Case study: cheap shared web hosting might hurt your Google rankings
According to a study of Reboot Online, a digital marketing agency with residence in the UK, cheap shared web hosting might hurt your Google rankings.
Choosing web hosting
We all get it. Without web hosting, your website will not be visible on the Internet…
Knowing and deciding where to host your website can be a huge stumbling block.
Free web hosting is a no go, but what about cheap shared web hosting?
They did the study In the context of a “bad neighbourhood”; commonly referred to as a host, IP address and/or other virtual location where a collection of low-quality, penalised and/or potentially problematic websites (e.g. porn, gambling, pharma) are hosted.
First, they came up with an entirely new keyword and checked that it did not have any results already showing in Google?
Next, they came up with 20 domain names and used search operators to ensure that they didn’t return any results when searched in Google.
10 websites were hosted on dedicated IP addresses using Amazon Web Services (AWS) and 10 others were hosted on shared IP addresses that they knew also hosted bad neighbourhood type websites.
Next, 20 websites created made sure that they were all just as optimised for the target keyword as each other, whilst minimising the influence of any other ranking factors.
Used a similar static HTML design on each website to make sure that each one loaded quickly and had the same functionality.
They wrote similar content (although not identical) for each website where the target keyword was placed in the same position and used the same number of times on each website, to ensure that each site was just as optimised for the keyword.
Each website also had a basic, similar meta title, and we did not assign a meta description.
Once they had created all the websites and minimised the risk of outside ranking factors influencing the search results, they then had to get all the websites indexed.
They created a Google Search Console account for each website (using a different IP address, name and sign up details each time, and creating each one at a different time/date) and fetch them to speed-up indexing. Alternating between those websites hosted on a shared server and the AWS websites to ensure that the order in which the websites were first indexed did not influence the rankings.
By the end of the experiment, the results were conclusive: websites hosted on a shared IP address ranked less strongly than those hosted on a dedicated one.
Conclusion of the study
The results suggest that cheap shared hosting options can in fact have a detrimental effect on the organic performance and rankings of the websites hosted there if your website ends up being hosted alongside lower-quality and potentially spammy ones (providing all websites being observed are otherwise on a level playing field). - Reboot Online
Artificial websites like this are pretty much never indicative of any particular effect in normal Google Search. It's a cool experiment, a good write-up & analysis, and I love it when folks experiment like this, but it's not useful data.
There are many reasons to pick good hosting over cheap hosting, and having a good/fast/stable site w/happy users does reflect in ranking, but ranking shouldn't be the primary reason. That said, I'm super-supportive of testing like this even if I don't agree with all results. - John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google
Read the full case study
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