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  • 5 Facts About Featured Snippets, Plus 5 Strategies to Rank for Them

    Monday, January 15, 2018 by
    How do you get featured snippets for your website

    How Do You Get Featured Snippets for Your Website?

    If you’ve had your website for a while, then you know there was a time when everyone doing SEO was concerned with aiming for those top few spots in Google. If you could be one of the top two or three links in the Google listing for a popular search, it was just about a guarantee of clicks and visitors. Now for a lot of searches, the top spot isn’t really at the top of the SERP (search engine results page) anymore. We’ve moved into a new era of SEO - the age of the featured snippet. Creating a blog

    What Are Featured Snippets?

    Even if you weren’t familiar with the term, you’ve seen featured snippets. In the old days, whenever you performed a search in Google, you would typically see a list of blue links with some ads above them. Now, you'll often see a box up top with text in it that provides an answer based on the term you’ve searched. example of list featured snippet for how to choose a career Sometimes it will show up below ads, but much of the time it’s the very first thing on the page, drawing your attention away from the list of links that shows up below. These results go by a number of names. SEO professionals sometimes call this “rank 0” since it goes above the #1 ranking spot. Others call them answer boxes or instant answers or, as we’re doing here, featured snippets. Whatever you call them, they’ve disrupted SEO.  

    A Few Facts About Featured Snippets

    Before you try to get a featured snippet, it’s helpful to understand a bit about how they work.   1. Featured snippets don’t show up on every search. Google doesn’t always assume you want a quick answer based on your search term, so this is a feature that’s most common for searches that either directly ask a question or for any terms Google interprets as looking for the same type of information as a question search.   2. The information is often pulled from a website. There are some types of rich results that Google creates by pulling information from a number of sources, like their medical information snippets or the boxes of information you see about famous people.
    google knowledge box for author ann patchettexample of Google Knowledge Box medical information for seasonal allergies
    But for many of the featured snippets you see (and the ones most relevant to this article), the text is pulled from a specific website. And the website the text comes from is linked right below the answer (and therefore above the other results). That means that, at least for some searches, it’s possible for your website to target that rank zero spot and show up above your other competitors.   3. Featured snippets aren’t always from the top result on the page. This is an important one. About 70% of featured snippets come from websites ranked lower than the #1 spot. If a company works really hard on their SEO to land that top spot in Google, but doesn’t also optimize their content for the featured snippets, another company that does can hopscotch right over them into that zero spot. You could potentially show up above the #1 ranked results without achieving the #1 rank – which is kind of a big deal!   4. There are three main forms of featured snippets. SEO professionals have identified three different types of featured snippets that commonly show up in searches: Paragraph snippets – This is the most common type you’ll see. It includes a little bit of text that provides the answer, sometimes with an image included alongside it. example of paragraph featured snippet for what is a featured snippet List snippets – These pull text from bulleted or numbered lists in the text and show at least part of the list in the snippet. They’re less common than paragraph snippets, but still show up for a good number of relevant search terms. example of bulleted list featured snippet for how to create a business plan Table snippets – These are the least common, but show up for the types of searches that benefit from having results display in a structured format, like movie times or menu prices. example of table featured snippet for infant sleep chart 5. Their influence on click-through-rates (CTR) varies. It’s hard to properly test out whether or not getting the featured snippets improves your CTR versus showing up in the top search, but researchers have tried to get a handle on the effect it has. Recent research found that when featured snippets are included in the search results, people are less likely to click through to any result. That's not surprising, since they often provide the full answer a person is looking for – although the difference isn’t huge (around 4%). That same research study found that the first Google result still got more clicks than the featured snippet result, but that the presence of a featured snippet did mean some of the clicks that would otherwise go to the top result do get split off to the website featured in the snippet. Anecdotally, some companies have seen big gains in traffic due to getting the featured snippet for a search. Search Engine Land reported one case study where a page getting the featured snippet for a high-value keyword led to a 516% increase in traffic. And Stone Temple shared a few specific cases where traffic increased when a website got the rich snippet and dropped quickly when it was lost. In any case, if the search is going to show a featured snippet, it sure doesn’t hurt for your website to be the one featured – and that’s especially the case if someone else has the top spot.  

