Friday, May 02, 2008

Web Hosting Switching Opus

Web Hosting: To Switch or to Stay?

That’s a question that can only be answered by you. Depending on your current status and relationship you have with your provider, along with your evolving business objectives and needs, can determine what course of action to pursue. What are your issues and concerns? Ask yourself some basic questions and see where you stand after you’ve answered them. -Are you no longer satisfied with your current provider? -Did they deliver on the level of services that you signed up for? -Has technical support and customer service been to your satisfaction? -Or has your business grown considerably, and the hosting company cannot provide you with the level of capability and technical support you require?

Technically speaking, if you’re looking for solutions out of frustration, or even a new web hosting provider, you’re either very unsatisfied with the service, or you find that they cannot provide you the service you are looking for to handle your business. Switching isn’t always a bad thing to do, especially if your business isn’t doing well with that one particular provider. It’s time to move on and get your online presence back on track. Unfortunately, for every good thing, there is a negative side. The flip side of finding a new provider is that you’re back at square one. Before you decide, whether to stay or switch, do some research and find some indicators to help you make a sound decision.

The last thing you want to do is be surprised, even though you may have seen the writing on the wall with your web host provider, but didn’t jump on the intuition that something was brewing. If your web host goes under, or doesn’t address your technical problems, you could lose sales, and what’s worse; you may not be accessible to users on the Internet. A good theory with anything is to have Plan B, to handle those setbacks that could otherwise be devastating to your business. To stay in the loop, and on top of your business, here are some things to be on the look out for in regards to your web host provider.

-Support is nowhere to be found. This is one big indicator that the provider is having some difficulties within the business. You’re not getting prompt attention when you call or email with concerns or issues. If they fail to respond to your emails or calls, you have a reason to be concerned. The company may have laid off staff, or is disorganized in processing customer service requests, which could indicate financial difficulties. If you have tried numerous attempts in phoning, or emailing to reach a human person to respond, it’s time to find a new host provider before that hosting company goes under. Keep in mind, the better the support center and technical support; the more stable the web host provider. -Free is not always good. Web hosting companies that offer free services or services of a minimal charge where they cannot make a profit are ones that are generally in trouble. Stay clear of those, and if you started out with one of these ‘freebies’, it would be a good idea to find a good reputable paying service. If you haven’t run into any problems, consider yourself very lucky. But do decide if you feel comfortable with the prospective performance of such a company in the long term, and ask yourself how the company can turn a profit with no rates or low rates. Always remember, ‘you get what you pay for.’ -Reputation of the Web Host. With the nature of the thousands of web hosting providers online, they are relatively very low profile and you don’t really read or hear anything particular about them. But if you find coverage regarding a web host company, make sure it’s good stuff; otherwise you know what action to take if it’s negative. Stay on top of your web host provider newsletters and articles about changes in management, a buyout, a merger, or layoffs. Be aware of such changes, though certainly not always, result in decreased communication or support for the client. If it smells fishy, go with that gut feeling, and find a new host. You can start at, where they gather all the reputable and most trusted hosting companies in the industry.

-Visit the Web Site of the Web Host regularly. Participate in various discussion groups or forums to see what other businesses are saying about the web host provider. See a lot of negativity? You should have a backup plan ready to go if you are viewing mainly complaints and problems with poor customer support and the quality of service. That’s a sure sign that the provider isn’t doing well. Check out their website to see if their prices are grossly inflated compared to what you purchased the service for. Granted, businesses need to have price increases every now and then, but if they seen overly inflated, that’s a sure sign that something is seriously wrong. Make sure that the web host provider is still providing services and packages. If you find that it isn’t being offered or the site itself has changed with less to offer, which tells you that the company may be phasing out of operation. You want to be hosting with someone else before they shut down.

-Limited service or capabilities. You may be having a great relationship with your current provider, but your business needs have grown and your web host cannot accommodate your upgrade capabilities and technical support for your growing company. You have no other option, than to leave this host on a good note, and find one that will offer you the approximate service and surpass the previous host provider.

Every website needs a home and any web host provider will gladly (beg) house your site. If you’ve made the decision to go with a new provider, it’s time to go on a new search. The best advice is to select a provider with many years of experience is a smart decision... Listen to your colleagues and go where they have had the best luck and let them show you what their web host provider is doing for them. Hopefully, with the experience you have learned with your previous web host provider, you will make the right long term choice. is dedicated to providing free emarketing resources and online promotion tools. - help for all your web hosting needs.

Article may be republished if this portion is not removed.

Labels: , ,

Web Statistic Ode

Metrics Matter!

Recently, I talked with a speaker about her "extremely successful" Website. She based this opinion on the fact that she was selling several e-books every day and generating "some calls". When I asked if she was reviewing her traffic analysis, she said "No, why should we - it's clearly working - we can tell that from the sales". I didn't ask if she knew how her sales and calls compared to the actual visitor numbers for the site - I suspected that she'd have been shocked to learn how many more opportunities she was losing.

Metrics Matter!!

If you don't know what's happening with your Website visitors, where they go, what they're looking for, what they respond to, and what turns them off about your site, you can't possibly make the most of your online potential. Your Web traffic reports offer unprecedented opportunities to analyze these relationships on a one-to-one basis.

Here are some examples of using your metrics to ask intelligent questions and make informed adjustments to your site:

Tracking your Promotional Efforts

There are many ways to promote your site, both online and offline. Some are free and some, while not costing money, do take up time and effort. It's important to know the marketing options that generate the best return on investment for all your resources.

