Monday, February 28, 2011

How to choose web hosting

by Mike

1. Advertising

Most free web hosts impose advertising on your website. This is done to cover the costs of providing your site the free web space and associated services. Some hosts require you to place a banner on your pages, others display a window that pops up every time a page on your site loads, while still others impose an advertising frame on your site. There is really no hard and fast rule which is to be preferred: some people hate a pop-up window, other webmasters dislike having to stuff banner codes onto their pages, and many people cannot stand an advertising frame (which may cause problems when you submit your website to search engines). Whichever method is used, check that you're comfortable with the method.

Note that free web hosts without forced advertisements aren't necessarily good news. Without a viable means to recover the costs of running their server, many of them close with alarming frequency.

2. Amount of web space

Does it have enough space for your needs? If you envisage that you will expand your site eventually, you might want to cater for future expansion. Most sites use less than 5MB of web space. Indeed, at one time, one of my other web sites, thefreecountry.com, used less than 5MB of space although it had about 150 pages on the site. Your needs will vary, depending on how many pictures your pages use, whether you need sound files, video clips, etc.

3. FTP access

(In case you're wondering: What is FTP?)

Some free hosting providers only allow you to design your page with their online builder. While this is useful for beginners, do you have the option to expand later when you become experienced and their online page builder does not have the facility you need? FTP access, or at the very least, the ability to upload your pages by email or browser, is needed. Personally, I feel FTP access is mandatory, except for the most trivial site.

4. File type and size limitations

Watch out for these. Some free hosts impose a maximum size on each of the files you upload (including one with a low of 200KB). Other sites restrict the file types you can upload to HTML and GIF/JPG files. If your needs are different, eg, if you want to distribute your own programs on your pages, you will have to look elsewhere.

5. Reliability and speed of access

This is extremely important. A site that is frequently down will lose a lot of visitors. If someone finds your site on the search engine, and he tries to access it but find that it is down, he'll simply go down the list to find another site. Slow access is also very frustrating for visitors (and for you too, when you upload your site). How do you know if a host is reliable or fast? If you can't get feedback from anyone, one way is to try it out yourself over a period of time, both during peak as well as non-peak hours. After all, it is free, so you can always experiment with it.

6. Perl and PHP

(In case you're wondering: What is PHP and Perl?)

This is not particularly crucial nowadays for a free web host, since there are so many free script hosting services available that provide counters, search engines, forms, polls, mailing lists, etc, without requiring you to dabble with Perl or PHP scripts.

However if you really want to do it yourself, with the minimum of advertising banners from these free providers, you will need either PHP or Perl access. Note that it is not enough to know they provide PHP or Perl access: you need to know the kind of environment your scripts run under: is it so restrictive that they are of no earthly use? For PHP scripts, does your web host allow you to use the mail() function? For Perl scripts, do you have access to sendmail or its workalike?

7. Bandwidth allotment

Nowadays, many free web hosts impose a limit on the amount of traffic your website can use per day and per month. This means that if the pages (and graphic images) on your site is loaded by visitors beyond a certain number of times per day (or per month), the web host will disable your web site (or perhaps send you a bill). It is difficult to recommend a specific minimum amount of bandwidth, since it depends on how you design your site, your target audience, and the number of visitors you're able to attract to your site. In general, 100MB traffic per month is too little for anything other than your personal home page and 1-3GB traffic per month is usually adequate for a simple site just starting out. Your mileage, however, will vary.

Choosing a Commercial Web Host

1. Reliability and speed of access

Not only should the web host be reliable and fast, it should guarantee its uptime (the time when it is functional). Look for a minimum uptime of 99%. In fact, even 99% is actually too low - it really should be 99.5% or higher. The host should provide some sort of refund (eg prorated refund or discount) if it falls below that figure. Note though that guarantees are often hard to enforce from your end - the host usually requires all sorts of documentation. However, without that guarantee, the web host will have little incentive to ensure that its servers are running all the time.

2. Data Transfer (Traffic/Bandwidth)

Data transfer (sometimes loosely referred to as "traffic" or "bandwidth") is the amount of bytes transferred from your site to visitors when they browse your site.

Don't believe any commercial web host that advertises "unlimited bandwidth". The host has to pay for the bandwidth, and if you consume a lot of it, they will not silently bear your costs. Many high bandwidth websites have found this out the hard way when they suddenly receive an exorbitant bill for having "exceeded" the "unlimited bandwidth". Always look for details on how much traffic the package allows. I personally always stay clear of any host that advertises "unlimited transfer", even if the exact amount is specified somewhere else (sometimes buried in their policy statements). Usually you will find that they redefine "unlimited" to be limited in some way.

In addition, while bandwidth provided is something you should always check, do not be unduly swayed by promises of incredibly huge amounts of bandwidth. Chances are that your website will never be able to use that amount because it will hit other limits, namely resource limits. For more details, see the article The 

Fine Print in Web Hosting: Resource Usage Limits.

To give you a rough idea of the typical traffic requirements of a website, most new sites that are not software archives or the like use less than 3 GB of bandwidth per month. Your traffic requirements will grow over time, as your site becomes more well-known (and well-linked), so you will need to also check their policy for overages: is there a published charge per GB over the allowed bandwidth? Is the charge made according to actual usage or are you expected to pre-pay for a potential overage? It is better not to go for hosts that expect you to prepay for overages, since it is very hard to foresee when your site will exceed its bandwidth and by how much.

