Having your website online is a good step, but you also need to make sure that your web hosting provider is a good one. For one you want to make sure that your website is up and available at all times. You also want to make sure that your web hosting provider gives you good support and service and does not over-charge you for web hosting. That does not mean you should go for the cheapest web hosting provider out there, but there is no need to pay a fortune either.
Having your website online is only one important step towards online success. The next thing to look at is how fast your website actually loads for visitors. Even in 2011 there are still a ton of users that use dial-up for their Internet access and a slow loading website is not going to make them happy. As a matter of fact, they might abandon your website before a page can even load. So, you need to ensure that your website performance is good. Images need to be resized and compressed for optimal performance. In addition your entire website should be compressed for better load times. If this does not tell you anything, contact your webmaster to find out more. You should also make sure that your web pages are not slowing down due to loading content or scripts that are hosted somewhere else, meaning being hosted out of your control. In many cases these outside factors can slow down your website.
Host your website close to your audience
When picking a web host make sure you pick one that offers data centers close to your audience. That web host in South Africa might be cheap, but if your audience is in North America this ain’t gonna work really. Why send your visitors across the Atlantic down South first?! That does not mean that you need to find a web host in your home town, but pick one that is in the same geographic area. So, if you are inside the United States then pick a web host with a data center in the US as well. Also, if you are serving mainly visitors in New York City, then it makes sense to find a web host on the East Coast and not to pick one on the West Coast in Los Angeles. If you are mainly serving customers in Denver, Colorado a web host in Chicago will work as good as one in Los Angeles. A web host in NYC might not be as good to choose from if you are more on the West side of the country.
The most important reason for a fast load website is ….
While the reasons described above are important, there is one more reason that is even more important. Search engines put a lot of emphasis on providing a good user experience and a fast loading website is part of this. If your website comes up fast for search engine users (and of course meets some other criteria, too), then search engines see that as a bonus and it might influence your overall search engine rankings. Website performance is one of over 200 signal Google uses to determine where your website should rank and so it is in your interest to provide a fast loading website.
See the screenshot that I took in a customer’s Google Webmaster Account today? That website loads slower than 87% of all other websites Google used to compare performance. This website is at the bottom of the list and this will definitely influence search engine rankings in one way or the other. I looked at the website and the website itself is in good shape in regards to code and image optimization and so in this case it clearly comes down to the web hosting this customer is using. The website is sitting on a server that is overloaded and the only alternative really is to move the website to a new web hosting provider. By moving the website to a faster provider or web hosting platform this customer will be able to improve the load times and therefore make the search engines happy again.