Kristen Hicks – HostGator Blog Web Hosting and Marketing Tips for Entrepreneurs Mon, 17 Sep 2018 20:01:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 151369968 Beginner’s Guide to Google Ads Fri, 14 Sep 2018 02:19:18 +0000 The post Beginner’s Guide to Google Ads appeared first on HostGator Blog.

The web is crowded and getting people to visit your website – out of all the other options available to...

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The web is crowded and getting people to visit your website – out of all the other options available to them – is an ongoing challenge that all website owners are familiar with.

One useful tool for getting your website in front of more people is Google Ads (formerly called Google AdWords).


Why to Use Google Ads

You only have so much money to spend promoting your website, so what makes Google Ads worth the investment? Google’s advertising platform provides a few main benefits that make it worth considering:

1. Your ad can reach a huge audience.

Google Ads doesn’t just control the ads that show up on the search engine (which billions of people use each day), it’s also behind the ads on all Google properties (including YouTube and Gmail) and a huge number of other websites included in the Google Display Network. All told, the Google Ads platform reaches over 90% of all internet users, making it the best tool for reaching a large audience online.

2. Google offers targeting options.  

For a lot of businesses, reaching a lot of people is less important than reaching the right people. Google Ads allows you to target which search terms your ads show up for, what people see your ads based on demographic information, and the types of sites they show up on in the display network. All of that helps you to more efficiently reach the people most likely to care about your website.

3. You only pay when people visit your website.  

With a lot of advertising, you pay for the exposure the ads bring you. Google Ads uses a pay-per-click model, so you only pay for the times people actually click on an ad and visit your website.

4. It’s faster than most online marketing tactics.

While tactics like SEO and content marketing are valuable, they’re slow. Google Ads gets your website in front of more people faster.

If your online marketing efforts could use an extra boost, PPC marketing with Google Ads can provide it.


How to Set Up Your Google Ads Account

Setting up an account in Google Ads is pretty easy. When you’re on the Google Ads website. You’ll see a big green button that says Start Now.

google ads get started screen

After you click, you’ll encounter a form that asks you to provide your email address and the website you’ll be promoting.

welcome to google ads setup

You’ll need to use an email here that’s already associated with a Google account, so if you already use Gmail and Google Analytics, use the same account you use there. If not, you can set up a new account here.

You’ll be asked to log into your Google account, then you’ll be in.


6 Best Practices for Google Ads

While you could theoretically dive right in and start creating ads today, in order to get the most out of the money you spend on Google Ads, you need to take some time to learn the ropes.

Google has a series of videos that can offer a good start to understanding the platform and how to use it. Going through them all can take some time, but for most website owners it’s worth it.

Until then, here’s a shorter summary of best practices to keep in mind.


1. Determine your goals.

What is it you want from your Google Ads? Are you at the point with your website where the most important thing is getting those initial leads to learn you exist, or do you want visitors to convert to customers right away? Your Google Ads campaigns should be designed around the main goals you want to achieve.


2. Do keyword research.

This is one of the most important steps in PPC marketing. Your keyword lists will be a big part of the campaigns you set up for search. You want your ads to show up specifically when people are looking for what you have to say or sell. The way to learn what terms people are using (and how competitive different terms are) is to take time to do the research.


3. Prioritize relevance.

One of the best things about online marketing is that you can more effectively reach the specific people most likely to be interested in your website in the context where they’re looking for or thinking about what you have to sell. Your ads will perform much better if you can make them relevant to the person at the moment they see them.

Good keyword research is a big part of this, but you should also do ad targeting based on demographic information and user interests to better get your ads in front of the right people.

And relevance has to go beyond what shows up on the ad: your ad content should always match what people will see when they click through.


4. Test out your ads.

It will probably take you a few tries to figure out what gets people to respond to your ads. Try out different ads with different wording, different images, and different targeting to collect data on which ones work best. If you just do one thing, you won’t ever know if it could be working better.


5. Use retargeting.

Getting a visitor to your website once is nice, but getting them to come back again is much more valuable. Google Ads provides retargeting so you can target your ads to the people who have already viewed your website and even use it to show them ads for the items they viewed while they were there.


6. Refine as you go.

Google Ads provides useful analytics that will help you gain a greater understanding of what your audience responds to based on your ad performance over time. And the platform even factors your ad success into how much you pay for each click through the Quality Score. You Quality Score is determined based on how well your ads perform, and can affect your pricing.


For best results, Google Ads requires a time commitment.

If you don’t have a lot of time to spend on running your Google Ads campaigns, you may benefit from hiring a PPC specialist or agency who can bring their expertise to your campaigns and help get you better results while saving you time.

If you stick with doing it yourself, actively monitor your campaigns. Pay attention to the data they provide and use it to improve your campaigns over time. If you manage your ads well, you can expect to see better results the longer you use the platform.


How to Create a Campaign in 6 Steps

Google Ads makes it pretty easy to get started by walking you through the steps to create a campaign.

A note here: Google Ads just recently rolled out an all new interface, so if you have any past experience with it or have done research into it from resources created before this summer (2018), then you’ll notice that the platform looks different that you probably expected.  