3. Disk space

For the same reason as bandwidth, watch out also for those "unlimited disk space" schemes. Most sites need less than 10 MB of web space, so even if you are provided with a host that tempts you with 200 MB or 500 MB (or "unlimited space"), be aware that you are unlikely to use that space, so don't let the 500 MB space be too big a factor in your consideration when comparing with other web hosts. The hosting company is also aware of that, which is why they feel free to offer you that as a means of enticing you to host there. As a rough gauge, thefreecountry.com, which had about 150 pages when this article was first written, used less than 5 MB for its pages and associated files.

4. Technical support

Does its technical support function 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (often abbreviated 24/7), all year around? Note that I will not accept a host which does not have staff working on weekends or public holidays. You will be surprised at how often things go wrong at the most inconvenient of times. Incidentally, just because a host advertises that it has 24/7 support does not necessarily mean that it really has that kind of support. Test them out by emailing at midnight and on Saturday nights, Sunday mornings, etc. Check out how long they take to respond. Besides speed of responses, check to see if they are technically competent. You wouldn't want to sign up for a host that is run by a bunch of salesmen who only know how to sell and not fix problems.

5. FTP, PHP, Perl, SSI, .htaccess, telnet, SSH, MySQL, crontabs

If you are paying for a site, you really should make sure you have all of these.
Note that some commercial hosts do not allow you to install PHP or Perl scripts ("What is PHP and Perl?") without their approval. This is not desirable since it means that you have to wait for them before you can implement a feature on your site. ".htaccess" is needed if you are to do things like customize your error pages (pages that display when, say, a user requests for a non-existent page on your site) or to protect your site in various ways (such as to prevent bandwidth theft and hotlinking, etc).

Telnet or SSH access is useful for certain things, including testing certain scripts (programs), maintaining databases, etc. MySQL ("What is MySQL?") is needed if you want to run a blog or a content management system. Cron is a type of program scheduler that lets you run programs at certain times of the day (eg, once a day). Check to see if these facilities are provided.

6. SSL (secure server), Shopping Cart

If you are planning on doing any sort of business through your website, you might want to look out to see if the host provides these facilities. These facilities normally involve a higher priced package or additional charges. The main thing is to check to see if they are available at all before you commit to the host. You will definitely need SSL if you want to collect credit card payments on your site.

7. Email, Autoresponders, POP3, Mail Forwarding

If you have your own site, you would probably want to have email addresses at your own domain, like sales@yourdomain.com, etc. Does the host provide this with the package? Does it allow you to have a catch-all email account that causes any email address at your domain to be routed to you? Can you set an email address to automatically reply to the sender with a preset message (called an autoresponder)? Can you retrieve your mail with your email software? Can it be automatically forwarded to your current email address?

8. Control Panel

This is called various names by different hosts, but essentially, they all allow you to manage different aspects of your web account yourself. Typically, and at the very minimum, it should allow you to do things like add, delete, and manage your email addresses, and change passwords for your account. I would not go for a host where I have to go through their technical support each time I want to change a password or add/delete an email account. Such chores are common maintenance chores that every webmaster performs time and time again, and it would be a great hassle if you had to wait for their technical support to make the changes for you.

9. Multiple Domain Hosting and Subdomains

For those who are thinking of selling web space or having multiple domains or subdomains hosted in your account, you should look to see if they provide this, and the amount extra that they charge for this (whether it is a one-time or monthly charge, etc).

10. Server

Is the type of operating system and server important? Whether you think so or not on the theoretical level, there are a few practical reasons for looking out for the type of server.

In general, if you want to use things like write/use ASP programs, you have no choice but to look for a Windows server.

Otherwise my preference is to sign up for accounts using the often cheaper, more stable and feature-laden Unix systems running the Apache server. In fact, if dynamically generated pages that can access databases (etc) is what you want, you can always use the more portable (and popular) PHP instead of tying yourself down to ASP. Another reason to prefer Unix-based web hosts (which include web hosts using systems like Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, etc) using the Apache web server is that these servers allow you to configure a lot of facilities that you typically need on your site (error pages, protecting your images, blocking email harvesters, blocking IP addresses, etc) without having to ask your web host to implement them. Knowledge about configuring Apache servers is also widely available, and can be found on thesitewizard.com's 

Configuring Apache and .htaccess pages as well.

For those interested, you can read another discussion on the matter in the "Should You Choose a Linux or a Windows Web Hosting Package? Is There Such a Thing as a Mac Web Host?" article.

11. Price

I was actually hesitant to list this, but I guess it's futile not to. However, I would caution that while price is always a factor, you should realise that you often get what you pay for, although it's not necessarily true that the most expensive hosts are the best.

12. Monthly/Quarterly/Annual Payment Plans

Most web hosts allow you to select an annual payment plan that gives you a cheaper rate than if you were to pay monthly. My current personal preference is to pay monthly with all new web hosts until

About the Author

Server administrator

Friday, February 25, 2011

PayPerClick or Search Engine Optimization?

by Peter Moore

Members are always asking me how they can get their ezweb123 site to the top of the search engine rankings for their specific business, organisation or search keywords relating to their products or services.

Basically, there are only two reliable ways of doing this:

1. PayPerClick (PPC) search engine advertising and
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

PPC

Unless you've got an extremely niche product or service, PPC now requires a lot of on-going financial investment to keep your site at the top of any search engine results. You are likely to burn a lot of cash without seeing any return on investment (ROI).

This is simply because of the massive growth of the Internet and the success of Google's Adwords service. You will be competing with hundreds, if not thousands of competitors for specific search keywords or phrases. This growth and demand has now significantly increased the cost per click for those keywords/phrases, making it virtually impossible for small businesses to get a ROI.

