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  • Prepping Your E-Commerce Store for Cyber Monday

    Friday, October 28, 2016 by
    ECommerce Cyber Monday If you own an e-commerce store, chances are you already know how important Cyber Monday is. In case you aren’t sure though, the stats around it make a pretty compelling case:
    • 52% of people in the US shop on Cyber Monday.
    • People spent over $2.68 billion on Cyber Monday in 2014.
    • They spent an average of $124 per online order.
    Which all adds up to Cyber Monday being the most important day of the year for online businesses. You have got to be prepped and ready when it rolls around on November 28. Here are seven things you should start working on now to make sure you’re ready when the big day comes.  

    1. Check with your web host to ensure your website is prepared for extra traffic.

    You don’t want your website to get overloaded on Cyber Monday, just when people are most wanting to buy from you. Most web hosting plans can handle a certain amount of traffic before you might have problems. Here's what’s typical for HostGator’s plans: HostGator Site Traffic Limits Anytime you’re expecting a big spike in traffic, talk to your web hosting company to see if they think you have any cause for concern, or suggestions for ensuring things run smoothly.  

    2. Make sure you have plenty of merchandise ready to go.

    Cyber Monday is not the day you want your customers faced with an “Out of Stock” message. Do your best to stock up on all the items that are typically popular – particularly any that make good gifts.  

    3. Optimize your merchandise for gift giving.

    Sure, some people go shopping on Cyber Monday for themselves to take advantage of the deals. But a lot of your visitors will be looking for items they can wrap and present to loved ones for the holidays. Consider how best to package the items you sell so they make good gifts. You might want to combine certain items into gift baskets or offer a good deal for buying related merchandise together.  

    4. Make sure you’re set up to sell gift cards.

    Speaking of gifts, you do sell gift cards, right? If you don’t yet, now is a good time to start. In a 2014 survey, 62% of people said they’d like to receive a gift card for the holidays. And friends and families come through, spending over $100 billion on them each year (some of which won’t ever be claimed, which means pure profit for you). Don’t be left out of that. [bctt tweet="Shoppers spend over $100 billion on gift cards each year. Don't let your #ecommerce store miss out!" username="hostgator"]  

    5. Offer coupons and deals.

    Everyone who lands on your site on Cyber Monday is expecting deals. All of your competitors will be offering them, so you should as well. Offer something to everyone on your site that day – whether it’s discounts, free shipping, free gift wrapping, or some combination of the three. This is also a really good opportunity to give something special to your email list and social media followers. Provide them with a special code or link that reminds them of the value of engaging with you over email and social media. Also be sure to provide new visitors on Cyber Monday with a special offer to join your email list. A day when a lot of people are heading to your website is an optimal time to grow your email list.  Make sure the sign up box is placed somewhere obvious on your website, with compelling copy around it that lets your visitors know how valuable signing up is. And push for sign ups again on your checkout page. The people who buy from you are the ones most likely to sign up.  

    6. Increase your marketing.

    You want to drive people to your online store on Cyber Monday. That means you should be willing to increase your spending on any paid marketing you do, like PPC and social media ads. Also work to promote your Cyber Monday deals on social media, your website, and your email newsletter. You definitely want the people that already know you to come back and check out your online store on the big day, but you should also try to get your offers and deals in front of potential customers who weren’t familiar with you yet. Work on a Cyber Monday marketing plan that emphasizes each. [bctt tweet="#CyberMonday is the most important day of the year for #onlinebusiness. Are you prepared?" username="hostgator"]  

    7. Have you been putting off important website updates? Get them done before the big day.

    If you have an online business, you should already be thinking about this stuff, but if you haven’t yet, Cyber Monday’s a good excuse to get it done. Make sure your website is user-friendly. You want your visitors to have an easy time finding everything they need. You want to guide them toward signing up for your email list (without annoying them in the process) and make completing a purchase entirely intuitive. Make sure your website is well designed to accomplish these goals. Do some testing. Have friends who aren’t a part of the business try your website out for you – from different devices and on different browsers. Ask them to report back on anything about the experience they found less than ideal and get to work fixing it.  Create a mobile website. You already know you need a mobile website. Every business with an online presence must make sure people can use the website easily on their mobile phones and tablets.  If you haven’t yet created a mobile-version of your website, do it now. Over 40% of all Cyber Monday traffic in 2014 came from mobile devices.  You will lose sales on Cyber Monday if people find your website hard to use on a mobile device, so don’t risk it. [bctt tweet="Over 40% of #CyberMonday traffic will come from mobile devices. Is your online store #mobilefriendly?" username="hostgator"]   You have a lot to do, but you still have some time to get it all done. Get a plan in place now to make the most of Cyber Monday this year. Your customers will be glad you did, and so will you.
  • How Bloggers Can Take Advantage of Black Friday Mania

    Thursday, October 27, 2016 by

    Bloggers Black Friday

    The holiday shopping season has arrived! Shoppers want to buy the best gifts for their loved ones without breaking any penny banks. Despite consumers’ frugality, the average holiday spending per person is $805.65. Don’t let the major retailers garner all the consumer’s attention. The Black Friday frenzy is an opportunity for bloggers to build brand awareness, grow readership, and earn extra cash. Prepare for one of the busiest shopping days. Below are four strategies to help you.  

