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  • Which Social Media Sites Are Critical For Your Small Business?

    Tuesday, June 7, 2016 by

    Social Media Sites for Small Business

    In order for anything to be critical in relation to the success of your business, the impact of not incorporating that thing should be noticeably negative. In other words, deciding to put your business on a social media site should be an informed decision based on the benefits of devoting your time to using it as a marketing tool. A platform should only be considered critical if you stand to lose business without it.

    Certain business owners might tell you that they've managed to avoid social media entirely, but in today's socially-obsessed culture, not being on any platforms may actually be harming your bottom line. Social media marketing is so cost effective that other traditional forms of marketing have begun to disappear. The question is no longer if you should have a social presence, the question is which platform, and how many platforms, are critical to maintaining a successful marketing campaign.

    In this article we're going to explore which sites have shown to work the best for small businesses, and bring up some key considerations for why your business would choose to make an account.

    Number Of Active Users

    Curating content for social media can be time consumptive, and if you've gone as far as creating your own blogs, videos, or photos then it can also be expensive. That's why when we take additional time to post content online, we want to guarantee the most potential customers are going to see it.

    One of the easiest ways to determine if a social media platform is worth making the account, is to see how many active users it claims, along with how many users a platform has per day. By the numbers here are the top four in the United States:

    • Facebook: 1.59 Billion Users, 1.09 Billion users per day
    • Tumblr: 555 Million Users, 100 Million users per day
    • Instagram: 400 Million Users,  75 Million users per day
    • Twitter: 320 Million Users, 100 million users per day

    Although these four have large numbers, there are still dozens of other platforms to explore for more niche advertising such as Reddit, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+.

    Demographics Of Users

    While the total number of users you can expect to reach are important, perhaps even more crucial are the demographics within each platform. Pinterest for instance has a 68.2% to 31.8% female to male ratio, while Snapchat users are primarily aged 13-24. Platform demographics vary greatly by region, ethnicity, and personal interests. The best way to determine if a platform will contain your target audience is to look into the demographic statistics.

    Type Of Content

    Right after you look into the types of people on each platform, the next step is measuring how much of your content can be shared. Facebook allows practically everything to be posted, from status updates, to photos, videos, links, and private messages. Instagram, however, is primarily image based and doesn't cater to links or shares as well as other platforms.

    As a photographer, I find Instagram to be one of my greatest business assets as people expect to find photography there. In contrast, I never use Twitter as it doesn't seem to be quite as effective. This same philosophy should be considered when looking at how you promote your own business.

    Analytics

    Tracking your marketing analytics is the proverbial line in the sand when it comes to business vs. personal use. Sure, everyone in the world will check to see how many “likes” or “retweets” their post received, but truly understanding the extent of your posts reach is the most important aspect to using a platform for business.

    Some platforms come with built-in analytics, like Facebook, but for others it's incredibly useful to invest in third-party applications that pull data you would have never thought to consider. Apps like Buffer, Social Metrics Pro, or for all the Instagram fans there are several apps to track your posts through your phone.

    In Closing

    The distinction you need to make with social media for business is that it's more about performance than social points. Just because you receive a lot of likes, doesn't mean your efforts are stacking up to transactions. Spend plenty of time analyzing what's working, and what's eating into your marketing budget.

    Which social platforms do you use the most for business? Let us know in the comments section!

  • Why Non-Profits Need to Know SEO

    Monday, June 6, 2016 by

    Why Non-Profits Need To Know SEO

    The non-profit world is full of great organizations working on shoestring budgets to reach people in need, to care for the environment, to bring education to the underserved, and to generally care for the world and the people around us. With so much passion and purpose, and so little funds, many non-profits are learning SEO to reduce their overall advertising costs, to reach the right audiences, and as a part of integrated website and business management.

    Reduce Overall Advertising Costs

    For-profit business owners use money to manage their time, while investing the bulk of their time in managing their money; non-profit directors, administrators, and volunteers are often in the unenviable position of working with limited budgets of both time and money.

    Advertising is one of the processes that many for-profit businesses outsource. Rather than spending so much time learning what type of content brings customers into a business, a corporation will spend significant capital to have experts create a system of advertising and communication to customers.

    Since non-profits need to reach the same people that large for-profits do with much less money, SEO provides an attractive alternative to outsourced marketing. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is called organic marketing because it does not require dollars in to equal leads out. Once you build an optimized website, the website will bring in your targeted audience whether you put another dollar of marketing into your website or not.