    How to Create Content That Gets Into Featured Snippets

    Now that you know why to care about getting into featured snippets, here are a few strategies to help you get there. Keep in mind, as with all SEO, there are no guarantees that this process will earn you featured snippets for the search terms you target, but it will increase the likelihood of you claiming that zero spot above the other search results.   1. Brainstorm question and informational queries to target. Featured snippets only show up in some types of searches, so you shouldn’t be trying to target the snippet for every single search term you aim for in your SEO efforts. The main ones to think about here are question searches and searches that are looking for the same kind of information as question searches, without using question language. For example, someone searching for “healthy eating tips” is essentially looking for the answer to the question “how can I eat healthier?” So both terms would fall into this category. That gives you a general idea of the types of search terms to brainstorm in this section, but the best way to really figure out what you’re looking for is to start doing searches. Start Googling them to see which search terms have snippets in the results. This will accomplish two things:
    • You’ll start to get a better feel for the types of search terms that regularly feature snippets.
    • Each search will help you come up with new ideas for other keywords to include on your list by looking at the “searches related to” section at the bottom of the page and, where relevant, the “People also ask” section.
    example of related search terms section in Google for how to keep orchids aliveexample of People also ask box in Google
    Your goal here is to create a really long list of possibilities – the more you have to start, the better.   2. Assign search terms priority levels. When your list is good and long, then you can go through and figure out which terms you should start targeting. A good place to start is with terms you already rank decently well for. The vast majority of featured snippets are pulled from results on the first page. Any queries or topics that you’re already on page one or two for should take priority, since you have the best chance of success with these. Some other good targets are any searches where the information in the featured snippets isn’t that good. If you feel confident that you can create a better answer than Google has pulled in, that’s a good search to prioritize as well. Then there are search terms that may be worth keeping on your list, but should be given lower priority. Questions with simple answers are less likely to get a click whether you’re featured or not, since people get the answer they need on the SERP.  And any search that has big-shot sites like Wikipedia or the BBC featured in the snippets will also be a long shot since you’ll have a hard time competing with websites like that in Google’s eyes. These terms may still be worth including in your overall strategy, but they’re not the best place to put your initial efforts.   3. Create content that answers those questions. Now that you have a long list of target queries with priority questions identified, use it to guide your content strategy. Start scheduling blog posts that answer the questions on your list. As with any other content you create, make sure these pieces are accurate and high quality or they won’t be competitive.   4. Make sure your content is optimized for SEO (like usual). Just like you do for the rest of your content, make sure these pieces are optimized for search engines. That means using your title and heading tags strategically, optimizing your images, and filling in your meta tags. Getting onto the first page for a search term vastly increases your chances of getting a featured snippet, and all the old rules still apply for getting onto page one.   5. Be strategic in your formatting and language. During your research stage, you probably spent a lot of time looking at the snippets that show up in search. For paragraph snippets, you’ll notice the language of the question (probably in the title or heading on the page) is quickly followed by an answer. You want to replicate that: a question, quickly followed by an acceptable answer that only takes a few lines (aim for 50 words or less).   You can expand on this initial answer further into your blog post, but you want something that works as a simple answer showing up close to your target search term so Google can easily pull out that section for their snippet. For list snippets, this part is simple: Put your answer in a list. Google knows how to recognize bulleted and numbered lists on a page. Google’s snippet will only display up to eight list items, so to increase the chances of someone clicking through, make sure your post has more than eight items on the list. Searchers will see “More items” below the list in the snippet and above your link, making them more likely to click to see the rest. example of table featured snippet with more rows for todays mortgage rates For table snippets, include tables in your content where appropriate. It won’t make sense for every piece of content you make, but if you write a comparison post between different products, you can create a table that puts the features and benefits side by side, for example. Google will recognize that there’s a table on the page to pull from, if the algorithm sees the search as benefitting from an answer in table form. With SEO, the moment you think you have it all figured out things inevitably change. Tomorrow, there may be new SEO strategies to add to your list as well as these, but for today, these are smart steps you can take to increase your visibility for relevant searches.
  • Understanding Google Rich Results, From Snippets to Schema

    Monday, January 15, 2018 by
    introduction to Google Rich Results

    What Are Google Rich Results and How Do They Affect SEO?

