Archive for Marketing

When I talk about niche marketing and building a niche I often refer to the products or the feature lists. For instance, local ecommerce hosting would approach the niche by maintaining working relationships with area vendors, media, and the like and that becomes an added feature; by hosting from us and we will give you discounts for advertising with the local papers and TV stations, etc. But niche marketing can also be based on audience.

In this form of niche creation, it’s not your product that is the niche, but how you display it and how you support it. As an example look at Laughing Squid.

Laughing Squid is a Web Host in the normal sense, they offer hosting space, but they offer it in support of the local art community. Their niche service is the promotion of art and culture and the web hosting aspect is but one way they achieve this. It is a very focused market, Laughing Squid probably won’t become a Fortune 500 company, but they have achieved a level of success and not only that but the niche is something that they enjoy.

Therefore, when thinking of niche markets, also think on target audiences. In fact, I would dare to say think of a niche target audience first then find the services that will help them out.

You might say, well I already look at my audience for my niche market so technically I have already done this. You might have but there are a few differences in approach. Niches developed on services start with features then seek an audience. For instance, blog hosting; a web host says they host only blogs then they look at the demographic (normally the marketing department does this when determining who they should place ads with, etc). An audience centric niche starts with the audience, I want to host only the steampunk community, now what features do I offer for that end?

The steps involved are not too much different though it requires far more community participation and a passion for that niche.

Going back to the steampunk example, let’s develop a steampunk hosting service as a practical application. Our web hosting service will be called Steam Powered Hosting. To coincide with future marketing, we will have a “Are You Steam Powered?” badge for web sites who host through us that is an affiliate partnership, i.e. community sites who place it on their site will get a commission for any finalized sales they send our way. The web site will have a professional artist (from the community!) make the themes for it and there will be contests for steampunk theme creations (for wordpress, joomla, or just simple desktop themes).

When targeting an audience its always community, community, community. Next step is to look through all the main steampunk web sites and see what they all need. After looking through I identified that its pretty basic hosting, blogs, small (but detailed) shopping carts, decent hosting packages. The big thing I noticed is the lack of any form of SEO or marketing, in general the bulk of steampunk sites have low traffic. So I we will use basic hosting, but have artists who will work on custom artwork for our customers, and help our customers with branding, SEO, and other forms of marketing. Next thing I would do is get ALL of my employees into the community and discussing steampunk NOT hosting. They would write fan-fiction, develop tutorials on building steam engines, blimps, how to create models and landscapes, talk about the best sites they have seen, etc. When working with a niche community everyone in your company should be passionate about it.

Once established I would offer free hosting to the big players such as Brass Goggles. Only stipulation would be that they have the badge at the bottom (and I would make sure the badge was so cool looking that people wouldn’t want to say no).

With that taken care of, offer community support for your customers. Not just introductions, but if they have a question on how to properly modify a a 1936 Rolls Royce Phantom to be more steampunkish (first complement them on their excellent car choice) then either help them brainstorm or point them in the direction of an expert who can help. Heck the expert might be another customer of yours. Offering a support forum which would handle hosting, but would also include tutorials on a variety of topics. You employees have been writing for other forums and doing community outreach, why not republish or link what they already wrote onto your own forum?

All of this done, you are well on your way to developing a stable, profitable, and enjoyable hosting experience, for your customers and yourself.

This example can be applied in just about any niche too, so if you are looking at changing your niche or you are just starting and want to build a niche, don’t just look at a feature niche market, look at the audience niches as well.

Categories : Marketing
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Sep
23

SEM: Adding up changes – PPC Campaigns

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We human like bold moves. How many of us have cheered out our favorite teams who put up the winning, homerun, touchdown, goal, basket, etc when there is no time on the clock and the air is thick with tension? Or how many of us have made a big change in life and thought, “I’m starting a new chapter,” ceasing to realize that the turn of each page is just as important?

Ok so maybe I am being a little more philosophical than I should be since I am going to talk about marketing, but just as well I think we know where I am going with this. When it comes to search engines the tiniest of fractions add up and depending on how they add up they can produce BIG numbers.