Joyce Weiss works with her public relations consultants to analyze the immediate impact of her radio appearances on her Website traffic (at She said "This way we can decide if the Website needs to be tweaked for radio shows, or if I need to say something different on the shows to get people to sign up."

Following the links to your site (called "refering URL's in the reports) can be very useful in creating good professional relationships. Often, site owners won't tell you that they've quoted you so it's important to check that the reference is appropriate.

And, it's important to say thank you. I once followed a link to my site and found that one of my articles was required reading for a course at the University of Southern Oregon. When I dropped a note to the Professor telling him how honored I was, he replied "Not at all, I really like your ideas - and by the way, we're looking for a speaker for our next conference . . ."

Dave Paradi does this too: "I do check out those sites that link to mine. One time I found that the link was to an old page, so I wrote to them and suggested that they update the link. I was also able to mention my other articles that would benefit their visitors."

If you're paying for traffic, make sure that the keywords you've selected, or the sites that you're advertising on are generating good quality leads. Abby Marks-Beale told me how she does this:

"I've set up separate portal pages for those who come to me from my pay-per-click program through Overture. This way I can see if the program is really working."

In other words, you can create special entry pages for visitors from Overture, Google AdWords, e-zines that you sponsor, or other campaigns. If a visitor enters through one of these pages, they can only have come from this one specific source. Then you can follow where on your site these visitors subsequently go, how they respond and ultimately decide whether they're good leads and whether your money is well spent.

Hot Content Areas

Your traffic reports list the most requested pages on your site, telling you what's hot and what's not about your content. If you're offering downloadable articles or special reports, you can see which of these are most popular.

Mitchell Gooze makes a point of doing this: "We track white paper downloads by person, and we know exactly who downloads which white papers. We store this information in their data records. We also know which topics are most interesting to visitors."

Knowing the hot content areas on your site can give you great ideas for future product and program development. Rita Risser ( developed a whole set of online checklists and policy guideline documents based around the subjects that her visitors were searching for.

Calls to Action

One of my favorite mantras is "Every Page of your Site Should Have a Strategy". You should absolutely know which segment of your target audience each page is aimed at, what's in it for them and what you want as a result. Provide clear (and clickable) calls to action at every point in your copy where the reader might be ready to make the next move - whether it's "Sign up for our newsletter", "Buy our product", or "Contact me to ask about our services".

Sometimes this means directing the visitor to the next page that you'd like them to see. Dave Paradi told me:

"I realized that people were entering my site on one of two specific pages, which are a couple of my articles that now have great placement on Google. I also noticed that almost all of these visitors entered and exited on that page, not visiting any other pages.

"So how could I get them to see the rest of the site - particularly the products that I hoped they would buy? I included a link to my products page at the bottom of each article. And last month, the products page jumped to the second most visited page, and it appears that many visitors, based on the value of the articles, are checking out the products."

And he's taking this a step further:

"It hasn't yet resulted in increased orders, but I think the next area I need to address is writing more successful copy for the products page."

At the Risk of Repeating Myself . . .

I like to think of Web traffic analysis as "market research that cannot lie". The reports show you what visitors do on your site of their own accord, without prompting or other influence. Not to discount focus groups, surveys and asking your favorite clients for feedback - those are important tools as well, but not as powerful.

So, if you haven't clearly defined the strategies, target markets and outcomes for your site, and if you aren't looking at your metrics to evaluate the success of these, then you're shooting in the dark with your Web investment. The examples in this article show you just a few of the many ways that you can use this information - I hope that you're now motivated to find out more about your own site.

Author, Philippa Gamse, CyberSpeaker, is a Web strategy consultant and professional speaker. Check out her free tipsheet for 23 ideas to promote your Website: Philippa can be reached at (831) 465-0317. (c) Philippa Gamse. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , ,

Reciprocal Link Dead Poem

Is Reciprocal Linking Dead?

I just read an article at SitePro News that really rings my bell.

It was written by Mike Banks Valentine. Obviously being a very successful webmaster, one must pay attention to his words and his most recent article really mirrors my thoughts.

Having just completed constructing a new website for my personal use, I have been looking for optimization improvements.

The current rage is “reciprocal linking” so I went about searching for some reciprocal links. To my dismay I discovered websites that contained lists of links in directories that appear nearly useless as far as pointing potential customers to my site. I completed arrangements for link swaps with a few, only to go back and find it impossible to find my link.

Caught up in the frenzy, I had begun to get drawn in to this game. Then I took a step backward. This craziness can’t be adding anything of value to any of these websites. Should I participate anymore? I think not.

However it was reading Mike’s words this morning that brought home the point that was nagging away at me and sitting in some little corner of my head.

This can’t be a good thing and it can’t hold up as a relevant marker for search engine ranking. What I am seeing is just too ridiculous.

I am an amateur webmaster by world standards but I don’t like to be a “gimmick man.” I would really like my website to stand on it’s own two feet and have it judged by what you are reading. This links thing appeared to be a farce to me. I’m not into a bunch of “flash” and I won’t rely on gimmicks.

Does that mean my website will never make it?

I don’t think so. I will work on the important things and pay attention to the credible things. Mike’s efforts and words will stand the test of time. I am sure of that. Gimmicks will come and go. I may not be making the best of what seems like “the magic bullet’ but I will work to improve the aspects that will stand the test of time.

Does that mean it will take longer to rank well?

Maybe, but once it gets there, it shouldn’t quickly go away simply because some gimmick that I utilized has been banished. It should stand the test of time!

