My Top Ten Host……. tips – How to pick a shared host – UPDATED!

While it’s not my most ask question, from time to time I get asked if I have a top 10 host list. The most common question is who I recommend. To be honest I have not really looked for a provider better than the ones I use, not because I am happy with whom I am with. I have not looked because I really have not had the time to find a better host. After all the last few months my posts have been rare, much to the joy of my critics. If you’re a critic I would like to remind you, this is not my main source of income, and this is something I do in my spare time. I can assure you I am not done, and I have a lot of content sitting on the back burner waiting for my spare time.

Since I can’t recommend any one, and I don’t have a top ten host list, I will give you my top ten tips when picking out a host. This will also be the start of my top ten. No, I am not going to tell you ten hosts that I think are super-duper, and get paid a nice sum for every new customer I bring in through an affiliate link. I can’t promise that I will ever recommend a host. This is the start of a monthly post I plan to do where I post my own personal top 10 suggestions, advice, and maybe something totally off topic all of which will not tell you which host I recommend. Hopefully this post and the future top ten posts will help you find a good host and perhaps help you keep your sanity.

My Top Ten is based off my 11 years of experience running 4 hosting companies, and the last year reviewing hosts that appeared on webhostingsuff.com, that spammed me, or appeared on other hosting review sites.

1. Have a plan

Honestly this is probable the weakest of my advice, as I scrambled to come up with a 10thsuggestion, which becomes point number 1. After all you should know what you want and need before you actually get service. It’s not something that applies to most people; most know what they are going to do and how they are going to do it. However I have had people contact me after they bought a domain and hosting, sometimes months after they purchased service to ask what they should do. No idea of what they were going to do, just the idea in their head that having a website means lots of money. It’s not that simple. One particular customer thought that his account did not start till he used it, and was a bit angry to receive a bill 365 days after he purchased service. I have yet to find a host that starts the clock once you start using your account. To be honest if you have no plan, and don’t know how you’re going to implement your plan you should avoid buying a hosting account.

If you have read my previous posts, you will know my first hosting company was a bust, granted it was not due to a lack of a plan. But a greedy business partner, a point I had not calculated for. Too many of the details were left in his control, and he decided to lock me and another partner out. Despite which he had no sales experience, technical experience, or any form of an idea of how to run the company as he was learning off me and the other business partner. For which he lacked a plan on how to keep what he had stolen. The host that finally took off and made it easy to start up other operations took months, and lots of capital. It took practically a year before I started to get a income off it for both me and the business partner that got kicked out of the first operation. Never mind the new business partner for the start of this operation turned out to be a mistake, there was a plan in place to replace him having learned from the mistakes of the first host. Needless to say that host is going on year 13, and almost 2 years without me.

2. Read the terms of service

If there is anything I cannot say enough, it is to read the terms of services. Often when doing my reviews it’s the first thing I go after. I can’t say it was the part of the reviews I was looking forward to. But it often served me well to read the competitor terms of service when a customer threatens to leave me for them.

Any host worth your business is going to have a link to the terms of service on every page of their site, most commonly found on the bottom of every page. Sometimes called terms of use. If you cannot locate the terms from the main page you should avoid that company, or contact them to get a link to where the terms service is. Personally I would not bother with a host that does not have an easy to find term of service.

Yes I know its long and it’s boring. Plus these days it comes in multiple parts such as user agreement, privacy policy, acceptable use policy,…… There are a lot of good reasons for reading this long and rarely entertaining jumble of words such as hidden fees, what is and is not covered by the terms of service, what may close your account, and / or if there is actually any level of guarantee. Not to mention the process one would take if a company offered a 30 day guarantee.

I have found a lot of hosts that offer a 30 day refund guarantee on the front of their site, yet on the terms of service it will state there are no refunds.

3. Don’t sign up for service with any company that offers anything less than a 30 day guarantee on their shared hosting services

When it came to selling hosting services I can tell you I preferred shared hosting, versus dedicated or vps with good reason there was a much higher profit margin and a lower amount of financial risk with shared hosting. Dedicated servers always carry a risk of finical lose as you only have one client per machine. Not to mention there was always some customer that did not know how to maintain their dedicated server. Because of the very nature shared hosting being a multiple customer setup and high income are the very reasons I don’t think anyone should go with a host without a 30 day guarantee on their shared hosting service. Granted I think the same should apply with VPS and cloud accounts as well as lot of time has passed since these services became available.

Per number 2 I recommend reading the terms service to make sure whatever shared plan you choose has a thirty day guarantee or better and is not limited to certain plans or certain purchased time periods. I approve of hosts that only allow the 30 day guarantee once per customer, also limits on the guarantee that only cover the hosting unless the host is responsible for the account being closed by offering poor service.

