What NOT to do!

Hosting Marketers

Optimizing for the search engines can be a daunting task if you are unfamiliar with how to do it or even what to look for. We have compiled here the most important areas to focus on in your search engine optimization efforts. Pay special attention to these tips:

Google places a very strong emphasis on the quality and relevancy of their search results. As the undisputed leader in the world of search engines, they know that in order to stay on top they must make sure that their users are satisfied with the quality of the search results provided. To that end, they do not take kindly to several techniques used by many webmasters and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts. These techniques can and will get a site banned from Google or at the very least result in a Page Rank (PR) penalty. (PR will be discussed in more detail later.) A list of the most common (and dangerous) techniques is below:

Submitting multiple URLs for the same site – An example would be submitting mysite.com and mysite.com/index.html to their database, thereby essentially trying to get two search results for the same page.

Cloaking – Cloaking is having two separate pages, one optimized for the search engines and a different one optimized for the viewer. In other words the search engine sees one page but the user is redirected to a different page when the link is clicked. Cloaking is a big no-no with Google.

Doorway pages – In order to get a good listing in the search engines, some webmasters will load the home page with keywords. But a page filled with keywords comes across as nonsense to a human viewing the page. Therefore the webmaster will do a redirect to another page that is much easier to read (or have the user click a link to get to that page). This is basically cloaking. And as we now know, cloaking is a no-no.

Hidden text – Some webmasters will place hidden keywords on a page and make the font color the same as the background color (for example white text on a white background). This renders the text invisible to the human eye but the search engine spiders can still see it. This results in a higher Page Rank and search engine listing for those keywords. Hidden text is often used on a doorway page. Using hidden text is a sure way to get banned from Google fast!

Hidden links – The number of pages that link to one of your pages has a direct effect on how high your page appears in the search results (and that page’s PR). As with hiding text, hiding links will also result in a ban or PR penalty.

Link farms – A link farm is loosely defined as a page that lists links solely or mainly for the purpose of achieving a high Google PR. Free-For-All links pages are often considered link farms by Google. Be careful who you link to! Realistically, you can’t control who links to you, so incoming links will not hurt your site’s ranking. But you control directly who you link to so Google will ban or penalize your site for linking to a “bad neighborhood”.

Spamming – Don’t send unsolicited commercial emails (SPAM). Enough said.

Selling PR – Blatantly advertising the fact that your high PR site will sell a link to another site in order to boost that site’s PR is another big no-no. Selling advertising in the form of a link on your site is perfectly acceptable. Selling a link for the stated or implied purpose of increasing a site’s PR is not.

Multiple identical sites – In order to increase PR, some webmasters will create and interlink multiple pages all with identical or very similar content. This is not allowed.

Multiple domains – Creating multiple domains that redirect to one page is not allowed. Also, creating multiple domains with the same or nearly the same content and then interlinking them is a no-no. If you have multiple sites place unique content on each site. Doing otherwise will result in a ban or penalty.

Excessive links – Google recommends having no more than 100 links on any given page. Having more than 100 links won’t result in a ban but it can result in a lower PR.

If you refrain from using any of the above techniques you can avoid a Google penalty. The best way to attain a high PR and placement in the Google listings is to stay on Google’s “good side”.

What NOT to do!

Hosting Marketers

Optimizing for the search engines can be a daunting task if you are unfamiliar with how to do it or even what to look for. We have compiled here the most important areas to focus on in your search engine optimization efforts. Pay special attention to these tips:

What NOT to do!

Google places a very strong emphasis on the quality and relevancy of their search results. As the undisputed leader in the world of search engines, they know that in order to stay on top they must make sure that their users are satisfied with the quality of the search results provided. To that end, they do not take kindly to several techniques used by many webmasters and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts. These techniques can and will get a site banned from Google or at the very least result in a Page Rank (PR) penalty. (PR will be discussed in more detail later.) A list of the most common (and dangerous) techniques is below:

Submitting multiple URLs for the same site – An example would be submitting mysite.com and mysite.com/index.html to their database, thereby essentially trying to get two search results for the same page.

Cloaking – Cloaking is having two separate pages, one optimized for the search engines and a different one optimized for the viewer. In other words the search engine sees one page but the user is redirected to a different page when the link is clicked. Cloaking is a big no-no with Google.

