Thursday, July 26, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
Thursday, July 26, 2018 by Casey Kelly-Barton
7 Videos Every Business Should Have On Their WebsiteYou've put together a pretty good first website for your business, and it's doing OK. Visitors stick around, browse your store or view your portfolio, and contact you or make purchases. It's a good start, for sure. But what if you want more customers, more sales and higher average order values without having to change your business model, product offerings, or services? Add videos. Here are five types of video that can help your business website earn you more customers and more revenue.
1. Product Demo VideosSell products? You need product videos. You might not think that a 30-second video of someone opening and closing a purse or using a cordless drill is a valuable marketing tool, but the numbers don't lie. Established online retailers have reported increases in conversion rates of anywhere from 64 to 85% higher for products with videos. Why? Especially for expensive products, customers want know as much as possible about the item before they buy. An effective product video, like this 39-second Tory Burch bag video at Zappos shows customers in detail what they're getting. If you sell products online, you can still use testimonial videos. Embedding and sharing user-generated content and video reviews by customers delivers the impact of testimonials without the expense of producing your own content. Shoppers tend to trust customer-made videos and are 97% more likely to buy after they see user-created videos.
2. Case Study VideosSometimes it’s hard to imagine attaining success without seeing an exemplary model. With most products, we need social proof to convince us that it can deliver results. Do your customers have complex problems to solve? You need case study videos. A case study is similar to a testimonial, but it shows a business audience how your product helped a client solve a particular problem, like rebranding a website in this HostGator video case study.
As with a testimonial, you should include clients and let them talk about their experiences. You may also want to include some hard numbers to quantify exactly how much your business helped this client (for example, did you raise their traffic, revenue or something else) but don't pelt viewers with too many spoken stats. Keep the overall message simple and easy to absorb and your customers will remember it better. You can streamline video production by creating a storyline prior to filming. You’ll also want to have your interview questions already prepared. These simple tasks will make the entire process run smoother.
3. Tutorial VideosDo your customers have questions? You need tutorial videos. Tutorials can keep your customers happy by showing them how to get the most value from what you sell. These videos can also persuade new customers to buy, because they can see the level of support they'll get. The most effective tutorial videos walk viewers through each and every step in a process, like this tutorial on how to set up your WordPress website or blog.
Another type of tutorial shows customers what they can do with your products. For example, Sephora produces tutorials on covering under-eye bags, achieving new nail art looks, doing wedding makeup, and more using products they sell. These videos typically cost more and take longer to produce than screen-based tutorials; if your business doesn't have a Sephora-level marketing budget, user-generated tutorial videos are another option. And sometimes, tutorial videos are your product, or at least part of your product mix. This detailed post on using videos for infopreneurship, from product type to production. For example, in addition to in-studio classes and workshops, a growing number of dance performers and instructors now offer streaming video instruction and live online lessons on Patreon to expand their customer base far beyond their local market and the workshop circuit.
4. About Us VideosWant new customers? You need an “about us" video. Not only do customers want to put faces with names, they also want to get a sense of how your business operates and where it fits in the community. Thrift nonprofit Goodwill condenses more than 100 years of history into this short “about us” video that also showcases the group's mission and international scope.
Even if your business is brand-new, viewers will still want to know why you started it, how you take care of customers, who works with you, and how you make the products or deliver the services you sell. Just keep in mind the main rule of “about us” content – it's really about showing what you can do for your customers. In addition to your main about us video, you can keep your video content for this section of your site fresh by embedding social video that you shoot at pop-up events, trade shows, and in your warehouse, workshop, or studio.
5. Webinar VideosEducation is vital to attract and maintain your customers. By teaching your audience, they become experts in your product and in the industry. Webinars, live and recorded, can walk consumers through topics that help them do their jobs better. It’s hard for anyone to turn down a well-planned webinar that offers a new skill. When featuring these videos, your team should create engaging content that will teach and entertain your consumers. In the description, break down the objectives and who should attend. Think about the different learning styles of your audience. You may want to include an additional handout or interrupt the monotony with a quick poll. Always give participants space to ask questions, too. That interaction will deliver more value to everyone on the webinar. ClearVoice educates its audience with monthly webinars. They invite experts to explain a specific topic and answer questions asked by attendees. Consumers can access the webinars via its site or on its YouTube channel.
