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How to compete online in 2021

competing onlineCompeting online works best with a mix of online and offline marketing techniques.

A few of my favorites for 2021 are:

Organic Back Links – Organic backlinks to relevant sites with lots of value add content – in good neighborhoods work best. Links to warez, torrent and spam sites are considered BAD neighborhoods and could possibly drag your site lower in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).

There are ways to remove bad links if you determine that they’re adversely affecting your ranking. Disavowing backlinks could have unintended consequences if performed incorrectly though. See this article from Google Support for further information.

Organic backlinks are very different from paid backlinks, first because they’re an accepted strategy from Google, whereas paid backlinks could result in your website being penalized by Google. When a site organically links to content on your site, it’s adding to the know, like and trust factors that are necessary to build successful businesses. It’s essentially saying that your site is worthy of visiting (big PLUS in Google’s eyes).

live chatLive Chat – If you have available manpower, live chat is great way to communicate with your prospects and clients. LiveZilla is a free and highly recommended live chat application. The feature I love is the ability to see what pages visitors have browsed, and how long they stay on each page.

Of course, you’re going to get trolls from time to time who will attempt to waste your time, and even a few obnoxious individuals, but that’s to be expected when communicating with the general public. Always be professional, and you’ll be surprised how often you’ll be able to turn the conversation in your favor.

Prospects today are looking for information before they commit to purchasing anything, and that’s for everything from automobiles, stoves and computers to web hosting. This is largely because everyone and their brother (and sister) has carries a computer in their pocket or purse (a smart phone) and they’ve become increasingly aware of how to use it to navigate to the best deals in town.

When someone initiates live chat with your company, they’re already a warm lead. They’ve showed interest in your products or services, so it’s on you and your team to show them why taking the next step is in their best interest, and that’s pulling out their wallet and entrusting you to deliver whatever you’re selling.

Ask them straight up if you can follow up if they’re just shopping around. Get their email and their permission to contact them. Once you’ve done that, mark your calendar and do just that – follow up. Visitors aren’t always ready to purchase on the spot, so being in their targets when that time comes for them to pull the trigger is vitally important.

Forum Signatures – Participating in industry forums and discussion groups positions your firm as an expert in the field. Your signature at the end of each thread or post can link to your website or a specific promotion. Be sure to comply with forum rules.

While this won’t directly affect your SERPS because forum links are generally no-follow, it will increase traffic to your site. Increased traffic translates into more opportunities for conversions.

Newsletters – Newsletters are a fantastic way to share solutions, highlighting your business’s strength in its niche. Links from newsletters can be monitored to determine what hits home with your readers. It’s important to not only provide value-add content in your newsletters, but some sort of call to action as well.

Relevant Content – Beyond a doubt, the MOST IMPORTANT element for any website is relevant content, meaning your content must address each click through (opportunity) with a compelling and convertible solution. Value-add relevant content increases time on site, reduces bounce rate and aids in branding your business as an expert in the field. It’s the single most essential element in establishing know, like and trust factors that ultimately lead to conversions.

Tweaking Your Site Using Analytics/Statistical Programs – Measuring what works, and what doesn’t work provides a foundation by which you can restructure your site for success. Discard what doesn’t work, and repeat-repeat-repeat what does. Don’t become complacent though, as that’s been the downfall of many businesses. You might be turning excellent profits, but who is to say they couldn’t be even better? Watch for trends in the marketplace.

Social Media Networking – I think it goes without saying that having a presence, at least today, on Facebook or Twitter is a necessity. Your competition is already there capturing some of your traffic. Given the low cost of entry for getting the word out about your company to millions of prospects, why wouldn’t you take advantage of these marketing avenues? What kills me is when I see companies with links to Facebook or Twitter on their website, and when you click through for more information about their business, those pages haven’t been touched in years. Why link your intrigued visitors out to anywhere that’s going to kill their interest? When you’re trying to sell the sizzle, that’s a sure fire way to douse the flames.

Contests – Giving something away always attracts visitors, even if it’s as simple as a special coupon code on a specific service. Always set a deadline though, and vary the promotion. Variety sparks renewed interest.

Webinars – Webinars are seminars held or presented on the Internet. I try to attend at least one each week. Here again, it’s vitally important to be fresh, and to provide value-add information each and every time. Prospects can be very fickle. If your approach becomes stale, their interest will wane quickly.

Business Cards, Personalized Scratch & Mouse Pads, Ink Pens – And the list goes on forever. Promotional material customized with your website information brands your business for success.

