Web hosting is not something that most business owners give too much thought to, especially when it comes to our brand. It’s something that usually falls into the black hole of “techy stuff” that we either differ to someone else or choose the cheapest option.
But as we build our brand, web hosting becomes pretty important for a few reasons – it affects your google search ranking, it affects the customer experience, it supports your sales (or not).
Your web hosting could be damaging your brand if slow loading speeds or unreliability is negatively impacting the user experience of your website.
The first thing to remember about Google is that they want the same thing that you do – happy customers.
Any algorithm that Google release is designed to:
- Deliver an improved user experience
- Deliver the best quality search result
- Save users time
And to help and not harm!
How web hosting affects the customer experience
OK, so before I dive into web hosting and customer experience, you have to remember that all customer experiences are brand experiences.
Remember, your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is (as Marty Neumeier so eloquently put it). How your customers experience your brand is more important than how you see your brand.
So how exactly does web hosting affect the customer experience?
Simply put. Nobody likes to wait, and slow website loading forces your customers to wait. This is not good. It’s frustrating for your customer and it can disrupt an otherwise enjoyable or on-brand customer experience.
I work with a lot of healers, doctors, yogis and therapists. Often their goal is the same – to relieve suffering, offer a moment of calm or respite and bring joy back into people’s lives.
Poor and unreliable website hosting can mean your site is slow to load or, worse, it fails to load at all, causing stress and frustration for your clients at a time when they might need you most.
If all someone wants to do is to book a session with you, sign up to your program or download the free guide they’ve seen you talking about on social media, and your website won’t load properly, that experience is one that has caused stress and frustration – and that customer will associate those feelings with your brand.
Web hosting might feel like a tiny, insignificant part of the customer experience and overall brand experience, but actually, it is a foundational part of your website and brand.
How web hosting affects your google ranking
Remember: Google wants what you want – happy customers
The latest google algorithm release focuses on Core Web Vitals which look at Page experience focusing on 3 key areas: website loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability.
Slow web hosting affects page loading speeds and can make your website slow to load and respond.
Web users are impatient, and people won’t wait around for a slow website to load. They’ll assume the website is broken and go somewhere else. Users don’t like this, and neither does Google.
Google will actively start to give search preference to sites offering a better user experience. So if you have 2 sites that are equally valuable in content and design but one loads faster, it is the faster loading site that will rank higher.
Although Google has previously stated that website speed was not a ranking fact, this is no longer true: Poor web hosting = Slow site loading speed* = lower Google search ranking.
* other factors like large and uncompressed images, animations and videos can also affect your site loading time.
How do I check my web hosting speed?
You can check how fast your site loads by using a free service like GT Metrix. (Google’s page speed checker tends to be a little harsh and is actually not quite as accurate).
Whilst there are design changes you can make to improve your site loading speed you might find that none have the desired impact. “I’ve seen people making lots of website tweaks to try and improve their website speed to little effect, and then they upgrade their web hosting and suddenly they see green scores across the board!” Chantal Marie-Laurence Edouard-Betsy, 1Daywebs.com
How web hosting supports your sales
Online users are impatient, demanding almost instantaneous response times, easy and intuitive user journeys. So your website must be well-designed and also backed up with lightning-fast response times and loading.
If you have an unreliable web host which leaves your site constantly crashing or down for maintenance it affects
- User experience
- Customer trust and perception and
- The buyer’s journey
Your customers don’t see your web hosting. They only see (or don’t) your website. So if your site is slow and unresponsive, your customer sees you as being slow and unresponsive. It’s a direct reflection of your brand.
When poor web hosting can damage your sales: A case study
I was introduced to an incredible pilates teacher through an article I read in the Sunday Times magazine. She was local to me but had worked with Hollywood A-lister’s Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci and was making a name for herself in the industry.
Emily Blunt credited her with getting her “in the best shape of my career”, and the article spoke about how mere mortals like myself could access the same sculpted perfection through the Zoom classes she was offering in lockdown for just £15.
I was sold.
As were thousands of other prospective customers who, in our collective rush to achieve Emily Blunt level fitness, had managed to crash the website.
