This post originally appeared at Etsy Shop Ideas: 10+ Ways To Generate Hundreds of Profitable Options via ShivarWeb
Etsy is an established global marketplace. And it’s a great place for anyone to try out a small online business with zero risk and zero commitment.
But unfortunately, Etsy is also a place where many people fail, get discouraged, or never start in the first place.
Many of those problems come from not having the right, profitable Etsy shop idea. It’s not enough to have a good idea. You have to have a good idea that other people are interested in.
Sure, many people on Etsy are looking for that certain, unique something.
But you are never going to sell them that certain, unique something unless you have a general idea of what people are looking for.
Problems with a List of Etsy Ideas
There are plenty of ideas for what to sell on Etsy. Even Etsy has a guide.
But they all have problems that make them unhelpful. They are all usually –
Vague – vague ideas are impossible to execute on.
Out-dated – Etsy thrives on trends taht change day to day.
Anecdotal – Anecdotes don’t prove anything except the success of a single person.
Untrue – Rumor is a great way to get attention, even if it’s untrue.
Not complete – The appearance of success is never quite right.
Copied to death – No one ever got ahead by copying competitors.
This guide to Etsy shop ideas will show you how to research your own list of Etsy shop ideas.
You’ll pair your experience, skills, and abilities with real data that pops up around the Internet to find an Etsy shop idea that works for you.
Your goal is to find an idea that is pre-qualified by interest so that you know that success is possible if you get the execution right.
Generating Etsy Shop Ideas
Think of these data sources as gold mines. There will be a lot of dirt. There will be a lot of digging. It’s pretty boring. You’ll need to gather a lot of ore to get at the gold.
But if you comb every mine systematically, you will likely find a “seam” of gold that you can focus on. All you need is a single nugget.
Ideas from Etsy Search
This data source is simple. Actual, real-time customer searches power Etsy’s autosuggest feature.
Use the suggestions to gather interesting ideas. Use these tips to systematically harvest ideas –
Go through the entire Alphabet. Type “a” and hit space.
Take the “root” of an interesting idea. Type that in and hit space. If you see COVID masks – try taking just “masks” and seeing what else shows up.
Try the space before and after your root.
Try a space in between a modifier and a root.
Take a common modifier, hit space, and look for interesting roots.
Keep exploring until you get a basket of good ideas.
Ideas from Etsy Categories
The goal here is to find interesting, underserved, or surprisingly popular Etsy categories. Then browse the categories looking for new ideas.
This data source requires a few tools to do right, but you can also do it manually and/or free to quickly check some ideas.
The first way is to browse Etsy’s categories in Google’s index.
Do a search for site:etsy.com/c/ – you’ll get all the category pages that Google has indexed. They are generally listed in order of importance (though not really by popularity). You can also drill down to search subcategories.
The second way is to look through Etsy’s taxonomy sitemaps. Yes, it sounds daunting, but it’s really just a much more efficient way of browsing their categories.
Head over to their taxonomy index. Open up, download, and copy all the listed “node” sitemaps. You’ll find many buried categories that have interesting product ideas.
The third way is to use a tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs to view their top categories. They will show all of the relevant pages plus all the keywords that those pages rank for.
You will absolutely find an interesting idea in this dataset. Ahrefs is $7 for a 7 day free trial. SEMRush has a free 14 day trial, so they’d be best for checking a quick idea. I’ll use both for many examples.
Just drop etsy.com/c/ into the Site Explorer and look at the subfolder.
Then look at all the categories and what keywords they drive.
This data shows two things. First, it shows that people are generally interested in these product ideas. Second, it shows that Etsy itself attracts interested buyers directly to that category – so you will be well-placed to get customers if you can show up in that category.
Ideas from Etsy Shops
This source is very similar to Etsy categories…but with individual shops. You are trying to reverse engineer successful shops to see if you can get in on the action – maybe they are attracting customers, but aren’t selling the right items.
Since there are so many shops, you will be forced to use SEMRush / Ahrefs for this tactic. You can absolutely browse their shop sitemap, or check out popular shops – but there’s too many of them.
Instead, just drop etsy.com/shop/ into the subfolder search.
You’ll see the top performing shops in Google Search (not Etsy search) plus what keywords they are getting traffic with.
Click over on the Shop’s “Sold” page and see what they are doing right.
Take those ideas and add them to your collection.
Ideas from Google Autosuggest
Google Autosuggest is a go-to source for website keywords. But it can also work for your Etsy shop.
Remember, your goal is to find interest in a product or product line that you can create and work on. Google will have general interest, so you have to coach it with specific roots and modifiers.
Start the same way that you did with Etsy Search. But instead of doing the Alphabet first, start with broad modifiers so that you can find interesting roots.
The best place to start is with “etsy”.
Start typing “etsy” and hit space. Redo it again, but hit space before “etsy”.
Then process with the Alphabet to find more.
You can then repeat this process with common Etsy modifiers like –
You’ll likely find a whole range of ideas to store.
Ideas from Pinterest Search
Pinterest is one of the largest (if not the largest) source of traffic for Etsy shops. Many prospective customers will find you via Pinterest.
Think of Pinterest Search as a blend between Etsy Search and Google Search. It’s more focused than Google, but has less “intent” than Etsy (ie, searchers aren’t in buying mode).
You’ll have to toy around with the roots and modifiers, but the process is the same. Use a series of “Etsy-likely” modifiers to find roots, and then drill down.
If you see “salt shakers etsy”, then you know that the root is interesting. Then take the “salt shakers” root and look for different modifiers. You’ll see options like “wood salt shakers”, etc.
You can then assume that people would find “wood salt shakers” to be an interesting find on Etsy. Take those ideas and run with them.
Ideas from Pinterest Boards
Pinterest has thousands of public collaboration boards around topics. They are a great place to find unique ideas within a certain topic.
For example, suppose you know you want to make some lunch bags, but have no idea what pieces to make. Find a bunch of Pinterest boards dedicated to lunch bags. Browse for unique ideas that people have pinned, which shows direct interest.
Ideas from Social Shares
Take the general approach from Pinterest boards and apply it to social media. Explore Twitter and Facebook for ideas.
But also look at visual networks like Imgur and Reddit for interesting DIY items.
Ideas from Etsy Competitors
You can also simply go browsing Etsy shops for top selling items within a niche that you are interested in. Every shop has a link to shop top selling items.
Remember the rule of thumb that competition equals demand. If there is little competition, there is likely low demand. Lots of competition means there is a lot of demand. Browse top selling items, check reviews, and see if there is a unique angle that you can put on a top selling item.
Additionally, you can use a marketing tool like SEMRush (mentioned earlier) to see what Etsy shops get traffic from Google in addition to Etsy. Take their Etsy shop URL and drop it into this tool –
You’ll be able to see what keywords are driving sales for them. It’s safe to say that if they get traffic from Google, there is plenty of demand to support another Etsy shop with similar products.
What’s Worth It To Sell on Etsy?
So you have a ton of Etsy shop ideas, but what’s actually worth it to sell on Etsy?
Well – that’s a very personal question that all depends on your goals, resources, expertise, time, and budget.
The short version is that it depends on what will make enough money to be worth your time & effort. But here are a few rules of thumb that I’ve gathered from my clients.
Etsy is not a volume retail marketplace. If you are trying to make money selling lots of units, then you are in a losing game.
Each product needs to “pay for itself.” In other words, each unit needs to have enough margin to pay for its labor, materials, and profit. Use back-of-the-napkin math to estimate your own numbers.
The only way to “scale” Etsy is with product templates and bulk purchasing. Products that you can prep pre-orders and purchase materials in bulk will give you profit wiggle room.
Never try to beat direct competitors on price. Try to beat them on marketing and value.
Like most businesses, Etsy shops usually fail from a lack of attention. Be sure to build in enough profit margin to allow yourself to get more attention than your competitors. You will never lose on price if you have a customer’s attention, and your cheap competition does not.
Products that you are familiar with and use regularly will give you an advantage that can make it worthwhile. In other words, don’t sell dog collars if you don’t own a bunch of dogs.
What’s Easy To Sell on Etsy?
Any product that has paying, discerning customers with mediocre competition can be easy to sell on Etsy. There are plenty of predictable categories with high customer demand – masks, pillowcases, custom name tags, etc. But those also can be commodity items where there’s no real difference between you and competition.
Your goal with an Etsy shop is to find a product line with enough competition to show interest. But where the competition is so poor that you can easily beat them with a better product and better marketing.
Starting an Etsy store can be daunting. Even setting Etsy up correctly can be confusing.
But it’s also a growing marketplace running multi-million dollar TV ads bringing customers directly to your store. You just need to be positioned to capture those buyers. A lot of effective research before setting up can set you up for success.
These days, eCommerce is big business. In 2019, annual online sales totaled $365.2 billion, and that number will only continue to rise. One forecast from Statista estimates that annual online sales will reach $419.9 billion in 2020.
Now is a great time to enter the eCommerce industry, and whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking to expand your reach online, BigCommerce might be a good eCommerce solution for your business. The software is easy to use, accessible for businesses of all sizes, and feature-rich. Keep reading to learn more.
What Is BigCommerce?
BigCommerce is cloud-based eCommerce software. You pay a monthly rate to BigCommerce, and in exchange, you gain access to a securely-hosted online store. In addition to your online store, you get an admin panel for managing your products and orders, 24/7 customer support, and a range of marketing tools.
BigCommerce is known for its ease of use. Even if you have no experience with running a website, you can still set up a site with BigCommerce. If you’re hoping to run an online store and you don’t want to worry about any of the technical aspects of hosting a website, BigCommerce is a great option.
What Can You Sell On BigCommerce?
BigCommerce can accommodate many types of online selling, including physical products, digital products, and more. Here’s a quick breakdown of the types of products that BigCommerce supports:
Physical Products: Sell clothing, home goods, beauty products, and more. BigCommerce even allows you to sell CBD products; just make sure you pick a payment processor that allows CBD sales.
Products With Multiple Variants: BigCommerce lets you sell products that come in multiple sizes, colors, or styles. You can set different weights and prices for each product variant.
Digital Products: Sell digital products for download. TheÂ maximum file upload size is 512 MB.
Subscriptions: Sell subscription products like beauty boxes or subscription cleaning supplies and toiletries. Recurring billing features let you bill customers automatically.
Event Tickets: Sell event tickets in the form of digital downloads. Customers can select event dates and immediately download and print their tickets
It’s important to note that BigCommerce also restricts the sale of some products. You cannot sell illegal or obscene goods (e.g. illegal drugs, fraudulent goods, or obscene images). BigCommerce users are also restricted from selling any products that infringe on copyright laws. For more details, read BigCommerce’s Acceptable Use Policy and Infringing Materials Protocol.
How Does BigCommerce Work?
BigCommerce operates entirely in the cloud. You don’t need to download anything to use the software. In order to get started, all you have to do is create an account and register a domain name. BigCommerce then gives you access to an unpublished website, a design editor, and an admin panel for uploading products and managing sales.
Once you have created an account, you can add your products (through a streamlined import feature or manually), configure settings for shipping and taxes, design your website, plan a marketing campaign, and launch your store.
BigCommerce’s integrations with popular payment processors allow you to accept payments securely on your site. As customers begin to purchase your products, you can use BigCommerce’s built-in features to process orders, keep in contact with customers, and continually adjust your selling strategies.
BigCommerce offers numerous features that allow you to sell on your own website, on other sales channels, and around the world. Take a look at what BigCommerce has to offer:
Unlimited Products:Â BigCommerce allows you to list unlimited products on every plan.
Sell On Multiple Sales Channels:Â Sync your BigCommerce site to your seller accounts on multiple marketplaces. BigCommerce connects to eBay, Google Shopping, Facebook, Pinterest, and Amazon. You can also sell in person with Square POS.
Sell Globally:Â BigCommerce offers integrations that let you sell in multiple currencies and calculate international shipping and tax rates. The software also supports multiple languages.
BigCommerce Shipping Manager: This built-in shipping feature lets you display calculated shipping rates at checkout.
