Category: Strategy

The Hidden Costs of Website Hosting

The price of web hosting and what to expect as you grow

Creating a website is exciting. In many cases, it means you’re starting or expanding your own business.

But in order for your website to be live on the Internet, it needs to be hosted. In short, web hosting provides storage space and access for websites.

So, you know you need it and you know you’ll need to consider the website hosting costs. Like anything else, the costs associated with hosting your website can influence some of your decisions.

Like nearly every other product and service, there isn’t one set for website hosting. There are even some hidden costs associated with site hosting that you need to be aware of.

Allow me to explain.

If you cut corners initially with site hosting costs, it can end up costing you more money down the road. You could run into issues that are more expensive than you might think.

I developed this guide to help educate you on how much website hosting will really cost. We’ll go through different elements that you need to take into consideration.

Types of Web Hosting

There are three main types of website hosting.

  • shared hosting
  • virtual private server (VPS)
  • dedicated hosting

The costs vary based on which type of web hosting you use.

Types of Website Hosting

Shared hosting is the least expensive option. That’s because your site gets stored in a server that hosts other websites too. Dedicated servers are be the top of the line option — one that comes at a premium price. Just as the name implies, your site gets hosted on a single server you have all to yourself. (If you’re a small business, dedicated is likely way more than you need.) VPS hosting falls in between these two options. It’s less expensive than a dedicated server but has additional features and greater flexibility than shared hosting.

Free Website Hosting

What about free website hosting? Is it good? Do I recommend it?

These are questions that I get asked all of the time. For those of you who are interested in this, you check out this guide on the best free web hosting.

While free hosting is definitely an option you can consider, there is an old saying that you should keep in mind: You get what you pay for.

Now, this isn’t necessarily true all of the time. If you buy a $500 designer shirt, is it really that much better than a cheap $5 shirt? Probably not. But when it comes to web hosting, free or cheap isn’t always better.

So why do so many services offer free hosting packages? They are able to make money in other ways.

Some free hosting services make money from the banner ads displayed on your website, or even banners on your own dashboard. Some get paid with ads on forums that they force you to visit and post on in order to receive your free hosting. You’ll see web hosting plans that are offered free but then entice you to switch and upgrade to paid service.

You might even come across a startup company that’s running a web host for the first time, and offering free hosting before they transition and go after paying clients. This is something you’ll want to avoid for sure.

Website Traffic

It’s natural to try and save some money with a free or inexpensive hosting service. But eventually, your site is going to grow. Obviously, this is a good thing.

However, when your site reaches a certain size, the host may begin to throttle your website if you’re on a shared server.

A couple of things can happen from here. None are good news for your website.

It’s possible that website visitors will have trouble accessing your pages and content. They might even see error messages when attempting to connect to your site.

Even if an error message doesn’t appear, the increased load time will cause people to bounce. That’s a major problem. As loading times increase, page abandonment increases as well.

Load Time Adandonment Chart

Slow loading times are extremely costly. 40% of people abandon websites that take more than three seconds to load. 80% of people who leave your site because of slow speed say that they won’t return.

This is extremely costly for your website, so make sure you understand the basic principles that boost your website loading time. Upgrading and paying more for your web hosting can save you thousands of dollars in lead generation, customer acquisition costs, and sales.

Security

Reliable websites need to be secure. Safety always needs to be a top priority for your business.

This is especially true if you’re processing payments. Think about all of the sensitive information that your website has on it. It’s your responsibility to protect your site visitors and customers from cybercriminals and malicious attacks.

Here are just some of the minimum security measures that you need to keep in mind.

  • spam filtering
  • security audits
  • firewall configuring
  • network protocols
  • scans for malware and viruses
  • passwords
  • multi-level authentication
  • user permissions

A popular security option is a secured cloud where you can store all of your documents and manage files. However, all of this costs money.

But if you pay for a reliable web hosting service, you can get all of these features included as part of your subscription. This is much better than having to pay for them individually, or even worse, pay the costs of your website getting compromised or having security problems.

Servers

You need to make sure that your site hosting servers are reliable as well. Read reviews and do your research before you sign up for any hosting service based on attractive pricing alone.

The best servers have updated software, 24/7 monitoring, regular maintenance, and automatic updates.

Earlier we talked about the different types of web hosting. Your server will depend on which option you choose.

It’s worth mentioning that the size of the dedicated hosting market across the world is growing each year.

Dedicated Server Use Chart

Does this mean you need to have a dedicated server? Not necessarily.

Your website will perform better if you do, but depending on the size of your site right now, it’s not completely necessary.

But if you decide to upgrade or change your server at some point in the future, there will be additional costs associated with that transition, including some possible down time on your site.

Operational Costs

I consult with lots of business owners who just want to host their website on their own. They have a technical background and don’t think it will be a problem.

But just because you have the ability to self-host, doesn’t mean that you should. I’m not saying this to discourage you, but I don’t want to see you have to deal with hidden or unexpected costs.

You’ve got a business to run. Hosting your own website shouldn’t take away from your daily business tasks.

If you pay for a web hosting service, you’ll benefit from things like servers, bandwidth, storage, automatic updates, maintenance, and data migrations. Do you really want to have to worry about all of this?

Let a hosting provider do all of the heavy lifting for you. Hosting a site on your own can increase your operational costs. It will take time out of your day, and you may even need to hire more people. This is an inefficient use of your resources.

Instead, I’d recommend just finding the right hosting provider from the beginning. Then you can focus your efforts on running your business and avoid unexpected costs.

Renewal and Setup Fees

When you first purchase web hosting, the price might seem great. But that is likely just your initial cost for signing up.

The promotional rates aren’t usually the final price and probably won’t last forever.

Make sure you read the fine print to see what your renewal costs will be. Whether that’s next month, next year, or three years down the road. In most cases, there is no way around the price jump, but you should be ready for it.

Eventually, you should be expecting to pay full price. This will likely come when you renew.

Some services will also charge you for a setup fee.

Web Hosting Setup Fees

In the example above, the setup fee is free. But this isn’t always be the case.

For those of you who are paying for dedicated servers, the setup cost is definitely justifiable. That’s because your provider may need to physically add hardware components and set up software that you requested.

Conclusion

Hosting is a requirement for every website. There are lots of different options for you to consider.

The costs vary depending on which route you choose. Some options are more expensive than others. You may even decide to look for free website hosting.

Regardless of your decision, there will be some hidden costs that you need to be prepared for. A plan that saves you money up front could cost you extra down the road with your website traffic, operational costs, and security. Be prepared for additional fees associated with renewals and setups as well.

It’s important to make sure that you’re always using a reputable host. WP Engine currently have a special promotion which includes ALL their StudioPress themes FREE, and you can Grab That Here!

If you still have questions about the costs associated with website hosting, you can ask me about it in the comments section, and I’ll be happy to help you out. If you enjoyed this post, why not check out this article on
Website Analytics Tools!

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Filed under: Strategy, WordpressTagged with: ,

Implementing a National Tracking Strategy

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Google is all about serving up results based on your precise location, which means there’s no such thing as a “national” SERP anymore. So, if you wanted to get an accurate representation of how you’re performing nationally, you’d have to track every single street corner across the country.

Not only is this not feasible, it’s also a headache — and the kind of nightmare that keeps your accounting team up at night. Because we’re in the business of making things easy, we devised a happier (and cost-efficient) alternative.

Follow along and learn how to set up a statistically robust national tracking strategy in STAT, no matter your business or budget. And while we’re at it, we’ll also show you how to calculate your national ranking average.

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Let’s pretend you are a large athletic retailer. And have 30 stores across the US, a healthy online presence, and the powers-that-be have approved extra SEO spend — money for 20,000 additional keywords is burning a hole in our pocket. Ready to get started?

Pick the cities that matter most to your business

Google cares a lot about location and so should you. Tracking a country-level SERP isn’t going to cut it anymore — you need to be hyper-local if you want to nab results.

The first step to getting more granular is deciding which cities you want to track in — and there are lots of ways to do this: The top performers? Ones that could use a boost? Best and worst of the cyber world as well as the physical world?

When it comes time for you to choose, nobody knows your business, your data, or your strategy better than you do — ain’t nothing to it but to do it.

A quick note for all e-commerce people, we know it feels strange to pick a physical place when your business lives entirely online. For this, simply go with the locations that your goods and wares are distributed to most often.

Even though you may be a retail powerhouse, your SEO resources won’t allow you to manage all your physical locations — plus your online hotspots — across the US, so cut that number in half. And because you are not a real business as such and aren’t privy to sales data, just pick at random.

