In Conversation With: Stephen Boot of Sitello Web Hosting

Stephen Boot - Sitello web hostingI have known Stephen Boot for a long time now, he’s a quiet unassuming man who always has a cheeky smile on his face, almost as though he knows what you’re about to say next.

When I was working for Stoke on Trent Council in the early naughties Stephen was working as a web developer in Stafford. I had some small websites that I’d built and I needed hosting, I was fed up with the inflexible bigger companies, The way that you treat people is remembered for a long time. I chose Stephen to help me because he’d been so kind and informative whenever I’d visited their offices to deliver SEO training.

When I found out Stephen was setting up his own Web development company, I wanted to be supportive and help where I could. At that time, whenever anyone asked me about a reliable web hosting company, I’d refer them to Stephen.  Over the years I’ve referred lots of small businesses to Sitello, and they have always worked really hard to do whatever the clients needed.

So I thought Stephen would be a great person to talk to regarding how to put together and maintain an online business.

Stephen, you’ve been in business for a while now,how long as it been?

SB: Sitello was launched at the end of 2010. It was marketed as a hosting company primarily, but at the beginning, the main income was from web design and development.  I was 27 when I started the business. I had already worked in a web development company for almost 6 years, going from part-time tester to senior engineer, so I had the necessary experience and confidence to provide and support these types of services. I had built up a small amount of money and decided to go self-employed.

At this time, social media was still growing, so a lot of people still had and wanted their own website hosting. Nowadays, many small businesses simply create a Facebook page and think that’s all they need to do, so digital agencies need to be creative in showing what benefits can be had to having their own website.

PG: Yes, I encounter that a lot too, particularly with small businesses, who don’t have the technical know-how or confidence to manage a proper website.  I agree that digitals need to work harder to dissuade companies from placing ‘all their eggs in one basket’,  so to speak.

It must have been pretty scary launching a business in digital at that time, did you get any financial backing?

SB: I started the business out of my own pocket, with a very small amount of money. The main expenses were business insurance, hosting platform fees and accounting fees. Web hosting has very tight profit margins, so I still needed to rely on income from web design and development to pay the bills.

PG: Wasn’t it difficult to launch a web hosting business though, I’d have thought that the market was already saturated?

SB: With various web hosting reseller packages around, it’s very easy to set up your own web hosting brand. Most digital agencies have their own reseller accounts to offer customers who don’t want the hassle of finding a provider themselves, but few companies market it as their primary product.

PG: This was something that I looked into myself, when I used to design websites, certainly a great source of rolling income, but I certainly didn’t feel that I know enough about servers and such-like to ensure that my clients websites would be safe from hackers, I just didn’t want that kind of responsibility.

SB:  To do this, you need to prove you have a reliable and flexible platform – something which is very difficult to find. Luckily, I had the experience to know who was the best in the industry at the time, which helped me provide products that impressed a lot of my customers.

PG:  So what about your early clients, most startups struggle with the first few,  how did you land them?

SB:  My initial clients were small businesses I had supported from my previous employment. Other clients were friends from university and others through word-of-mouth.  At this point, I had literally done zero marketing, other than mentioning what I was doing in conversations. Being self-employed meant that I spent most of my time on web development projects, so I never really spent any time on marketing.

PG:  Sitello has been up and running now for 8 years, You must still enjoy your work.  What in particular motivates you?

SB:  There’s nothing that makes me feel more fulfilled than a customer who really values the advice or services I have provided to them.

When a customer comes to me – the experience is more than just filling in a form on a website and setting up payments. I truly try to go the extra mile to make sure that a customer gets the most out of their hosting package.

PG:  That’s certainly been my experience working with you. I can’t remember one time when I was irritated or disappointed by the outcome or customer service. I’m not just saying that either, such good service is really hard to find these days.

I’m keen to understand how has web hosting has changed since you started working in the industry.  I mean, what are the primary challenges that you face today compared to when you started?

