Wednesday, November 15, 2017 by Kevin Wood
Best WordPress Plugins for Anti SpamYou’ve finally done it, your site is gaining traction, and you’re getting more traffic than ever before. However, once your site starts to pick up your traffic, you might also notice the rise of something else, too: spam comments. If you run a WordPress blog or website and have comments enabled, then you’re probably well aware of the spam comments that fill your inbox. These can be a nuisance to sort through and delete yourself, but you don’t want to stop moderating comments and have spam comments fill up your site. Luckily, if you’re using WordPress, then there’s a way around this. There are dozens of anti-spam plugins you can use to help ward off those pesky spam comments. Below we profile 5 of the top anti-spam plugins you can use on your WordPress site.
1. AkismetAkismet is one of the most popular and longest running WordPress anti spam plugins. Automattic, the team behind WordPress, developed this plugin. If you’ve done a default installation of WordPress, then this plugin comes atomically installed. However, to use this plugin you’ll need an API key, which is free and easy to setup. However, if you run a large commercial website, and need to moderate over 50,0000 comments per month, you'll want to upgrade to a paid plan. Whenever a new comment is submitted to your site, Akismet runs through their cloud-based algorithm, and filters out any spam comments.
2. Antispam BeeAntispam Bee is a simple and free spam protection plugin. It doesn’t require you to register or setup an account, just install the plugin and you’ll be set. To filter out spam this plugin compares spam requests to an existing spam database, uses IP address checks, and Gravatar validating. Plus, this plugin will show the statistical data of spam requests blocked and filtered. There’s also a feature that will delete any stored spam every couple of days, so it won’t slow down your site. If you’re looking for a simple spam solution, then this plugin is worth trying out.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
Snapchat Advertising GuideFor some of you reading, the mass appeal of Snapchat might still be baffling. Who knew one of the things social media users were missing was the ability to make the social experience even more temporary and fleeting? Well, the founders of Snapchat knew and they’re banking on just how right they were in that realization. With a growing list of social media channels that advertisers feel pressured to be on, Snapchat may not top the list for you, but it’s well worth considering as an addition to your advertising efforts.
Why Businesses Should Be Advertising on SnapchatTo start, the most obvious reason to consider advertising on Snapchat is that its user base is sizeable. The app has 173 million daily users. While that’s considerably less than Facebook’s 1.32 billion daily users, it’s more than Twitter’s estimated 157 million. That makes it a bigger player than it often gets credit for being in conversations about social media marketing. As you could probably guess, most of those users are young. 71% of Snapchat users are under 34. If you’re selling hearing aids, you may be better served in other channels. But if you’re selling anything that teens or millennials are likely to buy, Snapchat is worth paying attention to. Notably, a lot of those Snapchat users show real engagement. While a lot of advertising on the web is easy for people to scroll past or overlook, brands on Snapchat have shared getting impressive results in engagement. Taco Bell has said that 80% of their Snapchat followers open the snaps they share, and 90% of the people who open them watch them in their entirety. And viewers are much more likely to be listening as well as watching on Snapchat: 70% of the video ads on the platform play with the sound on, in comparison to the 85% on Facebook that play muted. That said, possibly in part because of the use of sound, many users don’t bother watching ads in their entirety on Snapchat, so that seeming benefit may come with a serious tradeoff. Advertising on Snapchat isn’t right for every business, but if the people using the app every day are in your target audience, then it’s probably worth it for you.
Your Snapchat Ad OptionsIf you’re ready to consider paid advertising on Snapchat, your first step is figuring out the types of ads to use.
1. Snap Ad VideosThe ad option Snapchat provides that comes closest to traditional ad formats you’re already familiar with is Snap Ad videos. These are videos you create that last up to 10 seconds and play in between other pieces of content users consume while using the Snapchat Stories part of the app. They include the option for users to swipe up to access additional content you provide, whether that’s a longer video, written content, your website or an app install. Snapchat claims the swipe-up rate on these ads is five times the click-through rate of ads on other social media platforms, so there’s a decent chance you can guide users to seek out more information on your brand. Typical Cost: While the cost for Snap Ads varies for different companies based on the particulars of their ads and campaigns, Snap Ad campaigns start at around $3,000 a month.
