Why Downtime Hurts Your Brand
Downtime happens. There’s no getting around it, but there’s also no denying that it has an impact on your business—more specifically, on your digital marketing efforts and customer relations.
We all know that it’s inevitable, but do you know the true hidden costs? The impact of uptime on digital marketing is more important than you realize, and understanding how downtime hurts your brand is the first step to knowing how to deal with it.
The Direct Costs of Downtime
The biggest cost of too much downtime is a loss of revenue. Each step and process in a digital marketing strategy is aimed at getting the potential customer to click through to your website, where your offer awaits.
When you’re paying for digital marketing, every one of those clicks is valuable… And when the clicks are going to a website that’s not available, you’re paying for nothing. Shockingly, some big companies report a loss of up to $5 million PER HOUR of downtime! For smaller businesses, it can still rack up $8,000+, which is a significant loss.
Disruption of Advertising Campaigns
Downtime affects your website, but your digital marketing efforts will still be going strong, right? Well, yes, but… Marketing is a means to an end, and when the end isn’t working, the consequences can be big.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
PPC campaigns like Google ads are a significant part of most digital marketing strategies. Whether your website is up or down, your ads will be displayed, which is a bonus. But it does come with a downside: if someone clicks on your ad and can’t reach your site because it’s down, you still get charged for that “worthless” click.
But you aren’t just wasting money here—users who click on an ad in response to their query and are directed to an error page are likely to form an unsavory opinion of your brand.
Although downtime is uncommon and it’s only likely to affect a small percentage of potential clients, even just a few occurrences will have a negative impact on your brand reputation (and your bank balance).
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is a must for any business, both local and global. Engaging with your audience builds trust and authority in your niche, but if you’re referring them to your website (as of course, you would be), downtime can quickly bash that trust you’ve worked hard to build up.
Thankfully, if you’re engaging regularly, you’ll most likely have the opportunity to address the issue if your followers comment on your social media posts. But in most cases, the damage will be done. And if you catch someone on a bad day and they decide to spread their negative experience around social media, you’ll have a fight to defend your brand reputation.
SEO blog posts and email marketing are two important elements of every digital marketing plan. But if someone clicks on a link in your email or tries to read a blog post on the results page after a search, they’re going to be unimpressed if it goes to an error page.
Visitors looking for information will quickly navigate away from your site and to a competitor. Email subscribers who are loyal and read your content often will most likely be understanding, but those who are new or not engaged and decide to check out your link will be put off.
The Ripple Effects of Downtime on Your Brand
Aside from losing out on potential revenue and ruining your digital marketing strategy, downtime can have a ripple effect on your brand in multiple other ways.
SEO Penalties and Decreased Visibility
If SEO content is one of your main pillars of digital marketing, you may be surprised to learn that downtime has a negative impact on your search engine ranking.
Google and other search engines take uptime into account when ranking, and if your site experiences a lot of downtime, well… Your rankings will tank.
If Google happens to be crawling your site during downtime, your website will be penalized by being pushed down the rankings. Before Google’s “pageless” ranking system, Backlinko research showed that just 0.63% of people clicked on results on page 2.
That principle still stands—searchers aren’t likely to scroll too far down to find an answer to their query. The more downtime you have, the further down you’ll fall, and the fewer clicks you’ll get… And the more sales you’ll end up losing.
It Can Harm Your Brand’s Reputation
Your potential customers expect your website to be up and running whenever they need to get on it. If it’s not, well, it can leave a bad impression.
A website that’s down might lead the customer to wonder about the reliability of your brand in general. People prefer to buy from companies that are trustworthy, so if they can’t access the page they’re looking for, they might start to think there’s something wrong with the company, not just the website.
Negative reviews or comments online about your brand can significantly taint your brand’s reputation. You might not even be able to see the comments—they could be on review sites or social media pages external to your brand—but trust us, potential customers will see them and be put off your brand.
Poor User Experience
User experience is one of the most important parts of being a successful business. If your website users find it easy and straightforward to navigate, they’ll come back. If not, they’ll avoid you in the future.