SB: My very first personal website was created in 1997 and was hosted for free with a small web hosting company that is still going to this day. It was pretty clunky, but all I needed it to do is serve static HTML pages.

Domains were fairly expensive back then, so a lot of people had URLs such as, which were not very memorable and were very bad for SEO.  A lot of ISPs bundled free web space with their dial-up internet, but most people would not bother using it nowadays.

The first hosting reseller I used at my previous employer was a fairly large company. They are still one of the most popular web hosting platforms in the UK. However, after hosting many different customers’ websites with them, I came to find that they were impersonal, had lots of downtime with little support, and their offering was pretty inflexible.

I knew the technology should work in theory but felt frustrated that they were letting our customers down.

By the time we’d had enough of them, some more platform providers had begun to offer their own reseller packages. This meant that we had more options open to us to migrate away from the legacy platform we were lumbered with.

Most reseller packages were only suited to a particular type of website technology. Some didn’t provide Windows hosting, which a lot of our customers at the time needed. In the end, we found a provider that had great reviews and were getting a lot of publicity. We decided to change to them, and this was to be the platform that Sitello would host customer’s websites on for the next 7 years.

Eventually, the provider was sold off to a conglomerate of other large hosting companies, and their support, price and range of products were a factor that was ultimately letting me and my customers down. In 2018 I decided to migrate all my customers to a new platform, where the owners had put their heart and soul into it. With minimal disruption, I managed to move all Sitello customers over to the new platform in 30 days or less. This meant that Sitello now uses one of the most advanced hosting platforms in the world, and can offer customers what most modern websites need – free SSL certificates, low-cost domains, hosting, and no degradation in service when demand increases.


PG: What do you think is the best innovation in your sector, how has it helped your business to grow?

SB: ‘Elastic Scalable Cloud Hosting’ may be a mouthful, but it means there are now whole data centres full of servers “on tap”, ready and waiting to serve web pages as fast as Google when demand increases, no matter how small your website.
Imagine a small business who puts out a local TV advert who has standard web hosting. The server would normally grind to a halt when even 10-20 people visit their website at the same time. With elastic scalable cloud hosting, this is not a problem. The website would respond as if you are the only person viewing it, and the web host doesn’t have to deal with an unhappy client when their website becomes unresponsive.

PG: So it sounds as though things are going great for you right now, tell our readers about how collaboration with other digitals helped your business to grow?

SB: It’s great to build up a network of like-minded business owners, where you can refer clients to get the best service for their budget. Peak District SEO has referred a fair few clients to Sitello over the years, which wouldn’t have known about me otherwise.

PG: Do you have any exciting plans for the future?

SB:  After recently changing my hosting platform partner, I plan to expand the product range and simplify the process of finding the ideal web hosting package.

PG: One piece of advice you’d offer to anyone starting a digital services company in 2018

SB: When choosing cloud services and applications, look for companies with the best reviews for support and technical expertise, no matter what the cost. No technology is perfect, but when you have great support, you’ll be thankful when the worst happens.

Phil Gregory

Phil is the founder of Peak District SEO. He helps businesses make more money. Using traditional Search engine Optimisation (SEO), Social Media, and paid advertising (PPC). Phil loves Real Ale & Fell Running.

How Using Pinterest Can Benefit Your Business

Pinterest for business

How Using Pinterest Can Benefit Your Business: Phil Gregory – Peak District SEO

What Is Pinterest?

For those who haven’t encountered Pinterest, it’s basically, an online pinboard for collecting photos and images (sometimes video).  Pinterest has been an extremely popular social media platform for people of all ages and is especially popular with women.

Pinterest users browse other users boards, liking, commenting, and repinning each other’s collections.

Users can create as many boards of pins as they like, which is great for organising images and building collections.

One example of a Pinterest board might be if you like collecting pictures of Trees, you can create a board and label it Trees.”  If you also like collecting vinyl records, you could create another board and call it “Vinyl.”

Pinterest Boards
Pinterest Boards let users curate collections that are almost limitless

How Popular is Pinterest?

