7 Reasons Why Website Hosting Matters

Kellee Gabel

Kellee Gabel
President, The Web Professional, Inc.

The question of where to host a website gets asked a lot less than I wish. There isn’t one perfect answer, but it would be nice if we were allowed to weigh in on this topic.

From our perspective as webmasters, we like to recommend services that are easy to use — for everyone, not just our client, but for us as well. Sometimes we encounter hosting solutions have already been set up by our clients, which may be inexpensive, but are ultimately so time consuming to use we have to pass these costs on to our client, because billing for our time is how we are paid.

 

Why does it take more time?

Sometimes the hosting platform is new to us, and at first, we may need time to become familiar with the hosting interface. That’s not usually a big deal. Once we’ve jumped the learning curve the amount of time dealing with the interface will decrease.

Many times the hosting platform itself is slow. Not only does this impact time spent on maintenance, it can impact a website visitor’s experience too.

Slow is not a word you want associated with your website. Today, SEO ranking algorithms test website speed. In case you’re wondering if your site passes muster, check with Google and they’ll tell you how fast (or slow) your website loads.

It’s true, there are many instances where a site is slow due to its architecture. Sometimes being slow comes from being on a server with too many websites on it or the shared bandwidth is getting slammed with a lot of visitors or overtaxed by websites that are not sharing equally in the amount of resources – you just never quite know.  For instance, if a neighboring website on your hosting server has a lot of large videos not hosted offsite on a service like YouTube or Vimeo, your website will suffer.

Nonetheless, choosing the right hosting is something you can control, and while there is no particular solution we recommend, if the hosting service’s monthly fee is under $10, you might want to reconsider and spend just a little more.

How much should you spend on hosting your website?

In our opinion, a reasonable starting range for reliable website hosting service is $25/month.  Granted you may find that paying annually vs. monthly will yield a nice discount.

Consider your own time into the equation. If services are “cheap” and the number of customers being served is LARGE, then your wait time on a service call could be LONG.

Consider… If you charge $50-$100/hour for your time and you spend 1/2 hour on the phone waiting for service, how will you feel about the $25-$50 you just spent sitting on hold? Oh sure, we don’t often think that way, but it does come down to valuing our own time.

Yes, it’s true offer hosting at The Web Professional, Inc., but it is only available to our website maintenance customers. When we make hosting recommendations, it is on a case-by-case basis.   For instance, if we know a client’s website traffic or the structure of their website will demand resources requiring dedicated services, we might recommend a dedicated server.   We also limit the number of websites on our managed hosting service to to ensure our hosting clients receive equitable resources from the server.   When considering third-party hosting options, we take our client’s budget into consideration, yet even under the most dire circumstances, we won’t recommend the lowest priced service out there.

Let’s face it. Many businesses large and small rely upon their website as the foundation to their marketing plan.

Here are 7 Ways Low Cost Hosting Can Hurt a Website’s Success:

  1. Slow websites are penalized by Google’s ranking algorithm.
  2. Visitors may not be able to load the website in a timely manner, and, therefore, not stick around to see your terrific website.
  3. Website maintenance takes longer and is, in the longrun, costlier.
  4. Lowcost website hosting is often over-taxed by too many websites and the owners, who don’t realize the importance of optimizing images for fast download, create a tax on system, leaving their neighbors sharing a bogged down bandwidth. (This also impacts maintenance support services that are bogged down in the process of uploading website files.)
  5. Limits on services, which may be needed to meet your website’s technical requirements.
  6. Add-on costs for every little thing.
  7. Time lost sitting on hold for customer service.

I can think of a few other reasons, but I’m guessing you get the drift.

Posted in Business Development, Business Management Resources, IT Solutions, Marketing, SEO | Leave a comment

Does your website need an SSL Certificate?

Google has indicated or perhaps algorithm’d is a better word for their requirements er  “recommendations” toward improved search engine rankings.

You might be thinking, “Is an SSL certificate right for my website?”

While I could write volumes on the topic, I’ll defer to another authority, since they have written a helpful, timely article about it.  Here is one such article SearchEngineLand.com that I believe covers it quite nicely.