Brought to you by ProlimeHost

We’ve been in the web hosting industry for over a decade, helping hundreds of clients succeed in what they do best and that’s running their business. We specialize in Virtual Private Servers (VPS) and dedicated servers, with data centers in Los Angeles, Denver & Singapore.

VPS Services: Lightning Fast SSD Virtual Servers

Our Virtual Private Servers all feature high performance Xeon processors and SSD storage in a RAID10 configuration to optimize your server’s performance, which dramatically enhances visitor experiences on your site.

That speed is backed by unparalleled 24/7 support, featuring both outstanding response AND resolution times to maximize your uptime.

Now is the time to join the ProlimeHost virtual private server revolution.

Dedicated Servers: Backed by a 99.9% SLA network uptime guarantee

We only use enterprise-class hardware in our dedicated servers and offer a four (4) hour hardware replacement. Throw in IPMI for remote management, support for public and private networks, free operating system (OS) re-installs, and SATA, SAS & SSD (including NVMe) storage. Call +1 877 477 9454 or email us at Sales@ProlimeHost.com. We’re here to help.




Blogging in 2021

Mbloggingy first experience with hyperlinks was ages ago – when I first trained to repair Apple computers in the early 80’s. I thought to myself then, “Can you imagine if the world could hyperlink its combined global knowledge?” Wait, isn’t that what the Internet and blogging enables us to do today?

As a global community – we’ve become a giant publishing house, and we don’t have to submit our works for approval, or get put on waiting lists for distribution. Do a Google search for just about any topic and you’ll likely return millions of results.

Someone told me recently that there are more websites on the Internet than there are people on Earth. I was like, “Really?!”

On the local front – I was just asked to help my brother-in-law clean up his laptop, and while doing so, found out he didn’t use the Internet. Why? He thought it was evil, filled with nothing but adult content. Admittedly, he’s the one and only person I’ve ever met that thought that way, but it got me to thinking.

Now, he had been using email to communicate, and that’s essentially how his laptop became infected. He didn’t know anything about malware or anti-virus software. Once I cleaned up his laptop, I sat him down and explained how the Internet could actually help him in his daily life.

I also reinforced that he should not open up any hyperlinks when he didn’t know where they were coming from or leading him to, as that can be very dangerous. In this case, I was able to clean his laptop, but good grief – it was a mess.

I showed him how to search for topics that interested him, explained how hyperlinks worked and introduced him to some blogs that I thought he might be interested in reading. Which takes us to why we should blog.

Blog about your passion

Blog about your passion

The why to blog should be obvious – it’s an incredibly easy way to reach a targeted audience, giving you to the opportunity to communicate your vision, products or services. It helps keep you in touch with your prospects and customers, and it’s an extremely cost effective marketing tool.

The how to blog – is a little more complex. Essentially, pick a topic that interests you and start writing. Share your insight, ask for opinions, run some polls – seek out participation. Don’t worry so much about being perfect (perfect people are boring).

I’ve heard that 2000-word blog articles get ranked better by Google, but I think the real key is to be consistent, spreading the wealth over longer periods of time. The key is to keep readers regularly coming back for more.

Likes

Don’t forget about Facebook likes

Part of the how is – writing value-add content and then letting someone know your blog is out there; your friends, Twitter contacts, business associates or clients.

A very important aspect to growing your blog is to always respond to comments. This builds loyalty and trust, two key factors to sell anything, from ideas to mouse traps to fishing gear.

If you’re publishing a blog now – I’d love to hear your take on why and how to blog.

Brought to you by ProlimeHost

We’ve been in the web hosting industry for over a decade, helping hundreds of clients succeed in what they do best and that’s running their business. We specialize in Virtual Private Servers (VPS) and dedicated servers, with data centers in Los Angeles, Denver & Singapore.

VPS Services: Lightning Fast SSD Virtual Servers

Our Virtual Private Servers all feature high performance Xeon processors and SSD storage in a RAID10 configuration to optimize your server’s performance, which dramatically enhances visitor experiences on your site.

That speed is backed by unparalleled 24/7 support, featuring both outstanding response AND resolution times to maximize your uptime.

Now is the time to join the ProlimeHost virtual private server revolution.

Dedicated Servers: Backed by a 99.9% SLA network uptime guarantee

We only use enterprise-class hardware in our dedicated servers and offer a four (4) hour hardware replacement. Throw in IPMI for remote management, support for public and private networks, free operating system (OS) re-installs, and SATA, SAS & SSD (including NVMe) storage. Call +1 877 477 9454 or email us at Sales@ProlimeHost.com. We’re here to help.




