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      11 Secrets to Making a Successful Website


      Affiliate Disclosure: DreamHost maintains relationships with some of our recommended partners, so if you click through a link and purchase, we may receive a commission. We only recommend solutions we believe in.

      Whether you’re a writer looking to reach a wider audience, a boutique manufacturer needing to boost sales, or you’re someone who just wants to make money online — you’re going to need a website. And not just any website — a great website.

      Unfortunately, the World Wide Web has been saturated with sites for some years now.

      Standing out. Making your mark. It’s not easy.

      But here at DreamHost, we know a fair bit about websites and what makes them work — so here are our 11 secrets to making a successful website.

      1. Defined goals
      2. A good domain name
      3. Quality web hosting
      4. A clear description
      5. A top-notch CMS
      6. A great e-commerce platform
      7. Engaging web design
      8. SEO optimization
      9. High-quality content
      10. Using Google Analytics
      11. A site maintenance plan

      1. Define your goals

      Before you do anything else, you need to decide what you want to achieve from this website.

      • Is it going to be an e-commerce website that you use to sell products?
      • Are you looking to promote a service?
      • Do you want to make money via affiliate links?
      • Are you simply after a platform to share your thoughts and ideas?

      It can be hard to change the direction of an established website. Make sure you know what type of website you want to create and what you need to get out of it.

      2. Choose a good domain

      Picking a good domain name is easier said than done. It’s also seriously important since it’s tricky to change it once you’ve started establishing your site and brand. (Yes, you can migrate to a new domain, but that comes with all sorts of complications.)

      So what is a good domain? What does a good domain look like?

      • It is your brand name or includes your brand name.
      • It’s memorable.
      • It’s easy to spell.
      • It’s short (ideally under 14 characters; but the shorter, the better).
      • It’s free of numbers, hyphens, or other unusual characters.
      • It has a recognized, trustworthy extension (.com is the ideal).

      It can also be a good idea to choose an SEO-friendly domain that includes one of your most important keywords.

      3. Get secure, quality web hosting with good tech support

      It can be tempting to skimp on web hosting and choose the cheapest service you can find. Don’t do this.

      A cheap web host can cost you in other ways: excessive downtime, slow site speeds, limited or non-existent support.

      It’s not worth it.

      If you’re serious about making your website a success, invest in quality web hosting you can rely on. You won’t go wrong with DreamHost web hosting.

      4. Include a clear description of your business

      This is something a lot of companies get wrong. They know their industry and their business, inside and out. That’s great. But it often means they forget how to describe it to people that don’t.

      Ideally, you should be able to sum up what you do in a couple of sentences. This summary should be displayed prominently on your homepage. And anyone should be able to read it and understand it.

      If you have any doubts, ask someone who knows nothing about what you do what they think. Better yet, enlist the help of a professional copywriter.

      5. Use a top-notch content management system

      A content management system (CMS) is where you’ll manage your website’s pages and content. The right one can make this quick, easy, and fun. The wrong one can be the source of endless headaches and can even limit what you’re able to do.

      Good content management systems allow you to build pages and posts on a site with no prior knowledge of coding. They cut down the barrier to entry and enable anyone to create their own site.

      But how do you know which is the right one for you?

      The following questions will help you decide:

      • Do I want a basic website with no frills?
      • Do I want to be able to build the website in the future to have more features?
      • What’s my budget?
      • Will I want to add the ability for a website visitor to buy products in the future?
      • Am I happy to pay ongoing costs, or do I just want to pay a one-off fee?
      • Do I need to integrate with other parts of my business (such as a lead generation tool or a payment platform)?
      • Is it SEO-friendly?
      • Will it scale with my business?
      • Can I use a website builder to make the design process easier?

      Depending on what you want to use the CMS for, you may have other questions, but these basic ones should set you off on finding the right content management system for your needs.

      6. Choose a great e-commerce platform

      If you know that you’ll want to sell products on your site, you need to know what e-commerce platform you need to choose. You can choose from many platforms, but not all of them are built to scale or fit for your purposes. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

      If you’re running a business website, you need to make sure that the platform you choose is reliable and sturdy. You don’t want to deal with customer complaints because you chose a platform that can’t deliver.

      Before selecting a platform, ask yourself the following:

      • Is it SEO-friendly? While there are many cheap and easy-to-set-up e-commerce platforms, not all of them are particularly SEO-friendly.
      • Is it mobile-friendly? We live in a mobile-first world, and if that platform is even a little bit clunky, you’re going to be losing out on revenue.
      • Is it a trusted and secure platform? One of the most important considerations for customers is that their details will be safe when purchasing. Your platform needs to be fully secure, and it needs to communicate that to potential customers.
      • Will it scale? We all have high hopes for our businesses, and while not all succeed, a fair few do. When choosing an e-commerce platform, ensure that it will scale with your online business.
      • How do the systems work? One of the critical areas to investigate is how well the platform deals with product and order management. You need it to be swift so that you aren’t wasting time on the back end, and you can get on with delivering the best service to your customers.

      Your Online Store Deserves WooCommerce Hosting

      Sell anything, anywhere, anytime on the world’s biggest e-commerce platform.

      7. Create a beautiful, engaging, accessible website design

      When you imagine a design that matches usability, one company usually springs to mind: Apple. They have managed to combine both of these into a wildly successful business.

      Users appreciate good design, and when it’s combined with solid usability, you have a winner. A site that people want to revisit. A site that people want to buy from.

      Google has always said that you need to create websites with the end-user in mind — and it’s more true today than it’s ever been.

      Here are a few tips for creating sites that ooze design quality.

