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What is SEO – A Complete Guide to Beginner

If you’re interested in the many career and side hustle job opportunities tech has to offer, search engine optimization (or “SEO” as you’re more likely to see, hear, or read it) is a skill you should get familiar with ASAP. So what is it?

Read this guide for an explainer that’s perfect for beginners and those dabbling in digital marketing for the first time. Because you’ve got to start somewhere—and all those marketing blogs make it way too complicated.

What is SEO?

In simple terms, SEO is a collection of best practices, methodologies, and software tools that marketers use to make a website and its contents “findable” by search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. While it might not sound as obvious as tech skills like coding languages or web design, search engine optimization is a crucial skill for almost any web-related role.

SEO FOCUSES ON ORGANIC TRAFFIC

The purpose of any website is to attract users and either convey information, sell a product or service, or collect contact details for future marketing opportunities. While some website visitors will come from social media, paid ads, or marketing emails, a successful website also needs visitors who “stumble” onto your site through their own searches.

“Organic traffic” is the marketing term for users who visit a site through the results of a search engine query (or by “Googling” it). Let’s say someone types “what is SEO and how does it work” into their Google search bar, see this article in their search results, and clicks on the link to read it. They’re counted as an “organic” visitor.

THE “OPTIMIZATION” PART OF SEO (AKA PLEASING GOOGLE)

But here’s the thing—those search results aren’t random. Search engines like Google analyze and index web content based on relevance for specific topics and search queries. The more relevant your page content is to a particular query (or “keyword”), the more likely it is to show up at the top of a search engine’s results.

Google uses a complicated algorithm (which, fun story, changes constantly) to determine which sites, pages, and articles get top billing. That includes topic relevance, overall existing traffic to your page or site, quality of content, and whether or not your page is structured in a way the makes it SEO-friendly (more on this below). Getting Google’s attention is the difference between making it onto the first page—or getting buried six pages deep.

It helps to keep in mind that—as this Forbes article(opens in a new tab) points out—up to 92 percent of search traffic clicks come from results on Google’s first page, plummeting to below 6 percent once you get to the second.

That stat alone illustrates why sites MUST be search engine optimized in order to viably attract users. And that’s really SEO in a nutshell—it’s the science (and art) of strategizing how to get your content to the top of the search heap.

How Does SEO Work?

Understanding the basic concept behind SEO is one thing, but how does it all work?

SEO mostly revolves around two strategies:

  1. Optimizing site architecture (the actual coding and design of a website)
  2. Optimizing site content (the text of sales pages, blog posts, product descriptions, etc.)

You’ll need to apply best practices to both in order to see your search traffic trend upward at the fastest rate possible.

SITE ARCHITECTURE SEO

Site architecture optimization can include:

  • Improving the overall user experience of a site (making your content easy for users to find and engage with)—this will encourage repeat visits and links from other sites, all of which increase search engine ranking.
  • Making sure internal links in your content lead to other relevant and useful material—again, this encourages users to spend more time on your site, which corresponds with a favorable ranking.
  • Creating a sitemap—a collection of categories and links in the footer of your pages will make a site more indexable (or “findable”) by search engines, and more navigable for users (a SEO win-win).
  • Mobile friendly design—since the majority of users now view websites on a phone or other mobile device(opens in a new tab), Google rewards sites that are designed to be as easily viewed on a small screen as they are on a desktop computer.

SEO site architecture improvements can also include working with web developers on code-specific issues like site loading speeds, outdated or broken links to URLs (web addresses), and optimizing HTML tags (tags that identify HTML documents to visiting web browsers). For more details on the architecture side of SEO, check out this Developing for SEO tutorial(opens in a new tab) from SEO software company Moz.

CONTENT SEO

Along with architecture tweaks, the way you write, format, and present the content on your site is also part of making or breaking your search engine ranking. When we write articles at Skillcrush, for example, our goal is to make them informative, understandable, and engaging—but we also need to make sure you can find them! That means writing with an eye towards SEO.

Content SEO includes things like:

  • Keyword Research—this involves using software programs like Ahrefs and Moz to identify the search engine terms (keywords) driving traffic to your site. It’s then a dance of including those keywords in your content (so search engines will pick up on them and improve your rankings) while avoiding “keyword stuffing.”

    Keyword stuffing is the practice of overloading content with keywords at the expense of quality. Think something along the lines of: “SEO keyword stuffing is keyword stuffing seo keywords.” With SEO, there can be a temptation to think the tradeoff of bad, keyword stuffed content will be worth the ranking rewards, but this simply isn’t the case.

    Search engines like Google have modified their algorithms over the years to weed out keyword stuffed content, bad content (even if it includes keywords) will ultimately drive away users—never a good look when it comes to SEO. You can read more about the perils of keyword stuffing and other ill-advised SEO strategies in this Moz article(opens in a new tab).

  • Pillar Pages—what’s better than individual SEO content pages on a website? One big, optimized umbrella page that brings users in and leads them to each of those individual pages!When a website features several articles on different aspects of one topic, this is called “cluster content” in SEO speak. For instance, if your site published a series of articles on JavaScript this would be cluster content.

    A pillar page is a page on your site that ties all of this content together and turns it into a powerful engine for attracting organic search and improving your site’s topic authority for search engine algorithms. To see a real example, we recently published a pillar page for our own blog’s web design cluster.

    Pillar pages cover all aspects of cluster content topic, but they do so through thumbnail descriptions that link to the more substantive individual articles. Pillar pages are sometimes called 10x pillar pages, due to their ability to increase site traffic tenfold.

  • Consistent, easily navigable page layouts—this may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a small SEO tweak that can go a long way. When creating content for a website, it’s important to add features like a table of contents that improve readability. This will encourage more time spent on each page by your visitors, and it will also improve search engines’ ability to index your pages.

    Similarly, make sure that your content is broken up into sections with header text that follows a clear hierarchy. Heading 1 text for headlines, Heading 2 for chapters or topics, Heading 3 for subtopics, etc. This is another technique that enhances site readability for users and indexability for search engines.

SEO ANALYSIS AND TOOLS

As important as it is to implement SEO best practices on your site and in your content, it’s also important to be able to track and analyze the results of your efforts. Fortunately, there are some industry standard tools that make this analysis possible.

