3 Business Lessons to Learn from Leo’s Oscar Win

Our favorite meme is now dead.

In the least surprising and most tweeted moment of this year’s Academy Awards, Leo DiCaprio finally won his little gold man.

What seemed like an inevitability was anything but just a few months ago. Leo managed himself beautifully through this entire rigamarole — and entrepreneurs can learn a lil’ something from his diligence.

Control your narrative.

Everyone in Hollywood knew Leo wanted an Oscar, but that didn’t make him back off.

Every interview highlighted The Revenant’s tough shoot, which teaches small business owners that it’s OK to want success — and even ask for it.

Accept help.

Sometimes it’s easier to want to do things on your own, but even Leo had a whole army of publicists and studio reps pushing his campaign.

Payoffs are unpredictable.

Perhaps the biggest lesson of all is that Leo was snubbed many, many times for the award; many voters felt like this was the year he deserved it, even if his performance wasn’t his recent best.

Sometimes you have to wait a little while for acknowledgment and success, but it will (hopefully) come in the end.

You just might have to fight a bear first 😉

Content Marketing for Small Businesses

Content marketing is the white-hot marketing space right now.  Every marketer is working on content strategy and trying to figure out how to leverage the power of content to engage with consumers.  For small businesses, this new world of content marketing provides a massive opportunity by leveling the playing field to an extent and creating an environment where a savvy small firm can gain disproportionate levels of exposure.

The big question is how can a small business best jump into the content marketing game and be successful with limited resources?

Know your people

At the core of a good content marketing program is a clear understanding of your target audiences.  Don’t try to create content for everyone, identify your top two or three buyer types and focus on providing the most relevant content you can for those audiences.

Tell a great story

Based on insight about each of your target buyers, create stories that appeal not just to the functional needs those buyers might have, but also to the underlying emotional needs.  For example, new parents aren’t just looking for a stroller with the right bells and whistles; they have underlying desires and emotions around safety, comfort and quality.  Spend a little extra time trying to understand what your customers want and need at a deeper level.

Use the best tool for the job

When you know your audience and have a strong story your next challenge is determining which content types are best to tell that particular story.  It may be that a series of videos is the best way to communicate or it may be your customers want documentation and more technical detail.  This is also an opportunity to test different approaches to see what works best.  Keep it simple but recognize even a great story executed the wrong way will have a reduced impact.

Keep it fresh

For a small business there is always a challenge creating a steady stream of new content.  No matter how often you create new content make sure that what you have out there is refreshed and current.  Materials that reference old product versions or dates need to be updated.  Consumers want to feel like they are getting the most recent information they can.

Don’t overwhelm

More is not always better.  In fact, there is a growing frame of mind in the marketing world that some of the previous ideas about content and frequency and volume have created too much noise. Increasingly marketers are focusing more on quality than quantity.  Provide relevant, interesting content less often and consumers may be more likely to engage.

Creating and distributing content is easier than ever before so for a small business there has never been a better time to roll up your sleeves, create some content and engage new customers

Written by: Chris Ross

Doing Domains Right

Selecting the right domain for your business website is no minor task.  Getting it right can have an amazing positive impact, getting it wrong can relegate your business to some sparsely populated corner of the digital world.  It’s critical your domain makes it easy to be found on the web.  Making the “right” domain choice is about much more than just a catchy URL, there are a number of factors to consider:

Know yourself

Understand what your brand is about.  At a macro level knowing if your business voice is playful or serious, descriptive or abstract provides a filter for evaluating options.  This can be somewhat subjective, but helpful as you evaluate different domain options.

Consider keywords

Do keyword analysis in your category to understand what terms are being searched and the relative volume around those terms.  Keyword analysis shouldn’t be the primary driver for your domain selection, but understanding terms and volume in your category can be useful information to inform your decision process.

Beware of universal terms

A caution related to keywords, don’t get lost in big search categories.  One of the objectives of a good domain is making it easy for people to find you.  If you select a domain that includes a widely searched term you are likely dooming yourself to becoming lost in a massive set of search results.
Easy is essential

Long, keyword-friendly domains may work well with search engines, but they don’t work so well with humans.  For example, orangutanhammocksandotherjunglemonkeysleepgear.com might describe your business and do well in organic search, but good luck getting anyone to type that out.

