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  • FAQ Pages: What Every New Business Should Include

    Thursday, May 31, 2018 by
    what to include in faq page

    What Every New Business Should Include on Their FAQ Page

    One of the most frequently asked questions about frequently asked questions is “What should I include on my FAQ page?” The obvious answer is also the least useful one, because a well-written, properly formatted FAQ page can do much more for a small or new business than provide basic information. Yes, your FAQ page can and should answer the questions your customers ask most often, but there are ways to do so that also boost your business's visibility in search results, establish your expertise and reliability with current and prospective customers, and help you connect with prospects. How? We're glad you asked. best WordPress hosting

    What Questions Should I Answer On My Business FAQ Page?

    First, answer any recurring questions from your customers about your specific business.
    • Do shoppers want to know how long it takes you to paint a custom mural?
    • What services are included in your basic bookkeeping package?
    • How many bees you include with hive delivery?
    Put those Q&As at the top of your page, because they set your business apart, show its unique value, and make visitors want to stick around and learn more. For example, why lead with booking or payment information Q&As when you can lead (or is that llead) with llamas, as this backcountry outfitter does for its pack-animal rental business? example of branded faq page Next, go ahead and answer the questions you may have answered elsewhere on your site but which visitors may have overlooked. For example, your location, contact information, shipping fees, and return policies should be on each page of your site, but don't make visitors to your FAQ page hunt around your site for that information. They're on the FAQ page because they want to know more about your business. Make it easy for them. Finally, and here's where you can move beyond the basics, look at the types of searches that lead customers to your site. For example, if your analytics show that your custom cake business gets a lot of traffic from searches for “gluten-free birthday cake” then it's a good idea to include a Q&A about it. (“Do you offer gluten-free birthday cakes?” “Yes, we do. Simply request the gluten-free option when you order your cake and we'll prepare everything in our gluten-free workspace so you can enjoy a cake that's delicious, beautiful, and worry-free.”) This type of Q&A shows that you understand what your customers are looking for and why it matters to them. (In this case, because no one with celiac disease wants to get sick from a cake with trace amounts of flour in it.)  

    How Can a Good FAQ Page Help My SEO?

    Creating Q&As using the most common search terms for your traffic can also help your site rank better in those searches because your content is now more relevant. If your questions and answers align well with specific searches, your FAQ can end up in the prized “position zero” of Google search results. For example, I searched on desktop, mobile, and with voice to ask “what vaccinations does my dog need to be boarded?” featured snippet from faq page The answer in the featured snippet box comes not from a pet health magazine or veterinary association but from a boarding kennel that provides a clear, concise answer that's easy to read on desktop and mobile screens. In a voice search, Google reads aloud all but the last sentence of the featured snippet text and mentions the name of the business. Google doesn't say exactly how it chooses featured snippets, but following best practices for your FAQ page and site formatting will increase the likelihood of your FAQ ranking well. For more tips, check out our blog post with 5 ranking strategies for featured snippets!  

    How Do I Write a Good FAQ Page?

    To create an effective FAQ page, answer these questions. 1. What keywords are customers looking for? Use your analytics dashboard to see how people find your site in searches. If you're starting a new business, you can research keyword phrases in Google Keyword Planner and Soovle. 2. What's on my competitor's FAQ page? See what Q&As they include and which keywords they focus on, but remember that they may not have optimized their FAQ page. Use keyword analysis tools (see above) to decide if they're on the right track. If so, you may want to include similar (but not too similar) content. If not, don't follow their lead. 3. Are your questions phrased the way customers will write or ask them? Try typing your questions in your browser's search bar to get a sense of how people key in those questions. Then ask your questions on your mobile device or digital assistant to hear what sounds natural. Next, write your natural-sounding questions and answers in short, clear sentences that will look good on a mobile or desktop screen. Now, read them out loud. If they sound weird or confusing, rewrite them until you can imagine Siri reading them. 4. Is your FAQ page formatted properly? Group your FAQs by category if you have more than one type of question in categories like shipping, services, products, or something else. Use your carefully researched keywords in the page's meta tags. Include relevant links to the products or services mentioned in your FAQ. Add contact info so people who didn't find the answer they wanted can ask your directly, and wrap up the FAQ with a call to action like “shop now,” “book now,” or “contact us.”   Want to learn more about putting together a website that helps your new business grow? Make sure your site includes these must-have elements.
  • What’s a Progressive Web App, and Does Your Site Need One?

