Tuesday, March 21, 2017 by Kristen HicksAs a small business owner, you have a lot of needs and priorities to balance. When you have to make room in your schedule and budget for things like content marketing, SEO, social media, and mobile marketing – it can be easy to let web design fall off the priority list. But design matters. 94% of people say bad design will keep them from trusting a website. And adding visuals to your content leads to more shares, clicks, and links than sticking with only text. You can’t let design slide. Here are a number of cheap or free resources that can help you do more with less when it comes to your web design, depending on your goals.
Monday, March 20, 2017 by Kristen HicksBuilding a business website costs time and money. If your business has managed all right without one so far, it’s easy to make excuses to put off dealing with it. But could that procrastination be hurting you? If you’re still on the fence about whether or not building a website for your business is worth the time and money, here are a few signs that it’s time to take the plunge and get started.
1. Your business exists in 2017.I kid, but only somewhat. The internet is a huge part of how people make purchasing decisions today, and not just when it comes to items you can purchase online. 81% of shoppers do research online before buying something. Whether you sell products in a physical store or services, the first place most people go when they’re looking for what you sell is the internet. How many customers have you missed out on because your business was invisible when they went online to look for what you sell?
2. A customer asks where to find you on the web.People fully expect that any company they do business with will have a web presence. Even if they already know about your company, a website’s the easiest way to look up your address before heading to the store, or double-check your hours so they don’t head out for no reason. Consumers today don’t want to have to pick up a phone to find that information, or go to a phone book to find your number, for that matter. While you can list some of that information on sites like Yelp or in your Google business listing, customers have more confidence that they can trust what they’re seeing on your own business website. If you’ve been asked by at least one customer where they can find you on the web, it’s time to start working on a satisfying answer to that question.
3. You keep reading about web-only marketing tactics.If you spend any time at all reading articles for entrepreneurs and small business owners, you’ve seen lots of talk about the value of social media marketing, content marketing, and SEO. Those are all tactics your competitors are probably already benefitting from, but that you can’t even try until you have a website to promote. Even more importantly, they tend to be more effective and provide a better ROI than other types of advertising. If you’re currently putting all your ad spend toward billboards and radio ads, you’re not getting the biggest bang for your buck.
4. You realize your grandkids don’t think your business really exists.Kids these days, right? Their whole life is on the internet. As far as they’re concerned, if it’s not online, it can’t be real. If you overheard them at Thanksgiving this year discussing a complicated conspiracy theory they’ve developed that you’re actually a spy and the business you claim you have is a front, it probably means they’re watching too much TV, but it also definitely means it’s time for you to build a website for your business. Kids show us where the future’s going. If your family’s youngest generation thinks it’s weird that your business doesn’t have a website, you should concede that they just might have a point.
5. You realize you don’t want to become obsolete.The longer you hold out, the more invisible you are to potential customers. Even past customers might wonder if you’ve gone out of business if they can’t find a website – people really do take for granted at this point that a website is a necessary part of business. If you don’t have one, it looks unprofessional and means people are less likely to take you seriously. Stop procrastinating. You already knew by the time you started reading this post that it’s past time to have a website for your business. Commit to getting it done this year so your business can maintain its legitimacy and maybe even increase profits in the years to come. Get started today with HostGator. Build your website!
Friday, March 17, 2017 by Casey Kelly-BartonBusiness owners, job seekers, bloggers, and affiliate marketers all face the same challenge: building brand recognition to stand out from the crowd. Social media, we’re told, is the land of opportunity – a nearly infinite network of possible touchpoints we can use to interact with followers, find mentors, listen to our target customers, and establish ourselves as experts in our fields. The problem with standing out from the social media crowd is that the crowd is large and talkative. Three years ago, the average social media user encountered 285 pieces of content every day. That was just the average. Active and highly engaged social media users received as many as one thousand links (or more) daily. It’s reasonable to assume that those numbers are higher now, as more businesses turn to social media to engage with their audiences.
