This post originally appeared at How to Choose the Best Website Builder for Photographers via ShivarWeb
Building your website can be a tough but fulfilling part of growing your photography business. Website builders make building & maintaining a website much more accessible and convenient. But they all have tradeoffs, and photographers usually have very specific requirements.
For photographers, a website builder has to explicitly allow spaces to showcase previous work while also fitting your preferred aesthetic and giving your clients access to pricing, and other details about your work.
That means not every website builder will suit your needs.
Summary – Best Website Builder for Photographers
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 to try.
Focus on Portfolios
Drag + Drop Design
Focus on Usability
Lots of Options
Focus on Versatility
Need a Bundled Storage + Builder?
SmugMug is an all-in-one storage & sales app for photographers that also bundles a website builder. It has limitations, but is also convenient. See their plans here.
Every website builder will tout itself as “the best” – and they all have options for photographers. But before doing a side by side feature comparison, I’ve found that it’s more useful to understand what you are looking for.
Every photographer runs a slightly different business. Portfolios are almost always important. But what about retail & download ability? Copyright considerations? Additional content & video?
Think about what you need and how you want to build your business. Here are a few primary & secondary considerations for choosing the best photography website builder for you.
Primary Considerations for a Photography Website Builder
Your website is the primary piece of brand identity potential clients will see before they decide to contact you or not. Your choices for a website builder can have a massive effect on a potential client’s first impressions.
Type of Features
There are a lot of different types of features that can go into a photography website. But the exact features that you’ll need all depend on your business.
Will you be developing a website to bring in new clients?
Will you simply be hosting a portfolio?
Will you need to sell your prints directly to clients via your website?
Will you need archive storage? Or copyright protections?
Will you need to gather appointment bookings?
And does it matter if you have all these features upfront or build them over time? Do you already use a 3rd party for these features or do you need more?
Type of Design
Think about how you want to design and maintain your website. There are different approaches with upsides and downsides.
Some builders start with a template but overlay a drag and drop editor. This provides convenience, but also means that your design might not be just right.
Some builders provide customizable themes that provide a uniform look, but also lock you into to a degree. And some other builders go further with defined templates. There’s usually a tradeoff between convenience and control.
If you know HTML/ CSS and feel comfortable editing your own site, then you might want to go the self-hosted route with WordPress and a WordPress website builder.
Type of Company
There are plenty of niche companies that focus on a single industry (like photography) and others that are large with resources to build out features that appeal to lots of different industries.
Neither approach is better or worse, but it’s worth considering. Do you prefer features built specifically for photographers or globally useful features that you can apply in your own way?
Secondary Considerations for a Photography Website Builder
No matter how you build your website at first, it will be an ongoing investment. It’s worth thinking through how you hope to grow your business & website over time.
There are a lot of tools for photographers. Some are indispensable, some are convenient, and some are straight-up cheaper than any other option.
It’s worth considering whether you want an all-in-one website builder or if you want a website builder that simply integrates well with other 3rd party tools via apps, extensions, or plugins.
Consider what type of marketing that you are planning to do. What role does your website play? Will you need to track data or integrate 3rd party tools? Will you be doing content marketing or social media campaigns?
Your budget should be an obvious consideration, but I don’t think it should be a primary consideration. Ideally, your website should be a business investment that more than pays for itself.
But you also should not be paying more than you can or should. Outline your business expenses and where your website builder fits. It might be simpler to go with a photography tool suite like SmugMug or a cheap website builder until you can build your own client base.
There are a lot of excellent website builders for photographers. Here are a few that my readers have had success with.
Focus on Portfolios
Drag + Drop Design
Focus on Usability
Lots of Options
Focus on Versatility
Need a Bundled Storage + Builder?
SmugMug is an all-in-one storage & sales app for photographers that also bundles a website builder. It has limitations, but is also convenient. See their plans here.
That said, there are plenty of options out there. The most important task is to understand how you run your business and what features, design & budget you’re looking at.
Facebook made good on its promise to support Black-owned businesses Wednesday by announcing that applications are now open for $40 million in grant funding.
Any business that is majority Black-owned and has between one and 50 employees may apply for grants worth $4,000 each — $2,500 in cash and $1,500 in Facebook ad credit. This means that Facebook plans to support up to 10,000 Black-owned businesses through the grant program.
According to Facebook’s web page for the grant program, funds can be used for (but aren’t necessarily limited to) rent, operational costs, employee payroll, customer engagement, and community support.
Interested business can apply now for the grant money. Applications close on August 31.
The funds come via part of Facebook’s $100 million promise to Black communities in the business sector. The other $60 million will go towards nonprofits and social media creators.
We’ll break down the program’s eligibility requirements below, as well as what your business needs in order to apply.
Facebook’s Black-Owned Business Grant Eligibility
The eligibility criteria for Facebook’s grant program is fairly straightforward. Businesses interested in applying must:
Be at least 51% Black-owned.
Be owned by someone above the age of 18.
Be legally registered within the US (excluding US territories).
Employ between one and 50 people.
Have been in operation for at least one year.
Have been impacted by COVID-19.
Additionally, grant funds must be used in a way to benefit the business and its community.
Those who have already applied for grants from the Facebook Small Business Grants Program may re-apply for a Black-owned grant. However, prior recipients of a Facebook grant are ineligible to apply.
Applicants also do not need to be using Facebook products in order to apply.
How To Apply For A Facebook Black-Owned Business Grant
Like the eligibility requirements, applying for a grant through Facebook’s Black-owned grant program is pretty straightforward. Let’s go over a basic outline of what you need to do to apply for a Facebook Black-owned business grant:
Head on over to the program’s portal on Submittable, a third-party submission management platform Facebook has partnered with for the program.
Create a Submittable account, if you don’t already have one.
Answer a series of basic questions to determine if your business is eligible for a grant.
Fill in the contact information of the majority owner as well as the business’ information, which includes name, online presence, legal address, and business description and industry.
Optionally submit additional demographic information about your gender, sexuality, veteran status, or disabilities.
After going through the basic paperwork, you must then:
Share in under 300 words how your business was impacted by COVID-19.
Select from a list of options how you’ll use the grant for your business.
Describe in under 300 words how Facebook’s grant will impact your business.
Select from a list of options how you’ll use the grant to support your local community.
Describe in under 300 words how Facebook’s grant will impact your local community.
Once that information is filled out, you’ll need to e-sign the document, agree to the terms and conditions of the program, and certify that you are not a government official nor related to a government official before submitting the application.
Facebook also accepts applications that are in Spanish.
The application window will close at 9 PM ET, August 31. Applications will be sorted through “as quickly as possible” after that date. Facebook has partnered with Accenture to handle the administration role of the grant program.
Other Grant Options For Small Businesses
Besides Facebook’s grant program, we recommend that businesses impacted by COVID-19 look into potential avenues for grant funding. Black-owned businesses may be helped by our guide to grants for minority-run businesses. We also have a general guide to getting grants for your business.
For other routes of scoring money for your business, check out the nine ways a minority-owned small business can get financing.
Do you have a story idea, tip, or press release for the Merchant Maverick news team? Shoot us an email: [email protected]
The post Facebook Black-Owned Business Grant: Find Out If You’re Qualified & Learn How To Apply appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
When you’re thinking of getting into eCommerce, or if it’s time to expand your online sales presence, you probably have realized that you have many choices of shopping cart platforms. Each of them has something to offer your eCommerce business, but at the same time, each seems a little … small. If that sounds like you, it may be time to take a long look at a different eCommerce solution: Shopify Plus.
In this article, we’ll help you dig into Shopify Plus, giving you the key information you need, including:
How much does it cost?
Is it right for your business?
How does it work?
How can you make the right decision on Shopify Plus?
If you’re part of a large and growing online business, looking for an eCommerce solution that can support your company’s robust growth and ever-increasing sales, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about Shopify Plus.
What Is Shopify Plus?
Shopify Plus is a fully hosted, cloud-based eCommerce platform aimed at high-volume merchants who anticipate large amounts of both traffic and sales. It’s fast — delivering unlimited bandwidth that can handle up to 3 million visitors per second and 10,978 orders per minute, with 99.99% uptime. And it’s appropriate for merchants selling direct to consumers, with products shipped or picked up in-store, as well as for those selling to wholesale customers.
