We’ve all heard about the benefits of a strong SEO strategy for businesses, such as increasing traffic to your website and appearing higher in search engine rankings, but have you ever thought about how much it matters where your website is actually hosted. With the NBN soon to be a reality for Australia, maximising your business presence online will become even more critical as more and more competitors, spanning B2B and B2C markets, enter the online market-place.

Having your site in the right environment can make all the difference between a prominent placement in the search rankings and falling behind your competition.

So what are the options and how do you go about choosing one over the other? There are two options to consider, a dedicated hosting environment and a shared web-hosting environment. A dedicated hosting environment is a type of internet hosting by which you are given an entire server for use whereas a shared web-host is where many websites reside on one web server that you share, more often than not with other organisations. Whilst the shared-option generally costs less, there are a number of items you should consider before taking that route.

The key difference with it comes to delivering real SEO benefits centres around the fact that a dedicated server ensures your site has a dedicated Internet Protocol (IP) – An IP is a code assigned to the location where your website is hosted. Whereas with a shared-hosting environment, any number of sites could share the same IP address, which can give rise to a number of issues. Included below are some key points explaining why you should think about where you website is hosted when defining your SEO strategy:

  • Security

In a shared hosting environment, data persistently resides on the hard disk even after files have been deleted, meaning there is no guarantee your business’ data is safe. Anyone serious about security and in need of encryption, such as banks and ecommerce websites or anyone with sensitive customer data, requires a dedicated IP to enable secure browsing over the internet via HTTPS (a combination internet protocols to provide encrypted communication and secure identification of a network web server.)

  •  Avoid being penalised for illegal activities on other sites

A dedicated hosting environment also eliminates the possibility of becoming susceptible to being blacklisted or penalised in search engines such as Google and Bing. In a shared hosting environment, any number of other users sharing the same IP could be conducting illegal activities, such as sending spam. This in turn reflects badly on all sites hosted on the same IP, regardless of whether you are responsible or not, and can impact on their operation.

  • Improve SEO: supported back-links

A website’s ranking on search engines, such as Google, can be dramatically improved with dedicated hosting because you have control over what websites are hosted on your server. In a shared hosting environment, search engines devalue back-links between sites hosted on the same IP, which means if you have 50 links to your site all originating from the same server, Google will significantly discount the impact of those links when ranking the importance of value of your page.

  •  Improve SEO: speed

Also contributing to search engine rankings is the speed at which a website loads. Shared hosting environments usually have imposed bandwidth restrictions, which during high activity periods can impact on server speeds – irrespective of how busy your own site is. In a dedicated hosting environment, the responsiveness of the server is generally significantly greater.

  • Improve SEO: web crawlers & reduced site complexity

Google recently identified the issue of the limited ability for its ‘spiders’ to crawl websites on shared hosting environments. Spiders, or web crawlers, browse the internet in a methodical, automated and orderly fashion seeking new pieces of information to document for the search engine. The process is important as it’s a way of obtaining up-to-date information, and therefore contributes to search engine rankings. How hard or effective a spider crawls a website can be affected by the site’s complexity. Generally this wouldn’t be a problem, however it has been suggested that sites hosted on shared servers can be perceived as too complex and therefore limit the depth at which spiders crawl. This creates a limit on how many pages will be fetched or tracked from the server. With a dedicated server, only a small number of sites will run on it, and therefore this problem will never be experienced.

In addition, Google’s ‘spiders’ only allocate a set amount of time to search an IP address for new data, if many websites share the same IP address – as seen with a shared hosting environment – then each website is only allocated a small fraction of that ‘spider’s search time.

If your site is hosted in a shared environment offshore the speed at which your website loads can be negatively affected. This is because of the poor latency due to the actual physical distance from the data centre where the site is hosted. This can also negatively impact Google’s ‘spiders’ which as stated above only assign a set amount of time to each IP address to scan for information.

  • Greater up time

A shared host is more prone to experiencing down time due to the fact there are often hundreds, if not thousands, of websites on the same server all running different scripting or programming languages. A poorly written script can easily cause performance degradation within the server, or even an outage, affecting all sites hosted on that same server, meaning the risk of your site being affected negatively is much higher.

  • Application flexibility

A dedicated server can be customised to your specific requirements, which offers increased flexibility. In many instances applications have specific requirements to run properly, having a dedicated server provides the added advantage of being able to specify what applications you want to have running on your server, whilst a shared web-host will only offer a preconfigured server.

On face-value a shared web-hosting can be seen as the most cost-effective hosting option, in the long-term a dedicated hosting environment provides many benefits to improve the likelihood of your company being found online. With the NBN soon to become a reality, catapulting many Australian businesses online, you don’t want to risk being the one business left in the dark.