Google Sites Review: Pros & Negatives of Using Google’s Website Builder

Google Sites Review Pros & Negatives of Using Googles Website Builder

Google Sites is Google’s free website builder software that it offers as part of the G Suite of Drive, Email, Hangouts, etc.

Sites has never been highly publicized like its other products. I’ve always thought of Sites as part of the bucket of products like Drawing, Blogger, and Correlate that sort of come as part of other, well-known product lines but are otherwise forgotten about…yet still awesome in their own way.

If you have a Google Account, go check out Google Sites here.

I’ve written about Google’s Domains product and Blogger – but have never looked at Google Sites specifically.

My experience with Google Sites began back when I first started my web design business years and years ago. I never used Google Sites for my own projects until I came across it when a client of mine was using it and needed a few tasks done.

But since then, better competition has popped up from Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, WordPress.com, Website Creator, and other website builders. And Google has upgraded the product I originally used. They’ve streamlined it to make it supposedly the “effortless way to create beautiful sites.”

See Google Sites here…

Skip to the Conclusion & Next Steps

So for a personal project of mine, I decided to try it out again and see who the product would really be a good fit for – and not just compare it to other hosted website builders.

I also wanted to compare Google Sites to other website solutions like hosting your own website or using a hosted eCommerce platform.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

New Google Sites vs. Classic Google Sites vs. Google My Business Website

Google is notorious for rolling out overlapping & competing with their own products – only to kill or update them after a couple years.

And Google Sites is no different. When discussing Google’s website builder product, there are really up to 4 products in play.

1. Blogger

Ok – Blogger is an old-school but still surprisingly good blogging platform. You can create a website with it. You can do designs, templates, and everything else. It’s free. But – you are stuck with the reverse-chronological display of posts. I won’t really be covering this here. I wrote a Blogger review here.

2. Google My Business Website

This is Google’s website product for small, local businesses. You can’t use it unless you have a Google My Business account. The product is less of a “website builder” than a super-detailed local business listing. I won’t really be covering this here. You can read a good FAQ of this product here.

3. Classic Google Sites

This is the product that I started with years and years ago. It still lives at sites.google.com – and it’s decidedly old school.

You can find links to it throughout Google Sites.

Classic Sites

The ironic bit about Classic Google Sites is that it actually has more technical options than Google Sites…even if it is less user-friendly.

Old School Google SItesMost of the pros/negatives of Classic Sites are the same as Google Sites. But I would not consider it for a long-term project since Google will likely kill it any day now if their history is anything to go by.

4. Google Web Designer

This product is not related at all – despite its name.

Google Web Designer

Google Web Designer is a desktop app to create designs for the Web (aka banner ads).

5. New Google Sites (free)

Ok – this is what we’re going to talk about. This is Google’s main website builder software. It is available for anyone with a Google Account. It not only lives on Google Drive – but it is marketed with Sheets, Docs, Drawings and more.

New Google Sites

6. New Google Sites (G Suite)

Ok – this software is the same as the free Google Sites, except that it is built for business subscribers to the G Suite (the old Google Apps for Business). It is exactly the same as the free Google Sites, but has different account permissions and generally receives product updates – like custom domain mapping – sooner than the free version.

Let’s look at the pros & negatives.

Pros of Google Sites

Google Sites has a lot going for it. I know an eCommerce store owner who started and ran her store for 2 years before she began to look for a new solution (though it took a lot of hacking around with PayPal scripts). Here are the major pros.

Price

Google Sites is free with unlimited use, traffic, and websites. This is possibly the most compelling part of Google Sites.

It’s part of Google’s relentless push to keep you signed into your Google account for as much as possible. If you are signed into your personal Google account, you can go to sites.google.com right now and get started. There are no risks, no upsells, no expiration dates or limits. It’s just free due to Google’s crazy innovative business model.

And if you are a paying G Suite for Business user, Sites is bundled with your subscription along with all the backups, administrative controls, and guarantees that come with your account.

There’s no risks and no catch and no “trying” – you can go get started now.*

*of course – there is your time and learning curve investment – which we’ll discuss in the negatives section.

Google Integration

Sites is fully integrated with Google’s products. With the new Google Sites, it even has all the same Material Design conventions of Google’s other products.

Your site is saved directly in your Google Drive. You can access it anywhere with any device. You can download it along with your other data from Google Takeout.

Hosting in Your Google Drive

There are no additional passwords or account setup – it’s seamless and fully integrated.

Simplicity & Security

Google Sites is simple and straightforward to use.

Google Sites Google Features

The learning curve is measured in minutes. There’s no real “onboarding” or education because everything that is available with the product is “right there.”

You can build a multi-page beautiful, functional website quickly and simply.

Google Sites Drag & Drop

Additionally, Google handles your security issues…since it is one and the same as your email account.

Speed & Sharing

Like security, Google handles your speed considerations. The resulting HTML / CSS product is lean on fast servers and available worldwide.

Since it is fully integrated with your Google Account – it is simple to share & preview. You can create & collaborate on a website as easily as you can on a Google Doc.

Negatives of Google Sites

Now – there are plenty of negatives with Google Sites. Like I’ve said with all website builders – there is no overall “best” – there’s only the best for you considering your budget, time, resources, and goals.

After reading the pros of Google Sites – you are probably wondering how Google Sites isn’t the go-to solution for every website.

Well, Google Sites has plenty of negatives. But the summary is that Google Sites is very feature-limited and not really meant for long-term website projects (hence the simplicity).

I like to use real estate as an analogy. If running your own website on your own hosting account is like owning a building on your own property and using a website builder like Weebly is like running a business in a leased storefront, then Google Sites is like leasing a table at a farmer’s market or festival.

It’s great for short-term, quick projects. And you do have plenty of options to “make it yours” – but it’s not really meant for a long-term business website. Let’s look at some of the specifics.

Limited Design Features

Google Sites’ design features are sorely limited.

Your template limits exactly what you can and cannot edit. And – you have very few templates to choose from in the first place.

You cannot add or edit CSS and add any kind of interactivity.

The design features on offer are simple and straightforward – but they are all Google Drive related design tools. There’s some embedding but no editing the embed details.

Although the templates look good, you can’t edit the layouts or any of the core parameters.

For example, with your navigation menu, you get to choose from the top right or the sidebar…and that’s it. There’s no 3rd option or even re-arranging.

Google Sites Template Options

The templates look good on all devices but impose strict limits on everything to make this feature happen.

If you want to build any sort of brand identity or build a custom design with tempates – then you’ll be sorely limited with Google Sites.

Limited Marketing Features

Google Sites’ marketing features are sorely limited as well. As a professional marketer, this negative is particularly glaring.

You get Google Analytics access so that you can have critical data like Sessions and Pageviews and such…but that’s about it.

Google Sites Analytics Options

There’s no adding a Facebook Pixel, Share Buttons or Redirects. If you’re into SEO, there’s no editing your Title tag or meta description.

Now – if you get all your traffic from offline methods, direct web referrals, or word of mouth then these tools may not matter.

However, since marketing data is only as useful as the amount of historical data you have – if you ever have plans to grow or use other marketing channels, then Google Sites will not be a good option.

Custom Domain Setup

All Google Sites use https://sites.google.com/[yoursitename] as the default domain name. Unlike Classic Google Sites, there is no option to add a custom domain name.

Google Sites Domain Name Options

I don’t know why. The feature might be coming since Google rolled out custom domains to the new Google Sites for G Suite subscribers.

Either way – this is a major downside for Google Sites as a business or even a personal website. While not strictly necessary for a successful website, a domain name is fundamental for any long-term project.

It’s this missing feature that really highlights the fact that Google Sites is really only for temporary projects or internal uses – similar to a Google Doc or Presentation.

Future-Proofing

Google is notorious for killing off products – including really popular ones. And while Google Sites does seem to be a core part of Google’s productivity suite…that could change at any time (as is the case with the Classic Google Sites).

And while you can export your data as part of Google’s Takeout program, there’s no way to directly export or access your account via FTP within Google Sites.

If you are running a business or even a personal site on Google Sites, you should be aware that it could go away at some point in the future and you should have a plan for that.

Google Sites Comparison

Google Sites is a good product that serves a purpose – but how does it compare directly with other products in the website builder world?

Google Sites vs. Squarespace

I reviewed Squarespace here. If you have a small, temporary project, then Google Sites will be the fit. Squarespace is pricey and has its own learning curve. But – if you have a long-term business or personal project and you value well-done templates that display high-quality photography, then Squarespace will be a better fit.

Google Sites vs. Wix

I reviewed Wix here. Wix has a free plan where you use a [yoursitename].wix.com domain name – so in some ways it’s similar to Google Sites. But with Wix, you have premium plans and access to custom domains. They also offer more features on their free plan. Wix has similar issues to other website builders, but unless you are building a very small free project, then I’d go with Wix. Unlike Google Sites, Wix at least allows you to design more and grow out of the free plan. See Wix’s plans & pricing here.

Google Sites vs. GoDaddy’s Website Builder

I reviewed GoDaddy’s Website Builder (aka “GoCentral) here. It is very feature limited compared to Google Sites…but it’s also super easy to use with a few more marketing tools. Critically, it allows you to seamlessly integrate a custom domain. However, it’s also a paid product. If you have some budget and want a custom domain, but do not want/need many features – then I’d use GoDaddy’s Website Builder. For a free price point – you’ll get a similar product with Google Sites.

Google Sites vs. Weebly

I reviewed Weebly here. Weebly is a solid hosted website builder. They have a free plan with a [yoursitename].weebly.com domain name – but they also have upgrade options and custom domain name options and interesting beginner-level ecommerce options. Unless you have a specific reason to use Google Sites, I’d use Weebly for their drag & drop and upgradeable setup.

Google Sites vs. WordPress.com

I wrote about WordPress.com vs. WordPress here. WordPress.com has a free plan that is limited to [yoursitename].wordpress.com domain name. The setup is focused on blogging – but they have website features & plenty of upgrade options – including a custom domain option. Unless you have a specific reason to use Google Sites, I’d use WordPress.com for their design features and upgradeable setup.

Google Sites vs. Self-hosted WordPress

I wrote about setting up a WordPress website here. This option requires some budget (about $5/mo) and has some learning curve, but it’s also the best long-term option for businesses investing in their online presence. If you have simple, short-term project with a definite end then I’d just use Google Sites. If you know that you have a long-term project, then you’ll want to invest in the learning curve and go ahead and set up your own site on your own hosting.

Conclusion & Next Steps

So – is Google Sites good for small business? Yes…ish. As a defined short-term solution or project-based solution, it’s great. Go set up your site here.

But…if you have a short-term project that might expand, then I’d look at other options. Take my best website builder quiz here.

If you have a project that is long-term and worth investing in, then I’d go ahead and get your self-hosted website setup w/ instructions here.

The post Google Sites Review: Pros & Negatives of Using Google’s Website Builder appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Yahoo! Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Yahoo! Website Builder Review_ Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Yahoo! Small Business Website Builder is known as an all-inclusive website builder that’s tailored to helping small business owners get up and running online quickly and easily. They’re also known for offering responsive websites, which means the site fits on any device (i.e. a tablet, phone, computer).