It literally has a massive following.  In terms of having the most active monthly users, Pinterest is listed as the 6th most popular Social media platform.  This is a decline in its initial popularity as Youtube continues to grow and Instagram benefits from Facebook‘s ownership.  Regardless It still has a cool 2 million monthly users, and that is not to be sniffed at.

Imagine all the ways your business could benefit from having all those people see your products.

Why Use Pinterest For Business?

Online businesses get started on Pinterest because they see their website visitors, using Pinterest.

Many people use Pinterest to plan their lives, their goals and to provide inspiration.  In addition, many people use it to create boards that make a statement about the things they love, such as brands, music, films, holiday destinations and more.  Any marketer will tell you this information is highly useful for building a profile of your website visitors.

Businesses know that images of their brands and products are appearing on the Pinterest network.  Widespread sharing of images can help spread brand awareness, drive traffic to the website, build inbound links and generate hype. What wouldn’t business be interested in harnessing some of that?

What Percentage of Pinners Actually Buy?

According to Smallbiz Trends, a massive 87% of pinners have actually bought something they say in a Pinterest collection. And what’s even better for retailers is that 55% of users say they have actually purchased items through Pinterest.

Tram Nguyen, of Pinterest, discusses how to use the Pin It button and make your website more pinnable. Stating that businesses are looking for a way to reach out to users to encourage even more brand engagement.

For example, a company who sells blinds and curtains could create collections of interior design ideas that match the products that they sell. By building boards about colour or painted walls, companies can assist their customers by helping them plan room design.   If your company has taken the time to create a great set of lifestyle shots, then there is no reason why you cannot mix these shots of your products in with the inspirational ideas.

Another example might be a company who sells work clothes. By creating boards that help customers create a stylish look at work, the company can establish themselves as a company with good ideas, and more importantly a company who can be trusted.

 Pinterest is great for  eCommerce sites too

Shopify has partnered with Pinterest to ensure that images pinned from online stores are automatically saved as rich pins. Rich pins have five types: movie, place, article, recipe and product pins. Rich pins provide more information than a standard pin.

Statistics released by Shopify in 2017 showed that:

  • Pinterest was the second biggest social source of traffic to Shopify stores.
  • Traffic from Pinterest had the 3rd highest basket price on average.
  • 50% of sales and visits happen after 3.5 months.

Want to know more?

If you want to know more about how you can use Social Media to improve the visibility of your brand and to help drive leads and sales then do please get it touch. You can speak to a dedicated social media manager who will either organise training dates for you or help you plan and manage your social media accounts.

If you liked this article, please feel free to share it on social media using the buttons below. Alternatively,  you can link to the article on your website.

Phil Gregory

Phil is the founder of Peak District SEO. He helps businesses make more money. Using traditional Search engine Optimisation (SEO), Social Media, and paid advertising (PPC). Phil loves Real Ale & Fell Running.

SEO in Buxton Taught Me These 10 things!

SEO in Buxton taught me these 10 things

SEO in Buxton Taught Me These 10 things!: Phil Gregory 2018

In 2012, after working for Stoke on Trent City Council for 10 years as an IT Trainer and Technologist, I got the chance to come home and work in Derbyshire. I’d landed a job working as an SEO in Buxton.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that there aren’t any companies offering SEO in Buxton, but like any other rural town, the advent of high-speed broadband means that rural workers are no longer forced to commute into Sheffield or Manchester. Today there is an ever-growing number of creative agencies in Buxton and around the Peak District.

During my time working in Buxton, five years flew by in the blink of an eye, and in that time I moved house twice, got through 3 cars, emptied and sold my late aunts house. We gained and lost a few pets, not to mention a few pounds in weight. During my time doing e-commerce SEO in Buxton, I learned a lot about myself and about working with other people.  Here’s my list of some of the key things I’ve learned and am now mindful of in my own business.

