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12 of the Best Holiday Marketing Campaigns (And What You Can Learn from Them)

The days are getting shorter, the temperatures are dropping, and “Jingle Bells” is probably playing in every store you enter. Naturally, this can only mean that the holiday season is upon us once again. As a result, it’s time to prepare for your holiday marketing campaigns. This season offers a lot of opportunities for all businesses, big and small. If you can grab consumers’ attention with a unique campaign, you’ll be well on your way to pulling in additional revenue. A smart place to start is to look at what has worked for other brands, to find inspiration that you can use in your own marketing efforts. In this article, we’ll take a look back at some of our favorite holiday marketing campaigns from seasons past. We’ll discuss their history, why they were so successful, and how you can incorporate them in your holiday marketing strategy. Let’s jump right in! 1. ‘Santa Tracker’ by Google We’re going to start with a true classic of online holiday marketing. Google’s Santa Tracker has been going strong since 2004. During this time, it has enabled users to follow Santa Claus on his worldwide gift-giving journey every Christmas. The Santa Tracker campaign initially started as a simple way to visualize Santa’s journey via Google Earth (or Keyhole Earth Viewer, as it was called then). However, it has since evolved in numerous ways. For instance, the site has expanded to show information about the cities Santa visits, offer ‘live updates’ directly from the sleigh, and much more. With Santa Tracker, Google manages to market its map service in a way that is both fun and interactive. The key lesson to take away from the campaign is that it works across multiple audience segments, appealing equally to young children and adults. By combining mythology and technology in a quirky way, Google managed to create a new spin on an age-old story and make its brand synonymous with the tradition itself at the same time. 2. ‘Elf Yourself’ by Office Depot Next up, this is another interactive and playful campaign that appeals to kids and adults alike. Elf Yourself is a recurring campaign by Office Depot, which lets users create elves based on pictures of themselves (or other people). Since 2006, users have created over one billion elves using the site and app. In recent years, the Elf Yourself app has been updated with new features, such as Augmented Reality (AR) and the ability to print your elf as a seasonal greeting card. Users can also share their creations on social media, along with the marketing hashtag #ElfYourself. This is an example of how a holiday campaign can be used to grow brand awareness, rather than explicitly aiming to increase conversions or sales. By providing something fun and engaging for your users to play with, you can get the word out about your business, without overtly promoting your products or services. 3. ‘The Holiday Odyssey’ by Target In a sense, every holiday season is a journey. At least, it is if you believe Target and its 2015 campaign ‘The Holiday Odyssey.’ This campaign’s most visible element was a series of short video clips, which included cameos from the Minions, Barbie, Star Wars characters, and even the great Neil Patrick Harris. However, these storytelling videos only represented one aspect of the campaign, which also made use of multiple channels. As well as a dedicated website and promotion across its social media platforms, Target also took the ‘Odyssey’ into its physical stores. By doing this, Target managed to create a complete synergy across multiple platforms, something that’s ideal for businesses with a wide audience. This is naturally difficult to do if you don’t have the reach and budget of a major corporation, but it does highlight the importance of leveraging multiple channels in your own marketing. You might not be able to afford to feature NPH in your advertisements, but you can still use your online presence and physical stores in conjunction, to create an all-encompassing campaign that appeals equally to the various segments of your audience. 4. ‘Nick Offerman’s Yule Log’ by Lagavulin Watching a man silently drink whiskey next to a crackling fireplace for 45 minutes might not sound very appealing at first. However, if that man is actor and comedian Nick Offerman, you’ve got a viral marketing sensation on your hands. That’s what Lagavulin did when it hired Offerman to create a parody of the classic yule log videos that were popular in 2015 (and still are). Since then, the original video has been watched over 3 million times. Thanks to popular demand, Lagavulin has even put out an extended 10-hour version. This campaign is a masterclass in how to use a video to create a conversation starter. First, it’s a perfect fit with Offerman’s existing public persona, and ties into his most famous role as Ron Swanson on TV show Parks & Recreation, a character who famously loved Lagavulin. However, it’s also an eminently shareable clip in its own right. It’s fun, attention-grabbing, and actually works quite well as a non-ironic yule log video. Considering the minimal resources required to pull this off, it’s a perfect example of how a simple idea can have a huge payoff if it connects with your audience. 5. ‘Red Cups’ by Starbucks In a previous article, we discussed Starbucks’ penchant for brand management on its official company blog. To no one’s surprise, it turns out that the company is just as proficient at promoting its brand during the holiday season. You’ve most likely seen its iconic holiday cup designs yourself, as they were introduced all the way back in 1997. Since then, the company has featured new festive designs every year. Somewhat infamously, these cups were a point of controversy in 2015, when a plain red variety was accused of not being ‘Christmassy’ enough. Despite this setback, the reusable red cup design has become iconic, to the point where independent websites have sprung up that feature a countdown to its annual re-release. The lesson here is that a stylish and cohesive brand identity can be an extremely powerful tool. This campaign also shows that it’s possible to create unique traditions that are tied to your brand, then encourage your audience to look forward to them each year. 6. ‘#OptOutside’ by REI Black Friday is widely regarded as the beginning of the holiday shopping season, as well as one of the busiest retail days around the world. Considering this fact, it was especially noteworthy when the outdoor retailer REI announced that it would not participate in the Black Friday rush of 2015, and would keep all its stores closed for the entire day. This was the start of the #OptOutside campaign, which has become a recurring event ever since. The goal was to get employees and customers to spend Black Friday enjoying the outdoors rather than shopping. After the initial success, the company has expanded the event to include a search engine that lets users around the world share their outdoor experiences using the campaign’s hashtag. Not only is #OptOutside a terrific example of a company making a statement about the holidays, it’s also perfectly in line with its brand identity. After all, REI sells outdoor equipment, so it makes sense to encourage people to participate in outside activities even during the winter. This goes to show that you can start a meaningful conversation while also bringing attention to what your business does best. 7. ‘Misunderstood’ by Apple Whether it’s spending time with family and loved ones or remembering past holidays, the festive season is steeped in sentimentality. Many businesses take advantage of this in their campaigns, and perhaps the best example is Apple’s short film ‘Misunderstood.’ The clip shows a young boy appearing to avoid spending time with his family during the holidays. However, at the end (spoilers!), it’s revealed that he was actually busy creating a heartwarming montage of family moments the whole time. The clip was positively received by many viewers and even went on to win an Emmy. With this clip, Apple managed to insert its product into the sentimentality of the season in two clever ways. The film subverts the idea that phones are only used to avoid time with your family, while also demonstrating the actual capabilities of the latest iPhone at the same time. This is a ‘show, don’t tell’ approach to marketing a specific product that can be difficult to pull off, but very effective when done well. 8. ‘#NZSecretSanta’ By New Zealand Post In case you’re not familiar with the concept, Secret Santa is a tradition where a group of people comes together to buy one gift for each person – everybody buys and gets a gift. However, each recipient is completely unaware of who their gift-giver is, which creates a fun sense of mystery. With its #NZSecretSanta event, the New Zealand Post aimed to blow this game up to a national level. Started in 2010 by Sam Elton-Waters, the initiative was a huge success, to the point that even the country’s prime minister took part. As the yearly event grew in scope, the New Zealand Post stepped in to help organize the gift-giving. Not only is this a heartwarming tradition, but it’s also a great example of how you can engage people using social media. An event that encourages people to have fun together, be thoughtful, and even give to charity helps to encourage participation and positive feelings towards your business. 9. ‘Come Together’ by H&M At this point, we’ve already mentioned the benefits of using video marketing to your advantage during the holidays. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t also bring up H&M’s impressive ‘Come Together’ campaign. Directed by Wes Anderson, this short film features Adrien Brody as a conductor on a train that gets caught in a snowstorm. Since they’re stuck in place, the conductor and passengers decide to throw a Christmas party together. Shot in the filmmaker’s trademark style, the video is both quirky and heartwarming. It also aligns the brand with Anderson’s sense for fashion and whimsy. This is yet another way you can create a talking point, even if you don’t have any Academy Award-winning actors at your disposal. You can still use your brand videos to create a unique signature and style. Having a recognizable style is crucial during the busy holiday season, and is especially important for brands aimed at a modern, trend-conscious audience. 10. ‘Believe’ by Macy’s Alt text: The home page for Macy’s Believe campaign. Think fast: What are the two most essential parts of Christmastime? If you answered “stuffing your face with food” and “decorating the tree,” we can’t blame you. However, we were specifically thinking of charity and gift-giving. Charity is an especially significant part of the holiday spirit, and it’s something Macy’s has made a cornerstone of its ‘Believe’ campaign. This campaign revolves around a site where users can write a letter to Santa with their Christmas wishes. For every letter posted, Macy’s donates $1 to the Make-a-Wish foundation. Not only does this charitable element align perfectly with the giving season, it also encourages visitors and customers to engage with the brand directly. This type of initiative lets you do a charitable deed, while also expressing your brand identity in a fun and memorable way. 11. ‘Holiday Gift Guides’ by Etsy Most of the campaigns we’ve looked at have avoided being directly commercial in nature. Instead, many businesses choose to use the holiday season to manage and increase awareness of their brands, rather than actively pushing their products. However, Etsy manages to go another way, while also providing a useful service for its users. Instead of a big marketing push, this e-commerce site produces annual ‘Gift Guides.’ These guides help customers find the perfect presents to buy, based on different categories and styles. This is a creative way to drive additional sales, while still sticking with a holiday theme. It also helps funnel customers more effectively towards the products they’ll prefer. In fact, Etsy actually provides similar guides all year round, such as the Finds Under $30 guide. This means that returning customers will already be accustomed to searching for products in the same fashion. Whether or not you create dedicated guides, it’s key to ensure that your actual website makes it easy for users to find what they need quickly. After all, buying gifts for the holidays is often stressful. Anything you can do to make this process faster and easier is going to be well-appreciated by your customers. 12. ‘Holidays Are Coming!’ by Coca-Cola Finally, let’s end on a true classic, perhaps the most legendary and recognizable holiday campaign in media history. Coca-Cola has been crucial in defining how Christmas marketing looks, to the point where a prevalent myth claims that the company invented the modern image of Santa Claus. Even if that’s not true, Coca Cola’s recurring ‘Holidays Are Coming’ campaign is still legendary. In fact, many don’t consider the Christmas season truly started until they hear the familiar jingle on TV. Even though it’s been a staple for over two decades, Coca-Cola has continued to expand and innovate its holiday marketing, while still keeping the core of its message clear and consistent. After all, the holidays are all about traditions, both big and small. Using nostalgia and tried-and-true concepts can help to create a sense of tradition around your brand. We’ve seen this notion applied in many of the campaigns on this list, where brands iterate on a successful idea over the years. However, nothing demonstrates the effect of this technique quite like Coca-Cola. If you can manage something similar for your own brand, albeit on a smaller scale, it can improve your business’ authority and capture your audience’s imagination. Holly and Jolly The holidays are not just about giving gifts, traveling, and spending time with family. They’re also a prime opportunity to market your business, and solidify your brand identity in the process. Do you have any questions about how to create a successful holiday marketing campaign? Find us on social media and let’s talk cheer! The post 12 of the Best Holiday Marketing Campaigns (And What You Can Learn from Them) appeared first on DreamHost.

5 Things to Look for in a True Managed WordPress Provider

Managed WordPress hosting is all about the finer things in life. It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert in how to use the popular content management system — managed hosting providers roll out the red carpet and invite you to sit back and enjoy a lavish feast of features built to improve your WordPress experience. At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be. via GIPHY Because WordPress commands more than 60 percent of the content management system market, web hosting providers salivate at the chance to tap into the passionate user base. Plus, because the various intricacies of the WordPress platform can quickly intimidate new or aspiring owners, customers often look for all the help they can get — even if they don’t really know what they’re receiving. Those two ingredients make for a sour-tasting recipe in which some web hosting providers simply relabel their generic, run-of-the-mill shared hosting plan as the almighty “WordPress hosting” plan newbies should be looking for. Potential customers are lured in by the savory scents wafting from the kitchen, typically represented by rock-bottom prices and trumped-up features that are actually pretty standard (one-click installations or automatic updates, anyone?). However, true managed hosting experiences tailored to the ins and outs of WordPress can save site owners or entrepreneurs countless hours of overseeing and maintaining their hosting environments. The truly upgraded hosting service takes care of tedious, mundane processes while improving website performance, toughening server security, making your life easier, and often contributing back to the WordPress community that brought us here.  via GIPHY So how do you tell if your managed WordPress hosting provider is Prince Charming or just a Beast? Well, be our guest and put our service (cough, cough, DreamPress) to the test as we lay out the five key ways a worthwhile and caring managed hosting provider should earn your business. 1. Shared and WordPress Hosting Plans (They’re Actually Different) Don’t get us wrong, we love a good bargain. Shared hosting is typically cheaper than managed WordPress plans, and the service does come with the basic tools most people need to start a WordPress site. The platform’s popularity makes WordPress a star of the standard one-click installation script libraries and knowledge base tutorials. As we said before, though, just because you can have a WordPress site appear at your domain name does not mean that you have bona fide WordPress hosting. Although the low prices and supreme simplicity appeal to beginners and first-time site owners, developers, and other tech-minded folks should have their sights (sites?) set a little higher. High-performance solid-state drives are no longer enough to brag about WordPress-optimized performance. When shopping for a new managed WordPress hosting plan, make sure to also look at a company’s shared hosting service — are they the same? Some hosting companies will blatantly try to push the same exact configurations and services, possibly even for the same affordable rate. Sneakier hosts will repackage their shared servers and advertise them slightly differently to appeal to those who know the basics of WordPress. The companies will hit on hot topics like speed, security, and support, without offering much in the way of specifics. Or the features they do mention aren’t quite as impressive as those you’d find with true managed WordPress experts. Keep an eye out for these features: Automatic updates: This has actually been a standard part of WordPress since 2013. SSD Storage: Improved storage performance is great — SSDs combined with caching tools, however, is even better. SSL certificates and malware scans: Any security measure is better than none, but we prefer web application firewalls that cover specific WordPress vulnerabilities. Knowledgeable WordPress support: Sure, all the support agents are familiar with WordPress, but are they experts? Now, don’t get us wrong — we actually offer all of these features. But we have more to back it up. Even though managed WordPress hosting may cost more, our signature features, including server-level and object caching, Nginx web server, WP-CLI, and upgraded cloud infrastructure provide lots of bang for your buck. 2. Performance-Boosting Hardware and Software Upgraded cloud infrastructure, you say? Why, yes — providing virtualized, isolated hosting environments is the first step we take in crafting our DreamPress hosting. Instead of crowded shared servers, where sites compete for resources and one compromised site can affect hundreds or thousands of others, we give managed WordPress hosting customers more room to grow. By relying on cloud-based redundancy, these environments also offer increased stability and reliability. Cloud hosting is inherently faster than shared servers, and we take it a step further by adding multiple layers of caching. Caching essentially involves storing website information for later use instead of loading each page from scratch every time a visitor wants to see it. In addition to the standard caching operations expected on modern servers and operating systems, DreamPress introduces a variety of caching efforts targeted at improving the performance of WordPress-specific technologies. Starting at the server level, OPcache saves parts of the PHP code behind WordPress, meaning we can load your site without making PHP compile and run every time. Interestingly, introducing OPcache brought about a 15 percent reduction in energy consumption, helping our servers run more efficiently. Extra WordPress speed comes from solutions both simple and complex. As we mentioned before, SSDs can double the speed at which data is accessed compared with traditional hard-disk drives, and content delivery networks put your website files as close as possible to your visitors. Additionally, DreamPress includes Google’s Brotli compression software to reduce the size of site files, along with the high-performance Nginx web server and HTTP/2 and HTTPS protocols. 3. Staging Environments, Themes, and Other Design Tools Once the infrastructure stage is set, here comes the fun stuff associated with designing, developing, and launching your website. A quick, easy indicator that a managed WordPress host is providing meaningful improvements to the WordPress site owner, users, and their visitors is the presence of user-friendly tools that make the site customization phase more enjoyable for developers and easier for beginners. We give you a hand-picked selection of themes that serve a variety of industries and were chosen for having strong source code, modern design elements, and forward-thinking features. Whether you’re starting from scratch or preparing to redesign your current website, be sure to consider the hundreds of themes available in Jetpack, the design, security, and marketing plugin included and pre-installed with all DreamPress plans (Plus and Pro customers can enjoy the Professional version of Jetpack, while regular DreamPress users have the free version). Even better, Automattic vouches for the themes as the parent company of both WordPress and Jetpack — they may know a thing or two. You can easily find the theme of your dreams by searching by a particular feature, dominant color, layout scheme, or keyword. From there, the WordPress customizer and, eventually, the Gutenberg editor will make it a breeze to implement the final design tweaks. As you set out crafting your website and user experience, staging environments can become extraordinarily helpful for comparing different options, layouts, ideas, and customizations. Staging sites (which are also sometimes called testing or development sites) are standalone copies of your website that are not visible to the public. Here, you can try out new themes, test bug fixes, make sure updates don’t break anything, and perfect new ideas. Staging environments help you avoid prematurely rolling out changes that may negatively affect your live website’s performance or user experience. Staging environments in DreamPress are included with the Pro package, but users can also house a test site on a shared hosting plan. Take a look at our Knowledge Base guide that lays out all the options. 4. Security Safeguards That Ward Off Attacks Because WordPress is used so frequently across the internet, powering everything from personal blogs to major business sites, the content management system is a huge target for hackers. Finding and exploiting a vulnerability in the back-end code can potentially compromise or grant access to millions of other sites running the same version of WordPress. Yes, all those WordPress updates are annoying — but they’re the crucial first step in hardening your site to fend off attacks. According to a 2013 study, more than 73 percent of the 40,000 most popular WordPress sites used a version of the software that contained known security weaknesses. As such, the automatic updates many hosts provide to their WordPress hosting customers is a vitally important safeguard. Given our close relationship and involvement with the WordPress Core team, DreamHost often deploys the latest software and security updates within hours of release. However, that should only scratch the surface of security features available with trustworthy managed hosting plans. Free and configured SSL certificates, which encrypt the data passing between your website and its visitors, is another quick and easy step to take, as well as daily backups that enable you to quickly restore your site if it goes down. These features are relatively standard in the world of shared hosting, and you definitely don’t want to be without them. The same goes for services like server monitoring and malware or virus scans. We’ve built a lot of our own security tools in-house but are proud to offer free and premium versions of Jetpack to help different levels of customers secure their sites. The upgraded service includes automated malware scanning and security fixes, as well as spam filtering and protection against brute-force attacks. However, the go-to indicator that a managed WordPress host really knows what it’s doing is the inclusion of a web application firewall. In fact, DreamPress includes two of them. Web application firewalls, or WAFs, filter, monitor, and block HTTP traffic to and from specific applications. While regular firewalls act as a gateway between users and the entire server, WAFs are targeted and adjusted to the traffic specifically coming and going from WordPress. By tailoring security to the software behind your site, you can directly prevent attacks like SQL injection, cross-site scripting, file inclusion, and user error. 5. Demonstrable Expertise and Open-Source Engagement OK, so the managed WordPress hosting provider you’re considering has made it this far. It can clearly talk the talk — but can it walk the walk? Expert-grade WordPress support is quickly becoming the new version of around-the-clock customer assistance. Particularly with the cost-cutting measures associated with delivering bargain-basement prices, some managed hosts look for shortcuts. Sure, there are support reps standing by, but you may need to wait awhile. Same goes for WordPress. Whoever you speak with will probably know more than most beginners, but will they still be able to help your site as it grows larger and faces more difficult challenges? Look for more evidence that the hosting provider you’re considering actually has the knowledge to help with your most challenging issues. For instance, we are proud to contribute back to the WordPress community with code contributions, WordCamp sponsorships, and industry insight. As such, we’re one of only three web hosts WordPress recommends to site owners. In fact, the open-source nature of WordPress — and other keystone technologies like Linux — is built into our DNA. Our founders bonded over the energy of community-based software and relied on Linux, Apache, and Perl to power the earliest tenets of DreamHost. “Embrace open source” is one of our company values, as well as the need to “give everyone a voice.” The post 5 Things to Look for in a True Managed WordPress Provider appeared first on DreamHost.

2018 Year in Review: WordPress at DreamHost

TL;DR: We want our customers to be successful with WordPress, so we’ve done tons to support them this year. Our focus on WordPress is only going to continue from here — read more for some sneak peeks at what’s coming your way next and in 2019! And that’s a wrap, friends! We’re closing the book on 2018. But first, here are some cool year-end WordPress stats. In 2018, DreamHost: Serviced and supported 700,000+ WordPress sites Handled 7 WordPress Core releases Blocked over 3 billion attacks So many of you have chosen to use WordPress to build on and share your ideas, passions, beliefs, knowledge, ventures, and more, and that’s truly incredible! We are determined to continuously improve and innovate so we can provide you with an ideal toolkit for your online success. The less you have to worry about tinkering with WordPress, the more you can focus and build on your purpose — and that, right there, gives us all the warm and fuzzy feelings. It’s our goal to make things as simple as possible for you, to help you grow and resolve issues quickly and provide you with that “it just works and I don’t have to think about it” kind of experience. 2018 WordPress Redux Before the pages turn and we all jump into Chapter 2019, let’s look back on some of the things we did to enhance your WordPress experience this year. WordPress tips and tricks at your fingertips (all users) Lost in WordPress? Don’t worry, pals. Our experts wrote dozens of helpful pieces to quickly answer your questions on all things WordPress. From the basics of getting started to tips on optimizing your WordPress site for performance improvements, we’ve got you covered! An easier, single sign-on (DreamPress) We understand how annoying it can be to remember all the countless passwords for different online accounts. With DreamPress, our managed WordPress hosting service, you can log into your WordPress dashboard once from your DreamHost panel and continue to access WordPress from there without needing to input your credentials again. Convenient, right? Simple exports from our website builder to WordPress (Shared and Remixer) Remixer, DreamHost’s website builder, launched a feature that allows you to start your site or theme in Remixer and export it to WordPress with just a few clicks! Build something simple in Remixer and expand your toolkit with WordPress whenever you’re ready. A brand new DreamPress dashboard (DreamPress) DreamPress users get to enjoy a new and beautifully designed dashboard built to make managing WordPress sites easier than ever. Users can now temporarily disable caching (DreamPress) DreamPress users can temporarily disable caching for 24 hours. This is useful when actively developing a site since it allows you to make changes (and see them live) without the cached version hiding what you’re doing. DreamPress Pro makes its debut (DreamPress) A reliable, high-performance site becomes more critical than ever when you’re experiencing growth and need the room to scale. We launched DreamPress Pro not only to provide appropriate resources to maintain speed and reliability requirements but to also provide extended technical support services to customers who need help getting their issues resolved immediately. What’s on Deck? We’re looking forward to an exciting year ahead and building even more great WordPress tools for you. Here’s a sneak peek of things to come. More control with On-Demand Backup (DreamPress) With DreamPress’ new on-demand backup tool, you’ll be able to create a backup whenever you’d like. This will give you more control and peace of mind to make changes and know you can revert back to your original version if something goes wrong. Test changes with Staging (DreamPress) Let’s face it, things break or sometimes don’t have the results we expect. We’re launching an improved staging feature that will allow you to safely and quickly test your code and other changes. With staging, you can avoid those panic situations and make changes confidently. The post 2018 Year in Review: WordPress at DreamHost appeared first on DreamHost.

