How to Lose Web Customers in Five Easy Steps

Attracting new visitors to your web space can be a challenge. Unfortunately, losing customers is much easier. Here, we’ve collected the top five ways in which customers are lost, and easy fixes for each issue.

Boredom

Visitors today have come to expect a visually exciting, informative, and fun-to-browse web space. If your site comes up lacking, you can kiss those visitors goodbye. Many small business owners and bloggers unwittingly lose customers by failing to pay attention to details like visual appeal and creating engaging content.

The Winning Strategy

In order to attract visitors to your web space and keep them there, simply ensure that your site is a fun place to be! Provide plenty of photographs and interesting information. If your site includes product descriptions, make them as vivid as possible. Pay attention to how each page of your site looks, and make changes as necessary. Once you’ve determined the unique aspects which make your web space exciting, you’ll be surprised at how little time it actually takes to keep them well-maintained.

Slow Response Times

If your web space hosts anything which invites visitor feedback, such as a forum, blog or chat, keeping on top of your response times is critical. Many visitors are immediately put off if their comment or question goes unanswered for a long period of time, and many will never return for that very reason.

The Winning Strategy

Set a schedule. You may want to place this response time on your web space, to let visitors know that while they may not get an immediate response, they will receive one in a timely manner. One week should be your absolute maximum amount of time, but a few days will create even happier visitors. A great way to get used to your schedule is to give yourself a week-long maximum reply time, but check in and reply to posts, questions or comments whenever you have a few spare minutes.

Infrequent Blog Posts

Have you ever become a fan of a blog, only to inexplicably see its creator simply disappear? Frustrating, right? Don’t leave your visitors with that same feeling of disappointment. If your web space includes or is centered around a blog, a schedule is essential. Visitors enjoy knowing that they’ll be treated to fresh content on a regular basis, and if you begin letting them down, they’ll become less and less likely to return.

The Winning Strategy

Set a schedule. Yes, another item for your schedule—but one which will reap huge benefits in visitor loyalty. Depending on your available time, set a fixed number of posts per week. It’s also a good idea to make this number visible on your web space, so visitors will know what to expect. Once you’ve set that expectation, meet it every single week. Even if you’re stuck for an idea, there’s nothing exciting to blog about or you’ve been out of town visiting relatives all week, type out something and post it. Visitors will appreciate the reliability, and you’ll see the results via increased traffic.

Lack of Basic Information

When visiting your web space, visitors should be able to see—or very easily access—basic information about your company, store, or business. This essential information varies, depending on what type of business you own. However, common examples include driving directions, phone numbers and hours of operation. Our top picks will guide you through much of this process, ensuring that vital data is never left out.

The Winning Strategy

Keep it Simple. This is, perhaps, the easiest of all fixes. Simply ensure that your essential information is easy to find on your web space’s home page. There may be other, more exciting things which you want to shine a spotlight on, but your landing page needs to include this information. Placing it at the very bottom of the page is perfectly fine, and actually very common. Just ensure that it’s easy to find.

Lack of Interactive Options

Even the most basic sites today usually feature some type of interaction. This can be as simple as the option to leave comments on a blog, or it can be as elaborate as the option to create a custom order. Choose the options which make the most sense for your unique business, then keep them well-maintained. Visitors to your site have become accustomed to interactive options, and a flat, boring page is a surefire way to send them away disappointed.

The Winning Strategy

Choose carefully. Don’t go crazy and pile all the interactive options you can find onto your site. This will only lead to confusion, and you probably won’t have time to properly maintain them all. Instead, pick the options which best complement your business, and maintain them extremely well. Keep your visitors up to date and current, respond in a timely manner if applicable and ensure that everything is running smoothly.

Conclusion

As you can see, losing customers is easy. Thankfully, with a bit of forethought and dedication, keeping them and winning new ones is just as simple. A guiding principle of retail sales is to never allow a customer to walk out of the store unhappy. Your web space is your ‘store,’ so ensure that each visitor leaves with a positive memory and a plan to return. Get started today with side-by-side comparisons of traffic-driving plans and features!

How to Avoid Website Crashes

Setting up your web space is a fun process. However, as you’re enjoying picking out lush pictures and setting up areas for personal visitor connections, remember to keep an eye on the technical side of things. Bandwidth is one of the most commonly-ignored aspects of a new web space. Unfortunately, a miscalculation or oversight in this area can leave your visitors facing a crash. Our top pick in hosting services, along with many other of our recommendations, have easy-to-use tools to help you avoid this scenario.

