How to Improve Your Website Content

How To Improve Website Content

So your website is a mess — where do you even begin to “fix” it? What does “fixing” it really mean, anyways?

If you’re looking to improve your website, you know how daunting this overhaul can be. There are tips and tricks for almost every facet of the process, from improving your copy to reworking your design.

What you need is a process — not a grab bag of tips that leave you more confused than when you started.

Here’s the 7-step framework you can follow to improve your website content, even if you have no idea where to start.

1. Lay the Foundation

It may sound basic, but before you change anything on your website, you need to understand what your website does. You can have the most amazing site in the world, but if you don’t know what you want it to achieve, you’ll never really improve.

The first step is pretty straightforward — you need to define the goal for every single page on your website.

Each site page has a unique objective. For example, your homepage should encourage visitors to explore deeper into your site, a blog post may be key to generating new traffic, and a product page necessary for sales.

By understanding each page’s goal, you can begin to understand where things may be breaking down.

Start by putting your website into a map. List all of the pages you currently have, then define the goal for each page.

Once you have your page objectives down, it’s time to look at how your website fits together.

Think of your site like a puzzle. Each individual page is a piece of a larger picture. The pages all work together to create one big image (which is your user experience).

Your website’s organization should be intuitive for someone who is trying to navigate it. You don’t want a visitor to arrive at your homepage and be stranded, nor do you want them getting lost. Imagine how frustrating it is when you’re on a website and can’t get to the information you’re searching for.

Use your map to organize your website’s flow. Which pages are subpages of a larger section? Which pages need links to others? Note those in the spreadsheet, or use indentations to show how they connect.

Title Tag Keyword Map

2. Understand Your Users

Understanding your users is marketing 101, but it’s crucial for creating a website that achieves your goals. If you have the most amazing website, but it’s not tailored to the type of visitors you want and need, what good is it?

Before you rework your website, you need to understand who your audience is. Are they CEOs of small businesses? Are they local companies?

Who are they, and what problems do they have? How are you helping them solve these problems?

Create a persona for your website users.

A “persona” is marketing jargon for a profile of who you are really trying to do business with.

Write out one that describes your ideal customer. Be as descriptive as possible by including things like job title, favorite device, payscale, main frustrations and problems, end goals, what they do in their spare time, etc. Use Moz’s guide to user personas to guide you through the process.

3. Understand Your Data

One of the best parts about the internet today is nearly everything is recorded. This means you have access to an incredible amount of data that can paint the picture of why your website isn’t working.

Once you know who your audience is, it’s time to dive deeper into how they’re experiencing your website right now.

Google has one of the most intuitive platforms for work like this. Take some time to use Google Analytics to figure out where your audience is getting hung up on your navigation. Look especially at the Behavior Flow section to see where users are dropping off.

Google Analytics Behavior Flow

But remember that you have access to TONS more data. I’ve written guides to –

  • Ahrefs
  • Search Console
  • Website Data
  • Bounce Rate
  • Improving Ad Campaigns

Create a column in your spreadsheet dedicated solely to “optimizations”. Use your data to evaluate each existing page and note any breakdowns or opportunities. For example, are you noticing a high drop off on a page that’s bringing in significant traffic? Write it down next to that page.

4. Do Keyword & Topical Research

Keyword and topical research are crucial to understanding your audience’s interests and how they search online. By implementing the same sort of language your audience uses while searching the web, your site will not only perform better organically, but will resonate with your target audience and remain relevant.

For your existing content, you can use Google Search Console to see where you can optimize pages that already have some visibility for specific search terms. Use it to determine where you can adjust a page to capture more organic traffic, expand on a certain topic, or update outdated content. It will also flag HTML issues such as duplicate content and titles and meta descriptions that need improvement. You can get the full guide to using Google Search Console here.

But what about the pages that aren’t already getting traction? For those, you’ll want to do additional keyword and topical research. I’ve put together a step-by-step process to using keywords on your site, which you can use to walk through the process of finding and implementing user language on your site.

As you go through the research process, create a keyword map for your entire website to add words and topics for each page. You can add it to your existing spreadsheet so all of your information is in one place.

5. Find Content Gaps

You can’t improve what doesn’t exist, Once you have a handle on what’s going on with your existing content, it’s time to dive into what’s missing from your website.

From a user’s perspective, what’s missing?

Start by doing internal research. If you have a sales or customer service team, ask them what questions they’re getting. More importantly, look at your own internal site searches! This tells you exactly what people are searching for on your site (because they can’t find it).

Google Analytics Site Search

Also comb through your email and see what people ask when they contact you about your business. Chances are, those questions are missing information on your website, and you can add them either as a new page or as an FAQ page.

After you’ve taken a look at your own internal sources, it’s time to take a look at outside data. Use tools like Ahrefs to help you find what industry publications and competitors are getting right (use the full guide to Ahrefs to help you get the most out of the tool). Look especially for content with significant backlinks and organic traffic to see what type of content is in tune with your target audience. Then, add the missing pages and their corresponding keywords/topics to your website spreadsheet/map.

6. Address User Experience

Improving your website isn’t just about improving the content — it’s also about improving the experience visitors have on your site (also known as user experience).

You can have all of the right information, but if the website is slow, looks funky on their mobile device, or has a horrible design… you can bet users aren’t going to stick around.

There’s so much that can create a poor user experience — a bad design, broken links, a slow page load speed — it’s your job to find these negative elements and remedy them.

Start by evaluating your website design. Do you have a cohesive color palette? Are your images high quality? Does your website scale for tablet and mobile devices (also known as responsive in web jargon)? The visual appeal is going to be key in keeping users enticed and engaging with your content.

Next, dive into the mechanics. Start by testing page speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. If you’re seeing low or below average speeds, use this beginner’s guide to increase page speed to help fix it.

Make sure you use correct HTML formatting. Make sure your design values function over form (don’t use trendy bullsh*t like Parallax unless you value design awards over sales).

You’ll also want to check for broken links. To make sure none of your internal links are rendering a 404 page, use Screaming Frog to do a scan of your site’s pages. If you are specifically looking for Googlebot 404s, you can check your Search Console report.

7. Evaluate Your Copywriting

Now that you’ve addressed the mechanics and make-up of your site, it’s time to focus on the flair — otherwise known as the actual copy on your website.

As with all the of the elements in this guide, good copywriting (when combined with other website best practices) can lead to more traffic, better leads, and more sales.

Take a look at each page and determine where your content can be spruced up. Where can you use images instead of text? Where can you add more of your brand personality? Where can you break up paragraphs so the page is easier to skim?

Use this guide on how to improve website copy to help you evaluate your site copy. Choose three areas where you can improve, then go implement it!

Next Steps

Improving your website content can be a daunting task with no clear starting point. Using a grab bag of tips and tricks doesn’t get you any further — in fact, it can leave you feeling lost.

Instead of hopping around and fixing things at random, put a plan in place that takes you through each phase of the process in a methodical manner. Use the steps above to help guide you, and make sure you focus one one step at a time.

By following a plan and sticking to the process, you’ll be well on your way to overhauling your website to create one that helps grow your business (without feeling completely overwhelmed!).

The post How to Improve Your Website Content appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Thank You Page Best Practices, Ideas & Examples

A visitor has taken some sort of action on your site… hurray!

Before you celebrate too much, let’s talk about your Thank You page.

The Thank You page is one of the most underrated pages on a website. We often focus so much on getting someone to take an action (like purchasing a product, signing up for a webinar, downloading a whitepaper) that we forget how valuable a Thank You page can be, or the effort we should put into it.

A Thank You page, when used correctly, can be a crucial part of nurturing your audience.

But before we dive into some best practices, let’s cover the basics.

What is a Thank You Page?

A Thank You page is where a visitor is taken after completing a desired action on your website. It’s also sometimes referred to as a “confirmation” page because it confirms an action was taken.

A Thank You page can follow up any desired action on your site, from filling out a contact form to subscribing to an email newsletter or purchasing a product on your site.

Do I Need a Thank You Page?

If you have some sort of action you want visitors to take (also known as a “conversion” in marketing speak), then you absolutely need a Thank You page on your website.

This page not only serves as a way to confirm the action was taken successfully, but it also allows you to continue to engage your visitors, especially while they’re still “warm” (sales jargon for they’re more likely to want to interact/do business with you).

A visitor who has just taken an action on your site is incredibly valuable because they’re indicating they’re interested in you and what you have to offer. An effective Thank You page is a way to further that relationship and keep that interest growing.

Plus, saying thank you after your audience does something on your site is just plain polite.

Thank You Page vs. Thank You Message

A lot of forms and landing pages include built-in functionality to display a confirmation message once an action is completed. This functionality generally keeps users on the same page and simply replaces the form/download button/purchase area with a thank you message.

While showing this message is enough to confirm the action, in most cases, it doesn’t do much for continuing to engage with your audience. This is where a dedicated Thank You page can do wonders for your post-conversion opportunities.

By leveraging an individual page instead of a message on the existing page, you have more flexibility and opportunities to increase engagement, share relevant content, and provide additional opportunities to convert.

For more about thank you pages vs. thank you messages, check out this article by Hubspot.

Thank You Page Best Practices

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into the details. Here are seven Thank You page best practices you can implement on your own site.

Give Confirmation

The first thing your Thank You page should do is confirm whatever action your visitor just took was completed successfully. For example, if they’ve just subscribed to your weekly newsletter, your page might say something like, “Thank you for subscribing to our weekly newsletter.”

Your Thank You page should also confirm any relevant details relating to the conversion, such as how long it will take you to respond after they’ve filled out a contact form, or when they can expect to receive the whitepaper they’ve opted-in for.

ShivarWeb Thank You Page

Ex: ShivarWeb

Remember, this is someone who has indicated interest in your business. You want them to feel valued right off the bat and to know that the action they took actually worked. The best way to do that is to confirm all of the details as soon as they finish the conversion.

Include Navigation

One of the worst things you can do on your Thank You page is keep your audience stranded there. These are people who have just indicated they’re into what you have to offer, which means this is the perfect time to keep them hanging around your site!

At the very least, your Thank You page should include your website’s navigation to allow your audience to stick around and explore your site some more.

The Skimm thank you page

Ex: The Skimm

Provide Related Content/Actions

Aside from using your navigation to give your audience an opportunity to stick around, your Thank You page is also a great place to provide related content or additional actions your lead may find interesting.

For example, if they’ve just opted-in to a whitepaper, you could provide related content on the same or a similar subject. This is a great way to continue to “warm up” your visitors (AKA make their interest in you grow) without being overly sales-y.

You could also use this opportunity to lead your users further “down the funnel” (the next step closer to purchasing) by offering another relevant action. For example, Hubspot offers a free session to learn more about their software after you opt-in to download one of their guides.

Hubspot Thank You Page

Ex: HubSpot

If your Thank You page shows when a visitor has already taken a purchasing action, you can still use related content to keep them engaged. The easiest way to do so is to display related items they may also be interested in — Amazon is renowned for doing just that!

Amazon Related Items

Ex: Amazon

Add an Offer/Promotion

Did a customer just enter to win a free product? Why not offer a coupon code to encourage them to purchase something sooner?

Adding an offer or promotion can be an excellent way to encourage warm visitors to convert, or to increase the value of a converting customer by enticing them to purchase additional items.

Keep in mind that your offer should be something relevant to their action and worthy of their attention. You don’t want to come across as spammy over overly sales-y. You want to provide something that feels uniquely valuable to your audience and relates to whatever action they just took.

Get Social

Encouraging people to connect with you on social media is a great way to further connect with a warm audience.

Instead of just leaving links to your social profiles, take it a step further and tell visitors why they should follow you. What can they expect to see if on they follow you? News about your business? Tips and tricks related to the action they just took? Spell out the value and make it clear it’s worth it.

katelyn dramis thank you page

Ex: Katelyn Dramis

You can also use your Thank You page as an opportunity to spread the word about your business. This works particularly well for actions like webinar registrations and offer redemptions.

If your Thank You page is confirming an offer redemption or webinar sign-up, include social share buttons to encourage your converters to spread the word on social media with their friends. They obviously think what you have to offer is worth signing up for! There’s a good chance they’ll spread the word for you, too.

Show Off Testimonials

Even if your visitor has just completed a purchase, your Thank You page can still be a place of reassurance that you’re as great as you say you are.

Use your page as an opportunity to show off social proof, whether it be customer testimonials, the number of social media fans you have, or a quick stat or case study.

Your Thank You page should continue to warm your visitors and encourage them either to purchase down the road or to purchase again. Using social proof to help reassure them that you’re the real deal can help this process significantly.

Encourage Opt-Ins & Account Sign-Ups

A Thank You page is the perfect time to ask your audience to become a regular part of your community and an ongoing converter.

For e-commerce businesses, asking your purchases to create an account after converting can yield far more results than asking prior to purchase (and can reduce cart abandonment).

If your business doesn’t include the opportunity for customers to create accounts, you can still invite converters to be regulars by asking them to opt-in to your email newsletter on your Thank You page. Make sure you specify why your audience would want to subscribe to your newsletter — what is it you’ll be offering that makes it worthwhile?

Conclusion & Next Steps

Your Thank You page can be an amazing tool in your sales arsenal if used correctly. Don’t let all of your focus go toward the conversion — spend adequate time on your confirmation page and yield the benefits time and time again.

