Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Choosing a web hosting service.

Given the sheer number of web hosting providers, making the decision as to which one to go with can become a daunting task. What many people don't realize is that the wrong choice can introduce a "single point of failure" into your otherwise successful online business. In this articles, I will discuss some of the major factors you should consider before you make that choice.

SPACE AND BANDWIDTH

The most common thing people look for in a hosting provider is the amount of disk storage space and "bandwidth" available to them. While these are certainly important, they should not alone be the deciding factors. Truth is, most providers today allocate more disk space and bandwidth than most people would need. As I explained in an earlier article, 5-10 Gigabytes (or more) of storage is A LOT of storage. Most people will never need this much. If you already have your website designed and ready to go on your own computer, simply right-click the folder and select properties to determine how much space it requires. Even if you use backend databases (e.g., MySQL, MS ACCESS), the vast majority of sites would never come close to requiring 5GB or more. As long as the hosting providers you are considering give you that 5GB or more, you will be fine in all but a few rare cases. If you discover you need more at a later time, make sure your provider gives you an easy upgrade path to a hosting plan with a higher allocation.

The same thing applies to bandwidth. Many, if not most, providers now give bandwidth allocatioins of 200Gb/month or more. That amount would be more than adequate for most small businesses. Let's look at an example. If each visitor to your site uses, on average, 1MB of bandwidth to surf through your pages, a 200GB/month bandwidth allocation would handle 200,000 visitors/month. Even if each visitor browsed an average of 10MB on your site (which is HIGHLY unlikely), you could still handle 20.000 visitors/month. Of course, if your business really explodes into a huge success, your failsafe fallback position is choosing a hosting provider that allows for a painless upgrade path.

SHARED VS. DEDICATED HOSTING

In a shared hosting environment, your site is placed on a server that also provides hosting for a number of other people. You have your own space, your own domain and the rest, but other people are also using the resources of that server for their sites. There is no risk of your pages showing up on the other person’s site, or vice versa. Each site has it’s own unique set of folders, logins, and so forth.

Besides the fact that shared hosting costs considerably less, the important consideration for most people is that the hosting company support staff administers the server. If there is a problem with the server, they have to fix it, not you. When the operating system or other system software needs to be upgraded, they do it. All you worry about is your own site and the pages contained on it.

For a large number of small businesses, shared hosting is more than adequate. In a shared hosting environment, there is no need for you to have technical knowledge of Windows or Unix server administration. That’s not your core business so why would you want to take that on?

In some cases however, there may be specific reasons why someone needs to administer their own server. These usually involve people who have specialized requirements. In that case, a dedicated server would be the option of choice.

In a dedicated server environment, you have full control over everything. You configure the server the way you want it. You install operating system upgrades and patches, and you fix things when they crash. You determine what components run on the server (e.g. ASP .NET 1.1 or .NET 2.0). You determine if the server runs CDONTs or some other mailer program. It’s almost as if the server were in your home or place of business, except that you are administering it remotely.

Again, in the vast majority of cases for a small business, shared hosting would be the preference. In those cases where a dedicated server is required, most hosting companies provide that, along with the headaches.

COST

It is amazing to me what some hosting providers charge for their services. It is even more amazing that so many people pay these prices. Let's consider a few of the "low end" hosting plans offered by some of the "big boys" in the web hosting sector.

One of them charges $9.95/mo for their basic service. They also require a $25 setup fee. For that, you get 2GB of storage space and 20GB of bandwidth. Another charges $14.95/month. With that, you get 500MB (MB, not GB) of storage, and 30GB of bandwidth. Are you kididng me?? There are thousands of hosting providers that will give you 10 times these amounts for $5/month or less. And if you compare other features, you will find that in most cases, these other providers also give you more in terms of email accounts and other "freebies". It pays to compare. For those who want to spend double, or even triple, for domains and web hosting, go right ahead. It is your money after all.

Of course, you can always go with a “free” hosting account. You can’t beat the price. But that doesn’t normally allow you to use your own domain. You just become an extension of someone else’s’ (e.g., somehostingservice.com/yoursite). That doesn’t do much for your branding. With free sites, you can also expect a boatload of ads that the hosting company puts there. I doubt that is really the image you want to portray to your customers.

HOSTING PROVIDER VIABILITY

Many people overlook this consideration, but doing so can be a critical mistake. The last thing you need is to get a great site online, start receiving a ton of visitors and sales, and then have your hosting company go belly-up on you. It’s happened all too often.

