We just passed February 24th, which probably doesn’t mean anything to you, but it’s my blogging anniversary. Looking back on the past year, I’ve learned a heck of a lot about blogging, web hosting, and marketing. Thankfully, I had many blogs that I used to assist in my learning, but one thing I never read about was the drawbacks of cheap hosting. Everyone just proclaims that you don’t need to spend much on a host, but they never say these crucial words: at first. For 99% of blogs out there, a cheap host is all they need, but when any blog receives a sizable amount of traffic; there comes a point when you’ll need to hit the Upgrade button.
When I began, I, like many new bloggers, bought hosting based on price, and I think I paid $2.95 per month for hosting and a domain. I ran two websites off it killadj.com and tipsywriter.com. The hosting service worked without trouble for the first few months. In the first three months, killadj.com received roughly 3,000 hits, and I thought I was sitting pretty with a cheap monthly fee. However, I began to encounter a happy problem. My traffic from search engines started to pick up, and then social media came into play. I remember the night when someone first posted an article on Reddit. I remember it because my website went down. According to Jetpack & Google Analytics, I had received 2,000 hits within an hour. I didn’t upgrade, and then a few weeks later another crash happened from a second Reddit post.
It’s terrible from a blog owner’s perspective because on one hand you have all these great new visitors going to your site, but the bad news is most will see a vanilla white page with no words. I guarantee no one will come back. After the second post, I received a nastigram from my hosting provider, and I knew it was time to spend a little bit more.
When you look at website hosting services, they’ll always tell you it’s super “unlimited,” but that’s an unbelievable farce. From a technical standpoint, a computer & an internet connection will always be limited. What they mean by unlimited is they will allow a certain bandwidth per second, and anything beyond that they’ll throttle the connection speed. For example using easy numbers, if they’ve permitted a 100 kb/s (kilobytes per second) and there is only one person browsing, they’ll likely never reach anywhere close to that because they would have to exceed 100 kb/s. Now, if you’re like me and have 3 websites (and 2 on the way) and we have 50 users at any given time browsing content, I average out at around 600 kb/s. What the host will do is slow everyone down, and so if you’re 50 people sharing 100 kb/s that’ll mean you’re browsing 2 kb/s. Since the header file is 100 kbs, you’ll spend about a minute downloading the header. This will do more bad than just making people not come back (or ever at all because the website never loads); it will make search engines hate you. Essentially, equilibrium will take it’s course and lower your traffic to an acceptable amount for the hosting package you have.
I decided to do two cost effective things. First, I chose to stay with Shared Hosting, but I upgraded to the Pro Plan, which added $16 per month. It’s similar to the cheap hosting package, but there are far less websites on the server, which obviously means you have more bandwidth and throttling may still happen but it’s lower. Pro hosting has some other perks included in the package. It has a free SSL Cert ($250 per year), which helps if you’re doing any sort of private data transfers like E-Commerce.
The second thing I did was sign-up for CloudFlare’s free plan. CloudFlare is a freemium service, and for most blogs the free plan is as more than suitable. I have Bluehost, which resells CloudFlare; I like that because the setup was a couple clicks, and I did my favorite thing, which is to stay out of the DNS. If your hosting provider doesn’t resell CloudFlare, then it’s fairly simple to install following the directions.
The way CloudFlare helps keep bandwidth down is because the service serves all the media. Thus, all your actual hosting company is doing is handling the text. CloudFlare advertises they handle about 65% of the content of your website. Thus, your website server won’t be nearly inundated by the size of the requests. Having the media on CloudFlare is also nice because they have a huge network that’s comparable to big networks. They’re around the world, and so what that does is whenever someone requests media from CloudFlare it access a CloudFlare server near them. For example, Bluehost’s servers are in Utah, and I live in Georgia. My site was originally slower because the website had to travel the country to get to me. Now, the media comes from the east coast, and the text is the only thing that has to travel. I was at about 6-8 second load time for my site before switching hosting plans and adding CloudFlare, but now my site is around ~ 2-3 second load times.
In the end, I have a happy host, a happy reader, and a happy blogger. It’s scalable, and it’s relatively cheap. By doing this, my search traffic has dramatically increased, and my time on-site is night and day.
I hope this helps you in your hosting decisions, and if you have any questions please feel free to leave it in the comments or reach out to me on Twitter @kvyn_