W ebsite hosting and how you perform in search results is a reciprocal relationship. This leads to the question how does your host affect your online presence?As search engines such as Google focus more and more on the many factors of your websites relevancy and the experience of your website visitors they have incorporated the metrics of the user experience within their algorithms and that does mean, yes, your hosting does affect how you perform in search results but that does not mean you will rank higher it means that you must focus on your site visitor as we do in our audience targeted web services and understand what needs your website has, how it is built and ultimately how fast your website loads.
As an SEO professional who also builds WordPress websites since 2007 I have had tens of dozens of clients projects where the matter of staying with their current host or moving or choosing a new host becomes challenging. Through my experience in site optimization, I have worked with several hosting companies and searched for the right host for the right platform far and wide including for my own business such as this website.
These are the top questions most clients have and what I look for myself in hosting services not based on preference or promotion simply just to cover the basics what hosting companies are and how you may choose a web hosting service intelligently and satisfy the top criteria of how hosting affects your online presence and the requirements you might have such affordability, scalability, technology, server locations, security, added value services and of course customer support.
The Top Questions Frequently Asked
What is Web Hosting?
How Does Hosting Affect Your Website’s SEO?
Does Hosting Affect User Experience?
The Impact of Web Hosting on Page Load Speed
So How Do You Choose A host?
What is Web Hosting?
Now let’s start with the basics on a subject that may be simple that I have come across many times and for those of you who understand the difference between hosting and domain names as well as how they interact you can skip this section. So let us define what a domain name is. A domain name is just the website name or network address naming system that is used to point web servers and web pages to the right location much like a home address but instead of a house number, they use something called a “DNS” a Domain Name System. A DNS is a set of the IP address or internet protocol addresses that hosting companies use to identify a server or computer that stores your website. You may have a domain but your domain can also be unhosted or pointing to a service other than your domain registrar. You can verify who and where your site is hosted by using www.whoishostingthis.com
When signing up for a hosting account you must always identify the needs of your site so you can choose a plan that is right for you along with performance and price, most hosts offer domain registration free with a signup so it is a good thing to know if your still in the planning stages of the website. A hosting company will then essentially rent you space on one of the company’s servers and you will be allocated an IP address or DNS. The server you get is much like a computer at home except anyone can access it and with some plans, you can get a dedicated server or shared one. Each time you connect to a site on the web you are connecting to a server from a hosting company and the closest server to you if they have multiple locations.
Does Hosting Affect Your Website’s SEO?
The short answer is yes, who is who hosting your website directly affects your user experience as well and technical SEO.
This is why 90 percent of the time I move clients away from cheap shared hosting services to a host that I myself use which is Siteground. Because I have basically dealt with the majority of hosting companies and they are not only affordable compared to the top competitors for what you get, but can also provide all the tech, support and extra services I demand and I won’t apologize for that little plug of promotion because I deal with hosting for a living and have had many disappointments just like you might have. So here is the breakdown why your hosting provider can affect your SEO in a positive and negative way.
Let’s start with a dedicated IP Address if you’re running an Ecommerce site or any site that does an online financial transaction you definitely need a dedicated IP address to make your site Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) which requires an SSL security certificate. An “SSL” certificate is an acronym for (Secure Sockets Layer) which encrypts all the information shared on your site protecting shared data and transactions. This also has a double benefit as it’s a trust factor to a website visitor but keep mind as SSL certificate is not limited to Ecommerce. Medical websites also need an SSL certificate to be HIPPA compliant in the United States.
In fact securing shared data or personal information is so paramount to website visitors and search engines it is known to be beneficial for SEO when done right or create technical SEO problems when done wrong. Neil Patel breaks down the data best in his blog post Do SSL Certificates Affect Search Rankings? (A Data Driven Answer…)
Parallel to site security a dedicated IP can potentially benefit SEO by differentiating your website from the others within a shared server or shared hosting. Here is the logic behind it, the cheaper big brand name hosting providers are so cheap that they are used by spammy nefarious seedy websites who have hundreds of sites on the same IP address even though Matt Cutts former head of the web spam team at Google says it doesn’t affect SEO overall, regardless if your the good apple in a bag or rotten ones you might stink (See Video Below).
So let us cover what is known and what is not so we can move on to the top two priorities of how your hosting can affect SEO. We know that having a dedicated IP and an SSL certificate or HTTPS site can help SEO and most hosting providers sell these as extra services inexpensively.