With Shopify Plus, you can sell in 175 countries using 20 languages. And it promises multichannel selling that brings your products to wherever your customers want to shop — including Facebook, Snapchat, Amazon, eBay, Pinterest, GooglePlus, Instagram, and more. You can set up your site to accept payment from 100 different providers, including PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, and Shopify Payments.
Flow lets you automate tasks, by building a library of templates and workflows to manage customers’ experiences, inventory, merchandising, and more.
Launchpad lets you pre-plan, schedule, coordinate, and execute eCommerce events.
Don’t worry that all those customization choices will slow you down, though. Shopify Plus prides itself on ease of use and fast development. Recently, new customer Lindt, the chocolate purveyor, decided to open its first-ever eCommerce store, due to customers’ changing habits in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lindt’s Shopify Plus store opened in just five days.
Shopify VS Shopify Plus
Shopify is known as an easy-to-use, relatively agile platform. So is Shopify Plus. So when it comes down to Shopify VS Shopify Plus, how do you know which is the right choice for you? The two services work in essentially the same way, using the same dashboard. But there are some big differences between them. Let’s take a look:
From startups to established sellers, Shopify provides solutions for all sizes of eCommerce businesses. Shopify Plus takes aim at the very highest level. It’s an enterprise-level platform that features scalability as a primary advantage. Shopify Plus promise unlimited extensibility, integrations, and customization through Shopify’s own apps as well as partner apps.
Shopify Plus also appeals to companies doing global business with the ability to create a total of 10 stores, allowing for true global reach. And where the range of Shopify plans allows anywhere from two staff members to 15, Shopify Plus allows unlimited staff permissions.
With Shopify, you can choose from a range of popular plans priced from $29 to $299 per month. There’s also a Lite plan, priced at $9 per month which doesn’t include a web store but gives you basic options for online sales. Those plans all include transaction fees on top of the subscription price, ranging from 2% of each sale, on the Basic plan, to 0.5% of each sale on the Advanced plan. That’s in addition to fees charged by your Gateway processor. You can avoid the transaction fees by using Shopify Payments. Some users have reported difficulty in being approved for Shopify Payments participation. When you use Shopify Payments, you won’t be charged a straight transaction fee, though you’ll still be charged credit card processing fees ranging from 2.9% plus $0.30 to 2.4% plus $0.30 per transaction, depending on your plan level.
Screenshot of Shopify webpage, captured 8/20/2020
When you upgrade to Shopify Plus, it’s no surprise that your monthly fees rise accordingly. The Shopify Plus plan starts at $2,000 per month for standard setups and integrations. For those with complex needs and a high volume of business, the monthly fee will vary depending on your requirements and what level of support you need to get up and running. Your plan comes with a “launch engineer” who can connect you with developers and designers to customize your site if you are not interested in doing that on your own.
As far as transaction fees, you’ll pay none on the Shopify Plus plan, if you use Shopify Payments. If you use a third-party payment processor, you’ll pay $0.15 per transaction, which Shopify says goes to pay for the costs of additional security requirements, maintaining PCI compliance, and protecting data integrity for users on both ends of the transaction.
Any Shopify plan offers an impressive amount of features, including unlimited bandwidth and storage, staff accounts, POS, analytics, financial reports, analytics, customer support, and many more. As the top-tier plan, Shopify Plus includes all of those and then goes beyond.
For example, when you set up a Shopify store, you can choose from more than 100 themes, including 11 that are free. You can purchase one of the others for up $180. Every Shopify plan allows you to add up to 20 themes per account. When you upgrade to Shopify Plus, you are allowed up to 100 themes.
In addition, Shopify Plus offers its merchants exclusive access to these tools:
Wholesale Channel: Sell direct to businesses
Shopify Flow: Create automations
Launchpad: Schedule, coordinate and execute events such as sales, product drops, and restocks
Script Editor: Coding that lets you personalize transactions for customers
Transporter App: Import customers, products, and order records into your store
Bulk Account Inviter: Invite customers to activate their accounts after you import customer accounts from another platform or store
GiftCard: Alternate payment method
Multipass: Direct customers from your website to your Shopify Plus store with a seamless login
User: Manage staff accounts
All levels of Shopify service offer support for customers, including by phone, email, live chat, written help library, video tutorials, webinars, and a community forum. That means that when something goes wrong, or you have questions, usually you can find an answer without shelling out a lot of money for it.
Shopify Plus offers an even higher level of support and includes an Academy that features educational content tailored for your needs with online courses. You’ll even get a consultant to help you decide if you’re a good candidate for Shopify Plus, including assessing your needs and identifying opportunities for growth. A “solutions engineer” will continue working with you to ensure your store set-up and integration goes smoothly. And of course, as mentioned above, you’ll work with a “launch engineer” to help you migrate data and set up your store, including international storefronts and custom checkouts.
What Can You Sell on Shopify Plus?
With 5,300 merchants selling online through Shopify Plus, it’s already a vast yet still growing platform that specializes in five broad categories of products:
Beauty & Cosmetics
Fashion & Apparel
Food & Beverage
Among the biggest names using Shopify Plus, you’ll find a huge variety. From Unilever to Kylie, from Rollie Nation to The Cambridge Satchel Company, from Heinz to Death Wish Coffee, from Magnolia Market to International Military Antiques, there’s no one “mold” that fits all merchants that find a home with Shopify Plus. What many of them share in common is high sales volume, international reach, and a desire for an online sales platform that’s ready to grow with them.
How Does Shopify Plus Work?
Like Shopify, Shopify Plus is an all-inclusive online selling platform that lets you create and develop an online store that you can use to promote, sell, and ship your products. Shopify Plus is designed specifically for high-volume sellers. It’s a cloud-based, fully hosted SaaS (software as a service) shopping cart solution.
Shopify typically offers an impressive array of features and available add-ons. Shopify Plus matches that list and goes further with included offerings like these:
Shopify Admin: Manage all your organization’s stores from a single location.
Apps Designed For High-Growth Merchants
Customizable Checkout: Control your branding.
Advanced API: Integrate with custom apps using an application programming interface.
Merchant Success Program: A dedicated liaison will help you get the most value out of Shopify Plus.
Launch Engineer: You’ll be online faster when you have help with third-party integrations and finding development and design partners.
Unlimited Staff Accounts: Grow your business without worrying about incurring extra costs as you expand.
Expansion Stores: Add up to nine stores for international sales, physical locations, or other needs.
Shopify Plus Academy: Access self-guided training to help you grow your business.
Additional Themes: Add up to 100 themes, allowing you to test new themes, maintain seasonal variations, and more.
Wholesale Channel: Create a separate, password-protected store for wholesale customers.
The Benefits Of Shopify Plus
Without a dedicated team of experts, designing and maintaining a website is a challenge â and even with an expensive team on staff or on speed dial, it’s a labor and time-intensive proposition — especially when your business is growing and expanding. Shopify Plus takes over a lot of the burden, managing the mechanics of your eCommerce website and freeing you to market and sell your products. And like all Shopify stores, a Shopify Plus store includes secure, reliable site hosting. You won’t have to worry about your site crashing or hackers hijacking your data: Shopify Plus supports stores that can handle nearly 11,000 orders per minute and boasts 99.99% uptime.
Additionally, Shopify Plus offers a personalized level of support that could help you take your business to the next level. When you’re focused on expansion and growth, you will appreciate all the help you can get. Shopify Plus’s help features a dedicated support staff; that means you’ll have the help you need to put your eCommerce vision into action.
Shopify Plus Pros
Personalized service and support
Speed and reliability
Exclusive access to management tools
Multichannel, multi-store, and international sales
Wholesale eCommerce possibilities
The Drawbacks Of Shopify Plus
The majority of user reviews of Shopify Plus are positive. Some common complaints are the cost. Plans start at $2,000 per month, but you’ll likely receive a custom quote that’s higher, based on your needs. Users who switched from other premium platforms were generally positive about the cost of Shopify Plus.
Other users complained that common add-ons can slow site performance, although no specific apps were mentioned. Not every user expressed satisfaction with their customer service support. It may be that Shopify Plus is experiencing some growing pains of its own as more eCommerce vendors sign up for its services.
