Monday, November 27, 2017 by Casey Kelly-Barton
Monday, November 27, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
How to Create a Blogging Strategy for Your BusinessYou’ve decided it’s time for your business to start blogging (good call!), but now you have to figure out exactly what that will look like. You need a strategy. The first thing you have to acknowledge is that blogging is hard. It requires a lot of time, energy, and skill. If you go into it expecting it to be easy and think you can just figure out what you’re doing as you go, you probably won’t get much out of your blog and may well give up a few months in (you wouldn’t be the first business to do so). To actually do this right, you need to start by thinking through the kind of blogging that makes sense for your business.
Answer These 4 Questions Before You Start BloggingFirst, sit down with your team and ask yourself some questions:
- What’s the goal of your blog? You shouldn’t start a blog just because you read somewhere that businesses should have a blog. You need to figure out what you actually want to accomplish with your blog. Is your main priority improving your website’s SEO? Building relationships with your customers? Growing an email list? You’ll probably want to accomplish some combination of all those things, but figure out where your priorities are. That will help guide your blog efforts.
- Who’s your audience? Who are the people it’s most important to reach with your blog posts? A blog that gets tons of traffic from the wrong audience won’t serve your business well, you have to make sure you design your blog strategy around reaching the people most likely to become your customers.
- What’s your bandwidth? Be realistic. How much time does your current team really have to work on this? If you’re trying to fit all the work of creating and running a blog into already full work schedules, something else will have to give.
- What’s your budget? A blog itself doesn’t cost that much money to set up and run (especially since you already have your domain and hosting), but you’ll likely find you want to consider hiring professionals to help you with the writing, image design, SEO, and promotion. You may also need to spend money on things like images and plug-ins to get the blog looking just right.
Blog FrequencyOne of the most important parts of your blogging strategy will be determining how often you’ll be updating your blog. Research on this subject has come to a very clear conclusion: the more you publish, the better the results you’ll get in traffic and blog leads.
But there’s a good reason most businesses don’t publish several blog posts a day in spite of this data. For most of people reading this, it just isn’t possible to produce that much blog content and have it all be of a high quality. What you have to figure out here is what you can realistically manage based on the bandwidth and budget you just figured out. You have to account for the time it takes to plan out your blog each month (e.g. doing research, coming up with topic ideas, setting up a calendar), write the blog posts (this will vary, but think somewhere in the range of 1-3 hours per post), edit the blog posts, and load them to the blog and schedule them. That’s gonna add up, and it’s very likely you’ll need to hire people beyond your current team to be able to fit it all in. Pick a realistic goal for blog frequency to start, and be prepared to scale back if you realize it’s too much to keep up with long term. It’s more important that you maintain a high quality in your blog posts and keep up with a consistent publishing schedule than that you publish multiple posts a day.
Blog Post LengthYou have two issues to figure out here:
- How long should your blog content generally be?
- Do you want some general consistency in content length, or some blog posts that are longer and some that are shorter?
Write Yourself or Hire Someone?If you want to keep the writing in-house to start, then you’ll need to make plenty of room in the calendar to ensure your team can take on the additional duties. That may mean lengthening deadlines on other projects or figuring out other responsibilities that can be dropped. Asking employees that already have full schedules to somehow fit blog writing in as well won’t turn out well – not for them and not for the quality of the blog posts you’re likely to end up with. It’s more likely that you’ll need to hire someone new, whether by creating a new employee position (or a few) at your company, or by hiring freelancers to fill in the gaps in what you need. This comes with a number of benefits:
- You don’t overload your current team.
- You can hire people with the distinct skill set you need. Consider looking for people skilled in content strategy and SEO, as well as copywriting.
- You’ll have an easier time sticking to a calendar if you’re paying people to meet deadlines rather than trusting employees in other positions to fit it in on the side.
Types of PostsThere are a lot of different ways for you to approach individual blog posts and having a few main types of blog posts in mind that you know you want to use can be helpful in starting to put together your strategy and content calendar. While this list isn’t necessarily comprehensive, here are a number of common blog post types to consider including in your plan:
- In-depth informational posts – This is what you see a lot with longform posts. They dive deep into a particular topic to bring together all the useful information the reader could need.
