Saturday, November 28, 2009


Low-Cost Site Promotion:

Use Everything You’ve Got

Many site owners don’t have the financial resources to heavily promote their sites through paid advertisements like banners and PPC links from other sites. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get proactive – even on a bare-bones budget.

Here are some no- and low-cost methods of getting your web site address into the hands of the market you’re trying to reach.

Stationery, Business Cards & Print Marketing

If you have a business (web-based or otherwise), chances are you have company stationery, biz cards, brochures, flyers, invoices and other print marketing or collateral materials. Great if you do, but are you taking full advantage of what you’ve got?

Does your web site address appear on your letterhead? How about your business card? Since you need these printed materials anyway, be sure to include your URL on every company document intended for public consumption. It won’t cost you any more for the printing but it will drive traffic to your site. After all, the readers of that brochure already know something about your company, so a URL just might do the trick to get these interested parties to drop by your site.

Print Advertising

Same thing, here. If you advertise in the local newspaper or the telephone book, you can amortize some of those promo costs by using print ads to herald your site’s web address. Even a small classified ad should include a URL so interested consumers can find out more about your products, services and location.

Local Cable Adverts

Local cable companies have to sell a lot of TV adverts to turn a profit and these media outlets are competing for print advertising dollars. So, to entice you to spend your tiny advertising budget on local cable ads, these companies offer great deals that might surprise you.

First, cable companies will produce a 30-second spot, usually for free, if you sign up for a lot of spots. Second, the more spots you take the cheaper each spot will cost you. One business cut a deal with the local cable company to run 100 spots in 30 days. Because the business placed such a large order, the cable company produced a nice looking ad and charged $5 per spot – a total of $500 for production and for running all of those ads. Finally, cable companies usually offer targeted marketing for small business owners. If you own a sporting goods company, for instance, you should be able to purchase ad time on sports channels and during sports broadcasts only. That’s something you can’t do with print adverts.

How About a Newsletter?

Weekly or monthly, e-newsletters are a no-cost means of keeping your clients or customers up to date on sales, coupon offerings, new products and the latest insider news. If you can string words together and you know your topic you should be able to write a simple newsletter every four weeks and send it out to all of the customers in your database. It’s free and easy.

If you can’t write a lick, ask friends and family if they could write up a few pages. Someone you know wants to be a writer and here’s a great opportunity to get on-the-job experience and help build your business.

Syndicate Content

If you (or your friend/writer) can develop some informational articles about your products or services, you can submit them to other web sites where they’ll appear with your URL link. This does a couple of things.

First, it gets other sites to promote your site in exchange for useful content – something every site needs. Second, as you syndicate more and more articles you define yourself as an expert in that particular field. And third, as more sites carry your content and you acquire more links back to your site, search engines will identify yours as an authority site – a site to which other site owners refer visitors. This is very, very good for your site’s search engine page rank.

Use Social Sites to Make Contact

Sites like and offer free advertising opportunities. Create a profile on myspace, or one of the many other social sites, add some pictures and personal information and be sure to provide a link to your site. If links aren’t possible, at least print the site’s URL so your on-line “friends” can find your hand-made jewelry site and make a purchase. It’s not just a great way to build your business, it’s also a great way to make new friends.

Join News Groups

News groups are like-minded people who gather at some cyber spot to discuss a topic of interest – everything from competitive cycling to dentistry. These news groups are accessible through portal sites like Yahoo and AOL, and there are also directories of news group activities available when you Google ‘news groups’.

Now these sites are usually focused on very narrow topics so do some research first before you barge in and start hawking the wares. If you run a rug cleaning business, why join a news group made up of would-be actors? Instead, hook up with realty and home improvement news groups.

Once you’ve become a member, don’t push your site too hard. Bring it up in casual discussions as a potential resource for the other members of the group. This is not the place for the old hard sell, but it is a free way to spread your URL.

Send Out Press Releases

With hundreds of thousands of web sites out there, you can imagine how much copy is needed to fill all of those site pages. So, routinely issue press releases whenever something newsworthy happens in your industry or on your site.

