Our new performance web hosting service

SiteGround - our new web hosts

Web hosting – to put it simply, providing computer space so that websites can be accessed on the web 24 hours a day – is a fundamental part of every website that can’t be ignored.

For us at Moghill it’s crucial to our business, and right from the start we chose our  hosting company carefully, based on reliability, customer service and value. When it comes to web hosting, you get what you pay for!

Five years ago we chose Heart Internet’s Shared Hosting platform, but for a while we’ve been looking for a better service – now we’ve found it in SiteGround.

What does this mean?

We can now offer a high performance hosting solution that has already produced fantastic results, in particular in terms of how quickly websites load.

SiteGround logoFaster loading websites mean:

  • Improved performance in search
  • Improved website usability
  • More customers for you!

Website load speed is becoming hugely important to the success of websites. If you want to know more we’ve put together an article on website speed here.

In short, a slow website is bad news and while our sites hosted on Heart are not slow, they are not brilliant, either.

And sadly, we have also noticed some deterioration in performance for some of our sites hosted with Heart in recent months, and we now recommend switching to SiteGround for all our online shops powered by WooCommerce.

Why we chose SiteGround

We have been looking at other hosting companies for about a year and the choice is immense. SiteGround stood out because of:

  • The huge speed improvements already covered, and capability for even more speed improvements
  • Specialist hosting of WordPress, the website software we use
  • Enhanced security features
  • Far better stability and uptime, with sites able to handle high traffic levels – at least 10 times the traffic levels of ordinary shared hosting
  • Fantastic customer support
  • Growing reputation, a sustainable business and great results in independent reviews
[caption id="attachment_1919" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Website speed tests showing the same website on Heart hosting (above) and after moving to SiteGround. Load speed drops from an acceptable 2.13 seconds to 413 miliseconds - four times faster! Website speed tests showing the same website on Heart hosting (above) and after moving to SiteGround. Load speed drops from an acceptable 2.13 seconds to 423 miliseconds – four times faster![/caption]

SiteGround also actively support the WordPress project, and we were able to visit their offices while at the European WordPress conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, in September.

Having met several of their team they impressed us as knowledgeable and friendly, while totally committed to customer service. For the last three months we’ve trialled their service and the support – usually via live chat – is instant, often fixing issues right there and then.

Since October we have moved more than 30 sites into SiteGround hosting, with barely a hitch, and with each site we’ve moved we’ve seen radically improved load times.

How to upgrade your site to high performance hosting

We have already migrated many client websites into SiteGround and all we’re building all new sites on the service.

We’re now ready to open up our SiteGround hosting package to existing clients and if you have e-commerce or any other advanced features we strongly recommend you upgrade.

Over the coming months we’ll be inviting clients to upgrade on an individual basis, but if you’re interested please fill in a support ticket, selecting ‘Request web hosting upgrade’ and we’ll get back to you.

Other hosting options

The upgrade to SiteGround is part of our philosophy of constantly improving what we can offer, and we are planning to introduce other advanced hosting options in 2015.

A note about domains and emails

Right now we’re only planning to use SiteGround to host websites, while keeping domain and email management of most existing sites with Heart Internet, along with those websites that choose not to upgrade. New sites are being set up on SiteGround.

Why loading speed is so important for your website

The time your website takes to load (load speed) is vitally important to the success of your website – and it’s only going to become more important.

Why? Well a faster loading site affects every important factor, from usability – and therefore sales – to how your site is ranked in search results. In short, it affects your bottom line as a business.

You may have the best website in the world, but few people will wait more than a few seconds for it to appear

The latest research shows that people are becoming more and more impatient as far as slow loading sites are concerned, and therefore more and more likely to give up on a website they have to wait for.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="640"]fast photo While searching for a suitable picture to illustrate speed we found this one of Guy Martin. It’ll do.[/caption]

A fast loading website means that visitors – your customers – are likely to spend more time on your site and look at more pages. Their overall experience is better when everything runs quickly – in effect the interface doesn’t get in the way of what they want to do.

Also, speed is becoming more and more important in how a site appears in Google searches.

One of the factors Google measures is usability, and Google sees load speed as an increasingly important factor and there have been plenty of cases where a slow loading site has jumped up search results purely from a decrease in load speed.

What is an acceptable load time?

Estimates vary, but the consensus is your website should completely load within 2.5 seconds of a visitor arriving on a page.

But in practice, and especially for a business website, load times of 1 second or less are far more desirable.

There are several reasons why load speed is having such an effect on the performance of business websites. They are:

  • General impatience on the part of website users
  • Faster broadband speeds mean a slow loading website is more obvious than ever, which (guess what?) makes people even more impatient
  • Increased use of mobile devices to view the web, often over a slower 3G connection

So, although internet connection speeds are getting both faster AND slower, a slow loading website is a disadvantage.

What makes websites load slowly?

There can be many reasons for this, but the usual culprits are:

  • A poor or average quality hosting environment – cheap hosts are usually the worst (but not always)
  • A poorly constructed website that isn’t optimised for faster loading
  • Overly complex websites with lots of clutter, excess graphics and unnecessary complexity

 How do we cover this at Moghill?