Be memorable

Combine easy with memorable and you’ve got something powerful.  Of course memorable is subjective, but spending a little extra time finding something likely to be remembered can have a very tangible business impact.  The less a customer or potential customer has to think or remember the better.

What’s your geo?

Consider what your target geography really is.  If you’re a restaurant you might benefit from including the name of your city or community in your domain to improve your chances of capturing local traffic.  If you are a national or global company you’ll want your domain to be more universal.

Do your homework

Be sure to research around names and terms you’re considering to assure you’re not running into trade names, competitors or other potential issues that could land you in legal or competitive troubles.  A little extra legwork on this can save you an enormous amount of headache down the road.

Right extension

There are now hundreds of top level domain extensions, TLDs to choose from.  A complete list can be viewed here.
This is also subjective, .com is still the de facto standard, but there things are opening up considerably in terms of other relevant, interesting domain extensions.

More than one right answer

The goal should be to land on one domain that becomes the primary for your website and email.  Explore and consider other domains that may be common misspellings of your primary domain or others that might be likely to align with your business.  No need to go crazy with this, but registering a couple additional domains is inexpensive and can be an easy way for a few additional customers to find you.
There’s a lot to consider, but selecting the right domain is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your business.  Bluehost India is here to make the whole process easy, no matter which domain you select.

Free WordPress Themes That Should’ve Been Premium

There’s no denying that WordPress is the most popular Content Management System today. There are so many factors that contribute to the success of WordPress and one of them is the large availability of free themes. We’ve personally stumbled upon so many awesome themes and can’t digest the fact that they’re actually free. Infact we’re going to share them and let you decide whether they’re awesome or not.

1. TA Music: If you’re a musician or a band, you really need to check out this theme. There are multiple styles where you can showcase your albums, videos and even host an image gallery. The theme supports various post types, includes a full width homepage slider and yes, it is responsive.

TA_MUSIC_WordPress_Theme

Demo

2. Gadgetry: For all you gadget lovers, here’s a theme you just can’t miss. Gadgetry is responsive, retina ready and SEO friendly. Other features include multiple colors, animated slider, built-in page layouts and so much more. You should totally test run this theme if you’re planning on setting up a tech blog.

Gadgetry_WordPress_Theme

Demo

3. Basic: Don’t fall for the name, this theme is nothing short of awesome. The theme is not only responsive but also minimal with a clean layout and design. Some of the features include Lightbox gallery, social media icons, multiple theme skins and a search form.

Basic_WordPress_Theme

Demo

4. Creative Portfolio: If you want to create a beautiful portfolio page to showcase your work then this theme is a must for you. The theme includes a full-width slider, custom backgrounds and colors and is SEO optimized. We particularly loved the full width slider.

Creative_WordPress_Theme

Demo

We’re sure you’re equally impressed with these beautiful themes. If you’re planning on building a WordPress website then you should definitely use one of these free themes. Do check them out and let us know if you love or hate them in the comments section below.

Become an SEO Pro in 60 Seconds or Less

You’ve heard it from almost everywhere: Search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial to popping up in Google’s holy grail of search results.

If you’re still unsure how to tackle SEO (and bring many more eyeballs to your site), start here:

1. Use Targeted Keyword Phrases. To land near the top of Google’s search results, you need to get granular in your metadata (which is how the engine tracks your site). The meta title is the blue headline in your search results, the meta description is the grey text below it. Make sure both of them (and your URL) have the same keyword phrase.

2. Master the Google Keyword Planner. The free tool shows you how people search. If you’re a tax company, instead of targeting something huge like “tax return” (which has a whopping 94,010 search results), try for something more specific like “cheap tax” (only 1,430 results) to show up closer to the top of the results page. (Numbers fluctuate daily)

3. Create Content Landing Pages. Each content page should have helpful articles that relate to your search keywords (like “cheap tax”). Don’t forget to tag headers, images, and videos with that phrase. Three- to four-word phrases perform better than more general keywords because there’s less competition (page 8 of the search results may as well be Siberia).

4. Feed Your YouTube Channel. Because videos are harder to produce, it’s easier to rank higher on YouTube. And if your idea’s good, you’re more likely to go viral with a video (LG Meteor prank, anyone?). Embed links in your video with your targeted keywords and voila! People will be flocking to your site like puppies on babies.

