Web hosting is often something that is overlooked when launching a website, but can lead to several complications if not done correctly. Whether you are looking to create a website or improve an existing one, this article should be your first step to improving your knowledge of web hosting and why it is important to get it right. Below we will outline some of the most important factors to consider when choosing a web hosting provider and the impact of each one. You will also find some pointers about what to avoid and what to look for.
Server Down Time
If you have unreliable hosting, you may experience frequent server downtimes, which in effect means your page will be offline and not accessible. The obvious effect is users not being able to reach your website which means your web traffic will be reduced to zero, but what you might not have appreciated is the effect this has on your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
When the website is down and a search engine makes a query for relatable content, such as an image uploaded to one of your pages, the search engine won’t be able to find your website and the glitch will degrade your SEO ranking. This has a knock-on effect on increasing your bounce rate, which in turn impacts website authority, another consideration in search engine results placement. In addition to this, if your website remains down for more than a couple of days, Google removes it from its index, meaning you would lose your SEO ranking completely.
Page Load Time
You want to make sure that your page load times are fast and efficient in order to keep a good SEO ranking as search engines such as Google consider load speed when they rank results. However, aside from the impact on search engine results placements (SERPs), visitors will have a poor experience when they visit your website if the website takes more than two seconds to load, and visitors will bounce to the next potential option, likely to be a competitor of yours.
Interestingly, an internal study by Amazon determined that a tiny increase of 100ms in loading times of their pages directly led to a 1% drop in sales. That is only one-tenth of a second slower, which goes to show how important it can be.
In short, slow load times equal high bounce rates which in turn equals poor SEO ranking which leads to fewer conversions. Best to avoid!
An alternative and cheaper way of hosting is shared hosting. This is where multiple websites pay to be hosted on one common server. It may seem like a cost-effective way of hosting your site but is likely to lead to higher costs down the road. We just touched on the importance of the speed of your site, now imagine the same server must power more than one site at a time and therefore the resultant impact on your page load speed. The greater number of websites on the same server, the slower the speed.
Another reason not to use shared hosting is that the quality of other websites you share with can have an impact on your website’s standing. If another site on the server is a spammer for example, it will reflect badly on you as it all ties to the same host location.
Carrying on from shared hosting, it is important to note the security features and guarantees from your web hosting provider. Gaining access through a web host is one of the most common ways for hackers to gain access to a website. If you are on a shared server, it would mean that if one website is breached, then the hacker is likely to be able to access all sites on the server.
Make sure your provider has established security measures in place such as malware and vulnerability scanners. They should also offer you strong DDOS protection policies (Distributed Denial of Service attacks) to ensure the server is continuously kept online.
Backing up a website is often overlooked and generally not included in cheaper hosting packages by default, however automated backups is an essential feature to keeping your site safe and secure. Websites are not a secure place to store content and information, just like any other piece of technology websites are prone to errors.
In the event that there is an issue with your website, whether it be an update gone wrong or a hacker wiping all your data, having regular backups means that you can swiftly restore your website to a working state. Without a backup the data is lost and irretrievable.
You probably have automatic backups set up for your phone to keep things like photos and contacts safe. So why wouldn’t you back up a website which is more likely to be holding sensitive data? Make sure your hosting package includes regular backups.
Something which may seem surprising considering how global the internet is, is the importance of your server’s geo location. Google prefers to match users with websites that are local to them and thus it impacts your SEO ranking. You should place your host close to your target audience, as a native server location equals relevant web traffic. As an example, if you are located in the UK and you search car dealers, the search engine will automatically show you webpages located closer to you and within your country rather than pages hosted in the USA.
Additionally, the distance of your server host also has a minor impact on your page load times. The further data must travel, the slower the download speeds will be compared to a local server.
When starting out, you may only need a small hosting package as your business is small and your web traffic relatively low. However, any business and/or website’s goal should be to grow, and you must make sure the host you have chosen is able to scale up as your needs and traffic increase. If not, you will find your site being overloaded and slowed down as you experience rapid growth. Switching servers at this point is usually not a problem but, in some cases, depending on the site can be a difficult process.
Finally, you want to be able to depend on your web hosting service. You want to make sure they offer good reliable support options. If there are any issues or unscheduled downtimes, you want to be able to quickly gain an understanding of what is happening and get the issues under control and resolved as quickly as possible. If there is a 24hr support line this can be done relatively easily, but if you have to send an email and await a response, which may not come till the next day, you may run into issues which could have been easily been avoided with a better line of communication. Similarly, any hosting company in a different country could be in a non-compatible time zone, meaning you have to deal with them outside your usual working hours.
Hopefully after reading this you have a better understanding of the effects of web hosting. This should leave you more capable to make smarter decisions when choosing a or changing a web host for your website.