smart marketers book

Smart Marketer’s Guide to Web Hosting

Updated June 12, 2018

 

 

Smart Marketer’s Guide to Hosting 2018

 

smart sign

 

Index of What’s Included

Executive Summary

The Real Objective of Marketing
Reach
Acquisition
Retention
Conversion

The Science Behind Hosting for Marketers

Hosting Features That Matter Most to Marketers
Specs
Cost
Performance
Dependability
Management
Support

Marketing Measures Influenced by Hosting Decisions
Rankings
Traffic
Conversions
Repeat Business
Trust
Uptime

Uncovering Bugbears
Blacklisted Emails
Search RankingsPenalized
Terrible User Experience

About KnownHost

golden key saying influence

Executive Summary

 

Discover all the ways hosting choices can influence marketing success.  From key server specifications to SEO disasters waiting to happen, this guide shares what you need to know, from the no nonsense perspective of a seasoned marketer who has learned lessons first hand.

 

Filled with updated facts and figures, focused on tips to make your life easier – you will be left knowing more, able to do more and ready to improve your marketing approach through better hosting decisions.

 

Note: The author of this guide is the Marketing Manager at KnownHost.com, the USA-based managed hosting experts who have long dominated the Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting market.  Prior roles include directing the marketing and product management of technology and software companies with revenues of over $1 Billion across two continents.

 

hand drawn diagram of marketing activities

 

The Real Objective of Marketing

 

Marketers care about 4 things:
Reach – exposing their messages to the largest audience possible
Acquisition – drawing in visitors who come to the corporate website
Conversion – turning visitors into paying customers
Retention – keeping customers year after year

Marketers are like Sheldon Cooper, on The Big Bang Theory, in the episode where he and Leonard are facing down a vicious dog.  Leonard ponders that neither of them would be faster than the dog – so they were both in a bad situation.  Sheldon, however, points out that he doesn’t have to outrun the dog. He must just outrun Leonard! A company doesn’t have to be perfect to make millions – it does however need to outperform its competition.

 


Top Tip:  Don’t aim for perfection – instead aim for being better than the competition.  Being remarkable is the goal – not being flawless.


 

scientist doing chemistry

 

The Science Behind Hosting for Marketers

 

Countless sites on the internet are dedicated to deciphering the Google ranking algorithm.  Many others are dedicated to demand generation, lead capture, nurturing, conversion rate optimization and much more.

 

The author of this guide has spent the past two decades as a technical search engine optimization specialist, testing theories and putting them into practice across hundreds of different domains.  

 

The knowledge from this combination of hard-knocks, education, testing and implementation has been distilled into the Smart Marketer’s Guide to Hosting.  It’s freely shared with you, in the hope that you avoid the pitfalls and enjoy the successes that can come from putting this knowledge into practice.

 

Hosting Features That Matter Most to Marketers

 

When marketers choose hosting plans, they should be looking at:

Specifications
Cost / Price
Performance
Dependability
Managed Services
Support


Top Tip:  Anyone can offer cheap unmanaged hosting, but you need to find dependable, affordable, high-value, high-performance hosting.


 

 

list headed specifications

Specifications

 

Minimum Recommended Specifications

RAM  2 GB

DRIVE 60 GB

XFER  2 TB

IPV4  2 IP

PANEL  cPanel (or DirectAdmin)

MGT  Fully Managed

BACKUP  Fully Automated

 

Specification Details

With a poor spec hosting plan, a website will be slow to respond to requests, transfer text, images and scripts.  Some of the key specs to focus on include:

 

RAM

The hosting requirements of basic html/css websites are remarkably different than those of a massive ecommerce shop like Magento.  A guide cannot tell you how exactly much memory or drive space your particular situation will require.

 

However, a good hosting company will have salespeople available who know what questions to ask, so that you can select the perfect hosting plan.

 

When comparing plans between various providers, make sure that you’re comparing available memory to available memory, and not comparing available to burstable (or similar terms being used for short term availability only).

 

Generally speaking, for a VPS, there’s little point in running one with under 2GB of RAM.  When you get down to 1GB or 1.5GB, you suddenly need to make sacrifices to keep things running (like not having a control panel).