There are on-line businesses that will distribute press releases either free or at minimal cost. And don’t forget to include your URL at least a couple of times in the PR. It’s another low- or no-cost means of spreading the word about your site.

Are You an Expert?

If you know a lot about your products or services, you’re an expert and there are people who want to ask you questions. You can become an instant expert simply by signing up for Yahoo Answers at or Google Answers at

Here, you’ll be able to create a profile listing your areas of expertise and your credentials. You’ll also be able to list your site’s URL. And once you’ve helped out a few people by answering their questions, some of them are going to want to learn more about you and your site. And again, it’s 100% free.

Join the Chamber of Commerce

An especially good way to market your site, especially for site owners looking to drum up local business. Chamber of Commerce members meet regularly (usually for lunch!), sponsor events and bring in guest speakers. (You, perhaps?) It’s one of the best ways to network, meet other business owners in need of your products, and to hand out your business card with your URL printed in BIG letters. It’s also a lot of fun and educational. So sign up and spread the word.

Appeal to Visitors

If your site offers good, useful information and especially good prices, you’ll appeal to a lot of visitors who may not be in a buying mood at that precise moment but somewhere down the line, maybe. Ask visitors to bookmark your site and be sure to let them know that fresh, green content is posted regularly on your site’s blog. (You don’t have a site blog? That’s another low cost way to market your site.)

Get Creative

Low-cost marketing doesn’t require a lot of cash (thus its name) but it does require a great deal of imagination. The list of low-cost marketing options continues to expand as more and more small site owners hone in on their potential buyers.

Bumper stickers, posters and signs, web cards with nothing but your URL shipped out with every order, free give-aways, public speaking opportunities, local press and news media, a booth at the town fair – you get the idea.

There are endless opportunities to get your site noticed locally and globally. So, don’t sit around waiting for the world to find you. Go out and shout it from the rooftops – “I’m here and I’m open for business.” With a little creativity and some legwork, the world will learn about your site a lot faster if you tell others that you’re here.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Viral Marketing:

Contagious Profits

Viral marketing sounds new and high-tech but it’s been around since the first street vendor gave out free samples of dried dates a few thousand years ago. In essence, viral marketing is simply putting the goods and services out there to tempt others to see what’s up for sale. As any good pizza place will tell you, the exhaust fan draws in customers better than any print adverts. People smell that pizza cooking and that brings them in.

The Advantages to Viral Marketing

The biggest advantage is cost. Viral marketing is free or extremely low cost, perfect for online business owners on miniscule marketing budgets. For the $15 cost of some printed business cards, you can start your own viral marketing campaign. Lots for cheap.

Another advantage is that viral marketing, when done well, is self-perpetuating. It expands of its own accord, saving you time and, again, money. For example, if you leave a stack of business cards for your pet sitting service at the local vet’s office, each person who takes one becomes a potential salesperson for your biz – someone who will tell a friend or neighbor about your service. Viral marketing at its simplest.

Finally, viral marketing can be turned on a dime. If plan A isn’t working, you can switch to plans B, C and even D quickly, in part because you haven’t invested heavily in plan A.

So, viral marketing in the real world isn’t new, but on the w3 it’s still a fairly fresh concept – but one that’s been around long enough to have a proven track record.

Stationery, Business Cards and Local Adverts

There are lots of opportunities to use viral marketing to draw visitors to your space. Let’s start with your business card, stationery, invoices and such. Does your web site address appear on all printed documents associated with your business? If not, you’re missing a no cost marketing opportunity because you have to pay for those things anyway.

Check out TV adverts. Somewhere on most ads you’ll see a reference to the company’s URL – its website. Watch an ad for Ford Motors and you’ll see right there on the TV ad. Why not? Ford’s paying for the ad so why not push the company’s web site at the same time.

You can do the same with print and non-print materials like company stationery and local TV adverts. In fact, wherever you list a contact telephone number, list your web site’s URL as well. It’s just another way for potential customers to learn more about your company and convert from potential customers to buyers.

Web Cards

In addition to printing up business cards with all of you company information and a cool looking logo, print up some low-cost web cards. You can even do this yourself with a decent color printer and perforated business card stock available at any office supply store.

