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  • Track URLs With Our Free UTM Builder For Small Business

    Thursday, August 11, 2016 by

    UTM Builder

    What if we told you that with just a few tricks, you can track not only the origin of your web traffic, but connect how visitors behave on your website back to the link from which they found it? It's easily possible, completely free, and available regardless of the size of your business.

    Small businesses are often not familiar with the potential capabilities of UTM tracking parameters, which are small tags added to URLs that feed information to Google Analytics. That information includes every variable available for tracking in the platform, ranging from initial visits to bounce rate, time on page, and even conversions.

    Strategically utilizing these UTM tags allows small business marketers to understand exactly where their web traffic is coming from, and how it behaves. For example, you may discover that Facebook generates many more web visits than Google, but that visitors who find you on the search engine stay for longer and convert more frequently. Now, you can use that information to inform and improve your digital marketing efforts.

    All of that sounds technical. But in reality, you can build out your system with little to no HTML knowledge. Thanks to easily available, free tools, you can create unique URLs that you can attach to any individual marketing efforts.

    Keep reading to understand how UTM tracking works, or click here to go directly to our free UTM builder.

    Understanding UTM Tracking Parameters

    As we alluded to in the intro to this post, understanding where your traffic comes from - and how it performs once on your website - is crucial in prioritizing and improving your marketing efforts. As the world's largest free web analytics platform, Google Analytics has found a way to allow marketers to do just that through adding tags to individual URLs.

    The concept is deceptively simple: anything following a '?' in a URL will not be used by your web browser to determine the actual destination of the URL. That allows services like Google Analytics to use it for additional intelligence gathering. Using that functionality, Google has developed UTM tags, so that any tag that begins with utm_ automatically feeds into the platform.

    To keep things simple for marketers, the service has opened this integration to 5 individual, distinguishing parameters:

    • The URL itself. Naturally, this is the most obvious variable: the actual URL to which you want your link to lead. It can be your homepage or a page deeper in the navigation of your website, but has to be a page on your domain to be trackable.
    • The Medium. This is the general area from which your traffic comes. For example, you may want to track links from Social-Media, Email, or CPC (cost-per-click ads).
    • The Source. More specific than the medium, this denotes the exact source of the traffic such as Facebook, Newsletter, or SearchEngine.
    • The Campaign Name. If you run multiple efforts within the same campaign, this parameter allows you to group them together under a single denominator. If, for example, your business is running a Holiday Campaign, you can tag all related marketing efforts under the same campaign name.
    • The Term or Product. As the name suggests, this one is somewhat of a wildcard. Use it either to denote which specific keywords you are running ads for, or which product your marketing effort is targeted on.

    When determining your UTM parameters, you have just a few things to keep in mind: individual parameters cannot contain spaces, and they are case sensitive - meaning that if you use Email in one URL, and email in another, they will register as separate entities within Google Analytics.

    How Small Businesses Can Benefit from UTM Tracking

    Thanks to the five individual variables above, the possibilities for tracking your URLs become almost limitless. Anywhere you use a URL, you can tag it in order to track its success.

    Compare the success of your emails, social media efforts, and any other digital effort seamlessly, using advanced Google Analytics metrics. You can even build in manual URL redirects to use UTM tracking within your printed efforts. For example, the www.sample.com/Test could lead to the actual webpage

    www.sample.comblog-post-on-topic?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social_media&utm_campaign=summer-2016&utm_term=test

    Once your links are tagged, you can use Google Analytics' reporting feature to view the overall success of your marketing efforts, and benchmark it against individual media, sources, or campaigns. If you are taking advantage of the platform's goal tracking capabilities, you can even view how individual variables are converting your visitors.

    Introducing HostGator's Free UTM Builder

    Even we have to admit: the above sounds suspiciously technical. But before you begin to think that you need to have a programming background to take advantage of UTM tagging, don't worry; thanks to easily available, free tools, you can create your own tagged URLs and measure your digital marketing success easily.

    Take, for example, our free UTM Builder for Small Business. Simply enter the variables into the appropriate form, and watch the Google Sheets spreadsheet automatically generate a tagged URL for you. Anytime you use that URL anywhere on the web, the intelligence connected to it will automatically flow into your Google Analytics account.

    Free UTM Builder

    To take full advantage of the UTM Builder, you will have to copy the above link into its own, Google Sheets document. You can do that by clicking File on the top left, and selecting Make a Copy. Simply name the new document, and it will automatically be stored in your Google Sheets directory. From now on, you can locate it easily anytime you need it by navigating to sheets.google.com.

