About Us: How to Tell Your Business Story the Right WayThe About Us section of your website has the potential to draw in customers, establish trust, and make people want to do business with you. But choose a couple of dozen small-business sites at random and you'll find that many have About Us pages with next to no information, or that overload visitors with full-page blocks of texts that go into far more detail than most people can absorb. Here's how to write an About Us section that showcases your business story, demonstrates to customers that you're the right choice, draws in people searching for what you sell, and sets the tone for your customer outreach.
Show What You Can Do for Your CustomersIt's about you only to the extent that you have something your customers want or need. So tell your story in a way that shows you understand the problem your visitors want to solve. Zappos does a great job by describing the founder's failed, frustrating shoe-shopping experience at a mall. No one wants to waste an hour and go home without new shoes, so right away, Zappos shows it understands something about its customers: They want convenience and selection. What if you're blogging? Blog and media site Scary Mommy uses some frank descriptive wording on its About Us page to show that they get the struggles and rewards of motherhood: “We’ve seen it all, heard it all, and smelled it all, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.” You don't have to be that direct if it's not your style or not on-brand, but there are many ways to show that you get what your audience needs.
Establish Your Trust and ExpertiseBesides looking for a solution to a problem, people who check out your About Us page want to see if you are the right person to solve their problem. An effective way to show your expertise and at the same time show that others trust you with their problems is with social proof. Your About Us page can include:
- positive customer reviews
- case studies from clients
- media mentions
- awards you, your employees, and your business have earned
- your name
- your location
- a photo or video of you that reflects your brand and personality
- contact details like a phone number, email address, and company social media accounts.
Get Found by Your AudienceA good About Us page helps prospects decide if your site is a good match for what they need. A great About Us page also helps more people find your site. To do this, you'll need to use some SEO tools to help your site show up when people search for what you offer. Make sure your About Us page includes:
- Long-tail keyword phrases that help people zero in on what they need. If you sell school uniforms in Dallas, don't rely on “school uniforms” to drive search traffic to your site. Include “school uniforms in Dallas” or “school uniforms for Dallas-area charter schools” or whatever is accurately describes in detail what your customers search for.
- On-site SEO titles, meta descriptions, and tags for your About Us page with your most important keywords. Your meta description will appear in search results, so make every word count: “Zippy's is the fastest and best courier service in the greater Houston area. Call 703-555-1212.”
- Optimized images for the best possible search results. Tag and describe them in ways that help people find your site. That team photo on your About Us page can be titled “Bakers of Custom Birthday Cakes in Duluth” instead of “teamphoto,” for example.
- Fast load times. When you're done with your About Us page, run it through Google's PageSpeed test to make sure it loads quickly enough to avoid getting downranked in search results.
- Mobile-friendly display and navigation. While you're testing your About Us page, use Google's mobile-friendly test tool to see how it performs on mobile devices. Better performing pages tend to rank higher in search results.
- Schema.org markup tools to optimize search results displays. You can use a schema plugin for your WordPress site or delve into this step-by-step guide on schema and Google Rich Snippets to format your About Us page for good-looking search results.
What's Your Business Story?However you set up your About Us page—a serious rundown of your firm's accomplishments or a set of whimsical videos about your handmade housewares shop—keep the tone, appearance, and language consistent with the rest of your site and with your brand. Consider your About Us page an ongoing project, keep it updated and focused on the goals above, and it can be a powerful marketing and customer relations tool.
Why Choose WordPress for Your Website?Have you ever wanted to start a side business but hesitated because you knew you'd need a website? Or missed out on customers because your small business doesn't have a site yet? If you're not a tech-minded person, setting up a site can seen confusing and time-consuming if you do it yourself--or expensive if you hire someone else to do it. Those worries are understandable. However, it's 2018. A website is a must if you want to reach your target market, and setting up a website is a lot easier than you may realize, especially if you use WordPress to set it up.
What Exactly Is WordPress?WordPress is a content management system (CMS), which means it's designed to help you organize and display the content on your site. What counts as content? Everything that appears on your site, from the header with your business name to your contact information to your blog posts and tutorial videos. If it's on your site, it's content. (A note about WordPress.com versus WordPress.org, because you'll see both online: WordPress.org offers the free CMS we're talking about. WordPress.com offers a free, WordPress-CMS-powered platform for non-commercial blogs which can't be customized with plugins or custom themes. If you're running a business, WordPress.com is not a workable option.)
