Category: SEO

ecommerce

Shopify Review

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One platform where you can sell just about anything to anyone anywhere? That’s Shopify in a nutshell. But once you unpack it, it’s easy to see why it powers over 1 million websites and manages billions in sales. 

Gone are the days when you had to figure out how to start an ecommerce site from scratch. With Shopify, having a virtual storefront up and running is possible in a matter of minutes. It offers you plenty of marketing tools to make your store a success from the start. 

Whether you’re a small business starting up or you’re already raking in millions in sales, Shopify is an extremely powerful ecommerce website builder that helps your online business empire run smoothly, capture sales, and grow. 

Shopify Compared to The Best Ecommerce Platforms

So what sets Shopify apart from other ecommerce platforms out there? To put it simply, it does a great job of managing all the moving parts of an ecommerce business by being accessible, versatile, and easy to use. While there are other ecommerce platforms out there like Wix or Bigcommerce, they tend to have their limits with what you can and can’t do. 

Drag-and-drop builders, customer analytics, a built-in payment processing system, 24/7 support, and ready-made templates are only the tip of the iceberg when you really look into everything Shopify has to offer. But you shouldn’t just take my word for it. 

See all of our top picks to see how each ecommerce platform stacks up to ensure you’re making the best decision for your online business. 

Who is Shopify Best For?

Shopify is for anyone that wants to easily start an ecommerce store and drive online sales. Because of its all-in-one nature, it isn’t just for one niche or one type of store, which is good news for you. 

Shopify: The Pros and Cons

While Shopify rules in the ecommerce platform space, it might not always mean it’s the best platform for you. As with every other ecommerce platform, there are pros and cons to consider. 

Pros

Built-in payment processor: With Shopify, you don’t have to worry about using a third-party payment processor. It’s all built-in for you and ready to accept payments once you’ve listed your products and hit the publish button. 

With their payment processor, you can accept all major credit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, Amazon Pay, and even cryptocurrency. This means one less thing to actively manage in your store and increased trust with your customers. 

The ability to scale: With Shopify, you don’t have to jump ship once you see your store start to grow in traffic and sales. It’s equipped to support your store whether you’re making three or three million sales a day. 

Plenty of guides and documentation: Shopify does an excellent job at providing its merchants with plenty of how-to guides, theme documentation, and an active Shopify Community help forum with over 7,000 members where you can have all your Shopify questions answered.  

Accepts different types of currency: If you use its built-in Shopify Payments gateway, you can easily start selling in multiple currencies by adding a currency selector to your theme. If international customers want to see how much an item is in their currency, they can easily find out by choosing the appropriate currency. 

Effective Inventory system: With Shopify, you can get an accurate handle of your inventory by tracking the number of items on hand as they sell, adjusting inventory counts, and looking at inventory history. 

Free and paid apps and themes: Once you start a store with Shopify, a world of over 4,000 apps and over 100 store themes is at your fingertips. And plenty of them are free too, which is convenient if you’re starting on a shoestring budget. 

Drag-and-drop theme builder: The pinnacle of “easy” as far as building an online store is concerned is a drag-and-drop builder, which you can use with Shopify to make sure your store looks exactly how you want it to–without drowning in endless code. 

Stellar customer support: Once you start a store with Shopify, you can be sure its customer support is unmatched in terms of response times— especially its 24/7 chat support. It’s personally gotten me out of trouble in a matter of minutes more times than I can count. 

SEO-friendly: With Shopify, your products have a real chance of ranking in search engines for keywords once you’ve optimized your products and pages. It makes this easy by providing plenty of SEO-friendly features like setting alt descriptions for images, meta descriptions, and integrating SEO apps for advanced optimization. 

Cons

Higher price for in-depth analytics: With Shopify’s beginner plan you get access to a limited scope of store analytics. To access in-depth analytics that can move the needle in terms of sales strategy, you’ll have to pay for a more expensive plan.

Transaction fees for third-party payments: With Shopify, you can easily accept payment without trouble through their Shopify Payments gateway. But if you choose to go through a third party to collect a payment, Shopify does charge you fees, starting at 0.5 percent. This can eat at your profit margins. 

Limited blogging tools: There’s no question Shopify is the place to sell your goods, but it is still limited as a blogging platform since it only offers you the basic blogging tools to publish content. If content marketing is a primary way you bring in sales and traffic, this is an important con to consider. 

Shopify Pricing

Shopify has your standard three price points for small to medium businesses that want access to a number of different store features. But it doesn’t stop there. 

It also offers a $9 a month “lite” plan as well as a more powerful Shopify Plus plan that starts at $2,000 a month for big businesses that handle high sales volumes. 

  • Basic Shopify – $29 a month
  • Shopify – $79 a month
  • Advanced Shopify – $299 a month

Shopify’s basic tier at $29 a month offers plenty of dashboard analytics, fulfillment features, and product listing options. It’s the best tier for new businesses that are getting their start and still in the midst of figuring out sales and branding.

This tier offers unlimited product listing and two admin accounts.

When you’re ready for the Shopify tier at $79 a month, you’ll get access to five admin accounts, a 2.6% + 30¢ credit card fee rate, and you can sell in up to two languages.

Finally, you have the Advanced Shopify option at $299 a month. This is a tier you’ll only want to sign up for once you need advanced features that’ll help you scale your business and you’ve devised a proven sales strategy with sustained sales month over month. You get a 2.4% + 30¢ online credit card rate, as well as the ability to sell in up to five languages. 

Keep in mind that each tier comes with a free SSL certificate, discount codes, unlimited products, 24/7 support, additional sales channels like eBay, Amazon, Instagram, and Walmart, a full dashboard where you’ll get access to customize all your store settings, and a drag-and-drop theme builder. Before you make any real decisions, I recommend you check out their plan features page for a complete list of features for each tier. 

Shopify Lite – $9 a month

You don’t have or want a full-blown store, but still sell products or services on your own site and around the web? Just use the Shopify Lite plan as a lightweight option to cover all your bases.

The beauty of the Shopify Lite plan is in how easy it is to add buy buttons to any site you want. You can accept credit cards anywhere— both online and in-person with their POS app. Through the Shopify dashboard, you can create and send invoices as well as custom orders. Whatever you updated through your dashboard gets updated everywhere else you’ve set up points of sale online. 

And of course, you’ll also have access to their 24/7 support through email or live chat. The lite plan is an excellent option for a lighter store without all the hassle. Not to mention it’s also incredibly affordable at just $9 a month. 

Shopify Plus – $2,000 a month

The Shopify plus solution is trusted by more than 7,000 giants including Rebecca Minkoff, Allbirds, Rothy’s, Good American, and Heinz as the best and most cost-effective solution for their ecommerce needs.

The Shopify Plus plan is designed to support smaller close-knit teams as they man millions in sales all from one place: their Shopify dashboard. This means where you once needed 300 people to run your store, now you only need 30. Also, if you’re re-platforming to Shopify, instead of taking the traditional 6-8 months to transfer the bulk of your store, with Shopify that time gets cut in half.

This may sound like an exaggeration, but it’s not–especially when you consider some of this plan’s features. 

Here are some of Shopify Plus’ best and most powerful features:

  • 60% faster checkouts and 18 percent higher conversion rates
  • Built-in AR, video, and 3D media for each of your product pages
  • Multiple stores, languages, and currencies
  • Advanced discounting and shipping rates
  • 99.99% uptime so you never miss out on sales and traffic
  • Avalara tax automation for automated up to date tax calculations
  • Plenty of automations and integrations at your fingertips

You can forget legacy enterprise software when Shopify offers all the enterprise power you need to sell at scale successfully.

Shopify Offerings

So far we’ve gone through the exhaustive list of features Shopify offers you to successfully host, stock, and run an online store. But everything I’ve highlighted so far is only the beginning.

Shopify offers a wide variety of additional tools— some free and some paid— that push you along your journey to ecommerce success. 

Here’s a quick list of additional Shopify tools you’ll have access to when you host a store on their platform:

  • Facebook ad integration – perfect for driving paid traffic to your site
  • Google ad integration – perfect for PPC campaigns for paid Google traffic
  • Shopify ping apps – A free messaging app to reach more customers and chat with your team
  • Business name generator – Perfect if you’re clueless about your store name and need ideas
  • Stock photography – Access thousands of free stock photos for your storefront
  • Themes – tons of options both free and paid as well as customizable 

Shopify Email

Did you know you can create email campaigns right on Shopify? Shopify Email gives you all the tools to track and create beautiful and captivating ecommerce campaigns that drive sales and keep your core customers engaged.

You can pick from a list of ready-for-you designs and get email analytics straight to your Shopify dashboard. You can add your logo and store colors for a more personalized email experience as well as segment the people on your list for more specific campaigns.

The Shopify Email feature is accessible on every Shopify plan. You get a monthly send limit of 2,500 free emails, then $1 for every 1,000 additional emails sent. Not bad at all if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of integrating a third-party email provider with your store that can end up costing you more in the long run.   

Custom Domains

You can easily buy a custom domain with Shopify if you don’t want to buy it through a third party. Domain names through Shopify start at $14 a year and automatically renew each year. 

This is a great option if you don’t want the name “.myshopify.com” as part of your domain name. 

POS Equipment

The perks of Shopify don’t end in the online world. With their point-of-sale option, you can connect POS software, hardware, and Shopify’s payment system to sell in person at popups, retail events, and more.

Once you set up POS in your online store, you can purchase Shopify card reader and payment equipment to instantly start selling.

Their most popular POS equipment for sale includes

  • The tap and chip card reader – $49
  • The dock for your tap and chip card reader – $39
  • The Shopify retail stand for iPads – $149
  • The Shopify tap and chip case – $19

But it doesn’t stop there. Shopify’s selection of POS equipment goes beyond the basics to ensure you have everything you need to sell in person without any payment issues. It’s because of well-thought-out integrated features like these that Shopify takes the crown as one of if not the most prominent and reliable ecommerce platforms.

The Best Ecommerce Platforms

Choosing the best ecommerce platform to create your store and drive sales can be overwhelming. Make sure you look through my top list of ecommerce platform recommendations to be sure you’ll have all the tools and features you need. 

  1. Wix – Best for flexibility and customization
  2. Squarespace – Best ecommerce platform for creatives
  3. BigCommerce – Best for medium to large stores
  4. Shopify – Best all-in-one ecommerce platform
  5. WooCommerce – Best for WordPress websites
  6. OpenCart – Best for selling digital products 
  7. Ecwid – Best for integrating with your current platform

All in all, Shopify offers a reliable ecommerce platform with the tools and features to ensure you’re running a smooth operation whether you’re an up-and-coming store or you need to manage millions in sales. Because of how easy it is to use, along with the tools it provides and its price points Shopify comes in as one of my top recommendations for starting a store in any niche.

Try Shopify free for 14-days and get started building your store.

The post Shopify Review appeared first on Neil Patel.

Entrepreneurship

A2 Hosting Review

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

For reliable hosting that focuses on speed, A2 Hosting provides plenty of options to get your site up and running.

If you’re familiar with SEO and the ranking factors Google uses to decide where your site shows up in search results, you know speed is one major factor in securing higher rankings and increasing traffic and revenue.

This is one big way A2 differentiates itself from other standard web hosting options–it puts speed at the forefront of all its services.

A2 Compared to The Best Shared Hosting Companies

A 99.98% uptime guarantee, free automated backups, and free site migration are only some of the features that set A2 apart as far as reliable web hosting goes. As one of the oldest providers on the market, it’s a solid option for both new and veteran websites. WordPress users will especially love A2, as it has pricing packages specifically tailored for WordPress sites. 

Before you make any solid decisions for a hosting provider, it’s always a good idea to know what your options are. I spent hours making sure the top list page contained only the best web hosting services according to a wide variety of needs and features. To see the full rundown, check out that post to see all the top picks.

Who is A2 Best For?

It’s simple. Any website that is designed to drive sales and conversions can benefit from a hosting service like A2. I’ve mentioned it before, but I don’t get tired of saying speed is the name of the game if you want to capture new leads, retain existing customers, keep your Google rankings, and maintain a great brand reputation. 

Now, there isn’t a web host on the planet that doesn’t come with a set of pros and cons. But one thing’s for sure: No website visitor wants to land on a website that takes forever to load. They’ll bounce right off your site faster than you can say web hosting. 

While you can try to install cache plugins that slow down your site and claim to improve your website speed, a host like A2 that’s built with a focus on speed can be a better place to start. 

A2: The Pros and Cons

Pros

Exclusive web servers: Global web servers that are exclusive to A2 give you a leg up in the speed game with speeds that can be up to 20 times faster than the competition. 

24/7 live chat and support: A 24/7 live support feature is valuable if your site runs into any kind of technical issues or downtime. A2 has specialists standing by ready to walk you through any troubleshooting issues. 

Free site migration: If you need to migrate your site to A2 from a previous web host they help you get the job done for free. Unlike other providers, there are no extra fees necessary. 

Compatible with a variety of platforms: A2 Hosting works great with a number of CMS solutions like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, and OpenCart. You can one-click install them once you sign up. 

Free SSL certification: SSL certification is essential for site security and to ensure your visitors trust your site enough to keep coming back. Thankfully A2 offers this feature for free. 

24/7 malware scanning and monitoring: You can sleep soundly at night knowing A2 is ready to alert you on any attempts at your site with their 24/7 monitoring feature, which other hosting services might not provide.  

Free Cloudflare CDN: To keep adding to their speed features, A2 provides you with a free Cloudflare CDN for any hosting package you choose for added speed and loading times. 