Google Starts Giving A Ranking Boost To Secure HTTPS/SSL Sites
by Barry Schwartz on August 7, 2014
http://searchengineland.com/google-starts-giving-ranking-boost-secure-httpsssl-sites-199446

Now, if you’ve taken time to read this, you may feel more confused than ever.  So, I feel compelled to give my 2 cents.  Should you or shouldn’t you have an SSL certificate for your website?  If you are selling online or exchanging sensitive data through your website, you absolutely should. If you have an established small website not selling online, not exchanging sensitive data, and a small budget to boot, you must look beyond the initial cost of getting the certificate and having it installed on your hosting server.  Converting your website to make it completely functional as an SSL site could mean a great deal of retooling at an unexpected cost.  If you developed your own website and consider yourself a novice, don’t try to go it alone.

This article covers many of the concerns about making the transition:

The Big List of SEO Tips and Tricks for Using HTTPS on Your Website
September 8th, 2014 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard to Technical SEO and Advanced SEO

http://moz.com/blog/seo-tips-https-ssl

Not to deter you, but this question calls for a case-by-case assessment.  Call us if you want to know more.

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How much does brand awareness count and how to get it?

It’s a time in our world when marketing is easy and can be somewhat inexpensive to companies large and small.  Or is it?

After 14 years of watching a slow and then rapid shift of marketing budgets from traditional to digital and somewhere / everywhere in between — marketers seem more unsure than ever about where to put their dollars efforts.

Red-Eyed Tree FrogPhoto courtesy of Frogworld.net

Red-Eyed Tree Frog
Photo courtesy of Frogworld.net

How can one sing loudest in a forest, when tree frogs of all sizes, voices and varieties are widely available?

Recently a networking associate mentioned attending a marketing course, where one lesson addressed how many businesses are fixated on being the best or better than their competitors at making or doing what they do.  Bottom line, you can make or do whatever at the highest level, but if no one knows about you, your quality may not matter.

If you’ve completely eschewed (no that was not a sneeze) traditional marketing or advertising for digital opportunities, or you’re going for the big organic search result, maybe you should rethink this plan.  Whether your ads or public relations run in print or digital media, you’ve got to be out there getting exposure.  Sure, as Internet marketers we certainly believe in organic search engine placement.  However, it’s also good to remember that if someone isn’t looking for you in search results (search = need now — example:  I need a mover to pack my stuff and get me moved, my pipes are leaking need to find a plumber) you need to remind consumers of the services you offer, so that when they do need you, it’s you they think of.

For products and services that are more impulse buys or discretionary, you need to advertise or be networking on some level.   Think, family photos, jewelry, horseback riding.

An example I like?  Here in Minnesota the company Extreme Sandbox offers heavy equipment adventures (https://www.extremesandbox.com/).  Now, how would I know about this?  I’ve seen their ads.  Where I can’t actually recall, but I’ve stored it away in my brain for a possible future play day.  I’ll admit, I would NEVER have thought about this as a service without having seen or heard their ad.

I could make more cases, but you get the drift.

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Digital Fingerprints, Retargeting, Oh My!

You’ve heard of retargeting, right?  Where advertisers are able to use your digital fingerprint to aim targeted ads at you.

It goes like this:

So, you’re on this website looking at a product. You’ve researched it.

Let’s just say dog toys, as an example.  I just got a promo from a national brand in my e-mail and clicked out to learn more about the sale.

Now I have gotten an e-mail from them offering free shipping if I order in the next 10 days, and in my Microsoft Outlook e-mail interface on the ad panel to the right, I am being shown ads by this same company.

That’s retargeting.

Advertisers buy and use intelligence from your browsing behavior to continue to target you.

Is there anything bad about this?  Notreally-maybe-I-guess-not-sure-hm-don’t-know-how-to-feel-about-it….

Let’s face it, you could be that advertiser, and keeping your ad dollars targeted to the right audience is a good way to save money and make money.

However, the one thought that’s a bit disconcerting… that digital fingerprint.

