Friday, February 10, 2017 by Kevin WoodConverting cold traffic into warm leads and eventual customers can be quite the difficult process. After all, cold visitors don’t know what your website is about, and aren’t familiar with anything you’re doing. One of the best methods to transform this traffic into new subscribers is through utilizing the power of a landing page. However, not just any landing page will do. You need a landing page that’s properly optimized to address the concerns of your audience in such a way they literally can’t wait to hand over their email address. Below we cover a few central elements that every high converting landing page needs to have to be effective. Ready? Let’s dive in.
Monday, February 6, 2017 by Shayla PriceToday, readers have several options to choose from when it comes to blogs. And with so many choices, it’s up to bloggers to separate themselves from the competition. The goal is to build a readership that believes in your values, shares your content, and engages with your community. “If you want to build a better blog, you need a thriving audience based around your blogging community. And you can only build a great community around your blogs when you have active readership,” states Harsh Agrawal, founder and CEO of ShoutDreams, Inc. Increasing your blog readership is possible. Here are five ways to get started.
1. Create Quality ContentCreating remarkable content is one of the top priorities for bloggers. Without it, your blog will lag in comparison to others in your industry space. But what is quality content? And how do you produce it? The best content speaks directly to your audience. It will address their interests and provide solutions to their problems. When writing blog posts, make sure you avoid jargon and convoluted details. Stick to telling stories that will earn and maintain the person’s attention. “Quality content is easy to read and understand, and matches the preferences of the audience for which it’s intended. Using a tool like the Readability-Score will help you ensure your content matches the reading level, expectations and preferences of your audience,” writes Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers. Research shows that “40% of people will respond better to visual information than to plain text.” So, experiment with adding photos, infographics, and even GIFs to your posts. [bctt tweet="40% of people respond better to visuals than text, so add photos, infographics, GIFs to your blog." username="hostgator"] Joy the Baker blog is very effective at including mouthwatering pictures along with its recipes. Readers not only receive step-by-step directions on how to prepare meals, but also see enticing images to encourage them as they cook. To grow your audience, first focus on producing quality content. Give people a reason to scroll through your posts.
2. Ask Readers to SubscribeOne of the reasons why your blog readership isn’t increasing is simple. You’re not asking readers to subscribe. Avoid falling into the trap of thinking people will do something without a distinct call-to-action. Offer readers the option to subscribe to your RSS feed or to sign up for your email announcements. [bctt tweet="One reason why your blog readership isn’t increasing? You’re not asking readers to subscribe." username="hostgator"] There are several ways to persuade your casual visitors to become devout readers. You can insert a subscription call-to-action within the post. This tactic makes it unavoidable for the individual to forget to sign up. You also can include a static sign-up form on your sidebar, so no matter what page the reader lands on he or she can take the necessary steps to subscribe. In the example below, Ramit Sethi of the I Will Teach You To Be Rich blog takes a different approach, he uses pop-up boxes that offer readers a small gift to convince them to take action. How can you lure more people to become active readers? Try giving away a free ebook, a quick checklist, or access to an exclusive event. If you want more readers, then start asking. And give your subscribers something in return for their loyalty.
3. Host Creative ContestsYou get a prize! You get a prize! And you get a prize! Contests are the hallmark of active community participation. People love competing in competitions with the chance to earn cool rewards. Think about the last time you entered a contest. The anticipation drives you crazy. And if you’ve ever won a contest, you probably were ecstatic and told all your friends. [bctt tweet="Contests are the hallmark of active community participation. Use them to draw people to your blog." username="hostgator"] When hosting a contest, create rules that are simple for everyone to understand. Tell readers what they need to do to participate and how prizes will be determined. It’s also wise to post deadlines in bold, red font. Rewards should appeal to the readers’ interests. If you’re a food blogger, a cookbook or a private cooking lesson would be perfect. If you’re a sports blogger, try a team jersey or an autographed cap. Protect your blog from any legal action. To ensure you’re adhering to local laws, contact your legal team or hire an attorney to discuss online contests. Use competitions as a tool to draw people to your blog. It’s an added perk to building relationships with readers. Contests really work to increase readership. When we hosted our HostGator Holiday Weekend Giveaway during Black Friday, we saw 4 times as many blog signups than we typically do in a similar timeframe.