Start by taking a look at your own Thank You page. Does it confirm the action your visitor took? Does it offer opportunities to stay engaged with your business? If it doesn’t, start by introducing one way for users to continue to interact with you.

Remember, like all pages on your website, your Thank You page isn’t set in stone. Test one approach to adding some meat to your page (like adding related content or a call-to-action to follow you on social media) and see how it works. Then, adapt!

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The Complete Guide To Card Brand Fees For Merchant Accounts

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credit card processing fees image

In this guide, we’re tackling a surprisingly tricky and supremely detail-oriented topic in the world of card payment processing: card brand fees. Navigating these fees on your merchant account statement can feel like you’re on a scavenger hunt you didn’t sign up for — and not the fun kind. There’s no avoiding the fact that the devil’s in the details when it comes to card brand fees, but too many merchants overlook or misunderstand them at their own peril. Fortunately, Merchant Maverick is here to help you:

  • Understand card brand fees and how they apply to your specific merchant account.
  • Identify these fees on your statement with our reference list of commonly-charged card brand fees.
  • Discern if your card processor is ripping you off by messing with these fees.

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Table of Contents

Card Brand Fees VS Interchange Fees

Wait, aren’t these the same thing? If you thought so, you’re not the only one. Many merchants are surprised to learn that interchange fees and card brand fees are two completely separate types of fees. If this includes you, then you are about to join the elite class of merchants who understand the difference!

The common conflation of these two fee types stems from the fact that both are considered part of the “wholesale” cost of card processing, as opposed to the “markup.” In processing lingo, “wholesale” simply means that your processor must pay these fees to a separate entity in the processing chain instead of keeping the money for its own use.

The key distinction between these two sub-categories of wholesale fees, therefore, is which link in the chain is owed each fee. Here’s the difference: An interchange fee goes to to the customer’s card-issuing bank, while card brand fees are ultimately paid to the actual card brands themselves (e.g., Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express).

For both of these wholesale costs, card processors and the merchant services providers (MSPs) who manage your accounts are faced with a choice. Do they itemize and “pass-through” these wholesale fees directly to the merchant? Or, do they absorb the wholesale cost into the pricing structure in other ways, perhaps by charging a higher processing rate or monthly fee? Or, do they use some solution in between?

As a merchant, you’re tasked with knowing how your own MSP handles wholesale fees — both interchange and card brand. We’re only addressing card brand fees in this article. For more on interchange fees and how the different pricing models (such as interchange-plus) incorporate them, see our complete guide to rates and fees.

Card brand fees are typically either a percentage of volume charge or a flat amount per instance. Some apply to all your transactions, while others only apply in very specific situations, such as when an authorization is abnormal in some way. We’ll cover these individual fees and their circumstances in the itemized list at the end of this article.

The good news is that card brand fees have set, established amounts across the industry. Like interchange fees, they’re considered non-negotiable, and the processor has no control over the amounts. The bad news is that finding the true wholesale amounts for card brand fees is generally more difficult than looking up interchange rates.

Before we delve into why these fees are so pesky, note that they’re also called card network fees, card association fees, or assessments (although, as you’ll see, an “assessment” is technically a specific sub-category of card brand fee).

Card Brand Fees Are Especially Tricky

Due to several regrettable quirks of the processing industry, card brand fees are particularly complicated and opaque. Here are the primary reasons:

  • They’re not displayed on the card brand websites. By contrast, interchange tables are readily available at the Visa and MasterCard websites.
  • You can’t call the card brands and ask about the fees. You’ll be redirected right back to your own MSP to answer any questions. It’s incredibly frustrating that we can’t rely on the card brands to disclose these base costs, and instead must rely on processors and MSPs to be honest when they pass the fees through.
  • Multiple fees may apply to the same authorization or transaction. For example, transactions paid with a foreign-issued card incur separate international surcharges on top of the regular assessment that’s applied to all your transactions.
  • The fees change (usually increase) over time. And not all at once. While they’re rarely decreased, sometimes particular fees are eliminated and/or replaced with others. Occasionally, a completely new fee is instituted, to which the only fitting response is…

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  • Many of the fees are known by multiple names and abbreviations, and it’s often difficult to match the names on your own statement with any established names.
  • Two or more fees may be combined into one on your statement, making them hard to identify and verify.
  • The fees can be spread throughout multiple sections of your statement — not grouped all together or even labeled properly — just in case you weren’t already driven bonkers by this stuff. Often, I’ve seen them buried inside “interchange” or “authorization” sections.
  • Brazen processors or MSPs may add their own markups to card brand fees without telling you. Or, they may invent fees and give them card-brand-sounding names. Yuck, right?
  • Most of the fees are small, so can be overlooked as inconsequential. They can still add up quite quickly, but the real issue at stake is the overall honesty and transparency of your provider. Regardless of whether an extra fee or markup here and there isn’t costing you that much, wouldn’t you still rather know about it?

How To Stay On Top Of Card Brand Fees

It’s a shame that merchants can’t rely on Gandalf’s wizardry for this quest. Instead, we suggest you follow our tips for navigating these fees:

  • Be aware that you may be charged only some, or even none, of these fees. This depends on several factors, including 1) your pricing model, 2) what your MSP decides to pass through versus absorb, and 3) what happens with your transactions and authorizations in a given month. With many blended, tiered or flat-rate plans, all or most of the card brand fees are absorbed into the overall cost of your account instead of itemized and passed through to you. There are no guarantees with any pricing model, however, so check your statements anyway!
  • Obtain a list of card brand fees from your merchant account provider. If they’re passing these fees through to you, they should provide a detailed list with the specific names and abbreviations they’re using.
  • Use a secondary, neutral source to confirm fee amounts. Our list below is a great place to start.
  • Keep a running list of the card brand fees you’ve seen on your own statements, along with the amounts. Reference lists are handy, but a personalized list is easier to use and track over time than a litany of every possible fee for every possible circumstance.
  • Processors shouldn’t mark up these fees without clearly informing you. And really, they should leave these fees alone completely. If the fee is charged at all, it should be passed through at cost.
  • Trust the amount more than the name. Identifying a fee on your statement is often more about looking at the rate or amount charged, as well as the specific number/volume/type of transactions to which it was applied. The process of elimination can be very effective here.
  • Definitely be suspicious if you spot extra fees that aren’t on the reference list, any that seem like duplicates or that can’t be matched with established values, or those that look too high. Don’t worry too much if a fee seems too low; it’s possible your processor is just absorbing or redistributing some of the cost.
  • Be on the lookout for fee change notifications. October and April are common transition points, but the fees can change at any time. Good processors will notify you (sometimes on the statement itself) when a card brand fee is set to increase or change. If your processor doesn’t fall in this camp, it’s all the more important that you bookmark this article.
  • Ask before you sign. If you’re just signing up for an MSP or changing providers, ask how it handles card brand fees in addition to interchange costs. Be very clear that you know the difference and want the specifics. Remember, not all customer service reps are created equal in their knowledge of this topic. Ask to be transferred up the chain if you’re not satisfied.

Final Thoughts (Let’s Crowdsource This!)

As merchants, you are on the front lines for tracking card brand fees. We believe your input will be key in keeping our reference list up to date. Some of you have processors who actually do a good job organizing and displaying card brand fees on statements, as well as notifying you of any upcoming changes. Is a fee on our list is no longer accurate? Are we missing a new, legitimate fee? Together, we can also help other merchants whose processors are abysmal at communicating fees, or even cheating business owners. Let’s all team up on this — leave a comment below!
International Service Assessment (ISA)

  • Surcharge owed on transactions that are processed in the US on a card issued outside the US.
  • 1.20% – International Service Assessment (ISA) – Non-US currency
    • Same fee as above, but incurs this higher rate when the transaction is settled in the cardholder’s local currency.
    • 0.45% – International Acquirer Fee (IAF)
      • Applies in same circumstance as the International Assessment above.

    Per-Item:

    • $0.0195 – Acquirer Processing Fee (APF): Credit
      • Owed on all credit transactions for US-based businesses, irrespective of where cardholder/issuer is located.
    • $0.0155 – Acquirer Processing Fee (APF): Debit
      • Owed on all debit transactions for US-acquired businesses, irrespective of where the cardholder/issuer is located.
    • $0.0195 – Credit Voucher Fee (Credit)
      • Owed on all refunds issued in the US via credit card.
    • $0.0155 – Credit Voucher Fee (Debit)
      • Owed on all refunds issued in the US via debit card.
    • $0.0018 – System File Transmission Fee / Base II Fee
      • Owed on all authorized transactions submitted for settlement (in addition to the above transaction fees). Base II refers to Visa’s settlement network.
      • Outdated Visa settlement fees:
        • $0.0025 – Settlement Network Access Fee. Base II fee may still be called by this name but should be $0.0018.
        • $0.0047 – Kilobyte (KB) Access Fee. Should not be charged in addition to the above.
    • $0.10 – Transaction Integrity Fee (TIF)
      • Owed on a debit or prepaid Visa transaction that fails to meet CPS requirements (e.g., not settled in 24 hours, no AVS submitted on a keyed transaction).
    • $0.09 – Misuse of Authorization Fee
      • Owed when a transaction is authorized, but not followed by a matching cleared transaction, or when a canceled or timed-out authorization is improperly reversed.
    • $0.20 – Zero Floor Limit Fee
      • Owed when the merchant submits a settlement transaction without an authorization.
    • $0.025 – Zero Dollar Verification Fee
      • Owed when the merchant verifies a cardholder’s information (e.g., AVS, CVC2) without authorizing a transaction.

    Other:

    • Varies – Fixed Acquirer Network Fee (FANF)
      • A flat fee based on your volume per month, type of business (Merchant Category Code or MCC), number of locations, etc. Typically charged quarterly or monthly. Learn more about the FANF here.

    MasterCard Network Fees

    Volume-Based:

    • 0.12% – Assessment / Acquirer Brand Volume Fee – Transactions <$1,000 and all Signature Debit
      • Owed on gross commercial and consumer credit transactions less than $1,000, as well as all signature debit.
    • 0.14% – Assessment / Acquirer Brand Volume Fee – Transactions >$1,000)
      • Owed on gross commercial and consumer credit transactions exceeding $1,000; excludes signature debit. Note: May be listed as 0.02% surcharge over the above assessment.
    • 0.0075% – Acquirer License Fee (ALF) / License Volume Fee 
      • Owed on gross transaction volume. Increased from 0.0045% Oct. 2017. Note: sometimes combined with the above assessments, bringing the totals to 0.1275% and 0.1475%, respectively.
    • 0.60% – International / Cross-Border Assessment Fee (Domestic)
      • Surcharge owed by US-based merchants on transactions on a card issued outside the U.S. settled in USD. (Similar to Visa’s ISA.)
    • 1.00% – International / Cross-Border Assessment Fee (Foreign)
      • Same fee as above, but incurs this higher rate when the transaction is settled in the cardholder’s local currency. (Similar to Visa’s ISA.)
    • 0.85% – International Acquirer Program Support Fee
      • Applies in same circumstance as the Cross-Border Assessment above. (Similar to Visa’s IAF.)
    • 0.01% – Digital Enablement Fee
      • Owed on all card-not-present transactions for signature debit, consumer credit, and commercial credit cards.
    • 1.57%Global Wholesale Travel Transaction B2B
      • Owed instead of regular assessments, international surcharges, and NABU fees when the MasterCard B2B (MSB) card product has been used. Applies to a specific set of Merchant Category Codes (MCCs) in the travel and entertainment sector.

    Per-Item:

    • $0.0195 – Network Access and Brand Usage Fee (NABU Fee)
      • Owed on all US-based authorizations, regardless if settled. (Similar to Visa’s APF, Discover’s Data Usage Fee.)
    • $0.0044 – Kilobyte (KB) Access Fee
      • Owed on each authorized transaction submitted for settlement. Note: we’re in the process of checking to see if it’s still charged.
    • $0.01 – AVS Fee (Card-Not-Present)
      • Owed on card-not-present transactions processed using Address Verification Service (AVS). Often shows up on a statement under “Authorizations.”
    • $0.005 – AVS Fee (Card-Present)
      • Owed on Card-Present transactions processed using AVS. Often shows up under “Authorizations.”
    • $0.0025 – Card Validation Code Fee
      • Owed on all transactions involving CVC2 authorization.
    • $0.025 – Account Status Inquiry Fee
      • Owed when a merchant verifies AVS or CVC2 without authorizing a transaction.
    • $0.03 – SecureCode Transaction Fee
      • Owed on all MC SecureCode verification attempts (SecureCode service requires merchant signup).
    • $0.055 – Processing Integrity Fee
      • Owed for transactions that do not comply with best practices for transactions (i.e., not properly cleared/settled/reversed within MasterCard’s time frames for the type of transaction). Below are similar fees for other types of authorization integrity issues:
        • $0.045 – Processing Integrity Fee, Pre-Authorization
        • $0.045 – Processing Integrity Fee, Undefined Authorization
        • $0.040 minimum, or 0.25% – Processing Integrity Fee: Final Authorization
    • $0.012 – Processing Integrity Fee Detail Reporting
      • Owed on any authorization that generates a processing integrity fee for pre-authorization, undefined authorization, or final authorization.