      • Know your target audience and design accordingly — what features would they want, and how design-savvy are they?
      • Don’t skimp on cost. With design, you get what you pay for. Don’t try to cut corners. Use a professional, experienced designer (like team of pros at DreamHost).
      • Look at the competition. Find some sites in your niche that perform well and study them. Google will rank sites based on niches, and design is crucial. If your competitors’ websites are winning with simplistic colors and designs, take notice. Then make yours better.

      8. Optimize for search engines

      One of the simplest, fastest ways to help make your site successful is to optimize it for search engines. While search engines might be smart — and every day they get better at understanding the meaning and context of web pages, their content, and users’ intent — they still need us to help them along.

      In most cases, the first step to optimizing for search engines is keyword research. This will help you identify the sort of keywords you should be targeting through optimization.

      Popular keyword research tools include:

      If you want to take a more sophisticated approach to keyword research, try Semrush. It’s a great tool for advanced digital marketers, and it’s accessible to people with less experience too. We love it so much, we’ve set up a free 14-day PRO trial for our readers!

      SEMrush

      Semrush’s keyword research section works similarly to most other keyword research tools; however, in addition to keyword suggestions, search volume, and difficulty scores, you also get global volume data, keyword variations, and questions linked to your starting keyword. You also get insights into the current state of the SERPs.

      How to Choose Which Keywords to Target

      The right keywords to target can generally be determined by three things:

      1. Search volume
      2. Difficulty/competitiveness
      3. Relevance

      Ideally, you want to target keywords that lots of people are searching for (how many searches you can realistically expect this to be will depend on your industry), that have low competition (which increases the odds that you’ll be able to rank), and that, of course, are relevant to your site!

      How to Optimize for Target Keywords

      The main places for including your target keywords are:

      The title tag

      This forms part of the snippet of information that appears in the search results. For example, this is the title tag for the DreamHost homepage:

      <H> tags

      H tags are header tags. You might know them as H1s, H2s, H3s, and so on. They are used to help organize the information on a page, particularly in terms of hierarchy.

      While search engines use all the text on a page for ranking, H tags have extra weight behind them — particularly the H1 tag. Include keywords in them where you can (but never, ever be spammy about it!).

      On-page content

      Search engines use all of a page’s content when determining its subject matter and what it should rank for. It goes without saying that keywords should be included here. Just be tactical about how you do it.

      Use words and phrases naturally. Use permutations where possible. Consider entities. And most importantly of all, write for users, not search engines.

      If you need more help with optimizing your website, consider adding SEO toolkit to your hosting plan for $4.99/month. It’ll help you improve your search engine rankings and drive more customers to your site with its suite of DIY tools, helpful analytics, and a step-by-step SEO plan.

      9. Create high-quality content

      It’s hardly a secret that websites with high-quality content have a better chance of performing well than those with poor-quality content.

      Great content should be informative, well written, and easy to understand. It should be formatted in a way that guides the user through the copy.

      But “create high-quality content” sounds somewhat subjective, doesn’t it?

      It’s not quite as subjective as you might think. Here are some ways you can ensure you’re writing high-quality content for your niche.

      • Invest in good writers — as with many points in this guide, cutting corners won’t help your website succeed in the long run. Our SEO marketing service can help.
      • Have experts write your content — Google has been working towards making sure only the best and most accurate content reaches the top of the search results. Middle-of-the-road content isn’t going to cut it for much longer.
      • Conduct deep research — you need to find out what your customers want, not what you think they want. Many websites miss this point entirely. If you don’t satisfy your users’ needs, you can’t really call your content high-quality.

      It’s not just about the words — you need to make your content sing. Make sure it appeals to different users. If it’s right for your target audience, then introduce videos, images, infographics, and charts.

      10. Track your progress with analytics

      It’s tricky, if not impossible, to know whether your site is a success if you’re not tracking your progress. While many tools allow you to track your website and even spy on the status of others, there is arguably no better website tracking tool than Google’s own Analytics.

      To get started with Google Analytics, you will need to:

      And that’s pretty much it. You can create filtered views of the data to help you hone in on specific data elements, but the above is all you need to do for Google to start gathering extremely detailed data that will enable you to assess the performance of your site and adapt your strategy accordingly.

      11. Set up a site maintenance plan

      What do you do once your site’s up and running? Should you sit back, relax, and let the visits/leads/money roll in?

      No.

      Depending on your goals, you may be able to slow down. But you can’t just forget about your website. Things will go wrong.

      Instead, implement a maintenance plan, like what we offer as part of our DreamCare service. Your maintenance plan should include a list of periodic must-dos and when you will do them. The most important will likely be:

      • Running security scans
      • Backing up your site’s data
      • Checking Webmaster Tools, primarily for any glaring errors that have gone unnoticed

      Another thing we’d advise is to run Hotjar or another tool that monitors user behavior. While you can use its findings to gain a deep understanding of your website’s user experience (UX), you can also use it periodically to pinpoint specific issues or points of contention.

      Get Our Best Tips to Boost Website Traffic

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      Your New Website Is Waiting

      As you can see, creating a successful website isn’t quick, and it isn’t particularly easy — but knowing the secrets to a successful website will help.

      Get started with these key takeaways.

      1. Define your goals. Decide exactly what you want your website to achieve.
      2. Choose a good domain name that’s relevant, memorable, short, and has a trustworthy extension.
      3. Invest in quality web hosting that’s secure, with great tech support.
      4. Describe your business clearly on your homepage, and anywhere else it’s relevant.
      5. Use a quality content management system: one that’s robust and easy to use.
      6. Choose a good e-commerce platform that can grow with your business.
      7. Create a beautiful website design that’s one step above your competitors.
      8. Optimize for search engines. Ensure they understand what your site’s about and the terms it should rank for.
      9. Create high-quality content; substandard content doesn’t rank.
      10.  Track your progress, starting with Google Analytics.
      11.  Create a site maintenance plan, including backing up data and checking Search Console.

