Although high quality content and authoritative, relevant inbound links are the primary SEO concerns for most site owners, choosing an optimal web hosting service may be more important than some realize.

First and Foremost: The Administrative Panel

One of your top priorities when choosing a web hosting service is the quality and features of the hosting company’s administrative panel. An administrative panel is a control panel that has numerous tools and features, some of which are designed to promote search engine optimization. High quality web hosting services offer an administrative panel that maximizes your site’s SEO by formatting its code in a way that appeals to search engine bots, which subsequently determine your page rank.

Administrative panels also offer open source control features and content management tools that directly integrate with external SEO applications. Look for a web hosting service that automatically inserts meta tags and title tags, which are necessary components of SEO, on each page of your site.

After choosing a web hosting service with an SEO-friendly administrative panel, search for web applications that are compatible with the panel. These applications can help to automate your SEO effort. For example, you might install a web application that simultaneously posts the contents of your site to social bookmarking sites. This generates valuable inbound links that increase your search engine rankings.

Can Shared Hosting Services with Spammers Harm Your Rankings?

Many web hosting companies offer shared hosting services, which allow as many as thousands of unique domain names to exist on a single IP address and share the same pool of bandwidth and storage space. Large e-commerce sites and domains that deal primarily with multimedia often prefer dedicated hosting services that attach only one domain name to an IP address. This is because Google search engine bots now consider factors such as page loading speed and overall site performance when determining search engine rankings. However, a typical blog normally doesn’t justify the added costs of dedicated hosting, since its relatively small size and lack of multimedia content allows it to run quickly even with an inexpensive, low-bandwidth hosting plan. This is especially true of web hosting services that offer Ruby hosting and other packages based on modernized web programming languages.

In some cases, however, using a shared hosting service that also hosts spammer websites (i.e. pornography and sites designed to trick search engine bots) can be harmful to your search engine rankings. Usually, search engine bots don’t view your site negatively if only a few spammer sites share your hosting space. However, if your website is the one of the only legitimate domains among a shared hosting service dominated by spammers, Google and other search engines may become suspicious.

When in doubt, it’s best to ask your web hosting service for information regarding the amount of spammer sites located on their shared hosting IP addresses.

Server Downtime and its Consequences

Your SEO efforts can be quickly nullified if you choose a web hosting service that frequently experiences server downtime. During server downtime, potential clients will be unable to access your site – and the same goes for search engine bots. When a search engine bot attempts to cache your site during server downtime, it may not affect your rankings immediately. However, when this happens repeatedly, it indicates to Google and other search engines that your site may not be reliable, or worse – that it may have been inactive even between the attempted search engine bot crawls. This, understandably, can seriously damage your rankings and can even cause Google to display an “unavailable” error message as your site’s meta description in search engine results.

There are many things you can do to combat the negative effects of server downtime on your website, some of which may lead to a search for a new web hosting service:

  1. Use an uptime monitor, such as Pingdom Uptime Monitoring, to determine how much downtime your site experiences. If your site’s uptime is lower than what’s guaranteed by your web hosting service, contact the host’s customer support team to resolve the issue.
  2. File a ticket with your web hosting service as soon as your site goes down. You may be able to configure your uptime monitor to do this automatically.
  3. Use proper server downtime codes and redirect codes for scheduled downtime. This will allow search engine bots to differentiate between planned downtime for maintenance and unplanned downtime due to a system failure, the latter of which is more damaging to your SEO.
  4. Install Google Webmaster Tools to determine the cause of downtime. Common causes include hackers, the term “Disallow:/” being included in your robots.txt file, and other page crawl errors that confuse search engine bots.
  5. Regularly test your server’s response time. If HTTP requests are frequently timing out, your search engine rankings could drop even though your site is currently experiencing uptime.
  6. Ensure that your domain name’s registration is updated. You can easily resolve this by setting your registration to auto-renew.

Does the Geographical Location of Your Hosting Company Affect Your Rankings?

The short answer is yes, but it isn’t necessarily a top priority. As mentioned previously, your domain name is attached to an IP address. This IP address indicates the location of your FTP hosting server. If your hosting server is located in Germany, for example, Google will assume that your site caters to German Internet users. However, other factors, such as the language used on your site, can change the way that Google prioritizes search results according to location as well. This is also reflected in your site’s domain name. For example, .com sites are understood to be U.S.-focused by Google, while domains ending in generally indicate a bias for users in the United Kingdom.

If your website caters primarily to customers in and around your immediate geographical location, it’s optimal to choose a web hosting service that has a server located near your area of business.

Optimizing your website’s content with geo-tagging can offset the problems posed by utilizing a non-local web hosting service. Geo-tagging is the process of inserting geographical keywords into your content. For example, a website for a Cleveland-based marketing firm will benefit from keywords related to Cleveland and Ohio. Geo-tagging is even recommended for sites that do benefit from a locally based web hosting service.