See Yahoo’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave Yahoo! a try for a full Yahoo! review. But before I get into the pros and cons of my Yahoo! Website Builder review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.

There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

What Is Yahoo! Website Builder?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Yahoo! lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.

Using Yahoo! is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Yahoo!, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Yahoo! competes with all-inclusive website builders like GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo, and WordPress.com  (and Shopify for online stores).

Compared to their direct competition, they focus on speed, ease of use, and responsive design (again, web jargon for making your website mobile device-friendly). Yahoo! offers several website templates you can customize, and it also allows you to build your own pages from scratch using their premade sections that you can drop onto the page.

One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using Yahoo! Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Yahoo! website builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Straightforward Sign Up Process

One of the biggest pros of using Yahoo! Sitebuilder is how easy it is to get up and running on the platform. It’s basically just two steps — pick your theme, enter your information to create your account, and you’re in! Yahoo! automatically sets you up with their free plan, so you don’t even have to pull out a credit card.

Yahoo Sign Up Process

This is great for DIYers who want to get up and running as quickly as possible without the hassle of creating a detailed account, selecting a niche, etc.

Template Design / Functionality

Yahoo! also offers a wide selection of template designs that are responsive (AKA they look good on a mobile device, tablet, and computer). There are a wide variety of options to choose from, and all of the templates are really well designed.

Yahoo Website Options

Yahoo! Site Builder isn’t technically drag-and-drop (you choose from premade sections and “drop” those onto your page), but it is fairy intuitive to use. You can customize the styles on the page (like fonts and colors), and you can add premade sections and blocks, but you don’t get the ability to add elements willy nilly.

I did like how the software automatically matches a new “section” to your overall theme for you, so you don’t have to worry about changing the fonts and colors to match what you already have.

Yahoo Apply Website Style

The whole setup is like painting by numbers.

There are obvious drawbacks to this setup, which I will cover in the disadvantages, but it is a real advantage to having limited but accessible design options. It makes Yahoo! Site Builder a great option for small business owners / DIY-ers who want a website that looks professionally designed without having to hire someone to build something custom or spend much time tweaking the design themselves.

Free Starter Plan

Another benefit Yahoo! Site Builder is their free starter plan. In comparison to their direct competitors, Yahoo!’s free plan is fairly extensive.

While some website builders cap your pages or even your access to support with a free plan, Yahoo! offers unlimited pages, support, and even built-in SEO functionality on a page-by-page basis.

Yahoo SEO Elements

There are some cons with the free plan, such as limited storage, having to use a subdomain (ex: yourname.yahoosites.com), and extremely limited integrations — but if you’re looking for a simple site for a short-term project, this could be a solid option.

Some Product Integration

Another benefit of Yahoo! Site Builder is their product integrations. Aside from offering DNS and hosting services, Yahoo! also offers email functionality in their paid plans.

Yahoo Plan Options

You can also get ecommerce functionality, but Yahoo! separates ecommerce websites into an entirely different category (“stores” instead of “websites”) with their own unique pricing plans — which we’ll touch more on in a bit!

Cons

Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at the specific cons I found with using Yahoo! as your website builder.

Pricing + Plans

While Yahoo! is fairly easy and convenient for DIYers and small businesses, they do leave a lot to be desired when it comes to pricing. All of their plans come with storage caps, which means you’re limited to the photos, documents, files, etc. you store on your website.

It’s confusing to having ecommerce websites in an entirely different category. These websites come with different pricing plans, functionality, and specifications.

On the one hand, this is fine if you know that you want to build a shop from the get-go. But if you wanted to start with a website then add on ecommerce functionality, this structure makes it more complicated.

Yahoo Ecommerce

Limited Feature Set – Design

With any technology product, there is almost always a trade-off between convenience and control (think Android vs. iOS)

And you can really see this trade-off with the Yahoo! website builder. The convenience of their design setup is great. It’s straightforward and fast, and puts your focus on getting your content into a premade template. You can add pages and sections based on your specific needs, but for the most part, it’s got everything you need.

However, if you want to go anywhere beyond the basics of design, you are limited with the builder. You can’t add anything within the premade sections, you can’t create your own sections, and the elements you can change on the overall template are fairly limited.

Yahoo Design Functions Limited

If your website is growing, or becoming a bigger part of your business, the design limitations can be crippling. And unlike other website builders that attempt to solve this issue through apps, extensions, or access to the website code or HTML, there is no outlet for a Yahoo! website builder website (in fact, it reminds me a bit of Google Sites).

Limited Feature Set – Technical

The limitations on design also bleed over into technical limitations.

Technical limitations are features that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.

These are things like integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet. Now, as I mentioned above, Yahoo! does give some integrations, like DNS / hosting services and email on their paid plans. They also allow you to insert code into the header of your website for things like analytics tracking (even on their free plan).

Yahoo Site Header Code

However, there are a ton of technical features that Yahoo doesn’t provide or that are extremely limited.

For example, let’s look at Yahoo’s SEO features. I can edit the page title, description, and keywords for the site, as well as edit the visibility. But aside from that, I’m pretty locked in to what I have. There’s no options for sitemaps, Schema, Open Graph settings – much less highly advanced options.

Yahoo SEO Limits

Even the additional add-0n products are limited. There’s not much to address marketing your site, aside from adding code for Google Analytics and Facebook Analytics or putting code into the header of your website.

Ultimately, Yahoo! leaves much to be desired when it comes to product integrations and additional technical features that can help you better market your website.

Ownership & Company Structure

My team, my clients and I have seen and worked with a lot of different software companies. One thing that I’ve noticed over the years is that companies have to follow not only the demands of their current customers, but also the demands of their business model. A company might be “good” or “bad” right now, but to know how they’ll be in a few years, it pays to spend a couple minutes thinking about their business model and how they’ll evolve to meet customer and market demands.

For example, anyone who understands that Facebook’s customers are their advertisers, not their users, can understand how & why they do the things they do. There is no inherently “bad” or “good” business model. Every model has tradeoffs. It just pays to know where you, the customer, fit in the picture, especially when you are building something as critical to your business as your website.

Yahoo! Small Business is a division of Oath, now called VerizonMedia. During the break-up and sale of Yahoo! in 2017, Yahoo! Small Business was bundled with other Yahoo! properties like Tumblr, Yahoo! Mail and bought out by Verizon, the American telecommunications giant.

In other words, Yahoo! Website Builder is a product of a division of a subsidiary of one of the largest corporations in the world.

That makes the 5 year outlook of Yahoo! Website Builder…complicated.

The potential upside is that if Verizon gives Yahoo! Small Business budget, resources, autonomy and a super-smart leader…Yahoo! Small Business could have the best products and best pricing on the Internet.

The huge downside is that if Yahoo! Small Business gets lost in the shuffle of corporate bureaucracy, then they could end up like Tumblr (another VerizonMedia property) where they’ve bled engineers, killed brand equity, and sent users fleeing for other solutions.

But in all likelihood, Yahoo! Small Business will probably end up like Blogger. A fine product, but one that is treading water within a much larger organization, especially compared with direct competitors who are either publicly-traded & focused on the SMB market (like Wix or Gator) or private & founder-driven like WordPress.com or Website Creator.

Yahoo! Review Conclusion

Yahoo certainly makes getting a website up and running easy, and given how intuitive it is to use, it makes the platform an okay choice for small business owners who need something that’s simple.

Check out Yahoo’s plans here.

However, like most all-inclusive website builders, there does come a point where there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control, especially when you factor in price. Yahoo’s pricing leaves something to be desired, especially when you get into the higher priced plans and take into account the technical limitations, even with the higher priced options. If you’re looking for something that offers more control and scalability, you’re better off elsewhere.

Not sure Yahoo fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post Yahoo! Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Jimdo Review: Pros & Cons of Using Jimdo Website Builder

Jimdo Website Builder Review

Jimdo is known as an easy-to-use, all-inclusive website builder that is designed for people with no coding knowledge. They offer two options for website owners: a DIY builder that puts you in control of choosing a template and customizing it, or an AI website builder that uses artificial intelligence to build a template for you, then walks you through the various tweaks you can make.

See Jimdo’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave Jimdo a try for a full Jimdo review. But before I get into the pros and cons of my Jimdo review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.

There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

What Is Jimdo?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Jimdo lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately (ie, you buy a domain, hosting, and website software separately.).

Using Jimdo is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Jimdo, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Jimdo competes with all-inclusive website builders like Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress.com.

Compared to their direct competition, they focus on using AI to create done-for-you templates and designs so you can focus on plugging in your content and getting up and running quickly.

They also offer a more traditional drag-and-drop builder for those who have more experience, making Jimdo appeal to beginners who have no design or development experience (think DIY-ers who need to create a website ASAP without having any website experience) and those who have a bit of website knowledge and want more customization abilities.

One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using Jimdo Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Jimdo — not just in comparison to popular website builders like Weebly and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Straightforward Sign Up Process

One of Jimdo’s best features is how quickly you can get up and running. Signing up for the platform is a simple process that involves creating an account, verifying your details through your email, and then choosing which website builder you’d like to use.

Jimdo Product Options

One thing to note here — if you’re looking for the easiest, most hands-off way to create your website, the AI web designer is probably your best option. It goes through a series of questions and then creates your website for you, but follows the process up with a detailed, step-by-step tutorial of how to customize your base template. It’s perfect for DIYers who are brand new to building a website.

Jimdo Tutorial

Simplicity

Jimdo is also seriously simple to use, which makes it hard to mess up your website design. Once you choose a template (or have one created for you with the AI builder), you’re pretty much locked in to the layout provided.

The DIY website builder is drag and drop, but it has it’s limitation — you can add new elements to the page, but only within the template structure you’re already given (and limited to the elements provided — but more on that in a bit).

Jimdo Editor

And if you’re using the AI builder, you’re given even more structure (with that comes limitations, but again — we’ll get there). With this option, you have less drag-and-drop and more choose from what they give you. You can customize the styles on the page (like fonts and colors), and you can add premade sections and blocks, but you don’t get the ability to add elements willy nilly.

AI Editor Jimdo

The whole setup is like painting by numbers.

There are obvious drawbacks to this setup, which I will cover in the disadvantages, but it is a real advantage to having limited but accessible design options.

Website Builder Options

Part of what makes Jimdo unique is they offer two design routes — you can either use their AI website builder, which gathers information for you and creates a template based on your answers to questions like “what is your website for?” and “what is your preferred design style?”. From there, Jimdo walks you through a step-by-step tutorial for customizing your assigned website template.

Jimdo AI Set Up

Or, you can take the DIY-approach. In this approach, you select your industry and are provided with a selection of website templates to choose from. Then, you can customize the template with Jimdo’s drag and drop editor. This method is slightly more advanced, but still straightforward and controlled enough to keep newbies in check.

DIY Jimdo

One thing to note if you’re going the DIY route — I found that your industry selection doesn’t matter. I was given the same templates to choose from whether I chose business or healthcare or skipped the industry question all together.

*One additional note here. When using Jimdo for the purposes of this review, I created an additional Jimdo account through a new browser window to go through the sign up process again, and was automatically assigned to the AI website builder. Of course, there’s always a chance for user error, but as a brand new, inexperienced customer to the platform… it was confusing. It’s a potential con for using the platform, but not because of the actual user experience of the builder — it’s just a bit confusing and unclear when signing up.