You’ll also want to consider the length of your webinar. Attendees may lose interest quickly if you try to trap them into a two-hour session. Instead, aim for a 20-minute or 45-minute webinar. It isn’t too late to teach your audience something different. Your team can build a learning environment with webinars.
6. Event VideosLet’s face it. Everyone can’t attend your amazing events. However, you can keep them engaged by capturing a few minutes on video. Event coverage is effective because it keeps consumers up-to-date on your happenings, and it allows them to watch at their convenience. Depending on the event, be mindful of what and who you record. You may have to get attendees to sign a waiver form. Also, it’s nice to think about what you want to record. It may be unnecessary to record a whole 90-minute session; instead, you may want various shots from multiple sessions. Zendesk shared a talk presented by one of its team members. The presentation discussed an important topic for its audience—customer experiences:
With event coverage, you can get creative. Maybe you can gather a few speakers and let them share their best business tip. Or you can do a funny blooper reel. This is your moment to stand out from other companies. Use event videos as a way to connect your brand with consumers. Are you hosting a big conference soon? Or do you have a small workshop on your company agenda? Extend the shelf life of your event by recording it.
7. Company Culture VideosSelling your brand to customers isn’t an easy task. With so much competition in the market, people can buy products from multiple companies. Yet, some consumers usually stick to a few brands for all their purchases. That reality comes down to trust. Consumers don’t just buy from any ol’ business. People buy from brands that they believe in. Using video can help your team build consumer confidence, and highlighting your company’s culture can initiate the start of a positive brand relationship. Company culture is the living proof of your brand’s values. It reflects how you treat your employees and how you interact with your local community. BambooHR shows off its company culture in the video below. In a sincere, personal way, it spotlights the brand’s work-life balance and why the principle matters to the business.
Company culture embodies everything from how you manufacture your products to the charities your brand champions. Giving customers just a tiny peek of how you operate can make a huge difference. These videos also help you attract new talent. Show future employees what it's like to work at your office, and get them excited about joining your team. Get creative in your videos. Take viewers on a journey around your office, let employees talk about their work experiences, or even showcase how ideas become real-life products.
Videos for Your Business WebsiteYou may be thinking that this is a lot of video to plan, script, shoot, edit, and post, and you're right. However, video doesn't have to happen all at once, so start with one type of video and keeping going from there. Remember that video marketing, like other marketing, should be ongoing to reflect the evolution of your business and your audience. Video storytelling gives your brand a competitive edge. Do more than just tell consumers what you do, actually show them through visuals. Feature more videos. Press record.
Monday, July 23, 2018 by Syed Balkhi
How to Start a Food Blog (Step by Step)Are you an aspiring food blogger who’s dreaming about making a living by sharing your recipes with the internet? To make that dream a reality, you need to take the plunge and set up your own website. But how do you get started? It might seem super complicated to start your own website but these days anyone can start a blog that looks professional and will attract a ton of traffic. Let’s break it down. Here’s how to start a food blog, step by step.
1. Pick a Name and Buy a Matching DomainIf you’ve already been thinking about starting a food blog, you might have a couple ideas for names. If you haven’t decided on a name yet, start brainstorming. A good blog name is easy to remember, descriptive and short. For instance, She Simmers is a great example of a catchy name that includes a pun on cooking. After making a list of blog name ideas and deciding on the best option for your food blog, you need to purchase a domain that matches. You can purchase a domain from HostGator starting at only $12.95 per year. Before you purchase your domain, you need to make sure the name you chose is available. HostGator allows you to search a domain to make sure no one else has already taken it. If the name you want is available, you can go ahead and make it yours!