These are two factors to look out for and why.
Essentially is how often your website or the server it’s hosted on is available. A website that is “down” will translate into zero visitors for the duration of maintenance. No visitors equals no traffic, loss of revenue and causes people to visit another site. So having a uptime percentage guarantee is something you want to ask about or research before you purchase a monthly or yearly plan and this should be your top priority. The industry standard today is between 99.5% and 99% uptime and I wouldn’t settle for anything less. The second factor is site speed, here is where things can get complicated and there are several factors that contribute to slow website loading. The type of content management systems such as WordPress or Magento can be heavy and notorious for being slow without proper optimization. Next, you want to identify the elements on your site that can contribute to weighing down a site, this can include images that are not optimized, too many plugins in the case of WordPress or just a very large site in general with allot of products such as ecommerce. If your website is heavy such as high-resolution image sites common with fashion blogging you need to make sure that the hosting plan you choose can accommodate the size of your site and the potential traffic it gets. Don’t go big at first with your hosting plan you can always scale up to a plan that is right for you. Once you know the requirements of your site and uptime of the hosting provider make sure to optimize the website itself for speed and here is why.
Industry wide we know there are about 200 factors taken into account for site rankings in Googles algorithm, Google explicitly stated that load times of a website are a ranking factor. Now, this is where things need clarification. Your host and website are a mutual relationship, however, your host itself can only provide the most optimal settings for your data. Your website also has a big responsibility in regards to coding, imagery, functionality and on page speed optimization so if you don’t have a website already make sure to ask your web designer to make sure load speed is a priority in your design. Your host alone cannot provide high speeds unless you have optimized your website on your end for quicker loading times and test it.
You can check the loading speeds for pages on your site here:
How Is The User Experience Affected?
The user experience and loading speeds are directly correlated. It’s one of the top reasons people will leave your website. According to Kissmetrics the average amount of time someone will wait for a website to load is about 0-10 seconds anything beyond this point is where people feel the slow load time and abandon your site. The user experience of your website should be paramount to everything else because websites are built to perform not necessarily impress and what good is it if your awesome website loads slowly what conversion can take place? Google also takes the position of the user and this is why they have included loading times in their ranking factors. The philosophy is easy to understand, Google aspires to rank and position websites that offer the best user experience. On a side note having faster loading times and host server resources allows search engine bots a more efficient environment to crawl your site if your site takes up too many resources it’s highly possible Google will never reach a given depth level and index all of your pages for potential rankings and something we always address in technical SEO. Bottom line speeds not only give users the best experience in surfing your site espeically when over half of all searches come from a mobile device and is a great start when it comes to how you begin to market or build your website.
Site Speed & Host Server Location
When you take into account the user experience and load speed optimization when choosing a host, I highly recommend you identify where your potential visitors may be located. This makes perfect sense if you are located in New York you don’t want to have a host with a server in the Ukraine as it will take a fraction of a bit extra time for your site to load. What you want is a host with multiple locations in your region to cover all the bases. Cloud hosting solves this challenge and is also a great option to go with when choosing a host, so go ahead and ask customer support where their servers are located in some cases you can request your site to be hosted to the nearest server to your business.
How Do You Choose A Web host?
Start by identifying your needs and answer a few simple questions such as what kind of website you have or are building? Does your website require a certain type of software language? What type of content management system are you running such as WordPress, Magento or another? How big is your website and the potential traffic volume you are estimating to get? Starting to find a host or a new web host is challenging without knowing your needs before hand.
Next, investigate the potential web hosting service uptime and downtime guarantees and statistics and server locations, then check what features they offer in their plans and what additional services can they provide and of course the price and availability to upgrade plans if needed.
Once you have all your requirements noted I highly recommend testing their customer support. This is something I often do to see how responsive they are with their ticketing system or chats by contacting them and watching how long it takes for them to respond or how long do you have to wait in line for a chat representative and are they are able to identify your needs and trouble shoot issues you may have. Web sites are no different than any other technology and things sometimes thing go wrong, and there is nothing more frustrating than having your website go down and having to wait for support for hours while you lose potential business and revenue. I always tell my clients this a great web hosting company is when you sign up and never have to contact customer support and with over 9 years of experience in online marketing I have had quite a few sleepless nights and frustrations with some great hosts and some not so great and this is why for me personally siteground has been amazing but I will leave that decision up to you.