DreamHost Blog

How to Design a Logo for Your Website That Visitors Will Love

Every website you visit — even the simplest ones — are made from dozens of elements. Most sites have sidebars, images, headers, buttons, and so on, and each of those design elements plays a role. However, few are as important as a site’s logo, as it’s often what grabs visitors’ attention. A quality logo should do more than just look good. It needs to represent your brand identity, demonstrate to your audience that you’re running a professional website, and let visitors know what to expect. Of course, if your logo also happens to stand out visually on top of all that, that’s even better. In this article, we’ll talk about why you need a logo and discuss what makes one effective. Then we’ll introduce examples of five different types of logos and talk about how you can create a logo for your website. Let’s get to work! Why Your Website Needs a Logo Logos are an essential part of web design. However, you’ll notice that not every website you visit bears a logo. In many cases, people will just showcase their site’s name and call it a day. Just because a site is lacking a logo doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t worth your time. However, it’s an indicator that the owner or company might not be thinking about branding. At the most fundamental level, logos are a visual representation of your business. However, they fulfill a larger purpose than just sitting there and looking pretty. Here are some of the ways a professionally-designed logo can impact your website: Over time, customers and clients will come to associate your website and its content with your logo. You can use your logo to quickly identify all of your site’s social media accounts. A logo gives you the opportunity to demonstrate what your site is about to newcomers. Visual branding can make your site look more professional (if done well). We’re willing to bet that most of your favorite websites and brands have attention-grabbing logos. In fact, those logos are probably one of the first things you picture when you think about prominent sites and companies. Effective logos don’t have to be flashy, either. Consider Twitter’s logo, for example. This is a simple image, yet there are few people who wouldn’t recognize it today. That’s powerful branding in action. Creating a unique logo is one of your best strategies for helping your website stand out from all the others. Be Awesome on the InternetJoin our monthly newsletter for tips and tricks to build your dream website!Sign Me Up The Essential Elements of a Standout Logo There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to logo design. If you hire four professional designers to help you come up with ideas, you’ll probably get four very different results. That’s OK, since logos should be unique. However, there are some fundamental things you should keep in mind when creating or commissioning a logo for your website: You’ll want to use your brand colors, so the logo’s ‘look’ fits with the rest of your design. It should be easy to understand or read at a glance. The design should be targeted towards your core audience. The first two points are straightforward. After all, you don’t want your logo to look out of place on your site or have potential customers be unable to make out what it says. The third element is a bit trickier, however, because it requires you to have a solid understanding of who your core audience is. Let’s say, for example, that you run a cooking blog. In that scenario, you may want to incorporate some cooking-related elements within your logo’s design. Knives, pots and pans, and aprons would all make excellent choices. While these may seem a little on the nose, they let visitors know right away what your blog is about. That being said, you should also feel free to experiment with your logo’s design. In our experience, it’s pretty rare to be happy with the first design you see. If you’re going to hire someone to help you create a memorable logo, you should consider multiple options before you settle on a favorite. Of course, you can always change your logo down the road. However, there’s a reason successful websites and companies often stick with the same logos for decades. Switching logos usually involves a full rebranding strategy, which takes a lot of time and effort. So you’ll want to get it right the first time if possible. 5 Types of Logos You Can Use on Your Website Logos come in all shapes and kinds. However, we can break down most types of logo designs into five basic categories. Let’s start at the top! 1. Emblems Emblem logos are some of the most common designs you’ll find both online and offline. An emblem is made up of one or more symbols or icons, combined with stylized text. Harley Davidson, for example, uses a crest-like emblem for its brand. Another unmistakable emblem is the Starbucks logo. Using emblems gives you the opportunity to add text to your logo design. Emblem logos tend to look classic, which makes them a solid pick for businesses and websites that want to establish a sense of professionalism and tradition. 2. Monograms If you’re looking for a clean and classic approach to logo design, then monograms might be up your alley. With the monogram approach, you design your logo based on your website’s initials. Consider Bavarian Motor Works, for example, which you probably know better as BMW. Perhaps the most well-known example of a company using a monogram logo is McDonald’s. We’d be willing to bet that most people in the world can recognize the company’s iconic “M.” Arguably, there’s nothing too special about this logo design. However, its simplicity and bold color choice have helped it become iconic. Monogram logos are all about simplicity. In some cases, people might even end up referring to your website by using its initials, which can make a monogram even more memorable and relevant. 3. Logotypes When most people think about logos, emblems and monograms are the first things that come to mind. However, many logos are constructed by only using text. Of course, that doesn’t mean your logo needs to be boring. Some of the world’s most recognizable designs are simple logotypes, such as Google’s. Most of us use Google on a daily basis, so we’re very familiar with that logo. However, chances are that if you weren’t familiar with the search engine and someone showed you this design, you’d think it was nonsense. Still, Google’s logo succeeds in two key aspects — it’s easy to read, and it makes smart use of bold colors to stand out. If you want another example of a logotype, check out FedEx’s. This happens to be one of our favorite logotypes, due to the way it uses negative space to hide an arrow between the “e” and the “x.” It aptly demonstrates that logotype designs don’t need to be dull. However, if you do choose to go this route, you’ll want to experiment with typography to find a design that doesn’t look like you just typed a word and called it a day. 4. Brand Marks So far, the logotypes we’ve discussed are mostly centered around letters and words. Brand marks, on the other hand, are all about imagery. To illustrate that, let’s take a look at one of the most iconic brand marks around. That is, of course, Apple’s logo. It’s so on the nose that it barely needs an introduction. This is a reflection of both Apple’s popularity and the power of a good logo. With brand marks, you can be as creative as you want. In fact, many companies choose a more abstract approach than Apple did, such as Nike. We know that this is the Nike logo. However, if you weren’t familiar with the company, this image wouldn’t tell you much at all about what it is they do. Still, it conveys a sense of style and speed that’s appropriate to the brand. Ultimately, brand marks are only as good as the company and the products they represent. This is a bold approach to logo design and can pay off in the long term even for websites. Plus, brand marks can work well for any type of web project, since you have free reign over their design. 5. Mascots Last but not least, we can’t forget about mascot-based logos. These days, using mascots in logo designs isn’t as popular as it used to be. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an approach you shouldn’t consider. After all, there are plenty of examples of iconic mascot logos, such as Planters. Another excellent example of a classic mascot design comes from Wendy’s. In this case, the mascot is a person. However, many more mascots are based on animals, fantastical creatures, cartoon characters, and so on. Mascot-based logos can be tricky to get right. However, they are often effective — especially if your website’s target audience is on the younger side. After all, mascots can make your brand seem more playful and accessible. Plus, your mascot can evolve and grow with your brand over time, as long as it remains recognizable. How to Create a Professional-Looking Logo for Your Website (In 4 Steps) Now that you know what your options are, it’s time to get to work! Everyone’s creative process is different, but we can break down the process of creating a logo into four primary phases. Step 1: Brainstorm Ideas for Your Logo Whether you decide to design a logo on your own or hire someone else to do it, the first thing you need to do is come up with some potential ideas. Chances are you already have some vague notion about what you want your logo to look like. However, before you commit to the first idea that comes to mind, here’s what we recommend doing: Check out some of your competitors’ logos to see if they share common themes. Do some research into brands you like and see if any of their logos inspire you. Think about the type of branding you want to use for your website and what your site represents. Naturally, you don’t want to copy what other brands are doing. What you can do is identify websites that have compelling logos, and then make note of the elements they have in common. A skilled graphic designer will be able to take a look at the logos you like and come up with original designs in a similar spirit. If you’re working on your own, checking out other logos can tell you what works and what doesn’t in your website’s niche. With that as a starting point, you should be able to come up with a strong logo more quickly. Step 2: Create a Detailed Brief For this next step, let’s assume that you want to hire someone to design your website’s logo. If that’s the case, you’ll need to give them as much information as possible, so they understand what you want for your website. In other words, you need to put together a simple design brief. Your brief should cover the following points to ensure that the person you hire can bring your vision to life: Some examples of logos you like Information on the colors you want the logo to include What type of typography you’d like to see within your logo An overall idea of the style you’re looking for The text you want as part of your logo (if any) At this stage, you may or may not already have a website up and running. If you do, you should also share it with your designer, so they can figure out what would work with your site’s style. Design can be very subjective so it’s crucial to be as specific as possible if you want to get back high quality results. Step 3: Start the Design Process By now, you have a clear idea of what you want your logo to look like. More importantly, you have documentation you can use to help someone create that logo and come up with a design you love. You now have a critical choice to make — whether you want to hire a designer or try and design the logo yourself. In most cases, we recommend against the latter option, unless you have some experience in graphic design. However, if you want to give it a try, there are a lot of toolsthat can help you design a stylish logo. Assuming that you don’t have much of a background in web design, you’ll probably want to try out a free logo maker. In that case, we’d recommend Canva, which you can use to create all sorts of graphics for the web (including logos). There are, of course, plenty of other online logo creator tools you can try out. However, we can’t recommend enough that you consider hiring a professional designer for this step. Logo design can be somewhat costly for professional work, but it’s an investment that will pay off in spades over the long term. Before you hire anyone, though, make sure to check out their portfolio and see if their past work fits in well with the vision you have for your site’s logo. Professional Website Design Made EasyMake your site stand out with a professional design from our partners at RipeConcepts. Packages start at $299.Get a Free Consultation Step 4: Place the Logo on Your Website Once your custom logo is ready, all that’s left is to upload the final design to your website. You probably don’t need our help with that part of the process. However, it’s important you take this opportunity to review how well your new logo fits in with your website’s design. In some cases, there might be issues that don’t become apparent until you add the logo to your site. If you run into a situation like that, don’t worry — logo designers tend to include revisions in their prices (within reason). If you gave feedback during the design process, your site’s logo will probably come out looking just fine. However, it’s still a good idea to try it on for size, just in case! Make Your Mark When it comes to logos, you can let your creativity run loose. Your logo can be a single letter, a mascot, the classic image and tagline combo, or pretty much anything else you can imagine. What matters is that it represents what your website is all about, and that it’s easy to comprehend at a glance. Do you have any questions about how to come up with the perfect logo idea for your site? Find us on Facebook or Twitter and let’s brainstorm! The post How to Design a Logo for Your Website That Visitors Will Love appeared first on Welcome to the Official DreamHost Blog.

How to Design a Website: 6 Key Tips for Success

Designing a website is easier than it has ever been. Long gone are the days of manual coding and restrictive print-based layouts. Today, almost anyone can create a gorgeous, responsive, functional site in minutes — as long as you know where to start. Fortunately, the basics of website design are relatively easy to understand if you apply some common sense and careful planning. Your goal should always be to create a site that’s not just visually striking but is also easy to navigate and use. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of designing a website and show you how to get started with six key tips. We’ll also introduce you to the Remixer website builder and demonstrate how you can use this tool to create a site quickly and easily. 1. Plan Your Design Thoroughly Before you do anything, you’ll need a concrete and thorough plan. At this stage, you should clearly define your goals and expectations for your site and outline what you hope to accomplish with it. Here are just a few of the questions you’ll want to have clear answers to: Is the site personal or commercial? Do you want it to make money and if so, how? Will you be using advertisements or affiliate marketing? How much traffic are you expecting? Put your thoughts and ideas down on paper and start drawing up a plan. We mean that literally, by the way. A smart method of planning your site is to create sketches of how you want it to look and operate. You should also take everyone’s ideas into account if you’re working with other designers or collaborators. By the end of your planning phase, you should have a blueprint of the site’s top-level framework. This includes a plan for its user interface (UI), sidebars, and other page elements, as well as an idea of how navigation will work. Doing this first will make it much easier to bring your vision to life. 2. Create Your Site’s Visual Identity When you’ve got an idea of what the structure of your site will be, it’s time to look at its appearance. You’ll need to choose the fonts and typography you’ll want to use. If you’re working from an established brand identity, consider how your choices match up to offline materials. It’s also worth exploring how well the fonts you choose work with multiple languages and how effectively they scale up and down on differently-sized screens. You’ll also need to decide on a color scheme. Again, if you’re creating a site based on a brand with an established visual identity, you’ve done most of the hard work already. Otherwise, picking a color scheme requires you to consider color theory and ensure your choices are accessible. Thinking about the ‘feel’ you want your site to have can make this decision easier. Colors represent different emotions and meanings, after all. For example, red is typically seen as an aggressive and impulsive color, while green is associated with health and the environment. You should take time to choose your colors carefully since they can help you create a cohesive visual identity. 3. Consider the Layout and Navigation If you planned ahead as we discussed earlier, this step will be a lot easier. You’ve already considered how navigation will work on your site. It’s now time to dig deeper and think about your visitor’s journey. The visitor’s journey refers to the possible paths that people can take on your website. In other words, you’ll need to consider how users will access other parts of the site from any given page. After all, you won’t always have control over how users first arrive on your site, so you can’t just rely on a homepage to serve as your hub. Navigation needs to be available across your site, and it has to be accessible and easy-to-use. You also need to plan out the layout of each page carefully. To do this, ask yourself what each page on your site is trying to achieve. For example, if you want people to fill out a contact form, you’ll need a strong Call–To-Action (CTA) button. Your CTA should always be prominent and clear. Every element on a page should be designed to promote the overall goal. It’s best to start simple and add elements over time to ensure you aren’t adding unneeded information or features. 4. Pay Attention to the Details When you’ve completed the overall design and layout of your site, it’s time to shrink your scope and focus on the details. These are the seemingly minor things that create the general look and feel of your site, such as buttons, menus, image placements, and so forth. Treat each component on your site as a stand-alone object and give it proper attention. This is the kind of precise work that can seem excessive but will greatly help to refine your site overall. Your goal should be to make the final product better than the sum of its parts, and spending appropriate time and effort on those parts is the best strategy. One way you can make your site ‘pop’ is by adding engaging elements like microinteractions. We’ve previously discussed that these are a popular trend — and for good reason. They help make your site feel more interactive and living since it’s able to respond to the user in small ways. You should also work on avoiding common mistakes, such as bad font rendering and poor color contrast. These are the kinds of issues that are easy to miss if you don’t get up-close with the individual components of your site. For that reason, make sure you give them the attention they require. 5. Prototype and Share Your Design Prototyping is an important part of the design process. A prototype is simply a demo version of your site that you can share with others. It can be presented as images or you can create a static HTML representation of how each page is meant to look with little-to-no functionality. Creating a prototype is an important way to give others an idea of what the site will look like when it’s done. If you’re working for a client, they will naturally want an overview of your plans and the chance to suggest changes. You should, therefore, show them a prototype early on so they can provide feedback. This will save you time down the line, as they won’t be surprised or displeased with your work when it’s nearing completion. One thing to remember: site builders make creating a site so quick and easy that you often don’t need a separate prototype. You’ll be able to quickly put together a new idea and solicit feedback from others without creating a demo (more on this later). Related: Everything You Need to Know About Using a Website Builder 6. Challenge Yourself and Be Willing to Experiment Finally, remember that web design is a creative endeavor, and you should always be willing to challenge yourself. This applies when you’re creating your first website or your 50th. For example, you can consider new ways of approaching a particular design goal. Maybe you’ll experiment with different color schemes, images, or a more accessible navigation layout. This step is more important than it might seem. Not only will it help you to grow as a creator, but it will also give you an extra incentive to find new solutions. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Giving yourself a challenge in each new project is an excellent way to keep yourself focused and invested in your work. One smart way to get started is by finding inspiration in recent design trends. You can consider how you can implement those trends yourself or even improve on them. How to Design a Website With Remixer When it comes time to put the tips we’ve discussed into practice, you’ll need the right tool for the job. With that in mind, allow us to introduce Remixer. This is a website builder that requires no coding and enables you to create your site using an intuitive visual editor. The best thing about Remixer is that it enables anyone, regardless of experience, to create a website using the basics we’ve outlined throughout this article. With Remixer, you don’t need to know your way around HTML, CSS, PHP, or any other coding language to create functional and visually-striking websites. To start using Remixer, you just need to sign up for a free account. When you have signed in, you can start creating your site in two ways. The first is to choose a theme. When you hover over a theme, you can either preview it or select it as your starting point. This will open the Remixer editor, which we’ll look at soon. However, you can also choose the Create option in the upper right-hand corner. This will instead give you the choice of three different types of website. After you select one, you’ll be able to choose your site’s color palette. Remember to consider color psychology when making your decisions. You can select an option to see a preview of how it will look. Next, you can click on the Choose Images link in the bottom right-hand corner of the page. This will enable you to select a series of stock images to use on your site. You will be able to replace these later, so consider them more as a guide for yourself as you design your site’s appearance. Finally, you’ll select Choose Fonts to proceed to the next step. As you might imagine, this is where you’ll pick the fonts to use on your site. Find and select a font pair that matches the visual identity you’ve settled on. When you’re happy with your choices, click Preview Site. You’ll now be shown a snapshot of how your site will look. To preserve your preferences, select Save and edit this site. This will open your site in the Remixer editor, where you can edit its layout and content freely. Remixer is a click-to-edit builder. So to make any changes, you just need to click on an element on the page. For example, to update text, you just need to select it and make changes right in the editor. Other elements, such as images, can be changed with the menu on the left. Select the element you want to manage, and relevant settings will appear in this menu. To add new elements to the page, click the New buttons, which appear between existing sections. This will expand a selector, where you can pick the element you want to add to the page. At this point, you can freely make changes to your site. Every edit will be shown in real-time so it’s easy to experiment and see how your changes will affect the final result. As long as you remember the tips we’ve discussed throughout this article, you should be only a short time away from creating an excellent website with all the functionality you require! Need a Beautiful Website?Design it yourself with Remixer, our easy-to-use website builder. No coding required.Set Up Your Site Ready to Design Your Site? Even if you’ve never touched a line of code in your life, you can still create a great-looking, functional website. All it takes is understanding the basics of what makes a successful site and using an intuitive tool like the Remixer website builder to put it all into practice. The post How to Design a Website: 6 Key Tips for Success appeared first on Welcome to the Official DreamHost Blog.

