Technical SEO: Digital Ocean vs Google Cloud vs AWS

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This may seem off topic but its on topic, technical SEO is imperative … you’re not going to rank number one on Google using Shopify or Wix.  It just isnt going to happen.
Its also apparently difficult to get solid advice on SEO Hosting from “experts” Best Blog Hosting for SEO is junk … reciting features doesnt make a hosting plan the best…one quote notes that WordPress is already installed with InMotionHosting.com … so what!  Our web servers are preconfigured to install WordPress in every new account as well…it only saves maybe 5 minutes per user but for
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Comparing Digital Ocean Droplets and AWS EC2 VPS

How Is This SEO?

This may seem off topic but its on topic, technical SEO is imperative … you’re not going to rank number one on Google using Shopify or Wix.  It just isn’t going to happen.

Those platforms are not serious enough to deliver the configurability one needs to out perform a competitor.

This Isn’t Your Typical Review

It’s also apparently difficult to get solid advice on SEO Hosting from “experts” Best Blog Hosting for SEO is junk … reciting features doesn’t make a hosting plan the best…one quote notes that WordPress is already installed with InMotionHosting.com … so what!

Our web servers are preconfigured to install WordPress in every new account as well…it only saves maybe 5 minutes per user so that savings is not for the user but for a web host, that time adds up very quickly.  So that’s not a benefit for the client as much as it is for the host.

You likely aren’t a web host, so it’s not that big of a deal.  I’d like to see benchmarking tests they may have run to decide who is the best.  And we do … but thats coming in a few paragraphs.

I only mention these to point out typically articles covering which thing is better, focus on the irrelevant because the author lacks a clear grasp of technology and SEO.  Well, this isn’t one of those articles.

Promising More Than Physically Possible

Unlimited bandwidth…sounds great but what are the limits?  There are limits, the infrastructure that a site sits on has limitations.  If someone uses a CAT5 cable instead of a CAT6 everything will be slower and you’ll find a speed limit there.  It may be 5 gbps which is A LOT but … that IS a limit.

Bottlenecks can be designed into infrastructure by error and these can limit a site’s performance. Unlimited bandwidth means nothing because there are limits … physical limits exist and can’t be avoided.  So “unlimited” is a term being misused a lot in hosting today.

WordPress preinstalled saves someone 5 minutes but nothing else.  These aren’t important to the Hosting performance and way too many top articles on SEO hosting confuse WordPress’s selling points with the web host’s infrastructure.  That’s what this is all about after all, infrastructure and how it directly impacts a site’s Google ranking.

Google says that over half of all searches are now mobile.  Mobile is extra sensitive to speed and technical SEO matters.  Thats why its so important to set yourself up with the best infrastructure to build on.

Cloud Computing: Background On Our Use Case

The industry standard in web hosting administration software is cPanel.  No way around it with cPanel your support opinions are bountiful where as dreamhost.com has its own proprietary server software … its no better or worse in actuality, its just far less supported by third parties.

Ultimate SEO is hosted on a variety of cPanel servers that were easy to build and deploy, we made them from scratch and some with templates but all in all, there are 4 AWS servers, 2 Google Cloud Platform and 4 Digital Ocean. These currently are powering hundreds of sites including this site.  Cost varies wildly…

Shared Hosting Solution?

It’s important to note that your web host is honestly likely run on one of these three services.  Godaddy is … if you have their shared hosting your running on this environment.  You’re sharing their share of the cloud environment.

Why not just skip ahead and be the master of your domain….sure it will cost more than $3 a month … but that $3 a month hosting plan is shit.  You can have a decent VPS server for $5 a month with better performance.

We’re not going to mix apples with oranges though, this isn’t about shared hosting plans and a VPS.  The VPS will win.  A good review between AWS and a traditional hosting provider is AWS vs Blue Host

Amazon Web Services

I don’t even know what I am spending, where and how it is being spent.  AWS charges you for every little thing and no matter what steps you might take it may seem like rising project costs are simply unavoidable.

Their platform to work within is NOT intuitive … its damn near hell, and it will require some play time.

You’ll need to recall that you have to leave the virtual server’s configuration area to select an IP address to then assign to the server you were just configuring.

Then go back to the server configuration and keep working…till a minute later you have to go to some other obscure place.  (that will cost you money too…each ip address, not talking about bandwidth that’ll cost you too … I’m just saying the ip number).

Don’t even think about swapping hard drives and knowing what is attached to what unless you are prepared to write down long strings of numbers and letters.