Shopify Plus Cons
High price point
Customizing is necessary but can be difficult
Can be difficult to manage in-house
Who Should Use Shopify Plus?
Shopify Plus offers a good solution for merchants who are selling â or who hope to be selling â at high volume online and especially for those selling at high volume internationally. Shopify Plus merchants generate between $1 million and $500 million or more in annual sales, and they experience an average of 126% yearly growth.
When Should You Use Shopify Instead?
With monthly fees starting at $2,000, no matter how ambitious your plans for growth, if you’re not already selling at high volume, you should not rush to sign up for Shopify Plus right now. You can opt for a lower-level Shopify plan and upgrade when you’re ready. Even the most expensive plan below plus, the Advance plan at $299 per month, would offer significant savings over the Plus plan. That’s money you can set aside until you can really benefit from the advanced features and capabilities that Shopify Plus will deliver.
How To Get Started With Shopify Plus
If Shopify Plus sounds like the right solution for your eCommerce needs, you can request contact from a member of the Shopify Plus team. You’ll have to enter some basic information, like your name, your business email, your company name, and business URL. You’ll also be asked to select the country where your operations are based as well as your annual revenue range. You can also click a button to chat now with a salesperson.
The Bottom Line
Shopify Plus is fast, it’s flexible, and it comes with a price tag that may put it beyond the reach of many smaller eCommerce merchants. For companies that need what Shopify Plus has to offer, the price may be well worth it. On the other hand, if you’re not quite at that level yet, knowing how Shopify Plus can help you improve your sales and your business practices may just motivate you to reach the next level.
The post What Is Shopify Plus? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Smart money has always pegged small businesses as being a resilient bunch. Now, fresh data backs this bet up.
In a survey that collected the responses of 5,265 small business owners worldwide, internet domain registrar GoDaddy found that 71% of entrepreneurs anticipate their business will recover from COVID-related losses within the next year. This optimism is despite the economic wreckage the pandemic has brought to 2020.
The survey, which received responses throughout the month of June, specifically considered the input of micro-businesses — over 90% of respondents had less than 10 employees while half were solo-prenuers. Small business owners from Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Mexico, Philippines, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the US were tapped for the survey. GoDaddy and Savanta, the data and research firm that aided the study, released the results on August 19.
“As difficult as the last six months have been, it’s inspiring to see global entrepreneurs determined to work their way back to recovery and success,” GoDaddy’s vice president of global marketing operations Melissa Schneider said in a statement. “At the heart of entrepreneurism is the ability to adapt and move forward.”
Other numbers look promising, too. A whopping 63% of respondents expect their business to grow at least 25% within the next three to five years. According to GoDaddy, this number is in line with pre-pandemic expectations.
In a separate blog post on its COVID-19 resources website, #OpenWeStand, GoDaddy revealed that only 3% of the businesses surveyed said they’ve had to shut down permanently.
“This underscores the resilience of the entrepreneurial spirit and offers some hopeful insight into their collective future,” Schneider wrote in that post.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses — COVID-19 has still been a nasty pandemic after all. The survey found that 75% of respondents have suffered reductions in revenue, while another 36% resorted to temporary closures.
COVID-19 Has Sparked The Entrepreneurial Spirit
Perhaps the most poignant part of GoDaddy’s survey is how it revealed that the heart of entrepreneurship is alive and well — especially as COVID-19’s recession is encouraging individuals to come up with more creative ways to make money.
For instance, 30% of those surveyed indicated they had or intend to start a business, non-profit, or side-hustle because of job loss due to the pandemic. And 16% confirmed they had already started such a venture.
Millennials are the most eager age demographic to leap into the entrepreneurial world: 40% of millennial respondents said they wanted to pursue a side-hustle compared to only 12% of baby boomers.
This eagerness to jump into or kick-start a small entrepreneurial dream mimics earlier financial downturns. In previous recessions, businesses started up smaller (but are more productive on a revenue-per-employee basis) than businesses created during boom years, according to research by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
“As history has shown us, and this survey tells us, the downturn is likely to lead to a new wave of entrepreneurs and small businesses,” Schneider said. “It’s that spirit of rebirth and innovation that can help lead the global economy to recovery.”
Resources To Thrive In A COVID-19 Economy
While financial woes have indeed impacted many in the world of commerce, there’s still plenty of hope out there that small businesses can survive and even thrive amid a pandemic.
Business owners looking to advance their company throughout these tricky times can visit Merchant Maverick’s guide to marketing during the pandemic. Digital-focused firms may also want to read our tips for eCommerce during COVID-19.
If you’re wanting to tap into your own entrepreneurial beast, take a peruse of the best website builders for entrepreneurs. We’ve also written a step-by-step guide for entrepreneurs looking to start their own delivery business.
Do you have a story idea, tip, or press release for the Merchant Maverick news team? Shoot us an email: [email protected]
The post Donât Mess With Small Businesses â Even If Youâre A Pandemic, Survey Finds appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Yelp’s 2016 Request-A-Quote system has undergone an overhaul in the past year, and its newest iOS update will launch a revamped hiring experience to better connect local contractors and small businesses with clients and potential leads. Yelp is hoping users will stop thinking of the site as just for reviews and instead will think of it first when looking for the best small businesses to meet their needs.
These expanded tools will help both small business owners and consumers by streamlining communications and building connections between local businesses and Yelp users.
According to Product Lead Yue Wu on Yelp’s official blog,Â “The current state of hiring home and local service businesses can often be frustrating and riddled with inefficiencies. Oftentimes, people donât know what kind of details they need to share when trying to hire a contractor, mechanic or landscaper, plus outdated games of phone tag make it hard to get a hold of a professional. Business owners may even have to reject promising leads because they donât match their service offerings. The industry is ripe for innovation and in need of a marketplace solution that helps both professionals grow their business and people easily get things done.”
The new Request-A-Quote system will better connect contractors with clients. On the small business end, Yelp is launching a subscription service called Nearby Jobs, which is aimed at helping businesses better target customers and leads best suited for their services. Request-A-Quote is free and can be turned off, while Nearby Jobs costs $240/month.
Check out Yelp’s quick introduction of its Hiring Experience for Home and Local Services below:
Building Better Bridges Between Businesses & Clients
Nearby Jobs — Courtesy of Yelp
When shelter-in-place orders hit most of the nation in March of 2020, the economy experienced a sudden shift. However, people stuck at home began looking into home improvement projects or local businesses for hire. Compared with the same time last year, interest in home and local services is up 25%, according to Yelp.
“Even in the midst of a pandemic, home and local services have proven to be resilient and an essential part of the local economy with more than four million projects created in the first half of 2020,” said Wu.
It is with this focus in mind that Yelp expanded its Request-A-Quote and Nearby Jobs platforms. The goal is faster quotes and connections to service providers, streamlined appointment scheduling, and an easier vetting process. All of those areas were tagged as important by clients in a Kelton Global Survey.
According to Wu, “Nearly a quarter (22%) of respondents in the Kelton Global study werenât sure where to start their search for a professional while one-third (33%) admit it was difficult to find a professional they trusted. Yelpâs guided questionnaires solve this hiring friction by asking consumers a handful of tailored questions about the specific job they need done within the Request-A-Quote experience.”
Soon, over 100 industries will be represented on Yelp and available for streamlined connections to people on the hunt for their services.
The subscription platform Nearby Jobs will give businesses more control over the Request-A-Quote experience. Wu said, “For businesses looking to grow their company and client base, this unique product allows them to quickly pitch their capabilities and competitive pricing to consumers. This can be an ideal solution for newer businesses looking to earn consumer trust by building out their portfolio of work and growing their online presence.”
All of this is packaged in a new and sleek facelift to the entire Yelp interface. Yelp is modernizing and expanding — the result is, of course, better reviews for all users, too. With customers and businesses finding the right fit and Yelp vetting these experiences, increased and more substantial reviews are a natural and great outcome from this new platform.
Other Ways Your Business Can Tap Into Yelp
Reviews are the bane and beauty of some small business owners’ existence — and Yelp’s edge in the review-generating business is quite large. With consumers and small business owners trusting the reviews from Yelp, adding transparency to the process only strengthens the platform’s relevance and assistance to small business owners.
