I’ve switched hosting companies a total of two times. I have lived in more places than my websites have actually. I think your hosting provider is probably one of the most critical business partnerships you have on the web because they are what keep you online. They are what keep you in business, so buying hosting was like finding a great auto mechanic. The less you contact them, the better, but when you need them, they are there and understand what you need. So having unmanaged hosting wasn’t something I wanted. Which is why I liked site5 so much, they managed the in’s and out’s of managing my server and had guarantees of uptime and transparency of reporting on server uptime. Yes, there was some bumps in the road. But all in all, they were a great match for what I needed and the reason I stayed with them for eight years and moved dozens of clients to their services.
So when I heard that site5 had sold to Endurance International Group, I was in disbelief. But after contacting Ben Welch-Bolen the then owner of Site5 and yes the sale had been made, and the handing over of customer assets would be done on August 26th, 2016. I am not knocking whatever business decision the previous owners of site5 made in the sale that’s not for me to judge.
But when EIG did take the reigns it was immediately noticeable:
• All Nagios server status reports were gone, no more transparency of server uptime.
• All money back guarantees of server uptime disappeared.
• Downtime of my server went from minutes a week to hours.
• Support tickets took weeks to respond too.
• Emails about server maintenance ceased, and five clients were migrated to a new server without notice or time to change the A-name take their site down for days. Support knew nothing.
• I had a multi-admin account that allowed me to switch between clients. That just disappeared. I had no access to any other hosting account I previously was a registered user on.
• Friends charged were services they didn’t have not did they want.
• Emails were randomly blocked coming in and or not delivered when going out causing havoc in my communications.
We believe this trend assists competitors who have focused more heavily than we have on building consumer awareness of their brand, and that it has made it more challenging and more expensive for us to attract new subscribers. In order to address this trend, during the third quarter of 2016, we began to allocate additional marketing investment to a subset of our hosting brands, including our largest brands, Bluehost.com, HostGator and iPage.
~ EIG 2016 THIRD QUARTER REPORT
They purchase a hosting property, lay off support staff, uptime takes a dive bomb and lack of any accountability on their part. This collaborates what has reported by Kevin Ohashi of Review Signal.
Where to go next?
Well, that was a big question for me over the summer. I need something that could:
• Host email
• WordPress websites
• Subdomains ( to test plugins, mess with stuff )
• Static HTML
• Having a cPanel account wasn’t required as site5 had a very customised cPanel they called Backstage and Site admin. But I didn’t want to be writing shell commands.
Read my second blog post on finding a new hosting provider. Spoiler alert it’s Inmotion Hosting.
When I first met Rebecca Coleman at Northern Voice 2011 I though she was a quite intelligent about social media. I felt after her presentation that she totally got it and by “it” I mean the confusion world of internet, branding, marketing and social media.
After Northern Voice we followed each other on twitter and have since traded some business contacts and gotten to know each other pretty well.
I have always been a visual guy. If I can visualize, I can usually make sense of it.
Which is why I really really love Google Maps and use it every day. I was recently in Vegas and didn’t have data for my phone or the ability to find locations in Google Maps on my phone and I kinda felt lost without it. That and Vegas is just damn confusing.
Google has really done an amazing of job of organizing the world’s content so people can find what they are looking for quickly and easily.
But herein lies my main issue with Google Maps: It is now relied on heavily by the general public and regarded as correct 99% of the time – any incorrect information is forwarded to the map subject as it’s seen as their fault.
BUT IT’S NOT THE FAULT OF THE BUSINESS 99% OF THE TIME!
And yes, they corrected the problem after it was blogged and tweeted about extensively. But before going public it was reported by hundreds of people on the Sunshine Coast via Google’s internal ‘report a problem’ mechanism and for years nothing was done.
Get your business listed
Google is proactive about getting your business listed with their mapping service and extols the advantages in terms of search engine results and traffic to your website.
But my last three experiences with Google Places and their ‘report a problem’ mechanism have meant hours of work and painful communication and left me wanting to run for the hills. I am not a GIS professional, nor am I a Cartographer. To quote that Dyson guy…”I just think things should work properly.”
Why we can’t verify
Google Places wants you to list your business and it uses a number of helpers to find your location properly. But it restricts you to your postal code. This is a huge issue in rural, non-delivery areas where Canada Post assigns post office boxes.
This became a problem for many businesses located at a physical address completely different from the assigned postal code.
It looked like we had one massive organization – Google – not communicating well with another – Canada Post.
When I needed to get a Google Places listing for Ridge Meadows Recycling we couldn’t use the postal code as a business locator. So I had to report the problem and then explain how the post office works in rural Canada. All of this took two or three emails once they acknowledged the problem. And then we had to get an employee with a company email address to reply to Google saying that yes this was the actual business location, etc. etc. etc.
