MaxCDN Review – Does NOT Improve Site Speed

I had the opportunity to try out MaxCDN which is a consumer CDN (content delivery network) service that is run by NetDNA.  To help others I thought I would post this MaxCDN Review for those who are thinking about signing up.

First off I should disclose that I utilized a Black Friday MaxCDN deal where all plans were 50% off.  (It extended for several days.)  I choose the 1.2 Terabytes of bandwidth starter plan for 1 year which is normally $90 dollars.  Since it was 50% off though I paid $45 dollars for the 1 year plan.

Since site speed is a ranking factor Google takes into account now, be it a small one, and improving your websites speed makes it more likely for users to stay on your site longer I wanted to try it out for Adam Yamada and Singing Dogs.  If MaxCDN worked well I thought I'd also pay the extra money to use it for my auto blog and CarNewsCafe.

For those that don't know what a CDN does it basically takes static parts of a website, like images, and stores those on several servers.  Let's say a visitor from Maryland wants to visit your website and you using a CDN.  The CDN will show images from the nearest server location they have available resulting in a better experience for that user.

Ideally a CDN should improve site speed but using MaxCDN for a few weeks I found it didn't.  Checkout screenshots I took of the many speed tests I ran using WebPageTest.org.

maxcdn review maxcdn review

If you notice the first column “Load Time” is a measurement of how long it takes to load all the elements on a given page.  My times are quite slow and I was expecting that MaxCDN would cut a lot of these times in half.   These metrics are not much different to the performance and Load Times I was experiencing before implementing MaxCDN on my websites.  Also if you notice on the right it says “Effective use of CDN” and there is an X.  I should make it clear despite the “X” I spent about 2+ hours with tech support getting the MaxCDN configured.  The tech support rep said it was configured properly and what I saw in the MaxCDN backend reflected my sites were using their servers.  Sooo… not sure what I was paying for as it was setup and cofingured properly but didn't improve speed.

In addition to WebPageTest I used Google's Developer testing tool as well.  I didn't see that much of a noticeably difference in page loading speeds either.

Along with the speed tests I also pay for a service called StatusCake, an uptime monitoring service.  (FYI there is also Uptime Robot which is free but  does send false postives.  I haven't had that issue with the StatusCake paid account.)  StatusCake pings my sites and will report how long it took to get a signal back from the server.  Did I see a noticeably improvement in site speed when I was using MaxCDN?  No, I did not.

At least the backend MaxCDN dashboard is fairly straightforward and the layout is nice.

maxcdn dashboard

Some of the support documentation could be alot easier and simpler to understand in my opinion.  Surprisingly they don't have good WordPress documentation which I always view as vitally important for any service or plugin nowadays.  A lot of is confusing and was clearly written by engineers with negative writing skills.

MaxCDN is a service that a lot of people that run WordPress and other websites use due to it's low cost and aggressive marketing.  I just did not feel it was worth even the $45 dollars.  If all the tests and data I ran were not improving the site speed noticeably, what was I paying for?  What can I say, this isn't a good MaxCDN Review, I'm especially pissed since I spent a significant amount of time configuring MaxCDN with the tech representative and all that was for nothing.  MaxCDN  wasn't useful to me as it didn't improve site speed and the whole point of the service it to speed up your site, a lot.

If you got value out of my MaxCDN review or have an opinion about using CDN's feel free to leave a comment below.

4 Easy Ways to Monetize a Blog

monetize a blog

If you are looking for ways to monetize a blog or website there are tons of different affiliate programs, advertising networks, and other options you could look into.  Just because there are a lot of options for blog monetization doesn't mean you should use them all though.  My believe is that you should find what works for your blog or online business and stick with that.

Having been online for awhile these are 4 good programs to monetize a blog which I think meet a wide variety of needs for your blog or website.

