I had a lot of positive feedback on my last post titled “Why Photographers Need A Blog” and thought it would be a good idea to do a follow up with an industry expert on web hosting, Terry Kyle the CEO, and founder of WPX Hosting. Terry is a well-known figure in the hosting game and has turned WPX Hosting into the most reliable and well-secured WordPress web host in the world.
Terry is also an animal lover and advocate for sheltered cats and dogs. He spends much of his free time volunteering with animal shelters and raising funds to feed over 500 homeless dogs and cats a day.
Hosting a website may not seem like a big decision until something goes wrong with your site. Trust me, I know all about that from past horror stories. My personal experience with hosting my blog and my photography tour company’s website has been a roller coaster over the years. Today, both sites are hosted by WPX and I breathe a lot easier knowing that my business is safe and secure on super fast servers.
Now, let’s talk to the expert on WordPress hosting… Terry Kyle.
— Hi Terry, thanks for taking the time to chat today. I’m happy to have you share some of your wisdom about the importance of WordPress blogs in particular for photographers.
I’m also eager to discuss why it is vital for all WordPress sites to have a super-reliable web host and why WPX stands out above the fold in terms of top WordPress hosts.
Glad to help!
— A good place to start is always the beginning. How did you get involved in the WordPress hosting game and what is your background?
For all of my professional life, I have been creating or building things, from films to books to software to companies and in the case of Web hosting, I was just deeply unhappy with the standard of service offered since I started using the Web back in 1998.
In that classic entrepreneurial way, I figured that I could do it much better than the current providers so jumped into it back in 2013.
My work background includes writing for advertising/business, teaching and SEO.
— What sets WPX apart from the competition? While there are some cheap alternatives out there, there are also some competitors who offer good service and security. Why should someone reading this interview consider WPX over the competition?
One of the core principles at WPX is that we don’t do things just because other companies do them.
It turns out that we also do a bunch of stuff that most providers don’t do either!
Many standard hosting company practices always struck me as [a] illogical [b] slow, and [c] frustrating for customers.
For example, this whole practice of sending a troubled customer a link to a technical knowledgebase article and expecting them to decipher the jargon there, work out the solution and then apply it is crazy to me.
A surfing blogger or travel writer or nature photographer normally doesn’t want to have to learn a load of Web technologies to make their site work and would rather spend that time on their actual craft or business.
So instead, years ago we adopted the policy of ‘Fix, Don’t Teach’ (unless the customer asks for that education which they almost never do).
We stopped trying to educate WPX customers about the in-depth specifics of a technical problem with their website and instead – in most cases – we just fixed the issue for them, fast (usually) and free. Like a breakdown service for your car.
Can you imagine taking your wonky Toyota to the local dealer and the Toyota mechanic throws the technical manual at you and tells you the answer is in Chapter 76? No other industry that I can think of expects the customer to study the underlying tech of its products and fix everything on their own.
That’s an important WPX difference but it isn’t the only one.
The other biggies are that:
- WPX averages around 30 seconds response time on Live Chat by Support Agents who can handle most issues themselves (independently verified by Live Chat Inc here: https://quality.livechatinc.com/4691811) – nobody in the hosting industry is getting near that I believe and that’s 24/7/365, not just during ‘business hours’
- WPX never overloads servers with accounts, unlike so-called ‘cheap’ hosting which crumbles under any traffic load. WPX owns its own high-spec hardware, highly customized for performance and it’s why WPX normally is at the top of the table in comparisons like https://reviewsignal.com/blog/wordpress-hosting-performance-benchmarks-2019/ and https://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/blogging/fastest-wordpress-hosting/
- WPX has built its own custom CDN (Content Delivery Network) with 25 end points around the world for consistent, worldwide loading speed (including images!), hence our ability to outperform most hosts in independent comparison testing, no other host has done that yet I’m fairly sure
- WPX was the first to integrate unlimited free SSL certificates from the Google co-sponsored initiative at https://letsencrypt.org/
- WPX does not charge for malware removal from our customers’ websites whereas many hosts expect their customers to spend hundreds of dollars on malware services like Sucuri (in most cases, the malware has already been removed without the WPX customer even being aware of an infection)
- WPX has a committed mission going back years to funding welfare projects for homeless and shelter dogs (cats sometimes too) and in 2019, we established our own non-profit foundation to accelerate and expand that work: https://everydogmatters.eu/. The work of Every Dog Matters is fully funded by WPX and the foundation’s team works out of WPX HQ
There’s probably more that I can’t remember right now but that’s enough for now!
