Every new client that comes onboard with WebSpain gets their first year of fully managed web services free of charge. They are then able to evaluate whether they want to stay as a longterm client, or perhaps take their site elsewhere.
But besides the allocation of server resources that you receive, there's the permanent ongoing attention that comes with it!
What we provide with our Managed Services Plans:
Site security updates applied on day of release.
Site errors rectified subject to site software being current.
Enterprise strength site security firewall.
Malware removal on sites using Cloud based Auto Clean for infected files.
Uptime monitor checking connectivity to your site every 5 minutes 24/7/365.
Proactive monitoring of site and server security notifications related to your account.
E-Mail delivery monitoring.
Ongoing DNSBL IP Reputation Checks.
Ongoing Domain Reputation checks powered by Google Safebrowsing.
Daily account backups to a remote server on the network using R1 Soft technology.
Twice a day database backups.
PHP version upgrades subject to site software being current.
Immediate site and mailbox restoration.
GDPR compliancy implementation.
SSL / Dedicated IP address implementation.
Cloud Linux optimised servers.
Industry-leading commercial server security system.
Sites protected within CageFS individual containers.
KernelCare seamless operating system security updates with no server reboot required.
cPHulk Brute Force Detection.
Shell Fork Bomb Protection.
Optimised ModSecurity rules.
High CPU, RAM, and disk inode allocations to each site.
SSD Hard Disks.
Rapid response to clients with personal support 365 days a year.
Please do not confuse our services as listed above with basic web hosting accounts that are sold by web hosting providers.
We do not sell basic web hosting services, we deliver Fully Managed Service Plans for our web design clients. No web host will manage, update, and rectify faults on your website, all they support is the server and the network.
What we don't provide with our Managed Services Plans:
Web Design services using any application other than the Joomla content management system.
Web Design services on any third party server.
Website or Hosting Support of any site that is located on a third party server.
Website or Hosting Support to anybody who is not a current client of WebSpain.
Website or Hosting Support for websites using end of line software and/or running on withdrawn PHP versions.
Website or Hosting Support for a client's additional services that have been contracted tthrough a third party provider.
Bulk E-Mail sending facilities.
Promotional and Marketing Services.
E-Mail Marketing Campaigns.
Bulk data input services.
Social Media Promotions.
PPC (Pay per Click).
Bespoke Programming and Coding.
As an example, the managed package detailed above for a client using 20GB diskspace in a UK datacenter would be approximately €395 a year. But of course there are alternatives to our services! Who knows......the grass may be greener elsewhere? So I've listed a few options, all of whom deliver professional services that I anticipate would be on a par with ours.
Web Hosting €280 a year (Clook) plus a Site Firewall €175 (Sucuri). Total €455.....but this does not contain site management, only hosting and security facilities.
Site Management €850 a year (Joomlashack). This contains site management, but no hosting facilities. So add the two options together to match the full WebSpain package and it would cost you €1305 a year.
Site Management and Hosting combined from €1050 up to €3200 a year (JoomDev). This is the closest match to what we provide, but there is no indication on their site of diskspace allocation or the number of sites covered. And there are limitations in the number of support tickets that you can submit per month..
So if you're comparing like for like that's how the figures stack up. Of course, if you don't want support or security of any kind for your site, and your only requirement is cheap hosting......then you're spoilt for choice. There's virtually no end to the numbers of "providers" who can supply you with diskspace on oversold servers and you can just wing it from thereon. It's what I call the "Occupational Suicide" option.
It's not a course of action that I would recommend if you have a viable business. But if your website isn't important to you, or you don't care about running obsolete software and having dubious neighbours with adult sites etc in close proximity to you.....then it's certainly worth considering. You may well be able to find somebody for less than €50 a year......but the amount you pay will have a direct bearing on the level of service you receive. Because at those unsustainable levels of pricing there is no margin for the provision of professional support personnel. Just bear in mind in that scenario you're on your own as regards your site, and depending where you go, you may well be on your own in the matter of having a reliable hosting service and e-mail facility as well.
One point I do want to emphasise is that if you do not have a current WebSpain account, you are not a WebSpain client. Therefore we will be unable to assist you with any problems that you may encounter. Our service is only for current WebSpain clients, as they are our sole focus of attention.
If you want to maintain similar levels of service then you're looking at over €1000 a year minimum......compared to our example price point of €395. Of course you can get cheaper if you're willing to lower your expectations. But when you go to the very bottom of the barrel then it's not how much money you can save, it's how much grief you can withstand!
