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Business Consultant in Tampa Florida and nearby

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    This article was originally published on May 29, 2014, and was updated on Aug. 14, 2018, and Sept. 30, 2019.

    You can’t take website security threats seriously enough — especially if your customers entrust you with their credit card information and other sensitive data. From using strong passwords to defending your site against images that attack, taking the important steps necessary to protect your website from cyber security threats isn’t a maybe — it’s a must.

    Related: Understanding Online Security Threats

    Top website security threats and steps to protect your site from attack

    This guide will take a deep dive into the most prevalent website security threats, and outline some steps you can take to remain vigilant against them. Here’s what we’re going to cover:

    Ready? Let’s get started.

    Characteristics of commonly targeted websites

    Flaming Dart Illustrates Cyber Security Threats

    Based on the GoDaddy Security and Sucuri teams’ analysis of more than 25,000 infected websites and 4.4 million cleaned files, Sucuri’s Website Hack Trend Report 2018 gives us great insight into the source of website security threats for some of the most popular open-source content management systems.

    • WordPress infections rose from 83% in 2017 to 90% in 2018.
    • Magento infection rates dropped from 6.5% in 2017 to 4.6% in 2018.
    • Joomla! infection rates dropped from 13.1% in 2017 to 4.3% in 2018.
    • Drupal infections rose from 1.6% in 2017 to 3.7% in 2018.

    Note: While the report found security breaches most prevalent on sites built on the WordPress, Magento and Joomla! CMS platforms, “this does not imply these platforms are more or less secure than others,” the authors write. “This data represents the most common platforms seen in our environment and reflects the overall popularity of CMS’.”

    “As seen in previous reports, issues pertaining to vulnerabilities in extensible components and overall security posture among website administrators are a constant factor. … The most notorious threats to CMS’ stem from vulnerabilities introduced by add-on modules, plugins, themes, and extensions.”

    The report identifies these common issues and themes in CMS vulnerabilities:

    • Improper deployment
    • Security configuration issues
    • A lack of security knowledge or resources
    • Overall site maintenance by webmasters
    • Broken authentication and session management

    “These issues continue to be the leading causes of today’s website hacks,” the authors note.

    WordPress + website security threats

    The report shows that WordPress continues to lead the infected CMS pack, with 90% of all websites cleaned by Sucuri in 2018 built on the WordPress platform.

    And this makes perfect sense. Why?

    WordPress powers more than one-third of all websites on the internet. It commands a 60% market share of all open-source content management systems.

    It’s really popular. And with great popularity comes a big target.

    Related: How to stay on top of WordPress security issues

    Cyber security threats and small business websites

    However, it’s important to know that website security attacks aren’t necessarily targeted at specific websites. In most hacking attempts, attackers aren’t actively seeking out any website in particular, which is why even small sites get attacked.

    Hackers use bots to sniff out vulnerabilities, and once one is found, the hackers jump in to do some damage.

    According to GoDaddy cybersecurity research, 58% of small businesses are most vulnerable to malware attacks. Other research shows that six out of 10 breaches hit small businesses.

    But only 30% of businesses regularly check for vulnerabilities, and 40% rarely do.

    Small businesses are most vulnerable to website security threats simply because they don’t usually have enough security acumen nor do they have enough budget or time to devote to website security compared to many large corporations.

    Related: What is the cybersecurity skills gap and what does it mean for your business?

    Back to top

    Effects of cyber attacks on businesses

    Website Security Threats Business Meeting

    By now, you should have a basic understanding of why website security is important.

    But to make things even more clear, let’s take a look at some of the negative effects that a business might experience after experiencing a cyber attack:

    1. Financial loss

    Nearly half of small businesses surveyed by GoDaddy reported suffering a financial loss from hacking, with one out of eight saying that the loss was greater than $5,000.

    You might notice that there’s a bit of a paradox for small businesses dealing with cyber attacks.

    In most cases, small businesses don’t have enough money for website security, yet when faced with a cybersecurity attack, they are often advised to pay up, even when those cyber attacks cause financial losses.

    Even worse, Security magazine reports that 60% of hacked small businesses go out of business within six months.

    2. Reputation damage

    Businesses have a duty to inform their clients if they experience a cyber breach that involves the exposure of personal information. If you’ve ever been a customer whose data has been exposed after trusting a company to handle it properly, you realize how this can jeopardize business relationships.

    3. Blacklisting by search engines

    Websites compromised by hacks are often blacklisted by search engines or internet security companies. For those that rely on traffic from search, this can have major negative business implications.

    Back to top

    Types of cyber security threats and malware families

    Computer Code Illustrates Malware

    Sucuri’s Website Hack Trend Report 2018 also includes analysis of infection trends and how these trends correlate to malware families. “Malware families allow our team to assess an attacker’s tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP),” the authors write. “This information inevitably leads us to their intentions and helps us understand and mitigate future threats.”

    Malware families and other notable website security threats, both highlighted in the report and beyond, include:

    Backdoors

    Backdoors give hackers unauthorized access and rights to a computer or network after a successful compromise. Backdoor infections were revealed in 68% of all Sucuri cleanup requests in 2018.

    “Backdoors give attackers the opportunity to bypass existing access controls to web server environments and are particularly effective at eluding modern website scanning technologies,” the report’s authors write. “This makes them one of the most commonly missed payloads and a leading cause of reinfections.”

    Malware

    Malware, short for “malicious software,” is a generic term used for intrusive code that tries to take control of your website in some way. Forms of malware include viruses, Trojan horses and drive-by downloads.

    The Sucuri report notes an increase in the general malware family distribution, from 47% in 2017 to more than 56% in 2018.

    SEO spam

    The Sucuri report identifies SEO spam as the culprit in more than 51% of all the infection cases the team addressed in 2018 — a 7% increase from the year before.

    “This is one of the fastest growing families over the previous years,” the authors write. “They are difficult to detect and have a strong economic engine driven by impression-based affiliate marketing.”

    Mailers

    Mailers are spam generating tools designed to abuse server resources, allowing hackers to send unwanted emails from a domain.

    “These forms of malware can wreak havoc by distributing malware or phishing campaigns and stealing sensitive information.”

    SQL injections

    SQL injections are web security vulnerabilities that allow bad actors to interfere with a query an application makes to its database.

    Cross site scripting (XSS)

    Cross site scripting is a type of attack that happens when malicious scripts are inserted into an otherwise trusted website with the intent of stealing the user’s identity data through cookies, session tokens and other information.

    Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

    Distributed Denial of Service is malicious attempt to disrupt the normal traffic of a targeted server, service or network by overwhelming the target or its surrounding infrastructure with internet traffic.

    HackTool

    Exploit, or distributed denial of service (DDoS) tools, used to attack other sites.

    Defaced

    Hacks that leave a website’s home page unusable and promote an unrelated subject (i.e., hacktivism).

    Phishing

    Phishing is a type of scam in which bad actors send fraudulent emails made to look like they are from legitimate individuals or companies in an attempt to trick users into sharing sensitive information like credit card data and logins.

    Dropper

    This is a type of malware that “drops” viruses into targeted computers. The virus’s code is contained within the dropper.

    Banking Trojans

    Banking Trojans focus on stealing bank account logins. Examples include Citadel and Zeus.

    Keyloggers

    Keyloggers steal anything that’s typed on a keyboard or touchscreen.

    Ransomware

    Ransomware encrypts data then ransoms its release. One example is the hack that struck the city of Atlanta.

    Exploit kits

    Exploit kits give cyber crooks malware upload options.

    Bots

    Bots take control of infected computers to assist in other crimes.

    Drive-by downloads

    Drive-by downloads are unintentional downloads of malicious code that open the door for security breaches on apps, operating systems or web browsers.

    Advanced persistent threat

    Advanced persistent threats are a type of (generally sophisticated and long-running) attack that usually involves malware.

    Back to top

    Understanding and preventing SQL injections

    As noted above, website security covers a broad spectrum of cyber security threats. However, it’s worth taking a closer look at SQL injections and three more of the most common online security culprits.

    As a refresher, SQL injection is a web security vulnerability that allows hackers to interfere with a query an application makes to its database.

    Why SQL injections are bad

    Many websites and web applications store their data in SQL databases.

    Sometimes, you can use SQL commands to run operating system commands. When a hacker gets access to the SQL database, they can view and modify data they normally aren’t able to retrieve or access, which includes data belonging to users, or data that the application has access to.

    Hackers can modify or delete data, or even grant themselves admin access.

     

    In some cases, you can even access the operating system using the database server. When attackers get access to this, they can attack the internal network behind a firewall.

    How SQL injections work

    Attackers find vulnerable input fields on the website and insert content via an SQL query. This is often called malicious payload, and is a key part of the attack. After the attacker sends this content, malicious SQL commands are executed in the database.

    Types of SQL injections

    There are three types of SQL injections:

    In-band SQLi

    The most common and easy to exploit SQLi, in-band SQLi is when the attacker is able to use the same communication channel to launch the attack and gather results.

    The two most common types of in-band SQLi are Error-based SQLi and Union-based SQLi:

    • Error-based SQLi: Errors can be useful in the development phase of a website, but should be disabled on a live site. This type of SQLi relies on error messages thrown by the database server to obtain information about the structure of the database.
    • Union-based SQLi: Leverages the UNION SQL operator to combine the results of two or more SELECT statements into a single result, which is returned as part of the HTTP response.

    Blind/inferential SQLi

    This type of attack takes much longer than an in-band SQLi attack.

    With this type of attack, no data is actually transferred via the web application and the attacker isn’t able to see the result of the attack in-band (that’s why it’s called blind SQLi). Instead, the attacker is able to reconstruct the database by sending payloads and then observing the web application’s response and the resulting behavior of the database server.

    There are two types of blind SQLis:

    • Boolean-based/content-based blind SQLi: Relies on sending an SQL query to the database, which forces the application to return a different result depending on whether the query returns a TRUE or FALSE result.
    • Time-based blind SQLi: This type of attack forces the database to wait for a specific amount of time (in seconds) before responding. Depending on the result, the HTTP response may be returned immediately or with a delay, and the attacker can infer whether the attack was TRUE or FALSE based on how long the result took.

    Out-of-band SQLi

    Of the three types of SQLi, this is the most uncommon because it depends on the features being enabled on the database server being used by the web application.

    This type of SQL injection occurs when the attacker is unable to use the same channel to launch the attack and gather results. This type of attack is an alternative to inferential SQLi, especially if the server responses are not stable.

    A real world example of SQL injections

    In 2008, information from 134 million credit cards was exposed when spyware was injected in Heartland Payment Systems’ data systems. What’s worse is that this was not discovered until a year later, when Visa and Mastercard notified Heartland Payment Systems of the suspicious transactions.

    A few additional examples of the negative real-life impacts of SQL injections:

    Read more about the top SQLi attacks.

    How to prevent SQL attacks

    Determine whether your site is vulnerable by launching your own SQL attacks on your website to see whether they are successful. You can use an automated SQL injection attack tool such as Havij, SQLmap or jSQL.

    Besides sussing out vulnerabilities on your own, make sure to also employ the use of a web application firewall (WAF).

    Read more tips on how to prevent SQL attacks.

    Back to top

    Understanding and preventing cross site scripting (XSS)

    Cross site scripting is a type of attack that happens when malicious scripts are inserted into an otherwise trusted website with the intent of stealing the user’s identity data through cookies, session tokens and other information.

    It’s important to have an understanding around these types of website security threats, as 84% of vulnerabilities are a result of XSS attacks.

    Why cross site scripting is bad

    At least at this point in time, the browser has no way of knowing that the script should not be trusted and will execute it. And, unlike other web attacks, XSS targets its users and not your web application, causing harm to your clients and reputation.

    Why cross site scripting happens

    Many developers automatically trust all users to the point that they don’t make an extra effort when it comes to filtering user input. There are many variants of an XSS attack, so the application gets confused regarding what to filter.

    How cross site scripting works

    Attackers inject client-side scripts into web pages viewed by other users through a vulnerable point. Once the user visits the website or clicks on the link, the malicious string of code from the database is sent in response. The victim’s browser then executes the malicious script.

    Types of cross site scripting attacks

    Cross site scripting can take on many different malicious forms, including:

    Non-persistent/reflected attack

    The attacker usually sends a link containing a malicious code, or exploits a form on the website. These attacks may be sent to a victim with the intention of stealing their session cookies and ultimately their account.

    But compared to other XSS attacks, these are much less dangerous. This is because reflected attacks rely on a victim taking action, making it hard to automate. For the attack to be successful, each victim must be targeted individually.

    Persistent/stored attack

    The attacker sends malicious data to a website stored in a database. When the user visits the site, they are served the data that performs a malicious action.

    Compared to reflected attacks, these can be automated. A script can be created that visits thousands of websites, exploits a vulnerability on each site, and drops the stored XSS load. In this case, the site visitor does not have to do anything but visit the site to get infected. Needless to say, the persistent attack affects more people.

    Document Object Model (DOM) Attack

    The attacker modifies the DOM environment of the user’s browser, the result of exploiting the original client-side JavaScript hardcoded into the site.

    While uncommon, this attack is difficult to address because it usually occurs on the client side. During these attacks, the HTTP response of a page is not changed and no unique data is sent to the server.

    A real world example of cross site scripting

    An XSS flaw on eBay exposed its users to phishing scams in 2014. Also, in 2018, the information of 685 million Tinder, Western Union, Shopify, Yelp and Imgur users was at risk due to XSS.

    How to prevent cross site scripting

    In some cases, preventing an XSS attack can be as simple as adding an HTML code to your site.

    Here’s how to protect yourself:

    • Encoding: In a nutshell, encoding is when you strip user input of all code and force web browsers to interpret that input only as data. Instead of being rendered in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, or as a URL, the end result is rendered as text on both the server and client-side.
    • Validation: Involves making sure that the data matches your expectations.
    • Sanitization: Involves cleaning up all data entered by a user. Many code libraries and eCommerce platforms do this by default. The problem with this is that it can limit what a user can enter. Infosec shares a list of data that needs to be sanitized as well as instructions on how to sanitize your data.

    Finally, you can also prevent cross site scripting attacks by disabling JavaScript from your browser and installing a Web Application Firewall.

    Back to top

    Understanding and preventing malware attacks

    Malware is a portmanteau of the words malicious and software. It’s an intrusive code (normally installed via a corrupted file packaged with healthy software) that tries to take control of your website in some way.

    Malware can take on many forms:

    • Viruses: The most common form of malware, often found in email attachments.
    • Trojan horses: Also known as backdoor malware, it is disguised as a legitimate program but can take control of your computer once installed.
    • Driveby downloads: Uses your website as a delivery method for other corrupted files and can cause damage without the recipient knowing.
    • Ransomware: A kind of attack where criminals hold data hostage until a payment is made. One in five small businesses faced a debilitating ransomware attack in 2016.

    There are other forms of malware, the aforementioned representing the most common types.

    How malware works

    Malware spreads when you download or install infected software. It can also enter your computer via a link or email. Once installed, it replicates fast and can immediately spread to other computers in the network.

    Malware can affect PC performance, resulting in a slow PC response. It can also consume internet data: if your internet usage is higher than normal, you might be infected with malware.

    Malware can interfere with computer activities by generating unwanted popups and ads. It can destroy computer programs and the computer’s operating system.

    Furthermore, malware can steal personal information and encrypt your files — forcing you to pay for an encryption key to unlock them.

    A real world example of malware

    Hackers launched WannaCry ransomware, extorting banks, hospitals and the FBI.

    Hackers earned $5.9 million through SamSam ransomware attacks since 2015, even generating $64,000 from a single attack — the highest amount generated from a ransomware attack to date.

    Here’s a list of the worst malware in 2018.

    How to prevent malware

    Bad news first: most of the time, you won’t be informed if you were infected by malware, though some sites warn you before allowing you to navigate to an infected site.

    If you’ve been infected by malware, use a dedicated tool such as GoDaddy Express Malware Removal to find and remove malware from your site.

    How to protect your site from malware

    There’s not a lot you can do after the fact, which means you must be proactive.

    Use a website monitoring service like GoDaddy Website Security to regularly scan your site for malware and other vulnerabilities.

     

    Keep monitoring your website, scan your downloads for viruses and verify if the links you click are safe. Ensure that proper security measures are in place as outlined earlier in this article.

    Back to top

    Understanding and preventing distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks

    Distributed Denial of Service is malicious attempt to disrupt the normal traffic of a targeted server, service or network by overwhelming the target or its surrounding infrastructure with internet traffic.

    How distributed denial of service works

    A DDoS attack requires an attacker to gain control of a network of online machines in order to carry out an attack. Computers and other machines (such as IoT devices) are infected with malware, turning each one into a bot which the attacker has control over. The attacker collects a network of bots, which is called a botnet.

    Once a botnet is established, the attacker controls the botnet by sending updated instructions to each bot via a method of remote control. When the IP address of the victim is targeted by the botnet, each bot will send requests to the target, potentially causing the targeted server or network to reach its overflow capacity, resulting in a denial-of-service to normal traffic.

    Because each bot is a legitimate internet device, separating the attack traffic from normal traffic can be difficult.

    Types of distributed denial of service attacks

    There are 12 types of DDoS attacks, falling under these three main categories:

    Volume-based attacks

    Creates congestion by consuming all available bandwidth between the target and larger internet. These represent the most common attacks for botnets.

    Protocol Attacks

    Also known as state-exhaustion attacks, these types of attacks cause a service disruption by consuming all the available capacity of web application servers or intermediate resources like firewalls and load balancers.

    Application layer attacks

    This is the most sophisticated type of DDoS attack, named after the seventh layer of the network device where the human-computer interaction occurs, and applications can access network services. The goal of the attack is to exhaust the resources of the target, which can be costly to the server side. These attacks typically leverage flaws in a website application’s code and abuse it in ways that overwhelm the system.

    They “trick” the system into thinking they are receiving legitimate web traffic, when it’s actually just traffic from botnets. These types of attacks are hard to defend as traffic can be difficult to flag as malicious.

    A real world example of distributed denial of service attacks

    Github experienced one of the largest DDoS attacks to date, with the first part peaking at 1.35Tbps, and a second one spiking later at 400Gbps. The previous largest attack peaked at 1.1Tbps. It’s a good thing Github has the appropriate technology protection in place!

    If you think that only large sites are targeted and your small site is exempted, think again.

    Hackers have different motivations: They can either target sites they hold grudges against or want to get a ransom from, or they might just want to target a random site. In any case, it’s always best to be prepared.

    If your website experiences slow traffic, and traffic is generated by a bot, your website may have been hosted on the same server as a targeted site.

    How to prevent distributed denial of service attacks

    Here are a few things to do to protect your website from DDoS attacks:

    Monitor your web traffic

    This will give you an idea of what constitutes a normal, high or low volume of web traffic. If you know what your normal traffic rate is, you can limit it to accept just as many requests as it can handle. While you’re at it, get a little bit more bandwidth than you actually need.

    Install a web application firewall (WAF)

    A firewall can analyze traffic before it reaches your site. For example, GoDaddy Website Security can protect your site from botnet traffic surges and other malicious content.

    Distribute your network infrastructure

    Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. By keeping multiple network resources, you have backups when one is being attacked. Also, keep shuffling geographical servers from time to time.

    Back to top

    How to improve website security

    Website Security Threats Lock Credit Credits Keyboard

    In addition to the tips above for protecting your website against specific cyber security threats, there are things you can do now to keep your website safer.

    Generally, specific vulnerable websites elements are targeted in order for a website security breach to be successful.

    The following represent common entry points for security breaches and how you can reinforce them.

    Take password security seriously

    Everyone knows the importance of password security, which doesn’t explain why “password” is on the list of the top 25 most common passwords people use. What’s not surprising is that, according to Panda Security, 81% of attacks happen mainly because of insecure or stolen passwords.

    Many attackers gain entry to your site via brute force, or the repeated entry of username and password combinations until they get the right one.

    Here’s how to take control and reduce a hacker’s chances of infiltrating your website when it comes to password security:

    Limit attacks by limiting login attempts

    If you’re on WordPress, use a plugin like Login LockDown, which records the IP address and timestamp of every failed login attempt and locks down login functionality if the number of failed attempts from the same IP range are reached in a short period of time. This helps to reduce the effectiveness of brute force attacks.

    Create a strong password

    Use a password that has more than six characters, and contains a combination of both upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special symbols.

    If you’re short on inspiration, WordPress can generate an uncrackable password for you. And if you’re forgetful, you can use an app like LastPass to generate, store, and recall secure passwords.

    Change passwords often and don’t reuse passwords

    If you use one password for everything, a hacker needs only to gain access to it from one security vulnerability on one website. Then, in the worst case scenario, they could use this information to access accounts with the same login information — such as your email and online bank accounts.

    Related: 10 best practices for creating and securing stronger passwords

    Get an SSL certificate

    HTTPS in Browser Bar

    SSL certificates encrypt sensitive information and data to prevent attackers from spying on exchanges between you and your site visitors/customers.

    SSL is the standard in website security.

     

    It’s worth mentioning that Google Chrome marks websites that do not have an SSL certificate as “not secure” and secure websites tend to rank higher in Google search engine results pages, as HTTPS is an officially recognized ranking signal.

    Learn more about SSL certificates and how to add HTTPS encryption to your website.

    Secure your login page

    Besides the combination of information you use to login, the WordPress login page itself is also a point of vulnerability.

    Once hackers gain access to the login page, they can apply brute force and eventually access the site if your security measures are insufficient. Knowing this, securing your login page is a preventive measure.

    Prevent access to your login page by:

    Renaming your login page

    By default, the WordPress login page can be accessed by adding /wp-login or /wp-admin to the end of a website’s domain name.

    A failure to change this makes it that much easier for a hacker to use brute force methods to gain access to your website.

    The Rename wp-login.php plugin makes the wp-admin directory and wp-login.php page inaccessible but does not change the files in the WordPress core, whatsoever. You can then pick a new name for the login area that makes sense to you but would be hard for a hacker to guess.

    Using two-factor authentication

    Two-factor authentication, also known as two-step verification, requires registering a separate device to confirm the site owner’s identity.

    This can be done using three methods: SMS, email, or an authenticator app.

    The beauty of this method is that if an unauthorized login is made, you will be notified. The hassle of it is that you have to have your device with you all the time. Also, if you choose the SMS-based authentication, you potentially put your personal information at risk, and companies can send you unwanted notifications.

    Another caveat: if hackers get ahold of the phone number data you use for two-factor authentication, they can potentially use this to gain access to your account.

    Work with a web host who takes security seriously

    Although it may not seem like it at first blush, your hosting provider plays an important role in keeping your website secure. More specifically, 41% of hacks happened because of a security vulnerability on a web hosting platform.

    Most attacks occur with websites on a shared web server, because you’re sharing resources with other websites. This makes the site susceptible to cross-site contamination, where a hacker gains access to your site via another.

    A best practice to avoid this possibility is to pay a little extra to use a service such as GoDaddy WordPress Hosting. This solution handles important security functions that include backups, WordPress version updates, uptime, security and speed.

    Keep WordPress core version, themes and plugins updated and patched

    Website Security Threats WordPress Logo

    The WordPress core software is frequently updated to fix any bugs or issues.

    Continually updating the WordPress core is one of the most effective ways to prevent attacks because these updates help patch known vulnerabilities.

    If you’re not running the latest version of WordPress, you’ve effectively made yourself a target for hackers.

    WordPress updates can be manual or automatic, with major updates having to be manually initiated.

    When the WordPress core is updated, reliable themes and plugins also release their own updates to adapt as necessary. So make sure that your plugins and themes are also regularly updated to their latest versions to avoid related security issues.

    Related: How to update WordPress like a pro

    Use a security plugin

    More than 70% of the most popular WordPress installations that are vulnerable can be detected using free automated tools.

    Some of the top security plugins include Wordfence, Sucuri and Defender, which have functions that include scanning for vulnerabilities, blocking security threats and malicious networks, implementing a firewall and monitoring DNS changes.

    Back up your website

    Having backups ensures that your site’s files stay safe in case something goes wrong.

    There are several plugins that you can use to back up your site over a certain time period, but if you have GoDaddy WordPress Hosting, this also happens automatically in the background.

    Protect input fields

    Not all hacks happen from the backdoor of your website. Input fields, such as comment boxes and contact forms, can also create vulnerabilities on your website.

    Hackers can take data being entered to those fields by force or by stealth (such as by monitoring keystrokes). This can result in spamming your site with comments, making spam contributions, hacking into your email and sending spam messages to your followers.

    Through input fields, hackers can also breach your site via SQL injection or cross site scripting.

    To help reduce the chance of a related hacking attack, use the Akismet plugin to reduce spam or disable comment fields altogether.

    Improve training, process and procedures

    Train all your employees to understand regulations and risk areas. Conduct awareness training on how to keep their data safe, and hold regular audit activities.

    Related: Tools to Secure a Website

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    Final thoughts

    Website security threats can be pesky and costly, especially for small businesses. In most cases, taking reasonable precautions to protect against attacks will save your website from the worst threats.

    And protecting your website is important from a business perspective, as customers need to trust that you’ll protect them from viruses, hackers and other website security threats. Count on GoDaddy’s web security products to keep your website secure, your visitors safe, and your business growing.

    This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by Andrea Rowland.

    The post Top website security threats and how to protect your site from attack appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    Being in the midst of some major life changes, Danielle was looking for a new way to express herself and find purpose. “I love making things and I love music,” she says, recalling that day. “And the rest is history.”

     

    So you’ve gone to fashion school, soaked up inspiration and acquired the tools of your trade — now what? NYC native Danielle Smith found herself asking just that question in 2013, after graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a design degree. Then opportunity knocked while spending time with her friends, an eclectic group of musicians, artists, and performers that includes music producer Ski Beats.

    He asked if she would make him a bag for his MPC sampler and other recording equipment. Being in the midst of some major life changes, Danielle was looking for a new way to express herself and find purpose. “I love making things and I love music,” she says, recalling that day. “And the rest is history.”

    As is the case with those starting out, Danielle had the training and skills to get rolling, but taking the first step required a leap of faith.  “Using the items Beats wanted to carry,” she recalls, “I looked at the market to see what has and hasn’t been done, sketched out my ideas and made the prototype, choosing a fabric that I felt encompassed the culture.” And thus, in February 2014, the first SOUNbag was born.

    Now Danielle had a prototype and the thrill of accomplishment, plus the unexpected desire to make a business out of it. It was a classic learn-by-doing moment.

    “Like many creatives,” she recalls. “I’d rather be somewhere making something. That said, I looked to brands that I liked, as well as peers and mentors for any useful tips.”

    Getting a website up was at the top of her must-dos, so she purchased a domain with GoDaddy and used Websites + Marketing to get SOUNbag in front of the world. “I was able to quickly build a website and a look that represented the brand and is attractive to customers and easy for them to navigate.” She also enlisted GoDaddy for Office 365 with professional email to present a professional image.

    Immediately, SOUNbag met the needs of her audience. Danielle explains: “I want people to buy the bag because it is functional and adds value to their life and causes a good feeling. In that moment, seeing or feeling that persons joy and excitement is everything.”

    Coming in a variety of camouflage shades, SOUNbags make a stylish, modern update on the backpack — if you’re carrying vinyl instead of books. Danielle uses Websites + Marketing’s marketing tools to spread the word and connect with other designers and musicians. “I really like the various options available to create my store and tell the SOUNbag story. It’s intuitive for non-techies like myself, with all the tools you need to start and maintain your business’ online presence.”

    As her endeavor expands, so does Danielle’s horizons. For the rollout of her first full line of SOUNbags in 2016 she relocated to Los Angeles, where she met producer and photographer S7even and made SOUNbag into a dynamic, creative collective. “Both of us being entrepreneurs and creatives makes for a great team,” Danielle says. “I love the way we work and to see how far the brand has come.”

    Over the next few years Danielle wants to connect the brand with musical events, spreading the company’s vision and placing it in a larger artistic community,  while also aiming for sustainable manufacturing practices.

    As far as advice for would-be entrepreneurs, she offers the same wisdom to others she offers to herself:

    “Don’t stop. I heard Pharrell says, ‘There are no failures, just research and development.’ You may have to pivot but keep going.”

    The post Amplifying the beat — meet Danielle Smith, CEO of SOUNbag appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    Update — Sept. 30, 2019: Coming soon — Small business funding for your big idea. We are partnering to help get you funding toward making your idea real. Looking for funding to plan ahead for the holiday season? Forget those long, stressful meetings with lenders. With short qualification times, enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a line of credit that helps you focus on your business goals. We’re making things simple for everyday entrepreneurs. Business Funding launching shortly. 

    Often, all it takes is a little money to get the ball rolling for a young (or new) company. But what options are out there to acquire the necessary small business funding that a startup needs to put things in motion and actually begin growing?

    Fully understanding the choices available — as well as the process of how to raise capital — are the factors that set many successful young businesses apart from their counterparts.

    And while these startup funding options aren’t always intuitive, it only takes a bit of effort to absorb and understand them.

    Small business funding guide

    This comprehensive guide was created to act as that bit of effort. It aims to help entrepreneurs and small business owners get up to speed on myriad funding options for new and fledgling ventures.

    Before we dive into the specific small business funding options, though, we’re going to take a close look at 5 recommended preliminary steps to take prior to exerting energy raising capital (because everyone has to start from somewhere).

    Then, we’ll take a deep dive into 10 small business funding strategies (with pros and cons of each) to help you better understand the choices at your disposal, so you can get the financing needed to succeed.

      1. Bootstrapping and personal loans.
      2. Crowdfunding.
      3. Small business financing via angel investment.
      4. Equity fundraising.
      5. SBA loans.
      6. Other types of small business and startup loans.
      7. Small business grants.
      8. Business credit cards.
      9. Business credit lines.
      10. Equipment financing.

    We’ll round out this guide with some additional startup and small business funding options to consider.

    Ready? Let’s make it rain!

    Editor’s note: This content should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation.

    Preparing to raise capital: 5 key steps

    Small Business Financing Colorful StepsRaising money may feel like a daunting prospect if you’ve never done so before, but it’s a process that becomes less intimidating with a bit of preparation. Follow these five steps, and you’ll be in good shape when it comes time to meet with banks, investors and other potential contributors of small business funding.

    Solidify your business plan

    If you’re an established business owner, you already understand the value of a fine-tuned business plan. But if you’re new to the entrepreneurial game or creating your first startup, it’s important to not overlook this key step in the small business funding process.

    While viable business plans are comprised of numerous components, there are certain ones that are more critical than others. To create a business plan compelling enough to inspire startup funding, make sure you hash out these four key elements:

    Element 1: Your value proposition

    If you’re to have any hope of rounding up startup funding from investors, you need to have a well-thought-out value proposition. Understanding what your product or service brings to the table and being able to clearly explain this to others is essential.

    If you’ve made it to this stage, you likely have a good idea of what this value element is. But have you explained it in writing before? Have you given anyone the “elevator speech” — the abridged version of what value you’re bringing to the market with your startup?

    Related: What is an elevator pitch and why your business needs one

    Element 2: Customer segments and relationships

    Unless you’re pitching the next Google-type product, there’s a good chance you won’t be marketing your business to everyone (if you are, best of luck). Since you’ve already hashed out a sound value proposition, you should have a rough idea of what segment of the population might be interested in your product.

    Do your research ahead of time, so you have some concrete, quantifiable data to share here.

    Writing out your target demographic — including details like projected age range, gender, geographic location, education level, etc. — will help investors assess whether the potential is there or not for your business.

    You also want to highlight how you plan to interact with this demographic, because this will (ideally) reflect a better understanding of your audience as well as your ability to connect with them.