Other, nowhere near as popular, search engines, directories and adverting networks, have recognized this and jumped on the bandwagon of offering website owners lower cost advertising - but this is nowhere near as effective and again I wouldn't recommend these services.

Also don't be fooled by businesses offering you a guaranteed number of visitors, or unreputable services such as email mailing lists, offering you zillions of emails sent for just a few dollars. Avoid services like these at all costs and don't be tempted to test them, just to see if I'm right - that's how they make money!

If you are going to attempt PPC (and I strongly recommend that you don't), I would recommend that you only use Google Adwords, as Google is by far still the most used search engine on the Internet and their adwords advert campaign interface is by far the best.

However, a keyword/phrase with a cost per click of anything more than $1 is in my view ridiculous and unprofitable and the days of 50 cents a click for any beneficial keyword/phrase have long gone unfortunately. Furthermore, 95% of people searching on Google never look past page 1, so unless you can achieve page one, for less than $1.00 per click, I frankly wouldn't bother.

SEO

So, with my moan about PPC advertising over, I would strongly recommend that you look at option 2, Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Although, you won't get instant traffic as you will with PPC (if you spend enough money that is), you will get gradually increasing, organic and above all profitable traffic to your site, that you can track and make step change improvements to increase.

As you will notice by doing a search for 'SEO' on Google, there are literally thousands of companies springing up claiming to be SEO experts and ready to take your money. This is for both 'optimizing your site' for search engines and secondly getting you to the top of the search engine results.

However, firstly, you can optimize your own website with just a bit of effort. Just read our free search engine optimization guide for our website builder. Our website builder has built in tools to make optimizing your website easy.

Secondly, there is no company that can guarantee that they will get you to the top of the search engine results, unless that company is called Google! All you can do, once you have optimized your site, is take the necessary steps to increase your natural search engine position on Google. These are:

1. Get a respectable Google Page Rank, of at least 3+.

2. Identify your competitors main search keywords/phrases. I recommend this site: keyrow.com

3. Select just 1 or 2 of those keywords/phrases based upon google monthly search volume.

4. Create good quality backlinks to your site from relevant and respected sites or Blogs with PageRank using your chosen keywords/phrases as 'anchor text'.

5. Set up Google Analytics for your site to track traffic and keyword search referals to your site and every 6 months check your Google PageRank. I can't stress the importance of this enough!

About the Author

Pete Moore is Co-Founder of award winning website builder, ezweb123.com (http://www.ezweb123.com).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Top 10 things to look for in a Content Management System

by Ken Richards

In this article we will list the most important things to look for in a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS is crucial for small businesses and hobbyists looking to quickly create a professional looking website with advanced features such as site-wide search, article directory, blogging, document management, frequently asked questions, and message boards. Plus, a CMS usually provides regular updates and new modules to extend the features provided by a website.

1. Theme Management

Ability to swap themes is a major consideration for any CMS. This will allow you to change the look and feel of the website whenever you like. In most cases, once you decide on a theme, you will stick with that team for many months or even years before changing.

So even though switching your theme may not seem important, the ability to customize a theme becomes very important. This bring us to our next important item...

2. Theme Customization

Ability to tweak the themes is usually provided through the following processes:
  • Ability to update the CSS for the theme
  • Ability to modify the HTML templates the theme uses
  • Ability to modify the media used by the theme (images and Flash animations)
With theme customization, a user is not limited to just the standard themes offered by the CMS. They can customize the theme to suit their purposes and really make their website look unique. Another possibility is creating a fusion between two different themes which combines the best elements from each theme together into a completely new one.

3. Adding Custom Pages / Navigation

Ability to add custom pages is at the heart of what a good Content Management System is all about. A content manager has lots of ways to add content to your website including: Articles, Blog, and Documents. However, sometimes, you just want to add your own standalone web page. This may be a page which has custom scripting that cannot be added using the standard content modules. Or it may just be a top-level page that is relevant to your business and you want to make sure it is optimized and search engine friendly.
Whatever the case, adding a new custom page should not be difficult. Once you have added the new web page, you will need to link it into your site navigation so that people can find it. Make sure that the CMS you choose has the ability to easily incorporate new pages into your website navigation. Preferably, this should be done through the main web-based administration.

4. Document Management

Ability to store and manage documents. This feature is more common in Intranets but it is extremely useful for coordinating work with others. Another popular alternative to having this feature is to use Google Docs and Google Apps for Domains.

5. Site Search

Ability to search for content on the site. The administrator should have the ability to configure which areas of the site are searchable.
This brings up another good point is that all content-based modules on the site should have the ability to be integrated with a site search. An example of content-based modules would be a frequently asked questions, articles, documents, and blogging module.

6. Media Management

One of the more overlooked aspects of a CMS, is the ability to upload media and associate it with your content. Media can be images such as GIF and JPeg, animations (usually created using Adobe Flash), audio files such as MP3 and WAV or video files. Having the ability to incorporate video into your CMS makes managing your website all that much easier.

7. Collaboration Tools

A content management system is often thought of as the ultimate collaboration tool because it lets multiple users coordinate together in creating content for one website. Blog software is a very specific type of Content Management System where its very common to have more than one administrator managing content at the same time.

Some examples of collaboration tools you should look for in a CMS are:
  • Project and Task Management
  • Bug Tracking (a Task Manager could be used for this purpose)
  • Message Boards
  • Event Calendar
  • Private Messaging / E-mail System
8. Rich Text Editor

I guess it should come as no surprise when I say that all administration should be done through a web browser. This is pretty standard for Content Management Systems today. One of the key aspects of this browser-based administration is the ability to edit documents directly through your browser.
A rich text editor gives users the ability to edit content as if they were editing a document in a standard word processor. Besides styling text, this type of editor should allow the user to create the following types of text formats:
  • Bulleted lists
  • Numbered lists
  • Indented text
  • Insert images and media
Of course when it comes to rich text editors, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more content-editing tasks which can be performed.