Okay so lets get started. Examples, we will use a simple PPC Adwords campaign, search engine ranking on a key term, annnnnnnnnnnnnd lets go with a banner landing page. (I am just going to cover the PPC one today)

PPC Adwords

A few years back I was in a session led by Curtis R. Curtis. I believe it was at HostingCon. The important part was one of the speakers discussed PPC Adwords. He asked us how many people spent say more than $50 a month, then $100, then $1000, then $10,000, and one person there actually spent $20,000. Now mileage of course will vary when it comes to small changes, the company that spends $20k a month who receives a 1% savings will save a lot more than a company that only spends $500 a month, but the principles are of course the same. For this exercise, I am going to use a company whose budget is $1000 a month and they are running it for a year, so a $12k a month budget.

The basic principle of Google’s Adwords is simple; make a text based ad, targeting certain keywords. The amount of money you are willing to spend on a click + how many people click on the ad = the ranking of where it will show up on the search term pages. That said, so you wrote a really good ad and you spend $4 a click. The 1-3 positions for that main key term targeted by you add are spending $7 a click. So we’ll say you are somewhere around the 10th spot, however, web surfers like your ad better and click on it. After a few days of clicking your ad moves up to #3. You are spending less money than the others, but your ad was rewarded for its content so you are in the 3rd spot and are saving $3 a click over the #4 spot. In this, extremely basic, example you saved $3 a click and with an ad budget of $1k that would mean you save $750 a month. This is an extreme example of course to illustrate what our objective is.

The other side of the coin is Google likes putting your ad in areas that are similar to your keyword(s) to maximize your ppc dollar. Your main keyterm might cost $4 a click but Google puts you on something similar so lets say the original keyterm was web host deals, Google, being clever thinks hmmm host deals, host and hostess? Awesome I will put this ad with the hotel keywords as well. Now you might get a ton of clicks. But when they click through they see that you are selling web hosting and not party or hotel hosting deals. So they leave, but you still spent the money on them clicking on the ad. Since Google is trying to save you money, we’ll say this particular one was costing you $1 and was clicked 200 times before you caught it. You were up $750, but now you are down $200 so, so far you have saved $550. Not bad, but a very simple step would have saved you $200.

Little Thing #1:Negative Keyterms

There are two forms of keywords, normal and negative. Normally means this is what I want my ad to appear on (this and its derivatives). Negative keywords are those you don’t want your keywords on. Last time I talked with Ken Jurina at Epiar, he said that Google allows for 10,000 negative keywords, Yahoo allows 250, MSN allows 1,022 (with a cap of 100 characters apiece). Ken and Epiar both are the authority when it comes to negative keyterms and PPC campaigns in general. For some info on them check their rare negative keyword skills at Epiar.com.

You made your campaigns you have multiple ads and you have spotted your target keywords. Two things you need to do is brainstorm your keyword terms and even specific words within your phrases, and figure out what other industries they are associated with and add them to your negative keywords list. Each day you should check your PPC stats and see if you got clicks from odd keyword placements, add those to your negative keyword list. Each one can save you one cent to hundreds of dollars and it shouldn’t be too hard to get a few hundred. If you actually want 10k of them then sign up with Epiar (If you have a big budget for your PPC campaigns, then you should go to Epiar or another quality consultant).

Little Thing #2: Ad swap

Review, rewrite, refresh! I am going to say this every time, over and over again. Any ad campaign online that you do you need to make sure your ads are fresh. Depending on the venue this can mean swapping them out everyday, every other day, or every week. The thing is we are not even looking at big changes, we are going for small ones first. Capitalize every first letter on the second line. Swap out one word something more actionable. Swap the first and second line. Capitalize words in your domain name. Whatever, there are billions of combinations for any single ad and you should try going through them. Those who do this I salute you, now the next step. Do not base your swapping on one keyword phrase and do not base your success on clickthroughs, it should be based on conversions.