How Your Online Business Can Nail Customer Service During the Holiday Rush

The holiday season is upon us once more, and that means many things for your business. On the one hand, you’re about to enter the most lucrative period of the year. However, you’ll also be considerably busier than usual, and will likely need to deal with a much higher number of customer support queries. To make sure your support can cope with the holiday rush, you’ll want to plan ahead. Strengthening and preparing your support team is key to helping them provide assistance for a huge influx of stressed customers. If you do that, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of the season more effectively. In this article, we’ll discuss why it’s particularly important to provide quality customer service throughout the holidays. We’ll also offer some tips for how you can prepare your business and support team in advance. Let’s get started! Why Customer Service Matters Most During the Holidays If you’re anything like us, you’re getting busier by the day preparing for the holiday season. However, this isn’t just a time for buying gifts and eating good food. It’s also the most critical period for businesses, as many companies make the bulk of their yearly sales during the last few weeks of the year. However, to make sure your business takes full advantage of this period, you’ll need to plan ahead carefully. There are plenty of ways to ensure that you’re ready for the holiday rush, and one of the most crucial is making sure your customer service will function flawlessly. Of course, providing high-quality customer support is always necessary. During the holiday rush, however, you will most likely be inundated with even more support queries, questions, and confused customers than at any other time of the year. And because of high stress levels, you’re also more likely to end up dealing with some frustrated and potentially antagonistic customers. This might sound intimidating. By preparing in advance and making a solid plan, however, you can ensure that your customer service will remain top-notch even under less-than-ideal circumstances. Not only will this help your customers, but it will be a huge benefit to you and your customer service agents as well. 10 Ways to Prepare Your Customer Service for the Holiday Rush If you’re wondering: “When should I start to prepare for the holidays?”, our answer is right now! It’s never too early to start planning for the year’s final month, but having a plan in place at least before the beginning of December is highly recommended. With that in mind, we’re going to guide you through some of the most important steps you’ll want to take. Here are 10 things you can do prepare your customer service before Santa arrives! 1. Analyze Last Year’s Data A perfect place to start your planning is to look back at the previous year. This will involve examining the volume of calls and messages you received, finding out what the most common pain points were, and trying to understand where your service may have been lacking. Having this data at hand will be a huge help when formulating a plan for the upcoming rush. You’ll be able to improve in areas where you’ve struggled previously, and you can also preemptively provide information for the most common customer questions. In turn, this will cut down on the number of queries your team has to field. How you go about doing this analysis will naturally depend on your toolset. If you’re using software like Zendesk or Awesome Support, you can just view the statistics and queries from previous years. You should also liaise with your support and marketing teams, as they’ll be best equipped to tell you where you need to focus your attention. Here are some vital questions you’ll want to be able to answer: How much larger is the volume of support queries you receive during the holiday shopping period, compared with the rest of the year? What are the most common questions customers have? How are most people choosing to contact you — via email, phone, chat, or some other medium? Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list. However, these answers will help you immensely throughout the rest of your preparations. 2. Decide Which Support Channels to Focus On It’s essential that you know where to focus your attention during the holiday season. At first glance, it might seem like the best route to use every conceivable method of contact, but this can lead to spreading yourself too thin. Imagine that you have to simultaneously juggle phone lines, live chat, emails, and social media, in addition to updating your content and dealing with orders and shipping. In this scenario, you’ll likely see most — if not all — of those channels suffer in quality. This is especially true if you only have a small support team. To avoid this problem, you’ll need to consider which channels of communication to focus on. The best way to start is by looking at which channels are most commonly used by your customers. As we mentioned in the previous section, looking at earlier years’ support queries will give you a good baseline to work from. However, you’ll also want to consider which channels are most popular during the rest of the year. For example, if you find that your customers are primarily calling in or using your contact form throughout the year, it’s fair to assume that these will be the busiest channels during the holidays as well. Knowing this will let you assign more people to handle those channels, and avoid keeping customers waiting. 3. Prepare for Quick Scaling The truth is that no matter how well you plan, the holidays are never completely predictable. This means you’ll need to have a contingency plan, in case you need to scale up or down with little notice. For example, what if you face twice as many support requests as you anticipated? You’ll need to be able to assign more time and manpower to deal with them, while also keeping the rest of your operations afloat. In this scenario, you might consider hiring remote seasonal workers to help out. This is something many companies do to handle the increased volume of work during the holidays. Hiring temporary workers gives you the freedom to change the size of your team at almost a moment’s notice. For example, you could use a service like PartnerHero to outsource some or all of your customer support work during this period. Naturally, you’ll need to ensure that these seasonal workers have all the assets and information they need, which is something we’ll discuss later on. With the right preparations in place, they should be able to slot into your normal operations with little friction and help you deal with almost any unexpected situation. 4. Keep Your Customers Informed Arguably the most significant way to avoid customer frustration is to manage their expectations. If your support is changing during the holidays, you need to make that clear as early as possible. They’ll need to be aware of when and how they will be able to contact you. It’s also smart to let customers know how your other operations are likely to alter. For example, will returns take longer to process, and will they need to wait a bit for responses to their emails? By letting them know what to expect, you can keep them informed and minimize the risk of frustration or hostility. One strategy you can use to your advantage is sometimes referred to as “underpromise and overdeliver.” The idea is that you prepare customers for potential issues that may arise, but then work to avoid those problems anyway. This lets you exceed their expectations. Overall, our recommendation is to be honest about what customers can expect and to make any changes clear through as many channels as possible. That includes on your website, social media, and even your email list. This will ensure that the bulk of your customers know what to expect. 5. Use Automation to Your Advantage When the season gets going and you find yourself swamped in tasks, every second will count. To make sure you can use your available time most efficiently, you’ll want to consider automating tasks whenever it’s possible to do so. For instance, you can create an automated workflow using software like Help Scout. This can be set up to redirect customer queries to the person or team best suited to deal with them. Not only will this save time on your end, but it will also keep waiting times down for your stressed customers. Workflows also let you handle plenty of other tasks automatically, such as tracking products to let you know right away when stocks are low. You can then deal with the potential issue before it becomes a full-blown problem. There are plenty of other ways you can use automation during the holidays. One of the best strategies is to set up an AI-driven chatbot that can help you deal with the most common questions. This can dramatically cut down on the amount of time the human members of your team need to spend on customer support requests. 6. Implement a Triage System for Support Queries In addition to automating parts of your support system, you can also optimize it by introducing a triage process. This involves sorting tasks and support queries into categories depending on their urgency. You can then prioritize more urgent matters first, while non-emergency tasks can be dealt with later. Implementing triage into your customer service will let you focus your attention on what matters most at any given time. The most pressing and time-sensitive tasks can be dealt with right away, minimizing the risk of making your customers feel frustrated and hostile. An easy way to do this is to simply categorize each customer query according to priority. If an issue needs to be dealt with immediately, you might label it as “critical,” while if it needs to be looked at within 1-2 hours it could be labeled “urgent.” Issues that can wait a day or two, on the other hand, can be noted as “low priority.” However, you need to remember that you’ll still have to actually deal with all requests. If you find that you’re never getting around to handling low-priority tasks, you may need to consider scaling your team up temporarily by assigning additional personnel. 7. Update Your Content and Knowledge Base Earlier, we discussed the importance of keeping your customers informed. However, this extends beyond just letting them know about changes to your schedule. By making sure that all of your content and assets are up-to-date, you can save both customers and yourself a lot of time and hassle. For example, if you provide a knowledge base with information about your products and services, you can use it to answer most of the most commonly asked questions during the holiday period. In many cases, your support team can simply refer customers to relevant knowledge base articles, answering their queries quickly. For this to work, you’ll obviously need to ensure that you provide as much documentation and information as possible. It also needs to be thoroughly updated, to ensure that you don’t cause additional confusion among your customers. If you need to set up a knowledge base, you can use a plugin such as Heroic Knowledge Base. If you already have one, on the other hand, you should perform a content audit well before the holiday rush kicks in. This can also involve reviewing similar resources, such as your FAQ page. 8. Learn How to Help Stressed Customers The holidays are intended to offer relaxation and fun, but we all know that it can also be a thoroughly stressful period. As such, you’re likely to deal with a few customers who are particularly difficult, frustrated, or even outright antagonistic. Naturally, you’ll need to prepare in order to help them out and avoid angering them further. Dealing with difficult customers is a delicate task. The most valuable advice we can offer is to train your support team to stay calm and professional at all times, no matter what a customer might say. In addition, here are some ways you can approach particularly challenging customers: Listen. If the customer feels like they’re being deflected or ignored, they’re only going to get angrier and less responsive. Be quick. Naturally, your goal is to be as a fast as possible with all support queries. However, it can be worth prioritizing more stressed customers, to avoid further incident. Treat them like people. We discussed the value of automation earlier, but in tough cases, it’s better to take a personal approach. Make it clear to the customer that you’re handling their issue and care about their frustration, so they don’t feel like they’re being treated as a nuisance. In short, by listening to the customer and being prepared to meet them halfway, you can usually solve even the most heated of issues. 9. Prepare to Provide Compensation to Customers In some situations, you may need to compensate customers. Especially in the most volatile or challenging cases, a simple gift can help to smooth things over immensely. Some customers might even demand this kind of treatment. Providing compensation can help to soften even the most upset customers. It can also win back some goodwill. Your goal is to ensure that the customer considers using your business again in the future, despite their current grievances. Naturally, you’ll want to be very careful about how and when you compensate customers. In some cases, such as when they’ve received a faulty product, you may be legally obligated to provide a new item or a refund. However, you can also provide compensation if a customer has had a particularly difficult experience, either with your business or your customer service. This could be in the form of a small gift, a coupon, a discount, or anything else that’s convenient but useful to the customer. 10. Take Care of Your Support Team Finally, while it’s obviously necessary to take care of your customers, you shouldn’t ignore the people on your own front lines. Beginning on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the holiday rush is a stressful experience for everyone, especially those who have to field questions and requests from wound-up customers. Depending on the size of your business, you can take care of your support team in several ways. Naturally, you should make sure they have everything they’ll need to do their jobs without incident. However, it’s also nice to reward your support team further, to show your appreciation for all their hard work. Even something as simple as the occasional gift, like seasonally appropriate sweets and drinks, can do a lot to raise morale during this hectic season. Holiday Shopping Made Easy The holidays are meant to be a time of joy, but it can be hard to feel merry if your customer service is strained. By preparing well in advance, you can put a plan into place, train your team, and inform your customers — providing effective and efficient support as a result. Do you have any questions about how to handle customer support during the holiday rush? Find us on social and let’s start the conversation! The post How Your Online Business Can Nail Customer Service During the Holiday Rush appeared first on DreamHost.

How to Create an Email Newsletter (And Why You Should)

It seems like everyone has a newsletter these days. In fact, you probably stumble across newsletter sign-up forms on most sites you visit. While the many invitations can seem overwhelming, there’s a reason so many sites want your email address. As it turns out, running a newsletter is a smart move for many reasons. It can help you increase brand awareness, improve user engagement, and even generate more sales. The best part is that creating and sending a newsletter doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits of running a newsletter for your website, using our own The WordCandy Weekly as an example. We’ll also discuss what you can do with your newsletter, before showing you the basics of how to set one up for yourself. Let’s get to work! A Brief Introduction to Email Newsletters Chances are that you’re pretty familiar with newsletters. They’ve become as much a part of everyday internet life as blogs or cat memes. In fact, you probably receive at least a few of these messages in your inbox on a weekly or daily basis. When something becomes that mundane, you can easily to forget why it became so popular in the first place. You might even expect that newsletters aren’t as useful as they once were. However, the reality is that they’ve seen something of a resurgence in recent years. One of the main reasons for their continuing popularity is that newsletters offer a straightforward way to digest news and updates, without needing to seek out the information on social media. In addition, mobile web usage is becoming increasingly popular. Among other things, this means people are more likely to check their emails on the go, making newsletters more useful than ever. Of course, we should clarify that while the term ‘newsletter’ implies that these messages are used to communicate news, that’s not their only application. You can also use your newsletter to promote products and services, let people know about upcoming events, solicit feedback, and much more. You can even create automated emails that trigger at specific times or are sent when a user performs a particular action (more on this later). The point is that newsletters offer you a lot of freedom and can be applied to the specific needs of your business. Before we discuss how to start one up, let’s dig deeper into how they can benefit you. Why You Should Consider Starting Your Own Newsletter Naturally, getting a newsletter off the ground will require you to invest a certain degree of time and effort. As such, it will need to provide benefits to offset the costs. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the ways a newsletter can benefit you and your business. For example, a newsletter can: Help you increase traffic and engagement. If you use your newsletter to highlight your products or content, you can raise awareness and interest in what you’re offering. This also helps your audience stay on top of everything you do. Let you control your message. You can inform users directly about news and other valuable information right away. As such, your existing audience will hear everything straight from you, and you’ll have control over how it’s presented. Enable you to connect directly with your users. Newsletters are a perfect tool for creating a personal connection with your users since you can address them directly. You can also segment your audience to create email campaigns that are specifically tailored to a smaller part of your overall customer base. Generate more conversions. Since a newsletter enables you to raise awareness and publicize your offerings, it often leads to more conversions and even increased revenue. As we mentioned earlier, how you decide to use your newsletter will depend primarily on your goals and business model. For example, an e-commerce business might leverage emails to highlight products, publicize deals, and even provide offers that are unique to subscribers. However, you can also use your newsletter more holistically. It doesn’t even have to be directly (or even indirectly) related to your actual business. Instead, you can provide general information that’s of interest to your audience, offering a service rather than engaging in direct marketing. One example of this in action is is our own newsletter: The WordCandy Weekly. This is a regular news roundup of the latest stories from the WordPress community. At WordCandy, we provide content solutions for WordPress businesses so this resource is obviously relevant to our company. At the same time, it’s not directly tied to the work we produce. Instead, our intention with this newsletter is to provide value to our existing clients and readers. By doing that, we’ve been able to help our subscribers stay up-to-date with news that matters to them. At the same time, we can raise awareness of our business, without needing to spend time and money on marketing or compromising the value of the product. In other words, this is a type of promotion that benefits all parties. By using a newsletter in this way, you can better establish yourself as a knowledgeable part of your niche or community. You can also grow your brand awareness, all while providing a genuinely useful service to your mailing list. This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with using your newsletter for direct promotion, of course. Which route you decide to use will depend largely on your business, target market, and goals. An excellent starting point is to study newsletters created by businesses and websites that are similar to yours, and see if there’s a particular niche or need that’s currently unfulfilled. How to Create a Newsletter Once you’ve settled on a concept for your newsletter and know what you want it to focus on, it’s time to start putting it together. If you’re worried that this means manually sending hundreds or thousands of emails from your personal inbox, you’ll be pleased to hear that the actual process is much more painless. In fact, there are plenty of solutions that can help you create and manage your newsletter. If you have a WordPress site, you can even do this straight from your admin dashboard by using a plugin like Jackmail. You can use this plugin to incorporate your newsletter directly into your site. Jackmail even makes it possible to generate automatic emails at predetermined times, such as whenever you publish a new post. It also includes an email builder, enabling you to create gorgeous templates for your messages with ease. Another popular solution, and the one we use for our own newsletter, is Mailchimp. Mailchimp is a perfect newsletter solution for almost any application; it’s easy to use while providing a lot of opportunities to customize your email campaigns. It offers many key features, along with various ways that you can integrate your Mailchimp account with other platforms. Like Jackmail, it also includes an intuitive email builder, along with a series of pre-made templates you can use. This particular solution also has a robust free plan, which enables you to gather up to 2,000 subscribers and send up to 12,000 emails every month. This should be more than enough to begin with, and when your list start to grow, you can always upgrade to a premium plan. Which solution you decide to use will once again depend on your preferences, as well as what specific features you need. However, it’s vital to remember that whether your newsletter becomes a success will depend primarily on the quality of its content. 3 Tips for Making Your Newsletter a Success After choosing an email marketing solution and putting in place a general plan for your newsletter, you’ll just need to ensure that you take advantage of its full potential. To give you a running start, here are some tips that will help you optimize your newsletter. 1. Create a Simple, Attention-Grabbing Template One of the most important (and fun) aspects of creating your newsletter is putting together your template. As you might expect, this template will be the basis for your newsletter design. This way you can keep each message’s look the same while adding new content each time. For example, the template we use for our weekly newsletters looks like this. This makes it easy for us to add new content, subject lines, and preheaders each week without needing to recreate the look and layout each time. Building this template was also quite effortless. Almost all newsletter solutions will offer you both layouts and themes you can use as a basis for your campaigns. For example, Mailchimp offers various design options for free. One thing you’ll notice about these themes is that, while they feature very different looks and are designed for various purposes, they almost all prioritize simplicity. This is a key consideration when it comes time to design your template. While making your emails look compelling is necessary, what matters more is that the design doesn’t overwhelm or bury the actual content. You can see this philosophy applied in our newsletter as well, as we opted for a straightforward, accessible approach. We decided to only use a single image, as our primary goal is to highlight the featured news items. However, images can serve a variety of useful purposes, especially if you’re using your campaigns to highlight products or if your newsletter will have a more commercial focus. In the end, your template’s design should serve your ultimate goals. It’s also a smart idea to design with accessibility in mind. This includes making sure that color combinations and fonts are easy to read. What’s more, many email marketing solutions will let you send a version of your newsletter that strips out all images and styling. This is called a plain-text campaign. Mailchimp, like many similar tools, automatically generates a plain-text campaign and sends it to subscribers who have opted not to receive the standard HTML version of your emails. Once you’ve designed your template, it’s always critical to test it before going live. A simple way of doing this is by sending out test emails and getting feedback from your coworkers, friends, and so on. If you have created multiple templates, you can also perform A/B testing to see which one is most effective. 2. Use Automation to Your Advantage To make the most out of your newsletter, you should aim to do as little work as possible. This may sound counterintuitive, but the point is that it’s vital to make your campaigns efficient. After all, consider how much time it would take to manually write and send every single email if you had to construct it all from scratch each time. Fortunately, any quality email marketing service will provide you with automation options. There are several ways you can use these to your advantage, but let’s look at a few of the most helpful strategies. First and foremost, you can set up your campaign to send full emails automatically, at specific trigger points. Jackmail refers to this as creating an automation or an automated workflow. A common example of this is to send a welcome email to new users, which triggers when they sign up to your site. However, you can get even more creative with this option. For instance, you could send a birthday congratulation email on each subscriber’s birthday and even include a coupon code as a gift. This adds a personal element to your newsletters. To elaborate further on that point, you should also aim to make sure every email feels like it’s directed at the recipient. A good way to achieve this is by using variables, which will be dynamically replaced with relevant information. In Mailchimp, these are referred to as Merge Tags, and you can use them in a variety of ways. One option that we implemented in our newsletter is the customizable date tag. When editing a new email, the date simply appears like this: However, the system will automatically add the current date when the newsletter is generated. An even better use for merge tags is to display information that’s specific to each recipient. For example, if you collected their names during the registration process, you can add the *|FNAME|* tag to display each person’s first name in their email. This helps make each message seem less impersonal, even if they’re automated. In turn, this can help increase the number of clicks on your newsletters. 3. Keep a Close Eye on Your Newsletter Statistics As your newsletter grows, it becomes crucial that you don’t get complacent. In fact, this is where your job really begins, as you’ll need to make sure that your campaigns are (and remain) effective. To do that, you’ll have to study and analyze your email analytics. Which metrics you should focus on will depend somewhat on your newsletter’s purpose. However, here are some of the main numbers you should look out for in all your emails: Click Through Rate (CTR): This shows you how many recipients clicked on at least one link on a specific email. Open rate: This is a percentage value displaying how many recipients opened your email at least once. Subscriber growth: This lets you know how many new users have subscribed to your newsletter. Once you have this information, which should be provided by your email marketing solution, you can start to improve metrics that are sub-par. For example, you may find that your links are not clearly defined, making them less likely to be clicked on. Or perhaps your subject lines aren’t engaging enough, leading people to ignore your emails. If your subscriber count has plateaued, on the other hand, you might consider marketing your newsletter more on your website and social media. Finally, an effective way to get better results from your campaigns is to tailor them to a specific portion of your audience. This is known as audience segmentation, which means focusing unique campaigns on the users who most likely to be interested in them. Using segmentation in your newsletters enables you to raise your CTR and conversions, as subscribers will receive emails that are a better match to their demographics and interests. Push Send You might think that most people’s inboxes are too stuffed to fit in another newsletter, but you’d be mistaken. There’s always room for one more subscription, especially if it’s well-written, engaging, and provides genuine value to the reader. The best part is that sending out email campaigns will benefit both you and your subscribers. The post How to Create an Email Newsletter (And Why You Should) appeared first on DreamHost.

How to Incorporate Instagram Into Your WordPress Site (And Vice Versa)

Earlier this summer, Instagram welcomed its one billionth member. This marks a major milestone for the image and video sharing service, making it one of the largest social media platforms in the world. While it may at first seem like just another place to post photos of cats and lunches, Instagram actually has far more to offer. In fact, Instagram can be a phenomenal tool for marketers, creatives, and professionals alike. It offers plenty of ways you can share your work and increase brand awareness. It’s also a useful way to communicate with your target audience, as well as with other professionals. In this article, we’ll discuss the potential of Instagram to help you grow your brand. We’ll also demonstrate how you can combine your Instagram account with your WordPress site and take full advantage of both platforms. Let’s jump right in! An Introduction to Instagram Instagram is many things to many people. You might know it as the platform where people go to post photos of their cats and what they had for lunch. Perhaps you also think of it as the place where social influencers post about their day-to-day lives alongside product recommendations. These types of content are certainly common on the platform, but they only scratch the surface of what’s possible. With over one billion users, Instagram is quickly becoming one of the most popular and influential social media networks on the planet. It’s sometimes reductively referred to as being “Twitter with pictures,” as it enables users to upload photos with captions, which are then displayed in a chronological feed. As we’ll discuss later, this functionality has been greatly enhanced since the app’s initial release, but the basics remain the same. Instagram lets you share just about anything, as long as it can be captured in a photo, gallery, or brief video. This is a primary reason Instagram attracts such a massive user base with so many disparate interests. While Instagram caters to a broad audience, it’s particularly popular with younger people. In fact, a majority of its users are younger than 30, and a significant number of those people are teenagers. At the same time, more than a third of all adult internet users also have accounts on Instagram. Whether you want to watch cute animals, see makeup tutorials, laugh at comedy short videos, or relax by listening to people crushing soap (yes, really), Instagram provides it. The platform is less formal than Facebook, more creative than Twitter, and offers plenty of possibilities to grow your brand or business. It’s no wonder that many marketers and brands are making moves to expand their use of Instagram. How Instagram Works As we mentioned, Instagram started as a feature-light image sharing service. Today, the core functionality remains mostly the same. Therefore, let’s start with the platform’s basics. Instagram consists of two main areas: the feed and the stories. The feed is where your standard posts will appear. When uploading content, you can either add a single image or include up to 10 in a single post. In addition, you can also upload video clips of up to 60 seconds in length. When you create a post, you can also include some additional information, such as: Caption. This is the text that will appear underneath your post. The maximum length of a caption is 2,200 characters. Location. You can ‘tag’ a post to a specific location, such as a city or establishment. For example, you could tag a photo of a meal with the restaurant where you ate it. People. You can also tag other users in your posts. The post will then appear in a section on their profile, and they will receive a notification. You can also notify them by including their username in the caption. Hashtags. These are short, descriptive tags that you can add to the caption, such as #cats, #robotics, or #mensfashion. These are used to categorize your posts and make them easier to find. You can include up to 30 hashtags per post. That last element is actually very important to help new users find your posts. This is because anyone can search for (and even follow) specific hashtags, so adding relevant terms to your post makes them much more visible to your target audience. As for Instagram Stories, these were first introduced in 2016 and inspired by Snapchat. They function similarly to posts, except that they’re only visible for 24 hours. You can upload an unlimited number of stories, both in images and video format, while also adding face filters, GIFs, and other effects. While stories are only live for a short time by default, you can preserve them indefinitely by adding them as Story Highlights on your profile. As you can tell, there is a lot to do on Instagram, despite its seeming simplicity. The key question is: what does it have to offer for businesses and marketers? The Benefits of Using Instagram to Grow Your Brand Many of the benefits Instagram offers should be apparent by now. The platform lets you express yourself (and your brand) in a way that’s both visual and engaging. In fact, Instagram boasts a considerably higher degree of user engagement than similar platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Effectively, this means Instagram has fewer ‘casual’ users than other social networks. A majority of registered users log in daily, while over a third use Instagram multiple times every day. Users also stay on Instagram for longer periods of time than its competitors. Therefore, you have a higher chance of your intended audience seeing and engaging with your posts than on practically any other platform. This is further helped along by the Instagram algorithm, which shows users the content that best matches their interests. Of course, a key consideration when deciding whether a particular social media network is right for your brand is whether your target audience matches the platform’s demographics. The majority of Instagram users are young, with a large percentage being female, which means it’s perfect for businesses targeting that type of internet user. Beyond that, the Instagram user base is incredibly diverse. Users are split neatly equally across urban, suburban, and rural areas, as well as across annual income and education levels. This makes the platform remarkably flexible. So whether you’re an independent artist, run a simple e-commerce store, or represent a multinational company, Instagram can provide you with the same potential for success. By getting creative and tailoring your posts to target the users who are most likely to be interested, you can grow your brand in a way that fits your needs and goals. Why You Should Connect Your Instagram Account and WordPress Site WordPress and Instagram might not seem like an obvious match at first. One is a fully-featured Content Management System (CMS), while the other is a social media platform. However, both platforms focus on providing the utmost in flexibility. By using the two in combination, you stand to gain plenty of benefits. The most obvious of these is the ability to share posts from one platform on the other. This enables you to grow your audience by leveraging your existing followers. For example, you may have users who follow your Instagram account but aren’t even aware that you have a WordPress site (and vice versa). You’ll essentially be funneling users between platforms to create one large audience instead of splitting it. You can also use integrations to cut down on the time it takes to post the same content across both platforms. Instagram posts can be easily converted into WordPress blog posts, for example, and the other way around. You can even pull in your entire Instagram feed to display on your site or use your posts to create a gallery. Next, we’ll look at how all these techniques work in action. 3 Ways You Can Incorporate Instagram with WordPress (And Vice Versa) Now we’ve looked into the benefits of using Instagram and WordPress together, it’s time to discuss the practical aspects. In the following three sections, we’ll explore a few ways you can leverage the combined power of WordPress and Instagram. 1. Display Your Instagram Feed on Your Site The first method we’ll be looking at is integrating your Instagram feed with your WordPress site. This lets you display the posts from your feed anywhere on the site, whether that’s on a dedicated page or in a sidebar widget. There are a few WordPress plugins you can use to accomplish this. In our example, we’ll be using the aptly-named Instagram Feed plugin. Not only is this plugin very easy to get started with, but it also offers a lot of customization possibilities. We’ll be sticking with the free version of the plugin, but you can also check out the premium version, which offers more features. To begin, you’ll need to install and activate the plugin. At that point, you’ll see a new option in your admin dashboard called Instagram Feed. This is where you’ll set up and configure your feed. Naturally, the first thing you’ll need to do is connect your Instagram account. Once you’ve logged into your account, you’ll be asked to authorize it, giving the plugin permission to access your posts. When that’s done, you’ll see your account listed in the plugin’s settings. You can even add multiple accounts if you want to display their posts in the same feed. However, for now, we’ll stick with the single account. At this point, you can customize how your feed will appear on your site. There are plenty of options here, so take your time making your selections. Once you’ve configured these settings, you can use a simple shortcode to place your feed anywhere on your site: [instagram-feed] All you have to do is paste this shortcode wherever you want the feed to appear. For example, here’s what it would look like in a blog’s sidebar. You can further determine how you want the feed to function and look by tailoring the shortcode itself. Feel free to play around with customization and location until it looks just right. 2. Create an Image Gallery Using Instagram Posts In addition to displaying a straightforward feed, you can also use Instagram to create an image gallery on your site. This enables you to collect posts from multiple accounts and even hashtags, and display them with all the features you’d expect from a WordPress gallery (such as lightboxes and carousels). To achieve this, we’ll be using the free plugin Instagram Gallery. As with the previous plugin, this is an easy tool to start using. It should be noted that while it does offer customization options, it is somewhat limited in terms of features. However, it will enable you to create a clean, functional photo gallery very quickly. Once you’ve activated the plugin, you can access its options by navigating to Settings > Instagram Gallery. As you can see, there’s not much here right now. This changes when you click on Add new gallery, at which point you can start customizing your gallery. Here, you can set which account or hashtag you want to include. You also have some options regarding its appearance. For example, you can display your posts as an image gallery or by using a carousel. You can also add hover effects and even remove the Instagram branding altogether. When you’ve configured the settings, you can use a shortcode to display your gallery. To do that, copy the gallery’s shortcode and paste it wherever you want. For example, here we’ve added the gallery to a standard page. If you want a more customizable alternative, you can also check out the 10web Instagram Feed plugin. However, to get the most out of its settings, you will need to sign up for a premium plan. 3. Share WordPress Posts on Instagram Getting your Instagram posts in front of your website users is valuable, but it’s just as vital to share your blog posts with your Instagram followers. There are many solutions for doing that, such as the WP Instagram Post and Widget plugin. However, for this example, we’ll be using a solution that also enables you to share with other social media platforms at the same time. Namely, we’ll be using Blog2Social. This plugin works with dozens of social networks, although we’ll naturally be focusing on Instagram. As such, once you’ve activated the plugin, navigate to Blog2Social > Networks and scroll down to find the Instagram option. Then select Profile. You’ll be asked to sign in to your account and give the plugin permission to post. When your account has been successfully authorized, you can start sharing your posts. To begin, navigate to Blog2Social > Posts & Sharing. There you’ll find all your posts, ready to be published to other platforms. Click Share on Social Media next to whichever one you’d like to post on Instagram. This will open a screen where you can tailor your post. The plugin will automatically select your featured image as the post’s picture and set the content and tags as the caption and hashtags, respectively. However, you can edit these elements as you see fit. Once you’ve made your changes, click on Share. At that point, your blog post will be converted into an Instagram post and published on your connected account. You can access your feed to see it in all its glory. With that, you’re done! You can now share more posts, or purchase the plugin’s premium version to set up automatic posting to Instagram for all new posts you create. Up Your Instagram Game with WordPress Instagram is slowly growing to become the biggest, most engaging social media platform. While this makes it great for creative and personal connections, it’s also a phenomenal tool to grow your brand and improve your marketing. Do you have any questions about how you can integrate Instagram and WordPress effectively? Follow us on Twitter and let’s talk social! The post How to Incorporate Instagram Into Your WordPress Site (And Vice Versa) appeared first on DreamHost.

