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      The Complete Website Maintenance Checklist (20 Things You NEED to Do This Year)


      Affiliate Disclosure: DreamHost maintains relationships with some of our recommended partners, so if you click through a link and purchase, we may receive a commission. We only recommend solutions we believe in.

      Your site may be running smoothly now. However, there’s no guarantee that it will perform at this optimal level forever.

      Similar to a vehicle, your website requires ongoing work to keep it in tip-top condition. That’s why we’ve created this complete website maintenance checklist for your WordPress site.

      In this post, we’ll discuss why maintenance is the key to a high-performing, secure, and profitable online presence. We’ll then share a whopping 20 maintenance tasks that you need to do this year. We’ve organized the tasks based on how often you need to complete them to keep your site spick and span:

      Let’s get started!

      Why Site Maintenance Matters

      If you neglect important maintenance tasks, then the consequences can be disastrous. During the first six months of 2021, the Wordfence Web Application Firewall blocked over 4 billion malicious requests. With people actively trying to break into WordPress websites, even a small lapse in security could put your site at serious risk.

      WordPress maintenance isn’t just about spotting the big issues, though.

      Over time, small problems can gradually diminish your site’s performance and search engine rankings. By pinpointing and addressing these minor errors early, you can reduce the negative impact they can have on your site.

      Maintenance also involves evaluating various aspects of your site. This puts you in a strong position to identify opportunities to optimize your content and drive more conversions. In this way, you can keep your site ahead of the pack.

      Get Your Site Up to Date

      Technology is constantly moving forward and keeping up can be a chore. We’ll upgrade your outdated, insecure software to get you back on track.

      Weekly Tasks

      Let’s start with regular maintenance tasks. Here are five things we recommend you perform every single week.

      1. Review Your Metrics

      Most successful websites record a range of data. This includes tracking how visitors behave, your best traffic sources, and the content that drives the most conversions.

      By regularly analyzing your metrics, you can pinpoint problems that need to be addressed. Here, speed is everything. To remain competitive, it helps to review this data weekly.

      The Google Analytics dashboard.

      When viewed in isolation, you may struggle to properly evaluate your performance. If this is the case, you might also want to review your competitor’s metrics.

      2. Back Up Your Site

      Creating regular backups is one of the most important items on your to-do list. If you fall behind, then you risk losing all of your recent work — or even your entire website.

      While you can create backups manually, some hosting providers can perform this vital maintenance task for you. For example, at DreamHost, we offer automated daily backups.

      If you need to back up on-demand, you can also create a copy of your site with a single click. We store all of your backups in a central location and offer easy one-click restore for added convenience.

      3. Moderate Comments

      A lively comment section encourages visitors to interact with your site. However, comment sections can have a dark side. Attackers may try to trick you into publishing malicious content in the form of comment spam.

      Some comments may also contain irrelevant or offensive content. This can reflect poorly on your website. For this reason, you may want to use a comment moderation plugin such as Akismet Anti-Spam.

      The Akismet Anti-Spam plugin.

      You can also hold all submissions in an approval queue, using WordPress’ default settings. Visitors will expect their comments to appear on your site within a reasonable timeframe. If you withhold comments for review, it’s smart to check this queue at least once per week.

      4. Update Your Themes and Plugins

      According to research, 86% of hacked WordPress websites contain an outdated plugin or theme or even an outdated version of WordPress. This makes sense, as updates often contain fixes for known vulnerabilities or new security features.

      To keep the bad guys out, it’s smart to regularly check the WordPress dashboard for any available updates.

      The WordPress updates dashboard.

      While we’re including this task in our maintenance checklist, you may want to consider enabling auto-updates for your themes and plugins for added security. Assuming that you’re running WordPress 5.6 or higher, you can also enable auto-updates for WordPress core in the Dashboard > Updates menu.

      5. Scan for Malware

      WordPress has a good reputation as a secure platform, but no software is perfect. To keep your site in tip-top shape, it’s important to check for malware. Our DreamShield add-on can automatically scan your site for malicious code on a weekly basis.

      Activating the DreamShield add-on.

      If DreamShield detects an issue, it’ll notify you via the DreamHost panel and via email. This email will contain step-by-step instructions that show you how to resolve this problem and restore your site to optimal health.

