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Top tips for choosing a web hosting company

Choosing a web hosting company is a very personal decision based on your own unique needs. Switching web hosting companies can be time consuming and costly, so it is worth getting it right first time. It’s important to choose a company that not only meets your needs today, but can also grow with you as your needs change.

Here are some great tips to help you choose the right web hosting company for your needs.

1. Check the costs

When comparing different companies, a key question must be how much the hosting will cost. It may seem an obvious question, but the different fees and costs may not be that obvious. For example, check whether there is a set up fee. Are there extra fees for secure transactions? What does it cost to host multiple URLs and email addresses? In other words it is important to establish what is included in the cost and what is extra.

2. Check the contract

It’s also a good idea to read the contract and terms and conditions carefully before you sign up. Some companies charge an additional fee for terminating your agreement if you wish to change to another provider. It’s worth finding out how much this is and if there are any specific restrictions on moving your account.

3. Choose the level of service to suit your needs

Different companies offer different levels of service. Take the time to decide what are your minimum requirements particularly in respect of technical support. Check whether the hosting company can guarantee service levels that meet your requirements. For instance, is their phone number on their web site? What kind of out of hours support do they offer? Are their support telephone numbers free or do you have to call a premium rate number?

4. Check what else they can offer

Although you are keen to get things up and running it’s important to think about your long term needs as well as your immediate requirements. Does the hosting company have the flexibility and capacity you will need as your business expands? In addition, most web hosting companies provide monthly/daily usage reports. It’s worth asking to see these to assess how useful they are as the layout and what is included can vary considerably from one company to another.

5. Check the registration of your domain name

When you have picked your hosting company and signed the contract it is important to check the registration of your domain name if this was part of the set up process. Sometimes hosting companies register the domain name in their own name rather than in the name of the customer. It is advisable to ensure that the domain name is registered in your name so that the registration is protected if your hosting company should subsequently go out of business for instance.

You can check the availability of any domain names ending in .uk using the WHOIS search facility at Nominet

Top tips for increasing traffic to your web site

You’ve got your new web site up and running. How do you get maximum exposure for it and ensure that you get a constant flow of traffic to it? There are a number of fairly simple things you can do that will make a big difference to the amount of visitors you will get.

Here are some great tips to help you get the most visitors possible.

1. Make your launch public

If you are launching a new web site or some significant new content for your site, write an introduction about it and submit it to share web sites such as Digg, Reddit and Now Public.

2. Make sure that the domain name you have chosen is suitable

Pick a name that will grab the interest of your target audience and enable them to instantly understand the aim of your web site.

Try and keep your domain name short – two to three words maximum. Avoid complex or hard to spell words, as people will struggle to type them correctly and remember them. Try to avoid a hyphenated domain name, as it will make the name hard to pass on verbally (e.g. on the telephone).

3. Be flexible about your choice of domain name

However, as there are approximately 120-130 million domain names registered worldwide, it may be useful to have a shortlist of alternatives in case the name you ideally want is already registered. You can check the availability of any domain names ending in .uk using the WHOIS search facility at Nominet

4. Think about sources of traffic to your web site

The type of traffic you want to attract to your web site will also have a bearing on your choice of domain name, as well as influencing how you decide to publicise the site, and the features and content you include.

Traffic to a personal web site usually comes from three main sources:

• Search engines
• Referral traffic (from other sites)
• Loyal readers

Each of these audiences will benefit from a different approach. The key to building a group of regular readers is to keep the content on the site fresh and update it regularly. Adding features such as a forum, or comments section will enable your audience to interact with you and others who share your interests, which can help keep the impetus going.

You can attract readers from search engines by using keywords. Search engines use keywords within domain names to rank web sites. If you choose a domain name that contains generic keywords (like mobile, music blog, gamer) you could achieve a high ranking. If your web site contains advertising this kind of traffic can be valuable, as visitors who come via search engines are more likely to click on ads than regular readers.

You can also attract readers who follow links from other sites. If your site is a blog you could benefit from links from one of the larger blogs such as Slashdot. This can result in large amounts of traffic and although these visitors are less likely to click on ads if they decide to post links to your site on their own blogs this can help with your search engine optimisation.

5. Marketing your web site through search engines

If you are not able to use keywords in your domain name you can still use search engines to promote your web site to a larger audience. Most of the search engines and directories allow you to register your web site for free. You can also take advantage of free banner advertising on various link exchange networks.