Will I take more pride in my accomplishment?

Definitely yes. I realize that in this day and age of competition that “pride” may not be a factor. It is all about money and “do it fast”. I still believe there is a place for pride. And to repeat Mike’s words “put some content in your website”. I bet it will bring more return viewers to your site. If they have found something of value, they will return to it.

Let’s get it back to Pride and Quality.

Let your investment Stand the test of time!

Author, Tom Henricks, is a small website publisher and also a licenced fishing guide in Ontario Canada.

Labels: , ,

Internet Safety Serenade

Can They Use Your Website In A TV Broadcast About Scams?

When you designed your website, you probably dreamt about how wonderful it would be if one day a popular TV program featured it, and you would become famous overnight, and make lots of $$$.

Well, practice shows that your dream for your website to be featured on national TV can indeed come true, but NOT exactly in the way you imagined!

A couple of questions for you to answer:

  • Can your website be used, without your permission, in a broadcast about scams?
  • Can your personal photo, without you knowing about it, be displayed in a TV program about illegal activities?

If you think “No way!”, think again – it already happens! (Real-life case study can be found at

And even more – it may turn out to be absolutely legal!!!

You wouldn’t think about it this way, would you? You probably think that if such a thing happens to you, you can sue the TV program and retire young and rich?

What a misconception!

Now, let me elaborate a little on the subject of defamation and defamation law, how it works offline and online.

The relationship between online and offline Media is very young, and therefore, unregulated. In fact, online publications are legally recognized as a public media on its own. This means, a publication of a defamatory statement on your website, forum or mailing list CAN be prosecuted in the same fashion as a publication in a newspaper.

But now, since Internet is considered a public media, any information that is published on your website may be also considered as being in a *public domain*, which means ANY information that is available online may be used by another media publication in their review of other publications. The use of this information will be legal.

What does it mean for YOU?

It means that a TV program or a newspaper can use a snapshot of your website in their publication or broadcast. They can use images of your website, and they are legally allowed to do it!

A TV program, for example, can show pages of your website when talking about the industry trends or to illustrate a topic of the broadcast.

Now, what if the program is about SCAMS in your industry?

For example, what if a TV program decided to highlight fraud in delivering merchandise or services purchased via Internet?

The TV broadcast could show your website in the beginning of the program, as one of many websites delivering this type of merchandise or services, and then go onto discussing fraud issues and interviews with victims of online scams.

It is apparent that displaying the pages of your website in such a context could hurt your reputation, even if the program did not name your website and only used its web pages as background images.

Legally, a TV program is allowed to use the pages of your website in a broadcast. Are they allowed to use the pages of your website in the context of illegal activities?

This is an uncertain issue.

As we already said, the relationship between online and offline media don’t have specific regulations.

Normally, a media publication is allowed to use any factual content related to a matter of public interest.

Since most illegal activities and their prevention ARE a matter of public interest, the media publication has the privileged defence of *public interest matter*, should you voice your disagreement with the use of your website and decide to sue the program for defamation.

Proving in court that the TV program was defamatory for you will not be easy. You will have to present hard evidence that such a publication could hurt your reputation as the owner of that business, and that there were people who identified you as the owner of the business shown in the program and that the program indeed portrayed you in the way that some people would *shun, avoid or ridicule* you because of the way your business was portrayed. You must also prove that such use of your website was unfair and did not fall under the privilege of *fair comment*, available to Media. You also may be required, depending on the defamation laws in your country or state, to present the evidences of monetary loss due to the broadcast of the alleged defamation.

Defamation cases against large media corporations can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, because of the tactics that those media corporations use to prevent the plaintiff (the person who believes he was defamed) from getting his case to the stage of court hearing. The plaintiff has to spend a fortune on lawyers (you do not want a low cost lawyer defending your defamation case against a large, experienced in legal battles media corporation), before the case is ready to proceed to the court and all requests of the defendant are satisfied. Then another fortune is to be spent on court hearings, which may also be sabotaged – of course, in legally permitted ways.

Even then, the outcome of your defamation case is unpredictable. It will, firstly, depend on your lawyers. Secondly, it will depend on your witnesses, who, by the time your case goes to the court, which can be a few years down the line, can forget most things related to the defamation issue, and therefore appear unreliable. And then the large media corporation still has the privilege of *fair comment* and *public interest matter*.

At the end of the day, if your defamation case is unsuccessful, you will be required to pay the legal fees of the defendant, which will double your legal bill, and can easily reach payments of $200,000-300,000.

Now, you can see that dealing with a large media corporation in a legal way can be suicidal for a small online business.

So, what can you do to prevent using the contents of your website in a way you disapprove?

A mere copyright notice is not enough in this case.

You need to employ your imagination and make sure you spell in an unambiguous way that any use of your website content can be contemplated only with your explicit written permission. Add this statement to your Terms Of Use Agreement (if you do not have one, write it NOW!). Make sure there is a link to this Agreement on every page of your website.