    In short, a UTM tracker can enable even the smallest of businesses to evaluate and benchmark their marketing efforts. Using a simple UTM builder, you can begin tagging your URLs in order to achieve the maximum possible success.

     

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  • How Many Emails Should You Be Sending Your Customers?

    Tuesday, August 2, 2016 by

    How Many Emails

    Seven? Maybe only five… or how about… ummm zero? Per week, month, quarter???

    Yeah, it’s confusing.

    Discovering an email cadence that works for your audience is no easy task. Marketing pro’s like Susan Rutgerson, the Director of Digital Campaigns at Endurance International Group, HostGator's parent company, dedicate their careers to knowing how to do this right, and still find it tricky.

    Rutgerson, who’s tasked with managing millions of email sends each month, says the answer isn’t as simple as once a week or twice a month. The answer, it turns out, is more about content and, more specifically, the value of that content.

    She says, “If the content in your email is highly valued by your readers, you might be able to email them every day, but if your content isn’t strong, once a month could be too often.”

    So, it sounds like there’s no hard and fast email marketing rule, but that to be successful, it’s about providing valuable content to customers.

    Is Email Marketing Still Relevant?

    Let’s back up for a moment and understand if email even still matters as a marketing tool.

    With online video and a social media boom that varies from platforms like Pinterest and Snapchat to real-time beacon technology, do customers give email the time of day?

    The research shows this answer to be emphatically “yes.” Worldwide email users are slated to rise to 2.9 billion by 2019, so business owners would be foolish to discount email marketing as a means of reaching their audience.

    [caption id="attachment_11356" align="aligncenter" width="590"]Number of email users worldwide Source: Statista[/caption]

    Customers also tend to trust emails they signed up to receive more than TV ads, branded websites, online video & banner ads. So, even while there’s more competition in the digital marketing space than ever before, email is indeed still thriving and continuing to grow.

    What Value is This Email Bringing My Customer?

    So, we’ve determined that email marketing is still relevant and that it’s a trusted source of information, but this still doesn’t get us to a precise number of emails we should be sending.

    Rutgerson recommends that before you hit send be sure to ask yourself, “What value is this email really bringing to my customer?” She says, “If you don’t have a good answer, you may want to re-think your strategy.”

    This question of value is the one that must be asked. It’s the closest any of us will get to truly understanding the power of email marketing and to landing on a specific number of sends.

    How to Determine Value?

    Value is inherently subjective, so how can we calculate what that means for each customer?

    A lot of determining value depends on time. Rutgerson explains that “Understanding email frequency has a great deal to do with where your reader is in their relationship to you.”

    For example:

    • New customers: Typically want more info on how to do X, Y, or Z plus new product updates or community-building engagement.
    • At-risk customers: May need special offers, bundled pricing, or testimonials that re-engage them.
    • Tenured customers: Expect less frequent communication, but richer content like case studies, white papers, or eBooks.

    Knowing your audience takes time and active research. Consider each email send a test, and carefully review your analytics to make improvements as you go.

    Oh, and never be afraid to simply ask your audience what they want. This could very well be the most valuable question of all.

  • 7 Ways Online Businesses Can Get the Most Out of Conferences

    Tuesday, July 12, 2016 by

    Online Businesses

    Sure, you can just go to a conference and hope for the best. Or you can take a proactive role in your business and personal growth by following these basic steps.

    Examples are included so you have zero excuses not to sponge up all of the info and connections the conference has to deliver. Get to it!

    Rule #1: Go in with a plan.

    Choose wisely. Know exactly what it is you want to accomplish and learn from each conference you attend—heck, write down your goals! Give yourself measurable guidelines to help you stay on track. For example...

    • Hand out 25 business cards
    • Collect 25 email addresses
    • Add 25 Twitter or LinkedIn followers
    • Find 10 promising business leads
    • Find 1 viable investor
    • Learn X specific detail about running an email marketing campaign (or what you will)

    Rule #2: Connect online.

    Know all of the online resources available to you about the conference and make them your own. Seek out info on presenters and attendees. Connect with them on social media. Do your homework and know people and companies before you arrive. It gives you more talking points and will keep you more engaged.

    • Most conferences have a related hashtag. Search for it to discover other attendees.
    • Some conferences like SXSW have their own social platforms. Don’t miss these exclusive opportunities to connect.

