Performance and Speed Bristol

Audit My Website are website performance and speed specialists able to provide a range of audits for websites in Bristol and across the UK. Our aim is to give you the blueprints to ensure the best health for your website, and therefore the best rankings and visiblity possible.

When should you move hosts?

There are a many reasons why you may wish to move hosting providers. Maybe the hosting service you’re currently receiving is unreliable? Perhaps you would like to move to a hosting provider that offers more features or better technical support? As with any other supplier, it’s never a bad idea to weigh up options.

In today’s blog post we will look at some of the common reasons why people move hosting providers when it is right to move.

When is it time to move?

There’s a wide range of factors to consider, but also a great deal of disruption that can be caused when moving your website. Weighing these benefits and risks is vital to making the right decision for you business. So here are our top reasons for moving host and what you should consider:

Website ‘Uptime’ Availability Reliability

Just how reliable is your website where it is now? Do you experience any ‘downtime’? (times when the website is offline or inaccessible) or is your website always available? Even the best hosting provider occasionally experiences the a temporary outage, but if this is a regular or recurring issue then action is needed! Sometimes an outage may be caused by ‘network congestion’ (i.e. busy traffic between you and the server) which may mean it appears down for some people but not all.

If your website appears down for you, it’s worth testing this to be sure. You can use any of the freely available tools below to do this:

Search engines will typically visit your site every few weeks or a month to re-index your pages. If this happens when your website is offline, search engines will either move you down the rankings temporarily until they see it come back up. Because they visit only every few weeks to a month, this means that even a few hours of outage may hurt the traffic to your site for weeks.

Website Speed

Closely related to the uptime reliability is website speed. This is important as Google now uses page load speed as a ranking factor so fast-loading websites will rank higher in Google than an identical website that runs slower.

The overall speed of your website depends on both the resources your host has, as well as how efficiently the website uses those resources. So if your website appears slow, this could be either the host or the website itself that is the cause.

Luckily, there are a great number of caching plugins available for WordPress which will reduce the amount of work your website has to do in order to server a web page, helping it use the available resources more efficiently, some of the best WordPress caching plugins are:

Support

It is rare for a hosting company to offer much support beyond simply ensuring the hosting account is working (it will be up to either yourself or your web developers to ensure your website is correctly setup and configured). For an additional price, some hosting companies may offer managed hosting with support packages that may be worth considering (this will depend greatly on how you work with your current developers and what the requirements of your website are.

Price

As with any supplier, price is a factor. We have listed this one last because if you choose a host based on price only, they will actually likely end up being more expensive for your business in the long run.

This may seem counter-intuitive but we have seen many businesses fall foul of the price trap. We discuss in much more detail why you should never choose a cheap host in more detail here. In a nutshell, some cheaper hosts will often be slow and and unreliable. Perhaps more importantly, they will often not included vital features your website needs in order to function and will sell these as ‘add ons’ – making back the savings you would have made while still offering you a below-par server that isn’t quite fit for purpose.

If you need help looking for a fast, reliable host for your WordPress website, why not get in touch with the Audit My Website team? We provide high quality managed WordPress hosting and would be happy to discuss your requirements with you.

Your Pre-Launch Website Checks

Launching a new website is both exciting and stressful! The project is complete, you have a great new site, but there can so many things for everyone to check that it can be hard to know where to start. How can you be sure nothing gets missed and everything went as planned?

With this in mind, we have produced a basic website launch checklist. Depending on your requirements, we think it may be worth building your own website launch plan comprising a list of steps and a schedule for checking each based on what you need. Without further ado, here are our top points to check when launching a new website:

Post Development Checks

Once the core functionality of site site has been tested, it’s time to take that step back and review everything in it’s entirety. Only here do the really small things start start becoming visible.

