Monday, October 16, 2017 by Casey Kelly-Barton
From Blogs to Riches: 3 Famous Entrepreneurs Who Started Out As BloggersBlog-to-riches is the digital-age version of the traditional success story: A scrappy and determined person starts a small blog and then writes, podcasts, or shoots their way to fame and fortune. The reality check is that in 2016 there were more than six million active “traditional” blogs and twice that number of people blogging via social media channels like Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. How can you make your blog stand out from the crowd, build a loyal following, and maybe grow into a profitable business? Here are three very different blogs-to-riches success stories to teach us by example.
Blogger-Turned-Entrepreneur #1: Ree Drummond of The Pioneer WomanRee Drummond has been on the cover of People magazine, her fifth cookbook comes out in October, and her Food Network show, Pioneer Woman, is in its seventh season. Drummond also has a housewares brand, a magazine, a restaurant, and a hotel under construction. She's built this lifestyle enterprise in just eleven years. Her success grew out of her personal blog—also called The Pioneer Woman—about her raising and homeschooling four kids with her rancher husband in rural Oklahoma. Today, the blog is still the cornerstone of Drummond's business, where she regularly shares recipes, project updates, pictures of her town, and stories about her family and friends. Somehow, in the middle of all of this work and raising teenagers, she also blogs for Land O'Lakes, too.
What new bloggers can learn from Ree Drummond:Find your voice and use it to describe things you love. Perhaps more than any other star “mom blogger,” Drummond writes in a clear voice and uses it to help her readers fall in love with her way of life. Her blog today feels just as folksy and friendly (and funny) as it did a decade ago, and readers feel they have a window into her world: one that's focused on family, food, farm life, and getting to know and care about the neighbors. While she's a skilled writer, Drummond didn't create a persona to serve a target market – she just started writing about her rural way of life and nurturing a community of readers who wanted to know more. Her authenticity shines through. Yours can, too.
Vlogger-Turned-Entrepreneur #2: Casey Neistat of Beme/CNNIf you're under 35 and own a smartphone, you probably already know who Casey Neistat is. For the rest of us, Casey Neistat is a vlogger-entrepreneur who—among other things—is building digital video tools for CNN to help them reach Millennials. It's a role he took on after selling his social-media video app, Beme, to the news network for $25 million. Neistat also invests in startups, represents Samsung, and speaks at conferences to encourage other creatives to do the work they want to do. He still makes time to shoot, produce, and share videos about his global travels, product reviews, and his wife Candice Pool Neistat's fashion company, Billy. Neistat has accomplished a lot for a self-described “old man” of 36, and his career arc is even more impressive considering where he started. The Denver Post's recent profile of Neistat sums up his backstory this way: “By age 17... the high-school dropout found himself living in a trailer park, washing dishes for a living and raising his infant son.” With no film-making education, not much free time, and a long history of hearing people tell him he couldn't succeed, Neistat went to work. He moved to New York, worked on his craft of telling stories through video, and had a viral hit about NYC bike-lane safety that drew the attention of city officials and YouTube viewers alike.
What new vloggers can learn from Casey Neistat:Do what you want, and use the gear you have to get started. Neistat says all you need to begin is a phone, an internet connection, and a good idea. Do What You Can't, Neistat's 4-minute video autobiography, lists things authority figures told Neistat he couldn't do – alongside video of Neistat accomplishing all of those goals and more.
So if you want to create a vlog about something you love, do it—even if, and maybe especially if, people have told you that you can't.
Influencer-Turned-Entrepreneur #3: Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde SaladFashion watchers know Chiara Ferragni means business. The Italian designer and blogger, who now lives in Beverly Hills, brings in at least $9 million a year from her shoe and clothing lines, modeling, endorsements, and partnerships with major fashion houses. Forbes recognized Ferragni as the Top Fashion Influencer of 2017 for leading the way in the emerging fashion/social media influencer industry. Ferragni's was the first fashion influencer business to be featured in a Harvard Business Review case study—and that was before she began opening retail stores in Italy and China. While doing all of that, she's also graced the covers of dozens of international fashion magazines and earned a special edition Barbie made in her likeness. Before she was a fashion icon and tycoon, Ferragni was a law student in Italy with a personal blog called The Blonde Salad. She told Forbes that her diary-style posts and photos drew lots of questions about her wardrobe, so she took the blog in that direction. She also used Instagram to expand her sphere of influence. Today, Ferragni has more than 10 million Instagram followers, and The Blonde Salad is a digital fashion magazine and online store with a team of twenty staffers.
