on performance once again. The Evolution of Security Plugins With WordPress being the most used content management system in 2018, it’s also by far the most popular target for hackers. According to WordFence, “Hackers attack WordPress sites both big and small, with over 90,978 attacks happening per minute.” With that being said, it should be clear how important protecting your WordPress site from hackers is, and that your hosting company should treat security as seriously as Liquid Web does. In 2018, security plugins made quite a shift in how they work. In previous years, security plugins ran scans using hardware of your own web host, thus potentially slowing down your website loading times. In 2018, many plugins shifted to offloading the scan processes to their own data centers. With tools like Webarx or Malcare giving importance not just to the highest security possible but also to loading WordPress websites quickly while offering their services at super affordable prices, WordPress security became attainable for any user in 2018. To quote Malcare founder Akshat Choudhary: MalCare scans the website on its own servers and hence, there is no load on your server resources. Your website will always run at peak speeds and you will not lose any visitors. A Better User Experience on WordPress Sites In general, the user experience on WordPress sites overall has been one of the strongest WordPress trends in 2018. As fast mobile Internet access became more and more distributed and mobile traffic on websites increased by over 2% to 52.2% overall, a good user interface and user experience became even more important in 2018. Challenging Existing Design Concepts With a Buttonless UI One of the best examples of this trend is that more and more WordPress sites show buttonless designs by using actions like sliding or scrolling for confirming actions on mobile devices. This approach saves the precious screen real estate for the most important elements. According to Marina Yalanska: This approach saves the precious space on the screen for more information and it is even believed to be the initial step to the virtual interfaces based on gestures only. Being More Consistent With Font Sizes and Font Faces It’s easy for non-designers to build WordPress sites that get totally out of control in terms of how many fonts and font sizes they use. It’s good to see that page builders introduced libraries of elements for copying headline elements or text elements (to keep consistent styles). Themes like BeDecor limit the number of fonts and sizes used as well. Pro Tip: A good rule of thumb here is to stick with no more than 3 fonts and no more than 4 different font sizes. Anything more than that will likely overwhelm your visitors. Preparing Your Site For Voice Search Daniel Kaempf states that: The latest user statistics show 71% of smart speaker owners use their voice assistant daily which can be attributed to a better user experience. When you look around your house, you’ll almost certainly see either a device using Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana or Bixby somewhere in your room. That indicates how important preparing your website for voice search has become in 2018 and that trend will continue in 2019. We already talked about quick loading times, but there are more factors that contribute to a good ranking in voice search results. According to Backlinko: 36.4% of voice search result pages used Schema markup (vs. 31.3% for the average page on the Internet). You definitely want to include Schema markup in your website now if you didn’t already add it in 2018. That Backlinko guide will provide useful tips for optimizing your site for voice search. I linked it here because this topic is one of the most important trends in WordPress 2018. Need a WordPress Host? Let us help your site grow alongside your business in 2019 with our Managed WordPress Hosting solution. It comes standard with automatic plugin and core WordPress updates, Stencils for cloning new client projects, iThemes Sync Pro for monitoring and analytics data, and no overage charges as your page views go up. The post The Hottest Trends from WordPress in 2018 appeared first on Liquid Web.

