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« Go Back | Posted in: - on April 19, 2018


Step into the light

Let us all help you improve your site. Getting the opinion of your fellow Homesteaders can help a great deal. You could get some great ideas or learn some new tricks with Homestead Websitebuilder. Submit your site to be featured in The Homesteader.

10 Great Marketing Tips

Our partners at Constant Contact provided us with a great article containing tips to help market your business on a smaller budget. We hope it helps!

Drop Down Menus

If you didn't already know, Homestead Websitebuilder has drop down menus!

See how!


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« Go Back | Posted in: - on April 19, 2018

Great ideas are meant to be shared

At Homestead, our goal is to help you build a home on the internet and succeed online. In order to achieve this, we introduce our monthly newsletter and the Homestead community , which highlight helpful articles, customer sites, tips and other ways to enhance your website.

As a Homestead member, we hope that you will join the community to discuss being a small business online, receive insight from fellow members and solution providers that will help you stake a claim. So come join the conversations. Ask questions, offer opinions and make suggestions. We’re eager to hear from you.

The Homestead Community , please come check it out. It is our online support center where Homesteaders from all over answer your questions and share insights. Together we can help each other succeed.

We know that you are busy, and understand if you don't wish to receive this newsletter. You can easily unsubscribe in the footer, and we won't bother you again. However, if you are interested in participating, everyone can benefit from your knowledge and experience

Homestead Websitebuilder

If you haven't already tried the new Homestead Websitebuilder or didn't even know about it, we highly recommend you take a look. It will present your business with a much more modern look and feel, including drop down menus and image slideshows. All you have to do is create a new site .

Helpful hint

On page SEO starts with page titles and descriptions. Homestead Websitebuilder makes it extremely easy to add these essential components to your page.

See how!

Featured site

Here's a new site built with Homestead Websitebuilder and it's a great start! Take a look at it. You can suggest improvements and maybe get some ideas for your own site.

Let's talk!


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« Go Back | Posted in: - on June 16, 2016

Are you forwarding email from your domain, to an external mail like Outlook or Gmail or your ISP’s like Comcast or Optonline account?

What appears to be a harmless function that allows you the convenience of consolidating your mail accounts, may actually be causing you harm in ways you don’t see or know about. In this article we will explain a few reasons why you don’t want to forward your mail and what you can do differently.

Forwarding greatly increases the chances that your email will be seen as spam and arrive in the junk box, or worse yet, server level spam filters can simply eliminate the message without your or the sender’s knowledge.

It can result in your server getting blacklisted, which ultimately means you won’t receive or possibly send any email at all.

Your reputation is also at risk, as when you reply, your emails are going to appear to come from that external service, and not your business domain. A site visitor sends a mail to you at drew@mydomain.com and gets a response back from parrothead329@gmail.com, many people will end their business conversation immediately. I certainly do.


When forwarding mail from your domain to another service, such as Gmail, all the mail received by your address is forwarded on, regardless of the content. If Gmail scans the content, and decides it’s spam, it will take a look at the server that sent it. If enough is flagged from that source, which is now Homestead’s server, Gmail may consider us to be a spammer. This can result in all mail from that server being blocked. This means all of your mail, and all the mail from other customers using that server.

Spam filters are learning filters. They learn based on the actions of the email recipient. If you have your mail forwarded to Gmail and receive spam and mark it as spam, what you can be doing is marking your own server as spam.

When the external server rejects email, it may cause the forwarding server to queue the email to resend later.  In the end, the mail will ‘bounce’, creating the possibility that more reputation and delivery problems may arise.

There is also an issue with Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domain Keys (DKIM). These records specify the legitimate servers that may send email on behalf of a domain. Our servers will not likely be a permitted server and so some legitimate emails may be blocked as a result.

All of these issues combined can also further damage your mail sending reputation and result in deeper issues, such as your server, and your external service, getting onto a blacklist.