Remember, users expect lightning-fast responses and information at their fingertips. Slow loading times can cause users to bounce within 3 to 5 seconds, so if the page isn’t loading at all due to downtime, you can be sure they’re not going to waste their time coming back.
Lost Traffic and Sales
If you don’t get traffic, you can’t make sales. It’s that simple! If someone tries to pop onto your site to buy and it’s not available, they’re unlikely to come back later, unless they have a vested interest in your brand.
The more likely scenario is that they’ll simply hop over to a competitor who is available at the time and buy what they need to buy. Bonus for your arch-enemy, and a big blow for you.
If your downtime happens to fall in peak traffic times, you may be hit hard. Remember the figures we mentioned earlier? Your business could be losing up to $8k per HOUR of downtime, so don’t think it’s just a small thing.
Steps You Can Take To Minimize Downtime
Want to stay in Google’s good books and make your potential customers happy? Take note of these steps you can take to minimize downtime and maximize the effectiveness of your digital marketing strategy.
Choose Your Web Host Wisely
This is probably the smartest step you can take to maximize uptime—choose a web host that offers excellent uptime guarantees. The industry standard is 99.99%, although some shared hosting plans will drop that to 99.9% (although we don’t recommend using these).
Just for a quick comparison: 99.9% uptime equates to just over 8 ½ hours of downtime a year, while a 99.99% uptime guarantee leaves you with less than an hour of downtime annually. Big difference, especially when you factor in how much money you might be losing per hour of being offline!
Do your research here, because it’s not always straightforward. Siteground hosting offers 99.9% uptime but gives you a free month of hosting if it drops below that at any point. Some hosting services, like iPower hosting, don’t mention their uptime guarantee, so you’ll need to find the information elsewhere.
Others, like WP Engine, guarantee between 99.95% and 99.99% depending on whether services or features fall under their regular service level agreement or extended SLA. This is why research is so important—you need to be sure of what you’re getting.
Stay Alert: Setting Up Effective Downtime Monitoring
Don’t simply trust what your web host is telling you. Invest in an effective downtime monitoring tool so you can keep an eye on it yourself. You don’t need to do this forever—if you’ve monitored your web host for a few months and all looks good, you can ease off the close inspection, although we recommend checking every few months.
But this could be the best way to figure out if your web hosting company is being honest about their uptime and downtime… And could end up saving you in the long run.
Be Prepared: Crafting Your Downtime Contingency Plan
Downtime WILL happen. Being prepared for it is the best thing you can do to minimize the negative impact. Begin by crafting a unique 404 page that your visitors will be directed to in the event that they’re trying to access your site when it’s down.
Take this opportunity to apologize for the inconvenience and offer the reader a way to get in touch if they need information immediately. Encourage them to come back. Make sure the content is in line with your brand voice, but try to keep it light and friendly.
Backup, Backup, Backup: Keeping Your Data Safe
You never know when downtime could turn into something worse or make your site vulnerable. Make sure your site’s contents are backed up—you can rely on your web host for this or do it yourself, but make sure your host has a good reputation for backing up data.
Scale Smartly: Ensuring Your Hosting Can Grow with You
The bigger and more detailed our website gets, the more possibility there is for it to experience issues, especially if you’ve outgrown the features and resources your web hosting plan offers.
Make sure you’re using a web host that can scale with you as you grow. You might also need to consider switching to a different type of hosting as you grow—for example, from VPS to dedicated or cloud hosting.
Regular Check-Ups: The Importance of Routine Maintenance
While regular maintenance is part of the reason for downtime, neglecting maintenance can lead to bigger problems (and MORE downtime). Make double sure your web host is performing regular maintenance so your site runs smoothly with no unnecessary downtime.
Although you can’t escape downtime, you CAN minimize it. In fact, doing everything you can to minimize downtime isn’t just a maybe—it’s a necessity if you want to have the best chance of keeping your visitors happy, making sales, and growing as a business