Any business that is serious about SEO, know how important it is to completely optimize your website for search engines while also providing great value to their customers. But the optimization goes beyond those keyword relevant posts, backlink creation and “SEO-friendly” themes.
The biggest thing that most people forget about, is hosting. And while most people disagree that hosting does not affect your search engine rankings, I beg to differ.
Because you wouldn’t notice a thing if you choose a good hosting company. But if for some reason, you end up choosing a bad hosting company, you will definitely see negative results in terms of SEO.
It might be mind-boggling to you right now, but as you continue reading the reasons that I mention below, you will realize that it makes total sense.
It makes total sense as to why Google would choose websites/businesses that are using highly reputed hosting companies, compared to other so-called “low-cost” hosting companies.
So, without any further ado, let’s jump right into it.
What do I mean by that?
Well, let’s compare it to the real world.
What does it mean for someone to live in a “bad” neighborhood?
It means that usually, the area is not very safe for people at night. There is a possibility that people in your neighborhood might have committed a crime before. And you also wouldn’t let your kids play outside after 6 pm.
The obvious effect of all of that is that the rent/cost of buying a house in these neighborhoods is lower compared to other neighborhoods that are much safer.
So, when you opt to buy cheap hosting, you are essentially giving your website a house in one of those bad neighborhoods. Neighborhoods, where the websites have a low reputation and the general public, might not like to trust the information on those websites.
And Google really notices those websites and tries to make sure that they don’t rank higher.
And so, if your website is hanging around those low reputation websites, then guess what, your website too is not going to rank as well as is should’ve been.
So, it is better to opt for a somewhat mid-range hosting that offers annual plans. And even if you end up paying a lower amount of hosting compared to other cheap hosting companies it still works in your favor. Because a lot of people who own those low reputation websites, wouldn’t pay $150-200 for the hosting of an entire year because they don’t plan on keeping that website live for that long.
That is the reason why they prefer paying $7/month.
So, it is better to choose a reputed hosting company that only offers annual hosting plans, rather than going for a hosting provider that is famous for “cheap hosting options.”
Uptime or Availability Time of Your Website
One of the biggest factors that affect the SEO of a website, is its total availability time. Or as most SEO experts would like to call it, Uptime.
Uptime/availability time means the total amount of time your hosting server was working without any interruptions. The higher this number is, the longer it will be available for your visitors.
A website that is unstable and the servers are usually facing issues are not only frustrating for you as the owner of the website, it is also frustrating for the visitor as well. Because they are not able to access your website for the information they wanted.
And as you know, Google is all about improving the user experience. And this obviously harms that. So, you will have a hard time ranking very high in the search engines.
Not only that, you will notice that if a website is ranking #1 for a particular keyword, it’s ranking will drop instantly if they experience a downtime. But if that happens very often, the rankings will keep dropping until your website is nowhere to be found in the search results.
Highly reputed companies do offer a 99.9% uptime guarantee. So you can worry about other things. But it is also a good idea to keep checking on that guarantee to make sure that they are actually delivering on their promise. A great tool to check the availability of your website is Pingdom.
The Speed of Your Website
I went into a lot of detail in my previous post about how important it is to have a website that has a very low loading time, aka, a website that loads very fast. (Check out the 4 ways to improve the page load speed of your website.)
And Google has officially made website speed as one of the ranking factors. So it is very important to take this seriously.
A ton of businesses these days are using CDNs, optimizing their image files and also caching their files on the visitors’ computer to increase the speed. And while doing all of those things are very important, it is also important that you choose the right host. This will ensure that you have a fast website right off the bat.
So how does hosting affect the speed of your website?
Well, let’s check it out.
Every time someone visits your website, there are certain resources that are being used by your hosting server. These resources could be the processor or the memory. And the more visitors your website gets, more of these resources will be used to load the pages for them.
And if your web server has insufficient resources, it will slow down the loading speed for some of your visitors. In worst cases, your website will be totally inaccessible to the visitors. And this is a very bad signal to Google.
