As a web professional, I've found that many people are grossly misinformed about the importance of your hosting company. Brand Shouter offers hosting to our clients purely because of this issue with misinformation.
If you want a good search ranking and you want your visitors to have a good experience, then good website hosting is a super important piece of the puzzle. There’s no point in paying multiple thousands of dollars to get a beautiful new website built, and then have it on a cheap hosting plan.
Cheap Hosting Is Just Bad
The truth is many of the well known hosting companies have really bad hosting. They can keep costs down with lower-end technologies and servers, which enables them to offer ~$5/month hosting.
When you look at the costs involved, there is no way they are making money in the first year and, to make money at all after that, they have to be cutting corners somewhere else. They also count on the fact that once people start hosting their website with a company, they often stay for a long time. These companies cut back on quality and, as long as the website shows up and everything works, then uneducated customers don’t mind.
This is what this article is important. I want to address the idea of cheap (as in lower quality) web hosting, and why it matters to get good web hosting. There are a couple of age-old adages that apply to a lot of things in life: “You get what you pay for.” and “Nothing’s free.” These are very much the case with website hosting.
Search Optimization Benefits
The two main search engines are Google and Yahoo. There are others, but they all rank your sites on a lot of different factors. Several years ago, speed was introduced as a new ranking that had a rather minimal impact. However, as time has progressed and mobile has become more important, speed is now becoming one of the most important ranking factors.
Even though Google ranks you based on the speed of your site, you obviously want your site to look good on the desktop; so it’s ok to put some features in your site that might make it run a little slower. There are some tweaks you can do to allow for advanced features without lowering your ranking. For example, I tried something recently on the Brand Shouter website – there is a map at the bottom of every page. I had started with a Google map embed, but embedding an external source (even Google maps) will get you ranked down because they slow your site down. So rather than embedding at all, I took a picture of the Google map and dropped it in place. It's literally just a small static image but then links to Google Maps when somebody clicks on it.
Another example of a small tweak that you can do is ensuring your images are sized appropriately for how they load. If you're loading a 300x300 pixel square section of a page with an image, don't drop in the full image that you just took off your digital camera. Nowadays, camera files can be anywhere from 5-10MB; this is huge and will slow down your loading time. One benefit of a good hosting company is they actually add plugins to help automatically reduce things like large image sizes. If you’re a Brand Shouter client and you upload a large image, we have a premium plugin that takes that image, resizes it to a more manageable size, and then optimizes it for speed. Basically, it strips out extra data to lower the size. I’ve seen images stripped 90% of the size with no visible loss in quality. Good hosting can help take those extra steps off your hands and make sure everything is running smoothly for your clients on a weekly basis.
The second part of search optimization is mobile speed. Mobile speed is even more important than desktop speed. In many places around the world, there is a lack of computers and a static internet. People depend on cellular service and mobile speed. In the U.S., we have 4G LTE in most places. But I live in an area where we’ll often vacillate between 3G and no service. Around the world, 3G is fairly common technology and considered slow. So, if your site loads and works great on the desktop but has large images, it’s going to tank your mobile speed. So, Google invented a service called AMP which basically strips down your webpage and puts up mainly the text and maybe an image. That’s one way to rank well for mobile.
Your server should also be handling the speed. If I were to go up to somebody and say, “Hey, Bob, how you doing?” Then, I had to wait five seconds before he responds, “Good, Dan. How are you?” That would be an awkward conversation. This is what happens when you go into your web browser and type in BrandShouter.com. You're basically saying, “Hey, Brand Shouter, how are you?” The time it takes for Brand Shouter to respond is a super important component of the speed of your site, which is almost entirely up to your server. I may be oversimplifying things because scripts and other things can cause a website to load slowly, but your server is the biggest component. With a lot of these cheap hosting companies, you get a slow load time. It could be one second that feels like five, but you get conditioned that this is just the way it is, but it isn’t. There are different technologies out there that make things a lot better, and cheap hosting doesn’t pay for those technologies. They just give you the bare minimum.
Another crucial part of good search optimization is your website’s uptime. Sites that go offline more often tend to rank lower. Cheaper, low-end hosting tends to experience more downtime that better hosts purely because the hardware is lower-end. This downtime create issues with your ranking because Google will see your site as unreliable and won’t direct people to a website that maybe isn’t loading at that time.
In 2012, Amazon calculated that it would lose nearly $1.6 billion for each additional second of page load time. While this is an example of a really large company, it gives you an idea of the difference 1 second makes on the web. Amazon did their research: people are pretty fickle especially when it comes to impulse shopping. We see something and want to buy it. We want to be able to click maybe two or three times. We need to make that decision quickly and it's ordered. Now buyer’s remorse sets in, but we’ve already ordered it. Of course, you can always cancel it, but most don’t.
Somebody is going to come to your site to figure out what your services are, contact you, or to purchase a product. If they have to wait longer than what feels normal, they're going to immediately have a few thoughts: this website's not loading very well, maybe this site isn’t secure or legit, or maybe I don’t need this purchase after all. Then, they close off the site. So, user experience is a big deal and this is why having a fast website that’s fully optimized on a great hosting platform matters.
