Google Rankings Influenced By Hosting, Domain Registrar and Geographic Location

SMS Text

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
Subscribe to SEJ!
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!
  • Todd Mintz

    Sphunn if for no other reason than that is one cute dog picture :.)

  • Loren Baker, Editor

    LOL, yes, cute doggie pictures are always deserving of a Sphinn… just hope that he dog one day is not banned from a search engine!

  • Amanda

    If your host has that many sites on a server get off it immediately they are highly overselling!

    Buying your own server isn’t expensive anymore I spent about $95 a month on mine and its a medium sized server with great service and 100% uptime. I’d rather spend more money knowing whose on my server than not knowing if my host is an idiot and overselling the server horribly and putting my business at risk!

  • Sujan Patel

    How can google penalize that cute little dog

  • mark

    Cute dog.

  • China Web Hosting

    You usually get what you pay for. When you get unlimited websites for a 3$ hosting plan, you should not be surprised if the number of sites hosted on the same server is, yes, unlimited 🙂

  • Frederrick Abrugart

    This is something new. I did not know that geographical factor plays a part in SE as far as SERP is concern

  • MSN hacken

    I love that dog, so cute!

  • hosting review

    i tried hosting my site on a dedicated server for 3 months, ….didnt seem to make a difference

  • Johan Krost

    /yeah, right

  • Gunnar Andreassen

    I would like to read an article on situasions where you have different registrar and hosting company on a site – if that makes PR lower.

  • Brian

    Right around the time this article was posted, Google Webmaster Tools began allowing webmasters to specify their target geographic location in order to solve these types of issues. They say that if you don’t specify this information, the geographic association will be based on the top-level domain (.ca for Canada, for UK, etc.) and the ip address of the server hosting the site. Just click on your site in the Dashboard of Google Webmaster Tools, go to Tools then Set Geographic Target.

  • music


  • Chris

    Thanks for the information

  • Scott @

    great article thanks, i’ll use that info when choosing hosting

  • Alex Mungo

    One question. Will the google rankings be affected if a site has gone down for a couple of weeks as a result of the hosting company failing. A site we have spent time working on to build its ranking went down the other week for about a week. Now that the site is back up after over 1 week it is still not in search listing, even if you search on its URL
    search engine optimisation london

  • Cool Springs Todd

    Does Google penalize if the domain is not the primary on the hosting account? I was told that as long as they are not all interlinking and each domain is going after different keywords that you were ok. Is that true?

  • Parminder Chahal

    I completely disagree with your registration address argument about techwhack because the reason why it has started getting more Indian traffic now as compared to before is that network of blogs on different sub domains is linked to and from .in and domains more then anything else. Most people linking to those blogs are sites with Indian traffic and Google has just got better with how to rank pages at different locations. Try having a detailed look into the back links and you would be surprised at why it ranks anywhere atall in US search results or else where other then India.

    I have had a lot of success targeting different countries for different pages on a single domain as well as targeting different countries with .com domains and I can safely say that having a registration address from a particular country has no or very little (un-noticable) effect on geo targeting when it comes to Google.

  • John Foerster

    I’m actually surprised at the bit about domain privacy and blocking registrar information. I usually consider it fairly standard even for legitimate businesses to use domain privacy. For most business, customers aren’t going to be checking the whois data on their domain. Anyone who is checking that data is most likely not a customer, and is doing some other kind of domaining research most likely.

    Not using privacy also makes company emails and phone numbers available to whomever may be doing the research, or for general spammers who are scraping the data.

    In any case, I would have thought that given the large percentage of domains using domain privacy, using that as a potential negative would risk imposing a negative on a lot of business. I suppose at least part of his point is that domain privacy may only be a negative when correlated with other known risk factors.