How To Build A Squarespace Website For Your Business The Easy Way

The post How To Build A Squarespace Website For Your Business The Easy Way appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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22+ Fitness Center & Gym Marketing Ideas To Find More Customers

This post originally appeared at 22+ Fitness Center & Gym Marketing Ideas To Find More Customers via ShivarWeb

Fitness Center & Gym Marketing Ideas To Find More Customers

Most fitness center & gym owners would agree that there’s nothing like finding a good customer. But it’s hard to find a good customer if you don’t have calls & emails coming in.

Some gyms have a location that brings in applications with nothing but a sign in the window. But for most fitness center managers, you have to go out and market your gym to get a quality pool of potential customers.

I’ve consulted on search marketing for several large, locally based business. Based on those experiences, here are some fitness center & gym marketing ideas that you can use to bring in more customers.

Create Neighborhood-Specific Website Pages

For many gym customers, city searches are too big, street searches are too small, and ZIP code searches are not relevant. Neighborhood searches are just right.

Google Suggest - Neighborhoods for Gyms

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

If you list multiple locations on your website, simply organize them by neighborhood (i.e., make neighborhoods your category).

If you have a single gym location, create a neighborhood & next to your neighborhood pages to try to rank for “gyms in [neighborhood]” searches.

Create Niche Amenity Pages

Lots of gym customers have specific amenities and/or requirements that they want. Instead of listing your amenities in a giant list, make detailed pages about each amenity. Try to rank for searches like “gyms with [amenity]”.

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

Google Suggest - Amenities for Gyms

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

Google Suggest - Amenities for Gyms

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

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

Google SERPs

Create Local Data Pages

Create resource guides for people moving or visiting your city. Create lots of them.

Google SERPs

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

Google SERPs

Develop Your Local Citations & Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

Local Listings for Gyms

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

Steal Ideas from Large Local Competitors / Businesses

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

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

With fitness center & gym marketing, make a list of local businesses that you *think* are being creative – including companies in different industries.

Note – This is where the big guys – Planet Fitness, Orange Theory, LA Fitness, etc are useful. See what they are doing in [large city] and steal their tactics.

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

Here’s what you’ll see.

Gym Link Building Ideas

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

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

Work with Local Blogs

Every city, no matter how small, has an interest in what’s going on. In Atlanta, where I live, we have Creative Loafing, Porch Press, Atlanta Voice, Atlanta Parent, etc.

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

Local Magazine with Gym Links

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

Your neighborhood pages, rental listings, amenity pages, and everything else on your website will benefit from more inbound links.

Use Hyper-Local Facebook Ads

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

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

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

You can run small, targeted campaigns that show multiple places at once. Be sure to take advantage of Facebook’s Lookalike ads. You can target your *exact* customer (ie, those who like CrossFit, Jillian Michaels, etc) and live in a specific neighborhood.

Be sure to also browse Facebook’s Ad Library to get ideas for solid local gym ads.

Use Hyper-Local Google Search Ads

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

But that search click will be very costly.

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

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

Use Hyper-Local Google Display Ads

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

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

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

List on Locally-Popular Review Websites

Review websites are a dime a dozen. They will send traffic to your listing. But they are expensive and require a lot of legwork.

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

Gym Review Websites

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

List on NextDoor & Local Forums

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

These networks are interesting because they are specifically local and extremely relevant for gyms. NextDoor also has a new early adopter ad program.

Advertise / Post on Local Subreddits

Reddit is an attractive website for many industries. But local subreddits are especially interesting for gym owners for a couple of reasons.

First, they are hubs for local discussion & recommendations.

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

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

However, you should explore their sidebar wiki for research.

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

Post Listings w/ Photos in Instagram

Think about how you can take workout & equipment photos & repurpose them across different platforms. I don’t think you should simply post listings on every platform, but instead use photos from actual workouts and fitness equipment to create a truly interesting feed on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter.

For example, suppose you have a unique piece of gym equipment. Post a tutorial on how to use it! So much gym equipment is useless to members because they don’t know how to use it. Take that opportunity to educate and help followers envision themselves in your gym space.

