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  • Is Buying Email Lists Ever a Good Idea?

    Tuesday, December 20, 2016 by

    Buying Email Lists

    It seems like a quick fix: you need an audience, and you have some great email templates ready to go, so you buy a list of members of your target audience to send the email to. But does success really work that easily? Is buying an email marketing list ever a good idea, or are the naysayers correct when they call it a "kiss of death" for your email marketing efforts?

    The answer is simple: The naysayers are correct. Buying email marketing lists is a bad idea. 

    Not convinced? Here are four reasons why you should stay away from purchased email lists.

    1. Software Implications

    First, your email marketing software may prevent you from using purchased lists in the first place. Platforms like MailChimp and Constant Contact now require that any subscriber lists you upload have opted in to contact from you, which - by default - is not the case with purchased lists.

    In the worst case scenario, ignoring the requirement means your account could be terminated. But ultimately, even without punishment, this decision by email marketing platforms should raise an important question for your marketing efforts: why do they not want you to upload these types of contact into their software? The answer provides a compelling argument against using purchased lists.

    2. Bad List Quality

    Services like MailChimp know just as well as experienced marketers that purchased lists are not as accurate as their organically grown counterparts. That means you cannot rely on personalization features, which will make your email significantly more effective.

    It also means that you will work with more inaccurate email addresses, which will inevitably bounce upon your send. Too many bounces means that Internet Service Providers begin to consider your send email address as spam, and become more likely to mark them as such as soon as they reach your audience's mailbox.

    3. Long-Term Consequences

    The previous point already hinted at a potentially devastating effect of bad list quality: too many bounces will negatively impact future email sends. The same is true in a variety of other ways, as well. Most importantly, recipients who have not opted in to receiving emails from you are exponentially more likely to unsubscribe, or report your email as spam manually.

    The more of your recipients that take one of these undesirable actions, the worse the situation gets for your email efforts. Suddenly, ISPs mark even future emails to your core group of customers as spam, because they have recognized previous bad performances and high bounce/spam rates from the sender address. In fact, these long-term consequences are precisely why email marketing platforms require certification that your contacts have opted in previously.

    4. Lack of Results

    Finally, a major reason to stay away from purchased lists is deceptively simple: emails sent to this group simply don't generate the same results as emails to organically grown lists. A 2014 study offered significant evidence in this regard, showing that open and click rates dropped dramatically for purchased lists, while complaint rates multiplied.

    Given what we discussed above, these results make sense. They also show a simple truth that marketers have to internalize: quicker is not always better. Spending money on a purchased list can seriously your long-term brand awareness and conversion goals.

  • Free Marketing Hacks for Business Owners on a Budget

    Monday, December 12, 2016 by
    Free Marketing Hacks For most small business owners, marketing ranks with taxes in terms of its potential to confuse, overwhelm, and intimidate. Marketing, like paying taxes, is necessary to keep your business going, but it’s a lot easier to find affordable help at tax time than it is to find marketing help that won’t bust your budget. The good news is that many of the things you should do to market your business cost nothing or very little beyond your investment of time. We’re going to run through some of the best low- to no-cost ideas to help you kick-start or refocus your marketing efforts. These marketing hacks fall into four general areas, although some tips cover more than one category: demonstrating professionalism, courting the customers you already have, building connections with your target market, and sharing your expertise to build authority. HostGator Website Builder  

    1. Look professional

    Stand up straight and brush the lint off your jacket, digitally speaking. Clean up your website Is your website easy to read, especially on a smartphone? Does the copy use good grammar and properly spelled words? Small errors and readability problems erode customer confidence in your business. Freshen up your portfolio or store Your best work is your best sales tool. Make sure prospective customers see it. Spend an afternoon or two shooting great photos of your products for your site and your social media channels. If you sell services, include recent projects for your clients (with their permission) and update your service menu. Spruce up your email image If you have a business website, you have the tools to create a business email account. It takes very little time and generates a big boost in confidence among prospects and existing customers. If you don't have a website for your business yet, what are you waiting for? Create one with HostGator today and impress customers.  

