5 Questions to Determine If You’ve Outgrown Your Web Hosting

5 Questions to Determine If You’ve Outgrown Your Web Hosting

Web hosting can seem like a commodity these days. You just choose the amount of disk space and bandwidth you need, and you’re up and running. Whereas before there were all sorts of limitations imposed on you, nowadays you are spoiled with choices, and hosting costs have become almost inconsequential for most businesses.

But thinking that web hosting is a commodity like electricity or gas is a big mistake. The simple fact is that web hosting has a lot of moving parts, and they all need to work in harmony to deliver a high quality, uninterrupted service. Choosing a low cost host might seem like a rational choice but in fact it could be a false economy due to the harm that it can cause your business.

So let’s look at five factors you need to take into consideration to help you understand if your web hosting is in fact helping your business or holding it back.

1. What are your website load times?
Load speed is the speed at which your website loads. There are a number of sites where you can measure your PageSpeed. Load speed is important for a number of reasons. Primarily, because faster loading websites offer a better user experience than slow ones. Put simply, people hate waiting for a page to load.

But it’s not just desktop users. We have reached the tipping point where mobile browsing has overtaken desktop and laptop browsing – 51 percent over 42 percent in the US in 2015. And if there’s one thing that mobile users demand it’s fast websites.

Google understands this, and that’s why it specifically state that site speed is one of the variables that it measures as part of its overall search algorithm. It won’t tell us how much of a ranking factor load speed represents, but it doesn’t often shed light on its algorithm so when it does it’s worth taking note.

Now, without getting into too much detail about what makes up load speed, there are dozens of factors involved, many of them design related. These are the tweaks that an experienced, and usually expensive, web developer needs to make to the code of your website.

The bottom line? Speeding up your website can get expensive and takes time. But one area where you can get fast results is the type of web hosting you choose. By upgrading to either Solid State Drive (SSD) hosting or switching to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) you can dramatically improve your loadspeed at a fraction of the cost of overhauling your site’s code.

2. Do you have noisy neighbors?
Nobody likes noisy neighbors. They’re anti-social, noisy and tend to bring the tone of the neighborhood down.

The same is true in web hosting. The thing is that if your host is offering as much diskspace and bandwidth as you need for just a couple of bucks a month then guess what? You’re not alone on that server.

This is a real problem. Your host isn’t going to publicize it, but there will always be people on that type of offer who will still be pushing the envelope as far as they can. They’ll be the ones trying to eek out every last ounce of processing power from their $2 per month hosting. Maybe they’re using the server to blast out emails to their list or maybe they’re running dozens of RAM hungry scripts for their multiple affiliate sites.

Whatever they’re doing, one thing is for sure. A small minority of noisy neighbors will be hogging the server’s key resources and often having a detrimental impact on the server’s performance.

Sure, there are tools like CloudLinux, which acts as a limiter on the power that individual clients can access, but you need to know that your host has these types of mitigators in place.

3. What’s the IP reputation?
If the server you are hosted on is detected sending spam or hosting malware then the chances are that it’s IP address is going to get blacklisted. That’s bad news for you because that can affect a range of factors from email deliverability to your search ranking.

There are various software you can use to monitor your server’s IP reputation so you can see if it gets blacklisted.

One of the primary reasons for getting blacklisted is that other clients on the same server as you may be running insecure applications or out-of-date software. This isn’t necessarily done with malicious intent on their part. It’s usually just an oversight or a lack of understanding.

Let’s take an example. Hackers aren’t going to publish their modus operandi but usually they are just looking for insecurities that they can exploit. The classic example is an out-of-date contact form, which can be exploited to send spam.

Another example is out-of-date content management system (CMS), like WordPress or Joomla. These are increasingly popular these days, and the problem is that once the design phase is over the unsuspecting business owner doesn’t realize that they need to keep their software up-to-date. These updates are for a reason, and the main reason is to plug any security issues.

One way to address these proactively on the part of the host is to constantly monitor the software on a server and to monitor outgoing emails, using a tool like SpamExperts, to monitor for known fingerprints of spam, phishing and malware related emails.

Again, these tools come at a cost and some hosts might balk at the extra cost involved in protecting their IP reputation. On the other hand, responsible hosts will use them to get ahead of the problems to ensure that their clients do not suffer from blacklisting.

4. Do you have sluggish performance during peaks?
If you’re hosted on a shared server, and you’ve got a busy ecommerce website then maybe you’re starting to notice sluggish performance at peak times or during busy seasonal periods.

If so the chances are that your RAM hungry shopping cart application is just running out of juice. The thing is that shared hosting is intended to meet the needs of the majority. That means that key server resources, such as CPU and RAM, are shared evenly amongst all the websites on that server. As a result you just have to wait in the queue to get the power you need.

The net result? Sluggish performance that annoys your visitors and ultimately costs you in lost sales.

For a few dollars more each month, you can wave goodbye to these types of performance related issues. With a VPS you have the ability to scale up or down as needed. You can control the amount of CPU or RAM allocated to you, and you are guaranteed that level of power.

Think about that. Instead of having to fight for processing power and memory with hundreds, and possibly thousands, of other businesses you have it all for yourself with the ability to scale up on the fly as your needs dictate.

