The Role of Website Hosting in Your Website Ranking

In this episode we discuss the impact that your web host can have on your website's search engine optimization (SEO) performance. From website speed and uptime to security and server location, the choice of web host can make or break your SEO strategy. We delve into the key factors to consider when selecting a web host for your website, as well as tips and best practices for optimizing your website's performance to improve search engine rankings and attract more organic traffic. Whether you're a business owner or a digital marketer, this episode will provide valuable insights into the crucial role of web hosting in maximizing your SEO potential.

What You'll Learn

  • Why your web host plays a critical role in your website's SEO performance
  • What factors to consider when choosing a web host to ensure optimal SEO results
  • How to optimize your website's hosting for improved search engine rankings and increased organic traffic

Questions about SEO? Ask us at localseotactics.com/questions for a chance to have it answered on the show!

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Jesse Dolan: There's dozens if not hundreds of factors that we all feel are important. Everybody's got their own ranking for which ones are the most important and all the different methods. But Google has come out and said, these three things are important. And they've came out over time. There wasn't an announcement where they said, these are the top three things, right? But these are three publicly admitted things that Google has said are ranking factors for your website. Two of these three, your hosts can make a big impact on, which is why I'm starting here, okay.

Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics, where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I'm your host, Jesse Dolan, here in this episode with Bob Brennan and Sue Ginsburg. Sue, sorry to kind of cut you off there looking at some questions here to help everybody out in their SEO. Sue, what are we talking about in this episode here today?

Sue Ginsburg: Today's question is a question that we get asked when we are doing a website design build or redesign, and that is, how does your web host affect SEO? And the quote of the day today is the common question that gets asked in business is why. That's a good question, but an equally valid question is why not? And that is a Jeff Bezos quote. No need to say more about him. I don't think there's a person out there that wonders who he is at this point in time. So the story I'll share to set this up is recently, we were speaking to a business about building a new website. And they asked us what are the different elements and what are the different things I'm going to have to do and the cost associated with it in addition to the website design build.

We got to be on the topic of web hosts and switching web hosts, or would they need to switch web hosts, and if so, what did that entail? Would there be cost? Why would they do it? Why not? Etc, if they were going to get their website redone. It sounds like a simple question, and as usual as Jesse says, the answer is, it depends. In their case, they happen to be hosted on a custom platform that was owned by their former SEO resources company. Which made it challenging in this case, to collaborate, which isn't always the case, but it was this time. With other website redesign and updates, we can keep the same web host, we have kept the same web host, and it hasn't been a problem.

Depending on the situation and who the web host is, we may or may not recommend that the web host be changed for a variety of reasons. What we do know is that not all web posts are created equal for a lot of different reasons. What you see may or may not be what you get, and you can't always know that without making the decision to switch. So knowing that, let's ask the experts how different web hosts may affect your SEO and see if we can all learn a little, be a little smarter about choosing a web host that won't get in the way of doing SEO to attract more leads online. What do you two have to say about that?

Jesse Dolan: Bob, I'll rattle off a few things here I have prepared first, feel free to holler, interrupt. I know there's a few things here in our pre-discussion that are going to resonate with you. So I want to start off with everybody. There's three things Google has came out publicly and said are ranking factors. In the SEO industry, there's dozens if not hundreds of factors that we all feel are important. Everybody's got their own ranking for which ones are the most important and all the different methods. But Google has come out and said, these three things are important, and they've came out over time. There wasn't an announcement where they said, these are the top three things. But these are three publicly admitted things that Google has said are ranking factors for your website. Two of these three your host can make a big impact on, which is why I'm starting here.

Okay, so speed. Google has said website speed. And as we think about it, the more mobile usage we do on websites, speed's a factor. You do a Google search, you click on a result, boom, that thing needs a load quick. If it's not, you're back to Google and so on. So for Google, they want good results, so they want fast websites that are going to load, right? Your web host can play a huge role in the speed of that, and we'll circle back to that in a second. The second is security. Having a secure website, SSL, secure socket layer protection, you can tell your website is secure if you visit it, look up in the address bar of your browser, it should say https or some browsers have a little green bar or lock symbol, things like that.