    2. Court the customers you already have

    Don’t take them for granted. Respond to customer reviews Invest a few minutes each day or week to respond to customer reviews on Yelp, Facebook and other sites. Respond to both positive and negative reviews, and always act professional, fact-focused, and grateful for feedback. Your responses show existing customers that you’re listening to them—something that can win new customers, too. HostGator Google+ Reviews Build an email list and use it Put that professional email address to work by keeping in touch with your customers and fans. You can send email surveys, offer preferred-customer discounts, and promote upcoming products and events. Reward customers for referrals Let your customers know you appreciate their referrals. Offer a discount, freebie, or another perk when new referred customers buy from you. Write thank-you notes For the cost of some branded notecards and stamps, you can show your customers you appreciate their business. Invite your customers to share Customers who share their photos, videos, and stories on your social media channels and blog provide you with valuable social proof that people like your business.  

    3. Build connections with your target audience

    Meet your customers-to-be. Work your network Word-of-mouth is the best source of referrals for many businesses. Mention your business to friends, family, and neighbors to get the ball rolling, but only bring it up when it’s relevant. Attend events your target customers attend This isn’t always free, but going to community events, networking lunches, and conferences that appeal to your customers can help you build word-of-mouth, meet prospects, and learn more about your customers’ buying habits. Make friends with the media Learn how to write an effective press release. When you launch a new product or hit a business milestone, send releases to outlets that reach your target customers. Soup up your social media presence Yes, you need to do social media, if your target customers do social media—and they probably do. Use the platforms they use, and focus on talking with and listening to your target audience rather than pushing your products.  

    4. Share your expertise

    Offer value now to earn business later. Speak at meetings and events Offer to speak to community and business groups that include your target customers. Rather than pitch your business, share helpful information that shows your expertise. For example, a tree-trimming company owner might talk to the local garden club about caring for landscape trees during droughts. When the club members need tree services or know someone who does, they’re more likely to recommend the speaker’s company because she already shared helpful information with them. Write a blog and update it regularly A well-kept blog shows prospects that you pay attention to your business. Frequent updates give Google a reason to rank your site higher in search results, and visitor comments can help you learn more about your customers. Not a fan of writing? Try a podcast that you share through your website, or a series of short how-to videos posted to your YouTube channel and embedded on your site Comment wisely Join the conversation on blogs, podcasts, and video channels that cover topics of interest to your target customers. Don’t spam up the place, but do offer thoughtful, helpful contributions and information when you can. Fellow commenters and other fans may remember your insight when they need something you sell. Sign up for HARO To really showcase your knowledge, the marketing experts at KISSmetrics recommend Help a Reporter Out, a free platform that connects journalists on deadline with the experts they need for their stories. Register as a source, check your in-box for opportunities, and be ready to pitch. Help A Reporter Out   Now that you have a long list of free or cheap marketing options, here’s some bonus good news: You don’t have to do everything on this list. Your target customers may not be active on social media, for example, or there may not be trade shows and conventions relevant to them. Know where your target customers gather in the physical world and online and base your marketing choices on that information. It’s better to do a great job on a few marketing tasks that reach your target audience than to spread yourself thin trying to reach everyone.
  • How To Create The Ultimate Holiday Coupons

    Thursday, December 8, 2016 by
    Creating Holiday Coupons Coupons may seem like a thing of the past—who sits down on Sunday to do their weekly clipping anymore, anyway? Well, as with everything in business, coupons have evolved. Now people are using online coupon codes or even going into the store with short discount codes that the cashier uses to deduct from the total at check out. Not only are coupons still valuable to and used regularly by consumers, but they can also increase revenue for retailers by up to 40 percent, according to a 2016 CouponBox survey.  CouponBox also found that the surveyed retailers earned $29,435 per month on coupon sales alone. [bctt tweet="Coupons can increase revenue for retailers by up to 40%. #ecommerce" username="hostgator"] The holidays are the best time for your business to take advantage of this opportunity, when everyone is looking for a deal to save on the next present on their list. However, not all coupons are created equal. Just because you offer a discount of some sort, doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically drive sales. Here’s what you need to know to create epic coupons that drive the sales you need this holiday season. HostGator Website Builder  