Some Product Integration

Another benefit of Jimbdo is their product integrations. Aside from offering DNS and hosting services, Jimdo also offers ecommerce functionality with their paid plan (one thing to note — in order to get ecommerce functionality, you do need to choose between the two higher-priced tiers.)

Jimdo Ecommerce

We’ll talk more about pricing in a moment, but just know that you could get the same (or better) functionality for less elsewhere.

European Presence

For U.S. users, this isn’t really a pro or a con, but for those in the EU, Jimdo’s European presence makes it a strong competitor.

Jimdo is a German company and operates data centers in Europe. As a European company, this means that Jimdo’s data protection and privacy standards are much stronger thanks to the EU’s new laws on data and privacy.

Additionally, if you are a US company who needs an EU microsite for an EU audience, Jimdo makes GDPR a bit easier than some website builders focused on the US market.

Cons

But of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at 3 specific cons I found.

Plans + Pricing

Jimdo’s pricing and plan structure is a bit confusing. When first signing up, You can see that paid plans start at $9/month paid annually, which includes your own domain, free hosting but only a 10 page limit.

Jimdo Pricing

However, if you choose a free plan and want to upgrade (which I did), the pricing options appear differently from inside your account.

Jimdo Pricing Part Two

Aside from the convoluted information, the actual competitiveness of the plans and pricing structure leaves something to be desired (err, actually a *lot* to be desired).

Compared to competitors like Wix, Gator, and Weebly, Jimdo is more expensive and has more restrictive limits.

Their free plan doesn’t even offer mobile-friendly site design (a pretty standard design feature in today’s world), and you can’t get basic Search Engine Optimization features until their mid-tier plans. Even the mid-tier Grow plans has hard limits on the number of pages and on bandwidth usage (which to me seems like a double-limit). And I’m all for over-delivering on low expectations, but the support options are seriously deficient.

Plus, there’s no option to may monthly, so you’re locked in for a year.

In short, using Jimdo is going to be more expensive than going with a competitor and more restrictive due to the design and technical limitations (more on that shortly), regardless of whether you’re using it for a year or just a few months.

Limited Feature Set – Design

With any technology product, there is almost always a trade-off between convenience and control (think Android vs. iOS)

And you can really see this trade-off with the Jimbdo website builder. The convenience of their design setup is great. It’s straightforward, fast, and not confusing at all. It puts your focus solely on getting your content onto the premade template and adding additional elements within the template that may enhance your design / user experience.

However, if you want to go anywhere beyond the basics of design, you are limited with Jimdo. In the DIY website builder, you can edit the color, the font, and the general ‘feel’ of the design. You can also choose from a few variations of the template, which essentially just have different navigation styles.

Jimdo Template Variations

With pages, you can delete and add sections and move them around, but you cannot add a page unless you add it to the navigation. You can alter the layout, but you certainly cannot edit the CSS, much less add any other design element outside of the pieces they give you.

And if you’re using the AI website builder, you’re limited even further. As I mentioned above, you can add sections and elements based on pre-built blocks, but that’s about it.

The best way to describe it is a ‘paint-by-numbers’ set up. It’s great to have the basics, but if you want to do anything extra or outside of bounds, then you’re out of luck.

If your website is growing, or becoming a bigger part of your business, the design limitations can be crippling.And unlike other website builders that attempt to solve this issue through apps, extensions, or access to the website code or HTML, there is no outlet for a Jimdo website builder website.

Limited Feature Set – Technical

The limitations on design also bleed over into technical limitations.

Technical limitations are features that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.

These are things like integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet. Now, as I mentioned above, Jimdo does give some integrations, like ecommerce and DNS/hosting services. However, there are a ton of technical features that Jimdo doesn’t provide or that are extremely limited.

For example, let’s look at Jimdo’s SEO features. I can edit the page title and description for individual pages, as well as assign noindex, nofollow, or noarchive settings. But aside from that, I’m pretty locked in to what I have aside from editing the HTML in text sections on the page. There’s no options for sitemaps, Schema, Open Graph settings – much less highly advanced options.

Jimdo SEO Options

Even the additional add-0n products are limited. There’s not much to address marketing your site, aside from adding code for Google Analytics and Facebook Analytics.

Jimdo Analtyics

Ultimately, Jimdo leaves much to be desired when it comes to product integrations and additional technical features that can help you better market your website.

Jimdo Review Conclusion

Jimdo certainly makes getting a website up and running easy, especially if you need something that’s done-for-you and requires little customization (just choose their AI website builder). They have a straightforward user-experience and easy-to-use editor/customizer that makes getting your content out there a breeze.

Check out Jimdo’s plans here.

However, there are trade-offs to consider with an all-inclusive website builder — specifically functionality, customization, and control. And this is where Jimdo falls short when compared to other all-inclusive website builders. They’re severely limited when it comes to technical features and integrations, which means if you’re looking to create a website with a base template but still have some flexibility over functionality and enhancements, Jimdo may not be the best option for you.

Not sure Jimdo fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post Jimdo Review: Pros & Cons of Using Jimdo Website Builder appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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How To Advertise on Quora Effectively

Quora Ads

Quora Ads are one of the myriad options for advertising online. Like eBay, Reddit, and LinkedIn, Quora is one of those Web 2.0 properties that feels like it should be dated, but remains surprisingly relevant.

In fact, while Quora is itself has been around since 2009, Quora’s self-serve Ad Platform only rolled out in 2016.

Quora has 300 million active users and some interesting reasons to advertise.

Why Use Quora Ads

First, you have access to both social data and search intent.

Like Pinterest and Reddit, you can reach people based on demographic and psychographic data AND you can reach people who are actively searching for answers OR you can layer both to run hyper-targeted campaigns to people who are both your target customer and actively researching.

Second, you have access to lots of qualified organic traffic. Quora has plenty of internal usage. But their organic search traffic is their secret weapon.

Due to their brand and enormous amount of content, they rank well in Google & Bing for highly qualified search terms. I’ve written how you can use Quora for “barnacle” SEO and content.

But – that approach requires work. With Quora Ads, you can pay to jump to the front of the line. Advertise on pages that rank well for target keywords.

Quora Ad Alternative

Third, you get to define best practices & deal with lower competition.

Every big brand and agency is on Google & Facebook. Best practices and budgets are well-defined. Quora requires more work and thought to succeed.

I’ll share my experience in this post, but my main takeaway is that there is no “right” answer. Quora is still wide-open and open for testing & experimentation. If you have more time / skills than budget, Quora is a great place to go.

How To Setup Quora Ads

Quora has done an excellent job with self-service. The platform is straightforward and comes with a surprisingly useful email course.

To get started, all you need is some basic business information.

Within your Ads Manager Dashboard, you can Manage Ads, setup a Quora Pixel, manage your retargeting audiences, and setup email reports.

Whether you setup an ad campaign or not, I highly suggest that you immediately implement your Pixel, dabble with Audiences and setup a couple curated Email Reports.

Quora has a the familiar menu of retargeting audiences. Standard setup is for Website Traffic.

In the next step, you’ll setup your Quora Pixel to tag visitors. You can pre-segment your Website Traffic to make retargeting a bit easier.

3 Quora Remarketing

If you have a lot of educational content on your site, I would start with that segment. Quora is a common research tool, especially with high-consideration purchases. If you can reach users doing intensive research across platforms, you’ll be less likely to lose them.

Additionally, once you’ve built an audience, you can create a Lookalike Audience.

This feature is huge because you can reasonably expand your reach across Quora to reach someone who you *know* is familiar with your brand.

Remember how I mentioned that Quora is hybrid social / search? This is where that power comes in.

For example, imagine you are recruiting entry-level engineers out of college.

You have the ability to tag visitors to your site, and then reach them throughout Quora whenever they are asking career related questions.

Plus – you’ll get insight into the types of questions that you your audience asks. This feeds back into a successful content strategy based on data that *only* you have access to.

Lastly, if you have permission, you can upload a list of current contacts to rebuild your existing customers within Quora.

It’s a lot of work, but for high consideration campaigns, it’s worthwhile.

Like any & all retargeting strategies – Audiences can be creepy, invasive, and sometimes illegal in the European Union without explicit consent.

Most people either consent or live in jurisdictions that do not require explicit consent. These tools do exist and are worthwhile for many businesses. Retargeting is here to stay. The key is to keep it classy. Time, thoughtfulness, and testing creates the best outcome for advertisers, publishers, and customers.

Email Reporting is straightforward. But I would set the settings you like so that you actually view the reports rather than automatically deleting them.

4 Quora Email Reports

Now you’ll need to set your Quora Pixel, which is the snippet that “fires” on your webpage to track website visitors.

The setup depends on your website, but you’ll need to place it wherever you have your Google Analytics tag.

5 Quora Pixel

Now you can get started on a campaign! Head to Manage Ads and select your objective.

6 Quora Ads Create Campaign

If you select Conversions, you’ll need to select a conversion type to pass to your Quora Pixel. You’ll also have to manually tag any actions (like Add to Cart).

Conversion Tracking is accurate and can be worthwhile. But unless you are running large campaigns, some of this Conversion Tracking might not be worth the effort.

8 Quora Ads Conversions

For my campaigns (and most advertisers), I use the Traffic objective. But I also tag all of my ads so that I can track conversions within my existing Google Analytics setup.

9 Quora Ads Objective

Once you’ve created your Campaign objectives, you’ll need to set up a new Ad Set.

Ad Sets each have their own targeting and bids. After setting up an Ad Set, you’ll write individual Ads for each ad set.

But Ad Sets are where the fun really happens.

You have 4 primary targeting methods. I’ll cover each below. But the short version is that you can do –

  • Topic Targeting – Target content that falls within a category regardless of user interest.
  • Question Targeting – Target specific questions on Quora regardless of topic or user.
  • Audience Targeting – Target your audiences everywhere on Quora (see above).
  • Interest Targeting – Target people who are interested in a topic regardless of content.

After that, you can choose several secondary targeting methods. You can focus your ads by Location or Device. You can also exclude specific questions or audiences (ie, people who have successfully purchased from your site).

10 Quora Ads Targeting

Topic and Question Targeting are my favorite options. They both target based on content not the user.

When you are looking to expand reach or target based on intent – this is the option that you should use. Topic Targeting lets you quickly target a bunch of questions quickly.

The key to Topic Targeting is to provide Quora with a relevant but broad set of keywords. There’s a bit of an art to it, but be sure to play around with different combinations before committing to a set of Topics.

Additionally, make sure you go and manually explore those Topics to vet the questions, the likely audience, and and related Topics that you are missing.

11 Quora Ads Topic Targeting

But if you have time, the best targeting option is Suggested Questions.

With this option, you can advertise with specific ads on specific questions.

From a purely data perspective, this targeting option is the only place to get Weekly Views stats for Quora questions, which can help your content marketing efforts separate from any paid campaigns.

13 Quora Question Ad Suggestions

Interest Targeting targets the user rather than the content that they are looking at. This option is great for casting a wide-net to reach your audience everywhere on Quora.

However, note that you’ll reach them even when they are looking at irrelevant questions. This option is great to layer with other options (like exclude questions). Be careful using it alone though.