Inventory Management:Â Track inventory levels for your physical products.
Marketing Tools: BigCommerce offers multiple marketing tools, including a discount engine, social sharing features, product reviews, and more.
Create A Blog:Â Host a blog on your online store.
SEO Tools: Earn more traffic with custom URLs, titles, header tags, and meta descriptions.
Analytics: Use BigCommerce’s reporting features to track traffic, sales, bounce rates, etc.
The Benefits Of BigCommerce
BigCommerce’s biggest advantage by far is its ease of use. Even if you have no experience running a website, you can build an online store with BigCommerce. The admin panel is well organized and easy to navigate, and the help center has answers to many of your initial questions.Â What’s more, users on BigCommerce don’t have to worry about hosting or site security. BigCommerce handles all of these technical aspects for you.
Users also appreciate how many features come built into BigCommerce’s basic software. Users say you don’t need to add many integrations (compared to other eCommerce software) because so much is already included with BigCommerce.
Finally, BigCommerce includes multiple support options for all users. Everyone gets access to support via phone, email, and live chat. There is also a thorough help center, useful guides, and a community forum that you can reference when you want to find answers on your own.
Ease of use
Good customer support
Good built-in features
The Drawbacks Of BigCommerce
While there are many advantages to using BigCommerce, there is no perfect eCommerce software. BigCommerce still has some areas in which it could improve.
One of the biggest drawbacks of BigCommerce is its lack of easy design tools. BigCommerce lets you change small elements of your site (like colors, photos, and text) without adjusting any code. However, in order to make large changes, you have to edit the code, or hire someone to do it for you. Unlike some eCommerce software (such as Shopify) BigCommerce does not have any drag-and-drop design tools.
I have also seen some user reviews that mention poor customer support. It seems that BigCommerce support representatives are not always as helpful as they should be.
Another disadvantage of BigCommerce is that not all features are available on all pricing plans. In order to gain access to advanced features like faceted search or abandoned cart recovery, you have to pay a higher monthly subscription rate.
Missing some advanced features
Expensive for some users
Who Should Use BigCommerce?
BigCommerce offers affordable pricing plans for businesses ranging from startup to enterprise.
User reviews suggest that BigCommerce is best suited to small to mid-size businesses since some features reportedly do not accommodate larger businesses very well. That said, there are a number of enterprise-level companies that use BigCommerce’s Enterprise software. These include Ben & Jerry’s and Skullcandy.
How To Get Started With BigCommerce
Getting started with BigCommerce takes only a few minutes. You can sign up for a 15-day free trial, no credit card required. All you need to do is enter your email address, phone number, and name. Then, you can create a password and select a name for your store (you can change this name later on).
Use your first 15 days with BigCommerce to really put the software through its paces. Add products, customize your shipping and tax settings, play around with the design tools, and test customer support. Make sure BigCommerce includes all the features your business needs so that when it comes time to choose a plan, you’re confident in your purchase.
Once those initial 15 days are up, BigCommerce will ask you to choose a paid plan to continue using the software. If you’ve decided BigCommerce is a good option for your business, go ahead and sign up for a paid plan (although we recommend sticking with the monthly billing option–not the annual billing option–for your first year).
Then, you’re off to the races! Launch your site, begin your marketing campaigns, and track your site’s traffic. For more detailed advice on setting up a successful online store, try How To Start A Successful eCommerce Business In 8 Easy Steps.
The Bottom Line
BigCommerce is an easy to use eCommerce software for small to large online sellers. The software is feature-rich, and the company offers numerous customer support options. Users of all sizes and skill levels can take advantage of what BigCommerce has to offer.
If you’re interested in learning more about BigCommerce, head over to our complete BigCommerce review. Or, for a detailed breakdown of BigCommerce’s pricing options, take a look at our BigCommerce Pricing post.
The post What Is BigCommerce? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at 14+ Unconventional Ways To Find New Keywords To Outsmart Your Competition via ShivarWeb
Traditional keyword research has a tragedy of the commons problem. The more people that use a common keyword research sources, the less valuable those sources become.
When everyone is using Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Google Autosuggest – the keywords from those sources will become either too difficult or will lose their intent. Big players, or Google itself, will show up and rank for those keywords.
As a small to mid-size publisher – you have to either become more creative, become more “long-tail,” or seek out more sources to find new keywords.
I’ve written before about “pre-qualifying content.” That process used different sources to confirm your own keyword ideas.
Finding new keywords from new sources is the reverse. It’s finding keywords that you have literally never heard of.
You would never know the root, modifier, or topic. It’s doesn’t show up in Google Suggest, and you’d never know how to search for it in traditional keyword tools.
Here’s where I’ve been looking lately.
Bing / DuckDuckGo Search
Bing and DuckDuckGo are usually seen as Google alternatives. But they have audiences in their own right.
And those audiences are different enough from Google that you can usually find new, interesting, and different keywords there that you won’t find on Google.
Head over to Bing / DuckDuckGo and try out their autosuggest with broad modifiers (how to, what is, etc).
Search within a broad topic that you are looking at and explore their related searches.
Lookalike Online Publishers
You might be familiar with the idea of a lookalike from Facebook Ads. They take a person that you want to target and tries to find other people who share that person’s characteristics. It’s a powerful idea.
And it’s an idea that you can use to find keyword ideas.
Many SEOs know to look at the big industry publisher for keyword ideas, but never think to find “lookalikes” of their big industry publisher…in an adjacent industry.
And adjacent industries can be a goldmine for both keyword roots and modifiers.
For example, imagine that you own a small fishing website. You probably know the trick for mining Field & Stream for content ideas.
But what about looking at the Field & Stream equivalent in the backpacking, boating, or wildlife magazine segments?
If you had a Venn diagram, you’d see that they all have an audience overlap, even if they don’t have a keyword overlap. And that represents an opportunity.
Remember, the best keyword research understands the question behind the keyword. Explore those publishers to find content strategies and audience questions that you could use.
Look at their top performing content and think about what you could swap in that would fit your website.
If Backpacker magazine did a profile on the top trails in the Southeast US, why wouldn’t a profile on the top rivers in the Southeast US work for your fishing website?
I would argue that it would. And best of all, any new keywords, headlines or modifiers that you find function as pre-qualified content, since you know it has already worked for someone else.
I’ve written an entire post about using Wikipedia for SEO & Content Marketing. But Wikipedia is an especially good place to find keyword ideas because it is structured.
The process is to pick a category and systematically explore all the entries along with how they are related.
Read entries with an eye for keywords and concepts that need further exploration.
YouTube is a popular place for How To’s, tutorials, and visual content. You can (and should) use YouTube autosuggest to mine for keywords. They’ll have a different dataset from Google search.
But I recommend that you go a step further. Look at (or scrape!) top ranking videos. Read their transcripts, tags, comments, and descriptions with an eye for new keywords and concepts.
If the video narrator uses a term that needs context or further explanation, note it. Look for how the narrator and video presents information.
Even the best YouTube videos leave gaps that need to be filled. And those gaps usually produce Google Searches.
It’s a great way to find high-volume, long-tail keywords.
I wrote an extended guide to use YouTube for SEO & content here.
I would argue that Pinterest is one of the top search engines on the Internet, even though it is thought of as a social network.
Millions of people use it to start their search and bookmark their favorite answers.
While it does work better for some segments than others, I think it’s worth checking out for nearly every industry.
Like YouTube, you should look at both their autosuggest and their suggested topics. But go a step further and look at top performing pins & boards.
Note any unique keyword angles, audience questions, etc. Usually, they have a completely different angle from Google that will provide a window into an audience’s true intent – which, again, will help you answer the “question behind the keyword.”
I wrote an entire guide to use Pinterest for SEO & Content here.
Unlike Pinterest, Instagram is a pure-play social network. But it still throws off a lot of keyword data, especially for consumer industry segments.
Use the autosuggest on Instagram for modifiers, but also check out the Explore to find trending hashtags.
Take those hashtags and use them to understand trending topics, angles on existing keywords, and to find new, trending ideas.
Using Twitter search for keyword research is a bit like using Instagram, except that it’s heavily biased towards right now.
Twitter doesn’t have the same breadth that any other tool has. But Twitter’s speed and recency and analytics can help you keep your content up to date and cutting edge.
I’ve written a full guide to use Quora for SEO & content. But the short version is that Quora has a bunch of experts answering specific questions with plain, human language.
You should mine both the topics and the keywords that contributors use in their answers.
As a bonus, if you sign up for Quora Ads, you can see the exact search interest that a question has.
You can use Reddit with a similar process as Quora. I’ve written a guide to use Reddit for SEO & Content here.
But the short version is to find one or several subreddits that your target audience is interested in. Sort by Top or Hot and start mining both titles and responses.
Everything is written in plain language, so you’ll find plenty of keywords that your audience uses, but that might not show up in a keyword research tool.
There are also plenty of automated Reddit research tools like Keyworddit.
Next to Wikipedia, Amazon probably has the largest repository of user-generated content on the Internet.
Their reviews are a goldmine for finding keywords that your audience uses while searching for products. In other words, they have the intent to purchase, which is critical for many publishers.
I’ve written a full guide to using Amazon for SEO & content here. I recommend starting with the Bestsellers in your category, and then manually looking through the user reviews and their questions.
There are a few tools that can automate parts of this research, but it does not work as well as manually read reviews & questions.
Google Scholar Autosuggest
Google Scholar is one of Google’s most powerful, but least understood products. It searches the universe of scholarly journals, magazines, patents, and more.
In other words, it searches content that is actually rigorous and right. It’s a huge opportunity to find academic jargon, theories, data, and more.
There is a universe of podcasts that cover every niche, market segment, and industry. But episodes are not indexed or analyzed in any systematic way.
Head over to any of the big podcast directories including Apple, Google, Spotify, and Stitcher. Look for podcasts in your industry. Look through top episodes, reviews, and descriptions. Listen to episodes that catch your eye.
Harvest & use any new keywords that you find.
Physical Books & Magazines
I cannot stress how underestimated physical books and magazines are for keyword research. They are structured, comprehensive, edited, fact-checked, and exist in every industry for every market segment.
The problem is that they are inaccessible for quick research. You have to, you know, read them? But that’s your competitive advantage over big publishers working at scale.
Buy some physical books and magazines specifically for keywords and topics that are not coming up in your traditional keyword research.
There are a couple of ways to speed this process up. One way is to use ebooks. Convert them to HTML or text. Search them quickly, or use an algorithm to parse it.
Another way is to use Google Books. I wrote a guide to using it for SEO & content research here.
Google Surveys and Survey Monkey both make customer surveys much more accessible than ever in the past. They are still fairly costly, but can be a good value when planning an expensive content or ad campaign.
One idea here to ask open-ended questions and word association type questions to help trigger unique, qualitative keywords from real people.
Next Steps To Find New Keywords
There are a million variations of the cliche that “if you do what everyone else is doing, you’ll get what everyone else has.” Keyword research is no different. It takes work to find new keywords.
If all you do is go to SEMRush or Ahrefs, drop in a big keyword and sort by keyword difficulty…then you’ll never get ahead. Same with Google Autosuggest or Keyword Planner.
But searching out new sources to find keywords that your audience is using, but that you don’t see will help you get ahead.
This post originally appeared at SEMRush Review: Pros, Cons & Use Cases via ShivarWeb
SEMRush is a suite of digital marketing software covering organic search (SEO), paid search (PPC), social media, and more. The company has been around for more than 11 years, and is a mainstay among many marketing agencies & consultants.
See SEMRush’s Current Plans & Pricing
I’ve been and off & on user of SEMRush for more than 7 years. While I’m a current subscriber of Ahrefs, one of their semi-direct competitors, I’ve recently reactivated my subscription due to volatility and massive changes among marketing data vendors.
What is SEMRush?
SEMRush is a suite of tools for digital marketers, so it’s hard to say precisely what it is. It’s almost like a Swiss Army Knife – a general purpose data & analysis tool for digital marketing.