4. Buy what you need – don’t be too cheap or overwhelm your finances

Often I have encountered customers that bought more than they could afford, or bought a plan that was super cheap but could not handle their site. From the more then needed I had a customer that threw all his money into one of my most expensive plans at $1400 + a month. After 2 years and a project that never took off, his site maxed out his American Express card. When I had a tech look into the site, we found he could have easily kept his account on a shared environment under $50 a month plan.

I had another customer that was probable the worst of cheap skates Which is funny because I was recently contacted by one of the people that bought my share in a hosting company to find why I had black listed this individual. I banned him because he was a serious risk of crashing a server. He had made this popular free screen saver, which he used to collect email addresses with. Which was an honest way to collect email addresses. However the problem was he migrated from one hosting provider to me for my cheapest plan at the time was $14.99 a month, and thought he could use that account to mail out to his list of over 100,000 people. I believe there should be some reasonable % income that should be set aside for a business web presence especially when the site is the main source for getting customers. Naturally his account was shut down for exceeding his resources. He was also denied a refund, as crashing a server violated the terms of service. The part I thought was the kicker was he complained about losing thousands of dollars every hour that the site was down. A year before I sold my the company he signed up under another cheap plan, and he tried the same thing. Which was why I banned him from ever getting service.

5. Don’t buy an unlimited space plan

First let me point out quantity is not a quality indicator. For years I have had customers that thought just because a competitor offering more of a resource then I was for less than they were a better host. Only to come back later, sometimes because they found out that the extras cost more than just upgrading their account with one of my companies. As time went on unlimited plans came into play. Keep in mind there is nothing true about an account being an unlimited account, its merely a commercial gimmick. Not to mention the cheaper the service is the more people that are going to be crammed on to a server to make it profitable. After all the whole point of having a hosting company is to make a profit.

If a company tries to tell you that unlimited hosting is not overselling, they really should be avoided. Overselling is selling more then you actually have, where commonly no one ever uses all of what is available. So if a host tells you this they are either dishonest or idiots.

In most cases the terms of service will tell you that the so called unlimited plans are not unlimited. Most will tell you what you can have on your account, such as not using it to back up your computer onto. Some only allow domains that belong to you, or in other words no reselling. In rarer cases they will tell you what the limits are that will get your account shut down. Such as processor usage. None of them will tell you exactly how much space you get to have before they shut your account down.

What I consider the biggest nightmare is unlimited reseller plans. I had a few customers that were on such plans with other providers, only to have their accounts shut down. One such reseller caused quite a mess as he refused to respond to his customers. He also refused to respond to my phone calls and emails until weeks after his site was shut down. So his customers did a dns check and found my company. They ignored the fact that the dns was recently changed. I did a further check to find the original host that offered unlimited reseller plan. These unlimited space customers under an unlimited reseller plan came in by chat, email, and by phone. I think over all it was about 200 people who were taking time away from paying customers. So his site was disabled, and a special notice was put up on the site of which host he had come from and who to deal with.

6. Don’t sign up for 1 or 5 years for the first time, sign up for a month

If your happy after a 30 day period of time sign up for longer terms for maximum savings. Even go so far as to see if the host will credit back the difference on the first month for going to an annual plan or cheaper per month plan. It’s something I did, and it was a great way for me to get skeptical customers to sign up, and often they did pay for a longer term. I am not saying that other hosts will do it, but it never hurts to ask. Are you 100% certain your plan has a 30 day guarantee? This is why I say to read the terms of service, many companies have it in there terms of service that they do not offer any refunds after 30 days. So you may be stuck with a company, or worse out of money and a host. But if you pay for a month and find you do not like the host you will only lose a month. Not to mention while you may consider doing a charge back, I don’t recommend it. The only time I ever won a charge back against a client was when they did too many charge backs. A charge back should be used only as a last resort. If its $20 or so, don’t bother you may have to do a dispute at a later date for a much higher amount, and you don’t want a $20 charge to be the reason you lose a charge back against another company for a much higher amount.

7. Avoid “free” domains, and other freebies

Chances are if you do not like the host keeping the domain is going to cost you more than getting it from a third party. Not to mention the issues you may have in getting the domain transferred to a different register. One of which most hosts will not allow a transfer until 2 months or longer after the domain is purchased or renewed due to the possibility of a charge back. This is why I recommend going with a domain register independent of your host. Often it can be a lot cheaper than what it would cost to retain the domain with a host. Especially since there are a lot of hosts out there that only give you one year on the domain only to charge more than independent register would.

