Webmasterspot - Website creation and management
Exploring Web development and everything that goes together with trying to run a website!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Hosting and domain registration

Domain registration and choosing a host for your website can seem daunting for the beginner webmaster. Actuallly it's quite easy, and once you have been through the process once, you'll find it much easier in the future.

Choosing a website host

It's often best to choose your website host before you register your domain name. During the domain registration process you'll need the nameserver information from your hosting company and having that ready can speed up the process of getting your domain up and running.

What is a host? Basically a host is a computer (server) that contains all your website pages and images and makes them viewable to the public. There are various kinds of hosting accounts, servers and platforms to choose from. Your website requirements will dictate which hosting package you should choose.

Shared hosting or dedicated server?
Shared hosting means that multiple websites are hosted on the same server. The server is not reserved solely for your website. Packages like these are much cheaper than a dedicated server, but if you have a very active site you might experience slow loading times. For most people a shared hosting package will be more than enough and you might never need to upgrade to a dedicated server.

A dedicated server means that only your site is hosted on the server. All the resources available on the server is available to your site alone, this means that you can run processing intensive scripts and processes without worrying about slowing down your site. Dedicated hosting is the best option for very active sites with hundreds of thousand visitors a day. The drawback of course is that dedicated hosting is extremely expensive.

It would be best to start out with a shared hosting account and then, as your site grows, upgrade to a dedicated server if needed.

What to look for?
When choosing a hosting package you need to take various things into consideration. Below you will find some of the more important aspects:

Bandwidth: Bandwidth refers to the amount of data your site is allowed to send and receive and is shown in GB per month e.g. an account that offers 6GB of traffic will allow you to download/upload 6GB of data a month. Each time a person visits your site and downloads a page from your site or you upload new pages, a bit of your bandwidth is used up.

Most hosting accounts provide you with a certain amount of bandwidth per month and then charges you an extra fee for any bandwidth usage over that amount. The price charged for each extra GB uses is often very hign and it could end up being very expensive. It's best to choose a hosting package with more bandwidth than you think you will actually need. For a relatively popular site with a few images and largely text based content a bandwidth allowance of around 20GB - 30GB should be enough.

Beware of companies offering unlimited bandwidth. There is often a catch somewhere, and in the end you get what you pay for.

Storage space: This is the amount of storage space you can use on the server to store all your website pages, images and other data. Depending on the package this could be a few hundred MB or GB of data. Once again it' s best to choose a package that provides you with more storage space than you actually think you will need. That way you provide room for further growth.

Databases, PHP and other scripts
If you are planning to use a CMS or program a database-driven site you will have to make sure that your host has the necesarry software and database support. Most CMS require MySQL and PHP to be able to run. Check the documentation listing the requirements and compare that to what the host is offering.

Most hosting companies advetise an uptime of 99.9%. It would be best if you investigate their claims further. Do they have adequate protection against hackers, fires, and power failures? If the server is down, your site is unavailable to the world and that can mean that you are losing out on possible revenue or sales.

This is one of the most important aspects for new webmasters and sadly it is often overlooked in the process of finding the cheapest option. Support from your hosting company is extremly important. If you experience any problems it's vital that you can contact them and receive a quick and timely reply. It's no use havign a hosting company that takes a week to help you sort out a problem.

Now that you know what to look for you can do some searches for hosting companies on the Internet. Good hosting packages can start from around $6.00 per month for shared hosting and $100 for dedicated hosting. The cheapest choice is however not always the best choice. Remember that in the end, you'll get what you are paying for.

Domain registration
Domain registration has become much easier and more affordable. There are lots of companies that will handle all the tedium for you.

When choosing a domain, be sure to make it easy for people to remember. Keep it short and sweet. You might be tempted to cram the domain name with as many keywords as possible, but that will only make it harder for people to remember your site URL.

