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9 Ways Web Hosting Affects Search Engine Rankings

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9 Ways Web Hosting Affects Search Engine Rankings

When most people think of SEO they focus on content, title tags and keywords. However, many fail to consider how web hosting performance can affect rankings. The hosting environment is the foundation for your website. If it is not up to par then other aspects of the site will be affected; this includes the SEO. In general, there are nine ways hosting can influence SEO performance.

#1. Speed

In the past few years website speed has become a major SEO ranking factor. Search engine giants, like Google, use speed as a factor in their ranking algorithms. Pages that load quickly tend to show up higher in search results.

Although a site’s speed has a lot to do with its configuration and coding it also involves the hosting. For some of the reasons explained later you’ll see that the characteristics of a server can affect a site’s loading speed. If a server is not able to allocate sufficient resources to your site you will see a decrease in loading time performance.

9 Ways Web Hosting Affects Search Engine Rankings

The good news is that there are many different types of web hosting available on the market. If you notice your site is suffering from speed issues it is easy to switch to another server or another company. You might even look into buying VPS hosting which will provide its own dedicated resources.

#2. Server Location

Using SEO to rank in a geographical area is a common tactic. What most people don’t know is that search engines may check the IP address of your site to find out where it is located. The location of your site may be used to determine how it ranks in certain areas. Sites that are located in the same country (or part of the country) as the site content suggests tend to perform better in the rankings. It isn’t a hard line rule, but it is a good tactic to follow. Think about it … why would a business in Los Angeles host their website in Indonesia? Hosting your site as close as possible to your business or blog address establishes trust which is a positive factor in SEO.

#3. Uptime

A server’s “uptime” is very important for SEO. Uptime measures the amount of time that a server is up and running. This will determine when your site is available on the web. When a server has frequent downtime it can affect a search engine’s ability to index your site. It will also make the site inaccessible for visitors.

Furthermore, if a search engine crawler attempts to scan your site during downtime it can result in a ranking drop. The crawler will assume that the site is non-existent and it will be removed from the search results. A site owner may have to wait for several days or months for a re-crawl in hopes of being re-indexed and ranked.

To help prevent this choose a reputable web host with verified uptime/downtime statistics. Also, check in your site from time to time to make sure there are no prolonged periods of server outrages or scheduled maintenance.

#4. IP Addresses

Homes in bad neighborhoods usually have low property values. It’s the same for websites in the world of SEO. When you sign up for the average shared hosting package your site is placed on a server with numerous other websites. Some of these websites may be engaging in questionable activities such as phishing, ID theft, cloaking or malware attacks. Search engine companies will flag these sites using the IP address of the server; the same IP address that you are using!

The end result is that your site could be blacklisted or put on a spam list. Many ISP providers and web companies maintain blacklists that will prevent users from accessing the site. Even Google has its own blacklist database.

Sites that have been blacklisted carry a lot less weight in the rankings. Some search engines, like Google, even drop blacklisted sites from the search engine results altogether. Getting put on a blacklist is one of the worst things that can happen for your SEO campaign. To find out whether you have been blacklisted check sites like SpamHaus or MxToolBox. These sites will list the sources of the blacklist so that you can contact them and have your site removed.

Whenever you get a new hosting account you should immediately check the IP address. You’ll be able to see what other types of sites are being hosted on your server. If you see something bad ask to be changed to a different server. Most hosting companies also allow you to purchase your own IP address for an additional charge.

#5. Shared Hosting

In relation to the IP address discussion above many believe shared hosting is bad for SEO. The reason for this is that the sheer number of sites (sometimes up to 100) on a single server over-extends system resources.

Shared hosting is truly “shared” in the sense that all the sites are using the same server resources. All are using the same CPU, RAM and hard drive. It is not uncommon to find one big, established site already residing on the server. Resource hogs like this can eat up bandwidth and hardware capabilities. Once this happens other sites on the server will perform poorly.

If your site does not have enough server resources to perform it will hurt your SEO efforts. A site without the proper resources will render slowly (affecting page load speed) and sometimes may not be available at all. This will be a problem when the search engine bot passes by your page and sees that it is not accessible.

In the end, does shared hosting affect SEO? The short answer is: yes. However, if you are careful about choosing a shared hosting provider and regularly monitor your site you should be able to prevent most of the negative effects.

#6. CMS Selection

Most modern websites are running on some type of Content Management System (CMS). In fact, WordPress sites now make up 26.4% of the web due to their ease of use and search engine friendly code. If you plan on using a CMS that is SEO-friendly you need to make sure it is offered by your web host.

Many hosts have an auto-installers that can get your preferred CMS up and running in no time. This makes it easy to have an SEO-friendly site without having to spend too much time manually coding a site.

Yet, you have to make sure your chosen CMS will be compatible with the server’s system. For example, WordPress requires MySQL version 5.0.15 and PHP version 5.2.4. Some older systems may not be able run these, and you won’t be able to use WordPress. Make sure to check the server’s specifications in the web hosting package before you make your purchase!

#7. SSD vs HDD

Many webmasters choose SSD hosting for the speed perks discussed above. Although SSD based hosting is quickly becoming the modern standard it should be approached with caution. SSD, or Solid State Drive, stores data on flash memory. When an SSD crashes it is nearly impossible to recover the data. On the other hand, with the traditional HDD drive there are options for data recovery. At the end of the day, your site can’t rank if it isn’t available on the web due to a hard drive crash.

#8. Scalability

Everyone wants to have the next big viral site. From an SEO perspective, getting thousands of new visitors and a huge spike in traffic is a good thing. However, if your hosting package isn’t set up to deal with the increased traffic you could find that many visitors will get a 408 or 503 error. We all know that web visitors don’t like getting errors and will usually leave the site. This increases your site’s bounce rate which is considered negative by the major search engines.

The good news is that it’s easy to get scalability. To ensure that your site is always ready to handle next level traffic consider using a VPS server. Many cloud hosting packages will automatically upgrade your service level when major traffic surges occur. You’ll immediately get access to more VPS server resources to handle the load. If you think your newfound traffic will be permanent it may be time to get a dedicated server.

#9. Security

Website security is important for SEO. If your website is hacked or attacked it will negatively affect your rankings. Getting hacked or infected with malware could make your site end up on a blacklist as described above. Poor security can also create opportunities for SQL injection which can change the content on your site. Targets of SQL injection frequently have altered meta tags which change the way the site appears in search results. A site optimized for a local plumber could all of a sudden look like it’s selling luxury handbags. It goes without saying that when the search crawler sees this it will be a problem.

Make sure your hosting provider is serious about security. For many types of web hosting virus scanning and regular back-ups are the norm. Don’t let hours months of SEO work go to waste because you overlooked security.

Summarizing Hosting and SEO

In the end, does hosting affect SEO? As you’ve seen, hosting does play a role in SEO. Webmasters need to be hosting conscious if they want to reap all the benefits SEO has to offer. Whether you decide to use VPS hosting, dedicated hosting or shared hosting you will need to research your options carefully. Setting up a proper hosting platform should be your first step in SEO.


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Paige Ellingson is a creative communication executive and writer, currently based in Asia. She studied business and communication and proceeded to work in a fast-pace and upscale company in Hong Kong. Her passion for helping people and business in all aspects of content marketing flows through in the job role she is in. http://www.vpshispeed.com/index_en.html

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