For example:

* Your use of website specifies that you agree to comply with this Terms Of Use Agreement. Every time you use website you void to confirm your agreement with this Terms Of Use Agreement. The content available through website is the sole property of XYZ, Ltd, and is protected by copyright, trademark and other intellectual property laws. Except as otherwise explicitly agreed in writing, XYZ -owned content received through the XYZ website may be downloaded, displayed, reformatted and printed for your personal, non-commercial use only, through the means of your home computer. You agree not to reproduce, retransmit, distribute, sell, publish, broadcast or circulate, or in any way disclose the information received through the XYZ website to anyone, without XYZ 's prior written consent. All information published on XYZ website should be treated as private and confidential and the publication of such information on XYZ website does not specify that this information is in the public domain. Any reproduction, retransmission, distribution, selling, publishing, broadcasting or circulating of the information received through XYZ website, without explicit written permission of XYZ, will be illegal and prosecuted as such. *

If desired, a note that the information on the site should NOT be considered as being in *public domain* can be added to your Privacy Policy.

It may also help to create a special page named “press” and place there your press release, which you would like Media to use if they want to make a reference to your website. Place the link “Press” on your home page where it cannot be missed. Request them to contact you prior to any use of your website in their publications. Put there all your contact details including phone and fax and the name of the person responsible for press enquires. Include on this page the information that you disapprove using your website contents and images, unless you gave your explicit permission in writing, and that the information on your website is NOT in the public domain.

This of course may not help against unscrupulous reporters, if they REALLY want to use YOUR SITE in a negative context; but in case if the reporters just browsing the Internet for a picture to use, they will rather select a site that does not have this warning.

Even if they use your site despite the warning, you will have a much better case and can complain to a broadcasting authority that the program breached privacy or other regulations specified in the rules for a broadcast in your country.

Media has multiple privileges in defamation cases, and this you cannot change. But as website owners we have our own privileges, too!

We have the privilege of writing our own Terms Of Use. Internet is a much less regulated field than any offline business, where you seldom have a way to make every customer sign your disclaimer and terms of use prior to using your service. On the Internet, by the mere use of your website, visitors may be bound by your Terms Of Use Agreement.

Don’t miss out on writing YOUR own rules of the game!

Author, Elena Petrova, is the founder of the website – a website devoted to dealing with defamation issues online. Visit today to learn about defamation law and how it works in regard to online publications. (c) Elena Petrova.

Labels: , , ,

Web Design Hint Verse

50 Surefire Web Design Tips

Tips to brand your website

  • Include your logo in all pages. Position it at the top left or each page.
  • Complement your logo with a tagline or catchy sentence that summarizes your business purpose. For example "Always low prices" is the tagline for Wal-Mart.
  • Create a favicon. A favicon is that small graphic that appears next to the URL in the address bar.
  • Have a consistent look and feel in all your pages. Use a color scheme and layout that are clearly recognized across your site.
  • Have an About Us section, that includes all relevant information about you and your business.
  • Include a copyright statement at the bottom of each page.

Tips on website navigation

  • Design your pages to load in less than 10 seconds (50Kb maximum size, including pictures).
  • Group your navigational options in relevant categories.
  • Use common names for your menu options: Home, About Us, Contact Us, Help, Products. Avoid "clever" or "trendy" alternatives.
  • If your site uses Flash, provide also an HTML version for users who prefer a less fancy, faster site.
  • Provide simple text navigation links at the bottom of long pages, so users don’t need to scroll back up.
  • Link your logo to your homepage, except in the homepage itself. Put a link to your homepage on all your internal pages.
  • Display a "breadcrumb trail"; it is basically the path from the homepage to the page where you are. A breadcrumb trail looks like this: Home > Section > Sub-Section > Page, and it greatly facilitates navigation.
  • If your site is too big, provide Search capabilities. Include a search box in the upper right corner of your homepage, and a link to a Search page from your interior pages. Freefind ( ) offers you a free and powerful search engine for your site.
  • Set your search box to search your site, not to search the web.
  • Create a custom error page that displays a simple site map with links to the main sections of your site. That way, you will not lose visitors that have followed a bad link to your site or who have misspelled your URL.

Tips on Layout and Content Presentation

  • Save the top of your page for your most important content. Remember: good content must flow to the top.
  • Lay out your page with tables, and set the width in percentage terms instead of a fixed number of pixels. That way, your page will always fit the screen, without the need to scroll horizontally.
  • Optimize your page to be viewed best at 800x600 (the most popular resolution at the time of this writing).
  • Use high contrast for the body of your page: black text on white background, or white text on black background work best.
  • Don’t use too many different fonts in one page. Also, avoid using small serif fonts (like Times Roman): they are difficult to read from a computer screen. Verdana is the most web-friendly font, since it is wide, clean and easy to read.
  • Avoid long blocks of text. Use tools that facilitate scanability, like bullets, subtitles, highlighted keywords, hyperlinks, etc.
  • Avoid amateurish features like: numeric page counters, wholesale use of exclamation points, all caps, center justified blocks of text, excessive animated gifs, busy backgrounds, etc.
  • Don’t use pop-up windows. They distract your visitors and are immediately dismissed as ads.
  • Test your site so that it looks good in different browsers and resolutions.

Tips on Writing for the Web

  • Write in layman’s terms so that everybody can understand your content, unless you’re running a technical site for technical people.
  • Reading from a screen is painful: use 50% less words than you would use on print.
  • If a page is too long, break it into several pages and link to them.
  • Don’t use font sizes smaller than 10pt. for the body of your page. Specify your fonts in percentage terms instead of pixels, to let users set their own size preferences using their browser’s text view options.
  • Use a spell checker. Spelling mistakes are embarrassing and hurt credibility.

Tips to Know Your Customers

  • Ask for feedback: include a feedback form in your Contact Us page.
  • Publish an ezine and include a subscription form in your homepage. Give your customers valuable information and encourage them to contact you.
  • Include polls and other tools to gather market intelligence.