  • Check for Broken Links: Even smallest websites will often have many Urls. Checking each can be a challenge in itself, even a few broken links can hold your website back in the search rankings and also have a negative impact on your visitor’s experience. Luckily, there are some great tools such as Link Assist’s Website Auditor that will spider the site and log any crawl errors such as broken links (4xx) or pages that give errors (5xx).  There is also a good free tool called Xenu.
  • Custom Not Found and Error Pages: Even when things don’t go according to plan once the site is launched (such as visitors following dead links, or mistyping a web addresses), you still want to give visitors the best experience possible. Having custom not found / error pages not only tidy up the look and feel of your site, they also reinforce your brand and help create a very professional experience.
  • Check Urls are search engine friendly and fully indexable: do you link to all places on the website? Are all pages either linked or included in the sitemap? Are there any pages with query strings that may be less easy for search engines to index and could those links be rewritten to look like a full Url? It’s worth checking that all your content is accessible.
  • Check your site displays properly: It’s fine having a site that is indexing and handles error pages and broken links, however if you have forgotten to check all the pages across all the main browsers and mobile devices, you may be in trouble. Open all the pages, navigate through the site and ensure everything displays as it should. You should be particularly careful when testing on mobiles and tablets, the times we have seen content completely disappear upon mobiles is untrue – check, check and check again.

SEO Checklist (Site Content & Structure)

Content and structure are hard to separate; they are like two sides to the same penny. You want to ensure your sites Url structure is optimal for SEO. In turn, this will also depend on what content you have upon those pages.

  • Keyword research and competitor research: This first vital step helps you identify your website’s target keywords and priorities. Whether you use the Google Keyword Planner Tool or any other, gathering together the different keywords by group and purpose, testing the levels of search and competition for each in turn provides the foundation for all other SEO activities.
  • Structure: Being guided by the results of the previous step, you can now take a look at your website structure and see if the pages allow a visitor flow that mirrors the purpose of keywords. It is probably best to think of these as grouped keywords, each grouping being bound to a particular section of the website.
  • Content optimised: In addition to structure, it’s important to check whether the content itself is well written and optimised. Does it read properly and convey your message back to your target audience in the way you need it to? Does it contain all the important information they will be interested in? Is it logically structured? Some people may visit your site with a very specific requirement, for this reason it’s always a good idea to break up the pages based on visitors need.
  • Check for duplicate content: Duplicate content can hurt your SEO efforts and annoyingly, detecting it can be tricky. There are some great duplicate content detection services such as Copyscape which allow you to paste in some copy, and it will help identify if this same copy is found elsewhere on the web.  Another way this can be tested is by copying a whole paragraph into the Google search bar and hit enter. Hopefully, your web page will be the only one that ranks (if it has been indexed) for this full paragraph search, if not then either you or someone else has copied the content.
  • Check your internal link strategy: Once you have your overall content and structure, you can now also review your internal links which really details the relationship between your content and structure. This should be aimed at not only giving you more links between pages in your site, but should also allow you to include more keywords within these links to help quietly promote various sections of the site for particular topics.  It should also be aimed at taking visitors directly to the information they came for. If you feel that one type of visitor may also be interested in another product or page, include a link in the content!
  • Check robots.txt and sitemap.xml: Make sure these are present and correct and that they allow search engines to fully index all the pages you need. If you have a content management system (CMS) don’t feel the need to include each individual admin link in the robots.txt file as this can also volunteer sensitive information to attackers by informing them of your admin Url structure and files.

Website Optimisation Checklist

  • Page load speed: This is a growing area of importance since Google announced they would take page load speed into account as a ranking signal for websites. Since then, there has been a bit of a mad scramble to see how many different ways websites can be made faster. Luckily, there are also some great tools to help test the speed of your pages. Pingdom have a page load speed test, and Google (via Webmaster Dashboard) also include their own testing tool, both of which can be used to work out where your site is failing.
  • Are Javascript and CSS minified and bundled? Most modern websites have a lot of Javascript and CSS resources. Loading all of these, particularly if they are spread across multiple domains can take a long time. Minifying and bundling these together can significantly reduce the time a user has to wait for the page to be fully functional when loaded.
  • Image optimisation: This often overlooked aspect of website optimisation can offer seriously big savings in terms of page load times.  There are a few things we suggest you check here:
    • Is the format of my image appropriate? For instance, JPEGs are best for ‘real images’ that include a wide variety of similar colours i.e. photographs. PNGs have more generic compression but support transparency and are typically smaller in size.
    • Is the (file) size of the image appropriate? Most image formats including JPEG have built in compression that can be finely tuned and can reduce most images by about 60 to 70% without a noticeable loss in quality when used.
    • Are the dimensions of the image suitable? This is a common one we see many websites get wrong with 60% of websites we encounter rendering ridiculously large image sizes. Ideally images should be as large as needed, but no larger than they will actually be used. If you upload an image several times bigger than the slideshow it will be used in, the users will never see the full detail the image includes and your server will still need to serve the entire (large) file.  In practice, this can often be many images, leading to some serious savings in page load times if images are optimised site-wide.