10 Reasons It’s Important to Perform a Website Backup

There are a lot of things you can do to keep your website safe, from choosing a top-notch web host to using strong passwords. However, the single most important step you can take is to perform website backups — early and often. Having a recent backup of your site can help you in many situations. If you lose crucial data or your website gets hacked, having a backup readily available can solve your problems. Plus, it often doesn’t take more than a few minutes to get that backup file ready. In this article, we’ll walk you through 10 reasons why you should back up your website right away. Let’s get to work! 1. Guard Against Human Error Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. You might delete an important file on your website, make a change that breaks some of its functionality, and so on. There are ways to fix these kinds of errors, but in our experience, few are as efficient as restoring a previous backup. To put this into perspective, imagine that a significant part of your website ceases to work. You have two options: Identify the problem and look for a way to solve it. Restore your website’s most recent backup and move on. The first method can be quick or take a lot of time, depending on how serious the problem is. However, with the second approach, you can have your site up and running quickly. All you need is a recent enough backup that you won’t lose any valuable data. The primary takeaway is that backups can save you in situations where you or someone else makes a mistake on your site. To be as safe as possible, you’ll want to create those backups frequently — even on a daily basis (keep reading to find out how DreamHost makes this process simple). 2. Reverse Problems During Updates Updates are necessary to keep your site functioning smoothly. At the same time, it’s not uncommon to perform an update to your site, only to see something unexpectedly go wrong. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make changes — you just have to go about them safely. Ideally, you’ll have an automatic backup system set up for your site. That way, if you update any of its key components, you’ll have a recent restore point available just in case. It’s also smart to make a manual backup before you start tinkering with your website. It might take you a few minutes or longer to get that backup ready. However, you’ll be happy you made the time if anything goes wrong during the update process. 3. Prevent Loss of Data Imagine that you have a blog with hundreds of posts, and someone on your team deletes one (or more) of them by mistake. In the past, we’ve seen people delete entire libraries of content because they didn’t know what they were doing or they gave certain users too many privileges. One of the primary reasons to maintain a backup system is to ensure that your data will be safe, even in situations like the one described above. That means you need to have a full backup of your site in place, and the same goes for your personal data as well. What’s more, data loss can occur even if there’s no human error involved. That means having backups is essential, even if you and your team know what you’re doing. If you’re worried about losing important data, we recommend you take things one step further. Not only should you have multiple backups available, but you should also avoid keeping them all stored in the same location. We recommend uploading your latest backups to the cloud, as well as keeping a copy on your server for redundancy’s sake. 4. Handle Compatibility Issues After New Installations If you use WordPress or any other Content Management System (CMS), then you probably rely a lot on add-ons, such as themes and plugins. Both types of tools can be incredibly handy. However, each time you install a new add-on, you’re introducing an element that might not play nicely with the rest of the site’s ecosystem. Just as with updates, this doesn’t mean you should avoid plugins and themes. Instead, what you need to do is be careful about the ones you install. Make sure they have good reviews and ratings, and that the developers update them frequently. You’ll also want to back up your website before you activate a new theme or WordPress plugin, just to be safe. With this approach, if a compatibility issue pops up, all you have to do is revert to a previous backup. Then, you’re free to install an alternative tool. 5. Resolve Malware Infections A lot of people think of malware as something that can only affect personal computers. However, a surprising number of websites are infected with some kind of malware, and a lot more of them are vulnerable to it. Even if you’re proactive about website security, attackers have highly-sophisticated techniques in their arsenals. Also, keep in mind that not even smaller, lesser-known websites are safe from attacks. WordPress users, for example, often face threats from bots looking for vulnerabilities they can exploit. Troubleshooting malware can be particularly tricky since it’s hard to know when your site is fully clean. Even then, if you don’t identify and patch the security ‘hole’ that led to the infection, you’ll remain vulnerable. Having a backup ready to go will help you get your website clean faster. 6. Provide Protection Against Hackers There may also be times when attackers try to access your site directly to deface it or steal important information. If someone manages to breach an account with administrative privileges, for example, they might change its credentials to lock you out of your site. This shouldn’t happen if you take the right security precautions. It’s especially critical to have Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) enabled on your site. If there is a hack, however, there are three ways you can proceed: Try to recover access to your account through your email. Contact your web hosting provider to ask for their assistance. Restore a backup from your hosting panel. The first option might not always work since attackers will probably change the email associated with the account right away. If you’re using a reputable web host, the company should be able to help you — but that can take time. Restoring a backup, on the other hand, can help you regain control of your site quickly. Once you do, you can update your credentials to ensure that attackers are locked out once more. 7. Simplify the Process of Migrating Web Hosts In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need to switch web hosts. However, a lot of people make the mistake of choosing the first provider they run into that looks decent. That usually ends up about as well as an episode of 90 Day Fiancé and often leads to messy separations. This means you may need to migrate from one web host to another at some point. The process involves moving all of your site’s files from one server to another. The good news is that if you’ve taken our advice to heart, you already have multiple full copies of your website ready to go. There are a lot of ways you can use backups to migrate your website. You can copy files manually, use dedicated tools, or ask your new provider to do it for you. In any case, having a backup ready means that you can switch web hosts at a moment’s notice if you need to, which gives you a lot of freedom. 8. Make It Easy to Create a Testing Version of Your Website Whenever you want to make a significant change to your site, the safest way to do so is by using a testing environment. That way, if something goes wrong during or after the update, you can keep it from affecting your live website. To do this, you’ll need what’s called a staging site. There are several ways you can go about creating one, and they’re all pretty straightforward. What’s more, having a recent backup of your site in place means you can be ready to set up a staging copy in minutes. 9. Ensure an Uninterrupted Revenue Stream If you make money from your website, then you need to ensure that it’s always accessible. Every minute that it isn’t working can cost you money. Just to give you an idea of the stakes, Amazon estimated that a little downtime during its Prime Day event cost it anywhere between $72–99 million. If you run a small business, you’re probably not working with those kinds of numbers. However, that means it’s even more important not to lose out on any potential earnings due to problems with your website. An hour’s (or a day’s!) lost income can be a significant blow to any business. Troubleshooting unexpected problems from scratch can take a lot of time, as we mentioned before. On the other hand, if you can restore a backup, you’ll get your website back online and earning money quickly. Then you can take your time to find out what went wrong in the first place and keep it from happening again. 10. Foster Strong Security Practices If we had a dollar for every time we recommended that website owners back up their data, we’d be millionaires. However, if you took a dollar away for every time someone ignored that advice, we might break even. The fact is that backups are about as versatile as sliced bread. Plus, you have so many options for how to back up your site that there’s no excuse not to do it. Backing up your data, in general, is the cornerstone of good digital security. If you take your website seriously, you’ll also want to read up on the other best security practices you can implement. However, the first step is to create a backup right away and repeat the process often. Sooner or later, it will save your site so now’s the perfect moment to start. How to Perform a Website Backup As we’ve mentioned, there are a lot of ways you can back up your website. Some web hosts will do it for you and others enable you to create backups on demand from your control panel. If you prefer a more manual approach, you can copy your files using File Transfer Protocol (FTP) or set up a backup plugin. Whatever strategy you use is fine as long as you have multiple backups and you create them often. For maximum security, we recommend keeping several duplicate backups in different locations. That way, even if you lose one, you’ll have a backup of your backup. That’s about as safe as you can get. If you’re a DreamPress user, then you’re in good hands! We back up your website automatically for you daily. Plus, thanks to a recent update you can now create backups on demand via your control panel, whenever you like. You can also restore your backups just as quickly, in case you encounter any of the situations we’ve described in this post. Always Be Prepared “Make a backup” is one of the most often heard pieces of advice when it comes to digital security. If you back up your site regularly, you’ll have a quick fix in case anything goes wrong. For example, having a backup can save you a lot of headaches if you have to perform troubleshooting or recover lost data. Do you have any questions about how to perform website backups? Join the DreamHost Community today, and let’s discuss! The post 10 Reasons It’s Important to Perform a Website Backup appeared first on Welcome to the Official DreamHost Blog.

Master/Slave: Addressing Problematic Coding Terms in the Open-Source Community

The coding world is full of weird terms. You have back ends, tags, frameworks, and plenty more. However, while some words and phrases might sound odd until you get used to them, they usually aren’t offensive. There are some rare exceptions, however, such as the frequent use of master and slave. It goes almost without saying that those are two potentially problematic words, due to their historical connotations. However, they’re still widely used in developer circles and multiple coding languages. In fact, their use is so built-in that most people have never stopped to think about the terms. Today, we’re going to talk more about these two problematic coding terms. We’ll discuss the controversy around their use, introduce the debate over the possibility of replacing them, and explain what some open-source teams are doing to tackle the issue. Let’s talk terminology! The Existence of Problematic Coding Terms in Open-Source Coding As we mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of controversy regarding the use of the terms master and slave within the open-source community. Usually, these terms refer to a communications model where one element has full control over a second one. For example, you can have master and slave databases, with the master being primary. If you’re not a part of the tech community, this might seem a little odd. We all know the meaning of both words, as well as their historical context. However, these terms have been around for a while, and most people who use them never question it or give them much thought at all. At the same time, for a while now some people have pointed out that their use could be problematic. We can find references as far back as 2004 to the controversy around this issue. During that year, the Global Language Monitor Initiative selected the master/slave coupling as the most egregious example of politically-incorrect terminology. Ever since then, there’s been a lot of discussion within open-source projects about the possibility of replacing both words.much time in developer circles. However, a lot of interesting arguments have been made about it To be honest, this whole affair might sound like it’s blown out of proportion if you don’t spend over the past decade, which is worth considering. Why There’s a Controversy About the Terms Master and Slave When the terms master and slave are used in the open-source community, they’re not referring to people. If that were the case, we could pack up this discussion quickly, since just about everyone would agree we’d need to come up with less offensive terminology. Instead, those terms are used to refer to elements such as databases, drives, and more. That brings us to the reasons some people are against replacing the terms master and slave, which we can sum up in a couple of points: Both terms have been around for a while, so it doesn’t make any sense to replace them. In the tech world, the words aren’t used in an offensive context. For some people, master and slave are just words, and the idea that we should discourage their use within coding seems like a waste of time. From a practical standpoint, it’s hard to argue against those points. However, if we’re being practical, then it’s also worth pointing out that replacing those terms wouldn’t affect projects in terms of functionality. Moreover, the argument that we should stick to using the same words because we’ve always done so isn’t particularly persuasive. As a society, it’s become normal for us to discourage the use of offensive terminology, even if that change takes time. It would be a simple matter to choose replacement words that are far less charged and start using them instead. That brings us to the core of the debate, which is whether a word by itself can be offensive regardless of context. Some people would argue that changing the terms master and slave sets a bad precedent since there will always be words that others find offensive. Slippery slope debates aside, though, it’s hard to argue against the fact that these two terms, in particular, have clearly negative connotations. All in all, it’s important to consider that while these words might not affect you personally, they can have a lot of impact on other people and the way they think. The open-source community is built around collaboration, so if we can improve the environment and make it more friendly to all by replacing a couple of words, then it might make sense to do so. Related: 12 Questions with Accessibility Expert Gian Wild How Open-Source Projects Are Discouraging the Use of Problematic Coding Terms The debate around the terms master and slave has been around for so long that several companies have already taken steps to address it. IBM and Microsoft, for example, use the words primary and replica when referring to databases within their documentation. As for open-source projects, Python, Drupal, and Django have already excised the terms from their documentation entirely. Python went the same route as Microsoft and IBM, using primary and replica. Django, on the other hand, opted to implement the terms leader and follower. Those are just the most high-profile examples we could find. There are also a lot of smaller projects that have taken steps to address the controversy. What’s more, the fact that several big players in the tech world agree that the use of these terms is worth taking seriously sends a clear signal that others will likely follow suit. In the end, whether to replace the terms master and slave is a personal decision for each developer. If you’re part of an open-source project, consensus can be harder to reach. However, it may be for the best that we move towards replacing these terms within developer circles. After all, the open-source ethos is one of accessibility for all, which is hard to achieve when commonly-used terms can turn away a segment of the potential community. Related: How to Design an LGBTQ-Inclusive Website Do You Think Problematic Coding Terms Should Be Changed? The terms master and slave are common when it comes to computing. For many people, the words don’t carry negative connotations, since they have very specific meanings within the IT world. However, it’s impossible to deny their historical weight. With that in mind, there will always be people who find the casual use of both terms within coding to be problematic. Although changing the terms we use in coding can seem inconvenient, it’s both possible and relatively simple. The fact that several well-known projects such as Python and Drupal are taking action to eliminate the use of master and slave is already a big step. Getting rid of those terms is not only a good PR move, but it also makes the community more friendly to those who might find them personally offensive. Do you think it makes sense to replace problematic coding terms in the language of software development? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter. The post Master/Slave: Addressing Problematic Coding Terms in the Open-Source Community appeared first on Welcome to the Official DreamHost Blog.