4. Build a Social Media CommunityYour blog isn’t just a conversation between you and the reader. It’s also an opportunity for readers to meet and talk with one another. As you build your brand, invest time in creating a social media community for your audience to share and discuss topics together. This engagement will bring camaraderie and expand your blog’s reach. [bctt tweet="Your blog isn’t just a convo between you & the reader. It’s also for readers to talk w/each other." username="hostgator"] Select one to two social networks that your readers love. Then, observe how they use the platforms in their everyday lives. As you gather this information, focus on how your blog can add to the conversation. For instance, if you’re a fashion blogger, you might post weekly polls about what’s hot and what’s not. And don't feel like every social media interaction needs to be about your brand. It’s actually better to focus on the reader’s interests. “Build a personal communications plan that will enable you to stay engaged with your community. You don't need to be the center of the conversation, but your community members need to know you are there and that you CARE. Ongoing, reliable communication is vital in helping you build and maintain long-term relationships,” says Ravi Shukle, the community king at Post Planner. Aimee Song, a Los Angeles-based interior designer, engages with her readers on Instagram. With more than 4 million followers, she posts inspirational images around her apparel and jewelry lines. Take advantage of social media to jumpstart your readership. Community building leads to an active audience.
5. Partner with BrandsYou can’t accomplish your goals alone. Therefore, it might be time to enlist the help of others. Partner with brands that already engage with your targeted reader. From clothing retailers to local bookstores, your audience can be found interacting with various brands. Find out where people shop, play, and eat. Then, contact those businesses to learn about or propose partnership deals. But before you take the plunge, make sure the brand fits your values and represents a positive perception. You don't want to be attached to a partner that devalues your readers’ goals and lifestyles. “Taking ‘vanity projects’ that aren’t actually a good fit for your readers doesn’t help anyone. Look for opportunities to find a brand that’s an ideal fit for your readers, regardless of the name recognition the company already has,” states Jeni Elliott, founder of The Blog Maven. Also, decide how you will collaborate with brands. You can focus on advertising space on websites. Or you may want to host a Facebook Live event together. It’s essential to discuss the stipulations of the agreement. Your blog and your partner should both benefit from the relationship. Take your blog to the next level. Team up with a brand to increase your blog subscribers.
Boost Your ReadershipIt’s time to get more people interested in your content. So, adopt a plan to grow your audience. Create quality content that connects to the reader. Ask people to subscribe with easy to find sign-up forms. And host contests that engage people to visit your blog regularly. Build your blog community to increase your readership.
Thursday, February 2, 2017 by Casey Kelly-BartonAre you intimidated by the prospect of customers reviewing your business online? A string of positive reviews of your business from satisfied customers can help you win new customers. Even the occasional bad review isn’t necessarily bad news if you know how to handle it right. Here’s a rundown of online review site do’s and don’ts for small business owners.
3 Online Review Do's for Small Business Owners
1. Do thank reviewers for their feedbackYour customers’ time is valuable, and feedback is information you can use to improve your business or keep it on the right track. Whether your reviewers leave a positive, negative, or middling review, take a moment to thank them for sharing their experience. This shows each one that you value their input. Try to leave a slightly different response on each review, though, to show that you’re responding personally and not just copy-pasting boilerplate replies. Thank-yous also show prospective shoppers that you’re paying attention to the customer experience. This can increase the likelihood that they’ll buy from you, because they know that if there’s an issue, they can trust you to work to resolve it.
2. Do invite customers to contact you directly with concernsThe simplest way to keep customers from leaving negative reviews is to keep their experiences with your business as positive as possible. Customers leave bad reviews when they’re frustrated and feel disrespected, so do your best to avoid slighting your shoppers. Provide great service, follow up with customer satisfaction surveys to spot problems before they spill over onto review sites, and treat each problem as an opportunity to show your customers how much you care about their experience. That said, listening to upset customers isn’t easy. It can be hard to hear criticism of your business without jumping immediately to your own defense, but it’s something every successful business owner must learn to do. Effective listening is a business skill that you can master with practice, and it’s the best way to resolve customer concerns before they turn into an angry online review. [bctt tweet="The best defense against negative reviews is providing outstanding experiences for customers." username="hostgator"]
3. Do carefully encourage your customers to leave reviewsThere are different schools of thought about asking customers to leave online reviews. Yelp officially discourages businesses from explicitly requesting customer reviews. Instead, Yelp recommends that businesses link to their Yelp profile on their site and in their email signature line. “Find Us on Yelp” signs can steer customers toward your reviews without making a direct ask. Other marketing experts, though, advise asking for reviews in a variety of ways, such as inviting fans to upload video reviews to your YouTube channel and offering incentives for leaving any type of – whether it’s good or bad. If you decide to ask your customers directly for reviews, tread carefully. Most consumers are bombarded with review and feedback requests from every business they interact with and can feel annoyed by multiple requests. They may take their business elsewhere if your review requests or incentive programs make them uncomfortable or call your ethics into question. One effective strategy that got me to leave a review for a cleaning service was the knowledge that my cleaners would get a performance bonus if I left a review that described their work and mentioned them by first name. I was happy to do so, because
- The cleaners were different at each service call, so if I didn’t leave a review, I wouldn’t have to face disappointed workers during the next housecleaning.