Very often, we don't notice the changes that happen progressively throughout the course of our lives......because they're not instant, they're gradual. The same applies to our websites.
We've just replaced the WebSpain site, and despite it being less than two years old, it was starting to date considerably compared to others in our field. That prompted me to visit the Wayback Machine which periodically takes snapshots of sites over the years.......to see just how sad some of the earlier versions of WebSpain actually were compared to today.
What I found made for scary viewing......as an example, this monstrosity is from 2010!
I cringe looking at it. It's a bit like bringing out your old photos from the 70's when you had big hair and even bigger flares! It feels like I've put a photo of my dirty underpants online.
But the reality is that the type of presentation you see there was par for the course in 2010. That was all we had to work with back then because the technology that is available today didn't exist. Mobile websites? No such thing!
We normally replace our site every 18 months so there's been about 4 or 5 updates since then.......but comparing the 2010 presentation to today is a real eye opener! Things have changed a lot in 8 years.
I want to emphasise that it's not a case of we've got better at what we do.....it's a case of the technology and applications available to us to work with are now on a totally different level to back then. And like real life, it didn't happen overnight......it was a progression over those years, but at a much faster rate. The mobile era was the game changer, but even that technology at this present time is much more advanced than it was 5 years ago.
Now ask yourself this question if you are a client from recent years:
Would you have even contacted us to find out more information if our website still looked like that?
Highly unlikely......because we would have looked like amateurs or a defunct business. It's the kiss of death at point of discovery!
The fact is, if you can't immediately present yourself as a professional then you will not be taken seriously. Besides looking unprofessional, old sites will also be riddled with security issues and running on slow, outdated, and vulnerable PHP versions on servers.
PHP have announced that later this year, versions 5.6 and 7.0 on the server will be discontinued and unsupported. So if you're still running an older site then this could present problems.
The red dot denotes expiry of those versions......contact us if you want to know whether you're affected! This new WebSpain site runs on PHP 7.2, which as you can see is supported till the end of 2020.
So to summarise, running outdated and obsolete sites can not only adversely affect your business in terms of client pereception, it also puts you and your users at risk of hacking and phishing attacks. Stay current!
Make sure you present yourself as a live, thriving business.....not as somebody who's trapped in time! And definitely don't wait until you plummet to the depths of obsolescence and embarrassment of the WebSpain 2010 site. Because everyone will be laughing at your site in the same way as most of you are now laughing at my old one!
I'm not keen on using the phrase "SEO" as it's been so abused over the years that it's meaning and interpretation has become lost. Personally I'd say that the majority of the points in this article relate to building a website properly in the first place, and then actually populating it with content that users want to read.
But here's a list of essential components that make up what would be interpreted as a professional website by Google and other search engines.
1. Website Security (HTTPS): This is a ranking factor now, and Google recommends switching to HTTPS to also help with demonstrating professionalism, increasing conversion rates, and building trust with users. It's no accident that 65% of sites that hold the top three positions have implemented HTTPS.
2. Content Length: Content length for sites in the top three positions are on average 45 percent longer than content on sites in 20th position. But beware of writing masses of "padded" content to increase page density......the key is to write content of a necessary length to be relevant and match user intent.
3. Keywords: These are obviously still relevant today......but the era of jamming them everywhere on the site is long gone. If you do this you'll end up in the Sin Bin! So you need to use long tail search strings incorporating keywords contextually (within sentences) when required. Use them sparingly.....do not go overboard on this.
4. Website Traffic: Interestingly, traffic from search engines does not appear have any major impact on rankings. It's direct traffic that matters......so share your content across Social Media. If Google tracks a lot of traffic coming from other sources it will potentially revise your positioning because your site appears to be popular.
5. Bounce Rate: This relates to the time users spend on your site. If you get a visit from a user and they leave immediately....that's a negative. But if they stay on the site and visit numerous pages....that's a positive. How do you retain users? Just write good content as I've always said.
6. Pages per Session: This is closely linked with Bounce Rate! Because the higher number of pages a user visits per session demonstrates to Google that you have content on your site that is of value and relevant to the search query they entered.
6. Backlinks: But unlike years ago it's not quantity.....it's quality! Do not have links on bad sites or Google will assess you at the level of the bad site that you've "buddied up" to. Essentially you've shown them that you're keeping bad company. And whatever you do, do not make reciprocal links with other sites because you'll both get canned.