    Related: Why a target audience matters — and how to find yours

    Element 3: Revenue streams

    What’s your strategy for making money? It’s possible you have several in mind. For instance, maybe you intend on facilitating in-person sales, online credit card processing and even recurring ACH billing for a membership program you have in place.

    Make your methods exceedingly clear in your plan.

     

    Note that if you’re planning on opening a business considered risky by banks, you’ll need to work on opening a high-risk merchant account to ensure your revenue continues to actually keep streaming into your coffers.

    It’s an encouraging sign to investors that you have your payment processing needs sorted out, and makes your ability to eventually pay them back much more apparent.

    Related: 5 keys sections to include in your business plan’s financial projections

    Element 4: Key activities and resources

    Do you have any competitive advantages or ways of tapping into your industry’s market that set you apart from other businesses? Maybe you plan on simply doing something in a more efficient way than your competitors.

    Such details will play a large role in how much your business plan resonates with interested listeners.

    Also bring to light what resources you currently have to work with and how they can be wielded to help your customers. Things like human resources, additional capital, intellectual property — these details are valuable, and give your business plan some weight.

    If you’re starting from scratch here, that’s OK, but having some type of resource to leverage makes your business instantly more compelling.

    Lastly, it’s important to remember that while a business plan is crucial for small business financing and startup funding efforts, it holds more value than just that. Specifically, it acts as a guide that you can constantly turn to during those less stable early stages, plus it can help you in day-to-day operations.

    Bonus resource: Slideshop Seed Fundraising presentation deck

    Slideshop Seed Fundraising Presentation Deck

    Slideshop’s Seed Fundraising presentation deck can help you tell your story and excite your investors. It even includes animation to grab your investors’ attention.

    Available with a subscription, the PowerPoint template includes slides that will help you convey the following:

    • Your team
    • Your advisors
    • Company overview
    • The opportunity
    • The market size
    • Competitor analysis
    • High-level financials

    Slideshop’s premium content also comes with a complimentary “Designer Pro Tips” slide to help you get the most out of this presentation template.

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    Know your numbers

    Some founders shy away from the financials, and put most of their energy into their product or service. While that enthusiasm and passion is ultimately what drives them to run their own business, none of it is possible without a solid understanding of the books.

    Even if you decide to separate yourself a bit from the financial side and outsource your funding efforts, you should still learn how to read the statements and projections.

    Potential lenders and/or investors will expect a clear explanation of your venture’s key metrics (e.g. gross margin, net income, cash requirements, monthly burn rate), use of proceeds, growth projections and, in the case of investors, their estimated ROI.

    Numbers are the key to making a compelling case for your business.

     

    Without them your chances of acquiring the small business funding necessary to thrive will greatly diminish.

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    Begin to build business credit

    When you first enter the entrepreneurial world, you soon realize that personal credit can only get you so far as an owner, and that building business credit is imperative to your long-term success.

    Taking time to build business credit during the early stages of your startup means that you’re setting yourself up to get approved for the loans needed to expand later.

    And while this step is a gradual one, over time it will solidify your financial standing with banks and investors, as well as establish your business as a trustworthy organization to work with.

    Plus, as you build business credit your interest rate for loans will gradually decrease. By understanding how business credit works, you can put your business in a better position financially.

    The four credit bureaus for businesses

    There are four credit bureaus that assign business credit scores:

    • FICO assigns a Small Business Scoring Service (SBSS) score from 0 to 300.
    • Dun & Bradstreet assigns a PAYDEX score from 0 to 100.
    • Equifax assigns three scores: a payment index from 0 to 100’ a credit risk score from 101 to 992’ and a business failure score from 1,000 to 1,880.
    • Experian assigns a business credit score from 0 to 100.

    If you’re in the market for a business loan, the FICO SBSS score is popular with banks for pre-screening, and most require a minimum score of 160. Without any business credit history, the highest possible score is 140, so you can’t rely on great personal credit to obtain a loan.

    But remember, lenders could choose to pull any of your business credit scores, so it’s in your best interest to work on all four of them.

    How business credit scores are calculated may be complicated, but building your business’s credit doesn’t need to be.

    Follow these strategies to help collectively build business credit across all four bureaus.

    Strategy 1: Set up an LLC or corporation

    You can only build business credit if your business is legally a separate entity from yourself, meaning you’ll have to establish an LLC or a corporation.

    While it’s easiest to form an LLC or incorporate your business in your home state, some business owners choose to do so in another state with more favorable business laws for their particular business model.

    To further establish your business as a distinct entity and not a sole proprietorship, consider putting together an LLC operating agreement. It’s not required in most states, but having one looks good to investors and creates operational parameters in the event of disputes.

    Strategy 2: Make payments on time

    Every credit bureau uses your business’s payment history as a factor in determining its credit score. Needless to say you shouldn’t miss or postpone paying your bills, or else all that energy you spent to build business credit will largely be wasted.

    If you needed further incentive: Dun & Bradstreet bases its PAYDEX score entirely on payment history, and to get a 100 (their highest score), you’ll need to make payments 30 days in advance of the due date. If that’s too much of a challenge for your particular enterprise, paying on the actual due date results in a score of 80, which still falls in the bureau’s low-risk range.

    Strategy 3: Keep your credit utilization below 30 percent

    Equifax, Experian and FICO all use credit utilization as a factor in calculating business credit scores, so it’s another factor worth monitoring and addressing.

    Credit utilization is the amount of debt your business has compared to the amount of credit it has available. However, what credit bureaus weigh most heavily are balances on revolving lines of credit.

    Let’s say that you have multiple business credit cards, and their credit limits add up to cumulative $50,000. If your total spending amounts to $10,000, your credit utilization is at 20 percent.

    To effectively build business credit, it’s essential to keep your utilization down.

    Strategy 4: Track your credit with each bureau

    Unfortunately, free credit reports are a consumer luxury rather than an entrepreneurial one. However, purchasing them through each credit bureau for your business once or twice a year is still a worthwhile investment. Doing so allows you to check your various scores and check for errors.

    You might also discover that your business’s credit history is missing information about payments to certain suppliers and lenders. Not every company reports payment information to the credit bureaus. If some of your payments aren’t reflected in your business credit report, you can contact these particular companies and request that they start reporting them.

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    Establish or strengthen your business’s online presence

    Whether you’re running a small mom-and-pop bakery or are aiming to take the world by storm with a revolutionary SaaS platform, you’ll want to have a well-curated online presence. At the time of writing this piece, there were nearly 4.2 billion internet users across the globe. Not using this to your advantage is a big mistake.

    You don’t need to run a monster website to receive small business financing, but there are several actions you can take that will increase your chances of impressing lenders and getting the cash you need.

    Get a professional domain

    A business without a legitimate domain name tied to it does not look great to prospective investors.

    Thankfully, this is something that is easily rectified — all you need to do is research available domain names, and buy one that falls within your budget and makes sense from a branding standpoint.

    Go ahead — give it a try:

    Related: How to buy a domain name

    Purchase email addresses for that domain

    Domain registrars often provide packages where you can get professional email addresses that include the domain name. This is a smart idea for several reasons.

    In terms of startup funding, a business email is simply more authoritative than a generic email account.

    Your professional email shows that you’re serious.

     

    Additionally, this type of email address is more likely to stick in the mind of an investor and customer. At the very least, you want your email address to make an impression when communicating with anyone contemplating an investment in your company.

    Related: How to use a custom domain name for email

    Create a website

    You can bet that potential investors, like potential customers, will search for your business online. Having a professional-looking website will likely give you a leg-up in securing small business financing.

    And it doesn’t require a big investment of time or money.

    Sure, having a highly customized website that covers all the online needs of your business is the dream, but early on, a simple website that covers all the basics will suffice.

    You can use an easy DIY website builder to create an effective, professional-looking website in under an hour.

    Small Business Funding Create Website GoDaddy
    GoDaddy’s Website Builder makes it a snap to create a beautiful business website.

    Related: How to start a website from A to Z

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    Do your research

    If you really want to know how to raise capital effectively, it will take time and research.

    You might already have some great leads on investors and are feeling optimistic, but keep deep-diving into competitor analysis, hashing out your business plan further, and learning more about the unique angles and resources available to your particular business.

    For instance, if you’re a female entrepreneur, there are some excellent business loans for women that you can explore. Likewise, a number of venture capital firms specialize in startup funding for female founders.

    Look into angel investors and fundraising organizations in your city, because many such individuals and groups prefer to support local startups.

    Taking every angle when approaching the startup funding process will increase your chances of finding suitable contributors.

    Of course, the internet hosts plenty of information about small business funding opportunities — even providing them in the form of online platforms that exist solely to source capital.

    Finally, doing your due diligence will help assure you’re actually pitching to the right people (i.e. interested ones who share your values). For instance, if you found an opportunity presenting your ideas for a SaaS company to a group only interested in medical technologies, it would be a waste of your time (and theirs).

    Investors who have a track record working within your specific industry or at least profess a strong interest in your business model will help you get the startup funding you need.

    Be sure to research the investment portfolio and culture of each group you’re appealing to, and then try to find a champion or mentor within that group who seems well-suited to fighting the good fight in the name of your startup.

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    How to raise capital: 10 small business funding options

    There are many ways for industrious entrepreneurs to procure the small business financing they need these days — but which way is the best? The answer is not so simple, and each way comes with pros and cons that you’ll need to consider before going all in on one (or several).

    These 10 small business funding options provide an overview of the main choices out there, and give you an idea of how to raise capital successfully.

    1. Bootstrapping and personal loans

    How to Raise Capital Bootstrapping Coin Piles

    Bootstrapping

    Originating from the expression “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” bootstrapping involves financing your business entirely with your own money. You’ll start out using your savings, and once you’re earning a profit, you can reinvest that money into your business.

    Pros

    Since you’re only using your money, you avoid paying any interest. Plus, you won’t put your credit score at risk like you would with a credit card or loan. (That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build business credit as a bootstrapper, however).

    You’re also keeping ownership solely in the hands of yourself and your partners, rather than investors who might not have the same vision as you do for the future of your business. If you’re worried that others might steer your company off course, then this may be the best small business funding option available.

    Cons

    A major drawback with bootstrapping is that your resources are simply limited — whatever you’ve got saved in the bank is all you have to work with. Exclusively bootstrapping could end up slowing down the expansion of your business, and turn what could be quick growth into a taxing slog.

    Who should consider bootstrapping?

    Bootstrapping is the American dream, and as such provides everyone an opportunity to try and run a business their own way. If you’re a freshly minted graduate out of college with hardly a dollar to your name, though, bootstrapping is going to be much more of a grind than if you have a sizeable savings account and have accumulated various assets.

    Also, if you’re not prepared to be frugal — with everything —bootstrapping might not be the best choice for you. With resources all coming from your own checkbook, you’ll need to minimize expenses at every possible turn.

    Personal loans

    If bootstrapping 100% isn’t practical for your particular business model, you can try pairing your own finances with a personal loan. As an aspiring startup, your financial history is likely limited, making the process of getting a business loan more difficult. But you can get a personal loan to help inject some cash into your company’s development.

    Pros

    Your business won’t be considered in your loan application, so if you’ve built a strong credit history over the course of your life, you’ll be in good shape to get a personal loan. Interest rates for those with excellent credit ratings average around 10%-12%, but could be even lower depending on the lender.

    Cons

    If your credit history isn’t respectable, you probably won’t qualify, and even then the rate might be too extreme (upwards of 30%).

    Also, the amount you can borrow is much more limited in comparison with a standard business loan, unless you’re already exceptionally wealthy with a pristine credit report. If you’re looking for a six-figure lump sum to kickstart your business, a personal loan isn’t going to get you there.

    Who qualifies?

    To qualify for personal loans that have competitive rates, you’ll ideally want good or excellent credit, which requires a FICO score of 690+. And just because you qualify doesn’t mean you’ll want to take the loan at the rate offered.

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    2. Crowdfunding

    Small Business Financing Crowdfunding Raised HandsIf your personal bank statements are looking a bit lean and you’re struggling to qualify for various types of loans, hope is not necessarily lost.

    One interesting small business funding strategy that has exploded in popularity recently could be your ticket to business growth. Are you ready to give crowdfunding a try?

    While many people think of crowdfunding platforms as places where you go to cover the cost of a family member’s surgery or help support a friend’s dream of building homes in impoverished countries, they can also be excellent places to attract startup funding.

    With crowdfunding, you’re essentially asking the public to fund small pieces of your business in return for discounts, material goods/products and other established perks.

    Pros

    Crowdfunding is a great way to create hype in the early stages of a business, and it also helps you gauge the demographics who may be interested (or not) in your product or services.

    Not to mention, in the event that your campaign fails to reach its desired goal, there’s a lot less to lose than if you have to default on a loan.

    Cons

    Your business ideas could get poached if you haven’t taken the proper measures to legally safeguard them through patents and registered trademarks. You have to go into the process prepared, or else you might get burned.

    Who is most suited for crowdfunding?

    If you have a business idea and can’t seem to qualify for startup funding, you might want to give crowdfunding a shot. Also, if you’re an effective navigator of the internet and know how to drum up supporters through social media and other consumer channels, it could be a great solution for you.

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    3. Small business financing via angel investment

    Unlike crowdfunding, which focuses on micro contributions from the masses, angel investment is centered around the idea of finding one or several “angel” investors — accredited business types who hope to grow their net worth by providing startup funding to intriguing ventures.

    Pros

    Angel investors are no strangers to small business financing. They’re veterans, likely in the industry or market your business falls under, and they have deep pockets. Suffice to say, a single angel investor can easily contribute more money to your bank account than the other small business funding options outlined in this guide if you inspire them to do so.

    Angel investors also didn’t get to this point in life without accumulating business savvy.

    Their contributions to your company’s development will go beyond startup funding. They are now invested in your future success, and they’ll do what they can to ensure their ROI.

    Plus, if your business fails altogether, they aren’t going to be chasing you down to repay them. They aren’t a bank, and they understand the risks associated with small business funding.

    Cons

    Tracking down angel investing can be an expensive endeavor, because even making a simple pitch includes gathering and preparing your business information, hiring lawyers and accountants, actually pitching and then following up — some of which involve out-of-town travel.

    In the last couple of years many angel platforms have moved online, but the documents and processes involved are still costly.

    Then, once you’ve procured angel investment, you’re looking at a relationship in which you owe a very high return, simply because financing a startup is a risky proposition. If your company fails, they lose their investment— or if you have future investment rounds, their investments are subject to dilution.

    Who should embrace angel investing?

    If you’re trying to launch a startup with a brilliant business idea but are miles away from realizing your idea due to a severe lack of funds, angel investment might be for you. Also, if you operate in a competitive industry where a veteran mentor could give you an advantage over other businesses, an angel investor can help you take that next step.

    Just don’t forget about the strings associated with this form of small business funding.

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    4. Equity fundraising

    Did you know that as a private company, you’re able to sell shares or ownership in your company? With Title III of the JOBS act (passed in 2016) allowing anyone to invest and gain equity, equity fundraising is now suddenly a viable way to approach small business financing.

    Pros

    Similar to crowdfunding, equity fundraising is a great way of building a devoted following before your product or service is even launched.

    However, whereas crowdfunding has an established end point (whenever the goods are delivered, discount provided or service rendered), equity fundraising keeps investors in the game.

    This means that the your business suddenly has hundreds (or thousands) of minor shareholders who are incentivized to help your brand succeed long after you launch.

    Plus, unlike angel investing where a single investor has immense sway over the direction of your company, small shareholders who contributed money through equity fundraising have much less power.

    You’re still in the driver’s seat of your own company, which is an appealing prospect for many.

    Cons

    Sorting out equity when you have hundreds (or thousands) of small investors can be a major legal headache, and might end up costing you money in lawyers or business advisers that you hadn’t accounted for in your business plan.

    Also, even though you’re not listed on a public stock exchange, you’re still subject to the rules from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

    If you plan on embracing this small business financing method, you’ll want to talk to a lawyer first.

    Who is best suited for equity fundraising?

    Owners who have a very clear vision of how their business will progress into the future are best suited for equity fundraising. Such a startup funding method keeps influential figures (in the form of angel investors) out of the equation, and keeps you in a position to call the shots.

    Also, companies that could benefit from the help of “brand ambassadors” (in the form of minor equity holders) would also appreciate equity fundraising. Businesses need help to succeed, and forming a small coalition of investors interested in making that happen can be a boon for your company.

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    5. SBA loans

    Small Business Funding SBA Loans WebsiteLoans available through the Small Business Administration (SBA) are aptly named SBA loans, and if you’re wondering how to raise capital without dealing with investors, this may be just what you’re looking for.

    Minimum requirements depend on your particular business and its location, but will typically include a good business credit score, a clear future projection of generating income, possible collateral, and a variety of other factors.

    Pros

    SBA loans have been coined the “Holy Grail” of small business loans by certain entrepreneurs across the United States — and for good reason.

    From a cost perspective, SBA loans are the often best choice for small business financing because they offer the lowest interest rates (5% to 9%) and fairest terms (many of them lasting up to 25 years at the same interest rate).

    You can also apply for large loan amounts — like, in the millions — that can be used for most business purposes, including long-term fixed assets and operating capital.

    Cons

    The issue most businesses encounter when going the SBA loan route is actually qualifying for one.

    While SBA loans are the most traditional small business financing option, they’re also the most difficult to obtain because they demand very specific requirements.

    For instance, business owners must have excellent personal credit, demonstrate a “sound business purpose,” adhere to a variety of other eligibility guidelines, and even assess their precise business size according to SBA regulations to determine what dollar range they qualify for (if they even qualify at all).

    Who should use SBA loans?

    The question might be more aptly phrased as “who can qualify for an SBA loan”? If you’ve been operating for several years and have a proven track record of growth, you’ll be in much better shape to apply and receive an SBA loan than someone looking for startup funding.

    If you’re trying to use an SBA loan as a startup or young business, you’re going to face much more of an uphill battle. It’s not an impossible feat, but you’ll need to prove you’re a risk worth taking on.

    Related: How to get a small business loan in 7 steps

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    6. Other types of small business and startup loans

    Outside of traditional SBA loans, other primary loan options include:

    1. Microloans
    2. Traditional term loans
    3. Short-term loans

    Here’s a quick overview of these three small business financing options offered by banks, credit unions and online lenders, as well as their associated advantages and disadvantages.

    Microloans

    While the name implies a small quantity, don’t be fooled — you could borrow up to $50,000 through a microloan. According to Fundera’s Meredith Wood, these types of loans generally start around $500, and SBA microloans average about $13,000 each. Terms last up to six years, and interest rates usually range from 8% to 13%.

    Although there are many lenders that offer microloans, the most popular way to find a lender is through the SBA’s Lender Match program.

    This program also offers business training, and in some cases requires you to complete that training before it will process your loan application.

    When applying for a microloan, expect the lender to ask for proof of income, financial statements and your business plan to show how you intend to use the loan. The lender may also require references.

    Pros and cons

    If a business credit card doesn’t fit your needs but you can’t qualify for a loan, microloans serve as a nice middle ground. They’re also easier to obtain than business loans, and the interest rates are reasonable.

    However, since they generally run through official channels like the SBA, qualifying for one can be more challenging than for other loan types. Also, the amount of money you can get from a microloan is (understandably) not enormous.

    If you were looking for a huge boost of capital to get things rolling, a microloan isn’t going to cut it.

    Traditional term loans

    When most people think of a loan, they’re likely thinking about a traditional term loan. The structure is simple: You take out a loan at an interest rate determined primarily by your credit score and credit history, and incrementally pay it off until it’s fully covered.

    Pros and cons

    A major advantage of traditional term loans is their timing flexibility — giving borrowers upwards of five years to pay back the loan in full via predictable monthly payments at a fixed rate.

    They will also help you build business credit over time, which helps other financing endeavors later on.

    However, getting a traditional term loan can end up costing you more time and energy than a short-term loan, plus you’ll likely be required to put up collateral (especially if you’re new to the game). If you’re looking for startup funding, this might not be your ideal solution.

    Short-term loans

    Short-term loans have payment periods that usually last between six and 18 months. They are also offered by credit lenders, banks and the SBA.

    Pros and cons

    Approval for short-term loans can theoretically happen in a single day, which means you can get your business’s cash-flow going in a pinch. Overall, they’re less of a hassle to set up than traditional term loans and SBA loans, which makes them appealing to many business owners.

    However, with this convenience comes higher interest rates and early repayment penalties. Just be aware of what you’re getting into before signing the dotted line.

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    7. Small business grants

    Small business grants are divvied out by a variety of organizations, meaning there are a variety of types that you could potentially qualify for. Some of the main categories of small business grants include:

    • Federal
    • State and regional
    • Corporate
    • Specialty (veterans, women, minorities)

    Related: 5 questions entrepreneurs need to ask when searching for small business startup grants

    Pros

    Small business grants are one of the most coveted forms of startup funding, because who doesn’t like the idea of getting “free” lump sums of money for their startup venture?

    Plus, qualifying for a grant isn’t hinging on your excellent business credit or your stellar growth rate, making it extra appealing for those involved in the world of startup funding.

    Cons

    Some entrepreneurs refer to landing a small business grant as capturing a unicorn due to its seemingly impossible nature. While there’s no shortage of small business grants out there for you to apply for, most of them are highly restrictive in who they cater to.

    If you’re running a standard small business, have no idea how to raise capital, and were hoping that a small business grant was your golden ticket, you’re likely out of luck.

    Who are small business grants for?

    They can really be for anyone, but they’re especially useful for women, minorities and veterans due to the numerous grants set up for these particular groups.

    If that’s not you, however, there’s still hope.

    Local and regional small business grants are sometimes available for various reasons — whether it’s to try and stimulate the economy of a downtown area with some new businesses, or to help beautify a more decrepit part of the city, these opportunities do arise. You can check out the U.S. Economic Development Association for more information regarding regional small business grants.

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    8. Business credit cards

    Small Business Funding Credit Card

    Looking to build business credit and simultaneously get some of your startup funding out of the way? A business credit card can help you with both.

    It’s recommended that anyone getting involved in the world of startups or small business apply for a business credit card, because there’s no other way to establish great business credit.

    Pros

    If you’re looking for short-term financing, a zero-percent annual percentage rate (APR) business credit card is among your best small business funding options. The zero-percent APR lasts for an introductory period, with most ranging between six and 15 months — making it an excellent deal if you can stay on top of paying your bills. Plus, there’s no collateral involved.

    Business credit cards also earn you either reward points or cash back, making it a good idea to use one for all your business spending. That way, you’ll be able to maximize your return and build business credit at the same time.

    Cons

    Credit cards are never good for long-term financing because they tend to have higher interest rates than loans.

    They are not an all-in-one small business funding solution for savvy business owners, but rather a complementary resource that operates in conjunction with other financing methods.

    Also, you’ll need a good credit score to qualify for those zero-percent APR offers, and when the introductory period ends, the card issuer will charge you interest on your current balance. Make sure you have a plan to pay your card off before the APR goes up, or else you’ll be paying the price.

    Who should use business credit cards?

    If used responsibly, every business owner should consider applying for a business credit card. It’s invaluable to build business credit over time in the event you ever need it, and it’s something that can get you through minor funding bumps instantly without the paperwork.

    Related: 5 ways business credit cards can help startups

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    9. Business credit lines

    Not to be confused with business credit cards, business credit lines are another small business funding option available to enterprising owners in need of financing options. While they may operate similarly to their plastic counterpart, there are distinct differences.

    Pros

    Business credit lines operate like business credit cards, but with fewer usage restrictions — making them similar to a loan in terms of flexibility. If you established a line with a bank or an online lender, you’ll have a steady source of funds to shell out at any moment to pay for things like payroll, inventory or even future projects.

    They can also be used to build business credit, generally have lower APRs than credit cards, and can be accessed by everyone from startups to established small businesses.

    Cons

    It costs money to establish business credit lines (there are often annual fees), and they are more difficult to qualify for if you’re running a startup. Startups may have better luck with online lenders than banks, since the banking system has a strong aversion to risk.

    Also, there are limits to credit lines, whereas loans can often end up being much more substantial sums of money.

    Who should use business credit lines?

    If you’ve been running a company for even one year and prefer the idea of only borrowing money when you need it, a business credit line might be right for you.

    Plus, it gives you a chance to build business credit in a way that may seem more official than using the company credit card.

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    10. Equipment financing

    Startup Funding Office Equipment

    Without some amount of working capital, you’re going to find it difficult to buy the things you need to start your business. And although you may be focusing on more product-centric spending in the early stages, if you have a physical office you’re going to need equipment.

    You can be certain that these costs pile up quickly if you’re not paying attention.

     

    You’ll find equipment financing options online if that’s a route you’d like to go. Here are some pros and cons of this strategy.

    Pros

    Many of the alternative online lender types who provide equipment financing are ready to take most clients, even those who lack any significant business credit history. Since the equipment itself acts as collateral, creditors have less stringent lending standards.

    This means you have a much better chance of getting approved when your business is in startup funding mode.

    Plus, lenders are generally willing to finance up to 100% of the equipment’s value. If you’re in need of a small business financing method that’ll allow you to go get that car you need for your new venture, equipment financing can help.

    Cons

    It may be easier to qualify for an equipment loan than many other types of small business funding, but in the end it’s the lenders who are getting the best end of the deal. Interest rates range anywhere from 8% to 30%, depending on several factors, making them a potentially more expensive way of handling your money needs early on.

    Who should consider equipment financing?

    Equipment financing is ideal for startups, as well as businesses who struggle dealing with banks and more stringent lenders out there like the SBA.

    Before you explore this option, remember that it’s possible your startup doesn’t need equipment right away. Be sure to not prematurely finance equipment, or else you’ll be wasting money paying interest for goods you’re not even using yet.

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    Additional startup and small business funding options to consider

    Although we distilled a list of the top 10 small business financing strategies, there are still a variety of other ways to get the startup funding (or any type of funding) you need for your business. Here are a few more ideas to think about:

    Enlist a commercial finance broker

    Although they don’t act as a direct means of how to raise capital, commercial finance brokers can help you narrow down your available options.

    A broker will shop around and discuss possible financing methods with you, and they’re often good at finding you better deals.

    A broker could help you save a huge amount of time and by leveraging their experience and expertise effectively. However, since brokers aren’t regulated closely like money lenders are, you should be careful before hiring one, and make sure their reputation is stellar.

    Use invoice financing

    Invoice financing lets a business obtain an advance based on the value of late, unpaid invoices.

    If late-paying clients are affecting your cash flow and choking up your business proceedings, invoice financing is a potentially great solution.

    Specifically, it allows you to free up cash that you’ve been owed for an outstanding period, and lets you focus on your actual business rather than hustling delinquent clients.

    The way it works

    A factoring company will assess the quality of your invoices before deciding on the potential risk involved with lending. They will then advance you a sum worth a certain value of your invoice, collect payments from your clients, and then take back the fee they’re owed before returning any remaining money.

    Consider a merchant cash advance

    For most business owners, payment processing is an unavoidable part of running business. Did you know that your payment processor likely has merchant cash advances available at your disposal? By giving your provider percentages of your future sales, you can get funding quickly.

    Pros

    Since the advance is agreed upon between a payment processor and their own client (you, the business owner), there is no collateral involved in the process. It’s also fast, doesn’t include fixed monthly payments, and can get you money when banks and lenders turn you away.

    Cons

    Merchant cash advances have higher APRs than traditional term loans (not to mention SBA loans). They also lock you into the same payment processor until your contract expires, which could range from months to even a year and a half or more.

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    Conclusion

    If you’re looking for the one golden solution to your small business funding woes, chances are you won’t find it. The right financing method for your business is likely a combination of the 10+ options listed above, and there are many factors that play a role in determining which pairing (or grouping) is best for you.

    The most you can do is be prepared, do your research and explore the choices available to you at this moment in time.

    Certain financing doors might be closed to you for now, but they could open in the future.

    Understanding what’s out there can help you ascertain when that time comes, so you can get the funds necessary to succeed with the best possible interest rates (because nobody likes to pay interest). Best of luck financing your venture!

    This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Meredith Wood, Mary Juetten, Roman Shteyn, Dan Hughes, Kristian Rivera, and Edward Wade.

    The post 10 small business funding options — from angel investment to traditional loans appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    An all-time classic and always a good idea is to open a hair salon. You, of course, need the proper experience combined with a passion for the beauty industry. If you’re reading this, chances are you are in that position.

    In this article by our team at Amelia, we’ll let you in on how to open a hair salon and share with you exactly what it takes to keep it in business.

    How to open a hair salon, and why?

    The services provided by a hair salon will be in demand, always. Looking at the figures is reassuring. They show us this evergreen niche will never be the wrong business choice. With 86,000 hair care locations in the U.S. alone, it remains the largest representative of the beauty industry.

    And it’s not only women who are willing to keep a large chunk of the household budget ready for regular visits to the hair salon. More and more men give attention to grooming.  Nowadays your clientele will be a mixed party. But even so, as ever women will be in the majority. They are your priority marketing targets.

    People will keep wanting to look good. It gives them the confidence to thrive, reach their goals, and feel respected. In a way, it makes them who they are. So it will be always a good time to start a salon —but why wait?

    Why wait, indeed… But be prepared. Like any business, to be successful you need to know what you are doing. There are requirements to open a hair salon. You will want to learn how to open a hair salon and make it a success before you even take the first step.

    This guide to opening a hair salon will make it easy for you. Just follow these steps:

    Before opening a hair salon

    A dream is what we all need to have the drive to move forward in life. This is the fun part.

    • What kind of business do you have in mind? Will it be a totally new hair salon or will you take over an existing salon? Maybe you are thinking about joining a franchise? There are different models that each come with a different approach, so pick one and explore the concept.
    • Get creative. Come up with a catchy name for your hair salon business. The name is closely connected to your customer segment and will identify you as ‘the’ place to go for a certain type of people.
    • How will your salon look? Nowadays we see a lot of cross-over places. Many coffee shops have books, many hair salons offer coffee and pie. Maybe this concept doesn’t appeal to you and you prefer to keep things simple.

    As you noticed, even at this stage we are already getting a bit serious. One step leads the way to the next step.

    Once you’ve decided on the overall concept, it’s a matter of writing down and working out your idea. Also, make sure you anticipate possible hindrances and problems. Let’s now get serious on how to open a hair salon.

    A business plan is the first step no aspiring business can skip

    To those who feel they’re not extremely business-minded, a business plan may sound scary. Luckily, you don’t need a degree in business to come up with one.

    A business plan describes in further detail how your hair salon company will make money.

    It includes:

    • Who will your customers be?
    • What are the start-up costs?
    • How will you promote/advertise your new hair salon?
    • What business connections do you already have?
    • What is the money you put in and expect to get back? Costs and revenue…
    • When do you think you will break even?

    These will be your start-up costs

    • Accounting and business software
    • Client management and scheduling software
    • Website
    • Chairs
    • Furniture for waiting area and workstations
    • Decorate and design the shop with your desired clientele in mind
    • Ample lighting
    • Basins, plumbing, and electrical work
    • Haircare products
    • Towels and smocks
    • Equipment for laundering

    These costs add up and few aspiring entrepreneurs came to this world as rich people. We have a dream but we need to make money. Before the revenue kicks in several months will go by. First of all, we will need financing. So, we will pay a visit to:

    • A local bank or credit union for a small business loan
    • An accountant. We all need to pay taxes
    • Online alternatives, for fewer requirements and faster funding

    Get your licenses

    Talking about how to open a hair salon includes the discussion of licenses. You will need a lot of them and they can vary depending on your location. Do you want to open a hair salon only or you wish to offer services such as facials, massages, nail care, or something else?