If you haven’t, create a business page on Yelp and utilize the free tools — including the updated Request-A-Quote. For more information on Yelp, you can read our article, Should I Use Yelp For Business Owners?Â
For more tips on how your business can handle COVID-19, check out Merchant Maverick’s guide to outbreaks and pandemics.
H/T Search Engine Land
Do you have a story idea, tip, or press release for the Merchant Maverick news team? Shoot us an email: [email protected]
The post Local Small Businesses Can Now Reach More Customers Thanks To Yelpâs Revamped Hiring Experience appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
With more than 1.6 billion daily users, Facebook can seem like a ripe opportunity for doing business. The question is, will Facebook be a good platform for your small business? Whether you’re planning to start your first online store, you’re ready to expand your eCommerce business, or you just want to make it easy for friends and family to purchase directly from you, Facebook offers options for merchants of all kinds.
If you’re ready to tap into Facebook’s sales potential, this article will show you how.
How To Sell On Facebook
There are three main eCommerce channels on Facebook:
Direct sales from your page
We’ll cover each of them, so you can decide which is right for your business. You may be thinking of one more way Facebook allows sales: Facebook Marketplace. Because the Marketplace operates essentially as a spot for online classified ads, rather than ongoing eCommerce, it won’t be included in this guide to selling on Facebook.
How Much Does It Cost To Sell On Facebook?
You have choices when it comes to selling on Facebook, and the price you will pay depends on which option you choose and which payment methods you accept for orders. We’ll go deeper into the costs associated with each method, below. But here’s an overview:
Free to add to your Facebook account
No listing fees
5% transaction fee or a flat fee of $0.40 per transaction of $8 or less
Fees include taxes and payment processing
Payout occurs in 8-10 business days
No cost to add Facebook through your Shopify admin
Can add Buy Button using $9/month Shopify plan, instead of paying for a full store
Shopify transaction fees of 2.9% plus $0.30 apply
List products on your personal or business Facebook page
Manage inventory, delivery on your own
Choose your payment method based on fees charged. You can choose Facebook Pay, with no fees, or accept payments via Facebook Messenger from friends and family who enter a bank-issued debit card or PayPal account. You also can take orders on your page and arrange for payment via cash, check, or a free service like Venmo or Zelle.
Now that you have an overview of the options and their prices, let’s dive deeper into each method of selling on Facebook.
How To Use Facebook Shops
In May 2020, Facebook launched its Shop feature that allows eCommerce operations on both Facebook and Instagram. It’s easy to set up a Shop through a business page, especially if you’re already used to navigating your way around the social media site. If you have only a personal page right now, you’ll want to set up a business page, which is free to add.
What Is A Facebook Shop?
Adding a Facebook Shop is as simple as adding a “buy now” option to a business page. It’s a seamless way to add eCommerce to an existing social media account or to easily transfer online friends and family to your eCommerce site.
A Facebook Shop is a great way to enter the eCommerce market or to bolster existing sales. According to Statista, buying via social media is on the rise, with more than a quarter of U.S. consumers aged 25 to 44 regularly using “Shop Now” buttons on Facebook to make purchases. Those numbers dropped slightly among consumers aged 18-24 and 45-54, to 18% and 15%, respectively, with that number falling to 11% among those 55 and up. Still, if your target audience is between 18 and 54, a solid percentage of them already are using Facebook to buy. A Facebook Shop gives you a vehicle for reaching them.
How To Set Up A Facebook Shop
When you’re ready to set up your Facebook Shop, open your business page — if you already have one. If you don’t, it’s easy to create one from your personal Facebook page. Just click on the Create button located near the top right of your personal page.
Screenshot of Facebook, captured 8/18/2020
From there, select the type of page you want to create. Most likely, you’ll choose the Business option.
Screenshot of Facebook, captured 8/18/2020
Next, you’ll have the opportunity to upload a profile picture and cover photo for your page. Don’t worry if you don’t have those picked out already because you can add them later. Once you have created your business page, look for the blue box that reads +Add a Button. It’s underneath your cover photo, on the right side of the screen. When you click that button, you’ll see a range of options, including on that says “Shop with you.” Click the option that reads “Show Now.”
Screenshot of Facebook, captured 8/18/2020
When you do that, you’ll have a choice to make: You could direct customers to an external website to do their shopping, or you can set up your own Facebook Shop right there.
Let’s assume you’ll use the Facebook Shop option. Here are the steps you’ll take.
Set Up Your Shop
Under your business page’s cover photo and title, you’ll see a row of options, including Home, Services, Reviews, and then Shop. Click on Shop to access Facebook’s Commerce Manager. After you access Facebook’s Commerce Manager, you’ll be able to choose how you want customers to complete purchases from your Facebook store page. For this demonstration, we will be choosing Checkout on Facebook or Instagram. Click that option, then press the Get Started button.
Screenshot of Facebook Shop, captured 8/18/2020
Create Your Product Catalog
What products do you want to add to your Facebook Shop? You can access Facebook Shops’ Catalog Manager and create a catalog of products from this tab. Just click, the blue button that reads Add Products and follow the prompts from there to add items manually, use a bulk upload, or use a pixel, depending on how many products you have to add and how quickly you want to add them.
Screenshot of Facebook Shop, captured 8/18/2020
Use the admin to add images, listing titles and descriptions, SKUs or other identifiers, and link to an external web page where users can find more information about the products, if they want to. You’ll also want to list a price for each item.
Gather Your Information and Records
Before you can go any further in setting up your store, you’ll need a few pieces of information:
A U.S.-based bank account and routing number
Tax and payment information
Preferences and policies for your shop
Your business name
Set Basic Business Policies
You’ll need to decide on a few policies before you can open your Facebook Shop for business. What shipping methods do you want to offer, and how much will you charge? Will you set a threshold for free shipping? Keep in mind that you’ll be expected to ship products within three days of orders.
You’ll also need to set return policies. Facebook requires a minimum return window of 30 days from delivery. Don’t worry too much at this point: You can always come back and make changes later. You will also need to enter an email where customers can reach you with service needs.
Once you have products entered, you’re ready to start selling. If you chose to use the Checkout option for payment, Facebook will take care of most of the finances for you — including taking payments and calculating sales tax automatically — based on where items ship from and to. You can keep track of payments due to you through the Payouts tab on the admin, under Orders, and you can expect Checkout payments to show up in your bank account three to five days after the payout date.
Keep exploring the admin page to learn how to view sales analytics, print shipping labels, and more. Facebook will offer some helpful advice about how to place ads to draw attention to your business page. If your budget allows, that can be a good strategy for drawing traffic.
How To Use A Shopify Facebook Store
The familiar Facebook platform may feel very comfortable, and you may already have a huge Facebook following that’s ready to purchase from you. Those are two huge benefits to selling on Facebook, but it’s important to note that Facebook is at heart a social media platform, and while it’s definitely possible to sell there, you may find some aspects lacking.
Most notably, Facebook Shops do not incorporate inventory tracking. So if you’re selling from a large or complicated catalog, you may find you’re looking for more help than is available on Facebook. Never fear, there’s a solution. You can jump into Facebook selling simply by adding the Facebook sales channel to your Shopify store. If you don’t already have a Shopify store, it’s easy to set one up. And once you link your Shopify store to Facebook for sales, you’ll find that Shopify features like analytics, customer rolls, and your products all are available to use on Facebook and Instagram.
Shopify lets you create one integrated product catalog for Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Shop. Simply add the Facebook Sales Channel app to your Shopify store, and you can start selling on Facebook right away.
Linking your Shopify store to your Facebook account makes sense when you have an established Shopify store and you’re interested in growing your sales. It’s also a smart way to build a strong eCommerce store when you’re starting from scratch. After all, why not tap into your Facebook following for additional sales, when Shopify makes it so easy? You’ll also find that Shopify can support you in spreading out to other social media channels, such as Etsy, Amazon, or eBay.
How To Sell On Facebook With PayPal Or Facebook Pay
So, you’ve read about Facebook Shops and Shopify’s Facebook Integration, but maybe neither option sounds quite like what you’re looking for. Maybe you’re someone who is looking for a more low-key entree into eCommerce, anticipating lower sales volume and less traffic. Is there still a home for your store on Facebook? Absolutely!