      Ready to get started with your website? If you’re starting from scratch, we can help with our Pro Services. Our expert team can design, build, manage and market your website — everything you need to launch yourself or your brand online. Learn more about what DreamHost can do for you here.



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      The Website Owner’s Guide to Email Marketing


      Email is the sharpest tool in the box for building relationships, generating new customers, and increasing sales on your website. Here’s how to get started.

      Remember in 1998’s You’ve Got Mail when Meg Ryan‘s character waits impatiently for her dial-up internet to connect before typing an email to her virtual pen pal on a simple dialog box? Watch it now and cringe; we’ve come a long way, baby. 

      But while dial-up and AOL instant messaging are stuck in the stone ages of the internet, email isn’t, especially for you website owners out there — and here’s why.

      Email still has a very real place in society, with more than four billion email users worldwide, a number predicted to rise to 4.5 billion by 2024.

      New Email.jpeg

      Even though we tend to dread the sight of an overstuffed inbox, the reality is this: Email triumphs as a powerful tool of communication and persuasion for website owners and businesses. 

      And marketers understand this. 

      In fact, 89% of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation. This seemingly-archaic medium is increasingly relevant — unlike screen names or Myspace pages — for website owners looking to build customer relationships and augment sales. 

      Marketers consistently rank email as the single-most-effective tactic for meeting their awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention goals. They’ve branded it, fittingly, “the workhorse” and prove your marketing budget should include more $$$ allotted for an invested email strategy.

      And they’re not the only ones waving virtual foam fingers for email practices; more than half of consumers say they enjoy receiving emails from brands.

      But understand this: You don’t have to be a big-shot marketer to create and send email campaigns. Even beginners can use emails to generate slam-dunk sales or build a loyal blog following.

      So what exactly is email marketing? How can you encourage customers to sign up for your emails in the first place? Then, how do you craft sparkling newsletter copy while avoiding the spam folder? 

      Well, you’re in luck. We developed the Website Owner’s Guide to Email Marketing to help you understand and implement the fundamentals of email marketing. Read on and learn the ins-and-outs of segmentation, automation, sequencing, bounce rates, and how to craft that email your visitors are anxious to open:

      We promise it’s easier than dial-up.

      1. Email Marketing: Ground Level

      If you’re like 58% of adults, after waking up and resisting the urge to hit the snooze button, you’re rolling over groggily to grab your phone. Within seconds, you’re scanning your email inbox before your eyelids have even fully opened. 

      Checking Email.jpeg

      And now, with the increased usage of everything mobile, people are “always on” in terms of their inboxes: whether on commutes, in the bathroom (germy, but true), or in almost every social situation, they’re one micro-click away from checking their email.

      Email marketing capitalizes on habits like this in a major way. 

      At its most basic, email marketing involves acquiring the email addresses of potential customers as a way to share content with them and build business-to-customer relationships. And there’s a reason that this strategy is tried-and-true; it’s a good investment — for every dollar spent, email marketing averages an ROI of $38. Cha-ching!

      The numbers don’t lie: 66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a direct result of an email marketing message. 

      Still not convinced that you need an email marketing strategy? Consider these stats:

      • You are six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than you are from a tweet. Bonus: you get more than 140 characters to do it.
      • 90% of email gets delivered to the intended recipient’s inbox, whereas only 2% of your Facebook fans see your posts in their News Feed (they’re probably watching cat videos).
      • Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter and achieves 174% more conversions.
      • More people use email than social platforms
      • Email is a direct line of communication you have with website visitors that explicitly said they want to hear from you!
      • Some social media platforms cater to specific age groups — and not others (hello, Snapchat). Biting your nails over catering to millennials, baby boomers, or Gen Xers, respectively? Email marketing crosses age groups in terms of effectiveness. Email is the preferred means of business communications across all age groups.
      • Once you have their email address, you can continue to market to your subscribers for mere pennies (unless they unsubscribe). A budget-friendly marketing gift that keeps on giving!

      Consider a basketball analogy: Email marketing is like shooting a layup, versus a shot from half-court . . . blindfolded. One is targeted and direct — an almost guaranteed score — while the other is haphazard hit-or-miss. 

      Basketball Layup.jpeg

      Point made, yes?

      So, let’s get down to it.

      What You Need to Get Started

      If you’re a business owner, you’ve probably got a snazzy website up and running. If not, follow this guide to building a WordPress website in five minutes and then rejoin us. 

      Don’t worry. We’ll wait.

      All setup? OK, now it’s time to market your content and products to loyal followers.

      First, it’s smart to set some goals and make a plan for what you want to accomplish through your email marketing efforts. This will guide the type of messages you sent and how you target your subscribers.

      Second, you’ll need a reliable Email Service Provider (ESP). This kind of provider is different than your basic Gmail account — an ESP allows you to send messages in bulk.

      The most popular of these is probably MailChimp. Still, many ESPs offer various features — like security reports and levels of automation — so do your research and choose a service that provides the tools you want at the price your budget allows.

      MailChimp.png

      Next: Building a list of subscribers.

      Successful email marketing works like visiting someone’s house — you have to be invited first. Email marketing begins when a potential or current customer gives you their permission to send them emails. 