      Protect Your Website with DreamShield

      For just $3/month, our premium security add-on scans your site weekly to ensure it is free of malicious code.

      Monthly Tasks

      By monitoring your site’s speed and search engine performance, you can stay one step ahead of the competition. With that in mind, here’s your monthly website maintenance checklist.

      6. Test Your Site’s Speed

      Your site’s performance has a huge impact on its success. Studies suggest that 40% of people abandon a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. Even if visitors do stick around, a sluggish website is unlikely to impress potential customers.

      Page speed can also impact your SEO, particularly with the launch of the Core Web Vitals project.

      You can test your site’s speed using a tool such as Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix.

      The GTmetrix performance monitoring tool.

      If you’re concerned about your Core Web Vitals performance, Google has also created a dedicated reporting tool. This evaluates your site against the specific Core Web Vitals metrics.

      7. Create New Content

      Regularly publishing interesting, relevant content is a tried-and-tested way to convert one-off visitors into loyal repeat customers. Content can also position you as an expert in your industry, which is great for conversions.

      It isn’t just people who read your posts and pages. Search engines will also use this content to understand what your site is about. So by regularly publishing materials such as blog posts and articles, you can maximize your chances of appearing in relevant search engine results.

      To ensure that you’re winning the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) game, you may want to consider partnering with an experienced SEO team. Our experts can create and publish a stream of five-star content tailormade to support your keyword strategy.

      8. Improve Your Site’s SEO

      With 40–60 billion searches happening on Google in the U.S. every single month, SEO is one maintenance task that you can’t afford to overlook. As an established site, chances are you’ve already identified the keywords that you want to rank for. However, keyword popularity can change over time, so it helps to check whether you need to adjust your approach.

      You can view the current search volume using a tool such as Semrush’s Keyword Overview or Keyword Magic tools. We’re so confident that you’ll love using Semrush, we’ve partnered with them to give you a 14-day pro trial for free. [f]

      Semrush & DreamHost Start your free 14-day trial

      Once you’ve made any necessary changes to your keyword strategy, you’ll need to review every part of your site to ensure that it’s helping you rank for those terms. That’s no easy feat!

      To help you out, we’ve created the DreamHost SEO Toolkit. With over 100 automated checks and verifications, you can use this add-on to create a personalized SEO plan. It can also help you implement your SEO strategy via powerful on-page optimization tools. You can add SEO Toolkit to your hosting plan for just $4.99/mo per site.

      Quarterly Tasks

      Let’s take a look at some website elements that are too often overlooked. Here are seven tasks to perform every quarter.

      9. Change Your Passwords

      A strong, complex password is essential for preventing unauthorized access to your website. When creating your password, it’s essential that you follow all the latest best practices, such as using two-factor authentication.

      Even if you’re following the rules, it’s still smart to change your password every quarter. Then, even if your password does get compromised, it will minimize the time the hacker remains inside your hacked account.

      Hacked Site? We’ll Fix It Fast

      With our Hacked Site Repair service, we’ll remove any malicious code and restore your website so it’s back up and running fast.

      10. Check and Fix Broken Links

      Broken links can occur for many reasons. For example, you might delete a page or implement a redirect incorrectly.

      They may be common, but these URLs are disastrous for the User Experience (UX) and your SEO. When search engine bots encounter a broken URL, they’ll crawl that link to verify that it’s broken. This wastes precious crawl budget.

      You can scan for broken URLs using tools such as Semrush.

      Semrush’s Site Audit feature.

      Semrush will scan your site and display any broken URLs in the Crawled pages section.

      Sometimes, you may be able to fix a broken link by manually adjusting the URL. Alternatively, you can use a plugin such as Redirection.

      11. Delete Unnecessary Plugins and Themes

      Every theme or plugin adds code to your website, which is a potential loophole for hackers to exploit. In fact, themes and plugins account for 96% of WordPress vulnerabilities.

      It’s a good idea to regularly take stock of the themes and plugins installed on your site and delete any you no longer require.

      You may be tempted to simply disable the software in question, just in case you need to reactivate it at a later date. However, hackers may still be able to access deactivated code, so deletion is always the safest option.

      The WordPress plugin management page.