At Skillcrush, we use Google Analytics, Moz, and Ahrefs to track and analyze our own SEO data—things like keyword rankings, organic search numbers, and traffic trends. If you’re working with SEO, you’ll eventually have to familiarize yourself with software tools like these, or others including NetInsight, Omniture, and Webtrends.

In addition to software platforms, some of the most helpful tools for implementing SEO strategies are simply SEO tutorial documents and reference materials available online. Two of the most crucial are Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines and Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. If you’re trying to get a better handle on how SEO works and how to apply it to your own site or content, both of these documents are invaluable resources for finding your way.

SEO Jobs and SEO as a Job Skill

At this point you can probably see how SEO skills are an important piece of creating viable websites and web content, by how does this translate specifically to jobs?

In most cases, SEO knowledge can either lead to a dedicated job as an SEO specialist, or it can be added to the comprehensive toolkit of a web developer, web designer, or digital content marketer.

SEO specialists combine the techniques and tools listed above, as well as skills like web page A/B testing (testing A and B versions of web pages to to see which are more effective for generating traffic) and a solid understanding of digital marketing fundamentals like customer conversion and online customer acquisition. SEO specialists can work freelance as consultants, or in-house for companies with a budget and need for full-time SEO support.

Meanwhile, SEO skills can improve your job prospects and performance in almost any web-related role. Web developers and designers can (and should) use SEO best practices to inform their site architecture decisions, while SEO is a vital part of being an effective digital marketer—no traffic equals no conversions and no customers.

If you’re ready to add this critical skill to your own digital playbook, look no further than our Skillcrush Digital Marketing Blueprint. This three month course will give you a solid foundation in SEO, as well as everything else you need to know to start working as a digital marketer (or bring digital marketing skills to any other relevant job).

Branding
Branding: What Is It and Why It’s Important to Businesses Today

Whether you’re starting a new ecommerce company, or looking to take your current business to the next level, the strength of your brand plays a critical role in your potential success.

How you are viewed in the eyes of your customers, competition, and community comes down to your brand. Building a respected and strong brand is not something you can accomplish by checking off a few items on your to-do list. Instead, it should be approached with the long term in mind.

In this introductory guide, we’ll introduce you to the basics of brand strategy and branding as well as highlight the benefits of having a strong brand. If you’re looking for a more detailed look at branding strategy, be sure to check out the brand strategy guide.

What is Branding?

Branding is the process of creating a distinct identity for a business in the mind of your target audience and consumers. At the most basic level, branding is made up of a company’s logo, visual design, mission, and tone of voice. But your brand identity is also determined by the quality of your products, customer service, and even how you price your products or services.

By building a website that describes what you offer, designing ads that promote your goods and services, selecting specific corporate colors that will be associated with your company, creating a logo, and featuring it across all your social media accounts, you are branding your company. That is, you are shaping how and what people’s perceptions of your business are.

Yet, even if you never invest in a strategic brand strategy, you’re still going to have a brand. If you’re a company with bad customer service for example, that will ultimately affect how your customers view you. You can be known as a company that doesn’t care about your customers just as easily as you can establish yourself as a brand that goes above and beyond.

Ultimately, what your customers think and say about your brand is the reality (not what you’d like them to think). It’s the impression that pops into their minds when they hear your business’ name. It’s based on a feeling they have that is based on the experiences they’ve had with you, good or bad.

That’s why your branding strategy and brand management plan are so important.

Why You Should Take Branding Seriously

Virtually no business starts out hoping to create a an unreliable or “bad” brand. Many entrepreneurs start a company with a grand vision of delivering great products, at a great value, and creating loyal customers for life.

Again, you’re going to have a brand regardless if you invest in building a strong brand identity so you might as well give your self every opportunity to succeed.

The purpose of branding building is to simply and easily help your customers understand what you offer and how through effective positioning. But it’s not only a USP (unique selling proposition), it is the combination of all the ways you communicate what you stand for. In the case branding, what you do is far more important than what you say. If your company mission statement focuses on your world-class quality service, but you don’t actually deliver great customer service, there’s a mismatch.

Effective branding requires a strategic plan, including clear brand guidelines, as well as alignment as a company on your desired brand identity.

Benefits of Building A Strong Brand

Investing in your brand identity isn’t just for fun, it has many real world benefits that can help your company grow and succeed at scale.

Benefits of a strong brand include:

  • Increased sales.
  • Customer loyalty and recognition.
  • Helping create a clear and inspiring mission or purpose company wide.
  • Helping create a strong company culture where your employees love what they do.
  • Attracting top-quality talent to help grow your business even further.
  • Developing strong brand equity helping you stand out from your competition.

Again, building a strong brand does take time, but the effort is well worth the reward.

Brand Guidelines and The Branding Process

Having clear brand guidelines are critical for keeping a consistent and cohesive brand. Your brand not only includes how your customers perceive you, but how your employees think of you as well.

In addition to your logo and corporate colors, you can communicate your brand message and brand identity through:

  • Your store environment and atmosphere: Is your store environment uplifting and modern? Or is your atmosphere, dull and boring?
  • Having a clear brand promise: What do you want to be known for by your customers?
  • How your staff members treat customers: Are you known for incredible customer service and a great customer experience?
  • The products you carry: Are your products known to be high-quality?
  • The price you charge: Is your branding geared more towards luxury customers, or are you selling to customers who value a great bargain or deal?
  • Product packaging: Often overlooked, strategic product packaging can have a signifiant impact on your brand recognition, and brand value.
  • Public relations: Public relations and branding strategy often go hand in hand. How you respond to the challenges and mistakes made while growing a business impacts your brand.
  • Sponsorships: Who your brand partners with also plays a big role in your brand image.
  • Advertising: Effective advertising is critical for improving your brand recognition. Your messaging to your target audience should speak directly to their pain points, challenges, and needs.

Virtually every decision you make in your business will ultimately impact the strength of your brand.

Brand Management and Branding Tips For Growing Your Brand

If your business does not yet have a consistent brand, or you don’t like what your brand currently stands for, you may benefit from a “rebrand.” Before you throw out all the hard work you’ve put into your current brand, it’s important to keep your target audience and loyal customers in mind.