To get started in the new interface, look for Campaigns in the menu on the left side of the page. Then click either the plus sign in the big blue dot on the left side of the page, or where it says New Campaign toward the bottom. Select New Campaign.

google ads create new campaign

1. Choose Your Campaign Type

You’ll see a page that includes the five main types ads you can create in Google Ads:

  • Search ads – Ads that show up on the search engine results page, usually above the natural results
  • Display ads – Ads that show up on websites across the web
  • Shopping ads – Ads that show up on the search engine results page for product-related searches that often include images and information like price and availability.
  • Video – Ads that show up before or on the bottom of YouTube videos.
  • Universal app – Ads that show up on mobile apps.

google ads select campaign type

Make your selection for which type of ad you want to use in your first campaign. You can run multiple campaigns, so choosing one now won’t keep you from creating the other types of ads as well.


2. Select Your Goal

Now the platform will ask you to choose your goal for the campaign. It will fill in different suggestions here based on the campaign type you choose, but the most common options are:

  •      Sales
  •      Leads
  •      Traffic
  •      Brand awareness
  •      Product and brand consideration

google ads select campaign goal

You can also choose to create your campaign without choosing a specific goal. Choosing your goal allows Google Ads to better determine how to track your campaign’s success and provide you with the most important analytics.


3. Define Your Settings

On the next page, you’ll do a few important things.

First, give your campaign a name. This is for internal use only, so you just need to make sure it’s something that makes sense to you and any other marketers who will be accessing the PPC account, and that it will differentiate this campaign from any others you create.

Next, choose whether you want your ads to show up in the search network, the display network, or both.

Ads in the search network will show up on the Google search engine results page, as well as on other Google properties. Those in the display network will show up on websites all across the web.


Select Your Language and Geographic Targeting

Next choose your location and language targeting. If your business is local, then you don’t want to waste money on clicks from people in other states or countries. And if you only have a staff that speaks one language, then you’ll want to stick with reaching customers you can communicate with.

google ads set language geographic targeting

Set Your Budget

Now we get to the money side of things. Set your maximum daily budget, as well as the maximum amount of money you’re willing to pay for each click. As you’d expect, the higher you go, the more times your ads will show up and the more visitors you can expect to come to your website.

You can either choose to do the bidding for your ads manually, or you can let Google choose bids for you automatically. The latter option is recommended for everyone but the most experienced of Google Ads users. The Google Ads automated option is programmed to get you the best possible results for the amount you spend, so it’s usually a good choice.

google ads set budget

Provide start and end dates for your campaign, or select None if you’d like the campaign to run indefinitely.


Audience and Extensions

At the bottom of the page, you’ll see a few optional sections. The most important of these are:


1. Audience Targeting

This is where you can define who will see your ad in terms of their general search habits and interests. It’s also the section where you can set up remarketing to show ads to people who have already visited your website.

google ads set audience targeting

2. Extension options

You’ll see a few different extension options. These all give you the chance to add some extra information to your ad, whether it’s including links to additional web pages on your site, adding your phone number, or providing extra details like price or discount offers.  These are a good way to provide important information in a way that stands out and gets the viewer’s attention.

Once you’re done with this page, click Save and Continue.

4. Add Your Keywords

The next page is where you bring in the keyword research you’ve done.

You can set up a number of Ad Groups for each campaign. In each group, you only want to include ads that are focused on a particular product or service so that you can use a specific set of keywords that will be relevant to those ads.

google ads choose keywords

5. Create Your Ads

This is the part where you’ll need to bring your creatives in (or bring your own creative skills to the process). Load the images and copy you want to use for each ad that’s relevant for the keywords in this ad group.

google ads upload images

6. Pay and Launch

When you’ve got everything else set up, you’ll see a red banner over the top of the Google Ads interface letting you know to add your payment information to make your campaigns active.  Click on Fix It and enter your payment information where prompted.

google ads pay and launch campaign

Follow Your Campaigns and Improve

The hard part of getting started is now done, but you still have work to do. Make sure you pay attention to your campaigns and track the analytics Google Ads provides. Use the data available to make changes to your ads, your budget, and your targeting to get more relevant clicks and better conversions over time.

While Google Ads is notable for getting faster results than some other types of online marketing, it’s still true that you’ll get more out of it the longer you do it, as long as you do the work of learning from your campaigns and improving them as you go.

When done well, Google Ads can provide a healthy ROI and bring a lot of new relevant traffic to your website.

Get expert help managing your Google Ads campaigns. Learn more about HostGator’s PPC Advertising services.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.

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Use Your Website Analytics to Prepare for Holiday Traffic Wed, 12 Sep 2018 19:19:33 +0000 The post Use Your Website Analytics to Prepare for Holiday Traffic appeared first on HostGator Blog.

If you run an eCommerce store, it’s already time to be thinking about the holidays. The holiday season is exciting...

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The post Use Your Website Analytics to Prepare for Holiday Traffic appeared first on HostGator Blog.