So now you should have a solid list of US cities, primed, polished, and poised for the next step: surfacing the top performing keywords.

Uncover your money-maker keywords

Because not all keywords are created equal, we need to determine which of the 4,465 keywords that we’re already tracking are going to be spread across the country and which are going to stay behind. In other words, we want the keywords that bring home the bacon.

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Typically, we would use some combination of search volume, impressions, clicks, conversion rates, etc., from sources like STAT, Google Search Console, and Google Analytics to distinguish between the money-makers and the non-money-makers. But again, we’re a make-believe business and we don’t have access to this insight, so we’re going to stick with search volume.

A right-click anywhere in the site-level keywords table will let us export our current keyword set from STAT. We’ll then order everything from highest search volume to lowest search volume. If you have eyeballs on more of that sweet, sweet insight for your business, order your keywords from most to least money-maker.

Because we don’t want to get too crazy with our list, we’ll cap it at a nice and manageable 1,500 keywords.

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Determine the number of times each keyword should be tracked

We may have narrowed our cities down to 15, but our keywords need to be tracked plenty more times than that — and at a far more local level.

True facts: A “national” (or market-level) SERP isn’t a true SERP and neither is a city-wide SERP. The closer you can get to a searcher standing on a street corner, the better, and the more of those locations you can track, the more searchers’ SERPs you’ll sample.

We’re going to get real nitty-gritty and go as granular as ZIP code. Addresses and geo coordinates work just as well though, so if it’s a matter of one over the other, do what the Disney princesses do and follow your heart.

The ultimate goal here is to track our top performing keywords in more locations than our poor performing ones, so we need to know the number of ZIP codes each keyword will require. To figure this out, we gotta dust off the old desktop calculator and get our math on.

First, we’ll calculate the total amount of search volume that all of our keywords generate. Then, we’ll find the percentage of said total that each keyword is responsible for.

For example, our keyword [yeezy shoes] drew 165,000 searches out of a total 28.6 million, making up 0.62 percent of our traffic.

A quick reminder: Every time a query is tracked in a distinct location, it’s considered a unique keyword. This means that the above percentages also double as the amount of budgeted keywords (and therefore locations) that we’ll award to each of our queries. In (hopefully) less confusing terms, a keyword that drives 0.62 percent of our traffic gets to use 0.62 percent of our 20,000 budgeted keywords, which in turn equals the number of ZIP codes we can track in. Phew.

But! Because search volume is, to quote our resident data analyst, “an exponential distribution,” (which in everyone else-speak means “gets crazy large”) it’s likely going to produce some unreasonably big numbers. So, while [yeezy shoes] only requires 124 ZIP codes, a keyword with much higher search volume, like [real madrid], might need over 1,000, which is patently bonkers (and statistical overkill).

To temper this, we highly recommend that you take the log of the search volume — it’ll keep things relative and relational. If you’re working through all of this in Excel, simply type =log(A2) where A2 is the cell containing the search volume. Because we’re extra fancy, we’ll multiply that by four to linearly scale things, so =log(A2)*4.

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So, still running with our Yeezy example, our keyword goes from driving 0.62 percent of our traffic to 0.13 percent. Which then becomes the percent of budgeted keywords: 0.0013 x 20,000 = tracking [yeezy shoes] in 26 zip codes across our 15 cities.

We then found a list of every ZIP code in each of our cities to dole them out to.

The end. Sort of. At this point, like us, you may be looking at keywords that need to be spread across 176 different ZIP codes and wondering how you’re going to choose which ZIP codes — so let our magic spreadsheet take the wheel. Add all your locations to it and it’ll pick at random.

Of course, because we want our keywords to get equal distribution, we attached a weighted metric to our ZIP codes. We took our most searched keyword, [adidas], found its Google Trends score in every city, and then divided it by the number of ZIP codes in those cities. For example, if [adidas] received a score of 71 in Yonkers and there are 10 ZIP codes in the city, Yonkers would get a weight of 7.1.

We’ll then add everything we have so far — ZIP codes, ZIP code weights, keywords, keyword weights, plus a few extras — to our spreadsheet and watch it randomly assign the appropriate amount of keywords to the appropriate amount of locations.

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And that’s it! If you’ve been following along, you’ve successfully divvied up 20,000 keywords in order to create a statistically robust national tracking strategy!

Curious how we’ll find our national ranking average? Read on, readers.

Segment & segment more!

20,000 extra keywords makes for a whole lot of new data to keep track of, so being super smart with our segmentation is going to help us make sense of all our findings. We’ll do this by organizing our keywords into meaningful categories before we plug everything back into STAT.

Obviously, you are free to sort how you please, but we recommend at least tagging your keywords by their city and product category (so [yeezy shoes] might get tagged “Austin” and “shoes”). You can do all of this in our keyword upload template or while you’re in our magic spreadsheet.

Once you’ve added a tag or two to each keyword, stuff those puppies into STAT. When everything’s snug as a bug, group all your city tags into one data view and all your product category tags into another.

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Calculate your national ranking average

Now that all of our keywords are loaded and tracking in STAT, it’s time to tackle those ranking averages. To do that, we’ll simply pop on over to the Dashboard tab from either of our two data views.

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A quick glimpse of the Average Ranking module in the Daily Snapshot gives us, well, our average rank, and because these data views contain every keyword that we’re tracking across the country, we’re also looking at the national average for our keyword set. Easy-peasy.

To see how each tag is performing within those data views, a quick jump to the Tags tab breaks everything down and lets us compare the performance of a segment against the group as a whole.

stat-local-tracking-data-country-us-5785

So, if our national average rank is 29.7 but our Austin keywords have managed an average rank of 27.2, then we might look to them for inspiration as our other cities aren’t doing quite as well — our keywords in Yonkers have an average rank of 35.2, much worse than the national average.

Similarly, if our clothes keywords are faring infinitely worse than our other product categories, we may want to revamp our content strategy to even things out.

Go get your national tracking on

Any business — even an e-commerce business — can leverage a national tracking strategy. You just need to pick the right keywords and locations.

Once you have access to your sampled population, you’ll be able to hone in on opportunities, up your ROI, and bring more traffic across your welcome mat (physical or digital).

Got a question you’re dying to ask us about the STAT product? Reach out to [email protected]. Want a detailed walkthrough of STAT? Say hello (don’t be shy) and request a demo. If you enjoyed this post, why not check out this article on Advanced Content Promotion!

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Filed under: eCommerce, Strategy, WordpressTagged with: ,

Content Or Data, Which Is King In Content Marketing?

SRMO_Reasearch_Map

The Content Versus Data Mini Debate

In the modern media era of TV and Internet, there has always been a fundamental tension between content and distribution. Is it better to own the content, or is it better to own the platforms and distribution mechanisms to get that content to the customer? For now, content is king, but is there a new contender to the throne: data?

Of course, data in its raw form is useless. It’s just a bunch of 1’s and 0’s. But when you are able to analyze that data, it can become very powerful. That’s especially true since we are moving from an era of “structured” data to an era of “unstructured” data.From a marketing perspective, the easiest way to think about the difference between “structured” data and “unstructured” data is by thinking of the typical customer survey that you might send out after someone has purchased a product or visited your store. Most of the questions will be simple “yes/no” questions. Or they will ask customers to rate you on a scale of 1-10. All of that is “structured” data. It’s easy to put into a database and then analyze for insights. You can perform all kinds of statistical calculations very easily.

But then comes all the “unstructured” data. And this is where organizations are really stepping up their game. For example, that same customer survey might ask a question like, “Is there anything else you’d like to tell us that’s not included here?” That prompts a customer to write an open-ended response. Just a few years ago, that would have required a human to analyze it. Now, thanks to the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence, it’s possible to have a computer analyze it and add it to a growing database.

And the type of “unstructured” data that’s available today is growing at a prodigious pace, primarily thanks to all the digital devices out there. Your mobile phone is a potential treasure trove of data that grows by the minute. What company wouldn’t want to know the precise GPS location of every place you’ve visited during the day?

The rise of artificial intelligence

Moreover, the type of analysis that’s possible today is becoming quite impressive. There’s a whole new field called “predictive analytics,” which essentially promises to predict future customer behavior based on known data. You can literally predict how a marketing campaign will do, based on what you know about certain types of customers. Companies like Salesforce are coming up with AI-powered marketing solutions that promise to help companies find the proverbial needle in the haystack.

So it’s no surprise that so many companies have jumped aboard the Big Data bandwagon. It promises to streamline just about every part of a company and create new revenue opportunities. As the analytical tools become more and more powerful, it’s leading to real excitement about the potential ability of AI to transform organizations.