Doorway pages – In order to get a good listing in the search engines, some webmasters will load the home page with keywords. But a page filled with keywords comes across as nonsense to a human viewing the page. Therefore the webmaster will do a redirect to another page that is much easier to read (or have the user click a link to get to that page). This is basically cloaking. And as we now know, cloaking is a no-no.

Hidden text – Some webmasters will place hidden keywords on a page and make the font color the same as the background color (for example white text on a white background). This renders the text invisible to the human eye but the search engine spiders can still see it. This results in a higher Page Rank and search engine listing for those keywords. Hidden text is often used on a doorway page. Using hidden text is a sure way to get banned from Google fast!

Hidden links – The number of pages that link to one of your pages has a direct effect on how high your page appears in the search results (and that page’s PR). As with hiding text, hiding links will also result in a ban or PR penalty.

Link farms – A link farm is loosely defined as a page that lists links solely or mainly for the purpose of achieving a high Google PR. Free-For-All links pages are often considered link farms by Google. Be careful who you link to! Realistically, you can’t control who links to you, so incoming links will not hurt your site’s ranking. But you control directly who you link to so Google will ban or penalize your site for linking to a “bad neighborhood”.

Spamming – Don’t send unsolicited commercial emails (SPAM). Enough said.

Selling PR – Blatantly advertising the fact that your high PR site will sell a link to another site in order to boost that site’s PR is another big no-no. Selling advertising in the form of a link on your site is perfectly acceptable. Selling a link for the stated or implied purpose of increasing a site’s PR is not.

Multiple identical sites – In order to increase PR, some webmasters will create and interlink multiple pages all with identical or very similar content. This is not allowed.

Multiple domains – Creating multiple domains that redirect to one page is not allowed. Also, creating multiple domains with the same or nearly the same content and then interlinking them is a no-no. If you have multiple sites place unique content on each site. Doing otherwise will result in a ban or penalty.

Excessive links – Google recommends having no more than 100 links on any given page. Having more than 100 links won’t result in a ban but it can result in a lower PR.

If you refrain from using any of the above techniques you can avoid a Google penalty. The best way to attain a high PR and placement in the Google listings is to stay on Google’s “good side”. Now that we have the “don’ts” out of the way, let’s get started with the “do’s”!

Another one bites the dust!

By Chuck McCullough

These are the words that ring in my mind as I’m removing the dead affiliate programs from my directory.

This year has really been a shake out for online businesses.

Many have had to close their doors due to bankruptcy, inability to gain additional funds from the Venture Caps, or both.

The impact that this has had for me is that it now seems that I spend just as much time removing discontinued affiliate programs from my directory as I do adding new ones.

I firmly believe that this underscores the importance of taking the time to do the research and find yourself a few really decent programs and focus on promoting them.

Some of the programs that I have removed have been from big companies that anyone that had done their due diligence on would have felt were solid companies.

This is unexpected and may not be avoidable, but the important thing is to realize that the many ‘fly-by-night’ companies and programs should definitely be avoided.

It also helps me realize just how great the ‘little guys’ have it.

Huh?

That’s right, as one of those ‘little guys’, I know that if one of my websites fail, I can shut it down and start a new one on a different topic.

I don’t have to worry about risking bankruptcy, and since I’ve never gotten a loan so far, I don’t have to worry about them saying “here comes that Chuck-guy wanting to borrow more money that we know he won’t pay back!”

Many companies don’t approach the Internet from this perspective. They figure the more money they throw at it, the better their chances for survival.

The thing to realize is that the Internet is still first and foremost a content and information provider.

It is trying to become a new medium for retailers to push their wares, but its not there yet.

Even though the number of online shoppers is steadily increasing, the reports and statistics seem to show that people are using the Internet to research their larger purchasing decisions, and then buying them at a bricks and mortar store close by.

So, if my theory holds true (yes these are my opinions and may be incorrect) why are the numbers of shoppers increasing?

Personally, I think that more purchases are being made because customers are being introduced to products while they are surfing through their favorite content sites.

The steady increase in the number of affiliate and partner programs allows website owners to offer their visitors products that those visitors may not have gone online looking for, but yet just might purchase because of a strong recommendation.