    Other:

    • $1.25/mo. ($15 per year) – Merchant Location Fee
      • $15 annually for each location with traditional MSPs/processors ($3 annually for payment facilitators like Square). Not applicable to merchants processing under $200/month, nor to charitable or religious organizations.
    • $500 – Yearly Registration Fee
      • For online e-cigarettes/vaping businesses.

     Discover Network Fees

    Volume-Based:

    • 0.13% – Assessment
      • Owed on gross transaction volume.
    • 0.55% – International Processing Fee
      • Owed on US-based transactions processed with a card issued outside the U.S.
    • 0.80% – International Service Fee
      • Applies in same circumstance as the International Processing Fee above.

    Per-Item:

    • $0.0195 – Data Usage Fee
      • Owed on all authorized transactions. (Similar to Visa’s APF and MasterCard’s NABU Fees.)
    • $0.0025 – Network Authorization Fee
      • Owed on all authorized transactions. Replaced the Data Transmission Fee in 2013, which only applied to settled transactions.

    American Express OptBlue Network Fees

    American Express OptBlue

    Volume-Based:

    • 0.15% – Assessment
      • Owed on gross transaction volume.
    • 0.40% – International Assessment / Inbound Fee
      • Surcharge owed on transactions involving a card issued outside the US.
    • 0.30% – Card-Not-Present Surcharge
      • Surcharge owed on any transactions considered CNP, including keyed and ecommerce transactions.
    • 0.75%Technical Specification Non-Compliance
      • Owed on transactions that do not meet Amex standards, such as an authorization not obtained at the same time as a sale. Much rarer than Visa and MasterCard fees for transaction integrity problems.

    Per-Item:

    Rose Holman

    Rose’s eclectic professional background includes teaching, research, retail, non-profits and music. Upon returning to her Pacific Northwest roots following a four year stint in the tiny country of Luxembourg, she immediately applied her innate curiosity and lifelong love of explaining stuff to the world of merchant accounts. Her hobbies include devouring podcasts, practicing minimalism, and singing four-part harmony with her husband and two kids.

    Rose Holman

    “”

    Shopify vs. Squarespace: Online Store Options Compared

    Shopify vs. Squarespace – they are two of the most well-known brands in the online store / website builder industry. I’ve written a Shopify review here and Squarespace review here. But how do they compare directly to each other?

    First, a bit of background. Over the past few years, online store software costs have plummeted, and the technology to get a website from idea to reality has blossomed.

    Whether you’re using a text editor and uploading to the Amazon cloud, hosting your own site powered by WordPress + WooCommerce or using a drag and drop website builder, there’s never been an easier time to create an online store. It’s no longer 2002 where every storeowner had to know PHP, HTML, CSS and a bit of Javascript.

    All-inclusive ecommerce builders have been particularly interesting. Companies like Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, Shopify, and BigCommerce – not to mention platforms like Etsy, eBay, and Amazon – have brought ecommerce to everyone regardless of their coding skills.

    On the wide spectrum of ecommerce store building solutions, they all live on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website.

    That is in contrast to solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately. That’s not a good or bad thing. But it is something to be aware of when you’re choosing one of them as a solution since it affects your website both long and short term.

    In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

    Using an online store builder is like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

    Ecommerce Real Estate Tradeoffs

    Shopify, Squarespace and other options like BigCommerce and Weebly as a group compete with options like WordPress (which provides the free software to build a website that you own & control – see my WordPress setup guide here) all the way to options like typing actual HTML code into a text file.

    The last preface I’ll mention is that Squarespace is an all-around website builder with ecommerce capability.

    Shopify, in contrast, is strictly an ecommerce platform.

    This focus puts Squarespace behind as an advanced ecommerce tool and Shopify behind as a general website builder tool. With their respective free trials, you can quickly see the differences.

    Try Shopify for Free

    Try Squarespace for Free

    Make sense? Awesome – let’s dive into the comparison.

    Side note – if you want this comparison in a BuzzFeed-style quiz, you can take my online store builder quiz here…

    You can also look at my posts on –

    Otherwise, we’ll look specifically at pricing, onboarding/user experience, design features, technical features, ecommerce features, marketing features, and customer support.

    Disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my professional experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

    Pricing

    Comparing pricing between Shopify and Squarespace is fairly straightforward if you have a clear idea of your needs. This comes from the fact that Shopify focuses on *only* online store owners whereas Squarespace markets to everyone.

    The short version is that Shopify is more expensive. But there’s a few caveats to look at.

    Shopify Pricing

    Squarespace Ecommerce Pricing

    The first caveat is credit card fees.

    Squarespace syncs with Stripe and PayPal. Their fees are 2.9% + $.30 per transaction.

    Shopify has their own payments gateway that charges lower per transaction fees. But – if you use a non-Shopify gateway, Shopify charges an additional transaction fee that Squarespace does not have.

    So why is this important? If you already have a gateway (ie, Authorize.net for your physical pop-up shop) and you want to use them with Shopify – then Shopify’s transaction fee kicks in. But – if you want to use Shopify Payment’s for your online store – you can save a bit of money on transaction fees. Those fees add up. If you have revenues of $100000 – a 0.4% reduction in fees could equal $500 per month.

    The second caveat is value pricing.

    On front-end features alone – Squarespace is significantly cheaper than Shopify, especially on their Advanced plan, which compares almost directly with Shopify’s Standard plan.

    See Shopify’s Plans here.

    See Squarespace’s Plans here.

    But – like I mentioned in the introduction, it’s hard to compare their pricing tables directly since they are really different products for different audiences.

    It’s a bit like comparing the pricing of a motorcycle vs. an SUV.

    Sure, the motorcycle is much cheaper and it gets you from A to B. It has wheels, an engine, and it drives on the road just fine. But it’s also meant for a certain type of driving.

    It all really comes down to what you need for you project – two wheels that will get you where you need to go or a vehicle that has plenty of room along with lots of features. So let’s look at other differences.

    Aside – if you’re curious, Shopify’s $9/mo Lite plan isn’t applicable since it’s more of an inventory/payments software than an online store builder software. You can upload products, manage them, and accept payments, but you can only sell them via other platforms such as a Facebook plugin or a button on an existing website. Same goes with Squarespace’s Business Plan. It’s meant to do a website that happens to have a couple things for sale – not really a full online store solution. I’ll set both those options to the side for the moment.

    Onboarding & User Experience

    No matter how intuitive and simple a piece of technology is, there’s always that moment of “what am I looking at and what do I do now?”

    Onboarding is the process of guiding you past that point. In theory, a huge selling point of online website / store builders is that they have a near-zero learning curve. They have a straightforward process from website concept to website reality.

    On this point, Squarespace and Shopify both do alright but in different ways.

    Shopify has a quick path from free trial signup to site launch. They have guided tours and a very straightforward setup. They also have customer support outreach focused on getting you up and running quickly.

    Shopify Backend

    However, Shopify also has many more features, apps, and technical options available that can present a challenge. The most daunting hurdle is linking your domain name to your store. It’s not difficult but is daunting at the mention of “setting your CNAME” (in fairness, you don’t have to direct your domain if you purchase via Shopify for a bit more per year than via a 3rd party).

    Since Shopify functions as a platform for payments, offline inventory and more – their website store setup is actually on the second menu of their main dashboard rather than front and center.

    Squarespace has a ridiculously fast sign up to live site process. Their backend is fairly intuitive for basic websites. However, they to have a “Squarespace jargon” to get used to. They like to appeal to developers and freelance designers – so there are advanced tools that can clutter simply launching a site.

    SquareSpace Onboarding

    Their support emails and tours are structured well. But since their software is made for all types of websites, the ecommerce features are a bit buried (and limited) from the perspective of an online store owner.

    I would not rule either provider out on onboarding/user experience. But their differences are sort of like a restaurant with a waiter (Shopify) vs. a fast casual restaurant with a menu above the cashier (Squarespace).

    If you want more help and more customization, then Shopify is your choice. If you want to quickly see and order from the features, then Squarespace is less daunting.

    Design Features

    Part of the overall value of website builders is simple, straightforward design – no web designers necessary.

    But good design is hard. And it matters – a lot. A lot of people can spot a good looking website but have a harder time figuring out how to get there. Using a template for a foundation and then customizing it is a good way to get the site you want without paying for a custom design.

    Both Shopify and Squarespace use templates (aka “themes”) for design. But they are very different in customization options.

    Shopify has a solid drag and drop design feature. You can create any layout element you’d like and drag it into place. You can click and edit any portion of any web page – including both content and design.

    But – Shopify does not combine design and content. You have to get your design right – and then add content in a separate area (ie, it’s a template).

    Since you can edit HTML/CSS with Shopify, you can build any design possible. There are few, if any, limits to any design that you see on the Internet. Additionally, Shopify has a drag and drop template editor.

    Shopify Drag Drop

    Squarespace has a hybrid approach. They famously have beautiful pre-built designs.

    Squarespace Designs

    They also have drag and drop – and pretty intuitive editing.

    But – they also combine design and content with their editor. This approach has tradeoffs. On one hand, you can edit the design for specific pages. On the other hand, your design can go “off-base” pretty quickly – especially with content for hundreds of products.

    The other drawback with Squarespace is that their off-the-shelf themes require *a lot* of really good imagery. If you don’t have access to high-quality photography, their themes are not going to work well. Many of Shopify’s designs are fine and functional regardless of product imagery.

    They both have large marketplaces for premium designs (in addition to professional designers).

    If you are a fan of raw functionality – then you’ll appreciate Shopify’s approach to design. If you want your site to look amazing off the shelf, love to edit details, and have access to good imagery – then you’ll appreciate Squarespace.

    Ecommerce Features

    The absolute core features of an ecommerce store are a –

    • product database
    • shopping cart
    • checkout page
    • payment processor
    • order database

    That is it.

    But, especially in 2017 (and 2018 and beyond), there is a *lot* more than can (and should) go into an ecommerce store. There’s everything from selling via Facebook Messenger to syncing with Amazon FBA to integrating with eBay – not to mention features for executing on marketing fundamentals.

    Even for advertising products, there’s selling via Buyable Pins, Google Merchant, Twitter cards, and more. There’s remarketing and coupon codes. There’s A/B testing. There’s inventory synchronization with vendors like AliExpress. And there’s order synchronization with shippers like UPS and USPS.

    And that’s all a drop in the bucket.

    Obviously, not every store needs every feature. If you are trying to sell a couple T-shirts or a couple specialty products – you certainly don’t need them all. But if you want to grow and expand, you’ll need your options open.

    For ecommerce features, Shopify wins hands down, though Squarespace does make it simple to sell your product. Squarespace has a few advanced features (like abandoned cart recovery), but it’s nothing like Shopify.

    Shopify not only has more features directly integrated into their platform, but they also have a well-established app store that includes free and paid apps to extend your store with every feature you could possibly need.

    Shopify Integrations

    That said, this section is a bit unfair to Squarespace, because, again, they are a general website builder that includes ecommerce. Shopify is strictly an ecommerce platform.

    If Shopify didn’t “win” on ecommerce features it would be a surprise. Technically, Squarespace competes more with the likes of Weebly and Wix or WordPress who are also website builders that provide core ecommerce features.

    In short – if you need core ecommerce features integrated in a simple, straightforward way, then Squarespace is fine. If you actually need a full suite of ecommerce features to grow, then Shopify is hands-down better.

    Technical Features

    Technical features are all the web development best practices that don’t really “matter”…until they matter a lot. I’m talking about generating clean URLs, editable metadata, allowing page-level redirects, etc.

    On this point, Shopify does very well – and not just compared to Squarespace, but compared to any hosted platform.

    Traditionally, hosted platforms presented a risk for web designers, developers, and marketers who wanted to work on the technical aspects of the site.

    I know that I flinch anytime a prospective client tells me they are on a hosted platform of any kind.

    But Shopify and Squarespace perform well in general. Many skeptics of hosted platforms note that they actually take care of the technical features well. You still don’t have FTP access to your server, but you do have access to change things via their Liquid editor (Shopify) or Developer Mode (Squarespace).

    Where they differ (especially for me) is in their potential for technical features. And again, here, Shopify’s app store is their “killer” feature. Even if a feature is not native to Shopify, a non-developer can usually add it.

    On the flip side, Squarespace has a lot of native features that simply “work” – and a process of continually adding & revising existing features.

    Both Squarespace and Shopify have inherent limitations as hosted platforms (ie, when you leave, you a lot of your data), but Shopify does a bit more to eliminate the weaknesses and capitalize on strengths as a hosted platform.

    Marketing Features

    In Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character says “if you build it, they will come.” Sadly, that is not true about websites. Like any business, you have to actively promote and market your online store for anyone to show up.

    Marketing features like custom metadata, open graph information, Schema markups, email signups, share buttons, landing pages, etc all make marketing your site a lot easier.

    For marketing features, both Shopify and Squarespace both do really well. They support header scripts. They integrate with many products. They add meta data, product schema and open graph tags automatically.

    But like design & ecommerce features, there’s the same catch. For an ecommerce store owner, Shopify has many more (and higher quality) built-in features plus a better, more developed app store.

