How to Start a YouTube Channel

Whether it’s funny cat videos, a repair how-to, a livestream on your favorite gaming channel, or the latest Carpool Karaoke, you’ve likely watched a YouTube video — or several — today. In fact, the site boasts a usership of more than two billion — almost one-third of the internet!

Founded in 2005 in an office garage, YouTube has grown into a virtual behemoth, contending against contemporary social platforms and following Google as the second largest search engine and second most visited website. It is navigable in 80 languages and sees hundreds of hours of video content uploaded every minute.

Even if you’re not Chewbacca Mom or Justin Bieber (who has YouTube to thank for his mega-success), the video-sharing platform can be a seriously smart way to create and utilize content that elevates and builds awareness of your brand.

We’d go as far as to say that for businesses, YouTube is serious business.

But before you hit record, consult this step-by-step guide to starting a YouTube channel; we cover everything from equipment to engagement to monetization.

Ready to be a (video) star? Read on.

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Why Create a YouTube Channel?

We know you’ve got a lot of balls in the air right now, and creating and managing content on a YouTube channel seems like a lot to add to your already-full plate. So let’s talk about why a YouTube channel is so beneficial for your business.

With its massive growth and powerful standing as one of the most trafficked websites, YouTube offers brands the opportunity to boost their visibility as they establish a presence on the site.

The content shared there largely influences customer buying decisions: 68% of YouTube users watched a video to help them make a purchase decision, and a majority of them are doing it at the beginning of their shopping journey. Your content potentially wields a lot of influence.

What’s more, YouTube can effectively access your audiences. YouTube reaches more 1849 year olds than any broadcast or cable TV network and flaunts one billion video views per day.  Four times as many people prefer watching video on YouTube than on social media platforms, and they’re doing it for long periods of time — average mobile viewing sessions last more than 40 minutes.

Even with the popularity of YouTube, only 9% of small businesses have started their own channels. As usage continues to grow, there remains a largely untapped opportunity for businesses to reach and engage audiences through YouTube videos.

What’s more, there is potential for content creators to make money from YouTube, earning a living just by making engaging videos. YouTuber Ryan’s World has majorly monetized his channel — with 24.7 million subscribers and makes $ 26 million a year. Did we mention he’s eight years old?

It’s time to get your business up and running on YouTube. Here are the steps.

How to Start a YouTube Channel (12 Steps)

1. Identify Your Target

Let’s take a moment to zero in on who (and what) your target is. Do some virtual people-watching in your niche and consider who you’re trying to attract. Think about the following questions when identifying the unique sphere your business operates in.

  • What is your industry?
  • What is your genre/niche within that industry?
  • Who makes up your target audience(s)? Why them?
  • What does your target audience want and need?
  • What problem or pain point are you trying to alleviate?

The answers to these questions can help you understand who you’ll want to tailor your content to — and what type of content you’ll want to create.

2. Establish Your Type of Content

Creating a YouTube channel is an excellent opportunity for your business to increase visibility. So having the right type of content tailored to your audience is essential for engagement and brand-building.

Once you’ve pinpointed who your target audience is, you can start identifying the type of content that will resonate with them and meet their needs.

And don’t stress over having a Hollywood-level type of video production when creating content. We’ll discuss gear later (see Step 4), but for now, remember that for viewers, relevance to their personal interests is more important than production value. The most valuable content to audiences isn’t necessarily the content backed by a big budget or slick, expensive tech.

In fact, YouTube says 60% of people who have watched videos on the site in the past day tuned into content related to their personal interests.

Clearly, businesses that have identified their target audience — and pinpointed what their needs are — will be much more successful, not only in building a YouTube presence but also in achieving engagement and building their brand.

Based on your own YouTube habits, you know that there are many different types of video content. Here’s a sample list to get the content juices flowing. Think about how you might adapt them to meet the needs of your audience, and above all, how you might offer value.

  • How-Tos/Educational Content (these YouTube searches are growing by 70% year on year!)
  • Interviews
  • Sneak Peaks
  • Unboxings
  • Q&As
  • Reviews
  • Day-in-the-Life Videos
  • Virtual Tours
  • Travelogues
  • Aspirational/Storytelling
  • Tutorials (users are three times more likely to prefer watching a YouTube tutorial video than reading a product’s instructions)
  • Comedy (“relaxing” and “feeling entertained” are the top two reasons visitors list for watching YouTube content)

(And remember to keep your content aligned with updated COPPA guidelines.)

3. How to Set Up a Channel

Now, let’s dig into the technical details — the how-to of creating a YouTube channel.

First, set up a Google Account, if you don’t have one already. This is the account you’ll use to manage your various Brand Accounts — meaning, you can toggle between different channels from one YouTube account.

When creating a new channel, you’ll be prompted to create a Brand Account. Give it a name.

Creating a Brand Account.

Your channel is set up! Easy, huh? Now, the fun part: customization.

Edit and upload your channel icon, channel art, and custom thumbnails — these are important visual ways to display your brand.

Click on the About tab to add a channel description. Take care when crafting your summary, making sure to give a brief but polished outline of your business, your mission, and your products or services. Utilize core keywords that will help YouTube searchers find you. Include relevant contact info and links to your social platforms.

YouTube channel description.

4. Gathering Your Gear

Even if you don’t have fancy, high-tech gear, you can still film good-looking YouTube videos. Here’s how to use your $ $ to create polished content or DIY it based on your budget.

What you’ll need:

  • Camera. Depending on the type of content you’re creating, you’ll want to invest in a camera that is best suited to your needs. This could include a DSLR, an action camera (like a GoPro), or a webcam. You can, of course, use your phone if it’s able to record HQ video. Do your research to find your best tech fit. Before filming, make sure all cameras and batteries are charged and ready.
  • Microphone. You need good audio in addition to good video. An external microphone can help provide rich audio quality to enhance the production of your video. If viewers can’t hear you, they’ll quickly ditch your content (likely for a competitor’s!)
  • Tripod. A tripod is an affordable tool that helps keep your video footage steady (you don’t want viewers getting dizzy!) There are lots of different types that match your camera choice and activity, so do your research.
  • Lighting. If you’re filming indoors or in poorly-lit areas, lighting tools can help provide a better environment for professional-looking videos that are aesthetically pleasing and clear.
  • Video Editing Software. Once you’ve filmed your video, you need a computer program to help you edit and modify your video into an organized, well-composed package. Most computers come with a basic tool, but if you’ve got more experience and want fancier bells and whistles, consider upgrading to software like Adobe Elements.

5. Filming Your First Video

Lights, camera, action! With all your gear set-up, it’s time to film. It might help to prepare a storyboard before you film, so you know what you want to cover in the video and the shots you might need. Give yourself plenty of time, and record more material than you think you need — it’ll be easier to sift through a lot of good footage than to have to go back and re-film if you’ve left something out.

Once you’ve filmed your shots, upload to your computer, and edit using your software. When piecing together your video, a few editing tips:

  • YouTube has an Audio Library, a fantastic resource for royalty-free music you can use in your videos.
  • Give your opening a captivating hook. With an overabundance of content to choose from, visitors need an enticing — and sustaining — reason to watch your videos.

6. Uploading Your Video

Ready to share your polished video with the world? To upload your video to YouTube, visit your channel and click the Upload Video button (you can’t miss it!).

YouTube upload video button.

It may take some time to upload to the site, so while you wait, take a well-deserved break (you know, before you have to get back to work spreading the news about your brand-spankin’-new YouTube video).

7. Optimize for Search

You’ve got a shiny new channel and some killer content. But if your video isn’t primed for search, you won’t be getting the traffic you need to build your brand and your business.

To help position your content for better rankings in search engines, utilize keywords. Build your video titles around relevant keywords (no keyword-stuffing!) that will help visitors find you. Follow it with an informative and well-crafted description.

8. Establish a Schedule — and Stay Consistent

Vlogging isn’t a one-and-done affair. Meaning, one good video shared on YouTube isn’t enough to boost your business. Sure, it’s a great start. But if you want to build a community and effectively market your products or services, you need to establish a consistent posting schedule so visitors can regularly engage with content from your channel.

Create a content calendar and stick to it.

It’s also vital to establish a structure on your channel. Instead of just uploading videos haphazardly, create an organization that’s easy and intuitive for visitors to navigate. Group relevant content into sections to create a guiding framework, and consider adding a channel trailer to give viewers an idea of what they’ll find on your page (and why they should follow you).

9. Integrate Your Channel

To spread your reach, integrate your YouTube channel onto your website and social platforms, embedding videos and sharing links throughout your site and as a part of your marketing strategy.

RKA Ink features business sketch comedy videos on her website.
Rachael Kay Albers of RKA Ink features her business sketch comedy videos as a prominent part of her website, inviting visitors to engage with her content across platforms.

10. Engage With Your Community

With so many users, YouTube really is becoming a social hub where visitors are coming to engage. In fact, 70% more users are interacting with creators and channels, making it essential for content creators to get involved with viewers.

Casual, once-in-while watchers have the potential to become avid followers — if businesses can effectively connect with them. How to do this? A few ideas:

  • Respond to comments
  • Seek feedback from customers or followers on the type of content they want to see
  • Share user-generated content
  • Subscribe to and engage with other accounts
  • Produce quality content on a consistent schedule

11. Invest in Advertising

Even with killer keywords and optimized copy, you should consider YouTube advertising as a way to grow your YouTube channel and boost your business’ reach. We already discussed the opportunity that YouTube provides (remember those billions of per-day views?), so developing a budget-friendly campaign can help you find and connect with more of your target audiences through well-placed ads. YouTube marketing really is smart marketing.

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12. Analyze, Optimize, Repeat

Obviously, as you work to create a channel and build your community, you’re going to find things that work — and things that don’t.

Hey, that’s part of the learning process!

Adjust and tweak your operations as you grow, continuing to optimize not only your content, but your methods. YouTube Studio (formerly Creator Studio) is a valuable tool for helping you manage your channel and access personalized insights that will help you grow. Analyze data to learn the kinds of video titles, lengths, and content types that are most successful. Keep track of your YouTube analytics (watch time is especially important!) and always look for ways to improve.

Rack Up Views on YouTube

Forget the internet killing the video star. Through starting a YouTube channel, your business can utilize video sharing as a means of content creation and brand building. It’s time to get on board.