Develop a Local Workout Pinterest Board

Pinterest is an incredible resource for people looking to improve their lives. You can get in front of prospects with a locally-focused Pinterest board.

Use local photos, guides, etc from real workouts to provide ideas. Promote local trainers, businesses, etc.

Identify & Market Local Employers

Your customers are all working somewhere. And your prospective customers all will want a gym coming or going from their job.

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

Create discounts, bonuses, etc. Get in touch with those employers to see if there is a way to collaborate.

Identify & Market Local Schools & Amenities

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

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

Identify & Market Popular Customer Sources

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

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

Cross-Promote Local Fitness Professionals

Local fitness professionals (trainers, nutritionists, sports instructors, etc) usually have an incredible offline network, but have a poor online network.

If you are investing in your online marketing efforts, try to develop a relationship to cross-promote the professionals.

Cross-Promote Local Businesses

Your customers will spend money nearby. Figure out what other businesses do well when you have 100% occupancy. Offer a way to cross-promote, especially if they have multiple locations or a presence with your target customer.

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

Use Events To Get Social Media Attention

Events like open house tours, openings, holiday showings, etc are marketing staples for gyms. But events have a bonus effect online.

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

Use Video Tours To Hack Social Media

Like events, most social media gives preference to video in their feeds. Take interesting video tours of equipment & workout tutorials.

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

Use Digital Referral Fees for Word of Mouth

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

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

Find & Sponsor Local Charities

Sponsoring local charities provides a few marketing benefits.

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

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

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

Next Steps

There are a lot of marketing ideas out there for gym & fitness center owners. You don’t have to do all of them. You just have to do one or two well.

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

“”

How To Calculate Shipping Costs For Your Business

The post How To Calculate Shipping Costs For Your Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

How To Choose The Best Website Builder for Videographers

This post originally appeared at How To Choose The Best Website Builder for Videographers via ShivarWeb

How To Choose The Best Website Builder for Videographers

Building your website can be a tough but fulfilling part of growing your videography business. Website builders make building & maintaining a website much more accessible and convenient. But they all have tradeoffs, and videographers usually have very specific requirements.

For videographers, a website builder has to explicitly allow spaces to showcase previous work while also fitting your preferred aesthetic and giving your clients access to pricing, and other details about your work.

That means not every website builder will suit your needs.

Summary – Best Website Builder for Videographers

Based on my experience working with many website builders, there are a few that are a good fit for most people. They all have unlimited storage with native players in addition to embed tools. They all have a free trial or free plan available to try.

  • Name-brand
  • Integrated Tools
  • Focus on Templates
  • Creative Appeal

Squarespace

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

Weebly

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

WordPress

WordPress.com
View Plans

Need Maximum Control & Versatility?

Self-hosted WordPress has a learning curve, but also provides the most versatility, control & affordability. Learn to build a videographer website here.

Every website builder will tout itself as “the best” – and they all have options for videographers. But before doing a side by side feature comparison, I’ve found that it’s more useful to understand what you are looking for.

Every videographer runs a slightly different business. Portfolios are almost always important. But what about retail & download ability? Streaming? Embedding? Copyright considerations? Additional content & media?

Think about what you need and how you want to build your business. Here are a few primary & secondary considerations for choosing the best videography website builder for you.

Primary Considerations for a Videography Website Builder

Your website is the primary piece of brand identity potential clients will see before they decide to contact you or not. Your choices for a website builder can have a massive effect on a potential client’s first impressions. 

Type of Features

There are a lot of different types of features that can go into a videography website. But the exact features that you’ll need all depend on your business.

  • Will you be developing a website to bring in new clients?
  • Will you simply be hosting a portfolio?
  • Will you need to sell your videos to the public or stream them?
  • Will you need archive storage? Or copyright protections?
  • Will you need to gather appointment bookings?

And does it matter if you have all these features upfront or build them over time? Do you already use a 3rd party like Vimeo pro for these features or do you need more?