 

DRIVE (Storage) Size

When choosing storage, be sure to compare like to like.  There’s a monumental difference in performance between network file systems (SAN, NAS, NFS), local hard disk drives (5400 RPM IDE, 7200 RPM, 10000 RPM SCSI, +++) and solid state disk drives (SSD).

 

Getting 1 TB of poor performing hard drive space is not better than getting 100 GB of ultra-fast SSD!

 

If you want to safely choose high performing hardware – go with SSD.

 

Storage Type (RAID)

Most desktop computers don’t rely on a redundant array of independent disks (RAID), though nowadays most all server environments do so.

 

There are many types of RAID, depending on whether you want pure speed (like RAID 0), a simple mirroring in case one drive fails (RAID 1), or a combination of performance and fault tolerance (RAID 10 also called RAID 1+0 or RAID 0+1).

 

If you don’t care about downtime in case of drive failure and have great backups you can rely on, then maybe you feel lucky enough to go with RAID 0.

 

On the other hand, if you want that piece of mind that comes with having 2 drives with exactly the same data being written to them, but don’t need a fast website for your visitors, then maybe RAID 1 is your cup of tea.

 

In our experience, RAID 10 is the only business solution that makes sense – giving you speed and redundancy, the best of both worlds.

 

Network Speed (transfer per second)

It hasn’t been that many years ago that 10 mbit/s network cards were common in most hosting environments.  At that time, web pages relied less on massive images and videos, and could easily serve up many simultaneous users with that connection speed.

 

Those times have changed.  The ‘tube generation’ has encouraged companies, large and small, to put gigabytes of video on their websites while simultaneously pushing the envelope with larger and larger image sizes, and quantities.

 

100 mbit/s can work for many SME websites, while 1 gbit/s, or faster, is required for large corporate hosting.

 

Just be sure you’re checking this, amongst all providers, before you commit.  It wouldn’t be good if you got stuck trying to push out a ton of video the size of bowling balls through a network pipe built like a soda straw.

 

Network Throughput (monthly transfer)

Network speed is one thing, like having 3G, 4G or 5G via mobile.  Not matter how fast your transfer speed, you are still going to be facing possible allocation limits – the amount you can transfer each month.  A fast network just enables you to use up your full allocation that much faster, leaving you with a charge for the overage at the end of the month – or worse, an account suspension!

 

Some advertise their allowed transfer in GB’s or TB’s per month.  Others advertise theirs as unlimited** (note the asterisks point to the fine print where you find out about their Terms of Service and what happens if you use too much).

 

Make sure you know how much you can actually transfer, and know how much you are likely to need.  

 


Top Tip:  Don’t rely on unlimited without checking first.  99.9% of unlimited plans – aren’t! There are always limits of some kind to protect servers and networks from overuse.


 

Control Panel (which ones can be used, like cPanel)

While not every VPS or dedicated server comes with a control panel, the vast majority of site owners find a control panel to be an absolute must – saving them time and effort, daily.

 

There’s nothing worse than having spent the last 5 or 10 years using cPanel (or another panel), then signing up with a new host, only to find out that they have some proprietary panel designed in the Pleistocene Era.  Suddenly, nothing you’ve learned over the past decade is going to help in figure out this Rubik’s cube.

 

Make sure your favorite control panel is available and what it will cost to add-on to your hosting plan price.

 


Top Tip:  Get a standard control panel like cPanel or DirectAdmin.  The pain of migrating to/from a proprietary or no-name control panel is ridiculous and avoidable.


 

Domains and Email Accounts

Some hosting companies will limit how many domain accounts you can add to your hosting plan.  

 

Others will allow you 1 primary domain and the rest have to be add-on domains.

 

The difference lies with how difficult it is to administer, especially when migrating accounts from one hosting company to another, or making backups you can easily send to clients.

 

It’s important to know how many domains and how many email addresses (and databases) you can create with a given hosting plan.  Being surprised later, is definitely not fun.

 

Fast Fact:  There are now more than 1,000 top level domains (TLD’s) and roughly 400 million domains hosted on the internet, with 5 billion email addresses in use.

