I promised myself that 2020 was the year to go with the flow. Learn from the craziness and prepare for action. What does that have to do with me writing a blog post that has nothing to do with my business? A lot actually. Every single thing that makes any business with an online presence successful is included in this list. While we all have preferences for what brands/programs/software that we use, the products are all the same. That being said, these are my favorite business essentials and I’m going to tell you why!
This post contains affiliate links. Please see disclosure for more information
Hosting Your Own Website Is essential For Your Success
No matter what you do, you’ll need a website of some sort. Here at Primrose Creations, we use two different options. Our main website is hosted through SiteGround while our online store is hosted through Square. Siteground has flexible plans and payment options (which have been so important these last few months). Have a question or concern about being able to make a payment? Contact customer service! Try to change some code and break your whole website? Send tech support a chat message and they’ll get you back up and running in a few minutes. They have chat support 24/7 which has taken away a lot of the stress of site maintenance.
Having complete integration capabilities with WordPress gives you the ability to get into the nitty-gritty of the backend in your website while the simpler interface at WordPress makes creating content easy. Images and other files uploaded through WordPress are available to view and edit through SiteGround.
Email access through SiteGround could be better. I have yet to figure out a simple way to access my email without having to sign in/click through a bunch of links to see anything. Once the email is accessed, it is pretty straightforward. Beyond email, the backend controls through SiteGround can be somewhat complicated if you’re not familiar with how websites work.
As stated above, we use Square for our eCommerce site. At the time, Square was a simple program to use and so far has been easy to maintain. If at some point, we want to created eCommerce capabilities on our website, WooCommerce is available with complete integration to SiteGround and WordPress. SiteGround also makes it easy to protect yourself and the individuals who visit your website. An SSL certificate is available for website security. Even better? For an additional $1/month, you can have your personal information protected from 3rd party companies and data miners.
I have a love/hate relationship with WordPress. 99% of the time, we have a lovely relationship. Thousands of presets help you customize your website layout to help you accomplish almost anything to make your website unique. Some of these presets are open-sourced and can be incompatible with your website template, other plugins you’re already using, or incompatible with the version of WordPress you are working with. Figuring out how to make some things works together is the main reason we have yet to switch from Square to WooCommerce.
Editing pages and posts with WordPress is pretty straightforward. Media is easy to maneuver through, making files easy to find and add to your content.
Analytics shown in the WordPress dashboard used to be aggregated through Google Analytics, which was super convenient! WordPress has since switched over to Exact Metrics. With Google Analytics, you got the same information inside WordPress that you would see on the Google Analytics website. With Exact Metrics, you only get that information with a paid membership. Rather than paying extra for a service I don’t need, our analytics are viewed through the Google Analytics webpage.
Email Communication: Do You Really Need It?
If you own a business with an online presence, having an email provider will make marketing and communication so much easier. Mailerlite is our program choice because it is easily integrated with most platforms including WordPress, Facebook, Instagram, Shopify, and WooCommerce. At the moment, Mailerlite is not able to be integrated with Square. While easily manageable for a small business, it would make running a larger business somewhat difficult. Not being able to share subscriber information between WordPress and Square is the only negative I have found with Mailerlite.
From the MailerLite dashboard, you can create landing pages, email automation, email sign up forms and pop up ads, and newsletters. Easily dividing and grouping subscribers by interest is simple and makes it easy to track where subscribers are coming from. While Mailerlite can be viewed via a mobile webpage, some features are nonfunctioning.
What Is Monetizing and How Does It Work?
Monetizing our website has been an adventure in trial and error. While we have been adamant about not spamming our visitors with pop-ups and ads that cover content, we still needed to figure out a way to make our website profitable. Even if that meant only covering the cost of our website. There are multiple companies out there helping brands with affiliate networking. Viglink, Skimlinks, Google Adsense, ShareASale, there are so many to choose from. We started working with Skimlinks a few years ago and are continuously trying to figure out the best method for making the program work. At the moment, it’s all been pretty passive with most income coming from Pinterest pins.
If you use the Google Chrome browser, you have access to the Skimlinks extension which allows you to create an affiliate link to just about anything. If it can’t be affiliated, a notification will be shown. Regular emails containing curated brands and products are sent out with which items have the best return on commission at the time, making the passivity of Skimlinks even better!