How to Warm Up Your Website This Winter: 9 Hot Marketing Ideas

Hard truth: If you don’t keep trying out new marketing angles for your website and business, you run the risk of losing your audience’s attention. That’s why it’s a smart idea to always be brainstorming fresh ideas. And at no time is this more relevant than at the beginning of the year. Every season brings new marketing opportunities along with it. By paying attention to the latest trends, you can find plenty of ways to bring in more traffic to your website. That way, you’ll start the new year with your best foot forward and avoid a winter lull in conversions. In this article, we’ll go over nine marketing ideas to help you revitalize your website for the new year. We’ll talk about why each one works and how to go about implementing it. Let’s get right to it! 1. Hold a Product or Service Giveaway The easiest way to get people’s attention is to give them something for free. That holds true both in the physical world and online. The only difference is that giving away digital products or services can be a lot easier and cheaper. One very common (but effective) approach is to give away a free e-book in exchange for visitors’ emails. This is an excellent strategy because it doesn’t cost you anything to distribute an e-book as many times as you want. On top of that, you can easily automate the giveaway process using a modern email marketing platform. However, it may not always be feasible for you to put together an e-book, depending on what your website’s niche is. For example, if you run an online store, it might make more sense to give away products instead. In that scenario, you can lower the expense involved by holding a giveaway for a limited number of users. This lets you drum up enthusiasm, without having to give out a lot of free items. Regardless of what type of website you’re running, giveaways are a great way to get more sign-ups or to encourage users to share your pages. Here’s a quick breakdown of the process involved: Come up with a product (digital or physical) that you can give away. Determine the logistics of distributing the product. Put a time limit on the promotion so there’s a sense of urgency to drive conversions. In our experience, you can even get amazing results with e-book giveaways. This brings us to the next technique. 2. Compile Your Content Into an E-book As we mentioned before, e-books are a fantastic way to drum up interest and conversions for your website. However, writing a book (even a short one) is never easy. It takes time, patience, knowledge, and at least some talent to create a product people will want to read. The good news is that if you run a website with a lot of published content — such as a blog — you might already have a book on your hands. If you’ve written a lot of WordPress tutorials, for example, you could compile them into one e-book divided into chapters, to create an ultimate resource. With this type of e-book ready to go, you can launch new marketing initiatives, such as: Publishing about the new resource on all your social media pages. Holding a giveaway for new email sign-ups, as we covered in the last section. Publishing the book to digital channels, such as Amazon, and including links back to your site. In fact, nothing is stopping you from doing all of the above, since we’re talking about a digital product. With that in mind, take a look and see if you can repurpose some of your existing content into an e-book on a particular subject. While you’re at it, you might even add some new content as well, to increase the e-book’s value for your long-time readers. 3. Target Seasonal Keywords Within Your Content As the new year gets started, with it comes the perfect opportunity to publish targeted content. Just to give you an idea, here’s what comes up if you look for “best smartphones” using Google at the beginning of the year. As you can see, all the top results are time-based. This is the time of year when people are looking for the best products and content from the past year, and the most exciting newcomers for the upcoming year. Therefore, this is the perfect chance to publish a roundup of the best smartphones for 2019 or whatever fits your specific niche. Of course, the rest of the year also comes with plenty of opportunities for this kind of content. Here are some quick examples: The best new backpacks for going back to school Top 10 flip-flops to welcome the summer 8 heated toilet seats to stay warm during the winter Feel free to steal one of these ideas, and if you can make it work, kudos to you! In any case, you can apply the same formula to any season of the year, and even to special events in your area. 4. Ask Visitors to Donate to a Charity (Or Do It Yourself) These days, it’s become common for people to donate to charities or individuals online. That’s the entire concept behind sites such as GoFundMe and GlobalGiving. If you want to earn some karma points while also getting more eyes on your website, one great way to do so is by raising money for charity. Usually, you’ll do this by picking out a specific charity to support — something that’s relevant to your niche and audience. Then you reach out to your site’s visitors, your email list, and so on, asking them to donate money and explaining why it’s worth their time. Along with simply being a good thing to do, this kind of initiative has the potential to spread and raise awareness, as people are more likely to share it on social media. That, in turn, can bring new visitors to your website (and improve the effectiveness of the charity drive) Just remember that whatever approach you decide to take with your donation drive, make sure to include social sharing icons. That way, visitors will be able to share your post or the donation page with just a couple of clicks. 5. Offer Special Deals for the New Year The holiday season is packed with special offers and discounts. However, there’s no reason you can’t keep the party going in the new year, so to speak. In fact, many people will appreciate special deals more once the holidays are over, and they can focus on getting ready for the new year. On top of that, ‘new year deals’ are perfect if you run a store and need to get rid of extra stock from the holiday rush. This same approach can apply to many other types of sites. If you sell services online, for example, you might see a lull in business around the new year.  However, you can counteract that effect by offering a discount to bring in new business. If you want to take things a step further, you can even offer discounts for referrals. This approach not only keeps your existing users happy, but it can also help you market your business to new clients. 6. Retarget Your Ads Targeted ads can be relatively expensive. However, if you sell products or services online, they can also be highly effective at driving conversions. These days, you can even ‘retarget’ people who have visited your website but didn’t convert, so you get a second shot at convincing them. If you run ads on Facebook, for example, you can use the Facebook pixel to target users who visited your website but didn’t add items to their shopping cart or failed to go through with a purchase. That’s just one type of retargeting, however. You might also focus on cross-checking users who have signed up to your email list, and sending ads to them through social media. This may sound invasive, but as long as your ads are tasteful, retargeting enables you to market your website to people you already know are interested. That means all you have to do is persuade them to follow their instincts and give you a chance. 7. Create Videos to Accompany Your Content Not all people like to consume content in the same way. You might be more partial to written posts, for example, whereas others prefer to watch YouTube videos, listen to podcasts, and so on. This means that if you focus your website on a single type of content, you could be losing out on a much broader potential audience. To avoid that scenario, you can create complementary content in a different format — in this case, video. Creating video content from scratch isn’t a walk in the park, of course. However, there are some simpler approaches you can take, such as: Creating video versions of existing posts, either by recording yourself or using stock graphics Developing video summaries of some of your latest or most popular content Doing video interviews that might not translate well as regular articles No matter how you do it, putting together high-quality videos for your website does require some work and budget. However, the upside is that you can post the finished videos both to your site and to third-party platforms. If you add them to YouTube, for example, and include links back to your website, you’ll be opening up a whole new marketing channel. 8. Consider Creating a Podcast If you’re not interested in creating videos to market your content, there are other mediums you can dip your toes into. Podcasts, for example, have never been as popular as they are right now. Millions of people listen to podcasts weekly and most of them follow several. If you’re up to creating your own podcast and committing to releasing new episodes periodically, then you can tap into a huge potential source of traffic. There are several upsides to going with the podcast approach instead of video, such as: There’s a lower barrier to entry since you only need basic recording equipment. Podcast listeners are used to long-form content, so you can do more in-depth takes. You can launch your podcast on multiple third-party platforms, such as Spotify. To be fair, creating a podcast isn’t as easy as just picking up a microphone and talking your listeners’ ears off. If you want to sound professional, you’ll probably need to work out a script in advance for each episode. Plus, you may need to invest in better recording equipment than just a headset, if you want to maintain a high level of quality. 9. Talk About Hot Topics in Your Industry One of the most effective ways to market your website to a broader audience is to become a go-to source for news within your niche. Let’s say, for example, that you like to blog about WordPress. If that’s the case, you’ll know that writing about the new Gutenberg editor was a great way to attract traffic during the past year: Trends change, of course, and what’s a hot topic right now might not be relevant in a couple of months. This means that if you want to stay relevant, you always need to be on the lookout for new stories and content that will interest your audience. To do this, you’ll want to keep up-to-date with the latest news in your site’s niche. That means following competitors’ sites, subscribing to journals, keeping an eye on feeds, checking up on social media profiles, and so on. The more up-to-date you are with the latest happenings, the more marketing opportunities you’ll be likely to spot. Buh-Bye, Winter Blues The new year always brings change with it, and that should apply to your website as well. In other words, this is the perfect time to try out some fresh marketing initiatives. That way, you’ll have an easier time keeping old visitors engaged and bringing in new ones at a faster rate. Will you be making any changes to your website over the next few months? Tell us what you have planned on Facebook and Twitter! The post How to Warm Up Your Website This Winter: 9 Hot Marketing Ideas appeared first on Welcome to the Official DreamHost Blog.