7. Page Speed: Users like fast pages so don't bog your page down with auto-running videos, multiple large images, or resources that load from other sources like Social Media streams. Yes.....you need to make it look attractive and professional.....but there is such a thing as overkill.
8. On-site Optimisation: Factors such as meta descriptions, meta titles, H1 and H2 tags etc are still relevant and should be used accordingly. But be aware these are not a "Band Aid" for low quality content. If your content is assessed as poor then no amount of on-site optimisation will help you.
9. Mobile Compatibility: If you don't have this in place by now then you're probably not even in business any more. Around 55 - 60% of searches come from mobile devices.....so without it, most of your target market has gone.
Now review those points, and look for the pattern! As always, that pattern is quality content! It's never been any different......in fact Bill Gates predicted this back in 1996:
"Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet" and "If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will".
Admittedly there were ways that unscrupulous individuals could cheat their way to high rankings years ago, but since 2012 those practices will end up making you invisible on search engines! My advice is to beware of web agencies promising you instant high rankings - because you'll end up disappearing without a trace on all searches for a very long time. It will be the Kiss of Death!
So just play by the rules (I always have) and generate quality content that addresses your visitors' questions and specific areas of interest......and then distribute it across Social Media to expand your target audience.
When clients come to us for a website they generally have a list of expectations or requirements. Of course, that helps us to identify exactly what needs to be implemented in order to meet their requirements......but one important thing is always missing in their estimation at that point! And that factor is User expectations!
People tend to focus solely on what they want or what they like, with no regard to what potential users actually expect when they visit a website. That's where we come in.....because we make it absolutely clear what aspects need to be prioritised! However, some people don't want to listen and will take no advice whatsoever. All that matters to them is what they want, to the point of total exclusion of their potential users' requirements.
If you take this course of action then your website is unlikely to succeed......irrespective of how attractive it looks. Because if people can't figure out how to use it, or can't find anything on it, they'll leave and never return. Simply because you prioritised what you wanted over what they wanted.....thereby making it difficult, irritating, and time consuming for visitors!
So what is it that users expect?
1. Site Speed! Don't overload pages with giant images or introduce additional elements where data is retrieved from outside sources. Things like Live Chat boxes, Facebook and Twitter streams, Weather forecasts etc are an example of this!
Be aware that if you insist on bogging it down with resource intensive elements, slow page loads are going to be the end result. You'll then get a high bounce rate (which Google tracks) so your site rankings will drop as a result! Keep it as lean as possible, and avoid irrelevant, superfluous, and self indulgent elements that deliver no value to the user whatsoever.
2. Intuitive Navigation! Ensure that you have clearly visible and intuitive menu and sub-menu structures, along with categorisation of the elements contained within. Basically, don't throw everything into one place and then expect users to be able to hunt for what they want. Make life easy for them.......then they're more likely to bookmark the site and return in the future.
3. An Organised Site! No enormous paragraphs of text that go on forever! Short, sharp, straight to the point, introduce benefits, and accompany it with a great quality image to get their intial attention.
4. Aesthetics! When a visitor gets to your site you've got less than 10 seconds to make a positive impression. If your site looks a hideous and cluttered mess while resplendent in a myriad of migraine-inducing dayglo colours then you probably haven't got off to a good start! Your site must attract visitors straight away......first impressions count! But be aware that this is the point where you now need to actually validate yourself professionally, which brings us to the next point.....Value!
5. Value! In this context I'm referring to delivering on what you initially promised when you presented them with an attractive looking site!
On the intial front page intro you should be clearly defining what you deliver! But it's no good just saying it.....you need to actually deliver it in terms of quality written content that informs, educates, and advises.
Examples of poor value would be spurious unsubstantiated claims, ludicrous cliches, and sales pitches....all accompanied by a couple of generic paragraphs and a blurry image that you copied from Wikipedia! If you go down this route then site visitors (and Google) won't take you seriously.
6. Mobile Compatibility! Over half of the searches on Google now come from mobile devices.....so if you don't have a mobile site by now then you're not even in the game! Every site we've built since 2012 has been mobile compatible as standard and at no additional cost. Mobile must be at the core of everything you do!
