The Basics of Blogging – Part One

basics of blogging

This is part  1 of a 4-part series that goes over the very basics of blogging for people new to the blogging world. 

Everyone has a blog.

Okay – so that is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea. It seems that everyone has a blog these days, and for good reason. A blog is a great way to communicate with your audience, no matter what kind of audience that may be. Using a blog to promote your business – whether it is a new business or an existing venture – is one of the best ways you can use technology to your advantage.

Once you have decided to start your own blog, you are certain to have a lot of questions as you try to get started – which is exactly why we have put together this Basics of Blogging series. We will aim to answer all of the big questions that come up as you work to start your own blog. First up, the matter of web hosting, and how you should go about picking the right web host for your blogging needs.

What is a Web Hosting Company?

To bring your well-written, informative blog posts to people around the world, you are going to need a web host. Simply, a web host is a company that stores your web pages on a server and delivers them to people who follow a link to your site or enter your address into their browser. It is possible to host your own web pages, but that is an advanced option that is full of hassles and complications. You need your own server (i.e. a computer) that runs 24 hours a day, can handle large traffic and not get you into trouble with your ISP (internet service provider). There are other considerations, like setting up a firewall (here’s a Norton coupon code to help if you decide to go that route).  Hosting your pages with a web hosting company is affordable, convenient, and the easy choice when setting up a blog.

Controlling Costs

At first, you are going to want to make sure to control costs as tightly as possible when starting your blog. As the blog expands and your budget allows, you may be able to invest more and more into it on a monthly basis. However, for now, you want to run the blog on a tight budget, which means starting off with a shared hosting plan. Shared web hosting means that the company hosting your web pages will place your site on a server with other websites. For a low traffic blog, this is no problem at all. You aren’t going to have enough traffic to require your own dedicated server, which would be far more expensive.

By picking a shared hosting plan, you should be able to secure hosting for just a few dollars a month. Even at that low rate, you should receive a long list of features and benefits from just about any hosting company on the market. When picking the company you are going to work with, make sure you will have the option to upgrade your hosting plan down the line if you do need your own dedicated server. Most hosting companies offer this option, which provides a seamless transition as your traffic volume increases.

We recommend Bluehost for most users who are first starting out. They are very user-friendly, and starting up a website with them in instantaneous. You can go from setting up your account to a live website in just a few minutes. Here’s a bluehost coupon resource that will help you keep costs under control.

It’s All About Uptime

There is no point in building a blog if that blog isn’t going to be available to those surfing the web. When picking out your host, you will want to research the ‘uptime’ ratings of each of the options you consider. Uptime is simply the percentage of time that the servers of a particular web host are up and operating properly. A good web host will be well beyond 99% in terms of uptime – you should be looking for a rating of at least 99.5% or more.

WordPress Compatible

In all likelihood, you are going to want to use WordPress for your new blog (more on WordPress later in this series). So, with that in mind, you need to make sure that the web host you select will allow for easy installation of the WordPress content management system. Most hosts do offer a script installer such as Softaculous, but check on this point prior to signing up for hosting just to be sure.

The best thing you can do while picking a web host for your new blog is to take your time, review all available options, and check specifically on the points mentioned in the content above. As long as you wind up with an affordable shared hosting plan that has great uptime and is WordPress compatible, you should be ready to go.

In the next instalment of this series, we will take a look at how you can add your own domain name to your new host. Thanks for reading!

The 3 Ways to Grow Your Business – With Suggestions for Each

adwords

It is one thing to start a business, but it is something else entirely to actually grow that business. These days – with all of the advantages that technology affords each of us – it is relatively easy to get up and running with your own business idea. Depending on your idea, you may not even need much money to get started. Growing that business, however, is going to take plenty of time and effort.

Three Basic Concepts

In general, you can break down the process of growing your business into three categories. Those categories are as follows –

  • Increasing your number of customers
  • Increasing the average customer purchase
  • Increase frequency of customer purchase

Below, we will highlight each of these three methods of business growth, along with some ideas for how to pursue each channel.

adwordsIncreasing Your Number of Customers

When you think about business growth, this is probably the first thing you think about. After all, if you have more customers, you are going to make more money, right? Well, yes, in most cases. Acquiring more customers is always desirable, although the cost of doing so can be prohibitive in some cases. 