Tips on Linking

  • Make your links descriptive. They should indicate what the user will be linking to, as opposed to just saying "click here".
  • Don’t underline anything that is not a link.
  • Underline your links and use a consistent color for them across your site (preferably blue).
  • Use a different color for visited links, so that your visitors know where they’ve been (preferably purple or a more subdued tone of the unvisited links color).
  • When linking to a non-HTML file, such as Excel, Word or Acrobat, make it evident, by including a small icon next to the link.
  • Don’t link to "under construction" pages.
  • Make sure that your links work and that you don’t have broken links. There are free online tools that can help you with this.
  • If you use graphic links, don’t forget to use the ALT attribute. The ALT attribute should describe what are you linking to.

Tips on how to use graphics

  • Optimize your graphics. Use only .gif and .jpg formats. Make your image files as small as possible while maintaining acceptable quality. Use a free online graphics optimization tool.
  • Use thumbnails (miniature versions of a picture) and make them clickable to the actual size picture.
  • Avoid graphics that look like ads. People ignore them.
  • Use the ALT attribute on pictures, even the image is not a link. It helps users with disabilities and people who have turned off graphics.

Tips to optimize your site for the search engines:

  • Create short, descriptive page titles, to entice search engine users to click on your links.
  • Create a site map containing all your pages, and link to it directly from your homepage. Search engine robots will follow the link to your site map and will most likely add all your pages to the index.
  • Decide what the two or three main keywords are for each page (the words you believe search engine users will type to find your page) and repeat them often in your page title, description meta tag and page body.
  • Create a Links page and call it Resources. In it, place links to those sites that have agreed to place a reciprocal link to your page. The more inbound links you have from quality sites with a topic related to your site, the better your site will rank with the search engines.
  • Use more text than graphics, and minimize the use of Flash and JavaScript. Search engines heavily favor text and will crawl and index your site faster.

Author, Mario Sanchez, publishes The Internet Digest ( ), a collection of web design and Internet marketing tips and resources to help you design a better website and market it more effectively.

Labels: , ,

Web Design Creating Opus

How To Build Your First Web Site

Getting Started!

Most Internet service providers offer their customers a space to place a basic site on the World Wide Web. With this basic site you will get your very own URL. (Universal Resource Locater) This will be your business address on the web. Now, anyone who knows your URL will know how to contact you on the World Wide Web. Even if they are on the other side of the world!

Many other places exist where you can easily set up a free website.

Or surf to

Type Free Web Host into the search box. And then check out the top Free Web Host. Comparing their services.

Here are even more reasons to build a website!

  • To start a business.
  • To promote a business.
  • Advertise where guest can find a Wedding.
  • Information on an upcoming family reunion.
  • To put together a class reunion and find classmates.
  • Publish ideas about life to the world.
  • Publish works of art and literature to the world.
  • Build a site to help with a charity or personal project.

You will need to learn a little HTML. Web pages are written in HTML. This is a special language read by computers. Don't panic! HTML(hyper text markup language) is easy to learn. Here's a few online resources:


HTML Goodies


Many special editors are available to guide you in composing HTML documents.

Microsoft Front Page


Or download one of the WYSIWYG editors. (What You See Is What You Get!)

With these editors you can easily compose web pages without knowing any HTML at all. Go to the site below and type in WYSIWYG Editors in the search box.

Or you might decide to use the editor at one of the free host to compose your first website.

In addition, the web host usually supply website templates. You plug in your important information and build a professional looking website quickly. All sounds to good to be true. But it is!

Many free web host also supply users with WYSIWYG Editors.

Thanks to technological advances and improved software, composing your first professional looking website is a breeze.

BB Lee is Editor/Publisher of SmallBizBits FREE Home Based Business Newsletter. Subscribe Now and receive a free ebook bonus. Visit

Labels: , , , ,

Got Spam Ode

How Can I Stop Getting Spam?

Are you getting too much spam? We all are, but if you're a webmaster the word spam takes on a whole new meaning.

It’s not uncommon for the luckiest of email users to receive a dozen or so spam messages each day, while those of us who aren’t so fortunate receive hundreds.

The casual home user tends to be more fortunate, so this article is devoted to those of us with one or more website because webmasters are getting hit by spam … and hit hard.

The reason … a website doesn’t do you much good if you don’t give potential customers a way to contact you, and that normally means posting an email address on your website, where it is vulnerable to email address harvesting tools used by spammers. Domain registration records are also a common source used by spammers.

In order to conduct business online you now need to sift through the endless barrage of offers for herbal viagra, pornography, pyramid schemes, and so on.

With such a large volume of spam to contend with, it’s likely you’ve lost sales due to missing important emails that simply floated away in this sea of spam. And there's no way to really calculate the cost of that lost business. If you've missed email then how can you ever know how much business you've lost?

If you want to solve the problem, you need to be proactive because the sad reality is that if you do nothing, it will only get worse until finally it reaches the point where your email account has become totally and completely unmanageable. Fortunately there are a few options available to you.

Securing Your Domain Registration Against Spammers

First let's address the whois database, which is a publicly accessible database in which your domain registration record is listed … and that includes your email address. It's not uncommon now for people to be spammed at a brand new email address within hours of registering a new domain.

Go Daddy is a domain registrar that now offers private domain registrations. At the time of writing this article, they are the only registrar who currently offers this service. Hopefully in time, other registrars will pick up on this idea and offer the service too.

With a private domain registration, which costs only a few dollars more than a regular registration, your contact information including your email address will not be publicly accessible in the whois database.

