Who you choose as your web host provider, or what type of web hosting account you have can have a profound impact on your search engine rankings. In Part I of this three part series we looked at the cost factor as well as up-time guarantee claims from web hosting companies. In this episode we'll look at a number of other factors that can mess with your site's performance in the search engines.
Your web host should provide consistent and reliable speed for those accessing your site. While there is much you can do to improve the performance of your site increasing download times, the speed of your web host can be a significant factor in this. It doesn't matter how streamlined your code is if the web host won't let traffic through.
Ensure that your web host isn't slowing your visitors down as they navigate your site. If you find that your site runs slow for you, it's likely doing the same for your visitors. With today's technology and high-speed bandwidth availability, there is no need for a site to be slow. If your visitors do not get near instant page downloads they are likely going to leave for a site that won't slow them down.
As your business grows you will often find that your traffic and bandwidth usage increases with time. The more visitors you get, the more pages and images that are being downloaded and the more bandwidth is consumed. Be certain your web hosting account can support your bandwidth needs, and can be increased as needed to match your business' growth.
Server load monitoring
Whatever web hosting plan you choose, you'll want to ensure that it will be able to handle whatever server load your site might generate, especially during peak times or big marketing pushes. Most web hosts allocate a certain amount of bandwidth usage each month. If you exceed the allotment you may find yourself paying extra fees, or worse, your site may be inaccessible until you ante up more money.
Be sure to know your bandwidth usage and how much you are allocated. Knowing that, you'll also want to be aware of the consequences if you exceed your monthly allotment. Plan for this to happen in advance so you're not caught off guard when you get a sudden surge of traffic.
If you think going over your allotted bandwidth will be an occasional or even continuing issue, it's comforting to know that your web host will send you notifications if you're approaching that point. Then it will be up to you to heed the warnings or not. The alternative is to increase your plan so going over isn't an ongoing concern.
If you use large flash files on your site, or plan to host audio or video, both your bandwidth and space will become an issue. Check with your web hosts to make sure you are not in danger of using more server space than you are allotted. Generally this won't be a big deal, as once you run out of space you'll be notified, but you want to be sure that you have enough room to grow.
Your web hosting account should come with at least one email account, however most offer 50+ email addresses for you to use. Check first that you'll have enough email boxes for the long-haul as your company grows.
Beyond that, you need to consider other email needs such as auto-responders (for when you are out of the office,) email forwarding and even being able to send outgoing email through your web host as opposed as through your ISP.
It's also a good idea to have access to webmail. You never know when you'll need to check your email and not have access to your laptop--or your gmail goes down.
If you operate an online store and need your customers to be able to purchase products online, store personal data that should not be exposed, or process credit cards for payments, using a secure server is imperative. Security is a growing concern with Internet shoppers and many businesses report an increase in conversions just by displaying a secure symbol in their shopping cart area.
Some web hosts will provide you access to a secure portion of their server. In these cases when visitors navigate to the secure area of their serve and the URL in the browser's address bar will actually change. The visitor will no longer be on your site (i.e. www.yourdomain.com), but will be on the web host's secure portion (www.webhost.com/securesite/).
Many times this type of set-up actually hides many of the visitors product pages from the search engines by moving crucial product pages off-site to another domain. Overall, it is better to find a web host that will allow you to purchase a secure certificate for your site giving you your own secure area. This will ensure that your visitors stay on "your site" at all times and you can keep crucial product pages on your site and spiderable to the search engines.
I would also recommend keeping as much of your website out of the secure area as possible and only transfer visitors to the secure area when they are in the checkout process. If they leave the checkout to continue shopping they should also leave the secure area.
In the third and final post of this series I'll address ftp access, control panel, tech support and in-house options. Stay tuned.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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