We’ve covered the ins-and-outs of creating a YouTube channel, everything from brand accounts and analytics to tech gear and types of content.

As you create killer videos and integrate them onto your website, consider our shared hosting plans. We even offer a free website migration plugin, so you can easily move to DreamHost and continue working on your YouTube engagement.

The post How to Start a YouTube Channel appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

DreamHost Continues to be COVID-19 Ready

As much of the world continues to live under orders to minimize physical interaction, we’ve all gotten a feel for what life looks like in a world where COVID-19 is ever-present. Some have lost jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. Some are wrestling with the anxiety and uncertainty caused by this global crisis. Most horribly, some of us have lost friends and family as this coronavirus has worked its way through our communities. Our hearts go out to all of you.

I want to take a minute to update you on the state of DreamHost and reassure you that, in a world where each day brings new concerns and unknowns, we will continue to be there for you as a partner to keep your businesses and websites online and performing.

You may recall that the majority of the DreamHost team has been working on a fully-remote basis since mid-March. Our team members will be able to work remotely throughout the remainder of 2020, allowing them the flexibility needed to stay safe at home with their families. We have expanded our employee assistance programs to help support our team during this time, making additional financial and mental health resources available to them.

You’ve Been Busy

Over the past three months, we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of DreamHost customers logging into their accounts and building wonderful things. For many of you, being #SaferAtHome means having more time to focus on your online businesses and projects with DreamHost. This has been an inspiration for all of us at DreamHost to watch and drives home the deep responsibility we’ve always felt to keep you and your data secure and available. We won’t let you down.

We have always prided ourselves on delivering extraordinary customer service, and during this time you are turning to us for assistance in volumes we haven’t previously experienced. To provide this additional help with the same quality and speed that you’ve come to expect, we have had multiple “Support Only” days where everyone in the company drops all other projects to focus on our top priority: individualized customer service. Rest assured that truly expert advice is available from anyone on our team, anytime you need it.

All Systems Go

We know how much you rely on us to keep your projects running. Many of you are using your websites to host online portfolios and resumes while you embark on job searches. Quite a few of you have shared stories of using this time to build new online businesses. Now, more than ever, you’ve got to have a reliable way to share your content with the world.

We’re committed to maintaining the integrity of your hosting, the very foundation of your online businesses, blogs, and web apps. Our systems remain online and operational with enough capacity to meet your needs now and into the future.

Payment Assistance

We understand that everyone’s financial situation is unique, and some of us may be having a difficult time making ends meet. If your DreamHost bill presents a hardship, please reach out to our customer support team to explore your options. We can work with you to find ways to reduce your bill or even work out a deferred payment plan.

Helpful Resources

You’re not in this alone. We’ve put together a collection of tools and articles to help your business stay open and thrive for as long as we’re all asked to stay home. You’ll find guides on everything from growing your online business to starting a side hustle. We hope you find these resources helpful!

We’re Stronger Together

After listening to many of your stories over the past few months, one thing has become very clear. We’re all experiencing this crisis very differently. For some, this has provided a much-needed time to regroup and find focus. For others, entire lives have been upended.

One thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to you and your websites. We’re here to support you and your businesses, and we’ll be there to help you build new ones too.

This Sounds Familiar…

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard it hundreds of times by now!

Platitudes aside, we are here for you during this difficult time and look forward to a safe recovery. Thank you for choosing DreamHost. We are proud to be your online partner.

Be excellent,

Michael
CEO, DreamHost

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Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels: Treasured Beauty, Sustainably Crafted

Talk about the American dream: Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels started from Sofia Kaman’s one-bedroom apartment and now has a Los Angeles store and a website that caters to customers around the globe.

Initially, Sofia started making jewelry simply for fun. In 2001, she had just married her husband, Geoff Kaman, who encouraged Sofia to launch her own business.

“I had been furiously designing jewelry as a hobby,” Sofia recalls. “He pushed me and said you should do this. My passion went from a hobby to working in a jewelry store to working on my own collection. We started the business from a wholesale line and grew it over the last 19 years and turned it into a retail store. Our website was always a part of it and grew with us organically over the years.”

Though their web business has become a dominant avenue for Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels, their creative home is their building in Santa Monica. It houses their showroom, office, design space, and even their marketing and photoshoots are done there. In addition to showing their own collection, they also showcase antique and vintage jewelry. Everything is designed by Sofia and locally produced in Los Angeles by their team of artisans. Having the line made locally is a key part of its sustainability mission.

Going Green

Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels storefront.

A cornerstone of Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels is their commitment to using sustainable materials.

“It’s definitely been a passion of mine since the beginning to figure out ways to be more and more sustainable,” Sofia says. “In this day and age, it’s not a question of can you be sustainable, but how can you be — what are the ways and how much. There is mining involved in the jewelry business, so it has a big impact on the earth. Loving and respecting nature — that’s so much of an inspiration for the designs and the motif — and being sustainable goes hand in hand.”

They offer a range of green opportunities for clients, from lab-grown diamonds to small scale mined gemstones to antique diamonds repurposed into new pieces. Being more green is their ongoing goal, which is why they are on the hunt for more eco-friendly packaging. They use recycled gold whenever casting their own work, and they’re also looking into gold that has been ethically mined.

“Fair mining impacts economics and communities,” Geoff says. “Those people live a hard life and don’t get much back. It’s difficult because we’re a half a world away from them, but we figure out how to give back to them. We’re looking for an ongoing process to find new ways to make our jewelry sustainable. Sustainability and luxury don’t really go hand in hand. That’s the combination we are trying to define.”

Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels showcases jewelry beyond the pieces made in their studio. “Geoff and I travel and source from all over the world,” Sofia says. “Our focus is on wedding and engagement, with vintage pieces too. We have a little bit of everything. One of the terms I use to describe our aesthetic is “bohemian elegant.” It’s very inspired by nature and has a bit of a vintage influence. My passions always come through in my own designs. Our own collection is antique and modern combined — it’s very textural.”

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Rock Solid

Sofia truly knows her way around the stones she works with. “She is really well versed in this because she went to the Gemological Institute of America and graduated as a gemologist — she’s not just a designer,” Geoff says. “It’s more than just being able to say it’s a recycled stone. She can give all the details on how it is that.”

Though she has professional training as a gemologist, Sofia is mostly self-taught as a jeweler. While she was a college undergrad, she took a wax carving jewelry making class and still employs that method, sculpting all of her models in wax.

Tech Whiz

Sofia was working as an elementary school teacher when she first met Geoff, who is now the Technical Director for Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels. It turned out their skill sets perfectly complemented one another’s, making it ideal for them to start the business together.

“I’ve had a long road,” Geoff says. “I was in the Marine Corps right after high school and served in Desert Storm. I did some traveling after that and ended up in California.” The self-taught software engineer has taught a software class at Santa Monica College and worked in Apple’s advertising during the company’s most substantial growth period, engineering their online presence. During that time, he also created websites for Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels.

While Geoff was working at Apple, he had used a web hosting company he was unhappy with because it was overpriced and didn’t have a lot of options for users. A co-worker recommended DreamHost, and he’s stuck with it ever since 2005.

“Everything about it I love,” Geoff says. “The support I get is unmatched by any other service I’ve ever used, and there have been quite a few. Their support team is knowledgeable, quick to act, and they’re all polite. Whenever you get on that chat queue, my issue is resolved. For all the years we’ve been using DreamHost, we’ve probably been down maybe an hour total, and those are from upgrades — they’re super reliable.”

Another reason Geoff is a dedicated DreamHost customer is that he appreciates the scalability. “Any time we need to make our database bigger or use more memory, we are set,” he says. “I started off with a shared server and moved to a private server. I can use a sliding scale to match my needs.”

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Back in 2005, they started off using Flash on DreamHost for their website. After that was closed down, they moved to a WordPress site hosted on DreamHost, but it wasn’t scalable for the amount of activity they needed, so they moved on to Zen Cart to boost their e-commerce capabilities. One of Geoff’s areas of expertise is SEO, so he’s turned their site into what he calls an “SEO monster.”

Now about half of their business comes from their website. “We have a lot more reach with the whole world than we do locally with our store,” Sofia says.

As Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels has grown, so has their site. They’ve added enhancements to make it more personal, such as their virtual try-on. Mainly for rings, the virtual try-on allows you to take pictures of your hand on your phone and try on practically any of their rings through a couple of clicks. It acts like an app, but it’s hosted through DreamHost, so people don’t have to actually download a standalone app.

Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels has fun with the feature. Recently they had a contest on Instagram and challenged people to build the best ring stack. The winner, selected by a popular vote, was gifted their stack, and a runner up received a gift certificate.

Best in Store

“The website is so robust that people use it as a catalog — they can basically shop all of our items online,” Geoff says. “We have all the details and different views, so the virtual try-on has always been a really big part of it. It takes a special person to drop $ 5,000 online without seeing it in person, so our main goal is to make them feel comfortable about their purchase.”

Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels offers plenty of ways for clients to get in touch, including contacting a stylist, booking a virtual appointment, and online chats.

“There are lots of ways to reach us, so it’s not a mystery on the other end,” Sofia says. Geoff adds, “They can book a virtual appointment using Skype or Zoom. We make ourselves available through whatever means they want.”

Many people will peruse their website and then come into the store. “It’s really nice to have a physical presence,” Sofia says. “It’s very intricate, small work that sometimes is hard to capture in visuals. The online store and the showroom really work hand in hand for an experience for people. They might be introduced through social media, start exploring, find something they really love, and have to see in person.” People will even travel from out of state to visit their showroom. Meanwhile, their website brings shoppers from across the globe, particularly Australia, Singapore, and Europe.

For Sofia and Geoff, the most rewarding aspect of Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels, aside from seeing it grow, is working with clients. “We do a lot of wedding and engagement jewelry, so we tend to get involved with people’s lives,” Sofia says. “It’s a wonderful time; you can watch families grow, and it’s always really cute to see them come back later with their babies.”

Ultimately, buying jewelry is a celebration. “Everybody who is coming in is celebrating something — a birthday, engagement, anniversary,” Geoff says. “With young couples who come in, they’re in L.A. and most are away from their family. We get this maternal relationship with them. It’s a friendship and almost a family that we build with our long-term clients. We stay in touch with them, and they come back over and over.”