9. Database Storage

Nearly every content management system out there uses some type of relational database as to store content, certain types of media, and configuration settings. There are really only two big players for small sized businesses, these are:
  • MySQL (from Oracle)
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008
Both are very capable database systems. Most people would only consider Microsoft's solution to be enterprise-ready. However, MySQL has the benefit that it is freely available and widely supported on Unix and Linux architectures.

10. Backup and Restore

The ability to backup and restore a content management system is crucial to disaster planning. A CMS
  • All content and user-generated content (such as message forum posts)
  • Theme Customizations
  • Any configuration settings
  • User accounts and permission settings
  • Any media uploaded to the server
Conclusion

We hope that this guide has helped you to make a better decision when choosing your next Content Management System platform. There are many good choices out there so take your time before making the plunge. Remember that choosing a CMS is a long-term commitment, so you will want to make sure you find the best software that suits your needs.

About the Author

Ken is the founder of Orvado Technologies, a San Diego Web Design company building custom web apps using search engine optimization and intuitive user interfaces.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Niche Marketing - Thinking Small for Earning Big

by Tom Paige

Ask any successful Internet marketer what the secret to online success is and you'll get a host of different answers. But dig a little deeper and almost all of them will eventually tell you that one of the big secrets is to concentrate your efforts onto a monetizable niche market. So what is niche marketing and how do you find a niche that you can make money from?

That's what this article plans to uncover for you.

A monetizable niche market is, at its simplest, that part of a crowd that is hungriest.

A hotdog stand outside a restaurant isn't likely to do much business, but put the same stand outside a cinema or theater and it will sell out. The people walking past are similar, but some are hungrier than others.
The trick to successful niche marketing is to be able to identify which parts of an audience are ready to buy and to aim all your efforts at persuading them to buy via you.

To give you an example, someone searching with the keyword 'digital camera' is certainly searching for something, but we have no real idea of their intent. The chances are that they are simply dipping a toe into the market to get some background info.

There are 134,000 searches made every day for 'digital cameras' but you could spend a huge amount of time and effort trying to grab a share of that traffic and still have little to show for it at the end.

They are lookers, not buyers.

The next step up after they have done their background research would be for them to search on a manufacturer, so 'Nikon Digital Cameras' might crop up. Is this a niche market keyword? Not yet. They are warmer, but not yet hot. They are still finding stuff out, comparing models and checking price ranges.

But they are not buyers. Not yet.

Nikon Digital Camera is a topic - and possibly a good one to base a whole site or a section of a site upon, but for our individual pages we need to focus on the niches inside the topic.

So, having decided that they like Nikon cameras more than the competition the next step - the buying step - is for them to narrow their research down even more to a particular model.

Someone who searches on 'Nikon D40 Digital Camera' is in the market to buy. They know what they want and now just need to be reassured and pointed at Amazon.

So a brand name is a niche market, but it still isn't necessarily a great niche market. The number of people searching for a term is important, but not all-important. We must also look at the number of websites we would be in competition with if we were to put in the effort to build one of our own.

A great niche market is one where there are lots of hungry, desperate-to-buy searchers, but few websites satisfying their needs.

In the Nikon D40 Digital Cameras example, there are nearly half a million pages online in competition with us - and as we want the easiest route to getting high Google rankings for the pages we build, that is way too much competition!

We are getting warmer, but it isn't hot, hot, hot quite yet!

A few more minutes work and the following products emerge: Samsung T550 Camera, Polaroid Pogo Camera and Fuji Waterproof Camera. Between them they attract over 10,000 searches per month, but none have more than 7,000 competing web pages already out there. Now that's competition we can set about beating!

Niche marketing is about getting the biggest bang for your buck, the greatest return for your effort. The skill lies in learning how to use your keyword research tools to uncover the millions of phrases people regularly type into the search engines that indicate they are in a buying mood, and to keep researching them until you find ones where there is the least amount of competition.

Then build a web page, make it as authoritative as possible, fine tune the on-page SEO to make it on-target as far as the search engines are concerned and develop the off-page SEO by building a network of backlinks. Then add monetization through affiliate links and watch as your hard work reaps its rewards.

About the Author

And now I would like to invite you to claim your Free Instant Access To Several Of My Highly Praised Reports. When you visit Tompaige. You will be Able To Instantly Download Valuable Reports On Seo, PLR, JVSecrets and much, more. For More Info Affiliate Marketing blog From Tom Paige "The Prince Of Print" and Internet Marketing Guy!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cut Your CPA Website Setup Costs

By Brian O'Connell

The price of creating a custom CPA and Accounting website design can easily fly out of control, but if you exploit a few simple tricks you can significantly shrink if, not obviate, your set-up expenses.

Do you genuinely need a custom site? There are not a lot of serious reasons these days to endure the expense of a custom accounting site design, so regard your reasons judiciously.

Personally I advise getting a template instead of investing in a custom design.

Graphic design really isn't all that important to the success or failure of a website. Unfortunately a lot of site owners drive up their costs and at the same time get completely bogged down by the graphic design process.

You're going to be up to your eyeballs creating content for your site. It really doesn't make much sense to obsess on the superficial appearance of the site. All this does is add to your costs and make more work for you. There's no reason you shouldn't be able to get the job done in two or three drafts. Will it be perfect? Probably not. But it will be good! 