Background on SEMRush
Their tools revolve around their backlink index, their keyword index, and their domain database. Their tools mix, match & cross-reference all these datasets to help marketers make better decisions about building content, building links, running ads, and running social media campaigns.
For example, their Keyword Explorer takes keywords that people are searching for in Google and cross-references their backlink index & ads index to determine how difficult any given keyword will be to rank for.
Here’s their official overview of their products.
SEMRush has been around for a long time. They have seen their share of controversy and can generate some extreme opinions among the digital marketing community.
Their one thread of consistency (and the reason they are still around) is that they have a very good sense of their target market. They have always sought to be the best all-around, single toolset. This will be the general theme and tl;dr of the pros & cons below.
They are not the “best” for any single one of their tools, but their strength is that they are really strong across a bunch of different tools…and they bundle it all into one.
How SEMRush Works
SEMRush has three subscription tiers. The higher tiers are meant to almost exclusively appeal to agencies with more reporting options and sharing limits…which they helpfully explain right on their pricing page.
Once you sign up, SEMRush revolves around Projects. Your website would be a single project. All the tools revolve around auditing your current domain, finding domain competitors, understanding your current link profile, your current keyword targeting, and all your opportunities.
SEMRush works by pulling data and attempting to help you convert that data into actions that you can take to improve your marketing.
Their Dashboard is busy & cluttered – but does show all the tools that you have available. They show all the use cases & example tasks that you can do to prevent decision overload.
Like a Swiss Army Knife, their tools work best if you know exactly what you want to do. It helps to start small to solve a single marketing problem.
For example, I needed a way to audit and share local citation opportunities with a client. SEMRush not only has that dataset, but it also provides recommendations on what to do – and it will create an automated, white-label PDF report to send my client.
I’ll get into these examples in my pros / cons, but in general, SEMRush works by taking your problem request, pulling data, converting that data into potential actions, and letting you take those actions to improve your digital marketing.
Pros of Using SEMRush
The broad upside of SEMRush is that it’s a full toolset from dataset, to recommendation engine, to automation tool, to reporting tool.
They are consistently focused on being the *one* tool that any agency, freelancer, or in-house marketer can buy and dramatically speed up their marketing operations. Here’s how that general upside plays out.
SEMRush has an incredible breadth of features – much more than I can write out and summarize.
They really lean into the “but wait, there’s more!” vibe.
Usually, a customer (like myself) joins for a specific tool, but quickly finds out that they have much more to offer.
For in-house marketers, it’s useful to have SEO, PPC, Social, PR, and Content tools all in a single software suite.
You are likely running multi-channel campaigns, so to have PPC & SEO keyword metrics are useful…but also to have link building & prospecting tools.
For solo freelancers on a budget, it’s useful to have a variety of tools to solve whatever marketing issue that you’re dealing with at the moment.
It has all the tools from a social media scheduler to toxic backlink checker to site auditor so that you can solve & diagnose any marketing issue that a new client is having.
For growing agencies, it can be shared by your PPC and SEO team to cut costs. Additionally, the reporting tools are invaluable for saving time and money while increasing client value & transparency.
They even have a lead generation tool to help agencies recruit new clients.
Here’s what the SEMRush Dashboard looks like –
Here’s what their backlink tool looks like.
It’s interesting how they not only pull basic backlink metrics, but also categorize them for you. It provides a quick snapshot of whatever domain you’re looking at.
Their link building tool takes your existing backlink index and generates ideas for new link building campaigns.
Here’s what their CPC Map tool looks like to help you generate new CPC ideas.
Here’s their local SEO tool – which is truly a “but wait there’s more” tool for any agency or freelancer.
Local clients are very hard to work with & scale due to the limited (and usually expensive) tools on the market. The fact that this tool is bundled is huge. It competes with Moz Local, but I found it to be solid.
Here’s their Market Explorer tool to help gather a better picture of any given industry so that you know who to copy, who to avoid, and who to learn from.
Again, I could go on. SEMRush’s biggest strength is their breadth of tools. No single tool can compete with a direct competitor, but on whole, they are a solid fit for the people most likely to use / need their product.
Feature Depth & Accuracy
Now – SEMRush has a wide breadth of tools. But even on their own, their tools are solid and have industry-leading depth & accuracy to them.
With their SEO tools, their backlink and keyword indices are not necessarily the best, but they are industry-leading. Comparing backlink indices is notoriously difficult. I will leave the academic research to others.
But from a day to day keyword research and link building perspective, SEMRush is good enough to do almost any job.
They are at that point where the person using the tool matters more than the tool itself.
I use Ahrefs on a day to day basis. They consistently have a more useful, and more complete keyword and link database than SEMRush.
But I also know how to effectively use Ahrefs’ data. In fact, one reason that I pay for both Ahrefs’ and SEMRush is that I like to collate their data with my Search Console data. Having 3 indices is better than 1.
But either way – SEMRush is a solid #2 or #3 in keywords & link database world…and they have depth in their PPC, Social, and Content tools.
Their PPC tools have a universe of data that other SEO-focused tools like Moz and Ahrefs (or Majestic) simply do not have. It has data that only Google’s Keyword Planner has.
But again – it’s a top tier dataset & PPC tool that also comes with SEO and everything else.
Having a range of robust tools might not be the best fit for everyone, but it’s a good fit for many others. With a growing agency that cannot afford multiple subscriptions, SEMRush has everything all in an overall value bundle. And that’s a huge pro.
Consistency Over Time
SEMRush has been around since 2008. For a marketing SaaS company, that is positively ancient. And that’s a good thing. There are lots of marketing software companies with a good product, and a good culture…but don’t really make it.
They get distracted and overextended. They try to become more than they should. They take venture capital and try to go beyond what their core market wants.
SEMRush has always been focused on the same core market with the same core suite of products. I was using them as a freelancer in 2011. The agency where I worked at in 2013 used them for their PPC and SEO teams. A friend who runs an in-house marketing team uses them today.
Their software suite has gotten bigger and better through incremental improvement and customer feedback.
They have been a bit tone deaf in their product launch communications and their own marketing tactics, but it’s never been a distraction from their main product suite.
When I commit to a tool, I want it to be around for a while. The fact that SEMRush has been around is a solid advantage.
Reporting & Recommendations
Marketing data can be just undecipherable noise unless you’ve worked at an agency or spent some time learning from someone who does digital marketing for a living.
That’s a huge problem with a lot of tools. There are two responses to this. One is to provide all the education and training yourself. That’s what Ahrefs does. They have the best SEO & content blog on the Internet.
The other response is to build in recommendations and reporting. That’s the route that SEMRush takes. I’ll get to the downsides of this approach, but overall, it’s really helpful.
If you are an in-house marketer or freelancer who juggles lots of marketing responsibilities, it’s incredibly useful to have reminders, recommendations, and reporting built into your software.
It provides actions in addition to education so that you can make fast decisions and understand the value of the data.
Cons / Disadvantages of Using SEMRush
There are a *lot* of highly charged opinions about SEMRush online. They have certainly courted plenty of controversy in the SEO community with their own “gray-ish hat” marketing tactics.
But they do have some downside and negatives as a tool set. Most of these are simple tradeoffs that they’ve made to get the pros that they have. But it’s important to be aware of the downsides & tradeoffs to understand what you’re getting and whether they align with your own goals and needs.
Plenty of SEOs and PPCers have done analysis on who has the “best” backlink or keyword index. You can get really deep in the weeds here. If you want to go read about crawler analysis and behavior, go check out this post or this post.
But, in general, and in my experience, SEMRush’s tools are solidly great – but they are not the best in any single category.
Their backlink & keyword index is good enough to do all the SEO & link building you’ll need to do to be competitive. But I still don’t think it’s as high quality or as deep as Ahrefs’ links or keywords.
Their PPC tools are great, but they are nowhere as user-friendly as AdEspresso or WordStream. And with their PPC keyword research tool, well, they are competing directly with Google’s Keyword Planner.
Their social media tools are great, but again, they are not as useful or usable as HootSuite, Buffer, or Buzzsumo.
Their link building & outreach tools are great, but again, they are not as usable or as useful as Buzzstream or other outreach tools.
And their local SEO tools are also solid, but not as good as Places Scout or Whitespark.
Now – this is all just the flipside of Feature Breadth.
SEMRush is the jack of all trades and master of none.*
*but don’t forget the rest of the rhyme which is “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
Jargon & Feature Overwhelm
SEMRush has a lot going on. They have so many different features that they have them bucketed into different toolkits…even though the tools in those toolkits usually overlap.
The tools themselves are busy and present a ton of information.
And all that information is usually presented with industry jargon instead of plain language.
It’s confusing and overwhelming for me – and I’ve been in the industry for more than 10 years.
I’m not sure they could solve the user experience issue, but it’s a pretty big disadvantage compared to their competitors.
Automated Recommendations & Alerts
As mentioned in the pros section, one of SEMRush’s solutions to data overwhelm is to provide automated recommendations and alerts about what you should actually do.
Mostly, it’s a good thing. But any recommendation engine, no matter how smart, will only provide recommendations based on its inputs and parameters rather than actual knowledge.
And when you are working with human language and human knowledge, it gets tricky. SEMRush’s recommendations are great as an onboarding tool…but they can provide a false sense of security and accuracy.
This false sense of security could lead misinformed customers to make poor marketing choices.
For example, take their SEO content template tool.
In some ways, it’s great. In other ways, it just perpetuates some of the same old spammy tropes that have brought SEO down for years.
It is good to know semantically related words to your topic and it’s good to know about your competitors’ backlinks. And it’s good to consider text length.
But nothing about SEO is “paint by the numbers.”
It’s a bad idea to take a word salad, make a page full of those words, and throw a bunch of links at it.
That’s not what any professional SEO would recommend…but it’s the kind of thing that SEMRush’s automated recommendations would lead you to believe if you didn’t have any background or education.
It would be ideal to integrate some training directly with their recommendations. Until then, it’s a bit of disadvantage.
Workflow & Organization
SEMRush is not set up for a fast, efficient workflow…unless you really commit to the platform.
This downside can vary person to person, but it’s worth understanding. Some tools, like Ahrefs, just give you the data. The real analysis & work is done in a spreadsheet.
That’s how I like it and how most marketing professionals work.
SEMRush’s tool organization is setup to do analysis & actions within SEMRush. That’s great and can be super-handy…but only if you commit to using their workflow.
If you are the type of person who likes to work within SEMRush, it can have lots of advantages. But if you are like me and like to get the data into a spreadsheet, it can be frustrating.
SEMRush Use Cases
SEMRush has excelled by not trying to chase different markets. Here are the types of people that they are built for.
Solo Marketing Freelancer
If you have a wide range of clients & frequent projects, SEMRush’s tool variety will allow you to just have a single subscription to handle all types of clients.
If you are an in-house marketer that wants to run or knowledgeably assist your agency with multichannel campaigns, a subscription to SEMRush will give you the tool variety to effectively do that. Their pricing & reports will also be easy to sell to your boss.
SEMRush’s white label reports and team sharing options can help you provide value to clients while also controlling your overhead. It will also help you standardize agency processes with a single tool so that you don’t have a jumble of tools as your teams grow.
Next Steps & Conclusion
SEMRush is a solid all-in-one marketing tool suite. They aren’t the best in any one area, but they excel at providing a bunch of tools for a single subscription.
If you do PPC, SEO, Social, and/or Local – they are the tool to buy. You can see how they diagnose your own site with this tool –
If you are solely into SEO / Content, you should also look at Ahrefs. With a head to head comparison, they are better. And if you have the budget and clients…you should just pay for both. More data gives you a competitive advantage.
SEMRush is a suite of digital marketing software covering organic search (SEO), paid search (PPC), social media, and more. The company has been around for more than 11 years, and is a mainstay among many marketing agencies & consultants.
These days, we see delivery options everywhere. You can request on-demand delivery for your groceries, prescriptions, and take-out orders. With so many consumers turning to these options for convenience — and safety in light of the coronavirus crisis — you may be wondering: Is there space in the market for you?
