When changing Hosting hurts: A case study of those who preferred to migrate elsewhere - ­čĆć Managed Server

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July 4 2024

When changing Hosting hurts: A case study of those who preferred to migrate elsewhere

Discover a real-life case of how hosting migration can negatively impact your WordPress website's SEO and performance.

Introduction

In the world of hosting, it's common to celebrate successful migrations to new providers, especially when customers switch to our facility and see a significant improvement in performance.  An American-style before/after comparison is extremely useful for objectively comparing changes in values. This article looks at a detailed case study where a customer decided to migrate their website from web performance-oriented WordPress hosting to a generic provider, with significantly worse results.

While it's exciting to report performance improvements after onboarding a customer to our infrastructure, it's equally important to discuss the negative consequences that can occur when a customer chooses to switch providers to generic hosting. Such decisions often lead to a deterioration in site performance, as demonstrated by the case of Merclin.it. This type of analysis not only highlights the benefits of our service, but also provides a clear warning about the risks associated with hasty or uninformed choices. Analyzing these scenarios offers a balanced and realistic perspective on the implications of hosting migrations, highlighting the importance of proper provider evaluation and selection.

The Case of Merclin.it

Merclin.it is the website of the MerClin Polydiagnostic Center, a medical facility that offers a wide range of specialist health services, including diagnostic imaging, laboratory analysis, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialist visits, aesthetic medicine and dentistry. The center is accredited with the National Health Service and stands out for the high quality of its services, the use of cutting-edge technologies and a competent and up-to-date staff.

About two weeks ago, Merclin.it decided to migrate its hosting to ServerPlan. Analyzing the data of Core Web Vitals before and after migration, we can observe the consequences of this decision. Before the migration, the site was hosted on our infrastructure optimized for web performance. After migration, the values ÔÇőÔÇőof Core Web Vitals show a significant performance deterioration as clearly visible from the following two screenshots.

Analysis of Core Web Vitals

Before Migration (18 June 2024)

Core-Web-Vitals-Merclin-before-migration

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): 1,5 seconds Interaction to Next Paint (INP): 177 milliseconds Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): 0,01 First Contentful Paint (FCP): 1,4 seconds First Input Delay (FID): 12 milliseconds Time to First Byte (TTFB): 0,6 seconds

After Migration (4 July 2024)

Core-Web-Vitals-Merclin-after-migration

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): 3,8 seconds Interaction to Next Paint (INP): 146 milliseconds Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): 0 First Contentful Paint (FCP): 3,7 seconds First Input Delay (FID): 11 milliseconds Time to First Byte (TTFB): 3,3 seconds

Detailed Comparison

The first element that immediately catches the eye is that following the migration to ServerPlan, the site no longer passes the evaluation Core Web Vitals. As we have always written and repeated in various posts on our company blog, i Core Web Vitals they are ranking, indexing and positioning factors and therefore also a very important SEO factor.

I Core Web Vitals are a set of metrics defined by Google to measure the user experience on a web page. Key metrics include Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which measures the load time of the main content, First Input Delay (FID), which measures interactivity, and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), which evaluates visual stability of the page.

A good score on Core Web Vitals it's crucial not only to ensure a great user experience, but also because Google uses these metrics as a ranking factor in search results. A site that outperforms these metrics is more likely to rank well in Google search results, thus attracting more organic traffic. On the contrary, a site that does not comply with these standards risks being penalized, resulting in reduced visibility and, consequently, a decrease in the number of visitors.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

The LCP represents the time taken to make the largest content of the viewport visible. A value less than 2,5 seconds is considered good. Before the migration, Merclin.it had an LCP of 1,5 seconds, indicative of a fast and well-optimized site. After migration, this value increased to 3,8 seconds, far exceeding the critical threshold and indicating a significantly degraded user experience.

Interaction to Next Paint (INP)

INP measures the responsiveness of the site to user interactions. A value under 200 milliseconds is excellent. Both reports show good INP, with a slight post-migration improvement from 177 ms to 146 ms. This indicates that, despite the overall slowdown, responsiveness to interactions remained good.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS measures the visual stability of content while loading. A value less than 0,1 is optimal. Before the migration, Merclin.it had a CLS of 0,01, which is excellent. After migration, the CLS further improved to 0, showing perfect visual stability. This may be one of the few positive aspects of migration.

First Contentful Paint (FCP)

FCP measures the time it takes to make the first piece of content visible. Less than 1,8 seconds is good. Before the migration, Merclin.it had an FCP of 1,4 seconds. After the migration, the FCP increased to 3,7 seconds, indicating a noticeable deterioration in the site's initial loading speed.

First Input Delay (FID)

FID measures the time between the user's first interaction and the browser's response. A value less than 100 milliseconds is optimal. Before the migration, the FID was 12 milliseconds, already excellent. After the migration, the FID remained virtually unchanged at 11 milliseconds, showing that the site's initial responsiveness remained good.

Time to First Byte (TTFB)

TTFB measures the time it takes for the browser to receive the first byte of response from the server. A value less than 0,8 seconds is considered good. Before the migration, Merclin.it had a TTFB of 0,6 seconds, which is excellent. After the migration, the TTFB increased dramatically to 3,3 seconds, indicating a huge degradation in server responsiveness.