- Tutorials – Posts that talk readers through how to do something can be very useful to them and thus good for you.
- List posts – List posts are very popular, probably because they make it easy for people to skim for the information they need. They frequently perform well, so consider incorporating them into your strategy.
- Curated posts –Bringing together information and links from other sources can be valuable to readers who don’t have time to seek out the information on their own. Link roundups or other curated posts can therefore provide a value-add to your readers.
- Industry news – Pay attention to industry news and add your voice to the events and updates that are relevant to your readers.
- Posts on relevant trends – Covering trends in your industry is another good way to add your insights to issues people are concerned about.
- Interview posts – Interviews with an expert source can help you attract the expert’s audience while bringing new insights to your own.
- Checklist posts – A checklist can help people needing step-by-step instructions on something they’re working on.
- Review posts – Reviewing products, books, or other content out there can help your readers know of other relevant things they should consider trying (or not).
- Answers to FAQs – Any questions you regularly hear from customers and prospects can be turned into informational blog posts.
- Event recaps – Any webinars, meetings, or conferences you and employees attend could become the subject of useful blog posts for your readers.
- Case studies – Seeing examples of how to do something is often useful. Providing specific case studies in blog form can therefore be beneficial.
- Posts about your product – You don’t want to go to this well too often, but your blog is a good place for posts about how to use your product more effectively or for announcing updates you’re making to it.
- Posts about company updates – When there are big changes at your company or new products, announce them with a post on the blog.
- Posts highlighting other forms of content - Your blog can help you promote other types of content you create such as podcasts, videos, infographics, and quizzes. Including transcripts of podcasts and videos is also good for SEO and allows you to reach the people who prefer reading over viewing or listening.
How to Promote Your Blog PostsWe’ve established that regular blogging is hard, but even for those that put the work in, getting people to find and read your blog is a whole other challenge. When you’re planning out what your blogging will look like, make sure to include plans for promoting your blog posts . Pushing your posts out on social media is probably the most obvious promotion tactic you can use, but it’s not enough in most cases. Consider other ways to get your posts in front of people, including:
- Promoting blog posts to your email lists.
- Using paid social or paid search ads to promote your blog.
- Writing guest posts on relevant blogs to expand your audience.
- Getting involved in relevant online communities in order to share your expertise and content.
- Using influencer marketing to expand your reach.
Monday, November 20, 2017 by Alexis Krasinski
Think you know everything about HostGator? Time to put your skills to the test. Brush up on your HostGator history with this quiz!
Difficulty Level: HARD[qzzr quiz="451177" width="100%" height="auto" redirect="true" offset="0"]
Friday, November 17, 2017 by Shayla Price
5 Examples of Inspired Ecommerce Holiday CampaignsThe holiday shopping season is here! From the latest fashion apparel to the hottest tech gadgets, consumers desire the best gifts to celebrate the upcoming festivities. Now is your time to ramp up your marketing campaigns. But before you do, William Harris, content lead at Sellbrite, offers some advice: “The first step in developing any successful marketing campaign for your ecommerce store is to first think about your goals. If you don’t know why you’re launching a campaign or what you’re hoping to get from it, it’s virtually impossible to determine whether your campaign brought your business any sort of value in the end.” With a goal in mind, you can take the next step toward boosting your sales. Here are five holiday campaigns to inspire your audience.
1. Target: Gift GuidesIt’s the season of giving. For the everyday shopper, the holidays are a time to show their loved ones how much they care. Therefore, their shopping will focus on purchasing gifts that bring joy to their humble grandmothers, talkative college friends, and funny spouses. For businesses, this attitude of gratitude should present itself in your campaigns. Tuck away the marketing collateral that spotlights the buyers and bring out the websites emphasizing products for the giftee. Gift guides are an effective way to satisfy your consumers. Categorizing your products makes it easier for buyers to locate the perfect gift, while also ensuring the recipient gets an item that fits their interests. Well-known brand Target implements this strategy for its online store. With a click of a button, shoppers can locate gifts for kids and pets—and items under a specific budget. When creating gift guides, think about who will receive the product. You can offer complementary product recommendations, too. For instance, if you highlight a comfy sweater, give consumers links to your scarves, socks, and gloves. Gift guides are all about convenience for everyone involved. Release the stress from your shoppers and earn sales in the process.