Is Data the new oil?

Data Science Vs Big Data Vs

 

Within the mainstream media, in fact, it’s now fashionable to compare the role of data in the digital economy to the role of oil in the analog economy. Back in 2014, WIRED magazine breathlessly proclaimed that, “Data is the new oil of the digital economy.” Earlier this year, The Economist remarked that, “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.”

If you follow this analogy to its logical end, it would seem to imply that companies best able to harness and extract this data will become the most valuable in the world. Just as oil companies like Exxon Mobil became the most valuable and powerful in the world until the rise of Silicon Valley’s Internet champions, it’s plausible that new artificial intelligence (AI) companies will become the most valuable in the world, once they’ve truly figured out how to harness the remarkable power of data. However, seeming reasonable or probable does not necessarily make it a certainty, and this is where the human element holds sway, people generally recognise the value of a well written piece from the personal perspective of the author, something which can probably never be replicated by a machine, at least not to the degree that it becomes untraceable.

Wordup to core values

Wordup

 

Anyone reading thus far and wondering what the punch line or relevance to their Wordpress site or enterprise is, then its pretty straightforward.

The people who analyse your content generally, typically the likes of Google, who employ rocket scientists to do it, are well known to value relevant content written by real people with real opinion and information to get across to the audience. They are also pretty expert at weeding out artificial or bot created content to the point of penalising sites which use it. So you’ve still got to create content, and you might need some help with that. We provide a full content strategy for Wordpress sites which are built by us, and so do others.

Wordup, the content marketing people, who specialize in content marketing and copywriting services with a considerable degree of success are also well worth a look if you need high end copywriting or content marketing services. Working with brands like Tag Heur, Wavemaker, Jacobs, Mindshare and Munity, they seem to have done a pretty stellar job of elevating the presence of those, and seemingly without any AI or a bot in sight. So I guess for now and the forseeable future, content may still be king, and especially high quality and empirical or personal statistical content written by genuine people with a valid and valuable insight to get across. So get in touch if you need any help with your Wordpress site content, and you can also see if Wordup may be able to help. Just make sure you have already had a burger!
If you enjoyed this post, why not check out this article on Wordpress Dynamic Content!

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Filed under: Marketing, Strategy, TrendsTagged with: ,

Why People Buy Instagram Followers

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Popular Instagram Strategies

Instagram is a popular social media platform. You can share pictures and other content easily on Instagram. People buy Instagram followers for various reasons. For business, this will enhance their brand visibility hence open up more markets. For celebrities, it is a simpler way of gaining popularity. Individuals also buy Instagram followers for fame and social media interactions.  You can gain more followers on Instagram through various ways including buying them online.

Here are the top 3 reasons why people buy Instagram followers:

  1.   Online visibility

Your online presence is dependent on views and shares that your content receives. This enhances your influencer capability. Social media marketers use popular pages in online marketing. This can be an additional source of income from paid ads and lead generation. Through such avenues, you can reach a wider audience and this may generate income through more sales or payment packs from relevant online businesses. Through reposts, comments and discussion points from followers; your level of engagement with the online audience is increased. This helps to market your brand and increase your market presence.

  1.   Reputation

People love celebrities and like being associated with them. Research shows that posts or pictures of celebrities get many comments and likes. Having many followers helps to build your reputation. You also become influential, such that any post on your page gets many views. As long as you have many followers, your posts will have many comments and likes. This influences other people to also visit your page, and follow your posts building your reputation. It also becomes possible to get many chain reactions hence more engagement. To maintain good repute on social media, you must ensure that your followers are getting high-quality content. This will help you to build loyalty among your followers.

  1.   Internet marketing

Your products and content will reach a wider market niche if you have many followers on Instagram and other social media platforms. If you have many Instagram followers, you may link your account to all other social media platforms. This way, you can spread the content, and reach a wider market niche. Potential clients who visit your site may also check reviews and feedback from your online followers. This helps to give credibility to your business. Conversion rate increases due to more leads which can be converted into sales. Search engine ratings increase when you have many followers. With a higher ranking in Google and other search engines, more traffic will be directed to your site. Another important tip is to link your website to your Instagram and other social media accounts. This is a cost-free effective marketing technique that helps to grow your business.

If you do not have many followers, you are missing out on business. Through various online resources, techniques, and tips, your Instagram account will get more exposure. Before you buy Instagram followers, you should do a little research to identify the best sources. It is also advisable to generate organic followers. As much as possible, you should avoid bot generated followers as they do not engage potential customers.
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Filed under: Marketing, Strategy, TrendsTagged with: ,

Social Media Management Tips

The dynamics of digital marketing are ever-changing, and social media is not left behind. As a marketer, you’ll need to keep an eye on the trends like Facebook Live, AI-driven customer service, social TV and vertical videos, visuals, ephemeral content changing organic reach and so on to ensure you stay abreast.

In addition to that, here are some tips for your social media management in 2019:

Quality is key

It’s one thing to have a consistent flow of announcements and content and another to deliver quality to your fans and prospects. As a businessperson who is keen on growing your business is 2019, you should focus on driving content that is good enough for people to want to retweet, re-share or pass on to their friends and colleagues. If you think about it, what are the chances that you will interact with a poorly written post that’s shared on social media? Additionally, try creating content that will last, not disappear after trending for a week.

And quantity

Social Media

It’s true that quality is vital, but quantity is also critical. The reality is there is so much content out there, and others will quickly override yours. This is particularly true for Twitter. A recent observation by Wordstream revealed that engagement rate went up by 46% each week after posting 30+ tweets than the previous week and that the 30 extra tweets helped them direct 30% more leads to their site with 60% more link clicks than the week prior. The trick is to be consistent with your posts. Try re-posting your new content a number of times – but be careful not to be spammy.

Plan budget as per the performance of the platform

In the business world, time is of the essence; you should plan it well if you are to succeed on social media. Strategize well when it comes to money and time. A good idea would be to allocate your resources based on what each platform gives you. If Facebook gives you the highest ROI, invest more on Facebook, and if it’s LinkedIn, do the same.

Let your posting schedule be data-driven

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to posting your content on social media because audiences vary. If you are ignoring posting, or are sticking to the recommended time slots, it’s likely that you’re missing out. Instead, you might want to use data to determine how and when you post. Try experimenting with different time zones to identify which one works for you.

Stick to the basics

Be strategic with your hashtags, and don’t forget to @mention those that matter on each post. Not committing to these basics can leave a gap in your steady stream or engagement of traffic. And if you come up with a branded hashtag, go for something that is easy to spell or say – and something that catches the eye or easy to memorize.

Interact and network

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The goal of social media marketing is to reach out to prospects and grow your network. Posting good content alone won’t cut it. So, go out of your comfort zone and initiate conversations. Talk to prospects and network with your peers. The number of opportunities out there’ll surprise you. Most importantly, you may also find other ways to boost your brand name.  

If your website is using Wordpress (or you plan on having it built in Wordpress) then we specialize in optimizing or building in to the site special functions for Social Media, which enhances and speeds up you efficiency around this. get in touch for more info on this, it could save you a lot of headaches with managing yous Social Media channels. If you enjoyed this post, why not check out this article on Buying Instagram followers!

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Website Planning in 4 Steps and 20 Minutes

Website-Planning-Process

Planning a website build

Save yourself a lot of time and headache: before you dive into building your new website, think through a high-level website plan.

This planning process doesn’t need to be complicated or time intensive. It’s more or less about taking the time to answer some important questions that will help ensure you build your website with the right foundation to accomplish your goals.

For example, creating a website to sell products is very different than creating a website for your personal brand. Thinking through what you’ll need to accomplish one or the other is essential to building a successful website. (If you don’t make the right choices now, you may have to tear down everything you’ve built and start over from square one.)

In fact, this planning process is as much about deciding what you do not need for your website, as it is to figure out what you do need. Less is definitely more here. Don’t fall into the trap of adding a bunch of stuff to your website just because it seems like something you should or because it’s what other websites do. I recommend using MindMeister or some other mind-mapping tool to drive this process.

The purpose of this guide is to prepare you to create your website.

In order to best illustrate the process, I’ll walk you through how I did it for one of my undeveloped websites, SelfTeach.com. This is a content-driven website, so there is a heavy emphasis on written content.

If you take a look at my initial plan here, you’ll see it isn’t very extensive. It doesn’t need to be! This was just a quick brainstorm of what I think I’ll need for the website. It took me 20 minutes to think through.