Does your brand get credit for your social shares?Each link you share offers useful or entertaining information, but each non-branded link you share also pulls users’ focus away from your brand. This can happen when the link is a long URL that includes the original source domain.
- For example, for the story linked above, seeing a share with http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/social-media-overload/488800 puts Adweek foremost in your mind.
- For example, http://bit.ly/1b2FbxR presents the same piece of content and serves as a touchpoint for bit.ly.
Branded links create valuable touchpointsItalian entrepreneur Davide De Guz noticed this missed opportunity after founding ClickMeter, a link-shortening and tracking service. In 2015, he launched Rebrandly to let users brand shared links, include SEO keywords, and track the results of their shares. De Guz spoke to HostGator via Skype about how Rebrandly can help businesses, job seekers, bloggers, and others create touchpoints and avoid getting lost in the deluge of social media links and shares. Here's a quick demo of their rebranding process:
“Branded links stand out,” De Guz said. “You want to share your brand instead of the brand of someone else.” Rebrandly users can choose their own domain name and extension and then create custom tags for each share. For example, social media expert Jenn Herman switched from using her company tag on bit.ly shortened links to using her own custom domain, jennstrends.social, which keeps her brand front and center in every link she shares.
Branded links increase trustA shared link is only valuable if people click on it, whether it’s a link to an article your colleagues might like, or a link to a promotion on your business website. De Guz said his company’s research found that branded links get more clicks because users trust those links more. “We allow you to show your name, and you’re sharing information with people who already know you. Depending on the message you’re sharing, the click-through rate is 20 to 35 percent more compared to a generic shortened URL.” [bctt tweet="The click-through rate of branded links is 20 to 35 percent more compared to a generic shortened URL." username="hostgator"]
Customized links reinforce expertise and authorityThe benefits of branded links are clear for business, but there are also advantages for job seekers and freelancers, too. “It’s important to have a branded link to show your CV or resume,” De Guz said. “It’s a specific way to tell people what your work or business is about.” Among Rebrandly’s domain customization options are many that help job seekers and freelancers define their work at a glance, including .mba, .farm, .investments, .accountant, .graphics, and so on. Jenn Herman’s domain extension, .social, makes her area of expertise clear at a glance.
Tools for SEO and link managementI used a press pass provided by Rebrandly to try it out for a few days. Its Google Chrome extension was a simple and fast way to share links on Twitter and LinkedIn. I was also able to route my Rebrandly shares through my Buffer account. By choosing the “no link shortening” setting in Buffer, I was able to send shares out on my Buffer schedule but with my custom domain in each link instead of Buffer’s.The trade-off for that tweak was that Buffer couldn’t track clicks on those links, so I had to go to my Rebrandly dashboard to see my stats. The dashboard is easy to use, a good starting point for users who might be overwhelmed with heavy-duty analytics. Advanced users can also connect Rebrandly with ClickMeter for premium metrics, and Herman told Rebrandly that she now has better insights into her Instagram traffic, compared to Google Analytics’ tracking tools for that social platform. There are also tools to integrate Rebrandly with bit.ly and with other link-management tools. In my trial run, Rebrandly was an easy way to make touchpoints out of links I was already going to share. I’d like to try the mobile version, but as an Android user, I’ll have to wait. There’s an iOS app available now, and Rebrandly spokeswoman Sian Kate Lloyd said there’s an Android app due in the months ahead.
Getting the most value from your social sharesFor me, the goal was establishing expertise and name recognition. For an online merchant, the goal might be directing traffic to the shop. For a job hunter, the goal might be appealing to recruiters. In each case, custom links help cut through the clutter and may help you get more value from the time you spend finding and sharing links, especially if you use them as part of a carefully planned social media strategy. Are you using custom links? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
Friday, March 17, 2017 by Taylor HawesEvery website is different. What might be considered successful results for one website may be lackluster for another. To measure your own site’s success, you must first define what success means to you and develop a clear picture of how your website is performing according to these metrics. To start, ask yourself about the purpose of your site. Was it created to sell products? To boost fundraising efforts? To engage consumers in a particular niche? Defining the purpose of your website is essential to defining its success.