AWS does provide greater flexibility than the others on options beyond just a virtual server…but unless you plan to send 100,000 emails a day you won’t benefit from their email service … as an example.

Cloudfront looks like a great CDN option, until you find Cloudflare.

Technical SEO wise I’d give AWS a D overall. Infrastructure and computing power is an obvious A+, but it’s how you interact with that, that weighs the grade down.

More so AWS limits your resources with Throttling and Burstable CPUs … these sound good but they mean they’re only giving you part of the resource not all of it.

Poor navigation and the nickle and dime pricing is absurd.  Want to monitor your usage so you can understand your bill?  Monitoring costs more…its ridiculous.  CloudWatch can be expensive.

They do offer reserved instances and I loaded up on those but still my costs never decreased.

AWS is so hard to understand billing wise that IT Managed Service Providers will offer free excel templates to figure out your AWS monthly costs.

Think I’m being over the top?  Check out this calculator form sheet by AWS to forecast your expenses.

It is never simple when you ask how much and are handed a spreadsheet to calculate the server costs.

Here’s something crazy…why my April bill was $167 but AWS forecasts it will be $1020 in May I have no idea.  I’m not adding servers…so whatever they know, I must not.

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AWS costs are high and unpredictable

AWS costs are high and unpredictable

Google Cloud Platform

Is easier to use and wrap your head around but it is considerably more expensive than either of the other options. For this simple reason…they receive an F. The additional costs come with less options and less features than AWS.

Billing is more transparent and you can understand why your bill is what it is at least.  But Google also makes unilateral decisions for you like blocking smtp and ssh access.  

Sure its more secure but it makes email and server maintenance a nightmare.  You can add those to nonstandard ports in the firewall but then you have to keep up with an oddity.

Documents like this Connecting to Instances make it seem like not a big deal, but these will not allow you to move a file from your computer to the server like SFTP would.

They are expensive, offer less and needlessly shot you in the foot with their restrictions.  

That’s why I stand by the F as an overall grade.  Now infrastructure capabilities … A+ no doubt about it…but you’re paying a premium and placed into a box.

Digital Ocean

I received no compensation or thank you from anyone for writing this … Digital Ocean is my B+ graded cloud solution.  

It’s the cheapest, and they don’t seem to charge you a fee for tools that are required for the main product to function, unlike AWS and their static ip addresses.

They have the least ability and options outside of a virtual server.  If you want a database server that’s in the works unless you can use Postgres.  

UPDATE Sept 2019: MySQL Databases are now fully supported and available.  Additionally Microsoft.com has step by step instructions for installing MsSQL on Digital Ocean’s linux machines.

That’s limiting, but it is also not important if you’re just running a few web servers that will already have MySQL installed on them anyhow (if a LAMP server template is utilized).

Digital Ocean is the no frills, no surprises, cloud computing option.  The reason I have so many servers is because I am migrating everything off AWS and Google Cloud to Digital Ocean…it’ll be cheaper.  A lot cheaper…we’ll discuss performance in this article.

cloud computing cost comparisons

cloud computing cost comparisons

That’s right… $20 vs $121, $177 and $120 from AWS, GCP and Azure.  I didn’t really consider Microsoft Azure just because I have reservations moving into their sphere of control where every thing you need to do is addressed by yet another Microsoft clunky product that usually has little imagination in it.

Test out a server in each environment and I think you’ll quickly take to the Digital Ocean option.

But in deciding the winner of this debate I figure a more scientific method could be used….so let’s divide the debate into areas that can be scored and assessed.

Amazon Web Services vs. Digital Ocean

Simplicity at scale

Ease Of Use

As previously noted, the Digital Ocean’s dashboard is very streamlined compared to AWS.  With AWS you have to configure your network, and several other parts such as the keys before you can make a server that’s accessible to the internet.  

Digital Ocean, you can literally have a server running in less than a minute from a single screen.  Who else can claim that?

