Tuesday, February 13, 2018 by Kevin Wood
7 Quick Daily Tasks To Improve Your SEOSEO isn’t something that has to be incredibly difficult. Sure, there is a lot of time and effort involved. But it’s mostly about performing specific tasks again and again, rather than doing something once and calling it a day. If you perform the following seven small tasks on a regular basis, it will add up to big rankings gains over the long term for your website.
1. Upgrade and Update Your Older Blog ContentJust because you published a post a year ago doesn’t mean you’re done with it forever. Chances are you’ve learned new things in that time, or new developments in your field have taken place, so you can make that piece of content even more useful. This is doubly true for content that might not be ranking as high as you think it should. Spend a little time going through your older content and see where you can expand, or add new resources, to make it even more useful to your readers.
2. Promote Your Content On Social MediaSocial media doesn’t have a large influence on your rankings, according to the latest Google ranking factors. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend any time on social media. Social media helps send traffic to your site. Plus, having a high social share counter will give your posts and your site more authority in the eyes of your visitors. If your post has hundreds of shares across social media your readers are more likely to trust what you’re writing. As a result, they're more likely to organically share it on their own social media channels and with family and friends, amplifying your reach. So, spend a little time each day sharing your content and engaging across social media.
3. Improve Your URLs, Titles, and MetasHaving a confusing URL structure isn’t good for SEO. Try to simplify your existing URLs so they’re cleaner, relevant to your topic, and include keywords (but make sure not to keyword stuff). Along this same topic, you’ll also want to improve your titles and meta descriptions. By making your titles more clickable and your meta descriptions more appealing you’ll improve your click-through-rate from the search results. Having a higher organic CTR will actually help to improve your search engine rankings too.
4. Check For Any Broken LinksHaving broken links on your site will kill your user experience. If you’ve been running your website for a little while, then you’re probably linking out to resources that are no longer online, or you’ve changed the URL structure of certain posts and pages on your own site. Both internal links on your site and external links out to authoritative resources are important for SEO and your overall user experience. If your site runs on WordPress, then you can install a plugin like Broken Link Checker that will scan your website for broken links. Alternatively, you can install the Chrome extension that’s also called Broken Link Checker, which will scan the open page for broken links. On the topic of links, it’s also important to add relevant internal links within the various blog posts on your site. If you have a piece of content that’s received a lot of links, then add plenty of links to other posts across your site within that post.
5. Perform Blog Email OutreachSimply writing your content isn’t enough. You also need to spend time promoting that content for shares and backlinks. When sending emails to other influencers in your space it’s important to not send an email that asks for a direct backlink. Instead, your goal with blog outreach should be to get on the radar of people who are likely to share and link to your content. If your content is good and you’re getting it in front of the right people, then the links will follow.
6. Spend Time Analyzing Your CompetitorsWant a super secret way to create content you know will work? Spend some time analyzing the successes of your competitors. With tools like Buzzsumo and SEMRush, you can simply type in the URL of your competitors and see which content has been the most popular and which keywords are sending them the most traffic.
- Buzzsumo also has a nifty feature that will show you the people who shared a specific piece of content. Now you can spend time promoting your content to these very same people who are more likely to share.
- SEMRush will also give you backlink data of competitor’s posts, so you can reach out to those very same people when promoting a similar piece of content.
7. Engage with Big Blogs and Sites in Your NicheBlog commenting isn’t the best way to build backlinks to your site. But, it does serve a purpose nonetheless. Some blogs do have comments sections that allow you to post your name and link to your website, but the main purpose of commenting isn’t to build backlinks to your site. Instead, it’s to get on the radar of top bloggers and website owners in your space. When commenting, the best approach is to post something thoughtful that also adds value. Make sure to keep blog commenting best practices in mind. Commenting, done the right way, can help to open doors. Maybe it’ll lead to a guest post opportunity down the road. Maybe it’ll lead to a linking opportunity. The future of SEO is built upon relationships and regular commenting can help you get there. Hopefully, the tips above will help you steadily improve your search engine rankings over the long-term. Remember, SEO is a long-term game, but the little things you do day in and day out will add up.