A Beginner’s Guide to Affiliate Marketing

There’s no shortage of ways you can make money online. However, few are as flexible and rewarding as affiliate marketing. If done right, it can be a lucrative way of earning an income by producing creative and valuable content. In a nutshell, affiliate marketing enables you to monetize your content by promoting other companies’ products using affiliate links. When somebody buys a product or service based on your referral, you earn a small commission on that purchase. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the basics of affiliate marketing and discuss how it works in practice. We’ll also show you how you could benefit from using it and give you some help getting started. Let’s begin! A Brief History of Affiliate Marketing (And How It Works) Monetizing your website doesn’t have to be a difficult or compromising endeavor. In fact, it can be incredibly rewarding, both from an economic and creative perspective. Plus, it doesn’t require a lot of the legwork involved in other methods of making money online. Affiliate marketing involves promoting products from external vendors on your own website. While definitions sometimes vary, there are generally three or four parties involved in an affiliate setup. Since these terms can be confusing, let’s take a moment to clarify the ‘who’s who’ of affiliate marketing: The affiliate. Also known as ‘the marketer,’ this is the person running a site that contains affiliate links. The affiliate receives a commission on each purchase made by visitors who found a product by clicking on one of their links. The consumer. This is a visitor on the affiliate site, who clicks on an affiliate link and completes a purchase (whether that’s the original item being promoted, or something else from the same company). The network. This refers to the internal or third-party platform that the affiliate program is operated on. This means they’re the ones providing the links that the affiliates use and paying the affiliate their commissions. The merchant. This is a company that sells products being marketed by the affiliate. In many cases, the merchant and the network are the same, as some companies run their own affiliate programs. For simplicity, we’ll be combining these last two entities throughout the rest of our discussion here. If that still sounds a bit confusing, let’s look at a typical real-life example of how an affiliate sale might work: An affiliate publishes a blog post on their site. The post is a review of a pair of sneakers, which are sold by the merchant. At the bottom of the post, the affiliate includes a link that leads to the sneakers’ product page. A consumer reads the blog post and, intrigued by the review, clicks on the affiliate link. Once on the merchant’s website, the consumer decides to purchase the sneakers. The merchant earns a profit off of the sale and shares a portion of that money with the affiliate. You might be curious about how the merchant knows which affiliate is responsible for the purchase. That’s actually the easy part since every affiliate is given a unique link that tracks each product they promote. This lets the merchant track all referrals using cookies to ensure that they know exactly how much money they’ve earned thanks to each affiliate (and what to pay them in return). How Affiliate Marketing Can Benefit You The potential to earn money by simply sharing links probably sounds tempting already. However, affiliate marketing comes with a whole host of advantages beyond the obvious one. Let’s take a look at some of the main ways being an affiliate marketer can benefit you and your site. First of all, it’s a low-risk and inexpensive business. The bare minimum for getting started as an affiliate is having a blog, a website, or even just a social media profile. This makes it a very cost-effective method for earning money. It also means you don’t have to commit a lot of cash up-front since you can start small and grow your marketing efforts over time. Another compelling aspect of affiliate marketing is that it lets you be creative, and provide something genuinely useful to your audience. Since you can use affiliate links pretty much anywhere, you can set up a review site, publish long-form articles, or even produce video content. Since you’re promoting other companies’ products, you don’t even need to worry about actually creating, shipping, and supporting the items yourself. Affiliate marketing also gives you the freedom to choose what you promote. In other words, it offers you the luxury of being picky. Not only do you get to decide precisely which programs to work with, but in most cases, you’ll even select the individual products and services you want to promote. As such, you always have full control over what’s featured on your site. Last but not least, affiliate marketing can be very lucrative (although keep in mind that it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme). Since you’re earning a percentage of every sale you refer, there’s no maximum ceiling for earnings either. This means that if your affiliate site takes off in a big way, you could potentially end up making a great passive income. With all of that in mind, you should have a fairly clear idea about whether affiliate marketing is something you’d like to get involved with. For many people, the benefits speak for themselves. However, before you start posting affiliate links, there are a number of things you’ll need to bear in mind. What to Consider Before Becoming an Affiliate Marketer Affiliate marketing definitely provides some impressive benefits, but that doesn’t mean you can jump in without preparation. To ensure that your work as an affiliate isn’t wasted, you’ll need to do a bit of planning and be aware of the potential drawbacks. We’re going to talk about some of those considerations in more detail later on. However, here is a brief overview of what you’ll need to do: Find the right niche. Your niche determines your site’s subject matter, and by extension, what types of products or services you’ll promote. As such, finding a niche that’s both comfortable and potentially lucrative is vital. Understand how to disclose your affiliate links. It’s imperative that you let visitors know your site contains affiliate links. Affiliate links come under the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines of endorsements, after all. Plus, being transparent is a smart way to improve trust in your website and business (not to mention sales). Avoid ‘affiliate theft’ at all costs. There are several illegitimate methods of increasing your commissions, which are collectively referred to as ‘affiliate theft’ or ‘commission theft.’ As such, you’ll need to make sure you only use proper, disclosed links at all times. Otherwise, you might end up like the scammer who used affiliate theft to steal $28 million from eBay. Understand that being an affiliate is not ‘selling out.’ By promoting other companies’ products, you’re nothing but a pawn in their marketing schemes, right? While some people assume this, it really isn’t true. In fact, a key characteristic of most successful affiliates is that they provide honest and insightful content to go along with their links. Since you choose what to promote, there’s no need to bend the truth or connect your name to poor-quality products. Be patient. Finally, affiliate marketing rarely leads to overnight success. Instead, it usually requires a lot of time and effort to slowly generate traffic and build an audience. This is especially true if you’re starting with a new or low-traffic site. It’s essential that you don’t expect quick results, and are ready to put in the work needed to grow your site and commissions. If you take some time to consider the above points carefully, you’ll start off prepared and with realistic expectations. This will give you a solid foundation upon which you can build your affiliate marketing career. Affiliate Marketing for Beginners (In 3 Steps) As we’ve already mentioned, affiliate marketing has a relatively low barrier to entry. To help you get started quickly, we’re going to walk you through the first steps for turning your site into an affiliate marketing success. Step 1: Choose a Suitable Affiliate Niche If you’re starting a new affiliate site, you’ll need to consider what niche you will work within. Your site’s niche determines what type of content you create, who your target audience is, and which kinds of products you will promote. Naturally, it’s crucial to choose a niche that’s financially viable. This means you need to find a subject that enough people will be interested in. That may seem tricky, but there are actually a lot of options you can choose from. Performing keyword research is also a smart idea at this stage, to find out what keywords are driving the most traffic via search engines. However, this step isn’t just about finding the niche that pays the most. To be successful, you should also aim for a niche that suits you personally. If you already have some knowledge and interest in your chosen area of focus, you’ll be in a position to create authoritative and engaging content to go along with your affiliate links. You’ll also have a better understanding of your target audience’s needs and desires. This is essential since it helps you build trust with your visitors. If they feel like they can rely on your judgment and recommendations, they’ll be more likely to click on your links and make purchases based on your suggestions. Therefore, the best niche will have plenty of potential consumers and will be something you can create knowledgeable and trustworthy content about. Step 2: Find and Sign Up for the Right Affiliate Programs Once you have a niche and site ready to go, it’s time to look for affiliate programs. As we mentioned previously, many programs are run directly by a merchant, with the goal of promoting their own company’s products. When deciding which programs to sign up for, you should first look at what products they want you to promote. Most importantly, they’ll need to offer products that are popular in your selected niche. Therefore, look for brands that speak to your target market, and see if they offer affiliate programs. For example, if your site is about running websites, you could look for web hosts with their own affiliate programs. In addition to merchant-driven programs, there are also dedicated affiliate networks, such as Rakuten, Awin, CJ, and Pepperjam. These programs encompass several different merchants and thousands of products. This gives you access to multiple types of products, without needing to join lots of programs. Even eCommerce giants like eBay and Amazon have their own successful affiliate programs. Naturally, it’s also important to find programs that will pay you well. After all, you’re putting a lot of effort into promoting the merchants’ products, so you should see a fair share of the profits. Before you sign up, it’s also a smart move to research each program and see what experiences other affiliates have had. You might even find it useful to seek out an affiliate community, such as Wealthy Affiliate. There, you can get advice and help from those who have been publishing and marketing for a long time. This can be particularly helpful when you’re a novice. Then, in a few years’ time, you might be the one helping another beginner get started. Step 3: Add Affiliate Links to Your Site At this point, you’ve signed up for the best affiliate programs in your carefully chosen niche. Now it’s time to really get to work, which means sharing your affiliate links. Of course, how you actually implement these links on your site will vary, depending on what type of content you’re creating. For example, if you’re running a review site, it makes sense to place relevant affiliate links within your reviews. The simplest way of doing this is just to include them as text links in the content itself. However, this approach can be seen as misleading, since it’s less clear that you’re promoting the products in question. A better technique is to keep your links slightly separated from your main content. For instance, you can place them towards the end of each relevant post. The film site Birth.Movies.Death does this by featuring boxes with related products underneath its articles. You can see a similar approach taken by OutdoorGearLab This site places links to each product’s page alongside the pricing information in its reviews. Some affiliate programs will also provide you with assets, such as banners, that you can use to promote products. This might be more suitable if you want to keep your marketing and content clearly separated. As with your niche, your approach to implementing links will depend on your site’s purpose. Feel free to experiment with different strategies, but always remember that your focus should be on providing value to your audience. If you fail in that task, visitors won’t trust you, click on your links, or return in the future. Make sure you write quality content, therefore, and keep an eye on your conversions to see what’s working (and what’s not). Finally, we once again want to stress the importance of disclosing your affiliate links. This is a crucial part of complying with the endorsement guidelines provided by the FTC. Violating these guidelines could lead to legal action, which is naturally something you’ll want to avoid at all costs. As such, you should provide information about your links’ nature and purpose, which you can do by creating an ‘affiliate disclosure’ statement. The notice should be unambiguous, and clearly visible anywhere affiliate links are used. This will keep your site out of trouble, and help to promote trust with your audience. Conclusion The trouble with trying to make money online is that you’re rarely given the opportunity to be creative or to work with something you feel passionate about. In that sense, affiliate marketing is unique. This marketing technique enables you to monetize your own site, choosing exactly what products to promote and how. Do you have any questions about getting started with affiliate marketing? Join the DreamHost Community today and let’s discuss! The post A Beginner’s Guide to Affiliate Marketing appeared first on DreamHost.

How to Start a Review Site With WordPress

Reviews have become ubiquitous online, and it’s not hard to see why. Both professional and user reviews provide first-hand information that can help you make informed purchasing decisions. The best part is that anyone with some writing skills and passion can start a review site for themselves. A review site is one of the best ways you can use your knowledge and interests to create valuable content. By reviewing products in a particular niche, you can be creative while leveraging your expertise to help readers find the best solutions and services. Plus, you can even earn a decent income at the same time. In this article, we’ll talk about the basics of a review site and discuss why you should consider starting one. We’ll also show you what’s needed to make it successful and talk about how you can enhance it using the right theme and plugins. Let’s get to work! A Brief Introduction to Review Sites What do you do when you’re considering buying a particular product, but you’re not sure it’s right for you or worth the money? Like many people, you most likely seek out reviews to help answer your questions. Whether these are written by individual users or provided on dedicated sites, they can be immensely helpful when you’re trying to make informed decisions. Sites dedicated to offering reviews are aptly referred to as review sites. While this moniker is accurate, it’s also somewhat vague, as it refers to a variety of websites. For example, some sites aggregate many different people’s reviews. Rotten Tomatoes fits into this category, as it combines film reviews from professional critics and users to create an average score for each movie. Similarly, sites like TripAdvisor are entirely devoted to user reviews of hotels and other establishments. However, a review site could also feature content created by one or more specific writers. These sites function similarly to print magazines, in that they usually have a roster of hired authors or freelancers who produce content. They can also vary widely in scope and subject matter, from huge international brands like Eurogamer to one-person operations such as Wake Up For Makeup. This broad spectrum of possibilities means it’s both possible and easy for pretty much anyone to create their own review site. We’ll be showing you how to do just that throughout this article. The Benefits of Running a Review Site In many cases, the main reason you would want to start your own review site is simply that you enjoy the work. Most sites of this nature are run by people with a passion for a particular topic. However, review sites offer a number of more practical benefits as well. For one, review sites can be excellent at driving traffic. We mentioned earlier that a lot of people will go looking for reviews before making purchases. So if you can write content that is clear, engaging, and authoritative, you’ll be primed to receive plenty of visitors. One of the reasons for this popularity is that review sites are uniquely suited to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). That’s because your posts will almost by default match the keywords users are most likely to search for. For example, imagine that you run a review blog about WordPress plugins, and you write a post about Contact Form 7. You’ll most likely name it something to the effect of “Contact Form 7 – Review.” Someone curious about this plugin is most likely going to use a very similar search phrase, such as “contact form 7 review,” which makes it a lot more probable that they’ll stumble across your article. In addition to the SEO benefits, a review site also provides you with a lot of freedom over how you structure and display your reviews. You could make your site very basic and just use a standard blog interface, which is familiar to many people and easy to maintain. One example of this in action is IsItWP. However, you could also go bigger and create a more structurally-complex site with an advanced scoring system, multiple reviews per product, and more. For example, HostingAdvice offers granular scores for added precision. Finally, a review site is particularly well-suited to being monetized. You have many options — such as including affiliate links alongside your reviews or featuring paid advertisements that are separate from your main content. However, it’s critical to remember that you don’t have to (and, in fact, shouldn’t) change the content of your reviews to suit your advertisers. If you’re not honest and frank with your users about the products you’re reviewing, they aren’t going to trust you and won’t stick around for long. What to Consider Before Starting a Review Site Before you start sharpening your critical wit, you’ll need to do some planning. First of all, you’ll naturally need to decide what the subject of your review site is going to be. As we discussed earlier, an excellent place to start when picking a niche is by considering your own interests. This will help you produce more authoritative reviews, as you’ll have some pre-existing knowledge to rely on. After all, few would be interested in reading reviews about board games, for example, if the writer clearly had little understanding of or experience playing them. Being passionate about your chosen topic will also make the overall experience much more enjoyable. When it comes to finding a niche you can fill, it’s a good idea to do some market research. You can start by looking at other review sites and investigating forums related to your subject matter, to see what users think of your competitors. This might give you some ideas about how you could tailor your reviews to better serve your target audience. If you can find an angle that no other site is using, you’ll have a better chance of success. You should also decide what methods you want to use to monetize your site. This could involve featuring paid advertisements, such as banners, or including affiliate links alongside your reviews. You could also offer exclusive content to those who sign up for a paid subscription. At last, you’ll need to consider the more practical aspects. What will your website look like and who will actually be writing the reviews? If you’re starting small, you might want to begin with a simple blog and yourself as the sole author. However, you can also go big right away with a more intricate structure and even hire a whole team of writers. Naturally, the scope of your site will depend largely on your goals and budget. It’s often best to start smaller and then expand your site over time, as this will minimize risks and enable you to grow organically as you receive more traffic. This is similar to creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), where you start with a bare-bones approach, focusing on a simple layout and high-quality content, and then scale it up gradually. How to Start a Review Site With WordPress (In 5 Steps) Once you have a plan and a niche in place, you’re ready to get busy with the fun part — actually creating your review site. To help you along, we’re going to walk you through the main steps involved. We’ll be using WordPress, so you’ll first need to install and set up a website, which should only take you a few minutes. After that, you’re ready to get to work! Step 1: Pick a Name and Host First and foremost, you’ll need to think up a name for your site. This part can be a lot of fun, as you get to be creative in order to find a name that suits your site’s intended tone and branding. While you can pick pretty much any name you want, there are some considerations to keep in mind. For example, your site’s name should be: Memorable. It’s important that your name sticks in people’s memories. Making it short and punchy is a smart way to ensure this. Unique. Naturally, you don’t want your site to get confused with anyone else’s. Once you have a list of possible names, simply use a search engine like Google to ensure that no other site is already using it (or a name that’s too similar). On-brand. Make sure that your site’s name matches its identity and target audience. For example, a ‘quirky,’ modern name might not be ideal if you’re aiming for a straightlaced professional market. However, that type of name could be perfectly suited to a site with a more casual approach. It’s also essential that you can purchase a domain that matches your site’s name. As such, it’s a good idea to use a domain checker, to see if your top choices are available at a reasonable price. If you’re still struggling to think of a decent name and matching domain, there are also name generation tools that can help you brainstorm ideas. DomainWheel, for example, will create suggested names based on a specific term or category. Once you have your domain in place, you’ll also need to consider hosting. Since you’re likely expecting a decent amount of traffic, you’ll need a hosting plan that can ensure top-notch performance at all times. This will also ensure scalability as your site grows over time. Our recommendation would be to go with a WordPress-specific hosting plan, as this will make setting up and maintaining your site simple. Step 2: Install a Suitable Theme Next, you’ll want to consider your site’s appearance. Fortunately, there are plenty of WordPress themes tailored specifically to review sites. While you don’t need to use a dedicated review theme, it can offer you several unique benefits. First of all, a review theme will be able to accommodate the layout and style of a review site easily. Many review themes also include specific functionality that can come in handy, like styles for applying scores or the ability to create lists of the reviews with the highest ratings. One example is the InReview theme. This theme enables you to showcase your reviews alongside your final scores. You can also display ratings from your users to give readers a more rounded overview of each item. If you want something more stylish and with a magazine-like feel, there are also lots of suitable options. One of our favorites is the GoodLife theme. With this theme, you can style your reviews using several different templates. Its goal is to help you create a modern, clean look, where the content is the central focus. Ultimately, the theme you decide to use depends mainly on your goals and target market. As such, it’s worth spending some time to find the perfect option. Step 3: Enhance Your Site With Review Plugins With the right theme installed, your site might already be equipped with some useful review features. However, you can improve its functionality even further by adding some select plugins. In this section, we’re going to introduce a few of the best plugins to enhance your review site. Let’s start with WP Product Review, which enables you to design a scoring interface. Once you’ve installed this plugin, you can specify if a post is a review. Then you can assign scores to the post and designate parameters, such as Pros and Cons. Plus, everything can be fully customized with new colors and icons. In addition to displaying scoring information on your site, you can also highlight it right in Google’s search results. To do that, you can use All In One Schema Rich Snippets. This tool will add schema markup to your pages, which will display information such as scores when your posts appear in search results. This can help your content stand out more, which is crucial for encouraging organic traffic. Finally, you may want to give your users the chance to submit their own reviews and scores. One plugin that lets you do this is Ultimate Reviews. This plugin lets you support user reviews, even enabling you to tailor precisely what information they can include. You could implement a simple score-only system, for example, or provide the tools needed to write long-form reviews. Naturally, this is only scratching the surface of the plugins that are available. For instance, you can also use a plugin like Reviewer WordPress to create a review comparison table, and Taqyeem to implement a summary box for your reviews. The possibilities are just about endless. Step 4: Start Writing Reviews Finally, the moment has come to actually start writing your reviews. Of course, we can’t help you much with this part, as you’ll need to rely on your own writing skills and critical thinking. However, to get started you may want to check out our blogging checklist and take a look at our expert blogging tips. We also recommend that you create a style guide. This will help you write consistent reviews that follow a specific set of standards, especially when it comes to the style of writing and the criteria you’ll use to rate products. A style guide is particularly helpful when you’re bringing in other writers, as it ensures that all posts follow a consistent ruleset. However, you’ll also want each writer’s personal style shine through, so try not to get too specific to avoid stifling their unique voices. It’s also a smart idea to have a handful of reviews ready before you launch the site. This will ensure that your site doesn’t feel empty when it goes live. You want to give your new visitors a good first impression, after all, and provide them with a reason to stay around longer. Step 5: Share Your Reviews Once your site has gone live, you’ll need to make the world aware of its existence. As such, you’ll want to start marketing your website right away, to ensure that you get a steady stream of traffic right out of the gate. Naturally, you’ll want to spend some time on SEO and make sure your site has a presence on social media. Share your reviews frequently and encourage your readers to do the same. The more your content is spread around, the more traffic you should see as a result. You might also consider submitting your site to a review aggregator. As we mentioned earlier, these sites collect reviews from multiple places to calculate average scores. Being featured on this type of site can help your reviews become more visible and reach new readers. Rave Reviews If you want to build an audience and make money online, while working with a subject matter that interests you, a review site is an ideal vehicle. By creating well-written and engaging reviews, you can provide valuable information to your readers, and create ample opportunity to monetize your work. Do you have any questions about starting your own review site with WordPress? Join the DreamHost Community today and ask away! The post How to Start a Review Site With WordPress appeared first on DreamHost.