Most sites today are secure, but your website being secure and then the host itself being secure is something that can definitely impact your SEO. And again, Google has come out and said that that is a ranking factor, a secure website. The third is mobile. Now this doesn't really have anything to do with your host, that's how you design your website. But just to round out the three things Google has said are ranking factors. So two of those three can be greatly impacted by your host. So you shouldn't discount from an SEO sense, you shouldn't discount where your website is hosted. A couple rules, I wouldn't say rules, bits of guidance for people in this. How do you know if you're choosing a good host, if they're going to be secure, if they're going to be fast? So number one, I mean, you can do some Google searching.

I'm sure there's tons of lists for fastest web hosts or secure web hosts, whatever. We're not going to have this episode turn into what are the best web hosts, things like that. This is more about how does it impact your SEO. But in regards to the speed part of it, you can do some research. There are definitely some hosts out there that are known to be faster than others. But then if you put yourself into one of two categories here, are you using, I like to call them the big hosts out there, the GoDaddy, the names that we might be familiar with, or the names that you're going to see if you do some research. Are you using a web host of that ilk or are you using again, your neighbor's, daughter's cousins server in their basement that they put together as a college project?

If your website has hosted on some weird contraption like that, maybe it is super fast right now, but you're going to be at the mercy of a person or a small number of people managing that server, managing that computer, all the connections, everything else. I wouldn't put my trust into that scenario for hosting your website. My own websites or our client's websites, anything like that go with a company who specializes it, who has redundant facilities, who has multiple people on staff that can take care of these things. It's not as simple as it sounds hosting a website. So you're going to want to go with a big reputable company. Some industries have specialized host providers that are maybe tied to the content management system you're using. We prefer WordPress when we build websites. Some websites for certain industries are built in proprietary content management systems.

Sometimes those are proprietary host that's also along with that, that can be okay too. In those scenarios, if you're not in a weird somebody's basement server situation, but you're also not with a larger GoDaddy and you're wondering, is my website and my host fast? Do some testing. We put out an episode a while back, Google Lighthouse, which is built into Chrome where you can test the speed of your website. You can do some searches online for speed testing tools. There's a lot of way you can test it. And for us, having a good website host is paramount for that reason. Speed is a huge ranking factor, and even if it's not a ranking factor, it can be a big conversion factor.

If Bob and I are competitors and we're number one and two in Google, if I'm number one by a website loads slow, somebody's going to click out, go to Bob's number two, and Bob's going to win the business of his website loaded fast. So even though in that case I was ranking above him, if that's a factor in my experience too, that's going to in the short term, lead to a dip in conversions, Bob's going to get the clients. And then if that happens enough, if Google sees people pogo-sticking out of your site and into Bob's, then you are going to drop your rankings.

Circling back to the security part real quick, the website, let's just say if it's on WordPress, you own your website, you manage your website, the host is kind of where you're parking it, right? They're serving it up. There's two layers of security there. There's one where you're managing your website and the content on it. But then there is the actual hosting part, and you want to make sure you're with a reputable, secure host. People can hack into your website and compromise it, but then people can also compromise the actual host itself. One of the areas, if it's possible you want to avoid is large shared servers. These can be okay, and it's not something that you should freak out about if you're on a shared server. A lot of times if you're paying 15, 20, 25 bucks a month, you're probably on a shared server, which means there's a computer somewhere and multiple websites are hosted on that.

You can have a dedicated server where you're the only website that's living on that server, and there's pros and cons to both, the largest factor being the cost. But something to be aware of, if you're on a shared server, again, let's just take Bob and I as two different website examples. Maybe Bob is running something out of Eastern Europe, some kind of phishing scam or something else. No offense, Bob. One of us has to be the bad guy here on this one. If Bob is doing that and just kind of gets a bad reputation, let's say, and we're on the same IP address on our server. I mean, we're neighbors, we're in the same duplex, if you will, kind of guilt by association. I can catch some flag from all the bad stuff Bob's doing just by living next door.