As for the other freebies back in December 2010, I took a look at Siteground.com. They had this offer of free services for “x” amount of months. What it was not clear on was when they would bill customers, or how much they would be billed. Siteground.com made it to clear to me after I contacted them by chat that the services would indeed be billed after the “free” time was up, and they would be billed for the full amount, not a prorated amount to match up for the hosting renewal. Which meant 4 different individual billing date through a year for the same account. They also indicated that they would send notices out, but I have had people contact me and tell me they did not receive the notices.

But if you must have the freebies, be prepared what it may cost at a later date.

Point 8 is being re-written as it has been brou

8. Contact them by chat, phone, email, and whatever else

Before signing up with any host I would suggest contacting them. The main purpose of this is to make sure you get a response in a reasonable amount of time. Not to mention see if you will get a professional response.  Now I am not saying that this is an indicator of how well support will work, or even that you will get a chance to test drive support. Which is why I suggest making sure a company offers a true 30 day or greater guarantee (can’t say it enough read the terms of service). However what is the point of having a really good sales person, if a hosting company is not willing to invest in support as well?

24/7 cut and paste support versus 12 – 16 hours true tech support

So which would you prefer technical support that may only be available 12 – 16 hours of the day, or ready cut and paste support? By cut and paste support I mean someone that has no experience that may rely on a FAQ database. Worse they may be working from a binder.

When I first wrote these hosting recommendations they were intended for the budget conscience hosting consumer. I made the mistake and took into consideration my own hosting needs.

Previously this point outlined that I would not use a host that does not offer 24/7 support. However there are several reasons behind that, and those reasons may not work for every person. Especially if you’re on a tight budget, My own hosting fees exceed  three thousand a month. I answer to international cliental as well as domestic these days, and there is no telling when I may have to contact a provider.

However back when I started I did design work for customers in my county, I could literally bike to meet my customers (and often I did) and I ran what would be at best called banker hours (8 am to 5pm). I did not work weekends, and I often took Friday off. My hours worked for my clients; rarely ever did they call me on my off hours. I also can’t seriously remember if Virtualis offered tech support 24/7 back when I started. But this was back in the day when hosting companies like Virtualis guaranteed 90% uptime.

I miss the old days.

New and small hosts have a lot of motivation to make sure a customer is taken care of. Seriously giants like Godaddy.com  literally consider you a number (no really you’re a number with Godaddy, as they issue you one  when you sign up).  If new and small hosts don’t choose to outsource their support to a third party, or someone that does not have the first clue what FTP or MySQL is that means they have to invest in a serious tech. They don’t come cheap. Maybe like some of my business partners the owner partakes in support, people who actually know what they are doing (well one of them didn’t). Yet instead of waiting for someone to “research” your issue, you will have someone that knows what to do.

Generally when it comes to shared hosting and cheap, corners are cut. When quantity and not quality is a business practice, Tech support is among the cuts. In order to compete with other cheap hosts, theses hosts have to offer so called 24/7 support. Many hosting companies like mega giant Endurance International Group (owners of Fatcow.com, Bluehost.com, Hostgator.com, and many other companies) get around that by outsourcing their support. Many outsource companies don’t even provide actual techs, just readily available copy and paste answers or a binder to refer to.

I have done the same when my business partners decided that we should compete in the cheap market. The problem with that is we had to train them from the ground up. Turnover was high and they didn’t exactly train each other. In order to keep on top of it I had to literally install a monitor on any pc I worked on that allowed me to see all incoming chats. I also had random audits.. But I doubt that is the case with most cheap hosting that outsource.

Given the choice between a host that offers 24/7 cut and paste answers to a host that is not open 24 hours a day but has an actual technician I think the choice is clear. If you should choose the route of a hosting company that does not offer 24 hour support I suggest choosing a host whose active when you are active. But keep in mind that depending on the importance of your issue you may not get a immediate response. Like say you want to know how to set up an email account (low importance), versus your account is offline (critical).

In addition I would check to make sure there are no additional fees for off hours support. Not something I often find when looking over the terms of service for hosts but it’s another good reason to read the terms of service.