2. Choose a Hosting Platform and Install WordPressAfter you’ve decided on a catchy name for your blog and purchased a domain that matches, you’ll need to choose a reliable hosting platform where your website will live. It might seem like a crazy, difficult task to create a beautiful website but it’s actually super simple and you don’t have to know a thing about code. Step one is to purchase a hosting plan. HostGator is a great option for beginner bloggers because it’s affordable, it's easy-to-use, and it's fast. After purchasing your hosting, the next step is to download WordPress which is very simple. After you sign up with HostGator and login for the first time, head on over to your Control Panel. There you’ll see a button called “One-Click Installs." Click on it and then choose WordPress. Perform the simple steps that follow and then a progress bar will let you know when the download is complete. Once it’s finished, you’ve got a website for your food blog.
3. Pick a Gorgeous ThemeWe eat with our eyes first and that applies to your delicious food blog as well, so you’ll need to pick a gorgeous theme for your site that will have your visitors wanting to stick around for a long time. There are tons of free and paid WordPress themes that you can install with just the click of a button that are easy to navigate and mobile-friendly. Choose a theme specifically designed for food blogs so you’ll get all the features you’re looking for. This theme from Foodica is a perfect example of a clean, minimalist design for food bloggers who want their recipes to be the center of attention. It offers six different color themes and a featured slider and carousel to showcase your best recipes.
4. Download PluginsNext you need to download some WordPress plugins to ensure your website is fully stacked and optimized. There are a number of free plugins you can download for your WordPress site that provide value, including:
- Yoast SEO to make sure your site is optimized for SEO
- WPForms to create a contact me page
- MonsterInsights to connect your WordPress site with Google Analytics
- AddtoAny Share Buttons to enable your followers to share your content on social media
5. Start Blogging and Get Some SubscribersNow that your website is all set up, you need to start blogging. Begin creating content that your visitors will love and will keep them returning to your site again and again. You’ll also want to start growing your email list, it’s one of the most important aspects of any blog. Having an email list gives you the ability to reach out to your audience any time you want, whether you’re emailing them about a new recipe you posted or announcing a sale for your new cookbook. You can easily gain more subscribers by adding popups to your site with OptinMonster's lead generation software. OptinMonster provides numerous options for grabbing the attention of your visitors and enticing them into clicking that subscribe button, including an Exit-Intent popup that can track when a user is about to leave your site and send a popup at exactly the right time.
Start Your Food BlogStarting a food blog isn’t as simple as just writing some recipes and posting them on the web but it doesn’t have to be difficult either. With these tips you’ll be able to start the food blog of your dreams that will have people salivating. Congratulations on your new food blog. Now get out there and start blogging!
Thursday, July 19, 2018 by Jessica Thiefels
5 Summer Tech Initiatives for Small BusinessesThe summer is a slow time of year for most businesses, with many customers and clients out enjoying the longer days and extended vacations. This makes summer the perfect time to implement new technology. With your business and employees less stressed by pressing deadlines and client demands, you can finally tackle some of those technology projects or updates that have been put on the back burner. Bolster your tech before this season ends with these tech initiatives.
1. Digital SecurityBig, high-profile business aren’t the only ones being attacked by cyber criminals. According to Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report, small businesses represent 58 percent of data breach victims. Per the report, the majority of breaches (73 percent) came from outsider threats, while 50 percent came from organized criminal groups and 12 percent involved nation-state or state-affiliated actors. To protect your business from expensive and damaging cyber attacks, it’s important to implement improved digital security. For example, if you don’t have an IT team, consider hiring consultants who can mitigate threats and monitor regularly for you. Use the summer months to educate your employees as well. You may even want to start a cyber security series, sharing a new digital security tip for employees to learn and then follow each week.
2. Mobile Responsive WebsiteMore and more consumers are accessing information and purchasing goods via their mobile device. According to eMarketer’s estimates, smartphone retail mcommerce sales in the U.S. increased more than 50 percent in 2017, to total $102.14 billion. In order to successfully compete, it’s important for small business owners to have a mobile responsive website. This makes it easy for customers to find and purchase your products or services, or simply read about what you have to offer—which is, of course, step one in the buying process. To do so, start with your development team. Is your website already mobile responsive? If so, head online and test it with a number of mobile browsers. What’s showing up wrong? What’s not working properly? Better yet: do what the big tech companies do and “eat your own dog food.” In this case, that means requiring employees to only use your app or website via mobile for an entire week. You’ll be sure to come up with a long list of issues that need to be addressed.
