DreamHost Blog

DreamHost Continues to be COVID-19 Ready

As much of the world continues to live under orders to minimize physical interaction, we’ve all gotten a feel for what life looks like in a world where COVID-19 is ever-present. Some have lost jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. Some are wrestling with the anxiety and uncertainty caused by this global crisis. Most horribly, some of us have lost friends and family as this coronavirus has worked its way through our communities. Our hearts go out to all of you. I want to take a minute to update you on the state of DreamHost and reassure you that, in a world where each day brings new concerns and unknowns, we will continue to be there for you as a partner to keep your businesses and websites online and performing. You may recall that the majority of the DreamHost team has been working on a fully-remote basis since mid-March. Our team members will be able to work remotely throughout the remainder of 2020, allowing them the flexibility needed to stay safe at home with their families. We have expanded our employee assistance programs to help support our team during this time, making additional financial and mental health resources available to them. You’ve Been Busy Over the past three months, we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of DreamHost customers logging into their accounts and building wonderful things. For many of you, being #SaferAtHome means having more time to focus on your online businesses and projects with DreamHost. This has been an inspiration for all of us at DreamHost to watch and drives home the deep responsibility we’ve always felt to keep you and your data secure and available. We won’t let you down. We have always prided ourselves on delivering extraordinary customer service, and during this time you are turning to us for assistance in volumes we haven’t previously experienced. To provide this additional help with the same quality and speed that you’ve come to expect, we have had multiple “Support Only” days where everyone in the company drops all other projects to focus on our top priority: individualized customer service. Rest assured that truly expert advice is available from anyone on our team, anytime you need it. All Systems Go We know how much you rely on us to keep your projects running. Many of you are using your websites to host online portfolios and resumes while you embark on job searches. Quite a few of you have shared stories of using this time to build new online businesses. Now, more than ever, you’ve got to have a reliable way to share your content with the world. We’re committed to maintaining the integrity of your hosting, the very foundation of your online businesses, blogs, and web apps. Our systems remain online and operational with enough capacity to meet your needs now and into the future. Payment Assistance We understand that everyone’s financial situation is unique, and some of us may be having a difficult time making ends meet. If your DreamHost bill presents a hardship, please reach out to our customer support team to explore your options. We can work with you to find ways to reduce your bill or even work out a deferred payment plan. Helpful Resources You’re not in this alone. We’ve put together a collection of tools and articles to help your business stay open and thrive for as long as we’re all asked to stay home. You’ll find guides on everything from growing your online business to starting a side hustle. We hope you find these resources helpful! We’re Stronger Together After listening to many of your stories over the past few months, one thing has become very clear. We’re all experiencing this crisis very differently. For some, this has provided a much-needed time to regroup and find focus. For others, entire lives have been upended. One thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to you and your websites. We’re here to support you and your businesses, and we’ll be there to help you build new ones too. This Sounds Familiar… If any of this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard it hundreds of times by now! Platitudes aside, we are here for you during this difficult time and look forward to a safe recovery. Thank you for choosing DreamHost. We are proud to be your online partner. Be excellent, Michael CEO, DreamHost The post DreamHost Continues to be COVID-19 Ready appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

The 11 Most Important SEO Metrics to Track

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a collection of techniques used in web design and content creation to increase your website’s reach. When done right, your search engine rankings should improve and your website’s traffic can increase. That’s why knowing to what extent your SEO strategy is making a difference is essential. Fortunately, tracking your website’s metrics and analyzing the trends you find helps you understand how users are interacting with your content. Knowing the most crucial SEO metrics to track — such as page views, bounce rates, and conversions — helps you evaluate which strategies might need to be tweaked and which ones are hitting a home run. In this article, we’ll share the 11 most important SEO metrics to track. You’ll learn what they mean and how to apply them to your business. We’ll also offer some helpful tips and tools for making sense of the data you collect. Let’s get started! Looking for a Shortcut to SEO Success?Partner with DreamHost! Our automatic updates and strong security defenses take server management off your hands so you can focus on SEO results.Check Out Plans Why You Need to Track the Right SEO KPIs Tracking your SEO data and crunching the numbers so they provide you with insightful information definitely requires an investment of time and often money. However, 63% of marketers actively invest in SEO, as well as tracking the data that results. Without identifying the right key performance indicator (KPI) for your website, your SEO strategy is “flying blind.” This is because SEO metrics tell you exactly how your campaigns are performing, what keywords are getting a response, and which tactics you can stop wasting time on. When you track and analyze your SEO metrics appropriately, you’ll have access to specific data points that can inform your decisions and increase your leads, conversions, and more. All you need to get started is to know which numbers matter most. The 11 Most Important SEO Metrics to Track Websites and their users create a lot of data. To help you sort through the chaos, we’ll take a look at 11 of the most important metrics to track when evaluating your SEO effort. 1. Keyword Ranking Keyword rankings indicate where your website appears in search engine results for specific words and phrases. For example, if you have a construction company, a search including the word building may result in your site only appearing on page three of the results. However, if you’ve used more SEO strategies that focus on the keyword contractor, your site should appear in a better position for searches including that term. The higher your site is ranked for relevant keywords, the more visibility it will have to your audience. This means that in order to improve this metric, you’ll want to do some research to determine which terms and phrases your target audience is searching for. To start tracking keyword rankings and other related data, there are several SEO tools you can use (check out these 15 awesome options). Google Search Console is the best place to start if you have a small (or nonexistent) budget, while the other products offer scalable pricing depending on your needs. If you’re looking for a more robust tool, we recommend SEMrush, an SEO suite that’s trusted by 5 million marketers around the world. Its Position Tracking tool makes it easy to see how your site is ranking for target keywords and paid results each day. Plus, you get in-depth insights into your competitors’ top terms. The good news? We’ve worked out a special two-week trial with SEMrush so you can see if this tool is a good fit for your site! 2. Backlinks Backlinks are links to your website from another site. Many backlinks operate like citations, noting where the information came from and referring readers to the original source. Search engines tend to give preference to sites with lots of backlinks, especially if they’re coming from high-quality sources. Building backlinks can be tricky since you don’t have direct control over who links to your site. Most of the tools out there related to backlinks are focused on tracking existing backlinks and using that information to help you build better content strategies. For example, Linkody is a backlink-specific tool that delivers a lot of useful features. This backlink tool enables you to not just track who is linking to you, but also identify and correct any link errors. It can also be connected to Google Analytics. Just remember that when it comes to getting a backlink, quality matters just as much as quantity. So while it’s good to see the overall number of backlinks going up, you’ll want to make sure that as many of them as possible are coming from relevant and highly-ranked websites. Related: 13 Simple Ways to Boost Your SEO Performance 3. Organic Search Traffic Organic search traffic includes visitors who arrive at your website from search engine results rather than through other channels such as social media, paid advertising, or backlinks. One of the easiest ways to track this type of traffic is with Google Analytics. Organic search is significant because users who find your site this way are typically searching with a specific goal in mind. In fact, 51% of all web traffic comes from organic search, and over 40% of revenue is generated from it. In other words, growing this metric is one of your best options for improving conversions. Generating organic traffic requires sharp SEO tactics and effective audience targeting.  This means that tracking this metric over time is vital, so you can see immediately what strategies are working and which need to be amended. 4. Top Exit Pages for Organic Traffic Another common analytic you can track is the last page each user was on right before leaving your website. This is called the “exit page.” Having this information at hand can be just as important as monitoring your overall organic traffic. This is because the more you understand why users choose to leave your website, the easier it is to convince them to stick around longer. If the top exit pages share certain elements in common, such as a particular type or style of content, this can be a clue that your target audience is looking for something different. Google Analytics is one of the best tools for tracking your site’s top exit pages. You can easily access an Exit Page report and see a breakdown of all the related data. Related: The Top 11 Domain Best Practices to Improve Your Search Traffic 5. Breakdown of Organic Traffic from Search Engines There’s a lot more to discover about your organic traffic data than simply how many users found you through keyword searches. In fact, Google Analytics offers a detailed breakdown of this traffic. Under the Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels menu, you’ll find keywords displayed in context with a number of other key data points. This includes how many new users used certain keywords, how long they viewed pages, and whether they generated revenue for your site. Learning about where your organic traffic is coming from and what they’re doing enables you to pinpoint problems to be fixed (such as a high organic traffic rate with few resulting conversions). 6. Page Views Per User Next up: page views. Page views measure how many times the pages on your site have been viewed in a given period of time. This isn’t the same as your traffic number, since many users may visit more than one page. This means that page views is a metric best considered in context with other numbers. For example, average page views per session or user can tell you how engaged most visitors are with your site. You can also look at this metric in combination with the length of time users spend on your pages. This provides valuable insight into how your content is performing. Are people moving from page to page too quickly, or spending time with each new piece of content? If any of these numbers appear troubling, reviewing your content and revisiting your market research are two steps you can take to create a more engaging experience for your users. 7. Average Time on Page Tracking your website users’ average time on page can be tricky. This is because there are many factors that influence user behavior. For example, a tab left open but idle in a browser for hours shouldn’t really be counted as part of the user’s “time on page.” According to CrazyEgg, 15 seconds is the average time users spend on a web page. If you find that your numbers are below this benchmark, it might be worth doing some market research to make sure you’re targeting the right audiences. Technical issues can also lead to difficulty keeping users on your site. If you suspect this is a problem, you can try checking your page loading speed with a tool like Pingdom. You can also use one of several optimization tactics for boosting the performance of your website. 8. New vs. Returning Users Keeping an eye on your number of new and returning users can be a good indicator of how your audience is responding to your marketing and SEO efforts. For example, if you have more returning customers than new users, that likely means you’ve successfully built some trust and loyalty among your visitors. However, this might also mean that while your existing customer base is steady and reliable, you may need to spend more time and resources on attracting new customers. One way to do this is to revisit your target market research and see if anything has changed, or if new markets have emerged where you can focus your SEO effort. Alternatively, high numbers of new users are a great sign that your promotional strategies are working. However, if the number of returning visitors is low, you may need to do some work on your site to better capture the attention of those new users. 9. Bounce Rate Your bounce rate is a metric that represents how many visitors leave your website without engaging in any content at all. A user might land on your home page, look around but not click on anything, and leave. If no other actions are taken or pages visited, that’s considered a “bounce.” This rate is found by dividing the number of “no activity” users by the number of overall visitors to the website during the same time frame. Alternatively, you can use Google Analytics’ Behavior > Overview report to get a quick view of your site’s bounce rate. Normal bounce rates vary by industry and website type. As a general rule, however, a bounce rate higher than 50 to 60% may indicate a problem with your site’s content. You can take a look at some of the other metrics we’ve discussed, such as the top exit pages and average time on page, to see what’s causing users to bounce away. Then you can make adjustments to your content and strategies in order to keep them around. Related: How to Build a Lead-Generating Landing Page with WordPress 10. Page Speed A slow page loading time can have negative consequences on your overall success online.  Whether you’re running a blog or an e-commerce page, no one wants to wait around for your content to fully load. In fact, one Google study found that a wait time of just one to three seconds increases the probability that users will bounce away from your website by 32%. The golden rule is to keep your page loading times under two seconds, but the lower they are the better. Fortunately, you can easily optimize your website for speed. A great place to start is by testing your site’s performance with a tool like Pingdom or GTmetrix. These solutions will also help you identify aspects of your site that may be hurting its performance. Related: 12 Reasons Why Your Website Is Slow and How to Fix Them 11. Conversion Rate In many cases, conversion rates are the most crucial SEO metric to track. A conversion happens when a visitor to your site completes an action you’ve prompted them to do. For example, if you have a blog, a conversion might happen when a follower signs up for your newsletter. For businesses, a conversion is often measured as a completed sale. Whatever your goal might be, conversions are a great way to directly investigate whether your SEO strategy is working. If you’re not happy with your rates, you can use your analytics tools to look closely at your conversion data and see where improvements might be necessary. In Google Analytics, for example, you can set up “goals” in your dashboard. These are the specific actions that will count as conversions and be tracked. This enables you to focus on your unique objectives and gather a robust and comprehensive set of conversion data. Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) How to Keep Your SEO Momentum Going With Quality Control Checks It’s necessary to keep in mind that your metrics are a reflection of the work you put into improving your site and growing your audience. This means there are several other elements not directly related to SEO that you’ll still need to keep an eye on. Here are a few other elements that can have an impact on how well your website performs in search engines: Crawl errors can mean that your site’s data is not being indexed correctly by search engines. Pages crawled per day is information available in Google Search Console, and can be used to keep tabs on your site’s health in terms of SEO. Duplicate titles and descriptions can hurt your rankings in search results, but you can use a tool like Yoast SEO to clean them up. Local visibility means focusing your SEO strategy on your local area, such as by registering with Google My Business. Click-Through Rates (CTRs) typically pertain to advertisements or email marketing efforts and are an important measure of the effectiveness of your campaigns. All of these pieces are key parts of the SEO puzzle. Of course, the quality of your content also has a significant impact on how well your site performs in the rankings, so that’s a factor to keep in mind as well. SEO Expert in Your InboxWhether you need help picking the right engagement metric, understanding digital marketing, or creating an SEO campaign, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly digest so you never miss an article.Sign Me Up Improving SEO Performance Now that you have an idea of which metrics are most important for SEO, it should be easier to develop a solid web analytics plan. Your unique goals will also affect what numbers are most relevant to you and your site. Google Analytics is a great place to start when it comes to navigating key data such as conversions, page speed, user behavior, and more. If you’re using WordPress, it’s even easier to integrate analytics tools right into your admin dashboard, using plugins like Google Site Kit and MonsterInsights. Here at DreamHost, we offer many reliable WordPress hosting plans. Whether your site is big or small, we’ll handle the hosting so you can focus on your favorite SEO metric to track the data you need to succeed! The post The 11 Most Important SEO Metrics to Track appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels: Treasured Beauty, Sustainably Crafted

Talk about the American dream: Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels started from Sofia Kaman’s one-bedroom apartment and now has a Los Angeles store and a website that caters to customers around the globe. Initially, Sofia started making jewelry simply for fun. In 2001, she had just married her husband, Geoff Kaman, who encouraged Sofia to launch her own business. “I had been furiously designing jewelry as a hobby,” Sofia recalls. “He pushed me and said you should do this. My passion went from a hobby to working in a jewelry store to working on my own collection. We started the business from a wholesale line and grew it over the last 19 years and turned it into a retail store. Our website was always a part of it and grew with us organically over the years.” Though their web business has become a dominant avenue for Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels, their creative home is their building in Santa Monica. It houses their showroom, office, design space, and even their marketing and photoshoots are done there. In addition to showing their own collection, they also showcase antique and vintage jewelry. Everything is designed by Sofia and locally produced in Los Angeles by their team of artisans. Having the line made locally is a key part of its sustainability mission. Going Green A cornerstone of Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels is their commitment to using sustainable materials. “It’s definitely been a passion of mine since the beginning to figure out ways to be more and more sustainable,” Sofia says. “In this day and age, it’s not a question of can you be sustainable, but how can you be — what are the ways and how much. There is mining involved in the jewelry business, so it has a big impact on the earth. Loving and respecting nature — that’s so much of an inspiration for the designs and the motif — and being sustainable goes hand in hand.” They offer a range of green opportunities for clients, from lab-grown diamonds to small scale mined gemstones to antique diamonds repurposed into new pieces. Being more green is their ongoing goal, which is why they are on the hunt for more eco-friendly packaging. They use recycled gold whenever casting their own work, and they’re also looking into gold that has been ethically mined. “Fair mining impacts economics and communities,” Geoff says. “Those people live a hard life and don’t get much back. It’s difficult because we’re a half a world away from them, but we figure out how to give back to them. We’re looking for an ongoing process to find new ways to make our jewelry sustainable. Sustainability and luxury don’t really go hand in hand. That’s the combination we are trying to define.” Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels showcases jewelry beyond the pieces made in their studio. “Geoff and I travel and source from all over the world,” Sofia says. “Our focus is on wedding and engagement, with vintage pieces too. We have a little bit of everything. One of the terms I use to describe our aesthetic is “bohemian elegant.” It’s very inspired by nature and has a bit of a vintage influence. My passions always come through in my own designs. Our own collection is antique and modern combined — it’s very textural.” Want to Meet More Awesome Site Owners?Subscribe to the DreamHost Digest for inside scoops, expert tips, and exclusive deals.Sign Me Up Rock Solid Sofia truly knows her way around the stones she works with. “She is really well versed in this because she went to the Gemological Institute of America and graduated as a gemologist — she’s not just a designer,” Geoff says. “It’s more than just being able to say it’s a recycled stone. She can give all the details on how it is that.” Though she has professional training as a gemologist, Sofia is mostly self-taught as a jeweler. While she was a college undergrad, she took a wax carving jewelry making class and still employs that method, sculpting all of her models in wax. Tech Whiz Sofia was working as an elementary school teacher when she first met Geoff, who is now the Technical Director for Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels. It turned out their skill sets perfectly complemented one another’s, making it ideal for them to start the business together. “I’ve had a long road,” Geoff says. “I was in the Marine Corps right after high school and served in Desert Storm. I did some traveling after that and ended up in California.” The self-taught software engineer has taught a software class at Santa Monica College and worked in Apple’s advertising during the company’s most substantial growth period, engineering their online presence. During that time, he also created websites for Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels. While Geoff was working at Apple, he had used a web hosting company he was unhappy with because it was overpriced and didn’t have a lot of options for users. A co-worker recommended DreamHost, and he’s stuck with it ever since 2005. “Everything about it I love,” Geoff says. “The support I get is unmatched by any other service I’ve ever used, and there have been quite a few. Their support team is knowledgeable, quick to act, and they’re all polite. Whenever you get on that chat queue, my issue is resolved. For all the years we’ve been using DreamHost, we’ve probably been down maybe an hour total, and those are from upgrades — they’re super reliable.” Another reason Geoff is a dedicated DreamHost customer is that he appreciates the scalability. “Any time we need to make our database bigger or use more memory, we are set,” he says. “I started off with a shared server and moved to a private server. I can use a sliding scale to match my needs.” 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 Plans Back in 2005, they started off using Flash on DreamHost for their website. After that was closed down, they moved to a WordPress site hosted on DreamHost, but it wasn’t scalable for the amount of activity they needed, so they moved on to Zen Cart to boost their e-commerce capabilities. One of Geoff’s areas of expertise is SEO, so he’s turned their site into what he calls an “SEO monster.” Now about half of their business comes from their website. “We have a lot more reach with the whole world than we do locally with our store,” Sofia says. As Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels has grown, so has their site. They’ve added enhancements to make it more personal, such as their virtual try-on. Mainly for rings, the virtual try-on allows you to take pictures of your hand on your phone and try on practically any of their rings through a couple of clicks. It acts like an app, but it’s hosted through DreamHost, so people don’t have to actually download a standalone app. Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels has fun with the feature. Recently they had a contest on Instagram and challenged people to build the best ring stack. The winner, selected by a popular vote, was gifted their stack, and a runner up received a gift certificate. Best in Store “The website is so robust that people use it as a catalog — they can basically shop all of our items online,” Geoff says. “We have all the details and different views, so the virtual try-on has always been a really big part of it. It takes a special person to drop $5,000 online without seeing it in person, so our main goal is to make them feel comfortable about their purchase.” Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels offers plenty of ways for clients to get in touch, including contacting a stylist, booking a virtual appointment, and online chats. “There are lots of ways to reach us, so it’s not a mystery on the other end,” Sofia says. Geoff adds, “They can book a virtual appointment using Skype or Zoom. We make ourselves available through whatever means they want.” Many people will peruse their website and then come into the store. “It’s really nice to have a physical presence,” Sofia says. “It’s very intricate, small work that sometimes is hard to capture in visuals. The online store and the showroom really work hand in hand for an experience for people. They might be introduced through social media, start exploring, find something they really love, and have to see in person.” People will even travel from out of state to visit their showroom. Meanwhile, their website brings shoppers from across the globe, particularly Australia, Singapore, and Europe. Related: 10 Easy Social Media Tips for Your Hard-Working Small Business For Sofia and Geoff, the most rewarding aspect of Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels, aside from seeing it grow, is working with clients. “We do a lot of wedding and engagement jewelry, so we tend to get involved with people’s lives,” Sofia says. “It’s a wonderful time; you can watch families grow, and it’s always really cute to see them come back later with their babies.” Ultimately, buying jewelry is a celebration. “Everybody who is coming in is celebrating something — a birthday, engagement, anniversary,” Geoff says. “With young couples who come in, they’re in L.A. and most are away from their family. We get this maternal relationship with them. It’s a friendship and almost a family that we build with our long-term clients. We stay in touch with them, and they come back over and over.” The post Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels: Treasured Beauty, Sustainably Crafted appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