How Crashes Occur

The technicalities of a site crash aren’t very technical at all. Crashes have to do with two aspects—bandwidth and traffic. Bandwidth represents the amount of visitors—traffic—which your site can support at the same time. If traffic exceeds bandwidth allotment, your site will perform a NASCAR-style crash and burn. A crashed site can’t be visited, which translates into a great deal of lost visitors—and customers. Obviously, this is something which needs to be avoided at all costs.

Choosing the Right Package

If you’re not the most tech-savvy person in the world, there’s no need to worry. The majority of small business owners, bloggers, and other site owners are not—this is why the best site-hosting services offer customer support.

A well-trained customer support professional will work with you as you decide on a package, helping you to determine how many visitors your site is likely to attract. Once this is determined, you’ll have a better idea of how much bandwidth to purchase.

As always, read the fine print. You don’t want to be stuck with a small package when your web space begins to catch on and attract tons of business. This is where another very important piece of web space tech-knowledge comes into play.

Keeping Track of Your Site

Depending on which company and which package you choose, you’ll have several options when it comes to tracking your site’s performance. Most performance statistics packages will give you tons of useful information, including SEO performance and rankings. They’ll also give you the total amount of bandwidth your web space used up in a day, week or month. This is invaluable, because it lets you see how close you might be coming to a crash.

Watch these numbers very closely. If you don’t understand them at first, ask a tech-savvy friend or call up customer support. You need to stay on top of these numbers, as they reveal how well your web space is truly performing.

Once you notice that your bandwidth use is coming close to your total allotted bandwidth, it’s time to upgrade. This is not a place to cut corners. Upgrading before you absolutely need to will help to ensure that visitors to your web space are not greeted by a disappointing service-error message.

What a Crash Tells Visitors

While creating the impression that your site is crazy-busy isn’t a bad thing, doing it via a crash message is a very, very bad thing indeed. Crashes send the message that your site is unreliable, untrustworthy and, essentially, a place to steer clear of. Not exactly a pleasant impression, is it? Thankfully, it’s easily avoided. Our recommended hosts feature easy-to-understand stats for easy maintenance. By keeping on top of your performance numbers and upgrading when necessary, you can easily avoid a crash and the unfavorable visitor impression it creates. Whether your site is in the building phase or has already gone live, now is the time to start watching those numbers!

Do You Really Need E-Commerce?

E-Commerce, for many online sellers, is somewhat like the last frontier. You want to offer the service, you think you’re ready, but something keeps holding you back. What if you make a mistake? What if something goes wrong? What if…what if…?

This type of thinking, although common, is ultimately bad for business. Your web space deserves all the time and attention you can give it, and your customers deserve the utmost in convenience. In short, if you’re selling products, you do need e-commerce. Here, we’ll review the best ways to get started and the benefits your customers will enjoy.

Start with Existing Marketplaces

For the truly commerce-phobic, sites which incorporate e-commerce are an excellent way to become familiar with selling online. Etsy, which is dedicated to handmade and vintage products, is a great example. Through these sites, you can become familiar with the process of handling credit card and PayPal orders. After a while, once you feel more confident, you can move up to offering e-commerce in your own personal web space.

Choose a Trusted Platform or Software

There are several reliable and trustworthy selling platforms out there, each backed by a reputable security guarantee. These are your choices—don’t be tempted to cut costs by choosing an unknown provider. When dealing with customers’ money, safety is key. Your web space needs to be a safe place for customers to shop, and a cut-rate e-commerce provider is a very dangerous way to save a few bucks.

Make It Convenient

In the past, you’ve probably found a product or service online, only to find that you can’t purchase it. Frustrating, right? Don’t let your customers go through this—they’re likely to end up becoming somebody else’s customers.

Convenience is huge when it comes to online shopping, and a checkout right on your web space is the most convenient option. While some online sellers start by offering products through a larger site such as Amazon, keep in mind that this also automatically places other products in front of your customers. Start small if you must, but keep your own e-commerce web space as your ultimate goal. In today’s society, where we’ve all been conditioned to expect service at a single click, your customers will appreciate the effort.

Show Your Accepted Payment Methods

Whether it’s actually true or not, seeing a verified, familiar e-commerce checkout logo on a web space automatically instills a level of trust in customers. Seeing that your web space will accept their credit card or PayPal lets them know that you’re serious about your business, and have taken the steps to ensure a speedy, convenient checkout experience. This speaks volumes about your reliability as a seller, and nearly always leads to increased sales.

If you’re on an extremely tight budget, you may want to begin by accepting only PayPal. This is low-cost in nearly every scenario, and is quickly becoming one of the most trusted forms of e-commerce. Once the increased sales start rolling in, you’ll have enough extra cash to advance your e-commerce into having your own credit card merchant account. In the meantime, however, your customers will still feel an increased level of trust at seeing an e-commerce name they know related to your web space.