 

Premium Hardware/Network

The difference between cheapest price and best value hosting companies often is most easily spotted in the server room.  

 

Are they running latest and greatest hardware, routers and monitoring software?  Can your server get updates without forcing a reboot (and having downtime)?

 

A simple speed-test of some files or websites, when loaded on multiple different hosts is one way of telling the performance of one company versus another, but not definitive.

 

There are many speed-test tools out there, but a few of our favorites are:

Pingdom https://tools.pingdom.com

Google PageSpeed https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

GTmetrix https://gtmetrix.com

 

If you’re going to be running WordPress, test a couple of WordPress-based sites on any prospective hosting company, before you commit.  If their sites are as slow as molasses, yours probably will be slow as well.

 

Cheaper hardware often reveals itself, not with simple speed tests, but with critical failures that require downtime to fix.  

 

Downtime statistics are one of the most common ways of spotting those companies who have invested in infrastructure and those who haven’t (high value vs low price companies).

 

Checking downtime of a company versus their competition can be done by going to sites like:

Hyperspin http://www.hyperspin.com/en/ranking.php?type=2&i=10&d=90&s=10

 


Top Tip:  Sign-up with a hosting company AFTER you’ve checked their uptime.  An unreliable host is an unnecessary risk and rarely leads to any real savings.


 

price versus value

 

Price / Cost

 

Cost Details

The price of hosting can be as simple as a single all-inclusive fee or it can be the base cost plus published extras (and any hidden gotcha costs that crop up unexpectedly).

 

Base Cost / Month

The starting point with pricing is where to begin with the basic cost/price per month.  This is the starting point advertised plan price as advertised and often is just a reference point – most people never pay this small of an amount.

 

In fact, the price people actually pay can often be multiples of the advertised cost – this is just a starting point!

 

extra

 

Typical Extras

There are many, many extras which can drive up the price of hosting each month, such as:

 

Fully Managed – not standard with many companies

Priority Support – some charge extra for ‘good’ support

Control Panels – the panel and license package for things like cPanel

Billing Panels – like WHMCS or Blesta almost always are extra

Bundles – things like Softaculous or other 1-click installers may add a small fee

SSD vs HDD – storage type upgrades can be costly

Storage Size – getting more space for your files, email and databases

Monthly Transfer – additional GB or TB of data xfer

Backups – adding backups, more frequently, or drive space to accommodate

CDN – bundled content delivery networks for offloading files to speed things along

LiteSpeed – performance comes at a cost, usually

LiteSpeed Cache/LiteMage – again more performance with an associated cost

Datacenter Choice – not always an added cost, but can have premium locations

Premium Bandwidth – rarely an add-on cost, usually embedded in base price

 

Hidden Costs

Often one-offs, or under certain circumstances, these can be surprising, are usually not really optional, and can be the only way to get your account out of a suspended status or files migrated to another host:

 

Tax – some display prices without tax, some with – be sure to check this

Setup Fees – one off setup fees are a common hidden gotcha

Migration Fees – one site included, or all, or no migration help available?

Support Admin – sometimes support is tiered, with some items covered and others not

 

Going over on usage is one of the most worrisome because it can have the biggest impact.  Accounts can be suspended, so files can’t even be downloaded to move to a different provider.  Some will send exorbitant bills for using too much resources, drive space, monthly transfer, or combination of the above – with threats of what will happen if you don’t pay, since you agreed to this when signing up – as a legally binding agreement!

 

Check reviews on independent sites to reveal companies who use such tactics – so you can avoid repeating the mistakes of others.

 

Special Savings Available

Before committing to a purchase, it pays to check and see what discounts, coupons or special offers are available.  Some ways of saving money include:

 

Multi-Server Discount – sign-up for more than one to get a price break

Extended Prepayment – paying in advance for a longer term can often save a tidy sum

Special Promo / Coupon – search for {brand name} coupon or {brand name} promo code

 


Top Tip:  Use live chat or call the hosting company sales team BEFORE signing up, mention the fact you want a better discount offer, and give them a chance to quote you happy.


