Anchor Text Variations & Other SEO Tweaks

Even with all our recent tweaks, t35 doesn’t seem to be doing too well in terms of SEO. After a recent seo analysis, it was brought to my attention that it might be impacted by the anchor text of the sites that link to us. In particular, about 99% of our anchor text is ‘free web hosting’, including all of the 6,000,000+ member pages on which we have a footer text link on.

Apparently, Google might consider this somewhat of a ‘google bomb’ where someone tries to manipulate the ranking of a site with millions of links with the same keyword. So for our latest SEO tweak/test I decided we are going to try to vary these a little bit.

The game plan is to dynamically rotate the 6,000,000 back links we have from member pages so they contain different anchor text each time the page loads. So in effect, we went from 100% weight on “free web hosting” to 15% “Free PHP Hosting”, 25% “Free Website”, 25% “Free Web Hosting”, 10% “Free Hosting”, 10% “T35 Hosting”. It’s difficult to tell if this will boost our overall ranking or just hurt “free web hosting” while improving the others. At the same time, I’m somewhat scared to lose our top 10 “free web hosting” listing on yahoo. This should be very interesting, and I’ll keep you guys updated as soon as I see any ranking changes.

On a similar (SEO) note, our brand new directory site seems to have dropped off from google a few weeks ago. The only major tweak we made recently was going from to I asked on several forums but couldn’t get a definitive answer as to which is better for SEO. I’m going to try changing it back and see if it helps. I’ll keep you guys posted!

Member count added at T35 Hosting

In the spirit of adding more transparency to our company we have added a new “member count” at the top of all T35 Hosting pages.

The count is automatically updated every 5 minutes in real time, so go ahead and check it out! We are hoping it will add more visibility and transparency to our member base while at the same time letting customers track our corporate progress! Plus, we will be giving out prizes to the 500 thousandths member, 600 thousandths member, etc… Our current trend is about 700 new sign ups each day!

Microsoft IIS to overtake Apache?

Netcraft recently released their October statistics and the results are startling. Apache now has less then a 10% lead on Microsoft’s IIS — the smallest gap between the two since IIS was launched in 1996! From my personal experience, I was always under the impression that Apache was the dominant platform for serving content on the internet. Microsoft’s IIS similarly to it’s operating system, was always plagued by security and instability problems . It’s one thing to get a blue-screen on your personal computer, but imagine getting one on a server hosting millions of websites?

Never the less, Microsoft has apparently been able to not only reverse the market share loss, but attain a huge gain over the last few months. To me this seems to be the result the new Vista roll out and a greater focus on security. Poking around the new IIS I also noticed the integrated features and improved focus on web 2.0. In fact, it seemed extremly easy to setup a blog service and other social network applications with the new version.

A quick check on server statistics accross the ‘net confirmed my view: The majority of blog’s and web 2.0 sites now run IIS! Based on the way things are going, Microsoft’s IIS is set to become the dominant technology for serving content on the internet within 6-12months. Sounds far fetched? Check out the netcraft chart below:

Apache — 68,155,320 — 47.73%
Microsoft — 53,017,735 — 37.13%
Google — 7,763,516 — 5.44%
Sun — 2,262,019 — 1.58%
lighttpd — 1,541,779 — 1.08%

Google Page Rank Update

For those of you who follow Google Page Rank, this has been a pretty exciting week. After an almost 6 month wait, Google has finally updated the rank value it assigns web sites (which then contributes to how well the sites rank in the search engine results). The major change for this update has been in the way Google looks at “paid links”. For years, webmasters have used the google page rank of their site to trade, buy and sell links.

For example, if you were to start a new website, you would have a starting page rank (PR of 0). To reaise your PR you would have to get sites with a higher PR to link back to you. This would in effect put sites with high PR in a good amount of power. They could now sell links on their site, and the higher PR, the more money they could get for the links.

Google has obviously never been a fan of this. They want sites to link to you because you have quality content, not because you paid them off. In effect, you would be cheating the google algorithm and make google think you are a good site that deserves to be higher in rankings (while in reality, you just paid off some high PR sites).

After several months of speculation, Google has finally rolled out their “paid link penalization” page rank update. Although this in itself wasn’t surprising, the kind of sites that got hit is shocking. Forbes, New York Times, and many other notable web properties were hit the hardest. In fact, now has a measly page rank of 4, while our three new websites that were started just a month ago now rate at PR5!