    Monday, May 21, 2018 by
    progressive web apps

    Why So Many Sites Are Building Progressive Web Apps

    Remember a couple of years ago when everyone was telling site owners to implement responsive design for smartphone users? Responsive design still matters, but the mobile-usability goalposts are moving toward progressive web apps (PWAs). register domain name

    What are PWAs?

    PWAs occupy the space between desktopssites with responsive mobile display and full-blown mobile apps that users have to download and install. PWAs load fast, get right to the point, use minimal data, work offline, send push notifications and put icons on users' homescreens, all without the development investment in an app. Is a PWA right for your site? If so, how can you build one? Let's take a look. Google has the definitive list of PWA criteria, but in very simple terms, PWAs are web sites that act like apps. PWAs are at least twice as fast as responsive websites, which means that even if you have a responsive template to make your site as mobile-friendly as possible, a progressive web app may still offer some specific advantages, depending on what your site does and what your goals are.  

    What are the advantages of PWAs?

    Progressive web apps can benefit retailers, information providers, NGOs, and their users.  

    1. PWAs can boost sales

    Many retailers who add PWAs report mobile sales growth, because PWAs help overcome some of the issues that cause mobile shoppers to bail out before buying, such as difficult navigation, slow load times, and fussy data-entry at checkout. After launching its progressive web app, cosmetics company Lancome saw a 17% increase in mobile revenue in the US market. AliExpress, the China-based merchant marketplace, saw conversion rates rise by 104% after its PWA went live. Clearly, customers are happy to make purchases on their phones as long as the process is easy, and PWAs can make it so.

    2. PWAs load fast and use less data

    Most smartphone users will wait 3 seconds tops for your site to load. After that, they're gone. A PWA speeds up load times, which is good for all users, whether they're impatient city dwellers who are multitasking at top speed or people in rural, backcountry, or developing areas who want to make the most of their limited connectivity. A good non-retail example of a PWA is the UN's ReliefWeb. The huge humanitarian-crisis information portal has a full site (below, left) with maps, slideshows, a Twitter feed, and more. The site loads fast for people using the type of internet connection common in major Western cities. But for aid workers in remote locations and disaster zones, it's not as useful as ReliefWeb's “lite” site (below, right), which debuted in December 2017. The PWA distills the content to easy-to-scroll headlines and a small navigation menu.
    progressive web app vs regular websiteprogressive web app example website</center

    3. PWAs work offline

    Your visitors can pin your site to their smartphone homescreens, and every page on a PWA will load while the user's device is in airplane mode. If you want your site visitors to be able to scroll your archives—or browse your store—even when they're on an actual plane, in a tunnel, or without internet access for any reason, a PWA may be the way to go. All that said, if you run a site that doesn't sell products or serve people in low-bandwidth areas, and your mobile site already loads fast and is easy to navigate, you may not strictly need a PWA. But because PWAs are easier to make than an app, you might want to have one anyway.  

    How can you build a PWA for your site?