Don't Fall For These Falsehoods About EntrepreneurshipWant to start a new business? Start by questioning everything you know about launching a business. There are a lot of entrepreneurship myths that trip up new business owners, so before you invest time and money in an idea based on what you think you know, it's wise to get a clear idea of what to expect in terms of time commitment, expenses, planning, and personnel. Here's a reality-check list of common myths about entrepreneurship to arm you with realistic expectations and a better chance of success.
Myth #1: When you start your own business, you have more freedom in your scheduleIf by freedom you mean “the freedom to work a heck of a lot more hours than a salaried employee,” then yes, you'll have that. After your business is well established and profitable, you might reach a point where you can work a “normal” schedule. When you're just launching, though, plan on at least a year of spending most of your waking hours (and some of your sleeping ones) working. This is as true for self-made millionaires as it is for more modestly successful independent writers, photographers, shop owners, and other new business owners.
Myth #2: You need a brand-new product or service idea to succeedThink about how long humans have been making, selling, and buying things. For thousands of years, people have worn clothes, eaten food, used some type of transportation to get around, and so on. Those items have evolved over time, but there's never been a blockbuster new item that's completely replaced, say, the wheel. Refining existing ideas to serve customers better is how you're most likely to find a successful niche or opportunity. Develop a clear and concise business plan based on your “better mouse trap” and go from there instead of trying to summon something unheard of out of your imagination.
Myth #3: As a business owner, it's cost-effective to do everything yourselfMaybe at the very beginning you can take care of the books, the products, the marketing, and office cleanup, but at some point, your time is going to be more valuable spent working on the business than doing tasks within the business. Once you reach that point, any time you spend on tasks that could be delegated instead of developing new products, booking new clients, or expanding your market is a lost opportunity cost. That point can arrive sooner than you expect, especially once your sales are growing.
Myth #4: You can outsource virtually every aspect of your businessAs mentioned above, at some point it may make sense to outsource some of your business tasks. But the fantasy of starting out by farming out all your processes and then sitting back and collecting revenue is not realistic. That's because high quality outsourcing costs money that you may not have available to spend when you're just starting out. And using cheap, low-quality outsourcing is a good way to fail quickly. Your business processes, product quality, and customer service can all suffer, and you may end up putting out fires instead of growing your business.
Myth #5: These days, you can start a business with no moneyYou might be able to start a business with minimal upfront costs, and you might be able to use someone else's money to get started, but either way you're going to need some funds. Starting with nothing may seem scrappy and admirable, but it's not realistic and can undermine your chances of success before you begin. I sometimes talk to people who want to start selling their professional services like writing or photography without investing in a proper website, a professional headshot, the right kind of insurance to protect their new business, and other must-haves. Without these things, your business may look unprofessional to prospects and—if you go uninsured—it can expose you to liability.
Myth #6: You need venture capital to start your businessCompetition for private investment is fierce and serious. Unless you have some successes under your belt and an idea that captures the attention of investors, you're probably not going to get venture capital—and you probably don't need it. Most people who want to start a new business and need capital should consider a loan from the Small Business Administration, a local bank, or a credit union.
Myth #7: Your family and friends can help you launch your businessEvery budding entrepreneur considers hiring friends and family at some point--or even asking them to work for free. The temptation is understandable. You already know and trust these folks, and they may have skills you need. However, most experts discourage new business owners from relying on friends and family for two big reasons (although there are certainly more). First, working with relatives and friends is an expert-level skill that even experienced business owners struggle to master. Work dynamics affect personal relationships outside the office even if you never have to correct, retrain, or fire someone you care about. Second, asking anyone to work on your business for free devalues their work—and people working for free may not give your projects the time and attention they require.
Myth #8: Successful business owners go it aloneBusiness is competitive, but it's also collaborative. Owners—especially inexperienced new ones—who keep to themselves miss out on opportunities for learning, networking, and growth. You need other people's input and ideas to make your business work. Mentors who've been through the startup process are a valuable source of information, encouragement, and inspiration. Conferences in your field and in-person or online peer discussions can help you identify common pitfalls, answer questions, and provide advice. Every smart business owner focuses on hearing customer feedback, and supporting community activities or causes that matter to you can raise your business profile and build goodwill among your customers.
