There are hundreds of website hosting options on the market, and many seem very, very similar. It can get overwhelming to compare the different features, the dozens of acronyms, and the ‘free’ addons. Site builder or no site builder? Does SSD matter? Is unmetered the same as unlimited bandwidth? (Spoiler: no, it isn’t)
I have spent years researching and writing about the different website hosting options, and here is one thing I have noticed: When looking for the right host, many business owners look at features or pricing, but they often don’t consider the impact the host might have on their ability to market their business.
The truth is, the host you choose can have a significant impact on your SEO and your Online Marketing efforts as a whole. Here are 4 ways your host can impact your Marketing efforts, and how to avoid falling into a trap.
Uptime Is About More Than Just Convenience
One feature most hosts highlight is their uptime, that is, the percentage of time your website is online and accessible to your audience. The industry standard for hosting uptime is in the high 90’s, usually 97-99%. It is easy to assume anywhere in that range is okay. However, even just one percent can make a huge impact. Google has long stated that short down time doesn’t impact SEO, however, it is easy to lose sight of what those percentages actually mean.
Here’s the thing— 97% uptime sounds great, right? But over a month, that means your site can be down more than 21 hours or an average of 43 minutes a day. 99% uptime, on the other hand, is an average of just 16 hours a month. Which can still be significant if your site is down right after, for example, you spent 1K on Adwords.
Even at the higher end of uptime guarantees, at 99%, there could be 16 hours a month your customers head to your website and cannot read articles, make purchases, or access any of the resources you offer. You will miss sales and experience a higher bounce rate, which can impact your SEO.
Takeaway: Don’t take minor differences in uptimes lightly; beyond lost Sales, they can have a long-term impact on your SEO.
Look for SEO Optimization Features, but Tread Lightly
A number of hosts offer either SEO features or add on SEO services. For businesses on a budget, these features or services can help you reach more customers by helping you rank better in search engines like Google or Bing. If you aren’t an SEO expert, this can seem like a good deal.
However, many of these features are bare-bones at best. They may allow you to edit page headings, alt tags, or meta descriptions, but not much else. Without experience in optimizing these areas, you are unlikely to see much benefit. (Plus, most WordPress sites allow you to do this anyway.)
Takeaway: Don’t rely on your host for expert SEO services, either hire an expert or rely on plugins like Yoast to give you the functionality you need.
Most Hosts Offer Marketing Credits
Often listed as “Marketing offers” or “Advertising credits,” these are ad dollars you can spend to advertise your business on Google Adwords, Bing, or Yahoo. This can be a great option to tests ads without spending a ton of your own money.
For example, SiteGround currently offers around $150 of advertising credits for Bing and Yahoo. Once you understand what works, you can invest more money into the platforms or ads that were proven to be most successful.
Takeaway: Check to see if your host offers Marketing credits so you can test ads for free.
Leverage Add-ons That Can Impact SEO and Uptime
Most hosts offer free addons, which can vary by host and by hosting package. For example, all of BlueHost’s shared packages offer a free SSL certificate, designed to encrypt information sent from your site and protect information such as customer’s credit card numbers.
On its own, those certificates usually start around $10 a year, so a free one with installation help is helpful. In addition to being required for e-commerce stores, having an SSL certificate also gives you a small SEO benefit. Some hosts offer CDNs like CloudFlare and use solid-state drives (SSDs), which can boost site speed, which is also a ranking factor for Google.
On their own, these features might not seem critical. But each little boost you get can impact the success of ads, social media efforts, and even your overall Search Engine ranking.
Takeaway: SSL certificates, CDNs and SSDs make your hosting environment more robust and protect against downtime increase your overall SEO. Take the time to understand what is available and how to implement.
Web Hosting and Marketing Go Hand-In-Hand
Choosing a host is a long-term commitment, much like renting a brick and mortar storefront. Just like the location of a physical business can impact sales, so can the location of your website. When choosing a host, make sure to consider how the features it offers can affect the long-term marketability of your business.