    This is the primary reason non-profits need to know SEO, but there are many additional benefits of a great SEO-friendly website.

    Reaching The Right Audience

    Getting found is important for any business, getting found by the right people is essential. This is incredibly true for non-profits, and significantly more complex than for-profits. For a for-profit company, the primary audience is always potential customers, because they pay the bills. Secondary elements are employees and then shareholders (unless the shareholders are customers, like in a mutual fund).

    For non-profits, the different audiences are those in need, are the donors, and are volunteers/employees. Each of these appear to take on the importance of a customer because a non-profit often has to convince each audience why they need to join the non-profit. Each of these audiences are essential to running a non-profit and all of them need altruistic reasons to join your business, outside of traditional profit and market motives. A website needs to be designed in such a way as to present to donors and employees and volunteers and people in need. A tall order, but good SEO planning manages the website to do just that. 

    SEO takes the most important ideas behind your website and presents them in such a manner and to the right locations, to get your website found by people looking for it. For example, a homeless shelter needs to be found by people looking up housing solutions in the local city it serves. These searches could be from the indigent (library computers and cell phones are both options they have) or from potential donors or volunteers. So to optimize it, the content on the website needs to be primarily about homelessness and solutions for it, and your website needs to be attached to all the place listings for your shelter (Google, Bing, Apple Maps). (For more on this, check out our post on creating local SEO content.)

    Because the need you are trying to fulfill is what ties all the various audiences together, an optimized site will provide information that is relevant to donors, volunteers, and the recipients of your care because they are all looking at the need. Donors and volunteers want to help fill the need, while recipients need to fill it.

    Integrated Website and Business Management

    A good website provides many business management tools that a non-profit may use to automate business systems and reduce the costs of running business. SEO plays an important part in designing business systems on the website and in determining what content to put on the website.

    A website provides tools to manage communication with various audiences like calendars, forums, and internal email systems. It also provides access to documents relevant to your business processes, and it even is a useful tool in managing donations, accounting, income and outgo, and more.

    The more complex a website becomes, the more costs it will incur in both time and money, so determining how integrated you want to make a non-profit website with business systems is a matter of some care. Great website-business systems integrations will save time and money long-term even though they cost more upfront. For a non-profit leader, the question to ask is whether you can more afford to keep managing things the way you are or whether you need to build a business system in your website.

    Regardless of how integrated the website becomes with your business systems, it is an essential part of managing your constituencies, and SEO management is core to that process.

    SEO marries internal coherent content with external information to get your website as visible as possible. A non-profit needs SEO to be found, and the simplest aspect of SEO is to make certain that the content on your site (including tags and metadata) is relevant and listed in such a way that search engines can understand what your main thing is.

    Why do non-profits need to know SEO? Because non-profits focus on the relationships and needs that influence peoples’ lives, and people are looking for these needs online. While most people think SEO is just focused on the search engines, at its most basic, SEO is all about the people using the search engines, and that is where Google and your local animal shelter meet: the people who love animals.

  • Starting a Newsletter? How to Avoid Email Abuse Complaints

    Tuesday, May 31, 2016 by

    Starting a Newsletter

    If you are a small business owner who has been doing your research about online marketing, you know that building an email newsletter list is a great thing to do. However, one thing to be aware of is the potential for getting email newsletter complaints, such as reports of spam and email abuse. This can get you and your business into legal trouble in the worst of situations, and it can result in a negative reputation for your business in even the best of cases. Luckily, there are a few steps that you can take to help prevent these complaints and run a better, more reputable and effective newsletter.

    1. Only Collect Email Addresses Directly From Subscribers

    You might have found newsletter lists that you can purchase, which are supposed to be targeted to your particular type of audience. Those who sell these lists often tout them as a great way to get your newsletter up and off the ground and to bring in leads, but these email addresses are not always gathered legally or ethically. To help prevent complaints, it is always best to focus on collecting email addresses directly from subscribers, such as by promoting your email newsletter on your website and your social media profiles. Then, you can make sure that everyone who is on your list actually wants to be on your list.

    2. Require A Double Opt-In Process

    Double Opt-In means that after the subscriber signs up through your website, they will then receive an email confirming that subscription. If the subscriber opens the email and goes to the link within, then the subscription will be confirmed. If not, the person will not be added to the email list. This helps ensure that people do not enter other peoples’ email addresses in the field to sign them up, and it also gives the subscriber another chance to make sure that he or she wants to be a part of the list.