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Remember, you do not need to get this perfect. The point here is not to develop a perfect plan, but rather to equip yourself to get started building your website. Once you get into the weeds, the plan will evolve with you.

Determine What Content You’ll Need for Your Site

You need to have a good idea of what kinds of content you will create — but, of course, it isn’t realistic to think you’ll have your content created before you build the website. The website will have to come first.

Again, you don’t need to have a full list of all the content you’ll need forever. Instead, I recommend coming up with 1–2 content ideas for each type of content you want on your site. This will give you a good sense of what your content will look like, which will influence which WordPress theme you’ll use.

Some common content types:

  • Blog posts or articles
  • Guides / How to articles
  • Reviews
  • Interviews
  • Curated content
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Inspirational content
  • Updates
  • Case studies
  • Q&A
  • Podcasts
  • Product pages
  • Utility content (e.g. privacy policy)
  • About content

For SelfTeach.com, these are the content types and ideas that I need to plan for when creating the website:

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When all is said and done, the website will have thousands of pages. However, the design that I choose for this website really just needs to be able to handle what’s in this mind map. If I make sure I have these content types covered, the rest of the pages will be covered because they are simply more of the same types I’ve already planned out.

Consider the Other Assets You’ll Need

There will be a number of assets outside of your core content you’ll want to consider from the start.

Here is an example of what this might look like:

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The biggest ones here are your brand assets and social media accounts.

Your brand assets don’t need to be anything spectacular. I put together a quick guide on how to develop your first brand identity.

A list of assets you might need to think about

The point of this list is to inspire ideas. You might not need any of the things on it, or only a few of them. Some of them might come later. It’s up to you to decide what you’ll need now, and what you’ll need to prepare for when it’s time.

  • Logo
  • Brand colors
  • Brand fonts
  • Iconography
  • Photography
  • Illustrations
  • Podcasts
  • Customer testimonials
  • Customer reviews
  • eBooks / White papers
  • Videos
  • About content

Nail Down Your Must-Have Website Features

Features are probably the most important part of your website foundation. You really want to nail this.

In many cases you can get the features you need from your WordPress theme. You can also get features from WordPress plugins.

Generally speaking, you want to have the fewest WordPress plugins possible, and you don’t want to rely too heavily on theme features either. Too many WordPress Plugins will slow your website down and lead to higher security risks. Too many features built into your WordPress theme, and you’ll rely too heavily on that theme making it hard to move to a new theme down the road.

The goal is to find the perfect balance of theme features and plugin features.

But first, you’ll need to determine which features are required to accomplish your website goals. The list of potential features is endless. Here are some I outlined for SelfTeach.com:

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Here are some common features you might consider:

  • Breadcrumb navigation
  • Featured content widget
  • Popular content widget
  • Email opt-in form
  • Podcast feed
  • Survey forms
  • Social media links / logos
  • Comment system
  • SEO settings
  • Site search
  • Social media share (to share individual pages)
  • Sitemap creation
  • Automatic website backup
  • Contact forms

To get more ideas, check out 25 Most Useful WordPress Widgets for Your Site from WPBeginner and Website Features Checklist from MarTech.

Get Inspiration on the Look and Feel

Knowing everything that you need to have on the website will help determine which WordPress theme to choose and which plugins to install. You’ll also want to factor in the look and feel.

You’ll need a theme that supports the features you need and has the look and feel you are going for. They’re both important. Taking the time to figure out what you do and do not like will make the process of selecting a theme much smoother.

Resources for finding inspiration

Best Website Gallery — Curated web design by David Hellmann. This is a great place to start to see some high quality designs. Pick out what you like, and use that to attempt to  match it with your WordPress theme.

Webdesign Inspiration — Similar to Best Website Gallery, this is a gallery of website designs you can use for inspiration.

Summary

This process should take you less than an hour. It can be done on a scrap piece of paper with your phone browser for research. It’s just enough planning to get your mind prepared to create a website with a strong foundation to build on. If you enjoyed this post, why not check out this article on places to get free Website images!

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Filed under: StrategyTagged with:

Website Analytics Tools Pros Actually Use

Web Tools

I personally love data and analytics tools.

But here’s the straight truth: you need a lot less than the analytics industry wants you to believe.

Most experts will try to convince you that you need an analytics tool for everything. More data is always a good thing, right?

I used to believe that myself.

Over the last few years, I’ve changed my stance on the entire analytics category. These days, I prefer to keep things as simple as possible. One or two tools is about all I need. Less infrastructure to worry about, fewer complexities to manage, and an easier system for teams to use and act on.

The Analytics Tools We Use

  • First, I get my main tool in place, which is almost always Google Analytics
  • I avoid installing any user analytics tools to start — too much effort required for too little value.
  • Thats it!

A few extra tools I may use for specific projects

  • If you have a lot of user flows to improve, get a heatmap tool. The best is Crazy Egg.
  • If you’re making SEO a priority, get an SEO tool. I use SEMrush.
  • If you do a lot of conversion optimization and A/B testing, get an A/B testing tool. I recommend Optimizely.
  • Once you’re large enough that it makes sense to consolidate all your data into a single source of truth, get a real business intelligence function built out along with the infrastructure to support it.

Now let’s get to the straight truth on these tools.

Overall Best Website Analytics Tool: Google Analytics

Website Analytics - Google_Analytics Overview Dashboard
Without a doubt, Google Analytics is the best analytics tool out there.

While working at KISSmetrics, I did a bunch of competitive research on Google Analytics. I’ve also done plenty of Google Analytics consulting over the years.

There are few counter-intuitive insights I’ve learned about Google Analytics along the way.

First, people love Google Analytics. The user satisfaction scores are always sky high. When I saw how happy users were for the first time, it seemed like an insurmountable challenge. Remember, I was working at a competitor.

Here’s the weird part though.

Very few people actually use Google Analytics for anything other than checking the total traffic on their site.

In other words, most people log into Google Analytics, look at one of the basic reports, check to see how many total people visited their site recently, and then log out.

That’s it.

For a long time, I didn’t understand how to reconcile these two facts: People barely use Google Analytics, but they also love it. How can both of these things be true at the same time?

It dawned on me that seeing total site traffic is a huge ego boost. It validates our work. It feels great to see people visiting our sites. It feels so good that we’d be furious if Google Analytics ever shut down.

That feeling is so powerful that people don’t need much else from Google Analytics.

I used to think this was a problem. Look at all that other data! Think of all the other insights that will grow your business! It’s all right there in the other reports!

Now I have a more nuanced understanding.

Realistically, you’ll install Google Analytics and you’ll only use it to check your total traffic. And that’s totally okay. It’s still a major data point for you to run your site and business. Plus, you’ll get the motivational boost that comes from seeing how many people visit your site. If that’s as far as you ever take it, don’t feel guilty — you’re still getting a ton of value from Google Analytics.

If you’re ever in the mood to check a couple of extra reports in Google Analytics, here are two of my favorites that are also easy to understand:

  1. You can see which traffic sources send you traffic. I prefer the Source/Medium report that’s under Acquisition > All Traffic from the sidebar. I like seeing the exact sources that send traffic instead of broad channels, since it’s a bit easier to come up with insights that are worth acting on.
  2. You can see which pages on your site bring you traffic with the Landing Page report. It’s under Behavior > Site Content in the sidebar. Look for patterns in the pages that seem to keep bringing in traffic over time, then ask yourself how you can do more of that.

Those two reports alone will keep me busy for years on end. They’re also easy enough for anyone to use without getting overwhelmed. You can also install a Google Analytics add-on to Google Sheets and manipulate the data there. When you’re ready for more, try out these six advanced moves.

Analytics Tool Alternatives

Best Free Analytics Tool: Also Google Analytics

Not only is Google Analytics the best analytics tool out there, it’s also 100% free. It’s an amazing deal. Google has a reputation for having the best engineering team on the planet and it’s ridiculous that all of us get to take advantage of that expertise with a free tool.

Whenever I build a new site, the first thing I do is install Google Analytics. It’s an ingrained habit.

The only downside to the free Google Analytics plan is its data limit. Once your site gets to a certain size, you’ll notice that Google Analytics will start sampling your reporting. This means the data isn’t 100% accurate because Google Analytics is only reviewing a percentage of your real data, say 75% for example, and is making a prediction on the last 25%. The more data you have, the less “real” data is included in each report. You won’t start to see this until you have hundreds of thousands of visitors per month.

Some folks deeply hate data sampling and consider it a huge problem. These days, I don’t worry about it. It’s a small cost to get access to an analytics tool as high quality as Google Analytics without having to pay a dime. I only get concerned once a site is generating many millions of visits per month and the majority of data starts getting sampled.