    Rule #3: Announce your attendance.

    Let everyone know you’re attending. It’s not a secret. Use Twitter Polls to ask your customers what they’d like to learn if they were going to the conference or embed a free survey on your website. Be your audience’s advocate. Use this info to create content and build hype around your attendance.

    Rule #4: Give your social media an once-over.

    Since you’re going to be promoting the heck out of this conference, please be sure that your website and social media pages and settings are as up to date as possible--especially LinkedIn & Twitter.

    Rule #5: Mix and mingle.

    Don’t go to a conference only to bury your face in the metaphorical sand that is your phone or laptop. Be mindful, be active, be present. Unless your goals (see Rule #1) include “stare at screen,” you’re likely there to meet real humans, so do it!

    Rule #6: Bring some branded swag.

    Make a splash by bringing fun stuff to give to people. A little company swag goes a long way. Don’t forget to add your business URL to all promo items! Branded pens, stickers, t-shirts, water bottles, and notebooks are all non-intrusive, easy-to-carry items any conference-goer could use.

    Rule #7: Offer an exclusive discount to conference attendees.

    Have an exclusive signup form ready to go on your website that offers other conference attendees (potential customers/referrers/investors) a discount code in exchange for their email address.

    Don’t Forget These Tools In Your Conference Arsenal

    Bring these clutch tools with you for even greater conference success!

    Business Cards: These are a no-brainer. You have to have them. Your task is to make sure they have relevant & updated information. And for the love of all things holy, make sure you have a business email address! iamawesome@aol.com does not cut it.

    (To get your own business email, you'll need your own website. Visit HostGator.com for a great deal and jumpstart your online brand!)

    • Check Vistaprint for some great deals. Pay a few more bucks for glossy finishes or funky shapes that stand out.
    • Time-saving tip: Vistaprint can take your business card brand logo and throw it on to additional swag items (see Rule #5).

    Evernote: The free version of Evernote is like having a circa-1990 Trapper Keeper (and we mean this as a compliment) in your pocket. Take notes, add images, make to-do lists, record audio and stay organized with an intricate tagging system plus as many folders as you’d like.

    Okay, you’re good to go!

    Have any more suggestions for greater conference success? Hit the comments and let us know. We’re always listening...

  • How to Use Instagram to Generate Sales

    Friday, July 8, 2016 by

    How to use Instagram to drive sales

    Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social media networks, and one that is becoming increasingly important to brands and businesses.

    Generating sales on Instagram requires re-thinking traditional marketing tactics, and using a more indirect style to create the necessary trust and loyalty.

    Grow your brand, build loyalty, and then generate sales

    Young consumers are a savvy bunch: They’re comfy with brands but they hate traditional advertising. They skip TV commercials and use ad-blockers on the Internet. What they want from brands, more than anything, is authenticity

    What does this mean for your Instagram presence? It means traditional sales tactics won’t work there - in fact, those tactics will probably alienate your newfound followers and turn them against you. So no hard sells, no constant “buy now” appeals - nothing at all that reeks of actual commerce.

    Instead, create an aesthetic your target buyer will love and a community to which they want to belong. Create beautiful images that don’t just show off your product, but that directly relate to your customers’ lives and aspirations.

    This is true across most social media. Nike’s Facebook feed, for instance, isn’t just nice pictures of shoes and jackets with links to their website. Instead, 60% of their feed is lifestyle content - images aimed directly at their core demographic of hardcore fitness enthusiasts.

    Nike Instagram

    Note: Nearly every post from Nike’s recent Instagram page has over 1 million likes. None of them expressly demands a sale or provides a call to action.

    Ironically, focusing on lifestyle content increased the effectiveness of Nike’s more traditional call-to-action posts, which received an average of 993 shares. (By contrast, Adidas, which posted much less lifestyle content, received an average of only 122 shares on their call-to-action posts.)

    By the way, Snappy’s adventure travels on the HostGator Instagram don’t exactly tell customers to “buy HostGator’s stuff!” It’s just another fun way of getting our brand out into the world, literally.

    HostGator Instagram

    Harness the mighty power of the hashtag

    Like all social media platforms, Instagram posts have a limited shelf life. A few hours after they’re posted, they basically drop off the face of the earth.

    Hashtags are a way to give them a longer life, and to put your brand’s content in front of users who don’t already follow you.