Setting Good GoalsNext, you need to set some clear goals that coincide with your website’s purpose.
Make sure you set S.M.A.R.T goals:
Specific: Who, what, where, when, and why?
Measurable: They should include numbers and figures.
Attainable: Your goal should present a challenge, but not be impossible.
Relevant: Does your website goal fit with your overall marketing and business goals?
Time-bound: Do you want to reach this goal in a week? Six months? A year?
Website Metrics That MatterThough the definition of website success will vary from business to business depending on goals, everyone can measure the performance of their website using analytics software. The factors that you measure with analytics are called metrics. According to the Content Marketing Institute, all metrics fall into four categories: Consumption, Sharing, Lead Generation, and Sales. Keep an eye on these key metrics to get a good idea of your website's performance.
Consumption refers to the content that your visitors see and consume when visiting your website. Examples of these metrics include:
Page Views: Page view metrics track how many people have seen the pages and content on your website. These are the easiest metrics to find and record.
Video Views: Video view metrics track how many people have seen your videos. You can measure these using YouTube Insights, or its equivalent if you use another video host.
Downloads: Download metrics track the number of times people download your downloadable content.
Consumption metrics are important because they help you understand how your content is viewed.
These metrics measure how many people are sharing your content across the web. Content sharing has become a common indicator of content usefulness and popularity, so these metrics are good indicators of your website's performance. They include:
Social signals that people give by clicking social share buttons on your website. They come from sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google+.
Backlinks. A backlink is created whenever another website links to your site. You can measure this through Google Analytics (or any other analytics software), and through Pingbacks on your blog.
Lead Generation Metrics
Lead generation is a critical goal for businesses, especially B2Bs. The goal of providing rich content is ultimately to move website visitors down your sales funnel, transforming them from passive viewers to active and loyal followers (and customers). Examples of the metrics you should be paying attention to:
Conversion rates: The number of unique site visitors measured against the number of conversions.
Form completions and call-to-action downloads: The number of times a visitor signs up for your newsletter, downloads a special report, etc.
Blog subscribers: You can measure this via your blog account or through your email marketing provider like Constant Contact.
If you use your website to sell products and services, then this one probably matters the most to you. Tracking sales metrics usually involves analyzing data within the CRM system you have in place for your business and customers. In order to effectively track sales metrics, you must include trackable components on your website (like a call-to-action to a product landing page). You can also include call-to-actions at the end of blog posts. By doing so, you will be able to track which content on your site is actually driving visitors to purchase your products or services.
Thursday, March 16, 2017 by Casey Kelly-Barton
You’ve decided to start a blog. You know what it will be about, you know who your target audience is, and you’ve drafted a list of individual post ideas you can use to keep up a regular posting schedule. The only thing standing between you and your first published post? You need a domain for that new blog. Suddenly, your new blog project feels a bit daunting. How do you choose a great name when millions of names are already registered? Should you go with .com, .blog, .cat or one of the hundreds of other top level domain options? How do you protect your privacy when you register your domain? What about SEO? Don’t get overwhelmed. There’s a lot of great information online about the best way to select a domain name for your blog, and we’ve sifted through it to bring you the highlights. (We also know a thing or two about registering domain names ourselves.) Here are the 11 most important things to consider as you decide on your blog’s domain name.
Your domain = Your brandWhat’s your blog’s brand? If it’s a blog for your business, it’s part of your business brand. If it’s a personal blog, it will reflect on you personally, whether you’re seeking jobs, promoting your services to clients, or keeping visitors entertained. Take the time to think about the feelings, values, and uniqueness you want your blog to convey, and use that information to guide your domain name choice. [bctt tweet="Your domain name = Your brand. Don't forget that! #branding" username="hostgator"]
Keep it shortShort domain names are easy to remember, type in, and share. Short domain names also display fully on even small screens, an important consideration now that most US digital media consumers browse on smartphones instead of computers.
