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ION's Search Engine Optimization Training: Instructions for choosing a host

SECTION TWO - Choosing the right host for your site's SEO needs

        Low cost web hosting services is as important to your business today as a physical office and its' location ever was, still, many of you may be confused about why we include the choice of your web space hosting service as a part of the Search Engine Optimization process. I didn't really think that they were related when I first started web site traffic marketing, however, I've come to learn that the choice in hosting service accounts for the quality and type of the web logs (Site traffic statistic records) that you can take, the depth of control you have over naming your files, your actual site uptime, databases access, and any extra services that your host offers that you'll learn more about here later. These factors are not exactly trivial when it comes to web site traffic marketing, and this should become painfully obvious even before you get to Section #11, which is specifically about Web Log analysis. So for now, do not settle for less than you could ever need unless you've got a good reason, and even then, only if you can get a very short contract!

An SEO term you might want to review for this step:

            Host server

How to choose the right server host for your web site:

  1. If you currently have a host, you should ask yourself if it is good enough for your new SEO purposes. The bare minimums it should have for a popular, well Optimized site should include:

    • Web Log Analyzers. VERY IMPORTANT. We'll go into specifics on these in Step 11, but for now try to ensure that one of these three Log Analyzers on your server: Urchin, Smarter Stats, AWStats, or Analog. (In that order) Settle for nothing less! (Of course I may have missed one or two that could fit in there too...)
    • Fast Connection. Their servers must have a large enough connection to an internet "Backbone," such as the Sprint or AT&T backbone. Don't settle for one or two "T1" connections... Look for either hundreds of connections, or even better, multiple connections of OC-48's or better.
    • Reliable, always available Support. Full Email, 24-7 Live chat, & a toll free phone number. A ticketing system is good too, but never by itself! Be extra careful evaluating this step. Sometimes they offer all of this but never tell you anything useful when you talk to them!
    • Uptimes of 99.9% or better every month, Guaranteed. (& we'll be testing them!)
    • Operating System on the server: UNIX or LINUX. Do not use a NT server for Link Exchange program reasons if you can help it, but there are ways around even this. (Sometimes)
    • Databases: The more the better, but PHP version 4.0 or later is a must. Usually it comes installed & ready. (ASP is 2nd choice.) PHP is also best for running shopping carts.
    • E-Commerce: Free use. (With one or more Scripts available) I like "OS Commerce," for a shopping cart system, but it's a matter of personal choice. (NOTE: This doesn't mean that they process your credit cards for free, but just that they don't charge you anything to SET UP credit card processing.)
    • FTP Access: FTP access is mandatory for any sites larger than a couple of pages. (You could administrate those through the HTML Control panel) But for larger sites, cPanel is just too slow and cumbersome, so make sure you get FTP access included with password-controlled AND anonymous logins, with the Root level directory allowed.
    • CGI Bin(s), & CGI & PERL scripts These small server-side software scripts come in many forms and flavors, so just make sure yours has a good selection installed and waiting for you.
    • HTML Control Panel: An Online Control interface that you can log into from anywhere, allowing you to change settings and even upload files to your server. In my search, I've seen that vDeck is the best. (Others may be fine too, just make sure you get one with all of the options & controls you need.)
    • Affordability: $6 - $15 per month. The more you pay, the better service and Uptime usually are. Note that we've listed pricing at the end...
    • Other options: There may very well be a lot more that you'd want in your specific niche, but these criteria are the only that I KNOW are useful for SEO or traffic reasons.

    If your server has everything above, great! Skip along to section three! If not, continue reading below.

    Section Two shortcut:
    If you're in a hurry and want to skip the rest of this step, based only on our recommendation for the best all-around server host that we've found, you can try ours: Web Site Source. They guarantee their performance with money-back and they've had much better uptime and technical support than any of the others we've tried in the last three years. Plus, they are based in Texas, and have lots of English-speaking support people who actually answer their phones when you call! Anyway, the rest of you should go through the full process and make sure for yourself, and search all the web hosts that you even suspect would be good candidates.

