Web Hosting – Why EarthLink is a Great Choice, pt 1

The world of web hosting can be confusing, but it doesn’t need to be.  As you’re researching, EarthLink wants to point out 10 reasons why EarthLink Web Hosting is the best choice out there.  This week we’ll cover the first 5 reasons (the basics), and next week we’ll round off the list with the final 5 (the “frosting on the cake” reasons).

1. Experience. New tech companies seem to pop up daily; it can be hard to see who is trustworthy and who won’t make it through the year (leaving your service up a creek without a paddle).  But EarthLink has been providing web hosting since 1995. 1995.  18 years of experience speaks a lot louder than the ad campaigns of start-ups.

2. Do-it-Yourself and Do-it-for-Me professional Design Options. If you want to build your website yourself, you can code it, or choose from a wide selection of professionally designed templates.  (This is as easy as selecting a template, entering your business information, and clicking to push the site live.)  Or, if you’d rather have a designer make your site, we have in-house professionals ready to help you (all for a low price that’s included in the hosting package)!

3.eCommerce Options. Both our Do-it-Yourself and Do-it-for-Me hosting packages can include full ecommerce (in-site shopping cart) capabilities so you can process orders within your site.

4. Value. EarthLink has found the perfect balance between cost and capabilities.  We’re not the cheapest and weakest out there, and we’re not the priciest and fanciest, but we are the most experiences web hosting provider offering robust plans at affordable prices.

5. Free Domain Names. EarthLink isn’t going to nickle-and-dime you.  Your URL is free with any web hosting plan.

 

An Online Shopping Cart Can Make or Break Your Business

An online shopping cart can be the difference between making a sale and losing a customer.  If your business is a service (pet grooming, wedding planning, etc.) and you don’t ship physical goods, then you likely won’t need a shopping cart as part of your website.  But, if customers buy ship-able goods from you, you absolutely should include give your customers the option to order directly from you online.

It doesn’t matter if you build your website yourself or have a professional web designer build it for you: you need to know if your customers will expect eCommerce functionality (aka “has an online shopping cart”), and provide accordingly.  Customers are the lifeblood of your business, and making it convenient for them to give you their money should be a top priority!

EarthLink’s eCommerce plans let you accept credit cards through the web, and is the most convenient way for your customers to buy (since no “time” needs to be spent helping a customer when they’re shopping independently in your online store).  eCommerce web hosting plans do cost more than standard hosting plans…but the ability to sell online often far overshadows that cost with profits.

As a bonus, EarthLink includes many additional services in its eCommerce Web Hosting packages, outlined here:

  • StoreCreator Pro – Easy-to-use, professional ecommerce shopping cart builder. Includes links to help you sell with eBay.com and Amazon.com
  • Rapid SSL Certificate – Allows secure transactions through your online shopping cart; increases customer confidence in your website.
  • One-Page Mobile Website – Get customers who are online with smartphones and tablets.
  • Call Tracking – Call-tracking and analytics service helps you improve your online and offline marketing. You get a unique toll-free or local phone number so you can track and record customer calls. Includes click-to-call and other features.
  • Advanced Website Template Gallery – Choose from more than 5,000 templates.
  • Announcer Pro – Send your customers engaging email newsletters using graphic-rich HTML email templates. Includes contact management and reporting tools. Includes 500 contacts; our standard web hosting plans include up to 250 contacts.
  • 1,000 Business-Class Email Accounts – Allows for comprehensive email system as your business grows. Standard website hosting plans include up to 200 email addresses.

Why Buy Multiple Versions of Your Domain Name?

Domain name confusion: Where am I?There used to be three streets named Washington in the area I live: Washington Blvd., Washinton Pl., and Washingon Wy. (this last one has, thankfully, been renamed).

Not surprisingly, this was confusing and people often got lost, especially people who were relatively new to the area.

And if you had a business on one of the Washingtons, you likely lost business because some people couldn’t find you.