Owning a delivery business is a great opportunity for many entrepreneurs. Depending on the niche you plan to serve, you can start your own business with just one vehicle and no employees. What’s more, you can quickly scale your delivery business as demand increases.
Are you considering starting your own delivery business, but you aren’t sure how to start? Keep reading for a step-by-step guide to starting a delivery business.
Why Start A Delivery Business?
One of the main reasons you should consider starting a delivery business is the steady increase in demand and market share.
According to the State of Logistics Report 2019, the market size of same-day delivery services in the US is expected to reach $7.4 billion in 2020 (up from an estimated $6.1 billion last year). What’s more, this report projects market size will increase to $8.5 billion in 2021.
The same report reveals how same-day delivery services are divided by delivery types. Fourteen percent of the market share of same-day deliveries are C2C deliveries (for example, transactions from Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace), while 23% are B2B deliveries, and 63% are B2C deliveries.
By starting your own delivery business, you can take advantage of this demand for same-day delivery.
How Much Does A Delivery Business Cost?
Startup expenses for beginning a delivery business vary, depending on many factors. That said, you should plan for the following expenses:
Purchasing or leasing vehicle(s)
Time (your time and your employees’ or contractors’ time)
Cost of operating a physical location (if you have one)
As you plan for your business, make sure you create a budget that accounts for all the expenses listed above as well as any other relevant expenses.
How Much Does It Cost To Become An Amazon Delivery Service Partner?
Perhaps you’ve seen advertisements online for Amazon’s Delivery Service Partner (DSP) program for entrepreneurs. These advertisements state that with Amazon, you can start your own delivery business for as little as $10,000 capital. These advertisements make running a delivery business look easy. All your business comes through Amazon, so there’s no need to find customers, and with very little startup cost, you can begin managing a team of 100 employees who drive a fleet of 10-40 vans.
Amazon makes this program look very desirable, stating that its DSP program is highly competitive and that you’ll profit $75K-$300K per year. However, I advise you to do your research before applying to become a DSP. I’ve seen numerous reviews that break down the costs of operating this type of business, revealing that according to Amazon’s numbers, you’re only likely to profit $7,500 per van each year. This is a very slim profit margin, and to earn this profit, you have to take on a lot of liability.
For more information on the potential downsides of becoming an Amazon DSP, check out this video from Franchise City.
Types Of Delivery Services
There are many possible niches your business can fill. We recommend that you consider partnering with local businesses that frequently need to deliver their products to consumers or other businesses. Here are a few niches you should consider:
Yard supplies delivery
Dry cleaning delivery
Starting A Delivery Service: The Step-By-Step Guide
Once you have an idea of the type of delivery business you want to start, it’s time to take action! Here are the first nine steps you should take to start a delivery service.
Step 1: Make A Business Plan For Your Delivery Business
The first step in starting any business is to make a business plan. We recommend starting with a one-page business plan, in which you list the following information about your business:
The problem your business solves
For more information on writing a business plan, try our article: The ‘How-To’ For One Page Business Plans. You’ll even find a downloadable form on this page that you can use to create your business plan.
Step 2: Look For Funding
Every startup requires capital, and with a delivery business, you have to invest in a lot of equipment up front. If you don’t currently have the funds you need to start your business, we suggest looking into financing options. Here are a few options you might consider:
Business lines of credit
Business credit cards
Merchant cash advances
For more information on each of these financing options, read our article, 8 Ways To Finance Your Small Business.
Step 3: Find Business Software
Finding the right software for your business can streamline your day-to-day operations, and it can even reduce the number of people you have to hire to get your business started. Here are a few types of software that you should consider adding to your business, along with a few software recommendations:
GPS Software: Use this software to locate delivery pickup and drop-off locations. You can use a device such as Garmin for your GPS navigation, or you can use a free app on your mobile device (such as Google Maps).
Mileage Tracking Software: Mileage tracking software helps you bill clients accurately, and it can help you claim business expenses during tax season. One of our preferred accounting software, QuickBooks Self-Employed, has an app that you can use for tracking mileage. Or you can use an app such as MileIQ.
Accounting Software: Every business needs good accounting software. We likeÂ QuickBooks Online and Xero.
CRM Software: CRM (customer relationship management) software helps you track customers’ contact info and interactions. A couple of good options are Salesforce and Zoho CRM.
Website Builder Software: Build a website for your delivery business using an affordable and easy-to-use website builder. We recommendÂ Squarespace and Wix to most business owners.
Time Tracking Software: If you hire employees or independent contractors to drive your vehicles, you’ll need a tool to track their time. Some time tracking software packages even include GPS tracking features. Check out our article, Must-Have Time Tracking Software Businesses Should Know About, for a few recommendations.
Step 4: Source Equipment For Your Delivery Business
One of the big startup costs you should anticipate is the cost of equipment. Depending on the types of products you decide to deliver, you’ll need to choose equipment that can help deliver shipments safely and efficiently. Here are a few examples of equipment you may need:
Vehicles (sprinter vans, pickup trucks, freight trucks, trailers, or refrigerated trucks, depending on your shipments)
Cell phones or radios for all team members
Tablets and card readers for processing payments and signing off on orders
As you create a list of the types of equipment you need, you should also consider how you’ll pay for that equipment. Will you purchase it outright or use equipment financing? Make sure you calculate the interest rates you pay for equipment financing into your business’s budget.
Step 5: Register Your Business & Get Insurance
To legally register your business, you first have to decide on a business structure. The business structure you choose depends on the amount of liability you are comfortable with and if you plan on hiring employees. Business structures include:
Limited Liability Partnership
Limited Liability Limited Partnership
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
If you are just starting up, and you plan on working independently for a while, a sole proprietorship is a good option. However, if you plan on hiring employees, you should look into setting up an LLC. For more information on the pros and cons of each business structure, try our complete guide to business structures.
The next step is to register your business name. As you choose a name for your business, consider using keywords, such as “delivery,” “same-day delivery,” or even “floral delivery.” That will help your business appear in Google searches. During this step, you should also look into available domain names. Choosing your business name and domain name at the same time can help you create consistent branding and make your site easier to find online.
Your final steps are to register your business with the IRS, register for business licenses and permits, and register with your state’s revenue office. For more information on these steps, see our article, How To Register Your Business: The Complete Guide.
As you set up the legal part of your business, make sure you sign up for any necessary insurance. These insurance plans protect you and your business, and they also protect your employees. Here are some types of insurance you should purchase:
General Liability Insurance: This insurance package covers delivery services and delivered products. This insurance protects companies against lawsuits related to delivery services. Learn more about small business liability insurance.
Commercial Auto Insurance: Commercial auto insurance covers damage or theft done to a fleet of vehicles, an owner’s vehicle used commercially, or an independent contractor’s vehicle. Also, commercial auto insurance covers bodily injury and medical expenses. If your business operates trucks, you may also need commercial truck insurance. Read What Is Commercial Auto Insurance & Do You Need It? for more information.
Garage Liability Insurance: If you plan on storing vehicles on-site, you’ll also need garage liability insurance.
Commercial Property Insurance: To protect your employees’ property (things they store in their vehicle while they are at work), you can also sign up for commercial property insurance.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance: Workers’ compensation insurance is required in most states. This insurance covers medical costs and lost wages for work-related injuries.
Step 6: Create Your Online Presence & Marketing Plan
The next step you should take in starting your business is to create a solid online presence and marketing plan.
Your business’s online presence is the overall impact of your brand’s website, review pages, and social media interactions. Essentially, your online presence is made up of everything your brand has done online. Work to create a strong online presence from the very beginning by building a beautiful and easy-to-navigate website and registering your business with business directories, such as Google My Business and Yelp. For more information on developing an online presence, read How To Build An Online Presence For Your Business In 9 Simple Steps.
Finding & Keeping Customers
As you build up your business’s online presence, you should also consider the ways you will draw customers to your business. Make a plan for acquiring and retaining clients. Will you purchase online advertisements or claim an ad spot on the radio? Will you place ads on billboards or in the local newspaper? Will you partner with local businesses and rely on them for new customers?
No matter what you decide, make sure you have a plan for your marketing approach. And if your attempt doesn’t pan out, adjust your marketing strategy, and try again.
Once you have found customers, do your best to draw them back to your service by giving them a great experience and having quality marketing strategies. We recommend using CRM software to keep track of your former customers and reach out to them again in the future. Learn more about how to retain repeat customers with our article, 11 Ways Businesses Should Be Using CRM Software.
Step 7: Determine Your Rates For Delivery
Your next step is to decide on how much you’ll charge for deliveries. There are a few different ways you can price your services.
Many delivery companies charge on a per-mile basis. Each mile driven costs a set amount. In another model, you can charge a base rate and then add per-mile costs on top of that base rate.
As you set your prices, you should also determine the boundaries in which you will deliver orders. You can choose to not make any deliveries outside of these boundaries or charge a distance surcharge.
Make sure that your prices account for your company’s total overhead (including fuel, vehicle maintenance, time, and other costs) to protect your profit margin.
Step 8: Set Up Payment Processing
As more businesses transition to accepting digital payments, you should also consider what your payment solutions will be. If you choose to accept digital payments (which we recommend), you need to set up a payment processor.
The payment methods that are best for your business depend on who your delivery business serves. If you deliver directly to consumers (and consumers pay upon delivery), you’ll need a good method for accepting credit card payments. A mobile device with a card reader would work well in this instance. A couple of good payment processors that allow you to accept payments this way are Square and Payment Depot Mobile.
If you serve other businesses, however, you should consider alternative payment methods. Businesses that sell B2B can often qualify for lower credit card processing rates, so it might be worth pursuing a processor that caters specifically to B2B companies. On the other hand, ACH (automated clearing house) payments are cheaper overall, and they are a good alternative to credit card payments. For additional guidelines on accepting payments as a B2B business, check out The Complete Guide To B2B Payment Processing: Credit Cards, ACH, Software & More.
Step 9: Manage Expenses For Your Delivery Service
As you operate your business, you should have a plan for how you’ll track and manage expenses.
Use good accounting software to track tax-deductible expenses, such as fuel, repairs, and new equipment. Take a look at our article about tax write-offs for more information.
In addition, you should make a plan for how employees will purchase fuel on the road. Will you give drivers access to the company credit card, or will you reimburse your employees for their gas purchases? Make plans for these expenses before you begin your first delivery.
Is Starting A Delivery Business Right For You?
Does starting your own delivery business still seem right for you? Are you prepared to handle the challenges of planning delivery routes, and are you ready to face the competition of the ever-popular delivery apps?
If you’ve answered yes, we’re here to support you as you begin! Sign up for our newsletter to get up-to-date information on owning and operating a small business. To read more about starting your own business, take a look at these articles:
The ‘How-To’ For One Page Business Plans
8 Ways To Finance Your Small Business
How To Register Your Business: The Complete Guide
Types Of Business Structures: The Complete Guide
How To Build An Online Presence For Your Business In 9 Simple Steps
The Complete Guide To B2B Payment Processing: Credit Cards, ACH, Software & More
The post How To Start A Delivery Business In 9 Easy, Hassle-Free Steps appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at GoDaddy Email Problems: Solving Issues w/ Forms & Not Receiving Email via ShivarWeb
For years, I’ve had issues with email forms on websites hosted at GoDaddy. Whether I was trying to get a contact form in WordPress to work, or simply forward emails within cPanel, the whole troubleshooting process was just a pain.
The GoDaddy email issue especially pops up when a client switches from GoDaddy email hosting to a 3rd party email host like Google, Zoho, NameCheap, etc.
And it turns out that it’s not just me. It’s a documented issue with everything from WooCommerce to other non-WordPress software.
But GoDaddy’s documentation is straight-up horrible and poking around StackOverflow / Googling developer forums gets old after a while. So here’s a short guide to GoDaddy form email problems that I wish I had several years ago.
There are a few concepts to understand before picking a solution.
1. Your website form does not actually “send” the email.
Instead, the data goes like this –
User types information into the form
Form passes data to WordPress (or your CMS)
WordPress (or your CMS) passes data to your web host via PHP
Your web host actually transmits the email with its email header information
2. Email Sending & Receiving Is Incredibly Insecure
There is a reason why you generally can’t contact your doctor via email. And there’s a reason why you get so much spam.