What new bloggers can learn from Chiara Ferragni:Share the love. Like Drummond, Ferragni blogs about what she loves—fashion, friends, and travel. Ferragni is also, like Neistat, a natural collaborator, as her work with Gucci, Chanel, and other fashion houses shows. Ferragni's enthusiasm for fashion is contagious. Her work with others in the industry has raised her brand's visibility to the point where she's the acknowledged “It Girl” and has earned her fans—and customers—from Los Angeles to Shanghai. The takeaway for new bloggers is to use social media to amplify your blog's reach and to reach out to others in your niche for new projects, cross-promotion, and creative cross-pollination. Ready to start your journey from blogger to entrepreneur? HostGator has WordPress plans that make it easy to design your site, manage your content, and start posting.
Getting Started With Marketing Automation: 5 Things To Do FirstLearning a new business process takes time and money. You have to train team members and select software that fits your budget. Right now, many companies are evaluating their options when it comes to marketing automation. The primary question being asked: Is it worth the investment? Colin Bentley, group product manager at Intercom, offers his opinion. “The key benefit of marketing automation is its ability to provide a personal experience that directly relates to the action each person takes. Good marketing automation creates a connected set of personalized and relevant messages that enrich the customer journey and help them discover and use your products.” If you’re struggling to make a decision, no worries. Here are five things you should do before investing in marketing automation.
1. Assess How You Identify Qualified LeadsEvery consumer that walks into your store or visits your website isn’t going to fit your ideal customer type. And that’s okay. You don’t want to be all things to everybody. However, it is your responsibility to filter through potential leads and determine who can benefit from your products and services. For example, a high-end shoe enthusiast won’t find your comfortable, low-priced sneakers appealing but a cash-strapped father might. Qualifying leads requires examining your customers’ demographic profiles and behaviors. Specific actions can indicate a consumer is ready to move to the next step in the sales funnel. We call this process lead scoring. Below is a chart from Wishpond listing a few possible actions that hold significance in identifying leads. Marketing automation makes lead scoring easier for your team. Instead of tallying your consumers’ actions with pencil and paper, there’s software that can automatically do these tasks for you. It’ll record what actions occur and notify your team when prospects become leads. eMarketeer reports that “companies that nurture prospects with the help of marketing automation, see a 451% increase in qualified leads.” If you’re still guessing whether a visitor is a lead or not, marketing automation is a natural next step for your business.
2. Study Your Current Nurturing ProcessGone are the days where a consumer learns about your brand, sees your merchandise, and buys your product immediately. Competition is fierce in the marketplace today, and with choice comes consumers’ hesitations to purchase things quickly. When a consumer comes across your product, they start investigating. They ask their friends about your brand and even visit multiple review sites to get other people’s opinions. The time it takes to make a purchasing decision has extended. For your business, this means creating a nurturing process to keep buyers interested while they do a little research. Lead nurturing is a major part of the sales cycle. You’re educating and engaging consumers to persuade them to purchase. Nurturing activities may include making courtesy calls, sending promotional emails, or suggesting a blog content to read. The entire process is tedious and involves several courses of action. How you nurture a teen buyer would be different from how you would nurture a middle-aged consumer. Then, you must factor in the individual’s interests and buying motivations. With marketing automation, you can create the system and then run the lead nurturing process on autopilot (with some supervision). For instance, you can automatically send consumers an email with a coupon after they abandon a shopping cart. No more reminding yourself to follow up; let the software do the heavy lifting.
3. Track Marketing ActivitiesYour team is working on a big project to increase customer retention. It’s a brand-new initiative with no set procedure. So, everyone is basically creating steps from scratch. As retention ticks upward, the team declares the project a victory. So your boss wants to replicate the success. But there’s one major problem. No one on the team tracked the marketing activities. You don’t even know how much time it took to achieve results. While it may seem obvious to record marketing activities, this mistake is common in many businesses. Tivi Jones, a contributor for The Arizona Republic, offers her insight on the topic: “Keeping track of your marketing projects regularly enables you to not only monitor your activities, but also your results. Based on your current marketing goals and objectives, set up marketing projects or campaigns in order to group activities and results into chunks you can manage and analyze for return on investment.” Don’t know which marketing strategy led to results? Marketing automation may be your solution. The right tool can track what marketing activities you did and when you implemented them. For instance, if you run an A/B test in January and forget which strategy won, you can retrieve the results in May when you revisit the problem.