The post Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels: Treasured Beauty, Sustainably Crafted appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

The 11 Most Important SEO Metrics to Track

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a collection of techniques used in web design and content creation to increase your website’s reach. When done right, your search engine rankings should improve and your website’s traffic can increase. That’s why knowing to what extent your SEO strategy is making a difference is essential.

Fortunately, tracking your website’s metrics and analyzing the trends you find helps you understand how users are interacting with your content. Knowing the most crucial SEO metrics to track — such as page views, bounce rates, and conversions — helps you evaluate which strategies might need to be tweaked and which ones are hitting a home run.

In this article, we’ll share the 11 most important SEO metrics to track. You’ll learn what they mean and how to apply them to your business. We’ll also offer some helpful tips and tools for making sense of the data you collect. Let’s get started!

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Why You Need to Track the Right SEO KPIs

Tracking your SEO data and crunching the numbers so they provide you with insightful information definitely requires an investment of time and often money. However, 63% of marketers actively invest in SEO, as well as tracking the data that results.

Without identifying the right key performance indicator (KPI) for your website, your SEO strategy is “flying blind.” This is because SEO metrics tell you exactly how your campaigns are performing, what keywords are getting a response, and which tactics you can stop wasting time on.

When you track and analyze your SEO metrics appropriately, you’ll have access to specific data points that can inform your decisions and increase your leads, conversions, and more. All you need to get started is to know which numbers matter most.

The 11 Most Important SEO Metrics to Track

Websites and their users create a lot of data. To help you sort through the chaos, we’ll take a look at 11 of the most important metrics to track when evaluating your SEO effort.

1. Keyword Ranking

Keyword rankings indicate where your website appears in search engine results for specific words and phrases. For example, if you have a construction company, a search including the word building may result in your site only appearing on page three of the results. However, if you’ve used more SEO strategies that focus on the keyword contractor, your site should appear in a better position for searches including that term.

The higher your site is ranked for relevant keywords, the more visibility it will have to your audience. This means that in order to improve this metric, you’ll want to do some research to determine which terms and phrases your target audience is searching for.

To start tracking keyword rankings and other related data, there are several SEO tools you can use (check out these 15 awesome options). Google Search Console is the best place to start if you have a small (or nonexistent) budget, while the other products offer scalable pricing depending on your needs.

SEMrush

If you’re looking for a more robust tool, we recommend SEMrush, an SEO suite that’s trusted by 5 million marketers around the world. Its Position Tracking tool makes it easy to see how your site is ranking for target keywords and paid results each day. Plus, you get in-depth insights into your competitors’ top terms.

The good news? We’ve worked out a special two-week trial with SEMrush so you can see if this tool is a good fit for your site!

2. Backlinks

Backlinks are links to your website from another site. Many backlinks operate like citations, noting where the information came from and referring readers to the original source. Search engines tend to give preference to sites with lots of backlinks, especially if they’re coming from high-quality sources.

Building backlinks can be tricky since you don’t have direct control over who links to your site. Most of the tools out there related to backlinks are focused on tracking existing backlinks and using that information to help you build better content strategies.

For example, Linkody is a backlink-specific tool that delivers a lot of useful features.

The Linkody home page.

This backlink tool enables you to not just track who is linking to you, but also identify and correct any link errors. It can also be connected to Google Analytics.

Just remember that when it comes to getting a backlink, quality matters just as much as quantity. So while it’s good to see the overall number of backlinks going up, you’ll want to make sure that as many of them as possible are coming from relevant and highly-ranked websites.

3. Organic Search Traffic

Organic search traffic includes visitors who arrive at your website from search engine results rather than through other channels such as social media, paid advertising, or backlinks. One of the easiest ways to track this type of traffic is with Google Analytics.

Real-time organic search data in Google Analytics.

Organic search is significant because users who find your site this way are typically searching with a specific goal in mind. In fact, 51% of all web traffic comes from organic search, and over 40% of revenue is generated from it.

In other words, growing this metric is one of your best options for improving conversions.

Generating organic traffic requires sharp SEO tactics and effective audience targeting.  This means that tracking this metric over time is vital, so you can see immediately what strategies are working and which need to be amended.

4. Top Exit Pages for Organic Traffic

Another common analytic you can track is the last page each user was on right before leaving your website. This is called the “exit page.” Having this information at hand can be just as important as monitoring your overall organic traffic.

This is because the more you understand why users choose to leave your website, the easier it is to convince them to stick around longer. If the top exit pages share certain elements in common, such as a particular type or style of content, this can be a clue that your target audience is looking for something different.

Google Analytics is one of the best tools for tracking your site’s top exit pages. You can easily access an Exit Page report and see a breakdown of all the related data.

5. Breakdown of Organic Traffic from Search Engines

There’s a lot more to discover about your organic traffic data than simply how many users found you through keyword searches. In fact, Google Analytics offers a detailed breakdown of this traffic.

Under the Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels menu, you’ll find keywords displayed in context with a number of other key data points.

Organic search data in Google Analytics.

This includes how many new users used certain keywords, how long they viewed pages, and whether they generated revenue for your site. Learning about where your organic traffic is coming from and what they’re doing enables you to pinpoint problems to be fixed (such as a high organic traffic rate with few resulting conversions).

6. Page Views Per User

Next up: page views. Page views measure how many times the pages on your site have been viewed in a given period of time. This isn’t the same as your traffic number, since many users may visit more than one page.

This means that page views is a metric best considered in context with other numbers. For example, average page views per session or user can tell you how engaged most visitors are with your site.

You can also look at this metric in combination with the length of time users spend on your pages. This provides valuable insight into how your content is performing. Are people moving from page to page too quickly, or spending time with each new piece of content?

If any of these numbers appear troubling, reviewing your content and revisiting your market research are two steps you can take to create a more engaging experience for your users.

7. Average Time on Page

Tracking your website users’ average time on page can be tricky. This is because there are many factors that influence user behavior. For example, a tab left open but idle in a browser for hours shouldn’t really be counted as part of the user’s “time on page.”

According to CrazyEgg, 15 seconds is the average time users spend on a web page. If you find that your numbers are below this benchmark, it might be worth doing some market research to make sure you’re targeting the right audiences.

Technical issues can also lead to difficulty keeping users on your site. If you suspect this is a problem, you can try checking your page loading speed with a tool like Pingdom.

Pingdom performance monitoring tools.

You can also use one of several optimization tactics for boosting the performance of your website.

8. New vs. Returning Users

Keeping an eye on your number of new and returning users can be a good indicator of how your audience is responding to your marketing and SEO efforts. For example, if you have more returning customers than new users, that likely means you’ve successfully built some trust and loyalty among your visitors.

However, this might also mean that while your existing customer base is steady and reliable, you may need to spend more time and resources on attracting new customers. One way to do this is to revisit your target market research and see if anything has changed, or if new markets have emerged where you can focus your SEO effort.

Alternatively, high numbers of new users are a great sign that your promotional strategies are working. However, if the number of returning visitors is low, you may need to do some work on your site to better capture the attention of those new users.

9. Bounce Rate

Your bounce rate is a metric that represents how many visitors leave your website without engaging in any content at all. A user might land on your home page, look around but not click on anything, and leave. If no other actions are taken or pages visited, that’s considered a “bounce.”

Bounce rates in Google Analytics.

This rate is found by dividing the number of “no activity” users by the number of overall visitors to the website during the same time frame. Alternatively, you can use Google Analytics’ Behavior > Overview report to get a quick view of your site’s bounce rate.

Normal bounce rates vary by industry and website type. As a general rule, however, a bounce rate higher than 50 to 60% may indicate a problem with your site’s content. You can take a look at some of the other metrics we’ve discussed, such as the top exit pages and average time on page, to see what’s causing users to bounce away. Then you can make adjustments to your content and strategies in order to keep them around.

10. Page Speed

A slow page loading time can have negative consequences on your overall success online.  Whether you’re running a blog or an e-commerce page, no one wants to wait around for your content to fully load.

In fact, one Google study found that a wait time of just one to three seconds increases the probability that users will bounce away from your website by 32%. The golden rule is to keep your page loading times under two seconds, but the lower they are the better.

Fortunately, you can easily optimize your website for speed. A great place to start is by testing your site’s performance with a tool like Pingdom or GTmetrix. These solutions will also help you identify aspects of your site that may be hurting its performance.

11. Conversion Rate

In many cases, conversion rates are the most crucial SEO metric to track.

A conversion happens when a visitor to your site completes an action you’ve prompted them to do. For example, if you have a blog, a conversion might happen when a follower signs up for your newsletter. For businesses, a conversion is often measured as a completed sale.

Whatever your goal might be, conversions are a great way to directly investigate whether your SEO strategy is working. If you’re not happy with your rates, you can use your analytics tools to look closely at your conversion data and see where improvements might be necessary.

In Google Analytics, for example, you can set up “goals” in your dashboard. These are the specific actions that will count as conversions and be tracked. This enables you to focus on your unique objectives and gather a robust and comprehensive set of conversion data.

How to Keep Your SEO Momentum Going With Quality Control Checks

It’s necessary to keep in mind that your metrics are a reflection of the work you put into improving your site and growing your audience. This means there are several other elements not directly related to SEO that you’ll still need to keep an eye on.

Here are a few other elements that can have an impact on how well your website performs in search engines:

All of these pieces are key parts of the SEO puzzle. Of course, the quality of your content also has a significant impact on how well your site performs in the rankings, so that’s a factor to keep in mind as well.

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Improving SEO Performance

Now that you have an idea of which metrics are most important for SEO, it should be easier to develop a solid web analytics plan. Your unique goals will also affect what numbers are most relevant to you and your site.

Google Analytics is a great place to start when it comes to navigating key data such as conversions, page speed, user behavior, and more. If you’re using WordPress, it’s even easier to integrate analytics tools right into your admin dashboard, using plugins like Google Site Kit and MonsterInsights.

Here at DreamHost, we offer many reliable WordPress hosting plans. Whether your site is big or small, we’ll handle the hosting so you can focus on your favorite SEO metric to track the data you need to succeed!

The post The 11 Most Important SEO Metrics to Track appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

10 Ways to Move an In-Person Service Business Online

We know you’ve been adapting to a new normal these days. 