      Just say “Nooooooo!” to buying email lists or firing off spammy messages to those who haven’t granted you their permission. You want to nurture relationships that lead to sales, not alienate and annoy potential customers. (We’ll address this more in the “Slam That Spam” section below).

      For your website, you accomplish this with an opt-in form. You’ve probably seen a handful of different versions of these on nearly every web page you visit. 

      Optin Sidebar.png
      A sidebar opt-in widget on food blog How Sweet Eats.
      Optin Popup.png
      A pop-up email subscription form on craft site Thimblepress.
      Optin Popup 2.png
      A creative pop-up subscription option from Chronicle Books.

      Just as there is with crafting your email content itself, there’s an art to creating a winning opt-in message, like incorporating appealing visuals, a persuasive description — that offers subscribers some kind of additional benefit — and a compelling subscribe button (among other things). 

      OptinMonster is a simple — and effective — way to set up lead capture forms on WordPress (and other websites and e-commerce sites) that integrate with many ESPs. Easy peasy!

      optinmonster.png

      2. The Nitty Gritty

      Just as there is with crafting your email content itself, there’s an art to creating a winning opt-in message, like incorporating appealing visuals, a persuasive description — that offers subscribers some kind of additional benefit — and a compelling subscribe button (among other things). 

      OptinMonster is a simple — and effective — way to set up lead capture forms on WordPress (and other websites and e-commerce sites) that integrate with many ESPs. Easy peasy!

      Email Segmentation

      According to OptinMonster

      “Email list segmentation is the process of breaking your subscribers into smaller groups based on specific criteria so that you can send them more personalized and relevant emails.”

      Emails that are more targeted will help you get the right content to the people who will be most interested in reading it, resulting in higher click-through rates and conversions (not to mention a decrease in the number of those hitting the “unsubscribe” button or sending your mail to spam). By segmenting, you can vary the content, like sending your newsletter or promotional content to the most receptive audience.

      So, what kinds of groups can you segment subscribers into? Here are a few examples:

      • Location — Having an upcoming event or pop-up sale? Notify subscribers who are local to the area.=
      • New Subscribers — Welcome the newbies and let them know how glad you are to have them as a part of your following.
      • Items Remaining in Shopping Cart — Give a call to action to those hesitant or forgetful shoppers. Remind subscribers with yet-to-be-purchased products in their online carts to complete their check-out.
      • Preferences — Segment your emails based on certain types of emails. Some subscribers may only want to be notified about upcoming sales or discounts; others may want news of every just-launched blog post. 
      • Open Rate — Call it a “frequent-reader” perk: lavish your engaged subscribers with unique content or premiums.
      • Survey or Quiz Results — Group customers based on how they respond to your prompts for feedback.

      Online Shopper.jpeg

      Those are just a few ideas on the ways you can segment your email list (and there are tons more). 

      The goal of segmentation is personalization; each subscriber receives content relevant to them and will, therefore, interact with the content more. Picture it: fewer spam designations, more engagement, more successful email campaigns, more conversions, etc.

      This can also be accomplished with OptinMonster as it integrates with your ESP.

      Sequencing

      Along with segmentation is sequencing, a tactic in which a series of emails are generated based on set intervals or subscriber behavior-triggered automations

      Sequencing helps you automate (less work for you) and get the right messages to your subscribers — the groups you’ve segmented — when they will be most effective. (More details here.) 

      Types of sequences may include a series of emails targeted at reactivating disengaged subscribers, encouraging them to attend a local event, or following up on a recent purchase.

      And it works; after one year of using automation, 32% of businesses reported increased revenue.

      3. Slam That Spam

      A major — repeat, major — part of your email marketing success (aka increased conversions, killer content, and a growing readership) is understanding — and avoiding — the spam folder. 

      So what is spam exactly? Well, in short, it’s unsolicited messages (meaning, no consent was given to receive them) sent in bulk. While sometimes amusing to read, spam is ultimately annoying to consumers, and no business wants their carefully crafted copy relegated to the black hole abyss of email spam holes. 

      Spam.png

      It’s true: Consumers are deleting fewer promotional emails without looking than in years past.

      But with this, there’s good news and bad news. 

      • The good: As people are sending fewer email communications to the trash (or spam) bin, it’s a sign that perhaps email marketers are refining their craft so that email messages are more useful to consumers.
      • The bad: Spam filters are better and more aggressive than ever before, so it’s important to take care that your emails don’t lead to a negative brand association. 

      So let’s consider a few (OK, several) roadblocks that can stall you from reaching your consumers’ inboxes.

      Understand the How of Spam Filters

      An important key is understanding how the filters work in the first place. While there are many triggers, here are some things they look for:

      • Relationship with subscriber
      • Reputation of IP address and sender domain (read more on this here)
      • Quality of email subject line, teaser, and content
      • Quality and safety of included links
      • Presence or absence of images
      • Inclusion of text version of the email

      Additionally, spam filters monitor subscriber behavior to improve their filtering formulas, tracking actions like the opening of emails, time spent reading the email, enabling of images, spam flagging, folders applied to email by the subscriber, forwarding of emails, etc. 

      And because these behaviors vary from subscriber to subscriber, a unique “email spam score” is given to each email sent to every individual subscriber. Sounds complicated, but there are things you can do to significantly improve your chances that your message will arrive successfully to your subscriber.

      Spam filters are smart. Some other instant red flags: over-the-top font colors (consumers don’t like this either), font color tags that aren’t formatted correctly, misspellings, overstuffing keywords, and risky word choices (best to avoid “free,” “prize,” “promo,” “no obligation,” and “buy”). 

      In addition, be conservative with punctuation and capitalization. Aside from the resulting in red-flagging, it’s just . . . ANNOYING!!!!! 