- The incentive encouraged the cleaners to do great work, while I didn’t get any compensation beyond a clean house, which I was already paying for.
- There was no request for a positive review, only a review that described my experience and mentioned them by first name.
- This company already had a track record of following up with me after each service call for feedback as part of their continuous-improvement program.
3 Online Review Do's for Small Business Owners
1. Don’t respond right away to negative reviewsMost of us don’t enjoy hearing criticism, especially if it’s public and/or harsh. As tempting as it may be to dash off an immediate response to defend your business, wait until you’ve had some time to cool off and think through the best way to respond. Read over this list of ways to respond to negative business reviews, and respond appropriately when you’re ready. A sincere apology, an offer to make the situation right, and private communication with the reviewer can help defuse the situation, show review readers that you care about your customers, and possibly even lead the negative reviewer to come back with a more positive review later on. [bctt tweet="Take a breath before responding to negative #onlinereviews to avoid reacting emotionally." username="hostgator"]
2. Don’t disclose private or personal customer informationEven when you’re responding to glowing reviews, don’t include private or personal information about the customer or their purchase, even if you know them in real life. You may end up tipping off a surprise gift recipient about what they’re getting from Aunt Edna, or you may embarrass a power reviewer who doesn’t want his followers to know what he buys to treat his chronic elbow rash. Discretion in review responses is especially important for healthcare providers, due to HIPAA regulations. The Washington Post has reported on the fines, lawsuits, and other bad outcomes doctors have faced for revealing protected patient information when responding to reviews. If your business falls under HIPAA’s scope, respond to reviews with the utmost care, to avoid violating HIPAA and to show potential patients that you respect their privacy.
3. Don’t fake reviews or “pay for play”Even experienced businesspeople can be tempted to impersonate positive reviews to talk up their business. (Remember the media uproar over Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s embarrassing alter-identify as WFM stock enthusiast ‘Rahodeb”?) Don’t do it, because you’d likely be unmasked at some point, and then your customers’ trust in you will be gone. Along the same lines, don’t tarnish your ethics by offering customers incentives to leave positive reviews. It’s perfectly acceptable to encourage your customers to check out your business profiles and reviews on Yelp, Google, and other platforms. However, your customers’ choice to review--and what they say in their review--should be entirely up to them, uninfluenced by offers from you. If you have a good customer service program in place and are good at responding to customer concerns, those reviews will almost certainly be positive. Want to know how to embed your review site profiles on your website? HostGator Support has the answer for you. What are your tips for managing online reviews? Please share in the comments!
Monday, January 30, 2017 by Miranda PaquetYou’ve taken the plunge and created a website for your business. Maybe you’re even getting some good traffic each time you release a new blog article or website page. Now here’s the tough question… How many of these website visits are translating into real business? The reality is, most people won’t be ready to buy from your business after just one or two visits. Your website visitors need time to get to know your business, products, and services — to decide if they’d like to spend money with you. That’s where email marketing comes in. Email marketing allows you to stay in touch with your website visitors on a regular basis and nurture your leads toward the sale. Let’s look at how you can add email marketing to your website strategy to drive sales:
1. Choose a reliable email marketing service.Rather than using a personal email account — like Gmail, Outlook, AOL, or Yahoo — to communicate with a group of email contacts, look into using a professional email marketing service. An email marketing service ensures your message gets delivered, looks great on any screen size, and is trackable, so you can see who is most engaged with you. Want to give email marketing a try? Sign up for a free 60 day trial of Constant Contact here.
2. Add a sign-up form to your website.Once you’ve signed up for an email marketing service, it’s time to start growing your list. Your website is one of the best channels to entice new subscribers to opt in to your list. You just need to entice them with a visible, convenient, and compelling sign-up experience. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Visible: Feature your sign-up form on every page of your website. That way, if someone is entering your website through social media or search, and isn’t going directly to your homepage, they’ll still know the opportunity to sign up exists.
- Convenient: Keep your sign up experience as simple as possible. If possible, use an embeddable sign-up form, so visitors don’t have to navigate to a separate page to enter their contact form. You should also keep your form short and only ask for the information you need here — usually first name and email address are enough.
- Compelling: “Join our email list” usually won’t be enough to catch a visitor’s attention and inspire them to sign up. Instead, clearly show your visitors what’s in it for them. Highlight the benefits of your list and don’t be afraid to bait people with an incentive.
