What Is A Mobile Friendly Website?Spend some time researching how to build a website and you'll see terms like mobile-optimized, mobile-friendly, and “mobile first.” Mobile is a hot topic in website design because we do most of our searching and a lot of our shopping on our phones now, but most websites were built with desktop users in mind. Mobile users need sites that work well on small screens, use touch controls, are easy to navigate, and load fast. What does your site need to be mobile-friendly? Let's go over the basics.
What Does a Mobile-Friendly Website Look Like?Let's focus first on the way a mobile-friendly site looks, because visitors will decide at a glance whether they want to stay on your site based on its appearance. There are four basic elements a good mobile-friendly template or custom design will include:
1. Responsive Page DisplayResponsive design is the foundation of a mobile-friendly website. Without it, a smartphone or tablet user who visits your site will see a miniaturized version of your desktop site, which means they'll have to scroll vertically and horizontally to find anything—and that means they'll just leave and go somewhere else. A responsive site design, whether custom-built or based on a template, automatically displays your site properly on whatever type of device a visitor is using, whether they're using it in portrait or landscape orientation.
2. Readable FontsMobile friendly templates will include fonts that are easy for mobile users to read, but you may want to play around a bit with the fonts, especially if you have a logo that uses a particular typeface. Sans serif fonts with clean lines are generally the easiest to read on mobile devices, where glare and screen size can make serif fonts and novelty fonts like script hard to see clearly. And go up a size on your fonts—no one wants to try to read tiny text, even if it's sans serif.
3. Proper Text Formatting.Keep your blocks of text short and break them up with headlines and bulleted lists when it makes sense to include them. It's hard for our eyes to track close-together lines of text on small screens, so big paragraphs make it more likely that your visitors will lose their place and get frustrated.
4. Optimized Media Display.Test your images, infographics, and videos to make sure they look right on phones and tablets, without requiring users to scroll or resize their display to see your media.
What Does Mobile-Friendly Navigation Mean?Once your mobile visitors arrive, how will they find what they need? Mobile friendly navigation factors in the hardware and user-interface differences between desktops and mobile devices.
Think Touches and Taps Rather Than Mouse Clicks.Websites designed for desktop users are easiest to navigate with mouse clicks, not swipes, taps, and touches. There's no mouse on a smartphone, so you'll need to give mobile users a way to navigate using touch controls.
Reduce the Need for Data Entry.Trying to type on a smartphone keyboard is just the worst. Between the tiny keys, random auto-corrects, and auto-fills that may or may not populate fields correctly, it's something most mobile users prefer to avoid. Voice-to-text isn't much better, and it's not always an option (say, on the train during morning rush hour). Organize your mobile site so people can find what they need without having to type in the search field, or contact with you without filling out a contact form.
Shorten the Distance from Point A to Point B.Flat site architecture is your friend, because it helps mobile shoppers find things on your site without having to tap through too many layers along the way. A retailer that does this well is 6pm.com. Their store contains a vast number of items, but the mobile site's menus and filters are easy to access, so it only takes a few taps to go from the home page to sandals in my size. The mobile site also offers visitors the option to download a lightweight (17 MB) app, which offers a modular menu design that's easy to read on a phone.
How Fast Does a Mobile-Friendly Website Need to Be?Faster is always better. A mobile-optimized template or design that streamlines the number of requests a user's browser makes to load your site, plus a web hosting service that loads your pages fast, will go a long way toward making your site more mobile-friendly. Want to see how your site fares now and track improvements? You can use Google's PageSpeed tools to compare how quickly your site loads on mobile and desktop devices. There's also a Mobile-Friendly testing tool that evaluates speed plus other elements. Both of these tools give you a list of tips to make your site faster and more mobile-friendly, along with links to resources to help you make those changes. Want to really speed things up? An accelerated mobile page (AMP) is a lightweight app-like tool that's easy to build and use. The AMP was created to help solve the problem of laggy load times on mobile devices, and if your current mobile site isn't performing well on Google's page and mobile tests, an AMP may be the answer.
How Does a Mobile-Friendly Website Help Your Business?All the work you put into making your site mobile-friendly can pay off in the form of more business. Google says that 94% of American smartphone users “search for local information on their phones,” even if they have access to a desktop. And when people are searching for local businesses, they're usually ready to make a purchase. By making your site easy to find and easy to use on mobile devices, you're more likely to earn their business. To rank well in local searches, claim your Google My Business listing and make sure you're following other SEO best practices.