2. Sponsored LensesSponsored lenses are a fun and engaging way that brands can tailor their advertising to the platform’s strengths. Brands create lenses relevant to a product or event that people can apply to their own pictures in the app. Movie studios have used sponsored lenses to let people change their pictures so they look like characters in upcoming movies, Taco Bell once let people change their faces into tacos... it's easy to understand why people find them fun. You can see a number of successful examples of how brands have used this advertising option here. The very nature of sponsored lenses is interactive. Because they give people a fun way to center themselves in the ad campaign, they’re great for brand awareness. Snapchat’s data shows that they drive three times as much brand awareness as other types of mobile marketing campaigns and often have a positive influence on purchase intent. This is a big ad campaign though – it’s not something you can take on lightly. It’s expensive (see below) involves some serious design chops and creativity, and requires working directly with one of Snapchat’s API partners to pull it off. But, if you can afford Snapchat Lenses and they’re a good fit for your business and products, then they can get impressive results. Typical Cost: A lot. Although costs vary based on the particulars of your sponsored lenses campaign and the timing of when you launch them, expect them to cost a minimum of $450,000 per day.
3. GeofiltersGeofilters are like a much simpler and scaled down version of sponsored lenses. They’re a photo or video filter people can put on top of (or around) their own images in the app. Geofilter campaigns often have a local focus – instead of reaching the whole nation with them, you can focus just on a specific city or area. These are often useful for short-term events where it makes sense to target a specific place during a specific time frame. They still center the user in the experience (it’s their picture the filter gets added to), but they aren’t as interactive as sponsored lenses. For that reason, they’re easier to design and a much simpler ad product for companies to pursue. Typical Cost: Much cheaper than the other offerings. While the total cost of a campaign will depend on the length of time you launch it for and the size of the area you target, these can cost as little as $5. For smaller businesses and those with limited budgets, they’re the most realistic option for Snapchat advertising.
4. Snapchat Discover AdsSnapchat’s Discover feature collects trending stories and event coverage into one tab on the app for users to browse. Brands can have their own snaps and stories included in the Discover section of the app for a fee. Usually, these ads go to media companies or especially big brands. This is another costly option that’s out of reach for many, but for those who use it, it provides an extensive reach and a lot of brand awareness. Typical cost: $50,000 a day
Other Ways to Reach Your Audience on SnapchatIf your business has a limited marketing budget (as almost all do), getting to the pricing section on most of these types of Snapchat ads probably had you shaking your head in hopelessness. A lot of the Snapchat advertising options simply aren’t going to be within reach for many of the businesses hoping to reach people on the platform. Fortunately, advertising isn’t the only option for interacting with users on Snapchat.
Use your own Snapchat profile.As with other social media channels, paid advertising isn’t the only way to play on Snapchat. You can set up a profile and start sharing snaps and stories with your followers. For a lot of brands, this will be the best way to get bang for your buck (your buck meaning mostly time, in this case) from Snapchat. You’ll need to promote your Snap profile and start getting followers for this to be worth your time. And you’ll need to be creative and fun – it’s not really a platform for serious how-to videos or in depth educational content. But the right approach can provide you with opportunities to interact directly with some members of your target audience and build up awareness of your brand.
Use Snapchat for influencer marketing.A lot of people follow influencers on Snapchat, which makes it fruitful ground for practicing influencer marketing. Influencers with a strong following on the platform can help bump awareness of your brand and help you reach a new audience. Research influencers on the app that are relevant to your brand or product and reach out to them to propose a partnership. If they’ve worked with other brands before, they may already have good ideas about how to proceed with bringing awareness of your brand or products to their audience. If not, be prepared with some potential ideas (and a budget – they’ll expect payment).
Snapchat TargetingSnapchat offers over 300 “Predefined Audiences” that advertisers can use to better target their ads. While their targeting options aren’t as extensive as those of other social media platforms, you can still narrow the focus of your ads based on categories that include:
- Device type
- Household income
- Parental status
- What users typically care about
- What they buy
- What they watch
- Where they go
Snapchat AnalyticsOne complaint some advertisers have had with Snapchat is that their analytics reporting is subpar in comparison to other ad platforms, but they’ve recently made changes to improve the reporting they provide. Advertisers now have access to data that shows them:
- Number of ad impressions
- Number of video views (that last over 2 seconds)
- How long people watch snaps/videos
- Average time spent watching your ads
- Your cost per thousand impressions
- Your cost per video view
- The number of conversions (swipe up or app installs)
- The conversion rate (ratio of conversions to impressions)
- The cost per conversion
- Demographics of the people that viewed and interacted with your ad
How to Get Started Advertising on SnapchatIf this guide has convinced you that some form of Snapchat advertising is for you, you can get started here. Start with the (relatively) easy ad options like Snap Ads and geofilters, and decide once you have a feel for the platform if moving up to some of the costlier options may be right for you. Snapchat may have seemed like a fad at first, but it’s taken its place among the most popular social media channels that are here to stay. If you want to reach young consumers in a way that makes engaging with your brand fun and interactive, it’s a platform you can’t miss.
