Monday, December 5, 2016 by Kristen HicksFor everyone, the holidays can feel like a stressful, busy time of year. For nonprofit professionals, the stress of balancing social and family obligations is compounded by these months being the most important time of year for fundraising. Nearly 30% of all giving for the year happens in December. The average amount people give is nearly 40% higher in December than throughout the rest of the year. Clearly people are in a giving mindset during the holidays. Nonprofits should do everything in their power to encourage that generosity and provide people with easy, persuasive reasons to follow their hearts this time of year. [bctt tweet="#NonProfits, take note! People give 40% more in December than the rest of the year." username="hostgator"] Here are eight techniques you can use this holiday season to maximize the donations that come your way before the onset of the New Year.
Monday, December 5, 2016 by Henry GreenDoes your business really need a blog? Nope. You’re good. Oh, but you want sales, referrals, lead generation, customer loyalty, and engagement? Then yes, you absolutely need a business blog. First, understand this: the numbers don’t lie.
- Companies that blog get 97% more inbound links back to their websites.
- Businesses that blog get 55% more website visitors.
- Content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing & generates 3X as many leads.
- Blog posts are topping out as one of the primary ways companies choose to share content.
Insight #1: Seth Godin’s BlogMultiple business founder and best-selling author Seth Godin (Purple Cow, All Marketers Are Liars) receives an estimated 640K visits a month to his blog. Pro tip: SimilarWeb is a free Chrome plugin. Use it to spy on your competitors or to get an idea of average site rankings, bounce rates, and visits. At first, Godin thought the Internet was stupid, but when he realized how powerful a tool it was in directly reaching his audience, he eventually committed to his current cadence of publishing one blog post a day. In a recent interview on the Tim Ferriss Show, Godin says “[Blogging is] one of the top 5 decisions I’ve ever made. I have a practice that resonates with people that I can do forever.” [bctt tweet="Why Your Business Needs A Blog: Speak directly to your audience in a way that resonates with them." username="hostgator"]
Insight #2: The Smart Passive Income BlogPat Flynn’s blog is a tremendous resource for anyone aiming to make extra cash through multiple income streams. On blogging, Flynn writes, “Although a blog isn’t passive in nature, it’s one of the best platforms for launching other passive income opportunities.” In addition to providing endless tips for small business owners and marketers (check out the podcast), Flynn suggests that a stand-alone blog won’t make money, but that the eBooks, products, print books, courses, consulting that you write about and sell will boost traffic and rake in the cash. Flynn should know. From his very humble beginnings, he’s now passively raking in over 100K/month. If that’s not a great reason to start business blogging, we’re not sure what is! [bctt tweet="Why Your Business Needs A Blog: It's one of the best platforms for passive income opportunities." username="hostgator"]
Insight #3: MySocialSuite’s BlogNew social media marketing startup MySocialSuite rivals the likes of Hootsuite and SproutSocial for helping businesses boost productivity through social posting automation, analytics, and more. We recently spoke with co-founder Luke Clifford who launched the MySocialSuite blog in June 2016. He says, “Carefully selecting the content you publish puts you in the SEO driving seat and in control of your site’s organic audience.” Clifford says he’s seen tremendous site traffic growth since the launch of the blog which he credits for dozens of direct product purchases. While Clifford agrees that business blogging is about point-of-sale, he says “It’s also about building customer loyalty and carving out a meaningful space as an industry leader.” [bctt tweet="Why Your Business Needs A Blog: Build customer loyalty and carve out your space as an industry leader." username="hostgator"] There’s a reason HostGator has a blog and even more reasons why our blog is segmented into these categories: web hosting, marketing, small biz & Snappy (the adventures of everyone’s favorite gator mascot). We’ve studied our audience. We know who you are and what you want, but we’re always testing, tuning, and improving. We recommend studying these blogs for content ideas, calls to action, and key selling points. Discover what it is about the blogs and specific posts that invite you to continue clicking and reading. Do you enjoy other blogs? Share your faves in the comment section! We’d love to know who you’re reading for inspiration (did the HostGator blog make your list of favorites?).
