Website Hosting - Does It Matter?

Choosing the right hosting provider for your website will partly determine how users interact with your site. You might be thinking why does my hosting make a difference to user experience?

Surely it’s down to the web design, structure and content? You’d be correct in thinking this and it is partly true. However, speed is a ranking signal and plays a big part in user experience.

Google cares about speed because users care about speed. It doesn’t sound long, but a webpage that takes 3 seconds to load will on average find over a third of its users leaving the site before navigating to another page.

So whilst the web design and content counts for a lot, if your web server is slow to render pages, a chunk of your visitors won’t get from point A to B.

It doesn’t matter if you own a personal website or manage a large e-commerce site, choosing the right hosting provider will go a long way in determining if your site is a success.

For some, shared hosting packages (assuming they’re not overcrowded, more on that later!) will suffice. For others, dedicated servers or cloud hosting will be needed.

But how do you choose the right web hosting services when there are so many to choose from? Do you get drawn in by those offering free website builders? Whilst these free marketing techniques are often used to lure new customers in, we’ll be looking at a company that provides web hosting plans with adequate server resources, unlimited bandwidth and even free SSL certificates.

Free Website Hosting

When it comes to hosting providers, there are LOTS to choose from. It’s an overcrowded market with businesses competing on price to try and attract new customers. This, of course, causes issues as you’ve heard the saying ‘you get what you pay for’.

If you’re looking for free website hosting, there are a lot of places offering these type of hosting accounts. Why wouldn’t you choose a free hosting provider? Well, there are various reasons but the main one tends to be that these free hosting providers are free because they are littered with ads and do you really want your website visitors seeing ads for external companies whilst browsing your site?

It not only takes away from your web design efforts by placing ads within the site but it also encourages users to click away from your site. Neither is what you want.

Does Website Speed Really Matter?

It’s a good question. Why does the loading speed of your website matter? If your site is live to the world, then it’s live. But Google cares about speed and even uses it as a ranking signal.

Why do they do this? Because of studying how users interact with sites. We seem to live in a world where a few seconds is deemed ‘that will do’ and anything more is considered slow.

Whilst there are a lot of ranking factors, the speed of your website happens to be an important one. It not only influences ranking positions, but it has a direct effect on your websites bounce rate.

When a user lands on your site, you want them to browse and then (assuming you’ve got a good structure) you want them to go somewhere and complete a CTA.

Now when your site has a good engagement rate, decent time spent on site, Google’s algorithms will reward you. But if people are finding your site and then instantly navigating away, Google will use this signal of users not having a good browsing experience and lower your rankings. End result? Less traffic as time goes on which means less business generated.

How To Test Website Speed?

There are various free tools out there to test your loading speeds. Popular ones include GTMetrix and Pingdom.

We prefer GTMetrix due to some added features and its ease of use. Simply head over to their site to get started. It’s worth registering as you’ll then be able to change the test location.

Type in your domain, click ‘analyze’ and after a brief period, you’ll be presented with a set of results including your ‘fully loaded time’. This is what you want to check. Anything above 3 seconds and you’ll want to look at why.

Image showing how to enter URL in GTMetrix

If you head over to the ‘waterfall’ tab, this will have a breakdown of your page’s resources and load times.

GTMetrix sample showing website performance

It’s important to note that the speed is not just down to your website host. There’s a lot of factors that determine the speed of a page and there are various ways to optimise the speed of your site. If you’re running a WordPress website, take a look at our blog post, 10 tips on how to improve the speed of your website.

If you believe your site is optimised from a performance point of view, but are still looking to improve your loading speed, then it’s time to look at your web hosting package.

WordPress Hosting vs Cloud Servers

WordPress has the largest market share of any content management system so WordPress hosting has become very popular, but what is the difference between WordPress hosting and Cloud Servers? To be honest, WordPress hosting is a marketing gimmick. The actual hosting itself doesn’t really contain anything that you won’t find on other packages.

The question should be what’s the difference between Web Hosting and Cloud Hosting? The answer mainly lies in the fact that cloud hosting is more scalable and is therefore suited to large websites looking for dedicated resources.

The reason a lot of providers sell cloud hosting is that their normal packages are overcrowded. They’ll take a server, put on the necessary operating systems and server software, and then oversell the space to increase their revenue.

But not all hosts are developed from the same cloth. Some care about their customers, and reputation more than their income and one of the most popular ones out there is SiteGround.

SiteGround - Google Cloud Hosting

SiteGround has been around since 2004. In that time they’ve built a platform that has become known for the best in technology, support and interestingly, price.

You see, most hosts either have packages very cheap but with inferior components, or best in class, at expensive price points. Somehow, SiteGround manage to offer best in class whilst keeping costs down and for that, we praise them.

Data Centres

A data centre is essentially a building full of servers. As SiteGround utilises Google Cloud servers, their data centres offer best in class protection, power feeds and uninterrupted power supplies.

You can be assured that using Google’s servers for your small or large business website, is going to give you a level of hardware not found in most competitors.

You’re able to choose from one of six data centres based on the location of your primary audience. These include:

  1. London, UK
  2. Eemshaven, Netherlands
  3. Frankfurt, Germany
  4. Singapore
  5. IOWA, USA
  6. And most recently, Sydney, Australia

If you’re targetting worldwide traffic, you can also take advantage of their free CDN’s, but more on that later.

What Do You Get With SiteGround?

What makes a server fast is the hardware and software that powers it. So what level of technology do you get when using SiteGround for your website? What do they offer that makes them worthwhile?

SSDs

As standard, all of their hosting plans come with SSDs. If you’re using a decent computer from the past 10years, you’ll probably already know the differences this can make to loading speeds.

