Web hosting seems like such an easy decision, but sometimes it can have serious affects on your SEO. In fact, when it comes to web hosting SEO, I would consider it more of a hygiene factor – you won’t get a rankings boost if you pick a great one, but choosing the wrong web hosting provider will have grave consequences. Let’s take a look at how your web hosting can affect your search engine optimisation efforts.
Types of Web Hosting Options
a) Shared Hosting
A shared web hosting environment is one where your website is placed on a server that is shared by multiple websites. All of these websites (including yours) will share the same the same IP address.
A major advantage of shared hosting is its low cost. For most bloggers and website owners, shared hosting might seem to be the most cost effective option.
However, it does have several drawbacks.
There is a problem that you might be part of what Google calls a ‘bad neighbourhood’. This means that someone or another website on your server has been flagged as a spammer, then everyone on that server (i.e. same IP address) can be affected. In fact, this won’t only affect your SEO efforts, but also your ability to send emails. One of clients had its emails rejected when someone else on its shared server account was blacklisted.
There is also the issue of performance but I’ll go into that later.
b) Virtual Private Server (VPS)
A virtual private server (VPS) is still one physical server, but it has been virtually split. This allows you to have control over the software and settings. Prefer CPanel over Plesk? Go ahead and install it. You can’t do that on a shared hosting server. It provides you with much better performance but you will still be on the same IP address as the other websites.
c) Dedicated Server
The most expensive solution, getting a dedicated server means that you will be the only website on a physical server. This allows for maximum flexibility, but is of course the most expensive solution. In terms of web hosting and SEO, you will get your own IP address. However, for most small business owners, the costs do not justify the benefits.
Server location is a factor in geotargeting if you are using a generic top level domain name (such as .com or .net). Google will then use the location of your server as an indication. However, if you’re using a ccTLD (such as .my), then that effect is negligible. See the video below for Matt Cutts’ reply.
Personally, I don’t think it’s something you should be overly concerned about. Even if you are using a generic TLD, you can simply use geotargeting in Google Webmaster Tools to tell them which country you are targeting. Listing your websites in high quality local directories will also provide a strong indicator of location.
Unlike server location, you server uptime is a huge consideration though. If Googlebot wanders over to your website and finds it offline often, then it’s quite likely you are going to take a rankings hit.
Most web hosts are quite reliable these days though. Even Malaysian web hosting providers guarantee over 99.9% uptime. Of course, you should do your own research and read reviews before making a decision.
As early as 2010, Matt Cutts has already announced that Google will be taking site speed into consideration when determining its rankings. A huge factor in how fast your website performs is your server.
Again, hit the forums and review sites to find out how reputable the web server is. Read both the kudos and the rants to get a balanced perspective.
If you are running a WordPress website, then you might also want to consider managed WordPress hosting such as WP Engine or Web Synthesis. These servers have been optimised for performance and speed on the WordPress platform.
Other Web Hosting-SEO Issues
Sometimes your server settings can leave you vulnerable. In this particular case, a wildcard entry caused a ghost sub domain to be created. This leaves your site open to duplicate content penalties and negative SEO attacks.
I wouldn’t call choosing a web server a particularly difficult decision, but you should take some time to do your research first.