We’ve always adopted the principle of simplicity in building websites, and have optimised as much as possible.

But it’s become clear to us that the website hosting service we have been using is a limiting factor, and for a long time we’ve been looking for a replacement. Our shared hosting account with Heart Internet, who we’ve been with for five years,  offers well above average performance but it’s been clear for a while we needed something better to meet the modern challenges.

It also goes with our general philosophy of continuously improving everything we do.

This is why we have opened an account with one of the top five hosting providers worldwide, SiteGround. We have a separate blog post that explains our reasoning behind this, but the long and the short of it is that the websites we look after are loading far faster than they did on Heart’s hosting platform.

Some of our sites are loading five times faster than before

Most of our sites have easily hit the 2.5 second target until now, but after moving onto SiteGround the same sites are loading up to five times as fast

Even sites we built especially for speed are loading in less than half the time they did when they were hosted on Heart Internet.

On Heart we had to work really hard to get a site to load in less than a second. On SiteGround we launched a new website last week with a homepage load time of just over 300 milliseconds.

This is just the start and if you need your site to load even faster there are more things we can do.

Needless to say, we are building all new sites on the SiteGround platform, and moving all our premium clients onto it too. This website will follow too shortly.

If we move your site we’ll tell you when you’re doing it.

If you would like this new service and haven’t heard from us, just open a support ticket and we’ll get back to you.

Photo by Nathan E Photography

Banish contact form spam… with a honeypot

In recent months we’ve noticed a big increase of spam submissions via contact forms on our websites – basically people trying to sell you things you don’t need through your website.

[box]Since we wrote this post in 2014, things have moved on a little and our preferred method of stopping contact form spam is to ask people to do a simple sum before the form will submit.[/box]

Often these are from people promising to get your site up to the top of Google and by doing this making you lots of money, but often they advertise fake goods.

Here’s a typical example:

[typography font="Droid Serif" size="14" size_format="px"]Dear Website Owner,Greetings of the day!Are you getting the best out of your website? If no, then we can help you by enabling your business gain a better presence on Google, transforming your website into powerful advertisement tool. We provide competitive SEO, a proven model, designed to make your website outshine its competitors and be the first to reach out to real prospect. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah…. (this is not what it actually says but it seems that way!)[/typography]

 

Sometimes these go into overdrive and we’ve had clients contact us for help after receiving up to 100 of these submissions in a single day!

Why contact form spam?

Contact form spam follows the same principle as e-mail spam. Spammers know that most people will ignore and delete their messages, but a tiny fraction will act on it so they send out thousands upon thousands of emails (or contact form submissions) a time – by automating the process.

They set up programmes called bots that crawl through websites looking form contact forms and when they find one, they fill it in. As an aside, we came across a UK based company which sells this service. If you have a look at their website you can see exactly why this happens – as with all spam there’s money in it!

Or at least people think

[caption id="attachment_1768" align="alignright" width="236"]Typical contact form Captcha field Typical contact form Captcha field[/caption]

How to stop contact form spam

Up until recently, the main way to stop it has been through adding a Captcha field to the bottom of the form (see picture).

This works because bots can’t read Captcha (this is because bots are stupid) and most of the time are unable to read the characters and fill in the form.

If they get it wrong, or more likely, fail to see the Captcha field at all, then the contact form won’t submit.

But there’s a problem with Captcha

And the problem is that Captcha doesn’t just put off the bots – it can put off genuine enquiries also. Many people complain the Captcha message is hard to read – and it has to be to stop the bots – so they can discourage as many real enquiries as spam submissions.

Obviously, since we go on at great length about how websites should be as easy as possible to use – and make it as easy as possible for potential customers to contact the website owner – Captcha just makes it harder and more frustrating.

This is something we have struggled with for a while, although we have been adding Captcha to clients’ forms on request until recently.

[caption id="attachment_1770" align="alignright" width="150"]Contact Form 7 Honeypot Contact Form 7 Honeypot[/caption]

So here’s the solution

What we needed was something that would stop contact form spam in its tracks, while being undetectable to ordinary website visitors. And now we have it.

For the past six weeks we’ve been testing Contact Form7 Honeypot, an ingenious free WordPress plugin that uses a clever technique to deal with the problem.

Put simply, it relies on the principle that bots are stupid, and blindly find forms on websites blindly filling them in. So this plugin adds an extra field that is hidden from human website users. Therefore if anything fills in that form field, it’s a bot and its submission is rejected. And it works.

What this means for you

If you previously had a Captcha field on any of your contact forms, you’ll notice that it’s gone because we’ve replaced it with the honeypot. We’ve also added to it any site that’s reported a problem with contact form spam and, of course, we’ve added it to every site we’ve built since mid July.

We’re happy to add it to your site free for no charge.

So if you are having a problem with spam contact form submissions then put in a support ticket and we’ll install Contact Form Honeypot on your site for you.