Monday, August 24, 2009

SEO Tips for Bloggers

Matt Cutts gave a talk this spring at WordCamp San Francisco 2009 (which he just republished in his blog the other day), during which he gave some great insight into how to help your SEO for your blog--in particular, if you use WordPress (since he *was* at WordCamp) . Below is a quick summary of some easy tips to keep in mind when blogging that may help increase your PageRank:

* Links to your site are key. The number of links in conjunction of the quality of links to your site are probably the most important determinants of your PageRank. If you have 10 links and your buddy has 20, but your links are from high-quality sites such as The New York Times online, then your links have more validity and weight--which means your site will likely be ranked higher than his. It's not always the number that matters; the quality of links is a big factor as well.

* Write about something you care about. If you care about your topic and know a lot about it, chances are that your readers will find your content interesting and continue to link to your posts. They key is to start small and write about something nichey; as you gain a following, you can expand your horizons to other topics, but remember: it's important to retain your own voice, opinions and to be interesting--that's what keeps people coming back and linking to you.

* Naturally incorporate keywords. When you write about a particular topic, make sure you incorporate relevant keywords and search terms within your post naturally. Think about it from the reader's perspective: it's no fun to read a "keyword-stuffed" article when every other word is the topic at hand. Instead, use similar terms that might be used interchangeably when people search; for instance, if you're talking about USB drives, maybe use "thumb drive" in one sentence and "flash drive" in the next--they're all synonyms for the same thing, but different people may search using different terms.

* Optimize your URLs. Think about how your URLs are structured. Google can't tell where words start and end ifyouhavethemallmashedtogether. Dashes-between-words is therefore the way to go. Additionally, you may want to modify tenses of words in your URL to apply to a wider range of searches--so, using "change" vs. "changing," even if "changing" is in your post's title.

* Write in plain terms. Ok, so we all know you're a super-expert in your field, but on your homepage it helps to meet the general populace halfway. It's okay to get all super-technical and obscure within a whitepaper or a research paper, but if you do it throughout your entire site, chances are that Google is going to have a tough time turning your content up in relevant searches (and the rest of us will be left wondering what your site is even about). It helps to mix in some common language (especially on your homepage) so you can attract a greater audience.

* Post often. If you write interesting articles every day or every week, people will be visiting and linking to your site more often than if you post every, say, 6 months. It can be tough to make the time (trust us--we're guilty too), but it'll probably be worth it in the end if you're continually posting relevant, interesting content.

To learn more SEO and WordPress tips, I recommend watching the entire video of Matt presenting, which he posted in his blog a few days ago.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

IPOWER Has Joined the Twittersphere!

We're a little late in announcing this--mostly because we wanted to see if our customers felt our presence on Twitter was worthwhile--but here we are, tweeting away, with 454 followers strong! And you can follow us, too, at

So What Is This Twitter Thing?
Twitter is basically a free microblogging social media/marketing tool that lets you post "entries" of whatever you want to say--as long as it's 140 characters or less. Other Twitter users can subscribe to "follow" your posts to see what you're writing about, while you can follow other Twitter users to see what they're writing about. All the posts you follow are aggregated into your very own "Twitter Feed," which chronologically lists the posts in their 140 character snippets. Think it's nuts? Even the British Royal family is doing it!!

Why Do I Care?
That's a great question. The answer is, you don't have to! Twitter is basically whatever you make it--if you want to just follow your friends or kids and see what they're up to throughout the day ("eating a sandwich, yum!"), then it can be a fun way to stay connected to people who are important to you. If you'd like a way to learn and collaborate with other people who are interested in the same things you are, then it's a good way to make connections (just search for whatever keyword you want, and follow people who write interesting things about that topic). For us here at IPOWERWEB, it's a great way to stay connected to our customers and reach out to them on a regular basis.

Our Twitter Approach
We want to make sure our customers are happy. And we figure the best way to do that is by listening to them in their natural habitat: The Internet. We proactively search the Twittersphere to find happy or unhappy tweets about IPOWER, and reach out to those customers to let them know we're here to help. Occasionally we'll use our account to tweet news about what we're up to--improvements to the platform, new services, etc.--depending on who's manning the feed. We have members from all across our organization tweeting away, so you'll get the flavor of a few different personalities (we often sign our tweets with a carrot and our initials; for example: ^MMI).