While some sellers will want a full-on Facebook store, others may find eCommerce success by simply posting about what you have to offer on your personal or business Facebook page. For example, you could post an image of the items you have available, and invite your followers to add a comment if they are interested in purchasing something from you. In that case, you might arrange payment electronically, via a Facebook Pay, Venmo, or PayPal request before you ship items â or even arrange to meet in person to exchange payment for the items. You can even arrange payment via Facebook Messenger if both you and your customer have added a debit card to your accounts.
That’s a good approach for vendors anticipating low sales volume and/or highly customized items, especially if you have a large Facebook following. Keeping it simple makes sense for some sellers. You’ll still find a large and receptive audience on Facebook, you can change your approach whenever you’re ready to expand your sales, and you won’t unnecessarily (or expensively) complicate your sales process any more than you need to, for now.
Tips For Selling On Facebook
Facebook represents an enormous potential customer pool. And you may already be using the social media site to connect with many of those potential buyers. So it makes perfect sense to make it official and start using Facebook for your eCommerce efforts. We’ve described three ways of doing that. No matter which method you choose, you will want to use some similar tactics in your sales process.
Build A Loyal Customer Base
You’ll find that Facebook sales come easily when you have a receptive audience. So keep them engaged by posting frequently. That doesn’t necessarily mean multiple times a day, but it also doesn’t mean you should post only when you have something to sell. Post engaging content frequently, and you’ll build a community that’s receptive to your sales offers.
Offer Multiple Payment Options
Make it as easy as you can for customers to purchase from you. That means letting them pay for items in whatever way is most convenient for them. Fortunately, when you’re selling on Facebook that’s easy to do. From Facebook’s Checkout and Messenger payments to PayPal, Stripe, Venmo, and cash or check, you can offer a few options and find out your customers’ preferences.
The best part about selling on Facebook? It’s free! You won’t pay anything to list items for sale, and you don’t have to worry about limitations on how many images you can post. So be sure to include high-quality visuals of everything you list for sale. Show items from multiple angles, show them being used, show optional customization, and different choices like color or style.
Make Special Offers
No matter how successful you are at using Facebook for eCommerce, it is, at its core, a social media site. So you should work to create connections between your followers. One way to do that is by treating them as special. Make Facebook-only offers, like free shipping or free customization on items. Encourage them to share your special offers with their own followers too, and you will build your online community â and your sales.
If you’re selling on platforms other than Facebook, or if you do in-person sales as well, let your followers know about those other venues. If you’re a small vendor who makes appearances at local marketplaces, for example, post the dates and times when you will be offering in-person sales. Let your Facebook followers know how to find you live, and offer them something special, like a sample or a discount, if they visit you in person. Post links to your Facebook account on your website and on other social media sites. Meet your customers wherever they happen to be, make it easy to buy from you, and you’ll draw in more sales.
Build Traffic Through Shares
You can pay for an advertising campaign on Facebook, and that may be an effective use of your marketing dollars. If your budget’s a bit thin, or if you just want to try your luck with a free tactic, post content that your followers are likely to share. What type of content is most likely to be shared? According to Statista, native video generates the most likes, comments and shares on Facebook, followed closely by native photos. So, upload a video of your product in use, or of you creating your product, if you’re an artisan. That’s the best way to engage your followers and encourage them to share — which builds awareness and draws others to your site.
Using Facebook For Your Business
Facebook is the biggest social network platform in the world with billions of users. How many of them would be interested in buying from you if they knew your product and how to reach you? With its vast reach, combined with its low cost of entry, Facebook can be a tempting venue for eCommerce businesses of all sizes and types.
A Facebook store is easy to set up, and if you’re using a shopping cart platform already, adding a Facebook channel might be even easier. What’s stopping you from giving it a try? You have very little to lose and nothing but sales to gain.
The post The Business Owner’s Guide To Selling On Facebook appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at 22+ Spa Marketing Ideas To Get More Clients via ShivarWeb
Most resort & spa owners would agree that there’s nothing like a full appointment booking. But it’s hard to fill appointments without a regular flow of new clients coming in.
Some spas have a location or reputations that brings in clients with nothing but a phone number. But for most spa owners, you have to go out and market your business to get a quality pool of potential clients.
I’ve consulted on search marketing for many local businesses and beauty business. Based on those experiences, here are some resort & spa marketing ideas that you can use to bring in more clients & appointments.
Create Neighborhood-Specific Website Pages
For clients, “near me” searches are too small, and ZIP code searches are not relevant. Neighborhood / city searches are just right.
That may sound obvious, but most local businesses that I’ve worked with still don’t focus their marketing on neighborhoods. It’s a lot of work. It’s tedious. But it can still be worthwhile.
Create a neighborhood & next to your neighborhood pages to try to rank for “spa in [neighborhood]” searches.
Create Niche Amenity Pages
Lots of clients have specific amenities that they want. Instead of listing your amenities in a giant list, make detailed pages about each amenity. Try to rank for searches like “spa with [amenity]”.
You can use Google Suggest for ideas. Go to Google and type in “[city] spa 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. Here’s an example of how the data is displayed. Just type in “[city] spa” or even just “spa”.
Create Local Data Pages
Create resource guides for people learning more about your city. Create lots of them.
Use Google Autosuggest to understand what people are searching for among your amenities – and then put a local spin on it so that you aren’t competing with large publishers.
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 resorts & spas, 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 what you’ll see.
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.
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 Tourism Agencies
Every city, no matter how small, has an interest in tourism. And spas / resorts are a core part of any tourism package. Make yourself known with local tourism officials, websites, and guides. Too many “local” spas are missing out on a good TripAdvisor profile.
Find those and become a regular fixture.
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 city pages, amenity pages, and everything else on your website will benefit from more inbound links.
Recruit Local Guides from Google Maps
Google Maps dominates local search. They have had a Local Guides program for some time now. They are people who leave frequent, useful reviews. People can subscribe to them to find recommendations.
It’s worth finding Local Guides in your area that are active and pitch them on your spa.
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 clients.
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 client is someone who searches for “spa in [city]”.
But that search click will be very costly.
But like Facebook, you have an “in” – Google Quality Score. Google will show ads higher if they are more relevant even if they don’t have the high bid.
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 Blogs & Travel Guides
Local blogs are often a dime a dozen. The key is to find the ones that are popular – or appear where you want to appear.
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 spa owner.
These networks are interesting because they are specifically local and extremely relevant for local services. They also have new Groupon-style advertising options.
Advertise / Post on Local Subreddits
Reddit is an attractive website for many industries. But local subreddits are especially interesting for local businesses
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.
Post Listings w/ Photos in Instagram
Think about how you can take listing photos & repurpose them across different platforms. Spas have a unique opportunity to create an interesting, relaxing, soothing feed for potential clients. The key is to only be rarely promotional. Make it a feed that is interesting to follow on its own.
Develop a Local Relaxing Pinterest Board
Pinterest is an incredible resource for people looking to live better. You can get in front of prospects with a locally-focused Pinterest board.
Use local photos, recommendations, experiences, etc from real local experience to provide ideas. Promote local artists, makers, etc.
Identify & Market Local Employers
Your clients are all working somewhere. And your prospective clients might be a little stressed out and looking for an accessible provider.
Identify all the largest employers & sources of potential clients 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.
Identify & Market Local Businesses & Amenities
Take what you did with local employers and do the same with local amenities and businesses.
Create pages that act as resource hubs for neighborhood business & amenities.
Identify & Market Popular Client Sources
Take previous & existing clients and try to understand where those clients came from and how they found you.
See if there is a way to build off that success.
Cross-Promote Local Businesses
Your clients will spend money nearby. Figure out what other businesses do well when you have 100% bookings. Offer a way to cross-promote, especially if they have multiple locations or a presence with your target client.
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 open house tours, specials, holidays, etc are marketing staples for resorts. 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 Video Tours To Hack Social Media
Like events, most social media gives preference to video in their feeds. Take interesting video tours of your services & property.
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 apartment 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, 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.
There are a lot of marketing ideas out there for spas and resorts. 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.
Facebook thinks it has a solution for small businesses facing financial burdens from the social distancing measures necessitated by COVID-19: Paid online events for small businesses that want to host customers virtually.