That’s guaranteed to cut down on spam quite significantly as this very important source of addresses that spammers use, will no longer provide your address to them.

If you don’t wish to obtain a private domain registration, then there is another option that will be equally effective. Set up a new email address that you use only for the purpose of providing registration information for your domain name. You can easily scan email sent to that address for messages from your registrar, and delete the rest without having to read it.

Securing Your Website Against Spammers

The other major source, and by far the biggest source of email addresses for spammers is of course the mailto links on your own website. Email address harvesting or extraction software as it’s known is cheap, easy to use, and readily available … and it’s very effective. That means there are a lot of spammers out there with easy access to your email address.

Chances are hundreds or even thousands of spammers using such software have already harvested your address. And what can you do about this? You need to provide a way for your customers to reach you by email, or you'll lose business. There are steps you can take to prevent your email address from being harvested and used by spammers though, while still providing legitimate visitors to your site with a way to email you.

One solution is to make all the mailto links on your site point to a form instead, which will still provide a means for people to send you email. Provided you use a CGI script that doesn’t require the address to be embedded within the form itself, you can shield your address from email address extractors.

If you don’t want to require people to fill out a form to email you from your website, then you can get a little more creative. It is possible to put a mailto link on your site that when clicked will still launch the sender’s email program, and start a new message with your address in the To field … but without having to embed your email address in the mailto link where spam software can snatch it. Click below to see an example of how it works.

It looks like a normal URL, and there's clearly no email address anywhere in the link, but when clicked, instead of loading a web page in your browser as you may have expected, your email program opens up.

How’s that possible you might ask? Simple. A little magic with CGI using Perl or PHP will do the trick. A free copy of a script that does this is bundled with Postmaster Pro, available at which is discussed below.

What About Spammers Who Already Have My Address?

So far we’ve discussed a few fairly simple techniques designed to prevent spammers from obtaining your email address in the first place. But, how do you deal with the spam you’re already getting? Your address is already out there. The solution is to either block or filter.

For either, you'll need software. For blocking, I recommend Postmaster Pro. If you prefer to filter then Spam Assassin is highly recommended. Both run on the server, so there is no need to download spam before filtering it out. That's a huge time saver if you're not yet on a high-speed connection. It also makes it a bit less likely you'll end up downloading a virus since email from untrusted senders, i.e. spammers will be significantly reduced.

Spam Blocking Software

Postmaster Pro which is available at takes a novel approach to blocking spam. It only allows email to be delivered after people who’ve sent you email have been placed on an approved sender list. But the interesting thing is that people who send you email can put themselves on your approved list. This is done simply by clicking a link in an email that automatically gets sent to them the first time they send email to you, which is perfect for those of us who don’t know in advance whom we should put on the approved list, i.e. if you’re running a business online. It also makes building and maintaining such a list very simple.

Given the fact that spammers normally use invalid return addresses, and those who do use valid return addresses seldom read email that's sent there, let alone respond to it (they receive thousands of failed delivery notifications, complaints, remove requests, and autoresponder messages every time they do a mailing) … it’s a very effective technique with no chance of blocking legitimate email, as is the case with filtering.

Spam Filtering Software

For those who would prefer to filter ... Spam Assassin is perhaps the best option. It is available at Once you have Spam Assassin installed, it will provide you with very powerful and flexible filtering tools. Spam Assassin is a mature product, having been around for quite some time. If you’re going to filter, Spam Assassin is about as good as it gets.

As with any filter though, you do run the risk of missing legitimate email from time to time. There really isn't a good way to tell how often this is happening unless you want to read all the email that gets filtered out, which negates the whole point of filtering. If you set your filters permissively enough though, you should be reasonably safe. For the first month or so after installing any filter, you should continue to read every single email in order to make sure it isn't set too restrictively to allow legitimate email through.

By using the techniques mentioned in this article, you can take back your mailbox, and dramatically reduce, if not eliminate spam.

Author, Sean Proske is the CEO and founding partner of which has provided reliable and affordable hosting since 1996.

Labels: , , , ,

Right Email Poem

Email tips and tricks

Excerpted from the upcoming book The Busy Person's Guide to a Profitable Website and PlanetLink's Enews - an email newsletter delivered for FREE to your computer. To subscribe, go to

We'll explore the use and abuse of email and discuss how you can use it more effectively in your business.

Email has become the most used service on the Internet. According to a Gallup Poll survey, 52%, of email users says that sending and receiving email is their most common online activity.

Consider these statistics:

  • By year-end 2002, there will be 135 million email users, representing 59% of the overall U.S. population of adults and teens.
  • There were 409 million email boxes worldwide in 1999, up from 234 million a year earlier.
  • When asked their opinion on spam, 42% of email users say they "hate it," 45% say they find it "an annoyance, but do not hate it," while the rest have no strong feelings either way .

Here's some tips you can use to make the most effective use of email:

Keep business emails specific and to the point.

In your replies to messages, quote or refer to the original message so that the person you are sending the message to doesn't have to look through past messages to follow the train of thought.

Have you service provider setup your email account so that you can use any address at your domain name. When you provide your email address in a form, make it something that you would associate with that company. If you get mail to your newly created address from a different company, you'll know how they got your address.

Use an email address with a domain name that is in your control. If you use an address at, or any one of several thousand service providers, you'll have to continue to use that service provider in order to continue to receive your email. If you decide to change providers, any mail that is sent to you at the old address will be lost or returned. If you instead have email sent to an address at your own domain name, you'll always be able to access it - no matter who your service provider is.