Carbon-neutral hosting: As the world evolves, A2 evolves with it through its carbon-neutral hosting option. A2 supports carbon-neutral hosting, meaning all of their servers are deemed ‘carbon-neutral’ by purchasing carbon offsets. With A2, you can be sure you’re hosting your site without adding to your carbon footprint. 

Can handle websites of all sizes: If you’re planning on growing your website traffic, it doesn’t matter if you’re starting out with a website from scratch or you’re a big business reeling in plenty of traffic and sales, A2 can handle your site’s growth with a wide variety of hosting packages that are all geared for speed.  

Cons

Doesn’t provide a free domain: While this isn’t a requirement for any hosting service to work properly, it’s nice to have the option to register a free domain like other hosting services do, especially if you’re working with a shoestring budget. 

Increased renewal fees: For the most part, increased renewal rates can be expected from just about any hosting provider, but it’s still worth mentioning if you’re thinking and planning long term. Upon renewal, A2’s hosting packages do increase in price. 

A2 Pricing

A2 doesn’t only differentiate itself as a speedy host. They also have a ton—and I mean a ton—of web hosting options from which you can take your pick.

To start, their general hosting services fall into eight distinct categories and subcategories:

  • Shared hosting – best for hosting personal sites and blogs
  • Managed WordPress hosting – perfect for WordPress sites
  • Managed VPS hosting – has more power than shared hosting
  • Unmanaged VPS hosting – Unmanaged VPS for developers
  • Reseller hosting – best for hosting your own customers
  • Dedicated hosting (unmanaged servers) – best for developers
  • Dedicated hosting (core servers) – managed server with root access
  • Dedicated hosting (managed servers) – managed server with no root access

You can definitely start with one of their base options for each category according to your site needs. Especially if you’re a startup on a budget. 

But if you want to take it a step further or want additional features, you can choose a more specific plan within the category of your choice. 

Here’s how their most affordable plans stack up:

Shared Hosting

  • Startup – $2.99 monthly paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Drive – $4.99 monthly paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Turbo Boost – $9.99 monthly paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Turbo Max – $14.99 monthly paid upfront for a three-year plan

Shared hosting works best for small websites that are just getting their start and beginning to see traffic. As you can see, their cheapest plan adds up to only $107 plus some change for a reliable three-year hosting plan. 

Beginner deals like this compete with offers from the likes of Bluehost who offer similar prices but without the speed guarantee, which is a big plus on a shared hosting plan.

As you go up the price ladder, you can host an unlimited number of sites, get unlimited storage, and within the last two tiers, you’ll get a 20X turbo boost for faster site speeds. 

Note that these pricing tiers are the exact same for a Shared WordPress Hosting plan. 

Managed WordPress Hosting

  • 1 site – $12.99 a month paid upfront for three years
  • 3 site – $22.99 a month paid upfront for three years
  • Unlimited – $43.99 a month paid upfront for three years

Managed WordPress hosting is a step up from shared hosting with enhanced WordPress features that ensure security and speed. The biggest difference between the three different options you get within this category is the number of sites you need to manage and the amount of storage you need. It’s as simple as choosing the tier that fits your hosting needs. Thankfully, they all come with the 20X faster turbo speed feature. 

Managed VPS Hosting

  • Lift 8 – $46.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Lift 16 – $57.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Mach 8 – $59.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Mach 16 – $89.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Mach 32 – $99.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan

When you start getting into managed VPS hosting territory, you start looking at increased RAM capabilities and storage capacity. It’s a great option right before you’re ready to step into a dedicated server plan. I recommend you see their pricing page for a full look at what each plan offers. 

Unmanaged VPS Hosting

  • Runway 2 – $7.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Runway 4 – $9.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Supersonic 8 – $34.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Supersonic 16 – $54.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Supersonic 32 – $74.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan

An unmanaged VPS plan ensures your site runs at fast speeds with additional RAM, storage, and root access. Needless to say, this VPS plan is definitely developer-friendly. 

Reseller hosting

  • Kickstart – $18.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Launch – $24.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Grow – $34.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Scale – $44.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan
  • Turbo Kickstart – $29.99 a month paid upfront for a three-year plan

With reseller hosting you get additional SSD storage, WebHost manager, cPanel, Free Blesta billing system, free SSL certificate, around the block guru support, and free website migration too. The more storage and transfer GB you need the more you’ll have to pay monthly. 

Dedicated Hosting (Unmanaged Servers)

  • Sprint – $99.59 monthly
  • Exceed – $165.99 monthly
  • Mach – $248.99 monthly

As you can see, the more storage, RAM, or transfer TB you need the more you’ll have to pay monthly. Dedicated hosting with unmanaged servers is a great option for developers wanting more control. As with any other plan A2 Hosting offers, each tier also includes super fast site loading speeds. 

Dedicated Hosting (Core Servers)

  • Sprint – $141.09 monthly
  • Exceed – $207.49 monthly
  • Mach – $290.49 monthly

Much like the previous tier category above, the more RAM, storage, and Transfer TB you need, the more you’ll need to pay monthly. With a dedicated hosting plan with core servers and root access, you also get all the HostGuard management features. This means:

  • Daily automatic and rebootless updates
  • Managed installs and upgrades of core software
  • Smart system notifications
  • 99.9% uptime commitment
  • Security patches

Dedicated Hosting (Managed Servers)

  • Sprint – $141.09 monthly
  • Exceed – $207.49 monthly
  • Mach – $290.49 monthly

Finally, if you’re running a site that simply can’t afford any downtime and that needs the best A2 Hosting offers, you’ll want to look at their managed dedicated server solutions. But you’ll have to be willing to pay the price tag to get access to perks like lightning-fast speeds, and a dedicated crew you’ll jump at the sight of any hosting issues no matter the time of day. 

Their most affordable managed dedicated server solutions start at $141.09 a month. You can always try them for 30 days to experience their features first hand. If you’re not happy with A2 Hosting’s performance, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee for all their hosting plans. 

A2 Hosting Offerings

At this point, you’ve learned about A2 Hosting’s dedication to speed, uptime, customer support, and a variety of hosting options you can choose from.

However, they do offer additional tools and solutions. You can shop for your preferred domain directly through them and you can also explore their highly specific additional hosting solutions. Here’s what I mean:

Domain

With A2 Hosting you’re definitely going to get the speed and the uptime but you can’t forget about your domain. You can either register a new domain or transfer an existing one to get your site up and running.

Their most popular extensions breakdown as follows:

  • .biz – $17.45
  • .com – $14.95
  • .io – $49.95
  • .net – $14.95
  • .org – $14.95

While you might not get the cheapest deals on domains directly through A2 Hosting, it’s definitely an option that’s there for you if you don’t feel like going through the hassle of transferring one. 

Additional hosting solutions

Yes, you’ve read that right. While we went over plenty of hosting plans and packages earlier, A2 Hosting lets you dig deeper into a seemingly endless rabbit hole of software and hosting solution combinations according to even more specific website needs.

Once you pick the appropriate solution for you, A2 Hosting lines up a combination of the best hosting options and software available to meet your specific needs. 

For instance, if I’m going to be running a classified ad site through them, once I click on that option I’m greeted with a list of popular classified ad software that’s highly compatible with A2 hosting services. I’m also given a comprehensive list of the best web hosting plans perfect for classified ad sites. 

This is an extremely useful feature if you’re running a site with more detailed needs and want to tackle them head-on. Features like these are yet another reason why A2 stands out as a powerful hosting solution for a wide variety of sites in a wide variety of niches. 

The Best Shared Hosting Companies

Don’t forget to read through our in-depth review of the best shared hosting companies. See all of our top picks to make sure you’re making the best choice possible. 

  • Hostinger – The best cheap shared hosting plans
  • Bluehost – The best shared hosting for WordPress
  • A2 Hosting – The best hosting company for speed
  • DreamHost – The best shared hosting features
  • GreenGeeks – Best eco-friendly hosting
  • TMDHosting – The best fully-managed plans

Without question, A2 Hosting is one of the fastest providers I have experience with. It provides around-the-clock support, exclusive global servers, and works great with a number of CMS solutions. What’s more, A2 Hosting even goes out of its way to lessen its carbon footprint. As a hosting provider that’s been around for as long as WordPress has, it stands solidly in our list of top picks as one of the best web host solutions out there. 

The post A2 Hosting Review appeared first on Neil Patel.

Content Marketing

How to Use Data Visualization in Your Content to…

Have you heard of data visualization? Even if you don’t know the term, you’ve probably seen some examples.

Data visualization refers to graphical images that represent and explain data trends or other numerical information, such as charts, maps, scatter plots, or graphs.

You can use data visualization in articles or on web pages to make numbers and data easily digestible to the reader. Especially when you are trying to distill down complex topics to convert more readers, data can add value and help you make your case.

The Benefits of Data Visualization

Visuals are a powerful addition to your articles and presentations.

Our brains process images at a rapid pace, according to an MIT study. Including visuals in your article not only breaks up the text and gives your reader something else to look at, but also may help them process the information more quickly.

Think about it: we’ve been communicating visually from the cave painting days. Data visualization just takes image communication to the next level, integrating stats and data into compelling visuals that your brain can absorb faster than just scanning numbers.

Plus, it’s more than just laying out the numbers. Data visualization is about presenting data in a very specific way to back up your claims or illustrate your point. It’s more than just a table of statistics the reader has to work through to figure out for themselves.

Numbers can often be the “proof” you need to convince your reader to take the next step or to make a purchase, but many people don’t want to take the time to read through all the data.

According to the Nielsen Norman Group, people don’t read word-for-word online, going back to the internet’s earliest days. Instead, they scan, looking for stand-out headlines and images that grab them. Data visualization gives you that opportunity to capture their interest and get important stats in front of their eyes.

Examples of Data Visualization

Are you inspired to start creating data visualization images for your content, or are you still needing some examples? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking.

1. USA Today Housing Bubble Graphic

Using an interactive map, USA Today created this graphic to help readers understand the data behind current housing sales trends. The simple color palette makes it visually appealing, and the ability to scroll over each state to learn more means readers may spend more time on the page, interacting with the data.

USA Today example of data visualization

2. CNBC Job Change Graph

This visual from CNBC is an example of using a bar graph in a visually compelling way. At a quick glance, you can see what’s growing and decreasing. As you look closer, you can check out more detail about the numbers and specifics.

CNBC example of data visualization

3. NY Times Nutrition Scatter Plot

Scatter plots can get complex, which is why this graphic from the NY Times uses images to help make the point. It also explains the XY axes, so readers understand what they’re looking at.

Data Visualization - NY Times nutrition scatter plot

Types of Data Visualization

When it comes to creating unique images, the only limit is your imagination, but here are a few common types to get you started.

Bar Graphs

Bar graphs are a simple option. Think back to your school days and science projects. Bar graphs can be vertical or horizontal, with each bar representing the values of each category.

Bar graphs can represent any set of numbers you need to compare side-by-side, and you can use colors to reflect different categories. For example, you could compare salaries for different jobs, prices for different products, or populations of different groups.

example bar graph for data visualization

Pie Charts

Pie charts consist of circles representing 100% of something, broken into “slices” of ratios or percentages.

They are a great way to illustrate how various categories compare to their larger context. For instance, you can show how many people of a certain group have different behaviors, habits, or preferences.

Data visualization pie chart

Tables

While not always the most visually compelling, tables can allow you to provide multiple data points or categories to help people understand the relationships among items.

On a table, you can lay out in rows the main categories you’re comparing. Along each column, you can include as many different topics as you need to.

Tables are simple and useful but can easily get cluttered. Make sure to highlight the sections that need your attention and use colors to make things stand out. Keep everything lined up and clear to make it easily scannable for your readers.

Data visualization using a table

Infographics

A power horse of online images, infographics can mean almost anything. However, an infographic typically acts as a curated collection of charts, graphs, icons, and short text to share high-level information about a topic or tell a narrative.

They are usually vertically designed, with strong headlines and numbers. Its power comes in combining various elements to tell a story. Infographics are great for an overview, such as a brief history behind a topic or a quick lesson.

Infograph example of data visualization

GIFs

What’s more visual than a GIF? Functioning as a quick video, a GIF can allow you to show growth, movement, regression, or progress. GIFs often involve an animated graph or chart that shows demographics or change over time.

Gif example of data visualization

Maps

When the information you present is demographically or locally focused, maps can help tell that story visually. You can connect readers with information relating to specific areas or groups of people in those locations.

Color-coding different areas of your maps can give your readers a quick visual of exactly which areas relate to which topics in your content. For instance, you can shade areas red or blue depending on how that region voted on a particular topic or election.

map example of data visualization

Heat Maps

A heat map can show areas of concentration or intensity. You can use this for actual temperatures, such as climate or record temperatures in certain areas, or you could use it for proverbial heat, showing intensity or even popularity.

Sometimes heat maps illustrate population density, for instance, or the behavior of users on a website, such as how often they interact with a certain area.

example heat map for data visualization

Scatter Plots

A scatter plot is a type of graph that shows the correlation or relationship between two topics on a horizontal and vertical axis, with dots scattered throughout to represent examples of that relationship.

You can draw a line through the area where the dots are concentrated to see trends. Your reader can see that as one factor changes, such as increases or heats up, the other factor tends to respond in some way.

scatter plot example of data visualization

Pair Up Simple Data Visualization Types

The above are just a few of the simple elements you can use to illustrate your data. The options are almost innumerable. Just about any kind of chart, graph, or map can be employed.

