You know you need a website and hosting, but are confused by all the marketing and conflicting stories your research throws up.
Marketing materials are useful, but you must be able to read between the lines.
Web Hosting Marketing Methods
It is essential to understand how hosting companies market their products so you can take what you want from the ads and articles you see, without being entirely taken in.
Almost all hosting companies pay a substantial commission to anyone who sends them a customer. This commission is called an affiliate payment, and links should always be clearly marked as affiliate links. Many site owners fail to follow the disclosure rules and pay lip service to them by putting a statement in a tiny font in the webpage footer where nobody ever sees it.
One consequence of the hosting companies reliance on affiliate marketing is that the individual website owners may be biased from their own experience or from a desire to direct everyone to one company and earn a higher rate of commission.
What Hosting Do You Need?
You don’t go to buy a car with a totally open mind as to what car you want. You know a two-seat sports car is impractical for a family runabout, and you know that Aston Martin is beyond your bank account’s ability to cope. You have a list of needs; for doors, legroom, plenty of space in the back, and cheap to run.
You should approach buying web hosting I the same way.
Make a list of your requirements; here are a few suggestions:
- 95% or better positive customer reviews – Be skeptical about any testimonials on the host company’s website; they aren’t going to publish scathing reviews
- 24/7 chat with customer support – Forget email support, you need an immediate answer, not one in the next seven business days
- Support staff who are patient with customers who have no technical knowledge – the last thing you need is someone to tell you, “You broke your site by installing Plugin XXX, so you fix it. Goodbye.”
- An upgrade route – When you outgrow your hosting plan, you will need your host’s engineers to move your website code onto a bigger server
Read this Founders’ Guide article to check out the advantages of virtual servers.
Reading Between the Marketing Lines
No salesperson is going to broadcast the flaws in the company product: Neither do web hosting company websites don’t tell you the weaknesses in their offerings.
You have to ask the right questions to get the whole picture. Here are a few you should use before you commit to any contract:
- What percentage of your customers renews their contracts? – You will get vague answers from most big companies because their renewal figures are abysmal. A company with high renewal statistics will publicize them and be proud of them.
- Does your company throttle (deliberately slow down) sites that get ‘too much’ traffic? – Every company does, but they do vary in the ways they communicate the problem to you. Disbelieve any salesperson who denies throttling busy websites.
- How many simultaneous server processes will my account support before you slow down my site? This sounds technical but is a measure of the demands your websites place on the server. The rep will not want to give you a straight answer but insist and threaten to terminate the conversation.
- If my site becomes too busy for this plan, what is my first upgrade option, and will you move my site for free? Every company will have upgrade options, but the costs will vary. Most will move your website without charge.
Where Can You Find the Best Advice?
The best way to get advice you can rely on is to visit sites that have lists of web hosting services reviewed by users.
The screenshot above is from HostAdvice.com, a hosting review site. You can’t fake numbers like those. If hundreds of users are giving five-star reviews, then your own experience will probably be a positive one, too.
Review sites help you compare hosting companies’ offerings in specific niches such as small business hosting or WordPress hosting. The links are affiliate links, but the website owners provide a valuable free service that makes it easy for you to make an informed hosting choice, and a hosting plan costs you the same regardless of the link you follow.
The Quick Read
Finding the perfect hosting for your new business is simple, as long as you ignore all the incitements to immediate action in hosting marketing. Instead, you should take the collective advice you will find on a hosting review site such as HostAdvice.