      You can further reduce your attack surface by removing any images, videos, or audio files that you no longer require. To achieve this, connect to your site using a Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) client, then head to the wp-content directory to locate and delete those unnecessary files.

      12. Optimize Your Database

      WordPress stores all of your data and content in a database. The larger your database, the longer it will take the server to retrieve information from your tables.

      By optimizing your database, you can reduce the server load and boost your page load times. You can optimize your database using phpMyAdmin. DreamHost customers can access this tool via their hosting account.

      Logging into phpMyAdmin through your DreamHost panel.

      In phpMyAdmin, navigate to Databases. You can then select the database that you want to optimize.

      13. Test Your Site’s Forms

      Many websites use forms to capture leads and drive conversions. Some forms also deliver core functionality, including login forms.

      An example of a login form.

      Since they’re so important, it’s wise to check that your forms are functioning correctly. We recommend reviewing the entire submission process, including ensuring that you’re logging user input correctly.

      14. Test Your Checkout Process

      If you accept payments via your website, then the checkout process is at the heart of your business. If there’s an issue with this process, then you could be missing out on countless sales. In the worst-case scenario, your system may be completely broken, which will bring your revenue to zero.

      With this in mind, we recommend verifying that your checkout is working as expected. Most payment solutions have a dedicated testing mode, including the popular WooCommerce platform.

      During testing, it’s smart to look for any opportunities to improve the purchasing process. A complex payment process can prevent customers from crossing that finish line. In fact, 34% of shoppers will abandon their carts if they’re forced to create an account.

      If you can streamline the payment process as part of your review, it may do wonders for your bottom line.

      15. Check Your Social Media Links

      Social media is a powerful tool for reaching a wider audience and retaining your existing one. By frequently posting across social platforms, you can keep your company at the forefront of your followers’ minds and ensure that they remain engaged over the long term. Many websites feature prominent social media buttons, including links to follow your accounts and share your content.

      Social sharing buttons on the DreamHost blog.

      However, when dealing with third-party tools, there’s always a chance they may change how they process your requests. They may even implement technological changes that affect your site’s social content.

      If your social URLs are broken, then you could be missing out on countless followers and shares. Therefore, it’s important to check them once in a while to make sure that they work.

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      Join DreamHost’s Facebook group to connect with like-minded website owners and get advice from peers and experts alike!

      Annual Tasks

      You don’t have to perform these tasks multiple times a year. However, we recommend setting aside the time to perform them annually.

      16. Schedule User Testing

      This is where you evaluate how intuitive your website is by testing it on real-life users. Chances are you performed at least one round of usability testing when you first designed your website.

      However, the way people interact with websites has a tendency to evolve over time. New technical innovations, devices, or browser updates can dramatically change how your typical internet user interacts with your website.

      To ensure that you continue to provide a good experience, we recommend scheduling annual usability testing.

      17. Review Your Domain and Hosting Renewals

      Choosing a domain name is one of the most important decisions you can make. A good domain will become an integral part of your branding.

      Now, imagine losing this essential part of your online identity. If you fall behind on your renewals, then you might try to access your site one day, only to discover that your domain has expired. Therefore, it’s smart to check your domain and hosting renewal status.

      Even if you activate auto-renewals, we still recommend manually verifying that everything is set up correctly, particularly your payment information. If your credit card has expired, the renewal will fail, and you may lose access to your domain or web hosting.

      18. Update Your Header, Footer, and Legal Policies

      Your header and footer are prime digital real estate. Typically, you’ll use these elements to display useful information, such as your contact details or opening hours. If this information is out of date, then you may lose out on conversions.

      The DreamHost footer.

      If you make any significant changes to your operations, you must immediately update the header and footer. However, it never hurts to perform an annual check just to ensure that no changes have slipped through the cracks.

      The header and footer also appear across your website. This makes them perfect for putting your most important pages at the audience’s fingertips.

      While reviewing these elements, consider removing any links that are no longer relevant. There may also be some new content that deserves a top spot in your header or footer.

      Most websites feature various legal policies, including a privacy policy and copyright information. Laws can evolve over time, so it’s always worth verifying that you’re in line with the latest regulations.