However, some of the best data visualizations integrate multiple types or pair up more than one element. For instance, you can use a series of pie charts to show how trends have changed over time.

Sometimes, matching up multiple elements can illustrate your point more fully or allow you to describe various points of your narrative better. You could even use a chart within a chart or lay them out in an infographic style to tell a story.

Make Data Visualizations Interactive

To make your data visualization work hard for you, you may want to consider interactive options.

Interactivity allows readers to scroll over or click on various parts of your charts or graphics to learn more about each section. Maybe each bar on your graph or each area on your map has more specific information that your viewers can read.

This not only provides more powerful data points to your image, but it also allows it to be a more relevant and customizable experience for more users.

Data Visualization Tools

You can create data visualization images for your content from scratch using design software or an online option like Canva. However, data visualization tools can give you a leg up by allowing you to create truly stand-out projects.

These tools can take the guesswork out of the process and let you focus on plugging in the data and cranking out designs that reflect your brand and convey your message.

The great thing about these tools is that they are made for the casual creator. You don’t need to be a developer or coder to get into making great charts or graphs. Here are a few of the plug-and-play options that can get your idea off the ground.

Flourish

Flourish advertises an easy option for creating and sharing data visualization. You can upload spreadsheets directly to the platform or create your images from scratch. It has a number of animated or interactive templates, which you can update with your brand graphics and elements.

Flourish has a free option that allows you to explore and create public data visualization. If you want to interact with your team or create private projects, it offers a few levels of paid options.

Datawrapper

Datawrapper promises to be easy to use, with no coding experience required. It provides several intuitive options, with tools such as a color-blind check that remind you of colors that are color-blind friendly.

With a variety of defaults in its templates, Datawrapper brings the details of each data visualization that newbies may not have thought through.

Infogram

This tool allows you to create charts and graphs that have the animation and customization you need to wow your audience. You can also use Infogram’s drag-and-drop feature to drag the images around and combine elements into a single, highly-effective visual.

Tracking the Success of Your Data Visualization Elements

The time and effort it takes to create data visualization and work it into your content can pay off if it helps drive people to your goals, like increasing readerships or leads. However, you’ll only know if they’re successful if you track the metrics.

Consider the Big Picture

As you start incorporating data visualization into your content, one of the easiest ways to track their success is to see how well your content is doing. The most basic questions to ask are: is the content with data visualization more popular? Do those pieces get more readers and more shares?

Dive Into the Data

One way to get a little geeky with your data is to set up a heat map tool, such as Hotjar. This can give you more data about how people behave on your page, such as how and where they scroll or click. This is especially useful for a landing page where you’re trying to convert people to sales.

Help Them Act

The only way to know if your data visualization is actually converting is to give readers a way to be converted. Once they have been convinced by the data you are sharing, what do you want them to do next? Make sure you keep clear CTAs near the data visualization. Clicks or email sign-ups can help you track the effectiveness of that image.

Conclusion

Data visualization can help you drive readership and more leads by engaging with them from the start. People come back to your online hub when they find quality content there. They’re also more likely to share your content with others when they find it interesting and engaging.

Data visualization can help you take complex or dry concepts and make them more compelling, helping drive home your point and increase sales along the way.

If it feels daunting to create and manage your data visualization elements, we are here to help out. We also offer services like SEO, content marketing, and paid media.

What kind of data visualization are you going to use in your content?

The post How to Use Data Visualization in Your Content to Increase Readers and Leads appeared first on Neil Patel.

SEO

How to Resolve Duplicate Content

Posted by meghanpahinui

What is duplicate content, and why is it a concern for your website? Better yet, how can you find it and fix it?

In this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday, Moz Learn Team specialist, Meghan, walks through some handy (and hunger-inducing) analogies to help you answer these questions! 

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Meghan, and I’m part of the Learn Team here at Moz. Today we’re going to talk a bit about duplicate content. 

So why are we talking about duplicate content?

Well, this is a pretty common issue, and it can often be a bit confusing. What is it? How is it determined? Why are certain pages on my site being flagged as duplicates of one another? And most importantly, how do I resolve it if I find that this is something that I want to tackle on my site? 

What is duplicate content?

So first off, what is duplicate content?

Essentially, duplicate content is content that appears in more than one place on the Internet. But this may not be as cut and dry as it seems. Content that is too similar, even if it isn’t identical, may be considered duplicates of one another. 

When thinking about duplicate content, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about what human visitors see when they go to your site and compare two pages. It’s also about what search engines and crawlers see when they access those pages. Since they can’t see the rendered page, they typically go off of the source code of the page, and if that code is too similar, the crawler may think that it’s looking at two versions of the same page. 

Imagine that you go to a bakery and there are two cupcakes in front of you that look almost identical. They don’t have any signs. How do you know which one you want? That’s what happens when a search engine encounters two pages that are too similar. 

This confusion between pieces of content can lead to things like ranking issues, because search engines may not be able to figure out which page they should rank or they may rank the incorrect page. Within the Moz tools, we have a 90% threshold for duplicate content, which means that any pages with code that is at least 90% the same will be flagged as duplicates of one another.

Solutions

So now that we’ve briefly covered what duplicate content is, what do we do about it? There are a few different ways that you can resolve duplicate content. 

301 redirects

First is the option to implement 301 redirects. This option would be similar to having a VHS copy of a movie, which maybe isn’t so relevant anymore.

So you want to be sure to provide folks with the digital version that’s streaming online. On your site, you can redirect older versions of pages to new, updated versions. This is relevant for issues with subdomain or protocol changes as well as content updates where you no longer want people to be able to access that older content.

Rel=canonicals

Next is the option to implement rel=canonicals on your page. Say you’re at a bake sale and you have two types of cookies with you, sugar and chocolate chip. You consider your sugar cookies to be top-notch. So when folks ask you which one they should try, you point them to the sugar cookies even though they still have the option to try the chocolate chip.

On your site, this would be similar to having two items for sale that are different colors. You want human visitors to be able to see and access both colors, but you would use a canonical tag to tell crawlers which one is the more relevant page to rank. 

Meta noindex

You also have the option to mark pages as meta noindex.

For example, you may have two editions of your favorite book. You’re going to read and reference that second edition because it’s the newest and most relevant. But you still want to be able to read and access edition one should you need to. Meta noindex tags tell the crawler that they can still crawl that duplicate page, but they shouldn’t include it in their index. This can help with duplicate content issues due to things like pagination. 

Add content

But what if you have two pages that really aren’t duplicates of one another? They are about different topics, and they should be treated as separate pieces of content. Well, in this case, you may opt to add more content to each of these pages so it’s less confusing to the crawler.

This would allow them to stand out from one another, and it would be similar to say adding sprinkles and a cherry to one cupcake and maybe a different color frosting to the other. 

Use Moz Pro to help identify and resolve duplicate content

If you ever need help identifying which pages on your site may be considered duplicates of one another, Moz Pro Site Crawl and On-Demand Crawl can help.

Within both of these tools, we’ll flag which pages are considered duplicates of one another, and you can even export that data to CSV so you can analyze it outside of the tool. Just a little pro tip here. In the CSV export of that data, the duplicate content group will tell you which pages are considered duplicates of one another.

So any pages with the same duplicate content group number are part of the same group of duplicate pages. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the ways you can resolve duplicate content, but I do hope that it helps to point you in the right direction when it comes to tackling this issue. If you’re interested in learning more about SEO fundamentals and strategy, be sure to check out the SEO Essentials Certification that’s offered through the Moz Academy.

Thanks for watching.

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Entrepreneurship

Best WordPress Popup Plugins

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

WordPress popup plugins are one of the best ways to maximize your site’s effectiveness. 

Easy to use and implement, popups help to enhance your messaging and convert leads. You can use them in many ways, including to upsell products, drive newsletter signups, and more.

A WordPress popup plugin can help to increase your return on the investment you’ve made in your website, your branding, and your products or services. 

I’ll show you the best WordPress popup plugins that you should consider, as well as my methodology for choosing which is right for your needs. 

#1 – Ninja Popups — The Best For Customization

Ninja Popups was released in 2012 and has been regularly updated with features and capabilities, including new popup templates and integrations with the most popular current mailing systems. The result is a plugin that puts you in control of all popup creation and performance elements. 

Fully compatible with WordPress and WooCommerce, Ninja Popups boasts an intuitive drag-and-drop theme builder, so you can custom-build your theme from scratch. If you want to save time, you can start with the more than 65 popup theme templates, then customize everything from colors to button sizes. The themes are responsive, so you don’t have to worry about leads falling off because of poor mobile performance.

I always want to be able to analyze data about how my site and popups are performing, and Ninja Popups delivers that detailed analysis. Ninja Popups allows for easy A/B testing, a must-have when you’re experimenting with its customization options. It also provides analytics of popup views and conversion, so you can test, refine, and test your popups again. 

Page-level targeting further maximizes the effectiveness of your popups. Integrations with the top email marketing platforms including MailChimp, Constant Contact, Freshmail, and HubSpot save you time and make this plugin an integral part of your sales funnel.

Ninja Popups also integrates with social networks, including: 

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Popups are optimized for search engines for faster script loading and optimized graphics. Ninja Popups can enhance your site without bogging down its load time. 

A regular license starts at $24 and includes six months of support. Extra opt-in bar, widget, and theme packs are available if you’re looking for even more features. Buy Ninja Popups.

#2 – Green Popups — Best Time-Saver

Green Popups, formerly Layered Popups, gives you the versatility to custom-make a multi-layered animated popup with easy drag-and-drop functionality. And if the animation isn’t enough to grab users’ attention, the more than 1,000 fonts you can choose from will do the trick. 

If you’re short on time, the plugin is also equipped with more than 200 templates so you can get going quickly. 

You can choose from many popup triggers, including: 

  • Website load
  • Scrolling
  • Website exiting
  • Inactivity
  • Adblocker use
  • Clicking on certain links

With so many variables, including the ability to design your own popups, A/B testing is important. One of my favorite features is the fact that Green Popups allows for an unlimited number of A/B campaigns. These campaigns provide valuable statistics on popup performance, so you can test, refine, and choose the popup that’s right for your audience and goals. 

Green Popups is also compatible with WooCommerce. It integrates with ConvertKit, Jetpack, Mailchimp, HubSpot, and more to create a streamlined process, automatically sending user submission information right to your CRM or newsletter service. 

It also integrates with payment providers and gateways including PayPal, Stripe, and Razorpay. As users complete subscription or purchase popups, they’ll be routed to your payment provider of choice to complete payments. This creates an ideal user experience and can reduce abandoned cart rates.

Green Popups is optimized for PageSpeed Insights, keeping your loading speeds fast for SEO benefits. 

A regular license starts at $21 and comes with six months of support. Extended licenses are $105. This plugin’s time-saving capabilities make these subscription prices an excellent value. Buy Green Popups.

#3 – Optinly — Best for Businesses on a Budget

Optinly helps businesses and marketers to capture leads and drive sales. For all of the features and functionality this plugin offers, it’s impressively affordable, and even the free version offers comprehensive options. 

Optinly offers an array of popup forms and templates, including: 

  • Fullscreen overlays
  • Spin the wheel popups
  • Floating bars and sidebars
  • Exit-intent popups
  • Notification popups

Thanks to the integrated popup builder, you can customize all of the plugin’s popup templates. Nearly everything is editable, including the text, font, font color, and background image. You can also edit the CTA button text, color, and size to test and determine what’s most effective for your audience. 

Advanced triggers, including time-based and exit triggers, allow you to customize how and when your popups are displayed. 

Optinly also includes many targeting options, including page-based targeting and device-based targeting. You can also target popups based on user interactions, and add multiple conditions to popups for increased lead conversion.

This plugin integrates with email marketing service providers, including HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, MailChimp, and ConvertKit. You can simultaneously connect it to multiple email providers for a seamless addition to your sales and marketing campaigns. 

I like Optinly because of the great value it offers. The free plan requires no credit card to sign up, and it comes complete with: 

  • 9 templates
  • 3 types of popup forms
  • Exit-intent technology
  • Integration with all email service providers
  • Standard support
  • An analytics dashboard

The free plan supports one site and is comprehensive enough so that a business can get up and running, enjoying some of the plugin’s best features. New free plan subscribers get access to premium features for free for the first 14 days, giving you a chance to decide which version is right for your business. 

As a business grows, upgrading to the Growth Plan costs only $25 per month billed monthly or $20 per month billed annually. Still highly affordable, this plan includes perks like premium templates, priority support, and an in-depth analytics dashboard. It’s suitable for use with up to five sites. 

#4 – Elementor Pro — Best For Beginners

Elementor Pro’s drag-and-drop popup-building capability makes it a top choice for beginners. The visual builder gives you plenty of design options without being overwhelming, and its easy setup means you’ll be up and running quickly. 

More than 100 popup templates can save you time if you don’t feel like designing one from scratch. As you customize templates or create your own popup, you can include Elementor widgets like login forms, countdown timers, buttons, email opt-ins, and more. 

Elementor Pro is a versatile tool, and you can create many different popup types: 

  • Notification bars on the top or bottom of your screen
  • Full-screen overlays
  • Modal popups
  • Fly-ins 
  • Slide-ins

That versatility extends to both targeting and triggers. You can target by post type, format, categories and tags, pages, and more, allowing you to create custom popups that are highly relevant to your audience segment. Available triggers include time, click, scroll, inactivity, and exit intent, again giving you full control of your popups’ performance. 