Build Your Mobile-Friendly WebsiteGet started on your mobile-friendly site today with the HostGator Website Builder. Choose from over 100 mobile-friendly templates!
4 Ways to Improve Your SEO for Voice SearchThere was once a time, pre-internet, when sitting at home or in your car asking questions of no one was considered odd. Now it's the next great iteration in internet search. Echo and Google Home-style devices are trendy, and surging mobile use means more people want to ask questions, not type in search phrases, to find what they need. But how, exactly, can you help your site get found in voice search results? Here are four ways to improve your voice search rankings and make it easier for people to find your site.
1. Go Local If It's Relevant to Your BusinessDoes your business serve a local or regional market? If so, it's time to claim all your local business listings so that you appear in results like “find a garden center near me” or “where's the nearest doggie daycare?” Start with Google, Yelp, and Bing and then claim other listings like Yahoo, the Better Business Bureau, Angie's List, or other platforms that are relevant to your type of business. Not sure how to set up your Google My Business listing? This post walks you through the best practices for Google local-listing SEO.
2. Get to Know Natural-Language QueriesIf you're used to thinking in terms of keyword phrases (like “voice search optimization” and “Google voice search SEO”), it's time to start asking questions (like “How can I optimize my site for voice search?” and “How does voice search affect SEO?”) That's because we don't search with our voices the same way we search with text. Instead of typing in the most important words and hitting enter, we ask Siri or Alexa, “Where can I find the best burgers in Milwaukee?” or “Is there a dry cleaner near me?” What that means for your site is that you need to include text that reads like natural language—the kinds of questions customers ask their phones or digital assistants. Not sure what those questions are? There are a few ways you can find out:
- Make notes on the questions customers ask you in person, on the phone, and via email.
- See what questions people ask about your type of business in forums and on social media.
- Use tools like Soovle to autocomplete questions you enter and show you what people are asking about in searches. For example, type in “how do you cook brisket” and you'll see results like “how do you cook brisket on a grill” and “can you overcook brisket,” sorted by popularity on different platforms including Google, YouTube, Bing, and more.
3. Use Natural Language Queries on Your SiteWhen you see commonly searched questions that are related to your business, try to work them into your site's headlines, subheadings, and text. This aligns your content better with what potential customers are looking for, and it can also give your site a more conversational tone, which most people find appealing. Just don't go overboard with the questions. Remember the days when sites would try to game search results by dumping repetitive keyword phrases into their pages so that their copy read like it was written by a robot? You want to keep the questions and answers on your site natural sounding and relevant. Another way to fine tune how your site appears in results is to stay focused on long-tail keywords, which is another way of saying “be specific.” In a market with 15 businesses providing children's party entertainment, including “children's party entertainment” on your site may not even land you on the first page of local search results. But if out of those 15 businesses, only two provide hula mini-lessons for the kids, including “hula lessons for kids' parties” is more effective because it's more specific—it helps people find exactly what they want.
4. Post Videos That Answer Questions Your Visitors AskThere's another type of content you can use with natural language queries: videos. YouTube videos can perform better than text-only web pages in Google search results, according to Michael Peggs at MarketingProfs. If there are questions that lead people to your website, make a few videos to answer them. For example, if you sell something like Acme barbecue pits, you can create videos that answer questions like “How do I put together my new Acme barbecue pit?” and “What's the best way to smoke brisket in an Acme barbecue pit?” Making short explainer videos takes some work, but it's not as big of a production as you might think. Each video needs four to five elements: a script, a voiceover, visuals, some editing, and maybe music. KISSmetrics has a great tutorial on putting together an explainer video on a tiny budget, with details about what should be in your script, how to record a voiceover that sounds professional, and how to source your visuals—something that can be as simple as doodles you've scanned into your editing program. If you create videos, you'll want to get the most search results mileage from them. Remember to:
- Title your video as a search question using natural language and the keywords that lead to your site.
- Use schema markup on your video if you embed it on your site.
- End each video with a call to action that directs viewers to your business.
Voice Search Is Always EvolvingAs you implement each of these strategies, remember that the goal is to help customers find your business. When you land new customers, ask them how they found you and you'll get a sense of which voice search strategies are working well for you and which you can refine more. And keep an eye on search trends, because the one sure thing about them is that they'll keep evolving as the way we use technology changes.
Planning Your First Pop-Up ShopThe internet is a great place to sell things, but sometimes you need to get your products in customers' hands to launch your business, introduce a new product, or generate more sales—without the expense and long-term commitment of maintaining a full-time brick-and-mortar store. That's why pop-up shops are such a hot trend, with everyone from solopreneurs to Google staging pop-up spaces. Despite the cute name and temporary nature of pop-up shops, they don't just pop up out of nowhere. We talked with two entrepreneurs who've done multiple pop-up shops about planning, promoting, running, and leveraging pop-up shops for your business.
What Exactly Is a Pop-up Shop?A pop-up shop is a temporary retail location inside another retail space like a mall or a big store, at an event, or in an open-air space like an empty lot. What makes a pop-up different from, say, having a booth at a craft fair? A booth is similar to a pop-up in some ways. Both satisfy the need to market your presence and carefully choose which merchandise to bring, but pop-ups stand out in other ways. For one thing, your pop-up may be the only one in the space, so you're not competing with other, similar vendors like you would be at a tradeshow or fair. For another, you can have much more control over the way your pop-up store looks compared to the rules that govern booth layout and design at most events. And if you market your pop-up right, people will be there to see you and your store specifically, not just to browse dozens or hundreds of vendors.
What's the Point of Having a Pop-up Shop?Businesses run pop-up shops for a variety of reasons. Some do it to generate buzz about new products, some do it to reach new audiences with their existing products. Kerstin Katko owns Ducky's Sheep Shack, a fiber arts studio and supplier in Long Valley, NJ. Katko said she did her pop-ups to get to know her customers and her community better. “The biggest benefit was getting people to find out about my business, and also meeting so many new people in my town. I did make a lot of sales too.” Sales can be a great reason to do pop-ups, said Sarahbeth “Yeli” Marshall, owner of Yelibelly Chocolates in Addison, Texas. Her company (which makes the sweets I send my clients each December) used to have its own boutique space but now focuses mainly on corporate and online sales. “I do pop-ups for an additional income stream. Since we are not in a retail store front anymore but a production kitchen instead, it's a good way to get some additional funds.”
Where Can You Have a Pop-up Shop?As long as you can get permission to use the space short-term, you can have a temporary shop. Some options include renting empty retail space, renting space in an office building lobby, or using space you already rent or own, if it can safely accommodate shoppers and will draw foot traffic. That's how Katko started with pop-ups: “The pop-ups I organized were in my studio. I’m on a somewhat busy street so we got a decent amount of traffic.” Once you find your pop-up groove, you may want to build a regular schedule of pop-ups at different locations. That's how Marshall expands her retail reach across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “I rotate through various office buildings around the Metroplex. We could probably have pop-up shops three days a week, every week, and rotate them, but I don't have someone on staff that can do them regularly right now. There are enough office buildings in the Metroplex that allow vendors to come in.”
5 Steps to Prepare for Your First Pop-up Shop1. Find your spot. Choose a place with lots of foot traffic. For Katko, her fiber arts studio fit the bill, and she's also rented vacant retail space. For Marshall, office buildings deliver a steady supply of people coming and going through the lobby who want to treat themselves or pick up gifts. 2. Manage your expectations and check the calendar. Marshall said that with pop-ups, no two days are the same, and holidays can have unpredictable effects on sales. “I set up at a location once and did $500 [in sales] and it was a great day. The next time we set up was on Halloween, which I thought was going to be great for candy sales. I ended up making one sale that day.” 3. Plan your space. Create your pop-up shop in the same theme as your permanent location or your online store – use the same colors, fonts, decorative motifs. Make the space welcoming. “I wish I had known to have more chairs to invite newly met neighbors to sit and chat a bit,” Katko said of her first pop-up. 4. Select your merchandise. Especially if this is your first pop-up, stick to smaller-ticket items that people will be more likely to buy on impulse, and maybe leave your biggest ticket-items out of the mix. “I found that at pop-up shops people like to spend between five and $10,” Marshall said. “You might have people that purchase a number of $5 or $10 items together, but they like that price range.” 5. Plan your promotions. Let people know about your shop well in advance. Share the event information on your website and social media channels. Create a Facebook event and send invites via emails to your customer list. See if you can share your pop-up info on the social media accounts of the space where you'll be, too. And remember paper? You may be able to drop off fliers or postcards in the space ahead of time with your pop-up event details and product information.