But it took a month and 4 hours of emailing, forum posting, issue reporting and checking for accuracy.
While the client was happy and people were now able to type in Ridge Meadows Recycling and find the correct location of the depot, the entire process felt like I was trying to give birth to an elephant.
Our business listings have been merged
My web design business is still a small operation with myself as the only employee, along with a couple of contractors. It is growing, but for the time being I use the offices of The Network Hub in downtown Vancouver, along with a number of other similar businesses located in the same building.
On a Sunday morning in March I got a call from Britta Curkovic at aromawebdesign.com who also uses the services and office space of The Network Hub. She said our business listings were merged. These are two independent businesses, with different phone numbers, website addresses, and services offered, yet for weeks our listings were merged. I had an owner-verified listing and I was told by Google that my listing was going to change and I should check this for errors. All of this while we were frantically emailing Google Help trying to get things back to normal. Eventually the listings were split again and we were finally able to be located as independent from one another.
The total time it took to undo the mess was 14 business days and 6 full hours of un-billable time, emailing back and forth with Google and the other business owner, posting to the Google Places forums, and checking for quality assurance.
The problem was corrected but it had to be explained carefully to Google and we had to exhaust all other options before they would even look at the problem.
You are already trying to verify your business
My third issue, and the one that is currently causing a client a lot of pain, is the business listing for Uprising Breads Bakery. After 30 years, Uprising decided to open a new location. To coincide with this they updated their website with a new look and listed the location of the new café. Back in October 2011 I had sent in for verification on the new location. As the weeks and then months went by I sent and resent requests to Google staff to keep a lookout for this.
Finally, after reading about a page Google had recently set up to report problems, I was told by a human at Google Places Help that since there was already one listing that wasn’t verified the new listing was seen as duplication.
The representative was kind enough to verify the listing on the spot and Uprising Breads was very happy to have their two listings.
From start to finish it took 3 months to get the listing verified and at least 10 hours of work from everyone involved.
But wait, there’s more!
Six months later Google saw that both listings had the same website address and the same phone number; they surmised that it must be the same listing and combined them. So now (as of May 10th, 2012) Uprising Breads Bakery has photos of one location and the address of the other.
Well, you say, you must be old hat at this by now and know how to fix it.
What about McDonald’s? What about Domino’s Pizza? What about Starbucks? Places that have dozens of locations in a given city that all have the same name and the same website, similar phone numbers but many different locations.
His best suggestion is to get a new phone number? Automated phone systems are commonplace…they save businesses thousands of dollars in employee time and cost. I know that this is the opinion of a top contributor and not an actual Google employee, but my God this is odd. To get a proper website listing you need a new phone number?
Google also doesn’t have a field in Google Places for phone extensions; if we tried to put the extension in the phone field this would error out making his best advice completely useless and actually doing more harm then good.
I could cite even more examples of how I reported a business that closed yet had its Google Places listing for years after, even when Google Street View had replaced its imagery of the location. But, because it was an owner-verified business, it stayed there for three years after the business closed down.
People over those three years came looking for the business that wasn’t there anymore…they trusted that Google was 99% right. Why is the business listing still available (even though it does mention it is closed) after it has been closed for so many years? What purpose does a three year old listing serve the user?
To Google’s credit
To their credit, Google has tried to improve this and made the user edit more viable through Google Map Maker tools. But, after making hundreds of edits to the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver, one day a number of them were deleted – not denied but completely vanished – and I felt all my time and effort volunteering to make Google Maps better in my neighborhood was lost – I haven’t returned since. Also, a lot of the edits that were made and approved by the community of editors were never made live on Google Maps, but only showed up in the Google Map Maker ecosystem.
So, as an owner of a small business and as a contractor to dozens of medium businesses, most of my interactions with Google Maps / Places has been less than stellar.
Changes I would make to Google Places if I could
Easier verification for rural Canada
Run a seasonal kayaking company and changed your location after 20 years? You should be able to easily verify your business listing so that doesn’t require it to be in the same postal code as your business address.
(I understand the restrictions put in place for verified business listings to be associated with a postal code, but as I explained earlier, areas of Canada that do not have street delivery service must use a post office box that might not be in the same postal code.)
Easier reporting of issues
With Uprising Breads there was no easy way to report the issue we were coming up against. Even the top contributor suggested that our issue was an odd one.
As a designer running a web design firm I have encountered these problems numerous times and yet each time is as laborious as the first, even though I know exactly what the problem is and what needs to get done.
I would pay a yearly or monthly fee to have some dedicated support – somewhere or someone I could contact who would be able to help resolve problems for me and my clients quickly and efficiently.
Right now the current system in Google Places costs me time and money it completely confuses clients. The results can change at a moment’s notice, without warning about problems that might arise.
