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When you’re trying to make the sale, you want to be as tactful as possible. You want to talk to your customer at the exact time they want what you’re selling. This means going beyond storing their basic contact information and tracking points of contact, rebuttals, and previous sales deals.
That’s where contact management software can be one of your most valuable sales sidekicks. It helps you streamline your sales process so that you can close sales faster, keep your most valuable customers, and grow your business.
But how do you find the right contact manager to integrate into your sales system? Well, you’ve landed exactly where you need to be. In this extensive guide, I review five of the top contact management tools on the market and walk you through the best features as well as their price points. Let’s get started.
Choosing the best contact management software goes beyond making sure they provide the standard CMS tools scoping anywhere from sales tracking, keeping customer notes, emails, and sales history. Your business is unique, which means your CMS needs are also unique. Because of this, it’s hard to pinpoint a one-size-fits-all CMS that you can use in any given sales scenario or industry.
You also have to consider the size of your team, your plans for scaling and revenue growth, and what functionalities are non-negotiable in your given industry.
Beyond that, there are a few specific key factors to think through when trying to make the best choice in a sea of software. Here are a few additional factors to consider that I also used for this list to make sure you’re making the best contact management investment possible.
Some contact management systems put more emphasis on sales reporting and analytics than others. This can prove to be a valuable asset or just an extra feature to your team, depending on how you uniquely handle your sales process.
These days, contact management software is increasingly robust in terms of the analytics it can gather to help you make the best sales decisions. Some of them can measure everything from live chat interactions to sales calls, email responses, and even what you’re prospective customers say on social media about you or your competitor’s product or service.
Deciding how deep you need your contact management analytics to go will ultimately depend on your sales goals and budget. Consulting with your sales team can be a sound idea in the process of making a final decision.
The sales process you use to sell printers isn’t necessarily the same one you’d use to sell premium car parts. This also means you’ll want to find a CMS that fits every unique point of sale your team goes through continuously.
If done right, this can mean higher ROI, shorter sales cycles, and more revenue. This is where it’s a good idea to take the time to test drive every prospective CMS that looks appealing to your sales team. Most of them have the option for a demo or a 14-day free trial. These trials exist for a reason. I highly recommend you take advantage of as many as you can.
The more scalable integrations and features a CMS has, the more likely it is to have a big learning curve. This is important to take into account when thinking about onboarding your sales team to the system successfully.
Besides that, the user experience for both your front-facing customer features like contact forms and chatbots and the backend features your sales team will have to interact with daily is also a crucial part of the process as far as ease of use goes. An array of powerful features is pretty much useless if your sales team continually runs into trouble using them or if integrations prove too clunky to operate properly.
This also raises questions about what support features your preferred CMS provides and whether they offer any accompanying training options like forums, live chats, or even training webinars.
Many contact management tools on the market offer lots of the same features, with a few differentiators. They can vary by industry or by business size. That’s why it’s crucial to shop around first.
It’s important to distinguish between contact management software (CMS) and customer relationship management (CRM). Both tools offer many of the same functions and tools that they’re often thought to be interchangeable.
However, a CRM can give you all the functions of a CMS while also giving you additional tools for the overall sales process and scaling your business. A CMS by itself is a bit more limited in the scope of what it can do and how it can scale in terms of sales capabilities. In the end, it’s entirely up to your discretion if you ultimately decide to go for a more comprehensive CRM tool to manage your sales contacts and beyond or stick with a CMS.
A lot of contact management software is cloud-based, which can prove to be convenient as a subscription. This way, it doesn’t take up additional space on your sales equipment.
Moreover, there is also open-source software to think about. If your sales team includes in-house developers that can customize your system and take it beyond the standard features, it can be a worthwhile investment.
Contact management software that scales with you and offers powerful tools to take you beyond the basics? There’s a tool for that. It’s called Salesforce.
The point of a CMS is to increase the efficiency of your daily operations, so you’re never blindsided by lost sales or missed relationship-building opportunities.
Salesforce does that by offering the tools to build a good contact management base. This means contact history, survey answers, and email responses. But they take it a step further with their social data tool to keep track of what your customer is saying about products and services.
Not only that, but Salesforce makes it easy to collaborate with everyone in your business. You can share documents, comments, analytics and insights, sales history, and any other information relevant to your ROI.
On-the-go contact management is also possible with its mobile app. You can hop on a call armed with plenty of preemptive information about your customer from anywhere. This awesome array of tools makes Salesforce not only a contact management tool but a sales closing system, too, which is why it’s made it on my top five picks.
Here’s a breakdown of each plan they offer:
Each plan comes with:
The higher the tier, the more access to customizable features and tools you’ll have. Thankfully, you don’t have to jump right into a plan without testing how they work first.
Salesforce also gives you the option of testing any pricing tier first before committing.
Try Salesforce for free first here and see what plan fits your contact management needs the best.
Hubspot stands alone as a powerful free CMS with tons of accessible tools to enhance your sales cycle from beginning to end.
The list of contact management tasks you can do for free with Hubspot’s software is seemingly endless. You can keep track of contact website activity, deals, company insights, manage ticketing, manage ads, email tracking and notifications, and even messenger integrations.
Hubspot’s free contact management software is an excellent stepping stone toward more varied and growth-oriented contact management as your business grows since you can always upgrade to one of their paid CMS plans without having to migrate.
If you’re getting started with contact management and want to do more with your contacts in terms of sales strategy on a budget, I recommend you start onboarding Hubstop’s free tools for a strong beginning.
Start using Hubspot for free here.
A small or mid-sized business doesn’t always have use for tools built with enterprises in mind. Zoho takes the prize for a simple yet reliable contact manager you can easily start with.
A single dashboard unifies all your data points so you can make strategic decisions at a glance and manage everyone on your roster. It helps to think of it as your own personal yellow pages except for ten times more useful.
You can do things like adding your preferred tags to contacts to find what you’re looking for quickly, glance over at your expected revenue numbers, and see all your pending tasks.
Zoho makes it easier for you to close deals by scheduling follow-up activities and then closely monitoring results, all on an intuitive dashboard.
Zoho’s simplicity bleeds into its pricing structure, too. Instead of charging you per seat, they charge you a set monthly fee.
Here’s a quick overview:
Smart – $12.50 a month billed annually
Ultra – $20.83 a month billed annually
Pipedrive is loved not just for the wide array of CMS tools it offers but because it makes the whole contact management and sales process straightforward and visual. It’s been used by over 90,000 companies in more than 170 countries and business giants like Vimeo, Amazon, and Re/Max.
Pipedrive is a highly intuitive system that easily updates and automates contact tasks and sales calls. The easy drag-and-drop features and their clean and approachable interface make them an easily adaptable and usable system.
With a visual dashboard in mind, they don’t falter in the features department, as it offers plenty of tools for powerful contact management like task automation, lead pipelines, and smart lists that track the last time you contacted a prospect.
You can always try Pipedrive free for 14 days. It doesn’t hurt to spend a few days trying out the software’s ins and outs to see if they’re a good company match. Otherwise, the ricing plans break into four tiers:
Zendesk is a dynamic CMS that emphasizes the analytical and reporting aspects of contact management.
The last thing you want is to grow a robust list of leads and then have no idea what to do with them due to lack of data. Zendesk’s analytics make it possible for you to engage in better conversations with your prospects with their pre-built analytics features.
With them, you can track rep activities, call response times, and live chat interactions. Their rich reporting features ensure you keep a finger on every touchpoint of your sales cycle. This makes it easy to increase the ROI of each sales rep on your team.
Zendesk’s price breakdowns can get specific depending on the solutions and features you’re looking for. The contact and relationship management tiers start at $19 per seat.
Here’s a quick overview of the pricing tiers:
Finding the right contact management system can make the difference between constant sales, shorter sales cycles, and more efficient business growth all around.
But it starts with figuring out what your sales needs are, how you go through your sales strategy, and what you need to optimize for higher ROI. Once you’ve figured out your key needs, you can start narrowing down your list of prospects.
My top choices for effective contact management are Hubspot, because of their extensive list of free tools, and Salesforce, because of how versatile and adaptable they are. Make sure to use this review as a roadmap to make your final decision.
Do you know which online marketing campaign drives the maximum traffic and business to your website?
Sure, you might be keeping tabs on various referral sources inside your Google Analytics (GA) reports. But, wouldn’t it helpful to have an advanced tracking option that keeps you on top of the marketing campaign that drives maximum traffic for you?
That’s where UTM parameters come into play.
By tagging your URLs with UTMs (Urchin Tracking Module), you can understand how your visitors interact with your website.
Here’s how these UTM parameters appear at the end of your URL.
So, what can these snippets of text tell you, after appending your URLs?
I’ll tell you the traffic aspects you can track in the next section. First, let me tell you one catch associated with them….
UTM parameters are stubborn entities that stick to your links, even when you switch to different networks and mediums.
That means if a visitor picked your link (tagged with a UTM) from Twitter to share on Facebook, it would still count as a share from Twitter.
According to research conducted by BuzzFeed , content actually spreads across the social web in a branching tree pattern.
Research by 33across found that 82% of online sharing is done by copy-pasting URLs. This means that UTMs stick around and can give misleading data for cross-platform social media sharing.
There’s a potential solution – cleaning the URLs by stripping UTM codes at the end, once sharing on one social platform has occurred.
But, if this clean URL then gets shared on private social media (think Email, WhatsApp and Messenger), it appears as direct traffic in your analytics.
Again, this is misleading information – which becomes a part of your dark social traffic.
With this limitation, I just wanted you to understand that UTMs aren’t the end-all solution to understanding the performance of your content.
But, they sure make your marketing campaign picture less chaotic.
So, let’s start with generating custom URLs for your campaign and some UTM best practices. Then, we’ll move on to live UTM use-cases.
But before we dig in deep, let me clearer on the basics.
Here’s a succinct and super helpful definition from Kissmetrics:
“UTM parameters are simply tags that you add to a URL. When someone clicks on a URL with UTM parameters, those tags are sent back to your Google Analytics for tracking.”
Are you ready to get going on your UTM campaign and figure out how these insights might shape your marketing effort?
UTM parameters are a great way to figure out which URLs are most effective in attracting visitors to your content. So, is there a systematic way to append them to your URLs?
Say hello to Google’s URL builder — but there are now three different ones depending on whether you want to track data in GA, Google Play, or the Apple App store.
We’ll look at the one inside the Google Analytics help center (looks like the screenshot below) for setting up your URLs.
Here are the five form fields that you need to complete:
You can also use the Effin amazing UTM Builder Chrome extension (now called UTM.io) to create UTMs. It auto-populates the URL and saves your most used terms as presets.
Here are three best practices that you must follow for tagging your URLs. It will help you easily identify where traffic comes from.
If you stay consistent, you can avoid a lot of confusion and ensure that your UTMs are reportable.
First, use dashes over underscores, percentage (representation for spaces inside GA), and plus signs in your URLs. Google algorithm doesn’t penalize you for using them and they work better – Matt Cutts explains why here.
Second, stay consistent with lowercase throughout all of your campaigns. For example,
utm_source=LinkedIn is different from utm_source=linkedin.
Changing to uppercase, camel case, or any other capitalization gives you an additional responsibility of remembering this convention. So, it’s better to stick with lowercase and not let human error creep in.
Third, keep your URLs clean, descriptive, non-redundant and easy to read.
For example, you might mistakenly put the same values inside source and medium parameters.
Or, you can put the specific originating aspect under medium (like the example below), but still manage to confuse yourself with the double use of ‘facebook.’
