Using Pictures to Enhance Your Website

Setting up a new website can be challenging, and one of the most common sticking points is the issue of visuals. A web space needs to be visually appealing in order to grab and hold a customer’s attention. Photographs enhance your site in many different ways, making them an ‘extra’ which no serious site can afford to be without. At our recommended hosts, you’ll find many examples of how visuals can make or break a site.

Connecting with Customers

Creating a personal connection through the internet can be a challenge. This is especially troublesome for small businesses, since many customers are wary of making a purchase from a virtually unknown seller. Although photographs can’t tell customers everything about you or your business, they can have a tremendous impact on consumer trust. Seeing the owner of a shop creates an immediate connection—you’re no longer just another faceless web space among millions. Showcasing yourself or your staff at work is even more powerful, as it lets consumers know that you stand behind the product or service you’re selling. The ‘fun factor’ is a nice bonus as well; people love seeing how things are made and created.

Regardless of the type of website you run, you can find a way to incorporate pictures. If your services are not traditionally photogenic, get creative. A shot of a harried, caffeine-fueled techno-genius hard at work over a keyboard will connect with consumers just as effectively as a lavish shot of a haute couture wedding cake.

Showcase What You Do

Remember that a photograph doesn’t have to include a person in order to be an effective marketing tool. A photo of you and your staff (if applicable) should be somewhere on your site—but feel free to incorporate shots of anything which makes your business tick. If you own a small restaurant, take some candid photos of the building itself. Capture a remodeling project as it happens. Bring your camera to the farmer’s market and score some pictures of the delicious produce you hand-select each morning. These ideas can be customized to fit virtually any type of website.

The People Behind the Service

Web-only services often fall prey to the boring web space trap. After all, they don’t have a storefront, a product, or any real-world items to showcase. However, this is always a mistake. A boring website, at best, tells consumers that you put very little effort into capturing their attention. At worst, it may make them think that you’re running a less-than-reputable business. Fight these negative assumptions by showcasing the people behind your service. Consider posting a staff photo and bio section, allowing consumers to see the real people behind the virtual service. You might include some shots of your workplace, even if it’s just a few cubicles or a cluttered home desk. Anything which lets a consumer connect with you is good for your bottom line.

Your Photos vs. Stock Photos

Stock photos are those available through retailers and wholesalers such as Shutterstock. These images are typically of very high quality, but they can quickly add up and become quite expensive. Thankfully, for most small businesses, stock photos are not necessary. In fact, they can actually be a hindrance to creating a personal consumer connection. So what if the stock-photo woman sitting at a cubicle is a bit better dressed than your employees? Your customers want to see the people behind the service, which stock photos simply can’t deliver.

The Bottom Line

In today’s world, no web space can be without some high-quality, personal photos. Remember that there’s no reason for perfection—customers just want their interest piqued, their curiosity satisfied and a personal connection created. You can probably do this with just your smartphone and a few filters—so get going! Your bottom line will thank you.

The Ideal Blog for Your Website

Incorporating a blog into your web space is an excellent way to generate interest and let consumers into your world. However, there are blogs which engage readers, and blogs which send them clicking away as fast as they can. Here, we’ll review the best way to construct and maintain a blog which keeps your readers coming back for more.

Short and Sweet

You’ve probably received an email or a text message in the past which consisted of a giant block of text. If you’re like most, you found it difficult and frustrating to read. Blocks of text are not informative or entertaining—they’re irritating.

When you construct your blog posts, keep this in mind. Readers are most actively and easily engaged by shorter paragraphs. Bullet points or numbered lists, if complement your topic, are another excellent way to keep information separate and easy to read. You don’t want to bore your readers—you want to inform and entertain.

Punctuation and grammar are two important points which many bloggers overlook. In this digital age, shortened words, abbreviations and ‘text speak’ are becoming more accepted. However, they should be used sparingly, if at all, in your web space. Take the time to spell-check your posts, and have a grammar-savvy friend read them over if you’re unsure of your own grammar and punctuation skills. It takes a bit of extra time, but nothing screams ‘amateur’ like a poorly spelled or improperly structured blog.

Updating Regularly

A blog isn’t much fun if it’s never updated. You certainly don’t need to detail each day of your life. However, updating once per week is a fairly standard and acceptable time frame. It’s also a time frame which allows you time to think up quality content while keeping readers up to date.