7. Safety and Security! Visitors want to know that their identity, information, and even their computer is not at risk from malware, browser hijacks, viruses, trojans, hacking, or phishing attempts. Google is very interested in this factor as well........and everytime they visit they're running checks on your site to ensure that it's safe for visitors.
They're very clear on this.......all sites should now have SSL encryption in place to protect visitors. If you don't, then realistically it'll only be a matter of time until you drop off the radar on the search results. After all, do you think Google are going to send it's users to websites that they consider to be unsafe? And without SSL in place to provide an encrypted connection for visitors then your site status with Google is unsafe!
As you've seen, all those points were categorised as User expectations! Are User expectations important to you?
Maybe not.....but what if I changed the title to Google expectations? Would that now get your attention?
Because the fact is that what Users expect and what Google expects in terms of front end viewing is exactly the same thing!
So stop thinking about what You want.......and think about what Users want! Because your Users, and Google, will take you a lot more seriously if you do!
HTTPS/SSL security on websites is important! I've been saying it for some years, and recent statements from Google demonstrate that it's now becoming the minimum acceptable standard......"A web with HTTPS is not the distant future. It’s happening now, with secure browsing becoming standard!"
Let me clarify that! It's now no longer evaluated as an optional addon that gives additional benefits......it's now classed as a critical indicator of your professionalism. Google is not in the business of deliver poor or potentially unsafe search results to users, so it's looking for signs that demonstrate you are a serious business entity. Basically it needs to know that you are who you say you are, and that any site visitors are not at risk of identity theft, phishing etc.
This is part of a mission that Google have been on in recent years to make the web a safer place. And it's really picked up momentum now. Here's their latest Security Bulletin where they say "More than half of pages loaded and two-thirds of total time spent by Chrome desktop users occur via HTTPS, and we expect these metrics to continue their strong upward trajectory".
We're now heading towards two classes of web sites......the professional and secure ones with HTTPS, and the unprofessional and insecure ones who are trying to do everything on the cheap while taking no responsibility for their clients' personal security.
If you were Google, who would you recommend in search listings? If you're a site visitor, who would you trust to do business with?
As I've listed before, these are some of the benefits of having HTTPS/SSL data encryption in place:
1. 2048 bit encrypted connection between the user and the site giving a higher level of security for data transmission.
2. An SSL certificate also provides authentication. This means that users can be sure that they are sending information to YOU, and not to a criminal’s server.
3. Protection from Phishing, where a criminal tries to impersonate you or your website.
4. Dedicated IP address that gives you protection from any IP blacklisting of your site and e-mail caused by other users on the shared server IP address.
5. Enhanced professionalism giving clients confidence in doing business with you.
6. Trust! Browsers give visual cues, such as the lock icon in the address bar, which tells visitors that their connection is secure.
7. SSL is a criteria for search engine ranking, so potentially higher placement in searches.
None of the above is opinion! None of it is conjecture or hypothesis! It's the cold hard facts with verifiable links to substantiate them. Do YOU need it? Once again, I'm not going to give you an opinion!
I'll just let Google answer that one...."As the remainder of the web transitions to HTTPS, we’ll continue working to ensure that migrating to HTTPS is a no-brainer, providing business benefit beyond increased security. Don’t hesitate to start planning your HTTPS migration today!"
Remember the old record players from the past when a record would get stuck.....and one part would keep on repeating endlessly? Well that's me that is! Simply because I've been endlessly repeating for many years that quality content on a website is the key factor in getting good search engine positioning.
In fact I even demonstrated it with the tests in the article Is Content Still King? Plus, the continued dominance of this site on Google Searches is a fairly clear indication that my ideas, if implemented correctly, will produce results.
However.....that's still not enough for some people! They insist on clinging onto a belief that what the man in the pub told them, or what info some spammy SEO company has sent them, is actually true. Well it's not! And after years of battling with people who insist on recounting third party BS, my good friends at Google have at last come to my aid.
Good friends? Well I've never made any secret about it....I love Google! They've introduced superb applications to us at no cost (GMail being one), transformed mobile computing into what we see today, and are always innovating and advancing the technology. Compare that to the dubious practices of other major companies over the years who have made billions by delivering substandard and inherently flawed applications at totally unrealistic price points.
From my point of view, the best aspect is that Google have run the cheaters out of town. Because years ago some "businesses" made a lot of money by cheating their clients' sites into good positioning. They knew full well that it was a blinkered short term strategy that would eventually result in these sites disappearing from Google permanently. But money talks! In later years these people have rebranded themselves as link cleanup and reputation management companies where they're now making even money by cleaning up the mess they created in the first place. You couldn't make this up could you?
