Web Hosting and Its Relation To Marketing
Here’s a digital marketing scenario that plays out countless times each day. The marketing and web development talent at a brand-new company join forces to create its initial identity on the internet. This newly assembled group knows and fully understands the fundamentals of online user experience and website development and how the two inter-relate and doesn’t skip any necessary steps.
But there is one essential decision left to be made. A decision that will play a pivotal role in the future success of the site. Which web hosting provider and which hosting technology will this company choose? Not all web hosting providers are created equal — they vary substantially in key metrics that play a pivotal role in just how successfully the site can be marketed for the desired conversions that will affect the company’s bottom line.
Let’s take a look at the relationship between web hosting and digital marketing.
Web Hosting: An Overview of What Really Matters (and What Doesn’t)
Even with the most diligent of planning and execution, a website’s success will be hamstrung if the wrong hosting company is chosen. This is largely because web hosting companies are entrusted with providing a number of key performance elements that have a direct effect on the website’s marketability — both in terms of its SEO potential and the user experience it provides.
All too often, companies don’t put sufficient research into the web host they ultimately choose. Instead, they tend to view web hosting as a commodity, with all providers in the marketplace more or less on even footing. When this is the prevailing mindset, web hosting decisions end up being made largely on elements like price point — understandably a consideration, but not often a “make or break” factor.
Or a company might be influenced by marketing when making its decision. Industry giant GoDaddy made a huge splash in its formative years by creating irreverent marketing messages that viewers couldn’t help but take notice of and nearly the entire web hosting industry leans more heavily on affiliate marketing than most other sectors for its sustained growth.
Both flashy marketing and a financial incentive for pushing prospects toward specific companies can distort the web hosting landscape and pull focus from what’s really important.
As this article points out in its comparative analysis of leading web hosting companies, even the best known of the bunch do vary in terms of their strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll want to get a complete picture of both before taking the plunge and committing to their services.
In reality, there are four metrics that not only gauge a web hosting company’s performance, but also play a key role in how successfully a website can be marketed while under its care: page load speed, server response, uptime and bandwidth.
Let’s see how each correlate to digital marketing success.
Page Load Speed
Simply put, page load speed measures the amount of time it takes for a website to load. It doesn’t take a marketing expert to know that faster is always better, but at what point is lagging page load speed an actual detriment? After all, no web hosting company is going to be so lacking as to keep site visitors waiting for a markedly longer time than even the cream of the crop of hosting providers, right?
Actually, wrong. Further, this variation in performance plays a big part in a website’s marketability. Not only is there a surprisingly wide disparity in the page load speed that web hosting companies provide — even with the fundamentals of proper website construction carefully adhered to — but Google pays very close attention to this metric. So much so, that if a website takes longer than three seconds to load, Google will factor that lack of speed into the site’s SEO potential.
There’s not much point in devoting time and resources to optimizing a website if a subpar loading speed puts a damper on its chances to rise up the search engine results pages (SERPS).
A page load speed of two seconds is now generally considered to be the accepted threshold for e-commerce sites and an even more pared down figure is likely to be the barometer in the future.
With so much SEO potential — or lack thereof — depending on page load speed, it’s definitely a factor that must be considered when choosing a hosting provider.
It’s worth noting that there are factors beyond the capabilities of the web hosting provider you choose that can also have a profound impact on page load speed, so it’s a metric that must be paid attention to even after a provider is chosen.
The overuse of widgets and plug-ins is likely a more common culprit. Website developers who work with WordPress websites know how tempting it can be to add plug-ins for what they perceive to be increased functionality. Often, more inexperienced developers will even add two plug-ins that accomplish the same function.
Server Response Time
This is a factor that also weighs heavily in determining just how long your visitors might be kept waiting once they opt to access your website. Whereas page speed gauges how fast a website loads, server response time measures the amount of time that elapses between a web browser making its initial inquiry with the server on which the website is hosted and that server responding.
Think of it as a sort of measure of server readiness. Shared hosting is still the dominant type of web hosting at present — we’ll get deeper into the types of hosting that are available a little later. So, if a web host is employing sub-par or overcrowded servers in order to maximize its profits, server response time is bound to suffer.
Since a lagging server response time adds to the amount of time it takes between an entered search and the chosen website appearing onscreen, it will also have negative consequences where SEO is concerned. With more pronounced delays, it will also contribute to an elevated bounce rate, as exasperated visitors are likely to start consuming a site’s content with a negative mindset and therefore need less of an excuse to make their exit. That goes to the very crux of user experience, an essential consideration in digital marketing.
Just as the term implies, this is the measure of just how much of the time a web hosting company’s servers are operable and performing their function. With hosting technology having evolved considerably from the early days of the internet and more companies entering the market over the years to provide stiffer competition, the accepted standard for this metric has climbed considerably.
Nonetheless, it’s easy to see the implications of choosing a web hosting provider that’s lacking in this respect. Whereas slow page load speeds can easily lead to impatient visitors that are ready to move on, a site that can’t be accessed at all due to out of commission servers confers flat-out illegitimacy that can thoroughly tarnish a company’s brand.