You’re a slave to your in-home wifi, your social interactions are taking place behind a screen, and your work “watercooler” moments are happening online, not around the office Keurig. But if you’re a business owner, those aren’t the only ways your working life has been transformed over the last few months. 

Businesses are being profoundly affected by the global state of affairs. This is an unprecedented time for everyone, and as such, we’re learning to adapt and pivot how we do business.

“It’s absolutely critical for businesses to pivot right now because the economic environment has completely changed,” says Jeremy Knauff, CEO of Spartan Media. “You can’t keep doing what used to work because everything is different right now. We’re facing a Darwinian business event unfolding.”

Service professionals especially have been feeling the strain of how to transform their in-person business models into streamlined digital operations. Difficult? Absolutely. Impossible? We don’t think so.

In this guide, we’re outlining 10 creative and lucrative ways that your service-based business can continue to make money and provide value during quarantine, while still planting seeds for future growth. 

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10 Ways to Move Your In-Person Biz Online

1. Analyze Your Business Plan

Before you jump into a new money-making effort, it’s helpful to take a look at your business as it currently operates (or did, pre-pandemic). With that in mind, consider: What will pivoting really look like for your business?

“It could be a very small change in your business model, such as how you’ll deliver your services,” says Susana Fonticoba of Clear Path Marketing. “Or it could be a major change that disrupts the who, what, where, and how. Whatever changes you make in your business model, it must always satisfy the revenue you need to survive, the income you want to thrive, the type of clients you’ll serve, the clients’ deep goals, and the offers you’ll sell to fulfill it all.”

Take the restaurant industry, which has been hit particularly hard during quarantine. Many have pivoted by offering curbside and delivery service but have still faced massive loss. Na’ama Moran, co-founder and CEO of the restaurant supply company, Cheetah, took a unique approach to deal with her industry’s changing business landscape due to COVID-19. Moran switched from serving as a wholesale restaurant supplier into a grocery delivery service, selling direct to consumers.

“Moran leveraged Cheetah’s infrastructure, staff, inventory, and technology to provide a streamlined way for people to purchase food and cleaning supplies without any contact with other people,” Knauff explains. “This unique pivot enabled the company to continue moving their inventory while supporting their local community.

2. Adapt Your Services

Even if your business offers in-person service, there can be ways to safely continue providing those services — with necessary modifications and added digital provisions. 

Take the recent adjustments made by lawn care company GreenPal. We have changed up processes for how our vendor partners interact with their clients,” says Bryan Clayton, GreenPal co-founder. “We now have instituted a contactless procedure for when a homeowner hires a lawn care professional to mow their yard.”

Because of these adjustments in operations, GreenPal has “seen a 17% conversion rate in many of the markets that we operate in,” Clayton adds.

If your target audience is more hesitant to loosen the purse strings during an uncertain time, you can utilize digital tools to yield future growth.

“More than anything, people are afraid to spend money right now,” says Bri Henke, owner and Design Director at Dig. “Because everything that used to be guaranteed just isn’t anymore — jobs, food, school, toilet paper — nothing feels safe about our world right now. So spending money on a luxury, like design, is slowing down. Right now, people are thinking about what they want to change about their home, and for that, I am trying to build up an e-design/concept package level to my business where we don’t have to physically interact, but we can make some positive changes to their space”

3. Offer One-on-One Training or Tutorials

Even when you’re taking your business online, you can still provide that essential person-to-person experience indispensable to service-based businesses.

“A service is a personal experience,” says Jermaine Amado, photographer and owner of J Amado Photography. “It’s about building on the relationship with your client. So why not find a way to offer one-on-one support to your client through a video call? You could guide them through the process of taking photos, planning meals for the week, or a pedicure.”

And pivoting your business for COVID-19 helps you not only prepare for future economic challenges but offers you a chance to target new audiences.

“By offering one-on-one online photography courses and camera training, I feel like I was able to reach a new client base,” Amado says. “Adapting my services has allowed me to venture into an all-digital world where I don’t have to travel to offer my services.”

No matter what field of industry your business occupies, you can adapt to bring offerings online.

4. Offer Value Through Online Learning

In addition to providing virtual services, you can make the most of the digital landscape by sharing your hard-earned knowledge, while establishing yourself as an authority and building your brand visibility. This strategy can help your business remain viable during a crisis and attract clients.

For example, as a result of COVID-19, Southern Tax Preparation & Services moved from providing educational resources as part of its paid services to making those materials readily available through social media platforms and online communities, email campaigns, live video conferencing, and a podcast. This strategy shift is boosting the business in big ways.

“We are establishing ourselves as an authority in the accounting and finance industry, and our audience’s desire to establish and maintain a stable financial structure has also increased,” says Jasmine Young, MBA, CPA, CFE, andSouthern Tax founder. “The increase in revenue from client referrals to purchase services that assist in creating a stable financial foundation is an obvious indication that our decision to pivot . . . was a step in the right direction for our company, as our gross income for the past quarter was 75% of last year’s gross income for the entire year.”

The knowledge you have is valuable. Utilize it!

 

5. Curate Customized Product Kits

Pivoting your traditional business in difficult times is necessary to establish multiple revenue streams to compensate for the loss of income from main offerings. This has been especially vital for hair salons in the UK, as governments may limit their re-opening for another six months. 

HairCraze by Naomi, a salon in Wales, has innovated new strategies to offer value and boost its online business. They filmed a video on DIY haircutting, and a banner ad was placed on their website and Facebook page notifying visitors that the video is accessible to people who subscribe to their email or newsletter. According to their marketing company, this tactic has helped the business build up a stack of email addresses from potential customers to hit up and market to once the lockdown ends.

HairCraze by Naomi has also contacted their current clients that regularly utilize hair coloring services, offering to make dye for them based on their individual hair profile. These dyes can be mailed or delivered to customers at a discounted cost, helping them maintain color between salon visits — a better-than-boxed-dye solution at a cheaper-than-a-salon-visit price. 

Now that’s creative innovation.

6. Learn and Incorporate New Tech

The health and fitness industry is seeing creative solutions to the prohibition on in-person gatherings as they seek to incorporate innovation and recoup lost earnings through digital offerings.

Soofi Safavi, an entrepreneur and hot yoga enthusiast, pivoted his yoga business to operate virtually during the pandemic. When COVID-19 caused him to close his studios, instructors struggled with online class logistics and lost income, and his customers were without the habits they needed for their physical and mental health. Safavi acted quickly to create Wizard.fit, an integrated fitness app that allows instructors to virtually teach classes, collect payment, and instruct in a way that simulates a live studio. 

Adapting to offer your business’ services on a digital platform doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. With the right network and tools, you can get virtual offerings up and running fast.

“There are a myriad of opportunities available online for service-based workers,” said James Dyble, Managing Director of Global Sound Group. “For example, if you’re a personal trainer, jump on YouTube and start providing your services with that method. Possibly, even have a membership website or a mentoring program. . . . If the content is right, then the revenue will follow.”

7. Improve How You Engage

Running a business behind a screen can be a challenge for service-based companies that rely on an in-person relationship. Use this time as an opportunity to refine and improve the ways that you engage and connect with audiences.

First, update your website during this crisis. Make sure your customers are aware of what new or adjusted services you’re providing during social distancing. Then, take connection a step further.

“As an events producer, I enable entrepreneurs, speakers, and organizations to have engaging events. Wow, did COVID-19 ever change that!” says Connie Zeller of C.Zeller Events. “I’m fortunate that I have amazing clients who could see the value of a pivot. While a virtual event can’t deliver the energy, physical connection, gift bags, food, and the overall live experience, it can still deliver an impactful message and reach the goals and visions of a live event.”

Thoughtfully consider and plan how you’re going to provide your winning service in digital environments. Without the in-person connection, your business needs to use available tech in innovative ways to prioritize your audiences and nurture relationships.

“Technology is allowing connection in such a productive way without having to leave your home,” Henke says. “So the opportunity to offer your clients your time still exists; it will just be through a screen. Reassuring your clients that they still get you, I think, is key in all of this — rather than just them feeling that they are only worth an email. [Clients] need to know that we are still there with them, it is just in a different capacity than before.” 

8. Expand Your Virtual Marketing Techniques

As a professional organizer, Diane Eisenstein, founder and “Chief Organization Officer” of The Tidy Abode, has been experimenting with the addition of virtual services to her in-person business, offering coaching via FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom.

“The most exciting part of it is that I have reached people from all around the country this way,” she says. “So many people staying at home want to be productive and get organized, but they get stuck on one part of the project. That’s where I come in! I give them advice on potential solutions and the products they need to get it done. I don’t get the big reveal moment at the end of a project, but I do see the ‘aha moments’ when I give my clients a suggestion that would work for their space.”

Social media is likely already a part of your marketing strategy, so continue to expand your social media techniques to boost business! Host live tutorials on Instagram, Facebook, Zoom, or Youtube Live so you can communicate with your supporters in the comments in real-time. You can then upload these videos online to boost engagement and visibility.

As a writer and vocal teacher for MusicGrotto.com, James Croad has been utilizing YouTube Tutorials to continue his vocal and guitar lessons remotely.

“As a service professional, the transition hasn’t been easy, but it wasn’t impossible either,” Croad says. “It just takes a little bit of ingenuity! Regardless of the service you provide, we live in a digital age where there are multiple online platforms that can improve your business regardless of the quarantine. If you’ve got some grit and are willing to experiment, you can find a goldmine of efficient and profitable business practices online.”

As you pivot and find things that work, market them vigorously. 

“We are offering both free training and paid virtual 30-day masterminds to help businesses creatively explore their options and accordingly tweak or pivot their services,” says Janis Pettit, CEO of The 10x Zone.

“For example, one company provides in-home occupational therapy for special needs children, and their business was down 70%. They decided to try teletherapy and it was approved by the insurance companies. After testing it and getting great results, we developed an aggressive marketing plan to promote it. It’s working, and weekly visits are going up quickly. And the best part? They can now serve clients not just locally as before but in the entire state!”

Taking advantage of every opportunity to make $ $ $ (and build a loyal audience) can serve you well and help you develop the creative entrepreneurship needed to run a successful business, no matter the conditions.