These events, which Facebook announced during a call with reporters last week, allow business owners to create an event, set the attendance price for customers, and then promote and host the event — all within Facebook’s own Pages ecosystem. The feature is available in the US and 19 other countries.
Curious businesses can see if their Facebook Page qualifies for the paid online events feature through Facebook. Eligible businesses will need to meet Facebook’s partner monetization policies to make money off of events hosted through the social network.
“With social distancing mandates still in place, many businesses and creators are bringing their events and services online to connect with existing customers and reach new ones,” Head of Facebook App Fidji Simo Vice President wrote in a blog post. “People are also relying on live video and interactive experiences more when they canât come together physically.”
That reliance on live video can be broken down in numbers — Simo revealed that the number of live broadcasts by Pages doubled year-over-year in June.
Simo wrote that in the testing phase of paid online events businesses used the feature to host “expert talks, trivia events, podcast recordings, boxing matches, cooking classes, intimate meet-and-greets, fitness classes, and more.”
Because this new feature combines marketing, payment, and live video on a single platform, Simo claims it meets the “end-to-end needs” of small businesses.
Additionally, she teased that Facebook is testing paid events for Messenger Rooms. This feature aims to enable “more personal and interactive gatherings.”
Related: Instagramâs New Commerce Rules For Businesses Are Now Live
Fees Waived For At Least One Year
In an effort to rejuvenate small businesses during the pandemic, Facebook won’t collect any fees through the paid events feature “for at least the next year.” To this end, businesses will receive 100% of the revenue for transactions made on the web and on Android in Facebook Pay-supported countries.
However, businesses won’t receive a 100% cut for transactions made on iOS, Simo noted in a cheeky call-out of Apple.
Simo wrote that Facebook asked Apple to reduce the 30% fee that exists for money made through apps released on the iOS App Store. According to Simo, slicing the fee would allow Facebook to “absorb all costs for businesses struggling during COVID-19.” Apple reportedly denied the request.
In a screenshot of the payment flow, Facebook highlighted how its iOS app includes a disclaimer below the payment button that says “Apple takes 30% of this purchase.” Facebook also showed off a screenshot of the payment flow for its Android app, which instead notes that “Facebook doesn’t take a fee from this purchase.”
Facebook’s little jab comes at a time when Apple is currently embattled in a bloodbath with Epic Games over the 30% App Store cut. The social network has also been running its own feud with Apple. Just last month, Facebook claimed the profitably of its targeted ads could be damaged by new user-set tracking features in Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 operating system.
Other Ways To Expand Your Business During COVID-19
Besides Facebook’s new paid online events, there are plenty of other ways for small businesses to come up with new cash streams during the pandemic.
For more inspiration, check out Merchant Maverick’s five marketing tactics small business can use during COVID-19. We’ve also highlighted how small businesses can survive social distancing requirements.
If you’re looking for more general advice regarding COVID-19, check out our coronavirus hub.
Do you have a story idea, tip, or press release for the Merchant Maverick news team? Shoot us an email: [email protected]
The post Generate More Income For Your Small Business With Facebookâs New Paid Online Events appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
You’ve got a dynamite online store and unbeatable products that should be flying off the virtual shelf. So why aren’t customers flocking to your website to buy?
You probably designed your website with your customers in mind, making it easy for them to find what they need, once they make their way to your store. But if you stopped there, that may be the source of the problem. Even the best online store will go nowhere if your ideal customers aren’t able to find you, and that’s where SEO comes in.
SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” which sounds pretty technical. Fortunately, it’s not that complicated, although there is an art to getting it right.
Every eCommerce seller needs to know at least the basics of SEO so that you can help put your brand and your products in front of the right customers to increase your sales. That’s where this guide comes in. It’s a beginner’s guide to eCommerce SEO â for people who know that SEO matters but don’t really know where to begin. Keep reading, and we’ll walk you through the basics, so you start feeling comfortable tackling the first steps of adding SEO to your website.
What Is SEO?
Customers who have your store’s URL, or web address, can type it into their browsers and visit your store easily. For customers that already know about you and want to buy from you, SEO doesn’t matter a whole lot. It’s the potential customers, those who will open their browser to a search engine such as Google and type something along the lines of “Where can I buy (your product)”â those are the ones you can guide to your online store through the skillful use of SEO.
Think about it like this: Google executes an estimated 63,000 searches every second of every day, according to Internet Live Stats. Those searches are based on information Google organizes in a search index and sorts with complex and secret algorithms. Google says that its search index contains hundreds of billions of web pages, and it’s big: over 100 million gigabytes. The index has an entry for every word on every webpage indexed, and those entries are what Google sorts through in deciding how to present answers to users’ search queries. If your site contains the right words, among other factors, you’re more likely to show up in search results.
Why SEO Matters For Your eCommerce Store
SEO is a modern-day marketing technique. In the old days, you might have put an ad in the Yellow Pages or the local newspaper. Today, instead of designing print ads, you can drive traffic to your store by developing your site with SEO in mind. SEO is so vital to business success today that US companies will spend an estimated $79 billion on SEO marketing in 2020, according to Statista. Here’s why companies are willing to invest that kind of money:
SEO Can Be Free
When you place an ad, whether it’s in print or online, you’re paying for a service. When you learn to use SEO techniques to draw more customers to your online store, that’s known as building “organic traffic,” meaning customers are naturally finding you rather than you reaching out to them through paid advertising. You’re not paying anything beyond the time you invest to gain SEO skills. And sure, you could pay a consultant to do that for you, as the biggest eCommerce players do, but there’s no reason everyone involved in eCommerce, especially those working on a small scale, can’t learn to use SEO to improve site traffic.
SEO Helps You Improve Your Website
As you learn more about SEO, you’ll find that at the most basic level, it just means using the same language on your web store as your customers use when they’re searching for products and solutions like those you’re offering. So when you start using those words more frequently and more prominently on your web pages, you’ll start to connect better with your customers, boosting sales in the process.
SEO Delivers Long-Term Results
When you gain a handle on SEO and use it appropriately, you should start to see increased traffic to your store. The best part is SEO isn’t something you have to update continually. Get it right, and you can continue to tweak it, but you won’t have to reinvent your strategy every quarter or year. There are other things you will need to update to stay relevant â Google favors recent content, for example, so you’ll want to keep adding fresh blog posts, product listings, photos, videos, and so on.
eCommerce SEO Basics Every Online Seller Needs To Know
Once you understand why SEO is worth investing your time in â and if you’re convinced that it’s something you can do yourself â you’re ready to learn some of the SEO elements you can start working on today. The following is a collection of SEO elements that are proven to improve your website’s search engine performance. These may sound unfamiliar, but we’ll walk you through the basics of each, including steps you can take right away to start improving your SEO performance.
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One of the easiest ways you can boost your website’s SEO performance is to brush up on keywords.
What Are Keywords
Keywords are search terms. Interestingly, keywords can be a single word or a short phrase that commonly appears in search terms. They help your website rank higher and appear in the results of web searches. In the example below, the most important keywords would be “color” and “banana.” So if you wanted to draw people searching for the answer to this question to your site, you’d want to be sure to feature those words on your website.
Screenshot of Google search page captured 8/13/2020
Keywords Research 101
Hopefully, most of your customers don’t need to look online to find out what color bananas are. But they may be performing searches like the one below. For this example, just substitute one of your top-selling products for the words “blue jelly beans,” and you’ll see one way that customers can find you.
Screenshot of Google webpage captured 8/13/2020
If you were to click on the top few results from this jelly bean search, when you visit those web pages, you’d see that every one of them uses the words blue, jelly, and bean in their product titles and descriptions. That’s SEO at work! Those websites and products show up in this very simple Google search because they prominently feature the words we searched for.
You can get started improving your SEO game by looking at your products and your brand to identify a few keywords you want to be associated with. Visit your top competitors’ online stores. What words do you see, over and over, in their product titles and descriptions? If you want your website and your products to show up in more searches, you should make sure that you’re featuring those words too.
Then take it one step further and look to see what your customers are looking for. That will allow you to market your products more effectively by hitting the right keyword searches. There are two types of tools that can assist you in this:
You can learn to use keywords more effectively, without spending a nickel. Here are a few good tools you can start with. These may offer a free trial, or they may be forever free.