  2. To begin your search, download and install "Host Evaluator" (Windows, 393 kb) before continuing on.

  3. Visit one or more of the four following links to find and compare Server hosts. I can't tell you what your specific site needs are for your website, but if you want lots of traffic, look for a minimum of 20 Gigabytes of bandwidth per month and the largest possible connection. (Just make sure your hosts' connection has a lot of megabits connecting to a 'primary,' or 'backbone' of the internet!)

    Alternatively, if you are sure of the exact web stats program you want to use, (such as Urchin or SmartStats) go to that software developer's website and look for a 'partners' or 'recommended hosts' page on their site, listing all of the server hosts that they can vouch for who use their product.

  4. Choose the best 5 or so packages you can find to fit your needs, and plug them all into the Host Evaluator program. It may take a little time to put in all the information, but hopefully you can cut-and-paste a lot of it in from their websites.

  5. Once you've compared all the hosting plans, simply sign up with the best choice. Remember, price is only a factor if all other things are equal! It's usually worth it to sign up for a whole year to get the free domain name that is commonly offered. (Assuming you plan to be there for a year, that is.) But be warned, they rarely transfer yours free for a year, so expect for them to register a new one for you only.

  6. Finally, let's make sure they are doing their job, shall we? Sign up for InterSeer's free service that checks your site every hour for connectivity, and reports in many ways. They offer services that check more often, as well, but their free service seems to do the trick for this site, It caught my server's unscheduled reboot last July & told me how many seconds it was down.

Why Server Hosting services are important to SEO

        Choosing the highest-quality host for your website is just a tricky thing to do well. So many things can, and often do, go wrong if you don't know what you're doing. Where to start? How about with the server & connection quality. If you had chosen a host that had a slow connection to the internet, or poor uptime, (meaning that they spend minutes or more each month not serving your site out) then you're likely to lose traffic over that alone. It also hurts your credibility as a professional organization. Seriously, there are only about 43,200 minutes in a month, and if you have spent the time to fully SEO your site, you're most likely wanting more than 43,200 visitors per month. If they average a minute on the site each, then a couple of minutes downtime is a couple of people who were denied your site! What are they going to think about a website that is "no longer" there? What are they going to tell their friends about it? Nothing, that's what. And the more popular that your site gets after that, the more a couple of minutes down becomes unacceptable.

        Perhaps more importantly, and certainly more time-consumingly, the ugliest problem with web host quality is their tech support. (Or lack thereof.) 99% of server hosts these days say that they offer great, live 24/7 support to their users, and only about 5%, or less, actually do. (OK, so that's only my opinion, but i'd bet it's pretty accurate.) The other 95% give varying levels between "just plain slow," and downright "AWOL." It is HARD to find one of the 5%, but when you do, and they have all the functionality you need, I suggest that you use that host for the rest of your life, and tell all your friends about them! (Of course your friends may need functionality that your host doesn't offer...)

        If I were to give a breakdown of the priority of the rest of your decisions here, my best guess is that it would go like this: Web logs are first, (Again, refer to Section 11 for more on that) then controls like the cPanel, then disk space, (More for expansion and building reasons than for SEO) then bandwidth, (you really want to have room for traffic!) then extra toys like the scripts, and finally, price.

        Also, once you've decided on your host server, it will soon be time to find your domain name. Usually the host will give you a free one if you pay in advance for 6 or 12 months of service. If so, take it if you can, that's a good deal unless of course you already own a domain, and the host doesn't accept 2 or more domains per one website. (Which is called domain re-direct, or domain forwarding... Watch out for that too!) Continue to the next step to find just the right domain name for your site.

Our next page is all about choosing and registering your Domain name, if you haven't done so already. Even if you have in fact, there is some great search engine optimization stuff to know in there!

Click here to continue on to Step Three

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