In the business of organic optimization I often get asked what are the most important factors in search engine optimization, and does my host really affect my rankings? I hope that this article clears up some of the noise you might read on the web. My answer is simple and here it is..
Nobody has the patience for a slow website thus Google doesn’t like slow websites…
In Organic optimization we always think of the visitor first then rankings.
How does your host affect your SEO?
This subject of much debate is near and dear to my daily frustrations with organic optimization and also with web design. Often I am not part of the process of choosing a hosting company for my clients and explaining why a good hosting company is so critical not only for visitors but for website performance in search results is a challenge all in itself.
You are who you are hosted by… what type of hosting and who you choose to host your website does have an effect on where your website ranks in search engines. Choosing the right web hosting company doesn’t guarantee rankings boost or page one position, but it does mean you avoid the serious consequences, and they are significant. Therefore, you need to choose carefully and not base your decision on price or reviews.
So how do you choose a host?
Searching different hosting companies is confusing at best, the web is full of affiliate sites who profit from referring clients. You probably have seen many of these review sites that compare or rate different hosting companies and usually the one they are marketing for is 5 star rated or #1. I’m going to give you the best advice I know about any web reviews and I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of blow back for exposing this truth but NEVER EVER TRUST A GOOD REVIEW.
My first job in SEO was writing creative and informative positive reviews for an unnamed company 8 hours a day in every aspect of the web from local listings to product reviews to blogs. I am not particularly proud of that experience but what it has taught me a great deal about what and what not to do.
Fact.. negative or bad reviews are 99.9% truthful and by real people, no right-minded company out there would spend time writing bad reviews about a product or service they sell. Yet I will add some negative reviews are by competitors or disgruntled customers and yet most hosting companies don’t see this as negative or an opportunity to improve customer care and their products. Its far more profitable to sign up the masses and deal with them later.
So in short don’t base your decision on reviews alone… trust the statistical data and ask around, find a reputable forum and ask. A great place to get answers for technical questions is Quora for just about anything.
So lets get down to business and tell you how to choose a good host…
*Customer Care if a tech issue or financial problem arises you want to make sure that you aren’t waiting on hold for 30 minutes. If you want to test a hosting company why not give them a call. Test them and select tech support see how long it takes for them to get on the line. Alternatively a host with live chat can really be helpful the biggest issue I have come across is wait times exceeding 30 minutes it happens but not too often.
*Go local if your business is in the US go with a hosting companies whose servers are in the US this will give you and your visitors greatest speed. Search engines check where your host is located to better find where you are based for better search results.
*Reputation your hosting plan can affect your SEO. Its been long suspected the reputation of your host and the type of sites they generally host can and will affect your SEO. The issue is part technical and part history. If you choose a host that’s simply cheap and hosts nefarious sites chances are even if your site is reputable being mixed in with the dark side of the web wont be of benefit to you.
*Get technical you don’t have to be Bill Gates to know how to ask the right questions. This is extremely important so here is few questions to ask.
What type of hosting are you offering? is it shared hosting?
Shared hosting is when your website is hosted on a communal server or computer and you are limited by bandwidth uploading and downloading rate. Bandwidth is kinda like a straw and a milkshake, if you have a small straw and a thick shake its tough to get the shake through the straw, increase the straw width and its far easier. This is always the affordable plan and works just fine for websites that are not heavy and not built with WordPress, do not contain a lot of media, pictures, videos or expect to have a high traffic rate. Where shared hosting goes wrong is a term called “Throttling”.
Throttling defined by wiki is the intentional slowing of internet service by an internet service provider. It is a reactive measure employed in communication networks in an clear attempt to regulate network traffic and lower bandwidth congestion. Simply its the traffic police! avoid any host that uses this method in their shared hosting plan. If your website is built on WordPress the weight of the plugins will cause your site to slow down to snail speed worse if your website uses a great deal of memory and you have high traffic expectations it’s a terrible business practice and your site, your visitors and your rankings will suffer avoid any host who does this implicitly.