    If you use Google much (and most of us do), you’ve probably started to notice a real change in the search results. Where once there was a list of links (some of the ones up top paid for), there’s now a mix of links, images, text boxes, maps... lots of types of information in different forms, all taking up space on the main search results page. If you care about your website’s SEO, then you should care about how the search engine results pages (SERPs) look – being one of those links on the first page used to be the end-all be-all goal of SEO. But it means less if your link is pushed down below several other types of content and information, instead of just other links. Everyone with a website should therefore be paying attention to what these changes mean for your site’s visibility. Here’s a basic rundown of the main things you need to know about all those special search results dominating the SERPs. HostGator Website Builder

    5 Types of Special Google Results

    These special results can take a lot of different forms. Some of the main ones that website owners should be aware of are:  

    1. Featured snippets

    When you search a simple question in Google, you’ll now often see a box above the other search results that includes the text that answers your question – right there on the results page, so you don’t have to navigate away to get the information you need. example of featured snippet result in Google These are featured snippets, sometimes called instant answers. This information is pulled from the text of a webpage, which is linked right below the answer. That means that you can be number one in the list of links below, without being the first link people see on the page. These show up in a few different formats. Commonly it’s a little bit of text and an image pulled from the webpage with the link below. Sometimes, the information that’s pulled shows up in a bulleted or numbered list. And sometimes, you’ll see a number of “People Also Ask” options, which open up their own featured snippets.
    example of featured snippets and people also ask resultsbullet list featured snippet example

    2. Map snippets

    The map snippet comes up anytime a search term suggests to Google that you’re looking for something you’d be likely to go to a physical location for. Sometimes the map cluster shows up below other ads and results, and sometimes it’s at the top of the results page. example of local map 3-pack snippet rich result in google In either case, you see a map that has several locations marked with red pins, with three locations listed below below it.  The results below the map usually include an address, ratings information, photos, contact information, and business hours (if relevant). Note that these listings don’t provide links directly to the website of the business or other location listed. When you click, you go to an expanded result for the location you clicked on, with a larger map of other relevant results. There you can find the link to the website. Local 3-pack map results  

    3. Rich ads

    While ads have always been a part of Google’s search results, many searches now include ads that provide visuals and the same kind of rich information that increasingly shows up in natural results. These rich ads sometimes show up above the other results and sometimes to the side. They include images, pricing information, ratings information and the name of the business. Sometimes they even include additional helpful information like that a product comes with “free shipping” or is for “in-store pickup.” Obviously, these aren’t spots you can capture with SEO, but you can pay for them with Google AdWords if you want an easy way to stand out in the SERPs.
    Google rich ad results for mini fridgeGoogle rich ad results for curtains
     

    4. Video results

    Videos don’t show up as featured snippets that often, but for some searches they do. In these cases, you can click to watch the video on the search results page without navigating elsewhere. example of video rich result from YouTube for how to change a bike tire More often, you see video thumbnails alongside links in the search results. When you click on these, they open the page where the video is hosted for you to watch (usually on YouTube) example of video rich results  

    5. Rich snippets

    In addition to the flashy snippets and visuals on the top of and alongside the page, for some searches, you’ll also see rich results in the list of links. What kind of information you’ll see with these can vary a lot, but it can include thumbnail images, ratings information, number of reviews, and things like calorie counts for recipes. examples of rich snippet results for chocolate pie recipes

    What These Special Results Mean for SEO

    These types of special results aren’t either all good or all bad. In some cases, they’re likely to distract away from the main search results, as with rich advertisements that draw the eye before a person starts to scroll down, or featured snippets that answer simple questions on the SERP so that people are unlikely to click through to any other results. On the other hand, featured snippets that provide a partial answer to more complicated questions (often the case with bulleted snippets) are more likely to get people to click through to the link. And rich search results can draw attention to particular search results with more information and visuals, making them potentially more competitive than others that rank higher. On the whole, it’s a mixed bag for marketers. But there are some things you can do to make your webpages more competitive in the world of special search results.  

    Using Schema Markup

    Any of the rich search results you see that have things like thumbnail images, ratings, or review information showing up alongside the link didn’t just get there with luck. The website owners figured out how to provide Google’s algorithm that information in just the right way for it to show up in the results. The way to do that is with schema markup. You use shema markup to tell the search engines which pieces of information on your website fall into the types of data categories they’ve decided merit a special sort of display on the platform. Because Google thinks users will benefit from knowing how long a recipe takes to make or how many calories are in it, if you provide that information to them using schema markup, they’ll display it on the results page. Luckily, schema markup was specifically developed to be pretty user friendly. You can visit Schema.org to learn about the different types of Schema markup there are and the different categories you’ll want to include in your code for each type. To make updating your own site easy, you can use Google’s schema markup generator. Just put in the URL you want to generate markup for, select the type of content it is, and then you can highlight the different parts of the page that should be added into the different fields provided. As an example, you’d highlight the headline of your article and select “Name” in the dropdown menu that shows up to mark it as the article’s title. how to use google schema markup generator When you’re done selecting the text on the page for each category, click on “create HTML” to find the code that you need to add to your page for schema markup. You can copy and paste the whole code they provide to your page, or go look for the specific spots where something’s highlighted in yellow and just paste in those parts. markup selected text on website using google schema generator