6. Marketing your web site through social networking sites

If you belong to a social networking site such as MySpace or Facebook, or you are a member of a network such as a Yahoo Group, make sure that you post a link to your web site on your page, and post messages every time you update the web site or add a new feature. It’s free advertising that could reach a much larger audience than you think.

7. Making money from your web site

You can make money from your web site by placing adverts on your home page that generate revenue when visitors click on them. Google Adsense adverts are pay per click and can generate decent revenue. You could also sign up for an account with Text Link ads, who will sell small text ads on your site and split the revenue with you 50-50. You can also take advantage of free access to various affiliate networks such as Amazon and LinkShare. You can also make extra revenue by adding a donation button – if your site is giving people genuine value they may well be prepared to give a donation.

8. Keep developing your web site

The key to any successful personal web site is to generate traffic. In order to keep attracting visitors to your site, you must spend time developing it and updating it regularly. Add new content as often as possible, and carry out regular reviews of your layout and design. Keep your eye out for new features you can add to improve usability and if you are monetizing your web site, experiment with different revenue streams.

9. Use your domain name for your emails

In addition to your web site you can use your domain name for your email address. If you have an existing personal email account (e.g. hotmail) you can keep this, but use the domain name to forward your email.

Top tips for marketing your web site

‘A web site without marketing is like a shop in a cul-de-sac’ – the goods are on display, the cash register is set up and the store is open, but customers don’t know that the shop even exists.

Here are some great tips for marketing your web site to make sure that prospective customers know where and how to find your business.

1. Think of your domain name as a short classified advert

Choose your domain name carefully. Consider the value of multiple domain names to increase the chances of catching passing traffic. Use domain name strategies to attract customers from particular geographical areas; for example in the UK, 72% of adults visit a .uk web site first when browsing or shopping online. When faced with a list of domain names on a search engine, people don’t necessarily click on the top one, but quickly scan for a link that sounds appealing, useful or interesting.

2. Be aware of opportunities for publicising your business

Proactive media relations (with online and offline publications) are a core element of many marketing strategies and an extremely useful tool for raising awareness within a target audience. Be aware of opportunities to publicise your business – ranging from new product launches and promotional offers to charity initiatives and executive appointments – and use them as opportunities to drive traffic to your web site.

3. Mention your web site URL at every opportunity

Include it in email signatures, marketing literature, business cards, adverts, promotional gifts, packaging material ….the opportunities are endless! Also consider offering online services, such as a delivery tracker for goods ordered or discounts for online purchases, in order to drive repeat traffic to your web site.

4. Make your web site more than a shop window

Research shows that, in Britain alone, 5.4 million Internet users research buying decisions online before completing their purchase in the shops. Providing a free information resource for people to research their decisions is a very effective way of attracting traffic – therefore prospective customers – to your web site.

5. Search engines remain the first port of call for finding a web site

With more than 95% of web surfers using search engines to find what they are looking for, achieving a high ranking is often regarded as the holy grail of online marketing. Search engines tend to apply individual techniques for ordering and displaying results making this even more of a challenge, but there are experts who specialise in optimising search engine rankings.

6. Consider a paid for listing on major search engines

Whilst some consumers prefer to sift through search results, others find it easier to look at the paid for listings services that are provided by most major search engines. This can be a way of ensuring that your company is listed on the front page of a relevant search query every time.

7. Banner ads should be treated with caution

Few people tend to knowingly click on banner ads and instead they are often regarded as an irritant for Internet users with few generating a good click through rate. The problem is that they are rarely designed to provide a compelling reason to be followed, so, if you do choose to include banner ads within your marketing strategy, make sure that they have a clear ‘call to action’ and are attractive and interesting.

8. Explore the opportunities of affiliate marketing

Links from other web sites can drive traffic between sites hosting complementary goods and services, raising awareness of both as a result. Do your research and make sure you are partnering with reputable companies that will enhance your own profile and market perception.

9. Invest in tracking software to understand your market

Tracking software is a valuable tool for monitoring the number of visitors to your web site, tracing navigators around the site and measuring conversion into actual transactions. The more advanced tracking tools on the market also enable you to see from which sites or search engines customers arrive, as well as where they go afterwards. This can help you to target your marketing efforts and also provide insight into buying behaviours.

10. Open customer dialogue channels

Create interactivity through your web site and make every effort to get to know your customers, what they want and how they shop. Registration, loyalty schemes and customer feedback forms are all great ways of collecting information, which can then be used to feed into an effective marketing programme for your web site. is for sale is for sale. is for sale is for sale. is for sale is for sale. is for sale is for sale.

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