Avoid the temptation to “start from scratch” unless absolutely needed. A new brand can dramatically improve the health of your business, but you want to avoid alentiaitng current customers in the process.

Here are some steps to take to shape public perception for the better:

  • Identify what your customers and target audience love most about your business. What makes yours stand out? What are your strengths?
  • Create a brand message and brand promise that conveys what your business aims to do for its customers – what you’re best at. Geico promises to save you 15% in 15 minutes. That’s its brand promise. Marriott promises quiet luxury. What are you promising your customers? Here it can be helpful to list out a 3-6 brand attributes you want to absolutely excel at.
  • Make sure your visual elements match your desired visual identity and your brand. If you’re promising innovation, don’t use greys and boring images. Colors and design play a critical role in developing a strong brand image.
  • Develop standards for employee dress and behavior that support your brand promise. Make sure they understand what your brand is and can support it.
  • Apply your visuals across every marketing tool you use, from advertising to signage to store displays to mailings to shopping bags. This helps both existing customers and new customers a consistent brand message.

Branding is a complex process, mainly because its success or failure is determined by your customers’ reactions to the act of doing business with you. You won’t always get it right, but the costs of not investing in your branding far out weigh the negative consequences of being seen as an untrustworthy or reliable brand.

Ecommerce Defined: Types, History, and Examples

What Is Electronic Commerce (E-commerce)?

Electronic commerce (e-commerce) refers to companies and individuals that buy and sell goods and services over the Internet. Ecommerce operates in different types of market segments and can be conducted over computers, tablets, smartphones, and other smart devices. Nearly every imaginable product and service is available through ecommerce transactions, including books, music, plane tickets, and financial services such as stock investing and online banking. As such, it is considered a very disruptive technology.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Ecommerce is the buying and selling of goods and services over the Internet.
  • It is conducted over computers, tablets, smartphones, and other smart devices.
  • Almost anything can be purchased through ecommerce today; for this reason, ecommerce is often highly competitive.
  • It can be a substitute for brick-and-mortar stores, though some businesses choose to maintain both.
  • Ecommerce operates in several market segments including business-to-business, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer, and consumer-to-business.

Understanding Ecommerce

As noted above, ecommerce is the process of buying and selling tangible products and services online. It involves more than one party along with the exchange of data or currency to process a transaction. It is part of the greater industry that is known as electronic business (e-business), which involves all of the processes required to run a company online.12

Ecommerce has helped businesses (especially those with a narrow reach like small businesses) gain access to and establish a wider market presence by providing cheaper and more efficient distribution channels for their products or services. Target (TGT) supplemented its brick-and-mortar presence with an online store that allows customers to purchase everything from clothes and coffeemakers to toothpaste and action figures right from their homes.

Providing goods and services isn’t as easy as it may seem. It requires a lot of research about the products and services you wish to sell, the market, audience, competition, as well as expected business costs.

Once that’s determined, you need to come up with a name and set up a legal structure, such as a corporation. Next, set up an ecommerce site with a payment gateway. For instance, a small business owner who runs a dress shop can set up a website promoting their clothing and other related products online and allow customers to make payments with a credit card or through a payment processing service, such as PayPal.

Fun Fact:

Ecommerce may be thought of as a digital version of mail-order catalog shopping. Also called online commerce, ecommerce is the transaction between a buyer and a seller that leverages technology.

Special Considerations

Ecommerce has changed the way people shop and consume products and services. More and more people are turning to their computers and smart devices to order goods, which can easily be delivered to their homes. As such, it has disrupted the retail landscape. Amazon and Alibaba have gained considerable popularity, forcing traditional retailers to make changes to the way they do business.

But that’s not all. Not to be outdone, individual sellers have increasingly engaged in ecommerce transactions via their own personal websites. And digital marketplaces such as eBay or Etsy serve as exchanges where multitudes of buyers and sellers come together to conduct business.

History of Ecommerce

Most of us have shopped online for something at some point, which means we’ve taken part in ecommerce. So it goes without saying that ecommerce is everywhere. But very few people may know that ecommerce has a history that goes back to before the internet began.

Ecommerce actually goes back to the 1960s when companies used an electronic system called the Electronic Data Interchange to facilitate the transfer of documents. It wasn’t until 1994 that the very first transaction. took place. This involved the sale of a CD between friends through an online retail website called NetMarket.3

The industry has gone through so many changes since then, resulting in a great deal of evolution. Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers were forced to embrace new technology in order to stay afloat as companies like Alibaba, Amazon, eBay, and Etsy became household names. These companies created a virtual marketplace for goods and services that consumers can easily access.

New technology continues to make it easier for people to do their online shopping. People can connect with businesses through smartphones and other devices and by downloading apps to make purchases. The introduction of free shipping, which reduces costs for consumers, has also helped increase the popularity of the ecommerce industry.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Ecommerce

Ecommerce offers consumers the following advantages:

  • Convenience: Ecommerce can occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Although ecommerce may take a lot of work, it is still possible to generate sales as you sleep or earn revenue while you are away from your store.
  • Increased selection: Many stores offer a wider array of products online than they carry in their brick-and-mortar counterparts. And many stores that solely exist online may offer consumers exclusive inventory that is unavailable elsewhere.
  • Potentially lower start-up cost: Ecommerce companies may require a warehouse or manufacturing site, but they usually don’t need a physical storefront. The cost to operate digitally is often less expensive than needing to pay rent, insurance, building maintenance, and property taxes.
  • International sales: As long as an ecommerce store can ship to the customer, an ecommerce company can sell to anyone in the world and isn’t limited by physical geography.
  • Easier to retarget customers: as customers browse a digital storefront, it is easier to entice their attention towards placed advertisements, directed marketing campaigns, or pop-ups specifically aimed at a purpose.