Common Sense Security

Years ago, a well-known web host sent a message to its clients about a security breach of one of its employee accounts. They followed that with this thread in their forum.

This morning, we sent a notification to a group of our customers possibly affected by a compromised employee account’s access to our internal customer management portal. We will be sending an additional communication to all customers with information about the apparent security breach, but in the meantime, we would like to answer any additional questions about the communication in this thread.

Please understand that we will not provide specifics information about the security breach due to the sensitive nature of the investigation, but we will do our best to provide as much detail as possible. As we assured in the note, based upon our security review of access logs, we do not believe any credit card information was compromised.

We strongly suggest you implement a security best-practices approach by immediately taking four steps to mitigate risk:

•1. Change your xxxxx log-in passwords immediately and do so again every 60 days.
•2. Change your server passwords and do so again every 60 days.
•3. Be alert to any suspicious activity on your account.
•4. If you suspect any unusual activity, please retain your access logs along with any other information and contact us as soon as possible.
This should raise some questions.

What security measures do hosts normally have in place (regarding their employees) to protect their clients? Are they allowed to bring in USB thumb drives (some are marketed very cleverly looking like wrist bands or writing utensils)? What about PDAs? Could they place data on these devices and simply walk out the door with gigabytes of files? Could those files be broadcast on the Internet, or used as blackmail?

They mentioned implementing a security best practices approach. Regardless of your level of comfort with your current host, these four suggestions need to be implemented to minimize your risk. I can’t emphasize this enough – your data is your business. Lose your data and you risk losing your business!

What about inside your own business?

The same applies to in-house servers and workstations. Most security breaches are by disgruntled employees. It’s amazing how many companies give administrative privileges to low level supervisors. Entire databases can be downloaded in minutes with thumb drives, then transported offsite.

What about security or IT audits?

Financial institutions have very strict guidelines with respect to security, but what about the thousands of small to medium sized firms that comprise the majority of businesses – your local printer, clothing retailer, auto repair shop, electrical contractors, car dealerships? How at risk is their data, and your data as their consumer? It’s astonishing how many firms broadcast unsecured Wi-Fi networks. What’s more alarming is how easy it is to intercept and infiltrate their networks. How many times have we been alerted to intrusion theft of well-known retailers, just in the past year?

Would an IT audit be worthwhile? Volumes of information has been written about IT audits and IT security. Do you trust your IT department to have fully provisioned and managed security? Most owners have no clue how vulnerable their companies are without a 3rd party audit.

My recommendation

Dot your i’s and cross your t’s with disaster recovery and business continuity plans. If you receive a notice like our web hosts comrades, follow their advice. Do it as a matter of habit. Being habitually secure is far better than being victimized with no recourse.

Brought to you by ProlimeHost

We’ve been in the web hosting industry for over a decade, helping hundreds of clients succeed in what they do best and that’s running their business. We specialize in Virtual Private Servers (VPS) and dedicated servers, with data centers in Los Angeles, Denver & Singapore.

VPS Services: Lightning Fast SSD Virtual Servers

Our Virtual Private Servers all feature high performance Xeon processors and SSD storage in a RAID10 configuration to optimize your server’s performance, which dramatically enhances visitor experiences on your site.

That speed is backed by unparalleled 24/7 support, featuring both outstanding response AND resolution times to maximize your uptime.

Now is the time to join the ProlimeHost virtual private server revolution.

Dedicated Servers: Backed by a 99.9% SLA network uptime guarantee

We only use enterprise-class hardware in our dedicated servers and offer a four (4) hour hardware replacement. Throw in IPMI for remote management, support for public and private networks, free operating system (OS) re-installs, and SATA, SAS & SSD (including NVMe) storage. Call +1 877 477 9454 or email us at Sales@ProlimeHost.com. We’re here to help.




Value Add Services in the Web Hosting Industry

Value-add services is one of my favorite topics, especially as it relates to the web hosting industry. I originally wrote this article in 2010, but it’s very much valid in today’s market as well.

What I mean by value add is your company’s unique blend of products and services, and how those are perceived by your prospects and clients. You may be the absolute best at what you offer, yet your business is not growing as expected. This often happens when you don’t effectively communicate your expertise.