Elementor Pro offers tiered subscriptions. While a free plan is available, it doesn’t include the popup maker functionality. The Personal subscription for one site costs $49 per year and includes more than 50 widgets, 300 templates, and 10 full website template kits. Since that subscription also includes unlimited pageviews, popups, and interactions, I think it’s a great value if you’re just getting started with popups. 

#5 – Popup Maker — Best For Detailed Targeting

If you want comprehensive control of your popup targeting, Popup Maker is the way to go. Not only is Popup Maker easy to use, it delivers targeting and triggering options that surpass what you’ll find in other plugins. 

Popup Maker works with your cookies, and you can use those cookies to target audience segments. You can put this functionality to work in countless ways. For instance, if you create a cookie when a viewer converts by completing a popup, you can trigger another popup to display only to those who have already converted. 

Alternatively, you can target popups by: 

  • User
  • Device
  • Content type, like posts or pages
  • Referral
  • Query parameter

Beyond standard targets, you can create custom targets or use the included advanced conditions for more specific results. These custom targets might be the best feature Popup Maker offers, allowing you to get creative and choose exactly how your site and popups contribute to the user experience. There are 26 separate advanced targeting options, allowing you to show a popup solely to visitors:

  • From a certain site
  • From a search engine
  • Who clicked on a Facebook ad
  • Who are using a certain browser
  • Who have viewed your pricing page

While Popup Maker isn’t a drag-and-drop plugin, the editor is simple and easy to use. Expert support is also available if you need help. 

Rates start at $87 per year for one site. The Grow Plan for three sites is $147 per year, and the Optimize Plan for five sites is $247 and includes WooCommerce compatibility. All plans include unlimited popups, theming, and impressions, making Popup Maker a great value. It’s also backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can buy with confidence. 

What I Looked At To Find The Best WordPress Popup Plugins

A WordPress popup plugin can complement and enhance your marketing and sales funnels, convert site visitors into leads, and maximize the effectiveness of the hard work you’ve already put into your website. But a plugin needs to be the right fit for your business to be effective. 

Think of your WordPress popup plugin as being a sales associate who can interact with your website visitors to help seal the deal, whether your goal is to gain newsletter subscribers or upsell products. 

To determine which plugins are the best for you, consider the following criteria essential to your business. 

Customization Opportunities

The key to effective popups lies in their customization. While templates can be a great starting point, you don’t want to rely on generic popups that don’t fit your brand. 

Customization is equally as important when it comes to trigger options and targeting conditions. The more trigger options you have to choose from, like age verification, scroll, and idle time triggers, the better you can make your popup work for your site. 

Customizable targeting conditions are also essential. Your popups are most effective when they reach the right audience. Rather than using the same popup for everyone who visits your site, targeting lets you reach certain audience segments with popups designed just for them. 

I’ve chosen plugins that give you customization options in nearly every stage of popup development and implementation to truly put you in the driver’s seat. 

Analytics

Detailed analytics are key in helping you to develop, refine, and improve on the effectiveness of your popups. 

This is particularly important when you’re able to customize different elements of your popups. A plugin that lets you perform A/B testing can help you to get better results from your work, maximizing the plugin’s value at the same time. 

Even if you’re just getting started out with popups, the data on each popup’s performance can help you to learn what works for your site and what doesn’t work. That’s why I’ve chosen plugins that include analytics, A/B testing, and data to help guide your work.

Effect on Site Speed

Your WordPress plugin should enhance your site, not detract from it, but many plugins can slow down your site’s speed and overall performance. Some plugins use WordPress to track analytics, and this increases the server load and leads to slower page speeds. Slow page speeds negatively affect your SEO and your user experience. 

Instead of plugins that slow down speeds, I’ve carefully chosen options that are still packed with plenty of features that don’t negatively impact your site’s performance.

Scalability

Your needs as the owner of a single website will differ from the needs of a marketer working across five different sites. Often, the number of sites a plugin subscription supports directly correlates with subscription plan price. 

I’ve chosen plugins that can scale with your business. These plugins include options for single-site use that can save you money. You can also upgrade to larger plans to use the plugin across multiple sites as your business grows.

Conclusion

WordPress popup plugins are versatile, and there are lots of great options to consider. From the highly customizable to the plugins that come equipped with a generous selection of templates, my top picks are suitable for many different businesses. 

Available at a range of price points, there’s something for any business on this list: 

  • Ninja Popups — The Best For Customization
  • Green Popups — Best Time-Saver
  • Optinly — Best for Businesses on a Budget
  • Elementor Pro — Best For Beginners
  • Popup Maker — Best For Detailed Targeting

Whether you’re just getting started with popups for the first time or need a popup plugin that can support multiple sites, you’ll find a quality solution in any of the plugins in this guide.

The post Best WordPress Popup Plugins appeared first on Neil Patel.

ecommerce

How to Find and Grow Your Amazon Sales Rank

Are you a seller on Amazon?

If so, you need to understand the importance of your Amazon sales rank and how it can help (or harm) your business.

What is Amazon Sales Rank?

Amazon sales rank (also known as best sellers rank or BSR) is a numerical score representing an item’s popularity in both its overall category and respective subcategories.

What does that mean? Let’s look at Jenga’s performance. While Jenga scored position three in the overall category of Toys & Games, it earned the number one rank in Stacking Games.

Where to find your Amazon sales rank

With this level of visibility into performance, sellers can view performance on multiple levels.

Amazon sales rank can range from one to over a million, with lower scores indicating superior rank. The metric is calculated hourly using the number of recent sales, as well as historical sales in relation to other products in the same category.

Wondering how you can find your product’s Amazon sales rank?

It’s easier than you think. Simply scroll to the bottom of your product page until you encounter the Product Details section. Then, look for the Amazon Best Sellers Rank. 

Now that you’ve found your Amazon sales rank, you’re probably wondering, ‘is this a good score?’ When it comes to sales rank, all things are relative. 

If you’re in a saturated category, a “good” score could still be an astronomically high figure. Conversely, if you’re in a small, niche community, a score that may present as low may not actually mean that much. As a general rule, you’ll want to aim for a score under 2,000.

Why Is Your Amazon Sales Rank Important

You might think your Amazon sales rank doesn’t have much bearing on your present performance, as is based on past performance. However, there are four distinct reasons why you should care about your ranking.

Amazon Sales Rank Shows Trust

For Amazon sellers, having a low Amazon sales rank is vital to success on the e-commerce site. Since rankings are used to define product popularity within a specific genre, and comparatively with its competitors, consider your sales rank as a vote of confidence in popularity of your product. 

Provides a Competitive Edge

In addition to serving as a testimonial to the popularity of your product, Amazon sales rank provides insight into your competitors by providing visibility of the most high-performing products in your category. By assessing products that hold top Amazon sales ranks, you can then reassess your own campaign through their lens, optimizing your listing and marketing strategies accordingly.

It Increases Sales

In addition to credibility, consumers are more likely to purchase a product that others have also bought. What’s the likelihood that you would buy a product online without any reviews? None, most likely. 

The same premise is at work here—more sales means more reviews, leading to even more sales. 

It improves Brand Awareness

If your products are routinely ranking in top positions in your category or subcategories, buyers will notice. By increasing your products’ positive visibility, you can increase the visibility and awareness of your brand.

6 Ways to Increase Your Amazon Sales Rank

While it may feel like your sales rank is completely out of your control and dependent solely upon your consumers, there are actions you can take to drive sales and increase your Amazon sales rank.

Let’s look at six strategies to increase your sales rank. 

1. Incentivize Reviews to Increase Amazon Sales Rank

Eighty-eight percent of consumers trust online reviews just as much as they trust word-of-mouth recommendations from their friends and family. Positive reviews can be the tipping point that causes a consumer to choose your product over a competitor’s.

While Amazon has banned true financial incentivization of reviews (such as offering a discount or payments) there are still options to encourage shoppers to leave glowing reviews. Here’s a few ways to increase your online reviews.  

Follow Up

After a purchase is made, send a follow-up email. In this email, you can include a valuable piece of informational content that will grow goodwill between buyer and seller, perhaps leading to future purchases and future reviews.

You can also opt for Amazon to automatically send an email to the purchaser to review the product. This is a quick, easy way to score some valuable reviews.

Amazon autogenerates email to request review for increased Amazon sales rank

Inserts in Packaging

Including a valuable piece of content in your packaging can also encourage customers to leave a review. Consider including a hand-written note that encourages the consumer to leave a review, which will also further foster that sentiment of connection. Even a printed thank you note with a reminder to review can help. 

Amazon Vine

Amazon Vine is an internal program that offers products for free to trusted Amazon customers in return for feedback. The goal is to encourage honest reviews from real customers and is invitation-only for participants. 

The only catch here is that you must be an Amazon vendor to participate in this program.

2. Do Keyword Research to Improve Amazon Sales Rank

We believe that keyword research should be the foundation of any online campaign, and selling on Amazon is no different. Identifying the right keywords for your product can be the differentiator between success and failure. 

As you craft your Amazon listings, include your keywords in your title and bullets. By including these terms, you ensure more searchers see your listing, which, in turn, increases the likelihood that your product will be purchased.

3. Use Quality Photos to Increase Amazon Sales Rank

Photos matter. In fact, 63 percent of consumers report that photos are more important to them when shopping on Amazon than verbal descriptions. It pays to invest in quality photos. 

As you select photos to include in your listing, think about what you would want to see as a consumer. Would an image that incorporates an infographic be effective? Would an image of an individual using your product convey value? If you take your own photos, look for tips that will help you take professional-level photos. 

Regardless of which approach works best for your product, quality photos can attract and convert attention, drive sales, and increase your Amazon sale rank.

4. Write Good Sales Copy

A lot of Amazon product listings showcase some pretty lackluster writing. Common offenses include un-optimized pages, titles stuffed with keywords, and sentences that don’t even make sense (which won’t inspire trust in your company.) 

To help your product stand out from the crowd and drive more purchases, write thoughtful sales copy for each of your product listings. Focus on the benefits your product offers and what makes it stand out. 

Amazon visitors come with commercial intent. If you can attract them with strong sales copy, they’re that much more likely to convert.

5. Optimize Product Description and Title

Here’s a fun fact—90 percent of Amazon product listings don’t adhere to Amazon’s description requirements. Just like Google, Amazon makes frequent algorithm updates. Staying current on recommended listing details, including character counts and word limits, can help your products perform better and increase visibility.  

When crafting product descriptions and titles, remember that Amazon users are shopping on the platform because it is quick and easy. If your would-be consumer struggles to understand your products, they’re likely not returning for a second look. 

To make your titles stand out among the multitudes, try these three things:

  • be creative
  •  adhere to Amazon’s 200-character limit
  •  use descriptive titles that communicates what your product is 

Be sure to use Amazon’s best practices when creating product titles. They exist for a reason, so be sure to implement them in your title strategy

  • first letter of primary words must be capitalized
  • on’t use an ampersand
  • share exact size detail
  • use numerals when conveying numbers

6. Promote Your Products to Increase Amazon Sales Rank

The conversion rate in the Amazon Marketplace averages around 15 percent, considerably higher than other e-commerce platforms. The key to ensuring your products see that level of conversion is to ensure and increase visibility. If no one sees your product, no one can buy it. 

While there are a number of ways to promote your products on Amazon, we’ve gathered our top three to share with you.

Invest in Sponsored Product Ads

To increase your product’s visibility, consider investing in sponsored product ads. As a seller, you only are charged when a buyer clicks on your ad, so this is a reasonably priced way to get your product in front of fresh eyes. 

sponsored products can increase Amazon sales rank

In the above ad, the sponsored product appears on the first page of search results.

Use Your Social Channels 

Harnessing the power of your business’ social channels is a great way to get your products seen by more buyers. While you don’t want to inundate your followers with ad after ad, there are a few strategies you can employ to get your Amazon listings noticed.

  • Host a giveaway or contest: By creating a contest that encourages people to interact with your Amazon product listing, you increase visibility. For example, you could give away a product to a lucky winner who shares your Amazon listing in their bio or in their stories.
  • Share content with a link to your Amazon listing: When you post a helpful blog specific to your industry, people will come to that content to learn. Not only will this establish you as a thought leader in your industry, it also is an opportunity to link to your Amazon listings and increase visibility.
  • Offer a social media promo code: If you have a Professional Selling account on Amazon, you can create a promotion link to share through social highlighting a discount offered on the listing. Here’s a guide for navigating setting up a promotion link.

Offer a Lightning Deal 

Increase interest in your product by offering shoppers a Lightning Deal. These sales are time-sensitive and buyers can locate them in Amazon’s Today’s Deals section. These are extremely popular with shoppers as they urge action given their time-sensitive nature.

When you include your product in Amazon’s Today’s Deals sections, you not only will increase your sales, but you’ll inevitably boost your Amazon Sale Rank. 

Conclusion 

Now that you understand the components that make up your Amazon sales rank, it’s time to start optimizing your store for more purchases.

Whether you start by researching keywords for your e-commerce store or shining up your existing copy, you’ll be on your way to improving product visibility. As that visibility increases, so will your sales, driving your sales rank up simultaneously.

What’s your most successful strategy for increasing Amazon sales rank?

The post How to Find and Grow Your Amazon Sales Rank appeared first on Neil Patel.

ecommerce

How To Create an Ecommerce Website with WordPress

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

What would you do with an additional $39,000 in your bank every month?

Well, if you plan on creating an ecommerce website, you can expect to earn this MASSIVE amount if you do it right. 