    Squarespace has core marketing features built-in, but with more limits.

    Support & Service

    Customer support and service are difficult to judge. Like I’ve said in most of my reviews, a single customer can never really know if they happened upon a disgruntled rookie or if the company is really that bad.

    That said, there are ways to look at a company’s investment in both customer services and support.

    For Shopify vs. Squarespace, I think the clear “winner” is Shopify. Shopify not only provides more channels for customer service (phone, chat, email, forums, social media, etc), they also have an incredibly extensive help center.

    The help center not only tackles technical issues, it also tackles customer success issues (aka problems with making money).

    Squarespace has email support, and limited chat support – but no phone. Their knowledgebase does not have the attention or the depth that Shopify has.

    Comparison Conclusion

    So Shopify vs. Squarespace – which one is a better fit for your project?

    If you plan on running a growing online store and want all the features possible, then you should go try Shopify.

    Go try Shopify for free here.

    If you want a simple store – or a general site with a beautiful look, then Squarespace might be a good fit for you.

    Also – bookmark my post on creating an ecommerce marketing strategy here.

    Good luck!

    “”

    404 Page Best Practices, Ideas, & Examples

    It’s an annoyance for site owners and visitors alike – the 404 page. A visitor types in a URL or clicks a link and expects to land on a certain page, but they get this instead…

    404 error

    It’s frustrating, but it’s also a part of life on the web. Mistakes will be made, and error messages will be seen.

    But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. In fact, you can turn your website’s error page (also known as a 404 or Page Not Found error) into a positive experience for your visitors.

    But before we get there, let’s cover a few of the basics.

    What is a 404 Error?

    A 404 is the error page your server shows when it cannot find the page someone is looking for on your site. It is also known as a Page Not Found error, because it is shown when a specific page within a live website cannot be found (if the entire website were down, a different error would show).

    4o4 pages are usually shown when someone mistypes a web address, or if a page has been taken down and a redirect to a different page has not been set up.

    Why does it matter?

    A 404 error page is actually a necessity, because it lets a user know that whatever they’re looking for cannot be found.

    And while a 404 page isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it shouldn’t be caused by your own internal links. This means that whenever you link to another page on your site, you should always be pointing to an actual page — not a “page not found” error code.

    To make sure none of your internal links are rendering a 404 page, use Screaming Frog to do a scan of your site’s pages. You can also use the Chrome browser extension, Check My Links, to do a quick scan of the page you’re currently on. If you are specifically looking for Googlebot 404s, you can check your Search Console report.

    link checker

    But even if you have all of your ducks in a row when it comes to internal links, your website visitors are human. There’s always a chance of a URL typo that will bring up your 404 page. There’s also the possibility that others who link to your site may link to an outdated page that does not have a redirect, or may type the URL incorrectly, which will also render a 404 error.

    As such, it’s important to have a page that clearly communicates the error and provides a good user experience (more on that in a minute).

    When to Redirect vs. When to 404

    Like anything on your website, the decision to implement a redirect (when you automatically send a user to a new page when they type in an old URL) or to show a 404 error page isn’t black and white. It all depends on user experience.

    Let’s say you have a page that ranks high in search engines and includes a ton of external links to it. For some reason, you take it down. In this case, you’d probably want to create a redirect to something similar and reach out to the external linkers to get the links replaced with the new content.

    In other cases, it may be better to use a 404 page because it clearly shows users the information that they’re expecting to see doesn’t exist. For example, if you expect to land on a blog post about the best dog toys for large dogs, but end up on the brand’s product page for dog toys instead, you’d probably be a bit confused (and maybe even frustrated).

    Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into some 404 page best practices that you should be using on your own site.

    Explain What’s Happening

    Have you ever landed on an error page full of technical jargon like “Internal server error” or “File or directory not found”?

    It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

    Don’t make the same mistake on your 404 page. While a lot of error pages come with standard 404 messaging like “page not found” or “there’s been an error”, take the extra step to make sure the copy on the page is rid of technical website jargon and explains what went wrong.

    REI

    Ex: REI

    Remember that a lot of searches aren’t even aware of what a 404 error is, which means it’s on you to break down what’s happening when they hit the error page.

    Be Consistent with Your Brand

    Out of the box 404 pages are rarely a thing of beauty. And while your page doesn’t need to be masterfully designed, it should fit in with your overall website design and brand voice.

    To make sure it does, put some sort of branding on the page (or at least make sure your site navigation and logo appear at the top). You’ll also want to be sure that any additional elements on the page (like photos, colors, and fonts) fit with your site’s color palette.

    Reddit

    Ex: Reddit

    When it comes to the actual copy on the page, keep it warm and welcoming. A 404 error shouldn’t be a disaster, and your copy should make that clear. You’ll also want the copy to match with your overall vibe (i.e. if you’re cheeky on the rest of your site, be cheeky here).

    Give Them Somewhere to Go

    The last thing you want someone to do when they land on your 404 page is hit the back button. Unfortunately, this happens all the time.

    Why? Because there’s nowhere to go! Take this error from Bank of America. There’s no action to take but to reload the page or head back to wherever you were before this page.

    Bank of America

    Don’t fall into this trap. Make sure your 404 page invites people to go somewhere else on your site. A standard practice is to leave a link to the homepage at the very least, so users can navigate to the start of your site. It can also be good to include a search bar so users can search for exactly what they were looking for when they initially landed here.

    MailChimp

    Ex: MailChimp

    But Don’t Overwhelm

    You want to give users an option of where to go from your 404 page — but this doesn’t mean dump every link you have on them and make them choose without any context.

    To ensure your 404 page provides a good user experience, limit the links on the page to a few key ones, like your homepage and contact page. No matter which links you choose, make sure you include the homepage for those users who aren’t totally sure what they’re looking for yet.

    Litmus

    Ex: Litmus

    Get Creative

    A great 404 page can be the opportunity to change a visitor’s feeling about their whole experience with you. You can take a user from frustrated to satisfied just by using a bit of creativity on your page.

    One of the easiest ways to do this is to weave a bit of humor into it. Take this clever 404 page from LEGO, which uses Legos to convey the error.

    LEGO

    Keep in mind that however you represent the error on your page, it needs to fit with your overall brand. For example, if you’re an attorney, you may not want to make jokes on your 404 page. But this doesn’t mean you can’t get creative! Take Chase as an example:

    CHASE

    They do a great job of adding a touch of creativity with their copy while still keeping things professional.

    Looking for extra inspiration for your 404 page? Here are a few more that we love:

    Bloomberg

    This 404 page from Bloomberg animates a businessman destroying his computer and then combusting. The clever use of animation and humor make landing on this error page actually worth it!

    LinkedIn

    LinkedIn

    You don’t have to be a creative genius to have a good 404 page. Sometimes simple is better. We like LinkedIn’s because it’s straightforward. The moving telescope is a nice touch, too.

    NPR

    NPR

    NPR does a great job of giving the user the right number of options for a next step and adding a bit of humor with their stories about lost people, places, and things. Bonus points for adding a place to report the page as missing . This is a great way to make sure they’re accounting for non-user errors.

    There’s always a chance of someone getting a 404 error on your website — it’s up to you to make the experience a good one.

    Remember that your 404 page has the opportunity to change a user’s experience with you. It’s an excellent opportunity to take a frustrated visitor and turn them into a fan of your business.

    At the very least, a good 404 page clearly explains the error, why it might be happening, and gives visitors a path to follow to continue interacting with the rest of the website.

    To take your page up a notch, try weaving in some of your brand personality a bit more. Play with creativity and humor (if appropriate). You never know when a good 404 page can turn someone into a brand advocate or loyal customer.

    “”

    Homepage Best Practices, Ideas, & Examples

    Ah, the homepage. If you’re like most website owners, you’ve put massive thought into making your front page look amazing.

    But there’s a rhyme and reason behind homepage design… at least, there should be. Your homepage likely attracts the most visitors of any page on your site. It’s the front door to the rest of your content — and the rest of your business online.

    Think about your own browsing habits. What happens when you have a bad homepage experience on someone’s website? You likely hit the back button ASAP.

    So let’s talk about getting your homepage where it needs to be. Here are five homepage best practices you should follow, from how your copy should be written to how to give visitors next steps (with examples)!

    Your homepage should…

    Highlight Who You Are and What You Do

    For many (but certainly not most) visitors, your homepage is their very first interaction with you. This means it needs to answer these two questions immediately: Who are you and what do you do?

    There should be no doubt in a visitor’s mind that they’re in the right place when they hit your homepage. If they can’t identify who you are and what you have to offer in a matter of seconds, they’re going to bounce (and probably head to your competitors).

    Dropbox

    Who does it well: Dropbox

    Vibe with Your Audience

    There’s no point in dropping tons of bucks to design a homepage if it doesn’t resonate with your target audience — no matter how beautiful it is.

    Your homepage should be all about your users, which means it needs to read the way they speak and have a design that gives off the right perceptions about your brand.

    Keep your copy clean, straightforward, and rid of jargon that could confuse your audience. You’ll also want to make sure your design is clean, offers a great user experience, and gives off the emotions you want associated with your business.

    For example, a bank may want to have a more professional feel and use colors that portray trust and reliability (like blue). In contrast, a doggy daycare may want to be more playful and fun and use bright colors, creative fonts, and animations.

    Ellevest

    Who does it well: Ellevest

    Help Users Find What They’re Looking For

    While your homepage is a huge source of new traffic, most of the time your homepage visitors come to your site knowing what they’re looking for. Why not give it to them in as simple a way as possible?

    Your website’s navigation should be clearly visible at the top of your homepage and have logical paths to guide users to the next step. You can also include a website search, which gives users direct access to exactly what they’re looking for without having to click through multiple pages (this can be especially handy for ecommerce businesses who have tons of products).

    Au Lit Fine Linens

    Who does it well: Au Lit Fine Linens

    Be Responsive

    It’s not enough to have a homepage that looks great on a desktop. In today’s day and age, your website must be optimized for every type of device. A 2016 study by Hitwise saw mobile search made up approximately 58% of search queries — which means a significant portion of your traffic is coming from mobile devices.

    But optimizing your homepage for mobile means more than just making sure your design fits the screen dimensions — it means the entire experience needs to be user-friendly for mobile users.

    Your mobile homepage should be rid of anything that makes it cumbersome to navigate and use your site (like annoying pop-ups that are hard to close on a small screen). It should also load quickly and feature clear and simple navigation.

    Kong

    Who does it well: Kong Company

    Tell People What to Do Next

    If users get stuck on your homepage, it’s not doing its job. The page should be logical — which means it should have primary and secondary calls-to-action (CTAs) that help your users take the best next step depending on what they came to do.

    Your primary CTA (the main action you want users to take) should be “above the fold”, which is designer jargon for “above where the page cuts off and a user has to scroll down”. Your secondary CTAs can sit lower on the page.

    Keep in mind that while you don’t want users hanging out on your homepage forever, that doesn’t mean you should go into CTA overload. Stick to a few actions that your audience may want to take and make sure you cover all stages of someone’s “journey” with you (i.e. have an action for those who are ready to convert, and one for those who are simply looking to learn more about you).

    HupSpot

    HubSpot2

    Who does it well: HubSpot

    Need extra inspiration? Here are three more examples of homepages that hit it out of the park:

    Design and User Experience

    Milwaukee Ballet

    The Milwaukee Ballet homepage immediately catches the eye with a beautiful video of dancers performing. The entire homepage hero slideshow is video, but it doesn’t overwhelm. In fact, it hits just the right vibe a ballet-lover would love: elegant, sophisticated, and fluid.

    But perhaps the best part of this homepage is that the user experience doesn’t take a backseat to the design. The navigation is easy to find and use (search bar included), and the CTAs over the video slideshow are logical and clear.

    Clear Value Proposition

    KIND Snacks

    KIND Snacks gets full marks for its amazing tagline and value proposition. A visitor immediately understands what sets KIND apart as soon as they land on the homepage. Plus, the use of contrasting colors makes the whole page pop and immediately draws your eye to the product photo and tagline. Speaking of product photos… the KIND bar photo and secondary CTA photos are the level of quality homepage designers should be looking for. They do a great job of making the snacks look ultra-appealing.

    Less is More

    Lululemon

    Remember that your homepage doesn’t need to be all things for your website. In fact, it needs to be one thing — the gateway to the rest of your site. Sometimes this means less is more, as is the case with Lululemon.

    This minimalist homepage balances bold photos and colors with a clean design and straightforward navigation. There’s no doubt about what actions a user with a specific goal should take. Lululemon covers everything from trends, to different clothing categories, to gifts. They also do a great job of throwing in a value proposition at the top of their site to help reassure uncertain buyers: free shipping and free returns.

    A great homepage draws in visitors and then keeps them on your site. This means the focus of your homepage shouldn’t be just a cool design — it should be on clearly communicating your value and next steps to your audience.

    But keep in mind your homepage isn’t set in stone. In fact, it shouldn’t be! Your homepage should always be fresh to keep users engaged.

    To be sure your homepage is delivering, keep an eye on how your it performs in Analytics. Look especially at the Bounce Rate to determine if people are leaving immediately after landing there. If the bounce rate is high, it could mean visitors can’t find what they’re looking for, or you haven’t sold them on your value proposition.