Communication is key 

What’s behind your value add? If you don’t spell out everything you do, starting with your estimates and proposals – to invoices, your value add could be overlooked. What does it take to provide your business solution? Infrastructure, research, surveys, reports, travel time, understanding the competition, proof reading, editing, revisions, design work, interviews, phone calls, hiring competent staff, industry schooling and licensing? The list goes on and on, but are these communicated to your prospects and clients? If not, your value add will be negatively impacted.

ExpertiseExpertise is a business value add

Why do I pay my automotive dealer $125+/hour for labor? When I was repairing typesetters, our first hour labor rate was $180.00, and that was over 25 years ago. Hair coloring and styling can run $100.00+. And these rates are invoiced and paid routinely because there’s a perception of value associated with each service. The perception of your value can be elevated via marketing campaigns, blogs, case studies, testimonials and so on.

Know, Like and Trust

Again – know, like and trust come into play here. How well do your prospects and clients actually know, like and trust you, your firm and staff? For example, I see a lot of web hosting firms essentially hiding behind their products and services, and specs on their data centers. When you’re performing research to determine which web hosting provider to go with, should that decision be based entirely on specs and prices? If you’re smart, the answer is a resounding no.

What prospects are generally seeing are advertisements for shared hosting starting at $7 per month and up. To the prospect, this means that their new shared account (the face of their company online) will be sharing the same IP address with hundreds of other companies, and some of them may or may not be good neighbors. So you’re probably wondering, “What the heck does that mean?”

Good versus badGood and bad neighbors on a shared hosting account

There are safeguards that the web hosting industry has implemented to safeguard the integrity of IP addresses, specifically in regard to email spamming. When a rogue account that’s shares the same server as your site gets caught spamming, that IP address will be registered with a diverse group of vendors like Spamhaus (that providers subscribe to) to block email from the offending account. After all, who wants spam in their inbox?

How to identify bad neighbors

I use a browser extension to help identify how many other sites are sharing your IP address. It also shows whether those sites are involved in hacking, malware, adult content or things you’d rather not be associated with. Who wants to share services with a cyber-criminal?

Sense nonsenseHow do neighborhoods factor into value add services?

Reputation is the key word here. Companies spend a lot of money on branding and on reputation management. One bad review on WHT, Hosting Discussion, Yelp, Angieslist  or other review site can adversely affect your business and undo countless hours devoted to branding your business, and its good name. For web hosting providers, one thing you cannot do is become complacent and assume your clients are all happy because they’re not entering service tickets. Value add services encompass ensuring the security of your servers, and safeguarding your clients.

Web hosting value adds
Among the value adds I envision as important for a web hosting provider – infrastructure, 24×7 support and hands-on expertise rank high. Every provider it seems, has bronze, silver and gold plans. For providers, if your value add is e-commerce, disaster recovery or managed services, how do you communicate what makes your service unique, and worth the price you advertise?

If you offer collocation, how do your plans differ from your competition? Would two 20AMP circuits per rack be a value add, or simply norm? If you offer business class shared web hosting plans, what does that mean and is that perceived as a value add service?

Certainly, value adds are competition driven. Do your prospects and clients know how you differ from your competition? Telling them, or not, will impact your business.

Brought to you by ProlimeHost

We’ve been in the web hosting industry for over a decade, helping hundreds of clients succeed in what they do best and that’s running their business. We specialize in Virtual Private Servers (VPS) and dedicated servers, with data centers in Los Angeles, Denver & Singapore.

VPS Services: Lightning Fast SSD Virtual Servers

Our Virtual Private Servers all feature high performance Xeon processors and SSD storage in a RAID10 configuration to optimize your server’s performance, which dramatically enhances visitor experiences on your site.

That speed is backed by unparalleled 24/7 support, featuring both outstanding response AND resolution times to maximize your uptime.

Now is the time to join the ProlimeHost virtual private server revolution.

Dedicated Servers: Backed by a 99.9% SLA network uptime guarantee

We only use enterprise-class hardware in our dedicated servers and offer a four (4) hour hardware replacement. Throw in IPMI for remote management, support for public and private networks, free operating system (OS) re-installs, and SATA, SAS & SSD (including NVMe) storage. Call +1 877 477 9454 or email us at Sales@ProlimeHost.com. We’re here to help.




Some tips to successfully sell anything online

sales-onlineWhat are some of the fundamentals that drive higher conversion ratios? The first, I think, is to reinforce your prospect’s existing pain. Here’s the catch. When you’re designing an online campaign, how would you know your prospect’s specific pain?