  1. Amazon AssociatesHave you bought something on Amazon?  I assume you probably have since they are known as “Wal-Mart online.”  Amazon stocks a huge inventory and with their third party shipping programs offer a huge selection of products that no other online retailer can match.  This includes their massive Kindle self-publishing platform as well as MP3 and video downloads.  Chances are if you want to review a product or recommend something on your blog Amazon sells it or you can find it.  You can use Amazon Associates and link up to those products or display banner ads.  Amazon Associates also lets you built “stores” on your website.  I've found Amazon Associates has worked well for all of my blogs but especially Adam's Auto Advice.  (It seems auto products are something a lot of people order online.)  I've been happy with the Amazon Associates program and have been pleased with my reasonable earnings I have received which is why I recommend it.
  2. eBay Partner Network:  I have not had as much success with the eBay Partner Network but it is still worth a mention.  Why?  eBay is the world's largest online auction site and there a lot of different ways to use this affiliate program which could benefit your blog.  You can get paid just for sending qualified traffic to eBay and obviously get paid when users buy products through eBay.  If you have a specific hobby niche the eBay Partner Network is probably most ideal for you.  Ebay only accepts publishers with high quality content and decent traffic though.  Keep that in mind if you apply to the eBay Partner Network.
  3. Google AdSense:  Google wouldn't be the huge company it is today if it wasn't for Google AdSense and contextual advertising.  (Well technically Google AdWords, the counterpart to AdSense.)   Google AdSense allows online publishers big and small to display relevant ads to site visitors.  This means a better experience for your visitors and a higher Click-Through-Rates (CTR) for online publishers and Google, which means more moolah for everyone.  AdSense also allows you to monetize Youtube videos with contextual advertising.  Unfortunately I was kicked out of Google AdSense last year and I have no idea why.  So I would be careful of how you use AdSense and what sites you display ads on.  (Google only likes sites that are family safe.)  Since Google recently celebrated 10 Years of Google AdSense you don't need to worry about this program going anywhere.
  4. Media.net: Media.net is a Yahoo and Bing's contextual advertising program.  I won't pull any punches, it is not as good and will not earn you as much money as Google AdSense.  I was invited into this program though and feel that it is good alternative those who were booted from Google AdSense.  There is a large advertising pool bidding for keywords and you can really fine tune the colors and look of ad units.  I'd recommend giving Media.net a shot if you have decent traffic to your blog or website.  However do not rely on it for your advertising income.

Be aware any affiliate program you sign-up for you should understand the terms and conditions clearly.  I recommend reading the entire affiliate contract even though this is time consuming, painful, and probably a big hassle with all that legal jargon.  You really should if you want to avoid what happened to me with Google AdSense.

Like I mentioned before there are a ton of different advertising and affiliates programs you can choose from and these are just 4 popular ones that a lot of bloggers and webmasters use.  If you have found a way to monetize a blog that works better for you please leave a comment below and let me know.

Site5 Review

site5 web hosting

Since I have been hosting with Site5 for awhile I decided I would write a Site5 Review.  Overall Site5 provides robust and fast servers, good support, and a nice backend you wont' find anywhere else.

Anyway here is my Site5 review for those that are considering hosting websites with Site5.

Site5 Review

site5 custom cpanel

Custom Cpnel and User Interface

Site5's custom cPanel and backend user interface deserve a big nod of approval.  It's clean, simple, and easy to navigate which can't be said about most hosting interfaces.

What I really like about Site5's custom cPanel is that you don't have to visit your own cPanel URL.  You can login into your cPanel directly from Site5.com by clicking “Client Login” in the top right.  You can also manage your billing and affiliate payouts from the same backend as well.  It's convenient and a well thought out user interface and system.  I don't understand why more hosting companies don't utilize or have a similar custom cPanel.  This is how other web hosting companies backends should look like and work in my opinion.

Keep in mind this is 2013 and most web users expect ease-of-use and clean interfaces.  Site5 has brought cPanel into the modern age whereas everyone else (including cPanel) is stuck in the year 2000.  If you are a Site5 competitor I ‘d recommend signing up for a free trial account with Site5 just to get an idea of what their setup is like.

Support

Site5‘s support team is top notch.  They will take the time to explain any problems or issues instead of getting an answer that was read from a script.  It is clear support representatives take time to read and review your issue before replying and know what the issue is.