Type of Design

Think about how you want to design and maintain your website. There are different approaches with upsides and downsides.

Some builders start with a template but overlay a drag and drop editor. This provides convenience, but also means that your design might not be just right.

Some builders provide customizable themes that provide a uniform look, but also lock you into to a degree. And some other builders go further with defined templates. There’s usually a tradeoff between convenience and control.

If you know HTML/ CSS and feel comfortable editing your own site, then you might want to go the self-hosted route with WordPress and a WordPress website builder.

Type of Company

There are plenty of niche companies that focus on a single industry (like videography) and others that are large with resources to build out features that appeal to lots of different industries.

Neither approach is better or worse, but it’s worth considering. Do you prefer features built specifically for videographers or globally useful features that you can apply in your own way?

Secondary Considerations for a Videography Website Builder

No matter how you build your website at first, it will be an ongoing investment. It’s worth thinking through how you hope to grow your business & website over time.

Integrations

There are a lot of tools for videographers. Some are indispensable, some are convenient, and some are straight-up cheaper than any other option.

It’s worth considering whether you want an all-in-one website builder or if you want a website builder that simply integrates well with other 3rd party tools via apps, extensions, or plugins.

Are you planning on uploading, storing, and playing the video on the website builder – or will you just be embedding from a 3rd party.

Are there other 3rd party tools that you want to integrate with?

Marketing Tools

Consider what type of marketing that you are planning to do. What role does your website play? Will you need to track data or integrate 3rd party tools? Will you be doing content marketing or social media campaigns?

Budget

Your budget should be an obvious consideration, but I don’t think it should be a primary consideration. Ideally, your website should be a business investment that more than pays for itself.

But you also should not be paying more than you can or should. Outline your business expenses and where your website builder fits. It might be simpler to go with a videography tool suite like Vimeo Pro or a cheap website builder until you can build your own client base.

Next Steps

Based on my experience working with many website builders, there are a few that are a good fit for most people. They all have unlimited storage with native players in addition to embed tools. They all have a free trial or free plan available to try.

  • Name-brand
  • Integrated Tools
  • Focus on Templates
  • Creative Appeal

Squarespace

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

Weebly

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

WordPress

WordPress.com
View Plans

Need Maximum Control & Versatility?

Self-hosted WordPress has a learning curve, but also provides the most versatility, control & affordability. Learn to build a videographer website here.

That said, there are plenty of options out there. The most important task is to understand how you run your business and what features, design & budget you’re looking at.

“”

22+ Bank Marketing Ideas To Find More Clients

This post originally appeared at 22+ Bank Marketing Ideas To Find More Clients via ShivarWeb

Bank Marketing Ideas To Find More Clients

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

Some banks have a local name brand or location that brings in new clients with nothing more than a “Submit Application” link. But for most banks (especially local banks competing against MegaCorp), you have to go out and market your bank to get a quality pool of potential clients.

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

Create City-Specific Website Pages

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

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

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

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

Create Niche Offering Pages

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

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

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

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

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

This idea might be tedious. But it can be fast and scalable. You can use the same template over and over – just customize the details of the service.

Because here’s the thing – a lot of your potentially best customers are already searching out banks with these different services. But they are having to ask about them in random forums and long Google Searches.

Last week, I listened to a podcast episode about searching out banks that do house rehab refinancing loans. The podcast host gave a long tutorial about subscribing to CoreLogic and tracking down banks that did these loans…but what if the bank just had an explainer page about these loans in the local market? You’d be much better positioned to bring in these customers than putting the research work on them.

I personally chose my financial institution because they provided Health Savings Accounts – and had a clear explainer page about setting one up.

Create Local Data Pages

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

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

Again, people are doing this research already. Without pages on your site explaining these topics, you are leaving these customers up to the influence of big financial websites where big banks can compete with $$$ ad money.

Develop Your Local Citations & Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steal Ideas from Large Local Competitors / Businesses

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

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

With bank marketing, make a list of local businesses that you *think* are being creative – including companies in different industries and the Megacorp bank making a big local push.