    Most importantly, be flexible! If you think something isn’t working, hop in there and fix it. In fact, try that now. Head over to your homepage and identify one thing you could change, and do it.

    “”

    Product Page Guidelines, Ideas, & Examples

    If there’s one page that’s accountable for the greatest effect on a company, it’s the merchandise page for e-commerce shops.

    Being an e-commerce store, you’re only as effective as the product pages. These pages can really do or die a purchase, and could be the main difference involving the store thriving on the internet and tanking.

    With this said… why is a good product page?

    Listed here are eight guidelines to make use of in your product pages to make sure they’re obtaining the task finished.

    Your Products Page Should…

    Showcase your product or service rich in-quality images/videos

    When customers buy online, it normally won’t possess the luxury of having the ability to the touch and hold your product or service — meaning high-quality product images are mandatory in your product page.

    But it isn’t just the caliber of the image… the image size can impact profits.

    While exact specifications for the images is determined by what your product or service are and the way your website is designed, here are a few general product photo guidelines you are able to follow to make certain your images complete the job:

    • Make certain resolution reaches least 72 dots per inch for optimal clearness
    • Feature multiple angles of the products (i.e. back, front, sides, etc.)
    • Include image zoom to focus on information on your products
    • Keep your image lighting, saturation and background consistent across product shots

    Apart from high-quality images, video may also be an amazing tool inside your product page toolbox. Inside a study by Stacksandstacks.com, visitors who viewed video on the product page were 144% more prone to give a product for their cart.

    With this stated, video isn’t essential-have for each online business. For instance, if you are selling men’s ties, a relevant video isn’t essential to observe how the tie looks on the model. Rather, you’d wish to depend on the nice zoom feature to focus on the facts of the ties.

    Adidas

    Who rid of it: Adidas

    Have unique, interesting product descriptions

    While product images are very important for your product page design, product descriptions are essential. A properly-written, informative description of product can produce a purchase.

    While it’s tempting to chop and paste your products descriptions across similar products, this creates a terrible consumer experience (as well as possibilities for organic traffic). Product descriptions are an opportunity to provide information to visitors regarding your value proposition. Why is the product different? What problem are you currently solving together with your product?

    Your products descriptions should hit around the unique value proposition of every product inside a obvious and concise way. The copy ought to be informative but to the stage, explaining the precise product features and benefits without counting on industry jargon to speak your message.

    REI Product descriptionREI Additional Details

    Who rid of it: REI

    Tell visitors how to proceed next

    Tthere shouldn’t be doubt what your clients must do in your product page. What this means is the page requires a obvious road to purchase, beginning having a prominent proactive approach.

    Your CTA doesn’t have to anything fancy — an easy “add to cart” button can suffice. It ought to, however, be simple to find and employ.

    Provide your CTA on the prominent location in your product page, and employ contrast to really make it obvious against other elements of design in your page, like the background imagery.

    Finally, make certain it’s working prior to going live! You may also give a confirmation, for example “[product] continues to be put into your cart!”, to allow customers know they’ve effectively completed the experience they would like to take.

    Grovemade

    Who rid of it: Grovemade

    Feature testimonials

    Say you’re searching for any new vehicle. You discover two which have each of the features you’re searching for, but there’s one primary difference. You have a lot of reviews — some positive, some negative — and yet another doesn’t have reviews.

    Can you buy the one which doesn’t have feedback from customers? Most likely not.

    Testimonials are crucial for creating trust with potential customers — especially online. Inside a survey conducted by eMarketer, 80.7% of respondents mentioned product critiques were either essential or somewhat vital that you their decision of if you should buy the product.

    This best practice goes for both — you don’t only wish to feature reviews in your product page, but it’s also wise to offer a good way for the people to leave reviews for the products.

    Home Depot

    Who rid of it: The House Depot

    Include trust badges

    Shopping online could be nerve-wracking particularly if you’re unfamiliar with a brandname. Online fraud is really a major problem, meaning being an e-commerce business, the onus is for you to determine trust and credibility together with your customers.

    Displaying trust badges (a seal the verifies a website is legitimate) is a straightforward method to boost confidence together with your visitors that you’re a genuine business and therefore are taking precautionary measures to have their information safe. Trust badge companies collect data in regards to a business, verifying its identity and authenticity and granting it a badge to verify its trustworthiness.

    There are many badge types that will help convey you’re a reliable business, from security shields to buyer protection shields. To understand more about which trust badges could be suitable for your company and the way to acquire one, see here.

    Who rid of it: Bourbon & Boots

    Be transparent about shipping and returns

    Maybe you have found the right product online, only to discover around the last step of checkout you need to pay a leg along with a leg for shipping? If you are like the majority of internet buyers, you most likely abandoned ship.

    Actually, unpredicted shipping costs was the key reason for site abandonment based on this 2016 study by VWO.

    Shoppers want complete transparency in their entire shopping online experience — meaning no hidden shipping costs!

    If you are charging customers for shipping, make sure to display your policy clearly in your product page so that your customers know before they can add their product for their cart that they’ll have to take into account shipping charges when purchasing.

    This insurance policy pertains to returns, too. If your customer isn’t 100% offered in your product, they’re likely to need to know just how lengthy they need to give it a try before it must be back with you. Could it be fourteen days? An entire month? Are returns free? Spell it in your product pages so visitors don’t need to go looking for the data.

    Who rid of it: Nike

    Prioritize page speed

    Page load time is a big element in site abandonment. You’ll have a terrifically-designed product page with beautiful images, great product descriptions, and killer reviews… however, if the page takes forever to load, it will not matter a little.

    Consumers have become to anticipate almost immediate page strain on websites. Based on Kissmetrics, 79% of internet shoppers who have a problem with a site’s performance won’t go back to shop there again, and 1 / 2 of internet users expect pages to load in 2 seconds or fewer.

    Your page speed can have a number of things, like a complex web site design, your server response time, large images and files, large pages, etc.

    To check on your page speed and identify possibilities for optimization, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

    Be enhanced for mobile/tablet

    By 2020, mobile e-commerce is forecasted to create up 45% of america e-commerce market. Shoppers are spending increasingly more time on their own cellular devices, so your website must be enhanced for mobile encounters.

    An excellent mobile e-commerce page features product images that are simple to see and explore, quick page load, along with a seamless mobile checkout experience.

    etq

    Who rid of it: ETQ

    Since you have the very best practices lower for the product page, it’s time for you to dive a little much deeper. A stick out product page can produce a massive difference inside your site’s rate of conversion if done properly. Listed here are a couple of tips and methods to make certain you’re getting the most from your products pages.

    Make use of the scarcity principle

    Creating a feeling of emergency could be a terrific way to improve conversions in your site. Using the scarcity principle in your product pages, you develop a feeling of emergency for the website visitors and eliminate time they might spend mulling of if you should purchase. If something is selling out rapidly, customers might be more prone to visit it before time expires.

    Bear in mind that the product page needs to follow general guidelines to operate. Departing a note like “only 3 left!” on the product page that’s poorly designed, slow to load, and doesn’t feature great product images isn’t likely to strengthen your conversions.

    Amazon . com uses scarcity principle frequently, particularly when they’re offering deals on select products.

    Amazon Scarcity

    Leverage your FAQ to assist remove doubt

    Because of so many options online, it’s your decision to supply all the information your clients need to comprehend the need for your product or service and just what enables you to much better than your competitors.

    Among the simplest ways to get this done on the product page would be to leverage information out of your FAQ page to reply to common questions regarding your product or service and take away any remaining doubt when you are transparent and detailed together with your product information (without completely overwhelming your products page with sentences of knowledge).

    Should there be common questions across all products, you are able to pull information out of your FAQ page and have it underneath the fold in your product page. You may also link straight to your FAQ page out of your product page to provide obvious direction on where users might opt for solutions to common questions.

    Under Armour requires a unique method of this by providing a “Questions” area at the end of the product pages that highlight product-specific questions and solutions, as well as allow shoppers to submit questions.

    Under Armour FAQ

    Show cost comparisons

    If you are offering discounts, sales, or lower-than-list prices, display it in public on your products page. Besides this show internet buyers your value proposition — additionally, it causes it to be so that your visitors do not have to depart your website to check prices.

    Wayfair is a superb illustration of an e-commerce site who this well. Furthermore they reveal a reduced price… they reveal customers just how much they’re saving using the reduced add up to fully show the worth save.

    Wayfair

    Personalize Product Recommendations

    Mix-selling products with related product recommendations could be a terrific way to increase overall cart value, but using personalized product recommendations could be a game-changer.

    Personalized product recommendations use actual user behavior to recommend items that are often viewed, visited, and purchased together. You’ve probably seen this on Amazon . com, that has been awing customers for a long time using their highly personalized product recommendations.

    Amazon Personalized Product Recommendations

    Rather of recommending standard products overall (which may be unrelated as to the your customer is actually trying to find), personalized product recommendations help make your shop seem like it’s produced only for the consumer, since it shows products they’re apt to be thinking about.

    Your products pages are perhaps probably the most pages in your e-commerce website. From your images for your descriptions can produce a serious effect on a shopper’s decision to buy or abandon ship.

    To create superior product pages, focus first around the fundamentals. Make certain you’ve high-quality images which include multiple angels of the products along with a zoomed-in character at them also. Also spend time crafting thoughtful descriptions. Keep in mind that users do not have the chance to physically touch and feel your product or service or discover their whereabouts at scale, so depend in your descriptions to supply a full picture of the products.

    Lastly, keep in mind that transparency is essential. Shoppers need to know everything upfront — shipping, returns, prices, discounts, etc. Make certain to provide them all the information inside a digestible and simply discoverable format.

    “”

    Smart Shipping: Using Shipping and Packing Ways of Advertise Your Brand

    Nowadays, while Amazon . com Prime rules the land of shipping, it can be hard for smaller sized retailers to thrill impatient customers. Modern customers expect their purchases to reach rapidly, with no extra expense. In addition to this, they expect so that you can track shipments because they make their method to their doorsteps.

    For any small merchant, many of these expectations could be overwhelming. Shipping is really a complex (and costly!) facet of online selling. Customers do not know the length of time and energy it requires to locate affordable shipping options and hang up software to automate shipping processes.

    In customers’ eyes, shipping is straightforward. They have to choose from three shipping speeds (fast, normal, and free), after which their goods will instantly get to their door. Obviously, they’re dead wrong, but with regard to your business’s success, they ought to stay at nighttime.

    Actually, you should use the illusion of easy shipping to your benefit. Should you provide customers with obvious shipping options, you increase your odds of securing sales. The trick is preserving your profits simultaneously.

    In the following paragraphs, we’ll be covering a couple of methods for you to optimize your shipping technique to encourage more sales while looking after your income. Keep studying to understand more about shipping guidelines.

    Table of Contents

    Be Upfront

    The most crucial advice I’m able to offer will be upfront together with your customers about shipping costs. Based on one study by Kissmetrics, unpredicted shipping rates are among the primary causes of cart abandonment. 28% of study participants stated the primary reason they’d abandoned a purchase was that shipping costs were greater than expected.

    Minimize that sticker shock to be able to reduce abandoned carts. Help make your shipping policies obvious on best of luck page, and have a shipping calculator inside your customer’s shopping cart software. Provide your customers lots of possibilities to determine shipping rates before they go to checkout.

    Provide Them With Options

    When customers do get to checkout, make certain you give them multiple shipping speeds to select from. List a typical shipping rate, a first-class shipping rate, as well as an expedited shipping rate. This gives customers a feeling of control and meet their expectations of the items a web-based store should offer.

    Offer Free Delivery

    Free delivery is broadly discussed and debated across eCommerce forums. One truth is certain: customers have started to expect free delivery. One study reveals that 90% of consumers name free delivery because the top component that influences these to buy online frequently.

    However, this push free of charge shipping can frequently be an excessive amount of for smaller sized retailers. In the end, shipping is not free and offering this type of bargain regularly can seriously eat to your profits.

    Fortunately, universal free delivery isn’t the only method to start setting lower shipping rates. Listed here are a couple of alternative free delivery models you might like to try rather.

    Set Minimum Limits

    Setting the absolute minimum limit is among the most widely used free delivery techniques in the market. Provide free delivery to customers who spend over a set fee ($35, $50, $100, etc.). The total amount you set is determined by the typical cost of the products as well as your average order totals. It’s smart to set your minimum limit slightly over your average order total. This can encourage people to spend a couple of dollars more about your website while still supplying a totally free shipping option.

    You may even attempt to add a couple of cheaper “add-on items” to assist customers achieve individuals purchase limits.

    Offer Free Delivery to a particular Customer Groups

    An alternative choice would be to offer free delivery to some specific customer group using a coupon code. You can distribute these discounts for your most loyal customers in order to customers who’ve lately became a member of your list.

    Hopefully (and a few A/B testing), your exclusive offer of free delivery inspires repeat purchases.

    Set Predetermined Fee Shipping

    Should you can’t manage to offer free delivery often, you may consider establishing a predetermined fee shipping option.

    Predetermined fee shipping takes the uncertainty from shipping in your customers’ finish. It enables you to definitely charge exactly the same shipping rate for all your products, so shipping expenses will never be an unexpected.