There are, of course, ecommerce sellers who haven’t been able to make that much, but with the right ecommerce strategies and best practices, this might become your reality.

But before you can start earning, you need to first own and set up an ecommerce website.

Read on as I show you a step-by-step tutorial to create an ecommerce website with WordPress.

Your Two-Minute Cheat Sheet

Want to know how to create an ecommerce website in a nutshell? I got you.

First, you’ll have to choose a domain name and a web hosting provider that gives you your chosen domain name for free.

Since your web hosting provider determines your WordPress store’s loading speed, uptime, and other functionality, I highly recommend opting for Bluehost.

This is hands down one of the best web hosting providers that aren’t only cheap and reliable but also offer a ton of freebies like a free domain name. Choose the Basic plan and register your domain name before finalizing your deal.

Once you finish setting up your Bluehost account, install WordPress. Another reason why I recommend Bluehost is because it can install WordPress on your behalf. All you need to do is click a few buttons, and you’ll have your WordPress site up and running.

At this point, you’ll have a standard WordPress website. But to convert it into an online store, you need to install an ecommerce plugin.

I’ve chosen WooCommerce, but you can opt for other options that suit your needs better. You have to set up your store next, which includes tasks like creating store pages, setting up a locale, understanding sales tax, and selecting a payment method.

Once your store is ready, you’ll then add your products or services. After all, it wouldn’t be an online store if you don’t have anything on sale, would it?

Finally, all that’s left to do is select an awesome theme for your WordPress ecommerce store and install additional plugins that help extend your online store’s capabilities. This is based on your needs and preferences, so you can choose whatever you like.

I personally like ThemeForest for themes. Also, you can check out WordPress‘s plugin directory for installing extensions like Yoast SEO, Jetpack, and Contact Form 7. Trust me, it can work wonders for supercharging your store!

That was all for your cheat sheet. Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of building an ecommerce store on WordPress.

Step 1: Get a Domain Name and Web Hosting Provider

Whether you choose to start an online store or any other kind of website, you need a domain and web hosting service.

Your domain name is your store’s unique address on the web. For instance, my website’s domain name is NeilPatel.com.

Web hosting, on the other hand, is like a remote computer that stores your website and then serves it to people whenever they visit it. 

There are several excellent WordPress hosting providers, but my go-to choice is Bluehost simply because it’s reliable, offers fast loading speeds, and includes a free domain name in its already cheap subscription plans. 

Here’s what you need to do:

Choose Your Bluehost Subscription Plan

Head over to Bluehost, and click on the huge Get Started button. 

From there, you’ll be directed to a page that shows you four hosting plan options:

Since it’s your first time launching an ecommerce website, I recommend selecting the Basic plan that costs just $2.75 per month and includes a free domain (for one year).

Pick Your Domain Name

Next up, you have to pick a domain name from your new online store. 

Click on Create a new domain, and type in your prospective domain name. Once you do this, Bluehost will automatically display a list of available or similar domain extensions.

My advice would be to go for a .com extension as it looks more professional and can help you win some extra brownie points in your visitor’s eyes.

Alternative Option:

If you already have a registered domain with a third-party domain registrar, you can continue using that instead of creating a new one. 

Click on Use a domain you own option and select Next. Then follow the prompts to transfer your domain from wherever it is now to Bluehost.

Enter Your Account Details and Finalize the Deal

Fill out your personal information to create your Bluehost account. You’ll also have to confirm your plan details and select relevant add-ons (these cost extra), and then finalize the deal.

At this stage, you’ll be asked to select the number of years you want to sign up for Bluehost. While the minimum commitment is one year, I recommend choosing the three-year option as it gets you the best bang for your buck. 

Three years may look like a long commitment, but considering the excellent service of Bluehost, it’s a great deal. Plus, you want your ecommerce store to be around long enough to make you lots of money, right? Either way, Bluehost offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. So you can always get a refund if you change your mind.

Finally, all that’s left to do is pay your subscription fee. You can either pay via credit card or look for other payment options.

At this stage, you now have a domain name and a hosting plan to go with it.

Step 2: Install WordPress on Bluehost

This is the start of your journey with WordPress, where you’ll install WordPress on your hosting account. Since it’s absolutely free, you don’t have to pay any installation charges.

Moreover, Bluehost will do the installation for you! 

After signing up with Bluehost, you’ll receive a confirmation email that has your login credentials. Use this information to log in to Bluehost, and then the hosting service will guide you through the process of installing WordPress. 

You can also go to your Bluehost dashboard to install WordPress. Click on My Sites, followed by Create Site. The installing process will start right away. 

Once the installation is complete, type in the name for your website, followed by the username and password. 

With a blank WordPress website ready, now is the time to convert it into a fully functional ecommerce store.

Step 3: Select an Ecommerce Plugin

One main difference between a WordPress ecommerce website and a standard WordPress website is the former lets you sell products directly from the website. 

Now, as there are no native WordPress ecommerce features, you’ll have to install an ecommerce plugin to extend this functionality to your website. 

My favorite? WooCommerce.

Here’s how you install the WooCommerce plugin:

#1 Navigate to your WordPress dashboard, and click on Plugins, followed by Add New

#2 Type in ‘WooCommerce’ in the search field located at the top right-hand corner of your screen. 

#3 Click on the Install Now button right next to the plugin. After a few seconds, this button will turn blue and will read Activate. Click on it.

You’ll now see WooCommerce’s on-screen launch/setup wizard that will walk you through the rest of the remaining setup process. As you would expect, the whole thing is super simple and hardly takes a few minutes.

Other ecommerce Plugin Options:

While WooCommerce is my go-to, you can opt for other plugins too. Here are two other plugins that you can consider:

WP ecommerce

Despite not being full-featured as WooCommerce, many people consider WP eCommerce as a robust choice for creating an online store with WordPress. Its features include product pages, shopping cart, checkout facility, data reporting capabilities, and inventory management.

While WP eCommerce is free, you can opt for paid extensions to add to its functionality. You can purchase premium payment gateways like Stripe and Authorize.net.

Easy Digital Downloads

Easy Digital Downloads is specifically designed to help you sell digital products. It lets you create discount codes, avail of full tracking and data reporting of downloads, sales, and other stats, as well as place restrictions on downloads. So if you aren’t planning on selling physical products, this plugin might be a good choice for you.

You can also add new features to your storefront with extensions, along with payment processes like PayPal. Again, this plugin is free and offers paid extension options in case you want to add more functionality to your online store.

Step 4: Setting Up WooCommerce

This step has multiple tasks that involve you creating essential store pages, setting up a locale, understanding sales tax implications, and choosing a payment method. 

Let’s discuss them in more detail below:

Creating Important Store Pages

Online stores can be very specific, which is why you also need specific store pages for them to function properly. Precisely why the first step in the WooCommerce Wizard is to create these pages.

  • The Shop page will display all your products.
  • The Cart page is where your customers can adjust their order before proceeding to checkout.
  • The Checkout page is where your customers can choose the shipping/delivery method and make the final payment.
  • The My Account page is like a profile page for registered customers that shows them their order history, contact information, and other details.

All you need to do is simply follow the prompts, and WooCommerce will set up these pages for you.

Setting Up Your Locale

The locale is another crucial part of your online store setup–basically, it tells where in the world your store is based. Even online stores need to have this information set up. Your locale defines your country of origin, operating language, and preferred currency and units of measurement.

Select Continue when done setting up your locale.

Going through WooCommerce’s Sales Tax Module

In most cases, you’ll be charging sales tax, for which you have to check the main tax box. 

Make sure you go through the whole module and understand the tax rates based on your store location.

Select Continue when done.

Choose a Payment Method

WooCommerce accepts both online and offline payments. While PayPal is what I recommend, you can also choose from Stripe, COD, and bank transfer payments, among other options.

Select Continue when done.

Step 5: Adding Your Products or Services for Sale

To officially launch your store, you’ll need products, services, or downloads—whatever you sell—in your database.

Go to your dashboard, and click on Products followed by Add Product.

You’ll then see a classic WordPress content editing screen that includes fields for product name, product description, product data section, short description, product categories and tags, product image, and product gallery.

WooCommerce will show you handy tooltips to explain the purpose of every field, so you know exactly what everything is for. Click on the Publish button to add your products. 

Once you finish adding goods to your database, the end result should look something like this:

Voila! You’ve now added products (or whatever it is that you sell) to your WordPress website.

Step 6: Choose a Theme for Your WordPress Online Store

Your theme determines how your web content appears to your visitors. The beauty of WordPress is you can change and customize your themes whenever you want, giving you a completely unique design that sets your store apart from your competitors.

Beware: The customization option is only suitable for a coding pro. So if this isn’t you, it’s better to select a ready-made theme that most closely resembles your vision.

You can visit a third-party site like ThemeForest to get started. There are hundreds of thousands of themes, so you’ll never find yourself running out of options.

Installing a Theme from the Official WordPress.org Directory

#1 Go to your WordPress dashboard and click on Appearance and then Themes.

#2 Click on the Add New button to browse through the theme selection. You can also demo a few to test out how your store looks like.

#3 Click on the Install button for the theme you like. After a few seconds, the button will read Activate. Select it, and the theme is yours.

Installing a Premium Theme

#1 Download the .zip file of your chosen theme. 

#2 Log in to your WordPress dashboard, and go to Appearance, and then Themes.

#3 Click on the Add New option, which will direct you to the WordPress theme dashboard. 

#4 Select the Upload Theme option. Choose the .zip file from your computer after the prompt.

You’ll see a link to activate your theme after a success message. 

Top Tip: WooCommerce also has its own theme called Storefront. Not only does it work well with the plugin (duh!), but it also looks pretty sleek. You can simply stick to this if you don’t want any extra hassle.

Step 7: Extend WooCommerce’s Functionality

Another impressive feat of commerce is you have hundreds of extensions and plugins available to extend its capabilities. Here’s a list of a few extensions that are worth installing on your site:

  • Payment Gateways. These extensions let you accept more payment methods in addition to PayPal.
  • Shipping Extensions. These extensions can be useful if you want to integrate your store with the official shipping rates from companies like FedEx and UPS without extra effort.
  • WooCommerce Subscription. These extensions allow customers to subscribe to your product or services by paying a predetermined fee.
  • TaxJar. This extension puts your sales tax on autopilot.
  • Accounting Extensions. These extensions integrate your online store with an accounting tool of your choice.
  • WooCommerce Bookings. These extensions let customers book appointments for services directly from your site.

In addition to this, you can also install other WordPress plugins like Yoast SEO, UpdraftPlus, Contact Form 7, and MonsterInsights. You can also check out my comprehensive guide for the best WordPress plugins to learn more and pick the ones you need most. 

Conclusion

Congratulations! You now have an ecommerce website with WordPress.

You may have realized how creating your personal ecommerce store with WordPress isn’t difficult—all you need is the right guidance. I hope my guide will help you kickstart your ecommerce business and get the money rolling in.

Keep updating your online store by adding engaging content that converts. Don’t forget to optimize your product descriptions to rank higher organically too.

It’s a whole process in the end. So you have to get every step right to reap the rewards.

Have you started your ecommerce journey yet? Tell me more about your experience.

The post How To Create an Ecommerce Website with WordPress appeared first on Neil Patel.

SEO

What are Google Review Summaries?

What are Google review summaries, and how do they impact consumers’ view of your brand?

First impressions matter. When people search for a business or your specific business name on Google, one of the first things they see is your Google listing and the corresponding reviews. 

Those reviews, positive or negative, impact how they view your brand. 

What others have to say about your brand could impact how people perceive your brand. It could help them decide if they want to do business with you or not. 

It could encourage them to give you a call, visit your website, or stop by your local shop. Or it may encourage them to keep looking for a business with better reviews. 

Let’s talk more about Google review summaries and what they mean for your company.

Intro to Google Review Summaries

Google review summaries are the snippets of three customer reviews for your brand. Using an algorithm, Google automatically chooses three reviews to highlight. 

They are called summaries, because they are just one or two lines pulled from a full review. To read the whole review, searchers can click on the summary. 

Those three review summaries may be positive reviews, negative reviews, or a mixture of those.  

Where Do Your Google Review Summaries Appear?

It starts in the Google Knowledge Panel. 

Even if you aren’t familiar with that name, you probably are still familiar with the Google Knowledge Panel. It is the box of information that shows up in a Google search when you look for a particular brand, especially local or location-based businesses. 

The Google Knowledge Panel includes descriptive information, business address, location on a Google map, contact information, website, hours of operation, questions and answers, popular times, photos, social media profiles, and popular web results. 

It also includes the Google review summaries. The summaries can be found about midway down the Google Knowledge Panel, below the photos. 

Looking for Google Review Summaries

When you search for a local business, such as a store, restaurant, office building, medical practice, and more, Google provides a listing of local options. When you click on one example, the Google Knowledge Panel is displayed. 

That will provide the Google review summaries. 

You can also search directly in Google Maps. Pull up Google Maps to search your current location or type in the area you want to search. Then type in the brand or type of place you’re looking for. 

When you click on each option, you’ll see the Google Knowledge Panel. Scroll down to see the review summaries. 

Looking For Google Review Summaries

How Place Topics Shape Google Review Summaries

Place topics are an element of the Google review summary algorithm that highlights popular keywords related to your brand’s reviews. 

They cannot be chosen by the brand owner, or by reviewers. They are simply generated automatically by Google, if a brand has enough reviews. Although according to Google, that threshold number is not specified. 