The best thing to do if you have multiple email accounts and want them easily checked is to setup an email client, like Outlook or Thunderbird. There are many others as well. Some webmail programs, like Gmail allow you to setup your account in a way that allows Gmail to check your Homestead account. This eliminates the need to forward and allows you to get all your mail in one spot.

You can see how to setup a number of different clients in community topic, How do I setup an email client?

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on September 18, 2015

The pace of modern life, the expectations of others, and our own expectations combine to increase levels of stress so that it becomes a part of everyday life. This shouldn't be the case. But the reality is that most of us feel more like stress balls than stressless.


It’s important to be aware of all the balls of stress that build up over time as a small business owner. It can have serious negative effects on your health and well-being, so it’s crucial that you learn ways to control it. Let's learn about the importance of stress management:


What Is Stress?


Cavemen used stress to survive - to deal with saber tooth tigers or other dangerous foes cavemen developed a stress response. This is known as fight or flight - take on the saber tooth tiger, or get the heck outta there.


Very few of us face this sort of stress in modern life – where the outcome is life or death. According to the Department of Psychiatry at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, a variety of things now trigger stress:


  • The death of friends or family

  • Divorce (or getting married)

  • Losing a job (or starting a new one)

  • Financial problems and pressures

  • Moving home

  • Chronic illness or injury (personally, or in a member of your family)

  • Interpersonal conflict

  • Being unhappy at work

  • Having a workload that is too heavy, or responsibilities that are too much

  • Working long hours

  • Having unclear expectations at work

  • Having no say in the decision-making process

  • Job insecurity

  • Feeling undervalued (lack of career advancement)

  • Discrimination or harassment at work


These things initiate the same fight or flight response as the cavemen developed. When this happens, chemicals in the brain (such as dopamine) increase and hormones like adrenalin are released.


Cavemen with the “fight or flight” response usually were in situations that ended quickly. They either ran away, fought off the tiger, or were killed.


For better or worse, we don't have the ability to instantly get rid of stress because of our modern situations (that keep us alive much longer). The effect of the release of these chemicals and hormones in our bodies builds up over time.


The Impacts Of Stress


Stress causes a number of physical problems including increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. This can result in anything from catching the common cold, to getting stomach ulcers, to developing heart disease. The impact of stress on our bodies often goes unnoticed. We try to cope and adapt, but the effect on the body is like a ticking time bomb.


Stress also affects us psychologically. This can include depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. Stress makes you irritable, unable to focus, and leaves you with limited decision-making abilities.


Stress Management Techniques


How can you manage and reduce stress? Experts recommend a number of techniques and lifestyle changes:


  • Engage in stress reducing activities - examples include exercise, yoga or meditation. You can also take up a hobby.

  • Get enough sleep - to maintain your levels of physical and mental energy

  • Don't try to cope alone - your support network of friends and family is crucial

  • Delegate - you don't have to do everything

  • Improve your time management - for example, do the most stressful thing of your day first

  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing - when you feel stressed put one hand on your chest and one on your abdomen then breathe in for five seconds and out for five seconds. Do this for five to 10 minutes.

  • Control your technology - don't let it control you. You can do this by switching off email notifications, and setting specific times of the day for dealing with email. Also set time throughout the day when you do not answer telephone calls.


It’s not possible to eliminate stress completely. And you cannot reduce feelings of stress or their negative impacts overnight. But if you recognize the importance of stress management, and work at it, over time you will improve your physical and mental health while (hopefully) becoming more successful in work and happier at home.

Don’t get stressed about letting go of stress. Instead surrender into the idea of who you are by reading this Chinese proverb: "Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” Are you stressless yet?

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on September 4, 2015

Work/life balance impacts everything that you do. If you don't have a good balance you might be unhappy with your personal life, or your career may have stalled. Either way, it’s not a good look. But it’s ok. Take a deep breathe and know that it’s totally normal to feel completely out of balance in today’s digital age. Everyone is connected all of the time. And you probably feel stressed if you can’t look at your phone for that one last time (we won’t judge - because we’re probably doing the same).