12 Quora Ads Interest Targeting

There are also options for targeting an existing audience and also a Broad Topic option.

After selecting your targeting with exclusions and bids set, you’ll need to create your actual ads.

Quora provides lots of space and encourages “content-like” ads. They want complete sentences that are relevant to your targeting. They are not great for hard-sells, but pair *very* well with custom landing pages or educational content.

Be sure to add UTM parameters to your landing page URL to effectively track visits throughout Google Analytics.

 

14 Quora Ad CreationThat’s how you setup Quora ads. But keep in mind that the magic is in customized ads, landing pages, targeting and constantly improving each metric.

That said – how do Quora ads perform “out in the wild”? I’ve run a few campaigns for myself and for clients. Here’s the results of my most recent campaign.

My Experience with Quora Ads

Now – I almost exclusively use Question Targeting for my Quora ads. I also commit to spending probably too much time on research for my small campaigns (although some of that research gets re-used for content campaigns).

The campaign highlighted below was a fairly small content promotion campaign. I had a new piece of content that I wanted to promote without traditional, manual outreach.

I found several questions that aligned with the content. I devoted around $100 to promotion.

Quora Campaign Results

This campaign aligned with the common takeaways from my Quora campaigns.

  • The impressions were high for such a niche topic – and surprisingly consistent day to day.
  • The CTR was uncommonly high for online ads.
  • Conversions were solid.
  • Cost per click was a bit higher than expected, but nowhere near Google Ads territory.

Additionally, I did not have to filter or account for a lot of spam (I’m looking at you, Google Display and Facebook…).

My numbers in Google Analytics lined up perfectly with Quora. Engagement was high and as I’d hoped.

Quora Ads Experiment

All in all, this (and all my campaigns) go back to the same general takeaways for Quora Ads.

  • Quora Ads are hard to roll out “at scale” but are very effective with the right amount of time devoted to set up & research.
  • They are great for high consideration ads and great to reach new, smart audiences.
  • You have to have the right website content to provide good, engaging landing pages.
  • Often small campaigns are worthwhile simply for the data.

In many ways, they remind me of both Pinterest and Reddit Ads. They aren’t for everyone, but certainly a solid opportunity for the right advertisers.

Next Steps

Quora Ads are not for everyone. There’s not a ton of inventory. To do it well, you really need to spend some time on your research and ad setup.

However, in an increasingly crowded and expensive online ad market, the market represents a solid opportunity.

At the very least, you should go set up an account and grab the Quora Pixel to build an audience.

From there, you can reach you existing users on yet another platform. You can expand your reach based on small tests and the time you have to research interests.

If you found this article useful, please link, share or bookmark. Happy advertising!

The post How To Advertise on Quora Effectively appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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How to Advertise on Pandora Effectively

How to Advertise on Pandora Effectively

For much of the 20th century, radio was a dominant advertising platform. Every operation from the nation’s largest companies to small and mid-sized local businesses allocated much of their advertising budgets towards advertising on the radio each year.

Radio has always provided effective opportunities to build a brand or drive awareness about a product or service. Compared to print or television ads, they’re also more affordable.

Plus, radio remains the only advertising medium that’s inherently portable. Through radio, you can reach people at home, and while they’re away. Other avenues, such as print, digital, or television, require that the user is paying attention, either to a screen or what’s on a page.

Of course, radio ads weren’t without their flaws. They were expensive, they were virtually impossible to track or determine an ROI on, and people would often switch stations to avoid hearing ads in the first place.

As new advertising products become available, traditional radio advertising grows continually less popular. For many businesses, radio advertising isn’t a strong fit for their advertising needs anymore.

While the popularity of traditional radio has declined, a new way to listen to the radio has breathed new life into the industry and restored radio’s usefulness as an advertising medium.

Internet radio solves many of the problems that were inherent in traditional radio advertising. It’s affordable, it’s highly targeted, and it’s easier to track, and it may make a useful addition to your advertising portfolio. Of the internet radio providers, Pandora is by far the largest, and most compelling for advertisers of all sizes.

Whether you’re a national brand, a mid-sized company, or a local business that’s looking to reach a specific type of customer in your area, Pandora has ad products that are geared to your needs and may work well for your business.

This raises the question of how to advertise on Pandora. Today, we’ll cover the ins and outs of how you can advertise on this popular platform, and the different products Pandora offers.

two years without pay to work towards their goal of launching Pandora.

Pandora launched officially in 2004, originally as a paid service. The company continued to iterate to find it’s fit in the market, and they quickly shed the paid model in favor of an advertising-based model, which is how we know Pandora today.

In 2011, Pandora became a publicly traded company and cemented its status as the undisputed leader in internet radio. Today, they employ over 2,000 people throughout 26 offices and have revenue of well over a billion dollars per year. With over 81 million active users each month, Pandora has also become a compelling place for advertisers both large and small.

22 times on their commute to work. The main reason for all that switching, of course, is commercial breaks. Other contributing factors include an obnoxious radio DJ or a string of songs that the listener just isn’t connecting with.

Meanwhile, Pandora’s advertising model is completely different. Instead of sandwiching large blocks of ads together, Pandora users hear just a few ads per hour. Plus, unlike traditional radio, there’s no way to change the station to escape the ad.

Combine that with the fact that Pandora stations are personalized to the listener’s taste, and there’s no DJ to get in between the listener and the music, and you create a climate where listeners are far more receptive to the advertising they’re hearing.

This ad unit replaces the 300×250 album art window with your display ad. Users who are interested in engaging with your ad can click the ad to open up your full-screen landing page. These units are also a good way to drive product or brand awareness.

To dismiss the ad, the user can either swipe the ad off the screen or tap the mini player at the bottom of the page. This helps reduce the number of misclicks on the ad, which leads to truer engagement statistics when you’re tracking the success of your campaign.

Responsive mobile ads provide similar functionality to their non-responsive counterparts. However, they provide room for interaction between the user and the ad, which non-responsive ads do not.

The example above from Express provides a completely different experience when the ad is opened to full screen, and there are different points of interaction the user can have with the ad before they dismiss it. These types of ads allow one click to an external landing page. So, they can serve your advertising goals beyond just product or brand awareness.

The photo above shows the display components of audio advertising. In addition to the :15 or :30 audio spots, display ads take the place of album artwork, and there are also secondary display ads available in certain formats, such as on a desktop computer.

The display component is available across most formats. However, they are not available on all of them. In connected cars, there’s no album art tile or banner ad. With connected home products, there’s no album art tile displayed.

The display advertising that’s inherent with audio ads is one feature that completely differentiates Pandora audio ads from terrestrial radio advertising. Users who are particularly engaged with the ad they’re hearing can seamlessly click the display ad on their screen to learn more about the product or service.

Depending on the needs of the advertiser, audio ads can be restricted to certain formats, or broadcast throughout all available formats.

The photo above shows how all of the different Pandora video ad products are displayed, including their new muted mobile video product.

here.

pilot program for their audio ads that will allow advertisers to bid on ad space in real time.

Until that marketplace is rolled out for all of Pandora’s advertisers, you should always press your account rep to try and secure the best possible price on advertising.

expand upon the data you have available by creating unique landing pages and tracking them through Google Analytics.

Create a unique landing page for your Pandora ads, add a Google Analytics tag, and you’ll be able to track the success of your campaigns with much greater detail, while also gathering even more demographic information about the user who clicked your ad.

Another way to supercharge your landing page is to provide a special offer or coupon in exchange for the users’ opt-in on email marketing. That way, you’ll be able to continue to reach engaged users from your Pandora campaigns, without ever having to pay to reach them again.

local business looking to drive awareness about your store, products, or an sale you’re having, a ecommerce brand looking to reinforce your position in the market, or somewhere in between, Pandora’s suite of ad products has something for everyone.

Thanks to robust targeting ability, a strong listener base that’s about as large as ¼ of the entire United States population, and tracking and reporting that greatly exceeds what terrestrial radio has been able to deliver to advertisers, Pandora is certainly a platform to consider when planning your advertising budget.

If you’re wondering how to advertise on Pandora, the next step for you is to contact them here. An account rep with Pandora will contact you so you can discuss the different options that are available for your business and create a plan around your advertising goals.

The post How to Advertise on Pandora Effectively appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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The Best Free Email Marketing Software Programs

There is a myth making the rounds on the wide world of the internet that email marketing has outlived its usefulness, but that is simply untrue. The data is in, and email marketing campaigns can have a wide variety of positive effects on your business:

Having said that, some of the software providers in the email marketing world charge a crippling price for smaller businesses. Before you hang your heads in defeat, though, take heart. There are a number of free email marketing software apps that might suit your needs without ever costing you a cent. With a free email marketing tool, you’re not going to have access to unlimited emails and templates, and you’ll be restricted to a certain number of email addresses. Marketing automation tools may also be limited or non-existent with a free plan. But if you need to send out a simple email newsletter to your contacts and want basic access to click-through rates and other simple analytics, free email marketing services can be a godsend.

Compiled here for your reading pleasure is Merchant Maverick’s favorites in the free email marketing software world. A quick word about criteria: Each of these apps were evaluated based on their feature set, ease of use, and pros vs cons. With that out of the way, let’s get started!

Benchmark

Serving upwards of 73,000 users around the globe, Benchmark (read our review) has not moved on from its original mission of serving small businesses. With a reputation for great customer service and ease-of-use, this is one of the most widely recommended email marketing apps out there. And, as you might expect since it is on this list, there is a free version!

It should come as no surprise that the free version of Benchmark is less powerful than the versions you actually pay for. With a subscriber cap of 2,000 members and a limitation of 14,000 emails per month, the free version of Benchmark will be best suited to the email campaigns of very small businesses and nonprofits. It is the other features, or, rather, lack of them, that might make the final decision for you. Non-paying users of Benchmark will find that they have access to an email builder and little more. You’ll get the “insanely simple drag-and-drop editor,” a wide library of templates, and an automated signup form, as well as Google analytics, several campaign styles (drip and RSS), and a few other handy items. What you don’t get, however, are unlimited emails, basic features like A/B testing and more advanced tools like cart abandonment automation and other automated behavioral tracking features.

As I mentioned above, Benchmark is generally considered to be extremely easy to use. Most comments in user reviews agree that navigating the app, building emails, and implementing new campaigns are all done with a minimal learning curve. Based on these user reviews, as well as my own test of the product, I have to agree with Benchmark’s marketing claim: “No design experience required.”

Generally speaking, Benchmark has far more pros than cons. Beyond the ease of use I mentioned above, this company also maintain some of the best customer service in the industry, with 24/7 phone, live chat, and email support. As for cons, the major downside for free users will be the limitations placed on free accounts regarding Benchmark’s more advanced features. Some users have also complained that their experience with the app was plagued by bugs, though I should note that those affected seem few and far between.

SendinBlue

SendinBlue (read our review) is best known for the accessibility of its software. With a focus on simplicity in both features and pricing, this is an app that aims to get new users in particular up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible. Generally speaking, SendinBlue is a good choice for anyone looking to get great bang for their buck, especially if you are willing to work with a simplified interface. Indeed, as an ESP (email service provider), SendinBlue is clearly not intended for experienced marketers, but rather for single proprietors and small LLC owners. Appropriately, then, the free version of SendinBlue offers an interesting alternative to the other apps we will discuss here.