Sure, there are some extra monthly costs, like a control panel license and maybe a managed server service, if you don’t have a systems’ administrator on your team, but this is a wise investment for your business.

5. Is non-standard software permitted?
Sometimes you may need to run software or versions of software that aren’t supported on a shared hosting service. For example, let’s say that the shopping cart software you need requires the latest version of PHP, but your host is not yet offering this version.

Or maybe your host offers standard software that is slower than some of the alternatives. A couple of examples may be the web server where they use Apache instead of LiteSpeed or MySQL instead of Percona. That’s not to say that the slower options don’t have their advantages (e.g. Apache is strong on security), but if you wanted to run more exotic tools then a shared hosting environment may not be the best for you.

Web hosting is not a commodity like electricity or fuel. There are a range of reasons why you should make an informed choice for your web hosting service.

Whether it’s LoadSpeed, noisy neighbours, poor IP reputation, peak times or non-standard requirements you need to understand the cost versus benefits balance for your business, and plan your hosting accordingly.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Your First Business

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Your First Business

When I opened my first business, a fitness center, unfounded confidence flowed through my veins. Visions of fast success and weekends off with the family seemed as close as the next sell.

A few months later, the bravado gave way to fear and insecurity. That dream about weekends away vanished, and my 5 a.m.-to-9 p.m. schedule began taking its toll. I have been fortunate ever since to avoid similar mistakes in my more recent businesses. But I continue to review those mistakes, lest I repeat them:

1. Allowing belief to override the business plan

Owning a business is not for the weak in spirit. You need a strong mind and heart to face the day-in and day-out work. In the early days of the dream, it’s easy to be so excited and enamored with the idea of “your” business that you fail to grind out a proper business model.

When I approached my bank with my business plan in a thick three-ringed binder, I thought the president might just hand me a briefcase of cash. No kidding. Then came reality: Within two minutes the bank president asked me several questions my plan couldn’t answer. Still, that didn’t faze me. I lifted my chin and stated with conviction, “This will work.” I left without the briefcase of cash. Belief overrode the business plan, and I exited penniless.

2. Listening to customers instead of spreadsheets

“Famous Health Club just went out of business,” my soon-to-be business partner Mike said. “They left all the equipment,” he told me excitedly. “We can go in and start quickly and not have to buy everything. However, they scammed their people, and no one wants to sign a contract.”

No problem. We won’t do contracts, I thought. And we didn’t. But we should have. Because, six months later, a giant fitness chain came to town and told members they could sign up for two years and pay via automatic draft. And people signed up in droves. Our “we won’t sign a contract” people left for newer pastures.

The lesson is, you’ll be tempted to set up your business in the way your customers say they want. And, sometimes that will be fine if it fits your model. Otherwise, trust your spreadsheets. Make sure the math works before giving in on every demand in hopes of making the sale.

Related: 6 Common Mistakes First-Time Business Owners Should Avoid

3. Risking a family member’s retirement fund

Remember my empty briefcase? I gave up on the bank and instead went to my grandfather and asked for the money. I needed only $20,000. That’s it. It never crossed my mind that Daddy B might consider what I requested to be a big sum, considering that during his career, he’d been a lowly paid high school principal. And, as if that weren’t enough, he told me he believed only in safe investments and had put most of his own money into interest-bearing certificates of deposit earning a massive 2 percent interest.

Being young and arrogant, I took my grandfather back to the same bank. Together, we got a secured loan and I was on my way. So, I was able to move forward. But unless your family members have the money to lose, don’t borrow against their retirement or savings. They may love you and want you to succeed, but losing their money will haunt you.

4. Miscalculating the time needed to launch

Since those former fitness club tenants had left their equipment, Mike and I figured that we could open quickly. It was already December and we believed we could open by January 1. Just in time for the New Year’s “resolution” crowd. Timing-wise, we thought we’d won the lottery.

But, three days prior to opening, we knew we were in trouble. I still can’t remember if we slept those last three days. We pushed hard to open the doors. And they opened, but not without our first suffering stress, tears, fears, panic, anxiety and delusions of the greatest business failure ever known to man.

So, set your own grand opening inside a buffer zone. Plan to be ready 10 days ahead of “the” day and you just might open on time, without dread and anxiety.

5. Equating personal experience with business expertise

I began working out at age 12. I was competing in powerlifting and body-building competitions by age 18. In addition to that, I was a personal trainer at a local gym. Certainly all that experience would translate into running a fitness center of my own, right?

Not even close. I knew how to train people, but not retain people for the purpose of growing a membership-based business. You might be a great cook, mechanic, web designer or artist, but that doesn’t automatically translate into business acumen. So grab some study courses fromEntrepreneur.com and arm yourself for this battle called business.

A couple of years later, Mike and I sold that fitness center. Our buyer was a guy who wanted the space for his karate school. We barely paid off our business loans with the sales proceeds. It could have been so much more had we avoided the mistakes we made starting our first business.