But there are certain drawbacks that come with ecommerce sites, too. The disadvantages include:

  • Limited customer service: If you shop online for a computer, you cannot simply ask an employee to demonstrate a particular model’s features in person. And although some websites let you chat online with a staff member, this is not a typical practice.
  • Lack of instant gratification: When you buy an item online, you must wait for it to be shipped to your home or office. However, e-tailers like Amazon make the waiting game a little bit less painful by offering same-day delivery as a premium option for select products.
  • Inability to touch products: Online images do not necessarily convey the whole story about an item, and so ecommerce purchases can be unsatisfying when the products received do not match consumer expectations. Case in point: an item of clothing may be made from shoddier fabric than its online image indicates.
  • Reliance on technology: If your website crashes, garners an overwhelming amount of traffic, or must be temporarily taken down for any reason, your business is effectively closed until the ecommerce storefront is back.
  • Higher competition: Although the low barrier to entry regarding low cost is an advantage, this means other competitors can easily enter the market. Ecommerce companies must have mindful marketing strategies and remain diligent on SEO optimization to ensure they maintain a digital presence.

Ecommerce Businesses

Pros

  • Convenient for owners as revenue may be generated semi-passively
  • Convenient for consumers looking to easily browse for specific products
  • Greater earning potential due to no limitations on physical location (can sell to anyone as long you can ship there)
  • Reduced costs assuming digital presence costs less than building, insurance, taxes, and repairs.
  • Greater marketing control including data extraction from customers, targeted ads, and pop-up placement
Cons

  • Limited customer service opportunities as there is little to no face-to-face opportunities
  • Lacks instant gratification as customers must believe in a product before seeing it in person
  • Products can’t been seen or handled until delivered (can’t try before they buy)
  • Risk of a down website causing lost revenue or income.
  • High reliance on shipping constraints which may be out of your control
  • Higher competition due to lower barriers of entry and greater customer potential

Types of Ecommerce

Depending on the goods, services, and organization of an ecommerce company, the business can opt to operate several different ways. Here are several of the popular business models.

Business to Consumer (B2C)

B2C ecommerce companies sell directly to the product end-user. Instead of distributing goods to an intermediary, a B2C company performs transactions with the consumer that will ultimately use the good. This type of business model may be used to sell products (i.e. your local sporting goods store’s website) or services (i.e. a lawncare mobile app to reserve landscaping services). This is the most common business model and is likely the concept most people think about when they hear ecommerce.

Business to Business (B2B)

Similar to B2C, an ecommerce business can directly sell goods to a user. However, instead of being a consumer, that user may be another company. B2B transactions are often entail larger quantities, greater specifications, and longer lead times. The company placing the order may also have a need to set recurring goods if the purchase is for recurring manufacturing processes.

Business to Government (B2G)

Some entities specialize as government contractors providing goods or services to agencies or administrations. Similar to a B2B relationship, the business produces items of value and remits those items to an entity. B2G ecommerce companies must often meet government requests for proposal requirements, solicit bids for projects, and meet very specific product or service criteria. In addition, there may be joint government endeavors to solicit a single contract through a government-wide acquisition contract.

Consumer to Consumer (C2C)

Established companies are the only entities that can sell things. Ecommerce platforms such as digital marketplaces connect consumers with other consumers who can list their own products and execute their own sales. These C2C platforms may be auction-style listings (i.e. eBay auctions) or may warrant further discussion regarding the item or service being provided (i.e. Craigslist postings). Enabled by technology, C2C ecommerce platforms empower consumers to both buy and sell without the need of companies.

Consumer to Business (C2B)

Modern platforms have allowed consumers to more easily engage with companies and offer their services, especially related to short-term contracts, gigs, or freelance opportunities. For example, consider listings on Upwork. A consumer may solicit bids or interact with companies that need particular jobs done. In this way, the ecommerce platform connects businessess with freelancers to enable consumers greater power to achieve pricing, scheduling, and employment demands.

Consumer to Government (C2G)

Less of a traditional ecommerce relationship, consumers can interact with administrations, agencies, or governments through C2G partnerships. These partnerships are often not in the exchange of service but rather the transaction of obligation. For example, uploading your Federal tax return to the IRS digital website is an ecommerce transaction regarding an exchange of information. Alternatively, you may pay your tuition to your university online or remit property tax assessments to your county assessor.

Types of Ecommerce Revenue Models

In addition to crafting what type of ecommerce company a business wants to be, the business must decide how it wants to make money. Due to the unique nature of ecommerce, the business has a few options on how it wants to process orders, carry inventory, and ship products.

Drop Shipping

Often considered one of the easier forms of ecommerce, drop shipping allows a company to create a digital storefront, generate sales, then rely on a supplier to provide the good. When generating the sale, the ecommerce company collects payment via credit card, PayPal, cryptocurrency, or other means of digital currency. Then, the ecommerce store passes the order to the dropship supplier. This supplier manages inventory, oversees the warehouse of goods, packages the goods, and delivers the product to the purchaser.

White Labeling

White label ecommerce companies leverage already successful products sold by another company. After a customer places an order, the ecommerce company receives the existing product, repackages the product with their own package and label, and distributes the product to the customer. Although the ecommerce company has little to no say in the product they receive, the company usually faces little to no in-house manufacturing constraints.

Wholesaling

A more capital-intensive approach to ecommerce, wholesaling entails maintaining quantities of inventory, keeping track of customer orders, maintaining customer shipping information, and typically having ownership of the warehouse space to house products. Wholesalers may charge bulk pricing to retailers or unit prices for consumers. However, the broad approach to wholesaling is to connect to buyers of large quantities or many smaller buyers of a similar, standardized product.

Private Labeling

Private labeling is a more appropriate ecommerce approach for companies that may not have large upfront capital or do not have their own factory space to manufacture goods. Private label ecommerce companies send plans to a contracted manufacturer who makes the product. The manufacturer may also have the ability to ship directly to a customer or ship directly to the company receiving the order. This method of ecommerce is best suited for companies that may receive on-demand orders with short turnaround time but are unable to handle the capital expenditure requirements.

Subscription

Ecommerce companies can also leverage repeating orders or loyal customers by implementing subscription services. For a fixed price, the ecommerce company will assemble a package, introduce new products, and incentivize locking to a long-term agreement at a lower monthly price. The consumer only places an order once and receives their subscription order at a fixed cadence. Common subscription ecommerce products include meal prep services, agriculture boxes, fashion boxes, or health and grooming products.