The Hottest Trends from WordPress in 2018

The new year is here and thus we should take a minute or two to reflect on WordPress in 2018. What new features were released? What WordPress trends evolved? Which trends disappeared? 2018 has been an exciting year in the WordPress community with plenty of discussions going on, especially toward the end of the year. WordPress developers spent the year learning new frameworks and adapting their WordPress plugins to a new editor called Gutenberg, users had to learn this new editor too, and the look and feel of WordPress themes changed quite a bit. For this yearly review, I’ve selected the following topics to talk about: WordPress design trends in 2018 The new Gutenberg editor Page builder plugins for your own layouts The evolution of security plugins The better user experience on WordPress sites Subscribe to the Liquid Web newsletter to get more WordPress content like this sent straight to your inbox. WordPress Design Trends in 2018 There always have been a gazillion different WordPress themes but in 2018 there were a few design trends that became common among websites. Component Design Systems By breaking up your entire website into reusable components and setting guidelines for each component, your corporate identity can become much easier to manage. Those components can be headlines which need to have the same sizes and spacing, image positioning, color palettes, and so on. Jerry Cao defines design systems as: A design system includes design standards, documentation, and — one of its central advantages — a UI toolkit with patterns and codes. Bold Fonts and Shapes It’s nothing new that designers love bold and big fonts as well as using shaped backgrounds to break up layouts or add a bit of asymmetry to a website. In 2018, WordPress themes took this trend to a new level. Page builders added functions to easily add curved, triangled or wave-patterned section dividers, and Google Fonts allow for using outstanding typography. Just from looking at the sites featured on Awwwards for December 2018, we can see this common theme being implemented across all sorts of websites: The same holds true when you browse across the themes on platforms like Themeforest or TemplateMonster. It’s likely that, if you got a new site in 2018 yourself, your designer will have suggested some pretty bold fonts and beautifully crafted shapes. And it makes sense. Big fonts help capture the attention of your website visitors and ensure that your message comes across. Clever use of shapes and dividers also benefit the user experience of your website and support your visitors in dissecting your content. The New Gutenberg Editor Gutenberg is the new default WordPress editor and has caused all sort of #wpdrama in 2018. It was meant to entirely renew the way we create content by using the new Blocks in WordPress. I believe that Gutenberg will be highly beneficial to WordPress. Even though the reviews on the Gutenberg plugin say different, I think it was actually a good move (the timing of the release in December 2018 could have been more developer friendly). Ahmad Awais, a WP core contributor, recently got applause from Matt Mullenweg (creator of WordPress) on his create-guten-block framework. I reached out to him for his opinion on Gutenberg and this was his response: WordPress has taken a step forward to modernize the core with JavaScript. Gutenberg presents an opportunity of serious growth for WordPress both in general and with the large scale and Enterprise sector. The best parts of Gutenberg are yet to be explored. Don’t be too quick to write it off. I am all too excited about it. I have built create-guten-block and launching https://writy.io this year. More to come. Page Builder Plugins For Your Own Layouts Page builder plugins such as Beaver Builder have been all over the place in 2018, with many of them making plenty of progress in ease of use and functionality. This evolution has been to the advantage of the vast majority of WordPress users, as they help cut out the coding in building your website. While there have been page builders for a couple of years now, they only became easy to use in late 2017. With Elementor recently acquiring Layers WP, there doesn’t seem to be an end in the growth of WordPress page builder plugins any time soon. If you have ever tried building your own Contact Us page without using a page builder, you know how much time can go into this process. And a Contact Us page is a very simple layout. Usually, it only consists of a few headlines, a bit of text, a map, a contact form and maybe some social icons linking to your profiles. Imagine building an eCommerce landing page, displaying your featured products, best-selling products, call to action elements like buttons, headlines, texts, and other elements – and all of that being responsive. Page builder plugins come to the rescue in cases like that, giving you plenty of predefined blocks to use and configure. You can place each element via drag and drop directly where you’d like them to display and the page builder also makes the elements responsive by default. Personally, I’m super happy to see this trend continue in 2019. Users still struggle with many bulky themes that come with much more functionality and bloat than necessary. With Gutenberg and these drag and drop page builders becoming more and more refined, theme developers can focus on performance once again. The Evolution of Security Plugins With WordPress being the most used content management system in 2018, it’s also by far the most popular