Email is inherently insecure. It’s fairly easy to fake the sending and receiving address (aka “spoofing”). Hosting companies and the big email providers spend a ton of money and thought on authenticating email headers. And a lot of this authentication is based on reputation. So, hosting companies don’t want their servers to get a bad reputation for sending spam.
3. GoDaddy has a uniquely bad email problem & a uniquely strict email security solution
Depending on how you count, GoDaddy is the largest single domain registrar and hosting brand in the world. With that kind of scale, they have unique problems with dealing with spam.
However, they have also split from the rest of the industry in creating a security protocol. Their solutions get technical, but they basically block an entire range of ports for sending emails from cPanel / servers in addition to filtering out form emails sent “from” the big email providers like Google, Yahoo!, AOL, etc.
That’s justifiable…except for the fact that GoDaddy is the only host that I’ve used that has these sorts of email issues. They are incredibly strict with their email security – to the point that, well, I have to write guides like this.
So what can you do? I’ve tried hacking around with all sorts of settings – including disabling some website security settings (bad idea). But I’ve generally ended up with 2 go-to fixes for the problem.
Use SMTP Authentication for Forms
SMTP is “simple mail transfer protocol.” It’s the Internet-standard way of authenticating and sending email. The great thing about SMTP is that you can sync it directly with your forms / WordPress / CMS.
So instead of passing the email to your web host to send, you can “send” it directly via whoever handles your email.
In other words, this solution simply cuts your web host out of the equation.
If you are using WordPress, you can install a plugin like Easy WP SMTP or WP Mail SMTP.
You’ll need to install the plugin and configure your SMTP settings based on your provider. Once installed, it basically replaces the standard WP_Mail function with your email provider. So any submission to your form is like someone sending you an email directly to your inbox.
You can keep using GoDaddy hosting without dealing with a migration.
Your forms should all send correctly.
The process is fairly quick and straightforward.
It’s still a bit clunky to install just right.
Any mistake with SMTP settings will create delivery failed notifications.
It may create conflicts for any plugins that use WP_Mail functionality (ie, uptime alerts, etc).
You’ll have to maintain & update another plugin.
One of my clients used this solution for more than 4 years without issue. It worked and it made sense at the time.
Now – that last bullet downside finally got us. The SMTP plugin we used was no longer maintained. So with that, combined with other factors, it made sense to move to the longer-term solution.
Switch Hosting Providers
Like I’ve said in many hosting reviews, using GoDaddy for hosting is fine. They are cheap – and they integrate with their other products. They are usually “good enough” to use to just get started.
However, they have enough limitations – and even quirks like this – that switching hosting companies from GoDaddy is usually the best long-term option.
In the case of one client, I moved his website to InMotion Hosting and haven’t had any email issues since.
I’ve also used InMotion Hosting for this site for quite a while (read their pros/negatives here) – and have since tried out multiple contact forms. Every form from FS Contact Form to Contact Form 7 to my current JetPack contact form has worked well.
Now – it’s still ideal from an email security perspective to use SMTP rather than the default PHP mailer – however, their uniform and well-documented email setup at least allows more flexibility in my email/form setup.
You get more flexibility with setting up forms & email.
Your forms will work with the default WordPress setup.
A move will likely pay off long-term with pricing & more advanced features.
Migrating your website can be a heavy lift to solve a single issue – depending on how many services you have with GoDaddy.
You may want to install & work with an SMTP plugin regardless.
Forms & email are a critical part of any business website. Not receiving your emails or form submissions via GoDaddy’s servers is not really an option.
You can solve the problem in the short-term on WordPress with an SMTP plugin.
However, to solve for the long-term, you’ll want to move hosting companies to somewhere like InMotion Hosting or another good business host based on your goals & preferences or simply another good email hosting company.
For some people, knowledge of Human Resources begins and ends with Michael Scott’s relentless feud with HR-manager Toby during several cringe-worthy (and amusing) episodes of The Office. HR can seem like the prerogative of a bigger company, but not necessarily something a smaller business could benefit from. However, in reality, the role of HR is vast (and commonly misunderstood) and can operate as a bridge between your employees, you, and the practical side of having and managing people.
Wondering whether a Human Resources Manager, a full Human Resources Department, or an outsourced service is the best fit for your business?
Keep on reading to find out what HR is and whether or not your small business could benefit from adding human resources.
What Is HR?
HR, as a department within your business, is the branch of operations that is responsible for managing a company’s human resources (or human capital; or employees). The Human Resources (HR) department streamlines many important facets of your business and becomes an important link between the leadership of a company and its employees. The umbrella term HR covers the various ways employees are led and developed within a business. For that reason, there are numerous avenues of expertise within HR itself or different ways an HR department can function within a small business.
In general, the tasks delegated to HR can include onboarding, hiring/firing, running payroll, managing employment laws and compliance, addressing employee complaints, running employee training programs, and analyzing job duties and descriptions. HR specialists can bring their own pet passions to a company, but in general, the tasks orbit around employee management and growth.
HR VS. HRM
Human Resources (HR) is the department set apart to manage employees and employment; Human Resource Management (HRM) is the approach to how a company manages its employees. Some of those management approaches are related to recruitment, hiring and firing, employee education and training, employment compliance, and maintaining company culture. An HR Management team will work with a company’s human resources (employees and leadership) to implement processes and set goals.
Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably.
What Duties Does HR Fulfill?
From talent acquisition to letting people go, the HR department follows the life-cycle of an employee and works with you as the small business owner to effectively manage your team. An HR professional needs to be knowledgeable about the law but also informed about the specific niche-needs required for your particular business. A person working in HR wears many hats and often becomes a de facto counselor while also juggling compliance, training, and navigating employee relationships. With that in mind, your HR department is the face of your company to a new employee and they should set the tone and display the culture you desire.
Specifically, in the HR job description, your HR department will take the lead on payroll, hiring and firing, employee benefits, employee documentation, compliance, continued training, and helping maintain company culture. The role is a fine balance between paperwork and people–business objectives that don’t often go together.
The facilitation of payroll is something a small business owner might be happy to hand over to someone else. Payroll can be a long and convoluted process, especially if you’re currently running payroll without assistance. Opportunities to outsource payroll are expanding as more businesses make their systems available for small businesses at competitive prices, and many of those leaders in payroll are expanding their platforms to include HR and benefits management online.
Online payroll systems like Gusto, SurePayroll, Paycom or Intuit offer cloud-based payroll platforms that streamline the payroll process and can assist with onboarding and maintaining employee records. Companies like Namely, however, not only offer payroll services but delve into a broader spectrum of HR services, too, and work best for small businesses with over 50 employees to manage.
Hiring (& Firing)
The HR department (either a team or a single person) will greet a new hire with a request for quite a bit of paperwork, and it is the department’s responsibility to maintain those documents related to hiring, compliance, and job performance. (Paperwork, however, is slightly anachronistic as most of HR’s tasks have been relegated to the digital world.) The entire life-cycle of an employee belongs to HR: It is HR’s job to help the company with best practices related to recruitment through termination.
In that capacity, an HR department can relieve some of the burden from a small business owner by shouldering the minutiae of managing employees. HR works with company leadership to outline an ideal job candidate, write job descriptions, conduct interviews, follow-up with reference checks, outline performance reviews, and monitor/manage all employee records.
HR can also take on the task of having difficult conversations with employees who are under-performing. In the event that an employee is terminated, HR will set up an exit-strategy for your employees and develop a system: HR can conduct an exit interview, remove the former employee’s access to company communication, and run a final payroll.
Positively, HR manages employee growth and education within a company, including announcing pay increases and bonuses. Companies thrive when there is a clear growth model, and HR can take on the task of creating a uniform growth model and communicating performance requirements to employees.
According to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, a 2018 survey of full-time employees reported that 94% of workers said health insurance was “very important” to them when looking at an employer. Up until recently, some small businesses were shut-out from opportunities to offer affordable health care or retirement.
Setting up benefits, communicating those benefits to employees, answering questions about benefits, and monitoring open-enrollment periods are all functions of HR. Also, HR professionals also have the resources and knowledge to negotiate lower rates to help control benefit costs.
Paperwork: Infinitely tedious but monumentally important to your business. Ensuring proper documentation is a crucial component of mitigating risk and protecting both your business and your employees. An HR department will manage and facilitate documentation on the following issues:
Paperwork required for hiring
Job performance reviews that lead to a promotion/demotion
All discipline related to an employee
Harassment and discrimination complaints
Failure to document might leave your business in a fragile position, and one of HR’s purposes is to guide a business when situations with employees become tenuous. HR can also be a neutral place for employees to feel safe voicing concerns and can advocate for employees who need a go-between them and management.
During my tenure as a public school teacher, I routinely spent warm August nights renewing my first aid and CPR certifications. It is a legal requirement that schools must maintain a certain ratio of adults with certifications to students in the building, and it is HR’s responsibility to have those numbers and photocopies of first aid cards in case they are needed. Every few years, I’d get nudged to renew my qualifications.
When it comes to HR and compliance, an HR manager’s job is to guard your company against employment/compliance lawsuits. Risk management is a huge part of the HR job description, so hiring someone with specific knowledge of your industry is important.
In recent years, company culture has become an important part of managing employees.
Company culture conveys not only your company’s personality, but also its fundamental value-system. More than ever, prospective employees are interested in a company’s values as a prerequisite before applying. People want to work where they will feel valued, supported, and understood, and it is your cultural environment that sets the foundation for your employees to feel that value, support, and understanding.
HR may be the first face of your company to new recruits and interviewees, and so it’s vitally important for HR to have a strong sense of the company culture you wish to convey. What does that look like? As a small business owner, you choose the culture of your company. So, hire someone who is well-equipped to assess your employee’s skills and know the needs within the company. HR needs to understand the small nuances within your business and must employee messaging that consistently conveys company culture.
Does Your Small Business Need HR?
All small businesses could benefit from some type of HR platform or person to help assist with the more tedious aspects of employment (payroll, documentation, compliance).Â Do you need an in-house HR manager? Maybe not yet. But the good news is that we are entering a golden age for cloud-based/remote assistance for small businesses in areas that were traditionally closed to smaller companies.
As companies grow, it’s important to know when it might be time to devote more attention/resources to HR. Think of the amount of time you spend on clerical documentation of employees or payroll; think about how confident you are in your knowledge of employment law; contemplate the systems in place for employee complaints– are you leaving areas of your business open to employment liabilities? Does new-hire paperwork take up a significant portion of your time?
HR professionals are equipped to navigate these facets of employment, but whether or not you need to hire in-house or outsource is up to you. If you still aren’t certain if you need HR at all, reflect upon some of the key functions of this department and see if they fit with your needs:
Streamlines the hiring process and takes over new-hire documentation
Runs payroll and manages benefits
Assists with employee retention and satisfaction
Manages employment law compliance
Writes and updates the employee handbook
Resolves employee conflicts and can mediate human resource difficultiesÂ
How To Choose The Right HR Option For Your Small Business
How much HR will your business really use? With one or two employees, simple payroll needs, and low turnover, you may find you’re not ready to invest in outsourcing or hiring when you can DIY. But companies that can afford to outsource the administrative tasks of HR should consider looking at the options available. In recent years, some old names in HR have developed new online platforms to assist businesses with every aspect of HR. Some of the bigger names like Namely are only available for companies with 50 or more employees; however, many other options, like Trinet, serve small businesses of all sizes.
Three HR options available for small businesses are:
1. The Startup Mindset: Handle HR Yourself
It may be a cliche that small business owners have an excess amount of drive and energy, but the evidence seems to support the image. When a business is starting, every saved penny is necessary to put back into the company, and those early months need all the stretching they can get. Simply put: If you can do it yourself, then you just do it yourself.Â With tight margins and an unclear path for the future, some business owners need a lot of convincing to pay someone to do tasks that they are capable of doing themselves. And it can be done.