So, remember them, and learn.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

How to Attract Visitors to Your Site

How to Attract Visitors to Your Site

I see it time and time again: The number-one challenge faced by brand-new internet business owners is a lack of traffic. Obviously, if your website isn’t getting any traffic, you’re not generating any sales. And what’s worse is that without traffic, you can’t test the key components of your sales process. And if you roll out a large traffic campaign before you’ve tested your site to make sure it converts maximum visitors into buyers, you risk losing sales and looking unprofessional to potential business partners and affiliates.

So you’re caught in a vicious cycle: Before ramping up a big traffic campaign, you need to test your sales process, but without any traffic, testing is difficult–if not impossible!

In this article, I’m going to give you an eight-step action plan that will show you:

  • How to get cheap, instant traffic to your website so you can test key components of your sales process–your sales copy, order form, navigation and opt-in offer–before rolling out a large-scale traffic campaign;
  • How to ensure that every element of your sales process is optimized to convert maximum traffic into maximum sales;
  • The most effective strategies for attracting thousands of highly qualified potential buyers to your site right away; and
  • The secret to putting your entire traffic campaign on autopilot.

So even if your site is getting no traffic right now, you can be testing the key elements of your sales process tomorrow–and as soon as two weeks from now, you can be rolling out your traffic campaign in full.

Sound good? Let’s get you started off on the right foot!

Step 1: Get the traffic you need to test your website fast! When I talk about testing with new internet business owners, I hear the same two questions all the time:

  • How do I test my site?
  • What do I test on my site?

As you may already know, there are an infinite number of things you can test on your site to help you increase sales. From layout to copy to design, there are limitless combinations of changes that may improve your visitor-to-sale conversion rate. But what’s “enough” when you’re just starting out? What elements should you focus on testing before rolling out your traffic campaign?

My advice is to stick to the basics. Focus on testing your:

  • Salescopy, especially your headline, benefits, guarantee and call to action
  • Order process, which needs to be simple enough for a novice web user to place an order
  • Opt-in offer, so you can determine if you’re successfully capturing your visitors’ contact information
  • Site navigation, so you can figure out how many clicks it takes to buy. Ideally it should take less than three.

These are the four critical aspects of your sales process that need to be tested before you start driving traffic. Later on, once you’ve generated sales and have some steady traffic, you can move on to testing other parts of your site.

Of course, all this talk of testing your new site raises one big question: How can you test without traffic? Because if you’re just getting started, chances are good that your website doesn’t get much traffic yet.

The solution is simple: Buy traffic through PPC search engines. Pay-per-click search engines are a lot like auctions–they allow you to bid for top-ranking positions under keywords of your choice. For each visitor who searches the keyword(s) you bid on and then clicks through to your site, you pay whatever you bid. Prices typically range from five cents to a few dollars per click-through for popular keywords.

There are a ton of PPC search engines out there, but the two best ones to get started with are:

With PPC search engines, you get cheap, instant, qualified traffic–provided you bid on targeted keywords. Not only that, but bidding on traffic in the PPC search engines can help your site get ranked in the free search engines, too!

Here are a few tips to help you start bidding for traffic without breaking the bank:

In Yahoo Search Marketing, bid to appear in the top three listings whenever possible, since these results are also “pushed” to appear in the search results for MSN, Yahoo, AltaVista, InfoSpace, AlltheWeb and NetZero–reaching 80 percent of all internet users.

Bid on targeted, descriptive keywords. So don’t just bid on “sock;” bid on “red wool sock.” Not only are targeted keywords and phrases usually cheaper to bid on–they’ll also attract more qualified potential buyers. Use a keyword selection tool like Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool to research targeted keywords that attract maximum traffic for minimal cost-per-click.

After you’ve tested and tweaked your site with a limited amount of purchased traffic, it’s time to start generating qualified traffic for your site on a larger scale. But how do you go from some traffic to a ton of traffic?

Step 2: Get cheap traffic quickly with PPC advertising. Once you’ve tested your site with limited PPC traffic, the fastest way to ramp up traffic to your site is to roll out a PPC campaign on a larger scale. Obviously, you should start with Yahoo Search Marketing and Findwhat, as mentioned above.

This is also a great time to get started with Google AdWords –Google’s own PPC contender. With Google AdWords, you get instant traffic with no waiting. Because as soon as you put the money down on your keywords, your ad goes up and starts working for you.

Step 3: Get free traffic from search engines like Google. Now that you’ve bid on keywords for a strong showing in the PPC search engines, it’s time to tackle the organic search engines and directories. Search engines like Google and directories like Yahoo! can still be a great source of free traffic for your website. The trick is getting a competitive ranking for your best keywords.

The first step in getting a top ranking in the search engines is to submit or suggest your site to them. In other words, you have to provide them with details about your site. You want to make sure that the “spiders”–automated programs that crawl the web indexing sites for the search engines–find your site and include it in the search results.

While the spiders do index sites and pages that haven’t been submitted, you certainly don’t want to leave this to chance. A spider might find your website and index it next week–or it might be two years before that finally happens. So take the time to submit your site to be sure you’re included. Once your site’s been submitted, expect it to take two to six weeks for your listing to appear.