    The permits any hair salon will need are:

    • a business operation license
    • a certificate of occupancy
    • a license to sell retail
    • a building permit
    • a fire department permit
    • a state cosmetology license
    • with a resale certificate,you may buy goods intended for resale without paying sales tax

    Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office for more local requirements. Get help from one of the local associations.

    Business entity

    A good way to protect your personal belongings is by choosing your business entity. You don’t want to risk losing everything you own if things don’t work out!

    In the USA a limited liability company (LLC) keeps the owner safe. It ensures they aren’t liable for the company’s debts or liabilities. How about Europe?

    A European LTD has similarities. LTD stands for limited, as in limited liability company. It separates liabilities from the owners and the business. As an owner, you are a shareholder who is or who isn’t part of the daily operations and management.

    Only the LTD company owns all assets and debts of the business. Shareholders are paid as employees and thus pay personal taxes on their earnings. Only the business assets can be used to settle any insolvency responsibilities.

    In this way, an LLC or LTD prevents you from being personally liable.

    Choose your best business location

    It speaks for itself that your business should be easy to find and to access. No point in setting yourself up in the middle of nowhere.

    • If you are a former employee and now want to start out for yourself, try not to locate too far from your old customers. They may want to keep coming to you for their familiar haircut. Stay in touch!
    • New customers must find their way to your salon. Make sure you are visible to them. A busy shopping street with lots of foot traffic is a gem.
    • Consider parking possibilities in your area. If there’s limited parking, how will people stop there?

    You invested a lot in your space. Be visible!

    Note: Don’t forget to get a Certificate of Occupancy. It proves that you respected the building codes, zoning laws, and government regulations.

    Time to build your team

    Certainly after time and when business increases, you may want to hire stylists to help you out. More customers mean more work, but also more variation in expertise. You will need to put more haircuts and services on the menu.

    Your team will be your flagship. Your reputation will depend on their qualities. They should be:

    • Talented and passionate
    • Friendly and social

    Salary and benefits costs

    You will be on your own payroll. Then there is the salary of your staff. Stylists and administrative personnel may be paid per hour — they need to be time-efficient.

    Next is brand-building and getting (more) clientele

    Okay, it’s getting clearer how to open a hair salon. Your business plan is in place. Your brand new hair salon is insured, and you found an excellent location. Now let your new and old customers come to you.

    • Your old clients must know that you’ve started your own salon
    • Both you and your team spread the word!
    • Reward your clients for their loyalty and make sure they also praise you to their friends, family members, and acquaintances.

    The client is king or queen in most cases. By keeping them happy, you will get a great reputation. You’ll get the edge when you compete with other salons in the neighborhood. People will know what your brand represents and will keep coming back.

    Make it a piece of cake for existing and potential clients to come to your hair salon…

    Now build your professional website

    You need a good website to build your brand and attract clients. An informative website is the best marketing tool in your arsenal. Benefits of a website include:

    • Introducing your company and the services you provide
    • Presenting your salon in an attractive way
    • Customers can instantly find your opening hours, location, contact info, and pricing

    Another good reason to have your own website is that most salons use an online booking system. You will want to implement this on your site. Stay competitive!

    Use your online toolkit

    Want to impress clients while making their and your life easier? Create a booking system for your website. Good appointment plugins for WordPress-based hair salon websites are:

    Amelia: A fully-featured automated booking system. Amelia will give your business a professional look. By using Amelia, you can perform all sorts of appointment-related tasks, easily customize the booking process, and even manage appointments for different business locations.

    Installing and configuring Amelia takes just a few minutes, which means you can make the transition from one system to another very fast.

    To test things for yourself, I’d suggest checking out the demos and see how things look on the front end as well in the back-end.

    StartBooking: Complete and easy to use. Quickly set up appointments and booking forms, and add them to your website.

    BirchPress: Add a professional online booking management system to your WordPress site.

    Bookly Booking Plugin: Start taking appointment bookings from your existing WordPress website. Or create an online booking system from scratch.

    Booked:Supports almost every type of appointment and booking through your WordPress website.

    … And don’t forget Social Media

    About visibility, there is more to say. There is your online presence to consider. It’s great that you have a website, but how are people going to learn about it? For hair salons, social media presents an amazing opportunity to spread the word about your business.

    It shouldn’t be hard to know through which social media channels you can reach your clients. Future potential clients are on the same platforms, just waiting to see you. Market research was never this easy. Chit chatting in the chair is part of getting a haircut ritual.

    From talking about the weather to the latest interesting tweets…

    Twitter, Facebook, and don’t forget to post before and after pictures on your Instagram.

    Be extra visible by listing your hair salon on community profiles. Go to Yelp, Google Places for Business, and the Yellow Pages.

    Our final thoughts on how to open a hair salon

    If you follow the steps in this guide, you are destined for success. Minimize the risk of failure and make your dream come true. Owning your business gives you independence and more freedom compared to working for an employer.

    But all the responsibilities inherent to a business are yours too. In summary:

    • Start with a sound business plan and stick to it
    • Think about your customers and choose a good location
    • Get insured, get licensed
    • Choose a safe business entity
    • Promote your business by serving your clients well and by using a strong online presence
    • Make it easy to get a fully booked hair salon. A booking plugin like Amelia will do miracles
    • Work with a professional team that shares your values

    Set an atmosphere that is recognizable. A personal touch is what makes customers keep coming back. That and good service. To create this community feeling your business must have a solid base. Only then you can focus on delivering a great customer experience in your dream-turned-reality.

    How to open a hair salon holds no more mysteries now.

    Good luck!

    If you enjoyed reading this article about how to open a hair salon, you should read these as well:

    The post How to Open a Hair Salon and Make It a Successful Business appeared first on Amelia Booking WordPress Plugin.


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    Running an eCommerce website can be both profitable and rewarding, but too many eCommerce newcomers neglect one of the biggest threats to both their profitability and the structural integrity of the site: eCommerce website security.

    There are three main reasons that entrepreneurs ignore eCommerce security:

    • They don’t understand the threat it presents.
    • They don’t know what to do about it.
    • They believe their enterprise is too small to be a target.

    However, roughly 43 percent of all cyberattacks target small businesses as of 2018.

    If that’s not enough to help you understand the threat, consider that the cost of an average data breach has risen to $3.86 million, and it’s likely to rise in the near future.

    Thankfully, most cyberattacks can be prevented with even the most rudimentary eCommerce security strategies.

    In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the most important eCommerce website security threats to watch out for, and what steps you can take to prevent them.

    7 eCommerce security threats and 10 ways to protect your site

    Thanks to the presence of pop culture, it’s easy to call to mind the image of a hacker tapping away maniacally on a keyboard to force their way into your website. In reality, eCommerce security threats are much more diverse. There are several ways cybercriminals can gain access to your site and/or compromise its ability to function.

    These are seven of the most prevalent security threats for eCommerce sites:

    1. Malware infection.
    2. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
    3. Brute force attacks.
    4. Injections.
    5. Cross-site scripting (XSS).
    6. Zero-day exploits.
    7. Customer-end vulnerabilities.

    And here are the steps you can take to protect your eCommerce website from one or more of those cyberthreats:

    1. Choose the right eCommerce website platform.
    2. Use SSL encryption.
    3. Collect customer information selectively (and don’t store it onsite).
    4. Use a malware scanner regularly (and get automatic alerts).
    5. Require your customers to follow best practices for eCommerce security.
    6. Require your employees to follow best practices for eCommerce security.
    7. Proactively monitor your website activity.
    8. Keep your systems patched and updated.
    9. Back up your data regularly.
    10. Pay attention to what you download and integrate.

    Now, let’s take a closer look.

    Related: Understanding online security threats 

    Common eCommerce website security threats

    1. Malware infection

    The most common way to gain access to an eCommerce website is through a malware infection. This is an overarching term that covers viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware and more.

    Malware is bad news.

     

    It can erase all your data, steal your customer information, infect your site visitors, and even hold your site hostage in a “ransomware” attack.

    Malware can come from a variety of different sources. It could be manually uploaded to your website, but more commonly, it emerges as a result of downloading an infected file.

    Related: How to get rid of malware on your small business website

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    2. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks

    A DDoS attack has the potential to crash an eCommerce site by overwhelming it with an onslaught of automated traffic. This is also bad news, since your business loses money every second your website is down.

    Essentially, a hacker will orchestrate thousands (or tens of thousands) of independent units to visit your site all at once. This can render your eCommerce servers incapable of serving all the requests and shuts out real customers trying to access your site.

    Related: How to stop a DDoS attack that’s already in progress

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    3. Brute force attacks

    eCommerce Security Hacker In Hoodie

    Though less common, some hackers use brute force attacks. Here, the criminal will use a software application to cycle through multiple password combinations until they find a combination that can be used to access your website.

    If your password is “1234,” it won’t take this method long to crack your website.

    Once that access is granted, a hacker can do just about anything they want, including manipulating your content, stealing user information and more.

    Related: What is a brute force attack? 

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    4. Injections

    With an injection, a cybercriminal can use a snippet of malicious code as part of a command or query that tricks your eCommerce site into doing something it shouldn’t. For example, it could be used to export a database of your customers’ personal information to the hacker for nefarious purposes.

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    5. Cross-site scripting (XSS)

    In the scenario of cross-site scripting attacks, an attacker sends user-supplied data to a web browser prior to validating it. Hackers use these flaws to draw legitimate shoppers away from a site, thus costing the eCommerce site business.

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    6. Zero-day exploits

    Software developers are always on the lookout for potential exploits a hacker could use to gain backdoor entry to a given system. Whenever they discover a vulnerability, they create and issue a patch to protect users as soon as possible.

    Sometimes, cybercriminals will discover the vulnerability before a patch is issued, and work to exploit it, working their way into your eCommerce website.

    This is known as a zero-day exploit or zero-day attack.

    Related: What is a zero-day attack? 

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    7. Customer-end vulnerabilities

    This one technically isn’t a direct threat to your website, but it can affect your customers (who, in turn, might unfairly shift the blame to you). If a customer loses their password or chooses one that’s easy to guess, a cybercriminal could gain access to their account and make fraudulent purchases in their name, or gain access to their private information.

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    10 steps to stronger eCommerce website security

    Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep your eCommerce website safe, and many of them are inexpensive, simple to implement, and able to be used even by those with no technical knowledge.

    1. Choose the right eCommerce website platform

    If you’re using a website builder to create your website, many of the eCommerce web security features you need will be built in. However, not all platforms are the same. Some offer dedicated servers with robust capacity, so you’ll be better protected against threats like DDoS attacks. Some are simply better made than others, offering fewer potential vulnerabilities to exploit and issuing patches more regularly.

    It’s therefore in your best interest to shop around for different providers, to see what levels of security they offer.

    What threats can this stop?

    The right eCommerce website platform will help protect you from most threats, including malware infection, DDoS attacks, injections, cross-site scripting and zero-day exploits.

    How to take action

    Look for a website builder and/or hosting provider with several built-in features to keep your eCommerce website secure.

    Consider GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing Ecommerce solution, which comes with features like an SSL certificate, regular network monitoring, comprehensive logs and regular backups to keep your eCommerce store protected against hackers.

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    2. Use SSL encryption

    eCommerce Security Secure Weblink

    If your customers are buying products directly from you, you need to make sure your checkout process is encrypted with SSL. SSL encryption gives your eCommerce website “HTTPS” status instead of “HTTP,” and displays a green lock icon in your customers’ web browser URL field.

    Most importantly, SSL encryption secures any information transferred between a customer’s web browser and your web server.

    In other words, it’s much harder for hackers and cybercriminals to obtain personal information like credit card numbers.

    What threats can this stop?

    This security measure is more about protecting your customers than your website proper, but it can mitigate some direct threats, like cross-site scripting.

    How to take action

    You can purchase an SSL certificate through GoDaddy. Installing it on your site isn’t difficult, but you also can purchase SSL management, so a professional handles the installation on your behalf.

    Related: The importance of managing your SSL certificate

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    3. Collect customer information selectively (and don’t store it onsite)

    Hackers and identity thieves can’t steal what you don’t have. If you don’t collect or save any private customer data through your eCommerce solution (that is not essential to your business), no cybercriminal can possibly gain advantage from it.

    When it comes to processing credit cards, use an encrypted checkout tunnel to eliminate the need for your own servers to ever see your customers’ credit card data. This might be slightly more inconvenient at checkout time for your customers, but the benefits far outweigh the risk of compromising their credit card numbers.

    Also, be certain hackers can’t remotely access any private data you retain. One of the best strategies here is to rely on a secure third-party for customer data storage.

    What threats can this stop?

    Avoiding the collection and storage of sensitive customer data will make your business less likely to be a target of any attack. While it can’t stop the possibility of threats altogether, any breach will instantly be less damaging, since you won’t have any customer data to lose.

    How to take action

    Only gather the customer information you really need, and rely on a trusted third-party to store payment information for future use.

    Related: 5 best practices for customer data management

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    4. Use a malware scanner regularly (and get automatic alerts)

    Most instances of malware are designed to be sneaky. They infiltrate your site, completely unnoticed, and start controlling user behavior or collecting user data for future use.

    A malware scanner regularly can alert you to when your computer is infected with malware.

     

    It can even provide you with simple instructions for how to remove it, so it can’t do any further damage.

    Another method of eCommerce web security involves setting up automatic notifications on your site to alert you to suspicious activity.

    Even simple additions, like CAPTCHA, can help you quickly distinguish between authentic, legitimate users and people who might be trying to take advantage of your site.

    What threats can this stop?

    Practically any malware- or script-based attack on your site can be prevented or noticed and addressed with these strategies.

    How to take action

    Invest in a security tool meant to protect your eCommerce website from security threats like malware, such as GoDaddy’s Website Security.

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    5. Require your customers to follow best practices for eCommerce security

    No matter how well you protect your eCommerce website, your customers might still be the victim of an opportunistic cybercriminal. You can’t completely guard against this vulnerability, but you can minimize its impact by making your customers choose strong passwords and educating them about security best practices.

    What threats can this stop?

     

    This strategy is all about the customer side of things. You can’t guarantee your customers will be secure after this, but you will greatly increase their attention to this area.

    How to take action

    Mandate a minimum length for all user passwords, and give suggestions for how to make those passwords stronger.

    For example, suggest that your users rely on a mixture of lower-case letters, uppercase letters, numbers and special symbols. It’s best to automate this, giving real-time feedback on new passwords customers create. While you’re at it, prompt them to change those passwords on a regular basis.

    In addition to these measures, educate your customers on best practices for cybersecurity, such as logging out of their accounts after a session, using private networks whenever possible, and avoiding common online schemes.

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    6. Require your employees to follow best practices for eCommerce security

    Similarly, you’ll want to educate your own employees on best practices for eCommerce security.

    Every individual in your organization is a potential eCommerce security threat.

     

    If they choose a weak password that’s easy to crack or if they fall for a scheme, they might open your site’s doors to a cybercriminal.

    What threats can this stop?

    If your employees operate with near-perfect attention to detail, you’ll minimize your risks of downloading or installing malware, the possibility of injections, and even some brute force and zero-day attacks.

    How to take action

    Though you won’t be able to prevent every mistake, a bit of employee training can be very helpful. Host a workshop or seminar to educate your employees all at once, and start enforcing certain protocols, like minimum password lengths or regular password changes.

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    7. Proactively monitor your website activity

    There are a variety of apps and online tools you can use to monitor how users are accessing your site, including Google Analytics, which offers real-time user activity visualization. Above and beyond analytics tools, look for a security monitoring tool that will scan your website at least once daily for suspicious activity.

    GoDaddy’s Website Security, for example, offers daily scans for threats including malware, DDoS, cross-site scripting and others.

    If you have a steady eye on your website at all times, you can notice if someone tries to instigate a cyberattack or if there’s suspicious activity, such as a user trying to log in multiple times.

    What threats can this stop?

    Proactive monitoring can help you prevent some threats and respond to other ones as they unfold. You can see the beginnings of a DDoS attack before it reaches its peak, stop brute force attacks, and you might be able to respond to attacks related to malware, cross-site scripting and some zero-day infiltrations.

    How to take action

    Most website activity monitoring apps are easy to set up and understand. Just make sure you have automatic notifications turned on. You won’t be able to watch your site like a hawk 24/7, so keep it automated.

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    8. Keep your systems patched and updated

    eCommerce Security Computer Server Room

    When apps and website builders roll out new updates, they’re often designed to counter specific known threats, such as software bugs that allow external entry.

    If you don’t practice good eCommerce web security and keep these apps and systems up to date, you could be leaving yourself needlessly vulnerable to a threat that’s already been neutralized by developers.

    What threats can this stop?

    Site updates are mostly designed to stop zero-day attacks and certain types of malware, but occasionally, they might protect you against other threats.

    How to take action

    Pay attention to new updates for any software you use for your eCommerce site. Ideally, you’ll turn on automatic updates so you don’t have to think about it. This also reduces the possibility of a delay between updates, or human error.

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    9. Back up your data regularly

    There’s a chance that your site could collapse, taking all your data with it, whether the intention was malicious or not.

    Ransomware attacks also could attempt to hold your site hostage, demanding payment in exchange for the safe return of your data.

    The best way to protect yourself from these types of threats is to back your site up, and do it regularly.

    What threats can this stop?

    Backing up your data won’t be able to stop a threat from impacting your site, but it will be able to minimize the damage. This strategy is all about protecting your information from being lost or held hostage.

    How to take action

    Use automatic backups to make a copy of your eCommerce website on a periodic basis, so you’re never more than a day or two away from the most recent update. Many modern website builders include this as a built-in feature.

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    10. Pay attention to what you download and integrate

    Many modern website builders allow you to download new plugins and tools to use in combination with your site, but cybercriminals can use these as bait to implant a malicious script on your site.

    Pay attention to these updates and other files you download from email or the internet at large.

     

    Malware on your device could spy on your keystrokes, eventually obtaining your eCommerce website password.

    What threats can this stop?

    Careful scrutiny here can prevent many malware-related and brute force attacks.

    How to take action

    Never download an attachment or file from a user or site you don’t trust. Always verify the identity of plugin developers, and check reviews before installing.

    Related: How to stay on top of WordPress security issues

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    Conclusion: The importance of eCommerce security

    There’s no such thing as a foolproof eCommerce security strategy. Every site can be hacked. However, most cybercriminals are purely opportunists, going after the low-hanging fruit.

    If you’re aware of the tactics the average cybercriminal uses and you follow these important eCommerce website security tips, you’ll prevent the vast majority of hacking and infection attempts against your website.

    If you’re interested in even more protection for your eCommerce website, make sure to check out GoDaddy’s website security services today. The sooner you take action, the sooner you can rest easy, knowing your eCommerce website is secure.

    This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by Stephen Lawton and Cody Landefeld.

    The post 10 eCommerce website security steps to protect against cyber threats appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    With the right training and tools, almost anyone can make money in real estate. You don’t need to own property to profit in the real estate market. There are many facets of the industry, and plenty of real estate business ideas to choose from.

    Initially, it can seem overwhelming. Instagram is full of real estate advice and incentives:

    • “Don’t wait to buy real estate; buy real estate and wait.”
    • “The major fortunes in America have all been made in land.”
    • “Buy land. They’re not making it anymore.”
    • “Real estate cannot be lost or stolen, nor can it be carried away. Purchased with common sense, paid for in full, and managed with reasonable care, it is about the safest investment in the world.”

    Most people understand that there can be large profits in real estate. What you might not know, however, is that there are many different ways to make money in the real estate industry.

    Related: Collection of resources for starting a business 

    Make money in real estate with these 7 real estate business ideas

    Here are some of the top real estate business ideas that you can use to tap into this lucrative market.

    1. Become a landlord.
    2. Flip property.
    3. Manage property.
    4. Bird-dogging.
    5. Real estate photography.
    6. Become a real estate agent.
    7. Combine real estate business ideas.

    Interested in getting into real estate and designing a plan to help you build your career and a possible fortune? Learn about some different aspects of the real estate industry and find the strategy that’s right for you. Let’s look at each real estate business idea in more detail.

    1. Become a landlord

    For many people, becoming a landlord is the foundation of their real estate business model. By owning a property and renting it out, you can make money in two ways:

    1. You’ll get paid consistently thanks to the cash flow that you receive in the form of rent each month. As you use this monthly cash flow to pay off the property and raise rents in tune with market increases, your profit margin grows annually.
    2. You earn long-term gains through the appreciation of your property’s equity over time. You realize these gains on selling the property. You can also draw on the equity you build to finance repairs, improvements and expansion of the portfolio.

    Being a landlord gives you both a reasonably good cash flow and a strong investment asset. It also provides the ability to build a legacy portfolio of properties that can be passed down to your heirs with minimal tax liability.

    Interestingly, landlording to profit from real estate has been around since medieval times, when actual lords owned land and collected payments from those who worked on it. In more modern times, real estate has created millionaires and billionaires throughout the world. America’s first multimillionaire, John Jacob Astor, bought gigantic pieces of land in and around New York City in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Astor would then lease the land to developers, who would build on it. At the time of his death, he was the richest man in America, thanks to real estate investments.

    Most high-level landlords treat real estate as a full-time business.

     

    Most landlords work full time. It is possible, however, to do it part time, especially if you use a property management company to take care of day-to-day tasks at your rental properties.

    You can also run your rental business from your own home, though many landlords eventually choose to set up an office for convenience.

    One way to leverage your role as a landlord and build your business is to move from owning and leasing single-family homes to owning multi-family properties like duplexes, triplexes and larger buildings. This allows you to reduce your property tax and management costs while doubling, tripling or quadrupling your profitability.

    Related: 7 inside secrets from a rental property management pro

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    Real Estate Business Ideas Woman Discussing Architecture

    2. Flip property

    One of the most high-profile real estate business ideas, property flipping has been popularized by addictive TV programs over the last several years. Property flipping involves buying a distressed home, repairing and modernizing it and then selling it for a profit, usually to a retail buyer.

    While flipping a house doesn’t offer the continuing cash flow of rental income, it can create large, one-time profits on individual properties.

    Like being a landlord, property flipping can be done either part time or full time.

     

    Many general contractors will buy and flip one or two homes a year for extra money on the side. On the other end of the spectrum, there are real estate investors who specialize almost exclusively in flipping. Like rentals, a property flipping business can be run from your home if you choose.

    One of the key factors to consider if you are focusing on property flipping is carrying costs. In order to keep your flip profitable, you need to minimize the amount of time you hold the property.

    Every day you own the property, you are paying the mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities and other costs associated with it.

    This is why it is vital to consider the efficiency and availability of your repair or improvement construction crew as well as the state of the market to reduce “days on market” (DOM) once you list the completed property for sale.

    Another way to increase profitability on flips is to carefully control costs. Ensure that the improvements you choose will truly pay off at closing. Avoid costly design extras that look good but don’t add to the bottom line. Remember, you are not designing a house for yourself; you’re designing a house for local buyers in a specific market at a particular price point.

    Related: How to start a real estate investment company

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    3. Manage property

    It’s a common misconception that you have to own property to make money from it.

    If you want to jump into real estate without purchasing property, try property management.

    Property managers handle maintenance, upkeep and in many cases collect rent for a property owner in exchange for a fee (usually a percentage of the rent). In addition, you need to be able to find new tenants to ensure that your properties are rented out consistently.

    Real Estate Business Ideas Window Washers

    Expect to work close to full time if you start a property management company.

    Though you could run your property management business from home, it will be easier to have a dedicated business location, as you’ll need storage for paint, drywall, cleaning supplies and other common maintenance materials for the properties you manage.

    Additional costs might include assistants or subcontractors for lawn maintenance and landscaping, plumbing, electrical work and painting.

    One of the most difficult aspects of property management is that it is a 24/7 job.

     

    You need to be available in the event of an emergency at the properties you manage. Storm damage or an emergency repair will require quick action on your part or a contingency plan if you are unavailable.

    Related: Find a tenant — How building a customer profile can help

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    4. Bird-dogging

    Real estate investors are always on the hunt for good deals. This has given rise to an entirely new set of freelance real estate professionals, known as bird dogs.

    Bird dogs find good deals for investors, earning either a small percentage of the deal or a flat fee.

    The reality of bird-dogging is that it is nowhere near as easy as some people make it out to be, as investors won’t pay for information about properties that are already listed.

    If you can identify sellers before a property is listed, however, you can make some real money as a bird dog. Bird-dogging can be done part time or full time. Most real estate bird dogs work from home.

    Bird-dogging requires an extensive knowledge of the market you serve and a large number of contacts.

    Just as the name implies, keeping your nose to the ground is the key to being effective in this area of the real estate industry.

    Dog Sniffing Ground Represents Birddogging real estate business idea

    In addition, you might be able to generate leads through effective content marketing, circle prospecting, mailers, or signage.

    The idea is to find hidden properties that no one else has discovered yet.

    Remember, you’re not necessarily looking for buyer-ready properties. Significantly distressed properties might be just the ticket for a flipper, while a long-term investor will be more interested in tenant-ready properties that can be quickly cleaned up and ready to welcome renters.

    Look for a variety of properties and investors to increase your chances of success.

    Related: Easy content marketing for real estate agents 

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    5. Real estate photography

    Not all real estate business ideas have to do directly with the properties themselves. Some, such as being a real estate photographer, involve marketing the property.

    Real estate photographers take photos of homes for sellers or landlords that are then posted online as part of a marketing campaign.

    As a real estate photographer, your hours are largely determined by the number and size of the houses you have to shoot in a given day. Larger houses require more photos and therefore more time.

    Many real estate photographers choose to base their businesses in their homes, though most of the actual work will be done on location at the properties being photographed.

    If you want to differentiate yourself and your service, you might want to add drone photography or video to your service portfolio.

    In many areas, drone photography is an important part of contextualizing the property location and showing off the features of luxury properties, farms and larger parcels.

    You will need to invest in high-quality photography and lighting equipment and sophisticated editing platforms to ensure that your photos show the property at its best.

    Working with the homeowner or real estate agent to ensure that the house is properly prepped, cleaned, landscaped and staged will go a long way to ensuring that your photos are the best they can be.

    Related: How to start a photography blog that gets you more work

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    6. Become a real estate agent

    Real Estate Business Ideas House At Sunset
    Photo by Brian Babb on Unsplash

    While some business models like bird-dogging and flipping are more novel, being an agent has been a common way to participate in the real estate industry for as long as the modern property market has existed. Becoming a real estate agent is more difficult than breaking into some other parts of this industry, as it requires formal education and, typically, state certification.

    As a real estate agent, you’ll need to be able to sustain yourself financially when you are first starting out, since real estate agents are not paid until the property closes. That means that all marketing efforts and costs, including professional photography, signage, open houses and mailings, will have to paid out of your pocket up front. You receive your commission when the sale of the house closes.

    Being a real estate agent can be a highly lucrative career, especially if you develop expertise in a particular market or niche.

    The more you continue to grow and educate yourself, the more you’ll achieve.

    A talent for connecting with others will go a long way in helping you grow your business. Many real estate agents are known for their winning and engaging personalities.

    A great website, consistent content production, and ongoing social media management can ensure that you quickly make a name for yourself, even against more experienced agents.

    Editor’s note: Start your journey as a real estate agent by getting a great domain name to use as the online address for your real estate website.

     Promote your real estate business with content like blogs, videos, or podcasts geared to a particular neighborhood, market niche or audience.

    Being a real estate agent is one of the few business models in which working from home is not really an option.

    Related: How to start a real estate business

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    7. Combine real estate business ideas

    As you can see, the real estate industry offers diverse opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

    One of the best ways to build a small real estate business, however, is to combine complementary business models.

    For example, a property management company that offers photography services can save owners time and effort. A real estate agent who is also able to produce high-quality photography for his or her listings will both save money on marketing and offer a value-added service. Many real estate agents also serve as property managers. With their network of contacts, it’s easy to list rental properties and find new tenants on an ongoing basis.

    Other real estate agents might work as bird dogs, letting investors know about potential properties and connecting them with prospective sellers.

    Real Estate Business Ideas Man Renovating Property
    Photo by Annie Gray on Unsplash

    One important thing to keep in mind: as a real estate agent, you have a fiduciary duty to your client.

    That means that you must do whatever is in the client’s best interest, even if it cuts into your own plans or profits. That is why it is essential that you exercise caution when working with investors or on investment deals that might benefit you directly. You might want to establish a policy that you do not do investment deals with clients, to ensure that there is no question of improper influence or decision-making on your behalf.

    Many investors choose to flip properties and build a rental portfolio to give themselves more diverse income streams.

    Some also become real estate agents themselves, allowing them to better understand the market and handle their own transaction management, saving them thousands each year in agent commissions.

    Let your interests and time commitment be your guide as you consider ways to mix and match various aspects of the real estate industry.

    If you combine multiple ways of making money in real estate, you’ll be able to find success more easily.

     

    In addition, having experience and qualifications across various aspects of the industry will help you better weather economic and market downturns by diversifying your business.

    For example, when demand is low, you might want to put more effort into the investment side of your business, since you will be able to get better deals from sellers frustrated by a slow market. When demand is high, you can step up your work as a real estate agent, working with buyers and sellers to navigate a hot market.

    Related: How to grow a property portfolio by house hacking

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    Take the first step now

    These are just a few of the many real estate business ideas that have been used to create sustainable, profitable businesses.

    Whether you want to become a real estate agent, a landlord or a property manager, the hardest part is taking the first step. Begin working on your real estate business today so that it can turn a profit tomorrow.

    There are many blogs, books, podcasts and other expert content platforms out there to help you learn the ins and outs of the real estate industry. Educate yourself and consider your own strengths and aversions as you determine what areas of the industry you want to pursue.

    Consider your aptitude, risk tolerance and financial needs when deciding where to start.

     

    Once you’ve settled on a path, promote your bird-dogging, property management or real estate photography services with a website geared toward real estate professionals. The earlier you begin creating an online presence, including content designed for your particular market segment, the more you will build your credibility and your digital footprint.

    Finally, get out there and get to know the movers and shakers in your local market. The more colleagues and mentors you can find, the better your chances of weathering the ups and downs of a career in real estate. You can make money in real estate.

    The post 7 real estate business ideas to tap into the lucrative property market appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    Online retail continues to flourish as sales grow at an exponential rate. Most likely you’ve created or are considering launching an eCommerce website to cash in on this gold rush — as you should!

    By 2021, eCommerce sales will approach nearly $5 trillion.

     

    The majority of these sales come during a single season — the holidays. With those shopping months quickly approaching, we wanted to make sure you have everything you need to attract, engage and convert online shoppers.

    That’s why we’ve put together a holiday eCommerce website checklist.

    Planning for the 2019 holiday season

    The eCommerce space is packed with competitors. For that reason, it’s important you start planning now. Before we get into the holiday eCommerce website checklist, here are some tips for the 2019 season.

    Increase your staff

    Imagine sending out an email campaign and receiving hundreds or thousands of orders that very same day.

    If you’re understaffed, not only will your team suffer, but the customer experience will be affected as well.

    You can reduce potential holiday stress by ensuring you have reliable team members to help with order processing, fulfillment and customer service.

    Related: 5 things to consider when hiring for seasonal jobs

    Beef up your customer service process

    Selling tons of product is great, but handling complaints, questions and returns is not so fun. Do you have a process in place to handle customer service?

    If you don’t want to hire staff, then turn to the robots.

     

    You can get help from tools like chatbots, knowledge bases and frequently-asked-questions (FAQ) pages. You want to make it easy for customers to find answers on their own, which will free up your time and resources.

    Related: How to leverage automation to create a remarkable client experience

    Understand your customers

    The last, but certainly not least, tip for the holiday season is to truly understand your customer.