Free accounting programs can assist with payroll and you can make yourself available to talk with employees. You can download or pay once for the creation of an employee handbook, and with time and creativity you could provide employee training. If you feel comfortable with employment law and know that you have the time and emotional resources to be a neutral advocate for your employees, then by all means, handle HR yourself.
2. Hire An In-House HR Manager
There are some businesses that are well-suited to have an in-house HR manager vs. heading the digital outsourcing route. Does working with employees require a significant amount of face-time? Do you hire/fire several times throughout the year? If you said yes to either of those questions, you might need to hire an in-house HR manager. People who work in HR are trained in a variety of different methods regarding the best practices for employee retention and keeping morale high, so you will want to find a good match. (Two different views about how to manage people or what to value in an employee could get complicated. Explore what types of HR methodologies match your business style before you set out to hire someone.)
Also, there is the possibility of hiring an in-house HR manager and then equipping that person with the ability to outsource some of their duties to a Professional Employer Organized (PEO) or Human Resources Management (HRM) company.
3. Outsource Your HR
There are also options to fully outsource your entire HR department to a PEO or an HRM. Employees and business owners alike might find that it’s easiest to streamline aspects of the employee life-cycle using online software. This automated system usually comes with a fee per employee, and offers in-software functions that cover many HR requirements. The best software includes easy employee log-in and navigation, mobile access, payroll, time and attendance platforms, expense tracking, benefits administration assistance, access to training modules, and a customer rep to call directly in the event of a question or concern.
Most of the savvy HRM platforms are designed to look like social media platforms and operate as a place to connect socially as well as send out important employee announcements. As the need increases, integrations grow and the software pivots to respond to client demand; and in that regard, outsourcing is a sure-fire way to stay on top of HR trends.
Final Thoughts On Human Resources
Maybe in the next reboot of The Office everyone works remotely and HR is a robot. That might have seemed like a left-field prediction a few months ago, but now, who knows? If you are spending an exorbitant amount of time on HR administrative tasks, it is highly likely that an HR professional (either in-person or via the cloud) is an important step to grow your business and give your brain a rest. While outsourcing costs can vary between platforms, the mid-line options are less expensive than hiring a full-time HR manager.
Above all, whether you hire in-house or outsource, the HR platform you implement should reflect your business values and make your day-to-day management of employees easier and more streamlined. For growing businesses with a handful of new hires a year, the benefits (and protection) outweigh the costs.
The post Small Business HR: What Is HR & How To Manage Your Business’s Human Resources appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
As businesses everywhere race to prioritize eCommerce in a world ravaged by COVID-19, payments giant Square has launched a new online payment tool called Square Online Checkout. This service is intended to condense the eCommerce experience down to a simple link or button, making online selling easier than ever for both the merchant and the customer. If you want to sell items or services online — or even accept donations — without building an online store, you’ll want to read on.
In this article, we’re going to explain just what Square Online Checkout is, how it works, and how using it can benefit your business.
We should mention that Square Online Checkout is not to be confused with Square Checkout, a separate hosted payment page solution built on top of Squareâs API.
What Is Square Online Checkout?
Seen as an effort by Square to compete with the flexible eCommerce capabilities of PayPal, Square Online Checkout allows all would-be online sellers — particularly those who don’t have a full online store and aren’t looking to build one — to accept payments from customers via a simple link. The buyer does not need to have an account with Square. All the buyer needs to provide is their name, email address, and credit card number.
Let’s look at how this works in practice.
How Square Online Checkout Works
When you use Square Online Checkout, you generate a link or button that can be posted to an email, a text message, your social media accounts, and/or your blog or website. This link can be clicked on by a buyer to purchase whatever product or service you’re offering. It can also be used by the buyer to pay for a prior purchase or to offer a donation — essentially, the link can be used to transfer money for any legal purpose.
An important caveat: Square Online Checkout links can only be used domestically within the US.
How To Set Up & Accept Payments With Square Online Checkout
Let’s walk through the steps required to set up an Online Checkout link and accept payments. Don’t worry — it’s pretty easy!
1. Create A Square Account
To create a Square Online Checkout link, you’ll need to have a Square account. Luckily, Square is free to use, so this step won’t cost you anything.
Here’s our complete guide to creating a Square account. I’ll summarize it thusly:
Go to Square’s home page and click the “Get Started” button
Enter your email address, create a password, and select your country of residence (only US residents can use Online Checkout links)
Enter the information Square will subsequently ask of you (the last four digits of your Social Security number, your home & shipping addresses, your phone number, and some basic questions about how you intend to use Square)
Congrats — you now have a Square account!
2. Get A Link
Once you have a Square account, you can create Online Checkout links from your online Square Dashboard on the website or from the Square app (available for iOS and Android devices).
Square’s guidelines for creating Online Checkout links are as follows:
Head to the Homepage of yourÂ online Square Dashboard.
ClickÂ Create a checkout linkÂ in the Online Checkout section.
Next toÂ Purpose of link, choose eitherÂ Collect payments,Â Sell itemsÂ orÂ Accept Donations.
Enter a name for your link – this will be displayed to the customer.
If prompted, enter the amount you want to charge.
ClickÂ SaveÂ to create a checkout link.
SelectÂ Copy, and share the link anywhere.
And if you want to create an Online Checkout link from the Square app, here’s how to do it:
Enter the amount you want to charge in the keypad
TapÂ Online Checkout.
Write in the details of what is being paid for.
TapÂ Get link. Have your customer scan the QR code with their phone, or share the link anyway you want â text, email, social, etc.
You can also create Online Checkout links through the Settings tab or the Edit Item page.
3. Embed The Link On Your Website Or Blog
After you’ve created the link via the process outlined above and selected Copy (or Get link if you’re using the app), embedding the link on your blog or website is as simple as going to your blog post editor or website editor and pasting in the link the same way you would copy & paste anything else. If you’re using a Windows PC, you just right-click where you want to put the link and then select Paste from the menu. That’s it!
4. Or, Share The Link
To send the link directly to someone or to a group of recipients, you just go through the process of creating the link and then paste it into an email or a text message. You can also post it to your social media channels. Include the link in a post, put the link in your bio, or send it to someone in a DM using any platform you wish. You can share your link just as you would share any other kind of message.
5. Start Accepting Payments
Once you’ve created and shared your link, you can immediately start accepting payments, assuming you’ve correctly entered your bank account number when setting up your Square account. It’s that simple.
Of course, your ability to accept payments won’t be unlimited. Square has a $50,000 per-transaction limit, so you won’t be able to accept massive payments via Online Checkout. And if the transaction is a donation, there’s a $5,000 per-transaction limit.
On the customer end, the process couldn’t be simpler. Whereas PayPal’s checkout buttons require the buyer to have a PayPal account, your customers will not need a Square account in order to make a payment via a Square Online Checkout link. All the customer is prompted to provide is their name, email address, and credit card number.
Once the payment is made, the customer will be emailed a basic receipt. As of now, you can’t create a customized receipt for customers when they make a purchase via an Online Checkout link.
How Much Does Square Online Checkout Cost?
Payments accepted via Square Online Checkout links will be subject to Square’s standard online processing fee of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. That’s the only fee involved here — there are no monthly or annual fees associated with having a Square account.
One thing to keep in mind: Square discounts don’t work with Online Checkout links.
The Benefits Of Using Square Online Checkout
Here are some of the advantages of using Square Online Checkout:
Easy to use, simple to set up
Customers don’t need a Square account — just a credit card
You can run reports to track the number of sales generated from each checkout link — easily see which links are performing best
New sellers can create subscriptions checkouts
You can customize the Checkout Button style and text to reflect your branding
You can create a marketing campaign with checkout links from your online Square Dashboard
Square Online Checkout FAQs
Let’s answer some basic questions about Square’s new Online Checkout service.
Do I have to have a Square account to use Square Online Checkout Links?
In order to set up an Online Checkout link and receive payments, yes, you do need a Square account. Luckily, you can easily and freely get yourself a Square account by signing up on their website.
In order to make a purchase or donation using an Online checkout link, no, you do not need a Square account.
Is there a transaction limit for Square Online Checkout Links?
Yes. Square’s transaction limit for Online Checkout links is $50,000 for purchases and $5,000 for donations.
How much do Square Online Checkout Links cost?
It’s free to set up the link, but Square will take a 2.9% + $0.30 fee from each transaction.
Can I create subscription checkout links?
Yes, but only if you are a new seller. If you’ve just set up a Square account to start selling online, you can set up a subscription checkout link with Online Checkout to accept weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual payments from buyers — all from a single link. Here’s how to create a subscription checkout link.
Existing Square sellers will have to use Square Invoices to set up recurring payments.
Can I send the same Online Checkout Link to different customers?
Yes. You can send one link to an entire mailing list or even post it to social media for the use of anyone who sees it.
A company just sent me an Online Checkout link. What do I do?
Just enter your name, email address, and credit card number (that is, if you want to pay it!).
Is Square Online Checkout safe?
Yes. Square is regarded as having a high degree of security by eCommerce standards and is fully PCI compliant.
Is Square Online Checkout Right For Me?
If you’re looking for an easy way to sell items or services (or accept donations) online, Square Online Checkout makes eCommerce simpler than ever — for both you and your customers.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking to set up a full eCommerce website, sell internationally, or if you want to take advantage of Square’s more advanced eCommerce features like discounts and customized receipts, you might want to take advantage of Square’s other eCommerce tools. You can also check out Merchant Maverick’s shopping cart software reviews to get an idea of the full range of options available.
The post What Is Square Online Checkout? Your Guide To Using This New Square Payment Option appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
The COVID-19 pandemic we’ve all been dealing with has had a devastating effect on both public health and the global economy. As our institutions struggle to flatten the curve and contain the economic fallout, the lack of a coherent message from the authorities regarding when and how brick-and-mortar businesses can safely reopen has added to the stress and uncertainty felt by those whose livelihood depends on such businesses.
While we’re all dealing with a huge amount of uncertainty right now regarding when the public health outlook will start to brighten, there are some basic principles you can adhere to in order to keep your employees and customers safe when the time comes to reopen your business.
Start Planning Now
As we enter the month of May, governmental guidance as to when non-essential businesses may reopen varies from state to state and from locality to locality. In Georgia, the governor has already allowed businesses such as gyms, restaurants, and theaters to reopen — albeit against the warnings of public health officials who warn that such measures may accelerate the spread of the virus.
Other states are taking a different approach. In Pennsylvania, the state government has implemented a red-yellow-green system for reopening areas of the state — localities will move from “red” (the highest level of restrictions) to “yellow” and finally to “green” based on what regional public health indicators suggest is safe.
A state-by-state rundown of stay-at-home orders and reopening forecasts is available online. However, regardless of the directives coming from various state officials, the federal government’s criteria for when states should begin easing restrictions call for:
A decline in new COVID-19 cases for 14 straight days
A decline in reports of symptoms that might represent undiagnosed COVID-19 over that same period
Hospitals should have the capacity to handle new cases without operating in crisis mode and have a ârobust testing programâ for health care workers.
Thus far, no state has met these guidelines. If your state has announced a general reopening without meeting these guidelines, you may want to think carefully before reopening.
Regardless, the time will come when you can reopen your business in some capacity. When considering how to do this, it’s helpful to look at the examples set by essential businesses that have remained open. For instance, many grocery chains have implemented capacity limits based in part on the square footage of the store. Likewise, in areas where restaurants are set to be allowed to reopen soon, capacity limits will come into play, along with restrictions such as a mandatory 6-foot distance between diners and restrictions on the use of reusable menus.
It may not be business as you’re used to doing it, but it’s going to be our reality for the foreseeable future. Now, let’s discuss how you can protect the health of your employees when you reopen your brick-and-mortar business.
Protecting Your Employees
Whenever you’re able to reopen your business, protecting your employees will be your foremost responsibility. Let’s discuss how you can achieve this.
What Are Wellness Checks And How To Implement?