      19. Review Your ‘About’ Page

      A compelling About page can convince customers that you’re a company worth doing business with. It can also give people a sense of who you are as individuals.

      The DreamHost About Us page.

      Despite its importance, too many companies write their About page and then never revisit it. To ensure that this page is always representative of your company, it’s worth performing an annual review.

      An example of an About Us page.

      You can look for opportunities to add exciting developments, such as a major new client. You might also update any outdated information, such as changing an employee’s bio to reflect their new job title.

      20. Perform a Content Audit

      Publishing engaging, relevant content signals to visitors that your site is active and that you’re an expert in your field. This content can also help you improve your search engine rankings.

      To ensure that you’re getting maximum value from this content, we recommend performing an annual content audit. This is where you catalog all of your site’s content and evaluate its performance.

      This way, you can identify the topics and formats that attract the largest traffic and drive the most conversions. Conversely, you can pinpoint the content that doesn’t appear to resonate with your target audience. This is invaluable information that you can use to refine your content strategy.

      Ready to try the WordPress Website Maintenance Checklist?

      The hard work doesn’t end just because you’ve published your website. Running a successful WordPress site requires ongoing effort — and regular maintenance.

      By breaking this challenge into 20 tasks, you can keep your site in tip-top shape without becoming overwhelmed. In addition, if you add the right tools and services to the mix, you may be able to further reduce your workload.

      Running a website isn’t always easy, so why not let us lighten the load?

      Our DreamCare Service puts a team of DreamHost experts at your fingertips. With our 24/7 professional website monitoring, managed updates, and monthly security reviews, you can be confident that you’re smashing every item on your maintenance checklist.



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      Master Your Website Launch With This 18-Item Checklist


      Unveiling a new website can be an exciting and nerve-racking time. Sometimes it might feel like you’ve forgotten a crucial element, but you won’t always know until someone complains. Additionally, there are a lot of pages and items you’ll need to include, so it can be hard to know where to start.

      Not to worry — we’re here to help! Creating a comprehensive checklist of key pages and technical items to review before you launch your website can be a helpful time-saver. Scanning down a pre-flight checklist is one of the best ways to make sure you don’t overlook anything important.

      In this article, we’ll run through 18 essentials that you need to put on your website launch checklist. Let’s start from the top!

      Launch Your Website with DreamHost

      Our automatic updates and strong security defenses take server management off your hands so you can focus on creating a great website.

      1. Finalize Your Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

      A privacy policy is required by law if you’re collecting any kind of personal data. This policy spells out exactly how any information (emails, contact information, and more) will be used.

      Terms of Service (TOS) statements are not legally mandatory in most cases, but they can still be valuable. Your TOS states the ground rules for visitors who want to use your site.

      2. Create a “Contact Us” Page

      Contact pages might seem straightforward, but there is room for creativity. Buzzworthy Studio has an excellent example of a bold and effective contact page.

      Buzzworthy Studio’s contact page.

      Your contact page can be a valuable way to reaffirm your brand. Plus, it helps visitors get in touch and find answers to their questions.

      3. Set Your Site to Back Up Regularly

      If your website crashes or is hacked, or if you install a plugin that causes a problem, having your files backed up regularly and automatically is a lifesaver.

      There are many ways to approach this task, but one surefire way to keep things running smoothly is by using a managed host for your site. That way, your provider can take care of restoring backups and automatically archiving them for you.

      4. Configure Your 404 Page

      A 404 page is what will display when an error occurs on your website. Designing fun and on-brand error pages can help you retain visitors who would have otherwise left once they encountered an error.

      Magnt, for example, managed to turn an error into a marketing opportunity.

      Magnt’s 404 Error page.

      This clever error page displays the company’s skills for humor and design. Creating this kind of page prompts visitors to learn more about your business, rather than leaving in frustration.

      5. Establish a Comprehensive Site Map

      Sitemaps play a vital role in how search engines read and index your pages. While a sitemap won’t directly improve your rankings, it can help to ensure that your site is indexed properly.

      If you use WordPress, there are plugins available to help you generate and manage sitemaps. Google also has an established process for submitting your sitemap directly.

      6. Complete Your “About Us” Information

      Keeping your About Us information up-to-date and well-organized is essential. In fact, 94% of first impressions online are design-related. That’s why the Refinery29 About Us page is a great example of concise web design.

