Category: All things webby

1 Pro and 8 Cons of Free Websites

The word “free” is a powerful word. It’s also one of the most beguiling words. That’s understandable, considering money doesn’t fall from trees. So what about free websites? You can have a website up and running without paying a cent. But before succumbing to the seduction of the $0 price tag, be aware that free can also mean “free of quality.” So before you make a choice, take a look at the good and the bad that free websites offer.

Cons

1. Lack of Professionalism

To influence visitors, you must gain their trust. And people will trust you if you look professional. But a free website won’t help you with this. For one thing, your site will likely be littered with ads, which free web hosts use to earn money. Ads range in size and appearance, but they have two things in common: they annoy visitors and they make your website look unprofessional.

Then there’s the domain name. With a free website, you won’t get one. Your website’s address will be combined with the host’s address. So instead of something like, “best-antique-gold.com,” you’ll get “web-host-provider.com/best-antique-gold.” Which looks more professional?

2. Substandard Web Design

Ads will clash with the rest of your website. You can pretty things up with vivid images and colors, but the ads will still be there, mocking you. And as for your site’s layout, your options are limited. There aren’t many templates available for free websites.

3. Same Old, Same Old

All free websites look the same. This isn’t 100% true, but to your visitors, it might not matter. Many people share a host and there’s only so much you can do to make your site distinguishing. A free website probably won’t offer things like shopping carts and email boxes. And there won’t be many template options.

4. Insufficient Web Space

Web space costs money, so don’t expect much space. This means your website won’t have much room to grow. This might be fine when you’re first getting everything running, but soon you may find yourself with a big list of website goals and not enough web space to achieve them.

5. Limited Bandwidth

Bandwidth, like web space, isn’t free. And since your site won’t be the only free website sharing a host, bandwidth will be distributed to many. Naturally, your bandwidth will be limited. What this means for your website is slow loading times. And in this age of fast Internet speeds, a visitor may not have the patience to wait for your site to slowly load. He’ll likely press the back button.

6. Bad SEO

Websites depend on search engine rankings to reel in visitors, but a free website has little chance of ranking high. For one thing, search engines punish sites for slow speeds. Also, a website’s domain name is vastly important to the search engines, and if your website doesn’t have one of its own, your site will suffer.

7. Deletion by Web Host

A web host could drop your free website at anytime. Maybe because of spam. Or RAM overuse. And many people who’ve lost their free websites claim the accusations against them simply weren’t true. Some people may never find out why their site was purged.

8. Web Host is Shut Down

Free website hosting isn’t a lucrative occupation and sometimes the money gained from ads is just not enough. A host might be forced to shut the doors. And just like that, the website you’ve poured your heart and soul into goes kaput.

Pro

1. It’s Free

If you’re new to web design, a free website might be right for you. You’ll have an easy way to practice web design skills and it won’t cost you a cent. Free websites are also great for personal use. Maybe a fan page for your favorite band, or a place to host some stories you’ve written.

Free websites are certainly enticing, but before you get one, ask yourself, “How important is this website to me?” Because though a free website gives you a nice money-saving advantage, it also gives you far more disadvantages. So if you’re serious about your website and you value high quality, resist the temptation of free websites and spend some money on something far better.

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Why Conversation, Not Content, Is Really King

Content is king. It’s a cliché that any Internet marketer has no doubt heard a hundred times and more to the point it’s become downright tedious. Worst of all, it’s not even entirely true anyway. In fact, it entirely fails to address the fundamental way people interact on the Internet. Every marketer knows that online content has become the lifeblood of modern marketing strategies, but not everyone seems to understand that fact that Web content is very different to that designed for print.

Another common cliché in the world of digital marketing is that social media is the new SEO, but there is at least a lot of truth in this. A few years ago, many forms of content, particularly blog posts and short articles, were written primarily for the purposes of boosting search engine visibility. Consequently, much of this content was over-optimised and written purely in an attempt to manipulate search results while offering virtually nothing of value to a human audience.

More recent years have seen the unprecedented growth of social media while, at the same time, search engines have evolved to make the old ways of SEO largely obsolete, hence the birth of the cliché. The reason why conversation, rather than content alone, is king, is a simple one. Without content, you have nothing to promote on social media but, without conversation, you cannot achieve any of the goals of your digital marketing strategy.

