EarthLink Web Hosting Plans Take Your Pick. Unwrap Many Possibilities.

As a professional looking to grow your business, one of the best investments you can make is in a company website. For some small business owners, creating a website is “something I’ll get to when I have time.”

With a new year on the horizon, there’s no better time to put your best foot forward with a website.

Now…where do you start? Say you opt for an EarthLink Web Hosting Plan. What are your options?

Let’s Unwrap the Possibilities of EarthLink Web Hosting Plans…

Are you pretty good at following directions and assembly? Don't mind tackling some details to save money? Then an EarthLink Do-It-Yourself Web Hosting Plan might be the perfect pick. Among the possibilities...

Do-It-Yourself Option #1: Website Plus
(for $9.97/month for the first 3 months, $19.95/month thereafter*)

With Website Plus, you can make your own website in minutes, no experience necessary. It’s a solid option if you’re a small business without a website, or you have a website but want a simple way to rebuild it and manage it yourself.

Essentials include an easy-to-use website builder with built-in business templates, WordPress blog, email marketing and social media tools, unlimited FTP (for managing large files), live chat, and more.

Do-It-Yourself Option #2: Business Website Plus
(for $17.47/month for the first 3 months, $34.95/month thereafter*)

For the small business owner who wants to easily build and manage a website and step up their online marketing. Business Website Plus includes all the features of the Website Plus plan -- and much more. Extras include over 60 professional directory listings, 200 professional email accounts, and a mobile website with click-to-map and click-to-call features.

Think you don't need a mobile website? Consider these stats from a recent Google study of smartphone usage:

  • 96% of smartphone users have researched a product or service on their device
  • 94% of smartphone users look for local information on their phone
  • 90% of smartphone users purchase, contact the business, or take another action after local research

All the more reason to consider the Do-It-Yourself Business Website Plus plan.

Do-It-Yourself Option #3: Ecommerce Website Plus
(for $42.47/month for the first 3 months, $84.95/month thereafter*)

Have stuff to sell online? Let customers fill up their shopping carts and pay securely with an Ecommerce Website Plus plan.

  • Supports online credit card transactions and features a Rapid SSL cert
  • Includes eCommerce Store Builder -- create an engaging storefront and easily optimize your store for mobile devices, sell products and services directly on Facebook, and more
  • Provides advanced Web hosting features, plus all the online marketing tools in our other website hosting packages (including a mobile website)

No time to roll up your sleeves?
Prefer to pay for professional services?

Then you might be just the person for an EarthLink Do-It-For-Me Plan. Keep in mind, the price drops big time after the first year! All Do-It-For-Me plans offer professional website design services, copywriting, maintenance, email marketing, SEO tools, and more.

Options include…

Do-It-For-Me Option 1: Standard Design & Marketing Website
(for $79.95/month, drops to $29.95/month after the first 12 months**)

Count on a professionally designed and branded website, a mobile website, plus tools to market your business. Details.

Do-It-For-Me Option 2: Premium Design & Marketing Website
(for $124.95/month, drops to $69.95/month after the first 12 months**)

Get a bigger website for your business, a mobile website, and additional online marketing tools to help drive traffic. Details.

Do-It-For-Me Option 3: Ecommerce Design & Marketing Website
(for $154.95/month, drops to $84.95/month after the first 12 months**)

Help your business sell more online with a sophisticated and professionally designed store and a mobile website. Take your marketing to the max. Details.

 

* First 3 months are billed at the rates listed above. Standard monthly rates apply thereafter. Current standard monthly rates listed above. Free Domain Name: After you click to sign up you will have an opportunity to search for and choose your free domain name, or you may transfer a domain you already own. Top level domains ( TLDs) included in Free Domain Name promotion are .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz, .us, .name, .mobi, .asia and .tel. Other domain name extensions are available for additional fees.

** Plan requires a 12-month commitment. Cancellation prior to the end of such 12-month period will result in EarthLink billing you an early termination fee equal to the applicable monthly fee multiplied by the number of months remaining in your 12-month term.

Is Your Business Like Salad Dressing?

business tips from the salad dressing marketWhat can salad dressing tell you about where your business is headed?

Possibly a lot.