My favorite way to get free marketing is through a free email blast from Help A Reporter Out (otherwise known as HARO). Reporters, editors, journalists, and bloggers submit requests to HARO when they are in need of content for a project they have. HARO then sends out email blasts with what is needed to its readers, allowing requestors and repliers to collaborate from all over the world. Submitting a response to a reporter, blogger, etc helps them complete a story and you get either a feature or link to your website or social media accounts from within the live post. The best part about HARO is that literally, any professional has an opportunity to earn some free advertising. I had to do some digging to come up with a proposal template that fulfills the submission requirements but is streamlined but I did find some good resources. If you’re interested in our process, shoot us an email!
Content Sharing On Social Media: This Is What Professionals Do
It’s overwhelming when starting out in the on-line world. So many networks and never enough time. Getting into the nitty-gritty of how to be seen by future clients, readers, and customers have made the importance of understanding algorithms so much more important. Without being seen, all your hard work can be for nothing. We previously used a much talked about scheduling program called Tailwind for scheduling social media posts. Yep, that’s right! All those brands that are constantly posting have had their content created and scheduled to post days or even weeks in advance. Taking the time to plan ahead makes all the difference in the time management and day-to-day operations of any business.
I stumbled across a company called Later and almost immediately switched over from Tailwind. The dashboard is more streamlined and makes scheduling posts to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram faster. In my opinion, it’s better than Tailwind and it’s free! The free version does not allow you to schedule hashtags as the first comment. Because #hashtags on Instagram are the heart of the platform. Rather than allowing Later to post automatically, I set a reminder in Later so I can post hashtags as the post goes live. I prefer to post in real-time because #hashtag trends are always changing.
My fingers are crossed that by now everyone knows what Pinterest is. It is 2021, after all. Pinterest is the holy grail of content creation and advertising. Taking the time to search through popular topics can spark a content idea while keeping your finger on the pulse of the industry you work in. Seeing what people are searching for gives you an avenue to create the content they are looking for. Like all other platforms, Pinterest runs on an algorithm. Creating optimal pins for each post/page/offer you have is the best way to get seen keeping in mind that it takes an average of 45 days before new pins are seen in regular rotation. Used in combination with Skimlinks, product pins containing affiliate links are a quick way to create a passive income. Finally, switching over to a business account gives you access to algorithm change notifications, current search trends, and other analytics.
FloralDaily. What’s not to like about FloralDaily? Every day, they send out a newsletter that aggregates news from the horticulture and floriculture industry around the world. Everything you can imagine from growing techniques and pest management to packaging, advertising, or political and economic news. Each day, industry professionals such as florists, farmers, greenhouse managers, and scientists are highlighted for their contributions to the floral industry. Sign up and be a nerd, I won’t judge you!
I Don’t Want To Spend A Ton Of Time On Content Creation. How About You?
With all this fun stuff comes the hard stuff: actually creating the content you worked so hard to prepare for. Since grammar is not my forte, I have surrendered myself to the people at Grammarly. The program is like autocorrect but much much better! This free online writing assistant has an extension available on Google Chrome. No matter what website you are on, Grammarly is there to help you out. Consistent use of the program gives you the advantage of having your personal writing style recognized, giving you appropriate recommendations for your writing. Words can also be added to your personal dictionary, keeping the program from flagging words that are used often. Purchasing an upgraded version of Grammarly gives you access to vocabulary suggestions, checks sentence structure and clarity, and can detect plagiarism.
To make all the things pretty for any website, social media account, etc having access to a graphics program is absolutely essential. Canva is our preferred free graphics program that allows you to create Pinterest images, Instagram ads, stories, posts, flyers, invitations and so much more. The free version of Canva offers enough that a paid version isn’t really necessary. Upgraded memberships include being able to save brand specifics such as colors, images, and fonts. Images can be resized to change the format, eliminating the need to create similar graphics separately. These images are also able to be scheduled for automated publishing to 7 social media platforms under the paid version of Canva.
When I need a specific color based on an image, the open-source program HTML Color Picker has been a lifesaver! Click on the color that you need, and it will translate it into the number code used for almost anything you need to change the color of including font and graphic colors. Knowing where to find stock photography can honestly make or break any company with an online presence. It’s almost impossible to take the exact picture that you need and the best possible moment to make a piece of content work. Rather than stress about it, I turn to Pixabay for all the free licensed materials I need.
Some days, it can be overwhelming trying to maneuver through all the business tasks but having a system of programs makes getting to the finish line attainable. One day at a time, one task at a time. It’s only as difficult as you allow it to be!