Here’s an example of place topics in a Google review summary for a grocery store. You’ll see some of the highlighted topics are insightful, such as “lunch meat” while others are rather generic. 

This speaks to the automated algorithm that just pulls in commonly used phrases. 

How Place Topics Shape Google Review Summaries

These are more useful when many reviewers speak about a certain product or service, or other phrase that helps viewers understand more about what makes a brand unique. 

Where Google Review Summaries Come From

They come from Google reviews that are submitted by users on Google maps. Those who have visited a specific location can log in to their Google account, find a place on Google maps, and choose to submit a review and star rating. 

Google review summaries are pulled from those reviews. 

How Impactful Are Google Review Summaries?

These review summaries can impact how customers perceive your brand, even before they contact you or stop by your location. 

They could decide to scroll by or click on a competitor, if they aren’t seeing reviews that impress them. Alternatively, they may choose to click on your website, check out your location, or contact you directly to get more information about your brand. 

Do reviews really matter to customers? 

The statistics say yes. In general, reviews influence buyers. Almost 90 percent of buyers read reviews to make their buying decisions, according to BrightLocal. According to that same report, a majority are only impacted by reviews written in the last three months. A large portion of those same consumers only consider reviews written in the last two weeks. 

A quarter of consumers look to customer reviews with every online purchase they make, according to this PowerReviews report.  

It’s not just the words that Google highlights in the reviews that people read in the summaries. A big factor in people making decisions about your brand is the star factor. The star ratings make Google review summaries stand out. 

According to this report, over half of consumers say that a star rating is the most important review factor. A large majority say that a trust-worthy brand should have three or more stars in a five-star system, like Google reviews. 

So yes, reviews do impact buyer behavior and your brand’s reputation. But there’s more to the Google review summaries than the impression they leave on consumers. 

They can also have an impact on SEO. 

According to this report, reviews actually aid in your search engine optimization strategy. Although they are only a part of an SEO strategy, reviews help with creating more generated content and rank for the right keywords.  

In addition to those Google reviews that support SEO, you can continue to boost that by responding to Google reviews. 

Google also stated that interacting with consumer Google reviews for your brand can improve visibility. In other words, staying up-to-date in responding to reviews can improve your SEO.

That means more people will see your brand, see those Google review summaries, and hopefully leave reviews so you can respond. Reviews actually create a cycle of more reviews and better SEO. 

How to Get Positive Google Review Summaries 

By design, Google reviews and Google review summaries are not something business owners have direct control over. Otherwise, everyone would go in and manipulate things to shed the best light on their business! 

Does that mean that getting positive reviews is completely outside your direction? Not at all. 

The best thing you can do is to run a business with the customer in mind. It sounds obvious, but it’s truly the best way to get the positive feedback you’re hoping for. 

In our busy world, it’s easy to lose sight of the customer, but at the end of the day, they control not only the reviews, but also your income. 

Sometimes, the old adage really does need to ring true: the customer is always right. 

Ensure Customers Have a Good Experience

The first step is to audit the entire customer service experience. This can be a part of your overall brand audit. 

Think about every touch point your customers have with your business, from first learning about your products and services, to asking questions, to purchasing, and the follow up. 

Take a step back and dig deep. Ask the hard questions. Are you still offering a quality product? Are you still meeting a market need? If you aren’t getting rave reviews, it may be time to make some tweaks to ensure you are providing products and services your target market really needs. 

Ask for Reviews

It’s simple, but effective. 

To get more Google reviews, sometimes all you need to do is ask. There are lots of ways to convince your customers to review your brand, but just asking is a good place to start. You can include a link to your Google location in an email or social media post, encouraging happy customers to share their feedback. 

Ask your most loyal customers to leave feedback. Those who are most satisfied with your product or services are often eager to share that happiness with others and are most likely to provide positive reviews. 

Of course, keep in mind that you can’t tell them what to say, and even your happiest customers may be painfully honest about a less-than-ideal experience they had with you or a bad day with your product or service. 

That’s why the first tip is the most important. Always look for ways to provide the best service you can. 

Respond to Google Reviews (Good and Bad!) 

Keep the good vibes going. When people respond well with positive reviews, you can hop in there and thank them. Responding to Google reviews adds to your social proof and brings some humanity to your brand. 

Don’t just wait for negative reviews to respond, as we will discuss below. Encourage more positive reviews by showing that you really are reading reviews and taking them to heart. 

What to Do When You Have Negative Google Review Summaries

Like it or not, negative reviews happen. 

In a customer-driven system like Google review, you don’t have full control over what is posted about your brand. In fact, negative reviews can be a good thing—they show your brand is real. 

When those bad reviews happen, here’s how to respond. 

First, Relax

No one wants to hear bad news about their brand, especially when you work hard to provide a great experience, as we talked about above. 

But there’s hardly a business owner who hasn’t come up against this kind of conflict. The first thing to do is take a deep breath and understand that businesses need negative reviews. They add to the authenticity of your brand. 

Consumers understand that not everyone is going to have a perfect experience with every brand. 

Put It in Perspective

Sometimes negative reviews can shine light on positive aspects of your brand. 

When a customer reads a review about how something didn’t work for them, for instance, other customers can learn more about what you do offer. 

Imagine a customer complaining that they couldn’t find a meat option at your vegetarian restaurant. It’s an exaggerated example, but shows how a negative review could be a positive for some readers.

Decide How to Act

Have a “negative review plan” in place, well before your first one rolls in. It’s important to remember the reputation you want your business to have, and to keep the long game in mind. Google recommends responding quickly, honestly, and with a level of positivity. 

If you think a review is inappropriate or violates Google’s policies, if it’s particularly vile, etc., you can request that it be removed. Remember, you can’t just have a review removed because you disagree with it or don’t want it out there. 

Think About the Ratios

There’s no perfect number of reviews for everyone, but when it comes to reviews think about the ratios. One bad review isn’t going to hurt you if you have dozens of positive reviews. 

To get an idea of how you’re doing, think like a customer. How will they read the negative reviews in light of your positive ones? Would one negative review impact your buying decision? In most cases, one or two bad reviews (especially if they are several months old) won’t impact your brand. 

Conclusion

Google review summaries are social proof. They give your brand authenticity and shed light on your company when people Google you. 

These kinds of online reviews help customers understand what you’re all about and how you’ve helped people in the past. To improve the quality of your Google review summaries, start by working to get more online reviews. 

Don’t forget the power of responding to reviews—whether they are good or bad. Customers expect some bad reviews, but how you respond can make all the difference. 

How do Google review summaries help you make purchasing decisions?

The post What are Google Review Summaries? appeared first on Neil Patel.

SEO

10 Steps to Blend STAT Ranking Data with Site…

Posted by AndrewMiller

Too often, we assume that SEO best practices will work in any industry against any competitive set. But most best practices go untested and may not be “best” in every situation.

We all know that tactics that worked in 2020 won’t necessarily move the needle in 2021 as Core Web Vitals (CWV) and other signals shuffle to the front. We have to do better for our businesses and our clients.

I’m a data nerd at heart with lots of battle scars from 15 years in SEO. The idea of analyzing thousands of local SERPs sounded like too much fun to pass up. I found some surprising correlations, and just as importantly, built a methodology and data set that can be updated quarterly to show changes over time.

I analyzed 50,000+ SERPs in the retail banking sector so I could make sense of the massive shifts in rankings and search behaviors during the lockdown period. We have a lot of historical data for bank websites, so comparing pre/post COVID data would be easier than starting from scratch.

I’ll share how I did it below. But first, I want to share WHY I think sharing this type of research is so important for the SEO community.

Why validate SEO best practices with data?

It’s a great time to be an SEO. We have amazing tools and can gather more data than ever. We have thriving communities and excellent basic training materials.

Yet, we often see our craft distilled into overly-simplified “best practices” that are assumed to be universally true. But if there’s one universal truth in SEO, it’s that there are no universal truths. A best practice can be misinterpreted or outdated, leading to missed opportunities or outright harm to a business.

Using the increasing importance of CWV as an example, SEOs have an opportunity (and obligation) to separate fact from fiction. We need to know if, and by how much, CWV will impact rankings over time so we can prioritize our efforts.

We can elevate our SEO game individually and collectively by testing and validating best practices with research. It just takes a curious mind, the right tools, and a willingness to accept the results rather than force a narrative.

Failing to validate best practices is a liability for SEO practitioners and shows an unwillingness to challenge assumptions. In my experience, a lack of data can lead to a senior stakeholders’ opinions carrying more weight than an SEO expert’s recommendations.

Start by asking the right questions

Real insight comes from combining data from multiple sources to answer critical questions and ensure your strategies are backed by valid data. In my analysis of local banks, I started by listing the questions I wanted to know the answers to:

  • What characteristics are shared by top-ranking local bank websites?
  • Who are banks actually competing against in the SERPs? Is it primarily other banks?
  • How do competitive SERPS change based on when/where/how users search?
  • How can smaller, local businesses gain an edge over larger competitors from outside their region?
  • How does SERP composition affect a bank’s ability to rank well for targeted keywords?
  • How important are Core Web Vitals (CWV) for rankings? How does this change over time?

You could run this same analysis by replacing “banks” with other local business categories. The list of potential questions is endless so you can adjust them based on your needs.

Here’s an important reminder – be prepared to accept the answers even if they are inconclusive or contradictory to your assumptions. Data-driven SEOs have to avoid confirmation bias if we’re going to remain objective.

Here’s how I analyzed 50,000 search results in a few hours

I combined three of my favorite tools to analyze SERPs at scale and gather the data needed to answer my questions:

  • STAT to generated ranking reports for select keywords
  • Screaming Frog to crawl websites and gather technical SEO data
  • Power BI to analyze the large data sets and create simple visualizations

Step 1: Determine your data needs

I used US Census Bureau data to identify all cities with populations over 100,000, because I wanted a representation of local bank SERPs across the country. My list ended up including 314 separate cities, but you could customize your list to suit your needs.

I also wanted to gather data for desktop and mobile searches to compare SERP differences between the device types.

Step 2: Identify your keywords

I chose “banks near me” and “banks in {city, st}” based on their strong local intent and high search volumes, compared to more specific keywords for banking services.

Step 3: Generate a STAT import file in .csv format

Once you have your keywords and market list, it’s time to prepare the bulk upload for STAT. Use the template provided in the link to create a .csv file with the following fields:

  • Project: The name of the new STAT project, or an existing project.
  • Folder: The name of the new folder, or an existing folder. (This is an optional column that you can leave blank.)
  • Site: The domain name for the site you want to track. Note, for our purposes you can enter any URL you want to track here. The Top 20 Report will include all ranking URLs for the target keywords even if they aren’t listed in your “Site” column.
  • Keyword: The search query you’re adding.
  • Tags: Enter as many keyword tags as you want, separated by commas. I used “city” and “near me” as tags to distinguish between the query types. (This is an optional column that you can leave blank.)
  • Market: Specify the market (country and language) in which you would like to track the keyword. I used “US-en” for US English.
  • Location: If you want to track the keyword in a specific location, specify the city, state, province, ZIP code, and/or postal code. I used the city and state list in “city, st” format.
  • Device: Select whether you would like Desktop or Smartphone results. I selected both.

Each market, location, and device type will multiply the number of keywords you must track. I ended up with 1,256 keywords (314 markets X 2 keywords X 2 devices) in my import file.

Once your file is complete, you can import to STAT and begin tracking.

Step 4: Run a Top 20 Report in STAT for all keywords

STAT’s built-in Google SERP Top 20 Comparison report captures the top 20 organic results from each SERP at different intervals (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) to look at changes over time. I did not need daily data so I simply let it run on two consecutive days and removed the data I did not need. I re-run the same report quarterly to track changes over time.

Watch the video below to learn how to set up this report! 

My 1,256 keywords generated over 25,000 rows of data per day. Each row is a different organic listing and includes the keyword, monthly search volume, rank (includes the local pack), base rank (does not include the local pack), https/http protocol of the ranking URL, the ranking URL, and your tags.

Here’s an example of the raw output in CSV format:

It’s easy to see how useful this data is by itself but it becomes even more powerful when we clean it up and start crawling the ranking URLs.

Step 5: Clean up and normalize your STAT URLs data

At this point you may have invested 1-2 hours in gathering the initial data. This step is a bit more time consuming, but data cleansing allows you to run more advanced analysis and uncover more useful insights in Screaming Frog.

Here are the changes I made to the STAT rankings data to prepare for the next steps in Screaming Frog and Power BI. You’ll end up with multiple columns of URLs. Each serves a purpose later.

  1. Duplicate the Ranking URL column to a new column called Normalized URL.
  2. Remove URL parameters from the Normalized URL fields by using Excel’s text to columns tool and separating by “?”. I deleted the new columns(s) containing the URL parameters because they were not helpful in my analysis.
  3. Duplicate the new, clean Normalized URL column to a new column called TLD. Use the text to columns tool on the TLD column and separate by “/” to remove everything except the domain name and subdomains. Delete the new columns. I chose to keep the subdomains in my TLD column but you can remove them if it helps your analysis.
  4. Finally, create one more column called Full URL that will eventually become the list of URLs that you’ll crawl in Screaming Frog. To generate the Full URL, simply use Excel’s concatenate function to combine the Protocol and Normalized URL columns. Your formula will look something like this: =concatenate(A1, “://”, C1) to include the “://” in a valid URL string.

The 25,000+ rows in my data set are well within Excel’s limitations, so I am able to manipulate the data easily in one place. You may need to use a database (I like BigQuery) as your data sets grow.