1) Rural Towns Need Better Broadband

We’ve all heard that broadband speeds in rural areas could be better. It’s definitely true in the Peak District and surrounding areas.   The terrain is challenging for sure.  There are many small hamlets such as Weston, Smalldale,  King Sterndale and Biggin, but there seems to be a lack of real will to create a comprehensive plan to connect rural towns and villages to the 21st century.

Most homes in Buxton now have access to ADSL and Fibre is available, in some places. However, I’ve had many conversations with local business owners who say that their internet connections simply aren’t up to the job.

The Peak District and outlying towns like Buxton and Matlock may be rural but they still have a healthy population.  These larger towns and villages like Tideswell, Bakewell and Baslow have thriving businesses who want to expand their online operations, and yet in many cases are still being prevented from moving forward due to poor access to the Internet.

To be fair, there are some moves being made. Derbyshire County Council has the Digital Derbyshire initiative in place, and fibre is being added to more and more areas.

Seo Companies like Peak District SEO, Web agencies like Tor Studio and Social Media Management companies like Social Myna are flourishing as more and more firms take their business online.  The change of pace could be faster though.  We need every house and business connected to the fibre by 2030 as a minimum goal.

2) SEO in Buxton & Towns Like it is Essential

Rural Derbyshire towns like Buxton, New Mills, Glossop, Bakewell,  Matlock, Wirksworth and Ashbourne are all expanding. With that expansion comes new people with new ideas.  People moving out of the cities into rural areas bring with them new, fresh ideas, not to mention investment and job creation.

Most new businesses created today have some kind of web presence.   However, to be competitive in 2018, you cannot just have a web page, stick it up on the web and leave it.  Nor is it sufficient to just have a Facebook page.

It’s never been more important to have your own corner of the web, branded with your own logo and colours, where you have total editorial control of how you promote your business.  Yet without the help of web professionals many business websites flounder.

In the past their best option has been to turn to the city agencies, only to recoil at the prices quoted.  I get many SEO enquiries from small businesses who share this vision but simply cannot stomach the exorbitant prices charged by big city agencies.peak district seo - digital marketing services at affordable prices

That’s why I set up Peak District SEO.  I saw that local small to medium-sized businesses really needed assistance with all topics website related.

3) There’s a Lot of Hype About Price

Let’s get something straight, SEO is expensive. Any professional service that you pay for comes with a healthy price tag. However, just because a company may be more expensive than another, doesn’t automatically make them better. The same applies to companies whose prices are ridiculously cheap. It pays to do a little research on the companies before hiring. Make sure they can show you examples of their successes.

Whilst working on SEO in Buxton, I researched a number of so-called “leading Magento agencies” and found that the prices being charged for Website builds, SEO, PPC etc were just phenomenal.  These companies were trading off their brand name and the name of the product.   When we came to review the work of some of these companies, we were often shocked at its poor quality.

We all have costs to meet and all know the value of our work.

In the 1st century BC, Publilius Syrus wrote:

“Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it”.

That said, there are limits. I’m against charging companies more money just because they have a higher turnover. Nor do I believe in charging high prices just because I want to align myself with the “leading lights” of the industry. No, Peak District SEO always charge a fair price for work carried out.

I like to think of myself as a tradesman of the digital age. I don’t saw wood or build walls, I build links, and renovate websites. Furthermore, It’s my aim to align with the businesses I work with, not ones in Seatle, Rome or Monaco.

When you book work with Peak District SEO, you’ll get a fair deal, plain speaking and consistent growth. There’s no hype, no daft unattainable projections, just solid graft and a marketing colleague keen on your success.

4) Derbyshire Businesses Need SEO & I.T Training

I’m not talking about those seminars held in big draughty halls where a presenter talks for an hour about digital marketing and how you should choose their company.   I’m talking about the one to one support that businesses need.  Over the years I have talked to many company directors about their hopes to grow their online business. These directors have all have a difference in technical know-how as to what they want, what they need and how to implement their plans.

One common theme is that companies are, in the main,  not aware of all the many technical solutions that are available to aid in productivity and collaboration.  Ten years of training teachers and educators across the country has taught me that even the brightest minds need support, and training from time to time.