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

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

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

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

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

Work with Local Blogs

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

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

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

You can also use a Content Explorer tool from SEMrush, Ahrefs, or BuzzSumo to see what news has driven social media shares.

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

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

Use Hyper-Local Facebook Ads

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

You know more about the neighborhoods with retirees moving in. You know about the popular and growing dealerships. You know the local business networks.

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

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

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

Use Hyper-Local Google Search Ads

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

But that search click will be very costly.

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

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

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

Use Hyper-Local Google Display Ads

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

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

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

List on Locally-Popular Review Websites

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

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

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

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

List on NextDoor & Local Forums

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

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

Advertise / Post on Local Subreddits

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

First, they are hubs for local discussion & recommendations.

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

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

However, you should explore their sidebar wiki for research.

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

*Personal aside – this route is how I found my local financial institution. Delta Community Credit Union had high praise on multiple Atlanta subreddit threads.

Develop a Local Financial Pinterest Board

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

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

Identify Government Resources

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

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

Identify & Market Local Employers

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

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

Create discounts, bonuses, etc. Get in touch with those employers to see if there is a way to collaborate.

Identify & Market Local Schools & Amenities

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

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

Identify & Market Popular Customer Sources

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

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

Cross-Promote Local Non-Profits

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

Cross-Promote Local Businesses

Your clients frequent lots of local businesses. And those local businesses also would love to have a local financial partner. Offer a way to cross-promote, especially if they have multiple locations or a presence with your target customer. This strategy is basic bank marketing (think appraisers, real estate agents, etc), but taken to the digital world.

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

Use Events To Get Social Media Attention

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

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

You can also sponsor local events and make sure that you are included in all of their social media promotions. You’ll get a lot more visibility compared to only at the event visibility.

Use Local or Industry Focused Videos to Hack Social Media

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

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

Use Digital Referral Fees for Word of Mouth

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

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

Find & Sponsor Local Charities

Sponsoring local charities provides a few marketing benefits.

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

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

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

Next Steps

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

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

“”

How To Choose The Best Ecommerce Website Builder For Beginners

This post originally appeared at How To Choose The Best Ecommerce Website Builder For Beginners via ShivarWeb

How To Choose The Best Ecommerce Website Builder For Beginners

The Internet has changed dramatically in the past 10 years for anyone who wants to sell a product online. In many ways, it’s easier than ever for beginners to sell online. However, the sheer world of options makes choosing an ecommerce website builder difficult in different ways.

Even though selling online should be approachable, it can be daunting. Here’s how to choose the best ecommerce website builder for beginners so that you can get started for less money and fewer barriers, but also build with confidence.

Summary – Best Ecommerce Website Builder for Beginners

Based on my experience working with many website builders, there are a few that are a good fit for most beginners.

  • Simple Ecommerce
  • Value Pricing
  • Focus on Simplicity
  • Small Site Appeal

Weebly

Weebly
View Plans
  • Built-in Features
  • Drag + Drop Design
  • Focus on Usability
  • Broad Appeal

Wix

Wix
View Plans
  • Affordable Option
  • Future-proofing
  • Focus on Versatility
  • Budget Appeal

NameCheap

NameCheap
View Plans

Focused on a long-term project?

Shopify is the most robust ecommerce platform on the Internet. It has a learning curve, but has the most comprehensive setup for a full-featured online store (see review). View plans.

Who Needs a Website Builder?

If you have the technical know-how, the website building process might not seem so daunting. For those of us who aren’t web developers, fortunately, there’s a workable solution: a website builder. With the right website building program, you don’t have to understand complex web development principles or know coding languages.  

Most e-commerce site builders are as simple as drag-and-drop. A good website builder should be easy to use, even for a complete newbie who only knows how to check email and post pictures on Facebook. 

The very best site builders don’t require you to start from scratch. By providing you with a set of features and templates that you can customize to meet your needs, these website builders reduce the amount of work you have to do to get your website running. 

These templates and features typically already incorporate best practices for web design, giving you a head start in building a professional-grade website for your e-commerce business.

