Since BNR’s inception, we have always provided hosting for our clients. Not because it’s a big profit center (pro tip: it’s not and it’s a pain!) but because of the benefits of controlling the entire hosting environment. Not only do we not have to worry about pointing fingers when something goes wrong, but we can optimize our servers for the needs of our clients.
Knowing the technical benefits are great, but most business owner’s eyes start to glaze over when you start taking about minifying CSS and running mod_pagespeed as well as serving assets through a CDN. By the time you mention the proxy firewall they’re completely gone. Most people just don’t want to know the details, they just want their site to work and load fast.
Until recently, it was difficult to quantify the value of having BNR hosting. Then back in June of last year that all changed. A long-time client decided that they wanted to venture out and try their options. It was an amicable parting, no hard feelings at all it was just a business decision, and we can’t keep all of our clients forever.
Unfortunately for my former client, the firm they went with left a lot to be desired. Less than six months later, they had had enough and wanted their traffic back. Wait, what? That’s right. Over the few months that they had been gone from BNR the site experienced a 60% drop in traffic! Now they were under pressure from their advertisers because they could no longer support the ad space they had already sold.
It is important to note that the site was still on Joomla. The new firm upgraded it from J1.5 to J2.5, but the template was exactly the same and all of the site functionality was the same. The content schedule was the same and for all intents and purposes, the front end of the site was no different. All of this is why I was thrilled to see the image above.
This is a graph taken straight from Google Analytics. It represents the total number of monthly page views on the site from June 2008 to September 2014. For reference, the 3 red lines where the graph makes sudden changes are as follows –
1. New site goes live – the old site is ported to Joomla and moves to a BNR server early in April 2011. The increased traffic is not surprising because the site being replaced was nearly 10 years old. Modern design and site features certainly account for much of the traffic increase.
2. Site moves to new server – The BNR built site is moved to its new home on June 1, 2013. The drop in traffic is immediate and severe. Traffic trends downward for the first time since the site was redesigned and bottoms out in November 2013.
3. Site is transferred back to BNR – near the end of November the site was moved back to BNRs servers. By this time the site had been hit with a manual Google penalty. BNR had the penalty removed within a week of moving the site. The site regained about 60% of its lost traffic the first month back and had its best month of traffic in January 2014.
Because the site was basically unchanged from Google’s perspective we had a nearly perfect single variable A/B test where hosting was the only difference. It’s unfortunate that my client has this experience, but luckily we were able to get everything back on track quickly before a disaster turned in to a catastrophic failure for the site.