Are you ready to start making money from your business blog?
Friday, December 2, 2016 by Kevin WoodWhether you’re a realtor or a developer, it’s important to have an understanding of how you can build the most effective and useful WordPress site for your needs. WordPress is an incredible framework for most website builds, as it’s extremely flexible, functional, and easy to use. Luckily, there are literally hundreds of plugins for you to choose from that will help to increase the functionality of your real estate website. However, with the sheer number of plugins available it can be overwhelming deciding which plugins will be the best fit for your needs. To simplify your search we’ve decided to break down a handful of the very best plugins for real estate agents. Let’s dive in!
1. WP-PropertyThis is an intuitive plugin that can benefit both real estate agents and property managers. You can easily create, edit, and manage the property listings across your website. WP-Property has a very easy to use user interface, so adding properties to your site is a breeze. Some of its features include:
- Supports translation into Italian, Russian, and Portuguese
- Allows for Google Map integration and the use of included shortcodes
- Can allow you to display different types of templates for a wide variety of property-types
- Well optimized for SEO purposes, to increase traffic to your listings
2. IMPress ListingsIMPress Listings is a free open source plugin that allows you to create a more effective listing management system for your website. The plugin was designed by the team Agent Evolution, who specializes in web solutions for agents and brokers. This plugin easily integrates into your existing theme with its pre-made templates. Features include:
- Can create featured listings to show your favorite properties up top
- Fully responsive, so it displays well across any screen
- Very high number of data fields to easily customize your listings
- Can create a default sorting structure for your listings
3. EstatikEstatik is a relatively new WordPress real estate plugin. It seeks to be a clean and minimalist version of the other real estate plugins that are currently out there. The free version includes all of the features highlighted below, but is also available in two premium packages, including the Pro version, and the Pro version plus an additional theme. Some of its features include:
- It’s fully responsive, so it’ll look good across multiple screen sizes (perfect for agents on the go)
- It comes with its own custom themes, but can still integrate with most other themes in the marketplace
- You can completely customize every listing
- You can allow other agents to modify the listings from the front end
- It has several other widgets that include advanced search, property slideshows, and location maps
4. Easy Property ListingsEasy Property Listings seeks to be the best plugin for easily adding real estate listings to your website. It works with most themes that are currently available without causing too much fuss. This plugin focuses on a single feature, and does it very well. In addition to the free features highlighted below there are also paid add-ons, which will enhance its functionality even further. Check out some of its features below:
- Contains a “theme compatibility mode” to help with integration into your existing WordPress theme
- Gives you multiple listing and pricing options for simple listing customization
- Caters to international listings by allowing multiple currencies and locations
- Can make showing and inspection appointments through the calendar function
5. WP-Real EstateWP-Real Estate is a great all-around plugin that will help to build your real estate website. If you’re looking to add additional functionality to your existing website, or truly unlock the potential of your site from the start, then give this plugin a go. Features include:
- Can easily add and customize property listings
- Has a translation feature to translate your site into multiple languages (perfect for cities where multiple languages are the norm)
- Has an in-depth property search website to easily navigate between properties
6. WPL Real EstateWPL Real Estate is a great plugin choice for real estate agencies. This plugin is designed to help improve your data management and listing management processes as a realtor. However, it can also be used for several other purposes, such as:
- Adding properties to your listing wizard, and enable other agents to add listings as well
- Easily categorizing your listings based upon property type, number of bedrooms, etc.
- Displaying your listings on Google Maps to better gauge location
- Sharing your listings to Facebook, email, Twitter, and more
Friday, December 2, 2016 by Kristen HicksIn the past, all businesses needed real estate – a storefront or office space. Many still do, but the growth of online business means it’s not the necessity it once was. Budding entrepreneurs can now start businesses without having to make as big of an investment or take on as much risk – which is great. All you need is a good idea, some money and time to get started with, and you can start an online business. To be clear, the risk is still there, but the barriers to entry are lower than they once were. If you’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, starting with an online business is one of the easiest ways to get your foot in the door. And online businesses, when run well, can be extremely profitable. Online business contributes to the economy to the tune of $966 billion. If you’re ready to claim your part of that number, here are the first steps to take.