      See? We told you.

      Lastly, don’t play dirty. Attempting to outsmart spam filters (like inserting random characters and numbers into your content or subject lines or concealing text in an image) or tricking your subscribers by starting the subject line with “Re:” or “Fwd:” to suggest an ongoing communication with you just eats away at your credibility.

      Instead, put your efforts into building a quality email list and sending out content that customers want to see pop up in their inbox.

      Build Your Own In-House Email List

      The permission-based approach is best. Make sure that the recipients of your messages have provided explicit consent to receive your communications through a sign-up or opt-in form. Encourage them to add your email to their address book.

      Resist the temptation to purchase an email list or scrape sites for addresses. This is often your message’s one-way ticket to the spam folder. Build your list ethically.

      Make Unsubscribing Easy

      No one wants a dwindling email list, but the reality is this: 50% of consumers branded a company’s email as spam because they couldn’t easily figure out how to unsubscribe to the messages. 

      Make it easy for your subscribers to part ways; it’ll save you the spam label and leave you with the most invested subscribers — plus, it’s the law!

      Don’t Send Lackluster or Irrelevant Content

      Consistency is the rule for creating content on your website. This make-it-or-break-it principle is critical for your email communications too. If your blog channels a friendly-neighbor tone, you should have an email voice to match. Keep your messaging consistent, so you don’t give your readers branding whiplash. 

      Secondly, honor your subscribers’ time. As it has been aptly said, minutes of your customers’ time are like dog years on the internet — woof. 

      Our digital diets are only programmed for rapid-fire “tastes” of virtual content, so your subscribers’ time reading your content should be well-spent. Honor their minutes by making your emails worth reading. Otherwise, it’s “Email, meet Trash Bin.”

      Also, understand that you really only have a few seconds to grab their attention in the first place. Research shows that most people have a group of “trusted advisers” from whom they will almost always open emails — secure this spot and your customers’ attention is yours. 

      Using a Reliable Email Service Provider (ESP)

      In addition to checking your domain name for blacklisting (you might also hear this referred to as a denylist), you should use a reputable ESP. Need help choosing the right provider? Check here. You could also consider getting third-party accreditation, which can help deliverability. 

      Understand the Rules

      More than just staying clear of boring or unrelated content, you need to be aware of the rules surrounding email marketing and how your content could potentially be violating established spam laws. With most — if not all — email providers, you will need to verify that you are abiding by the law.

      CAN-SPAM Act applies to “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” Simply put, all emails must comply. Each email in violation can incur a fee of upwards of $40,000! Gulp.

      Here are the must-dos and don’t-even-think-about-its for staying on the right side of the law.

      1. Don’t Deceive or Mislead

      Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” routing info (the domain name and email address), and subject line must all accurately reflect the correct information, including the business the message is originating from and the content of the message. Be truthful and clear. 

      2. Identify Ad Content

      You must communicate clearly and visibly that your message is an advertisement. 

      3. Give Your Location

      In your email, you must include the physical address of your business (whether that be a street address, P.O. box, or private mailbox you’ve registered under Postal Service regulations).

      4. Tell Subscribers How to Opt-Out

      It’s not just a good idea to have an easy unsubscribe method. Letting your subscribers know, clearly and conspicuously, how to opt out of future messages is the law. You must give subscribers the choice to stop emails, and you must explain how (by using a clear, contrasting font to distinguish it on your email, by giving a return address to reply to — which should be a human reply-to address — or providing another internet-based way). 

      Unsubscribe.png

      Additionally, make certain that your own spam filter does not block opt-requests from subscribers. Another element of the law is honoring these requests swiftly (within 10 business days) and not requiring additional demands from the subscriber, like fees, personal information, or other actions besides visiting a single page or sending a reply email. You cannot transfer or sell the former subscriber’s email address.

      5. Understand Your Personal Obligation

      Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re working on improving (or starting) your business’s email marketing strategy. But, on the off chance that you’re merely reading this for fun (totally understandable) and you’ve hired someone else to manage your email marketing, understand that you still possess the legal responsibility to comply with the law. Even if it’s just your product promoted in the email messages, you could be held legally responsible for violations. You can read up on more details here.

      6. Keep Your Email List Updated

      It’s important to stay connected with your subscribers and keep your email list as up-to-date as possible, as email addresses change often. Hey, that young professional doesn’t want to use their “starwarslover6785@aol.com” address forever. A stale list can lead to too many hard bounces (emails rejected for permanent reasons like invalid or inoperable email addresses) and raise your spam score.

      7. Think Timing

      Sure, your subscribers might not like a lengthy email every day, but sending out a rare email every few months could hurt. When your messages do show up, your readers might not recognize the “From:” designation and send you straight to spam or delete your message quickly, damaging your stats and credibility. 

      8. Consider Size

      If your email content is too large, it could result in a soft bounce, a temporary delivery issue that signifies that your content got as far as your subscriber’s mail server but was then bounced back. Reasons for soft bounces may also include full inboxes or an offline server. The email provider you use should attempt to resend your email over a period of days, but be on the lookout for repeat bounces and remove them from your list. (Read more about bounce rates in the Metrics section below).

      9. Be Wary of Inserts

      Videos, embedded forms, and attachments aren’t smart things to include in your email messages. Forms and videos often aren’t supported for security and compatibility reasons. Plus, there’s mobile to think about (more than that later). If you have an additional PDF or worksheet you want to share, upload it to your site and provide a link in the email you send out. 

      10. Test Before You Send

      Lastly, it’s smart to use a service like IsNotSpam.com to test your email for possible spam triggers.