Step 6: Categorize your SERP results by website type

Skimming through the SERP results, it’s easy to see that banks are not the only type of website that rank for keywords with local search intent. Since one of my initial questions was SERP composition, I had to identify all of the different types of websites and label each one for further analysis.

This step is by far the most time consuming and insightful. I spent 3 hours categorizing the initial batch of 25,000+ URLs into one of the following categories:

  • Institution (banks and credit union websites)
  • Directory (aggregators, local business directories, etc.)
  • Reviews (local and national sites like Yelp.com)
  • Education (content about banks on .edu domains)
  • Government (content about banks on .gov domains and municipal sites)
  • Jobs (careers sites and job aggregators)
  • News (local and national news sites with banking content)
  • Food Banks (yes, plenty of food banks rank for “banks near me” keywords)
  • Real Estate (commercial and residential real estate listings)
  • Search Engines (ranked content belonging to a search engine)
  • Social Media (ranked content on social media sites)
  • Other (completely random results not related to any of the above)

Your local SERPs will likely contain many of these website types and other unrelated categories such as food banks. Speed up the process by sorting and filtering your TLD and Normalized URL columns to categorize multiple rows simultaneously. For example, all the yelp.com rankings can be categorized as “Reviews” with a quick copy/paste.

At this point, your rankings data set is complete and you are ready to begin crawling the top-ranking sites in your industry to see what they have in common.

Step 7: Crawl your target websites with Screaming Frog

My initial STAT data identified over 6,600 unique pages from local bank websites that ranked in the top 20 organic search results. This is far too many pages to evaluate manually. Enter Screaming Frog, a crawler that mimics Google’s web crawler and extracts tons of SEO data from websites.

I configured Screaming Frog to crawl each of the 6,600 ranking pages for a larger analysis of characteristics shared by top-ranking bank websites. Don’t just let SF loose though. Be sure to configure it properly to save time and avoid crawling unnecessary pages.

These settings ensure we’ll get all the info we need to answer our questions in one crawl:

List Mode: Paste in a de-duplicated Full URL list from your STAT data. In my case, this was 6,600+ URLs.

Database Storage Mode: It may be a bit slower than Memory (RAM) Storage, but saving your crawl results on your hard disk ensures you won’t lose your results if you make a mistake (like I have many times) and close your report before you finish analyzing the data.

Limit Crawl Depth: Set this to 0 (zero) so the spider will only crawl the URLs on your list without following internal links to other pages on those domains.

APIs: I highly recommend using the Pagespeed Insights Integration to pull Lighthouse speed metrics directly into your crawl data. If you have a Moz account with API access, you can also pull link and domain data from the Moz API with the built-in integration.

Once you have configured the spider, let it rip! It could take several minutes to several hours depending on how many URLs you’re crawling and your computer’s speed and memory constraints. Just be patient! You might try running larger crawls overnight or on an extra computer to avoid bogging your primary machine down.

Step 8: Export your Screaming Frog crawl data to Excel

Dumping your crawl data into Excel is remarkably easy.

Step 9: Join your data sets in Power BI

At this point, you should have two data sources in Excel: one for your STAT rankings data and another for your Screaming Frog crawl data. Our goal is to combine the two data sources to see how organic search rank may be influenced by on-page SEO elements and site performance. To do this, we must first merge the data.

If you have access to a Windows PC, the free version of Power BI is powerful enough to get you started. Begin by loading your two data sources into a new project using the Get Data wizard.

Once your data sets are loaded, it’s time to make the magic happen by creating relationships in your data to unlock correlations between rankings and site characteristics. To combine your data in Power BI, create a many-to-many relationship between your STAT Full URL and Screaming Frog Original URL fields. 

If you are new to BI tools and data visualization, don’t worry! There are lots of helpful tutorials and videos just a quick search away. At this point, it’s really hard to break anything and you can experiment with lots of ways to analyze your data and share insights with many types of charts and graphs.

I should note that Power BI is my preferred data visualization tool but you may be able to use Tableau or some equally powerful. Google Data Studio was not an option for this analysis because it only allows for left outer joins of the multiple data sources and does not support “many-to-many” relationships. It’s a technical way of saying Data Studio isn’t flexible enough to create the data relationships that we need.

Step 10: Analyze and visualize!

Power BI’s built-in visualizations allow you to quickly summarize and present data. This is where we can start analyzing the data to answer the questions we came up with earlier.

Results — what did we learn?

Here are a couple examples of the insights gleaned from merging our rankings and crawl data. Spoiler alert — CWV doesn’t strongly impact organic rankings….yet!

Who are banks actually competing against in the SERPs? Is it primarily other banks?

On desktops, about 67% of organic search results belong to financial institutions (banks and credit unions) with heavy competition from reviews sites (7%) and online directories (22%). This information helps shape our SEO strategies for banks by exposing opportunities to monitor and maintain listings in relevant directories and reviews sites.

Okay, now let’s mash up our data sources to see how the distribution of website categories varies by rank on desktop devices. Suddenly, we can see that financial institutions actually occupy the majority of the top 3 results while reviews sites and directories are more prevalent in positions 4-10.

How important are Core Web Vitals (CWV) for rankings? How does this change over time?

Site performance and site speed are hot topics in SEO and will only become more important as CWV becomes a ranking signal in May this year. We can begin to understand the relationships between site speed and rankings by comparing STAT rankings and Pagespeed Insights data from Screaming Frog reports.

As of January 2021, sites with higher Lighthouse Performance Scores (i.e. they load faster) tend to rank better than sites with lower scores. This could help justify investments in site speed and site performance.

Some CWV elements correlate more closely with better rankings and others are more scattered. This isn’t to say CWV aren’t important or meaningful, but rather it’s a starting point for further analysis after May.

So what? What can we learn from this type of analysis?

Separately, STAT and Screaming Frog are incredibly powerful SEO tools. The data they provide are useful if you happen to be an SEO but the ability to merge data and extract relationships will multiply your value in any organization that values data, and acts on insights.

Besides validating some generally accepted SEO knowledge with data (“faster sites are rewarded with better rankings”), better use of relational data can also help us avoid spending valuable time on less important tactics (“improve Cumulative Layout Shift at all costs!”).

Of course, correlation does not imply causation, and aggregated data does not guarantee an outcome for individual sites. But if you’re a bank marketing professional responsible for customer acquisition from organic channels, you’ll need to bring this type of data to your stakeholders to justify increased investments in SEO.

By sharing the tools and methodology, I hope others will take it further by building and contributing their additional findings to the SEO community. What other datasets can we combine to deepen our understanding of SERPs on a larger scale? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Entrepreneurship

Best WordPress Security Plugin

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If you are reading this post because your site’s been hacked, download Sucuri now and get the company’s help completely removing the problem. For everyone else, Wordfence is my top recommendation for most users to prevent an attack.

A security breach on your WordPress site can kill your business instantly. All the hard work you put into building your brand and customer trust is on the line.

How quickly will you be able to identify a problem and respond?

Using the best WordPress security plugins, you’ll be able to prevent attacks from happening in the first place. 

Bad actors will see that your site isn’t worth the trouble, given how many unprotected WordPress sites are still out there.

Don’t be one of those unprotected sites. Hacks can bleed your budget dry and destroy your company’s reputation. If your visitors’ information gets compromised, they have a good reason not to come back.

My WordPress sites are the lifeblood of my business. With seven-figure revenues on multiple sites, I know I’m a prime target. 

I’ve got a lot of experience with WordPress security plugins. I want to share some of what I have learned so that you can make sure that your site, visitors, and reputation stay safe.

Here are the top WordPress security plugins and a short guide to help you find the right one for your site.

#1 – Sucuri Security — The Best for WordPress Developers

Sucuri Security helps companies protect websites of all kinds. Its WordPress security plugin is a good way to harden your site and prevent damaging attacks.

I don’t recommend the free Sucuri plugin as a standalone solution. It doesn’t come with access to a website firewall, which I consider a fundamental element of WordPress security.

If you are a web developer or an agency that sells or manages WordPress sites for their clients, the cost of paying for Sucuri is nothing compared to the benefits it delivers.

Sites experiencing crippling DDoS attacks have installed Sucuri and been fine within an hour. After getting hacked, WordPress administrators have reached out to Sucuri and had their site clean and running before the day is done.

These are just some of the common stories Sucuri users have shared.

If you are responsible for ensuring your clients’ WordPress site protection, look no further than Sucuri. You’ll be able to get an in-depth picture of exactly what’s happening on each site and automated alerts if something goes wrong.

Sucuri is constantly scanning your sites for malware. Unlike Wordfence, Sucuri scans remotely (from their servers), so you are not drawing on your own resources for scans or loading up your database.

The other benefit of remote malware scanning is that all the data is safely stored with Sucuri, so attackers can’t delete logs to cover their tracks. You will always know exactly what happened and how.

In the event that a site gets hacked, there’s no better ally to have in your corner than Sucuri . There are zero hidden costs for complete malware removal

Unless you’re a fairly skilled software engineer, making sure a hack is 100% cleaned up is incredibly difficult. With Sucuri, it’s guaranteed.

Like I said, you have to have a paid Sucuri license to access the firewall. The reason is that it’s a best-in-breed product. Sucuri can’t just give it away.

It automatically blocks all unencrypted traffic, DDoS attacks, bots, brute force attacks, password cracking, and malicious code. You also get fine-grained control over IP whitelisting to ensure that only appropriate users have access to admin panels.

You can also block visitors from certain countries. This can be very important if you notice a high number of attacks coming from a particular location.

There are some vulnerabilities with a cloud-based firewall, which is why Wordfence’s endpoint firewall works so well. Sucuri solves this problem by including website server-side scanning. 

This protects you from phishing pages, backdoors, spam and other types of attacks that won’t get picked up by Sucuri’s remote malware scanner.

The Sucuri Security plugin is free, but to take advantage of many of the features I just listed, you will need to get the full platform. 

There are three tiers available:

  • Basic: $199/year per site
  • Pro: $299/year per site
  • Business: $499/year per site

The difference in tiers has more to do with how your service requests are prioritized. 

Business-tier licenses include a malware removal SLA of six hours. If your client’s site gets hacked in the dead of the night, it is guaranteed to be back up by the time everyone gets back to work.

With the other plans, you still get the complete malware removal, but it may take more time, depending on the complexity and severity of the attack.

All plans come with a secure 24/7 ticketing system for customer support and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

If you are looking for a free WordPress security plugin, I’d go with one of the other options on this list. But if you have clients that depend on you to manage their WordPress sites, paying $20-40 for the Sucuri platform is well worth the top-notch protection and peace of mind.

#2 – Jetpack — The Best for Improving Your Whole Site

Jetpack is one of the easiest ways to make your WordPress site faster and more secure. It’s like a dozen plugins in one, allowing you to do more with less. 

This isn’t just convenient and efficient—it’s way safer. Plugins are the #1 target of WordPress hackers. Using fewer plugins decreases your attack surface.

In terms of security-specific features, Jetpack isn’t as robust as Wordfence or Sucuri, but it may have enough to get the job done for your WordPress sites. 

It covers the basics, like automated plugin updates, 2FA, brute force attack protection, spam prevention, and malware scanning. 

Anyone can find their way around the intuitive interface, no engineering chops necessary. For tech novices, Jetpack can be a refreshingly easy way to manage WordPress security:

You also get automated backups of your site. That’s a feature reserved for an add-on charge with Sucuri or another plugin with Wordfence. Oh, and you get unlimited storage for backups, which is huge for people with ecommerce sites.

Plus, the single Jetpack plugin also gives you tools to design a beautiful site and grow your traffic. 

I’m focusing on the security side of Jetpack in this post, but know that it comes loaded with design, growth, and performance features that you won’t get with other options on this list. 

Each of those features is one less plugin you need to install, which hardens your WordPress security in a real way.

Like I said, Jetpack is designed for general users. Yes it’s powerful, but it’s stupid simple to figure out. 

Even if you are not at your desk when you receive an alert, Jetpack’s mobile app will walk you through the process of setting things right:

Jetpack is actually hosted by WordPress, which means all of these great tools aren’t putting a strain on your servers. Like any plugin, it can still slow down your site, but it’s nothing compared to the 20-30 plugins you’d need to replace it.

The reason that some people complain that Jetpack is slowing their site way down is usually that it’s in conflict with another plugin, or they’ve enabled Jetpack modules they aren’t using. 

This is not hard to fix. The most popular modules are enabled by default, but you can control all your Jetpack features on one page:

Simply enable the ones you want, disable the ones you don’t, and watch the website performance issues fade into the rear-view.

Jetpack Free comes with a very helpful set of security features, including brute force attack protection, two-factor authentication, daily backups, daily scans, and automatic plugin updates.

Throw in the design, growth, and performance features, and you’ve got one of the better all-around WordPress plugins on the market.

The paid plans for Jetpack provide more security features—like spam prevention—and a much more comprehensive activity log to audit your site. 

Pricing breaks down into three tiers:

  • Jetpack Backup: $7.95/month
  • Jetpack Security Daily: $19.95/month
  • Jetpack Security Real-time: $59.95/month
  • Jetpack Complete: $79.95/month

As you might expect, the difference between Jetpack Security Daily and Real-time plans refers to the frequency of backups and scans. Instead of happening once a day, Jetpack Security Real-time scans and backs up your site continuously. 

You also get a one-year activity log with Real-time instead of the 30-day archive that comes with Jetpack Security Daily.