target for hackers. According to WordFence, “Hackers attack WordPress sites both big and small, with over 90,978 attacks happening per minute.” With that being said, it should be clear how important protecting your WordPress site from hackers is, and that your hosting company should treat security as seriously as Liquid Web does. In 2018, security plugins made quite a shift in how they work. In previous years, security plugins ran scans using hardware of your own web host, thus potentially slowing down your website loading times. In 2018, many plugins shifted to offloading the scan processes to their own data centers. With tools like Webarx or Malcare giving importance not just to the highest security possible but also to loading WordPress websites quickly while offering their services at super affordable prices, WordPress security became attainable for any user in 2018. To quote Malcare founder Akshat Choudhary: MalCare scans the website on its own servers and hence, there is no load on your server resources. Your website will always run at peak speeds and you will not lose any visitors. A Better User Experience on WordPress Sites In general, the user experience on WordPress sites overall has been one of the strongest WordPress trends in 2018. As fast mobile Internet access became more and more distributed and mobile traffic on websites increased by over 2% to 52.2% overall, a good user interface and user experience became even more important in 2018. Challenging Existing Design Concepts With a Buttonless UI One of the best examples of this trend is that more and more WordPress sites show buttonless designs by using actions like sliding or scrolling for confirming actions on mobile devices. This approach saves the precious screen real estate for the most important elements. According to Marina Yalanska: This approach saves the precious space on the screen for more information and it is even believed to be the initial step to the virtual interfaces based on gestures only. Being More Consistent With Font Sizes and Font Faces It’s easy for non-designers to build WordPress sites that get totally out of control in terms of how many fonts and font sizes they use. It’s good to see that page builders introduced libraries of elements for copying headline elements or text elements (to keep consistent styles). Themes like BeDecor limit the number of fonts and sizes used as well. Pro Tip: A good rule of thumb here is to stick with no more than 3 fonts and no more than 4 different font sizes. Anything more than that will likely overwhelm your visitors. Preparing Your Site For Voice Search Daniel Kaempf states that: The latest user statistics show 71% of smart speaker owners use their voice assistant daily which can be attributed to a better user experience. When you look around your house, you’ll almost certainly see either a device using Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana or Bixby somewhere in your room. That indicates how important preparing your website for voice search has become in 2018 and that trend will continue in 2019. We already talked about quick loading times, but there are more factors that contribute to a good ranking in voice search results. According to Backlinko: 36.4% of voice search result pages used Schema markup (vs. 31.3% for the average page on the Internet). You definitely want to include Schema markup in your website now if you didn’t already add it in 2018. That Backlinko guide will provide useful tips for optimizing your site for voice search. I linked it here because this topic is one of the most important trends in WordPress 2018. Need a WordPress Host? Let us help your site grow alongside your business in 2019 with our Managed WordPress Hosting solution. It comes standard with automatic plugin and core WordPress updates, Stencils for cloning new client projects, iThemes Sync Pro for monitoring and analytics data, and no overage charges as your page views go up. The post The Hottest Trends from WordPress in 2018 appeared first on Liquid Web.

What is a DDoS Attack?

DDoS. It’s become a four-letter word that strikes fear in the hearts of business owners across the internet industry, and with good cause. Threats for DDoS attacks across the industry have been rising in terms of frequency, volume, and ease of access every year and, according to a statistical analysis by Calyptix, 2018 was no different. In fact, in 2018 the internet saw the largest quantity of DDoS attacks in a calendar year as well as the most massive volumetric attacks ever. So what do you need to know about DDoS attacks and how can Liquid Web help? Let’s find out. What is a DDoS Attack? A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS/DDOS) attack is a malicious attempt to render your server unreachable and generally follows one of two major types, Volumetric or Service-Level. Why Would Someone Do That? The easiest way to rationalize this type of situation is to remember that a DDoS Attack is malicious and illegal. With that in mind, we can equate this type of activity to any other criminal activity, like someone breaking into your car. Why would they do that? There are all types of reasons, but sometimes it’s better to focus on the situations where it happens and how to avoid or protect ourselves.  