    Hashtags on your posts should be relevant and specific: For instance, #cookies will probably cast a wider net, but #snickerdoodles or #hamantaschen will put you in front of people with a real interest in your product.

    Don’t overdo hashtags, either - a few well-chosen ones will do nicely. Any more than that and you risk looking like you’re trying to sell something.

    Reward your followers with special promotions and secret sales

    In addition to posting content they consistently love, you should also give your followers a little something extra: early access to sales, special discount codes, and Instagram-only promotions.

    It’s another way to make your customers (and potential customers) feel valued, to make your business appear generous, and to generate sales without seeming to actually “sell” anything. Instead of asking for business, you’re bestowing a gift.

    Your followers are themselves a great asset: You can encourage them to post pictures of themselves using or wearing your product, along with a promotional hashtag that’ll help boost their pic beyond their own followers. That cements their attachment to your brand, and also puts your product in front of potential customers in a way that feels organic and, oh yes, authentic.

    Be patient, and the sales will come

    For those used to the old marketing models, generating sales on Instagram can feel counterintuitive. But by creating an engaging and active community, your Instagram feed will attract more fans and followers, and those loyal and engaged followers are more likely to become paying customers.

    [bctt tweet="3 #Instagram Tips for Biz: Use hashtags, share lifestyle content, reward fans with secret sales." username="hostgator"]

    * * *

    By Lauren Barret

  • How Small Businesses Can Master Email Marketing Automation

    Thursday, June 30, 2016 by

    Email Marketing Automation

    Communication is key for your small business.

    With the help of email, you can talk directly to your customers. But as your business grows, it becomes difficult to speak to every single consumer individually.

    That’s where email marketing automation steps in. It gives your team the opportunity to communicate with specific customers without the time-consuming aspect.

    Plus, email is evolving with technology and consumer behavior.

    “What is dead are those random email blasts you used to send to your entire customer list.  In these days of social - personalization, customization and automation are king. Your email marketing needs to keep up,” writes Krista Bunskoek, a digital PR and content marketing consultant.

    Save your team time by targeting the right customer. Let’s master email marketing automation together.

    Benefits of Email Marketing

    People receive several emails throughout the day. Their inboxes are swamped with messages from family, friends, and businesses.

    Despite the increase in messages, email marketing still offers one of the best ROIs.

    Direct Marketing Association revealed that “email marketing brings in about $40 for every $1 you spend.” It’s cost-effective and benefits your bottom line.

    An Econsultancy study found that companies attribute 23% of their total sales to email marketing.

    [caption id="attachment_11214" align="aligncenter" width="1284"]Email Sales Answer to "What proportion of your total sales can you attribute to the email marketing channel?"[/caption]

    Over the years, email has become a staple in eCommerce culture. Social networks and mobile apps all require an email address to unlock online experiences.

    That’s good news for you. As the number of consumer email accounts grows, your team will have access to more diverse segments of the population.

    Another advantage of email marketing is the ability to target audiences right in their homes.

    “People are liable to ignore billboards, throw away print newsletters, and turn over the page without even glancing at newspaper ads. However, they are more likely to pay attention to an innovative, creative, and effective email, and to end up becoming customers,” says Travis Balinas, Product Marketing Manager at OutboundEngine.

    [bctt tweet="53% of people read email on their mobile devices. Are your emails optimized for mobile?" username="hostgator"]

    Lastly, email is accessible almost everywhere. Hubspot reports that “53% of people read email on their mobile devices.” This allows your team to create personalized messages for the mobile consumer.

    From sales to audience reach, email marketing is an essential strategy for your small business.

    Email + Automation

    Automation transforms the email marketing process. According to Silverpop, “automated email campaigns have a 15% higher open rate than regular emails and 79% higher click through rates.”

    Automated email workflows offer you the convenience of reaching more people in less time. Each workflow uses a series of  “if this, then that” triggers to match each customer with the correct email campaign. Therefore, the customer’s behavior determines your next interaction.

    Simple workflows may include one email after a customer registers for an online store account. Or they can become complex sequences as seen in the example below from Online Marketing Institute.

    Email Automation

    When creating workflows, think like your customers. Be mindful of their habits and whether the email content is relevant to their lives.

    Damian Trzebunia, Product Marketing Manager at Bronto Software, recounts a bad experience with email marketing automation:

    “For the first time, [my favorite clothing retailer] asked for my email address at checkout. In the following 10 days, I received 9 emails (two on the same day). None of them were personalized. Most of them promoted women’s items. Only one was remotely interesting – 10% off and free shipping on your next order.”

