Many people don’t give a second thought to choosing their web host. There’s no shortage of service providers that offer dirt cheap hosting plans, and few folks bother to really read the fine print and see what they’re actually getting before they sign up for one.
Cheaper doesn’t always mean better!
In fact, some of the cheapest web hosts can damage your search rankings altogether, without your knowledge.
Here’s how it happens –
Slow Page Loading
Cheap web hosts have to cut corners to make any profits. One of the ways they do that is by cramming as many accounts onto a single server as possible. Servers function much in the same way as your computer and internet connection. They have limited amounts of space and bandwidth, not to mention many other systems in place to help prevent outages and technical errors. Like a souped-up PC that has been clogged with programs and is struggling to juggle missing files and multiple items running in the background, a server will eventually reach its breaking point.
The fact is, with so many accounts (each of which can host potentially hundreds of websites), the server has a lot of work to do, routing visitors where they need to go and making sure that everything is performing as it should be. The more accounts and websites stuffing the server, the slower it handles all these requests.
A slow loading site that visitors simply won’t wait for.
Of course, this doesn’t just affect a handful of visitors. Google also cites site speed as one of the many ranking factors it considers when figuring out where your site fits in among your competitors.
On their official Webmaster Central Blog, Google says:
However, just how much weight site speed holds in combination with all the other ranking factors is still part of Google’s “secret sauce”. [Speed up your website now with these 35 definitive rules]
Lack of Uptime
Uptime is another crucial factor that could be damaging your search engine rankings. If your web host doesn’t have a verifiable uptime claim, your site could go down suddenly and without warning. Worse, it could stay down for an indefinite amount of time. An uptime guarantee is just one of many hallmarks of a reliable, dependable hosting company.
So, how does uptime affect your rankings?
Consider that Googlebot crawls the web constantly, looking for new sites and analyzing existing ones to determine how well they match the users’ queries. Keep in mind that there are billions of pages online, and Google is smart enough to determine relevancy on a pretty accurate scale. So what happens when your site is extremely relevant to a user’s search…but can’t be found? Google makes a note of the issue and comes back later.
But if the site continues to be down, Google will assume that it has simply disappeared, moved or any other number of reasons, and pulls it from its search results pages. Of course, this is a worst case scenario. But, if you’ve seen your site’s traffic drop suddenly with no other cause, a lack of uptime could be to blame.
This is perhaps the most sinister of all, and happens more often than you might think. Cheap web hosts are a haven for hackers, scammers and spammers, and with them comes malware. Unsuspecting users can then be tricked into visiting a page or clicking an email link, and have their systems held hostage or even their identities stolen.
Google and other major search engines are no newcomers to these types of issues, and as such, will try to warn users if a site is suspected of harboring malware. Unfortunately, even the most trusted and honest sites can become the victims of an attack, simply because the web host’s server wasn’t properly secured and the right steps weren’t taken to strengthen the server firewall, antivirus and anti-malware programs.
You can imagine what a site that’s known to be hosting malware can do to one’s Google rankings!
Though you don’t need to be a web developer to choose a web host, you shouldn’t make this decision in a carefree manner. Since your website is where your business lives online, and it keeps on attracting customers via search engines and other online sources even when you’re asleep, you should make sure it’s hosted on a server that you can always rely on, both in terms of performance and support.
Many website owners find that their rankings improve in very short order when they switch from their cheap host to a faster hosting service. What’s more, in many cases, the new web host will move your site over for you free of charge, making it easy for you to make the switch with confidence.
Have any of these hosting horrors affected your website’s search engine rankings? Have you noticed a considerable improvement in your rankings after switching hosting companies? Tell us about it in comments.