This constant connection means that it’s even more important to find the right balance between work and play. Here are some ideas for how to evolve into a more balanced life. Take this information in with a grain of salt, and don’t beat yourself up. You’re doing the best that you can.

Technology’s Impact
The major contributing factor for an imbalanced life is - you guessed it - technology. Email, the internet, social media, and mobile phones break down barriers and make communication instant and endless. While there are many benefits to this, you may feel obligated to respond at all times.

The blurred lines between home and work life through technology affects work/life balance. But here are a few other things that also have an impact:

  • Working long hours
  • Concerns about job security
  • A lack of support at work from colleagues and managers
  • Feeling overloaded at work
  • Not feeling valued
  • Generally feeling dissatisfied with a job

What can happen when the work/life balance is off kilter?

You may experience:

  • Slow or non-existent career progression and wage stagnation
  • Weight gain
  • Increased consumption of alcohol
  • Depression
  • Other health problems

Employers also suffer:

  • Poor quality of work
  • Lower productivity
  • Higher rates of absenteeism
  • Problems with punctuality and other basic standards
  • Low levels of employee commitment

The Rewards of Balance

Now for the good news. The rewards of getting your work/life balance in check is a solid goal at any point in time (not just for New Year’s). With the right balance between work and play, you’ll:

  • Feel more valued at work (which increases loyalty)
  • Have a higher sense of job satisfaction (which increases motivation)
  • Notice reduced levels of stress (which lowers absenteeism and increases productivity)
  • Have improved employee retention and overall working relationships

Achieving Better Work/Life Balance

Now for the big question - how can you achieve a better work/life balance?
You can manage your life - and then make your work line up with that. This is easier said than done so here are some tips:

  • Get better at time management and learn how to prioritize the things that are important
  • Work with your employer to come up with an arrangement that better suits your family life
  • Understand that working from home may be part of the solution (but it’s not usually the only solution)
  • Look after your health by exercising, eating well, and doing activities that will lower your stress levels

Employers can also do things that can help their employees achieve a better work/life balance:

  • Promote healthy lifestyles by offering benefits such as gym memberships, yoga, or massage therapies
  • Offer counseling to help stress
  • Give longer vacation times
  • Allow flexible working hours
  • Allow your employees to work from home (while setting boundaries that allow the employee to properly switch off)

When the balance between work and home life is smooth, life often gets easier. It still won’t be “perfect” but you’ll experience more joy and ease in your everyday life. When you make some small changes today, you can experience a big impact on your life tomorrow. What changes will you make? 

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on August 21, 2015

In some situations choosing a good domain name is easy - you simply take the name of your business and buy the dot-com version of it. But what do you do if the dot-com isn't available? What do you do if you don't have a name for your blog or website yet? And what do you do if your business name is long with multiple words?
But before we help you overcome these problems and choose a solid domain name, we’ll need to discuss the domain name extension. It is the group of letters at the end of a domain - for example, ".com".
Lots of different domain name extensions exist in addition to dot-com: ".net" and ".org" are two of the most common but you can also get country specific domain name extensions like ".us" and ".co.uk". These are all legitimate domain name extensions, although the country specific domains can limit your reach to a particular country in search engine rankings. That said dot-com is still easily the most common type of domain name. This should also be considered if you are thinking of buying one of the new domain name extensions - ".buy", ".eat", or ".architect."
Most people will assume that your website is a dot-com domain, so always try to get it when you can.
How To Choose A Good Domain Name
Here are the five main things to consider when buying a new domain name:
  •     Make Sure It Is Unique - the last thing that you want is for users to confuse your website with your competitors, so make sure it is unique. For example, you might be able to register the domain "YourCityPlumbingServices.com", but it could be easily confused if one of your competitors is already using "YourCityPlumbers.com".
  •     Make It Memorable And Easy To Type - the ideal situation is that you get a domain name that’s memorable and that’s easily spell. It is not good if they ask how to spell it the first time the type it in. And it’s even worse if they ask how to spell it the second time. Easy to spell words that are simple are what you should aim for.