The Ultimate Guide to Website Localization

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that English is the most common language on the web. However, it’s far from the only one. In fact, nearly half of all internet users have another native language aside from English. This means many websites are needlessly excluding a significant portion of their audiences. To avoid losing out on potential conversions and revenue, make the smart move to localize your site by translating it into one or more other languages. While this might seem difficult, or even impossible if you aren’t multilingual, you don’t need to worry. Today, it’s easier than ever to translate and localize a website. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of website localization and what it entails. We’ll also show you some methods you can use to create a multilingual site — even if you don’t speak a second language. Let’s go! A Quick Look at Language on the Web According to W3Techs, over half of all websites use the English language. This is hardly unexpected, considering that it’s the most commonly spoken language among internet users. In fact, more than a billion internet users speak English. However, while English may be the most common language, that’s not by a wide margin. It turns out that almost a fifth of internet users speak Chinese, for example, while over 8 percent speak Spanish. That’s hardly surprising, considering how common those languages are. What is somewhat shocking is how few sites cater to those same users. Returning to the first study we cited, it turns out that not even 5 percent of sites provide Spanish as a language option, while Chinese is available on less than 2 percent of sites. This means that literally billions of internet users are forced to use websites in a non-native language or are left out of a large portion of the web altogether. An Introduction to Website Localization Considering the facts above, it’s no wonder many people are attempting to make the internet less English-centric. This is usually done through a process known as localization, which is often shortened to ‘l10n.’ That term may sound strange, but it was coined because there are 10 letters between the “l” and “n” in “localization.” We should also mention that this strategy is sometimes confused with a process called internationalization, or ‘i18n’ (for the same reason as above). Where localization aims to adapt an existing product to suit another culture, internationalization is the process of making that product easy to localize in the first place. The WordPress Polyglots team is an example of how both l10n and i18n can be implemented in a single platform. This team works on making all aspects of WordPress easier to localize across regions, including providing help for theme and plugin developers. It’s also important to note that localization is not only about translating your site’s text. Although that is a key part of the process (and we’ll discuss it more in a moment), localization also involves adapting your site to another culture. For instance, it means making sure that currency, measurement units, and general terminology are updated accordingly. Localization can also mean altering other aspects of your site to suit different cultures. It turns out that what’s considered strong web design can vary based on your region. For example, some design elements like testimonials are much more highly valued in the US than they are in parts of Europe. Ultimately, this means that if you want to localize your site, you’ll need to do some research. For an idea of what can happen when a brand fails to do this, you can read about the time KFC told its Chinese customers to “eat their fingers off” or when Apple released a keyboard in Europe that wasn’t actually usable with many European languages. By now, you might be thinking that localization sounds like a hassle. While it will take some work, it turns out that it’s a crucial task for most sites. The Benefits of Localizing Your Site The fact is that proper localization benefits everyone. Not only does it help make the internet a more open and welcoming place, but it offers advantages to you and your site as well. Before we get into the practical details, therefore, let’s look at why you should bother localizing your site in the first place. For example, localizing your site helps you to: Target a larger audience. Localization opens your site up to people who would otherwise not be able to use it. Improve SEO and create localized SEO campaigns. You can create a unique URL for each localized version of your site, for instance, which can boost their rankings. Increase your conversions. Users are more likely to convert if your site is in a language they’re fluent in. Make your site more accessible. You’ll make it much easier for those who have a limited-to-no understanding of your site’s primary language to read and absorb your content. As you can see, localization is mutually beneficial to all parties involved. However, while this is something most website owners should consider, that doesn’t make it a task you should jump into without some careful planning. What You Need to Consider Before Localizing Your Site As you’ve likely gathered already, localization is a process that requires time, effort, and investment to get it right. For this reason, there are several questions you’ll need to answer before you even think about looking up the Japanese word for “website.” Naturally, the first thing you’ll need to do is consider which languages and regions to focus on. To narrow down your options, you can take a close look at your site’s analytics, as this will tell you which countries you have the most visitors from already. For instance, if you have plenty of traffic from Spain, you might want to consider creating a Spanish version of your site. It’s also a smart move to perform keyword research for specific locations. This will help you determine the demand (or lack thereof) for your services or products in a particular region. By doing this, you could end up finding an untapped market that you can appeal to by creating a localized site, especially for that audience. Once you’ve nailed down the major languages and regions for your audience, it’s time to consider the practical realities of localizing your site. We mentioned previously that this will require some market research, to find out how your site will need to change in terms of layout, images, messaging, and so forth. If you have the funds for it, you might even want to hire a team to help you with this project. Hiring translators is usually the most effective way of localizing a website, especially since you’ll need to maintain the new version of the site over time. Whenever you update or add content to your main site, it’s important that you are able to do the same on the localized versions. Finally, you’ll also need to think about implementation and compatibility. Fortunately, if you’re a WordPress user, you have much less to worry about. There are actually multiple plugins that can help you localize your site, including tools that perform automatic machine translation. How Automatic Translation Can Help You Localize Your Site Translating an entire website is typically the most time-consuming and costly aspect of localization. Depending on how much content your site contains and how often you update, this can require a significant investment and plenty of manpower. However, there is a way to make the process considerably easier, by letting a machine do the bulk of the work for you. This is known as automatic translation or sometimes machine translation. Chances are you’ve seen this in action on a smaller scale if you’ve ever used a tool like Google Translate. Without getting too technical, solutions like these automatically translate large volumes of content automatically from one language to another. The best part is that you can implement such a system on your site, automatically translating all text content as soon as it’s added. As you can imagine, this is much faster and cheaper than hiring one or more dedicated translators. Since there’s no waiting period between creating the original content and the translated version, you can ensure that every version of your site is up-to-date at all times. The main drawback of machine translation is that no solution is perfect, even though the technology has progressed rapidly since the days of Babel Fish. As such, you will most likely need to edit the translated versions at least, to make sure the content is still correct. However, even this task is far less time-consuming than translating everything from scratch. Another important consideration is which tool to use. We’ll look at some of the best options in a moment, but it’s critical you pick one that is compatible with all aspects of your site. For example, if your WordPress site contains a WooCommerce store, your translation plugin must be able to translate the e-commerce aspects as well. 3 WordPress Plugins That Can Help You Translate Your Site Automatic translation is a great way to save time when localizing your site, but you’ll need the right tool for the job. Fortunately, as is usually the case, several WordPress plugins can help you out. We’re going to look at a handful of the best translation plugins right now, one by one. 1. Weglot Weglot makes it easy to create a multilingual site, even if you don’t speak any additional languages. This plugin uses machine translation to generate a fully-translated version of your entire site, which includes all page elements. It’s also compatible with just about any plugin or theme, including WooCommerce. Key Features: Generates translated versions of your site in 60+ languages Translates all text on your site, including navigational elements, comments, and more Is compatible with all WordPress themes and plugins Pricing: Weglot offers a free plugin and a series of premium plans, which start at €9.99 (roughly $12) per month. 2. Polylang Polylang makes it easy to configure your site for localization. With this plugin, you can set the language for each post, and then create translated versions right in the standard WordPress editor. By default, Polylang offers the tools needed to create manual translations. However, you can also use it in conjunction with its sister plugin, Lingotek Translation, to perform automatic translations. Key Features: Lets you easily translate your content in the standard WordPress interface Enables you to use an unlimited number of languages Provides WooCommerce support as a premium add-on Pricing: Polylang is available as a free plugin, as well as a Pro version that costs €99 (roughly $114) for a single site. 3. WPML WPML is one of the most popular translation plugins, and it’s not hard to see why. This tool provides an intuitive interface that makes it easy to create and edit your translations. However, in contrast to the other plugins we’ve mentioned so far, WPML is mostly focused on manual translation. It works by assigning specific users the role of Translator, which makes it simple to track and manage your translation tasks within WordPress. Key Features: Enables you to create manual translations within WordPress by assigning Translator users Provides support for 40+ languages Lets you generate language variants, such as Canadian French, using a language editor Pricing: WPML offers a number of paid tiers, which start at $29. How to Translate Your WordPress Site Using Weglot Now that we’ve looked at a few tools, let’s walk through how you can get started with localization by translating your site. For this example, we’ll be using the Weglot plugin that we covered earlier, as it’s free and includes automatic translation by default. This makes it an ideal choice if you want to test the waters before committing to a solution. To start off, you’ll want to install and activate Weglot. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be prompted to configure the plugin. You’ll need an API key here, which is used to connect your site to Weglot’s cloud translation API. To get your own key, simply register for a free Weglot account. Once you’ve set up your account, you’ll be shown your API key. Copy this, and return to WordPress and the plugin’s settings. Paste your API key into the corresponding field, and then specify your site’s standard language and which language(s) you want to use for your translations. Then, click on Save Changes when you’ve finished. As soon as you’ve done that, you’ll see a message informing you that your site is now multilingual. If you take a look at your site, you’ll see a new ‘language picker’ feature in the bottom-right corner. When you click on this, you’ll see both your site’s default language and the one(s) you specified for translation. If you select one of those alternative options, the site will reload and display in the specified language. You can also see that the URL for the site has changed, to include a code for the translated version. In our case, since we chose Norwegian, the plugin has appended /no/ to the end of the URL. As such, if the site’s address were https://example.com, you could access the Norwegian version by using https://example.com/no/. Now, this is just scratching the surface of what you can do with automatic translation. For one, you can return to the plugin’s settings to customize your language picker, both in appearance and position. On this screen, you’ll also see a link to your Weglot dashboard, where you can manage and edit your translations. This dashboard gives you total control over all versions of your site and even shows you when and who edited individual text strings. This means that you can generate a translated version of your site in seconds, while also hiring a professional to edit the end result (if you like). As we mentioned earlier, translation is only one aspect of localizing your site. However, saving time when it comes to translating your site’s content will help you immeasurably, as it frees up resources to perform the necessary research and localization work on the rest of your site. The Language of Business Assuming all of your site’s potential visitors are fluent in your native language is not just arrogant, it can even be harmful to your business. By shutting the door on a significant portion of your audience, you could lose out on both traffic and conversions. As such, it’s well worth creating localized versions of your site. Do you have any questions about localizing your WordPress website? Join the DreamHost Community and let’s start the discussion! The post The Ultimate Guide to Website Localization appeared first on DreamHost.

How to Design an LGBTQ-Inclusive Website

At DreamHost, we care a lot about accessibility and inclusive web design. The idea is simple: make your website as easy to use (and as welcoming as possible) for each and every visitor. Of course, you’re going to think about the abilities of your users and the demographics of your target market. But there is a huge population that many small business owners forget to consider when designing a website: individuals who identify as LGBTQ (an initialism for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning). “Wait,” you say. “People are people, and love is love.” And you’re not wrong! However, there are so many things you can do to make a website that is more inclusive and welcoming for all your visitors, regardless of orientation or identity. We’ll walk you through some of the key reasons you should consider the needs of your LGBTQ customers when designing a website (spoiler: it’s good for business) and then we’ll give you 12 key pointers to get started. Why Having an LGBTQ-Inclusive Website Matters “Making your site more inclusive for LGBTQ people can improve the user experience for everyone,” explains Jaymie Strecker, a non-binary Drupal developer at Kosada in Athens, Ohio. “Your site’s audience almost certainly includes people who are LGBTQ themselves or have LGBTQ friends and family. To provide the best user experience, you have to understand how that facet of their lives intersects with your site. Why would you want to alienate a significant percentage of your users?” Strecker points out that some people hesitate when they hear the word “inclusive” because they equate it with “politically correct” and are afraid it will take away their creative freedom in crafting content for the site. “They think it’s about following a bunch of rules about what you’re not allowed to say,” Streker says. “In reality, being inclusive is about understanding your audience and making your site resonate with them. It’s about breaking away from marketing clichés and reaching out to your users in a more authentic way. A more LGBTQ-inclusive site will come across as more vibrant, fresh, up-to-date, and friendly.” Another factor in having an LGBTQ-friendly site, the one we teased above, is that it’s simply good for business. “It’s 2018, we live in a capitalistic society, and online shopping is a must nowadays,” says Laura Egocheaga, Lead Digital Marketing Strategist at DivibeTech in Tampa, Florida. “Money does not discriminate, and analysts at LGBT Capital estimated the LGBTQ buying power at $965 billion in the U.S. and up to $5.4 trillion globally.” According to a Gallup poll in 2016, 7.3 percent of U.S. millennials identify as LGBTQ. In its 2017 Accelerating Acceptance report, media watchdog GLAAD put that figure much higher: 20 percent. On top of that, Egocheaga notes, younger people — especially Gen Z — are more embracing of queer culture overall. “No matter if you’re a startup or big brand, your objective is to capture the attention of a younger generation to increase the lifetime value of your consumer,” Egocheaga says. “An LGBTQ-inclusive website matters because you don’t want to be turning away that buying power, let alone be considered a horrible brand in Generation Z’s eyes.” For Queen of Surfing, a Hawaii-based expert on online publicity and marketing, the proof is in the numbers. “If you go online and research the top 100 followed entities on Twitter, 8 percent of them are gay or lesbian or transgender,” she says. “Even more awesomely shocking: 30 percent of the top 10 most followed people on Twitter are gay or lesbian or transgender. To make the error of excluding us from any version of online presence and not considering us as a demographic when creating your website is akin to losing out on 8–34 percent of your possible profits.” There are perks to having an LGBTQ-inclusive site within your company as well. It can help your employees feel safe and valued, regardless of how they identify. It will also help LGBTQ customers — and prospective LGBTQ employees — find you. For example, at DreamHost, we are champions of diversity — that’s why two of our core values are to empower people and give everyone a voice. 12 Ways to Create an LGBTQ-Friendly Website So how can you tweak your site to be welcoming to all? Simply follow these 12 tips to create an LGBTQ-inclusive website. 1. Use gender-neutral terms. Being inclusive when it comes to pronouns is crucial, especially in drop-down forms. “Gender forms should contain more than just binary options,” says Andrew Becks, co-founder and COO of 301 Digital Media, based in Nashville. “More to the point, why collect gender at all? Sign-up form completion rates will likely be higher with one less question, so maybe just avoid asking altogether unless absolutely necessary.” In addition to male and female, be sure to include ‘non-binary’ or ‘other’ as an option. “If ‘other’ is chosen, give them the option to write in what they want their gender to be,” Egocheaga says. “This will give you an in-depth look into that consumer’s mind so you can retarget them with specific marketing content.” If it’s an option on your site, a text field is the best bet since that will provide options that cover all of your users, explains Streker, who prefers to use the gender-nonspecific pronoun ‘they.’ “This allows people to write in options that you may not have considered, such as the Native American term two-spirit or the Native Hawaiian / Tahitian Māhū,” they says. “It irks me, as a gender non-binary person, to be forced to choose between radio buttons ‘male’ or ‘female.’” 2. Include a variety of images. “Avoid clichés like featuring only opposite-sex couples in photography,” Becks says. Use pictures and graphics that represent individuals and couples from the LGBT community. “Facebook does a great job at this when they have two males or two females get married and share it as a milestone post, showing an icon of two males or an icon of two females dressed up,” Egocheaga says. “It’s the little things that make a huge difference.” Though there aren’t many LGBTQ-inclusive options on popular stock photo sites that you can buy, there are sites that offer inclusive content that reflect the diversity of your audience, such as TetraImages.com, the LGBT section at Twenty20, Blend Images, PhotoAbility, and the Getty Images Lean In Collection. “Drawings can include LGBTQ people, too,” Strecker says. “For one of my company’s websites, to explain our product in a fun way, we commissioned a comic from artist Kelci Crawford that features a genderqueer character.” 3. Show targeted products. “Where appropriate, have a section of the website dedicated to an organization’s LGBTQ-community outreach efforts or LGBTQ-targeted product offerings,” Becks says. “And definitely include that page on the menu so it catches everyone’s attention right away,” Queen of Surfing says. “A ‘straight’ person coming across your site might now forward it to their LGBTQ friend, having noticed that mention on your menu.” Want a real-world example? On its LGBTQ community page, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants spells out the organization’s commitment to diversity. In 2014, the hospitality giant became the first national hotel sponsor for The Trevor Project (the country’s largest organization that works toward crisis and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth), donating hotel rooms, meeting spaces, and catering, in addition to hosting fundraisers for the organization across the country. Additionally, Kimpton often caters to LGBTQ guests through their blog, Life Is Suite, with posts like 5 Unique Trips LGBT Travelers Will Love and Our Favorite 10 Gay Bars from San Francisco to Philly. 4. Use SEO to Promote Your Site When you have an LGBTQ-inclusive site, you want to ensure the community finds it — and there are tricks for making that happen. “Build external links and partnerships from LGBTQ-community websites and blogs to diversify and improve a site’s SEO backlink profile,” Becks advises. Queen of Surfing emphasizes the value of a meta-tag to drive an audience. Essentially, a meta-tag is how people find your website. When you go online and input search terms in a search engine, those very words are meta-tags. To make your site pop up in first in searches, use these words repeatedly in your website. “In a nutshell, to attract the lesbian, gay, and transgender community to your website, meta-tag it by repeatedly mentioning the words ‘lesbian,’ ‘gay,’ and ‘transgender’ along with your matching product or service organically and wherever appropriate within your website,” Queen of Surfing advises. The keyword opportunities are limitless, she says: If your site promotes cruises, include content that specifically mentions ‘lesbian cruises.’ If you focus on charity events, create content targeted around the phrase ‘gay charity.’ If your site covers healthcare topics, include an article about ‘transgender healthcare.’ “You better believe when we go online, we don’t just search for a product or service,” Queen of Surfing adds. “We definitely input the words ‘transgender,’ ‘gay,’ or ‘lesbian’ with any product or service when we perform online searches.” 5. Educate yourself about LGBTQ issues and terminology. “You can’t improve the user experience for your LGBTQ users until you understand where they’re coming from,” Strecker says. “This is an ongoing process. There are many ways to do it.” Here are a few examples: Hire speakers to talk to your team about LGBTQ awareness. Attend or sponsor events for LGBT people and allies in tech (for example, DreamHost sponsored an LGBT+Allies meetup during WordCamp US). Follow blogs of LGBTQ advocacy organizations. Get involved with local LGBTQ advocacy groups. Support policies that promote diversity in the workplace. Make LGBTQ resources available for employees. If you have an LGBTQ person on your team, get their feedback. “They may have some valuable suggestions,” Strecker says. “But don’t put all the burden on them. Every member of your team should take responsibility for making the site more inclusive.” Strecker points out that the LGBTQ community is an incredibly diverse group with many communities and different points of view, consisting of people of all races, ethnicities, and nationalities. “LGBTQ people are wealthy and poor, urban and rural, and across the political spectrum,” they says. “Different LGBTQ people talk about their identities in very different ways.” Be sure to consult with the LGBTQ community for different aspects of your website. “Include LGBTQ representation in the website design, development, testing process, hiring, and vendor selection,” Becks adds. 6. Collect only the data you need. “If your site is intended to be GDPR-compliant, you should already be doing this,” Strecker says. “Do you really need to ask your users what their gender is? If you don’t have a specific plan for how you’re going to use that data, don’t ask for it. If your users are participating in an online community, they may not need to know another user’s gender, but it can be helpful to know the pronouns to refer to that user (she/her, he/him, they/them, etc.). So, your user registration form can ask for the user’s preferred pronouns. To protect users’ privacy, this should be optional.” Remember to think about why you are collecting this data in the first place. Consider your present and future needs, and what you plan to do with the details you amass. If there isn’t a valid purpose for it, reconsider your approach. 7. Tell users how you’re going to use their data. If you do ask users for their gender, sexual orientation, or other personal information, Strecker advises telling them how you’ll use that information: With whom will it be shared? Will it be shown publicly? “Because trans people may go by different names in different situations, when asking for a user’s name you should provide help text or other context to explain how that name will be used,” Strecker says. For example, if you’re asking for a phone number, inquire what name they want to be addressed by if you’re going to call them. When you ask for an address, have a name field that goes with that address. If you’re collecting donations, what’s the name that should appear on the tax receipt? What’s your billing name if you’re asking for credit card information? If you’re hosting an event, ask what name should be on the badge. 8. Watch your language. “When writing the content for your site be mindful of non-binary terms,” Egocheaga says. “Gender fluid people are not confused, and you must be mindful of that. All LGBTQ people want is to be respected and acknowledged for who they are.” When asking for a user’s sexual orientation, there are so many possibilities — it’s not just lesbian, gay, or bisexual — so your best bet is to provide a text field, Strecker advises. When asking for a user’s title, in addition to the usual “Ms.”, “Mr.”, and so on, include the gender-neutral title “Mx.” and make the field optional. Questions about relationship status should consider more than just married or single. “With more and more kids growing up in households with same-sex parents, it’s time to retire the perennial security question: ‘What is your mother’s maiden name?’” Strecker says. “These may seem like small things, but they can make a big difference in making LGBTQ users feel welcome on your site.” 9. Protect users from harassment on your site. “More and more online communities are instituting community agreements that protect users from harassment and hate speech,” Strecker says. “A web search will turn up many templates and examples to help you get started.” To make sure users understand your expectations, your community agreement should list some of the kinds of harassment that are banned, for example: “on the basis of race, ethnicity, disability”. This list should also include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. “Have a plan for how to respond to homophobic and transphobic comments,” Strecker says. “This may include deleting the comment, speaking to the user, and/or suspending the user’s account. Empower users to protect themselves. Many sites let users flag inappropriate comments to bring them to the attention of a moderator (who should be knowledgeable about LGBTQ issues). If your site has private messaging, enable users to block other users.” 10. Use security best practices to protect users’ data. “Leaked data is bad for any user, but the consequences can be especially dire for LGBTQ users,” Strecker says. “For LGBTQ people who are not out at work, being publicly outed could get them fired. Twenty-eight states in the U.S. still have no laws protecting private employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQ youth who are not out at home are incredibly vulnerable. If their family finds out, they could be abused, subjected to conversion therapy, or kicked out of the house.” In fact, a national survey by the University of Chicago found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth had a 120 percent increased risk of experiencing homelessness compared their peers who identified as heterosexual and cisgender. 11. Support a cause. “If you’re a social enterprise make sure to showcase it on your site by showing exactly how you’re giving back to the LGBTQ community,” Egocheaga says. Whatever you decide to support, show how you’re helping on your website. “The LGBTQ community is known for having an open heart, and we tend to align ourselves with entities whose products or services are either sustainable in themselves, or entities who donate to worthwhile charitable causes and activism,” says Queen of Surfing. “Is your product or service eco-conscious in some way? I highly recommend overstating everywhere on your website wherever energetically appropriate each and every way your product or service is eco-friendly. This is guaranteed to attract the lesbian*gay*transgender*bisexual*queer pocketbook.” 12. Avoid making homophobic and transphobic remarks. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone do this, then dig themselves in deeper by saying, ‘It was only a joke,’” Strecker says. “If you mess up, own up to it, apologize, and be more mindful in the future.” This goes for all of your platforms. In addition to being careful about your website, keep the same policy in place for social media and any additional marketing materials. “The more you educate yourself about LGBTQ terminology and issues, the more you develop a sense of what is and is not appropriate to say,” Strecker says. “You can relax and be spontaneous in your online interactions without accidentally saying something hurtful.” Creating a Welcoming Website We all want to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of who we are or where we come from. Your LGBTQ visitors deserve the same consideration you give your other users. And human rights aside, it just makes good business sense to make this diverse group feel at home when they visit your corner of the web. So tell us, how have you created an LGBTQ-inclusive website? Any other tips you’d add to this list? Share with us on social media or join the DreamHost Community to start a discussion. The post How to Design an LGBTQ-Inclusive Website appeared first on DreamHost.

