Think of your website as a house, and your hosting company as the block of land you put your house on. If the ground is unstable or the neighbours give you grief, you’re probably going to be reconsidering the amount you paid for that block of land and figuring out how to get out of there ASAP. After all, you’ve spent so long building a beautiful house you’re proud of – why should it be ruined by a dodgy patch of land?
The same goes for your blog – don’t let your hosting company spoil your readers experience, your success, AND be draining your wallet. There are a range of factors to consider when picking a host, and navigating your options can be difficult with hundreds of companies out there trying to lure you in with ludicrous discounts.
Everyone has different needs from their hosting companies, and often pricing is a roadblock for most blogs – especially those just starting out. Cheaper isn’t always better, and a poor hosting company can quickly dampen your profits. Or, completely drench them.
We’ve created two worksheets to help guide you when choosing hosting. The first helps you evaluate individual companies – what they offer, and how it suits your needs. The second lets you compare hosting companies you may be considering – make sure to evaluate their services first!
Each point in the worksheets are explained in this post, so you’re armed with all the right information – what’s important to your blog, what’s on your wish list, and what actually meets your needs.
If you’ve taken a look at your blog’s load speed lately, you might have found more than a little room for improvement. Speed is a MAJOR factor in your blog’s performance – readers HATE slows sites and turn away dramatically if you make them wait. On top of that, Google will penalise you too – they don’t want to send their users to a site that gives a bad experience.
We’ve seen SECONDS wiped from load speeds simply by changing hosting to WP Engine for many of our clients and blogs, and significant improvements for all others. When your load speed comes down to milliseconds, any time at all saved is a win – is your host helping you shave off time?
Where Is The Server Located?
The BEST answer to this question is “Our SERVERS are located at X,Y&Z.” A host with multiple servers means you can choose the one closest to your target audience. Following up on our first point, the closer your physical hosting server is to your audience’s location, the faster it will be again. Think of it like snail mail! Now we use signals, but those signals still have to travel a distance – less distance = less time.
Downtime VS Uptime
Having a bit of downtime is great in your personal life, but SUCKS when it comes to your blog. Gone are the days of bricks and mortar stores and 9-5 hours – now, everything needs to be available 24/7 to avoid customer disappointment.
Downtime is when your blog goes offline, and your audience is met with that lovely ‘THIS SITE IS UNAVAILABLE’ message when they try to read your newest post. A single 3-minute outage at 2am might not do you much harm, but how about HOURS offline during your peak periods? Not exactly what you want.
Even that 3-minute outage can cause problems if they constantly occur – if the Googlebot repeatedly visits your site while it’s offline, your rankings are going to suffer too – they don’t want to send users to content that’s constantly unavailable.
Choosing a reliable host that has consistent Uptime data means your content is available more often, and you’ll maintain the rankings you’ve worked so hard for. We use tools like Pingdom to measure our downtime, so we can contact our host if there are significant outages and get our sites back online sooner!
Pricing Points That Matter
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, CHEAP HOSTING CAN HARM YOUR BLOG! Make sure a hosting company meets all of your blog’s needs, not just those of your wallet. There’s no point paying for a service if it doesn’t actually do what it promises. This circles back to significant downtime, and overcrowded serves.
Saving a few dollars a month on hosting could be dramatically decreasing your actual revenue. We’re not saying the most expensive option is always the best, but be wary of cheaper services and their ability to deliver on what they promise. Acknowledge all the hard work you’ve put into creating your blog, and don’t let a number dictate its real value.
Hosting can be anywhere from literally a few dollars a month to thousands of dollars a month (large corporations etc). WP Engine offers 3 levels of plans, and their entry-level package is covers everything almost any blogger could ever need. (They ALSO tick off everything on this list, so nudge nudge!)
Cancellation or Headache?
Not every host is always going to be a perfect fit, and sometimes you might want to jump ship for a better option. Look into your host’s cancellation policy and their terms and conditions – can you exit whenever you like, or is there a required exit period? Do you need to start thinking about your potential move in 6 months now? Another factor to consider is refunds – if you’ve paid in advance, can you recoup any of that expense?
