Gate Customer Newsletter Hostway
Issue: February 2014

Our Connection Was Built to Last

As we approach Valentine's Day, we'd like to take the opportunity to thank our customers. Everything we do, we do it for you. We aim to see to your every need and to take care of you, and your business, through its entire lifecycle.

So whenever you need us – reach out, and we'll be there.

In This Issue
Our Connection Was Built to Last
Celebrate "Clean Out Your Computer Day" like a Professional Geek
Beyond SEO: How to Bring People to a Business Site
Connect with Us on Social Media
Facebook
 
Win $250. Connect With Us on Social Media to Enter Drawing
 
Exchange 30-Day Trial
 
Do-It-Yourself Web Presence

ResourceNation
January 28, 2014
Investing in your Online Presence: The Importance of Establishing a Digital Storefront

CBS Boston
January 27, 2014
Best Ways To Market A Small Business Effectively

Business2Community
January 8, 2014
What Will SMBs Focus on in 2014? Greater Online Presence

Celebrate "Clean Out Your Computer Day" like a Professional Geek

In honor of "Clean Out Your Computer Day," February 10, we're walking through the process of squeezing every drop of performance out of your PC – and more importantly, help you have a more stable and secure machine.

As an IT guy and gamer, I take pride in how my PC performs under a myriad of conditions. Whether I'm over-clocking a CPU or installing a new set of LED lights in the chassis, I'm always afforded opportunities to evaluate the hardware and software performance. Like many IT professionals, I'm often cornered by family members or colleagues and grilled on why their computers are slow. I'm always amazed how poorly some PCs are maintained. Amazed, but seldom surprised.

Each of the eight helpful tips below can be done in just five minutes or less:

  1. Turn off unneeded widgets: Many background programs – such as widgets on your desktops like the clock and weather – are often guilty of bogging down all but the most robust systems.  Desktop widgets are notorious memory gluttons, and can slow your system down substantially if your system is older. If you don't need it or don't use it, turn it off.
  2. Clean your hardware: You've seen how dusty your house gets, just imagine what your machine looks like inside. Open up your physical tower (not applicable to laptops) and hold a can of compressed air in an upright position and proceed to blow out the inside of the case with special attention to the fans. Take great care to open a window first or take the machine outside to avoid breathing in the fumes. Clear the heat sink fan, as well as the PC's intakes where air is sucked in. Make sure to pay attention to the vents and cooling fans that create airflow through the PC. They tend to be the most clogged.
  3. Get rid of desktop clutter: Clean up your desktop by deleting unneeded documents and icons. Or better yet, get rid of every non-essential icon on your desktop and put them in a folder. Your PC will accelerate some, no longer having to refresh all those icons.
  4. Check for and remove unwanted programs: Use the Programs and Features (newer) or Add/Remove Programs (older) control panel in Windows. Highlight a program to see available options, and click to completely uninstall it. Mac users may typically drag unwanted programs into the Trash.
  5. Clean out junk files to recover disk space: Windows 7 users should go into the Start Menu -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools and run Disk Cleanup. It will list all the junk files you should remove. If you have Windows 8, type "disk cleanup" in the user interface to find the application. Disk Cleanup will identify and prompt you to remove files that are no longer of any use such as temporary Internet files, temporary Windows files, setup log files, Downloaded program files and your recycle bin.
  6. Check for adware and malware: Adware, malware and spyware refer to programs that can compromise your computer's performance and create security holes. There are specialized free programs designed to find and erase adware and spyware. Two of my favorite free ones are Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and Piriform's CCleaner. CCleaner has the added benefit of clearing out cookies and bloated files from your Internet browsers, and can also scan for registry issues.
  7. Ensure your virus protection is up to date: There are many options available to protect your PC, including paid and free Antivirus programs.  One of my favorite antivirus programs is AVG Free Edition. Cybercriminals and identity thieves thrive on accessing PCs without dated or no Antivirus protection installed. While no precaution is ever full proof a robust Antivirus is enough protection for the typical user with normal online activity.  Remember it is best to run the program on an automated schedule to ensure routine updates and scans to keep your system safe and secure.
  8. Defragment your hard drive: It's a great help if it fits your hardware, but never run a defragment utility on a solid state hard drive. Over time, as you add and delete files on your system, you may not realize you are creating a giant mess on your hard drive. As you first begin to write files, they are stored in a single area of available space. As those files are deleted, they leave holes of available space that will eventually fill with new files. Over time, your machine will have to seek your entire hard drive for pieces of a file which may have been spread across the platter to fill these holes. The result is a system that is much slower in retrieving information, booting up, starting programs, etc. Defragmenting your hard drive allows your files to avoid being scattered and improves your system performance substantially.

And finally, some advice: Back up your data on an external hard drive, a USB drive, or better yet, store your data in the cloud. Much like an old VHS cassette that ages and decays, a typical hard drive has an expiration date. Generally speaking, there is a 5% chance your hard drive will fail each year; after three years, that increases to 12%.