3. Better Developer TrainingEmployee training is valuable for all employees, but especially those in tech-focused roles, like your development team. With technology changing at what feels like the speed of light, and more and more tasks on their plate each day, it’s crucial that they stay up-to-date. As you look to improve your online training for this team, start by asking them what they want to learn about. “If you haven’t asked your technical talent what they want to learn, you could be missing an opportunity to customize your learning strategy, and more importantly, to build your business. Your technical talent is often closest to problems that will produce cost savings and or increase sales, service or efficiency if solved. Therefore, they often know what they need to learn—so ask,” suggests DeveloperAcademy.io. Use their answers, in addition to tech leadership preferences, to start searching for a better tool to implement the training they requested. Look for platforms that allow for customized lessons, dedicated implementation and ongoing development support, and gamification. All of these features make it more valuable for your employees, and easier to manage from your end.
4. Collaboration ToolsWith so many companies choosing to hire remote employees, it’s become imperative to implement better collaboration and communication tools. This is the only way for teams to work together without being in the same office, and luckily, technology makes it easy to facilitate. There are likely a number of collaboration and communication needs between your various employees. Consider onboarding a variety of the following tools to mitigate those woes:
- Project management: Asana
- Team communication: Hubgets
- Organization of tasks and roles: Trello
- Conferencing: High Five
5. ChatbotsChatbots are computer programs that use artificial intelligence to converse with with customers or website visitors. They’re becoming increasingly popular within the small businesses community because they can help you save both time and money. The experts at BusinessTown explain: “Hiring a developer to build a basic bot is remarkably easy and affordable … Chatbots are [also] an affordable means of providing a better customer experience. They don’t take time away from otherwise busy employees and don’t cost much money to use.” With chatbots, your business can run 24/7 without ever having to pay an employee overtime. What’s more, chatbots can help improve customer engagement and satisfaction as their needs and questions are being answered any time, day or night. Check out Impact’s list of chat bots to check out in 2018 to find the best one for your needs.
It’s Time for Tech InitiativesNow’s the time to get started on the projects that make the most sense for your business. Pick the tech initiatives that will help you work faster and more efficiently, while mitigating issues you’re currently experiencing. When your busy season comes around, you’ll be glad you took the time to make these updates now—and your employees will thank you too.
Thursday, July 19, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
15 Creative Website Design IdeasHave you ever clicked through to a website and immediately clicked away because you didn’t like what you saw? Maybe the website was too cluttered and it made the experience overwhelming. Maybe it looked like a website built in the 90’s and you worried the information would be out of date because the website design was. Like it or not, website design matters. Your website’s the primary face of your brand online and its design plays a key role in how your visitors experience the site. Incorporating smart and creative website design ideas gives you a way to stand out and provide a unique, positive experience for your visitors. If you’ve been considering a web design makeover, but you haven’t decided yet what you really want, these creative website design ideas can provide some inspiration.
1. Make It Interactive.Ideally, you don’t want a visit to your business website to be a passive experience. You want visitors to be engaged with the information on your pages. One way you can pretty much ensure that will happen is by adding interactive elements to your website. This can include anything that gives the visitor the power to change their experience on a page by scrolling and clicking certain parts of it. One good example of this is the Nurture Digital homepage:
2. Use Original Illustrations.An interactive site won’t make sense for every brand, but there’s a much simpler step you can take to make sure your website shows a unique brand personality. Hiring a graphic designer to create original illustrations for your website and content can help you develop a unified visual experience for your brand. Illustrations that are in the same style and color scheme across the website will tie all the different pages of your website together visually and tell visitors something about your brand personality without them even realizing it’s happening. This is a web design tactic we use here at HostGator. You can see a unified style between the images used on our homepage, our product pages, and our blog. Each one is relevant to the context on the page, but also fits in with the larger visual whole of the site.
