Website Hosting and Google Rank

The next step after planning and developing a website is to host it on the Internet. Who you’re hosting with is an issue to be considered. Should you look at it with your SEO eyes or not? The issue of Web hosting is not just related to the price and features of the web hosting provider. Website owners who are far sighted consider other factors, such as search engine optimization. Does choosing a host provider make any difference in search engine rankings?



If you submit your site again and again to Google but you are still unable to get it indexed, it may be your host provider who is responsible. There is a strong belief that increasing a website’s rank is contingent upon a unique IP address.  On the other hand, it doesn’t seem necessary because these days most websites are hosted on shared IPs. On a single computer many servers run side by side and serve different domains from single IPs.

If you look at any SEO forums, you will see several discussions about web hosting concerns as well as name server issues. Many times the thought seems to be something along the lines of  “A ‘cheap’ web hosting company hosts my site. But, the host may also be hosting numerous spammers, scam sites, or other banned sites like Gambling and or Porn. The price is right at less then 10 bucks per month for 5000 MB and unlimited domains, but does that affect my rank and does it risk my website?”

The answer is Yes and No. It may affect you to some extent and it may not affect you in other concerns. Let’s find out out where the rubber meets the road.

There are certain situations that can cause your site to take a hit in rankings.  If the domain sharing your server and IP is penalized by Google on account of spamming then your website is also expected to be banned or penalized. This will happen if there is virtual shared IP hosting.

Another situation may arise if your website is residing on a server containing illegal adult content, and that site is on the black list of Google your website will be banned. While you should never assume that your site is blacklisted, you should also take precautions.  Even if your site is dismissed from the rankings temporarily, you can probably clear up the mistake by contacting Google. Still to be on the safer side certain qualifications should be made clear while hiring a web host.

Hosts should be up 24/7. For proper website service it must be up 100% of the time so that users aren’t faced with a blank page. Similarly, search engines have no specific schedules for crawling, so it must be up at all times in order to make search engines happy. If a Google-bot encounters a 404 error it will come again in the next crawl, so to be on the safe side ensure 100% uptime of your site.

All hosts must do maintenance tasks, but they should inform well in advance that for such and such period the site will be down due to maintenance so that you can plan accordingly.  On the other hand, if your host doesn’t inform you and you browse your site to see a 404 error then you must consider moving to another one. Google is believed to have a smaller crawl daily and a deep crawl once a month which implies that a Googlebot can come anytime, so your website must be ready to receive this welcome guest.

Web Hosting and Clean Records

The record of the host should be good at Google. Although there is no mechanism to rate them, web hosts that are very popular and extensively used could be trusted rather than unpopular ones.

Have a look at http://support.easystreet.com/abuse/banned_ip.html. For example, hypermart.com offers very good and reasonable packages of hosting for general as well as dedicated hosting, but a website hosted on it could face problems with optimizing at Altavista because this host service is banned by Altavista. Site hosted on the servers will miss the traffic coming from this popular search engine. But such cases are rare and in a nutshell look for the prominent and reputable names in this field.

Virtual shared IP is a system by which a web server uses the same IP address for different domains. Instead of having a new computer for a server multiple virtual servers are made to reside on the same computer. Some web hosts can host 2000 domains on a single IP address; it all depends on the processing power and resources available to the server and the quality of service that the host wishes to provide to its clients. In this case the web pages feed to the search engines would be very slow. However these days virtual shared hosting is a common scene as being a cheap and reliable option and mostly accepted by engines especially Google. Google does not ban sites by virtue of their sharing an IP address with a misbehaving site.

In the words of Craig Silverstein of Google, “Actually, Google handles virtually hosted domains and their links just the same as domains on unique IP addresses. If your ISP does virtual hosting correctly, you’ll never see a difference between the two cases. We do see a small percentage of ISPs every month that misconfigure their virtual hosting, which might account for this persistent misconception.” This makes it quite clear that Google does not penalize a site on account of virtual hosting if it is configured the proper way.

Intelligent Domain Selection

Domain name selection should be very cunning and wise, if your website has to serve local market. (For example, if your services are aimed at people in the UK then a .uk domain is preferable.) If the website is intended for a global market, then a top level domain of .com is preferred. Domain selection will directly affect the ranking of your website at Google. In the above example, if a UK shoe company has a .uk domain, it would rank higher for UK shoes search. If the UK shoe company had a .com domain, it would be in the competition for general search terms from all over the world, not just the local market.

URL Restructuring

Maintaining the proper structure of your URL’s is also important. Search engines face problems while indexing dynamic URL’s (URL’s having many parameters or long query strings). Google is considered to be happy only with one or two parameters. The more parameters the more difficult it is to index them. Try to convert your dynamic pages to static ones, or let the server do it for you the other way to reduce the number of parameters passed and thus assisting the spiders’ job of indexing.

Apache is the most popular web server and employs a special “rewrite” module that allows you to convert the dynamic long URL’s to search engine friendly web addresses, this module (mod_rewrite) is not installed by default on the server. Many hosting companies offer it. Once it is installed it can convert the following dynamic URL

http://www.ittips.com/index.php?page=index_v2&id=632&c=13


into: 

http://www.ittips.com/computersindex_v2-632-13.htm

(Shameless Self Promotion, ITTips.com is owned by the author of this article)
 
The new URL generated by the server is more SEO friendly and much desired by crawlers. Ensure that your host has this module working to enjoy the benefits.

Hosting should not be a point of concern for your website. Depending upon your experience and technical know-how, you may benefit from going with the most popular hosting services, even if they are a little more expensive, rather than going for the best deal of a host with no reputation. If Google has a problem with your host then you will most likely have problems with Google. In many ways, it is preferable to have an individual IP address so that risk of index removal is minimized. Getting advice from an expert can save you time and money, on the other hand experience can be a great teacher. 

Sites hosted by free web hosts aren’t expected to rank high at Google for most competitive keywords because of the obvious reason that free sites are mostly prone to depleted content. In a nutshell you must be thorough with your web host and clarify all issues before selection. These small considerations can make you safe for your further plans toward search engine optimization.

Good luck!

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