Focus on the TTFB

TTFB is a critical metric that can significantly impact user experience. A high TTFB can cause slow initial site loading, frustrating users and increasing abandonment rates. The increase in TTFB from 0,6 to 3,3 seconds after migration is alarming and suggests significant issues with the new hosting provider.

Potential Causes of Increased TTFB

  1. Server Infrastructure: The quality and configuration of the new provider's servers may be lower than that of the previous performance-optimized hosting.
  2. Network Optimization: Your CDN (Content Delivery Network) network and configuration may not be optimized, causing delays in content delivery.
  3. Server Load: The new server may be overloaded or misconfigured, leading to response time delays.
  4. Software Configurations: Server software configuration, including database response times and cache management, may not be optimized.

As we can see from the SpeedVitals TTFB test, the site is moderately slow, with a TTFB still always higher than the maximum 200ms that Google sets as the limit and comfort zone.

TTFB-Merclin

Google has always been very clear on this aspect, when a site has a response time greater than 200ms, it starts reporting a warning with "Reduce initial server responseÔÇť. This aspect is well outlined in their guidelines, the salient part of which we briefly report.

Improve-Server-Response-Time---Google-PSI

However, what is important to understand is that beyond the improved or worsened values, what really matters at the end of the day is whether the site passes or fails the rating Core Web Vitals. This allows Google to evaluate a site as compliant or non-compliant, not caring much whether a value has improved or worsened, but whether as a whole the site exceeds or does not exceed the evaluation of the Core Web Vitals. Just one parameter out of the three main ones out of scale is enough to make it non-compliant Core Web Vitals a website.

For example, if the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is above 2,5 seconds, or if the First Input Delay (FID) is greater than 100 milliseconds, or if the Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is greater than 0,1 , the entire site is considered non-compliant, regardless of whether other metrics are perfect. This rating system pushes website owners to maintain excellent overall performance, rather than focusing on individual aspects, thus ensuring a better user experience across the board.

How does the Hosting change affect SEO and indexing?

Changing hosting can have a significant impact on a website's SEO and indexing. A clear example is the case of Merclin.it, where the transition to ServerPlan led to an increase in the Time to First Byte (TTFB) and the failure to exceed the Core Web Vitals, crucial factors for Google ranking.

SeoZoom, an advanced tool for SEO analysis, clearly shows these repercussions. SeoZoom provides detailed data on keyword performance, monthly traffic and traffic value, allowing you to monitor and optimize site visibility. In the Merclin.it analysis, a strong decline in the real-time trend after the migration is evident, with a drastic worsening compared to previous months. This decline can be attributed to the worse technical performance of the new hosting, which negatively affected the site's indexing.

Analysis of the Result in Photos

The SeoZoom image shows a significant drop in estimated real-time traffic. In January, the estimated volume was approximately 1.816 monthly visitors, increasing steadily until reaching a peak of 12.000 visitors around April and May.

Grafico-SeoZoom-Merclin

However, after migrating to ServerPlan, a dramatic decline is observed, with estimated traffic dropping to 3.846 monthly visitors by July. This drop of 32,91% in real time highlights how the worst technical performances have a direct and negative impact on the indexing and SEO ranking of the site.

Trend-Merclin

 

Lessons Learned

Importance of Performance Optimized Hosting

This case study highlights the importance of choosing hosting optimized for web performance, especially for sites that depend on speed and reliability. Generic hosting may not be able to provide the same performance, leading to significant degradation of the user experience.

Careful Evaluation Before Migration

Before migrating to a new hosting provider, it is essential to carry out a detailed evaluation of current performance and potential future performance. This includes testing the new provider's capabilities and comparing key metrics such as TTFB, LCP, and FCP.

Continuous monitoring

After a migration, it is crucial to continuously monitor site performance to quickly identify any issues and take corrective measures. This may include the use of performance monitoring tools and regular analysis of Core Web Vitals.

Conclusion

The decision to migrate a website to a new hosting provider should be made cautiously and based on a thorough performance evaluation. As demonstrated by the case of Merclin.it, a hasty migration can lead to a significant deterioration in site performance, negatively affecting the user experience.

Before proceeding with a migration, it is critical to perform a thorough analysis of your site's specific needs, including requirements for speed, traffic-handling capabilities, and technical support. We recommend that you run speed and load tests on test environments with your new provider to verify that it meets the necessary standards.

Furthermore, it is important to consider the technologies in use by the new Hosting and whether they are enabled for the specific project that you want to migrate, always trying to obtain improvements and never worsening.

During the migration phase, it is essential to carefully monitor site performance, using analytics tools to quickly identify and resolve any issues. Establishing a rollback plan can be helpful if the new environment doesn't meet expectations, allowing you to quickly switch back to your previous provider.

This case study serves as an important reminder of the importance of optimized hosting for web performance and the need to carefully evaluate all options before making a migration decision. Choosing the right hosting provider can make the difference between a site that offers an exceptional user experience and one that risks losing traffic and SEO rankings.

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