Base Cost

Digital Ocean’s costs are inclusive of bandwidth, hard drive size, ip addresses and more.  Everything you need to have a server is right there in one easy package.   Their packages include:

RAM CPUS BAND SSDHD PRICE  
1 GB 1 vCPU 1 TB 25 GB $5/mo
$0.007/hr
 
2 GB 1 vCPU 2 TB 50 GB $10/mo
$0.015/hr
 
3 GB 1 vCPU 3 TB 60 GB $15/mo
$0.022/hr
 
2 GB 2 vCPUs 3 TB 60 GB $15/mo
$0.022/hr
 
1 GB 3 vCPUs 3 TB 60 GB $15/mo
$0.022/hr
 
4 GB 2 vCPUs 4 TB 80 GB $20/mo
$0.030/hr
 
8 GB 4 vCPUs 5 TB 160 GB $40/mo
$0.060/hr
 
16 GB 6 vCPUs 6 TB 320 GB $80/mo
$0.119/hr
 
32 GB 8 vCPUs 7 TB 640 GB $160/mo
$0.238/hr
 
48 GB 12 vCPUs 8 TB 960 GB $240/mo
$0.357/hr
 
64 GB 16 vCPUs 9 TB 1,280 GB $320/mo
$0.476/hr
 
96 GB 20 vCPUs 10 TB 1,920 GB $480/mo
$0.714/hr
 
128 GB 24 vCPUs 11 TB 2,560 GB $640/mo
$0.952/hr
 
192 GB 32 vCPUs 12 TB 3,840 GB $960/mo
$1.429/hr

Amazon Web Services doesn’t allow an easy comparison.  Everything is charged individually it would seem.  They have a tool called Simple Monthly Calculator, it’s a spreadsheet basically … first off  if  you need a calculator it’s obviously not simple.

AWS Calculator

To compare something with the $5 option from Digital Ocean I used the calculator and a t2.micro which is 1cpu and 1g ram with a 25 GB SSD drive, with 2 ips and 1 TB of data transferred to the world, costs about $21.49 but that’s also after a -11.00 discount … without the discount it was 32.49.  That’s for the $5 Digital Ocean option.

AWS Costs

Google Cloud Platform’s version of VPS using Compute Engine isn’t as bad to figure out as AWS but it is still seeming complicated.  I guess my beef with GCP and AWS is that if I spin up an instance I’m obviously going to have to have bandwidth so some baseline amount should be included … just because the instance cant function without it…so it should be part of the instance, I think.

So the N1 class is their general use server.  On-demand pricing is:

$0.0356 / vCPU hour and $0.00095444 / GB hour

So our 2 vCPU with 4 gb RAM is about $0.07 for vCPU and $0.0038 for RAM per hour.  Google shows 730 hours average in a month.  Meaning $51.38 a month.  That includes no hard drive or bandwidth ,.. but no use calculating it further as GCP is way in the lead as most expensive of the three.

Now you might say…well you get what you pay for … and I’d say … Not true in 10/10 tests. 

So at $5 to $32

Digital Ocean Wins 

But wait there’s more and this is the why you’ll switch to Digital Ocean.

Options

Monitoring and alerts can be configured on both platforms .. both allow scaling up and adding additional storage as well as internal networking.  Internal networking has shown to provide fast results for configurations like a web server and an independent second database  AWS though has an expansive offering of options and wins out in this area.

AWS Wins

Billing Options

Digital Ocean allows for credit cards as well as paypal.  AWS allows credit cards and bank accounts.  The difference then is Paypal vs Checking Accounts and since this is a cloud computing, tech product … Im going to prefer Paypal to a tool that has been around for hundreds of years.  So we’re going to hand it to Digital Ocean.

Digital Ocean Wins

Freelancer Friendly

Each can transfer servers to other accounts.  I’ve only been successful in doing this with Digital Ocean and not AWS.  The AWS process is more tedious and you can give a server away that you aren’t an admin of anymore but still are responsible for billing somehow.  That sucks!

Digital Ocean Wins

Support

AWS only offers free billing support…although if you ask them a tech question they do tell you “as a courtesy” here is an article that might help…but tech support itself is out of your reach for free.  Digital Ocean allows you to message them and I’d assume some tech level of support for their platform without charging.

Digital Ocean Wins

So all in all…

The winner is Digital Ocean over GCP and AWS.

but … now an added update to question these assertions…

VPS PERFORMANCE TESTING

Testing Digital Ocean to AWS head to head.

Source

Sex, Speed And The SEO Migration of Romantic Depot to WordPress

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Romantic Depot operates six, soon to be seven adult stores offering sex toys and lingerie, in the New York City area.  Their flagship stores are in Manhattan and the Bronx.  They’ve been around for sometime and over the years their website aged along with other businesses seeking to help drive local foot traffic. With the move to mobile devices in full […]
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Romantic Depot operates six, soon to be seven adult stores offering sex toys and lingerie, in the New York City area.  Their flagship stores are in Manhattan and the Bronx.  They’ve been around for sometime and over the years their website aged along with other businesses seeking to help drive local foot traffic.

