What Is USPS Click-N-Ship & Should Your Business Be Using It?

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How to Choose the Best Free Website Builder for Your Website

This post originally appeared at How to Choose the Best Free Website Builder for Your Website via ShivarWeb

How to Choose the Best Free Website Builder

Thanks to free website builders, creating a webpage has become something that almost anyone can do. Because there are so many options out there when it comes to finding a website builder, though, it can be challenging to know which one is the best choice for your future website.

Because different websites need different things, there is no “one size” fits all for website builders. Different products offer various features, especially when working on their free plans. Since the free option of a service can have limitations, you want to make an informed decision before starting work on your site.

Summary – Best Free Website Builder Options

Based on my experience working with many website builders, there are a few that are a good fit for most people. They all have free plans available with a variety of limits.

  • Google Product
  • Easy Setup
  • Focus on Simplicity
  • Quick Site Appeal

Google Sites

View Plans
  • Built-in Features
  • Drag + Drop Design
  • Focus on Usability
  • Growing Site Appeal

Wix

Wix
View Plans
  • Lots of Options
  • Future-proofing
  • Focus on Versatility
  • Content Site Appeal

WordPress

WordPress.com
View Plans

Focused on other free options?

MailChimp is email & digital marketing software with a bundled website builder that’s free up to 2,000 contacts (see review). View plans.

And Weebly has the best ecommerce options with their free plans (see review). View Plans.

To help you learn how to choose the best free website builder, we’ve gathered together the factors you should consider when comparing your options.

Primary Considerations

With so many free website builders out there, it’s not so surprising that some are of better quality than others. No matter what you plan to do with your site, here are some things that you’ll want to look for in your options.

Ads

Some free website builders keep themselves operating through the income of paid membership users. However, a much more common approach is for them to place ads on free plan users’ sites.

That said, these advertisements come in many forms. Some are obtrusive and distract visitors from your content, while others are much more subtle. The less space a required ad takes up on your webpage, the better it will be for you.

Domain Name

The domain name is the part of the URL that indicates your website. Having a custom domain name makes it easier for potential visitors to navigate to your webpage—which is essential if you want to attract business and hits.

Many free website builders will give you a customizable section that is part of your larger domain name—take yoursite.wix.com, for example. This structure is most common and is simple enough that it won’t get in the way of visitors remembering your site.

On the flip side, some free website builders have complicated domain names that aren’t very user friendly. While rare, some products will allow you a wholly unique domain for free, though you will still need to pay to obtain your custom domain.

Upgrade Cost

For some people, a free plan will be all they ever need. Much more likely, though, is that an upgrade will be necessary for the future. Though you may not be starting with a paid plan, it’s good to consider the cost of upgrading—and the features that are available for the price.

With this bit of groundwork, you can save yourself the hassle of moving your site to another builder if you don’t like the upgrade options.

Security (SSL Certificate)

Cybersecurity is essential, and an SSL certificate is a part of what keeps your website safe. Unfortunately, not all free website builders have this feature as a part of their free plan.

Without an SSL certificate, your website may be left open to attacks that can impact you and your visitors. While you don’t want to go without one generally, you should always have an SSL certificate if you plan to conduct ecommerce on your site.

Storage and Size

The amount of storage on your website will ultimately impact how large your site can be. In particular, sites that plan to host a lot of videos or photos will need high amounts of storage space.

You should also consider how many pages your site needs, as some free plans put limits on this capability. If you only need a one-page website (and there are some excellent options explicitly geared towards this out there), it won’t be an issue. If you want a large site with multiple pages, check these limitations before you commit.

Bandwidth

Similarly, bandwidth refers to how much data your site can transmit over a given amount of time. In the context of a free website builder, you don’t want this number to be too low. If it is, it can potentially impact the amount of traffic that your site can handle, impacting your visitor’s experience.

Mobile Responsiveness

Computers are not the only way that we access the internet anymore—a majority of activity comes from mobile phones, tablets, and other devices. For your webpage to operate well between these different devices, it will need to have a responsive design—and this capability shouldn’t be optional.

Confirm that your website builder of choice allows for the creation of a mobile responsive page before committing. If not, you’ll be better off with another product.