      Not Spam.png

      And for the record, we’re web hosting experts, so talk with a legit attorney if you really want to get into the minutiae of spam law.

      We’ll Support Your Dream

      Whatever your online goals, we’ll be right there with you, making sure your site is fast, secure, and always up. Plans start at $2.59/mo.

      4. Putting Pen to (Virtual) Paper

      It’s time to decide the type of content you want to send out. A good tip is to analyze your email reports and website analytics to see what content did best — and get writing more of that. Here are some email communication best practices that will earn you more opens, more engagement, and more satisfied subscribers. 

      Be a Stickler for Good Grammar

      This isn’t seventh-grade English class, but it’s important to put in the work to make sure your content is error-free and professional. You want your subscribers to trust you and keep returning to read. Get a second pair of eyes and use an editing checklist to help you spot mistakes. Nothing turns off a subscriber more than a misplaced comma or spelling error. Can you say amatuer amateur?

      Write Like a Friend

      While you still need to be professional, it’s also important to write conversationally and not like a robot. Add personal touches that help show your personality and approachability. Also, use the word “you.” Turns out it’s pretty convincing.

      Promptly Journals.png
      The emails from Promptly Journals make you feel like a VIP, not just a subscriber.

      Learn From the Pros

      There are a lot of companies out there who are doing email marketing well. Here are a few. Learn from the best and adapt your content to adhere to winning principles and make your emails — dare we say it — fun to read! 

      Make it Visually Appealing

      If your subscribers wanted to slog through dense copy, they’d read a textbook. Remember, they’re “snacking,” so avoid clutter and make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for with text breakups, visual cues, and a clean design. 

      Invite Readers to Take Action

      Just like a good story needs a good ending, don’t leave your email with a blah finish. Give a clear call-to-action prompt that engages your subscriber to do more. I mean, that’s why you’re sending the email in the first place, right?

      Take Your Subject Line Seriously

      Subscribers decide whether your emails are worth their time and attention in 0 to 3 seconds. One, two, done. Another scary fact: 70% of emails get flagged as spam based solely on the subject line! So make it enticing and relevant. Again, learn from the pros.

      Some important things to keep in mind when writing subject lines:

      • Personalize, personalize, personalize. The more you can make your message seem tailored to each subscriber, the more they’ll keep reading — and buying.
      • Rise above clickbait. Readers will quickly ditch if promises are left unfulfilled.
      • Keep it short and sweet. 
      • Take it easy on punctuation and caps, OKAY?!?!?!
      • Offer hints at what’s inside — discount, you say? I’m enticed. Bonus points if you can make the reader feel part of an exclusive club or create a sense of urgency to act.
      • Follow an enticing sub headline with a complementary preheader. If the two play well together, you’ll have committed subscribers that anxiously await your messages.

      Subject Line.png

      5. Think Mobile

      You’re already aware that your website needs to be geared toward mobile users — the same goes for your emails. 

      But why?

      Many consumers are now reading email exclusively on mobile devices and are pretty picky about how your messages look on their devices: more than 80% of people reported that they will delete an email if it looks wonky on their phones. Yikes.

      Mobile.jpeg

      You know the principles of optimizing your site; here’s how to optimize your messages for mobile.

      • Make Sure Your Templates Are Mobile-Ready — Regardless of which ESP you use, ensure that your message is formatted for every mobile device. Use readable fonts, a single-column layout, and touch-friendly buttons (mobile screens are small!)
      • Be Conscious of the Length of Your Subject Line — Too long, and it will get cut off on a mobile screen.
      • Resize Your Images — Make sure images and text are balanced in relation to each other.
      • Make Sure Your Links are Mobile — Verify that the pages you link to are also mobile-friendly so subscribers can successfully answer your call to action.
      • Create a Browser Version — Offer a browser version of the email so readers can open it outside of their email client.
      • Do a Practice Run — One of the best ways to assure that all content is ready to hit your subscribers’ inboxes is to send yourself a test email. Check all links, images, and subject lines in your own personal inbox. 

      6. Gauging Success

      You’ve crafted your winning email and sent it out into the interwebs — now what? How can you judge the success or failure of your email marketing campaign? What should you look for? Like any marketing effort, it’s important to analyze your results and improve any needed efforts, but what metrics are most important?

      Metrics.png

      Here is a quick-guide glossary of metrics you should keep an eye on in coordination with your personal goals.

      Bounce Rate

      As we mentioned before, bounce rate (both hard and soft) indicates the percentage of total emails that were undeliverable — permanently or temporarily — measured by the total number of bounced emails divided by the number of emails sent. Sometimes this is a server issue, sometimes it’s a spam issue. 

      Unsubscribe Rate

      This number — the rate at which people remove themselves from your email list — is a good correction tool; it can help you know which emails were causing subscribers to ditch your list and correct those issues in future communications.

      Open Rate

      The percentage of email subscribers who open a given email. But this can sometimes be misleading, as an “open” is counting as a subscriber who receives the images embedded in a particular message. But it can clue you into what subject lines are most effective, which days your emails are opened, and the average percentage of your email list responding to your messages.

      Click Rate

      The number of times links in your message are clicked on. This is important for understanding your subscribers’ level of engagement and how they are interacting with you — and acting on your invitations to buy, visit, or give feedback. 

      Action Over Time

      A timeline of engagement with your emails; this stat can assist you in planning when is the best time to send campaigns.

      Spam Score

      Not all email marketing service providers will provide you this number, but it’s worth thinking about if you can get your hands on it. Before you hit send, it can indicate the likelihood of your message getting slammed by spam filters. A Spam Complaint metric can also be used to correct past errors that caused your subscribers to designate a certain message as spam. Based on these numbers, you can adjust your content format.

