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      Make Your Website Merry and Bright with These 10 Holiday Marketing Ideas


      The bright and cheery season is finally here!

      String up the twinkling lights, bust out your ugliest sweater, and get to work decking out your website.

      via GIPHY

      Wait?

      Work during the holidays?!

      Yeah, I do sound like the Grinch right now. But getting festive for Festivus (and all the other major end-of-year holidays) can actually give your website more chances to unwrap extra visitors.

      If your cup of ideas isn’t running over, we’ve got you covered. Our gift to you? Ten great ways to freshen up your website for the holidays. Batteries not included.

      Before You Get Started

      Before you delve too deep in creating new holiday campaigns, take the time to look at the results of your holiday promotions from last year. Hopefully, you already did this when you were prepping your website for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But if not, let’s refresh!

      Let Your Goals Guide

      First, take a moment to reflect. What are your company goals? And what do you need to get out of the holiday shopping season: more sales, leads, or subscribers? Every action you take, including fun holiday marketing campaigns, should drive toward those goals.

      If the campaign you’ve got in mind won’t help you achieve your goals, put that idea on the naughty list.

      Review Last Year

      Which promotions registered with customers last December? Which ones fell flat? Before you put fingers to keyboard, take a look at last year’s results and build from there.

      Plan Out Sales in Advance

      Run the numbers to find out what deals you can afford to offer during the holidays. Then use this information to help you choose which holidays ideas to implement on your website.

      Analyze Your Channels

      You need to know how you’re going to spread the word about your holiday campaigns and promotions. So ask yourself: Do you have an email subscriber list? How strong is your social media presence? Is one platform stronger than the others? Have you ever used PPC?

      Scout Out the Competition

      What have your competitors done for the holidays that you could tweak for your specific audience? Make a list. You can even look to big brands for ideas (lots of inspiration coming your way).

      Got all that? Okay, on to the ideas!

      10 Holiday Ideas to Brighten Up Your Website

      1. Make Sure Your Website is Ready for the Season

      First things first, let’s get technical to make sure your website is geared up and ready for the season.

      You can do this by checking with your hosting provider to plan for any surges in traffic. If you need to upgrade for more resources, do it before the holidays hit. That way, you won’t run into issues when all those visitors come knocking on your website’s door to get your holiday deals.

      Next, make sure your payment gateway can handle more transactions. You may also want to consider upgrading your services to accept more forms of payments and double check your security features. The gifts of convenience and security are the type of holiday cheer your customers will appreciate.

      Need a baller payment gateway for your website? Here are 10 can’t-miss options.

      Finally, optimize to reduce your site’s load times. I could give you a mile-long checklist for this, but you’re busy — I get it. Instead, try these ten speedy-site tips, and then test your site’s performance with Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

      Now, you’re ready to roll!

      2. Dress Your Website up for the Holidays

      Your customers are used to your website’s regular look, and that’s great — for most of the year. When the holidays roll around, though, consider giving your site a little extra sparkle.

      Take caffeine juggernaut Starbucks.

      Everyone is used to the company’s white-and-green siren, but come November 1, Starbucks’ cups get a little more festive.

      Obviously, your website isn’t a paper cup. So when it comes to zhuzhing up your homepage, a lot of jingle can go all the way. Let’s look at a brand that does holiday cheer well: Bath and Body Works.

      As soon as visitors hit the website, they are greeted with twinkling snowflakes and a giant, festive banner image. Even their promotion code is cheery: SNOWFALL.

      One word of warning (and good, old-fashioned marketing advice): know your audience.

      When you opt to make your branding more holiday-themed, pay attention to how your customers receive it. If you’re worried, solicit customer feedback, run some A/B tests, or hold a focus group.

      You don’t want to catch any flack — like Starbucks often does — for being too much this way, not enough that way.

      3. Use Your Email Marketing List

      Of course, it’s easy to get caught up in making sure your website is perfectly festive. However, it’s vital to remember that many customers won’t see it — unless you email them with a link and a good reason to return to your homepage.

      Long-time readers and first-time commenters alike will probably remember that we’ve gone in-depth before on why website owners need to get serious about email marketing.

      It’s the single-most-effective marketing tactic for awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention. You want a slice of that pie!