The tradeoff you should be thinking of is whether using a website builder will be better than hiring a professional web designer or developer. For most small businesses and beginners, the decision is a no-brainer. A web developer will not do much that a site builder cannot do. 

Sure, a pro developer will do the job, but you might end up spending a lot for a small return on investment. Meanwhile, a website builder gets the job done just as well for only a fraction of the price.

They are also not incompatible. Many developers have expertise to build on top of an existing platform. That’s one consideration to think about – whether you want to be able to grow your features as your revenue and experiences increases.

Getting started with many website builders is very fast and easy, and you can get your website up and running in almost no time. 

Primary Considerations: How to Choose the Best E-Commerce Website Builder

You will need to ask yourself some questions to decide which website builder for beginners is best for your needs. 

What’s Your Budget?

A budget should be the very first thing on your list of considerations. Knowing what you can afford helps you narrow down your list of options. 

The trick is to think about all the costs that you’ll incur while building your website. There are things you need to think about outside of making the website itself, such as registering the site’s domain name and arranging for hosting. Most website builders bundle domain name, hosting & software into a single bundle. But it’s still useful to compare apples to oranges.

You’ll also need to invest money in content for your website, including images and sales copy. If you’re planning to do content marketing, you’ll have to invest in developing high-quality content. All of these costs add up, and you should consider them before you pick a website builder.

Most website builders have a free tier or at least a free trial. The paid levels typically range from $5 to about $50 a month for a plan that offers the most useful features for an e-commerce site.

If you have a tight budget, you can save a lot of money by looking for subscription plans that include most of the things you’ll need for your website, such as domain registration, business email address, hosting, and SEO tools. Again, most website builders bundle all these things. But not all do. It’s important to define what you need before exploring what they offer.

Do You Need Hosting As Part Of The Plan?

Speaking of hosting, it is yet another essential consideration you should make when picking a website builder. Some of these services include hosting as part of the package, while others only include a website builder and leave you to handle the hosting arrangement yourself.

Hosting is more vital than you might think, as the right host can make your business and the wrong one can break it. 

Here are some reasons why choosing the right host is paramount:

  • Customers will leave your site if it is slow. Fortunately or unfortunately, our rapidly contracting attention spans and addiction to instant gratification means a significant percentage of your visitors will likely leave your website if it doesn’t load in a few seconds. It’s not just about your customers, though. Google also uses the loading speed of your site as a factor in ranking it, meaning your ranking on search results will be adversely affected. A good host takes care of this by having the capacity to handle traffic spikes that might affect performance.
  • Your site needs proper security. Security is essential for every business, but it is especially for e-commerce. With the prospect of making payments on your website and putting their data at risk, customers will want to know that your website is secure. Many browsers will identify your site as ‘not secure’ if it doesn’t have HTTPS encryption and an SSL certificate. A good web host will include security and encryption as part of its package. You will likely lose customers if you don’t have this level of protection. 
  • A good host minimizes downtime for your site. You will lose sales if your site goes offline for even a few seconds. If your site has a reputation for frequently being down, you could lose both current and prospective customers. While scheduled maintenance is routine for every web host, the best hosts will minimize unplanned downtime, ensuring your site is up more than 99.99% of the time. Furthermore, the host will warn you about maintenance, so you can let your customers know beforehand. 

In summary, make sure to find a host that keeps up with your expected traffic, ensures security for your site, complies with PCI (Payment Card Industry) standards, and can handle your files. They should also offer backups of your website, and do all this for a reasonable price. 

Some hosting services also offer website builders, and some builders also provide hosting. You will need to decide if the convenience of an all-in-one package is worth any extra costs. 

Secondary Considerations: What Are Your Priorities and Needs?

Before you pick a website builder, you should have a good idea of what you want your website to look like and what you need it to do. You will then have a more definite sense of your priorities, and your search for the best e-commerce website builder for beginners will be more straightforward. 