If you run an eCommerce store, it’s already time to be thinking about the holidays.

The holiday season is exciting for online stores because it means an influx of sales. But it’s also stressful, because it’s the most important time of year to be on your A-game so you don’t miss out on the profit opportunities of all that gift giving.

For the next couple of months, you want to make your website and holiday marketing strategy do as much for you as absolutely possible.

One of the best ways make the right movies to get those holiday dollars is by making your analytics a key part of your planning for the holiday season.

register domain name

8 Ways Website Analytics Can Prepare You for Holiday Shoppers

Here are eight ways your analytics can help you craft a more successful holiday marketing campaign this year.


1. Revisit last year’s analytics.

Start by looking at the analytics for October through early January of last year. Pull up all the different data sources you have so you can get the big picture of what worked during last year’s holiday season.

This likely includes:

In addition, you may have analytics from your SEO, CRM, audience listening tools, and any other piece of marketing technology you use.

Identify all the different sources of analytics you have so you can bring them together to do your analysis. You want to be able to spot how different analytics tell a larger story – was that boost in traffic for a particular blog post in December because you emailed it to your list or promoted it on social media? Did the gift guide you put together drive sales to the products you highlighted?

The most important data to analyze here is that from the holiday season, but don’t stop there.

Take a high-level view of all your analytics from the past year. This will help you spot trends in what your audience responded to throughout the year and if there have been any changes to the channels they care about between last year and now. If the past few months saw an uptick in results from Instagram, for example, you don’t want to leave that out of your holiday marketing planning.

The overall trends from the past year will help you gain a better understanding of who your audience is and what they respond to, while your data from this time last year provides insights into how they behave during the holiday season. Looking at both will help you gain a clear picture of what works for your target audience so you can craft your holiday marketing strategy accordingly.


2. Identify your top marketing channels.

With all your data in front of you, start figuring out which tactics and channels most consistently lead to sales and, more importantly, which provide the highest ROI.

Google Analytics will show you where traffic is coming from and allows you to set up conversion tracking (so you can connect website behavior to eventual sales). Your other analytics sources can help you dig deeper into the data for each visitor —your email marketing data can reveal which email drove a specific visit, and your social analytics show which specific posts contributed to your social traffic.

view top traffic sources in google analytics

Keep in mind here that some of your tactics that don’t lead to conversions right away may help drive people to the channels that eventually pay off, so don’t discount those social media posts that got people to your website even if the visitor didn’t convert to a sale on the first visit. This is why you’re working to see the bigger picture — so you can draw connections between how everything fits into your larger strategy.

With this information, you can begin to rule out the tactics that aren’t leading to sales and determine the ones you should definitely invest time and money into this year.


3. Analyze the timing of purchases.

Conventional wisdom about holiday shopping may be that most shoppers will buy gifts on Black Friday or last minute in the weeks leading up to the holidays, but research from CPC Strategy found instead that over a third start shopping before Thanksgiving.

when do people start shopping for holiday gifts

This is why you should trust data over conventional wisdom! But don’t just assume CPC Strategy’s averages apply to your customers. Sit down and figure out for yourself when your audience does their shopping.

Analyze your purchase data from last year to figure out what portion of your customers did their shopping well in advance and which tended to be last-minute shoppers. You may well have a mix of both, but if your audience tends to buy within a particular time period, then that should be when you do the biggest push in your marketing. Send out persuasive promotions to your email list, increase your PPC maximum budget, and do a big social media push.

This data can also help you figure it out if it will pay to offer faster shipping options when it gets closer to Hanukkah and Christmas day. If a majority of your customers are last-minute rush shoppers, then you can make the decision to buy from you easier with guarantees that the products will get there in time.


4. Figure out which keywords lead to conversions.

This is key for both your PPC and SEO strategies over the next couple of months. You don’t just want to track which of the keywords you targeted led to increased traffic, you want to figure out which of those visitors turned into customers.

Based on what your analytics show, you can craft a PPC strategy for the holiday season that targets the types of keywords most likely to lead to actual revenue. And you can create a content plan that incorporates the keywords that bring in your most high-value visitors to improve your holiday SEO.

HostGator’s expert team of PPC pros can help you spin up a lucrative holiday campaign quickly. Contact us to learn more.


5. Repurpose your best content from past seasons.

Content marketing may be a long game, but that doesn’t mean that seasonal content can’t pay off big if you do it right.

Look at the holiday content you created over the past few years and which pieces brought in new visitors and purchases. This can not only help you generate new ideas for content to create this year based on what you know resonates with your audience, but you can take the concepts you know pay off and rework them to replicate those results.

Was your gift guide a hit last year? Create a new one for this year, or make a few different versions for different audiences. Did people really respond to your blog posts about holiday giving? Create a video tackling the same topic. Repurposing is a tried and true tactic for making the successful content you’ve created go further.


6. Highlight your best products on your most popular pages.

In the Behavior > Site Content section of Google Analytics, you can see which pages on your website get the most visits.

find most popular pages on website using Google Analytics

Each of these is an opportunity to drive more conversions. Look at the products and promotions that performed the best during the holiday season last year and use your popular pages to promote them. By getting the items your visitors are most likely to buy in front of more of them on those pages, you increase the chances of turning visitors into conversions.