The best way is to simply make the UTMs flow like a normal sentence sans any redundancy. See how easy it is to decipher your campaign details in the URL below.
The traffic source is Facebook with post as the medium and a part of the new admin dashboard 2014 April campaign.
Here is a visual summary of the points I just mentioned.
Note: Once you’ve taken sufficient time to create data-rich URLs, I recommended that you shorten them, using tools like bit.ly or Google Link Shortener. A long and bulky URL does not make for a good user experience and might even come across as spammy.
Also, the UTM parameters are visible to the users in their address bars. So, be transparent and don’t use values that you don’t want to be seen by the user.
Keeping a record of the tagged links will ensure that your marketing team stays on the same page. You can use this free spreadsheet template by Sam Wiltshire or this free link tagging tool by Rafflecopter to get started.
Additionally, create a naming convention guide document that lays out clear instructions for tagging links. This can be an iterative and expanding guide – if you come across a new scenario, you can add the example to this document.
The most important aspect for a business isn’t the number of clicks and traffic generated by various sources; it’s revenue.
So, once you know your way around UTMs, it’s useful to connect your tracking data with your CRM. It shows you a clear picture of how various online marketing channels are affecting your bottom line.
Alternatively, you can also set up goals inside GA. For example, if you want to measure reader loyalty and engagement, I show you the process in this article.
I recommend, though, that you track more concrete conversion-focused metrics, like leads generated and email signups.
Alright, now that you’re aware of these best practices, let’s talk about when to use UTM parameters.
Here are tjree UTM parameter use cases you can implement right away.
Suppose you want to find your highest ROI-yielding social media platform and which links on that platform perform the best, traffic-wise. Then, UTMs can help you analyze your social media referral traffic.
For example, on Twitter, you have four options to promote your links – a regular tweet, a promoted tweet, a website field, a and profile/bio description.
Barring the profile link (since it displays the first part of the URL you enter), you can track all of these link clicks separately.
Here are example UTM parameter strings, based on Twitter with different medium values.
Once you’ve generated a custom URL, you can shorten the link, using shorteners I mentioned earlier and save the precious 160 character real estate.
Similarly, on Facebook, you can create separate UTM links for promoted posts, profile contact info, posts in a group, organic posts from your page and more. Kristin Hines shares UTM parameters for major social media here.
Once you start getting data and if you create goals (as I mentioned in the best practice 3 above), then you’ll get an enriching GA report like the one below.
Want to understand the parameters inside your newsletter that contribute the majority of traffic to your website?
Then, appending UTMs to your URLs can help.
Let’s look at an example instant update email by Redfin.
All of the links inside the above email share these UTM parameters:
utm_campaign : instant_listings_update
utm_medium : email
utm_source : myredfin
But, Redfin has correctly set up different utm_content values for all of their links (the screenshot above displays the unique values for each link). So, even when the subscribers of the myredfin list go to the same page, redfin knows the link they have clicked.
Now, let’s look at a bad example of UTM.
Here’s an email from Pinterest, recommending certain boards to follow.
As you can see, every board has an author, 5 images and a follow board CTA.
All of the above links share the following UTM parameters:
utm_campaign : weekly_wkly_130722
utm_medium : email
utm_source : sendgrid.com
Note that the utm_camapign value at 13 07 22 represents the date it was sent on (22/07/2013). It’s a useful piece of information.
But, other than that, Pinterest fails to impress with its UTM implementation.
I recommend that check out the UTM analysis of 8 more companies, by Puru Choudhary, here.
You can further implement UTM parameters inside your email signature to track if it leads visitors to your website.
Gniewko Oblicki created a company-wide signature template, appending UTM parameters. Here’s how it looks in CodeTwo Exchange Rules HTML editor.
He ran five footer campaigns in the company and found that users engaged incredibly well on their website. Here’s the GA report showing the results of 1682 sessions initiated by the five campaigns.
If you regularly perform paid marketing, then I am sure you would like to know the banner ads that perform the best.
With UTMs, you can not only find out the external website that brings the most traffic, but you can even find out the banner placement, design, size, color and banner types that are most effective.
For example, suppose you use two banner sizes, 300px and 600px, for advertising on a third-party website, Koozai.
Here’s how the UTM might look if it is 300 px wide.
Here’s how it would look when it is 600 px wide.
Once you’ve tagged both sizes, you can easily find the one that’s more effective and double down on it.
Kristi uses 320px banner ads in her blog’s sidebar. And, here’s how they perform against other clicks on her eBook.
Once again, I want to emphasize that if you’ve set up goals inside GA, then you can find the most valuable piece of info that affects your business.
For example, Kristi navigated to ‘Goal Set 1’ to find out how her banner ad converts to sales. And, she can compare it with her eBook sales through other links.
To recap here, to create UTM parameters for your links, use Google’s URL builder. It’ll help you start campaign tracking. And, remember to keep the best practices in mind as you do so.
Have you ever used UTM parameters for campaign tracking? Did it lead to insights about building a custom campaign? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.
Finding the right website builder is like choosing a life partner or career, only more important.
Whether you are setting up a small non-profit or are itching to take over the world with your handmade jewelry, the quality of your site will be a key factor in your success.
With a good website builder, someone with no technical experience can spin up an amazing site in no time.
Knowing what’s good is the first step, but the top options on the market have different strong points. The next step is figuring out which of the best website builders is the right fit for your needs.
I’ve been building websites for years. Let me walk you through the different types of website builders and how to choose between them.
After that, you can use my in-depth reviews of the top four options to make an informed decision.
Why are you starting a website?
There are a multitude of reasons to want to start a website and they will affect the services and features you will need.
For instance, is your goal to set up shop as an ecommerce entrepreneur, dropshipping items from abroad?
Do you want to start a simple blog documenting your travel adventures?
Think deeply about what you want now, but also your roadmap for the future. Once you commit to a particular website builder, it can be difficult to change later on.
After getting a clear idea of your needs, you will then need to consider the different types of web builders available.
Keep in mind that many website builders fit multiple categories, serving each need to a different extent.
There are thousands of reasons to create a website, and nowadays, it seems like every person and organization has one.
To service such great demand, some website builders have taken a holistic approach in terms of appeal and their tools.
For example, these sites typically have a lot of features that other types of website builders have, such as the ability to blog.
However, as they are multi-purpose in nature, you cannot expect these features to not be as in-depth and robust as more specialist platforms.
Some use cases for general website builders include:
Here’s a good example of how an organization can use their website to push their brand identity.
General-purpose website builders are great for creating and maintaining an online presence. Keep all your readers, followers, and customers up-to-date.
Content is what drives the web, and one of the oldest yet still most relevant forms of content is the blog post.
Considering blogging is such a crucial part of the web, some website builders have been designed with a content management system in mind.
In the case that you want to get your thoughts out there; ideally, in a serious and sustained way, a blog website builder may be the right option for you. Use cases include:
Here’s a not-entirely-random example of a content-centric website.
Essentially, blog website builders are a good choice if you plan on writing long term and it is one of the things you focus on.
Another type of website builder are ecommerce platforms.
As you might expect, these are perfectly designed to help people build and manage online stores through the ability to list goods, fulfill orders, and take payments.
These website builders are useful for:
An example of an ecommerce website.
Now it is time to take a closer look at some of the specific features to consider when evaluating a website builder.
Remember that although some website builders may fall into the same category, each may suit your needs differently.
For instance, you may be setting up an online shop and your primary consideration may be a low learning curve, whereas somebody else may be thinking about a platform that can allow them to scale easily.
Here are some features you should consider.
Things to consider:
If you are new to setting up online or are time-constrained, how easy it is to get started will likely be your primary concern.
Things to consider:
You should think strongly about scalability if you are already an established business looking to create an online presence. This is particularly true if you are already selling products at scale in the real world.
Startups in the fundraising process and are looking to scale fast or even change core features of their product should also take caution here.
Things to consider:
If you plan on running a site with a lot of visitors and it happens to go down, the last thing you want is an unresponsive support team. This is especially true if you plan on driving a lot of traffic at a given time.
A website builder with a strong support team is also useful if you are just getting started online, considering you may still get stuck, even with simple interfaces.
Things to consider:
If you plan on making money from your website, either by selling products directly or to capture leads, then price should not be a key consideration for you. Make an investment in the best service for your needs.
However, if you just want to set up a small information site, then you could do with the cheapest options.
Generally, website builders that have feature depth are typically more expensive as they solve more specific problems.
Things to consider:
The features of a website builder are the main thing to consider when deciding which route to follow. This is because they will have the most impact on your specific goals.
For instance, if you want to set up a landing page for a specific product, trying to optimize with a generic site builder will be a pain. It will probably lack the in-depth analytic tools that a dedicated landing page builder would have.
Also keep in mind that there are some features that you may not need now, but you could need in the future, such as if you plan on running paid ads to your blog posts.
Things to consider:
Regardless of your goal, you should always be concerned with providing a great user experience to the people who are visiting your site. It simply makes logical sense – if your site is hard to navigate, people won’t get the most out of it.
The actual design and branding are important too. For instance, some designs are more corporate while others are more welcoming. There may be a design template that really suits your particular brand.
And if you are selling something, you need to ensure that the design is optimized to increase conversions.
Now that you have a good understanding of the types of website builders and the features to look out for, it is time to take a look at some of the best website builders on the market.
If there is one website builder that you have likely heard of, it is probably Wix. The effort that Wix puts into their marketing is phenomenal. Wix is so successful, in fact, that they have featured high profile celebrities like Jason Stratham in some of their campaigns.
Not only that, but Wix has results to show for it too, with over 160 million websites hosted by the company.
Wix is the best website builder if you don’t have a specific need in mind. Even in the opposite case, this is true, such as if you have broad needs and are aiming for different functionality.
Wix is truly the “jack of all trades” in the sense that it does everything well, but nothing is truly exceptional. However, it serves its purpose for the average person looking to set up a website.
Here are the best things about Wix:
Here are the weaker parts about Wix:
Next, we have Weebly, which is a drag and drop website builder that prides itself on its ease of use. Weebly currently powers over 50 million websites and has been around since 2006, which is a huge achievement and testament to how effective the platform is.
So, what has caused Weebly to be consistently favored among users? It comes down to the simple user experience and short learning curve. Weebly does not bombard you with features or a complicated interface.
Instead, it does not scare you away and allows you to get straight to the point of setting up your website.
Here are the best things about Weebly:
Here are the weaker parts about Weebly
If you plan on selling any type of product online – from jewelry to electric scooters – then your best bet will be to use a dedicated ecommerce platform and website builder.
Without a doubt, the number one in this category is Shopify. The platform powers over 1 million merchants in 175 different countries, and is the third-largest online retailer in the US, trailing behind only Amazon and eBay.
The Shopify software represents a complete end to end platform that allows you to set up, manage, and promote a store online. You can easily list your goods for sale, take payments, and fulfill orders – all under one roof.
Here are the best things about Shopify:
Here are the weaker aspects of Shopify:
One of the oldest and most reliable website builders is WordPress. The platform has come a long way since it launched in 2003 and is the most popular content management system on the web today.
In fact, WordPress powers a whopping 37.6% of all websites.
As WordPress was around during the earlier days of the web, its focus revolved around content, which was the most prominent form of website at the time.
It maintains that focus to this day, with WordPress having arguably the best content management system out of all the different website builders.