Generally response times on most tickets will get a reply within 30 minutes.  If you have a complex question or issue you will be notified that the ticket has been kicked up to a higher level support representative or system administrator for review.  Tickets that get kicked-up to a 2nd level support member tends to get a reply in about 1 hour.

I've also used Site5's chat service and wait times for an available representative to help you with an issue is usually 10 minutes or less.  The same can't be said for other hosting companies chat support.

What is nice about Site5's email and chat support is they display a picture of the support representative who you are working with.  Under the picture you can click a link that takes you to a short Bio page about that Site5 support team member.  This gives Site5 support a more personal touch and makes you feel like you know the support team better than just being some faceless entity.  One of Site5's support team members includes Mitch Keeler, who is well known in web hosting circles since he runs the Web Hosting Show Podcast.  Ben Welch-Boen, the CEO of Site5, has even replied to one of my tickets and gave a lengthy response to my questions and was quite helpful.  I probably would not have noticed who they were unless they included those pictures.

site5 support

Site5 phone support is only offered between 10am – 6pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) on weekdays.  If you are someone who prefers phone support for working through problems than you won't appreciate that timeframe.  (I personally prefer using email and chat support to resolve most issues.)  I've used phone support in the past and found that the call quality wasn't that good since to my understanding Site5 support uses Skype.  Most hosting companies use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone systems now since it is huge cost saver but each time I called I was disappointed with the call quality.   I've only called Site5 phone support twice though.

UPDATE: Site5 is in the process of updating their phone system to a new provider to improve the call quality.  

Another complaint I have with Site5 support is that if you are not that knowledgeable about hosting or web savvy you might not always find Site5 support helpful. Site5 is sort of a hosting company aimed at geeks and you should have a general idea of what you are doing before hosting with them.  Their support is extremely helpful but they won't hold your hand.

Something you should be aware of about Site5 support agents is that they all work from home.  Personally I think that is nice for employees but others might disagree and not like that for some reason.  Since this is a review and I am trying to provide as much information as possible I thought I would just let people know that.

Uptime and Downtime

Site5 Uptime is pretty decent and is as advertised.  I monitor all of my websites using Uptime Robot and while there is occasional downtime here and there I've never experienced any downtime lasting for too long.  The longest downtime I have on record is 30 minutes according to my Uptime Robot alert notifications.  You can check all of Site5's server uptime stats here.  I've checked the time claimed on my server against what Site5 claims and they are accurate.

One thing I like about Site5 is they are good about sending you notices of when they will be doing scheduled maintenance on your server and when you might experience downtime or issues with accessing your websites.  I appreciate that they keep customers updated about maintenance since you are not caught off guard if your website is down.  Most of the time the maintenance is done early in the morning and should not affect your websites for too long.  I actually don't get Uptime Robot notifications when they say they are doing maintenance.  So most of the time I don't even worry about those scheduled maintenance emails.  Something to keep in mind is a lot of web hosts won't inform you when they do server maintenance.  I really appreciate Site5 does though.

site5 resource points

Server Resources

Site5 does offers “Unlimited Bandwidth and Storage.”   People should know that “Unlimited” for shared hosting plans is never truly unlimited.  While Site5 claims to be unlimited they are actually pretty restrictive it seems with their server resources.

Site5 uses an in house metric known as “Resource Points” to determine if your account is using to much of your shared server's resources.  Site5 says it is easy to understand what Resource Points means but I really have no idea and it seems to be vague.  They calculate it based on CPU, inodes, and some other factors which I don't really understand.  (It does state in their Terms of Service that you can't go above 75,000 inodes on any shared account.)  The server operating system (OS) Site5 uses is Apache, which is the industry standard, but to what I've read is not quite as good at handling server resources as other server OS available.