Best Enterprise Analytics Tool: Adobe Analytics

At the enterprise level, Adobe Analytics is the de facto winner. Over the years, it’s gone by several names including Adobe SiteCatalyst and Omniture.

It has a very strong reputation in the space and can support the truly enterprise needs like deep customization, implementation support, uptime requirements, and so forth.

In the last few years, Google has pushed into the enterprise space with its Google Analytics 360. If you have a site with serious volume and are already bumping against the free limits of Google Analytics, it might be worth looking at Google Analytics 360.

To decide between Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics 360, I’d ask myself if I simply need more of what I already have with Google Analytics. If I were already getting everything that I wanted and just needed the “enterprise” packaging to unlock higher data volume, more support, service agreements, etc., then I’d go with Google Analytics 360. But if my goal were to seriously uplevel my analytics capabilities beyond Google Analytics, I’d go with Adobe Analytics. It’s a more complete analytics package that extends beyond the website-only focus of Google Analytics.

In most cases, I’d go with Adobe Analytics.

Enterprise Analytics Tool Alternative

Best User Analytics Tool: Amplitude

In the last decade, a new set of user analytics tools have cropped up.

The previous generation of tools, like Google Analytics, focused really heavily on websites and traffic. Those tools were designed solely to get insights on your website.

As the internet evolved, lots of tech businesses needed data focused on users instead of on websites. They needed things like persistent user identities to track users over the long term, funnel reports to see how people moved through their apps, and cohort reports to see how user behavior changed over the long-term.

Recently, Amplitude jumped into the category and pushed a very generous free plan that includes plenty of tracking volume and lots of the main reports you’d want to use. Most of the competitors now offer substantial freemium plans, largely because Amplitude set the freemium bar so high and they were forced to match it.

Because of its generous freemium plan and the quality of its reporting, we recommend Amplitude if you’re looking for a user analytics tool.

What Happened to KISSmetrics?

This is the analytics company that I worked for and led its marketing team for a period. If you go to the website today, it points to Neil Patel’s website, one of the original co-founders. Needless to say, KISSmetrics is not really considered a competitor these days.

A Word of Caution on User Analytics Tools

User analytics tools are not cheap. Even if you’re on a freemium or modestly priced subscription with one of these tools, that’s only a fraction of what you’ll spend.

First, you’ll spend a ton of time on the install. You will need an engineer and someone else on your team who knows your business, the user flows, and analytics tools pretty well. The implementation support from the tools themselves tends to be poor.

Then there’s the maintenance to keep the tracking up to date. User flows change, products evolve, new organization goals are set. All of that impacts your tracking, which has to be updated regularly in order to keep your data accurate.

And finally, in my experience, very few people in the organization are comfortable using analytics tools. They either stick to one or two basic reports, or avoid the tool entirely. So if you want to get the full value of the tool, you’ll need someone with real talent and skill for pulling reports. This ends up being an analyst or a product/marketing manager who can dedicate a decent amount of their time to reporting. That’s time that could be used elsewhere.

In contrast, tools like Google Analytics are relatively easy to set up. Add the Google Analytics tracking script on every page of your site and you’ll get 80% of the data that you need right away. User analytics tools aren’t nearly as easy to set up and maintain.

This is why I recommend most folks skip the user analytics category entirely — too much effort for too little gain.

User Analytics Alternatives

Best Heatmap Tool: Crazy Egg

Analytics tools give us a ton of information on what’s happening to our websites.

But sometimes…

It’s too much information. Rows and rows of data, hundreds of reports, more metrics than we can every possible understand.

Heatmaps do an amazing job simplifying everything, making it really easy to understand what people are doing. Heatmap reports take one of the pages on your website and show you visually where people are clicking on that page. Within a few seconds, you’ll see exactly what what people click on and what they don’t. In my experience, everyone on the team instantly understands the major insights from a heatmap tool.

Crazy Egg - Website Analytics Heatmap

Acting on those insights is pretty easy too. Two simple rules will take you pretty far:

  • For the stuff that people click on the most, do more of that.
  • For stuff that people don’t click on, get rid of it.

A heatmap tool is the easiest and most beginner friendly way to start using analytics to make your sites better. Run a heatmap on the top three more important pages of you site (like your homepage, product page, pricing pages, or sales page) and go through several design iterations using the two rules above. That’ll give you a drastically improved website without a more complicated website analytics setup or analysis.

Heatmaps are also really powerful when you’re trying to improve a bunch of user flows, like an online or mobile app. You can glean tons of valuable insights on what users are trying to do, allowing you to iterate on your user flows and drastically improve them.

We recommend Crazy Egg because the quality of its tool stands out in the category. They have several variations of the heatmap report like confetti, clickmaps, and scroll maps to give you even more insights. The quality of its data and reporting is also top-notch. It was one of the first heatmap tools on the market, and it has added more functionality in the past few years like user recordings and A/B testing.

Heatmap Tool Alternative

Best A/B Testing Tool: Optimizely

Before we get into Optimizely itself, a quick sidenote.

I love love love A/B testing. You could call it my first career passion.

That said, most companies shouldn’t be running A/B tests. That’s right. For the vast majority of companies, A/B testing can be completely ignored.

While A/B testing is a reliable way to improve conversion rates on a website, it requires a ton of data, a lot more than most industry experts recommend.

Otherwise, it takes too much time, too much money, and the impact on the business is too minor for it to be worth it.

If you have lots of data to work with and are ready to take the plunge into A/B testing, I recommend Optimizely. It’s got all the A/B testing features you’ll need, tracks data the most accurately, and is pretty easy to use.

The biggest downside: the price.

Over the last few years, Optimizely has aggressively pursued larger companies as its customers and has largely left small businesses behind. Pricing is no longer listed on the website, a sign that the focus is on enterprise businesses at higher price points. A few years ago, we spent more than $10,000 per year to use the tool.

Optimizely is my go-to choice if you’re at a large company.

If you’re smaller, you’ll need to go another route.

Best A/B Testing Tool for Small Businesses: Crazy Egg

In the past, I would have recommended VWO (formerly Visual Website Optimizer). Like Optimizely, it’s one of the primary A/B testing tools on the market.

Unfortunately, it looks like VWO has begun to pursue an enterprise strategy too. Prices are no longer listed on the site — not a good sign for small businesses. It’s been longer since I’ve used them, so I don’t know what the current pricing is, but it’s safe to assume that it’s too high for a small business.

Crazy Egg has released an A/B testing tool alongside its heatmap reports that’s focused on beginners and businesses that don’t have the resources for an entire team dedicated to A/B testing. Pick a page on your site, make a few edits with Crazy Egg, then get simple data on which version you should keep.

Best SEO Tool: SEMrush

As SEO has evolved, it’s gotten increasingly competitive and data driven. There’s also a host of metrics that are completely unique to search, like keyword rankings, monthly search volume, and backlink volume.

It’s possible to get some of these metrics from Google Analytics but to get everything, you need to sign up for an SEO tool.

My favorite SEO tool is SEMrush.

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The biggest reason is SEMrush has the easiest reporting compared to the other SEO tools. It’s perfect for beginning or intermediate SEO marketers.

What About Analytics for Paid Marketing Channels?

Google Ads (formerly AdWords), Facebook, and other paid marketing channels need a ton of data to run effective campaigns. Since companies like Google and Facebook have extreme incentives to give you the highest quality data possible, they’ve invested in their own data and reporting. The analytics in Google Ads and Facebook Ads are world-class — you’ll get everything you need.

All you need to do is install a JavaScript snippet on the page of your website that signifies a conversion took place. The page that means you acquired a lead, a sale, or a new user. The JavaScript snippet will tell the ads platform that a conversion occurred, helping you optimize the campaigns for your business. There are other ways to set up conversion tracking, but this is the easiest.

Other paid marketing platforms follow this same format. Reporting and data is built into the ad platform and tracking is handled by installing a JavaScript snippet that logs conversions.

What’s the Difference Between Website Analytics and Business Intelligence?

Website analytics is the online marketing and website data for a business. Business intelligence includes all of the data for a business.

As more and more business data moves into the cloud, the line between these two categories has gotten blurred. CRMs (like Salesforce) now include a lot of marketing and campaign data. The marketing automation tools (like Marketo, HubSpot, Pardot, etc.) that have become a standard part of the marketing infrastructure at many companies produce marketing data too.