To gain customers for your business, advertising is going to be the channel which is most likely to yield results. By purchasing advertising space in any number of different areas, you can put a marketing message in front of your target audience. One of the easiest and most-controlled ways of delivering an ad message today is through the use of Google AdWords.

AdWords is a marketing channel that allows you to display paid search results on Google when potential customers search for terms related to your business. The advantage of AdWords is the incredible amount of control that you have over targeting your market. As long as you know your market and you know what your potential customers are searching for, you can display ads to that population without wasting money showing ads to those who aren’t interested. Also, you can tightly control your spending on AdWords, so going over budget should not be an issue.

Increasing the Average Customer Purchase

Another way to grow your business is simply to get your current customers to spend more money. This is a desirable path because you don’t have to invest money in acquiring new customers – you can simply work toward extracting more money from those who you have already acquired. A popular, and successful, way to add to your average receipt is through the use of quality shopping cart software on your website.

When a customer goes through the process of making a purchase on your site, you want to make sure they are offered the opportunity to add on to their purchase before checking out. For instance, a quality shopping cart software program will make it possible for you to present buyers with products related to their purchase at the last moment before checkout. You can think of this in the same way as a grocery store putting things like candy bars and gum right up next to the check stand. These last-minute purchases are a great way for grocery stores to earn extra income from existing customers, and you can do the same on your website.

Increase Frequency of Customer Purchases

The last option on our list for business growth is adding to the frequency of your customer purchases. This is another desirable method because, just like with the previous point, you don’t have to track down new customers. Once someone has made a purchase from your business, they are far more likely to do so again in the future – as long as you give them the opportunity. So, to target increased purchase frequency as a method of growth, you are going to need to market to your previous customers.

In today’s world, this kind of marketing usually comes through the use of an email list. If you build a database of email address from your previous customers, you can use that list to send out promotional material on a periodic basis. By reminding your customers that you have plenty of goods available, and that you have great prices and sales, you are likely to improve your purchase frequency. Even without adding a single new customer, you can make your business more profitable simply by selling more often to the same people.

Make no mistake – it is hard to grow a business. However, the fact that it is hard does not mean it is impossible. Think about your current marketing efforts and how they could be used together with the strategies listed above in order to grow sales and profits well into the future. Good luck!

How to Change the Paradigm of an Existing Business

paradigm-shift

When you are starting a business from scratch, it is relatively easy to set the tone for the new company. As the owner, you can establish ground rules right from the beginning, and you can use those rules to establish a culture and framework that will carry the company forward right from day one. The culture of an organization is essential to its success, so getting it right on this point is crucial.

However, what do you do when the paradigm of an existing business needs to change? To be sure, this is a much more-difficult proposition. Changing the way an existing company works – especially when dealing with employees who have been in place for some time – is a significant challenge.

paradigm-shiftStarting Over

In many ways, you will want to take the same approach to changing the paradigm of an existing business as you would take when starting a new business. Basically, you need to start over. Of course, that is easier said than done, but it is the only way that the old business will manage to head in a new direction. If you fail to make a clean break from the past, you are always going to be stuck dealing with yesterday’s problems rather than looking for tomorrow’s opportunities.

Human beings are creatures of habit, and that fact cannot be overlooked with regard to this topic. As you work toward changing the culture and patterns of your business, you need to remember that your employees are used to doing things a certain way. That doesn’t mean they can’t do things in a different way going forward, but they are going to have to be given a reason to make a significant change. It is up to you to give them that reason.

A Big Event

If you truly would like to change the direction of an existing business, you need to stage a big event which is going to grab the attention of everyone in the organization all at once. This is not something that can be done subtly, or gradually. Most of the time, it will be necessary to call a meeting which includes everyone on staff from top to bottom. This is a meeting that they will remember, and it is a meeting which will mark the official beginning of a new direction for the business.

In this meeting, it is important to lay down the ground rules and expectations for how the business will operate going forward. This should not be an adversarial meeting – but it should be an authoritative one. In this case, you aren’t asking for opinions or input. Rather, you are laying out a plan for the future, and you are making it clear that you are in charge of that plan. Again, it should be quite obvious to everyone in the room that this change is going to be significant, and it is going to be for the better. There is no turning back from this point.