9. Understand your relationship with your host

There is a good chance that whoever read this is not looking to pay more than $10 a month for hosting. I could be wrong, but most people that ask me what host I recommend, ask for a cheap host. In most cases this is what your host is not:

Your webmaster

Your business planner

Your web designer

Your programmer

Your business partner

Your teacher

11 years in the business I have encountered a lot of people that thought this was part of their hosting service. Yes some thought I was their business partner. Granted in some cases some of these points were offered, but it was at an extra cost, which I can tell you it was rare for anyone to purchase a $10 a month plan and to add that on to their service. I am going to repeat myself here, your hosting provider is in this to make money. This was the point of them starting a hosting operation. Ask yourself how much are you willing to offer for what you paid? Would you and could you offer what you are asking for at the amount you are paying? Your host’s chief responsibility is to provide uninterrupted hosting service, timely support, and to make sure the server is kept up to date. If you buy a script from a third party, its not your hosts responsibility to make sure that it works as its not their responsibility to make sure your graphics are in the proper folder to show up on your website unless that is what the package says it offers.

I am actually borrowing my train of thought on this from Michael of : mddhosting.com

http://www.mikedvb.com/2009/08/10/are-you-a-host-jumper/

The hosting provider is usually not your webmaster or designer and if you find yourself submitting tickets asking your host how to do things with your site then chances are that you are in over your head and you may want to look for a webmaster.

10. Be skeptical of reviews

If you decide to see what other people have to say about a company use caution. Keep in mind some sites are purely created for the purpose of making a commission, and not giving an unbiased review of a host. No I am not saying that affiliate programs are bad, as I am often accused of. Regardless if the affiliate program was there or not, I am sure these people would find a way to make a buck rather if it was unethical or not. Many of these so called reviews never actually use the hosts they recommend. Like take for example hostaz.com and webhostignstuff.com, none of these “review sites” have ever actually use any of the top hosts they recommend.

One way of looking to see who they use is a tool I like to use:

http://centralops.net/co/DomainDossier.aspx

From there you can find out were a site is located, not to mention how long they have been at their current location, and better yet how old the site is. So if a host tells you they have been in business for 10 years, you can see if the domain has been around for that long from the creation date. But you might want to contact them to see if they had another domain, or are using another company as the start date.

Another tell-tale sign is that they if  the review site is in it for a commission is if they offer a coupon. Which is one of the gimmicks these affiliates use, to get people to click on a link and have a affiliate cookie placed on your machine to get a commission. Granted not all of these special offers are legit as some review sites like alreadyhosting.com have links to sites that do not have any special offers.

Then there are sites like hostingsthatsuck.com, which work on the basis of trying to prove to you a site does not suck based on the word “(host name) sucks”, which would work if not for the fact that sucks is not the only negative word in the English language that could be applied to a company. In some cases this was a paid spot by new hosts like zyma,com. Which hostinsthatsuck.com does not bother to disclose the reason for the lack of “sucks” results is that the company just came online. Not to mention I have often found more results off the first page for “(hosting name) sucks” in search engines then they claim are in all results.

I am not saying all the reviews that you see out there are fake, I am saying that you should be cautious. If someone tells you they just signed up and they love the host, it’s not giving you what you need which is a long term view. If all they tell you is the features, you should wonder if that is not the host creating a review.

Not to mention some review sites are owned by the very hosting company that appears on top all the time.  One example is Siteground.com being the owner of besthostsdirectory.com.

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On a side note a new company is not a bad thing; we all have to start somewhere. This is why I recommend that on the initial sign up that you do no more than 30 days the first time around, and sign up for more time later on. Also a new company may be more eager to work to keep your business, where as a large establishment may consider you more of a number.

SEO Experts – Top 10 Tips To Tell If They Know What They Are Doing

SEO experts seem to be a dime a dozen these days.  But not everyone claiming to be a SEO experts knows what they are doing. I think the best standard is that they have to know more than I do.  I am by no stretch of the imagination an SEO Expert (I am a self-proclaimed SEO noob). Everything I know about SEO is reflected on this site. Not to mention I have literally been poked with a stick to know what I know (I would have preferred to play video games).

So before I go into a whole spill about not being an SEO expert and having ADD, and that I find SEO boring; I know enough to spot a crappy SEO Expert.

The reason for this post was because of so called SEO Experts Mindshark.ca.  In July 2010 prior to them starting up they decided to harvest my email from this site for the purposes of spamming. One of their first spammings was about my competitors having an edge.  Granted if someone else came along and actually did what I do better than me, I would happily stand a side. But it does not appear anyone wants to write reviews about hosting review sites.  Because these so called SEO Experts decided to claim I opted in I decided to complain to Netfirms and wrote two posts, one of which was to prove they were not the SEO Experts that they claimed to be.

I re-reviewed them last month. Which triggered a furry of emails asking me who to go with. While I know some really good people in the business, you may not want to pay what they ask for (probable because no one returned my email after mentioning they were not cheap). I can tell you how I spotted the problems with Mindshark.ca; those details can help in making an informed decision when shopping for a SEO Expert.

