Archive for November, 2007

Win at all cost!!

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

There are three things I have definitely learned in my 35 years on this earth. A bird in hand is safer than one above, never eat yellow snow, and kick your competition when they are down and never let them get back up! The hosting industry is a VERY cutthroat business. There isn’t room to let your competition share market space with you, and there certainly isn’t an unlimited amount of advertising avenues to pursue. This being the case you should do anything and everything you can to forcibly take business from your competitors.

I certainly am not suggesting anything immoral or illegal to obtain your goals, but I am here to tell you that business is a war for customers and you better have a very good battle plan if you expect to win (Achieve your growth goals). This may seem strange from someone who has written in the past that many of my fiercest competitors are also my friends. We talk often, share ideas, and if they are really struggling with an issue I am glad to help out where I can. I do this because I respect these people in the industry and that respect translates into help and information if they require it.

Having said that, my goal is to take ALL of their customers. They aren’t stupid. They know that is my goal and I have even mentioned it to them on several occasions, and if they were smart they would be plotting to take my customers as well. I can think of several occasions where we have gone above and beyond what any sane company would do to get an affiliate relationship with a large advertiser. We try to know as much as possible about our customers and especially our affiliates so that we can use that knowledge to give them what they want to do business with us.

Not everyone wants the same thing, especially when it comes to affiliates. We work HARD to know our affiliates needs and address them in such a way that they don’t have any desire to promote someone else ahead of us if we work hard and give them what they want.

In short if your support isn’t as good as ours you ARE going to lose customers to us. If we convert higher for affiliates you WILL lose positions to Bluehost and Hostmonster. If our service is better over the long time, we WILL have a higher renewal rate and word of mouth signup rate. If we pay less for servers and bandwidth we WILL use that money to pay higher affiliates commissions and kill other companies growth. If you don’t hire great admins and programmers then your product WILL be inferior to ours and over the long term it will show in our signup and renewal rate.

Be in business to have fun and make money, but WIN! WIN! WIN! :)

Thanks,
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

Microsoft is irrelevant…

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

Ding dong the witch is dead! Microsoft isn’t really dead, but it might as well be. It obviously has a cancer so significant that there is really no coming back to the glory days of old. Why do I say this? I just realized that my “beta” of Windows Vista expired months ago and I didn’t even notice. I never even bothered to put a real copy of Vista on my “windows” machine at home because I have absolutely no reason whatsoever to use a Microsoft operating system.

Now this blog post isn’t going to be a “Join Apple” post like some of my others although I am a Mac advocate, rather I am writing to point out that the alternatives to Windows are so superior that it is likely that if you put forth any effort you could free yourself forever from the grotesque mediocrity heaped upon the average user in the form of Microsoft Windows and other garbage that Microsoft puts out.

Windows Vista is absolutely the worst operating system I have ever encountered. It is incredibly slow, incredibly buggy, and still has enormous hurdles to overcome with a significant percentage of hardware on the market. Microsoft now has their beta of service pack 1 available to address some of these issues, but the fact that you have to wait a year just to have a stable OS shows that Microsoft has learned nothing from the Windows 95 days. Users don’t have to put up with crapware anymore, and frankly they shouldn’t. The alternatives are great. Linux has come a LONG way on the desktop and is very usable now, and Apple is light years ahead of Microsoft on the desktop.

A Microsoft representative that was sent to “sell us” on Microsoft Exchange hosting was even excited to tell me that he was getting a Macbook Pro (Apple Laptop). This is someone at Microsoft who’s job is to evangelize the benefits of Microsoft products. HE is getting a Mac :) It brings a smile to my face.

A lot has changed since I got in the hosting business, but the complete irrelevancy of Microsoft is something I didn’t foresee. I have gone from wanting to do Microsoft Windows hosting, to wanting to use certain Microsoft products but not their OS, to wanting to use compatible products with Microsoft software, to not caring at all what Microsoft is doing. I don’t even consider their products in any way shape or form now when making business decisions. Microsoft has done this to themselves because they are either incapable of producing a quality product or they don’t care anymore if their product is great. Either way its not a company I will do business with.

Do you disagree? Show me where I am wrong… I didn’t think so!

Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

Go Jazz!!!

Friday, November 16th, 2007

As you know (Or should know!!) I am a HUGE Utah Jazz fan. As such people who visit my blog have to tolerate an occasional posting about how well they are playing etc. Well, on Nov 12th I went with four of our friends and my wife to the game for her birthday. We played the Sacramento Kings. Of course, we demolished them, but Mikki Moore of the Kings was kind enough after the game to give us his shoe as a trophy for us to remember our great conquest of the night.
Here is the picture of me with his shoe – a SIZE 18!!! Now remember, I am 6’2″ 225 lbs. That shoe is HUGE!