You have to make sure that your products don’t feel shoehorned in here, but an attractive image that links your visitors back to the product page can likely be worked into the design of the page without it distracting from what your visitors came to the page for to begin with.


7. Send personalized emails to your list.

Your email marketing analytics provide a wealth of data on what your subscribers have opened and clicked on in the past.

And unlike the rest of your data, most email marketing software providers let you break down the data in terms of the behavior of specific people. That means you don’t just see that 1000 people opened your email, you can see who those specific people are.

Use the data you have on what individual subscribers like to create a personalized email campaign during the holiday season. Put together emails that highlight the kind of content and products that were popular during the holidays last year and create segmented email lists to get the most relevant holiday emails to the right people on your list.


8. Do A/B testing to collect better data for next year.

Everything you do for the next few months will create the analytics you use to repeat this process next year. Use the opportunity to establish even better data to shape next year’s plan with A/B testing.

See what happens when you offer free shipping on some days and not others, or pit a free gift-wrapping option against faster delivery to see which gets more people to buy. Try A/B testing emails with different subject lines or CTAs to see which get people to open and click. And try promoting different products and packages to see if some lead to higher conversions than others.


Don’t Forget Your Site Analytics This Holiday Season

This is the most important time of year to get things right. Use the analytics you have now to create a strategy likely to increase sales and revenue throughout the holiday season, and generate more useful analytics at the same time to take things even further next year.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.

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Top 15 Web Design Trends 2018 Wed, 12 Sep 2018 18:35:32 +0000 The post Top 15 Web Design Trends 2018 appeared first on HostGator Blog.

Your average internet user may not notice it day by day, but web design trends are always changing. We can...

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The post Top 15 Web Design Trends 2018 appeared first on HostGator Blog.

Your average internet user may not notice it day by day, but web design trends are always changing.

We can all agree that what looked good to visitors in the 90’s certainly wouldn’t play well today, but noticing the more subtle changes in design that happen each year is harder.

The shifts in web design norms are slow, but they’re worth paying attention to. Even if you’re not a great web designer and your skills begin and end with what you can do in a website builder, you can avoid waking up one day to realize your website is hopelessly outdated by reading up on the web design trends of 2018.

1. Responsive Design

Responsive websites are not a new web design trend in 2018, but they’re an important enough one to still include here. As mobile usage only seems to keep going up – it firstsurpassed desktop a couple of years ago – making sure your website works at least as well on mobile devices as it does on bigger screens is crucial.

responsive web design

Visitors quite simply won’t stick around if your website provides a disappointing mobile experience, and it’s bad for SEO on top of everything else.

While you could create a separate version of your website that works well on mobile devices from the one people see on desktop, for most businesses the better option is to make one website that’s responsive.

On a responsive website, each page has all the same copy, images, and elements no matter what device you view it on, but they’re arranged differently based on the size of the screen. An image that shows up next to the text on your desktop may show up below it on a smaller screen, for instance.

Making your website responsive ensures that your mobile users get all the same information and value from your website, while still having a user friendly experience.

As an added tip, if creating a responsive website sounds intimidating, consider a website builder that offers responsive templates. Most of the work will already be done for you.

create your website

2. Chatbots

You’ve probably noticed in your own internet surfing that a lot of business websites now have a little window pop up at the bottom right side of the screen when you land on the website, giving you the chance to chat with a representative.

Adding a chat window like this to your website means any visitor with a question can have it answered immediately. But for many websites, having someone available to answer those questions in real time is too much of a challenge.

One possible solution: utilizing a chatbot. You can program a chatbot to answer the most common questions your customers have so that most visitors still get their answer right away. For questions the chatbot doesn’t know, you can at least program it to provide details on how best to get in touch with a live representative so your visitor still knows what to do next.

chatbots on website

Chatbots don’t make sense for every type of website, but if you have a business website and you frequently hear a few main questions from your visitors, they can save your staff time while still providing your visitors with a good experience.


3. Animation

Autoplay videos are very much out, but that doesn’t mean your website has to be completely static. You can add some movement to your web design with some simple animations.

A growing number of websites are working animations into the background or images of web pages. A good animation will draw the eye and capture a visitor’s interest, without distracting from the main information you want them to see on the page. It’s a web design trend that makes your website a little more engaging and adds some personality.

example of website with animation 1 example of website with animation 2

4. Microinteractions

Microinteractions take animation one step further in terms of user engagement. These are animations that respond to what the user does on the page. If you notice a website changing when you mouse over a particular spot, or an animation that’s triggered by scrolling down – those are microinteractions.

These create a positive user experience because they hand visitors power over what they see as they interact with the site. Knowing your actions shape the design in front of you is a good feeling, even if it’s only in minor ways.

Microinteractions are becoming more common around the web, making them a good web design trend to have on your radar in 2018.


5. Original Illustrations

Stock photography’s easy, but it doesn’t add any personality to your website. That’s why many website owners are now turning to original illustrations for the images on their pages.

Custom illustrations do come at a cost – artists must be paid – but they can transform the style of your website and create an entirely unique experience. Custom illustrations often feel playful, while still doing the work of communicating something about your brand.

original illustration on web site

You get to choose the colors you want to include and can craft imagery that might be hard to stage in a photo. If you can find a good artist for your website, they’re a good way to inject some extra personality into the website experience.


6. Including Social Proof

So far, most of these website design trends come with a fairly hefty price tag that may be out of reach for small businesses or websites devoted to passions rather than profit. This one is much more affordable.

Social proof is a way to convince new visitors that you’re awesome by showing evidence of your success with other visitors. For a business, it could be logos of companies you work with or testimonials from other customers. For a blog, it could be publishing the number of email subscribers you have.

You can (and should) tell other people how awesome your website is in your copy, but your words aren’t going to mean as much to visitors as proof that other people like them think you’re awesome. Find a way to work social proof into the design of your website to better highlight your value to new visitors.

use social proof on website example

7. Hamburger Menus

This is a controversial web design trend that’s commonly used on apps and mobile websites because it’s an easy way to provide a menu that takes up very little space. The hamburger icon itself is very small, and it opens up your main menu when you click on it.  As it’s become more familiar to internet users with the growth of mobile, its use has started to spill over into the design of desktop websites as well.

hamburger menu on website

A hamburger menu removes the list of pages in your main menu from all the pages of your website and puts them behind the hamburger icon. If you want a website that has a very clean design, it allows you to include fewer elements on each page while still providing the navigation items your visitors need.

As mentioned though, it is a controversial web design trend. It may not be right for your audience. This is a trend you should be very intentional about considering – only use it if you have a good reason.


8. Rounder Edges

For a while buttons, windows, and containers on websites tended to have sharp corners. Recently more web designers are starting to shift their website designs toward softer, rounder edges.

This is a web design trend you can see in buttons and chat windows around the web.

use rounder edges in web design

Plenty of websites still maintain their sharp edges, and some use a mix of both. This isn’t a trend that’s outright replaced the former way of doing things. But if you want to keep the shapes on your website a little softer, you’ll be in line with one of the web design trends of 2018.


9. Tactile Design

Another common trend of the past was keeping web design flat. Many websites are now starting to buck the old trend by adding more shadowing and depth to the images on their pages.

tactile web design example

Tactile design can bring the images on your website more to life for your visitors. In addition, it provides a way to add emphasis to your images. The difference is often subtle, but it changes the user experience of your website and adds a little more realism.


10. Unique Fonts

Choosing a unique font is an easy way to add some personality to your website and make it stand out a bit more. Fonts are part of a website that many visitors don’t really notice, but you can use your font choice to add some additional style to your website and draw more attention to important words.

unique fonts in web design

Make sure that any font you choose is easy for your visitors to read. Style shouldn’t trump clarity here. But as long as you keep the text on your website legible for all your visitors, you can use your font choice as a way to add some extra personality to your site.


11. Asymmetry

A bold choice that’s showing up on some websites now is asymmetric design. Using asymmetry in your web design provides a unique experience for your visitors, especially as it’s still not a particularly common design choice at this stage.

asymmetric website design

This web design option definitely isn’t for everybody. Because it’s uncommon and unexpected, it might be less intuitive for some visitors. And it can complicate a website’s ability to remain responsive. But if you want to provide a website experience that’s outside of the box, going asymmetrical can do that.


12. Accessible Design

If you don’t have any disabilities yourself, you’ve probably approached web design in the past without thinking about how people with disabilities will experience your website. That’s unfortunately normal – many web designers just haven’t had accessibility top of mind in the past.

But that’s beginning to change. One of the web design trends of 2018 is working to make websites more accessible for everyone. Design magazines and blogs have started to provide tips for more accessible web design.

Designing an accessible website requires broadening your perspective and doing a little work, but when you commit to it, you open up your site to an audience that was left out before.


13. Data Visualization

“Big data” has been a buzzword for a few years now and businesses in all industries have seen the growing influence of data on the tools and latest trends that shape how we do business. Perhaps it was only a matter of time until the influence of data made its way to web design as well.

Many websites are now incorporating data visualization into their design. In some cases it becomes a part of the main website, in others they launch a separate site to highlight valuable data they’ve created.

In either case, data visualization becomes a part of the story the brand tells and the visual identity they have on the web.  

data visualization on website example

14. Bold Colors

A lot of the web design trends for 2018 are about standing out and this is no exception. Many websites are employing color schemes that are bright and bold. Bright colors provide a distinctive experience that make your website more memorable.

You can use your color choices strategically to draw attention to parts of the website you most want people to see.

bold colors website design

This is another website design trend that isn’t for everyone. Some brands will be better served with more subtle colors, but if you’re looking for a way to make your website stand out and really get attention, making bold color choices could do the trick.


15. Floating Navigation

Most of the websites you visit have their navigation in the same place: across the top of the website. Some websites are experimenting with different options though. We already talked about the hamburger menu option, but another possibility is floating navigation.  

