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The Impact of Website Downtime to an Online Business

Every year, online businesses across different industries continue to grow. With business owners dedicated to developing new strategies to adapt to the constantly changing climate, sometimes it’s easy to overlook one of the most important aspects of a website, its infrastructure.

During the building phases of a website, any hosting provider or website builder will run smoothly, but as traffic and usage of resources increases, the infrastructure will be put to a test.

There are many reasons why the hosting server might not be able to handle the load and result in an outage, in this article we’ll cover what is considered website downtime and the common causes.

We also asked website owners about the actual impact outages had on their business and the costs of website downtime.

What is Website Downtime

Website downtime refers to the period of time when a web application is unavailable to perform its primary task or be accessed by its intended users.

Common Reasons for Website Downtime

  • Scheduled downtime
  • Hardware Failures
  • Software Bugs
  • User error
  • Malicious Attacks
  • Lack of resources

How to Check if a Website is Down

It’s common that a website might seem down to a specific visitor but it’s working properly for everybody else. For this reason we recommend checking with a third-party tool to verify if a given website is actually down.

  1. Down for Everyone or Just me
    A simple to use tool that will verify the site status within seconds.
  2. Host Tracker
    Similar to the one above but providing full page speed, ping, trace route, and more technical details.
  3. Site24x7
    The main advantage of Site24x7 is rapidly checking the site from multiple geographical locations.
  4. Pingdoom Tools
    While the tool is meant as a speed test, it would easily identify an outage, but will be most helpful if the site is experiencing performance issues instead of being completely down.

The Cost of Website Downtime

Cost of Website Downtime Chart

We asked online experts to share their own website outages’ experiences and the impact the downtime had on their businesses.

Kean Graham, CEO at MonetizeMore

“MonetizeMore tech uses AWS for our CDN, hosting, database and several other use cases. We were hit when AWS went down last year. Since PubGuru Header Bidding runs an ad auction for large publishers, this resulted in lost ad revenues for our publisher partners and of course, MonetizeMore.”

Anshul Kapoor, COO at MBA Rendezvous

“Paying to a Non reliable Website Hosting Company could actually cost you much more in the Long Run.

We experienced a website outage in March End and that was the time when India Lockdown had just started. My hosting provider was still figuring out how to get their resources to start working from home and suddenly there was an issue in their data center and several websites including the website of the hosting provider were down.The Website was down for a complete 24 hours. It had a very serious impact on our Business. We being an internet company Organic traffic is the most important KPI for us. But no one initially had a clue how bad the impact of website outage would be on our Organic Traffic. – Our Google Rankings fell down by 4 positions on average for high volume keywords.- It took nearly 1 month for the traffic to come back to the old average.- We lost at least 2 Ad campaigns for which we pitched due to the drop in the traffic.

So a 24 hour downtime costed us a complete month. It could easily be said that we wasted not just 24 hours but a complete month of efforts, resources to come back to the same level which the Hosting provider will never understand.We have now a secondary hosting at a completely different hosting company, in a different geographic location to avoid the situation in future.”

Shakun Bansal, Head of Marketing Mercer | Mettl

“Once when we faced a hosting outage for 24 hours, it caused a widespread delay in a lot of our functionalities like critical landing pages and emails, reporting, and CRM tools. A lot of our customers and client interactions were left hanging, and it took us longer to reach out to them than we would have liked.

We first noticed that our website was experiencing downtime due to a hosting outage when we didn’t receive any lead generation numbers that day. None of the critical customer journey maps were recorded, and no critical email CTA responses registered for the demonstration of our products. Obviously, on the other side, the customers who left their contact details weren’t recorded, no lead gen forms signed, and as nothing was being recorded, details like customer’s name, requirements, and geography were lost. It couldn’t be allocated to the right account executive to handle the customers.”

Ian Wright, Founder of British Business Energy

“When I was first starting out building British Business Energy, we had a hosting outage for something like 24-48 hours. At the time our sales were quite low, so the direct cost was only a couple of lost sales leads. Hard to say if we directly lost any business at all.

However, one negative thing I did notice is that our Google ranking really suffered and took several months to come back to where they were before. Therefore, the indirect cost was probably huge, but very difficult to measure. Eventually we switched to a premium hosting provider, and while they are far from cheap they have been amazing.