STEPS TO BUILDING A LOYAL AUDIENCE

Although returning customers may account for only 20 percent of the people your company serves, Forbes reports that this 20 percent drives as much as 80 percent of your revenue. Statistics like that are hard to ignore, so here are ten steps you can follow to maximize audience loyalty online and increase brand loyalty overall.

1. discover your brand message.

Give your customers a reason to be loyal by defining a clear, consistent brand message that sets your company apart from its competitors. This message should explain what your brand stands for, why it matters and how it can deliver superior value to consumers. Once you have developed this message, keep it in mind every time you create a marketing campaign, launch a new product or interact with your audience.

2. know your audience.

Every brand has a target audience made up of the people who are most likely to resonate with the company’s message and become loyal customers. Find out as much as you can about your “typical” customer and speak directly to that person each time you develop content for the brand.

3. show your personality.

One of the best ways to connect with consumers on a deeper level and build lasting relationships is to emphasize the “human” side of your brand. Whether you’re posting on social media or creating website content, make sure that everything coming from your company is expressive, personable and consistent with your brand’s established values.

4. don’t come on too strong.

Consumers want to connect with brands on their own terms. Offer plenty of opportunities for interaction, including newsletters, Facebook Fan Pages and loyalty programs, but allow consumers to opt in to each one. In addition, to prevent consumers from feeling “trapped,” provide them with clear instructions for opting out of any program or mailing list they join.

5. reward customers for their loyalty.

American Express’ OPEN Forum recommends giving customers an incentive to be loyal to your brand by offering rewards for their dedication. For example, you may offer coupon codes or free gifts to consumers who connect with you via social media or sign up for your mailing list. You can also increase audience loyalty by offering rewards to consumers who share links to your website or social media profiles with their friends.

6. respect your customers’ time.

Show your customers that you know their time is just as valuable as yours. When customers send you a message, either publicly or privately, respond as quickly as possible. Likewise, avoid spamming your audience with too many emails or posts. Although you should reach out to consumers on a regular basis, you don’t want to overwhelm or annoy them.

7. deliver something of value.

Too many brands make the mistake of flooding their audience with overt advertisements and promotional material on a daily basis. Although this content is sometimes welcome, too much of it can drive consumers away. To avoid this trap, make sure that all of the content you post or email to consumers provides them with something of value. Whether it be entertainment, information, or a discount, every interaction should be meaningful.

8. customize communications.

Customers can spot generic messages from a mile away. When reaching out to an individual consumer, aim for a personalized message tailored to the consumers’ interests, preferences and history with your brand. For example, instead of sending a generalized message to everyone currently subscribing to your email list, write several versions of the message to target different groups of consumers on the list.

9. mend fences quickly.

If one of your customers has a problem with your products, services or actions, address the problem as soon as possible to repair the relationship and minimize negative publicity. If the customer has already gone public with the issue, respond to him or her publicly as well. Regardless of the nature of the dispute, always be courteous and respectful.

10. pay attention to feedback.

Actively solicit feedback from consumers about every aspect of the customer experience, from connecting with the brand via social media to making purchases from the company’s retail website. Use the information you collect to make improvements as needed. For example, if consumers complain about your website’s loading times, consider looking for a new web hosting provider. Likewise, if consumers indicate poor response times to social media communications, make an effort to respond more quickly in the future.

Loyal customers are profitable customers. By following these 10 steps, you can improve the quality of your interactions with consumers, establish lasting relationships and build a loyal audience that will not only return to your brand for content, but also to make future purchases.

Written By: Kevin Routson

3 Ways to Protect Your Business From Security Hacks

Cybercrime is ever-encroaching and can happen to anyone. Including you and your business. In fact, it’s cost the global economy more than $400 billion, and it’sincreasingly hurting smaller operations.

The problem goes far beyond the leaking of sensitive emails and sexy selfies. Targeted attacks against small businesses nearly doubled in 2013. And of the one in five that experience a cyber attack annually, 60% will close their doors within six months as a result..

But not you. Here’s how you can protect your business.

1. Be password-savvy. If your password is still “Password123,” it’s time to get serious. Create unique codes for each of your accounts, and make sure they’re at least 8 characters long (with a few special ones thrown in). Use password managers like LastPass 3.0 or Dashlane 3 to keep track.