Tuesday, November 14, 2017 by Casey Kelly-Barton
Hot Brands That Started as Small E-CommerceEvery brand you've ever heard of had to start somewhere, and most of them started out small. For previous generations, that meant starting up in a garage or a tiny storefront. Today it's more likely to mean starting out with a small online store on a website or an e-commerce marketplace. How can you grow your little shop into a recognized brand? Here are a few examples of companies that have done just that, and what we can learn from them.
ModCloth: From dorm-room operation to mega-retailer subsidiaryModCloth is one of the highest profile new fashion brands of the digital age, thanks to its vintage-inspired styles and inclusive sizing. The vintage motif is no accident; ModCloth started in 2002 as a way for co-founder Susan Gregg Koger to sell her surplus thrift store finds online from the comfort of her dorm room. As the company's reputation grew among shoppers, sales grew—slowly at first, and then by 40% annually as of 2013. Earlier this year, Walmart subsidiary Jet.com bought ModCloth for an estimated $50-$75 million.
Lessons from ModCloth:1. Do what you love and use what you know. Susan's thrifting habit formed the basis of her business, and she knew how to find styles that would appeal to her customers. 2. Listen to your customers. In 2015, after ModCloth surveyed its customers and found that more than half were embarrassed to have to shop in “plus sized” sections, the brand dropped the plus-size designation from its store. Now, sizes XS through 4X are simply presented as sizes—a decision that supported customer preferences and generated a fresh round of positive publicity for the company. 3. Turn your customers into a community. For several years, ModCloth's site featured a Be The Buyer tool that let customers vote on samples to gauge demand for new items. Customers can share their product photos in ModCloth's Style Gallery. ModCloth is also active on social media platforms like Pinterest, where the brand has 2.2 million followers, and Instagram. ModCloth also runs Make The Cut themed design contests for its customers that generate lots of buzz.
French Girl Organics: From sideline to boutique natural beauty brandFrench Girl Organics has been lauded by Vogue as a “brilliant beauty brand” and cited by actress Emma Watson as part of her regular beauty routine. The line's projected sales are $1.5 million for this year. That's not on par with ModCloth, but it's impressive for a brand that started as a knitting author's sideline, made with plants from her garden and sold on Etsy. Now French Girl is sold through its own website as well as through Neiman Marcus, Anthropologie, Goop, Amazon, and by the end of October, Madewell.
Lessons from French Girl Organics:1. Do what you love and use what you know. Author Kristeen Griffin-Grimes combined her appreciation for French culture and her gardening habit to give herself a break after leading tours of France based on her French Girl Knits books. 2. Leverage high-profile media and celebrity mentions. French Girl's website proudly proclaims the brand as French-born Watson's “top shelf pick” and links to Watson's interview with Into the Gloss. French Girl has done a good job of collecting mentions by other major beauty and lifestyle outlets, too, including InStyle, Allure, W, StyleCaster, and the Huffington Post. 3. Own your own digital real estate. French Girl Organics still has an Etsy presence, although as of this writing, the shop has been in vacation mode since July and invites visitors to shop the company's own website. Having an independent shop that you control is important for several reasons—not the least of which is that you can collect email addresses from customers on your own site to build and leverage your list. Of course, virtually everyone wears clothes and has some personal grooming ritual, a fact that gave ModCloth and French Girl Organics a broad potential market from the start. What if your business serves a tiny niche instead? Can it still become a “big” brand? To answer these questions, let's look at one of the most narrowly defined niches around: professional mermaids.
Finfolk Productions: From garage business to “splashy” Instagram iconHow much of a brand can you build selling $1,000 to $3,900 silicone mermaid tails to performers, resorts, and theatrical costumers? Ask artists (and twin sisters) Abby and Bryn Roberts. Their business, Finfolk Productions, has been cited by Hubspot and Inc. Magazine for its outstanding Instagram marketing, alongside better-known, deeper-pocketed brands such as Staples, Lululemon, National Geographic, and Starbucks. Finfolk's social media savvy has paid off. The five-year old company has announced its plans to move production this year from a residential garage to a 14,000-square foot space to accommodate “exponential growth.” Finfolk's Instagram photos are gorgeous, and the idea of being able to swim as a mermaid definitely has its appeal. But Finfolk Productions also checks all the boxes when it comes to brand-building.