Pass the “radio test”If you say your domain name aloud and a listener can type it into their browser, it passes the “radio test.” This is important because, according to both Entrepreneur and Moz, pronounceable domains are easier to remember and more likely to be shared. [bctt tweet="Does your domain name pass the Radio Test? Say it out loud, and people should be able to type it in." username="hostgator"]
.com or bust?There are so many top level domain options today that making a decision can be intimidating. Here’s a timesaving solution: Go with .com if you can. Even after all these years, .com is still the market leader and .com still appears to have a trust advantage with internet users. However, there are times when an alternate TLD can enhance your domain branding. Someone who blogs about data security, for example, might choose the .tech TLD, and a blogger who reviews monthly product-box deliveries might be able to work .club into the domain name. You can explore TLD options at HostGator partner Domain.com, which offers more than 300 TLDs, including .design, .wedding, and .recipes.
Keep squatters awayCybersquatting is a real problem, and while registering a domain using someone else's trademark is illegal, squatters (and even domain registrants acting in good faith) can create confusion around your domain by registering variants, like the plural version or the same name with another top-level domain. To avoid confusion, you may want to spend a few extra bucks to register domain names very similar to yours and redirect them to your blog. Some real-world examples:
- Stabucks.com redirects to Starbucks.com
- HostGators.com redirects to HostGator.com
- Amazon.sale redirects to the “Today’s Deals” page at Amazon.com
Scout social-media availabilityMake sure the domain name is available as an account name in the social media channels you’ll use. Otherwise you’re setting up your blog for visitor confusion and possible trademark battles (see below).
Avoid domain name confusionYou’re not likely to copy or reference the domain name of a major existing brand like Amazon or Starbucks, but you might accidentally step on the toes of a smaller blog or brand. Spend some time online looking for businesses and blogs with similar domain names. Adjust yours, if you need to, to avoid confusion and potential lawsuits. As Rand Fishkin says in the Whiteboard Friday video below, “it's not your judgment. It's not even your audience's judgment. It's what you think a judge in the jurisdiction might have the judgment about.”
Keywords in your domain name? MaybeIt makes sense to use search keywords in your domain name as long as they’re part of your brand and you understand you won’t get an SEO value from them. A decade or so ago, the internet was full of generic-sounding keyword-rich domains like CheapCottonShirts.com or RemoteControlCarBlog.com. At best, search engine honchos say keywords in the domain name don’t enhance SEO enough to make the loss of unique branding worth it these days. At worst, Google may even penalize you for it.
Hyphens in your domain name? No wayTake it from someone with a hyphenated name: Hyphens are a hassle. Worse, research shows that a hyphenated domain name can undermine your blog. Not only are they difficult for users to remember and type in, they can also look spammy to search engines. If you’re considering a domain name that only works if it includes hyphens, head back to the drawing board and come up with hyphen-free alternatives. [bctt tweet="Avoid hyphens in your domain names - they're tricky for users and look spammy." username="hostgator"]
Protect your privacyWhen you register your domain, you’ll have the option to buy domain privacy protection, which keeps your billing address and name out of the international WHOIS searchable database of domain registrants. With privacy protection, when someone looks up your domain, they’ll see the corporate address of your privacy protection service, rather than your home or business address.
Remember to renewDepending on the domain registration service you use and the length of time you pay for, you may need to manually renew your domain registration and privacy protection every year or two. This takes only a couple of minutes, but it’s easy to overlook the renewal-notice email, and if you don’t renew within a certain time, your domain name can go dark or be sold to someone else. HostGator helps bloggers and businesses avoid this problem by auto-renewing your domain registration by default. Take your time choosing your blog domain and remember that if you want something different later on, you can always choose a new domain and 301 redirect your blog to it. Learn more on the HostGator blog about how your blog can make you money and maybe even change your life.