What to Do During and After Your Pop-upOn the day of your event, you'll want to continue with social media updates, but the main event at a pop-up is face-to-face interaction. Take the time to greet your visitors, answer their questions, and—perhaps most important--share the story of how your products are made. At her first pop-up, Katko said, “I realized people were looking for a connection or the story behind what they bought. It really made me happy that people were willing to buy my handmade creations instead of getting something mass produced, and that they wanted to know the process.” After the event, write a wrap-up to share on your website and social media and in your newsletter—this can build demand for your next pop-up! For more details on planning your pop-up, this handy checklist from marketing firm Pop-Up Republic hits all the major tasks you'll need to complete before, during, and after your pop-up event. And to boost your sales between pop-up events, make sure your shop follows these habits of successful online stores.
Don't Fall For These Falsehoods About EntrepreneurshipWant to start a new business? Start by questioning everything you know about launching a business. There are a lot of entrepreneurship myths that trip up new business owners, so before you invest time and money in an idea based on what you think you know, it's wise to get a clear idea of what to expect in terms of time commitment, expenses, planning, and personnel. Here's a reality-check list of common myths about entrepreneurship to arm you with realistic expectations and a better chance of success.
Myth #1: When you start your own business, you have more freedom in your scheduleIf by freedom you mean “the freedom to work a heck of a lot more hours than a salaried employee,” then yes, you'll have that. After your business is well established and profitable, you might reach a point where you can work a “normal” schedule. When you're just launching, though, plan on at least a year of spending most of your waking hours (and some of your sleeping ones) working. This is as true for self-made millionaires as it is for more modestly successful independent writers, photographers, shop owners, and other new business owners.
Myth #2: You need a brand-new product or service idea to succeedThink about how long humans have been making, selling, and buying things. For thousands of years, people have worn clothes, eaten food, used some type of transportation to get around, and so on. Those items have evolved over time, but there's never been a blockbuster new item that's completely replaced, say, the wheel. Refining existing ideas to serve customers better is how you're most likely to find a successful niche or opportunity. Develop a clear and concise business plan based on your “better mouse trap” and go from there instead of trying to summon something unheard of out of your imagination.
Myth #3: As a business owner, it's cost-effective to do everything yourselfMaybe at the very beginning you can take care of the books, the products, the marketing, and office cleanup, but at some point, your time is going to be more valuable spent working on the business than doing tasks within the business. Once you reach that point, any time you spend on tasks that could be delegated instead of developing new products, booking new clients, or expanding your market is a lost opportunity cost. That point can arrive sooner than you expect, especially once your sales are growing.
Myth #4: You can outsource virtually every aspect of your businessAs mentioned above, at some point it may make sense to outsource some of your business tasks. But the fantasy of starting out by farming out all your processes and then sitting back and collecting revenue is not realistic. That's because high quality outsourcing costs money that you may not have available to spend when you're just starting out. And using cheap, low-quality outsourcing is a good way to fail quickly. Your business processes, product quality, and customer service can all suffer, and you may end up putting out fires instead of growing your business.
Myth #5: These days, you can start a business with no moneyYou might be able to start a business with minimal upfront costs, and you might be able to use someone else's money to get started, but either way you're going to need some funds. Starting with nothing may seem scrappy and admirable, but it's not realistic and can undermine your chances of success before you begin. I sometimes talk to people who want to start selling their professional services like writing or photography without investing in a proper website, a professional headshot, the right kind of insurance to protect their new business, and other must-haves. Without these things, your business may look unprofessional to prospects and—if you go uninsured—it can expose you to liability.
Myth #6: You need venture capital to start your businessCompetition for private investment is fierce and serious. Unless you have some successes under your belt and an idea that captures the attention of investors, you're probably not going to get venture capital—and you probably don't need it. Most people who want to start a new business and need capital should consider a loan from the Small Business Administration, a local bank, or a credit union.
Myth #7: Your family and friends can help you launch your businessEvery budding entrepreneur considers hiring friends and family at some point--or even asking them to work for free. The temptation is understandable. You already know and trust these folks, and they may have skills you need. However, most experts discourage new business owners from relying on friends and family for two big reasons (although there are certainly more). First, working with relatives and friends is an expert-level skill that even experienced business owners struggle to master. Work dynamics affect personal relationships outside the office even if you never have to correct, retrain, or fire someone you care about. Second, asking anyone to work on your business for free devalues their work—and people working for free may not give your projects the time and attention they require.
Myth #8: Successful business owners go it aloneBusiness is competitive, but it's also collaborative. Owners—especially inexperienced new ones—who keep to themselves miss out on opportunities for learning, networking, and growth. You need other people's input and ideas to make your business work. Mentors who've been through the startup process are a valuable source of information, encouragement, and inspiration. Conferences in your field and in-person or online peer discussions can help you identify common pitfalls, answer questions, and provide advice. Every smart business owner focuses on hearing customer feedback, and supporting community activities or causes that matter to you can raise your business profile and build goodwill among your customers.
