What Is Shared Hosting and Is it Reliable for a Business Website?

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photo credit: flickr

Imagine that you are trying to start up a website for your company and you want to consider your options.

Well, you first should perhaps consider what you are going to do for the exact purpose of the website (whether that is marketing, actually selling products, or offering an online service).

Then, you might want to consider some of the design elements of the website and how it might be the best thing for your particular clientele. Yet with all of this to consider, one question still remains. How should I host this website?

You can use shared hosting or dedicated hosting. Dedicated hosting will mean a single server for your website and that server has what you want on it and only what you want on it. Shared hosting means sharing the server space with several (or many, depending on the service) other websites.

Try to think of dedicated hosting as living alone and shared hosting as having unknown roommates with unknown needs and dispositions.

Based on these definitions, shared hosting is almost always cheaper, as there are several users sharing the costs.

Responsibility

 

That being said, shared hosting also shares the responsibilities among those using the server, as well as the consequences. For example, another company could be engaging in spamming practices and could get your IP blacklisted from search engines. This is not good for your business and it would be a large problem to fix.

However, if you don’t have a dedicated IT professional or some other service that manages your computer networks, websites, and systems, then you might want to lean toward shared hosting. Hosting services often put up protections for you and there will often be a weight of responsibility on the shared server should something go wrong. You will also not need all of the technical expertise that is needed with using a dedicated server (although some options might have a dedicated and managed server, for a price of course).

There are great limitations, though, on some of that protection. Shared hosting is often not so easily compatible with some security protocols, and if another website is compromised on your server then all of the websites could become compromised.

If you need data and/or your website to be absolutely safe and that is your highest priority, avoid shared hosting like the plague and do it yourself. If you do it yourself, you can control everything and take the risks you want to, and no more.

Bandwidth

With shared hosting, you are also going to share the bandwidth. Do you only expect your website to get a little bit of traffic? Then shared hosting is fine. Otherwise, your customers may experience lag or other problems should the other websites on the server get a lot of traffic at the same time you are. They won’t blame the shared server like you might, but they might directly blame you for their poor experience.

So, to answer the question about whether shared hosting is reliable and a good idea, you must ask another question. Do I trust the people sharing with me? More specifically, you should be asking the question “Do I trust the people sharing with me enough so that a vital part of my business is in their hands?”

The answer, if you are a large organization that can afford better options, is probably not. Otherwise, it might be great for a simple website with some contact information. As with many things relating to technology, the choice is yours and only you have all the information. Thank you for reading and we hope you make an informed decision on how to move forward with your website.

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 5.06.11 PMCaroline is a technology enthusiast and blogger who writes for www.securethoughts.com. She enjoys writing about technology and her main area of interest is internet security.

How Wedding Planning Taught Me How to Nurture Social Media Leads

As a marketer, sometimes it ‘s hard to stop thinking about marketing and remind myself that I am also a customer. I’ll find myself during commercial breaks on TV analyzing the scripts and how I would change the copy. I hear ads on the radio offering free content, and I immediately think about the strategy and commend them for using content to market their business. It is hard to turn it off.

Lately, I’ve gotten a nice little reminder of what it is like being a customer with not enough information. It has come during one of the most daunting events of many people’s lives: Wedding planning.

Table set for an event party or wedding reception

#AdventuresInWeddingPlanning

For those who have been here in the past, you can probably attest to the daunting nature of wedding planning. Not only is getting married a major step in life, but there are also plenty of venues and options to choose from. Each has their own rules, regulations and offerings and sometimes it is difficult to grasp all of those options. To me, this can make the decision scary. What if I miss something? To make it even more terrifying, this is probably the first decision you must make.

That’s why one morning while answering emails and scheduling venue tours, I tweeted about my planning. To my pleasant surprise, a venue I hadn’t even found replied.

 

This got me thinking about how businesses should be using social media. I’ve written about listening posts in the past, and how you can use social media to identify potential customers. But it takes effort to reach out to potential customers, effort that is easily recognized by your customers.

Seeking out Social Media Leads

To identify me as a promising social lead, the venue had to search for people tweeting about wedding venues, and had to narrow the search to only those in the Kansas City area using the “Near Me” tag. Luckily, there aren’t that many people tweeting looking for wedding planning advice at any one time. These select few are your prime candidates and are deliberately looking for someone to trust. Why not reach out? If it takes 5 minutes to identify and reach out to these customers, all it takes is one conversion to make this worth your time.