Here’s an example:

In this issue I mention a book that I recently purchased and read.

I bought that book at Amazon.com. I bought it because my favorite investing tips site that I visit a couple of times a week recommended it.

A few days ago I went back to Amazon.com to see if I could find another book as good as that one had been. After about 30 minutes of reading customer comments and “People that bought this book also bought…”, I gave up.

So I went back to my favorite site that had told me about the first book and clicked his Amazon.com affiliate link for his second “Best pick” selection.

I bought it and am currently enjoying it as well.

The point I’m trying to make with this story is that Amazon.com with all of its millions, or billions of dollars was unable to sell me a single book, yet this guy that is probably spending $50 bucks a month on hosting fees made the sale, not only once but twice!

Granted, Amazon made the money as well but I would just as easily have bought the books from Barnes and Noble had they been an affiliate of them instead of Amazon.

Under this situation the affiliate would have made a commission off of me and Amazon would have gotten nothing.

So don’t think that you have to have millions in the bank or a staff of 50 employees to make it on the Net.

Get started part-time and focus on creating a really great site with tons of useful information and content, and watch your business grow and grow.

And definitely don’t be in such a rush to add your name to the list of: Another one bites the dust!

Changing faces of affiliate programs?

By Chuck McCullough

Its hard to have a discussion about affiliate programs without mentioning Amazon.com. They are considered to be the pioneers of affiliate programs. And with over 300,000 affiliates, its hard to argue that point.

But affiliate programs are changing. Many, many companies are realizing that the best way to sell products and services on the Internet is to recruit affiliates. Along with this comes a form of competition. Affiliate program managers want you to sell their products, not the products of their competitors. How do they make sure that you stick with them and not defect to the other side? They do their best to make their program more attractive to you.

There are many ways to make a program more attractive to potential affiliates. They can offer a higher percentage of the profits, and/or they can offer more benefits. Benefits can come in many forms, but the topic of this discussion will be the benefits that come from the way sales and visitors are tracked.

Let’s bring Amazon.com back into the limelight for a minute. They are huge…everyone knows about them…everyone knows that you can create a site, add some good content, bring in a highly targeted audience, and sell them books! Simple enough…create a site with a good topic, drive traffic to it, send them to Amazon, and get rich. But…its been tried before…and guess what…not that many of those 300,000 affiliates even earn enough to get the minimum $25 check in the mail every quarter.

Why? Is it because you have 299,999 competitors out there selling Amazon.com books just like you are? I’m sure that plays a part, but the real reason is the way you are credited for a sale. You work hard to create a website full of content, and work even harder to promote it and bring visitors to your site. Then, what do you do with that coveted visitor? You wisk them off to Amazon to become their life-long customer, and never to return to your site again!

That may not seem fair to you, but can you complain? They give you a whopping 5% of the sale, maybe even 15% on some of the books if you are lucky. Or, worse yet, they bookmark Amazon.com, and go back to buy the books tomorrow and you don’t even get the 5%. Either way they are gone. That precious visitor that could have been a life-long customer of yours is now off to Amazon.com. They will buy a book or two to test out the process. Then after their books arrive, they will merrily open up their browser and type in http://www.amazon.com and spend their entire paycheck buying books.

How much do you get from this return visit? Well, it WAS your visitor after all, right? Unfortunately every penny of that visitor’s paycheck will fall into Amazon’s pocket. Of course you have to feel sorry for Amazon, though. They aren’t making any money after all (violin music playing in the background).

What happened? The same that happens with many affiliate programs. You get paid per click, per lead, or per sale. From that point on, they own that customer.

But I’m happy to report that times are changing! Companies are starting to look for better ways to compensate their affiliates for referring customers to them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning affiliate programs…my entire site is dedicated to the topic. I just want you to know that some companies are starting to look at new methods of rewarding you for sending them customers. After all, you are a salesman for them. How many brick-and-mortar companies do you know of that will have a salesperson make a sale, pay them their commission, and then never pay them another cent for future business from that same customer?

Why should the Internet be any different? It shouldn’t…and program administrators are finally figuring that out.