In addition to that, let's flip scenarios. Bob and I have two websites on that same server. Neither one of us is doing anything malicious though. But Bob's website gets hacked and now his website, not by his own accord, but because somebody else is manipulating it, is now compromised and it has malicious code injected into the website, I.e the host now. And that host, that server is being used to push out phishing attacks or spam emails, things like that. That IP address can get blacklisted, which is going to be bad for anybody else. That is also on that web host, on that shared server. How does that impact your SEO? Well, if Google sees you as an unsecure website, whether your actual content is or not, they're going to demote you. That is definitely one of the things that they do not want.

On the first page of Google is compromised or malicious websites. So you want to protect against that and your host is going to be your number one spot on that. Couple other quick areas here, when it comes to factors that matter on your host downtime, a lot of the good reputable hosts will have some kind of an uptime performance guarantee. It's usually 99% or 99.99%, which I forget how many hours or minutes are in a day. Even if they're at 99.99%, you could still have periods of downtime throughout the year in that kind of a guarantee, but very minimal. And the reason we want to avoid against downtime outside of the obvious where a client maybe hits your website and it's down so they can't patronize you, that sucks, right? Doesn't necessarily impact your SEO. That's just a bad client experience. But where it does impact your SEO is let's say Google hit your website and was trying to crawl it.

Google usual crawls when they're trying to hit your website and find the pages and digest the information. If Google hits an error that your website isn't there or a particular page isn't accessible because your host is down, your website is down, that looks bad to Google. You might be able to get away with that once. But if they come back and they see that happening as a pattern or they catch multiple instances, again, now your page, maybe you get de-indexed because Google thinks that the website doesn't exist anymore. Or you get demoted in your rankings if you were number one because now you're a bad website, you're not accessible. And I wouldn't say a penalty because there's Google penalties. I don't mean that, but you'll get penalized for that in a sense of downgraded rankings.

Two more areas here. These ones get maybe a little bit hidden what people might think of initially, but one of them is the bandwidth, the traffic. Most clients we work with are not like the CNN or the Amazon dot coms or the world where traffic is a huge issue on your website. But depending on who you are out there, maybe you're launching something, maybe you got a big PR campaign coming, whatever it is, can your web host handle spikes in traffic that you may generate? Again, if they can't, what's going to happen is users are going to hit your website and it'll be down because there's too much traffic, it was overloaded. Bad for user experience, and then again, if Google happens to hit you, and that's happening as well, your website is down to Google too and that's not good. So how much capacity, how much traffic bandwidth does your host have?

The larger ones, again, like a GoDaddy type scenario, they're going to have features for auto-scaling where they can absorb those big hits or just by how they're set up, they have that capacity. Your neighbors, sister's cousin or whatever example I gave there. If they're that one computer in the basement, that's all it is. And you're definitely limited there. So depending on what you have for a business and what your website does, that can definitely be a factor on the front side and long term for SEO. And then the last but not least here, which gets a little bit ambiguous, again, it's not a direct SEO, but it helps in certain scenarios is their tech support. And where this comes into place when you're having issues, which always sucks, and usually if you're having issues, let's just say it's something where your website is down and you need some kind of help. Because as we just talked in two different scenarios, it's bad for your clients and your customers when they hit your website from an experience.

But then also, you don't want Google to be hitting your website while it's down. So if something's happening, you want support. And again, just the more reliable companies are going to have better support, faster support, more knowledgeable support. And we found in our experience, even if you are dealing with a company who has accessible support, is the person knowledgeable? There's companies that can host a website and there's other ones that can work through issues with you. Some companies provide hosting, but you need to be an expert in server management, not everybody listening here is. Everybody might have a website, but that doesn't mean they're an expert in server management. So what is the level of the support for their speed, their promptness? What is the level of support from their technical expertise? And Bob, before we jumped on, you had a pretty good idea on how to test out the support or kind of peek under the hood there. If you wouldn't mind sharing that with everybody, I thought that was pretty good.