    1. Create Lists of Top Deals

    During the holidays, most buyers are rushing to check off items on their gift lists. Not only do they have to juggle their normal routines, shoppers want to actually research the products and services they will buy. But there’s one major issue: time. It takes several hours to find the perfect gift. Between work, household chores, and kids, consumers don’t have the time or energy to proactively examine each and every product. So, that’s where bloggers can help. Do the legwork for your readers. Research brands to learn which ones offer the best products at the highest quality. [bctt tweet="How #bloggers can cash in on #BlackFriday: Create lists of top deals in your niche." username="hostgator"] Be sure to stick to top deals in your niche. For example, if you’re a travel blogger, locate airline or hotel discounts. Then, write about your findings using a list format. People love lists because they are easy to read and present helpful information. The Krazy Coupon Lady is a blog that teaches consumers extreme couponing strategies. In the example below, she offers readers a top 10 deal list. Black Friday Deals List Go above and beyond with your lists by offering your readership something different. It’s perfectly fine to add holiday humor and creativity to your posts. “If your post title promises to list 7 items of something on your topic, then you need to have 7 points that are interesting and stay on track with the article. This could require research since you want to make sure to create something unique,” writes Ariel Rule, a Hubspot Inbound Certified blogger. Be a resource for your audience. Give them a list of awesome deals.  

    2. Start a Social Media Campaign

    Blogging alone won’t draw people to your Black Friday posts. You will need additional help to attract people. Social media is one of the best ways to gain your reader’s attention. Why? Because social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, give people the opportunity to talk freely about their likes and dislikes. These platforms allow for casual conversations and open dialogue. Therefore, it’s an effective method to speak directly with your readers. Engagement is as simple as responding to a comment or retweeting a message. When starting your campaign, learn which social media channel your readers use the most. Then, read their posts and profiles to discover the topics that matter to them. The key is to connect their interests with your campaign’s goal. Do you want to increase your website traffic? Or maybe your follower count? “The social media marketing goal you’re pursuing affects what kind of campaign you choose to  run; the kind of campaign you run effects which holiday is the most appropriate opportunity,” says Sumari MacLeod, campaigns copywriter at Hootsuite. After selecting your goal and researching your readers, create content that will entice people to learn more about your blog. The Blonde Salad lures its fans with backstage pictures and video of events. The Blonde Salad Instagram And if your followers love Pinterest, try DIY, tutorials, and recipes—they have a 42% higher click through rate than any other pin types. Persuade people to check out your blog this holiday season. Social media might be your best bet.  

    3. Highlight Your Affiliate Offers

    Affiliate marketing is a popular way for bloggers to earn income. In a gist: you receive a commission for promoting other people’s products. With an influx of new readers, you can steer shoppers toward the products you promote. Make sure you display a clear disclaimer before recommending these services as gift ideas. If not, you risk losing your reader’s trust. Moreover, avoid listing your offers as the only option for consumers. Instead, create a detailed comparison chart on why specific products provide more value. [bctt tweet="#BlackFriday can be an ideal time for bloggers to spread their wings in #affiliatemarketing." username="hostgator"] “When people are in buying mode for a physical product, they tend to have their options narrowed down to 2 or 3 and need help making the choice that is best for them...Comparison web pages are not only very popular and helpful for readers, they are also very profitable for you,” says affiliate marketer Jennifer Ledbetter. You also may want to sell your own products, like books, online courses, or clothing. You’ll gain another stream of income and build a solid brand image. Luvvie Ajayi, blogger at Awesomely Luvvie, recently released her first book. She keeps a static announcement on her site to encourage visitors to buy. Awesomely Luvvie Keep in mind selling to people isn’t about you. You want to speak the shoppers’ language, and they desire an extraordinary gift for their family member or friend. Therefore, use terms that will peak their curiosity. Sarita Harbour, a professional blogger, suggests the following: “Look at the comments, questions, and the complaints. Pay particular attention to how your target reader phrases their concerns. What words are they using to describe their anxieties?” Boost your revenues on Black Friday. Experiment with affiliate offers or your own products.  