In an effort to protect the health of workers, some localities have mandated screening procedures — often referred to as wellness checks — for employees of businesses that have been allowed to remain open. Such checks may include:
Checking for such symptoms as a cough, shortness of breath, a sore throat, diarrhea, or a fever (touchless thermometers are recommended to check for fevers)
Asking employees if they’ve had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days
Asking employees if they’ve traveled (internationally or domestically)
The CDC has posted a guide to keeping your employees safe and reducing the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace, including information on how to screen your employees for COVID-19.
Is PPE For My Employees Necessary?
On the subject of providing PPE for your employees, the CDC says the following:
CDC recommendsÂ wearing cloth face coveringsÂ in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community transmission. Cloth face coverings may prevent people who donât know they have the virus from transmitting it to others. These face coverings are not surgical masks or respirators and are not appropriate substitutes for them in workplaces where masks or respirators are recommended or required.
Employees should continue to follow their routine policies and procedures for PPE (if any) that they would ordinarily use for their job tasks. When cleaning and disinfecting, employees should always wear gloves and gowns appropriate for the chemicals being used. Additional personal protective equipment (PPE) may be needed based on setting and product.
CDC does not recommend the use of PPE in workplaces where it is not routinely recommended. Facilities can use theÂ hierarchy of controls, such as administrative, and engineering controls â these strategies are even more effective at preventing exposures than wearing PPE.
Of course, each particular type of business may have to make its own adjustments to allow for greater safety, which can lead to problems relating to the availability of safety supplies. A recent news story featured the owner of a barbershop in Georgia who reported being unable to open back up due in part to being unable to find the supplies she needed to safely reopen. We expect similar situations to unfold across the country as stay-at-home orders are lifted but safety supplies remain hard to come by.
Unfortunately, like so many questions we face in this new era, there are no easy answers.
How Often Do I Need To Clean?
Surfaces and equipment that come into contact with employees and/or customers will need to be cleaned on a regular basis. There are no specific guidelines regarding exactly how often this must occur, but the following is what the CDC recommends:
Current evidence, though still preliminary, suggests that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
If the machinery or equipment in question are not accessible to employees or have not been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19, they will not present an exposure hazard.
If machinery or equipment are thought to be contaminated and can be cleaned, follow theÂ CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations. First clean dirty surfaces with soap and water. Second, disinfect surfaces usingÂ products that meet EPAâs criteria for use against SARS-Cov-2external iconexternal iconÂ and are appropriate for the surface.
If machinery or equipment are thought to be contaminated andÂ cannotÂ be cleaned, they can be isolated. Isolate papers or any soft (porous) surfaces for a minimum of 24 hours before handling. After 24 hours, remove soft materials from the area and clean the hard (non-porous) surfaces per the cleaning and disinfection recommendations. Isolate hard (non-porous) surfaces that cannot beÂ cleaned and disinfectedÂ for a minimum of 7 days before handling.
One step you can take to improve safety is to adjust your hours and your employees’ schedules to allow for the extra time you’ll need to spend on cleaning and sanitizing the surfaces that your employees and customers come into contact with.
Protecting Your Customers
Upon reopening, you’ll be responsible for the health of your customers as well as that of your employees. Here are some tips for keeping your customers as safe as possible when the time comes to reopen.
Implementing Occupancy Limits
When you’re legally able to open for business, you may need to abide by occupancy limits set by your state or locality. For example, in North Carolina, occupancy inside supermarkets and retail stores is currently limited to 20% of the fire capacity of the store.
Obviously, occupancy limits aren’t ideal and will cut into your profits. No business owner wants to turn away willing customers! Unfortunately, during a public health emergency, we all have to make painful adjustments.
How To Encourage Social Distancing Inside Your Store
We’ve published a detailed article about how to implement social distancing in your customer-facing business. I highly recommend reading it before you reopen your business if you’re looking for guidance on implementing social distancing.
Again, look to the examples of businesses that have been permitted to remain open, such as supermarkets. Supermarkets have implemented such measures as keeping foot traffic flowing in one particular direction and placing tape on the floor in the check-out lane to ensure that customers stay 6 feet away from each other (of course, this requires supermarkets to put up signage directing customers to do these things). Now, depending on the size and nature of your establishment, you may not need to do everything that’s being done at grocery stores, but since you’ll need to maintain the principles of social distancing, you’ll likely need to implement similar measures.
Keep Open Lines Of Communication
Considering the fact that your customers haven’t been able to come around in a while, you don’t want them to forget about you entirely. That’s why you need to keep communicating with them. If your business hasn’t been talking to your customers via social media and/or through email marketing, you should start doing so right away. If you have important information regarding your future reopening (or any policy changes or product availability updates) to convey, you should obviously do that, but even if you don’t, it’s a good idea to keep communicating with customers just to stay fresh in people’s minds.
Be Prepared To Shut Down Again If The Outbreak Resurges
As things stand, none of us can forecast the future with any accuracy. We may experience a lull in new infections over these next months as the weather warms — or the partial reopening of society may just lead to a surge in new cases that requires another lockdown. As daunting as this possibility may be, it could happen, so you’ll need to prepare for the possibility of shutting down again in the near future.
We’re all going through a frightening and tragic chapter in our collective history. However, we are a resilient people, and just as the small business community hasn’t given up the fight, Merchant Maverick will keep providing the clear information and unbiased reviews you deserve. Together, we’re going get through this. Better days lie ahead. Until then, keep an eye on our COVID-19 hub for small businesses — we’re adding to it continuously, covering all the latest developments.
The post How To Safely Reopen Your Brick-and-Mortar Business As Pandemic Measures Are Lifted appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at Kinsta Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb
Kinsta Hosting is a rapidly growing, independent hosting company founded in 2013. Kinsta is focused exclusively on managed WordPress hosting with reliable customer support and Google Cloud-driven performance.
See Kinsta’s Current Plans & Pricing
What is Kinsta Hosting?
Kinsta is a non-traditional hosting company only offers one service – managed hosting for WordPress on cloud servers. They don’t offer email, reseller, or any other type of hosting. They do integrate some 3rd-party tools like DNS (from Amazon) and SSL (from LetsEncrypt) and CDN (configured on their Google Cloud network). Here’s their pricing chart.
Kinsta was founded in 2013 to meet the increased demand for managed WordPress hosting services (which I’ll touch on in the next section). They are a remote-first company with an emphasis on global service with support provided in 7 languages.
Their service is provided via Google’s Cloud Platform, and they have an exclusive focus on WordPress.
I’ve had a long-standing client who uses WP Engine (Kinsta’s direct competitor), and have had experience using the various managed WordPress hosting products across the hosting industry.
Background on Kinsta Hosting
To understand Kinsta’s product, you need to understand four concepts.
First, WordPress is the most popular content management system software on the Internet. People use it to run websites. It can run on any hosting setup with PHP, MySQL, and Linux. In other words, it can run on almost any web host.
Second, Web Hosting is space on a computer server that can run web applications and serve data to browsers (aka, it’s where a website lives). Web hosting can come in various setups, depending on the configuration. Shared hosting is the most common where a single server that can run PHP, MySQL, and Linux is “shared” among various hosting accounts. I explain more here.
Third, WordPress Hosting is space on a web hosting account that is specifically configured in some way to help WordPress software run better. I explain more here. The definition of “run better” can vary wildly depending on the hosting company since technically WordPress can run on almost any web hosting account. I wrote about the differences between Web and WordPress hosting here.
Fourth, Cloud Hosting is a large network of data centers configured so that customers can lease computing power & storage for web applications on demand, anywhere in the network instead of using space on a single web server. The largest cloud networks are run by Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Digital Ocean, IBM, and Oracle. I explain more here.
With those four background concepts in place, I can explain Kinsta’s unique position in the hosting world.
Kinsta runs managed WordPress hosting on the Google Cloud Platform. They actively lease computing power & storage on Google’s Cloud, configure it to run WordPress quickly & efficiently, and manage & support each installation.
In other words, they offer a niche but also potentially powerful platform. Because of how they mix & match all these services, they don’t compete head to head with many providers. But they compete indirectly with *a lot*.
How Kinsta Hosting Works
In some ways, Kinsta works just like any other hosting company. You sign up and pay every month. In exchange, your WordPress website runs quickly and efficiently.
But behind the scenes, their setup is a bit more complicated.
First, you’ll technically lease your hosting from Google, so unless Google goes down…your site isn’t going to go down. There’s no “crashing” like there could be on a typical web server.
Second, Kinsta has its cloud access explicitly configured for WordPress with things like server-side caching, security rules, staging environments, and more so that your site is faster than it could be on a vanilla Linux web server.
Third, Kinsta blends several 3rd party services for DNS (connects your domain to the host), SSL (secures your connection), and CDN (content distribution network) to make everything your website needs to work together.
Since they only have one product with no upsells, the signup is straightforward.
The entire setup operates from a single account dashboard where you control your WordPress installs.
I’ve been considering Kinsta for a client’s site, and decided to give them a try with a small site that I’m looking to consolidate.
Here’s my Kinsta Hosting review structured with pros, cons, ideal use cases, and alternatives based on my experience as a customer.
Pros of Using Kinsta Hosting
There are a lot of Kinsta Hosting reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine, but I take a different approach.
Like I mention in all my hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. It’s all about the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering Kinsta Hosting.
Cloud Hosting Benefits
Since Kinsta uses the Google Cloud Platform, you get many of the benefits of cloud hosting without many of the downsides.
A hosting account can be a lot of things to your business, but the core function of a hosting server is to serve your website files whenever someone requests them. But – the implied adverb there is to serve those files quickly.
In an age of global audiences and multi-device connections, speed matters more than ever. While there are a lot of variables in play with website speed, it’s primarily your hosting server’s job to send the requested files to the visitor’s browser as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
So here’s the thing – Kinsta uses the same servers that you use to access Google.com and YouTube.com. With Kinsta, as long as they are configured well, they are going to be fast.
Additionally, with server-side caching, your WordPress website will be ready to go. Now, there are still plenty of issues that can slow your site down, but they likely won’t be Kinsta’s fault.
Here’s my first test with my Kinsta website –
Again, if your site is loading slowly – it’s not Kinsta’s fault. It’s something with your site.
With the Google Cloud Platform, Kinsta can also offer data centers around the world. They have more than 23 at the time of writing ranging from Iowa to Southeast Asia and everywhere in between.
Their CDN runs on a global CDN network (KeyCDN) as well, so website assets can be staged close to any website visitor in the world.
It’s rare and expensive to build & maintain data centers around the world, so using Google’s infrastructure provides an advantage that a traditional hosting company can’t match.
Remember the last time Google went down? Yes, it happens. But it’s rare. And when it happens, it’s a newsworthy event. With Kinsta, that means that, outside of a bad configuration on their part, your site is not going to go down unless Google goes down.
Consistent performance and reliability are the main advantages of Kinsta since they can take Google Cloud and make it accessible and WordPress-friendly to regular customers.*
*Yes, you can go to Google and sign up for cloud hosting yourself. In fact, I have a non-WordPress site running there now. But to setup & run a database-driven CMS with integrated file storage takes some…patience and wherewithal. It’s not a simple one-click WordPress install. Also, Google does not provide support or configuration help. So, still a considerable advantage for Kinsta.
Configuration, Focus, & Usability
Kinsta built their Dashboard from scratch. Their signup is simple and straightforward. There are some hiccups that I’ll get to in the downsides, but overall, their configuration and usability is amazing.
Their focus on WordPress and simple plan structure also makes onboarding (i.e., going from a new signup to active customer) straightforward. The design is uncluttered, minimalist, and well-designed.
Their setup had jargon and technical information present, but it isn’t overwhelming and daunting like other managed WordPress hosting companies.
User-friendly Add-on Tools
While Kinsta does not have all the tools that traditional hosts make available, they do bundle several tools that are critical to running a fast, effective website. And again, unlike other managed WordPress hosting providers, they bundle them seamlessly in their dashboard.
DNS is the roadmap of instructions that connects your registered domain to your hosting, where your website lives.
Kinsta includes Premium DNS with all their plan levels, which makes setting up your website much simpler. Plenty of managed hosting companies (and even some website builders) leave the DNS up to their customers to figure out – leaving plenty of customers fiddling with TXT records, CNAMEs and MX records in vain.