Every engine has a slightly different process for site submission, and it pays to follow their guidelines. For example, there’s a fee to list your site in the directory at Yahoo!, but Google doesn’t charge for their submission process. Here’s a tip: If you submit your site exactly as they ask, you stand a better chance of getting a good listing on the first page of search results.

And don’t bother with companies that offer to submit your site to the search engines. Since each search engine uses a different set of criteria to rank your site, free submission services can actually end up doing you more harm than good, since they submit the same information in the same way to all the engines.

Steps 4-8

Step 4: Give away irresistible free content for priceless publicity. Believe it or not, a really easy, frequently undervalued strategy for getting traffic is giving away free content to other websites. Even just two or three well-written articles can generate truckloads of traffic, as long as they don’t contain a sales pitch. You want to include rare, hard-to-get information that’ll lend your articles automatic value–the kind of information that establishes you as an expert in your field.

Once you’ve finished an article, write a short bio paragraph about you and your business and place it at the end of your article along with–and this is the most important part–a link to your site.

To locate sites that might be interested in your content, e-mail other website owners in your industry–be sure to choose sites that receive attention and visits from your target market–and invite them to use your article on their site or in their newsletter at absolutely no cost. Many site owners need fresh content, so they’ll be more than happy to post your articles–and it won’t be long before those articles start driving traffic back to your site.

Your articles will automatically be made available to thousands of websites seeking free, quality content–and all you have to do is submit your articles once.

Don’t underestimate the power of giving away free content. And as your articles gain more exposure, don’t be surprised if you’re contacted by high-profile magazine and portal sites related to your industry looking for free articles to include on their sites, too.

Step 5: Get free word of mouth publicity using viral marketing. Simply defined, viral marketing is a way for you to spread your marketing message like a virus. You encourage people to pass on information about your site to others, and you use that word-of-mouth publicity to advertise your business. Once you start the “virus,” it spreads without you lifting a finger.

Need an example? Try Hotmail.com , the free web-based e-mail service provider. At the bottom of every single Hotmail e-mail sent by Hotmail members, there’s a simple one-line message:

“Get your free, private email from MSN at http://www.hotmail.com”

How much time do you think it took Hotmail to include that signature line as part of their e-mail service? Not much at all–but look at the impact this simple strategy had on the growth of their business. In my personal experience, more than 35 percent of all e-mail users have Hotmail accounts!

You can easily duplicate this strategy by doing something as simple as including a “pass it on link” at the end of a free newsletter, something as simple as:

“If you’ve enjoyed this article, please be sure to forward it to a friend!”

By simply asking readers to take action and forward your newsletter, you’ll prompt free word of mouth exposure for your business without any extra cost or hassle.

How else can you put viral marketing to work for you? Here are a few simple ideas:

  • Give away free articles (like the ones I describe in Step 4) that include a “pass it on” link.
  • Give away free demos of your product.
  • Offer a free trial of your service with a “share this great resource” button on the page.
  • Hold a contest on your site, and give participants an extra entry for every friend they refer.
  • Start an affiliate program (see Step 7 below).

As you can see, you don’t need to be the next Hotmail to get started with viral marketing. By simply encouraging people to “share this resource with friends,” you can attract some great word-of-mouth traffic.

Step 6: Get free links on other high-traffic websites. Link requests require minimal effort from you, but they can absolutely explode your traffic numbers overnight. How? If your site is a featured link on a major site in your industry–one that receives a ton of attention–your site immediately benefits from all the exposure their site receives.

Getting started with this strategy is simple, but you should follow a standard process every time you request a link. Let’s break it down into a few easy steps:

  1. Do a Google search for your standard keywords–the ones that people generally use to find your site.
  2. Make detailed notes about the sites that appear regularly in the top ten listings for your major keywords.
  3. Use the Alexa Toolbar , LinkPopularity or Technorati to find out what other sites these sites are linking to, whose linking to themand how much traffic they’re receiving, then look up their contact information.
  4. Before making contact, make sure you know the correct URL for the site, the URL of the sub-page on which you want your link to appear, the name of the site owner or webmaster, the date you last visited their site, and a brief description of the contents of the site.

When you’re ready to contact the owners of these website and request a link, write a personal e-mail–don’t use form letters. Be sure to include some positive comments about their site, information about you and your site (along with your URL), an explanation of why a link to you would benefit them, and instructions for contacting you to get started.

You want your request to be thorough and professional. If you can present a persuasive argument for why the link request benefits both of you, you stand a better chance of forging a connection. And if you’re really eager to get your link on their site, be prepared to up the ante by offering them a commission or a link on your site in return. The investment could be well worth the extra exposure your marketing message receives.

When other businesses request links on your site, my advice is, be stingy. Just as links on others’ sites serve as a personal recommendation of your site, links on your site are recommendations for their businesses. Only recommend the best!

Okay, now let’s talk about the ultimate linking strategy.

Step 7: Get thousands of websites to promote your business for free.Imagine hundreds, even thousands, of websites promoting your product or service without spending a dime until someone refers a paying customer. You can do this with what’s called an affiliate program.

Affiliate programs–also referred to as “reseller” or “associate” programs–are a great way to get other people (called “affiliates”) to promote your product or service for you. For every paying customer your affiliates refer to your site, you pay them a commission. And since you only pay when you make money, it’s an extremely low-risk option.