    If you don’t gain visibility into what drives your customers to buy, it’s going to be difficult to sell to them.

    Use analytics tools like Facebook insights, Google Analytics, or your eCommerce store’s internal analytics to understand where your customers come from, when they buy, and what they’re buying. It will help you create winning marketing campaigns.

    Related: What is website analytics — and how can it help your business grow?

    Winning methods to drive eCommerce website traffic

    Customer Browsing Magazine For Holiday Gifts

    Your eCommerce website lives or dies by your digital marketing. Some of you may be able to hire a digital marketing agency, like mine, to help you grow your sales; others might not have the budget to outsource.

    Either way, here are the two major methods to drive traffic to your site.

    Social media

    Did you know that social media consumes 30 percent of users’ overall time online? Online shoppers spend an average of 2 hours and 15 minutes per day on social media channels.

    If your eCommerce website capitalizes on this time and gets in front of customers while they’re chatting with friends and family (i.e., their future gift recipients) then you can form stronger customer relationships and drive sales.

    With nearly 70 percent of all U.S. adults on at least one social media channel, you’ll definitely be able to find the right audience for your products.

    Three of the most popular social media channels are Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

    Here are some quick tips to take full advantage of social media:

    Leverage video

    Video captures the attention of potential customers and helps them engage with your products. No matter the social media channel, there is a constant demand for more video content.

    Whether you’re showing how your products are made, opening or unboxing them, or sharing delighted customer testimonials, video is key to driving engagement.

    If you have questions about getting started with video marketing, take a look at this Q&A with video marketing expert Adam LoDolce.

    Go live on the air

    Facebook, Instagram and YouTube allow for live streaming video — for a reason! Fans and followers love when you go live because it’s something fresh, new and happening right now. They won’t want to feel left out, so they’ll most likely tune in to what you have to say.

    Your live stream videos allow you to establish a genuine connection with your customers and instantly gather feedback to see what’s working with your audience.

    Best of all, you only need a smartphone or webcam to film live video, so the cost is minimal.

    Related: Boost Facebook content to reach more customers

    Holiday eCommerce Website Filming On Smartphone

    Email marketing

    It’s been shown that for every $1 you invest in email marketing, you can expect to make an average return of $44 and change.

    As the owner of an eCommerce website, email marketing should be the cornerstone of your marketing strategy.

     

    It allows you to capture your website visitors’ information and continually engage them with new products and offers.

    To ensure that your email marketing makes the greatest impact, here are some quick tips:

    Create a custom-branded email template

    It’s important that you have a custom-branded email template for the holiday season. A template helps save time by keeping your design consistent and prevents customer confusion, which can lead to a loss of sales.

    Editor’s note: GoDaddy Websites + Marketing Ecommerce uses the design of your site to automatically create eye-catching emails that won’t end up in the Spam folder. Track the results to see how many people opened your email and manage your email list with ease.

    Send a mix of image-based and text-based email

    Different customers like to receive and interact with different messaging. Most customers are driven by visuals, but some like to receive a simple text digest of what you are offering.

    There’s also the consideration that your image-based emails are interpreted by ESPs (Email Service Providers like Gmail) as promotions, so those emails are sent to the “Promotions” tab, effectively skipping the inbox.

    By mixing it up and sending some text-based emails from your eCommerce website, you’ll increase your chances of landing smack dab in the inbox.

    Send consistently and frequently

    Consumers receive an exorbitant amount of email during the holiday season. It may seem like a lot to send a message every week or every two weeks, but from September through December, it’s a must!

    You need to continue to keep your eCommerce website in front of your customers or risk them forgetting you when it’s time to buy.

    Related: Beginner’s email marketing guide for small businesses

    Your holiday eCommerce website checklist

    Now that you have tips to prepare for the holiday season and drive traffic to your eCommerce website, let’s take a look at the 2019 eCommerce website checklist.

    Prepare your eCommerce website

    Start with important preparations for your online store:

    Save money right away

    Before you do anything else, negotiate your credit card processing fees. Odds are you’re paying too much per transaction, and that is money that you’re leaving on the table.

    You can take a look at your credit card statements and contact your processor to inquire about rates, or you can use a service that does this for you. Check out GetSwipe.io to see how you can reduce your credit card swipe rates.

    Get rid of any dead ends

    If your customers hit a 404 error page, then that means that they’ve hit a dead end on your website, and they’ll most likely close the tab and go to another retailer. To get rid of dead ends, check out Google’s Search Console tool.

    Optimize your images

    Your eCommerce website will have images throughout, and it’s your job to optimize those images to help reduce site load time.

    If your site loads slowly, you risk losing customers.

     

    Consider using a tool like Akamai or an online image optimization tool to reduce the file size of your images while maintaining the quality.

    Be sure your search box is working

    Customers may browse by category or click on your featured products on the home page, but a good chunk of your potential buyers will search for specific products.

    Be sure your search box is functioning properly and consider misspellings.

    If someone misspells a product name, does it still bring them where they need to go? The last thing you want is to lose a sale because someone forgot a letter.

    Check your eCommerce website SEO

    Take these steps to make sure your online store is optimized to attract the attention of search engines like Google:

    Use keywords that have worked before

    Analyze your keywords from last year and optimize for the ones that worked. Create more in-depth product page content and include videos to earn more backlinks to your eCommerce website.

    Related: How to do keyword research to drive traffic to your website

    Optimize your product pages for long-tail SEO

    Each product page provides you with the opportunity to write product descriptions. Utilize this space to write in longer tail questions like “What is the best gift for a Dad?” so you can capitalize on voice search as well as standard search.

    Related: 7 steps to get your business ready for voice search

    Create keyword-driven landing pages

    People are searching for many different keyword terms and phrases while shopping for the holidays. Consider creating landing pages for the following:

    • Holiday gifts
    • Stocking stuffers
    • Gift ideas for Dad
    • Gift ideas for Mom
    • Gift ideas for grandparents
    • Gift ideas for babies/toddlers/kids/teens
    • Gift ideas for coworkers
    • Gift ideas for boss
    • Gift ideas for teachers

    Related: 11 ways to get a head start on eCommerce holiday planning

    Start your eCommerce website marketing

    Holiday Baked Goods At A Market

    Now that you’ve got your online store spruced up for the holidays, it’s time to get more eyes on it:

    Create a holiday marketing calendar

    Use Google Calendar or simply print out blank calendar sheets and fill in your plan for promoting your eCommerce website over the next few months.

    The calendar should outline when you’ll send your email campaigns, social media posts, and upload your videos.

    Be sure to share this with all of your staff, so they know when to expect orders coming in.

    Related: Holiday marketing checklist

    Keep the audience in suspense

    Create sneak-peek pages to build buzz and get the audience thinking about gift-giving. Include these pages in your email marketing program to drive more eyes on the products.

    Clearly spell out holiday shipping dates

    Some customers wait until the very last second to purchase gifts, and that’s fine, but they need to know your shipping deadlines.

    Build a page to explain your delivery methods, times and absolute last day of ordering so packages arrive before the holidays.

    Share a link to this page at the bottom of every email and build email campaigns around it as the shopping deadline approaches.

    Related: What to include in your shipping policy for your retail business

    Curate your top gift ideas

    People love when you press the “easy” button.

    One of the ways to do so is by sharing your top gift ideas. It provides people with social proof that your products are great gifts and makes their buying experience quick and easy. You can use this gift idea page in both social media and email marketing, too.

    Increase the average order value

    If they’re going to spend money with you, then do everything you can to get the lion’s share of their holiday budget.

    Use tiered promotions like “buy 2, get 1 free” or “Free $10 gift card with purchase over $XX” to incentivize them to add more to their cart.

    Create holiday gift bundles

    Add multiple products together into a bundle to help increase your average order value. Be sure to feature your gift bundles on the home page and in your marketing campaigns.

    Open your eCommerce website to all

    Take these additional steps to make your online store appeal to more shoppers:

    Accept different payment types

    No longer can you only accept payments via credit card or PayPal. Today’s consumers like to use Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Visa Checkout and other trusted secure payment methods.

    Look into what your eCommerce website can accept and be sure to set it up now.

     

    If you’re using Stripe or Authorize.net to accept credit cards, be sure to negotiate down your credit processing rates, too.

    Check your shipping options

    Some customers are proactive — ordering gifts in October and November — and can wait for standard shipping. Others will expect next-day or two-day shipping, and it’s up to you to make those possible.

    Be sure you have all the options (and the corresponding prices) updated.

    Related: How to offer free shipping without hurting your bottom line

    Test, test, and test again

    Make sure everything is working properly by creating a holiday eCommerce website scavenger hunt.

    Have friends, family, trusted customers and your team members search for products, find information like delivery dates, and browse through your site. Then, ask them for feedback to improve your eCommerce website.

    Be sure to check the website on different browsers and on mobile, as over half of your customers will be purchasing through their smartphones and tablets.

    The more you can improve the shopping experience now, the higher your chance of conversion when the holiday traffic hits.

    Pulling it all together

    The holidays are quickly approaching, and now you have the information, tips and a helpful checklist to capitalize on your eCommerce website.

    Remember to increase your staff, improve your customer service process and truly understand your customer base to get the most out of this holiday season.

    You’ll want to use a healthy mix of social media and email marketing (both with video baked in) to drive traffic to the site. If you follow the above checklist, there’s no reason why you can’t have a successful holiday sales season online.

    Good luck!

    The post Your holiday eCommerce website checklist appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    Your smartphone makes noise. Like a metal humanoid, you are drawn to the digital magnet. It must be something important. It is… your flight is tomorrow. Thanks to your mobile calendar, you’ve just been saved from the embarrassment and costs of missing your flight.

    This is just one example of how technology made things easier for us. On a professional level, we saw the same evolution. In the old days, all appointments had to be written down on a physical calendar. In the present day, we don’t have to go through this hassle.

    Online email-based calendars prepared the way for medical scheduling software. Amelia is a prime example of this new software, and it is currently one of the best scheduling software products available.

    Both healthcare providers and patients can now schedule appointments with ease. Online or on a mobile app. With reminders and automated messaging, no appointment can be forgotten. Patient schedules can be managed comfortably and the software makes sure your billing cycle is tip top.

    In this article by our team at Amelia, we will take a look at the best medical appointment scheduling software on the market. But first, let’s go over some of the benefits of medical appointment scheduling software itself. Remember, both the medical staff and the patients stand a lot to gain.

    The Importance of a Solid Booking System

    Scheduling; it’s one of your most important tasks. An efficient booking system means peace of mind because you don’t have to keep track of everything by hand, with all the errors and mistakes that go along with that. You don’t want patients to get lost in the system or to get double-booked.

    With an automated system, you won’t have to worry about whether you have the time or resources to see any given patient; all past, present, and future appointments are right there in front of you. Need to make an adjustment? Click, click; easily done.

    Now, offline booking systems are great, but what if people could also make appointments online? How much easier would your day-to-day admin be if customers had 24/7 online access, where they could book themselves in? With online scheduling, appointment-setting becomes a breeze.

    And it’s not only for your benefit. Your patients want to pick the best time-slot for their personal schedule. This reduces the chance they will cancel the appointment because of a time conflict.

    Using reminders will drastically reduce the number of patients who don’t show up. It also helps to reschedule appointments and, ultimately, gives patients more control.

    Thus, a good appointment system is extremely important for a profitable and client-friendly practice. All those age-old admin tasks will be taken care of by your medical appointment scheduling software, so you can focus on what matters: giving patients the care they need when they need it.

    Medical Scheduling Software: Why You Can’t Live Without It

    Patient scheduling software makes your life a lot easier, to say the least. Less stress, more control. Medical appointment scheduling has never been smoother to handle.

    Automation is keeping up with modern times. No practice can call itself efficient without automation. It will take a load off the admin’s shoulders and no appointment will escape your attention.

    There are many benefits that come with a patient scheduling system. Here’s just a handful:

    • Get better organized

    Medical scheduling software helps you oversee open appointment slots and cancellations. The scheduling calendar guarantees efficient use of every hour of every day.

    • Save time

    Easily save time with appointment-scheduling tools to match patient requests. Patients don’t need to call to book an appointment. An online staff portal takes care of bookings. The medical staff now has more time to handle other important tasks.

    • Administrative efficiency

    The software handles appointment booking, rescheduling, appointment reminders, and so on. This means less administrative work and cutting back on labor costs.

    • Improved billing

    Enable the ability to pay online and keep track of your billing records in one central place.

    • Better patient experience

    Medical scheduling software eliminates hold times and the need to call back-and-forth regarding appointment changes and confirmation.

    • Fewer No-Shows

    Medical appointment scheduling software sends reminders via email or text so everyone is kept well-informed about future appointments.

    The Best Medical Appointment Scheduling Software for You

    Every practice has its own needs. Here’s where you do some of your own homework and choose the solution that best meets your expectations. Examples of scheduling systems include:

    Amelia

    Amelia is a WordPress plugin and a tool for managing online appointments. It’s applicable for any business that offers customers services within given time frames.

    The plugin makes it easy to customize the booking engine for your medical practice. It comes with a payment system with support for multiple payment gateways so you can accept payments with ease.

    An appointment is only useful when the client shows up. The plugin follows up for you with automatic email and/or SMS notifications.

    With Amelia, you don’t just get a booking system; you get a real support team and a company that truly stands behind their product.

    Acuity Scheduling

    The free solo option by Acuity Scheduling with unlimited appointments and client self-scheduling is great. The reviews on Capterra are overall very positive, although it is noted that there is a slight learning curve compared to other scheduling systems.

    If you need more out of your scheduling system, Acuity Scheduling offers several paid plans, the most popular of which is the Growing plan. This plan introduces Text Messaging and the ability to offer subscriptions, among other great features.

    Appointment Booking Calendar

    The online calendar-based Appointment Booking Calendar plugin arranges online bookings on WordPress websites. It uses available time-slots and decides how many bookings per time-slot are possible. It sends a notification email once the booking is accepted.Simple and effective.

    Online payments are possible with the integration of PayPal.

    SimplyBook.me

    SimplyBook.me is a HIPAA compliant scheduling software. It allows you to create appointments, send reminders, sell products, and enable the booking of extra services.

    This is a great example of affordable scheduling for medical and dental clinics. Massage therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, mental health practitioners, psychologists, and family therapists can all benefit from it.

    10to8

    10to8 keeps appointments scheduled, and patients reminded. Among its many features, SMS, email, and a two-way chat system help to keep everyone informed. Meanwhile, it supports integration with dozens of popular apps and services such as MailChimp, Facebook, and PayPal.

    Easy Appointments

    Easy appointments can be integrated into any WordPress website. It features many locations, services, workers, and time slots.

    It sends email notifications to patients and your staff. This happens automatically when an appointment is booked or updated.

    Included is a custom field feature to create your own customized forms and it supports many different languages.

    Appointy

    This popular appointment scheduling tool is an all-in-one online solution that you can integrate into your existing website or use as a standalone booking system (no website needed).

    Native mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows 8 are available.

    The free version offers one staff seat, five services, and unlimited bookings. The software is ad-supported and feature-limited.Paid plans start at $19.99 a month.

    Appointmentseasy.com

    This online appointment portal focuses on the healthcare market, with an emphasis on European medical professionals.

    The service is free, as ads on the portal finance it.There are optional paid features like SMS reminders and an ad-free premium version.

    ECLIPSE

    Besides scheduling, ECLIPSE handles third party or patient billing. It keeps appointment slots booked, accounted for, and makes sure you get paid on time.

    DocMeIn

    DocMeIn is a free online scheduling service, designed for medical professionals in particular.

    It allows unlimited patients, reminders, appointments, and recalls.

    DocMeIn plans to add paid premium features on a pay-as-you-go model, such as text reminders.

    Sagenda

    This free online appointment scheduler can be added to your existing WordPress or HTML-based website with ease. With the free version, you get access to unlimited bookings and all the basic features you’d need to create and manage bookings.

    Sagenda targets a range of businesses, including medical practices, chiropractors, and naturopaths. It can also manage internal scheduling.

    For more advanced functionality like SMS messaging and email customization, you will have to pay extra. What’s great is that Sagenda also provides custom development for a fee, so if there’s some feature you desperately need, you can ask them to develop it for you.

    Conclusion on Using a Medical Appointment Scheduling Software

    A thriving practice benefits from making good use of a patient scheduling system. The doctor’s appointment scheduling process was often frustrating for everyone involved: patients, the medical staff, and the doctor. Not any longer.

    Medical appointment scheduling software adds consistency and peace of mind to patient scheduling. An efficient doctor appointment calendar has never been easier to achieve and the benefits are enormous.

    An online appointment system gets rid of no-shows. Automated reminders guarantee that. Some appointment booking systems also include notes as part of patient data storage, so patient history can be easily looked up and analyzed. These are just two of the many great features available.

    Free patient scheduling software is out there and waiting for you to try it out. Even the paid versions are affordable and worth all the investment for larger practices with complex requirements.

    Private practices and small clinics can now offer an efficient patient portal, and there’s very little excuse left to rely on pen and paper these days. Medical appointment scheduling software works like a painkiller for your administrative headaches, so take advantage of one of the great options shown in this article and stop stressing about your booking process.

    If you enjoyed reading this article about the best medical appointment scheduling software, you should read these as well:

    The post The Best Medical Appointment Scheduling Software You Can Get appeared first on Amelia Booking WordPress Plugin.


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    Successful websites evolve. Even when that spiffy new site is up and drawing traffic, the job is not complete. There’s always website maintenance service work to be done for SEO, performance and security.

    The reality of websites is that somebody needs to look after them on an ongoing basis.

     

    If you’ve already put in the hard work of attracting the client and building the client’s site, you can profitably provide those website maintenance services — if you can get your business model dialed in.

    Website maintenance services are good for your business

    The potential benefits of selling website maintenance services are compelling:

    • Recurring revenue: Even a small number of website maintenance packages sold will be a huge help in moving away from the typical feast-or-famine freelance scenario.
    • Better clients: The type of clients who balk at maintenance packages are nearly always the type of clients you don’t want to have.
    • Increased client value: A monthly fee and the ongoing opportunity to pitch for new work will significantly increase your average client value over time.
    • Better systems: Putting together bulletproof maintenance packages will naturally force you to up your game across the board.

    There’s money on the table — why not sell website maintenance packages to your clients and put that money in your pocket?

    Man on Laptop Represents Selling Website Care Plans

    Website maintenance services are good for your clients

    Many web designers and developers struggle to sell website maintenance services. Clients may not see the value, haven’t budgeted for website care plans, or aren’t able to start “right now.” (We’ve heard them all.)

    It’s up to you to convince your client you’re worth the investment.

    But first, you might need to change the way you see yourself and the services you provide.

    When you sell website maintenance services, you’re not selling your time. You’re selling your value. You are a trusted partner who makes things better.

    You’re selling peace of mind. Your clients probably couldn’t care less how much time you spend on their website. They care that you’re taking care of their website, so they don’t have to.

    You’re selling optimization. Optimization means that the longer you have a relationship with a client, the more value you bring to the table. You’re improving their website’s performance, driving more conversions, and delivering greater revenue.

    You’re selling expertise. You’re a specialist. You know the business. You know websites. And you’re making that expertise available to your clients in an incredibly efficient manner.

    With that in mind, let’s get into the details.

    Everything you need to know about selling website maintenance services

    In this article, we’ll cover the ins and outs of providing website maintenance plans that will keep you in the money and your clients smiling. You’ll learn:

    If you haven’t yet started offering website maintenance packages to your clients, there’s no better time than today to get started. All you need to do is:

    1. Determine what services you will offer.
    2. Arrange your services into a menu of standard packages.
    3. Create a fair and profitable pricing strategy.
    4. Promote your website maintenance services to new and existing clients.

    We’ll go over each of these steps in detail.

    What to include in a website maintenance package

    Maintenance services are typically offered as a packaged subscription, where clients pay you a predetermined amount each month or quarter.

    It’s important to spell out which tasks are included and which are not. A typical base plan will include taking care of regular software updates and perhaps reporting on analytics. You can expand from there, offering more services to clients who desire them. More on this below.

    You’ll also need to convince your client that these services are valuable and necessary, because they are.

    Who needs a website maintenance plan?

    First of all, consider wiping the word maintenance out of your vocabulary. Maintenance is boring, routine, and something everyone wants to avoid paying for. Support, on the other hand, is a hand up. Who couldn’t use that?

    Consider naming your plan Website Support Services instead of Website Maintenance Services.

     

    Ongoing support is valuable, especially since many new website owners lack the skills or time to perform important tasks that need to be completed after a website is launched.

    They have no clue how to update a site’s core software, such as a CMS like WordPress, or how to test and improve the site over time. Most likely they have no idea how to stage a change before taking it live or reverse an update that sends things awry.

    And then there’s security — hackers love to deface websites for no other reason than because they can. Even if the site owner has the skills to deal with these things, they might not have the time. You have both.

    Related: How to set up subscription products to charge for your services

    Website Maintenance Services Laptop And Dayplanner

    The first thing to decide when starting out selling website maintenance services is which services you will offer. Some of the key options are listed below:

    Hosting management

    If you’re managing the client’s hosting on the client’s behalf, charge for it. Add a margin on top of the cost of hosting and domain registration. Reseller options from providers such as GoDaddy put this within easy reach.

    Security

    Site security is a huge problem for poorly maintained sites everywhere. Secure setup and ongoing monitoring is valuable for small businesses that can’t afford to manage it on their own.

    Related: Wondering how to sell website security? Try pitching care plans.

    Site backups and recovery

    Backups are a must-have for every type of website, but clients are often reluctant to handle this task themselves. They fear doing something wrong.

    Software updates

    For many websites, especially those based on a CMS such as WordPress or Joomla!, regular updates are a fact of life.

    Clicking on the update button is easy, but understanding the process and being able to deal with the unpredictable is hard.

    For example, testing updates on a staging site before deploying them to production is a step that might be unfamiliar to some of your small business clients.

    Design and development tweaks

    There’s huge demand for this type of service. Tweaks are less intensive than a full site (re)build, and some designers/developers don’t see the return in doing this sort of work. Their business isn’t built for it.

    That’s an opportunity for you.

    Technical support and troubleshooting

    You may factor time into your plans for investigation and resolution of issues. The scope of what you cover with technical support (e.g., domain issues, hosting, WordPress core, themes, plugins) will depend on what you’re comfortable with.

    Content updates and changes

    Even with a CMS like WordPress, content updates can take a lot of time and, for many clients, is an unfamiliar process. Clients may prefer to pay you to do the work, rather than trying to do it themselves.

    Web analytics and insights

    Your clients want to know how well their website working.

    Reporting on your client’s site performance can be of huge value.

     

    Translate complicated stats into understandable takeaways and actionable advice for your client to follow.

    Consultation

    Running a business can be tough. You may become a trusted advisor and resource if your service includes consultation time for your clients to call and ask you for advice.

    Client reports

    Client reports are a recurring reminder of the value you’re providing through your website maintenance plans. We’ll cover this in more detail below.

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    What should NOT go into a website maintenance plan?

    Stop Sticker Represents What Not to Include in Website Maintenance PlansWhile you might be tempted to build plans that include everything but the kitchen sink, step back and reconsider. It’s easy to build bloated packages that a client signs up for and then regrets. Or you may find yourself facing scope creep and your profit disappearing down the drain.

    Keep that from happening by excluding the following items from any plan you build:

    Premium services like SEO, social media management and digital marketing

    Search engine optimization (SEO), social media management and digital marketing are distinct and valuable enough to be sold as additional premium services.

    By selling them as add-ons or standalone plans, both you and your clients have more freedom.

    Some clients may want everything, while others may want to pick-and-choose. You may be able to manage more website maintenance clients than digital marketing clients.

    Related: How to sell a content creation service to earn recurring revenue

    Guarantees and website recovery

    The point of website maintenance is to keep your clients’ websites running smoothly and securely. This does not mean that you, the website developer, are on the hook for a compromised website.

    Don’t make it seem like you’re always responsible when something goes wrong. It skews the core purpose of the plan and sets bad expectations.

    There is no way to guarantee that malware or a hacker won’t find their way in. You can only confidently say that website backups, updates and monitoring is the best way to prevent it from happening.

    You can promise to do everything in your power to help a client recover from a compromised site. It’s not a guarantee that you can restore everything perfectly, or resolve the security vulnerability, but it is a commitment to making your best effort.

    Anything “unlimited”

    Some web designers and developers offer “unlimited” features or support in their plans. The reason that they can raise their prices if they label the plans as “unlimited.”

    There are two ways “unlimited” can cause problems and suck the profit out of your plans:

    1. “Unlimited” support is what employees are for. If you set that expectation with your client they will treat you like an employee. Then, when you try to set boundaries or pull back the reins, you’re far more likely to encounter resistance.
    2. “Unlimited” opens the door to confrontation. It invites unreasonable expectations. You need to make it clear that you’re here to provide help and support, but within reason.

    By being specific about what you’re offering, your clients know exactly what to expect.

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    How to convince clients that website support services are worth it

    The key to selling ongoing website maintenance plans as a must-have service is to make the offer at the right time. And that requires requires a bit of finesse.

    Many web designers and developers go for the maintenance upsell right away, asking clients to commit to and sign a support contract at the very start of a project.

    This can work for big agencies, but it’s not so simple when you’re an independent contractor who can’t afford to refuse work if the client doesn’t agree to a long-term commitment.

    Along the same lines: While ongoing support is common for enterprise-level clients, for a small business client, another monthly expense isn’t something they take lightly.

    In fact, most small businesses are actively trying to cut expenses.

    Needless to say, making the case with your clients about the importance of monthly website support is often an uphill battle.

    How do you position it?

    If you prep the client with the idea of monthly support, educate them about the benefits, and ask for the sale at the right time, you’ll be able to successfully position ongoing monthly website support as a must-have line item in their budget.

    Acknowledge the education gap

    Web designers and developers, through our experience, know website maintenance is important. The challenge is getting the client to understand and appreciate the difference — and pay for it.

    Website Maintenance Services Woman Frustrated With Computer

    Showcase your skillset

    It’s straightforward enough to do a simple WordPress update, whether that’s a theme, plugins or content. But clients want a professional who knows how to make the right choices and do things the right way.

    Be honest, accurate and free from hype

    Reinforce how serious having a website support plan in place is, and let the client know that you can take care of it for them so they don’t have to lift a finger.

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    When to mention website maintenance to your clients

    With those points in mind, when should you bring up website maintenance to your client?

    Bring it up during the sales call

    Ask your potential client about how they’ll take care of the website after launch. If there is no plan in place, speak with them about the importance of ongoing support and share the website support packages you have available.

    Even if they don’t sign on right away, you’ve planted the seed.

    Mention it in your client agreement/contract

    Seed the benefits of monthly website support in the various sections of your client contract, including FAQ, the scope of work and legal details sections.

    Related: How to create a web design contract

    Mention it during conversations as you build the site

    If you’re building a WordPress site, for example, remind your client that there will be security updates, feature updates and maintenance that needs to happen on a regular basis. Tell them about important issues with website security and the responsibilities of being a website owner.

    Get a straight answer before you launch their new site

    As you get ready to launch their new site, it’s time to harvest the seeds you planted and nurtured throughout the project.

    Ask your client if they have thought about the ongoing technical support needed for the site. Find out if they have made any decisions on how they will handle it. If a solid plan is not in place, share your website support packages, pricing and benefits.

    If the client is interested, offer to provide a written agreement that they can review.

    Are they interested? Send a support agreement.

    Follow up within 24 hours of the client showing interest in your support packages and send the client a support agreement. Because you’re sending the support agreement now, the client will have a chance to review it before your post-launch website training session, where you can naturally follow up.

    Go for the close during client training

    During the post-launch client training session, if the client has not already returned the signed ongoing support agreement, ask if they have had a chance to review it and see if they have any questions. Remind the client of the benefits and prompt them to move forward.

    Consider offering clients an incentive to encourage them to sign the support agreement.

    For example, if they return the signed agreement within one week of the training, they’ll get the first month of website support free.

    Related: How to build a website maintenance sales page that wins clients over

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    How much to charge for website maintenance services

    Pricing is hard, especially when you’re starting out. Discussing money sometimes raises uncomfortable emotions in otherwise even-keeled professionals. Pricing is also an area where you can damage the long-term prospects of your business if you don’t get it right.

    The cost of the package should reflect the services provided.

     

    A good way to do this is to estimate the number of hours you’ll spend and multiply that times your hourly rate. Then you can turn that into a monthly, quarterly, or annual billing.

    If you do a little competitive research you’ll find prices all over the place, ranging from $49 per month to hundreds of dollars annually.

    Ultimately, setting prices is really a personal decision, but here are some important factors to keep in mind:

    Know your monthly expenses

    To have any sort of realistic approach to pricing, you need to know what your monthly and annual costs are across the board. Then add the amount you want to pay yourself on top of that.

    Adjust to include a reasonable cushion to allow for fallow periods, administrative tasks and client acquisition.

    Related: Foolproof formula for setting freelance web design rates

    Research the competition

    Before you commit to a pricing strategy, identify at least three competitors in your area. Break them out into low-price offerings, competitors who price based on value, and top-tier providers.

    Do a deep dive on their pricing and services to get a feel for what the market currently supports.

    Website Maintenance Services Research Brainstorming

    Don’t compete exclusively on price

    Undercutting is a tempting pricing strategy when you’re just starting out, or if times are tough. But there’s always going to be someone out there who can beat you on price.

    Undercutting drags you into a race to the bottom that makes sustainable success virtually impossible.

    With this strategy, you also run the risk of taking on less sustainable types of clients.

    Offer multiple package options

    There will always be a small group of clients who want premium service and who are willing to pay more. Don’t leave their money on the table.

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    Implementing multi-tier pricing

    When you present your potential client with just one option, it’s usually an abstract figure to them. You may have an uphill struggle conveying its value to your client.

    When you offer just a single price, a client has nothing to compare it against.

     

    Offering a range of service tiers helps anchor your core offerings by making them look comparatively affordable.

    If you currently only have a single offering, explore adding a second tier. Keep your low-effort services on the bottom tier (backups, uptime monitoring) and move time-intensive services to the higher tier (updates, site optimization).

    Now your client has a baseline option to compare with your more comprehensive option.

    But let’s not stop at just two tiers.

    Go even further and offer a third, improvement-oriented tier. The clients who always opt for the best will opt to continually improve, and you’ll nudge more cost-conscious clients toward the middle tier, which will bring in the majority of your revenue.

    This approach is called 3-tier or 3-pronged pricing, and it works fantastically well.

    That’s because the top tier provides a whole new narrative about improvement and growth. The bottom tier keeps things stable for the client. And the middle tier pays a lot of the bills.

    Clients are more inclined to pay you higher fees if you improve their websites and businesses and move beyond simply maintaining them.

    With multi-tiered pricing, you can slowly build up credibility with your client, and gradually nudge them towards a higher tier. If you do a great job, you’ll even see the upgrades happen organically.

    People will pay more for a higher level of service.

     

    What if you’re having trouble setting a higher price? One approach is to explore the edge of the possible and do a thought experiment where you increase your price tenfold, then increase the value+experience to match the price. It’s the famous 10x rule, and it works.

    Take a look at your website maintenance plans and figure out what you could add if you charged an order of magnitude more.

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    Offering custom website maintenance plans

    You can go even further and include a “custom plan” option. This is an opportunity to hone your skills as a business owner and possibly find new services to standardize in your tiers.

    Remember that custom services come with the risk of scope creep and other unforeseen complications. So, when pricing a custom plan, avoid these three mistakes:

    Mistake No. 1: You let the client set the price

    They might know their budget, but that doesn’t mean they know what a website maintenance plan should cost. Most likely, your clients base the cost on something they read, heard, or expected.