    The good news for site owners who aren't code-savvy is that there's a WordPress plugin for PWAs. After searching in vain for easy PWA conversion options for my own site, which uses WordPress on the Genesis framework, I tried the free version of WordPress Mobile Pack, which comes with a free theme and takes just a few minutes to set up. After I activated the plugin and chose the most current version of the Obliq theme, my desktop site still displayed with the Enterprise theme I've had for a couple of years, while the Obliq theme displayed on my phone's browser. In the plugin's quick start menu on my WordPress dashboard, I set the PWA to display only to me while I played around with the settings. I had the option to upload an icon for users' homescreens, and I picked a color scheme that I liked. The only thing I wasn't sold on in the free version of WordPress Mobile Pack was the Obliq theme, which I think would work better for an image-heavy site than a text-heavy one like mine. The developer offers some paid themes that I think would better showcase my content, and I'll probably end up going with one of those once I'm ready to take my PWA live.  

    What if you want to build your own PWA without using a WordPress plug-in?

    Here are a few resources to get you started.
    • Google Codelab has an 8-step tutorial to walk developers through the basics of converting an “old-timey” desktop website to a PWA.
    • Google's Baseline Progressive Web App Checklist includes some elements that even non-programmers can tackle, like checking the PWA's mobile-friendliness and verifying that the site is served over HTTPS, along with more advanced tasks like installing a service worker and a web app manifest.
    • Once you've met the baseline requirements, there are more than 20 elements on the Exemplary Progressive Web App Checklist, including schema markup, cache-first networking, credential management for sites that require users to log in, and a lot of UI/UX elements.
    • When you're done, you can audit your PWA with Lighthouse in Chrome DevTools to see what works and what needs to be tweaked.
      Adding a PWA to your site can be the work of a few minutes or a big project, depending on whether you use a plugin or get into your site's code. Either way, the time investment can pay off in terms of more sales, better accessibility for users with intermittent or slow connections, and a better mobile user experience.
  • How Your Online Store Can Reach Millennial Shoppers By Reviewing Your Pricing

    Monday, May 21, 2018 by
    review online store pricing and product mix

    Why Now Is a Good Time to Review Your Online Store's Product Mix and Pricing

    Millennials are upgrading their lifestyles. Is your store ready to help them do it? Shoppers age 20-36, as we mentioned in our future of e-commerce post, are driving growth in luxury online retail sales. In the US, Europe, and China, young consumers are spending more freely than before on luxe items—and are expected to do so for years to come. This means that if you've been holding off on adding more expensive products to your shop, this could be the time to go for it, to keep your customers from leaving you and to see better profit margins. But before you invest in new products, you'll want to do a market analysis, find your break-even point for those products, come up with a plan to market your luxury items to young adult shoppers, and create an online shopping experience they'll enjoy and want to experience again. best dedicated server hosting

    How Can You Analyze the Market for Your Luxury Items?

    In general, interest in luxury goods is high among young adults. Consultancy Deloitte found that 55% of US Millennials are “very interested” in “high-end fashion or luxury items.” The percentage is even higher in Italy, the UK, and China. But you'll want more details before you decide whether to invest in high-end products for retail or develop your own brand of luxe goods. Let's say you sell handmade leather wallets but you'd like to add handmade shoes, which are a much costlier product. Through a combination of surveying your existing customers, studying demographic data, and online marketing research tools, you'll want to answer these questions:
    • Who are the target customers for your product?
    • Do they need and/or want what you're planning to offer?
    • Do you have (or expect to attract) enough of these customers to make your investment in the new product profitable?
    • How is the competition presenting these products or similar ones?
    • How can you set your shop apart from competitors selling the same product? (Remember, competing on price is usually a losing proposition.)

    What's Your Break-Even Point?