      WordPress users! Learn how to build your own email subscriber list directly on the platform.

      Most of all remember that your subscribers opted into your email list for a reason: they want to hear from you! Don’t forget to wish them well this holiday season and share your good news.

      After all, who doesn’t love a killer sale like this offer from Legacybox?

      4. Make ‘Em Laugh

      Sometimes the best way to get your website visitors in the holiday spirit is to make them laugh.

      Of course, how you do this is largely up to you and what works for your brand.

      JibJab allows visitors to personalize hilarious videos and send them to friends and family. Each year, the site offers a series of customizable holiday cards that are bound to make their customers laugh, share, and repeat.

      Kmart is another brand that has used humor to increase sales during the holidays.

      While the Jingle Joes might not “resonate” with everyone, the use of humor is a good way to stand out during a very competitive shopping season.

      Lastly, don’t be afraid to go dark. Like real dark.

      For a lot of people, getting together with family for the holidays isn’t a friggin’ Hallmark movie. HotelTonight took all those bad feels and translated them into this dark-comedy dream.

      You don’t have to be a hotel booking website to pull this off either. Get creative and think about your specific target audience. The world is your air mattress — erm — oyster.

      5. Put Together a Holiday Gift Package

      No matter what products or services you offer, you can group them together during the holiday season and offer a holiday combo on your website.

      Dollar Shave Club nails it each year. 

      As you can see, the shave kit is exactly like the ones they offer every other month of the year.

      So what’s changed?

      Only the context! The Elf on the Shelf signals holiday hijinks are afoot without the brand having to do any repackaging of their product.

      This time of year, people like to see holiday promotions. Even if you are selling the same old thing, dress up the way you promote to match the season.

      6. Drum Up Interest

      Almost everyone has a hard time waiting for the holidays (even if you can’t wait for them to be over, amirite, Scrooge?). But as a website owner, you can use all that anticipation to drive hype for your business.

      Take H&M. The brand created a short trailer to tease its 2017 holiday collaboration with Nicki Minaj.

      I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of all things H&M and Nicki Minaj, so even before the final campaign dropped, I knew I’d be checking out H&M’s latest gear. #MarketingSuccess

      Of course, if you don’t have the budget to hire a mega-watt celebrity to headline your holiday campaigns (pssst, have you heard of micro-influencers?), then you can always build hype the old-fashioned way: with a countdown!

      Ellen famously does the “12 Days of Giveaways,” and it’s hugely successful. Hitch your sleigh to that idea by doing 12 days of promotions, deals, even blog content — anything that will resonate with your customers.

      There is nothing naughty about leaning into the sense of urgency and excitement that comes with the holidays.

      7. Promote Your Expertise

      If there’s one thing for certain about the holiday season, it’s this: people gain weight. Yeah, your pants aren’t lying; holiday weight gain is real. And so is the motivation to lose the weight come January 1.

      Don’t worry I’m going somewhere with this.

      If you are a brand that holds a special level of expertise on a holiday-related topic, then the time is now to jump in and start sharing.

      For example, if you are a doctor, wellness coach, purveyor of health supplements, or self-styled weight-loss guru, then focus your content on how people can stay healthy during the holidays.

      Need an example? It’s like that one time we talked about tech-themed horror movies for Halloween. Look for a niche that you have expertise in and find a way to tie it to the season.

      Content win!

      8. Get Real With Your Followers

      Not like Drunk Uncle real. I mean genuine. The holidays are a great time to share what your brand is really about.

      Take Samsung for example.

      Their “Unwrap the Feels” video captures the spirit of the holidays by showing a collection of darling families gathering together. It’s so darn charming, that by the end, you might get a bit misty-eyed — and want to purchase some of Samsung’s magical family-bringing-together products.

      You don’t have to pull heartstrings to win hearts, though.

      If you are getting jolly around the office, let your customers in on the fun. Chances are they’ll be interested in the team that keeps their favorite products on the market.

      When you hold an office party or volunteer for a charity project, make sure you share the real, unfiltered you with your customers.

      9. Give Back to Customers

      When it comes right down to it, the holidays are about giving back. There is no better time to focus a little less on the bottom line and a little more on making the world a better place. For instance, you could make a donation to a charitable organization or sponsor a company-wide day of service.

