Does web hosting affect SEO rankings?

Web hosting and how it affects your rankingThe main web hosting factors that affect SEO rankings are Loadspeed and IP Reputation.

This article will look at these factors in more detail.

What Is Loadspeed And Why It Affects Your SEO Ranking

Website Loadspeed is the speed at which your website loads. A study by Yahoo identified up to 35 Factors that can impact website Loadspeed.

Many of these factors are related to the way a website is coded and requires a skilled Developer to address many of them.

However, one of the most fundamental points where loadspeed can be improved is the type of web hosting that you choose and in particular the configuration of the server’s hardware and software.

Server Hardware Configuration To Improve Loadspeed

In terms of hardware the following are the most important hardware considerations in terms of improving loadspeed:

  • Central Processing Unit (CPU)
  • Random Access Memory (RAM)
  • Hard Drives
  • RAID Configuration

Let’s look at each in turn.

CPU

The CPU is the ‘brain’ of the server controlling all of the main tasks. CPU technology is rapidly developing but the important point is that the server has dual CPUs with multiple Cores as is the case with all Pickaweb shared hosting servers.

RAM

RAM is the main type of memory that the CPU calls on to process instructions extremely fast. It can do this much more quickly and effectively than other types of memory such as hard drives.

At Pickaweb we use 96GB RAM as a minimum in our shared hosting servers to make sure that our clients’ websites run really fast.

Hard Drives

The choice of hard drive can have a significant impact on Loadspeed. Typically hosting servers will use traditional ‘spinning’ disks which consist of a spinning data platter which stores the data and a data arm that reads and writes the data from/to the disk.

Typical disks of this type are 7.2K SATA and 10K SAS drives. The K refers to the speed that the disk rotates in thousands of revolutions per minute (RPM). The 7.2K spins at 7,200 RPM and the 10K disk spins at 10,000 RPM.

These disks are gradually being superseded by Solid State Drives (SSD) which do not have any moving parts and are 100% electronic. These are tens to hundreds of times faster than traditional hard drives as well as having the advantage that they are more reliable and they consume far less energy.

At Pickaweb our standard shared hosting plans use Enterprise Grade 10K SAS drives.

We also offer SSD Hosting using Enterprise Grade, Datacentre Ready Intel SSDs.

RAID Configuration

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks and is a method of storing data across multiple hard drives to minimize the possibility of data loss due to hardware failure.

Whilst Loadspeed is important, speed improvements should not be achieved at the price of reduced data integrity. RAID will improve data integrity but it does have an overhead in terms of speed.

There are several types of RAID and at Pickaweb we use RAID 10 where data is stored across a minimum of 4 hard drives. RAID 10 is considered to be the best balance of performance and data integrity.

Server Software Configuration To Improve Loadspeed

As well as hardware there are several types of software that can be employed to improve loadspeed. The most common are:

  • Web (HTTP) Server
  • Database

Let’s look at each one:

Web (HTTP) Server

A Web Server or an HTTP Server as it is also known is a software which allows web pages to be transferred via the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to a device’s browser. Without the Web Server web pages could not be displayed.

A popular Web Server is Apache Web Server. Another is NGINX.

An alternative is called LiteSpeed which is a drop in replacement for Apache. Litespeed performs over twice as fast as Apache. Pickaweb offers LiteSpeed for free on some shared hosting plans.

Database Software

In order to run certain applications you will need a database. In Linux terms the most popular database is MySQL (the ‘M’ in LAMP which stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP).

An alternative database is called Percona which is an opensource drop in replacement for MySQL and which outperforms MySQL by 40% in terms of speed in Benchmark tests and offers more stability in heavy workloads. Pickaweb uses Percona in our shared hosting plans.

Server Software To Improve Security

Security is an important factor when it comes to SEO. Google is constantly monitoring a whole range of factors to determine its rankings and security is no exception. In fact they even stated that security is a ranking factor so it’s worth taking note.

The reason is that they don’t want to send traffic to poorly maintained or insecure websites or servers. If a server is sending malicious emails like Phishing emails or Spamming then that server can get blacklisted. Blacklisting means that emails sent by this server may not be delivered to their destination.

From an SEO perspective, Google may tar any domains using the IP of that server with the same brush and penalise these websites in its rankings.

Security can be improved at both server level and website level. Here are examples of each:

  • Server Level – Better IP reputation through low levels of spam, phishing and malware
  • Operating System Level – Better management of accounts on the server to reduce resource abuse
  • Website Level – Better domain reputation through HTTPS (SSL) and Web Application Firewall (WAF)

Here are examples of software that can help to improve security:

SpamExperts

SpamExperts is an Enterprise level spam filter that monitors both incoming and outgoing emails to detect spam. It is over 99% effective at preventing spam.