Unlike Benchmark, SendinBlue does not limit how many subscribers or contacts their free users can have. Likewise, there is no limit in place for monthly emails. Rather, there is a daily limit of 300 emails. From one perspective, this limitation may seem an opportunity to reach significantly more subscribers than would be possible with Benchmark’s plan. From another perspective, it means someone at your (presumably) small company will be spending at least some time every day working on emails; isn’t that why you wanted an email marketing app anyway? Fortunately, SendinBlue does make it easy to design attractive emails with a nice email editor and template library. Free users also get real-time reporting, phone and email support, and customizable sign-up forms. As with Benchmark, you lose access to many features by choosing to use SendinBlue for free, though since SendinBlue is a simpler app in the first place, the limitations seem less important.

The biggest pro for using SendinBlue is the all-around simplicity of this app, as well as the template library, which is varied and diverse. Like Benchmark, SendinBlue tends to impress customers with their support options as well. In terms of cons, there are only a few integrations available, and some users complain of an outdated interface as well. On the whole, SendinBlue is widely liked by those who use it, though it does not inspire the same superlative-laden user reviews of some of its competitors.

MailChimp

best ecommerce apps

MailChimp (read our review) is pretty much synonymous with email marketing. Maybe it is the quirky name, maybe it is the goofy grin on the face of their mascot, but this app just sticks in the mind, making it one of the first examples I think of when discussing email marketing. Fortunately, if your budget does not have space for an ESP among so many other important expenses, you are in luck. There is a free version of MailChimp, widely regarded as one of the best in the business.

To start things off, if you want to use MailChimp for free, you are looking at a subscriber cap of 2,000 users and an email limit of 12,000 per month. Eagle-eyed readers will note that Benchmark allows more emails per month, but where this email marketing platform sets itself apart is in the features free users gain access to. The standard email editor and template library are in place, as expected, but MailChimp also provides an automated email campaigns features that most of their competitors keep locked behind paywalls. These automations allow you to pre-write messages and determine triggers that will prompt the app to automatically send follow-up emails based on the behavior of individual subscribers. Whether it is a welcome message for new contacts, a notification of an abandoned shopping cart, or even a gentle reminder that your business still exists to customers that have been away awhile, if you are trying to build an ecommerce business, these tools can be invaluable to you.

The pros of using MailChimp should be readily apparent. With powerful features, a user-friendly interface, and a minimal learning curve — for the low monthly cost of $0, it may seem that there is no reason to not set up a MailChimp account this very second. However, unlike the other two apps discussed above, MailChimp does not have a spotless customer service record, with some users finding communication slow and unresponsive. Fortunately, there are more satisfied customers than disgruntled ones, but it remains a concern.

Final Thoughts

Basically, what we have here are three email marketing apps that would leave nearly any subscriber satisfied. Having said that, I think there is a definite winner here: MailChimp. Especially if you are working in e-commerce, the automation tools included in this free email marketing software may prove indispensable to growing your business.

Having said that, I can think of a few reasons for using the other software programs I described above. If your needs exceed the 12,000 emails offered by MailChimp, Benchmark might be the better choice for you. If you need an extra-simplified feature set, SendinBlue’s free plan may be more attractive. On top of that, both these alternatives have higher reputations for customer service, certainly more so than Mailchimp.

In the end, the best way to figure out which free email marketing software app is best for you is to give one or all of them a try. Considering they are free, there is really not much to lose. Your email newsletter is just begging to be sent, and this month is as good a time as any! Start generating contacts, write that opt-in email, create some sign-up forms, and get out there!

If you’re looking for a little more bang for your buck, you might consider doing a free trial of another email marketing platform like AWeber, Constant Contact, Mad Mimi, or Active Campaign, or simply using the paid version of any one of the programs above. With a premium service, you’re going to get more templates, unlimited emails and contacts, advanced marketing automations, social media integration, and better all-around email marketing tools. Read our full selection of email marketing software reviews for more information, or check out our ESP comparison chart.

The post The Best Free Email Marketing Software Programs appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How to Promote Your Website Online (for free!)

How To Promote Your Website

So you want to promote your website online…for free, preferably.

By now, you probably know from experience that the “build it and they will come” philosophy is flawed. You can have great content — in fact, you need at least “good” content — but unless you know how to promote it, your site is a ghost town. But you also don’t have the budget to go straight to advertising online.

You don’t need a grab bag of tips and tricks. You don’t need best practices to “go viral”. Instead – what you need is an actual process to follow that you can consistently do – to create a “flywheel effect“.

Here is an exact, step-by-step strategy that I recommend to anyone who wants to promote their website online. The specific details vary, but it’s a pretty tried and true path for anyone who wants to promote their website.

Start with Definitions & Goals

Before you do anything, you’ve got to start with the foundation: what are you trying to achieve?

Aside – “making money” or “getting customers” does not count. The key is to get specific. Quantify your marketing in other words.

This is the part so many people either get stuck on or skip entirely. Usually, website owners just want to dive in and start doing, doing, doing.

While getting your site out there and testing is great, you need a balance. It’s just as important to test with the right methods as it is to collect a ton of data and learn from it

There are three things you need to figure out before you dive in:

  • what you’re promoting
  • who you’re promoting it to
  • how much you can actually spend on promotion

Let’s break them down.

What You’re Promoting (Your Product)

What is it that you’re actually offering/promoting on your website? A product? A service? Valuable content?

Whatever it is, you need to be able to define it and sell the value. What makes you different from the million and one others out there?

Remember, this doesn’t need to be your life’s mission. In fact, it shouldn’t be. You need to define your product in a clear and concise way. Keep it simple and to the point  — and make sure you emphasize why you’re different.

Who You’re Promoting It To (Persona)

A persona is marketing jargon for a profile of your target audience and having one is crucial to your marketing.

Before your start promoting your website, you’ve got to know who you’re actually promoting it to. What do they want? What problems do they have? How do you solve those problems?

Create 2-4 personas for your brand that outline your ideal customers. Be as descriptive as possible by including things like job title, favorite device, payscale, main frustrations and problems, end goals, what they do in their spare time, etc. Use this detailed guide by Moz to guide you through the process.

Remember that your personas don’t have to be the end all be all. The focus here is to define your initial target market that’s small enough you can effectively reach them but large enough to get some sales and feedback to polish what you’re offering (your product/website/brand).

Nearly every business started this way (think about how Facebook started by targeting college students).Here’s a podcast episode explaining this concept[skip to the ~11 minute mark].

How Much You Can Spend on Promotion (Time & Financial Budget)

Thinking there’s no overhead online is lethal. You’ve got to put real numbers behind what you’re doing. Marketing costs money or time… so put real goals in place.

Outline your budget, even if it feels arbitrary. Define your product/services costs, profit margins, and what kind of marketing spend gives you a positive return. Here’s a more extensive post on quant-based marketing.”

Lay the Foundation

Once you have your goals and definitions laid out, it’s time to lay the foundation. While “build it and they will come” is a flawed philosophy, once you start getting them to come, you need to be sure what you’ve created is decent and captures data.

This is divided into three steps:

Website / Destination Set Up

To promote anything online long-term*, you need a decent website. Whether you’re an ecommerce business who needs an online store, a local business with a brick and mortar store, or an educational website that needs a place to publish content, a decent-looking website will put you ahead and allow you to do more with your brand and marketing.

*Aside – when I say long-term – I mean that you don’t want your project compromised by the whims of a platform (I’m looking at you, Facebook Pages and Google My Business). For short-term projects, plenty of people do well with marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy while content publishers do great with a good email marketing platform.

If you don’t have a website yet, I recommend setting your own website up with a common, well known software like WordPress and hosting it on your own hosting account. I have a simple guide to doing that from scratch here. There is some learning curve, but it will provide maximum versatility.

For ecommerce shops, I recommend either using a high-quality hosted ecommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce or set up an ecommerce website with WordPress and WooCommerce.

If you have a website and know it’s a mess, use this guide to help you clean it up.

Create Focused Pages

Depending on what you’re goals are, creating focused pages can be an essential part of conversion.

Focus pages are landing pages that target a very specific need, but they don’t have to be complex. They are simply pages that visitors can land on and take a specific action (buy your product, sign up for your service, etc.)

Why use landing pages? Because nobody cares about or even sees your homepage. Your homepage is for people who already know who you are and are just navigating around to find what they already know exists.

Landing pages, on the other hand, are for new (or returning) visitors to land and convert (AKA take whatever action you want them to take). These pages should target what your audience is searching for on a granular level.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce business, you’d want to create product pages targeting specific product information (i.e. Blue Swimwear) or a specific audience (i.e. Swimwear for Women Distance swimmers).

For service-based businesses, you’d want to create service pages targeting what your customers are searching for (i.e. Atlanta Dentist or Root Canal Services)

For sites that are focused on content creation, think about pages that can organize your posts into broader topics and orient readers who land deeper into your site and encourage them to take additional actions (like reading more or subscribing). Use this guide to using category and tag pages in WordPress to accomplish this.

If you have way too many idea – then think about how to organize your site by topic / keyword.

Set Up Analytics

Before you start promoting your website, you need a way to capture data through an analytics platform. There are tons of options, but Google Analytics is the go-to solution (it’s also free).

If you’re unclear on what Google Analytics actually does, start here.

Depending on what you’re promoting (see above), you’ll want to set up specific goals. For example, if you’re an ecommerce website, you’ll want to make sure you have Ecommerce checkout set up. If you’re a local business, you’ll want to track thinks like clicks to call and contact form completions. Use this guide to set up call tracking in Google Analytics.

You should also link Google Analytics to Google AdWords and set up a retargeting audience with Google Analytics. And lastly, you should set up a Facebook Ads account and place a retargeting (audience pixel) cookie on your website.

Work on Getting Traffic

Now that you have the foundation down, it’s time to get people to your website. This where a lot of people get way too detailed… way too fast. Why?

Because not all marketing channels operate at the same speed. They’re also not all used the same way — they have different strengths and weaknesses. They complement and supplement each other instead of compete, and it’s all about how you use them together.

For example, the US Navy’s main war-going unit is the Aircraft Carrier Group. But it’s not just made up of an aircraft carrier. Instead, it’s a grouping of different types of ships that all do different things at different speeds so that the whole group together is nearly invincible.

A lot of business owners want to start with SEO or with a fully fleshed out social strategy. To keep to the analogy, that’s like sending your battleship and aircraft carrier to scout out for the rest of the group.

Bad idea. Battleships (aka SEO) and Aircraft Carriers (Social) take forever to get going and to turn. Save those until you know where you’re going. You do not want to invest hours and hours and tons of resources and thought into SEO and Social if you have no idea if they will pay off.

Start with channels that can speed up, slow down and change direction at will. That means 3 things: direct outreach, community involvement, and paid traffic, specifically AdWords Search Network.

Testing with Direct Outreach

It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of promoting something because you think it’s amazing. But here’s the thing — what if no one wants it?

Too often, we make assumptions for our audience. So before you go into a full-blow promotion plan and start running ads, emailing everyone on your list, and working on your SEO tactics, it’s good to get some validation.