Floating navigation stays visible even as you scroll down the page. It provides a unique experience, but also offers the practical benefit of keeping all the navigation options present and visible no matter where your visitor is on the page.

You can see an example of what that looks like on the Anchor and Orbit website. As yet, it’s not a particularly common web design trend. But for any website owner looking for another way to stand out, it makes your website a little more distinctive.


Staying on Trend in 2018

As in any year, in 2018 make sure that everything about your website design puts the user first. Trying out something new that you think looks cool or interesting is fine, but only if you’re confident your target audience will respond to it as well. Following website design trends can often be worth it, but paying attention to your visitors is always more important.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.

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SEO for Images: Your Ultimate Guide and Best Practices Thu, 30 Aug 2018 14:51:12 +0000 The post SEO for Images: Your Ultimate Guide and Best Practices appeared first on HostGator Blog.

Image SEO Best Practices: The Ultimate How-To Guide SEO involves a lot of different parts, so it can be easy...

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Image SEO Best Practices: The Ultimate How-To Guide

SEO involves a lot of different parts, so it can be easy for businesses to overlook some of the smaller steps to practicing good on-site SEO, but every little thing you can do to strengthen your website’s SEO makes a difference – especially if it’s something other sites may be overlooking.

Taking time to optimize your images for SEO is a simple and important step to making your website more competitive in the search engines.

It’s the kind of little thing many businesses let slip through the cracks, which makes it that much more worthwhile for you to do.

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Why Images Are Important for SEO

So much of how we understand SEO is all about text and keywords, but images have a role to play as well. For one thing, they’re extremely important for user experience.

Think about it: if you found yourself on a webpage that looked like a Word doc with nothing but text on a white background, you wouldn’t feel like the website was trustworthy or memorable. In fact, research verifies that people are 80% more likely to read content that includes an image and 64% more likely to remember it afterward.

Images are a big part of how we experience a web page. That matters for SEO because Google’s algorithm pays attention to behavior metrics that reflect user experience, like bounce rates and the amount of time visitors spend on a web page.

But images can also be optimized to more directly help with SEO as well.  Where the average visitor to your page will only see the image itself, search engine crawlers see text behind the image that you can fill in to tell them what you want them to see.


7 Tips to Improve Your SEO for Images

For every image you use on your website, follow these tips to optimize them for the search engines.


1. Use relevant, high-quality images.

This is crucial for the user experience side of SEO. An image that’s unrelated to the content on the page will be confusing for the user, and one that’s blurry or badly cropped will just make your page look bad and unprofessional. Make sure every image you use has a clear relationship to what’s on the page and looks good.

You have to be careful not to use any images that you don’t have the rights to, but you can find lots of resources online that provide free images businesses can use. Commit some time for each page you create and blog post you publish to finding at least one good image to include – bonus points if you can find a few.


2. Customize the filename.

This is one of those steps that’s so easy it’s amazing everyone doesn’t do it.  

Before you add an image to your website, take time to customize the filename. Change it to something that’s relevant to the page and includes one of your target keywords for the page. If your web page is about a backpack product you sell, the image could be named something like brandname-backpack.jpg.

Most visitors will never see the filename, but it gives you a way to provide the search engines a little more information about what’s on the page and the best keywords to associate with it.


3. Use alt tags.

This is another part of the webpage that most visitors won’t see, but search engine crawlers do. You can provide alt text for every image you add to your website that will show up in place of your image if a browser has trouble loading it. This text is one more part of the page that you can use to signal to search engines what the page is about.

Always update the alt text for your images. Include your primary keyword for the page and something descriptive of the image itself. If you use WordPress, there’s an alt text field you can fill in to do this.

how to add image alt text in wordpress

If you prefer to use html, you can add alt=”your alt text” to your image tag.


4. Find the right quality-to-size ratio.

This part’s a little tricky, because you want your images to look really good (see: the “high quality” part of #1), but you don’t want them to be big enough to slow down your website. Site speed is an SEO ranking factor, so if your visitors have to wait a while for a page on your site to load, it’s bad for the user experience and your SEO.

Often the file size of an image is much larger than it needs to be for the size it will show up on your website. If you use a CMS like WordPress, resizing how an image appears on your website after you load it to the CMS is super easy – but it means that you still have the large file size that slows things down on the backend.

You can make your website faster while still displaying images at a high resolution by resizing your image files before you load them to your website. Often this is easy to do with programs that come standard on most computers, like Mac’s Preview program or Microsoft Paint. Or if you have Adobe Photoshop, you can use the “Save for Web” command to help you find the smallest file size that still provides a good resolution.

After resizing, you can still make your image file size smaller without sacrificing quality by compressing them. Check out tools like TinyPNG and JPEGmini to make this process easy.