 

robot sprinting quickly

Performance (speed)

 

Performance Details

Hosting performance is influenced by several factors and measured in several ways, the most important of which include:

 

Page Speed

Hardware selection, available resources, network throughput and contention all impact page speed.

 

Optimizations and server software selection can also play a role.  You often don’t know until you test, or read reviews of others as to how well things are going to go.

 

There are many speed-test tools out there, but a few of our favorites are:

Pingdom https://tools.pingdom.com

Google PageSpeed https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

GTmetrix https://gtmetrix.com

 

Network Location

Make sure that you’re checking the speed from a location close to your target audience – there’s no point in thinking a server is fast for USA people when your audience is in Holland.

 


Top Tip:  Use a GEOIP lookup tool to see where a domain or IP is located (though they could be using a CDN to appear closer to where YOU are at.


 

Dependability

 

Dependability Details

Being dependable means a lot.  In fact, for many, dependability is the #1 decision making criteria in choosing a host, and means things like:

 

Uptime

The ideal web hosting company would be up 100% of the time, never having any downtime for any reason, ever.  While that’s not possible for extended periods, it’s something most great hosts strive to achieve.

 

Top Tip:  You can check how well various web hosting companies are performing by checking on independent 3rd party providers like Hyperspin.

Support Response Time / Resolution

Hopefully, you never need to contact a web hosts support team, but when you do, you need to know that they’ll respond in a timely manner.  Initial support response time is an important metric.

 

Getting a response and getting a solution aren’t the same thing.  So, how fast a hosting company support team actually resolves your issue is huge, and is one big measure of dependability.

 

The biggest problem for resolution times is that there are no truly independent measures of this.  Every site we’ve checked online has affiliate links and is compensated for posting response times with links to hosting company plans for sale.  Compensation brings measures into question, bigtime!

 

Therefore, we recommend you check reviews on Facebook, Google, and similar well trusted review sites where you can find out what real customers say about those hosting companies.

     Facebook Reviewshttps://www.facebook.com/KnownHost/reviews

     Google Reviewshttps://www.google.com/maps/place/KnownHost+LLC/@39.9036772,-75.5647848,17z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x89c6f03c2ff25979:0x18dd8ecb5cab9c78!8m2!3d39.9036772!4d-75.5625961!9m1!1b1

     WebHostingHero Reviewshttps://www.webhostinghero.com/reviews/knownhost/

 

Billing Accuracy

Getting surprise items on your invoice is no fun.  Knowing how much you’ll pay, and getting answers anytime you have billing questions is important.  It’s a part of overall dependability.

 

Know where to turn for questions and how to escalate things if you don’t get satisfactory answers.

 

There are often separate contact details for different purposes.  For example, at KnownHost:

Billing Supporthttps://my.knownhost.com/client/login

Technical Supporthttps://support.knownhost.com/

Full Contact (with phone #’s)https://www.knownhost.com/contact.html

 

Backups

Knowing that you have backups is one thing.  Knowing that you have backups that can be restored fully is another.  A dependable host will have backups available. A great host will set up those backups for you, so you don’t have to worry about them again.

 

Fast Fact:  35% of websites experiencing data loss did not have current backups.  25% of those restoring backups had backups fail, while 12% had corrupted backups.

 

It’s great if you have good backups – but do you have the time and know-how to restore them properly?  Fully managed hosting that includes backup restoration assistance is a life saver.

 

Fast Fact:  28% of backup restorations are either incomplete or won’t restore at all.

 


Top Tip:  Get managed hosting and make sure the admin team has set up your backups for you.  Save time while retaining piece of mind.


 

managed services cgi

 

Managed Services & Support

 

Managed Services Details

Service differences amongst managed service providers are massive.  Here’s some of what we expect, at a minimum, to be included with managed hosting (but you should confirm before signing up with a new provider):

 

Migration Assistance

Moving files/accounts from one host to another (using same control panel in most cases).

 

Control Panel Installation

Installing and configuring the control panel during the provisioning process.

 

Operating System Optimization

Post-install optimizations to improve efficiency and performance.

 

Security Hardening

Post-install configuration changes to improve system security.