10 Ways to Move an In-Person Service Business Online

We know you’ve been adapting to a new normal these days.  You’re a slave to your in-home wifi, your social interactions are taking place behind a screen, and your work “watercooler” moments are happening online, not around the office Keurig. But if you’re a business owner, those aren’t the only ways your working life has been transformed over the last few months.  Businesses are being profoundly affected by the global state of affairs. This is an unprecedented time for everyone, and as such, we’re learning to adapt and pivot how we do business. “It’s absolutely critical for businesses to pivot right now because the economic environment has completely changed,” says Jeremy Knauff, CEO of Spartan Media. “You can’t keep doing what used to work because everything is different right now. We’re facing a Darwinian business event unfolding.” Service professionals especially have been feeling the strain of how to transform their in-person business models into streamlined digital operations. Difficult? Absolutely. Impossible? We don’t think so. In this guide, we’re outlining 10 creative and lucrative ways that your service-based business can continue to make money and provide value during quarantine, while still planting seeds for future growth.  Web Hosting Shouldn’t Be Your Biggest ChallengeWe’ll make sure your website is fast, secure, and always up so your visitors trust you. Plans start at $2.59/mo.Choose Your Plan 10 Ways to Move Your In-Person Biz Online 1. Analyze Your Business Plan Before you jump into a new money-making effort, it’s helpful to take a look at your business as it currently operates (or did, pre-pandemic). With that in mind, consider: What will pivoting really look like for your business? “It could be a very small change in your business model, such as how you’ll deliver your services,” says Susana Fonticoba of Clear Path Marketing. “Or it could be a major change that disrupts the who, what, where, and how. Whatever changes you make in your business model, it must always satisfy the revenue you need to survive, the income you want to thrive, the type of clients you’ll serve, the clients’ deep goals, and the offers you’ll sell to fulfill it all.” Take the restaurant industry, which has been hit particularly hard during quarantine. Many have pivoted by offering curbside and delivery service but have still faced massive loss. Na’ama Moran, co-founder and CEO of the restaurant supply company, Cheetah, took a unique approach to deal with her industry’s changing business landscape due to COVID-19. Moran switched from serving as a wholesale restaurant supplier into a grocery delivery service, selling direct to consumers. “Moran leveraged Cheetah’s infrastructure, staff, inventory, and technology to provide a streamlined way for people to purchase food and cleaning supplies without any contact with other people,” Knauff explains. “This unique pivot enabled the company to continue moving their inventory while supporting their local community. Related: How to Set up Curbside Pickup and Delivery Through Your Website 2. Adapt Your Services Even if your business offers in-person service, there can be ways to safely continue providing those services — with necessary modifications and added digital provisions.  Take the recent adjustments made by lawn care company GreenPal. “We have changed up processes for how our vendor partners interact with their clients,” says Bryan Clayton, GreenPal co-founder. “We now have instituted a contactless procedure for when a homeowner hires a lawn care professional to mow their yard.” Because of these adjustments in operations, GreenPal has “seen a 17% conversion rate in many of the markets that we operate in,” Clayton adds. If your target audience is more hesitant to loosen the purse strings during an uncertain time, you can utilize digital tools to yield future growth. “More than anything, people are afraid to spend money right now,” says Bri Henke, owner and Design Director at Dig. “Because everything that used to be guaranteed just isn’t anymore — jobs, food, school, toilet paper — nothing feels safe about our world right now. So spending money on a luxury, like design, is slowing down. Right now, people are thinking about what they want to change about their home, and for that, I am trying to build up an e-design/concept package level to my business where we don’t have to physically interact, but we can make some positive changes to their space” Related: DreamHost’s Ultimate Small Business Resource Guide 3. Offer One-on-One Training or Tutorials Even when you’re taking your business online, you can still provide that essential person-to-person experience indispensable to service-based businesses. “A service is a personal experience,” says Jermaine Amado, photographer and owner of J Amado Photography. “It’s about building on the relationship with your client. So why not find a way to offer one-on-one support to your client through a video call? You could guide them through the process of taking photos, planning meals for the week, or a pedicure.” And pivoting your business for COVID-19 helps you not only prepare for future economic challenges but offers you a chance to target new audiences. “By offering one-on-one online photography courses and camera training, I feel like I was able to reach a new client base,” Amado says. “Adapting my services has allowed me to venture into an all-digital world where I don’t have to travel to offer my services.” No matter what field of industry your business occupies, you can adapt to bring offerings online. Related: How to Build an Awesome Online Store with WooCommerce 4. Offer Value Through Online Learning In addition to providing virtual services, you can make the most of the digital landscape by sharing your hard-earned knowledge, while establishing yourself as an authority and building your brand visibility. This strategy can help your business remain viable during a crisis and attract clients. For example, as a result of COVID-19, Southern Tax Preparation & Services moved from providing educational resources as part of its paid services to making those materials readily available through social media platforms and online communities, email campaigns, live video conferencing, and a podcast. This strategy shift is boosting the business in big ways. “We are establishing ourselves as an authority in the accounting and finance industry, and our audience’s desire to establish and maintain a stable financial structure has also increased,” says Jasmine Young, MBA, CPA, CFE, andSouthern Tax founder. “The increase in revenue from client referrals to purchase services that assist in creating a stable financial foundation is an obvious indication that our decision to pivot . . . was a step in the right direction for our company, as our gross income for the past quarter was 75% of last year’s gross income for the entire year.” The knowledge you have is valuable. Utilize it! Related: Easily Set Up an Online Course on Your WordPress Website  5. Curate Customized Product Kits Pivoting your traditional business in difficult times is necessary to establish multiple revenue streams to compensate for the loss of income from main offerings. This has been especially vital for hair salons in the UK, as governments may limit their re-opening for another six months.  HairCraze by Naomi, a salon in Wales, has innovated new strategies to offer value and boost its online business. They filmed a video on DIY haircutting, and a banner ad was placed on their website and Facebook page notifying visitors that the video is accessible to people who subscribe to their email or newsletter. According to their marketing company, this tactic has helped the business build up a stack of email addresses from potential customers to hit up and market to once the lockdown ends. HairCraze by Naomi has also contacted their current clients that regularly utilize hair coloring services, offering to make dye for them based on their individual hair profile. These dyes can be mailed or delivered to customers at a discounted cost, helping them maintain color between salon visits — a better-than-boxed-dye solution at a cheaper-than-a-salon-visit price.  Now that’s creative innovation. 6. Learn and Incorporate New Tech The health and fitness industry is seeing creative solutions to the prohibition on in-person gatherings as they seek to incorporate innovation and recoup lost earnings through digital offerings. Soofi Safavi, an entrepreneur and hot yoga enthusiast, pivoted his yoga business to operate virtually during the pandemic. When COVID-19 caused him to close his studios, instructors struggled with online class logistics and lost income, and his customers were without the habits they needed for their physical and mental health. Safavi acted quickly to create Wizard.fit, an integrated fitness app that allows instructors to virtually teach classes, collect payment, and instruct in a way that simulates a live studio.  Adapting to offer your business’ services on a digital platform doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. With the right network and tools, you can get virtual offerings up and running fast. “There are a myriad of opportunities available online for service-based workers,” said James Dyble, Managing Director of Global Sound Group. “For example, if you’re a personal trainer, jump on YouTube and start providing your services with that method. Possibly, even have a membership website or a mentoring program. . . . If the content is right, then the revenue will follow.” 7. Improve How You Engage Running a business behind a screen can be a challenge for service-based companies that rely on an in-person relationship. Use this time as an opportunity to refine and improve the ways that you engage and connect with audiences. First, update your website during this crisis. Make sure your customers are aware of what new or adjusted services you’re providing during social distancing. Then, take connection a step further. “As an events producer, I enable entrepreneurs, speakers, and organizations to have engaging events. Wow, did COVID-19 ever change that!” says Connie Zeller of C.Zeller Events. “I’m fortunate that I have amazing clients who could see the value of a pivot. While a virtual event can’t deliver the energy, physical connection, gift bags, food, and the overall live experience, it can still deliver an impactful message and reach the goals and visions of a live event.” Thoughtfully consider and plan how you’re going to provide your winning service in digital environments. Without the in-person connection, your business needs to use available tech in innovative ways to prioritize your audiences and nurture relationships. “Technology is allowing connection in such a productive way without having to leave your home,” Henke says. “So the opportunity to offer your clients your time still exists; it will just be through a screen. Reassuring your clients that they still get you, I think, is key in all of this — rather than just them feeling that they are only worth an email. [Clients] need to know that we are still there with them, it is just in a different capacity than before.”  Related: 20 Ways to Stay Social in an Age of Social Distancing 8. Expand Your Virtual Marketing Techniques As a professional organizer, Diane Eisenstein, founder and “Chief Organization Officer” of The Tidy Abode, has been experimenting with the addition of virtual services to her in-person business, offering coaching via FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom. “The most exciting part of it is that I have reached people from all around the country this way,” she says. “So many people staying at home want to be productive and get organized, but they get stuck on one part of the project. That’s where I come in! I give them advice on potential solutions and the products they need to get it done. I don’t get the big reveal moment at the end of a project, but I do see the ‘aha moments’ when I give my clients a suggestion that would work for their space.” Social media is likely already a part of your marketing strategy, so continue to expand your social media techniques to boost business! Host live tutorials on Instagram, Facebook, Zoom, or Youtube Live so you can communicate with your supporters in the comments in real-time. You can then upload these videos online to boost engagement and visibility. As a writer and vocal teacher for MusicGrotto.com, James Croad has been utilizing YouTube Tutorials to continue his vocal and guitar lessons remotely. “As a service professional, the transition hasn’t been easy, but it wasn’t impossible either,” Croad says. “It just takes a little bit of ingenuity! Regardless of the service you provide, we live in a digital age where there are multiple online platforms that can improve your business regardless of the quarantine. If you’ve got some grit and are willing to experiment, you can find a goldmine of efficient and profitable business practices online.” As you pivot and find things that work, market them vigorously.  “We are offering both free training and paid virtual 30-day masterminds to help businesses creatively explore their options and accordingly tweak or pivot their services,” says Janis Pettit, CEO of The 10x Zone. “For example, one company provides in-home occupational therapy for special needs children, and their business was down 70%. They decided to try teletherapy and it was approved by the insurance companies. After testing it and getting great results, we developed an aggressive marketing plan to promote it. It’s working, and weekly visits are going up quickly. And the best part? They can now serve clients not just locally as before but in the entire state!” Taking advantage of every opportunity to make $$$ (and build a loyal audience) can serve you well and help you develop the creative entrepreneurship needed to run a successful business, no matter the conditions. Related: 12 Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Local Business 9. Expand Your Offerings Why not try something completely new? Offering a novel service to clients can expand your business — and your audience. “Since lockdown, I have recorded myself making healthy meals and putting them in the Whatsapp group that I have set up with my clients,” says Elliott Reimers, a certified nutrition coach at Rave Reviews. “They’re contributing a small amount each per month for these tips. In addition, I am making up batches of the meals I recorded and then dropping them outside clients’ houses once a week.” By supplying unique offerings, checking in with clients, and keeping a positive attitude, you can meaningfully connect with your audiences and provide value. How can other businesses do this? Nail salons can curate and send clients boxes of supplies with illustrated (or video) instructions on how to care for their nails.  A massage therapist can film a video of how to pinpoint trouble spots in muscles and how a tennis ball or foam roller can alleviate the pain. Then they can sell and schedule a private one-on-one session via Zoom to walk through this process with the client.  An esthetician can schedule private video sessions to examine clients’ skin and recommend and order specific products for the client. Physical trainers can provide virtual workouts or home-workout tips, creating video tutorials or doing it with them virtually to boost both of your physical activity and gains. They could also sell different protein shakes or guided meal plans. Cleaning companies similarly can sell their cleaning products, supplied with step-by-step tutorials on how to clean various home spaces.  And all businesses can offer gift cards! Related: How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy 10. Continue to Incorporate Digital Options Bringing parts of your business online can be a massive benefit to you as you target new audiences and expand your offerings. So don’t stop that momentum when things return to business as (mostly) usual. Keep utilizing the power of tech to boost your business.  “One valuable aspect of a digital service-based business is the convenience factor,” Eisenstein says. “In-person services require travel time, prep time, and schedules that need to be matched up. Even after COVID-19 conditions end, I will most likely conduct consultations over video calls, plus I plan to incorporate more virtual coaching into my schedule so I can reach more people around the world.” Looking for Remote Work Tips?Whether you want to stay focused at home or increase team engagement, we can help! Subscribe to the DreamHost Digest so you never miss an article.Sign Me Up Re-Homing Your Business in a Digital Landscape Pivoting your business into a digital landscape isn’t just valuable — it’s essential right now. Not only can virtual adaptation help you keep your business afloat, but it can ultimately help you run a better, more successful business in the future as you refine how you market, engage, and incorporate technology.  “The economic environment and marketplace have shifted, and the ‘new normal’ will not go back to the way things were,” Pettit says. “Businesses that don’t have a way to serve their customers’ needs as they are now will struggle or even fail. Look at businesses in the past that didn’t — Blackberry, MySpace, Sears, and many more. There is great opportunity here if you can creatively embrace it.” If you want to get your business up-and-running online and flex those creative muscles, you need to start at the beginning: partnering with a great web host for your site. We can help you set up your online presence — at a safe, virtual distance. The post 10 Ways to Move an In-Person Service Business Online appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

How to Set up Curbside Pickup and Delivery Through Your Website

COVID-19 has had severe ramifications, not only from a health standpoint but economically as well. With most people staying home and practicing social distancing, businesses that rely on in-person transactions are moving online. We’ve already outlined how to pivot your business model, update your website, and lead a team remotely during the coronavirus outbreak. But there’s something else small business owners will want to consider as part of their crisis management plan: offering curbside pickup and delivery options for customers. By enabling shoppers to place orders online and receive their items with minimal contact, you can do your part to keep your community safe, while also continuing to bring in revenue. In this post, we’ll take a look at some alternative shopping options for local businesses. Then we’ll show you how to set up either curbside pickup or a delivery option for your customers using WooCommerce. Let’s go! Related: DreamHost’s Ultimate Small Business Resource Guide Alternative Shopping Methods During the COVID-19 Pandemic In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued several public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. These suggestions include: Stay home as much as possible. Keep six feet between yourself and others. Avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more. Unfortunately, these guidelines make it difficult for small local businesses to welcome customers and conduct sales normally. To maintain even a limited revenue stream, most retailers and restaurants have had to develop alternative methods for serving customers. Curbside pickup is one of the best and most popular ways of doing that. It enables customers to purchase products online, and then visit your store to receive their items. Rather than having them go into your building, you or one of your employees brings the customer’s things out to their car. Think of it like takeout. With local delivery, your customers stay home while you bring their orders to their doors. Both methods go a long way towards minimizing contact between people since shoppers won’t be gathering in your store. However, you can take further precautions as well, such as: Wearing gloves when packing customers’ orders. Requiring online payments to avoid contact with customers when exchanging cash. Place pickup orders directly in customers’ trunks. Leaving delivery orders at customers’ doors, and calling or texting them to let them know their packages have arrived. Providing face masks and hand sanitizer to employees involved in pickup and delivery orders. Fortunately, the risk of transferring or contracting COVID-19 via an object is very low. By setting up curbside pickup and delivery and minimizing contact between your employees and customers, you can significantly reduce the health risks for all involved. Related: The 10 Most Popular Online Payment Gateways for Your Website, Compared How to Set Up Curbside Pickup and Delivery Through Your Website (In 4 Steps) Below, we’ve outlined steps for setting up both curbside and local delivery options for your small business. Note that these instructions assume you already have WooCommerce installed and configured on your store’s website. If that’s not the case, please check out our tutorial on getting started with WooCommerce, and then you’ll be ready to get rolling! Trust Us, You Can Build a WebsiteWhether you want to start a blog or run a small business, DreamHost makes it easy to begin your online journey. Our shared hosting plans give you everything you need to thrive online at an affordable price.Learn More Step 1: Configure a Local Shipping Zone The first thing you’ll need to do is pick a WooCommerce shipping zone for your local area. This will prevent a shopper who is outside your service area from placing an order for pickup or delivery. In your WordPress dashboard, navigate to WooCommerce > Settings > Shipping. Click on Add Shipping Zone. Add a descriptive name for the shipping zone and then select your region. Click on Limit to specific ZIP/postcodes to narrow your pickup and delivery range. Remember to save your changes when you’re done. Related: How to Create a Restaurant Website Step 2: Enable Local Pickup as a Shipping Option Next, while still on your local shipping zone page, select Add shipping method. WooCommerce includes a local pickup option out of the box. Select it from the drop-down menu, then click on the Add shipping method button. That’s all you have to do to enable curbside pickup for your local business. However, if you would like to refine this option, you can purchase and install the Local Pickup Plus WooCommerce extension. This optional add-on enables you to specify a pickup location, set hours, offer discounts to customers who select curbside pickup, and more. Step 3: Add a Flat Rate Shipping Option WooCommerce no longer offers a “local delivery” shipping option. However, you can still configure one without the need for an additional plugin. On your local shipping zone page, add a second shipping option and select Flat rate. Then click on the Edit option for that shipping method. Change the Method title to “Local Delivery” (or however you want to present this option to your customers at checkout). If you want, you can also add a flat rate delivery fee. Finally, click on Save changes. Your local pickup and delivery options will now both appear on your site’s checkout page, where customers can select their preferred methods. At this point, you’re ready to start offering curbside pickup and delivery to your customers. However, you may want to take a few extra steps to make managing your orders easier. Related: 20 Ways to Stay Social in an Age of Social Distancing Step 4: Install Order Delivery Date for WooCommerce to Manage Requests While you can technically set up curbside pickup and delivery for your business using WooCommerce alone, its native features don’t enable you to manage or schedule orders. This could lead to problems if you have multiple customers placing pickup and delivery orders at the same time. One way to solve this issue to enable customers to schedule their pickups and deliveries. Order Delivery Date for WooCommerce can help with this. After you install and activate this plugin, navigate to Order Delivery Date in your WordPress dashboard. Then configure the following settings: Select the checkbox next to Enable Delivery Date capture on the checkout page. Choose which days you’re available for delivery. Set the minimum number of hours you need to prepare an order for delivery. Specify how many days in advance customers can schedule an order. Select the checkbox next to Selection of the delivery date on the checkout page will become mandatory. Set the maximum number of deliveries you can handle per day. Select the checkbox next to Enable default sorting of orders (in descending order) by Delivery Date on WooCommerce > Orders page. You may also wish to make additional adjustments in the Appearance and Holidays tabs. Remember to save your changes when you’re done. Now, when customers reach your checkout page, they’ll have to choose a delivery date. Once the maximum number of orders for any particular day has been reached, that date will become unavailable in the calendar. This will prevent you from receiving more orders than you can physically manage at one time. On your WooCommerce Orders page, you’ll be able to see the customer’s specified delivery/pickup date listed for each order. Note that you’ll still need to contact customers to inform them what time their orders will be ready (especially for curbside pickup). Looking for Remote Work Tips?Whether you want to stay focused at home or increase team engagement, we can help! Subscribe to the DreamHost Digest so you never miss an article.Sign Me Up Curbside Takeout or Home Delivery? Curbside pickup and delivery options enable your customers to purchase their favorite products from you with minimal contact. This could help your business survive the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic side effects and is a valuable strategy for building customer loyalty. Fortunately, you can enable both local pickup and delivery using WooCommerce in just four steps: Configure a local shipping zone. Enable local pickup as a shipping option. Add a flat rate shipping option. Install Order Delivery Date for WooCommerce to manage requests. The foundation of any successful e-commerce site is a reliable hosting plan. At DreamHost, we provide quality shared hosting services for small businesses at affordable prices. Check out our plans today! The post How to Set up Curbside Pickup and Delivery Through Your Website appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

11 Things Website Owners Should Update During a Crisis

Ever since the coronavirus crisis hit, it can sometimes feel like it has affected every area of our lives. Anyone who is now homeschooling kids or suddenly spending way too much time over a hot stove can vouch for that! Of course, that includes business too, and if you’re a business owner, there’s a good chance you’ve really felt that impact. “In my 13 years as a marketing agency owner, I never dreamed of this time, when my team and I are assisting hundreds of struggling small businesses to understand how best to market and communicate now to save their businesses,” says Wendy O’Donovan Phillips, CEO of Big Buzz. “Re-evaluate your vision statement to focus the team’s efforts through this time,” she advises. “Revisit your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis with a particular focus on opportunities. Your clients and community have different needs now than they did even a month ago and will have different needs in another month. This approach will help you more readily hit your revenue and profit projections. Take the right action, and you will survive!” It’s time to create a crisis management plan. One of the most crucial things you’ll need to tackle as a small business owner is updating your website and social media channels. To keep your small business on the up and up, we’ve identified 11 things website owners should update during a crisis. Let’s dive in. Related: 11 Ways Small Businesses Can Pivot to Survive a Crisis How to Update Your Website During a Crisis 1. Create a new landing page. When people visit your website, your homepage is likely the first thing they’ll see. That’s why keeping it fresh is always crucial, but with things in flux during a crisis, that’s even more important. To show that your business is on the ball and staying up to date, you’ll want to create a landing page for crisis-related content. Make sure to change the page often, especially when new information is released or policies evolve. If those affect your business, outline how you’ll be implementing anything new and how that will impact customers. Every time you update it, you can spread the word on social media by sharing a link. Another reason to continue refreshing your landing page is that search engines will recognize it’s a key page on your site for the crisis, which will boost SEO. Related: How to Build Lead-Generating Landing Pages with WordPress 2. Update your FAQ page. If you don’t have a FAQ section on your business website yet, it’s time to add one! The COVID-19 crisis is changing every day, so a FAQ section is a great place to address that and share your updates. Local businesses especially need to answer common questions about their crisis management and how your company is adapting because of restrictions due to COVID-19. To ensure that clients are aware of your FAQ section, you can spotlight a link to it on your homepage. Continue to add relevant information to your FAQ page, such as how you’re keeping employees safe, who comes into contact with your products, and policy changes, for instance. The FAQ section is also an opportunity to share any changes in your supply chain, offerings or any potential product fulfillment delays. “Always ensure you have the right resources to deploy readily available,” says Bob Minhas, Founder and Lead Trainer for eSchool for Entrepreneurs. “Whether documents or videos, walk through your customer journey and understand what they might need to know to complete a transaction with you online and have the right FAQ ready for them.” 3. Change your menu/navigation. To make it easy to find your crisis content, it’s a good idea to add a link in your main navigation or an alert bar that sits above the navigation to your crisis landing page. Be sure to keep the title of the new navigation item short. Plus, regardless of the status of a crisis situation, it’s always a good idea to update your navigation to keep it timely and relevant, which should be part of a best practices strategy for your website. 4. Review your product descriptions. Have your offerings changed in any way since the crisis started? Then you’ll want your website to reflect that. Change the text accordingly and add item availability information to postings. “A lot of small businesses that we work with are looking to add new services or products that are complimentary and interesting to the audiences they have built both online and in previous customers,” says Chris Sica, Chief Revenue Officer, The Ronin Society. “We encourage business owners to step into their customers’ shoes, think about the new buying journeys they are going to be on, what new pain points they will be experiencing and attempt to solve those using the resources they already have available to them.” Related: How to Write Product Descriptions That Really Sell 5. Check your events page. If your business hosts events of any kind, you’ll want to give updates on how the schedule has changed, including if they’ve been cancelled, postponed or are going virtual. To avoid confusion, continue to list the original event date so that clients can confirm the event. For events that have been changed from in-person to digital, be sure to link to the virtual location for easy access. Related: 20 Ways to Stay Social in an Age of Social Distancing 6. Make a homepage hero. In the midst of a crisis, everyone could use some good news. If you’ve realigned your business to help in any way, make it easy for customers to find out by updating your homepage. For example, if you’re now doing carryout or delivery, be sure to spread the word. “A delivery option is absolutely essential now,” Sica says. “Lots of customers still want to get out of the house and curbside pickup gives them a bit of a break from being at home. [Another element to expand is] payment options to make it easy to afford your product or service.” 7. Utilize pop-ups or banners. One of the easiest ways to catch your clients’ attention and update them is to add a pop-up or banner. It’s an easy way to spread the word about reduced hours, limited inventory, shipping delays or changes in service availability. Make sure that it visually grabs people’s attention. 8. Refresh local listings. If your hours have changed, the world needs to know. Be sure to update your website. Additionally, you’ll need to adjust hours and temporary closures on platforms where customers go to find your hours, such as Google My Business, Facebook and Yelp. Related: Create a Marketing Strategy to Promote Your Local Business 9. Update your scheduled messaging. If you regularly send out pre-scheduled emails or social media updates, be sure to adjust them to fit the current situation. Otherwise, if you send out the same old communication, it can make you appear tone-deaf and not up to speed. “Customers are used to coming by your shop, seeing your advertisements, or whatever your traction channel is,” Sica says. “Their entire user experience with your brand has been removed or changed. Their fears and pain points have been altered. As a result, you need to make sure that you stay top of mind in a useful way. The easiest solution is by creating or updating your newsletters. We’ve also seen businesses create how-to videos for clients based on in-store or online products they like, and we’ve also seen customer happy hours.” 10. Change your social media accounts. At the minimum, ensure that your business hours, closures, and product availability information remains updated for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak. Just to be on the safe side, it’s best to post more than once on your regular social media channels about any business changes, since we all know how quickly a Tweet can disappear to the bottom of a Twitter feed. This increases the odds that customers will see the news. Related: How to Promote Your Website With Influencers 11. Increase crisis communication. Ensure everyone is up to speed by sending updates via email, texts or blog posts — communicate with your customers in the way that is best for them. “It is important to stay in touch with customers,” says Jaryd P. Kase, Principal at Kase Consulting, LLC. “First off, if you are open, your customers might not know and they should know you are open. Second, your customers are dealing with the same crisis as you. By communicating how you are working to mitigate risk factors in the pandemic or working hard to continue bringing them a great product or service (or pick up where you left off if you are closed), it helps put the customer at ease that their favorite store or an important supplier isn’t going out of business.” However, there is a fine line between communicating too much and too little. “Communication with customers should be tempered,” says Deborah S. Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com. “It is important to not over-communicate or be too sales-y. Share information cautiously. Share content and information, but don’t try to sell. Inform and educate.” Looking for Remote Work Tips?Whether you want to stay focused at home or increase team engagement, we can help! Subscribe to the DreamHost Digest so you never miss an article.Sign Me Up Your Crisis Management Team The coronavirus pandemic — and the resulting economic downturn —  is making things tough for small business owners. At DreamHost, we’ve provided digital homes for small businesses for more than two decades. In that time, we’ve learned that entrepreneurs are scrappy, smart, and savvy. We believe in you and your business and are here to help. We’ve written a lot of small business guides and tutorials over the years — from building a great website to creating a digital marketing strategy. To make this content easier to use, we’ve compiled it all into a small business resource page. Please reach out on Twitter or Facebook if there are other small-biz topics that you’d like us to cover. If you run a brick-and-mortar operation and need to build a website for the first time, check out our guide to setting up an online store in an hour. Our shared hosting plans (starting at just $2.59/mo) are an affordable way to get into the e-commerce game. Already have a website? We now offer free WordPress migrations so you can move over to DreamHost without any hassle. We’re here to help. If you have any questions about your site — big or small — reach out to our support team. We’d love to help. The post 11 Things Website Owners Should Update During a Crisis appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