And the answer just might be in two directions simultaneously: up and down.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported (subscription required) about how the salad dressing market is a good indicator of how many markets in the U.S. economy are bifurcating – splitting into a discount market catering to lower income consumers and a premium market catering to the wealthy.

The middle, where you find the most popular brands, is getting squeezed as hard as an almost empty bottle of ketchup.

In the dressing world, the low end is represented by private-label/supermarket brands, while the high-end is represented by fresh and organic dressings and more upscale or exotic flavors.

Premium dressings that you find on refrigerated shelves near the produce section of the grocery store are growing two to three times faster than the regular brands.

If you’re one of our business web hosting customers trying to grow your business online, you might want to think about this up/down market bifurcation and how it may or may not be affecting your business.

Are you well positioned to appeal to the cost-conscious consumers looking to pinch pennies and cut corners? Are you positioned as a premium product or service provider able to command premium pricing? Do you offer options to appeal to both segments?

If not, you may be able to use your web site to test out some alternate products that appeal to either the high or low end of your market, or both.

For example, you might test offering product or service discounts through search engine marketing with Google Adwords (see our previous blog post about getting started with AdWords).

If you can’t (or don’t want to compete on price), you may want to see if you can put together a more premium package that you try to upsell to current customers via email marketing (our previous posts about getting started with email marketing and tracking your email marketing results can help you with that).

See how you can innovate with your product or service (or your marketing) to set it apart from the shrinking middle and help you generate increased growth and higher margins.

Good luck. And let us know how you’re doing.

Big Website Outages: What It Means to You

What’s up with being down?

If you’re a Google, Microsoft and Amazon user, you may recently have had a feeling that the sky was falling, or at least that there was a black cloud over your head. Why?

On Friday, Google services went down.

On Saturday, Microsoft’s Outlook.com service went down.

On Monday, Amazon.com went down.

That’s a lot of high-profile website outages. But the impact of the downtime was not evenly felt.

Google’s outage was amazingly brief: somewhere between 2 – 5 minutes. But the impact was huge. It was not just Google search that was down. Not just Gmail. But all Google services. So many people use these Google services that it was estimated that overall Internet traffic dropped 40% during those few minutes of downtime.

Microsoft’s outage was confined to a few services – Outlook.com, SkyDrive and Contacts – so it affected a fraction of the people impacted by the Google outage. But it lasted for days, not minutes. So if you used Outlook.com for your email, it was a seriously bad outage.

Amazon’s outage was for their main Amazon.com website for U.S. and Canadian customers (not related sites like Zappos.com or other country-specific versions of the Amazon site). Reports about the length of the downtime vary from about 15 minutes to 45 minutes. Not too long, but they may have lost some business as frustrated shoppers turned to other online retailers. And because Amazon.com averages $117,882 in sales every minute, a 40 minute outage could mean $4.72 million in lost sales (of course customers may simply have come back and purchased later).

Google’s brief outage also had real costs. The company is said to make about $108,000 per minute. So their 5-minutes of downtime would mean $545,000 in lost revenue.

So, what does all this mean? High-profile outages often lead to speculation about cyberattacks by individual hackers, hacker groups or even Chinese government hackers. But it doesn’t appear that hackers were behind either of this past week’s outages.

In all likelihood it’s just a high-profile coincidence. But it can be a meaningful coincidence and an important reminder.

To businesses large and small, it should be a reminder that their systems are vulnerable – and not just to headline-grabbing natural disasters. The reality is that it’s not whether your servers will go down (due to natural disasters, human error, equipment failure or other causes) but when. And when it happens, how fast and how well can you recover, and what will the impact to your business be?  A prolonged outage or one that causes data loss can be catastrophic for many businesses.

cloud disaster recovery (DR) for business continuitySo having a business continuity plan and services such as Cloud Server Backup and Cloud Disaster Recovery are essential to mitigate these very real and very big risks to your business.

And for all our high-speed and dial-up Internet access customers, these outages can be a reminder not to assume your Internet connection is down just because you can’t get to Google.com or Amazon.com.

If you can’t get to the one site you’re trying to visit, it’s always best to test your connection by trying to go to several different, unrelated sites like www.earthlink.net, www.npr.org, www.whitehouse.gov, etc. You may find there’s no problem with your connection. Just a website outage.