      It might also be important to keep track of email client data; with this, you can see how successfully or unsuccessfully messages might be appearing on different client types. Also, encourage your subscribers to give you feedback so you can learn and improve your communications the next time around.

      Lastly, here are some tools that can help you keep track (if your service provider doesn’t already) and benchmarks that help you see how you stack up in your industry.

      The Last Word

      Take a breath. Email overload, we get it. You can always bookmark this guide and refer back to it when you’re ready to take the next step in improving your communications with subscribers. 

      And in case you scrolled all the way down here looking for the TL;DR, we’ve got you covered. Here are the key takeaways for starting your own email marketing program. 

      • Test, Test, Test — Whether it’s spot spelling mistakes or checking for possible spam triggers, test your emails before sending them. It’s an investment worth the extra few minutes.
      • Keep Your Email List Healthy — A fresh list will help you avoid a lot of issues, including spam and legal concerns, not to mention depressing analytics. Consider running a re-engagement campaign every six months or so to maintain your list.
      • Be Consistent — Not only in the type of content you share but the frequency in which you send it. Your subscribers will come to know — and trust — you and anticipate your messages.
      • Focus on Quality — Spend time on both the writing and design of your emails. These elements will not only increase your stats but help build solid relationships with subscribers. 
      • Add a Call-to-Action Button — Make that CTA easy to find and use. You want to turn those readers into customers!
      • Make It Personal — Send segmented messages to get the most relevant content to each subscriber. Personalized email subject lines are more likely to be opened.

      Now, back to that inbox.

      Ready to Create an Email Newsletter?

      Whether you need help finding a target audience, crafting the ideal social media strategy, or setting up a newsletter, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly digest so you never miss an article.

      RE: Your Feedback

      How have these email best practices gained you more subscribers or sales? What’s helped you successfully stay out of spam folders? Forward us your ideas (see what we did there?) on Twitter or join our Facebook group for site owners.





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      How to Pick the Right Plugins for Your WordPress Website (In 4 Steps)


      One of the advantages of WordPress is its customization potential. With an ever-growing number of plugins available, you have the opportunity to build the website of your dreams. However, having so many options to choose from can make it hard to pick your site’s best fit.

      Fortunately, there are ways to narrow down your decision. By prioritizing your specific needs and learning how to evaluate a tool’s quality, you can find solid plugins to optimize your site.

      In this article, we’ll introduce you to WordPress plugins. We’ll also take you through four easy steps to pick the perfect candidates for your page. Then we’ll wrap up by giving you some potential plugins to consider. Let’s get to it!

      An Introduction to WordPress Plugins

      A WordPress plugin is a third-party program that adds functionality to your site. While themes can adjust the look and feel of a page, plugins provide the actual features. They can thus have a sizable impact on the visitor’s experience.

      Given that plugins tend to be specialized, they enable you to curate a full-site experience with several different programs. For example, let’s say you want to set up a secure online store with ease. You might use the Jetpack plugin for security, WooCommerce for the store, and Elementor to build and customize the storefront.

      Plugins can also affect your back-end experience. For example, you may find that you prefer tools with a user-friendly focus. The sheer amount of software available means that you’re likely to find one that suits your needs.

      Nevertheless, you can have too much of a good thing. Using plugins in excess can slow your website down. As such, you’ll want to consider your choices carefully to help maximize performance while minimizing potential issues.

      A methodical approach can also help you find the highest-quality candidates, especially if you’re searching in a popular category and need to compare tools. Doing a small amount of research can make it easier for you to pick the right plugins on the first try.

      How to Pick the Right Plugins for Your WordPress Website (In 4 Steps)

      A little bit of structure can help expedite the selection process. Below are four easy steps that you can follow to pick the right plugins for your WordPress website.

      Step 1: Identify Your Plugin Requirements

      The first step is to decide what you need from a plugin. While this may seem obvious, assessing your exact needs can be surprisingly helpful. After you’ve created a list of features you’d like, you can also try prioritizing them. This can help you focus on finding a plugin that matches your primary requirements.

      Many plugins have multiple uses. These tools can be time-savers, especially if you have several related needs. However, you may want to consider mixing and matching plugins, as this flexible outlook can expand your options.

      It’s also important to understand that some plugins come at a cost. A premium plugin typically offers benefits such as extra features or priority support. Therefore, you may want to decide what functionality you’d be willing to pay for. If you’re on a tight budget, though, don’t stress. You’ll likely be able to find a free plugin (or a combination of similar plugins) that’ll help you achieve your goals even if you miss out on some of the premium features.

      If you’re unfamiliar with WordPress extensions as a whole, we recommend browsing a few popular WordPress plugins to get an idea of what’s available.

      The WordPress.org plugin directory displaying popular options.

      With so many options, it can be easy to get turned around. We recommend keeping your particular needs in mind throughout the process to help you focus on your key features and establish some structure for your search.

      Step 2: Search for a Plugin

      After you’ve laid out your must-have features, you can start the process of searching for a plugin. Many developers offer downloads from their official sites. However, if you’re looking for a more centralized marketplace, it’s hard to go wrong with the WordPress Plugin Directory.

      The WordPress Plugin Directory.

      The WordPress Plugin Directory is the official place to find WordPress-approved software. Staff members check each submission for quality and security, so you’re likely to find a wide variety of top-notch programs.

      As we mentioned earlier, some premium plugins require payment. However, you may also encounter tools that offer a free version alongside their premium options. Jetpack is an example of this “freemium” model.

      An excerpt of Jetpack’s plugin description.