2. Encrypt emails and valuable information. If a hacker does breach your system, encryption makes it that much harder to get away with critical data. VoltageMotivation, and Proofpoint are industry leaders worth checking out.

3. Back up your data. Copying your key company data onto a cloud-based system, such as Dropbox or OneDrive, or a USB hard drive takes minutes, and will save you time and anxiety if your system is ever compromised. You can also backup your website using CodeGuard

5 Checklists To Improve Your Online Store

Ecommerce sales last year totaled more than $1.2 trillion. And according to retail forecasts by eMarketer, global internet retail sales are expected to reach close to $1.6 million this year. If you are looking to cash in on the ever-growing internet shopping industry, your e-commerce site must be completely up-to-date and relevant. This means responsive design, mobile friendly, easy to navigate, secure payment process, and excellent customer service—to name just a few elements.

The bottom line is that you need to reach your target audience, engage them on your site, and provide them with a pleasant shopping experience. There are endless features that you can incorporate into your website, of course, but for now here are five areas to improve your e-commerce site and grow your business:

1) provide an excellent user experience

Brick-and-mortar businesses are experts at creating tangible touches—gentle background music, pleasing scents, friendly and attentive sales associates, well-arranged displays—in order to appeal to a customer’s senses. Today’s e-commerce sites must find a way to foster a similar emotional reaction rather than simply be a means of fulfilling orders.

A user-oriented e-commerce site encourages brand loyalty. In other words, users will be more likely to complete a transaction—and, more importantly, come back—if they not only get what they came for, but have a positive experience as well.

Checklist to create a better user experience:

  Clutter-free interface that states clearly what the business does

  Easy-to-navigate menus

  Well-organized products with clear descriptions, photos, and prices

  Effortless way to contact customer service—who respond quickly

  Obvious social media “like” or “share” buttons

  Minimal pop-ups and fast page loads

2) make it mobile friendly

Your out-of-the-box desktop site builder from five years ago doesn’t cut it anymore. Even if it is reliable and easy for you, today’s customers are likely going to come to your site from their phones or tablets—and your site may not work as well as people expect if you don’t have a mobile version. 88 percent of users say they won’t return to a website after having a negative experience the first time. With the many devices in use today, you never know the screen sizes with which a user will be viewing your site, so it’s important to make your website design responsive.

Checklist to make your site mobile friendly:

  Keep your website design simple

  Use large fonts

  Place important information above the fold

  Buttons that are easy to use with your finger

  Responsive design that automatically adjusts the display to adapt to all screen sizes

3) make check-out easy

Do you ask for too much personal information or do you require ten screens to complete a purchase? There’s a fine line between confirming an order and turning a purchase into an obstacle course—and that’s precisely the point where people say “enough!” and leave your site. People abandon the shopping cart before completing a purchase 68 percent of the time. Some of the reasons include extra charges, a long check-out process, and too much effort involved. Your shoppers expect purchases to be quick and easy.

Checklist for easy check-out:

  Include a progress indicator of the buying process

  Provide several payment options, including various credit cards, PayPal, and gift certificates

  Offer free shipping for purchases over a certain amount

  Indicate shipping and handling costs before check out

  Include the option to sign in for a simpler purchasing transaction—but don’t require a lot of personal information

  Allow purchases without having to sign up

  Provide a direct link to customer service in case the transaction goes wrong

4) include high-quality product photos

We’ve all heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and yet many e-tailers are not using large, clear, appealing photos of their products. Studies show that people remember 80 percent of visually-based information compared to only 20 percent of text-based information. Images are powerful, and the better the quality of your product pictures, the better the chance you will make a sale.

Checklist for product photos:

  Choose 1-3 photos for every product in order to give as detailed a visual overview as possible, and keep the number of pictures consistent for all products

  Showcase the product’s benefits—for example, include close-up pictures of a luxury blanket, photos of people wearing it, or shots of a slim laptop next to a magazine to illustrate how thin the laptop is

  Show all colors or styles rather than just one with a written mention of the others

5) optimize for search engines

You can have the best e-commerce site in the world, but if nobody knows about it, you’ll never make a sale. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of getting people to your website from the results of their search in Google, Bing or Yahoo. You need to tell the search engines how to find you and what you do so that they can direct potential customers to your site.