      Refinery29’s About Us page. 

      Visitors are likely to check your About Us page or section in order to vet your business. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure it contains all the information they need and looks professional as well.

      7. Set Up Your Permalink Structure

      Permalinks are the permanent URLs to your posts and pages, as well as to your category and tag archives. Strategically creating your permalinks can help with your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

      It’s also important to note that deciding to change your permalink structure after you’ve created content can result in a lot of work. For that reason, it’s best to decide on a structure you’re happy with upfront.

      8. Choose a Web Host With Fast and Reliable Servers

      Your site’s hosting server is a determining factor for how fast its pages will load. Consequently, it’s a pretty significant decision.

      Here at DreamHost, we offer several options for hosting your website.

      DreamHost’s managed WordPress hosting plans.

      A fast and reliable managed hosting plan means the website owner can focus on their business and website content. Leave the server management to us — we live for this stuff!

      9. Add Meta Titles and Descriptions to Your Content

      Metadata, such as meta descriptions and title tags, can help you tell potential visitors what kind of content to expect when they find your website’s pages in search engines. You can think of this data as a summary that helps people decide if a page is valuable to them.

      A meta description is typically limited to two lines of text, so choosing the right keywords is critical. However, what matters most when you’re launching a website is that each post and page has its own meta title and description.

      10. Optimize Image Sizes

      Optimizing your site’s images not only improves performance but can improve the user experience for those using mobile devices to view your site. As a consequence, it can also benefit your rankings on search engines.

      You can use a tool like Tiny PNG to reduce the size of your image files.

      TinyPNG’s home page.

      There are also many plugin options for optimizing your images, either one at a time or in bulk.

      11. Turn on Caching for Your Website

      Caching is when a web browser stores a static version of your website, and loads that copy for the visitor. This results in a faster loading speed than if the site’s data had to be transferred each time anew. If you want to check your site speed, start with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

      It’s a good idea to check with your web host, to see if it offers built-in caching options. Otherwise, you’ll want to look into plugins or other caching solutions.

      12. Set Alt Text for Your Images

      Setting alt text for all the images on your website benefits both its accessibility and SEO. Alt text can typically be added in the same menu you use to edit your images.

      Wordpress’ image edit panel.

      This text will help visitors understand what an image is if it doesn’t load properly. Additionally, it will make it easier for those using screen readers to make sense of your content.

      If you’re looking for more ways to boost your search performance, check out Google’s Search Console. This tool will help you create reports that measure your traffic so you can improve how your site’s pages perform in search engines’ rankings.

      13. Review Responsiveness on Mobile Platforms

      Whether you’re writing a blog post or operating a Shopify store, it’s vital that your site looks good and performs well on devices of all sizes. One easy way to check your website’s mobile responsiveness is with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

      Fortunately, most website builders include built-in options for testing mobile responsiveness. Still, there is no doubting the importance of designing with an eye toward mobile use.

      14. Clean Up Your Plugins List

      When you’re launching a website with WordPress, managing your plugins is a must. You may have tried out several different solutions during your development and building process, which can result in unused items in your plugin list.

      There are literally thousands of free and premium plugins at your disposal, many of which we’ve previously recommended:

      A list of plugins.

      Before you launch your site, you’ll want to remove all unused plugins to shore up site security, speed, and functionality. There are a few essentials that we’d recommend you keep, though: Jetpack, Akismet Anti-Spam, and the Yoast plugin for SEO.

      15. Update All Your Website Software

      Keeping every part of your website up to date is vital. Not only does each software update or upgrade help keep your site secure, but newer versions can boost its performance as well.

      Fortunately, software updates can be a “set it and forget it” process. That way, you can automatically keep on top of your plugins and other software from the very beginning.

      16. Double-Check Your Site’s Security License

      Site security is something we can’t stress enough. A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate tells your visitors that all data exchanged between their browsers and your site will go through a secure connection.

      An example of a secure URL.

      There are several ways to acquire an SSL certificate. You can check with your web host to see if it provides one, or you can purchase a certificate through a third-party service.

      17. Add Analytics Tracking to Your Site

      Once your website is up and running, you’ll need a way to measure how well it performs. That’s why it pays to set up an analytics tracking solution before even launching your site.