DreamHost’s Ultimate Small Business Resource Guide

We see you, small business owners! You bring character and diversity to your hometowns and spice to your niche on the internet. You create jobs. You build local economies and provide unique products and services with a personal touch big corporations can only try to replicate. Plus, you are living your dream: turning your passion into a money-making venture that improves the world and gives you the chance to be your own boss. We know how hard you work to make this dream a reality. It’s never easy to run your own business, but the current COVID-19 global pandemic has been a particular plague on small businesses. Governments around the world have social distancing guidelines to stop the spread of this coronavirus, bringing global economies to their knees. With people stuck at home, non-essential businesses closed, and millions out of work, the customers you rely on to stay afloat either can’t come to your shop or are short on cash for anything outside living expenses. None of this is your fault, and it is happening despite your diligent work and vision for your business. Even National Small Business Week — an annual springtime celebration of your essential place in the U.S. economy scheduled for this week — has been postponed thanks to COVID-19. But we are going to celebrate you anyway! Here at DreamHost, we believe in small business, and we are proud to provide a platform and digital home for so many of you. The pandemic will let up eventually, and we are still rooting for you. To help you get some ideas for how to build and boost your business, we’ve collected our best advice for small business owners — all in one place. Read on to find essential tips about: Building a Small Business Website Building an Online Store Small Business Advice Small-Biz Tools and Resources Ways to Make Money Online Small-Biz Marketing Tips Feel free to use the links above to jump around to the most pertinent articles for you and your business — or read straight on through for an overview of all the advice we have to offer. You Can Build a WebsiteWhether you want to start a blog or run a small business, DreamHost makes it easy to begin your online journey. Our shared hosting plans give you everything you need to thrive online at an affordable price.Learn More Building a Small Business Website In the small-business world, your website is everything. It’s your homestead on the frontier of the web. It declares your brand to the world and is often the first impression potential customers have of your business. For many of you, your website is your business. Even if your business is a brick-and-mortar operation — such as a restaurant or antique store — your company’s website needs to be helpful, optimized, and updated and maintained regularly. Your website provides valuable info, including where to find you and when, and drives customers off their couches and into your stores. The internet is where your customers spend most of their time, especially right now. Use these resources to learn how to get going on WordPress, build a beautiful website from the ground up, and tailor it to fit your own business. Want to Build a Website? Here’s Your Game Plan How to Start a Website in 5 Minutes with WordPress How Long Does it Take to Build a Website? How Much Does It Cost to Set Up a Website? How to Create a  Freelance Writer Website How to Create a Real Estate Website How to Create a Restaurant Website How to Start a Fitness Blog How to Start Your Own Food Blog How to Start a Photography Blog How to Create an Online Portfolio How to Start a Review Site Related: 16 Ways to Stay Focused When You’re Working from Home Building an Online Store If you have an online business — or if you want to start selling your products online in addition to your physical store — a reliable and attractive online shop is what you need. Your customers want to browse, find the products they want, and check out without a glitch. To make that happen, you need to build an online store with a trusted platform in addition to your business’s WordPress website. It’s surprisingly easy to get an online shop up and keep it going — you just need the right tools and tips. We love WooCommerce and Shopify, and you’ll learn about both, plus more tips and tricks for selling online, in the helpful guides below. How to Start an Online Store in 1 Hour with WooCommerce WooCommerce vs. Shopify: An In-Depth Guide 11 Ways Your Online Store Can Compete with Mega-Retailers 5 Amazing WooCommerce Templates to Increase Sales How to Add a Quick View Option to Your WooCommerce Products How to Build an Awesome WooCommerce Store with OceanWP How to Run a Successful Sale on Your WooCommerce Website How to Use Printful to Sell T-Shirts and Other Swag with WooCommerce How to Write Product Descriptions That Really Sell: 8 Simple Tips Small Business Advice You small business owners are a scrappy bunch, and much of what you know you learned through good, old fashioned experience. There’s no education like the one that comes from getting out there and making your own mistakes. As valuable as mistakes and failures are, we want to set you up as much as possible for success and triumph. In this section, you’ll find a roundup of our best advice for entrepreneurs — learn how to manage everything from your stress to your small business website and beyond. Building Your Own Business Website? Don’t Make These 10 Mistakes The Top 15 Benefits of a Website for Small Businesses 20 New Year’s Resolutions for Small Businesses Ready To Start an Online Business? 5 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs 8 Ways Small-Business Owners Can Manage Stress 6 Reasons Why Your Small Business Needs a Website Now Related: 10 Ways You Can Create ‘Watercooler Moments’ While Working Remotely Small-Biz Tools and Resources You want your small business to reach its full potential — and so do we! No person is an island, and the same goes for businesses. We all need a little help and support sometimes, and when we use available tools, we can get more done in less time. There are so many tools out there to help you manage and grow your business, and to optimize the whole enterprise for success. Stop doing things the hard way. Here you’ll find all of our favorite tools, apps, plugins, and more for making the work of running your business a little easier. 11 Best Web Management Tools for Small Business 30 Best Small Business Apps 15 SEO Tools to Optimize Your Website for Success 10 WordPress Plugins to Maximize Your Lead Generation 5 WordPress Plugins to Drive More Conversions on Your Website 15 Essential Plugins and Features For Your WordPress Website 10 Handy WordPress Plugins For Improving Your Workflow 10 of the Most Popular WordPress Plugins Related: 20 Ways to Stay Social in an Age of Social Distancing Ways to Make Money Online Thanks to the internet, there’s never been a better time to start a side hustle. Money-making opportunities abound online, from blogging to affiliate marketing. Whether you want to build up an extra income source on top of your full-time gig or are looking for ideas to build up your business, we got you. Let’s walk through our favorite — not to mention lucrative and legitimate — ways to make money online. How to Monetize Your Blog: 14 Top Strategies 25 Legit Ways to Make Money Online 13 Lucrative Side Hustle Ideas Set up an Online Course With WordPress How to Start a Podcast with WordPress How to Create a Crowdfunding Campaign Beginner’s Guide to Affiliate Marketing Small-Biz Marketing Tips There are more than 1.5 billion (and counting) websites on the internet today. So how does your humble food blog or photography portfolio get noticed, by the right people, amid all the noise? One word: marketing. “If you build it, they will come” is an adage that doesn’t hold up so well when it comes to your business’s presence online. Merely having a website just isn’t enough; you need to draw people to it for it to do any good. You need some smart strategies to bump your website up to the top of search results, find and engage social media followers, and encourage positive reviews. Do you want your brand to get noticed? Find your target market. Drive traffic to your website. Do some smart social media and email marketing. Create killer content and optimize your site for top search engine results. How? We thought you’d never ask: Learn or brush up on these skills with our handy dandy guides to marketing your small business. How to Find Target Market for your Business How to Create a Media Kit for Your Website How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website How to Get Your Website Visitors to Fill Out Lead Forms How to Run an Online Giveaway on Your Website How to Add Customer Testimonials to Your Website The Website Owner’s Guide to Email Marketing How to Create an Email Newsletter 12 Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Local Business The Ultimate Guide to Website Localization How to Write Meta Descriptions That Get Clicks Create a LinkedIn Company Page to Promote Your Small Biz 5 Ways to Pick the Best Social Media Platforms for Your Business 10 Social Media Tips for Small Businesses How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy Want More Small-Biz Hacks?Whether you need marketing advice or a heads-up on the latest web design trends, we’ve got content for that! Subscribe to our monthly newsletter so you never miss an article.Sign Me Up You’ve Got This There you have it — everything we’ve ever written to guide, inform, and inspire small business owners in one handy guide. We know that you’ve got what it takes to make it through this crisis, and we hope these resources can help you get there. Now, we have a question for you: How can we help? What small-biz related questions are keeping you up at night? Holler at us over on Twitter to let us know which additional topics and resources you’d like us to cover for small business owners. Are you wondering where to get started? You can easily build an online presence for your small business with shared hosting. Our plans, which start at just $2.59 per month, offer all the tools you need to build your business and reach your customers. The post DreamHost’s Ultimate Small Business Resource Guide appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Expert Advice: 11 Ways Small Businesses Can Pivot to Survive a Crisis

Every entrepreneur knows that starting a small business is never easy. There are a few challenges that are to be expected — from building the perfect team to discovering exactly who your customer is, to creating a social media presence, just to name a few. One thing we never expected? Dealing with the economic blowout from a global pandemic. No matter what type of small business you have, everyone has experienced consequences from the coronavirus outbreak. That’s precisely why small businesses must be able to pivot in order to survive a crisis. “It is important to always listen to customer needs and to respond, but at a time when customer needs and demand is changing, it is critical for small businesses to pay attention to what customers are saying, how they are responding and what their needs are,” says Deborah S. Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com. “For small businesses to continue to remain relevant, they have to listen and respond. It is an opportunity to learn and grow as a business owner and to leverage entrepreneurial skills when they are most needed.” So, how can you be nimble these days? While every type of business has to act according to their market, there are a few universal rules that apply. Here are 11 ways small businesses can adapt to pull through the coronavirus crisis — and practically any crisis. 11 Ways Your Small Biz Can Pivot to Survive a Crisis 1. Adjust your offerings based on new customer demands and needs. It might seem obvious that entrepreneurs will need to switch up their business model to stay afloat during this crisis. The tricky part is figuring out how to change. “These shifts should be made in changing customer choices and industry trends and not simply in response to changes in economics,” says Bob Minhas, Founder and Lead Trainer for eSchool for Entrepreneurs. “Of course, shifting in economics will always lead to shifting customer choices, so they are generally aligned. However, a shift in economics is reactive, whereas a shift from purposeful research is proactive.” To figure out how to begin, Minhas suggests starting with market research. First, study what the economic experts are saying and learn what has changed in the national, regional, and local economies. Think about your industry and what the experts in your field are saying about its shift. Finally, talk to your existing and potential ideal customer base to determine what they need and if your skillset can support that. “Compiling all the information here will allow you to put something together and then just offer, offer, offer,” Minhas says. “Get people in to test your offer so you can continue to refine until it’s working and bringing in the revenue you need. Keep in mind that in this specific economic situation, it’s not a good idea to make a hard pivot you cannot come back from. You only want to pivot enough so that you are still within the realm of your expertise as that credibility of what you do is needed for customers to still trust you.” Plus, once the economy bounces back, you’ll want to be able to return to your initial business, or at least a modified version.  Potentially, this pivot can also stay as a new revenue source. Web Hosting Shouldn’t Be Your Biggest ChallengeWe’ll make sure your website is fast, secure, and always up so your visitors trust you. Plans start at $2.59/mo.Choose Your Plan 2. Always be prepared to work remotely. As a small business owner, you’ve most likely learned that planning ahead is key to success. “I always advise companies to plan for certain risks and make contingency plans, one of which is typically being forced to work from home,” says Jaryd P. Kase, Principal at Kase Consulting, LLC. “Of course, you don’t always have the benefit of being able to plan in advance. I would take advantage of cloud-based storage options such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft One Drive, etc. so that employees can access files from home computers. Take security precautions into consideration and don’t allow sensitive material to flow freely, but you should allow people enough access that they can do their jobs.” If your team is struggling with how to stay focused while working from home, these 16 strategies can help. Video conferencing enables people to work on team projects and keep the office on the same page. There are plenty of options from companies like Microsoft, Google, and Zoom, among others. “Some are free, some cost a little money,” Kase says. “Compare the features and pick what is best for you.” Related: The Best Web Management Tools for Small Businesses 3. Keep up daily team meetings. With everything in flux, it’s even more important to keep your employees up to speed. “Normally, team members can sync outside of their regular meetings with a quick desk visit or a water cooler visit,” says Chris Sica, Chief Revenue Officer of The Ronin Society. “Because these no longer exist in a work-from-home situation, you need to supplement them with increased meetings to make sure people get unstuck or remove blockers in their projects.” Plus, meetings can actually be a morale booster when the going gets tough. If your team is feeling isolated while working from home, you can even create watercooler moments while working remotely. Plus, chatting on Facebook Live, for example, can be a much-need way of staying social while social distancing. “Virtual team meetings let people see that they are still part of a team and not just stuck in solitude,” Kase says. “I usually allow a bit more leniency for going off-topic and joking around just because people have that need for human interaction that they are not getting from working in the office. When it comes to discussing work, though, this is where everyone can give updates on where they are on their tasks, ask for help, and congratulate a team member on a job well done.” 4. Boost your communication with customers. “Communication is an important factor during this time to help maintain your customers’ feeling of confidence,” Minhas says. “However, I find that a number of businesses focus on outbound communication, meaning they’re talking more than they are listening. Communication with customers needs to be a balancing act. Listen to what the most common questions coming in are and create outbound communication related to that.” Keep communication lines open during this time. For example, create a space such as a FAQ page and quickly respond to any outreach from clients. “Be sure to invest in a ticket system to track communication effectively among your team,” Minhas advises. 5. Stick to a daily schedule. With the world feeling upside down right now, it’s hard to remember what day it is. But that’s even more reason you should create a schedule — and be strict about following it. “It’s difficult to stay on track with so much going on (and not going on),” Sweeney says. “Hence, it’s critically important to plan and strategize and have an organized structure for your day. Have a schedule — wake up, exercise, eat healthfully, stay organized, get work done, communicate with team members and customers, and save time for strategy and organization of yourself for the upcoming day.” 6. Work on what can be done in the present. One of the many challenges of the coronavirus crisis is not knowing when things will return to normal. Since we can’t predict the future — even when we’re not in a global pandemic — focus on the now. “Small business owners need to prioritize the survival of their company,” Kase says. “That means making sure that proper financing, communication, staff retention, customer outreach, etc., are occurring. Beyond that, business leaders cannot forget about their longer-term goals. Goals for 2020 might be shot at this point; you likely will not hit your revenue numbers. Your 5- to 10-year goals, however, should be able to absorb a bump in the road, and you need to make adjustments to your strategy and tactics to ensure that you are still on course for reaching those goals.” 7. Improve your skill set. Just like people are using their newfound time to learn a language or start meditating, that self-improvement can trickle over to your business too. There are many areas where small businesses could use a boost. “It’s time to learn how to write great articles and emails,” Sica says. “It’s important to learn how to get good pictures and videos of yourself, your team, and your product or service. It’s time to learn digital marketing, how to use social media, and how to build an audience organically. It’s time to learn how to vet digital marketing agencies. It’s time to learn how to manage your finances more seriously so you can be more competitive with your pricing and sales offerings.” Related: The Best Online Resources to Learn How to Code) 8. Continue to network. It might seem counterintuitive to prioritize networking while social distancing, but it’s a great way to keep your business going strong. “Right now everyone is in a similar situation: The economy is struggling, unemployment is high, customers have been told not to leave their houses and businesses have been told to close,” Kase says. “Networking in a time like this can be both therapeutic and educational. It’s therapeutic in the sense that you can commiserate with other small business owners who are dealing with similar problems and educational in the sense that you may be able to learn what has worked well for someone else and try it for your own business. Meeting for coffee may now be talking on LinkedIn or Zoom, but the concept is still the same. There are plenty of places online where small business owners congregate, and a large portion of them would love to network.” 9. Get feedback. It’s always important to know what your colleagues and clients think, but now you might have more time to implement changes based on their suggestions. “Feedback right now is the best market research tool,” Minhas says. “Consumers are going through a shift in their buying behavior, so to understand the gap of what they need and what we are delivering is an important way to maintain relevance to them and, in turn, having them continue to spend money with us.” It’s not just your clients that you should be touching base with — hearing from your staff is equally important. “Feedback from team members ensures you’re able to maintain productivity as a team and that team members are invested in the success of what your company is trying to achieve,” Minhas says. “They buy into your common goal and mission when they feel heard.” Finally, you can also reach out to leaders and mentors within your field for suggestions on how to improve your own personal skill sets. Related: 12 Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Local Business 10. Stay positive. Looking on the bright side is especially challenging during tough times, so remind yourself that there is always a silver lining. “Silver-lining observations are often a hallmark of entrepreneurs,” Sweeney says. “Learning to take the opportunities from challenges is a critical aspect to adapting to change and growth. Business owners need to find order out of chaos … and be the voice of reason, observation, and opportunity when others cannot or do not see it.” To help your staff feel more optimistic too, empower them during this difficult time. For example, encourage team members to develop their skills during their downtime. “If you have an employee who is looking to grow in the company, this might be a great time to suggest reading up or training on some specific skills,” Kase suggests. “They can come back to the office when the economy is back open and use those skills in their work, showing you not only their dedication but also that they might be ready for that promotion.” Another critical way to empower employees is by listening to them. “Your employees might have some great ideas on how to weather this storm, so don’t feel like you as the owner need to have all of the answers,” Kase suggests. “Set up a virtual brainstorming meeting. Even if nothing comes of it, just being invited to sit at the table is an empowering gesture.” Looking for More Remote Work Tips?Whether you want to stay focused at home or increase team engagement, we can help! Subscribe to the DreamHost Digest so you never miss an article.Sign Me Up 11. Ask for help. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the economic landscape and created a financial crisis, so there are new government resources available to small business owners. Consider taking advantage of them to stay afloat. “Additionally, there are a few other programs that are potential options,” Sica says. “The Main Street Lending Program is a four-year loan with interest and principal payments deferred for one year. There are a number of large corporations offering special grants, and federal taxes have been delayed until July 15th for both personal and business. Each individual city seems to have a list of solutions applicable to their citizen businesses; search ‘[your city + COVID resources + small business].’” Ready for a Successful Pivot? No doubt about it — this is an uncertain time for small businesses. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from hosting websites for the last two decades, it’s that entrepreneurs are a scrappy (and smart!) bunch. You’ve got this, and we’re here to help. We’ve compiled our best small-business resources for you, with helpful guides on everything from building a great website to marketing your products. Please hit us up on Twitter or Facebook if there are other small-biz topics that you’d like us to cover. For those of you looking to build a business website for the first time, check out this helpful guide to getting an online store up and running in less than an hour. If you’re having trouble with your current web host and want to move your site during this time, we’ve got great news! We now offer free WordPress migrations. Have questions about your site? Our support team is always available to answer your website queries — big or small. The post Expert Advice: 11 Ways Small Businesses Can Pivot to Survive a Crisis appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

RetroSupply Co. Creates Vintage Tools for Modern Designers

In the days of sleek digital design, there’s nothing quite like the look of art inked fresh onto paper. Dustin Lee has always thought so, from the time he was a boy living with his grandmother in California, exploring her catch-all closet piled high with “junk” from her past: mid-century board games, comic books, matchboxes, and catalogs. “Even though my childhood was in the 1980s, I grew up around a lot of stuff from the ‘50s and ‘60s,” Lee says. “I’m a really big fan of mid-century, postwar American commercial art — I love the illustrations on cheesy mail-order ads in comic books and old toy packaging. I love when stuff looks like beautiful frameable art in retrospect, and it was totally just made originally to be disposable, to try to sell a product — the kitschy, crappy, but-accidentally-beautiful design of things that people probably did on assignment, never knowing that it would be recorded in history.” As a graphic designer, Lee pulls inspiration from his mid-century nostalgia. To create an authentic analog look, he had to build brushes, fonts, textures, and other tools to use on design programs Photoshop, Illustrator, Procreate, and Affinity. “And I found that it was very hard to do that if you didn’t know how — there’s a lot of intricacies to making that come off as convincing and not cheesy or weird.” Lee uploaded his custom design kits to sell online as RetroSupply Co. The business has since made a name for itself in the design world, becoming successful enough to support Lee’s family, build a dream home in Washington state, and help weather the COVID-19 outbreak. “We are a provider of brushes, textures, fonts, and other effects for creative illustrators who want to add analog touches to digital work, pulling from history to provide resources that can make it so things feel a little more like they used to,” Lee says. He’s been in business for eight years now and has trusted DreamHost to provide a steady foundation for his website from the beginning. “It’s almost a cliché to say at this point. I think most designers — and probably just people in general — feel like doing so much stuff online makes everything so clean and sterile,” Lee says. “I think people miss holding comic books in their hands or reading the newspaper that gets delivered to the door. A lot of the reason I started this business is because I would love to see people recreating that look of something really screen printed or printed on paper.” Want to Meet More Awesome Site Owners?Subscribe to the DreamHost Digest for inside scoops, expert tips, and exclusive deals.Sign Me Up Starting from Rock Bottom Lee’s business took off when he was at one of the lowest points in his life — and he ended up stuck there by trying to do everything right. As a teenager, Lee attended an arts high school, developing talents for visual arts and music. He had even secured a spot at Berklee College of Music to study guitar and songwriting. But afraid of becoming a starving artist, he switched gears. “I thought I needed to know business to make money from creativity. And I thought, ‘I’ll learn business from a bank! That’s where you learn business.’” So he got a job at a bank — and hated every minute of it. Inspired by Timothy Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Work Week” (a manifesto for escaping the traditional 9-to-5 grind), Lee quit the bank gig and went into graphic design. He studied it for a few years in college, tried to freelance, and had a “real” job here and there designing blogs and websites. But his dream of working for himself just wasn’t playing out as he’d wanted. “It was a dark time in my life,” Lee recalls. He couldn’t get work as a graphic designer so he started drinking, in his words, “a little too much.” “It was just horrible timing because my wife and I were about $35,000 in debt, living with my grandma — I mean we were helping her, but we were still living with her. It was so embarrassing,” Lee says. “I wasn’t doing well as a designer. A baby was going to be born in nine months, and we barely had any money. I just felt stuck; I was really in a corner.” Dustin Lee and his oldest child, Elah, who helped inspire RetroSupply. Lee’s tight spot forced some quick thinking. He had already developed specialty design tools — brushes, textures, shading — inspired by his love of mid-century art to bring that look into his own projects. He bundled these tools into kits he could sell online. Every morning, Lee woke up at 5 a.m., headed to the coffee shop around the corner, and uploaded kits to Creative Market, a marketplace of resources for graphic designers. It took less than a minute to coin the name of his fledgling shop: RetroSupply Co. Slot Machine Day Lee’s retro-inspired design tools made some money here and there but nothing close to what he needed to tackle that pile of debt. “And then there was a day that I think of as Slot Machine Day,” Lee says. “One day I’m at the coffee shop. I’m working on something for RetroSupply for about two hours, and then I shift to my regular work. And all of a sudden I got those notifications on my phone —  bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing.” Each “bing” represented a sale — $6 or $7 straight into his bank account. Why the sudden popularity? Lee discovered that Creative Market had featured a few of his products in their email newsletter, and it immediately racked up hundreds of sales. He grabbed his laptop, not even bothering to pack it up, and ran home. “I probably looked really, really silly. I ran home with this manbag flopping beside me — I wanted my wife to see the phone going off.” By the end of the day, he had pocketed about $1,500. “It was amazing to me — this was the beginning of a lot.” He realized quickly that he needed to build his own website to start collecting customer email addresses and created a site on Shopify, soon hosted by DreamHost. By the time Lee’s daughter was born, he had made enough to repay his debt and pad the savings account, leaving him and his wife free to enjoy time with their new daughter in peace. Related: WooCommerce vs. Shopify: An In-Depth Guide “We weren’t worried about money, and I was doing something I loved,” Lee says. “It was amazing. I stopped drinking, I quit smoking, I got out of debt — it really was a life-changer. I was really blessed.” RetroSupply has become a full-time business well-known in the industry. Lee collaborates with prominent designers, hires employees and contractors, frequently speaks at conferences, and contributes on a design podcast that’s approaching 2 million downloads. In addition to design tools, RetroSupply offers courses and tutorials. He’s even created a side business, Passive Income for Designers, to teach others how to leverage their creativity. “I’ve helped designers make $500 or $1,000 extra every month without having to do additional work,” Lee says. “And surprisingly, it feels almost better than anything, because I know I know what it feels like; I know how far 500 extra bucks can go.” Despite his success, Lee is quick to point out that his lucky break was just that — lucky. “Luck is involved,” Lee says. “So I hate when people try to start businesses, and they punish themselves when it doesn’t do as well as they wanted. It’s good luck, perseverance, and, you know, adapting and making changes. But I think people are too hard on themselves. Making a business is hard and there’s luck involved. No doubt about it.” Bringing Retro to Life RetroSupply eventually faced a crossroads, one that forced Lee to grapple with how to strike a balance between following his passion and following market trends. When Lee started his website, the vintage style he loved was trending, and then almost overnight, hand-lettering and watercolor became the rage in graphic design. He saw a dip in his sales as greeting cards and home decor featuring hand-lettered fonts popped up at major retailers. Lee faced a conundrum: “Do I keep selling the retro stuff I love, or do I listen to the market and make hand-lettered fonts and watercolors?” He decided to stay the course. “I wanted to be that guy who does the retro stuff, so I doubled down,” he says. The choice has paid off. What’s most compelling about Lee’s products is his devout dedication to accuracy. Every color, brush, and texture is taken directly from a period-authentic piece. Once, an eBay search led Lee to a “beautiful Army surplus catalog from like 1959,” he says. “And it had these beautiful halftones in it and gorgeous illustrations. And I ended up getting in a bidding war over this thing and paid about $200 for it.” Lee and his team use high-resolution scanners and attempt to recreate the original art, creating the tools they need to make an identical digital piece. To make brush kits, he partners with artists who specialize in that style. Each product is tested by partner illustrators before going up for sale. “I’ve literally bought 50-year-old crayons and pencils, scanned them in, and sampled little pieces until I could recreate that look. So it’s kind of fun — it’s like a license to buy as much old junk as I want and justify it because it’s a business expense.” Building a Solid Foundation Lee built his Shopify site fast out of necessity, with a simple logo and bare-bones design. But with RetroSupply’s revenue increasing every year, Lee decided to hire his favorite designer to do the branding: Chris de Lorenzo, the designer behind Boston’s Johnny Cupcakes and a frequent illustrator for the New York Times. “I’m a designer, but I definitely have no problem in having someone better than me to do something for the business.” Related: How to Design a Logo for Your Website That Visitors Will Love In addition to converting sales, Lee hopes that his website makes life a little more interesting for anyone who visits. “I read once that whenever someone is looking at your website, they’re sitting there most likely sitting all by themselves, staring at a screen without any company, desperately looking for someone to break their boredom. And so whenever we put something on  RetroSupply, we think, even if they’re not going to buy something, what can we do to make it interesting whether it is an image or blog post.” Lee has been with DreamHost since the beginning. “I just love DreamHost, which is weird to say, because I always think of a hosting company as something that, if they’re doing the job right, you don’t notice.” But he does notice DreamHost — not because he’s had problems with the service — because “the customer support is so freaking good. Whenever I want to buy a domain or need to resolve something, it’s easy to get someone on. They always answer my question, and things are taken care of immediately. I never feel passed between a bunch of different departments. They are willing to take the initiative to get it figured out. I’ve even asked someone on support once, ‘How did they find you guys?’ Because everyone’s always so nice.” Lee recognizes the role of a great web host in keeping an online business afloat. “Some places may offer hosting for a little less money, but a business is built on the hosting — it’s not the place to be worrying about a few dollars, because a lower price doesn’t mean reliability. You will lose sales if your web host doesn’t have the infrastructure or the staff to keep your site up all the time. Your web host is the plot of land your site is on; you want it to be a solid platform.” We’ll Support Your DreamWhatever your goals, DreamHost will be right there with you. We’ll make sure your site is fast, secure, and always up. Plans start at $2.59/mo.Choose Your Plan Facing an Uncertain Future A global pandemic and crumbling economy makes this an uncertain time for everyone — especially for small business owners. Lee and his collaborators had a few new projects up their sleeve for 2020, but any plans for growth have been put on hold for the time being. “What comes next will have to be informed by how everything plays out in the next months or even year,” Lee says. “What’s next right now is really listening to customers. I’m not trying to plan anything; my sales goals are out the window. This is an opportunity, I feel like, to communicate to our customers that we care about them and that we want to support them and that we’re not going to try to maximize revenue during a time when people are anxious and struggling. This whole situation has been very humbling.” Lee is grateful to feel like he and his family are in a good place to make it through. He already works from home, in an office lined with guitars and piled high with philosophy books. Living in a farmhouse atop a mountain makes social distancing simple — though the virus has postponed their backyard homesteading plans — and RetroSupply is strong enough to survive potential downturns in revenue. “With everything that’s happening right now with the coronavirus, we still need to make money to stay in business, and we certainly will try to do that,” Lee says. “But I feel like this is the time to take care of people. I’m not worried about paying my rent; the business has been successful enough that I don’t have to worry about that. I realize I’m super blessed and super lucky.” The post RetroSupply Co. Creates Vintage Tools for Modern Designers appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

