How Does Your Server Or Website Hosting Negatively Affect Good SEO Practices

Site Hosting Cost Versus SEO Benefits

Once you’ve built your website, uploaded the files to the server, and promoted your services, you will start to notice traffic trickling in. At this point, you should be reviewing the data collected by the server to help you understand what is going on. This is where server monitoring comes into play, since you can find out a lot about the real operation of the equipment. The best hosting is going to help your business, while many factors exist that are detrimental to your efforts. Specifically, search engine optimization can be aided or hampered by the server that hosts your website.

Admittedly, not a lot of website owners know about SEO and when they do, they make decisions that are not necessarily acceptable practices. It is not that they are underhanded, they just misunderstand the concept. SEO is a broad topic, on both good and bad sides, but briefly, it is about making your site easier for the search engines to display in the search results. Users come to Google, for example, and conduct a search query. As you know, thousands of results appear and the user picks the most relevant to their needs. But how exactly, do those websites “get chosen” to be included in the SERPS?

Unless a website owner buys a sponsored listing, and even those are based on bids, no-one can determine which website pages will show in the search engine results pages. And to be clear, not all your pages show at once. The SE could display your home page or any one of your other pages on your site. It chooses what it thinks is relevant to the users’ searches. So, although, you may think you have excellent content on a topic, that page might not even get displayed. To summarize, a website gets chosen for the SERPS depending on the keywords, the general content, and how well the site owner has presented the material.

What Is Bad SEO and How Does It Come About?

Blackhat SEO is a situation where either web owners or paid third parties physically influence the SERPS by manipulating the relevancy of a given site. It is done in a number of ways, but historically, some of the methods that have been rampant were keyword stuffing, excessive backlinks, thin content veiled as real content, and title tags for images and internal links that were too exact. Any and all attempts to mislead a search engine bot into thinking a site is relevant is considered bad, causing the site to face extreme penalties from the SE. And the crux of the issue here is that the site owner doesn’t have to know it is bad. Just doing it is cause for retribution. Thus, the need to avoid all advertisements that promote getting your site into the SERPS.

But what does all of this have to do with your hosting? Unfortunately, server functions can cause penalties for your site in several ways. And when you think about it, if the search engines don’t like the site, why would your users? Since a site needs to be readable by bots, it needs to be more readable by humans. They are the ones buying your products and services, not the bots. So let’s review why the best website hosting gets you on the right side of the search engine rules.

#1 Fast Response Time

Page Loading Time MattersMany things go on in the background when a user calls up a website. They see the domain name in the browser window, but the server is not only calling up the website itself, but it must complete many functions in order to actually display the information. It looks for the IP address of the website and server, it connects to the database to retrieve information, plus, it displays all the information including graphics, text, video and coding. For all this to happen in less than a second or two, the server must be quick.

And if you are like most people, you’d probably say that a second or two is a ridiculous amount of time for a server to react. But, the truth is that when users are waiting for a site to load, they just get fed up and leave. Studies have consistently shown that users will take off after three seconds. Many more even earlier, but three seconds maximum is all you have to keep a user. Because of this, search engines do penalize sites for poor loading. So you need to know that your server can handle even a small amount of traffic. If you have a lot, forget it, you are in trouble!

Now within the point of fast response times, there are three reasons why a server might be too slow.

  • Antiquated Hardware
    Some hosts are not willing to spend the money on new equipment. Degradation over the years causes the machines to run too slowly. This directly impacts the loading of your pages, and ultimately your SEO.
  • Old Software
    There are reasons why software developers release new versions. Typically, it is to make the software more secure and run better. But regardless of why it is done, having the most current version is optimum. And while not all hosts update right away, and may be running one version back, the poorer ones in terms of maintenance, are probably several versions behind. Not only does this pose a security risk, but also, the older the software, the more it will cause problems with other newer software running on your website. It will not be compatible.
  • Shared Hosting
    When there is more than customer on a server, which is quite common, some are bad customers hogging all the resources. If the host has no way to control this or has not put into place parameters to avoid this scenario, then your website will suffer. Let’s say one customer sends out a couple million emails at once. The spike in resources is most likely going to make other sites on that same server stall out. They will not be reachable, causing lost sales, customer goodwill, and negativity, as it relates to SEO.