3. Use Animation.While it’s a bit more difficult (and costly) to achieve, animation can be another alluring way to create a memorable website experience. Adding some movement to the image on the page can draw people’s eyes and make them more interested in what they’re seeing. The Rollpark website uses a mix of animation that’s constant when you’re on the page and some that’s triggered by scrolling. In both cases, it adds something visually arresting to your experience of the page while helping draw attention to the messaging the brand wants to get across.
You do want to be careful if you choose to use animation on your website that it supports the larger message you’re trying to communicate to visitors, rather than serving as a distraction away from it.
4. Incorporate Product Photos.Let’s be honest, product photography often isn’t particularly beautiful or interesting. But it can be. And if you take an approach to your product photography that makes it more artsy or attractive, you could make photos of your product the center of your web design. People Footwear does a good job of this. By positioning their shoes in visually aesthetic and creative ways, they create images that both serve as good backgrounds for their homepage and communicate something about the products – and not just how they look, you can tell right away from the images that they’re good for activities like walking and tennis.
5. Use a Unique Font.Most of us that aren’t web designers don’t spend a lot of time thinking about fonts, but they have an effect on how we interact with different websites we visit. Choosing a unique font is a small way you can add some additional personality to your website and create a design experience that feels original. There are a lot of resources online for finding new fonts and if you want to mix things up by using different fonts on one page, Font Combinations is a useful tool for helping you pick out fonts that look good together. Caava Design uses a mix of different fonts to create a visually compelling homepage that tells you something about their style as a brand and as designers. The design all works together naturally enough that you might not notice the different fonts if you’re not looking for it, but once you notice you can see how well they all work off each other.
6. Make Your Content the Star.If you’re putting a lot of work into creating high-quality content, then you want people to find it. One option for making your content more visible is to build your website around it. Content-centric websites, sometimes called content hubs, put your valuable content front and center. They’re designed to make sure people easily notice the content options they’re most interested in. Websites that are built to center content make the most sense for media companies that have a business model based on content or for brands that want to give high priority to their content marketing programs. Makeup.com from L’oréal falls into the latter category. The entire website is focused on drawing attention to the content the brand has created around makeup subjects. People can also find the company’s products by scrolling down some, but they’re not the main focus of the website. The website clearly follows the content marketing principle of providing value first and promoting products later.
7. Leave Visitors Wanting More.Sometimes less is more when it comes to great web design. If you can keep your main landing page simple but intriguing, it can make your visitors want to keep scrolling or clicking to figure out what the site is all about. The restaurant Maaemo uses this principle. At first, the only thing you see on the website is the name (in interesting font, see tip #5) with a beautiful moving landscape in the background. The only clue at this point as to what the site is for is the “Book a table” in the top left corner. You have to scroll down to learn that the website is for a restaurant that specializes in using natural, local produce as a way to help people better understand the local landscape and culture through food (which makes the initial image relevant to the brand’s positioning). It’s beautiful and interesting enough to catch your attention from the first moment, but it makes you do just a little but of work to engage with the website and learn more.
8. Dare to Be Colorful.While a minimalist style can be just right for some brands, for others your personality will be better represented by a burst of color. Wistia’s website is full of vibrant colors, which makes perfect sense for an artsy brand that presents a playful personality. You don’t have to limit yourself to a basic color scheme that just uses a small part of the color palette, as long as you choose your colors wisely so they all look good together, you can make your website stand out and make its mark by using vibrant colors.
9. Use (Silent) Video.To start, let me be very clear that I don’t mean using loud autoplay videos. That creates a bad user experience and will inspire many visitors to quickly x out of the window and find another site to visit instead. But you can use silent video as a way to make the background image on your website do more by showing more. Mediaboom does this by having a video in the background of their homepage that shows people working and browsing the web. It’s subtle enough not to distract from the positioning or CTA on the page in text (the most important font and CTA button are in yellow, while the video’s in black and white), but it does some extra work to humanize the brand and provide visual information about what the business does.