A custom accounting website design will cost a lot of money; at least $2000. If you have a good reason to spend that much go for it, just be sure it's not a vanity expense, because in terms of building your accounting practice there are usually better ways to spend that money. There are a lot of companies that provide excellent accounting and tax website templates. As a rule template sites are more than adequate for a small accounting firm, and will contain much better content than a low-end custom site.

If you consider all these factors and you still feel that a custom site is the solution for you there are some cheats that might help you keep your costs way down. Look for a company that provides accounting website templates and try to find one that's close to the custom site you had in mind, then contact the provider and ask them to modify it. This can give you what looks like a custom site, but won't cost more than $300 or $400.

Think about a few website design basics before making a final decision. Unless you plan to take up web design your website will never exactly match your vision. Accountants are often type A personalities and, as a rule, are in the habit of (and are well paid for) managing tiny details. This might make you a good accountant, but it may not necessarily make you a good graphic designer. 

Doing draft after draft of your website is going to get very expensive very quickly. It's just not a good idea to indulge in artistic expression when someone else is holding the brush. It's best to approach the design process with an open mind about what the final result will be.

Keep in mind that the look of the site really isn't all that important. If you look at highly successful A-list sites like Google, CraigsList and Reddit you'll see that aesthetics is really not all that important to designing a successful site.

Your ability to provide accurate and timely tax and financial advice and preparation is far more important than your eye for color and balance, so stick to what you do best and trust your designer to do the same.

Overestimating the importance of graphics is the main cause of cost overruns in the website design process. It's a lot cheaper to make design changes to a website during the planning phase than it is once the coding starts. Make your design choices up front using mock-ups, and once you finalize it stick to your guns. You don't want to be tweaking the style once coding starts. Even seemingly minor changes, changing a border color or moving a margin a few millimeters, can force a complete reconstruction of the site; and the designer is going to pass that cost along to you.

If you really want a custom site your best strategy is to hire a skilled and experienced designer who shares your basic vision and try to trust his or her process. Stay focused on the design elements that really matter.

Don't strive for perfection. It breaks my heart to see perfectly good sites sit unpublished for months or even years because the owner is overly focused on making it "Perfect". Even if they succeed it's never worth the time and money they spent getting it "just so". The most ironic part is that while they may have a really nice site, it's a site designed to appeal to the website owner. This is a tragic, but common, mistake in advertising. Too many advertisers are afraid to confront their clients on this issue and just let them do this. You're not trying to get you to hire yourself. You're trying to get your prospects to hire you, so design your site to appeal to them. The perfect shade of blue really won't help much attracting a wide range of prospects. What matters is having useful, diverse content and presenting it in a personable, easy to navigate way.

Closely related to a futile drive for perfection is a need to "finish" the site. This is also a trap. Website design is a lot like building a house. Once the site is up it needs to be maintained and improved. Your accounting website won't ever actually be "finished". I've had clients put off publishing sites for months waiting to finish the site. This is a trouble doubled. It's unhealthy to let yourself think of your website as finished. As soon as you do it will quickly slide in obsolescence.


Once you decide to get a website, make your priority to get it up as quickly as possible. A website only has value if it's public. Not only will it start making money for you, it will also begin accumulating domain authority in the search engines. Once the site is open you can continue to tweak it all you like. Tweaking the site once it's open will actually help you get your CPA website noticed by the search engines.

Your website is an investment in your company. Address it the same way you'd treat a redesigned lobby, a flier, or any normal marketing cost. Whether you decide to set up a custom accounting design or start with a template and shape it from there, get your website up fast and let your contacts watch as it unremittingly gets better.

About the Author

Brian O'Connell is the President and founder of CPA Site Solutions, one of the country's leading website design firms oriented entirely to accounting website design. His firm at present provides websites for more than 4000 CPA, accounting, and tax preparation firms.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Website- Key Web Design Aspects

by Bryan F Bell
In today's world, upon being asked the details of the company, the business men usually quote a website. The website is the business representative of the website owner in the virtual world of the internet. The website is responsible for multiple functions which include sharing information, converting the visitor into a buyer and finally generating revenues. If you want to optimize the functionality of the website and assure its success a perfect website design becomes mandatory.

User friendly: Finally it is the buyer who runs the business. It is when the buyer buys the product, that the revenue is generated. This means that to assure the success of the website, the web design needs to be user friendly. The visitor should be easily able to find what he/she is searching for. All the details of the products or services are mentioned on the website. The product or the service should be illustrated with images wherever necessary.

Basic structure simple: There is no need of adding irrelevant information on the website. Only the relevant piece of information should be shared with the visitors. Excess and redundant information can lead to waste of time of the visitor. In this situation the visitor may feel that he/she is being fooled and may get irritated to. The website and especially its layout should be simple and easy to understand.

Search engine friendly: What is the use of a shop with good interiors when there is hardly anyone visiting that shop? The website needs to be designed in such a way that it is search engine friendly and is indexed top in the search engine list. The higher the ranking in the search engine list more is the traffic to that website.

Flash: The use of flash should be limited. This is because it is not compatible with the platforms of Internet Explorer. On the other hand the use of flash is needed to make the images look attractive. In some of the website the embedding of images is mandatory to convince the buyer about the appearance of the product.

Content: The text content of the website should be simple and easy to understand. The main phrases and headings need to be in bold. The text size should be readable by the visitor, especially when majority of the target audience is elder and have to use spectacles to read the website content.

Compatibility: The website needs to be compatible with the different operating systems in the various internet browsers. It is possible that the website may look very good when accessed through Mozilla Firefox but not accessible through Internet Explorer. The website may look different on different browsers. The compatibility of the website needs to be checked before getting it hosted.