Communication is Key

Since your employees are going to have to quickly adjust to a new way of life at work, one of the keys to success throughout this process is going to be communication. Making sure there are open lines of communication in order to work through problems will be important, and there should be clear communication channels outlined from the start. When someone has a suggestion or a question, they should know exactly who to talk to in order to get the ball rolling. Efficient communication is a hallmark of a quality organization, and it is going to be crucial if you are going to move properly in your new direction.

It isn’t easy to change directions in business, but it is possible. The key to success when trying to change the paradigm of an existing business is to do so swiftly, confidently, and authoritatively. Change isn’t going to come about by accident, and it certainly isn’t going to come about without confident leadership from the top. Take the reigns of the organization, give your employees the guidance they need to be successful, and look forward to a bright future.

The Basics of Blogging – Part Four

how to create a menu in wordpress

This post is in the final instalment in our four-post series on the Basics of Blogging. In the first three posts, we have covered some important topics, including how to choose a web hosting company, how to add a domain name to that web host, and how to install WordPress. Please feel free to check out any of those previous posts if you need help on those topics.

If you have followed along with us to this point so far, congratulations! You already have a site live on the web, although it probably isn’t much to look at just yet. Fortunately, in this post, we are going to help you go from a plain WordPress installation to a great looking site which you can begin to fill with informative, entertaining content. Building a website is plenty of work, but there are many potential rewards down the line once you see your vision come to life.

Choosing a Theme

Picking a ‘theme’ for your site is one of the most-important steps of the entire process. What is a theme? Basically, you can think of a WordPress theme as a template for your site which is going to serve as the framework you can use to add content, media, links, ads, and much more. Everything you do on the site will be done within the context of your chosen theme, and there are thousands and thousands of options to choose from.

Themes come in the form of both free and premium, and you can search out themes from any number of different sources. A quick google search for the phrase ‘WordPress themes’ is going to return a shocking number of results – in fact, you will find too many to ever sort through. To avoid overwhelming yourself with options, you may want to shop on a site which is dedicated to the sale of WordPress themes, such as ThemeForest.

Do you need to pay for a premium theme in order to build a quality site? No – but it will make your life quite a bit easier. As you would expect, premium themes tend to be of a much higher quality than free themes, and they are easier to use in most cases as well. If you have a modest amount of money to invest in your site (usually less than $100), buying a premium theme from a respected developer is a smart choice.

Here’s where you can search for free WordPress themes: https://wordpress.org/themes/

Setting Up Menus

how to create a menu in wordpress

A completed menu helps your website visitors navigate your website.

Once you have chosen a theme and you have installed that theme on your site, one of the first things you will want to do is to create a menu or two. Creating menus is easy in WordPress, and it is a powerful way to shape your site into something that matches your vision. To build your first menu, follow the simple steps below –

While logged in to WordPress, click on ‘Appearance’ in the left side bar, and then select ‘Menus’ from the drop down menu
On the next screen, you will see a box labeled ‘Menu Name’. Enter a name for your first menu in that box, and click on the button that reads ‘Create Menu’.
With the menu created, use the box on the left side of the screen to pick the pages which you would like included in the menu. When you have selected all desired pages, click ‘Add to Menu’. If you are happy with your choices, click ‘Save Menu’ and you will be finished.

Most likely, your theme is going to include at least one or two designated spots for menus to be used. Often, there is a menu somewhere in both the header and footer, if not a sidebar as well. Now that you know how to create a menu, you can customize these parts of your site to suit your needs.

Front Page Decisions

The front page of your website is like the front door to your home – it should be inviting and welcoming, rather than off-putting. One big decision you need to keep in mind when developing your site is the appearance you wish to have on your front page. Do you want that page to be static, or would you like it to be a feed of your latest blog posts? There is no right or wrong answer on this point, so think about the purpose of your site and which choice makes the most sense. To make this selection within WordPress, click on ‘Settings’ in the left sidebar, then ‘Reading’. On the Reading Settings screen, you will be able to toggle between ‘Your Latest Posts’ and ‘ A Static Page’ for your front page display options.

The most-important thing to remember when working in WordPress is that help is always available. If you get stuck on a particular issue while building your site, a quick search for the topic and hand will likely reveal the solution in short order. Good luck, and we hope you have enjoyed our Basics of Blogging series!