So you have 10 ads ready to go. You put two up at 50% each and you track how many clicks and the conversions on those clicks. You notice one is rocking across the board the other one isn’t doing very well. Swap out the poor performer put in one of your new ones. Check it again. You notice one of the keywords (not your main) in your list is doing really well on the new one, but the new one isn’t doing so well for all your other terms. Put that keyword into its own placement with the good performing ad and deal with it separately. Going back to your main, drop the underperformer and swap it with a good one. The new ad has low clicks but you notice its conversion rate is through the roof. No time to be sentimental, the first ad had a great one but its time to swap it for the new ad.

This is a constant process – it is very important (to the point of if you are not going to do it there is no point in running PPC ads). It’s really not that much work either. The corrections take maybe a 10-20 mins to do per ad and you should already be tracking your ads anyway. This trick though has been known to save companies thousands and can really make your PPC campaigns pay for themselves with conversions.

Little Thing #3: Decrease your bid

In marketing, there have been many stories about companies that increased or decreases the cost of the products and ended up either making huge gains or classic blunders. One can hardly forget Cadillac and their ill-fated venture into economy cars. The car was not only failure but it knocked Cadillac out of the top luxury car spot in America because shoppers were now confused on whether Cadis were luxury cars any more. The thing is sometimes you can adjust the cost per click on your ads. After a few months of them being on there, drop the bid by a cent or so. Wait a week. If nothing happens drop it another cent. Going back to our example, it can get a maximum of 250 clicks on the main keyphrase (if you haven’t used Adwords, I am greatly oversimplifying this, in practice you get a more diverse amount of clicks and 1 cent can really save you a lot more than what I am about to say). our company has decided to be bold and reduced their bid by 10 cents. The “gamble” worked and their position is unmoved. Instead of spending $1,000 for the month and getting 250 clicks they instead spent $998.40 and received 256 clicks. One minor
change is all it took.

Little Thing #4: Check your organic traffic

This one actually slips a lot of peoples’ minds. say you are have your Google ads targeted at keywords that you aren’t doing so well in (a noble and worthwhile goal) and then one day you end up placing high on a keyword in the organic search. If your organic position is better than your ad position, its probably a good idea to make that keyword a negative keyword for your Adword campaign. Why pay for a click when you can get them for free?

Well that’s four quick areas that can save you some cash with PPCs. All told, all of these can be a few hours a week and I would think a few hours is definitely worth the potential gains.

Categories : Marketing
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Sep
16

Marketing Jargon: What is Cloud Computing?

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Some may think it odd to include cloud computing as marketing jargon, but it seems that each day I read more and more articles on how the cloud does this, and the cloud does that. True, cloud computing is a technology, but often times it seems it is being used for more than that, like a silver bullet, a tourniquet that can solve all of a business’ problems, and you get the point.

Although there is plenty of confusion on the meaning of cloud computing I think the confusion lies more in the exacts… the details, then anything else.

“The idea of cloud computing comes from the early days of the internet where we drew the network as a cloud. So we didn’t care where the messages went.. the go inside come out the other and the cloud hid it from us. That meant we didn’t need to think about routing we didn’t need to think about networks, so we had a cloud around packets. The next evolution was we had the World Wide Web, which gave us a cloud around documents, you could put your URL in and you could get a document back from anywhere around the world.”

– Kevin Marks, Developer Advocate – Google

Cloud Computing is the thought that the network becomes the platform. Instead of saying I have a Mac, I have a PC, I have a desktop, I have a laptop, I have a mobile, we will say I have a network. This is a very simple concept when you get down to it. However, like many technologies the worth of it is not found necessarily in how it is implemented, but in what it can do for you.

Centralization: Install once – patch once. Applications need only be installed one time and they can then be used on all of your devices. Same with upgrades and patches; patch once and all of your devices will benefit. The same goes for your documents, update, say a presentation using your laptop and when you open that presentation on your desktop the saved version is there ready to go. As long as your devices can connect to the cloud all of your stuff will be able accessible from any device, anywhere in the world.

Compatibility: A fully produced cloud computing solution can make it so you can use the same tools on your laptop, desktop, cell-phone, without syncing the information or sharing information across. Since the information is centralized all you need is a means to connect with the information, nothing more.