      You might also come across free versions of premium plugins through unofficial channels. While these may seem appealing, we recommend avoiding them at all costs. They are often stolen versions that can put your site at risk for malware.

      To ensure that your search circumvents pirated material, you stick to reputable websites. You might also want to steer clear of any scenarios that seem “too good to be true,” as these are often illegitimate products designed to trick users.

      Once you’ve decided on a place to search for your plugin, you can start actively looking for a tool. Don’t be afraid to spend some time shopping around and exploring your options. After you’ve found a plugin that catches your eye, you can proceed to the next step.

      We Make WordPress Easier

      Our automatic updates and strong security defenses take server management off your hands so you can focus on what really matters: growing your website.

      Step 3: Review Information About the Plugin

      Next, you can focus on a single plugin. There are a variety of factors you’ll want to consider at this stage. In the WordPress Plugin Directory, most of the important information is accessible by scrolling down on the plugin’s page.

      The WooCommerce main page in the WordPress Plugin Directory.

      Using WooCommerce as an example, let’s start with ratings and reviews. You can find this section on the right-hand side.

      A portion of WooCommerce’s information page showing the “Ratings” section.

      WordPress ratings work on a star system, with one being the lowest and five being the highest. You can also access reviews by clicking on See all. These often include more specific information regarding the program. It’s important to peruse both positive and negative reviews for a balanced picture.

      Next up, consider a plugin’s active installations and update schedule. This section is located directly above the ratings.

      A close-up of WooCommerce’s installation statistics.

      Last updated displays the most recent update, a crucial part of site security for any program. A large number of Active installations can also indicate a high-quality plugin. You can even check to see if the plugin is compatible with your version of WordPress to avoid breaking your site.

      Let’s move on to the Support section, typically located under the ratings.

      The support section of the WooCommerce plugin.

      A high number of resolved issues is a positive sign, as it indicates that the developers are responsive. Reading through some support questions can also give you an idea of potential challenges you may face when using the software.

      Finally, there’s plenty of other information on this page that might be helpful. For instance, scrolling down to the section marked Screenshots can show you the User Interface (UI). You might also want to check the FAQ section to learn more about common issues.

      We recommend focusing on the factors that you find most important. Then you can use that personalized metric to easily compare different plugins. After you’ve narrowed your choice down to one tool, you can move on to the last step.

      Step 4: Download and Test the Plugin

      Finally, you can download the plugin and test it on your site. We encourage you to consult a plugin’s installation instructions before downloading it because they may contain important information to help you avoid software-specific issues.

      Once you’ve checked any instructions, you can navigate to your WordPress dashboard. Select Plugins > Add New from the right-hand menu. Next, enter the name of the plugin you want to install in the Search plugins box. Here’s the WooCommerce result as an example.

      The WooCommerce plugin as viewed from the dashboard.

      Click on the Install Now button to start the process. After it’s done, the button will change colors and read as Activate.

      The WooCommerce plugin button labeled “Activate.”

      You must activate the plugin to use it on your site. Click it as soon as you’re ready to move on. Similar to installation instructions, some tools may come with an introductory message or setup tips. You may want to read these over in case they contain useful information.

      After you’ve set up the plugin, you can start testing its performance. An important issue is how it impacts your site’s speed. To test this, we recommend using a tool such as GTmetrix.

      The GTmetrix test tool.

      Before you activate the plugin, we recommend testing your site’s baseline speed. You can write the results down and re-test once the plugin is up and running. If the plugin has a considerably negative effect on your speed, you may want to reconsider using it.

      There are other ways that you can test a plugin. For instance, you may want to send a basic question to support to see how responsive the developers are. Alternatively, you might use a staging site to determine usability and front-end functionality.

      WordPress Plugins to Consider for Your Site

      Armed with the above four steps, you’re ready to find the perfect plugin. However, perhaps you’re still unsure where to begin. If that’s the case, we’ve put together some recommendations for you to kickstart your search.

      If you’re setting up your first site, you may be seeking the essentials. It’s hard to go wrong with plugins that help you improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or site security. Even seasoned WordPress professionals make frequent use of such tools.

      Alternatively, maybe you’re a content creator. If you’re launching a podcast website, for example, you probably have different needs than the average blogger. In that scenario, it’s important to consider specialty plugins that are designed with your niche in mind.

      Finally, you might be curious about ways to improve your workflow. Plenty of developers have answered the call, providing plugins to help you work more efficiently and communicate without friction. This kind of technology can be especially helpful if you’re working with a team.

      There are countless quality plugins to explore. Applying our four-step method and prioritizing your needs can help you discover the ones that will fit your site the best. Our team has also put together several guides to help you find great add-ons for your WordPress site.

      Once you’ve found the right plugin, be sure to check out our WordPress plugin installation tutorial to learn how to set it up in your WordPress dashboard.

      Take Your WordPress Website to the Next Level

      Whether you need help selecting a caching plugin, adding a contact form, or installing a premium theme, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly newsletter so you never miss an article.

      The WordPress Plugin Directory Awaits

      WordPress’ flexibility is wonderful. However, too many options can overwhelm you and make deciding difficult. Fortunately, you can find a well-fitting plugin by approaching the search systematically and focusing on your site’s needs.

      In this article, we covered four steps to help you pick the right plugins for your WordPress website:

      1. Identify and prioritize what you need from a plugin.
      2. Search for your options in legitimate, quality marketplaces.
      3. Review the available information on each plugin’s page.
      4. Download the software and test it against your expectations.

      Even with the perfect plugins, putting together a website can be tough. Let us do the heavy lifting with our DreamPress managed WordPress hosting!



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