A web card should be colorful and eye catching. It should include your URL and a brief description of what you’re all about. So, a web card might look something like this:

Hand these web cards out to anyone. Keep them on the counter and stick one in every shopping bag if you run a brick-and-mortar outlet. Stick one in every shipped order. Give them to family and friends to pass along to others. Attach a web card to every invoice and every piece of correspondence that leaves the office. It’s so low-cost all you need is one sale to recoup your marketing “investment.”

Referral Incentives

There’s nothing like a word of mouth referral to develop a core base of dedicated buyers. If one customer likes your goods and your client care, s/he will tell others just how good you are. And then they tell their friends and their friends and before you know, the world is beating a path to your “better mouse trap” cyber shop.

Lots of sites have a “Refer a Friend” option but they aren’t used as much as they could or should be. However, by offering a small incentive, this online feature will certainly get more use. So what do you offer? Well, it doesn’t have to be much.

Offer a free discount coupon (cheap) or a free entry in a prize giveaway or maybe a free e-book. Just provide a little incentive for a visitor to recommend your site to a friend or family member and you’ll more than pay for the cost of the referral.


If you check your pen and pencil holder you’ll probably find examples of viral marketing – giveaways. There’s a cool pen from your bank, a text marker from the local vet and a pencil with a garbage can eraser from your trash hauler – each with the gifter’s URL prominently displayed.

Try this. Google “promotional items.” You won’t believe what pops up. There are companies that do nothing but sell imprintable promo items. Coffee cups at 79¢, tote bags for just 49¢, key chains for 10¢ and t-shirts at $2.59 a piece. Pens, in quantity, are just 9¢ apiece. So, you give away these low cost items. And, surprisingly, they get spread around from friend to friend, neighbor to neighbor. That one gel pen that cost you 19¢ might be seen by 10 different people.

Mail Promos

This won’t be cost effective for smaller sites with a limited number of clients, but if you have a client base of a few thousand, consider printing promo cards delivered to customer’s mail boxes by snail mail. (You remember that, don’t you?)

Now, it’s going to cost per card for printing and, even with a bulk rate stamp, postage could get pricey – especially if you’re e-mailing 10,000 pieces. But…

…if you cover a very narrow market niche, or your site sells high ticket items, this dual pronged approach may deliver the results you’re looking for.

And hey, add a short promo offering 15% off all items your customer buys when s/he refers a friend.

Your Billboard? Everything Moving. Everything Standing Still.

If it moves, put a bumper sticker on it – nothing but your URL and a few words about what you do or sell: The Consignment Shop That Cares. Boom. You’ve said it all, or your bumper sticker has. And that bumper sticker is going to be seen by thousands of people. (Note: Don’t put bumper stickers on cars without the owner’s permission. It tends to make them mad. And, it’s illegal.)

Window signs, “Knitter on Board.” is all you need. And knitters will love them.

If it’s standing still, think about posters, yards signs and even billboards with nothing but a URL and a brief description of what visitors will find there – www.KXOY Rocks Your World!

On-Line Viral Marketing

Post blog entries on other sites related to your market. Each will have an arrow pointing back to your site. and other social sites give you free space to list your site’s URL. “Hey, man, don’t forget to check out my site at www.whoeverI cuz it rocks.”

Enable visitors to download coupons, T-shirt decals or plans for a cool paper airplane. Give them something free. Just make sure it has your URL in big, BIG TYPE. Just the URL and one or two words to describe what you do…

where the ‘60s rule

…is all you need to draw collectors of vintage ‘60s memorabilia. Groovy, man!

So, Spread Your Virus

It’s part guerilla marketing, part digital theater, lots of hype and a whole lot of fun. And, once your guerilla tactics make initial contacts, your URL will start to build brand recognition.

Just be creative. Money isn’t a major factor in viral marketing but creativity and innovation certainly are. So, spread your virus, spread your URL with anything from preprinted pads (great for printing companies) to really cool coffee mugs (perfect for boutique coffee shops).

In no time, you’ll be highly contagious and.that’s a good thing in ecommerce.