1. Identify a need.You can do everything else exactly right, but if you’re trying to sell something no one wants, your online business will fail anyway. Your first order of business has to be figuring out a product or service that people actually want or need. If you have an idea that you think people will be interested in, confirm that with market research. If you have enough money, you can hire a firm to do market research for you. If you really don’t have that much money, you can get creative and do it yourself. One option is to start building an email list before you build your business, to make sure there’s interest in what you have to offer. You can also dig into widely available stats on demographics to understand your target audience a little better. And you can make use of a number of resources that focus on helping businesses understand consumer behavior. A couple of businesses like Ask Your Target Market and GutCheck will connect you with members of your target audience so you can ask them questions directly and gain a better idea of what they’re likely to think of your product. [bctt tweet="Starting an online business? Step #1 is market research - confirm people will be interested." username="hostgator"]
2. Develop a business plan.Once you know your idea has a realistic customer base, you need to start working on your business plan. If you have any interest in attracting investors, then a business plan will be one of the most important tools you have for convincing them to buy in. Even if you aren’t explicitly looking for investors, creating a business plan will help you clarify your goals and figure out the specific steps you need to take to achieve them. Make sure your business plan includes an analysis of the competition and a clear positioning statement of where you fit within the market. It should also include information on your target audience, which your market research should have given you a nice head start on collecting. All of that gives you the information you need to make sure your approach is solid. With that in place, you’ll have an easier time working out the chronology of what to do when and what finances and resources you’ll need to complete each step. In short, your business plan should do two key things:
- Make a case for why your business idea is a good one, and
- Provide the roadmap to turn your a good idea into something actionable.
3. Create your brand.As you’re steadily moving toward the point of your launch, it’s time to work out how your business will appear to the world. If your business is the thing you run behind the scenes, your brand is the face it presents to the audience once the curtain’s drawn back. [bctt tweet="Your business = the thing you run behind the scenes. Your brand = the face it presents to the world." username="hostgator"] If you’ve gotten this far without settling on a business name, then it’s time now to make a decision. Picking a name for your business is hard, but I don’t have to tell you how important it is. The name is the biggest decision to make as you work on your brand, but it’s one of many. You need a logo, a style, and a clearly defined positioning that communicates just what makes your product so worthwhile to your audience. If you’re still working on your own as you get to this step, then this is a good point in the process to start growing your team. If you don’t have the money to hire employees, consider looking for freelancers or a marketing agency to help. Determining the right look, feel, and messaging of your business is something that’s ultimately up to you, but having some experienced experts pitch in to make sure you get it right is worth it.
4. Build your website.If you do hire marketing professionals to help you develop your company’s brand, then creating the website should be part of what they help you do. You’ll need to purchase a domain name that’s close enough to your business name to be intuitive for users. If your business name is unique enough, you can go straight for the most obvious choice: YourBrandName.com. If the most obvious domain is already taken, then you may have to get a little creative. You can either go with one of the other domain extensions like .net or .me, use a hyphen or underscore between words to change things up, or add a minor addition to the name, like a go at the beginning or a word that clarifies the industry afterward. Another option is to switch steps 3 and 4. You can avoid running into the problems stated above, by choosing your company name based on what domain names are available. Use our domain registration tool to see what's available. Make sure the website design matches with your overall visual branding and your website copy effectively communicates your brand positioning. The work you did defining your brand should shine through in the website you create. For an online business, your website is everything. You need it to look good, be intuitive to navigate, and make a clear case to visitors why they should buy. Take time to get it right, and run the finished product by some other people (ideally people in your target audience) to get their take.