Maintenance Cheap: Cloud computing offers SMBs and personal users the chance to leverage resources that hereto only enterprise sized companies could use.

Reliability: The problem with things that are centralized is the all your eggs in one basket problem. If your basket is attacked all of your eggs are destroyed. Not so with cloud computing. Since the network is the platform and not some server, if a server with your information on it gets destroyed you still have the rest of the network. The larger the network (the more individual computers and connections that make it up) the more reliable the cloud becomes.

Adding this all together and cloud computing is an extremely powerful platform for personal and business use. In the words of Tim O’Reilly Founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, cloud computing fulfills the Internet and makes it the “network of networks.” All you have to do is plug yourself in and hold on tight.

But this would not be a marketing jargon article if I stopped there. As a concept, cloud computing will in fact be the next generation. I have no doubts about this, but there are many things that need to be ironed out first.

Non-Standardized: This is currently being worked on, but one of the main problems is no standardization of cloud platforms. Earlier this year several cloud computing firms went under. Since there isn’t a standard, applications built for those clouds did not port over to other clouds. This unfortunately left several businesses in the lurch.

Security: Yet another area being worked on is security. Cloud computing is the perfect antithesis to things like DDOS attacks (hackers will have to leverage an extreme amount of bots to wipe out information in a large cloud and again the bigger the better), but imagine all your data with one centralized login accessible anywhere in the world. Hackers can breach financial institutions, they will be able to breach the cloud. Authentication will have to be beefed up and even more important, businesses must enforce security protocols with their employees.

A New Business Model: Businesses will have to adapt to a new business model. Previously, a business would look at how many workers they had and could then purchase computers on a 1 for 1 or maybe a 2 for 1 basis (maybe a desktop and some sort of mobile device like an UMPC or laptop). They could also plan to purchase servers based on needs. Overall, cloud computing will save businesses money since you purchase what you need, but the average business is ill prepared to understand what they will need and may sorely under-budget resources. This point alone makes it difficult for businesses to migrate. Right now you know how much it costs to buy a computer, and you probably don’t know how much your computers cost in maintenance and power. You will then compare the computer price (without the maintenance costs) to the cloud price and assume the cloud price is more expensive. There maybe a lot of questions as to the cloud being always on and thus you loose money because of that, migration of data costs, training on the new systems, and a host of other costs will make businesses pause before wanting to jump in. Those businesses who do not budget these costs, nor even think about these costs and jump unto the cloud might feel cheated and may even take it out on the Web Hosts.

Cloud computing is a lot like the automobile. Back when cars were first invented there was a huge amount of problems. There weren’t mechanics and gas stations everywhere, in fact people took their cars to bicycle mechanics to get them fixed. The average road was a horrible drive for a car since they were bumpy and shock absorbers weren’t invented yet. Many cars back then depending on the roads were far slower than horses. All of these problems (far more than what cloud computing is facing) and yet it would be difficult picturing a city without cars in it. Most people probably couldn’t go without a car.

When you get past the marketing jargon and pie in the sky platitudes, cloud computing is still the way of the future, make no mistake about it.

Categories : Marketing
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Sep
09

Marketing Jargon: What is Intuitive?

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Intuitive is a word that gets thrown around a lot. You will see it in press releases, reviews, sales literature, and pretty much on anything that carries some form of interaction. Intuitive interface, intuitive controls, design, layout, well heck just take any word and slap intuitive on it and you can be your own marketing team.

Webster defines intuitive as “directly apprehended” and “known or perceived by intuition.” I am sure that last definition really helped.

Unlike most marketing jargon, I do not utterly distain intuitive. Although I think it has been used way too often, it is a word that should be the basic goal of one of the most important pieces of a Web Host’s offerings and that is the control panel. It should also be the basic goal of Web Designers when it comes to their design.

What is Intuitive? I define intuitive as any set of functions that do not require users to learn a new skill set. For control panels, if you take any computer user and sit them in front of a control panel they should be able to use all the functionality of that control panel without having to look at a manual or use the help icon. That is intuitive. Now I know what you are saying, how can someone with an extremely limited use of the computer actually use all the functionality of a control panel that a system administration would use? Parallels solved this problem in their Panels 10 SMB edition by adding user roles. If an employee only knows how to use email then all they get is email on their control panel.

