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How Your Web Server Can Influence Your Google Rankings

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August 21, 2012

Every blogger and webmaster wants their site to rank for highly searched keywords, but the process of search engine optimization (SEO) is often fraught with obstacles and challenges. Ensuring that your site ranks in Google’s search engine depends on a combination of on-site SEO and off-site SEO. While off-site SEO has to do with connecting with other webmasters and bloggers, on-site SEO is a much more straightforward process – if you know what you’re doing. One of the lesser known factors that can influence search engine rankings is your choice of webhost. There are a couple primary ways your web server can affect your search engine rankings – website loading speed and server downtime.

Website Loading Speed

If your website takes too long to load, visitors may give up and go elsewhere for their information. Because Google is concerned with the experience of their users, they also factor in website loading times into their algorithm. If your website takes too long to load, Google may penalize you by lowering the rank of your website.

Because your choice of web server can have a major influence on the speed of your website, this should be the first factor you look at when optimizing your website load times. You can review what other users have to say about a potential web host by checking web hosting reviews here, or by doing a quick Google search. Be wary of relying on a single negative or positive comment – look for webhosts that have a large base of positive reviews. Repeated mentions of slow speeds or server downtime are a red flag that should be a sign to stay away.

Not only are some webhosts faster than others, but your choice of web hosting plan can affect website speed as well, and thus your search engine rankings. Webhosting plans generally come in 3 types: shared hosting, virtual private server (VPS), and dedicated server. Shared hosting plans generally split a server amongst hundreds of different users. These hosting plans are the most affordable, but they are generally the least powerful and inconsistent. While they may be fine for smaller blogs, they are generally unsuitable for websites that get a lot of traffic or that have extensive multimedia needs. The speed of a shared host can also be affected by the other users on the server.

Virtual Private Servers are hosted on a shared server, but use software to give the host their own operating environment. This gives the customer greater control, privacy, and stability, but without the expense of a dedicated server. Dedicated servers allow the customer to have total control over the physical server that’s hosting their site. It’s often necessary for high volume sites, web applications, and sites that rely heavily on multimedia.

Server Downtime

Having your server go down when a customer is trying to visit your website is one of the worst things that can happen to a blogger/webmaster. But while the effect of losing a customer may be unpleasant, there is an even greater potential issue – losing rankings. Google’s spiders continually crawl the internet, looking to update its database. If Google’s crawlers see that your website is down, they may ignore it the first time. But if the crawlers visit again and see your website is down again, they may decide to downgrade you in the rankings to ensure that searchers only see live websites. If your server is constantly down for an extended period of time, Google may remove your website from its index forever. Evidently, ensuring that you select a reliable webhost is crucial to maintaining strong Google rankings.

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