    Optimizing for Featured Snippets

    Featured snippets are sometimes referred to as “Position 0” amongst SEO professionals, since they get you above even that top spot. While in some cases, your content showing up in a featured snippet could just mean that people get the answer they need without clicking through, for many searches it’s still a worthy goal to aim for since it puts your answer and link far above everybody else on the page and in a way that draws attention. The best way to optimize for featured snippets is to create the kind of content most likely to show up in them. The types of queries you should focus on are those where people are looking to answer a question – but one that’s a bit too big to get a full answer to within the text box at the top of the page. Spend some time brainstorming questions relevant to your website and industry. Then go do some Googling to see what results show up for them now. What you’re looking for here are queries where there is a featured snippet, but the answer’s not great. These provide an opportunity to create something better, while knowing that Google already sees this query as one that should generate a snippet. Also pay attention to which questions bring up answers from Wikipedia – these aren’t a good place to put your time, since Google’s unlikely to decide your website is more authoritative than Wikipedia. You’ll also want to be very particular in the language you use. Moz recommends making your keywords and phrases very literal. So drop whatever clever heading you had in mind and use the phrase a person’s most likely to be searching.  

    For Local SEO: Optimizing for the Map Snippet

    If your business has a physical location and reaching local residents is a priority, then the map snippet – popularly called the map 3-pack by local SEO professionals –  is the most important of all special results for you to focus on. Part of getting into the map cluster has to do with how close you are geographically to the person searching, so you don’t have much control over that. But you can implement a few local SEO best practices to increase your chances of showing up there more often:
    • Claim your Google listing. Hopefully you’ve already done this, but if not do it now.
    • Add your website to relevant directories. Get listed in as many as possible and make sure your name, address, and phone number looks the same in all of them. So if you write out Acme Road in one, don’t shorten it to Rd in another.
    • Encourage reviews. This is a big one and one of the hardest to pull off, since it depends on getting the cooperation of your customers. But you can be proactive in asking for reviews or pointing your customers toward where they can leave you a review on Google.
    • Do content marketing and link building with a local focus. Create content focused on local issues. Work with other local businesses to launch events, host charity drives, create joint initiatives – anything that might earn you local press and links to other sites in your community. If it strengthens your local authority, it will improve your SEO in general, which increases your chances of showing up in the cluster.
    Most of doing SEO well is the same as it was before special results started taking over more of the SERPs, but you can make your SEO strategy stronger by paying attention to the types of results showing up for the topics you target and crafting a strategy that optimizes for being one of those special results for relevant search terms.
  • 2018 New Year’s Resolutions for E-commerce

    Thursday, December 21, 2017 by
    New Year Resolutions Ecommerce

    10 New Year’s Resolutions for E-commerce Sites

    You’re wrapping up the busiest time of year. You do deserve a rest, but it can only last so long. 2018’s about to start and the beginning of a New Year is the best time to sit down and figure out all the things you need to do to make your e-commerce business better in the year to come. To get more out of 2018, here are a few good New Year’s resolutions to consider for your e-commerce business. best dedicated server hosting

    1. Perform a thorough analysis of last year’s results.

    The best place to start with your New Year’s resolutions is by committing time to thoroughly review what you did last year and how well it worked. Bring together all the analytics you have – from Google Analytics, your e-commerce software, and your marketing software products – and analyze what the data has to tell you. See how your results throughout the year relate to particular marketing campaigns and initiatives you tried and figure out which of your current efforts are working and which are falling short. To get better, you have to understand where you are now and where you’ve been in the past. Your data is the tool that best helps you do that so you can improve upon your past results in the year to come.  

    2. Revisit and update your business plan.

    Now that you have a good understanding of last year’s results and what got you there, you can create an informed plan to make sure next year’s results are even better. Revisit your company’s business plan and make updates to it based on the results of your analytics review and any changes you’re interested in pursuing in the coming year. If you’re hoping to expand your product offerings or start targeting a new audience, make sure your business plan includes specifics on how and why to do that. While the plan you create in this step won’t be set in stone, it will help shape your marketing and business practices in the coming year. Getting this right can make a big difference in how well you pull of your goals in 2018.  