A good rule of thumb is to track how many visitors your website gets each month. And based on that, you can decide which hosting plan you want to go for.
And if you are confused, you can always contact the customer support of that hosting company to suggest you the right plans for your situation. They usually ensure that you have a great hosting experience.
You can also test the page load speed of your website on the Google Page Speed Tool.
The Safety of Your Website
Oh, this is a big one.
The more vulnerable your website is to the hackers, the more chances there will be for your website to be injected with malware. And this malware can do a lot of things that you won’t like.
It can do things like slowing down your website or maybe even infecting the computers of people that visit your website. And if that wasn’t enough, having malware on your website can also mean that your website can end up on the blacklist.
Yes, there is a blacklist that every search engine has. And they prevent all the websites on that blacklist from being indexed. This can be the ultimate SEO failure for you.
So how do you protect yourself from these attacks?
Well, it is sort of a 50-50 responsibility between you and the hosting company.
On your end, you need to make sure that you are doing the regular maintenance routine on your website. This includes updating your plugins, doing regular malware scans and taking backups of your website.
The other half of the responsibility is of the hosting company. They need to monitor their servers and ensure that they are able to avoid a majority of the attacks. And even if they are attacked, they are able to mitigate the risks and ensure that any customers that were harmed are now safe.
I must mention that if you do plan on using dedicated servers, then it will the client’s responsibility to ensure the security of that server.
And if you are extra cautious, you can always use external tools to ensure that your servers and websites are never vulnerable.
Having HTTPS and SSL Certificates on Your Website
Having an SSL certificate on your website is an absolute must these days. This not only increases the trust factor of your website in the eyes of your audience, it is also considered as a ranking factor in results.
Even though it does not carry a huge weight in the ranking factors, we want to do everything in our power to have factors on our side.
Because at the end of the day, you will be dealing with real people. And you want to make sure that they trust you. And having HTTPS and SSL certificates on your website is a sign of trust.
Plus, Google and other leading internet companies are taking a huge initiative to make the internet a safer place. So why not participate in that.
You should know that the implementation of the SSL certificate needs to come from the hosting. So before you opt for a hosting plan, make sure that you inquire about it. If you’re looking to save some money, you would want to go for the Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate because they provide it for free.
Any alternative methods of acquiring an SSL certificate will probably cost you around $180+ per year.
The Location of Your Web Server
Although this is not a huge determining factor, it is still something that will slightly influence your rankings.
Let’s say that your web server is located in India, and a visitor is accessing your website in the US, you might not have an upper hand compared to websites that are hosted in the US itself. It makes geographical sense for the websites hosted in the US to load much faster compared to the site that is hosted in India.
This does not mean that you should not go for a company that offers hosting options in India.
Before you choose a hosting company, you want to consider from which country will the majority of your audience be.
But it is not a big deal if you chose a hosting company far away from your audience because you can still take advantage of CDNs, aka, Content Distribution Networks to overcome that issue.
Again, this is not a huge ranking factor but if you still haven’t decided on your hosting provider, it is better that you host somewhere closer to your audience.
The Types of Hosting Services That You Use
I’m assuming that majority of the people reading this article will go for the shared hosting option. And you should know that with that option, you also run a risk of having someone that would use that hosting company to spam or possibly phish people on the internet. And you might be sharing your IP address with that person’s website.
This goes back to the bad neighborhood point I mentioned above. And although this is very rare if you choose a highly reputed hosting company, it is not impossible to find these cases.
This is not a huge thing, but it is something that you should be aware.
The good thing about choosing a hosting provider with a good reputation is that they constantly monitor their servers to make sure that no one is misusing them. And this is the reason why you really want to choose a great hosting company.
Because they usually will have to budget to monitor all of their servers and ensure that your website is in a great neighborhood.
In conclusion, your web hosting provider is very important when it comes to SEO. And if you choose a good one, you won’t notice anything negative. But if you do end up choosing a less than reliable host, you will definitely have some negative experiences when it comes to SEO.
Choose wisely, ladies and gentlemen.