More important than cost and far more important than features, the relationship you have with your web hosting provider is key to your success.
Website Magazine asked iPage.com's Justin Reynolds, the hosting provider's Brand Marketing Manager, several questions about how buyers should evaluate hosting vendors, the marketing and development trends that are shaping the hosting industry, and where iPage is investing for their future success.
WM: How should a buyer of web hosting services evaluate prospective hosting vendors?
JR: The first step to finding the right hosting provider is determining the ultimate purpose of your website and what it will need in order to be successful. Are you looking to create an ecommerce site and sell online? Or will your site be informational, educational, or revolve around offline sales? Furthermore, you’ll need to assess the time commitment you’re able to dedicate towards building/designing the site, maintaining activity, generating traffic, optimizing your search status, etc. Do you plan on using a site builder or open source application or will you be seeking professional assistance with these tasks? Once these questions are answered and your needs are determined, you can evaluate which hosting provider and associated plan best suits you.
iPage, for example, is a provider of online solutions ideal for small to medium-sized businesses, offering a range of feature-rich hosting plans at very competitive rates. Some unique services include:
• Security and scanning tools such as SiteLock for exceptional site protection
• Control panel integration for easy access to Google Webmaster tools
• Easy-to-use Drag and Drop Site Builder
• Open source applications such as Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal
• Ecommerce tools, including shopping carts and PayPal
While the price of the hosting plan does matter, we don’t recommend using cost as the sole metric to gauge the value of the web host you choose. For example, it is the support and customer service team at iPage that makes it a leader in the industry. A strong support team provides fast response times and engaged service representatives, making the hosting process as easy as possible.
Plus, iPage offers additional services allowing you to be involved in as little or as much of the site launching process as you please. Whether you’re lacking in skill and experience or simply don’t have the time, an iPage expert can execute all aspects of the process, including:
• Site building and securing
• Traffic growth
• Ecommerce setup
• SEM campaign management and more
On the other hand, if you’re a tech-savvy webmaster, iPage provides a clean canvas and hosting environment capable of growing with you over time and serving as a dependable IT partner.
In addition, we highly recommend choosing your web host based on reliability and reputation. Take a few moments to call or chat with a member the support team to determine the strength of their customer experience and research the background of a host before committing. For example, iPage has been an established provider of online solutions since 1998, offering 24X7 support and a highly-trained phone team based out of Arizona.
Finally, take a peek and see how the hosting provider is engaging in social media. Are they participating in active dialogue with customers and answering questions via public forums on Facebook and Twitter? This type of activity is a good indicator of their commitment to customer needs and providing value in areas other than what is visible on their site. It also serves as an example of the service you’ll likely receive when calling into their support team or chatting online.
WM: What Internet marketing and Web development trends encountered by website owners and digital workers are shaping the web hosting industry? For example, how has social media or the introduction of new programming languages influenced your hosting company?
JR: The last couple of years have been interesting, that’s for sure! The rise of social media has actually altered the definition of online success. All in all, success is no longer based on the performance of an individual’s website, but on their use of the internet as a whole. Businesses need to maintain a high level of “useful relevance” to customers—and need to stay on top of emerging trends to do that.
In the old days, also known as a year ago, more site impressions lead to increased revenue. Now, online businesses need to be on Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp— they need to be creative, consistent and transparent about their businesses with customers when engaging public forums.
We’ve also been intentional about utilizing and engaging in social media platforms as a means of communicating with customers. It’s helped our customers, but it’s also helped us to quickly identify needs and trends and discover growing segments in the market.
As a web hosting provider, we really want to help customers utilize the amazing array of Open Source apps that are constantly becoming available. To do that, we offer Simple Script which maintains the latest versions of leading open source applications, installs them for customers, sets up the associated databases, provisions software and security updates quickly. It essentially puts cutting-edge software into the hands of the novice user.
Of course, all of the new technologies and customer touch points have resulted in potential security issues, and we’ve had to adjust our infrastructure and customer services to ensure the best protections possible.
WM: Where is your company investing today for future success?
JR: Web hosting is wildly competitive, as you know. And, we have a lot of respect for the creativity and expertise of our competitors. We need to for improve constantly to meet customer (and prospective customer) expectations—which is tough in this ever changing and growing industry. We consistently invest in our infrastructure, product and people to stay ahead.
One of our best moves has been to create an Innovation Team focused on the research and development of emerging social mediums and other online solutions, as well as the crucial issue of online security.
We also created a “Center of Excellence,” investing in the interaction that our customers have with our support team on a daily basis, identifying developing trends and responding technologically by creating necessary tools and applications. We want each interaction and dialogue with a customer to be as educational, pleasant and efficient as possible. Therefore, we consistently dedicate time, energy and resources into the training of that team; assess the technology that the team uses; and all other means necessary to be sure we can assist with any and all questions that our customers may bring to the table.