Where to Host: An Important Choice

As discussed in Choosing A Website Developer, there are some options when deciding how to begin developing your online presence.  Depending on the initial direction you take, your developer may or may not include hosting in the services they propose.  But whether you are making the “hosting decision” as part of the initial consideration, or it is something you won’t evaluate until the actual site development is done, there are several things to bear in mind regarding the selection of your hosting provider.  Here is a fairly comprehensive list that covers the bases:

1.     Technical Support – Does the company provide technical support via the phone?  Or is it available via email only?  Is there an extra fee?  Is the support unlimited, or do the technicians have quotas or a limit on the time they can spend on each call?  Consider all the details.  For example, Company A offers 24-hour support and charges extra, whereas Company B provides support during normal business hours for free.   Will you typically need support at 3am every night and be willing to pay extra for it?

2.    Security – You do not need to be an online security expert to ask about a hosting company’s record regarding online security.  Your developer can help you find a reliable company that had a track record of exceptional performance.  You should not accept anything less.

3.    Traffic / Bandwidth – Are there limits to the amount of traffic your website can handle?  Are there limits to the amount of bandwidth your website is permitted to use each month?  Inexpensive hosting often involves hidden glitches you may not recognize until after you have signed on with a provider.

4.    Additional Services – As your business grows, will the needs of your web presence?  What does your hosting company offer in terms of what you may need in the future?  For example, are they providing full support of your email and ecommerce/shopping cart needs?  And what is their history and track record?  Will they continue to be around for you?

In the case of web hosting, you definitely get what you pay for.  Cheap hosting is often just that…cheap.  Make sure you find out why a deal may seem better than the rest, and use the above information as a guide.

Published in: on January 1, 2009 at 3:48 PM  Comments (8)  
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Value in Pay Per Click?

Pay Per Click (PPC, also frequently called Adword, Adword Buy, and Sponsored Links) is truly results-based advertising.  The old advertising adage oft repeated is, “With advertising, only 50% of it works. The problem is that we don’t know which 50%.” Well, PPC is an example of how that is fast becoming less commonly the case.
PPC refers to making arrangements with a search engine to be listed as a result when a user searches for a specific term, and then paying the Search Engine if that user clicks on your link. For example, a toy store may wish to make arrangments with Google to be listed when someone searches for “toys,” and would pay Google if the user clicks on the link to their website.

The ever-evolving Internet actually allows us to track all sorts of information about the audience that our Internet marketing is reaching that we never had access to in old-school advertising, such as magazine or phone book ads, for example. On the Internet, we can even have a website give a user a different phone number depending on how they arrived at the site…but we’ll address the specifics of this kind of information in in later posts. The question of value in PPC is, in reality, something for a company to answer for themselves. But it is definitely something to consider when reviewing your Internet marketing budget.

Here is what we do know: currently, only 25% of users click on Sponsored Links. There is much speculation over why, but it is not nearly as relevant. Actually, a sophisticated internet user (not necessarily the majority) will prefer to click on PPC links because they will recognize, that if a company is spending money on PPC, then they are likely an internet savvy business, and probably have a website that will give the user what they want quickly. You can say you heard it here first…as users become more Internet -sophisticated and understand the kinds of businesses that are marketing via PPC, you will see more and more users clicking on sponsored links over organic links, most specifically in the retail and business environment where users do not have time to waste and are not perusing, as much as they are looking for something specific and do not want to be distracted by junk sites. Within the next two years, POTW predicts that the Internet will see the number rise to as much as 35-45% of users clicking on Sponsored Links. So, there is an already present, and potentially growing audience that is reached by PPC marketing.

We also know that selecting the search terms is important to successful PPC as well. The more specific terms the better, because generic or general terms could very likely lead to a lot of hits (traffic to your site), but remember that you are paying for this traffic, and general terms mean less qualified traffic, which means you are spending a lot of money for little or no result.

There are many reasons that companies ignore the growing trends in Internet marketing, like PPC.  Most often, small business owners who are resistant to change tend to take an “If I ignore it, it will go away” approach. Unfortunately, with more and more people conducting business and commerce online, it’s not likely that the Internet is going away anytime soon, or ever.  This is precisely the reason why allowing oneself to understand and become educated about PPC is not only important, but absolutely essential to business survival.

Sometimes, a company that has “dipped their toe in the water,” might feel that PPC is too expensive.  My experience with these types of companies is that their PPC program was managed by someone on their staff.  When managed in-house, PPC is administered on a very limited and part-time basis by a clerk or IT administrator who knows little about marketing, and it does become expensive and often does not deliver qualified traffic to the site. The problem, in this instance, is that the PPC program is being managed by someone who does not know enough about marketing or PPC, and doesn’t really have the time to learn more about or properly manage and administer either!

Deciding that PPC is or may be a valuable use of a portion of your Internet marketing budget is likely a good decision, but don’t blow it when you are so close! If it’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing right! Find a professional PPC Manager group (like Top Spot Internet Marketing Solutions, whose link is available on this page).  I have worked with them, and they are good. Or perhaps you want to consider a comprehensive Internet Marketing Consultant who can function as Project Manager for all of your Internet marketing. This person can work with groups, like Top Spot, that specialize in specific areas of your Internet marketing strategy while maintaining a comprehensive overview and being responsible for your entire Internet marketing budget to assure that your money is being spent wisely and results are being delivered.

Care to share your PPC experience?  Feedback and comments are always welcome.  To learn more, post a question or contact me.

Published in: on January 18, 2008 at 6:03 PM  Comments (2)  
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“I already have a site.”

Every day, more and more businesses are creating a presence on the world wide web. And every day, I hear more and more people tell me that they already have a website. Unfortunately, inherent in those five simple words that are so oft repeated to web developers that undoubtedly inundate a customer’s telephone and voicemail every week is one very flawed assumption: that having a site means they do not need my help or my services!

Sad, but true…that many sites that may meet the minimum criteria of a “web presence” are, in fact, a liability to their owners. While the site owner strategically counters offers to assist them with internet marketing by Consultants such as myself, they are also floundering in the virtual world and are frequently harder to find online than they may be in physical reality. As I often ask, “does your site rise above the crowd, or get lost in it?” As a business owner, it is up to you to not make the mistake of assuming that your website – simply because it exists – is doing everything for you and your business that a website should. The reaility is that the world of internet technology is changing so rapidly that you can not FIND enough time to stay on top of it AND run your business…which is why it is important to let someone you trust make sure that your website, and your internet marking strategy, are comprehensive and effective.