An important caveat is that WordPress is divided into platforms:
Here are the best things about WordPress:
Here are the weaker aspects of WordPress:
An important thing to keep in mind is that the website builders listed above can serve multiple functions, so this article has provided an overview for you, you will need to look into the details of each platform.
The best choice for you will come down to both your needs at the moment and where you plan on taking your website in the future.
After reading reviews like this one, make sure you take a step back and put your particular needs at the forefront of the decision before you commit.
You could get a marketing automation tool and try to figure it out yourself.
Or you could get a marketing automation company to do everything.
Look, marketing automation gets crazy complicated.
Lead routing, lead tracking, campaign measurement, all the emails and landing pages, lead nurturing, dozens of segmentation lists, it goes on and on.
Not to mention a deep integration with your CRM which has to work flawlessly.
Your entire marketing program depends on getting marketing automation right.
The best sales teams already work with top Salesforce partners to get everything set up from the beginning.
It’s about time that marketing teams followed their example.
Don’t just look for a marketing automation tool, find a marketing automation company (agency) that can help you with everything.
Some of us in that marketing automation companies are:
Let’s dive into each.
If there’s one digital advertising channel that cuts across all others, including automation, it has to be content marketing.
I’m not here to remind you that content is king. You already know!
Even with marketing automation, content marketing drives everything. You need the right content in the right emails to keep leads moving down the funnel.
Tons of billion dollar startups have built their sales and marketing process around content. And it works beautifully.
And it’s an area my team at Neil Patel Digital shines the brightest.
We’ve rolled out content programs for the entire sales cycle across many Fortune 500 brands.
I truly believe we’re one of the best companies at content, period.
If you’d like content marketing and marketing automation working together seamlessly, we should chat.
Marketing automation frees you (and relevant people on your team) from mundane tasks.
For example, say someone signs up to download a whitepaper on your landing page.
They fill out the form fields, your CRM collects this data, creates tags based on the info provided, and segments them into relevant email lists.
That email sequence could include 180 days or branching email logic based on their actions and sales stage.
For this to work well, you’ll need tight integrations between your:
And dozens of small tools that impact your users.
If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is.
These systems get extremely complicated very quickly.
You’ll need a team that knows how to get everything working together. One broken link in the chain could dump thousands of leads by accident, costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’ve seen it happen countless times.
LeadMD specializes in setting up these types of integrations:
LeadMD is the go-to marketing automation company for integrating your tech stack.
If you feel really good about the rest of your marketing strategy and just need help with getting all the infrastructure working correctly, reach out to them.
Once you get your marketing automation fully implemented, that’s not the end.
New marketing operations projects come up all the time.
A hot new campaign needs to get added to your automation. Sales wants to tweak the lead scoring or MQL definition. IT changes one of your tools and you need to re-implement that part of the stack.
Lots of projects (large and small) will come up.
One option is to hire a full-time marketing operations person. That’ll easily cost $100K fully loaded with benefits, taxes, and marketing rate compensation.
Or you can find a marketing automation company that specializes in scaling up and down as you need them.
That’s exactly what Cs2 Marketing does.
First, you can sign up for a contract to get ongoing consulting. This is super valuable to make sure you’re not accidentally lighting your whole marketing stack on fire.
Then, when you have a project some up, they have a whole team that can execute it for you.
This is perfect for mid-size companies that need to keep every dollar focused on customer acquisition for as long as possible.
I’m going to say something controversial.
Oftentimes, how your marketing automation tool integrates with Salesforce is more important than the marketing tool itself.
After all, your business lives and dies on your CRM, which is usually Salesforce.
One way to get everything working right is to work backwards. Get your CRM dialed, then force your marketing automation tool to work the same way.
So before jumping into a deep marketing automation tool implementation, consider getting a top CRM agency to help with Salesforce.
For this, check out Bluewolf.
Bluewolf is an IBM company, and that alone speaks volumes about this agency’s reputation. They mostly serve enterprise brands and are prepared to handle anything that you can throw at them.
Bluewolf is also global. They have about 24 offices spread across different continents.
Marketo is a one powerful tool. If you’re already using it and want to go really deep with your implementation, check out Perkuto:
You could say that Perkuto is THE top-most Marketo expert, having achieved the “Marketo Engage” status and works with a team of over 50 marketing automation strategists and hardcore engineers.
If it can be done in Marketro, Perkuto can make it happen.
I’d definitely reach out to them if you have a Marketo implementation that’s gone haywire and you need serious expertise to fix it all. In those cases, you want a top expert to get you back on track. They’re worth every penny.
When looking at marketing automation companies, what should you prioritize?
What are the red flags?
What signs tell you that someone is one of the best?
I start by looking for these characteristics.
Some engineers and infrastructure folks love tech for tech’s sake.
Not all, but some do.
In marketing, that’s super dangerous.
You need a marketing automation implementation that generates real ROI. You spend $X. It needs to generate more than $X. That’s the whole point of marketing.
Otherwise, it’s just a waste of time.
When looking at marketing automation companies, they should have an extreme focus on driving ROI. It should be the lens that they filter every recommendation through.
Even better, they should talk about revenue growth and ROI naturally. You shouldn’t feel like you have to push them here.
When working with any marketing automation company, make sure you’re not the biggest customer.
The last thing you want is for a vendor to patch your implementation together because it’s the first time they’re handled your complex use-case.
You don’t want the marketing automation company to learn on your dime. Your implementation will suffer. Tech debt will pile up and you’ll end up paying to fix it later.
Ask the company for case studies and a list of clients in a similar industry as you. Many of them should be larger. If not, treat it as a red flag.
In any marketing automation tool, there are dozens of different ways to set up any workflow or feature.
You don’t want it to just work, You want it set up so it has that perfect balance between scalability and flexibility.
That’s not easy to do.
To know what option is best, it takes a lot of trial and error with every tool. And experience across dozens of clients and implementations.
So even if a marketing automation company has a ton of experience, make sure they have experience with your marketing tech stack.
Otherwise, keep looking.
A marketing automation (and CRM) implementation is one area you do not want to cut corners.
We’re talking about foundational infrastructure that routes every lead of your business.
Any leaks means you’ll lose serious money.
And sense these systems get extremely complicated, it’s easy for stuff to fall through the cracks.
So when you’re shopping around with different companies, look at low prices as a red flag. The experienced folks will know their value and charge accordingly.
Spend the money to get your marketing automation set up correctly. It’ll instantly pay for itself.
As you start talking with companies, the best ones will have an innate desire to coach you and your team.
Even if they handle 100% of the initial implementation, they know that your team needs to manage and operate it all.
Communicating best practices, guiding your team, and empathetic coaching will make sure that your implementation stays clean for years to come.
On any given call, you should feel like you’re learning. That’s a good sign they’ll continue to coach your team throughout the entire implementation.
Once you start to reach out to marketing automation companies, expect to go through these steps.
Since marketing automation projects are major rollouts, expect an in-depth sales process before getting started.
The marketing automation also needs to do a deep dive on your needs before being able to come up with even a general price range.
Look for the contact form of their website and use that to get started.
After filing out the contact form, you should receive a reply pretty quickly.
Any great team will be crazy responsive to any new prospects. Expect a reply within 24 hours.
If you don’t get a reply, that might be a sign that you’re a poor fit for that company. For example, the companies that specialize in enterprise clients will probably ignore smaller startups that need a basic implementation for a marketing team of 2-3 people. It’s just too small for them. In these cases, they typically don’t respond at all.
So if you don’t get a response and you’re a smaller company, look for folks that feature clients on their site that are closer to your size.
Once you get a reply, you’ll usually get asked to jump on a discovery call. There won’t be much pitching on this call. Instead, the marketing automation company will want to learn as much about you as possible. They’ll ask you things like:
I recommend that you sit down and come up with clear answers to these items before the discovery call. That will keep the process moving quickly.
The clearer you can be with the partner, the more likely they’ll be able to deliver what you want.
Depending on the complexity of your implementation, you might have several calls to scope out the full project.
Once everything has been clarified, expect to get a proposal that breaks down the full cost, timelines, and deliverables of the project.
If you wince at the price, it’s probably in the right range. Implementation fees for CRMs and marketing automation tools are pretty high.
One other thing, really double and triple check all the requirements with your team. Look for holes and items that you missed in the spec. Changing requirements later will get really difficult. Best to get any changes added to the proposal now.
Also ask the company how they handle mid-project scope changes in the event that it happens. Usually, they’ll have an hourly rate that they charge for any additional work.
Once you’re ready, sign the proposals and get the project going.
After everything is signed, the marketing automation company usually takes the lead. As long as you’re responsive on your side, things usually stay moving without you having to push on them.
The initial process usually starts with:
I believe so.
Any serious marketing team will need a fully operational marketing automation tool.
And marketing automation tools have gotten so complicated that it’s unwise to muddle through them yourself.
You want an experienced team to roll out your tool the right way. It costs a lot more upfront but it’ll save you a ton of money in the long run.
I was speaking to a VP of Marketing the other day. He worked at a top-tier marketing team, managing hundreds of thousands of leads. He turned to me and said “You know, the other day, we discovered 100,000 leads that got lost in our marketing automation tool. They were just sitting there. For like a year.”
That’s nuts! Think of all the lost revenue.
And it happens all the time.
Look around, reach out to a few experts in this space, and get it done right.
Games as a Service (GaaS) was introduced as a barrier between consumer cost concerns and user engagement. It offers a way to bring down customer acquisition costs and has been proven to keep users in a game for far longer than the pay-to-play method. EA Games, for example, increased its market value from $4 billion to $33 billion in just six years after introducing GaaS content.
Games as a Service acts as a continuous revenue service for developers, allowing them to break their reliance on the one-time purchase. With more games being developed every year, GaaS gives them a competitive advantage in the fight for user attention. It also allows advertisers to get exposure in some of the most popular games played in today’s market.
Games as a Service refers to games that operate without initial purchasing costs and instead, make their profits on subscriptions or in-game purchases.
Games as a Service allows video games to be monetized even after they are released and it has been proven to keep players more engaged longer. Instead of beating a level, losing interest, and forgetting the game in the back of their closet, players are constantly brought back in with the promise of new and upgraded content.
GaaS games can often be streamed directly from the cloud to a user’s device, which allows them to be accessed from anywhere, anytime. It also allows for better cross-platform functionality, a crucial part of staying competitive in the gaming industry.
This strategy allows games to be updated weekly, monthly, or sometimes even daily to keep users engaged. New content often comes in the form of “drops” or “releases” when announcing new content—a technique that echoes Supreme’s luxury marketing strategy.
Games as a Service has also been referred to as “cloud gaming,” “gaming on-demand,” “live service games,” or “game streaming.” Some popular Games as a Service games include Candy Crush, Fortnite, Destiny, and Overwatch.
Features like unique billing and subscription services have completely shifted the gaming business model. In a Games as a Service environment, payments are unique and personalized, offering a wide range of accessibility to incoming gamers.
In addition to these updated payment options, Games as a Service players have the ability to pay via cryptocurrencies, in smaller payments, and with more frequency.
This new business model is certainly changing the landscape of gaming by offering accessibility, usability, and big profits all around.
A microtransaction is a business model in which customers pay a low fee for a quick transaction, usually to purchase virtual items or unlock new features.
An example of this would be a player paying $2 to buy a new horse for their character to ride, or $1 for a new hat.
Microtransactions allow developers to monetize their games in a number of ways, far beyond the initial purchase point. Some games will require a small fee to unlock the next level or to access new features. These transitions are often referred to as “in-game purchases.”