I may not rent out this potential venue, but I wouldn’t have even known about them if they hadn’t have reached out. With a simple 140-character tweet, they took me through several steps of the customer journey. They introduced their venue to me while getting me to like and trust them just because of the effort they gave to reach me. Now, I have scheduled a venue tour, bringing me up to the try level of the customer journey.

What you can learn

More importantly, they have some insight about my frustrations searching for a wedding venue long before the tour. As any salesperson can attest, the more you know about your potential buyers, the easier it is to relate to them and prove your product will solve their problems, and the easier it is to make the sale.

Social media is not meant to be a place to broadcast your message. You’re not going to convert people or gain followers and influence by simply sending out un-engaging messages. What makes social media special is that it offers a direct channel your customers and potential customers. If you want the most from your social media marketing, you must take advantage of this, reach out to your customers and nurture those social media leads.

Have you ever searched for or reached out to potential customers individually on social media? Or has someone sought you out to any success? Let me know in the comments below.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

The Easiest Way to Ask for Referrals

Closeup of a business handshake

We have a great opportunity in the small business world these days that can be simply defined by one word: collaboration.  Coming together and focusing on a common goal, contributing what resources you have, and working towards something bigger that just yourself is the idea here.  I have the opportunity to work in collaboration with some of the world’s greatest marketing consultants on a daily basis with the common goal of helping as many small businesses as possible.  So what does this have to do with asking for referrals?

The easiest way to ask for referrals is to think about your best possible strategic partnerships and create a game plan for how you can add value to their audience and in return gain exposure (Hint, hint: Coming back to the idea of collaboration here).  What types of content would their audiences be interested in reading?  What live events would their audience spare time in their busy day to attend?  Below are four easy steps to creating your strategic partner referral plan.

Create list of possible strategic partners

It is time to start brainstorming.  Sit down with your team members and create a list of potential strategic partners using the B2B or B2C checklists.  Is there a local bank with a small business audience?  What about a Real Estate agent out there networking with your potential clients on a daily basis?  Or a graphic designer working in your niche?  Simply creating this list is the first step, coming up with how to target these possible partners is next.

Co-brand educational content

Now that you have your giant list of possible partners, it is time to narrow it down a bit to your best possible opportunities.  I would recommend starting with a list of your top five partners to target and then expand from there if needed. Once you have your top 5, audit your current and future content plans with your focused list in mind.  What eBooks, workshops, videos would the other businesses want to share with their audience and therefore introduce you?  Once you have “X company” and “X content” in mind, it is time to reach out and see if the potential partner would be interested in sharing the valuable content with their audience with the idea that they could co-brand the content.  The gift to their audience is valuable education, the gift to you is exposure.

Get in front of a live audience

Speaking for leads is one of the most effective ways to get your message out there.  One example of how a Duct Tape Marketing consultant speaks for leads is holding a 7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success Workshop for an audience of small business owners.  A great opportunity here would be partnering with a local bank, lawyer, and insurance agent and having them invite their client base to an educational workshop.  The consultant then provides value to their client’s while also establishing themselves as an expert at a live event.  Another win-win in the books.

Come up with a follow-up plan

You have created your list, produced co-branded content, and spoken in front of a strategic partner audience – your job is done right?  Nope – it’s just getting started.  The main goal here is to add value. However, the 2nd goal is to gain exposure for your business.  Before you partner with a company, make sure to have set guidelines for follow-up in place.  Will you get the names and emails of the people that downloaded your ebook to target them directly?  Will you get to add a sales pitch at the end of your presentation?  After you agree on the process, think of the follow-up as another opportunity to add value.  Don’t simply send off an email asking if they are ready to sign up for your services.  Instead, follow up with an eBook or checklist where they can learn even more about your topic and by they way introduce the ways you could help them implement.

Sara JantschSara Jantsch is the Vice President of Operations at Duct Tape Marketing.  She oversees day-to-day operations to support the growth of Duct Tape Marketing and the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.  She focuses on strategic planning, goal setting and directing the operations of the company in support of its goals.  Sara is also a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant and has a very strong passion for working with small business owners that started back at the dinner table as a child. Connect with Sara on twitter.