Hashtags? What’s a Hashtag?

hashtagsOn our recent summer vacation, my wife and her aunt were comparing notes about the social media they use and don’t use. Then all of a sudden the conversation got heated. The reason? Hashtags.

They both said they were constantly hearing about hashtags but they had no idea what they were or how to use them. And it was seriously bugging them.

Hashtags really are everywhere these days. Hashtag was even chosen “Word of the Year” by the American Dialect Society in 2012.

(On the flip side, hashtag was one of the English words banned by the French government’s Academie Francaise.)

Whether you use social media simply to be social – to keep up with friends, post pictures, etc. – or to help market your business and engage your customer base, you’ll get more out of your experience if you know what a hashtag is and know how to properly use them. The good news: it’s quite simple.

How to Create a Hashtag

There are only two requirements for all hashtags:

  1. They start with this symbol: # (it’s the number or pound sign that’s above the 3 on your computer keyboard).
  2. They have no spaces at all in them. So, for example, #EarthLinkBusiness or #ITservices are valid hashtags, but # EarthLinkBusiness, #EarthLink Business, # ITservices or #IT services are not because of the spaces.

Hashtags can be a single word, multiple words, numbers, or words and numbers as long as they start with the # sign and have no spaces.

What are Hashtags For?

The most basic function of hashtags is to help categorize, organize, and connect with content. They were popularized on Twitter because they helped those tweeting reach a wider audience interested in their topics.

If I tweeted about a new cloud hosting service offered by EarthLink Business I’d probably add a #CloudHosting hashtag (and probably also #CloudComputing) to help categorize the tweet.

They are also sometimes used to specify a location. If, for example, I tweet a picture I’ve taken, I may add a hashtag for the location.

On Twitter, if you click on a hashtag or search for a hashtag, you’ll see all the recent tweets using that hashtag. For that reason, they can really help you find information and spread information about any topic.

They are also used to for events such as conventions, webinars, classes, online chats, Q&A sessions and other group discussions. Typically the event organizer or leader will create an official event hashtag; then all attendees can follow that hashtag to keep up with event information and discuss the event’s topic with each other. Even those not at the event can follow along this way.

Businesses are now often using hashtags for online promotions and contests. You may, for example, be asked to include the hashtag for a contest on Twitter to enter.

Hashtag Tips

  • How long? There is technically no character limit on a hashtag, but if you are using a hashtag on a social network like Twitter, the characters in the hashtag count towards the overall 140 character limit. So if you had a 120-character hashtag, you’d only have 20 left over for your post. It’s recommended that you keep your hashtags as short as possible.
  • How many? Similarly, there isn’t a rule about how many hashtags you can use in one Twitter post, but you should be mindful not to overuse them. On the one hand, research has shown that tweets that include hashtags typically get 2x the engagement compared to tweets without hashtags. But tweets with more than two hashtags show a 17% drop in engagement. So, try to limit your hashtags to one or two.
  • Where to put them? You can add a hashtag anywhere within a tweet – beginning, middle or end – but it’s most common to see them at the end.
  • Where to use them? Twitter is ground zero for hashtags, but they are now also used on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Pinterest and Vine. Click the following links for hashtag help from Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
  • Capitalization or not? Capitalization doesn’t matter for hashtags. #EarthLinkBusiness and #earthlinkbusiness are considered the exact same hashtag. When using a multi-word hashtag, capitalization can help the readability (and therefore shareability) of the hashtag. So, when tweeting about our EarthLink Business SIP Trunking phone service, for example, we would typically format the hashtag as #SIPTrunking  vs. #siptrunking.
  • Stay relevant! Make sure your hashtags relate to your posts. If not, it’s seen as a form of spam. Don’t drop a hashtag into your post because it’s popular unless it is relevant.
  • Don’t use for emphasis. This really is part of our advice to stay relevant but I’ll call it out separately because what makes hashtags confusing for many is the way some people are using them: to #make #a #point or #SHOUT. At their most confusing, hashtags are used almost like ALL CAPS or bold or italics to emphasize some random words within the post.
  • Test them. One way decide if a hashtag is a good one for your topic is to search for those hashtags and see what content comes up. If it’s totally random stuff or off topic from what you thought, it may not be a good hashtag for you. It is especially important to test event or contest related hashtags to make sure they are unique to your event. Otherwise, your event participants could be totally confused by unrelated posts.