Example of Ecommerce

Amazon is a behemoth in the ecommerce space. In fact, it is the world’s largest online retailer and continues to grow. As such, it is a huge disrupter in the retail industry, forcing some major retailers to rethink their strategies and shift their focus.

The company launched its business with an ecommerce-based model of online sales and product delivery. It was founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994 as an online bookstore but has since expanded to include everything from clothing to housewares, power tools to food and drinks, and electronics.

Company sales increased by 38% in 2020 from the previous year, totaling $386.1 billion compared to $280.5 billion in 2019. Amazon’s operating income also jumped to $22.9 billion for the 2020 fiscal year from $14.5 billion in 2019. Net income rose from $11.6 billion in 2019 to $21.3 billion by the end of 2020.6

As the world adapted to the constraints of COVID-19, ecommerce capitalized on the opportunity to further distance itself from in-store shopping. In 2021, Amazon’s net income rose to $33.4 billion, and it ended the year with over $42 billion of cash on hand.7 Amazon has stated as a result of the pandemic, the company recognized three years’ worth of forecasted growth in about 15 months.7

How Do You Start an Ecommerce Business?

Make sure you do your research before you start your business. Figure out what products and services you’re going to sell and look into the market, target audience, competition, and expected costs.

Next, come up with a name, choose a business structure, and get the necessary documentation (taxpayer numbers, licenses, and permits if they apply).

Before you start selling, decide on a platform and design your website (or have someone do it for you).

Remember to keep everything simple at the beginning and make sure you use as many channels as you can to market your business so it can grow.

What Is an Ecommerce Website?

An ecommerce website is any site that allows you to buy and sell products and services online. Companies like Amazon and Alibaba are examples of ecommerce websites.

What Is the Difference Between Ecommerce and Ebusiness?

Ecommerce involves the purchase and sale of goods and services online and is actually just one part of an ebusiness. An ebusiness involves the entire process of running a company online. Put simply, it’s all of the activity that takes place with an online business.

What Is an Example of Ecommerce?

Dollar Shave Club offers customers personal grooming, health, and beauty products.8 Customers can opt for what product(s) they want shipped to them and can sign up for long-term memberships to have products sent to them on a recurring basis. Dollar Shave Club procures goods in bulk from other companies, then bundles those products, maintains membership subscriptions, and markets the products.

What Are the Types of Ecommerce?

An ecommerce company can sell to customers (B2C), businesses (B2B), or agencies such as the government (B2G). Ecommerce can also be performed by customers who sell to business (C2B), other customers (C2C), or governments (C2G).

The Bottom Line

Ecommerce is just one part of running an ebusiness. While the latter involves the entire process of running a business online, ecommerce simply refers to the sale of goods and services via the internet. Ecommerce companies like Amazon, Alibaba, and eBay have changed the way the retail industry works, forcing major, traditional retailers to change the way they do business.

If starting an ecommerce site is something you’re considering, make sure you do your research before you start. And make sure you start with small, narrow focus to ensure that you have room to grow.

web design
What Is Web Design? A Comprehensive Guide

Web design has come a long way since the first site was published in 1991. With over one billion live websites on the internet today, it’s no surprise that this industry is here to stay. Wix is home to thousands of website design professionals, enthusiasts, and designers who are empowering the industry to reach new heights. So, if you’re here to learn more about the world of web design, you’ve come to the right place.

web design banner

As a preliminary to learning how to design a website, this article will hone in on the role of web design and go over helpful tips by defining critical terms and ideas, and looking at examples that will give you further insight. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. What is a web design

  2. Web design vs. website development

  3. Web design tools

  4. Principles of design applied to websites

  5. Website layouts

  6. Functional components of web design

  7. Visual elements of web design

  8. Website maintenance

  9. Web design inspiration

01. What is web design?

Web design is the art of planning and arranging content on a website so that it can be shared and accessed online with the world. A combination of aesthetic and functional elements, web design is what determines the look of a website—such as its colors, fonts, and graphics—as well as shaping the site’s structure and the users’ experience of it.

Today, creating a website is one of the pillars of having an online presence. Because of this, the world of web design is as dynamic as ever. It is constantly evolving, including mobile apps and user interface design, to meet the growing needs of website owners and visitors alike.

Web design is often a collaborative process that combines knowledge and tools from related industries, ranging from web design statistics to SEO optimization and UX. Web designers will often bring together professionals from these areas who can optimize performance and focus on the larger process and outcome.

02. Web design vs. website development

The first step in our web design journey is to clarify the difference between web design and website development since the two are closely related and often (mistakenly) used interchangeably:

Web design refers to the visual design and experiential aspects of a particular website. We’re going to dive into more detail about web design throughout the rest of this article.

Website development refers to the building and maintenance of a website’s structure and involves intricate coding systems that ensure the website functions properly.

The following are the software languages most commonly used by web developers to build a website:

  • HTML or HyperText Markup Language is a coding language used to create the front end of websites. It is written to include the structure of a web page and carried out by web browsers on the websites that we see online.

  • CSS or Cascading Style Sheets is a programming design language that includes all relevant information relating to a web page’s display. CSS works with HTML to design the style and formatting of a website or page, including the layout, fonts, padding, and more.

  • CMS or a Content Management System, is a computer software application that manages the digital content of a website. Wix is an example of a CMS, which functions as a user-friendly system for website content development. This makes it possible for individuals to create a website and make updates without the knowledge of using code.

03. Web design tools

Web designers require their own unique set of tools to create and design. There are a few key elements that will determine which types you’ll use, and at which stage you’ll need them.

Here are a few questions to consider: How big is your team? What kind of budget do you have? What kind of technical requirements will your site need? What is the overall aesthetic you wish to achieve? Will you create an adaptive or responsive design? What is the purpose of your website? The answers to these questions will also help you understand​​ which kind of website builder you want to work with, or other design software tools.

Website builders like Wix are great since they don’t require code, and come equipped with a range of ready-made templates suitable to every industry. For novice web designers, website builders are a great foundational tool that can easily be customized both in terms of visual elements and functionality. For more experienced web designers, Editor X is the ideal platform with more advanced features for layouts, interactions, effects, and designed assets.