Start by soliciting feedback from a small, targeted group. These should be people who are active in your niche, would ideally collaborate with someone like you, would give you some feedback and maybe even promote your website for you.

What we’re really doing here is finding complementary marketing “parents” — think of other bloggers and businesses your target audience also visits. There are infinite ways to do this process. The key piece is to find someone who shares your interests or has a need that you can fill. Here are some examples.

Friends & Family

Ok – friends and family will often be interested by default. They won’t be able to provide useful feedback. But here’s the thing – you are probably friends because you share interests. Additionally, you might share interests with your family.

Those family and friends are a great place to start with your outreach. It doesn’t mean spamming your Facebook page. It does mean not being afraid to show off your work personally to interested friends and family.

Individual Brands / Influencers

I hate the term “influencers” – and I don’t think that you can or should compete with big brands for social media celebrities. Instead, you should use your own advantage as a DIY website owner (rather than social media manager) to find people that you respect and listen to. Figure out what they need / want. Do they need co-promotion? Topic ideas? Reach out and pitch.

Individual Bloggers / Site Owners

A blogger of any size & influence will be deluged with pitches from big companies. Again – use your advantage as an actual site owner to go around the social media managers to reach small and up and coming bloggers. Use your agility to solve problems that agencies cannot quickly solve.

Journalists

Journalists have an infinite black hole of content that they need to fill. They are always looking for a story (not a product). If you can create a story based on your insider expertise, then you should pitch them. Keep it short, keep it relevant. Start with small sites and use successes to pitch bigger publications.

The good example is a local package delivery service pitching a story about “porch pirates” to news outlets in Philadelphia.

Complementary Business Owners

Your product probably pairs with other companies’ products. Swimwear pairs with beach resorts. Festivals pair with beverage companies. Wood refinishing pairs with historic preservationists. The list is infinite.

Find businesses where you can co-promote.

Vendors

Your vendors want you to succeed…because your success means more sales for them. Pitch your vendors on co-promotions.

Then, get to emailing and messaging. Send them to your landing pages or content piece to buy, subscribe, or review. Ask for feedback and referrals and keep notes!

Keep in mind that you are emailing people. It’s easy to get into a spammy quantity mindset. But remember that that a single, quality connection is worth way more than you can measure right now. Your goal is to get feedback and access. You cannot and should not make this a primary sales channel. Your goal is feedback to promote more effectively and more broadly.

Check out this case study or this post for even more detail.

Find Like-Minded Communities

To expand your direct promotion efforts means finding groups of individuals. And that means finding communities.

Communities can not only provide a lot more feedback – but you can also find opportunities to get sales.

The issue with a community is that you need to be a part of it. Nobody likes someone who shows up to promote rather than participate.

Even though you might need sales right now – you absolutely must set aside that need and look to the long-term.

Figure out what the community likes & needs. Provide that. Focus on being overly helpful rather than promotional. Here are some examples.

Industry Specific Forums

Whether it’s ProductHunt / HackerNews in tech or Wanelo for trendy shopping – there is an industry specific forum for everything. Find it and get involved.

Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups are super-accessible and cover topics on everything under the Sun. They are a great way to build an organic presence on Facebook now that business newsfeed organic reach does not exist. Use creative Facebook Open Graph searches to find the non-obvious ones.

Website Forums

Yes – website forums still exist. And yes, they can be extraordinarily powerful. Do your research and get in touch with moderators.

Blog Comments

Yes – people still read these. Set up alerts via Google or via RSS feeds and stay involved in relevant discussions on high-traffic blog posts.

Reddit & Crowdsourced Forums

Reddit is the world’s largest general forum – but everything from Kickstarter to Pinterest could technically be considered a forum. Again, find where your target audience hangs out. Focus less on teh actual platform and more on the people using it.

Amazon Comments

Ever noticed the “questions about this product” or the discussion sections on Amazon product? Yep – those have insane engagement…and provide an opportunity to piggyback on Amazon’s traffic. Look for complementary products / services to yours that your target audience is purchasing. Use your expertise to answer questions.

LinkedIn & Business Groups

This angle is similar to crowdsourced forums – but for B2B and vendor relationships. Discussions happen all over the place on the Internet. Everything from Slack to LinkedIn Pulse to IRC are open. They are all tools for people to connect. Think about who your people are and find where & how they talk.

Guest Posting

Do you know of high-traffic blogs that your target audience reads (not simply blogs in your industry)? Find out guest post requirements and go there.

Once you’ve found a channel that you feel comfortable with and “get” – focus on expanding your presence and being as helpful as possible. People will notice and talk.

Using Paid Traffic to Get Data

Jumping right into ads isn’t always the best approach for promoting your website. It can get expensive, especially for the return on investment. However, our goal here is a bit different.

Using some (even on a small budget) search advertising can be a great way to get data faster. Instead of relying solely on direct outreach and a content strategy that takes a few months to grow, we can get lots of data in a short amount of time by doing some advertising.

For a full breakdown of different paid advertising channels, see this guide about how to advertise your website online.

You should be doing a few different things with this data:

  • Looking at what keywords are driving conversions. AdWords gives you this information.
  • Looking at which landing pages (or content pieces) perform best based on your goals. How can you optimize those pages and use those findings to improve the ones that aren’t performing?
  • Determining which ad copy performs best
  • For ecommerce, identifying which types of offers do people find most enticing (i.e. free shipping, 20% off welcome discount, etc.)
  • Setting up retargeting campaigns – not generic “buy, buy, buy” campaigns but interesting retargeting ads that you can afford to do when your traffic is small. If you want to divert some paid budget to Facebook, follow this guide.
  • Once you have retargeting campaigns going, you should be looking at where your audience goes online. We covered this topic on this podcast episode.
  • Improving your ad campaigns in general

Understanding Organic Search

The world of organic traffic sources is wide and takes time. So while I won’t tell you it’s the best channel for immediate satisfaction, there are still some amazing results to be had.

For most, a successful SEO campaign would be a huge win due to the sheer volume of traffic that Google organic search can drive. Google processes over 3.5 billion queries per day and most of the clicks go to an organic result.

You’ll learn pretty quickly that in paid advertising, clicks for commercial keywords can be quite expensive. That’s a cost you don’t have to pay if you rank in the organic search results.

When you’re setting up your website promotion strategy, you’ll just have to know what it takes to get organic traffic and what it will take on your part to get it done.

SEO boils down to 3 components.

The first component is technical SEO.

Technical SEO is all about ensuring that Google/Bing bots can crawl and index your website effectively. It’s about making sure you’re not generating tons of duplicate content. Here’s “Technical SEO for Nontechnical Marketers”

The good news is that you are using WordPress or an HTML-based website builder (aka not Flash or Wix), you have the big barriers taken care of. THe same applies to ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Bigcommerce or a self-hosted store with WordPress + Woocommerce.

If you are already using a different platform, a technical audit might be the one SEO thing worth paying for. Mentioning a “stand-alone technical audit with recommendations” to an SEO expert can be valuable if you’re on a custom built site. Just don’t let them sell you on “ranking #1 tomorrow!”

If you are running WordPress, install WordPress SEO by Yoast and run through my guide for using it effectively.

If you are using Shopify or Bigcommerce, then your technical issues are 90% solved if you have it set up by the book (Shopify’s guide and Bigcommerce’s guide). You should just be sure to use their SEO-related toolset to implement your on-page content, which happens to be the second component of SEO.

The second component of SEO is on-page content and optimization

It is all about “targeting” the right keywords and ensuring that your website is laid out in a coherent way that is understandable by search engines and users browsing your website.

I wrote about the concept of keyword mapping and some basic on-page SEO concepts (like keyword research, title tags and meta descriptions, and using Google Search Console) previously.

Depending on what your goals are, there are a ton of different pieces of content that can bring in visitors. The goal is to bring in new people AND support sales. Don’t create keyword-stuffed content that won’t help customers on your website make a decision. Make the authoritative content that addresses problems, questions, etc of your market.

The great part about creating the absolute best content that you can find about everything your target market cares about related to your product is that it will naturally drive the third component of SEO – off-page factors.

“Off-page factors,” is the third component of SEO

This is SEO-speak for getting links, with the caveat that links are not all considered equal.

Sketchy links, the type that you buy for $5, can harm your website. However, quality links placed on a related or well-known website are the primary factor for getting better visibility in search results.

There are a lot of ways to get links. But the best ways that I’ve found for website promotion are:

  • Creating content that no one else has done well, and then promoting it. I wrote this guide to creating prequalified content. I’m a fan of this guide for the promotion angle as well
  • Hustle PR promotion – Find the blogs they read. Find the news websites they follow. Find the social media feeds they are involved with. Research and stalk every single one until you can craft a manual email pitch (see direct outreach above)
  • Get even more ideas in my guide to Ahrefs

Using Social Media

If SEO is your giant battleship, I think of social as your aircraft carrier. It’s easy to burn a lot of energy flying planes for no reason, but nothing gives you a tactical edge and far reach like your aircraft.

Social media experts make social out to be rocket science. It’s really not. Unless you started a business you know nothing about, you should know where your audience hangs out.

The key is to realize that you don’t have to be 100% present on every single social network. Effective social media is about having direct interactions where you build relationships and learn more about your audience.

So with that said, go ahead and claim your branding across all the various social networks, but focus on one or two that will generate an outsize of impact on your goals.

This is particularly effective for getting feedback on what you’re promoting. Similarly to direct outreach, you can use social media to solicit public feedback through forums like Reddit, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, etc. Just remember — it’s not about blasting your message out there for everyone and their mother. It’s about targeting the right audience. Find where they are and go there.

For the other profiles, learn how to automate them so you can have a presence without actually interacting. Set up alerts so you can “listen” even when you aren’t actively participating.

Lastly, remember you can make the process faster by paying to jump ahead. Just as you used AdWords or alternative channels to collect data on what works and what doesn’t for your website promotion goals, you can use social ads to test networks.

Next Steps

That’s the website promotion strategy I would map out for any website. It’s a long post, but it’s a plan you can implement quickly by breaking each section into small, doable steps.

Immediate next steps: start by defining your goals, personas, and revenue/budget. Then, put a plan in place that takes you through each phase of the process outlined above in a methodical manner. Go one section at a time and break each down into smaller steps you can follow without getting overwhelmed.

I’ve also written versions of this post for both local businesses and ecommerce websites.

The post How to Promote Your Website Online (for free!) appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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How to Improve Your Website Content

How To Improve Website Content

So your website is a mess — where do you even begin to “fix” it? What does “fixing” it really mean, anyways?

If you’re looking to improve your website, you know how daunting this overhaul can be. There are tips and tricks for almost every facet of the process, from improving your copy to reworking your design.

What you need is a process — not a grab bag of tips that leave you more confused than when you started.

Here’s the 7-step framework you can follow to improve your website content, even if you have no idea where to start.

1. Lay the Foundation

It may sound basic, but before you change anything on your website, you need to understand what your website does. You can have the most amazing site in the world, but if you don’t know what you want it to achieve, you’ll never really improve.

The first step is pretty straightforward — you need to define the goal for every single page on your website.

Each site page has a unique objective. For example, your homepage should encourage visitors to explore deeper into your site, a blog post may be key to generating new traffic, and a product page necessary for sales.