PlanetLink can assist you in with setting up an email account, registering domain name, developing a sound and profitable Internet services plan, website design services, hosting services, application development, ecommerce and site promotion. For more information, call us at 415-884-2022 or email

Steve Lillo author of Websites That Work! is the President of PlanetLink, a website design and consulting firm which specializes in creating websites which get results. They also provide their Web Rx Service for increasing the effectiveness of existing websites. PlanetLink can be reached at or by telephone at 415-884-2022.

Labels: , ,

Bulk Email Marketing Serenade

Bulk Email, Spam, and Email Marketing

Excerpted from PlanetLink's Enews - an email newsletter delivered for FREE to your computer. To subscribe, go to

This issue focuses on the effective use of email lists and bulk email for website and business promotion. Bulk email essentially consists of sending the same message to some number of recipients at the same time. Spam is characterized as sending bulk mail to recipients whom you have had no prior contact or permission.

The issue of whether or not to send Spam can be summed up in three words - "don't do it." While it's not currently illegal under Federal law, (although sending bulk non-approved faxes is), it is generally not permitted by Internet Service Providers under their "terms of service" agreement (PlanetLink's terms of service can be found at Most ISPs will issue a warning on the first occurrence and cancel a client's service on the second. The reason for zero tolerance is that while the responsible party can literally send millions of messages almost for free, the costs associated with sending, delivering and receiving spam are incurred by the recipient whose time is spent processing unwanted mail as well as the ISPs that transport and store email. A recent European Commission report found that the world wide cost is $9.36 billion per year.

The other reasons for not sending Spam are the impact it has on the reputation of the company and the risk of interruption or cancellation of service. The other issue of importance for ISPs whose client's repeatedly send spam is that mail sent from their network can be blocked by other ISPs trying to stop spam from reaching their clients; potentially affecting thousands of customers. Under California Bus. & Prof. Code Section 17538.45, sending spam through a mail server based in California is illegal and allows for damages of $50 per message.

So, if we can't send Spam, what can we us bulk email for?

Bulk email is great tool for keeping in touch with your clients and customers, sending newsletters, service messages, announcing special offers and more. It can also be used to keep in contact with prospects on an ongoing basis and is an effective sales tool for generating new business. Systems can be implemented that make it easy to send automated messages on a regular basis. Systems can also be implemented which make it easy for visitors to subscribe to your list. Subscriber management features also make it easy for you to add, delete, schedule and send messages as required.

PlanetLink can assist you in setting up an effective email list system for your business and can implement anything from a fully automated system to a manual system. For more information, call us at 415-884-2022 or email

Important Tips:

  • Create an opt-in email list on your website.
  • Don't buy a database of email addresses and send them bulk email - this is Spam.
  • Spam can be reported to
  • Collect email addresses on a "sign up sheet" at public events, trade shows and presentations. Let them know on the form that they will be added to your email list and give them a check box to confirm their participation.
  • If you send bulk email to your list, make it easy for them to unsubscribe.
  • In the bulk message that you send, remind them of how and/or why they are on your list.
  • Be sensitive to your list - people are busy and they get lots of email.

Steve Lillo author of Websites That Work! is the President of PlanetLink, a website design and consulting firm which specializes in creating websites which get results. They also provide their Web Rx Service for increasing the effectiveness of existing websites. PlanetLink can be reached at or by telephone at 415-884-2022.

Labels: , , , ,

Low Cost Web Design Verse

How Much Does A Website Cost?

To receive a complementary consultation and free quote for your website project, complete our project survey form located here.

As a website designer, this is often the first question that I am asked by a new client. The simple answer is that it costs whatever you are willing to spend; anywhere from free to millions of dollars. A more productive process to address the issue of cost is to answer a series of questions.

What are your needs, goals and expectations?

What are the needs and expectations of your site visitors, customers and clients?

Is your business already established with its unique brand/identity?

What is required in terms of the skills, experience and level of design?

Do you want to hire a high profile design house, a medium sized design studio, a small company or a student? What can you afford to budget for your project?

We’ll take a look at these questions to see how they influence the cost of creating a website, look at two simple examples and give you some ideas for coming up with a budget for your project. In general, the cost for a website will be based on how long it takes for design and implementation plus any additional costs required for hardware or software. While there are certainly no hard and fast rules, the more experienced the design company, the higher their hourly rate. Generally, the more robust and complicated the site needs to be -- whether for handling large amounts of traffic, for technically sophisticated programming and database integration or for specialized images and text -- the higher the cost.

What are your needs, goals and expectations? What are the needs and expectations of your site visitors, customers and clients?

It’s important to address what your ideas are for a website and why you want one. There may also be details or uses that you haven’t considered. The needs and expectations of your target markets are also important and will also address your analysis of your competition. A good designer will support you through a process to determine what is required to achieve the results you require. PlanetLink often provides this as a consulting service with a portion of the fees applied towards the actual design work. Projects can also be implemented over time so that the costs can be spread out. The more involved the needs of the project, the greater the cost.

Is your business already established with its unique brand/identity?

Websites on a tight budget generally don’t address this issue. It’s important that your website accurately represent who you are from the perspective of "look and feel." If the way your business is visually and thematically represented is structured and effective, then the process of creating the imagery for your website will ideally be an extension of what already exists. If the budget allows, for businesses without a unique identity or style, often the generation of the website is an opportunity to create print materials at the same time, thus saving costs.

