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How Does Web Hosting Affect SEO & Which One is Best?

Does web hosting impact your SEO, and which host is best? We go through the misinformation and get the facts straight here.

How Does Web Hosting Affect SEO & Which One is Best?

Today’s Ask an SEO question comes from Julio in Houston, who asks:

“How does hosting affect SEO, and specifically what features one should look for when looking to host an affiliate website?”

This is a great question and I see a lot of misinformation about this on the internet.

Unfortunately, web hosting is a huge niche in the affiliate space. That means there’s a real incentive for people to write all kinds of articles and make all kinds of claims about how their hosting can help push your SEO over the limit.

In fact, I did a quick Google search for some SEO hosting questions and every result I found was from a site that also had hosting affiliate links on it.

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I promise you, there won’t be any hosting recommendations or affiliate links in this post.

The truth is that web hosting matters very little for SEO. Now, I can imagine what some of you are saying… and we’ll get to the stuff that does matter below.

4 Web Hosting Factors That Can Impact SEO

You’ll want to consider these factors as you choose a web host, as they can impact SEO in various ways.

1. Page Speed

We all know that page speed is a ranking factor. How big of a factor is still up for debate (despite Google saying it’s a ‘teeny tiny’ factor) but that’s not the question here.

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If you pick a small web host without the bandwidth you need, your speed could be affected. The type of plan you pick matters a great deal here, too.

If you have a major news site, for example, you won’t want to host on a shared plan with limited bandwidth that can’t support breaking news traffic.

You’ll need to decide based on your website’s needs if you want shared hosting, a virtual private server, a dedicated server, or a cloud-based scalable hosting solution.

All of these can be perfectly fine for SEO, depending on what your website is doing and how much traffic/resources it needs.

2. Hosting Limitations

Some web hosts have weird limitations. I had one client who hosts on a platform that doesn’t give them access to their own .htaccess files. They had a limit of 1,000 redirects they can do when, in theory, that should be unlimited.

Again, this doesn’t necessarily affect SEO on its own – but it could, depending on what you’re trying to do with your website.

Make sure your host can handle all of the normal, day-to-day things you want to do on your site.

3. Location

With CDNs like Akamai and Cloudflare, host location matters a lot less these days than it used to.

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Where this still matters though is on the legal side and international side. If you want to do business specifically in China or Russia, for example, it’s best to host the site in China or Russia.

If you want to do anything that’s illegal in some countries but not in others (like a bitcoin pool, or sports gambling, or criticizing some royalty), make sure you don’t host in those countries.

Again, these things aren’t really SEO but could definitely throw a wrench into your SEO plans.

4. Uptime

This is something we used to talk about a lot with hosting back in the days of dial-up and T1 lines.

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It’s not really much of an issue today with CDNS and redundancies and things like Microsoft Azure or Amazon cloud services.

Yes, parts of the internet and cloud sometimes go down, and yes you should pick a reliable hosting company that will minimize your downtime. But these types of issues are usually only temporary.

Things That Don’t Really Matter

One thing I constantly hear about is Class C IPs. This topic used to be super popular among spammers wanting to hide their spam from Google.

The theory was if they’re all on the same hosting environment, Google can more easily find them. While there’s some truth to that, I’ve found there are many easier ways to uncover people’s spam networks that don’t take into account the noise and uncertainty of who might also be on your server.

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Analytics and advertising tags, social widgets, themes, and HTML comments have all given away people’s spam before.

Google knows this, and they also know you have no control over who else hosts in your neighborhood – so they most likely won’t hold that against you.

One of my other pet peeves is “___ hosting” where ___ is a platform like WordPress or Angular or React or AEM or Contentful or whatever CMS/framework you want to use.

Sure, some hosts specialize in that. But if you know what you’re doing, there’s no reason you can’t choose your server setup at any good web host.

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You can control Windows/Linux or Cpanel/Plesk or any of the server software right down to the operating system, version of PHP and MySQL (or another language of choice) to get the optimal setup for what you need.

Now, if you’re just starting out and don’t want to manage a server (like me) then you might want to take advantage of having a maintenance team who is familiar with your choice of architecture to help you out – but that’s not really an SEO decision.

More Resources:

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Editor’s note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

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Ryan Jones

VP, SEO at Razorfish

Ryan is the SEO lead at Razorfish where he works from early in the morning until late in the evening. ... [Read full bio]

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