To register your domain, you will need to know the nameserver information of your host. It normally takes the form of NS1.Yourhost.com. During the registration process enter the nameserver information when prompted and your new domain should be up and running in around 24 hours once the DNS information has been propegated.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Google AdSense Reviewed

AdSense from Google is the best known, and arguably the most widely used contextual advertising network. Adsense initially offered only CPC (cost per click) advertising where the publisher gets paid for each click on the ads displayed on their websites. Recently they have also introduced CPM (cost per thousand impressions) campaigns where you get paid for each view (impression) of an ad. This is enabled when an Adwords advertiser identifies your site as a site on which they want to run a CPM campaign. At this stage, unless your site is very well known, you won’t come across this too often.

The ads are contextual which means that they are relevant to the content of your pages. This makes it more likely for your visitors to click on ads because they are already interested in the products or services advertised. On occasion some ‘off topic’ ads might be displayed, but this is far and few between and if your page is properly optimised you shouldn’t have any problems.

Adsense is one of the easiest advertising networks to get accepted to. Their main requirement is that you have a quality website. So sites with low traffic can very easily join without any problems. Once you have been accepted to the network you can place Adsense ads on all your sites, provided that they adhere to the Terms of service and don’t contain any of the following:

  • Excessive profanity
  • Violence, racial intolerance, or advocate against any individual, group, or organization
  • Hacking/cracking content
  • Illicit drugs and drug paraphernalia
  • Pornography, adult, or mature content
  • Gambling or casino-related content
  • Excessive advertising
  • Any other content that promotes illegal activity or infringes on the legal rights of others
  • Pop-ups, pop-unders or exit windows that interfere with site navigation, obscure Google ads, change user preferences, or are for downloads. Other types of pop-ups, pop-unders, or exit windows may be allowed, provided that they do not exceed a combined total of 5 per user session
  • Excessive, repetitive, or irrelevant keywords in the content or code of web pages
  • Deceptive or manipulative content or construction to improve your site's search engine ranking, e.g., your site's PageRank
  • Incentives (monetary or point-based) to users or third-party beneficiaries for online activity including, but not limited to, clicking on ads or links, performing searches, surfing websites, reading emails, or completing surveys

If you have a high quality site in a niche that has relevant advertisers you should see some very good performance. The higher your traffic the more likely it is that you will receive more clicks and subsequently higher revenue.

There is no limit to the your revenue potential. Some publishers earn a few dollars; others have reached the level where they earn hundreds of dollars per day. It all depends on the effort you are willing to put into your sites.

Adsense pays on a net 30 bases at the end of each month where your account has generated $100 or more in revenue. You can choose either cheque or EFT (if available) as payment method. International publishers can have their cheques issued in the currency of their country of residence, allowing them to save on bank fees.

Adsense is an excellent advertising network provided that you strictly adhere to the terms of service. It is very easy to implement, not too obtrusive to visitors and offers very good income. The best way to see if Adsense will work for you is to apply and implement it on your site for at least one month. You won’t be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Smart Pricing - good or bad?

"Smart Pricing" for AdSense publishers has recently been the talk amongst webmasters. For those of you that don't know what it's about. In a nutshell 'smart pricing' is an algorithm Google AdSense uses to track the conversion from their Adsense ads. You get paid less/more depending on the conversion of the ads you place on your site.

Now there has been lots of complaints about this. Most publishers are seeing quite a large decrease in their revenue, and some of them have even decided to ditch AdSense altogether. Most of this is due to unfounded rumours or plain misconceptions floating around on the Net. Google has posted some facts about smart pricing on their AdSense blog in order to clear up some things.

I don't think that 'smart pricing' is a bad thing. Sure we'll see lower income at the start, but I think as publishers and advertisers get used to this that we can actually expect higher revenue. Advertisers will see a higher return on their investments and are more likely to up their bids, thus providing publishers with higher income.

Smart pricing can also be a well needed answer to 'spammy sites' that are being built purely for Adsense. I'm guessing that this is actually the primary goal. Spammy sites will not attract much targeted visitors, and visitors are less likely to click on ads on sites they don't trust or find useful. As a result the webmasters of the spam sites, are those more likely to see the largest decrease in revenue, making it less profitable for them to create the spam sites in the first place.

Hopefully it might even contribute to a WWW with less spam sites in general. Making it much easier for you to find a site that actually provides you with the information or service you wanted to start with. That can only be a good thing...