— Photographers like myself love to share big photos and often times, many photos in one post. That adds up to some big files having to load on a blog post. How fast is WPX compared to the competition? What kind of technology does WPX utilize to achieve the fastest speeds for page loading?
Photographers can optimize images before adding them to their website by reducing their size and saving in a format like WebP (Google’s new optimized image format) but even if they don’t, WPX’s Cloud (our CDN) can usually handle that as shown by my deliberately UNoptimized personal blog (https://terrykyle.com/) with tons of big image files at 9.1 Mb but loads in under 1 second: https://tools.pingdom.com/#5bbc2708f5800000. The above test links also illustrate the speed of WPX in relation to other providers.
— In your opinion, how important is it for a photographer to have a blog that they contribute to regularly? Would you say as important as social media or more?
Any person trying to build an audience will need to find the channel that works best for them, whether it is a Facebook page, YouTube channel, Instagram profile or other medium. However, it’s good if that vehicle is owned by them e.g. their own blog under their own control and not subject to policy changes by a platform owner that could jeopardise a lot of work.
–If you had one bit of wisdom to share about SEO on a website, what would that advice be?
[a] Carefully check the on-page optimization of your site as a whole, [b] use internal linking within your own website to help your most important pages, and [c] go after longer phrases (the ‘longtail’) rather than massively competitive terms like ‘wedding photographer’ – these are all big topics and I have crudely simplified here.
— There are alternatives to WordPress so why should someone serious about a blog or website for that matter a WordPress site ove something like Squarespace, Wix, or just a custom-designed site or blog?
WordPress, Wix, Weebly and Squarespace should all be looked at as tools for building an online presence. Like cars, smartphones, laptops and dogs, different people just naturally prefer one thing rather than another. On Trustpilot.com though, platforms like Wix have a shockingly bad reputation for customer service. Each person should try out the tools that work best for them. None are perfect and each has pluses and minuses.
— One of the things that I noticed immediately after signing up with WPX is the incredible speed of your customer service. You offer a thirty-second reply guarantee for your online chat customer service and I find that I’ve never even had to wait that long. I guess my question is… how do you manage that?
Speed is a core part of the DNA of WPX in terms of page loading and also support response.
Therefore, it’s a high priority for us that Live Chat is resourced properly with Support Agents to maintain that 30-second average (it blew out to 37 seconds average during the crazy recent Black Friday though!).
That average, by the way, is 24/7/365 from across the world.
— What kind of training does a WPX employee get? No matter who I seem to talk to via the WPX online chat, it always seems that they are WordPress wizards. Is there formal training?
We have a deep training syllabus that all Support Agents go through and that syllabus is constantly under review as new technologies and developments occur e.g. new malware tricks.
The syllabus is pretty good now but constantly being iterated.
— WPX is based in Bulgaria. Why did an Australian like yourself decide to move to Eastern Europe and build his company there?
The capital of Bulgaria, Sofia, is actually one of the biggest IT hubs in Europe and all the big players are here: HP, SAP, Microsoft etc – HP employs over 3,000 people here. Siteground is also headquartered here and is actually a Bulgarian company. There are good IT skills here, English is commonly spoken, there are low taxes plus beautiful mountain scenery (I walk there with my 3 dogs very often) and cost of living in Bulgaria (part of the EU) is relatively low.
Back in the day when I had a smaller online business in London, where I was living with my Bulgarian wife (we met in a London Salsa club, seriously!), we were looking for a suitable place to relocate the business to and considered every country in the world. After a lot of discussion, Bulgaria came out on top and we moved here in 2012.
I have been here for 7+ years now and it suits WPX and me well.
— Since WPX Hosting is based in Bulgaria, can your clients expect your help staff to be fluent in English?
Mostly yes, many big foreign companies have a major base in Sofia so English proficiency is normal.