Checklist for optimizing your site:

  Regularly create content by updating your product images, descriptions or web copy, and posting to your blog

  Include relevant keywords, so if you’re selling luxury baby blankets you’ll want to ensure that those words appear on every page of your site, in the URLs of each page, and in the alt text and file name of your images

  Link to or from other authoritative sites

  Ensure that all your pages have fast load times

If you can check off all of these features as part of your site, you will be set up to attract more visitors, provide them with an excellent and seamless experience, and drive more sales!

Written by: Andrew Brown

Master SEO with 11 Google+ Tips

Creating a Google+ page for your business can work wonders in attracting potential customers, building your brand and relationships, and improving your search engine results.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. You can set up both a Google+ My Business and Google+ Brand page if you offer a local product or service and you want to drive people back to an online product.

2. Request the PIN for your page and activate it when you get it. Google won’t show your listing unless you confirm you own the property.

3. Complete your profile. Use the same keywords you use in your website to fill out descriptions and additional information. Include operating hours, forms of payment, and specify how far you’re willing to travel for business.

4. Make sure all of your contact info is correct and consistent across all social media platforms.

5. Encourage customer reviews. Engage with your customers by personally commenting on their posts.

6. Use the Circles and Google+ Hangouts features. Hangouts are great for workshops, webinars, and Q&A sessions.

7. Connect all your Google+ pages. If you link your Google+ profiles with other products like Maps and Local, you gain credibility.

8. Add photos and videos to your page to boost your brand and business.

9. Add other businesses and leaders in your industry to your circles to stay on top of trends and potential business opportunities.

10.  Add to your “Links” section. Include your company’s blogs or other social profiles to increase visibility for these sites and let Google know how relevant you are to potential visitors.

11. Remember to link your Google+ page to your website so that it creates a backlink. This will amp up your search engine results.

WordPress For Your Company Website

Are you still deciding what software to use to build your new company website? Still think that WordPress is just for publishing blogs? WordPress powers about 20 percent of all websites on the Internet, but you might be surprised to find that less than half of those are actually “just blogs.” The majority of websites powered by WordPress are actually sites using WordPress for full content management, not just for news updates. Here are some of the many reasons we recommend using WordPress for your company website.

It’s a publishing platform.

WordPress isn’t just designed for publishing posts, it also provides all of that power behind WYSWYG content editing, preview, categories, tags, password protection, and revisions in pages as well. It’s designed to manage any kind of content, not just posts.

For company websites, we suggest opening your “Reading” settings and switching to a static front page for a fully customized landing page, and if you’re not quite ready to also provide a “News” or “Blog” section on your website, you can even leave posts unassigned (to any page) to simply disable them altogether.

It’s secure and easy to update.

When a vulnerability is found within WordPress, it’s handled professionally and promptly fixed. That fix is automatically applied to your website over encrypted lines, so you can relax on vacation knowing your website is in good hands. Additionally, WordPress provides incredibly simple one-click updates to new versions of the software, and any installed plugins or themes.

Anyone in the company can manage content.

By default, WordPress comes with flexible admin, editor, and author roles that make it easy to progressively train new employees on how to write new content, and manage existing pages and posts in a professional manner. It’s possible to configure a full content review process that ensures nothing is published without proper authorization. The administration panel is also so easy to use, that bringing new employees on board and up to speed is trivial.

It’s highly extendable and customizable.

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, there’s a WordPress theme out there somewhere that was designed specifically with you in mind. We recommend checking out some of the professionally designed and well supported themes from the Mojo Marketplace, but there are also thousands of free themes on WordPress.org (many of them still useful for small business).

WordPress is optimized for search engines straight out of the gate, but it’s still possible to extend that functionality even further with various plugins when you require more critical control over those features for your company website. Plugins already exist for other functionality you might also need including social media integration, selling products, building an online community, adding site analytics, event registration and tracking, and just about anything else you can think of. Best of all, most of it is free.

When you grow, it grows with you.

WordPress is well known for its ability to scale up to even the kind of traffic that even sites like The New York Times, and CNN handle. It doesn’t matter how big your company grows, you’ll have the comfort of knowing that you will never need to figure out how to move to another piece of expensive software.

Hopefully this post has answered questions you may have about whether or not WordPress is the right platform for your site. Check back regularly  for inside tips on WordPress and if you have any questions, let us know in the comments below or give us a call!

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