17 Ways to Build a Massive Following on Instagram for Your Website

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms among younger users. Even so, “Gen Z” might still be ignoring your image feed. While this may be frustrating, it’s not an insurmountable problem. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to take a well-rounded approach to Instagram infamy. This means you can take advantage of the 200 million Instagram users who visit business-niche profiles daily — including the key 18–24 demographic. In this article, we’ll take a look at what makes Instagram such a hot property for marketing right now. Then, we’ll show you how to create a strategy and highlight 17 growth tactics you can put to work. Let’s get started! What Makes Instagram a Valuable Marketing Tool for Your Website Instagram continues to be one of the fastest-growing social media platforms available. In fact, it’s grown 5–6% in terms of users in the United States over the past year, continues to trend upward, and is actually more popular among teenagers than adults. Given this, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using the Instagram app as a marketing platform: It’s visual. We all know the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words” — it almost applies to Instagram itself. Your images can reach millions of people on the platform and can quickly deliver valuable visual messages about your business. You can start for free. You can jump on Instagram within seconds to start an account at no cost. While advanced features and Instagram ads have a price tag, you can still use the platform to build a following and post brand-relevant content. Integrations are easy. Integrating with other social channels (such as Facebook) is a snap. This means you can post to multiple platforms with a minimum of clicks. Additionally, when it comes specifically to dedicated advertising features, you can also use Instagram’s popular Stories ads option. In fact, Clif Bar did this — and when they used quirky, memorable videos across all formats, it resulted in a 28-point lift in ad recall among followers. Your Instagram Bio Needs a Website LinkWe’ll make sure your website is fast, secure, and always up so your visitors trust you. Plans start at $2.59/mo.Choose Your Plan How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy When it comes to marketing on Instagram, some best practices can help enhance your results. As a foundation, note that establishing a strategy is not the equivalent of posting pictures when you feel like it. Some helpful starting points for setting your strategy include: Identify Your Instagram Goals. SMART goals are valuable when it comes to creating a measurable plan. In this case, it’s best to set your goals so they fall within the strengths the Instagram platform offers. Research Your Target Audience. The more you know about your potential customers, the more likely you are to deliver content they’ll be interested in. Google’s Consumer Insights tool can help you gather valuable audience research data. Set Your Instagram Theme. This should support your brand and overall business mission and vision. All of your content should then tie into that theme. Choose Your Growth Tactics. Keeping up to date with Instagram trends can help you implement your next steps with the platform. By doing this, you’ll be much better prepared to take the next level with Instagram marketing, when your business shows signs it’s ready to grow. With the above in mind, some specific tactics can help you build a massive following on Instagram. After all, you want as many targeted followers as you can get for your marketing efforts to pay off. Related: 10 Easy Social Media Tips for Your Hard-Working Small Business 17 Ways to Build a Massive Following on Instagram Instagram offers some unique, visual opportunities that are not as prevalent on other platforms. Given this, here are 17 tips to help as you begin marketing with Instagram. 1. Use the Best Filters Instagram filters are a way to apply corrective or artistic features to your images without the need to use editing software. These are applied before you post an image to your feed. Instagram offers quite a few filters already built into the app. These typically play with the color and light in your images. However, filters can be used to help create a cohesive look for your feed. By including in-house guidance regarding which filters can and can’t be used by your marketing team, followers will begin to associate it with your brand. 2. Post Consistently Posting consistently lets your followers know they can always rely on fresh content from you. This means they’ll also be more likely to make your feed a regular stop when they get online. One way to do this is to create a content calendar like the example Instagram provides. When it comes to posting content, consistency can also help build trust with users. This is one way you can use Instagram to build and maintain relationships with your customers. 3. Use Relevant Hashtags The “hashtag” — also called the “pound” sign or “octothorpe” — is used to make certain phrases or words in a post searchable. This helps categorize them and makes it easier for visitors to find the content they’re looking for. Hashtags are meant to be used often, but you do have to watch for those not representing your brand well enough. For the right hashtags, using the same ones consistently can lead to higher rates of engagement with your visitors. Additionally, if you use an Instagram business account, you can access data about your hashtags and see which ones perform the best. 4. Organize Your Stories into Highlights on Your Profile Instagram Stories enables you to combine images and videos together into a dynamic slideshow on your feed. To give you more control over your stories and how viewers see them, Instagram introduced the “Highlights” feature. Highlights remain visible until you take them down, so they’re akin to pinned posts on other platforms. This is a dynamic way to make sure users who are new to your feed get the most critical information front and center — for example, Highlights relating to your brand story or goals. Related: Instagram Tips for Your WordPress Website 5. Utilize Video Overall, marketers overwhelmingly agree that video ads give them a worthwhile Return On Investment (ROI). It can also help you develop leads and directly increase sales. While your videos are limited to 60 seconds (with the exception of IGTV), you can enhance them with filters, hashtags, text, and location tags. Although it started out strictly as a photo-sharing platform, Instagram quickly added the ability for users to share short videos. These videos can be used to leverage content such as influencer interviews or product demonstrations as a way to engage with your followers. Related: Customer Testimonials and the Power of Social Proof 6. Geotag Your Instagram Photos Instagram uses geolocation technology to afford users the ability to tag their posts with their exact location. This can be helpful when trying to build a following. For example, if your business doesn’t have a listed location on Instagram, you can use your connected Facebook account to create one. Once you’ve done this, visitors to your business can tag their posts with your location. This gives you a lot of visibility throughout Instagram and also allows you the opportunity to use geotagging to run contests, promote events, or find influencers in your area. Related: How to Run an Online Giveaway on Your Website 7. Post at Ideal Times Saying that there is one definitive “best time” for posting on Instagram is not simple. Data collected by different marketing firms shows a wide variety of peak times. However, collecting some of your own data is likely the best way to target the ideal time for your audience. Instagram Business accounts can view insights for their account in three main areas. This includes content, activity, and audience. Keeping track of these stats can help you determine the best time to post so you reach more followers. Additionally, the days you post also have an impact on how well your posts and promotions are received. 8. Cross-Post on Other Platforms Cross-posting is a technique used to easily push your Instagram posts out to other platforms. For example, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) enable you to connect Instagram to your WordPress website using a plugin such as Blog2Social. With this, you can send your blog posts to Instagram or vice versa. Even if you cross-post your content manually, it’s an excellent way to reach users who only use one particular platform and would miss out on your content otherwise. 9. Socialize With Your Followers Instagram gives you a great way to connect with your followers. It has very few on-screen distractions, and you can guide the conversation with the imagery you use. Even more importantly, customers want brands to connect with them — they’re more likely to purchase from brands with a strong social media presence. In fact, 76% of people said they are more likely to choose a brand they feel connected to over other choices. 10. Invite Your Followers to Share Posts With Friends Whether you encourage your followers to share your content through contests or by simply asking them to, social sharing is a powerful tool. This is mainly because, unlike other forms of advertising, social sharing can grow exponentially. For example, what if one of your followers, who happens to have 1,000 followers of their own, shares your post? Of course, there are additional views up for grabs — not to mention what happens if each of those users shares your post too. This is a time-honored technique that’s tailor-made for social media. In fact, it should be foundational to your overall approach. 11. Share User-Generated Content User-Generated Content (UGC) does what it says on the tin. This kind of engagement can be very exciting for loyal customers and employs simple hashtags, submission forms, and more. One example of UGC is Wayfair’s #wayfairathome campaign. With over 43,000 posts from users, you can see how UGC can be an effective way to fill out your content calendar and get your users excited to engage with your Instagram feed. With a concept users can get behind, it’s one of the more successful ways to build an Instagram following. 12. Collaborate With Other Users and Brands in Your Niche When you reach out to collaborate with other users and brands in your niche, you can accomplish a couple of major goals. This is a good way to find a potential instagram influencer who might want to promote your business. Finding brands in your niche market not directly competing for the same customers can be mutually beneficial. You can essentially double your reach by joining forces with a complementary brand to market both products collaboratively across both feeds. Related: New to Influencer Marketing? Learn How to Partner Up to Promote Your Website 13. Engage With Your Competitor’s Followers Contrary to what you may think, it’s OK to leverage your competitor’s followers. First, establish your niche and gather some valuable search data. To do this, you can use tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner or your own Instagram Insights. Once you know what to search for, you can begin reviewing your competitor’s feeds. The idea is to look for popular hashtags that are used by your competition’s followers and then follow their feeds. Many people have their accounts set to “auto-follow” their own new followers, which potentially means you’ll gain some new visitors. 14. Run a Giveaway We’ve mentioned giveaways previously, but it’s worth dedicating more time to the concept. There are a lot of applications available to help you create and run giveaways on your Instagram account. Most require users to share the post in addition to either inviting a friend or reposting content. There are plenty of steps to consider here. You’ll need to set a deadline and outline the actions the user needs to take in order to be eligible, before choosing a winner. Overall, this method is a frontrunner for boosting shares, engagement, and visibility among your users. 15. Pay for Sponsored Posts If you’re familiar with Facebook’s post-boosting options, you can achieve the same thing on Instagram. Sponsoring a post means you can pay to have it placed in feeds outside your follower list. This means you won’t have to create new content to sponsor. Another benefit of using this method is that you’ll also be able to choose relevant targeting criteria to make sure it’s delivered to your chosen audience. This can include age, location, and interests. 16. Hop on Viral Trends Making your own version of a popular meme is a fun way to take advantage of viral trends. One example of this is the celebrity reaction to the “Dolly Parton” meme. Celebrities took up the challenge and posted their own versions. Brands can do this too, using sites such as Digg. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your company’s humor in a way that can remain relevant to your brand. 17. Use Analytics to Measure Success Remember those SMART goals we mentioned earlier? Don’t forget to use your data to measure your success and set your sights on where to improve. Since it’s not really feasible to implement all of these tactics at the same time, you’ll want to monitor performance to see which ones garner the best outcomes based on your goals. You can use the built-in Insights option to collect data or try a free, third-party collection tool. Ready to Hone Your Social Media Strategy?Whether you want to increase Instagram followers, understand Facebook ads, or get more out of Twitter, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly newsletter so you never miss an article.Sign Me Up Build Brand Awareness With a Successful Instagram Strategy As you can see, there are many tactics you can implement on Instagram to create a strategy that will gain your target market’s trust and a massive following. It might seem overwhelming, but Instagram is also fun, engaging, and worth the effort to market to users. A cohesive theme throughout your feed is one of the cornerstones of the strategy. Additionally, you can easily leverage concepts such as UGC, as well as collaborations with other brands in your niche, to gain followers. Ultimately, you’ll want to aim to create an attainable set of goals and make sure your tactics line up with those. It can be easy to lose sight of your goals once you’re in the trenches using all the tools we’ve discussed. One thing you shouldn’t have to worry about, though? Your web host. Check out our shared hosting plans today so you can focus on becoming the next Instagram sensation! Image credits: Instagram The post 17 Ways to Build a Massive Following on Instagram for Your Website appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing is one of the primary means of getting your brand noticed online. However, without a well-developed marketing strategy, you may struggle when deciding where to begin, see your conversions sink, or launch an unsuccessful campaign. The good news? We’ve got you covered when it comes to creating your content marketing plan. There are 10 easy steps you can follow to not only get yourself started on the right foot but also set yourself and your material up for success. In this article, we’ll give you an in-depth look at what content marketing is. Then we’ll outline 10 steps you can follow when formulating your own content marketing plan: Define Your Marketing Goals Identify Your Target Audience Run an Audit Choose a CMS Brainstorm Ideas Determine Your Content Niche Map Out Publication Roles Build a Content Calendar Create Value-Add Content Measure Your Results Ready to create the ideal content marketing strategy for your site? Let’s dive right in! An Introduction to Content Marketing The concept of content marketing is pretty simple. You create material — think blog posts, social media posts, videos, infographics, white papers, case studies and beyond — which provides real value to your audience. This work then acts as a means of marketing your business. According to the Content Marketing Institute, the key to doing this effectively is by producing great content. To accomplish that, you must provide people with something that they genuinely need, is unique, and engages with your target audience. Of course, before you can start developing content, you’ll need to begin with a solid strategy. This means following a few steps: Creating business goals for your content marketing Finding your audience Knowing what will make your content unique Picking a formula that works for you to create content Deciding where you’ll publish the results and which channels you’ll use Managing the content creation and publication process Determine how you’ll track key performance metrics to measure success This all requires a good deal of planning, but that’s the origin story of most marketing techniques. In case you’re not convinced yet, however, let’s take a look at why your business needs a content marketing strategy. Support Your Content Strategy with Great HostingWe’ll make sure your website is fast, secure, and always up so your visitors trust you. Plans start at $2.59/mo.Choose Your Plan Why Your Business Needs a Content Marketing Strategy The benefits of marketing are relatively self-explanatory, but what about content marketing in particular? It’s a relatively new focus, and you may not see why going to all that effort to make high-quality content is worth the time. First of all, whether you’re a small or large business, it makes sense to have a website. It’s a fantastic way to find customers and raise awareness of your brand. What’s more, your website needs plenty of inbound traffic to be as effective as possible. Content marketing can help drive people towards your website and into your sales funnel. Plus, producing informative and quality content to feature on your site and elsewhere can increase awareness of your brand and build trust by cementing you as an expert in your field. Even better, you can use content marketing to establish (and grow!) relationships with your customers. Once you know who your ideal audience is, you can hone in and focus on content that benefits them. For example, if you sell stationery and office supplies, you can curate articles about office life or write tips for professionals who work from home. Plus, you don’t have to be an already-established mega-company to benefit from this type of marketing. Have a vegan bakery? Write about subjects vegans care about and branch out into articles about clean living. Run a dog grooming business? Produce blog posts about pet care, how to train dogs, and so on. When it comes down to it, most businesses can use content marketing to great effect. You just have to find the right angle, and that’s where creating a top-notch content marketing strategy comes into play. How to Create a Strong Content Marketing Strategy (In 10 Steps) First and foremost, don’t get overwhelmed by the number of steps ahead. Each one is crucial to set yourself and your business up for success, but all of them are approachable no matter what your marketing background (or lack thereof) might be. Let’s walk through the process of getting started with content marketing, one step at a time. Step 1: Define Your Marketing Goals You may have done your fair share of work on coming up with a marketing plan in the past. If so, then you might know that your first step should be to sit down and decide on your goals. After all, you have to know the “why” behind what you’re doing to see success. Without purpose, you may find yourself creating content that lacks coherence or doesn’t provide value to your target audience. Alternately, you may not be able to come up with a fixed schedule that ensures new content is being pushed out regularly. To start making goals for your new content marketing campaign, you can ask yourself a few questions. Why are you engaging in content marketing? What are you going to offer to your audience or customers? How will your content improve their experiences? What do you want to gain from the content you’ll create? How will you measure your marketing efforts? You may want to consider writing down your answers and bringing in other perspectives from within your company or even outside of it. These questions can help map out your focus and connect it back to the overall vision for your company. Plus, having clear goals makes it much easier to know when you’re achieving them. Related: 12 of the Best Marketing Campaigns (And What You Can Learn from Them) Step 2: Conduct Market Research to Identify Your Target Audience As you create your marketing plan, figuring out who your audience is can be just as vital as deciding on your overall goals. If you don’t know who is most likely to engage with your products or services, creating content that helps to drive conversions will likely be a challenge. To start your market research, it helps to first determine the demographics of your target audience. Your buyer personas should include characteristics such as your audience’s typical age range, gender, family status, education level, hobbies, interests, etc. Once you know the “who” you’ll be focusing on, you can then hone in on the “why” and create a “target customer profile” or “buyer persona.” In other words, you need to figure out what the needs of your target persona are and what may convince them to try your products or services. One valuable starting place is to reach out to past customers. You can ask them why they were interested in your business, and what “pain points” it helped to address for them. You can even ask about what makes them feel frustrated in your particular industry, and if they have any specific feedback for you. You can take this information and use it to determine what people in your audience are looking for and who might be searching for your business in particular. This can be an excellent blueprint to use later on when you’re coming up with content ideas. Step 3: Run an Audit to Determine Your Most Popular Type of Content Next up, it’s time to run a content audit. This involves taking a close look at the content you’ve created and shared in the past and determining what pieces have been the most popular and successful. This isn’t a quick process, but it’s a necessary one. Once you know what has worked well in the past, you can build on that success. Otherwise, you may end up repeating mistakes that made past content less useful. This way, you can compare those missteps with what worked and figure out how to correct them. There’s no need to be overwhelmed, however. Completing a content audit really only requires four major steps: Create a spreadsheet of all your past content (or at least a large portion of it). Decide what kind of data you’ll focus on when evaluating that content (was it functional, readable, relevant, etc.). Gather and record that data for each piece of content in your spreadsheet. Analyze the information as a whole in order to create an action plan for future content. Often, the part that takes the longest is gathering all of the data in one place. However, once you have everything at hand, you can make direct comparisons, see where you encouraged high conversions and lots of click-throughs, and identify areas where you can grow. This is your best chance for setting future articles, blogs, and other material up for success. Step 4: Choose a Content Management System (CMS) If you already have a website that you’re happy with, you can skip to the next step. If not, however, your business’ site will play a pivotal role in your content marketing strategy. Therefore, it’s critical that you get a high-quality and branded website up and running now. The first thing you’ll need to do is select a Content Management System (CMS). This is the software that will enable you to create and display content on your website. Fortunately, most of the big CMS names are free to use and relatively easy to navigate. They also come with plugins and themes to make content creation easier and assist you in designing your site. Some examples of CMSs you can try include: WordPress. One of the most adaptable platforms, especially if you want to host blog posts or articles and still have a storefront Joomla!. A popular choice that’s fairly approachable for beginners Drupal. A more advanced system for those who have a bit of website-building under their belts Magento. A solid option if you want to have an online store, as it supports e-commerce websites Every CMS has its strengths and weaknesses, but each one makes website creation more attainable to those with limited programming knowledge. In fact, with the right CMS, you no longer need to be a computer expert (or even know how to code) to build yourself a successful website. Plus, this will enable you to fully own all of your content. After choosing your CMS (we recommend WordPress!), you’ll need to choose a domain name and seek out a quality hosting provider. With those elements in place, getting your site up and running is a piece of cake. Related: How to Start a WordPress Site in 5 Minutes Step 5: Brainstorm Ideas to Guide Your Future Path At this stage, you will likely have a rough idea of where you’ve been successful in the past and where your content might have needed more work. Now’s the time to brainstorm! Based on all the information you’ve gathered, especially during your content audit, you’ll want to come up with some general ideas of where you’d like to go in the future. Of course, any practical strategy should point you towards attaining the goals you set in the first step. When brainstorming, you may want to focus on coming up with keywords, particularly long-tail keywords, to give your content a competitive edge. If you understand which keywords are being used by your competition and by potential customers, you can use them to ensure that your content is visible in search engines. It’s also useful to understand the different types of search queries, so you can better optimize your content for them. For example, there are: Informational search queries Navigational search queries Transactional search queries Depending on what your business’ niche is, you may rely more heavily on one or two of these searches than the others. For example, referring back to our earlier example of a fictional vegan bakery, we might focus on both transactional and informational search queries (“Where can I find a vegan cupcake?” and “Best ways to make your own vegan milk substitute”). Understanding these queries and which ones your audience prefers can help you with your next stage of planning. If you know what your audience is looking for, you can create content that meets those needs. Step 6: Determine Which Types of Content You Want to Create When it comes to the material you’re going to produce, you have a lot of options to choose from. To name only a few, you can try blog posts, informative articles, e-books, case studies, templates, infographics, videos, how-tos, podcasts, online courses, and various forms of social media. All those choices can be overwhelming. However, each avenue has its own unique benefits. For example, blog posts offer a way to grow your audience and attract new clients. E-books can be a means of generating profit time and again, case studies can demonstrate the proven successes of your company, customer spotlights can create social proof, and infographics are easy for visitors to consume and share. Yet, of all the mediums you could hone in on, video still reigns supreme online. Videos are the most popular way for most people to pass time on the internet. Fortunately, you can depend on websites such as YouTube to host your content (and you can even turn a profit from it if you like). [Embed Craftograph Video Here] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UURvkk215lg&t=11s Using those pre-existing platforms can keep your website from being bogged down with heavy media files. Best of all, you can still feature those videos on your website, simply by embedding YouTube videos on your pages to save precious space. Once you know what kinds of content you’d like to focus on, you’ll be ready to move to the next step. Remember that variety is key, but you don’t want to overextend yourself. So you may want to choose two or three types to pursue at the beginning. Step 7: Map Out Publication and Management Roles No human is an island, and no content-creation team is complete without publication and management roles. Once you know what you’re going to create, it’s time to determine who will be responsible for which parts of the process. Unless you’re working alone, you’ll likely have to discuss with your team to decide who’s going to do what, including publishing and managing. To be productive, each role will need to be clearly defined. What will each role entail? Who will be accountable for responsibilities such as meeting deadlines, idea generation, editing, and more? When you have those basic roles sorted out, you’ll know who is in charge of the decision-making process and who is in charge of the execution. However, these positions don’t end with the content itself. You’ll also need to look at your website and decide who will do what there too. For instance, if you have a WordPress site, you may also plot out what you’ll allow various users to do. As the website owner, you’ll likely distribute tasks (such as writing and editing posts, controlling plugins, and managing other users) so you can keep your site orderly. To divvy out these duties, you can create different roles. WordPress’ basic user roles include: Super Admin — Manages multiple websites on one network. Administrator — Manages one site, and can do everything from deleting pages to creating posts and adding plugins. Editor — Can create posts, edit pages, and moderate comments, but cannot touch the site’s infrastructure. Author — Can upload files, delete posts, and edit posts, but has less authority than an editor. Contributor — Can only write and manage their own posts (but not delete them). Subscriber — Can simply read content and manage their user profile. If you want to give your team some further guidance, there are additional tools you can use to assist with workflow management, such as: Oasis Workflow, which enables you to create easy-to-use templates for assigning, reviewing, and publishing content. CoSchedule, a global calendar that lets everyone view the status of each project and who’s responsible for what. User Role Editor, which lets you not only assign roles but also add and block specific tasks within those roles. Having clear roles established from the get-go can make the whole process of content marketing smoother. You won’t have to make decisions on the fly, and people will already know what is expected of them. Step 8: Create a Content Calendar to Maintain Your Schedule The day-to-day work of managing and organizing content can become hectic and quickly overwhelming. With a content calendar, you can map out your content production and delivery, and then track each piece’s progress over days, weeks, or even months. This type of editorial calendar can help you streamline and coordinate your content marketing strategy. That level of coordination can be particularly advantageous for ensuring there’s a consistent voice and identity that transcends the different types of content you’re distributing. These might include blog posts, social media updates on Facebook and Twitter, and other off-site content. After all, with the overview your content calendar provides, your team will know exactly what everyone is doing. Related: How to Create a Brand Style Guide for Your Website With that in mind, your choice of platform is up to you. For instance, you could use Microsoft Excel, Google Calendar, or Google Sheets. You could also opt for a WordPress plugin to manage your content calendar, such as Editorial Calendar or PublishPress Content Calendar and Notifications. Once you’ve made your decision, your next step is populating the calendar with data. That will likely include dates and topic ideas. However, it might also incorporate suggested titles for articles, relevant SEO data (such as target keywords), and any helpful notes that can benefit your team’s content creation. Calendars can also be used to schedule content updates and conduct audits, so you can identify older posts that are no longer encouraging conversions and click-throughs. You can even maintain individual calendars for each user or team. Finally, you should color-code your editorial calendar to avoid any confusion. This can be as simple as blue for blog posts, red for editorials, and green for proposed ideas. This way, no one gets confused, and your calendar is easy to understand at a glance. Related: 10 Social Media Marketing Tips for Your Small Business Step 9: Create Content That Provides Visitors With Valuable Information Long gone are the days where you can simply hammer out a blog post chock full of keywords and hope to find quick SEO success. In today’s world, you’re going to have to invest time and effort into each post and other pieces of content. That means juggling all of your new posts, repurposing or reusing old content, curating content from other sources, making use of user-generated content, and even atomization. If you haven’t heard of atomization, it involves taking well-written work and implementing it in multiple ways. Fortunately, there is a recipe of sorts to creating successful blog posts. This includes ingredients such as dedicating a significant amount of time to each post (on average, four hours) and adhering to your mission statement with every piece. You may also find it valuable to create a schedule and stick to it, thoroughly edit your work, and maintain credibility through following certain best practices. Those include proper sourcing for facts and data, following reputable citation standards, and even integrating testimonials. Doing these things, and sticking to who you are as a company, can assist in improving brand awareness. Other considerations to look out for when blogging include focusing on quality rather than quantity, using a web host that can keep up with your needs, and dedicating as much (if not more) time to promotion as you do to creation. Content Creation SimplifiedWhether you need help optimizing for search engines, refreshing old posts, or upping your social media game, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly digest so you never miss an article.Sign Me Up Step 10: Measure Your Results to Improve Your Content Keeping track of your successes and failures can help you quickly course correct when it’s most necessary. This may help prevent you from continuing down a path of content and revenue stagnation. To guide your efforts in this area, you might want to look out for a few signposts when measuring your content’s performance. These include bounce rates, conversions, overall time spent on your site, and subscriber numbers. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that can enable you to measure these metrics, such as Google Analytics for tracking your bounce rate. You can also monitor other statistics, such as return rates, where your visitors are coming from, and more. It’s also free to use, which is an added bonus. However, there are many other web analytics tools you can try as well. Some, like Google’s platform, are free. Others, such as Crazy Egg, are more comprehensive and come with a price tag attached. It might also be a good idea to track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Doing so will help you answer some very pertinent questions, such as: Do you have more visitors now than you did a year ago? Are they staying longer on your site? Have your search engine rankings improved? Has there been a sales revenue increase, if applicable? Have you experienced social media traffic growth? Has your email (or your newsletter subscriber) list grown? Once you’ve analyzed your successes and shortfalls, you can then reinvest in what worked well and alter what did not. As with many marketing strategies, that’s what really can help growth take off. Related: The Website Owner’s Guide to Email Marketing Digital Content Strategy Made Easy As you can see, it takes work to develop your content marketing plan. However, the time you invest upfront can pay off through increased conversions and lowered bounce rates. Are you ready to get started? By having a professional WordPress website, you can start your content marketing off on the right foot! The post How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