Look Professional

There are a few major, nationally-known sites which simply do not offer e-commerce. This is common in the worlds of haute couture, for example. However, these sites can afford to avoid e-commerce because they are so well known. For most small businesses, this level of name recognition is still years into the future.

In order to appear as professional as possible, e-commerce is a must. Regardless of how detailed your product or service descriptions, or how beautiful your photographs, customers will feel they’re dealing with an amateur if they can’t purchase via your own web space.

Conclusion

Although it can be daunting at first, e-commerce is a true must for any serious business-related web space. Not only will it make purchasing more convenient for your customers, but it will lend your site an air of professionalism and consumer trust which can’t be found through any other site component. Want to get started today? Check out these hosts, all of which let you install an e-commerce system with a few clicks!

Top 10 WordPress Plugins

WordPress’s basic feature set makes it a top-notch blogging platform, but the software isn’t limited to that. There are all sorts of plugins that can enhance and extend its functionality. Let’s look into ten of those.

Jetpack

While it’s generally an inferior option to hosting a WordPress site on your own web space, the hosted solution provided by WordPress.com does include a number of interesting social features. Additional stats, email subscriptions, and social networking integration are just three of these features; there’s a huge list of everything included at the link. Jetpack is a massive upgrade to WordPress’s ability to build and retain community, and can be useful for almost anyone.

Tumblr Importer

Not every worthwhile plugin is as feature-packed as Jetpack; some are more utilitarian. Tumblr Importer does just that: it imports posts from a Tumblr blog to your new WordPress installation. If you were using Tumblr before setting up your own web space, this means that you can effortlessly carry content over. Your users will never know that this plugin is there—but it does its job, and that’s what matters.

Hotfix

If everything is going well, Hotfix does nothing. Literally, nothing. That’s okay, because this plugin is intended for when things don’t go well—it patches known bugs in the installed version of WordPress that have yet to be fixed in a core release. It’s not a substitute for a WordPress update, but it can help immensely with security while you’re waiting on that update.

Akismet

Spam is ubiquitous in comment threads and email inboxes the world over; that doesn’t mean you can’t combat it, though. Akismet is a web service that identifies comments as spam via a sophisticated pattern recognition algorithm, pulled from its data on every site using the service. It’ll go a long way to making your site’s comments worth using.

Google Analytics for WordPress

If you want advanced data on your site’s visitors, Google Analytics provides some of the best tools available. This plugin ties that functionality into WordPress, allowing you to customize and target your content or advertising for its viewers.

bbPress

If you want to foster community among your users, a message board is a great way to do that—but most of the existing forum software is hard to use and set up on your own web space. bbPress ties that functionality into WordPress, giving it a fully functional message board.

Google XML Sitemaps

Your content is only worth as much as its viewers, and most of those viewers will be encountering it through a search engine. XML sitemaps allow search engines to better explore and catalog your site, increasing its visibility. This plugin generates a sitemap automatically, in real time. All of your pages are included and made available to search engines, without any effort on your part.

Ultimate TinyMCE

WordPress has a basic WYSIWYG text editor for your posts, but by default you’ll have to use HTML to do anything really impressive with the formatting. Ultimate TinyMCE beefs up the options of that text editor, and enables you to do far more entirely from within the graphical interface. It’s great for non-technical users.

NextGEN Gallery

If your site uses a lot of images, a properly organized image gallery can be a good way to make those available to users. NextGEN Gallery integrates a powerful, easy-to-use image gallery solution into WordPress, and makes presentation of visual content much easier on you.

WP Super Cache

By default, WordPress runs resource-intensive PHP scripts to generate every page served to your users. WP Super Cache stores the HTML results of those scripts, and—unless the page has been updated—will serve these static HTML versions to users if possible. It’s the same result on the user’s end, but it conserves your web server’s resources.

How to Find the Right Web Designer

Creating a website is an important project for your company, since a website can either make or break a potential client’s first impression online about your company. You have literally just a few seconds to capture the attention of a potential client, present benefit-oriented messages about your products or services, and persuade them to buy what you’re selling. Keeping this in mind, unless you have web design skills, to create your own website, it’s important to ensure you look for and choose the right web designer for your web space business needs.

The first thing you need to do is to find a few different web designers and research on their services, cost, reputation, experience, and customer service before selecting the one that suits your needs.

