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Hosting Tips for SEO

Probably 40% of the clients we see require a change of hosting company (or hosting plan). Search engine optimization is not about title tags and keyword frequency anymore. In fact, those 2 mean less than ever in a successful SEO campaign. So what are the requirements of good SEO Hosting? Here are a handful of features we look for in recommending a host to our clients…

1. USE Linux Apache MySQL PHP
For a large number of reasons (availability of free software, usage of htaccess and mod-rewrite, ease of community support, etc), don’t get Windows hosting. You can argue about this with me later, but you will be wrong. And people will laugh at you.

2. GET Unique IP(s)

While there is limited evidence regarding the matter, it is generally a good idea to go ahead and secure your own IP address. Some shared hosting companies do not allow you to do this, so make sure before signing up. The last thing you want is a ton of porn, gambling, and banned made-for-adsense (MFA) sites sharing IPs with you. This is part of the “Bad Neighborhood” concept you may have heard of at one point or another. Your best bet, get your own IP and stop worrying about your neighbors.

3. BUY Year-In-Advance Hosting
This one frustrates the hell out of most folks. Buy your hosting from companies that require 1 year in advance! Simply put, black-hat-SEOs, phishers, and spammers are not interested in purchasing a years worth of hosting for a domain they expect to last only a few weeks. Find a hosting company that requires at least 1 year commitment. If the service is truly terrible, you can always do a chargeback. Don’t buy from a host that offers both – that does you no good either. Only buy from hosts that require a contract! You can afford to pony up the $25-$100 bucks to get a years worth of shared hosting.

4. USE Call-To-Verify Hosts
A growing method to stifle credit card fraud is the usage of phone-verification systems. Yeah, it is annoying as hell. Many hosts do this automatically with text-message type systems, but I recommend the old-fashioned human-to-human phone call. A spammer creating 100 hosting accounts a week (or a day) is not going to be able to answer that many phone calls. And a phisher paying for hosting accounts with a stolen credit card will steer clear of these sites. It is worth the hassle.

5. DEMAND Mod-Rewrite / htaccess
In one of the most frustrating examples of a bug-not-fixed, Google has yet to offer a truly effective system for preventing duplicate content caused by accessing a domain by www. and non-www. version of your site. (Google offers a method by creating a Google Webmaster Account and providing a preferred domain. Why not just fix the bug, Google?!?)

Thus, in order to clean up Google’s mess, it is essential that your web host provide basic HTACCESS and MOD_REWRITE so that you can do this…

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST}!^www\.thegooglecache\.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.thegooglecache.com/$1 [R=301]

Of course, replace the domain in the code with your domain. Otherwise, you will be sending me a lot of traffic :). There are tons of other uses for mod rewrite which we do not have time to cover here. There is a windows alternative known as ISAPI Rewrite, but it is rarely available on shared windows hosts.

6. ENSURE UpTime
While Google is doing a much better job recognizing small outages, losing your site for hours or even days can have more impact than just rankings. You no longer need to just trust the advertising, use WebHostingStuff to find actual Up-Time data for particular hosts.

Hosting Tips for SEO by No tags for this post.

14 Comments

  1. Chris
    Feb 27, 2007

    I agree with most of what you are saying except for finding a host that charges for the full year upfront.

    Alot of small (legitimate) businesses prefer monthly payments to help cash flow, but also yearly payment is sometimes affixed to low end entry level hosting packages at some web hosts. I don’t think you can make a blanket statement that a web host that offers yearly payments is a quality host for SEO or visa versa.

    Just as a note: I work for a hosting company that offers both payment options and while you do get a discount for paying yearly, I don’t think theres anything wrong with paying monthly at any hosting company as long as you do your research, talk with peers, and don’t rely on affiliate sites and heavily biased “top 10 hosting sites.”

    While you are completely right about small businesses having cash-flow issues with year-at-a-time hosting contracts, it is certainly a detractor to spammers and phishers who only wish to “churn and burn” through a hosting account in a few weeks or months. While I do not make a “blanket statement” that year-in-advanced hosts are safe for SEO, I do believe that it is a characteristic of the best hosts for SEO.

  2. pratt
    Feb 27, 2007

    Excuse my ignorance, but why is it so important to have Windows hosting?

    No. Dont get windows hosting. that is the whole point. no. windows. hosting.

  3. pratt
    Feb 27, 2007

    Wow, how’s my dyslexia? Sorry about that.

  4. David Mihm
    Mar 1, 2007

    What a timely post. I just had major server issues for a site that I run (not my portfolio site) yesterday and was scrambling to try to find a new one.

    My clients are constantly asking me do I have any hosts to recommend, and I never have any. Who are the names that you recommend for around $100 – $150 / yr?

  5. Halfdeck
    Mar 1, 2007

    Nice list.

    Also becareful when you’re switching hosting if that switch takes your IP to another country. If your hosted in the UK, switching over to a server hosted in AU, for example, will damage your position in Google Locak UK listings.

  6. Michael Visser
    Mar 1, 2007

    Your second point has me startled. I’m using shared hosting for all my sites…!

    I’ll switch it over soon and let you know of any improvement in ranking. :D Thanks!

  7. Thanks, great article, I got to your site through seomoz.org. I recently bought hosting with a US Company. What exactly do I have to ask the Company to give me information about the hosting? How do I check that my site is not hosted with crappy sites?

  8. Some Web Developer
    Mar 14, 2007

    Been reading on SEO stuff and started to worry about shared hosting since some people think it’s a big deal. Has Google mentioned anything about this?

    To the previous poster, you can check by doing a reverse IP check. Try this tool: http://www.seologs.com/ip-domains.html

  9. Steve McAllister
    Apr 26, 2007

    Your opinion to stay away from windows is absurd. With 1and1.com offering complete servers for $120 per month your argument falls apart. When you make statements like this you really need to back them up with numbers and not lop sided opinions.

  10. Tonnie
    Jun 11, 2007

    Nice article, was pointed to it by one of my costumers who i did explain much of it today. Thanks Jacobien. :)

    @Steve McAllister, not all is true, and perhapse it is merely Russ’es opinion. MS servers aint that bad, but most of the time you can’t do proper things on them because the hoster aint allowing it, or things are made a little to complicated.

    But, the issue here that should be highlighted is ‘bad neighbourhood’.

  11. Matt Ellsworth
    Jul 6, 2007

    great tips – thanks for the heads up on these. We recently moved to mosso.com hosting – which is a clustered environment. Only problem with it as far as your rules go is that it is one IP address for like all of the sites that run php4… or php5, etc.

  12. Yellow SEO
    Mar 11, 2009

    Its even better to buy multiple years.. and thanks @some web developer for the reverse ip tool

  13. pallav bhatt
    Aug 22, 2009

    Nice tips for web hosting, but not define for hosting platfor.

  14. Elisha Thompson
    Nov 11, 2010

    • Keyword Usage
    Once upon a time, the right number of term repetitions in your content would bring you search success. Today, more advanced search engines have made density formulas and keyword stuffing obsolete, but usage remains an issue for sites large and small. Using keywords in the proper places – titles, headlines, URLs and anchor text still has a big impact, but care must be taken to avoid cannibalization and prevent the search engines from interpreting your optimization as spam.

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