    Once you know that there are customers who will buy your handmade shoes, you'll need to fine-tune how to price them and figure out how many you'll have to sell before you break even and start turning a profit. To find your break-even point for different retail prices, you can use this clever break-even analysis tool from Harvard Business Review. breakeven point analysis for online store You'll need to know, or have a good estimate of, your:
    • Fixed costs, which are the expenses you'll rack up in developing your shoes, like design software, shoemaking equipment, and the money you're budgeting for general promotions. (If you're buying finished products from a supplier, you can substitute the wholesale cost of your initial goods purchase for product development costs). Let's say setting up your workshop costs you $10,000.
    • Variable costs per product unit, which include the cost of materials and your time to make each pair. Variable costs can also include pay-per-impression digital marketing campaigns. Let's put your materials, labor, and digital marketing costs at $200 per pair.
    • Revenue per unit, which is your retail price. Small-brand handmade shoes are typically priced around $300 per pair.
    • Unit margin, or how much money you'll get to keep after each pair sells.  In this case, it's $100 per pair.
    Plugging these numbers into HBR's calculator (or using their equation) yields a break-even point of 100 pairs of shoes sold at $300 per pair. Raise your retail price to $350, and your unit margin rises to $150 while your break-even point drops to 67 pairs, although it may take you longer to reach your break-even point at the higher retail price.  

    How Can You Market Your Luxury Items to Millennials?

    With your shoes ready to go, your price set, and your break-even point calculated, it's time to let luxury shoppers know you've got the goods. How can you do that? Start with your email list and social media followers. (If your shop doesn't have an Instagram, know that it's a popular channel for major luxury brands trying to reach Millennials.) millennials find luxury items online on brand websites and social media In your messaging, you'll want to include great, share-worthy photos and text that emphasize the “quality and uniqueness” of your items. That's because Deloitte found those two things matter more to the under-35 luxury shopper than legacy brand names do. Promote your company's ethics and sustainable practices, too—89% of US Millennial luxury shoppers in Deloitte's study said they always or sometimes make sure a luxury brand is ethical and sustainable before buying.  

    How Can You Create a Luxury Customer Experience?

    There are two basic elements that can take a basic online shopping experience to luxurious new heights: product details and excellent customer service. Deloitte found that a slight majority of young luxury shoppers in the US prefer shopping online to buying in-store. However, these Millennials also said that being able to try products and get a sense of how they feel are important benefits to in-store shopping. If you're selling your handmade shoes online only, how can you give customers a clear sense of what your goods are like? Invest in high quality product photography, add product videos, and write brief but detailed descriptions of each luxury item you sell. To further encourage new customers to try your products, you'll want to highlight your fair and reasonable return policies, free shipping and expedited shipping options, and guarantees on what you sell. If you're doing double duty as chief shoemaker and customer service rep, remember to make each interaction with your customers as positive as possible. Answer questions about products as quickly as you can, and when people do buy from you, make sure the packaging is impressive, too. If your first foray into upscale products goes well, you may want to expand your offerings to include more high-end, high-margin items. In each case, remember to do your market research first so you can get the most return on your luxury-goods efforts.
  • The Small Business Guide to Performing Market Research

    Monday, May 21, 2018 by

    marketing research 101 small business guideMarket Research 101 for Small Businesses

    “Do your market research” is standard advice to people thinking about starting a business. But what does that really mean, and can you afford it? The good news is, there's a lot of useful free market data—although you may have to get reacquainted with your local library to access some of it. In this post, we'll go over the basics of market research, helpful resources, and DIY tools to help you gather the business intel you need. Recommended WordPress Hosting

    What is market research?

    Market research is the homework you do before you start your business to learn as much as you can about your prospective customers, the geographic market where you'll operate, and your industry. The great thing about market research today is that, thanks to massive amounts of consumer data collected by government agencies and research firms, you can get as detailed a picture of your customers, market, and industry as your time and budget allow. At a minimum you'll need to know:
    • Who is the target market for your product?
    • Do they need and/or want what you're planning to offer?
    • Do they have money to spend with you?
    • Do enough of these customers exist to support your business now and in the future?
    • How's the overall health of your industry?
    • Who's your competition?
    • What sets you apart from the competition?
    To find the answers, you'll need to do two types of market research. Primary market research is research you do. Secondary market research is all the demographic and industry data that's out there for businesses to use. The names don't mean that you should do primary market research first and secondary market research second. To be efficient at planning your business, you need a good understanding of the industry, geographic market, general customer characteristics, and projected trends before you invest time and money in conducting surveys and focus groups with primary sources.  

