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Think ‘SEO’ and your mind probably jumps to keywords, content and link-building. These are all important areas of optimisation, but often the less flashy, fundamentals are skipped or missed.
For example, few of us consider SEO when choosing a web host, but choosing wisely, or not, effects your user’s access to and enjoyment of your website.
In fact, having the right web host for your business should be considered one of the foundations of effective SEO.
In this blog, we’ll look at three of the main ways your web host impacts your optimisation efforts and discuss ways to make sure your host is supporting, rather than damaging your SEO strategy.
Page load speed
In 2010, Google took the bold move of announcing that page load speed is one of its ranking factors. So, it’s safe to say speed is one of the most important considerations when choosing a web host.
In brief, if your pages take longer than 3 seconds to load (tools like pingdom.com and gtmetrix.com will tell where you’re currently at), you will be penalised in the rankings. Partly because search engine bots say so and partly because users will leave if it takes longer, affecting your website’s key metrics like bounce rate and pogo-sticking.
Your web host determines a lot of your page speed because it hosts your website’s data. Your bandwidth and disk space requirements basically limit how much of that data (how many bytes) can be served to a user in a given time. The more data and more people requesting it at once, the more strain is placed on your server.
But you don’t necessarily need to spend big to ensure fast page load speed. Slow loading is essentially a mismatch between your bandwidth and disk space needs and what is offered by your hosting plan.
Most small, static websites can use free web hosts, but dynamic sites with a lot of traffic will need paid plans. Find out how much bandwidth and disc space you require and find a plan to match, leaving 30% leeway for times of unexpectedly high site traffic (e.g. if your content goes viral).
Extended site downtime
Website downtime is any time your site is not available to users. It can be caused by server failure, hardware failure and security breaches.
Regardless of the cause, extended downtime affects your rankings. Search engines will crawl your site a few times per day and note times when it’s down. One of two instances here and there is expected and unlikely to affect your rankings.
However, extended downtime (downtime of more than 3 consecutive days), or sites that experience frequent lapses in uptime over a few weeks, will experience a dramatic drop in their SEO. These sites will be flagged as unreliable and can simply be de-indexed from the rankings entirely.
What security measures your hosting package includes has a marked effect on your SEO. Bad security equals not trustworthy, which means search engines will drop your site like a wet fish.
SSL certificates are a ranking factor. Does your hosting plan include one? If not, you’re going to seriously struggle in the rankings. Search engines won’t rank a site with no SSL certificate highly because they could be malicious. Pointing their customers to them would be a very quick way to lose business.
If your current plan offers SSL and you’re not using it, get it implemented and then configure your site as soon as possible to make use of it.
If the worst happens and your site or servers are hacked, or some other catastrophic failure takes place, does your host have systems and backups in place to ensure you don’t lose essential data? If not, you’ll probably suffer in the rankings.
What does it all mean?
Your web host might not be the most important determiner of your SEO success, but it does provide a strong foundation for your strategy. By impacting your page load speed, uptime and security, your choice of web host can either make or break everything else you do to climb the rankings. So choose wisely and sit back and enjoy the rewards.