Once you get large enough, you’ll want to combine all of these sources into a single database and source of truth for your customers. That’s where business intelligence comes in. It typically involves putting together a data warehouse (Amazon Redshift is a popular choice) with a reporting tool that sits on top of it like Tableau. This approach is very expense, pretty complicated, and difficult to maintain, so only go this route once your business is large enough to truly get value out of it.

In the meantime, integrate your tools with one another whenever you can while keeping things as simple as possible.

My Analytics Tools Recommendations

So here are my two core recommendations:

  • Use Google Analytics for your website analytics
  • Avoid user analytics tools.

“Extra” tools for specific use cases:

  • If you have a lot of user flows to improve, get a heatmap tool like Crazy Egg.
  • If you’re making SEO a priority, get an SEO tool like SEMrush.
  • If you do a lot of conversion optimization and A/B testing, get an A/B testing tool like Optimizely.
  • When you’re large enough, build a real business intelligence function.

If you enjoyed this post, why not check out this article on Website Planning!

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Filed under: Marketing, StrategyTagged with: ,

Write Content that Inspires Action

Often, Wordpress site owners or businesses focus more on content promotion than content creation. Considering many individuals judge the success of a marketing campaign based on the number of clicks, likes, shares, and views their content pieces garner, the practice of prioritizing promotion over substance is understandable. Yet, content that doesn’t elicit some sort of reaction from the reader will ultimately prove ineffective. After all, content marketers and copywriters are always trying to get their audience to download something, visit a storefront, or buy a product. So here are three proven ways to build content that motivates consumers to heed your calls-to-action.

Trade Info for Loyalty

Trust

Trust is the essential element of every good business relationship. This is especially true for consumers who are researching a product or service they don’t quite understand. Companies that offer in-depth articles on their site and provide objective analysis will win a consumer’s loyalty –– even if they don’t immediately gain their business. The wonderful thing about most marketing content is that it’s evergreen –– i.e., it remains useful over long periods of time. In that sense a well-written blog can truly be the gift that keeps on giving!

Construct with Care

Online consumers don’t want to have to hunt for information. The massive edge ecommerce stores have over brick-and-mortar locations is, of course, convenience. However, if your content offers aren’t structured correctly, and if your website is difficult to navigate, you’ll struggle to retain many visitors. One good rule of thumb to follow for long-form content is the Wikipedia test. Wikipedia boasts an easy-to-follow setup and a seamless navigation strategy. Just think how easy it is to find pages on related subjects on Wikipedia and you’ll have a good idea of how best to arrange your own page layout.

Incentivize Action

Incentive

Most blog posts end with some variety of call-to-action (CTA). Regardless of whether you’re trying to motivate someone to visit an ecommerce store or a local testing center, copywriters need to incentivize their CTAs. It may be obvious to you why a given consumer would benefit from medical advice or a new widget, but it’s not always so clear cut to the general public. What’s more, be sure to inject some urgency into your writing. Let your readers know that they stand to gain a clear advantage (or can avoid a major setback) by acting now. Many decisions made online carry a degree of impulsiveness, so keep that in mind when tailoring blog posts. Work that lacks a sense of immediacy simply won’t generate the leads or conversions businesses need to grow.

Monitor and Follow Up

Having done all that its still doesn’t end there, many businesses fail because they do not have a good follow up strategy in place, this is where a marketing platform like Omnisend can come in. With a huge number of options  and facilities to do this, it can be an excellent tool to streamline, evaluate and generate new business via tracking visitors, subscriptions, automation and a whole lot more. If you enjoyed this post, why not check out this article on the Content versus Data debate!

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Filed under: Marketing, Strategy, WordpressTagged with: ,

Social Media Emojis For Your Brand

It’s not an overstatement to say that emojis are all over social media these days. It’s almost guaranteed that any popular Instagram post will have at least one emoji in the caption, and many tweets now include 280 characters and an emoji. So the big question for business owners becomes: Is this just something for young millennials to enjoy, or is there way to leverage emojis in our branding?

Greater engagement with emojis

No surprise here, but emojis could be huge for your brand. One big reason is that social media researchers have found a direct link between emojis and user engagement. All things being equal, content with emojis will perform better than content without emojis.

For example, consider a tweet that your company might send out over the Valentine’s Day holiday. You’re much more likely to have someone click on a product link or reply to that tweet if you include a heart emoji. That’s just human nature.

Use cases for emojis

Moreover, emojis are a useful way to show solidarity with particular demographic groups and social causes. For example, for the sake of argument, let’s say that you want to show solidarity with bearded men. Well, you’re in luck, because back in 2017 a new bearded man was released.

Or, let’s say that you are looking to get the word out about a new product promotion. If that’s the case, emojis can play a powerful role in getting the word out and inspiring people to act. For example (again, just for the sake of argument), let’s say that there’s a zombie apocalypse underway and you would like to alert customers about your upcoming “everything must go” zombie apocalypse sale. You can now include a zombie emoji with every tweet that you send out.

Brand identity and emojis

Emojis can also be very powerful for brand identity. For example, huge national brands like Starbucks and Coca-Cola have worked with Twitter to create branded emojis. And, if you watched the Oscars in the past year or so, you probably noticed Oscar emojis being created automatically in your tweets as soon as you used the hashtag #Oscars.

What’s really amazing is how many different emojis now exist – nearly 2,823 emojis as of January 2019. In case you’re keeping score at home, there are only 26 letters in the alphabet, so there are more than 100 times more emojis than letters! Just consider the possibilities.

And, in fact, many companies have considered the possibilities. Goldman Sachs, normally thought of as a bunch of greedy old bankers, has sent out tweets all in emojis to promote a new research report on millennials. Chevrolet has sent out an emoji press release. Domino’s makes it possible to order pizza with emojis. And educators are working on ways to use emojis to connect with children and early learners.

A warning about emojis for social media newbies

Make no mistake about it, emojis are fun and a bit whimsical (as you no doubt have noticed by now). They can breathe some fresh life and “hipness” into tired old brands, and help new brands stand out in a crowded field.

But just one word of advice before you embrace emojis as a new form of social communication – there are some emojis (like the purple eggplant emoji) that come with some hidden meanings. Let’s just say that if you’re a restaurant in South Philly sending out a tweet about new late night eggplant specials, you might want to be careful.

However, used in moderation, emojis can be very powerful for branding and communication purposes. Just a few years ago, including emojis in “serious” business messages was frowned upon. But now it’s just par for the course: emojis have become about as mainstream as you could possibly imagine. If you enjoyed this post, why not check out this article on the 20 best Bootstrap Wordpress themes!

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Filed under: Marketing, StrategyTagged with: ,

10 Places to Get Website Images

A website without images will look plain and boring!

Think about it for a moment: When was the last time you visited a website that didn’t have any photos? If you actually encountered this rarity, you probably left the site fairly quickly for fear of spam, phishing, or malware. Simply put, barren sites without any visual content can appear shady and untrustworthy.

Not having images hurts your site, and having images helps. They’re appealing. Photos in your blog posts will break up the text and make it easier for people to read and scan through your content. Detailed product photos show prospective customers exactly what they are purchasing. The perfect position of an image can help you design a homepage that converts.

Studies show that three days later people only remember 10% of the information they hear. When that information is paired with a relevant photo, 65% of it gets retained.

Bottom line: You should be using photos and other visual content on every single page of your website.

Sure, you might recognize the fact that you need images on your website. You might even have some images that you want to use. But are you legally allowed to use them? Do you have to pay?

This is a common problem among website owners. They don’t know where to get images. So, they’re hesitant add visual content to their site for fear of copyright infringement or hefty legal fines. Not to worry.

In this guide, we’ve identified the top nine places to find images for your website. Some of these resources offer images that are completely free; others you’ll have to pay for.

Whether your website is new and still in the early stages of design and development, or old and needs some fresh visual content, you’ll find what you’re looking for on this list.

1. Unsplash

Unsplash started as 10 free photos every week. They were leftovers from a photoshoot that would have otherwise died in a folder somewhere. Today, there are 792,198 images and every single one of them is free for commercial or noncommercial use. They’re generously uploaded by creators and all follow the same do-what-you-want license.

The most notable thing about Unsplash: the images are gorgeous. They’re well done and have a point-of-view, and every week they’re organized into easy-to-browse collections.

If you use any photos from Unsplash, you don’t have to give credit but you can if you want. It’s as simple as adding a line like: Photo by Photographer on Unsplash

2. Pexels

There are 504,828 images uploaded in the Pexels library and every single one of them is free for commercial use without attribution. They all have the same super simple license.

The entire library is also available on the mobile app, which makes it even easier to find and upload images to your brand’s social media. (You can also search for images by keyword or emoji.)