How to Start a WordPress Blog: A Comprehensive Guide

Blogs have become a ubiquitous part of the online landscape. Most internet users and companies have one, and that’s no coincidence. However, while creating a blog is easier than it’s ever been, building one that draws traffic and can actually make you money requires both planning and effort. In most cases, this investment is well worth it. A blog can be an extension to an existing marketing strategy and can also be a lucrative method for making money online. Even if you don’t monetize your blog, it can be creatively and professionally useful for both individuals and businesses. In this comprehensive guide, we’re going to take you through all the steps required to create a successful blog using WordPress: Identify Your Blog’s Subject and Niche Name Your Blog Choose a Platform for Your Blog Purchase Web Hosting and a Domain from DreamHost Install WordPress Tweak Your Blog’s Appearance with a Theme Customize Your Blog With Plugins Brainstorm Blog Topics Write Your First Post Optimize Your Posts for Search Engines Set a Schedule (And Stick to It) Create a Style Guide Market and Share Your Posts Monetize Your Blog We’ll cover everything from coming up with a name and installing your site, to writing your first post and sharing it with others. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started! A Brief History of Blogs Do you remember your first blog post? Maybe it was a slightly fumbling introduction to yourself, or a public diary entry about an event that had happened to you. It might even have been something more ambitious, like a review of a recent purchase. Alternately, maybe you haven’t written one yet. Whatever your personal experience with them might be, blogs have been a staple of internet culture ever since the ’90s. In the decades since, they have evolved from mostly aimless public diaries to encompass many different niches and goals. This expansion was bolstered by the rise of blogging platforms, which let those with no knowledge of HTML and File Transfer Protocol (FTP) create their own ‘weblogs,’ as they were then known. The most notable of these at the time was Open Diary, but it was soon followed by new blogging platforms like LiveJournal and Blogger. This explosion of tools led to a rise in new bloggers, which culminated in the early 2000s. Even with the rise of social media, blogs still stand strong as a medium. Their purpose has shifted, of course, and most ‘online journal’ blogs have largely been usurped by the less time-consuming and more direct alternatives of Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. However, the blog has evolved, and creating one today can still offer many creative and commercial benefits. The Benefits of Running Your Own Blog Today The reasons you may want to start a blog will differ radically, depending on what your goals and intended focus are. In the same vein, the ultimate benefits of blogging to you will be individually determined. For instance, if you want to run a journal-style blog, you may just be looking to express yourself in an open and honest way. Perhaps you have a cause you want to discuss in more depth or a particular subject matter that you’re passionate about. You might even just want an outlet to vent about your worries, which can help you clear your mind and promote progress in your everyday life. A blog can also be an excellent opportunity to express yourself creatively. You could use it to publish your writing, including reviews, short stories, or even poems. This can not only motivate you to keep improving your writing, but can also help to grow your audience. Some bloggers have even managed to turn their blogging into careers as published writers. However, as we mentioned earlier, blogging is not only for personal or creative use. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that many businesses have their own company blogs. This includes most giant international corporations like Google, Facebook, and Starbucks. However, smaller businesses also use blogs to grow their audiences, post updates about their services, and provide value to their readers. Of course, while we’re clearly fans of blogging, that doesn’t mean it’s free from potential problems and difficulties. For one, your blog requires a considerable investment of time and effort to be successful. There are also plenty of common blogging mistakes you’ll want to avoid, such as having an irregular posting schedule, using a site with long loading times, and most importantly, writing sub-par content. Even so, these are almost all issues you can avoid. If you take the time to plan, create a well-performing site, and work on improving your writing, you’ll be well-equipped to run a blog people will genuinely enjoy reading. How to Start a WordPress Blog (In 14 Steps) In order to improve the odds that your blog doesn’t languish in obscurity, we’re going to take you through the entire process of setting it up, from start to finish, with step-by-step instructions. Let’s get this blog on the road! Step 1: Identify Your Blog’s Subject and Niche First and foremost, you’ll need to decide what your blog should be about. Chances are you already have at least a vague idea of what the subject matter will be. However, it’s necessary to determine not only what general topics you’ll tackle, but also how and for whom. This will help define your blog’s identity and make it easier for you to tailor its content to your intended audience. A perfect starting point is to consider your own interests. What kind of topics are you passionate about and feel you could write about insightfully? For example, let’s say you’re a big fan of video games. In this scenario, you may be inclined to start a blog where you discuss and review games you enjoy. However, there are already plenty of blogs on this subject, so you’ll need to think about how yours might differ. This includes deciding what your blog’s focus will be (such as a particular genre or style of game), and defining your target audience (hardcore gamers or those new to the medium?). Doing some market research at this stage will be useful, as it can help you find a niche that may be underserved. Continuing with our gaming example, you might notice there are few blogs devoted to a specific type of game or that discuss games as a whole from a given perspective. These are both niches you could set out to fill. As a result, your blog will have a tighter focus and stronger audience appeal. Step 2: Name Your Blog While it might seem like a secondary consideration, naming your blog isn’t a task you should take lightly. After all, a name can help to brand your blog and make it more memorable. In addition, especially if your blog takes off, you’ll want your chosen name to be something you’re happy with. Most blog names can be roughly separated into two categories: Keyword-based. These are names that contain relevant keywords, in order to be descriptive and make the purpose of the blog clear. Some examples include British Beauty Blogger and Car and Driver. Brand-based. These blog names focus on a brand and tend to be shorter and more memorable. A few examples are Kotaku and BMWBLOG. If you feel stuck and need a bit of inspiration at this stage, some tools can help you out. For instance, there are several online name generators you can use to create potential names based on a word or phrase. One of our favorites is simply called Blog Name Generator. This site lets you enter information related to your blog, including its tone and subject matter. It then creates a series of names that you can use for inspiration. For example, here are some of the results we got for a “funny” and “informative” blog about “texting, traveling, and painting” (we set the author as Elsa Cox from New York). You can either use one of these options outright or take them as inspiration to help you come up with something unique. Either way, it’s essential that you make sure to search for your chosen blog name using Google to ensure that you don’t accidentally infringe on someone else’s brand. Step 3: Choose a Platform for Your Blog At this point, you’ll need to consider which platform you’ll use to build your blog. As we’ve previously discussed, there are numerous platforms available for this purpose. For example, you can choose a dedicated blogging platform, such as Tumblr or Blogger, both of which are free. However, we only recommend using these solutions if you’re creating a personal journal-style blog, due to their limited functionality and customization options. Using a blogging platform can also come across as ‘cheap’ or unprofessional, especially if the blog is tied to a business. Instead, we recommend that you use WordPress to create your blog. Not only is this platform easy to use, but it offers considerably more functionality. WordPress also lets you style your blog using themes, and add new features via plugins. It also helps to make your blog more secure and perform better with minimal work required on your end. As such, we’ll be using WordPress throughout the remainder of this article. If you’re unfamiliar with the platform, we’ve written extensively about it over the years! Here are a few articles to help you learn the ropes: What Is WordPress? The Essential Elements of a WordPress Site The Most Important WordPress Settings The Difference Between WordPress.com & WordPress.org (self-hosted WordPress) Best Online Resources to Learn How to Use WordPress Related: Everything You Need to Know About WordPress: A 5-Minute Crash Course Step 4: Purchase Web Hosting and a Domain from DreamHost You may have noticed our use of the term ‘self-hosted’ in the list above. This is because WordPress doesn’t provide hosting for your blog. Rather, it’s a Content Management System (CMS) that you need to install on a server. Don’t worry — this is not as complex as it might seem. All it means is that you will need to sign up for a web hosting plan if you want to get your site online. This will require some research to make sure you pick a host and plan that’s right for you. To help you out, let’s look at the main types of hosting that are available: Shared hosting is the cheapest option (DreamHost plans start at $2.59/mo) but can be limiting in terms of performance. On this type of plan, you share a server and its resources with multiple other sites. Shared hosting is best suited for new sites with low traffic. Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting is a version of shared hosting where each site has its own resources. It’s slightly more costly, but provides improved performance. As such, this kind of hosting is recommended if you want to focus on growing your blog. Dedicated hosting is the most expensive and powerful option. As the name suggests, you’ll get an entire server that’s dedicated to your site alone. This is usually overkill for a blog, however, unless you want full control over your server or your site draws unusually large volumes of traffic. In addition, you can decide whether or not you want managed hosting. When you have a managed plan, the hosting company will take care of several key technical tasks required to keep your site running smoothly. Related: ">Do I Need Managed WordPress Hosting? Finally, you’ll also need a domain name, which is the URL that will be used to access your blog. When it comes to creating a domain name, there are several things you’ll want to consider. We’ve written about this at length before, but one of the basic steps involves choosing which Top-Level Domain (TLD) you want to use, such as .com or .org. You should also aim to make the domain name memorable, which is easiest if you keep it concise. Of course, you don’t want to get your hosting and domain from just anywhere. Choosing the right provider is crucial, as this will play a key role in your site’s performance, security, and other vital factors. It’s also smart to look for a company that specializes in WordPress hosting specifically, as that means its services will be well-optimized for the platform. Here at DreamHost, we offer a number of top-notch WordPress hosting plans to choose from. These plans provide plenty of power for your site, along with tight security and fast performance. In addition, they come with handy features for WordPress users, such as pre-installed sites and automatic updates and backups. You’ll also get access to reliable and knowledgeable support via multiple channels. Our shared Starter plan is likely to be ideal for your brand-new blog. It only costs a few dollars per month and will provide plenty of resources while your site is still small. Later on, when your blog begins to receive more traffic, you can upgrade to a more powerful option such as DreamPress managed hosting. To purchase a shared hosting plan, simply select Sign Up on our plans page. Then, you’ll need to create a hosting account. The next step is to pick a domain for your site. If the one you want is already taken, you’ll be shown similar options you can purchase instead. In addition, if you already own a domain, you can also enter it here to connect it to your new site. Either way, the next phase of the process will prompt you to select a payment option. You can opt to pay monthly or save some money by committing to a year or more in advance. Select Continue, and you’ll have one additional choice to make. Here, you can choose to have WordPress pre-installed on your site. We highly recommend checking the box, as it simplifies the process of setting up your site considerably. Hit Continue one more time, and you’ll be prompted to enter some personal and payment details. Then you can complete your order! Once you have your hosting plan and domain name in place, the next step is to start laying the groundwork for the blog itself. Shared Hosting That Powers Your PurposeWe make sure your WordPress website is fast, secure and always up so your visitors trust you. Plans start at $2.59/mo.Choose Your Plan Step 5: Install WordPress As we mentioned earlier, we’ll be using WordPress to create our blog. This platform is both user-friendly and intuitive to get started with, but it does need to be installed on your site before you can use it (note: if you opted for managed WordPress hosting, we’ve already taken care of the installation for you). There are two main ways you can install WordPress: Manual installation. This requires you to manually upload and configure the WordPress software on your site. While the process is infamously quick, we only recommend this approach if you’re more technically savvy. One-click installation. This is an option offered by many web hosts, which enables you to install WordPress on your site almost instantly. As such, you don’t have to worry about configuration or manually installing any files. If you feel up to the task of installing WordPress manually, we recommend that you check out our complete guide on the subject. You’ll need to download the latest version of WordPress, and use an FTP tool such as FileZilla to upload it to your site. However, using a one-click installation tool is a considerably simplified process. You may have already completed this earlier, when you signed up for your hosting plan (see the previous step). If not, you can set up your site at any time. To get started, you’ll need to sign in to your DreamHost account and access your dashboard. Next, use the sidebar to navigate to WordPress > One-Click Installs. Here, you can see several different one-click install options. One of these will be WordPress, which you can go ahead and select. This opens an overlay, where you can configure your installation. All you need to do here is select which of your domains you want to install WordPress on. In addition, you can pick an existing database to use for your new site. However, in most cases, you can just leave this set to Automatically Create Database. The final option is Deluxe Install, which is selected by default. This provides a number of optional features beyond the basic WordPress installation. We recommend that you leave this checked, as it adds several useful tools for free. Then, you can click on Install it for me now! to start the installation process. This can take several minutes. As soon as the installation is completed, you’ll receive an email containing the link and login information for your new WordPress site. Step 6: Tweak Your Blog’s Appearance with a Theme With WordPress up and running, it’s finally time to start putting together your blog. First of all, you’ll need to consider how you want your blog to look. You can easily change the appearance of your site by using a WordPress theme. A theme works like a template you can install on your site, which determines its layout and overall design. Some themes also include additional functionality, and they can come in both free and premium varieties. Related: What Are WordPress Themes (And Where to Find Them) There’s a lot of ground to cover with themes, but for the time being you only need to worry about finding one that fits your blog’s intended style. Picking the right theme can be a struggle if you don’t know where to look, but a good place to start is by browsing the official WordPress Theme Directory. Here, you’ll find hundreds of free themes in several different categories. There are so many choices, in fact, that you’ll probably want to use the Feature Filter to narrow down the available options. As you can see, there’s even a search filter called Blog. If you select this, you’ll be able to see all the themes specifically created with blogs in mind. If you find a theme you want to use, you can download it here and then install on your site. However, you can also do this through your WordPress dashboard by navigating to Appearance > Themes. Here, you’ll see your currently installed themes and where you can install new ones by clicking on Add New. This will open the Theme Directory again, letting you download and activate themes directly from this interface. Hover over your choice, and click on Install. After the theme installs, you can select Activate to set it as the current theme for your site. If you can’t find a perfect theme using this method, you may be better off looking for premium alternatives. These will cost you some money, but they usually offer more options for customization and configuration. Step 7: Customize Your Blog With Plugins One of the reasons WordPress is so powerful is its built-in flexibility. This is in large part due to how easy the platform makes it to add new functionality to your site using plugins. In simple terms, a plugin is an add-on you can install to provide your blog with new features. The process for finding and using plugins is very similar to how themes work. You simply need to download and install a plugin, at which point it will become active on your site. You can find lots of free options in the WordPress Plugin Directory. Conversely, you can access this directory from your admin dashboard, by going to Plugins > Add New. As before, all you need to add a plugin is to look for one you want, and then click on Install followed by Activate. There are literally thousands of free and premium plugins at your disposal, many of which we’ve previously recommended: Plugins That Topped the Charts in 2018 Plugins to Keep Your WordPress Site Safe Plugins to Drive More Conversions on Your Website Plugins for Improving Your Workflow Plugins to Maximize Lead Generation However, when your site is first starting out, it’s best to stick to a few basic options. This will keep you from getting confused or cluttering up your site with unnecessary features. With that in mind, let’s look at a few of the best plugins for blog owners, starting with Jetpack. You can actually think of this as several plugins in one, as it contains plenty of functionality in a single package. In fact, it’s such a feature-heavy plugin that we don’t have room to discuss everything it offers in this article. However, to quickly summarize, Jetpack gives options for improving your site’s security, optimizing its performance, sharing your posts on social media, and much more. Best of all, Jetpack is totally free, although it offers premium plans that add even more features. The next plugin deals with something that concerns all sites but is especially pertinent for blogs: spam. To help ensure that spambots can’t take over your site, you’ll need a plugin to deter them. The best option for the job is Akismet Anti-Spam. This plugin automatically detects and filters out spam from comments and contact form submissions. It also lets you manually specify which comments are spam, which helps the plugin improve its detection abilities for the future. Next up, you’ll also want to consider a plugin like VaultPress. This lets you create real-time backups, which are copies of your site. This can be incredibly useful if something goes wrong with your site, such as if a hacker successfully attacks it or it breaks and you can’t access your content. In those situations, you can simply revert your blog to a previous backup to avoid losing data. And deal alert:  VaultPress is included for free with our DreamPress Plus and Pro plans. Naturally, there are many more plugins that can help you out and we’ll discuss more of them later in this article. For the time being, however, these should get your site started on the right foot. Step 8: Brainstorm Blog Topics At this point, your site is mostly ready to go. As such, it’s time to start thinking about content. It’s usually smart to have at least a few posts ready to go when the blog launches. You may already have a few ideas for initial posts, but if you don’t, you’ll have to start brainstorming now. Naturally, you’ll want to begin by focusing on your blog’s niche. For instance, are there any recent events or news you can discuss or spin off from? Alternately, you might prefer to write a tutorial or a comprehensive guide about a particular topic. Another way to find topics is to perform keyword research. You can use Google Keyword Planner for this, as it’s both comprehensive and free. With this tool, you can search for keywords related to your blog, to see what your audience is most interested in. For example, if you enter the keyword “men’s fashion,” you’ll see that popular keywords include “stylish shirts for men” and “men’s summer clothes.” You can then consider how to write blog posts that are optimized for these terms (something we’ll look more at later). Step 9: Write Your First Post After all this time, you’re finally about to put pen to paper and write your first post. WordPress recently released its new editor, so if you’re unfamiliar with the Gutenberg interface, you may want to familiarize yourself with it first. Then, to get started, access your admin dashboard and click Posts > Add New. This will open the WordPress editor. At this point, you can start putting together your post. We’ve previously written a comprehensive guide to writing quality blog posts, so we recommend you check it out. We’ll go through some of the basics here as well. First off, you’ll want to set a descriptive and attention-grabbing post title. The key to creating a snappy headline is to make it informative and specific. You should aim to accurately describe the article’s contents, while still being as concise as possible. Next, you can begin adding your body text by typing into the main paragraph block. When you’re writing, you’ll also find several relevant options in the right-hand sidebar. These settings will differ depending on the type of content you’re currently working on. You can add images and other media to your post by placing a dedicated block in the editor. For example, selecting an Image block will let you upload a new image file, or choose an existing one from your Media Library. When you’ve completed your post and included all its supplementary content, you can add the finishing touches. For instance, you can assign it one or more Categories and Tags. These help you organize each post based on its type and topic. Finally, you can set a featured image for the post. How this will appear depends on your theme, but it’s usually featured on both your blog’s homepage and at the top of the post itself. Select your headline, and use the Featured Image option in the sidebar to choose a file. Your post is now ready, so go ahead and click the Publish button in the top-right corner to make it live. You can also set how and when you want the post to appear on your site, if you’d like to delay its publication. You can also choose its visibility, which determines who can see it, or simply save it as a draft to work more on later. Step 10: Optimize Your Posts for Search Engines We previously discussed the importance of keyword research when it comes to finding topic ideas. Keywords are phrases that users enter into search engines to find what they’re looking for. By optimizing your posts for specific keywords, you can increase the likelihood that they’ll appear when users search for them. This is also known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and is vital for increasing traffic and visibility for your blog. SEO involves a number of tasks, including (but not limited to) increasing your site’s speed and getting backlinks from other sites. When it comes to your blog, the most important step is to optimize the posts themselves. There are several SEO tools that you can use to do this, but our recommended solution is Yoast SEO. This is a free plugin that adds a new section to your WordPress editor. Here, you can set a ‘keyphrase’ for your post, which is the keyword you want to optimize it for. Once you’ve done that, the plugin will show you in real time how well-optimized the post is, giving you specific advice on how you can improve it. Yoast also lets you add a meta description, which is a snippet of text that appears alongside the post in search results. By adding a description and following these guidelines, your posts will be likely to rank higher in relevant search results. Step 11: Set a Schedule (And Stick to It) To make sure that readers return to your blog, you’ll need to publish content regularly. When you offer new posts on a consistent schedule, your blog won’t go silent for long stretches of time, and your audience will be more likely to return. There’s no perfect publishing schedule for every blog, of course. How often you publish will depend on your available time and your blog’s subject matter. Regardless, it’s a smart move to set a strict schedule for yourself and make sure you follow it. You could even make this schedule clear on the blog itself, letting readers know when new content will be available (for example, every Tuesday and Thursday). Fortunately, there are tools you can use to help you stick to your schedule. One such solution is the Editorial Calendar plugin. This solution lets you create a calendar for your posts and even schedule drafts to be published at a specific time and date. With it, you can easily track upcoming deadlines and follow your schedule without slipping up. Step 12: Create a Style Guide Another helpful asset for any blogger is a style guide. As the name implies, this is a set of guidelines that determines how posts on your blog should be written and formatted. It helps you ensure that your content has a consistent tone and look over time, which in turn makes your blog appear more professional and authoritative. A style guide can also be useful if you ever decide to bring on additional writers. They can refer to your guide to ensure that they follow the same practices, ensuring that all posts on the blog maintain a similar style (regardless of who they’re written by). There are plenty of things you’ll need to consider when creating your blog’s style guide. However, here are a few of the most crucial elements: Voice and tone. Is your blog laid-back or serious? Is the writing casual or professional? Language. For example, do you use British or American English? Punctuation and formatting. Do you use en dashes or em dashes? When do you use single or double quotation marks? Naturally, a style guide will evolve as your blog grows and changes. As such, it’s best to think of it as a constant work-in-progress, rather than as unquestionable gospel. Step 13: Market and Share Your Posts Once you’ve published a few posts and settled into a groove of writing content, you might think you can relax. However, all your hard work thus far could effectively be for nothing, if no one knows that your blog even exists. This is why marketing your blog and posts is so critical. We’ve already discussed SEO, which is a key part of any online marketing strategy. Still, there are several other ways you can make sure you get more eyes on your new blog. Naturally, you’ll want to start by sharing your posts on social media. This will help get them more widely seen while encouraging those in your network to share your content with their own followers. It’s also smart to make your posts easier to share right from your website. One way to do this is by adding social media buttons to your posts, which you can do using the Jetpack plugin. This plugin enables you to add social media sharing buttons to your posts and integrates with the most popular platforms. Jetpack also includes a feature that automatically shares your post on social media, to save you even more time. Marketing your site and sharing your posts is one thing, but you’ll likely wonder when you can expect to see results. There’s no easy answer to this question, as each blog is entirely different. It’s possible that you might see lots of traffic right away, which is more likely if you already have a strong online presence. However, in most cases, it will take time for your blog to gain momentum. If you perform SEO, share your posts, and regularly publish high-quality content, you should see a gradual increase in readers. That increase will let you know you’re on the right track. You can also keep a close eye on your site’s analytics, to see how well it’s performing. Step 14: Monetize Your Blog Last but certainly not least, let’s consider the options you have when it comes to monetizing your blog. After all, you’ve put a lot of work into your site, and you probably wouldn’t say no to making some money from your content. In a previous post, we discussed several ways you can monetize your blog in detail. Right now, let’s recap some of the most common (and potentially lucrative) techniques: Selling products and services. Providing something purchasable alongside your posts is a great way to earn some income. For instance, you could write and sell an e-book, or produce a course on a relevant topic. Affiliate marketing. By marketing products from other vendors, you can earn revenue without the need to create or ship your own items. Crowdfunding. You can also ask your loyal readers to donate directly, which eliminates the need to market any external products. You can also implement advertisements on your site in the form of links and banners. A popular and easy solution for doing this is Google AdSense. This automatically generates ads that are suitable for your blog and audience, so you can focus entirely on creating great content. Create a WordPress Blog Today The number of reasons to start a blog is almost equal to the volume of actual blogs in existence. Not only can a blog be a phenomenally creative pursuit, but it can also be used to market your business, or even be monetized in its own right. Do you have any questions about the process of starting a blog or using WordPress? Join us on Twitter or Facebook and let’s start the conversation! The post How to Start a WordPress Blog: A Comprehensive Guide appeared first on Welcome to the Official DreamHost Blog.