Here’s how it works: Your affiliates send visitors to your site using banner ads, text links, letters of referral and so on, while you track these referrals using special software. It’s an extremely powerful way to grow your business because it automates your traffic generation. To get started with your own affiliate program, you need to:

  1. Establish your commissions. To keep your affiliates motivated, you should pay them 40 to 50 percent of your profits per sale.
  2. Get software to track the traffic and sales of your affiliates so you know what to pay them.
  3. Provide your affiliates with tools they can use to promote your products, such as e-mails, banners and so on.
  4. Recruit more affiliates. Look for sites that target your market, and invite them to become affiliates.

Affiliate programs are an ideal way to automate your traffic generation because other people are marketing your site for you. Your sales increase on a daily basis–but your affiliates do all the selling for you, and it doesn’t cost you a dime until they send you paying customers.

Now, for the final step, let’s talk about what you need to do to keep your traffic coming back to your site again and again.

Step 8: Use e-mail marketing to attract repeat visitors. Getting lots of traffic to your site is great, but if you aren’t collecting the contact information–the names and e-mail addresses–of visitors, you’re wasting every single click. If visitors leave your site without buying your product, there’s a good chance they won’t ever be back–and you’ll have absolutely no way of following up with them.

Remember: It can take up to seven points of contact to make a single sale, so you’ll want to begin collecting visitors’ contact information from day one using an opt-in form on your home page. Then send them e-mail messages to follow up and keep them thinking about your site. Need some ideas for e-mails you could send to follow up with your opt-in subscribers? Try these ideas:

  • Monthly or bi-weekly newsletters that include tons of tips and information
  • Free reports on topics your market would appreciate
  • Answers to common questions people ask about your product
  • Offers for products similar or complementary to ones you may have already offered them
  • Free product trials that give potential customers a taste of what you have to offer
  • A “downgrade” offer for a product that’s less expensive or robust than your featured offer

Following up with the addresses you gather is quick, easy and simple with e-mail management and automation software. You can create e-mail messages called “autoresponders” that potential customers receive automatically as soon as they opt-in on your site–within seconds–no matter what time of day it is or whether you’re even at your desk!

That’s right: As soon as your visitors opt in, they’ll start hearing from you on a regular basis without you having to deal with the stress of writing a ton of e-mails to individual addresses. This is a process you can put on autopilot from the very beginning.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, we’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, so I think it’s only fair I point out that, before you dive into any of these strategies, you’ll need to do a bit more reading and research on each of these topics in order to understand these tactics in depth. What I’ve given you is simply a clear roadmap of exactly what you need to do first, second and third to test your website to maximize conversion rates and then roll out an effective traffic campaign that attracts swarms of potential buyers–automatically–for years to come. But reading more on each topic will help figure out exactly what you need to do for your site to make it a success.

Before I wrap up this article, I’d like to make one last point. Over the years, I’ve noticed a common thread that links all our most successful clients who have internet businesses: They have all focused on implementing one or two marketing strategies really well.

So don’t feel like you need to become an expert in all the strategies I’ve covered here. Focus on becoming really proficient at one or two–because this may be all you need to dramatically increase your traffic–and sales.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

The 6 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Brand

The 6 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Brand

Q: What are the most common mistakes we should avoid when building a brand?

A: Being an entrepreneur and launching a brand isn’t easy. It takes a lot of skill, hard work and usually a little luck. When it comes to branding decisions, sometimes one bad mistake can derail even the best idea. To be sure this doesn’t happen to you, make sure you avoid making any of these six most common branding mistakes:

1. Being customer oriented and not competitor oriented.

You can assume that most of your competitors are going to be customer oriented. So what happens in the marketplace? Everyone winds up with a similar product.

Back in 2009, we began working for Great Wall Motor in China. The research we received from the client told us that Chinese buyers preferred sedans rather than SUVs because sedans were more prestigious and SUVs were practical vehicles with no social status. So we recommend that Great Wall focus on SUVs because the other 28 Chinese auto companies were likely to focus on sedans. As a result, Great Wall became the largest, most-profitable Chinese automobile company.

Entrepreneurs should do the same. Start by analyzing your competitors and try to find a way to be different. You can’t win by being better; you can only win by being different.

2. Not defining your focus.

Every successful brand has a focus. If your brand is the market leader like Pizza Hut, your focus is “leadership.” Domino’s narrowed its focus to “home delivery” and became the second-largest pizza chain. Papa John’s narrowed its focus to “better ingredients, better pizza.” Little Caesars narrowed its focus to “two pizzas for the price of one.” There are hundreds of pizza chains, but these four chains dominate the category.

For entrepreneurs, you need to make sure your company has a strong angle and all your actions and goals are in line with it. Ask yourself, What category am I competing in? And how do I verbalize my difference in two or three words.

3. Thinking names don’t matter.

Hansen Natural Company had a great idea. Launch a 16-oz. energy drink to compete with 8.3-oz. Red Bull and the other energy-drink brands. The brand name: “Hansen’s Natural Energy Pro.” The brand went nowhere. Then Hansen launched Monster energy drink, also in a 16-oz. can. Today, Monster is a strong No.2 brand to Red Bull.