Remember that this is your web space, so don’t be afraid to get creative and have fun with post topics. It’s even acceptable, on most blogs, to add personal stories. Some of the most successful bloggers frequently drop personal stories into their blogs, even radically off-topic stories. These glimpses into their personal lives allow their readers to get to know the blogger on a deeper level. They’re also a great option when you’re pressed for time and can’t think up an on-topic post!

Selling Yourself

Your blog is a place to express yourself, inform and entertain your readers and keep them current on your business. Don’t let the business aspect of your blog get lost in the rush to create entertaining content. You want to encourage customers to purchase from you again, and encourage new readers to become first-time customers. However, you also want to do it in subtle, engaging ways.

Pushy sales tactics rarely work. Instead, showcase your product or service. Include write-ups of new products on your blog, accompanied with pictures. Host a small contest with a reasonable, yet exciting prize. Do whatever it takes to get customers through your door, virtual or otherwise—just be careful not to push them away by trying too hard. A quality product or service, presented in an attractive and pressure-free manner, will sell itself. You can get started right away by checking out our top hosting pick and seeing how a well-run blog will enhance your web space.

Taking Your Web Business to the Real-World

Businesses which are solely online have become increasingly more common. If you own this type of business, you already know just how convenient they are for owners and customers alike. However, there is another dimension you may not have considered—the real-world connection. Here, we’ll review how and why bringing your product real-world will benefit your online sales.

Start Small

There’s no reason to overwhelm yourself with a massive convention in your first real-world sales attempt. In fact, trying to take on one of these huge sales can actually be a recipe for disaster. Most small business owners simply aren’t prepared for sales on such a large scale, even if they’ve been selling online for years. Instead, start small by checking out sales in your local area.

Nearly every product and service can find an appropriate local outlet. If you’re a crafter, there are many craft fairs at churches, community centers and fairs. The more digitally-inclined can also find local venues—most major cities have their own, smaller version of the big, nationally-known conventions. Graphic arts and other techno-skills are ideally suited for these smaller conventions.

Bloggers may feel that their options are more limited, but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Whatever your web space subject matter might be, there is a show, convention or fair which caters to your topic. Food bloggers can visit a variety of locations, such as farmer’s markets, cooking schools and organic homesteads. Fashion bloggers can seek out up-and-coming designers in their area. Tech bloggers can visit local conventions and find the latest and greatest local innovations. In short, there is an endless supply of potential real-world topics for every blogger, most of which are only a short drive from home.

The Main Benefit: Personal Connections

Regardless of what your online business might be, the main benefit of going real-world is the unique chance to connect personally with your customer base. People are more likely to purchase a product which they’ve had a chance to try out in person. Once they’ve met you and seen what you have to offer, they’re also more likely to feel confident trying out new products and services via your web space. Our top picks give you plenty of options on how to link real-world featured products to your site and increase those sales figures.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that real-world connections are becoming outdated in today’s society. While online shopping is hugely popular, connecting personally is a basic human instinct which will never go away. By meeting and impressing your client base in the real world, your online sales and traffic will reap the benefits. For most online small business owners, the time spent at these events is well worth it, and repaid several times over in online sales and traffic volume.

Getting Started

If the idea of taking your online business makes you nervous, you’re not alone. Thankfully, there’s no need to jump in all at once. Your web space will benefit from even a short visit to a farmer’s market, tech convention or fashion show. You’ll become more familiar with what works—and what doesn’t—with your target market, which is the ultimate marketing tool. Before you plan to actually sell or blog about a ‘field trip,’ take one on your own and soak up the atmosphere. Talk with vendors and customers, see what’s offered for sale, and evaluate how your own product or service stacks up. The knowledge you take away from just one event will translate into increased sales and traffic if applied properly, so get out there and start making connections!

Finding Photos and Music for Your Website

Visual Appeal Without Heavy Fines

Let’s imagine for a moment that your web space is dedicated to attracting customers to your cozy bed-and-breakfast, nestled in the north woods. You want a beautiful photo for your landing page which conveys the beauty of the area, so you hop on over to Google Images and type in ‘pine forest.’

Gorgeous! You spot the shot you want—only to find that it’s actually a copyrighted image, being sold on Etsy by a small business owner just like yourself. Sigh.

Using that image could land you in a great deal of trouble over copyright infringement—so don’t even think about it. Instead, use one of the legal methods for obtaining great photos. You’ll end up with some great visuals for your web space, and you won’t end up having nightmares about impending court cases.