Not getting the site traffic you expected. No problem. Give me a call and let's do some business - YOUR business.


Sunday, November 15, 2009


Twitter Pain:

5 Good Reasons to Be ‘UnFollowed”

Nobody likes to feel rejected. Unwanted. We all want to feel that we’re important and that what we have to say is important. Unfortunately, Twitter – the SMS that started SMS - has demonstrated just how painful it is to be “unfollowed.”

If you’re a Twitter junkie and you check your Twitter stats each day, you just might have an addiction. And you just might be carrying around a misconception that you aren’t worthy of a following. Especially when you log on to Twitterholic and discover that the number of people following you has dropped. You’ve been “unfollowed.”

Hurts, huh? Well, don’t let it get to you. Being “unfollowed” may actually set you on the right Twitter track and get your mind back to real work. There are a lot of reasons a one-time follower might “unfollow” you. And, in many cases, that’s a good thing.

1. Don’t just collect followers. Target who follows you.

You probably receive any number of requests to follow this Tweeter or that each day in your inbox. “So-and-so is now following you on Twitter” is a nice message to find in your email box.

However, not all of these followers are interested in you or what you have to say. These Tweet addicts collect followers like some people collect snow globes or baseball cards. They don’t care what you post. They don’t even read it.

Check out the characters who follow 11K other Tweeters and have a following of 13K Tweeters. Do you think that collector actually reads your Tweets? Most likely not. In fact, your Tweet posts may just clog up the guy’s Tweetdeck columns.

Pick your followers carefully. Check out their web sites or blogs. Is their business related to your own? Do they really want to learn more about web marketing or are they in the shoe business?

If you get dropped by someone who’s totally unrelated to you, your business, your interests or utile connectivity, what’s the problem? You haven’t lost anything – except somebody who wasn’t interested in your Twitter posts any way. Pick your followers with care and don’t follow a Tweeter simply because s/he is following you. Even on little Twitter, the quality of your following is more important than the number of folks actually following you.

Even in Tweetville, hang out with people who can do you some good. Follow those in your industry. And if you are unfollowed by someone who’s got nothing to do with you or your business, no harm done.

Go for a targeted, topic-specific following and leave the Tweeter collectors to their own business. You haven’t lost a thing.

2. Is Twitter THAT important to you?

Twitter is like the old school playground. If you have a lot of followers, you feel popular. If no one is following you, you feel left out. An outcast.

Twitter doesn’t drive traffic effectively and search engines rarely pick up your Tweets. If you’re trying to win a popularity contest, losing a follower might make you feel sad. But, you’re an adult and losing a follower that you don’t know, someone who has nothing in common with you or what you do, isn’t much of a loss, is it?

Twitter isn’t a popularity contest so if you get “unfollowed” so what? You’re still you. You still deliver quality services or sell quality products. Why would you even care if you’re unfollowed by someone you’ve never met and who shares nothing in common with you? Good riddance. Move on, and be more selective in who you follow.

3. On Twitter, sometimes fewer followers is actually better.

If you’ve collected 50,000 followers, big WHOOP! 99.9% of those followers don’t read your posts. Think about the people or businesses YOU follow on Twitter. Chances are, it’s only a handful. And the people you follow have something worthwhile to say.

For some Twitter addicts, more followers means they must be posting valuable information. Frankly, these people have way too much time on their hands. Collecting followers doesn’t make you a better person or a more accomplished professional. You’re better off with a small group of dedicated followers who are actually interested in what you post than 10,000 followers who check their Tweet stats hourly.

Twitter isn’t a game so if you’re unfollowed by a few people now and then, you don’t lose. Twitter is a source of good information if you’re selective in (1) what you post and (2) what you read from other posters. Again, if you lose a follower or two, who cares?

Just keep posting quality links and tidbits of information that actually help others in your business, or others who share your personal interests. That’s the real value of Twitter – connecting up with like-minded people, not just any people.

4. You’re bound to get dumped by somebody, sometime, and not know why.

The first time you discover the number of your followers is shrinking, you might feel as though you’re doing something wrong. Chances are, the person who stopped following you lost interest, or even more likely, was NEVER interested in your Tweets.

