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eBiz Marketing Academy https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com Online Digital Marketing Courses Wed, 06 Oct 2021 02:29:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.0.2 https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/cropped-ebiz-logo-500-32x32.png eBiz Marketing Academy https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com 32 32 10 Website Essentials Before You Publish https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/10-website-essentials-before-you-publish/ https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/10-website-essentials-before-you-publish/#respond Wed, 22 Sep 2021 15:22:00 +0000 https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/?p=5933 Continue reading →]]>

If you’ve followed us along your journey this far, congratulations! You have not only created a marketable brand, but you’ve also turned it into a website that can get you customers and clients.

There are a few key steps you need to take before you publish your site and start inevitably driving traffic to it.

With our final checklist, you can ensure that you have done all of the necessary work to give your website the best chance for success.

Recap

To review the items we highlighted in previous chapters that you need to build a great website, we have:

  1. Create captivating content
  2. Generate a clean, effective design
  3. Develop an appropriate web development platform, hosting and virus scan

None of the above matters if you don’t take the necessary steps to make sure of a successful launch. By “launch”, we mean that you have transferred your website to its final home, and you can now start letting people know that your website is up. This can be done in several places:

  • Sending your email contacts your new web address
  • Adding your homepage to your business and social pages
  • Running ads pointing to your web pages

Missing the final steps is like spiking the ball on the 5-yard line. You can lose valuable traction and even hurt your business if you don’t take the necessary steps to get your website off the ground the right way!

The List

Without further delay, here are our top 10 essentials you need to think about before you publish your website:

1. Analytics

Missing out on collecting analytics data prevents you from seeing whether your website is working or not. Particularly early on, every business owner wants to improve their conversion rate. But you can’t do that if you don’t know how visitors are interacting with your site, and where they’re coming from.

Some crucial things you can do with Analytics are:

  • Implementing Google Analytics 4 for improved insights and engagement metrics. Learn more about Google Analytics 4 here.
  • Add a few goals (in Universal Analytics) and conversions (Google Analytics 4) based on actions you want your customers to take
  • Connect your Analytics with your Ads account
  • Implement Campaign URLs
  • Generate a dashboard and reports that allows you to see the information that’s important to you.

2. Google Search Console

Like Analytics, Search Console gives you valuable insights into what’s happening with your pages. Unlike Analytics, Search Console gives you information on traffic before they arrive on your pages.

A few things Google Search Console can help you with include:

  • Submitting your sitemap
  • Error monitoring and alerts
  • Removing links that you don’t want indexed (in the case where you’re replacing an old website with a new one)

3. Canonical Tags

Use canonical tags to let Google know which version of your website to index. If you don’t do this, you may find after some time that Google is showing both HTTP and HTTPS versions of your site in search results. This can lead to a poor user experience as browsers warn users of unsafe links.

4. Set up Structured Data

The purpose of structured data is to provide contextual information about the content that you create online. By setting up structured data, or “schema”, using schemas provided by schema.org, you can qualify for a variety of features for your listings that will improve your click-through rate.

In short, by identifying the types of content of your website to search engines, you will have a better chance to score special displays when you appear in search results.

The basic types of schemas are as follows:

As this is not a tutorial for developers, we won’t get too deep into the “how”. Read more at schema.org and WP Structured Data.

5. Turn on Indexing

Usually, when websites are in development, indexing is blocked with a robots meta-tag:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow”>

You want to make sure that this is changed when the website is ready to go live. This will ensure that you will start to get noticed and found for searches.

6. Integrate an Email Provider

With email marketing being such a major factor in the success of any business serious about reducing ad spend and improving customer retention, it’s important that you put serious thought into how you will use emails to your best advantage.

Are you going to write a monthly newsletter? Do you have a planned message for people who abandon their carts?

If you followed the advice of our previous post on writing content, you’ll know that your offer needs to have a follow-up. With that, you need to make sure that any email form on your site is integrated with your email service provider so that you can immediately begin to use this powerful platform to bring customers back.

7. Clean Up Old Links

After a website is migrated, there are sometimes vestiges of the old website. Make sure that any references to a temporary domain are history.

8. Set up Captcha

The unfortunate truth is, the better your SEO, the more spam you will see. You are going to want to set up Captcha on your website forms to make sure that you don’t miss any real customers in the glut of spam messages that you will see.

Captcha is a Google technology that enhances forms with tests that verify that the submissions are made by humans.

Fortunately, most form plugins on web builders support Captcha, so it’s fairly simple to set up as long as you generate the keys.

9. Install an SSL Certificate

This may not be necessary for some hosts, including self-hosting platforms. But if you are operating a WordPress or custom website, you will need to make sure you have a valid SSL Certificate, and write it down when it expires, particularly if you have a high-volume business.

You will also want to force HTTPS so that anyone attempting to click a link will automatically be taken to the secure address.

10. Privacy Disclosures

Make sure you have all of the appropriate privacy disclosures in place. GDPR is real, and you expose yourself to considerable liability collecting customer information without disclosing it.

If you followed our above advice about Google Analytics 4, you will have a lot of control over the amount of data that you collect. This info should be provided to your users in the form of a Privacy Policy.

Read more about GDPR here.

To Conclude

If you’ve followed us along a wonderful journey and build a website that will stand the test of time, congratulations! If you follow this top 10 list you will be ready to properly launch and start reaping those rewards!

Check us out in our next series as we provide our tips on how to drive traffic to your new site by using SEO best practices!

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Understanding Your Hosting & Security Options https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/understanding-your-hosting-security-options/ https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/understanding-your-hosting-security-options/#respond Sat, 18 Sep 2021 01:44:43 +0000 https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/?p=5923 Continue reading →]]>

Certain aspects of website can seem overwhelming for a small business owner. In this article, we will go over the most important technicalities of your website. How to differentiate the specs on different hosting account options and choosing the right one for your business.

What are the types of hosting options?

What is hosting? In a nutshell, web hosting is the process of renting or buying space to house a website on the World Wide Web. Website content such as HTML, CSS, video and images has to be housed on a server to be viewable online.

Every website needs hosting, If your website is on what is called self-hosted platform such as Shopify, Squarespace, Wix you don’t have to worry about hosting and its included on your monthly fee. If you have another type of website such as WordPress, or a custom PHP, HTML, Joomla site or similar systems then you will need purchase a hosting account.

In essence there are 4 main types of hosting accounts: 

  1. Shared Hosting
    In a shared hosting environment, your website ‘lives’ with other websites on the same server. 

    The server’s resources such as RAM, disk space, processor are shared by the websites living on that server. Hosting your website on a shared server is the most affordable option. It’s a great choice if your website is just starting off, and you don’t have a lot of visitors. That’s because you don’t need a lot of disk space or bandwidth that high-traffic sites need.

    If your website gets a lot of traffic (or regular spikes of it), you shouldn’t opt for this type of hosting because, a high amount of traffic might not be supported due to limited resources. A typical shared hosting hosts around 3,000 sites.
  2. Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
    In a Virtual Private Server hosting environment, your website ‘lives’ in the same server as other websites, but in an isolated environment. You get dedicated processing power, RAM and disk space that other websites on that server cannot use.

    This type of hosting costs more. But you get more power, which means your website can handle significantly more traffic and process more user requests. If you have a well-established business and/or anticipate a lot of traffic, this might be a good solution for you.
  3. Dedicated server  
    A dedicated server means you get an entire physical server to yourself. No other websites hogging resources. No other sites pulling your site performance down. Dedicated server hosting is the highest level of hosting you can get, it also costs a fortune.

    Use a dedicated server if your brand has exponentially gained a ton of traffic. Otherwise, you might want to stick to less powerful plans in the meantime.  
  4. Cloud servers 
    A new type that has emerged in the last few years is the Cloud Servers. They usually run on the giant public clouds, like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure Google Cloud. Service providers can build whatever configuration suits the needs of their customers. The big benefit of cloud servers is that you can scale seamlessly. If you need to be able to handle that big traffic surge, just pay your provider more money. Nothing needs to be moved or rebuilt.

Understanding Bandwidth

Now that you have an idea what type of hosting is best for you, the next thing to decide how much bandwidth you need. Hosting account plans generally charge based on storage and bandwidth usage. Bandwidth is a measure of how many bytes you serve over a given period. If you expect only a few folks to visit your site, bandwidth will be low. But if you’re suddenly featured at a TV show or your product goes viral you can expect bandwidth requirements to surge. 

If you plan to only serve a few pages to a few local customers, you’ll be fine with the cheapest plan. But if you know that you’re building a site that will have a lot of viewers or use a lot of video that will stress shared servers, be sure to pick a VPS, dedicated or cloud-based server that can give you more bandwidth. The amount of bandwidth you have determines how quickly your website can deliver content to your visitors during peak traffic times. It is a vital part of growing your audience and increasing your sales. 

What Is Unlimited Bandwidth?

Just like there’s no such thing as unlimited storage on a server, there’s no such thing as unlimited bandwidth.

You’ll often see various shared web hosting companies offering unlimited bandwidth, domains, or disk space. 

BEWARE; this is misleading because every web hosting provider has bandwidth limits on the packages they offer.