4. Gauge Your Personalization StrategiesAs more businesses open their doors, the market becomes more crowded. Consumers get bombarded with messages from their local gyms, doctors, and chain retailers. Everyone is vying for the buyer’s attention. Breaking out of the mold may seem difficult. Because, quite frankly, it is challenging to showcase your brand and product when 20 other competitors exist. But the battle isn’t impossible. Stop thinking about how you can be different. Instead, communicate differently to your target audience. Personalization combined with marketing automation opens doors to nurturing your consumers based on their desires. Nearly two-thirds of email marketers worldwide use email automation, according to a GetResponse survey. However, only 25.4% of email marketers are personalizing with dynamic content. Marketing automation offers a unique opportunity to integrate specific customer data into your email campaigns, sales collateral, and site messaging. By eliminating the boilerplate text, you show customers that you really understand their needs.
5. Understand How You Collect DataData is a hot topic for businesses. Experts advise teams to collect every single piece of data to understand their customers. So, that’s what most companies do. They gather data from a recent campaign, pull information from an old database, and import contacts from an external source. Before you know it, teams have accumulated data from 20 to 30 different places. Then, after it’s collected, the data sits idle on a supervisor’s desktop, waiting to be accidentally deleted. This isn’t a sound strategy. Marketing automation can help your team centralize all your data. That way, you’re getting accurate information to make better judgment calls. If you need to look up a new customer, the data is at your fingertips, rather than a filing cabinet. “We track every single acquisition channel through which our users register. This includes blog posts, press, organic search, paid ads, partnerships, etc. We do weekly meetings to review the data. It shows which channels convert the highest, generate the most loyal users and more,” says Danny Boice, founder of Speek. You don’t want your data scattered around like toys in a child’s playpen. If it takes you days to find your data, it might be time to invest in marketing automation.
Get Ready to AutomateIntroducing marketing automation into your business is a big decision. You want to be well-informed before you take the leap. Evaluate how you identify qualified leads in your pipeline. Track your marketing tasks during campaigns. And of course, assess how you currently gather data. Get informed. Then, invest in marketing automation.
Monday, October 16, 2017 by Kevin Wood
How Do You Know if a WordPress Plugin or Theme Will Work?When you’re on the search for new plugins or themes you’re going to have a lot to dig through. After all, there are thousands upon thousounds of themes and plugins for you to choose from. The last thing you want to do is rush your plugin or theme selection and end up choosing one that will compromise your online efforts. Choosing low-quality themes or plugins can lead to slower sites, sites that break easily, and can even leave you open to security risks. Below we offer a few tips that will help you ensure you’re choosing a high-quality theme or plugin before you decide to buy it or install it on your site.
1. Only Download From Reliable SourcesOne of the first steps to choosing a high-quality theme or plugin is to only download or purchase from reliable sources. Chances are, when you’re spending money on a theme or plugin it’s already going to be of higher quality. But, you’ll still want to thoroughly research the plugin or theme beforehand. Below we offer a few more things you’ll want to look out for when selecting a new plugin or theme. Follow these guidelines whether you’re purchasing from a marketplace or using the WordPress theme directory or plugin directory. If you’re looking for a solid source of premium WordPress themes, then ThemeForest, Elegant Themes, and StudioPress are all great resources to check out.
2. Check User Reviews and FeedbackUser reviews and customer feedback don’t lie. If the plugin or theme you’re thinking about has a very low star rating, then it’s probably for good reason. However, it’s also important to keep the total number of reviews in mind. If it only has a small number of reviews, then it will be hard to glean a factual option based on the feedback provided. By reading reviews you’ll be able to learn things like how secure it is, how often any technical issues occur, and anything else that you might worry about when installing a new plugin or theme.