 

Fast Fact:  86% of tested websites had at least one security vulnerability, with some having as many as 56.

 

Fast Fact:  The wrong firewall can allow 60% of traffic through without even scanning it.

 

Operating System & Control Panel Updates

Keeping the system core components updated in a timely manner.

 

Repair / Troubleshooting / Reinstallation

When things have been corrupted or otherwise gone horribly wrong with systems including cPanel, mail services, web service, mysql/maria DB, nameservers and ftp service, to name but a few.

 


Top Tip:  Buying unmanaged hosting is like a new car without tires.  Why? Why? Why would you want something like unmanaged hosting?  It makes little sense for just a few cents difference.


 

kpi diagram

 

Marketing Measures Influenced by Hosting Decisions

 

The marketing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which are often impacted by hosting choices include:

  • Rankings
  • Traffic
  • Conversions
  • Repeat Business
  • Trust
  • Uptime

 

Rankings

Modern companies rely on organic traffic to bring new prospects to their website, introducing the brand, creating affinity and eventually turning those prospects into paying customers.

 

Organic keyword rankings are determined by the uber-secret Google algorithm, which boasts hundreds of factors.  Many of these have nothing to do with who/how/where the website is hosted, such as title tag optimization, backlink authority and relevance or domain age.

 

Hosting does play a major role in two keyword ranking factors:

  1. Availability – sites that are down frequently will not rank as well as their dependable cousins
  2. Page Speed – sites that are faster will outrank the slower, all other things being equal

 

Simply choosing high-performance dependable hosting is an affordable way of staying ahead of the competition in the war over organic search rankings.

 

Traffic

Rankings drive traffic.  Traffic drives conversions.  That’s why marketers are also judged by their ability to deliver traffic than converts.

 

A page that takes 3 seconds to load, instead of 1 second, will have a 30% higher bounce rate – the rate at which visitors abandon their visit and look elsewhere.

 

Bounce rate is a traffic killer.  Quality, high-performance hosting will help minimize bounce rate.

Conversions

Turning prospect traffic into paying customers is what conversions are all about.

 

The user experience of clicking around, visiting various pages, looking at graphics, watching videos, consuming content of various types – that’s what visitors aim to do when they visit your site.  They want to be informed, entertained, have problems solved and possibly interact with other users.

 

A visitor that encounters errors, because there’s a lack of resources available to send the page your way, will flee in terror.  One that visits a fast-loading page, then sporadically finds another dreadfully slow, will eventually be frustrated and leave.  Heaven forbid that visitor tries to visit the site and nothing happens – no error, no redirection, no message – just sits there…  might use a site like Is It Down or Just Me, or might just give up and go to the next site in the organic search results.

 

Dependable hosting that performs consistently is a must for any marketer who cares.

 

Repeat Business

Businesses are sustainable only when they can ensure customers become repeat customers.  

 

Fast Fact:  It can cost 5x as much to attract a new customer vs. retain an existing one.

 

Getting repeat business often comes from a company who has delivered consistent results over time – they’re a safe pair of hands.  It also comes from providing a premium service as an affordable price. In other words, it’s a good value.

 

Delivering on the promise is essential.  Making customers aware that the company is delivering on the promise is a key part of the marketer’s life.

 

Trust

People buy from people they like and trust.  Trust factors are signals your website gives to prospective buyers, indicating that it’s safe to buy from you (that you will deliver what you advertise).

 

Fast Fact:  There are more than 39 website trust factors.

 

A slow, poor performing, error laden website does NOT instill trust.

 

Uptime

Uptime impacts everything!

 

If your site is offline, your website rankings are at risk.  You’ll alienate existing customers. You’ll throw away profits and hand over a stream of disgruntled prospects / clients to the competition.

 


Top Tip:  High-Performance hosting is the de facto standard.  It’s what you need in order to compete on level ground with the competition.


 

old man climbing out of a trunk

Uncovering Bugbears

Making the wrong hosting decisions can make or break a small business.  Hosting can have a huge influence – the wrong hosting can result int:

     Blacklisted Emails – with most going directly to the spam folder

     Search Rankings Penalized – with organic traffic dropping to a trickle

     Terrible User Experience – with users bouncing instead of shopping

 

How Can Hosting Choices Help Avoid Email Servers Getting Blacklisted?