      There are many excellent solutions out there, although Google Analytics is a strong choice for beginners. No matter what tool you use, make sure you have an easy way to keep an eye on important numbers, such as your daily visits and page views.

      18. Connect Your Social Media Accounts

      Promoting your site on social media can be vital to reaching your target audience. Providing icons so your visitors can easily find your social media pages is one of the best ways to do that.

      Social media icons.

      Plugins such as Jetpack can also help you automate social sharing. That way, this task will take up as little of your time as possible.

      Your Website Launch Checklist

      Launching your website can involve a lot of work, and many different kinds of tasks. Checklists are one way to help your team stay on track and cover all the bases before revealing your masterpiece to the public.

      To provide a seamless first experience to your website’s visitors, you’ll want to keep in mind a few key items on your website launch checklist. For instance, you can write strong meta descriptions, optimize your images for increased site speed, and take advantage of an SSL certificate.

      Here at DreamHost, we want you to be able to focus on the task at hand, and not worry about whether your website maintenance is taken care of. That’s why we offer complete hosting solutions with reliable support, so you can focus on enjoying your new site!



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      How to Choose a Web Host: A 15-Point Checklist


      Choosing a web host can be challenging — especially if you’re just starting your first website. There’s a lot of information to digest about hosting your site, and it’s easy to forget something important when you’re weighing the pros and cons of various providers.

      However, if you know the right questions to ask, you can navigate the waters of web hosting without fear. There are many excellent plans to pick from. Making the right choice is simply a matter of considering your needs alongside what each service provider has to offer.

      In this post, we’ll discuss why it’s necessary to determine your site’s hosting needs before you begin shopping. Then we’ll share a 15-point checklist to help decide which web hosting provider is right for you. Let’s get going!

      Why It’s Vital to Identify Your Hosting Needs Upfront

      There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all web hosting. Every website has different needs when it comes to storage, performance, features, and price. So before you start looking at plans, you’ll want to determine your site’s hosting requirements.

      By knowing what you need ahead of time, you can narrow down your choices more quickly and avoid making costly mistakes when selecting your host. Some questions you might ask include:

      • How large is your website and what are its storage needs?
      • On average, how much traffic do you expect each month?
      • What’s your hosting budget?
      • What are your current website management skills? What might you need help with?
      • Apart from storing your site, what services will you need from your hosting provider?

      Your answers to these questions will eliminate some hosts right away. Then, you can use the checklist below to determine if other hosting options are a smart match for your site.

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      How to Choose a Web Host (A 15-Point Checklist)

      There are many aspects to consider when choosing a hosting provider, and the process can seem overwhelming at first. That’s why we’ve listed out the 15 most important questions to ask when evaluating a hosting provider:

      1. How Reliable Are the Host’s Servers?
      2. Is It Easy to Upgrade Your Plan?
      3. Can You Easily Add a Domain?
      4. Are There Significant Differences in the Sign-Up and Renewal Costs?
      5. Does the Host Have a Generous Refund Policy?
      6. Is There a One-Click Installer?
      7. Will Your Host Provide Email Addresses for Your Domain?
      8. Will You Have Easy SFTP Access?
      9. How Difficult Is It to Find and Edit .htaccess?
      10. What E-Commerce Features Are Included (If Any)?
      11. Can You Easily Navigate and Use the Control Panel?
      12. Are SSL Certificates Included?
      13. How Often Will You Have to Renew Your Subscription?
      14. Does the Web Host Offer Easy Site Backups?
      15. Can You Quickly Access Support 24/7?

      Now, let’s dive into each question in more detail to guide you towards the best host for your situation.

      1. How Reliable Are the Host’s Servers?

      Performance and uptime can make or break your website. Your website’s performance influences Search Engine Optimization (SEO), bounce and conversion rates, and how trustworthy your site appears to visitors. We’re not exaggerating when we say that the reliability of your server has a direct impact on your website’s bottom line.

      Any provider you consider should have an uptime guarantee of at least 99%. At DreamHost, our uptime guarantee is 100%, as per our Terms of Service.

      DreamHost's uptime guarantee.