Here are some significant considerations you should make when trying to figure out your needs and priorities:

  • Your level of experience when it comes to design. Most website builders have beginners in mind, and they don’t require you to have any experience with design or coding. However, some will be easier to work with than others, and some may require you to code if you want to customize your site’s look. If you’re starting from absolute scratch, look for a website builder with ready templates and drag-and-drop features.
  • The amount of flexibility you want. If you need to have options to customize your design, then you should pick a website builder with a large variety of templates. You will also want flexible editing features that allow you to customize the design according to your needs.
  • Will the website include a store? If your website will sell things directly online, which is highly likely if you’re building an e-commerce website, then the website builder should allow you to add checkout functionality and a shopping cart. The design should also encourage users to make purchases with features like browsing history, product recommendations, and SEO functions. 
  • The type of media you will include. You need to ensure that your website builder can handle different media types, including videos, images, animations, and other elements such as maps.    

Another thing that should factor into your choice is whether the website builder makes mobile-friendly websites. Websites without mobile-responsive templates should be a deal-breaker in today’s mobile-centric marketplace. 

General Tips: Other Things to Consider When Finding the Best E-Commerce Site Builder for Beginners

Here are some other things to consider when choosing a site builder. 

How Many Themes Are Offered By The Website Builder?

As you build your site with a website builder, you will most likely start with the website builder’s ready-made themes. You will select one of them and then customize it to get your site up quickly.

The last thing you want is a website builder that limits your customization options to a few themes and does not allow you to customize the look or add images or graphics. 

To avoid this issue, you can go for a website builder that not only allows you to customize themes, but also offers a large number and variety of themes. 

Is The Website Builder User Friendly?

Website builders will be much easier than building the site yourself from scratch. 

However, some of them will be easier to use than others. Website builders that offer drag-and-drop options, for example, make the web building process much more accessible than those that require element placement by other means. 

You also want an editing page with an intuitive and self-explanatory layout so that you’re not spending more time learning to use the builder than actually building a website. 

Some builders offer free trials so that you can use them to see how intuitive they are. If there is no trial, you’ll just have to do your research about a website builder’s reputation for user-friendliness from online reviews. 

However, this step is necessary because it will protect you from getting a builder with a steep learning curve that isn’t beginner-friendly. 

Does The Website Builder Have Marketing & SEO Features?

Having a good-looking website doesn’t mean much unless people can find it online. For that, you need to implement some SEO (Search Engine Optimization) best practices. 

These include giving your website a meta-description, including the right metadata for search engines to discover your site and index it. You’ll also need to adjust image sizes and include tags and optimize load times. 

A good website builder should make the task of optimizing your e-commerce site as simple as possible.

The best website builders will give you an easy way to update your site’s metadata and provide search engines with a site map. There is a lot more to effective SEO than this, and a website builder cannot do everything for you. However, a good one will give you a massive head start by handling these basic SEO tasks automatically. 

Does The Website Builder Provide Valuable Support To Users?

Even if you find a user-friendly website builder, you will still need to take some time to learn how to use it. The learning curve can be higher if you go for a website builder with lots of features. 

Ensure that the company you choose has lots of educational resources to make the learning curve easier to negotiate. These features include a knowledge base, informative tutorials, and a large and supportive community of active users who can help when you’re feeling stuck.

Does The Website Builder Have Good Customer Service And A Good Reputation?

Responsive and helpful customer service reps can make using the website builder so much easier than if you’re just left to figure everything out on your own. 

24/7 customer service will give you peace of mind from knowing that you can get instant help whenever you need it. This service is especially vital if you have a builder that also includes hosting services. 

Again, there are no shortcuts here. The best way to discover the reputation of a website builder is from online reviews from other business owners. By seeing what others think of the service, you can get a sense of whether it’s the right choice.

Next Steps

If you are selling online, you will need an e-commerce website. The benefits of having a site instead of only selling on third-party sites far outweigh the costs. 

Based on my experience working with many website builders, there are a few that are a good fit for most beginners.

