Is Your Web Host Damaging Your SEO?
As a business owner, do you understand the link between your web host and your site’s SEO? Find out if your host is undermining your SEO here.
Choosing a host is probably the least sexy part of setting up a website. It’s one of those tasks you do just because it’s necessary and invest as little time as you can to get it done.
But, how many online business owners understand the link between their choice of web host and their site’s SEO? My experience tells me the answer is ‘very few’ and I suspect more would take the time to shop around if they understood the true impact a poor web host has on the visibility and success of their site.
In this blog, I’ll demonstrate how SEO is affected by web performance and suggest three questions you can ask yourself to help you decide whether your host is pulling your website down the search rankings.
How web hosting affects SEO
To understand the link between hosting and SEO, you need to get on board with what a web host actually is.
What it is
When you build a website, you’re organizing lots of bits of data into a larger structure. For this structure to be available when people want to see it, the data needs to be stored somewhere. That somewhere is a server.
Most of us don’t have the kind of in-house IT structure capable of running our own servers, so we rent a bit of space from a web host.
In all seriousness, would you want one of these in your house?
Your web host gives your site somewhere to exist. When someone clicks your link, their browser sends a request to your web host to fetch, or serve, the data for the page they want to see.
Why it affects SEO
Search engines only want to promote safe and reliable websites that their customers will enjoy using.
If your web host is insecure, often fails to serve your site’s data when it’s requested or does so particularly slowly, search engines will penalize your site by moving it down the rankings.
By making your site harder to find, they avoid offering a bad experience to their users and maintain their reputation and level of service.
Now that we’ve covered why your web host is important to SEO, let’s take a look at how you can tell whether your website is measuring up.
Do you have slow loading pages?
In 2018, Google announced that page load speed is one of its ranking factors, making it particularly important for businesses to address.
It’s not just you, it’s a worldwide problem
How fast your pages can be served depends, in part, on how much data it contains. According to Akamai, websites now hold at least double the amount of data as they did three years ago. But, there have been few advances in the web performance market that could improve your web host’s serve time (how quickly they can serve your web pages based on their infrastructure).
This awkward combination of data-heavy websites and little to no improvement in host infrastructure means that the average site now takes 15-seconds to load on a mobile and slightly less on a desktop.
When you consider that over half of mobile users and a third of desktop users will leave a site if it doesn’t load within 3 second, this is a major problem.
Load speed impacts your website’s behavioral metrics
When people try to access your website but can’t, their behavior is registered in your website’s key metrics:
- Bounce rate – when your users leave before your web page loads
- Pogosticking – when they leave and immediately click onto a competitor’s link
These behavioral metrics are search engine ranking factors.
If they’re too high, you should test your page load speed using a tool like Pingdom or Google’s PageSpeed Insights. If it’s slower than 3-seconds you should take steps to speed your website up.
Is your security weak?
Not everything in web hosting is about speed. If you have the quickest web host around, but your plan doesn’t include an SSL certificate, your site will rank lower than a much slower but secure alternative.
SSL certificates are a ranking factor because search engines don’t want to direct their users to potentially malicious sites.
It’s always worth considering all of a web host’s security features and choosing the most secure option because we don’t actually know for sure what all the security-based ranking factors are.
Do you often experience site downtime?
We’ve all experienced the frustration of website error messages. When a page fails to load, what do you do? Probably not hang around until the issue is resolved. I’m going to guess that you find somewhere else to spend your time and money.
Website downtime describes any period when your site is not available to users when they want it and it’s usually caused by server, hardware or network failure, or major security issues.
Every site experiences downtime some of the time. But extended or frequent downtime is looked upon very unfavourably be search engines because they don’t want refer their users to unreliable websites.
If your site experiences downtime multiple times per week, or is down for more than 3 consecutive days, it will suffer a dramatic drop in the rankings.
Serial downtime offenders can actually be de-indexed entirely, meaning your website won’t show up in search results at all.
Web hosting is one of those areas of technical expertise that most people would prefer to avoid. But, a poor choice of web host can affect a site’s usability, security and ultimately visibility in search results. Simply checking and optimizing a website’s load speed, uptime statistics and security certificates and taking steps to optimize can have a marked effect on SEO. And the best part? Any changes you need to make are likely to be as simple and cheap as moving to a new provider.
Have you recently changed web host? Tell us why in the comments below.