Design software tools such as Figma, Photoshop, and Sketch can be used to create wireframes, custom features, and design elements. However, the major difference with these tools is that all elements must be converted to code. While these tools offer creative flexibility and collaborative integrations like hand-off features to web developers, they can require more time, knowledge, and resources.

As you gain more experience with a range of web design tools, you’ll know which are best suited to you and your business needs.

04. Principles of design applied to websites

One of the first parts of understanding what web design is knowing what good web design is—and how to achieve it.

We can have a look at the principles of design for reference, a theory practiced by artists and designers that outlines the visual qualities any composition should aim for. Applying these principles to web design can help beginner and advanced web designers alike achieve a site with a harmonious look and feel.

Of course, these are not strict rules to follow, but rather guidelines to learn how we can apply the various elements of a website’s design. Take it from Picasso, “learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Once you understand the goals of web design and become more comfortable with each website element, you can tweak the approach with a more creative touch.

05. Website layouts

Planning your website layout is like setting its foundation since it will determine the arrangement and sequence of visual elements on each page of your website. This critical step in web design plays a role in a site’s visual appearance, level of usability, and amplifying its message.

The best layout for your website can be determined by a variety of factors: the goals of your website, the message you want to convey to viewers, and what kind of content you’ll include. While there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution, there are two major directions you can take:

  • Layouts to accommodate your content: The layout you choose should be fitting for the type of content. For example, if you want a layout that will showcase products you might go for one that leaves ample space for highlighting images. A blog layout, on the other hand, will need to convey new information in an organized way.

  • Common layouts: There are plenty of tried-and-tested website layouts out there. These tend to feel familiar to users, as they build on their existing expectations or past experiences of other websites. Since they may result in a more intuitive, easy-to-use interface, they can be great for beginners.

When designing a website of your own, you can use website templates in a wide range of categories to provide a solid infrastructure for your site’s layout. If you want to design a layout from scratch, we recommend using wireframes to start. This process will allow you to draft out the layout of your website before the implementation process.

06. Functional components of web design

Website functionality essentially refers to how your website works; everything from its speed and ease of use, to what specific actions can be performed on it.

At the risk of dating myself, when I think about how speedy and efficient websites function today—compared to the ‘90s (I can hear AOL’s dial-up signal in the background), I’m reminded that we’ve come a long way. Given the advancements across the industry of web design, it’s in our best interest to utilize the modern tools available to guarantee our websites perform well, and are easy to use.

Let’s go over the components of web design that will affect how your site functions:

  • Navigation

  • Speed

  • SEO

  • UX

  • Adaptive design vs. responsive design

07. Visual elements of web design

A website’s visual elements are just as important as the functional qualities and work together to shape its overall look and feel. From color schemes to fonts and video, these details play a role in user experience and the shaping of your brand. In this section we’ll go over the visual elements of web design, along with some tips for making aesthetic decisions of your own:

  • Website header

  • Website footer

  • Color scheme

  • Typography

  • Website background

  • Imagery

  • Animation

08. Website maintenance

The web design industry is one that’s constantly introducing new features, tools, and solutions. The downside of this quickly evolving world is that it requires you – and your website – to stay constantly up-to-date and implement a website maintenance plan.

After you’ve completed your first design, you’ll eventually have to update your website to ensure the content is relevant, and the design is not obsolete. While seemingly futile, any outdated elements on your website can negatively impact your visitors’ interactions, resulting in decreasing overall performance and sales.

Check-in on your website at least once a month to make sure there are no bugs, everything works properly, and your information is current. When considering a redesign, think about the changes you can make to keep your web design relevant, improve its ease of use, or amplify its performance. This might mean adding fresh visual content, an extra page, working on SEO, or performing an accessibility audit.

09. Web design inspiration

Now that we’ve covered the basics of web design, it’s time to seek creative examples. Web design inspiration is everywhere, and we recommend you regularly browse through sites like Behance, Awwwards, and Pinterest to find new ideas.

Here at Wix, we’ve got our finger on the pulse of web design trends, and are constantly on the lookout for the best websites made by users. We love seeing what these proud website owners do with our product – from artists to small business owners, and everyone in between.

What Is Web Development

Web development refers to the creating, building, and maintaining of websites. It includes aspects such as web design, web publishing, web programming, and database management. It is the creation of an application that works over the internet i.e. websites.

The word Web Development is made up of two words, that is:

  • Web: It refers to websites, web pages or anything that works over the internet.
  • Development: It refers to building the application from scratch.

Web Development can be classified into two ways:

  • Frontend Development
  • Backend Development

Frontend Development

The part of a website where the user interacts directly is termed as the front end. It is also referred to as the ‘client side’ of the application.

  • Frontend Roadmap:

  • HTML: HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. It is used to design the front-end portion of web pages using a markup language. It acts as a skeleton for a website since it is used to make the structure of a website.
  • CSSCascading Style Sheets fondly referred to as CSS is a simply designed language intended to simplify the process of making web pages presentable. It is used to style our website.
  • JavaScriptJavaScript is a scripting language used to provide a dynamic behavior to our website.
  • Bootstrap: Bootstrap is a free and open-source tool collection for creating responsive websites and web applications. It is the most popular CSS framework for developing responsive, mobile-first websites. Nowadays, the websites are perfect for all browsers (IE, Firefox, and Chrome) and for all sizes of screens (Desktop, Tablets, Phablets, and Phones).
    • Bootstrap 4
    • Bootstrap 5

Frontend Frameworks and Libraries:

Backend Development

The backend is the server side of a website. It is part of the website that users cannot see and interact with. It is the portion of software that does not come in direct contact with the users. It is used to store and arrange data.

  • Backend Roadmap:

  • PHP: PHP is a server-side scripting language designed specifically for web development.
  • Java: Java is one of the most popular and widely used programming languages. It is highly scalable.
  • PythonPython is a programming language that lets you work quickly and integrate systems more efficiently.
  • Node.js: Node.js is an open-source and cross-platform runtime environment for executing JavaScript code outside a browser.
  • Back-End Frameworks: The list of back-end frameworks is: Express, Django, Rails, Laravel, Spring, etc.
how to create digital marketing strategy
How to Create an Effective Digital Marketing Strategy

In this post, you’re going to learn exactly how to create and implement an effective digital marketing strategy, step-by-step.