5 Online Assets That Are Worth Your Time

You know you need online assets, but which ones are really worth your time? I asked myself this question as I prepared to launch my company, HipHire, which is a new platform that connects companies with quality part-time candidates using a unique matching system.

While HipHire’s concept and our platform are new, the way we get in front of our best customer probably feels familiar to you. Skim through this list and you’ll see that we use opt-in offers, blogging, social media and more. You’re likely already doing most of these things to market your own products and services.

But is it working?

In the tech startup world, being able to launch and gain traction quickly is hugely important. To make sure I was spending time on the online assets that were truly worth it, I did a combination of hypothesizing, testing, tweaking, and testing some more. This process led to rapid adjustments when things weren’t working, which meant more efficiency and better success in the end.

If you’ve ever wondered if your online assets were worth the time you’re putting in to them, here’s how to start testing.


Landing Pages with Specific Opt-ins

landingpagesHipHire has two main business segments—companies looking to hire and candidates seeking part-time jobs. Instead of creating one opt-in offer for each audience, we created multiple opt-ins, each with their own specific landing page.

For example,

  • Our landing page for the Founders Club targets an elite group of Kansas City businesses who benefit from choosing HipHire early.
  • Our landing page for candidates seeking part-time summer jobs speaks directly to the needs of that particular job candidate subset.
  • We even created a landing page and opt-in offer specifically for you (yep, you!). Knowing what we do about the readers of this blog, we created something you’d find useful.

This focused approach makes readers feel you’re speaking directly to them. We tested a lot, and as we’ve fine-tuned this niche marketing, we’ve seen greater conversions.


Blog Content and Community

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photo credit: pexels.com

In the months leading up to our launch, we provided information for job candidates and companies looking to hire. Even though our platform hadn’t launched yet, we kept in touch and kept people coming back to the site.

With the blog, as with everything else, I tested. I kept a close eye on analytics. When something didn’t work or when we found a vein that engaged people, we rebuilt the editorial calendar based on that knowledge. Being willing to change gears saves time and money by shifting energy from non-productive actions into profitable directions.


Social Media—Personalized

Social media

photo credit: pexels.com

Social media is about real connection.

I learned this lesson by trying to grow my number of Twitter followers. I followed 100 businesses in my target market each day. I had ditched using automated responses, so when somebody began following me back, I found relevant information about the person or company to create a personalized reply. I got creative, taking a picture of a handwritten note or making a video.

One person wanted to Skype to learn what I was doing because they were impressed that they received a custom message from me. This blew me away. The simplest level of communication and nobody is doing it? That strategy started adding 50 followers a week, but it wasn’t just numbers. Twitter became about real engagement and connection.

Personalizing each tweet may not be scalable, but focusing on quality personal connections makes a difference.


Mobile Ease

Mobile

photo credit: pexels.com

Our target market lives on mobile devices. We needed to go beyond mobile accessibility for the HipHire platform. We needed mobile ease.

One of the ways we did that was to show HipHire users that we can really deliver before asking them to set up a profile. We streamlined the profile process: type in a few key details (name and the like), then click, click, click, submit.

Making sure your site views correctly on a phone is pretty standard, but have you made your process simple for mobile users?


Visual Content

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photo credit: pexels.com

People want to know what the product looks like. They want to visualize themselves using it. That was a challenge for HipHire in the beginning because we started building awareness for the service before our platform was live. We got over this hurdle by providing “sneak peeks” throughout the process.

Since our audience was likely to be mobile, we showed mobile screenshots. This use of visual content demonstrated how clean and simple the process really is and helped build excitement as we neared our live launch.

To make your online assets really worth your time, focus on three Cs: customize, connect, and (when testing shows you should) change.

What tweak to online assets has been the biggest change maker for you?

 

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Brian Kearns is an entrepreneur and the founder of HipHire. He’s passionate about connecting employers and workers who share a vision of the ideal workplace culture. He believes that the key to finding quality part-time people is through a better employee fit.

How to Use Infographics Effectively

Because of the constant bombardment of information we experience on a daily basis, the average human being now has a shorter attention span than a goldfish! In the digital era, marketers have to change and adapt their strategies in order to get their messages heard amongst the many other competing voices. Because humans are wired to respond more positively to visuals than text, infographics tend to get far more shares than traditional text-based content.

