We run a lot of websites, on lots of different host company servers. I prefer clients run the site I build on my own local setup or host recommended host, but often for their own reasons, they like to stick with their own provider. They have a ‘relationship’ or more commonly ‘got a great deal’.
But inevitably, most of these cheap shared hosting plans are way too slow for large, content-heavy sites. And when it comes to online, slow means it’s annoying to site visitors AND to Google, who typically provide at least half your site traffic.
Ideally, websites should load in 1-2 seconds or less. Yet more and more we see expensive company websites taking 5-10 seconds to load. Visitors surveys tell us that around 58% of people will click away if they have to wait more than 3 seconds for a site to load.
Is fast enough, average performance adequate for business today?
The larger host companies are too often the worst in terms of performance and value for money. And buyer attitudes don’t help. When a host company is chosen, it is often based upon the price alone. Even designers wrongly believe all hosts and configurations are much the same. Yet using an inappropriate host or configuration, can cost companies online sales and their business reputation.
Here’s the experiences of another developer discussing a popular cloud provider, Amazon, with their EC2 hosting. Amazon would be typical of mainstream host companies, providing adequate, good enough performance, for the average user. But is it enough today?
Note he talked of 100 milliseconds being ideal (0.1 sec) and 500 milliseconds (0.5 sec) too slow. 5 seconds = 5,000 milliseconds!
The clearest example of the trouble you can get into was a new client site we moved last week. Complaining of a very slow WordPress site of 500+ pages, could I help? Certainly, but you’ll need to move off your cheap shared host provider (Openhost in this case), onto something better. I did note he’d already done all the right things with the site, including trying caching plugins. But little helped.
Check Your Webmaster Tools Crawl Stats
His response times (according to the Google webmaster tools crawl stats), varied from 3 to 25 seconds, averaging around 7 seconds, when the site was actually working, the blank areas in the chart indicating when the site was down or Google just ‘gave up’.
We quickly moved him to my own local SSD cloud server I rent at VPSCity – On a special configuration I’ve personally optimised for WordPress. This migration, done in a morning, instantly reduced his site response time down to a mere one second. With some monitoring and further tweaks over the next month, I can likely reduce this further. It’s already under half this is when pinged locally.
Within 24 hours, Google and other bots actually started to crawl his site properly for the first time, with a huge increase in pages now crawled, from 1 to 150 pages/day in this case. (chart to the right)
What too few people appreciate, is that if you have a very slow website, it not only annoys users, but the search bots will start to ignore you too, meaning your superb content won’t be indexed, meaning you won’t get found.
Even if Google appears to be indexing your website it may not be updating regularly or doing a decent crawl, since your site is not responding well. Google have stated that site response time and reliability are key parameters they use when deciding how high to rank competing websites for the same term. Sometimes, the best SEO work you can do that gives the quickest return, is simply improving your website performance by shifting to a faster host platform, setup by someone that knows what they’re doing. But, it does cost more. As always, going cheap or using mainstream hosts has it’s downside, especially in this case.
It’s not just a local issue.
I’m not here to annoy the local providers either. Here’s a couple charts from a client using an expensive Amazon Australia cloud host (left) which included all their fancy CDN and caching suite, plus another client (right) on a lower cost GoDaddy Singapore server. Both clients felt these the best due to the providers high profile and superior features offered. Yet in terms of speed, they were below average.
All hosts are the same they say…
I also think too that it often isn’t about the budget anyway. Most people just assume that ‘all web hosts are the same’ and those that charge more are simply ‘ripping us off’. Many people now believe that any hosting should never be more than $10/month… Hosting seems a commodity, decided on price or brand or because an IT ‘mate’ (who we think knows about such things), recommended one. The truth is that most IT people are not well qualified to advise on website hosting or websites generally.
Hosting does vary with hundreds of differing configurations that most people, including many web designers and IT geeks, can’t even begin to understand. Hosting has got a lot more complex the last few years with more options than ever before, including the whole ‘cloud’ thing, much of which is just sales hype.
Pie in the sky cloud hype
The common misconception is that ‘cloud hosting’ provides the ultimate in performance, which is rubbish. There are scaling benefits, but a good VPS or dedicated webserver will always outperform a [similar cost] distributed, cheap cloud configurations, by a significant margin... Those with a detailed understanding of computer server and network architecture would know why this is often the case.
It’s similar to buying a car where you have to consider new or used, size, engine, brand and price. Hosting criteria needs to be based upon a blend of price, technology, security, support, reliability and sheer performance. Unfortunately, reading the sales pitch from most hosts, they ALL say they are the best at everything. Yeah, right….
p.s. My hosting fee to this client? Around $70/mth. But at over 5x the speed and Google now actually liking the site, is a small price to pay. Much less than the hundreds/month he’d spend on SEO. Now, just running faster, all his fine website content is no longer done in vain.
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