On that note, although I don’t claim to be an SEO expert, I have been experimenting with some SEO for our new websites. Surprisingly, I must have figured out the correct formula because all 3 of our new sites were ranked at PR5 – something that is unheard of for a brand new website! Unfortunately, those rankings came at a cost of lowering from PR6 down to PR5. I am hoping that once the next PR update rolls around, the new sites will be considered *established* and will boost T35 to PR6-7 instead of dragging it down to 6.

With Google now officially frowning on paid links, and even link exchanges, I wonder how this will impact the web development landscape? At the same time, more and more people are becoming frustrated with the vagueness of the Google page rank. It might be a good opportunity for another company to come out with their own site ranking tool. Yahoo, MSN, and are all good candidates.

I would love to hear some feedback from all of you guys. How was your site affected by the new page rank update? Do you plan to change the way you conduct business (link exchanges, etc..)?

Is Fantastico for cPanel becoming obsolete?

I was setting up another server for T35 Hosting yesterday and noticed something new in cpanel’s WHM (the administrative side of cpanel). They now seem to have a pretty comprehensive list of one-click-install scripts that can be offered to customers.

For those not so familiar with Fantastico, that has pretty much been their business model since they started a few years back. In fact, Fantastico has been so popular that it’s now a standard feature on most cPanel web hosts. Now that cPanel itself is offering the same service, has fantastico become obsolete? Why pay an extra $10/month per server and deal with the setup hassles when cpanel seems to offer many of the same one-click-install scripts? Granted cpanel’s list of add-on scripts isn’t as comprehensive as fantastico’s, they do seem to offer many of the most popular and the most used ones.

I’m curious to see how Fantastico responds to this new challenge from cPanel — especially when cPanel controls the software and interface that Fantastico’s scripts are built for.

Results of Removing Ads on T35 Free Web Hosting

It’s now been a full 3 months since we removed ads from T35 hosting member pages… Time to do a follow up test and see how we did! To back up a little bit, the removal of all ads from member pages was one of the biggest decisions I have ever made at T35 Hosting. Pop-up Ads (and Banner Ads before them) have been the primary driver of revenue at T35 since the beginning.

In fact, without the ads, we can’t even cover our costs and the issue of sustainability comes into question. Unfrtonuatly, removing ads was perhaps the only way to stay competitive and try to grow the business while facing increased competition from the likes of google and yahoo.

Fortunately, we came up with a multi-pronged solution to supplement revenue enough to keep the company running. The new plan involved increased monetization of our 404-not-found pages while at the same time banking on an increase in member count. We also decided to keep our “hosted by t35” footer text link and supplementing it with several other small links.

These new ads did not even come close to replacing pop-up revenue, but the hope of this bold plan was to increase membership and overall traffic to offset the loss of revenue. So enough with all of this talk… let’s see the results!

Although traffic didn’t increase as much as expected, we still saw a decent boost! Hopefully the increase continues in the upcoming months. Was removing ads a good decision? Well, I can tell you that all of our members have been ecstatic about the removal of the ads. At the same time, daily sign ups are at an all time high. Was this a good decision? Only time will tell. For the time being, I am satisfied with the preliminary results.

Pop-up Ads removed from T35 Hosting member pages!

Hate pop-ups? Why shouldn’t you? They are annoying, interfere with your web browsing experience and can often be very frustrating (especially when you try to close them). While that has been the general view on pop-up advertising over the last few years, it’s important to look back and see why they became such a popular form of advertising.

Perhaps the biggest benefit to pop-up ads is their ability to not interfere with the content of the site. Unlike banners, the pop-up ads are not placed directly in the site design/code, but instead open a new window! At the same time they can be popped up minimized, so you can check out the ad at your convenience.

Those were the primary reasons of why T35 Hosting switched from banners to pop-ups almost 7 year ago. In a sign that the tide is finally turning on pop-up ads, we have recently decided to get rid of ads on our member pages all together. My personal opinion is that a few bad apples ruined this form of advertising for everyone else.

For example, when you think of pop-up ads, what do you think of? You’re picturing the dozens of ads all poping up at the same time with no way to close them… sometimes even crashing your computer. As anyone can tell, that isn’t the best way to show an ad to a potential customer. As visitors became irritated by those ads, new pop-up blocking technology along with a strong resentment towards pop-ups developed.