If you’re not aware of the differences between conventional hard drives and solid-state drives, the only thing you really need to know is that SSDs are MUCH faster than those old fashioned drives which results in much faster rendering times.

Free SSLs

SSL’s essentially turn non-secure web links to secure. Ok, it’s not that simple, but do you want to know the technicals or what the end result is?

The end result is you have a website that loads from a secure connection, i.e. https:// instead of http://

Why does this matter? Well, it keeps your site secure, your visitor’s information encrypted and your reputation intact. Security is so important that Google uses this as another one of their ranking signals.

Chances are you won’t find many websites today that don’t have an SSL installed. There are two ways of getting one. First up is from your domain registrar, and the other option is from your hosting provider. Some hosting providers allow you to get this for free, and SiteGround is one of them.

One of the benefits of getting these from your hosting account is that they’re generally easier to install and configure and require no manual input.

Free CDNs

Different people have different needs. Some small businesses may be targetting local traffic only whilst online stores could be targetting users worldwide.

Above, we mentioned website speed and the importance it plays on user engagement and conversions. We also mentioned about choosing a data centre when hosting your website.

So what do you do if you have a website that is looking to generate sales from users in multiple locations? You utilise a CDN. CDN stands for Content Delivery Network.

What is a CDN?

When someone types in their browser the address of a website, or clicks on a link in Google, their browser makes a connection to the webserver. The server then receives this request and sends back the data required to the browser.

At this point, the browser renders the webpage with the contents requested and a webpage is displayed. If you’re based in Hereford and your server is based in London, the speed of this is quite quick.

But what happens if you’re based in Hereford and your web server is based in Australia? The data has to travel a lot further and that page that took 2 seconds to load for one user, takes 10 for another.

The way to get around this is to use a CDN. A content delivery network is a group of servers which keep copies of some of your website’s files. Located around the world, when a user requests for their browser to render a webpage, the request is sent to the nearest server rather than the main one.

The end result is consistently fast load times regardless of a users location.

194 CDN Locations, Free of Use

SiteGround users can take advantage of Cloudflare’s CDN network. Spanning 90 countries and 194 locations, your web visitors will benefit from consistently fast loading times, and as we know from earlier, better engagement.

Not only will this benefit you in the short term, but in the long term, you’ll find that rankings across other search engines will increase due to lower bounce rates and higher engagement rates.

Daily Backups

Have you ever made a mistake on your website and had a moment of panic? Maybe you’ve outsourced to a new web design agency and they forgot to take a backup before implementing some new code?

At one time or another, we all need to restore to a previous state. Now, a good web design agency will always take their own backups first but you shouldn’t rely on others. At the end of the day, it’s your website and unless you have full trust in everyone that has admin access, things can and do go wrong.

A good web host is one that provides solutions for such scenarios and SiteGround does just that. They offer free daily backups as standard on all plans, and you can always revert to one from any of the last 30 days.

So if a mistake is made, a simple click of a button will get you back to a healthy state.

1 Click Staging

We live in a world where sites have gone from being static to dynamic. From web design changes to new functionality, sites evolve. The logical way of making these changes is to do so on a development server and then once happy with the results, move it over to the live domain.

SiteGround has a staging tool that lets you do this easily. You’re able to create a copy of your site using their staging tool to make changes that are only seen by yourself. Once you’re happy with whatever changes you’ve made, you press a button and it copies everything over to the live site.

Server Health Checks

Their server monitoring which has been developed in-house is sophisticated and like everything else, free. It checks your server status every half a second and identifies and fixes any issues it can.

Security

Security is as important as performance and SiteGround have you covered there as well.

From smart WAF to protect you from exploits to AI that blocks bad traffic, SiteGround includes all this with all their hosting packages.

Support

It’s no good having cutting edge technology if the support isn’t’ great. Thankfully SiteGround is well known for the levels of support they offer.

We’ve used SiteGround for a number of years and have always been impressed with the levels of support they offer. Tickets are responded to quickly (on average 15mins) and live chat is, well, live.

Staff are friendly and are always happy to help, though it should be noted that hosting support is not the same as having good website maintenance and support service.

Hosting Packages and Prices

SiteGround offer four main hosting solutions for businesses looking for the very best for their website.

Web Hosting – First up is their default hosting package. Split into three packages named, StartUp, GrowBig and GoGeek.

We’d recommend GoGeek due to having a better caching system, advanced priority support and more resources (i.e. fewer websites per server).

At £12.99 per month, you’re getting superior performance for a lot lower costs than other hosting companies.

WordPress Hosting – Next up is their WordPress hosting. The plans have the same names, same pricing and very slight variations in the feature set.

However, if your website is developed using the WordPress CMS, it’s worth going with this option as knowing SiteGround, they’ll develop this platform with more refined caching solutions that directly benefit this CMS.

WooCommerce Hosting – Then there is WooCommerce hosting. WooCommerce is the largest e-commerce platform for WordPress and powers millions of stores all over the world.

Again, the naming system and pricing are exactly the same as the above. We think they’re doing this purely for SEO benefits rather than anything else. That’s not to say in the future it won’t change, but for now, there are no differences.

Cloud Hosting – Their cloud hosting solutions are for very hungry resource websites, or digital agencies looking to provide hosting to their clients. Starting at £48 per month, these are scalable and provide a different level of resources which will not be needed by most.

Reseller and Enterprise Hosting – reseller hosting is no different than some of their other packages. It’s basically a rebranded solution, whilst enterprise hosting is for businesses looking for customised solutions. We’re talking top-end stuff here.

Closing Notes

We not only use SiteGround for our website, but we also recommend them to all our clients. When it comes to pricing they’re hard to compete with. When it comes to functionality, most don’t come close unless paying much higher amounts.