The Ultimate Guide to Dedicated Hosting (2019)

Picking the right hosting solution is one of the first (and most important!) decisions you’ll make for your website. While there are plenty of available options, none can match the versatility and level of control you’ll get with a dedicated server. When you use a dedicated hosting service, you’ll be given a server that’s exclusive to you. This ensures that no other user will share the same resources or have access to your data. You also get full control over the server, so you can ensure your site is more secure and performs as well as possible. In this article, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of dedicated hosting and look at the different types of dedicated servers. Then we’ll talk about why you might want to consider dedicated hosting and explain how to pick the option that best suits you. Let’s get started! An Introduction to Dedicated Hosting In the simplest terms, dedicated hosting provides exclusive access to a physical server. That server is only available to you and your website. This is in contrast to VPS hosting and shared hosting, where your site occupies the same server as many other users. You can think of this as the difference between renting an apartment and owning a house. With your own dedicated server, you have more freedom to configure it however you want, and you don’t have to share its resources with other sites. Dedicated hosting comes with numerous additional benefits for you and your site. For example, it provides: Improved speed and performance. Since your site doesn’t share server resources with anyone else, your site will often be significantly faster. Complete freedom and control. You can configure your server to match your specific requirements and get full access to every aspect of your site. Increased security. Since only you have access to your server, it won’t be vulnerable if another site gets attacked. You’ll also have a unique IP, which makes it much less likely that your site will be blacklisted. More storage space. Most dedicated hosting plans include a lot more storage space for your site’s files (with up to 2TB of disk space). Of course, all types of hosting have their pros and cons. Which one you should pick depends entirely on your site’s requirements and the level of control you desire. Let’s talk about whether dedicated hosting is the right choice for you. When You Should Consider Dedicated Hosting The first factor to think about when considering a dedicated hosting plan is your site’s size. This option is primarily beneficial for larger websites, such as e-commerce businesses and high-traffic sites. That’s because these sites need to be consistently fast with a minimal amount of downtime. For a business site or online store, performance and reliability are extremely important. The fact that nobody else can access your server also ensures that your site is secure. Nobody will be able to access your stored data, and you’ll be better prepared to deal with threats and attacks. You’ll also benefit from the additional storage space. With DreamHost’s SSD hard drives, for example, you don’t ever have to worry about running out of room. Naturally, all of this comes at a price. Dedicated hosting is almost always more expensive than VPS or shared options. Whether or not that additional cost is worth it depends on your budget and needs. However, the increased performance, control, and versatility will be worth it for larger sites that can’t afford to compromise. The Different Types of Dedicated Servers We’ve talked a lot about freedom and control in this article. That’s because these are key factors when it comes to dedicated hosting. When you purchase dedicated hosting, you get to customize the server you’ll be using. This gives you to the opportunity to make sure your server exactly matches your requirements. Of course, every web host will offer different options. This includes the type of server, what storage solutions you get access to, the number of cores included, and how much RAM will be provided. We’ll discuss these factors in more detail later on when we talk about how to configure a dedicated server. However, there is another consideration you’ll need to think about when choosing dedicated hosting: whether you want your server to be managed or unmanaged. With a managed server, the hosting provider takes care of all the technical tasks for you. It will ensure that your site and server are maintained and running well at all times. Plus, your web host will typically take additional tasks off your hands, such as creating backups and monitoring for security risks. In contrast, when using an unmanaged server, you will need to manage all these tasks yourself — including administrative work, creating backups, monitoring your data, and so forth. Consider this option only if you have the technical know-how and ability to manage your own server. Which type of plan you want depends on your experience. If you want to take full responsibility for your server settings (or like the idea of having total control), you might wish to choose an unmanaged option. However, the majority of users will do best with a managed server, as this gives you time to focus on other aspects of your site and business. You can rest assured your site is taken care of by your hosting provider, and you won’t need any special technical expertise. DreamHost: A Fully-Managed Dedicated Hosting Option If you think dedicated hosting may be what you need, you still need to find the right plan. Fortunately, DreamHost offers a fully-managed dedicated hosting solution that is both powerful and reliable. DreamHost’s dedicated hosting is perfect for any high-traffic site that requires guaranteed fast speeds and consistent uptime, such as e-commerce businesses, agencies with high-profile clients, and even hosting resellers. Since this hosting plan is managed, you’ll never have to worry about your site’s performance or security. We’ll protect your site against attacks, monitor its activity, and offer support around the clock. You’ll also have unlimited bandwidth and databases to play around with. This is in addition to full Shell Access (SSH) and support for PHP, Perl, Python, and Ruby. Our dedicated hosting is the most powerful and comprehensive option we offer. The pricing starts at $169 per month, with rates that vary depending on your unique configuration. Speaking of which, let’s take a look at how you’d go about configuring your own dedicated server. Get DreamHost’s Most Powerful HostingOur dedicated hosting plans are the ideal solution for high-traffic sites that require fast speeds and consistent uptime.“See How to Configure a Dedicated Server (In 6 Steps) If you’re reading this, we assume you’ve decided that a dedicated server is indeed what you and your site needs. The good news is that the process of configuring your new server is a lot quicker than you might have anticipated. We’ll walk you through how it works step by step, using our own dedicated hosting service as an example. Step 1: Start the Configuration Process If you already have a DreamHost account, you can start the configuration process by logging in and accessing your dashboard. Here, you’ll see the Add a Dedicated Server button, which you’ll want to select. If you don’t have an account, you can sign up for one and then get started. The process will be nearly identical for both approaches, with the exception of some additional options if you are using an existing account. Regardless of your chosen method, you’ll now be shown a form where you can start configuring your server. If this looks less complex than you expected, we’re not surprised. Building a server with DreamHost is easy, as long as you know what options you need. Let’s go through the settings on this page one by one, to help you build the right server for you. Step 2: Select the Number of CPU Cores You Need Your first option is to select how many Central Processing Unit (CPU) cores you want to use. The CPU is the part of your server that performs computations — think running programs. Meanwhile, a ‘core’ is an additional processing unit that doubles your CPU’s capabilities. Each core can perform one action at a time, so using multiple cores enables your server to perform more actions at once. How many CPU cores you can have depends on your server. With DreamHost, you can choose from either 4 or 12 CPU cores. The option you select depends on how much computation power your site will require at any given time. More cores means your server can process tasks and data more quickly, so consider how much power your site is likely to need and pick the option that matches. Step 3: Choose Your Storage Solution Next up, it’s time to choose how much storage your server will have. You technically have three options at your disposal here, but you might have noticed that you can’t actually select all of them. This is because the number of CPU cores you choose will change which storage options you can select. For example, the 1 TB HDD option is only available if you have chosen 4 CPU cores. Other than that, the main factors you’ll need to consider here are the amount of storage you need, and the type of hard drive you want. DreamHost offers both Hard Disk Drives (HDD) and Solid State Drives (SSD). There are plenty of differences between the two, but in general, HDDs offer more storage while SSDs tend to be considerably faster. This is because SSDs do not contain any moving parts and instead save all data on microchips, which makes them ideal for sites that need instant access, such as e-commerce stores. In contrast, an HDD works best if you need more room and speed is not as much of an issue, such as for backup servers. Step 4: Add RAM to Your Server Random-Access Memory (RAM) is one of the most important factors that determines how well your site functions. Everything happening on your server requires RAM, and if you run out of memory, your site’s performance will suffer. Therefore, you’ll need to carefully consider how much RAM your server is going to use. To help you out, here are some of the factors that affect RAM the most. Operating System (OS). Every OS requires different amounts of RAM to run. With DreamHost, all our dedicated servers use the same Ubuntu OS, so this is less of a concern. Site traffic. The amount of traffic your site receives will dramatically affect how much RAM you need. It’s recommended to have 1 GB of RAM for every 2,500 visitors your site gets per day. Applications. All applications on your server also require RAM, including any Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress. You’ll also need to consider the number of users your site has and how many sites you’re hosting. Ultimately, it’s up to you to select the option that best suits your website. However, we recommend that you select a RAM size one step above your current needs. This gives you some wiggle room. Your server will have all the resources it requires now and plenty of space to grow. Step 5: Decide If You Want to Migrate an Existing Server If you have an existing DreamHost account and hosting plan, you can choose to migrate everything to your new dedicated server. This will carry over all your data from the old plan, including users and domains. This option is particularly helpful for sites that have outgrown their current plan. By migrating to a dedicated server, you can keep all your data and settings intact, while getting the benefits of dedicated hosting. If you do not wish to migrate any data,  leave this option set to Don’t migrate any users/domains. Step 6: Select a Payment Plan Finally, when you have configured each aspect of your server, you’ll just need to choose a payment plan. You may have noticed that the pricing options update dynamically to match the other choices you’ve made on this page. You can either opt to pay monthly or annually. If you choose a yearly payment plan, you’ll pay more upfront but will save money in the long term. Choose the option you prefer and then click on Add Server to complete your purchase. You’ve now successfully configured your dedicated server! All that remains is to confirm your payment details and your new server will be set up for you. Bear in mind that because this is a physical process, it can sometimes take a little time, especially if your chosen server is out of stock. You’ll be informed of this upfront, however, and notified when your server is ready to go. Get Dedicated If your site gets a lot of traffic or you simply want full control over your own server, dedicated hosting can be a smart choice. It’s the option that offers the most control and best performance for your site, and it’s easier to configure than you might expect. The post The Ultimate Guide to Dedicated Hosting (2019) appeared first on Welcome to the Official DreamHost Blog.