Myth #9: Entrepreneurship is only for certain types of peopleThere's a lot of media coverage of new businesses in Silicon Valley, where startup founders skew young, techy, and male, but anyone with a good idea, some resources, and the willingness to do the work can start a business. In fact, nearly a quarter of new entrepreneurs in 2016 were ages 55 to 64—roughly the same percentage as the 20 to 24-year old age group. As of 2015, 31% of privately held businesses in the US were owned by women. And according to 2016 federal data, the number of minority-owned businesses increased by 38% from 2007 to 2016.
Myth #10: Your older kids can help your business succeedThere are plenty of business owners who hire their teenage kids to handle tasks like preparing orders for shipping and taking orders for the online store. For some families, this is a great way to build the value of the business and let teens earn some money and work experience. However, it's best to treat that teen labor as a possibility and not something your business will rely on. That's because teens are still developing and exploring their interests. They may enjoy working for you for a while but then decide to get another job, take on more extracurriculars, or pursue a rigorous academic path that leaves no time for work. (They might also just fall asleep and forget something. Being a teenager is hard.) It's also worth noting that parent-teen relationships can be tricky to navigate even without a boss-employee dynamic in the mix. If your teen loses interest or takes on other obligations, be prepared to find other help.
Myth #11: You'll get to spend all your time doing what you love mostIf “what you love most” is running a business, you're going to love what you do all the time. For the rest of us, a business based on doing what we love involves doing a lot of stuff that's necessary but not thrilling. Case in point: when I started freelance writing full-time, I had no idea how much time each day I'd spend working with spreadsheets. But spreadsheets are an easy, low-cost way to track projects, billing, and invoices, so a daily dose of Excel is a must. Every type of business has these must-do tasks, and when your business is growing rapidly you may find yourself devoting more time to them than to the creative or interpersonal work that inspired you to start your business in the first place. The good news is that growth can allow you to outsource and delegate some of the things you really don't like doing, but there will always be responsibilities beyond the things you enjoy the most. Consider them costs of doing business.
Myth #12: With persistence, you can achieve anythingSometimes great ideas don't pan out, no matter how much work you put into them. Circumstances beyond your control can spike your business, whether it's better-funded competition or a market crash that causes banks to halt small-business lending. Mistakes made early in your startup process can catch up with your business later on, too. For example, if you started your business without doing thorough research with the best available data, you may have overestimated the market for your product. And while persistence is a must-have trait for business owners, it can sometimes prevent them from giving up when it's obvious that the money's not there, the customers aren't coming, or everyone's sad. Planning for success is always best (and more fun), but it's also a good idea to decide early on what your criteria are for scrapping the startup and moving on to something new.
Myth #13: You should always go with your gutThere's nothing wrong with tapping into your intuition when you're making decisions as long as you're aware that even the most keen “gut feelings” have their limits. How skilled is your gut at market analysis, customer segmentation, tax law, and ad copywriting? There are a lot of business decisions that require you to do some research and/or hire experts in order to get the results you want. Going *only* with your gut when deciding, for instance, which new products to develop can be a recipe for lost time and money. A better use of your intuitive skills is developing a list of possibilities and then listening extensively to feedback from customers and focus groups to get a realistic sense of demand.
Myth #14: When you run your own business, you're the star of the showWhen you look at lifestyle brands like those led by Oprah Winfrey or Martha Stewart, it's easy to think their success comes primarily from focusing on their superstar founders. There's no question that charisma and a relatable persona are musts for lifestyle entrepreneurs, but they're only part of the big picture. The most important ingredients are how these charismatic, relatable business people make their customers feel about themselves and the value they offer their customers. For example, Oprah's fans know she's a role model for thriving after overcoming obstacles, because she's shared her story over the years. But they keep coming back to her website, buying her books, watching her shows, and reading her magazine because her media empire offers shows, stories, and articles that inspire people to cope with their own challenges. So if you're starting a lifestyle brand, put yourself out there, but do it in a way that gives your customers something they want or need.
ConclusionBy getting clear on what's actually involved in starting a business, you may find you have to change your approach before you get started. But by going in knowing what you can expect, you're more likely to get your new business off to a strong start. For more information on what it really takes to be your own boss, check out HostGator's Guide to Launching Your Home Business.