5. Choose the right file type.

You’ve probably noticed that there are three main types of image files, but you may not really understand the difference between each. Understanding the different file types can help you choose the best one for your needs:

  • JPG is one of the most common file formats because it uses small file sizes and is widely supported. But the image quality isn’t always as good as with PNG files and the format doesn’t support transparent backgrounds, so there are some cases where JPG won’t work.
  • PNG is a file format for images that provides a high resolution and can support a text description of the image that’s good for SEO. The main downside of PNG is that it tends to require larger file sizes than JPG and GIF. It’s often best for complex images and those that include text.  
  • GIF doesn’t support as wide of a color range as the other two, but it can be a good choice for simpler images. It supports small file sizes and transparent backgrounds.

For photos, JPG often works well. For designed graphics, GIF and PNG are more common and if you need a higher quality version, the PNG is the way to go.

different image file types gif vs jpg vs png


6. Add images to your sitemap.

Google encourages website owners to submit a sitemap to them to help them better crawl your pages and get them added to the index. They also allow you to include images in your sitemap or alternately, create a separate image sitemap to submit.

If you use WordPress, there are plugins you can use to generate an image sitemap for you, such as Google XML Sitemap for Images and Undira All Image Sitemap. If you prefer to do it yourself, Google provides information on creating an image sitemap here.

By giving Google clear information about the images on your website, you increase the likelihood of them showing up in Google Image Search, which increases your website’s overall findability.


7. Host images on your own site.

While it may be tempting to host your image on a third-party website like Imgur to save space, doing so involves a real risk. Anytime those sites are overloaded with traffic, your images could fail to load, creating a confusing experience on your website and making your brand look bad.

You’ll be better served by hosting the images on your own website and using the advice provided above to make your image file size smaller so they don’t slow down your web pages any more than necessary. And when you go with a reliable hosting provider, you’ll always know your images (and the rest of your website) will show up as they should for your visitors.


Make the Time for Image SEO

Image SEO is relatively easy, as far as SEO goes. By committing a little extra time to find the right images and optimize them for search every time you add a page to your website, you can give your pages an extra edge in the search engines.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.

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How To Promote Your New Website With PPC Wed, 29 Aug 2018 21:23:10 +0000 The post How To Promote Your New Website With PPC appeared first on HostGator Blog.

How To Promote Your New Website Using Search & Social PPC Your website’s up. You’re confident it’s awesome. But so...

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How To Promote Your New Website Using Search & Social PPC

Your website’s up. You’re confident it’s awesome. But so far every time you check your analytics it’s just…crickets.

You’re learning the hard lesson that everyone with a website faces early on: it’s hard to get your site in front of people on the overcrowded web.

You know that people would like what they see on your website if only they could find it. So how do you get them to take that first step of visiting a website they don’t know about yet?

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Why You Should Promote Your Website with PPC

Pay-per-click marketing (PPC) is one of the most effective methods of getting your website in front of people. PPC is a good choice for a lot of businesses for a few compelling reasons:

  • It has a huge reach. Both Google and social media PPC can get you in front of large audiences. The Google search engine has billions of users each day and social media platforms have millions of users. A big goal of marketing is to be where your audience is. PPC advertising gets you there.
  • It provides useful targeting options. All your main PPC options allow you to specify who will see your ads based on factors like context (e.g. when they’re looking for what you sell), demographic data, and consumer interests and behavior. That gives you the power to get your ads in front of the right people at the right time.
  • PPC platforms provide thorough analytics. A common challenge marketers have historically faced is finding a way to prove the results of their marketing efforts. With PPC, you have helpful analytics that show how well your ads and campaigns are performing, to the point of being able to determine ROI.
  • It offers a strong ROI. Speaking of ROI, businesses on average make $8 back for every $1 they spend on Google PPC. In other words, PPC ads are effective and likely to make you money.


The Types of PPC Marketing

When people talk about PPC marketing, they’re talking about two potential channels: search and social PPC.


Search PPC

PPC is often used as shorthand to describe search advertising, particularly on Google, but in some cases also on Bing or Yahoo.

This includes all the ads that show up on the search results pages for the search engines.

google ppc search results yahoo ppc search resultsbing ppc search results
For Google PPC, it also includes the ads that show up on all their other properties (such as YouTube and Gmail) and on the 2 million websites included in the Google Display Network.

google display network gmail google display network youtube

Social PPC

The other main type of PPC advertising is that available on social media networks.  All the main social media platforms offer advertising options, but only a few offer PPC options. You can find PPC advertising options on:

(Note: YouTube also offers PPC advertising, but it does so as part of the Google Ads platform).


8 Best Practices for Promoting Your Website With PPC

PPC marketing has the potential to yield great results, but it’s not guaranteed. As with any other type of marketing, you have to do it well. Here are some of the most important best practices to bring to your PPC advertising.


1. Do keyword research.

This is especially important for search marketing, but it also comes into play for social PPC. Part of what makes PPC advertising so valuable is that you can make sure your ads show up at the moment people are looking for what you sell. But you can’t assume you know what terms people will use to look for your products or services.

Keyword research will both reveal the specific language that your target audience uses to find the kinds of items you sell and topics you cover on your website, and will reveal how competitive different words and phrases are. Because PPC marketing uses a bidding process, the popularity of keywords is directly related to how much you’ll spend.

