Friday, November 6, 2009


Should You Be a Web Hosting Reseller?

Becoming a hosting service reseller can provide another revenue stream if you do it right. And most web hosts (yours, most likely) have reseller programs. Some have tiered programs depending on how involved you want to get and how much time you can spend marketing the services. Others employ a “one plan fits all.”

It’s right for some web owners, not so right for others. Into which group do you fall?

What is a Web Hosting Reseller?

It’s an affiliate program like the ones you can find on Commission Junction and other sites that hook up web site owners with companies willing to pay a bounty for every pair of eyeballs those affiliate sites deliver. To get paid, the click-throughs from affiliate sites also have to perform a desired action – usually buying something. Other MDAs (most desired actions) include completing a form, opting in for a newsletter or becoming a member. eBay’s affiliate program pays a flat rate plus some small change every time one of your referrals places a bid. Residual income. Nice.

Each mother company wants you to promote their products or services on your web site and, for doing so, they pay a commission when the MDA is taken. In the case of reselling web hosting services, you buy server space at wholesale and sell it at retail. And the difference is your gross profit.

Do You Know the First Thing About Web Hosting?

If your site sells novelty plush toys, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to become an affiliate of a heavy equipment leasing company. What are the odds that a web user will be looking for a snuggly bear for purchase and a manure spreader for lease – on the same day? About zero.

The key to any successful affiliate marketing alliance is to fit the resold product to (1) the topic of your site and (2) how much you know about the product being resold. So, if your site sells craft supplies and you don’t know the difference between an ASP and the SATs, you probably wouldn’t be the best reseller of hosting services.

What If You Do Know Something About SEO, SEM and Hosting Services?

Now we’re getting somewhere. If you’re a web site designer – a big one with big offices or a one-man show working out of a spare room – you’re in the ideal spot to become a host reseller. Not only do you design the site, you host it for your clients and pick up a little “walking around” money for the effort.

Search engine optimization and search engine marketing companies are also in the ideal position to resell disk space from their own site hosts. You’re a one-stop shop. You optimize, brand, design, create and submit the site maps and host your clients’ sites. Hey, you’re becoming a conglomerate!

It’s also a good idea to be able to talk the talk – especially if you’re writing the site text for your hosting services. Use your own company name as the web host. No need to reveal that you’re a reseller. Provide the hosting plan’s tech specs and provide that all- important customer service connection. Email is okay. Telephone is better.

Who’s Your Partner?

The last thing you need is a bunch of clients calling to complain that their sites are off line (at 3:00 AM)! So, you want a web host that has the goods and the reputation. You don’t want to resell hosting services from a company that started operations last Tuesday.

You want your clients to receive the best. After all, the hosting services you sell are a reflection on you, and if they aren’t very good, you look bad. And at least some of those client/hosting customers are going to bail. Reliability. That’s what you want.

As you do your research to find the right hosting company for your clients, here’s what you want to know:

1. How long has the web host been around?

2. What’s the company’s uptime? You want 99%+ to avoid those middle-of-the-night phone calls.

3. Does the web host provide 24/7, US-based tech support? (You know why.)

4. Does the web host provide marketing support? Graphic link buttons or an unobtrusive banner with an “Insert your company name here” slug?

5. Synchronicity. Do the intended web host servers synch up with your site design tools? And what kind of access do you, as a reseller, have to the server – especially critical for shared hosting accounts that will probably make up most of your reseller business.

What’s the Deal?

Each web host has its own terms of service (TOS) and payouts. Some pay in dollars; others pay in free banner placement with a 1000 free clicks; others in some combination of cash and clicks.

Tiered reseller programs are perfect for those just testing the waters. Start as a small reseller and work your way up to associate. As your business expands, so do the number of customers you deliver to your affiliate partner. This way, if you discover that reselling hosting services generates more revenue than your current business model, it’s easy to switch, or at least expand your reseller program.

Finally, Pick Up the Telephone

Before you sign on with any hosting company as a reseller, pick up the phone and talk to someone at the physical plant – the place where the servers are actually kept. Are they in Kansas or Kabul, Afghanistan? (Kansas is better.) What kind of server security does the company provide? System redundancies? Who’s your contact at the company?

In other words, talk to someone in authority about your thoughts on becoming a reseller. The more the host can offer in the way of reliability, support and quantifiable history, the higher up on your short list it should go.

Looking for ways to monetize your digital turf. Call me.

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