Check out who that person IS still following and ask yourself, “Do they post better Tweets than I do?” Chances are they don’t.

Who cares what Marcy 081278 had for breakfast? But Mary081278 is still being followed by the clown who “unfollowed” you. Feel better?

You’ll never know why you were unfollowed so don’t take it personally. If you keep providing useful links on topics of interest to you and your Twitter demographic, your follower list will grow organically. The way it should grow.

Post quality Tweets and forget about those who “unfollow” you. You’ll never figure out what you did or why you’re being dropped. And besides, don’t you have some real work to do?

5. Finally, follower count becomes an obsession for some Tweeters.

You have to feel sorry for someone who spends a couple of hours a day cultivating a Twitter following. First, why do they spend that much time on such a mundane activity? Twitter ranking doesn’t drive traffic to your web site. And the more followers you have is no indication of authority.

If you let your obsession to collect followers on Twitter take over your work day, you’ve got too much time on your hands. Instead, build your business or your social circle in the real world. Followers aren’t your friends. They don’t care if you’re sad or happy or smart or stupid. They don’t even know who you are.

So, when you see your Twit-base sliding, don’t start working double time to rebuild. Twitter doesn’t provide strong, quality links to your site and, in fact, you might actually see your site’s bounce rate skyrocket as more disinterested people visit your site only to discover that the two of you have virtually nothing in common.

Keep your Tweets on topic and targeted to those in your industry or those in your “social sphere.”

And don’t take it too hard when you find you’ve been unfollowed. You haven’t lost anything, and in the land of Tweets, as with all things web-based, quality is much more important than quantity.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


E-Mail Campaigns:

Don’t End Up in the Trash Bin

E-mail marketing is a fundamental element of online promotion. E-mails can be personalized, targeted, automated and even gussied up with template-based backgrounds and animated images. All good.

So, why do so many e-mail campaigns fall short of expectations? And, what can you do to enhance the success of your next e-mail series?

Manage Your Subscribers

Not all subscribers are alike. Some are opt-ins who look forward to your updates on new product listings and sale items. Some are previous customers. And some of those e-mail addresses ended up in your database simply because a visitor clicked on an in-bound link but bounced off the landing page. “Ooops, I clicked the wrong button.”

Managing this list of potential e-mail newsletter recipients is critical to the success of your next e-mail campaign. Most recipients are going to relegate your e-mail to the trash bin if you don’t target everything from the subject line text to the call to action.

Create Different Subject Line Text for Different Groups of Recipients

Create subject lines for each category of recipient. Opt-ins want to read what’s new so the prominent positioning of your company name is often enough to entice these eager readers. Sample subject lines: Here’s this month’s issue of Ant Farming for Profit The Latest News for Beekeepers Huge Tarantula Sale Just for You

These’ll work for opt-ins who are into bugs ‘n’ such dot com.

Previous customers know you and, if they’ve had a good online buying experience with you, they might take a look to see what’s new. They may not open every e-mail you send but it’s reasonable to expect them to open some – if they aren’t buried under an avalanche of promos from your e-business.

If these previous buyers didn’t have a good buying experience (it happens, though you should make sure it doesn’t happen often) there’s little you can do to turn around this dissatisfied buying segment. There are simply too many other options to your site.

Sample subject lines for previous buyers: The arachnids miss you! Special sale for our best customers FREE gift for our valued regulars

Notice that the company name still takes the most prominent position in the subject line box. However, the following text is a little more specific – targeted at individuals in your database who have made a previous purchase.

Finally, for those recipients for whom you have little or no information, use the subject line to introduce your company. We want you to go buggy with us Make easy money as a worm farmer 50% off your first bug purchase

The Main Body

Keep it short and friendly, regardless of which group the recipient falls into. Even your most ardent customers aren’t going to sift through pages of hype so go with a soft sell approach and, again, keep it short.

Avoid long paragraphs. Break up the text into little, bite-sized pieces of actual information – a new product description, the terms of the special sale or an explanation of how to use the special sale code to save 50% at the checkout. Short and sweet. Don’t assume the reader has a long attention span. Most of us don’t these days.