Names come last. Entrepreneurs should first develop a marketing strategy. And then name their products or services to reflect that strategy.

4. Not using a strong visual.

Many powerful brands have been built by using a visual that communicates something about the brand. Coca-Cola’s contour bottle. Marlboro’s cowboy. Corona’s lime. Stella Artois’ chalice. Blue Moon’s orange slice. Geico’s gecko. Aflac’s duck.

Before launching a product or service, entrepreneurs should try to find a visual that reinforces the marketing strategy. Quite often, that requires either a change in strategy or a different brand name, or both.

5. Assuming your new brand will take off rapidly.

That leads to many bad decisions, such as spending heavily on advertising to launch the brand.
Today, the best way to launch a new brand is with PR. You should only use advertising after your brand has become established. PR first, advertising second is our mantra.

Keep in mind, Entrepreneurs should be prepared to spend a substantial amount of time doing PR. Hiring a PR firm is an option only for those companies that have already built a substantial business, otherwise it is a waste of time and money.

6. Expanding your brand.

Once your brand starts to take off, you need to resist the urge to expand. Look at McDonald’s. In spite of adding dozens and dozens of items to its menus, the chain today is in trouble. On the other hand, look at In-N-Out Burger, a West Coast chain that still has just four things to eat on its menus: hamburger, cheeseburger, double-double (a double hamburger) and French fries. Per-unit sales last year. McDonald’s: $2,476,000. In-N-Out Burger: $2,546,000. (If In-N-Out Burger were a national chain, its sales would probably be much greater.) Provide link to data point.

Look at Yahoo, a company that once dominated the “search” market on the Internet and was worth $140 billion on the stock market. But Yahoo rapidly diversified into a portal and also made many acquisitions and turned them into Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Games, Yahoo Groups, Yahoo Pager, etc. Today, Yahoo is worth just $30 billion on the stock market and perhaps $25 billion of that is due to its holdings in Alibaba.

Meanwhile Google remained a pure search engine and is now worth $498 billion on the stock market. But even Google is falling into the trap of expanding its brand. That’s the mantra of corporate American, keep expanding the brand until it falls off the cliff.

Except for geographic expansion, entrepreneurs should almost never expand their brands. Quite often, however, they should do the opposite: narrow the focus.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

3 Reasons Your SEO Efforts Are Failing

3 Reasons Your SEO Efforts Are Failing

Implementing a search engine optimization strategy isn’t enough to get you on the first page of Google’s search results.

Even with an SEO plan in place, there is a good chance it isn’t working the way you hoped.

There are a number of reasons your SEO strategy is failing to get you to the coveted front page. Without an understanding of what you’re doing wrong, your content will be stuck in the middle of the pack.

Here are three of the most common—and crippling—mistakes to avoid:

1. You’re not using the right keywords.

Determining the best keywords for you and your organization can be difficult, especially if you’re working in a highly populated category.

The most common keyword-related mistakes include using single-word keywords instead of long-tail keywords, hoping to get noticed using popular keywords, and targeting keywords that are too specific (or not specific enough).

If you’re using single-word keywords or highly popular keywords, you’re bound to get lost in the results that appear after a general search. If you can’t compete with the budgets that many million-dollar companies set aside to ensure first place spots, it’s essential to your SEO strategy that you find a keyword path around them.

In your quest to find the best keywords, don’t be too specific or too broad. If you optimize a keyword that is too broad, potential customers will have a hard time finding you and lost seekers of a different service might find their way to your page.

On the other hand, if no one searches for the keywords you’ve selected, you won’t be found. Either way, don’t make potential customers struggle to reach your page.

Select keywords that are specific enough to describe your organization well, but broad enough that they will be typed into a search bar.

2. You’re not using digital marketing tools.

Digital marketing tools help you see what is working and what isn’t, so you know where your strategy is strong—and where it needs support.

Everything from analytic trackers to goal trackers fall under the data visualization tools category, and all are necessary if you want to see your SEO efforts succeed.

If you are only measuring the success of your SEO strategy by an increase in business, you’re unlikely to see the results you’re anticipating. Optimizing your website’s content takes time, effort and continuous improvements. Treating SEO as a one-time project can only do so much, and it’s likely to be very little.

Management tools give you the ability to track and understand the side of SEO you couldn’t see before and measure results beyond a standard increase in business. The tools you choose can provide you with information from how many new visitors you’re seeing on your website to potential keywords that may work better for your business.

Getting help from computer software/hardware, online programs or other marketing tools is necessary in creating a strong SEO strategy. Constant technological changes require increased comprehension of your site’s effect on the hardware it interacts with.

An intro to networking courses can give you the competitive advantage needed to fully grasp any server related issue flagged on your site. Don’t allow your efforts to fail because you’re not adapting and adjusting.

3. You’re not targeting your customers.

Your SEO strategy needs to revolve around what your customers—or potential customers—look for when they need your product or service. If you don’t understand who your customer is, your SEO strategy is bound to fail.

Targeting the wrong audience will not increase your business even if your SEO strategy puts you on top on the results page. Similarly, if you’re not appearing in the results for the correct audience, those searching for your business won’t be able to find you.