Site Monitoring

Just like launching a rocket, once launched, the biggest immediate risks appear over, and now it’s a case of staying the course and ensuring nothing unexpected happens further down the line.

Site Visitor Monitoring: It is important to have some kind of visitor tracking once your new site is launched. We recommend Google Analytics, but there are some other good free tools out there as alternatives. This kind of tracking is essential for monitoring your SEO and marketing efforts, but will also give you early warnings about some kinds of problems and usability issues visitors may encounter.

Site up-time monitoring: We would suggest that all websites have some kind of uptime and availability monitoring.  Pingdom and Uptime Robot are two good services that will send alerts if your website appears to stop responding. When a site goes offline, Google and search engines will begin gradually demoting the website from the rankings until it comes back online. This is also tricky to spot, so having early warning alert systems are great ways to keep informed of serious issues.

Split testing / conversion tracking: To help monitor your SEO and marketing efforts, it’s important to have some kind of performance reporting and monitoring in place. Along with Web Analytics such as Google Analytics (mentioned earlier), it’s possible to set up ‘goal tracking’ as part of conversion optimisation. By analysing which visitors completed an action (such as completing a purchase), you can obtain vital feedback about which areas of your SEO are working particularly well, which can then be useful when reviewing your SEO strategy.

Performance reporting: In order to measure the much longer term marketing strategies for your website, it’s important to include some kind of performance reporting. This can help guide some of your decisions on where to focus your online marketing efforts and tweaks next.

Backup and Recovery

Now the site is live, with all the tracking and monitoring it could need. What could possibly go wrong? Regardless, we recommend having some kind of backup strategy in place.

Plan your backups: How often will the website be backed up? If your website includes a content management system (CMS) it will likely need both files and SQL data backing up. How do I get access to these files. Do I have an offsite copy of my website?

We hope this guide can provide a basic wbesite launch plan template which will offered a few helpful insights into common tasks that need carrying out when launching a website. Hopefully if you follow the points in this guide, you won’t go far wrong.

 

Why you should not choose cheap website hosting

It’s very easy to look at your website hosting cost as the single most important factor when going through a hosting comparison and deciding who to host your website with. After all, it’s only hosting isnt it?  

From a business perspective, your hosting solution is an ongoing cost, so why would you not minimise this as much as possible? Quite a few reasons, actually!  Today we will be detailing why you should avoid cheap hosts and what you should look for when choosing a good host for your website.

Limited Resources

Most cheap hosts are cheap because they load their servers with many websites – in some cases hundreds or even in the worst cases thousands in order to make their business model work. This will have several unintended consequences for your website:

  • Slower, less reliable service: A busy server will take longer to respond, meaning your pages and site will take longer to load. This in turn will hurt both rankings and visitor experience and as a knock on effect, it’s likely to cost sales in the long run.
  • Artificial limits: Cheaper hosts will often place an artificial ‘limit’ (usually on amount of data or data over time) and once this limit is exhausted, they will either insist you pay more for the service, or simply suspend the service so your website goes offline.  This is the opposite of what you need: if your website suddenly becomes popular, you want to be able to ride this crest and enjoy the benefits that more traffic and increased enquiries brings, not suddenly shut down your shop the moment it starts to become a success!  Similarly, many cheap hosts will have limits such as limiting the number of databases (and therefore the number of websites) you can host.
  • Hidden costs will actually make ‘cheap’ hosts more expensive in the long-run. This is achieved by charging you large amounts for services that typically don’t cost the hosting company anything significant.  These include things like: automated website backup processes, transferring your domain or website, having a second database or escalating a support ticket, additional bandwidth being just a selection. The trouble is, in each of these cases, a quick resolution is needed to help your business operations be profitable. If your website is offline due to some technical difficulties, each moment it is offline it could potentially be losing sales and lose customer confidence that you actually are still trading.