    Always improve your workflows. A/B test them. You want to create a highly optimized system that will impress customers and build your business.

    [bctt tweet="#EmailMarketing automation is all about nurturing not selling. - @alyssarimmer #goodadvice" username="hostgator"]

    “Marketing automation is all about nurturing not selling. We avoid the hard-sell approach in favor of content that is personalized, relevant, and aligns with what our customers and prospects are looking for,” states, Alyssa Rimmer, Director of Marketing at New Breed Marketing.

    Email and automation belong in your marketing toolkit. But always consider the customer’s needs first.

    Types of Campaigns

    Email marketing automation provides the functionality to execute a good communications strategy. Try different workflows to achieve your desired results. Here are four workflows:

    1. Welcome Workflow

    Set up a series of welcome emails when a prospect converts into a customer. It’s a practical way to start the customer relationship.

    If your product requires training, use this workflow from Social Media Today to introduce helpful resources.

    Email Marketing Template

    Jordan Lore, Content Marketing Specialist at Wishpond, offers a few more suggestions:

    • Tell customers the next step in the sales process.
    • Show them popular content that may interest them.
    • Direct customers to your social media channels.
    • Prompt them to answer a survey.

    2. Topic Workflow

    Work with your team to create gated lead magnets, like ebooks, guides, and checklists. Once a website visitor signs up for the resource, supply the individual with more topic-related content via email.

    For example, someone downloads a 20-minute dinner recipe guide. Follow up with emails about cooking on a tight schedule or how to make simple lunch meals. As the person continues down the conversion funnel, you’ll send a sales message about your new cooking product.

    3.  Abandon Shopping Cart Workflow

    The average online shopping cart abandonment rate is 68.63%. To decrease shopping cart abandonment, John McIntyre from ReEngager advises sending reminder emails to your shoppers.

    After the shopper leaves your site, you can send them a personalized offer—free shipping or a 10% discount—to persuade them to return and complete the transaction.

    Abandoned Cart Email

    4. Product Review After Purchase Workflow

    Use Net Promoter Scores as a tool to trigger workflows. Then, set an ideal customer happiness score.

    When a customer meets the criteria, send an email asking the individual to provide a product review or leave a comment on Yelp. Reward the happy customer with exclusive content or a swag bag.

    For your dissatisfied customers, ask them about how your team can improve the experience. Send them targeted workflows aimed at addressing those issues.

    Email Automation Do’s & Don’ts

    The rules of email marketing automation aren’t etched in stone. But experienced marketers offer some best practices to make your business better. Follow these simple rules:

    • Do purge your database. Set a criteria that models inactive behavior. Remove emails with high bounce rates.
    • Do segment your customers. Use rich behavioral data to create focused campaigns.
    • Don’t use automation to spam customers with unwanted emails. Make sure your team is complying with all CAN-SPAM policies.
    • Don’t operate on autopilot. Email automation requires monitoring. Your campaigns will need to be measured and recalibrated as your business expands.

    No Substitute for Human Contact

    Email marketing automation is an effective strategy to implement in your small business. It allows your team can interact with more customers while also removing the administrative stresses from your company’s operations.

    However, automating your email systems isn’t a substitution for human contact. To build better relationships with your customers, you must build a personal connection. And the best way to achieve that is face-to-face or via a phone call.

    [bctt tweet="#EmailMarketing automation opens the door to communication, but it is no substitute for human contact." username="hostgator"]

    Tony Zambito, a leading authority in buyer insights and buyer personas, says:

    “Businesses today risk, in using new digital technologies fervently, losing the human connection with their customers and potential buyers.  Through such fervent activities related to automating marketing, organizations can unintentionally create the opposite of what they had hoped to accomplish.”

    Automation only opens the door to communication. To continue the relationship, your team must engage with buyers one-on-one. It’s the only way to really understand how to serve them better.

    Automate for Growth

    Email marketing helps your small business connect with more customers. With automation, your team can efficiently deliver targeted messages.

    Use email marketing to generate leads or foster brand loyalty. Experiment with different workflows to fit your consumers’ needs. And remember that email is no substitution for real human contact.

    Email. Automate. Grow your small business.

    Constant Contact is an excellent tool for small businesses to execute successful email marketing campaigns.  HostGator customers can learn more by visiting this link.

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