A number of hosting options exist for your website and deciding which option to choose is consequential. Choosing the wrong hosting option can cost your business its most valuable visitors; making it harder to reach your marketing goals. Today, we’ll discuss some hosting options out there to help guide you in making the right decision for your brand.
What is website hosting?
First, let’s turn our attention to hosting. If you’re a new business or just exploring your hosting options, you might not understand what hosting is or why you need to carefully consider your hosting options before deciding on one. To put the notion of hosting into a more concrete context, website hosting is like the house you build on your property. Your domain is the address of the property while website hosting is where you’ll put all your stuff, in this case, databases containing your content instead of furniture. If you have a lot of furniture (or anticipate needing lots of furniture) you need a big house. If you expect a lot of traffic through your house, you also need a big house and good utilities to keep it cool with all the extra folks visiting your house.
Unlike your physical house, it’s fairly easy to change to a different hosting company if you find better hosting options available or outgrow your existing hosting company. Most hosting companies either transfer your content free or for a reasonable fee, unlike trying to move your furniture to a new house. Still, you’re better off choosing the right hosting option from the beginning so you can work effectively with your chosen option for several years without the disruption to your processes caused by changing hosting companies.
BTW, if you want to create your own website without going back to school to learn to code, I have a free ebook to help DIY website developers go from 0 to a complete website that doesn’t require any coding and is easy to follow with step-by-step directions and lots of images. It also includes suggestions for great hosting companies as well as other ways to make a great website that helps you reach your marketing goals.
Why your choice of hosting options matters
Let’s return to our house analogy for a moment. If you build a beautiful house in a neighborhood full of industrial warehouses, it won’t look as good. In web terms, your hosting choice determines elements such as speed, the degree of uptime for your website, the amount of space available, customer service, sufficient resources to meet your needs in the future, and an easy-to-use interface. Often, the price is an indication of how good the hosting is at performing these functions but not always. That’s why it’s a good idea to explore your options in detail before making a choice as important as choosing a hosting company.
So, why does it matter which hosting options you choose?
The answer lies in understanding SEO; search engine optimization. SEO involves understanding a complex algorithm used by search engines, like Google, to rank content. Hence, when a user enters a query, the search engine consults its database of content related to the user’s query and returns a list of results with the top-ranked results listed first. The impact of rank on traffic to your site is immense. As you can see below, users typically choose a link near the top of the results list. We call this organic search traffic and it accounts for up to 75% of the traffic visiting your website.
Factors like speed and uptime contributed by your hosting company have a big impact on your SEO. Choosing the wrong host means you don’t get much traffic from the search unless the user enters your brand name as part of their query. Remember, this all-important traffic source accounts for up to 75% of your traffic so it’s nearly impossible to succeed, even as a small local business, without this type of traffic. And, there’s almost nothing you can do to overcome a bad host when it comes to SEO.
Best hosting options
Website hosting companies consist of huge server farms, buildings with row upon row of computer servers. Most hosting companies offer different hosting packages that cater to different price points and options needed by their clients. Most new companies start with what is called shared hosting, which means your content exists on part of a server (often moving around to accommodate other websites and server maintenance so your content exists wherever space is available), while dedicated hosting means you have your own server and stay there.
Dedicated servers cost more but provide advantages you don’t get with shared hosting including enhanced customization, improved security and performance, flexibility, and access to a server without the cost of maintaining the server. You also need dedicated hosting if you anticipate the need for a big website serving a ton of traffic. For most new businesses, starting with shared hosting works well and the more reasonable cost makes them appealing.
Factors to consider in choosing a host
Here are some factors to consider when choosing a hosting company:
- Uptime. Even minor disruptions in your website’s availability have a big impact on SEO, so you want a company with the highest performance metrics. Often, 99% uptime isn’t enough, so don’t settle.
- 24/7 customer service, especially if you don’t have in-house development staff to handle any issues that arise. A good hosting company can walk you through solutions to the problems you might encounter.
- Price is a consideration but your decisions shouldn’t be based solely on price. Bandwidth and storage capacity are factors that impact pricing so choose an option that delivers on your needs at a reasonable price.
- Options to expand as your website grows. This allows for a seamless transition to a new plan without having to switch providers.
- Speed, although Google downgraded the impact of speed on SEO recently. It’s still better to deliver your web pages fast or users will choose another option rather than wait for your site to load. How long will users wait for a page to load? Good question. About 47% will wait a mere 2 seconds for a page to load before scrolling away, especially on a mobile device. That wait time seems to get shorter every year.