Thursday, February 8, 2018 by Kevin Wood
Is Business Hosting Right For You?If you’re a small business owner, then you’ll need to find a host that’ll actually support your business. No doubt you’ve come across business hosting before, so you’re probably wondering what makes this style of hosting different from the rest? Below we examine what HostGator’s Business hosting plan actually is, so you can determine if it’s the right fit for your business.
What is Business Hosting?Most businesses require a hosting solution that’s not only powerful but also easy to use. Some business owners opt for a basic shared hosting plan, as it’s geared towards beginners and provides enough resources to get going. Other business owners might go for an even higher level hosting package, like VPS hosting, but quickly realize that managing a server can be a lot of work if you don’t have the right technical skills. Business hosting exists to fill the gap between basic shared hosting and higher level VPS, dedicated, or cloud hosting plans. The overarching goal of business hosting is to provide business owners with a high performing, easy to use hosting environment while offering additional tools that make running your business easier.
How Does Business Hosting Differ From Other Plans?This business hosting solution is an upgrade from the typical shared hosting plan. Shared hosting is a great place to start, as it’s very easy to use and will provide you with enough resources and tools to get your site off the ground. But, if you’re a small business that’s selling products or needs additional features, then Business hosting is probably the direction you’ll want to take. HostGator’s business hosting plan is similar to the basic shared hosting plan, but it comes with some serious upgrades like:
- Support for unlimited domains
- Additional built-in e-commerce features
- Included private SSL certificate
- Free toll-free support number
How Can Business Hosting Benefit Your Business?Business hosting can be very advantageous, regardless of whether you run a physical storefront or a solely online business. If you run a physical store and are looking to quickly and easily create a website that supports your business, then you’ll be able to take advantage of the free website builder, and a toll-free number to get a beautiful site online that sends customers your way. While, if your goal is to build out an e-commerce store, then the free SSL certificate, dedicated IP address, and high-performance hosting will help you start selling products online in the shortest amount of time possible. For business owners who don’t want to spend time managing their hosting, but instead want a hosting environment that actually supports their business, then give business hosting a try.
Is Business Hosting Right for Your Business?Sure, your business may be able to get by with basic shared hosting. But, if you’re serious about growing your business, selling products online, and making it easy for your customers to contact you, then upgrading to business hosting is a great choice.
Thursday, February 8, 2018 by Shayla Price
7 Social Advertising Pros and Cons for Small BusinessesReady to take your small business to the next level? Social advertising may be the channel worth your investment. Even if you’re a novice in this space, there’s an opportunity for you to earn brand awareness and new customers. “One of the fascinating things about social advertising is that there is virtually no limit to your ability to scale. You don’t have to wait for someone to search for your targeted keywords. You don’t have to wait for someone to run your promotion or read your blog. If you want to reach 50,000 people in one day, you can,” says Warren Jolly, the CEO of adQuadrant. Before you make this critical decision, it’s important that you know the pros and cons. Here are a few you should consider.
Social Advertising ProsThe advantages of social ads make it easier for you to connect with your customers and gain brand recognition. Explore these pros to boost business growth.
1. Pinpoint Specific AudiencesIn traditional advertising, brands take wild guesses on reaching their target audiences. Companies receive broad ranges about demographics, like "women from ages 18-35" or "household income $75,000-$100,000." While that strategy may have worked in the past, it’s not suitable in our current market. Today’s consumer is seeking products and services geared to their specific needs. And for small businesses, that means advertising must be spot on! Social advertising gives brands the flexibility to pinpoint audiences. Not only can you narrow down a consumer’s age and gender, you also can zoom in on their multiple interests and geographical locations. Below is an example of how Facebook’s ad platform allows you to define audiences. This specificity ensures that your team only targets people that fit your consumer profile. As a result, customers only see ads that meet their needs, and you save money connecting with the right consumers.
2. Enjoy Success, Even With Limited BudgetsAs a small business, especially if you’re brand new, it’s key that every cent impacts on your bottom line. You can’t afford to spend wastefully. Well, there’s good news! Social advertising is cost-effective and can fit any budget. You control on whether you want to pay thousands or just a few hundred. It’s always good to have a plan when working on a limited budget. Brian Peters, digital marketing manager at Buffer, offers his advice on getting the most from social advertising: “One of the biggest opportunities for so many brands with limited time and resources is to simply boost top performing posts from their page. Not only is this the most inexpensive form of social media advertising, but it also provides brands with a way to reach a new customer segment that they might not have been able to with traditional ads.”