Elisabeth Samuels: seospringtraining.com is the website that you can go ahead and purchase your tickets on there. You can learn a little bit more of information of what we're doing. I am absolutely available. My contact information is on there, it's elizabeth@seospringtraining.com. So you're free to email me and ask questions, I absolutely don't mind. It is April 13th is the VIP, but 14th through the 16th is the regular marketing conference. It's in Scottsdale, Arizona. We have reserved an Embassy Suites.

Jesse Dolan: And it's not an event where this isn't like trade show where it's just sponsors all over tables, people throwing stuff around and everything's brought to you by this and trying to sell you a package. It's actual people practicing SEO doing it, that are up-to-date with what's happening.

Elisabeth Samuels: We bring quality value to people through our events. That's the whole purpose of it is just because when we started out, we didn't know what we didn't know. And if I can shorten the learning curve for other people, I'm absolutely happy to. Our speakers are coming from so many different areas. We've got people from social, we've got people from Super Technical, got people from sales, people from affiliates. It's any discipline within the SEO marketing realm.

Jesse Dolan: No, it's real people doing stuff, sharing, helping, and not just a one-off deal yet, not just a pitch fest to sell a bunch of stuff. You're going to come to the event, learn some stuff, get back and actually make a difference in your business.

Elisabeth Samuels:

We give a lot of real world practical actionable things that as soon as you're behind the computer, you can actually utilize that information and make a difference for your clients or your business.

Bob Brennan: Just do a test call, try to figure out a way to get there. If you're dealing with a salesperson or customer service, just say, okay, what can I expect for tech support? Is it immediate? What is the timeline? And if you ask your customer service person that question, they kind of pause or they don't have the answer, that's not the end of the deal. But then, okay, give me your tech support line and then I don't know if there's sample questions you could throw out there that you would ask a tech person, but it's just really about response type of a thing. And we got a review on one of our service companies here in Minneapolis where they call the number, but they don't know which store they're going to get. Which I understand, but the way the company set it up, they set it up in such a way that the calls roll to the next store if somebody at that store can't pick up. Because their policy and their belief is you should be able to talk to a live person versus it going to voicemail.

And maybe the culture is such that they'd prefer to go to voicemail, but the point is, what is your expectation of service? And from this company's viewpoint, they wanted to their customers to talk to a live person. Okay, that's kind of my spirit too. But I mean, to your point, Jess, just call find out, talk to their tech people, see if they can answer the phone. Do they answer the phone? And whatever, you get the idea. And we are in different times right now. I realize that in terms of customer service and staff and everybody's short staffed, but you just try to get a feel for where they're at.

Jesse Dolan: I think...

Sue Ginsburg: Sorry Jesse, one other thing. You mentioned the two factors, accessibility and how knowledgeable they are. I don't know if this is politically correct and maybe it's part of accessibility. But having the person who you're asking the question, knowing that they will understand your question and that they will be able to communicate it back to you in language that's understandable to you. I mean, both from tech talk to layman's and the language barrier of whatever language you're calling in and asking the question in, can that person answer you in your language that you understand.

Jesse Dolan: I don't think there's any political correctness worries there. If you're a business owner, marketing manager, whatever, crap's going down your website. You're talking to tech support, there needs to be communications there. So I think that's a great thing to explore. And everybody's different. Bob, myself, Sue, we would probably want to call tech support. Somebody else, maybe they want to chat. Whatever your method is that you're looking for to this point, test it out, jump on there, ask some questions, get the vibe. Was the communication good? Was it responsive? Did they seem intelligent? As far as examples, I think one thing that's applicable for everybody, and then it's also kind of natural for a test scenario here is talk to them about, I want to switch hosts.

That's a pretty complicated thing if we're working with somebody, if they're on a GoDaddy or something, if we want to switch them somewhere else or if they want to migrate, that's not a very straightforward process. That's pretty technical. So that's a great one to ask. And then you as a new client to that web host, it's kind of a natural question to ask. Like what's the process involved here? What pitfalls do I have? I could go into some other scenarios, but I think that's safe for everybody. You're not lying or deceiving with some kind of fake scenario. You just, "Oh man, I want to-

Sue Ginsburg: Good idea.