Be sure to include a link. If it’s a general e-mail to unknown recipients, the link should be to your site’s home page. If the e-mail is introducing a new product, the link should take the reader to that product’s landing page within your site. In other words, don’t make the reader search for what you’re selling. You want them on the right page with a single click. That’s how you boost conversion ratios.

Provide contact information including a telephone number and a street address, as well. Potential buyers take comfort in knowing that you’re a real business and that they can call in case of problems.

Finally, close with a friendly call to action. Now, most site owners (and a lot of copywriters) think of a call to action as a strong sales pitch. It shouldn’t be. A good call to action should advise the reader what s/he should do next – to take action. Should they click, call, save the e-mail – what should they do right now? What is the expected action they should take? Answer those questions in your call to action and you’ll see a much better return on your e-mail efforts.

Track Results

Using basic site metrics analysis software and e-mail coding, you’ll be able to tell which e-mail pulls the best with the different categories of recipients. Obviously if one e-mail pulls 8% (that’s pretty good) keep using it rather than the text that only pulled 0.5% (not so good).

Build on a good thing. Once you’ve got an example of an e-mail that pulls well, analyze it from the customers point of view. What appealed to the reader to make that call or click that link? Low prices? Quality goods? What, in the e-mail, brands you as a worthwhile source of products and information?

Refine the strong points through revision. A single, product description may result in a major jump in sales. Okay, use that information to refine your e-mail and site text following that model of success.

Be Judicious

No one wants to see junk e-mail day after day, even from a preferred retailer. We see marketing in the newspaper, on TV and billboards, we hear the same jingle over and over on the radio – we’ve become numb to marketing. Thank goodness for the TV remote. Channel surfing has become an art thanks to promotion overload. How many times can you sit through the same commercial?

Undertake every e-mail campaign with care. Don’t be a pest. Send personalized, follow up e-mails to respondents, not the automated, “do not reply” type of e-mail. You want the reader to reply again and again.

However, also note that respondents are more approachable and therefore more open to frequent e-mails. Non-respondents may just become annoyed at the “all-too-frequent” appearance of your company name in their inboxes, so these prospective buyers should receive e-mails less frequently than those who do respond to previous e-mails.

It’s a matter of degree. Even too much of a good thing is still too much. E-mail campaigns can be extremely effective when targeted at different categories of buyers, and the e-mail itself actually has something to offer in the way of information or purchase savings.

If you keep sending them hard-sell hype, they’re going to keep sending your e-mails to the trash bin. Remember, it only takes a click to read your e-mail. It also only takes a click to send it to the trash bin.

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.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Are You Taking Advantage of Your Web Host? You Should Be!

There are plenty of web hosting services out there and they’re all scrambling to keep existing clients and to add to their customer bases. That’s a good thing – a very good thing – for experienced and fledging site owners alike. Here’s why.

Because hosting is so competitive, web hosts look for any opportunity to spread the word about their services and with online advertising rates on the upswing, these companies are looking for low-cost ways of getting the word out.

That’s where you and your web site come in.

Become an Affiliate Site

Affiliate sites are simply web sites with a link to a services or goods provider who pays money to the affiliate site owner (that’d be you, of course) every time someone signs up for their services or buys some product through your site.

All you do is read the affiliate agreement posted on the home company site, agree to the terms and you’re an affiliate. Simple and easy.

Once you are an affiliate, you’ll receive a small HTML graphic of the home company’s logo that you strategically place somewhere on your site. In addition, you’ll receive a small text string to add to your site code. This text string identifies your site as the source of the click through. Also, it identifies you as the one who gets the bounty for each new web host client who signs on through your site.

Why Is This Such A Good Idea?

There are several reasons. First, you know the quality of service you receive from your web host. Assuming it meets your standards and expectations (not to mention all of your site needs) this is a company you can feel comfortable in recommending. The last thing you need is a bunch of unhappy customers coming back to you with complaints about your affiliation with an unscrupulous, unresponsive web host. And they’re out there. Anyone with a server stuffed in a closet can become an ISP. Remember, on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog.