So come, follow us on Twitter, or sign up for an account. It's a pretty good time.

Some people you might like to follow (popular twitterers):
  • IPOWER, of course: ipowerhosting
  • Ashton Kutcher: aplus
  • Ellen DeGeneres: TheEllenShow
  • Britney Spears: britneyspears
  • CNN Breaking News: cnnbrk
  • Oprah Winfrey: oprah
  • Twitter: twitter
  • Barack Obama: BarackObama
  • Ryan Seacrest: RyanSeacrest
  • Jimmy Fallon: jimmyfallon
  • Lance Armstrong: lancearmstrong
  • The New York Times: nytimes
  • Coldplay: coldplay
  • Al Gore: algore
  • The Onion: TheOnion
  • Perez Hilton: PerezHilton
  • Google: google
  • NPR Politics: nprpolitics
  • Pete Cashmore: mashable
  • RainnWilson: rainnwilson
  • Martha Stewart: MarthaStewart
  • TIME
  • Whole Foods Market: WholeFoods
  • Kevin Rose: kevinrose
  • John McCain: SenJohnMcCain
  • Michael Arrington: TechCrunch
  • Biz Stone: biz
  • JetBlue Airways: JetBlue
Have some recommendations? Add 'em in the comments :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Placebo Effect ... on Pricing

OK, so here's an interesting dilemma for many businesses out there, including us here at IPOWER.

I just read this fascinating article from The Washington Post on "The Price-Placebo Effect." Most people understand the Placebo Effect as it pertains to medication studies: "control" participants are blindly administered a sugar pill instead of actual medication, and yet still experience improved symptoms, probably as a result of their belief that they have received real medication.

The Price-Placebo Effect takes the same tack, but instead of medication being the agent of change, price is strangely the culprit. The Price-Placebo Effect, according to the article, is basically the notion that people experience more pleasure (i.e. larger activation in their medial orbitofrontal cortex) when they consume a product that they pay a higher price for, compared to those who pay a less-expensive price.

While the article leads off referencing the uncomfortable Eliot Spitzer scandal, the more relevant story revolves around a study in which two groups of participants were asked to drink some wine: one group from a bottle priced at $90, and the other group from a bottle priced at $10. The participants who drank the $90 bottle not only indicated an overall higher level of enjoyment (as to be expected), but they also had experienced more activity medial orbitofrontal cortex than those who drank the $10 bottle. The catch? They drank the exact same wine.

So what does this tell us about pricing our products? Well, for one thing, Apple's got it right. The price of their notebooks is significantly higher than it needs to be, and yet they don't have much trouble (a) selling them like hotcakes or (b) cultivating a dedicated (some might say fanatic?) userbase. In fact, it wasn't until the end of last year that they even contemplated releasing a notebook under $1000. So what's the story here? Great products justifying expensive prices? People paying for the "brand"? Or is there something actually physiological going on?

It's tough to say, but notions like these definitely make us think about our strategies. The webhosting industry is a complicated one--commodization is driving prices down and requiring hosts to underprice their services. Two years ago it was ludicrous to advertise a price under $6/month. Now that price is considered expensive. And yet does our catering to the competitive nature of the hosting market mean our product is any less valuable to consumers than it was two years ago? In fact, no--our product is constantly improving and evolving and a hosting plan now is "worth" more than ever. It would be great to price our plans to invoke the "Price-Placebo Effect," but unfortunately, the likely result would be potential customers hammering the "Back" button as soon as the images start to load on

So how do we tap into this pricing enigma? Have you tapped into it?

Your Feedback, Hard at Work

We've been soliciting feedback from customers, and we've been listening to your responses. Over the past couple of weeks, we've launched a couple key changes to our offerings, which we hope will improve your overall experience.

1) The Activation Center: Activate Your Plan's Freebies in One Fell Swoop!
We recently launched The Activation Center to help customers find and activate the free tools that come in their hosting plans. Located in the top stripe of your control panel (between the "Tutorials" and "Help" icons), The Activation Center opens up a list of products that you can add to your control panel just by selecting the items of interest to you and clicking the "Activate" button. Free tools include SubmitNet, Google AdWords $50 credit, Google Custom Search box, as well as a free 60-day trial with RatePoint, and a free 60-day trial with Constant Contact, which provides email marketing tools.