    4. Grow Your Email Subscription List

    Black Friday doesn’t center around the dramatic increase in site traffic. That’s great; but what happens after the holiday rush? As a blogger, it’s important to transform these shoppers into lifelong fans. To accomplish this task, ask them to sign up for your email newsletter. Email marketing lets you create personalized messages, which has been proven to raise click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%. But before planning your email campaigns, concentrate on how you will woo folks to join your email list. Consider offering access to exclusive content, like bonus tips or checklists. “A video bribe can be a single video that covers a topic in depth, or a series of videos tackling different subtopics. They can be a live recording of you presenting the information to camera, or a slideshow presentation with you providing the voiceover,” states Stef Gonzaga, a poet, creative writer, and blogger. And make the process of signing up painless. A simple pop-up box works well for most websites. We Wore What keeps it simple with a few words and only asking for an email address. Email Newsletter Popup You want more than just seasonal readers. Strive to grow your email lists.  

    Join the Mania

    Shoppers are hunting for the best holiday deals.. Use this shopping season as a chance to attract new readers to your blog. Create lists comparing popular products. Start your own social media campaign to generate buzz. And strategically position your affiliate offers to earn money. Take advantage of the Black Friday mania.
  • Should Your Store Participate in “Gray Thursday?”

    Wednesday, October 26, 2016 by

    Gray Thursday

    Maybe you haven’t heard of Gray Thursday, but you definitely know its other name: Thanksgiving Day. Over the past few years, a growing number of retailers have opened for all or part of Thanksgiving Day in an attempt to lure in shoppers who want a head start on Black Friday deals. Whether your store should open on Thanksgiving, run an online Gray Thursday promotion, or just take the day off depends on your staffing, personal plans for the holiday, competition, and—of course—your customers’ preferences. Ask yourself the five questions below to determine the best plan of action for your retail business.  

    1. Can you staff your store on Thanksgiving Day?

    Unless you made it clear a long time ago that you plan to keep your brick-and-mortar store or online shop open on Thanksgiving, any employees you have may move from content to disgruntled if you force them to work on Thanksgiving Day. At this late date, most people who travel for the holiday have already booked their flights, and it’s not good management to expect your employees to forfeit their airfare or cancel plans. Employees who are available to work on Thanksgiving will almost certainly expect holiday pay. Before you decide to staff your shop on Thanksgiving or any holiday, you’ll need to do the math and decide if the potential revenue justifies the additional payroll expense. [bctt tweet="Staffing your store on #GrayThursday? Your employees may shift from content to disgruntled." username="hostgator"]  

    2. What are your personal Thanksgiving plans?

    If you’re a solopreneur, you may feel like Thanksgiving is no different from any other day in terms of staffing, and you may be perfectly happy to run your shop and offer real-time customer service. Still, think carefully before you commit. Checking in on your shop during holiday travel layovers is a reasonable plan... unless your phone battery dies and you can’t find an open charging port. And answering email questions from shoppers is a snap... unless you’re also cooking a turkey and visiting with your friends and family. If it’s up to you and you alone to keep the store open, you’ll need to balance the potential sales against the potential brand damage if you can’t provide immediate customer service, as well as the prospect of conflict with friends and family who don’t like sharing your attention with your business.  

    3. Will your competition be open on Thanksgiving?

    The beauty of online shops is their always-open nature, and you can easily post a notice that regular customer service and shipping hours will resume after Thanksgiving Day. However, if your strongest competitors are already advertising their Gray Thursday sales events, you may want to consider running a promotion, too. Or not, because it turns out that most shoppers really don’t like it when stores commercialize Thanksgiving. Speaking of which...  

    4. Will a Gray Thursday promotion alienate your customers?

    Gray Thursday store hours are a recent development, and one that’s by and large unpopular with shoppers. A recent survey by found that 73% of consumers think stores push holiday shopping too hard and too early in the year. Slightly more than half said “around Thanksgiving” is the earliest time frame when holiday promotions and displays should appear. Fifty-four percent of the same group of shoppers also said they typically don’t finish their holiday shopping until December, which raises the question of whether an extra few hours on Thanksgiving makes a difference to most consumers or to small- and medium-sized businesses. [bctt tweet="Planning to run #GrayThursday promotions? Beware of consumer backlash." username="hostgator"] Because of the backlash, some merchants and malls are using their decision to close on Thanksgiving as a marketing tool to cast their businesses as traditional, pro-employee, and pro-family time. A spokeswoman for Mall of America described the shopping center’s decision to close on Thanksgiving this year as giving the day back to workers and families. Before you decide to close or stay open, think about how your customers will view your decision.  