On their own, these transactions may seem insignificant. Can a developer really profit when every player is only spending a dollar?
Think about it this way.
The online game League of Legends (LoL) is played by 115 million people, worldwide.
If each of those players spends even $5 while in the game, then they’ve made just over half a billion dollars.
Virtual currency is used in many games, either as a trade-in value for real funds or to purchase features while playing. These currencies can come in the form of jewels, gold coins, tokens, and more. They can also be collected by completing quests, slaying monsters, and other such in-game activities.
Popular cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin and Litecoin, can also be used in certain games. In games such as Lordmancer II by Active Games, gamers can even earn cryptocurrency by acquiring game assets and trading them in the in-game market.
Brands are also getting into the action by offering gamers virtual currency or exclusive game add-ons by buying their products and entering codes into their virtual storefronts. Mountain Dew and Butterfinger are two examples of brands successfully bridging the gap between physical brands and the virtual gamer environment.
There are several Games as a Service business models that offer creative, experimental, and exciting new ways of monetizing the gaming industry. It’s important to note this field is still evolving and new models, regulations, and content strategies will continue to shape its growth.
One of the most effective ways of continuing to monetize a game even after its release is to continue selling products to players in the game.
In certain Games as a Service models, players can pay to buy new equipment for their characters, unlock new levels or features, and even increase their abilities.
Loot boxes are one of the most well-known in-game content transactions, where players pay a small fee ($1-$3) to pull special items from a virtual box. This tactic has been accused of promoting gambling with children and it has been banned in some European countries. That being said, their profits are tremendous. Loot boxes are projected to earn $50 billion by 2022 and companies can often sponsor items.
The revenue from in-game purchases provides an incentive for game developers to continue updating and improving their games. For players, it brings new and exciting content more often, and in higher-quality.
Pay-to-play refers to games that customers have to pay for to access. For many games, this means paying for a physical copy of a game and playing it as much as you want.
Certain games, such as World of Warcraft (WoW), only require you to pay-to-play after you reach a certain level, or after a predetermined amount of playtime. This way, players can explore the game, see if it piques their interest, and then invest once they know they want to commit. WoW operates on a subscription-based service, which requires a monthly fee in exchange for playtime.
Some companies who follow this model also use other Games as a Service tactics, such as selling in-game content or paying for new downloadable content (DLC). According to Newzoo, a games market insight firm, 2.7 billion people will spend around $159.3 billion on online games in 2020, so it’s safe to say this method is working.
With an increasing amount of users now participating in Games as a Service, it’s no wonder advertisers have seen a huge market.
In-game ad placements allow developers to expand their revenue streams beyond pay-to-play models and even beyond the Games as a Service model.
Ads can be shown as videos on loading screens, or they can even be adapted into the game, such as Gatorade’s advertising in NBA 2K18’s “The Neighbourhood” mode.
In fact, players don’t even mind seeing the ads in their games. A 2018 Ipsos study found that 47% of users can recollect an ad they saw while playing a game, meaning it was part of the experience, and not an annoyance. What’s more, 50% of users found watching the ads to be “visually appealing.”
Overall, Games as a Service platforms offer a wide new world of advertising possibilities.
One popular way to increase in-game revenue is to constantly add new content to a game that players need to pay for to access.
Fortnite is one of the most popular examples of this method, where players have to buy into each new “season” of content. The seasons come out four times annually, but developers also earn revenue through microtransactions between seasons.
This is a great way to keep a player base active while spending far beyond the initial release of a game. It is also a big value-add for existing users, who benefit from new and exciting content on a regular basis.
Even free-to-play platforms can benefit from this strategy as it monetizes new content instead of existing.
Game bundles are a collection of multiple titles, conveniently bundled into one package that users can purchase, usually at a discount.
Bundles are often used by game developers as a way to engage new users with their existing games, by offering high-value titles along with less popular ones. This is an easy way to generate new leads on an existing, but not widely popular product.
Game bundles reduce the unit cost of games and help increase the potential reach of developer products. It’s a simple and easy way to promote certain products or to increase the revenue of a normally unprofitable product. Brands have also worked with developers in the past to offer sponsored bundles with perks.
Cloud gaming services offer unlimited access to a wide variety of games. These platforms usually operate on a subscription basis, where users pay a monthly or annual fee in order to get access to the library. A normal subscription is around $4.99-$19.99 a month.
Cloud gaming services focus on high-end, graphics-heavy games that usually require more sophisticated hardware to run. All games are hosted in the cloud and can be streamed to user devices.
One of the great benefits of cloud gaming services is that users can save money by not paying for each game individually.
Some examples of cloud-gaming services include Steam, Amazon Luna, Sony PlayStation Now, Google Stadia, and Microsoft Project xCloud.
Some platforms offer a large number of games that users can play by downloading an app.
Many of these platforms also let users earn money while they play, making them an exciting new trend in the gaming community.
Some of the most popular multigaming platform apps are WinZO, MPL, Coco, Hago, and BaaziNow.
Some platforms, such as Roblox, offer many games for free, but some can only be accessed by paying a premium membership. This is a strong incentive for users to become more entwined with a certain platform. It also makes their premium games more lucrative.
Premium memberships can range greatly in price and services offered. Some also offer virtual currency through purchases or discounts on future purchases. Ultimately, it’s all about benefiting the buyer and increasing return on investments.
With the introduction of Games as a Service, the gaming industry has seen a major shift in the way it approaches consumer sales.
Now, developer goals have moved from selling as many copies of a game as possible, to maximizing recurring revenue.
The future of Games as a Service is still evolving, but we can expect to see more innovative and exciting ways of getting games and brand exposure to players in the coming years.
Do you have any products that could integrate with the Games as a Service model?
The post What is Games as a Service (GaaS) and What Does it Mean For Marketers? appeared first on Neil Patel.
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Are you serious about growing your business? Your website needs to be able to grow with you.
Shared hosting limits your site’s space, and you’ll soon outgrow it. But what’s the next step?
Dedicated hosting gives you everything you need for your business. It allows for customization, more storage, and lets you make the most of your online presence.
So, how do you choose the best dedicated hosting service to give you the most value for your money?
Let’s talk about some of the best dedicated hosting options in 2021 to make things easier for you.
When you choose a dedicated host, knowing the features you need will save you time. You want one that helps your website perform at its best at all times. Factoring in these additional elements of a dedicated hosting service will help your website stand out.
Whether you choose a managed or unmanaged host depends on your server knowledge and how much control you want over your dedicated hosting.
A managed hosting service means that the host takes care of server problems for you. They manage the operating system (OS), control panel, setup, and anything else that comes with the platform when you buy it.
Unmanaged hosting is cheaper, but that’s because you manage everything yourself. The host still does the bare minimum when it comes to network maintenance, but they won’t help you manage software, servers, security, or errors.
An unmanaged system means you have more control, but that doesn’t mean much if you don’t know what you’re doing. Feeling comfortable with a managed hosting service can make it worth the extra cost.
If you want to grow your business, get dedicated hosting that will grow with it. Scalable hosting allows you to configure your hosting to your individual website’s needs. It also prevents downtime associated with server limits.
According to Forbes, data breaches cost companies an average of $3.9 million. A dedicated host with high-quality security helps protect your business.
It also means your customers feel comfortable shopping with you. That way, you can avoid problems and build trust with your customers.
A dedicated host helps you keep your website’s uptime as close to 100% as possible. Downtime can cost you website traffic and, by extension, conversions.
Find a provider that keeps up availability and guarantees maximum uptime. Ideally, you want a host with an uptime of at least 99.98% or higher.
Dedicated hosting gives you control over configuration and software installation, so you can work your website as you wish. Administrative access helps you tailor your service to your business. You control which services you use with your dedicated host.
Some hosts support more than one OS, but others don’t. If you choose the wrong one, you might not be able to use it with your website.
Hardware determines whether the server can meet your business needs. Check things like the CPU model and speed, RAM size, bandwidth, and hard disk capacity before you buy.
Different types of dedicated hosting servers focus on various areas of your website. What might be an advantage for one business could hurt another. You want the right kind of dedicated host so that you have everything you need for the future.
Most people upgrade from shared hosting to basic dedicated hosting. Basic dedicated hosting is significantly better than shared hosting, but it still only gives you the bare bones of a hosting service.
These hosts usually have less RAM and customizability, and they have fewer features overall. They might not grow with your business as well as other higher-tech options.
High-end dedicated hosts bump you to the next level when basic doesn’t cut it. They offer more space, better features, and you can do more to make your website stand out. They also have higher overall performance without getting too tech-heavy.
Bandwidth servers work well for sites with a lot of streaming, audio, video, and similar content. They focus on speed when people visit your site and with uploads and downloads during data transfer.
These hosts range from standard metered to unmetered bandwidth, so you have the space to run streams without overloading your site.
Database hosts are some of the most complex servers. They need high-end configurations and more resources in place to manage since they hold more information. With database hosts, you can run specific databases on the server, like MySQL.
If you have a lot of apps on your site, an application server can manage them. It works with apps ranging from media files to chat software and tons of other stuff. When you have so much on your website, you want a dedicated host that can handle it.
You’ve heard that you should back up your data, and server-mirroring hosts do it best. They synchronize your servers, so you don’t lose your hard work. They transfer your data from one server to the other and prevent data loss.
Bluehost is one of the best dedicated hosting services out there, and for good reason. It’s cheaper than other dedicated hosts while still giving you tons of features for your website. Its 99.98% uptime also puts it near the top of the list when it comes to performance.
Bluehost has all of the basic dedicated hosting features, plus several more advanced ones, giving you room to grow. With access control and database management, you have everything you need at your fingertips and 24/7 access to customer support if you have a problem.
You can get three different hosting packages with Bluehost:
Standard gives you four cores at 2.3GHz and 500GB of mirrored storage so you can back up your data. With 4GB RAM, you don’t get an impressive amount of storage, but it works well for simpler websites. 5TB bandwidth gives you the speed you need to keep things up and running with three IP addresses.
The Enhanced package bumps you to the next level with the same number of cores at 2.5GHz and 1TB of mirrored storage. It doubles the bandwidth to 10TB and gives you four IP addresses.
Premium, the highest tier, also gives you four cores at 3.3GHz and 1TB of mirrored storage. It once again doubles the RAM to 16GB, adds to the bandwidth for 15TB, and gives you five IP addresses.
With Bluehost, you get a free domain name for the first year, a free SSL certificate, and a 30-day money-back guarantee. The biggest downside to Bluehost is that they only have one server location. It’s in the United States, so if you run your website internationally, you might want a different host.
HostGator’s 99.99% uptime and unmetered bandwidth make it an attractive option for business websites. HostGator is known for its excellent customer support, which you can access 24/7/365. It also has online resources like videos and knowledge base articles to help you set up your site.
HostGator gives you three options for dedicated hosting:
The Value Server gives you four cores with eight threads and an Intel Xeon-D CPU. Its 8GB RAM and 1TB HDD make for plenty of storage.
The next level, Power Server, comes with eight cores with 16 threads and the same CPU as the Value Server. However, it doubles your RAM to 16GB and gives you a combined 2TB HDD and 512GB SSD to store bigger applications.
The Enterprise Server has the same number of cores and threads as the Power Server and the same CPU. The upgrades come with RAM at 30GB and 1TB of SSD for your most complex applications.
You can choose between managed or semi-managed hosting based on how much you want to customize your server. Plus, each of HostGator’s packages comes with unmetered bandwidth and compatibility with Linux and Windows OS.