This video on Wall Street Journal is the best explanation I can provide without making you read a bunch of hoo hah.  Enjoy, if you dare.

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A little SEO to start your day

Kellee Gabel

Kellee Gabel
President, The Web Professional, Inc.

Yesterday a client who likes to do a lot of his own webmastering asked me how to improve his search engine placement.  Up until now, having a lot of great, on-topic content has served him well.

Of course, as with most people, this customer is primarily concerned with Google, and Google over the past few years has changed a lot of their rules – think Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird.

I slept over gobs of ideas before writing a very long e-mail explaining some of the top things I would consider changing about his six (yes 6) websites.

Here’s what I said:

There’s a lot that’s changed over the past 2 years for search engine rules, (especially Google, and who cares about anyone else, right?).  But some things basic rules have remained the same and are easy to follow.

These first two items have always been important.

First…

The title tags at the top of each page should be no more than 70 characters.  These titles should be worded specifically to identify the page topic (so, never the same from page to page).

Example:

<title>Amelia Earhart | female pioneer in aviation lost in the Pacific</title>

This title would be very specific to helping someone researching Amelia Earhart.

Page titles are one of the most important things you can do right and receive good benefit from any search engine.  (By the way, it’s also how page bookmarks get titled, what appears in the title of search engine results, and what is shown in the browser tab.)

Second…

Also, just below the <title> tag should be the following tag:

<meta name=”description” content=”type your description of the page’s content here” />

Some SEO experts may tell you to insert a similar line for keywords
<meta name=”keywords” content=”keywords or phrases separated by commas here” />.

Don’t bother.  The search engines don’t look at the keyword tag.  They’re mainly interested in the first 300 words, or so, on your page for relevancy to Title and Description you gave them at the start of your page.

For best bang for the buck, if you were targeting a particular keyword or key phrase, it should appear in your title, description and in the content of your page.

Next…

Outbound hyperlinks from your site.

You can literally hurt your site and the site you’re linking to, if you haven’t added this code to the link:  rel=”nofollow”

Generally what search engines are trying to avoid is having websites pass the benefit of their high rank to another site through links (intentionally or not).  So this code shows the search engine that you are not trying to pass page rank on to the site receiving the link from you.

When to use it?  According to searchengineland.com, the following circumstances:

  • Paid Links – If someone has paid for the link, use the rel=”nofollow” to avoid being penalized
  • Comments – Unmoderated commenting, say on your blog, should be set to nofollow
  • User-generated content – like comments, if you allow someone to contribute content to your site without moderation, no follow will keep your site as being seen as “vouching” for links to bad sites
  • Widgets or Infographics – if you don’t want to be seen as endorsing the product/service or content.
  • Anytime – you don’t wish to be seen as endorsing a site.

At one time it was good to build sites that linked to each other, particularly with the goal of passing traffic back and forth.  And, if another site that was a highly-ranked authority on a topic related to your topic linked out to you, that was once beneficial and may still be (see circumstances above).  So although, you can link to others from your site, and it certainly benefits the recipient to have visitors come to their site from yours, you should consider whether it makes sense to “appear” to endorse a page.  Without the rel=”nofollow” in the link code, you may actually being doing more harm than good.

Now, I know you will next ask, how does this rel=”nofollow” get into my link code?  Here is what a link should look like if it is to show it.

<a href=”http://thewebprofessional.com” rel=”nofollow” />The Web Professional, Inc.</a>

Bear in mind, this is only relevant to outbound links (to other sites, not internal links to pages within your own site).  In the case of an outbound link, it may show target=”_blank” (and I hope it does, because that opens the link in a new window and keeps your web page open too).

So, what does it look like?

<a href=”http://thewebprofessional.com” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” />The Web Professional, Inc.</a>

I’ll just bet if you read this closely you might be wondering, did she use rel=”nofollow” on her link to SearchEngineLand.com?  Well, first I do highly endorse them.  There’s some great stuff there, but just to be safe, yes, I did “nofollow” that link.

Until next time… questions?

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