How to Create a Loyalty Program for Your Website (And Why You Should)

If you’re anything like us, you value your website visitors and customers. After all, they’re the reason for your success. If they don’t feel inclined to keep visiting your site or doing business with you, your conversions and sales will likely take a steep dive. This is where starting up a loyalty program can be immensely useful. By rewarding your customers directly for their continued interest in your brand, you can make them feel more appreciated while increasing your own profits at the same time. In this article, we’ll introduce you to loyalty programs and explain why they’re such an effective tool. We’ll also discuss how you can begin your own, and talk about what you need to know before doing so. Punch cards not required. What a Loyalty Program Is (And Why You Should Consider Creating One) Chances are you don’t need much of an introduction to loyalty programs. You may even have a loyalty card or two in your wallet right now. As it turns out, the concept isn’t much different whether you apply it to a physical coffee shop or a website. Ultimately, the goal is to make customers feel like they are members of an exclusive club and reward them in a way that encourages them to keep coming back. The idea of using this type of loyalty marketing is actually centuries old. Back in the late 1700s, merchants used to give out copper tokens to customers, which they could exchange for other products later on. In some ways, this is not far removed from how a lot of loyalty programs work today. By giving a customer reasons to come back to your store, as well as incentivizing repeat purchases, you create a positive feedback loop. The more they spend, the more they get rewarded, encouraging them to make even more purchases. This works out in everyone’s favor, as you get more business and your users are recognized for their continued patronage. There are a number of ways to apply this formula to websites. The classic token method is one option, or you could implement a points program to ‘gamify’ your site. We’ll look at these and other techniques later in this article. Before that, let’s summarize the main benefits of running a loyalty program. In short, loyalty marketing enables you to: Retain your customers more productively. By offering rewards, you can give users a tangible reason to keep coming back to your site and making repeat purchases. If you’re running a small business, customer retention is critical. Provide genuine value to your customer base. A loyalty program can help make customers feel appreciated, as they are rewarded with gifts, premiums, additional content, and so on. Increase the likelihood that customers will refer your site to their networks. If you build a strong relationship with your current users, they’ll be more inclined to recommend your site to others, increasing your profits in the process. Word-of-mouth marketing is an important tool to have in your arsenal. Make your business more desirable to consumers. By making the benefits of long-term loyalty to your small business clear, it can appear more welcoming and appealing to newcomers. Save money on marketing to existing customers. Loyalty programs are often cost-effective measures, which can be very easy to maintain over time. While we’ve talked a lot about “customers” so far, it’s essential to note that customer loyalty programs are not just for stores or other commercial websites. You can run a successful program for any business or website where you want to encourage your users to act in some way. What’s more, there are many different types of loyalty programs you can model yours after. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best options. The Different Types of Customer Loyalty Programs Loyalty programs can come in many shapes and sizes. As such, the first thing you need to do before starting one is to decide what type of program you’d like to run, and what would suit your website best. In fact, you can even combine aspects of different kinds of programs, to create something completely unique. Determining what type of rewards system you want your program to focus on is the most critical consideration, as it will change everything about how you design it. To provide you with some inspiration, let’s take a look at a few of the most popular types of rewards systems. Points Program This is the type of customer loyalty program you’re most likely already familiar with. These programs give users loyalty points when they perform specific actions, most commonly completing a purchase. Those points can then be exchanged for gifts, discounts, or other non-monetary rewards. One notable example of this in action is Nintendo’s rewards program. Nintendo uses a system where users can earn points both by buying products and by simply playing the games they’ve bought and connected to their accounts. The company also offers two different types of points, which can be exchanged for various physical rewards. Not only does this reward users for spending money on Nintendo products, it actively encourages them to play the games they’ve purchased. This is an excellent example of how a loyalty program can be beneficial to both business owners and the customer, and can also promote long-term engagement. Gamification Turning your website into a game might seem drastic, but it’s become a very popular way to engage with visitors. In a sense, gamification is the newer cousin of the points program. Users are not just rewarded for certain actions, but they are actually able to progress in some way. For example, such a system could contain ‘levels’ or ‘tiers,’ each of which grants permanent privileges when a user reaches it. Arguably one of the most famous examples of this in action is the McDonald’s Monopoly game. This is an annual event where McDonald’s customers can collect game pieces, which they can exchange for free food items, or save up to potentially win bigger prizes. Pieces also vary in rarity, giving customers a reason to keep coming back and spending more. That way, they’ll increase their chances of completing a set or finding a rare piece. If fast food isn’t your thing, you may instead be familiar with the system used by Stack Overflow. On the Stack website, you can earn reputation and points by performing specific actions that are helpful to the community. As your reputation grows, your level increases, which grants you access to new privileges. In other words, this program incentivizes and encourages helping out the community. Users who put in the effort are rewarded with more insight and tools. Rewards Partnership It’s not just businesses and users who can have mutually beneficial relationships, as this next type of program demonstrates. A rewards partnership is a program where two (or more) brands collaborate to provide rewards to their respective users. We’ve already seen one example of this with the Monopoly game, which is a collaboration between McDonald’s and Hasbro. However, there are many ways you can use this type of program to your advantage. For example, two companies could each reward their loyal customers with products or services provided by the partner business. This can be particularly useful for businesses that have limited interaction opportunities with customers, such as insurance companies or banks. An excellent example of this is the partnership between Spotify and Starbucks. As part of this program, Starbucks Rewards members can get Spotify Premium with a significant discount. If they do sign up for a Spotify account, they’ll also get rewards points they can use at Starbucks, creating a ‘virtuous circle’ and great customer experience. Charity Program Finally, you can use a loyalty program not just to benefit you and your users. You can also leverage it to help underprivileged people. You can do this by implementing a charity-based program, where the rewards take the form of donations and other charity efforts. For a glimpse into how this can work, take a look at the Improving Lives program from TOMS. This footwear brand helps many charitable causes as a direct result of purchases made by customers. Every time somebody buys one of its products, a share of the profits will go to providing clean water, shoes, and other types of support to various regions all over the world. This type of program is an excellent use of a brand as a positive force in the world. What’s more, it builds trust in your business and may make people more likely to want to work with you. How to Create a Loyalty Program for Your Website (In 4 Steps) As you can probably imagine, setting up and implementing a loyalty program can be a complicated process, no matter which variety you opt for. To help you get started, we’re going to walk you through the basic steps of how to create a loyalty program and share some tools that can speed up the process. Step 1: Choose a Name and Set Up a Domain When starting any loyalty program or rewards club, it’s a smart idea to come up with a name that communicates its purpose immediately. In the same way that choosing a strong domain name benefits your website, giving your program the right moniker is vital. The most important consideration is to be descriptive. Clearly tie the name in with your brand, but also make the purpose of your program obvious. Sometimes this can be as simple as a name like “Starbucks Rewards,” but you can also get creative. For instance, framing your program as a ‘club’ provides an added layer of trust and commitment. This is a way to take a simple rewards system and turn it into a community, where dedicated members are rewarded for their ongoing loyalty. To really make an impact on users, you can even get a .CLUB domain for your rewards program. This can help to connect your program with your brand, while also making its purpose clear. Whether you have a dedicated website for your loyalty program or a section of your current website devoted to it, having a custom domain for your loyalty brand makes it easier for your customers to learn how to participate. For example, the watch company Swatch has a “Swatch Club” loyalty program, and the domain www.swatch.club points to the section of their website that is all about the club. If you do require a separate domain and hosting for your loyalty program, you’ll also want to be sure and select a high-quality hosting plan. Step 2: Specify Your Program’s Goals We’ve already outlined some of the ways you can implement a loyalty program. The method you decide to use will depend entirely on your ultimate goals. To put it simply: What do you hope to get out of the program? You’ll need to consider this question carefully if you want to find the solution that’ll work best for you. For instance, if you want your program to merely increase the number of repeat purchases, a simple points system is probably enough. This will encourage users to come back multiple times after their first order. However, as we covered earlier, that’s just one way you can use a rewards program. For instance, the Stack Overflow program we mentioned before is essentially a way to crowdsource community management. It provides next-to-no financial incentives to users, but it helps them get involved in the community while letting the site keep its support costs down. In short, you need to know what your program’s ultimate purpose is, so you can find the solution that will work best to achieve that goal. Feel free to look at the examples we outlined earlier, and use them as inspiration for your own plans. Step 3: Implement Your Rewards (And Make Them Visible) Once you know what your program’s focus is, you can start to think about rewards. You can consider this stage as effectively being the practical application of the previous step. You’ll need to consider who you’re targeting with the program, and what you want to encourage them to do. Then, you’ll have to present them with a variety of rewards that align with your users’ values. Depending on your brand and intentions, this could be exclusive content, special deals, early access to new products, and much more. A key part of this step is making sure the rewards you offer are well defined and visible on your site. For instance, the Boots store clearly displays the monetary value of the points you can earn by purchasing individual products.  This will not only inform your current members but will also serve as an advertisement for your program. By making the benefits of your rewards program clear, you’ll encourage new users to sign up. Step 4: Make It Easy to Enroll in Your Program Last but not least, signing up to your program needs to be as easy as possible. After all, you’ll want to place few barriers between your users and your program. Fortunately, if you’re using WordPress, this becomes significantly easier. That’s because WordPress can actually take care of the registrations for you, if you have the right tools. For instance, you can use a plugin to apply the features of a loyalty program right onto your existing site. One example of this kind of plugin is myCRED. This tool adds a scoring system to your site, and each registered member is automatically assigned a point balance. You can then specify which interactions should reward users with points, and how many they’ll get. Another plugin that does something similar is Gratisfaction. This plugin adds a fully-featured loyalty program to your site, enabling you to set up just about any scoring or rewards system you’d like. Once again, it uses WordPress’ built-in user system, and simply layers the loyalty features on top of the platform’s existing functionality. This is a much quicker and simpler way to implement a rewards program than designing one from scratch, while still remaining flexible. Conclusion Maintaining a positive and lasting relationship with your customers couldn’t be more critical. The best way to do this is to make them feel valued and appreciated — as if being your customer makes them members of a special club — which you can accomplish by implementing a loyalty program. This lets you reward your loyal customers for taking desired actions and can also lead to increased profits for you in the long term. Do you have any questions about loyalty programs, or how to build an effective one? Join our DreamHost Community or hit us up on social media to chat about it! The post How to Create a Loyalty Program for Your Website (And Why You Should) appeared first on DreamHost.

A Beginner’s Guide to Crafting the Perfect Blog — From Site Creation to Broadcasting Your Brand

Back in the day, blogging essentially amounted to taking the stage in an empty theater. The spotlight shone on you as you stood behind the microphone and embarked on a soliloquy about your day. Maybe your dog did something funny and adorable, or perhaps you had a handful of vacation stories and photos to share. Maybe your aging water heater finally keeled over and died, setting off a tragically comedic series of home improvement projects. The availability and accessibility of personal web space in the mid-2000s gave rise to countless bloggers — but not many readers or business opportunities. Blogs typically added up to online diaries shared among close friends and family members, words thrown into the ether. via GIPHY Over the last several years, however, blogging has shifted from a self-serving ritual to an often fruitful endeavor. Several top blogs have turned into leading voices of industry and now amass hundreds of thousands of dollars each month. But blogging success isn’t just reserved for the Arianna Huffingtons of the world. From personal finance and fitness to food and fashion, individual writers can use their voice (well, their fingers and keyboard) to build a brand and expand it into a livelihood. However, don’t let the technical aspects of creating an online presence weigh you down or prevent you from starting. Coming up with your blogging idea and goals is plenty intimidating; once you’ve overcome that big hurdle, take a look at the steps we’ve outlined below to see how to make your dream a reality. Step 1: Pick Your Platform You know what you want to say, but how will anyone hear you? Your new blogging venture will face a critical early test when you choose which venue to share your point of view. While the writing, editing, and publishing features found in most blogging platforms are mostly the same, your experience and effectiveness will be significantly impacted. Website builders offer a beginner-friendly way to get online, but many of the big-name services tend to emphasize drag-and-drop design over providing a substantive and dynamic writing environment. Blogging is a bit of an afterthought, more of an extra feature thrown into the mix. Third-party publishing platforms like Blogger, Tumblr, or Medium emphasizes content and community, but it’s easy for authors to get lost in the crowd. Your brand becomes absorbed by the platform displaying your work. Even though all these options come with free or low-cost options, expenses can get a bit out of hand once you add the features you need to be successful (a custom domain name, for instance). You tend not to have as much flexibility as you’d think. Worst of all, those platforms own your content. The proprietary programs often make it difficult for you to download your content, and you won’t be able to transfer your site anywhere else without completely rebuilding. Granted, the companies mentioned likely aren’t disappearing anytime soon, but even promising startups can vanish in the blink of an eye — and take your blog with them. Turning to an open-source content management system like WordPress immediately solves all these woes. This free software powers nearly a third of the web, making it the most popular and trusted publishing tool. With a history rooted in blogging, WordPress balances writing tools with beautiful customizable designs (that will soon get even easier to use with the debut of Gutenberg and blocks). Both hobbyists and Fortune 500 companies use WordPress to build their brand and foster interactions with readers. You maintain complete control over your site and content. Trust us: go with WordPress. Want to learn more about WordPress? Check out our WordPress tutorials. Step 2: Set the Stage With a Domain Name and Hosting Although you can dip a toe into WordPress by using the all-in-one WordPress.com, we think self-hosted WordPress (found at WordPress.org) is the way to go. Hosting your website files with a trusted provider like DreamHost gives you extra security and stability, along with unlimited growth opportunities and friendly support. What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? Turns out, it’s big, especially when you want full control over your website. Most new bloggers will be well served with a shared web hosting plan. The configuration is the thankfully the cheapest option, but smaller price tags can open the door for performance issues or crummy customer service, depending on your provider. Instead of signing up with a generic web hosting plan, explore the specialized features WordPress hosting introduces. If you’re worried about the tech stuff becoming too involved or complicated, purchase managed WordPress hosting and let the experts take care of it. For more information on the similarities and differences between traditional web hosting and the managed WordPress variety, check out this resource from HostingAdvice.com. Once hosting is acquired, it’s time to take the first big, demonstrable step in establishing your blog! Many new hosting accounts, including ones through DreamHost, come with a free domain name registration. This is the URL your readers will associate with you and your content, so you’ll want to make this count! Hopefully, you already have a brand name in mind, but don’t be crushed if it’s not available as a domain. Some tips to consider when domain shopping: Use descriptive keywords to describe your blog Look for something short, pronounceable, and easy to spell Avoid hyphens and other punctuation Don’t be afraid to try different domain extensions See if your name is also available on social media Make sure there are no trademark or copyright infringements Step 3: Find a Theme and Customize Your Look Many hosts have simplified the WordPress installation process to just a click or two, but DreamHost has even eliminated that step. We’ll install WordPress for you, along with a handful of rock-solid themes and plugins to get you started. Finding the right theme or design is critical for your blog’s success, as it connects your readers with your content and quickly informs their first impression of your brand. Instead of getting bogged down in color schemes and typography, focus on functionality. Good blog themes should make your content easy to find. As such, pay attention to the information you display above the fold: Is your navigation menu there? What about a search box? Recent or popular posts? Don’t feel like you need to make some big splash with your theme — clean, simple, useful designs always win. Obviously, your blog’s landing page and individual posts will garner the lion’s share of looks, but don’t forget about creating a visually engaging and useful design for an about page and a contact page. An about page helps build trust with your readers and enables you to share your personality and credentials, along with the blog’s mission and aspirations. Your theme and your content should work together and add value, not compete for attention. Fonts should be large and readable. Make sure the responsive or mobile-friendly versions of your site don’t hide important information on smaller screens. Instead of playing with the fun parts of web design, such as colors, imagery, and animations, concentrate on user experience. After all, your blog’s design is for your readers, not you! Step 4: Construct a Keyword-Driven Content Strategy Sure, you know you want to blog. But are you sure you’re treating this as a possible business venture and source of income (and not as a self-satisfying bout of verbal preening)? Briefly put your writing talents aside and come up with a business plan for your blog that avoids these common mistakes. For instance, how often do you plan on publishing a new post? Temper the initial excitement and avoid committing to an unsustainable writing schedule. Seek consistency, both in terms of frequency and tone. Your personality and chosen topic area will likely shape the voice you naturally bring to your content, but don’t lose sight of your target audience. Your readers’ demographics, locations, interests, and habits all offer hints as to what information will be the most useful and entertaining. Take the guesswork out of your writing prompts by engaging in a healthy bit of keyword research. In addition to the obvious benefits to search engine optimization and higher rankings, keyword research reveals what your target audience is actually looking for. Your blog might be the best content on the web, but it’s all largely for naught if Google can’t find it. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Instead of jumping straight into the deep end with high-value — and highly competitive — broad search terms, identify a handful of more specific searches that you can build a base around. Don’t write content around the area’s best restaurants; craft your posts around, say, the coziest Italian restaurant that’s the best spot to bring a date. The experts at Moz do a great job of explaining a straightforward, easy-to-follow method of keyword research. Step 5: Work Ahead With Writing Once you have a healthy list of topics to explore, it’s time to finally get to work! Are you surprised that writing is such a small part of establishing a successful blog? Because writing is theoretically the part that comes most natural to you, we’re just helping establish the guidelines through which to funnel your creativity and steer your success. For starters, you’ll want to publish a few posts before you officially launch your blog. Give readers a glimpse of what they can expect from your brand by covering a handful of topics in the voice and tone you envision using for the long haul. This enables your visitors to connect with you more personally and gain insights and information beyond the generic, “Hey, I started a blog” post. via GIPHY You might be chomping at the bit to get started blogging, but channel that excitement in ways that will keep that momentum going long after the initial rush wears off. In addition to the three to five posts you’ll publish, try to have another five to 10 posts written and saved in drafts. Beyond that, maintain a list of ideas or keywords you’ll want to write about in the future. By stocking up on content and topics, you’ll be poised to handle any bout of writer’s block that emerges. As for the content itself, find a schedule that works best for you. Publishing only two or three new posts a week is perfectly acceptable (that’s what we aim to do on the DreamHost blog). Daily articles sound great in theory, but first you need to find out if that is the right amount of content for your audience. Then take your time working up to that cadence. Spend the extra time formatting, proofreading, and otherwise perfecting each post. Step 6: Build Interactions and Boost Your Following Once your new blog is open for business, now it’s time to start attacking the second part of this post’s headline: broadcasting your brand. Just as the quality of your content won’t matter if Google can’t find you, the same can be said for your audience. Ideally, you set up your blog’s social media accounts as you worked on the site and starter content (remember when we listed social media availability as part of a strong domain name?). Naturally, you’ll frequently rely on your brand’s social media profiles to share new blog posts, but don’t resort to mindlessly copy/pasting links into your feed. Many of your same content creation and brainstorming exercises for your blog should also be used toward your social media: How can you be engaging, entertaining, and relevant to your followers? Find compelling images and other visual elements to accompany your posts; graphics alone can lead to more than 30 percent more clicks and visits on social media. Pose questions to your readers and lend timely insights into trending issues. Be sure to keep in mind that interactions with readers don’t (and shouldn’t) need to happen away from your blog. Social media networks connect broad swaths of people, but the most important audiences to focus on are the ones who have already found you. Turn your readers into brand advocates by creating engaging opportunities to interact and return to your blog. You can bridge the gap by making it easy for visitors to share their favorite post on Facebook and Twitter, of course, but consider allowing them to comment directly on the post — and be sure to respond to their questions and opinions. Doing so humanizes your brand and deepens the relationship with your readers. Consider capturing readers’ attention by flipping the relationship. Instead of sitting back and hoping for readers to come to your blog, set up an email newsletter or subscription and collect people’s addresses. That way, you can more actively get your content to the front and center, rather than waiting for someone to browse your blog’s way. This can easily be accomplished with an email marketing platform that provides embeddable code that can be placed in a widget on your blog’s sidebar or footer. Alternatively, consider a WordPress plugin that pops open a window directly asking for engagement. While these can be extraordinarily effective, beware of the fine line between user engagement and dark UX practices. Step 7: Analyze Analytics and Tweak Your Tactics So now your blog is a buzzing hive of activity. Readers are zipping around from one post to the next. Or maybe they’re checking out your About Page. Or instead of reading a post until the end, they’re just glancing at the headings. Maybe they’re not even opening a post. You’ll never know for sure until you look at analytics or the data that shows where visitors come from, how they move around their site, and why they leave. Google Analytics is the go-to (and free!) service that can provide a wealth of information about your audience and your site’s performance. Pageviews can identify your most popular blog post over a certain period, for instance, while a high bounce rate (the percentage of users who leave a site quickly after viewing only one page) may indicate some design or content changes could be in order. As you learn how long your readers stay on your blog and where they go, you might discover they don’t interact with your website quite how you anticipated. Find where the common hangups are and make the related tweaks to your navigation menu, read more links, and other interaction points. By solving your first few users’ problems, you’re paving the way for more and more readers. Do you have any questions about crafting the perfect blog? Join the DreamHost Community and let’s talk shop! The post A Beginner’s Guide to Crafting the Perfect Blog — From Site Creation to Broadcasting Your Brand appeared first on DreamHost.