    5. Do your customers expect your store to be open on Thanksgiving?

    There are practical customer issues to consider, too. Do your customers expect you to be open for business on Thanksgiving? If not, they may assume you’re closed and go elsewhere, even if they do indulge in some Gray Thursday shopping. If you sell something people might need at the last minute, like groceries or alcohol, it may be worth staying open. Otherwise, you need to weigh the costs of staying open and the costs of promoting your Thanksgiving Day hours against the potential for lower-than-usual sales. If your online shop is mobile-optimized and has a customer base of under-35s, regular support and staffing on Thanksgiving might make financial sense. These shoppers are more interested in mobile shopping and less offended by early holiday promotions than older shoppers, according to the survey. These customers may visit your shop on their phones on Thanksgiving Day as a way to alleviate boredom, tune out dinner-table conversation they don’t like, or get a jump on their holiday shopping. [bctt tweet="If your customers are #millennial aged, make sure your #GrayThursday promotion is mobile-friendly." username="hostgator"]  

    Your Gray Thursday pro and con list

    There’s a lot that goes into this decision, so let’s recap. The main issues are:
    • Will your target customers shop your store on Thanksgiving?
      • If so, will they spend enough to offset your higher employee and promotional costs and the value of your own holiday time?
      • If not, might they be turned off by what they see as “Christmas creep?”
    • Will you have time to monitor your shop or will you be focused on travel and family?
    • Will your customers expect same-day customer service?
    • Finally, will your support services, like your web host and your payment service provider, be available to give you real-time assistance if there’s an issue with your site or online checkout? (In case you're wondering, the HostGator support team will be available 24 hours on Thanksgiving Day, just as we are every other day of the year.)
    Just as there’s no single right answer for major retail chains and malls, there’s no one answer for all small businesses. The decision to open or close for Thanksgiving is ultimately up to what you and your customers want.   We want to hear from you! What is your plan for Gray Thursday this year?
  • Is Your Business Ready For Small Business Saturday?

    Tuesday, October 25, 2016 by
    Small Business Saturday We hear a lot of talk about how important small businesses are. They employ over a third of the people working in this country. They encourage innovation, contribute to the economy, and represent the American dream to many people. For all the talk though, people aren’t always quick to show their appreciation for small businesses in their buying choices. Small Business Saturday is a day each year committed to encouraging consumers to put their money where their mouth is. Last year, more than 95 million consumers participated in Small Business Saturday. If you run a small business, this is an important opportunity you don’t want to pass up. [bctt tweet="Over 95 million shoppers participated in #SmallBizSat last year. Don't miss out in 2016." username="hostgator"] This year, Small Business Saturday falls on November 26, so you still have some time to prepare. Here are five steps you can take to make the most of Small Business Saturday 2016.

    1. Make sure you’re well stocked with items that make good gifts.

    You know what people are looking for on November 26. Some may pick up a few items for themselves if they see good enough deals, but most of the consumers that head to your store that day will be looking for holiday gifts. Do an audit of what’s available in your store now (whether it’s a storefront, web store, or both) to identify which items you feel are the most likely to end up wrapped up as gifts this holiday season. Consider if you have items that can be re-packaged or bundled to make them work even better as gifts. Brainstorm ways to optimize the merchandise you have so it’s well suited for holiday gift giving season. If people see lots of great gift opportunities in your store, the likelihood of spending their money with you will increase significantly.  

    2. Increase your marketing efforts.

    Think strategically about how to use your marketing channels and tactics to drive people to your small business on Small Business Saturday. This probably means putting less focus on your long-term marketing strategies like SEO for the moment, and increasing your investment in the marketing tactics that drive fast results like PPC ads, promotions on your website homepage, and using social media to broadcast your upcoming deals and involvement in Small Business Saturday. American Express conveniently provides customizable marketing materials for businesses participating in Small Business Saturday. Take a couple of minutes to customize them for your business, then use them to promote your involvement on your website, social media, and your physical storefront (if you have one).  

    3. Offer attractive deals and special pricing.

    This time of year, anything you can offer to sweeten the pot will make customers more likely to buy. Consider what deals to offer. Are you open to providing a storewide Small Business Saturday discount, or maybe a discount for anyone that spends at least a certain amount of money? Maybe you could provide free gift wrapping or free shipping to anyone that orders something on that day? You could offer coupons or special deals to people on your email list to make them feel special. Or you can get clever with your marketing and provide a special code to people who visit your website or see your promotions on social media that earns them an extra 5% off. Whatever you do, make sure you offer something. A lot of other small businesses will be doing so, so your customers are going to expect it. And the volume of buyers will likely offset any profits you might lose through discounted prices.    