To be completely fair, the advertisers have fought back and have developed pop-up blockers blockers. Yup, you read it right. Check with a few of the biggest pop-up advertisers today and they will show you their layered ads and other technology meant to block the ad from being blocked (ie: showing the ad to even those with pop-up blockers). Thus, even with the current trend’s, it’s still pretty profitable to run pop-up ads.

Alas, with overwhelming customer demand we have finally given in and removed all pop-up ads from t35 free hosting member pages. All that is left is a ‘hosted by t35 hosting’ footer link along with 1 more text footer link that we intend to sell. What’s interesting is that since the change, we have seen a DECREASE in traffic and account activity.

My theory is that over the years we have become the host for those that actually did like pop-ups and what we are seeing is the loss of those customers. I’m hoping that a few more weeks should start bringing in the much bigger majority of people who have come to dislike pop-ups and have avoided our hosting for that very reason. Only time will tell if this is an actually good move, but I’d love to hear some opinions. How do you feel about pop-ups?

First WebHostingMind Update of 2008

Ahh.. I finally got a chance to make another post on the blog! Sorry for the absence, but I am still catching up on work all the way from thanksgiving break! A real post is on the way, but for now let me just update everyone with what’s been going on.

In terms of this blog, everything seems to have stayed pretty much the same. We now get a consistent 20 visitors/day from google searches (which is impressive since we haven’t done any SEO optimization). I’m also extremely surprised by the amount of spam we have been getting – there are over 100 spam comments that get submitted EVERY DAY. You’d think that people would eventually figure out that all comments are manually approved? On top of that, they come from different ip’s (so banning an ip or two doesn’t help). I guess that’s the price you pay for an increase in traffic?

On the T35 front, we have removed all pop-up ads from member pages, but I’ll post more on this later in the week. In the mean time, I had a chance to put together a quick site for myself and you can visit it at I’ve used the domain for my personal email account for years, but never had the chance to have anything up there. It’s not amazingly designed, or completely comprehensive, but at the very least gives a quick snapshot of the projects I’m currently involved in. You can also add me on the two social networking sites that I participate in – Facebook (personal) and LinkedIn (professional).

I again apologize for being absent for so long, I promise to follow this up with some actual posts in the coming week!

T35 Hosting Featured in BusinessWeek

Those of you who follow business week might have noticed that I was selected for the top 25 entrepreneurs under 25 years old around this time last year. They just did a follow up interview and article, so for those who are interested:

Over the years, Melen has batted away offers from big Internet companies looking to buy out his T35 Hosting service for fear that they would take away the offering that most distinguishes it from competitors: unlimited space and bandwidth hosted for free. Last year, Melen had set out three goals to expand his company in 2007: advertise more, offer domain name hosting for free, and boost features to its paid hosting offerings.

Melen says he met all three goals and increased his customer base to about 400,000, up from 300,000 a year ago. Still, one unforeseen competitor emerged: Google (GOOG), which launched free Web-hosting service Google Pages in February. Melen believes the search giant’s presence will help boost overall growth in the Web-hosting space, but in order to prevent losing market share, T35 will have to provide more unique offerings. Some of his strategies include starting a blog about Web hosting and adding social networking features to hosted pages.”

Here’s the link to the article:

And here’s the actual “Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under 25″ from 2006:

New blog features and a quick update

I just wanted to give you guys a quick update about the things going on with the site. First and foremost, I managed to spend some time playing around with the blog and I added a bunch of new features. You can now see “recent readers” in the right column, as well as avatars for people commenting on the posts. If anyone has any feedback or suggestions, please let me know!

I am also hard at work wrapping up the php free web hosting comparison that I promised. If anyone has any last minute suggestions of free web hosts they want me to test, please let me know asap! I’m also open to suggestions on future testing and comparisons I can do. I’m thinking it might be worthwhile to start keeping track of up-time and other stats on the major free hosts. What do you guys think?

On the T35 Hosting front I’ve been racking my brains trying to figure out why we come up #9 for “free web hosting” on yahoo, and barely break top 100 on google. Any SEO experts out there that want to help? On google, T35 Hosting isn’t even ranking high for its own company name of “T35 Hosting”!