Could Your Rankings Improve with a New Web Host?
When a new client approaches me about taking on the search engine optimization of their website, one of the questions I often ask is about their current website hosting company. This is especially important when the client operates in a relatively competitive online marketplace and must gain every advantage possible to achieve good rankings.
There are several aspects of the hosting environment that can either enhance or suppress search engine rankings. Here is the rundown:
- Speed—The speed that pages on your website download can be affected by the web hosting service. Page download speed is important because that affects the experience of the visitors to your website. If it takes a long time for images to load or to move from one page to the next, visitors won’t stick around very long. Which is why Google has made it clear that speed is among the more important factors evaluated to determine rankings.
- Canonical Domains—Every domain can exist in two canonical forms. For example, as www.1stClickConsulting.com and 1stClickConsulting.com. However, one of them should be set as primary. Otherwise, from Google’s perspective, you have two websites with duplicate content. A big no-no! So, make sure that your hosting account is set up in such a way that the non-primary version of your domain forwards to the primary version as a “301 permanent redirect.”
- Security Certificates—Security certificates certify that the information shared by a user, when they place an order or fill out a form, is encrypted and stored safely on the host server. A website with a security certificate typically displays in the address field as https:// instead of http:// As with speed, Google gives a ranking boost to websites that have a security certificate because it is a plus for the website visitor. This has been true for websites that use shopping carts for some time, but recently was expanded to all websites.
- Location—Most small and mid-sized businesses do not need to concern themselves with this issue. But, at one time I had a client that operated dual manufacturing plants in the US and in Europe. In order for the website representing their European operation to show up in search results, it was important for it to be hosted on servers in Europe. The location of host servers is one of the clues that the search engines use to determine the general location of the business and its service area.
- Security—More and more websites are being hacked or attacked with installed malware. It is important that your web host has installed software to make your website reliably secure. Google does identify malware, and will not display infected websites in search engine results. For clients who subscribe to the 1st Click Consulting monthly consulting package, we also monitor websites for signs of malware attacks.
- Up time—Obviously, a website that is down can neither be visited by a search engine user or indexed by the search engines. So, it is important that your web host offers guaranteed up time. Although 100% up time is not possible, you should expect up time of 98%+. We offer real-time monitoring of server up time for clients that subscribe to our monthly consulting package.
There is one other hosting issue that can affect the responsiveness of a website in several ways. The vast majority of small businesses host their websites on shared servers. Dedicated servers in a managed hosting space seem unnecessarily expensive for most smaller businesses. But, when you are on a shared server, it is important to know who you are sharing with. Some websites experience bandwidth spikes because they experience visitor spikes. If you share a server with a website with traffic spikes, those spikes could negatively affect the speed that pages load on your website. Also, you don’t want to have your website hosted in a “bad neighborhood,” because the search engines may associate your website with those with whom you share a server. A bad neighborhood could be made up of porn sites, gambling sites, or a site identified as fraudulent in some way.
To avoid discovering that your site is hosted in a bad neighborhood, you should use a shared and managed hosting service like that provided by Full Fusion. You can learn more about their managed, shared hosting here.