9. Expand Your Offerings

Why not try something completely new? Offering a novel service to clients can expand your business — and your audience.

“Since lockdown, I have recorded myself making healthy meals and putting them in the Whatsapp group that I have set up with my clients,” says Elliott Reimers, a certified nutrition coach at Rave Reviews. “They’re contributing a small amount each per month for these tips. In addition, I am making up batches of the meals I recorded and then dropping them outside clients’ houses once a week.”

By supplying unique offerings, checking in with clients, and keeping a positive attitude, you can meaningfully connect with your audiences and provide value.

How can other businesses do this?

  • Nail salons can curate and send clients boxes of supplies with illustrated (or video) instructions on how to care for their nails. 
  • A massage therapist can film a video of how to pinpoint trouble spots in muscles and how a tennis ball or foam roller can alleviate the pain. Then they can sell and schedule a private one-on-one session via Zoom to walk through this process with the client.
  •  An esthetician can schedule private video sessions to examine clients’ skin and recommend and order specific products for the client.
  • Physical trainers can provide virtual workouts or home-workout tips, creating video tutorials or doing it with them virtually to boost both of your physical activity and gains. They could also sell different protein shakes or guided meal plans.
  • Cleaning companies similarly can sell their cleaning products, supplied with step-by-step tutorials on how to clean various home spaces. 

And all businesses can offer gift cards!

10. Continue to Incorporate Digital Options

Bringing parts of your business online can be a massive benefit to you as you target new audiences and expand your offerings. So don’t stop that momentum when things return to business as (mostly) usual. Keep utilizing the power of tech to boost your business. 

“One valuable aspect of a digital service-based business is the convenience factor,” Eisenstein says. “In-person services require travel time, prep time, and schedules that need to be matched up. Even after COVID-19 conditions end, I will most likely conduct consultations over video calls, plus I plan to incorporate more virtual coaching into my schedule so I can reach more people around the world.”

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Re-Homing Your Business in a Digital Landscape

Pivoting your business into a digital landscape isn’t just valuable — it’s essential right now. Not only can virtual adaptation help you keep your business afloat, but it can ultimately help you run a better, more successful business in the future as you refine how you market, engage, and incorporate technology. 

“The economic environment and marketplace have shifted, and the ‘new normal’ will not go back to the way things were,” Pettit says. “Businesses that don’t have a way to serve their customers’ needs as they are now will struggle or even fail. Look at businesses in the past that didn’t — Blackberry, MySpace, Sears, and many more. There is great opportunity here if you can creatively embrace it.”

If you want to get your business up-and-running online and flex those creative muscles, you need to start at the beginning: partnering with a great web host for your site. We can help you set up your online presence — at a safe, virtual distance.

The post 10 Ways to Move an In-Person Service Business Online appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

How to Set up Curbside Pickup and Delivery Through Your Website

COVID-19 has had severe ramifications, not only from a health standpoint but economically as well. With most people staying home and practicing social distancing, businesses that rely on in-person transactions are moving online.

We’ve already outlined how to pivot your business model, update your website, and lead a team remotely during the coronavirus outbreak. But there’s something else small business owners will want to consider as part of their crisis management plan: offering curbside pickup and delivery options for customers.

By enabling shoppers to place orders online and receive their items with minimal contact, you can do your part to keep your community safe, while also continuing to bring in revenue.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some alternative shopping options for local businesses. Then we’ll show you how to set up either curbside pickup or a delivery option for your customers using WooCommerce. Let’s go!

Alternative Shopping Methods During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued several public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. These suggestions include:

  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Keep six feet between yourself and others.
  • Avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more.

Unfortunately, these guidelines make it difficult for small local businesses to welcome customers and conduct sales normally. To maintain even a limited revenue stream, most retailers and restaurants have had to develop alternative methods for serving customers.

Curbside pickup is one of the best and most popular ways of doing that. It enables customers to purchase products online, and then visit your store to receive their items. Rather than having them go into your building, you or one of your employees brings the customer’s things out to their car. Think of it like takeout.

With local delivery, your customers stay home while you bring their orders to their doors. Both methods go a long way towards minimizing contact between people since shoppers won’t be gathering in your store.

However, you can take further precautions as well, such as:

  • Wearing gloves when packing customers’ orders.
  • Requiring online payments to avoid contact with customers when exchanging cash.
  • Place pickup orders directly in customers’ trunks.
  • Leaving delivery orders at customers’ doors, and calling or texting them to let them know their packages have arrived.
  • Providing face masks and hand sanitizer to employees involved in pickup and delivery orders.

Fortunately, the risk of transferring or contracting COVID-19 via an object is very low. By setting up curbside pickup and delivery and minimizing contact between your employees and customers, you can significantly reduce the health risks for all involved.

How to Set Up Curbside Pickup and Delivery Through Your Website (In 4 Steps)

Below, we’ve outlined steps for setting up both curbside and local delivery options for your small business. Note that these instructions assume you already have WooCommerce installed and configured on your store’s website. If that’s not the case, please check out our tutorial on getting started with WooCommerce, and then you’ll be ready to get rolling!

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Step 1: Configure a Local Shipping Zone

The first thing you’ll need to do is pick a WooCommerce shipping zone for your local area. This will prevent a shopper who is outside your service area from placing an order for pickup or delivery.

In your WordPress dashboard, navigate to WooCommerce > Settings > Shipping.

Accessing WooCommerce’s shipping settings.

Click on Add Shipping Zone.

Adding a shipping zone in WooCommerce.

Add a descriptive name for the shipping zone and then select your region.

Alt-text: Adding a name and region for a new WooCommerce shipping zone.

Click on Limit to specific ZIP/postcodes to narrow your pickup and delivery range.

Specifying local ZIP codes for a new WooCommerce shipping zone.

Remember to save your changes when you’re done.

Step 2: Enable Local Pickup as a Shipping Option

Next, while still on your local shipping zone page, select Add shipping method.

Adding a shipping method to a WooCommerce shipping zone.

WooCommerce includes a local pickup option out of the box. Select it from the drop-down menu, then click on the Add shipping method button.

Selecting local pickup as the shipping method.

That’s all you have to do to enable curbside pickup for your local business.

However, if you would like to refine this option, you can purchase and install the Local Pickup Plus WooCommerce extension. This optional add-on enables you to specify a pickup location, set hours, offer discounts to customers who select curbside pickup, and more.

Step 3: Add a Flat Rate Shipping Option

WooCommerce no longer offers a “local delivery” shipping option. However, you can still configure one without the need for an additional plugin.

On your local shipping zone page, add a second shipping option and select Flat rate. Then click on the Edit option for that shipping method.

Selecting the edit option for a flat rate shipping method.

Change the Method title to “Local Delivery” (or however you want to present this option to your customers at checkout). If you want, you can also add a flat rate delivery fee.

Renaming the flat rate shipping method to “Local Delivery” and adding a delivery fee.

Finally, click on Save changes. Your local pickup and delivery options will now both appear on your site’s checkout page, where customers can select their preferred methods.

Curbside pickup and local delivery options on the checkout page.

At this point, you’re ready to start offering curbside pickup and delivery to your customers. However, you may want to take a few extra steps to make managing your orders easier.

Step 4: Install Order Delivery Date for WooCommerce to Manage Requests

While you can technically set up curbside pickup and delivery for your business using WooCommerce alone, its native features don’t enable you to manage or schedule orders. This could lead to problems if you have multiple customers placing pickup and delivery orders at the same time.

One way to solve this issue to enable customers to schedule their pickups and deliveries. Order Delivery Date for WooCommerce can help with this.

The Order Delivery Date for WooCommerce plugin.

After you install and activate this plugin, navigate to Order Delivery Date in your WordPress dashboard.

The Order Delivery Date for WooCommerce settings page.

Then configure the following settings:

  • Select the checkbox next to Enable Delivery Date capture on the checkout page.
  • Choose which days you’re available for delivery.
  • Set the minimum number of hours you need to prepare an order for delivery.
  • Specify how many days in advance customers can schedule an order.
  • Select the checkbox next to Selection of the delivery date on the checkout page will become mandatory.
  • Set the maximum number of deliveries you can handle per day.
  • Select the checkbox next to Enable default sorting of orders (in descending order) by Delivery Date on WooCommerce > Orders page.

You may also wish to make additional adjustments in the Appearance and Holidays tabs. Remember to save your changes when you’re done.

Now, when customers reach your checkout page, they’ll have to choose a delivery date.

A calendar delivery date selector on the checkout page.

Once the maximum number of orders for any particular day has been reached, that date will become unavailable in the calendar. This will prevent you from receiving more orders than you can physically manage at one time.

On your WooCommerce Orders page, you’ll be able to see the customer’s specified delivery/pickup date listed for each order.

The Delivery Date column in the WooCommerce Orders list.

Note that you’ll still need to contact customers to inform them what time their orders will be ready (especially for curbside pickup).

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Curbside Takeout or Home Delivery?

Curbside pickup and delivery options enable your customers to purchase their favorite products from you with minimal contact. This could help your business survive the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic side effects and is a valuable strategy for building customer loyalty.

Fortunately, you can enable both local pickup and delivery using WooCommerce in just four steps:

  1. Configure a local shipping zone.
  2. Enable local pickup as a shipping option.
  3. Add a flat rate shipping option.
  4. Install Order Delivery Date for WooCommerce to manage requests.

The foundation of any successful e-commerce site is a reliable hosting plan. At DreamHost, we provide quality shared hosting services for small businesses at affordable prices. Check out our plans today!

The post How to Set up Curbside Pickup and Delivery Through Your Website appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

11 Things Website Owners Should Update During a Crisis

Ever since the coronavirus crisis hit, it can sometimes feel like it has affected every area of our lives. Anyone who is now homeschooling kids or suddenly spending way too much time over a hot stove can vouch for that! Of course, that includes business too, and if you’re a business owner, there’s a good chance you’ve really felt that impact.

“In my 13 years as a marketing agency owner, I never dreamed of this time, when my team and I are assisting hundreds of struggling small businesses to understand how best to market and communicate now to save their businesses,” says Wendy O’Donovan Phillips, CEO of Big Buzz.

