For digital newbies, building a website is hard. From design to content, there are so many moving parts it can be tricky to determine which to prioritise in order to attract visitors. Use a nineties-style template with over-the-top graphics and you’ll struggle to retain quality traffic. Fail to invest in content and you’ll be invisible to search engines.
One factor that is frequently overlooked or underestimated among the chaos is website hosting. For those unfamiliar, a web host is the service that enables visibility of a site to the World Wide Web. It allocates space on a server for a website to store its data, so that site is visible to all devices connected to the internet.
So, why does web hosting matter to SEO? Well, if your website is down, search crawlers may mark it as unreliable and consequently penalise your rankings. Not to mention that people won’t be able to visit.
Here’s a real-world example to elaborate. Stick with me.
Let’s say you own two luxury retail stores – one at a run-down shopping mall and one at a premium centre with state-of-the-art facilities. Both stores sell the same products and have identical interior designs, but the shop in the old mall suffers, as the centre is constantly closed for renovations or repairs. Not to mention, it’s surrounded by stores pushing tobacco and dodgy high-interest lenders – it’s not exactly in good company. The store at the premium shopping centre, on the other hand, makes thousands of dollars every day, due to the sheer quality of the facility and the amount of people that visit. It’s never closed for refurbishment.
This analogy is just like web hosting, albeit in the digital age. It doesn’t matter how professional your site looks or how good your products (or services) are – if your site is hosted on an unstable server and said server goes down, people won’t be able to view it. Not to mention, the potential search engine implications.
I spoke to our resident SEO expert – Florencia Estévez – to get her thoughts on all things web hosting and how it impacts search engine optimisation.
There are several web hosting types; the best depends on the type of business you run or website you want to build. The main categories are: shared hosting, VPS, cloud hosting and dedicated servers.
Shared hosting is the most popular form of web hosting and the method most people use when launching a basic website. As the name implies, this method involves sharing resources such as RAM and CPU among multiple sites on the same server. There are also different types of services within shared hosting, depending on the configuration.
Not all shared hosting services are equal; some are more reliable than others.
VPS stands for ‘virtual private server’. Much like shared hosting, those on a VPS share a server; however, they don’t share resources. Instead, the physical server is divided into compartments using virtualization, with each containing its own designated resources.
RAM, CPU, space and transfer consumption are all guaranteed on a VPS.
Cloud hosting is a newer form of web hosting composed of several servers that work in tandem, rather than a single server. This network ensures that if one server goes down, another will keep your website running. The more servers that are connected, the more resources in the cloud.
A dedicated server is a type of web hosting in which an entire server and its resources are dedicated to one client. As the server is not shared with any other user, all resources are guaranteed.
Well, like any SEO’er would say….it depends! The most suitable web hosting depends on the type of website you have or want to build. Consider how much of traffic you currently get or estimate getting because your hosting will impact on the performance and scalability of your website.
Best for: Small websites.
Pros: Cheapest option and doesn’t require a lot of technical knowledge to set up.
Cons: You share resources with other websites, which means you could have performance issues and slower loading times. Plus, if a site on your server is marked as spam, your server’s IP address risks being blacklisted. This type of hosting is not scalable.
Best for: Small or medium businesses who can’t afford down time or have outgrown the resources of a shared hosting plan.
Pros: If you have tech knowledge, VPS hosting allows for some custom configuration. It also provides faster loading speeds and greater uptime (the percentage of time your site is online). It costs less than a dedicated server, which makes it more affordable for small, growing businesses and is as easy to set up as shared hosting.
Cons: You still share a main server with other websites. There are things you can’t control within your server’s configurations.
Best for: Growing businesses, due to its scalability and flexibility.
Pros: Cloud storage offers more storage space than shared hosting. This can be easily scaled up or down according to your business needs. The faster load times offered by cloud hosting also help improve search engine visibility.
Cons: Cloud hosting is generally more expensive than shared hosting. There is also an increased risk of data breaches, so you need to make sure your provider is trustworthy
Best for: Large organisations and enterprises with thousands of monthly website visitors.
Pros: Retain full control over the server’s configuration and benefit from increased security. Dedicated hosting comes with dedicated resources, so you don’t have to share with any other sites – ensuring high performance and high uptimes.
Cons: It’s expensive and requires technical skills to configure and maintain.
Web hosting can impact SEO in different ways. Even though quality web hosting does not directly ensure a rankings boost, it can certainly help.
For example, a search spider can crawl your website several times a week. If your website is down when the bot visits your website, your website may be tagged as unreliable, which consequently impacts your rankings and traffic. This downtime also affects your end users.
Slow site loading times can be caused by multiple factors. However, if your website is optimised and you still have high loading times that don’t meet best practices, you might want to check your server. If you’re on shared hosting, you could be experiencing slow loading times because the server is busy handling many websites at the same time. This slowness will not only affect rankings and traffic, but also conversions.
Yes, definitely. Having suitable web hosting is crucial – especially now that the Page Experience algorithm update has been released. Better hosting can maximise uptime and decrease load times, thereby improving rankings and driving traffic.
Hosting also ties into Page Experience signals, which Google uses to measure user experience. These are more important than ever, thanks to the long-awaited Core Web Vitals update.
For more SEO tips and plenty of quality memes, follow Florencia on Twitter –
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