In fact, it’s the same strategies I’ve used over the years to drive millions of visits to my website and clients’ websites.

So, if you want to learn how to use digital marketing to grow your traffic, this strategy guide is for you.

What is a digital marketing strategy?

A digital marketing strategy is a plan of action that describes how to use one or more online marketing channels to reach your target audience. It has a list of steps and specific digital marketing goals.

Having a digital strategy is important because it will help you orchestrate the different online marketing strategies so that they all work towards achieving your business goals.

The person responsible to design and execute a digital strategy is the digital marketing manager of a company.

Together with his team, they will make sure that every marketing activity is part of your digital marketing plan.

How to create a Digital Marketing Strategy

These are the steps to follow to create an effective marketing strategy.

  1. Specify measurable business goals
  2. Identify your target audience
  3. Understand users needs and search intent
  4. Create a content marketing library
  5. Start with SEO as early as possible
  6. Explore paid advertising channels
  7. Use email marketing segmentation and automation
  8. Take advantage of new traffic sources
  9. Use retargeting and personalization
  10. Work on conversion optimization
  11. Evaluate and revise your strategy

The first step in creating a digital marketing strategy is to specify your business goals. In other words, to determine what you want to accomplish with digital marketing.

Any goals you set have to be measurable and well-defined. Everything in a digital marketing campaign is measurable (from start to finish) and you need to take advantage of this and form a digital marketing plan that has specific milestones and targets.

Some typical goals are:

  • Raise brand awareness
  • Increase organic traffic
  • Make more sales
  • Get more email subscribers
  • Reduce the cost of PPC campaigns
  • Get more Facebook followers
  • Get more YouTube subscribers

While the above is a good starting point, they are still vague. A better version would be:

Raise brand awareness by:

  • Increasing Facebook Followers to 10K
  • Facebook Ads reach to 400K
  • Getting brand mentions from high-traffic websites
  • Increasing YouTube video views by 10K

Increase organic traffic by:

  • Getting higher rankings for keyword X
  • Publishing new content targeting keyword Y
  • Updating existing content that meets criteria A and B
  • Run an email outreach campaign to get X links

A good way to come up with measurable goals is to use the top-down approach. Start by specifying your goals in business terms and then translate that to digital marketing goals.

Here is an example to understand this better.

Business goal: Increase sales to $50K per month from Google organic traffic.

Assuming that you make $1000 from every 5K visit you get from Google search, to get to $50K in sales per month you’ll need to get around 250,000 visits from Google.

If your current traffic level is 140K Google visits per month, then your digital marketing strategy should include steps on how you can get from 140K visits to 250K visits.

A typical step could be, “Publish 3 new blog posts per week”, which needs to be broken down further to specify which/topics and keywords the blog posts will target and what would be the expected outcome in terms of traffic increase.

Experienced digital marketing specialists know that this is not always easy to calculate because digital marketing is a dynamic industry and changes all the time. But, having a detailed plan will help you adjust your strategies so as to get closer to your goals as possible.

It goes without saying that your plan has to be realistic, taking into account the competition and complexities of your industry.

Also, to be able to analyze data and make informed decisions, you first need to track it correctly and accurately so, having a good analytics system in place is more than essential.

2. Identify your target audience

The second step is to identify your target audience. In other words, specify in detail who you want to target with your campaigns.

Some marketers, place this as the first step in the process and this is not wrong. What is certain is that this is an exercise you need to perform in the early stages and before finalizing the next steps of your marketing strategy.

What does identifying your audience mean? Specifying in detail the characteristics of people that might be potentially interested in your offerings.

In your audience identification, you should include things like:

  • The countries/areas your potential customers live in
  • Their age group
  • Gender
  • Educational background
  • Marital status
  • Family status
  • Occupation
  • Their interests

audience-personas-1536x1021

3. Understand user needs and search intent

Once you know the profile of your target customer, the next step is to use different techniques and try to understand their needs and how they express this when searching for information using a search engine or a social network.

There are two ways to approach this process. The first method is to take the typical digital sales funnel and identify what your customers might need at each stage.

The second method is to take the different customer profiles created above, and come up with a  separate sales funnel for each.

This is my recommended method because it makes it easier to set up and run dedicated digital marketing campaigns for each customer profile.

Let me give you an example to understand this better.

My agency provides digital marketing services to small businesses and we’re also offering online courses. People looking for services have a totally different profile than people looking for training.

There are also variations within the same segment i.e. beginners to digital marketing have different training needs than the more experienced marketers.

So, by analyzing each buyer persona separately, you can come up with a more accurate plan of how your content, products, or services can help them solve their problems and needs.

Search Intent

In the digital marketing world, the needs of users are expressed through search queries. When a user types a search query in Google, it has a specific intent and if your content/products or services do not satisfy it, your digital marketing strategy will fail.

That’s why it is important to perform keyword research from the very beginning and capture all topics, keywords, and phrases throughout the buyer journey, from awareness to conversion.

Social media networks don’t reveal the ‘searchers’ intent’, what happens then?

It’s true that users browsing Facebook may not have a specific intent in mind but they have a particular profile.

To increase your chances of targeting the right type of audience, you can analyze the profile of your search visitors (using Google Analytics) and use custom audiences to find matching audiences (Lookalike Audiences) on Facebook.

Always use any available data that you have as your starting point for research. The results will be more accurate than using data that is external to your website.

4. Create a content marketing library

The next strategic step you need to make is to create a library of content assets. You know your audience and their needs, now it’s time to create various types of assets to use in your campaigns.

A digital asset can be a blog post, infographic, image, video, podcast, cover image, logo, and anything else you can publish on your website or social networks.

In the digital marketing world, this is what content marketing is all about. Content marketing is important because it’s the process used to decide what kind of content to create, when, and where to publish it.

I prefer to execute this step in the beginning and before running any campaigns because it’s more efficient to have a pool of content assets ready in advance rather than having to do this every time you’re about to start a campaign.

When you follow the steps in the order described in this guide (set goals, create customer personas, identify needs, and search intent), then you have all the information you need to work on your content assets.

It’s also easier to assign the content creation part to the different members of your team to work in parallel.