Lessons from Finfolk Productions:1. Do what you love and use what you know. The Roberts sisters have a background in performance and fashion design that they put to work answering a casting director's call for mermaid tails. 2. Listen to your customers and act on what you hear. The sisters told their local newspaper that after they made their prototype tails they found a group of people in the “underground mermaid community” talking online about their work. Once they tapped into that market, their company took off. 3. Turn your customer base into a community via social media. Finfolk has 181,000 Instagram followers, several other social media accounts, and the respect of social media marketers and industry watchers. Finfolk also has customers around the world who make unboxing videos for YouTube to show off their new mermaid tails. One of those videos, made by a professional entertainer based in landlocked Oklahoma, has earned more than 2.7 million views. 4. Leverage high-profile media and celebrity mentions. Finfolk has been mentioned in media outlets from BabyCenter to Glamour UK and the South China Morning Post, and gets a boost from “FINfluencer” Lauren Elizabeth, a self-described stay-at-home mermaid with nearly 5,000 Instagram followers.
5. Own your own digital real estate. Finfolk Productions sells its mermaid tails, tops, scales, leggings, and accessories through its website. Having a freestanding site rather than selling through a marketplace allows the company to capture email addresses for future promotions and to study customer buying habits over time.
ConclusionThe moral of the story here is that certain brand-building steps can apply to virtually any type of retail business serving just about any group of consumers. If you love making good products, listen to your customers, leverage social and traditional media, and control your own customer data by having your own online store, you've got the tools you need to grow your brand.
Monday, November 13, 2017 by Kevin Wood
Top Dedicated Server Hosting FAQ AnsweredDedicated hosting can be a very rewarding investment for your company. However, dedicated hosting can be a little confusing for the uninitiated. As a result, you’ll probably have a lot of questions about what dedicated hosting actually entails. Below we answer the most common dedicated server hosting questions we’ve come across.
1. What is dedicated hosting?Dedicated hosting is a single web hosting environment that’s dedicated to the needs of a single website. This is typically for websites that are large, receive a high volume of traffic, or require a unique hosting setup. In dedicated hosting clients get complete control over their server environment. This allows for complete server customization and is ideal for larger organizations.
2. How does dedicated hosting work?With dedicated server hosting, you’re renting an entire physical server. This provides you with unparalleled customization and control over your server environment. Plus, you’ll have access to higher levels of server resources. With a dedicated server, you’ll be able to customize your CPU type, operating system, and the total amount of RAM and storage available.
3. Who is dedicated hosting for?First, dedicated server environments are geared towards more technical users. Managing your own server, and keeping it efficient and secure does take a lot of work. As a result, dedicated server hosting is typically used by very high traffic websites, complex applications, or anything else that requires a high-level of security. Dedicated hosting is also much more expensive than other hosting options, so it’s typically reserved for companies or individuals who have profitable online ventures.
4. How does dedicated server hosting differ from shared hosting?With dedicated hosting, you have access to the entire server. With shared hosting, you’re simply renting a portion of that same server. You can think of it in terms of an apartment building. If you choose a shared hosting environment you’re renting a single apartment. While with a dedicated server you’d be renting the entire building, and keeping every room open for your own needs. You can see why dedicated hosting is typically a much more expensive option. Instead of sharing resources with hundreds of other websites on the same server you’ll have access to the entirety of the server’s resources for your own website.
5. What’s the difference between managed and unmanaged dedicated hosting?With unmanaged dedicated hosting, you’ll essentially be renting a blank server, and customizing it to your liking. You’ll be in charge of technical tasks like server maintenance, security, software updates, and everything else required to keep your server secure and running. With managed dedicated hosting, you’ll typically have a team of experts that will help to setup and manage your dedicated server. You’ll usually have to do some technical tasks yourself, but that list will be much smaller than if you were running an unmanaged dedicated server.
6. What benefits does dedicated hosting have?Dedicated hosting can be very advantageous for certain websites and applications. First of all dedicated servers are one of the most secure hosting options. The simple fact that you won’t be sharing a server with other sites that might be vulnerable to hacking is a big plus. Dedicated servers also tend to have higher uptime, as there are less hardware and software failures that may result in your site being taken down. Dedicated servers are also optimized for performance and uniquely structured to address your unique website needs. Your site will be able to utilize the full resources of the server without having to share them or compete for them, with other websites. Finally, dedicated servers also provide you with scalability to meet the changing needs of your website. This style of hosting environment has larger resource allocation abilities, plus additional servers can be brought on if you exceed those resources.
7. What are the drawbacks of dedicated hosting?Dedicated hosting isn’t the best fit for every kind of website owner. For starters, they’re much more technical to manage. Sometimes even requiring an entire team. If you’re less technical, but still require a dedicated server, there are managed dedicated server hosting packages that will reduce the number of technical tasks you must perform. Another disadvantage is the cost. Dedicated server hosting environments will be the most expensive option available to you. So, if you’re just starting out, or have a low budget for hosting, then there are better options out there. Hopefully, the answers above have helped you better understand what dedicated hosting is and why you might need it. Learn more about HostGator's dedicated server hosting here!