Ease of Use

Even if a free website builder has a lot of promising back end features, it’s still critical to pay attention to what it’s like to use.

The entire point of using one of these platforms is that you don’t have to build a website from scratch, so you want the process of creating your desired site to be simple.

Many free website builders will use a drag and drop approach, making it easy to put everything in its place—though some are more beginner-friendly than others.

If nothing else, one of the benefits of a free plan is that you don’t need to pay any money upfront, so you can try different options to see which one is the most intuitive for you to use.

Customization Level

When considering design aspects, you will want your website to have enough creative freedom to stand out online. One area to pay close attention to when looking at website builders is to see how many templates you have access to on the free plan.

Some will let you access the complete library, while others will only give you a partial selection. Also, check the available designs. An outdated looking template can reduce the traffic that comes to your site and stays there.

While you can customize a lot with website builders, there are some restrictions. Some platforms will allow you to have higher levels of customization, though you’ll need some coding knowledge to pull it off. Consider what skills you’re willing to learn before you make your final selection.

Features

Some free website builders are flexible, while other brands have specialized in providing for a specific audience. If you’re planning to set up a blog, for example, you want to ensure that the website builder you choose can set up a blog.

Ecommerce (Optional)

Ecommerce functionality will allow you to accept payments through your site and to set up an online store.

In comparison to a paid plan, though, ecommerce features will generally be on the limited side with a free option. That doesn’t mean you can’t find some good options out there, just that they’re hard to come by.

If you don’t plan to build an ecommerce-capable website, you don’t need to worry about these features.

However, if this is your focus, starting out searching for worthwhile free ecommerce plans will save you a lot of hassle and significantly narrow down your options.

Support

In case you run into a technical issue, you’ll want to have support to help. Some website builders will have libraries of videos and articles on how to work the platform, while others will provide live support.

Note that if a website builder is popular, you may be able to find help from the community as well.

Secondary Considerations

While we’ve covered the basics of what to look for in free website builders, you’ll also want to make specific decisions depending on the type of site you plan to use. It’s always best to understand what tools and features you’ll need, then narrow your search down to the website builders that offer those features on their free plans.

For Photographers & Artists

If you plan to use your site to promote your photography or art, you’ll need a lot of media space available. While lower quality images take up less space, they’re not the best decision for promoting yourself.

To ensure you can keep a high-quality archive, your website builder should have a high data limit. While rare, some free plans will allow for unlimited storage space.

For Nonprofits

When setting up a nonprofit organization website, you’ll need a website that can accept donations directly or direct visitors to the appropriate donation links.

Even if they don’t have a built-in donation function, see if you can embed codes on the site (like a PayPal button).

For Classrooms & Teachers

Building educational websites can require some specific features, but you can get a lot of use from free website builders.

Factor in features like templates, site designs, forums, and log-in features for students in your search. Privacy functionality is also essential for protecting the information of any students

For Small Businesses

Some small business sites will focus on promoting their services, but you can also set up a website to sell products. For those who wish to do so, having ecommerce functionality is going to be an essential feature.

Free ecommerce features tend to have strict limits on how many products you can sell at a time, while other free plans may not include any ecommerce functionality. Know that, in time, you will likely need to upgrade to a paid plan to take full advantage of ecommerce tools for your business.

General Tips

Want some extra tips? Consider these before you start your free website builder hunt:

  • Plan your site before you search. If you know what you want your website to be like, you can make a more informed decision when comparing options.
  • Consider if you need third-party extensions. If you want to connect content from YouTube onto your site, can the builder handle it?
  • Think forward. A successful website will eventually grow. If you foresee yourself ultimately growing out of the free plan, do you like the options that the paid plan offers?
  • Make sure there’s a free plan and not just a free trial. Some popular website builders, like Squarespace, only have a free trial in place, and you’ll have to pay to maintain service. If keeping things free is your goal, then confirm the service plans before you commit.

Next Steps

Now that you know how to choose the best free website builder to meet your needs, you may be wondering what comes next. Naturally, you’ll need to compare free website builders and pick the one that meets your needs. After that, follow these steps to get your website off the ground!