    Do the Math

    Before deciding on any coupon discount, you have to stop and do the math. You risk losing more money than is necessary if you don't plan your discounts thoughtfully. The first step is to determine the regular profit margin of the product that you’re discounting. A simple equation for that is: (Retail price – Cost) / Retail price = profit margin This profit margin number is your baseline. Because coupons naturally cut into profits, you want to make sure you aren’t selling items for too low a cost that splits your profits in half, or worse. Figure out how many more of the item you need to sell to break even, and put a plan in place to ensure that happens. [bctt tweet="Discover your profit margin. The formula is simple: (Retail Price - Cost) / Retail Price" username="hostgator"]  

    Don’t Undervalue Your Business

    When you want to get the most out of your coupons, it’s easy to jump in with the biggest discount, but this can backfire quickly. Once a discount has been given, customers expect it every single time, which of course will not be the case. Instead of offering one large coupon, segment your current and potential customers and offer them a smaller, more exclusive discount: “20% off for returning customers” or “$50 off for new customers.” Continue varying the discount and audience you offer it to so you don't train your customers to expect to pay little for your high-quality products every time. These lower-discounted coupons can be just as valuable if you create a sense of urgency as well. While that customer may not have planned to shop with you that day, a good deal is a good deal, and they may go out of their way to take advantage before it’s over. In fact, 83 percent of shoppers admitted to making a purchase that wasn’t planned because of a promotion, according to Market Track. This tactic puts you in the driver’s seat, not your customers, while still encouraging sales and avoiding the danger of undervaluing your business. [bctt tweet="Create urgency with your coupons. 83% of shoppers made an unplanned purchase due to a promo." username="hostgator"]  

    Offer a Variety of Coupons

    The holiday season is a long and busy one, so instead of offering one deep discount, spread your coupons out throughout the month of December. You can even do something fun like, “12 Days of Discounts” to help people remember. The benefit of this is two-fold:
    • By spreading your discounts out, you increase the chances that someone will be able to use one (or more) of them. Great promotion or not: the holidays are busy and a packed schedule can stop even the savviest shopper from taking advantage of a great deal.
    • This tactic gives you a chance to encourage another purchase. A whopping 96 percent of shoppers use coupons, according to RetailMeNot. If they have a great experience the first time, and you can put another great coupon in front of them, they’re like to come back and shop with you again.
    Ultimately, however, the key to making the most of your coupons is distribution—if your customers don’t see them, they won’t use them. [bctt tweet="Offer coupons multiple times throughout the holidays so your shoppers don't miss out." username="hostgator"]  

    Distribute, Distribute, Distribute

    You have a mailing list, you’re on social media—these are two of the best ways to get coupons in front of current and potential customers. But, before emailing or sharing your coupons, always segment your distribution. More than 80 percent of customers want to receive promotional opportunities that are tailored to their needs, according to Precima. The best way to ensure this happens is to segment your audience, whether you’re emailing or promoting on social media. Most email clients make this easy to do, with customizable segmenting options. For example, you may want to separate your email list by past purchases, geographic location, or another general status. You can do the same with most paid social media ads including those on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. There's even a Facebook feature called Offers, which allows you to create your offer directly through the platform.   Do the math to make smart discount decisions. Put your offers in front of the right people. Get the most out of your holiday coupons.
  • How To Create Your First Facebook Ads, Step By Step

    Wednesday, December 7, 2016 by
    Create Facebook Ads Step by Step Starting your first Facebook ads can be a daunting task. With so many steps, and so much to account for, it can seem a little overwhelming. But don't fear! Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to create Facebook ads. HostGator Website Builder  