Anyway, Google has now come to my rescue by releasing their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines for everybody to analyse. But be aware it's 160 pages long......so I've highlighted the critical points for you.
1. Page Quality: The keyphrase is E-A-T......which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness!
Your site should have a “satisfying amount” of high-quality main content, and be authoritative, trustworthy, and informed about the relevant subject matter. The site should have a good reputation, along with about us, contact, and customer service information clearly displayed. Google also states that pages will be considered low-quality if they are created “without adequate time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill".
2. YMYL (Your Money Or Your Life) Pages and Expert Content. This means that if you're writing on a subject then you need to demonstrate that you're an expert on it. Do you know your business? You're the only one who can answer that......and if you do, then you need to demonstrate it.
3. Supplementary Content: Google emphasise the importance of supplementary content, such as sidebar info and links to other related articles. I've always told people this, so I'm glad to see them come out and confirm it after all this time.
4. Page Design: Let's make this clear.....Google doesn't care if your site is blue or red, and it doesn't care if your images have little twirly effects if you put your mouse on them. You may care......but Google and your users don't. What Google (and users) want is a functional, streamlined, intuitive page that is easy to navigate with main content front and centre. Google values functionality over beauty.
5. Mobile optimisation: It goes without saying that if your site is not mobile responsive today you may as well not even bother doing anything else, because you're not even in the game.
6. Trust: Websites should be trustworthy! What constitutes trustworthy? SSL certificate, linking to credible, relevant sources to substantiate what you're saying, and building a good interaction for your content with social media particularly Google Plus. That way you're establishing yourself as an expert in your field. So it's not just the site that needs to be established....it's YOU!
7. User Experience: Are you meeting the needs of your visitors? They want clear information.......so are you providing it? Users want to be able to find content that is relevant to them.....so are you making it easy for them? If people visit your site and give up trying to get information within a few seconds because you've insisted on some ludicrous system of navigation, it sends Google a clear message that it's not meeting users' expectations. Which means Google will class you as a low quality site.
However, if they stay on the site and navigate to different pages because they find the content of value, that sends a positive signal to Google and will help your rankings. What a user wants from the site may not match your vision of what it should be.....but if you prioritise your choices over theirs then don't expect to get good positioning on search engines.
8. Satisfying Content: For content to satisfy a user’s needs, the Guidelines state that the content must be “fully satisfying for mobile user,” require minimal effort to locate, and provide value to the reader. Does yours?
9. Fails To Meet Content: This is where your information is sparse, copied from other sources, unrelated to the query, filled with incorrect facts, or needs supporting information to validate it's claims. If this occurs then you lose trust and credibility with Google and users.
10. Keywords: Use them sparingly and only when necessary in content! If you start keyword jamming you're going to be penalised. This isn't 2005.
To summarise.....you need high quality, expert content! Simple as that! And if you create pages which demonstrate high levels of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness within your area of business then you will reap the rewards!
Now that Google have openly published their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (they've never done it before) you should look back over the articles that I've published over the years and compare them. If you do that, you'll see that what I have been saying on every aspect of SEO for many years has now been officially confirmed by Google.
So now, officially, I am no longer a stuck record! Strange but True!
As you probably know, search has changed a lot in recent years! But are you taking advantage of the new possibilities that now exist due to the advancements in technology and actually delivering the answers?
Because recent developments are now taking these processes onto another level.....and that level is Artificial Intelligence!
It's called RankBrain...... which is the name that Google have given to it's machine-learning artificial intelligence system. Previously any changes in search algorithms had to be programmed into the system by humans, but now it has the capacity to learn, and to expand it's knowledge and efficiency based on the original parameters that were applied. It's goal is to take search queries, interpret what the user's intent is, and then deliver the best possible results for them.
Now did you see the important word there? Intent! What Google is looking to achieve is to match the user's intention to the optimum results. Ten years ago people were using shorter search terms.....but now both the end users' knowledge and the technology have advanced beyond all recognition! Users are now putting in questions, and they want answers. Google's role is to evaluate the available options and provide the best answers based on the analysis of user intent.
