Many of you trying to run proxies know that it’s harder to get noticed now that everyone and his dog is running a stock copy of phproxy. If you have nothing of value to give the user, why would they use your proxy? Any advertising you do to get visitors needs to ask “what do I have to offer you?” If the answer is “not much”, you need to rethink your business strategy.
Is your proxy harder to block than other proxies? That is something valuable to give your users. It seems that 99% of the proxies out there have “proxy” in the url or in their page’s source code. If you can’t be bothered to remove that, then you obviously don’t care about if your proxy doesn’t get blocked. There are tons of ways to make your proxy harder to block. If you make no effort to find out what they are and do it, even if people want to use your proxy they won’t be able to.
Is your proxy fast and reliable? If the answer is no, it had better be because your cluster of high end servers tuned for maximum performance just can’t keep up with overwhelming demand. If the answer is no because you don’t know how to run your proxy, don’t stop abuse (hotlinking, other massive drains on resources), don’t stop bots from screwing you over, can’t or won’t optimize your server for maximum performance, or simply are unwilling to invest in appropriate levels of server power, then you aren’t offering something of value to the user.
Is your domain name easy to remember? Hard to remember domain names are not of value to users. It means they have to write down the name, and they can’t easily tell their friends about it. Compare Vtunnel.com with Proxurity.org. Which do you think people are going to tell their friends about? Which do you think they will remember tomorrow? Because both names are about equally unintelligible to people who don’t speak english, the second name will drive away English speaking visitors, but will lure in those from Iran who don’t care what the proxy is called. Domains that don’t end in .com are harder for people to remember, because its implicitly implied that .com means website, they don’t even have to think about it. To say that all the good domains are taken is just not true. Vtunnel.com never meant anything regarding proxies until people started using it as a proxy. When you expand your search beyond “blockedwebsite-proxy.com”, you’ll find a lot of easy to remember .com names.
Does your proxy offer something users can’t get elsewhere? When I started Vtunnel.com, most free web proxies didn’t support form post, for whatever reason. So all I had to do was enable that option, tell people I did so, and boom, instant competitive advantage. It’s a little harder these days to get the same competitive advantage, but it is not impossible with some work. Does your site go to sites that others can’t? Even a stock install of cgi proxy beta 15 is usually better than 75% of the proxies out there. With a few modifications you could make yours better than 90% of the proxies available. That offers real value. When you have something worth buying, it makes it a whole lot easier to sell it and get repeat customers. Just because your product is free doesn’t mean it has no competition.
Are you advertising to people who want your service? I’ll say that Proxy.org is the most effective paid advertising available for proxies. I’ll also say that if you exclusively rely on proxy.org to promote your service, you aren’t serious about your business. Most people advertise on proxy lists, proxy topsites, proxy.org, or try to compete for keyword placement when the user searches for “proxy-something-or-other”. This may be helpful, but you’re only targeting users who already know what value your website has. These are people who know what proxies are, and for whatever reason, aren’t happy with the ones they’ve found before. If yours is no better, they will move on. Instead, consider that most people don’t know what a proxy is. Now consider that in the US, every school and library is mandated to filter their internet access, or they will lose federal technology funding. It seems like a real no brainer then to try to reach those people who don’t know what a proxy is, but could get some benefit from using one. The simple reason is that there are literally millions of desirable (to US advertisers) potential customers out there who have no idea anyone offers what you offer. Instead of trying to compete for the same few people who already know about proxies (and know that yours sucks), target the people who know nothing about proxies, and will happily keep using yours until it gets blocked.
Always be improving. You have a good site? Great! People love it, you’ve advertised to the right crowd, it stays up, it doesn’t get blocked quickly, people trust you and your site, they can remember its name, they tell their friends about it, and it performs at least as well as the proxies run by your biggest competitors. Congratulations. But don’t stop there. Your competitors will always be trying to improve, and so should you. If your site is great today, it will be average in 6 months. If it is average now, it will be below average in 6 months. You can ride off your previous successes, but only for so long. Always try to find ways to improve. Find advertisers that pay better but are less irritating to your users. Find entirely new groups of people to advertise to. Figure out how to make your server load less with the same traffic level. Figure out how to make it harder to block your proxies, or to support more of the features and technologies that users want. Give users no reason to look for competing services.
Sometimes, the amount of work to do all of the above is just too much. It doesn’t make sense to spend the time it takes to run a truly world class service if you’re only making $20 a day. But if you don’t put in that time, or you don’t have to skill to do it, you’ll never make more than that. You can run 100 proxies and make $2 a day, or run one proxy that makes $400 / day. If you can’t be bothered to do things right, users will move on, your marketing efforts will be exponentially less successful, and you will make a LOT less money. If enough people do so, you will also collectively hurt the reputation of the proxy industry and make it that much harder for end users to find proxies that suit their needs. In short, doing things right matters.c40