Your first and most obvious option is to take your own photographs. This isn’t as far-fetched as it may sound—chances are good that your phone, coupled with a free photo-editing software package—can turn out photos which rival any you’ll find online. Try it out and see what you can come up with.

Another option is royalty-free photography. These are photographs which can be purchased for a one-time fee, without having to pay royalties to the photographer. You may be required to cite the source of the photo. In some cases, photos are free to use without citing—in non-profit scenarios. Read the fine print very carefully.

Public domain photos are your safest bet, aside from photos you take yourself. These photos are in the public domain, which generally means that they can be used by anybody, anytime, for any purpose—including commercial use. As always, read the fine print. If your web space happens to have an old-timey feel to it, you may just have hit the jackpot, as vintage and retro photos and graphics are the most plentiful type of public domain images.

Finding Music

While free music is a bit tougher to secure than free images, it can still be done. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that by re-mixing a popular song, you’ve created your very own original piece. Instead, seek out actual artists.

Your easiest option is to visit a stock music site. Sites such as AudioJungle feature loads of low-cost stock music which won’t get you tangled up in copyright law.

Another option is to search YouTube. There are tons of artists out there, placing their music online with the hope that somebody will discover it, enjoy it, and want to use or purchase it. Many of these artists will be happy to either sell you the rights to feature their work, or barter for their music via gift cards, discounts or even profit-sharing opportunities.

Stock Photos

Stock images are popular choice of many large websites, although they don’t always make sense for small business owners and bloggers. Stock images are images owned by a company—Shutterstock is perhaps the most well-known—and then purchased by individuals or companies for use in their web and print advertising. These images are of the highest quality, making them very attractive—but they come at a price.

If you simply can’t find—or take—a shot which captures the essence of your web space, stock photos aren’t a bad idea. Simply keep cost in mind, and only purchase those shots which you’ve already tried, and failed, to obtain at a lower cost. If you purchase pictures, you may need to cut costs in other areas. For professional appearance on a budget, check out our best low-cost packages and get started today!

 

How to Keep Visitors Returning to Your Site

If you follow some basic ‘getting started’ guidelines, your web space will attract visitors in several different ways. While attracting customers is definitely a huge component of your success, retaining those customers is equally important. Here, we’ll review some simple strategies for visitor retention.

Keep it Fresh

Nobody likes returning to a web space to find the exact same content they viewed on their last visit. It sends an unprofessional message, which is the last thing you want to convey. To prevent this, simply keep things updated. If you host a blog, make posts on a regular—and frequent—schedule. Respond to visitor comments and questions as quickly as possible. Upload new pictures regularly, even if they’re as simple as the front of your restaurant in different seasons. Regularly updated content sends the message that you are a thriving, bustling business—even if you’re just getting started.

Keep it Attractive

Eye appeal is huge in the world of online business, and your web space needs to compete. Invest the time and money in creating a web space which is fun to look at, right down to the backgrounds and text fonts. Use as many pictures as is appropriate, ensuring that they are of the highest quality. Today, your phone and a free photo-editing app can produce a professional-quality picture, so there’s no excuse for fuzzy, blurry or poorly structured shots. In addition, update those photos on a regular basis to give visitors something new to look at each time they return.

Keep it Personal

Nobody likes doing business with a nameless, faceless corporation—this is why the world of commerce is trending backward and returning to small businesses. Take full advantage of this trend and connect personally with your visitors in every possible manner. Choose the interactive features which best suit your business and maintain them properly. Respond to comments and questions quickly and professionally. If at all possible, take your business real-world, advertise this event on your web space and connect with your customers in person. Anything you can do to connect personally will foster new customer connections and enhance existing ones, so put yourself out there!

Keep it Exciting

One of the most time-honored methods of attracting and enhancing customer relations is a contest. You can offer contests to your visitors in a number of ways. Bloggers can offer the chance for a visitor’s own writing to be featured. Service providers can offer a small service for free. Crafters, product-centered bloggers and restaurant owners can offer a free lunch, beauty product bundle or gift package. Contest options truly are limitless, so don’t be afraid to get creative. You can offer your prizes in a traditional random-draw scenario, as a reward for the best answer to a posed question, or in any manner which complements your unique business. Viewers—even those who haven’t entered your contest—will keep returning to view new entries and, eventually, see who won the prize!

Conclusion

Return business is the foundation of any successful web space. Visitors who stop by once and never come back aren’t going to do anything for your bottom line, so make it your mission to keep them coming back for more. Check out our highest recommendation today for hosting plans loaded with affordable and retention-minded features!

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!