I organised Apple Mac Training for School Technicians in Stoke on Trent.

Peak District SEO have the policy of being available to deliver whatever support and training clients need.  I want clients to understand the differences between browsers, and email clients, and want them to know what types of software will help them do their jobs better.

5) Workmates Are Like Family. You Can’t Choose Them

When you work in one place for a number of years, your workmates become like family. You get to know them in a way that you never imagined that you would. You can’t choose your workmates, so try to look for their best qualities, even if there are some people you don’t seem to have much in common with.

Developers and SEOs are always locking horns regarding what makes a perfect website.  I can think of numerous times that Devs have helped me with problems that are out of the realm of an SEO’s technical knowledge. Stuff like server issues and DNS issues.

I also remember times when my seo knowledge has helped the design team with little on-page SEO tips saving time by building features into sites from the get-go.

Just like in a family, there extroverts and introverts. There will be times of laughter and sometimes tears, occasionally anger, and definitely plenty of frustration.   When you’re feeling such frustrations it’s good to remember that each member of the team is there because of the skills they can bring to the company as a whole.

6) Someone  Know’s More Than You – Learn From Them

In 2012, I definitely thought that I knew it all when it came to SEO.

After being in post for 6 months I realised that I still had plenty to learn.  My boss had a real in-depth knowledge of software applications, introducing me to a myriad of plugins and extensions that could automate processes that I’d been doing by hand.  Initially, I was sceptical of such methods, but today I’m certainly grateful for that knowledge and still use a lot of it today.

Learning new things is great but it can be a bit scary at times. In an agency environment, you can feel intimidated and scrutinised, especially when the project timer is running.  My boss wasn’t scared of trying new things and would sit coding javascript to mine data. Or use regular expressions and APIs to talk to 3rd party software.  Initially, all that scared the hell out of me.

Now that I work for myself, I now know that such timidity has to go out of the window. A certain level of innovation and a fair dose of motivation is necessary.  My old boss was doing what he had to do to keep all the projects moving.  To add extra value to what we were delivering, he had to explore all possibilities. That is certainly a valuable lesson.

7) Learn to Let Go –  Don’t Try To Be A Control Freak

I think this lesson was one of the hardest to learn. Accepting that there is only so much you can do to make a project succeed.  Projects are rarely run in entirety by one person alone.

It can take a team of people to ease the burden and take up the slack sometimes. Whether that means you work tightly with developers and designers, or whether a project manager is delegating work to you, it can pay dividends to accept that you are only responsible for your part of the project and that your part is only part of the whole.

Even clients have to do their bit, by providing the relevant information, copy, business sector insight etc. I often find that if clients aren’t fully invested in the project as a whole and aren’t keen to contribute and engage projects can become heavy weather.  Don’t get stressed out if things aren’t moving as fast as you’d like, talk to the Manager or the PM, if they are happy then you can relax.

8) Get Qualified – Personal Growth is Essential

I talked earlier about the team and how every member of it is an essential piece of the jigsaw that makes up a well-run project.  that’s very true but what about when the individuals within the team, are not happy or fulfilled.

You have enough knowledge to know how to structure the tasks into manageable chunks but it can become a case of rinse and repeat, especially when working on eCommerce SEO. If you are tasked with on-page  SEO of 20,000 products, from a company that has a huge budget, and who rarely call or engage with you, it’s easy to become disillusioned.

I’d advise any SEO specialist who finds themselves in such a situation to seek out qualifications. Do your Google Exams, Bing Exams, Chartered Institute of Marketing, or copywriting.  Do something that makes you feel good about your skills, something that refreshes your skill set and revives your passion for this wonderful job.  If you don’t take such action, it can be a slippery slope.

It’s easy to get complacent when you have a 9-5 paid job. The bills are covered, you don’t have to pay for your desk, your computer, the lighting, heating water or ground rent. You turn up to work complete your tasks and go home. It’s certainly easy for someone in their late 30’s to early 40s to fall into such a pattern.   You can soon start to question your own worth, and feel negative about the work that you are doing.