Pexels free stock photos workplace

They also feature photos from nappy, a stock library created by the influencer mgmt agency SHADE for black and brown creators, after they saw that sites like Unsplash and Pexels were fixing the corny stock image problem, but were still lacking in diversity.

3. Flickr

Flickr is a top option to consider for free website images. The platform encourages users to upload, share, edit, and organize their photos from any device.

Not everything hosted on here is free for commercial purposes. So double check the image rights for content before you add it to your company’s website. You can do this by searching for images with licenses that say “Commercial use allowed.” For most of these images, you can use them on your site as long as you include attribution in the form of a reference link back to where the image came from on Flickr. Every image will have a link to the license that’ll tell you the requirements in simple sentences.

flickr license free stock photos

One of the best parts of Flickr is the trending tab.

flickr homepage free stock

You’ll be able to see categories trending in real-time, trending weekly, as well as trending all-time. So you can go with images that are popular, or stay clear from them in an effort to be more unique. Either way, these options are great if you’re looking for common themes for your entire website.

4. iStock

iStock has millions of images available that are royalty free, so it’s one of the first places you should start your image search.

iStock free stock photos search bar

One of the parts about iStock is the way it’s organized. It’s easy to search for images in specific categories. If you see something you like, you can save it to your board and refer to it later.

There’s no way to download or search for free images on iStock, though they do send one free photo, illustration, and video each week if you sign up for their newsletter. They sell photos based on a credit system. The more credits you buy, the cheaper each one is:

  • $12 for 1 credit ($12 each)
  • $60 for 6 credits ($10 each)
  • $325 for 36 credits ($9 each)
  • $2,400 for 300 credits ($8 each)

iStock also offers subscription pricing as well, which gives you access to a specified number of images per month.

In addition to photos and stock images, iStock also offers illustrations, vectors, videos, and audio files as well. All of these can be used to improve your website.

5. Openphoto.net

The Open Photo sharing platform has been around for 20 years. Everyone contributing to this resource offers photos for free under the Creative Commons licensing. Like Flickr, it’s really easy to navigate and find what you’re looking for on Open Photo. They also keep track of trending photos and categories. You can see popular images from today, yesterday, and all-time.

Open Photo always highlights a photo of the day on its homepage and gives credit to the photographer who uploaded it. If you see a photo of the day that you really like, it’s a good idea to check out other images that were uploaded by that photographer.

Even if the content of the images isn’t always the same, photographers tend to have a certain style. So if you like the way someone approaches their photography, you may want to use images from them throughout your entire website.

6. Pixabay

Pixabay is another resource that offers images shared by members of its community. There are more than 1.6 million photos and videos offered royalty-free for commercial purposes. You don’t have to ask for credit or give credit to the artist.

Pixabay free stock photos

Pixabay has a powerful search with filters like:

  • orientation
  • size
  • color

So if you’re looking for a blue, horizontal photo, that’s 4000 px X 3000 px, simply add those parameters to the search menu, and it’ll only display results that fit your needs. There’s also a safe search function as well that filters out any content that might be perceived as not safe for work.

Another reason why Pixabay is a top choice to consider is because they have a mobile app that’s available on both iOS and Android devices. Perfect for doing work on the go when it’s not convenient to take your computer out.

7. Rgbstock

There are over 100,000 free stock photos available from Rgbstock.com. You can find photos by searching for categories or keywords. They also let you browse photos from the collections of specific photographers that you like.

In order to access any of the content on this platform, you’ll need to register and create an account. But like everything else on here, it’s completely free. For those of you who want to share your own photos with the Rgbstock community, you can easily create your own photo gallery in just a few minutes.

8. Realistic Shots

Realistic Shots is a bit different from some of the other website image platforms we’ve looked at so far on our list. They don’t prioritize quantity. Only seven new photos are added to the site each week. But the quality of those seven photos is extremely high.

Realistic Shots free stock photos

That’s pretty astonishing considering the fact that there are more than 1.8 billion images uploaded online every day. So to pick just seven each week means the quality needs to be superior in order to be featured. Realistic Shots puts emphasis on creativity for their most popular categories.

  • nature
  • travel
  • architecture
  • technology
  • people

It’s worth coming to this site once a week to see the newest uploads. Everything hosted here is free for both personal and commercial use.

9. Fotolia

Fotolia is run by Adobe Stock. To access premium image content through this platform, you’ll need to pay. Similar to other options we’ve seen, you can buy credits or sign up for a subscription.

The great part about their subscriptions is that they have plenty of choices based on how often you’ll need stock images. Here is the monthly pricing for the annual memberships.

  • 10 images for $29.99 per month
  • 40 images for $79.99 per month
  • 350 images for $169.99 per month
  • 750 images for $199.99 per month

If you’re signing up for the first time, you can get one month free with any of these plans. They offer month-to-month pricing rates as well if you’re not ready for an annual commitment. To purchase one or two images, your best bet is to buy credits individually.

One of the standout features of this software is the ability to use photos you have on hand to search for images you’re looking for. Just drag and drop an image from an online resource or from your computer into the search bar to find similar content.

Look at the search results for the image of this puppy.

Fotolia image search similar photos

The software displays images that are similar and even from the same photoshoot. It’s a great tool that you can take advantage of.

10. Reshot

Reshot has uniquely free photos, handpicked with a lot of variety and are available in packs, such as lifestyle, diversity, technology etc.

Reshot

Conclusion

Your site needs images. Visual elements will add credibility to your website, and make it more appealing for visitors.

There are thousands of places to find images online but start with the resources outlined on this list. It’s a mix of completely free sources, paid options, and some platforms that offer both free and paid images, and get your site kicked off with a bang! If you enjoyed this post, why not check out this article on Website Planning!

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Filed under: Strategy, Trends, WordpressTagged with: ,

JetOctopus Web-Based SEO Crawler

The Wordpress and SEO industry is great for the huge number of tools that are available.

I think they are some of the most self-innovating industries out there, and I am always happy to come across new tools to play with.

This time I am reviewing a cool Google Bot battling SEO crawler: JetOctopus

JetOctopus Overview

JetOctopus is probably one of the most efficient crawlers on the market. It’s fast and incredibly easy to use, even for a non-SEO’s and will no doubt help in the constant battle with the mighty Google and their regular inscrutable little algorithm changes.

Its most convincing selling point is that it has no crawl limits, no simultaneous crawl limits and no project limits giving you more data for less money. If you are working on a huge database-driven website, you’ll definitely find it a money- and time-saver.

Collaboration Tool

The best part of the tool is that it’s web-based which makes it perfect for collaboration: Your team doesn’t need any new software installed. All they need is a (universal) login.

Web-based tools keep teams on one page because when logging in they all see the same thing. Whenever I can, I use online tools for this exact reason: Cross- team (and cross-device) co-working.

When it comes to SEO crawlers, the usual problem with web-based solutions is that they are not fast enough. You’ll be happy to find JetOctopus to be even faster than its desktop alternatives.

Content Analysis

Your content team will appreciate its “Content” section that can generate all kinds of analyses thanks to the flexible filters, for example:

  • “Thin” content, i.e. pages that need more unique content created for them
  • Long-form content, i.e. content with most words
  • Pages with largest images (those may need some image optimization)
  • Pages with titles containing a certain term, (e.g. when you need to find all content you’ve ever written on a certain topic)

Technical SEO

Naturally, there are a lot of features targeting a more technically-equipped user. JetOctopus helps dev teams to diagnose all kinds of errors hindering smooth user experience as well as preventing search crawlers from access your site.

  • Broken links
  • Pages (accidentally) blocked by Robots.txt or Robots Meta tags
  • Orphan pages
  • Redirect chains
  • Too big pages

Internal Linking Analysis

We are all pretty sure (and anyone working with at least one site has seen the actual experimental evidence on that) that internal links help a page rank better in search. How come we have so few tools analysing internal links for each particular page.

We have a few powerful platforms analyzing incoming links from other domains but there’s no good solution to the best of my knowledge as to how many internal in-links a web page has.

JetOctopus has just introduced a great feature our industry is missing: “Linking Explorer” lets you see how many pages within your site link to a particular page (or pages) and, more importantly, which anchor text those internal links have:

Takeaway: Dig as Deep as You Need / Can

The beauty of SEO crawlers is that everyone is using them differently. A SEO crawler isn’t supposed to show you the way: Instead you can play with the data in your own way to identify what matters to you based on your focus and specialty.