  1. Sign up – Go to your builder of choice’s website and follow the steps to sign up. You’ll need to provide an email and a password. The platform may also ask you to create a username.
  2. Begin the design process – What this looks like can vary between website builders. Some will have you fill in a design quiz to make a starting point for you, while others will drop you straight into selecting a template.
  3. Add your content – After you have a base to work with, you can begin updating any placeholder content (such as text or photos) to your site’s information. As you go, you can tweak elements of the already existing design, such as colors, layouts, and more, depending on what’s available.
  4. Go live! – After you’ve completed all the design work, you can press “Publish” and let your site out into the world for people to visit. Note that some website builders won’t allow you to update your site after it’s gone live, so be careful once you’ve chosen to do so.

Wrap Up

Since different websites have different needs, there’s no “one size fits all” solution available. Here’s a summary of the best options that I’ve found for most readers.

  • Google Product
  • Easy Setup
  • Focus on Simplicity
  • Quick Site Appeal

Google Sites

View Plans
  • Built-in Features
  • Drag + Drop Design
  • Focus on Usability
  • Growing Site Appeal

Wix

Wix
View Plans
  • Lots of Options
  • Future-proofing
  • Focus on Versatility
  • Content Site Appeal

WordPress

WordPress.com
View Plans

Focused on other free options?

MailChimp is email & digital marketing software with a bundled website builder that’s free up to 2,000 contacts (see review). View plans.

And Weebly has the best ecommerce options with their free plans (see review). View Plans.

With the variety of options out there, there’s a free website builder that’s perfect for your needs. All you need to do is use the factors and tips we’ve provided to find which one is best for you!

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When You Should Launch Your Startup With A Small Business Incubator

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How To Create An Online Store Through Square

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Trellis Counseling: Doing The Essential Work Of Trauma Therapy In A COVID World

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22+ Credit Union Marketing Ideas To Grow Membership

This post originally appeared at 22+ Credit Union Marketing Ideas To Grow Membership via ShivarWeb

Credit Union Marketing Ideas To Grow Membership

Most credit union managers would agree that there’s nothing like finding a new member. But it’s hard to find a good credit union member if you don’t have account applications coming in.

Some credit unions have a company tie or member bond that brings in new members with nothing more than a “Submit Application” link. But for most credit unions, you have to go out and market your credit union to get a quality pool of potential members.

I’ve consulted on search marketing with one of the largest FHLB banks in the country in addition to many local businesses. Based on those experiences, here are some credit union marketing ideas that you can use to bring in more members.

Create City-Specific Website Pages

For prospective members, location searches are usually fraught & confusing. I’ve never seen a bank with a good Branch Locator…even though customers are searching based on their city / neighborhood.

That may sound obvious, but most financial firms that I’ve worked with still don’t focus their marketing on neighborhoods or cities. It’s a lot of work. It’s tedious. But it can still be worthwhile.

If you have multiple branches, use those branch pages to rank for “credit union [city / neighborhood] search. Don’t just depend on a single Branch Locator page. Build a specific page for each branch, including information about the surround area.

If you have a single branch, create a neighborhood & next to your neighborhood pages to try to rank for “credit union in [neighborhood]” or “credit union near me” searches.

Create Niche Offering Pages

Lots of prospective members have specific features and/or requirements that they want from a credit union. Instead of listing your offerings in a giant list, make detailed pages about each amenity. Try to rank for searches like “bank with [offering]”.

You can use Google Suggest for ideas. Go to Google and type in “[city] bank with” and hit space, but not enter. You’ll see some suggestions.

You can do this with the entire alphabet and as many modifiers as you can think of.

Create pages that match those search queries to show up when people search.

If you want to take this to the next level, you can use a tool like SEMrush’s Keyword Explorer to provide phrase match search terms in bulk like this example for “atlanta apartments”.

Create Local Data Pages

Create resource guides for people moving to or just trying to learn more about to your city. Create lots of them.

Use Google Autosuggest to understand what financial terms people are searching for in your city.

Develop Your Local Citations & Reviews

You should already have a Google My Business profile so that you can show up in Google Maps.

But you can take it to the next level to show up even more prominently.