HostGator has two servers, but like Bluehost, they’re both in the US. Despite the host’s superior performance, it’s not a great choice for businesses with primarily international customers.
DreamHost doesn’t have the same features or performance as many other dedicated hosting providers on this list, but it does offer a lot of storage. With a fully managed server, 24/7 tech support, and 100% uptime guaranteed, the basics are definitely covered.
You can get two packages: Standard and Enhanced. The Standard plan starts at $169 per month and comes with four cores with eight threads and 4GB RAM. Its 1TB HDD and RAID 1 storage mean DreamHost has more capacity than most other hosting services.
When it comes to the Enhanced package at $299 per month, you upgrade to 12 cores and 24 threads, 16GB RAM, and 2TB HDD with RAID 1 storage. It’s a big price jump, but remember that each feature more than doubles—and, in some cases, quadruples.
You can choose from three Standard levels and six Enhanced ones that go up to 64GB RAM.
With each package, you get root access so that you can control your settings even with a managed server. Plus, it comes with DDoS protection.
The downside comes with the high price despite its fewer features. The most expensive option sits at a lofty $379.
DreamHost has international servers in the US, Asia, and Europe, making them a solid choice for international customers.
InMotion accommodates businesses that have a lot of tech needs. This high-performance platform comes with features like:
It might look at first like InMotion only offers basic packages, but their Bare Metal and Managed options have plenty more in store. At $99.99 per month, Bare Metal is an unmanaged server with full root access. You can choose your OS, get automation with Ansible, and get up to 15 IP addresses. You even have RAM options starting at 16GB.
The Managed option, at $139.99 per month, gives you a fully managed server with cPanel and WHM included. You also get automated backup, so you won’t have to worry about losing data. It’s Linux-based, so you only have one OS option, but you still have RAM starting at 16GB and 15 IP addresses.
InMotion offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and customized solutions for your website. Considering its features, it’s an affordable dedicated hosting service.
A2 Hosting is known for keeping websites running at top speed. With a commitment to 99.9% uptime and 24/7 customer service, it has the tools to keep customers on your site.
A2 Hosting offers three options for management, including unmanaged and two types of managed servers. With the managed version, you have no root access. Core gives you root access to your managed server for more customizability.
They use the SwiftServer platform for faster performance and claim to give you a website up to 20 times faster than other hosts.
A2 Hosting comes with three tiers:
The Sprint package comes with 8GB RAM and 2x500GB storage with 10TB transfer. It gives you two cores with Intel 3.1+GHz.
The Exceed package offers a small upgrade with the same amount of RAM and storage. You get a 15TB transfer, plus four cores and Intel Xeon 2.4+GHz for a faster system.
With Mach, you make a wider jump to 16GB RAM, 1x1000GB storage, and 20TB transfer. This package sets you up for speed with over eight cores and the 2x Intel Xeon 2.1+GHz processor.
Unlike other hosting services, A2 Hosting has an anytime money-back guarantee.
Liquid Web has fully customizable servers with real-time monitoring and root access. It looks pricey at first, but don’t let that deter you before you’ve explored what this hosting service has to offer.
Liquid Web comes with SeverSecure advanced security, Worldwide Cloudflare CDN, and business-grade storage. It also has a support team to manage its servers, and they offer 24/7/365 customer service.
You can get three packages of dedicated hosting service:
The Intel Xeon 1230 comes with four cores, 32GB RAM, and 5TB bandwidth. It gives you impressive storage with 2x240GB SSD on the primary disk and a 1x1TB SATA backup disk.
When you upgrade to Intel Xeon 4108, you double your cores, RAM, and storage on both the primary and backup disks. With 8TB bandwidth, you guarantee speed and performance.
Despite its significant price jump, the Intel Xeon Gold 6130 doesn’t seem to offer anything new in terms of RAM, storage, or bandwidth. However, you do get 16 cores.
Every package comes with 250 Acronis Cyber Backups. Liquid Web also has value bundles if the basic packages don’t meet your bandwidth or memory needs.
TMDHosting might not be as big or fancy as other dedicated hosting services, but it does give you a quality site fast. It focuses on power and speed, so you’ll have no problem upgrading if your site struggles with lots of traffic or other changes. With fully managed servers, you don’t need to sweat the tech.
TMDHosting offers four dedicated hosting packages:
For a basic package, Starter gives you an impressive 1TB storage with RAID-10. You also get four CPU cores with eight threads and 8GB DDR4 RAM, so you have plenty of space for everything on your site.
The Original upgrades you to 2TB storage and six CPU cores with 12 threads. You get the same amount of RAM, so it’s not a huge jump. Then again, neither is the price.
At the Smart level, you get the same amount of storage as the Original. The upgrades come in the form of eight CPU cores with 16 threads and 16GB DDR4 RAM.
At the top, Super Powerful comes with 2x2TB storage with RAID-10. You still get eight CPU cores and 16 threads, but with 32GB DDR4 RAM, you’ve got plenty of room for memory and storage.
Each level comes with unlimited bandwidth, free setup, premium support, and a cPanel and WHM. TMDHosting claims that they can have your website up and ready to go in 20 minutes, blowing the 24+ hours of other hosting services out of the water.
A website is only as good as its dedicated hosting service. Choose one that gives you everything you need, whether that’s speed, customization, or support when you need it. You can find dedicated hosting you trust, so explore your options and determine which one fits your business. Use this guide as a resource for narrowing down your options with our methodology and top choices.
Website monitoring helps you identify your site’s performance problems in real-time. Most of these services capture webpage availability, average web page load time, and web page functionality, among other performance indicators.
Did you know a 2017 Google study showed that just one second of delay in page loading can reduce your page views by 11% and bring down the conversion rate by 7%?
Additionally, 53% of visitors are likely to leave the page if it takes more than three seconds to load. Consider also that the Google algorithm ranks websites by load speed, among other metrics. We haven’t even gotten to the impact an unavailable webpage has on your business.
In this day and age, website monitoring is all but mandatory if you wish to remain competitive.
We have picked out the seven best website monitoring services to get your site up and running and staying healthy.
Even a seasoned webmaster would have a problem picking out the best website monitoring services without help. There are currently more than 150 services available, so choosing the best one takes a keen eye for detail.
The secret to making the all-important decisions lies in the services’ features. Features will instantly tell you whether the service is good, mediocre, or terrible. Here are the most important things to consider when comparing website monitoring services.
The most basic function of a website monitoring service is to tell you whether your website is working properly. If your website is down, you can’t make sales, and you could quickly lose customers to the competition. The service should check the website at regular intervals and report back the status.
The most common checks include HTTP(S), DNS, SSL, and domain expiry checks, ensuring that essential infrastructure is performing as it should. Additional protocols to consider may include SIP, TCP, FTP, PING, and UDP.
Some services run these checks from different servers worldwide to ensure that your global audience can access your site. Additionally, monitoring schedules may vary from once every four hours to once every minute or less.
Ideally, you want uptime of 99.9%, so this monitoring is crucial for keeping your hosting service accountable.
Once you know that your webpage is working and available, you need to find out how it performs. Full-page load monitoring primarily checks how long your web pages take to load. Some services also report back the cause of any problem found.
A good website monitoring service should keep records of the average loading time of each page. Some let you set a maximum load time and alert you when pages take too long to load according to your criteria.
You may also want a monitoring tool that specifically targets content. This feature ensures that page outputs, words, or phrases critical to your conversion funnel are loading correctly.
Your website may be performing optimally until it is overloaded. Special events like Black Friday sales or the holiday season come to mind. Load testing or web stress testing puts a load on the website to see how it works under pressure. For example, the tool may apply a load of 3000 users for 20 minutes to see if your site remains stable.
Regular reports and analytics help you to keep a record of your website’s performance over time. It helps if the information makes sense, so your DevOps, executives, or other people who have access to the data know what to do with it.
Consider also public reporting. Website visitors can get simple reports displayed on the web page or a dedicated status page. This option can drastically reduce unnecessary calls to customer support.
There are two main types of website monitoring. These are Synthetic Monitoring and Real User Monitoring (RUM). Many services offer both types, so this is an option well worth looking into. Let’s look more into what synthetic and real user monitoring are and what they mean for you.
Website monitoring services rely heavily on synthetic monitoring. Also known as “active monitoring,” this process simulates real users. The test first determines frontend performance variables such as browser, device, geography, and/or networks. Agents then simulate real users and collect data. This process identifies issues before the end-user ever encounters them.
Synthetic tests capture all the fundamentals of a monitoring system. The tests check and provide feedback about uptime on critical service and API endpoints.
Additionally, synthetic monitoring checks interactive aspects of your website, including links and buttons, to ensure that everything works as it should. This is crucial if you want to preempt problems with broken links or mislabeled features before your users encounter them.
Synthetic monitoring can also help determine the source of the issue (such as internet service providers or third-party), the problem’s extent, and possible solutions.
Real user monitoring (RUM) gathers information from real website users. Also called “passive monitoring,” the system collects data from users. As such, RUM can capture complex combinations of data, including geographic location, performance measurements, type of web browser, type of device, and the operating system of users.
Real user monitoring helps optimize the customer experience while reporting on issues in real-time. Site owners can also track the performance of new deployments and track site experience across geographies, devices, and web browsers.
UptimeRobot offers a free plan if you aren’t yet ready to spend money on a monitoring service. This option is excellent for a blog or if you are just starting in e-commerce. The service has more than 800,000 clients, including GoDaddy, Expedia, and IBM.
You get all the necessary monitoring features with the free plan, including HTTP(S) monitoring, ping monitoring, port monitoring, and response time monitoring. You also get 50 monitors with five-minute checks.
Additionally, the free plan offers two months of log retention and one status page.
You can upgrade to the Pro plan for $15 per month to get more advanced features in addition to the ones you get with the free plan. Some of the additional functions include:
There is also an Enterprise plan for custom check intervals and several monitors.
UptimeRobot offers reliable website monitoring tools and will easily scale with your business as it grows. The service has monitoring locations in the USA, UK, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Canada, and Japan.
Pingdom by SolarWinds is a powerful website monitoring service for small to medium-sized businesses. The service is also suitable for startups, digital marketers, and even DevOps.
The service gives you a choice of synthetic or real user monitoring to provide you with a comprehensive view of what’s going on with your website. You can also combine the capabilities of both monitoring options with their Enterprise plan.
Pingdom’s synthetic monitoring checks for uptime from over 100 locations, provides page speed analysis, and monitors important transactions, including shopping cart, checkout, user login, new user registration, and search, among others.
RUM monitoring with Pingdom gives you detailed insights into how real users experience your website across different browsers, devices, and geographic locations.
The service also monitors your mobile site every 60 seconds (same for desktop) and performs the same checks on your mobile sites to help you deliver a standard experience across devices.
Pingdom also has a powerful HTTP-based, RESTful API for people who like to customize and automate synthetic monitoring interactions. Developers can also write their own applications or scripts depending on their specific needs.
Pingdom integrates with plenty of third-party services, including Webhooks, Slack, and VictorOps, to further optimize reporting, incident management, alerts, and dashboard.
Additional features include:
You can try out Pingdom’s 14-day free trial for access to all the features. Paid plans start at $10 per month, which is very affordable for smaller businesses.
Web applications have complex and diverse interactive elements that are not always easy to monitor. While some website monitoring services watch apps, you really need a service that caters primarily to this market.
AppDynamics is an application performance management solution. It supports everyday application environments, including Java, Node.js, C/C++ (Beta), and PHP. Additionally, AppDynamics covers more complex platforms and solutions, including WebMethods, TIBCO, JMS, and queuing technologies.