Of course there's now the mobile factor as well.....with queries on these devices exceeding those of desktop computers! Which brings us onto Voice Search! Let me give you an example how this can work! If you go to your voice search on mobile and say "OK Google.....What do People say about WebSpain"......you should get a search delivered with the answer at the top!
Points to bear in mind are that the search request was delivered in plain conversational language......not a sequence of robotic disconnected keywords. Keywords used within the content in a natural manner are still very important, but if you're using these keywords then you must expand upon them and deliver the answers within the actual page content. If you don't, people will hit the back button (which Google monitors), and eventually your listing will no longer show in the search results as users are telling Google that the result wasn't acceptable. And RankBrain learns from that.
In the quoted example I could probably have got the same result by just putting in those keywords and nothing else!
But how long before the search engine algorithms figure that the end result was I didn't deliver any answers?
Do you see the critical factor? Keywords and empty cliches that deliver nothing in the way of valid information are now no longer acceptable!
Example.....it's no good just telling people how easy it is to buy a house in Spain......you've got to demonstrate how!
Unfortunately, many site owners still seem to think they can get away with the practices that were prevalent back in 2005, things like keyword jamming and overloading metatags.....but those days are gone. Do that now while simultaneously delivering no content value and you'll be dropping like a stone.
Going forward, think of these Google initiatives as a quality filter. Deliver quality, and in principle you should see the benefits. The key is knowing your clients' needs, requirements, possible questions or doubts etc......and then delivering the answers as a tangible benefit to them within your content. So basically you're pre-empting the question and making it easier for search engines to recommend you.
If you know your business, then you know the answers! So just make sure that you're delivering them.....and not just on your site but right across Social Media as well. Because if you don't......your competitors will!
This relates to the most important aspect of what we do.....Security! Because it's estimated that there are millions of outdated and totally obsolete Content Management System websites still in circulation. And they're all playing Russian Roulette!
Besides looking very dated.....which isn't going to inspire potential customers, the majority are not even mobile compatible. Consequently they're unlikely to get any business through mobile searches as their sites will not render correctly on different devices. And when you consider that the majority of internet searches now come via mobiles, then it's obvious that their potential target audience is going to be severely restricted.
Obsolete websites can be a business killer in terms of your credibility, but there's more to it than that.....there's Security!
We covered this in some depth nearly a year ago in The Life of a Website and it holds just as true today. Nothing has changed except the obsolete sites have now become even more vulnerable. Essentially, the stakes have been raised!
If you have an outdated site (and you will have had notification of this) you are potentially at the mercy of site vandals, script kiddies, activists motivated by current political events, and more organised groups that will take advantage (in a very clinical manner) of any weaknesses. This is usually accomplished by injecting malicious scripts into sites followed by a redirect for visitors to something like the Neutrino Trojan exploit kit server. Find out more about this HERE!
Therefore your visitors will be compromised by this weakness as well......making your site a danger to everybody, not just yourself.
The main target for that particular exploit (and there are many others) is WordPress content management systems.....which we don't use. In fact we won't even allow these sites on our servers. Not that it's a bad CMS by any means, but there are just too many poorly built and outdated WordPress sites out there done by hobbyists and amateurs, and they represent a security risk to everybody.
So while the risk you face isn't as severe as those people, the risk is still there. All we can do is make you aware of it.
If you choose to continue with the insecure site, we will just migrate it onto a Legacy Server that still supports the obsolete and deprecated server side scripts that these applications need.
Obviously running outdated site and server software is not exactly the ideal scenario for you or us. So moving these sites onto another server so as not to prejudice the status of current up to date sites is what we have to do. Remember that the longer it goes on the more the risk increases to you and everybody else. So don't play Russian Roulette with your business website........because one day you may get the loaded barrel.
Over the years I've encountered a regular misunderstanding by potential clients regarding web design. It's the scenario where someone focuses solely on aesthetics at the expense of everything else.
In fact with some people, critical elements like content quality and user friendliness don't matter one bit. All that matters is their personal vision of what it should look like, with no regard whatsoever to the needs and expectations of their target audience. It's what I describe as "Flowery Syndrome".
Points to consider:
1. Websites are business assets whose sole focus must be to achieve specific business objectives. They are not your own personal scrapbook.
2. Google doesn't rank your site on how artistic and pretty it is.....it doesn't care. And quite frankly neither do your target audience.
3. In a similar way that the user and Google doesn't care if your artwork is on a par with the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, they're also not interested in whether you have the literary expertise of an Oscar Wilde. Communicate in plain language with no ludicrous catch phrases or ambiguous cliches.
