Seo-mama’s Blog

How Hosting and The Location of Hosting Affects Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Posted in Uncategorized by Rajib Roy on November 17, 2008

An often-overlooked component of thorough, professionally applied search engine optimisation (SEO) is web hosting. Hosting plays an integral part in search engine optimisation for a number of reasons. Whilst website owners and SEO professionals direct their efforts almost exclusively at on-page factors and link building, most will spare little thought (if any at all) to the actual hosting of their website. When ranking differentials, especially on popular keywords and keyword phrases are incredibly marginal, you will appreciate any SEO assistance you can squeeze out of the scenario. Where you host your site can potentially offer that all-important distinction and might be the difference between flying high on page one of Google for competitive phrases or languishing in the lower reaches of the Google returns, out of sight, out of mind.

As in most walks of life you tend to get what you pay for. If you used a shared hosting plan, you will probably find that you are sharing your hosting with numerous (possibly hundreds) of other sites all hosted on the same Internet Protocol (IP) address as you. If only one of these sites causes trouble and is flagged as rogue, your site along with all the others being hosted on that same IP could be seriously, adversely impacted. Your search engine ranking positioning (SERP) could take a big hit in the process. All the meticulous work you have invested in your SEO – the crafted content, the beautiful structure, the lean, clean coding and the authority-promoting inbound links cultivated over months and months of off-page SEP – will most probably be undermined. If you have taken professional SEO advice and entrusted your organisation’s Internet presence to a specialist company or consultant, then this is the moment that things come unstuck.

A simple check is to have a look at the IP address of the websites ranking well on popular search terms in your industry. It’s more than likely that you will identify at least 70% of them to be hosted on unique IP addresses. They appreciate the potential grief of developing weak SEO muscle through association with sites of dubious reputation, and have already taken measures to place themselves one step ahead of the game.

It’s best to get the foundations of your SEO campaign securely in place before committing time and money. Weak fundamentals might lead to the collapse of the project further down the line – it’s not worth spoiling the SEO ship for a ha’porth of hosting tar.

As well as checking for shared hosting and if necessary securing a dedicated IP, there are other aspects of your hosting optimisation that need to be addressed. It’s important to look closely at the overall reliability of your hosting provider and the package you have. If, for whatever reasons, your site is suffering outages in site uptime, there will probably be search engine indexing gaps. GoogleBot and the other engines are continually crawling the net collecting snapshots of sites with which they update their indexes. If your site’s down they’ll pass you by. It gets worse… If your site is completely down or responds with a server error page, Google will come back later and try again. After several attempts they will give up and remove you from their index. In other words, you lose all the traffic you get from searches in Google if you suffer repeated or lengthy periods of downtime.

Matt Cutts of Google says: “Sometimes temporarily down pages turn into truly-gone-forever pages, so we have to drop those pages at some point. But it’s also true that we go back and revisit those pages pretty often and try to recrawl them in case the site comes back up.” Best not let an inefficient host give the wrong impression to the search engines.

A recent factor in the Google algorithm is load speed, especially if your page has acquired authority and climbed to the front page of the SERP’s. High ranking tends to mean high traffic volumes; if users bounce before the page has finished loading this can have a negative impact on your SEO strategies. From a search engine’s perspective, if the user bounces it’s likely that the page found in the search results is not what the searcher is looking for, ergo that page must have little relevance.

It’s also the case that not everybody has a broadband connection. Others use comparatively slow WiFi, and mobile users can be subjected to slow data transfer rates. These users will probably experience slower site load time. Don’t let your inefficient hosting bounce them and damage your SEO.

As if to underline the concept, Google have recently optimised their Adwords pay-per-click product. Whereas it used to be the case that the higher you bid on keywords the higher you ranked, this is no longer strictly the case. Load speed has been added to the ranking formula meaning that it is actually possible to rank higher in PPC listings with a lower bid, purely because the site loads faster.

When it comes to whether the physical geographical location of the hosting plays any role in SEO, there are divided opinions. Some professions assert that IP Addresses (specifically Geo-specific IP Addresses) have no impact whatsoever in regards to Google, MSN, and Yahoo!. Unless you are doing PPC with the engines, then it might have some bearing on where you are advertising. They regard the whole concept as rather 1990’s. On the other hand there are those that firmly believe geographical location of the host to have a bearing on SEO and rankings, especially as Google focuses more and more on personalisation using any factors available to its search algorithms to laser guide returns as tightly as possible.

There are plenty of anecdotal experiences suggesting that either case might be true but it’s best to err on the side of caution in our view and play it locally as much for the speed issues and reliability of service than for any specific geographical/algorithmic considerations.


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