    3. Make it Clear Who You Are

    Some email newsletters add their first and last names or some other name in the "sent from" field. However, this can look and feel spammy to some readers, who might recognize your website or company name but who might not recognize your first and last name at all. To make sure that your readers know exactly where there emails are coming from -- and to help encourage them to open them, if they are eagerly awaiting your emails -- use your company or website name as the "sent from" name.

    4. Send Quality Emails

    You have probably signed up for email newsletters at some point and thought that they would be better than they actually turned out to be. You don't want your subscribers to be disappointed by their emails, nor do you want them to change their mind and assume that your newsletters are spam. That's why it's important to put effort into making your newsletters the best that they can be. Take the time to craft helpful, useful and interesting content for each newsletter, and leave out the overly sales-y verbiage. You want your newsletter to come across as just that -- a newsletter that your readers can enjoy -- and not a blaring advertisement. Not only will this help prevent you from getting in trouble for spam emails, but it will also help ensure that your emails are well received and effective.

    [bctt tweet="You want your email newsletter to be something your readers can enjoy, not a blaring advertisement." username="hostgator"]

    5. Don't Spam Your Subscribers

    Just because your subscribers have decided to sign up for your email newsletter does not mean that they want to receive an endless barrage of emails from you. Try to compile multiple messages into one handy email rather than sending multiple emails a day.

    The frequency with which you should send out your newsletters can vary based on a lot of factors, but you definitely shouldn't be sending out newsletters more than once a day. Many companies find that once a week is sufficient. One other great option is to allow your subscribers to choose their newsletter frequency -- some might want to receive emails from you daily, but others may only want to receive newsletters weekly or monthly. Allowing them to tailor their subscription in this manner is a good way to ensure that everyone gets what they want.

    6. Make Unsubscribing Easy

    Although you probably don't want to see any of your subscribers go, it is important to make it easy for them to unsubscribe if they so choose. It can be pretty frustrating to try to unsubscribe from a newsletter only to continue to receive these emails on a regular basis, so avoid putting your subscribers through this by adding a simple "unsubscribe" link to the bottom of each email. If confused subscribers contact you because they are having trouble getting removed from the list, make an effort to assist them -- it'll be better to help them unsubscribe now than to deal with complaints later about your newsletter. Plus, it can help you establish a good repertoire with your leads.

    As you can see, there are steps that you can take to help prevent your email newsletter from getting complaints. If you follow these tips, you'll have fewer complaints to worry about, and you'll probably find that your email newsletters are more highly enjoyed by the people on your subscriber list as well.

  • Social Media How-To Guide for Realtors

    Wednesday, May 25, 2016 by
    Social Media for Realtors

    Real estate entrepreneurs are in the unique business of selling an experience and a dream.

    Finding a dream home, achieving lifetime milestones, and making potentially powerful investments tell the story of what realtors help accomplish on any given day. They work as legal advisors, accountants (and therapists), to guide buyers, sellers, and renters to make the best possible housing decisions.

    Sound overwhelming? It is.

    This is why the incredible accessibility and reach of social media is a must have for any successful realtor’s tool kit. Check out how social media can grow your real estate customer base and help provide a richer experience for current clients.

    How can I make social media work for me?

    Here’s how you can use social media marketing to your advantage and continue to sell an incredible real estate experience, but with an additional edge over your competition.

    1. Promote video.

    Show, don’t tell. Use video to walk through properties and show them off. Use video to show that your office is warm and your staff is approachable. Use video to film happy customer testimonials. Don’t believe that this will work? Check the stats, and get yourself a YouTube channel:

    • By 2018, the number of US digital video viewers will rise to 244.5 million.
    • Shoppers who view video are 2X more likely to purchase than non-viewers.
    • 52% of worldwide marketing pros deem video as the content type with the highest ROI.

    2. Educate.

    We know you get countless questions about getting pre-approved, neighborhood school systems, crime stats, staging tips, closing costs. Create a list of your most commonly asked real estate questions and begin to answer them through social media. Encourage your customers to engage with you online to build lasting relationships.

    3. Invite.

    Create a Facebook Event and directly invite your followers to open houses. The beauty of social media is that they can in turn invite others, and soon you have a full house of potential buyers. Use hashtags to expand your reach.