The service does real-time transaction monitoring across crucial metrics, including response time, slow rate, error rate, load, and stalls. It also eliminates blind spots in your applications by automatically mapping the relationships between the various tiers and services.
AppDynamics automatically detects anomalies and provides rapid root-cause diagnostics. The tool also captures important debug data to speed up the software debugging process. They also offer an in-depth diagnosis, allowing you to identify the problem down to the offending line of code.
Additional features include:
AppDynamics has three pricing plans, and you have to contact the provider to get the actual price. The Pro plan also supports complex multi-cloud topologies mapping and visualizing, creating alerting policies and health rules, and key performance metrics.
The Advanced and Peak plans offer additional capabilities depending on what you need. This service is ideal for industries like retail, media and entertainment, healthcare, and insurance. You can check out the free trial or schedule a demo before you decide if it’s for you.
Monitoring a single website is hard enough, but Site24x7 makes it easy to keep an eye on up to 500 websites at once. This service is all-inclusive and will monitor the website, cloud, server, application, and network.
Site24x7 has a single log that collects, consolidates, analyzes, and stores data where you can easily view and troubleshoot problems. They use synthetic and real user monitoring in each package, so you always get the best of both worlds.
The Starter plan costs $9 per month and monitors up to 10 websites and servers from more than 110 monitoring locations globally. All plans support HTTP(S), DNS, SSL/TSL, FTP, REST APIs, URLs, SMTP server, SOAP web service, and more.
You can also manually select the monitoring location from multiple addresses across North America, South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
Site24x7 supports Ruby, Java, PHP, .NET, Node.js, and mobile platforms for apps. The tool also monitors Windows, Linux, Docker, VMware, FreeBSD, GCP, and Azure for servers.
Additional features include:
Site 24×7 plans and pricing is as follows:
If you’re looking for an adaptable and flexible service for multiple websites and applications, Site24x7 is a great option.
If you believe that you should only pay for what you use, Monitis is the website monitoring service for you. Some of Monitis’s clients include SIEMENS and the University of Cambridge.
With Monitis, you choose only the features you want, and then the service will create a customized price and plan to suit your needs. This is the perfect arrangement for users who know exactly what they want from a website monitoring service, down to the specific features.
The service checks your website every 60 seconds from more than 30 server locations in North and South America, Europe, Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, and Africa.
This is also an all-inclusive monitoring tool. You can monitor websites, servers, networks, and applications. For website monitoring, Monitis checks uptime, full page load, and transactions. The service supports Windows and Linux for server monitoring and will check CPU, network, memory, and bandwidth, among other aspects.
Monitis also has a powerful API to customize your experience further. You also get SDKs for all popular languages, including Python, Java, Ruby, PHP, Perl, and C #.
Additional features include:
Montis has a good selection of alerts integrations, including Slack, VictorOps, OpsGenie, Jira, and PagerDuty, among others.
You can try out the 15-day trial before making a final decision.
If you are a service provider, your website monitoring requirements will naturally be different from those of your clients. LogicMonitor has products that explicitly cater to this market, so you won’t have to rely on the same cookie-cutter tools as the shops you serve.
This is another all-inclusive monitoring tool that monitors your websites, networks, servers, cloud, and IT infrastructure. LogicMonitor allows you to view your entire hybrid infrastructure from one place. You can observe several infrastructure metrics, including cloud and container resources, networks and networking gear, websites, SaaS services, IoT devices, and more.
LogicMonitor also has all the website monitoring features you would need, including ping checks, web checks, rapid deployment, and customizable alert thresholds.
Additional features include:
LogicMonitor also offers remote and on-site training for seamless implementation. They do not post their prices online, but you can tour the platform and call for a customized quote from their website.
Sometimes the problem is on your side of the firewall. For site owners who don’t want to take any chances, Uptrends has robust internal monitoring systems.
The service checks your internal servers and network devices to make sure that everything is up to par. Setting up is as easy as executing an installation file on the servers. The agent works seamlessly with your firewall, and there is no need to create special rules.
The tool supports popular protocols and devices, including Windows, HTTP, Ping, SNMP, and Connect.
Uptrends also allows you to customize your dashboard for internal server monitoring to give you control over how data is presented. Once you create your custom dashboard, you can save it as your homepage.
Web monitoring with Uptrends is equally robust. The service has more than 220 monitoring locations worldwide that check uptime, performance, and multi-step transactions. Uptrends uses synthetic monitoring and offers interactive charts, public status pages, bandwidth throttling, and error snapshots.
This service is all-encompassing and includes additional essential capabilities like:
If you are not yet ready to purchase, Uptrends has a free plan. Here, you get access to plenty of free tools, including free website monitoring, global uptime, website speed test, DSN report, traceroute, uptime and SLA calculator, and ping test. However, you can only choose one feature at a time to try out rather than a single free package with all the tools.
Paid plans include:
You can also try a free trial for the business plan for 30 days here.
If the only advantage you get from a website monitoring service is enhanced customer retention, then your efforts will have been worth it. These services offer an array of additional benefits, including optimized website performance, strengthened security, data retention, and much more.
The best advice for choosing a website monitoring service is to figure out precisely what you want the tool to do. From here, you can compare the services’ features with your needs to narrow down the best options. Also, try to go for industry-specific services such as the ones we have outlined in this review. You can never go too wrong with these strategies.
Interested in customer relationship management (CRM) software that’s free forever? You’ve got options.
This is not a typo. Free means no cost. Forever means no time limit.
I hope you’re sitting down, because there’s more shocking news. These zero-dollar-per-month platforms are packed with great features.
I’ve picked out the top five free CRM software products on the market. They’re all a little different. Chances are, one of these options is going to work much better for you than the others.
There’s no cost, but your time is valuable. Let’s run through the important considerations that go into picking the right free CRM software on the first try.
Trying to manage customer relationships with traditional spreadsheets and databases is a pain, to put it nicely. Speaking frankly, it’s a barrier to growth.
You can only go long without a dedicated tool that centralizes and organizes all of your contacts.
And CRMs do so much more than that. They tie into virtually all of your other customer-related services and provide a home for contact information and data. Whenever someone makes a purchase, clicks on a link, or opens an email, it’s all captured and reported in a CRM.
Here’s what you want to consider as you look through your options.
Offering a software for free is not a form of charity. It’s a calculated bet. They are hoping that companies using the complimentary service will grow to the point where they need a paid plan.
So there are limitations, for sure. If your team or scope stays small, though, free CRM software can be a decent solution for a good little while.
For each review, I’ve bolded the limits that are likely to have the biggest impact. These may include:
It’s important to forecast when and how these limits will affect your ability to use the product.
With free CRM software, you want to be aware of your contact limit, but also the tools each product provides for contact management and tracking.
This is really the core responsibility of CRM software, what helps you manage each customer relationship.
All the products on my list will help you move from spreadsheets into a much more intuitive interface. At a glance, you’ll be able to see an entire record of the relationship.
Some are going to come with sales-focused tracking features, like funnels and lead scoring, whereas others have helpdesk and ticketing features that work for customer service.
Think of the individual or team who is going to use the free CRM. Are the contact management and tracking features suited to their tasks?
How will the free CRM software fit within your current business processes?
It takes some thought to build around a tool that only several users can access, yet most freemium solutions are capped at 2-3 users.
Do you have the right collaboration software to enable CRM users to share the resource effectively?
That question fits right into my thoughts about integrations, so to speak.
Every vendor brags about the out-of-the-box capabilities of their product. The truth tends to be more complicated, as in they work perfectly… but only if you use Microsoft Outlook, for example. Or maybe there’s a plugin for Shopify but not WooCommerce.
I could go on, but I won’t. My point is that CRMs deliver more value when they integrate with the tools you are already using.
Score bonus points for products that have official integrations—the less time you have to spend getting things synced, the better.
The time invested in a CRM isn’t free, even if the platform doesn’t “cost” anything. Ideally, companies find a product they really like using and one that helps them grow.
At some point, the capacity and feature set of any free CRM is going to hit its limit. Upgrading a plan takes a matter of minutes, whereas migrating from one CRM to another can be a bear.
If you outgrow your free CRM software, is the next pricing tier still within budget? And does it come with more features that are really going to have an impact?
When I reviewed the best CRM software, I broke the category down into operational, analytical, and collaborative products.
Breaking down what makes the best free CRM software is a little different.
They all come with a taste of the operational, analytical, and collaborative aspects of paid CRMs but, generally speaking, free plans focus on one of three areas:
Many of the products on this list will work for all three at the premium tiers, but trim their free offering to one of these categories.
These platforms focus contact management on nurturing leads and converting prospects. They provide tools that help reps keep track of all the relationships they build.
Free sales CRM software will often include:
Some of the better free products also include:
With these products, teams get access to features that help them help them run successful campaigns that generate and qualify leads. They can grow their reach while individualizing the content they provide.
Free marketing CRM software will often include:
Some of the better free products also offer:
In this category, platforms are heavily weighted towards helping agents manage existing relationships. They provide a bird’s eye view of the entire process, from contact to resolution.
Free customer service CRM software often includes:
Some of the better free products also have:
Now that we’ve been through the different types of free CRM software, I’ll review the top five, starting with the one that breaks the mold by doing it all.
Key plan limits:
HubSpot CRM has to be the most generous free CRM software out there. Unlimited users and a million contacts. What?
On top of the free CRM software, HubSpot provides free forever versions of their sales, marketing, and customer service tools.
These are all relatively deep platforms, offering live chat, ad management, ticketing, and more, plus access to a best-in-class interface for managing contacts.
I’m calling it the top pick for marketing because that’s where HubSpot really outshines the field, but it’s solid all around.
The reporting dashboards in Hubspot are really well developed. With a lot of free CRMs, you don’t even get dashboards. Instead you are stuck pulling reports about individual parts of your overall outreach strategy.
HubSpot ties into all your marketing efforts—email, forms, landing pages, ads, chat, Facebook Messenger—and delivers clear information about what channels and strategies are driving performance.
HubSpot integrates with G Suite, Gmail, and many versions of Outlook. There’s also a drag-and-drop editor to create great email campaigns.
You can automate follow-up emails whenever someone fills out a form or responds to a pop-up, building out your list with zero effort.
Is that it? No. There are so many more marketing tools, including:
Bear in mind that this list of features doesn’t include anything that comes with the free sales, marketing, or customer service toolkits. There’s also a rich App Marketplace full of ready-to-go solutions built for common business use.
HubSpot isn’t crazy, they just practice what they preach. As pioneers of inbound marketing, they really believe in helping people discover their business by providing great content.
In this case, they are providing a free CRM that will work across an organization. HubSpot continues to grow, so they are doing something right.
The last bit of good news? When companies move up to a paid HubSpot plan, they only have to pay for users who use the paid plan features. Any user who only needs to use HubSpot CRM will remain free forever.
Key plan limits:
Really Simple Systems offers a robust free sales CRM with unlimited contacts. As you might expect from their name, this is not a difficult platform to master.
I like it for sales because of the breadth of features. You can track sales opportunities in a pipeline, funnel, or both. Add lots of detail by logging changes to opportunities and forecast sales based on probability.
You can do quite a bit of customization with the free CRM from Really Simple Systems. Create your own fields that capture important criteria and build the tables you need. This data can then be displayed in custom reports and dashboards.
Pull in all the information from across Really Simple CRM and quickly see which leads and opportunities need the most attention.