“Re-evaluate your vision statement to focus the team’s efforts through this time,” she advises. “Revisit your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis with a particular focus on opportunities. Your clients and community have different needs now than they did even a month ago and will have different needs in another month. This approach will help you more readily hit your revenue and profit projections. Take the right action, and you will survive!”

It’s time to create a crisis management plan. One of the most crucial things you’ll need to tackle as a small business owner is updating your website and social media channels.

To keep your small business on the up and up, we’ve identified 11 things website owners should update during a crisis. Let’s dive in.

How to Update Your Website During a Crisis

1. Create a new landing page.

When people visit your website, your homepage is likely the first thing they’ll see. That’s why keeping it fresh is always crucial, but with things in flux during a crisis, that’s even more important.

To show that your business is on the ball and staying up to date, you’ll want to create a landing page for crisis-related content. Make sure to change the page often, especially when new information is released or policies evolve. If those affect your business, outline how you’ll be implementing anything new and how that will impact customers. Every time you update it, you can spread the word on social media by sharing a link.

Another reason to continue refreshing your landing page is that search engines will recognize it’s a key page on your site for the crisis, which will boost SEO.

2. Update your FAQ page.

If you don’t have a FAQ section on your business website yet, it’s time to add one! The COVID-19 crisis is changing every day, so a FAQ section is a great place to address that and share your updates. Local businesses especially need to answer common questions about their crisis management and how your company is adapting because of restrictions due to COVID-19.

To ensure that clients are aware of your FAQ section, you can spotlight a link to it on your homepage. Continue to add relevant information to your FAQ page, such as how you’re keeping employees safe, who comes into contact with your products, and policy changes, for instance.

The FAQ section is also an opportunity to share any changes in your supply chain, offerings or any potential product fulfillment delays.

“Always ensure you have the right resources to deploy readily available,” says Bob Minhas, Founder and Lead Trainer for eSchool for Entrepreneurs. “Whether documents or videos, walk through your customer journey and understand what they might need to know to complete a transaction with you online and have the right FAQ ready for them.”

3. Change your menu/navigation.

To make it easy to find your crisis content, it’s a good idea to add a link in your main navigation or an alert bar that sits above the navigation to your crisis landing page. Be sure to keep the title of the new navigation item short.

Plus, regardless of the status of a crisis situation, it’s always a good idea to update your navigation to keep it timely and relevant, which should be part of a best practices strategy for your website.

4. Review your product descriptions.

Have your offerings changed in any way since the crisis started? Then you’ll want your website to reflect that. Change the text accordingly and add item availability information to postings.

“A lot of small businesses that we work with are looking to add new services or products that are complimentary and interesting to the audiences they have built both online and in previous customers,” says Chris Sica, Chief Revenue Officer, The Ronin Society. “We encourage business owners to step into their customers’ shoes, think about the new buying journeys they are going to be on, what new pain points they will be experiencing and attempt to solve those using the resources they already have available to them.”

5. Check your events page.

If your business hosts events of any kind, you’ll want to give updates on how the schedule has changed, including if they’ve been cancelled, postponed or are going virtual.

To avoid confusion, continue to list the original event date so that clients can confirm the event. For events that have been changed from in-person to digital, be sure to link to the virtual location for easy access.

6. Make a homepage hero.

In the midst of a crisis, everyone could use some good news. If you’ve realigned your business to help in any way, make it easy for customers to find out by updating your homepage. For example, if you’re now doing carryout or delivery, be sure to spread the word.

“A delivery option is absolutely essential now,” Sica says. “Lots of customers still want to get out of the house and curbside pickup gives them a bit of a break from being at home. [Another element to expand is] payment options to make it easy to afford your product or service.”

7. Utilize pop-ups or banners.

One of the easiest ways to catch your clients’ attention and update them is to add a pop-up or banner. It’s an easy way to spread the word about reduced hours, limited inventory, shipping delays or changes in service availability. Make sure that it visually grabs people’s attention.

8. Refresh local listings.

If your hours have changed, the world needs to know. Be sure to update your website. Additionally, you’ll need to adjust hours and temporary closures on platforms where customers go to find your hours, such as Google My Business, Facebook and Yelp.

9. Update your scheduled messaging.

If you regularly send out pre-scheduled emails or social media updates, be sure to adjust them to fit the current situation. Otherwise, if you send out the same old communication, it can make you appear tone-deaf and not up to speed.

“Customers are used to coming by your shop, seeing your advertisements, or whatever your traction channel is,” Sica says. “Their entire user experience with your brand has been removed or changed. Their fears and pain points have been altered. As a result, you need to make sure that you stay top of mind in a useful way. The easiest solution is by creating or updating your newsletters. We’ve also seen businesses create how-to videos for clients based on in-store or online products they like, and we’ve also seen customer happy hours.”

10. Change your social media accounts.

At the minimum, ensure that your business hours, closures, and product availability information remains updated for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak.

Just to be on the safe side, it’s best to post more than once on your regular social media channels about any business changes, since we all know how quickly a Tweet can disappear to the bottom of a Twitter feed. This increases the odds that customers will see the news.

11. Increase crisis communication.

Ensure everyone is up to speed by sending updates via email, texts or blog posts — communicate with your customers in the way that is best for them.

“It is important to stay in touch with customers,” says Jaryd P. Kase, Principal at Kase Consulting, LLC. “First off, if you are open, your customers might not know and they should know you are open. Second, your customers are dealing with the same crisis as you. By communicating how you are working to mitigate risk factors in the pandemic or working hard to continue bringing them a great product or service (or pick up where you left off if you are closed), it helps put the customer at ease that their favorite store or an important supplier isn’t going out of business.”

However, there is a fine line between communicating too much and too little. “Communication with customers should be tempered,” says Deborah S. Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com. “It is important to not over-communicate or be too sales-y. Share information cautiously. Share content and information, but don’t try to sell. Inform and educate.”

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Your Crisis Management Team

The coronavirus pandemic — and the resulting economic downturn —  is making things tough for small business owners. At DreamHost, we’ve provided digital homes for small businesses for more than two decades. In that time, we’ve learned that entrepreneurs are scrappy, smart, and savvy. We believe in you and your business and are here to help.

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Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

DreamHost’s Ultimate Small Business Resource Guide

We see you, small business owners! You bring character and diversity to your hometowns and spice to your niche on the internet. You create jobs. You build local economies and provide unique products and services with a personal touch big corporations can only try to replicate. Plus, you are living your dream: turning your passion into a money-making venture that improves the world and gives you the chance to be your own boss.

We know how hard you work to make this dream a reality. It’s never easy to run your own business, but the current COVID-19 global pandemic has been a particular plague on small businesses. Governments around the world have social distancing guidelines to stop the spread of this coronavirus, bringing global economies to their knees.

With people stuck at home, non-essential businesses closed, and millions out of work, the customers you rely on to stay afloat either can’t come to your shop or are short on cash for anything outside living expenses. None of this is your fault, and it is happening despite your diligent work and vision for your business.

Even National Small Business Week — an annual springtime celebration of your essential place in the U.S. economy scheduled for this week — has been postponed thanks to COVID-19. But we are going to celebrate you anyway! Here at DreamHost, we believe in small business, and we are proud to provide a platform and digital home for so many of you.

The pandemic will let up eventually, and we are still rooting for you. To help you get some ideas for how to build and boost your business, we’ve collected our best advice for small business owners — all in one place.

Read on to find essential tips about:

Feel free to use the links above to jump around to the most pertinent articles for you and your business — or read straight on through for an overview of all the advice we have to offer.

You Can Build a Website

Whether you want to start a blog or run a small business, DreamHost makes it easy to begin your online journey. Our shared hosting plans give you everything you need to thrive online at an affordable price.

Building a Small Business Website

In the small-business world, your website is everything. It’s your homestead on the frontier of the web. It declares your brand to the world and is often the first impression potential customers have of your business.

For many of you, your website is your business.

Even if your business is a brick-and-mortar operation — such as a restaurant or antique store — your company’s website needs to be helpful, optimized, and updated and maintained regularly. Your website provides valuable info, including where to find you and when, and drives customers off their couches and into your stores.

The internet is where your customers spend most of their time, especially right now. Use these resources to learn how to get going on WordPress, build a beautiful website from the ground up, and tailor it to fit your own business.

Building an Online Store

If you have an online business — or if you want to start selling your products online in addition to your physical store — a reliable and attractive online shop is what you need. Your customers want to browse, find the products they want, and check out without a glitch. To make that happen, you need to build an online store with a trusted platform in addition to your business’s WordPress website.

It’s surprisingly easy to get an online shop up and keep it going — you just need the right tools and tips. We love WooCommerce and Shopify, and you’ll learn about both, plus more tips and tricks for selling online, in the helpful guides below.

Small Business Advice

You small business owners are a scrappy bunch, and much of what you know you learned through good, old fashioned experience. There’s no education like the one that comes from getting out there and making your own mistakes.

As valuable as mistakes and failures are, we want to set you up as much as possible for success and triumph. In this section, you’ll find a roundup of our best advice for entrepreneurs — learn how to manage everything from your stress to your small business website and beyond.

Small-Biz Tools and Resources

You want your small business to reach its full potential — and so do we! No person is an island, and the same goes for businesses. We all need a little help and support sometimes, and when we use available tools, we can get more done in less time.

There are so many tools out there to help you manage and grow your business, and to optimize the whole enterprise for success. Stop doing things the hard way. Here you’ll find all of our favorite tools, apps, plugins, and more for making the work of running your business a little easier.

Ways to Make Money Online

Thanks to the internet, there’s never been a better time to start a side hustle. Money-making opportunities abound online, from blogging to affiliate marketing.

Whether you want to build up an extra income source on top of your full-time gig or are looking for ideas to build up your business, we got you. Let’s walk through our favorite — not to mention lucrative and legitimate — ways to make money online.

Small-Biz Marketing Tips

There are more than 1.5 billion (and counting) websites on the internet today. So how does your humble food blog or photography portfolio get noticed, by the right people, amid all the noise?

One word: marketing.

“If you build it, they will come” is an adage that doesn’t hold up so well when it comes to your business’s presence online. Merely having a website just isn’t enough; you need to draw people to it for it to do any good. You need some smart strategies to bump your website up to the top of search results, find and engage social media followers, and encourage positive reviews.

