Launching a new website? Selecting a web host is like selecting a physical storefront, and choosing a bad location can dramatically impact the success of your business.
Web hosting is a complex service in a market flooded with thousands of service providers with varying levels of hosting accounts. To the average user, they all appear to be the same with different amounts of storage space and bandwidth; however the products are very different.
Business owners often end up selecting their web host based on recommendations from their website developer and price, which results in a majority of sites located on a shared hosting account. Shared hosting is a single server with multiple user accounts, to reduce the costs to the end user.
However, the selection of shared hosting may result in the website ranking poorly.
According to Google, over 200 factors influence a website’s rank, including the speed of the website and the reputation of the website. While Google’s Matt Cutts official statement on shared hosting with spammy sites states that it does not influence SEO of other sites on the same server.
However, the comment by Cutts is over two years old and Google has implemented many major changes into their algorithm since that time. The ability of search engines to identify problem servers has improved and the use of IP blacklists is a common practice for email servers, it would only be logical that search engines would use the same information.
Since it is not easy to determine the “neighbors” in a shared hosting account, website owners may be sharing space with email spammers, sites hosting viruses and malware, and sites using black hat SEO tactics without any knowledge of the activity.
All of these activities may result in a penalty being applied to the server, resulting in all of the sites hosted on the server being penalized or devalued by search engines.
Other factors of shared hosting environments can also have a dramatic impact on search rankings. Google officially announced in 2010 that site speed is a factor in rankings. Shared hosting accounts are configured to meet the needs of a majority of customers. Most shared hosting web servers also function as database server, domain name service (DNS), and file transfer service (FTP). The generic server configuration and multiple services impact the response time of all web sites on the server. For instance, if one site is coded poorly and results in a heavy load on the web server or database server all of the sites suffer from slower response time.
The slower load time penalizes the search rankings for all sites hosted on the shared server.
It is important to understand that hosting choice can influence a sites ability to rank in search engines, just as storefront location impacts the foot traffic into a business.
Site owners should consider these points when evaluating hosting options and take steps to select the best location for their online storefront.
Chris Carrel is Director of Web Development and Organic Search Consultant at Alquemie Marketing.
This article appeared in isse 22 of FeedFront Magazine, which was published in April 2013. Read issue 22 of FeedFront Magazine.