Sales reps will be able to call their smartphone contacts directly from the CRM platform, which is optimized for all devices.
Really Simple Systems lets you track the metrics you need and provides a really generous amount of CRM functionality that’s super helpful for sales teams. Some of the highlights include:
The two-seat limit is really the only lightweight aspect to Really Simple Systems’ free plan. In fact, the only sales CRM features that aren’t included are geolocation, email integration, and sales group permission levels.
Between all the sales tools and the ability to customize, Really Simple Systems is a great free CRM choice for freelancers, consultants, and SMBs that don’t have a ton of sales reps. Because there’s no contact limit, one or two people can get a lot accomplished.
Key plan limits:
Agile CRM provides one of the few free forever options that can accommodate an entire team.
It will definitely work for sales and marketing because it comes with the core CRM tools in those areas, but the depth of their customer service features really stands apart.
There’s a full helpdesk ticketing system. Customer support can assign labels to organize and prioritize tickets. They can also put customers in different groups depending on their needs, which means that tickets are automatically forwarded to the most appropriate agent.
I really like the performance reporting features that help everyone can stay on track and manage queues together. They can quickly view tickets based on a range of status indicators, like date received, priority, service-level agreement, and more.
Another time saving feature are the canned responses. Teams can draft pre-formatted replies to common questions.
Thus, agents can deliver accurate information in less time, which cuts down on ticket backlogs and reduces stress during peak service hours.
Really, the only customer service feature that doesn’t come with the free version of Agile CRM is Knowledge Base, which helps you create and share customer support documentation.
I’m focusing on the customer service aspect of Agile CRM, but I’d be remiss not to mention the really great sales and marketing features, like:
Bear in mind that in terms of automation, the free version is limited to a single campaign workflow with five nodes and one trigger.
I wish they let you do more, because the workflow builder is such a breeze. Automating basic processes in customer service is a huge time-saver, which makes being able to do more with the paid plans really attractive.
In the end, though, a ceiling of 10 users with the free plan makes fielding a helpdesk with Agile CRM a real possibility.
For what it’s worth, I had a question about Agile CRM’s free plan and reached out on their website chat. I got a polite answer from a human in under a minute and felt extra sure about recommending them as a customer service CRM solution.
Key plan limits:
Flowlu makes really great enterprise-ready CRM solutions that help massive companies keep a close eye on revenue.
Its free CRM software is ready to help SMBs do the same thing.
Flowlu’s free version comes with a surprising number of the platform’s best features. Even though users are limited to 20 contacts, they can create an unlimited amount of opportunities, which is the entire series of client communications leading to a potential deal.
From there, opportunities can be closed by invoicing the client, creating a project from the opportunity, or being marked as a loss.
The maximum of 20 contacts is an important limit to be aware of, but Flowlu’s free CRM can help a small finance team get a lot done. For each contact, users can create as many projects and invoices as they need, which is great for repeat clients and vendors.
This allows managers to quickly project expenses, comparing them to the project budget and cost limits. Expenses can be assigned to bank accounts and or organizations stored in your CRM. The free version is limited to one organization and two bank accounts.
If you are looking for a finance-forward CRM that won’t cost you a thing, Flowlu is definitely the option to check out.
Some of the other relevant features available are:
One thing to note is that you can bump up to the Team version of Flowlu, which gives you room for eight users and unlimited contacts for $29/month total. This is less than $4/user, which is an insanely competitive price for a CRM that can save you thousands.
Flowlu’s free CRM software is great for getting on the right financial footing and a value buy if you grow into the premium product.
Key plan limits:
Apptivo makes really affordable CRM software and offers a free forever Starter plan that can help out with a lot of administrative tasks. It centralizes all of your customer information and lets you create and manage all of your invoices, estimates, and proposals.
This saves time and minimizes the simple billing errors that I don’t want to spend time solving.
The interface is clean and accessible. Apptivo includes the core contact and project management features, and you can import/export an unlimited amount of data.
With three users included on the Starter plan, there’s a lot that companies can get done in terms of consolidating and streamlining basic business processes.
Managing work orders and field services, for example, is centralized within a clean dashboard. Users can submit one-click approvals to clients or managers, edit the dispatch calendar, and automatically alert workers that the plan has changed.
The sales features are somewhat light compared to the other free CRM software on this list, and none of their great Apptivo marketing capabilities are included. That said, you still get:
Of course, there are business management features I wish were included that only come with paid plans, like contract management, automated workflows, a built-in eSignature tool, and all the useful direct integrations.
All of that comes with Premium, the next tier up from Starter, which is only $10/user per month. It’s also got nearly the full range of sales, marketing, and analytics tools as well, making it a much more complete solution.
All in good time.
Right now, if you are looking for no-cost CRM software to manage the paperwork involved with customer relationships, Apptivo will get it done.
Realistically, what’s being offered for free by these companies is a CRM solution that covers the basics and showcases their strong suits.
Thinking about it from their perspective, the vendor is trying to hook potential long-term clients. They are giving away a taste of what they’re really good at.
HubSpot CRM is the jack-of-all trades, offering the most complete set of tools for free. In terms of their marketing capabilities, HubSpot CRM is second to none.
If you are looking for a free CRM that’s built for sales, Really Simple Systems is going to set reps up with everything they need.
On the customer service side, Agile CRM offers the most robust solution. You get all the helpdesk, ticketing, and tracking features necessary to support agents. Their sales and marketing tools are fairly rich, as well, though HubSpot is the deepest all-around free CRM.
Looking at a CRM for managing finances, Flowlu includes a unique feature set designed to help teams track costs and revenue. You can find these tools with other paid CRMs, but Flowlu makes them available for free.
In terms of a CRM to help manage basic business processes, Apptivo is really handy. Their free CRM software is a great way to start organizing and automating the everyday work of managing customer relationships.
Now I love a free trial as much as the next guy, because who doesn’t want to test drive a product before making a commitment?
But can you really know if a CRM works for you after 14 days?
A truly free CRM gives you the time you really need to get comfortable with a product. When you are ready to invest in a more substantial product, you know what you’re looking for.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could see your website through Google’s eyes?
We all know the fine details of Google’s algorithm are a closely kept secret. At the same time, we have a lot of information about the aspects Google deems important when judging a website.
What’s more, Google offers us a host of free tools designed to help us improve our websites—and one such tool is Google Lighthouse.
One ranking factor we know is becoming more and more critical is page experience, and Google Lighthouse could be the tool you need to make sure your website is performing in this area and many more.
Google Lighthouse is a free tool that provides powerful insights to help improve your website. By generating a Lighthouse report, you can assess any web page’s page experience and access valuable tips to improve its performance.
Google has recently increased emphasis on-page experience, including adding a new set of Core Web Vital signals. The signals break down how a user experiences your page, and you can see how your website performs in this area through Lighthouse.
Since Lighthouse is a Google application, it could be a great way to see your website in the way that Google might see it, knowing any recommendations come straight from the search engine giant itself.
A great thing about Lighthouse is it gives you actionable insights while being simple to use. In just a few clicks, you can get detailed page experience information, providing powerful insights into improving performance.
With more than 3.5 billion searches a day, Google is by far the most popular search engine. So, being able to see how it views and measures your website is extremely useful.
Each Lighthouse report has five categories: performance, accessibility, best practices, SEO, and progressive web app. Google has confirmed that aspects such as load speed and mobile experience factor into its algorithm, so these metrics may give you the ability to see how you’re performing in these crucial areas.
With a clear 1-100 grading system, Lighthouse allows you to audit your pages and find areas for improvement. You can expand each section to get in-depth insights and find places where you can quickly improve your page, as shown in the screenshot below.
Once you’ve implemented the changes, you can then check back with Lighthouse to determine if they have improved your score.
For example, if you expand on “performance,” you can find data directly linked to core web vitals such as time to interactive and first contentful paint.
These metrics give you an idea of how fast your page loads and how quickly it is perceived to load. In other words, it’s not just about how quickly the entire page loads; it’s about the time it takes until the user can interact properly with it.
This information is hugely important because perceived loading speeds make a big difference in how people interact with your website:
These metrics are a huge part of user experience, and Lighthouse uses core web vitals to give you an understanding of your web page’s quality and performance. When you have this information and even helpful tips on improving performance, you’ve likely got a lot of what you need to make technical improvements to your site.
You may think you can get a good feel for how quickly your pages load by typing your URL into the search bar and seeing if it loads well or not.
However, different people browse the internet in very different ways, and the way someone searches for your site on the other side of the world might be very different from the way you do.
Google knows the majority of traffic comes from mobile devices, and it also knows that the majority of people don’t have access to super fast 4G or 5G. To simulate this, Google tests your web page by visiting your site through a suboptimal 3G connection on a slow device.
Why does Google do this?
Well, pretty much any website can load quickly on a 5G connection, but that’s of no benefit to the majority of people who don’t have such speedy access. Google wants to send all its users to the very best page to answer their search queries, so it aims to rank websites with the best experience.
If your site works well with a poor 3G connection, it will work well with the latest 5G connection. So, Google learns more about your site by testing it with the 3G connection.
If this is how Google is judging your website, then it’s how you should be judging your website too—and this is why Google Lighthouse can be so helpful.
As I mentioned, Google placed a lot of emphasis on page experience, and it makes complete sense: How users experience your web page is crucial. Google’s recent announcements about core web vitals are the next step in this evolution, and it’s likely to become a ranking factor in 2021.
Core web vitals are some of the first insights appearing on your Lighthouse report; it’s clear these signals are important to Google. Therefore, they have a prominent place in the performance part of your report.
Core web vitals have three key metrics, and though the language might be a little complicated, they are elements you can appreciate when you’re an end-user:
As a user, you don’t necessarily need the entire page to load quickly; you just need the most important content to do so. If a website is slow to load the most meaningful content (“largest contentful paint”), it will frustrate users and may cause them to bounce from the page.
Most of the time, we put the critical, eye-catching information above the fold—this is the content that needs to load most quickly.
“First input delay” is an important metric because it measures a user experience error that annoys everyone who’s ever used the internet.
You know when you click the submit button on a form, and nothing seems to happen, so you end up aggressively clicking it over and over?
First input delay measures the time between the user initiating an action (like clicking “submit”) and the website moving on that action (sending them to the next page). A long first input delay can be frustrating for users, resulting in leaving your page and looking for information elsewhere.
You may often notice another UX error when you browse on a mobile device: Cumulative layout shift.
“Cumulative layout shift” is when content moves around on the screen as the site loads. This might not seem like a big issue at first glance, but the problem comes when you go to click something and, suddenly, it’s moved. It’s obnoxious to the end-user, so it’s an important metric to pay attention to.
You might be thinking, “this all sounds great, but how does Lighthouse differ from PageSpeed Insights?”
If you type a URL into PageSpeed Insights, you’ll see insights that look very similar to Google Lighthouse. But, there are a few important differences.
The main difference is that PageSpeed Insights only focuses on page performance. Google Lighthouse offers a complete picture of your page experience by analyzing accessibility, best practices, SEO, and progressive web apps.
“So what’s the point of PageSpeed Insights if Google Lighthouse offers a more complete analysis of my site?” I hear you ask.
PageSpeed Insights draws on real-world data to judge your website’s performance as well as lab analysis. Lighthouse only uses lab analysis in its report, so while results are based on a comprehensive scan of your site, it’s not necessarily the real-world experience your users get.
“So what you’re saying is PageSpeed Insights is better for judging performance?”