First, you can build your Google My Business profile with photos, posts, and full listing details.

Second, go to every local business listing site and make sure that your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number match exactly. Whether it’s on the Yellow Pages, Yelp, or elsewhere – everything must match. These are called your “local citations” and Google uses them to confirm the relevance of local business.

You can use SEMrush’s Local Listing Management Tool to audit all these listings quickly.

Third, create a local review strategy. Having diverse, unique, and regular reviews on your Google My Business page is the number one way to get more views (aka lease applications) from Google Maps.

Steal Ideas from Large Local Competitors / Businesses

I’m not a fan of brainstorming. I think that it’s more effective to build off ideas that have already worked.

No matter your size, you can always look to larger competitors or larger businesses for inspiration.

With credit union marketing, make a list of local businesses that you *think* are being creative – including companies in different industries.

Like local listings and keywords, I then use a marketing tool like SEMrush to spy on those competitors. Type in the URL of a competitor below to see an example.

Here’s an example of what you’ll see from the local car industry.

It looks like a lot. But drill down and categorize each link. You’ll quickly get a sense of what they are doing. You’ll see where they are posting on social media. You’ll see which media outlets have accepted press releases and what types of digital marketing they’re doing.

If you drop in a national bank, you can sift & sort their local mentions. If a national bank has gotten attention from a local source, then you should have an extra shot at the same attention as a local credit union.

The trick here is *not* to copy cat them. Instead, take the general idea of what your competitors have done and make it your own – or, make it better.

Work with Local Blogs

Every city, no matter how small, has local publishers and bloggers that get traffic simply because they are local.

In Atlanta, where I live, we have a popular Curbed blog in addition to the AJC Real Estate, Atlanta Business Chronicle, and dozens of smaller neighborhood newspapers and real estate blogs.

Find those and become a regular fixture. All these blogs act on tips & press releases. Very few have a “boots on the ground” journalist. If you can be the place to provide inside information, free images, and consistent write-ups, you’ll earn attention and links. Mine your loan information or business network for tips & local trends. Use those to get attention

That extra attention and those links will help every other idea on this list. Google loves links. Social media users find URLs via links.

Your neighborhood pages, offering pages, service pages, and everything else on your website will benefit from more inbound links.

Use Hyper-Local Facebook Ads

A local business has one massive advantage against national brands trying to operate locally – you live in your city and understand it.

Facebook allows for hyper-local advertising. You can run ads that show within a radius of only a few miles. It’s tedious to set up, but it’s relevant and effective.

Learn how to create hyper-local targeting for demographics and geography to find lots of interested tenants.

You can run small, targeted campaigns that show multiple places at once.

Use Hyper-Local Google Search Ads

Google Search ads are famously effective and famously expensive. The best tenant is someone who searches for “credit union in [neighborhood]”.

But that search click will be very costly.

But like Facebook, you have an advantage – Google Quality Score. Google will show ads higher if they are more relevant even if they don’t have the high bid.

In other words, Google will reduce your cost per click for a query like “local atlanta bank” compared to Chase or Bank of America because your landing page can actually match that query better than they ever could.

Like Facebook, it’s tedious to set up, but if you can set up a hyper-local campaign, you’ll be able to get Google Search traffic that large competitors can’t bid on.

Use Hyper-Local Google Display Ads

Google’s Display Network also offers opportunities for local advertisers who are willing to put in the work.

Google serves banner & text ads on some of the best ad locations on the Internet. Many placements are expensive for bulk ad buys.

But again, Google would rather serve a relevant ad with a low bid than an irrelevant ad with a high bid. That’s your opportunity to set up a hyper-local campaign focused on specific demographics in a specific area.

List on Locally-Popular Review Websites

Bank & financial review sites are a dime a dozen. They will send traffic to your listing. But they are expensive and require a lot of legwork.

The key is to find a few key review websites that are popular in your area – and list on those.

Or – track down the sites that currently show up for you brand name and work on those.

You can use Google Trends, customer interviews, SEMrush, or simply looking at the Google Search Results to see who is more popular for your city / neighborhood.

List on NextDoor & Local Forums

NextDoor is one of many local social media websites & forums. They are hard to find and hard to join, representing an opportunity for any local, enterprising credit union manager.

