Google now ranks quality content and the time it takes a website to load that content as arguably two of the biggest rank signals for a good search engine position. This policy has evolved over several years forcing website owners to abandon or modify previous strategies forged on aggressive backlinking or “shallow”, rapid content production.
This evolution in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) raises subtle and sometimes radical questions over what role your web hosting provider plays (if at all) in helping you pursue a page one ranking on Google, Yahoo and Bing.
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While regular content marketing or inbound marketing are now the biggest SEO games in town (rewarding site owners who publish high-quality content on a regular basis for discerning websites visitors) search engine results can be negatively affected by a slow-loading website or an unstable web platform.
Further, slow websites may also negatively affect e-commerce conversions, impacting the bottom line during seasonal spikes in activity over the holiday season.
Google’s success as a search engine is largely based on the speed at which it delivers search results. It took this idea to the extreme by deploying Google Instant that can save up to 3 seconds, on average, per search. It’s no wonder then that Google and other engines now favor websites that load more quickly in their search results.
For a long time, the famous two-second rule was cited as the de facto standard for ideal e-commerce website loading times. Now, even 400 milliseconds may be too long for a website visitor to wait – literally the blink of an eye.
It thus comes as no surprise that choosing a web hosting company and a secure hosting package must now rank as one of the most important decisions a small business will ever make on the long road to increasing website traffic, leads and e-commerce conversions.
Shared Hosting and SEO
Since the 2008 economic collapse, most small businesses gravitate towards one particular flavor of web hosting called shared hosting. Cheaper prices and reduced complexity make this the perfect entry-level package for cost-conscious business owners who follow the Pareto Principle; a popular rule of thumb that states companies should pursue 80% of the results for 20% of the effort.
While this hosting flavor is an easy choice, choosing the provider in a crowded, over-traded market is not, especially if one considers the earlier impact a slow or unstable server may have on page load times and ultimately a good search engine ranking.
While many providers promise the world, they are under extreme pressure to cope with a number of technological obstacles that may not be readily apparent to the novice website owner. These challenges may affect the performance, uptime and legitimacy of multiple websites hosted on a single server, the hallmark features of a shared server.
Consider for instance a recent Ethernet Alliance report detailing a historical doubling of bandwidth consumption every year. This suggests web hosting customers will use 400 percent more bandwidth by the year 2016 than they do today. This increase is also largely driven by the massive adoption of smartphones and tablets, whose owners demand instant access to website information, including video.
New demands require an ongoing, massive investment in infrastructure at the server, network and storage levels in order to meet customer expectations of a 99.9% uptime and further Google requirements that a page load quickly – both at the desktop and smartphone level.
Further requirements that web hosts be IPv6 enabled (the latest revision of the IP protocol) place further pressure on weak hosting companies who may drop traffic without even knowing it if they fail to make the upgrade from IPv4.
Google carefully monitors IPv6 adoption, looking for suspect servers that attempt to “cloak content” rather than ensuring IPv6 content is identical to the previous IPV4 protocol.
As international website content production increases at a rapid rate, including video, leading website hosting companies are attempting to improve speed and SEO capabilities for customers at several levels.
This includes deploying data centers around the world at locations closer to the user base in model known as “data center geographical diversity.” This allows sophisticated backup and disaster recovery automation for shared customer content and additional services known as content delivery networks (CDN) which brings content closer to a visitor’s connection point, providing faster load times.
In addition to the above, hosting companies like Midphase, are also upgrading their shared servers to new Intel Xeon processors built upon powerful Tri-Gate 3D transistors which in some cases boost performance by up to 80% over previous generations. This, along with the quality of the data center’s peering and transit agreements to the external Internet backbone, partially determines how quickly your website loads for both the user and consequently for Google search results.
This sophistication extends to shared hosting control dashboards exemplified by cPanel, which allows an owner to manage and deploy his shared server resources, including new integration of Attracta SEO tools for easy sitemap creation, submission and further SEO services to take over where automation left off.
Shared hosting packages also typically allow a user to deploy a self-hosted WordPress blog (from the cPanel), which has become synonymous with blogging, a cornerstone of SEO content marketing. The user may also deploy additional plugins such as All in One SEO Pack to further boost onsite SEO.
While a shared hosting package may house hundreds, sometimes thousands, of websites on a single server, Google does not consider this a negative as long as the servers routinely deliver web pages quickly with 99.9% uptime and availability. The increasing bandwidth demands being placed on shared servers within modern day data centers can only be met by a handful of web hosting companies who understand their role is not only to serve pages, but to serve them quickly and more efficiently in the broader context of search engine optimization (SEO). This is now considered crucial to the survival of a small business, which depends on web traffic and lead conversions in today’s depressed economy.
About the Author: Dustin Williams is an IT professional and search engine marketing expert. He is the Global SEO Manager for UK Group, a global group of web hosting brands. Dustin recommends visiting Midphase to learn more about shared hosting and other web hosting services.