So you want to start a website for the first time. You have a cool, new blog idea or a new business you are starting. What do you look for in a web hosting service? Where do you turn and what features do you need? The options can be overwhelming at first. Here are some simple things to consider when choosing a hosting service.
1. What type of site do you want to host?
Each site has different needs. First, decide what type of website you are creating and what you want it to do for you. Is it a personal blog? eCommerce site? review site? informational site? Once you’ve figured out what type of website you are creating, think about this for each site:
- Blog – For example, if you decide to host a WordPress blog, then make sure the host you choose supports PHP and can run it efficiently. PHP is a server side scripting language. When a visitor goes to your site, the PHP code will run on the server dynamically creating your blog page and then delivering it to your visitor’s browser. If you use a shared hosting service, like many basic hosting plans offer, then it can take longer for your site to load. The visitor will basically be waiting seconds for a response from your server with nothing showing in their browser window. Site speed also affects your search engine ranking and if your site is slow, most visitors will not return. Dedicated server plans are more expensive though so try the basic plans to start, but consider a dedicated server as your blog grows in popularity. Go Daddy, HostGator, and InMotion all offer dedicated server plans.
- eCommerce – Look at each host’s marketing tools. Many web hosting services offer free marketing tools to start. They also have features to easily integrate shopping carts or email marketing lists with your site.
- Review – If you plan on reviewing many types of products or services, make sure the web host you choose has the appropriate amount of bandwidth and storage space to accommodate your web site.
- Informational – If you are providing your visitors with some great, unique content, they need to know you have the information they seek. Make sure your web host gives you access to the tools to get your site noticed. This can be assistance with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services like Google Webmaster Tools or SEM (Search Engine Marketing) services like Google Adwords. Many web hosting services will offer these features at a discount or give you some amount of free credits.
Not to overlook it, but cost is obviously also a factor. Many hosting services offer discounts if you signup for longer hosting terms. They also run specials all the time giving you a discount on the first year of hosting. I recommend that once you pick a host, you should signup for at least a 1 year term.
2. How much storage space and bandwidth do you need?
Based on the type of website you are creating, think about the size of the site and how many visitors you expect to get each month. This will help you decide which web hosting service is the best for you. Many web hosts like iPage, FatCow, and Just Host offer unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth at very reasonable prices, while other providers like Go Daddy and InMotion offer scalable services. Start with less bandwidth and pay for only what you need.
The domain you choose is often the most important part of your site. It helps visitors find your site, it helps you rank better in search engines, and is a major part of your brand marketing. Most web hosting providers offer a free domain with your hosting account, but some offer more. They also should be able to support multiple domains and subdomains with your account. You don’t want your site to be limited by your choice of domains. Hosting services like iPage, Just Host, and FatCow offer unlimited domains.
4. Database Support
For most web sites database support is a must. If you plan on storing information or making your site interactive like a blog site with comments, or a review site with customer reviews then you need good database support. Many web hosts offer MySQL support, but if you want something more specialized like Oracle, SQL Server, or Access database support, make sure the web hosting provider you choose supports them. Go Daddy offers these extra database services. *Icon provided by Barrymieny
5. Framework and Site Builder Support
Many web hosting providers offer a ton of easy-to-install frameworks. These can be in the form of plugins that enable WordPress blog support, Joomla or Drupal content management systems, or user forum support. Choose a hosting provider that supports the framework features you need based on the content of your site. Most hosting services also offer easy-to-use site builders. If you aren’t a techy and don’t know how to code Internet programming languages, then these site builders are for you. Most have a cut and paste, or drag and drop interface making it easy for a website novice to create a good looking site. iPage offers a nice drag and drop site builder.
6. Email Features
Especially if you are starting a business website, email features are important. Having an email that matches your website domain looks more professional and gives your website more credibility. Imagine receiving a customer support email from 10BestOnline.com with the return email of [email protected] It just doesn’t feel professional or legitimate. Check out the email features offered by the web hosting services as many offer unlimited emails, webmail access, spam and virus protection, and email forwarding.
7. Marketing Tools and Social Media Integration
So now you have a great website, an awesome idea, but as a good friend once told me, “It doesn’t matter if no one knows about it.” Being seen is everything. Make sure to compare the marketing tools offered as they can vary between web hosts. Many offer free credits to services like Google Adwords, Bing Ads, or Facebook ads. These will get you started, however, the key to success is also increasing your organic search results. Your hosting provider should offer discounts on SEO and SEM services. These can greatly increase your visibility on the Internet and attract visitors to your site. Social media is also a great way to get the word out. Make sure to integrate social media with your website. Many web hosting providers offer easy tools to help integrate services like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Reddit with your website.
You don’t want someone hacking into your site and bringing it down, right? Security is essential, especially if you are performing transactions on your site like with an eCommerce site. Your web hosting service should offer SSL Certificates and dedicated IP addresses to provide security for your visitors. Some providers, like iPage, offer free subscriptions to security services such as SiteLock, which scan your site every day for malware, spam, and application functionality.
9. Tech Support
Although this is last on our list, it should not be last on your mind. Inevitably you will have some question relating to your website, maybe about a domain transfer, or site speed, or a feature. Not all web hosting tech support is created equal and you don’t want to be left in the dark when your site is down or not working. iPage is actually one of the hosting providers that excels in this category. They respond very quickly to questions, often within the hour and resolve problems quickly. FatCow and Go Daddy also have great tech support.
Now Time To Compare Web Hosting Services
As I mentioned, web hosting services can vary so you need to understand the type of website you are creating, then compare the features listed above to find the best web hosting service for you. Check out our comparisons page and read our reviews to help you determine the web hosting service that best meets your needs.