By understanding each page’s goal, you can begin to understand where things may be breaking down.

Start by putting your website into a map. List all of the pages you currently have, then define the goal for each page.

Once you have your page objectives down, it’s time to look at how your website fits together.

Think of your site like a puzzle. Each individual page is a piece of a larger picture. The pages all work together to create one big image (which is your user experience).

Your website’s organization should be intuitive for someone who is trying to navigate it. You don’t want a visitor to arrive at your homepage and be stranded, nor do you want them getting lost. Imagine how frustrating it is when you’re on a website and can’t get to the information you’re searching for.

Use your map to organize your website’s flow. Which pages are subpages of a larger section? Which pages need links to others? Note those in the spreadsheet, or use indentations to show how they connect.

Title Tag Keyword Map

2. Understand Your Users

Understanding your users is marketing 101, but it’s crucial for creating a website that achieves your goals. If you have the most amazing website, but it’s not tailored to the type of visitors you want and need, what good is it?

Before you rework your website, you need to understand who your audience is. Are they CEOs of small businesses? Are they local companies?

Who are they, and what problems do they have? How are you helping them solve these problems?

Create a persona for your website users.

A “persona” is marketing jargon for a profile of who you are really trying to do business with.

Write out one that describes your ideal customer. Be as descriptive as possible by including things like job title, favorite device, payscale, main frustrations and problems, end goals, what they do in their spare time, etc. Use Moz’s guide to user personas to guide you through the process.

3. Understand Your Data

One of the best parts about the internet today is nearly everything is recorded. This means you have access to an incredible amount of data that can paint the picture of why your website isn’t working.

Once you know who your audience is, it’s time to dive deeper into how they’re experiencing your website right now.

Google has one of the most intuitive platforms for work like this. Take some time to use Google Analytics to figure out where your audience is getting hung up on your navigation. Look especially at the Behavior Flow section to see where users are dropping off.

Google Analytics Behavior Flow

But remember that you have access to TONS more data. I’ve written guides to –

  • Ahrefs
  • Search Console
  • Website Data
  • Bounce Rate
  • Improving Ad Campaigns

Create a column in your spreadsheet dedicated solely to “optimizations”. Use your data to evaluate each existing page and note any breakdowns or opportunities. For example, are you noticing a high drop off on a page that’s bringing in significant traffic? Write it down next to that page.

4. Do Keyword & Topical Research

Keyword and topical research are crucial to understanding your audience’s interests and how they search online. By implementing the same sort of language your audience uses while searching the web, your site will not only perform better organically, but will resonate with your target audience and remain relevant.

For your existing content, you can use Google Search Console to see where you can optimize pages that already have some visibility for specific search terms. Use it to determine where you can adjust a page to capture more organic traffic, expand on a certain topic, or update outdated content. It will also flag HTML issues such as duplicate content and titles and meta descriptions that need improvement. You can get the full guide to using Google Search Console here.

But what about the pages that aren’t already getting traction? For those, you’ll want to do additional keyword and topical research. I’ve put together a step-by-step process to using keywords on your site, which you can use to walk through the process of finding and implementing user language on your site.

As you go through the research process, create a keyword map for your entire website to add words and topics for each page. You can add it to your existing spreadsheet so all of your information is in one place.

5. Find Content Gaps

You can’t improve what doesn’t exist, Once you have a handle on what’s going on with your existing content, it’s time to dive into what’s missing from your website.

From a user’s perspective, what’s missing?

Start by doing internal research. If you have a sales or customer service team, ask them what questions they’re getting. More importantly, look at your own internal site searches! This tells you exactly what people are searching for on your site (because they can’t find it).

Google Analytics Site Search

Also comb through your email and see what people ask when they contact you about your business. Chances are, those questions are missing information on your website, and you can add them either as a new page or as an FAQ page.

After you’ve taken a look at your own internal sources, it’s time to take a look at outside data. Use tools like Ahrefs to help you find what industry publications and competitors are getting right (use the full guide to Ahrefs to help you get the most out of the tool). Look especially for content with significant backlinks and organic traffic to see what type of content is in tune with your target audience. Then, add the missing pages and their corresponding keywords/topics to your website spreadsheet/map.

6. Address User Experience

Improving your website isn’t just about improving the content — it’s also about improving the experience visitors have on your site (also known as user experience).

You can have all of the right information, but if the website is slow, looks funky on their mobile device, or has a horrible design… you can bet users aren’t going to stick around.

There’s so much that can create a poor user experience — a bad design, broken links, a slow page load speed — it’s your job to find these negative elements and remedy them.

Start by evaluating your website design. Do you have a cohesive color palette? Are your images high quality? Does your website scale for tablet and mobile devices (also known as responsive in web jargon)? The visual appeal is going to be key in keeping users enticed and engaging with your content.

Next, dive into the mechanics. Start by testing page speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. If you’re seeing low or below average speeds, use this beginner’s guide to increase page speed to help fix it.

Make sure you use correct HTML formatting. Make sure your design values function over form (don’t use trendy bullsh*t like Parallax unless you value design awards over sales).

You’ll also want to check for broken links. To make sure none of your internal links are rendering a 404 page, use Screaming Frog to do a scan of your site’s pages. If you are specifically looking for Googlebot 404s, you can check your Search Console report.

7. Evaluate Your Copywriting

Now that you’ve addressed the mechanics and make-up of your site, it’s time to focus on the flair — otherwise known as the actual copy on your website.

As with all the of the elements in this guide, good copywriting (when combined with other website best practices) can lead to more traffic, better leads, and more sales.

Take a look at each page and determine where your content can be spruced up. Where can you use images instead of text? Where can you add more of your brand personality? Where can you break up paragraphs so the page is easier to skim?

Use this guide on how to improve website copy to help you evaluate your site copy. Choose three areas where you can improve, then go implement it!

Next Steps

Improving your website content can be a daunting task with no clear starting point. Using a grab bag of tips and tricks doesn’t get you any further — in fact, it can leave you feeling lost.

Instead of hopping around and fixing things at random, put a plan in place that takes you through each phase of the process in a methodical manner. Use the steps above to help guide you, and make sure you focus one one step at a time.

By following a plan and sticking to the process, you’ll be well on your way to overhauling your website to create one that helps grow your business (without feeling completely overwhelmed!).

The post How to Improve Your Website Content appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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How To Track Right-Click Events & Goals in Google Analytics

Track Right Click Events in Google Analytics

You probably know that a large portion of your traffic numbers in Google Analytics is either bullsh*t, spam, or straight-up wrong.

But you know that already. Even if you are tracking everything that you should track – there are still plenty of “unknown unknowns” in Google Analytics.

Like the fact that you did not know that Google Analytics does not track right-clicks (or any non-left click).

Think about how you browse the Internet. Right-clicking all the time, right?

Now think about those PDF downloads and external clicks that you are tracking as Goals in Google Analytics.

Yep – all wrong.

So here’s how to fix it – and track right-click events in Google Analytics as goals.

Phase 1 – Gathering Data in Google Tag Manager

For this part, I owe 100% of my knowledge to Jules Stuifbergen. You can read his guide to setting this up in Google Tag Manager here. And if your team needs help with Google Tag Manager, you should hire him – he’s awesome.

Either way – here’s how I implemented his guide along with my clarifications.

1. Setup a Click Listener Tag

This tag is a custom HTML tag with a bit of Javascript. It’s going to fire either on Pageview OR on DOM Ready. You’re going to need jQuery loaded on your page. If you are using WordPress, there’s 99% chance that you have jQuery already.

This tag is going to hang out on your page “listening” for a mousedown action on a right or middle mouse button. Here’s what it looks like.

Tag Listener

And here’s the Javascript for the Tag.

<script type='text/javascript'> if (window.jQuery) { jQuery('a').mousedown(function(event) { if (event.which == 3) dataLayer.push({ "nonleft.linkclick.href": this.href, "nonleft.linkclick.linktext": this.text, "event": "nonleft.linkclick.right"}); if (event.which == 2) dataLayer.push({ "nonleft.linkclick.href": this.href, "nonleft.linkclick.linktext": this.text, "event": "nonleft.linkclick.middle"}); }); } </script>

Now your page should be “listening” for a mousedown function.

2. Setup Data Layer Variables

Now – you want to be able to capture and categorize the events in the Data Layer. That’s where Variables come in.

These are critical for your future goal tracking.

Like my click events in Google Analytics, I’m going to want the link target and the link text.

So head to your data variables area.

2 Data Layer Variables

Now set up the data layer variables to match the variables to be sent by the listener tag.

3 Data Layer Variable

4 Data Layer Matching

Be sure to pay attention to the name you use for the Variables. That’s going to come in later.

3. Set up the Trigger for Google Analytics

Now that we have a listener tag firing on Pageview / DOM Ready and sending the variables that we want – we need to get a Trigger ready for our Google Analytics Tag.

Go to Triggers and add a new Custom Event Trigger.

Make it fire on nonleft.linkclick, using Regex match.

The Regex is because in the Listener Tag – you are listening for both right and middle clicks. The Regex will capture both.

5 Non-left Trigger

Ok – now we are tracking non-left clicks in Google Tag Manager…but not Google Analytics.

If you need clarification on this Phase – check out Jules’ post for a different perspective.

But let’s move to Phase 2 of the process.

Phase 2 – Gathering & Using Data in Google Analytics.

For this phase, we’re going to pull the Google Tag Manager Data Layer Variables into Google Analytics. Then we’re going to integrate the data with our existing left-click event data to create more accurate event click goals.

Step 1. Setup a new Google Analytics Tag

In Google Tag Manager, you need to add a new Tag. Make it a Google Analytics / Universal Analytics Tag.

Make it an Event Tracking tag. It’ll look like this.

7 Google Analytics Tag Setup

Now – you can name the Category, Action & Label anything really.

But…

To have an effective Goal setup in Google Analytics., you need to have 2 of them match existing click event patterns – and have 1 of them differ.

Having one differ is critical because this event will create a lot of noise…and it does not technically track a click – it tracks onmousedown.

You need to be able to segment out these events.

For my setup, I made the Category “right-click” and then pulled in the Data Layer Variables for the Action and the Label since my setup tracks URL as Action and Anchor Text as Label.

Next, you’ll match your Trigger to this Tag.

8 GA Trigger

Now, when someone does a non-left click, it will push your Variables into the Data Layer, fire your Google Analytics Click Event – and populate it with the Variables all at once.

Congratulations! You have full click event data in Google Analytics.

Now we need to tie it into an accurate Goal.

Step 2. Create a Useful Goal

Suppose you want to track PDF downloads as a Goal. You’ve been tracking the left-click downloads. But now you need to integrate your new non-left clicks.

You’re going to use one of the two fields that the non-left and left click events share in common to create a single goal.

9 Create Goals

But again – with left and right clicks, you are still dealing with 2 very different actions. It’s important to be able to segment each and confirm the behavior on your own site.

Since you left one Event field different – you can do just that.

10 Segment Clicks

*aside – and yes, you can see that until I set up right-click tracking, I was completely missing almost 1/3rd of my clicks.