    How do you do primary market research?

    You'll need to identify people who fit the profile of your ideal customers – people who are interested in what you want to sell, have the money to buy it, and will continue to have money to spend with you over time. The way to do this, usually, is with online and maybe phone surveys, based on demographic data you've gathered from secondary sources, in-person connections you've made with your target market, trade and professional groups, and more. The Small Business Administration has a handy 7-page Market Research Worksheet that not only guides you through the basics of setting up a primary research questionnaire but also helps you avoid some newbie mistakes as you go. For online surveys, SurveyMonkey is the most popular option. Not only does the service offer free tools you can use to collect data, there's also a resource library where you can learn how to design your survey, how to finesse tricky topics, how to structure numerical rating scales, and tips on market research. market research surveys If you've already started building your business email list, you can share your surveys with your subscribers to start collecting info. You can also embed SurveyMonkey surveys on your Facebook pages. You can use both SurveyMonkey Audience and Facebook Ads to share your surveys with audiences that match your target customers.  

    How do you do secondary market research?

    There's a lot of good data online, but for some of the most valuable secondary market data, you'll need to either buy access or find a library with access to those databases. Free online resources to get you started include:
    • SizeUp from the Small Business Administration, which lets you research local competitors, benchmark your business against them, and find advertising outlets.
    • American FactFinder from the US Census Bureau can help you determine the size of your target audience, get general demographic data, and gather industry information by state, county, or city. The Census Bureau site has other resources you can explore, too.
    • The Bureau of Economic Analysis has a trove of national and regional data, including personal spending, income, and savings data displayed by quarter. Wonder whether spending on shoes is rising? Find out here.
    At the library, look for these resources:
    • The State and Metropolitan Area Data Book – The more recent, the better. This covers general demographic data like population, employment, education, and more.
    • The Statistical Abstract of the United States – Again, the most up to date edition you can find. This includes data on everything from sexual orientation, healthcare usage, veterans, and lots more to help you refine your research.
    • Databases – Each library system has access to a variety of databases that cost too much for individuals to tap into on their own. Cardholders may be able to use some of these databases online at home, but others may require you to make a trip to a branch.
    These are just a few secondary sources, and there will be a learning curve as you explore, but that's true for just about every aspect of starting a business. Stick with it, ask your library's information specialists for help, and remember that learning to do identify worthwhile market research sources is a skill that will help you as your business grows.  

    How long do you have to do market research?

    After you launch, you always should keep tabs on market trends that affect your industry, your competitors, your geographic market, and your target customers. This can help you when you want to introduce new products or expand into new areas, and it can help you serve your customers better as their needs and income levels change.
  • Networking for Small Business: 4 Things You Need to Know

    Thursday, May 10, 2018 by
    how to network for your business

    How to Network Like Your Small Business Depends On It

    Networking can be daunting for small business owners because it takes time, energy, and a certain amount of extroversion if you're meeting people in person. But networking is essential for connecting with prospects and building a peer group to help you work through business decisions, learn about new trends in your field, and promote each other's work. Networking doesn't have to be hard. If you know what you want to accomplish and how you work best, you can find a networking approach that works for you. best WordPress hosting

    1. Know Your Networking Goals

    Small business owners are sometimes disappointed with their networking efforts because they lump networking and marketing together. Networking may lead to sales eventually, but expecting any particular networking event to generate new business is like expecting to get married at the end of a coffee date. (Sales expert Jill Konrath describes a similar problem with rushed sales pitches.) What are some realistic networking goals?  

    Goal #1: Get on their Radar

    Letting people know what you do is step one in networking. You can let people know what you're doing without being too promotional, and you can introduce yourself to prospects without trying to make a sale. Your URL is enough to let people check out your business and learn more at this stage.  

