Save Money on Website Hosting with Add-on Domains

Do you have more than one website?  Want to add a blog with its own domain name?  Want to create several niche websites? 

Website hosting isn’t expensive.  As a matter of fact, there are hosting companies that are downright cheap.  But the best deal of all is the hosting company that will allow you to host multiple domains with one account and pay one low price.

I operate multiple domains.  And except for one domain, which includes my shopping cart and costs me $14.95 per month, all my other domains are hosted at one hosting company for a price of $7.95 per month.  The number of domains that I can add for this one low price is unlimited.

How does this work?  My hosting company’s cpanel (actually the administration page for my hosting panel) has a section called “add on domains”.  When I click on that, I can add a domain which will appear as it’s own url.  There’s even a short tutorial that explains exactly how to do it.

Once you have the domain added, you will need to have the company that registered your domain name change the nameservers to point to your hosting company. 

And the company that I use and highly recommend is:  Hostgator.  Click on Hostgator  and check it out.  It’s inexpensive.  It’s easy to use.  And I never recommend a company that I don’t use myself.

And, for another reason to use this hosting company.  If you want to have a blog, Hostgator has Fantasico which is one fo the easiest ways possible to add wordpress to a website.

The Secret to Being Listed on Page 1 of Google

Looking for an easy, fast way to be listed on the first page of Google? Here’s the secret!

The answer is Google Local Business Listings.  If you have a storefront, a homebased business, or even an internet business that has people searching for gift baskets to be delivered in your town, you’re missing a big opportunity if you’re not listed in Google Local.

Not only is your listing shown on the first page of Google but it is usually shown before the organic listings that you’ve worked so hard to get.  For example, if someone searches for gift baskets + Flagstaff, AZ, my website is listed as #1 on page one.  But above that are the “paid ads” (which most savvy web shoppers people don’t bother to click on because they are ads) followed by a list of local businesses that Google finds most revelant.

In many ways, these listings are even better than regular listings because users get more than just a link to your website. They also get your phone number, a map of your location and an additional link to find out more about your business.  You can even include photos of your gift baskets (although they are hard to size properly) and videos. 

To get your business listed, simply go to www.google.com/local/add and get started.  Most of the other search engines including the new one “Bing” has local listings as well.

Before You Sell or Recycle Your Computer

Greg Lamb wrote an interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor that should make all of us stop and think before selling or recycling a computer.  In a recent research project, the research team bought 300 used machines from several sources including ebay.  They found that about one-third of them still contained personal or business data on the hard drives.  This was even true of computers recycled by large corporations, hospitals, anhd government service providers. 

The biggest mistake that we can make is to assume that all the files are gone on the hard drive once they’re put in the trash bin and deleted.  The truth is that the “actual data remains intact on the hard drive. There are programs designed to find this data and easily recreate the original information.”

To really erase all the data from a hard drive, you have two choices

  • Totally destroy the hard rvie with a hammer
  • Using software

Two things that don’t work are formatting or partitioning the hard drive which just moves the data around even though Windows warns you that it will be erased.  “There are several free programs that will do a good job of erasing a hard drive,” the article continues. One is an open-source program at www.dban.org.  Two programs that can be purchased are DriveScrubber and Lavasoft’s FileShredder.

Identity thief is more prevalent than ever.  You can help prevent theft of your information by taking the necessary precautions before you sell or recycle that old computer.

Is Internet Progress Overrated?

computer-userHas progress on the internet taken us to a better place?  Has it helped us grow our business?  Are all the new-fangled opportunities for “social networking”, videos, and streaming javascript worth the time and effort involved in using them?

I’d say “yes” and “no”.  The internet has provided us the opportunity to operate a business model that can compete with the big corporate giants that are able to outspend and outemploy more than we ever could.  The internet allows us to expand outside our local market and sell to people all over the country–or even around the world, if that is our goal.  Yes, the internet has definitely helped us grow our businesses.

Social networking and all the other new-fangled ideas, such as blinking pictures, videos, podcasts, flash pages, streaming javascript (which allows us to have constantly changing photos or text on our site) are another story however.  They’re cool! They’re neat!  They’re fun! But do they really increase traffic and sales conversions?

My answer is a resounding NO!  That is why, even though we have the knowledge and capability to do so, we don’t incorporate most of these new techniques in the websites that we own and seriously want to convert.  And the reason is simple.  These are gimmicks that are intended to make a website look “professional”, “up-to-date” and “cool” .  But, in reality, except for the “under 30 age crowd” (which are only a very small minority of my customers), most customers dislike them.  And, unless they are incorporated very carefully by someone who understands search engine spiders very well, most search engines dislike them even more.