What else should I know about a host?
Pay month by month instead of prepaid 1 year, or even 3 year contracts, means that as soon as a hosting company drops its standards you can move your site to another one its a simple thing to do and doesn’t take much time at all. I will also add most people get confused about this topic so I will expand a bit further. When you build a site you do two things.
1) One your register your domain name make sure to find a name that explains or is part of what you do. For example if you repair televisions how about Drtv.com or tvrepairguru.com. Your URL and company name is the single most important factor when it comes to rankings so take your time and choose wisely.
2) Choose a hosting plan for your website
These are two different things entirely! I repeat domain registration is different from hosting you wont lose your website if you change hosts.
You can keep the original company for the domain registration but you can move hosts as you wish, freely and easily and as often as you like. You do not lose your domain name or your website if you leave a bad hosting company. I hope this clarifies this issue because I have dealt with this issue quiet often and most people fear losing their domain name or website once they move hosts instead they rather lose business, rankings and traffic and makes SEO extremely difficult.
If you have signed up to a long-term hosting contract and are having problems, you should write-off the money paid and move to another host anyway, as losing a couple of hundred in hosting costs is better than doing long-term SEO damage to your website.
A few web hosting factors that can affect where your website gets ranked:
Up-time and Downtime
Uptime/Downtime and speed – can fluctuate up and down significantly from month to month, and so you need to regularly check them. Hosts often change their type of plans as to attract premium rates and offer cheaper plans, you might be suddenly put on the low-end of the totem pole getting sub par service because they just added a performance plan at a higher rate. As soon as you notice a problem you should contact your web hosting company immediately. Don’t just assume they know about the problem. Even if they do know about the problem, they might not really care. Therefore, it’s wise to not commit yourself into a long-term web hosting contract even if the monthly rate is a dollar more per month never ever pay the year up front! A good business plan always has an exit, you should the same advice.
Downtime is the amount of time that your website is inaccessible due to problems with the server it’s hosted on. Search engine spiders will probably try to visit or crawl your site several times a day. If they visit your site during periods of downtime then they record that it’s inaccessible and move on to the next site. If this happens repeatedly then your site gets flagged as unreliable and your rankings may be downgraded. Search engines don’t want to display unreliable sites highly in their results because it reflects badly on them if searchers click on a result they give and then can’t access the site. Even 99% up-time means that over the course of a month your website will be inaccessible for around 7 hours in total. Ideally, you want your website to accessible 100% of the time, however, some amount of downtime is inevitable, even on expensive web hosting plans. However, it’s not unreasonable to expect a web host to offer and to guarantee 99.9% up-time, so don’t settle for anything less. IF you need to make some major changes on your site its wise to put up an under maintenance page to avoid this issue.
Search engines are normally very secretive about the factors that are part of their algorithms, but suffice to say people like faster websites so in 2010 Google explicitly said that the speed at which a page loads is one of those factors. It’s only one of over 200 factors in ranking, and so it almost certainly has a less than 0.5% affect on your rankings, but it’s still worth paying attention to.
I use these website to check the loading speeds for pages they don’t promote a product and give you some great info:
*Don’t get caught up in the shortfalls of your page elements, most of these can be easily improved upon by your SEO guy or Web Tech.
A slower than average loading speed isn’t necessarily the fault of your web host though. The configuration and coding of your site could instead be causing the slow down, but if you’re sure that the technical set-up of your site is correct then you should ask your web hosting company to move your site to another server. It’s not uncommon for a website to be sharing server resources with hundreds of other sites, and the more sites on a server, and the more resources those sites use up, the slower your website will load. By moving your site to a less busy server, or even a private/dedicated server, page load speeds will be instantly improved.
2014 is the year to finally get up to speed with your website hosting small changes can big differences. Just because a hosting plan is expensive does not mean it is the best, ask around test the customer care and if all else fails move your host you deserve to be noticed and be found.