    3. Start personalizing your customer experience.

    Every person that comes to your website has distinct interests. Not all of your content or products will be relevant to every visitor and if most of what they see whenever they land on your website is of no interest, you’re likely to lose them. On the other hand, if you can use technology to deliver an experience tailored to what each visitor likes, you’re more likely to keep them around and get them to convert. There’s data that backs up the power of web personalization. One study found that companies that provided a personalized web experience saw an 18% increase in sales. If you haven’t already starting bringing personalization into your marketing and website experience, then make 2018 the year you do so. With the right technology and data, you can promote products that you know each visitor is most likely to be interested in based on their past visits to your site and their general browsing habits. When you make it easier for customers to learn about the products that are most relevant to their interests, their experience improves and your sales are likely improve with it.  

    4. Beef up your security.

    Big brands keep getting unwanted attention and scrutiny because of data breaches that put their customers’ personal information at risk. Data breaches are bad for customers and brands alike and can really hurt your relationship with the people you most need to earn the trust of. Just because your business is a smaller target than Experian or Uber doesn’t mean you can let security slide. Your website collects sensitive financial information that your customers expect you to take responsibility for protecting. You should take their trust very seriously. Go through our website security checklist to see what steps you need to take to make your e-commerce site more secure, and make a note to revisit the checklist in a few months and do it all over again. Don’t let 2018 be the year you fail your customers by letting their information slip into the hands of someone malicious. Website Security Checklist

    5. Revisit your pricing.

    Pricing is always a tricky subject. If you charge too much, you’ll lose customers to competitors. But when you charge too little you could be leaving money on the table. If you set your prices a while back and haven’t taken time to revisit them in a while, then let the beginning of the New Year be your chance to see if there’s room for a change. Plan on doing some price testing so you can see if you can get away with bumping your prices up without losing customers. It can be scary making a change like this – you don’t want to alienate customers that have been with you awhile – but if you do it right, you can easily increase your profits without spending much more or having to do more work.  

    6. Do user testing.

    Your website seems perfectly intuitive to you, of course, but this is one of those areas in life where your opinion only matters so much. You need to figure out if your website is easy to use for your customers and, just as importantly, if it successfully drives visitors to take the actions you want them to. You can hire a UX firm to do user testing for you and help you develop an updated version of your website designed to better serve both your visitors and your goals. If the cost of hiring outside help for this is beyond your means though, put together a plan for DIY user testing. You can gain some of the same insights as a UX firm on your own and put what you’ve learned into practice moving forward. AB Test Pricing

    7. Research new software solutions.

    A good e-commerce business needs good software to thrive. When was the last time you really thought about how well your current software is serving you and looked into whether or not there might be something better out there for you? Evaluate all the software products you’re using now – your e-commerce software, your marketing software products, even your accounting software – and do some research to see if another product that offers additional functionality or a lower cost might be a better fit for your needs. Making sure you have the right tools for the job and know how to use them effectively is an important part of business success. Make it one of your resolutions to confirm you’ve got that down.  

    8. Start a customer referral program.

    If you don’t have one yet, a customer referral program can be a powerful way to bring in new customers. People always trust recommendations from friends and family members more than they trust the word of a business; so giving your current happy customers an incentive to talk up your brand to others is a smart way to bring in new business. Use the beginning of the year to design a plan for your new customer referral program so you can launch early enough in 2018 to get some real returns from it. If you do it right, it will strengthen your relationship with the customers you already have while helping you grow your business exponentially.  

    9. Grow your email list.

    Speaking of strengthening your relationship with your current customers, your email list is still one of the best tools you have for doing that (and starting a relationship with new prospects). You may already have strategies and campaigns devoted to growing your email list. If you do, revisit those and look for ways to make them stronger. If you don’t, now’s the time to sit down and work up a plan. You can promote your email list on your blog, on your product pages, on social media, and on your main landing pages. Consider creating gated content or hosting webinars as additional ways to grow your list. And figure out discounts or other incentives you can offer to encourage interested followers to take that extra step. Your email subscribers are some of your most valuable prospects, the more of them you have, the better it is for your business.  

    10. Look into new partnerships.

    While it’s easy to think of other businesses as competitors, businesses are often stronger together than apart. Use this time of year to think about the types of partnerships that could be valuable to your brand and start seeking them out. That could include affiliate partnerships that further promote your brand to relevant audiences, content exchanges with other businesses in your space to build links and reach new audiences, and partnerships with other local businesses to collaborate on events or other types of promotion. When you collaborate with other businesses, you benefit from the work they’ve done to build up an audience and earn their trust. It’s a valuable way to extend your reach and make some important business relationships in the process.  