20 Ways to Stay Social in an Age of Social Distancing

A few months ago, working from home sounded like a dream. Now, thanks to a global pandemic and the ever-looming threat of COVID-19, students, parents, workers, and business owners are stuck at home, doing their part to #flattenthecurve. Many of you are under shelter-in-place orders, leaving home only for the essentials, and the rest are carefully practicing social distancing, avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people and staying at least six feet apart. We’re right there with you. Our DreamHost offices in California and Oregon shut down, sending our diligent employees home to support you remotely. With no real end in sight to all this social distancing, the weeks (and months) are stretching ahead rather bleakly. “Loneliness is psychologically poisonous; it increases sleeplessness, depression, as well as immune and cardiovascular problems,” says Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki. “In fact, chronic loneliness produces a similar mortality risk to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We must do the right thing for public health and shelter-in-place now, but if doing so produces chronic, widespread loneliness, a long-term mental and physical health crisis might follow this viral one.” Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation — Zaki suggests reframing it as “socializing from a distance.” Thanks to the internet, there are plenty of ways to connect with friends, family, and coworkers, all while keeping everyone safe and fighting to reduce coronavirus infections. How can you socialize for the sake of your sanity — and your relationships — while safely flattening the curve? We have a few ideas. Working From Home?Now is the perfect time to build a website. We offer budget-friendly Shared Hosting services with robust features to help you thrive online. Plans start at $2.59/mo.Choose Your Plan Essential Apps Before you can bring your social life to the digital world, you’ve got to build up your tool kit. Chances are you already use many of these, and others may be less familiar. Either way, these apps, plus your social media accounts, will keep you connected to others while physically apart. Smartphone Video Calling Your smartphone probably already has one of your best tools for video calling: FaceTime for iPhones, Google Duo for Android. FaceTime, only available on iOS, hosts up to 32 people; on Google Duo, up to eight people can chat. These apps are best for one-on-one conversations with friends and family. Zoom Thanks to school and workplace closures sending the masses to work and learn at home, video conferencing software Zoom has become a surprising hero in the age of quarantine — and the inspiration for a wave of memes. It really shines for professional uses, such as connecting with clients, coworkers, and classrooms, but it can work for friend hangouts too. Download it onto your phone or tablet or use on your computer for free one-on-one chats or up to 40-minute meetings; upgrade to $14.99/month for longer meetings. Google Hangouts Sign in to Hangouts with your Google account (you already have one if you use Gmail) to video chat with friends for free. Up to 25 people can video chat at once, and 150 can join a voice-only group. If your friends or coworkers are all on Google (or willing to get an account), this is an easy option for some group facetime. Related: The 30 Best Web Apps for Small Businesses in 2020 Skype A staple of online communication for years, Skype is free to download and use on phones, tablets, and computers with web cameras. Video call up to 10 people at once, depending on connection speeds, and easily share screens. You can also instant message and make voice calls on Skype. This app is great for a virtual hangout with friends, no matter what devices they use. WhatsApp Facebook-owned WhatsApp is an excellent option for free one-on-one messaging, video calling, and voice calls on both iOS and Android. It uses end-to-end encryption for added security, and its popularity around the world makes it a fantastic way to connect with friends and family in other countries. Marco Polo When video chats are hard to coordinate between conference calls and Netflix-a-thons, Marco Polo can help you still connect “face to face.” Leave a video voicemail of sorts — send a video message to a friend, who will watch and respond when they are ready. This is a helpful app for those with friends and family in different time zones. Neighborhood Groups Find an online meeting place for your neighborhood and community. Some neighborhoods are more active on Facebook groups, others on Nextdoor. Find your people and use the forum to meet neighbors, connect with friends holed up in their apartment down the block, and trade war stories about tracking down toilet paper. Related: The 7 Best Web Management Tools for Small Businesses How to Use Tech to Socialize from a Distance Armed with an internet connection and a webcam or smartphone, plus one or more of the handy apps above, you’re ready for a world of virtual socializing. Try out these ideas with your friends and family. 1. Meet with Your Book Club Move your meetings online, maybe to Skype or Google Hangouts, or start your own group from scratch. Book clubs are a great way to make sure you meet regularly with your friends — and, with all the staying inside you’re doing, you might actually read the book this time. Related: Bibliophiles, Unite! Meet the DreamHost Customers Behind Silent Book Club 2. Throw a Birthday Party People with birthdays in the next two months (or more!) can still celebrate with family and friends, albeit digitally. Gather on a group video chat with the birthday boy or girl, each party-goer with their own dessert, to sing “Happy Birthday,” blow out candles, have a dance party, and share memories. 3. Go on a Date There’s no reason your dating life has to fizzle out. You definitely shouldn’t meet up with a stranger in person right now, but don’t delete your Tinder and Bumble accounts: schedule video chat dates with matches for a chance to connect with someone new. 4. Play Games Don’t cancel game night — a number of your favorite board games (including the ever-timely Pandemic) and party games are available online. If you and your friends have a copy of the same physical game you can play together, moving the pieces in sync. Also try Houseparty, a social media app that lets you play digital games over video chat. 5. Try a Table-Top RPG Game Maybe you and your friends have been Adventurers for years — if so, move your Dungeons and Dragons game online. If you’ve never played an RPG game, there’s no better time to try. D&D offers a short version of the rules online for free. Players only need a pencil, paper, and dice; this guide can help you start your first game. 6. Host a Movie Night The Netflix Party Chrome extension lets you and your friends watch a movie or TV show in sync while hosting a chat session. You each need the extension and your own Netflix account. Pop some popcorn, argue over what to watch, and settle down to enjoy together. 7. Sing Karaoke The bars are closed, so take the party to your video app of choice. Get music inspiration from this list of the 50 best karaoke songs, search for karaoke versions of your song choice on YouTube, and sing like no one is listening — but they are, because you invited them into your Skype chatroom. 8. Take a Zoom Happy Hour After a long day of teleconferencing, you and your coworkers could do with a celebration. Schedule a Zoom meeting (or whatever platform your organization uses) just for happy hour, and relax a bit together, while safely separate. 9. Chat Around the Zoom Watercooler No office is strictly business all the time. Make time for your coworkers to take breaks together while working from home, around the proverbial watercooler. Create a Zoom channel or meeting just to chat about anything other than work. These moments can help build the solidarity and connection that are so important to a healthy team. Related: 10 Ways You Can Create ‘Watercooler Moments’ While Working Remotely 10. Eat Out Together Log in to your favorite video chat app to host a remote dinner party. Get some takeout (support a local business, as long as social distancing guidelines in your area allow), or pick a recipe that everyone can cook and then eat together. 11. Play Together If you have kids stuck at home with you, chances are they could use some social connection too. Connect with the parents of their friends and hold a virtual playdate. They can color together, play Pictionary, and share quarantine adventures. The family chat app Caribu lets kids read and play games together. 12. Share on Social Media Use Instagram Live or Facebook Live to share something you’re skilled at with your friends who are also stuck at home. Give a concert, read poetry (your own or a favorite poet’s), give a walking tour of local landmarks, teach a few Japanese lessons — the sky’s the limit. Doing a little good for others will go a long way in helping you feel less lonely. Related: 10 Social Media Marketing Tips for Your Small Business Low-Tech Ways to Connect You can still maintain ties without the smartphone, all while staying a safe distance away from other people. These low-tech ways to connect will build solidarity between neighbors, communities, and friends — just make sure before trying any that you’re following local recommendations and keeping high-risk groups safe. 13. Plan a Neighborhood Art Walk Use your community Facebook group or Nextdoor to put on a neighborhood art walk. Have everyone hang posters, drawings, and messages on their doors or windows, or draw outside with sidewalk chalk, and then take a walk and enjoy your neighbors’ creativity. 14. Dance with Your Neighbors Channel the quarantined Italians who sang together from balconies by putting on your own neighborhood dance party or singalong. 15. Cheer at 8 p.m. A Twitter campaign called #solidarityat8 encourages Americans to stand on their porches or balconies at 8 p.m. every at to applaud the healthcare workers on the frontlines of COVID-19. Stand with your neighbors, wave at them, chat a bit from a safe distance, and cheer together for the workers who don’t get to stay home. 16. Run a Virtual 5K So many walks and runs this spring (and possibly summer) are getting canceled. Instead of throwing in the towel, plan a 5K with your friends, family, or neighbors. Get out and run or walk, wherever you are, at the same time (six feet apart, of course!), and enjoy some solidarity and exercise. 17. Throw a Social Distancing Concert If you live in a suburban neighborhood and play a loud instrument, put on a concert for your neighbors. Stand out in your lawn or backyard and play for all within earshot. Tell your neighbors about it ahead of time, so they can come outside and enjoy — or know when to turn up the volume on Netflix. Want More Remote-Work Content?Subscribe to our monthly newsletter so you never miss an article.Sign Me Up 18. Send Snail Mail and Play Window Tic Tac Toe The elderly are already at high risk for loneliness and depression, so if there’s an age 60+ loved one in your life or neighborhood, don’t forget about them. Call them on the phone, buy them groceries, send letters and cards in the mail — you might head to their home and write messages on their windows, or even play tic tac toe with them on the other side of the glass. 19. Deck the Halls Hallmark is bringing back Christmas to spread some cheer through the coronavirus gloom — why not do the same for your neighbors? Put your Christmas light back up and bust out your tackiest decorations. Walk the dog in your Halloween costume, put Valentines on doors, hang giant paper bunnies in your window — anything to entertain and surprise your neighbors. 20. Be a Helper Fred, AKA Mr., Rogers told children, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Anything to help, from giving to a food bank, to ordering takeout at a local restaurant, to donating blood, will do some good and help you feel connected to your neighborhood and community. Now’s the Time Between your remote working and your distant socializing, stave off quarantine-induced loneliness and boredom by tackling a project you’ve been putting off. Now is a great time to finally build the website you always dreamed of. Your DreamHost team may be working from home for now, but we are still here to help you get your website up and running. The post 20 Ways to Stay Social in an Age of Social Distancing appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

10 Ways You Can Create ‘Watercooler Moments’ While Working Remotely

Whether it’s an actual watercooler, the kitchen’s hardworking Keurig machine, or the breakroom foosball table, these workplace retreats give employees a place to congregate, shoot the breeze, and engage in non-work-related chatter. While animated discussions about Game of Thrones or Netflix might seem antithetical to rise-and-grind culture, in reality, “watercooler talk” is crucial to the success of businesses. Far from being detrimental to productivity, studies show that casual workplace conversation and no-pressure socializing yields a multitude of benefits, including increased productivity and collaboration, the establishment of trust between employees, and strengthened team building and engagement. Not only do the mental and physical breaks help boost cognitive function, but they ultimately lead to a stronger, more united, and well-connected team that produces better work and better ideas. It’s true! Never has the power of watercooler talk been more necessary than now. As business teams adapt to remote-work environments in the wake of global health concerns, enjoying the benefits of casual workplace conversation (even in a virtual setting) should be a high priority. But how do we build rapport in an entirely digital world? Let’s discuss (over a mid-day coffee break, perhaps?). Working From Home?Now is the perfect time to build a website. We offer budget-friendly Shared Hosting services with robust features to help you thrive online. Plans start at $2.59/mo.Choose Your Plan 10 Ways You Can Manufacture Watercooler Moments Remotely As you’ve swapped ties and slacks for your comfy sweats and house slippers, your usual 9-to-5 schedule is probably looking a little different these days. Outfitted at your makeshift desk with your favorite at-home coffee mug (and now an ever-present bottle of hand sanitizer), you’re bringing the office home — for the foreseeable future. We’d venture to guess a couple things as you’re adapting to this new normal. You’ve probably already blown through your quarantine snacks. Trust us, you’re not the only one. You’re probably getting some pretty bad cabin fever and feeling the social isolation as you work from home while complying with unprecedented social-distancing guidelines. Since you are not engaging IRL with your team on a daily basis or running into each other in the lunchroom, it can become really easy to simply do your work, disregarding the necessary interaction and team-building of the workplace. So how can your newly-remote team keep morale high and strengthen engagement while working separately in your own individual homes? As a leader, you can be intentional about making these important moments happen. Let us share a few ways how. Related: 16 Ways to Stay Focused When You’re Working from Home 1. Play Games  Get the ball rolling by infusing team meetings and communications with ice breakers, trivia, or other fun, casual games. Whether you’re using Slack or another team collaboration tool, use it to interject fun asides into the workday that break up the monotony and bring humor and fun. 2. Make Time for Small Talk Conversations with coworkers don’t have to be all work and no play. Leaders should intentionally create the time and space for de-stressing with non-work-related banter. By initiating casual discussion, you not only get to know your colleagues better, but you provide needed physical and mental breaks. Actively encouraging and participating in these kinds of conversations help build trust, unity, and inclusion. Try introducing team members virtually. Conduct spotlights or round-robin, get-to-know-you questions. Highlight birthdays with rousing video chat versions of “happy birthday” (after all, you should be getting lots of singing practice with all that hand washing you’re doing, right?). Chronicle your weekends: What at-home activities did you do? What was your last great Netflix binge? What funny thing did your kids say? Thoughts on that viral video making the rounds on social media? Start the convo and embrace the beneficial small talk. Make it a necessary part of each day, and your culture as a whole — creativity and innovation increases when people feel like they can interact freely. 3. Using Google Hangouts to Swap Skills You might be surprised at what talents your coworkers have hidden under their belts. Use video calls to host employee-led classes, letting team members teach others a skill, like baking bread, harvesting honey, or doing watercolor paintings. Related: Easily Set Up Online Courses on Your WordPress Website in 3 Steps There’s a lot of cool technology out there that can connect you with people everywhere and grant you essential face time with your team — it’s time to take advantage of it! Also, it’s just nice to see facial expressions and body language after quarantining all alone with your screen. Plus, you’ll be having fun and learning more about your employees while helping foster shared experiences and socialization that engenders a positive work-life balance. What’s more, understanding (and keeping notes on) the not-so-visible-at-work talents of your team members can help you utilize their skills to better your business in the future. These are major wins. 4. Host a Virtual Team Book Club Less time commuting to and from the office means more time for making a dent in your To-Be-Read list. Join together with coworkers to host a virtual book club, swapping ideas and thoughts on non-work-related (but still significant) topics. Who knows, you might keep it up in-person when you’re all back at the office! Related: Bibliophiles, Unite! Meet the DreamHost Customers Behind Silent Book Club 5. Create (Good) Competition Whether you’re voting on who has the cutest pet or who wins the Washing-Your-Hands Dance Challenge, give your team a little boost by fostering work and non-work-related competition that keeps things exciting. Try swapping typing-test WPM scores, making funny memes, playing charades with emojis only, battling over reality-tv-show-contestant brackets, sharing your best wastebasket toss, creating and voting on the best lip sync video, or battling it out on brain teasers. 6. Openly Give Kudos Establish a virtual space on your team communication channels where team members can display and applaud the good work of other employees. Fostering praise helps team members feel appreciated and motivated; plus, this fun socialization practice helps your team remain unified — no matter the physical distance that separates you. 7. Team Up Like-Minded People Are there fitness-minded employees on your team? What about cat lovers? Bibliophiles? Create opportunities for team members to branch off and chat with others about shared interests. A dedicated channel on Slack can allow health gurus to swap recipes or workout tips, foodies to talk must-visit restaurants, or feline fanatics to share the best cat videos. If appropriate, help team members connect with each other on their own social channels. Getting team members to connect personally and engage with others in dedicated spaces (especially about things they’re interested in) increases feelings of togetherness and engagement. Feel the bond. Related: 13 Lucrative Side Hustle Ideas for 2020 8. Encourage Healthy Habits The transition to less formal, remote work might mean some employees aren’t taking their lunch-break walks or sticking to a regular sleep schedule. Take time in meetings to emphasize the importance of reducing stress and caring for yourself, physically and mentally. That might mean doing short meditations together, stopping brainstorming sessions to stretch together, or mandating a water break. Demonstrating that you care for the well-being of your team builds trust. Plus, prioritizing health will benefit your business as a whole. Happy workers = successful business. Want More Leadership Content?Subscribe to our monthly newsletter so you never miss an article.Sign Me Up 9. Host Themed Events. Every week, create themes on your communication channels to encourage fun interactions. Swap funny photos on a Wacky Hair themed workday, or compare best April Fools’ jokes on the 1st. These kinds of virtual group events can allow conversations to be more personal and fun. 10. Get in the Groove. Most employees already have a habit of tuning into music at work. Join in (and encourage a positive work-life quality) by offering a company-wide subscription to a music streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music. Swap playlists with your team, vote on the best Justin (Bieber vs. Timberlake), and share favorite tunes. Music taste is another excellent way to get to know your team! Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation, especially in the workplace. Forget working in a vacuum — small talk equals big benefits, even virtually. Keep the morale and productivity of your team high as you intentionally foster one-of-a-kind watercooler moments from your at-home workspace. And hey, now there’s no need to refill those painfully-heavy office water jugs! Bonus? The post 10 Ways You Can Create ‘Watercooler Moments’ While Working Remotely appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