Additionally, infographics allow you to create an emotive story around a seemingly meaningless sea of data, allowing people to swiftly understand the key points without having to do any of the tedious reading. While anyone can pay to commission an infographic, there are certain factors you need to consider if you want your infographic to become a viral success!

Choosing the right topic

It’s important to remember that your infographic should never be a tout for your company; instead you should aim to tackle a contentious issue in your industry or cover a hot topic that you know will encourage sharing. In other words, aim to provide genuine value to people instead of simply promoting yourself. With resources such as Google Trends, Twitter hashtags, and numerous RSS aggregators, you’re sure to be able to find a topic that people will love to see encapsulated in a stunning infographic.

Content creation

When researching the facts for your infographic, always use reputable sources and ensure that they are airtight – particularly if your infographic is about a contentious issue – someone is bound to want to point out the flaws in your argument! You may wish to incorporate some quotes from industry specialists to serve as proof elements for your argument. Also, a few interesting lesser-known facts and quirky anecdotes may help to provide some light entertainment for readers.

When organizing your content, thinking visually is crucial. It’s important to remember that not every fact and statistic will make a good visualization, and conversely, not every great visualization will fit within the narrative of your infographic. In order for the infographic to work, the visuals must support the content and help to drive the narrative home. Never be tempted to sacrifice substance for style! As with any form of content marketing, well-researched, high-quality content is the cornerstone of an effective infographic.

Design

You may wish to design an infographic to match the branding of your company, and this may be a good idea if you are creating the piece for company presentations or other internal purposes. However, you should always avoid “over branding” the piece – in most cases you only need to include your company’s logo and website discretely in the footer.

In the design phase, less is more; if you’re used to creating long-winded text content, you may feel reluctant to omit certain pieces of data, even if they aren’t propelling the narrative forward. However, leaving in extraneous elements will only serve to clutter the infographic and confuse people. Always design from a holistic perspective and be prepared to sacrifice elements that aren’t contributing to the clarity and argument of the infographic.

Promotion

You may wish to create a specific landing page for your infographic, or you can simply post it as part of a blog post. Either way, you should make sure that the page has complete social media functionality so that people can share with ease. Additionally, it helps to include the HTML embed code directly beneath the infographic so people can post it on their websites with ease – this is particularly useful for bloggers within your niche who may wish to incorporate your infographic into their own unique content.

There are numerous infographic submission sites that will be happy to host your infographic and if you’re lucky you could even have it featured on Mashable. However, to get your infographic to go viral you’re probably going to have to do a lot of hustling. Promoting using social media is highly recommended, but don’t forget to leverage your personal network. If you know someone who has a large following online, persuading them to share your infographic can result in huge amounts of exposure, expanding your audience and bringing you new business!

infographics, infographic, mammoth

 

Mammoth Logo

 

Jack Knopfler is the Lead Content Editor at Mammoth Infographics. He has a background in digital marketing and has helped clients in a range industries to improve their presence online.

How To Use Reverse Self-Promotion To Generate Exposure and Traffic

reverse self-promotion

The plethora of online social media outlets sure makes it easy to toot your horn these days.

You’ve seen the tweets (I’ve likely been guilty of doing this at some point) – “Just got off a quick call with Richard Branson, he said he loved my book” or “Feeling humbled to be included on this list of the top 1000 accounting bloggers.”

The thing is, even though there will always be people that are impressed by your self-promotional messages, an even greater number of people will be turned off.

But what’s a person to do – I mean you want to get the word out, right?

One of the most effective ways to promote yourself is to promote others.

I’ve used this tactic consistently and authentically for years. Let me start with authentically. In no way am I suggesting this as a corny, slimy way to gain exposure. This is an intentional practice, done in the spirit of sharing and referring, that just happens to pay dividends.

The idea behind reverse self-promotion is that you point out the success of other, give public testament to a great product or service, or share the promotional efforts of members of your networks as much as you share your own successes and offers.

Write a blog post reviewing a great product and then @ mention the tool provider in your tweet – here’s an example

Pick up on the promotional efforts of members of your network and share them

Thank people whose content you dig or whose webinar you attended

Thanks Andrea Sodergren Vahl for stopping by to drop some Facebook ad knowledge on the Duct Tape Marketing Network today.