2. Nordstrom: PersonalizationSay goodbye to the days of generic trinkets during the largest shopping season. With customization as a top priority, consumers crave products that will create memories for the special people in their lives. The need of personalization is an advantage for your ecommerce store. It’s your opportunity to distinguish your inventory from competitors and build brand recognition with your target audience. Personalization will vary depending on your consumer base and product offerings. You can provide buyers with the choice to add hand-picked designs to an item, or deliver the gift in a unique manner (maybe a drone!). Michelle Hoang, marketing at Beeketing, gives a suggestion: “Why not allow your shoppers to directly send the products to their loved-ones with an e-Gift card? This way you make the shopping easy for the gift senders because they won’t have to wait for the packages to arrive before they can gift them.” Nordstrom lets its shoppers include a personalized message to their gifts. For a few extra bucks, they also can get products wrapped in a box with tissue paper, a ribbon, and a gift tag. Gifts are an expression of the customers. Let them participate in building the gift through personalization options.
3. REI: Social MovementsYour customers are more than just occasional shoppers who love your products. They are people who live in a world of injustice, struggle with medical issues, and champion ideals bigger than themselves. So it makes sense for your business to join local and national movements with your audience. Work with your team to decide which issue aligns with your company’s values and fits the dialogue of your customers. And it’s not always about being right or wrong when it comes to advocating for a cause. Instead, you can strive to bring a solution to a social movement. That’s exactly what REI did. While brands rushed to compete for Black Friday sales, the outdoor gear chain closed the doors of its retail locations, headquarters, and distribution centers. With its #OptOutside campaign, the company encourages employees, along with communities, to enjoy the outdoors, rather than missing time with family on Thanksgiving to wait in line for a Black Friday doorbuster. Be mindful of how you execute this social movement strategy. It should be a sincere approach to raise awareness about a problem and to contribute your resources to help. What causes matter to your customers? It’s time for you to step up and add your brand’s voice to the conversation.
4. Lenovo: Contests & GiveawaysYou get a car! You get a car! Okay, maybe not a car. While your business may not dish out free vehicles like Oprah Winfrey, your brand can still spread the joy of surprises. Contests and giveaways during the holidays can bring some much-needed attention to your business. Develop amusing contests with relevant themes and cool prizes. This is the perfect time to display your brand personality and build trust with your consumers. Lenovo prepares its customers for a season of winning. Lucky entrants have a chance to win everything from a gaming monitor to a tablet after they fill out a simple form. While you may want to get your contest started today, it’s essential that your team craft rules for the contests and check local laws. Alexandra Sheehan, a freelance writer/editor and content specialist, says: “Before you run a contest or giveaway, remember that there are a number of legalities and guidelines to consider, and these rules depend on the type of promotion you’re running and what platform you use as a host.” Attract new customers to your ecommerce store with contests and giveaways. The influx in traffic will boost your efforts to earn more revenue for the business. Learn more about running a successful Facebook contest here.
5. Old Navy: Email MarketingAs your team gears up for the holiday rush, don’t forget about your existing customers. They still hold value for your brand and possibly will drive more sales than new customers. Email marketing is one of the best channels to nurture your loyal fans during the holidays. Your goal is to send specific messages to different customer segments. Let’s say your ecommerce store sells a variety of shoes. To cater to multiple audiences, you may send basketball shoe recommendations to your athletic consumers and offer limited-edition shoes to your sneakerheads. Email also works well for delivering time-sensitive coupons. In the example below, Old Navy tells its customers about a 40% promotion. (And the email fits mobile devices!) Spice up your holiday email marketing with user-generated content, from photos to testimonials. You want to remind customers of the blissful feeling they get when shopping with your brand. It gives them another reason to visit your website sooner than later. Communication never grows old as a marketing strategy. Take advantage of email to retain your most faithful customers.