The Need to Inspire Conversation

Before digital marketing evolved, brands had far more direct control over their reputations, whereas now they are largely in the hands of consumers. After all, anyone can leave a review online about a company or a particular product or service. Alternatively, they can speak their mind on social media, online forums, blog comments or a variety of other systems. As a consequence, brands now need to operate transparently by humanising their approach to marketing.

The need to inspire conversation is not just about asking for feedback and hoping that it will be positive. With a company’s reputation now squarely in the hands of its customers, marketers also need to be customer relations gurus who can build meaningful relationships with their target audience. Today, the one-sided sales pitch or the stereotypical pushy salesman are dying breeds. What really builds reputations and ultimately drives sales, however, is conversational content.

With conversation, you have the perfect opportunity to show the human element behind your brand, and it’s this human element that immediately sets you apart from the clickbait spammers and other unscrupulous marketers. Having meaningful conversation with your target audience also gives your company immense opportunity to improve its product based on feedback and suggestions. After all, nobody knows better about what they want than your customers themselves.

Conversation doesn’t just concern collecting useful feedback to determine your reputation. It also empowers customers by offering them a chance to get involved in the development of your company. For example, in the video game industry, early access programs allow players to buy a pre-release version of games and become actively involved in their development. Many software and game developers run open betas for the same reason, since it ultimately helps make a better product.

What Is Conversational Content?

Conversational content talks to people rather than at people. It is meant to build rapport with your target audience and empower them, whereas writing solely for the masses often means losing your voice and becoming more like the stereotypical irritating marketer than a thought leader who people actually look up to. Conversational content involves talking more about your listeners and less about your brand while also posing questions to encourage participation.

Although every brand has its own voice, and different styles suit different industries, there are a few largely universal rules when it comes to crafting conversational content. Some of the most important include minimising the use of passive voice, avoiding lengthy blocks of text, keeping your content scannable and using contractions to maintain a more informal approach. Addressing your reader directly is also important, since it empowers them by getting them involved.

People tend to scan through online content rather than read it word for word from the beginning to the end. For this reason, you should keep your paragraphs short and use plenty of subheadings where appropriate. It’s also important to remember that a decent conversation has lots of questions, and using questions for subheadings is particularly effective, since they draw attention to those scanning through an article on autopilot in the hope of quickly finding answers that address their concerns.

It Doesn’t Stop There

Crafting conversational content doesn’t stop as soon as you’ve hit the publish button and shared it a few times on social media. The job of your content is to start the conversation in the first place, but for it to truly thrive, you need to prove yourself to be present and genuinely involved with your target audience. A successful blogger, for example, often spends a lot of time reading through comments and replying to them to the extent they become the leading voice in their community.

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5 Benefits of Developing a Mobile App for Your Business

As consumers spend more and more time on their smartphones, it is no longer enough for most businesses to simply rely on responsive Web design alone. Although the cost of app development is steadily increasing, having a simple app developed is well within the financial reach of most small- to medium-sized businesses. Contrary to what many small business owners think, mobile apps are not exclusively for the big global brands. After all, the mobile trend concerns every business from small local venues to massive global corporations. Mobile is now, after all, the platform where people are most likely to find you in the first place.

#1. Be More Visible to Customers

Since mobile is where most of your customers are, increasing your visibility on mobile devices is essential. While a mobile-friendly website will greatly help to boost your standing in mobile search results, an app will help to boost your visibility in the app store itself. Standing out among the 1.6 million apps in the Google Play Store might sound like an impossible task, but with some clever app-store optimization, you’ll be able to establish a presence there in a similar way to how search engine optimization boosts your website’s standing in the search results. Most importantly, however, an app allows you to be visible to your customers at all times.

#2. Leverage Push Notifications

Push notifications allow you to engage with your customers even when they are not actively using your app, although it’s also possible to create browser-based push notifications even if you don’t have an app of your own. Businesses use push notifications to provide their users with new information related to the app, such as check-in reminders and other alerts. While it’s important to use it sparingly for direct advertising, it can be useful for communicating with people, providing improved customer service, gaining insights into your target audience and delivering important messages of any other kind.

#3. Improve User Experience

With their tiny displays and on-screen virtual keyboards, smartphones will never provide the best browsing experience, but most people are happy to sacrifice functionality for mobility. Nonetheless, it’s essential to make the user experience as smooth as possible, and starting with a responsively designed website is only the first step. An app further improves user experience by offering more responsive interaction with your online resources, such as your website itself. As such, it also greatly reduces data usage, which is crucial for people using Internet on the move. Additionally, an app can provide extensive offline functionality as well.