In short, if the server where you host your own website is too slow, you can expect that search engines will take measures to penalize the site, because it is not following good practices. As you can see, although you might not realize what is happening, or you may not have known this is wrong, it is your duty to understand. And we should explain that a penalty does not necessarily mean banning you from the database, altogether, it just means that you won’t show favorably in the SERPS.

#2 Local Data Centers

Current thought is that if your site targets a specific geo-location, then it is better to be housed in a data center nearby. For example, if you only allow sales from a specific country, then it looks better for the server to be in the same country. Language could also be a factor. There is no point hosting a Spanish speaking website in a French speaking country. Although the “boost” may be little in terms of search engine results, you may as well as take advantage of as much help as you can. In addition to the location, the TLD will also be checked. So this could help you, too, if it is for the exact country.

#3 Uptime Or Downtime

This is another crucial factor with the best website hosting companies. They take measures to ensure all of their customers are looked after and try their utmost to keep things running smoothly. But in the past, and still today, actually, there are a lot of places that don’t care. This means that external factors cause websites to be down on a regular basis.

Now, what you need to understand here is that the outages do not have to be a long time. Downtime can simply be small glitches that cause the site to be unreachable momentarily. If the SE bots come along and try to crawl the site, and can’t connect, then that occurrence is being tracked. Too many of these “unreachable connections” and the SE will penalize the website. The reason behind this is if searchers cannot use the site, then why should it display in the SERPS? Clearly, you can see at this point that server monitoring will help you avoid this situation.

#4 Security

This section deals with security of your site and server with the purpose of deterring hackers. Obviously, hackers can steal sensitive data, and they can just mess things up to make you look stupid. Regardless of the reason for them getting into your website or server, you want to avoid this scenario at all costs. For you, hackers cause lost sales, and can ruin your business.

On the side of the server, when the computer is not secure, it not only causes you lost sales, but it opens the doors for another search engine penalty. If the SE has to classify your site with a warning in the SERPS that the site might be compromised , it will not keep the site in the SERPS for very long. The site is categorized as malicious, which the SE does not want to show users. Luckily, you will have a chance to fix the problem, but if it happens too many times, the domain name will just be removed from the SERPS.

#5 SSL and HTTPS

In the past, only companies that sold things online bought SSL Certificates, which is an added layer of security when passing payment information. Now, it is becoming more common for sites to use the function for protecting personal data in general. Google has even stated that sites that display current SSL support may receive a small boost. In other words, it is now a ranking factor, albeit, less influential at this point in time.

#6 Support Services

Tech support affects SEO because when a problem is found, it needs to be resolved within a reasonable period of time. If you either cannot get a response from the support department or they don’t have the knowledge to fix the problem, then either way that directly affects you, your website seo, and your business. If you sign on with a particular hosting provider, before you encounter major problems, send in a couple tickets to find out how responsive the techs really are.

Can Sites Rank On Free Website Hosting?

Many cheap or free hosting are not going to be conducive to good seo, simply because there are so many restrictions with servers. Nothing is guaranteed and you will not influence them to fix things. Having said that, however, there are companies that host sites for free in order to find customers down the road. The hope is that if non-paying customers like what they see, they might order services in the future when they can afford them.

As always, we are not going into the names of the companies, because we have never used them ourselves, but Tech Radar has done an excellent page of website hosting reviews that you should check out. Whether or not you can rank your site will be a case of trial and error. But to clarify, we are not suggesting that all sites on paid hosting will automatically rank. Free versus paid is only a small indicator of how a site performs and it has nothing to do with the hosting cost and everything to do with server performance.

Google has outlined their position regarding free website hosting here.

To conclude, website hosting cost has no bearing on whether or not a site will be seen negatively or favorably in the SERPS.

How to Migrate Your Website From One Host To Another

Needless to say if you find that the hosting company just can’t or won’t comply with requests to fix the server, assuming it is a server issue, and not your website coding, then it is time to move companies. When you zip up your website files and move them over to another server, this is called migration. And while you may have some downtime and lost sales due to the new DNS propagating, this is minor in comparison to the damage that may have already been done. Consequently, in this section, we are going to discuss the steps involved in moving your website and getting it live elsewhere.

#1 Find A New Hosting Provider

From the information we have published on this site, you will learn how to choose a reliable website host. Since we assume at this point that you understand the characteristics of a good host, that is all we will say in this regard.