19 New Year’s Resolutions for Small Businesses to Make in 2019

Phew. It’s been a busy year. We’ve seen the launch of three new iPhones, celebrity makeups (and breakups) plus net neutrality debates, the rise of women in tech, everything Elon (i.e. Tesla drama and SpaceX’s history-making launch), polarizing politics, another Royal Wedding, growing 5G hype, epic sports wins for the Warriors, Capitals, Eales, the U.S Curling team, and Simone Biles, and new pop culture obsessions (here’s looking at you, Avengers, Fortnite and Queer Eye). And hey, DreamHost turned 21! #OfficiallyLegal Cheers, 2018. Thanks for the memories. But now, letting bygones be bygones, we’re ready to ring in 2019 with a bang, starting with some high-powered business goals. What are you resolving to do in the new year? Forget running a marathon or writing a novel. (Okay, those are definitely worthwhile goals, too.) But this year, we want you to commit to taking your small business to the next level — and actually reach your goal. Here are 19 ways you can resolve to build a better, more flourishing business in 2019. 1. Build a Website The fact of the matter is, if you’re running a business in the 21st century, you need an online presence. Even with your endless list of small business to-dos, prioritizing the presence of your own web content is critical. Web users need to be able to find and connect with you virtually — that fact is elementary, Watson. But building a website to showcase your business doesn’t have to be a complicated or an expert-level-only endeavor. (And the how-to aspects of creating a website don’t have to keep you up at night!) Any small business can — and should — have a website. Start with a game plan and determine your goals, then dig into the necessary technical tasks: Want a blog that’s low maintenance (hey, we so get it — you have enough to do!). Prefer to leave it to the experts? DreamHost makes it easy to get a custom designed website. If you want some autonomy, but still need some hand-holding, you can get a simple — but snazzy — WordPress site up and running in a jiffy. Or you can look beyond WordPress for your site-building needs by utilizing a site builder, like our gold-star creator, Remixer. The best part? You can usually get a great-looking, functional website in less time than it takes to finish a Netflix episode. Boo-yah. With a website, you’re reaching people even when you’re asleep — meaning, your business isn’t limited to a brick-and-mortar location. Your site will help you to build your brand and connect with audiences. Don’t forget: when creating your site, make sure to back things up. Related: Building Your Own Business Website? Don’t Make These 10 Mistakes 2. Be Social Sure, it’s good to get out and socialize (and seek new networking opportunities, perhaps?), but the kind of social activity we mean is mainly virtual. Engaging with audiences on social media is essential to getting your business seen, building your brand, and developing a loyal following. Plus, plugging into social platforms gives you new ways to connect and promote your website. Not yet fluent in the social jargon of snaps, double-taps, tweets, and apps? We’ve got a few social tips and tricks for your hard-working small business, like advice on writing killer captions, curating content, monitoring competitors, harnessing hashtags, marketing with micro-influencers, and showcasing your brand’s voice. Plus, we’ll ease your mind about biting off more social than you can chew (hint: you don’t have to use all the platforms). 3. Write a Blog Believe us, blogging is not a thing of the past. Creating your own content on a personal or business blog is still a powerful means of engaging and providing value to consumers, building your brand, and growing your business. Remember the oft-quoted adage: content is king? We’ll even put our own touch on it: we’ll go so far as to say that content is the Beyonce of the internet. Read: The Queen, capital Q. That fact hasn’t changed, no matter the landscape of the internet. Getting a killer blog up and running doesn’t have to complicated or time-consuming. And even if you’re aren’t an OG of the blogosphere, don’t worry. When it comes to blogging, we say, “Beginners welcome!” (Just work to avoid these blogging blunders). To begin, learn from the mouth of the experts — some of the internet’s best bloggers — about what makes a five-star blog, and then take notes from these company blogs that boast killer online reps. 4. Rank Higher Through SEO Obviously, one of your main goals as a small business is to grow your business. That means you need to start attracting audiences. Promoting your blog on social media and producing great content aren’t the only tactics you need to get found by your target audiences. It’s essential that you prime your site for high ranking in search engines. You need to rank high if you want sales: 61 percent of internet users do research on a product online before making a purchase, but 75 percent of people never scroll past the first page of search engines. Enter: SEO. Good SEO starts with a quality hosting provider and involves everything from your domain to your site structure. To grow your business, you need to start implementing strategies to drive traffic to your site — SEO is one of the most effective ways to rank higher in search engines and increase visibility. 5. Get Mobile-Friendly Okay, so maybe we’re a broken record on this topic. But, seriously. If you aren’t optimizing your site for use on mobile devices (more than 90 percent of small biz owners aren’t), you’re seriously harming your business. It’s true. Forty-eight percent of mobile users who visited a website that wasn’t optimized for mobile believed the company didn’t care about their business. Ouch. Mobile rules e-commerce: Sixty-six percent of online shopping time is being consumed on smartphones, and that number seems only to be increasing with each year. Not only are consumers using smartphones to search (more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the U.S.) and make purchases (70 percent of all mobile searches result in action within one hour), but they’re not letting mobile devices out of their sight: 91 percent of American adults have their smartphone within arms reach 24/7. Taking these numbers into account, you can see that mobile optimization affects nearly every aspect of your business, from brand building to traffic generating, to customer service, to establishing relationships. Plus, Google will not be friendly in its rankings to sites that aren’t optimized for mobile, which harms your SEO, and therefore, your traffic-building efforts. You don’t want that. Having a website optimized for small screens is a thou-shalt that simply has to be a part of your small biz commandments this year if you want a more successful business. Start thinking mobile by taking a responsiveness test drive, working on improving your site’s load times, redesigning your site pop-ups, enabling AMPs, and making an app — if that works for your business. And remember, we’re in this together. The DreamHost team has worked to make mobile website construction E-A-S-Y. 6. Find Your Target Audience Have you ever taken the time to think about who you’re actually trying to reach with your business? Instead of broadly and ineffectively casting a wide net, take the time to define your target audiences so that your marketing and other efforts are focused enough to have a real, meaningful effect for your business. Determining exactly who your target markets are — starting with the who, when, how, and why — gives your business the benefit of being able to appeal to those most likely to engage with you. Your business can’t be everything for everyone, so don’t try. Do the research, identify your niche, and run your business with its target audiences in mind. This focus will give purpose and meaning to every business decision you make — from the design of your site to the kind of content you produce to the way you market that content — and yourself. Then, once you’ve zeroed in on your target audiences, ask them to do something with your winningest CTAs. FYI: even with a target audience bullseye in mind, it’s necessary to make your website accessible for all users, including audiences with disabilities, LGBTQ+ groups and those who speak languages other than English. Inclusivity is just good business. 7. Improve Your Email Marketing Sure, it’s oft’-overlooked if you’re not in a 90s Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks rom-com, but truth be told, email can be very powerful. Especially where marketing is concerned. How powerful? Well, a whopping 89 percent of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation — and they consistently rank email as the single-most-effective tactic for meeting their awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention goals. They’ve branded it, fittingly, “the workhorse” and prove your marketing budget should include more $$$ allotted for an invested email strategy. This seemingly-archaic medium (which was predicted to decline, btw) is increasingly relevant — unlike screen names or Myspace pages — for site owners looking to build customer relationships and augment sales. And marketers aren’t the only ones cheering on Team Email: 72 percent of consumers say email is their favorite method of communication with companies they do business with, and 61 percent say they like to receive promotional emails every week from businesses. So educate yourself: get the 411 on dodging the spam folder and providing valuable content that customers want to see enter their inboxes. Learn about the types of emails you should be sending your followers, (like the increasingly prevalent email newsletter), work on building your ever-important email list, and start connecting with more of your customers in their inboxes. Be Awesome on the InternetJoin our monthly newsletter for tips and tricks to build your dream website!Sign Me Up 8. Fine Tune Your Customer Service You probably already know this, but excellent customer service doesn’t just take place from behind a counter anymore. Like most things in the business of the online age, customer service interactions are increasingly transparent and web-based, with virtual-word-of-mouth effects that have the power to make or break your business. In fact, good customer service practices are essential to modern and future businesses: By 2020—less than two years from now—customer service is expected to become more significant than price or product when customers decide who gets their business. No pressure, right? Let’s raise the stakes a little more. As it turns out, bad customer service does some serious damage to your business. Data evidence shows that 71 percent of consumers — yep, nearly three-quarters of ‘em — have terminated their relationship with a company due to poor customer service. Yikes. That’s not all. You’re actually helping out your competitors when you don’t prioritize top-notch customer service experiences: 61 percent of customers will take their business to a competitor after a negative customer service experience. Building strong customer service principles — like professionalism, communication, and active listening — help you to be more profitable, for one. Get this: it’s seven times more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones, and 58 percent of consumers are willing to spend more on those companies that provide excellent customer service. That makes more than dollars and sense. What’s more, by providing customers — and those elusive potential buyers — with a killer customer service experience, you’re setting your business up for success: better sales, repeat customers, strong relationships, a distinguished brand reputation, and those coveted five-star reviews. So start putting your best (virtual) face forward by demanding gold-star customer service experiences from your business. 9. Build Your Brand With the influx of social media and e-businesses, we see the word brand tossed around haphazardly, with an almost amorphous quality. What really is a brand? Why is it so crucial to build one? How can you establish your business’ brand? Inherent to branding is your business identity: getting seen — and becoming known — by your target audiences. With strong branding, you have the opportunity to become an authority in your field or industry and build loyal customer followings. Think of building your brand awareness as establishing your e-reputation. Like we talked about with target audiences (see No. 6), your niche — and the brand you ultimately build — determine your business decisions; it impacts the voice, feel, style, and substance of your content and website, and on a more technical level, your operations, management, interactions, and marketing efforts. Think about some of the most popular brands out there: Nike, Disney, Coca-Cola, for example. They all have recognizable and unique brands. You may not be setting your sights on global domination (yet), but these big-wigs prove that building your brand is an crucial to-do for excelling in business. 10. Run A/B Tests Talk to any experienced web owner and they’ll likely let you in on a little small biz secret: no one gets it right the first time. This applies to multiple aspects of your business (hello, learning curve), but especially your website. A fine-tuned, well-performing site requires time and tweaking to perfect. You’ll want to regularly run tests on your site to see what is — and what isn’t — working best for your visitors and your bottom line. This important trial and error process doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly technical; simple A/B testing (aka: the comparison of two variations of a single webpage, design, ad, or other marketing media to determine which version converts more successfully), when strategized, can give you valuable insight on performance to help you adjust and refine the various aspects your website — everything from CTAs to images to copy length. What results is valuable insight that you can analyze to help your site — and ultimately, your business — improve. Three cheers for progress! (That’s what resolutions are all about, right?) 11. Meet Customers in Person The day and age in which we do business are replete with 21st-century benefits: new and innovative technology, evolving e-commerce landscapes, and the unique opportunity of being able to connect with anyone, anywhere. Talk about living in the iGeneration! But even with all the technological latest-and-greatest and virtual advancements, the truth is: you need some quality, in-person face time with your customers. Step out from behind your .com and interact with those supporting and championing your small biz. Work to host meetups, workshops, or even informal get-togethers, and spend time on the ground floor of your brick-and-mortar (if you have one). Express genuine gratitude to customers for their patronage and support, and seek to get to know them. Not only will this boost your customer service rep, but it will give you insight on how to better serve your audiences. In both respects, you’re building a better business. And that’s what 2019 is all about. At DreamHost, we thrive on meeting our awesome users IRL. That’s why we regularly host and support collaborative learning events, WordCamps, and multi-city tours: to meet YOU. 12. Get Involved in Your Community Trust in this knowledge: you have something of value to contribute to your community — whether it be your purely virtual e-community or IRL associations. Get involved and lift your business — and society you live in — together. Some ideas? Learn from others. Collaborate, crowdfund, pitch in together for noble causes, and share knowledge. Another life- and business-altering effort? Support and champion those on whom the spotlight isn’t often shined — especially women and minorities — and help them to get involved in business and tech, and help your community diversify. The effects of your efforts will be far-reaching both for your business and the communities you are a part of. We really are all in this together. 13. Research Web Design Trends As a small business and website owner, you need to stay on top of the trends. No, we’re not talking about the in-season looks gracing the catwalks of NYFW. We mean web design trends. DYK? Design on the web goes through phases and fads, too. Keep tabs on what’s in style (minimalism and asymmetry, anyone?) and what is sooo 2018 to keep your site relevant, engaging, and looking fresh with a capital F. Some website design fundamentals are basic and some design to-dos never go out of style, while other design trends vary from year to year. Do your research to stay in the know; then consult your design checklist, channel your inner Chip and Joanna, and build a beautiful — and en vogue — website. Shiplap not required. 14. Create a Staging Site Like we talked about with goal No. 10, often the best websites take time — and testing — to really get right. Setting up a staging site is a great way to test your site and fix errors — without letting your live site miss a beat (or risking unnecessary or unanticipated downtime). How does a staging site work? Well, it’s pretty simple. Also know as a testing or development site, a staging site is a standalone copy of your website (whether that be a blank site or carbon copy of your existing one) that you can use to try out site fixes or changes — like new plugins or themes or bug fixes before implementing them on your live, or public, site. Your staging site is for your eyes and testing purposes only — it’s a private site that only you can access. Staging sites can be offline and stored on a local computer or hosted online but marked as private. As you can guess, staging sites are beneficial for many reasons. First, it provides you with a safe environment to experiment with site changes before implementing them on your live website. Whether you’re a perfectionist or simply want to improve your website, a staging environment allows you to tweak until you get it just right. Second, staging sites facilitate the learning process. You’re not going to know everything about WordPress (or whatever CMS you use) right away, so staging sites give you a way to learn as you experiment incorporating plugins, themes, or custom code on the platform. Think of it as your website playground. Lastly, staging sites provide you with the perfect place to test solutions for bugs and fix any troublesome site errors. You can, of course, maintain and tweak your website on your public site, but live maintenance creates the risk of something on your site breaking, slowing loading times, or causing other interferences in your visitors’ experience on your website. Not ideal. This year, resolve to simplify and streamline your live website maintenance. Create a staging site to make sure everything on your website is working correctly — and to your liking — before implementing changes to your live site and welcoming traffic to it. 15. Stay Up to Date on Marketing Innovations Just like design trends (No. 13), marketing tactics are ever-evolving. The small business owners of yesteryear looking to get eyes on their goods weren’t pushing new podcast episodes, managing micro-influencers, or fishing for Facebook likes. Marketing really has come a long way since the early 2000s. The way you build traffic and promote your content is likely to transform as industries and digital landscapes change, and as your business grows. Plus, things change as marketers are continually discovering new, innovative ways to connect with customers, giving you new opportunities to learn and engage with your audiences. Sometimes these new strategies are merely building off of foundational tried-and-true tactics, like implementing seasonal or niche-related touches onto your current marketing efforts of developing a social media presence, growing and maintaining an email list, advertising, and running a company blog. And other times, they’re completely new approaches to reaching customers — like the recent developments in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and voice search. Keeping up with current marketing innovations means doing your research and implementing the latest marketing tactics that make the most sense for your business. Guided by your overall business goals, you can develop an up-to-date marketing strategy that couples the best of old and new marketing innovations. 16. Use PPC Advertising There really is a lot to small biz advertising, and it can be overwhelming for newbies — and beginner budgets. But promoting your site and attracting audiences through advertising doesn’t have to be overly-complicated — or pricey. This year, give PPC advertising a go. PPC, or pay-per-click, works like this: A search engine query displays both organic results (the sites that come up because they are relevant based on their keywords, SEO strategy, fresh content, and responsive design) and paid search results. You’ve likely seen this second type of result identified with an “Ad” or “Sponsored” label. Paid search — as the name suggests — involves dishing out dollars to have your website appear in the sponsored sections of search engine results and corresponding partner sites. Both organic and paid searches appear in search results, just in different locations. PPC allows you to have your website appear in the sponsored/ad results, but the best part? You only pay for it when someone clicks on your ad. With PPC, your business can take advantage of the web’s virtual rush hour of clicks in a wallet-friendly and low-risk way. Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Website With Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising 17. Try Out Some New Tools A new year means new opportunities for trying things that are, well, new. The end of one 365 and the beginning of another can motivate you to run, skip, or hop out of your comfort zone and expand your range of skills and knowledge. Start by experimenting with some new tools that help you build your business. Let’s get some ideas flowing: Want to build your own website? Check out our site builder, Remixer and get creating. Want to boost your SEO in big ways? Easy. There are tons of tools for that. Want to open up your own e-shop? Test out WooCommerce, Shopify, or Magneto. We’ll show you how. Are you a WordPress groupie (hey, join the club!) looking to take advantage of the platform’s latest and greatest features? Give Gutenberg a gander. Want to become a coding master? We’ve compiled more than seventy tools to help you with that. Looking to explore other CMS options? Check out Drupal or Joomla! Whether you’re learning a new (digital) language, familiarizing yourself with the ins-and-outs of WordPress, or meeting millennials on their turf of a new social networking site, trying out new tools will help you become a more well-rounded and knowledgeable small biz owner — an advantage that’s bound to help you build a better business in 2019. 18. Give Back Just because you’re a business looking to make $$$ doesn’t mean you can’t also give back to the communities and customers helping you grow — or to those causes that resonate with you personally. Seek out opportunities to flex your business’ philanthropic muscles and give back in meaningful ways — and not just during the holidays. For our 20th birthday last year, we celebrated by gifting more clean water to the world — with your help! Our joint efforts to bankroll more community-owned clean water projects around the world resulted in a $9,500+ donation. And you know what? Giving back felt good. Really good. Whether your giving efforts tie into tech or not, joining with your community and offering of your time or substance will not only result in a return of positive juju, but it will give more meaning to your day-to-day work. 19. Subscribe to the DreamHost Blog In addition to being your hosting gurus, one of our goals (not just this year, but every year) is to provide you with relevant, useful content that helps you reach your small business and website goals. Follow along with us on our DreamHost blog for a continued stream of valuable articles designed to keep you learning and improving your business all year long. Here you can find profiles on website owners making big moves with DreamHost, complete guides on every tech topic, beginner-friendly how-tos, and sooo much more. We do it all — for you! We love watching you succeed. In fact, we live for it. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and business-booming new year! The post 19 New Year’s Resolutions for Small Businesses to Make in 2019 appeared first on Welcome to the Official DreamHost Blog.