      DYK? DreamHost is currently matching up to $10,000 for donations to Charity:Water.

      Looking for a viral way to spread joy to your customers? Host a giveaway or contest on social media.

      Last year DreamHost gave back to our customers with “The Dreamiest Website of the Year Awards.” Customers were able to submit their websites for a bevy of awards. The winners got swag, cash, and bragging rights. It was a fun way to thank the people who keep us in business.

      10. Welcome Visitors to the New Year

      After the hype has died down, take some time to ramp up your content production. Why? Because once the merriment is over, your customers will be thinking about the next big thing: the new year!

      Come January, DreamHost customers are looking for help building a brand new website to kickstart their resolutions, whether they’re starting a blog or a business. Think about what your customers will want to do next year and start creating content to help them do just that.

      The new year is a fresh start for everyone. Stay on top of your content strategy by preparing in December for a big rollout of fresh ideas in January.

      Give your website a home for the holidays. Sign up for DreamHost today!

      Stick a Bow on It, You’re Done

      There you go! We hope you’ll enjoy (and use!) these 10 gift-wrapped holiday ideas to connect with your customers during the holiday season.

      And we want you to get in on this too!

      Tell us: how have you decked out your website in years gone by? And what are you trying for the first time this December? Spread the good cheer with us on Facebook or Twitter.





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      A Beginner’s Guide to Affiliate Marketing


      There’s no shortage of ways you can make money online. However, few are as flexible and rewarding as affiliate marketing. If done right, it can be a lucrative way of earning an income by producing creative and valuable content.

      In a nutshell, affiliate marketing enables you to monetize your content by promoting other companies’ products using affiliate links. When somebody buys a product or service based on your referral, you earn a small commission on that purchase.

      In this article, we’ll introduce you to the basics of affiliate marketing and discuss how it works in practice. We’ll also show you how you could benefit from using it and give you some help getting started. Let’s begin!

      A Brief History of Affiliate Marketing (And How It Works)

      The DreamHost affiliate program.

      Monetizing your website doesn’t have to be a difficult or compromising endeavor. In fact, it can be incredibly rewarding, both from an economic and creative perspective. Plus, it doesn’t require a lot of the legwork involved in other methods of making money online.

      Affiliate marketing involves promoting products from external vendors on your own website. While definitions sometimes vary, there are generally three or four parties involved in an affiliate setup. Since these terms can be confusing, let’s take a moment to clarify the ‘who’s who’ of affiliate marketing:

      • The affiliate. Also known as ‘the marketer,’ this is the person running a site that contains affiliate links. The affiliate receives a commission on each purchase made by visitors who found a product by clicking on one of their links.
      • The consumer. This is a visitor on the affiliate site, who clicks on an affiliate link and completes a purchase (whether that’s the original item being promoted, or something else from the same company).
      • The network. This refers to the internal or third-party platform that the affiliate program is operated on. This means they’re the ones providing the links that the affiliates use and paying the affiliate their commissions.
      • The merchant. This is a company that sells products being marketed by the affiliate. In many cases, the merchant and the network are the same, as some companies run their own affiliate programs. For simplicity, we’ll be combining these last two entities throughout the rest of our discussion here.

      If that still sounds a bit confusing, let’s look at a typical real-life example of how an affiliate sale might work:

      1. An affiliate publishes a blog post on their site. The post is a review of a pair of sneakers, which are sold by the merchant.
      2. At the bottom of the post, the affiliate includes a link that leads to the sneakers’ product page.
      3. A consumer reads the blog post and, intrigued by the review, clicks on the affiliate link.
      4. Once on the merchant’s website, the consumer decides to purchase the sneakers.
      5. The merchant earns a profit off of the sale and shares a portion of that money with the affiliate.

      You might be curious about how the merchant knows which affiliate is responsible for the purchase. That’s actually the easy part since every affiliate is given a unique link that tracks each product they promote. This lets the merchant track all referrals using cookies to ensure that they know exactly how much money they’ve earned thanks to each affiliate (and what to pay them in return).

      How Affiliate Marketing Can Benefit You

      The potential to earn money by simply sharing links probably sounds tempting already. However, affiliate marketing comes with a whole host of advantages beyond the obvious one. Let’s take a look at some of the main ways being an affiliate marketer can benefit you and your site.