Staff skills and experience

Cheaper hosts will typically have much lower skilled staff and greater lead times to resolving any technical issues that should arise. It also means you are not given the long-term advice and support you need to head off longer term issues before they develop.  For instance, as time goes on and security vulnerabilities are found in software your website uses, ideally you want a host who can make you aware, and, where needed, ensure you are protected going forwards i.e. by offering to upgrade your content management system (such as WordPress or Umbraco) website to the latest versions. Similarly, you want a host who can perform a quick security audit on the plugins / extensions or packages your website uses to ensure that any that need it are patched as soon as possible.

Security

In addition to the lack of skills, most cheap hosts will also not have set up their servers securely, for instance, they won’t necessarily ring fence website and technology with firewalls, have any suitable DDoS (Distributed Denial Of Service) protection nor will they likely audit your plugins / extensions or packages your CMS website uses to ensure they do not include any vulnerabilities.  

In fact, most won’t want to get involved in any of this and will provide your hosting account on a “use at your own risk” basis. As you can imagine, the cost and disruption of even a single big incident will usually cost more to your business than the entire year of hosting. If your website is hacked you will need a developer to carefully review the code, clean up any data, and the cost if their time will be a lot more expensive than the support the host would offer (and will likely need to be repeated the next time the website is attacked!)

Monitoring

Typically, cheap hosts don’t offer any kind of website monitoring. The only time you will ever even know there is an issue with your website will be when any of your customers let you know, and this never reflects well on your business. Not only will website outages cost you rankings in Google (and therefore, visitors and enquiries as a result) but may also cost your business credibility which will be much more costly and longer-term to put right.

Backups

Something we recommend all hosting has in place is some kind of automatic backup and recovery process. If the worst should happen to your website, you want to be back up and running as soon as possible! The cost of every extra day your website is offline will quickly dwarf any difference in cost for hosting that year.

The cost of putting it right!

Probably the biggest reason for not choosing a cheap host is that when any of these issues arise, they will be little help to you and it will fall down to your web developer to put it right. I’m sure, like ourselves, most web developers would be very keen to offer help, accept their time will be a lot more expensive, and they will likely need to revisit this work again because they are now using ‘sticking plaster’ to fix a fundamental problem. The problem will never be truly fixed, and likely end up needing further repair at a later date, leading to bigger ongoing costs in the long run!

It’s too expensive

I recently had a client on the phone that wanted to move their website hosting over to ourselves – note it’s a business website, not a personal site. When we got down to costs, I asked the simple question ‘How much are you paying now’.

The following is a snapshot of the rest of the conversation.

Client: We are currently paying £70, that is for a year.

Me: Ahh ok, and how has the service level been with your current host?

Client: Well we’ve had email go down on us three times in the last six months and the site is slow compared to others.

Me: Well our hosting is £45 per month for a WordPress site, it’s more expensive as we have very good reliability and support structures in place.

Client: My current site is being hosted by a friend of the old design company. Hes doing it as a favour. I can’t afford £45 per month.

Me: Let me ask you a quick question, how much do you charge an hour for your services?

Client: £40-55 per hour depending upon the service

Me: Do you realise, that just one paying client for an hours service pays for your website hosting for the entire month?

Client: Oh yes, you are right!

Summary

In summary, can you really not afford to have a decent hosting provision in place? The example above is typical of what we experience on a daily basis from clients. Yes I can put you in touch with £5 per year hosting, however I would expect that to go down regularly, be slow, not have any support etc

Personally if it’s a business site, i’d rather pay more and get a high quality service, know my data is backed up, know my site is protected by firewalls and more.

 

Buy safe, buy once!

Website Scalability

Website Scalability

Having the right digital infrastructure to grow is more important than you may think. Many tools you use day to day can be discarded and replaced by something more appropriate as and when needed. You need to have peace of mind that your website will not encounter website scalability issues. What do we mean by this? One possible website scalability definition could be your websites capability to grow and scale as your business develops. The challenges this can highight can come in many forms:

  • are getting the best performance from your website

  • can rest assured that your website is secure and will be reliable day-to-day

  • can confidently develop your website further, knowing it is scalable enough to grow with your business.

So what do you get with our website audit package?