Visitor experience on mobile devices is just as important. Once again, with technologies like AMP becoming more and more necessary, mobile responsiveness is important, but it must work and function great on mobile, not just show everything. "Mobile responsive" has taken on many meanings. I've come across “mobile responsive” pages that basically show the whole page on a mobile phone, but it doesn't look good and the text and small buttons are hard to see or read. Simply fitting everything on a phone screen is not mobile responsive.
Mobile responsiveness is about making sure the experience on a phone screen is great. If something has to be shrunk to fit the width of a phone, you might be better off rearranging things so it stacks and everything is more readable and clickable. Function shouldn’t be compromised to be “mobile responsive.” Google knows about this and has algorithms in their system that takes a look at websites and says, “This is more usable; this is less usable.” Even though they don’t have an army of humans doing this, their algorithms are pretty good.
One recommendation I have to make sure you are getting good speeds on mobile is to hook into the Google Search Console. It will send you notices of things like if your site is not loading great for mobile and will suggest some things you can do to change it. All of this comes back to the hosting platform you are using because then you can make these changes. Be careful though, because if your site is taking too long to finish loading the page, some hosts will just pop up your first stuff really quickly, but when you go and look at what they call a “waterfall” (the loading times of all the various items on your site), you’ll have some items that take 10+ seconds to fully load on mobile. This kills the speed of your site. So it’s important to pay attention to the “behind the scenes” kind of things.
Your website hosting platform matters for sales. Your sales will take a hit if you have a slow loading site because people get bored and rethink purchases. The more time you give them to do that, the fewer sales you'll actually make on your site. Once again, your hosting platform is primarily responsible, as well as scripts and other things being optimized on your site.
I know a few people who have worked in higher positions at Amazon and have learned that Amazon has a high end of 45 seconds before checkout, then conversion rates drop significantly. If it takes more than 45 seconds for checkout, they consider it a failure. Have you ever noticed the “Buy Now” feature Amazon added in an effort to speed up the checkout process? If a big company is trying every way possible to speed up the checkout process and the website loading process, this should give us a significant understanding of why speed matters. If Amazon places that high a value on speed, then small companies should as well.
I've recently become acquainted with a website called bolt.com. It has built an entire e-commerce system around this principle of fast checkout, lower friction, etc. I highly recommend checking them out.
We believe that your website hosting matters, and we want to take care of our clients. We’ve tried well-known good hosts like WPEngine and Kinsta, and while they had some cool features, they both lacked in other areas. With this in mind, we built our own system based on all sorts of testing, trials and other solutions. We came up with our own platform that will provide the best possible hosting for our clients; the result was a faster, better server.
Our sole purpose was to help sites run amazingly well, specifically WordPress sites. We call our platform Elite Hosting. Brand Shouter’s Elite Hosting is meant to offer the absolute best experience for the end-user of your website. To learn more, click here.
One of the ways we offer great hosting service is through aggressive caching. If you’ve used WPEngine or Cloudflare for example, you will have a bit of familiarity with this. Aggressive caching basically takes a “picture” of your site and serves pieces of it really quickly to visitors. These pieces that would normally take time to load appear almost instantly, which creates a better experience for visitors.
We also use really powerful servers. The servers that we have are typically running at about a third capacity. Contrast this with most low-end hosting companies who cram a lot of clients onto one server to get every last penny out of that server so they can offer $5/mo. hosting and still make a profit.
In our case, we would rather pay for more higher-end servers. We do pass the cost along to the client, which is why we're not a "super cheap" host. We are competitive in the high-end hosting market, however and with our services your site just works. It works when you have a special deal on your site which creates spikes and intermittent traffic – your site doesn’t die and go offline. Your site continues to serve the incoming traffic because we have more than enough resources for you.
Resources are an important thing people don’t consider with budget hosting. With success, your site spikes and you will go offline due to too many people trying to get to your site if you don't have enough resources. Our servers are what we call high-frequency compute servers. They are not just more powerful than you need, they are the highest-end, most powerful servers you can buy.
Similar to WPEngine, Kinsta, and some other higher-end hosting companies, we offer a really nice staging environment with the ability to push live or push your live site back to staging. It works really well if you're doing some changes to your site and you don't want it to show live until you're ready. It’s also helpful if you want to test a plugin update before you do it on the live site.
We also offer all of our clients' image optimization. The optimization strips out junk and images that are not necessary for the web. For example, when you take a photo, especially on the higher-end digital cameras, there is EXIF information (timestamps, aperture settings, etc.) that is unnecessary for the web and would take up more space than necessary. Our image optimization also compresses the image and serves it at a much smaller size.
Hourly Incremental Backups, Firewalls, and Redundant Servers
Another feature we offer is hourly incremental backups. We have a 6G web application firewall. This helps keep your site secure and helps eliminate most of the nasty stuff that's trying to hit your website. For more enterprise-level businesses and some medium-sized businesses, it doubles your cost, but in some cases, it is worth it.
As an additional, premium service, we can create a redundant, fallback server for our clients which prevents downtime if anything happens to your main, live server. If that were to happen, it will automatically switch over to the backup server and continue to serve your site there. There might be an hour of difference between the two, but it will allow you to keep working and serving your clients while the first server comes back online.
Great Hosting like our Elite Hosting is important for your business. It lets search engines know you’re serious about your business and helps visitors on all sorts of devices use your site without added friction. You’ll ultimately earn more money - even if you pay more.