Many users of the web are technically-challenged.  That’s true of even many of our gift basket company owners.  They don’t understand all this new-fangled stuff and prefer to avoid it.  But it’s all too easy for a webmaster, who enjoys adding this type of glitz to a shopping website, to convince you that it’s the thing to have if you want to be “up-to-date”.  But what is much more important is how does it help you convert visitors to buyers?  Does it make more money for you?

If used correctly and you have the time to spend on it, social media  has its place and can help to a degree.  Social media doesn’t yet come close to competing with search or email in terms of effectiveness. But marketers are still asking themselves whether that is because social media is ineffective or simply because, despite the hype, a huge percentage of people online aren’t actively or regularly engaged with social media sites and channels. 

By social media, I’m referring to Facebook, My Space, Linked In, Twitter and the many others out there.  These social networking sites can be used to promote your business.  I use them for that purpose.  But they are just a tool and are not nearly as effective as other means of driving traffic to your website.  There are ways to automatically post your blog posts on your Facebook wall and as a Twitter.  But you have to understand how they work and how best to use them.  And learning that takes more of those precious minutes.

Forums and Blogging are two other forms of social networking that can be very effective.

How much time do you have to spend on all these sites?  When I asked the members of my Gift Basket Network what their biggest problem was, the most frequent answer was “Not enough time in the day to do everything that needed to be done for their business”.  Add to “not enough time” such activities as posting “I’m going to my son’s ballgame tonight” on your wall on Facebook or “Today is a beautiful day.  Just don’t have time to enjoy it” as a Twitter post and what do you have?  Not more traffic to your website, that’s for sure.  You’ve just deducted precious minutes from those hours that were already filled with your “have to do” list. 

Blogging, posting on related blogs, and posting in forums can help build your business…once again, only if used correctly.  A blog, that is built specifically to drive traffic and is properly optimized, is a fast, effective, and efficient way to communicate with your customers and prospects  — just as I am communicating with you.  It can make you “real” to those customers and help them to get to know you as a person.  It can also be used to sell products if done right.  But you need to know the techniques necessary to do it.  Posting on blogs, that are related to your website and have good search engine visibility, can help your own website’s seach engine optimization by providing valuable links to your site.  And you don’t have to have any technical savvy to do that.

Forums that are related to your industry can’t be beat for effective communication with others in the industry.  In the gift basket industry, there are a number of them that you can participate in.  You need to be selective and use those that are used by others who have information to share.  But, as with anything, you must give in order to receive.  Just signing into a forum, reading what others have shared, and signing out is not enough.  You need to contribute as well if you hope to receive that info you must have when the time comes and you’re desperate for an anwer to a question.

Post Foods ran a Shredded Wheat ad recently that asked this very question about progress and answered the question with:
 
” Honestly, what thanks do we owe progress?  We’re up to our necks in landfill, down to the wire on resources, and climate change is out to get us — or at best leave us with a nsasty sunburn.  Historically, civilizations are destroyed by progress.  Just ask the Pharaohs…”

And, just as the ad went on to say, “That’s why at Post Shredded Wheat, we put the “no” in innovation”, we, as owners of Gift Basket Network have also said “no”.

I created Gift Basket Network about six years ago.  One person (me).  One ingredient (professional gift basket company owners that wanted more traffic to their websites).  One website.  It was simple to navigate.  No add-ons or plug-ins.  Heck, it was even built in basic html and optimized following the severe requirements of the search engines.  We didn’t give it a fancy name or a lot of glitz.   Our market was not the gift basket company owner.  Our market, at that time and still is, the potential customer who is ready and willing to buy a gift or gift basket and is just looking for a place to do it.

We market to the gift basket company owners in other ways.  One of these was in the form of Gift Retailers Network after we had clearly established Gift Basket Network  one of the top gift basket directories on the web.  This blog that you are reading right now is another way that we market to you.  It is our way of demonstrating to you that combining the tried-and-true methods of internet marketing with a few carefully selected “social networking” methods is using progress to build your business. 

Does it work? History has proven it to be true so far.  But time will tell.

25 Easy Tips for Creating Happy Website Visitors

Is your website attracting traffic but no sales?  Do you wonder what you can do to make those potential customers stay at your site instead of clicking on to the next one? 

As the owner of giftbasketnetwork.com, my directory can send you potential customers that are ready and willing to buy.  But it’s up to you and your website to convince those customers that you’re the company they want to buy from.  Here are 25 easy tips for creating happy website visitors.