- Security is a big concern so choose a company with a big emphasis on providing security for your content.
- A good user interface so you can easily make updates to your website. Updating your website with fresh content on a consistent basis is the biggest factor impacting your page rank.
- Email addresses so you don’t incur additional costs to create email addresses that match your website URL.
- HTTPS protocol options rather than requiring you to purchase and install this protocol separately. HTTPS protocol provides enhanced security for visitors and is required for e-commerce websites as it encrypts information.
Avoid website builders
Website builders like Wix, Squarespace, and even WordPress.com, seem really easy to use and inexpensive. You may even find a free option that works for your business. However, the resulting websites often look cookie-cutter, which makes it hard to position your brand as unique in your space. They also look less professional and are much harder to develop than their marketing promises. Website builders also offer serious limitations on the number of pages you can use, especially for the free options.
The biggest limitation of website builders is that, no matter what you do, you face huge SEO challenges because the websites don’t look good to the AI responsible for ranking websites among other SEO failures. Also, you may not own the domain, instead facing a situation where your website is a subdomain, which costs you even more when it comes to SEO. There’s no support or very little support offered by these companies and moving your site to a new host may mean starting from the beginning again. You may also find that your website doesn’t look good on mobile devices when using this type of hosting. Finally, most website builders don’t allow you to use the most valuable plugins that enhance the functionality, security, and SEO of your website.
Instead, create a self-hosted website, which is easy to do now with the availability of several options for CMS (content management system), a vast array of templates, and plugins for almost anything you might want to add over and above the functionality contributed by the other two parts of building a website, even plugins that emulate the functionality of drag-and-drop that makes website builders so attractive to novices. Check out my other websites at Living While Gray and Buried Ladies to see how I built homepages using one of these options, Page Builder (which is free). And, best of all, you no longer face the daunting task of coding a website with all these options.
My website is built on Siteground. It offers a variety of packages starting at $14.99 (although they’re on sale for 86% off for a limited time). Here’s my take on the advantages of this hosting company:
- Their customer support is first-rate. Anytime I encountered a problem, they were fast and efficient in resolving my issue, even stepping me through things I didn’t initially understand.
- I experience almost no downtime.
- The company allowed me to grow so I could move from the smallest package to the largest as my business grew.
- They offer free email and HTTPs for my website.
- E-commerce is a snap with their integrated WooCommerce plugin.
- A WordPress hosting option makes it easy for those who use this CMS, which is over half of all websites.
- My site is rated as fast according to Google.
- Siteground offers free website transfers from other hosting companies.
Another great hosting company is Bluehost. Bluehost plans start at $10.99 (currently on sale for $2.95). Here are some advantages of using Bluehost:
- A generous amount of storage
- HTTPs protocol free with higher priced packages
- Good speed and uptime performance
- They offer a specific package for e-commerce that includes most of the plugins needed for your e-commerce site to run efficiently
- Daily content backups
- Malware scanning
- A wider range of packages including dedicated hosting
- Free plugins and themes
Hostgator is another good option for smaller websites with a limited budget. Plans start at $2.75 (an introductory price) and include the same features you can find in the other products I recommend. As with Bluehost, Hostgator offers a wide range of plans to meet the needs of everyone from small brands to those needing dedicated hosting. Some plans offer unlimited bandwidth and storage, which is great as your site grows. Hostgator offers an e-commerce option, as well.
An interesting feature of HostGator is that some plans offer discounts on advertising through Google Ads (a spending match) and Microsoft advertising (a credit). Hostgator still uses a C-panel to provide more flexibility in making changes to your website. Other hosting companies eliminated a C-panel to reduce the opportunity to mess things up by website owners who don’t understand the implications of their actions. The C-panel is about the only place you can seriously damage your entire website. Hostgator, like some of the other options, also offers WordPress hosting where WordPress (my preferred CMS, and also used to build about half of all websites) is automatically installed and optimized.
Other hosting options
There are many other hosting options, too many to provide details in this post. And, more join the field all the time. As the need for web hosting grows, companies constantly enter the industry and expand their offerings to better meet the needs of website owners of all levels of ability. I live near Ashburn and you see new server farms springing up all over as companies expand their ability to host more websites.
You’ll find a bunch of options if you enter the term in a Google search. Use the criteria I listed in this article to judge whether it’s the right option for your business.
Choosing a hosting company is a serious consideration and you should use the advice shared in this post to help guide you in choosing the right hosting company. Good luck and let me know how it goes.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.