Do you want your brand to get noticed? Find your target market. Drive traffic to your website. Do some smart social media and email marketing. Create killer content and optimize your site for top search engine results. How? We thought you’d never ask: Learn or brush up on these skills with our handy dandy guides to marketing your small business.

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You’ve Got This

There you have it — everything we’ve ever written to guide, inform, and inspire small business owners in one handy guide. We know that you’ve got what it takes to make it through this crisis, and we hope these resources can help you get there.

Now, we have a question for you: How can we help? What small-biz related questions are keeping you up at night? Holler at us over on Twitter to let us know which additional topics and resources you’d like us to cover for small business owners.

Are you wondering where to get started? You can easily build an online presence for your small business with shared hosting. Our plans, which start at just $ 2.59 per month, offer all the tools you need to build your business and reach your customers.

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Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

Expert Advice: 11 Ways Small Businesses Can Pivot to Survive a Crisis

Every entrepreneur knows that starting a small business is never easy. There are a few challenges that are to be expected — from building the perfect team to discovering exactly who your customer is, to creating a social media presence, just to name a few.

One thing we never expected? Dealing with the economic blowout from a global pandemic.

No matter what type of small business you have, everyone has experienced consequences from the coronavirus outbreak. That’s precisely why small businesses must be able to pivot in order to survive a crisis.

“It is important to always listen to customer needs and to respond, but at a time when customer needs and demand is changing, it is critical for small businesses to pay attention to what customers are saying, how they are responding and what their needs are,” says Deborah S. Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com. “For small businesses to continue to remain relevant, they have to listen and respond. It is an opportunity to learn and grow as a business owner and to leverage entrepreneurial skills when they are most needed.”

So, how can you be nimble these days?

While every type of business has to act according to their market, there are a few universal rules that apply. Here are 11 ways small businesses can adapt to pull through the coronavirus crisis — and practically any crisis.

11 Ways Your Small Biz Can Pivot to Survive a Crisis

1. Adjust your offerings based on new customer demands and needs.

It might seem obvious that entrepreneurs will need to switch up their business model to stay afloat during this crisis. The tricky part is figuring out how to change.

“These shifts should be made in changing customer choices and industry trends and not simply in response to changes in economics,” says Bob Minhas, Founder and Lead Trainer for eSchool for Entrepreneurs. “Of course, shifting in economics will always lead to shifting customer choices, so they are generally aligned. However, a shift in economics is reactive, whereas a shift from purposeful research is proactive.”

To figure out how to begin, Minhas suggests starting with market research. First, study what the economic experts are saying and learn what has changed in the national, regional, and local economies. Think about your industry and what the experts in your field are saying about its shift. Finally, talk to your existing and potential ideal customer base to determine what they need and if your skillset can support that.

“Compiling all the information here will allow you to put something together and then just offer, offer, offer,” Minhas says. “Get people in to test your offer so you can continue to refine until it’s working and bringing in the revenue you need. Keep in mind that in this specific economic situation, it’s not a good idea to make a hard pivot you cannot come back from. You only want to pivot enough so that you are still within the realm of your expertise as that credibility of what you do is needed for customers to still trust you.”

Plus, once the economy bounces back, you’ll want to be able to return to your initial business, or at least a modified version.  Potentially, this pivot can also stay as a new revenue source.

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2. Always be prepared to work remotely.

As a small business owner, you’ve most likely learned that planning ahead is key to success.

“I always advise companies to plan for certain risks and make contingency plans, one of which is typically being forced to work from home,” says Jaryd P. Kase, Principal at Kase Consulting, LLC. “Of course, you don’t always have the benefit of being able to plan in advance. I would take advantage of cloud-based storage options such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft One Drive, etc. so that employees can access files from home computers. Take security precautions into consideration and don’t allow sensitive material to flow freely, but you should allow people enough access that they can do their jobs.”

If your team is struggling with how to stay focused while working from home, these 16 strategies can help.

Video conferencing enables people to work on team projects and keep the office on the same page. There are plenty of options from companies like Microsoft, Google, and Zoom, among others. “Some are free, some cost a little money,” Kase says. “Compare the features and pick what is best for you.”

3. Keep up daily team meetings.

With everything in flux, it’s even more important to keep your employees up to speed. “Normally, team members can sync outside of their regular meetings with a quick desk visit or a water cooler visit,” says Chris Sica, Chief Revenue Officer of The Ronin Society. “Because these no longer exist in a work-from-home situation, you need to supplement them with increased meetings to make sure people get unstuck or remove blockers in their projects.”

Plus, meetings can actually be a morale booster when the going gets tough. If your team is feeling isolated while working from home, you can even create watercooler moments while working remotely. Plus, chatting on Facebook Live, for example, can be a much-need way of staying social while social distancing.

“Virtual team meetings let people see that they are still part of a team and not just stuck in solitude,” Kase says. “I usually allow a bit more leniency for going off-topic and joking around just because people have that need for human interaction that they are not getting from working in the office. When it comes to discussing work, though, this is where everyone can give updates on where they are on their tasks, ask for help, and congratulate a team member on a job well done.”

4. Boost your communication with customers.

“Communication is an important factor during this time to help maintain your customers’ feeling of confidence,” Minhas says. “However, I find that a number of businesses focus on outbound communication, meaning they’re talking more than they are listening. Communication with customers needs to be a balancing act. Listen to what the most common questions coming in are and create outbound communication related to that.”

Keep communication lines open during this time. For example, create a space such as a FAQ page and quickly respond to any outreach from clients. “Be sure to invest in a ticket system to track communication effectively among your team,” Minhas advises.

5. Stick to a daily schedule.

With the world feeling upside down right now, it’s hard to remember what day it is. But that’s even more reason you should create a schedule — and be strict about following it.

“It’s difficult to stay on track with so much going on (and not going on),” Sweeney says. “Hence, it’s critically important to plan and strategize and have an organized structure for your day. Have a schedule — wake up, exercise, eat healthfully, stay organized, get work done, communicate with team members and customers, and save time for strategy and organization of yourself for the upcoming day.”

6. Work on what can be done in the present.

One of the many challenges of the coronavirus crisis is not knowing when things will return to normal. Since we can’t predict the future — even when we’re not in a global pandemic — focus on the now.

“Small business owners need to prioritize the survival of their company,” Kase says. “That means making sure that proper financing, communication, staff retention, customer outreach, etc., are occurring. Beyond that, business leaders cannot forget about their longer-term goals. Goals for 2020 might be shot at this point; you likely will not hit your revenue numbers. Your 5- to 10-year goals, however, should be able to absorb a bump in the road, and you need to make adjustments to your strategy and tactics to ensure that you are still on course for reaching those goals.”

7. Improve your skill set.

Just like people are using their newfound time to learn a language or start meditating, that self-improvement can trickle over to your business too. There are many areas where small businesses could use a boost.

“It’s time to learn how to write great articles and emails,” Sica says. “It’s important to learn how to get good pictures and videos of yourself, your team, and your product or service. It’s time to learn digital marketing, how to use social media, and how to build an audience organically. It’s time to learn how to vet digital marketing agencies. It’s time to learn how to manage your finances more seriously so you can be more competitive with your pricing and sales offerings.”

8. Continue to network.

It might seem counterintuitive to prioritize networking while social distancing, but it’s a great way to keep your business going strong.

“Right now everyone is in a similar situation: The economy is struggling, unemployment is high, customers have been told not to leave their houses and businesses have been told to close,” Kase says. “Networking in a time like this can be both therapeutic and educational. It’s therapeutic in the sense that you can commiserate with other small business owners who are dealing with similar problems and educational in the sense that you may be able to learn what has worked well for someone else and try it for your own business. Meeting for coffee may now be talking on LinkedIn or Zoom, but the concept is still the same. There are plenty of places online where small business owners congregate, and a large portion of them would love to network.”

9. Get feedback.

It’s always important to know what your colleagues and clients think, but now you might have more time to implement changes based on their suggestions.

“Feedback right now is the best market research tool,” Minhas says. “Consumers are going through a shift in their buying behavior, so to understand the gap of what they need and what we are delivering is an important way to maintain relevance to them and, in turn, having them continue to spend money with us.”

It’s not just your clients that you should be touching base with — hearing from your staff is equally important. “Feedback from team members ensures you’re able to maintain productivity as a team and that team members are invested in the success of what your company is trying to achieve,” Minhas says. “They buy into your common goal and mission when they feel heard.”

Finally, you can also reach out to leaders and mentors within your field for suggestions on how to improve your own personal skill sets.

10. Stay positive.

Looking on the bright side is especially challenging during tough times, so remind yourself that there is always a silver lining. “Silver-lining observations are often a hallmark of entrepreneurs,” Sweeney says. “Learning to take the opportunities from challenges is a critical aspect to adapting to change and growth. Business owners need to find order out of chaos … and be the voice of reason, observation, and opportunity when others cannot or do not see it.”

To help your staff feel more optimistic too, empower them during this difficult time. For example, encourage team members to develop their skills during their downtime.

“If you have an employee who is looking to grow in the company, this might be a great time to suggest reading up or training on some specific skills,” Kase suggests. “They can come back to the office when the economy is back open and use those skills in their work, showing you not only their dedication but also that they might be ready for that promotion.”

Another critical way to empower employees is by listening to them. “Your employees might have some great ideas on how to weather this storm, so don’t feel like you as the owner need to have all of the answers,” Kase suggests. “Set up a virtual brainstorming meeting. Even if nothing comes of it, just being invited to sit at the table is an empowering gesture.”

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11. Ask for help.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the economic landscape and created a financial crisis, so there are new government resources available to small business owners. Consider taking advantage of them to stay afloat.

“Additionally, there are a few other programs that are potential options,” Sica says. “The Main Street Lending Program is a four-year loan with interest and principal payments deferred for one year. There are a number of large corporations offering special grants, and federal taxes have been delayed until July 15th for both personal and business. Each individual city seems to have a list of solutions applicable to their citizen businesses; search ‘[your city + COVID resources + small business].’”

Ready for a Successful Pivot?

No doubt about it — this is an uncertain time for small businesses. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from hosting websites for the last two decades, it’s that entrepreneurs are a scrappy (and smart!) bunch.

You’ve got this, and we’re here to help.