    It’s your job to set a fair price and stick to it.

    It’s impossible to be the best and the cheapest at the same time.

    Mistake No. 2: Not taking the whole picture into account

    Don’t forget to factor in time to communicate, get clarification on requests, research alternatives, test options, fine-tune, confirm on multiple devices, and send status reports of the custom work.

    Make your clients aware that the results won’t happen if these tasks aren’t performed.

    Mistake No. 3: You base your price on a best-case scenario

    After all, you’ve done this once or twice (or a hundred times) before. And sure, sometimes things go exactly as planned, to the minute and to the penny. That said, factor in time for surprises and hiccups. That’s better than being left in a labor-intensive lurch.

    With these items in mind, how should you approach custom pricing?

    Do the pre-work

    This is especially important if you’re not familiar with the client’s site. If clients are impatient and they can’t wait for you to do the pre-work and price based on evaluating requirements, tasks, and alternatives, then it’s probably not worth the business.

    Review previous results and behaviors

    For a new client, you’re relying on initial conversations, their current website, and whatever else you can learn about them. If you suspect extra hand-holding, training, patience or communication time is in the cards, take that into account when setting your price.

    Build in time for all of the other stuff

    Expect additional technology interruptions, such as operating system upgrades, or major changes in the internet world, that’ll affect your maintenance work.

    And then build in some more time

    Price to account for whatever you can’t predict. It’s better to estimate high and come in under budget than eat the overrun.

    What’s the payoff for the time invested in custom pricing? More recurring revenue, of course! The process will get tighter with each engagement.

    If you impress the client with your attention to detail and thoughtful approach early on, you’ll boost their level of confidence in you, right from the beginning of your business partnership.

    Plus, starting off with an accurate estimate maximizes your ability to be fairly compensated for the excellent service you’re going to deliver.

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    How to justify the website support investment to clients

    Web Designer with Client
    Photo: Kobu Agency on Unsplash

    You and your clients might not see eye-to-eye on the value of ongoing website support services. Your job is to convince them of what you already know — that maintenance is crucial and that you can do it better than they can.

    Here’s how to educate your clients and convince them that good work is worth the investment.

    Create a Services page

    Your Services page might end up being the most important page on your site. It is where you convert. It is where someone turns from a casual browser or semi-interested prospect into a paying customer.

    Yes, your whole site can serve as a showcase for your work. However, your Services page is where you get the opportunity to sell yourself without fear of it being perceived as too overbearing.

    Emphasize the benefits

    On a fundamental level, prospects are on your Services page because they are at least curious about what you have to offer. But what they are really looking for is a positive end result.

    With that in mind, your Services page should focus on how you can provide benefits to the prospect, and not only focus on what services you offer.

    Recognize their pain points

    Prospective clients may say they want help managing their site, but when it comes down to it, they might actually be looking for counsel and peace of mind.

    Figure out their key pain points and how you address them.

    What about all of the other companies that are promising those same benefits?

    You have to raise your game by offering up unique reasons as to why prospective clients should choose you over the competition. What separates you from the crowd?

    Related: What is a value proposition?

    Provide evidence of your work

    If people can’t see what you’re capable of, they’re not likely to engage with you. Therefore, you should include a selection of past projects on your Services page.

    Client testimonials and case studies are ideal and provide the critical social proof that you can deliver.

    Related: How to ask for reviews and testimonials from your clients

    Make it easy for prospective clients to reach you

    Complete your Services page with an email address, phone number and a contact form. Include all the options because people tend to have their own individual preferences.

    Related: Why it’s time to revisit and revamp your website contact page

    Point your existing clients to your Services page

    New clients are great, but it’s more expensive to acquire a new client compared to selling additional services to an existing client. It sometimes costs five to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one!

    This is a chance to offer more value to your existing customer base and others with whom you’ve worked in the past.

    Offer discounts to existing and past clients

    Did you know that 48% of consumers say that the most critical time to gain their loyalty is when they make their first purchase? Offering a limited-time discount or additional perks on your maintenance plan might be enough of an incentive to get them to buy in.

    Include maintenance plans in your project budgets

    Try bundling the first year of follow-up maintenance as part of your standard project budget. This will take care of the follow-up support that most developers offer, while also setting an expectation that support isn’t free.

    Offer a limited trial at the end of a project

    Similar to the idea above, this involves adding a limited maintenance period in lieu of post-launch support. If your client is happy with the service, they can pay for a longer term.

    If you provide free support, clients will anchor on that as a reference point, and you’ll have a harder time selling them on paying for support and maintenance later on.

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    Selling to vertical markets

    Skyscrapers Illustrate Vertical Markets for Website Support Services
    Photo: Matthew Henry on Unsplash

    A vertical market is a “market in which vendors offer goods and services specific to an industry, trade, profession, or other group of customers with special needs.”

    Why should you consider specializing in a vertical market when selling your services?

    Establish credibility faster

    A generalist learns a few things about myriad industries, while a specialist learns as much as possible about his or her target vertical.

    With every website, you’ll learn more about a particular industry as a whole — and those lessons will add up quickly.

    You can integrate your specialized knowledge into the marketing copy on your own website, blog about it, and soon you’ll be radiating credibility.

    Get more referrals

    There are trade organizations for almost every industry, and members of those industries talk with each other.

    In the case of website development and support, you’re a supplier. If you do a fantastic job for your clients, they’ll be more likely to mention you as a specialist for their industry.

    Encourage these recommendations as you wrap up a job.

    Related: How to earn client referrals and raving fans

    Make more money

    People pay for specialists, so focus on your strengths. A plumber usually makes more than a handyman, and a brain surgeon usually banks more than a general practitioner. As a web developer, you should think no differently about your craft.

    A web developer who develops websites exclusively for doctors will be hired by other doctors more often and will most certainly earn more money per site.

    As a specialist, you know what the business wants, and clients know that they’ll get a high-quality, thoughtful product from you.

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    What to include in a website maintenance contract

    Sign Here Note on Phone Represents Website Maintenance Contract
    Photo: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

    The best contracts are based on real client experiences. At first, you may feel like you don’t need detailed contracts because you aren’t doing big jobs. But as your maintenance business grows, you’ll work with larger clients with more at stake.

    The longer you are in business, the better your contracts need to be.

     

    While there are difficult clients here and there, most aren’t bad. It’s often that the situation is bad. There may be a misunderstanding about your process, timeline, deliverables, payment, or another aspect of your maintenance service.

    Without a clear contract, assumptions get made about scope of work, expectations, roles and deliverables.

    You might experience a lack of respect for your time and boundaries if expectations and rules were not set and agreed to upfront. You may find you have clients who keep asking for more services simply because they don’t know where their maintenance agreement stops.

    These are all communication problems, and they can be addressed, if not eliminated, with a well-written contract.

    And in the future, when you experience an unexpected situation with a client, you can take that experience and amend your agreement template to protect yourself and provide more details about communication with your client.

    It’s your job as a web designer or developer to give the contract importance. It’s your job to review key aspects of the contract with your clients. It’s your job to ensure everyone involved in the relationship is on the same page.

    Make your agreements part of your process, and refer back to it often as a reference document or the foundation and guiding brief for the entire maintenance schedule.

    Your website maintenance contract needs to:

    • Set clear expectations and boundaries
    • Outline a clear scope of work
    • Communicate what is and is not included
    • Share the process the client will experience
    • Mitigate the common “what if this happens” scenarios
    • Educate the client about the service, process, and technical details
    • Create a helpful reference document to refer to later
    • Protect you and your company
    • Set a legal precedent in case anything does go south
    • Set the stage for a successful relationship

    Your client needs a contract to:

    • Understand the expectations, boundaries, and engagement process
    • Receive a clear scope of work and outline of the maintenance agreement
    • Create accountability between them and their service provider
    • Understand the roles each person will have
    • Ensure they are hiring a professional

    What should go in a client contract?

    As already mentioned, the longer you’re in business, the better your contracts will become. At a minimum, each agreement can include:

    Background information

    An overview with information about you, your business, and your service.

    Team details

    If your client will be working with different members of your team, or more than one person will be maintaining their site, include a Team section with team members’ bios. This will help your prospects feel more comfortable.

    And it’s a great opportunity to further build trust by communicating your team’s collective expertise and experience.

    Scope of work

    This is the most important aspect of your agreement, as it clearly outlines exactly what is and is not included in the maintenance service.

    The key to a successful scope of work is to write it in plain and simple language that everyone — technical and non-technical alike — can easily understand.

    Break everything down into the simplest of tasks, and spell out all the details. It’s just as important to list what is not included in the plan as it is to list what is included.

    If you are offering tiered services, clearly define the scope of each service level.

    Process

    Explain how the maintenance is going to work, what the client can expect, what the steps are, and who will be involved in each step.

    This is also the perfect place to outline the maintenance schedule, the roles your team and the client and their team will play, and what is expected from each party.

    Put in writing what materials and resources they need to provide you and when, as well as when you need revisions and approvals.

    Add-ons and upsells

    Focus your agreement on the services clients know they need and include the information for the most relevant related services that you offer. These optional add-ons will trigger that, “Oh yeah, we need that, too” memory and encourage a natural upsell.

    Related: What is upselling and how can you do it without scaring away your customers?

    Scope of service details

    This section covers all of the small, pesky details that most people don’t think about but which could cause you a lot of grief (and erode your profits) down the road.

    The clauses in this section address “what happens when…” scenarios. Legal details: This section covers all that important legal stuff. Ownership of work; location of legal filings and proceedings; warranty of work; supplementary support; and so on.

    Payment details

    In this section, it’s time to talk about money.

    1. Communicate the payment terms.
    2. Talk about what happens if a client wants to cancel the service, and what happens if you want to cancel the service and fire the client.
    3. Account for what happens if a client drops out of communication for weeks or months.

    Related: How to get clients to pay on time

    Agreement and signature

    Communicate that this is a formal agreement and confirm that the client has the authority to enter into it. Explain what signing the contract means and what they are agreeing to. Ask for all of their contact information, including a physical (non-PO Box) mailing address. Get their overall approval signature, and include a reminder of what will happen next.

    Gather the pertinent information and how they want to pay — cash, check, credit card, PayPal, bank transfer — then upon receipt of the signed contract, send them an invoice, a PayPal invoice, or a link to pay by credit card. Be sure when asking for credit card data that you’re using a service that keeps it secure or encrypted.

    Once you’ve completed a draft of your contract, you may want to let it rest for a few days and come back to it to review with fresh eyes. When you do so, look for unclear language or industry jargon. If you have a trusted friend who fits the profile of your ideal client, ask them to review it for you and provide you feedback.

    Note: Contracts become increasingly important as your agreements reach a higher dollar value. The items here are high-level suggestions and are not intended as legal advice. You’ll likely wish to retain a lawyer to review your contract.

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    Making payments painless

    Website Maintenance Services Invoice

    As it goes with most aspects of running a business, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to accepting payments. Clients want to pay you on time, and you need to make it easy for them to do so. How can you do that?

    Accept many forms of payment

    Clients expect you to take their preferred payment method. The more payment methods you accept, the easier you make it for your clients to pay, and the faster you can collect your hard-earned money.

    Use invoicing software

    Forget notebooks or spreadsheets. Use a dedicated service like Microsoft Invoicing (included with Office 365 from GoDaddy) to keep all of your invoices in one place.

    Related: Best invoicing software options

    Auto-invoice

    Set up recurring invoicing. Be sure to include your bank’s wiring instructions in memos you send out to clients. Cut out those checks if at all possible (if your client insists on using checks, see the tip above on accepting multiple payments at once).

    Accept recurring payments

    Make subscriptions the default for your business and charge a recurring fee (monthly, quarterly, or annual). You can do this through a service like Stripe or AND CO.

    Another option is to use the automated credit card processing features available from your invoicing software. You’ll give up a small percentage on processing fees, but you get paid without going to the bank, waiting at the mailbox, or dealing with holds.

    Include all contact info

    Your client contact might not be the person who actually remits your payment. To prevent anyone from questioning your invoice (or worse, trying to send a check to an incorrect address), include all of your contact information.

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    Staying organized

    Bike in Front of Storage Cubes

    Selling maintenance services is not for the faint-hearted. You’ll need to have all your ducks in a row to avoid spiraling into a frantic schedule. Remember this whenever someone starts talking about how website maintenance is a magical passive-income machine.

    Document your maintenance processes with checklists

    A website maintenance checklist is the most reliable way to prevent mistakes and stay consistent. With a solid checklist, you don’t worry about getting derailed mid-task. Better yet, you won’t lose sleep worrying about whether someone can handle maintenance operations on your behalf if the need arises.

    Sometimes checklists don’t really look like checklists. They include ordered lists of steps, bulleted lists of items that can be handled out of order, fill-in-the-blank templates, and forms.

    What makes for a good maintenance checklist?

    • Fits on one page. (Too much detail = unlikely to be followed.)
    • Includes items most likely to be missed.
    • Has a way to acknowledge completed steps – checked off, highlighted, or filled in.
    • Has a way to note why any non-applicable step is not done.

    Related: WordPress maintenance checklist — 10 essential tasks

    Here are some tips to stay organized and protect your time.

    Use a calendaring/to-do list app

    Use an app to seamlessly sync calendars and tasks between all your devices. Once a task is in the list, you’re liberated from remembering it, and it’s more likely to get done. The app you choose doesn’t matter! Just find one that works for you and use it.

    Identify your daily goals

    Make it a habit to calmly list your three main goals for the day before you so much as open a browser. This sets the stage for the work ahead, enhances focus, and helps you keep on track in terms of managing time and effort throughout the day.

    Establish routines and expectations

    Block out time in your day and protect those moments. Assigning time to a task makes you more likely to complete it. In particular…

    Win the morning, win the day

    If you take the time to establish a morning ritual that truly sets you up for the day, you avoid dragging unnecessary emotional baggage around with you — leaving you to work all day with a clear head.

    With a series of early wins already under your belt, you’re mentally ahead from the get-go, and ready to tackle time effectively.

    Make folders your friends

    Maintain a well-defined folder architecture consistently using the same labels. With each new client, immediately create the standard folder structure. Then as files arrive, they can be quickly saved.

    You can do this on your local machine, or in the cloud with a service like Google Drive or Office 365.

    Schedule the administrative stuff

    Tackle rote admin tasks on a regular basis so they don’t pile up. Take notes and document status while details are fresh, rather than pull it all together at month’s end.

    Rely on best-in-class tools

    Whether you’re managing five websites or 200, consolidation tools simplify managing tasks across multiple sites.

    The tools available via GoDaddy Pro, for example, provide delegated access to manage your clients’ accounts from a central location.

    The Pro Sites consolidated dashboard shows you which of your client sites need plugin or theme updates.

    Related: A fresh start for GoDaddy Pro

    Create a stockpile of reusable components

    Thanks to checklists, you won’t worry about mid-task derailment.

    Build a library of templates for emails, contracts and invoices.

     

    And for non-sensitive information that can stay generic, create a knowledge base of helpful content on your site that you can send to your clients via a link in an email.

    Have a separate inbox for support requests

    You want client support requests documented and organized so you can circle back with questions, respond when done, and keep records to document what’s been done. (Again, a dedicated service like Help Scout comes in handy here.)

    Only check email at scheduled times

    Perhaps your process is to check email as often as once every 30 minutes. That’s fine. Just make sure you’re doing it on a conscious schedule, rather than reacting to every notification.

    This sounds like a small distinction to make, but the positive effect that this discipline has on your ability to manage tasks and time throughout the day as a result is extraordinary.

    Strive for batch processing

    If delaying by hours or days won’t affect the outcome or client wait times, group similar activities together.

    Scheduling activities back-to-back enforces end times, and avoids wasting downtime in-between.

    When you open your inbox, process your email instead of reacting to it. This means you’re going in, identifying next actions, and scheduling them. You’re not trying to perform the actual work involved while you’re still in the inbox.

    Do as much as possible by phone, email or video conference

    Yes, it’s nice to meet with clients in person, but is it necessary to do the work? Not usually. You can be smart about how you run your business, but there’s no such thing as free money.

    If you lack the ability to organize your own time effectively, you’re watching cash walk out the door on a daily basis. The good news is that the basics of time management can be learned. It takes time and discipline, but the results are more than worth it.

    Related: Great productivity tools for web designers and developers

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    Gaining efficiency through automation

    Finding time to relax might seem like an impossible fantasy, but automation can help you get closer to taking some time off. There are plenty of tools out there to help you run your business while you catch some much needed R&R. So why not use them to your advantage?

    Automate receipts and expenses

    Apps like Receipt Bank allow you to take pictures of receipts and submit them to the app for processing. You can also forward any e-invoices to email. Then, once a week, you can go into Receipt Bank and all your expenses are categorized and neatly sorted. This simple activity can save you hours each week.

    Connect your apps

    Automation tools like Zapier and IFTTT help you connect apps and set up automated workflows. You can use these workflows in creative ways to automate things like marketing campaigns and administrative tasks.

    Create smarter forms

    Leverage your own website’s potential.

    If it’s based on WordPress, for example, plugins like Gravity Forms, Ninja Forms and Caldera Forms include powerful features you can use to automate client-facing tasks. For example, you can use a form to gather client information, take their payments, send a welcome email and receipt, and sync their contact information to your CRM.

    What was once a considerable amount of manual admin work is now done automatically instead.

    Automate analytics and website reports

    Once a client has been added, and depending on the scope of the service they’re receiving, you can go into the relevant tools and configure automated reporting. These automated reports can go to you for review, or they could go directly to the client. (Again, it depends on how you’re running your business.)

    Editor’s note: The tools in GoDaddy Pro let you automate website updates, backups, and even create white-labeled reports.

    Gain efficiency through delegation

    Chef Winking Illustration Represents Delegating Website Care ServicesImagine going to a restaurant that serves the most amazing meals. The head chef studied in the culinary arts for years, trained in multiple cuisines and won many awards along the way. One bite and you’re hooked for life. But is every step of food preparation handled directly by the chef?

    Certainly not.

    A single chef quickly runs into time constraints due to the individual demand for one person to do all of the work.

    To scale, delegation to others is required.

     

    When should you delegate a task? Like a chef who refuses to let the cooks do the work, this integral question has a profound impact on most businesses.

    Without delegation, you can become tied to performing low-value tasks, instead of focusing on items critical to the maintenance business.

    Delegating some tasks is part of running your business.

    How do you decide what to delegate? The thought process is simple: List out your services or products and then determine what can be delegated to other people in order to get a predictable result that is of acceptable quality.

    In other words, get some line cooks to do the work!

    A big portion of the delegation process is presenting exactly what you want to accomplish and communicating exactly what is needed to get the task completed. Create a task list that is so simple to follow that anyone with basic skills can execute the formula.

    There are exceptions to the rule, of course. Not all services are candidates for delegation. There will always be certain tasks that require 100-percent quality or your unique skills that you will not be able to delegate. But if you write down all the tasks involved in a project, chances are superb that at least half of your recurring tasks could be delegated to others.

    Once you learn to delegate, your work will flow faster, run more efficiently and the combined efforts of you and your team can elevate your business to a new level much faster than you could have on your own.

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    Scaling website support services with contractors

    Website Maintenance Services Laptop Docking Station

    As your maintenance service grows, there’ll come a time where you need to bring on additional resources to help you keep up with demand. Outsourcing to contractors is one option.

    Here are six tips for outsourcing work to ensure you get the best possible people for the job.

    1. Share your mission

    You want your contractors to be familiar with your overall mission so that they can keep it in mind as they work. That way, if they have to make certain decisions on the fly, they can ask the following question: “Which alternative is the best choice for the business mission?”

    2. Write a crystal-clear job description

    Outline a clear set of goals and how the contractor’s work will be evaluated. Then you set a budget for the work so that financial expectations are clear. Finally, set a deadline, so that each month’s tasks run smoothly.

    3. Don’t burden your contractors with nonessential information

    The people you’re outsourcing your work to don’t need to hear about external problems your business is facing, requirements not related to the current project, or financial pressures. Just keep them focused on the work.

    4. Communicate effectively

    When outsourcing, keep in mind that communication is a two-way street. If the contractor reaches out to you with a question or concern about the project, respond as quickly as possible so that you don’t put pressure on your own deadline.

    5. Start small

    If you’re unsure about outsourcing, smart small. Outsource a small task and see what results the contractor produces.

    Did they follow the instructions? Were the tasks completed on time? Was the individual prompt in their communication during the process?

    If yes, then congratulations, you’ve found a contractor to outsource to. Hire them for future engagements and repeat the process.

    6. Don’t forget about support

    You’re going to need a contractor that not only delivers on time but is also available for follow-up if required. If you’re checking references, ask around about their reliability, cost, and the contractor’s quality of service.

    If you need to outsource some of your maintenance tasks to somebody else, be sure that you exercise the required due diligence to find the right contractor. Remember, your clients are paying you to look after their website, and whoever you hire reflects on your business.

    Related: Build your team — from hiring the best talent to outsourcing

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    Showing your work with monthly reports

    Analytics on Desktop Computer

    Your clients will expect regular reporting and analysis, and they’d like your help crafting a plan of action.

    This type of ongoing communication is an opportunity to assert the value of your services, and demonstrate that you’re worth the price they’re paying.

    Your monthly reports should include three things at a minimum:

    • Statistics — real numbers! — about the site’s performance.
    • Insights and actionable advice based on the numbers.
    • A summary of what work you’ve done over the past month.

    Let’s start with the stats that clients care about. (This assumes that site traffic reporting is a fundamental service you’re providing, and that you are using Google Analytics as the source of this data.)

    Related: How to use Google Analytics

    Website traffic trends

    The Website Traffic report is a starting point. Clients love this report because it’s a feel-good vanity metric with up-and-to-the-right graphs showing traffic growth. But it’s up to you to keep a cool head, act as the analyst, and tie the traffic to actual performance.

    Note the quality of your traffic by looking at bounce rates, conversions, and other engagement metrics.

    Where traffic comes from

    Small business owners love the Acquisition Report. You can see the channels that are performing well, as defined by lower bounce rates and higher conversion rates.

    Mobile traffic sources

    Similar to the Acquisition Report, but only looking at mobile devices. It uncovers opportunities for mobile optimization. With a huge portion of the world using mobile devices to surf the web, this report pays off.

    Comparing new and returning visitors

    The New vs. Return Traffic report helps clients understand the relationship between new and returning traffic. If new visitors aren’t converting, or they’re not engaged while at the same time return visits are trending downwards, it indicates some issues with first impressions.

    Chances are it’s time to work with your client to improve the new visitor experience.

    The most popular content

    Refer to the Top Content report. This content is driving the majority of engagement on your client’s site. You can also use this report to identify content that could be improved, such as a page with lots of traffic but a high bounce rate.

    Goals and conversions

    If the client has set up goals in Google Analytics, the Conversions report provides a breakdown of the traffic that has converted. If your client is running an online store, these conversions may be purchases with corresponding revenue. If your client is running a publication, the conversions may be newsletter subscriptions.

    This is where automation plays a key role because pulling these is a routine task.

     

    You’re not providing any value by doing it manually. You provide value when you add your insights and recommendations to the report.

    Let’s be clear — you would never want to completely automate client contact. But a healthy element of automation can benefit everyone involved. By automating the routine tasks that drain your time, you can offer more services and get more done.

    Combine automation with personal messaging, insights, and advice. Your clients want to interact with a real person who cares about their site.

    Don’t forget to summarize the work you’ve done in the previous month, and explain the positive impact that it has made. If you added a plugin, what new capabilities does the site have? If you made a performance improvement, what effect does that have on the site’s visitors or customers?

    Providing this level of context reasserts your value as a service provider.

    Related: How to leverage automation to create a remarkable client experience

    Security reporting

    Proactively monitoring and reporting on your client’s website security is another way to demonstrate your value on a regular basis.

    Identify threats before they cause damage, and let your client know how the security issues were dealt with (e.g. By handing off to a third-party specialist like Sucuri). Then outline the steps that you and your client will take to prevent the incident from happening again.

    So how do you put a report like this together?

    Create a client report for free in GoDaddy Pro Sites. This tool helps you to create high-quality, customizable reports. These reports can be distributed as PDF files, emails, or even secret links.

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    Grow your revenue by selling website support and maintenance services

    Offering website maintenance to keep the website humming (and money coming in!) after the initial project has been completed is a sensible extension of your existing business.

    In many cases, you’ll have built the site yourself, so who knows it better than you? Even if you weren’t the original web designer, you’ve got the broad experience to handle routine matters efficiently and deal with a crisis if it arises.

    These are valuable skills.

    If you put them to work efficiently, using the fabulous tools available to you, you can keep your client’s sites in top shape and boost your bottom line. If you’ve got a yen for scalable, recurring revenue, here it comes!

    Remember, to save time with free tools and resources for web designers and developers, join GoDaddy Pro for free.

    This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Andy McIlwain, Jennifer Bourn, Kristina Romero and Tom Ewer.

    The post How to sell website maintenance services — Everything you need to know appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    We all know people who seem to be able to bend the laws of nature. They seem to get more done in a day. Do they get extra hours or is it magic? And it’s not a perception. They DO more.

    Their secret is time management. Those people don’t waste one minute of their precious time. Distractions are banned and a tight schedule reigns supreme.

    Everybody can learn to do this, as long as you are motivated. Try these simple adjustments to start:

    • Download a time management application and use it weekly if not daily
    • Go to bed at a fixed time, and sleep enough and not too long

    You have to understand why it’s important for you to better manage your time. Only then you will find the motivation to seek time management help and enjoy the many benefits of time management.

    A fine example is the importance of time management for students. Why is time management important for college students? Or for university students or even high school students?Because without it they will fail exams by not covering everything they need to, or they won’t make essay deadlines. Future career prospects look gloomy, and all due to poor time management.

    The importance of time management in your workplace speaks for itself. This is even more crucial for small business owners and managers who need to keep their finger on the pulse of business operations day in and day out.

    Perhaps you’re an employee? Making good use of time will impress your boss and it will make a salary raise negotiation easier. Everybody wins.

    So, how good is your knowledge of time management? And how can you personally manage your time better? Find out by reading on this article created by our team at Amelia

    Why is Time Management Important?

    What is time management?

    Tik-Tok. Time is important. Efficiency is the keyword here. Every task has a timeframe and fits into your available timetable. If you aren’t a natural-born time manager, it’s time to develop the necessary skills and habits.

    Time management is something that you do; it’s a conscious process, an activity.

    It’s about more than thinking, “I’ll spend 30 minutes on this task, then go do something fun”. Rather, it’s about looking at the amount of time you have available for any given project and then planning your tasks around your actual time constraints.

    It’s also a skill that develops over time when you practice it. This involves intuition and learning from the real-world: will that meeting really take only an hour, even though it dragged on for two hours last time? Better factor that possibility in, or you’ll be late for the next thing on your to-do list.

    There are many tools to help you manage your time, the simplest being a calendar. But we’re in the 21st century now, and the best way to keep on top of your time is to take advantage of technology.

    Think about a tool such as Amelia, our appointment plugin for WordPress websites that helps both companies and clients manage bookings. Amelia is successful because it helps people manage time. Without the time-setting (and time-saving) features it provides, bookings would be a nightmare; meetings and consultations would be missed and many opportunities lost.

    Why is it important?

    In one word: Control.

    And along with that, you’ll see better performance at work, more finished tasks, and more reaching of your goals and ambitions.

    When you stick to proper time management, you’ll no longer have nagging thoughts, guilty feelings, or worries when it’s time to have fun and relax. You will go home and enjoy your quality time with family and friends.

    Time management improves the quality of your life and provides peace of mind knowing that you have done the best you can with the time you’ve allocated to yourself. It’s about controlling your time so that you can be in the moment when it matters.

    Benefits of Time Management for Small Businesses and Their Employees

    Count to 6…

    • You deliver work on time

    Setting deadlines will help you to complete your work on time. Split up your workload into smaller tasks to finish, before going on to the next. The result is delivering on time thanks to your continuous, predictable productivity.

    • Less effort needed

    Time will fly and you will motor through your tasks for the day. That’s because you stayed focused on your tasks at hand and were efficient. Now? Your mind and body are still fresh to enjoy your evening.

    • Improved quality of work

    You raise the bar. The standard goes up. Your priorities are clear and your focus is sharpened. You give each task the proper attention because you know what needs to be done and you cleared distractions beforehand.

    • Less stress

    Self-inflicted problems cause a lot of friction. Missed appointments or deadlines can be devastating, leading to stressed workdays and less overall productivity. With good time management, you will avoid that.

    • Better decision-making

    You can now easily make decisions because you gave yourself enough time to think about them. Projecting yourself into the future allows you to figure out the best plan of action in any given scenario.

    • More free time

    Some people are napping on the train so they can finish their work at home. Others look like they still have an important meeting to prepare for the next day. You, on the other hand, don’t need to take your unfinished work home. You used the available time at work and finished everything before logging out and leaving the office.

    Get More Done by Applying These Time Management Skills

    Set goals

    And we don’t mean a general goal. To grow your business or to perform better in the office are admirable goals. But setting concrete small goals will lead the way to all that.

    Start with daily goals. Compare it with, let’s say, preparing for a bodybuilder contest. You want to win on the day of the competition. To reach that, your goal for today is to finish this many reps of squats, deadlifts, bench presses. Tomorrow ten overhead presses and five pull-ups. You know you can’t over-exert yourself all at once, so you plan a daily routine to nail your long-term goals instead.

    Plan

    Time management relies on careful planning. Decide what you are going to do when. Work smarter instead of harder.By following a set plan with a logical order, getting things done will be as easy as pie.

    First things first

    Reading the newspaper headlines with a cup of coffee to kick-off your workday…Or reading your high priority emails? Surely a good start will give you more breathing space by the end of your shift.

    Start with what’s important and while you are still feeling fresh. What’s important today? Less urgent tasks will wait. Focus on them later.

    Focus on work only

    You will have time to relax during your lunch break, feeling good about yourself. Close all unnecessary tabs in your browser, switch off your smartphone. If needed close your door.

    There is a time for everything. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work.

    One task at a time

    Working on many projects simultaneously is unproductive. Multitasking is a myth. It’s long been proven that people can generally only do one thing at a time.

    The reason is simple: every time you shift to a different task, you also have to mentally shift into the context of the new task, which may be completely different from what you were previously working on. This process of context switching wastes precious time that could be put to better use on one single, continuous task.

    Learn to say No

    If you are too busy, don’t accept more tasks. Explain the task at hand is urgent and is a priority. After completion new tasks are welcome. Remember the previous point: one task at a time.

    Manage stress

    Finish a task to your best ability. Then let it go and move to your next priority. Avoid unhealthy stress by reassuring yourself that you’re doing the best you can with the time you’ve got.

    Support Your New Skills with a Bit of Technology

    So you’ve learned the basics of time management and you’re ready to commit yourself to a whole new way of going about your daily business. Now, how do you make time management even easier? With technology, of course. Take a look at a few examples:

    • Scheduling plugins such as Amelia for WordPress, which manages your bookings 24/7
    • Time tracking apps inform you how well you are using your time
    • Note-taking apps, to never forget a good idea
    • Time-keeping and billing tools
    • Distraction-blocking software

    These technologies decrease stress, improve productivity, and let you manage your time way more efficiently than ever before.

    Why is Time Management Important for All Businesses?

    A business needs employees that arrive fresh in the morning. They had plenty of time to recuperate both mentally and physically and they come prepared to perform again. Their time management skills must be remarkable, meaning they find a good balance between work time, break time, and home time.

    Employees who control their time are in charge of their job. Everybody likes to feel they are on top of what they are doing. Only then you will enjoy work satisfaction and build a successful career.