According to WebsiteBuilderExpert., the benchmark for this metric now stands at 99.5% of the time but, of course, the higher it is, the better. To put this in more practical terms, downtime at this level would mean that a hosting network is down for just 5 minutes over the course of an entire week.
Ever listen to the end of a cell phone commercial? Most have a disclaimer that clears the way for the company to throttle down data speeds when customer demand is peaking at various times throughout the day.
Web hosting features its own distant cousin to this speed reduction. It comes in the form of the amount of data your website will be able to transfer to visitors in a given amount of time. Think of it in terms of a household pipe. When its diameter is reduced — through sedimentation or corrosion, for example — its ability to distribute water is compromised.
Bandwidth works in much the same fashion. When bandwidth is capped or reduced, data travels more slowly from the server after a browser request has been made. Since the amount of bandwidth customers end up receiving is often dependent on the price plan they choose, it’s important to compare this factor on a “like to like” basis when pitting one hosting company against another.
Other Web Hosting Factors to Consider
Let’s look at some other factors that might not exert much influence on your marketing efforts but should play a part in which web hosting company you end up choosing.
Of course, this is a factor that has no direct bearing on the service quality a web hosting company provides, but let’s face it, it’s a consideration for most of us. The key issue, however, is not so much the price of the service, but what you’ll actually get for that price.
For example, if the hosting company is cutting technological corners to maintain an acceptable profit margin in the face of bargain basement pricing, its customers will suffer the consequences.
The most common consequence of this corner cutting is an unacceptably high ratio of accounts per server — overburdening a server will nearly always result in compromised, slower performance. A close second would be the use of subpar equipment — solid state servers will always be faster than their mechanical counterparts.
Since nearly every web hosting company offers discounted introductory pricing, it’s also important to know what kind of charges you’ll be looking at once that introductory period ends. A marked increase can quickly negate the benefits of a deep discount.
Even with careful preparation and plenty of available skilled labor, plenty can go wrong. There can be undiscovered issues on the client/customer side, as well as issues with the web hosting provider. Customer perception, as well as potential revenue, can be compromised, so these issues have to be rectified quickly.
When problems do occur — and they will — can the web hosting company you ultimately choose deal with them in a prompt but professional manner? A lot may be riding on their ability to do so.
This is an aspect of company performance where careful branding may at times differ from reality. Several years back, GoDaddy was known for its irreverent but knowledgeable customer service personnel. To a large extent, it still is, but as more and more companies have climbed on board for its hosting services over time, there have been reports that customer service has at times been less than stellar.
Here’s a Brief Overview of the Types of Available Web Hosting
Web hosting services break down into four main types. Each has its pluses and minuses that you’ll want to consider before making your decision.
With shared hosting, multiple websites share a single server. This generally works out fine for companies with more modest data needs and a priority on a low price point. On the other hand, because one or more companies on that single server can experience marked fluctuations in customer demand, these fluctuations may affect every company onboard in terms of page load speed and server response, even if those companies’ usage remains consistent and relatively light.
Cloud hosting has gained in popularity over the past few years, and for good reason. This technology has an intrinsic level of dependability because websites are, in essence sharing access to multiple servers. Should one server go down, or be impeded by unusually heavy demands, another is standing by to bridge the gap.
This ready access to multiple servers also makes cloud hosting well-suited for websites that might have greater than average data demands, but still don’t warrant fully dedicated hosting. Also, uptime is generally very good, as it’s very rare for a reputable hosting company to suffer across the board outages that would take all of its servers out of commission.
About the only negative — and this may be more theoretical than practical — is that because website data travels more frequently via the internet with cloud hosting, it’s potentially more vulnerable to interception should the hosting company not employ the proper security measures.
Reputable companies DO employ these measures.
VPS hosting, or Virtual Private Server Hosting, employs cutting edge technology to, in effect, allow one server to morph into multiple servers. As such, it can readily adapt to accommodate data demands and is pretty much unaffected by traffic fluctuations. Also, as the term “private” would suggest, the server you contract for is assigned only to you. No sharing of its capacity or assets.
Because of the exclusive access it offers, as well as its impressive uptime and consistent speed, you might expect VPS hosting to be more expensive, and you would be right. It’s not so pricey as to be totally out of reach for the vast majority of companies, but it may not make sense for those with more modest needs.
Considered the cream of the crop of hosting technology, dedicated hosting assigns a company its own physical server. This offers several decided benefits, including nearly unlimited capacity that won’t be compromised by neighboring companies, outstanding performance, as well as reliability and solid security.
It can be pricey, though. And because most dedicated hosting companies require a certain amount of website adjustments in order to sync up with them it isn’t particularly user friendly, so it’s probably a better option for companies with bigger budgets that also have ready access to knowledgeable IT talent.
Making The Right Choice of Web Hosting Providers
Choosing the right web hosting provider can have definite implications on a website’s SEO potential, the user experience it provides and the way it represents a company, so it’s not a choice to be made lightly. But there’s plenty of directly relevant information available, so with the proper due diligence it’s a relatively easy step to navigate in the digital marketing process.