How Your Web Hosting Affects Your Ranking
At last, the moment you’ve been waiting for!
Your new website is online.
It looks amazing - even better than you’d imagined. It’s been a long hard slog to get to this point but now you just need to wait for the orders to come pouring in.
But something’s up. There are nowhere near as many orders as you were expecting.
You’ve double checked everything with the design team and they say it’s not design related. It’s mobile friendly and it’s been optimized for SEO just like you asked.
What’s happening? What’s going wrong?
Cheap Hosting - Like Fitting Bicycle Wheels On A Ferrari
One thing your designer did draw your attention to previously was the choice of web hosting.
But surely, hosting is hosting is hosting isn’t it?
As long as the website works and you can send and receive emails that should be the end of it shouldn’t it. I mean, let’s face it, hosting is all much of a muchness these days isn’t it. They all cost a few dollars a month so it’s not like it’s a premium service or anything like that.
But you’ve spent a ton of cash so far to get your site built and the simple fact (as I shall illustrate) is that choosing cheap hosting for a business website is like putting bicycle wheels on a Ferrari.
If you are serious about getting results online you need to make an informed choice when it comes to web hosting.
Let’s start by breaking things down two key components which are critical to your online success: Load speed and Security.
Let’s look at them in turn...
Is Website Speed Important?
For some time now Google has made it clear that site speed is a ranking factor. Admittedly It isn’t the only factor, but it is an important one.
Google understands that faster websites give a better experience to the person browsing and Google wants to send people to pages that achieve this.
Factors That Influence Website Speed
Let’s break your site down into two important areas:
The Frontend - your website files
The Backend - your web server
The speed that your website loads is the sum of both of these elements combined. It is often referred to as the Performance Golden Rule.
You can measure your website speed using a variety of free tools.
Whilst your designer (or you) can control the speed of the Frontend, your web host controls the Backend.
What Is the Most Important Backend Speed Metric?
More importantly, the Backend determines one really important measure of speed known as Time To First Byte (TTFB). In its simplest form, TTFB is the time it takes from when your browser first makes contact with the web server that a site is hosted on & the first byte of data being presented back to it.
If you can nail this, you’ve just passed the first test. Fail this & it’s uphill from here.
Quick Win: Upgrade to SSD Hosting
And web hosting is where the rubber hits the road.
So if you’re on a budget plan paying 99 cents a month for as much disk space & bandwidth as you can eat, then you’re not going to be short of company.
Let’s face it - everyone loves a bargain!
The fact is that you’re going to be stuffed in there like sardines in a tin with every other Tom, Dick and Harry.
This is a big problem for you because straight away you’re fighting for the server’s resources.
It‘s the online equivalent of a restaurant "all-you-can-eat" offer.
OK, I understand that we all have a budget we need to work to but cutting corners on your hosting is not the right decision if you’re determined to take your website (& your business) to the next level.
So here are some things to look out for when weighing up the hosting options:
If you’re on shared, look for minimum 10K SAS hard drives (7.2K SATA drives are great workhorses & backup drives, but they’re not the thoroughbreds you’re after)
If possible, look for solid state (SSD) hosting - amazing IOPs performance
If SSD is not an option, consider SAS with SSD caching
Minimum RAID 10 (balances speed with higher availability) & hot swap drives
Dual power supply (power supplies are one of the higher failing components)
See if you can be hosted on a Litespeed server for extra fast hosting (drop-in replacement for Apache & extremely fast)
Get hosting that has a content delivery network (CDN) option - CDN is one of the 35 factors of a fast website. A good CDN option is CloudFlare.
If you choose shared hosting then look for CloudLinux to stop noisy neighbors affecting you
Consider upgrading to a virtual private server (VPS) or dedicated server - that way you can be sure you have guaranteed resources (CPU & RAM)
Budget permitting go for an SSD VPS
If you go for a VPS or dedicated server and you’re considering using cPanel, consider getting a minimum of 4GB RAM - cPanel will need half a Gig of RAM & RAM is often the first port of call for hungry applications & the extra headroom is worth the extra cost
Don’t be put off by the fact you need to manage your VPS or server - many hosts will do this for you for an extra monthly fee
The other important factor when it comes to choosing your host is Security. Now online security is obviously a HUGE area so here’s the heads up on what you need to be aware of.
First up let’s start with an analogy to help you understand how hosting security works.
Let’s imagine that a hosting server is like an apartment block. The host is responsible for managing the building, ensuring that all the facilities (lifts, fire alarms, etc.) are working correctly and as per the necessary regulations. The host is also responsible for the integrity of the building's security such as any entrances and exits.
However, the host cannot be responsible for who enters each apartment or what goes on in each apartment. This is the responsibility of each individual person to control who enters their apartment and their behavior once inside.
The trouble is that often despite giving people plenty of warning shared hosting clients will often not have the necessary security to protect their website.
Hackers Love Outdated CMS (eg: WordPress)
For example, a common issue is not updating Content Management Systems (CMS). Hackers can easily exploit out of date CMS like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.. It’s nothing personal, they just use tools to go find out of date CMS and upload their Malware payload whether that’s just to deface the website or for spamming or phishing purposes.
The host will often pick up on this either proactively by monitoring traffic patterns (i.e. outgoing mail) or more often than not from blacklisting notifications. Basically, the server is on a blacklist.
The trouble is that when you remember that offer of super low cost hosting that looks too good to be true? Well, understandably these types of offers are very appealing to a certain type of buyer.
The type of buyer who wants to get as much as they can for as little as possible. Well, do you think they’re going to be too concerned about spending their hard earned cash on security?
IP Reputation Is Important
And that’s an issue for other users on that server because they’re all tarred with the same brush when it comes to blacklisting.
And if the server you’re hosted on is continuously getting blacklisted for any or all of the above reasons then that means your rankings are going to take a nosedive.
So before choosing your hosting, it’s just worth doing your homework.
First up check reputable review sites like TrustPilot. Sure they’re not foolproof but they generally give you an initial feel for the host. Are they consistently getting low scores or complaints about email delivery or blacklisting? These are sure signs that something’s wrong with their IP reputation.
Then just ask the host. Find out if they monitor blacklists and what do they do to proactively manage security. If they offer outgoing email filtering like SpamExperts as standard then that’s a sign that they make efforts to get ahead of the curve.
Again, if your budget allows then consider upgrading to a VPS or Dedicated Server. Sure, they’re more expensive and there is an additional overhead in terms of managing it if you’re not confident doing that yourself.
But the upside is that you will be assigned your own IP address uniquely for you so you have the peace of mind that you’re not sharing a server with ‘noisy neighbors’.
Your website is an integral part of any business. If rankings are important to you then you need to consider the questions of load speed and security - otherwise, you could be in danger of "spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar."
Some basic questions to your host should help you make an informed decision. It may cost more to host your site, but it’s money well spent.