So, why do web hosts advertise “unlimited bandwidth”? That’s because they know that, under normal circumstances, 

the sites on a shared server will never use up all the available bandwidth. But what they’re not telling you is that there are limits on how much of the server’s CPU (Central Processing Unit) your site can use.

When you’re shopping for a web host, pay close attention to those who offer unlimited bandwidth. Look for the fine print or ask about their policies on CPU usage and what they’ll do if there is a spike in traffic.

So How My Bandwidth Do I Really Need?

The amount of bandwidth you’ll need depends on three factors;  the number and size of your pages, the number of visitors your website gets, and the number of pages each visitor looks through. If your site is new, or you don’t have a lot of content and/or visitors, then you will not use a lot of bandwidth. But, if your website already has a large following and you have a lot of graphics, images, video, audio, downloadable content, then you’ll need more bandwidth. 

The easiest way to tell how much bandwidth you’ll need for an existing site is to simply login to your web host account and look at the traffic reports on your cPanel. Nearly every web host provides a report on your bandwidth usage.

What about if you have a brand new site? In this case you will need to create an estimated guess, by using the formula below:

The formula for calculating your bandwidth is:

(Number of monthly visitors) X  (Average number of visited pages) X (Avg. size of each page) = Monthly Bandwidth (in megabytes)

Example, lets say you get 5,000 monthly visitors who visit an average of 3 pages and your average page size is 2mb, the formula would look like this:

5,000 x 3 x 2 = 30,000MB (30GB Monthly Bandwidth)

What Happens if I Exceed My Bandwidth?

If you exceed your monthly bandwidth allowance, one of these three things can happen: 

  1. The host will suspend your website, 
  2. The host will charge you overage fees, 
  3. The host will auto-upgrade your plan to the next version, with more bandwidth.

How Can I Reduce My Bandwidth?

Most of the time for startups should be fine with the cheapest hosting plan as long as you optimize the pages. Optimizing your pages will reduce your bandwidth and improve site speed. Page optimization is done by: 

  1. Compressing images and videos which reduces the size of images, large downloads / videos on your site.
  2. Deleting unused content from your server
  3. Enabling compression from HTTP, CSS, and JavaScript by using a caching plugin if on WordPress. 

How Do I Find a Good Shared Hosting?

99% of the time a shared hosting account should be sufficient for a startup company. Within shared hosting accounts there’s a lot of plans and companies you can choose from and not all would be good options for you. Good, shared hosting account boils down to the 3 S’s: speed, support and security.

Speed

Consider where most of your customer base is located. See where their servers are located. The most reliable hosting companies have several data centers spread through out the globe. Make sure these servers are close to your core audience.

Support

Decide how much hand-holding you’ll need?  Some hosting companies will provide basic customer service access to email, ticketing system only. Turnaround time on requests for response, will vary from a few hours to 24 hours. While other service providers offer 24-hour phone support. The limiting factor to non-managed service is that while a vendor may answer questions about basic configuration, it won’t be your systems manager. Some might even provide managed service will make sure your system is configured properly for your load, keep an eye on security issues, patch your software as needed and manage backups among other tasks.

Security

Security is an important concern when looking at a web hosting plan. But there’s no single feature that makes one hosting platform more secure than any other. Rather, a constellation of individual factors contributes to overall web hosting security.

VPS hosting plans and dedicated servers are typically the most secure types of hosting. 

For all hosting types, you’ll want to look for the following:

  • Firewalls
  • DDoS Protection
  • Virus Protection
  • Spam Filter
  • SSL Security Certificate
  • Domain Name Privacy

For e-commerce security, your host should offer you a way to obtain PCI compliance.

Firewall

A firewall is a piece of software that filters request activity before it reaches the webserver. Firewalls block requests based on a number of different factors. IP-address blacklists are the most common type of filtering, blocking connections from known offenders. Most web hosting companies have some kind of firewall. Often, the firewall on a shared hosting plan is shared by many customers, so requests blocked from accessing your system would likewise be blocked from accessing another site.

Some hosting companies will offer something called “Dedicated Firewall” as a service. This allows for specific rules to be made concerning who is (and isn’t) blocked from accessing your website. This is usually not needed, but it could be important if you process sensitive information.

DDoS Protection

DDoS, or Distributed Denial of Service, is a type of attack where thousands of requests are sent to a website all at once, overloading its ability to process them and effectively shutting the site down. Most web hosting companies have some kind of DDoS protection in place.

Anti-Virus Protection

This security system must not only protect the datacenter where your website is hosted but have back-end protection for each individual site as well. The datacenter protection protocols differ on a host-by-host basis, but on a server level you’ll want to look for bundled software like Sitelock, Incapsula, or even Cloudflare CDN integration.

Spam Filtering

Email spam doesn’t comprise a significant threat to site security, although a massive influx of emails could potentially cause the same problem as a DDoS attack. Email spam filtering is a second layer of security, the kind of protection you use to make your experience more pleasant — it protects more than your website. Anti-spam protection is the most common form of email account security and will help you in more ways than just stopping the onslaught of spam emails.

For example, spam filtering can help keep email storage costs down, it’ll decrease the chances of you missing an important email, and can help prevent negative backlash on your reputation.

What is SSL Certificate and Why I Need it

SSL stands for “secure sockets layer” and is a cryptographic protocol used to secure data between two machines through encryption. Without SSL in place, anyone would be able to monitor all the personal information you send to a server in plain text, including passwords and credit card numbers, and easily steal it.  All websites today should have a digital certificate for SSL encryption installed. If not most browsers will warn you that you are viewing an unsecured site.

How Does SSL Certificate Works?

SSL certificates assign a specific cryptographic key to your particular organization’s details (e.g. a domain name) to secure your website when users are required to submit any sensitive information, from filling out forms to logging into their account.

When an SSL certificate is active on your server, your URL will change from HTTP to HTTPS and feature a grey padlock next to it in all web browsers, so your visitors will be able to recognize the visual cues to know your website can be trusted. Having a certificate showing on your site in the address bar is similar to registered trademarks in this way.

In addition, search engines like Google now incentivize website owners to install SSL certificates by boosting their web rankings.

There are six types of SSL Certificates to consider:

  1. Extended Validation Certificates (EV SSL)
  2. Organization Validated Certificates (OV SSL)
  3. Domain Validated Certificates (DV SSL)
  4. Wildcard SSL Certificate
  5. Multi-Domain SSL Certificate (MDC)
  6. Unified Communications Certificate (UCC)
  1. Extended Validation Certificates (EV SSL)

The highest-ranking and most expensive SSL certificate type is an Extended Validation Certificate.

Setting up an EV certificate requires the website owner to go through a standardized identity verification process to confirm they have the exclusive rights to their domain.

Use Cases for EV SSL Certificates
Since EV certificates are expensive and require an extended verification process, they are mostly used by high-profile websites that require a lot of personal information from their visitors or frequently collect online payments (e.g. banks or medical providers).

2. Organization Validated Certificates (OV SSL)

The Organization Validation SSL certificate’s primary purpose is to encrypt sensitive information during transactions. The OV certificate has a high assurance, similar to the EV certificate, and is also used to validate business credibility. OV SSL certificates are the second-highest in price. To obtain them, website owners need to complete a substantial validation process administered by a Certification Authority, which investigates the website owner to see if they have the right to their specific domain name.

Use Cases for OV SSL Certificates
OV certificates are often required for commercial and public-facing websites that collect and store their customers’ information (e.g. web apps).

3. Domain Validated Certificates (DV SSL)

Compared to other SSLs, Domain Validation SSL certificates have low assurance and minimal encryption. Hence, the validation process to obtain this certificate type is minimal. The process only requires website owners to prove domain ownership by responding to an email or phone call.

Use Cases for DV SSL Certificates
As DV certificates are one of the least expensive and fastest types to obtain, they are often used by blogs or informational websites that don’t need to provide extra assurance to their visitors.

4. Wildcard SSL Certificates

Wildcard SSL certificates are available as both OV and DV, and are used to secure a base domain and unlimited subdomains.  The main benefit of purchasing a wildcard certificate is that it’s cheaper than buying several single-domain certificates. Wildcard SSL certificates have an asterisk as part of their common name. The asterisk represents any valid subdomain that has the same base domain. For example, the common name can be *.example.com, which would allow this certificate to be installed for blog.example.com and account.example.com as well.

Use Cases for Wildcard SSL Certificates
Depending on the business needs, customers can purchase either OV or DV Wildcard certificates when they need encryption for multiple subdomains. This could be valuable for blogging solutions that create different subdomains for their user accounts, for example.

5. Multi-Domain SSL Certificates

Multi-Domain SSL certificates can secure up to 100 different domain names and subdomains using a single certificate, which helps save time and money. Businesses have control of the Subject Alternative Name (SAN) field to add, change, and delete any of the SANs as needed. Domain Validated, Organization Validated, Extended Validated, and Wildcard certificates could be upgraded to secure multiple domains. 

Use Cases for Multi-Domain SSL Certificates
Multi-Domain SSL certificates are often used by companies that have representations in different jurisdictions, as well as international conglomerates that need to secure different top-level domain names.