Subscribe to the Liquid Web weekly newsletter to have more security content like this sent straight to your inbox. Good Point. So Where Do They Happen? There are three types of sites who see the most DDoS activity: bidding sites, highly competitive business industry sites, and news or blog sites who report on controversial topics. Bidding Sites: Attackers will usually try to bid for an item with a relatively low bid then initiate an attack which renders the server unreachable. If there are no more bidders, they have a better chance of getting their item at the lower price. Sneaky. Competitive Business Industries: These seem to be sporadic and infrequent, but still prevalent enough to mention. There’s no proof as to whether high dollar sites are targeted more frequently or are just more highly publicized due to their revenue amounts, but it’s still something to consider, especially given the potential damages. Some sites can go down for an hour and lose hundreds or thousands. When larger sites lose time, it can be even more costly. News and Blog Sites: Controversial topics are groupings with a vast scope, but it still sparks the same situations. Sometimes someone thinks a subject shouldn’t be discussed or reported and will try and take the law into their own hands. Again, it’s best not to try to rationalize an irrational situation. Just accept that this activity is illegal and move forward with defense and mitigation. So How Do I Protect Myself? Good! Moving forward. I like it! As I mentioned, there are two basic forms of DDoS Attacks: Volumetric and Service-Level. Luckily Liquid Web has you covered on both. Type of attack: Volumetric Attacks The first and most common are Volumetric attacks. These can be thought of like a traffic jam. Imagine going to work and pulling onto the on-ramp only to see that the highway is filled with cars. You’re stuck at the on-ramp and can’t get access to the road. In a volumetric attack, an attacker generates massive amounts of Junk Traffic and sends it to your servers. This nonsense traffic, often malformed packets and noise, fills up your server’s bandwidth and causes legitimate traffic from your customers to get stuck in a jam. Unlike a traffic jam on a highway, however, traffic doesn’t just wait in line. Your clients will see the dreaded No Connection Error, or the load times will slow to the point of causing frustration, and your clients will just leave. A great example of this was the somewhat recent Github website DDoS attack in February 2018 – which also happens to be the largest recorded DDoS attack to-date at 1.35Tbps. This specific attack, which some are calling Memcrached, used misconfigured Memcached servers to strengthen the attack. Luckily Akamai, one of the largest content delivery networks globally, was able to help Github survive the attack. So How Can I Protect My Sites From These Types of Attacks? Liquid Web’s first line of defense is an always-on solution that watches for this type of junk traffic, stopping it at the edge of our network, several layers before it even gets to your server. And the best part: basic protection is free! Every server, service, and IP address on our network comes with the full protection from these types of attacks up to 2 Gbps, a threshold for the most common attacks. And, if you happen to notice larger types of attacks or think preparing for such an attack is prudent, we have two extra service layers covering up to 20 Gbps. Type of Attack: Service-Level Attacks The second and less common, but much more sophisticated type of DDoS Attack, is the Service-Level attack, often referred to as a SYN-flood, a SYN-attack, or a Layer 7 attack. Service-Level attacks exploit the connection-request design of web servers and require the attacker to craft specific request packets, not simply junk traffic. These requests look like legitimate requests from legitimate clients, and so they slip through the standard DDoS protection layers. Once the request is made, your server responds with its own ACK packet, as it should. This response generates a connection, but the attacker never sends traffic across this connection. The connection simply remains open. The problem is that servers have a limited number of active connection which can be occupied. Once this limit is reached, your site stops accepting new connections until the old ones are closed. Despite the smaller size and often shorter duration, these attacks can still cause significant damage to an organization. How Can I Protect My Business From These Attacks? This is where Liquid Web’s second layer of protection comes in to play. Our Advanced DDoS Mitigation plan employs powerful hardware and software layers which are sophisticated enough to be able to inspect these SYN packets and decide which are legitimate and which ones are not. Further, this process is not an always-on method which relies on automation. Our highly capable team of network administrators will be watching the traffic, analyzing it and tweaking the configurations to make sure the attack is handled appropriately so you can have peace of mind. Great! But What Happens if the Attack is Significantly Larger? Liquid Web has partnered with CloudFlare, a well-established giant of DDoS mitigation and protection, to include several offerings for off-site mitigation. Also, since we’re a full partner, we can assist with the process, which is relatively simple and only requires a quick DNS change. The Most Helpful Humans in Hosting can walk you through each step to get you protected no matter the situation. We’re just a ticket or phone call away. Get Started With DDoS Attack Prevention Today For those looking to get a head start on protection from DDoS attacks, check out our CloudFlare and DDoS Attack Prevention solutions. The post What is a DDoS Attack? appeared first on Liquid Web.

What is a DDoS Attack?