Top Ten Tips for seeing if your SEO Expert is Valid

1. Alexa.com tells you how well SEO Experts rank

If you read enough of this blog there is no surprise that Alexa is at the top of the list. Out of any SEO detail I find Alexa.com interesting. Which maybe has to do with the fact that Alexa.com belongs to Amazon.com, or maybe it has to do with history graphs. Yes, amazingly historical graph charts can keep my attention.  If any SEO Expert tries to tell you that Alexa.com is not a valid measure of a site’s traffic, promptly mark their emails as spam.

I have used Alexa in many cases to prove that hosts may have just started or to show how popular they may be. It can work just as well for looking at SEO Experts and their sites. In fact Alexa.com can tell you a lot about rather if someone is actually a SEO expert. They should be able to do for themselves what they claim they will do for you.

In case you don’t understand how Alexa works, low numbers good, high numbers bad. For more details see: http://www.alexa.com/help/traffic-learn-more

Examples of some sites I visit:

Facebook.com – 1
Google.com – 2
Yahoo.com – 4
Twitter.com – 8
Amazon.com – 10
Netflix.com – 96
Hostgator.com – 240
Tigerdirect.com – 1,497
Penny-arcade.com – 5,223
Centralops.net – 18,996
Romanticallyapocalyptic.com – 74,178

After 21 days how did hosting-reviews-exposed.com do compared to so called SEO Experts Mindshark.ca?

Hosting-reviews-exposed.com – 125,586 formally 129,240, a loss of 3,654. Nice but I am sure other people could do better.

Alexa.com says this about Hosting-review-exposed.com.

There are 125,585 sites with a better three-month global Alexa traffic rank than Hosting-reviews-exposed.com. 

Mindshark.ca – 768,973 formally 637,187, a gain of 131,786. In terms of being SEO Experts this is really bad.  That number should be going down.

Another warning sign is when you see this “Historical data not available for sites ranked > ~ 100,00”, if you see that with any so called SEO Expert run, don’t walk. For some reason Alexa.com is showing historical data for Hosting-reviews-exposed.com I can only assume because their system predicts this site will go below 100,000.

However Alexa.com is not fool proof, there are ways so called SEO Experts can fool the system. I suggest avoiding any service that artificially enhances your Alexa score as this can have a negative effect on your site later on.

There are places you can go online to pay to ping a site to fake traffic numbers, most can get you below 100,000 on Alexa.com. However that does not guarantee there are no tell-tale signs. Clearly that is the case with this site that rigs Alexa scores.

Another thing to look for is what countries that are highest in traffic.  For example, so called SEO experts Mindshark.ca claims “Home to the latest and greatest Internet Marketing Strategies in North America,”

No Surprise but Mindshark.ca, self-proclaimed SEO Experts are not even big in their own country Canada.

Which if there is any place you want to have traffic in, it would be your own country. Especially when their propaganda lists Toronto, London, and Sydney along with New York and Delhi.

Another tell-tale sign is if the extreme ups and downs in traffic history.

The above chart is from one of those Alexa score boosting companies, clearly their attempts to manipulate the system have back fired. I think at worst the highest a SEO Expert’s site should be is at 100,000 or lower.

2. Centralops.net and Archive.net – When a SEO Expert’s history matters

So you get claims that someone has been using an SEO expert for years, maybe even a decade or more. Perhaps this SEO expert uses their BBB record as proof that they were around that long. Problem is the BBB does not verify when a company got into business.

Domains whois information on the other hand is next to impossible to fake.

However creation dates don’t tell the whole story. Maybe like me they had the domain for years before using, or they purchased it as a “aged domain”. Which is why I recommend looking at archive.net (thewaybackmachine).  This site will tell you what a site looked like from creation to today. Few changes indicated little was done with the site. A domain providers  start up page for years at a time indicated they were not active. One site that is a perfect example is Zyma.com it was formally a construction site out of Spain, and late 2010 they became a British hosting company.

3. What the Better Business Bureau can tell you about SEO Experts

I know I just told you not to trust the start date.  Anyone that knows me might think it a bit odd that I would use the BBB as a reference. But there is a valid reason.  One thing to note is it took years before mindshark.ca was actually registered with the BBB, and they contacted me not long after we launched. Perhaps it is not the case for everyone.

But that is not what I think should be focused on. The real issue I have with this SEO Expert’s BBB record they claim they have 200 plus resellers, 300 plus SEO firms that outsource to them, and 4,000 plus clients.