5. Prepare your inventory.Now it’s time to create or stock up on whatever you’re selling. If you’re selling physical items, you want them ready to ship by the time any orders start coming in. If you’re launching a service-based business, this step is where you should clarify your process. If you’re selling digital products, like SaaS software, then you need to make sure the product is ready. Do user testing to ensure that it not only does what you’re claiming it does, but that customers will be able to use it without confusion or difficulty. Obviously this step will vary considerably depending on the type of business you’re launching. Just be sure that, before your actual launch date, you take whatever steps are necessary to ensure you’re ready to start providing what you’re selling by the time your first customer is ready to buy.
6. Create (and start executing) your marketing plan.Before you actually get going, you should establish your marketing plan. Your market research and branding work should have already helped you clarify your positioning and audience. Use that information to determine which marketing channels to pursue and the messaging to use for them. Every business is different and marketing isn’t one size fits all. Most online businesses will want to make use of a mix of content marketing, social media promotion, and paid search promotion. If you don’t know much about online marketing to start, this may be a step to hire out. There is a learning curve to get started and some mistakes of ignorance can cause serious consequences – you wouldn’t want to find yourself facing a Google penalty due to trying an outdated SEO strategy, for instance. If you really don’t have the funding to outsource your marketing, then take some real time to research online marketing best practices. Sites like Moz, HubSpot and Copyblogger all have good, reliable resources for beginners.
7. Launch!Launch day will be a big day for your company. If your website isn’t already live, then you’ll definitely want it up and running on launch day. You should put out a press release, set up any PR interviews you can get, and start your marketing campaigns. And you should be prepared to start filling orders and fielding any questions that come through. Your first day in business is a big day, but your success will depend on what you do for every day that comes after. Be prepared to work hard, learn as you go, and make a point of providing great customer service. Running an online business isn’t easy, but if you take the right steps and do the work, the rewards can be great.
Ready to start your online business?
Step 3: Launch!
Thursday, December 1, 2016 by Henry GreenUnless you’re one of the lucky few to call Melinda and Bill Gates Mom and Pop, you could probably use a business mentor. (Fun fact: they have three kids and odds are, one of them ain’t you). Having a great business idea is one thing, but understanding the difference between an LLC and an S Corporation, or knowing how to correctly file taxes, or getting the real lowdown on social media marketing or pay-per-click advertising can quickly become overwhelming. Here are some free ways to get the business mentorship you need:
1. Visit a SCORE representative.The Service Core of Retired Executives is a fifty-plus year old nonprofit organization supported by the US Small Business Administration. It’s easy to enter your info and be matched with an expert in whatever you need be it marketing, accounting, business planning. They can help you with just about anything from the tools you need to succeed to budgeting, sales, and design.
The best news: it’s 100% free! These are former CEOs, venture capitalists -- people at the top of their game who sincerely want to help out the next generation of business execs and business owners. SCORE also offers free webinars and on-demand online courses.
Our recommendation is to be prepared with the questions you want answered. Practice what you want to say so that you can make the most of your time. Bonus: go in with your pitch; you never know what might happen.
Note: The Small Business Administration website is a go-to online resource for business owners. You may even be able to get many of your questions answered there before meeting a mentor in person.
2. Put on your networking hat.Get over it. Networking is not a dirty word. When looking for business mentorship try these free resources first:
- Meetup.com events (search by location and topic of interest, in this case your specific industry or “entrepreneur”)
- LinkedIn to find people you know or connections of people you know with specific business-related specialities
- High school or college alumni groups, guidance counselors, former employers, church groups
3. Watch a (great) video.TED Talks: TED Talks are presentations delivered by top-notch game-changers in the world of Technology, Education, and Design. Lucky for you, they are all readily available and filterable by topic, length, and speaker. Here are a few of our favorites:
- How Great Leaders Inspire Action - Simon Sinek
- Do What You Love (No Excuses!) - Gary Vaynerchuk
- The Mind Behind Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity - Elon Musk
99U: With a slogan that reads “empowering the creative community,” 99U provides actionable insights on productivity and leadership. Their free video archive boasts of presentations from Brene Brown, Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count, to Franklin Leonard, The Realist’s Guide to Changing the World. Our recommendation: if you’re strapped for time (and we all are), consider watching one insightful video a week. Put it on while you’re folding laundry or getting dressed for work.