Contact details: The element of doubt can stop the visitor from getting converted into a buyer. Are you going to trust a business without any physical address? This implies that the physical address and contact details needs to be mentioned on the website to reinstate the element of trust in the mind of the prospective buyer.

About the Author

Copyright © 2010 

SPINX is a Web Development and Web Design Miami company providing different services for Tampa Web Design, in Florida and Worldwide.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What Is Link Building? - The Key To Quality Backlinks

by Neal Coxworth

It's easy to find a lot of talk online about back links, but you may find yourself asking "what is link building?" Don't worry, you don't need a degree in construction or computer science to understand exactly what link building is. In fact, it's really pretty easy.

You may be aware that building backlinks is a key part to any SEO effort that will help your site rank better in the search engine results. Moreover, the best part of this type of SEO is that it is completely cost free. The only thing required is your time and effort.

What I am going to give you here is a way to get backlinks for your site that does not involve article marketing. Rather, it is about commenting on other's blogs, with the intention of getting a backlink. Not just any blogs, but those that are relevant to your content and also have Page Rank, or authority, with Google. However, before I go any further it is key to remember one thing about commenting. Do not load up other's blogs with irrelevant, sloppy or bad comments just for the sake of getting backlink.

The main reason you shouldn't do this is that it doesn't add anything to whatever conversation is taking place on that blog. The other reason is that it won't work at all. Why? Because any decent blog that has Page Rank with Google is human reviewing every comment that is posted, and your comment will never get published if it comes off as self serving, hard to understand, or is off topic completely. So, please, figure out what you are going to say first by reading the content of the blog, and then make a worthwhile comment. Don't just slap up some slop to get the backlink. It doesn't help anyone, especially you.

Ok...without further adieu, here are the codes you type into the Google search box to find high page-rank blogs that you can comment on for backlinks. You will need to know what keywords you are targeting, and then insert whatever your keyword is there for these codes to work.

site:.com inurl:blog + "post a comment" + Keyword

site:.org inurl:blog + "post a comment" + Keyword

site:.net inurl:blog + "post a comment" + Keyword

site:.info inurl:blog + "post a comment" + Keyword

site:.gov inurl:blog+ "post a comment"+keyword

site:.edu inurl:blog+ "post a comment"+keyword

Remember, this will produce a set of blogs that you can comment on that are relevant to whatever keyword you have placed at the end of the string. It's also a good idea to keep track of where you placed your backlinks in a spreadsheet or similar so you can check back to see if your comments get approved.

To find out if these blogs have page rank, download a little program called SEO Quake for free. Install it on your browser as a toolbar, and you have the ability to see the page rank of any Google search results. You may then order these results in ascending or descending order to effectively target the higher page rank blogs

In conclusion, hopefully you can answer the question "what is link building" a little better. This is not the only way, but it is an effective way to get results, especially over the long term. Want to more about building a successful site? Check out the link below.

About the Author

Neal Coxworth is an entrepreneur, internet publisher and affiliate marketing enthusiast. His blog on Affiliate Marketing is a no-nonsense overview of how to achieve success online.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Essential Tips For Choosing An Affiliate Program To Promote

by Ian Basford

There are several basic questions you should ask yourself before joining an affiliate program. Doing a little research about any program you intend to join will benefit you greatly in the mid- to long-term.

It is a good idea for anyone new to affiliate marketing to join a marketplace, such as Clickbank or PayDotCom, as a starting point for their business, then gradually expand into other affiliate opportunities that abound on the internet.

I have answered some of the most important questions that you should ask yourself before committing to an affiliate program.

Is the affiliate program free to join?

Most affiliate programs being offered today are absolutely free of charge. Any affiliate program that charges a fee upfront to join should be avoided. After all, why should you have to pay to sell someone elses product?

When are the commission payments issued?

Every affiliate program is different. Some affiliate merchants make their payments once a month or every quarter. Many affiliate merchants only make a payment when a minimum sales figure has been reached, and some even issue a payment after every sale (once the guarantee period has elapsed). Select the one that is suited to your payment needs.

What is the hit-per-sale ratio?

This is the average number of hits to a banner or text link it takes to generate a sale, based on the statistics of all affiliates. This factor is extremely important because it will tell you roughly how much traffic you must generate before you can expect to make a sale.

What are the kinds of affiliate statistics available?

Any affiliate program you join should be capable of offering detailed statistics. Statistics should be available online any time you decide to view them. Constantly checking your individual statistics is important because you need to know how many impressions, hits and sales are being generated from your affiliate links. Impressions are the number of times the banner or text link was viewed by a visitor of your website. A hit is when the banner or text link has been clicked.

How are referrals from an affiliate's website tracked, and how long do they remain in the system?

You need to be confident that the program will track people you refer from your affiliate link. This is the only way you can get credit for a sale. The period of time that those people stay in the system is also important. This is because some visitors do not initially buy the product, but may wish to return later to make a purchase. You should be aware whether you will still get credit for the sale if it is done some months from the customer's first visit.

Does the affiliate program also pay for impressions and hits as well as commissions on sales?

It is important that impressions and hits are also paid, as this will add to the earnings you get from any program you promote. This is especially important if the affiliate program has a low conversion rate. A low conversion rate simply means that the number of people buying from a sales page is low, which probably has more to do with how good the sales page is than how good the product is.

Who is the online retailer?

Find out with whom you are doing business, to know if it is a good company. Know the products they are selling and the average sales volume they are achieving. The more you know about the merchant offering the affiliate program, the easier it will be for you to know if that program is really for you and your particular website.