This strikes me as odd:

Why might I find a record that has zero complaints odd? Because it is too good to be true. There is always going to be a customer that cannot be pleased, especially when you offer “Affordable SEO services”, i.e. cheap. Not to mention no company is perfect.  Never mind this SEO expert claims to be in business since 2006, the last three years have zero complaints.

No one can please every customer they have, even if they cherry pick who is going to be a customer.

4. SEO Experts with Google Page Rank less than 5 need not apply.

I recommend using this site to see what your SEO experts page rank is.

http://www.prchecker.info/

From what I am told a page rank of 5 is the lowest you want to go with someone that claims to be a SEO expert.

As for what Google Page rank is:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PageRank

5. Search Engine results, what Yahoo.com, Bing.com, and Google tells you about SEO Experts.

At worst any self-proclaimed SEO expert should have the main page populated keeping off any negative feedback about their company for any search for just their name.

Example what searching for “mindshark.ca” shows on Bing.com, Yahoo.com, and Google.com: To date I have at least two posts on the first page of their search engine results.

6. How social are SEO Experts – Social Media Facebook / Twitter

About 4 years ago I learned a trick for getting Twitter followers. That is to follow someone who follows whoever follows them. There is software that can do this for you. It is super easy to spot.  Example someone has 17,000 followers, and they are following 17,000 people.  For my twitter account for this site @hostingscams, I have 1,700 followers, yet I follow about 20 people.  I don’t follow everyone that follows me simply because there is no way I could keep track of every tweet. Plus not every twitter account is following me for the sheer sake of seeing who I am doing a blog post on.  I get at least 3 – 8 a day that stop following me after 24 hours.

Clearly Mindshark.ca is using this method.

Twitter followers can also be purchased. You might want to check the followers to see how many people they actually follow.

Facebook is a harder thing to figure out. I know that likes can also be purchased.

My own page has 675 followers at this time. While appreciate the likes I tend to doubt my Facebook pages represents normal active websites and their social media. But there are some clear details I see when looking at the visitors for self-proclaimed SEO Experts Mindshark.ca.

What I see as problematic is the age bracket 18 -24 year olds. The other problem is the rate of visitors is rare. So rare that the best week was 1 visitor.  Even with 675 likes I appear to have more engagement with the people that liked my site, despite my lack of daily activity.

7. How did you find this SEO expert, or did they find you?

One of the things I have noticed with Mindshark.ca is that they literally phished for details. They got my email by going to my contact form, replying to them justified adding me to their mailing list. Never mind their initial mail out did not have my name. Others had their email and phone numbers harvested through sites that were meant to connect with professionals. They meant to connect with other people that would provide them work, not the other way around.

First Contact from a SEO Expert firm should not start off with a one size fits all mail out. I can understand a firm contacting a website, and providing details one what they see with their site, and what potential the site has with hard numbers.

Did the SEO Expert contact you?  Did they have permission to put you on their mailing list? If they put you on their mailing list avoid them.  Never do business with anyone that spams you.

I wish I could tell you how to find a SEO expert but the best I can do is tell you to try forums and advertising.  The people I deal with generally word of mouth from designers like myself.

8. SEO Experts Testimonials

One thing that stuck out to me with mindshark.ca was the testimonials. A site claiming to offer SEO services should have websites in their testimonials.  There were none.

Should a site(s) appear in the testimonials points 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 should be used to see how well they performed.

9. SEO Experts awards

If there is anything to be learned from the hosting review industry, its awards are not always earned.  They are often bought.

Look for:

  • Awards that are vague on details.
  • Awards that look like they were written by the SEO experts.
  • Awards site that has a link for advertise with us, when there is no visible advertising on the site.
  • Awards sites that have no visible source of income.
  • SEO Experts Awards that do not link directly back to the independent “unaffiliated” party
  • Awards that are more so an affiliation than an award (example they use a merchant so that merchant gives them a page to promote from).
  • Things that are listed as awards that let anyone put their site up.
  • They received an award from a site that has a top 10 list of SEO Experts, and the one you are looking at has an affiliate program.
  • Award sites with the same whois and/or network details as the SEO Expert
  • Award sites that fail at points 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6.

While I am no expert on SEO Expert awards, I can only assume that what was very visible in the Hosting Review industry would apply very well to the SEO Review industry.

10. The SEO Expert warns you about other SEO experts, sends you testiomonials and awards. Yet the SEO Expert fails to send you ideas.

One thing I noticed from the emails I got that Mindshark.ca was sending out was warning about:

These signs have been compiled after close examination of the common features of many Unethical and Inexperienced SEO firms which exist.

Clearly what this is for is to keep you from looking at other SEO Experts; it is designed to cause doubt. The awards and testimonials I have already covered how to look at. But clearly they are being sent to impress.