6. Unified Communications Certificates (UCC)

Unified Communications Certificates (UCC) are also considered Multi-Domain SSL Certificates and have the same benefits. 

Use Cases for Unified Communications Certificates. UCCs were initially designed to secure Microsoft Exchange and Live Communications servers. However, today, any website owner can use them to encrypt multiple domains with a single certificate.

Other Considerations When Choosing a Hosting Company

WordPress

If you have a WordPress website, look for hosting providers that offer WordPress hosting account plans. Most of the larger hosting providers have this option. Also WordPress, officially endorses three hosting providers:

Bluehost, Dreamhost, Siteground

Green hostingIf you want to do good for your community and the globe. Find hosting that uses renewable energy. Google has converted all their servers to 100% renewable sources. Any hosting company that uses Google Cloud server is included.

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Choosing the Best Web Site Platform https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/choosing-the-best-web-site-platform/ https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/choosing-the-best-web-site-platform/#respond Wed, 08 Sep 2021 16:55:10 +0000 https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/?p=5915 Continue reading →]]>

Finding the best Website platform can be tricky for beginners. There are so many options on the market such as WordPress, Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, just to name a few; so how do you know which one is the best solution for your business?

In this article, we’ll help make your choice a little easy by going over the pros and cons of the most popular options on the market today.

What You Should Know

Before analyzing your options you need to define the website you plan to build. Three questions to consider:

  1. What type of site are you planning to build?
    • Informational Site
      • This type of site is typical for services, lead generation, news and blogging sites
    • eCommerce site
      • If the main focus of the website is to sell online, you will benefit from an ecommerce focused platform
    • Portfolio builder
      • If your website is simply to showcase your work, you will benefit from a Portfolio Builder website. This is perfect for Freelancers, Photographers, Illustrators, Designers and Artists
  2. Who will maintain your website?
    • Are you a one person team and have time to make all changes yourself?
    • Do you have staff members, with no web/coding experience that you would like to update your site
    • Do you have budget to hire agency to take care of development and management of site?
  3. How fast you plan to grow?
    • Do you plan to sell items in future?
    • Do you change your product line every month?
    • Do you plan to start a blog in future?
    • Do you plan to add additional services in future?
    • Do you have a big marketing campaign or PR that might spike your traffic in the near future?

CMS or Website Builder?

Creating a website from scratch has become easier than ever. Gone are the days where you needed to hand code. Two options come to mind when deciding the best system for your business either a purely Content Management System (CMS) or a Website Builder.

Content Management System

CMS– is a platform that usually comes as an open-source solution. It can be a bit complicated for beginners as they also imply extensive integration options. There are lots of plugins and themes designed by third-party developers for each of these systems. 

Good knowledge of HTML and CSS will let you create literally any webpage with self-crafted elements and blocks to make your site stand out from competitors. 

To achieve your goals, you need to have someone with good coding experience or a technical background, if you do not have this experience it’s advised to hire an expert or agency.

CMS Pros & Cons

CMS Pros

  • Unlimited flexibility of creating different types of websites, ranging from blogs and to online stores.
  • Rich choice of extensions for advanced functionality.
  • Website editor available in visual and HTML.

CMS Cons

  • Need to know basic programming languages to interact with the system, including template change, addition of new widgets etc.
  • User is responsible for the maintenance of the system, its safety and updates

Website Builder

Website builder is a simpler alternative to pure CMS. A good alternative for non-technicians and newbies, who do not want to do the learning and don’t have a budget to hire a professional.

These systems mostly come with usage guidelines that help users cope with all the stages of the website design process with minimum time/effort investment. Website builders generally have ready-made DIY elements as well as drag-and-drop functionality, which also simplifies the process of website creation for all user categories. This is what makes the use of these systems quite simple, straightforward and convenient.

The software provides ready made templates and layouts with built-in features, apps, and add-ons. Most of website builders also come with integrated blogging and eCommerce engines. Website builders offer multiple free and paid plans that come with versatile terms, tools and services so that you could pick the solution that works best for that very type of project you are currently working on.

Pros & Cons

Website Builder Pros

  • Ease of use.
  • Speed of website creation in a visual editor (from several hours and up to a couple of days).
  • Technical support provided by web developers.
  • Self Hosted

Website Builder Cons

  • Serious restrictions in editing website code structure.
  • Inadequate multi-functionality (as compared with CMS).
  • Inability to transfer a website to another hosting or website builder.

CMS Platforms

For small business the only CMS I would recommend is WordPress. It has the biggest market share of websites (over 30% of all sites in the internet and 60% in the CMS market).

Cost to entry is a lot more accessible than other CMS and you can create something descent with not much coding experience.

Other noteworthy systems in the CMS space include: Magento, Joomla, Drupal these are all great platforms but recommended for larger organizations; a system such as Magento can start at around $20k but easily reach $40k or enterprise level costing over $100k. Magento handles large stores, multiple locations, and customer management with ease, it has great security features protection from hacking and store management. An experienced developer will definitely be needed for either Magento, Joomla or Drupal.

WordPress Pros

  1. User Friendly CMS:
    1. WordPress is a strong content management system because of its origin as a blogging system. 
    1. It is very easy for an admin to navigate through the backend of a WordPress site, edit pages and upload new content. WordPress makes it simple to organize content without a lot of website management knowledge.
  2. Plugins:
    1. There are thousands, mostly free plugins available. These plugins allow you to customize and enhance any WordPress site. If you need to make specific changes to the functionality on your site, chances are there is a plugin to do just that. 
  3. SEO:
    1. WordPress offer many SEO plugins available to help optimize content, meta tags, keyword focus and much more! My plugin of choice is Yoast SEO.
    1. Having access to free plugins, like Yoast, means each WordPress site is SEO ready. There isn’t a better platform than WordPress when it comes to SEO optimization.
  4. Responsive:
    1. WordPress has thousands of themes available. Generally, these themes are very reliable when it comes to being responsive. Having a mobile-friendly site with consistency across all devices is very important to the UX; WordPress does a good job with this. 
  5. Open source:
    1. WordPress is an open source software and any one can use, study, change and redistribute its source code” (WPBeginner). 
    1. Many of the themes and plugins are free and being an open-source software, WordPress programmers are able to openly share code online. The sharing of code can result in the ability to save a lot of developing time and costs by using an existing code.
    1. Using an open source platform is also valuable when you’re working with a 3rd party partner or agency to develop your WordPress website. 
    1. You won’t be stuck working with a proprietary software that only a small group of developers can work on. 
    1. There are a number of different WordPress developers out there that have the ability to support your website if you ever need to change partners.

WordPress Cons

  1. Updates:
    1. Installing updates is important to the health of your WordPress site, but can be a nuisance if not done thoughtfully. 
    1. Premium WordPress themes are updated and improved often. These updates are important to maintain proper security on WordPress websites. 
    1. Updates may bring some small problems to a website in which case you to revert to an older WordPress state.
  2. Vulnerability:
    1. Being an open-source platform, WordPress is attractive to potential hackers. 
    1. To mitigate this risk, again, it is always good to be knowledgeable in choosing plugins and themes for your WordPress site; always assess the quality of a WordPress plugin and install with caution. If you have unused plugins always delete them to prevent future problems.
  • Speed:
    • Certain themes contain a lot of unnecessary generic code. This can decrease the speed of the site and cause slow load times. Without prior WordPress experience it can be hard to understand what code you need and what code you can do without. A knowledgeable developer or agency should be able to help here.
  • Is not self hosted
    • Unlike website builders you will need to find a hosting company to host your WordPress site. This can be good and bad. It gives you the flexibility to shop around and switch hosting accounts if desired but if you chose the wrong company the website can get hacked, or cause major speed issues. Most hosting companies do have a WordPress plan, also take a look at WordPress three recommended hosting companies.
  • No ecommerce out the box
    • WordPress does not include ecommerce out the box, you need to install woocommerce and learn how to use this platform as well as wordpress. With that aside woocommerce builds a solid ecommerce option

Website Builder Platform

We the large amount of Website Builders out there we are only reviewing our top 3. But with our review criteria you should be able to assess others to make your own conclusion on what will be best for your business.

Shopify

Shopify is a web application that allows you to create your own online store.

It provides you with a wide range of ‘themes’ that can be customized to meet your own branding requirements, and allows you to sell either physical or digital products.

A key aim behind Shopify is to let beginners build an online store themselves — i.e., you don’t need to know how to code to use it.

However, the platform also caters for developers, as it provides full access to CSS, HTML and Liquid (Shopify’s coding language).

Shopify pricing range: $9-$299/month +

Shopify Payment Options:

There are two ways to accept credit card payments with Shopify.

  1. The cheapest and easiest option— for users in countries where it is supported — is to use Shopify Payments, Shopify’s built-in payment system. If you use this, you don’t have to worry about transaction fees at all.

However, there is still a credit card rate to consider — in the US, depending on your plan, you can expect to pay a rate of between 2.4% and 2.9% of each transaction. (In other countries, the rate can be considerably lower).

  • Alternatively, you can use a third party ‘payment gateway’ to process card transactions — of which there are over 100 to choose from. If you chose this option, Shopify will apply a transaction fee on top of your credit card rate — between 0.5% and 2% depending on your plan.

Shopify Pros

  • Ease of use
  • Shopping –online store, products to Facebook, Messenger, Instagram as well as POS system for brick and mortar stores
  • Designs (roughly 170 themes) or create  your own
  • Flexibility
  • Scaling
  • Apps & Community Support
  • Shopify 24 hour support team

Shopify Cons

  • URL structure
    Blog posts as regular pages does not use ideal URL structure for SEO. Shopify uses subdirectories such as /pages or /blog/ news/
  • Multi Language Stores – currently only ability if you purchase a third party app
  • Transaction Fee – unless you use Shopify Payments (not available in every country)  Shopify will charge a 1-2% transaction fee on top of the payment processor
  • Creating regular content Shopify comes with a blog  and you can create other pages but getting them to look the way you want it is not always as easy.

Squarespace

Squarespace is not a website builder that is designed for those who want to tinker extensively — 

It is a platform that encourages you to pick from one of their 130+ templates, add some content and have your web published.

Squarespace pricing: $16 – $54/month

Key differences between the Squarespace plans

Ecommerce Features, Transaction Fees, whether or not you can use CSS or scripts, third party integrations, promotional pop ups

Pros of using Squarespace

  • Templates are contemporary, responsive, and beautifully designed.
  • Great image management options
  • Provides a good range of import tools for importing content from other platforms.
  • There are no transaction fees (so long as you are on one of its ‘Commerce’ plans).
  • It allows you to work with a huge range of web fonts.
  • It integrates nicely out of the box with many well-known third-party tools, including Google Workspace, Opentable and Mailchimp; it also lets you push content to social media networks easily.
  • A Zapier integration is available, which allows you connect your Squarespace website to a larger number of other web applications.
  • It comes with a pretty usable built-in email marketing tool.
  • two-week free trial is available.

Cons of using Squarespace

  • There’s no multi-currency selling functionality — if you’re hoping to create an online store that caters for a global audience, this will not be an option
  • GDPR compliance is poor in the area of cookie consent — As of this writing you’ll need to invest in a third-party tool to make your Squarespace website fully compliant.
  • Payment gateway options are quite limited.
  • Although support for Apple Pay is provided, there’s no support for Google Pay.
  • There’s no autosave for pages and posts.
  • SEO not good to optimize for site speed and performance are concerned.
  • POS is only available in the US, and is quite basic — only a card reader can be used when selling in physical locations (other platforms let you use a wider range of hardware, like barcode scanners, tills, receipt printers etc.).
  • The only third-party email marketing product that can be used with the newsletter and form blocks as a direct integration is Mailchimp (users of other products will need to rely on a Zapier integration).
  • No phone support available. Customer support can be contacted by email or live chat only. 
  • The app store for Squarespace (its ‘Extensions’ directory) is limited

Wix

Their visually impressive layouts are designed for small businesses, restaurants, online stores and artists such as musicians and photographers. Only recommend if your site is under 30 pages.

Templates are optimized for mobile devices and can be spiced up with one of the numerous apps available from the Wix App Market.

You can compare Wix to a prefabricated house: the fundamental structure can’t be modified. However, you can paint the walls as you wish (choose a theme) and add the furniture you love (photos)

For complete beginners there’s Wix ADI, Wix’s AI-powered website builder. All you have to do is answer a few quick questions, and it will build you a ready-to-go site in just minutes.

Most users, however, will probably feel pretty comfortable with using the regular Wix Editor. After picking a template, you’ll be able to use Wix’s drag-and-drop editor to customize your site pretty much any way you like. 

Wix Pricing: FREE – $39/month


Plan Options

Create a free website with Wix ads. Not included: your own domain name which will be additional $5/month. Other plans difference increase storage space, use premium apps and create online store. Ecommerce option starts at $23/month level

Pros using Wix

  • Excellent Templates – 800+ templates to choose from
  • Adding Animations – Animate text and other elements
  • App Market – hundreds of app’s to choose from
  • Wix Artifical Design Intelligence (ADI) – great option but only available for certain types of sites: portfolio, yoga sites
  • Automatic Site Backup – automatically creates backup points of your website that can be restored at any time.

Cons using Wix

  • Templates can’t be changed easily
  • Loading speed (wix loading pages are not ideal specially on mobile devices)
  • Supports 19 languages – if you plan to have a multi lingual site make sure your language is supported
  • Depth of Navigation – you can only have a maximum of two levels 
  • Page Limit – only can have 100 pages (not counting blog posts) Only recommend for sites under 30 pages 

Portfolio Builder Website Recommendations

Portfolio builder websites are very similar to Website Builder websites but with the focus of showcasing your creative work. Here is some platforms we recommend as well as Squarespace (a solid option; view review above):

Cargo Collective – $99/year | $66/year additional eCommerce

  • Best for Photographers, Designers and Writers

https://cargo.site

SmugMug ($7-$42/mo)

https://www.smugmug.com

  • Best for photographers
  • Photo storage, Photo sharing

Format ($15-$40)

https://www.format.com/

  • Build your portfolio
  • 14 days free trial
  • Best for Photographers, Designers, Artists, Fashion Designers

Conclusion

You have a lot of choices, but our suggestion is to go with a platform where you can easily find support and developers in your area. Consider your target audience, language and countries you would like to do business and make sure your platform of choice is compatible. If you are still trying to decide, revisit the first three questions in the beginning of article. If additional guidance is needed send us a message with your answer to these questions and we will send you our recommended platform for your business.

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Before You Design Your Website, Tell Your Story https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/before-you-design-your-website-tell-your-story/ https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/before-you-design-your-website-tell-your-story/#respond Wed, 01 Sep 2021 03:24:00 +0000 https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/?p=5928 Continue reading →]]>

Before delving into design, it’s essential that you take a long, hard look at your content strategy. Whether you have an existing website or you chose to build a new one, you need to evaluate your content to make sure it connects with your chosen audience.

Connection is key, and without it, you will have a hard time selling your value propositions.

If you haven’t yet decided on your audience or value propositions, I highly suggest that you read our articles on customer personas and value propositions.

Content vs. Design

A website without content is basically just a layout with color. The content is what gives the website meaning. It involves messaging, most importantly, but also adds an element of branding, which helps the messaging to remain in the mind long after consuming it.

Design and content should complement each other, so rather than thinking about which is more important or comes first, think about the two as essential partners striving towards the same goal. Yin and Yang, if you will.

The goal of content is two-fold:

  • Change the way your customers feel about your product, service or business
  • Help customers understand the unique value you provide

So what it means to create superior content is to use copy and media to accomplish these goals. It doesn’t matter whether you are writing the content for a landing page or for a full-blown website with multiple calls to action.

How to Write Superior Content

Superior content starts with telling the customer why they should buy from you.

So before you start writing, get a handle on the following questions:

  • Who are your customers?
  • What is their emotional pain?
  • How are you uniquely resolving this pain?

Read up on getting a better handle on uncovering the unique selling proposition of your business here (link to CVP article).

Above the Fold

You have only a few seconds to make a good first impression. All of the most important information should be visible before scrolling the page.

Tagline

Your tagline should include your value proposition and keywords.

Here is where you hone in on your customer’s need and how you can solve it for them. If you do this in just the right way, you will see much higher rates of conversion when you drive traffic through an ad (preferably with the same value propositions).

Offer

If your website is focused on conversions, you should have an offer that will not disappoint. This is especially important for landing pages that will be used in digital ad campaigns.

Once you have identified your customers and validated your solution, it’s time to develop an offer that can trigger your visitors to take the first action on your site.

Depending on what your customers want, your offer should meet that need. Do they want exclusive cost savings? Information? Access to additional content?

Your offer should drive the customer to give you their email in exchange for this item of value. That way, you can be sure that you can reach out to your most valuable base again and again.

Call to Action

If you are able to lower your customers’ barriers of trust enough, they will be willing to give you their information, but only if you give them a compelling reason.

Just like a sale that ends in 45 minutes, the best CTAs have a layer of urgency to them. This could include limited supply, or limited time offers.

Even if you don’t have an offer, writing a CTA that explains why the customer should connect with you or subscribe for updates.

Images

While it’s not important to have a fancy banner, showcasing images of your product or you (in the case where you and your bran dare one and the same) can help you build trust with your audience. Depending on your industry, images may or may not be critical for you.

Below the Fold

Since you have been upfront with the CVP and CTA, a visitor who scrolls your page is looking for more information. Here is a list of some of the questions a visitor may be trying to answer before they will proceed to take action on your pages:

Who Are You?

A customer who has scrolled your page even slightly is much more likely to give you their business. But they are also looking for more information. Here is where you give them additional nibbles of, such as your “Why” statement, and giving them reasons to trust you.

What added value do you provide?

Do you offer free shipping? Are your products hand-made or all-natural? Are you reliable and friendly? Do you donate a portion of your proceeds to charity?

In addition to the main customer value proposition, you may have additional propositions that will give the client additional reasons to choose your products or services, if they are on the fence.

Why Should They Believe You?