    Conclusion

    Running an e-commerce business always feels like a lot of work, and no matter how busy you are, you know there’s always more you can be doing to make it better. It can be hard to find time to try new things, but don’t let that be an excuse. Make the beginning of the New Year – the time most devoted to seeking out ways to be better – your opportunity to try out new things and find creative ways to improve. 2018 can be a much better year for your business than 2017 was, but only if you do the work to make it happen.
  • 2018 New Year’s Resolutions for Affiliate Marketers

    Thursday, December 21, 2017 by
    New Year Resolutions AffiliateMarketers

    8 New Year’s Resolutions for Affiliate Marketers

    The beginning of a new year is always a good time to think about ways to improve. As affiliate marketing continues to grow in popularity each year, affiliate marketers have to do more to stay competitive and keep your content relevant and profitable. As we move into 2018, here are a few good New Year’s resolutions to consider to make your affiliate marketing even more successful in the year to come. best WordPress hosting

    1. Revisit and update your business strategy.

    Every type of business needs a business strategy. Even if affiliate marketing is something you currently do on the side in addition to another job, you can benefit from sitting down to really work out a plan for how to approach it so you get the most out of the time you put in. As part of this process, review your earnings data for the last year. Figure out which types of products and brands you work with that bring the most money in. See if there are certain topics or types of content that perform the best in terms of driving sales, as well as which perform well in terms of driving traffic  - both goals are valuable, and the content that’s best for each may vary. Use your analysis to guide your plan for the coming year. Consider if you should shift more toward covering a certain topic area or work more with brands offering different types of products. Include in your plan specifics on things like how often to produce new content and how to promote it. Having a general schedule to stick to and idea of how to approach your marketing efforts can help you more consistently stay on top of things in the next year.  

    2. Research and consider new affiliate partnerships.

    This is also a good time of year to consider branching into new partnerships. Take some time to research brands in your space and identify which ones offer affiliate programs. Figure out which sell products you’re confident are a good fit for your audience (and that you’d feel good about recommending), and measure the terms of the various affiliate programs against each other. Once you’ve weighed the value of the products and the affiliate relationships against each other, make a move toward working with the brands that you’ve decided are your top picks. They offer the promise of new revenue in the coming year, as well as new products for your audience to learn about and try. HostGator Affiliate

    3. Evaluate and consider if you want to keep all current affiliate partnerships.

    It’s always awkward ending a professional relationship, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do. In your analysis of which products and brands are helping you make the most money, were there some clear losers? If there’s a brand that just isn’t a good fit for your audience, or that you’ve come to feel less enthused about yourself, then cut the ties. Affiliate marketing works better if you’re genuinely excited about every brand you work with and know your audience is likely to feel the same. If dropping a partnership makes your brand stronger, use the beginning of the new year to make that hard choice.  

    4. Do a website review.

    As an affiliate marketer, your website is the main place you interact with your audience. You want to make sure everything about it (not just your content) is designed to make it a good experience for your users. This is a good time of year to commit to going through the whole website to look for potential issues that could be causing a bad experience for your users or making you look bad. This includes:
    • Anything that makes you look spammy, such as typos, grammatical errors, keyword stuffing, or hidden links.
    • A slow load time – this is annoying for users and bad for SEO.
    • Broken links
    • Unintuitive navigation – can users easily find what they’re looking for? Do your pages have CTAs to lead visitors to other useful pages or content?
    • A bad mobile experience
    It takes time, but go through your website page by page to do proofreading, check links, and look for any issues on the page that could be causing problems. While you’re there, look for opportunities to make the page better – maybe you can add a CTA to sign up for your email list or add in some links to relevant content. Some tweaks to your old content can make it start doing more for you.  

    5. Consider new strategies for growing your email list.

    Your email list is one of the most powerful tools you have to grow and maintain your community. Anyone that takes the step of signing up is saying that they trust you enough to want to continually hear what you have to say moving forward (for as long as you continue to earn that trust). popup box email newsletterThe larger your email list is, the more people will consistently see your content and click through on the links included in it. That’s why if building your email list wasn’t already a top priority for you, then 2018 should be the the year you really focus on it. Promote it heavily on your website with hard-to-miss signup forms and CTAs. Promote it on social media to your followers. Consider producing gated content or putting on webinars to increase signups. And whatever you do, make sure once you’ve gained those subscribers you reward them with quality content that makes them want to stick around.  