What you should be getting from any SEO expert is a plan of action. If you are in a field that is competitive they should be able to tell you what your competitors strong points and weak points are.

Finding SEO experts is no easy task

Things to remember:

  • There is no such thing as a quick fix
  • Its not a one time deal
  • What worked 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or 1 year ago may no longer work today.
  • They should have targets like traffic, keywords, and demographics.

When it comes to any service be they SEO Experts or whatever else, buyer beware.

Top 10 things to do now that you have cheap hosting

The big problem with the cheap hosting industry is it presents people with the idea that web hosting service is more than what it is. Worse are those hosts that engage in a false package called unlimited hosting. Creating a façade that you can do anything with a package that costs less than $10 a month. Most hosting companies do nothing to change that image. As I frequently state a hosting company was formed to obtain profit. If you become a customer that becomes an expenditure a host will find a reason to cut your account off.

When it comes to an unlimited package, there is little room for competing other than to lower the price and offer tons of gimmicks that are rarely ever used.

So if you have a cheap hosting plan these are my recommendations:

1. Do your own Backups

I cannot stress enough that you should not rely on any single source of back up. I try to make it a common theme in all my posts especially when dealing with unlimited hosting. Regardless it does not matter which company you are with, the best insurance you can have for protecting your data is to do your own backups and store in at least more than one place.

One of the biggest complaints I see between reviewers on this blog and elsewhere are complaints about data lose. Sometimes the client does something that screws the site up or worse the host has a disaster that can last for mere hours, to days, to weeks, or worse just never come back up. Sometimes when the server comes back up data lose happens. Or perhaps your site was hacked. You can ask any company how much compensation you will get for loss of data, at best you will get the equivalent to what you pay in a month, at worse you will get nothing. Is your site worth thousands of dollars and you only paid $5 per month on your hosting plan? Your host will only give you $5 back.

Even Rackspace offers a limit on how much they will give back. So if your data is worth time and /or money do your own backups.

I also recommend investing in a network or usb drives.

 http://www.amazon.com/mn/search/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=benjaspide-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-keywords=network%20hard%20drive&url=search-alias%3Daps&sprefix=network%20hard%2Caps%2C212

2. Don’t Panic

Pardon me as I reminisce on Hitch Hikers Guide to Galaxy. No I am not going to tell you to have a towel ready, though it may help. In short I am going to say not to sweat the small stuff.

You read many hosting reviews; you will see a lot of angry people. I am not saying there is no justification for it. But too often I see anger consume a lot of productivity. One particular person I am dealing with now is on a vendetta with a host and has even gone so far as to create several anti-sites against the host in question. They say they will remove it once they get their money back. I am not sure how much they earn an hour, but I can tell you by minimum wage standards they could have gotten back their $130 doing something more productive. In the end I am sure the host can contact these places and claim defamation and blackmail to have all this work removed, and this angry customer will not get their money back.

If you are with a big host you are just a number, and you may be dealing with outsourced tech support. Or perhaps your dealing with a small company just getting its feet wet and you may serve as their training. Maybe perhaps they are small and suffer stagnation and have been at the same point for 10 years. In most cases cheap hosting is not going to result in a sales rep that contacts you on weekly basis to strategize, nor send you fancy gifts to endear your loyalty.

But don’t panic.

While not every large/small, established /new host is going to treat you as a means to an end, even good hosts have their bad days.

But don’t panic.

I know in the past I have brought up that a hosting company is in this to make money, but too often people really stress over an account that cost less than $5 a month. In most cases the stress is with lose of time invested into work, which is why I stress doing backups. Granted there is also lose of visitors and paid traffic but at that point you should not be on cheap hosting. So if all fails take a deep breath. Failure is a fact of life, and you can either adapt to it or freak out. Not much is ever accomplished by freaking out.

Now zombie invasions, there is a reason to panic.

3. Don’t make tech support your first destination

With most cheap hosting companies support is not always going to be immediate. Sometimes it may take a day or two especially for non-urgent issues.

If there is anything that is going to make you less of a customer and more of a charity case; that would be relying on support to do everything for you. I am not saying there are issues such as a server being down that doesn’t require you to contact support. Though perhaps instead of going straight to support, perhaps go to the notifications area to see if there is scheduled maintenance or perhaps there is an outage.

I seriously advise against asking talk to the tech that is handling the down time. If any company is willing to humor you with such a request run, don’t walk to another hosting provider. As I have told many customers in the past you can either talk to the tech that is fixing it, or you can let them fix the server.

A lot of solutions for support can be found by search engines, F.A.Q. (frequently asked questions) sections a host provides, and not to mention information can be found in most webhosting control panels.