As creatures of bias, customers want to know whether there is consensus about the claims on your pages. This is where testimonials, reviews, and awards can come into play, giving  you additional credibility.

Social proof is a huge part of validation, particularly for small businesses. Why should a customer look at you when there are so many other well-known brands?

There are a few types of social proof that you can use to bolster your credibility:

  • Publications
  • Awards and certifications
  • Celebrity reviews
  • 3rd party reviews
  • Video testimonials
  • Text testimonials

The type of social proof you provide depends on your customer and what matters most to them.

The Importance of Keywords

This wouldn’t be a complete article on the value of writing great web content without mentioning keywords. Keywords help Google understand which search queries should turn up your web page as a result. It’s useful to decide which keywords you would like to target, and sprinkle them sparingly into your content: particularly in the URL slugs, page titles, meta-descriptions and headlines.

If you have an idea what your customers search for, you can start to list headlines that you like and search for other versions using a tool like SEMRush, or Google Keyword Planner (requires a Google Ads account).

When designing a website, do your homework by researching your customers and what they need, then take the necessary steps to carefully craft the content that will help you make the sale.

Interested in designing a website? We have resources that can help with that, too!

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Web Design Overview https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/web-design-overview/ https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/web-design-overview/#respond Fri, 27 Aug 2021 20:19:26 +0000 https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/?p=5898 Continue reading →]]>

Whether you’re on a shoestring budget doing the best you can with your website or have an corporate-level budget for a website, a solid website opens the door to a great deal of opportunity.

On this article we will give an overview on what you should consider when designing a website.

I have organized the web design planning into 7 steps which I will discuss one by one as you see below.

Web Design Planning

  1. Goal Identification
  2. Budget Properly
  3. Sitemap / Wireframe
  4. Basics of SEO
  5. Content Creation / Visuals
  6. Flexibility in Design / Testing
  7. Pre-Launch / Launch

Goal Identification

We should always start a website or any project with the end goal in mind. 

Consider the target audience of the website:

  • How are you solving their need?
  • How are you solving your internal team’s need?      

The site can only generate traffic, leads, and sales when we make sure we have what our target audience wants.

Defining goals for both your organization and your user should be easy to do. Will it be use for training new staff members? Will it be used to build credibility among customers or will you have transactions from the website?

If the goals don’t align, then you’ll likely have a problem where you’ll seek to make profits yet not be able to deliver the product and experience your audience seeks.

Next part of identifying the Goals for your website is to determine the percentage of your business?

Will the website be a tool to present when talking to prospects to build credibility or will it be a large portion of your business?

A Local Car Wash
Website mainly for address and build some brand awareness
Only accounts for 20% of business

A Plumber –
wants  website to be mainly informational, build credibility and generate leads
Website will be 50% of its business.

Streaming video service or online clothing store
Website will need to build credibility, show promotions, be transactional
Website anywhere from 80-100% of business


Budget Properly

Prepare to invest in your web presence

I have known a lot of brands that overspend on their sites and then go cheap on marketing.
Conversely, there are those who want to go big on marketing and won’t put anything into their website.

Base the budget on the goals for your website. Rule of thumb to have 10-20% of your revenue or forecast revenue to marketing. If your website is only 20% of your business, then only use 20% of your marketing budget for it.

Find the right CMS, technology, and type of site for you:

Off the shelf? Know what the limitations are so you don’t have to throw it away and start over before having any ROI on it.

Custom design and/or custom code?
Make sure it isn’t overkill and doesn’t push your breakeven point too far out into the future.

Know what your upfront investment is and what the incremental one is as well to make the right decisions to support your business.

Understand your maintenance cost

  • Is there a monthly fee?
  • Do you get free upgrades or you need to pay for upgrades?
  • How often do you foresee making changes to website?

Sitemap – Wireframe

wireframe example

The sitemap provides the foundation for any well-designed website. It helps give web designers a clear idea of the website’s information architecture and explains the relationships between the various pages and content elements. 

Building a site without a sitemap is like building a house without a blueprint. The next step is to find some design inspiration and build a mockup of the wireframe. Wireframes provide a framework for storing the site’s visual design and content elements, and can help identify potential challenges and gaps with the sitemap.

Although a wireframe doesn’t contain any final design elements, it does act as a guide for how the site will ultimately look. It can also act as inspiration for the formatting of various elements. 


Basic SEO

Know how the search engines crawl and index your content and ensure the basic on-page factors are optimized. There are lots of ways to make this easy, including through plugins and semantic coding.

SEO has technical aspects and goes beyond on-page, but if you can at least ensure your content can be indexed (and is being indexed) and that you are customizing all of the on-page elements to literally represent what your content is and is about, then you can win half the battle.

Getting your keywords and key-phrases right is essential for the success of any website. To research keywords use Google Keyword Planner, SEM Rush or Uber Suggests. These tools will show the search volume for potential target keywords and phrases, so you can hone in on what actual human beings are searching on the web.

Create a list of 20-50 keywords, on your sitemap put a focus keyword to each page and below it a list of supporting keywords.


Content Creation

Once you have your Sitemap / Wireframe and your SEO research you can start with the most important part of the site: the content

In content creation focus on three things

1. Drives engagement and action
First, content engages readers and drives them to take the actions necessary to fulfill a site’s goals. 
This is affected by both the content itself (the writing), and how it’s presented (the typography and structural elements).

Dull, lifeless, and overlong prose rarely keeps visitors’ attention for long. 

Short, snappy, and intriguing content grabs them and gets them to click through to other pages. 

Even if your pages need a lot of content — and often, they do — properly “chunking” that content  by breaking it up into short paragraphs supplemented by visuals can help it keep a light, engaging feel.

2. SEO

Content also boosts a site’s visibility for search engines.

The design process should focus on designing around SEO. Keywords you want to rank for need to be placed in the title tag — the closer to the beginning, the better. Keywords should also appear in the H1, H2 tags, meta description, and body content.

Content that’s well-written, informative, and keyword-rich is more easily picked up by search engines, all of which helps to make the site easier to find.

————————————————————————

3. Visual Elements

This part of the design process will often be shaped by existing branding elements such as colors, and logos. 
Images are taking on a more significant role in web design now than ever before. 

High-quality images give a website a professional look and feel, 

The Images should help communicate a message, and build trust. Interesting visual content is known to increase clicks, engagement, and revenue. But more than that, people want to see images on a website. Not only do images make a page feel less cumbersome and easier to digest, but they also enhance the message in the text, and can even convey vital messages without people even needing to read. 

I recommend using a professional photographer to get the images right. If that is not an option, you can try paid stock photography and  free stock photos . Keep in mind stock imagery will not be unique and a competitor might have the same exact image which can blur your brand on a customers mind with a competitor.


Design Flexibility & Testing

Gone are the days where browsing a website could only be done on a desktop computer. Today, there are numerous devices that can be used to browse a website. Whether someone is searching on their laptop, smartphone, desktop, e-reader, gaming console, TV or any other device you want your website to be compatible. 

Responsive web design helps expand reach and accessibility because it is intended to fit the highest number of devices possible. 

No web page is one size fit all, and it takes careful execution to get it right.

Your web design should maintain the integrity of your website content but adapt to multiple size by rendering fittingly according to the specifics of different devices.

Mobile-First Indexing Advantages

Responsive design instantly makes your website mobile-friendly. As we know, Google’s Mobile-First Indexing has been gradually taking over the web in the past few years and is now becoming the standard. This means that only the content of the mobile version of the website will be crawled by Google and visible in organic search results.

Non Desktop users

Always keep in mind that depending on your audience profile (customer persona) they might have no need for a desktop and only view through their smartphones.

Testing

Once the site has all its visuals and content, you’re ready for testing. Thoroughly test each page to make sure all links are working and that the website loads properly on all devices and browsers. Errors may be the result of small coding mistakes. Main browsers to check: Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari.


Pre-Launch & Launch

Now it’s time for everyone’s favorite part of the website development process: When everything has been thoroughly tested, and you’re happy with the site, it’s time to launch!

Don’t expect this to go perfectly. There may be still some elements that need fixing. Web design is a fluid and ongoing process that requires constant maintenance. The beauty of the web is that it’s never finished. Once the site goes live, you can continually run user testing, monitor analytics, and refine your messaging.

Before launching is a good idea to start prepping your audience to build hype and excitement to your brand. Here are some ideas to use:

  • Add a coming soon page
    One of the best ways to announce the launch of a new website is to create a coming soon page. A coming soon page helps you build excitement pre-launch and it gives visitors a preview of what your site is all about. Plus, you’ll have something to link to during pre-launch marketing and you can add an opt-in form to your coming soon page so you can start building your email list right away.”
  • Write a blog post announcement
    When launching a new website, make sure to write a blog post about it! Not only is great for SEO \but is also an opportunity to share your brand’s story and key improvements that come with the launch of the new site. Having a central location with all this information is great to refer back to when you share the news with clients/customers in emails as well as on social media.
  • Mix up social ads and organic posts
    The launch of a new website should be connected with a promotion on another platform such as social media networks with links driving people to the new site! I would highly suggest using a mix of both paid social ads and organic posts to ensure that you are connecting with your existing following but also expanding your reach to potential new customers in your target demographic. If you aren’t experienced with social media advertising, I highly recommend looking for freelancers or agencies to make sure you are getting the most of your marketing budget.”
  • Send a direct message to everyone in your database
    One very simple way to announce the launch of a business’ new website is to send a direct message to everyone in your database. 
    Let them know when your site goes live! 
    Why you changed your site (if is a redesign)?
    – Was it to better serve your customers? 
    Highlight some new features on your site that your audience may be interested in.
    You could even offer a gift to anyone who provides you feedback on your new site.