#2 Give Notice

Some companies require thirty days notice to close an account. Check the terms and conditions and if notice is required, be sure to send in a ticket or email. If you don’t care about getting billed for the next month, then do it once you safely have your files.

#3 File Backup

Flash Drive For BackupOf course, you should have a backup of your website already, but in the interest of having the most current files, do one last backup before you actually start the migration. To be honest, do this before you notify the hosting provider that you will be closing the account. And remember, that if your site is built with anything other than html, you need the database, too. In fact, the DB is the most important because it holds all the information. So don’t forget any of the pieces.

The good news is that you don’t have to backup all the pieces manually, in which case, you would export the SQL database through phpMyAdmin in the cPanel and then save all your other files accordingly. When you upload to the new server, you would import or dump the SQL, then set up the database names shown in the config file, and add the files to the server through FTP or File Manager.

Luckily, if your website is built on the WordPress platform, you can use tools such as Duplicator, All-In-One-Migration, or BackUpWordPress, all of which have free solutions that work perfectly fine. Use the plugins to backup your files, then reinstall them on the new server.

#4 Switch DNS

Once you sign up with another website host or order your dedicated server, the provider will send you a welcome email which includes the DNS of their server. Add these two strings of characters to your domain name at the registrar. But be sure you have everything before doing this. You won’t have access to your old live site once you complete this detail.

#6 Upload Files

Follow the instructions for the plugin to migrate your site and get it live on the new server.

#7 Propagation

Wait for the propagation to take place. This is also called waiting for the domain to resolve. Once you can see the site live, look it over for any errors or little bits that got lost in the shuffle. Ideally, everything should have come over perfectly.

#8 New Home

Now you are on your way with a safe new home for your business.

Finally, if you are using free website hosting, you may have to find the instructions on how to back up your site. This is actually an important step to do before you even decide to use free hosting, since you want a record of your work to take elsewhere, if needed. And at some point, you will probably make the decision to move your site. For sites such as Blogger, there will be plenty of information from other users on how to get your files exported and what to do next to get them over to another type of server environment.

Does Changing Website Host Affect SEO?

Indeed, you have to be really careful with website design and hosting because you can negatively affect your SEO when you thought you were trying to improve it. In other words, maybe you were trying to make it even better than it is, but things went in the wrong direction. This happens often when you start tweaking or changing elements of your design. When you move pieces around, they are not seen in the same way by the search engines, thus, something that was deemed important before, and allowed the page to rank, has now become insignificant.

Alternatively, if you change the structure of your site or even the content management system, search engines may not view the changes as simple tweaks, but rather, a new site altogether. Different CMS focus on different onsite seo factors, which in turn affect the rankings.

Additionally, making decisions about descriptions for title tags on images and links. For example, let’s say you wanted to promote a particular concept or keyword. You decide to use that phrase on all your title tags on the same page. This could cause the page to be buried in the SERPS, since the process is considered keyword stuffing, as opposed to tweaking your pages for the good. The better solution is to write more engaging content that introduces the phrases, or use the phrases naturally in the title tags. The phrases should resemble the way humans speak, not written for SE bots.

Analyze Server DataMoving forward to address the issue of moving hosts, in the above scenarios, it is definitely to your advantage to change hosts. With things not working properly, hopefully, when you move, you can improve the situation and get your site back on the right track with the search engines. But, is there a negative side to switching hosts? There is if the new host is worse than the old. Or let’s say an excellent host is bought out by a company with poorer customer service. A site that enjoyed rankings in the serps could now lose its position due to bad practices of the new host. The sad part is you didn’t make a conscious decision to change things, they were out of your control.

Further, as in the case of design tweaks, when settings are changed on a server, they could impact the rankings, as well. Take for example, redirects. Maybe when you changed software to handle requests, the new program behaves differently, and the redirects are not working as planned. The same might hold true of 404 pages. There may be too many not found pages now and the search engine doesn’t find viable content.

When using software, either on your site, or on the server directly to block bots, be careful that you have not blocked all bots entirely. Remember that search engine bots are good, in that they help to rank your page. If the pages can’t be found, what would be shown in the SERPS?

One point is very clear when changing site design, hosting providers or server settings is that server monitoring is absolutely crucial. No ands, ifs or buts about it. If you want to know what is happening with your site, you need to collect and analyze data.

