According to Google’s search algorithm, website speed is a major factor in search engine optimisation (SEO), and it appears to follow that your web host plays an important role in your site’s page ranking. Let’s take a look at whether this is true or not, and take a look at a few factors that do affect your customers’ experience of your website.
Is speed of the essence?Content and website technicalities (e.g. domain name, authenticity, back links, etc.) have traditionally been the most important factors to be well ranked but in 2010 Google officially announced it was including website loading speed in its ranking algorithm. The reason for this was pretty straightforward: a poor performing website does not create a good user experience and so isn’t considered worthy enough to go to the front of the class in terms of Google search results. Fair enough.
But there has been some controversy as to how Google measures this speed and to what extent it contributes to a page’s ranking. In fact, research by moz.com found that there was no correlation between page load time and ranking. However, the company’s research did indicate
So, yes, a bad host can contribute to a slow loading website, but the responsibility for the user experience at the front-end, and the speed at which your pages load based on your web design and content is primarily in your hands. You have to design your site for maximum performance yourself.
Quality infrastructureWhen you buy hosting, you’re buying infrastructure which dictates the performance of your site. This means you need to look for a company that invests in quality servers and for the best bandwidth provider. You need to look at their networking and reliability record, not just hardware specifications. No matter how well your website is optimised (and remember that that is up to you and not your host), if your host’s servers are slow, it will affect your customers’ experience, never mind your rankings.
The speed of your website is also dictated by the hosting package you choose, which in turn is powered by server hardware, and, generally, you get what you pay for.
In addition, whilst using a shared hosting service is an affordable way to set up your small business site or blog, the hardware is shared so it’s not always the ideal option for a high-traffic site or for image - or video-heavy web pages. CloudLinux ensures no one user can slow the whole server down. However, resources are commonly oversold.
Once again, while poor infrastructure is the host’s fault, it’s really up to you to avoid this type of host in the first place and dig a bit deeper into your pocket.
UptimeGoogle has in the past mentioned that they use site availability as a factor in ranking pages. If your site is down at some point, and the search engine robots “crawl” your website while it is down, it may not be indexed the next time round. Search engines have a reputation to maintain too. If surfers click on a result they provide, and it’s a dud, the search engine ends up looking bad.
99.9% or better site uptime is non-negotiable. If your site is accessible 99% of the time a month, that means it is inaccessible nearly 8 hours a month!
Whose fault is it? The availability of a website is the responsibility of your web host, but it’s up to you to monitor your site’s uptime and notify your host if you identify a problem. A good web host will help you to resolve the issue. If your host doesn’t, it’s time for a divorce as clearly, they have commitment issues.
Traffic engagementIf a visitor links to your website from a page like Facebook and your site takes a long time to load, your visitor may hit the back button. This increase in bounce rate (and reduced click through) is noticed by Google (another factor in its algorithm). The more people you get on your site and the longer they stay - the better; speed and uptime play an active role in how users engage with your site.
A common complaint on internet forums from website owners is being shut down by their hosts because the site was experiencing too much web traffic and the servers couldn’t handle the extra load. CloudLinux eliminates this issue, any host not with the times might do this to you. The software is just as important as hardware.
But whose fault is it? Traffic engagement should be part of your long-term SEO strategy. You need to plan for increasing traffic as your business grows and market it actively to ensure it does. You also need to choose the best hosting package for your changing needs. It’s not up to your host to put out the red carpet for unlimited visitors to your site if you’ve chosen a budget package.
Try to reduce the loading time by optimising your site’s code, consider investing in a CDN and always chose a hosting package that will able to handle the web requests you receive.
ConclusionEven if speed was not a factor in Google’s page ranking algorithm, a slow-loading page is going to put your visitors off pretty quickly. A faster website means a better user experience, lower exit rates, better SEO and higher conversion rates.
While good hosting services will not necessarily boost your rankings, bad hosting services will negatively impact on them. Some factors to take into consideration when choosing an SEO-friendly web host: reputation, online reviews (check social media and specialist forums and be alert for repeated complaints of the same nature for a single host), data centre specs, years in business, and, last but not least, your own requirements and whether the host in question can fulfil them.
Note: Hosting providers are not SEO services providers so don’t select one based purely on any SEO tools they offer.