  •     The Shorter The Better - keep the name as short as possible. With dot-com domain names this has become difficult because so many are already registered. You might have to compromise - choose a dot-com with a longer name, or go for a different domain name extension so you can get a shorter name.
  •     Make It Relevant - if you look at the internet's biggest websites you might think that relevancy is not important. Google, eBay and Facebook are all made-up words, while Apple doesn't sell apples, and Amazon has nothing to do with rainforests. But remember those brands spend huge sums of money on marketing to become household names. For most SMBs, it is more important to get a relevant domain name rather than one that is quirky.
  •     Use Hyphens And Numbers Sparingly - avoid hyphens and numbers whenever possible. There are several reasons for this. Numbers can lead to confusion as to whether you mean "2" or "two". Similarly, hyphens are confusing as many people may forget them. Both numbers and hyphens are also often used by spammers, which is not a good association to have.
The final piece of advice is to take your time when selecting a domain name. In the modern world they have become one of the most important parts of your brand, so it is crucial you choose a good domain name.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on August 7, 2015

Websites need to differ in design, structure and function to stand out from competition. But there are a few “musts” for the content on your website. Here are a few things that you should always include:


It’s entirely up to you how you describe the other pages on your website. But it should always include the following four pages:

  • Home page

  • About page

  • Privacy policy

  • Contact page

Your website has to have a starting point, and that is the home page. It won't always be the page the visitors land on first. But when visitors do go “Home” it should summarize exactly what your business does and how your work adds value to your readers.

The About page is particularly important, particularly for visitors who are not familiar with your brand. It gives you an opportunity to tell visitors about the skills that exist in your business. You can also expand on your capabilities, and introduce key employees. It also gives you a chance to express your motivations, objectives and vision.

The Privacy Policy page gives your website visitors information on how you treat them. For example, if they fill out your contact form, how will you use their information?

Finally you should have a Contact page. Often this is in addition to other contact information that you have on your website. For example, you can put your phone number at the top of every screen – but it’s important to have a comprehensive contact page. Ideally it should have your email address, telephone numbers, mailing address, and the details of your social media accounts. If you’re a local business with walk-in customers, you should also include a map.

Other Content And Considerations

The text on all of your website pages is key. Many small businesses either write too little, too much, or use too much jargon. Try to get it right by following the below guidelines:

Length and Format

The content on each page should be a minimum of 250 to 300 words. Break up the content with subheadings and bullet point lists, and avoid industry jargon at all costs. Also, write the content from the perspective of the reader. For example, they don't care what year you were founded. Instead they care about whether you understand their problem and can fix it - so tell them.


Keywords are also important as they help the search engines to understand what your page is about. You should include relevant keywords in the text on your page. But they should come across natural. If the keyword stands out, change the sentence or the keyword.


Video, images and audio all help to make your website come alive. Make sure they are relevant and helpful to create a certain image, feature a product, or introduce a member of staff. Stock images are unlikely to achieve any of these objectives so try to avoid them in favor of photos that you have taken.

Call to action

Finally, your website should include clear calls to action. In many circumstances this involves having a call to action on every product or service page of the website. You want the visitor to take an action when they visit your site, whether that is filling out an inquiry form, making a telephone call, or something else. When you ask your readers directly, you’ll get better results.


This content creates the basic structure of a website. Build and add to it with details of your products, and information for your visitors.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on July 24, 2015

If you have ever discussed SEO or read about it you will know that link building is super important. It’s the process of encouraging other websites to link to pages on your website. But why is it important and how do you do it?

To understand link building, try thinking like a search engine. Imagine a search engine analyzing two website pages that look like they are on the same topic. How does the search engine decide which one to show first? It obviously cannot read the content and make a judgement in the same way as humans, so it looks at other factors. One of these factors is links - what websites link to the pages, and how many are there? If one of the pages gets more links from credible sources than the other, the search engine reasonably infers that that website is the most helpful, so it will show that one first.