    Goal #2: Learn More About Your Industry

    Networking with other business owners is a great way to find out what works, what doesn't, and what's the next big thing in your niche or region. This should be an ongoing part of your networking.  

    Goal #3: Build Relationships

    This is the big goal. Whether you're building relationships with prospective and current customers, getting to know vendors, checking in with your peers, or touching base with people in media, the real aim of networking is to build connections to people who share some of the same professional interests and goals so you can help one another succeed.  

    2. Know Your Networking Style

    Does meeting new people give you a boost of energy? Congratulations, extrovert! You're an ideal candidate for in-person networking. Do you feel drained after a big meeting or crowded event? Welcome, introvert! You'll probably excel at networking online. These are generalizations, of course, and you don't need to stick to only one approach. When you're new to networking, though, it's easier to start if you're comfortable. You can always branch out later as your skills and confidence grow. Here are some of your options.  

    Digital Networking

    Online networking opportunities may be the best thing about social media. Industry groups on Facebook and LinkedIn give you access to people in your industry, and local business groups on Facebook can help you keep up with events you may want to attend in person. You can also set up your own groups on these platforms or on Skype or Slack to keep in touch with your colleagues and bounce ideas off each other. If you follow industry leads and experts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, comments and replies can be a great place to connect with others in your field. Make sure that your social profiles include a link to your website for people who want to learn more.  

    Local In-Person Groups and Events

    From general groups like chambers of commerce to specific niche groups for different professions, there's probably at least one local group near you where you can do some local networking. If you live in a mid-size or larger city, there may even be neighborhood-level groups that host business networking events. Even if you're not ready to mingle in person, sign up for their emails to get a sense of how active they are and who participates.  

    Regional and National Conferences

    TED events. SXSW. CES. There's no shortage of conferences and industry trade shows you could attend. Before you invest in conference admission and travel expenses, research your options to make sure you'll have the opportunity to make connections in line with your goals. Conferences also have email lists, social media channels, and webinars you can sign up for to find people to connect with throughout the year.  

    3. Know Your Networking Budget

    Once you've found options that feel comfortable and fit your goals, focus on the ones that fit your budget and schedule. If you're an an extrovert with a new digital business to launch, trade shows and big events like SXSW could be well worth the investment of several days and a few thousand dollars in registration, travel, and lodging costs. If attending a big conference isn't doable, present your gregarious self to local groups and to media outlets as an expert they can contact for quotes and interviews on topics in your field. HARO is a great way to connect with reporters. My fellow introverts may be thinking we've got the sweetest deal because most of our preferred networking options are so inexpensive: a LinkedIn Premium membership, local business group dues, and national professional groups. There are some pricier introvert-friendly networking options that can pay off, too. Paid mastermind groups give a small group of working professionals access to knowledge and feedback from an industry expert. A good mastermind group can help you step up your game and build close connections to people in your business—and you can stay connected long after the program is done to talk about rates, contracts, and business trends.  

    4. Know Your Networking Etiquette

    Once you've figured out your best networking methods, growing and maintaining a healthy professional network is relatively easy. Offer a good product or service and treat your connections the way you'd like them to treat you.  

    Please and Thank You Go a Long Way

    Respect your connections' time when you make a request or issue an invitation, and don't take it personally if they're too busy to engage. Always thank people who share their expertise, offer their advice, or send you referrals.

    Be the Connection You Want to See

    When you have information you think your connections can use, share it with them. Do you have a client project you need to hand off? Refer it to someone in your network. Did one of your peers earn an award? Give them a shout out on social media. When you get a boost from someone in your network, give them credit for the assist.  

    Bring Something to Share

    At in-person networking events, bring something to hand out as you connect with people. It can be as simple as your business card or as fancy as samples from your bake shop or boutique. Make sure it's branded so people will remember where they got that bonbon or handmade soap.   When you set realistic goals, choose methods you like, and treat your connections well, you're on the way to building a professional network that's worth the effort.