How to Grow With Your Web Host — 4 Tenets of Hosting for SMBs
Show of hands—who pours countless hours and thousands of dollars and blood, sweat, and tears into launching a business to see it gridlocked in a growth-less existence? No one?
Let’s face it: We start companies in hopes of growing revenue. We build websites to facilitate that growth beyond the local brick-and-mortar reach. The best website builder services out there have been crafted around the build a better business website mantra.
The key: Find a web host with which you can scale. Let’s discuss what that means for you, your brand, and the company you choose to host your website.
1) Choose a Host With a Range of (Quality!) Services
Your first web host lays the groundwork for any and all growth potential for your website. You can’t expect to scale, at least not very easily, with JoeSchmoesWebHost123.biz, or some other never-heard-of host. The team likely won’t have the resources, the experience, or the sheer brand recognition it requires to foster growth for their customers’ sites in the way a seasoned host can.
You want a provider with a rock-solid reputation in the industry—one that extends beyond their shared hosting services. After all, if you’d like to one day see tens of thousands of monthly visitors (imagine the profit potential on the monetization side), you’ll have to have the VPS conversation one day. Maybe a dedicated server is in your future, too. When you consider the costs and the logistical headaches, it’s really not efficient to migrate to a new host every time you need to upgrade servers, so consider the future at your website’s genesis.
Questions to ask before signing up with your first host for your business site:
- What are the tools/resources at your disposal for building the initial site?
- Are there VPS or dedicated server options? What are their reviews?
- How does the support compare to that of competitors?
- What are the bandwidth, storage/RAM, and (for VPS/dedicated) CPU allowances?
- How much is price influenced by those allotments? (resources vs. cost)
- What are the marketing amenities—free domain, Google AdWords credits, SEO tools?
Consider managed hosting services, too. You certainly don’t need to start there, as shared hosting is essentially managed (the host maintains the servers while you maintain the content); however, if you find a provider with high-praised managed hosting options, you could be saving yourself some future headaches when it comes time to graduate to a virtual or dedicated server. Remember, managed hosting really just means your web host acts as your IT department, handling the hardware and leaving you to handle the software.
2) Take Advantage of Their Site-Building and Marketing Resources
Okay, you have your all-star web host. Now it’s time to build. There are a handful of DIY ways of going about this, and you’ll want to look into your new host’s services for each of the options:
- WYSIWYG website builders (Like iPage’s website builder)
- Popular CMS or blogging platforms (Like WordPress, Magento, or Joomla)
The real trick with building a website for your business is that most business folks don’t have development or web design experience. You’re excellent at showing houses or negotiating investment deals or monogramming custom gifts. Fussing with .htaccess files or plugin updates—no, thank you. You can’t let that inexperience show in your site’s final design, however. The professionalism you exude in person has to translate to your web presence, and the right host can help make that happen.
What features make for a top site builder host?
- Industry-specific templates
- Software-specific tools (integrated WordPress caching, Joomla optimization, etc.)
- Daily and/or automatic website backups (w/ easy restore functionality)
- Mobile-friendly options
- SEO and marketing tools
In my experience, the most robust websites come from noteworthy site building platforms. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend expecting to scale with the free site builder options like Wix or Squarespace. They’re great for getting started, but the growth potential is limited and not financially reasonable. If WYSIWYG is not your thing, an industry-leading software like WordPress is your next best bet.
3) Make Friends With Their Support Team and KB Articles
Now that we’ve covered how to get off on the right foot, let’s talk about what to do when things don’t go according to plan. Sites go offline, outdated plugins cause problems, someone accidentally deletes a file—it’s inevitable. Things happen. What’s important is whether your host is ready and able to help you troubleshoot in times of crisis.
Before you sign up with a host, poke around their company blog. Search within their experts’ articles and support forums. When a face inevitably pops up in the right-hand corner of the homepage asking how they can help—talk to them. Would they be someone you’d turn to at 4 o’clock on a Friday when you realize half your product pages are missing? Do you think they could talk you through a WordPress version update?
Get a feel for whether you can see yourself trusting this team with your livelihood. Because when you sign on for a year of service, you’re agreeing to partner with that provider through all the ups and downs of maintaining a website, and your website’s success goes hand in hand with your business ROI. Think of your host as a business partner, and make friends!
4) Heed the Advice of Those More Experienced Than You
Unfortunately, growing a website is not something where you can check all the boxes, say, “TA DAH,” and be done. #micdrop Nope—scaling a site is an ongoing practice. Consider it your self-assigned research project with no due date.
Especially with the ever-evolving trends of search engines, you’re never really done. There are always opportunities to optimize, always more content to be cranked out, always opportunities to scale or drive more volume. Fortunately, this means there is no limit to the growth potential—no traffic caps and no revenue ceiling. Yay!
My final piece of advice: Listen to other experts’ advice. The Moz blog is one of my favorites for keeping up with the latest in SEO best practices, and Matt Cutts’s YouTube channel holds a host of personable, relatable advice on how to optimize for search engines AND user experiences. Matt Mullenweg and Syed Balkhi are pros when it comes to all things WordPress. StackOverflow and Quora articles are my go-tos on the dev side of things, and I’d get in the habit of browsing Medium posts for content inspiration. HostingAdvice.com covers the basics, if you’re interested in a full-fledged introduction to web hosting—and more on scaling to virtual servers and beyond!
Alexandra Leslie manages HostingAdvice.com as the Tech Vertical Manager of Digital Brands, Inc. Boasting 50+ years combined experience in various tech fields, the HostingAdvice team is the web’s leading source for information on all things web hosting.