— As a travel photographer and tour leader, I’m always curious about people’s bucket list of destinations that they want to visit. What are your top three places in the world that you have been to and the top three places that you would love to visit in the future?
Favorites Already Visited:
- Lake Ohrid, Macedonia
- Alfriston, UK
- Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France
Would Like To Visit:
- Territorio de Zaguates, Costa Rica (world’s largest no-cage dog shelter)
- Capetown, South Africa
— As an entrepreneur, you have dabbled in different businesses, had successes and failures, and have come out on top with a successful company. Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs who may need some encouragement?
My worst ever entrepreneurial mistake was getting too attached to one specific product as ‘the one’ to achieve world domination. When it didn’t, I was emotionally crushed and it took a few years to recover from that. While being fully committed and working crazy hard on any business venture, product or service, you also have to let them go sometimes. They just aren’t going to fly.
Also, I personally believe that you must enter a market with the fearless determination to be the industry leader, authority and trusted figure in that business with truly game-changing offers and innovations.
If you don’t have that and you are just building another mediocre ‘me-too’ business, then that is very likely to fail.
— This one is specifically for bloggers. There are so many so-called experts out there who talk a good talk and have advice to give but nothing to back it up. In your experience in the WordPress world, what are some of the biggest mistakes that bloggers make? Also, are there any less than obvious bits of advice that you can offer bloggers?
The worst mistake is to invest time and effort in a blog that looks like tons of others and offers nothing different. If your target market is too broad, the blog could wind up being very bland and, to be blunt, pointless. This goes back to the leadership I mentioned above. Also, make sure the content being created has a clear strategic purpose and isn’t just part of an endless ‘conveyor belt’ of content being made simply because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing.
— You have seen a lot of changes in the hosting business over the years. Five years from now what will be the biggest difference in terms of customer experience and technology?
There are several obvious dynamics at work. Here’s a quick summary from my perspective:
- The mega giants of Web hosting e.g. GoDaddy (horrible company with awful service) will keep swallowing up the smaller players
- Themes and templates will diminish in importance as users demand more flexibility with Page Builders like Thrive Architect, Divi and Elementor replacing them
- Webmasters, especially inexperienced ones, will increasingly want more DFY (Done For You) services by other providers and not want to manage many of the tasks of running a website themselves (like companies increasingly use Amazon’s AWS hardware rather than run their own)
— Will 5G play a major role in how future websites are built and hosted?
Anything that enhances or improves the mobile experience will be a winner. Smartphones can already do a lot and centralize a ton of stuff and that will only increase in the foreseeable future.
— On a personal note, your love for animals is obvious and heartwarming. Can you tell us more about how you started working with animal shelters and why?
I have always loved animals, dogs particularly, but because I was moving around when I was younger, living mainly in rented apartments, I couldn’t have animals there.
In Bulgaria, I have made up for it with (so far) 3 dogs (2 were homeless when adopted: Rina and Jorro) and 7 cats (all homeless orphan kittens when adopted: Sasha, Misha, Gigi, Yana, Bella, Pancho and Suzi). So we’re at 10 animals at home now which sounds a lot but seems very normal to me. WPX HQ is dog friendly and Joey, Rina and Jorro are here every day with me at work too.
In Bulgaria, the depressing situation for shelter and homeless dogs (and cats) is decades behind richer Western countries and there is a general public hostility/cruelty towards them in Eastern Europe. But I have made it my mission to permanently fix that heartbreaking misery with my foundation, Every Dog Matters (EU) and get every single Bulgarian shelter dog living a wretched existence in a tiny caged shelter out into our own huge no-cage shelters or adopted into their forever homes. Once we fix Bulgaria, we’ll expand into the neighbouring countries, Romania, Serbia and Greece and fix those too.
I personally believe that successful companies have the unique ability and responsibility to positively, even permanently, bring about major change in a good way. A successful company has the resources and undiluted vision to make a massive impact, unburdened by governments’ short-term politics, bureaucracy and lack of focus. For WPX, our single focus is dogs (and some cats!) in Eastern Europe.
I’d like to thank Terry for taking some time to share his thoughts with us today. I’m always eager to hear from entrepreneurs who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves, take chances, and build something new and exciting. I hope you enjoyed the insight and wisdom.
Totally my pleasure Ken!