Adam's Auto Advice was shutdown once for using excessive bandwidth which I believe was only 40 gigabytes.  Honestly that is not that much bandwidth usage.  On the flipside in the span of 2 days the Singing Dogs were mentioned on MSN and the Huffington Post.  The traffic for those 2 days spiked A LOT but really only for a limited time during both days.  I thought Site5 would shutdown the Singing Dogs blog for excessive server resource usage.  Most of the time if you have a traffic spike that much within a few hours your web hosting company will deactivate your account.  I was impressed they did not shutdown the Singing Dogs blog considering the huge traffic spike.

I should also mention that I am consistently over Site5's Resource Points soft limits (check the image above) and they haven't said anything about it.  So… I guess it is kind of hard for me to complain.  I appreciate the “soft limits” but it does concern me since I don't understand what my sites are doing that could take up that much Site5 Resource Points.  I wish my websites got tons of traffic but they don't.

People should understand that no Unlimited host can truly offer “Unlimited Hosting” and shouldn't expect that.  The majority of hosting companies, like Site5, that offering shared unlimited plans have limits and will be kind of vague about it.

Speed

It should be noted that most of my websites are WordPress blogs (including this one).  I have 1 MyBB forum which is moderately active that I host with Site5.  The WordPress Multisite installation I have seems to be a bit slow but I haven't not done much work to speed it up.  (Ok, I don't really know how.)  Wordpress Multisite networks are a bit resource intensive and tend to be slower.  The 1 MyBB forum I have is fast and I haven't had issues with that site being slow.

site5 review

 

Site5 Hosting Plan Prices

I've seen some people on hosting and admin forums complain that Site5 is a bit expensive.  For the level of service and support Site5 provides their hosting plan prices are reasonable and inline with the rest of the hosting industry.

Sure you can probably find a great deal from a Endurance International Group (EIG) hosting company but they won't provide support that knows that they are talking about.  In addition their servers will most likely be overcrowded, have a lot of downtime, and be slower than your grandma driving to church.

HostGator's Baby Plan (an EIG company) is $10 a month after coupons and discounts run out.  Site5's HostPro plan, which is what I use, is $10 a month if you prepay 1 year in advance and $9 if you pay 2 years in advance.  Since Site5 doesn't run coupons specials and promotions that often I think it only seems like their pricing is more expensive.  If you check around a lot of companies offer Unlimited Linux server hosting for $10 a month.

Site5's Additional Features

Some notable additional features Site5 offers is daily backups of all accounts.  So if your site was hacked or you for some reason deleted all your files and don't keep backups, which you should, you can request Site5 to restore your website(s) from the day before or up to a week.  Some hosting companies backup data but few do it everyday.

Site5 also offers MultiAdmin which allows you to easily control different cPanl accounts from the SiteAdmin interface.  This is useful if you have several sites you run for clients or yourself and want to make sure you have best best security.  Running each site in it's own cPanel ensures that if 1 site gets hacked, the others will not.

Site5 also offers you the ability to choose where you want your server to be located for shared, reseller, and VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting accounts.  This is useful if you have customers in Brazil and need to setup a website close to those customers for the best service and speed.  Since Site5 has an available server in Joao Pessoa Brazil you can do this easily.  It will just cost a little extra every month.  Site5 also offers many different cities around the world and throughout the United States.

Site5 Themes is another nice extra that Site5 offers.  These are custom designed WordPress themes which are nice layouts and are responsive (meaning they will work on mobiles devices and touchscreens.)  Check them out and see if they would work for you.

Conclusion

site5 web hosting

Overall I have been happy with Site5's service and support but like most hosting companies they still have some room for improvement.  I'd like it if their support was more friendly to people who are not quite as knowledgeable about hosting.  This would not only make some current customers more happy (me) but I assume bring in new customers to Site5.  Also I wish Resource Points was a bit easier to understand.

The person who originally recommended Site5 to me was my brother.  He runs custom scripts and programs via a private website for his Neuroscience studies at Harvard.   (Yeah, he might sound smart but I am actually the smart brother.)  Site5′ customer base seems to cater to those who want to build and run customized scripts and programs on their servers.  So if you have highly specialized needs Site5 would be a good choice.