19 New Year’s Resolutions for Small Businesses to Make in 2019

Phew. It’s been a busy year. We’ve seen the launch of three new iPhones, celebrity makeups (and breakups) plus net neutrality debates, the rise of women in tech, everything Elon (i.e. Tesla drama and SpaceX’s history-making launch), polarizing politics, another Royal Wedding, growing 5G hype, epic sports wins for the Warriors, Capitals, Eales, the U.S Curling team, and Simone Biles, and new pop culture obsessions (here’s looking at you, Avengers, Fortnite and Queer Eye). And hey, DreamHost turned 21! #OfficiallyLegal Cheers, 2018. Thanks for the memories. But now, letting bygones be bygones, we’re ready to ring in 2019 with a bang, starting with some high-powered business goals. What are you resolving to do in the new year? Forget running a marathon or writing a novel. (Okay, those are definitely worthwhile goals, too.) But this year, we want you to commit to taking your small business to the next level — and actually reach your goal. Here are 19 ways you can resolve to build a better, more flourishing business in 2019. 1. Build a Website The fact of the matter is, if you’re running a business in the 21st century, you need an online presence. Even with your endless list of small business to-dos, prioritizing the presence of your own web content is critical. Web users need to be able to find and connect with you virtually — that fact is elementary, Watson. But building a website to showcase your business doesn’t have to be a complicated or an expert-level-only endeavor. (And the how-to aspects of creating a website don’t have to keep you up at night!) Any small business can — and should — have a website. Start with a game plan and determine your goals, then dig into the necessary technical tasks: Want a blog that’s low maintenance (hey, we so get it — you have enough to do!). Prefer to leave it to the experts? DreamHost makes it easy to get a custom designed website. If you want some autonomy, but still need some hand-holding, you can get a simple — but snazzy — WordPress site up and running in a jiffy. Or you can look beyond WordPress for your site-building needs by utilizing a site builder, like our gold-star creator, Remixer. The best part? You can usually get a great-looking, functional website in less time than it takes to finish a Netflix episode. Boo-yah. With a website, you’re reaching people even when you’re asleep — meaning, your business isn’t limited to a brick-and-mortar location. Your site will help you to build your brand and connect with audiences. Don’t forget: when creating your site, make sure to back things up and avoid these website whoopsies. 2. Be Social Sure, it’s good to get out and socialize (and seek new networking opportunities, perhaps?), but the kind of social activity we mean is mainly virtual. Engaging with audiences on social media is essential to getting your business seen, building your brand, and developing a loyal following. Plus, plugging into social platforms gives you new ways to connect and promote your website. Not yet fluent in the social jargon of snaps, double-taps, tweets, and apps? We’ve got a few social tips and tricks for your hard-working small business, like advice on writing killer captions, curating content, monitoring competitors, harnessing hashtags, marketing with micro-influencers, and showcasing your brand’s voice. Plus, we’ll ease your mind about biting off more social than you can chew (hint: you don’t have to use all the platforms). 3. Write a Blog Believe us, blogging is not a thing of the past. Creating your own content on a personal or business blog is still a powerful means of engaging and providing value to consumers, building your brand, and growing your business. Remember the oft-quoted adage: content is king? We’ll even put our own touch on it: we’ll go so far as to say that content is the Beyonce of the internet. Read: The Queen, capital Q. That fact hasn’t changed, no matter the landscape of the internet. Getting a killer blog up and running doesn’t have to complicated or time-consuming. And even if you’re aren’t an OG of the blogosphere, don’t worry. When it comes to blogging, we say, “Beginners welcome!” (Just work to avoid these blogging blunders). To begin, learn from the mouth of the experts — some of the internet’s best bloggers — about what makes a five-star blog, and then take notes from these company blogs that boast killer online reps. 4. Rank Higher Through SEO Obviously, one of your main goals as a small business is to grow your business. That means you need to start attracting audiences. Promoting your blog on social media and producing great content aren’t the only tactics you need to get found by your target audiences. It’s essential that you prime your site for high ranking in search engines. You need to rank high if you want sales: 61 percent of internet users do research on a product online before making a purchase, but 75 percent of people never scroll past the first page of search engines. Enter: SEO. Good SEO starts with a quality hosting provider and involves everything from your domain to your site structure. To grow your business, you need to start implementing strategies to drive traffic to your site — SEO is one of the most effective ways to rank higher in search engines and increase visibility. 5. Get Mobile-Friendly Okay, so maybe we’re a broken record on this topic. But, seriously. If you aren’t optimizing your site for use on mobile devices (more than 90 percent of small biz owners aren’t), you’re seriously harming your business. It’s true. Forty-eight percent of mobile users who visited a website that wasn’t optimized for mobile believed the company didn’t care about their business. Ouch. Mobile rules e-commerce: Sixty-six percent of online shopping time is being consumed on smartphones, and that number seems only to be increasing with each year. Not only are consumers using smartphones to search (more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the U.S.) and make purchases (70 percent of all mobile searches result in action within one hour), but they’re not letting mobile devices out of their sight: 91 percent of American adults have their smartphone within arms reach 24/7. Taking these numbers into account, you can see that mobile optimization affects nearly every aspect of your business, from brand building to traffic generating, to customer service, to establishing relationships. Plus, Google will not be friendly in its rankings to sites that aren’t optimized for mobile, which harms your SEO, and therefore, your traffic-building efforts. You don’t want that. Having a website optimized for small screens is a thou-shalt that simply has to be a part of your small biz commandments this year if you want a more successful business. Start thinking mobile by taking a responsiveness test drive, working on improving your site’s load times, redesigning your site pop-ups, enabling AMPs, and making an app — if that works for your business. Hey, (future and current) DreamHost users: We’re in this together. We’ve worked to make mobile website construction E-A-S-Y. 6. Find Your Target Audience Have you ever taken the time to think about who you’re actually trying to reach with your business? Instead of broadly and ineffectively casting a wide net, take the time to define your target audiences so that your marketing and other efforts are focused enough to have a real, meaningful effect for your business. Determining exactly who your target markets are — starting with the who, when, how, and why — gives your business the benefit of being able to appeal to those most likely to engage with you. Your business can’t be everything for everyone, so don’t try. Do the research, identify your niche, and run your business with its target audiences in mind. This focus will give purpose and meaning to every business decision you make — from the design of your site to the kind of content you produce to the way you market that content — and yourself. Then, once you’ve zeroed in on your target audiences, ask them to do something with your winningest CTAs. FYI: even with a target audience bullseye in mind, it’s necessary to make your website accessible for all users, including audiences with disabilities, LGBTQ+ groups and those who speak languages other than English. Inclusivity is just good business. 7. Improve Your Email Marketing Sure, it’s oft’-overlooked if you’re not in a 90s Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks rom-com, but truth be told, email can be very powerful. Especially where marketing is concerned. How powerful? Well, a whopping 89 percent of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation — and they consistently rank email as the single-most-effective tactic for meeting their awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention goals. They’ve branded it, fittingly, “the workhorse” and prove your marketing budget should include more $$$ allotted for an invested email strategy. This seemingly-archaic medium (which was predicted to decline, btw) is increasingly relevant — unlike screen names or Myspace pages — for site owners looking to build customer relationships and augment sales. And marketers aren’t the only ones cheering on Team Email: 72 percent of consumers say email is their favorite method of communication with companies they do business with, and 61 percent say they like to receive promotional emails every week from businesses. So educate yourself: get the 411 on dodging the spam folder and providing valuable content that customers want to see enter their inboxes. Learn about the types of emails you should be sending your followers, (like the increasingly prevalent email newsletter), work on building your ever-important email list, and start connecting with more of your customers in their inboxes. Like what you see here? Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter that’s jam-packed with content you’ll love. 8. Fine Tune Your Customer Service You probably already know this, but excellent customer service doesn’t just take place from behind a counter anymore. Like most things in the business of the online age, customer service interactions are increasingly transparent and web-based, with virtual-word-of-mouth effects that have the power to make or break your business. In fact, good customer service practices are essential to modern and future businesses: By 2020—less than two years from now—customer service is expected to become more significant than price or product when customers decide who gets their business. No pressure, right? Let’s raise the stakes a little more. As it turns out, bad customer service does some serious damage to your business. Data evidence shows that 71 percent of consumers — yep, nearly three-quarters of ‘em — have terminated their relationship with a company due to poor customer service. Yikes. That’s not all. You’re actually helping out your competitors when you don’t prioritize top-notch customer service experiences: 61 percent of customers will take their business to a competitor after a negative customer service experience. Building strong customer service principles — like professionalism, communication, and active listening — help you to be more profitable, for one. Get this: it’s seven times more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones, and 58 percent of consumers are willing to spend more on those companies that provide excellent customer service. That makes more than dollars and sense. What’s more, by providing customers — and those elusive potential buyers — with a killer customer service experience, you’re setting your business up for success: better sales, repeat customers, strong relationships, a distinguished brand reputation, and those coveted five-star reviews. So start putting your best (virtual) face forward by demanding gold-star customer service experiences from your business. 9. Build Your Brand With the influx of social media and e-businesses, we see the word brand tossed around haphazardly, with an almost amorphous quality. What really is a brand? Why is it so crucial to build one? How can you establish your business’ brand? Inherent to branding is your business identity: getting seen — and becoming known — by your target audiences. With strong branding, you have the opportunity to become an authority in your field or industry and build loyal customer followings. Think of building your brand awareness as establishing your e-reputation. Like we talked about with target audiences (see No. 6), your niche — and the brand you ultimately build — determine your business decisions; it impacts the voice, feel, style, and substance of your content and website, and on a more technical level, your operations, management, interactions, and marketing efforts. Think about some of the most popular brands out there: Nike, Disney, Coca-Cola, for example. They all have recognizable and unique brands. You may not be setting your sights on global domination (yet), but these big-wigs prove that building your brand is an crucial to-do for excelling in business. 10. Run A/B Tests Talk to any experienced web owner and they’ll likely let you in on a little small biz secret: no one gets it right the first time. This applies to multiple aspects of your business (hello, learning curve), but especially your website. A fine-tuned, well-performing site requires time and tweaking to perfect. You’ll want to regularly run tests on your site to see what is — and what isn’t — working best for your visitors and your bottom line. This important trial and error process doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly technical; simple A/B testing (aka: the comparison of two variations of a single webpage, design, ad, or other marketing media to determine which version converts more successfully), when strategized, can give you valuable insight on performance to help you adjust and refine the various aspects your website — everything from CTAs to images to copy length. What results is valuable insight that you can analyze to help your site — and ultimately, your business — improve. Three cheers for progress! (That’s what resolutions are all about, right?) 11. Meet Customers in Person The day and age in which we do business are replete with 21st-century benefits: new and innovative technology, evolving e-commerce landscapes, and the unique opportunity of being able to connect with anyone, anywhere. Talk about living in the iGeneration! But even with all the technological latest-and-greatest and virtual advancements, the truth is: you need some quality, in-person face time with your customers. Step out from behind your .com and interact with those supporting and championing your small biz. Work to host meetups, workshops, or even informal get-togethers, and spend time on the ground floor of your brick-and-mortar (if you have one). Express genuine gratitude to customers for their patronage and support, and seek to get to know them. Not only will this boost your customer service rep, but it will give you insight on how to better serve your audiences. In both respects, you’re building a better business. And that’s what 2019 is all about. At DreamHost, we thrive on meeting our awesome users IRL. That’s why we regularly host and support collaborative learning events, WordCamps, and multi-city tours: to meet YOU. 12. Get Involved in Your Community Trust in this knowledge: you have something of value to contribute to your community — whether it be your purely virtual e-community or IRL associations. Get involved and lift your business — and society you live in — together. Some ideas? Learn from others. Collaborate, crowdfund, pitch in together for noble causes, and share knowledge. Another life- and business-altering effort? Support and champion those on whom the spotlight isn’t often shined — especially women and minorities — and help them to get involved in business and tech, and help your community diversify. The effects of your efforts will be far-reaching both for your business and the communities you are a part of. We really are all in this together. 13. Research Web Design Trends As a small business and website owner, you need to stay on top of the trends. No, we’re not talking about the in-season looks gracing the catwalks of NYFW. We mean web design trends. DYK? Design on the web goes through phases and fads, too. Keep tabs on what’s in style (minimalism and asymmetry, anyone?) and what is sooo 2018 to keep your site relevant, engaging, and looking fresh with a capital F. Some website design fundamentals are basic and some design to-dos never go out of style, while other design trends vary from year to year. Do your research to stay in the know; then consult your design checklist, channel your inner Chip and Joanna, and build a beautiful — and en vogue — website. Shiplap not required. 14. Create a Staging Site Like we talked about with goal No. 10, often the best websites take time — and testing — to really get right. Setting up a staging site is a great way to test your site and fix errors — without letting your live site miss a beat (or risking unnecessary or unanticipated downtime). How does a staging site work? Well, it’s pretty simple. Also know as a testing or development site, a staging site is a standalone copy of your website (whether that be a blank site or carbon copy of your existing one) that you can use to try out site fixes or changes — like new plugins or themes or bug fixes before implementing them on your live, or public, site. Your staging site is for your eyes and testing purposes only — it’s a private site that only you can access. Staging sites can be offline and stored on a local computer or hosted online but marked as private. As you can guess, staging sites are beneficial for many reasons. First, it provides you with a safe environment to experiment with site changes before implementing them on your live website. Whether you’re a perfectionist or simply want to improve your website, a staging environment allows you to tweak until you get it just right. Second, staging sites facilitate the learning process. You’re not going to know everything about WordPress (or whatever CMS you use) right away, so staging sites give you a way to learn as you experiment incorporating plugins, themes, or custom code on the platform. Think of it as your website playground. Lastly, staging sites provide you with the perfect place to test solutions for bugs and fix any troublesome site errors. You can, of course, maintain and tweak your website on your public site, but live maintenance creates the risk of something on your site breaking, slowing loading times, or causing other interferences in your visitors’ experience on your website. Not ideal. This year, resolve to simplify and streamline your live website maintenance. Create a staging site to make sure everything on your website is working correctly — and to your liking — before implementing changes to your live site and welcoming traffic to it. 15. Stay Up to Date on Marketing Innovations Just like design trends (No. 13), marketing tactics are ever-evolving. The small business owners of yesteryear looking to get eyes on their goods weren’t pushing new podcast episodes, managing micro-influencers, or fishing for Facebook likes. Marketing really has come a long way since the early 2000s. The way you build traffic and promote your content is likely to transform as industries and digital landscapes change, and as your business grows. Plus, things change as marketers are continually discovering new, innovative ways to connect with customers, giving you new opportunities to learn and engage with your audiences. Sometimes these new strategies are merely building off of foundational tried-and-true tactics, like implementing seasonal or niche-related touches onto your current marketing efforts of developing a social media presence, growing and maintaining an email list, advertising, and running a company blog. And other times, they’re completely new approaches to reaching customers — like the recent developments in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and voice search. Keeping up with current marketing innovations means doing your research and implementing the latest marketing tactics that make the most sense for your business. Guided by your overall business goals, you can develop an up-to-date marketing strategy that couples the best of old and new marketing innovations. 16. Use PPC Advertising There really is a lot to small biz advertising, and it can be overwhelming for newbies — and beginner budgets. But promoting your site and attracting audiences through advertising doesn’t have to be overly-complicated — or pricey. This year, give PPC advertising a go. PPC, or pay-per-click, works like this: A search engine query displays both organic results (the sites that come up because they are relevant based on their keywords, SEO strategy, fresh content, and responsive design) and paid search results. You’ve likely seen this second type of result identified with an “Ad” or “Sponsored” label. Paid search — as the name suggests — involves dishing out dollars to have your website appear in the sponsored sections of search engine results and corresponding partner sites. Both organic and paid searches appear in search results, just in different locations. PPC allows you to have your website appear in the sponsored/ad results, but the best part? You only pay for it when someone clicks on your ad. With PPC, your business can take advantage of the web’s virtual rush hour of clicks in a wallet-friendly and low-risk way. Need the step-by-step how-to on getting started with pay-per-click advertising? Follow our exhaustive PPC guide. 17. Try Out Some New Tools A new year means new opportunities for trying things that are, well, new. The end of one 365 and the beginning of another can motivate you to run, skip, or hop out of your comfort zone and expand your range of skills and knowledge. Start by experimenting with some new tools that help you build your business. Let’s get some ideas flowing: Want to build your own website? Check out our site builder, Remixer and get creating.Want to boost your SEO in big ways? Easy. There are tons of tools for that.Want to open up your own e-shop? Test out WooCommerce, Shopify, or Magneto. We’ll show you how.Are you a WordPress groupie (hey, join the club!) looking to take advantage of the platform’s latest and greatest features? Give Gutenberg a gander.Want to become a coding master? We’ve compiled more than seventy tools to help you with that.Looking to explore other CMS options? Check out Drupal or Joomla! Whether you’re learning a new (digital) language, familiarizing yourself with the ins-and-outs of WordPress, or meeting millennials on their turf of a new social networking site, trying out new tools will help you become a more well-rounded and knowledgeable small biz owner — an advantage that’s bound to help you build a better business in 2019. 18. Give Back Just because you’re a business looking to make $$$ doesn’t mean you can’t also give back to the communities and customers helping you grow — or to those causes that resonate with you personally. Seek out opportunities to flex your business’ philanthropic muscles and give back in meaningful ways — and not just during the holidays. For our 20th birthday last year, we celebrated by gifting more clean water to the world — with your help! Our joint efforts to bankroll more community-owned clean water projects around the world resulted in a $9,500+ donation. And you know what? Giving back felt good. Really good. Whether your giving efforts tie into tech or not, joining with your community and offering of your time or substance will not only result in a return of positive juju, but it will give more meaning to your day-to-day work. 19. Subscribe to the DreamHost Blog In addition to being your hosting gurus, one of our goals (not just this year, but every year) is to provide you with relevant, useful content that helps you reach your small business and website goals. Follow along with us on our DreamHost blog for a continued stream of valuable articles designed to keep you learning and improving your business all year long. Be awesome on the internet. Join our monthly newsletter for tips and tricks to build your dream website. Here you can find profiles on website owners making big moves with DreamHost, complete guides on every tech topic, beginner-friendly how-tos, and sooo much more. We do it all — for you! We love watching you succeed. In fact, we live for it. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and business-booming new year! The post 19 New Year’s Resolutions for Small Businesses to Make in 2019 appeared first on DreamHost.