    It’s a domino effect. Time management will improve all aspects of your professional and private life.

    With good time management, you will do more in less time. Shorter periods of full concentration are more effective. There will be time to charge your battery.

    Effective time management can help you deal with pressure. Controlling pressure means less stress and more work satisfaction. That translates into productivity.

    Productive small businesses stay competitive.

    Competitive small businesses make their employees aware of the importance of time management. You and your employees will make better decisions and you will get more things done as a business. Would you say to no increased profit?

    Meanwhile, your employees will get the reward of a better work-life balance. A happy employee is the cornerstone of your successful business. So things have come full circle. Thus, we can safely say that better time management is a true win-win for all.

    If you enjoyed reading this article about why is time management important, you should read these as well:

    The post Why is Time Management Important and How to Get More Done appeared first on Amelia Booking WordPress Plugin.


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    The holidays are fast approaching and it’s time for business owners to start preparing. Brands are strategizing and starting their holiday marketing campaigns earlier every year, and it’s no surprise since small businesses claim the holidays account for more than 30% of their total yearly sales.

    Shoppers are checking off all the people on their lists, so it’s vital that you are top-of-mind when they’re brainstorming where to go to satisfy their retail and holiday needs.

    8 ways to ‘sleigh’ holiday marketing campaigns

    With some timely prepping and extra effort, you can certainly “sleigh” your sales goals this holiday season with these ideas.

    1. Be festive and fun with your branding.
    2. If all is calm, then all is bright.
    3. Provide answers by creating a gift guide.
    4. Get festive with a unique holiday special.
    5. Make the holidays a win-win with a contest.
    6. Partner up because the more the merrier.
    7. Give back to get more.
    8. Don’t forget to spread the love.

    Use these eight festive marketing strategies to increase sales, get in front of more people, and make 2019 your best year yet.

    1. Be festive and fun with your branding

    Whether you have a brick-and-mortar store or your brand lives online, this is the time of year to go big on branding.

    People are dazzled by holiday lights and tinsel everywhere they look, so don’t let your business seem blah next to all the others.

    You know what your email inbox looks like in December. It’s overflowing with festive emails and clickable content.

    • Do your emails reflect the excitement of the holidays?
    • Does your business look like it’s a holiday headquarters?
    • Are your store windows flashing holiday cheer?

    If not, let’s fix that.

    Bedazzle your logo

    One easy way to get festive is to change your logo to cliche holiday colors like red and green. Think that’s too corny? Here are 15 famous brands that have altered their logo for the holidays. If that’s still too off-brand for you, try working with more muted variations like white, gold and silver.

    Add festive graphics

    The next way to “sleigh” your holiday marketing campaigns is with some festive graphics. Catapult your website visitors into the holiday spirit with a temporary holiday home page banner.

    Next, share holiday-themed graphics on social media throughout the season. Post fun holiday quotes, announce sales or seasonal specials and share important information using these exciting graphics. The good news is they can be reused throughout social media, emails and online.

    Being festive shows your customers you’re in the holiday spirit and it adds personality to your business.

    It’s also a smart way to humanize your brand, which will improve sales and the reputation of your brand in the long-term.

    Related: How to decorate your eCommerce shop for the winter holidays

    2. If all is calm, then all is bright

    Holiday Marketing Campaigns Cat With Lights

    Holiday-crazed shoppers are anything but calm. Thankfully, this craziness creates a sales opportunity for you.

    Make it a stress-free holiday by simplifying things for your customers.

    Offer a gift wrapping option, extend your store hours, grant free shipping or delivery, validate parking, and simplify return policies.

    You can appeal to the rare proactive shoppers or inspire people to shop early by offering an early-bird special or layaway option.

    Not only can you make the shopping experience stress-free, but also fun!

    Host a special shopping event and holiday party that brings your community together. Your customers will have fun and get their shopping done at the same time. Talk about a win-win situation.

    But, it might not be possible for your business to offer all of these options.

    During this stressful time, you can be a light to your customers. Simply providing a snack to a weary shopper or helping someone carry something to their car can change someone’s day.

    Next-level customer service and a simple smile go a long way — especially during a time of year when shopping malls become a battle zone and your customers are trying to get through the chaos.

    By adding a little extra zen to their errand running, your will quickly entice them to stay longer in your store and on your website.

    Related: 5 ways to show customer appreciation this Thanksgiving

    3. Provide answers by creating a gift guide

    While we’re discussing ways to make life easier for your customers, let’s talk about a clever way to promote many of your products simultaneously: gift guides.

    Match the typical holiday recipients — husband, daughter, grandma, best friend — with your corresponding products.

    If your own selection of products or services isn’t wide enough to span this group of gift recipients, you can add other companies’ products. Just be sure to choose like-minded businesses and those who complement your brand without any competition.

    Not only does bringing in outside sources improve the quality of your gift guide, it also has the potential to expand your audience reach.

    How? Contact the brands and tell them you’re including their product in your gift guide. Chances are, they will be happy to share that guide with their followers too, which puts your brand in front of a whole new audience.

    Who knows? Maybe they’ll return the favor in their own holiday marketing campaign and include you in their content in other ways.

    Gift guides make great content for email newsletters, social media and blog posts.

     

    These helpful guides are popular and come from brands and influencers alike.

    Make a mental note to tap some local or like-minded bloggers in your industry who release gift guides and take the time to email them. Ask to be considered for their guide this year or if there’s another way you can work together. You miss all the chances you don’t take.

    In addition to a gift guide, brainstorm other ways your products and services can be incorporated into the holidays.

    • Can they be used in a holiday recipe or used in a unique way at a holiday party?
    • Can they make holiday shopping easier?
    • Maybe something you sell would be a nice donation for a charity or can become a tax write-off?

    Get creative and think about how you can make your business more holiday-friendly.

    4. Get festive with a unique holiday special

    The next way to improve your holiday marketing campaigns is to boost sales with a holiday special.

    Limited-time offers excite customers and drive extra traffic in store and online.

     

    If you have an eCommerce store, try offering free shipping, discount codes or a small gift with purchase. Even a small stocking-stuffer can persuade a shopper who is on the fence about a sale.

    A holiday special, no matter how small, also provides that added incentive for last-minute shoppers on the hunt for a last-minute deal.

    After the holidays, most retail businesses experience down time. Keep customers checking back with your business long after the holidays are done by providing a coupon with holiday purchases for a future purchase. That way, customers are willing to revisit your store to take advantage of this new incentive.

    5. Make the holidays a win-win with a contest

    Another unique holiday marketing idea is to host a contest.

    Advertise an attractive gift package and announce the winner a week or two before the holidays are over to keep the excitement going through the season.

    To enter your contest, ask people to follow you on social media, share your post and/or tag some friends.

    Another entry option is to create a quick landing page with an email capture form, or use a survey tool like TypeForm to capture email addresses and contact information.

    Not only will you excite your audience with a fun contest, but you’ll drum up some new followers and capture some extra email addresses, which you can market to year-round.

    Social media is a great platform for these contests and giveaways.

    Because social media posts gain impressions by engagement and shares, contests often become popular content on timelines, spreading your cause and also increasing brand awareness.

    Contests engage your audience and influence loyal fans (or new ones!) to participate. Amplify your voice and share your contest via emails and any other communication channels you’re already using. The more shares and engagement you can create, the more you expand your organic reach online to get in front of more and more eyes over the holidays.

    Holiday Marketing Campaigns Wrapped Presents

    6. Partner up because the more the merrier

    They say the more the merrier, right? Bring that mentality to your business and leverage this friendly time of year to find some new partners. Team up with other businesses in your neighborhood or industry and run a holiday special together or invest in some seasonal advertising that promotes both of you.

    If you have similar goals or complementary resources, you can even throw an event together. If an in-person event isn’t possible for your business, partner with a like-minded brand online to host a holiday giveaway on social media or find another way to co-promote to each other’s audiences.

    Sharing is caring, and if you can discover a lucrative way to become allies with a fellow business, it’ll be sure to boost sales this holiday season.

    Partnerships open new doors and introduce the possibilities of endless opportunities all year.

    If it’s not the right time to work with another business, why not join forces with your loyal customer base?

    Make holiday shopping a family affair and attract kids with holiday cookie decorating or hiring a Santa Claus for photos. Try your best to find these partnerships long before the holidays begin — the more time for planning and working out details the better.

    Related: Tips for partnering with other local businesses

    7. Give back to get more

    The holidays are a popular time of year to give back too, and that can have a positive effect on your marketing. Consider partnering with a charity to spread some holiday cheer to those who are less fortunate.

    There are many ways to aid a charity as a business, and you can use your status to also get your community involved as consumers by either donating money, buying an extra item to donate, or offering their own time or volunteer hours.

    Doing the right thing and helping others feels great, but it’s also a smart business move.

     

    Working with a charity gives you newsworthy content to share on social media and within your content marketing, such as on blogs and within emails. An added bonus is the fact that people respect and promote businesses that are trying to make a difference.

    People are happy to make a purchase for a good cause. Your decent deeds improve any word-of-mouth marketing and positive talk about your brand.

    8. Don’t forget to spread the love

    If you only take away one strategy from this article, be sure to spread the love this season.

    Do everything in your power to make your customers feel appreciated. That means being extra thankful and grateful in all communications and interactions.

    Send an email just to thank your audience — no selling or advertising involved. Share a social post with pictures of customers and revel in joyful memories.

    While holiday shopping lists are what bring your customers in during the season, your love and quality customer service will bring them back year after year. Use this time of year to build your community and strengthen the relationships with your audience through gratitude.

    This is where small businesses can stand out. Every business is competing with one another for shoppers’ purchases. Small businesses — even those with loyal buyers — are no exception.

    There are ways to compete with big box stores, but excellent customer service and genuine interactions are a big way to get ahead.

    While department stores herd customers like cattle and people become numbers, you can make a difference with targeted marketing and embracing small interactions with each customer you encounter.

    You’ll capitalize on all the good service you’re sharing when people happily leave positive online reviews and don’t hesitate to tell their friends about your great store.

    It’s never too early to start planning your holiday marketing campaigns

    It’s smart to plan ahead and start preparing for the holiday season as early as you can.

    Here’s a holiday marketing checklist to help you get organized before you begin implementing the marketing strategies listed here.

    As the holidays roll around, stock up on hot chocolate and take time to prepare your team and business. A strong holiday marketing campaign will help you stay on people’s radars before, during and after the holiday season. It’s time to crush those sales goals. You got this — “sleigh” away!

    The post How to ‘sleigh’ your holiday marketing campaigns appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    Online coaching with the use of a professional coaching website is a profitable business. A modern coach has a modern coaching website; it looks great at first sight and delivers a good dose of energy throughout. You’ll also notice that coaching websites typically emphasize looks with bold text and clear pictures.

    When coaches introduce themselves by their coaching website, they tell you what they can do for you and why you need them. And without stalling they will guide you to a CTA (Call-to-Action).

    The call to action is the core of any good coaching website. For dry theoretics, clients can go to the zillions of university courses available. But real-life needs practical solutions and a can-do-mentality, and that’s what you’re offering.

    It’s all about building trust from the get-go.

    That’s why it’s so important that you introduce your life coach website in an attractive way that builds rapport instantly. Use colors, videos, plenty of happy photos of yourself. Make people believe they came to the right place for happy coaching.

    On your YouTube channel and other social media pages, the energy explodes from the screen. Your website must be equally sparkling. Your landing page must captivate clients and spellbind them.

    Be original, and let your personality shine through. The great coaching websites we will look at are personal. They shout: I’m the coach you were looking for! Stick around. You’re in safe hands. No question about it, this coach was born to help you.

    And we’ve all heard of finding your niche. Yeah, it’s getting pretty annoying. But great coaching websites are indeed built to attract certain people in a specific target market. So for once, we will repeat the slogan about niches: don’t cater to everyone. Find your niche and own it.

    In this article by our team at Amelia, we’re going to take you on a journey through several amazing coaching websites. Then, we’ll identify the main elements of a coaching website so that you, too, can start building your own.

    Great Life Coaching Websites

    Life-changing content that will make the best copywriter envious. A slick, polished look, and professional branding. This combination makes the following coaching websites stand out. Think of them as life coaching templates.

    Become inspired by these coaching websites and get your website ready to compete!

    Andrea Beaman

    Holistic health coach Andrea Beaman gives visitors a taste of all the ways her coaching can help improve their lives in her extremely well-designed coaching website. The CTAs are clear and in your face (as they should be), meanwhile there is tons of free content such as healthy recipes to keep visitors interested.

    Mel Noakes

    Without having to go through endless descriptions, you immediately get a feel of how Mel can help you. This is a prime example of how images are most powerful. Wouldn’t you, too, want to wake up with that dazzling smile, ready to face the day?

    Insight Coaching

    What’s coaching about and what can it do for you? On Insight Coaching’s website, you’ll discover that not only pro athletes need coaching and gain access to your own one-on-one coach. This website goes to show that you don’t necessarily need to target one or two niches. Successful coaches make their services approachable for many different types of people.

    Karla Gilbert

    Beautiful beach pictures get you in the mood for pursuing health and wellness. As a former Ironwoman Karla knows what she’s talking about, and she’s not afraid to show off her credentials. This builds trust and makes for an easy way to convince visitors to get off the fence and become a client.

    Ciara Foy

    Bestselling author Ciara’s website is a visual treasure. She presents two free offers to help you get started and makes generous use of CTA buttons throughout her site.

    David Ball

    David Ball offers a one-on-one life mentoring program aimed at men who need a little help balancing “self, relationships, and work”. The link in the menu titled ‘If you’re not sure’ convinces men to overcome prejudices about getting a coach, and it works great as a persuasion tool.

    Cortney McDermott

    “Change starts with you.” The high-resolution image of the coach makes you feel like you know her already — and hey, what do you know, there’s a video for you to get better acquainted right off the bat. Cortney is not shy about her accomplishments and she inspires trust and confidence with a host of big-name clients shown just below the fold.

    Elizabeth Rider

    Vibrant colors, positive writing, and energetic pictures. Wellness coach Elizabeth is a successful entrepreneur and a great coach, and it shows. Everything about her website shouts “vitality”.

    Alexandra Jamieson

    On Alexandra’s site, the beautiful layout and use of color lead the eye to the blue and red call-to-action buttons. Getting to action (and securing a client) is a priority indeed for all coaching websites, and this one takes the cake when it comes to CTAs.

    Gabby Bernstein

    This site is all about great content and building her community. There is wonderful interaction between Gabby and her many readers, and she certainly knows how to do social media right. Her followers number in the hundreds of thousands, phew!

    A nice touch on Gabby’s website is the Shop section, where visitors can instantly purchase a membership as well as card decks, meditation albums, and more.

    Wild Sacred

    Harlene underlines the benefits of simplicity. The simple block structure, bright colors, and smiling photos prove her right.Everything about the Wild Sacred website just works.

    Steve J. Thomas

    It’s no mystery who Steve is and what he can do for you. The “What I do” video introduces you to his presentation style and message. He has a great sense of humor and a fondness of Starbucks, football, sunsets, NYC, and dad jeans.

    Katrine van Wyk

    Ever heard of Best Green Drinks Ever? It’s one of Katrine’s nutritional masterpieces, but it’s not the only reason she’s famous. Her one-on-one and group coaching, along with cooking classes and yoga, are all testaments to her energy and drive for life.The website reflects who she is and what she does, in no uncertain terms.

    Amanda Cook

    Amanda has won awards for her health coaching and she deserves an award for her easy to scan website too. You can’t miss her weekly newsletter opt-in, either.

    How You Can Make a Great Coaching Website Too

    Top coaching is an art form

    What were the things all great coaching websites have in common again? You land on their page and don’t want to leave any time soon. Right. You feel you can trust this guy or woman, and you feel connected to what they can do for you.

    You think: this looks awesome! The colors, the layout, the structure, the personal touch… I will stick around. Where can I sign up?

    Great! Now step by step, here’s how you can emulate what works by those who have proven it:

    I need photos of me

    And not just any photos. I will invest in getting some nice photos done by a professional photographer. People will buy me. I am my business. The coach.

    Call To Action 

    That’s my message. Helping people to make changes that will improve them. Action Jackson, oh yeah. How can I help to reach your goals?

    I will make this CTA easy to find, on the top third fold of my homepage. Please “call for a complimentary session.” Good stuff. Oh, you scrolled all the way down to the bottom of the website without clicking on my CTA? Here’s another one for good measure!

    Good SEO Practices will bring great traffic

    I will ask my clients to write positive reviews. This can be on coaching databases, Google Maps, LinkedIn, Angie’s List, etc.

    Client testimonials will add extra motivation to my visitors. This will let visitors know what I can do for them and how well I can do it. But it has extra benefits too — getting reviews on external websites will bolster the authority of your own and greatly increase your traffic.

    My visitor’s interests are what I care about

    I sell a solution to a problem. No need to sell coaching, or explain too much what coaching is. My business isn’t to bore clients. I aim to help out and guide people to their goals. The client’s perspective is my priority.

    Tell clients about yourself, but put your visitors on the pedestal. It’s about them, not you.

    I include video 

    The downside of introducing myself through the internet is people can’t see me in real. We can’t shake hands, exchange invisible body language, or look at each other in the eye. How can people trust me? How can we build a relationship?

    I will add videos, so people can see and hear me. An extra bonus is that I can later get the videos I produce transcribed for my blog posts and social media posts.

    My website needs a signup button

    Maybe they will not buy now, but I’ll make sure they won’t forget about my website. I want them to return when they are ready and it’s the right time for them to use my services.

    Beyond a contact form, which is essentially mandatory, there will be some way for interested visitors to follow up with me down the line. A mailing list with CTA to register will work wonders.

    I will make my website mobile-friendly 

    I optimize my great coaching website for mobile. Keeping up with the times will keep my website relevant. Who can tell when the next client will pop by to sign up on the spot, only to discover that the website won’t work on mobile?

    Conclusion on Coaching Websites

    It’s not that complicated to build your own great coaching website. There are plenty of good examples online and many of them follow the same basic principles even when they appear completely different from one another.

    A successful business depends on a website that looks good, but that’s not the end of the story. It needs to supply all the information visitors are looking for. Their needs are all that matters.

    Personalize your website. Make people feel they get to know you. Make a good first impression, and keep making good impressions by using your creativity and imagination. Stand out! Make your brand a household name.

    Positive reviews will skyrocket your business like no other marketing tool can promise. Make sure you have a genuine interaction with your clients. If you allow clients to leave comments on blog posts, reply to each and every one.

    Most important is to focus on what you can do for your clients. Your website must breathe the Call to Action mentality. You can help, but only if you are asked for help. Make it easy to ask!

    If you enjoyed reading this article about coaching websites, you should read these as well:

    The post Great Coaching Websites and How You Can Make One Too appeared first on Amelia Booking WordPress Plugin.


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    Wi-Fi as we know it was created a mere 20 years ago. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a corner of the world untouched by wireless internet, with billions of people accessing it daily to work, connect with friends, shop, and everything else imaginable. However, with the convenience of wireless internet comes risk, especially for users of wireless internet. That’s where Wi-Fi security comes in.

    Wireless security, which includes encryption algorithms and other security protocols to protect data being sent over Wi-Fi networks, plays an important role in our internet-obsessed society.

    The advent of Wi-Fi has led to a swath of opportunities for criminals, and Wi-Fi security is one of the main preventive measures in place to help mitigate cybercrime.

    A secure wireless network is also an important part of your overall website security plan.

     

    This article will include five reasons why having a secure wireless network is crucial to protecting your data, as well as 11 important steps you can take to optimize your own Wi-Fi security.

    But first, what exactly is wireless security?

    What is wireless network security?

    Wireless security in a nutshell is the whole package of measures taken to prevent cybercriminals from accessing the data you put online — whether it be your credit card information (or that of your customers), biometric data, voting records or any information stored on a computer that can access the internet.

    WEP, WPA, WPA2 & WPS

    You may have seen WEP, WPA, and WPA2 before, but did you realize that these acronyms stand for different wireless security encryption measures?

    WEP (Wireless Equivalent Privacy) was the earliest iteration of Wi-Fi security, but was found to have a major vulnerability that made it obsolete after several years.

    Similarly, WPA (Wireless Protected Access) had inherent issues that led to the creation of WPA2.

    WPA2 is still being used today by entities like the U.S. government, so it’s clearly a strong Wi-Fi security measure.

    WPS stands for “Wi-Fi Protected Setup”, and is an eight-numeral code generally found on the bottom of your router. It acts as another entry point to your router’s WPA/2 wireless network. Unfortunately, this code can be brute-forced by hackers, so most companies and individuals aware of this particular vulnerability turn their WPS function off if possible.

    Is my Wi-Fi security secure enough?

    Wi-Fi Security Connected Laptop

    For the average person, a combination of WPA2 wireless security plus caution while navigating the depths of the internet should be enough to keep their private data out of the hands of criminals.

    For businesses, it might not be.

    Companies operating online have a lot more money and resources tied to the internet, making them prime targets for crime (read about the biggest data breaches of 2018 if you’re curious what havoc a malicious attack can do to a company and their public perception).

    Related: What 2018’s data breaches can teach us about internet security

    Robust wireless security is a necessity if you want to keep your website out of unwanted hands.

     

    If you’re operating an eCommerce company or an online business, you must have strong web security tools in place — otherwise you put everything from your reputation to your bank account at risk.

    5 reasons you should secure your wireless network

    There are many reasons everyone — from mega corporations to your technologically illiterate family members — need to consider strengthening their Wi-Fi security. McAfee published a study in February 2018 that claims cybercrime cost an estimated $445 billion to $608 billion to the global economy in 2017.

    Those numbers will only continue to increase, as business continues its steady march toward digital commerce.

    If you’re here, you already have an idea of wireless security’s importance. But in case you (or others) need further convincing, here are the five key reasons you should fortify your Wi-Fi now rather than later, so you don’t end up contributing to a future McAfee cybercrime report.

    1. Wi-Fi is less secure than wired networks

    Much of the data on the internet is insecure, and wireless networks are inherently less secure than wired internet connections. This is simply due to the way Wi-Fi operates. Whereas Wi-Fi routers broadcast radio signals that can potentially be picked up by anyone within range, wired internet requires a physical connection (usually via ethernet cord).

    While wireless security encryption standards like WPA2 help mitigate this, they’re still fallible (as you’re about to find out). If you let your guard down even for a moment while using Wi-Fi, you put your data and privacy at risk.

    2. WPA2 isn’t enough by itself

    The constant push-and-shove between malicious hackers and honest engineers will probably never end. The Wi-Fi security gold standard, WPA2, has been proven to be exploitable, and this development should be a major concern for everyone who uses the internet, since most devices we use today were built for WPA2.

    Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity company, conducted a study with 32 million users in 2016 to see which iteration of Wi-Fi security its customers were using, and found 68% to be on WPA2. The recently discovered vulnerabilities with WPA2 make this number concerning, although WPA2 updates and the gradual rollout of WPA3 leave room for optimism.

    Regardless, it’s important to secure your Wi-Fi network with a variety of measures, because WPA2 alone isn’t enough Wi-Fi security to keep your network from becoming compromised.

    3. Protect your data

    Wi-Fi Security Cyber Lock

    The internet may be convenient, but with its convenience comes risk. Much of that risk involves the submission of private data on websites. For instance, buying an international airplane ticket requires your passport number and credit card information. Even resetting your online bank account password can require your social security number.

    When a hacker finds a vulnerability on your computer, they can use it to not only access your files, but also to monitor your every movement online.

    If you’re typing valuable information onto any website, they can see it. Taking the right steps toward better Wi-Fi security can reduce the chance your computer (and data) is exploited.

    Related: Strong website monitoring tools to test website security and keep hackers out

    4. Legally safeguard yourself

    If someone else accesses your wireless internet and starts using it to perform illicit activities, you could find yourself in legal trouble. Whether you’re a private internet user or operating a business, you can face serious litigation (or at the very least legal hassle) for unwittingly allowing a hacker to use your ISP address to break the law.

    5. Save money

    Many internet data plans involve a pay-as-you-go system, and impose limits that can be very costly to exceed. Unauthorized users can quickly rack up a huge bill by just downloading movies or games — and that’s if they aren’t doing anything more malicious like sniffing around your computer for credit card information.

    Wireless security basics: 10 tips for securing your network

    As an individual, ensuring you have a secure wireless network could be the difference between living hassle-free and becoming embroiled in a hugely inconvenient case of identity theft. As a business owner, it could be the difference between keeping things running and having to shut your doors for good.

    Either way, wireless security best practices are worth the effort.

     

    Follow these 10 Wi-Fi security tips to build a secure wireless network, so you can prevent potential cybercriminals from causing you substantial mental and monetary stress

    1. Update your firmware.
    2. Never admin wireless and disable remote access.
    3. Use HTTPS.
    4. Modify defaults.
    5. Use WPA2 or WPA3 (if available).
    6. Use AES over AES/TKIP.
    7. Set a strong wireless password.
    8. Change your password.
    9. Enable your firewall.
    10. Keep your router away from the window.

    Note: Depending on your router’s manufacturer, some tips/suggestions might not be possible.

    1. Update your firmware

    Humans are fallible, and so is the technology they create. That’s why manufacturers are constantly striving to update and patch their products as loopholes and vulnerabilities are discovered (hopefully by their internal team, instead of by outside forces).

    Getting the latest firmware installed on your router should patch any glaring Wi-Fi security holes, and might even make your Wi-Fi run better.

    Visit the manufacturer’s website for more information about firmware updates, and see if this is something that you can quickly do in the event you’re running an outdated version.

    2. Never admin wirelessly and disable remote access

    Whenever you want to perform admin functions on your router, be sure to connect your computer via ethernet cable rather than using a wireless signal.

    This limits the amount of access a successful hacker receives in the event they figure out your password.

    If possible, disable the remote management option in the router’s configuration. This option should be available in your admin control panel.

    3. Use HTTPS

    HTTPS encrypts data being both sent from and received by a website. It’s not only good for internet users, but it’s important for businesses too, and acts as a sign to anyone who visits your website that you’ve taken certain measures to protect them from malicious activity.

    If you’re not quite sure how to get HTTPS, you can purchase an SSL certificate (generally from a web host) and then install your certificate to receive the HTTPS designation on your website.

    Related: Google Chrome 68 introduces HTTPS as the new security must-have

    4. Modify defaults

    The path of least resistance dictates that humans will take the easiest route necessary to reach a desired outcome. Unfortunately, that means a lot of people end up leaving their defaults “as is” when they set up their wireless network.

    Change the default user names, passwords and host names of your network as soon as you begin the set-up process.

    Use a robust password of at least 10 characters with numbers, upper case/lower case letters, and special characters. Update your host name, which by default usually describes the model and/or make of your router, to something unique.

    Also, some routers will have WPS (Wi-Fi-Protected Setup) as the default. WPS should be turned off, since it’s easily the biggest vulnerability of a WPA2-operating router.

    Lastly, change your SSID, because it is another default that signals to hackers exactly what type of router you’re using. Certain routers have particular vulnerabilities, so there’s no reason to help out ne’er-do-wells by proclaiming the exact type of router you’re using to broadcast Wi-Fi.

    5. Use WPA2 or WPA3 (if available)

    Anything less than WPA2 (WPA, WEP) is simply too easy to crack. WEP is legacy encryption, and can be exploited in minutes by an industrious hacker. If WEP is your only option, it’s time to upgrade your equipment.

    WPA3 is being gradually rolled out, but is not available on most devices yet, and may take years to become a ubiquitous part of Wi-Fi security. The only thing better than WPA2 that’s widely available at this time is WPA2 enterprise, but most routers don’t support this option.

    6. Use AES over AES/TKIP

    When given the choice, select AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) as the exclusive encryption method for your router. The AES/TKIP option is not ideal because your router will sometimes switch between AES and TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol), and TKIP has been proven to be exploitable.

    7. Set a strong wireless password

    When it comes to passwords, the longer and more diverse the better. The maximum password length for WPA2 is 64 characters, in case you want to stretch it out a bit.

    Again, remember to use upper and lower case characters, numbers, letters and special characters to strengthen your password. Also, never use a word that can be found in the dictionary, because these can be deciphered faster by hackers via dictionary attacks.

    Related: 10 best practices for creating and securing stronger passwords

    8. Change your password

    Changing your Wi-Fi password regularly will improve your overall wireless security. The more often the better, but every 30 days is a good starting point if you’re serious about securing your network.

    Try using a password manager to simplify the process, and to help remind yourself of the need to change passwords on a more frequent basis.

    9. Enable your firewall

    All routers have hardware firewalls built into them — be sure yours is on, as it protects your computer from unauthorized incoming internet traffic that could potentially harm your devices. You can check the status of your router’s firewall while operating from the admin of your router.

    This is a vital part of a secure wireless network.

    Related: Guide to choosing a firewall 

    10. Keep your router away from the window

    Wireless internet works through the broadcasting of radio signals, so one of the more practical steps toward stronger Wi-Fi security is to make those radio signals harder for people outside of your business or home to access.

    Make sure the range of your router’s signal is no longer than it needs to be — there are ways to make these adjustments on your own if you’re worried your signal range is overextending itself.

    Conclusion: Be proactive, not reactive, about Wi-Fi security

    The importance of wireless security and having a secure wireless network to protect you from the dangerous actions of cybercriminals cannot be overstated. Hackers are too savvy (not to mention numerous), and they’re on the constant lookout for any vulnerability to exploit.

    Wi-Fi security is all about being proactive.

     

    By taking the necessary steps — such as creating new, complicated wireless passwords on a regular schedule, modifying your defaults, and keeping your router’s firmware up to date — you’ll be able to better keep you, your loved ones, and/or your business protected from those looking to abuse your privacy and steal your assets.

    Are you ready to take another step toward enhancing the wireless security of your website?

    GoDaddy’s suite of web security tools can help get you there. Keeping your web properties safe from negative outside forces is a challenge, but embracing the best Wi-Fi security practices and exploring proactive software solutions is a good start.

    The post Wi-Fi security — 10 wireless security basics to secure your wireless network appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    Make sure the house smells amazing. Strategically place plants and flowers. Offer a free truck to move. Get professional photography. All are great tips to help you sell your latest listing. But today’s real estate shoppers have more choices than ever to find their next home. How do you get them to your doorstep? More often than not they’re turning to search engines to find the right home, the right agent and the right finance package. That’s why it’s time to build a real estate website that will make your property the right pick.

    An amazing real estate website helps you capture the attention of these new prospects in the market, as well as keep the attention of existing customers who are in the market for a new home.

    Forty-four percent of all buyers looked online for properties for sale as the first step in their home-buying process, compared with only 17% who contacted a real estate agent as the first step. Ninety-three percent of all homebuyers overall used an online website in their home search — including 99% of millennials and 90% of older baby boomers.

    Everything you need to build a real estate website

    In this guide, we’ll review how to build your website using easy-to-use real estate website builders and templates, as well as the key features your website needs to win over the competition.

    Here are the topics we’ll cover:

    Related: How to start a real estate business in 10 steps

    How to build a real estate website

    While you’re an amazing real estate agent or broker, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to have the necessary tech skills to build a real estate website. And since you’re busy showing homes, writing contracts and marketing new listings, you probably don’t want to take the time to get those tech skills.

    That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a website that reflects your business acumen and lays the foundation for your real estate business.

    Before you build your site, you’ll need two things: a domain name and hosting.

     

    Once you have these two components, you can decide if you’d like to build your own real estate website, or work with a website designer to build it for you. If you want to be in control of your website layout, content and design, you may want to use a DIY real estate website builder. It’s also a lower-cost way to build your own website than hiring a custom website designer.