Congratulations! Your website is now complete. Treat yourself, go out to a nice dinner, a short trip is a good idea from time to time take some time off your business to come back with fresh set of eyes. Don’t let go off the gas yet the marketing and optimizing the website through analytics will be a crucial part for the success of your website.

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Top 10 Web Design Mistakes to Avoid https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/top-10-web-design-mistakes-to-avoid/ https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/top-10-web-design-mistakes-to-avoid/#respond Sat, 21 Aug 2021 02:28:00 +0000 https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/?p=5943 Continue reading →]]>

Whether you decide to design yourself using one of several website builders, or you hire a professional web designer to handle your design needs, the following rules will apply to you.

While a clean, responsive web design can be a great assist for your brand presence, a poor web design can do just the opposite.

Avoid the following common pitfalls:

1. Assume People Want What You’re Selling

If you’ve been in business for a while, you will know what resonates with customers and what does not. As a web designer, it’s not uncommon for new website clients to talk my ear off about their business only to have nothing to say when it comes to their website.

You have to start with the assumption that visitors don’t want what you are selling, and convince them. That’s not to say that they won’t. When you’re driving customers, you will need to go back tothe customer persona. But your website can’t simply be generic and minimalistic if you hope to actually sell.

2. Start Your Web Design Without a Style Guide

We’ve talked extensively about the need to develop a style guide. This is particularly important during the design of your website. Without one, you could be building a site that doesn’t match the feel of your brand.

While not a killer, you could be missing an opportunity to making a website that syncs nicely with your brand and sticks in your customer’s memory.

Think of the last time you visited a Best Buy. Note how the store represents the brand perfectly. The signage, staff and displays are all branded to make it feel distinct from an Office Depot, for example.

That’s what your website should accomplish for you. So be sure to do your homework before jumping into the code (or website builder). We promise it will pay off.

3. Use Images Instead of Text

This may be obvious to some, but it’s critical to mention anyway. Using images that look like text leads to a poor user experience on mobile (the text won’t resize to the screen), and it’s terrible for SEO, as it is not readable by search engines.

Instead, have a web designer rebuild your pages in HTML/CSS to ensure that they will be legible on any screen.

4. Create a One-Pager

A trend from a few years ago, long, scrolling one-pager websites are still in use for landing pages. But if you’re building a website for your brand or business, it’s better that you let your website breathe.

Not only will having additional pages benefit your search ranking, it gives you more real estate to work with without having to worry about cutting content to fit a minimalistic design.

5. Crowd Your Pages

Extremes in both directions are mistakes. Here’s another one that should be avoided.

While it is true that customers who don’t see the information they want within seconds will leave the website, that doesn’t mean that you should cram all of your information at the top of the page. Use the carrot and the stick method, giving the general message and encourage them to read on for more.

6. Hide Your “Reasons to Believe”

Your website is no place to be shy. You need to give your potential leads and customers every reason to stick around long enough to take action, and you don’t do that by hiding the very important brand statements that give them a reason to believe you know what you’re talking about.

This includes keeping your awards, accolades, press and testimonials hidden away on other pages.

In no particular order, you should look to include:

  • Publications
  • Awards and certifications
  • Celebrity reviews
  • 3rd party reviews
  • Video testimonials
  • Text testimonials

Instead, add a section to your homepage that gives an explanation of your expertise. At the very least, you should be able to provide a few testimonials.

7. Rely on Footer Forms

While footers are great for general company information and sitemaps, a form in the footer isn’t the best way to get email subscriptions. Many people who consume your content won’t think to go to the footer, and a subscription there seems like somewhat of an afterthought.

Instead of placing your subscription form in the footer, consider adding a call to action in a banner halfway down your page that encourages email signups. Add a lead magnet to your page for even better results.

8. What’s a Lead Magnet?

If you’ve ever reluctantly given your email address to get information or a report on a website, you’ve interacted with a lead magnet. Most customers won’t subscribe to your content unless you are providing valuable information or entertainment value on an ongoing basis.

A lead magnet is an offer to exchange value in exchange for an email address. It should be prominently displayed, and depending on the offer, your page should enough information that the customer becomes intrigued right at the moment that the magnet appears.

A simple “subscribe” form can work in these cases, but if not, think about putting your articles together in an eBook and using them as a lead magnet.

9. Use a Generic Call to Action

The Call to Action (CTA) is something that should trigger the user to do something to solve the problem you have set up for them. If you have done it correctly, it should be an action that resonates and makes sense in relation to the information you have provided so far.

10. Overuse Stock Photos

Don’t overly rely on stock images for your pages. I generally recommend using stock images to fill in gaps in the content, when you don’t have brand images. But if you’ve been following for some time, you will know that we don’t recommend building a website without brand images.

To Conclude

Avoicing these pitfalls won’t guarantee you’re website will be a hit, but will give you a better chance for success.

Read more web design and marketing tips and join our website for tools to help your business grow.

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Why would a Small Business Need Competitive Analysis https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/why-would-a-small-business-need-competitive-analysis/ https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/why-would-a-small-business-need-competitive-analysis/#respond Tue, 03 Aug 2021 01:45:38 +0000 https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/?p=5858 Continue reading →]]>

by Ernesto Comodo

A competitive analysis is a way to identify competitors and understand competitor’s strengths and weaknesses in relation to your business. It provides both an offensive and defensive strategic context to identify opportunities and threats.

So why would a small business need such a thing?

We have four main points on why a Competitive Analysis can be a good thing for a Small Business owner:

  1. Helps you identify your product’s unique value proposition
  2. It can identify areas of opportunities in the marketplace
  3. Teach you through customer reviews what’s missing in a competitor’s product / service
  4. Provides you with a benchmark against your competitors which you can measure your growth

Most small businesses and businesses in general have never conducted a comprehensive competitor analysis. instead, most operate on what is called “informal impressions”,

conjectures, intuition and scanning competitor’s website and social media.

As a result, many businesses are at risk of dangerous competitive blind-spots due to a lack of

robust competitor analysis. It is no wonder why most small business go out of business within one year.

It is important to conduct the competitor analysis at various business stages of your business growth and maturity to provide the best  possible product / service for your customers.

Determine who your competitors are

The first thing of starting a competitors analysis is to figure out who you’re really competing with so you can compare the data accurately.

Lets start by dividing your “competitors” into two categories: direct and indirect.

Direct competitors 

are businesses that offer a product or service that could pass as a similar substitute for yours,

and that operate in your same geographic area.

Inderect Competitors

On the flip side, an indirect competitor is one that provides products that are not the same but could satisfy the same customer need or solve the same problem.

It seems simple enough on paper, but these two terms are often misused.

When comparing your brand, you should only focus on your direct competitors.

Let’s use an example:

Alpha and Beta are both subscription-based services that sell clothes on a monthly basis and serve a similar target audience.

But as we look deeper, we can see that the actual product (clothes in this case) are not really the same; one brand focuses on stylish everyday outfits while the other is workout-centric attire only.

Yes, these brands satisfy the same need for women (having trendy clothes delivered right to their doorstep each month),  but they do so with completely different types of clothing, making them indirect competitors.

This means Kate Hudson’s team at Alpha would not want to spend their time studying

Beta too closely since their audiences probably vary quite a bit. Even if it’s only slightly, this tiny variation is enough to make a big difference.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should toss your indirect competitors out the window.

Keep these brands on your radar since they could shift positions at any time and cross over into the direct competitor zone.

Using our example, Alpha could start a workout line, which would certainly change things for Beta.

This is one of the reasons why you’ll want to routinely run a competitor analysis.

The market can and will shift at anytime, and if you’re not constantly scoping it out, you won’t be aware of these changes until it’s too late.

Determine What Info is Important

Now that you have your two lists defined, what data should you collect? Let’s start with the basics:

Company Name

# of employees

Founded

location(s)

Funding

Acquisitions

Number of Customers

Next get as much data as you can on the following:

  • Determine what products your competitors offer
  • Competitors’ pricing and perks
  • Analyze how your competitors market their products.
  • Take note of your competition’s content strategy.
  • Perform a SWOT Analysis

As you evaluate each component in your competitor analysis (business, sales, and marketing),

get into the habit of performing a simplified SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis at the same time in order to assess an overall grade for each competitor.

Some questions to get you started include:

What is your competitor doing really well with? (Products, content marketing, social
media, etc.)

Where does your competitor have the advantage over your brand?

What is the weakest area for your competitor?

Where does your brand have the advantage over your competitor?

What could they do better with?

In what areas would you consider this competitor as a threat?

Are there opportunities in the market that your competitor has identified?