Myth #9: Entrepreneurship is only for certain types of peopleThere's a lot of media coverage of new businesses in Silicon Valley, where startup founders skew young, techy, and male, but anyone with a good idea, some resources, and the willingness to do the work can start a business. In fact, nearly a quarter of new entrepreneurs in 2016 were ages 55 to 64—roughly the same percentage as the 20 to 24-year old age group. As of 2015, 31% of privately held businesses in the US were owned by women. And according to 2016 federal data, the number of minority-owned businesses increased by 38% from 2007 to 2016.
Myth #10: Your older kids can help your business succeedThere are plenty of business owners who hire their teenage kids to handle tasks like preparing orders for shipping and taking orders for the online store. For some families, this is a great way to build the value of the business and let teens earn some money and work experience. However, it's best to treat that teen labor as a possibility and not something your business will rely on. That's because teens are still developing and exploring their interests. They may enjoy working for you for a while but then decide to get another job, take on more extracurriculars, or pursue a rigorous academic path that leaves no time for work. (They might also just fall asleep and forget something. Being a teenager is hard.) It's also worth noting that parent-teen relationships can be tricky to navigate even without a boss-employee dynamic in the mix. If your teen loses interest or takes on other obligations, be prepared to find other help.
Myth #11: You'll get to spend all your time doing what you love mostIf “what you love most” is running a business, you're going to love what you do all the time. For the rest of us, a business based on doing what we love involves doing a lot of stuff that's necessary but not thrilling. Case in point: when I started freelance writing full-time, I had no idea how much time each day I'd spend working with spreadsheets. But spreadsheets are an easy, low-cost way to track projects, billing, and invoices, so a daily dose of Excel is a must. Every type of business has these must-do tasks, and when your business is growing rapidly you may find yourself devoting more time to them than to the creative or interpersonal work that inspired you to start your business in the first place. The good news is that growth can allow you to outsource and delegate some of the things you really don't like doing, but there will always be responsibilities beyond the things you enjoy the most. Consider them costs of doing business.
Myth #12: With persistence, you can achieve anythingSometimes great ideas don't pan out, no matter how much work you put into them. Circumstances beyond your control can spike your business, whether it's better-funded competition or a market crash that causes banks to halt small-business lending. Mistakes made early in your startup process can catch up with your business later on, too. For example, if you started your business without doing thorough research with the best available data, you may have overestimated the market for your product. And while persistence is a must-have trait for business owners, it can sometimes prevent them from giving up when it's obvious that the money's not there, the customers aren't coming, or everyone's sad. Planning for success is always best (and more fun), but it's also a good idea to decide early on what your criteria are for scrapping the startup and moving on to something new.
Myth #13: You should always go with your gutThere's nothing wrong with tapping into your intuition when you're making decisions as long as you're aware that even the most keen “gut feelings” have their limits. How skilled is your gut at market analysis, customer segmentation, tax law, and ad copywriting? There are a lot of business decisions that require you to do some research and/or hire experts in order to get the results you want. Going *only* with your gut when deciding, for instance, which new products to develop can be a recipe for lost time and money. A better use of your intuitive skills is developing a list of possibilities and then listening extensively to feedback from customers and focus groups to get a realistic sense of demand.
Myth #14: When you run your own business, you're the star of the showWhen you look at lifestyle brands like those led by Oprah Winfrey or Martha Stewart, it's easy to think their success comes primarily from focusing on their superstar founders. There's no question that charisma and a relatable persona are musts for lifestyle entrepreneurs, but they're only part of the big picture. The most important ingredients are how these charismatic, relatable business people make their customers feel about themselves and the value they offer their customers. For example, Oprah's fans know she's a role model for thriving after overcoming obstacles, because she's shared her story over the years. But they keep coming back to her website, buying her books, watching her shows, and reading her magazine because her media empire offers shows, stories, and articles that inspire people to cope with their own challenges. So if you're starting a lifestyle brand, put yourself out there, but do it in a way that gives your customers something they want or need.
ConclusionBy getting clear on what's actually involved in starting a business, you may find you have to change your approach before you get started. But by going in knowing what you can expect, you're more likely to get your new business off to a strong start. For more information on what it really takes to be your own boss, check out HostGator's Guide to Launching Your Home Business.