Does web hosting affect SEO?

man typing into google search on laptop
(Image credit: Unsplash)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is imperative for a successful website, and requires you to create content that builds interconnecting links, while also utilizing keywords for further optimization. However, it's not the only thing you can do to help a website move up higher in search engine rankings.

To beat the competition, every tool at hand should be mobilized, and hosting your site with one of the best web hosting services can increase traffic, improve search rankings, and result in more conversions of visitors into customers. But, you might ask: does web hosting affect SEO?

We examine how choosing a web hosting provider is key to improved search engine rankings, and what to look for.

User experience trumps everything 

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Fast web hosting is imperative to quick page loading times (Image credit: Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash)

A metric that search engine optimizers obsess over is page load speed. It is indeed crucial for your pages to load quickly, but the speed at which a page loads in its entirety paints a poor picture of how visitors actually perceive it. Smart designers go a step further with the concept of First Meaningful Paint.

First Meaningful Paint recognizes that not everything on a web page is of equal importance to a visitor. The core content of a web page, the stuff they’ve specifically come to see, should be prioritized over ancillary content that’s less likely to pique the visitor’s interest.

Google recognizes that page load speed is nuanced like this, and it will boost sites that load the most meaningful content quickly. While the entire page might take three seconds to load, if designed correctly the important content will load in less than a second. Consider relegating less significant content such as tracking code to loading after your important content has been displayed to the reader.

Once a visitor has reached your site, it’s vital to keep them there. Google tracks whether visitors immediately return to the search engine after visiting your site. It’s a strong indicator to the search engine that your website hasn’t given the visitor a solution to their problem or offered them value. 

Consider then, that slow page load speeds are a major reason for people to click back to the search engine, and you’ll see why fast web hosting is critical in SEO.

Uptime is central (and that means so is the right host) 

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Sites need to be available all the time to help Google rankings stay high (Image credit: Unsplash)

Google boosts websites that appear to offer excellent customer experiences, and drops sites that don’t. A website that’s not available at all times makes for a poor user experience, so if your site frequently goes offline, you can be sure it will be penalized in search engine rankings. Make sure to choose a web hosting company that guarantees a high level of uptime.  

Google considers several load times when measuring a site’s efficiency, and these load times are all affected by your choice of web hosting company. For example, DNS (domain name server) lookups occur every time software has to translate a domain name into an IP address. If your web host processes these DNS lookups slowly, it will take the web browser longer to find the correct server to request content from.

Once the correct server has been found using a DNS lookup, there’s still the page load time to worry about. If your web hosting company takes over 100 milliseconds to begin loading the first byte to the web browser, Google is likely to penalize your site in search engine rankings for being slow. Ideally, you should be aiming to answer a browser’s page load request in less than 50 milliseconds.

Need a new SEO strategy? Here are some ideas 

So, what are some approaches you can take to improve your website’s load speeds and user experience?

First, to reduce the amount of work you need to do administering your site, you should consider managed web hosting. With this type of hosting, the web host takes a more active role in ensuring your web server is secure and running well. 

With managed hosting, the provider will automatically make backups of your site, patch security holes, and update software, so you’re free to focus on creating great content for your visitors.

But even the best managed hosting won’t help if your website is poorly coded. Clean and light code that complies with W3C standards is crucial to getting fast-loading pages. Strip out all the superfluous files, JavaScript, and CSS slowing down your site.

Measure how your website is performing to identify where potential bottlenecks exist. There are a lot of tools at your disposal for gauging your site’s performance, such as GTMetrix, Yslow, Lighthouse, and Pingdom.

Finally, remember to keep your site secure. A security breach is not only terrible for your brand image, but it will also affect search engine rankings if a hacker maliciously adds links to your website. Google will see these irrelevant links and penalize your site’s rank.

Again, managed hosting makes this a little easier, as security holes in server software are patched quickly - but you also need to make sure your website’s code is secure.

The web host you choose, therefore, makes a big difference to how your site will rank on search engines like Google. Choosing a host that’s fast, secure, and has a high uptime guarantee will result in better search engine rankings for searches important to your business.

Further reading on web hosting

For more on how web hosting can affect SEO, read our feature outlining five web hosting factors that can affect the SEO of your website. On SEO, consider our basic SEO tips that can improve a website's Google ranking, and six essential tools for boosting web SEO. Finally, ensure you're building the best site you can for your business by checking out our guide to the best website builders.

Richard Sutherland

Richard is a technology writer with over 20 years experience in website development, marketing, and SEO. A graduate in Computer Science, he has lectured in Java programming and built software for companies including Samsung and Walmart. Richard writes for TechRadar, IT Pro, Tom's Guide, and PC Gamer.