How to Monetize Your Blog: 14 Top Strategies

We get it! You wanted to connect with other like-minded folks, share a hobby or skill, or promote a small business. There are lots of great reasons to start a blog, and making money might not have been the one that got you into the blogging game. But generating a little jingle from your online efforts is definitely worth considering, especially if it helps cover maintenance costs. For instance, using a high-quality web host and a professional theme can make a big difference to the quality of your blog, but they also aren’t free. That’s where a monetization strategy comes in handy! Fortunately, there are many ways to create reliable streams of revenue through your website. With just a little planning and creativity, your blog can be a source of significant, self-sustaining funds. In this article, we’ll offer some detailed guidance about how to monetize your blog. We’ll also share some vital money-making tips and advice about timing your monetization strategy. If you’re ready to make some dough, let’s get started! Related: How to Start a Blog: A Comprehensive Guide Why Monetization Might Be Right for Your Blog In this context, “monetization” simply means turning a regular blog into an income-generating website. If you’re still not sure whether you can make money blogging (or even want to), let’s look a little more at what it entails. Naturally, the main reason to monetize a blog is to create a source of passive income. If you’re worried about devoting time to a new endeavor, don’t worry! Most monetization methods won’t require a lot of work to maintain after you set them up. If you’re trying to decide whether monetizing a blog is the right for you, here are three of the best reasons to go for it: You want to support the expenses that running your blog incurs. Your readers want more from you, and you’re ready to expand how you engage with them. It’s time to improve your website by adding in some advanced plugins or premium themes and even upgrading your hosting. If any of those scenarios fit your current situation, then you’re in the right place! You might be ready to take a big step with your website. First, however, let’s talk about how to time your monetization venture for the best effect. Power Your Blog with DreamHostWe’ll make sure your blog is fast, secure and always up so your visitors trust you. Plans start at $2.59/mo.Choose Your Plan How to Choose the Right Time to Implement a Monetization Strategy Timing your foray into the world of blog monetization is a critical element in the process. No, you don’t have to be a full-time blogger to start making money from your blog, but if you take this step too early, you might find that you’re not getting the results you expected. With that in mind, let’s look at a couple of scenarios that indicate you’re ready to monetize your blog. First and foremost, your audience is a vital element in any monetization strategy. In fact, finding your niche and attracting readers are essential parts of starting any blog. If you’ve found a focused niche for your content and your readership is growing, you’re in a solid place to begin making some revenue. Related: From the Experts: 20 Great Blogging Tips Additionally, if your content is really resonating with your target audience, that’s another good indication that your website might be ready for monetizing. There are a couple of ways to find out how your content is performing. Monitoring your traffic, for example, can help you determine whether your readership is growing over time. Another key indicator is audience engagement. For instance, if you receive regular comments on your posts, you know that your readers care about your blog and take it seriously. Finally, if you have a structured approach to your content management process and a regular, reliable content schedule, you also might be ready to monetize your blog. An Introduction to the Most Common Money-Making Options for Bloggers Thanks to some innovative open-source tools, there are a wide variety of ways to generate income with a successful blog. While not all options are right for everyone, knowing your audience can help you match the appropriate technique to both your goals and your readers. Let’s briefly look at a few common ways to generate money with your blog. For example, affiliate marketing is when you’re compensated for linking out to particular products or websites in your content. Alternatively, you can always generate funds by selling your own products or services. If you’re not in the position to do that, you can explore offering ad space for other companies. Of course, there are plenty of alternatives to direct advertising as well, such as taking donations, hosting events, and more. Below, we’ll cover each of these strategies in detail. Related: 25 Legit Ways You Can Make Money Online How to Monetize Your Blog: 14 Top Strategies Now that we’ve covered the basics of monetization, let’s dig in and take a look at some of the best options available to you. Our list has a little bit of everything, so you should be able to find at least one or two techniques you can implement. Plus, we’ll provide some practical advice you can use to get started right away! 1. Become an Affiliate Marketer We mentioned affiliate marketing earlier, but let’s take a look at exactly how you can start making money this way. You’ve likely encountered blogs in the past that mentioned their “content may contain affiliate links.” If you’ve clicked on one of those links and ended up buying something, the blog’s owner got paid for it. That’s how affiliate marketing works in a nutshell. As you’re writing content, you include links to affiliate products or companies you’ve agreed to partner with and promote. If your readers click on the links and make a purchase, you’ll get paid. The details may vary from program to program, but you generally earn a small commission on each sale resulting from a click-through originating on your site. For example, let’s look at our own affiliate program. We’ve established a user-friendly affiliate program that clearly details what payouts are available and when you’ll receive them. This brings up another critical thing to note about affiliate marketing. You’ll want to make sure it’s clear what the expectations are not just for payouts, but also what the company expects from you as a marketer. It’s pretty easy to get started with affiliate marketing. Just be careful that you don’t end up being required to market something you’re not entirely comfortable with. You want your readers to trust you, so keep that in mind as you explore the many options that are out there. You can also check out one of the many WordPress plugins that help you manage your affiliate programs. ThirstyAffiliates is a popular tool. This plugin can help you manage all of your affiliate links. You can easily add preformatted links to your content as you type. You’ll save time this way, and you’ll also have access to valuable analytics and reports. Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Affiliate Marketing 2. Use Ads to Generate Income Another common and easy way to generate money from your blog is by allowing advertisers to bid for space on your website. Just as a business might be willing to pay for the best billboard location on the freeway, they’ll pay for prime spots for banner ads or display ads on the internet too. Ad networks take available ad space and offer it at auction to various advertisers. In turn, those advertisers will often set parameters for their campaigns. That might include specific target audiences, style and formatting preferences, and goals for how many impressions the ad should get. This means that if you have substantial traffic numbers and some space for text or visual advertisements, you can join an ad network. The most popular option is Google’s AdSense. One of the nice things about AdSense is that it tailors ad placements to the layout, structure, and content of your website. This makes the ads highly relevant to your readers, increasing the chance that they’ll be clicked on. Plus, you can get started quickly by simply inserting the AdSense code into your website. There are other advertising networks out there too. Some of them have more rigorous approval processes than others. If you’re just starting out, you might want to check out some ad networks that are geared towards new websites. For example, PopAds has fast approval and caters to smaller publishers. Related: The Best Search Engine Optimization Tools for Your Website 3. Grow Revenue with Sponsored Posts and Reviews Creating partnerships with brands and companies that fall within your blog niche is another excellent way of making money online. You can offer to place or write content related to their products on your blog in exchange for a fee. There are a few things to consider when doing this, however. First, you’ll want to make sure you’re adhering to the Federal Trade Commission’s rules regarding disclosure. In a nutshell, if you’re located in the United States, you need to clearly disclose your sponsored content or any product reviews you’re being compensated for. However, before that, you’ll need to secure a sponsor. There’s really nothing stopping you from “cold calling” a business you like. You can ask if they’re interested in paying you to feature content on your website about their products or services. Alternatively, you can register with sites like PayPerPost. Essentially, PayPerPost is a directory where bloggers can register, and sponsors can find potential blogs to be featured on. Sponsors can search the directory by topic to narrow down the field of options. To get started, you just need to complete a fairly simple form. After that, your information will be searchable in the PayPerPost directory. This is a nice option because you could potentially pair it with another strategy. You can also decide how aggressive you want to be in terms of seeking out sponsored post opportunities. 4. Partner with Brands as an Influencer Establishing yourself as an influencer is another way to create reliable revenue streams. This involves using your social media status to barter with brands. If you have built up enough of a following in certain spaces, you might already be considered a micro-influencer. Whether you approach a brand you’d love to showcase on your blog or the brands come to you, these relationships can be financially beneficial. Just as with featuring sponsored reviews, there are some websites out there that can help you establish your influencer presence. Cooperatize is one of them. If you’re not sure how to go about becoming an influencer, there are a lot of resources out there that can assist you. The basics involve fine-tuning your social media profiles and content. You’ll also need to build up your networks and closely engage with followers. After all, it’s hard to “influence” if you don’t have an audience for your posts and content. If you can establish a relationship with a brand that fits your blog’s niche, there can be plenty of benefits for both parties. 5. Sell Physical Products Thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit, social media, and Content Management Systems (CMSs) like WordPress, the online market for goods you can sell yourself is quite vast. The possibilities are just about endless, especially when you take into account the success of websites like Etsy. In case you’re not familiar with it, Etsy was one of the first websites to offer an online marketplace for handmade goods. It’s the go-to shop for unique and customized items. However, if custom products are not your thing, there are other options. Apps that connect you directly to manufacturers have opened up new reseller opportunities. Resellers source desirable or trending products directly and sell them online for a profit. With this strategy, you don’t have to worry about developing, storing, and shipping your own products. Of course, you can also design your own online storefront! If you’re using WordPress to create your blog, you also have access to one of the most popular e-commerce plugins out there. WooCommerce makes it extremely easy to set up an online store, and it’s free to use. You can also add many premium features to handle marketing and customer engagement. Once you’ve decided what kind of products you’ll sell, you’ll need to get your website set up and choose what type of payment gateways you want to offer customers. To launch your online store, it’ll be critical to have an email marketing strategy in place. We’d recommend focusing on building an email list so you can easily let your loyal fans know about your latest offerings. A great way to do this? Create your own email newsletter. Related: Build an Email List With Your WordPress Website in 3 Simple Steps 6. Sell Digital Products or E-books If you have expertise in a specific area and have written stellar blog posts on that topic, you might consider marketing some related digital products. For example, you could create an e-book based on either your most popular blog posts or made up of entirely new material. If there’s a topic that readers continuously comment on or ask about, that might be an excellent place to start. If an e-book seems too ambitious, you can also think about serializing content and pricing certain portions of it as premium products. Whether you decide to offer e-books, music, or another type of digital item, you might want to check out the Easy Digital Downloads plugin for WordPress. Adding a tool like this to your website setup can help you offer user-friendly checkout options. Additionally, the free version of the plugin comes with both the PayPal and Amazon payment gateways. Something to keep in mind is that this monetization strategy doesn’t have to be your only source of income. Offering a digital download or two on your blog pairs well with many other options on our list. For example, you could easily incorporate ads or affiliate marketing as well, in order to boost revenue. 7. Offer Coaching or Consultations Similar to turning your expertise into e-books or another downloadable product, you can also offer coaching services or consultations for a premium fee. If you enjoy engaging with people one-on-one, whether virtually or in person, this can be a satisfying way to monetize a blog. Fortunately, WordPress can help you manage a busy consultation schedule. For example, the Booking Calendar plugin is a highly-rated and well-maintained solution. By combining this plugin with a popular payment gateway like PayPal, you can be up and running with a money-making coaching or consulting business in no time. There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re interested in this approach. This is a monetization strategy that requires a bit more work on your end, both upfront and on an ongoing basis. If you’re looking for a way to ease into your own full-time business, however, this is definitely an on-ramp worth exploring. Something else to consider when developing your strategy is how you’ll promote interest in your new services. One of your best options is to put together one or more dedicated landing pages, which can provide all the details needed to turn readers into clients. Be Awesome on the InternetJoin our monthly newsletter for tips and tricks to build your dream website!Sign Me Up 8. Run an Online Course There’s no doubt that the option to take courses online has become a popular and accepted form of education. Professionals can add to their knowledge base in this way, and students can even complete degrees. As a blogger with something to teach, running your own online course is another top monetization possibility. One way to determine what topics might be popular is to look at LinkedIn Learning and research what’s trending. Once you determine which subjects might be appealing to your readers, you can experiment with WordPress’ Learn Dash plugin. This is a tool that can help you turn your WordPress website into a full Learning Management System (LMS). LearnDash includes just about all of the features you’ll need to create an online course. This includes pricing functionality, points, and certificate options for students. You’ll be able to create an engaging learning opportunity for your readers, earn some money, and establish yourself or your business as a knowledgeable authority. Related: Easily Set Up Online Courses on Your WordPress Website in 3 Steps 9. Host a Virtual Summit If you’re not sold on some of the other options on our list, but you want to find a way to generate revenue while engaging with other professionals in your field, don’t worry. Monetization is still very much a possibility for your blog! Thanks to a wide array of accessible and affordable communication technologies, you can organize and host virtual summits. These mini-conferences can also be delivered as live or recorded webinars, for both new and old readers to engage with. One way to coordinate efforts between your webinar platform and your website is to use a plugin like WP GoToWebinar. To use this tool, you’ll need a GoToWebinar account. Then you’ll be able to easily embed a list of upcoming webinars on your site, as well as connect to registration forms. Keep in mind that if you have a global reach, however, you’ll want to make sure your offerings follow the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules. If you need to have a lot of control over your schedule and can leverage specific times of the year when you require an income boost, this is a great option. With a virtual summit, you can pull in your favorite professional resources and create an engaging online event for your followers. 10. Start a Podcast Podcasts hit the big time in 2019. Crossing over into the mainstream, statistics soon showed that just over half of the U.S. population had listened to a podcast. While it might seem like “everyone” has a podcast, however, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room in the market for yours. A podcast can be an excellent companion to an existing blog. Once you find the right niche, you can scope out some top podcast charts to see where you might fit in. After that, getting your podcast website ready for monetizing is your next step. Once you’re set up and have established a following, you can experiment with some of the other solutions on our list. For example, ad spending on podcasts is a growing area that can have better results than traditional advertising options. However, if you’re not interested in placing ads on your site or mentioning sponsors during each episode, there are other monetization options. For instance, you can create a podcast membership site with the Ultimate Member plugin. This is a popular, well-maintained, and highly-rated tool. One caveat is that you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version if you want to integrate it with WooCommerce for paid podcast memberships. Alternatively, there are some plugins like Paid Member Subscriptions that offer a few more features for free. 11. Create a YouTube Channel Similar to podcasting, creating an engaging YouTube channel can be a lucrative (and fun!) endeavor to complement your blog. However, it might seem overwhelming at first to keep up with all the best practices for monetizing videos online. One way to make things simpler is to do some research into the YouTube Partner Program. While it’s possible to use your YouTube channel to boost your on-site revenue, the platform offers specific and beginner-friendly tools through its dedicated program as well. If you’re not able to apply for the program, you can still use YouTube to drive traffic to your blog. When you combine elements like AdSense, affiliate marketing, and more, you can create a dynamic money-making system. You can even link to your own landing pages from your YouTube videos. 12. Accept Donations If you don’t need income to keep your website afloat, but would like to make money blogging to pay for future upgrades, accepting donations is an option you might explore. Loyal readers will likely support your passions if you have plans that will bring them more of the log posts they love. For example, if your niche is travel and photography, you could accept donations that are earmarked to go towards your next expedition. While you can use one of the many online crowdfunding options, there are also some useful plugins available, such as GiveWP. This tool has a lot of features to offer for passion projects, non-profits, and blogs. The free version includes such a robust feature set that most users won’t need the premium add-ons. Alternatively, you can structure a donation system with a well-styled form and a payment gateway such as PayPal. WPForms is a great place to start if you need a form-building plugin. Just keep in mind that you’ll want to be as transparent as possible with how you’re using the donations, so readers will feel confident in giving. 13. Offer a Paid Membership Plan We mentioned some membership plugins earlier when talking about how to monetize a podcast. However, there are other ways to offer and manage a membership plan for your blog itself. One of the most popular platforms for this is Patreon. One of the best aspects of Patreon is that you can get started for free. The cost of the platform is based on the level of service you choose. Each level takes a cut of your monthly donations. For example, the “Lite” level charges 5% of your monthly donation income. Patreon makes it pretty easy to set up content-specific membership sites. You can offer premiums for different levels of donations. This means you can give specific donors access to exclusive content on your blog, or annual premiums. 14. Develop a Branded Swag Shop When you really love a band, writer, movie, etc., it’s common to want to show your support by sporting its branded gear. If you have the resources, creating your own branded swag shop can also be a fun way of making money. WooCommerce is, of course, the most popular e-commerce tool out there. It’s an easy addition to any website. However, you can also look into print and ship services, if you’re not prepared to handle the logistics of fulfilling orders. The good news is that you can turn your WooCommerce shop into a fulfillment center as well. The Printful integration for WooCommerce is a great place to start. With this add-on, you can create a shop by choosing from Printful’s inventory of over 220 items. You can provide designs that are specific to your blog, or choose from the pre-built templates. Additionally, you can set up items that can be individualized by your readers. After a purchase is made, Printful will make it and ship it for you! It’s that easy. You can even estimate profits with an online calculator. This will help you set your prices to ensure the level of revenue you need. Related: WooCommerce Site or Shopify Store? Here’s How to Decide You CAN Make Money Blogging Once you decide you want to monetize a blog, you may be tempted to dive in headfirst and try everything you can think of. However, taking a measured approach often leads to a more profitable blog in the long run. We’ve outlined many feasible options for monetizing your blog, but it’s important to keep some specific points in mind when choosing your strategy. For example, remember that not all forms of monetization work for all blogs. It’s key to determine whether you’ve found the right blogging niche first. Next, focusing on one or two complementary possibilities are likely to yield the best results. For instance, you might pair AdSense with a podcast or video channel. Finally, no matter what approach you take to generating income on your blog, you’ll want to make sure you have the hosting resources you need. We recommend checking out our shared hosting plans as a great place to start! The post How to Monetize Your Blog: 14 Top Strategies appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

DreamHost is Ready for COVID-19

You’ve no doubt seen and heard plenty about COVID-19 over the past several weeks. This disease that has spread so quickly across the globe is highly transmissible and acutely dangerous to those with weakened immune systems as well as other high-risk groups. COVID-19 represents a tremendous public health threat, and we are seeing its impact on industries worldwide. As the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a global pandemic this week, I wanted to update you on the work we’ve done to ensure the safety of our team and to assure you that our services will continue to operate as expected without interruption as the world comes to grips with this exceptional disruption. We maintain physical office space in three cities (two in California, one in Oregon), and we have data centers on the east and west coasts of the United States. Our company culture places a high value on face-to-face connections and the spontaneous and serendipitous interactions that can only occur when team members are working in the same physical space, but we also value flexibility and have extensive experience working remotely. In the interest of the continued health of our team members, and in the greater interest of public health, we’ve asked our entire global team to begin working remotely until the situation is under control and it is safe to return to the office. The software and systems that enable every DreamHost team member to work offsite have been in place for many years. There was no last-minute scramble to make this happen — just a simple policy change to strongly encourage our valued team members to stay home and work remotely. And by “remotely”, we do mean safely at home, away from public gathering spaces like coffee shops where others are likely to congregate. Our data centers, the one area of our business that does need regular “hands-on” physical contact, will remain staffed with tightly-controlled access policies. We are committed to providing the same consistent, high level of service to you and your business while the world continues to cope with COVID-19. We know very well how much you rely on DreamHost to keep your businesses, websites, and dreams up and running. Our responsibility to you is not one we take lightly, and it’s one that we’re well prepared to support throughout these times of uncertainty. You’ve got enough to worry about — we’ve got this. You should experience no change in the level of service or support you receive from DreamHost. Our servers haven’t gone anywhere, and our world-class team remains just as available as always to help you find success online. The only difference is that some of us might be doing it in our pajamas for a bit. Thank you for choosing DreamHost. We’re proud to be your online partner. Be safe, Michael Rodriguez CEO, DreamHost The post DreamHost is Ready for COVID-19 appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Honoring Japanese Tea Practices with L.A.’s Chado Urasenke Tankokai Association

Los Angeles native Mark Umbriaco is always looking to experience a new piece of his city’s patchwork of culture. So when he and a friend spotted a chance to sit in on a Japanese tea ceremony at an arts festival 15 years ago, he didn’t hesitate. They packed into the venue and nabbed the only open seats — up in front, next to a kind-faced old man wearing a kimono. “And everybody kind of freaked out,” Umbriaco remembers. Until that day, Umbriaco’s only experience with the intricate rituals of serving matcha green tea had been a glimpse into the Japanese pavilion at SeaWorld San Diego as a kid in the 1970s. So he couldn’t have known that he had just squeezed himself into a delicate art, steeped in a cultural tradition of honor and respect, that proscribed everything from how to hold the tea bowl to where to sit and what to say. Or that the kimono-clad man was tea master Hounsai, head of a leading school of tea and part of a powerful family in Japan. “He was a very welcoming, very distinguished old man,” Umbriaco says. Excusing the etiquette breach, Hounsai embraced the newcomers. “He was just such a personable, kind, engaging, present person that I walked out of there thinking, ‘What is this?’ I was really impressed.” Wanting to learn more about the philosophy and practice of tea, Umbriaco sought out a sensei at the L.A. chapter of Chado Urasenke Tankokai. Headquartered in Kyoto, Japan, this 400-plus-years-old organization spans the world with branches from Europe to Peru, teaching the Way of Tea and sharing a friendship that both celebrates and transcends Japanese culture. Umbriaco is the outgoing manager of English-speaking students at L.A.’s Chado Urasenke association, where members practice, teach, and learn the art of Japanese tea. Most members, Umbriaco explains, are Japanese expats — but there’s a growing number of students who don’t speak Japanese, and that group is as diverse as L.A. itself. The teahouse uses DreamHost to power its online presence, which serves as a platform to reach across culture and language to pass the practice on to a new generation. “The members that are Japanese are getting older, and the practice of tea is a living art form,” Umbriaco says. “And in order for it to exist, especially in areas where the change is the greatest, they need to draw in a lot more people, and the web is the place to do that.” Get Inspired by More Awesome Site OwnersSubscribe to the DreamHost Digest for in-depth profiles on people who are using DreamHost to make their big ideas come to life online.Sign Me Up The Way of Tea — A Hands-On Experience Translated from Japanese, chado means the way or the practice of tea. Japanese tea ceremonies — or, more accurately, tea practices — are about more than sharing a drink. Practicing tea is a cultural expression, an art form that connects participants to each other and challenges them to embrace the present moment. “There are very small ceremonies that take 10 minutes, and the overall expression of a tea event takes more than four hours, almost five hours, to perform,” says Umbriaco, who has studied with the same sensei for 15 years. Tea can take years to learn and a lifetime to perfect. The practice follows a simple outline: It begins with purifying the tea implements (tools) and continues with preparing and serving sweets and green tea, before cleaning up and closing. Those who practice tea must become masters of etiquette. Even the smallest movements are governed by tradition, and participants keep a calm pace and demeanor while respecting the honored roles of guests and host. “Tea is a strange animal,” Umbriaco says. “It came out of Zen Buddhism, so there’s a lot of Zen elements you can find in tea. We purify the mind and the body and the implements before we make tea. As you enter the tea space, it’s supposed to be an other space; you the dust off the troubles of the world outside, and you enter this space where all people are the same. No one is above another person in the tea room.” Beyond the rules and etiquette, tea practitioners must master mindfulness, an awareness of the ever-fleeting present. They have a saying in tea: “one time, only time.” It doesn’t matter how long or short a ceremony is, it will happen only once. No matter how hard you try, you simply can’t recreate a moment. Umbriaco explains:  “The time’s going to be different. The date is going to be different. Your attitude is going to be different. The flowers are going to be different. The food tastes different. The temperature is going to be different. This goes back to tea’s Zen origins: No matter how elaborate and perfect it is, it’s only going to happen once, and you must be present.” In addition to its spiritual origins, “tea is also steeped in secular Japanese culture, so there are many, many rules,” Umbriaco says. “I should be able to go to a tea event in any place in the world and expect to know exactly what is going to happen. When you enter this tea space, you kind of lose yourself. Physically and culturally. And then everybody comes together. It doesn’t matter what language you speak or where you come from.” Related: This DreamHost User Is Saving the World — One Seed at a Time Transcending Cultural Practices The way of tea cannot be learned from a book or in a classroom — it must be transmitted from person to person, sensei to student. “You should expect to be with your sensei for a very, very long time,” Umbriaco says. “That sensei has a sensei, and that sensei has a sensei. There’s a lineage of ancient education passed from person to person.” Several tea schools were established in Japan hundreds of years ago to facilitate this learning and connect senseis with students and resources. This includes the Urasenke school, led by the Senke family. The Urasenke school, in particular, charges its branches the world over, including the L.A. association, with sharing the practice of tea. After World War II, Honensai — the tea master who graciously welcomed Umbriaco into his first tea practice — led in the expansion of tea outside of Japan. “He saw tea as a vehicle to express Japan’s willingness to be a force for peace and not war as it had been,” Umbriaco explains. “He has gone to great lengths to spread tea throughout the world. He is probably the best ambassador for tea in its entire history.” Honensai distilled the purpose of the Chado Uraseneke school into one phrase: “peacefulness through a bowl of tea.” With that statement, tea masters founded associations around the world, reaching L.A. about 60 years ago. “And so from there, it has just grown,” Umbriaco says. “That message of peace resonates with a lot of people.” The practice of tea is most prevalent in regions with large numbers of Japanese expats, including Southern California and San Francisco. But Umbriaco has participated in tea in places such as Texas and the Midwest, locations with more American practitioners than Japanese. Chado and Tea Drinking in Los Angeles Today, the L.A. chapter of Chado Urasenke has a primarily Japanese membership, but the portion of non-Japanese speakers in the association is growing steadily. “L.A. is a very densely populated, multi-cultural place,” Umbriaco says. “And tea has become a part of that. I have had tea in Los Angeles from women in hijabs. And I’ve practiced with people from Africa and Italy and South America and Mexico and all places in North America. So it actually reflects the population and the people that are in the area.” Chado Urasenke of L.A. functions as a social club where members meet to practice tea, as well as a connection point and place of learning for sensei and student. As with any education and artistic expression, practicing tea doesn’t come cheap — sweets, matcha green tea powder, and the crafted implements have a cost, and everything a sensei makes from instructing goes right back into practicing tea. The L.A. association gives practitioners access to tea implements that might otherwise be beyond their price point. In keeping with their charge to share the way of tea and promote “peacefulness through a bowl of tea,” association members perform demonstrations in the teahouse and at cultural events across Southern California. Tea, says Umbriaco, is a visual way to share and represent Japanese culture. The purpose of tea demonstrations is to invite newcomers to come and see and join in — just as tea master Hounsai welcomed Umbriaco — and to carve out a piece of Japanese culture within the diverse landscape of L.A. The most elaborate ceremonies draw in and celebrate the best of Japanese artistry. “It’s considered a very special event, and within that event, it incorporates pretty much every artistic form that is available in Japan,” Umbriaco explains. “So, in that event, you would wear your best kimono. You would experience the best calligraphy. You would experience the best food, the best sake, the best tea, the best manners; the best of everything Japan has to offer is incorporated in the longest events, and even for Japanese people, it’s a rare and very special thing.” Related: Meet Museum Hack: Tours for People Who Don’t Like Museums Tea Leaves and a Dynamic Website A living art form with ancient roots needs a dynamic website that reaches across cultures. That’s why the L.A. branch of Chado Urasenke chose DreamHost shared web hosting and WordPress to power their online presence. Shared hosting got them up on the web with WordPress installed, offering the freedom to create a beautiful, custom website that’s simple to maintain and navigate, no matter what language you speak. “It’s a beautiful website that was easy to construct and use by people who don’t speak English as their first language; the people in our association can use and trust the site to meet their outcomes,” Umbriaco says. And so can their intended readers: Americans and expats alike looking for a place in L.A. to learn about tea. “There’s a lot of younger people in college that are interested in world culture or Japanese culture, or who are learning to speak Japanese. They can reach us through the website; it’s what people looking for tea in Los Angeles are going to see.” He’s proud of the website and of its role in making an ancient art form relevant to modern audiences. “Tea is old; it has been around for a long time,” Umbriaco says. “Tea is also a living art form. And there’s nothing dead about it. That is the leadership from the Senke family and the leaders of tea. But for it to be relevant, it must be current. You can talk about peace all you want. But if people don’t know, then it’s not relevant.” An art form that promotes and practices peace, as well as mindfulness and respect for the present, is always relevant no matter where or who you are. “Visit Los Angeles and have tea with us,” Umbriaco adds. “There is something for everybody in tea, as long as you’re willing to practice that mindfulness and be present.” Feature image by Georges Seguin, distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. The post Honoring Japanese Tea Practices with L.A.’s Chado Urasenke Tankokai Association appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