7 Reasons to Choose WordPress for Your Business WebsiteIt may help to think of your website as an empty retail space. Your CMS is the shelving and racks you set up to make sure the contents of your store are organized logically, easy to reach, and displayed attractively. When you're choosing a CMS, just as when you pick out store fixtures, you have lots of options—and they're not all equal in terms of cost, function, and aesthetics. Here's why WordPress is the busy, non-techie, small-business owner's friend.
1. WordPress is free.Free is good when you're operating on a small-business budget. You'll still have to pay for web hosting, and you may want to buy a theme instead of using a free one to change the way your site looks (more about that in a moment), but the WordPress CMS costs nothing to download.
2. WordPress is easy to use.WordPress prides itself on its five-minute installation and support guides to walk you through the process.
I'm not a technical savant but I've set up several WordPress sites, and it really is that easy to get a basic site running and looking respectable. Doing something complex may require some reading and conversations in the support forums, but for most new site owners, going from zero to website in a few minutes is more than enough. The topic of support forums brings us to the next thing WordPress has going for it.
3. WordPress has a vast support community.Thirty percent of all websites run on WordPress, and it has a 60% share of the CMS market. The number of people using WordPress means that if you have a problem or a question, odds are there's an answer waiting for you in one of the WordPress support or developer forums. It also means that if you ever want to outsource your site maintenance, content, or design, there are plenty of developers, writers, editors, and designers who know how your site's CMS works.
4. It's easy to make your WordPress site look unique.Because WordPress's code is open source, hobby and professional developers are always finding ways to improve it. There are thousands of free and paid themes you can choose from to make your site look the way you want it to. Think of your theme as similar to the interior decor of a brick-and-mortar store. Your theme will take care of your virtual color scheme, signage, and the details of your site layout. You can search by keyword to find themes that fit your business best, and if you ever get tired of your theme, it's usually pretty easy to switch to a new theme, although there are some steps you'll want to take first to keep your site working the way you want after the switch.
5. Create your dream functionality with WordPress plugins.Once you've chosen a web host and a theme and set up your basic site, there are thousands of plugins you can use to make the site work exactly the way you want it to. Whether you want it to load faster, backup automatically, or optimize your blog posts for search results, there's a plugin (or five) for that. And because WordPress supports multimedia content, you're not limited to blog posts and photos. You can embed videos, podcasts, and slideshows on your site with the right plugins.
6. WordPress takes security seriously.WordPress also makes it easy to keep your site's software up to date, which is critical to keeping hackers and data thieves out of your site. Some WordPress software updates are automatic, to prevent security vulnerabilities, and you can choose whether you want your plugins to update automatically or whether you'll handle those updates yourself. To update plugins and themes, all you have to do is click the checkboxes next to the items you want to update and then hit the update button. The trick is remembering to check for updates, which is why the auto-update option is so useful.
7. WordPress plays well with others.Even the coolest looking website needs to interact seamlessly with other platforms and with people, so you can get found and make sales. First, getting found: WordPress is structured to be easy for search engine crawlers to navigate, which means your site will perform better in search results, especially if you add an SEO plugin like Yoast. WordPress also plays well with Google's new criteria for mobile-friendly websites. You can make your site easier for mobile users to navigate by choosing a mobile-optimized or responsive theme from the start, or by installing a plugin to make your site work better on mobile devices. As for making sales, if you intend to sell directly from your site, WordPress plugin Woo Commerce makes it easy to sell products, digital downloads, subscriptions, and membership access to your site. And if you ever want to change web hosting services, you can migrate your entire WordPress site to a new host easily, with fewer steps and in less time than it would take you to migrate a free site builder-hosted site.
WordPress: The Right Choice for Your WebsiteThe bottom line is that if you want a site that looks professional, gets results, and is easy to set up and maintain, WordPress is almost always going to be your best bet, especially if you're not code-savvy and want to get on with running your business. Have more questions about how to install and use WordPress? We've got answers. Ready to get started with WordPress? See why customers trust HostGator's WordPress hosting.