  1. Make sure your site loads quickly.  Use your photo program to reduce the pixels in all your photos and graphics.  Photoshop Elements will do this automatically for you if you click “save for web”.  Other photo programs should have the same capability.
  2. Provide easy-to-find contact information on every page of your site.  People need to know that you are real and can be reached in case there is a question or a problem. 
  3. Send an e-mail to customers to confirm that you received their order and then a follow-up one with tracking information when the order ships.
  4. Answer all emails from your customers quickly.  If you have an online business, you need to check emails at least two to three times daily.
  5. E-mail your customers around two weeks after they receive their product and thank them once again for ordering from you and ask if you can do anything else for them.  This is a good time to send a discount offer for their next order. 
  6. Don’t make them log in before they can checkout. Customers, including me, hate that.  This is one of the most frequent reasons for abandoning an order that has been placed in a shopping cart. 
  7. Use a type size that is no smaller than 10 points.  Some of us are getting to be old geezers and can’t see as well.  Others sit slouched in their chair several feet away from the monitor.
  8. Make sure your photos are ones that will sell your product.  I find all too many gift basket photos on the web that look like someone just stuck some stuff in an empty basket.  Or that have a huge piece of cello wrapped around the gift and tied with a pull bow.  Pull bows are not the enemy.  I use them on low-cost gifts.  It’s the total presentation that makes the difference.  Also gifts wrapped in cello usually do not photograph well.
  9. Make your products easy to find.  Navigation that is clear and direct as well as categories that make sense are important.  Home pages that have the product link simply say “catalog” or “products” or “gift baskets” invite the customer to click to another site.
  10. Write clear accurate descriptions.  Don’t keep the customer guessing.  Many of us don’t use specific brands, using a more generic term such as gourmet cookies instead, because our product inventory changes and varies throughout the year.  Most customers seem to accept that but if you are using the exact same product all the time, specify what it is.  If you have chocolates listed as part of the gift and you substitute something else in the summer, say so.
  11. Tell people who you are on your website.  An About Us page is ideal for this.  Customers trust people they know and the only way they can get to know you is if you don’t hide who you are.  All too many “Who We Are” pages are so generic that you may as well not even include it.  For an example of an about us page, see “Who Is Behind Gift Basket Owners” on this site.
  12. Give your customers all the pricing information up-front. Don’t hide the shipping cost until the end of the process. Let the customer see the shipping cost as early as possible in the checkout process. 
  13. Use dark text on a light background on your website.  Those dark backgrounds may make you look creative but they’re hard to read.
  14. Make sure your shopping cart is secure.   Your customers won’t thank you for security. But they’ll  hate you if you let someone make off with their credit card info.
  15. Keep your website  simple.  Flashing pictures, slide shows, music, and flash entry pages (those pages that say click here to enter the site) are real turnoffs.  Think of your customer and your budget.  Customers look for gifts while sitting at their desk at work.  They will click away as fast as possible if they hear music when they open your site.
  16. Words are powerful.  Be careful of what you say and how you say it on the website as well as in your emails. You’ll win more business.
  17. Offer ways to stay connected. Let folks sign up for an e-mail newsletter or subscribe to a latest news feed (or a special deals feed).  You’d be surprised how many folks appreciate that sort of thing.
  18. Don’t be sneaky. See that ‘Register for our newsletter’ checkbox in your information request form? Is it checked by default? Change it to unchecked. That’s not a decision your customers want made for them.
  19. Make them feel special. Give past customers a special deal just for being a customer. Too often we work like mad trying to create new business while ignoring our old customers.
  20. Don’t stereotype and never assume that your target audience is a niche demographic.  That golf bag gift that you are offering just for men may be the perfect gift for a woman golfer.  And women can be junk food junkies as much as men are.
  21. Be descriptive in your page’s title tag and headline.  This is what most search engines show and will determine whether they click to your site or go down to the next one.
  22. Write content that can be easily scanned.   Write for your customers — not for the search engines.  Use bullets and short paragraphs to  break up the page. Have no more than 14 words on a line.  Many gift basket websites have long paragraphs at the bottom of the page filled with links.  These are obviously written in order to increase links within the site and to increase keyword density.  Or how about the “We deliver to” with a list of every state in the Union and even some major cities thrown in for emphasis. Seach engine spiders are aware of these “cutesy” ploys and mark you down for it.
  23. Make sure that your site looks good, not only in the latest version of Internet Explorer, but also in Firefox which is becoming a popular browser.  Others that are used by many people are Opera and Safari.  Different browers show your site differently in many cases.
  24. Check for errors and fix them. Your server logs every kind of error thrown by your site: Review the list periodically.
  25. Always think like the customer.  Think about what makes you abandon a website when you are ordering online.  Put your own ego aside and create your site so that it intrigues rather than turns off that potential customer.