Let’s Take a Look at SEO Trends: How to Rank Higher in 2019

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a vital part of any website owner or digital marketer’s work. This is unlikely to change in the new year, but that doesn’t mean you can just rely on old strategies. In fact, as browsing habits change, you’ll need to keep your SEO techniques up to date. The way people use search engines such as Google changes constantly. For example, over the past few years, ‘mobile-first’ has become an important mantra for improving both accessibility and page rankings. While nobody can tell for sure what the future holds, it is possible to get a good idea of what you should focus on for the next year. In this article, we’ll talk about why SEO will continue to be a critical consideration in the upcoming year. We’ll also discuss some of the trends that may come to dominate your SEO strategy in 2019. Let’s get started! The Current State of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) In case you’re new to the concept, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to a series of techniques for helping your site rank higher in search results. It’s an integral aspect of everyday work for most developers and content creators, and looks poised to remain so for years to come. There is no shortage of ways you can improve SEO on your website. General considerations include making sure its loading times are kept to a minimum, for example, and performing keyword research to tailor your posts to match what people are searching for. However, while it might seem like SEO practices are evergreen, this is far from the case. In reality, what ranks well depends on the search engines’ algorithms, which are continually changing. This naturally means you can’t keep relying on the same optimization techniques over time and expect good results. As such, you’ll want to stay up-to-date with the changing world of SEO. This will help you keep your site optimized well into 2019 (and beyond). SEO Trends: 10 Tips for Ranking Higher in 2019 To help you get a head-start on optimizing your content in the new year, we’re now going to take a look at some of the SEO trends that will be worth paying attention to in 2019. We’ll also give you some tips on how to adapt your content and strategy to take advantage of those trends. Let’s jump right in! 1. Prepare Your Site for Voice Search Voice search has already nestled comfortably into many people’s lives. Perhaps you use Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Echo, or Google’s Assistant, just to name three examples. As this technology becomes more prevalent so to will the need to consider how voice search will affect your SEO efforts. The main difference between typical SEO strategies and optimizing for voice search involves using more ‘natural’ phrasing. After all, text searches usually involve stilted, compressed phrases like “best blog hosting 2018.” However, if you were to use your voice to search for the same information, you’d probably say something like: “What is the best hosting for blogs this year?” Do you notice how the second phrase is both more natural and considerably longer? This means you’ll also want to consider optimizing your content for long-tail keywords to a greater degree. Since the ultimate goal is to use keywords people are likely to search for, this might actually make your job easier, as you won’t need to jam cumbersome key phrases into your content. 2. Optimize Your Site for Speed Optimizing your site for performance is something we’ve discussed in several previous posts. However, the importance of this step bears repeating. Loading times will undoubtedly remain a huge consideration in 2019, especially when it comes to improving your site’s rankings. This issue became even more pressing in 2018, as Google announced it would begin factoring in page speed for mobile devices. This is due to the growing popularity of mobile browsing, and means that keeping load times short is now a primary concern for all website owners. Fortunately, we’ve also previously explored how to speed up your site in general. Key strategies include implementing a caching solution, as well as optimizing your media files. For more information, you can take a look at our full series of tutorials on performance optimization. 3. Make Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a distinctly futuristic ring to it. So it’s no surprise that it’s going to play a major role in how SEO changes in the near future. We’re (unfortunately) not talking about hiring a robot to handle your SEO strategy, but that’s not as far from the reality as you might expect. Google already uses AI extensively, thanks to its RankBrain system. This is a bot that uses machine learning to continuously improve Google’s search results. It finds patterns and context in millions of pages, which the search engine can then use to return more relevant results for specific queries. However, Google isn’t the only party that can also use AI to its advantage. In fact, tools that utilize machine learning to improve your SEO are becoming more popular. One such example is Automated Insights. This solution helps you turn unorganized data, such as site analytics, into a clear narrative. In turn, that can help you spot patterns more quickly and start making improvements. Another tool that can help you when creating content is WordLift. This WordPress plugin uses machine learning to help you optimize your content. It does that by both offering suggestions for the actual content and by adding structured metadata and suggesting relevant links. We suspect that this is only scratching the surface of what AI-based tools will be able to do in the future. As such, getting familiar with this technology now can give you a vital head start. 4. Improve Your Mobile Pages Google’s mobile-first index means that the search engine now ranks pages based on their versions designed for mobile devices. As such, even if your site performs flawlessly on a desktop, but it’s hard to use and sluggish when viewed on a smartphone, your SEO rankings will likely suffer. For this reason, optimizing your site for mobiles is no longer optional. In reality, you’ll need to spend even more time making sure your mobile site is fast and usable. This is also called making your site responsive, since the goal is for it to work well regardless of the screen size or device type used to view it. You’ll also need to consider how your site will actually work on different screens. For example, if you’ve designed your navigation for desktop browsing, is it still as intuitive and simple to use on mobile devices? If your site contains additional elements, such as pop-ups, you’ll also need to ensure that they don’t interfere with the mobile user experience. Thankfully, this is not as difficult as it might seem. For instance, the vast majority of WordPress themes and plugins are built with responsive design in mind. However, to avoid any issues, you should still make sure to thoroughly test your site on multiple devices. 5. Focus on More Personalized Results It often seems like people are getting less patient by the day. They want to find the information they need much more quickly, for instance, which is why Google has placed a greater focus on personalized results. Most notably, Google actually gathers information about each individual user to return the most relevant results. Another example can be found in Google’s ‘answer boxes.’ Google’s service is also personalized by offering searchers contextual results based on previous searches or even the user’s location. If you try searching for “Where is the nearest coffee shop?”, you’ll be shown options that are close by. This may seem like a difficult trend to leverage to your own advantage, but it’s far from impossible. You can actually increase your odds of appearing in answer boxes by merely providing clear and organized information on your site. Using lists and distinct headings to summarize each page’s contents will also help Google parse and index the information, making it easier to get your site featured in the coveted ‘position 0.’ 6. Extend Your SEO Strategy to Your Social Media Channels Having a strong social media presence is a significant aspect of online marketing. Naturally, this also applies to your SEO strategy. While social media shares aren’t currently a direct ranking factor, there does seem to be a correlation between social signals and rankings. How this works is complicated, to say the least, and we won’t get too deep into the details here. Suffice it to say that the more your content is shared, the more traffic your site will likely get through search engines. This also helps you build backlinks and brand awareness, since more people will see and talk about your site. As such, it’s vital that you factor in your social media presence when considering SEO. Focus on a few essential platforms and maintain a consistent strategy for sharing content and interacting with your followers. This will help you across all areas of your marketing. 7. Shift Your Focus Away from Google So far, we’ve consistently referred almost exclusively to Google when considering SEO. This is no accident, considering that it remains the most popular search engine by far. Still, it may not be a good idea to focus solely on Google’s ranking algorithms when putting together your SEO strategy. Amazon’s search engine, for example, is becoming one of the most significant on the web. As it turns out, over half of shoppers turn to Amazon when searching for products, rather than to Google. Another example comes in the form of YouTube, which remains the world’s second largest search engine. What this means for you is that relying solely on Google may not be feasible from now on. For example, if you want your products to be more visible, you’ll need to consider Amazon to a much larger degree. If you have a lot a video and other non-text content, on the other hand, YouTube and similar platforms should be high on your list of targets. 8. Understand How Blockchain Affects SEO If you’ve never heard of ‘blockchain’ before, you’re not alone. While the concept is too complex to do full justice here, we can break it down in simplified terms. In essence, a blockchain is a list of records that cannot be modified after the fact. Every item – or block – in the chain is recorded and preserved as-is forever. This technology can affect SEO, because using blockchain changes the relationship between advertisers and website owners. With blockchains, you can guarantee that every click is valid, meaning that the days of bot visitors are over. This will lead to improved verified data, meaning that sites won’t be able to get away with artificially improving their rankings using automated clicks. At this point, your best move is simply to learn more about blockchain and how it can affect your site and business. This is a complex and nuanced topic, so being prepared is key. You may even wish to hire an expert to help you if you’re interested in implementing blockchain yourself. 9. Improve Your Technical SEO SEO is often thought of as a concern exclusive to content creators and marketers. However, the reality is that it’s also something developers need to think about. The process of ‘technical SEO’ refers to making sure your site is compatible with the standards set by search engines. Two major aspects of technical SEO that we’ve already touched on include page speed and mobile-friendliness. However, another crucial consideration is site security. For instance, Google now requires sites to be delivered using HTTPS, in order to be labeled as ‘secure’ in the Chrome browser. These are just a few of the elements that fall under the technical SEO umbrella. While we don’t have time to go through everything, here are a few additional aspects you’ll want to consider: Site architecture. By designing your site in a logical way, you’ll make it easier for crawlers to catalog and index your pages, which improves your rankings. Rich snippets. This is a type of markup that adds extra information to your pages, making them stand out more in search results. Duplicate content. Search engines penalize sites that feature the same content in more than one location. As such, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t repeat or re-use the same text. As we mentioned, this is by no means a comprehensive list. However, it should be enough to get you started, whether or not you have an interest in development. 10. Use SEO to Optimize Your Videos For our final tip, we should acknowledge that SEO isn’t just about text. It’s also vital to look at SEO as it pertains to video content. This is increasingly important as video is becoming more prevalent by the day. To give you an example, in 2018 nearly half of all internet users watched at least an hour of online video every week. Site owners have started to take heed of this trend, and you can do the same. An easy way to start? Include videos on your site. Search engines consider the quality of your content and the length of time users stick around as ranking factors. By using video, you can improve both metrics. What’s more, you can also aim to improve SEO on the videos themselves. This involves using clear and descriptive titles, choosing the right video hosting platform, and making sure to address your users’ questions and pain points. This will make sure your visitors get the information they need while improving your rankings at the same time. Moving on Up Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not a static pursuit. As the internet changes, so do the parameters that determine how well your site ranks in search engines. This means that you need to stay up-to-speed with the latest SEO trends in order to ensure continued success for years to come. What do you think SEO will look like in 2019 and beyond? Share your predictions in the DreamHost Community and let’s discuss! The post Let’s Take a Look at SEO Trends: How to Rank Higher in 2019 appeared first on DreamHost.

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.

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