A Word About YouTube and Hosting

As the internet has evolved into this massive media, it makes it easier to get excellent free tutorials and help for problems. Once one person has an issue, they often write about it to help others. And this is a great tool because you don’t have to pay big dollars for support. And since, you might not always find the right site to get the answer you need, you can always start with YouTube.

Watch YouTube TutorialsIt is amazing how much you can learn just by doing a search on YT and watching some of the videos. I have fixed easy things around the house by typing in a problem and getting a video that showed me how to do it.

I once bought a pool for the kids and had no clue how to set it up in the backyard. Bingo, Presto! YT had many videos on the subject, plus the kids thought it was fun watching someone else do it online while we did it in person.

But the point we are trying to make here is if written out instructions don’t help you, find a relevant video and do the steps as you watch the presentation. You can pause the video as needed, and go back and rewatch until you get it right. If that person’s video is not explanatory, you can find another pretty quickly.

Moreover, many hosts will provide instructional videos on YT, as well. You don’t even have to be a customer of that company, as videos are there for everyone to view. It really helps to take advantage of the resources at our fingertips. Just be sure to weed through the garbage and don’t take advice from sources that are not reputable.

How Hosting Affects eCommerce Site SEO

This is an interesting discussion because although we have said that bots are not human, so don’t try to manipulate them, bot and humans are more alike than we think when it comes to SEO. If the bot deems keyword stuffing to be obvious and excessive, then humans are going to find the problem to be more than a passing nuisance and abandon the site outright. Similarly, if a bot can’t read the material, then humans will not either.

Another topic, however, that is missed in the SEO discussion in terms of hosting and eCommerce sites is the trust factor. We spoke, at length, about choosing a domain name. If the domain seems rather dodgy and has nothing to do with what the owner is selling, customers may not have trust in that site. When search engines check IP addresses and domain names, they are looking for things that match up, not things that appear to be spam or illegitimate. Even lead generation can be a problem because individuals do not want to part with their personal information if things are not on the up-and-up.

When hosting an ecommerce site, one of things that come into play is the IP Host Location. Companies have found that when they upgraded their servers and were provided new IPs, they lost some of their ranking and gained some in other areas. A specific example is a company that might target both the American and UK market. If the original server was on an IP location in the UK, then with the upgrade changed to the US, quite possibly the .co.uk search engine now has displaced some of the pages. Yet, the .com has acted favorably to some pages.

The company has not really gained anything or lost anything at a first glance, but this is where accounting comes into focus. The actual numbers on sales and profitability will determine whether or not the downgrade in the UK rankings was worth the uptick in the US rankings. Ideally, they want to capture both markets! The good news is that if you notice the issue fast enough, you can recover from drops in ranking.

This quick presentation will talk about five general points when thinking about launching an ecommerce site.

PBNs And Your Server

Often, companies will use smaller sites to direct traffic to their main sites. These are all sites that the company owns and are part of a larger network to help the main business.

A few examples of private blog networks come quickly to mind:

  • One option is send targeted traffic to the big site. In the case of a wedding website, you might talk about all the topics involved in planning a wedding and the actual day of the wedding. And although each section will be focused, the site itself is general. In order to get more traffic, you might set up a dedicated site on wedding cakes.

    Users will find the site through the SERPS and social media venues. Once on that site, they may be directed to the big site, by telling them there is lots more information or that the small site is an offshoot of the bigger. The key here is to rank for other keywords that the big site might not be able to on its own. So, you have picked up more traffic.

    Finally, you could make a large network on many wedding topics for each small site, connecting to the bigger site.

  • Another example is to harness local traffic. Maybe you are a plumber or basement foundation contractor. You work in five different cities, and have a main website. To help with local SEO in each city where you service, you will have a website for each city which can link to the main site for more general information. The little sites will specifically target one city.

In any scenario that you use a PBN, you want to be sure that the server can handle all the traffic from all sites.

Conclusion

SEO is a balancing act because if you do too much, your site gets penalized, too little, and you lose out on favorable rankings. And while, the whole website development, hosting and promotion seems to be a very large puzzle, you do, nonetheless, need to understand that each piece is important to the other. Since, we usually host our sites through a third party, it is easy to stand back and assume the company is doing this or that. This attitude is a huge mistake, even though we understand that it is common and have learned firsthand, that it is detrimental to our efforts.

Further, you have to look at the hosting as the building for your business, in the same way, a brick and mortar enterprise chooses a location. If you are in the wrong neighborhood for your demographic, you can’t possibly be successful.

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