With these tips in mind, you can tackle one Spring Cleaning task early. You'll really notice the difference.

Resources:
http://www.extremetech.com/computing/170748-how-long-do-hard-drives-actually-live-for

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Beyond SEO:
How to Bring People to a Business Site

Website designers have been using Search Engine Optimization to lure visitors for nearly 20 years. These days, it's mandatory practice for businesses. So, does implementing SEO to the best of your abilities even tilt the playing field in your favor anymore?

Attracting visitors has always involved more than SEO. But as companies grow more sophisticated with their SEO practices, it becomes imperative to engage in other types of online marketing to drive traffic to your site.

There aren't really shortcuts, either; making your site worth visiting is the concept behind most of the traffic-driving methods.

Here are six ways your website can be more useful, and more likely to generate new and return visitors:

  1. Better, more Interactive Content: The written word is the heart of any site. No simpler advice exists than constantly improving that – your text has to be concise in addressing topics on visitors' minds. Bolster it with other media.

    Create a series of brief instructional videos – how-to content excels when you can visually demonstrate what you're describing. SEO systems love video content. Is your industry more audio-friendly, or would video eat up too much bandwidth? Post interviews and explainers as sound files.

    Every little bit helps, but what helps most is excellent information in your specialty. The best websites produce valuable well-written insights, bringing people useful data that's difficult to find elsewhere.
  2. Build a Responsive Website: Increasingly, business is being conducted on mobile devices; it's becoming the norm for companies to build responsive versions of their websites catered to the mobile viewer.

    A responsive design allows a website to fit whatever screen size loads it: desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Visitors appreciate a site that's simple to navigate via phone, providing the most essential information in an easy-access manner. Determine what mobile users are most likely to seek – directions, your phone number, your hours, inventory – and put that front and center.
  3. Start a Loyalty, Referral or Brand Ambassador Program: It is straightforward to make existing customers feel appreciated, and keep them from migrating to a competitor.

    Incentives rewarding repeat business come in different shapes and sizes. Customers who write positive reviews on third-party sites can become "Brand Ambassadors" with some special privilege. One-time rewards can be offered for customers who refer business. Repeat purchases themselves can be discounted or used to accumulate reward-program points.
  4. Conduct a Webinar: The expertise that people seek from you doesn't need to come in the same old format. Engage readers with something interactive.

    Offer a free instructional session to display your know-how. Many webinars are now built around the idea of attending during part of your lunch break. Give customers a face and voice to associate with your company, and a forum for interaction via Q&A sessions, polls and special offers.
  5. 5. Make Your Case (with Case Studies): Potential customers want to see how your product works in a real-life setting. The closest thing you can offer, in many cases, is a case study.

    Pick a satisfied customer using a product you want to promote, and co-author a story about your business relationship and successes. Co-market whitepapers or webinars with partners who build complementary products.

    Few things are as potent a marketing weapon as getting your success out there in the words of a successful, satisfied customer.
  6. Declare Local Ties: Even if your business is entirely online, don't ignore local directories and mobile mapping applications. For brick-and-mortar stores, it's even more crucial.

    Many consumers will see value in buying local, boosting their own economy. If local customers go looking for you, ensure you're found – submit your location to online mapping services. Don't frustrate customers driving around, unable to find you.

Once your website is as useful as it can be,  focus onluring people in. Here are four ways to get more eyes on your content and offers.

  1. Social Media, Used Strategically: Building an online audience is a huge piece of the puzzle. Use social media outlets to discuss promotions, new products, industry news – everything you can offer. Provide customers an extra avenue for feedback, technical or customer service questions.

    Link up with an influential social media site or personality for additional promotion. Friends in social places can put you in new customers' good graces.
  2. Compile a Newsletter Audience: First-time visitors may never return, so use newsletters to find them instead. Strong newsletter material reminds them of your website's value.

    Via your newsletter platform, introduce some of the loyalty program ideas mentioned above. Show your frequent customers some love. Make it easy for them to return by providing links back to your site.
  3. Try PPC Campaigns: Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be a cost-effective medium, but the management of these campaigns is both an art and a science. It's important to make sure your key phrases, ad copy and landing pages are all cohesive and relevant to your business as this will impact your bids and placement.

    The goal for PPC is to get top placement on search pages so that your company is seen first. Paid visitors will click on your ad if your message and promotions are relevant and timely.
  4. Hosting Add-Ons: Your service provider is there to make it easier for your website to succeed – it's how they make you a repeat customer. So research the options they have available. Many will offer these tools through a unified control panel for simplified management.

    In Gate.com's case, we've built several utilities that help websites grow: Newsletter Broadcast gets email marketing up and running, while Website Builder Extender can handle mobile and social presences. Social Media Integration tools provide a convenient avenue for communicating with your customer base.

The best strategies are likely to mix in several of the ideas above as businesses see what works best in their individual cases. As long as they stay vigilant – always doing something to bring in more visitors and always testing their solutions – viewership should keep rising.

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