4. Have a backup host ready.

I can never hammer home enough, do your own backups. So let’s say you have a critical issue for days being it down time, ip configuration, database issue, or whatever else that could affect your site and they have ignored your pleas for help over a day or more. This is the point where you have other hosts to move to, my advice on finding a new host can be found at:

http://hosting-reviews-exposed.com/?p=2351

It’s better to have a backup host picked out before a service disaster then during,

5, Prepare to get bigger

The biggest failure I find most sites go through next to doing little to no work to grow is the failure to pay for a bigger solution. One of my former clients I have talked about before, he made a Christian Screen saver. All people had to do to get it was give them their email address. For which he was clear that he would be marketing Christian related offers to them. Using such methodology he grew his mailing list to over 300,000 people. However when it came time to take advantage of that list he thought it might be ok to do this on an account that was less than $14 a month, this of course went against the terms of service. Safe guards that were put in place suspended his account before he could crash the server or slow the server down to a crawl. Despite having his account shut down he came back another three times before ultimately being banned from service for the same issues. I have to wonder where this guy would be if he had been willing to buy a solution that would work for his needs.

 6. Nothing big happens over a single day of work

Back in 2000 when my first successful hosting operation took off, a strange thing happened. A few people had contact me within weeks of our starting up complaining about not making thousands of dollars. Needless to say I was perplexed as I had spent thousands of my own money over several months (not mentioning the other money from other partners and from a loan) and had not planned getting an immediate payback. Most of these people had what barely amounted to a construction page up. Keep in mind we had paid for advertising to bring people in. As I stated in the beginning of this blog we also had a failure under our belt. Despite now 2.5 years out of the hosting industry the 4 companies I left behind are still up, and still a work in progress with constantly evolving advertising and working constantly to bring in new customers.

Even when success comes, it does not stay without vigilance.

7. Track your uptime / downtime

Before I start into going with a third party to check you’re up time, let me be clear no third party uptime checker is fool proof.

Despite services like pingdom.com not being flawless, they serve an important function. Not always will your hosting provider be honest, nor do they always track up time. On the other side of that option no one has a internet provider that is up 100% of the time or problem free.

8. Social Media

If in the past few months you picked up a Time magazine you might see an internet sensation named Oscar the blind cat. This amazing cat got his start as an internet sensation on YouTube, and through other social media such as Facebook; Oscar and his adopted brother Klaus found their way to Internet fame through a video of Oscar fighting a hair dryer.

There is a lot to learn from Oscar’s adopted parents asides the more important lesson of adopting pets with special needs has its rewards. Which is the value of using social media to bring traffic to your site. Not to mention the best part about social media is it is free.

There is not a popular web host out there that you will not find on Twitter. Often people such as myself follow companies like Amazon.com for special offers such as their retweet for $1 or more towards a purchase. The other value in social media is in search engines.

This site owes its start to YouTube and the many people that shared my video.

 9. Keep your site fresh and up to date

This is a gripe of mine I often have when I looked at hosts, they choose to not bother with updating their site. Like one that was listing an outdated version of Windows NT. Upon reading my article they confirmed they were still using it, despite every expert I know advising against using it for serious security issues.

There are very good reasons behind this point. You watch enough advertising you will see that commercials are design to get your attention. A web site is the most critical form of advertising for any web based business. If your site does not capture a possible customer attention, someone else’s web site will.

10. Secure your site

The last if not least of my ten points is securing your site. While your web host may do a lot to secure your site there are things that you will need to if you cannot afford a web master. Such as updating scripts and other aspects of your site, hackers are constantly looking for weak points.

Another part to this point in security is your password. Change it often and make your own system for a complex password. The lamest excuse ever for a simple password such as ‘password’. Seriously I cannot tell you the number of times I have found hacked accounts that had this password or perhaps one that is the same as the user name for an account. You have no one to blame but yourself if your account has been hacked and no host good or bad host will take responsibility for your account being hacked especially if the fault is yours.

I could go into a whole post on methodology to create your own password just to remember it. But the best I can do is to recommend one that is a combination of things, stay away from small easy ones. Granted no password is perfect but a simple one is just an invitation to a hacker to make your day miserable.

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On a side note: The image that often comes to my mind is an episode of the Simpsons when I think of the cheap hosting industry and the practice of over selling so called unlimited space.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trash_of_the_Titans

In short Homer offers to do things that go way beyond that of a sanitation department. Which bankrupts that department, and he has to allow other cities to dump in Springfield to make up for the inflated budget. The show ends with the relocation of Springfield.