SEO technical audit

You receive the full, top-level SEO audit which analyses your sites pages and structure to ensure you are properly utilising the full potential. Our report covers areas such as page titles and meta tags, headings and other key content is correctly in place and setup. We will check to ensure the search engines find you easily and only search the relevant content.

We check any errors search engines encountered when crawling and indexing your site to make it a search engine friendly as possible.

Many SEO issues prove hard to spot: broken links can often arise due to pages moving or domains (of websites you link to) being discontinued but won’t be immediately obvious without the right tools. If not properly managed, these factors can have increasingly negative impacts on your rankings in search engines like Google. Similarly, you may have some very content rich pages that you are only getting two thirds of your deserved visibility from in search engines.

Code Review

Code reviews are the only way some issues can be spotted at all. Similar to taking your car for an annual service, it can head off and resolve issues before they become critical for your business. We will review the code at a high level, making sure it is suitable for your business needs, paying particular attention to ensuring it is both scalable and future-proof. If you find some pages slow to load, or doing some actions on your site take a long time a code review is a must. This can also highlight any security vulnerabilities and potentially dangerous code.

Structural Survey

Ensuring your site has an optimal page structure and appropriate navigation not only helps visitors find what they need (which will improve conversion rates), it will also helps search engines index your site which, in turn, will give you better SEO performance.

Content marketing is a discipline in it’s own right and one that is integral to your online marketing strategy. Ensuring that call-to-actions (CTAs) are well placed and clearly visible will ensure your pages are as high converting as possible.

Having an appropriate foundational structure is also vital to support your website’s growing needs as it develops with your business. Helps protect your investment in your website and give it the best outlook possible.

Content Analysis

One of the most vital aspect of your website’s health is the content. Content that is well-written and highly optimised is essential for good rankings, but this is only the first step. Your website’s copy should be engaging to the right kind of visitor you are looking to attract. Content marketing is a discipline in it’s own right and one that is integral to your online marketing strategy and efforts. Ensuring that call-to-actions (CTAs) are well placed and clearly visible will ensure your pages are as high converting as possible.

Performance Benchmarking

The last, but probably the most important in terms of SEO and marketing performance is your website’s performance. How quickly a page loads will now affect rankings and sales. In 2010 Google announced they would use page load speed as a ranking factor; if your pages load slowly, you won’t get the rankings you deserve, even if you have your website SEO optimised. Perhaps more importantly, studies carried out by Akamai and Gomez found that nearly a half of web users expect the site to load in 2 seconds or less. Does your website load this quickly? The same study showed that 78% of web shoppers who have trouble with site performance say they won’t return to buy from the site again.

If you have any concerns about any of the issues we’ve detailed here, and interested in us carrying out a website audit? Why not get in touch – our prices start from only £999 + VAT, a small investment with potentially a massive return for you.

You receive the full, top-level SEO audit which analyses your sites pages and structure to ensure you are properly utilising the full potential. Our report covers areas such as page titles and meta tags, headings and other key content is correctly in place and setup. We will check to ensure the search engines find you easily and only search the relevant content.

We check any errors search engines encountered when crawling and indexing your site to make it a search engine friendly as possible.

Many SEO issues prove hard to spot: broken links can often arise due to pages moving or domains (of websites you link to) being discontinued but won’t be immediately obvious without the right tools. If not properly managed, these factors can have increasingly negative impacts on your rankings in search engines like Google. Similarly, you may have some very content rich pages that you are only getting two thirds of your deserved visibility from in search engines.

Security Audit

Security is more important than ever; you’ve probably already seen several I.T. related security scare stories in the media this year alone.  if you run a content managed website like WordPress , Umbraco, when was the last time you updated and checked all your plugins? Is your website CMS up to date with all the appropriate security patches and fixes? If even one patch is not applied, your website may have a gaping hole in security, making potentially any information it holds vulnerable to attack.

If you have a customer login area, have you checked all your users passwords and details are secure? Storing passwords in plaintext is a source of many problems for some websites and has lead to some large fines where users personal data has been put at unnecessary risk. This is the type of security weakness that will only get found out when inspecting and reviewing code or when an attack happens. Which would you feel safer with?

With a website audit you can start reaping the website scalability advantages today. If you require a more in-depth security review, we can arrange a full penetration test against your website, this is a lot more involved and very specialised but another service we can offer.