Try to stay fresh with your subject knowledge. If you feel stale in what you are doing, the chances are, others around you will have noticed that staleness. Especially your team leader or boss.  If you value your job and want to save it from spiralling out of control, speak to management and get help to improve what you bring to the table. Do it now, before it’s too late.

9) Online Growth in Rural Areas Is The Future

There are many more villages and small towns in the U.K than there are cities. Throughout history, people have flocked to the cities for work, because that was where the new ideas were to found. In the 21st century, the Internet should level the playing field significantly. Businesses don’t need to be based in the City to reach a larger market because their audience can be reached online.

Similarly, workers will no longer need to commute because their work can be done from a home office, back bedroom or even the kitchen table. More and more people are working from home and more and more people are starting their own businesses.

TUC figures from 2016 show that 1.5 million people were now working from home.  As computer technology, mobile phone signals and broadband speeds improve. This figure is only going to rise as s people become more independent, and self-reliant, more opportunities arise.

The Office for National Statistics reported that in 2016 there were Five Million self-employed people.  I expect to see an explosion in new businesses in the coming decade as fewer people are restricted by the working constraints of the 20th century.

10) Self Determination is an Option

I began this article talking about getting an opportunity to work as an SEO in Buxton, and some of the things that 5 years in post taught me. I’d like to end by saying that long periods in one job sometimes show you that actually, a change is what you need.

After 10 years in Education, and then 5 years in an agency, I had a yearning to try my hand at running my own business.  I needed to be able to make decisions and stand by my decisions instead of deferring to someone else.

My instinct was telling me that there were business opportunities available that I wanted to tackle, but such opportunities weren’t always aligned with the goals of my employer. As frustrating as that may seem,  you have to respect their wishes because they are paying your wages. If you can’t handle being subordinate, it might be time to strike out on your own.

Even if you realise that you need a change, being brave enough to make that change is hard.

If there was one piece of advice I’d give to my younger self, it would be to take a leap of faith. Set up your company whilst you are young. Preferably, do it before you have a mortgage and kids, that way, if you fail, you have less to lose.   That said, for the first time in years, I’m no longer scared of failure, it’s just not an option.

In its first year, Peak District SEO is doing well. Leads keep coming in and they are becoming clients. I personally feel like I have learned more in the last 6 months than I’ve learned in the last 15 years.  I should have done this years ago!

Rural Business, Need SEO? Get in Touch

Phil Gregory

Phil is the founder of Peak District SEO. He helps businesses make more money. Using traditional Search engine Optimisation (SEO), Social Media, and paid advertising (PPC). Phil loves Real Ale & Fell Running.

Social Media Management Helps Businesses

Social Media Icons

Social Media Management lightens the load: Phil Gregory – Peak District SEO

I was searching for articles relating to Social Media in The Peak District and the surrounding area. It’s always good to search for your business topic and the area that you work in. Firstly, I like to make sure that I have my finger on the pulse of local digital marketing provision as well as national and international developments. Continue reading “Social Media Management Helps Businesses”

Phil Gregory

Phil is the founder of Peak District SEO. He helps businesses make more money. Using traditional Search engine Optimisation (SEO), Social Media, and paid advertising (PPC). Phil loves Real Ale & Fell Running.

Plan Your Marketing Campaigns For 2018 Using Data

Year on Year Campaign Data

Plan Your Marketing Campaigns For 2018 Using Data: Phil Gregory, Peak District SEO.

So the summer of 2017 is over, and you should be able to see your rate of profit or loss, but now is not the time to be winding down your campaigns. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s time to ramp up the campaigns ready for 2018.’ Continue reading “Plan Your Marketing Campaigns For 2018 Using Data”

Phil Gregory

Phil is the founder of Peak District SEO. He helps businesses make more money. Using traditional Search engine Optimisation (SEO), Social Media, and paid advertising (PPC). Phil loves Real Ale & Fell Running.