How to choose the right hosting company for my website?

First of all, what does a hosting provider do and which plan is good for you?

When you decide to get your own website, you will usually need to register a domain name – the name you see in the address bar on top of every website (e.g. mine is ‘wp-courses-ireland.com’) – and sign up for a hosting plan. That means you will rent a small space on their server, where they will store your website and make it accessible for all your readers. Hosting services vary, but for now let’s talk about beginners who want to have a small website for personal or business use. You will need to use an FTP programme (File Transfer Protocol) to be able to upload files to the server.

Small hosting plans are usually only a few euro a month, but before you sign up you should know what your application’s requirements are. As we are on this website let’s use WordPress as an example:

  • it is strongly recommended to use a Linux hosting plan as opposed to a Windows hosting plan (and no, it’s got nothing to do with your computer or the operating system you’re using!)
  • minimum requirements to run a WordPress site are PHP version 4.3
  • and MySQL version 4.1.2

Is a cheap hosting provider good enough?

I know that some people say that the host is not important  – just get the cheapest suitable package and a good backup. I don’t  really agree with that – for me the most important points are reliability, communication and customer service. No web host can offer a 100% guarantee of no downtime – meaning your website is not available to your visitors and you might lose business – that happens to to the biggest sites in the world. However, you should research hosting companies and identify the ones where downtime is minimal and rectified swiftly – read online reviews and forums.

I’m using Blacknight Solutions for my site and must say I’m quite happy with them. A few weeks ago I was working on my site and suddenly had no more access. In their administration panel is a button labelled ‘Network Status’ which brings you straight to their blog and informs you of any server issue and updates. So at least I know what it’s about and that they’re working on it. And by the way, an hour later everything was back to normal again.

But that’s not all, it’s the same for technical support such as application and backup issues or billing queries – if you’re stuck you want a quick reply. I would recommend to check out Blacknight’s forum first, as lots of questions are answered there already. If not, you can contact them on Twitter, Facebook or just drop them an e-mail.

How important is the location of my hosting provider?

It’s one of many important SEO factors (Search Engine Optimising). Your visibility in search results is affected by many different factors and every little counts. Google and the like prefer your website when it’s hosted in your visitors’ country (that’s only important for domains with a generic TLD such as .com, please see comments for more information), so if your readers are Irish you should choose a local host, if your readers are Polish choose a Polish host regardless of your location here in Ireland. And by the way, Blacknight is located in Carlow.

Last but not least, I would check if the hosting plan comes with an e-mail solution and of course read the Terms & Conditions – you should know what you sign up to.

Just to make it clear, I don’t work with or for Blacknight, I’ve just researched the Irish market a bit, decided to go with Blacknight, like their service and now recommend them to my students when they’re looking for web hosting in Ireland. But there are plenty of other good hosts out there, so check around and find one that suits you. If you have any further questions regarding hosting or WordPress, please leave a comment underneath this article.

3 thoughts on “How to choose the right hosting company for my website?

  1. Hi Julie,

    Again… when I read your post.. there is no need to host the web site in your country for SEO reasons as you can do that in the Webmaster tools very comfortable.. and Google & Co will check also other GT factors but IP address location is nowadays not relevant anymore and if, only a recheck indicator to the content on a site.

    Quote:
    …..or are hosted in a country with better webserver infrastructure, so we try not to rely on the server location alone.

    – gTLDs (like .com / .net, also .eu / .asia) are automatically geotargeted based on the server location but can manually be geotargeted in Webmaster Tools.

    Quote End

    And the issue regarding speed and latency is right… but has nothing to do with SEO…

    Quote:
    to host a site close to or in the target market for speed and latency reasons, regardless of geotargeting.
    Quote End

    It would be a great dictatorship if Google or any other SE dictates me where to host my site to get a good rank in their index.

    😉

  2. Excuse me? Facts please and the source which proofs that!

    How important is the location of my hosting provider?

    It’s one of many important SEO factors (Search Engine Optimising). Your visibility in search results is affected by many different factors and every little counts. Google and the like prefer your website when it’s hosted in your visitors’ country, so if your readers are Irish you should choose a local host, if your readers are Polish choose a Polish host regardless of your location here in Ireland.

    • Hi Fezzi,

      Thanks for your comment. As I said, Google takes a lot of factors into consideration when ranking a website in search listings, and the hosting location is often said to be one of them. You are right, the physical location of a website isn’t important to improve rankings in your targeted country, if you’re using a ccTLD such as .ie.

      According to John Mueller, if your ccTLD is relevant to your targeted country, then Google will not take the location of the webserver into consideration. This means that you could have your website hosted in the US but it would not make a difference to your UK rankings providing that you have a .co.uk ccTLD.

      However in regards to a .com address hosted in a different country he gave the following answer in Google Webmaster Central:

      – A .ie domain name (as almost all other ccTLD domain names — there are exceptions for obviously globally-oriented ones like .tv) will always be recognized as a geo-targeted domain name by Google. So a .ie site will always be seen with “pages from Ireland” even if it’s hosted elsewhere. Also, you can’t set geotargeting to a different country for sites hosted on ccTLDs.

      – gTLDs (like .com / .net, also .eu / .asia) are automatically geotargeted based on the server location but can manually be geotargeted in Webmaster Tools.

      – Geotargeted sites tend to be more visible to users looking for local sites, but are not automatically removed for other searches (so a .ie site can still rank well in Germany, if it’s relevant).

      Also keep in mind that sometimes it makes sense to host a site close to or in the target market for speed and latency reasons, regardless of geotargeting. Finally, other search engines may handle these issues differently.

      There’s much more about this in our blog post at http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2010/03/working-with-multi-regional-websites.html

      Where it’s clear enough with geographic ccTLD’s, it shows that generic TLD’s can’t be treated in the same way. In the instance of .com and other TLD’s, the IP address will be used to identify the hosting location, and thus determine what is the appropriate country that the website is local to. That’s why I suggested if a website has a general TLD (I’ve just added that in the post ;-)), then try to ensure hosting is relevant to your target country. Of course Webmaster Tools can also be used to set the site’s main country, but I try to make my student’s life as easy as possible – most of them just get started with websites.

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