A good way to see if you are reaching the right customer is to check out your bounce rate—the number of individuals who come to your website and leave without looking around. If your bounce rate is high, you are probably appearing in the wrong search results and your SEO strategy will need to be adjusted.

Take the time to understand whom your target customer is and reflect on how they might be searching online. An older customer isn’t going to search the web the same way a teenager would. Your keywords must represent the audience that brings you the most business.

Getting the right SEO strategy takes trial and error. With a lot of attention and a little adjusting, you can find your way to the first page of search engine results and increase your website traffic, leading to your organization’s success.

source: entrepreneur.com

How Backlinks Can Boost Traffic to Your Website

How Backlinks Can Boost Traffic to Your Website

When building a website, business owners often focus so much on keywords and other on-page search engine optimization factors that they overlook the importance of backlinks.

Some industry experts estimate backlinks may account for as much as 80 percent of the weight that search engine ranking algorithms give websites. When it comes to improving how your business turns up in searches, cultivating links from other websites that point back to your own site is too big an opportunity to pass up.

If you aren’t actively building backlinks, here are some basics for getting started:

What are backlinks?
At its most basic, a link is a connection between any two web pages. You might have internal links between different pages on your site or external links that point from your site to other useful web resources. Links that go from another site to yours are called backlinks because they point back to your pages.

Why should you care about link building?
From a search engine optimization perspective, links demonstrate a site’s popularity. Essentially, every time a site links to your pages, it’s saying that it finds them worthy of sharing with its readers. When search engine spiders find a site with lots of other sites pointing to it, they conclude that the site provides quality information that should be rewarded with high rankings.

There are backlink characteristics that matter in rankings algorithms. For example, a backlink from a high ranked site will count more than one from a low ranked site. A link from a relevant site within your industry also will get more weight.

But since search engines can’t manually assess the quality of every site, they rely on the number of backlinks pointing at a site and the relative quality of the links to determine a site’s overall value.

How can you get started building backlinks to your site?
If you publish engaging content, you probably already get links back to your site. But that’s rarely enough to make your site competitive in search results. You should be proactive about developing backlinks.

Keep in mind the following criteria:

  1. Backlinks should come from relevant sites that publish quality content.
  2. They shouldn’t be paid for. It’s a “black hat” strategy that Google doesn’t condone.
  3. Backlinks should be built slowly. If you create them too quickly, you could appear to be manipulating the rankings and trigger penalties from the search engines.

To find sites you might want to target for potential backlinks, first see which websites link to your competitors. You can conduct a search for your competitors’ URLs at sites such as MajesticSEO or the Open Site Explorer. Once you discover which sites are linking to your competitors, visit those sites to find out if your content might be a good fit as well.

Another way is to track unclaimed link opportunities. Suppose another site has mentioned your site as a reference or quoted one of your articles without providing a proper attribution link. By tracking your brand name and other branded keywords with a Google Alert, you can monitor such lost backlink opportunities and contact the site owners to ask them to link to your pages correctly.

Other backlink opportunities include:

  • Guest posting. Offer to write content for other people’s sites. This can help you gain extra exposure and backlinks.
  • Press releases. If you have something newsworthy to share, an online press release can boost your backlink count.
  • Social networking. When you actively participate on social networking sites, you not only brand yourself as an expert, but you also can pick up a number of backlinks.

Although any of these backlink strategies can help your site climb in the search engine rankings, you should track the results to see which techniques have the most impact. Over time, a consistent link-building campaign should yield significant improvements in your search rankings and site traffic.

10 preguntas para fijar tus precios

10 preguntas para fijar tus precios

Tener un gran producto o servicio no es garantía de éxito, también debes tener una buenaestrategia de pricing. Eso requiere que conozcas bien a tus consumidores para saber cuánto están dispuestos a pagar, así como los precios de tu competencia. También debes considerar la segmentación del mercado y los beneficios tangibles e intangibles que estás vendiendo.

Hablamos con expertos y obtuvimos 10 importantes preguntas que debes hacerte antes de poner una etiqueta de precio. Toma nota:

1. ¿Cuánto está dispuesto a pagar el cliente por mi producto?
Si hacer un producto cuesta un peso, muchas empresas asumen que deben cobrar dos por él, pero esto no es lo óptimo, dice Mark Stiving, autor de Impact Pricing: Your Blueprint for Driving Profits.

“El pricing debe estar basado únicamente en lo que el cliente está dispuesto a pagar. Si el cliente está dispuesto a pagar $1,000 por algo que costó $100, entonces tienes un producto exitoso. Si el cliente está dispuesto a pagar $1,000 por algo que costó hacerlo $1,000, no aumentes el precio, te quedarás sin negocio”. Para saber cuánto está dispuesto a pagar el consumidor haz encuestas y focus groups.

2. ¿A qué tipo de cliente quiero dirigirme?
Si quieres llegar a clientes que valoran tu producto al máximo y le cargas un precio alto, podrás ganar más dinero por venta pero limitar el tamaño de tu mercado. Si te diriges al mercado masivo con un producto de menor precio, ganarás menos por transacción pero venderás muchas más unidades. La situación ideal es cortar el mercado en segmentos y tener diferentes precios por producto o punto de venta, recomienda Stiving.