#4. Increase Brand Recognition

When you publish an app, it provides you the opportunity to create the perfect mobile platform for showcasing your products and services, thus increasing your brand’s visibility and recognition. A branded app should follow the same conventions that your website and other online and offline media uses, including the same fonts, colours, style of writing and anything else that defines your brand image. Effectively, a mobile app starts off as a blank slate which you can turn into something branded and unique, something that people will come to remember your company by. Once you get a few reviews in the app store, you’ll start getting noticed much more.

#5. Provide Customer Service

As any marketer should know, the power is squarely in the hands of consumers more than ever before. Providing prompt customer service is essential if you want to maintain positive ratings and reviews and build up a recognizable and trustworthy brand. Since an app allows you to get in contact with your customers quicker and more often, it’s ideal for providing prompt customer service with as little hassle as possible. In doing so, you’ll be able to cultivate customer loyalty. Apps are great for providing everything from quick and concise instructions and how-to guides to live support through an in-app messenger.

Final Words

According to a survey by Pew Research in October, 2015, over two thirds of adults in the US owned a smartphone. Throughout Europe and other developed regions of the world, smartphone ownership is comparable to that in the US. Since today’s consumers are more connected than ever before thanks to the mobile devices they typically carry with them throughout the day, it should be clear to marketers why they need to prioritize mobile at every stage of the digital marketing mix. Having an app simplifies the process while also ensuring ease of use for consumers, making it very much worth the initial investment for the vast majority of businesses.

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Branding in the 21st Century – 5 Essential Qualities of a Memorable Logo

Starting a new business takes a lot of time and effort, not to mention a huge outlay of resources and capital. If you have a great idea for a new business, you have a lot of decisions to make, from where your headquarters should be located to which marketing strategies you will employ.

You also need to think about how to best build your brand, and a key part of that is designing a memorable logo. Creating a great logo is not as easy as you might think, and you may not get a second chance to design one. Once your company has been associated with a particular logo, making a change can be extremely difficult, so it is vital that you get it right the first time. Here are five essential qualities that must be part of your new company logo.

#1. Distinctiveness

There are many reasons why your company logo must be totally distinctive. For one thing, making your logo too similar to an existing one could land you in legal hot water. Even if the resemblance is unintentional, you could be held legally liable for damages down the line, and that could stop your new startup in its tracks.

Making your logo too similar to another could also confuse viewers and dilute the value of your brand. No matter what design you are considering, you need to make sure the finished logo is completely distinct and entirely your own.

#2. Appropriateness

The logo you choose to represent your brand should be appropriate to your market niche. From the image you choose to the font you use, every element of the logo should be appropriate to your line of business, silently telling the story of your company and how it relates to the potential buyer.

The owner of a tech company might choose a font that appears to be computer-generated, while a publishing firm may prefer a font that mimics handwriting. The goal is to create an association in the mind of the viewer – a link between the logo itself and the company it represents.

#3. Simplicity

Making your logo too complicated could backfire badly, and simplicity is generally the best approach. Think about the logos you know best, from the familiar golden arches of McDonalds to the CBS eye to the plain blue and white IBM logo. Those logos all have one thing in common – they are very simple, clean and elegant.

It can be tempting to try to force too much into your company logo, but the simplest approach is generally the best. A clean design that tells a simple story is more likely to succeed than a busy branding icon that will do little more than confuse the viewer.

#4. Timeless

If you play your cards right, your new company will still be around many years or even decades from now. That is why it is so important that your new logo has a timeless appeal.

You should steer clear of current trends and stick to the tried-and-true when designing your logo. From the image to the font to the color, the design of your logo should be simple, memorable and timeless.

#5. Memorable

Your logo should create an instant impression on everyone who sees it. The more memorable your logo, the more effective it should be, so think carefully about the design.

Again, think about the most effective logos you know, from the classic Chevrolet bowtie to the iconic Nike swoosh to the unmistakable NBC peacock. The one thing all those logos have in common is that you would never mistake them for something else.

Your logo will play a central role in your entire branding strategy, and choosing the wrong one could doom your entire enterprise to failure. Understanding the qualities that make great logos great is one of the smartest uses of your time, and that research can help you design a logo viewers will remember.

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