10. Make Your CTA Bold.A lot of the web design ideas on this list are about providing an experience that’s visually interesting or unique. But it’s important that whatever else you do with your website’s design, you also make sure it does the main job you need it to: communicating what your brand is and what makes it special. For that reason, you should make sure that your web design centers your main positioning. You want everyone that comes to your website to quickly learn what makes your business valuable. Freshbooks does a pretty good job of this on their homepage. The first thing you notice when you visit is the big blue writing that tells you they provide “Small Business Accounting Software that Makes Billing Painless.” You know what their product is, who it’s for, and why people should use it.
11. Use Parallax Scrolling.Parallax scrolling is when the website changes as you scroll down. Sometimes it’s the background that changes and sometimes your scrolling triggers animations. Either way, it makes for a memorable experience that gives the visitor a lot to look at as they navigate the page. The Make Your Money Matter site uses parallax scrolling to let you control the pace of an animated story that makes the case for choosing credit unions over banks. It’s an intuitive and entertaining way to take people through an argument that might have sounded dry and boring if delivered in another way.
13. Make Your Navigation Fun.Remember the “choose your own adventure” books you read as a kid? Getting to pick where the story went next was exciting. You can design your website to provide your visitor a similar experience by letting them pick the version of your website they want to see as they go. This can be as simple as letting them choose which persona they fall into before delivering up the correct version of the website for them. Or it can be something more fun like the “choose your own adventure” experience provided by Lower Junction.
The site lets you choose between options like “Follow the Smell of Java” or take a “Tour of Moca.” Each option takes you on a different path of learning about the Lower Junction community in Toronto. It’s an innovative way to introduce people to an apartment community.
13. Use Gamification.While this option won’t be a fit for every type of website, in some cases incorporating gamification into the design of your website can be a smart way to get your visitors more engaged and drive the kind of actions you want them to take. Gamification involves providing a system of rewards in exchange for the actions you want your visitors to take – like in a video game. For example, you could devise a points system that adds up to discounts or upgrades. Dropbox uses gamification to encourage users to start using the program more actively, and to share the program with other friends. In exchange, users get more space for free rather than having to pay to upgrade. Gamification plays on the human desire for competition – even if it’s not against someone else. Feeling like you’re earning new levels and winning feels good. If you can create that feeling, you can get people to take action.
14. Pack More In With Mouseover Text.We’ve established that clutter is a bad thing on a webpage, but sometimes you have a lot to say. Figuring out how to get all the most important points onto the page without making the page look too crowded is a challenge. One handy design feature you can use to solve this issue is mouseover text. Stink Studio provides a collection of images with basic textual information over them on their homepage, but when you scroll over each, you get more detail on what you’ll see if you click. That allows them to keep the website more visual, while still saying everything they need to.
15. Provide a Virtual Tour.If your business has a physical location you want to give visitors a taste of, you can use a 360 virtual tour to provide a feel for what a visit will be like. Even if you don’t have a storefront, it can be a way to humanize your brand and staff for your visitors by bringing them into the headquarters where you work every day. Virtual tours are a neat way to allow visitors a new way to interact with your brand and get more out of visiting your website. Agora Gallery uses virtual tours to give website visitors a view of the art that’s likely to entice them to want to see it in person. For someone on the fence about making a visit, a glimpse of what they’ll see when they get there could be enough to tip them toward coming in.
What's the Right Design for Your Website?Providing a unique or cool experience is nice, but it should never be at the expense of your site being easy to navigate and clearly communicating what you do. Balance creativity with function. Whatever creative web design ideas, or website builder tools you decide to use, make sure you always make it clear what your business does, why visitors should care about your brand and products, and what you want them to do next. If you know you want to take your website design to the next level, but you don’t really know how to make that happen, HostGator’s web design services could be the solution you’re looking for. We can help you put together a website that’s optimized for search, looks great on mobile, and represents your brand effectively. Get in touch to learn more.