For webmasters whose work on the Internet is their bread and butter, choosing the right web hosting provider is one of the most important professional decisions they ever make. There are many deciding factors a webmaster should consider when evaluating web hosting providers. Cost, reliability and customer service are all significant, but speed is perhaps the most crucial factor.
Novice webmasters often fall into the low-cost traps laid out by web hosting providers without taking speed into account. Even experienced webmasters evaluate economical alternatives to host their sites now and then, but they go about it in a very logical way. No smart webmaster will dare leave his or her site in the hands of a sluggish web host.
Why Speed Matters
From a point of view that is purely related to the science of economics, the Internet is the world’s largest bazaar. This analogy to the ancient and highly competitive Middle Eastern marketplace couldn’t be more accurate. The World Wide Web is no longer a simple electronic platform for the exchange of information and communications. The web is now the ultimate expression of free enterprise, and as such it has become a paragon of competition.
Speed is a clever way for webmasters to stand out in a vast ocean of competing websites.
The Sheer Amount of Competitors
According to statistics compiled by Internet giants Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Ask.com, the estimated number of indexed web pages stands at about 9.2 billion. That’s almost twice the number of people in our planet. This should be a sobering shape for webmasters, as it gives them a pretty clear idea of the competition they face from billions of other sites around the world; each clamoring for the full attention of as many Internet users as possible.
The User Experience
To ensure that first-time visitors to a site do not navigate away from the page, and to ensure their eventual return and continuous patronage, webmasters apply reliable elements of optimal user experience to their web properties. Speed is one of these elements.
Users have come to appreciate fast-loading websites over laggards. In the lightning-fast realm of information technology, a 1 second delay is detrimental. Users have gotten pretty savvy about what to expect from their connection speeds, and thus now they know when their Internet-connected device is to blame for a slow browsing experience versus when a page is unresponsive due to a slow hosting provider.
Search Engine Optimization
It’s official: Google measures and takes into consideration page loading speeds when ranking search results. According to an announcement made on the Google Webmaster Central blog:
“faster sites create happy users.”
In other words, speed works wonders in terms of improving both the user experience and a site’s algorithmic ranking on the canonical Google search engine.
Testing the speed of a potential new host is something every webmaster should do before cashing in those GoDaddy coupon codes. There are a number of sites which allow webmasters to ping a host and see the results displayed from an active server page. A more realistic test would be to ping the host from different residential Internet connections where users are more likely to browse from.
There are other factors to take into consideration, such as the physical location of the host’s servers and where most users are expected to visit from. One of the best testing methods can be found right from within Google Webmaster Tools.
Is Speed Really That Important?
Some webmasters go by the “speed is just a number” mantra when choosing a host, meaning that they don’t see the value in shaving off half a second from page load times.
What do you think?