Here’s another one of my wife and I, and a few of our friends.

Anyway, it was a fun night and I thought I would show an updated picture of my semi-shaved head that I hope to have grown completely back over the next month!

Matt Heaton / Bluehost.com

One month – 50,000 domains (WOW!)

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Its been less than a month since I wrote about how we had just reached the 600,000th domain that we were hosting. Now, not quite 30 days later we are a day or two away from 650,000! That is a crazy figure. It doesn’t mean we just added 50,000 domains, that is the number that we have grown by. That includes attrition from customers that didn’t renew or went to another hosting company (Why would anyone ever do that :) ) That is simply an amazing number of new customers coming on board.

I remember talking with some others in the hosting industry in late July musing on the possibilities of what we could accomplish growth wise in the next twelve months. I thought we could accomplish a 50% growth rate in new signups over the next twelve months. Well here it is 4 months later and we have already increased our signup rate by 40%. That gives me 8 months to increase another 10%! Come on, I can go to every Jazz game, watch all my Prison Break episodes, 24 episdoes, Smallville, and even Desperate Housewives and get 10% by January?

Joking aside, things really are good on the growth side, and this week we will have announcements going out over email to all our users of some cool technical advances we have at Bluehost and Hostmonster and some of the new services that will affect our customer base in the future. Thanks again for sticking with us and for all you do!

Matt Heaton

Protecting your brand!

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

A while back I wrote about how Google REFUSES to stop showing ads for search terms that we clearly have trademarked such as “bluehost” and “hostmonster” etc. It is a frustrating experience to say the least. This is how it works (within the crazy machinations of Google) – You fill out a trademark complaint with google and list the search terms that violate your trademarks. After about 8 weeks (If you are VERY lucky) and your trademarked terms really are trademarked, etc they will grant you a reprieve that blocks advertisers from using Google adwords with your trademarked terms in the text. At first this seems like it will help, but let me show you exactly why its a waste of time.

Lets say a potential customer types “web hosting” into google. I want our site to show if we can, and I especially want our affiliates sites to show. We want our affiliates to make the most money they can! This holds true for all kinds of hosting terms such as “php hosting, frontpage hosting, best web hosting” and so forth. What I want to protect from are the cherry picker affiliates that buy up our trademarked terms such as “Bluehost, hostmosnter, blue host, host monster, blue hosting” etc. When these search terms are typed in on google any adwords advertisements are blocked (BUT ONLY IF THEY HAVE THE WORD “BLUEHOST” or “HOSTMONSTER” in the text of the ad itself. They can still buy ads based on our trademarked keyword of “bluehost” as long as they don’t use the offending “term” in the text of the ad itself.

So with the first half of the battle won with Googles help anyone that has “bluehost” and “hostmonster” in the text of their ad is blocked. However, all that did is make everyone creative in their ad text using “Host – monster” , “blue web hosting”, and other “similiar terms” to get around our block. The next step to protecting our brand was to contact all the main affiliates with a list of “trademarked” terms that were currently violating and explain our policies regarding this. There were only about 20 main affiliates that were doing this on a consistent and wide spread basis. Most of these were large affiliates that I knew and have dealt with personally. All but one agreed to immediately stop buying keywords based on our trademarked terms, and within a week the final holdout affiliate group had also come around and agreed to remove the terms.

Ah, all was good right? WRONG! Within 24 hours an entire new group of affiliates had purchased every available ad spot for our trademarked terms. What to do, what to do. Now with all our main affiliate relationships taken care of the first round, this next group of “violators” were affiliates that received very few signups and preyed mostly on these type of “brand recognition” signups. Since buying these keywords are important to us, and we don’t pay affiliates for buying up our own domain name and brands to promote our services we simply disable and informed the new list of violators that we don’t pay the affiliates that don’t follow this rule now. With over 30,000 affiliates for Bluehost this rule now affects less than 20 of them, yet new affiliates try this method out everyday. They won’t get paid for the signups, but I guess they can keep trying.

The reason I write about this is two fold. First, Google could make this MUCH easier on us, but they never will. Why not? Because it makes them a pile of money to allow others to trample our trademark and advertise for terms that are clearly 100% related to our business. That is why it is so important to have someone regulate this other than the search engines themselves. You can’t put Cookie Monster in charge of protecting the cookie jar. The temptation is too great (Even for him!).

The second reason I write about this is to say that even after all the rubbish we have to go through to “protect” these keywords it is worth it. We save over $30,000 a month in bogus affiliate fees that we would have normally been paying out to affiliates. We LOVE our affiliates and want them to make money, but bring us NEW business. Don’t take our brand and charge us for signups that are already ours based on our trademarked search terms.

Thanks,
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com