You can do quite a bit when you start exploring the free tools mentioned above. If you’re ready to devote a little more time and even some money to your SEO strategies, you can invest in one of these more advanced tools. You’ll find they have a learning curve, but the payoff will be worth it.
Improving your keywords isn’t the only thing you can do to improve your SEO results. Pay attention to title tags as well because they’re one of the first things potential customers see when they search via Google. So if you want people to click through to your store, you need effective title tags.
What Are Title Tags?
A title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of a webpage. Here’s how it looks:
Screenshot of page source code captured 8/13/2020
You can check out the titles of any web pages you’d like. Simply load the page on your browser and hit Control + U to View Page Source. Next, hit Control + F and type “title” in the search box that pops up to see the title highlighted in the code. Everything between the highlights that read “title” is that web page’s title tag, and they usually are displayed as the clickable link on search engine result pages.
Tips For How To Write Title Tags
If you’re using an online sales platform (such as Shopify, for example) or a website builder (such as Wix, among others), the program you’re using will create title tags for you based on the words you enter for each page. You can, however, edit those automatic title tags if you wish. Search the help feature to find out the best way to do that on the platform you’re using. Here are some general suggestions for writing title tags:
Keep It Short
There’s a limit to how many characters can be displayed in a search engine response. The best advice is to keep your title below 70 characters, so the whole thing appears in search results.
Every single page needs its own title tag. That helps your site to show up in more online searches.
Make sure to include the most important words in your title tags to improve your ranking in search results. Think about what words customers will use to search for products like those you’re selling. Those are the words you want to include in your title tags.
Meta descriptions are a page element that doesn’t necessarily help your search engine rankings, but they can help drive traffic to your online store. The key: Include words that give customers a reason to want whatever it is that you’re offering them.
What Are Meta Descriptions?
A meta description is another HTML element, sometimes called a “snippet,” that’s used to summarize each webpage’s content. Execute a search, and you’re likely to see these snippets, or summaries, in the search results. Here’s an example:
Screenshot of Google webpage captured 8/14/2020
In this case, the meta description offers a short overview of the content you’ll find when you click on the link and read the articles that appear in this search result. If your customers are searching for products like yours to buy, you’ll want them to see compelling product descriptions in your meta descriptions that give them a reason to buy. That can be done by using important keywords to show them that they’re on the right track and compelling action words that give them an incentive to click through to your page.
Tips For How To Write Meta Descriptions
As with title tags, if you’re using a web builder or a shopping cart platform, meta descriptions will be automatically generated for you. However, you can edit them if you wish. Here are some general tips for writing meta descriptions that deliver results:
Keep It Short
Search engines allow only so much room for meta descriptions to display. So to keep descriptions from getting cut off, you should keep them under 160 characters. If you do go over, make sure that you front-load the most important words.
Compare, Then Contrast
Look up some of your competitors’ meta descriptions. Google them, and notice what snippets appear when you do. To a certain extent, you want to use the same language that the majority of your competitors are using. But if you’re going to stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to go beyond. Make sure you include valuable keywords but also provide a compelling reason to visit your site instead of theirs.
Sound Like A Person
Remember that online shoppers are looking for sites they can trust. They’re more likely to click on a link that makes them feel they’re engaging with a human being and not a sales-generating robot. Yes, you need to keep it short, and yes, you need to use important keywords. As much as you can, use a conversational tone in meta descriptions rather than making a blatant sales pitch. That means telling people what’s in it for them or how they will benefit from visiting your site.
Image Alt Text
Although there are billions of words on the internet, it’s the images that capture customers’ interest. That’s why photos of your products are so crucial to eCommerce. What happens, though, when your photos don’t load for some reason when customers are searching online?
What Is Alt Text On Images?
Unfortunately, there are lots of reasons why your images might not load on customers’ devices, especially on phones. The problem may be on the customer’s end, or it may be that your photo files are just too large and cause the browser to time out. That’s why you need to include alt text for every image on your website.
Alt text (sometimes called alt tags or alt descriptions) is written words that can appear in place of images that fail to appear on a user’s screen. Importantly, alt text also is used to describe images to visually impaired readers.
Tips For How To Add Image Alt Text
Remember the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? When your website’s pictures won’t load or can’t be seen, you don’t have 1,000 words to replace them. So you have to make the few words you have available count. Here’s how:
If you couldn’t see a product picture, what would you still most want to know about it? Tell customers exactly what the photo shows. This isn’t the time to overuse keywords in an attempt to boost your search engine rankings. In fact, if you stuff alt text full of keywords, it may make your site seem untrustworthy. If you do use keywords, use them only once per image.
Know When To Stop
Experts agree that you should limit alt text to 125 characters. That limit doesn’t allow a lot of words, maybe 10 or 15, depending on their length. Opt for smaller words with similar meaning, such as big instead of large, to save characters.
Each time you list a product for sale in your online store, you’ll have a chance to enter a description of that product. You already know that it gives you a way to entice customers to buy from you. But did you know that your product listing can also affect how many customers find your store?
What Are Product Listings?
Search engines such as Google look through the words on your product pages, looking for keywords that determine how high your page will rank in users’ searches. So when you create a vivid, descriptive listing with an eye toward SEO, you can increase not only sales but also traffic overall.
Tips For How To Write Product Listings
If your goal is to show up in search listings and to rank as high as possible, use these strategies:
Use A Variety Of Keywords
While it’s never a good idea to repeat keywords (that’s a strategy that will backfire because it makes you look like a spam site), you can use an assortment of them, including variations. For example, suppose that you sell T-shirts in your store. If your product description reads “Blue T-shirt with starfish design,” you may rank high when customers search for those exact keywords. But what about those looking for 100% cotton shirts, shirts with ocean themes, screen-printed T-shirts, and so on? You will draw more customers your way with a product description that includes all of these relevant words.
Take a look at your competitors’ product listings, noticing what they leave out. You can add words to our listings that capitalize on those differences. If your prints are made with organic soy ink and recycled paper, say so. Go even further by explaining why and using words such as nontoxic and zero-waste that will appeal to your ideal buyer.
It stands for Uniform Resource Locator, and you use them every time you type in a web address. But what exactly is a URL, how does it relate to SEO, and how can you use your URLs to draw traffic and increase sales from your online store?
What Are URLs?
Most of the internet actually is constructed of numbers and letters. Every device that connects to the internet has a series of numbers and letters called an IP address. The problem is, those IP addresses are not handy and easy-to-remember words such as Amazon and Google. That’s where domain names come in. You register your website with a domain name, usually the name of your business or something similar.
Although a lot of people think a URL is the same thing as a domain name, it’s not. Your domain name is a part of your URL, however, combined with numbers and letters that provide a sort of roadmap telling computers how to get there. Every webpage has a unique URL.
Tips For SEO-Friendly URLs
Search engines look at your URL, among other SEO functions.
Keep Them Simple
URLs should be simple and descriptive of the content, using keywords and product titles as much as possible. Don’t reuse them, though. You risk your credibility when you overdo it. Check your URLs before you publish pages. If the URL was automatically assigned, you might see a string of numbers and letters at the end. If so, you need to edit that. Those letters and numbers are meaningless to customers and hard to remember. Replace that with words that have meaning.
Make Them Descriptive
If you have written a blog post, for example, to highlight a new product line, the URL for that post should include related keywords that let readers know about it and ensure it ranks in online searches.
Use Proper URL Punctuation
Forget everything you learned in grammar school about capitalization, punctuation, and spacing. Good URLs use all lower case letters, not capitals. And you should use dashes to link words in one long chain, with no spaces: best-ecommerce-seo-tips is the most effective way to write it.
Getting Started With eCommerce SEO
Now that you’ve made it through this crash course in the basics of SEO, you may have more questions than answers. That’s okay. SEO is a vast topic, with experts devoting their careers to advising businesses on the subject. For a small vendor who is just getting started, SEO can feel overwhelming. The best antidote to that feeling is not to put it off â or to begin budgeting for consultants’ fees. Your next best step is to pick one small area to start improving on in the big field of SEO.