    Creating Your Facebook Ad Campaign

    Step 1: First, you’ll want to make sure you’re logged in under your business account. In the upper right hand corner under pages, select Ads Manager. Facebook Ads Manager   Step 2: You’re now inside your Facebook Ads Manager account. Select Create Campaign. Create Facebook Campaign   Step 3: You now have the option to set the goal of your campaign. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Get people to visit your website? Or boost sales in general? Choose whichever selection best fits your goals for the campaign. Facebook Ad Goal   Step 4: Finally, set your Campaign Name. If you plan on running the same campaign throughout the year with some changes, you might consider putting the date in the name. Facebook Ad Campaign Name  

    Creating The Audience For Your Facebook Ad

    If you have previously created an audience, just used the ‘Saved Audience’ tab, select your audience and proceed to our Placements Section. Step 1: Determine if you want to use a custom audience. The Custom Audiences box allows you to include or exclude audiences you have previously built. You might find this useful if you want to target only potential new customers and exclude your current customers, or include/exclude any audience lists you already have saved. Create Facebook Audience   Step 2: Next you’ll want to choose the locations you want your ads shown to. If you are a local business you can select to show your ads only in your city. You can also exclude certain locations if you choose. Create Facebook Audience   Step 3: Fill in the applicable Age, Gender and Language information for your business. Create Facebook Audience   Step 4: Determine your Detailed Targeting Detailed Targeting is where you’ll target people with interests similar to your business. Facebook compiles the information people put on their profiles, so you can reach the best audience for your ads. For example, if you run a computer repair service based out of Dallas, you might want to add: computers, computer repair, technology, shop local and Dallas. Facebook Detailed Targeting Now Facebook is going to target people that match ONE of those things; so if you want to be more specific you can choose to narrow your audience. Then Facebook will target people who are interested in one of the above AND whatever else you include. Facebook Targeting  

    Building Your Ad Set:

    Step 1: Choose the Placement of your ads. You can do this manually if you know specifically, or you can let Facebook choose for you with their new Automatic Placement Feature. You’re determining where on Facebook you want your ads shown and if you want them shown on Instagram as well. Facebook Ad Placements   Step 2: Set your Budget and Schedule. Select your budget per day.  You can also choose to schedule the ad’s start and end date or have it run continuously. In this area, you’re able to adjust the optimization and delivery choices. Facebook presets them for you based on what they think is the best. You can go in and change them if you’d rather. Feel free to play around with these settings as you become more comfortable in Ads Manager. Facebook Ad Budget  

    Creating the Ad (or Ads):

    Step 1: Add your Media. This is your ad image or creative. Make sure it’s inviting and has a clear call-to-action. Facebook also has a 20% text rule for images meaning your ad has to have less than 20% text in it. Facebook will also give you some Instagram specifications if you selected Instagram placement in the ‘Placement’ category. Set up Facebook ad   Step 2: Write your Headline and Description. Does your headline encourage people to click on your post? Does the description explain your business or promotion? Does it offer a call-to-action?  You can utilize your headline and description to explain anything you couldn't include in the creative. Facebook Ad Headline   Step 3: Choose your Destination. This is whatever website you want viewers to go to when they click on the ad. Now this can be your website, an event’s website, or a landing page with a special promo. Make sure to UTM tag this URL so you can monitor the traffic and sales in Google Analytics. Facebook Ad Destination   Step 4: Add your Pixel Tracking. Ensure you’re tracking the sales and traffic you get from these ads through Facebook using your Facebook pixel.  Facebook Pixel Tracking   If you have not yet set up your Facebook pixel, follow these steps:
    1. Go to the Pixel section of your Ads Manager Account.
    2. Click Create Pixel.Create Facebook Pixel
    3. Choose a name for your Pixel, and hit Create PixelCreate a Facebook Pixel
    If you manage your website yourself, choose the Install Pixel Now button. If you have a developer, choose the Email Pixel Code option. Facebook Pixel If the Pixel is working, you should see your website’s activity in the Pixel Page of Ads Manager.   Congratulations! Your first ad has now been created! Optional Step 5: Create additional ads. You can choose to create similar ads using the same Ad Set settings. This can be useful if you want to play around with different headlines and descriptions. Create Facebook Ad  