Where to Find Web Designers

  • Search engines. A good reputable web designing company should have a website to sell their services. Choose web designers based on your geographical location to make things easier and cheaper for you. Meeting with a local designer will be helpful to help them understand your vision for your web space.
  • Referrals. This is a good way of finding web designers as you will get firsthand information concerning the best designers. Ask friends and family about the best designer they have had an experience with. If you’re active on social media, you could post the question online to your followers.
  • Freelance job sites. There are various sites where you could browse to look for web designers. Some of the reputable sites online include Elance, Guru, oDesk, and Freelancer. Go through the profiles a number of designers and look for the one that has the qualities you want in a website designer based on education, experience, and proof of finished works
  • Directories. These contain listings of different companies or individuals who offer website designing services.
  • Existing partners. Ask your trusted partners, such as your IT services, if they know anyone who does web design.

How to Choose the Right Web Designer for Your Needs

Once you’ve selected a list of web designers you would like to work with, below are tips to help you choose the best.

  • Look through the portfolio of different designers and a list of recently completed projects to have a feel of the designer’s style and the type of projects they have completed
  • Ask for references. Don’t rely too much on the testimonials on the designers’ website as some may control these testimonials to only show the positive ones.
  • Determine their skills. Web designers usually specialize in a few skills. Some are better at programming, some are better at visual design. Ideally, a good designer should have expertise on both.
  • Choose a website designer who has experience in search engine optimization as well as other online marketing techniques to ensure that your website is optimized to improve your business.

After choosing the best website designer for your needs, ask for a quote. Ensure that you provide the designer with all the necessary information to provide an accurate quote. You may want to include the following in your brief:

  • Examples of designs you like
  • Your website audience and goals
  • Your business’s background
  • Specific project deliverables such as logos, templates, etc.
  • Any necessary back-end integration with an existing portal or database
  • Ideal delivery dates

It’s important to communicate your needs with the website designer to ensure a good relationship and rapport between you and the designer.

If you’re just starting out and aren’t ready to hire a web designer just yet, our recommended web hosts offer free site-building tools that let you build and design your own website without having to know any code.

How to Get an Email Address on Your Web Space

Having an e-mail address on your own domain—as opposed to a free webmail provider, or with your ISP—can go a long way in making your business more professional. It’s not as hard as you would think, either—there are all sorts of ways to pull this off.

Your Web Host’s POP or Webmail

Let’s start with the easiest of these. Most hosting providers provide webmail or POP e-mail accounts with their web space. Configuring these addresses to use your domain couldn’t be easier—you just open an e-mail account from your allotment on the desired domain. If it’s a webmail account, log in like any other webmail service; if you have a POP or IMAP account, configure your e-mail client of choice accordingly.

Google Apps

Your host’s default mail servers are free and easy to set up, but they’re also very basic, and the webmail interfaces can be lacking. That’s a shame, since a good webmail interface can give you all the bells and whistles of a dedicated e-mail client in a portable, device-independent form. Google has recognized this fact, and capitalizes on it with their Gmail business service through Google Apps. It’s not a free service, but it’s reasonably priced, and it allows you to maintain a Gmail account—with the storage space, uptime, and considerable feature set that entails—on your own domain.

After you’re signed up, you just need to use your registrar’s control panel to change the MX record for your domain to point to Google’s mail servers. The MX record indicates which servers e-mail traffic on a domain should be forwarded to. Basically, you’re telling the DNS servers to forward most traffic to your web space, but to forward e-mail traffic to Google’s mail servers.

Gmail is generally the best of the big webmail services, but many of its competitors provide a similar option, so keep that in mind. If you’re fond of one in particular, odds are that you can use it with your domain.

Email Forwarding

If you’d like to continue using existing accounts but still have the presentable aesthetic of an e-mail account at your own domain, though, forwarding is an option. Some registrars allow for e-mail forwarding, and some don’t; however, if yours does, you can just set that up, and it’ll send all e-mails sent to that domain to the account you specify. Even if your registrar doesn’t support e-mail forwarding, your web space is likely to include it as an option. There are limitations here—most notably, it means that you can’t manage multiple accounts on your own domain. But it can be useful to have a professional facade for your existing personal e-mail accounts.

Your Own Mail Server

Lastly, you can run your own mail server. This isn’t an option which is recommended for less technical people—but there’s real merit in it if you think you can pull it off. You get as much storage space as you want, and unparalleled control over every facet of your e-mail handling. Hardware and bandwidth requirements for a single-user mail server are very modest, so the logistics are perfectly workable; the question is if you feel comfortable doing things the hard way. No software is going to be linked here—if you’re capable enough to run a mail server well, you should already know where to look for these sorts of things, and what to look for. If you don’t, odds are good that you’d be better off with one of the other choices mentioned.