4. Content must engage the readers and involve them.....it's not a platform for you to give a speech about "me, me, me".
5. Understand that your website is no more than a marketing tool to enable you to generate business. Don't trivialise it with self indulgent ideas that are not related in any way to making money. Logically, why would you want to put anything on your site whatsoever that is not a business initiative?
6. You want stunning visuals? Then introduce great pictures relating to your business which will generate a need and desire within the user to purchase your products or services! Random pieces of meaningless artwork, (or even worse, cartoon elements) littered around your site are not going to do that. You're just diminishing your credibility to prospective clients.
7. You are building the website for others.....not yourself. Just because you'd like the site to have every colour of the rainbow in it doesn't mean that everybody else would!
8. If you're looking for a web designer, make sure you get one that understands how business actually works in the real world. Because you will need their input to advise you on best practices so you don't fall into the situation I've described.
Now don't take all these points as meaning the appearance of your site doesn't matter....because it does! A lot! Your site needs to have a professional appearance, it needs to be user-friendly, and the content must relate to the user while delivering value to them.
When somebody gets to your site you definitely need the "WOW" factor to hit them. But let's back it up with some quality content that actually imparts information, along with a great user experience. That scenario is infinitely preferable to introducing the useless, distracting trivia and irrelevance associated with "Flowery Syndrome".
We're reluctant webhosts! We never wanted to provide web hosting. All we ever wanted to do was build websites.....nothing else. But back in 2003 we reached the point where it was impossible to get anything done on potential clients' hosting services because more often than not they were unreliable, slow, and in some cases unfit for purpose. So we had no choice, we had to provide hosting ourselves!
We wanted the best that we could realistically afford at the time. So for some years we struggled to break even on hosting......just to be able to build sites. Then we'd outgrow our resources, so costs increased once again! In 2007 we had to move from reseller accounts to virtual private servers (VPS), then in 2009 onto a Hybrid VPS. By 2011 we'd outgrown all flavours of VPS's.....and it was onto Dedicated Servers!
We share with no one, we don't sell hosting to outsiders, and only our clients with our sites are on there. We actually turn hosting business away every week simply because we do not want a bad neighbourhood.
We're not server administrators.....we're web designers. So we pay for the highest level of server management that the datacentre can provide, with a guaranteed 5 minute response time 24/7/365......using the same upstream provider since 2009. We're in good hands.....and so are you!
Now let's look at some of the different aspects related to hosting!
Server uptime: Our uptime percentage over the last year is 99.97%. That figure is up there with some of the best in the industry! It means that over the last 12 months the server has only been inaccessible for 2 hours 37 minutes. And approximately an hour of that was down to scheduled network maintenance performed overnight GMT.
How do we know if a server goes down? We use a remote monitoring service to ping our server (send a signal) every minute of every day. If the remote server doesn't get a response it sends me an instant text message that something may be wrong. It's no joke getting a false alarm at 4AM, but it happens. You see why we never wanted to be web hosts?
Backups: Many hosts claim to have them.....but don't always take that as read! We actually do.....using the industry leading R1Soft backup system.
Every Monday/Wednesday/Friday starting at 12AM an automated process makes a backup of every site on the server, and then stores it on another server in the same datacentre. It repeats this process throughout the month till it eventually reaches it's maximum of 10 backup points. Then the oldest backup is replaced with the newest, and the process continues.
Security: One very important point here! If you are still running on outdated software that has now been withdrawn, then none of the factors below will help you much. This is because your site may well have security vulnerabilities that cannot be patched due to age, so an intruder could potentially just walk straight in without the alarm going off. If this applies to you, then you've already been informed of the situation. Now here's some (but not all) of the security processes that are in effect:
We take the hosting side of the business very seriously.....despite the fact that we never wanted to be webhosts. But as we had no choice, we thought that just like design, we'd better do it to a standard that surpasses all others.....so we did!
Let's summarise the facts:
1. Unlike others, we are not hosting resellers on low budget shared public servers. These are our servers!
2. We turn away business regularly because we won't expose our clients to any potential risk by taking in outsiders.
3. We have a solid infrastructure that is professionally managed and running on business class networks.
4. Throughout the years we've invested back into the business to deliver a better quality hosting environment.
So don't compare what we do with others.....because not all web hosting is created equal!