3. Check the Latest Update DateThis is a very important bit of information. You’d hate to install a plugin that never receives developer updates. This will lead to potential security risks and could even lead to plugin and theme conflicts down the road. Ideally, you’d like to see updates that have occurred no longer than a few months ago. This means the developer or development team is actively maintaining the theme or plugin and working to improve it.
4. Number of Active InstallsIt’s not pure fact, but chances are, the more people who have installed and are using the theme or plugin, the better it’s going to be. It wouldn’t make sense for a large number of site owners to use a plugin or theme that doesn’t work.
5. Look at Their SupportNot every plugin or theme has a dedicated support team. It’s not completely necessary and depends upon the complexity of the plugin or theme. But, most high-quality themes and plugins do have some form of support. It can be helpful to check this out beforehand, so you’ll know you’ll be taken care of if any technical issues arise. Beyond support, you should also look for plugin and theme documentation that will help with setup and plugin or theme customization. 6. WordPress Compatibility Before you end up choosing a WordPress plugin or theme you’ll want to double check that it’s compatible with the latest version of WordPress. The WordPress core is updated on a regular basis, without your plugins and themes being updated you could run into a conflict that could break your site. Hopefully, the tips above will help you make a better decision when it comes to choosing a new theme or plugin. Remember that plugin and theme selection is very important. The more time you can spend researching, the more likely you are to end up with something that will benefit your site. Are there any selection parameters you use to filter the good from bad plugins and themes? Please share in the comments below.
Monday, October 16, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
8 Ways To Fix Your Website's High Bounce RateIf you’re like most website owners, you put a lot of effort into getting people to come to your website. Your SEO efforts, your PPC campaigns, your content marketing – all of it’s meant to help people learn about your business and find your website. But all that investment you’re making isn’t worth much if the people who come to your website don’t stick around. Your bounce rate is an important metric to help you understand whether or not your website is doing its job once people land on it. Google Analytics knows it’s important, which is why they put it right upfront when you first log in. What’s normal for a bounce rate can vary widely, but an average bounce rate is usually somewhere in the 40-55% range. If you feel like yours is too high and you want to do something about it, your first step is to do some sleuthing to figure out the likely cause.
Common Causes of High Bounce RatesMost high bounce rates are caused by one a few key issues with your website. Here are the main things to look for when trying to track down the issue with yours.
1. Broken linksIf people navigate to your website from an outdated link that no longer works, they’ll be seeing a 404 page rather than what they’re looking for. In most cases, that gives them little reason to stick around. This kind of issue can occur if you moved your website to a new domain or did an overhaul of the site that included changing some of your URLs. Any old links on your own website and others pointing to those pages will now fail to take people where they expect to go, which makes them more likely to leave the site altogether. The fix(es): You have a few steps to take in response to broken links. To start, find and fix the broken links on your own website. Run your website through a tool like Broken Link Check. Once you have a list of broken links on your website, get to work fixing them. Not all of them will be links back to your own pages, but go ahead and fix the broken outbound links as well to improve user experience on your website. Next, work on improving your 404 page. You probably can’t keep your visitors from ever experiencing a 404 page again, but you can definitely control what they see when they do. Make sure it’s entertaining and helpful, and that it makes it easy for them to try and search and find whatever they were looking for to begin with. Finally, the hardest step here is figuring out how to deal with broken external links. You can’t control what other webmasters do and it’s not easy to identify the broken links out on the wide web. But you should be able to spot a few of them with the help of Google Search Console. Once you have it up, click on Crawl Errors and you’ll see a list of links that Google experienced errors with on their crawls. You can click on an individual link, then click Source to see where it’s coming from. Unless you know the webmaster, you can’t expect to change the link on the website itself, but what you can do is set up a 301 redirect that takes the incorrect URL to the right page. That way people who click end up on the page they’re looking for without ever knowing the difference.
2. Slow loading timesThere was a time when everyone expected to have to wait for the internet to connect and sites to load. Now that most of the web loads at lightning speed, people don’t have that kind of patience anymore. Most people won’t wait around longer than two seconds for your website to load. If it’s taking longer than that, they’ll bounce before they ever see what you have to say. The fix: You need a better hosting provider. While website features like images that are too large and flash video can slow your website down, the main problem behind most slow sites is a slow host. If you’re getting more traffic than your hosting plan can handle, then it may be time for an upgrade. If you’re pretty sure traffic isn’t the issue, then you may just need a new hosting provider altogether.