What is required in terms of the skills, experience and level of design? Do you want to hire a high profile design house, a medium sized design studio, a small company or a student?

At PlanetLink we look at the process of website creation from three perspectives; artistic/creative, technical, and marketing. A good design company will have skills and expertise in those areas. In general, the more skilled and experienced the team, the higher their rates and the higher their minimum project fees. Some design firms don’t take on a project for less than $20,000. You will also find designers that will create your site on a per-page cost (okay for simple, low cost sites, but not recommended for anything beyond that). Someone who is just getting started in the business may also do your project for free just to get the experience.

What can you afford to budget for your project?

This is really an important question to ask yourself. What are your current expenditures for marketing? For sales? For support? What are your expectations/projections for revenue, or reduction of expenses from your website? What is the current annual revenue for your business? Your budget should, to a degree, be commensurate with the level at which your business is operating. If your website were for a large corporation, the budget would be higher than for a small sole proprietorship.

Let’s take a look at two examples:

A small business needs a website for their business so they have a presence on the Internet. The site is simple - about 5 pages with information about the business, the services they provide, and a form that can be submitted and the information received via email. The budget isn’t available for creating a graphic "look," and existing images will be used. A smaller, less experienced designer may take on a project like this for a few hundred dollars. A medium sized firm might quote $3000 to $4000 depending on variables. A larger firm would probably not take a project this small.

A mail order company wants to get into online sales. They currently have no website. They have a narrow mix of about 200 products with a broad target market; it’s also time to update their image. Depending on a wide range of variables, a project like this could start at about $7000 and go into six figures.

So back to our question, the cost for your website is determined to a large degree by what you can afford to spend. The complexity, size and needs play an important role as well as the level of expertise and experience of the design team. Generally, the more you spend on your website, the more website you will get for your money, an obvious statement but true none-the-less. In developing the budget for you project; remember to consider your needs and expectations, the level of design, size and complexity required for your project's success.

Additionally an important component, beyond the scope of this article, addresses the promotion and marketing of your site - the best project in the world isn’t likely to be successful if no one knows about it. Be sure to include the costs associated with your marketing program.

Steve Lillo author of Websites That Work! is the President of PlanetLink, a website design and consulting firm which specializes in creating websites which get results. They also provide their Web Rx Service for increasing the effectiveness of existing websites. PlanetLink can be reached at or by telephone at 415-884-2022.

Labels: , ,

Web Designer Choosing Opus

How To Choose A Website Designer

Now that you have decided that it is time to create a website for your business there are many questions you must answer. One of the most important questions is "Who should create my website?"

I like to use the analogy of playing music; in as little as a few hours, some people can strum a few chords on the guitar and play a song. But to really play the instrument and make your instrument sing requires experience and understanding. Likewise, although there are tools which are readily available to assist in the process, effective website design requires experience and understanding of many diverse areas including: marketing, Internet graphics options and limitations, effectively creating a site from the perspective of search engines, the differences and limitations of different browsers and computer platforms as well as knowledge of the software and coding required to move beyond simple static html pages.

It is also vitally important that your designer understand you and your business and know how to most effectively communicate you and your uniqueness to your Internet audience. To answer our question, we’ll look at some important pieces of information that you’ll need to find out before you choose your website designer.

What do you want in a website? What are your needs and intentions for having a website? Does the prospective designer listen to and understand your needs and intentions? Have you checked other similar businesses to see what they are doing on the Internet? Can a prospective designer offer any suggestions for improving upon what others have already accomplished? The more clarity you have about your intended results for having a website, the more accurately you can communicate your needs to your designer and the more likely it is that you will achieve these results.

Is the designer experienced in website design? How long has the designer been creating websites? What is their background? How long have they been using the Internet? Three years is a long time in Internet terms. More than four or five years is a seasoned veteran. Ideally, your site designer has a variety of experience.

What are the designer's strengths and weaknesses? The range of skills required for creating any type of website is more diverse than you can imagine. If a designer tells you they have done or can do any project, I’d suggest you take that statement with a grain of salt.

Is the designer easy to work with and talk to? Is she/he able to communicate technical information so that you can understand it? The process of creating a website can often be an overwhelming process for some people. Consider hiring a designer with whom you have a good rapport and find communicating with easy.

Look at some of their previous clients sites. Do they all look the same? Do they load quickly? Are they easy to navigate through? Do you like their previous work? Do they accurately reflect their clients’ business? Does the designer custom create each site or would they have you select from a list of prepackaged sites?

What is your budget and what is the typical cost for the designer’s projects? As a generalization, the larger the company, the more they charge for their services (and often the more elaborate the sites they create.) Companies which create sites from a prepackaged template often cost less but don’t provide you with custom solutions which may more closely meet your needs. Site designers who are getting started will often create your site for a lower fee, essentially using your project to develop their skills.

Your decision should be based on many of these important questions. Also use any other questions you find useful when hiring any other service business for a project. Comparing website designers is sometimes like comparing bananas to bicycles instead of apples to apples. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You might consider writing pros and cons for each designer on a sheet of paper to develop a more objective point of view.

The selection of your website designer is an important step in the creation of a successful website. With time and patience, you too can join the thousands of businesses with successful websites.

Written by Steve Lillo, author of Websites That Work! is the President of PlanetLink, a website design and consulting firm which specializes in creating websites which get results. They also provide their Web Rx Service for increasing the effectiveness of existing websites. PlanetLink can be reached at or by telephone at 415-884-2022.

Labels: , ,