These networks are interesting because they are specifically local and extremely relevant for financial firms. They also have an early adopter advertising program for truly local businesses.

Advertise / Post on Local Subreddits

Reddit is an attractive website for many industries. But local subreddits are especially interesting for credit union managers for a couple of reasons.

First, they are hubs for local discussion & recommendations.

Second, they are the first place for people to plan a move visit to ask specific, local questions.

Now, they are decidedly non-commercial with lots of rules. You should get to know them before posting or commenting as a commercial entity.

However, you should explore their sidebar wiki for research.

You should get in touch with the moderators to listen to their rules about business posting. And you should look at running ads or giveaways there.

*Personal aside – this route is how I found the local credit union that I use. Delta Community Credit Union had high praise on multiple Atlanta subreddit threads.

Develop a Local Financial Pinterest Board

Pinterest is an incredible resource for people looking for local financial tips. You can get in front of prospects with a locally-focused Pinterest board.

Use local photos, sites, etc from your own customer experience to provide ideas. Promote local artists, makers, businesses, events, etc.

Identify Government Resources

Think about how you can leverage your non-profit and credit union status to get more attention. There are tons of government and financial websites where you can get a link & profile.

These profiles might not drive much direct traffic, but they will absolutely help your ranking & visibility in search engines and other marketing venues.

Identify & Market Local Employers

Your members are all working somewhere. And your prospective tenants all will want to bank close to their job.

Identify all the largest employers & sources of potential tenants nearby. Create resource pages for those employers (especially if they are large).

Create discounts, bonuses, etc. Get in touch with those employers to see if there is a way to collaborate (even if they don’t want to add to your member bond).

Identify & Market Local Schools & Amenities

Take what you did with local employers and do the same with local amenities and resources.

Create pages that act as resource hubs for neighborhood amenities & schools.

Identify & Market Popular Customer Sources

Take previous & existing members and try to understand where those members came from and how they found you.

See if there is a way to build off that success.

Cross-Promote Local Non-Profits

Non-profits usually have an incredible offline network, but have a poor online network. If you are investing in your online marketing efforts, try to develop a relationship to cross-promote the non-profits.

Cross-Promote Local Businesses

Your members frequent lots of local businesses. And those local businesses also would love to have a local financial partner. Offer a way to cross-promote, especially if they have multiple locations or a presence with your target tenant.

Remember that even a link to your website from their website will dramatically help your other online efforts.

Use Events To Get Social Media Attention

Events like openings, financial courses, holiday showings, etc are marketing staples for credit unions. But events have a bonus effect online.

You can list them on multiple platforms to get extra exposure. Facebook is the best place for this tactic, but it also works on Google, Instagram, and event apps like Meet and Four Square.

Use Local or Industry Focused Videos to Hack Social Media

Like events, most social media gives preference to video in their feeds. Take interesting video with a local take.

Post the file natively to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Pay a small budget to boost it. And look for opportunities to embed it on your website.

Use Digital Referral Fees for Word of Mouth

Referral fees are also a staple of credit union marketing. But they don’t get the same reach as digital referral codes.

Whether you use a simple bit.ly link, manually hand out custom codes (i.e., account numbers), or use a software service – digital referral codes can help you move limited physical word of mouth to unlimited digital word of mouth.

Find & Sponsor Local Charities

Sponsoring local charities provides a few marketing benefits.

First, you can likely get a link to your website, which will help your other efforts.

Second, you can tap into a well-networked organization with lots of word of mouth potential.

Third, you can tap into neighborhood goodwill to help with soliciting reviews to help with your Google My Business efforts.

Next Steps

There are a lot of marketing ideas out there for credit union managers. You don’t have to do all of them. You just have to do one or two well.

Find the one that fits your interests & resources and give it a try. Learn based on your initial experience and improve.

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Half Of Small Businesses Near Closure, Plus B2B Digital Payments On The Rise: Mastercard Survey

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How To Set Up An Etsy Shop & Start Selling

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The 3 SBA Export Loan Programs & How To Choose The Right Fit For Your Small Business

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The Complete Guide To New York State Payroll

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