      First of all, it’s a low-risk and inexpensive business. The bare minimum for getting started as an affiliate is having a blog, a website, or even just a social media profile. This makes it a very cost-effective method for earning money. It also means you don’t have to commit a lot of cash up-front since you can start small and grow your marketing efforts over time.

      Another compelling aspect of affiliate marketing is that it lets you be creative, and provide something genuinely useful to your audience. Since you can use affiliate links pretty much anywhere, you can set up a review site, publish long-form articles, or even produce video content. Since you’re promoting other companies’ products, you don’t even need to worry about actually creating, shipping, and supporting the items yourself.

      Affiliate marketing also gives you the freedom to choose what you promote. In other words, it offers you the luxury of being picky. Not only do you get to decide precisely which programs to work with, but in most cases, you’ll even select the individual products and services you want to promote. As such, you always have full control over what’s featured on your site.

      The This Is Why I’m Broke affiliate website.

      Last but not least, affiliate marketing can be very lucrative (although keep in mind that it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme). Since you’re earning a percentage of every sale you refer, there’s no maximum ceiling for earnings either. This means that if your affiliate site takes off in a big way, you could potentially end up making a great passive income.

      With all of that in mind, you should have a fairly clear idea about whether affiliate marketing is something you’d like to get involved with. For many people, the benefits speak for themselves. However, before you start posting affiliate links, there are a number of things you’ll need to bear in mind.

      What to Consider Before Becoming an Affiliate Marketer

      Affiliate marketing definitely provides some impressive benefits, but that doesn’t mean you can jump in without preparation. To ensure that your work as an affiliate isn’t wasted, you’ll need to do a bit of planning and be aware of the potential drawbacks.

      We’re going to talk about some of those considerations in more detail later on. However, here is a brief overview of what you’ll need to do:

      • Find the right niche. Your niche determines your site’s subject matter, and by extension, what types of products or services you’ll promote. As such, finding a niche that’s both comfortable and potentially lucrative is vital.
      • Understand how to disclose your affiliate links. It’s imperative that you let visitors know your site contains affiliate links. Affiliate links come under the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines of endorsements, after all. Plus, being transparent is a smart way to improve trust in your website and business (not to mention sales).
      • Avoid ‘affiliate theft’ at all costs. There are several illegitimate methods of increasing your commissions, which are collectively referred to as ‘affiliate theft’ or ‘commission theft.’ As such, you’ll need to make sure you only use proper, disclosed links at all times. Otherwise, you might end up like the scammer who used affiliate theft to steal $28 million from eBay.
      • Understand that being an affiliate is not ‘selling out.’ By promoting other companies’ products, you’re nothing but a pawn in their marketing schemes, right? While some people assume this, it really isn’t true. In fact, a key characteristic of most successful affiliates is that they provide honest and insightful content to go along with their links. Since you choose what to promote, there’s no need to bend the truth or connect your name to poor-quality products.
      • Be patient. Finally, affiliate marketing rarely leads to overnight success. Instead, it usually requires a lot of time and effort to slowly generate traffic and build an audience. This is especially true if you’re starting with a new or low-traffic site. It’s essential that you don’t expect quick results, and are ready to put in the work needed to grow your site and commissions.

      If you take some time to consider the above points carefully, you’ll start off prepared and with realistic expectations. This will give you a solid foundation upon which you can build your affiliate marketing career.

      Affiliate Marketing for Beginners (In 3 Steps)

      As we’ve already mentioned, affiliate marketing has a relatively low barrier to entry. To help you get started quickly, we’re going to walk you through the first steps for turning your site into an affiliate marketing success.

      Step 1: Choose a Suitable Affiliate Niche

      If you’re starting a new affiliate site, you’ll need to consider what niche you will work within. Your site’s niche determines what type of content you create, who your target audience is, and which kinds of products you will promote.

      Naturally, it’s crucial to choose a niche that’s financially viable. This means you need to find a subject that enough people will be interested in. That may seem tricky, but there are actually a lot of options you can choose from. Performing keyword research is also a smart idea at this stage, to find out what keywords are driving the most traffic via search engines.