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Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

RetroSupply Co. Creates Vintage Tools for Modern Designers

In the days of sleek digital design, there’s nothing quite like the look of art inked fresh onto paper. Dustin Lee has always thought so, from the time he was a boy living with his grandmother in California, exploring her catch-all closet piled high with “junk” from her past: mid-century board games, comic books, matchboxes, and catalogs.

“Even though my childhood was in the 1980s, I grew up around a lot of stuff from the ‘50s and ‘60s,” Lee says. “I’m a really big fan of mid-century, postwar American commercial art — I love the illustrations on cheesy mail-order ads in comic books and old toy packaging. I love when stuff looks like beautiful frameable art in retrospect, and it was totally just made originally to be disposable, to try to sell a product — the kitschy, crappy, but-accidentally-beautiful design of things that people probably did on assignment, never knowing that it would be recorded in history.”

As a graphic designer, Lee pulls inspiration from his mid-century nostalgia. To create an authentic analog look, he had to build brushes, fonts, textures, and other tools to use on design programs Photoshop, Illustrator, Procreate, and Affinity. “And I found that it was very hard to do that if you didn’t know how — there’s a lot of intricacies to making that come off as convincing and not cheesy or weird.”

Lee uploaded his custom design kits to sell online as RetroSupply Co. The business has since made a name for itself in the design world, becoming successful enough to support Lee’s family, build a dream home in Washington state, and help weather the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We are a provider of brushes, textures, fonts, and other effects for creative illustrators who want to add analog touches to digital work, pulling from history to provide resources that can make it so things feel a little more like they used to,” Lee says. He’s been in business for eight years now and has trusted DreamHost to provide a steady foundation for his website from the beginning.

“It’s almost a cliché to say at this point. I think most designers — and probably just people in general — feel like doing so much stuff online makes everything so clean and sterile,” Lee says. “I think people miss holding comic books in their hands or reading the newspaper that gets delivered to the door. A lot of the reason I started this business is because I would love to see people recreating that look of something really screen printed or printed on paper.”

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Starting from Rock Bottom

Lee’s business took off when he was at one of the lowest points in his life — and he ended up stuck there by trying to do everything right.

As a teenager, Lee attended an arts high school, developing talents for visual arts and music. He had even secured a spot at Berklee College of Music to study guitar and songwriting. But afraid of becoming a starving artist, he switched gears.

“I thought I needed to know business to make money from creativity. And I thought, ‘I’ll learn business from a bank! That’s where you learn business.’”

So he got a job at a bank — and hated every minute of it.

Inspired by Timothy Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Work Week” (a manifesto for escaping the traditional 9-to-5 grind), Lee quit the bank gig and went into graphic design. He studied it for a few years in college, tried to freelance, and had a “real” job here and there designing blogs and websites.

But his dream of working for himself just wasn’t playing out as he’d wanted.

“It was a dark time in my life,” Lee recalls. He couldn’t get work as a graphic designer so he started drinking, in his words, “a little too much.”

“It was just horrible timing because my wife and I were about $ 35,000 in debt, living with my grandma — I mean we were helping her, but we were still living with her. It was so embarrassing,” Lee says. “I wasn’t doing well as a designer. A baby was going to be born in nine months, and we barely had any money. I just felt stuck; I was really in a corner.”

Alt-text: Dustin Lee and his oldest child, Elah, who helped inspire RetroSupply.
Dustin Lee and his oldest child, Elah, who helped inspire RetroSupply.

Lee’s tight spot forced some quick thinking. He had already developed specialty design tools — brushes, textures, shading — inspired by his love of mid-century art to bring that look into his own projects. He bundled these tools into kits he could sell online.

Every morning, Lee woke up at 5 a.m., headed to the coffee shop around the corner, and uploaded kits to Creative Market, a marketplace of resources for graphic designers. It took less than a minute to coin the name of his fledgling shop: RetroSupply Co.

Slot Machine Day

Lee’s retro-inspired design tools made some money here and there but nothing close to what he needed to tackle that pile of debt.

“And then there was a day that I think of as Slot Machine Day,” Lee says. “One day I’m at the coffee shop. I’m working on something for RetroSupply for about two hours, and then I shift to my regular work. And all of a sudden I got those notifications on my phone —  bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing.”

Each “bing” represented a sale — $ 6 or $ 7 straight into his bank account. Why the sudden popularity? Lee discovered that Creative Market had featured a few of his products in their email newsletter, and it immediately racked up hundreds of sales.

He grabbed his laptop, not even bothering to pack it up, and ran home. “I probably looked really, really silly. I ran home with this manbag flopping beside me — I wanted my wife to see the phone going off.”

By the end of the day, he had pocketed about $ 1,500. “It was amazing to me — this was the beginning of a lot.”

He realized quickly that he needed to build his own website to start collecting customer email addresses and created a site on Shopify, soon hosted by DreamHost. By the time Lee’s daughter was born, he had made enough to repay his debt and pad the savings account, leaving him and his wife free to enjoy time with their new daughter in peace.

“We weren’t worried about money, and I was doing something I loved,” Lee says. “It was amazing. I stopped drinking, I quit smoking, I got out of debt — it really was a life-changer. I was really blessed.”

RetroSupply has become a full-time business well-known in the industry. Lee collaborates with prominent designers, hires employees and contractors, frequently speaks at conferences, and contributes on a design podcast that’s approaching 2 million downloads. In addition to design tools, RetroSupply offers courses and tutorials.

He’s even created a side business, Passive Income for Designers, to teach others how to leverage their creativity. “I’ve helped designers make $ 500 or $ 1,000 extra every month without having to do additional work,” Lee says. “And surprisingly, it feels almost better than anything, because I know I know what it feels like; I know how far 500 extra bucks can go.”

Despite his success, Lee is quick to point out that his lucky break was just that — lucky.

“Luck is involved,” Lee says. “So I hate when people try to start businesses, and they punish themselves when it doesn’t do as well as they wanted. It’s good luck, perseverance, and, you know, adapting and making changes. But I think people are too hard on themselves. Making a business is hard and there’s luck involved. No doubt about it.”

Bringing Retro to Life

RetroSupply eventually faced a crossroads, one that forced Lee to grapple with how to strike a balance between following his passion and following market trends.

When Lee started his website, the vintage style he loved was trending, and then almost overnight, hand-lettering and watercolor became the rage in graphic design. He saw a dip in his sales as greeting cards and home decor featuring hand-lettered fonts popped up at major retailers.

Lee faced a conundrum: “Do I keep selling the retro stuff I love, or do I listen to the market and make hand-lettered fonts and watercolors?” He decided to stay the course. “I wanted to be that guy who does the retro stuff, so I doubled down,” he says. The choice has paid off.

What’s most compelling about Lee’s products is his devout dedication to accuracy. Every color, brush, and texture is taken directly from a period-authentic piece.

Once, an eBay search led Lee to a “beautiful Army surplus catalog from like 1959,” he says. “And it had these beautiful halftones in it and gorgeous illustrations. And I ended up getting in a bidding war over this thing and paid about $ 200 for it.”

Lee and his team use high-resolution scanners and attempt to recreate the original art, creating the tools they need to make an identical digital piece. To make brush kits, he partners with artists who specialize in that style. Each product is tested by partner illustrators before going up for sale.

“I’ve literally bought 50-year-old crayons and pencils, scanned them in, and sampled little pieces until I could recreate that look. So it’s kind of fun — it’s like a license to buy as much old junk as I want and justify it because it’s a business expense.”

Building a Solid Foundation

Lee built his Shopify site fast out of necessity, with a simple logo and bare-bones design. But with RetroSupply’s revenue increasing every year, Lee decided to hire his favorite designer to do the branding: Chris de Lorenzo, the designer behind Boston’s Johnny Cupcakes and a frequent illustrator for the New York Times.

“I’m a designer, but I definitely have no problem in having someone better than me to do something for the business.”

In addition to converting sales, Lee hopes that his website makes life a little more interesting for anyone who visits. “I read once that whenever someone is looking at your website, they’re sitting there most likely sitting all by themselves, staring at a screen without any company, desperately looking for someone to break their boredom. And so whenever we put something on  RetroSupply, we think, even if they’re not going to buy something, what can we do to make it interesting whether it is an image or blog post.”

Lee has been with DreamHost since the beginning. “I just love DreamHost, which is weird to say, because I always think of a hosting company as something that, if they’re doing the job right, you don’t notice.”

But he does notice DreamHost — not because he’s had problems with the service — because “the customer support is so freaking good. Whenever I want to buy a domain or need to resolve something, it’s easy to get someone on. They always answer my question, and things are taken care of immediately. I never feel passed between a bunch of different departments. They are willing to take the initiative to get it figured out. I’ve even asked someone on support once, ‘How did they find you guys?’ Because everyone’s always so nice.”

Lee recognizes the role of a great web host in keeping an online business afloat. “Some places may offer hosting for a little less money, but a business is built on the hosting — it’s not the place to be worrying about a few dollars, because a lower price doesn’t mean reliability. You will lose sales if your web host doesn’t have the infrastructure or the staff to keep your site up all the time. Your web host is the plot of land your site is on; you want it to be a solid platform.”

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Facing an Uncertain Future

A global pandemic and crumbling economy makes this an uncertain time for everyone — especially for small business owners. Lee and his collaborators had a few new projects up their sleeve for 2020, but any plans for growth have been put on hold for the time being.

“What comes next will have to be informed by how everything plays out in the next months or even year,” Lee says. “What’s next right now is really listening to customers. I’m not trying to plan anything; my sales goals are out the window. This is an opportunity, I feel like, to communicate to our customers that we care about them and that we want to support them and that we’re not going to try to maximize revenue during a time when people are anxious and struggling. This whole situation has been very humbling.”

Lee is grateful to feel like he and his family are in a good place to make it through. He already works from home, in an office lined with guitars and piled high with philosophy books. Living in a farmhouse atop a mountain makes social distancing simple — though the virus has postponed their backyard homesteading plans — and RetroSupply is strong enough to survive potential downturns in revenue.

“With everything that’s happening right now with the coronavirus, we still need to make money to stay in business, and we certainly will try to do that,” Lee says. “But I feel like this is the time to take care of people. I’m not worried about paying my rent; the business has been successful enough that I don’t have to worry about that. I realize I’m super blessed and super lucky.”

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