It is to your benefit to make sure that whoever you host with will be there tomorrow, next month, next year and five years from now. You would be surprised how many hosting companies are run by a single person out of the basement of their home, or how many of them are operating on a shoestring.

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Don’t be afraid to ask a potential hosting company where their servers are located, or how many people are on their staff. I have stated in other articles that it is vitally important for all businesses to have a Business Continuity Plan. Ask your potential hosting company if they have one. Ask them what happens to YOU if there is a fire in their server complex. And don’t be afraid to ask them what happens to the company if the owner gets hit by a beer truck on the way to work. It happens.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Depending on the needs for your online business, there are several other factors to consider when choosing your hosting provider:

- how many email accounts do they provide?
- do they provide "Blog" software or do you need a 3rd-party plugin
- do they provide "Discussion Forum" software, or do you need a 3rd-party plugin?
- do they provide a "shopping cart"?
- do they provide "merchant accounts" if you don't already have one?
- do they provide "SSL" certificates for secure transactions?
- what is the upgrade path for adding features at a later date?
- do they provide robust traffic statistics?

You may not need all these features, but if you do, it's easier to go with those that are integrated into your hosting plan. Determine what YOUR needs are, then select the hosting provider that gives you the best combination of price and features.

Monday, May 05, 2014

How to increase your Google adsense revenue

A while ago I added adsense to another blog of mine, and thought it might be helpful for me to give some tips on how to increase your adsense revenue by explaining some basic mistakes I myself made and have now learnt from.

Firstly I will create a few quick tips on how to increase the traffic to your blog, especially if like me you are using the free blog site blogger. For, without traffic you will never make any money from adsense as you are only paid if someone clicks on the adverts. If your site already receives a good amount of traffic and you feel you do not need to improve this skip on to later in this post. If, however, you wish to improve your traffic to your blog her are a few tips if you are using blogger:

1)Go into your settings and ping weblogs.com – this is a simple service that tells blogger to notify weblogs.com every time you update your blog. This means that your blog will be listed in their websites recently updated list which is extra publicity for your blog.

2)Install E-mail this post – This allows people to send your post to other people this will not have an immediate effect on the amount of people who come to your blog but over time more and more people will become aware of your blog so this allows others to publicize your blog for you.

3)Add your blog to blogger’s listings – Now this is an obvious one but many people turn this setting off when they start and forget to turn it back on. This is simple added publicity whenever you update your blog it will appear in the recently updated section on blogger and it can appear when someone clicks on next blog on the navbar. This is just a free access to traffic.

4)Turn on your site feed – Allowing people to subscribe to your site feed, you are practically guaranteeing yourself repeat readers as if someone is subscribing to your blog they definitely want to read what you have to post.

5)Be an active commenter – If you comment on someone else’s blog and leave a link to your own blog on the comment then you can be pretty sure that they are going to click on your link to return the favour. So the more blogs you comment on the more people will look at your blog.

Of coarse these techniques will only work if you have a good blog with interesting, easy to read context. Here are some suggestions to improving your blog so when people go on your blog once they will want to keep on returning:

1)Write quality content - Nowadays readers want posts on blogs to have proper punctuation, correct grammar and spellings. You need to have some respect for your readers and accept that bad spelling and grammar is very unattractive in a blog.

2)Keep your posts short and sweet – No one wants to spend hours reading a post that is practically an essay they want all the information in a sizeable chunk. You want your readers to be able to pop in read up and click on. Another way to make readers happier to read your posts is by keeping your paragraphs short so readers can read a paragraph and if they need to do something else come back and pick up where they left off.

3)Publish regularly – People will only keep on returning to your blog if they think there will be something new on there when they do. So if you stop publishing new posts they will stop reading your blog and start reading someone else’s.

Now the last thing I recommend is to join Technorati this website is a blogger’s best friend, it is one of the best providers of traffic to blogs. Technorati makes your blog much easier to find when people search by Technorati tags. Technorati is also a large blog ranking engine it will rank your blog by the number of links to your blog from various websites. The higher your rank the easier your blog is to find when people search for things and a higher rank gives your blog greater credibility in Technorati which will improve your traffic. So if you haven’t signed up to this website do and then claim your blog.

I am now going to assume that you have used all the tips above or you already had a fairly decent traffic and have or are about to add Google adsense to your blog and want to know some tips to improving your revenue/income from Google adsense. So here they are:

1)Simple mistake – Nearly everyone who first uses Google Adsense makes this mistake including me, which is to simply put the box with the Google adverts in at the very top of the page and expect people to start clicking. But my own research and that of many other bloggers shows that people do not look at the very top of the page as their eyes quickly scan for the start of the real content meaning a large percentage of your traffic will not even see your ads. So instead you should put the ads somewhere nearer the content of your page maybe even halfway through a post so readers not only look at the ads but also see them when they are useful to them.

2)Blending Ads – In the old days we used to think the best way for an ad to get clicked on is for it to stand out like a sore thumb forcing you to look at it. But, nowadays, readers have got used to seeing these ads and simply ignore them so you need to change your ads from being something that stands out to something that blends in with the rest of the blog, readers will then see the ads as helpful links not annoying adverts. This is very simple to do with Google adsense so try experimenting with the colour of the adsense boxes and borders. You may see a dramatic increase in the number of clicks with a certain colour but this colour will be different with every blog.

3)Content is key – As you may or may not be aware Google adsense works by crawling around your blog and working out what ads are most suited to your blog. So if you have a very specific content then Google adsense can provide very specific ads and as everyone who goes on your blog will be interested in that topic they will be interested in the ads so therefore you will get a higher click rate and therefore a larger revenue from your traffic.

4)Size of the Google adsense boxes – This may seem trivial but trust me it can have a huge impact on your revenue, whenever possible use wide ad boxes as these are easier on the eye as we naturally read across the page so the brain is happier to digest the ads which to you means more people seeing and reading your ads. Of course only use wider ads if you have the space as its better to have a thinner ad box than no ad box, but if you have the choice between a wide and short ad box or a thin and tall ad box then always choose the wide option.

5)Google adsense has expanded – Don’t just go for the simple Google adsense text ads you can now have image ads and even video ads. So test these and see if they are more effective and increase your revenue if they don’t then just switch back. You can also add a Google search bar on your blog and refer people to Google products all of these will earn you extra revenue so try them and see if they work for you.

So there you are you now know when to blend your ads amidst content so readers see them as useful links instead of annoying adverts, to use wider advert boxes whenever possible and to experiment with the colour of your ads and the borders. But most of all I recommend you mess around with it now and again and experiment until you find what is right for you blog. I hope you found this post interesting and you will use it to increase your revenue/income if you already have Google adsense or as a help to where to position your ads when you do join Google adsense as you want to make some profit from your blog. So go on make money from your blog. I hope you found this google adsense guide helpful, if you did please leave a comment.

P.S please remember that google adsense is not the only way to make money from your website or blog, there are plenty of adsense alternatives I would highly recommend Chitika! They are brilliant - very quick payouts, lots of choice and its nice to move away from the google monopoly. Click the banner below to go to their website.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Search Engine Otimization.

Getting your website listed in Search Engines for the keywords you desire can be the difference to a booming website and no traffic at all. However, this is easier said than done as getting your website up in the rankings is a monumental task in itself. However, I have created some quick tips that you can use to get you started.

1. Page Title
Stop using 'Welcome to my website' as your page title, you need this space to use specific target keywords which you want to be listed under. So if you are selling second hand books make the page title second hand books.

2. ALT Tags
Again keywords play a huge part in the design of your site and another area to include these words is in your image 'ALT" tags.

3. Header Tags
Getting back to your Page Title, there is no point in making the heading text "Welcome to my Website" especially if you are selling Garden Tools. Make sure you have the header Garden Tools.

4. Bold Text
Make certain keywords bold this allows the search engine's robots to know that is an important keyword and relates strongly to your content. However, don't use this to extensively as this could get you banned.

5. Keywords
Some say they aren't that important anymore to getting results in the Search Engine Result Pages but using them correctly can add to your sites overall effectiveness. Concentrate on 3 - 4 keyword phrases (eg: "custom garden tools" or "garden tools" for people selling garden tools and make sure these keywords are used in the first and last paragraphs of your home page content.

Now, if you have done these tips and are wondering whether you have a website that is highly rated by the search engines then you can use google pagerank or alexa both of which will rate your page.

This is only a beginners guide and to get to the very top of the search engine rankings especially on certain keywords which take more than just these tips. However, I hope they help.