Meet the Powerhouse Creative Couple Behind Design Firm, Craft-o-Graph

A vacation in Portland, Oregon, in 2011 turned out to be more than an anniversary trip for Kyle and Mariah Jochai. As they were browsing a thrift shop in the City of Roses, they stumbled on an old jeweler’s hub with a typewriter on it and a banner that said: Craft-o-Graph Club. The little treasure turned out to be an inspiration for the two. The couple started talking about quitting their Southern California jobs, moving to quirky Portland and starting their own design firm, named after the hub they found while thrifting. It was such a crazy idea that it just might work. And it did. Five years later, Craft-o-Graph is a thriving business run by Kyle and Mariah as co-owners and creative directors. They work from a home office of their living room on a giant wooden door-turned-desk they bought for a dollar from the ReBuilding Center the first week they lived in Portland. “Kyle on one side and me on the other,” Mariah says of their door-desk. “It’s pretty amazing working in our home. It makes mundane moments more lively when we can listen to music together or when our two-year-old runs through the room when we’re on a conference call.” The couple’s creative nature recently helped them as they took on their latest challenge: revamping their website, which is hosted by DreamHost. The Jochais (who have been together for almost 20 years and married for eight) enjoy the process of creativity, their local surroundings, and the rush that comes from owning their own business. The Creative Journey  Kyle and Mariah thrive on creative synergy. “I love the concept phase of a project,” Mariah says. “I’d say that’s where Kyle and I make a pretty epic team. We were both trained in intensive art and design programs and had some inspiring teachers.” The couple has an entire bookshelf dedicated to old sketchbooks. “We’re constantly filling up more,” Mariah adds. “I definitely feel research and sketching is the best way to get to a good idea. In retrospect, I guess I was destined to be a designer; I used to wow my mom’s quilting group with the signs I made for her in Print Shop Deluxe when I was 10.” Kyle believes that design-thinking is incredibly vital to doing great work. “Part of my role now is pretty business-y, and I’ve always been a left-brained person (for a designer at least),” he says. “But creativity is what has the potential to make a product great. Every job we do starts with a thing that needs to be built or figured out. Creativity is the difference between a result that’s technically correct but average and something that blows you away and changes your perspective.” Design is inherently front-loaded, he continues, and a lot of time needs to be invested up front figuring out the problem before you move into concepting and then design. “Most people don’t have the patience for this or don’t know it’s important at all, so they skip it,” Kyle says. “Creativity isn’t just being clever, it requires deep knowledge before you put pen to paper.” Watching their projects develop from concept to completion brings a lot of satisfaction to the couple. “I also love the work when a client comes to us and says they want a promo, but then we look at their branding and website and end up re-doing everything, so it all works together, and each project complements the other,” Mariah says. “I just feel so proud sending clients off into the world knowing we helped them look their best so they can be confident going into a pitch or making a sale.” Craft-o-Graph is part craft and part graphics, Mariah says. “We believe our personal interests and projects, and what we learn from them, inform the work we do for our clients. It keeps our minds limber and our hearts full,” she says. Path to Portland The two native Californians attended the same high school about an hour outside of Los Angeles and suspect their paths crossed hundreds of times before they actually met. Mariah, who lived in the tiny mountain community of Mt. Baldy, grew up off a dirt road, next to a stream, in a house nicknamed “The Gingerbread House.” Mariah, who later wrote and published a book about her childhood home and her dad’s work as a stonemason, attended OTIS College of Art & Design in Los Angeles. After graduation, Mariah worked at an entertainment agency called And Company, designing key art for shows on CBS, HBO, and Food Network. “It was a whirlwind two years of my life, but I learned so much there. I left the agency because Kyle and I were moving to Orange County,” she says. “That brought me to my next position as lead designer in marketing for O’Neill Women’s Clothing.” The position was perfect for Mariah, who says she always wanted to work in action sports. “That took me from craft services-catered photo shoots in L.A. to photo shoots on the North Shore of Oahu where I was making PB&Js for a house full of pro female surfers — and art directing the photo shoots too,” she says. Mariah then left O’Neill to work as art director in marketing for PacSun Stores, a fashion, lifestyle brand, for a few years, which had her art directing photo shoots all over the Golden State. “I spent my last few years in California exploring and falling in love with everything about it: dry lake beds in the desert, Palm Springs architecture, the streets of Silver Lake and San Fran, Pismo Beach dunes, Big Sur bridges, and the surly locals of Catalina,” she recalls. “It was a bittersweet close to my life in California before we headed north. My interests are basically encapsulated in my career path: fashion, travel, design, and the outdoors.” Kyle and Mariah met in 2000 at a friend’s house while Kyle was attending ArtCenter and Mariah was a sophomore at Claremont High. “I was just minding my business, walking through my friend’s dining room, when he muttered the first words he ever said to me — ‘Hey, Donna’ — a That ‘70s Show reference,” Mariah recalls. “Kyle being at ArtCenter as I was rounding out my high school years was a huge inspiration for me to attend OTIS. We were both lucky to meet people who pushed us to get into such amazing art schools.” Claremont felt so small and sleepy compared to L.A. or other surrounding cities, Kyle says. “Growing up there, of course, I couldn’t wait to get out,” he says. He acknowledges the teachers he had who pushed him toward studying and working in art and design. “Honestly I didn’t know you could make a living creating art when I was finishing high school,” he says. “Most of my friends were heading off to UC schools or out-of-state universities, so the idea of studying design never even crossed my mind.” One of Kyle’s art teachers, Dean, was a comic book artist, and Kyle spent the last two years of high school under his wing. Dean had attended ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena and encouraged Kyle to apply. “At that point, I had applied to several colleges and was only accepted to one. So I gave ArtCenter a shot and actually got in!” he says. “I started in fall of 1999 and spent four years there, which is basically the most intense, compressed way to learn as much as possible about design. I don’t think I would have been able to succeed as a designer without what I learned at ArtCenter and before that with Dean and my other art teacher, Don, who also taught Mariah.” After finishing at ArtCenter, Kyle says he followed jobs all over Southern California that interested him. “My last job before CoG was with a tech company in Orange County, managing the in-house visual design department. I stayed there for a long time because the people from the CEO down were super caring and knowledgeable, and I was able to expand my design and management skills,” he says. “But after several years it was time to try something new. So in 2012 Mariah and I started kicking around ideas for a new business.” The couple moved to Portland in 2013 after the inspirational trip there, and hasn’t looked back. “Nowadays it gets a lot of press, but at the time it was just emerging from obscurity, relative to other west coast cities at least,” he says. “Even after growing quite a bit over the five years we’ve been here, Portland is still this rare mix of metropolis and nature and culture and art and enthusiasm that really makes living and working here fun.” Mariah says she likes that Portland is so small but can also feel like a big city. “Coming from east L.A. County, the cities kinda never ended, just morphed into other cities,” she says. “In Portland, you can get from one end to the other in no time and then all of a sudden there’s a waterfall or miles of farmland. But we’ve still got plenty of galleries, shopping, music, and good lord do we have food choices.” Exploring Entrepreneurship Mariah says that the ease of working together on Craft-o-Graph has been surprising. “Kyle and I moved to Portland with the mind to take a year off from corporate work and focus on personal projects,” she recalls. “Pretty soon our friends were asking us to help with branding, websites, and marketing in our spare time and all of a sudden, we had a business. I love how often the work doesn’t feel like work. We work with a lot of our friends or friends of friends, so we want them to succeed just as much as they do!” For Kyle, the thing he likes best about his job is being in the driver’s seat. “At prior in-house jobs, design is a very small part of a larger machine, so my role had to support something else that I had little control over,” he says. “Now, with a design business, the design product can be priority number one, and because it’s my company I can make sure that we’re always chasing jobs we’re passionate about and can fully get behind. It leads to better work and happier clients.” As co-owners and executive creative directors, they do 80-90 percent of the work for the company, which has clients including Dell Software and Quest Software. Most often, however, they are working with small to medium-sized businesses. “We collaborate with specialists for things like development, photography, and animation,” Kyle says. “One of us will generally take the lead account management and strategy role with a client, and then we divvy up project tasks by specialty. Mariah’s super talented at brand identity and audience targeting, and I usually take the lead on marketing strategy and web design jobs.” Recently they decided to update their five-year-old website with a new portfolio and fresh look. “When we sat down to decide what to include on this site, it was really fun remembering and reviewing all the work we’ve done since we started CoG,” Mariah says. “It was difficult to narrow it down to our best 12 projects! But we really wanted to showcase the work we’re proudest of, had the most fun doing, and the work that best represents who CoG is and why we’re different than other agencies.” The Jochais have been building the site between projects the last few months, but content development has been going on for more than a year “It’s been a great excuse to really think about what aspects of the work are most important to us because we want to highlight work that people will seek us out for,” Kyle says. “Our old site was the same in many ways, but it was five years old, and that’s a lifetime in terms of web tech.” The DreamHost Route Kyle has been with DreamHost since 2002 when he used it to create an online portfolio. “I remember building my first site while finishing school, and it turned out good enough that I wanted to host it somewhere,” he recalls. “I did a little research, and DreamHost got great reviews. But honestly so did a bunch of other hosts.” (L-R) Mariah, Kyle, and DreamHost Content Marketing Manager, Ellice, at the 2017 DreamHost Reach Out and Touch You customer event in Portland, OR. What stood out to Kyle, however, was a slight personal connection. “The founders of DreamHost went to college in my hometown!” he says. “So I gave them a shot, and I’ve never had a reason to leave.” Great uptime, low costs, and strong support have justified his loyalty to DreamHost. “My favorite thing is the user panel. It’s so easy to use, and you can tell a lot of effort is put into making sure it stays current and relevant,” he says. “Every now and then I need to help a client with hosting at another company, and I’m pretty tech-savvy, but some of the interfaces are so bad I can’t even figure them out! Every time that happens I’m reminded why I love DreamHost. Mostly because of that, I push clients pretty hard to switch unless they’re super invested somewhere else.” Mariah says they seek out clients who trust the creative process and let them do what they think is best. “And that’s why we host with DreamHost — we get great service at every touchpoint,” she says. “We feel like our site and clients’ sites are in great hands, and we don’t have to stress about it.” The couple knows that less stress equals more time to create and to explore more of their new hometown and see where their adventures take them next. The post Meet the Powerhouse Creative Couple Behind Design Firm, Craft-o-Graph appeared first on DreamHost.

The Complete Guide to New Top-Level Domains (TLDs)

Settling on a domain name for your site can be a difficult task. Not only do you need to find a word or phrase that is clear, concise, and memorable, but you also need to select which Top-Level Domain (TLD) you want to use. For most of the internet’s existence, TLDs have been relatively straightforward, with the most common options being .com, .net, and .org (along with some regional alternatives). However, over the past few years, a lot of new top-level domains have gained popularity and prominence. In this article, we’re going to explore the history of these new TLDs and discuss how they differ from the standard options we’re all familiar with. We’ll also talk about their potential benefits and disadvantages for a variety of websites and businesses, before showing you how to get one for yourself. Let’s go! An Introduction to Top-Level Domains (TLDs) When choosing a domain name for your site, you’re likely to focus most of your attention on the Second-Level Domain (SLD), which is the middle section that comes after the https:// and before the final period. This is where you’ll likely include your company or brand name, as well as any relevant keywords (for example https://mycompanywebsite). The SLD is then followed by a Top-Level Domain (TLD). These come at the very end of the domain name, and are sometimes referred to as ‘domain extensions.’ It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the most popular TLD is .com (short for ‘commercial’), followed by .org (‘organization’), and .net (‘network’). You’ve probably also come across industry-specific options, such as .edu (‘education’) and .gov (‘government’). These are commonly referred to as ‘generic Top-Level Domains’ or gTLD for short. In addition to these options, there are also several country code TLDs (ccTLDs) available, which are usually reserved for a specific country or region. However, some of these have become popular international options as well, such as .io. Initially, this was created for the British Indian Ocean Territory but is now very popular in the tech community as an abbreviation for Input/Output . In fact, multiple TLDs were created with an explicit type of website or geographic location in mind but quickly grew to be used across industries and territories. While there were numerous options available, many people still desired more freedom in the TLDs they could use. This resulted in a years-long debate that culminated not long ago. DNS, ICANN, second-level domains: there’s a lot to know about domains. Read our ultimate domain registration guide. What New TLDs Are (And What Makes Them Different) While some new top-level domain names were added over the years, they amounted to little in the way of variety. However, this all changed in 2014, when the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) introduced the New gTLD Program. The purpose of the program was to increase the number of generic top-level domain names, by enabling users to submit applications for new additions. In total, ICANN received nearly 2,000 applications before its deadline and had a goal of adding up to 1,300 of these as new TLDs. If an application was successful, that TLD was added to the internet, available for anyone to use. Some companies even purchased branded extensions, such as .bmw and .barclays. At the time of this writing, applications are still being processed, with the latest approved TLD being .charity on June 7, 2018. Another significant change heralded by this program is the introduction of non-latin TLDs. In fact, some of the earliest additions after the application deadline included 游戏 (Chinese for ‘game’), сайт (Russian for ‘site’), and شبكة (Arabic for ‘network’ or ‘web’). Naturally, this landslide of new TLDs has led to a lot of debate. Should you stick with one of the old faithful options, such as .com, or go with a newcomer like .club or .blog? To help you pick the right domain for you, let’s look at the pros and cons of these new TLDs. The Benefits (And Disadvantages) of New TLDs One of the most frequent questions after the arrival of the new TLDs was whether or not they would affect a site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Fortunately, Google made it clear that it will treat these domains no differently from any other, so using a new TLD will neither improve nor ruin your SEO efforts. Rank higher on search engines with the Top 11 SEO Best Practices for Domains A survey by Varn found that a majority of those asked trusted .com and .co.uk more than new TLDs. However, this one also showed that younger respondents were much more likely to trust new TLDs equally (or more so) than their legacy counterparts. However, perhaps the primary consideration when it comes to TLDs is their price. One key feature of many new TLDs is that they are significantly less expensive than legacy offerings. For example, a .club domain can cost as little as $0.99 for the first year. This has made a lot of new TLDs very popular. It’s still too early to accurately gauge how new TLDs will change the internet in the long term. However, the rising popularity of multiple new TLDs shows that we’re in for a change. The question now is: Should you take the plunge and use a new TLD yourself? When You Might Want to Use New TLDs There is no easy answer as to whether or not you should use a new TLD, or rely on one of the traditional options. In order to decide, there are several factors you’ll need to take into account. As we discussed earlier, the issue of trust is one of those factors, at least right now. Therefore, if you want your target audience to be assured of your authenticity, you may prefer to avoid using a TLD such as .xyz. In a study by Survey Monkey, for example, 67 percent of marketers responded that they were less likely to trust a quote from a website if it used the extension .insurance rather than a traditional TLD. Your industry and target audience will also play a key role here. If your site’s goal is less reliant on an appearance of authority, such as a magazine site or a portfolio, you are less likely to suffer from using a new TLD. In fact, a more unusual TLD could increase your domain name’s marketability and value, by making it both memorable and descriptive. It’s also worth remembering that the lower trust in new TLDs may simply be due to a lack of exposure. Internet users see .com and .net every day, which makes those options seem more authentic and trustworthy. However, as new TLDs gain traction, they too will become more commonplace, and thus users’ misgivings are likely to gradually disappear. This could happen even quicker than you might expect. Huge brands like Google have already started making use of .xyz, for instance. It may only be a matter of time before the usage of new TLDs explodes, as more visible brands start using them. With all of this in mind, let’s summarize the main factors that should influence your decision about whether to use a new TLD. These include: Purpose and goal. The type of site you’re running is possibly the most important consideration. Companies that rely on being trusted (such as banks, educational institutions, and insurance sellers) would probably do best to avoid new TLDs, at least for the time being. However, sites relating to entertainment, technology, and online communities are less likely to be negatively affected. Target audience. As we mentioned earlier, younger internet users are more likely to trust new TLDs. So if your site is aimed primarily at a younger audience, you could benefit from using one. Brandability. A considerable problem with legacy TLDs is finding one that matches your brand or company name. With new TLDs, this is much less of an issue, as there are plenty of options to choose from. They also enable you to create vanity URLs. Price. Similarly, getting the right domain name can be costly. By including new TLDs in your search, you’re more likely to find one that includes the name or keywords you desire, without requiring you to shell out for a .com or .net domain. Naturally, there are other things you’ll want to bear in mind when choosing domain names. As we mentioned, the state of new TLDs is also likely to change within the coming years, since the phenomenon remains very recent. However, by taking the above factors into account, you’ll have a better idea of whether or not a new TLD suits your site’s needs. Where and How to Get a New TLD If you’ve decided that you want to break from the constraints of legacy TLDs, you have a treasure trove of options at your disposal. Fortunately, the process of finding and purchasing a domain name using a new TLD is not difficult. There are several ways you can register a domain name. For instance, a variety of web hosts will give you a free domain when you sign up for a hosting plan. However, the most common way of acquiring a domain is by turning to a domain registrar, which refers to any outlet that has the right to sell domains. In fact, DreamHost is one such registry operator. Through our domain search tool, you can buy traditional offerings like .com and .net. However, we also provide many other TLDs, including .io, .club, and .design (to name just a few). Just enter the domain name you want, and you’ll be presented with a series of available options. You can scroll through the results to see Featured, Popular, and Suggested options relating to your query. Once you’ve found the one you want, you can click the Buy now button next to it. At this point, you will be asked to create a new DreamHost account. However, if you already have an account, you can just sign in instead. In either scenario, you’ll then be asked to provide your personal information (which you can make private), along with your payment details. Once you’ve completed the process and registered your domain, you can use it on your site, whether that’s hosted by DreamHost or on another server. TLC for TLDs While the old stalwarts .com and .net remain the most popular choices when it comes to picking out a TLD, it may not be that way for long. A growing number of sites are relying on new TLDs instead, a trend that has both its upsides and downsides. In this article, we’ve discussed some of these pros and cons. For instance, while some new TLDs are seen as less trustworthy, they can also be considerably cheaper and easier to acquire. They can also provide more information about a site’s purpose and content, and enable website owners to get more creative with their branding. Would you consider using a new TLD for your website — and if so, why? Share your thoughts with us on social! The post The Complete Guide to New Top-Level Domains (TLDs) appeared first on DreamHost.

How to Hire a Designer to Create a Custom Website

If you need a website, there are plenty of ways you can get one. You could create it yourself, although if you lack the time or skills required, that may not be a feasible option. Your best solution may be to hire a professional, but figuring out how to find the right one and get the process started can be daunting. To hire a web design professional, you’ll not just need to find one who can do the job, but you’ll also need to do some preparation work. This involves planning out your project, knowing what you’ll need, and determining what you can afford to pay. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of hiring a web designer to create a custom website. We’ll talk about what you should consider beforehand, how to create a plan for your site, and how to manage the project. Finally, we’ll show you how to find a designer that’s right for you. Let’s get to work! When You May Want to Hire a Designer to Create Your Website It’s true that it has never been easier for just about anybody to create a website. With little-to-no help, even inexperienced people who have never touched a single line of code or a design tool can create functional and attractive sites. This is mainly due to the many applications and platforms that take care of the technical aspects of site creation for you. For example, many website builders let you use templates combined with a drag-and-drop interface to build pages and create content. Even Content Management Systems (CMSs) like WordPress are easier than ever to use, thanks to one-click installs, themes, and plugins. However, constructing a site by yourself is still not always feasible. Even with all those tools at your disposal, for example, you’ll still be required to learn the basics of site design and know how to use your chosen software correctly. Even if you know exactly what you’re doing, many websites take a considerable amount of effort and time to construct. The right tools can help you along the way, but if you don’t have the time to spare, that won’t matter much. It may also be that you need a site with scope and functionality that goes beyond what pre-existing assets, such as themes and plugins, can provide. For example, you might feel comfortable putting together a personal blog or portfolio. However, creating something more complex, like a membership system or e-commerce store, may not be within your comfort zone. In these cases, your best option is almost always simply to hire a professional for the job. There are plenty of designers available with the skills, talent, and experience to create precisely the site you need while letting you focus on other aspects of your venture. Hiring a designer also comes with several other potential benefits. For instance, they’ll often be able to not only design your site but also help you with creating additional design elements, such as logos and other visual assets. They may even be able to help construct your brand’s visual identity, which is a great way to gain traction quickly. How to Prepare Before Hiring a Designer Once you’ve decided to hire a professional to create your website, you’ll need to start planning it out. It’s extremely vital that you know precisely what you want out of the final result, so the designer can make it a reality. A clear plan will help you convey to them what your expectations are, how you want the final product to look, and what exactly you’re paying them to create. First and foremost, you’ll need to define your goals and the site’s purpose. For example, is your new site a commercial venture, such as an online store or a company site, or is it more of a personal project? From there, you can start deciding what you want from your site, how it should look, what type of content it will contain, and what functionality it will require. The size and level of your site’s intricacy are equally important to nail down at this early stage. For example, a basic but crucial question to consider is how many pages you want it to contain. The more pages you need, the larger the scale of the project will be. In turn, the answers to all of these questions will help you when it comes to what is arguably the most important point of all: budget. In short, how much can you afford to spend on your site? This will not only affect who you can afford to hire for the job, but if you should approach a single freelancer or reach out to an agency with multiple designers and developers. These are only a small handful of considerations, but they represent a solid start for planning out your project. We’ve previously discussed the ideal game plan for designing a site at length, so we recommend that you check out that advice as well. What You Need to Consider When Working With a Designer While it’s crucial to plan for your website, it’s equally critical that you know how to manage the project once your designer has started working on it. Not only will this ensure a smooth workflow for all involved parties, but it will also help to prevent miscommunications or any unwelcome surprises. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most important considerations you’ll want to keep in mind when hiring a designer. You’ll need to: Be clear about your goals. Once you’ve defined your goals, don’t be ambiguous about them. Clearly communicate what you want, including your overall vision for the site, and what specifically you’re asking the designer to produce. This will ensure that they know what’s required of them upfront, increasing the odds that you’ll be happy with the result. Provide them with all the required information and assets. It’s also vital that your designer has the right information and tools needed to complete the work. What this means will naturally depend on the specific project’s requirements, but could include elements like art assets, photos you want to use, content, product information, and so on. Understand what’s involved in the process. Even if you’re not directly involved with the site design process, it’s still helpful to have a general grasp of what it entails. If you understand the general steps involved, you’ll have a much clearer idea of your project’s timeline and a better understanding of the work your designers are doing. Create a clear roadmap for the project. Speaking of timelines, you should also aim to define a clear roadmap, including deadlines and milestones. Make sure you’re realistic about your expectations, both when it comes to workload and the final product. Communicate clearly throughout the project. We’ve discussed the importance of this already, and fortunately, it shouldn’t be difficult to do as long as you’re using a medium that works for everyone involved. It’s best to decide upfront what your primary channels of communication will be, whether that’s email, phone, or an application. Be clear about the project’s budget. In short, everyone should know exactly what they’re being paid to do and how much they’re getting. This will help avoid situations where you’re faced with unexpected extra charges down the line. At the end of the day, it’s essential that both you and the designer are in sync when it comes to expectations and goals. As long as you plan thoroughly and communicate well throughout the project, this shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve. How to Hire a Designer to Create a Custom Website (2 Options) By now, you should have a better understanding of when and why you should consider hiring a designer for your website. We’ve also discussed how to prepare for the project. All that’s left is to look at how actually to go about finding and recruiting one or more designers.  There are two primary avenues available to you, so we’re going to discuss each one in turn. 1. Hire One or More Freelancers When you have a plan in place and know what you want, it’s time to start finding the right person for the job. Many people decide to hire freelancers to build their websites, and it’s not hard to see why. There are a lot of them to choose from. In fact, over 53 million Americans work as freelancers. Going with the freelance option has a few benefits. For one, you can look for someone who specializes in exactly the type of project you require and get a feel for their stylistic sensibilities by looking at examples of their previous work. They also tend to offer plenty of flexibility when it comes to the scope of the project, working hours, deadlines, and budget. If your budget doesn’t stretch very far, you may also be able to find less experienced freelancers who will work for cheaper than an agency or more prominent competitors. That said, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay them what they’re worth or suggest that they work “for exposure.” It just means you might be able to spend less, and they get a chance to earn money while gaining more experience in the field. However, using one or more freelancers can also have its downsides. For one, you may be limiting the potential scope of your site, especially if you can’t afford to hire multiple designers. If you do hire more than one person, on the other hand, this might make the process of managing the project more difficult, as communication can become fractured across multiple parties. You may also find that if the parameters of your project change, the designer may not have the necessary skills to handle any new requirements. If you decide you want to use a freelancer to design your site, there are plenty of ways to find the right one. There are many sites dedicated to connecting specialized freelancers with projects that match their skills, such as PeoplePerHour, Guru, and Upwork. The latter in particular is a terrific option. On Upwork, you can browse for suitable candidates and view their profiles to see more information. When trying to find the right candidate, it’s a good idea to study each prospect’s portfolio carefully. Are the sites they’ve created similar to what you have in mind? This also gives you a chance to see what their skills and weaknesses are, which will make it easier to understand if they’d be a good fit for the job. Similarly, you should also look for reviews and recommendations, including testimonials. In addition to giving you valuable information about their abilities, this will also provide you with an idea of what it’s like to work with that person. You’ll naturally want to look for skills like strong communication, flexibility, reliability, and so on. Once you’ve found a freelancer you’d like to approach, you can use the contact form to get in touch. However, you may not even need to do that, as Upwork will help you find suitable freelancers when you post a job. You can then use the same interface to communicate, transfer files, and even handle payments. 2. Hire a Web Design Firm If you find that a freelancer alone is not able to fulfill your requirements, or you simply want a more complete solution including additional work beyond website design, the best option is to hire an agency. Working directly with an agency has a number of advantages, including expanding the potential scope of your project. These types of firms will usually have teams of employees who can create much larger sites with advanced functionality. They also tend to offer additional services, such as helping you build visual branding for your website and business. A design firm also provides more reliability than freelancers do. For example, if you hire Freelancer X and they’re unexpectedly incapable of proceeding with the work due to illness or other external factors, you’re in trouble. However, with an agency, you can always rest assured that the job will get done. The major hurdle with using this option is naturally the price. However, even in this regard you have some freedom, as you can scale the final cost to match your budget. Professional Web Design Made Easy Let’s actually look at how this works with DreamHost’s own design services. We’ve partnered with RipeConcepts, one of the world’s leading web design firms, to provide several different design services to our customers. By choosing one of these packages, you can have professional designers create your site for you. You can opt for a simple microsite with basic features for as little as $299. Or you can create a fully-functional e-commerce solution, including a blog, image gallery, up to 20 custom pages, social media integration, and responsive design. DreamHost also offers branding services, where our designers create a logo, business cards, email signatures, and even a branded letterhead for you. Combined with our other design services, this lets you create an entire visual identity for your brand and website in one go. Finally, we also provide optional add-ons, which enable you to select additional features you want to include on your site. Considering the scope of what these packages offer, combined with the tiered options, this is an easy and price-effective way to get any type of website off the ground — especially if you’re already a DreamHost customer. Custom By Design Sometimes it’s best to rely on professionals to create your website. However, to make sure you get the results you need, you have to come prepared. You’ll also need to know where you can find the best designers, and how to spot which ones provide services that match your requirements. Do you have any questions about hiring a designer, or any of our web design packages? Let us know by starting the conversation in the DreamHost Community forum! The post How to Hire a Designer to Create a Custom Website appeared first on DreamHost.