    4. Use Images.

    Like video, images sell. Best for Instagram and Pinterest (although images perform well on all social channels), pics are a great way to invite customers to be a part of the real estate experience. You’re not limited only to homes. Post images of gardens, beaches, restaurants, and local artwork. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. 

    5. Get creative.

    Stuck and need even more social media marketing ideas? Try these:
    • Curate and share content from your favorite real estate resources. Share your opinion to show you’re a thoughtful and experienced industry leader.
    • Share local happenings in the area in which you sell. Present the awesomeness of the neighborhoods and cities you’re promoting!
    • Share exclusive listings, or the house/condo/property of the week.
    • Post pics of new happy homeowners you helped and the spaces they now call home.

    How to get started right now?

    First, add your social icons to your website. If you don't have a website yet, you can get a great deal here.

    Next, set up a Facebook page. Use a free site like Canva to help out with Cover Photo sizing. Transfer basic info about your company from your website and you’re good to go! We also recommend Instagram and Pinterest to promote more images and vids, plus LinkedIn for professional connections and Twitter for real-time communication, but Facebook is a good place to begin.

    Consider getting started with a set and forget social media automation marketing tool like MySocialSuite which will save you oodles of time by pre-scheduling posts to multiple social accounts.

    Bottom line: If you’re in the real estate biz, you need to be using social media to best portray and sell that dream.

    Realtors! Tell us your thoughts. How are you using social media to help grow your business and educate your customers?

  • 5 Ways to Organically Improve Your Social Share Count

    Thursday, May 19, 2016 by
    Organically Improve Your Social Share Count There are very few communities on the web that can sustain themselves without the help of social media. Starting as a blogger in the year 2015 and beyond means that you will have to learn social media inside out, and there is no way around it. One social share on a platform like Twitter and Facebook could lead towards attracting hundreds of new visitors, and not ensuring that your visitors can share your content on social media is nothing but ignorance. Most bloggers today rely on the content management platform WordPress, and while WordPress does not offer native support (not yet at least) for social sharing, it does offer more than a hundred unique and free social sharing plugins, not to mention at least 50+ that come from premium sources. The variety of ways to share your content on social media is huge, all you need to do is the find the right solution for you. In order to help you improve your social media share count, here is a list of ways to give you a heads up on what works for others the most these days.

    1. Publish, then share

    The problem that others will run into when it comes to sharing the content on your blog is that they first have to actually find your content. Whilst many external resources provide features for content discovery, the best way to get discovered by new and interested readers is to get the name out all by yourself. It's a lot of work, yeah, but success isn't easy, and neither should you assume that after hitting the Publish button that everything will magically arrange itself for you to receive new visitors. Share your content on content syndication sites, social media, and manual link submission sites to get the maximum exposure.

    2. Establish your presence

    We are moving away from the kind of web that doesn't share intimate relationships between the blogger and the reader. Why should anyone share your content if they don't know who you are, what you stand for, and what your true intentions are. Make it easy for readers to recognize your name and your experience, which in turn will give you more credibility and ensure trust in those who will then want to share your content on social media.

    3. Expressive content titles

    The more specific we are with the kind of content titles we are using, the easier it will be for your readers to understand what the content is going to be about, and essentially that will lead towards a much easier decision as to whether the reader wants to share this content or not. The science behind the matter is that the more creative and insightful our content is, the more appealing it will be to our readers and the friends of our readers. Everyone likes to share breaking news stories, or new findings in science... use that insight to craft the kind of content titles that will lure people in organically, rather than on the basis of unseen content value. [bctt tweet="The more creative and insightful our content is, the more appealing it will be to our readers." username="hostgator"]

    4. Visualize your content

    Bland content without any visuals is starting to become less and less appealing, and more content creators are starting to incorporate and maximize the use of visual imagery within the actual content, whether to explain ideas or to convey concepts -- good quality visual images can be an incredible boost your social shares counts, not only because it's easier and quicker to learn from visual content, but also because it looks good and is truly convenient for anyone to consume.

    5. Remember the share buttons

    Today we have a ton of ways to display social share buttons. Floating share widgets, simple sticky widgets, standalone buttons that we can display using shortcodes, underpopups and popups that present visitors with a multitude of ways to share your content. And what a shame at those bloggers who totally forget to implement a social sharing solution at all. If you want your share count to go up, make it easy and accessible for anyone to share your content, whether they are browsing from the web or a mobile device.
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