If you’re looking purely at performance, PageSpeed Insights offers all the information Lighthouse does—but with the bonus of real-world data collected from interactions with your website. However, your website’s success is based on the entire site, and this is where Google Lighthouse comes in.
There’s no point in improving your score for performance from 55 to 60 if the changes you make end up causing your accessibility and SEO to drop. If you’re only focused on PageSpeed Insights, this is a possibility.
Still, if you’re keeping an eye on Google Lighthouse, you can help ensure the changes you make have an overall positive impact on your website.
Google Lighthouse gives you a fairly technical analysis of your website, but you don’t need to be tech-savvy to run it. In fact, it takes just one click of the keyboard and two clicks of the mouse.
There are two ways you can run Lighthouse: through developer tools and a Chrome add-on.
When you run a URL through Ubersuggest, you’ll find performance data on your dashboard with the same information you see on your Lighthouse reports.
This helps make it a one-stop place for all your SEO needs, combining information about your website performance with keyword and competitor analysis.
Lighthouse provides a sneak-peek into how Google judges your web pages. Not only is this vital to rank well in the search engines, but it gives you important data into how users experience your website, no matter how they land there.
Page experience is becoming an increasingly important factor for Google; it needs to become equally important for website owners.
Lighthouse provides the insights needed to make tangible improvements in the way your users experience your website — which can make a big difference in how successful your site is at converting on your goals.
With Lighthouse, Google offers free information to help improve your website, and it takes almost no time at all to generate a report. So, make the most of it!
Is Lighthouse your favorite Google tool? If not, which is?
Webcasting has quickly become a popular large-scale communication tool in the digital era.
It’s a way for businesses and individuals to communicate with hundreds or even thousands of people worldwide. Webcasting can be leveraged for a broad scope of use cases, like lead generation, customer support, internal company communications, and so much more.
The terms “webcasting” and “webinar” are often confused with each other. Unlike a webinar, webcasting is a one-way flow of information. The host presents and the audience watches without really interacting. Webinars are typically more interactive.
This key difference makes it much easier to reach the masses. But having a successful webcast is reliant on finding the right webcasting service. Which one is the best? Let’s dive in.
Before you can start evaluating different webcasting solutions, it’s essential to understand what qualifications should be considered in your decision. This is the methodology that I used to come up with the top picks on the market today. Use these factors as a buying guide and weigh their importance against your personal webcasting needs.
How many people are you expecting for your webcast?
Most webcasting services will have limits on attendee lists. Some services might restrict you to 5,000 or 10,000 attendees, while others give you up to 100,000.
Compared to webinars and web conferences, webcasts typically have a higher number of attendees. Keep this in mind as you’re browsing through different options. Make sure you factor in the attendee limits of each plan.
Since webcasts are typically broadcasted from a single presenter, the audio and video quality must be a top priority. Tens of thousands of people around the world could be viewing your webcast. If the feed is lagging, grainy, or low quality, the message won’t be as impactful, and attendees may drop out mid-presentation.
The quality of your webcast will be a direct reflection of you and your brand. This is definitely an area that can’t be overlooked as you’re comparing solutions.
Webcasts often require a significant amount of preparation. From the promotional materials to speaker lists and more, there’s quite a bit of work that must be done before, during, and after the event.
Look for a webcasting service that simplifies event management. Even though webcasts typically aren’t interactive, features like audience polling can be highly beneficial.
Make sure the webcasting service you’re evaluating allows for event recording. Not every webcast is presented live. Some are pre-recorded and available on-demand.
If you’re pre-recording an event, take advantage of any built-in editing tools. Mistakes are inevitable during a live broadcast. But you can cut those out of an on-demand webcast with editing tools to add professionalism to any event.
The best webcasting services give presenters the ability to remove, add, or even reorganize content before archiving it for on-demand viewing.
Look for a webcasting service with sophisticated reporting tools. Most platforms offer the basics, like the number of attendees and their location.
But some webcasting services go above and beyond with poll results, audience interactions, and other key audience behavior. These deeper insights can help you define and create future presentations, which is crucial for sales and marketing webcasts.
Generally speaking, webcasting falls into one of three categories. Not every webcasting service will accommodate all three of these, although most offer more than one.
Live webcasts are when the presentation gets broadcasted in real-time to your audience. There’s a defined start and end time, and there’s no way to rewind or start over.
Both live streaming and on-demand webcasts are more often self-serviced, meaning you handle the logistics and filming for your event.
On-demand webcasts are pre-recorded. There are generally two ways to produce an on-demand event.
You can simply record a live event and make it available for viewing at a later time. Or you could record a webcast without ever presenting in front of a live audience.
The second option is better for evergreen content that isn’t really time-sensitive. This will give you more flexibility with editing as well.
Managed webcasting services minimize the workload for the presenter. The service provider takes care of the logistics, broadcast, and filming for the event. Presenters just need to worry about the content.
With that said, self-service webcasting is more popular than managed webcasting. Most businesses and individuals choose to handle the publishing and editing of webcasts on their own while using the infrastructure from a webcasting service provider.
GlobalMeet is a product offered by Premiere Global Services (PGi), an industry leader in the digital communication and collaboration space.
Formerly Talkpoint, GlobalMeet Webcast is trusted by Fortune 500s and enterprises across the globe. This cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) makes it easy for organizations to create high-quality webcasts for thousands of viewers worldwide.
GlobalMeet’s versatility is what makes it unique compared to other webcasting services on the market today. It’s used for town hall broadcasts, employee onboarding and training, investor meetings, marketing presentations, corporate communications, human resources, and so much more. They offer both managed and self-service support for webcasts.
With GlobalMeet, you’ll benefit from basic and advanced features like:
GlobalMeet provides white-glove event services as well. They offer solutions for event moderation, advanced training, event setup, event customization, and more.
In Short, GlobalMeet has everything you need to execute a successful webcast at scale, regardless of the use case.
GlobalMeet does not publish pricing for their Webcast Starter License, but you can easily contact the GlobalMeet sales team for a quote on webcasting services.
Cisco Webex is another industry leader in the business communications space. They provide an extensive list of high-quality products for varying use cases—webcasting included.
Cisco Webex Webcasting can support up to 100,000 attendees worldwide, making it one of the best options on the market for massive events.
Running an event at this size is no easy task. But Cisco provides everything you need to ensure the webcast is produced without a hitch.
They offer all of the features you need before, during, and after the event. Cisco assists with registration and sending reminders to attendees before getting started. They’ll even set up your audio and offer technical assistance during a practice run before the event itself.
Other top features and benefits of Cisco Webex Webcasting include:
Cisco Webex’s webcasting support is second to none. Their team of experts will provide you with training and an extensive library of resources to ensure success. When you combine this with the ability to reach 100,000 people, it’s tough to find flaws with it.
Cisco does not list their pricing for webcasting services. Contact the Cisco sales team to get started.
ClickMeeting is an online communication platform with several different products and service offerings. They have solutions for marketing, product demos, online learning, training sessions, team collaboration, and more.
ClickMeeting also has webcasting services to accommodate events with up to 10,000 attendees.
ClickMeeting has unique features not offered by other webcasting services on the market—monetization tools. They have everything you need to generate a profit from your large-scale online event.
PayPal integration makes it easy to sell tickets for webcasts. It’s even possible to connect ClickMeeting to platforms like Eventbrite with a Zapier integration. If neither of these monetization options accommodates your needs, just use ClickMeeting’s API to manage your unique payment method.
In addition to the monetization benefits, ClickMeeting offers additional webcasting features like:
ClickMeeting even lets you break up the webcast into smaller workshops with the ability to sell tickets for each session.
If you want to generate revenue with your webcasts, look no further than ClickMeeting. ClickMeeting offers a free 30-day trial for up to 25 attendees for live, automated, and on-demand webinars. The Live plan starts at $25 per month, billed annually, for an unlimited number of meetings, six hours of recording storage, and one gigabyte of file storage. They also offer an Automated plan starting at $40 per month, and you’ll need to contact ClickMeeting sales for a custom quote for the Enterprise plan, which includes webcasting services for up to 10,000 attendees.
Like many webcasting services on the market today, ezTalks is a platform with several different online communication tools. They offer services for webinars, huddle rooms, meetings, and more. But you can also use ezTalks for live events with up to 10,000 attendees.
ezTalks has some unique features for pre-recorded events that aren’t available from other providers, including an automated live event.
As a presenter, you can use ezTalks to record live events ahead of time. The webcast will then start “live” at a specific date and time for attendees to tune in. Live audiences won’t know the difference, but the host doesn’t need to be present at the scheduled event time.
In addition to the automated webcasts, ezTalks has options for traditional on-demand viewing. It’s easy for audiences to access events with the ability to pause, fast-forward, or rewind whenever they want.
As an all-in-one solution for webcasting, ezTalks gives you the ability to host traditional live events and paid events as well.
Other top features and benefits of ezTalks include:
If you want the ability to produce pre-recorded live events and on-demand webcasts, ezTalks will be a top option for you to consider.
Pricing for ezTalks automated and on-demand services start at $32 per month per host for 100 attendees with their Pro plan. The Business plan offers full webcasting services for $300 per month per host for 1000 attendees and has options up to 10,000. EzTalks also offers a basic free package for live webinars with up to 25 participants to test out the software. Unlike some other services, ezTalks also has hardware and accessories for sale if you need additional equipment.
Just because webcasts aren’t as interactive as a webinar or web conference, it doesn’t mean that you can’t keep your audience engaged. ON24 Webcast Elite solves this problem.
Unlike other webcasting tools out there, ON24 goes above and beyond to drive engagement and take your webcasts to the next level.
ON24 Webcast Elite is a marketer’s dream. The platform makes it easy to create data-rich webcasts that generate engagement and stimulate ongoing relationships.
Whether you’re using a live or on-demand webcast, ON24 has real-time engagement and conversion tools designed for lead qualification and buying. You’ll be able to quickly understand the buying intent and interest level of your audience, which improves sales follow-ups and future campaigns.
ON24 Webcast Elite has unique backend tools that automatically capture audience buying signals. You can seamlessly integrate this data with your CRM or marketing automation platform to optimize the way you nurture prospects.
Other top features and benefits to consider include:
ON24 Webcast Elite is more than just a webcasting service. This solution is built for driving engagement and generating conversions.
Try it free for 30 days to see if it is right for you, and contact the ON24 Webcast Elite team for a demo and quote.
Samba Live by Digital Samba is a webcasting service with unlimited scalability. You can invite as many attendees as you want to your next event and potentially reach millions of viewers worldwide.
That’s why global leaders like Deloitte, Ferrari, and McDonald’s rely on Samba Live for webcasting.
What makes Samba Live stand out from the crowd is the ability to stream live across multiple platforms simultaneously. You can use the software to stream webcasts on Facebook and YouTube to maximize your potential reach.
The software is 100% browser-based and cloud-based, so you won’t have to worry about downloads, hardware, or access restrictions.
Here are some other reasons why Samba Live ranks high on my list:
Samba Live is versatile enough to accommodate your needs, from virtual workshops and training events to sales meetings and company-wide announcements.
You can try it free for 14 days with no credit card required, then the Pro plan starts at $49 per month.
Webcasting is an excellent way to reach thousands or potentially millions of viewers across the globe. Organizations of all shapes and sizes leverage webcasting services for marketing, lead generation, training sessions, internal communication, and more.
Which service is the best? It depends on your unique needs.
There’s a solution for everyone on my list. Whether you want to monetize a webcast, drive audience engagement, or something else, the recommendations in this guide will steer you in the right direction.