I’m sure your blog is terrific.
You’re doing everything right: You’ve got great headlines, you’ve sourced some great visuals, you might even be actively involved in every area of content creation, developing your own images, infographics, and videos.
But there is one thing that the majority of bloggers overlook (at least at first) that can potentially keep even the best of blogs from ever getting in front of their entire potential audiences.
That one thing is good web hosting.
Think about it this way: Have you ever clicked on a link from Facebook or another site and waited for what seemed like an eternity for the site to load? This isn’t 1997. Today, web pages open like you’re turning a page in a book – or at least they should. If they don’t, you’re losing a ton of page views. Your bounce rates are soaring. Until now, you probably had no idea what was up.
I’m telling you – look at your hosting company.
Sure, there are ways that you can help your own site along with speed. You could thin out the multimedia content, lower the quality and resolution of the graphics, and jump through all kinds of hoops trying to get your site to load faster. In fact, that’s what most of the big-box hosting companies will tell you to do. But is all that really necessary?
What Is Web Hosting?
If you’re just starting out or have ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes with your website, Wikipedia explains the concept of web hosting well:
A web hosting service is a type of Internet hosting service that allows individuals and organizations to make their website accessible via the World Wide Web. Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server owned or leased for use by clients, as well as providing Internet connectivity, typically in a data center.
That’s a very concise, basic description of the concept. Those are the core services all Web hosting companies provide. What sets one apart from another, though? If they all provide the same services, why not just pick one and forget about it?
These are questions that Wikipedia doesn’t address.
That’s what this article is for.
What Makes a Good Web Host?
Just like with any other kind of service, there are good web hosting companies, and some that are not so good.
We define not so good as the ones that provide slow server access that impedes the transfer of data. It’s that much more than your content that slows things down, but no company is going to admit that their servers are slow or overloaded or that their DNS caching capabilities are sub-par.
The best web hosting companies are those that pay attention to the important details, and we think that these rank high on that list:
1. An Easy-to-Use User Interface (UI)
The UI and control panel need to be intuitive enough for the user to be able to make changes and updates as well as add new domains, schedule site backups, and set up applications like WordPress quickly and easily.
2. Guaranteed Site Speed
Web hosts that put their site speed guarantees in writing are far more likely to provide you with a consistently good end-user experience and far less likely to give you a runaround when a measurable problem exists.
Without that, be prepared for some very unpleasant conversations about how you are messing up your own site and the hoops you’ll need to jump through to fix it.
This falls in line with the concept of consistency. You want to choose a hosting company that will guarantee you 99.9% server uptime.
A drop in uptime by just half a percent (that’s 0.05%) can translate into two whole days of downtime per year.
How much does your blog make in a day? You can double that and add it to the cost of sub-par web hosting.
Choose wisely – Make use of reviews and users feedback with hosting uptime data. The following images are InMotion Hosting’s 2013 – 2016 uptime data.
* Click to enlarge image.
July 2016: 99.95%
March 2016: 99.99%
Feb 2016: 99.97%
Sep 2015: 99.83%
Aug 2015: 100%
Mar 2015: 100%
Apr 2014: 100%
Mar 2014: 99.99%
Dec 2013: 100%
Find more data and latest information in my InMotion Hosting review.
4. Price and Payment Options
There are many sites out there that charge a premium for services that the user will likely never utilize. Good hosting companies lay out their pricing structure and explain what it is you’re paying for. They also provide tiered, reasonable pricing plans that cater to the needs of your particular website.
5. Service after the Sale
How dependable is your current web host when you need to call in for help? What are the wait times like? What hours do they keep? Even more, what if you prefer being able to research issues before having to wait on hold for a representative? Does your hosting company have a comprehensive knowledge base available to all of its customers?
How about when you do need to call in? Are the reps knowledgeable along all lines, whether it’s sales, billing, or technical support? Do you routinely get five different answers to the same question from five different reps?
Good web hosting companies are amply staffed, available 24/7, and have a functional, uniformly trained team that can handle all kinds of issues and provide consistent solutions.
Does Price Really Matter?
We’ve all heard the old saying:
You get what you pay for
While that is true in many cases, a more expensive hosting service doesn’t necessarily mean it is better.
Some hosting companies are cheap (or free!) but provide very good services; some, on the other hand, are lousy and overcharge their customers.
As I stated earlier, some of the worst hosting companies out there have some of the highest rates because they prey on customers who don’t know what they need. A small price tag does not necessarily mean bargain basement products or services.
Some budget hosting companies do have their drawbacks. They cut costs by cutting hours for live support or they handle support strictly through online chat (so they can carry on five conversations at once – sometimes more). They don’t update their servers in step with improvements in technology. The best way to tell if your bargain web hosting provider is really a bargain is to do your homework and ask the right questions.
Find out how easy it is to access support. Research the latest web hosting technologies and see how each company you consider fares with its ability to keep up.
Red Flags with Budget Hosting Companies
Here are a few things to look out for when going for cheap hosting. Some of these don’t necessarily make them bad choices, but they can impact your site performance.
Unnecessary Software Upgrades
Budget hosting companies often recommend premium software from affiliate partners that you probably don’t need.
If you see a good number of negative reviews citing excessive downtime, slow speeds, or outages, that’s a sure sign that the company has too many customers on an overloaded network.
If the hosting company does business with a lot of spammers, your site could suffer by being in an IP range that has been banned in multiple areas.
Limited MySQL Database Access
Any host that offers fewer than 100 tables will cause you issues down the line.
Some hosting companies offer deep discounts the first year then slam you with ridiculous rates going forward. Then if you try to cancel, they slap you with a huge cancelation fee. Do your homework and know what you’ll be paying long-term.
“So How Do I Choose the Right Host?”
For new bloggers –
- You should always start with an affordable shared hosting (find good ones here).
- If you are just starting out, the most important things you should be considering are generating good content, advertising, creating email lists, and keeping up with your social media channels. These areas are where you should spend your money.
- Your web hosting provider shouldn’t be foremost on your mind or something that demands too much of your investment (for now).
For seasoned bloggers –
As soon as your blog is accumulating sufficient amount of traffics (rough estimation – 1,000 unique visits per day), it’s time to consider a hosting upgrade for better security and user experience.
Personally I wouldn’t let blog memory usage top 80%. If it does, it’s time to consider VPS hosting to improve site performance. Keep up with your blog uptime and response speed using tools like Uptime Robot, Bitcatcha, and Pingdom.
The Bottom Line
The right hosting company is an essential element to the success of your blog. Choose wisely and do all your homework.
Not all budget web hosts provide sub-par services, but you should always check out any service thoroughly before committing.
One Last Note: Filtering Through Negative Reviews
Since I mentioned reviews, I thought it would be a good idea to clarify something: Negative reviews are not always a fair representation of a web hosting service.
Large hosting companies will always have some disgruntled customers. As the saying goes, “you can’t please everybody.” People tend to lash out at companies over minor issues or when they have unreasonable expectations that simply cannot be met, so take negative reviews with a grain of salt. Look for patterns in the complaints. That’s the best way to uncover where the real issues lie, if any exist.