Web Hosting Issues that Can Kill Your SEO
Posted on 05 Aug 2013 by Tad Chef
When I started out building websites around 1997 the Web was still pretty new. To create and publish online you needed a lot of knowledge and skills compared to now. While I knew HTML for example – I taught myself coding using Notepad, the minimalistic default Windows text editor, or how to use FTP and edit images pretty soon - I didn’t know much about hosting sites. After all I got free hosting from my college at first and then I used free hosting services like Geocities and the likes as a student. When I registered my first domain in 2001 I finally knew why you need quality hosting.
Today you get affordable hosting packages all over the place and while webmasters do not have to know everything themselves to publish online properly working hosting is still crucial to your site’s success.
The offers look very similar everywhere but the devil is in the details. Some hosting issues can for example affect your Google rankings negatively while leaving your visitors waiting at closed doors. Some hosting problems can indeed downright kill your SEO. While everybody knows that a hacked site for example is awful some of these problems happen often but don’t always get noticed and fixed.
What are critical hosting issues for SEO?
Slow site speed
Site speed is officially a Google ranking factor for years now yet you do not often read about improving it. In contrast many people seem not to care about it at all. They use huge images, lots of often redundant scripts or slowly loading third party site elements. My own site is no exception. You can see a screenshot from Pingdom tools below. While it says that it’s “faster than 42%” of all tested websites it means that it’s also slower than 58%:
So even I have still work to do after 15 years of online publishing. You are never expert enough not to make your site even faster. Some common issues are too many scripts, e.g. animations, third party widgets, Webfonts, even Facebook elements can slow your site down. In my case it’s probably the 5 analytics tools I use (Google Analytics, Woopra, Reinvigorate, Piwik and Mixpanel) that add up. SEO 2.0 is my testing site so that I use that many, usually I’d advise you to use at least two but not more than three analytics tools.
Where can you find out about your site speed? There are many tools out there. For a start you need to use
What’s worse than a site that loads slowly? A site that doesn’t load at all or displays an error message instead. Recently I have seen a site featured in many web design galleries that when visited only showed “bandwidth limit exceeded!” for a a few days in a row. I’ve witnessed the same error message on other sites as well. The one example was really awful though. The site was down for several days.
After a few days of downtime Google will remove your site from the index.
Even when it’s back up it doesn’t mean you get the lost rankings back automatically. You get flagged as an unreliable resource and rank below your former positions that were based on relevance and authority. That’s why you need to monitor your site all the time. I use free tool for that purpose, it’s called Uptime Robot.
As you see in the screen shot above there have been many downtimes on my own site recently, some of them longer than 30 minutes. I have already contacted my webhosting provider about that.
Data base connection failures
Another error message often appearing is “internal server error”. It can mean anything and everything basically but when it comes to WordPress sites it often simply means there is no access to the data base. Sometimes the error message is more apt saying that “database connection failed”. That happens for example when too many concurrent users are accessing the data base at peak times. For example your latest article gets popular at social media and boom, everybody wants to read it at once but only a select few will if at all as the sheer amount of users visiting your site will crash it altogether.
There is a tool for WordPress to deal with such data base issues, it’s called WP Super Cache. Above you see a screen shot of me testing it on my blog. What it does is caching your postings by simply transforming them into static HTML files so that no data base connection is needed anymore for a popular item. It’s a great way to deal with large traffic when it only comes occasionally. Ultimately you may have to upgrade to a dedicated server or use a so called CDN service in future in case your site experiences heavy load frequently, be it just the data base connections or overall server load.
Shared hosting with spammers
This might be a rare yet still feasible problem: when using shared hosting you really share your web space with third party websites. Your neighbors on your server can harm your site as well. Matt Cutts has been declaring that it’s only the case when there is overwhelming evidence that the majority of sites co-hosted with you are really bad so
you don’t want to risk getting hosted with lots of spammy, NSFW or XXX sites for example.
So it’s a good idea to either check who else is on the same server or even make sure that you are the only site using it. Look at SERPs.com, the site I write for:
SERPs.com offers SEO software numerous business users reliy on so it doesn’t use shared hosting at all, it dwells on its own server. You can check your neighborhood using a so called “Reverse IP Lookup” that checks what other sites have the same IP and server as your site. Don’t get me wrong, shared hosting is perfectly sufficient for most private and small business sites. I use shared hosting myself. Just don’t get associated with an ugly neighborhood full of brothels and petty criminals.
Generally most people assume that you have a .com address, even outside the US, both .com and the local country top level domain (co.uk for the UK, .fr for France, .de for Germany etc.) are the norm. So when naming your business or domain you have to be very careful. Most short and memorable .com domains are already gone, many of them have been grabbed by domain squatters long ago. In recent years there has been a big marketing effort to push the Colombian top level domain .co as a an alternative to .com domains. Sadly the promising offer has proven impractical in reality. Why? Well,
most people still assume that you have a company.com domain not company.co so that they will type in the .com even in case you own just the .co
That way you lose large amounts of type in traffic by people who trust you and remember your brand name (but not your URL). These people may end up on questionable sites or parked domains and assume it’s your site. This might be not a direct hosting issue but is surely affects your website’s performance when it comes to SEO. You get also fewer links because people who find a bogus .com site instead of yours won’t link to you.
Also Google might assume that your atypical domain is a local one from a country somewhere else in the world. Your rankings may suffer additionally. So don’t just use .it or .at because it sounds English, Google will think you are targeting Italy or Austria.
Choose a “.co” domain as an useful nice to have but not as the main backbone for your business.
All of these things can negatively impact your Google performance but don’t have to.
- You can use a .co domain as a redirect to you real domain.
- You can share servers with other legit businesses.
- You can cache data base driven pages
- you can monitor uptimes and site speed.
So don’t hurt your SEO by neglecting your web hosting.
* Creative Commons image by Ken Bondy