You’ll be able to compare their weaknesses against your strengths and vice versa.

By doing this, you can better position your company, and you’ll start to uncover areas for improvement within your own brand.

How to Write a Competitive Analysis

Now that you have collected all this data on your competitors how do you write out the competitive analysis? Here is seven points to consider on your write up:

  1. Choose 7 to 10 competitors.
  2. Create a spreadsheet to track your data.
  3. Determine competitor types.
  4. Identifying positioning.
  5. Determine competitive advantage and offering.
  6. Understand how your competition markets themselves.
  7. Conduct a SWOT analysis.

You can now put all this info on a Competitive Analysis Framework to have your competitors organized. Download your template here.

Next, would be to find out what is your customer perception of your brand in comparison to your competitors by using a Perceptual Map (download template here)

When it comes to generating data you have three options:

1. Go with your gut (based on your experience in the market)

2. Use secondary research data (customer satisfaction data you can find online or in market research reports)

3. Generate your own primary data (create a survey from scratch and survey the market to determine variables and attribute ratings for a list of products/brands)

Going with your gut is sometimes appropriate – especially if you already have extensive experience and knowledge of your market and the dynamics within it.

However, if you’re analyzing markets that you are only vaguely familiar with it’s best to rely on either secondary research reports or primary data you’ve collected yourself in surveys.

 For most needs, I expect secondary sources to be sufficient unless the data is old or is missing variables you want to study.

Using Perceptual Maps In Marketing And Innovation

perceptual map

There are three main ways we can use this map:

Value Analysis – make inferences on perceived value and create estimated value curves based on current market norms

Competitive Analysis – know how a certain brand stacks up against the competition and possible competitive scenario analysis

Innovation Opportunity Analysis – look for open spaces or territory where a new product could potentially be positioned successfully

Pitfalls of Creating a Competitive Analysis

Now that you know how to put together a competitive assessment, let’s go over some of the main pitfalls to be aware of that can throw off the insights you’ve gathered.

1. Competitive analysis is not a one-and-done exercise

Never revisiting your original insights (or never updating them, for that matter)

can lead to faulty data and poor decisions. Businesses are constantly evolving, so it’s important to remember that keeping an eye on your competitors is an ongoing process—not something you do once and then never again.

2. Confirmation bias is real

As humans, we have a tendency to jump to conclusions around our assumptions. This is called confirmation bias. As you work through your competitive analysis, it’s important to be aware of your initial assumptions and to test them thoroughly rather than leaning on what you “think” is true about your competitors. Let the data inform your decisions rather than letting assumptions take the lead.

3. Data without action is useless

If you’re putting in the work to do a competitive analysis, be sure that you’re acting on the findings rather than letting them gather virtual dust on your computer, buried in an obscure file folder.

Make a strategic plan around your findings and execute on the unique angles and marketing tactics that you’ve discovered during this process.

4. Working harder instead of smarter

With so many great resources available that simplify the data collection process around competitive analysis today, putting together a top-notch, highly accurate comparison is easier than ever before. Don’t reinvent the wheel and do things the hard way: make the investment into tools that speed up the process and provide the important insights you need to make informed, data-backed decisions about your business.

5. Starting without a direction

If you’re directionless while putting together your competitive analysis and have no clear end objective, the work will be much, much harder. Before diving into research, define your goal and what you hope to learn about your competition.

6. Not accounting for market timing When looking at competitor data, be sure to study how companies have grown and progressed over time rather than examining their approaches at a single fixed point. Sometimes information about how your competitors have evolved their tactics can be even more useful than knowing what they did in the early days (or what they’re doing right now).


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What is a Customer Value Proposition and Why Does It Matter? https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/what-is-a-customer-value-proposition-and-why-does-it-matter/ https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/what-is-a-customer-value-proposition-and-why-does-it-matter/#respond Fri, 09 Jul 2021 18:34:00 +0000 https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/?p=5871 Continue reading →]]>

We’ve all heard variations of the question. What problem do you solve? Why should I buy from you? If you sell a product or service, you’d better have a great answer if you hope to get and keep customers.

Just as you wouldn’t jump into a pool headfirst without checking the depth, you wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars or more without first answering that all-important question. Not doing so can have dire consequences for your end result.

Before we begin, I would recommend you read our post on customer persona, as it is directly relevant to this article.

What is a CVP?

Corporations spend millions researching the values that customers perceive of their products and brand.

A CVP, or Customer Value Proposition, is an exclusive selling point that differentiates a product or service from the competition and illustrates your value to the customer.

It’s important to note that the CVP does not come from the company, but from the customers.

When do you need a CVP?

It’s always a good idea to take a long, hard look at the value you are providing to your customers. But it’s especially crucial if you are:

  • Introducing a new product to the market
  • Need to teach people about your product or service
  • In a competive space

While it’s generally useful to understand the unique value you provide, it may not be as critical if:

  • Your product or service is largely the same as everyone else’s
  • You don’t own your brand (i.e. an affiliate marketer or franchisee)

So, what makes a good value proposition?

A good value proposition is about connecting with the needs of the customer. There is a famous sales program called the Sandler Selling System. It teaches an excellent lesson on identifying the needs of your sales prospect, drilling down to the core need that impacts the customer the most personally, and then offering a solution for that.

The 3 types of needs are:

The most surface level of need is technical need. This is usually the problem you think you’re solving. You may be addressing efficiency issues or staffing issues, and while technically accurate, it’s not really impactful in a way that will drive prospects to take action when engaging with your marketing materials.

Often, technical needs will impact the financials of a customer. This may or may not apply to all types of products or customers, but is very applicable in the B2B space.

Finally, if you dig even deeper, you may be able to identify the core emotional problem a sales prospect is experiencing.

So, as an example, you, the customer are experiencing high employee turnover.

I have invented a widget that makes your employee training 25% faster. I have solved a technical pain. The speed of onboarding means you keep your most valuable staff working on important projects rather than onboarding, reducing the need for overtime and weekend work. Financial pain solved.

Finally, the improved work-life balance of a more efficient workforce will improve employee satisfaction and retention. Emotional need solved.

Examples of Strong CVPs

We can explore a few landing pages to get an idea of how to create a solid, emotionally impactful value proposition.

Squarespace’s Affordability

Squarespace is a content management system, a website builder, and a hosting platform, that touts its affordability. It bases its marketing materials on pillars that make it easy to sell to its target customer.

Squarespace puts its free trial front and center for its customers. Their placement of this core proposition can be found across its social, advertising, and website.

Not only does Squarespace focus on just the cost of their main service, their value-added services also help them promote their CVP. For example, Squarespace also offers a free domain for a year, unlimited bandwidth, free stock photos, and free tech support.

When you think about these for a second, some of these aren’t even that unique. Tech support is almost always free, unless you’re asking for something more advanced, but because Squarespace is focusing on the low cost of its services, it falls right in line.

How to find your CVP

While most startups start with the solution or the benefits that they provide, it’s a good idea to start with what you know about your customer and then deduce the problems from there. Using the Lean Startup approach, you can also write down all of the problems you think your core customer has that you believe you can solve.

Understanding the needs of your customer is going to be a key aspect of connecting with them. You also want to start from the point of view of the customer and not your business.

Then you want to make sure to validate the assumptions that you are making to ensure that your hypothesis is valid.

Once you have written a solid CVP, you will be ready to write your marketing materials and create keywords that will drive traffic through searches across the digital landscape.

Check out our next post, where we talk about another important topic, analyzing your competitors.

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Get Your True Fans by Building a Customer Persona https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/get-your-true-fans-by-building-a-customer-persona/ https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/get-your-true-fans-by-building-a-customer-persona/#respond Thu, 08 Jul 2021 20:39:41 +0000 https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/?p=5838 Continue reading →]]>

Do You Have True Fans?

Who are your True Fans? The ones that will buy the hardback and paperback and audible versions of your book; the ones that will purchase the next shoe sight unseen; they will pay for the “best-of” DVD version of the free youtube channel; they will come to your chef’s table once a month. The ones that will travel 200 miles + to see your play, concert or conference?

Loyal Fans

Few brands have achieved the holy grail of customer loyalty. Think Apple the customers that camp in front of their stores before the launch of a new product.  Nike, with customers that will travel across the globe to grab a pair of the newest limited Jordan’s. What about In N Out Burger with an extremely simple menu (hamburger, cheeseburger, fries, milkshake) people are willing to stay in line for hours to get a bite of their burger even if there is other burger places across the street. To get your brand to this point you need to become a leader in your customers eyes and for that you need to really know your customer so you can directly speak to them.

Without really knowing your customer all marketing efforts can seem more like a gamble versus marketing with purpose. Understanding your customer in depth can seem something unimportant when you are anxious to sell your product / service, but taking the time to profile your customer persona can pay off big time in the LTV (Lifetime Value) of your Customers and your ROI (Return on Investment) to your marketing strategies.

How to Start a Customer Persona

If you have been in business for a few years, check your current customer list. Do you have any customers that are regulars? That buy whatever you have to offer? If so, send them a survey or contact them directly, if you are not comfortable with that or contacting your customers is not feasible, you can view your social media accounts and looks at your top followers pick a few of these and answer the questions below.