How to Write a Blog Post: A Step-By-Step Guide

1997: the year the Pathfinder landed on Mars, Madeleine Albright was sworn in as Secretary of State, and Titanic demolished box office records. It’s also the year the term “weblog” was officially coined (even though the first blog is said to have existed in 1994, at the near genesis of the internet). For two decades, starting a blog has been a powerful way to connect with internet audiences and share creative content. Yet, with blogging’s established rep as a powerhouse (and dominant) form of web content, it’s easy to witness the ever-changing and ephemeral landscape of the internet. Blink and virtual crowds have abandoned one novelty social media platform for another. Viral memes and web fads frequently give internet audiences virtual whiplash. Content creators are fighting to garner the ever-depleting attention spans of web users. So are the web’s 31.7 million blogs losing relevance anytime soon? Not at all. It turns out 77% of internet users read blogs regularly. What’s more, 61% of Americans spend three times the amount of time-consuming blog content than they do email content. Blogging is still very much a crucial part of a thriving brand and a next-level content marketing strategy in 2020. Whether you’re a brand or a business, you want to attract traffic and offer something of value to visitors. Blogging is a major key to that engagement — having a blog on your website increases your chances of ranking higher in search engines by a massive 434%. Plus, bloggers wield immense influence on the web — giving your brand the opportunity to grow in a big way. So do you have everything you need to be a blogging success? Let’s find out. Passion? Check. Website? Check. Fueled by a great *ahem* web hosting company *ahem*? Double-check. You’re ready to share your own unique content with the world wide web. Power Your Blog with DreamHostWe’ll make sure your blog is fast, secure and always up so your visitors can engage with you. Plans start at $2.59/mo.Choose Your Plan OK, wait. How do you write a blog post? If you want to create value for readers and attract traffic to your site, it’s not as easy as typing up a few sentences in haste and clicking Publish. No, writing a great blog post requires creativity and smart crafting. And with the abundance of bloggers and the influx of ideas out there, you need to be at the top of your blogging game to cut through the noise and get eyes on your content. But don’t worry! We’re here to help. This everything-you-need guide covers it all: the reality behind blogging (aka vital stats to know), the ins-and-outs of crafting a great blog, and what handy resources are available to help with every aspect of writing your article. Dig in and study it word-for-word or just jump to the sections you need: Why Does Writing a Great Blog Post Matter? What Makes a Good Blog Post? How to Write a Blog Post (In 6 Steps) Helpful Blog Post Resources Before we dive in too deep, let’s address something really fundamental: Why is writing a good blog post so important? Why does it even matter? So glad you asked (we love this topic)! Related: How to Start a Website in 5 Minutes with WordPress Why Does Writing a Great Blog Post Matter? So what difference does a quality blog post make anyway? Well, the difference between a so-so blog post and a can’t-stop-reading blog post is a matter of only a handful of factors, but they’re crucial. An exceptional blog post not only helps attract your target audience to your site, but it helps establish you as an authority in your field and motivates visitors to continue engaging with you. In fact, 30% of people rank quality content as the top factor that adds credibility to a blog, so not only do you need to start a blog, you need excellent blog content. As you provide valuable content, readers will be more likely to develop loyalty to your brand. They’ll share your content with their friends, and trust us, social shares are the virtual word of mouth you need to flourish online. If you want authentic growth, you need killer blog posts. What Makes a Good Blog Post? So let’s break it down. What makes a perfect blog article? Here are the nine key ingredients. 1. Targeted Message Or, in other words, Know Thy Audience. Ideally, you already know who you’re trying to reach with your brand or business. Similarly, your blog posts should be geared toward reaching and influencing a particular target audience — your specific niche — and addressing their needs. With a focused target, you are more likely to connect with audiences and build your brand. Casting an overly-wide net with your message will cause you to miss out on the key audiences that are most important for the growth of your brand. Brittany Jepsen of House That Lars Built knows her audience — creative DIY crafters — and tailors content for them. 2. Clever Headline Your headline is often the make-it-or-break-it factor between someone clicking on your blog post or passing it by for some other site (likely a competitor’s content!) Your headline should grab readers, make them want more — tease and tantalize! — while still giving them a roadmap for the journey you’re going to take them on as well as an idea of what prize they’ll earn by adventuring. Invest the time to craft a good headline — it makes a big difference. Choose each word carefully. Pro-tip: Use a headline analyzer tool to get insight into the efficacy of your title and ways to improve. The author of this Disney Food Blog post entices readers with a behind-the-scenes look at Disneyland happenings. At One Good Thing by Jillee, this headline explains that the post will address a very common pain point — needing room-temperature ingredients in a pinch. Using numbers is a solid way to quantify what value you’re offering to readers, like this post on author K.M. Weiland’s writing blog. 3. Interesting Intro Kudos! You got a reader to click on your post, interested in finding more about your topic. Now — how to keep them reading (and keep your bounce rate steady)? You need a hook. You need to start your blog post with a captivating intro to draw the reader into your post. Whether you lead with a shocking stat, an engaging anecdote, a thought-provoking question, or an innovative idea, make your intro so compelling that your visitors can’t stop reading. Lure them in and hook ‘em. But take note — the introduction needs to satisfy the intent you hinted at in the headline or your audiences (and search engines) will punish you with lower traffic and rankings. This post from Greatist hooks readers with an unexpected, intriguing intro. 4. Valuable Content What does your blog post offer audiences? Readers are more likely to read and engage with your blog content if it offers them something of value, addresses a burning question, or solves a particularly deep pain point. Are you providing them with info they can’t find anywhere else? Is your content exclusive, comprehensive beyond your competitors, or outfitted with freebies or rich resources? Does it solve a problem? If so, then you’re on the right track. Let’s spend some time on this. Great blog posts are really all about understanding your audience — what they need, what they care about, how they behave. This type of research is crucial. Get to know them by reaching out to them, soliciting feedback, and asking questions. Get to know them and show you care. Related: From Bounce Rate to Conversions — The 4 Metrics Bloggers Need to Track Next, do some internet research. Look at what people are searching for, what types of questions they’re asking (Google Auto-Complete anyone?). Browse Reddit, scout out competitor sites, and read comments. Simply put: Do your homework. Based on the intel you gather, develop a list of blog posts and content ideas that address the needs of your audience. You can start out with broad topics and then narrow the scope as you hone in on your niche. Plan what you need to distinguish your blog and beat out competitors in what you’re offering audiences. The blog at CSS-Tricks clues readers into popular content and entices with the promise of answering a burning question. Need ideas on what kind of content to offer? Here are some well-received examples: Listicles Roundups How-Tos/Tutorials Exclusive Insights/Behind-the-Scenes 5. Captivating Stories Visitors are more likely to connect with content that is relatable, human, and engaging, so gather your readers around the campfire (metaphorically, of course) and share relevant, captivating tales. This post from Expert Vagabond hooks readers immediately with a captivating story. 6. Easy-to-Scan Text Here’s an important stat for you. The average person spends only 37 seconds reading a blog post. If your text is long and clunky, it could be even less. Make your content easy to consume, organizing your snackable text in bite-sized pieces that’s easy to digest. Break up text into short paragraphs often, guided by informative subheads, emphasized text, and bullet points. Vary the length of your sentences, and utilize white space to provide visual breaks for readers’ eyes. Making text easier to read with consistent and organized formatting will help keep eyes on your content. Related: How to Increase Your Website’s Conversion Rate with Typography 7. Thoughtful Design It’s not just the content of your blog post that matters. Design (and blog structure) plays a big part in getting audiences to consume your content and engage with your brand. Pairing strong content with aesthetically-pleasing design makes your blog post that much more impactful. Thoughtful design includes smart use of white space, an attractive color scheme, easy-to-use navigation and menus, and other guiding design elements like leading lines and composition. It should also take into account the typical f-shaped scanning pattern when laying out design elements. The blog at Joi Knows How is united by a cohesive color scheme and engaging design elements, and thoughtful navigation. 8. Authentic Writing The quickest way to turn off your audiences? Write content for them in an inauthentic voice. Visitors to your site don’t want salesperson speak, overly-technical jargon, academic mumbo-jumbo, or an unapproachable narrator — they want YOU. Your real, one-of-a-kind voice will keep them coming back for more. Jessica of How Sweet Eats brings appeal to her blog posts not just by sharing delicious recipes and food photos — her writing feels real, relatable, and fun. 9. Mobile-Responsiveness Mobile is king. Mobile internet usage has grown exponentially in the last few years, now dominating its share of traffic over desktop usage. Plus, more than five million people have smartphones, meaning that if audiences can’t access your blog post on mobile (or if your post isn’t responsive or attractive on their phone or tablet), they’re likely to hop to a competitor’s site. Prioritize a mobile-friendly blog to grow your brand. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to test out your site for possible responsiveness issues (this includes keeping things speedy!). Be Awesome on the InternetJoin our monthly newsletter for tips and tricks to build your dream website!Sign Me Up How to Write a Blog Post (In 6 Steps) Now, it’s time to write that blog post! Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and do this step by step. 1. Plan First, you need to sit down and prep your post. Planning is imperative to crafting a home-run blog post, especially if you want to stand out amongst your competitors and garner the attention you need. First off, you need to get yourself organized. Keep a running list of post ideas based on the research you’ve conducted on your audience and on valuable keywords. Brainstorm and mind map your thoughts. When planning your content calendar, consult your ideas and choose what would be the most useful for your target audience. Once you’ve settled on a winner, use a blog planner (like this one) and map out your topic. Create an outline with basic points and conduct the necessary research to flesh out important details. Visitors can get fake news anywhere on the web, so you owe it to your audience (and your brand) to only plan and create well-researched, high-value posts. And remember, it’s great to have a lot of content — more blog posts will draw more traffic. BUT. Make sure you’re prioritizing quality content over mere quantity and that you’re passionate about what you’re writing about. If you are, it will be evident — and contagious. 2. Craft a Headline Your headline is crucial, remember? It’s got to be strong, or it’s not going to draw readers in. Remember: you want to entice and hint at what readers are going to get out of clicking on your article instead of someone else’s. A few headline pointers: Optimal headline length is 11-14 words, both for social shares and search engine efficacy. You need a captivating hook, plus enough info that your readers know what to expect and what value you’re offering them. Don’t just use throwaway clickbait phrases or pack in keywords. Trim the fat and use each word with intention. 3. Write Your Post Time to start tickling those virtual ivories — meaning, it’s time to start writing your blog post. The average time spent writing a blog post has been increasing, so give yourself enough time (at least a few hours) to get your thoughts down and fully engage the writing process. The optimal length for blog posts is 2200-2500 words, so keep an eye on word count as you write. For now, don’t worry about making it perfect on the first go-around. Just keep those fingers moving and get the words down. Make sure to include a CTA (Call to Action) as you wrap up your post — you want your readers to be motivated to do something. And if they’ve stuck with you through a whole blog post, there’s a good chance they will. 4. Find Images A blog post without images earns a big whomp, whomp, whomp — and gets little interest from readers and higher bounce rates. Blog articles with images get 94% more views. This means images — relevant, good quality ones — are absolutely necessary for your posts. DIY some of your own photography, get proper photo permissions for others’ work you want to share, or use a royalty-free site like Pexels or Unsplash to add images to your post and edit as necessary. You can also consider including alternative elements like infographics, charts, and graphics to create unique visual interest. Eye-catching images are a hallmark of the Our Travel Passport blog, drawing readers in with visual interest. 5. Edit Your Post Wait! Before clicking Publish, you need to edit your post. And no, a simple run of your standard-issue spell check isn’t enough. Here are some editing best practices: Take a Break. Polish your post by stepping away from your keyboard for a time, then returning later with a fresh pair of eyes. The break will help you see errors you might have missed before. Play Editor. Proofread your post with a fine-tooth comb and correct any grammar and spelling errors. Also take the opportunity to edit your text for clarity. Think Syntax. The same type and length of sentences can get really boring — and difficult — to read. Vary your sentence length to keep things interesting. Pack a Punch. Flimsy, weak-sounding copy turns off readers and leaves them unsatiated. Eliminate weak verbs and passive voice. You want your words to be strong and meaningful. Get a Sounding Board. Read your text aloud to ensure it flows smoothly and sounds authentic and on-brand. Have a friend or colleague read over it and give feedback for an outsider’s perspective. Fix Formatting. Make sure your text isn’t wonky when published. Preview it to ensure that it looks the way it’s supposed to — professional and well laid-out — providing plenty of visual space for eye breaks. Your blog content is a representation of your brand, so make sure it reflects a professional and polished image. 6. Promote Your Post If you’ve followed the steps above, you’ve likely got a great blog post on your hands. That’s all fine and good, but if no one sees it, all your hard work is for naught! You’ll need to put in the content marketing legwork to get your post in front of your audience. Whether you use social media promotion, email marketing, paid advertising, or search engine optimization — ideally, a balance of all of these tactics — work to promote your post in ways that make sense for your target audiences. Related: 10 Social Marketing Tips for Your Small Business Helpful Blog Post Resources Don’t worry. We’re not done yet! We’ve got a handy-dandy toolbox of resources to help you make writing blog posts easy (and fun) — and above all, to help you build a successful blog and grow your brand. We know starting and maintaining a blog isn’t easy, but we’re here to help. Here are some super useful tools for each step of the writing process. Building a Website If this is your first website rodeo, check out Website Building 101 for a step-by-step tutorial. Identify your blog’s niche with this comprehensive guide to starting a blog. Need a specific setup? We’ve got walkthroughs for food blogs, fitness blogs, and photography blogs. Planning Before you begin, learn from the pros. Review these expert blogging tips. Do your homework and don’t skimp on keyword research. Use an online, printable, or plugin content calendar template to keep blog content organized. Utilize mind map templates for creative blog content brainstorming. Schedule blog posts so you don’t have to be glued to your screen 24/7. Writing Block distractions while working from home (or the coffee shop) with the SelfControl or Freedom apps. Add Calmly Writer to your browser to simplify the user interface so you can focus on writing. If you don’t work well in silence, turn on Coffitivity to enjoy some ambient coffee-shop noise without leaving the house. Remember that not everything you write has to be brand new — reworking old content is a great strategy! Editing Don’t miss any details by using our WordPress Blogger Checklist before you hit Publish. Let Grammarly edit all the content you write in real time. Improve the clarity — and boldness — of your writing with The Hemingway App. Heads up! Avoid these common blogging blunders. Promotion New to social strategy? Start with this guide to promoting your blog on social media. Learn the marketing tactics that will drive organic traffic to your website Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) helps your posts appear higher in search results. Ready yourself for criticism from internet trolls. Email marketing is essential for creating a following, so build that subscriber list. The Final Word on Starting a Blog Ready to craft some kick-butt blog posts? You’ve got everything you need to write great posts; now you need to team up with a great web host. We’ve got you covered. We’re experts at making things easy with top-tier tech support and resources for any SOS moments. Plus, we’re your biggest fans. Go you! Our Shared Hosting plans + your epic blogging skills = the perfect pair. The post How to Write a Blog Post: A Step-By-Step Guide appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

The Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

When it comes to digital marketing, the goal is to generate traffic and leads that can then be converted into sales. While the focus is usually on developing ways to drive more traffic to your site, you may be wondering if there’s more you can do to encourage conversions. Enter Conversion Rate Optimization! Rather than focusing on traffic generation, CRO looks at what can be done on your website after you’ve reeled in those leads. Ultimately, CRO is an ongoing process of observation, analysis, and improvement. In this how-to guide, we’ll give you a comprehensive overview of CRO and answer some important questions you might have: What is CRO? How should I calculate my website’s conversion rate? Is CRO the right strategy for my website? What is a CRO framework? How do I use one? Where should I implement CRO best practices? Which CRO tools and resources can I use? Long story short, we’re going to get you set up with everything you need to know about increasing conversions. Let’s get started! Optimize Your Site with Managed WordPress HostingOur automatic updates and strong security defenses take server management off your hands so you can focus on conversions.Check Out Plans What Conversion Rate Optimization Is (And How it Differs from Traditional Marketing) When we talk about conversions, we’re referring to the process of getting a lead to take a desired action. This might be submitting an email address, purchasing a product, or downloading an article. It’s easy to rely heavily on strategies that might be too simple in scope. For example, you might be solely focused on getting visitors to submit their email addresses on your website and miss out on other potential conversion opportunities. However, if CRO is implemented correctly, it can help you manage the entire process from start to finish. This includes all of your channels and every part of your conversion funnel, rather than just that one lead generation tactic. Regardless of where they originate from, conversions of any kind can be calculated with a formula. Since CRO is a continuous process that aims to increase conversions and can employ several different techniques, it’s important to understand how to calculate different kinds of conversion rates. So, put on your glasses, because we’re about to get real nerdy. Related: 5 WordPress Plugins to Improve Your Website Conversion Rate How to Calculate Conversion Rates Calculating your current conversion rates will give you a benchmark prior to implementing CRO and can later help you determine whether or not your efforts are working. There are several different ways to approach this task. Before you get started with the number-crunching, you’ll need to define a few things that are specific to your business, including: Website Visitors. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to track your website’s traffic. This will be the basis for many CRO calculations. Leads. Make sure you know exactly what counts as a lead for your situation. For example, this could be anyone who clicks on a specific button or submits their email address. Conversion. Making a purchase is the most common kind of conversion we’ll discuss. However, there are several kinds of conversions, so you’ll need to establish how you’re defining the term. These three elements are critical components of your marketing funnel. The better you understand your funnel, the easier it will be to implement key CRO tactics. Now, let’s look at the most fundamental way to calculate conversion rates. You’ll take the total number of conversions (such as purchases), and divide it by the number of “interactions” or completed actions (clicks on an ad, for example) during a specific time frame. For example, if you had 10 sales from 1,000 interactions in one month, your conversion rate for that month would be 1%. However, you’ll have to decide what you are considering a valuable interaction, as calculating all potential actions together can result in skewed rates. Fortunately, there are tools available to help you sift through some of the different ways to do this. Specifically, Google offers conversion tracking for use with Google Ads. This enables you to create specific conversion actions that are unique to your business. Now, let’s take a step back and look at conversion rates in the context of implementing CRO. To do this, you’ll want to calculate your conversion rate based on the number of website visitors you have and how many of them become leads. To get your visitor-to-lead conversion rate, divide the number of leads created by the number of website visitors within a set time frame: If you have 1,000 site visitors in one month and 10 leads, your visitor-to-lead conversion rate is 1%. In terms of setting goals, you might be inclined to think you need more website traffic. In reality, this is where CRO can be beneficial. In our example, there are a lot of website visitors who did not become leads. This means there might be areas you can optimize in order to increase your visitor-to-lead conversions. In turn, your lead-to-customer conversions should also increase. In fact, that lead-to-customer conversion rate is the last calculation we’ll touch on. This is determined by dividing your total conversions (where a lead becomes a paying customer) by the number of total leads in a given time frame: If we revisit our previous example, we had a total of 10 leads. Let’s assume that three of those leads convert in the same month. Our lead-to-customer conversion would be 3%. These are all necessary formulas to keep in mind. They can help you set goals and compare monthly totals to see if your CRO strategies are working to boost the specific conversion rates you decide to target. Related: 10 Social Media Marketing Tips for Your Small Business Should You Be Using CRO? (4 Key Questions to Ask Yourself) It seems obvious to say, “Yes! I want more leads from my existing traffic.” However, there are some other questions to consider before you dive into a CRO planning session. While CRO concepts and techniques can benefit just about anyone, there are some specific elements of your existing practices to consider beforehand. 1. Do You Understand Your Audience? To implement a solid CRO plan, you’ll need to have a decent amount of target market data. Marketing personas are a great place to start, and you can enhance their usefulness through CRO. If you’re lacking this kind of information but still want to use CRO, there are tools available to get you started. For example, the ThinkWithGoogle suite includes an application called Market Finder. This is an application that can help you determine what the actual market is for your business. Additionally, you can identify new potential markets, or fine-tune your approach according to geographic locations. All of this data is vital to utilizing CRO. If you’re missing this component, you might want to invest some time into filling the gaps first. 2. Are You Tracking Key Metrics? We mentioned previously how important it is to track different business metrics. CRO can only deliver the desired results if you’re already tracking metrics like bounce rate, page loading times, user experience, page views, and traffic. Just as we saw in the conversion rate calculations, data is the key to understanding whether optimizations are working. 3. Do You Already Have Good Traffic Numbers? While mathematical logic tells us that the more traffic you have, the better your conversion numbers should be, that’s not necessarily the approach CRO emphasizes. The optimizations suggested — along with using CRO best practices — are designed to take your existing traffic even further. So if you’re already happy with your current traffic, that’s a good starting point. If not, you might first want to look at what could be preventing you from reaching your audience. 4. Do You Need to Stretch Your Marketing Budget? Just like we discussed regarding traffic numbers, CRO aims to get you more with what you have already. If you have the other elements in place, such as data tracking, decent website traffic, and lead funnels, CRO is a logical next step. However, obtaining those other items can be costly, so it makes sense to look at where you can optimize what you have in place to bring about better results. Fortunately, most CRO practices are not going to break the bank. Be Awesome on the InternetJoin our monthly newsletter for tips and tricks to build your dream website!Sign Me Up Understanding the CRO Process and How to Make It Work For You We mentioned earlier that some approaches to calculating conversion rates can be too isolated. However, when implemented correctly, CRO can take those individual elements and create a comprehensive process that offers greater depth and value. In that regard, CRO is also a multifaceted approach that does not focus on just one element of a website or marketing campaign. There are several different CRO frameworks out there that you can adopt for your process. Each framework puts its own spin on five basic categories, including: Research Hypothesis Prioritization Testing Learning On their own, these can be used as a basic CRO framework, but there are more in-depth and specific frameworks out there that you can try as well. We’ll go over three of the most popular, to give you an idea for how they differ. Moz’ 5-Step Framework Moz offers SEO tools for website developers and businesses, and they’re considered one of the top experts on SEO. Therefore, it’s no surprise that they’ve developed a CRO framework as well. Their approach has five steps that fall into three broad phases: Discovery, Experiments, and Review. To get started, let’s look at the Discovery phase. This is where steps one and two of the Moz framework live. There, you’ll look first at gathering data and formulating your hypotheses. The Discovery phase is essential to creating a strong foundation for all the work you’ll do next in the Experiment phase. This is where you’ll encounter steps three and four. They cover wireframing your new design, so you’re addressing the hypotheses formed in the previous step. This should match your brand and be realistic in terms of your technical resources. The fourth step in this framework focuses specifically on implementing Optimizely. This is a platform we’ll discuss in greater detail later. However, broadly speaking, it’s built to help you test and build digital experiences in a variety of different categories, such as marketing, engineering, and product development. In the Review phase, you’ll be looking to see if your hypothesis was correct. If not, you’ll be able to determine what you can learn from that failure. The LIFT Model Developed by Chris Goward, Founder and CEO of WiderFunnel, the LIFT Model is another CRO framework to consider. While this approach retains some of the same fundamentals of scientific testing that the Moz framework introduced, it has a much different structure. The Lift Model enables you to evaluate experiences from the perspective of your page visitors, using these six factors: Value Proposition Clarity Relevance Distraction Urgency Anxiety Goward offers a visualization of this model using an airplane as the value proposition. What makes the airplane lift is when the value proposition is relevant, clear, and presented with urgency. As a website user, distractions and anxiety are what can bring the plane down. With the LIFT Model, your value proposition is what determines your potential conversion rate, making it the most vital part of the framework. All the other factors in the model either drive or inhibit your value proposition and are used to develop your hypothesis and testing strategy. The LIFT Model has quite a few success stories. For example, a case study on Magento demonstrates how they were able to create an 88% “lift” in qualified leads using this framework. The Data36 Model Created by data analyst Tomi Mester, the Data36 model is an excellent option for anyone more comfortable with traditional scientific research terminology. This framework uses six steps to work through both qualitative and quantitative research methods that inform the CRO process. Steps one and two of the Data36 approach are similar to the Moz framework — you’ll be focused on gathering valuable data. However, in this case, it might be anecdotal or historical data. The key is to focus on qualitative information at the start. According to Mester, this concept is the first step, so you can form “hunches” before diving into the numerical data. To gather this information, you can conduct user interviews or Five Second Tests, which we’ll talk more about later. Your qualitative data can help dictate the direction of your search for quantitative data. This is where you’ll start to confirm your hunches. For the most part, this is similar to the steps in other frameworks where you form a hypothesis and then test it. The Data36 framework also has a brainstorming step that is much like wireframing in other CRO frameworks. Once you’ve created optimized content, you’ll engage in another round of qualitative testing. To round out the framework, you’ll work through A/B testing of the versions that performed well in the second round of qualitative research. The winner of this step can be moved to the sixth and final step. If used correctly, this framework can help you avoid unnecessary coding projects and potentially speed up the optimization process by weeding out options that might not work. 6 Areas Where You Can Implement CRO Best Practices Now that we’ve covered some of the frameworks you can use to implement a CRO strategy, let’s take a look at the specific areas of your website where these techniques can have a noticeable impact. 1. Call-To-Actions (CTAs) Your CTAs are of prime importance. If your website visitors don’t know what it is you want them to do, it’s unlikely that they’ll do it. Remember that in the LIFT Model, clarity is one of the elements that can help your value proposition take off. You might be familiar with some of the more traditional best practices, such as CTA button design, placement, and copy. However, when it comes to CRO, the approach is slightly different. In fact, this is where you’re more likely to find recommendations for using text-based CTAs. A text-based or anchor text CTA is designed in a larger format, such as an H3 or H4 heading, and is often styled in a different color. It is meant to stand out, but still be part of your web page’s copy. Hubspot conducted a study that compared end-of-page CTA banners to CTA anchor text and found that 43 to 97% of their leads came from the anchor text. Since only 6% of leads came from the end-of-page banner, anchor text CTAs were the clear winner. One of the main reasons this approach works is that it can help avoid banner-blindness. This happens when website users simply ignore certain design elements. Additionally, since a high percentage of readers won’t ever make it to the end of a post, implementing anchor text CTAs might be a useful technique to explore on your website. 2. Website Copy Many experts view writing strong website copy as a mashup of art and science. However, CRO has a more formulaic approach for improving conversion rates through optimizing specific areas of your website’s copy. For example, applying optimization formulas to your headline is a great place to start. This is likely the first, and potentially only, thing your visitors will see. If the headline is not optimized, they may not even click on it in the first place! If your headline passes the test, you’ll want to make sure your page copy follows a few more rules. This is where the relevance of your copy really matters. It’s crucial to CRO that your copy matches or is relevant to your CTA. For instance, you wouldn’t want to focus all your copy on website hosting and then have your CTA mention signing up for an email marketing service. That might be an extreme example, but it drives home a vital point: copy matters! You’ll also want to assess whether your copy uses too much passive voice, stays on topic, and makes claims you can actually deliver on. 3. Navigation and Site Structure Your website’s structure can be a critical factor in a successful approach to traditional SEO. Plus, there are lots of ways to optimize it. A well-executed site structure also plays a pivotal role in CRO. In fact, SEO expert Neil Patel calls good site architecture the “older brother” of CRO. Basically, navigation and site structure impact conversions because they are how users find and purchase things on your website. If the path to your CTA does not make sense or is hard to follow, your conversion numbers will probably reflect that. This is where some standard practices for building better User Experiences (UX) can be helpful. Peter Morville’s Honeycomb Model is a widely-accepted lens through which to view your website’s structure and begin making improvements. The seven segments of the honeycomb represent all the elements that should be present to provide users with a meaningful and valuable experience. Ultimately, if your website structure and navigation are meeting all the standards in the honeycomb, you’ll have naturally optimized your website for better conversion rates. 4. Page Speed It’s a well-cited fact that if a user has to wait just a few seconds for your page to load, they are more likely to leave and not come back. This, of course, can have a negative impact on your bottom line. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your website’s speed. One significant factor when it comes to page speed is your web host. A quality web host with the right features can be a big help when it comes to CRO. For example, built-in caching is one feature to look for when evaluating potential web hosts. This enables you to create static versions of individual web pages, so the server has less to load when a user requests the page through their web browser. Related: 12 Reasons Why Your Website Is Slow and How to Fix It 5. Forms Getting your visitors to fill out lead generation forms can be a challenge. Style and length are both factors that can impact the success of your forms. Additionally, where to place them on your site is a hotly-debated topic. Whether you place your opt-in forms above or below “the fold,” there are some practices backed by data that seem to yield higher conversion rates. For example, the BrokerNotes lead generation form has a tool-like experience that took their conversion rate from 11% to 46%. This is a good example of how revamping your lead generation form to look and feel less like a form can assist with CRO. However, there are many other form elements to consider when optimizing for conversions. This includes how much and how personal the information is that you ask for. For example, asking for a phone number has been shown to cause a 5% drop in conversions. 6. Landing Page Design While many of the items on our list often live together on a landing page, there are steps you can take using CRO to improve the overall experience. From the headline to the CTA, every element of your landing page matters and provides opportunities for optimization. An excellent example of an optimized landing page is Airbnb. Not only is the page simple and visually appealing, but it also gets right to the point with a clear headline and useful information. There is no question about what this page is saying, and it speaks right to a potential host’s wallet. In terms of a CTA, it also cleverly offers the user valuable information before asking for anything in return. 6 Conversion Rate Optimization Tools & Resources Once you have a basic grasp on what CRO involves, it’s time to dive in and put it to the test. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you get started. For example, we’ve created a guide to using typography to increase conversions on your website. Let’s take a look at six other resources you can leverage to launch your CRO initiative! 1. Google Marketing Platform When it comes to optimizing for search engines, Google is usually a top priority. Fortunately, the search engine also offers an entire suite of tools that can be used with your CRO framework. This is particularly beneficial for small businesses, as they can access these tools for free. Another benefit of using Google’s resources is that they are designed to work together, making your data accessible across all the available applications. The Google Marketing Platform provides an integrated approach to using the best tools for optimizing your website. For instance, you can gather all the tracking data you need for the beginning steps of most CRO frameworks using Google Analytics. Once you’re ready to run some tests, Google Optimize offers applications that can set up experiments based on your data. 2. Visual Web Optimizer Visual Web Optimizer (VWO) is an application with a diverse feature set, geared towards making website optimization easy. The Research, Hypothesize, Experiment, and Measure approach to many of the CRO frameworks we’ve discussed is operationalized with VWO’s digital toolset. Essentially, you can use VWO’s services to provide extra support and expertise to the CRO framework you decide to employ. This includes tools for every step of the process. VWO also offers many plans to choose from, including pricing options for individual applications starting at $99 per month. 3. Optimizely Optimizely is the platform used explicitly in the Moz 5-Step CRO Framework. It is one of the top CRO platforms out there, with clientele that includes 24 of the top Fortune 100 global businesses. This is one of the premium CRO services on the market. You’ll have to contact the sales team directly to get pricing on Optimizely plans. Whatever you choose, you’ll get some options in terms of how you can approach the platform. For example, you can choose services based on team (marketing, product, engineering, or data) or industry. You can also choose between a Web platform for creating experiments and personalizations with a visual editor and a Full Stack platform geared more towards application and back-end development. This is where you’ll find high-powered A/B testing options and feature flags for product development. 4. Five Second Tests Five Second Tests is an easy-to-use web-based service that enables you to gather data on what a website user’s first impression of your design is. This process gives testers only five seconds to view a page. Then, they are asked a series of questions to determine if the design is achieving what you intended. You can use this application for free in a limited capacity. You’ll be constrained to a total of two minutes of testing per month and you won’t be able to brand your tests with your own logo. For $79 per month, you can increase your testing time, remove the branding, and implement split testing. There are also Pro and Team plans with many more features for $99 and $396 per month, respectively. 5. Case Studies Research and data are both essential components when it comes to CRO. So we wanted to include some excellent resources for your own information gathering. Learning from others can save you time, frustration, and in some cases, money. With that in mind, Neil Patel has 100 conversion rate optimization case studies available for free on his website. You can use this as a directory to find situations that are similar to your own to learn from. You’ll be able to review what was optimized, in addition to what the results and key findings were. If you’re trying to kickstart a CRO effort with your team, sharing case studies can often serve as a tangible motivator. 6. CRO Blogs To learn more about CRO and keep your skills sharp with the latest optimization tools, following the blogs of CRO experts can be a worthwhile (and often entertaining) strategy. However, if you look for CRO blogs in a Google search, you’re likely to get millions of results. So we’ve picked a few of the best to give you a more manageable reading list. To keep up on the latest CRO trends, you might want to follow some of these blogs: The WiderFunnel Blog: CEO Chris Goward created the LIFT Model for CRO. Unbounce: This is a blog brought to you by one of the leaders in A/B testing and landing page optimization tools. Conversion Optimization Blog: A well-researched blog that comes from the Conversion Sciences team. Neil Patel’s Blog: Neil Patel, the creator of KISSMetrics, brings his readers some of the most data-packed posts out there about marketing and optimization. As our technology landscape shifts and changes, following expert blogs can help you stay informed and up-to-speed on the most effective CRO practices. Let’s Increase Your Conversion Rate With some basic elements in place, a well-structured CRO strategy will almost always yield positive results. If you’ve already calculated your conversion rates and are tracking key metrics, then you’re off to a good start. Choosing and implementing a CRO framework is another major component of developing a successful strategy. While no one framework is the “right” one, they all require gathering quality data, developing hypotheses, and testing to determine the best optimization tactics for your website. Of course, you won’t want to get distracted by an unreliable web host when you could be focusing on a higher conversion rate. Here at DreamHost, we can keep your website’s server in prime condition with our managed hosting plans, so you can get back to building a conversion machine! The post The Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