Our suggestion: Start by updating your title tags. Research the keywords your competitors are using and make sure to incorporate them into your title tags. Record the changes you make, so you can track what works and what didn’t. Then you can try again to improve if you need to.
Remember that SEO is an ongoing process, not something you do once and then forget about. You’ll want to stay on top of keyword trends, particularly as you add new and different products. Managing SEO can seem like a daunting task. That’s why we say to take it slow. Any changes you make are a step in the right direction. You may feel daunted by the process, as you’re first building your skills, but you’ll find that the effort you put into SEO will more than pay off. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get started using your new SEO knowledge to boost online traffic to your store.
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Venture capital: As an entrepreneur, you’ve undoubtedly heard of it, but you may not be familiar with exactly how it works or whether it could be a good option for your business. You may be wondering if your startup is even eligible for venture capital. Keep reading to learn what venture capital is, what sorts of businesses and entrepreneurs are good candidates for VC funding, and how to go about tapping into this resource!
What Is Venture Capital?
Venture capital is a type of equity financing where investors provide capital to a young business with high growth potential in exchange for equity in the business. In addition to ponying up startup funds, VC investors also give direction to the companies they invest in to help them succeed. The venture capitalist’s long-term goal is to make a profit when the company they invest in goes public or is sold to another company.
Venture capital firms are usually looking to invest in tech companies, though some may specialize in healthcare or other industries. Most VC firms specialize in a specific type of industry, focusing on businesses that are in a particular stage of growth. VC firms are often located in or near tech metropolises, such as New York City, San Francisco, Boston, and Austin, and usually (but not always) focus on businesses in their immediate region.
How Venture Capital Works
Most everyone has seen Shark Tank, but in actuality, there’s a bit more to VC than making a quick pitch to a room of hyper-critical rich people. Securing VC funding is a little less intimidating than defending your life’s work to Mark Cuban in under five minutes, but it’s also a long, multistage process. It requires a significant amount of patience, diligence, and flexibility, as you may have to change your company to fit your investor’s vision for growth. You should also keep in mind that VC funding is extremely competitive, and your company must have a lot to offer potential investors â only about 0.05% of startups are able to obtain this coveted form of capital.
Venture capital is not a loan; venture capitalists invest in companies in exchange for equity or ownership in the company, betting that they will make money if your company does well. So what are these entities that supply venture capital? Generally, they are investment firms (rather than individual investors). Venture capital investment firms raise and pool funds from a range of sources, from corporations to nonprofits, pension funds, and wealthy individuals. These investors are limited partners in the venture capital firm.
VC financing is risky for the investor, which often loses money when a company fails. However, they know that not every company they invest in is going to be the next Uber or PayPal. The VC investor can offset their risk by investing in many different businesses, some of which may deliver a phenomenal profit. Most VC firms make a profit of about 20% a year.
How Venture Capital Compares
Venture capital shares similarities to certain other types of startup financing, but there are also some important differences you should know about.
Venture Capital VS Debt Financing
As mentioned, venture capital is a form of equity financing. Equity financing differs from debt financing in several ways. Namely, debt financing is structured as a loan, which you have to pay back with interest. However, the debtor is just a debtor; they don’t own any part of your company or have any say in your business decisions. Some examples of debt financing include lines of credit, business credit cards, and SBA loans.
Venture capital is not a loan, so the recipient does not have to pay it back or pay any interest or fees. VC also includes more than just capital â you also get business guidance and mentorship. But in exchange for the help getting your business off the ground, you have to forfeit some control over your company to the venture capital firm. Also, unlike debt financing, which serves a wide variety of business types, only certain kinds of businesses â technology and innovation businesses with high growth potential â are good candidates for venture capital.
ReadÂ Pros & Cons Of Debt VS Equity Financing to learn more about the differences between debt financing and equity financing (such as venture capital).
Venture Capital VS Private Equity
Venture capital and private equity are both types of equity financing and are similar in several respects. PE investment firms and VC investment firms both provide capital to privately-owned companies, using pooled funds from investors that are limited partners of the firm. The main difference is that VCs invest in startup companies in exchange for a minority stake in the company (less than 50%). In contrast, PEs invest in mature companiesÂ for a majority stake (more than 50%).
Also, while VC-backed companies tend to be innovative and tech-focused, PEs tend to invest in traditional industries, such as retail, restaurants, and manufacturing. The types of mature companies PEs invest in need capital to expand, address inefficiencies, or fix stagnation related to lack of capital.
Venture Capital VS Angel Investors
Angel investors also have a lot of things in common with venture capitalists. Angel investors invest in privately-held companies in exchange for equity, but these investors tend to be high net-worth individuals or groups of individuals (rather than investment firms). Most angel investors are entirely profit-motivated, but some angel investors are at least partially motivated by philanthropy. For example, there are angle investment groups dedicated to helping fund underserved business owner demographics, such as women-owned businesses or veteran-owned businesses.
Angel investors typically offer smaller investments and have a more hands-off approach to supporting your company. They also tend to serve a wider variety of industries than VC companies and offer more flexible terms.
When Venture Capital Is The Right Choice For Your Business
The following are attributes of business owners who are well-suited for venture capital investment:
Your business is related to technology or innovation (some examples include web-based tech, sustainable energy, fintech, healthcare technologies, scientific research, software development, electronics, and telecommunications)
You are fine with eventually selling your company, and you have an exit plan if you do sell
You can see your company going public at some point, and you have considered the pros and cons of doing so
You are okay with divesting some control over and stake in your company to an investor (control freaks and VCs aren’t a good mix)
You are a serial entrepreneur (or aspire to be one); that is, you develop companies with a plan to sell them or take them public and then start another one
You have a lot of business connections, and, ideally, some of these connections are in VC
Your company is located in or near a venture capital hotspot (such as the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, LA, NYC, etc.)
If Venture Capital Is The Right Fit: Next Steps
Do you fit the above criteria? Here’s what the process of obtaining venture capital might look like for you.
The beginning of your venture capital journey is all about finding the perfect fit. It’s a lot different than getting a bank loan, where you simply apply to various lending institutions that provide financing for a variety of business types. With venture capital, you need to find an investor that caters to your specific type of business in your particular stage of growth â for example, semi-established fintech companies or healthcare technology companies that haven’t gone to market yet. Location matters, too â whether your company is based in the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, or elsewhere, you will want to find and nurture VC contacts in your local market.
Once you have found a suitable VC firm to approach â and, ideally, you should already have a relationship with this firm rather than contacting them out of the blue â you can pitch your idea/company and see if they will consider funding you. If it’s a good fit, and they decide to move forward and invest in you, the investor will perform a valuation of your company, both before and after the cash infusion. The valuation will determine the percentage of stock the VCs will own in the company and may also determine the amount of influence the investors have in steering the company before your IPO or sale.
Stages Of Funding
After a deal has been agreed on, funding begins. This usually happens in several rounds, the first of which is called seed funding. Seed capital is meant to get a very new business off the ground (the average seed round is $2.2 million) and may be used to do things, such as develop a prototype, assemble a management team, or create a business plan. Successive rounds of funding, called series, may become available as the business expands. Series A funding and Series B funding, for example, focus on somewhat-established businesses that are already offering a product and have a customer base, whereas Series C funding helps mature companies expand or even acquire other companies. Different venture capital firms usually cater to different specific phases.
From sending your pitch deck to attending meetings with investors to performing due diligence, it can take from six to nine months or longer to get your first round of seed funding.
Learn About Other Types Of Financing For Startups & Entrepreneurs
If VC isnât the right fit, that’s okay. There are many other types of financing that might be better suited for your small business. Some options include small business loans, small business grants, crowdfunded loans, personal loans, and lines of credit. Start your research by checking out these resources with relevant information about various forms of startup financing.
8 Alternative Funding Sources If Venture Capital Isn’t The Right Fit For Your Startup Or Small Business
6 Financing Options For Up & Coming Entrepreneurs (Plus 4 Expert Funding Tips To Get You Started)
20 Best Ways To Finance A Business Start-Up
What Is Venture Debt & Is It The Right Type Of Financing For My Startup Business?
What Is Debt Crowdfunding & When Is It The Right Choice For My Small Business?
Small Business Startup Loans: Your 8 Best Options
Do I Qualify For A Startup Grant?
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