      However, this step isn’t just about finding the niche that pays the most. To be successful, you should also aim for a niche that suits you personally. If you already have some knowledge and interest in your chosen area of focus, you’ll be in a position to create authoritative and engaging content to go along with your affiliate links.

      You’ll also have a better understanding of your target audience’s needs and desires. This is essential since it helps you build trust with your visitors. If they feel like they can rely on your judgment and recommendations, they’ll be more likely to click on your links and make purchases based on your suggestions. Therefore, the best niche will have plenty of potential consumers and will be something you can create knowledgeable and trustworthy content about.

      Step 2: Find and Sign Up for the Right Affiliate Programs

      Once you have a niche and site ready to go, it’s time to look for affiliate programs. As we mentioned previously, many programs are run directly by a merchant, with the goal of promoting their own company’s products.

      When deciding which programs to sign up for, you should first look at what products they want you to promote. Most importantly, they’ll need to offer products that are popular in your selected niche. Therefore, look for brands that speak to your target market, and see if they offer affiliate programs. For example, if your site is about running websites, you could look for web hosts with their own affiliate programs.

      In addition to merchant-driven programs, there are also dedicated affiliate networks, such as RakutenAwin, CJ, and Pepperjam. These programs encompass several different merchants and thousands of products. This gives you access to multiple types of products, without needing to join lots of programs. Even eCommerce giants like eBay and Amazon have their own successful affiliate programs.

      Amazon’s affiliate marketing program.

      Naturally, it’s also important to find programs that will pay you well. After all, you’re putting a lot of effort into promoting the merchants’ products, so you should see a fair share of the profits. Before you sign up, it’s also a smart move to research each program and see what experiences other affiliates have had.

      You might even find it useful to seek out an affiliate community, such as Wealthy Affiliate. There, you can get advice and help from those who have been publishing and marketing for a long time. This can be particularly helpful when you’re a novice. Then, in a few years’ time, you might be the one helping another beginner get started.

      Step 3: Add Affiliate Links to Your Site

      At this point, you’ve signed up for the best affiliate programs in your carefully chosen niche. Now it’s time to really get to work, which means sharing your affiliate links. Of course, how you actually implement these links on your site will vary, depending on what type of content you’re creating.

      For example, if you’re running a review site, it makes sense to place relevant affiliate links within your reviews. The simplest way of doing this is just to include them as text links in the content itself. However, this approach can be seen as misleading, since it’s less clear that you’re promoting the products in question.

      A better technique is to keep your links slightly separated from your main content. For instance, you can place them towards the end of each relevant post. The film site Birth.Movies.Death does this by featuring boxes with related products underneath its articles.

      An affiliate link on a post from Birth.Movies.Death.

      You can see a similar approach taken by OutdoorGearLab This site places links to each product’s page alongside the pricing information in its reviews.

      An affiliate link from OutdoorGearLab.

      Some affiliate programs will also provide you with assets, such as banners, that you can use to promote products. This might be more suitable if you want to keep your marketing and content clearly separated.

      As with your niche, your approach to implementing links will depend on your site’s purpose. Feel free to experiment with different strategies, but always remember that your focus should be on providing value to your audience. If you fail in that task, visitors won’t trust you, click on your links, or return in the future. Make sure you write quality content, therefore, and keep an eye on your conversions to see what’s working (and what’s not).

      Finally, we once again want to stress the importance of disclosing your affiliate links. This is a crucial part of complying with the endorsement guidelines provided by the FTC. Violating these guidelines could lead to legal action, which is naturally something you’ll want to avoid at all costs.

      As such, you should provide information about your links’ nature and purpose, which you can do by creating an ‘affiliate disclosure’ statement. The notice should be unambiguous, and clearly visible anywhere affiliate links are used. This will keep your site out of trouble, and help to promote trust with your audience.[a][b][d][e][f]

      Conclusion

      The trouble with trying to make money online is that you’re rarely given the opportunity to be creative or to work with something you feel passionate about. In that sense, affiliate marketing is unique. This marketing technique enables you to monetize your own site, choosing exactly what products to promote and how.

      Do you have any questions about getting started with affiliate marketing? Join the DreamHost Community today and let’s discuss!



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