For the vast majority of sites on the web, search engine results are a huge source of hits. Many sites rely exclusively on organic traffic for views and revenue. While there are many factors that impact SEO, easily one of the most overlooked is hosting. Like it or not, where a site decides to call home can make a difference in the SERPs. There are at least five important ways that subpar hosting can negatively affect Search Engine Optimization health for sites both large and small.
Sluggish Server Performance
More and more, the search duopoly of Google and Bing looks at site speed when determining who should sit at the top of their results. All things being equal, a site that boasts faster page load times and lower latency is going to do better in the results. The focus on site speed that began with Google’s Caffeine algorithm update has become stronger in recent years. Opt for a host that uses fast SSDs for storage and boasts the latest fiber-optic networking technology.
Lousy Uptime & Reliability
When assessing the overall quality of a site, top search engines don’t just look at page load times. Uptime is factored into the equation as well since a site that suffers frequent outages doesn’t provide users with a superlative experience. While occasional service outages are unavoidable, it’s best if maintenance-related downtime is kept to a minimum and scheduled for off-peak hours. Repeated service outages will eventually hurt a smaller site that’s struggling to compete for page views in the SERPs.
Lackluster Back-End Security
Simply put, a web host that doesn’t take security seriously is going to cost you in the SEO department sooner or later if it hasn’t already. Hosts that don’t regularly patch virtualization software, update BIND servers and keep an eye on firewalls are just begging for an epic hack. The major search engines don’t take kindly to sites whose web hosts have a reputation for lax security. In addition, the fallout from a security breach can sink a site’s reputation permanently.
The Bad Neighborhood Effect
One of the less well-known but still very real threats to sites that use shared hosting plans is the bad neighborhood effect. The theory goes like this: if a disreputable site is located on a particular IP address, other sites that share that IP address will be guilty by association in the eyes of Google. You can check for the bad neighborhood effect via tools such as the aptly named Bad Neighborhood and ask your host for a new IP address if need be.
Mismatched Server Locations & Target Markets
Your choice of web host can impact SEO negatively depending on where their datacenters are located due to the increasing importance of geolocation. Google expects sites that target a particular geographic area to locate its servers nearby. If your site has a country-specific TLD, it’s probably a good idea to host your site in that country. If you can’t do that for whatever reason, use Google Webmaster Tools to notify the search giant that your site is aimed at a specific region.
Choosing Your Host Wisely
Clearly, hosting does have a bearing on how far up in the SERPs a site will appear for a given search query. The importance of reliable hosting will only continue to grow as the web gets more competitive and content creators up their game. When choosing a web host, it’s always smart to play it safe and do a little research. Look carefully at recent customer reviews and real-world performance statistics before picking a particular host.