A good PPC strategy requires not only finding the most relevant keywords for your ads, but also figuring out which keywords deliver the best value for the cost so you can improve your ROI over time.


2. Research your audience.

Most businesses don’t need to appeal to everyone. You need to reach the specific people most likely to care about your content and buy your products. PPC advertising provides the option of targeting your ads so they show up for specific audiences based on factors like:

  •      Gender
  •      Age
  •      Interests
  •      Consumer behavior
  •      Job title
  •      Salary range

The targeting options available on each platform are different, but you pretty much always have some option for limiting who will see your ads based on relevance.

To effectively use these targeting options, you need to understand who you want to reach. Take time to do market research into who’s buying your products, how they shop, what other things they like, and where they hang out online. Bringing that information into your PPC advertising will help you reach the right people to get better results.


3. Use PPC to support your other marketing efforts.

A good online marketing strategy involves using a mix of tactics in a way where they all support each other so you get more out of each. PPC shouldn’t be treated as a replacement for content marketing, SEO, or social media marketing. Instead, you can use it to bolster those other efforts.

Search ads can promote your content as well as your products. Social ads can help you get more reach and traction for the messages you share on your social media accounts and help you gain new followers. And when you use PPC to bring more traffic to your website, it can help with SEO ranking factors like the amount of time people spend on your page or how often people link back to it (you need visitors before you can achieve either of those things).

Before you launch PPC campaigns, take some time to figure out how they can strengthen the rest of your marketing strategy. Talk to other marketing specialists at your company (if relevant) and combine your efforts for better results all around.


4. Write strong ads.

Your ads need to do a good job of selling people on the decision to click. When writing or designing the ad, think carefully about what’s in it for your target audience. What problems will your product or content help them solve? In some cases, you may want to sweeten the deal by using your ad to offer a special discount.

Always include a strong CTA (call to action) in the ad to get them to take that step of clicking. Try out a few different CTAs to get a feel for which ones get your audience to click.


5. Build strong landing pages.

All of your PPC ads will point people back to your website, but you need to decide with each ad where specifically the person that clicks will end up on your website. For your ads to achieve the results you most want, the page your ads point to should always be:

1. Relevant to the ad. If your ad is promising a great discount on your most popular product and the page it lands on doesn’t have a matching discount, or worse, doesn’t even show the product in the ad, your visitors are going to be confused and leave unsatisfied.

You should always make sure the web page people land on directly matches what’s being promised in the ad.

2. Designed to drive the action you want. All your ads will be designed to get people to click, but you’ll also want an end goal in mind beyond that. What do you want the visitor to do when they get to the website? In some cases that may be to stick around and spend some time on your website, in others it could be to make a purchase or sign up for your email list.

Figure out what you want the end result to be for every ad and make sure the web page it points to is optimized for that goal.

Sometimes, the right page for an ad will be one you already have on your website, such as a product page or a piece of content you’re using PPC to promote. In other cases, you’ll want to create a new landing page based on what your research suggests people will respond best to in your PPC campaign.

Pro tip: Your home page will rarely be a good choice for a PPC ad. You’ll generally want to go with something more specific.


6. Test your ads.

PPC ads don’t give you much space to work with, so figuring out just the right combination of words and/or images is difficult. The only way for you to really know which of your ads are not only driving the most traffic your way but, more importantly, providing the best ROI, is to test out different ads.

Try out different wording, designs, and CTAs and see how different combinations of them work together. You’ll gain knowledge of what your target audience responds best to by comparing the results of different ads you try.


7. Use remarketing.

You know how sometimes when you’re reading an article on your favorite website you notice an ad for a product you were just looking at yesterday? That’s remarketing. And you can use it to your advantage with PPC.

Your most valuable leads are the people that already have some kind of relationship with you – whether they’re loyal customers who have ordered from you three times before, or someone who just visited your website once. You know those people are already interested.

PPC marketing allows you to target ads to people who have already visited your website. You can even get as specific as showing them an ad based on the pages or items they viewed while there. It’s a powerful way to recapture the attention of someone who’s already shown interest and turn leads into customers.  


8. Monitor and improve your campaigns.

When you start using PPC advertising, you’ll have to make some guesses about what will work. But the longer you do it, the better you’ll be able to grasp what your target audience responds to and how to create and target ads just so to get the best possible results.

But that only works if you take the time to actively review the analytics the PPC platforms provide in order to monitor what’s working and why. Commit time each day or week to checking in on your campaigns and analyzing the results.

Based on your analysis, make changes to your ads and campaigns that will get you better results (or provide you more useful data to help you make better changes tomorrow).

The powerful analytics the platforms provide are one of the most valuable parts of doing PPC marketing. You can always count on gaining insights to help your money go further.


Determine Your PPC Strategy

All the work you put into your website will only pay off if you can get people to visit. If you’re worried about that first crucial step of ensuring people can find you, PPC marketing is one of the most affordable and effective ways to promote your new website to interested audiences.

Discover the best PPC strategy for your website. Contact HostGator’s PPC experts for help brainstorming today.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.

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