    Analyze Your Facebook Ad Performance

    Go to Your Account Overview. There you will see your list of campaigns. This is also where you’ll be able to monitor the results of your ad; for explanations of each result, click on the “i” tooltip next to their names. This is also where you can turn off entire campaigns, ad sets, or individual ads. To do so, simply use the blue toggle bar shown below. Facebook Ad Analytics   How'd your ad perform? Share your experience in the comments!
  • How To Optimize Your Images For SEO In 3 Simple Steps

    Tuesday, December 6, 2016 by
    Optimize images for SEO Catch ‘em all! No, not the Pokemon -- the leads! Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works to bring your website more relevant traffic and closer to the number one slot on major search engines. Without SEO your company website is likely to drown at the bottom of a million other websites selling similar products and services. Recommended WordPress Hosting  

    What Are The SEO Basics?

    For starters, here’s a bunch of free stuff you can do to improve your website’s visibility:
    • Keyword research: Discover the words people use to try to find your website and your services. Then use these words throughout your site’s content.
    • Domain name: Choose a domain name that’s relevant to your business, so that you’re easier to find.
    • Page URL names: Avoid the often default number system, and rename your page URLs with keywords.
    • Social media marketing: Use social media to expand your website’s reach to a much larger audience on various networks.
    • Local listings: Get your business contact info set up at and Google My Business. (We've got a list of online local listings directories here).
    • Reviews & testimonials: Positive feedback on sites like Yelp and Angie’s List will keep reeling ‘em in!
    • External links or backlinks: Share your content with influencers or on places like Quora and Reddit. These backlinks (links that point back to your website) score super high in the world of SEO.

    What About My Website Images?

    As you can see, just about everything you post on your website can be optimized for search, but you’re not limited only to words and links. Images are a tremendous part of SEO, and one that's often forgotten, so if you can get your pics up to SEO speed, you’ll be ahead of the curve. Here’s how...  

    1. Name your images using target keywords.

    Use readily identifying info to name your pics as you upload them to your website. If you’re targeting a specific geo-location, include that city name in your title. Same goes for specific products and services. For example, a local bike shop might label a photo of their storefront something like Mike's Bikes - Bike Shop in Austin TX  

    2. Use alternative text.

    Alternative, or alt text, shows up in certain browsers when site visitors hover their mouse over an image. Alt text also makes it clear to visually impaired users what your image represents. Long tail keywords (i.e. keywords that are super specific) are best. For example: Interior design for Charleston model homes Nashville nail salon features bridal party sale Here’s what the HTML looks like: <img src="InteriorDesignCharleston.jpg" alt="Interior design for Charleston model homes">  

    3. Take a look behind the curtain.

    • Find a website you admire (or visit one of your competitor’s sites).
    • Right-click your mouse anywhere on the page and select "View Page Source."
    • A new window will open with all the html code for the page.
    • Hit Control + F simultaneously on your keyboard and then type “img” in the search box.
    • This will bring up all image-related code.
    • Most sites will have a bunch of images, so you can see how the developer or marketer decided to set up their alt text.
    • Learn from the best!
    Here’s an example of what this looks like from our own cloud hosting page on HostGator. HostGator Cloud Hosting   Each of these icons has a related file name and alt tag based on the keyword. View alt tags in page source   Please don’t let the code freak you out. It looks daunting, but it really is super easy to adjust once you get the hang of it. Plus most WordPress plugins and content management systems make this even more user-friendly than it looks. As long as you know that you can adjust title and alt tags to make your images work SEO for you, you’re good to go!