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    Buying a domain for your real estate website

    Before you start building your new real estate website, you’ll need a domain name. The domain name is what people type into the address bar of their browser to get to your website — like godaddy.com.

    Buying a domain name is straightforward, especially when you use a trusted domain registrar. Whether you choose to purchase your domain through GoDaddy or another company, make sure that the registrar:

    • Is accredited by ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which is the governing body over domain name registrars.
    • Gives you full control over your domain. Some registrars will retain partial control, including adding their own contact information to part of the domain registration (making it hard to transfer it to a different registrar), or preventing you from pointing your domain to your desired hosting provider.
    • Provides high-quality support when you need it. Although you never expect something to go wrong, your registrar should be there to help you troubleshoot if it does. Verify customer service availability — before you buy! — so you don’t miss valuable traffic and customers because of a challenge with the registrar.
    • Offers additional domain options and pricing. Your domain is not likely to be the biggest expense of your real estate website. In fact, most domain extensions are available for $20 or less per year. There are other features like domain privacy, theft protection and automatic renewal to consider when picking a registrar.

    Related: How much does a domain name cost?

    Choosing a domain name

    Even with all of these considerations, the hardest and most important part is picking the right domain name for your real estate website.

    You want your domain name to:

    1. Be short and sweet. Your domain name isn’t the time to roll out your best puns. Save those for the open house!

    You want your domain to be easy to remember, say and spell.

     

    You’ll use it throughout your marketing — from bus shelters to radio ads and, of course, those “For Sale” signs in front of all your listings.

    2. Include your location. Including your location in your domain is useful for your customers and search engines. For example, you may be selling real estate in Loveland, Ohio, but if you’re not clear on your site, you may start getting questions from Loveland, Colorado. Some location-based domain extensions available now include .nyc, .boston and .la.

    3. Use new domain extensions. If your area doesn’t have a location-based extension yet, you also can get creative using other new domain extensions including:

    Related: Domain extensions guide: What you need to know before you pick a domain name

    4. Be unique. It’s tempting when you see a competitor doing well to try to follow in their footsteps. Online, it’s even more important to be distinct. An online visitor can’t remember the smell of home-baked sugar cookies you bring to every open house (instead of the standard vanilla citrus trick simmering on the stove), so you need other elements of your site to stand out. This can include your domain and brand name.

    Build A Real Estate Website Yellow Umbrella Different

    Determining if your domain name is available

    Once you’ve created a short list of potential domain names, it’s time to see what’s available. Unfortunately, just plugging it into your browser doesn’t always work. Sometimes domains are owned but still go to a “site not found” page because the owner hasn’t actually built their website.

    To find out if your top domain choice is available, use the GoDaddy domain search tool. Enter your preferred domain name in the search bar and one of two things will happen:

    1. Your domain will be available. From here, you’ll be prompted to complete your domain registration and add it to your cart.
    2. Your domain will already be owned. If this is the case, you’ll get a list of similar suggestions to choose from. You can choose one of these domains that meets the criteria above, or you can start a new search with another domain from your list.

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    Using a real estate website builder

    If you’ve chosen to go the do-it-yourself route to build your real estate website, there’s good news. Unlike the real estate websites of 15 years ago, you don’t need an advanced degree or even a bunch of technical skills to use a website builder tool like the GoDaddy Websites + Marketing.

    Website builders allow you to set up your new real estate website quickly, with templates designed and tested to work specifically for your business needs, like these real estate templates.

    GoDaddy Websites + Marketing

    GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing gives you all-in-one control of your website, from custom themes to mobile responsiveness, integrated SEO capabilities, royalty-free images, and email marketing tools to help you keep in touch with your clients.

    Plus, the GoDaddy Websites + Marketing has integrated IDX capabilities to help your site visitors and customers find their new home faster and easier than ever before.

    GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing brings all of these tools into one easy-to-use tool that you can even update from your mobile phone while you’re at an open house.

    You won’t have to hunt for and configure plugins or pay for additional tools.

    You can even get started with a free trial of GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing. Once you get started, all you need to do is choose from a variety of real estate website templates, personalize your details and images, and publish.

    GoDaddy Sample Real Estate Template
    Choose from a variety of beautiful real estate website templates with GoDaddy Websites + Marketing.

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    Key features your real estate website needs

    After you’ve picked your domain, secured hosting for your website and chosen a real estate website builder, the real fun of building your own website starts: developing content and adding features.

    Think of it like actually starting to look at houses after you’ve narrowed down school districts, the number of bedrooms and the buyer’s price range.

    Every real estate website should include:

    1. Searchable listings
    2. Photos
    3. Contact information
    4. Resources and content
    5.  Testimonials
    6. Mobile-responsive technology

    Related: Easy real estate content marketing

    Searchable listings

    Today’s homebuyers are more empowered than ever. They aren’t just looking for validation about the real estate agent. They use online real estate sites to get information about available homes that they can choose from now.

    By adding searchable listings to your website, you’re empowering potential buyers to research listings.

    Feeling empowered gives them confidence in what they want to see, and saves you time in sharing listings that they may not be interested in.

    When you’re developing your website, you should make sure that you integrate searchable listing tools, like the IDX tools available with the GoDaddy Websites + Marketing or MLS search tools.

    Photos

    Build A Real Estate Website House For Sale

    “Beautiful three bedroom, two bath ranch with wood flooring and fresh paint throughout!” Every homebuyer who reads that description is going to have a very different vision of what that home looks like — from the color of the wood floors to the placement of the toilets in relation to the sinks.

    Photos capture the imagination and passion of potential homebuyers in a way that no written description can.

     

    And since 76% of all homebuyers found their home on a mobile device, your photos and photo gallery need to be accessible wherever your buyers are looking.

    In addition to being able to search for available properties, your website should welcome visitors in with high-quality images from the moment they land on your website.

    Beyond just adding photos, consider adding virtual tours and floor plans to your listings when possible. Fifty-two percent of homebuyers found online floor plans very useful, while 46% found virtual tours very useful.

    Related: Real estate agents get ahead of the competition with visual search

    Contact information

    When a homebuyer is excited to see a house, they don’t want to have to wait for someone to respond to a contact form or dig around for contact information.

    Make sure your contact information is easy to find when they’ve found the house they want. Don’t bury it or relegate it to a subsidiary page.

    Instead, make sure your contact information is always visible on every screen. This may mean including your phone number in a sticky header as well as the footer of the website.

    Also, give people many different ways to reach you. Some will prefer to text, while others want to talk over the phone. Others prefer email, even if it takes a little longer to get a response.

    Resources and content

    Whether your clients are buying their first house or their 10th, there are still resources that they need and things they can learn. Your website can and should give access to these resources including things like:

    • House-search checklists
    • How-to-find-a-lender guide
    • Links to school information
    • Regional event calendars
    • Utility information
    • Weather
    • Gardening
    • New housing developments
    • Government regulation changes

    This is a great opportunity for you to introduce a blog to your real estate website. With a blog, you provide valuable information to your prospective, current and even past customers about the area in which you live, new developments, opportunities and more.

    Having a blog gives you a reason to keep in touch with prospects and past customers so that when they are ready to make a purchase, you’re top of mind.

    Creating these resources and blog posts establishes your expertise and helps you build trust with potential clients. You can write about virtually anything related to the home buying (and selling) process — from finding your first home, preparing your home for sale, and even local housing market reports. \

    This range of content helps position your company as a local expert.

     

    Plus, these additional resources and content that you’re posting create SEO value for your real estate website. Each new post encourages search engines, including Google and Bing, to revisit your site. You don’t have to blog daily (or even weekly) to reap these benefits.

    One word of warning, however. Make sure that your content is accurate and error-free. This includes fact-checking your content as well as reviewing your grammar and punctuation with a tool like Grammarly. Errors in content or grammar can reduce the trust that you’ve been working on building with prospective clients.

    Testimonials

    Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions and transitions that will happen in someone’s life — financially and emotionally. Trusting the real estate agent or broker is key to reducing the stress that comes with this decision.

    As a real estate company, your business depends on word-of-mouth advertising, recommendations and referrals. Testimonials from previous happy homebuyers help you build the trust of new buyers, even if they were referred by another previous customer.

    What is a testimonial?

    It’s simply a direct quote from a client about how great your business and service is.

     

    They’re generally short and direct and accompanied by a photo of the happy buyer.

    The good news is that it’s usually pretty easy to get a testimonial. You simply have to ask. To get a good testimonial, timing is key. The best moment is not long after a homebuyer has gotten the keys to their new home — but before they discover that their couch doesn’t quite fit under the window they way they expected.

    One of the easiest ways is to send out a satisfaction survey with just a few short questions:

    • How do you like your new home?
    • How would you rate your experience in purchasing your new home?
    • Would you recommend our services to others? If so, why?

    Of course, this survey also gives you the opportunity to address any challenges that may have come up through the purchasing and closing process.

    Mobile-responsive technology

    Build A Real Estate Website Man And Woman On Mobile

    Today’s homebuyers don’t stay tethered behind their computer screens. They’re searching for a new home at brunch, at the gym or even on their lunch breaks at work. Sometimes they’re even looking up the website after they’ve driven past an open house sign in a desirable neighborhood. As of May 2019, web searches are happening more often on mobile than they are on desktop.

    So, how do you capture that spontaneous website traffic?

    You make sure your real estate website is responsive.

    A responsive website adapts easily to different screen sizes. They are designed to work great on smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktop computers.

    Your real estate website design should be responsive based on the builder that you choose. Builders like WordPress and GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing help you build a responsive website automatically, but you should be sure to test your website across a wide variety of devices to ensure it looks and behaves the way you want it to.

    A responsive website doesn’t just enhance the experience for your prospective customers. A responsive real estate website design also helps you improve your search engine ranking, making it easier for homebuyers to find and choose you.

    Additional real estate website features

    Once you’ve covered the must-haves of your real estate website, there are also a few nice-to-haves to consider. These include:

    CRM integration

    A CRM (customer relationship management system) helps you stay in touch with your prospective, current and past client needs.

    With CRM, you can track all of the details of how you met the prospect, what they’re looking for in a new home, their budget, and their timeline to purchase. You can even set it up to remind you when to follow up so you never miss an opportunity for a connection.

    By connecting your CRM to your website, you can have new leads who request information about a listing get populated automatically into your CRM.

    Related: How to connect WordPress to a CRM

    Calculators

    Money is everyone’s concern — from how much they can afford to how much their monthly payments are going to be. Integrating a calculator into your website is an advanced feature, but can also help you get and keep users on your website.

    Chatbots

    An integrated chatbot is a great way to build connections and generate leads for your real estate business. With today’s chatbot tools, you can set up automatic conversations using simple logic trees to engage customers when they’re most interested in getting more information.

    Related: Best practices for online customer service

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    Must-have real estate website design elements

    Build A Real Estate Website Desk Hand Laptop

    When you’re selling a house, it’s all about curb appeal. Well, curb appeal applies to your real estate website too!

    Your website should immediately appeal to your target market with magnificent imagery, color choices and even typography that suit your industry and clients.

    Beyond the visual appeal, your site also needs to be easy to use, provide social proof and provide lots of fresh, useful content.

    Color choices and typography

    Do you often work with laid-back families or high-powered corporate executives? The color choices and fonts that you use, as well as the images you select will connect you to the right customers while gently pushing the non-ideal away.

    You may want to dip your toe into color psychology to pick the right colors for your business. To get you started, here are a few general guidelines for marketing in the United States:

    • Red: Energetic and a sense of urgency
    • Orange: Aggressive, call-to-action
    • Blue: Trustworthy, security
    • Green: Relaxing, wealth
    • Yellow: Optimistic
    • Pink: Romantic, feminine
    • Black: Powerful, luxurious
    • Purple: Soothing and calming, respect and wisdom
    • Grey: Practicality
    • White: Purity, cleanliness and safety

    Related: How to choose brand colors and use them on your website

    Easy to use

    We’ve already talked about how important it is to have searchable listings on your website, but just plugging in a clunky search tool isn’t going to cut it.

    From navigating to your site to finding your contact information, everything on your site needs to be easy to use.

    As Steve Krug reminded us in his bestselling web usability book “Don’t Make Me Think,” the harder it is for users to achieve their goals on your website, the more likely they are to leave.

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    Leveraging your real estate website to build your real estate business

    Whether you’re planning to build a real estate website from scratch or optimizing and updating an existing website with new features and functionality, there are many more ways to use your website than just clicking publish.

    If you’re using social media to market your real estate business, make sure you share links to your site on your social media channels, and link to your social media channels from your website.

    You can share links to see new listings, check out your latest checklist or blog post, and even share new testimonials as part of your social media marketing strategy.

    You should also update your email signature with your new website address, so it’s easy for clients and other professionals to reach your website whenever they need it.

    This is also a great time to get new business cards. Yes, even in this era of instant messaging, texting, chatbots and social media channels, business cards still have a place in your marketing strategy.

    Adding your website address to your offline marketing tools, from business cards to flyers and yard signs, lets customers access your website to browse new listings and learn from your expert blog posts.

    Beyond just using your website to support clients you’ve already connected with, you can also use your website to reach new clients. Integrating an email list into your website allows you to drive visits to your properties and nurture relationships, building know-like-trust factors.

    Ready to take the next step? Get started with a free trial of GoDaddy Websites + Marketing and a real estate website template. Start today, and have an amazing website in hours, not weeks or months.

    The post How to build a real estate website the easy way appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    This post was originally published on August 3, 2017, and was updated on October 9, 2019.

    If you’ve ever seriously looked into making your money work for you, you’ve probably already heard of the benefits of real estate investment. The combination of equity and income from properties looks attractive to most investors, especially those who are focused on building wealth over the long term.

    Many investors, however, focus only on acting individually and never learn how to start a real estate investment company. Little do they know, forming an investment company is one of the best ways to grow and prosper as a real estate investor.

    With a real estate investment company, you can increase your profits, draw on the cumulative power of a team of specialists, and expand as you go.

    To see the power of forming a company, look no further than the example of New York property mogul, Jeff Sutton. A native of Brooklyn descended from immigrant grandparents, Sutton started off in real estate by finding a property for a discount shoe store.

    Through his company, Wharton Properties, Sutton now manages some of the highest-paying storefront rentals in New York and has accrued a personal worth of over $4 billion.

    Sutton is just one of many real estate investors who’ve achieved massive success by creating a real estate investment company.

    How to start a real estate investment company

    Here are some business ideas that you can use to start your real estate investment company:

    1. Choose a business structure.
    2. Consult a tax expert.
    3. Preparation: Education or experience?
    4. Funding your company.
    5. Join forces or go it alone?

    Ready to become a real estate billionaire? Here are the steps on how to start a real estate investment company.

    1. Choose a business structure

    Whenever someone asks me how to start a real estate investment company, one of the very first things I tell them to do is choose a business structure and establish their business entity.

    This entity exists for two key reasons:

    1. To create a line of demarcation between you as an individual and your business. This protects your personal assets from liability.
    2. To allow you to hire employees.

    How to Start a Real Estate Investment Company Homes

    A few of the more common options for business structuring are:

    • Sole Proprietorship
    • LLC (Limited Liability Corporation)
    • S-Corp
    • C-Corp (traditional corporation)

    Because of the size of the potential liability with real estate deals, it’s generally a good idea to form an entity that will separate your personal assets from those of your company, which can be accomplished with an LLC, S-Corp or C-Corp.

    There’s also the option of forming an LLC and opting to have it taxed as an S-Corp. This offers the tax advantage of not having to pay self-employment tax under certain circumstances, potentially saving you a large personal income tax bill.

    2. Consult a tax expert

    The next step in starting your real estate investment company is to get a tax expert involved.

    Before any money changes hands through your company, you need to be sure that all expenses are being properly tracked and that all profits you make are being taxed in the appropriate manner. Improper tax payments can have major financial and legal impacts down the road.

    For small ventures, an accountant who specializes in real estate investment businesses will likely suffice.

    As your company grows, however, there will probably come a point where retaining a professional tax attorney makes sense. Tax attorneys are more capable of handling large, complex businesses, and are also extremely useful in the event of an audit.

    3. Preparation: Education or experience?

    There are many different paths that can prepare you to start a real estate investment company. Some investors, including Jeff Sutton, built their careers on an academic background of studying business. Others, however, have built large real estate firms relying more on hands-on experience.

    How to Start a Real Estate Investment Company Chess

    If you don’t have standing real estate experience, pursuing a degree in business is an excellent way to get started.

    Even if you don’t have the time or resources to earn a degree at a prestigious university, a basic business education will prepare you for:

    • Financing your investment company
    • Properly managing risk and liability
    • Evaluating potential returns
    • A plethora of other activities that will make or break your new investment company

    If you’re already experienced as a real estate solopreneur, the jump to a real estate investment company is shorter than you might think.

    4. Funding your company

    As important as it is to have a dynamic team on your side, your company will also need initial capital if it is to succeed. Real estate investing companies have several options:

    Private investors

    Securing private investors is often seen as one of the best ways to raise capital for a new investment venture. In order to do this, however, you will have to conform to the guidelines set by the SEC or the equivalent regulatory body in your state or country.

    Online crowdfunding

    Another way to get the money you need for real estate deals is to go through equity crowdfunding websites.

    While equity crowdfunding still carries the regulatory burdens of the SEC, it allows you to source your funding from a much wider pool of investors using digital platforms, which can make the fundraising process substantially easier.

    Small business loans

    If you would prefer not to go through the hassle of dealing with financial regulators, you can also secure a small business loan.

    Despite the difficulties of conforming to investment regulations, most real estate investment companies still prefer to use money from investors, as it allows them to source capital as needed for new projects and deals, rather than relying on a loan process from a bank or financial institution.

    Related: 10 small business funding options — from angel investment to traditional loans

    5. Join forces or go it alone?

    Whether you’re just taking your first steps in real estate investing or are looking to expand your existing investment activities, exploring how to start a real estate investment company should be part of your path forward.

    Some real estate investors are perfectly happy to carry on as one-person operations.

     

    Be aware, however, that forming a company may not be right for every investor. Ultimately, you should pursue the path that best fits your personal investment and income goals.

    Related: How agents can find more real estate investment properties in 7 steps

    Wrapping up

    If you have always wanted to own your own startup business, starting a real estate investment company may be a good fit for you. Once you start your real estate investment company, you will need to learn how to find the best properties to invest in next.

    Are you ready to start? Using these tips from starting up to funding your venture, you can become a real estate investor and make money on properties.

    The post How to start a real estate investment company appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    Domain security is important for any domain owner, but especially so for domain investors and businesses. The first protection you should know how to use is built into the most basic management of your domain: the EPP code.

    Without proper protection like this auth code, your domain name could be open season for hijackers and impersonators who can steal it away from your account, leaving you little, if any, recourse to get it back.

    This guide will help you protect your domains from fraud or theft by introducing you to the domain industry’s best security practices. There are default security methods that come standard with every domain purchase, and others that can be added for extra domain security.

    Here’s what this guide will cover:

    • What is an EPP code?
    • How does an EPP code secure my domain?
    • How do I get the EPP codes for my domains?
    • What other ways can I protect my domain?

    Ready to jump in? Let’s go.

    Related: Domain security best practices

    What is an EPP code?

    Sometimes called an auth code (abbreviated from authorization code), auth-info code, or transfer code, an EPP code is a unique identifier that is assigned to each domain name. EPP codes come standard as a security method for all domain names.

    You can retrieve an EPP code for any of your domains through the registrar where you currently manage your domain.

    The EPP code appears as a random string of letters and numbers. Each domain you manage will have its own unique auth code, and any registrar that receives a request to transfer in your domain will need the code to verify ownership of a domain in order to start the transfer.

    Related: How to transfer your domain name to GoDaddy

    How does an EPP code secure my domain?

    Think of the EPP code for each domain in your portfolio like the deed to a house. In order to transfer ownership of your domain or move your domain from the management of one registrar to another, you must provide the EPP code or auth code first.

    The EPP code assigned to your domain(s) acts as an additional password, giving you a clear, irrefutable way to prove ownership of your domain. Essentially your EPP code centralizes the control over your domain to one specific contact, leaving no room for malicious actors to seize the domain without account access.

    The biggest threat EPP codes safeguard against is domain hijacking.

     

    This happens when a bad actor gains unauthorized access to the control panel of a domain, allowing them to change the settings. This includes transferring the domain’s ownership to another registrar or to another person.

    Hijackers may try any variety of identity theft methods to gain unauthorized access to your domains, but without access to your account, the hijacker will be thwarted.

    Your auth code acts like a password, which stands as a line of defense against their attacks. The hijacker would need the correct auth code in order to steal or transfer the domain.

    Related: Domain name ownership tips

    How do I get the EPP codes for my domains?

    Each of your domains comes standard with its own corresponding EPP or auth code, which is generated by your registrar at the time you create the domain. Your EPP code stays securely locked away in your account until it is required if you choose to make a transfer or ownership change on your domain.

    You can retrieve your EPP code yourself by simply following your registrar’s instructions on requesting the auth code for your domain(s), which are usually listed in their help documentation, just like you find at GoDaddy.

    Per regulation implemented by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), EPP codes are only given out to the contact listed in the WHOIS information on the corresponding domain.

    In practice, this means that anyone who can access your domain management account can retrieve auth codes for your domains, so adding extra layers of security to both your domain account and your domain names is highly recommended.

    What other ways can I protect my domain?

    Barb Wire Fence Security Camera Illustrates EPP Code for Domain Security

    There are many options available to secure your domain in addition to EPP codes. Let’s look at a few (listed in order of highest security) and go over their various uses.

    1. Registry lock

    Placing a registry lock on your domain adds two layers of security to your domain before any changes or transfers can be made to it. When a registry lock is applied, no attributes of your domain are changeable and no transfer or deletion transactions can be processed, with the exception of renewals.

    For example, if you registered YourBrandName.xyz and added a registry lock, and then wish to move or transfer ownership of the domain, you must work with your registrar, who will then in turn work with the XYZ registry (operator of the .xyz domain extension) to lift the registry lock.

    Having both registrar and registry work together before a change is made to your domain adds two extra sets of security checks and prevents hijacking by placing strong barriers between your domain and the potential thief.

    Though this is just an example case, XYZ is one of the domain registries that supports registry lock for its entire family of domains:

    .xyz
    .college
    .rent
    .security
    .protection
    .storage
    .theatre
    .cars
    .car
    .auto
    .baby
    .monster

    If you have a name registered with any of XYZ’s extensions, you can apply registry lock today and keep your domain safe.

    2. Registrar lock

    Similar to registry lock, registrar lock applies a status code to your domain that prevents any modification of it including transfer or deletion, an important note for domain investors and businesses who secure long term registrations.

    Depending on the features provided by your registrar, initiating a registrar lock can also prevent modification of the domain’s contact details or DNS settings.

    In addition to the EPP code, having a registrar lock on your domain makes it more difficult for the domain to be quickly transferred to another registrar, a common first step that domain hijackers will take.

    3. Privacy protection

    WHOIS data, or the contact information associated with a domain upon registration, is available as a public record. If you’ve registered a domain without WHOIS privacy protection, anyone on the web can easily look up your domain in a WHOIS search tool and find your contact information.

    In addition to your personal information being public, including your physical address, this can invite spam, or worse, domain hijacking.

    WHOIS privacy protection makes this data private, so it is not available publicly via WHOIS search.

     

    Once privacy protection is enabled, anyone running a WHOIS search on domains you own will be able to see only non-identifying details about your domain, like the creation (or registration) date and the date the domain is set to expire. Your name, email address, physical address and country will all remain private.

    4. HTTPS

    You may be familiar with the little green lock seen in most browser’s URL bars. This means you are browsing a site that has an SSL certificate and has enabled HTTPS, which encrypts the data being transferred between your computer and the site.

    When you load a site with a URL using HTTPS, hackers cannot snoop on information being transmitted between you and the site you are visiting.

    This prevents them from doing things like reading the information you submit in forms (credit card numbers, addresses, etc.) or making any false changes to the content of the site as you view it. At the highest levels, HTTPS can help to certify the identity of who is on the other end of a website.

    Having HTTPS enabled on your site is critically important if you are looking to generate traffic to your domain.

    Customers need to know they can safely access your site without fear of risking valuable private information or being exposed to malicious action.

     

    Check what level of authentication your SSL certificate provides, and be sure you have the level you need for your site.

    5. Two-factor authentication

    Two-factor authentication (2FA) security systems are rapidly becoming a requirement for many email and other online services. The system works by adding a requirement that a passkey or code be entered before accessing a domain manager’s account.

    When logging in to make changes to a domain name in an account with 2FA, an authorization code is sent to an address that only the true domain owner should be able to access.

    By entering a password and verifying the specific code sent via the 2FA system, you are proving twice that you are truly the owner of the account.

    You can enable two-factor authentication on your GoDaddy account, or you can use a third-party authentication service like Google Authenticator, which allows you to store authorization codes in an app on your phone.

    Related: What is two-step verification?

    6. DNSSEC

    Woman Typing on Laptop Represents Domain Security Practices

    The DNS (Domain Name System) is the backbone of online communication in every form, from emails to website URLs to fetching images. It takes user-friendly information, like a website address, translates it into code, and guides that information to the correct location to resolve the content you requested in your browser.

    If you are planning to use your domain as a way to harness the power of the DNS naming system, for example by using a domain like MyCryptoWallet.xyz to give a custom name to your cryptocurrency wallet, then DNSSEC is an important feature you should enable.

    DNSSEC adds an extra layer of protection to your domain by allowing it to cryptographically sign your DNS records.

     

    This “handshake” system will then use the public key possessed by your domain’s registry to verify the cryptographic signature. Domains equipped with DNSSEC must match the key listed on the DNS in order to be accessed.

    This auth code prevents the use of spoofing techniques to mask a malicious site as a safe one when it resolves.

    You can think of DNSSEC in simple terms as the SSL of domain names, but with a much stronger fraud check system that increases the difficulty of intercepting information when a visitor accesses your domain or website.

    7. SPF Record

    If you use your domain to send and receive email, SPF is a helpful tool to prevent spammers from sending other, malicious mail via your domain.

    SPF uses the DNS to allow you to choose which email servers your emails are authorized to be sent from.

    This prevents spammers from spoofing your domain name and sending bogus emails with your domain in the “From” field.

    It also helps prevent your emails from being marked as spam or disregarded because of malicious action on a server you are using.

    When you send an email from a domain using SPF, email servers will verify that the sender is legitimate using an SPF record that you previously published in the DNS. This SPF record lists the email servers that you previously determined to be authorized senders.

    Having a properly set up SPF record builds trust in emails coming from your domain.

     

    It also helps protect against malicious emails being sent on a server connected to your domain, which can help you avoid many inboxing issues for outgoing mail.

    Conclusion

    Taking the short amount of time required to set up security measures that protect your domains is well worth the effort. While being knowledgeable about EPP or auth codes is a great start, cybercriminals are constantly seeking to develop new methods of theft and fraud.

    Enacting enhanced security measures on your domains will help protect them from different vulnerabilities and help you to do the best you can to protect your piece of the internet.

    Now that you’ve educated yourself on how to keep your domain names protected, keep the ball rolling and make sure you are safe online wherever you go by following these best practices for staying safe on the web.

    Developing strong cybersecurity habits is key to protecting your most valuable assets and information online. Armed with this knowledge, you can confidently protect your domain assets and focus on making the most out of your domains.

    The post What you need to know about domain security and EPP codes appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    As a freelancer, you need a clear understanding of web design pricing. Overcharge for your services, and you’ll have a hard time attracting customers; undercharge, and you’ll never be able to keep the business afloat.

    Finding your ideal rate is essential. Every project you take will be a little bit different, but when you have a solid grasp of the value of your time and services, it’s easy to build a pricing strategy that helps your business grow.

    To get it right, you not only need to know how much to charge to build a website, you also need to understand the costs of your business, how pricing impacts customer relationships, what profit margins exist, and so much more.

    We’ve put together five strategies to help you gain more insight into how to build a web design pricing strategy that not only recognizes the value of your work but also helps you grow your business.

    • Know the true cost of running your business
    • Find the pricing model that fits
    • Use price as a negotiation tool
    • Offer a payment plan
    • Increase your price as your value increases

    Know the true cost of running your web design business

    There’s a lot that goes into building a freelance web design business before you even start working on a client project. In addition to gaining practical experience, there are tools to purchase, certifications to obtain, skills to brush up on, and so much more. Determining your ideal price starts by understanding the costs that go into running your business.

    To help survey what exactly your costs are, break your business down into different segments:

    • Equipment: Computers, tablets, router, pens, paper, printer, etc.
    • Subscriptions and licenses: High-speed internet, website hosting, domain registry, design software, etc.
    • Home office needs: Desk, chair, lamps, fan, speakers, etc.
    • Education and training: Online courses, certifications, accreditations, etc.
    • Marketing and advertising: Ad spend, conference travel, email service provider, etc.

    Now you know how much really goes into providing your services to clients. With a comprehensive list of payments, you’ll always know how to cover operational costs with your price whenever you take on a new project.

    Having an outline of your operating costs also helps justify your price to customers. Design services, specifically freelance design services, can easily be undervalued by potential customers if they don’t understand what goes into the web design process. If you’re ever in a situation where customers are concerned or confused about a price you’ve quoted, a clear statement of your costs will help you clear things up.

    If you want to be even more transparent, you can list what you pay for each segment on the pricing page for any potential customer to review.

    Find the pricing model that fits

    There are a lot of different pricing models, each with their own unique benefits. The right pricing model for your business will factor in not only the operating costs of your business but the type of services you provide and the individual project you’re working on. Codifying each aspect of your business makes your pricing decisions more easily understandable to customers.

    To get started, choose an overarching strategy. Below are three popular choices:

    • Value-based pricing – This model is built on the idea that your price is a representation of the value your services provide to customers. It requires a concrete understanding of their needs as well as knowledge of their willingness to pay. The best way to gain more insight into customers is through direct interviews and research.
    • Cost-plus pricing – Instead of focusing on the customers who purchase your services, cost-plus pricing looks at the cost of running your web design business as the basis for a pricing strategy. To implement this strategy, you take the costs of running your business, which we talked through earlier, and apply a percentage on top as your profit. While simple to use, cost-plus pricing is inefficient and doesn’t consider what customers are actually willing to pay for your services.
    • Competitor-based pricing – As the name states, competitor-based pricing looks at other players in the market to determine the price of your web design services. Basically, you see what other people are charging for similar services and copy them. Competitor-based pricing is also easy to implement but doesn’t optimize your price and may lead to difficulty in the future if your competitors don’t truly understand their pricing either.

    Most freelancers charge by the hour when starting out, which helps you hone in on a price that most clients will understand. Hourly pricing also helps you build an efficient working schedule and makes clients more conscientious about your time. Just remember that using an hourly rate makes you beholden to a set delivery window — which, if exceeded, is a negative experience for the customer.

    Potential clients will likely prefer a per-project rate. It’s easier for them to conceptualize and fit into their marketing budget. But per-project pricing can be beneficial for freelancers as well. Product-based pricing will:

    • help you define the real value of your services,
    • allow for more freedom than hourly rates, and
    • give you an easy upsell path if a client needs additional work.

    Using a combination of these two pricing strategies will help cover almost any kind of work you need to do for clients. And it gives you the ability to tailor the price to the unique needs of every customer.

    Use price as a negotiation tool

    Defining your pricing model and rate structure helps make price negotiation easier. Building your web design business can take time, and some customers will be unwilling or unable to pay exactly what you quote them. It’s important to stick with the prices you have set as often as possible, but knowing what wiggle room you have will make pricing conversations smoother.