One direct consequence was improved page load time, which directly resulted in a 5% boost to sales. More than made up for the increased cost in hosting fees.”

Carla Diaz, Cofounder of Broadband Search

“Unplanned website downtime is a frustrating occurrence which most online businesses will probably experience at some point in their lifetime. Not only can downtime affect your sales, cause data loss, and harm customer retention, but it puts stress on other parts of the business such as customer support, which can result in a further negative experience for customers and damage your company’s reputation. In many cases, if you have the right plans in place, you can resolve downtime quite quickly but that doesn’t mean this will always be the case. If your downtime is caused by a cyberattack, for example, you might see downtime lasting for days, causing some major damage to your business. When we have had downtime in the past, we have been lucky enough that the issues were minor and could be sorted out in less than an hour, but this is also thanks to the reactive plans which we have in place for issues like this. My advice is to set up both proactive and reactive plans for various threats. This will allow you to prevent downtime from happening, whilst still being ready to react to an issue quickly if something does happen. “

Mark Webster, Co-Founder of Authority Hacker

“As a business that relies on high-impact, big-ticket sales windows (i.e we put our courses on sale for 1-2 weeks only), downtime can have a huge impact on our bottom line.

The biggest risk for us is that the user won’t return for a number of reasons. While many may see downtime as a “come back later” scenario, for a lot of people, you may be surprised at just how many people will never return if an obstacle is put in their way. Firstly, their trust in the website is impacted – they may begin to question whether the products or services you’re offering can be relied upon if you can’t even keep the website running.

On top of this, many people make choices like clicking a link, subscribing to a service or purchasing an item on a spur of the moment basis. Your sales material has worked hard to convince them but the moment an error occurs, all the momentum is lost and it’s back to square one. You’ve essentially wasted your entire marketing funnel.

In terms of real impact this has had, during one of our previous launches, we estimated we lost around $30k on lost sales and redundant paid advertising due to downtime. This had a huge impact on our launch. Fortunately, we’ve learned from our mistakes and now hire a company to monitor our sales page during launch and action any issues – even if I’m asleep!”

Brett Downes, Founder at HaroHelpers

“We used Namecheap for our site when setting up; well aware of its history for crashes, but as we were in the early stages of business we were looking for a budget option until we started to generate a steady income.

Being a new website, SEO was going to take some time to make an impact, so most of our business came through Google AdWords and Facebook Ads.

Early in our company’s journey our website went down on a Friday and wasn’t back online until Monday. We weren’t aware of this as for some reason it was ok in the UK, but it was inaccessible to the United States. Namecheap tried blaming GDPR which was fake news as never had any issues before with that, and neither have our peers (at the same time) who used Namecheap.

We spent over $500 on that weekend on AdWords, but that wasn’t even the biggest loss. The potential revenue from lost new customers – based on our average ads conversion rate – stood at upwards of $5000; akin to 2 new clients.”

Dan Bailey, President at WikiLawn

“Last year in October we had a full week of spotty service from our host. They’ve been reliable for years, so I think it was just a fluke, but it definitely disrupted our business at WikiLawn.

We serve our clients (lawn care professionals) by getting them qualified leads through our site. When the site is slow to load, we see a noticeable drop off in the number of visitors that actually convert to leads. They just exit the site. Even more so if there are outages, however brief.

Our lead generation during that week dropped by over 15%, which is a significant impact for our clients. We had several new relationships we were building that never got off the ground because of the poor results.”

Daniel Foley, Director at Assertive Media

“During these unusual times, we have all come to rely on the internet more and more each day, but this comes with high risks. Over the last month, my website downtime has been ridiculously high. I have estimated that I have lost over 72 hours this month.. This has had a huge impact on all my staff and employees. If the page is down then my team for social management has very little to do if anything at all, meaning I am losing money but still having to pay my employees because this is no fault of theirs. I feel I have also lost business because of this. Obviously, if my page isn’t loading then customers are going to go elsewhere. So I have taken steps forward in the hope to prevent this from happening as often. I have changed provider and taken out insurance so I shouldn’t be out of pocket again. If there is downtime for over four hours, I will be compensated for my loss. Also, become diverse when it comes to advertising. Get your name out there so if one site is down, you have a selection of backups. Looking ahead I hope that I will have less downtime due to my implemented changes and providing my customers with a product or service they can trust will guarantee returning customers who are willing to wait for my site to be up and running again.”