    6. Get to know your audience.

    Affiliate marketing only works if your audience feels like they can know and trust you. That works better if you make the effort to know them too. Commit in 2018 to interacting more with your audience so you can get to know them better. Do a survey (or a few) to better understand what they want from your content and community. Engage with them on social media – ask questions, do polls, and provide responses when they communicate with you. The better you understand the people coming to your website and consuming your content, the better you can provide them with what they want and keep your relationships with them strong.  

    7. Figure out something you need to learn more about and create a reading list.

    Everybody always has more to learn. No matter what you write about now or what kind of research you’ve done already to strengthen your affiliate marketing business, you will benefit from doing more research. What are some things you’ve been meaning to learn more about? SEO? Being a better writer? Finding work-life balance? Research some of the best articles and books to read on the subject you’ve chosen. Make yourself a reading list and set deadlines to make you more likely to stick with it. You can bring what you learn to your business to make it consistently better over the next year and into the years to come.  

    8. Branch into new content types.

    It can be easy to fall into doing the same kind of thing over and over, but you can bring some freshness to your content by branching into something new. If you mostly do how-to tutorials, consider trying out some review posts. If you’ve mostly stuck to video so far, try out podcasting or writing. Get creative with your content ideas. If your audience doesn’t respond well to the change, well at least you tried and got some new data points on what works and doesn’t. If they do though, then you may gain more engagement or new followers because of your experimentation. And you’ll learn how to do something new in the process. You know how much work goes into affiliate marketing. But creating content is just one small part of the job. Use the beginning of the New Year to do some of the other tasks that can help your affiliate marketing business be more successful. The time you put into your content will go that much further if everything around it is working better. Did you know you can earn up to $125 per signup with HostGator's affiliate program? Sign up now for free!
  • 2018 New Year’s Resolutions for Small Business Owners

    Thursday, December 21, 2017 by

    New Year Resolutions Small Business Owners10 New Year's Resolutions for Small Business Owners

    Congratulations! Your business has made it through another year intact. When you’re a small business owner, that’s no small feat. But even if last year was your best yet (and especially if it wasn’t), you know there’s always room to be better. The end of a year is a good time both to celebrate your successes so far, and to look for ways to improve upon what you did last year. To make the most out of the year to come for your business, commit some time at the beginning of the year to working on resolutions that will make your business better. Here are ten New Year’s resolutions to consider in 2018. Creating a blog

    1. Review and update your business plan.

    Every small business must be guided by a business plan. If you’ve been at this for a while already, then you know how important that is. But how often do you go back to revisit your plan and make sure that it’s up to date and you’re sticking to it? The beginning of a new year is a good time to pull up the most recent version of your business plan to see if your earlier goals and planning are still in line with what you want for the year to come. Chances are, you’ll want to make some changes based on new trends or technology and on your analysis of results from last year. Your business plan doesn’t have to be set in stone, but simply the practice of sitting down to review and update it will help you go into the next year with a more clear and defined idea of what your priorities are and how to best to achieve your goals.  

    2. Consider your staffing needs for the New Year.

    hiring in 2018The people who work for you are one of the most important parts of small business success. But you don’t want to get complacent and assume the few good people you’ve hired already are all you need.  If any of your current staff are overwhelmed, it’s probably time to hire more employees to help spread the work around. And if you’ve decided to tackle new initiatives, you’ll need to look for people with the skill sets required to take the new projects on. A strong team of employees is hard to overestimate. While bringing new employees onto the team can be expensive, if they help your business run better and achieve more success into the year to come, then it’s important to take the plunge and build out your ranks. Take time to talk to your current employees and really analyze where your needs are. If you determine new hires are needed, get to work putting together some job ads and starting your search.  

    3. Check in with your customers.

    Employees are one of the most important parts of small business success; your customers are the other. Your business won’t get anywhere without people buying your products. It’s important not just that you have customers (obviously), but that you work to understand who they are, why they buy from you, and what their experience with your business is. To do that, you have to listen to them. Send out customer surveys to get their input.  Encourage feedback on every purchase and customer service interaction and make sure you follow through on reviewing it and doing something with it. Commit in the coming year to making customer feedback and outreach a priority and put specific plans in place to make it happen. Your business will only get stronger and more successful for putting customer experience first.  