    Predetermined fee shipping works well with retailers who sell products of roughly exactly the same weight and size (footwear or clothing, for instance). Retailers who sell items that vary broadly in dimensions won’t take advantage of predetermined fee shipping.

    There are a handful of methods for you to start calculating your predetermined fee. The very first technique is to merely calculate the typical cost of shipping your product or service. Allow that to average become your predetermined fee. You’ll generate losses on some orders and gain cash on others, also it really should average in the finish.

    However, this isn’t the only method to set a set rate. Cart 66 suggests a $5 alternative. Based on Cart 66, $5 may be the magic number with regards to shipping rates. $5 is roughly the quantity customers count on paying for shipping, and it is merely a bit under actual shipping rates for many smaller sized products. To make the work, you have to reprice your products to compensate for any variations in shipping prices. For instance, if your products costs $8 to ship, you’d simply add $3 towards the product cost and charge $5 for shipping. This process enables you to definitely never generate losses on shipping while still keeping things feasible for your clients.

    Integrate with Carriers legitimate-Time Shipping Rates

    One last choice is to merely charge your clients the quantity it costs you to definitely ship your product or service. Integrate directly with shipping carriers or perhaps a shipping software to provide customers real-time, accurate shipping estimates. Customers then spend the money for entire price of their shipments. As you may imagine, this tactic isn’t as well-liked by customers however, it’s the only method for you to 100% guarantee your shipping expenses is going to be covered.

    If you opt to follow this path, you should think about utilizing a shipping software for the calculations. While you likely know, there are plenty of variables which go into figuring out shipping rates (just check out certainly one of USPS’s rates tables). Shipping software will help you to rapidly compare shipping rates from multiple carriers. All you need to do is make certain you’ve joined all your products’ weights and dimensions inside your eCommerce platform’s backend. Your shipping software will require things after that.

    To discover top shipping software options, check out our reviews or notice a visual comparison in our favorite solutions.

    Remember Your Marketing Arsenal

    Packaging is a superb chance to help your brand. Remember to incorporate your organization emblem on any packing slips along with other inserts. If you possess the sources for this, consider purchasing branded boxes to create your organization aside from big marketplace sellers.

    Consider including coupons and product bulletins inside your shipments too. You shouldn’t overwhelm your clients with an excessive amount of marketing material, but nobody objects to some coupon for his or her next purchase!

    Finally, give a personal touch for your inserts. Address your clients by name, and consider including hands-written notecards inside your shipments. This helps your clients establish a psychological reference to your store.

    Be Obvious Regarding Your Return Policies

    Internet buyers are really wary. And also the anxiety about commitment frequently keeps customers from buying online. Offer free returns to get rid of individuals fears.

    This is particularly important let’s say you sell clothing or other things having a fit. A totally free returns policy gives customers the safety of mind they have to develop a purchase.

    You need to, obviously, make an effort to minimize your return rates in each and every possible way. Include high-quality product images and product descriptions to provide your clients a precise depiction of the merchandise. Provide size charts for garments and footwear, and let customers leave reviews and photographs of the products. Following many of these tips can help reduce the amount of returns you need to process.

    Mix Things Up

    Many companies use a number of shipping strategies within their fulfillment processes. You might find that you simply benefit most out of a mix of free delivery and predetermined fee shipping. Or, you might offer tiered predetermined fee shipping with respect to the weight of the products. Think about your current shipping practices and expenses while you choose which path to take.

    Remember, the very best practices should be obvious regarding your shipping rates with customers and individuals rates simple. Straightforward shipping rates could keep your clients happy, increasing your sales and customer loyalty.

    Best of luck, and happy selling!

    Liz Hull

    Liz is really a recent college graduate residing in Washington condition. As recently, she will frequently be located haunting eCommerce forums and securing with customer support representatives. When she’s free, Liz likes to rock climb, watch Spanish dramas, and browse poorly-written youthful adult novels.

    Liz Hull

    “”

    YouTube Optimization: Help Guide To Channels, Videos & Strategy

    YouTube Optimization

    YouTube is among the Internet’s largest platforms. It is also a fascinating hybrid platform &#8211 YouTube is concurrently among the Internet’s largest social systems, among the Internet’s largest search engines like google (by queries processed), and also the largest video hosting platform.

    YouTube’s hybrid nature provides versatility it creates some confusion around guidelines, getting began, and optimizing your funnel for discovery, engagement and business goals.

    I’ve had the ability to will work on client channels, my very own effective hobby channels and I’m focusing on a YouTube technique for the brand new ShivarWeb funnel. Here’s my help guide to YouTube optimization &#8211 for the videos and funnel according to my experience and curation of the greatest YouTube sources on the web. First I&#8217ll cover goals, concepts &amp benchmarks. I Then&#8217ll tackle all of the nitty-gritty details.

    Goals, Concepts &amp Benchmarks

    Goals

    Like every online marketing strategy, you need to begin with defining your objectives as well as your audience. Before you decide to optimize anything, you need to consider what you are optimizing for and what you ought to justify your money and time.

    What exactly are you attempting to do? Sell ads according to pageviews? Build awareness for the product? Build a crowd for the brand online? Complement your online marketing strategy in your website? Complement sales &amp support?

    If you’re business attempting to drive sales, bear in mind that YouTube typically constitutes a poor direct response platform. Read Phil Nottingham’s excellent Business KPIs for YouTube. Whoever you hire your YouTube goals are &#8211 it’s important to define what they’re and just how you’ll measure them. Also take a look at my help guide to YouTube Analytics here.

    Once you determine what your objectives are, decide who you need to achieve. Consider what they’re typically doing online. Consider the way they might research anything they are attempting to solve.

    What’s your target viewer searching for? Entertainment? Something to talk about? A how-to steer? If you’re attempting to develop a YouTube audience &#8211 which kind of content can you ideally have?

    If you’re searching for the best practices on the kinds of happy to create, YouTube’s Brand playbook includes a great search for “hygiene” (everyday) content, “hub” (periodic), and “hero” (infrequent standout) content.

    Concepts

    YouTube traffic sources are as diverse, or even more diverse, than visitors to your personal website. Many new funnel proprietors search for the chance to obtain traffic from Google and YouTube Search. They focus solely on internet search engine optimization (Search engine optimization) for YouTube.

    But that’s only some of the chance. In my most effective funnel, most traffic originates from YouTube Related videos and website embeds. Engagement, relevance and relationships drive individuals traffic sources.

    Traffic Sources in YouTube Analytics

    It’s remember this that YouTube optimization has lots of feedback loops happening simultaneously. Your ultimate goal ought to be to concentrate on the greatest impact bit of optimization to obtain the greatest impact feedback loop moving.

    That stated, additionally to understanding YouTube traffic sources, you need to understand the idea of engagement. Around the YouTube platform, engagement continues to be the main factor for YouTube Search and YouTube Related videos since 2012.

    YouTube really wants to keep viewers online. Which means your main optimization needs to be aligned with YouTube’s goals. You need to concentrate on helping people discover relevant videos, watch individuals videos for extended after which click to locate more videos.

    Which means you need to consider optimization as not only getting the best title. You need to plan and convey videos which are consistent with what individuals are searching for. Your scripts and production needs to encourage continuous watching. As well as your content needs to encourage viewers to look at much more videos.

    For instance, since Watch Time is really a primary (otherwise the) factor for calculating engagement, some channels have enhanced only for that factor and built huge followings online. The very best funnel online &#8211 PewDiePie &#8211 used Watch Time almost solely to visit from yet another gaming funnel towards the greatest funnel online.

    Keep the ideas, production and tactics centered on YouTube’s goals and lots of bits of your feedback loop will fall under place, which you’ll then bend to satisfy your personal business goals.

    Benchmarking

    Compensated media specialists and Search engine optimization specialists use benchmarking and competitive analysis to enhance campaigns. Pre-qualifying content and reverse engineering competitors ideas are crucial areas of any effective content strategy.

    Before creating a strategy and optimizing your videos and funnel &#8211 study from your competition.

    What exactly are they doing on their own funnel? What playlists internet site? What channels will they feature? How can they write their descriptions? What keywords internet site? What sort of like ratios will they get? What exactly are their average views? What related videos play after their videos? What exactly are they succeeding? What exactly are they doing poorly?

    Make use of this help guide to scrape your competition keywords. Use this Chrome extension to rapidly pull video and funnel data when you are exploring.

    Now that you’ve got some goals, concepts and benchmarks in your mind, let’s take a look at specific products in your funnel and videos that you could focus on.

    Optimizing Your Funnel

    Establishing your funnel isn’t necessary to have videos &#8211 but it’s essential for a lengthy-term technique to build a crowd. Your funnel page is similar aimed at your website homepage.

    Much like your website, although most visitors won’t enter with the homepage, it’s where they’ll go to discover exactly what you are. And it is where coming back visitors goes to find out more and subscribe.

    If you’re a Google account holder, you are able to generate a funnel at YouTube.com/account → Overview.

    Nearly everything regarding your funnel could be edited either on the homepage by hovering or beneath your Dashboard → Funnel.

    Here’s an introduction to where you can edit your funnel features &#8211

    YouTube Channel Edit

    Funnel Name is easy, but additionally consider as well as your subject in case your brand isn’t self-explanatory.

    Funnel Header has specific design needs. Make certain you follow YouTube&#8217s Funnel Art recommendations &#8211 and also you&#8217ll would also like an uncluttered design that appears good on any device.

    Funnel Icon ought to be set to fit your other branding. Follow YouTube’s recommendations to make certain it really works well across devices.

    Funnel Links ought to be set aimed at your website and relevant social profiles.

    Funnel Navigation ought to be set to personalize the sections in your funnel page. Once that’s enabled, refresh your funnel page, and check out the brand new layouts that you could personalize.

    Funnel Sections ought to be attempted while you add new content. Remember that you’re attempting to drive watch some time and retention for coming back visitors and subscriptions for brand new visitors.

    Funnel Trailer ought to be short, simple video pitch regarding your funnel.

    Funnel Description is under About. It may be as much as 1000 figures.

    To create Funnel Settings changes, navigate for your Dashboard → Funnel → Advanced

    Here you are able to improve your Funnel Name. It’s also wise to take a look at those to make certain YouTube understands your funnel.

    Channel Settings

    Funnel Keywords ought to be broad keywords that describe your funnel. According to my testing, the limit is 100 figures, including spaces. Use YouTube Suggest and Keyword Planner to estimate the largest, most accurate target keywords that you could pursue. Remember that you could monitor your competitors’ funnel keyword by visiting their homepage, and examine Source and searching for that meta keywords field.

    Linking your funnel to some website benefits your website as well as your funnel. Adding your Google Analytics UA code enables you to definitely pull Funnel-level (not video level) data straight into Google Analytics. Make sure to separate the visitors to not skew your site data. For video level data, it’s important to use YouTube Analytics.

    Under Branding, make sure to set a watermark. For those who have a higher-quality video, place it because the Funnel Ad under Featured Content.

    Optimizing Your Videos

    Although your funnel is essential, optimizing your videos would be the primary chance and goal online. Here’s would be the products that you could edit within YouTube to improve visibility and engagement.

    But don’t forget, no trick or tactic that you simply make online can overcome poor production or poor content. Before you decide to upload and “optimize” your videos &#8211 they should be enhanced during and before production so that they are engaging of and in themselves.

    Meta Data

    Meta Information is the data that you simply provide concerning the video. A video’s meta data helps YouTube index and understand your video’s content for search and recommended videos. In aggregate, meta information is the main element in how YouTube determines your video’s relevance.

    When you optimize your video’s meta data, it ought to acquire a feedback loop &#8211

    • It will provide more search traffic since YouTube can suit your video with relevant searches
    • It’ll improve your overall click-through rate since users could be more prone to judge your video’s relevance

    The elevated click-throughs and views increases engagement, that will increase both rankings searching and can help make your videos appear in Related videos.

    Online, meta data consists of your video’s Title, Description and Tags.

    YouTube Meta Data

    Aside &#8211 before you begin optimizing your meta data, ensure you possess a general knowledge of what keywords you need to target online. Read this guide to learn more there. The simplest method is by using YouTube Suggest (or scale out that research with KeywordTool.io), complement it with Pay Per Click Keyword Planner, and produce that along with searching at the kinds of videos that demonstrate track of your research.

    Titles

    You video title is, well, your title. Writing a highly effective title is definitely an art.

    • align with searcher&#8217s intent &#8211 if people trying to find “safety razors” are searching for videos on how to make use of safety razors, your title should reflect that.
    • allow it to be clickable &#8211 it must seem sensible for humans so don’t keyword stuff keep in mind that your title can also be utilized in Related results as well as on other social media platforms.
    • allow it to be obvious lead with keywords, not brand &#8211 highlight what viewers need to see, not what you would like these to see.
    • choose detail and descriptiveness &#8211 “clickbait” or cryptic headlines can hurt your search visibility as well as your engagement by getting in viewers who immediately look away.

    Descriptions

    Like titles, descriptions need to serve an account balance. They have to help provide context for YouTube, it must serve the humans who’re studying it &#8211 meaning supplying links along with a concise overview.

    Concentrate on the first couple of sentences for similar effect to meta descriptions. Write them as an ad to lure the press. Don&#8217t lead users off-site because which will affect that core metric: watch time.