For ecommerce and membership sites with a lot of active visitors, the additional protections that come with Jetpack Security Real-time are really valuable. If your site is a lot of static content, the Daily plan will probably be enough.

If you are just focused on security, don’t worry about Jetpack Complete. It doesn’t come with any relevant features that aren’t included with Jetpack Security. The difference is in the CRM software features, which are great for managing customer relationships, but I won’t get into them here.

All of the tools that come with Jetpack Free will work on all of the WordPress sites you manage. The paid features work, too, but you have to purchase licenses for each site. 

When problems or confusion arise, Jetpack has what they describe as a “global team of Happiness Engineers ready to provide incredible support.” It’s tantalizing, but what does it mean?

Well, Jetpack is made by Automattic—the same folks who run WordPress—so it’s safe to say you will be getting quality support from experts who know their stuff.

If Jetpack isn’t getting it done, you can request to cancel within 14 days and receive a full refund.

I highly recommend Jetpack for people who are new to WordPress, as it makes managing a site much easier. It’s also great for people who want to increase security and decrease the number of plugins they’re relying on. 

#3 – Wordfence Security — The Best for Multiple WordPress Sites

Wordfence is one of the top-rated WordPress security plugins with an outstanding free version that’s packed full of essential security features.

Simply install the free plugin available on WordPress.org and share an email address that Wordfence will use to send you notifications. Whenever there is an outdated plugin, malicious file, or virus detected, you’ll be notified immediately.

Wordfence is an especially good option for people with lots of WordPress sites to protect. Wordfence Central lets you manage security across all of your sites in a single interface. 

There are no charges or restrictions for Wordfence Central. From the intuitive dashboard, quickly track security events and configure alerts to be sent by email, SMS, or Slack.

Looking at the security capabilities at your disposal, it’s hard to imagine a better or cheaper way to protect all of your sites.

The Wordfence security scanner checks all your WordPress core files, themes, and plugins for a wide range of potential issues, such as:

  • Bad URLs
  • Backdoors
  • Code injection
  • Malicious redirects
  • SEO spam

And that’s with the free version. The only difference with the paid version is that the scanner checks to make sure your site and IP haven’t been blacklisted and it updates in real-time with the Wordfence Threat Defense Feed. 

Because Wordfence protects more than 4 million WordPress sites, the company has incredible insight into the latest threats, malware signatures, and necessary firewall rules. 

Premium Wordfence users get the latest security updates from the Threat Defense Feed in real-time. With the free version you have to wait 30 days for the updates to kick in.

The web application firewall (WAF) is really well-developed as well. Stop spam, bots, brute force, and DDoS attacks in their tracks. 

Unlike other WordPress security plugins, Wordfence uses an endpoint firewall instead of a cloud-based one, which means that the firewall actually runs on the server it is protecting.

This picture simplifies what’s going on and how a cloud-based firewall can cause problems that won’t happen with a WordPress-specific, endpoint firewall:

The combination of a strong firewall and malware scanner is further enhanced by Wordfence login security. 

You get two-factor authentication (2FA) that uses temporary one-time passwords and login page CAPTCHA forms to prevent bots from breaking into your site.

Wordfence Live Traffic, which is included with the free version, gives you a real-time picture of what’s happening on your site by producing logs at the server level. This captures a lot more information than data visualization software like Google Analytics.

The tradeoff is that enabling Live Traffic can put a serious strain on your server resources.

This is why Wordfence has a reputation as a plugin that will slow down your site. This is especially true for people on shared hosting plans.

I recommend setting Live Traffic to “Security Only,” which will only track successful logins, attempted logins, and other security-related incidents. This will decrease the load on your server.

The free version of Wordfence is going to be more than enough for most WordPress owners, even if they have a ton of different sites.

If you need the extra protection afforded by Wordfence Premium, licenses start at $99/year per site, with discounts for volume purchases and longer contracts.

Should you be unhappy with how it’s going, you can let Wordfence know within a month and they will give you a refund.

#4 – All In One WP Security & Firewall — The Best Free Forever WordPress Security Plugin

All In One WP Security & Firewall is a straightforward option that’s beloved by people who would never call themselves WordPress security gurus. I’m thinking of those who are great at using WordPress for their business but less confident with the technical backend.

Regardless of your level of WordPress know-how, All In One will make the process of protecting your site as simple and clear as possible.

The plugin is also free forever. There is no paid version. Every feature and function they list is yours upon installation, with no upsells coming your way.

The tradeoff is that you are going to have to do a lot more on your own than you would with a plugin like Sucuri. Like I said, though, All In One makes it as painless as possible to maintain your WordPress security.

Let’s dig in.

After you install the plugin, you’ll see a simple dashboard with a Security Strength Meter and a Security Points Breakdown:

No degree necessary to understand these. The score on the meter is based on the number of security features you’ve enabled. The breakdown explains how the points are scored.

It’s great to get a quick temperature read and easy to figure out how to increase your score if the needle moves into the danger zone.

There’s also a Critical Feature Status box which, as you might guess, shows you the whether or not the most important security features are enabled:

If you’ve had to disable these features for any reason, this way you won’t forget to turn them back on.

So far, not too complicated. 

What about the other features that impact your security score and protect your site?

All In One rates features as Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced according to how likely they are to cause problems on your site.

Basic features will improve security without much impact. Intermediate and Advanced features may impact other parts of your site, depending on the other plugins you are using.

With All In One, you can enable features one by one. The feature ratings let you know how careful you have to be. 

This fixes a common problem people encounter using WordPress security plugins. You mess with one firewall setting and, all of a sudden, another plugin breaks.

Some of the highlight security capabilities that you can control confidently with All In One are:

  • Password strength tool
  • Auto detect duplicate login names
  • Brute force attack prevention
  • Track and block login attempts
  • Add Google reCAPTCHA
  • Database and file security tools
  • Blacklist unwanted IPs
  • Flexible firewall
  • Scan WordPress for changes
  • Spam prevention

This isn’t even everything that’s included. You’ll notice there are some features that you definitely have to pay for elsewhere. This is because they aren’t as deep. 

The scanner, for example, will alert you to any changes that have been made to your WordPress system, but it’s not going to detect or remove malware with the precision of Sucuri.

In other words, All In One lets you know something is wrong, but you have to figure out how to fix it.

Support is also limited to posting questions on the community forum. It’s certainly not concierge service—which is to be expected for a totally free plugin. 

So your questions may get addressed in a day or two, but that’s a far cry from the on-demand customer service provided by paid plugins.

All In One is updated routinely and constantly evolving. Experts designed it for non-experts to use. It’s been a blessing to hundreds of thousands of WordPress owners who have never had to pay a cent. Maybe it’s for you, too.

What I Looked at to Find the Best WordPress Security Plugin

Keeping your WordPress protected from attack is important. Finding the right security plugin will make that task easier.

Finding the wrong one could break your site, leave it vulnerable, or slow it to a crawl.

You want the increased security without the headaches, so which one do you choose?

Use these criteria to evaluate your options. This will help you find a reputable WordPress security plugin that covers your bases and works well for your site.

Plugin Credibility

Experimenting with new plugins is a ton of fun, just not for security purposes.

Only use those that are popular and widely trusted. It’s not hard to do. You’ll find basically everything you need to know on the WordPress plugins page.

As you scan your options, you can quickly tell how many people have installed the plugin and how highly it’s rated by users:

This is all really good news. More than 4 million people are using Wordfence, and it has 4.5 out of 5 stars. That’s pretty much the gold standard of plugin credibility.

There’s no hard and fast rule about ratings and installations. Just don’t try something that only a few thousand people have used. Let other people work out the kinks.

Clicking on Wordfence, you’ll find a description of the plugin along with a closer look at some key information:

I’d steer clear of plugins that haven’t been updated in a year. Cybersecurity evolves way too quick for that kind of pace. There may be lots of new vulnerabilities since the last time it was patched.

You can also dive into the ratings and read reviews. This is a good idea for credibility, but also to see how the security capabilities work in the real-world:

Finding a highly-rated plugin will tell you whether or not it lives up to expectations.

At the end of the day, just with what’s working already for WordPress users, especially those in similar situations to yourself.

Security Capabilities

What do you need your WordPress security plugin to do? Many users know they want their site protected, but don’t know what that entails.

Here are some of the hallmark security capabilities and how they protect you:

  • Automated backups to restore your site if something happens
  • Automated updates of WordPress core and plugins
  • Security alerts that notify you immediately when something goes wrong
  • Malware scanning to ensure your site is clean
  • Spam protection for your forms and comment section
  • Uptime monitoring to alert you if the site goes down
  • Brute force protection to stop bots or attackers from cracking passwords
  • Blocklist/Blacklist monitoring ensures your site is not flagged by regulators
  • IP monitoring to block known attackers
  • Activity Log to track and audit changes on your site
  • Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) to secure logins
  • Web Application Firewall (WAF) to block malicious traffic before it reaches your site
  • CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. It’s going to prevent bots from filling out forms or logging in to your site.

You’d be surprised how much of this is covered by the free plans on this list. The difference with the premium plans (besides the faster turnaround from customer service) is that you get a greater degree of protection and control over these capabilities.

For instance, with Wordfence free plan, the malware scanner covers core files, themes, and plugins for a range of potential cyberthreats. With premium Wordfence, your scanner is updated in real-time as new malware signatures are discovered. The free version only updates 30 days later.

Looking at your different options, there are tradeoffs. Sucuri users get blacklist monitoring for free, which only comes with premium Wordfence. 

With Sucuri, however, only premium licenses get a website firewall, whereas Wordfence includes that standard.

Assess the tradeoffs. If you already have a firewall, then the free version of Sucuri is more appealing.

Resource Usage

This is something to consider with any type of plugin, which all take up processing and server power to do their jobs. 

WordPress security plugins are notorious for hogging resources. There’s just no getting around it, malware scans and traffic logs of security incidents are going to put a strain on your system.

Think about this in terms of your hosting provider and situation. What kind of resources do you have, and what’s the cost of going over the limit?

You also want to be aware of the control you have over a WordPress security plugin. Configuring it properly may solve a lot of the resource-related issues.

For example, you can disable the live feed for Wordfence or ask it to only log security-related incidents instead of all traffic. Many users report that this is all you need to do, should Wordfence be slowing your site down.

Jetpack is hosted by WordPress. That means there’s no draw on your servers, though memory and CPU usage can be an issue. Fortunately, Jetpack  gives you fine-grained control over which modules are enabled, which can help you manage resources efficiently.

Plugin Compatibility

If WordPress is one part of your larger online platform, be sure to do a little research on how the plugin will work across your entire ecosystem.

WordPress security plugins prevent bad things from happening to your site, but sometimes the added protections can get in the way of legitimate users or cause other plugins to break.

Jetpack will play nicely with WooCommerce, as both plugins are made by the same company. In fact, Jetpack will probably increase site speed for Woo.

On the other hand, if you are using the BuddyPress plugin, which turns your site into a social media venue, Jetpack has been known to cause issues.

I recommend going back to the reviews to establish some sense of how compatible each WordPress security plugin really is:

The one-star reviews are my favorite to read. They are where you find the situations where your plugin doesn’t work well, though I tend to skip the reviews written in all caps.

There is also some degree of responsibility on your end for making sure that plugins play well together. 

I really like All In One WP Security for this because they help you understand which features of their plugin are most likely to impact other plugins you are using.

It can be hard to forecast plugin compatibility, but it’s not something you want to put off. See what you can find out ahead of time.

Responsive Support

When you select a free WordPress security plugin, you are only going to get so much in the way of support. With All In One, for example, there’s really no one to reach out to beyond the community forum on WordPress.org.

With plugins from WordFence, Sucuri, and Jetpack, you at least have someone to call, though a prompt response time is only guaranteed with their paid options. With Wordfence Premium, you get direct access to expert advice, whereas their free support may take a few days to reply.

You’re going to notice the biggest difference in customer service when something bad happens. 

After a hack, Sucuri is going to clean and restore your site. No other product I’ve reviewed includes that level of support. 

With Wordfence, for example, you have to pay for a site cleaning service that’ll run you $490 per WordPress site.

If you have suffered attacks before, or you have a WordPress that does a large amount of business, paying the higher price for Sucuri’s best-in-class customer service is more than just peace of mind. It may end up saving you and your clients a ton of money in the long run.

Conclusion

In terms of WordPress security, plugins are part of a larger battle. 

You still want to practice common sense security hygiene—strong passwords, no admin accounts named “administrator”, always updating plugins and themes, and so on.

Even if you have the best plugin, lapses in these areas can result in issues.

All In One WP Security & Firewall is going to help you stay on top of this, ensuring people are using strong passwords and alerting you when plugins need to be updated. It’s an easy way to protect your site and enforce best practices at the same time.

Using Jetpack means you can probably stop using 10-20 other plugins, which is going to make your site more manageable and secure. On top of that, you can shield your WordPress from many of the most common attacks.

Wordfence and Sucuri lead the pack in terms of security capabilities. The free version of Wordfence is definitely better than the free version of Sucuri. Between the two paid options, it’s going to come down to your specific needs.

If you own multiple sites, Wordfence is going to be very easy to use. The Wordfence central dashboard will let you track and respond to events across all of your sites in real-time.

If you are developing lots of sites for clients, Sucuri will deliver peace of mind to everyone involved. Their security auditing tools are second to none, and their reputation for post-hack response is unparalleled.

The post Best WordPress Security Plugin appeared first on Neil Patel.

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