SpamExperts is used to monitor outgoing email from email servers to look for patterns of malicious emails. When SpamExperts detects that an account is sending spam the technical support team can take appropriate action to prevent further emails being sent from the compromised account. The account owner is notified and a plan of action is agreed to resolve any security issues with the website such as updating the CMS to the latest version.

The reason that this is important is to protect the server’s IP reputation. If a server is detected sending malicious emails like Spam then this can result in the server being blacklisted with all the issues this causes such as non delivery of emails to certain Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as well as being picked up by Google which could negatively impact websites hosted on this IP address.

Pickaweb offers outgoing email monitoring by SpamExperts software to protect our servers and also we offer incoming spam monitoring as a value added service to protect your inbox from receiving spam.

CloudLinux

CloudLinux is a software that sits on top of the operating system and is used to restrict the amount of resources that an individual user can access on the server. It does this by creating what is known as a Lightweight Virtual Environment (LVE).

The server administrator can then limit the amount of key resources such as CPU and RAM to each LVE. This could not be achieved in a normal LAMP server setup.

This prevents individual accounts from abusing or ‘hogging’ the key server resources so that the server remains operational and stable.

To help you visualize this, let’s take the example of an account that has a script that is not functioning correctly and as a result it starts to use up a lot of RAM or CPU. In a normal server without CloudLinux the server would slow and start to perform sluggishly. Other users may notice this. In extreme cases it may bring the server down and result in downtime.

With CloudLinux the chances of this happening are dramatically reduced as the issue is confined to the account with the bad script.

This means that the server performs fast and there is minimal downtime due to ‘noisy neighbours’. The result is a better IP reputation as a result of better uptime.

HTTPS (SSL) Hosting

HTTPS is when a website is secured using an SSL Certificate. HTTPS creates an impenetrable connection between a web browser and a web server. It is commonly recognised as the green bar or padlock area of a website.

Having a secure area of a website was traditionally restricted to the payment area of Ecommerce websites. However, in recent years online security has become more and more important and using HTTPS for an entire website is encouraged for businesses that want to offer higher levels of security for their visitors.

In fact, Google announced that HTTPS is a ranking factor in its search algorithms and encourages its use.

In order to have an HTTPS website you will need an SSL Certificate. This is then installed in your hosting account and your files moved to this secure area. If you purchase an SSL Certificate from Pickaweb our technical team will assist you to install it.

SiteLock

Website security is ultimately the responsibility of the website owner and there are numerous ways to secure a website. In addition, SiteLock is a service that offers an all round protection for a website by using a Web Application Firewall (WAF).

A WAF will continually scan your website files looking for any malicious files (Malware). They also scan any files uploaded to your hosting to look for any threats.

Ideally a WAF should identify and remove any Malware that they identify. They should also look for the most common types of Malware issues and identify or fix them as they occur.

Another feature of a WAF is a Website Security Shield to demonstrate to your visitors that your site is safe and Malware free.

As we mentioned previously, security is a known ranking factor in Google’s algorithm so a WAF is an effective way of keeping your site clean to protect your ranking.

Pickaweb offer the SiteLock WAF as a value added service for our customers.

Conclusion

The choice of web hosting can have an effect on your search engine ranking for a number of reasons.

Speed is a Google ranking factor so your site needs to run fast and have a high uptime. The server hardware configuration is critical in that respect. A fast CPU, lots of RAM, fast and reliable hard drives and use of RAID technology will ensure this is covered.

From a software perspective using a fast Web Server and Database will ensure that your site responds fast. LiteSpeed Web Server and Percona are faster alternatives to Apache Web Server and MySQL respectively.

Website security is increasingly important for a good search engine ranking. Google does not want to forward visitors to insecure websites or servers that have a poor IP reputation.

There are a number of software that can be used to improve website security. These include SpamExperts which monitors outgoing email to prevent spam and malware being distributed and to prevent the server from getting blacklisted.

CloudLinux is a software which limits the amount of key server resources (CPU, RAM) that can be accessed by individual accounts. This results in better uptime as individual accounts can not overuse resources which can result in degraded performance or downtime. Better uptime means that your site won’t get penalised for downtime.

HTTPS is a secure, encrypted connection between a browser and a web server and is a stated Google ranking factor. An SSL Certificate will allow you to have a secure HTTPS website.

A WAF is a software that will constantly monitor a website to prevent Malware from being uploaded and deployed. This ensures that a website is not categorised as being risky by Google.

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2 Comments

  1. 1

    This is a brilliant article and answers a lot of questions. Do I take it that there is WAF software in place or is this something that I need to do?

    Guy

  2. 2

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