DDoS. It’s become a four-letter word that strikes fear in the hearts of business owners across the internet industry, and with good cause. Threats for DDoS attacks across the industry have been rising in terms of frequency, volume, and ease of access every year and, according to a statistical analysis by Calyptix, 2018 was no different. In fact, in 2018 the internet saw the largest quantity of DDoS attacks in a calendar year as well as the most massive volumetric attacks ever. So what do you need to know about DDoS attacks and how can Liquid Web help? Let’s find out. What is a DDoS Attack? A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS/DDOS) attack is a malicious attempt to render your server unreachable and generally follows one of two major types, Volumetric or Service-Level. Why Would Someone Do That? The easiest way to rationalize this type of situation is to remember that a DDoS Attack is malicious and illegal. With that in mind, we can equate this type of activity to any other criminal activity, like someone breaking into your car. Why would they do that? There are all types of reasons, but sometimes it’s better to focus on the situations where it happens and how to avoid or protect ourselves.  Subscribe to the Liquid Web weekly newsletter to have more security content like this sent straight to your inbox. Good Point. So Where Do They Happen? There are three types of sites who see the most DDoS activity: bidding sites, highly competitive business industry sites, and news or blog sites who report on controversial topics. Bidding Sites: Attackers will usually try to bid for an item with a relatively low bid then initiate an attack which renders the server unreachable. If there are no more bidders, they have a better chance of getting their item at the lower price. Sneaky. Competitive Business Industries: These seem to be sporadic and infrequent, but still prevalent enough to mention. There’s no proof as to whether high dollar sites are targeted more frequently or are just more highly publicized due to their revenue amounts, but it’s still something to consider, especially given the potential damages. Some sites can go down for an hour and lose hundreds or thousands. When larger sites lose time, it can be even more costly. News and Blog Sites: Controversial topics are groupings with a vast scope, but it still sparks the same situations. Sometimes someone thinks a subject shouldn’t be discussed or reported and will try and take the law into their own hands. Again, it’s best not to try to rationalize an irrational situation. Just accept that this activity is illegal and move forward with defense and mitigation. So How Do I Protect Myself? Good! Moving forward. I like it! As I mentioned, there are two basic forms of DDoS Attacks: Volumetric and Service-Level. Luckily Liquid Web has you covered on both. Type of attack: Volumetric Attacks The first and most common are Volumetric attacks. These can be thought of like a traffic jam. Imagine going to work and pulling onto the on-ramp only to see that the highway is filled with cars. You’re stuck at the on-ramp and can’t get access to the road. In a volumetric attack, an attacker generates massive amounts of Junk Traffic and sends it to your servers. This nonsense traffic, often malformed packets and noise, fills up your server’s bandwidth and causes legitimate traffic from your customers to get stuck in a jam. Unlike a traffic jam on a highway, however, traffic doesn’t just wait in line. Your clients will see the dreaded No Connection Error, or the load times will slow to the point of causing frustration, and your clients will just leave. A great example of this was the somewhat recent Github website DDoS attack in February 2018 – which also happens to be the largest recorded DDoS attack to-date at 1.35Tbps. This specific attack, which some are calling Memcrached, used misconfigured Memcached servers to strengthen the attack. Luckily Akamai, one of the largest content delivery networks globally, was able to help Github survive the attack. So How Can I Protect My Sites From These Types of Attacks? Liquid Web’s first line of defense is an always-on solution that watches for this type of junk traffic, stopping it at the edge of our network, several layers before it even gets to your server. And the best part: basic protection is free! Every server, service, and IP address on our network comes with the full protection from these types of attacks up to 2 Gbps, a threshold for the most common attacks. And, if you happen to notice larger types of attacks or think preparing for such an attack is prudent, we have two extra service layers covering up to 20 Gbps. Type of Attack: Service-Level Attacks The second and less common, but much more sophisticated type of DDoS Attack, is the Service-Level attack, often referred to as a SYN-flood, a SYN-attack, or a Layer 7 attack. Service-Level attacks exploit the connection-request design of web servers and require the attacker to craft specific request packets, not simply junk traffic. These requests look like legitimate requests from legitimate clients, and so they slip through the standard DDoS protection layers. Once the request is made, your server responds with its own ACK packet, as it should. This response generates a connection, but the attacker never sends traffic across this connection. The connection simply remains open. The problem is that servers have a limited number of active connection which can be occupied. Once this limit is reached, your site stops accepting new connections until the old ones are closed. Despite the smaller size and often shorter duration, these attacks can still cause significant damage to an organization. How Can I Protect My Business From These Attacks? This is where Liquid Web’s second layer of protection comes in to play. Our Advanced DDoS Mitigation plan employs powerful hardware and software layers which are sophisticated enough to be able to inspect these SYN packets and decide which are legitimate and which ones are not. Further, this process is not an always-on method which relies on automation. Our highly capable team of network administrators will be watching the traffic, analyzing it and tweaking the configurations to make sure the attack is handled appropriately so you can have peace of mind. Great! But What Happens if the Attack is Significantly Larger? Liquid Web has partnered with CloudFlare, a well-established giant of DDoS mitigation and protection, to include several offerings for off-site mitigation. Also, since we’re a full partner, we can assist with the process, which is relatively simple and only requires a quick DNS change. The Most Helpful Humans in Hosting can walk you through each step to get you protected no matter the situation. We’re just a ticket or phone call away. Get Started With DDoS Attack Prevention Today For those looking to get a head start on protection from DDoS attacks, check out our CloudFlare and DDoS Attack Prevention solutions. The post What is a DDoS Attack? appeared first on Liquid Web.

Pages

Recommended Content