Email servers are a different kettle of fish from web servers, though they often reside on the same hardware and have the same IP addresses.

 

While Google judges websites based on the behavior of other websites who reside on the same IP, numerous blacklist monitors judge email servers based on the behavior of other email senders on the same IP.  In other words, you can be found guilty of spamming just because other people on your same IP are spamming!

 

The impact of being on email blacklists as being a spammer?  Your email which is sent to prospects and clients won’t arrive in their inbox.  Instead, It’ll get filtered before they even get a chance to see it.

 

One measure of how spammy you are is your sender score, which can be checked at:

https://www.senderscore.org

 


Top Tip:  You really need a dedicated IP address for your site/email to protect against being labeled a spammer.


 

Best Practice:

       Check your Sender Score – know if you’re doing okay

       Check your mail server IP – blacklist checkers to make sure it’s not being called out for spam

       Move your email server to a dedicated IP

 

 

Is My Email Server Blacklisted?

Checking to see if your email server is relatively simple, if you’re sending from your own domain.  

Simply go to the following URL, input your domain and wait to see the report:

https://mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx

 

How Can Hosting Choices Help Avoid Search Ranking Penalties?

Putting your website on the same IP as many other sites means that you are in their neighborhood.  If any of those people with sites on your IP/server are spammers, then Google can label your neighborhood as a ‘bad neighborhood’ and penalize your search rankings accordingly.

 

In other words, you can be found guilty of spamming just because other people on your same IP doing bad things!

 

There are many ways of avoiding this situation, but the easiest/most obvious is to get your website onto its own IP address.  This is something included with most high quality hosting – but be sure to check that this is the case before signing up.

 

How to know if other sites share your IP address:

http://viewdns.info/reverseip/

 

How Can Hosting Choices Help Avoid a Bad User Experience?

The website visitor user experience is predicated on getting what they want, quickly, without annoyances like popups or distracted by numerous advertisements.

 

Hosting has a role in delivering a great user experience – namely speed.  A blazing fast website is a must when competing online. We all know what happens when we visit a site that’s slow… we bounce, or exit, and go elsewhere.

 

Choosing hosting which is consistently fast and always online is the smart choice for marketers who realize the importance of a great user experience.

 

helpful tips on chalkboard

Helpful Resources

 

The KnownHost website includes a blog, wiki and discussion forums filled with thousands of pages of helpful informational resources available for those wanting to learn more, solve problems, share with others or just engage with fellow site owners and the KnownHost team.

 

Blog – https://www.knownhost.com/blog/

The KnownHost blog contains hundreds of helpful articles relating to hosting, marketing, running a successful small business and more.

 

Wiki – https://www.knownhost.com/wiki/

The KnownHost wiki has nearly 1,000 pages dedicated to explaining the ins and outs of hosting, mostly via how-to posts with complete instructions on accomplishing hosting administrative matters. more.

 

Forums – https://www.knownhost.com/forums/

The KnownHost forums have thousands of discussion threads where fellow site owners ask, and answer, questions.  KnownHost staff are always on hand to help give directions, point to resources, answer questions and interact with site owners.

 

knownhost logo

 

About KnownHost

 

KnownHost has been the reigning champ – the most dependable managed hosting provider ON THE PLANET for many years.

 

With offerings ranging from inexpensive shared cloud and specialist WordPress hosting, up to and including ultra high performance SSD VPS and KVM Cloud VPS plans, as well as dedicated servers, KnownHost has built a stellar reputation by using premium networks, premium hardware and premium technical support experts to service each and every client.

 

KnownHost is THE preferred choice of smart marketers everywhere.  Some of the reasons people choose KnownHost managed hosting plans include:

   

  • Free Setup
  • Free Optimization
  • Free DDoS Protection
  • Free Backups
  • 24/7 Expert Support
  • 99.99%+ Uptime
  • Instant Setup
  • 4 Datacenters
  • USA Support Center
  • Premium Network
  • Premium Hardware
  • Money Back Guarantee

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