Creating an online presence is like building a house: you can only do it one brick at a time, but if you skip the foundation, it will all come tumbling down eventually. In the world of digital marketing, the foundation of a robust search engine optimization strategy is your choice of host.
Buying a Reputation
Reputation is everything to your search rank, but it isn’t limited to the links you build or the quality of your website. A host who’s earned a series of black marks with Bing and other search engines will obliterate your reputation before you even have a chance to add the first brick to what you’re building. Unfortunately, the inverse isn’t true: You can’t build an online presence with a shoddy host, but you can lose an online presence despite having a perfect host.
Search engines assess three primary features of a host:
In 2010, Google announced that it had added page load times to its 200 ranking factors. Your website itself must, of course, contribute to this with slick code, quick-loading images, and streamlined forms, but a sluggish host is impossible to overcome.
You don’t need to know how to write HTML in order to achieve speed. Your host should adjust to suit your level of expertise. A comprehensive toolkit includes:
- Drag and drop editors that create your code automatically.
- Templates that give you a head start on your design.
- SEO marketing guides and tools.
- E-commerce tools.
- 24/7 support.
Downtime is one of the biggest crises of the online world. When Virgin Blue suffered over a week of trade this way, it lost $20 million in profits alone. Its brand and client lifetime values suffered even more, and its website lost rank, too. An hour of downtime costs the average business $5, 600 per minute, making a reliable host a necessity rather than an option. Your uptime is heavily reliant on the support you receive, which is compounded by 24/7 network monitoring and traffic reporting to ensure that problems are discovered the second they emerge. Bandwidth determines how much data can be downloaded in any given period. You need enough to handle unexpected viral traffic surges without major charges. A high cap or unlimited bandwidth are best.
Over the last five years, Google has put increasing levels of importance on your site’s relevance to its industry and niche. If you’re a business based in New York with national clients, for example, a UK host will cost you rank. So will a poorly chosen domain name and shared IP address. If you market to a demographic within the USA, your SEO will benefit from a national host, but it should give you enough flexibility to develop a highly relevant domain. Keyword phrases used in domains improve rank and increase the number of people who click into your site.
Recently, marketers have begun to use subdomains as a way to market to demographics outside their usual target markets, a strategy that lets you uphold your brand strength and stretch your client base simultaneously. Extra niches might include offshore buyers, different age sets, and even an entirely new product line. This has become a key part of online success, so make sure your host allows you to use multiple domains.
Your Marketing Toolkit
Today’s web hosts must offer you more than basic bandwidth and storage space. They should also put a range of marketing tools at your fingertips, particularly if you’re new to digital marketing. Some tools to look for include:
- Pay per click advertising and Google AdWords, which earn an average of $2 in revenue for every dollar spent.
- Lead generation tools like email addresses and Yellow Pages listings.
- Bing advertising, which exposes your brand to tens of millions of searchers and which have a 45% higher click-through rate than text-based advertising.
- A range of shopping carts and stores that are user-friendly enough to contribute to your search engine rank.
The Era of Mobile
The number of global mobile users has overtaken those on desktop, and Google has released an algorithm update to compensate for the increasing importance of smartphones. You need a web host who can cater to this change, which will only become more central to your search rank as time progresses.
Your host is the core around which your entire presence revolves, so your selection has a direct impact on your profits. Choose a host who has a genuine effect on your bottom line.