Moving host is also a big deal – it can be easy and seamless, but it’s still an important process. The fewer times you can move host the better – but if you have to, an easy transition will make your life easier in the long run.
Hidden Renewal Fees
Luckily this isn’t something we see a lot with hosting companies directly, but we see it A LOT with domains – keep this in mind if your domain is through your hosting company too.
There are companies out there that will reel you in with an amazing starter price with services that rival all others available – so who are you to say no? Next thing you know it’s time to renew and they’ve jacked up the price 5x (it happens!) and you’re footing the bill, thanks to the tiniest clause in their contract.
It’s kind of like those ‘Build Your Own/Collect The Set’ magazine that were around when you were a kid – $5 for the first issue that gives you a lump of plastic that you can’t do much without the other bits, and every issue from there on was at least triple the price. A short piece of advice: don’t fall for scams aimed at kids 😉
Upgrade Like A Pro
Another important part of your hosting is how easy it is for you to upgrade to a higher plan, and back down again. When choosing a hosting package, keep an eye on the next level up – would this meet your needs if you ever needed to scale up? Keep in mind, the idea of your blog is to keep growing – so what seems excessive now could actually be the perfect fit in the future.
Another factor to consider is what control do you have over scaling up? If you have none, you may not want to be shoved onto a plan that’s 10x the cost without realising. BUT, you don’t want to have your site go offline if you have a sudden surge of traffic that exceeds your plan – WP Engine has unique scaling architecture that manages your traffic & plan for you, allowing your site to always be online.
Again, if you’re upgrading plans its because there’s traffic there! People are coming to your site, and lots more now! Make sure they’re having the best experience, and sometimes upgrading to a plan that’s a little roomy can pay off – consider the lifetime value of your readers. Happy customers return, disappointed ones don’t.
The Customer Support You Deserve
There’s nothing worse than having something go wrong, and no way to fix it! Having reliable, quick acting customer support can save you in when you’re in real trouble, and answer any general questions you might have.
It’s another reason why we love WP Engine – we can reach them by web chat, email and phone (across the world) so we know they’re ready when we need them most. MOST importantly, the advice they give is easy to understand, correct and solves the problem ASAP. That’s the kind of service you deserve from your host – how does yours compare?
Migrating in a Breeze
Moving hosts can be a nightmare – but it doesn’t have to be that way! If you’re handling everything yourself, it’s important to pick a host that won’t throw you in the deep end. Can you guess who doesn’t? WP Engine! To show you how easy it is, get your hands on our free video tutorial & class guiding you through their simple migration process.
Many hosts cater to a whole range of CMS which means you can easily choose which service fits you best. However, a CMS specific host means they’re familiar with the unique ins and outs of your platform, reducing potential errors, AND improving performance. Surprise, WP Engine is built ONLY for WordPress sites – mitigating any potential problems that come with an open-source platform.
HTTPS & Security
Now, it’s more important than ever to have a secure site that protects your readers’ information. As Chrome rolls out in-browser security warnings, your audience will be scared away by a big, shiny ‘NOT SECURE’ message that shows up on your site – but there’s an easy way to remove them. Migrating to HTTPS (the ‘S’ stands for secure) ensures all data is encrypted and unable to be intercepted and can be done by installing an SSL certificate on your site. Some hosts offer free SSL certificates that can be installed with the click of a button, at no extra cost.
Ease of Use
As a blog owner, in an ideal world, you would be able to understand and manipulate all parts of running your blog. While you may leave the more technical work to your dev, you should still be able to use and navigate your hosting account – even if it’s to change your email, or view previous invoices. When picking a host, consider how user-friendly
Now you’re armed with a comprehensive list, your current host should be shaking in their boots – and doing their best to serve you better.
How in depth did you go when picking your first host? Was there anything you missed you wish you knew?
READY TO CHANGE HOSTS? Enrol in our FREE WP Engine Migration class!