    4. Revisit your pricing.

    AB Test PricingPricing isn’t something that you should set once and be done with. Every so often, you should revisit what you’re charging now and consider if you should raise or lower your prices. If your brand has gotten stronger in the last year and your sales have increased steadily, you may be able to easily bump your prices up without losing sales. On the other hand, if a cheaper competitor entered the market and is taking a lot of your old customers, then bringing your pricing down may be warranted. Do price testing to get a feel for how your customers respond to different pricing levels and configurations. Changing your pricing always involves a little risk, but if you determine it’s the right choice after testing and careful consideration, it could mean higher profits in the year to come.  

    5. Look into new software solutions.

    Small businesses depend on a wide range of software products to make various business tasks easier and more effective. While software itself is never a full solution – how you and your employees use it will always make a big difference – the right tech products can make your business more efficient and enable you to tackle new initiatives. As you head into the New Year, review your current tech products to confirm whether or not they’re working well for your needs now. If they are, you may not need to change or replace any of what you’re using now, but if your employees find the software you have now hard to use or feel there’s missing functionality they really need, then it’s time to look at your other options. In addition to figuring out which of your current software products should stay and which should go, look into the tech options available for functions you haven’t tried yet. Maybe you’ve been thinking about starting to use marketing automation or customer personalization, but haven’t taken the plunge to invest in the tools you need to start. Don’t rush into any business tech decisions, but do start to identify your needs and interests moving forward, and start researching the best options for meeting them.  

    6. Create a customer review policy.

    Ask for online reviewsCustomer reviews can make or break small businesses. With so many places online where customers can check reviews before making a decision to buy, your online reputation is largely dependent on what the customers who feel like reporting back on their experience have to say about you. That means it’s crucial that you pay attention to the reviews your customers leave and care about what they have to say. If you don’t have one yet, use the beginning of the New Year to create a customer review policy for your customer service team to follow. Commit to reading every review and responding. Good reviews should receive a “thank you” message, while bad reviews should receive an attempt to fix whatever the reviewer’s unhappy about. There will be cases where there’s not much you can do to fix the problem in a bad review, but assess each case and do what you can. Beyond responding in the moment though, make a plan for doing something with the information the reviews provide. Good reviews tell you what you’re doing right and help you reward your employees for a job well done, and even bad reviews have value in teaching you how to improve.  If you find trends in the feedback people give, turn those into action items to make your business better in the year to come.  

    7. Improve your marketing plan.

    We’ve already talked about updating your business plan, but don’t forget to revisit your marketing plan as well. Every year brings new marketing trends and channels for businesses to consider, so you should always take time to consider which marketing tactics you want to employ in the coming year. Look to your marketing analytics to determine which of your current campaigns and tactics are providing the best results.  You’ll likely want to change up your current marketing mix based on what’s working the best for you now. But also consider if it’s time to branch into new online marketing tactics. If you feel like you’re lagging in SEO results, it might be time to start a content marketing program. Or if your content isn’t being seen enough, it might be time to look into guest posting or native advertising. The beginning of the New Year is a good time to get adventurous and think about trying something new.  

    8. Do a website review.

    brainstorm website ideasWhether you run an ecommerce business or have a physical shop that your website helps promote, your website is the main way people will interact with your business online. You’ve got to keep it up to date and working well. If you haven’t had a website redesign in a while, take some time now to do a thorough review of your website. Test out how it works both on desktop on mobile. Do user testing to make sure it’s intuitive for your customers. Look for issues like broken links or images that no longer show up. It can be easy after a while to think you can let your website run on autopilot, but the longer you go without doing proper maintenance to make sure it’s working as it should, the more little issues will accrue that cause your visitors to have a negative experience. Make a good, thorough website review one of your New Year’s resolutions.  

    9. Beef up your security.

    We’re not talking about hiring intimidating security guards here. Your customers trust you with their personal financial information; making sure you do everything in your power to keep that information safe is a big responsibility that you owe them. Every year, hackers are getting more sophisticated and we get more news about big data breaches that put consumers at risk and damage business reputations. Just because your business is small doesn’t mean you’re not a target. Take basic precautions to keep your networks and secure information safe.  

    10. Get more locally involved.

    Small businesses have a lot to give to their local communities, and local communities have a lot to give back. That’s often true even if you’re an ecommerce business. The city where you’re based likely has professional organizations, networking get-togethers, and local events you can benefit from getting involved with. Get out there and make connections with other businesses in your community. Speak at local events. Seek out mutually beneficial partnerships.  And consider local causes you can donate or otherwise contribute to. Becoming part of the community will only make your business stronger.  

    Happy New Year!

    Even if last year was a good year for your small business, it’s worth making an effort to make this one better. Commit to a few good New Year’s resolutions and make 2018 your best year yet.