Google Rankings Influenced By Hosting, Domain Registrar and Geographic Location

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One major fear around the web publisher community is that if you host too many sites on the same shared hosting account or server, Google may penalize you for hosting too many related sites; whether or not you share links back and forth with them. Hosting is not the only variable Google may look at when determining search relevance for a site, here is a look at hosting, domain registrar information and geographic location.

Too Many Sites on The Same Server

Basically, if you host several sites with the same hosting service, this is a very natural tactic that many businesses use. Google is not going to penalize you because you have more than one site on a shared server.

However, there is a school of thought that says that interlinking between sites, such as 100 or so sites, on one server or IP can lead to lower rankings in Google; because doing so is basically a linkfarm, and Google is more than likely going to identify your network as a linkfarm before they do as sharing a hosting account.

I was reminded of an old DigitalPoint thread last night which clears this up a bit. The originator of the thread was concerned that their hosting company hosts too many sites, and this would effect their Google PageRank and ranking:

Question : I’ve just found out the sever that host my website handle 826 different website… Just wonder if there is a relationship between #of domain from one IP address and Page rank of my website?

  1. If you have loads of links from other sites on your server then google may assume they are your sites and devalue the links a bit. If you don’t have loads of links from the other sites then you are fine
  2. if you are with a shared host, it is very much possible that there will be hundreds of sites on the same IP. This does not have any bearing on your pagerank. however, what you’ve read is regarding the incoming links benefits from different IP ranges. It is a commonly held belief that google favours links from different IP ranges, especially from different c-class Ip’s.

Besides worrying about the number or quality of sites hosted on the same server account, webmasters should also keep an eye on their domain registrar information and geographic association.

Blocking Domain Registrar Information

By using services that block the domain ownership information when registering domains, one may be identifying themselves as a potential spammer to Google.

Furthermore, having your address on your About Us page and listed with other sites helps to establish your site as a pure business entity and will drive local results. But if you’re hiding, and obviously trying to hide by serving a blocking message, you’re only going to build suspicion.

Matt Cutts said at PubCon that Google does look at the blocking of domain information when determining a spam site.

…when I checked the whois on them, they all had “whois privacy protection service” on them. That’s relatively unusual.

Having lots of sites isn’t automatically bad, and having PPC sites isn’t automatically bad, and having whois privacy turned on isn’t automatically bad, but once you get several of these factors all together, you’re often talking about a very different type of webmaster than the fellow who just has a single site or so.

If you want to try to hide your registrar information, be stealthy about it, register the domain in the name of your kids, grandmother, or your dog.

I have a friend who’s dog has signed up for so many domains and DVD club services that the dog gets credit card offers in the mail… now that’s one smart mutt.

Geographic Location and Google Influence

When you register your domain or submit your site to Googe News, you’re letting Google and other search engines know of your geographic location. This can be helpful with local marketing and universal search, but quite harmful if your site is based offshore, yet targeted towards a US or European audience.

Sushubh Mittal, one of my first blogging friends, has a popular tech news network called TechWhack, which has been around about as long as Search Engine Journal.

About a year ago, he noticed his rankings and traffic dropping from Google US, and growing in India, where his site is based. Problem is, the site is targeted towards the International audience and not the Indian audience. Google News also lists his site as being based in India, which in my opinion hurts domestic US click thrus in Google News, and led to the lowering of rankings in US Google based web results.

If you are not based in the US, and want to make sure your site is associated with the United States for high dollar traffic purposes, you might want to look into Mail Forwarding services.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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