I do know one thing…the problem isn’t going to go away. It will only get bigger and more complex as more businesses, rural and urban, want to be listed with Google Maps. Users will notice errors and business owners are held hostage by whatever information Google decides to allow into its ecosystem.
Update early 2014: – I have for the most part given up on trying to correct the errors in Google Maps. So many arbitrary decision that didn’t make any sense, no appeals process and not the friendliest of communities. I just rather focus my efforts somewhere more productive. Good Luck trying to get your errors correct it could be as easy as a click or a bad as multi day multi hours with no resolution in site.
On Sunday October 9th my service provider site5. (Update: I am no long with site5 read why here) Was dealing with a Denial of service attack (DoS) attack on their Vancouver hosting location. As always they were on top of it. So I tweeted that my website would be down and so would the website of the home based business I run 32spokes web design. Being that it was the Canadian Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend, it just gave me more of an excuse to watch the Winnipeg Jets in their first NHL game in 15 years. I wasn’t really doing any work, I was just fiddling around with something.
Once we were back up I tweeted that it was a DoS and we were back up and running. Hey great job site5! (Update: I am now with InMotion Hosting)I like the hosting plan I have and it works for what I need at the moment. No more no less.
Monday rolled around and I got a phone call in the morning from California of which I didn’t answer (it is a holiday after all). In the afternoon they called again. The number was the same. I answered it just to keep the phone from ringing all bloody day.
Versign: Hi it’s Salesman from Verisign I see you had some problems with your website over the weekend can we talk about how we can help?
Me: Nope I am very happy with my hosting provider and don’t need any other services at the moment. You do know it is a holiday in Canada?
Versign: Oh I am sorry about that. Can I set up a call to talk later?
Versign: Can I just give you my contact information.
Me: I know who you are your a big company, I’ll call you if I need anything. (patients wearing thin)
Versign: Just let me give you my contact information and maybe…
Me: Your really not getting this… No thank you good bye. Maybe you should check your calendar before cold calling next time.
Versign: No reason to get rude I am just asking…
An hour later…
Cell phone rings. I don’t answer I am doing the lunch dishes.
Answering machine message:
“Hi this is Salesman#2 from Verisign, I see you had a DoS attack on your website this weekend. Maybe we can set aside 10 minutes to talk about how we can provide a solution so your website is protected…”
Twenty minutes after the cell phone call:
Business line rings again: (now I am just pissed)
Versign: “Hi this is Salesman#2 from Verisign I see you had some issues with your website and I was wondering if we could set aside some time to talk about how…”
Me: Seriously? I am not interested stop calling me on a holiday weekend! Goodbye!
Versign: Oh umm…
Seriously this is not how to do a effective marketing campaign. I understand that the hard sell works with some people. But I have never liked it and walk away from any company who employes it as fast as possible. I’d rather to figure whether I want to work with the other company myself and it is usually comes down to excellent customer service and a good long track record. I had heard of VeriSign before they are a large SSL certificate company. But not taking no for an answer and calling multiple times a day makes me question your intention. They noticed my tweet, but didn’t reply to my tweet. They found my number on my website, but didn’t send a email. Both methods of contact would have got me just as quickly. But they wanted to do a cold call because it’s then harder to say no to.
The calling on the holiday monday was just more an annoyance then anything. But gave me in the impression that the company hadn’t done it’s homework before trying to sell me something…
The things I like about the companies I deal with is that they prove I should be their customer through the service they provide. Not because they told me they are great at what they do or I had to deal with them or I was going to be in trouble if I didn’t use them.
Did this interaction ruin my day? No, but this type of sell is happening far more often. This post is just to show what impression a company like verisign leaves me with after they try contact me. They did more pushing me away then attracting me any service they were offering. When I switched hosting providers more then a year ago. I went looking for a company that had a good track record and didn’t try to sell me something I didn’t need or want. This is process of which I choose all the companies I choose to deal with.
Postscript >> All of this from one tweet on a sunday afternoon? Ya got me as to why I was targeted as a customer…
Since that memorable, hectic, time, I’ve said a sad goodbye to East Vancouver and Commercial Drive, one of the great little neighbourhoods in Canada. I met phenomenal people there, friends and neighbours with whom I shared ideas and initiated collaborations.
Pondering how to turn an economic downturn into a personal upturn, I moved back to the Sunshine Coast. I applied for and was accepted into the Aspire Program, which will help me shape my experiences with web design, marketing, art direction and photography into my own business.
There is trepidation, as the path chosen comes with a steep learning curve; but no one ever promised it would be easy. I’m comforted by the security of living at home as well as this program’s 15 years of proven success. Knowing the number of graduates still operating their businesses, and learning of the program’s reputation among coastal residents, I know I’ve made the right choice, and I’ll be launching my business come this late November.