  • Simple Ecommerce
  • Value Pricing
  • Focus on Simplicity
  • Small Site Appeal

Weebly

Weebly
View Plans
  • Built-in Features
  • Drag + Drop Design
  • Focus on Usability
  • Broad Appeal

Wix

Wix
View Plans
  • Affordable Option
  • Future-proofing
  • Focus on Versatility
  • Budget Appeal

NameCheap

NameCheap
View Plans

Focused on a long-term project?

Shopify is the most robust ecommerce platform on the Internet. It has a learning curve, but has the most comprehensive setup for a full-featured online store (see review). View plans.

However, choosing the right website builder to build your site can make it much more straightforward and save you both time and money. By following the tips above, you should be able to figure out how to choose the best e-commerce website builder for beginners.

“”

22+ Dental Marketing Ideas To Serve More Clients

This post originally appeared at 22+ Dental Marketing Ideas To Serve More Clients via ShivarWeb

Dental Marketing Ideas To Serve More Clients

Most dentists & dental practice owners would agree that there’s nothing like finding a good, consistent patient. But it’s hard to find a good patient if you don’t have new appointments coming in.

Some dentists have a location or word of mouth that brings in appointments with nothing but a Dentist sign on the curb. But for most dental practices, you have to go out and market your practice to get a quality pool of potential patients.

I’ve consulted on search marketing for many local businesses. One of my first clients was a family dentistry practice in Illinois. Based on those experiences, here are some dental marketing ideas that you can use to bring in more appointments.

Create City & Neighborhood-Specific Website Pages

For patients, metropolitan area searches are too big and “near me” searches are too small. City & Neighborhood searches are just right.

Google Location Results for Dentists

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

If you list multiple locations on your website, simply organize them by neighborhood or city (i.e., make neighborhoods your category).

If you have a single location, create a neighborhood & next to your neighborhood pages to try to rank for “dentists in [neighborhood]” searches.

Create Niche Service Pages

Lots of patients have specific services and/or needs that they want. Instead of listing your services in a giant list, make detailed pages about each service. Try to rank for searches like “dentist with [service]”.

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

Google SERPs Services for Dentists
Dental Insurance Examples

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

FAQs for dentists

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

If you want to take this to the next level, you can use a tool like SEMrush’s Keyword Explorer to provide phrase match search terms in bulk. Here’s an example report for a local business.

Create Local & Dentistry Pages

Create resource guides for people moving to your city. Create lots of them.

Local Dental Resource Pages

Use Google Autosuggest to understand what people are searching for in your city. Focus on healthcare needs. Laws, options, and providers vary wildly from city to city and state to state. Become the go-to resource for local FAQs about dentistry and healthcare. And if you don’t find enough local questions – you can always create content around broad questions.

Dental FAQ pages

Develop Your Local Citations & Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steal Ideas from Large Local Competitors / Businesses

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

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

With dental marketing, make a list of local businesses that you *think* are being creative – including companies in different industries. For dentists, it’s often easy enough to just check out what the top hospitals or top business practices are doing. Find what you can copy and go from there.

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

Here’s an example of what you’ll see.

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

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

For example, if a local hospital gets attention in the local newspaper for providing a journalist with consumer trends – see if you can do the same. Or if a local doctor has a profile with a local healthcare directory, go get that same listing for yourself.

Work with Local Blogs & Magazines

Every city, no matter how small, has niche publications and blogs. In Atlanta, where I live, we have Atlanta Parent magazine in addition to the AJC Health Section, Best Self Atlanta, and dozens of smaller neighborhood newspapers and niche blogs / social media accounts.

Find those and become a regular fixture. All these blogs & social media accounts act on tips & press releases. Very few have a “boots on the ground” journalists. If you can be the place to provide inside information, free images, and consistent write-ups, you’ll earn attention and links.

Niche Magazine Example for Dental Marketing

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

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

In other words, the links & write-ups won’t necessarily bring customers. But it will help you stand out in marketing channels that will bring in customers.

Use Hyper-Local Facebook Ads

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

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

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

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

Use Hyper-Local Google Search Ads

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

But that search click will be very costly.

But like Facebook, you have an “in” – Google Quality Score. Google will show ads higher if the ad is more relevant even if they don’t have the high bid.