    Based on YouTube, your description should &#8211

    • precisely describe the recording in a couple of sentences
    • describe your funnel and connect to the funnel page &#8211 this will incorporate a &#8220recurring keyword tagline with several search driven keywords&#8221
    • drive viewers a subscription (or any other CTA)
    • connect to various other episodes
    • make use of all your 5000 figures (~1000 words)
    • make use of a template inside your upload defaults that will help you to rapidly edit for every video

    Furthermore, your description keyword focus should align using the title and tags. It ought to give a broader summary of the recording (enough for somebody to know the gist from the video without really watching it).

    To obtain some best practice templates &#8211 read this guide which guide both from REELSEO.

    Tags

    Tags are keywords that YouTube uses to know your videos’ relevance and context. They’re also known as your videos’ keywords. Like a technical note they’re really utilized in the meta keywords field (something which has become irrelevant across all of those other Internet). And like Funnel Keywords, you can try all of them with View Source and/or scrape all of them with a relevant video&#8217s URL.

    Tags Keywords

    Your tagging ought to be just like a 3 level pyramid &#8211 use some broad keywords that pertains to every video in your funnel (as well as your funnel) use some focused keywords that affect that video&#8217s category or playlist use some keywords that pertains to that video alone.

    For instance, if you’re uploading a do it yourself tutorial video, you may have: Flapper Substitute, Flapper Valve, Dripping Toilet, Toilet, Plumbing, DIY, Do It Yourself. Note how individuals move from specific to broad.

    Together you&#8217ll possess a &#8220theme&#8221 where one can discern virtually just what the video is all about in the keywords alone enter them from video to funnel specific don&#8217t exceed the 120 character limit.

    Other Tag Tips &#8211

    • include a mixture of suggested general tags and particular tags that you simply create
    • leverage market and keyword research (check this out guide) to capture the largest relevant “footprint” of searches
    • keep close track of YouTube Analytics to create more keywords in to the fold &#8211 and revise older videos

    Thumbnails

    Thumbnails would be the static image that turns up across YouTube searching and related. Enhanced thumbnails matter for just one reason &#8211 greater click-through rate.

    YouTube Thumbnails

    Whenever a potential viewers sees a summary of videos, your thumbnail will help grab their attention and obtain that click. A greater clickthrough rate increases not just views, but additionally engagement, which, again, feeds back to ranking factors.

    The critical question about thumbnails is defining precisely what grabs your viewers’ attention. There’s no correct answer with no best practice. But here’s a couple of general pointers.

    • Thumbnails that actually work in Gaming won’t work with Beauty &#8211 and the other way around across all niches. Review your niche for what’s typical.
    • When you begin your funnel, search for points inside your video that could help as a great static image.
    • Use tools like Canva which have thumbnail templates built-in so you aren’t spending time and effort on something which you aren’t sure works well.
    • Make certain it’s in 16:9 aspect ratio and make certain it scales well based on device.
    • Test different formats watching YouTube Analytics to determine the things that work best.

    Transcriptions &amp Captioning

    YouTube is able to “listen” for your videos to understand sturdy. However, if you’ve ever switched on automatic closed captions &#8211 you will see that YouTube’s automatic transcription isn’t that good.

    YouTube Automated Transcript

    For those who have invested significant sources inside a video, consider uploading a custom transcription to YouTube. You are able to delegate transcription to some service like SpeechPad or simply use YouTube’s manual transcription tools to type together with your video.

    In either case, a custom (accurate) transcription is going to do 3 things &#8211

    1. help YouTube understand your video more, and hopefully rank it much better than competitors it doesn’t understand too.
    2. help make your video readily available to viewers who require closed captioning.
    3. help make your video readily available to worldwide viewers, since a precise transcription can result in better language translation.

    Annotations

    Annotations are just like hyperlinks in your video &#8211 they offer calls to action, more engagement and context. For those who have an connected website, they are able to drive clicks aimed at your website.

    Guidelines for annotations include with them for &#8211

    • Calls to action &#8211 ie, subscribe or watch the following video
    • Clarifications &#8211 ie, publish upload content corrections
    • Context &#8211 ie, linking to some related video or playlist

    Annotations are the type of factor that appear awesome like a producer, but are frequently horrible for viewers. When you’re optimizing your videos, you have to take a look at YouTube Analytics to find out effectiveness.

    YouTube provides a couple of other ideas to make certain annotations are helpful and never annoying &#8211

    • Avoid annotations across the very the surface of the frame &#8211 this is when your title can have if embedded.
    • Don’t obstruct the particular content.
    • Don’t bombard the viewer. This could feel “spammy.”
    • When appropriate, set annotations to spread out a brand new window when clicked. But be cautious! Don’t take viewers from a relevant video too early or your Watch Time are affected.
    • Annotations in the finish of the video should open within the same window (to help keep that Watch Time running!)

    It is also remember this that annotations do not work on mobile. To supply a more uniform experience across devices &#8211 YouTube features “Cards.”

    YouTube Cards

    These provide similar functionality, but they are perhaps classier and just better for calls to action. Explore using Cards for proactive approach and annotations for clarifications and context.

    For after video calls to action &#8211 also consider YouTube’s formerly known “InVideo Programming” including watermarking your video (Dashboard → Funnel → Branding) and managing a Featured Video or Playlist across all of your videos (Dashboard → Funnel → Featured Content).

    Playlists

    Playlists would be the primary method to organize your videos online. Playlists also form a core a part of your funnel and video optimization. Playlists serve three primary roles for optimizing your YouTube presence.

    First, playlists permit you to organize your videos to autoplay together, which drives views, watch some time and engagement for the videos within the playlist.

    Second, playlists also aid YouTube understand relevance among various videos helping YouTube make smarter decisions for Related videos.

    Third, playlists can rank and gain visibility by themselves. You are able to consider them like category pages in your website. Rely on them to “target” specific search phrases together with your playlist description and title to position both in Google, YouTube Search and YouTube Related.

    Use playlists if you have a number of videos that should be viewed so as, or if you have some videos that forms a wider theme.

    YouTube Playlists

    When establishing the playlist, make sure to write an engaging, detailed and descriptive playlist description and title. For those who have a number of videos, take a look at while using “series playlists options” to define the state playlist for some videos.

    Playlists will also be a very good way to maneuver from optimizing your personal funnel to promoting your funnel. Including videos from complementary channels could be initial step to building relationships online (much like guest posting or linking out strategies when promoting an internet site).

    Next Steps

    That’s all of the optimization features that YouTube offers on their own platform. But don’t forget that optimization goes past utilizing a tool or tactic. It comes down to working out what for you to do and who you need to help.

    Determine your objectives, create engaging content, utilize YouTube’s features, track your metrics with YouTube Analytics and improving!

    The publish YouTube Optimization: Help Guide To Channels, Videos &#038 Strategy made an appearance first on ShivarWeb.

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    WP Engine Review: My Pros & Cons of WP Engine WordPress Hosting

    WP Engine Review

    WP Engine is a Managed WordPress Hosting service based in Austin, TX. They were one of the (if not the) first companies to provide managed hosting services specifically for WordPress.

    While they have plenty of competition in both hosting in general and in the managed WordPress hosting vertical, they are still the market leader in many ways with broad name recognition and cutting edge features.

    Check out WP Engine’s current plans & pricing here.

    With the growth of both self-hosted WordPress and website builders, the hosting industry has become a super-confusing place.

    Several of the bigger brands such as GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, InMotion and SiteGround all now offer various flavors of “WordPress Hosting.” They all vary in services provided. Some simply have WordPress-trained tech support. Some offer services such as server-side features and staging for WordPress.

    And then there’s a separate level of managed WordPress Hosting where you are not really buying hosting per se – but rather services to keep your WordPress install live. Basically, a Managed WordPress Hosting services do differently is offer a menu of services tailored to WordPress at a higher price point, so that the website owner can focus less on speed / security and more on the website content / functionality.

    Every competitor in the Managed WordPress Hosting has a different offering. And there is no standardized “menu” of options, but as whole, they all compete with traditional shared Linux hosting offerings and customized WordPress hosting options.

    Either way – that’s the field where WP Engine plays. It’s confusing, yes, but it’s important to understand before making apples to oranges comparisons.

    There are a lot of WP Engine reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine but I take a different approach. This review will look at the pros / cons of WP Engine in the context of all web hosting options to see who it is a “best fit” for.

    I’ve used WP Engine for various projects since 2012. I don’t use them for my primary sites right now (see conclusion), but I do have a current client on WP Engine who absolutely loves them. Here’s my WP Engine structured as pros / cons.

    Disclosure – I receive referral fees from any companies mentioned. All data & opinion is based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

    Pros of WP Engine

    To start, WP Engine does pretty much live up to it’s pitch on its homepage where they promise “stunning speed, powerful security, and best-in-class customer service.” Here is their promo pitch video –

    They primarily target websites that are moving from other hosting companies (ie, customers dissatisfied with current hosting).
    WP Engine Pitch

    Here are some of the big advantages that I’ve seen as a customer & consultant to a customer.

    Speed & Performance

    There are a lot of variables that go into website speed, but the rule of thumb is that the more complex your site is, the more complex the solutions to speed become.

    Out of the box – WordPress is fairly lean and fast. If you are running a mostly text site with a few basic plugins and a few small images, you’ll be fine on an affordable shared hosting plan from someone like InMotion, HostGator or Bluehost.

    But few website owners keep their WordPress install lean. There’s usually additional plugins, custom theme files, lots of images, widgets, ads, forms and more.

    All these features combined with decent levels of traffic can start to slow down your WordPress install.

    But a slow site doesn’t mean that you need a bigger / better server. It does mean that you need to get smarter about speed. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting a more powerful server, but sometimes it’s more about caching certain resources in a certain order and optimizing your files. In other words – it gets complex.

    Imagine you are trying to haul a trailer with a pickup truck. Imagine your trailer keeps getting heavier. It’s pointless to keep complaining that your truck is not big enough when you may just need to remove the emergency brake, install a turbocharger, refresh the transmission fluid and consolidate your load.

    The point is that WordPress needs help to stay fast as you grow. There’s plenty of solutions…but either you or a developer must implement them.

    That’s where managed WordPress hosting comes in. WP Engine takes care of (nearly) all speed concerns. They have customized servers with extremely aggressive caching and even more advanced “stack” than a typical web host. They also have trained support who will go into your WordPress install and identify exact chokepoint to get your site moving.

    They don’t even allow caching plugins on their installs because they have such a customized setup.

    The interesting thing is that even unoptimized WordPress installs still do well on their platform because their platform does the extra work.

    Here’s the speed test for one of my clients on WP Engine (who has a bloated theme, extra scripts, too many uncompressed images, among other things –

    WP Engine Unoptimized Speed

    Note the Time To First Byte and the Start Render numbers. That measures how quickly the server returned enough data to start loading the page.

    Now here is the speed test of a standard WordPress install. WP Engine not only gets solid TTFB times, but note how similar the First Byte and First Render are to the Unoptimized site.

    WP Engine Speed

    It’s nice to have that kind of speed right out of the box – and have it stay that way no matter how big or complex the site gets.

    *Note that the other point here is that if you are obsessed about speed, you can get even better numbers with WP Engine than you might could get with other services since you are free to focus on speed factors that you can easily control like image compression, usage of scripts, etc.

    Lastly  on speed, WP Engine not only provides an integrated CDN, but they also provide global data centers in case your audience is primarily in Asia and/or Europe.

    WP Engine Global

    If you are trying to get top speeds without messing with layered caching plugins – the WP Engine does exactly that.

    Customer Support*

    Customer support has been a core part of WP Engine’s pitch since they were founded. After all, they are really selling more of a service (ie, managed hosting) than a product (ie, hosting). It makes sense for them to place a big emphasis on support.

    Here’s a screenshot from one of my first contacts with support back in 2012 –

    WP Engine Review Screenshot

    Look at the response time – that wasn’t an autoresponder either.

    Now – the company has grown & changed a lot since then. They went through a stretch where they were getting a lot of criticism about over-promising on support.

    That said – the tough thing about customer support is that so much of the judgement is anecdotal. Everyone has a story, but you never know if the story is because they talked to the one rockstar / rookie having a awesome / terrible day. Like I mention in every hosting review, the important part is to see if a company treats support as an investment or a cost.

    I like to look for access, systems and knowledge – all three require investment of money, time and expertise.

    Based on my recent interactions and research, they are doing much better hitting all three boxes. They maintain a variety of support channels (including phone for non-Basic plans). They have a fast, trackable ticketing system and are available everywhere on the site via chat.

    Based on their tutorial videos and extensive knowledgebase, they tick the knowledge box. Every support that me or my client has interacted with actually knew the fine workings of WordPress and has been able to problem-solve on the fly.

    The most impressive (yes, this is anecdotal, but still) experience was a three-way call between my client, myself and WP Engine during my client’s transition to HTTPS / SSL. The rep was not only able to get on (and stay on) the phone, but he was able to adeptly help us “flip the switch” quickly in addition to taking care of several issues (ie, uploading a non-HTTP sitemap and fixing insecure image links) within WordPress for us.

