Archive for July, 2009

Domain Names

So what is all this business about domain names? Here is some clarification for you, and it goes nicely with my previous post on website hosting. Some points about your domain name:

  • A domain name is your web address: www.yourdomain.com, or whatever.
  • Your domain name belongs to you and can be taken with you to whatever host company you want.
  • You don’t actually buy a domain name, you rent it for a period of time.  So if you stop paying for it, someone else can start renting it.
  • The domain names are theoretically rented out on a first come, first served basis. I say theoretically because I have some doubts to the reality of the statement, even though that is what everyone will tell you.
  • When you buy a domain name, all you are really doing is paying to have your domain added to the DNS database.
  • This DNS database is a core component of the internet and is what makes it what it is.  When you type ‘www.domain.com’ into your browser, your browser asks the nearest DNS database where your website is located, and then forwards the request on to the web host computer. The web host computer receives your message to access the website files and sends them back to your computer browser to be displayed.  And the great thing about this process is that it takes only about a second.  (at least for those of you fortunate enough to have high speed internet access)
  • Domain names are not case sensitive, and really are just for human convenience. You should avoid an underscore in the domain since that can confuse computer programs, and use the dash instead.
  • The DNS database will convert your domain name to what it really is: an IP address.
  • The DNS database could be a subject of a whole new post – but to say it quickly – it is a database that is shared across many different computers / routers. No one single computer holds the database information, it gets “propagated” or shared with all the others that are out there. That is why when you first purchase the domain it can take up to 48 hours for you to actually see it on the internet. This also shows its military background – the DNS database is bomb proofed.
  • The cost for a domain name is usually about 10 dollars a year. Companies like Network Solutions used to sell domains for something like 35 dollars a year, because apparently many people thought they had to, but NetSol finally dropped their prices to what has become the norm in the industry (urged along by GoDaddy’s success I’m sure).

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Website Hosting

Thought I’d talk a little bit about website hosting and how it relates to your domain name, as I get questions about it all the time. What is website hosting? Website hosting is where the public accesses your website from – the computer that has your web files, and where the internet points to when someone types your URL into their browser. Your host company is not the same as your domain company, and not the same as your web designer either.

Some points about hosting:

  • Remember your host is just a computer – a beefed up computer usually, but still having similar limitations.  It has a certain amount of memory, a certain speed on its processor, a certain operating system, a certain amount of space on its hard drive, etc – and what is best for your website depends on your situation.
  • For most situations, I recommend going with a Unix server as it is the least expensive. If it has MySQL and PHP installed, all the better – since most of the open-source software out there is based on that so it will save you money in the long run. (I think I read somewhere that 80% of all web servers are Unix)
  • You used to have to worry about how much disk space and bandwidth was needed as the hosting fees would go out the roof, but not any longer. The cost for both are so cheap nowadays, needing lots of either is no big deal. For my own hosting packages, I don’t even bother listing any limits – I promise to provide whatever you need since adding more to an account is no big deal.
  • According to a study done by 1&1 Internet, the average hosting cost is $45 per month, and 40% of small business (SMB) don’t bother to have one. Mostly because they don’t know how, think it too expensive to do, etc. (For the record, Idahowebpages.com will host your website for $25 / month and throw in some free maintenance to boot). The study also mentions that of the ones who do have websites, fully 80% of them call the website “essential” to their business.

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Increasing Conversion Rates

As I always say, it is much easier to increase your website conversion rates, than to get more traffic to your site. So I get asked how to best go about it – how do you increase your CR? First thing is that you need to know what your current CR is – duh.

I would recommend going back to the basics – reduce your form fields, place your offer up top and overt, etc. After making these initial revisions for improvement, you are likely to see dramatic improvements too. But what specifically are the “basics” you need to go back to?  A good place to give you lots of ideas is Conversion Critic.  Basically they ask you lots of questions about your website, then “score” you on your answers.  They don’t actually evaluate your website for you – they make you look at it yourself, which is what I like about it.  Also, the Conversion Critic website is ran by people who offer these type services, so beware that you may get a call from them about your site. But even so, it is one good way to go over the basic setup of your site and look for opportunities for improvement.

Now if you have already done all the basic stuff, then your site has already picked all the low-hanging fruit. What you need to do is set up a testing program, either A/B or multivariate, to find out what works best for the type customer you have coming to your site.  Google offers both types for free, as usual, and are not bad to get you started.

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Free Online Accounting

If you own a business, you know that doing the accounting is a real pain. I found out about a free online accounting service that looks pretty easy for a simple income / expense platform – that can be accessed from anywhere. Nice!

Of course, it won’t work for a real business to use – you need real accounting software for that.

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Wikipedia pages

An important part of SEO is getting good inbound links to your website. You want these links to be both relevant, and also of quality. One of the best places you can get such a link is in Wikipedia – which is probably held in higher regard than any other source by the search engines like Google and Yahoo.

I can personally attest to the value of Wikipedia and have successfully made entries for some of my clients. Alternatively I’ve also heard from people how they have tried making a Wiki entry for themselves, and then seen it be unceremoniously deleted by one of the Wikipedia editors – who at times can seem like Nazis! So here are some guidelines you can follow to increase your success rate:

  1. First and foremost, you need to get rid of any thoughts of “marketing” your website. Sure I know, that is why you are taking the trouble to do it in the first place, but you need to create a wikipedia page that isn’t marketing oriented. You are not there to sell anything other than the name of the company or person you are entering – not the products. The whole point is just to get the page entry – an inbound link to your website from Wikipedia.
  2. Not every website or company is fit to be in Wikipedia. It is a hard truth to accept sometimes, but there it is.  If you are trying to put lipstick on a pig – you need to be aware of it and press harder with the lipstick (smile). But still Wikipedia may just delete your work anyways.
  3. Put on your best journalist hat and try to write something that gives the Who, What, When, Where, and How for the subject matter. Write it like it would look in a encyclopedia even. Write it up in your favorite word editor first. You will also need to have links in your page that will validate it – so hopefully your subject matter is written about somewhere else so it can be shown to be “worthy” of the wiki entry.
  4. Now go to the Wikipedia website and sign up for an account – you have to login to edit any pages.
  5. Take a look around at similar pages to those you want to create. Maybe you want to make a page on a song writer, so take a look at other song writer pages.  Find one you like the looks of.
  6. Now click the Edit button at the top of the page, as if you were going to change something on it. Don’t change anything – just copy all the code that is there – paste it into Notebook.
  7. Do a search for the term you wish to use – for instance if I was making a wiki page for website-help-blog.com – I would type that in and search for it.  You should get a page that says the term is not in the Wiki – and this is what you want to see. There is a link there that you click to create a page with that name – click it.
  8. Now take the code from the page you liked in step 6, and paste it into the new page. Then edit the code using the text you wrote in step 3. The wiki uses special code, and there is a tutorial there you can check if you get stuck doing something. Good luck with that though – I’ve always found it much easier to just find something on another page and copy it from there.
  9. Preview the results of what you have done before you save it. Make sure it is what you want – so you don’t get deleted needlessly.
  10. Now go into Wikipedia to some other pages and link to your page – for instance maybe there is an existing list of song writers you can add your page to. Find as many of these as you can, and link back to your newly created wiki page.

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Blog Move

I’ve moved the location of the Website Help Blog from its old location into its own URL: http://www.website-help-blog.com. Please update your bookmarks, thanks.

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