JetOctopus accomplishes this task in an almost perfect way: Its Data Table view gives you all the filters and options to find whatever it is you are looking for, be it canonical tags, redirects, load time metrics or almost anything else under the sun.

I’d probably argue with some things JetOctopus identifies as issues (e.g. too short or too long title tags) and sometimes I’ve seen labeling pages with “multiple title tags” even though I could clearly see only one in the code. But I don’t expect to always agree with an SEO tool as we don’t have clearly set industry standards in many cases. If you enjoyed this post, why not check out this article on other analytics tools that pro’s actually use!

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Filed under: eCommerce, Marketing, Strategy, WordpressTagged with: ,

Generate eCommerce Sales with Product Buying Guides

eCommerce Sales & Buying Guides

With the global reach of today’s Internet, it is possible to sell products (and services) to virtually anyone in the world.

You have a huge opportunity, yet, your competition is fiercer than ever. Every other business has the same opportunities as you.

As a marketer, you need to create an advantage over your competitors. To do this effectively, you need to fully understand how consumers shop. What process do they take to go from identifying a need for something to making a purchase? In most cases, it starts with a general search.

consumers use search engines to discover new products
74% of people turn to a search engine during the consideration and purchasing phases of the buying process, and lucky for unknown brands, 71% of shoppers use search engines to discover new products.

That’s why product buying guides are so great. When a customer searches a product online, a buying guide can serve as a way to convince them to make a purchase. More specifically, the guide can convince them to buy from your brand. But there is a science behind this strategy.

This guide will show you how to leverage product buying guides to drive sales. Whether you have product buying guides that need improvement, or you’ve never used this tactic and want to try it out, you’ll benefit from the tips covered below.

Define the target audience

Before you create and publish a product buying guide, you need to determine who will be reading it. Not every guide should be intended to please everyone. It depends on who is going to be buying what you’re selling. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many businesses get this wrong.

The target market for a specific product category isn’t necessarily the same as your target audience for your entire brand. With your buying guides, it’s OK to be more specific.

For example, if you’re selling a hiking backpack, you’ll want to write your guide for people who are in the market for that item, even though you also sell other items, like a piece of carry-on luggage aimed at business travelers. People who are in the market for this product will get lost and be uninterested if the copy doesn’t speak to them specifically.

One of the best ways to define your target audience is by creating a customer persona. Here’s an example:

consumer persona

Once you create this persona, it’ll be much easier to develop a product buying guide based on the wants and needs of the consumer. You’ll have an image in your mind of who they are and what needs they have.

Your buying guide won’t necessarily appeal to as many people, but that’s OK. You’ll end up having much higher conversion rates for the audience that you’re targeting in the first place.

Choose a format

After you determine your audience, you need to figure out the style and format of your writing guide. You’ve got several different options to choose from here. You can develop a guide that’s mostly text, or have a guide with lots of pictures. It’s even possible to incorporate some video content into your buying guides. Maybe you want to use a combination of these styles. There are lots of ways to approach this.

You also need to decide the format of your buying guide content:

  • compare multiple products
  • general information about what to look for
  • beginner’s purchasing guide
  • introduce a new niche or type of product

Here’s an example of a desk buying guide from Wayfair:

desk buying guide

Rather than writing a guide on specific products, they created a list of the features that consumers should look for when buying a desk. The guide is mostly text but has pictures to illustrate the points they are trying to make. It’s a very simple and easy-to-follow format that uses visual elements well. Each feature is numbered, followed by a bulleted list with additional details. The images, numbers, and bullets break up the content, so it’s easy for website visitors to scan and consume it. No intimidating walls of text here!

Include a CTA

The whole purpose of your product buying guide is to inform consumers about their options, help them decide that they want to buy something, and then ultimately convert. Let’s not lose sight of that final stage when you’re writing these.

Obviously, you want them your customer to buy from you. But if you don’t give the reader a CTA or a way to buy, that might not happen. Here’s the thing. Yes, they are reading the guide on your website. But if they have to go back to your homepage and then search for the products that they’re looking for, it’s too many extra steps. It’d be easier for them to open a new window with a search engine, or go to Amazon, Walmart, or another retail giant to buy. We don’t want that to happen.

The consumer is on your website now. This is your chance to close the sale.

Check out this simple but effective CTA button from REI.

CTA example

This example is from their car racks buying guide. It’s an extensive guide with plenty of options to choose from. They have sections for trunk racks, hitch racks, spare tire racks, roof racks, and cargo boxes. Each option follows the same format as the Wayfair guide.

Each section has a brief overview of the product. That’s followed by a description of how much this type of rack can transport. All of this is followed by a bulleted list of pros and cons. This is something worth stealing for any guide you write. You don’t want to seem biased, since customers will see right through that. If you’re giving too much of a sales pitch, people won’t want to buy. It’s difficult, but you want to try and appear as neutral as possible.

The cons list isn’t necessarily saying bad things about their specific products. Instead, it talks about some limitations of products in this particular category. For example, one of the cons of the spare tire bike rack is that there is a two-bike limit. If someone doesn’t need to transport more than two bikes, that’s not a problem. They don’t need to buy a rack that can hold three or four bikes. Listing the cons like this helps increase your authority and removes some of your bias in the eyes of the consumers. As a result, you can establish trust with the reader.

Last, but certainly not least, is a CTA that provides a link to buy. If someone is reading this guide and realizes that one of these options is what they’re looking for based on the information they found, all they need to do is click on the CTA. Even the CTA isn’t too pushy. But it needs to be there so the site visitor can ultimately convert and make a purchase with as little friction as possible.

Content to product flow

The CTA directs the visitor to the product options. From here, they can make a purchase.

Compare products in different price ranges

In a perfect world, customers would always buy your most expensive products with the highest margins. But the world we live in is far from perfect. Not every person has an unlimited budget for this one purchase. Even if they did have an unlimited budget, many consumers want the best bang for their buck. In fact, the ability to compare prices ranks high on the list of why consumers prefer to shop online in the first place.

why consumers shop online

So, help your customers out make it easy for them to compare prices right on your site. A product guide is a simple way to do this. For example, let’s say you’re selling couches. You can might have products segmented by price in categories like:

  • couches under $250
  • couches $250–$750
  • couches over $1,000

Include prices or price range categories in your buying guides and you’ll make this easier on the reader. This allows you to create anchor prices, which is a way for you to generate more profit by focusing on your pricing. Psychologically, the customer will create a value in their head about what products are worth based on the anchor prices. Your less expensive and mid-range products will look more appealing when you put them next to premium-priced products. Consider marketing one of the options in your guide as a Best Budget pick or Best Value to hit that point home.

Apply SEO principles

Product-buying guides have a shot to rank with long-tail search terms.

long-tail SEO for conversion

This makes sense: most consumers use search engines to find new products, a buying guide will help them learn and discover. To take advantage of this discoverability, conduct keyword research on each category to determine what people are actually searching for.

Again, you’re not trying to appeal to the masses with your buying guides. General search terms are going to have more competition and be more expensive if you’re running PPC campaigns.

If you make your SEO strategy too broad and general, there may be more people searching for that term, but your click-through rates will be much lower. For example, let’s say you’re selling something basic that everyone uses, like socks. A product buying guide about how to choose a pair of socks is way too general. Make it more specific for your target audience and certain niches with long-tail keywords:

  • best ankle socks for workouts
  • women’s waterproof running socks
  • best high socks for hiking
  • dress socks for sweaty feet

Do you see the difference? All of these potential search terms address more particular needs. People searching for these keywords have a specific want. So if they land on your buying guide from their search, they’ll have a much higher probability of clicking through and converting.

Include reviews

When a consumer navigates to a product buying guide, they are conducting research. The number one reason why customers research products online is to read product reviews.

half of people like to read about products before buying them

You can also showcase a customer review or testimonial to increase brand credibility. From that review, link the reader directly to the rest of your reviews for each product. You could even consider adding a superlative to your buying guide like Customer Favorite or Popular Choice.

In addition to reviews, you can add any statistics or references to back up claims you’re making about products or categories. Doing this will make your brand seem much more trustworthy and legitimate.

Summary

Product buying guides give you a unique opportunity to assist consumers during the research stage of the customer conversion funnel.

The first thing you need to do is determine the target audience of each buying guide. Figure out a format and style that works best for you, as well as the reader. Target long-tail keywords, and include CTAs to buy the products and showcase products in different price ranges to appeal to a wider range of prospective buyers and leverage your existing customer reviews. If you enjoyed this post, why not check out this one on Using Instagram to grow your small business!
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Filed under: eCommerce, Strategy, WordpressTagged with: ,