Keep an eye out for more free tools in the Activation Center--we'll be adding new ones all the time!

2) ServiceCentral: New Portal for Managing Your Projects
When you purchase an SEO package (soon to be extended to a Design package or Professional Services), you'll get an icon called "ServiceCentral" in the "Marketing Services" section of your control panel. When you click on this icon, you'll be brought to a portal page, which, on the "My Projects" tab, keeps a list of your active and past projects and their statuses. From here, you can also add comments to your project and check out the latest status via comments left by your project team.

The "My Team" tab keeps track of your team members, with access to their schedules and contact information. At the moment, customers can email and call most of their team members, but shortly we'll add the ability for customers to chat with team members and schedule appointments! Plus, uploading files you'd like your team to use in the project is a cinch--just click on the "My Resources" tab, and select the directory where you'd like to upload to.

3) Akamai Quick Connect: Increase Your Site's Load Time for Visitors Everywhere
IPOWER is one of the first hosts to offer this incredibly cool service, which allows visitors from across the globe to access your site nearly as quickly as someone sitting next to our servers. Akamai Quick Connect will be available to some customers starting next week through a special promotion we're running, and we'll likely roll it out to all customers by the end of March or early April.

In case you're wondering how Akamai works their magic, here's a quick snapshot: Normal requests to see your website have to travel all the way from a visitor's computer to our servers and back. Akamai speeds up this process by caching your site's content (images, CSS, javascript) on its edge servers, which are located all around the world--so when someone in China, for instance, wants to see your site, the content will be retrieved from the closest Akamai server in China, rather than traveling all the way to our servers and back. HTML requests will still travel to our servers, but through Akamai's optimized network, which can easily locate and circumvent trouble spots in the network.

4) WebSite Creator by CM4all: Two Small Changes Based Upon Survey Feedback
We have plans to revamp the CM4all tool page in general, but in the meantime, we fulfilled two small customer requests which seem to make a big difference in the usability of the tool.
  • Numero Uno: We made the "edit" link into a button so you can see it! Derrr ... not quite sure why it was a teensy tiny link to begin with, but at least you can see it now and know where to click to edit your site.

  • Numero Dos: We made this new and improved "edit" button open a new window. Finally. Now you won't lose access to your IPOWER control panel when you want to edit you CM4all site.
We hope these small changes across the board make a difference in how you use your IPOWER hosting account. If you have additional suggestions on functionality, definitely let us know through comments on the blog, in surveys, and as always, through tickets in your Support Console.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New InstallCentral Interface (More Apps, Plus It's Now Free!)

So the blog has been dormant for a little while, due to a myriad of reasons. First, we've been busy developing. Secondly, it's been the holidays (Happy New Year!). Third, we've been busy doing more development and fixing the mail issue, which for the majority of customers has fortunately been fully restored. (We're still working diligently to recover a few customers' email -- eternal thanks for being patient!)

In any event, we've been hard at work here. And with that hard work comes some positive changes from time to time. Most recently, we've been busting our butts for a much-needed and overdue InstallCentral revamp/upgrade. InstallCentral, for customers who aren't familiar with the term, is our application installation center -- or, more plainly, the place where you can add cool thingys to your site like blogs, galleries, forums, etc. Best of all for you guys? It's now freeeeeee.

OK, as a product manager, the free stuff is great, but the best part for me is that we have a new interface that makes browsing the applications a breeze. Instead of listing every application on a single page, forcing you to scroll to find what you're looking for, our new design uses a tabbed interface that presents applications by category, i.e., blogs, content management systems, forums, photo galleries, etc. And not only that, our new interface now employs a "My Apps" tab that lists all of your installed applications, version and upgrade information, plus quick access to log into the admin page for your application.

Also, you may have noticed we removed the individual icons for each application you've installed from the "Scripting & Add-ons" section of your control panel. The goal was to unclutter that section of your control panel, and provide you one location from which to manage each of your applications. To access your apps, just click on the "InstallCentral" icon, and you'll be taken to your personal "My Apps" page.

Oh, and did we mention that we've added 13 new applications to our installation center? Check 'em out:

* b2evolution
* PixelPost
* Drupal
* e107
* Mambo
* ZenCart
* Simple Machines Forum (SMF)
* ZenPhoto
* MediaWiki
* Moodle
* OpenRealty
* phpFormGenerator
* SugarCRM