There are a lot of reasons that you might choose one web host over another. On this page I’m going to explain to you why speed is the most important factor you should consider.
Speed is more important than anything else
Fancy whiz-bang features are what excites most folks when they’re shopping for a web host. The add-ons which get trotted out on the sales pages of hosting companies like GoDaddy and Siteground all sound very awesome and important!
However, I would argue that speed is the single most important factor that you should consider when selecting a host. (Support — still very important — comes in second place, and you can read about that here.)
The truth is that the fancy add-ons that you see highlighted on the sales pages aren’t worth thinking about too much, because honestly all the shared hosts offer essentially the same features — even if they try to pretend this or that feature is unique to them. They all offer basically the same package. So it ends up being not that critical or worth agonizing over, because they’ve all got pretty much the same features. Trust me on this.
What does matter is speed. It matters more than anything else. Why?
Google loves fast websites
I’m sure you already know that Google ranks websites differently, and your position in the search engine results (SERPs) depends on Google’s opinion of your site.
Google is primarily in the business of providing an excellent experience for their search customers. Yes, they are in a lot of other businesses too, including the ad business. But their first love is to make sure that searchers find what they need, and that the pages they recommend are helpful and useful.
Google has been steadily increasing their focus on user experience recently. User experience is the undisputed king. Keywords are officially irrelevant if your site experience sucks for the user.
So if your website is slow (because your host is slow), then Google’s going to take notice of that, and it’s going to rank your site lower in the search results. Ouch.
This is why the speed at which your site loads is pretty much the most important characteristic that SEO experts focus on. It doesn’t matter how many other awesome features your site has, or how great your offer is — if your site loads slowly, Google is going to penalize you, and you’ll get less visitors and traffic. It’s that simple.
There are other reasons why your site might be slow, e.g. you might have too many plugins, or images that are too “heavy”, or even a site builder tool that makes everything sluggish. But those are fixable. What’s not fixable is increasing your site speed if your web host isn’t up to par.
Slow websites make people go away
Personally, when I go to a new site, they have officially about 2 seconds to start showing me something good before I close the tab and peace out forever.
If you’re anything like me, you too have very little patience for a website that is slow to load.
If I’m not sure yet whether I’m even gonna like the website… and it’s taking forever to load? Mannnn, forget this, I’m out. Click. Tab closed, never going back.
That’s a customer lost, a lead that got away. An opportunity squandered. That sucks. You can’t let a pokey host be the cause of this problem.
Know what else? Google is taking notice of people who “bounce” off your site shortly after arriving. If your site’s “bounce rate” is really high (meaning that people are usually clicking away quickly after arriving), Google will note this and rank your site lower. And that means — you guessed it — less traffic and visitors.
Speed = more conversions, more leads, more customers
If your site is slow, your visitors are not gonna hang around. Poof! Conversion/lead/customer gone — and they’re probably not coming back.
But if your site is speedy, then folks will stick around and be more likely to convert. You can’t get conversions or sales if people keep leaving, of course. If you want them to stick around, you have to provide an awesome experience, and part of that is not making them wait for your content to load. Believe me, people have much better things to do than twiddle their thumbs while your sales page loads.
There is a direct correlation between site speed and sales figures. Sites that have consistently low speeds end up missing out on those conversion opportunities. And conversely those sites with fast hosting end up capitalizing on the mistakes of their competitors.
How to identify truly fast web hosting
I’m going to let you in on a little secret now. GoDaddy, Siteground, Bluehost, Hostgator, and most of the better shared hosts — they’re all reasonably fast. I bet you didn’t expect me to say that, did you?
Some of them will highlight their speed (because they know it’s important) with phrases like Litespeed, SSD, caching, Cloudflare, and a host of other confusing and supposedly industry-standard terms.
Forget all that. Why? Because despite the fancy phrases, they’re still touting what is known as “shared hosting”.
Shared hosting is where you share the server’s resources with every other sucker whose website is on that same server. It’s entry-level at best, and it puts your website at risk if one of those other websites decides to become a resource hog or do something else nefarious. Your website speed will suffer, and you probably won’t even know it (but Google will).
There’s a whole host of other issues that come with shared hosting, if you want to read about that.
Is there something better? Of course there is. There’s cloud hosting, which is like a Lamborghini compared to the Toyota Tercel of shared hosting from Siteground, Bluehost, and that ilk. You don’t share resources with anybody, but instead you get your own ‘slice’ of a super-fast cloud server and you can scale up and down as needed, very easily.
For years, cloud hosting was very expensive and therefore beyond the reach of ordinary non-power users like most of us. But more recently, Cloudways has brought the price down to basically the same as the regular (renewal) monthly rates of the shared hosts. This has been revolutionary in the web hosting world.
So let me ask you this: if they cost the same, why wouldn’t you lease a Lamborghini over a Toyota Tercel? Especially if the Lambo had no long-term contract and you could cancel anytime without penalty, unlike the Tercel?
You see where this is going. See why I recommend Cloudways as the best host for almost everyone. And you can also read my breakdown about the differences between shared and cloud hosting, and why you should care (and choose the latter of course).