    I’m sure that WP Engine still has support issues – especially because as I’ll show in the disadvantages – their custom platform puts a lot of pressure on fast, accessible support. But they seem to know that support is core to their value and do make the needed investment.

    Security

    WordPress now powers over a quarter of the entire Internet. That means that it is a prime target for hackers & malware distributors.

    But there is nothing inherently insecure about WordPress that is not an issue with all software. WordPress has a the upside of being open-source with a very large community releasing updates & testing vulnerabilities.

    If you run your own WordPress install, the security basics are fairly straightforward –

    • Keep your install & all your plugins updated
    • Only install files from reputable creators
    • Run a security plugin to lock down the most common brute force attacks
    • Keep a backup for when things go wrong

    *Aside – I use JetPack for the last two. It’s made by & powered by Automattic, the commercial arm of WordPress.

    You’ll notice that even though security on WordPress is straightforward – the responsibility is still on you to keep things secure. Just like having a deadbolt does nothing if you don’t lock it – keeping your website secure is still ultimately on you.

    And like speed & performance, WP Engine basically takes all those best practices and does them for you. They run automated backups to keep everything off-site & ready to roll back if something happens. Since you technically have an “install” on their server (rather than an account) – they tackle a lot of security issues globally on the server level.

    WP Engine also works closely with top security firms on code reviews in addition to running their own team. They also make the guarantee that if you’re hacked – they take care of it for free.

    I personally have never been hacked on my main /or secondary sites (knock on wood), but have helped clients who have been. It’s frustrating, tedious & a generally expensive situation (even if you are using a service like Sucuri). Having a professional security team take care of your WordPress install is a big pro in my book.

    Pricing on Value

    WP Engine is not cheap. Their personal plan is $29/mo and includes a single install and only up to 25,000 visits per month.

    WP Engine Plans

    For benchmarking – you can get a powerful, reliable VPS (ie, your own not-shared server) for the same price from InMotion. And if you are just starting out with a single domain – you can get a shared hosting plan from Bluehost for just a couple dollars per month.

    Both of which allow for more storage & more visits (ie, basically as many as you can handle) than WP Engine. I’ve run sites that have had 60k visits per month on a shared server. I’ve also run dozens of small WordPress sites off a low cost shared hosting.

    But I’ll cover that pricing disadvantage in the cons of WP Engine, but here’s the thing.

    For some site owners – if you break out WP Engine by total value & factor in your own (or your developer’s) time, their pricing is amazing.

    Just running WordPress updates every month & QA’ing your installation can take ~30 minutes every month. If your (or your dev’s) services are billed at $50 (or more)/hour, then that’s WP Engine’s entire monthly fee right there.

    If you lose a visits due to downtime from a bad plugin update, then that could be WP Engine’s entire monthly fee right there.

    If you do a hot-fix (ie, you don’t use a staging area) on your PHP code, and knock your site down…then that could be WP Engine’s entire monthly fee right there.

    Losing visitors due to speed issues or downtime costs lost income.

    Additionlly, premium security can costs ~$16/mo – minimum. Not to mention any personal or developer time fixing issues.

    Basically, if your time is better allocated away from technical issues, then WP Engine makes a lot of sense on value. As a managed WordPress hosting service – that’s really their thing. Hosting services are an investment rather than a cost.

    And that sort of value-based pricing segues into another pro for WP Engine – their focus on their core markets.

    Market Focus

    Like I said at the beginning, WP Engine isn’t for everyone. There are 3 types of customers that WP Engine seems to be a fit for. For those 3 types of customers, WP Engine has a strong focus with plenty of tools & focus for each.

    WP Engine Pitch

    From their backend process, the first customer type seems to be WordPress developers and designers who want to focus on development & design without dealing with hosting maintenance – and have clients who have some budget. The designer / dev builds the site directly in WP Engine’s staging environment, launches the site, then hands the website over to their client.

    The designer can assure their client that WP Engine handles the hosting, security & speed. There’s little need for an ongoing basic website maintenance. For this market, WP Engine has interesting tools including staging, git push, site migration and transferable installs.

    The second customer type is the growing website owner who is frustrated at having to deal with technical growth headaches. They’ve outgrown their shared hosting and need to move to a better host.

    They’re also established enough that they have some budget for managed services. WP Engine has tools like the automated migration tool & customer support to make that process happen. The phone support is a key factor – especially being able to “just call WP Engine an have them fix it.”

    Site Migration WP Engine

    The third customer type is a startup website owner that has budget and wants a long-term platform that they can grow with. They are comfortable learning WP Engine’s unique backend, and plan on launching a near-complete website all at once.

    They don’t have any prior habits or customs brought over from previous hosts or websites. Again, for this market, WP Engine has the scalable features, customers and support that they can make promises and provide support to win & keep this type of customer.

    With these types of customers, WP Engine knows how & where they are coming from, so many of the improvements they make are focused on these markets (ie, the Git push functionality), rather than mass-market improvements like knowledge-bases, intuitive backend, etc.

    Hosting Features

    This advantage is similar to WP Engine’s market focus, but it’s really worth calling out in this review revision.

    WP Engine excels not only on current features, but also on creating new, cutting edge hosting features. Every version of WordPress 4 has rolled out new developer features that WP Engine has been able to integrate.

    Even general web development best practices have changed radically since I started observing the industry*. WP Engine has created tools to match.

    *I’m an SEO / marketer by trade. I know enough web development to integrate best practices into implementation & projects with developers.

    Here’s a screenshot of WP Engine’s Git Push setup that has been around for more than 2 years.

    WP Engine Git Push

    Even for non-developers like me, WP Engine has one-click staging areas to allow even DIY siteowners to get away from “cowboy coding” into proper web development best practices.

    WP Engine Staging

    There’s too many other specifics here to name, but in general, WP Engine has a strength in rolling out new, useful hosting features.

    Cons of WP Engine

    Just like any service, WP Engine is not a best fit for everyone. There are plenty of WP Engine complaints around the Internet. Some are anecdotal. Some are hyperbole (ie, SEOs complaining about dev sites). And many are valid because they simply aren’t a fit for everyone. For all their awesomeness in some areas, they have some cons which keep them from being a good fit for some customers. I don’t use them for this website because I do not need many of their features and I’m comfortable working “putting pieces together” w/ my InMotion VPS setup.

    All that said – here’s some of the bigger picture disadvantages of using WP Engine.

    Initial & Ongoing Complexity

    To achieve the speed, security, and scale they promise, WP Engine does things differently. And that differently can be quite complicated – especially if you have just enough experience with hosting environments to be dangerous.

    In fact, back in 2012 on this original review I wrote –

    “Somewhere in WP Engine’s sales copy – I wish I had been told that ‘this product is going to be a royal pain to get everything set up perfectly – but it’s going to be well worth it.’”

    *It’s not just me. Smart full-stack developers have similar complaints.

    Their backend setup has gotten better. It’s cleaner, but it’s still custom. It’s nothing like a traditional cPanel hosting backend. Unlike many hosting companies, they also don’t provide DNS nameservers.

    WP Engine DNS Update

    Even if all the features are there, the unique backend can lead to some developers making mistakes ranging from frustrating redirect loops to duplicate content issues to leaving the dev site open to the public or simply not enabling the features you’re paying for.

    If it weren’t for amazing support – I think they’d lose more beginner customers than they already do.

    Like many custom platforms, it makes sense once you get over the learning curve. But WP Engine’s onboarding is very developer focused & remains so exception-focused that they never explain best practice for the general user.

    Here is their video on pushing your site live –

    I’ve set up my share of websites from platforms to custom hosts to cPanel hosting sites, but I had to watch that video multiple times to make sure I was pointing the right A record / CNAME to the right IP address.

    Again, if you are in WP Engine’s core markets, the custom backend isn’t going to be a huge deal (once you get past the learning curve). But for most, you’ll likely get to find out first hand about WP Engine’s support team.

    But here’s the thing.

    WP Engine never really stops being quirky / complex. In their knowledgebase, they have a plethora of website checklists to help troubleshoot all sorts of issues.

    WP Engine Ongoing Complexity

    And – if you did not setup your DNS exactly how they’ve recommended – your site could go down at any time.

    WP Engine A Record

    Again – they have reasons why they do all this. And in most cases, support will just take care of it all.

    But – you still don’t get to set & forget your website. Sure, you don’t technically don’t have to get in the weeds of a server panel. In many hosting cases (ie, a managed VPS) – you don’t have to do it anyway, and when you do, the knobs and options are familiar.

    WP Engine’s proprietary setup cuts both ways in terms of reducing & increasing complexity.

    Limited Versatility

    This con is also related to WP Engine’s unique setup. In order to run their architecture as well as possible, all the installs on their platform need to be somewhat uniform.

    They need to have predictable plugins; predictable visitor patterns; predictable use cases. Every hosting company has rules (or very real physical limits), but WP Engine goes a bit further to define what you can and can’t have on your WordPress install in addition to tiered overage pricing to discourage seasonal traffic spikes and local storage usage.

    They do ban certain plugins & admin behavior for good reasons, but those bans limit versatility and experimentation if your site could handle it.

    Hosting Versatility

    For example, Yet Another Related Post Plugin is a common plugin. It’s resource intensive, but on smaller sites, it does the job well. It’s not allowed on WP Engine. That’s not good or bad necessarily. But it does make WP Engine less versatile and open to experimentation compared to running a shared or VPS server.

    The way their pricing is structured allows for less versatility as well. It’s a positive that they will handle all the traffic you can send, but it’s also pricey to pay based on number of visits.

    If you are running a big launch; are a seasonal business; or just want to drive a surge of traffic to your site – you’ll have to factor additional hosting bills into the mix. That puts a cap on how versatile you want to be with your marketing.

    If you are running a lean cached site on a VPS server, you can handle a lot more traffic than WP Engine would allow on a Personal or Business. And this point goes further if your site requires many plugins for full functionality.

    The same goes with storage. With WP Engine, you are paying for performance – not for storage. So if you are looking to use a server for media storage…that use case is out.

    Additionally, you can’t really do automated email marketing campaigns from WP Engine. This was something that my client got called for & ended up having to do a painful migration to another email provider mid-campaign.

    WP Engine Hosting Email Versatility

    And of course – there’s no way to use WP Engine for receiving email or any non-WordPress software project

    Either way – that point segues into the last con I found with WP Engine – their pricing based on features.

    Pricing on Features & Usage

    With WP Engine, you are generally paying for performance & not having to think too much about maintenance, security & speed. If you look at WP Engine’s pricing based on the features you’re getting – you really don’t get a whole lot.

    WP Engine Plans

    And if you are the type who will think about your site’s health anyway (ie, keeping WordPress updated and generally logging in frequently), you’ll likely be paying for “management” that is superfluous.

    Many shared hosting servers can handle the same traffic numbers as WP Engine – and cost a fraction of the price. My personal site (running on shared hosting plan from HostGator with basic caching) handled more than 15,000 visits in a 24 hour period when a post of mine went viral.

    And if you are running a reliable VPS, you can certainly handle a lot more for much less.

    They are fairly transparent about how they count visits, but it can still be quite a surprise for “small” website owners how quickly they can get into the $249 per month tier.

    And as mentioned earlier that doesn’t even include many of the features you don’t get with WP Engine’s plans. You can’t run any email from your servers. You have a low limits on local storage. Anything above the limits requires additional costs & technical implementation of Amazon cloud services.

    And most importantly for me – you are limited on your installs. If you have a few side projects or low-traffic test sites, you have to factor those into the price. You can’t use them to spread out the cost of your plan – especially if you are hitting your visitor cap rather than your install cap.

    One of the main features that helps speed up your traffic globally – a CDN – is only included with the Professional Plan and above.

    If you are looking to pay for hosting – ie, a server that will hold & serve up your website files – WP Engine is a pricey option, especially compared to other non-managed hosting options.

    Next Steps

    Like any service, it’s not about what is best overall, but what is best for you based on your goals, budget, resources & habits.

    If you are in what I think of as WP Engine’s core markets – they offer a great service with a solid product. Their pricing is competitive in the Managed WordPress Hosting space – and they offer more features than “WordPress hosting” plans from other hosting brands. Their feature-set is unmatched for savvy DIYers, WordPress website developers and/or high-traffic sites that don’t want to worry about hosting issues.

    If managed hosting is a fit for you – then go check out WP Engine’s plans here. They do a 60 day money-back guarantee. So do a test install and see what you think of their backend. Be sure to chat w/ support & sales.

    If you are a looking for a more budget friendly and/or traditional shared hosting option, check out Bluehost (review), InMotion Hosting (review) or SiteGround (review).

    If you’re outgrowing your current host & want more freedom / better prices than WP Engine – check out InMotion Hosting’s VPS option. I’ve appreciated their balance of intuitive backend & responsive customer service.

    And lastly – if you are more confused than ever – go take my WordPress hosting quiz. I put all these factors into a fun, Buzzfeed-esque quiz to simplify things.

    WP Engine Review

    WP Engine is one of the leaders in Managed Hosting for WordPress.
    WP Engine
    Written by: Nate Shivar
    Date Published: 06/13/2017
    Great fit for some customers who need performance &amp; critical support above all else. Complexity and price make it less of a fit for others.
    4 / 5 stars

    The post WP Engine Review: My Pros & Cons of WP Engine WordPress Hosting appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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