Is the affiliate a one-tier or two-tier program?

A one-tier program pays you only for the sales you have generated. A two-tier program pays you for the sales, and it also pays you a commission on the sales generated by any affiliate you sponsor in your program. Some two-tier programs are even paying small fees on each new affiliate you sponsor.

What is the amount of commission paid?

5% - 20% is the commission paid by most programs..01% -.05% is the amount paid for each hit. If you find a program that also pays for impressions, the commission paid is not very much at all.

These are just some of the questions that need answering before you join an affiliate program. You should be familiar with the many important aspects your chosen program should have before incorporating it into your website. Asking these questions can help you select the right affiliate program for your website from the many available.

As a final thought, it's always best to continue your education by reading as much information as you can find. There are many ways to increase your profits with affiliate marketing, which can be incorporated into any campaign to make it more profitable.

About the Author

For more helpful advice on affiliate programs, affiliate marketing and other online business tips and tricks, please visit my blog at http://www.online-marketing-review.info. Take a look at my FREE ebooks while you're there.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

3 Tactics to Improve Squeeze Page Conversions

by TJ Philpott

Having a squeeze page that helps you effectively build a list is one of the most important aspects of an online business. The key word here is 'effectively' because you want a page that encourages visitors to join your opt-in list and not one that drives people away! 

Once somebody leaves their contact information at your page you now have their permission to make contact by email with them. This allows you direct contact without being designated as spam in their in-box and is the most effective and cost efficient way to deliver any marketing message you may have. So now you see how important it is to set up this page in a way that 'encourages' visitors to join your opt-in list!

Here are 3 grass root tactics you absolutely can not afford to overlook on your landing page in order to quickly and effectively build a list for your online business!

Offer Visitor Motivation

Simply asking someone to leave their contact information without giving them a reason or motivation to do so will not be very effective. It is both common and expected that you offer some type of 'incentive' in the form of a free gift that can be downloaded instantly. It is of equal importance this gift is in some way relevant to your niche and their field of interest or it will be of little attraction to them!

Target Their Interest

The content placed on your landing page should capture the interest and/or curiosity of any visitor. The message on the site needs to be relevant to the ad these people have responded to in an effort to increase their curiosity and deepen their interest. You absolutely need to capture their attention, and quickly, or they will be gone forever! Remember you are simply giving them clear instructions as to what they need to do to get their free gift and not trying to deliver any type of marketing message at this point.

Deliver Your Message Quickly

Building on where we just left off above, the message you do place on this page needs to be as brief and as clear as possible. What you want them to do is join your opt-in list so focus on clearly telling them exactly what they need to do. Simply encourage them to accept your free offer and leave their contact information so you know where to send it! Once again be brief, be clear and get right to the point!

Your squeeze page is the key to how effectively you can build a list! Now you obviously will need to generate traffic but you want your page ready to receive visitors in a way that encourages them to join your opt-in list. The 3 suggestions offered above will help you to do just that! Once people elect to leave their information you can then begin to make contact by email with them. Now you have the ability to deliver your marketing message to somebody who has already shown an interest in your business. Can you think of a more cost effective way to promote anything online? Remember however, everything pivots on how effectively your squeeze page does its job!

About the Author

TJ Philpott is an author and Internet entrepreneur based out of North Carolina.
For more tips about building an effective squeeze page and to also receive a free instructional manual that teaches valuable niche research techniques for your online marketing needs simply visit:http://affiliatequickstart.com/

Monday, February 7, 2011

Online Conversions Affected By Website Design

by Bryan F Bell

There is hardly any difference between a conventional shop in the market place and the website on the internet. When any prospective buyer visits the shop every trick of the trade is applied to convince hem/her to buy the offerings on sale. This principle is also applicable to the online business. The only difference is that in the conventional shop the main action usually follows the entry of the prospective buyer in the shop whereas all the strategies of making the website appealing precede the act of visitor clicking on the website.

The online buyer is usually very busy and runs short of time. A website hardly has 60 seconds to convince him/her to buy the service or product put on sale. This time duration is very crucial for the sale because it is in this short time duration that the visitor has to be converted to a buyer. Some of the key issues affecting this conversion are as follows.

Utility of the Website:

The utility of any website is mainly affected by two factors. The first is the affordability and the need of the offerings of the website and the other factor is the user friendly nature of the website. The former relates to the demand of the product or service and whether the price quoted is justified. If the offering is of recurring utility then the website is going to be accessed repeatedly by the buyer.

The website can be user friendly only when it facilitates the buyer with the information that he/she seeks in the least number of clicks. Usually the final page should accessible within 3 clicks from the click to the home page. The website can be said to be user friendly only when it gives the relevant information about the product in text as well as image. The submit button should be large enough to be visible with a phrase appealing to the buyer to click it to buy. The billing software in case of online shopping should be working perfectly.

Convincing:

Sometimes the prospective buyer needs to be convinced with the help of images and even testimonials and feedback. The website should have genuine testimonials and feedback from earlier buyers. This could enhance the buyer's trust in the seller. The description of the product or service along with the terms and conditions should be in detail and simple language to understand.

Clarity of options:

The website design should be such that the visitors become aware of all the options available, especially when the issue concerns payment of bills. The money can be transferred in different ways. All the options need to be covered. It is possible that the conversion from the visitor to buyer failed just because the visitor came to know that the credit card he/she is using is not acceptable. If there had been another alternative way of payment the conversion would be effective.

A professional website designer takes utmost care to design webpage so as to maximize the online conversions and optimize the sales.