5. Start with SEO as early as possible

A strategic decision to make that can positively impact your digital marketing efforts is to start with SEO as early as possible.

SEO is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies but it has a caveat. It takes time to work.

Unlike other digital marketing strategies, when you start an SEO campaign, it may take 4 to 6 months to generate any results. This is a long time to wait so most marketers tend to focus on other digital channels first (like Facebook Ads, and Google Ads) that are more immediate.

That’s a good approach but the common mistake is that they forget about SEO and only re-visit SEO after they realize that they cannot build a successful digital marketing campaign based solely on paid advertising.

So, a better strategy is to allocate a portion of your marketing budget from the very beginning on SEO-related tasks. In parallel, you can start working on your paid campaigns and other channels.

SEO is important because the majority of search traffic is distributed to websites that appear in the first 5 positions of the search results. So, if you want to get traffic from search engines, you need to appear in the top positions for search terms related to your business.

The best way to get started with SEO is to follow a step-by-step approach:

Step 1: Review your technical SEO and make sure that search engines can access and index your content without any problems. This is important since any issues at this stage will be catastrophic for your efforts.

Step 2: Optimize your content for search engines. In Step 4 above, you will create content that satisfies the needs of the user. Before publishing, you need to make sure that it’s SEO optimized.

This means, giving the right signals to search engines (through your titles, descriptions, headings, etc) to help them understand your content better.

Step 3: Promote your website and content. One of the most important SEO ranking factors is how other websites on the Internet ‘think’ of your website. If other relevant websites trust your website and they express this through a backlink, this is a strong signal to Google that your website deserves to be on the top positions.

If SEO is something that you haven’t done before for your website, the best way to approach this is to add it to your digital strategy and assign this task to SEO experts.

6. Explore paid advertising channels

When you start an online business, you know in advance that a large portion of your marketing budget will be allocated on PPC marketing (paid ads).

But, not all PPC platforms are the same. Based on your previous analysis (steps 2 and 3 above), you need to choose which platforms are more suited for your audience.

You can use the table below to get an idea of how the user profile looks for the most popular social networks.

Facebook Ads – ideal for all kinds of businesses. Works better for B2C. The best platform to raise brand awareness.

Instagram Ads – suitable if you want to reach a younger audience.

Twitter Ads – Business oriented. Great for informing your community of updates.

Linked Ads – Strictly for business-related advertising. Use it to reach decision-makers.

Google Ads – The most reliable platform to get targeted traffic to your website through paid search ads.

Google Display Ads – Use it for retargeting purposes and to reach your audience in the various Google products (YouTube, Gmail) and thousands of websites that participate in Google AdSense.

Bing Ads – Not as powerful as Google but a good alternative to get more search traffic to your website.

7. Use email marketing segmentation and automation

The end goal of a digital marketing campaign is to generate more revenue for a business. But in order to get to your ultimate goal, you first need to consider micro-conversions.

For example, while one of my goals is to sell my digital marketing course, an intermediate goal is to get people to subscribe to my email list (micro conversion).

I consider this an important step because I know from my statistics that a large percentage of people that subscribe to my list, will eventually convert.

The same concept can be applied to any business or product. You need to give incentives to users to sign up for your email list and then send them personalized emails that will help them make the final decision, which is to convert by buying your products or services.

An important element to make this work is segmentation and automation.

With email segmentation, you segment your list into groups of people that share the same interests and send them customized content.

For example, people registering to my list to download the SEO Checklist will get different email content than people who register to receive my posts updates.

If email marketing is a new concept for you, then you can realize that it involves a lot of work and that’s where email automation comes into play.

Here is a visual example of how email automation works.

email-marketing-automation-example-1536x478

8. Take advantage of new traffic sources

A complete digital marketing strategy should not only take into account the traditional online marketing channels but should also cater to new digital marketing strategies that rise to the surface.

To be more precise, at the time of writing this post, there are a number of new channels that you can explore like:

  • Google Discover Ads
  • Google Shopping Search
  • Google Shopping Ads
  • Tik-Tok
  • Google Keen
  • Optimizing your content for voice search
  • Optimizing your content for Google rich snippets

These channels are new and most probably less competitive than established channels. This means you can get better results at a lower cost.

Will these help your strategy? The only way to find out is to test them by running pilot campaigns (as explained above).

9. Use retargeting and personalization

So far, all of the above strategies are related to how you can reach more people but it’s equally important to follow up on users that already know your brand, but are not yet customers.

This is known as ‘retargeting’ or ‘remarketing’. With retargeting, you can show specific ads to users that visited your website (or social network page) but did not convert.

10. Work on conversion optimization

Another area that needs to be part of your overall marketing strategy is conversion optimization.

What is conversion optimization? In simple terms, conversion optimization is the process to follow to optimize your website so that a higher percentage of your visitors will perform the desired actions.

This starts with your website design, content, landing page optimization, email signup forms, shopping cart, checkout process, and other elements that contribute (directly or indirectly) to conversions.

One of the techniques to use is A/B testing. By applying a/b testing principles you can measure the effect on conversions by carefully changing parts of your website or sales funnel.

I’ll not go into the details on how to perform A/B testing or conversion optimization (you can follow the links in the resources below to learn more), but from a strategic point of view, it’s important to add conversion optimization activities in your digital marketing plan.

Here is an example of how a conversion optimization plan looks like:

11. Evaluate and revise your strategy

Digital marketing is a highly dynamic industry. ‘Rules’ change all the time and it’s extremely important that you evaluate and revise your digital marketing strategy to stay current and relevant.

The best way to evaluate your campaign is to do it based on KPIs and other metrics. The most important metrics for any kind of digital marketing campaign are:

  • Number of website visits
  • Cost per visit
  • Cost per conversion
  • Click-Through Rate
  • Number of Conversions
  • Number of micro-conversions
  • Time on site
  • Bounce rate
  • Number of social shares
  • Number of comments

If you have a good analytics system in place and can track these for every campaign that is part of your strategy, then it will be easier to make informed decisions.

Don’t forget that part of your evaluation should be to look for new channels you can add to your strategy.

It’s always a good idea to take a look at your competitor’s strategies and identify which of their strategies you can include in your marketing mix.

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