Rex Freiberger, President at GadgetReview

“Website downtime is a huge problem for us. If our site goes offline, most of our sales dry up completely. We only have a few outside sources of sales, as most links just direct back to our site for the sake of complying with affiliate program guidelines.

Originally our host was very spotty. They frequently had outages and unannounced maintenance. There was one time where a 2-5am schedule maintenance lasted nearly 12 hours, with few updates from the company. It cost us thousands in lost revenue for the day, and meant we had to stop all of our ad campaigns or risk losing even more money. We dropped them immediately after that, and thankfully our current host has been more reliable.”

Stacy Caprio, Founder at Accelerated Growth Marketing

“I’ve had hosting providers that have had scheduled and unscheduled downtime that have negatively impacted my business. One scheduled downtime from A Small Orange hosting was never communicated through email, and my site lost a full day of traffic during one of its peak revenue days, losing a few hundred dollars because the host had never communicated its “scheduled downtime” to clients, thinking no one would notice.”

Christopher Prasad, Marketing Manager at JookSMS

‘Your website being down can have more or less of an effect depending on two things, timing and situation. If your site has a lot of traffic the time it is down, you are going to lose that engagement and could ultimately cost you money in the long term. If you are launching a new service or product, again this may drive sales down if you cannot fix it fast enough. If you paid for advertisements too and they lead to a dead website, this might mean that those customers do not ever want to click back on your page. You have to be aware of these problems and know how to fix them quickly.’

Brian Lim, CEO atiHeartRaves &INTO THE AM

“If you’re starting an online business, make sure you focus on researching the platform you plan on using. A big mistake we made was that we originally used Magento, and that proved to be a near-fatal error. After appearing on Shark Tank, we knew that being featured on a highly viewed television show would attract quite a bit of website traffic. In the year leading up to the episode’s air date, we purchased thirty servers, simulated load tests, and invested over $500,000 to make sure the site could handle the massive influx of traffic that would be coming our way. But when the episode aired, the site went down. In the world of eCommerce, uptime means everything! A lot of money was lost that day, and it made what should have been one of the happiest days, one of the worst. Since then, we’ve switched over to Shopify, and our lives have been made immeasurably easier. We likely would never have had this issue if we had been with Shopify from the beginning. All this to say – patience was definitely learned in a situation where we had to expect the unexpected. We didn’t let that situation sink our company. Instead, we grew our company and surrounded ourselves with excellent employees who would help us continue to grow in the years following.”

Patricia Campbell, Marketing Director at LegalAdvice.com

“Website downtime for an online business is awful. It is stressful to be affected by circumstances beyond one’s control. Our hosting company had a few outages several years back that actually affected a good portion of the Internet network. Many of these hosting companies are large conglomerates that when they go down, they tend to affect many online businesses at once. The lost revenue is only 1 component of downtime. The other component is the wasted radio ads and other marketing efforts that instantly become worthless.”

Rizwan Girach, Owner of Chessgammon

“We are an online traditional board games store, specialising in chess and backgammon. As an online store we certainly know of the impacts any downtime can have on a website. One of the first aspects affected is ofcourse the incoming customers and loss potential customers and sales. Unfortunately the effects of any downtime last longer than what we actually may think, search engines usually monitor and have metrics available and one in particular is called the ‘bounce rate’ which essentially gives them a good indicator for potential downtime. What this actually means Is the number of visitors clicking and arriving at the website to instantly go back or away from the website, I.e the most minimal engagement with the website. Unfortunately this would certainly play a large part with the regards to SEO optimisation as any downtime the website has tells search engines the website is not as reliable as fellow competitors. These metrics would again recover but would potentially take weeks to months to recover for a short amount of downtime.”

Conclusion

Website downtime regardless of the reason will happen to an online business, but what is really important is that your hosting provider can respond as quickly as possible and remedy the situation.

Measuring the actual cost of downtime, tracking the right site performance metrics and making the party responsible accountable for the outage will help improve over time and prevent unnecessary downtime.

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