3. Deliver a fantastic first impression.Has this ever happened to you? You sign up for an email list, and then…nothing. By the time you get a first email from the business, you’ve practically forgotten about them. Don’t let your business fall into this trap! Follow up with a winning Welcome Email that delivers on your promise and reaches your new subscribers when they are highly engaged with you. According to a recent Epsilon study, Welcome Emails receive the highest open rates (60 percent to 70 percent) compared to every other type of marketing email. Set up a Welcome Email to automatically go out on your behalf and start your new relationship on the right foot. Door County Coffee & Tea Co. sends a friendly Welcome Email that includes a recipe made with their whole bean coffee. Not only do they make a positive impression on new subscribers, they’re also driving repeat website visits, and sharing an effective way to use their product.
How can your business benefit from email marketing?With 66 percent of online consumers reporting they have made a purchase as a result of an email marketing message, it’s time to get serious about adding email marketing to your website strategy. Put this three-step strategy into action to connect with your website visitors and drive them towards a sale. Ready to give email marketing a try? Test drive a Constant Contact email marketing account free for 60 days.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017 by Kevin WoodWhen you’re just starting to blog you’re going to have a lot on your plate. Beyond learning how to write for the web and mastering the technical side of posting, you probably have one large question floating around your head. How am I going to get traffic to my blog? You’ve probably already come across dozens of methods to get traffic back to your website. One of the most tried and true methods for sustainable long-term traffic is SEO. But, when it comes to SEO there are a few things you’ll need to get right from the get go. Below we offer seven of our best SEO tips for new bloggers, so you can make sure you’re laying the right foundation for future rankings.
1. Get Your Titles RightYour titles are more important than you might think. Your titles matter a lot when it comes to your rankings. For starters, you should try to include your target keyword in your title, if possible. Second, your title will determine if people are actually going to open and read your posts. People will only share and read titles that are intriguing, so make sure your titles are interesting and relevant. Unsure of how to create epic titles for your blog posts? Then make sure you check out this post from HubSpot.
2. Do Keyword Research FirstBefore you begin writing you should have a solid understanding of the keywords you’re going to rank for. At the very least, understanding which search engine keywords your market is based around will point you in the right direction towards creating useful content. It will also help get you traffic, as having a keyword focus for each post, and optimizing that keyword properly will increase the chances of your post ranking.
3. Quality MattersOne of the biggest elements to focus on should be the quality of your post. In the old days of blogging and SEO you could throw up a crappy, keyword-stuffed post, and the thing would rank. Today search engines are much smarter than that. They want to rank high-quality content as it provides more value to their users - the people who use search engines like Google and Bing to find answers to their questions. Plus, people are more likely to share high-quality content, and other bloggers are more likely to link to it. The quality of your post is directly related to how valuable others find it.
4. Know the Power of LinkingOnsite SEO is just as important as offsite SEO. One great onsite SEO strategy is interlinking all of your content together. Go to Wikipedia to see a site that’s done this effectively. Every single article on their site links out to other content they’ve written dozens of times, at least. Interlinking your content makes it easier for the search engine robots to crawl your site; it helps to disperse link juice throughout your site, and provides more value to your readers.
5. Consider Using a PluginThere are a lot of technical elements you need to get right when it comes to optimizing your blog posts. Instead of trying to do all of these things yourself it can be effective to utilize a plugin like Yoast SEO. This is one of the most commonly used SEO plugins for WordPress, and for good reason. This plugin will help you optimize every single post on your site for SEO, while educating you about the basics of SEO in the process.
6. Focus on Readers Over RobotsYour biggest focus as a blogger should be making your readers happy. By focusing on user experience you’ll improve certain metrics across your site that are good for SEO. For instance, if one of your posts has a low bounce rate and an increased site dwell time (how long a user stays on your site), Google will mark this piece of content as very high-value and it’ll rank much higher. You can watch these metrics using Google Analytics. Delight your readers and see your rankings improve.
7. Know Your NetworkChances are there’s already a network of existing blogs that serving your space. It’s in your best interest to become very familiar with these blogs and network with those who run them. If you continue to produce stellar content, link to them on a regular basis, and share their content across social media, you’ll start to build up a reputation. Often, just a single share or link from these massive sites can do a lot for your traffic levels and rankings. SEO is constantly evolving, but by implementing the practices above, you’ll set yourself and your site up for success in the long run. Having a long-term focus will always be beneficial when it comes to SEO. Any beginner SEO tips we failed to mention above? Share your favorites in the comments below.