      It’s also wise to check out what performance-related features a given host offers. This can include built-in caching, access to a Content Delivery Service (CDN), and more.

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      We make sure your website is fast, secure and always up so your visitors trust you. Plans start at $2.59/mo.

      2. Is It Easy to Upgrade Your Plan?

      If you’ve created a website with all the elements it needs to succeed, chances are it’s going to grow. With any luck, you’ll see an increase in traffic and conversion rates. This will likely mean you’ll have to upgrade your web hosting plan.

      Most new sites start on a shared, low-cost plan. As your online presence expands, however, you’ll need more resources, bandwidth, and disk space to maintain your site for all its users. A host that offers easy upgrades to a Virtual Private Server (VPS), Managed WordPress, or Dedicated Hosting plan can make this process smoother.

      Upgrading a hosting plan in the DreamHost control panel.

      If you choose a host that makes it difficult to change your plan, you could find yourself migrating to a new provider just a few months after launching your site.

      Already Have a Website? We’ll Move It for You!

      Migrating to a new hosting provider is a pain. Sit back and let our experts do it! We’ll move your existing site within 48 hours without any interruption in service. Included FREE with purchase of any DreamPress plan.

      3. Can You Easily Add a Domain?

      As your digital brand grows, you may find that you not only want to expand your current site but start a new one as well. Alternatively, perhaps you simply like collecting domain names or you want to get into website flipping.

      Whatever the reason, if you’re going to purchase additional domains, you’ll need a host that makes it simple to acquire and manage them. Choosing a provider that offers unlimited domains ensures that you won’t ever run out of space.

      4. Are There Significant Differences in the Sign-Up and Renewal Costs?

      It’s important to choose an affordable host. However, be careful when signing up, as you don’t want to get roped into a plan that’s more expensive than it seems on the surface. Some companies will offer attractive sign-up deals for new customers. Then, when it comes time to renew, they’ll raise the price.

      Make sure to look into your potential host’s renewal fees as well as the initial sign-up cost. Some difference between these two is an industry norm. However, you’ll want to keep the contrast as low as possible and avoid a higher renewal rate entirely if possible.

      5. Does the Host Have a Generous Refund Policy?

      In an ideal world, you’ll choose the perfect host the first time around, your website will flourish, and you’ll never need to cancel your service. However, things don’t always go according to plan.

      If you need to cancel your hosting for any reason, you’ll want to avoid excessive fees. It’s also wise to choose a host that offers a trial period so that if things don’t work out in the first few weeks of service, you can cancel without penalty.

      6. Is There a One-Click Installer?

      As the most popular Content Management Service (CMS) on the web, WordPress often receives additional support from hosting companies. Managed WordPress plans and WordPress-related features can be especially helpful if this is the platform you intend to use.

      A particularly useful feature that some hosts offer is a one-click WordPress installer.

      The DreamHost one-click WordPress installer.

      Better yet, some hosts will pre-install WordPress for you. This can save you a lot of time during the initial setup. You can also find one-click installers for other platforms, such as Joomla and Zen Cart.

      7. Will Your Host Provide Email Addresses for Your Domain?

      Whether you have a business site, a blog, an e-commerce store, or some other type of website, your visitors will probably need a way to get in touch. Having an email address that’s associated with your site’s domain (i.e., zoe@mysite.com) appears more professional and is easier for users to remember.

      Checking out a potential host’s email services is a must if you want to incorporate this feature into your online presence.

      DreamHost's email services.

      Choosing a host that includes this service in its web hosting packages or provides it for a low cost means you won’t have to set up custom email addresses manually.

      8. Will You Have Easy SFTP Access?

      File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) are vital tools for website maintenance. At some point, you’ll likely have to use one or the other to resolve an error, customize your site, and carry out different tasks.

      Your host should provide credentials so that you can use FTP or SFTP via a client such as FileZilla. This information should be easy to locate so that you can access it at any time. Additionally, some hosts will provide their own FTP clients for your use as well.

      DreamHost's WebFTP client.

      This is a nice bonus and can be an easier and more secure option than third-party FTP clients.

      9. How Difficult Is It to Find and Edit .htaccess?

      For WordPress users, the .htaccess file is a crucial part of your site. It contains a wealth of configuration information that influences permalink structure, caching, 301 redirects, file accessibility, and more.

      You may need to edit .htaccess at some point to resolve an error, tighten security, or carry out other tasks to improve your site. Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy, since .htaccess is a hidden file.

      Even if you can find the file, editing it via SFTP can be risky. It’s helpful if your web host provides a file manager for editing .htaccess, to minimize the risks to the rest of your site.

      10. What E-Commerce Features Are Included (If Any)?

      All websites have the same basic needs. However, if you’re running an e-commerce site, you’ll need some unique features. For instance, you’ll probably want more frequent backups and a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to reach customers around the world.

      A specialized e-commerce website hosting plan can help you get the support your online store needs at an affordable rate.

      DreamHost's WooCommerce hosting plans.

      Some plans — including our own e-commerce plans — will even pre-install WooCommerce and the Storefront theme for WordPress retailers.

      11. Can You Easily Navigate and Use the Control Panel?

      You’ll be spending a lot of time in your hosting control panel. Being able to navigate around your account easily can make managing your website much less challenging. Plus, you won’t have to rely on support as much when you’re figuring out tasks such as billing and upgrading.

      Choosing a host that offers a custom control panel can save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

      The DreamHost control panel.

      Our control panel, for instance, offers clear navigation menus. That way, you can easily find information on your site, contact support, or edit your account information.

      12. Are SSL Certificates Included?

      Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates are vital for keeping your site and its users safe. This is particularly true if you’re dealing with sensitive information such as credit card details, SSL certificates, and the like.

      Adding an SSL certificate to your site is usually an additional expense. However, some hosting providers will include one in your plan at no extra cost. Choosing one of these hosts can save you a little extra money while helping to keep your site secure.

      13. How Often Will You Have to Renew Your Subscription?

      Many hosts require a monthly subscription from their customers. There’s nothing wrong with that model, and if your fees are low enough, you might not mind having to pay monthly. However, this option isn’t always the most cost-effective.

      Other hosts will offer one or even three-year plans. By paying for a longer term upfront, you can often save some money down the line. When comparing prices between hosts, make sure to consider this.

      DreamHost's renewal term options.

      Don’t forget that you’ll have to renew your domain name as well. This is usually an annual occurrence, although you can find options for two- and three-year registrations here at DreamHost. You can also sign up for an auto-renewal program to avoid forgetting to renew your domain.

      14. Does the Web Host Offer Easy Site Backups?

      We all like to think the worst will never happen to us. However, it’s best to be prepared. Accidents and attacks happen, and if you’re in a position where your site has been destroyed, you’ll want a way to restore it.

      Backups ensure that you have a way to bring your site back if it’s lost. While there are many methods available for backing up a website, one of the easiest is to do it through your web host. It’s even more convenient if your host offers automated daily backups for your site, along with one-click on-demand backups.

      15. Can You Quickly Access Support 24/7?

      Your relationship with your web host will hopefully be a long one. Reliable customer support is key if that relationship is going to be mutually beneficial. Making sure any host you’re considering has multiple contact methods and a 24/7 support team can guarantee that someone will be available whenever you need help.

      DreamHost's 24/7 support page.

      Additionally, specific support for WordPress, e-commerce, or other niches can come in handy. Choosing a host with a team that is knowledgeable about the tools you use will ensure that your site has the best support possible. For example, if you opt for DreamPress, our WordPress-specific managed hosting, you’ll get priority access to our elite squad of in-house WordPress experts.

      Finding the Right Web Hosting Service

      When it comes to choosing a web host, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. There are many factors to consider, and your decision could ultimately determine your website’s success or failure.

      However, if you go into your web hosting search with your needs clearly outlined, you’ll eventually find the best provider for you. Asking careful questions about the quality of the host’s services and equipment, the additional features it offers, and its pricing will steer you in the right direction.

      If you’re a WordPress user, that direction just might be DreamHost’s Starter Shared Hosting plan. This plan is a low-cost option that’s ideal for small business owners or those just starting out. With Shared Hosting, there’s no limit to the amount of disk space you can use for your site. Unlimited bandwidth means when your site goes viral, you don’t have to stress about storage space. Most importantly, with any DreamHost plan, you’ll be able to answer “Yes!” to each of the questions on this checklist.



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