My brother has been hosting with Site5 for about 7-8 years I believe.  In that time he has not had any issues or complaints that I am aware of.  So that's good for Site5 and shows the type of service they offer in my opinion.

At the time of this review this blog, Singing Dogs, and Adam's Auto Advice is hosted with Site5.  In addition I have several other websites hosted them too.

Even though I have had my own hosting account with Site5 for about 8 months, Adam's Auto Advice has been hosted with Site5 for several years on my brother's Site5 account.  So in essence I have been hosting with Site5 for quite awhile.

Site5 does bill itself as “Web Hosting for Designers” which I think is pretty accurate.  It is an excellent company for web designers and developers.  If you are just starting out with a new website and getting online though Site5 is a good option but not sure if they will be the best for all situations.

If you want to tryout Site5 they do offer a 30-day free trial which NO other web hosting company offers that I know of.  That seriously means you can tryout Site5's service free for 30-days without giving them your money.  Few web hosting companies offer a Free month of service.  So if you want to find out if Site5 meets your needs, you can see easily without hassle.  Site5 also has a 45-day money back guarantee if you want to give them your money.

There is not much else to say except that Site5 is a quality hosting company offering quality hosting service.  Since the company has been around since 1999 you can be assured if you host with them that they are not going anywhere.  There are around 140,000 websites hosted with Site5 and they have about 30,000 customers worldwide.

I hope you have found my Site5 Review helpful and informative.  If you have found this Site5 review useful I would appreciate it if you left a comment below since I like hearing when I help people.

Got an experience with Site5 you want to share?  Whether it is good or bad please leave a comment below to let myself and others know.

Disclaimer: I have included commissionable links in this review.  This means I get a commission when you buy a web hosting plan through Site5 using a link on this page. However nobody can influence my opinions on this site and this Site5 review reflects my honest opinions about Site5's web hosting services. Also the revenue generated from this links help keep this site and my other sites up and running. 🙂

Why You Should and Shouldn’t Pay to Attention to Alexa Traffic Rank

alexa traffic rank

Today I posted about how Alexa wants people to pay for Alexa Pro Accounts to see backlinks.  I realized a lot of people probably are not aware of what Alexa is and why you should and shouldn't pay attention to your Alexa Traffic Rank and the data the company provides about your websites.

For those that don't know Alexa is a company that tracks data about websites all over the internet.  Alexa gives you information such as what keywords people are using to find a site, audience, and other information.  People can also leave reviews about what they think of websites and if they have good content or not.  The most widely known metric they use is Alexa Traffic Rank.

Alexa's Traffic Rank is supposed to show the traffic your sites generates against the millions of other websites out there.  There is usually a Global Rank and it will show you which country you get the most traffic from.

While this can be somewhat useful data, to be honest I try not to pay too much attention to the Alexa Traffic Rank of my own websites as it is a distracting and not useful metric to think about.  Why?  Alexa ranks can be widely inaccurate as it only counts visits from people that have the Alexa toolbar installed on their browser.  That means a lot of people without the Alexa toolbar could be visiting a site but overall that website might not be generating that much traffic.  I've actually seen this firsthand several times on other people's websites.

I've seen plenty of high traffic sites with a good following have a low Alexa rank.  Some sites which are getting traffic may not even have an Alexa traffic rank at all.  Alexa even has admitted that some of the data they provide may not be entirely accurate and a lot of webmasters do not pay attention to it.

Even though everyone pretty much agrees Alexa rank is not always accurate it is something you should be somewhat aware of.  The thing is potential advertisers will probably check your Alexa traffic rank before they decide to advertise on your blogs or websites.  They are other sites you can use such as Quantcast and Compete but both of these don't provide much data unless you pay for a subscription every month.  Up until now Alexa provide amount of their data for free.

So unfortunately Alexa rank is one of those Catch-22's.  You know it isn't something to worry about all the time but a lot of people will check it if they want to do business with you and your websites.  So it is something to be aware of even though I would definitely not think about it too much.

Something else to know Alexa is that they are owned by Amazon.  I assume Amazon likes having all that data to figure out what to sell to people.