About the Author

Copyright © 2010 

SPINX is a Web Development and Web Design Miami company providing different services for Web Design Tampa, in Florida and Worldwide.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Web Hosts: The Basics

by AJ Peterson

Before you start searching for a web host, you must familiarize yourself with the terminology used in this field. The following terms are also considered key factors in deciding the suitable hosting plan that meets your requirements. You can start learning what does each term mean and how does it affect your selection.

Web Host

A web host, also known as web server, is a computer connected to the internet. This computer is more powerful than normal PCs and is set up to serve up websites. Your website content will reside on this computer, which will give people who surf the internet a way to access your website.

Web hosts can be categorized into three main categories based on the price range and common features for each category:

1. Free Hosts: limited in space, bandwidth and other features. Suitable for personal websites or for temporary usage. Usually enforce pop-up, text or banner ads. They do not provide the best performance and/or reliability. They provide minimum or no customer support. If you register for a free host, your domain will be something like yourname.freehost.com or [http://www.freehost.com/yourname].

2. Shared Hosts: most websites are using this type of hosting. Suitable for personal, small and medium businesses. Prices range from $1 to about $25 a month. Features also range from very limited space/bandwidth to semi-dedicated servers. Your website has its own top level domain (e.g. [http://www.website-hostings.net]) The number of websites on a server affects its performance and availability, more websites usually means less performance. Servers hosting less number of shared websites are more expensive, but more reliable. Some companies allow customers to host multiple websites with different domains under a single account.

3. Dedicated Hosts: A full server dedicated to a single customer. Usually used by large businesses and very active websites with thousands of daily visitors. The customer will have full control over the server, and can create as many websites as he likes. Customer can have his own hosting company run on a rented dedicated server. Prices depend on the specifications and services provided with the server, starting from about $100 up to about $800 dollars a month.

4. Colocated Hosts: very similar to dedicated hosts, but the customer owns the server hardware instead of renting it. The server will be housed in provider's data center. Prices are a bit higher than dedicated servers.

5. Reseller Hosts: providers offer web server storage to customers, who then resell the web server storage to their customers. Providers usually offer resellers a discount price.

6. Other Hosts: there are few other types of hosts such as email hosts, media hosts, data hosts, etc but these are out of the scope of this article.

Domain Name

www.website-hostings.net [http://www.website-hostings.net] is an example of a domain name. It's a name that points to where your website is physically located. The actual address of your website is a set of numbers that looks like (70.86.135.242). This address is unique for every web server. Domain names are just pointers to the real addresses. It's easier to remember the domain names than the IP addresses.

Space / Storage

The amount of web server's disk space available for customer's website files, images and databases. It can be as small as 5MB in some free hosts and as big as 300GB for some dedicated servers. Space prices reduced significantly during the last few years. Customer can find hosting plans offering 3GB of space for less than $10 a month.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is the amount of data transferred from web server to clients' internet browsers. Each time a person view a page data is transmitted from the server to that person's PC. Audio, video and images contents consume much more bandwidth than text. Bandwidth can be as low as 100MB a month in some free web hosts and as high as 2000GB a month in some dedicated servers. Customer can find hosting plans offering 75GB of monthly data transfer for less than $10.

Server Type

Usually means the operating system than runs the web server. Common types are Windows, Linux and UNIX. Server type determines the server side scripting and database types. Windows usually runs ASP and ASP.NET with Access or SQL Server databases. Linux/UNIX servers usually runs CGI, PHP or JSP with mySQL or Oracle databases. Windows servers are usually more expensive than Linux/UNIX servers.

Databases

As you have seen in server types, there are different types of databases. The most commonly used is mySQL because its an open source GPL (free) software and can serve a lot of online applications' requirements such as forums, content management, mailing lists, etc. MySQL, however, has some limitations in its features. Complicated large business sites will need more powerful databases such as Oracle or SQL Server.

Server Side Scripting

Most new users prefer to use PHP as server side scripting. The reason is that there are hundreds of open source (GPL) PHP scripts that can meet a lot of webmaster's requirements. Similar to mySQL, PHP has some limitations in features required by advanced websites, which makes some senior web developers prefer to use ASP.NET or JSP. Other developers still prefer to use Cold Fusion, CGI, ASP or PERL.

Email

Most hosting plans include the feature of having some email accounts with customer's domain (e.g. admin@website-hostings.net

File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

A standard way of transferring files across the Internet. Most webmasters upload and download their websites contents using FTP. The upload or download processes are usually performed using FTP client software. To access their web servers, webmasters need FTP username and password. Some hosts give more than one FTP account to their customers. FTP can by anonymous as well, but its not recommended for security reasons.

Control Panel

Most web hosting companies provide their customers with a control panel, a web based application that helps in managing websites. Common functions in control panels are: managing email accounts, providing statistics, managing FTP accounts, managing domains and subdomains and managing databases. The most commonly used control panel application is cPanel. Some companies develop their own control panel application.

Uptime

An important feature of web hosts is their uptime, which is usually measured in percentage. A server that goes down for an average of 30 minutes a day will have an uptime percentage of about 99.98%, which is acceptable for most small to medium business websites. Anything less than this percentage is not suitable for a business website. Mission critical sites cannot tolerate frequent outages, thus they may use web monitoring services to notify web administrators immediately when an outage happens.

Price

With the wide range of options available for customers, the price is also ranges from 0 to $1000 a month. Most personal, small and medium websites shouldn't cost more than $15 a month. It's not recommended for business website owners to go for very cheap plans (less than $5) because this price usually means a compromise in the quality of support and reliability of the server.

About the Author

Cheap web hosting can be found anywhere over the web. But, you need to dig more to get the best cheap web hosting provider for your website.