3. ¿Cómo debo reaccionar a los precios de mi competencia?
En una estrategia de pricing hay tres preguntas básicas: ¿Quién provee una alternativa a mi producto? ¿El mío es mejor o peor?, y ¿Al cliente le importa?, según Tim J. Smith, gerente de la firma especializada en pricing Wiglaf Pricing. Si tu producto es mejor, busca un precio competitivo y auméntalo. Si no es tan bueno como el de tu competencia, busca un precio competitivo y bájalo. Y conforme cambien los precios de tu competencia, cambia los tuyos también. Esta estrategia sólo aplica cuando los clientes están muy familiarizados con los precios.

4. ¿Puedo ofrecer diferentes niveles de productos o servicios?
Siempre es mejor darles a los clientes la posibilidad de elegir, dice Jean-Manuel Izaret, socio de Boston Consulting Group. Izaret sugiere ofrecer al menos tres niveles de precios en un producto: el básico, el mejorado y el Premium. Destaca a Apple que ha entrado al mercado con laptops de 16, 32 y 64 GB. “Si sólo ofrecieran la de 16 GB, venderían mucho pero perderían al cliente que está dispuesto a pagar más por el mejor. O si sólo tuvieran la versión de 64 GB, perderían al grueso del mercado”.

5. ¿Cómo puedo ajustar mis precios?
Por lo general, las empresas pueden alcanzar del 1 al 7 por ciento de mejora en márgenes de ganancias ajustando los precios para adaptarse a consumidores específicos, dice Smith. “Clientes distintos tienen distintas voluntades para pagar, e incluso el mismo cliente puede variar su voluntad dependiendo de la ocasión de compra”. Para determinar cómo y cuándo ajustar los precios, puedes observar los hábitos de compra de tus clientes a través de entrevistas y focus groups.

6. ¿Le he dado al cliente una razón para pagar más por mi producto?
Si los frijoles de Del Monte cuestan $15 pesos y los de marca libre $13, es el trabajo de Del Monte asegurar que los consumidores entiendan y valoren la diferencia, dice Stiving. Hay diferencias reales entre productos y también hay percepciones diferentes. La diferenciación real surge en el desarrollo del producto; la diferenciación de percepción, del marketing y las ventas.

“Idealmente has creado una diferenciación real y se la has comunicado a los clientes para que también sea percibida”, dice Stiving. “En el caso de Del Monte, ellos añaden diferenciación real a través de sus medidas de control de calidad, y la diferenciación de percepción a través de publicidad de calidad”.

7. ¿Puedo basar mis precios en parte por mis beneficios intangibles?
Muchos negocios basan sus precios estrictamente en el producto o servicio, pero muchas empresas deberían hacerlo en base a los beneficios intangibles que entregan a sus clientes.

Tomemos a un servicio de jardinería como ejemplo. “Si les dices a tus clientes que tienes la podadora más moderna, eso no significará nada para ellos”, afirma Matt Johnson, un experto en pricing de Simon-Kucher. “Pero si les muestras que los estás liberando de usar tres horas de su tiempo y permitiendo que su casa se vea bien y asombre a los vecinos, entonces significarás más para ellos”. El experto destaca que incluso los dulces pueden elegir sus precios basándose en más que los simples ingredientes. “Con Hershey’s estás obteniendo un rico chocolate, pero Godiva (que es mucho más caro) está vendiendo amor y una forma de consentirte”.

8. ¿Debo agrupar varios productos por un solo precio?
De ser posible, usa el pricing para conseguir que tus clientes compren varios productos en lugar de uno solo, dice Izaret. Él destaca a McDonalds y el éxito que ha tenido la marca en agrupar las papas y el refresco con la hamburguesa. También está Microsoft que vende Excel, Word y Outlook en un solo producto: Microsoft Office. “Al juntarlos a la principal venta, estás renunciando un poco a cada producto, pero consigues que compren los tres; un buen trato para el vendedor y el comprador”, dice Stiving.

9. ¿Debo ofrecer descuentos para atraer gente?
Las promociones están bien de vez en cuando, pero el precio completo debe permanecer como el estándar. Si comúnmente tienes un descuento para vender tu producto, o tienes un exceso de inventario con cosas que la gente no quiere comprar o estás intentando venderlo al consumidor equivocado, dice Johnson.

Una vez que las personas paguen poco, es muy difícil aumentar el precio a un nivel en el que obtengas buenas ganancias. “Si el producto tiene 10 características, pero a la gente sólo le importan tres, eso puede resultar un ‘tiro por la culata’ ya que sentirán que están comprando muchas cosas que no necesitan”.

10. ¿Cómo quiere comprar el cliente mi producto o servicio
¿Es algo que quieren comprar una vez? ¿Anualmente? ¿Mensualmente? No hay respuesta que se ajuste a todas las situaciones, pero es importante que “crees un modelo que encaje con la forma en que las personas quieren comprar tu producto”, dice Johnson.

Source: www.soyentrepreneur.com