By now, you already know that choosing a hosting provider should be one of your top priority business decisions. And before going for a cheaper, random provider, consider this – your hosting choice will impact the way your website works, how fast it loads, as well as how secure and backed up it is against hacks and server crashes. You get the point. Since there are so many options available out there, here’s a number of things and features you should take into consideration when choosing the right hosting provider.
Also, be sure to check out this list of hosting providers we recommend to our clients.
How does hosting potentially affect your business?
Typically, there are 3 aspects to a successful website:
- Loading speed for any page (not just the 3 second rule for your homepage)
- User experience with a clear navigation on your site (think about how you want users to engage with your website)
- Content and Visual Identity Engagement (the way your work and your website design make a visitor feel)
Apart from the 3 points above, the rest comes down to lead and traffic generation to your site, in order to provide increased inquiries and engagement for your brand.
On a more productive level, bad hosting typically leads to more time spent on fixing things. With every update of your website things can break, and while it may seem that this is always a theme or plugin issue, in fact quite often it is your hosting not supporting the new options. Many hosts actually do not allow you to make important updates unless you request them each time.
Here are some helpful, general stats to you need to consider:
- Speed – According to a recent study from Google, 53% of mobile site users leave a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. In other words, if the visitor cannot see the navigation and initial visual, they exit the site and will probably never come back – because first impressions do matter.
- Sales – Imagine that your website is an employee just for a second. If your website works for you, have you provided your salesperson the right tools to sell your work? If you have slow hosting, chances are your website is slow and buggy too, especially if you are not regularly maintaining and testing it. This ultimately leads to lost inquiries which is the ultimate purpose of having a website.
An observation we have made is – if you receive most of your inquiries from social media platforms rather than through your website, chances are you have site usability issues. Or your hosting provider is slow, which makes contacting you via your website much harder, even though your website is a better qualifier for your leads (or at least it should be).
We’ve all read complaints about websites being down or things not working properly – and how that could have cost the owner thousands in leads and sales. And this is actually true. If your website doesn’t load or work properly, you may be losing potential business opportunities. In fact, Google offers a tool that allows you to calculate the impact of site speed on your business: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-gb/feature/testmysite
- Security – This is a matter of prevention vs reaction. It is always best to stop a disaster than to react to it after it happened. The simplest way to ensure that your website is secure for users and clients to browse through, is through an SSL certificate. Many hosting providers offer free SSL certificates. They also offer backup & restore options along with anti SPAM solutions. Be sure to take this into account when choosing your hosting provider.
- SEO – everyone wants to be found by visitors through Google search, and for that, you need to continuously work on your SEO strategy. Both site speed and site security are now important ranking factors in Google search. Your hosting is the core for both of these requirements. One more reason to invest wisely when choosing a provider..
What to look for when deciding which hosting to use:
There are some obvious factors you should look for with some hidden add ons within the following 5 areas:
Being able to optimize your site for speed is important, and is only beneficial if your hosting is fast to start with. Too many users spend countless hours on improving their site speed only to find out that they cannot do more because of weak hosting. Hence, when choosing a provider, you should make sure that your website is loading fast, especially on mobile devices, as Google uses site speed as a ranking factor for organic search results.
2. Server Location
When selecting a hosting provider make sure to choose the one with the closest server options to you and your users’ geographical location. This will have a huge impact on the loading speed of your website for your site visitors. An example could be that you are based in Paris, France and the nearest server is in Amsterdam, Netherlands. If you have lots of visitors from all over the world, make sure that your hosting provider has CDN (content delivery network) included in your chosen package, which helps international visitors load your site even faster as images and other resources are loaded from their nearest server location.
While it is easy to do a cost comparison, hosting should not be chosen based on price as it is in fact an investment. Think about hosting as a hard drive. Would you pay the same for an older SATA hard drive (disk drive) or pay more for a SSD drive? For 90% of photo driven websites and blogs, the following hosting features should be a must:
- 1 click install feature for WordPress (makes installing WordPress much easier)
- Available web space (you’ll need storage space for your image media over time) on average 20GB is enough.
- SSD drives (faster site loading)
- Backup and Restore options
- Security options (preventing malware or hacks is a major point)
- SSL certificate (https instead of http which is important for Google and your visitors)
- CDN (content delivery network for faster image loading time)
- Site Migration Options (a benefit if you plan to move from one host to another)
4. Customer Support
One thing to note regarding customer service is that sales and technical support are typically different departments and have different response times. For example at Flothemes we have live chat sales as we can reply pretty quickly, however our technical support response times vary based on the volume of tickets and also the duration to resolve the problems clients face. Some issues can be solved within a few minutes and many times issues can take hours to investigate and find a solution to, which most clients are not aware of. We suggest that you do the following to test your hosting finalists:
- Test their live chat or Facebook message response times, check if they cover your time zone and what is their availability. See how fast they reply and what means of support they provide: email, chat, ticketing system, etc.
- If you ask for a recommendation online, ask what others experienced when dealing with the company’s technical support. If you find negative feedback, inquire to know if it was bad customer service or user error.
- Is the hosting provider a public or private company? What is their history? While it is lucrative to jump onto the main brand names, we have found that slightly smaller independent, private hosting companies have better offerings and faster support within the time frames that they offer – which may not be 24/7.
5. Site Traffic
Do you have huge amounts of traffic coming to your website? Or are you only starting out? This should be taken into consideration when choosing your hosting provider. If you’re a new business, you’re likely to have lower traffic – so a shared hosting plan will work fine for you for the first 6 -12 months. If you have an established blog or site and can see a considerable amount of traffic coming in on a regular basis, a shared hosting plan isn’t going to work. We recommend using Google Analytics to carefully track your site’s progress and the number of monthly visitors. This will also be useful when you try to decide whether you should upgrade your hosting plan or switch to a different provider.
If you currently have a hosting provider and are considering a change, we recommend contacting one of our recommended hosting providers. Check the options they offer, many provide free, or paid switching services so you can be assured that your content is going to be moved correctly. Others also offer free domains, 1-click WordPress installation, as well as great site backup options.
Honestly, choosing a great hosting service should always be viewed as a business investment rather than an expense. Don’t just go for the first provider, and don’t consider cost as the main factor. With hosting, you really get value for your money. Your decision will influence your site’s performance, and reflect in the experience your customers receive when they visit your site.