When you become an affiliate site for your own web host, you know you’re selling a service that other potential site owners will appreciate.

Second, income derived through this affiliate program is passive income. You don’t have to add new products or offer new services, you don’t have to process the order, pay shipping and handling and (ugh) process returns and handle customer complaints. All you do is sign up, place the link and watch for those click-throughs to start generating regular, steady revenues while you focus on your own core business model. How cool is that?

So, by becoming an affiliate of your own hosting service, you’re recommending a product in which you have confidence and you’re generating additional revenue simply by placing a small link on your site. It’s a sweet deal.

Making the Most of Your Affiliation

If you’re going to become an affiliate for your web host, you might as well take a few simple steps to get the best return on your partnership.

Start be reading the affiliate agreement top to bottom, including all of the whereas’s and wherefores. Actually, if the managers behind your hosting service are on their toes, the affiliate agreement should be pretty straightforward. You agree to do blah-blah-blah and the hosting service agrees to pay you money for each sign up you deliver. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into before you get into it.

Next, link placement is a very important consideration. If you bury the link back to the host company on page 18 of your site, you’re going to get about zero response and, consequently, approximately zero dollars for your efforts.

Place the link somewhere on your site’s home page for best results. It doesn’t have to be huge, nor does it need to appear in the middle of the page. Place it discreetly to one side or the other so visitors will see it but it won’t distract from your own site’s sales. You don’t want visitors showing up to buy some of your products only to bounce them to the sign up page of your web host. (Or, maybe you do!)

Sell the service. Yes, you can simply place the affiliate link on the homepage and keep your fingers crossed, but you’ll do a lot better if you provide just a few sentences of sell copy above the link. It doesn’t have to be fancy or a hard sell. Simply a few words describing your complete, 100% satisfaction with the service provider and a short call to action: “Click here to get started building your own web site.” That ought to do it.

Finally, know something (a lot) about the services you’re recommending. This is important in developing a little blurb that will appeal to many of your site visitors. For example, if most of your visitors are w3 rookies, you’d want to mention just how easy it is to get started. On the other hand, if your B2B site attracts a lot of savvy, online business owners, you’d want to emphasize the low cost and full featured menu offered by your web host. Know who visits your sites so you can best direct them to the sign up page of your own host.

What Does The Home Company Bring to the Table?

Look for a couple of things, here. Terms of payment is a good place to start. As an affiliate, you’ll have access to the affiliates’ page within the host’s site. This is where you’ll find data on how many click throughs from your site actually converted, i.e., signed up with the web host. If your hosting service doesn’t offer access to such information, how will you know how much you’re owed?

The amount of payment for each delivered new customer is another key consideration. Some hosts give you a few bucks, others a few more bucks. If you’re going to all of the trouble of signing on as an affiliate and placing another company’s logo right there on your home page, you want the affiliate program to actually generate more revenue than the space it takes up. Lots more.

Check to make sure that your hosting company offers sales collaterals that you can use to actually sell the service. These might include sell pages, downloads of terms, maybe an animated link and other goodies that will boost your click-through rate and your bottom line.

Finally, look for a contact telephone number that provides affiliate services. Problem with your most recent payment? You want to pick up the phone, talk to a host company rep and get the problem fixed without blowing off an entire day to do it.

Partner With Your Web Host

That’s what you want – a partner and a symbiotic relationship. A relationship that benefits you and the hosting company. Some companies simply send you the HTML link and leave everything else up to you. Others actually want to partner with you to generate more business for them and more revenues for you.

Indeed, your hosting company wants your affiliation to be profitable for you. If it is, that means you’re driving a lot of new sign-ups to the host’s site. So look for a host that offers the biggest bang for your affiliation, a host that wants your efforts to pay off for you so they pay off for the hosting company.

If you aren’t taking advantage of your web host’s affiliate program, you should. It’s easy money and you’re selling a service you know is good from your own experience. It’s a win-win-win proposition so sign on today and start generating some of that easy, passive revenue this time tomorrow.