3. Track Campaigns With EaseNot too long ago, business teams didn’t have precise metrics for their old-school marketing campaigns. They learned something worked when people walked into their stores. This outdated method doesn’t give companies the luxury to adjust their ads. With social advertising, tracking campaign results is painless. Small businesses know exactly how their ads are performing because data happens in real-time. You can use this information to make better decisions. Let’s say an advertisement lacks engagement. It’s possible for you to pause the campaign and revamp the design midway. Or if a campaign boosted revenue by 20% in May, you can kick off the campaign again in November for the holiday shopping season. Monitoring campaign performance is essential. When measuring advertising success, look for opportunities to customize the experience for your audience.
4. Increase Brand VisibilitySocial advertising is a gateway for introducing your brand to new audiences. Rather than waiting for consumers to visit your site, you’re meeting them on their turf—social media. When engaging with your audience, it’s vital that your ad doesn’t appear out of place. Instead, you want to add to the ongoing conversation on each channel. “Realize there’s several different types of paid advertising you can choose from on social media. Not every type of ad will work for your brand. However, one of the best techniques to follow when creating paid content is to seamlessly blend into feeds, walls and timelines,” explains Alex York, a senior SEO specialist at Sprout Social. Let your brand personality shine through in your advertising. You can include GIFs, memes, and funny quotes to capture consumers’ attention. Being relatable and likeable increases your odds of getting seen.
Social Advertising ConsLike any channel, social advertising has its drawbacks. It’s up to you to figure out whether they outweigh the pros.
1. Prepare for the Learning CurveWith an uncharted path, you’ll face difficulty at first. This same notion is true as it relates to social advertising. There are a variety of platforms with their own specific guidelines and best practices (check out our guides to advertising on LinkedIn, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). So you may encounter a steep learning curve. But don’t let that hinder your team. You have a few options to keep moving forward. For example, you can hire an agency that specializes in social advertising to create and run your campaigns. Or you can employ a skilled freelancer who can advise your team on the best course of action. Another option is to actually invest in a current employee. There are lots of online courses that can speed up the learning process. Plus, each platform offers knowledge bases for users, like the Instagram Help Center below. It’s never too late to learn a new skill. Take the necessary actions to make social ads work for your small business.
2. Stay Ready for the CompetitionMore than 4 million businesses pay for social media advertising on Facebook. It’s likely that your competitors are also attempting to gain consumer traction with social ads. Since the competition isn’t going away, your team must constantly differentiate itself in the marketplace. That translates into creating unique ads, catering to new niches, or even bumping up your ad spend. This type of advertising requires patience. You’re aiming for long-term success, not short-term wins. Arnie Gullov-Singh, the former chief operating officer at Polyvore, provides more insight: “Social advertising is an effective way to get consumers to engage with your message in a thoughtful and organic way. Social ads create stronger long-term value as the content continues to get amplified across consumers’ networks.” Prepare to address the nonstop pressures of competition. Work with your team to find innovative ways to set your brand apart from others.
3. Brace for Negative CommentsSocial media is well-known for getting consumers excited about your brand. However, that attention isn’t always supportive. Some people will make it their mission to publicly humiliate your small business. Be proactive and set up a crisis communication plan. When irate consumers invade your Facebook ad, instruct your team to record their concerns and respond politely in a timely manner. The worst thing you can do is completely ignore your customer base and never address their issues. You can transform any negative comments into positive feedback. For instance, if you notice consumers expressing grievances about a particular ad, reconsider your business’s approach. Maybe it’s time to change the ad copy or use a different image. All consumer engagement won’t be favorable. And that’s perfectly okay. You can use it to your advantage by turning those gripes into strengths.
Take a Step Towards Social AdvertisingIf you’re new to social advertising, it can be quite intimidating. Yet, it’s crucial that you examine the pros and cons for your small business. The goal is to attract new consumers and boost your revenue. Learn how social advertising can fit into your marketing and sales strategy.