I checked back the next day and managed to book on. I’m sure thousands of others didn’t. In fact, I know they didn’t because I attended for a few weeks and the number of attendees stayed firmly around the 30+ mark.
What an opportunity lost. All those prospective customers with their goldfish-like attention spans (actually, that’s unfair. Goldfish actually have far longer attention spans than most digital users).
What went wrong…
The instructor in question had been working with a PR agency to promote her work through the British media. Unfortunately, nobody at the agency had thought to check that the tech was in place to flex when demand surged in response to this promotion.
Her web developer managed to set her up on better hosting, but not before her website crashed for an entire day, and she missed the opportunity to capture all these new leads.
That one oversight could have cost her business thousands of pounds in revenue. The Sunday Times Magazine is the UK’s most-read quality newspaper supplement, with 1.16 million readers every week.
At just one £15 class a week, an average customer is worth £780 a year to that business. Factor in the potential lifetime value of all of those people that could have become loyal customers and you might start to get an idea for the cost of that mistake.
And let’s just put this into perspective, for most small businesses – the solution to this problem (cloud-based web hosting) costs between £20-50 a month. Larger businesses with more traffic will pay more but, then the gains are even greater.
Types of web hosting – and which one is best?
If you have a Squarespace, Showit, Shopify or Wix website, then your web hosting is included in your website cost and you can’t change it. If you have a WordPress website, you can choose your own hosting.
- Shared web hosting – The type you find from GoDaddy, Bluehost and other low-cost providers means you’re sharing your bandwidth with lots of other users – imagine your web hosting is a motorway – at 11 pm when few people are using it, your journey is generally fairly smooth. However, at rush hour, when usage is high, everything slows to a snail’s pace.
- Cloud-based managed Hosting – Cloud-based hosting is the next best option. It’s slightly more expensive but due to its cloud-based nature, it can flex and expand as demand goes up. Solid options can be found for $20-£50 a month. I use and recommend Cloudways.
- Private Cloud-based Web server – For high traffic websites, a private web server is often the best option. Its cloud-based nature means it can flex with increased web traffic and manage demand, and because it’s private you’re not sharing your bandwidth with anyone else.
Paying more for your web hosting might feel uncomfortable if you’re used to paying under $5 a month, but quality, fast-speed hosting is available at an affordable rate aand it’s well worth the investment.
Which hosting is best for website speed?
Without a doubt, private cloud-based servers deliver the best website speeds, but they can be expensive. For most small to medium-sized businesses, managed cloud hosting offers an affordable solution that delivers faster website speed at an affordable monthly cost.
Shared website hosting is cheap but generally performs very poorly in terms of website speed. If you are actively trying to optimise your website, shared hosting is not recommended.
|Web Host||Speed||Starting Price|
|A2 Hosting||0.34 s||$2.99/mo|
|WP Engine||0.36 s||$22.50/mo|
|HostGator Cloud||0.43 s||$4.95/mo|
From a recent survey of web designers and web developers, the following came up as the top recommendations for fast and reliable web hosting that also offer excellent customer service:
- https://gridpane.com/ (for agencies)
How to change your web hosting
If your web hosting is unreliable or slow, you can usually switch fairly simply. If you’re not technically minded and don’t have someone on your team who can do this, I highly recommend reaching out to a web developer that offers a hosting and care package and have them do it for you.
If you are changing your web hosting yourself, follow the instructions your new web hosting company gives you as well as the tips below to ensure a smooth transition to your new web hosting.
1. Choose a reliable and reputable web hosting provider
Most reputable web hosting providers will offer a migration service to move your site for you. And all of the top Web hosting providers offer excellent customer service, so if you get stuck they’ll be there to help. I use and recommend Cloudways.
2. Take a Backup
Remember, even the most helpful of Web hosting providers are not miracle workers and they might not be able to help if something goes wrong outside of their control.
Before you start any web hosting migration take a site BACKUP first! Things can and do go wrong with technology. It’s always best to cover yourself against disaster! Trust me, you will thank me later.
4. Do it at a quiet time.
It can take anything from a few minutes to a few hours for web hosting migration to kick in. Use your web analytics to work out your quietest times and try to carry out any changes or web maintenance then. Don’t wait until the week of an important launch to change your host.