Jesse Dolan: ... switch over to you. What's it entail? What should I do? Do you have a timeline, an order of events?" And that should give you a pretty good idea on who you're dealing with or their competency level as the front line of support, right? Because-

Sue Ginsburg: Good idea.

Jesse Dolan: ...stuff goes wrong. You don't want to mess around for four hours on hold or going through the traditional questions and answers of chat, the chatbot before you human being and all that. So I think it's great advice to check it out before you start throwing money at something. Okay, so let me just look at my notes. Tech support, fast recovery, front side for initial setup. I think we're hitting on all the main points here for broadly. Why does my web host impact SEO or Kennet and what are the areas? I don't know Bob if you have anything else to add or Sue as well.

Bob Brennan: Yeah, I guess, I'm going to throw back a quick question to you. Some of our clients generate probably on the low end, $40,000 a month in revenue and a lot of them is north of a 100, 000 a month in revenue. So then there's a broad spectrum of people that listen to this podcast. Is there any kind of rule of thumbs? Let's just talk about risk and how would you approach it depending on, no offense to shoe shine guy or gal, but they generate $5,000 a month. Do they really need sophisticated? How do you approach that or how would you look at it based on the sales filing?

Jesse Dolan: So first of all, we recommend SiteGround, we're not going to bash other hosts necessarily. But go to localseotactic.com, click on resources, we got a link to SiteGround, we talk about them all time. Our preferred host, they're great for all the things we're talking about, speed, security, tech support. I think they have some plans, I forget the name that they put on their plans. And this would be like for the managed WordPress, which is a kind of little bit more deluxe than regular old web hosting if you're using WordPress. But I think those land in the 20, 25, maybe $30 a month range, Bob. And those should be fine unless you're starting to hit these bandwidths or size of your website issues. And that's a shared hosting solution right there too. I talked earlier about being aware of your free unshared and maybe where you should be hesitant.

For most businesses, this is going to be okay. You can upgrade and spend more money if you want. And to your question, Bob, if you've got the means, if you're a larger company and you can afford to be on a dedicated server or something else, then go for it. Maybe you jump to a 100, 2, even $300 a month. But, if your website matters and you can get that ROI, you're a shoe shine person, you take a lot for your website to bring in and get ROI and $300 investment just for your hosting, right. Not going to be in the cards there, but I think as a default for most businesses, if this is a regular old website, not e-commerce, not an app, not a lot of functional integration, just kind of more your online brochure, corporate website.

Most businesses that are out there can probably jump right into something like that from a cost perspective and then decide if you need to go up from there. I wouldn't recommend to any business if we're talking, let's just say run it up below 30 bucks a month to a shoe shine shop. There's not a lot of savings. Maybe you can go down to 5, 10, 15 bucks a month for some kind of cheaper host. Maybe you pay yearly, I don't know. But to save 20 bucks a month on hosting my website is not an area. I'll buy used pencils from the dollar store or something instead of saving 20 bucks a month. You know what I mean? This is not an area you want to skimp 20 bucks a month...

Bob Brennan: And I just wanted to get everybody to get a understanding that if you can correlate leads like we can with some of our clients that end up being 20 or a $100, 000 a month in sales, you might want to invest that $200 a month. I mean, I don't know how important that is to keep that stable. That's kind of what I was driving at it.

Jesse Dolan: Right on.

Bob Brennan: Because again, everybody's from different business volumes and everything that goes with it. So to really kind of put it in context, that's how I look at it as a business owner. Again, it's about risk management. You got this good thing going. How do we protect it? How do we keep it stable? There's a lot on the line.