To put it simply, links indicate the popularity of your website.

Here are a few types of links:

Three main types of links exist. They are:

Natural links
Manual links
Self-created links

Search engines regard self-created links as the lowest value type of link. In some circumstances they can actually do more harm than good. Examples include:

Signatures in forum profiles
Blog comments
Low value directories
Fake websites created for the sole purpose of generating links

In some situations they do have a place, but as an SEO strategy they are best avoided.

Link Building Strategies You Should Pursue

Natural links and manual links work best for your link building strategy.

Natural links are those where a website links back to your content without you asking for the link, or having any other interaction. In many circumstances they are the best type of link to get, but how do you get them? The only way is to create great content that people want to link to.

You can take action that is more proactive with manual links. This is where you reach out to other websites in the hope of getting a link. Here are some common manual link building strategies:

Submitting your website to directories by filling out their forms
Getting your customers or suppliers to link to your website
Creating content that is newsworthy and letting news organizations know by press releases
Reaching out to bloggers or other website owners to ask them to give you a link

In all of these strategies you have to give a compelling reason for the other website to link to you. Most importantly, don’t come across desperate (or annoying!)

Here are some tips when you are building links to your website manually:

Focus on quality - it is better to get one link from a respected and well-known website than it is to get multiple links from small, insignificant sites.
Use your competitors - what websites are linking to your competitors? These are likely to be websites that you should reach out to.
Search terms - where possible, get links from websites that already rank well for the search terms you are trying to rank for.
Get active on social media - links on social media are not treated the same as website links, but social media can increase your reach and encourage more natural links to your website.

What About Outbound Links?

Outbound links are the links you put on your pages that link to third-party websites. They are beneficial for three reasons:

If you link to pages that are relevant, outbound links help search engines to understand what your website is about
They create a better user experience
They give you the opportunity to reach out to the owner of the website in the hope that they might link to you as well

If you include outbound links in your content, create fantastic content that your audience wants to link to, and connect with other website owners who give you a link back, then you’ll have a strong inbound and outbound link strategy. Just don’t forget to have others share your brilliance on social.


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« Go Back | Posted in: - on July 10, 2015

Carousels, or image sliders, are a feature of many business websites. Often they appear on the homepage occupying a significant amount of space at the top of the screen. Good carousels have attractive, well thought out images, along with direct marketing messages and links to other pages of content. They also often have cool-looking design features, particularly in regard to how text is displayed, or how the different images transition. This seems positive on the surface. But there is something nasty lurking behind your carousel: it’s bad for SEO.
Having a carousel on your website is like using a Segway instead of walking. Segways are those battery-powered, two-wheeled machines designed for personal transportation - as a substitute to walking (and getting exercise). These machines are pointless because they do not improve the way that people get around. Plus they encourage laziness (and they solve a “problem” that doesn’t even exist).
Segways are similar to image carousels. They are annoying and they damage your website's SEO. Plus, everyone knows that there are healthier, more efficient ways of showing images and marketing messages.
How Carousels Damage SEO
Carousels impact SEO in a number of ways:
    Speed - carousels slow down websites. Speed is one of the key factors that Google judges a website on. It is not a good user experience either.
    Mobile problems - sliders don't always work well on mobile devices. Even when they do work they are often slow. Both of these are issues are bad when it comes to SEO, particularly given some of Google’s latest algorithm changes (which place even great emphasis on mobile friendly content).
    Content visibility - most websites position their sliders on the homepage, directly below the menu. This means they are the main element on the page, while the rest of your content is pushed down. Google's algorithm likes web pages where the content is immediately visible to the user. Carousels force your visitors to scroll, so this is also bad for SEO.
    H1 tags - some carousels also present H1 tag problems. This typically happens when there is a heading in the slider. These headings are usually tagged as H1 which means you have multiple H1 tags on the page. In addition they change as the carousel rotates, and your main content H1 tag appears further down the page. None of this is good for SEO.
A lot of the points above could also be included in a list of things that demonstrate how carousels damage user experience. But you don't even need to look at a list like that when there are statistics that show the ineffectiveness of carousels. According to this research, only one percent of users click on images or links in a slider.
Alternatives To Carousels
The simple alternative to showing a carousel is to show a static image with a single call to action. Your visitors will find this more relevant, and it will integrate better with the rest of the content on the page.
Sometimes websites use carousels to help visitors navigate to particular sections of your website. If this is the case you will have to create alternatives, such as within the content, or by using feature areas.
When you remove a carousel from your website (or don’t include one in the first place) you’ll have more of an opportunity to express your message. You’ll now have a large and highly visible section of your screen to increase your conversions. Use it wisely.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on June 26, 2015

