Does your web hosting affect your SEO in 2019? While search engine optimization has continued to evolve over the years as Google and the search engines modify their algorithms, web hosting continues to indirectly influence your SEO in the following ways.
Everyone Should be Using SSL
It’s a fact that Google and web browsers consider using https to be critically important. If you’re not using SSL these days, your website is flagged as unsecure. Besides securing your site, utilizing SSL/TLS also gives you a boost in search engine rankings. When I spoke with Gary Illyes, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, he was adamant that using SSL/TLS definitely helps your website’s SERP. In fact, Gary said he knows it works since he worked on that algorithm.
The good news here is that a lot of web hosting companies recognize the importance of https and are now including free SSL Certificates with their hosting plans. I would definitely encourage you to opt for one of these hosting packages with free SSL.
Speed Matters to Some Degree
Website speed also plays a role in your search engine rankings, but to a lesser known degree. Unlike SSL, when I asked Gary about website speed being a factor in SERP, he made it a point to tell me that they have never said that speed was a big factor in the rankings. He did later say that speed may have some influence, but not really that much. Since the algorithms are ever-changing, I do think it’s a good idea to have a fast performing website. And, certainly the right web host can play a big part in speeding up your site.
While it makes perfect sense that faster performing websites and less downtime is going to be beneficial to your SEO results, does this mean that everyone should go out and get dedicated hosting? With so many other factors affecting SEO, I wouldn’t think so. The extra cost isn’t going to justify making the additional purchase for a lot of people.
Other Web Hosting Factors
To a lesser extent, the same can be said for getting a dedicated IP address. It doesn’t cost as much as buying dedicated hosting. However, my experience has been that a dedicated IP didn’t seem to make that much difference as far as the search engines. Now everyone’s situation may be a little different, and some experts definitely tout having one. There’s no harm in getting a dedicated IP, but if you have a lot of websites, it may not be cost effective. I’ve also heard from other experts, that the web hosting companies do a really good job these days of separating and insulating shared users so one customer doesn’t cause problems for another. See below for more on dedicated IP addresses and SEO.
One other factor that has been mentioned is getting a web hosting provider at the same location as your target market. While I agree that this would be beneficial, it isn’t always that simple. First, not all web hosting companies disclose their data center locations. Although some hosts do identify their locations, the issue then becomes where exactly your target audience is. If you’re a local business, then it’s much easier to do. However, a lot of website owners target not only a specific country, but very possibly a worldwide audience—which makes it more complicated in choosing a hosting location.
So, how big a part should web hosting play in your overall SEO strategy? At this point in time, I’d say choosing any of the more established, top rated web hosting companies will affect your SEO equally. Again, purchasing dedicated hosting can improve your website speed and uptime, but how much (if any) that will improve your SEO remains a topic of debate.
Should You Opt for a Dedicated IP Address?
One of the most debated aspects of web hosting and websites is whether or not having a dedicated IP address (as opposed to a shared one) improves your search engine optimization (SEO). And though opinions vary widely, most of the experts tend to view having a dedicated IP as helping your SEO. While there are other reasons for purchasing a dedicated IP address (for example, if you’re going to have an ecommerce website), the question remains for many: Should I get a dedicated IP for SEO purposes?
The problem with trying to determine the effects of a dedicated IP on your search engine results is that there are so many other factors involved it’s hard to isolate an IP’s importance. For example, even if most of the top 50 websites of search engine query utilize a dedicated IP, there could be many other SEO methods being employed by those sites. Even well-known SEO experts like Bruce Clay and Associates state that even though they have found that switching to a dedicated IP caused increases in rankings, it could just be a coincidence.
In these types of cases, I usually like to do my own testing and research to see what works or does not work for me. So, I decided to do my own experimenting. Specifically, I purchased a dedicated IP address for a couple of my sites that were previously using a shared IP. To further try to isolate a dedicated IP’s effects, I tested two different types of sites. The first one is a relatively newer site that I’ve concentrated mainly on content and authorship and have not been concerned about backlinks. The other website I tested has been around for a number of years and I’ve done a lot more backlinking and other SEO methods to try and boost traffic. In fact, this second site took a hit with Google updates.
I performed two studies at separate times. Here’s what I’ve found the first time. Take a look at the graphs below. Comparing the data from the last month using a shared IP with the latest month’s data using a dedicated IP address, you can see there has not been any improvement in search engine impressions.
Website A Using a Shared IP Address:
Website A Using a Dedicated IP Address:
Website B Using a Shared IP Address:
Website B Using a Dedicated IP Address:
In fact, the numbers are actually lower. Site A (the newer website) went from having over 10,000 impressions to just below 9,000. Site B (the more established website) was lower by over 100 impressions. The average position for search query results also showed little or no improvement. For the newer site, the average position improved by just one spot. The average position for the older site was actually worse by 7 spots.
Obviously, there are many factors that affect your SEO results. And, your results may be different. However, so far with my testing, it appears that a dedicated IP address does not improve your SEO. There’s certainly nothing wrong with getting a dedicated IP. But be aware that if you’re mainly purchasing one to improve your SEO, you might be disappointed.
Looking at the search engine impressions for my second test study, Site A (the newer site) actually has lower numbers that it did a month ago. Site B (the older site) actually does show a slight increase in impressions; however that could be due to other factors including a recent Google update.
Site A: Previous Search Engine Results
Site A: Updated Search Engine Results
Site B: Prior Search Engine Results
Site B: Updated Search Engine Results
At this point, I just don’t see any real evidence that a dedicated IP address will improve your SEO. Certainly they are necessary for sites that use SSL. But if you’re thinking of purchasing one simply for better SEO, I would recommend you hold off and save a little money.
Here are a couple of other claims about dedicated IPs you might have heard along with my thoughts:
If you use a shared IP, your site might be contaminated by a spam site sharing your IP address.
While at one time this might have been true, I have never experienced any problems such as this. The truth is that most web hosting companies do a great job of insolating their shared hosting customers from each other.
If you use a virtual IP address, someone that tries to navigate to your site by entering your IP instead of the URL may wind up on someone else’s website.
This situation would usually only occur if your server is incorrectly configured. Again, I have not experience this kind of problem. What usually happens if your shared IP address is typed in a browser is that you go to your web hosts page. And really, how many people actually type in an IP address instead of a URL these days?
The Bottom Line on Web Hosting and SEO in 2019
The main influences your web hosting can have on your SEO remain website speed and SSL. While there are much bigger factors for determining how you rank in the search engines (backlinks, domain authority, etc.), it never hurts to choose a web hosting provider that includes free SSL and offers multiple data center locations together with their own performance caching technology.