There are many companies that will track the visitor that came from your site, and credit you for the sale even if they don’t purchase something until the next day, or week, or month. Others will make that visitor your lifetime customer. If they come back two years later and buy something, you will get a commission for that.

A good example of this is Ken Evoy’s 5 Pillar Affiliate Program. If you sell one of your visitors a copy of his book: “Make Your Site Sell!”( http://www.sitesell.com/helpmakemy.html ), you will not only get a commission for that sale, you will also get a percentage of all future sales from that customer, no matter what product or service they purchase.

A new idea being offered by companies such as TTA Superstores ( http://affiliatematch.com/ttasuperstores ), is to allow your visitors to buy products without ever leaving your site. This means that the visitor has the time to spend on YOUR site, and get to know what excellent content you have to offer, and to hopefully return to YOUR site for future purchases.

This concept allows you to sell products such as magazines, gifts, luggage, hats, cooking accessories from your site, without having to give up the customer that you worked so hard to get.

Here is an example of the power of this idea: I have a site that gives tips and hints for those hoping to become Microsoft Certified. An excellent product for me to sell from that site is books. Everyone studying for this certification will need books at some point or another to help them pass the exams. They come to my site for information, and I sell them a couple of books while they are there. Does pretty well for me, but can I quit my day job? Not exactly. I get a great deal of traffic…highly targeted traffic at that.

I should be rich! I’m not. Problem is, they visit my site, I do my best to sell them on the idea that they will need books to help them study for the exams, then I send them off to Amazon, and they’re gone. If I’m lucky, they might remember my site when they get ready for their next exam. But chances are that they will still have the Amazon shipping box sitting on their desk, and will go directly to them to purchase the additional books.

So what can you do about it? Look for programs that will compensate you for future sales, or give you credit for the sale the next day, or month after they first visited them from your site. Or, look for programs that allow you to sell products directly from your site, without the visitor ever having to leave.

Chuck McCullough is the owner of http://AffiliateMatch.com offering FREE articles, tips, hints, and real-world advice on how to make money with your website. Visit his site or join his FREE newsletter, The AffiliateMatch Informer by sending a blank email to mailto:newsletter@affiliatematch.com.

Cheap Web Hosting: Unix or NT

Shared cheap web hosting is most commonly offered in UNIX and Windows NT operating systems. When you go to retain a cheap web hosting provider, you will have to choose which platform your site will run on. Here are some things to consider when making your decision:

Windows NT servers are configured to be compatible with Microsoft applications, such as FrontPage, Access and MS SQL. NT servers also offer programming environments such as Active Server Pages (ASP), Visual Basic Scripts, MS Index Server and Cold Fusion.

NT allows those with little or no experience in web development to get advanced features working very quickly. By using software such as Microsoft’s FrontPage, you can have a fully functional site up in a short amount of time.

However, along with Microsoft’s powerful features and user-friendly environment, comes a cost much larger than similar features compatible with UNIX. Microsoft’s NT operating system has another drawback. It’s very hard on web servers and may require additional resources if stability is to be maintained. Even with additional hardware implemented, NT servers will have to be rebooted regularly. So it is very important that the support staff for an NT host be knowledgeable and reliable.

Given that NT servers provide excellent levels of support and integration for Microsoft products, you should select NT if you will be using a Microsoft-based service with your hosted server.

UNIX is the other common operating system. It is extremely vigorous and designed to handle heavy Web traffic and server load. Most UNIX systems with heavy traffic can provide a 99 percent uptime guarantee. This is because UNIX has been around for much longer than NT, and is now very developed and stable.

Many web server applications available on the Internet are intended for use with the Unix OS. So UNIX has come to be a very flexible platform in regards to programming/application compatibility. Most hosting plans include a wide amount of features such as, Perl, JAVA, PHP, Miva, Shell Access (remote access to your server through any online connection), and much more.

For the downside, there are some types of server applications, mostly those offered by Microsoft, which will not be supported. These include Microsoft’s Active Server Pages (ASP) and Microsoft’s SQL database software. However, several companies have already developed software that will allow these applications to run on UNIX. So these issues may not be around much longer.

Overall, it is safe to say that if you know what sort of programming and applications you will use to run your web site, and they are compatible with a UNIX platform, then you should go with a UNIX plan.