Amazon provides Kinsta’s DNS. It’s reliable and integrated directly in their Dashboard.
A content distribution network (CDN) allows you to take the load off your main server by distributing media files and scripts around the world so that your website can load faster and with fewer resources on your server.
Again, not every hosting company includes this option, but Kinsta integrates it directly within their Dashboard.
An SSL allows your website to provide an encrypted connection between itself and your visitor’s browser. It’s an essential part of every website. Again, it’s something that Kinsta provides directly in their dashboard via LetsEncrypt. It’s not the best or name-brand SSL, but it does the job.
Kinsta provides website migration services to its platform. It can be confusing enough, moving an existing WordPress website from one shared hosting account to another. But moving it to a managed cloud platform can create all kinds of hiccups.
It’s a free service that would typically cost hundreds of dollars with a WordPress consultant.
Developer & Agency Tools
Kinsta provides a range of developer and agency tools that all sound either too dull or technical until you need them & use them.
They have well-implemented basics like built-in staging and user management so that developers can build client sites and hand them over with no hiccups or maverick approval processes.
Additionally, they have SSH access, WP-CLI, and allow different versions of PHP.
But the most interesting piece for me is the fact that they don’t lock customers into a single WordPress configuration AND they’ll support non-traditional setups like reverse-proxy configurations.
As an SEO consultant, having the flexibility of configurations is critical for working with large clients who want WordPress for their blog…but, not their main site. It makes a big content marketing sell much simpler since developer time can be outsourced to Kinsta.
Most customer support stories are either *really* bad or *really* good. It’s the one-star vs. five-star problem. Like I’ve said in most of my hosting reviews, I try to look and see if the company treats customer support as a cost center, a profit center, or an investment center.
Based on how they’ve integrated their knowledge base throughout their Dashboard (rather than stashing it somewhere), and the fact that they’ve grown their team mainly with support team around the world – it seems like they’ve deemed customer support as an investment center.
And that’s a good thing if you are a customer. You know they aren’t looking to make a buck off you, or push you off. Instead, they are trying to develop goodwill and increase word of mouth. Kinsta’s main “thing” is customer support, since it makes their whole product run.
Cons / Disadvantages of Using Kinsta Hosting
Like any web host, Kinsta has disadvantages. There are plenty of Kinsta complaints online. But remember, that like the pros, these are all in the context of your goals & priorities. With that said, here are the cons that I found while using Kinsta Hosting.
Kinsta is expensive.
No matter how you measure it – by WordPress installs, visits allowed, storage allocated, indirect competitor pricing, indirect competitor pricing – Kinsta is going to be competitive…but still the expensive option.
WP Engine is its most direct competitor. Kinsta does have more intermediate plans…but WP Engine has a pricing setup that can be a bit cheaper than Kinsta.
Competitors like InMotion Hosting and SiteGround offer comparable products for much cheaper (though they aren’t on Google’s Cloud). LiquidWeb does the same for managed WooCommerce websites.
And other indirect competitors like WPMU Dev do bundled cloud hosting with their plugin subscription that is competitive for agencies / developers.
There are two things pushing back on this disadvantage.
First, Kinsta is super-transparent about their pricing. There are no add-ons or excluded features like on WP Engine. There are no slight apples to oranges comparisons like you’d find with InMotion or SiteGround or LiquidWeb.
Two, expensive is a relative concept to value. Depending on the value that your website is generating, a few hundred dollars may or may not matter. If a few hours of downtime or a support misstep can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars, then “expensive” is the wrong metric to look at.
On the flip side, hosting is a business cost. Any dollar that you save goes right to your bottom line. If you are on the fence about some of Kinsta’s features or have other website needs (see Feature bundles below), then Kinsta’s price is going to be a disadvantage.
Kinsta has some pretty low caps, especially compared to non-cloud competitors. Since they are working with leased infrastructure, they have to pass along any and all of their hosting costs.
If you’ve run a rapidly growing website, you’ll know just how quickly visits, storage, and bandwidth needs can escalate. If you are on Kinsta, you’ll never have to worry about needs taking your website offline. But you may have to worry about those needs hitting your bottom-line.
I have one client who built a silly side-project on his website (hosted on WP Engine with similar caps to Kinsta). The silly side-project took off – in a big way.
In some ways, the project brought in indirect revenue with backlinks, brand awareness, etc. But in concrete terms, it single-handedly tripled his monthly hosting costs because it blew past every visitor cap…and then the bots & spammers showed up. He’s on an enterprise plan with the same amount of “real” traffic that should put him on a basic plan.
Now, that’s a good problem to have. But it’s created decisions that honestly would not need to be made if he were using a Kinsta competitor with a managed VPS or managed WordPress hosting product like InMotion or SiteGround.
In fact, some of Kinsta’s features are capped at lower levels than you’d expect with their marketing. For example, think about WooCommerce and membership sites. They recommend PHP Workers that can handle excess queries. Here’s an explainer on how they work. But basically they help with the shopping cart / user roles while the server cache loads the rest of the page.
For their Starter and Pro plans, Kinsta only provides 2 PHP Workers…which is not recommended for ecommerce websites. In comparison, InMotion’s cheapest managed WordPress plan comes with a limit of 4 PHP Workers.
And again – many of these limitations come not from Kinsta (they are transparent about all this) but from their product structure…which is the next disadvantage.
Size & Company Structure
In a lot of ways, Kinsta is my kind of company. They are founder owned & operated. They are boot-strapped with zero investor funding. They are product-focused with a smart, thoughtful marketing strategy.
They are small enough to have direct contact with customers and processes. They are remote-first, global, and diverse. I’m glad to spend money with them.
But the hosting industry is structured the way it’s structured for a reason. And Kinsta is moving in the opposite direction of the rest of the industry.
Web hosting business is built based on the depreciation of fixed assets and high customer retention. It’s similar in many ways to the physical real estate industry. Almost every hosting company is away from pure-play hosting to becoming a hosting “platform” with lots of amenities.
Since Kinsta leases its infrastructure from Google, they use an entirely different business model. They have to have low overhead costs (ie, remote-first is a must), low acquisition costs (ie, their inbound marketing strategy), low labor costs and high pricing. Additionally, they are completely dependent on Google staying competitive & in the Cloud hosting business.
In other words, Kinsta is kind of like the WeWork of the hosting world (in a good way). Kinsta has avoided most of WeWork’s mistakes. But the core business model of sub-leasing servers while adding value via convenience, accessibility, and support is tricky.
WP Engine made it by using investor money to acquire market share and big amenities while building a hybrid data center. But others have failed or have been bought out – like FlyWheel and Nexcess.
Right now, Kinsta is committed to organic, long-term growth. But if you are looking for a 5+ year host, I’d pause and look around the industry before committing.
Feature Bundles & Add-Ons
Most direct and indirect competitors are moving to a “hosting platform” model with bundled plugins, themes, and other amenities. Almost all of Kinsta’s direct and indirect competitors bundle some sort of WordPress amenity with their managed WordPress hosting product.
WP Engine bundles StudioPress themes & products.
LiquidWeb bundles iThemes plugins & themes.
InMotion bundles JetPack and the BoldGrid website builder.
WPMU Dev bundles its premium plugins.
SiteGround bundles custom amenities like developer toolkits and email.
Pressable bundles JetPack and WP101 Training.
The flipside of this disadvantage is that Kinsta is truly focused on WordPress and hosting – they aren’t trying to compete with amenities and bonuses. They are just doing what they promise to do.
That’s great – and certainly a strength. But it’s also a downside for some customers.
Kinsta Hosting Alternatives & Use Cases
Just like cars, houses, appliances, etc – there is no such thing as a “best” host. There are just better & worse hosts for different customers with different needs. Here are some ideal use cases for Kinsta, along with some direct alternatives.
Growing Ecommerce or Membership Site
A growing ecommerce or membership website built with WordPress can create resource strains and technical demands. Kinsta’s architecture and support experience are really made for both types of sites (especially at higher pricing tiers).
Kinsta is a solid, straightforward, but still affordable option for ecommerce / membership websites that can pay a premium to have things “just work” with no troubleshooting. View Kinsta’s plans here.
Developer or Agency w/ Premium Clients
Kinsta is a great option for developers or agencies that build high-quality websites for premium clients with ongoing maintenance budgets.
Kinsta has the social proof, technical specs, pricing, and management tools that will assure brand name clients while still sticking with their budget expectations. View Kinsta’s plans here.
Premium Support & All-in-One Needs
Kinsta is ideal for DIY customers who run a high-margin website that needs premium support and/or all-in-one hosting needs. Kinsta’s monthly costs are high, but nothing considering the costs of hiring a WordPress developer to solve intermediate issues for a day (i.e., installing a new SSL certificate or repointing a subdomain). View Kinsta’s plans here.
Out of all the hosting companies that I’ve used myself or via a client, here’s how Kinsta compares directly with a few select ones.
Kinsta Hosting vs. WP Engine
WP Engine was the first company to offer a managed WordPress hosting product, and they’ve been the market leader ever since. They focus on the same customers as Kinsta. I’ve reviewed WP Engine here.
They have some advantages over Kinsta, including more features & amenities. But they are also more technically oriented with a more confusing backend. Kinsta is cleaner and simpler.
If you are a solo DIYer, developer, or small agency, you’ll likely gravitate towards Kinsta. If you are a corporate-type, you’ll likely gravitate towards WP Engine.
Kinsta Hosting vs. LiquidWeb
LiquidWeb moved into the managed WordPress space with their Nexcess acquisition. LiquidWeb is one of the largest independent hosting companies and has a specific focus on agencies and developers. They run their own data centers and have been around for a long time. They really excel with ecommerce websites.
Since they operate their own data centers, they have major price & feature advantages over Kinsta. But Kinsta’s setup runs on the Google Cloud and has better focus & usability since they *only* do WordPress.
If you are looking at cost but still want a lot of the developer features of Kinsta, you’ll likely go for LiquidWeb. If you like Kinsta’s focus & cloud setup, you’ll likely go for them instead.
Kinsta Hosting vs. SiteGround
SiteGround has been a rapidly growing host in the WordPress space. They have a big appeal among developers. They also have a global reach with data centers in the US, Europe, and Asia.
Since they operate their own data centers, they have a big cost advantage over Kinsta with managed WordPress hosting. They also bundle a lot of the same features as Kinsta including CDN, SSL, DNS, migration service, and user management. But again, Kinsta will likely still have some advantage with speed & performance since they run on Google’s Cloud.
If you are looking to save money but still have a developer-oriented company, SiteGround will likely be a better choice. If you prize speed & performance and have budget for Kinsta, you’ll likely go for Kinsta’s plans.
Kinsta Hosting vs. InMotion Hosting
InMotion Hosting is one of the most consistently growing hosting companies on the Internet. They are independent and have grown organically over the course of 20+ years. They offer a wide range of hosting products, including managed WordPress hosting, with a focus on small businesses.
Since they run their own data centers, they have a big advantage over Kinsta with pricing. They are able to offer much higher caps on features compared to Kinsta. For example, remember the PHP Workers mentioned earlier? Kinsta provides 2 PHP Workers compared to InMotion’s 4 Workers on their cheapest $8.99/mo plan. They also bundle a lot of business-friendly amenities with their plans (like JetPack for security).
If you are looking at the overall value of features & support for the price, InMotion Hosting would be a better fit. If you like Kinsta’s exclusive focus on cloud & WordPress, then they would be a better fit.
Kinsta Hosting Review Next Steps
Kinsta Hosting is an amazing option to have in the world of WordPress hosting. They have a fast, simple, solid product in a competitive field. If you have budget for a managed host and like the appeal of using the cloud, then Kinsta is likely an excellent fit for you.
See Kinsta’s Current Plans & Pricing
If you are looking for other options, check out the ones listed above, or explore my WordPress Hosting page.
Kinsta Hosting is a rapidly growing managed WordPress hosting service built on the Google Cloud.