Next Steps

First off, trust but verify your Google Analytics data. Do not focus on individual numbers to make data-driven decisions – look at contrasts, patterns, and other data sets to get a clearer picture of what you need to do.

Second, if you track clicks for any reason, whether it’s for downloads, for advertising, or decision-making – make sure you implement non-left click tracking. It’s a common enough browsing habit that tracking it will provide a much clearer picture.

Third, this post uses a very specific recipe for a very specific problem. But you can (and should) amend every part of this post to fit the problem you’re having. Hopefully it’s helpful!

The post How To Track Right-Click Events & Goals in Google Analytics appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Selz Versus Wazala

wazala vs selz

If you are planning to market a couple of products online or offer digital downloads using your website or Facebook page, feature-flooded shopping carts might be greater than you’ll need. Should you not wish to take time to generate a brand-new online shop you’ve options: Selz and Wazala permit you to sell physical and e-books online, blogs, or social networking pages by embedding simple “buy now” buttons.

Australian-based startup Selz launched in 2013. You’ll need to know from the bat that additionally to the shopping cart software functionality, Selz functions like a payment processor. Rather of integrating having a third-party option like PayPal, Selz charges a transaction fee for every completed order, then pays out earnings to retailers every week.

La-based Wazala started supporting the purchase of digital and physical goods this year, and like Selz the simple shopping cart software lets anybody publish products online, no matter programming level of skill. Wazala enables you to produce a separate store page inside your website or go for an overlay widget that hovers above your site’s darkened screen.

Selz and Wazala both tell you they are simple to use and filled with (sufficient) useful features. Each platform enables you to sell goods by yourself blog, website, or Facebook business page, or produce a simple store.

But exactly how will they compare? Continue reading to see which shopping cart software has got the edge.

Should you not have enough time to see a complete article, check out our best search engine optimization for any couple of quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer care, superb website templates, and simple-to-use software, all for any reasonable cost.

Table of Contents

Web-Located or Licensed:

Both Selz and Wazala are fully web-located, cloud-based solutions.

Software and hardware Needs:

Since Selz and Wazala are web-located, you’ll just have a browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox) with secure Access to the internet to produce and operate your store. Bear in mind that it is always smart to use the newest software and current on updates.

Prices:

Champion: Tie

Selz and Wazala approach prices very differently, and then the champion from the prices category depends upon your choice. Rather of having to pay a regular monthly shopping cart software bill and providing a portion of sales to some third-party payment processor, Selz works as a payment processor and cart that can take a cut only if you are making a purchase. Selz’s commission-based rates are 5% + $.25 per transaction. Which means should you develop a $100 purchase Selz could keep $5.25. See our complete Selz review for more information about how exactly Selz prices works and comes even close to processors like PayPal.

Like the majority of other web-located shopping carts, Wazala assumes you’ll integrate your cart having a third-party payment processor. You’ll pay Wazala a regular monthly hosting fee after choosing the Small, Medium or Large plan, priced from $16 to $64 monthly. Click the link to see information regarding Wazala’s charges.

Simplicity of use:

Champion: Selz

While Selz and Wazala are each simple to learn and operate and wish zero programming skills, I’ve never test driven a shopping cart software that’s simpler to navigate than Selz: It’s as not even close to a technical free cart as you’re getting, and it is easier (and fewer effective) than web-based carts like Shopify. As pointed out above, since Selz is really a much easier program than full-out shopping carts that include a lot of features, it’s a finest fit for small vendors searching for a good way to market products via social pages or with an existing website.

Selz walks you thru the set-up process, which essentially involves tweaking settings and colours, adding images along with a store description, and loading products. Whenever you create something new page you will find choices for setting products in a fixed cost or fluid cost that is dependent upon the customer.

It is also quite simple to construct an outlet with Wazala, with a user friendly product editor within an admin that’s created into six sections: builder, manager, promoter, orders, customers, and dashboard. I love a great deal about Wazala’s admin, although I discovered it slightly less elegant and intuitive compared to backend Selz has folded out. I did not find Wazala’s reporting tools to become especially useful and think it will work better to simply offer users Google Analytics or free, but that’s just my estimation.

Product Features:

Champion: Wazala

As they are, Wazala provides you with the opportunity to offer discounts, track inventory, and access a social networking promotion tool. Multiple languages are supported and stores which are live online, blog, and Facebook business page are maintained from one admin that’s updated instantly.

You can sell digital or physical products by developing a unique page in your website or integrating a pop-over widget that hovers over your site following a buyer clicks a shopping cart software icon. You may also sell on the Facebook business page or just create a standalone Wazala store using its own URL.

Wazala’s auto-generated Search engine optimization leaves room for improvement (you can include product keywords but that’s about all.) Selz also populates Search engine optimization fields, however the cart deemphasizes optimization. That’s because it’s marketed to musicians, artists, and authors who already (theoretically) possess a loyal social networking following. Fans, consequently, will further promote products.

Wazala generates low inventory alerts and it is shipping tools allow products to become calculated by number, order, or weight. Selz, however, mandates that you identify a set predetermined fee for packages shipping worldwide or domestically. Wazala might not support real-time shipping or any other advanced extras, however it wins hands-lower within the shipping department.

Like Wazala, Selz enables you to definitely integrate in-page “buy now” buttons or widgets that may be baked into websites and social networking pages. A WordPress widget can also be offered that allows WordPress bloggers to integrate the cart. I love a number of Selz’s features: It simply launched discount codes and enables you to definitely offer training and talking to sessions. In addition, Selz supports free downloads and it is “pay that which you want” option is going to be appealing to fledgling artists. Plus, e-books may include video or audio previews.

But overall, for me Wazala provides a broader selection of as they are features which are more desirable to some general number of retailers, not only creatives. Find out more information regarding features for Wazala here and Selz here.

Confused or at a loss for your choices? If you want help sifting through shopping cart software software we’re here to assist. Take a look at Merchant Maverick’s talking to services.

Website Design:

Champion: Wazala

Most shopping carts offer a number of styles to assist define the appear and feel of the store. But while Selz and Wazala supports simple, stand-alone shops, the carts would be best at integrating to your website, blog, or social networking page. What you’ll get as they are with Selz can’t be modified beyond switching up colors and pictures.

While Wazala is far from carts that allow you to use code to create serious customizations, you’ll find more design versatility. Additionally to colours and pictures, you can buy various column structures, a shortlist of fonts, along with a couple of wallpaper backgrounds. Wazala enables you to definitely upload a wallpaper image from your Flickr account, too.

Integrations and Add-Ons:

Champion: Selz

Since Selz and Wazala are new but still emerging, neither cart supports a really wide range of extras, although more add-ons are possible lower the street. And also, since many users simply integrate stores on Facebook companies pages or websites there isn’t because an excuse for a large suite of more third-party features. Finally check, Selz integrates with Google Analytics along with a couple of e-newsletter marketing services including MailChimp and Campaign Monitor. Wazala only provides a Google Analytics integration.

Payment Processing:

Champion: Tie

Selz and Wazala both take different angles with regards to payment processing. As pointed out in “pricing” above, Selz operates like a payment processor that can take a cut from the purchase (5% + $.25 per transaction) after a purchase is finished.

Whenever you join an average credit card merchant account you’ll very first time with an application. However with Selz you won’t be required to obtain a credit card merchant account or join yet another third-party processor to begin selling. You will be compensated out via PayPal on Fridays for orders offered throughout the previous week unless of course you reside around australia, in which the cart relies. For the reason that instance funds could be transferred straight into a financial institution account. Bear in mind that orders placed at the outset of a few days might take as lengthy as two days to process and appearance inside your account.

Selz only enables people to purchase products using Mastercard or visa, that is a real weak place since lots of buyers would like more options, especially American Express and PayPal.

Wazala also offers advantages and disadvantages within the payment processing department. It’s structured like many shopping carts to integrate with third-party gateways, but the amount of processors it supports is restricted to PayMill, Stripe, Authorize.internet, and PayPal. Around the plus side, Wazala supports multiple currencies and payments via charge card, wire transfer, or COD.

If you want help navigating the field of payment processors, take a look at our Credit Card Merchant Account Comparison page or call us for any consultation.

Customer Support and Tech Support Team:

Champion: Selz

You will not find lots of documentation for Selz or Wazala, but overall Selz provides more methods to achieve out, together with a telephone number to talk with staff (although you will be calling Sydney lengthy distance,) chat, along with a help center. My email queries were taken care of immediately rapidly and clearly. You’ll likewise be able to make contact with people from the Selz team via Twitter and facebook.

Wazala offers no live chat or phone support (check this out sparse contact page form without any listed work hours) and virtually leaves you to definitely navigate articles within the help-desk for solutions to questions. You are able to achieve to Wazala via Facebook (read this demo store) and Twitter.

Negative Reviews and Complaints:

Champion: Selz

Since Selz and Wazala are generally new shopping carts there aren’t many negative or positive reviews floating online at this time. But after hrs of research and testing I could gather a summary of underwhelming facets of both carts. Neither includes real-time shipping a treadmill-page checkout. Both offer limited customer support and limited Search engine optimization.

While Selz only offers a number of integrations, Wazala just supports Google Analytics. But Wazala’s insufficient customer care (beyond a couple of articles) is less strong than Selz. I also don’t like you need to submit charge card info to start Wazala’s 15-Day trial.

If you wish to look for user complaints about Selz or Wazala, make sure to Google Selz/Wazala reviews, Selz/Wazala complaints, Selz/Wazala comments, Selz/Wazala scam, Selz/Wazala testimonials, etc.

Positive Testimonials and reviews:

Champion: Wazala

Wazala and Selz are generally fast to setup and simple to use, although I had been especially astounded by how rapidly I could get began within the Selz admin coupled with you don’t need to access documentation. I additionally like a number of Selz’s features, including the opportunity to offer discounts, upload YouTube or Vimeo videos to products, enable a “pay that which you wish” button, and provide training or business talking to services.

I discovered Wazala to become simple, quick, and seamless to integrate into several presence online at any given time, including blogs, websites, and social networking pages. Overall, for me, Wazala is much more feature-wealthy, having a setting that lets buyers share products (with no need to authorize an application on Facebook) and provide online coupons on basically the little plan. Individuals extras give Wazala the narrow win.

Final Verdict:

Champion: Wazala

Selz is really a solid choice for bands, authors, and small companies which have produced a powerful social networking presence that may be transformed into having to pay customers. It couldn’t be any simpler to make use of and just requires a cut when a product is offered. There aren’t any monthly plans and you don’t need to join a repayment processor. In the event that model you like and it is negatives (including couple of integrations, the possible lack of capability to personalize a style, weak Search engine optimization) aren’t deal breakers then I would suggest Selz.

Wazala is really a contender for people or companies your wide range of specialties, whether it is e-books, t-shirts, or bike parts. You’ll pay a regular monthly fee and join a repayment processor like a Wazala customer. Compared to Selz, you will be able to better predict monthly expenses as your plan’s cost is constant. As well as your transactions is going to be processed by a recognised third-party processor such as PayPal. Overall, Wazala is much more feature wealthy, offering multi-currency support, better customer support options, and a number of marketing extensions.

Ready to look at both carts and find out if either clicks? Register with Selz and check out Wazala for 15 days to understand if either is a great fit for the business.

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