Server Location as Local Ranking Factor

Does the location of your web server or web host have an effect on your ranking in Google? That’s a potential concern for any site owner, especially one that runs a local business. So how much should you be concerned?

With that in mind, it’s not surprising that this question should get asked on our SEO Chat forums. You can read the thread and join the conversation if you’re interested. The answer, in this case, seems to be a definite “yes,” if two Matt Cutts videos available on YouTube are any indication. Search for “What impact does server location have on web rankings?” on YouTube (without the quotes) and you’ll spot the videos pretty quickly. Of course, that answer raises other questions.

The first question is, why should your web server’s location affect your ranking in Google? The search engine tends to make an assumption that if your IP address comes from France, and your top-level domain is .fr, then you’re probably based in France. It will assume that your business is therefore more relevant to someone searching from France and (especially) using google.com.fr than it is to someone searching from the US using plain old google.com.

Note what I said above about “tends to make an assumption.” It’s not an ironclad rule; it’s not as if Google doesn’t realize that we’re a global community and the Internet is a global phenomenon. Cutts states that you won’t show up only on searches specifically from your web host’s country. Still, you can probably guess that if you’re a bank based in France, you may not show up as high in the results for someone using Google.com in the US and searching on the keyword “bank.” Nor should you, in Google’s opinion, since it tries to show the most relevant results for each particular search and searcher.

In one of the videos I mentioned above, Cutts mentions that you can specify in Google’s webmaster console that your website is relevant for a particular country – and you can even do that for specific parts of your website. That’s something you might want to do if, for instance, you’ve built a site with sections for customers in different countries. In that case, if your server is based in Mexico, but is relevant for users in the U.S., you could probably tell Google in this way that it should take that into consideration when deciding your ranking on the country-specific versions of its search engine.

While this shouldn’t be a major worry for you, that’s probably not all you can do to make sure Google knows where you are. You can claim your business listing in Google Local. You can make sure your business name, address and phone number are correct and up-to-date everywhere they appear on your website. You can make an effort to build links with other businesses that are based in your area. Cutts notes that if you find a great deal in a particular country, and you really want to stay in that country with your web server, that’s fine; but if you are worried about it, you can try switching the geographic location of your web server, which is essentially changing your IP address, and “that might end up helping for various countries. So it’s the sort of thing where I encourage you to experiment,” he concludes.

Have you noticed any difference in your ranking in country-specific versions of Google that you can trace to your web server’s IP address? We’d love to hear about it.

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