3. Too many pop-ups and adsPeople hate pop-ups. 68% of people say they’d gladly block a site from search for having pop-ups and the ad technique has a 73% disapproval rating in surveys. Other types of ads don’t inspire quite the same level of ire, but people still feel they see too many ads in general and are less likely to want to hang out on sites where they feel bombarded by advertising. That doesn’t mean your website can’t get away with having any ads at all. 83% of people say that not all ads are bad, but the ads that feel intrusive and distract from what they’re actually looking for on a site are a problem. The fix: Test out different ways of displaying ads. If you’re going to use ads on your website, do A/B testing to figure out the best designs for using them that don’t drive people away. If you’re using pop-ups, either stop using them entirely, or do testing to figure out the least intrusive way to use them in order to still get results, such as having them show up only after people have reached the end of the content and making it easy to close the pop-up window.
4. Autoplay videosHave you ever been browsing the internet in a public place, clicked through to a website, and suddenly found yourself to be that guy – you know, the one whose computer is blaring noise that everyone around you now has to listen to. Even when you’re sitting at home alone, autoplay videos are obnoxious. And closing out the page entirely is often easier than trying to find the pause button to shut off the sound. 82% of people have closed out a page because of an autoplay video. They’re intrusive and they contribute to a bad user experience. The fix: Just don’t do it. Don’t set the videos on your website to play automatically. Trust that people who want to see your video can figure out how to press play and you won’t lose all the people who don’t want to see it before they get a chance to look at anything else on your website.
5. Content that’s not what was promisedThe bait-and-switch never works out well. If your PPC ads and title tags suggest people will be coming to a page that provides one thing and they get another, they’re not going to be happy. Why stick around when they aren’t getting what they want and, worse, they feel lied to? The fix: Do a review of all your PPC copy and meta tags. Make sure that the information your prospects see before they click matches what they’ll get when they arrive on the page. Correct any information that isn’t currently accurate and make sure moving forward that all new ads and pages will provide accuracy as well.
6. Bad web designHave you ever clicked away from a website because the design was ugly and outdated? A website that looks stuck in the 90’s doesn’t inspire trust in visitors. It looks unauthoritative and makes people figure they’re better off looking for information elsewhere. [caption id="attachment_13372" align="aligncenter" width="491"] http://www.angelfire.com/on4/grapefruit/index.html[/caption] Your website could look fine and still have design issues though. If people find it hard to navigate and get to what they’re looking for, they’re more likely to give up and look for what they need somewhere else. The fix: Update your web design. If you haven’t done a website redesign in a while, make this your incentive to do so. Hire a good designer or check out the available web builders. If you don’t have one yet, add an easy-to-spot search feature to your website to make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for. And do user testing to make sure your navigation is intuitive so people are more likely to browse rather than bounce.
7. Your page isn’t mobile optimized.People spend an average of five hours a day on their mobile devices, and almost a third of all shopping done online is on mobile. If you’ve done much browsing on a mobile device yourself, you know that a bad user experience on that small screen is, if anything, worse than one on a computer screen. If people don’t have patience for bad design on a computer, they definitely won’t on a mobile device. And the stats bear that out; bounce rates are 40% higher on mobile than on desktop. The fix: Optimize your site for mobile. Get this done ASAP. A lot of your visitors are coming from mobile devices and you need to make sure their experience on your site is as good as that of your desktop visitors.
8. Your content’s no good.Whether it’s due to spelling errors, bad formatting, or because the information’s not helpful, if people are landing on your site and simply don’t find the content there useful, there’s no reason for them to stick around. Content marketing is a competitive game and your visitors know that if yours doesn’t deliver, someone else’s will. Why would they settle? The fix: Invest more in content marketing. Make sure you’re only publishing high-quality content that’s get enough to impress the people that come to your website and make them want to come back for more. It’s hard to do, but it can make a big difference in reducing those bounce rates and ensuring you start to build ongoing relationships with the people who land on your website. Take some time to analyze what’s going on and see what diagnosis you can provide. As soon as you spot the problem, you can make a move toward the fix and get people to stick around longer and engage more with your brand. A site visit is only worth so much – a subscriber or regular visitor is worth far more.