    Just remember, undervaluing your services not only makes it difficult to keep your business running, but it will also slowly degrade your brand over time.

    That said, negotiating your price can have a positive impact on customer relationships. People want to feel like they’re getting a deal. That’s why bringing down the price can help you make the sale, as long as you’re careful not to undercut the value of your services. Most larger, more established companies have clearly defined rules about how much they can spend on certain services, so if you don’t meet the mark, you’ll lose out on those opportunities.

    Just make sure you always have a signed agreement before any work is started. Price negotiation should always happen at the beginning of the relationship.

    Hand shake

    If you’re working with per-project pricing, you can also use features and additional services to adjust pricing.

    Here’s an example. Let’s say you’ve been in conversation with a potential new client, and they’re looking for you to build a website for their home organization business. The site itself will be pretty straightforward, a home page, pricing page, about us page, etc. But the client also wants to integrate their Instagram feed into an area of the site, which is much more difficult.

    Your original quote might look like this:

    • Website design services – $500
    • Instagram integration – $100
    • Site maintenance – $15/month or $150/year

    The client isn’t able to pay the additional $100 for your Instagram integration but is more than willing to accept the base price and ongoing site maintenance. For the sake of this example, your customer has a pretty substantial following on social and is growing at a steady pace. Completing their site would help increase awareness of your web design services for a much larger audience.

    Considering these factors, it would make sense to negotiate the price of the Instagram integration to $50 or even $0, as long as it doesn’t undercut the costs on your end. In doing so, you’ll be making the customer happy, closing a deal you otherwise would have lost and increasing awareness of your brand. That’s a win across the board.

    Offer a payment plan

    Not every client will be able to afford the cost of your services upfront. And some projects have ongoing responsibilities that can’t be covered by a one-time payment. In these situations, it’s beneficial to create a payment plan strategy. Take building a website versus maintaining one. While it’s easy to calculate the price of building a website because there’s a fixed deliverable; the price of maintaining a website may be subject to change over time.

    Payment plans also help you categorize the different types of projects you’ll do for clients.

    Payment plan templates you can use

    As you build out the different types of services offered by your web design business, choosing the right payment plan template will help you create a pricing structure that makes sense.

    • Monthly recurring payments – A monthly payment is ideal for work that requires an ongoing relationship with the customer, like site maintenance and monitoring. You’ll receive a predictable, recurring payment based on your contract with the client, which is ultimately less stressful than chasing after payment directly. Typically, a monthly payment plan is based on a specific invoicing date every month with a grace period. When you’re building a contract, just make sure to include a cancellation policy, otherwise, you’ll be caught by surprise when someone stops payment.
    • Annual recurring payments – Similar to monthly payments but on an annual basis. Annual plans are your opportunity to offer a discount to potential customers to ensure a more long-term relationship. You can use a quarterly or biannual cadence if that works better for the client.

    Recurring subscription payments make a lot of sense in certain circumstances but can be harder to implement for more project- or feature-based work. For traditional one-off situations, it makes sense to offer a different type of payment plan.

    • Payment upon completion – Standard for the web design market, payment is rendered when the project is complete. Also called payment upon acceptance, this type of plan ensures that both parties are satisfied with the results before payment is made.
    • Split payments – If you’re not comfortable putting the work into a project without first receiving some payment, you can also split the payments in two, 50% at the beginning of the project and 50% at the end. A percentage prepayment ensures that you are held accountable for your work and acts as evidence of the trust you have with the client.
    • Payment per feature – Use a per-feature payment plan for larger projects that will take a considerable amount of time. Instead of working through to the end of a big website build, your client will pay based on the individual features you create over time. A feature-based payment plan lends itself to long-term relationships as opposed to one-off projects.

    Your best option is to create a number of templates for the various types of services your web design business offers. When you come to a client meeting with options available, it’s easier to make a deal that both parties are happy with.

    Increase your web design price as your value grows

    When you’re just starting out as a freelancer, the expectation is that you’ll take almost any work available, as long as it pays. As your business grows and you become more proficient and well-known as a designer, you should reevaluate your pricing strategy.

    At the very least, look at how your pricing is structured on a yearly basis. Check into the current market standards as well as your past work history to see how things have changed. If a particular tool has become more expensive or you’ve started using another service more often, consider increasing your price to adjust for the difference.

    Yearly periods of evaluation are also a great opportunity to interview customers (both past and present) and learn more about what they value about your business. If their willingness to pay is much higher than you’re charging, it might be time to increase your prices. With steady changes, scaling your services becomes easier over time.

    Understanding web design pricing helps you build your business

    Pricing is often one of the things that intimidates freelancers when they’re starting out. But it’s also one of the most important decisions you make at the start of your business. When you know how to build a web design pricing strategy that helps your company grow, you’re making it easier to tap into the most revenue potential possible.

    Effectively pricing your services also ensures that you can always handle the workload required to sustain your business.

    Save time with free tools and resources for web designers and developers. Join GoDaddy Pro for free. 

    The post How to set the best web design pricing for your freelance business appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    This post was originally published on August 3, 2017 and was updated on October 10, 2019.

    There’s never been a better time to beef up your security with stronger passwords. A Consumer Reports survey found that more than 50 percent of U.S. adults have six or more password-protected accounts online. Other research suggests that by 2020, there will be 100 billion online passwords in use all around the globe. Each one of these accounts is a potential target for hackers — and needs stronger passwords.

    Consumer Reports research suggests that poor website security is a major concern across the web, which makes it easier for hackers to gain access to highly personal information. (Take the recent Macy’s data breach as just one example.) Meanwhile, better hacking tools and lower hacking costs mean there are more hackers than ever before.

    Related: What is the cybersecurity skills gap?

    While there is no way to guarantee that your accounts won’t be hacked, one of the best lines of defense is to create stronger passwords.

    10 tips for stronger passwords

    Here’s how to craft stronger passwords that will help stave off malicious actors on the web:

    1. Never use the same password for multiple accounts.

    2. Don’t use personally identifiable terms.

    3. Avoid using common words or phrases.

    4. Use different types of characters.

    5. Make it long.

    6. Consider spelling things wrong.

    7. Utilize multi-factor authentication.

    8. Change your passwords regularly.

    9. Never save or share passwords.

    10. Use a password manager.

    Ready to stay safer online? Let’s take a deeper dive into each password strategy.

    1. Never use the same password for multiple accounts

    Using the same password across different sites is a surefire way to decrease the security of said password. If a hacker determines your password for one site, they’ll be equipped to hack more of your accounts without any extra work on their part. The simplest way to avoid this disastrous scenario is to utilize not just stronger passwords, but distinct ones for each and every account.

    Related: Strong website monitoring tools to keep hackers out

    2. Don’t use personally identifiable terms

    Sure, using your son’s nickname, your favorite movie, your pet’s name and so on in your passwords makes it easy to remember them. But it makes them easy to hack, too.

    Strong passwords do not have personal ties.

     

    Hackers can find out these tidbits by mining your social media profiles, and odds are good that personally identifiable information will be the first thing they try if they’re attempting to log into your accounts. Avoid using this info in passwords and opt for something that’s harder to guess instead. (More on that in the next point.)

    On a related note? Always be mindful of what you share online. Giving away too much personal information via your social media presence makes it all the easier for hackers to gain access to your accounts.

    Stronger Passwords Numbers

    All right, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of what makes for a stronger password — make passwords long and unusual. To craft stronger passwords, keep the following tips in mind.

    3. Avoid using common words or phrases

    In other words? “Password,” “12345” and “qwerty” are out. Also remember to avoid using easily identifiable information such as your spouse’s name, your wedding date and so on.

    4. Use different types of characters

    Instead of opting for just letters or just numbers, opt for a mixture of characters — including ones such as %, @, $, numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and so on.

    Using lots of different character types makes it harder to guess your password.

     

    It might help to think of a phrase in words, and then identify places to add in different characters. For example, “I am a fly fishing fanatic” might turn into iAm@fLyf!sh!ngF@n@t%c.

    5. Make it long

    The same Consumer Reports survey cited above found that 29 percent of people who use passwords for sensitive accounts utilize a password that has seven or fewer characters. That’s bad news, because the report also found that longer passwords take significantly longer to crack. (We’re talking the difference of weeks or even years!) Opt for eight characters at an absolute minimum; somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 is even better if you’re serious about stronger passwords.

    6. Consider spelling things wrong

    Intentional spelling mistakes can make it harder to guess a password. For example, the word “fantastic” might be guessable, but the word “fentestic” would be harder to crack.

    Related: 10 ways to stop hackers from touching your eCommerce website

    7. Utilize multi-factor authentication

    As the landscape of digital security evolves and stronger passwords become less of a sure thing from a security standpoint, multi-factor authentication is emerging as one potential solution.

    Two-factor authentication requires that you both know the password for an account and possess a device that is linked to that account in some way.

    For example, after trying to log into your account, you might receive a text on your phone with a code that allows you to complete the login process. Unless you have both the password and the extra security code, it will be darn near impossible to log in. Enabling two-factor authentication can make it much more difficult for hackers to access your account.

    Related: Increase account security with two-step verification on your mobile device

    8. Change your passwords regularly

    Passwords degrade in quality over time, because the longer a password is in use, the more time hackers have to attempt to crack it. Stay one step ahead of cybercriminals by changing your passwords on a regular basis.

    As a general rule, it’s a good idea to change out all of your passwords at least every three months. Make sure to never reuse old passwords.

    Stronger Passwords Change

    Even stronger passwords won’t protect you if you don’t protect them.

    9. Never save or share passwords

    Never save your passwords or check the “remember me” box when you’re using a public computer. Better yet, try to avoid logging into personal accounts unless you’re on a private device.

    Avoid sharing your passwords with other people whenever possible.

     

    Never share your password unless you are sharing it in person with someone you deeply trust. If you have a written list of passwords to help you remember them, avoid storing this list on your computer or phone.

    Because electronic devices are hackable, this means you could potentially put all of your accounts at risk. If you must keep a list of passwords, use pen and paper and store the list in a secure place. Whenever possible, avoid writing down your stronger passwords — period.

    10. Use a password manager

    If you’re struggling to manage your stronger passwords (now that you’ve got them), consider using a password management system such as LastPass.

    Related: Password managers do the heavy lifting

    Stay vigilant

    Regularly crafting stronger passwords (plus having to remember them) can be a real pain. But taking the time to create stronger passwords is undoubtedly less of a hassle than dealing with the fallout of being hacked. Follow these 10 basic tips for stronger passwords to stay safer online.

    The post 10 best practices for creating and securing stronger passwords appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    I’ve been a member of the WordPress community for 14 years. I’ve grown up with this group of web design and development problem-solvers, and I like to fancy myself one, too.

    During my years in the web design and development space, I’ve become familiar with common problems in our workflows.

    Our most common challenge — by far — is getting timely feedback from clients.

    Here’s how it usually goes: We spin up a new WordPress site, we install our go-to theme and plugins, customize the site to match our client’s needs, and present it to the client for review.

    …and then we wait.

    That moment always causes anxiety for me. We never quite know what will come back from the client. Will they be happy with what we’ve made? Or will they want changes?

    If they do want changes — and they probably will — what changes will they want? And how will they tell us what they want changed? Will they take screenshots? List everything in a spreadsheet? Record a video? Sit down with us in front of a computer?

    It’s frustrating for everyone.

    WP FeedBack solves the client feedback problem

    Adding comments in WP Feedback

    WP FeedBack is a tool for providing visual website feedback on WordPress sites.

    With WP FeedBack, our clients can leave questions and comments tied to specific page elements. Then we can follow up with the client directly in the tool.

    WP FeedBack saves us time by streamlining client communications. We can then use that time to focus on growth and profitability. In turn, this provides us with the freedom and flexibility to do the work that we love.

    A while back, I reached out to Vito Peleg, the creator of WP FeedBack. We chatted for over an hour about our personal histories: starting and running digital businesses, building on and using WordPress, and why we create solutions for our fellow web designers and developers.

    We met in person at #WCEU a few weeks later, and we’ve worked together since then to introduce WP FeedBack to our GoDaddy Pro members.

    Now I’m beyond delighted announce that GoDaddy Pro has partnered with WP FeedBack.

    What does this partnership mean for GoDaddy Pro members?

    The GoDaddy Pro team is committed to providing the best tools for managing your sites and clients, but we’re also committed to sharing complementary solutions.

    WP FeedBack is the first.

    So, along with the existing features and benefits, GoDaddy Pro members now have access to an exclusive 50% savings on WP FeedBack.

    Give WP FeedBack a try!

    Find your WP Feedback offer on the GoDaddy Pro Benefits page

    To learn more about WP FeedBack and claim your discount, log in to your GoDaddy Pro account and navigate to your Benefits page. Go to the Offers tab, and click the “Get your 50% savings now” button under WP FeedBack.

    Not a GoDaddy Pro member yet? Sign up for free.

    The post Announcing the WP FeedBack & GoDaddy Pro partnership appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    Gone are the days when you could plant a yard sign and idly wait for the phone to ring. Those distant times where you could join the local Rotary Club or BNI (Business Network International) and count on walking away with handfuls of solid leads. With nearly two million active real estate licensees in the United States, real estate marketing requires much more nowadays, and it’s up to you to make sure potential buyers and sellers can find you when they need you.

    In this article we’ll explore ideas to get your digital real estate marketing started and tips for various types of real estate marketing online.

    Related: How to start a real estate business

    Your guide to real estate marketing online

    To make things easier, let’s look at the forest for the trees, or the neighborhood for the houses, and examine three main steps, and the details within each, to get your real estate marketing off the ground:

    Then we’ll wrap all this information up and outline some logical next steps for your digital real estate marketing strategy. Ready? Let’s dive in.

    1. Create your online presence

    You can’t market your real estate business online if you’re not really online, yet 48% of all real estate firms cite keeping up with technology as one of the biggest challenges facing their firm in the next two years.

    Building a solid online presence and finding ways to get the word out are extremely important.

     

    This section will cover the importance of designing and bolstering brand identity, developing a professional website, and exploring what you can do with your website.

    Related: Create It — Building your presence, brand and product

    Building your brand identity

    To build a brand that is remembered, respected and referred, you need to have clarity and consistency.

    Clarity: You must be clear about:

    • What you stand for
    • Who you serve
    • What you do best
    • What value you bring to the table
    • How you’re different from other agents
    • What results you deliver to your clients

    Related: Why a target audience matters and how to find yours

    Consistency: You must be consistent with your:

    • Color palette
    • Logo
    • Typefaces
    • Imagery/photos
    • Messaging
    • Voice/tone of writing

    When it comes to both clarity and consistency, you need to establish who you are, which includes professional headshots, information about you, and photos or videos of you interacting with your clients.

    Brand overhaul case study: Depend on Dakota Team

    A great example of a brand that needed clarity and consistency was Dakota Riley, a real estate agent from Braintree, Massachusetts.

    Dakota was stuck in 32nd place in her market center because she didn’t have the tools or know-how to succeed. She was in a tough place: she had a mix of buyers and sellers, but her cash flow was becoming an issue.

    It wasn’t that Dakota didn’t have the drive and determination to succeed — it’s just that she didn’t have the online real estate marketing acumen to be successful.

    With a brand overhaul to the Depend on Dakota Team, fresh headshots and some online real estate marketing magic, Dakota rocketed up to the No. 2 spot in her office in only two years and enjoyed a healthy six-figure income. It all started when Dakota established her brand identity.

    Every real estate professional needs to establish two points with their prospective clients:

    • You’re organized and professional.
    • You can be trusted.

    These people are making one of the largest purchases of their lives with you, so they need to know it will be a seamless and supported experience. If you don’t have a professional-looking headshot, spend the money to get one because it will convey your professionalism and credibility (both leading to trust).

    As this will be your first digital impression, it’s well worth the investment.

    When Dakota started, she had used a cropped photo from a family event. You could see the wisps of hair and sides of faces of her family members in her “professional” headshot. On top of it, the image was pixelated, so a prospective buyer or seller couldn’t even really get to know what Dakota looked like in person.

    Dakota also lacked consistent information around the web. In one instance, she was “Dakota Riley,” and in other instances, she was “Dakota Riley – Realtor Keller Williams” or “Keller Williams Dakota Riley.”

    Her real estate marketing information was messy, her brand name had no consistency, and it all definitely played a part in the impression she made to prospective buyers and sellers.

    We worked for months to:

    • Ensure brand consistency around the web.
    • Develop a proper logo.
    • Add watermarks to her images.
    • Ensure her images told a story.
    • Use brand colors throughout images and web assets.
    • Create templates for future use.

    The end result was nothing short of amazing.

    We had essentially re-introduced the new-and-improved Depend on Dakota brand to the greater Boston area, and the results showed that we had made the right moves. To add to this comeback story, Dakota now sits at the No. 1 spot in her market center, and employs her mother along with a team of real estate professionals to help her grow the brand.

    Real Estate Marketing Depend on Dakota Website
    Photo: Depend on Dakota

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    Developing a professional website

    Simply put, you won’t build trust without a professional website.

    According to AdWeek, 81% of consumers want to see your company’s website before they’ll even consider buying from you.

    For that reason alone, it’s important for you to have a fully functional, mobile-responsive, and secure website.

     

    Thanks to websites such as realtor.com and dozens of television shows focused on buying and selling homes, real estate clients are more savvy than ever. As a result, real estate agents really have to bring their “A” game to attract and impress customers — and this means skilled and creative use of the internet and a balance of high-tech and high-touch.

    Whether you’re an established real estate agent or a beginner, a mix of quality face-to-face interaction and strong real estate marketing via a dedicated website and social media can help you stand apart from the competition.

    “You need a website, especially in smaller markets where you rely on name recognition for referrals. It’s an easy way for people to link up with you immediately. People want instant access to information.” ~ Ray Davis, real estate agent in Harrisburg, PA

    What to include on your real estate website

    A basic real estate website should have the following fundamentals:

    • Property listings and details
    • Information about the geographic area
    • Short bios of the real estate team
    • Links to relevant resources

    Related: How to build a real estate website the easy way

    Ray Davis, a seasoned real estate agent in Pennsylvania, says, “If I was starting out, I would pull out all the stops. No matter what you do, you can always do more. You just need to be realistic about how much money and time you can invest in a website.”

    GoDaddy Websites Marketing Real Estate Marketing Template
    If you’re just starting out, the GoDaddy Websites + Marketing solution has some great templates to help you get your information out there. This tool integrates websites, marketing and eCommerce tools with the guidance needed to achieve success.

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    Using a real estate marketing blog

    A website is a great place to build trust and loyalty with a blog. Most people don’t have an extensive knowledge of real estate processes and procedures. So as they prepare to make a transaction, they go online to research. They look for guides and tips to help them navigate the complicated process of buying or selling their home. Build trust by being a resource for them.

    One way you can grow your marketing efforts and connect with a larger audience is by publishing blogs.

     

    Man Typing into Laptop with Blog on ScreenCreating and constantly contributing to a real estate marketing blog helps you bring in new clients, maintain relationships with current and past clients, and increases referral opportunities.

    Think about it: you are the industry expert. You know the real estate game, and you’ve probably forgotten more than most new homebuyers will ever know. That knowledge you have can be converted into lead generation gold.

    Most homebuyers (and home sellers) turn to online resources to learn more about the process before they make the first steps.

    If you have a blog filled with information, then you establish yourself as the go-to resource. The trusted resource. The only resource they should consider.

    What to include on a real estate blog

    Blog content can include plenty of helpful topics like:

    • Steps to buying a home
    • Steps to selling a home
    • Considerations when moving to a certain city/town
    • School system ratings
    • City/town government information
    • Event listings

    Perhaps you want to write a geocentric post that is lighthearted like “31 Things People Always Ask When You’re From Philadelphia” or “10 Tampa Stereotypes that Are Completely Accurate”. You’d be surprised: posts like these have been shared thousands of times. People love to read and share content that relates directly to their hometown, interests, or identity.

    Along with writing the content, you also have to consider how you’ll distribute your posts around the web. Will you send out email marketing campaigns? Perhaps you’ll want to take a stab at social media? We cover both in the next sections.

    Related: How to write a great blog post

    Bonus resource: Sell Your Home marketing template

    Real Estate Marketing Template Slideshop

    Slideshop offers an editable real estate marketing presentation template that’s specifically outlined for real estate agents of large or small companies who are introducing themselves to home owners interested in selling their homes.

    Agents have everything they need to visually explain data and steps with slides containing comparative pricing charts, market history, tables and diagrams to visually explain the different processes. Simple animations help provide an engaging experience for your audience while walking your customers through pricing strategy, home inspection process, and case studies.

    This PowerPoint template also comes with Pro Tips to help you edit the template in the most efficient ways.

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    2. Consider email marketing and newsletters

    You might think the real estate market is built on houses and property. But, it’s actually built on relationships. That’s why digital real estate email marketing is so important.

    Email marketing and newsletters help you get in front of the eyes of your potential clients.

     

    And, email marketing is one of the most cost-effective means of promotion. In fact, email marketing has been shown to provide a return on investment of $44 for every $1 invested and has some of the best conversion rates of any marketing channel. If you don’t believe me, take a look at these impressive email personalization stats.

    For a real estate agent to build a thriving business, you must foster relationships with new clients and stay in contact with past clients. You must keep your name in front of potential buyers and sellers because when a client has a realty need, they will call the first real estate agent they think of.

    Related: Beginner’s email marketing guide for small business

    Best practices for real estate email marketing

    Many agents think of email as an agency newsletter that covers various topics of interest to potential buyers and sellers in their area. Yes, it takes time. But email continues to be one of the most cost-effective means of promotion around — far more affordable than pay-per-click or traditional advertising.

    Get a professional email address

    Your marketing emails or newsletters might look spammy if you’re not using a professional email address that matches your domain name. Consider purchasing a professional email address, so you can keep your personal email address (@gmail.com or @yahoo.com) out of the public eye.

    Add an email/newsletter signup form to your website

    According to research, 98% of your website visitors will not convert. If they don’t know your email list exists, how will they sign up?

    An email signup form is the form on websites or blogs that allows one to sign up for an email list. It’s usually a box in the sidebar with (at least) an “Email” field. Email sign up forms are also called web forms, webforms and signup forms.

    Before you install an email signup form, watch this to learn how it all works with your prospective clients.

    When a pop-up appears on a website, it triggers our fight or flight response. Do we engage with this thing that just interrupted our user experience or do we close out to preserve our overall web session? It turns out these pop-ups, no matter how annoying or interruptive, actually work in driving email marketing subscriptions.

    Related: How to create real estate newsletters for clients and prospective buyers

    Segment your lists

    Segmenting your lists is a critical step in the email marketing process.

    Imagine you send an email about a $1.2 million property you just listed to your first-time homebuyers with a budget of $150,000. It makes you look like you are ignoring their financial constraints while sending the listing to an inappropriate audience, which can cause unsubscribes and spam reports.

    Segmenting helps you narrow down your lists by a number of factors like client type, industry contact, or stage in the process.

     

    Segmenting usually works hand in hand with a tagging feature in your email marketing platform.

    Examples of tags you would use include:

    • Current Client
    • Prospect or Past Client
    • Stale Client
    • Buyer
    • Seller
    • Renter
    • First-time
    • Referral Source

    You’d also want to consider geography as a tag set:

    • Boston
    • North Shore
    • South Shore
    • Cape Cod
    • Western Massachusetts

    If you already have a list of clients, contacts, etc., then consider creating a survey and segmenting your customers based on their responses. There are a few different survey tools to consider here:

    • Survey Monkey offers a free version with 10 questions and up to 100 responses allowed, but it does not provide exporting.
    • Typeform also offers a free version with unlimited questions, answers, and data export capabilities.
    • Google Forms is a great tool to use if you currently have a Google account. It allows for unlimited surveys, respondents, skip logic, and it will export all of the data into a Google Sheet for easy review.

    Related: Show them you know them with personalized email marketing

    Write catchy subject lines

    Ah, the subject line. It’s such a small part of the email campaign with such immense impact.

    A subject line can make or break your email marketing newsletter.

    By reading the subject line, your recipients determine if they want to read the email now, later, or never. It’s your job as a real estate marketer to get them to open the email right now. Catchy subject lines help!

    Remember that every single thing you send should serve your audience or solve their problems.

    You never want to oversell or clickbait your readers — it can lead to a low open rate or an increased unsubscribe/spam click rate. When it’s appropriate, you want to make your subject lines personal to show the human side of your business. (Remember the brand identity we explored above.)

    When writing your email subject lines, be sure to avoid these email spam terms, as they can land you in the spam box instead of the inbox.

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    3. Get friendly with social media

    Real Estate Marketing Social Media Icons On Mobile
    As a real estate agent, the name of your game is social. You need to be able to interact with leads and prospects and provide them with information quickly in order to win the day.

    From a realistic perspective, there’s only one of you and so many clients that it’s hard to be everywhere and anywhere that you’re needed.

    Enter social media — the amazing advent that allows you to engage with your prospects and clients right from your pocket.

    Popular social networks for real estate agents include Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram. Each has its own unique appeal.

    • LinkedIn is aimed at networking for professionals.
    • YouTube is for videos.
    • Instagram for photos.
    • Pinterest is a digital bulletin board of sorts.
    • Facebook is a social powerhouse  — helping users aggregate content of all types from brands, news sources, friends and family.

    Americans spend more time on social media sites than they do engaged in any other internet activity, with Facebook as the preferred social platform. If that’s where your target audience is hanging out, that’s where you need to establish an active presence.

    It might take hours for someone to return a call, but to reply to a Facebook message seems substantially more convenient and much easier. In fact, Facebook is a power player for real estate marketing.

    Related: How to build your real estate social media strategy

    Facebook real estate marketing tips

    • Currently, 68% of Americans use Facebook. Facebook is the top choice for reaching the broadest audience online — only surpassed by YouTube. Some other stats that will pique your interest in Facebook:
    • Facebook users over 65 years old have doubled to 41%.
    • 66% of monthly Facebook users are logged in daily.
    • Americans spend 58 minutes per day on Facebook.
    • Each visit to Facebook lasts 10 to 12 minutes.

    Related: Facebook best practices for real estate agents

    With its informal, conversational tone, Facebook is a popular platform for real estate agents to promote listings and connect with existing and potential clients.

    “It is amazing to think what I’ve accomplished with social media — and specifically Facebook,” says Dakota Riley. “I have a business page and my personal page, and I use them both to promote my listings and events. But I always make sure I’m not bothering my connections by posting too much about my business.”

    Dakota is spot on when tackling her social media strategy, especially when it comes to Facebook.

    Use all of the social media assets you have, but make sure you’re not inundating your friends and connections with information about your business. They want to get to know you as a person just as much. Be sure to balance out the content of your posts so that you’re showing them your personal side as well.

    Pro tip: Try to stay away from political or religious topics. Since you’re in the public eye and trying to reach as many people as possible, you need to walk a tight line.

    Related: How to increase Instagram engagement for your real estate company

    Tips to get started with real estate social media

    Let’s be real — you don’t have all the time in the world, and your schedule is never consistent. How can you make sure that you’re getting the best return for the time you put into your real estate social media?

    Craft a buyer persona

    To start, do some research to find your buyer persona.

    A buyer persona helps you better understand your clients and gives you insights into their demographics and psychographics (who they are and what they like to do.)

    To build a buyer persona, you have to ask yourself a series of questions to really target your ideal customer. Those questions will help you narrow down your options, so that you come out with a detailed, realistic buyer persona for your real estate marketing.

    Once you have your buyer persona, figure out where they spend their time. Is it on Facebook or Instagram? Pinterest or YouTube? All of the above?

    Know your channels

    One of the greatest mistakes made by small business owners is to build a presence on every social media channel. Doing so stretches your brand thin and sabotages your chances of making a good first digital impression. Instead, you need to know your channels.

    Real Estate Marketing Facebook YouTube Graph
    Photo: Pew Research Center

    As you can see, Facebook and YouTube are the big players in social media, but that’s not necessarily where your potential buyers and sellers are depending on age. You may also want to consider Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.

    • Pinterest 
      • Over 77 million users in U.S. every month
      • Reaches 83% of U.S. women aged 25 to 54
      • High-income and educated U.S. households are twice as likely to use Pinterest
    • LinkedIn
      • Two professionals join LinkedIn every second
      • 154 million U.S. workers have LinkedIn profiles
      • 50% of Americans with a college degree use LinkedIn
    • Instagram
      • 28% of online adults in the U.S. use Instagram
      • Users 25 and older spend 24 minutes per day on Instagram
      • 95 million posts published per day
    • Twitter
      • 67 million American users
      • 24% of U.S. adults use Twitter
      • 80% of Twitter users are affluent millennials

    With all of these networks, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Armed with your buyer persona, you need to ask yourself questions to pinpoint the right social media channels for you:

    • Will I routinely share pictures? What about videos?
    • Do I want to advertise or pay for “sponsored” content?
    • How much time do I have available for creating content?
    • What resources or team members can help?
    • What is my budget to have someone else manage my social media?

    Here are some great resources to help you learn more about the networks above:

    Following the steps outlined in these articles will help you get your real estate social media plan off the ground.

    Define your goals

    What are you looking to get out of your social media program? Do you want to generate a certain number of leads or drive a number of website views? Maybe you’re trying to drive phone calls or new showing appointments?

    Whatever your goal is, it’s important that you have them set and remind yourself of them on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to ensure you’re staying on point.

    These same goals will act as a benchmark to help determine if you’ve succeeded.

     

    If you’re working with a social media provider, then make sure you set out goals at the onset of the relationship and revisit those goals on a monthly basis to track your return on investment.

    Add value

    With millions of active real estate agents in the U.S., you need to stand out on social media by providing value.

    Anyone can post, but only someone who has put thought into their social media program can actually entertain, educate and engage prospects and clients.

    As you create your social media content, ask yourself:

    • What do I know that others may not?
    • What is a differentiating factor between me and other real estate agents?
    • What do I see during my workday that others might find fun or interesting?
    • What can I offer to my social connects that will entertain, educate or engage them?

    If you came up blank with answers to those questions, consider revisiting your unique selling proposition.

    For more on creating and implementing your social media strategy, check out this beginners guide to social media.

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    Conclusion and next steps

    You have stiff competition in your industry, but if you have a solid real estate marketing plan, then you’re set up for success. You just covered several steps to help get your real estate marketing program off the ground.

    When it comes to online presence, be sure that you demonstrate clarity and consistency. Think back to how Dakota shot to the top of her market center with a brand overhaul, fresh headshots and some online real estate marketing magic. Without a clear and consistent online presence, she might still be “Dakota Riley Keller Williams” — a run-of-the-mill real estate agent with no edge.

    Don’t forget the power of your real estate website and blog. With more than 80% of potential customers looking at your site before considering you as their agent, it’s important that you are well-represented and provide plenty of information to show that you know the industry. Your blog will allow you to continuously add new information with just a few clicks and keystrokes and provides you with a way to get noticed by Google and other search engines.

    With website and blog running, you’ll want to look at email marketing as a way of staying connected with your leads, prospects, and clients (past and current). Remember that an email campaign should include value-added information, curated content from around your region, and a call to action to drive a response from your readers.

    Finally, build out your social media program to stay connected with everyone in your sphere of influence. Consider networks like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter to help you get the word out about your business, and drive more eyes to your listings and open houses. Just remember that moderation of salesy posts is critical, so you don’t scare off or alienate your connections.

    With these tips and tricks, you can definitely build out a real estate marketing program to help you stand out from those more than two million real estate licensees throughout the country.

    This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Joanne Kaldy, Raubi Perilli and Matthew Coates.

    The post Guide to real estate marketing online appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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