“Our search rankings stink! We need to improve our SEO — like yesterday!” Has your boss or business partner ever come to you and said these words — and then expected you to fix the problem? You thought you were doing everything right. You learned all of the best practices for content creation and hired the best writers you could afford. You have high quality backlinks and all of the links work on your page. You’ve optimized for mobile, gotten rid of all of the plugins that slow down response time, and done everything possible to ensure your page performs well in search engine results pages.
And still you appear way down the page — or even on the seventh or eighth page of results. What’s the problem?
If you have ruled out the issues with your content and website that can contribute to poor SEO, the problem might instead be a more technical problem. More specifically, your web host could be the cause of dismal SERP rankings.
How Web Hosts Tank SEO
Only Google knows for sure which factors influence search engine results most strongly, but the search giant has said in the past that there are certain factors related to web hosting that are rated to determine search rankings. Chief among them are page loading speed — pages that are slow to load are penalized — but the location of the IP address, downtime, IP address reputation, failed connections, and improper redirects are also suspected to play a role in SERP rankings.
For example, say that you opt for shared hosting. To save money, you went with a discounted provider, not realizing that the server that contains your site is kept outside of the U.S. That server also hosts a number of other sites that engage in potentially illegal activity — including a site that is known to spread malware. Because the server is located overseas, and doesn’t have a reliable power source or maintenance technician, your site is knocked offline with alarming regularity. In fact, almost half of your potential customers never even see your site because they get connection errors when they click on your links.
Clearly, this is an extreme case, but any one of those factors could torpedo your SEO. Search engines penalize sites that have known “bad” IP addresses; for example, those sites that have addresses known to send spam or malware, even if your site is completely legitimate. Hosting a site in the U.S. may not be an issue for some companies. However, for any company that collects personal and financial data, i.e. any e-commerce site, they need to use a U.S.-based hosting provider in order to comply with federal regulations. Even if you aren’t collecting that type of data, the location of your host will influence which users see your site, since search results are becoming more localized.
Protect Your SEO by Choosing the Right Web Host
Because page loading speed is so important when it comes to search rankings, you need to find a hosting provider that guarantees the fastest speed, but also uptime and reliability. Remember, pages that load slowly — or not at all — will frustrate visitors and cause the search engines to send your page rank tumbling to the bottom of the heap.
In addition to speed, you should also consider the possibility of private web hosting. While shared hosting is affordable, both in terms of initial equipment investment and service fees, what you could potentially lose in terms of traffic and reputation may offset the costs. Private hosting allows for better compliance with federal regulations regarding customer information, and helps protect your site from being a victim should another company on the server be attacked by malware or a DDOS attack.
While your web hosting provider may not be the only factor in your SEO performance, it is becoming an increasingly important one. Contrary to some rumors, privately hosted sites don’t receive SERP preference over sites on shared hosting services. However, site performance is a major factor, as is ISP reputation, so if nothing else seems to be causing your SEO problems, it could be your web hosting provider. Look at your site’s loading speed and analyze the downtime — you might be able to turn around your site’s performance with a change of provider.