If you use a Google service such as Gmail or YouTube, you already have a Google+ account. And believe it or not, you’re counted as one of the more than one billion users on the platform. But if you’re like many people who have accounts with Google+, you may not have done anything with it. Should you change this approach and start actively marketing via Google+? And how do you create an effective Google+ strategy?

The first step is to decide if Google+ fits in with your overall marketing goals. When doing this you are probably also thinking about the articles and blogs you might have seen that report that Google+ is in its death throes.

Which begs the question: If you get involved in Google+, are you investing in a platform that is doomed?


The Future Of Google+

Reports from inside Google indicate they are changing direction when it comes to Google+ and their overall social media platform strategy. They are doing this because Google+ did not have the success that they anticipated. It has some fantastic features - like the way it handles photos, Hangouts, and the fact that it is integrated with other Google services – but it has not connected with regular users in the same volumes as other platforms. This includes the social media old-guard such as Facebook and Twitter, but it also includes new-comers like WhatsApp. Even Google's own YouTube platform - which itself is a social media network - is far more popular than Google+.

The company wanted to revolutionize social media and they were not successful, but it continues to carve out a niche in the market with a core group of active users. This number is in the millions so it’s a significant group that you can reach out to. This comes down to the fact that the overall social media landscape is maturing and evolving, and Google+ is a part of that.

You should also take into account the impact that Google+ has on SEO. As you have probably read countless times before, Google's search engine algorithm uses social signals to determine the ranking of pages in search results. Signals from Google+ are unambiguous, so are important to Google search.

The platform is likely to change as Google alters its social media direction of travel, but the platform itself is likely to continue. And that presents opportunities.

Devising And Implementing A Google+ Strategy

The first step in creating a Google+ strategy is listening. Get involved in the platform as a receiver and consumer of content, rather than a producer or marketer. This will give you an idea of who is on Google+ already and what they are saying, but more importantly it will give you an understanding of what your audience wants. You can see what type of content they engage with, which you’ll then be able to use to start formulating a voice and tone for your own content.


Here are some further tips for making Google+ work in your business:


  • Set up circles and target your content to these circles, creating different posts when necessary

  • Put +1 buttons on your website

  • Use Hangouts to connect directly with your customers, answer questions, offer advice, or do product demonstrations

  • Post regularly. But make sure the content is relevant

  • Include promotions and special offers that are exclusive to your Google+ audience

  • Use lots of visuals - images, photos, infographics, videos, etc.

  • Keep your posts succinct. There is no character limitation with Google+, so it’s tempting to write a lot, but this isn’t the best approach. Write as few words as possible to get your point across, and get to that point as quickly as possible

  • Make sure you keep the volume of promotional posts on your page to below 20 percent


Finally, one effective approach to social media in general that can help you to implement your Google+ strategy is to be platform agnostic. This does not mean posting exactly the same thing on all platforms, but rather creating a single, consistent narrative. Within this narrative you should create text, images and other media. Then you’ll simply need to customize each post for the platform - including Google+.


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