The web hosting market is tough. Competition is fierce and the industry is dominated by a few big hitters with deep pockets for marketing. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for small and medium-sized web hosting businesses.
The demand for web hosting has increased consistently over the last few years; for web hosting companies that can offer something out of the ordinary, the future is rosy. But only if they can find clients.
In this article we'll look at several marketing techniques that, used together, form a marketing strategy that web hosting providers can use to attract clients to their platform.
1. Establish a Unique Selling Point
For anyone with server administration experience, web hosting is an easy industry to get into. That means every web host has to fight for clients with hundreds of competitors. What makes your company stand out from the crowd?
A unique selling point (USP) is the magic that makes your web hosting business the right choice for a specified segment of the market. It might be outstanding support (although every hosting company says that), unbeatable hosting performance, managed services, or something more specific to your niche.
You don’t need a USP, but it helps if you can build a marketing strategy around a theme that differentiates your web hosting company from the competition.
This could be something as simple as choosing the demographic you wish to target and building a brand around it. Every age demographic is different and requires unique tone, content and even social media channels.
For example, if you target young entrepreneurs in their late 20-30s, Instagram would be the ideal social media channel for your client as 90% of Instagram users are under 35. But, for a web host targeting a demographic of 50+, Facebook makes more sense as 72% of 50-64 year-olds use this medium in comparison to only 18% on Instagram.
Find your brand and USP requires time and research but it will help you to grow in the long term. After all, if you are speaking to everyone, are you really speaking to anyone?
2. Forums and Social Media Groups
One of the best ways to gain exposure for a web hosting brand is to be an active participant on industry forums and social media groups. The big name here is Web Hosting Talk, a forum visited by industry insiders and knowledgeable web hosting clients searching for tips and promotions.
Web hosting companies catering to a particular niche should have a presence on relevant forums: if you offer managed WordPress hosting, make a name for yourself on major WordPress forums and social media groups.
Don’t neglect general interest forums and Q&A sites: Quora and StackExchange in particular are great for raising brand awareness among users.
3. Content Marketing
Content marketing is essential for a number of reasons:
- It helps build an audience and demonstrate expertise.
- Content is a vital component of search engine optimization.
- Content creation drives social media posting.
We advise web hosting companies to a take three-pronged approach to content marketing.
- A Company Blog
A blog on site of a web hosting company gives people a reason to visit the site. Create relevant, interesting content that appeals to the target niche.
- Guest blogging
Guest blogging is the publication of your content on other blogs and sites. It has two main benefits: increasing brand awareness and generating backlinks.
- High-Value Gated Content
Invest in long-form high-quality content that can be used to capture email addresses. Short ebooks are effective for this.
4. Search Engine Optimization
As you might expect, the search space for web hosting is ferociously competitive. There’s almost no chance that a new web hosting provider will be able to rank for the obvious keywords. Instead, focus on niche long-tail keywords in sales copy and publish blog and other content to get as many high-quality pages as possible into search indexes.
5. List In Site Directories
Industry directories aren’t as important as they once were, but it’s still worth the effort of registering, not least for the backlinks. There are many web hosting directories, the most important of which are WebHostDir and Top Hosts.
6. Affiliate and Influencer Marketing
Affiliate marketing is a mainstay of the hosting industry: some big companies were built almost entirely on the efforts of their affiliates.
In a nutshell, web hosting companies offer payments to affiliates when they refer a new client to the company. Creating a generous affiliate program and joining an affiliate network like CJ Affiliate will help your web hosting company to gain traction.
Influencer marketing is of increasing importance. Influencer marketing relies on the reach of bloggers and social media users with large audiences to promote a brand. This can be particularly effective for niche web hosting providers that can precisely target the audiences of relevant influencers.
7. Podcast Advertising
If you listen to tech podcasts, you’ll be aware that every other advert seems to be from a web hosting provider like SquareSpace or Linode. Podcast advertising leverages the niche audience of popular podcasts to target promotional content where it will be most effective.
8. There’s No Beating Great Service
I’ve left this one until last, but in reality it’s by far the most important promotional tool that web hosting companies have. Build a great service and clients will promote you for free on forums, in social media, and in person to person interactions. Word of mouth remains the most effective promotional strategy for any brand.
Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash