We Discuss All Things Connected to WordPress Hosting
ZipFish offers WordPress speed optimization. It takes more than just powerful servers to make WordPress fast. You also need to make the code run fast when you combine fast servers with fast code, that is where the magic happens.
Jonathon: Welcome back folks to the WP tonic show, this is episode 502. We’ve got a great guest with us. We’ve got Steven Sauder with us from Zipfish. And the program is all going to be about hosting the general advice about hosting, why Steven and his colleagues have entered, the reasonably competitive sector of WordPress hosting, why he did it; what are his hopes for his company. It should be a fantastic episode. And also, I’ve got my great co-host Adrian. So, let’ start with Steven. Steven, can you give us a quick intro of yourself?
Steven: Yeah, my name’s Steven Sauder, I work with Zipfish.io. It’s a hosting company that focuses on speeding up WordPress websites by focusing on not just fast servers, but also making sure that the code is running fast.
Jonathon: Alright. And I’ve got my great co-host Adrian. Adrian, would you like to introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?
Adrian: Hi everyone. My name is Adrian. I am the CEO and founder of Groundhog. We help small businesses launch their marketing funnels.
Jonathon: That’s great. And before going into the main part of the show, I’ll just like to talk quickly about our two sponsors. First of all, Kinsta another WordPress hosting company. We’ve been with them for about two years, two years, plus they are like say WordPress only hosting. They have been a fantastic company, not only as a sponsor, but as a company hosting our site; really very quick great interface, custom interface that’s a joy to use, and really great 24 seven support. When you send the tickets to them, you normally get a reply in minutes. You normally deal with the same person, you’re not passed around the organization having to repeat about four to five times what your problem is, which in the end can get very time consuming and basically a bit annoying. You’re normally dealt with the person that first spoke to you; they’re just a joy to work with.
So if that sounds interesting for yourself or for your clients go over to kinsta.com and look at their plans, maybe sign up for one. And the main thing, if you can just tell them through Twitter or through their ticketing system that you heard about them through WP-Tonic that would be great. Our other sponsor is a new sponsor, but they’ve sponsored the show before and they are a real friend of the show and that’s WP-Fusion. Now, WP-Fusion is a really amazing product. If you’ve got wooCommerce, if you’ve got any kind of shopping cart environment, if you’ve got a learning management system and if you want to connect that with a CRM either an internal WordPress one like Groundhogg or external ones like active campaign, they really enable you to do that on steroids. The amazing kind of automization you can do with a WordPress website with WP-Fusion, and one of these other CRMs, is just amazing. It’s a really mature product now, it connects to over two– I think over 200 CRMs now and other marketing automization platforms, so it’s just mind boggling. And they got really fantastic help documentation and other information to get you up and running really quickly. So I suggest for yourself or for clients, you go over to WP-Fusion and see what they got to offer. It’s the way of the future, so you don’t want to be behind the curve really.
So Steven, what was the ‘why’ have you decided to go into hosting and especially WordPress, specifically hosting because in 2020, it’s quite a competitive area Steven?
Steven: Yeah, it’s a very competitive area. It seems like there are thousands of hosting companies out there that are doing just like straight hosting or managed WordPress hosting. But working with, and in several agencies and just being a WordPress developer for quite a few years, there was always this big frustration with the current set up of WordPress hosting environments. Because, as WordPress has grown, the challenge of figuring out exactly what’s going on has become more and more complex. And so, it felt like there was always the situations where you weren’t a hundred percent sure if it was like a plugins fault, if it was the hosting providers fault, especially when you start talking about dynamic data and then translating that into WordPress speed, like how to make your WordPress site fast. And there are just so much going on, and it seems like most hosting providers today are focused primarily on their server stacks, so like what’s the hardware, what the type of Linux is being run; what packages are installed?
And when you focused on that, that’s only 50% of the equation, right, you’re also running a bunch of code on top of that; WordPress, the plugins, the theme, custom add-ons that you’ve hacked together. And when you only focus on the servers, you’re missing out on like this huge component of stuff that needs to actually happen; the business end of stuff. And so, we wanted to hop into this space to kind of solve both ends of the equation to build a hosting company that doesn’t just care about putting your site on really fast servers and making sure that servers were stable, but also making sure that your code is running really fast, and your code is stable and living in both of those spaces and bridging both of those together.
Jonathon: Yeah, I follow the logic, and my question is; where does the boundary, then or maybe it’s a boundary that moves constantly so maybe this is why this is hard to pin down. Where’s the boundary between the responsibility of the client and the developers that they hired because they think they can do it themselves and the hosting provider? Or is that an understandable divide but in reality, a very tricky divide?
Steven: Yeah, it is a tricky divided, and it’s a divide that has to be happened like on a case by case basis. But when I know that it takes both sides of that equation to make it work, you need to be able to span both of those. If I just say, “Hey, it’s a plugin on your site, go figure it out.” Like that’s not super helpful, but I can say, “Hey, it’s this plugin, this is causing the problem, but here are two other plugins that, will do the same exact thing, but we’ll solve your issue. Or let me change the caching structure on your WordPress site, and then that will solve the issue. Like there’s just so many things that go on, and it seems like all the hosting companies that I’ve ever worked with in the past and where my source of frustration with like the current status of hosting is that there’s just a lot of finger pointing or they try to get you out of their cue as fast as possible to move on to the next thing that they are working on.
Jonathon: Yeah. We’re going to discuss some of the reasons for that and why that has happened. We’re going to put it over to my co-host Adrian.
Adrian: Yeah, so I was perusing through your site and obviously the call to action and the– what’s the word I’m looking for? The main benefit, the main selling point is if I scroll down about halfway here, it’s all about the page speed. And I noticed that you’re using like the Google speed test in order to quantify the page speed. You have like WP-Engine flywheel SiteGround and then Zipfish, which are very impressive 1.2 second load time. I’m curious because I’ve never really believed quote-unquote, especially, if you’re like a branded company, that that page speed is like the be-all and end-all of a successful site. So I’m wondering number one; how reliable is like GT metrics and page speed Nord for actually categorizing, you know, how fast your website and how much it affects your ranking on Google and stuff like that. And two; is it the be-all and end-all for like all sites, you know, everywhere that if they have a page speed longer than X amount of seconds, that they’re going to lose like X amount of their traffic. Can you lend any insight on that?
Steven: Yeah, for sure. So as far as SEO stuff, I feel like there’s like a lot of misinformation out there about page speed and SEO. Everybody’s like, Oh, Google’s ranking your page speed or calculate your page speed and using that to determine what your rank is from an SEO perspective. And that’s true to like Southern accent, but it’s like a really small number. But what affects your rank in Google much higher is if people are bouncing from your site. And so if your page speed is slow and people are bouncing from your site because your page speed is slow, it’s taking a long time for people to load. Like whether it’s the initial link click, or it gets your home page and they click somewhere else and it’s taken a while for the next page load, so they just bail on it. That’s, what’s going to impact your SEO a lot more than–
Adrian: Really, so it’s not so much like how fast your website actually is, but it’s if people can’t get to your site and them interacting with your site that is like a side effect of like a slow website.
Steven: 90% of people fall into that category. There are people of all like page speed is taking 15 seconds to load. Google will dig for that and you’ll lose SEO ranking. But if you’re like in a normal window, your SEO score is not going to change that much based on your page speed, except for that–
Adrian: What’s like a normal window?
Steven: I would say somewhere it really depends like what you’re trying to do. If you’re like have a big, heavy web app and all your other competitors have these heavy web apps that they’re trying to load, like you have a little bit bigger area, like a bigger grace area. But I would say somewhere between two to five second window, like five seconds, like pushing it up pretty far. But if you can follow in there, like we haven’t seen that impact in somebody’s SEO score at all, but the bounce rate does matter.
And here’s where like a lot of people, I think what they don’t think about is this, somebody does an initial Google search, and they’re looking for a solution to their problem. There’s a couple of different like methodologies that people kind of fall into either ‘a’, like they click a bunch of links at one time that opened up a bunch of tabs because they’re like, I need to figure this out. I’m going to look at a bunch of this at once. And if any, one of those tabs takes longer to load; they’ll just close out of that and move onto the next tab. And there are a lot of also people who fall into the category of where they’ll click on the first one. If it doesn’t feel like it loads within three seconds, hop back to the homepage. And that’s been a pretty well-documented number by Google themselves by a bunch of different marketing firms.
There has been like a lot of research that has been done on this, that the amount of people that bounce off of a page or never actually land on your homepage because you’re taking more than three seconds is significant. Like that’s kind of significant like a line that gets drawn in the sand. And as you go up, it becomes greater and greater, and as you go down, it goes less and less. Now, once you’re down to like the two second level shaving off point five seconds; it’s not going to change very much. Like it’s kind of like the law of diminishing return, right. As you go down the spectrum, another second it doesn’t matter as much, but if you’re up in like the seven or eight second window shaving off one second of load time, will have a much bigger impact.
Adrian: So you mentioned like running heavy web apps, which kind of nicely segues into what– a lot of people are using WordPress these four reasons installing the big platform plugins, stuff like membership stuff like LMS, wooCommerce is known for being a little bit of a resource hog. And you know, you start installing all of those other plugins that loads all of the external, like GT metrics scripts, and the Stripe scripts and all of this stuff. And you start to get N bloated, WordPress, heavy websites that do all of these different things, right. Versus kind of just like a static blog where you just upload content once a day or whatever, and it’s just like super nice and super easy. What level or how does caching really play a role in making those sites faster? And how much can you reasonably expect to actually improve the performance of those kinds of websites, and how much does it really matter?
Steven: Yeah, that’s a really good question. So, this is definitely like an opinionated statement, but this is kind of where we fall. As long as your marketing and front facing pages are fast, hat happens after somebody is sold on your product or has created an account on your product matters a lot less. So, if you are engaging in a learning management system and it takes five seconds to load a page, somebody will tolerate that five second load time a lot more than if it was their first initial visit and they were landing on your homepage. And this is really where like we sit in like looking out people’s individual sites, how they have them set up the code that’s being ran is because it’s important to cache though, like that homepage or those landing pages, things that don’t have like all these crazy high dynamic content that’s happening because that’s where the sales going to be made. That’s where that page speed matters.
And then once after you get past that, it doesn’t matter as much, but when you’re on a hosting company that’s like, either your caching is on, or your caching is off. That’s a very binary choice that you don’t really want to sit in, because if you can cache some of your pages, but not all of your pages; that’s where you can really start talking about this hybrid between what the server is doing and what your code is doing, and really working on making sure that the pages that matter that load fast are moving fast. And the business pages that are doing all this functionality stuff, where, you know, you have to be able to load this dynamic information. You have to be able to redirect and block users from doing certain things or allowing them to do things.
Some of that stuff, you can’t cache, and there’s only so much you can do from the speeds standpoint. But, as far as like how much that speed matters, it’s diminished quite a bit. And so when we’re working with a company and speeding up their website, we’re looking at like, what does it take to get somebody from the entrance point to the sales page and make that as fast as possible, and then address those dynamic pages? Like how can we speed the dynamic pages, but also keep them dynamics that they don’t completely fall apart.
Adrian: Right, so it’s just really about making the entry points fast. And once they’re in, it doesn’t, you know, like you mentioned diminishing returns and it’s not so important that your lessen page with the Vimeo video takes like seven seconds to load because they’ve already got the page.
Steven: To a certain point. I mean, if you’re taking, I don’t know, seven seconds a little, like that could be really frustrating for your users. I mean, it all depends on what’s going on, if you’re loading some crazy thing like a sauna; that takes a while to load. You’re getting like all this, like utility value from it, so you’re willing to sit there a little bit longer. And it has to take a while to load because there’s a lot of information that goes in there. That’s just a non WordPress example, but–
Adrian: I just haven’t really quick one last question before we go for a break and John takes back over. When it comes to caching and websites and whatnot, really when they do it, it’s based on the speed of the internet that Google has, which is basically like an indefinite massive fiber optic cable capable of like teleporting YouTube from here to Mars in the blink of an eye. But most of us don’t have fiber optic super a hundred up hundred down internet access. So how much of the speed is the website and how much of it is actually just your internet connection not being super blazing fast?
Steven: Yeah, if you load something on Google page speed, and it’s a pretty well-known site that gets a decent amount of traffic, it’ll show you like real world where people fall. So you can get some real world stats on like how long it’s taking people to access your site and what’s going on there. The lighter a site can be, the better off you always are, like the less data that has to be loaded the better. And so it’s all about trying to figure out how do you delay data from being loaded that doesn’t need to be loaded, or how do I reduce the amount of requests that need to happen or the amount of kilobytes, whatever like a plugin that’s loading, all sorts of things that you don’t need. Like for instance, like wooCommerce, automatically loads, tons of scripts and CSS dials on pages that never use wooCommerce. And there are some really simple things you can do to prevent that from happening. But by default that’s what happens out of the box. And if you don’t know about that, or you don’t know how to limit that, it’s going to be more kilobytes. And so, then whether you’re on a fast or slow connection, less kilobytes that have to be loaded; the better off.
Adrian: That makes sense, alright.
Jonathon: Alright, folks, we’re going to go for our break, we’ll be back with Steven Sauder and discussing hosting and how to make your site quicker in the second half of the show. We’ll be back in a few moments.
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Jonathon: We’ve had a pretty good initial discussion about hosting and some of the factors you got to take for yourself and for your clients around getting decent hosting for your website. Now, Stephen, have you got any kind of quick insights tricks? You know people; now, how important is it to choose the right initial stack and the right theme, the right page, and the plugins? It’s a bit like the Wild West. It always has been that, it’s been one of the traction of WordPress, isn’t it? It’s one of the traction, and one of the problems with it is, how can you see if you’re choosing the right plugins and they’re not really having a very detrimental effect on your speed of your website, Steven?
Steven: So what I like to tell people is when you’re going in to build a website, get the like face plugins and themes that you are planning on using. Install all those, and then run it against Google page speed; see what happens. Also run something that just has like WordPress out of the box; the default installation that comes and see what the difference is. And then as you decide to add plugins, like just keep running it, keep monitoring it. GT metrics has a great tool that will run every 24 hours and kind of track where your site is from speed standpoint. It’s really about just following what’s happening with your site, thinking about what you’re adding and when you add something, check to see what the speed implication is, and then maybe make a choice that is fast or not.
Google has a lot of resources out there, if you just search, if like you’re looking for a slider plugin if you just Google, you know, like WordPress fastest slider plugin. You would get some great results and some really helpful articles saying like what you should use or shouldn’t use. But just kind of monitoring that and just keeping an eye out for that and being ready to adjust if also the numbers like shoot up.
Jonathon: Right, also the amount of plugins because I think depending on the site, you know this is very variable. But, from personal experience, I think it is quite easy to get between 50, 60, 70 plugins on a website in 2020, would you agree?
Steven: Yeah. I mean, we’ve seen lots of sites with like 40 plus plugins and really, it’s not the number of plugins you have. Oftentimes, in my opinion, like the more plugins you have is sometimes better because you weren’t getting this like one size fits all plugin that’s loading tons of stuff. You’re saying, okay, what are the actual things I need and then finding those plugins that solve that one problem. There’s a lot of talk about like plugin bloat and people having too many plugins. But as long as you’re being thoughtful and responsible about it, I don’t think that the number of plugins actually has a huge correlation to do with site speed as the quality of plugins. So if you’re downloading plugins from some random place on the web, and it’s not in the WordPress directory or not built by a reputable WordPress developer, there’s a lot of baggage that can come along with those plugins. And that will infinitely decrease your site speed compared to adding four or five reputable plugins. So it’s not the number, it has a lot more to do with the plugins that you’re running.
Jonathon: Yeah, I think that’s good advice, over to you Adrian.
Adrian: So from the plugin conversation I think, so there’s a natural, so to the theme conversation. Now, I’m sure you’ve seen people use like the most obscure themes and then some of the most popular themes. I’m wondering if you have any sort of list or tier of maybe the more popular ones that they make a really fast website happen, and some of them may be out there that you should avoid if speed is exactly what you’re looking for.
Steven: Yeah, themes also are like a lot more tricky to switch out. If you find you have a slow plugin, like you can usually find something else that will do something similar, but like, if you’re switching out a whole theme–
Adrian: That’s like a three day, four day process of like reformatting content and changing options and replacing the logos, and that’s a much more painful process.
Steven: So much more painful, so getting that right is important. My advice to people is that if you were using a page builder, look at that page builder and see what themes they recommend, because generally those themes are quite a bit lighter, then themes that you can find off the shelf. Because they are Taylor-built for those page builders, and there’s not all this super-[inaudible24:15] stuff that they’ve added on and their own custom page build and stuff. I like to stay away from themes that include page builders. If you can find a theme– the less the theme has to do, the better off you are, especially as we’re moving into this whole new Gutenberg world where you’re going to be able to change and edit theme styles or global styles
Adrian: We’ve come a long way from like the all-in-one real estate theme.
Steven: Yeah, exactly.
Adrian: If you remember, if anybody remembers it came with the directory and it came with the IDX integration and the form and the searching; we’ve come a long way from those.
Steven: The more, all in one theme there are it seems like the worst they become.
Jonathon: Actually you’d be surprised. I don’t think we have as much as you think Adrian. Like last week on my other business, I was talking to the CEO from IDX-Broker which has about 13,000 real estate agent clients and works with developers to build use IDX in a WordPress environment, but they provide the data. And sometimes I think we’re in as WordPress professionals or making our living out WordPress, we live in a little bit of a bubble, and the real world hasn’t changed as much as we think, but maybe that’s my only opinion. Sorry to interrupt Adrian.
Adrian: No worries. Yeah, I guess it makes sense in the context of real estate to bundle in that sort of stuff for specific things. Although I know IDX-Broker has a plugin, so maybe it’s a little bit different. I don’t know.
Jonathon: They provide a lot on their developer community who have a tight relationship with IDX-Broker, but they also provide from the website, a number of themes. So you came, if you’re an adventurous individual, you could try and set it up for yourself, but most people are probably going to use one of the developers.
Adrian: I’ll qualify my statement to say, we’ve come a long way technically from the technology standpoint and products and the vast range of availability of different products to choose from; we’ve come a long way.
Jonathon: And as the person supporting WordPress clients, I just feel, you know, for obvious reasons, it’s understandable reasons. I think sometimes we do end up in a little bit of a bubble as a WordPress community. And most people outside that don’t know anything about Glutenberg, and really don’t want to know anything about it, and really don’t really understand automatization; they just want a solution.
Adrian: Not to hijack the conversation from Steve.
Jonathon: Sorry about that, I’ve ran it on a bit.
Steven: I think you have a really good point that like, just as people look into themes that, I mean, we’ve kind of already talked about this, but like the more all-in-one, the more features something has the heavier it gets. So like only get the features that you need and you’re probably in the good.
Jonathon: Alright, we’re going to wrap up the podcast part of the show. In the bonus content, I’m going to be asking Steven about the business logic around choosing this area to try and build a WordPress business in, some of the competitors, how he feels he can build his own brand in a competitive sector? It should be a fascinating discussion, which you can see on the WP-Tonic YouTube channel or on the WP-Tonic website with a full set of transcripts and links. And I think he’s got a slight giveaway. He got a slight giveaway for the audience, haven’t you, Steven?
Steven: Yeah, we got a promo code and they’ll get you 25% off your first three months.
Jonathon: And I’ll make sure that’s all in the show notes. That’s a very generous offer to the WP tribe. So Steven, what’s the best way of finding out more about you and your company?
Steven: Yeah, head over to zipfish.io. You can read about everything that we do. Our guaranteed page speed score, how we optimize sites, how we look at the servers, add your code to make sure everything’s running as fast as possible.
Jonathon: Alright. And Adrian, what’s the best way for people finding out more about you and your company.
Adrian: You can go to Groundhogg.io to find our free plugin, and that will help you with your CRM and your marketing automation.
Jonathon: Right. And I want to talk about our webinar. We had our first webinar with Spencer forum about building really great shopping carts and funnels in general, when we had over 50 people sign up for the first webinar. It was a blast. We’re going to do our second webinar on Tuesday, the 9th of July. It’s always going to be the first Tuesday of the month. So that’s the 9th of July and that’s going to be at 9:00 AM Pacific standard time. It’s going to be out today where you can go to the WP-Tonic website and sign up for that. It’s right in the top menu, and it says free webinar. So click that and sign up. And basically we’re going to be talking about shopping carts again, but also marketing automization using probably Groundhogg and also WP-fusion combined. And how you can use those two products with a modern shopping cart and try and get more customers to buy your products. That’s not a bad idea, is it? We’ll be back next week with another great guest. We’ll see you soon folks, bye.
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