Thursday, June 7, 2018 by Casey Kelly-Barton
Make the Most of Summer with These Fun Promotion IdeasUnless you sell swimwear or ice cream, your small business may see a drop in sales over the summer. Consumer spending on things besides travel tends to slack off during the hottest months, but you can encourage your current customers to come shop with you and attract new customers, too. Use some of these promotion ideas and best practices to rev up your business this summer.
1. Discount Punch CardsSummer punch cards aren't just for kids' reading clubs. Punch cards can bring more traffic into your store all season long by giving customers a discount when they buy upfront. These programs are a natural fit for yoga, fitness, and dance studios, and you can almost certainly create a punch promo for your business: a pre-pay discount on an iced coffee each week all summer long, car washes, dog washes, eyebrow waxing, or anything your customers will want more than once during the summer.
2. GiveawaysPeople love free stuff, even when it's hot outside. Summer is the perfect time to give away small items like skincare product samples, fashion jewelry, stickers, and food. Promote your giveaways on social media and make it clear what the terms are: good while supplies last, today only, free item with purchase, or however you want to structure your deal.
3. One-Day Sales and Deals of the DayBetween summer holidays you can create your own sales events. One option is to offer a one-day-only discount on your most-popular or highest-margin items. Department store chain Macy's does this several times a year. Another option is to offer a discount on one item each day (like Amazon's Deal of the Day offers) to keep customers checking your social media and dropping in for buys.
4. Work with the WeatherKeep an eye on the forecast and plan ahead, and you can have hot-day and rainy-day flash deals ready to go when the temperature gets above, say, 95 degrees or the skies open up. You can also offer afternoon “happy hour” deals to boost traffic during the hottest part of the day, like Sonic does with its half-price drink deals.
5. Partner with Local NonprofitsTry connecting with nonprofit groups nearby to host a fun event for a good cause. Got a dog-friendly patio or courtyard? Talk to a local animal shelter or rescue group about hosting an adoption event. Have indoor space for a show? Host a live music or dance performance. You don't need a big budget to do this if there's a performing arts school in your area with a student troupe – they may be delighted to have a chance to practice their performance skills, and their friends and family will show up to cheer them on. If you have enough lead time, you can send a press release to local media and invite them to cover your event.
6. Offer ClassesCraft stores like Michael's have long known that on-site classes can boost store traffic and demand for their products. Virtually any business can offer a free class on something related to what they do: cookie decorating, drawing, pet grooming, nail art, wine knowledge, caring for houseplants, maintaining lawnmowers, and so on. Besides promoting your classes via email and social media, write a press release so community websites and papers can include your event in their calendars.
7. Pop Up in New SpotsSummer is special-event time in most cities, so go where your customers will be. Look now for vending opportunities at festivals and shows, and start scoping out retail locations where you could rent space for a pop-up shop. Learn more about running your first pop-up shop here.
8. Make the Most of the Summer HolidaysAmerican shoppers expect sales ahead of Father's Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day, so go all out. Gifts, party supplies, beachwear, and things to help beat the heat are all popular sellers around these holidays. And if you sell anything at all related to back to school or back to college, start promoting those items before the end of July—Deloitte found that people who do their back to school shopping before August spend more than those who wait. Think now about deals you might offer on clothes, school supplies, and tech. You can also combine back to school with a special event to have a last-party-before-school event and sale.
Best Practices for Your Summer PromotionsKnow the ground rules. Each state has laws about giveaways you'll need to follow. You'll also want to know the maximum capacity for your shop if you're doing an in-store event so you don't have your event interrupted by the fire marshal. Set your terms. Flash deals and one-day sales can be a little tricky if you don't spell out the terms of your promos. I know business owners who've been contacted by customers demanding a partial refund of something they'd bought weeks before because that same item was now part of a flash sale. Spell out clearly that flash sale deals are valid only on items purchased that day to avoid headaches. Make your punch cards pop. Include your shop's logo, contact information, and social media details on your punch cards, and include the deal's terms. Write your promo copy ahead of time. On the day of your flash sale or special event, you want to be selling, not writing. Have your social media posts ready to go beforehand. Collect customer data. If you're offering a free class or hosting an event, ask people to register ahead of time or on site. This allows you to plan ahead and it gives you new email addresses you can roll into your email marketing program. Track promotion performance. Look at which promotions generated the most revenue and new customer contact info and which were the easiest to run. Next summer you can focus on the types of promos that delivered the best return on your time and effort this year.