Posted by Duct Tape Marketing Consultant

Write an unsolicited testimonial and send it to a company that makes a tool you love – here’s an example

Create content, such as an eBook, and offer it to a blogger or site you love and let them cobrand it (or vice versa) – here’s an example

There are so many reasons that promoting others makes sense.

  • It’s a good thing to do
  • It makes you feel good
  • It activates the law of reciprocity
  • It creates influence and authority
  • It reins in blatant self-promotion
  • It makes sharing easier

While I am advocating this approach as a standing marketing tactic – I can’t state this enough – if your efforts along these lines are insincere and only driven by the hope that you’ll get something the impact will be crippled.

Look for ways to promote others as full 50% of your social network activity and you will find your own exposure and opportunities growing at a rate unmatched by any other practice.

The Minimalist Guide To Managing Your Brand Reputation Online

A dissatisfied customer, on an average, tells 25 of his friends, while a happy one tells only 15. Seems like if good reviews spread like wildfire, bad reviews would be rushing with light speed. Reviews, and how the masses consume them, are human nature, but this human nature can be fatal for online businesses especially at a time when 8 out of 10 customers treat and trust online reviews just like personal recommendations.

Let me tell you, brand value is diluting. And it marks an uprise of a generation of advocates and influencers that are a part of the crowd our customers identify with.

So here is a quick look at the ways you can ensure that your online brand reputation shines forever like gold and earns you higher AOVs, bigger ROIs, and ever increasing conversions.

How to ensure that each product has at least five reviews

Tip #1: Ask and ye shall receive

Most customers will happily review your product if you ask for it. Just call them up or send a follow-up email. This picture here shows how to get reviews on site through email:

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 10.55.46 AMTip #2: Give an incentive for review

For the hesitant ones, incentivise the review process. Run a reward point campaign or a loyalty program. [editor note – the FTC frowns on this practice unless you disclose that the review was incentivized.]

Tip #3: Poach the influencers

Dig out the people whose reviews are most trusted and offer them freebies or trial packs to ensure that each product has been reviewed.

How to manage third-party reviews (off-site)

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 10.56.03 AMManaging third-party reviews can get a little twisted if you do not have an automated services like Yotpo, which will syndicate all reviews in one dashboard and give you a chance to monitor and reply them instantaneously.

The first thing you need is a customer content service and second, a Godly omni-presence. Staying social does help, but so does having a profile on every review site. A great idea would be to have a separate profile, maybe on Twitter, to handle customer complaints.

Finally, be open and amiable. A demonstration of ‘respect for your customer’s opinion’ and ‘openness to take up criticism in stride’ will take your business a long way in fetching you repeat, happy customers.

How to build a positive reputation online and leverage customers’ trust

Most of the marketing experts unanimously vouch for one factor that gets most conversions, which is openness for customer opinions.

Step #1: Patiently listen to your customer.

Step #2: Respond instantly, but in an appreciative, comforting tone.

Step #3: Be vigilant.

If you find a great review somewhere, spread it on social media and display it on your site as a badge of honor and proof of great service.

Pay special attention to negative reviews. Do not leave them unaddressed. As much as you try to delight your happy customers through giveaways and discounts, try to make amends with the angry ones too. Apologize with a genuine voice and thank them for pointing out the potholes in your service. Send them goodies or vouchers if they are really unhappy with your service. However, do not do this too often or with everyone as it will encourage bad reviews more than good ones.

Believe it or not, customer reviews boil down to one thing – perceived value or customer expectation. If you set it too high on your website and the product doesn’t live up to it, your customer is going to feel disappointed. Keep the product copy unique and compelling but do not exaggerate its features.

parasParas heads Product Marketing at TargetingMantra, a SaaS company that lets ecommerce retailers create a personalized shopping experience for their customers just like Amazon and Zappos. An expert in Personalization and behavioral targeting, Paras has consulted over 50 clients across the globe on conversion optimization and increasing customer loyalty. He is a serial entrepreneur from IIT-Guwahati and Indian School of Business, who loves to spend his time exploring new technologies. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Weekend Favs May Two

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from Flickr or one that I took out there on the road.

Lavender flower

Good stuff I found this week:

Boostsuite – tool that makes it easy to exchange guest posts with relevant sites

Toolset.co – suite of tools to help manage and grow your Twitter account

Talk@Anymeeting – simple and free way to schedule conference calls