I definitely remember looking for a store I heard was “on Washington” (assuming it was Washington Blvd, the biggest of the streets), giving up when I didn’t find it, and only much later learning the store was on one of the lesser trafficked Washingtons. (Atlanta is more widely known to have and much bigger issue with streets named with some variation of Peachtree.)

Losing customer traffic can be an even bigger issue for business websites if they don’t plan to prevent confusion by registering multiple versions of their domain name or URL.

Online, domains ending in .com are dominant. They are the Washington Boulevards and main Peachtree Streets of the Web, the place most people will assume your business is.

That’s why one of our top domain name tips is to get a domain name ending in .com if possible.

If it’s important that you get a specific domain name but only the .net or .org extensions are available, you may still want to get it, but know that you will lose some amount of traffic to the .com site.

For the same reason, you’ll want to register multiple extensions of the same domain. It’s a simple, inexpensive way to assure that people won’t miss you by going to YourBiz.net instead of YourBiz.com (much simpler than opening a store on each of the three Washingtons to make sure people can find you).

You’ll also want to register any likely misspellings of your domain (just think how confusing it would have been if there were Washinton and Washingten streets nearby as well). Homonyms can be confusing: is it ThreeSuns.com or ThreeSons.com? Also numbers: 3Sons.com or ThreeSons.com?

If you have a business name that is purposely “misspelled,” like Three Sunzz, it’s even more important to register the more common spellings. Flicker.com was supposedly getting over 3 million hits from people looking for the popular photo sharing site Flickr.com before Flickr.com eventually bought the more commonly spelled version of the domain.

And you should also consider registering different variations of your company name: if you own a craft store called The Big Yarn Company, your customers may look for you at TheBigYarnCompany.com, BigYarnCompany.com, TheBigYarnCo.com, BigYarn.com, etc. Even if you are lucky enough to own Yarn.com, you may still want to register these other variations, both for traffic purposes, but also to support and protect your brand.

Be aware, if you don’t register variations of your brand’s domain name, others will. And that creates the possibility that consumers may be confused and think the site they landed on with all the spammy ads is your site.

It’s best if you register your multiple domain names right away when you sign up for web hosting service, but you can go back and register new domain names at any time for just $20 a year. That’s less than $2 a month, very well spent.

Whenever you a get new domain variation, you simply set up what’s called a 301 redirect, so that when people type in or link to any of this alternate URL, they will go to your main domain/website automatically.

As a final word of advice, when you register your domain names, you should also consider protecting them with these three domain protection services from EarthLink Web Hosting: Private Domain Name Registration, Domain Name Guard, and Domain Name Monitor. You can add each service for just $1 a month. (Our previous blog post can help you learn more about protecting your domains.)

Get Your Business Up and Running Online! (part 3)

After your domain and email addresses are set up and your site reflects the branding you want to represent your business, the last step before launching your website is to make sure it has proper functionality.  And what defines “proper” functionality?  Your customers’ needs do!  Let your customer needs decide the functionality, and make sure your web hosting provider helps you fit those needs.

The most important consideration is whether or not your customers will need online purchasing capability.  An ever-increasing number of customers shop online because it’s easy and convenient.  If your business is part of a market that generally provides an online store (aka, if most of your competitors provide one, or if you sell physical goods that can be shipped), have a hosting plan that includes a shopping cart (EarthLink Web Hosting has a great option!).  And while it is possible to add an online shopping cart to your site after buying a hosting plan, but you can save money including it immediately in your web hosting package, as opposed to after the fact.

If you don’t need an online store (for example, if your customers call and set up an appointment for a service instead of buying a physical good), just be sure to get a basic web hosting service to satisfy your needs (start by looking at EarthLink’s hosting plans).

So remember to make sure the web hosting services you select help you accomplish the following: choosing the right domain, branding options for your site, and site functionality based on your customers’ needs!