How to Run an Online Giveaway on Your WordPress Website

Thinking of innovative ways to engage with your website visitors and social media followers can be a challenge. Creating fun and appealing activities might be on your list of marketing strategies to explore, but it’s hard to know where to start. Fortunately, online giveaways are a popular and easy way to engage loyal customers, gain new followers, and even encourage user-generated content focused on your brand. What’s more, contests can be a productive way to find new leads. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of using giveaways to promote your business. We’ll also take a look at 10 giveaway tools you can use to create a successful contest. Why You Should Run a Giveaway How to Create an Online Giveaway Strategy 10 Giveaway Tools for Your WordPress Website How to Market and Improve Your Contest So come on down — the prize is right! Why Your Business Can Benefit From Giving Products Away Online giveaways and contests can be highly effective ways for your business to attract and keep new customers. At a basic level, they can help to build trust and loyalty for your products. However, the benefits of running contests and giveaways go even further than that. When it comes to spreading the word about your business, a giveaway can be highly valuable. For example, 95% of people who participate in a contest or giveaway share it with friends online afterward (everyone wants to win a prize). That’s a pretty wide reach for something you can often set up for free. We’ll cover some of the ways you can do that later in this article. You can also build your email list by using contests to collect user information. In fact, some giveaway apps also include a social sign-in functionality, which has been shown to increase the success rate of online marketing campaigns. This feature gives users the option to sign in to your website or contest using a social media account they already have, saving them from having to create an entirely new account. Win Big with DreamPressOur automatic updates and strong security defenses take server management off your hands so you can focus on your giveaway, not downtime.Check Out Plans How to Develop an Online Giveaway Strategy That Works One of the first steps in carrying out a successful online giveaway is to set explicit goals from the start. Planning out all the details of the giveaway is vital, as you don’t want to have a game go astray or forget a critical component of the rules. More specifically, setting measurable goals for your contest will make it more valuable when you crunch the numbers later and assess whether the Return On Investment (ROI) was worth it. You’ll want to identify whether your goal is to convert leads, gain new leads, promote a product or service, or something else entirely. Then you’ll need to consider exactly how that goal will be measured, so your results will be crystal clear. Contests and giveaways are also excellent at encouraging user-generated content (UGC). This is a way for brands to invite their followers and customers to contribute to the company’s story online. Contests are one way to do this. For example, check out LEGO’s Moments in Space contest. Since 64% of marketers agree that building community is essential to their marketing strategies, combining UGC with giveaways and contests is a smart move. It’s also vital to clarify the type of promotion you’d like to run as you begin to develop your strategy. Sweepstakes are prize giveaways where a winner is chosen at random by luck of the draw. Contests choose a winner based on merit, such as in the above LEGO contest. Lotteries are prize drawings where people have to pay to play — you’ll definitely want to consult with legal counsel before setting one of these up. Whatever type of promotion you decide to run, make sure that you stay on the right side of giveaway rules in your state (or country) since there could be legal ramifications. 10 Tools to Help You Run a Giveaway on Your WordPress Website There are lots of options for running giveaways on your WordPress website. However, it’s worth noting that, while some of the applications on our list have well-maintained WordPress plugins, others do not. Let’s go over everything you need to know about 10 popular giveaway solutions that you can start using on your website right now. Related: How to Create Your First WordPress Plugin 1. RafflePress RafflePress is a free plugin for WordPress with premium upgrade options. It provides a comprehensive package for creating and managing giveaways on your website. This solution comes with a drag-and-drop giveaway builder, fraud protection, viral sharing functionality, and templates. Additionally, it offers tracking and retargeting features, which can help you make an even more significant impact with the work you put into running giveaways. Price: RafflePress has a free plugin for WordPress. Alternatively, you can upgrade to a premium plan starting at $39.20 per year for a one-site license or $359.20 for an unlimited, lifetime license. 2. Woorise Woorise is an application that enables you to create a variety of interactive contest elements for your website with a drag-and-drop editor. There is a WordPress plugin for Woorise, but it has not yet been thoroughly tested and vetted, so we recommend caution. In the meantime, you can create what you need through the platform’s website and embed it wherever you need to on your site. Price: Woorise has a free plan that covers 500 entries, or you can upgrade to one of its annual tiers that all come in just under $100 per month. Related: How to Pick the Best WordPress Themes 3. Easypromos Easypromos is a more extensive software system with many options and lots of giveaway templates for a quick start-up process. You can create campaigns using 30 different applications designed for specific social media channels, as well as games, quizzes, and coupons. All of these can be embedded on your WordPress website using a custom HTML block or widget. Price: Easypromos’ pricing is a bit more complicated than some of the other options on our list. You can price a single promotion, purchase the Giveaway app starting at $29 per month, or get all of the company’s applications starting at $159 per month. 4. Heyo Heyo offers 11 different products and services that are all geared towards building engagement for your brand. You can use them to create various types of photo contests, giveaways, sweepstakes, quizzes, and contests (and even multiformat contests). To use this application with WordPress, you’ll need to create your giveaway within Heyo and use embed codes to add it to your website. Price: You can choose from Basic, Standard, or Premium plans starting at $25 per month for a year-long contract or contact the company for custom account pricing. There’s also a seven-day free trial offer. Be Awesome on the InternetJoin our monthly newsletter for tips and tricks to build your dream website!Sign Me Up 5. Rafflecopter Rafflecopter is a popular and well-known contest application. It has a very beginner-friendly interface that makes it easy to get a contest up and running quickly. Once you create a contest, you can share it with your social media channels, link it to your website, or embed it on a web page. Rafflecopter’s reputation is one of success, innovation, and quality support. Price:  You can start with a free plan or upgrade to the Basic plan for $13 per month. There are also Grow ($43) and Premium ($84) plans that can be upgraded on a month-to-month basis for greater flexibility. 6. Gleam Gleam offers four different applications that cover contests, galleries, rewards, and “capturing.” This means you can create redeemable rewards for your site’s users in return for actions such as sharing your content on social media. You can also use the capture feature to attract more email subscribers. All in all, Gleam is a very visually-engaging option for embedding contests on your WordPress website. Price: You can get all four applications in an easy-to-use dashboard for $97 per month or purchase just the apps you need for lower monthly payments. For example, the competition app starts at $10 per month. 7. ShortStack This platform offers a very comprehensive approach to marketing your online products or services. ShortStack collects a seemingly endless number of features and options in one place. Beyond contests and giveaways, ShortStack also offers data management and team collaboration solutions. Price: ShortStack provides a free plan with limited options. You’ll have to look at its Business plan ($99 per month) or higher to take advantage of the “Embed to WordPress” and popup features. Related: How to Use Google Analytics with WordPress 8. Wishpond Wishpond offers an integration tool for WordPress and has many marketing solutions to choose from. Contests and giveaways are just the tip of the iceberg with Wishpond. If you’re looking for a giveaway platform that also includes a healthy dose of marketing and engagement tools, this might be your best bet. Price: Do-it-yourself plans start at $49 per month, but you will have to contact the company for managed account pricing. 9. Woobox You can run a wide variety of campaigns with Woobox. It includes options for bracket contests, instant winners, and a “winner picker” feature. One of the benefits of Woobox is that you can choose from many pre-built templates and then customize them to match your needs. Price: You can start with the limited free plan or upgrade to a Standard plan for $32 per month for unlimited entries. 10. KingSumo If you’re looking for a truly integrated approach to giveaways, KingSumo is a great option. This application is focused on viral giveaways. You can build your campaigns with their dedicated WordPress giveaway plugin right in your website’s admin panel. Price: A lifetime, single-site license is $198 and includes free updates and customer support. A developer’s license costs $594 for unlimited sites. How to Market and Improve Your Contest Promoting your website online can be challenging, partly due to an overwhelming slate of options. The good news is that giveaways can be fun and engaging, as well as cost-effective. Of course, once you create your giveaway, you’ll need to promote it as well. Here are some low-cost ways of getting your giveaway content out in front of potential participants. Set up an email marketing campaign Write a blog post for your company website Partner with relevant influencers to reach your audience Share with your social media followers If you want some insights on how to best use your social networks, check out our social media for small business guide. Another important aspect of running a contest (especially if you also want to collect valuable marketing data on your target audience) is to include a way for entrants to send you feedback on their experiences. This could be a simple rating system or a follow-up email with an invitation to complete a survey. Either way, it can be very helpful in determining how to make your next contest experience even better. Plus, it gives you a chance to revamp any elements that didn’t work out the first time. Related: 10 Social Media Marketing Tips for Your Small Business Eye on the Prize Aside from being good fun, contests and giveaways have an excellent track record of driving conversions, improving engagement, and boosting brand awareness. Understanding the benefits of running a quality contest and driving entries can help you hone in on all the right elements to include. There are plenty of reputable contest applications and plugins to help. Whether you choose Rafflecopter, Woorise, ShortStack, Rafflepress, or one of the others we’ve reviewed, you’ll be well placed to run a fully-featured giveaway. If you need some more plugin recommendations for your website, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a ton of guides to help you choose the right add-ons for your WordPress site. 9 of the Most Popular WordPress Plugins 10 WordPress Plugins to Maximize Your Lead Generation 13 of the Best Security Plugins to Keep Your WordPress Site Safe 15 Essential Plugins and Features For Your WordPress Website Of course, you’ll also need to make sure your web host is up to the task. Here at DreamHost, we have managed WordPress hosting plans that can help you ensure a safe, secure, and seamless contest experience for your customers! The post How to Run an Online Giveaway on Your WordPress Website appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

12 Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Local Business

Capturing new customers in your local market can be a challenge. Not only can people be set in their ways and routines, but local marketing channels can also be expensive and scarce. This means that creativity is a must when developing a strategy to promote your local business. The good news is that there are lots of ways business owners can maximize both high-tech and low-tech options to promote their business. What’s more, local promotion doesn’t have to break the bank! Understanding where you’re most likely to find success with your customers will be the key to success in this area. In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive list of ways to promote your local business. We’ll also take a quick look at what the statistics say about marketing locally. Let’s get started! Shared Hosting That Powers Your PurposeWe make sure your website is fast, secure, and always up so your visitors trust you. Plans start at $2.59/mo.Choose Your Plan Why Your Local Business Needs a Marketing Strategy Succeeding in the local business market can be tough, so having a solid marketing strategy is vital for building up your revenue and clientele. When small businesses succeed, it’s good for everyone. In fact, small and local businesses have a huge impact on the national economy and employment rates. In that regard, it’s important to understand the local business landscape when it comes to online search and customer habits. For example, it’s useful to know that online reviews definitely matter in this business category. In a recent survey, 82% of consumers said they read online reviews before visiting a local business. This means you’ll want to focus on tools that will help with your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Additionally, it’s smart to encourage customers to leave positive reviews for others to see. Of course, this is just one digital marketing strategy. Throughout the rest of this post, we’ll look at others marketing ideas — such as leveraging tools like online listings, getting involved in your local community, improving customer care, leveraging social media platforms, creating blog content, and more. Related: 10 Social Media Marketing Tips for Your Small Business How to Promote Your Local Business With These 12 Marketing Tactics Promoting your local business effectively can require a multifaceted approach. This list of 12 marketing ideas will give you a place to start. 1. Tidy Up Your Online Listings for Greater Visibility Creating a free online listing for your local business can be the most effective way to get its information out there. An online listing is essentially any place you can list your business and its relevant information for potential customers to see. With options such as Yelp and Google My Business, you can make sure the right information about your business is on the web. Getting started with the latter platform simply requires you to search for and claim your business. Your account is free and enables you to manage all of your information on Google. Therefore, it’s vital to keep these details up to date. Related: 7 Steps to Identify a Target Audience for Your Online Business 2. Revamp Your Website or Start a Blog to Engage Customers If you’re looking for new ways to engage with customers online, revamping your website and starting a blog are both worthwhile approaches. WordPress is an ideal platform for doing this, as it is both beginner-friendly and flexible. If you’re looking to make over your site or begin blogging about your business, we can’t recommend WordPress enough. To help you customize your site, you’ll find themes and plugins for all niches. Of course, to get started with a website for your business, you’ll also need a reliable web host and some interesting content to promote your shop! Related: Keep Your Content Fresh: How to Repurpose Old Blog Posts 3. Work on Your Local SEO Tactics to Boost Search Visibility It’s been shown that local search has the highest conversion rates of all local advertising channels. This means that it’s important to fine-tune your site so it ranks well on every major search engine. We mentioned Google My Business previously, but it comes into play here as well. Some of your local SEO work can be done through that platform. You’ll want to aim for becoming a listing in the “3-pack.” This is the list of three businesses that appear under the Google map in a search with local intent. Another way to boost your local SEO is to build up as many local citations as you can. A citation is anywhere online that your business’ name, address, phone number, and website URL appears. Related: 4. Launch a Mobile App to Boost User Engagement Mobile internet usage accounted for nearly half of all web traffic early in 2019, and researchers predict that it will continue to rise. With that being said, it makes sense to create a way to engage with your customers on their mobile devices. If you have the resources to hire a programmer, that’s the simplest solution. However, there are other ways to create an app that don’t require too much technical know-how. Apps can include handy features such as loyalty rewards, coupons, business news, and more. 5. Run a Contest to Keep Users Engaged and Interested Everyone loves to win stuff. That’s why running a contest can help you draw in customers. Whether you run your contest online (via social media or your website) or directly in your store, it’s something your audience is highly likely to share. What’s more, online, users are 99% more likely to share a contest with others if it improves their chances of winning. You could invite your customers to help you design a new logo or a piece of branded gear. Running a contest in your physical store can be as simple as collecting business cards for a monthly drawing or highlighting a customer of the month. Either way, this is a fun and popular option that’s great for any kind of local business. 6. Form Local Partnerships With Influential People Collaboration can be the key to success in many business situations. If your community has a need that your business can help meet, why not partner up? Joining forces with organizations or even other businesses will show customers that you’re community-minded and trustworthy. Just as influencers make an impact on social media marketing, you can use your local influencers in the same way, whether they are online or in-person. This might include inviting them to host an event at your business, or asking them to endorse your product. Word-of-mouth marketing works! 7. Host an Event to Benefit the Area Local company owners have the unique opportunity to use their businesses for the good of the community. Not only can you add to the local economy, but you can leverage your brand to help raise funds or otherwise benefit your area. When implementing this strategy, you’ll want to choose a cause that aligns with your brand practices and values. If you can partner with a local organization, that’s even better! In fact, hosting an event in your shop or organizing a volunteer day to help out in your community are all ways you can be philanthropic while also promoting your business. 8. Get Involved in the Community by Joining Chamber Groups Almost every community has a local chamber of commerce. These groups are designed to help support the growth of local businesses and joining them is a highly-recommended practice to build brand awareness. Checking your local chamber benefits is a good first step. As a member of your chamber of commerce, your community will see you as a trusted member of the local economy. Second, most local chambers offer a number of discounts to helpful resources for local businesses (such as printing and marketing services). Additionally, you can offer discounts to chamber members to encourage support of your business. 9. Build Up a Newsletter and Subscriber List for Enhanced Communication An email list is a valuable tool for keeping your customers updated and engaged. You don’t want to overdo it, but regular communication with your customers can lead to valuable word-of-mouth recommendations. You can use both online and in-store techniques to attract subscribers. There are many tools available for building your newsletter and email lists. If you don’t have a branded, custom email for your business, that’s also a smart step to take before you start sending out messages. Be Awesome on the InternetJoin our monthly newsletter for tips and tricks to build your dream website!Sign Me Up 10. Encourage Loyal Customers with a Rewards Program Loyalty programs are a common option for many small and local businesses. It builds good connections with customers when you’re able to offer rewards for their loyalty. There are plenty of examples out there to work from, such as Dunkin’s “DDPerks” program. Whether you create an app for loyalty rewards or simply print punch cards, your customers should appreciate the gesture. In fact, 69% of consumers report that their choice of retailer is impacted by where they can get the best rewards. Businesses also report that even a 5% increase in customer loyalty can have a big impact on their annual profits. Related: How to Create a Loyalty Program for Your Website (And Why You Should) 11. Maintain Regulars With Improved Customer Service When you are a frequent patron of a business, it’s likely due in part to the way you’re treated. If you employ staff at your local business, it might be worthwhile to tackle your overall customer service as a group and establish some goals and norms. Holding a training session and providing professional development materials for your employees are two ways you can start building a culture of customer care. Additionally, you can involve your customers in the process by asking them for feedback or creating a recognition program for your employees. 12. Offer Seasonal or Themed Discounts to Boost Sales Shoppers tend to be creatures of habit. So you can take advantage of many holiday-related and seasonal opportunities throughout the year. This might mean getting creative and hosting a Christmas in July sale or latching onto fun, quirky occasions such as “Pi Day.” This enables you to promote your business outside of run-of-the-mill shopping holidays. You can appeal to bargain shoppers, and keep sales up during the times of year when you might otherwise see a dip in profits. Small Business Marketing Made Simple Mastering the skills needed to effectively promote your local business can take effort. However, there are many ways small business owners can get creative and engage with regional customers. Mixing and matching the items on this list can help you build the perfect toolbox of local promotion techniques. Above all, remember to tidy up your online listings and create a Google My Business account, brush up on your customer service, and connect with your community through events and partnerships. All of these strategies can help boost those vital online customer reviews for your brand. Related: Word of Mouth — Why Customer Testimonials Work If you’re looking for more ways to grow your business, we’ve got you covered! Check out these helpful posts for tips and tricks to get your local business on the map. The Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Your Website and Increasing Traffic Need to Warm Up Your Website? Try a New Marketing Strategy (9 Ideas) 10 Marketing Ideas to Make Your Site Merry and Bright What Makes a Great Marketing Campaign? 15 Examples Are you ready for a big rush on your local business? Implementing these promotional techniques and showcasing your hard work with a professionally-hosted website should have customers lining up down the street! The post 12 Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Local Business appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.


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