Inspire Your AudienceDon’t let your business miss out on holiday revenue. This season, do something different and revamp your marketing campaigns. Try gift guides to direct consumers to specific products that match their needs. Use personalization to turn an ordinary gift into a memorable moment. And it never hurts to host a fun-filled giveaway to pique consumers’ interest. Ignite your audience’s holiday spirit to increase end-of-year sales.
Friday, November 17, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
Why Domain Privacy Is ImportantMaintaining your privacy is harder today than it’s ever been. Keeping your personal information safe from strangers is a constant challenge, one you have to be vigilant about. If you own a website though, there’s a good chance your information is out there where anyone can find it – unless you’ve chosen to invest in domain privacy.
What is Domain Privacy?When you buy a domain name, part of the process is providing your contact information to the company you buy it from. They’re required to pass that information along to the ICANN WHOIS directory. This is so that there’s a clear record of who owns each website on the web. If something posted on a website breaks a law, there needs to be a way to track down the owner. While there are practical reasons for this directory to exist, there’s obviously a downside to it as well. Every website owner has the contact information they provide to their domain registration company plastered in a directory where everyone can see it. If you go through life trying to be careful who you provide your personal information to, you may be concerned to learn that just by starting a website that information is out there for anyone to see. While you’re required to provide your information when you buy the domain, it’s not required that the information be easily accessible on the wide web. You can remove your contact information from the WHOIS directory without running afoul of the law by using a domain privacy service. People who search for your domain in the directory will still see you listed as owner and see an email address they can use to contact you – but they won’t see any other contact information, and the email address will be a proxy one that makes it possible to reach you, but isn’t your actual email address.
3 Reasons Domain Privacy is Worth ItDomain privacy isn’t free. While the cost is fairly low ($14.95 a year with HostGator), if you have limited money to spend, you’ll have to consider if domain privacy is something that’s worth the cost to you. If you’re on the fence, here are three benefits that make the cost well worth it for many website owners.
1. Protect your personal information.How comfortable are you with the idea of random strangers knowing your address and phone number? Even if it’s a business address and phone number, rather than a personal one, that’s still probably where you spend a lot of your time each day. The possibility that anybody could figure out where to find you with a simple internet search is disconcerting for many people. In addition to the general discomfort you might feel, there’s the very real risk of identity theft. Every piece of information about you that becomes easily accessible to thieves puts you a little more at risk of identity theft. With high-level businesses showing up in the news for data breaches with increasing frequency, there’s only so much you can do to fully protect yourself, but every little step you can take to make your personal information harder to find can reduce your risk.
2. Reduce spam.We are all inundated with spam in so many areas of life. Phone calls from strange numbers. Emails from unknown sources shilling products you’d never buy. It seems hard to avoid it completely, but anytime your contact information goes out on the open web, spammers will find it. If your email address and phone number are easily accessible in a directory, you can count on more spam calls and emails because of it. Domain privacy offers you protection from spammers having one more place to find you.
3. Avoid scammers.If there’s anything worse than spammers, it’s scammers. Internet scams are common and it’s another area where the more people know about you, the more likely you are to be targeted. And the more information scammers have, the more convincing they can be. If they see your domain registration is about to expire, they can pose as your domain registration company and try to get you to pay them instead of your actual company. Or they could go the other way and attempt domain hijacking by posing as you to your domain registration company to try to convince them to hand over the keys to your domain. That last part is hard to pull off, since companies have put procedures into place to make domain hijacking very difficult, but having access to your personal information along with details about your domain registration makes pulling off these kinds of scams that much easier.
How to Get Domain PrivacyIf you’re ready to add one more level of privacy to your life and website, then investing in domain privacy is pretty simple. Check with your hosting company to see if they offer it as an add-on service. If you use HostGator, all you have to do is:
- Log into your Customer Portal.
- Click on the domain name you want to enable privacy for in order to open the Domain Overview section of the portal.
- Look for the word “Privacy.” You’ll see a red X next to it, indicating you haven’t bought it yet. Click on the word “Change” next to the X.
- Click on the option to select Private on the next page that comes up, and click “Save.”