Monday, June 4, 2018 by Casey Kelly-Barton
Network Like Your Blog Depends On ItNetworking can be daunting for bloggers because it takes time, energy, and a certain amount of extroversion at a time when you need those things to create your content. But networking is essential, not only for building an audience but also for developing a peer group to help you make decisions about your blog, keep up with the latest news and thinking in your niche, and promote each other's work. The good news is that, as a blogger, you're already in a strong position to find and make those first connections, use your blog as a networking tool, and grow your network.
How To Connect With New Blog ReadersWhen you're a blogger, your audience is the most important part of your network. They're the ones who read your posts, listen to your podcasts, or watch your videos. They're the ones who'll give you direct, honest feedback, inspire your work, and ask questions that make you think. They're also the people whose attention can help you make money from your blog if you decide to join a blogging network or become an infopreneur, which we'll talk about in a bit. So how to you build your audience? Stick the landing page. A good landing page gets visitors to ask for more content from your blog,and gives you another way to get in touch with them, via email. Learn how to create a landing page that works. Always read the comments. Get to know the people who make time to comment on your blog. They may have blogs of their own and insights that lead you to swap guest posts later on. Comments can also spark ideas for new posts—if so, be sure to give some credit to the person who made the comment. Have your say. As you read your favorite blogs, make the time to read and contribute to their comments sections. Don't spam the comments with links to your blog, though. Go social. You don't have to do every platform, but do at least one and do it well. Include links to your social media channels on your blog, and share your posts to your social media.
How to Connect With Other BloggersAll of the tips for connecting with audience members can also put you in touch with bloggers, because most bloggers love to check out other blogs. There are a couple of extra steps you can take to raise your blogger networking game, too. Join a blogger network. Blogger networks like Acorn and BlogHer offer ad revenue and sponsored post opportunities, so joining a network is a good way to start earning from the work you put into your blog. It's also a convenient way to get to know other bloggers in your niche and beyond. There are plenty of reputable blog networks you can join. They all have different requirements for their members, so do your homework before you apply. Attend at least one conference. Take your cards, plan ahead to meet up with some of your blog peeps IRL, and post your meet-ups on your blog and social media to share the love. You can pick a conference that's specifically for bloggers, like BlogHer's events, a regional event for your target audience, like the Texas Conference for Women, or an industry or hobby event in your niche, like Comic-Con.
Use Your Blog as Your Networking Calling CardHow bloggers make money depends on their niche, skills, and personal preferences. No matter exactly how you want to earn from your blog, growing your blog audience gives you more compelling numbers to share with potential sponsors and professional blogging clients. If you decide to sell information products on your blog—like downloadable tutorials or online courses—your archives serve as a preview for potential customers. Naomi Dunford's IttyBiz blog is a great example; her blog posts give readers a clear sense of the tone and type of advice they can get if they buy her coaching services. You don't have to rest on your archived laurels, either. Whenever you have a guest post on another blog, a new paid blogging gig for a client, or a new product to launch, share that information on the blog, of course. If there are influencers you hope will read and promote your blog, your content is the way to make that connection. Mention them in your content and link to their work or email them with a piece of your content you think they'll find interesting or useful.
How To Keep Your Blog Network StrongIt's one thing to build a huge web of digital connections. It's another to grow a network that benefits everyone who's part of it. Because blogging and a lot of the networking that goes with it happen online, the process of making connections can have an almost video-game feel to it. Click here, connect there, watch your numbers grow. But the human connections are what make your network worth building. Take the time to get to know a bit about each person you connect with and keep up with them. Not all of that has to take place on the public stage, either. Yes, you can publicly celebrate your network friends' wins and let the world know how much you appreciate them, but there's nothing wrong with chatting offline, too. These connections can turn out to be far stronger than you might expect. For example, I'm part of a group of writers who live all over the world and originally connected through the comments on each other's blogs. Now, we help each other out online and sometimes in person with career advice and creative support, and we've also helped each other through life events like kids' illnesses, going back to school, and making major moves. These connections run far deeper than pixels on a screen, but they only could have been built online. Ready to upgrade or set up your blog? Get started now.