Onsite SEO for Lawyers: Website Hosting
Chris Dreyer | August 06, 2016
What is it?
Website hosting is the service used to store the files that make up a website. Web hosts may also be domain name registrars that ensure an attorney’s domain name points at the files that make up their website. Hosts also may provide services like database creation and management, server maintenance, and support.
There are dozens of different web hosting companies. They vary on the types of services they provide based on the market segments they serve. For example some serve a broad base of customers and offer a variety of services while others may only serve niche markets and the services they offer reflect the needs of those markets.
Deciding what web hosting to buy is tricky for lawyers. There are a lot of options available and features offered are often nebulous and difficult to understand. Many attorneys end up buying something that looks like a good value but may to provide the reliability and performance needed to remain competitive.
- Up time: This is critical for SEO because if your site crashes a lot from poor hosting up times, Google is less likely to show those URLs or even keep them indexed. Look for a host with 99% uptime or greater. No host can say they will keep your site running 100% of the time but some get close.
- Speed: Many page speed optimization tasks can be done on your site but some are out of your hands. A web host plays a big role in how fast your site is. Google places an enormous amount of emphasis on page speed1.
- Software: Find a host that can run the latest versions of software needed to keep your site going. For example WordPress runs on PHP and if a web host does not support that, you cannot use WordPress (not to mention a lot of other stuff).
- Opt for a VPS: Most cheap hosting plans are on a shared hosting platform. That means dozens if not hundreds of different websites share the same IP address. If one of those websites is doing something shady or gets attacked or has issues, it can affect the rest of the websites on that shared hosting plan. As a best practice lawyers should go with a dedicated server or virtual private server. It is a more costly type of hosting plan but definitely more reliable and secure.
Checking Your Uptime
Lawyers can use a free service called Uptime Robot2 to monitor their website. The account is free for up to 50 websites. Set intervals for monitoring uptime to 5 minutes at a time all the way up to every 19 hours (depending on how much you want their robot visiting your site). You can even get notified if your site goes down. Set the interval low at first (at five minutes for example) and then let it sit for a week. If you don’t see a lot of down time or any at all, chances are your host is doing a pretty good job at keeping the site running.
Checking Page Speed
Google Analytics is a good solution for checking page speed via their Google Developers interface. Lawyers who have Google Analytics installed on their site can navigate to Behavior > Site Speed to see page times for all pages.
In the overview report for site speed you can see the average page load time for the site and then by browser. Clicking on the page metric will show you how each page stacks up compared with the site average. Percentages lower than the site average are typically better than having pages that load slower (as long as your site average is good).
For most attorney websites, you want to see page load times below 3-4 seconds. Anything higher than that and there should be some investigation as to why. If steps are taken to improve page speed and the host is the only thing that may be left causing slow load times, it may be a signal that you need to switch providers.
Finding a Good Host
There are numerous hosts available but not all of them do a good job. Here are some good options to investigate.
A lawyer’s web host is critical for good onsite SEO. They are the company that is actually serving the pages that you are working so hard to rank. If your host is letting you down, there are tons of other options out there.