    4. Make sure you schedule plenty of staff for the day itself.

    One thing you don’t want customers to face on Small Business Saturday when they walk through the door is an extremely long line. If things just get so busy that it’s unavoidable, that’s life, but do your best to make sure you have plenty of staff available to help customers out. Ideally, Small Business Saturday will help bring new customers your way, so you want to make sure the experience they have their first time (and that your regulars have as well) is an outstanding one. If you play your cards right, you could earn yourself some customers for life with the help of Small Business Saturday promotions.     

    5. Get in the community spirit.

    Small Business Saturday is about you, but it’s not just about you. It’s about the larger small business community and, in particular, the small businesses that are a part of your local community. Figure out a way to show your larger support to the community. That could mean donating a portion of what you make that day to local causes. It could mean partnering with other small businesses nearby to help send customers each other’s way. The people coming your way on Small Business Saturday care about the community, or they wouldn’t be all that concerned with supporting small businesses to begin with. Show them you care too and your shared values could help inspire customer loyalty that goes far beyond one day a year.
  • How They Did It: Detroit Entrepreneurs Share Website Tips

    Monday, October 24, 2016 by
    Detroit Entrepreneurs

    Detroit is having a small business renaissance as local entrepreneurs bring their ideas to market and help to revitalize the city’s economy. Thousands of current and soon-to-be business owners attended Startup Week Detroit this summer, and small business investment and grants are flowing into the area. Even in such a supportive environment, starting a successful business takes a lot of work, careful planning, and good advice from experienced small-business owners. We asked two experienced Detroit solopreneurs, DeAndre Glover of Jireh Photography and Tracey Patterson of Tranndee Tech, to share their website tips for new business owners.


    1. Show your work

    Wedding photographer DeAndre Glover understands that the images he captures are “not just snapshots but actual art” featuring his clients on their special day. To make the point clearly and show prospective clients what he can do for them, his company’s website ( has a huge image gallery filled with shots ranging from bridesmaids posing with attitude to sweeping chapel images and romantic first-dance photos.

    Glover said he set up his site within six months of starting his business to generate leads. “My website has definitely been my calling card. The majority of the time clients tell me, ‘I've been on your website and love your work. I want to hire you.’” He recommends that all photographers have a website that features “a strong portfolio, straight-to-the-point information about your services, and a few ways to contact you.”

    Wedding Photography Website Gallery


    2. Build your brand

    Tracey Patterson’s background includes teaching and writing about computer technology, marketing, and web site design. She specializes in site design and one-on-one technology tutoring. Her website ( has a deliberately clean and simple design to appeal to customers who want help but may find computers and flashy websites intimidating.

    Computer Consulting Website

    The site’s streamlined appearance is an important branding element, because it helps her business stand out in a field with “lot and lots of competition for web design and web marketing.” She recommends that other new businesses include a strong homepage, opt-in tools (such as a contact form) for customers to reach you, and ongoing search engine optimization for better visibility in search results.


    3. Choose reliable service partners

    Both Glover and Patterson use HostGator to host their business websites. Each said they initially chose HostGator because we offered the best prices, but they stayed with us for other reasons. “You can always reach customer service and the control panel is easy to work with,” Patterson said. “They provide stellar service and support,” Glover said. Because their sites are such important elements of their marketing programs, reliable service and usability are crucial. 

    HostGator Website Builder


    4. Know where your leads are coming from

    Like many small businesses, Jireh Photography and Tranndee Tech get most of their leads from word of mouth. Glover’s wedding photography business also gets lots of referrals from social media to his site. Jireh’s Facebook page features samples of Glover’s work, wedding-planning tips, and special events like bridal expos where engaged couples can meet Glover in person. Patterson says she gets a large number of leads from keyword searches, and she also links her Tranndee Tech site to her LinkedIn professional profile to show her extensive IT and training background.

    Tracey Patterson


    5. Keep learning and keep improving

    Patterson and Glover both say that the key to success is continual growth and improvement. The best thing new professional photographers and other creative business owners can do, Glover says, is to “study your craft endlessly and let your work speak for itself. Love what you do and the money will come.” A steady pace is important, too. “Don't doubt yourself, and do a little bit every day,” Patterson said. That’s a formula for individual small-business success and perhaps also for Detroit’s rebirth as a hub of creative new businesses.

    [bctt tweet="'Don't doubt yourself, and do a little bit every day.' - #TechEntrepreneur advice from @tranndee" username="hostgator"]