With the move to mobile devices in full demonstration the old RomanticDepot.com site was not responsive.  This lead the owner of the chain to build a new site that was mobile friendly and it lead to Ultimate SEO‘s involvement overseeing the process of migrating to this new site without hurting the site’s strong local SEO presence.

Romantic Depot does have an impressive keyword positioning presence in the New York City area. Even nationally they are on page 2 of results for “sex shop“.  The goal was to ensure a smooth transition to the mobile site while maintaining the SEO that had been built over the years.

301 Redirects

The new site was largely a 1 to 1 ratio.  The html static page manhattan.html went now to /manhattan/ on the WordPress site.  We placed in any one off redirects, a redirect that took any url that ended in .html and would return it without the html and a redirect for the index.html homepage to come back with the WordPress homepage at /

Backlink

Backlinks are the life blood of a sit’s ranking and it was important to ensure that those would be maintained with relevant content as well.  Using SEMRush.com we collected all of the backlinks and their existing targets and ensured those had rules as well.  While the site’s backlinks were in the tens of thousands it quick came down to a few hundred target urls that needed to be accounted for to maintain SEO.

Site Speed

Most of the work involved in preparing for the migration was speed performance in nature.  The new site when tested on GTMetrix.com was loading in 12.6 seconds with over 400 http requests. We targeted a 3 second load and through Cloudflare.com we were able to utilize a CDN that brought the site closer to users as well as offered other benefits.  Cloudflare alone brough the site load time to about 7 seconds.

We further limited content that could be on other pages for those other pages such as Google maps to the location homepages. Instituting lazy load ended up being the primary aspect of speeding up the site.  Image optimization was also completed and a move to PHP7.3 from 5.6.  Merging CSS and JS files also worked to reduce the requests.

SIte Speed FOr SEO MIgration

SIte Speed FOr SEO MIgration

With our work to provide a faster site complete the migration was completed and load times on the site are under 3 seconds for mobile users.

Multi Domain Strategy Consolidation

During the migration I also mentioned the value of building one brand.  RomanticDepotSuperStore.com was the site used as the online store for the chain.

The problem that arises from multiple domain strategies is the segmentation of resources and confusion it can cause to Google Analytics.  An easy eample of this is the bounce rate and pageviews metrics are actually hurt on the primary domain.

Consider this… a person searches romantic depot on Google.  The first result is their site, likely the person is going to want to know what items might be at the store.  Once the page loads they find the link to the store, maybe even before the page loads.  Clicking that link they are now taken to a new domain.

That visitors actions would have counted as a bounced visitor.  See when someone goes to your site and immediately leaves for another site that signals to Google that what was on that original site wasn’t what the searcher wanted.  To prevent future searchers from going to a site that people leave directly after going to it they might increase the position of other sites to try and correct for this in the future.  That ultimately means the top spot position for the keyword is being hampered by the site’s structure.

Further Google sees that a person wasn’t even interested enough in the site to look at a second page, they just left.  In realty the second site is part of the same overall topic or brand its just that Google doesn’t necessarily understand that.  An artificially inflated bounce rate and lower page views are all that the first site is getting and the second site is losing out as well as most of the marketing is surrounding the first site’s address…backlinks, social mentions and such.

Lower Bounce Rate

The illustration above shows our page views of the main root domain.  Guess when on the graph the romanticdepotsuperstore.com site was rolled into the main domains … late July.  The thing is, the traffic isn’t any greater its just not split up anymore.  The homepage link to the store is now going to a subfolder of the same domain, its helping by acting as another page view rather than hurting the site as a bounce.

The keywords and authority of this additional site were better utilized under the main domain RomanticDepot.com and this site was migrated to a subfolder /store as a separate WordPress site.

Thats important the site was migrated as a separate site under the original.  This was done for multiple reason and it creates its own set of unique challenges but we’ll discuss that later in a future post.

Consolidated Backlinks

The consolidation of the sites further helps with SEO because after we migrated we put into place redirects from the store’s domain to its new home within the subfolder.  That means all the backlinks now combine to help one site.  Lets consider the following illustration…

Domain A: DA 30 Backlinks: 10,000 Referring Domains: 1,000

Domain B: DA 30 Backlinks: 9,000 Referring Domains: 900

Competitor: DA 35 Backlinks: 13,000 Referring Domains: 1,300

Lets assume everything else is the same…we’d expect then that Competitor will rank higher on Google Search.  But if we combine Domain A ad Domain B.

Domain AB: DA 40 Backlinks: 19,000 Referring Domains: 1,900

Everything else still the same….Domain AB will now rank higher than the Competitor.

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