Test Your Customer Loyalty

To filter through your customer list start with questions that will truly test their loyalty to your brand, with the following questions:

  1. If I moved 5 miles away from current location would you still shop for my products/service?
  2. If price increased by 10% but service and/or quality increase would you still buy from me?
  3. If a new product is introduced would you trust it and be willing to try it out before anyone else?
  4. If a “X” employee leaves company will you remain our customer?

Next you will want to ask questions about who is your customer:

  1. Age or age range
  2. Marital Status
  3. What city they live
  4. Car they drive
  5. What is their religion
  6. Number if young children number of older children
  7. Hobbies
  8. Job type

Last set of questions you want to tap into their emotions

  1. What makes them afraid
  2. What gets them mad/upset
  3. What brings them joy
  4. What is their level of happiness from 1 to 10

Remember that we as humans are not rational our decisions are mainly moved by emotions.

Customer Persona Template

What if I have no customers?

If you are just starting out and have no customers you will need to use fictitious customers that you think would buy from you. Make them as real as possible, give them names and put a headshot on each profile. These are the character that will carry your brand, they will be your brand ambassadors so make them as credible as possible.

After collecting the data from a few customers analyze your data and combine it to create three different Customer persona profiles.  Put these on a sheet of paper include the headshot of customer and print it out. Now view this next to your purpose? Is it aligned? Do these customers believe on your why? If yes you are in a great position to start getting some super fans, if not this is a great opportunity to make your adjustments either on your messaging to match more what your customers want or to figure out a way to attract the type of customers you really want.

Now a word of caution, with your 3-5 customer personas profiles are not static, please review your customer personas frequently at least once a year. Customers change, trends change. Do your customers age with you or age out and then you have a new generation with new priorities and worries of customers to serve? 

Long Tail Strategy

Note, most small businesses only need 1,000 regular customers so why are most businesses trying to sell to everybody? With the limited resources most small businesses have, resources need to be spent on getting their true fans make them feel special, make them feel that you truly care for their needs. Once that is met a true fan will be your best investment and best advertisement for your brand.

Selling exclusively to a specific type of customer will set you apart from competitors and give you a space of your own what is partly the Blue Ocean Strategy but mainly considered the Long Tail Strategy. 

The long tail is a business strategy that allows companies to realize significant profits by selling low volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers, instead of only selling large volumes of a reduced number of popular items. The term was first coined in 2004 by researcher Chris Anderson from Wired Magazine. Anderson argues that these goods could actually increase in profitability because are shifting from mass-market buying to more niche or artisan buying. In the 1950’s there where only 2-3 networks, no internet, you would create a commercial and the mass market would see it. People where stuck to their local communities. If you owned a shoe store in a small town more than likely you had a monopoly and residents of that town had no choice but to buy from you. Now at days with the internet consumers are not stuck to the only shoe store in town but they can buy from a shoe store across the globe and get the exact type of shoe they want, consumers have choices.

The long tail strategy is clearly seen as working with large companies such as Netflix and Amazon. While Netflix carries many popular shows and movies, it also carries just as many (if not, more) less popular titles. It has over 15,000 titles (as of Feb 2021). The less popular titles contribute to the overall watch time and attract a huge amount of niche visitors a lot more than the popular titles. It works the same way with the Amazon books a few will read the most popular titles but most will read the specific titles.

Key Takeaways

  1. Create 3-5 credible customer personas
  2. Review your Why/Purpose does it match your customer?
  3. DO NOT Market to everyone, Focus your marketing on your True Customers

Re-evaluate your customer persona periodically. Customers change over time

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Build a Winning Digital Marketing Strategy in 5 Simple Steps https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/build-a-winning-digital-marketing-strategy-in-5-simple-steps/ https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/build-a-winning-digital-marketing-strategy-in-5-simple-steps/#respond Fri, 25 Jun 2021 08:25:00 +0000 https://members.ebizmarketingacademy.com/?p=5845 Continue reading →]]>

As we kick off a new series of topics for the eBiz Marketing Academy, we review basic digital marketing concepts.

What is Digital Strategy?

As in Football, planning your marketing is crucial to success

Digital Strategy is the necessary planning phase before you enter the realm of digital marketing execution.

Just as you wouldn’t take the field in a game of football without a game plan, it’s not advisable to dive hastily into advertising efforts without knowing who your market is, what they need, or what you intend to offer them.

Our goal is to help you become your own marketing guru, capable of driving your marketing strategy and building a successful enterprise using tried and true methods.

Each week we will build on the information that came before. This week we focus on laying the groundwork for the groundwork, helping understand basic concepts so you can plan your strategy effectively.

What is Digital Strategy and Why Does It Matter?

Digital strategy is a detailed game plan mapping out your customers, your digital assets (social media profiles, websites, mobile apps, etc.), and the interaction between them. It is an important part of your marketing plan, which is vital for any business.

You may have heard the term “digital marketing campaign”. The term is often used interchangeably with “digital marketing strategy”. The way we intend to use the campaign is for more specific efforts centered around a single customer and platform interaction. Basically, for our purposes, if the strategy is our playbook, each campaign is one of many plays.

Without a digital marketing strategy, your company will be at risk of jumping onto new trends or trying campaigns without fully vetting the benefit to your customer. That will ultimately blow your budget out of the water before you have a chance to see the payoff that comes with an effective game plan.

Choose the Right Channels

The channels you don’t choose are as important as the ones you choose. That’s because small businesses are limited by time and energy resources. It’s far better to focus on a handful of digital platforms you see results from than to spread yourself so thin that you can’t give enough energy to any of them to make a difference.

I can’t tell you how many times someone told me they tried advertising on a new platform only to discover thousands of dollars later that their efforts went unrewarded. Don’t let this be you!

5 Key Components of a Winning Digital Strategy

1. Define Your Customer

If you want to win in the digital space, it’s crucial that you know your market. Selling to the wrong customer can end your journey before you begin.

One of the mistakes I see a lot, and it’s a reasonable one to make, is that they simply define their audience too broadly. There is no way you can target the 24 year old single graduate student with 3 roommates and the 40 year old soccer mom with the same ad. But it’s pretty routine that people define their audience as 20-40 year old women!

One of the strategies that can help you accomplish this goal is building the right persona.

A persona is a way of visualizing your best customer, by defining all aspects that make up who they are. Doing this will make it easy for you to accomplish the next step. You will come up with data points such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Geolocation
  • Education level
  • Profession
  • Interests
  • Etc.

2. Create a Customer Value Proposition

The Customer Value Proposition, or CVP, is the exclusive selling statement of your company. Itanswers the question “What Problem Do You Solve?” The customer value proposition, in essence, is a concise, minimalistic version of your 30-second pitch.

Here’s an example of a customer value proposition:

Drip makes your ecommerce marketing easy. Grow your revenue with powerful email, SMS, and social media marketing tools, all in one place.

You’ll notice certain two major points about this value proposition. It focuses on eCommerce marketing, and ease of use. Right there, they have identified their customer (eCommerce business owners) and their biggest area of need.

Lest you think we forgot about price, the price point is built into the CVP. Think of the CVP as triangle with 3 parts:

  • The customer
  • The need
  • The price they are willing to pay

All of these will need to be validated based on assumptions. We like the Lean Startup methodology, which helps you validate each before spending a dime on production.

Simpler is better, when it comes to your CVP.

3. Create a Customer Journey Map

Now that you know who the customer is and what problem you’re solving for them, you need to understand which channels their most llikely to come from, and what they’re feeling when they first interact with you. Doing this will help you plan out the myriad of ways you will come in contact with the customer.

Source: UserInterviews.com

You will notice a few aspects to the example above.

  • Customer persona
  • Situation
  • State of mind
  • Wants/needs
  • Swimlanes detailing every category of interaction
  • Nodes for each experience, including inner thoughts and interactions with your brand or product/service
  • The post purchase experience

You can have as many swimlanes as you want. Building out such a map will help you understand the channels you should be concentrating on in your effort to reach the customer at their greatest time of need.

4. Branding

Now you know so much about your customer, problem, price point, and journey, you need to shift the focus to your brand. What makes a great brand is more than just a logo, yet most small business owners stop well short of branding their company effectively.

So what’s in a brand?

Your brand is all about the associations your customers make when they interact with your company. They shoul dbe something that is valuable to your customers, which is why it comes after the first 3 steps.

Your brand identity will consist of a few major assets:

  • Brand statement
  • Logo
  • Style guide
  • Value proposition

5. Budget

What’s in a plan without a budget? Now that you know the basics of how you will be connecting with your audience, you need to understand what your spend will be. There are no hard and fast rules here, but in general, the SBA recommends that you spend 7-8% of your gross revenue on marketing.

Based on your journey map, you should know whether most of the interactions will be online or offline. You should devide up that piece of the pie accordingly.

Over the coming months, we’re going to be taking you through a journey through not only each of the points above, but beyond, into the realms of building an effective website that gets you customers, effective Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Social Media, Digital Advertising, Content Marketing and Email Marketing.

It’s going to be a fantastic journey, so stick around and we’re sure you’ll learn a ton.

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