For Web designers a web site is intuitive if a surfer can find what they are looking for without having to double back. That is intuitive. This includes but is not limited to the inclusion of multiple avenues of search/browsing (categories, tags, search bar, wiki-links, etc), landing pages for ads and news items, reducing the amount of clicks needed to get to descriptions (ie removing things like clicking on a product summary to get a product page and from their getting a full product feature list, then clicking on another link to bring you back to the buy page, and so on), charts and graphs for comparing multiple items, most popular sections, calendarized itemization, and the list goes on.

Intuitive maybe overused, it can end up being senseless marketing jargon, but if you provide services or products on the internet, then intuitive better be your standard.

Categories : Marketing
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A lot of the blogs I have been doing of late have been centered on Twitter, so why stop now? However, this will probably the last Twitter post for… well at least a few weeks.

I don’t think there is any question as to why many media outlets are having financial problems. They simply do not understand the new media. I read an article from News Factor called Top Media Execs Wonder How Twitter Will Make Money and I couldn’t help laughing.

What is interesting about online media is that is requires technical proficiency and creativity. Its a medium that requires new ideas and new ways of thinking.

“I think it’s a great service. I just don’t think it’s a natural advertising medium,” said Diller, who heads online conglomerate InterActiveCorp.

John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media Corp., also believes Twitter will be hard-pressed to sell advertising on its messaging service without alienating users. Twitter’s best bet, Malone said, probably is to simply get people so addicted to the service that they might eventually pay fees.

But see this is why newspapers are closing and magazines are reducing circulation or like PC Magazine, no longer in print media.

Media executives want to know how Twitter will make money and I look at Twitter and think how can it not?

First off, clear your head of advertisements. Push that to the curb. The bulk of the Twitter using populace probably wouldn’t click on a link or even consider flashing banners, ad links, sponsorships, etc. Although I have a few ideas how they could get advertising to work lets look at the main things Twitter can do.

The acquisition of a company like Tweet Later. Tweet Later has a long list of features that are very useful for a lot of Twitterers. If Twitter doesn’t purchase this company they could develop these tools on their own. The addition of the professional tools for a small fee. Malone said that Twitter needs to get people so addicted that they might eventually pay fees… silliness. According to their site, Tweet Later service has  more than 100,000 users. The service is about 30 bucks a month and users, especially business and marketers, use it. If Twitter picked it up and 10% of the users paid for the tools, Twitter would be looking at ~$140 million a year.

Twitter could produce a system of development tools to software companies for easier interface. The toolkit would be free, but could include a support channel for a nominal monthly fee. Or have the toolkit cost a certain amount of money and add support fees to it. The Twitter modding community is already quite large and the vast array of tools for Twitter is one of its main features, if programmers had even more access to Twitter controls that market could become even larger than it is now.

Twitter could offer a la carte services. They could have the Tweet Later tools, maybe a UI like TweetDeck or Twirl, etc and make it so you can say grab five “power” features for $5 or 15 features for $9.99. By making it user choice as far as the features you get for the fee, users can purchase what they need, making the population of paying customers larger. Heck, Twitter could even make a marketplace so users can see everything Twitter has to offer and all of the tools other companies have, free or fee based.

Now back to advertising. Twitter can make gateway ad landing pages if they wanted for all URLs that are clicked on from tweets. Personally, I wouldn’t like it, but it wouldn’t make me stop clicking on links I find in tweets considering roughly 80% of the links I have clicked on have been very useful.

I am not really going to mention the other ideas I have because this is becoming quite a long blog, but I hope people see the potential is there without too much work for Twitter to become quite profitable and they can do it without advertising or mandatory subscriptions like the pedestrian media magnets believe. Principles here can be applied to any industry as well. You find what people want and you give it to them in the best possible way and in doing so you provide a great service and the customer will be happy to pay for it

Categories : Marketing
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