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

Use Hyper-Local Google Display Ads

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

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

Google Health Display Ad

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

List on Locally-Popular Review Websites

Local review websites are a dime a dozen. They will send traffic to your listing. But they are expensive and require a lot of legwork.

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

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

List on NextDoor & Local Forums

NextDoor is one of many local social media websites & forums. They are hard to find and hard to join, representing an opportunity for any local, enterprising dental practice. They also have an interesting new ad product for early adopters.

These local social networks are interesting because they are specifically local and extremely relevant for geographically limited businesses like dentists.

Advertise / Post on Local Subreddits

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

First, they are hubs for local discussion & recommendations.

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

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

However, you should explore their sidebar wiki for research.

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

*Personal Note – I actually found my children’s pediatric dentist on the Atlanta subreddit.

Post Visual Educational Content on Instagram

Think about how you can make your Instagram feed useful instead of promotional & repurpose them across different platforms. I don’t think an office-centric or promotional feed is the route to go. Instead, be a professional curator of dental education and factoids to create a truly interesting feed on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter.

Develop a Local Resources Pinterest Board

Pinterest is an incredible resource for people looking to decorate & upgrade their living. You can get in front of prospects with a locally-focused healthcare-oriented Pinterest board.

Use local photos, lists, resources, etc from real listings to provide ideas. Pull from the local data pages mentioned earlier or visual explainers of common services.

Identify & Market Local Employers

Your patients are all working somewhere. And your prospective patients all will want a dentist near their job if they can’t have one near their home.

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

Create discounts, bonuses, etc. Get in touch with those employers to see if there is a way to collaborate.

Identify & Market Popular Customer Sources

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

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

Cross-Promote Local Healthcare Professionals

Local healthcare professionals usually have an incredible offline network, but have a poor online network. If you are investing in your online marketing efforts, try to develop a relationship to cross-promote your fellow healthcare professionals.

Cross-Promote Local Businesses

Your patients will likely spend money or time nearby. Figure out what other businesses do well when you have 100% booked appointments. Look at the businesses in your shopping center or block. Offer a way to cross-promote, especially if they have multiple locations or a presence with your target patient.

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

Use Events To Get Social Media Attention

Events like open house tours, openings, holiday showings, etc are marketing staples for many local events. They can be the same for dental practices, especially since events have a bonus effect online.

You can list them on multiple platforms to get extra exposure. Facebook is the best place for this tactic, but it also works on Google, Instagram, and event apps like Meet and Four Square. Think of events that you can hold – even if it’s as simple as a career day for the local high school.

Use Video Behind The Scenes To Hack Social Media

Like events, most social media gives preference to video in their feeds. Take interesting video tours of your office, tools, and behind the scenes.

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

Use Digital Referral Fees for Word of Mouth

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

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

Find & Sponsor Local Charities

Sponsoring local charities provides a few marketing benefits.

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

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

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

Next Steps

There are a lot of marketing ideas out there for dentists and dental practice owners. You don’t have to do all of them. You just have to do one or two well.

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

“”

How to Choose the Best Free Website Builder for Your Website

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

How to Choose the Best Free Website Builder

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

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

Summary – Best Free Website Builder Options

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

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

Google Sites

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

Wix

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

WordPress

WordPress.com
View Plans

Focused on other free options?

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

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

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

Primary Considerations

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

Ads

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

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

Domain Name

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

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

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

Upgrade Cost

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

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

Security (SSL Certificate)

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

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

Storage and Size

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

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

Bandwidth

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

Mobile Responsiveness

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

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

Ease of Use

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

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

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

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

Customization Level

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

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

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

Features

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

Ecommerce (Optional)

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

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

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

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

Support

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

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

Secondary Considerations

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

For Photographers & Artists

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

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

For Nonprofits

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

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

For Classrooms & Teachers

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

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

For Small Businesses

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

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

General Tips

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

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

Next Steps

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

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

Wrap Up

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

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

Google Sites

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

Wix

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

WordPress

WordPress.com
View Plans

Focused on other free options?

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

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

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

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