In one-on-one meetings, it’s relatively easy – you ask questions, lots of them. Here, I recommend the POCCAD approach, asking questions related to personnel, their organization, their current system, their current vendors, what applications they’re using, and who their decision makers are. Find their hot buttons and drill deeper.

Online, these tactics don’t convert well. Here, pain is relative to industry trends, and measuring that pain requires some research. I start with the search engines, typically Bing and Google, followed by industry specific forums. Pain can cover everything from slow Internet connections to issues related to their current provider.

values-onlineShowing Value

Value is perceived. You may not have the best product or service, but the perception of those can be vastly improved with effective copywriting. Here, professional presentation is key. You need to capture your prospect’s attention, then emotionally motivate them to action.

Minimize their Risk

Trust is key to minimizing their risk. There are several ways to convey trust. One of those is via testimonials, while another is a guarantee. Testimonials lend considerable credence, especially if that business or organization is well known. Guarantees won’t completely ease the pain of making a bad decision, but it does give the prospect a way out, should the relationship sour.

cap-the-offerCap the Offer

By that, I mean make your offer limited in some fashion, either by time, event or availability. We see these tactics every day in retail – when they’re gone, they’re gone. Don’t miss this chance to own this once in a lifetime deal.

A word of caution here as I see a good number of sites that don’t cap their offers, even though they say they do. A prime example of this would be a site that offers a certain price for the next 24 hours, and one week or several months later is still advertising the same price for 24 hours only. Your visitors will notice!

My take on this is that I think the vendor believes once visitors leave their site, they’ll never come back, and the selling proposition is hence lost. The problem with that strategy is that not all prospects are impulse buyers. I’ve learned this myself the hard way. Do some research before you hit that buy button.

Have an Exit Strategy

Either offer other related products (I see this all the time on sites like Amazon), offer a discounted price or offer some consolation for visiting your site – either a discount on future purchases or possibly a free report.

How you measure up to your competition

When your prospect measures your site against others they just visited, what compels them to act on your offer, and NOT move on to the next host’s site. Is it your bronze, silver, gold and platinum offers? When your plans blur with the competition, what’s left? The answer is perceived value and an effective call to action.

freeFree Offers

Sometimes, free isn’t really free once you add on the shipping and handling charges, and sometimes I’ve seen those charges be higher than the product itself. Take a product that sells for $9.99, but if you purchase it within the next 30 minutes, you’ll get a second one free (just pay separate shipping and handling – which turns out to be $16.99).

Don’t get me wrong. Free offers do work and work well. I would recommend however, that you do not give away something that you actually sell. If you’ve set yourself up as an expert in your field, that something free could be a report. Notepads with your company information are great too, as prospects will leave them lying around. When it’s time for them to pull the trigger, your information is already within their sights.

Good sales strategies don’t require you to employ tricky techniques

Just because you can’t visually see your prospect when you’re selling your products or services online doesn’t mean there’s a lack of good sales techniques at your disposal. Value-add solutions that alleviate an issue, problem or pain are the key to an effective marketing strategy.

videos-sellVideos Sell

Really, how hard is it today to create a video and post it to Facebook or YouTube? Grade school students are doing it! Even if you don’t know how, it would only take a few minutes or hours at the most to learn how. If a picture can speak a 1000 words, what can a two-minute video do? The answer is volumes. The task at hand is to be different than your competition in a way that sells, and videos, properly done, can effectively touch a prospect’s five senses, and dramatically improve your conversions.

Brought to you by ProlimeHost

We’ve been in the web hosting industry for over a decade, helping hundreds of clients succeed in what they do best and that’s running their business. We specialize in Virtual Private Servers (VPS) and dedicated servers, with data centers in Los Angeles, Denver & Singapore.

VPS Services: Lightning Fast SSD Virtual Servers

Our Virtual Private Servers all feature high performance Xeon processors and SSD storage in a RAID10 configuration to optimize your server’s performance, which dramatically enhances visitor experiences on your site.

That speed is backed by unparalleled 24/7 support, featuring both outstanding response AND resolution times to maximize your uptime.

Now is the time to join the ProlimeHost virtual private server revolution.

Dedicated Servers: Backed by a 99.9% SLA network uptime guarantee

We only use enterprise-class hardware in our dedicated servers and offer a four (4) hour hardware replacement. Throw in IPMI for remote management, support for public and private networks, free operating system (OS) re-installs, and SATA, SAS & SSD (including NVMe) storage. Call +1 877 477 9454 or email us at Sales@ProlimeHost.com. We’re here to help.