10 Most Exciting Features of Gutenberg, the New WordPress Editor

WordPress 5.0 is inching ever closer to release, and with it comes an entirely new way of creating content. While the classic TinyMCE editor has become second nature to many users, it’s soon being replaced by the new Gutenberg editor. While this has divided the community, it’s hard to deny that Gutenberg comes packed with some impressive new features. In fact, there’s a lot to love in the new editor — warts and all. Even though it’s still very much a work in progress, Gutenberg is showing a great deal of promise. In this article, we’ll start by discussing the basics of the Project Gutenberg, including its history (and the reasons why it exists in the first place). Then we’ll explore some of its most interesting new features. Let’s get started! A Brief Introduction to the Gutenberg Editor (And Its Current State) By now, most WordPress users will at least be aware of the Gutenberg editor. You might have first heard about it when the ”Try Gutenberg” callout was added to WordPress 4.9.8, which encouraged users to download the visual editor and give it a spin for themselves. Gutenberg is the current name for the new upcoming WordPress editor. We’ve discussed it in more detail in a previous post, so we recommend you check that out for a more in-depth description. To summarize, Gutenberg is going to replace the current TinyMCE-based editor with something radically different. With the current WordPress editor, a lot of people end up using shortcodes or HTML to create their dream website. Gutenberg aims to change that. The ultimate goal is to create a distraction-free, intuitive content creation interface that’s more in line with modern sensibilities and easier for beginners to pick up. Gutenberg is planned to be released as a part of WordPress 5.0, which is itself scheduled to appear at some point during 2018. The Try Gutenberg callout was something of a soft-launch, to make the wider community aware of the editor’s existence and imminent addition to the core platform. While reactions from the WordPress community have been decidedly mixed, there’s still a lot to be excited about with the new Gutenberg editor. In fact, it contains many additions to WordPress that users have wanted for a long time. We’ll look at some of those later on. First, however,we’ll show you how you can go for a Gutenberg test drive right away. How You Can Try Gutenberg Today As we mentioned, most WordPress users will have already seen the Try Gutenberg callout. Following that link, you can download and install the Gutenberg editor for yourself on your WordPress website. You can also find Gutenberg in the WordPress Plugin Directory, and install it like other plugins. Once you’ve activated the plugin, you can start using it to create posts and pages right away. If you create a new piece of content, you’ll notice that you can now choose to use either Gutenberg or the classic editor. Selecting Gutenberg will open up the new editor. At this point, whenever you choose to create a new post or page, your site will use Gutenberg by default. However, you can switch back to the old post editor at any time using the drop-down menu. You can also see which posts have been created in Gutenberg on your Posts screen (the same applies to pages). Before you proceed, it’s also important to remember that developers are still hard at work on Gutenberg. As such, it’s not recommended that you use it on a live WordPress site, as it could behave unpredictably and potentially cause problems. Instead, you’re best off trying it out using a staging site for now. This also means that the editor is subject to change, as it’s not officially released yet. Therefore, some of the features we’ll be discussing next may look and work very differently once Gutenberg is official. 10 Exciting New Features of Gutenberg Now, let’s take a look at some of the most exciting new functionality Gutenberg brings to the table. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it represents what we consider to be the best new features in Gutenberg. 1. Blocks If you’re familiar with Gutenberg, you’ve most certainly heard about its ‘blocks’ as well. Blocks are an integral new addition to the WordPress ecosystem, and the name is apt as they are literally the building blocks you use to create content. Every individual piece of content in Gutenberg is its own block. This includes text paragraphs, images, embedded files, headers, featured images, and so on. You can add a block to a post or page by clicking on the button marked with a plus sign, and selecting the type you want. This represents a vast departure from the classic WordPress editor, where you added all content into a single area. The main benefit is that it’s now much easier to edit blocks individually, enabling you to set block-specific settings and formatting. It’s also simpler to organize and re-order content within your posts and pages. There are already a huge number of blocks available by default. Also, thanks to the ability to create custom blocks, you can add pretty much any type of content to Gutenberg easily. In fact, you can even port meta boxes into Gutenberg blocks. 2. What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) Editing We’ve already discussed the general look of the new editor, but it’s worth repeating just what a massive change it represents for the way we create content in WordPress. Gutenberg introduces a full What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) interface, which ensures that you always know exactly what the layout will look like once it’s published. If you make a change in the editor, what you’re seeing there is much closer to what will appear on the site’s front end. This removes the dissonance that comes with using an editing interface that doesn’t tell you what your content will look like. Gone will be the days when you had to save and preview your work constantly, just to make sure it looked right. Now, you can remain in the editor’s distraction-free environment the whole time. For some, this change may be too abrupt, at least initially. It’s true that the old-school editor has become second nature to many. However, it’s also hard to deny that in the long run, Gutenberg’s visual editor provides a cleaner and more intuitive way of constructing your pages and posts. This is the editing experience of the future. 3. Dynamic Options Another change that the WYSIWYG interface brings is a new method of handling content options. Instead of a static toolbar coupled with numerous settings strewn around the main editor, Gutenberg will only show you options related to the specific block you’re currently editing. For example, if you’re editing a text paragraph, you’ll only see the formatting choices and other settings that are relevant for that block. If you start editing an image, the choices in the sidebar will change. This enables you to quickly get a feel for what options are available to you at any given time. You’re only ever looking at what you need, which helps to avoid confusion in the long run. Of course, this feature may also lead to some initial confusion, as users may struggle to find a choice that is currently hidden (since it doesn’t apply to the current block). While settings relating to the whole document are always available, it can be tricky to get used to this change at first. Once you do, however, you’ll benefit from a more streamlined experience that’s free from clutter. 4. Document Outline The features we’ve talked about up to this point have been some of Gutenberg’s larger-scale changes. Now, let’s focus in on the most interesting smaller additions this editor offers. First out of the gate is the new Document Outline feature, which is a minor yet beneficial addition. This feature becomes available when you add at least one heading to your content, and you can see it by clicking on the information button in the top-left corner of the editor. As you can see, not only will this display your document’s word count and how many blocks it contains, but you can also view all of the headings you’ve added. The Document Outline serves as a handy table of contents, and you can even click on the headings to instantly navigate to each block and edit it. This is a feature the classic editor lacked entirely, and helps make it easier to get a quick overview of your content’s structure. 5. Anchor Support Another Gutenberg feature many users have longed for is the ability to add HTML anchors to your content. You can now add anchors to blocks, which lets you link directly to a particular block from anywhere else on a page or post. Imagine that you wanted to link back to a specific heading later within one of your posts. You can just add an anchor to that heading block, using the HTML Anchor field. For example, let’s say that you specify “heading-one” as an anchor for a block that appears in a post with the permalink “text-post.” You could then link to that anchor by using the URL https.//yoursite.com/text-post#anchor-text, anywhere within the post. This is particularly useful for long-form content, and also comes in handy if you want to create your own table of contents. 6. Tables Tables are a common feature in most content creation tools, but they’ve historically been quite challenging to use in WordPress. What previously required a plugin or HTML code is now conveniently available as a Gutenberg block. All you have to do is add a Table block to your page or post. Then, you’ll be asked to select the number of rows and columns you want it to contain. Once you’ve done that, the table will appear, ready for you to fill with content. It should be said that this block is still somewhat lacking in features. For example, you can’t style it, or change the number of rows or columns afterward without manually editing the block’s HTML. We’re hoping that these features will be added with time, but even in its current state, this is a tremendous improvement over the classic editor (which lacked a table option altogether). 7. Buttons Another relatively basic feature that WordPress has so far been lacking is the humble button. Fortunately, Gutenberg has introduced a button block that lets you add this feature to your content with ease. When you create a button block, you’ll be able to edit its text and link. Then you can apply a basic style to your button, and select the colors you want for the text and background. Another handy feature is that if you select a color combination which could potentially be difficult to read, a message will appear to let you know. As with tables, we hope that this block gets expanded with more styling options in the future, as the choices are quite basic right now. However, at least you don’t have to rely on third-party solutions anymore if you want to include a button on your site. 8. Text Columns While this feature is currently still in beta, it’s one we’re particularly excited for. This is a variation of the standard text block, which lets you split your content across responsive columns. You can currently choose between one and four columns. Each column can contain its own blocks as well. This lets you create complex layouts, like this one that includes three columns with differing content. Since the text columns are still a work in progress, they can be a little difficult to use right now. For example, it can be challenging to find the options for the column block itself, rather than the individual blocks contained within it. However, once the team of developers known as WordPress contributors think the editor is ready for prime time, this feature will be a very welcome addition for many users. 9. Easily-Adjustable Font Sizes Gutenberg is all about ease-of-use, and making every option as intuitive as possible. This even extends to something as simple as the size of your text. You now have multiple options for how small or large you want your fonts to be. Here, for example, you can choose from one of four preset sizes. You can also specify a custom size for your text, either by using the slider provided or by entering an exact size manually. Finally, you can also add a ‘drop cap’ to your text. This makes the first letter larger than the rest of the paragraph, which can be a stylish and attention-grabbing touch. 10. Full-Width Alignment Finally, we come to an option that’s been prominently featured in the official Gutenberg demos. This is the ability to create wide and full-width content. In other words, your content can now stretch the entire width of the page. To use this feature, you will need a theme that’s compatible with full-width styles. Fortunately, there are plenty of full-width themes available. You can find many suitable themes in the WordPress Theme Directory. If your theme does support this functionality, you can apply a wide or full-width style to an image by simply selecting it from the alignment options. This enables you to create some stunning designs and gives you plenty of freedom over how your images are styled. Conclusion Change isn’t always easy, but sometimes it’s necessary. Such is the case with the Gutenberg editor. While millions of content creators have grown accustomed to the classic editor, it’s hard to deny that it’s starting to feel antique, especially when compared to what many competitors are now offering. In this article, we’ve discussed some of the best new features that users can look forward to when Gutenberg becomes a part of WordPress core. These include both significant changes, such as the addition of blocks and a distraction-free, user-friendly interface, as well as more minor but still very appreciated functionality, like the option to add text columns, buttons, and tables. Have you tried the new Gutenberg editor yet, and if so, what are your thoughts about it? Did you like the user experience? Head on over to the DreamHost Community and let’s discuss! The post 10 Most Exciting Features of Gutenberg, the New WordPress Editor appeared first on DreamHost.

Top 6 Basic Elements of Web Design

Web design can sometimes feel like a bit of alchemy, especially for the uninitiated. Although beginners can usually recognize good designs over bad, concocting the perfect elixir from scratch rarely happens. As web designers toil over bubbling liquids, complex instruments, and the ever-tedious conversions between RGB colors and hex codes, they all hope to find the magical combination that strikes the ultimate balance between innovative creativity and business prowess. Success means a lifetime of pride and riches, while failure subjects the mad scientist to a lifetime of frustration and perpetual experiments. via GIPHY Unlocking a robust design for your new or existing website can seem like a magical process of transformation, creation, and combination. Professional themes and templates abound for nearly every business objective and creative endeavor — but there always seems to be something missing that makes the alloy not quite as strong as you envision it needs to be. The design of your website, much like the mysterious recipe for gold, is a complicated, mysterious, sometimes infuriating process — that is worth getting exactly right. Web design is more than just visuals and aesthetics; it also affects your SEO and rankings, powers your audience’s perceptions of your brand, and influences your visitors’ behaviors. Your site’s design and layout affect your entire web presence. Whether you’re starting from scratch, redesigning your perpetual fixer-upper, or evaluating an endless stream of templates, there are a few key recipes to follow and ingredients to use. Here, we’ll cover the base elements that, when used in the appropriate manner and measurement, can turn your online business and design dreams into gold. First, Take Care of the Tech Stuff — Or Have Your Host Do It For You You thought web design was all about choosing the right color palette and imagery, right? Well, you’re not wrong, per se. We’re just taking a more comprehensive look at using design to improve and influence your users’ experience on your site. The world’s best design won’t matter if your visitors can’t see your site or don’t stick around long enough to convert. No matter your audience, internet consumers are a somewhat impatient bunch — roughly 30 percent of them expect a site to load in one second or less, while almost half count on a website to appear within two seconds. Any millisecond beyond that increases your odds of losing that reader or shopper for good. via GIPHY The same can be said for sites that don’t load at all. Data center outages can cost businesses an average of $9,000 per minute its website is unavailable, according to the Ponemon Institute. Nearly three-quarters of visitors will abandon a site if it takes more than five seconds to load. Signing up with a reliable web hosting provider alleviates all those pain points without any hassle or headaches. For example, DreamHost uses high-performance solid-state drives in our servers, which are at least 200 percent faster than traditional hard disk drives. Uptime guarantees are another vital measurement to consider when evaluating reliability, and DreamHost is one of the few providers that promise your site will be online 100 percent of the time — we’ll even reimburse you for an entire day’s worth of hosting for every hour your site is unavailable. If all of that is not enough to convince you, consider checking out monthly hosting plans that let you sample the type of performance, reliability, and customer service you can encounter. (By the way, that’s another area DreamHost excels in, according to the folks at HostingAdvice.com). 6 Key Components of Web Design OK, now we can get into the fun stuff like colors, typography, call-to-action buttons, and navigation. Every designer and site owner may take a different approach to build a website, but there’s a standard checklist of items and concepts that should be accounted for. Of course, while there are generally accepted design principles, the beauty of web design is that it’s an art form — not a science. Good design stands out from the crowd, but be sure the risks you take are calculated and reversible if they don’t pan out how you’d like. Now, time to turn the page on that sketchbook and start designing! Here are six important design elements you’ll want to make sure you get right. 1. Overall Layout and Visual Appearance Your site’s overall look is, of course, a crucial component of web design. We’re using these broad terms to cover a range of reactions you want your visitors to have. First impressions are critical, so you want to wow your audience as soon as the page loads. Users take only 50 milliseconds to form an opinion of your website or business, and that will determine whether they’ll stay or leave. That means your design should align with a handful of soothing adjectives: it should be simple, familiar, intuitive, clean, and accessible. Use plenty of whitespace (or padding and margins) to give the elements of your site room to breathe, and use grid-based designs to keep design items organized and orderly. Strong photography, icons, or graphics provide supplementary information to your text, but make sure the images complement each other and the brand you’re looking to represent. Each piece of your website should be placed according to the visual hierarchy you want to assign it. Whether you aim for F-Patterns or Z-Patterns, you can direct visitors’ eyes and behaviors based on your design. Both patterns emphasize the top horizontal area of your site, or where most designers place the brand’s logo, navigation, and sometimes a search box. All three elements inspire brand recognition and user interaction. 2. Color Scheme Finally, the elements you were probably expecting the most once you started reading. Your color palette and fonts will directly inform your visitors’ opinions of your site and are what most novice designers start with. Trust us, the groundwork you’ve done so far will set you up for greater success than Roy G. Biv alone. As for choosing a color scheme, paying attention to your brand or industry perspectives — along with your target audience demographics — will make this a somewhat painless process. Always be looking for ways to narrow your scope from the roughly 7 million discernable hues the eye can detect. Lawyers and accountants, for example, would typically be best served with a deep blue or green to signal professionalism, while a photographer may want to rely on black and white to truly showcase the vibrancy of his or her images. Beyond your brand’s industry, pay attention to your readers’ expectations: Parents of newborns will appreciate soft pink and blues and yellows, while K-6 children expect bright primary colors. Teens and young adults are bold, while grownups and grandparents are a bit more refined and mature. Once you choose your dominant color, consider what type of color palette you want. If you’re looking for your audience to zero in on a particular piece of content or a button or elicit a specific type of interaction, you’ll want a complementary color from the other side of the color wheel. We spent an entire blog post exploring color choices, so head on over there for more help. 3. Typography The same industry and demographics principles can generally be said for the typography, or fonts, you choose to communicate your message. More formal roles, like those lawyers and accountants, will likely want to stick with distinguished serif fonts (which have the extra bits hanging off at the end of letters), while we envision the photographer would use a very light and airy sans serif (no extra bits) typeface. As with the site’s overall design and layout, you’ll want to balance normalcy with freshness. Design aficionados will spot Arial or Times New Roman right away. Look for something a little different — but whatever you do, don’t even consider Comic Sans. Your text should be easily readable, which generally means body copy should be at least 16 pixels. Using a complementary font is ideal for headings or accents, but don’t go beyond three typefaces or unnecessary sizing adjustments. Of course, you’ll want to make sure there’s plenty of contrast between your text and the site’s background colors, which generally means a light color paired with a dark tone — avoid that piercing red-font-on-green-background eyesore. 4. Navigation Your site’s navigation is not a space in which to be creative. First off, don’t fall into the trap of overly animated hover effects and complex, multi-tiered subnavs. Navigational elements — which can exist in a site’s header, body, and footer — simply serve to direct your visitors to the information they desire as quickly as possible. Right at the top of the page, site owners will be confronted with a majorly polarizing design decision: to hamburger or not to hamburger? The hamburger menu, represented by three parallel, horizontal lines, provides an economical way to save space by hiding your navigation off site. However, it obscures vital information and interactions from your visitors and tends to have lower click rates. Strong navigation extends beyond the main menu in your header. For long, scroll-heavy, or one-page designs, for example, you may want to include directional arrows that help direct users through each section. Most sites will also benefit by adding a sticky “Back to Top” button that quickly delivers visitors back to the top of the page (Here are some research-based suggestions from the Nielsen Norman Group on how to best implement this navigational element). Finally, don’t ignore the footer navigation menu. Users tend to scroll farther than you might expect, and some brands even witnessed up to 50 percent more conversions with an optimized footer. If a reader has stuck around long enough to make it to the end of your homepage or landing page, they’ll need somewhere else to go or something else to do, such as sign up for email updates from your business. 5. Content Just as interior designers don’t stop once the walls are painted, you’re not done once you’ve got the layout, color scheme, typefaces, and pretty elements of your choosing picked out. Time to bring in the sofa and hang family pictures on the wall — by paying attention to how your messaging interacts with your design. Your site visitors and potential customers want information quickly — is your brand trustworthy? Experienced? Capable of delivering top-notch products and services? Given people’s short attention spans and lightning-fast first impressions, communicating clearly is critical. Information should be easy to read and digest. Look closely at each word: Do you really need it? Efficiency is key, as extra words can stand in the way and dull your brand’s primary selling points. Use headings and display text to organize sections and quickly let your readers know what information you’re providing. Instead of using long, rambling sentences, break up long lists into ordered or unordered lists. Just think short and sweet! As far as content goes, don’t forget to look beyond your blog or homepage. Make sure your ‘About’ and ‘Contact’ pages take the appropriate tone and convey the right information — for example, a lifestyle blogger will want to share her personal and family journey, while a real estate agent will likely be more focused on professional results. 6. Don’t Forget About Mobile Phew! Finally, we’re nearing the end of our web design odyssey with a sleek, compact, user-friendly website. Ready to do it all again — but smaller? The amount of mobile web traffic overtook desktop traffic in late 2016 and shows no signs of slowing down. To better serve visitors who access your site on a phone or tablet, Google is already introducing a mobile-first index to rank sites in search results. Mobile-friendly websites aren’t just a nice, hip feature anymore — they’re a necessity. Most WordPress themes or templates you buy from a developer already come prepared for mobile traffic. If you’re designing your own custom look, however, you’ll need to make sure you’re covered by one of two main options: a responsive template that adapts to various screen sizes or a mobile-only look that is activated when a non-desktop device tries to access your site. The post Top 6 Basic Elements of Web Design appeared first on DreamHost.

10 Ways to Speed Up a DreamPress Website

If you’re anything like us, you’re always looking for ways to improve your website. For example, you’ll want to ensure that your site always runs fast, regardless of the number of visitors it receives. Failing to optimize your site’s speed can have dire consequences, such as higher bounce rates and lost income. Fortunately, speeding up your site doesn’t have to be difficult, especially if it’s hosted with DreamPress. More often than not, you will only need to perform a few simple tasks to fully optimize your site. Even if you’re no web wizard, you can still guarantee that your site will run fast and smoothly. In this article, we’ll start by discussing the importance of having a fast site. We’ll also cover 10 methods you can use improve the speed of your DreamPress website right now. Let’s get started! Why Speeding Up Your Website Is Important As you might know, we’ve discussed the importance of website speed many times before — with good reason. If your site is suffering from slowdowns, it can both negatively affect your users’ experience and harm your business financially. The fact is that most internet users have come to expect sites to be fast, and when they’re faced with long loading times, they’re more likely to leave before performing any actions. The number of visitors who leave this quickly is referred to as your site’s bounce rate and is something you’ll want to minimize. A site suffering from slow speeds is also likely to see fewer conversions and even a loss in profits. As such, the importance of speeding up your website should be evident. However, to do this, you’ll first need to know how well your site is currently performing. How to Test Your Site’s Performance It’s a smart idea to regularly test your site to see how quickly it loads and how well it manages increases in traffic. Even if you’ve optimized your site for speed in the past, it may have slowed down over time, so you’ll want to stay up-to-date with its performance. Fortunately, testing the speed and performance of your site is much easier than you might expect. In fact, there are plenty of solutions you can use to do this right in your browser. Pingdom is a free tool that lets you enter the URL of the site you want to test and select a server location. You can then run a test, which will usually take less than a minute. Once that’s done, you can see how quickly your site managed to load from the specified server. Your site will get an overall score, and you’ll see how it compares against other sites. In this case, the tested website was faster than 37 percent of other sites and was given a ‘C’ score. That means this site could definitely use some optimization. It’s a smart idea to run this test a few times and to use a variety of servers. Best of all, Pingdom’s results will even point out specific areas where you can optimize your website to make it faster. 10 Ways to Speed up Your DreamPress Website Once you’ve tested your site and found areas where it could improve, you can get to work. In this section, we’ll look at ten of the ways you can diagnose why the site is slowing down and how you can optimize it for speed. Before we get started, we should mention that one of the factors in your site’s performance is its hosting plan. An optimized, WordPress-specific plan such as DreamPress will do a lot to keep your site fast and stable. However, that doesn’t mean the following methods can’t improve its performance even further. Let’s jump right in! 1. Check Caches Caching plays a vital part in making sure your site loads quickly, which is something we’ve covered in our complete guide to caching. The good news is that all DreamPress sites include built-in caching already, so you don’t need to worry about installing a solution yourself. However, even with DreamPress’ caching functionality, you’ll still need to manage your site’s cache from time to time. You can do this with the Varnish HTTP Purge plugin. This plugin is included on all DreamPress sites, and it automatically clears your cache when you post new content. As such, it prevents your site from displaying outdated files to visitors. Varnish HTTP Purge also includes a tool to test your caching so you can make sure it’s working correctly on your site. You can access this option from Varnish > Check Caching. Here, you can enter a URL for a page on your site to test its caching status. The result will show any errors, and highlight if your theme or plugins are causing problems with the cache. You can now go through these results to find areas that conflict with your cache. For more information, see our guide to managing the DreamPress cache. 2. Combine and Minify Scripts and Stylesheets Minification is the process of removing unnecessary content from HTML, JavaScript, and CSS code to make your site run faster. This might sound complex if you’re not a coder, but it’s not hard to understand why this works. In a nutshell, most code is written not just to be functional but also to be easily readable by humans. This results in excess information that isn’t strictly necessary. By minifying the code, you can keep the functionality intact but make it much faster for computers to read and run. Several plugins can help you do this. For example, Autoptimize will automatically ensure that the scripts on all of your pages are optimized. What sets this tool apart from many other minification plugins is that it also optimizes wp-admin. All you need to do after installing and activating the plugin is navigate to Settings > Autoptimize. Here you can decide what you want the plugin to do. We recommend that you start with as few options as possible, since selecting too many may cause issues with your site. As such, you may want to simply enable optimization for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and then save your changes. 3. Compress and ‘Lazy Load’ Your Images Your site likely contains a fair amount of images, which is great for your site’s look but can be a real problem with it comes to loading times. Many image files, particularly if they’re physically large or high-quality, can be very heavy. This is a common cause of slowdowns. To avoid this issue, take care to optimize and compress images. This will severely cut down on file sizes. There are several browser and downloadable tools you can use for this, such as TinyPNG, which also compresses JPG files. However, to make things even easier, you can install an image compression plugin. This will automatically decrease the size of any images you upload, including their thumbnails. You can even set the level of compression you want. One such plugin that we have recommended in the past and still favor is ShortPixel. ShortPixel is very easy to use and offers bulk optimization of your existing images. You even get a certain number of free optimizations every month. This makes it an excellent choice, particularly if you want a quick plug-and-play solution. Another way you can improve your images is by implementing a ‘lazy loading’ solution. With this feature in place, only images that are currently visible on the screen will be loaded. That can help to speed up your pages, particularly if they contain a large number of visuals. As you might expect, there are a number of tools available to help you implement this functionality. For example, the popular Jetpack plugin contains a lazy load feature for images. There are also dedicated plugins, such as the aptly-named a3 Lazy Load. This plugin is a simple yet powerful option. It will ensure that all images (including avatars, thumbnails, and those inside widgets) are only loaded when a user scrolls down to their locations on a page. Another handy alternative is Crazy Lazy. While this plugin features most of the same functionality, it is very lightweight and easy to use. Regardless of which option you choose, you should find that image-heavy pages will be faster and easier to navigate as a result. 4. Review Plugins While plugins are incredibly useful for customizing and expanding your site’s functionality, some can hurt its performance. If your site is starting to slow down, a good place to start diagnosing the problem is by checking plugins. Some plugins can hog a lot of server resources or simply take up too much space. If you’ve recently added a plugin to your site, try disabling it to see if that helps bring your speeds up. You should also see if any of your plugins have been recently updated, which could be a cause of the problem. Plugins can also interfere with your site’s caching, which we discussed earlier. To find out if this is happening, you can try running a caching test with Varnish HTTP Purge to see if it finds that one or more plugins conflict with your cache. If you find that a plugin is the root of your performance problems, you may want to look for a more lightweight alternative. It might also be worth reaching out to the plugin’s developers, as the performance issues may be due to a bug they’d like to be aware of. 5. Use a Fast Theme When you choose a theme for your site, you’re most likely focusing on its appearance and features. However, this could result in picking a low-performance theme that drags down your site. As such, you should always check a theme’s user reviews first to see if other people have encountered speed issues. You can also test to see if your theme is slowing down your site. This can be done by temporarily replacing it with one of your site’s default themes. Just access Appearance > Themes, and click on Activate next to one of the basic WordPress options. Now, test your site’s speed again to see if you notice a significant difference. If so, you may want to look for a more optimized theme as a replacement. Finally, you should also try to find a theme that supports Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), as this will help boost your site’s speed on phones and tablets. This is incredibly important since many of your users will be visiting your site using mobile devices. DYK? DreamPress Plus and Pro users get access to Jetpack Professional (and 200+ premium themes) at no added cost! 6. Optimize Your Database One element that it’s easy to forget about is your site’s database. While this is a vital component of every site, you rarely have to worry about it. However, if you leave your database alone for too long, it can fill up with old or unnecessary data, causing slowdowns as a result. The best way to avoid this, especially if you’re unfamiliar with databases, is to use a plugin. In this case, we recommend WP-DBManager. This is an all-in-one database solution that can repair, back up, and optimize your database. To do the latter, just navigate to Database > Optimize DB. Select all the data tables you want to include and then click on Optimize. It’s a good idea to do this regularly (at least once a month) to make sure your database is always in top shape. 7. Check for 404 Errors Another possible cause of slow loading times is missing files or broken links. For instance, if a server is trying to locate a particular file to no avail, it may be using up precious resources for nothing, hampering your site’s performance in the process. These missing files are usually known as 404s, since they often result in the “404 Not Found” error. There are several common files that can be affected by this problem, such as your site’s ‘favicon’ (the icon that appears in your browser next to your site’s name), your robots.txt file (a file that enables you to exclude specific areas of your site from search engines), and your sitemap. These missing files and broken links can affect your site negatively in many ways. For one, it doesn’t look great to a visitor if parts of your site just aren’t there or your links don’t work properly. Plus, as we mentioned, performance can also suffer as a result. As such, you’ll want to make it a habit to check your site for broken links regularly. One plugin that can help you accomplish this is Broken Link Checker. This is yet another plugin that does most of the work required automatically, without much input needed from you. In short, it will check for broken links and 404 errors across your site and notify you via email or on the dashboard when any issues are found. You can even edit links directly from the plugin’s tab, sparing you the potential headache of having to manage multiple broken links individually by editing the pages yourself. This plugin is a useful solution and is particularly helpful when it comes to large sites with hundreds (or even thousands) of pages. 8. Look for Unusual Traffic Another reason your site can slow down is due to a sudden increase in traffic. Sometimes this is perfectly natural, for example, if one of your posts has gone viral and draws a lot of new visitors to your site. However, it could also be due to more malicious causes, such as a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack. To prevent these attacks, you’ll want to make sure that your site is secure. You’ll also need a way to see if there are particular areas of your site that are receiving more traffic than you would expect. These could represent a potential security vulnerability that attackers are attempting to exploit. Using a tracking solution like Google Analytics can be very helpful in keeping an eye on your site’s traffic. 9. Use Content Delivery Networks (CDN) When someone visits your site, its files usually travel to them all the way from your host’s server. This is true regardless of the visitor’s geographic location or the number of other visitors currently using your site. As you can imagine, this can be quite strenuous for one server to handle, which can lead to longer loading times. The best way to fix this is to use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN is a network of servers that are spread across the world and all contain copies of your site’s files. This means that when a user accesses your site, its files will be sent from the CDN server closest to them. A CDN minimizes delays due to geographic distance and also spreads the strain across multiple servers. There are a huge amount of CDN solutions for WordPress, each with their own advantages. For example, the popular Jetpack plugin includes a CDN for image files, which can help speed up your site. Jetpack Professional, which is included with the purchase of a DreamPress Plus or Pro hosting plan, also includes a CDN for video. 10. Keep Your Site Updated Last but by no means least, we come to the oldest trick in the book. You’ve doubtless heard this repeated time and time again — including from us — but it’s for a good reason. If you don’t keep your WordPress installation, plugins, and theme updated, they can quickly become sluggish and may cause a number of other problems. Not only can failing to perform regular updates lead to significantly worse performance, but it can also leave your site vulnerable to security issues. Fortunately, WordPress makes updates easy. They’re always clearly highlighted in your admin area, and you can find them under Dashboard > Updates. Here you’ll see if there’s a new version of WordPress or any updates are available for your themes or plugins. You should make sure to check this page regularly to ensure that your site is optimized. Of course, don’t forget to back up your site and consider creating a staging site for testing updates before they go live. Zero to Sixty Speed is one of the most critical elements of a successful website. After all, if a site takes forever to load, very few people will bother to stick around and see the actual content. As such, making sure your website is fast is a top priority. As luck would have it, doing this isn’t even all that difficult. Do you have any questions about speeding up your DreamPress website? Join the conversation in our DreamHost Community! The post 10 Ways to Speed Up a DreamPress Website appeared first on DreamHost.

The Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Your Website and Increasing Traffic

Creating a website and filling it to the brim with outstanding content is an excellent start. If nobody even knows your site exists, however, they won’t be able to visit it. The fact is that unless you make people aware of your site’s existence (and why they should care), it will remain in obscurity. To drive traffic to your site, you’ll need to market it. Fortunately, you have a wealth of options at your disposal, whether that’s paid promotions or building momentum organically. As long as you understand your site’s target audience and have a little patience, you can attract plenty of views. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of web traffic, introduce the basics of marketing your website, and help you specify a target audience. Then we’ll show you several ways you can market your website to get that traffic trickling in. Let’s get to it! Why It’s Vital to Drive More Traffic to Your Website Web traffic is a pretty simple concept. In short, this term refers to the number of visitors your site gets on a regular basis. High-traffic sites have more page views per day or month than low-traffic sites. It’s probably no grand revelation to you that traffic is important to websites. Naturally, every site owner wants more people to visit, whether the goal is to generate more income or simply share the content they’ve created with the broadest possible audience. A common reason for wanting visitors to visit your site is to increase conversions. A conversion refers to an action that you want your users to take, like making a purchase. When somebody buys something on your site, for example, they’ve converted from being a regular user into a customer. However, conversions can be many other things as well, such as signing up for a newsletter, creating an account, or completing a form. Either way, to improve your conversions, you’ll naturally want to increase the traffic on your site. However, this isn’t just a numbers game. In fact, while traffic itself is essential, it’s just as vital that it’s good traffic. This generally refers to visitors who stay a while, interact with your content, return multiple times, and ultimately convert. Having 500 visitors who stick around is usually better than having 5,000 visitors who leave quickly, never to return. So how do you get the traffic you want? There are two main methods: paid traffic and organic traffic. We’ll look closer at each of them later in this article, but first, we’re going to discuss the importance of marketing in general. Why Marketing Your Site Leads to Increased Traffic One of the most pressing concerns for any website owner is how to help people actually find your site. This can be a daunting task, especially considering that there are literally billions of websites on the internet. Making yours visible in that crowd can be challenging. This is where marketing your site becomes key. By creating and deploying a strong marketing strategy, you can increase visibility and awareness of your site, which is naturally the first step towards encouraging people to visit it. Marketing can refer to any work you do that gets your site mentioned or seen elsewhere online. This could be through paid advertisements, promotions, or getting your content shared on other sites or social media platforms. Either way, it’s all about making people conscious that your site exists and communicating why they’d want to visit it in the first place. One common technique is known as inbound marketing. This type of marketing focuses on ‘pulling’ people to your site by providing something of value. This could be a blog, video content, online courses, giveaways, and so on. The term itself was popularized by HubSpot, which describes its benefits like this: “By creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal customers, you attract qualified prospects and build trust and credibility for your business.” The key point here is that you need to create valuable, high-quality content, which is no small feat. However, the benefits of doing this are many. For example, a relevant and well-written company blog can help you build backlinks, drive traffic, and establish your brand as an authority in your field — all at the same time. How to Identify Your Target Audience The most crucial aspect of effective marketing and driving the right kind of traffic is knowing whom you’re marketing to. Simply put: it’s impossible to get everyone to your site, so you’ll need to focus on those who will benefit the most from what you’re offering. To do this, you’ll need to consider and identify your target audience — the people you want to market your site towards. While this group could be quite general, based on characteristics such as their age, gender, and location, it could also be very specific. For example, your target audience could have a particular niche interest, or work in a very specialized industry. We’ve actually discussed how to find a target market for your business previously, so we’re not going to repeat ourselves too much here. In a nutshell, it’s vital that you conduct research and consider your competition to determine both the demographics of your potential audience and to see if there’s a segment of that audience that’s not being catered to yet. We also recommend that you create a customer profile, which is a complete picture of your theoretical ideal customer. This provides you with a greater understanding of your target audience, as well as how best to communicate with them. 6 Ways to Drive Organic Traffic to Your Site Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at the practical aspects of marketing your website. To do that, we’ll introduce some of the best ways you can start to drive traffic to your site. These methods all focus on how to encourage more organic traffic, which is visitors who make their way to your site naturally (via search engines, links from other sites, and so on). Later, we’ll also touch on how to create paid traffic, which is precisely what it sounds like. Let’s get to work! 1. Perform Search Engine Optimization (SEO) This first point shouldn’t be surprising if you’re a regular reader of our blog. We’ve covered the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) before, and also discussed several ways you can improve SEO on your WordPress site. In short, SEO refers to a series of practices for optimizing your site and content to make it more likely to rank well in search results on sites like Google. The earlier your pages appear, the more traffic you’ll typically see. For example, the site ranked No. 1 gets an average of 32.5 percent of the traffic for a particular search term, while the site ranked No. 10 only gets 2.4 percent — and sites that don’t make it to the first page of results do even worse. When it comes to optimizing your website, there are plenty of SEO tools to help you out. For example, you can use SEMrush to perform keyword research, which will show you what terms people are using to find your site. You can also use it to find related keywords, which you can work naturally into your content. You can also pick up a WordPress plugin like Yoast SEO or The SEO Framework. These will guide you when creating content, to ensure that it’s optimized for search engines and follows all of Google’s SEO standards. While the requirements can seem overwhelming at a glance, you’ll soon assimilate these guidelines and be able to optimize your content quickly. 2. Create a Social Media Presence In recent years, social media has become one of the most crucial factors in generating organic traffic. When you consider that there are over 2.5 billion social media users in the world, the reasons why should be obvious. As such, leveraging social media to bring people to your site is key. When it comes to organic traffic, the most significant consideration is that you pick the right platforms to use, and then create a presence that appeals to your target audience. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to do this. You can: Use a scheduling tool. Social media can take up a lot of time if you do everything manually. Fortunately, there are several tools you can use to schedule and manage your posts efficiently, such as Hootsuite and Buffer. Create engaging and visually appealing content. If people are going to interact with and share your posts, they need to be well-written, look good, and have a unique voice. For example, if you’re using photos in your posts, you should make sure you know how to edit them to look their best. Don’t be afraid to use hashtags. Hashtags are a significant part of making sure your posts are discoverable by people who may be interested in them. Use hashtags that are popular but also directly relate to your site for the best results. Consider your brand’s voice. It’s essential to maintain a consistent voice in all your posts, but also to find one that appeals to your target market. Is your brand casual or professional? Serious or cheeky? Finally, don’t forget to engage with others as well. Social media is not a one-way street, so be sure to comment on, like, and share posts from other users. This will make your social media presence more personal while providing additional value and reasons for your audience to follow you. 3. Start a Blog Blogs aren’t just for recipes, general observations, and cat photos. In fact, a blog can be a powerful tool to drive more traffic to your site. The reason why harkens back to what we said earlier about providing value to your users. Running a blog is an excellent way to post content that others will find both helpful and worth sharing with others. Best of all, getting started is very easy. You can get a blog up and running in minutes and then it’s just a matter of creating your content. Of course, writing blog posts people will want to read isn’t necessarily simple. While we can’t tell you exactly what to write, we do have some resources that will help: If you follow our expert blogging tips, it should get a lot easier to start creating content. We’ve also created a blogging checklist with some tasks you should undertake before you publish your posts. Last, our tips on optimizing your blog’s structure will help you when it comes to planning out how your blog should be set up. Once your posts are live, it’s time to make people aware that they exist. That’s when it’s time to promote your posts, especially on social media. This will be much easier if you’ve already created a social media marketing strategy, as discussed above. The most crucial factor here is that your content is of high quality and is actually worth reading. No amount of optimization can cover for subpar content, so this should always be your number-one priority. 4. Produce Branded Video Content You can probably guess that Google is the world’s largest search engine, but do you know which one comes in at No. 2? The answer is YouTube. Considering that the site has over a billion active monthly users, who collectively watch one billion hours of video every day, it offers a lot of opportunities for raising awareness of your site. By creating branded video content, you can present your site to a worldwide audience through a medium they’re familiar with and primed to engage on. What form your videos take depends entirely on your site and ultimate goal. For example, if you run an eCommerce website, you could create videos to explain your products or services. Conversely, if you manage a review site, you can create video reviews to supplement your written ones. There are plenty of possibilities, and the good news is that getting started is easier now than ever. Naturally, there are plenty of practical considerations before you can start. For instance, you will at the very least require a camera and some form of editing tool. However, if you own a smartphone you already have both at your disposal. Today, consumer-grade cameras and editing software are more than enough to create quality, engaging videos. The most vital aspect is to keep your branding consistent and prominent. It should be obvious that the videos are an extension of your site, and that people can find out more information by visiting you there as well. To do this, include links in your video descriptions and feature your site’s URL at key points in your videos. This will help drive interested viewers to your pages. 5. Create an Email List As we covered earlier, one of the tenets of good traffic is that it doesn’t just visit once. You want to make sure people have reason to come back to your site again and again. While creating consistently strong content is a big part of that, another method is to use email in your marketing efforts. In fact, email marketing is even more effective at converting customers than social media. By collecting the email addresses of your visitors, you can contact them whenever you have something new on your site. For example, you could send out an email whenever you have a new blog post, or a regular roundup of the content you’ve posted in a certain timeframe. This will encourage your audience to return to your site regularly, and also helps build a sense of loyalty and commitment to your brand. To get started, you’ll need to choose an email marketing application. There are plenty on offer, such as MailChimp and GetResponse, both of which will help you create segmented email lists and write compelling email campaigns. Next, you’ll want to add an opt-in form to your site, which most applications will let you do by simply pasting some code onto a page. Finally, you can write a powerful Call To Action (CTA) that encourages visitors to submit their email addresses. Creating CTAs is an art form in itself, but the key is making the benefit of signing up obvious to the user. Clearly state what you’ll provide them with and why it benefits them, and they’ll be all the more likely to sign up. 6. Build a Public Relations (PR) Strategy Last but not least, let’s discuss the benefits of a Public Relations (PR) strategy. Essentially, PR consists of creating relationships with various media outlets, in order to get your site and brand mentioned on their channels. This can be a hugely important factor in driving quality traffic, as they’ll be directed from a trusted, authoritative source. Developing a PR strategy can be a tricky proposition, so you’ll need to prepare accordingly. Everything we’ve covered so far can help you make some headway. For example, you can reach out to publications to see if they’d be willing to feature your blog posts or videos or make connections via your social media channels. However, how you go about promoting your site ultimately comes down to its purpose and end goal. Take your target audience into consideration, consider what outlets they follow, and narrow down the ones that are suitable for your brand. In addition, be persistent and friendly, and make sure your site is offering high-quality content, and you should be able to build lasting relationships with people in your industry. How to Use Paid Traffic to Grow Your Site Organic traffic is vital, but it’s not the only way to bring in more visitors to your site. As you might expect, paid traffic refers to any visits that are generated through sources you pay for. This can include advertisements, sponsored content, professional partnerships, and so on. One prominent example is Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising. This is a type of ad that appears alongside Google search results for terms that are relevant to your site. As the name suggests, every time a user clicks on one of these ads to visit your site, you’re charged a small fee. Since the subject of how to get started with paid traffic is vast and complex, we’ll have to return to it another day. However, let’s quickly run through some of the most common ways to generate paid traffic: Ads and banners. These are the ads you often see on the tops and sides of web pages. They can be highly visible, although they are commonly interfered with by ad blockers. Sponsored content. This is sometimes known as advertorials and refers to articles and other posts that look like standard content but are actually paid marketing. Paid search results. Services like Bing Ads and Google AdWords can help your ads appear above the search results for specific keywords. Social media ads. These are sponsored posts that appear alongside the regular content in feeds and before videos. Influencer marketing. This refers to when an influencer in a particular field markets your product or brand in their content. It’s vital to note that paid traffic is just as legitimate as organic traffic. In fact, most sites will rely on a combination of both to get new visitors at a regular pace. No matter what your budget and purpose are, you should now have a much clearer idea of how to market your website to get that all-important traffic rolling in! Traffic Jam Getting eyes on your site is arguably the single most important reason to have one in the first place. If nobody knows about your website or understands why they should visit, your hard work will have been wasted and your revenue will likely suffer. As such, you’ll need to construct a strong marketing strategy, and consider which methods you should use to raise awareness of your site. Do you have any questions about marketing your website to increase traffic? Join the DreamHost Community and let’s start the conversation! The post The Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Your Website and Increasing Traffic appeared first on DreamHost.

How to Start a Website (Without Using WordPress)

Here at DreamHost, we love WordPress. However, when it comes to creating a website, it’s far from your only option. In fact, depending on your site’s purpose and focus, you may find there are solutions that are even better suited to your needs. There are numerous tools and platforms out there. If you’re building a specific type of site, one of these options can sometimes be better than the one-size-fits-all package that WordPress offers. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the alternative solutions you can use to create your website. We’ll look at a few different types of sites, and talk about which platforms and tools could be the most useful for creating them. Let’s get started! Why You Might Want to Look Beyond WordPress First of all, let’s make one thing very clear: WordPress is terrific! It offers a tremendous amount of flexibility and customization, while remaining of the most user-friendly website creation platforms. What’s more, you can effectively use WordPress to create any conceivable type of site. It wouldn’t be used to run over 31 percent of all websites if it weren’t up to the task. While its comprehensive functionality and enormous popularity certainly make it a top contender when you want to create a new site, WordPress isn’t necessarily the ideal option in every situation. There may be times when another tool or platform could serve you better, depending on your site’s goal, scope, and requirements. For instance, while WordPress has made huge steps away from being a dedicated blogging platform, a lot of its functionality and interface is still built around blogs and content-focused sites. Perhaps you’d be better served with a platform designed for e-commerce or single-page sites (as the case may be). WordPress can also be fairly involved, especially if you just want to create a quick, lightweight site, or one that doesn’t need to be updated very often. In those cases, you might not want to worry about installing the required software and setting up hosting — you just want to get started fast. No matter the situation, there are plenty of alternative platforms right at your fingertips. However, finding the perfect one for your site can be tricky. Let’s make your search easier by sharing some of our favorites! How to Create a Website (Without Using WordPress) Throughout the rest of this post, we’re going to look at several types of websites and introduce some non-WordPress solutions you could use to create them. We don’t consider any of the following tools to be better or worse than WordPress per se — they’re simply alternatives. Each has its own unique features and intended uses. Naturally, this is also not a complete list of options but merely an overview of the most prominent choices in each category. By going through this list, you should be able to find a tool that matches your preferences. 1. Content-Rich Websites Joomla! Conversely, you might actually want a complete Content Management System (CMS) but feel that WordPress doesn’t offer the level of complexity you desire. In that case, Joomla!may be right for you. Joomla! functions in much the same way as WordPress but offers increased scalability and flexibility. This makes it ideally suited for more ambitious projects, such as sites with high levels of traffic, a large number of pages, or heightened security and performance needs. It also offers more advanced configuration options for developers, if you want greater control over your site’s structure and functionality. Since Joomla! is free and open source, you can download and install it on your site right away. This is even easier if your site is hosted with DreamHost since we offer Joomla! as a one-click install option. 2. Online Stores Magento If you want a complete e-commerce solution that lets you create your own online store but doesn’t require any additional software, then Magento is for you. Magento is a CMS that’s 100 percent focused on e-commerce. As such, it lets you create your own scalable and customizable storefront without having to worry about anything else. Magento also comes packed with built-in caching to ensure speedy pages and multi-site support right out of the box. This means that you can run multiple stores from one place and can even split your store between different regions. To try out Magento, you can download the free Open Source version. You can also purchase the Commerce edition, which is ideal for enterprise sites and large businesses. Shopify Shopify makes it easy to start your own online store — even if you have no prior experience. This makes it a strong choice if you want to create and customize a store but don’t want to worry about the technical side or getting your own hosting. Shopify’s main competitor is WooCommerce, and the two have their own unique pros and cons. While WooCommerce is a plugin that requires a WordPress site to function, Shopify is entirely independent. However, if you do want to integrate Shopify into your existing website, DreamHost makes that easy. To get started with Shopify, you can sign up for one of its plans. These start at $29 per month for a basic store. Etsy If your store is not necessarily a professional endeavor or is small in scope, you may find most e-commerce solutions somewhat daunting. Etsy is a site that focuses more on individual products than on providing a full commercial framework. You simply list products individually on Etsy, which gives you total control over how big you want your e-commerce venture to be. For example, you can sell single one-off items, such as antiques, or even create products to order. Payment is also simple. Etsy will cost you $0.20 per listing. Additional transaction and payment processing fees do apply but only when you make a sale, meaning you can get started without much risk. 3. Portfolios and CVs Behance Behance lets you combine key aspects of a portfolio site with the advantages of social media. In short, it enables you to create a profile to showcase your work, which other users can discover and comment on. This not only lets you show off your creations but also makes it easy to network and find new partners and collaborators. While this comes at the cost of customizability, as you don’t have many options to change the style of your gallery and page, the social features more than make up for it. If you just want an outlet to showcase what you’ve produced and to connect with others, Behance makes this easy. To get started, you can sign up for a free account. If you already have an Adobe account, you can even use that to create your profile. About.me These days, most internet users have information spread across multiple platforms and sites. What About.me offers is a way to create a simple page that collects all of your information and links to your various profiles in one place. This is ideal for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and creatives, as it functions almost like an online business card. You can style your page, add links and information, and top it all off with a Call To Action (CTA). Creating a page on About.me is free. If you want to expand it with additional features, such as statistics and custom domains, you can get the Pro plan, which costs $8 per month or $80 annually. 4. Membership Sites Drupal Alt text: The Drupal homepage. Drupal is another open-source CMS that enables you to create virtually any site you can imagine. However, Drupal’s main selling point is that it’s more advanced and powerful than many of its competitors. It’s perfect for complex sites with large amounts of traffic and intricate structures, such as membership sites. This is largely thanks to Drupal’s flexibility, and the number of options it provides developers to configure each site. To get started, you can download and install the free Drupal software on your site. You can then install the Membership Entity module to start building your membership site. Wild Apricot Wild Apricot is one of the most comprehensive solutions for creating a membership site. The software includes features that let you create member sign-up forms, profile pages, event registration pages, calendars, and much more. The best part is that you can either use Wild Apricot to create a site from scratch or integrate it into WordPress. This lets you get the most out of its features, while still enjoying the advantages WordPress provides. You can try Wild Apricot for 30 days by signing up for a free trial. If you decide to buy, the premium plans start at $40 per month. 5. Simple Sites Persona Whether you want to promote something, like a product, service, or event, or you simply want to create a striking design, a single-page site can do the trick. Persona is one tool that will make that one page really stand out. You can choose from a number of templates, each more visually impressive than the last, and then add your own content. As you can see from the showcase, there are many types of pages that you can easily create with this very simple tool. Persona will let you create a site for free, but it won’t be publically available unless you purchase an upgrade. This either costs $4 per month or $24 annually. Instapage If you’re looking to create a landing page or you intend to market a product, business, or service, Instapage gives you all the tools you need. It features a drag-and-drop page builder that makes it easy to create personalized landing pages. One of the most useful aspects of Instapage is how it lets multiple team members collaborate on a page. This enables users to review and edit the page together, while also adding comments for each other. Plus, Instapage includes features like A/B testing and pixel tracking, to help you track your site’s performance. You can use the free trial to try Instapage for 14 days. After that, you’ll need to purchase a premium plan, which starts at $79 per month. Remixer Naturally, we can’t wrap this up without mentioning Remixer, our very own website builder. Remixer gives you access to several templates you can use to quickly create a single-page site, complete with images, plenty of details, and distinct sections you can customize to fit your requirements. In short, you don’t need any code to create a landing page that’s professional and purpose-built. Remixer works just as well if you want to promote a product, showcase your business, or provide information about an event. To make this process even easier, you can use the Remixer Create feature to build your site in just a few minutes, with no code or design work needed. To get started with Remixer, you can either get the Standard plan, which starts at $7.95 per month or the All Access plan for $10.95 per month. However, if you already have shared hosting with DreamHost, Remixer is included for free! You’ve Got Platform Options WordPress is a terrific choice for almost any website. There’s a reason it currently powers nearly a third of all websites, after all. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s the right option for every occasion or that you can’t find a more dedicated solution for your site. In fact, several alternatives may suit your requirements better. In this article, we’ve looked at many different website types, such as blogs, e-commerce stores, and membership sites, to help you find solutions for creating your website. Which platform you end up using will always depend entirely on your requirements, preferences, and level of expertise. However, there’s bound to be a solution listed here that fits your needs. Do you have any thoughts on the platforms we’ve talked about here, or do you want to recommend another solution? Join the DreamHost Community and let us know! The post How to Start a Website (Without Using WordPress) appeared first on DreamHost.

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