Jesse Dolan: I think you should be paying, call it 25 bucks, you should be paying somewhere around that or more per month for your web hosting. If you're not, if you're out there listening as Bob's picking at this, are you in the right size, really? Is how I distill it down for your business. You should be paying somewhere in that range, maybe more. And I guess, I'd offer up, Sue, we do this often. Let everybody know this is what we do. So if you want some professional support, a second opinion, feel free to reach out to us. Let us know your question. "I'm this hosting company, I want to look somewhere else," or "You guys recommend SiteGround, would it be a good fit?" We're here for those kinds of questions. We're here to help. And if you need actual professional service and assistance to help you get through this, we obviously do that too. So I think if we don't totally answer questions that are in people's minds, just reach out to us in this topic.

Sue Ginsburg: No, thanks-

Jesse Dolan: That's something we do all the time.

Sue Ginsburg: Another thing I just thought of talked about, you can have your website on a custom platform hosted on a custom platform. I know that in one recent case when a client was... We were rebuilding their website and they asked us about their web host, they were paying $250 a month and what we recommended cost them $25. So also, if you're looking at a custom platform, look into what you might be getting that's worth the extra $225 a month. Because I don't know if it's there all of the time, you can save a lot of money right there.

Jesse Dolan: Sometimes there can be some add-ons that are worth it for a company. Maybe they were managing your email or some of this stuff. But again, I don't want to kind of go negative and bash, but we've definitely encountered numerous scenarios where that hosting fee, if you're into that provider for other services, maybe SEO, maybe web design or who knows what, something else outside of web hosting. The hosting fee can be something that some profits can get baked into. Because I mean, come on, how much do we all really know about what the heck this even means or what it entails? It sounds important, so definitely something that if you're a regular old business out there, you're paying more than 20, 30, 40, 50 bucks a month. You might want to look at that bill, see what you're paying for, there might be some savings there.

Sue Ginsburg: And I also think of another way to think of it is your best salesperson goes out with COVID or for whatever reason, what's it worth to you to get them back up and in their role on a monthly basis?

Jesse Dolan: Don't sleep on the website.

Sue Ginsburg: That's right.

Jesse Dolan: That's all I got. Either one of you have anything else you want to add to the topic today?

Bob Brennan: No, that's about it.

Sue Ginsburg: I think you hit some really good points, and I'm sure there are many people who didn't even know that you had to think about a web host. And it's just one more thing that is necessary in order for you to have a good website that's out there communicating what you want it to. And if you figure that in most cases, your website is your biggest, broadest communication vehicle to everybody who you want to reach. It's worth 25 or $30 a month to make sure that it's up and running 365 days a year if possible. So okay, if you remember one thing and one thing only, remember this, yes, pay attention to who your web host is, you have options. Look into it. And there's no need to overpay for it.

There's options out there that you can check out, whether it's calling to see what their service people say or whatever else you want to do, or we'll help you look into that if you want us to. But do not ignore who your web post is. It's an important part of your website platform and getting your message out there. So again, quote of the day, "The common question that gets asked in business is why", Jeff Bezos tells us that's a good question, but an equally valid question is why not?

Jesse Dolan: Right on.

Sue Ginsburg: It's worth asking.

Jesse Dolan: All right. So if you're out there listening or watching, hopefully this helps you out. If you've stuck through this whole episode on web hosting, I applaud you. This is definitely one of the more nerdy or technical ones that we've talked about. But it is good stuff into Sue's point. It's something that maybe we take for granted, you don't really think about. Which should be good if you're on a good solid host, this is how it should be feeling to you. But maybe this gives you pause to investigate and check it out. Hopefully that helps you out. And if you have any questions about this topic or something similar that you've been thinking about, I guarantee you other people are thinking about it and we'd like to answer it on the show.

Go on to localseotactic.com, scroll down to the bottom, click the link for submit a question. You can type it in on the form or call it in, leave the voicemail, we'll use the audio on the show. We'll send you some free swag for doing so. We'll get your question answered and it'll help the overall community out. Love to hear from you, localseotactic.com. Sue, thanks for the great question, the context, everything as usual. Bob, likewise, the commentary, the feedback. I know everybody appreciate that, I appreciate that as well, and I think this is a pretty good episode for everybody. Thanks for tuning in, everyone. Catch you in the next one.

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