What do you think of when you think of SEO?

If you’re like most people, your mind goes immediately to keywords, content, and, of course, backlinks. On the technical side, you might be familiar with factors like site structure and mobile friendliness.

But did you know that your website host affects SEO?

Hosting can have a big impact on your search engine performance, but a lot of businesses don’t think of it as part of their SEO strategy. That’s a mistake — choosing the right hosting service can improve your search engine rankings, decrease your bounce rate, and drive conversions.

This article demonstrates how hosting affects SEO and how you can choose the right host for your website.

Why Is SEO So Important?

Before we get into how web hosting affects SEO, let’s talk about why you should care about search engine optimization in the first place. You’ve got a lot on your plate — is investing time and resources into SEO really worth it?

The short answer is yes. SEO is one of the most important things you can do to market your business.

Why?

Firstly, because search engines are where the people are. When looking for information on a specific product they want to buy, 55% of shoppers turn to a search engine. In other words, there are already people out there searching Google for products like yours. SEO helps you get into their search results.

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But it’s not enough to be on page two of the results or even halfway down the first page. Most searchers don’t scroll that far. 28.5% of all users click the first Google result. The second spot gets 15.6% of traffic, and the third gets 11%. The 10th spot only gets 2.5% of searchers to click, and hardly anyone makes it to the second page.

An image showing Google click-through rate by position on search engine results page
Google click-through rate by position on search engine results page

When done right, SEO can help your website rise to the top of the results where searchers will actually see it. So SEO even helps build brand awareness. Appearing in relevant search results improves your visibility and your reputation.

How Does Hosting Affect Your SEO?

Hosting may not be the most well-known component of SEO, but it’s an important one. To be favored by Google, your site needs to function well, and your hosting company can help with that (or prevent it).

Here are some ways your host can affect your search engine performance.

Site Speed and Load Times

A potential customer finds you on Google and clicks the link. How long do you think they’ll wait for the page to load before bouncing and choosing a different search result?

If you said they would wait several seconds or more, you might be overestimating their patience.

Fast loading times increase the chances that a website visitor will make a purchase. A site that loads in one second has a conversion rate three times higher than a site that loads in five seconds. And a study of mobile site data found that a 0.1-second improvement in site speed caused retail shoppers to spend almost 10% more.

Conversions by page load speed
Conversions by page load speed

Having a fast site can also improve your place on the search engine results page. How do we know? Because Google said so. Google first confirmed site speed as a ranking factor back in 2010 (and still mentions it to this day).

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of how hosting affects SEO.

Sure, your choice of web host isn’t the only factor that can affect your website’s speed and load time, but it’s the most significant one. If you’ve sorted out other things like caching and minifying JS, investing in higher-quality and faster hosting can get you faster loading speeds and earn you more traffic and conversions.

For example, Kinsta is a performance-focused managed WordPress host that offers many unique features to ensure you have the fastest loading WordPress site possible. Take Kinsta APM (Application Performance Monitoring), for example. Free for Kinsta users, Kinsta APM captures timestamped information about your website’s PHP processes, MySQL database queries, external HTTP calls, and more.

Server Downtime

No one wants their website to go down.

You probably already realize that server downtime will cost you. You’ll miss potential sales during the time the site is down. And there’s your reputation to consider — if a customer comes to your site while it’s down, they may consider you unreliable and not come back.

It gets worse. Server downtime also affects SEO. If a search engine crawls your website when it’s down, you might get temporarily de-indexed. And Google has been known to crawl a site less frequently if it experiences downtime, which isn’t good for SEO.

Any site can experience a bit of downtime, but you want to minimize it. A host with an uptime guarantee can ensure that server downtime is a rare issue.

Location

When you’re choosing a host, look at where the company’s servers are located.

Servers located closer to the majority of your audience will offer better site speeds, which is important for SEO. Location can also affect the data storage regulations you have to comply with. This matters for search engine optimization because noncompliance could lead to forced downtime.

Another location-based factor is your domain name (which doesn’t have to be provided by your host company but often is). Google has confirmed that all generic domain extensions are equal in terms of SEO — you can feel free to choose .pizza rather than .com if that works for your business.

Country extensions are another story. If you’re using a .fr domain, for example, Google will geotarget your site for France. It’s likely to perform better on search engines in that country than others.

Type of Hosting

When you start looking into hosting companies, you’ll notice a wide range of prices and a lot of different terms like shared hosting, dedicated hosting, and managed hosting. If you’re new to website ownership, it can get confusing.

There are several kinds of hosting available, and the one you choose can impact your SEO. Let’s look at some types of website hosting you might come across and how they affect search engine optimization.

Free

There are ways to host a website for free. For example, you could use wordpress.com or another website builder like Wix.

These options might be acceptable for a personal website, but they aren’t good for SEO or your personal brand. You usually can’t have your own domain name, and your site won’t perform well enough to handle high traffic.

You can find a shared plan for as low as a few dollars per month — a fee that will pay off when it comes to SEO.

Shared

It’s typical for small websites to start out on shared hosting. These plans are cheap and beginner-friendly.

Shared hosting keeps things cost-effective by splitting resources. As the name implies, a user on a shared hosting plan has to share resources with other users on the same server.

While shared hosting is a good way for new website owners to get started, it has its downsides for SEO. If you share a server with other websites, those sites can affect how yours performs. For example, if one of the sites on your server gets a big traffic spike, it could slow your site down, which in turn affects search engine optimization.

Image showing how a shared server works
How a shared server works

VPS (Virtual Private Server)

If you choose to host your site on a Virtual Private Server, you’re still sharing a physical server with other websites. However, you have a virtual partition all to yourself. This improves performance and reduces the chance that another website’s traffic can affect your loading speed and SEO.

Dedicated

Hosting on a dedicated server is just what it sounds like — the whole server is dedicated to you. This means more uptime and faster speeds. You also have complete control over your server’s settings, so you can make sure your site will perform well.

Dedicated hosting is good for SEO, but it’s expensive. Unless you have an enterprise-sized website, you probably don’t need it.

Cloud Hosting

With cloud hosting, your website is spread across multiple remote servers.

If one of the servers has an issue, the other servers on the network will take over. Cloud hosting is great for ensuring high uptime, which is good for SEO. If you have the right expertise to set it up correctly, it’s also one of the best ways to set up a fast-loading website.

However, it can be a bit tricky to get something like WordPress up and running if you’ve never done it before.

Managed Hosting

If the technical side of managing a website isn’t your area of expertise — or if you just don’t have time to deal with it — why not call in the pros?

With managed hosting, your host company takes on a lot of the work, like hardware and software configuration, maintenance, technical support, and updating and monitoring your CMS.

It’s a little more expensive than shared hosting but still within the budget for most small and medium-sized businesses. Your site speed, downtime, and other performance factors will be better when you have support from your web hosting provider.

Kinsta offers managed WordPress hosting optimized for speed, security, and peak traffic. Ecommerce companies can also benefit from Kinsta’s managed WooCommerce hosting.

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that only visit one page and don’t take any action on your site. In other words, they bounce before doing anything.

Whether bounce rate affects Google rankings is controversial. Google has denied that bounce rate is a ranking factor, while other sources show a clear correlation between a high bounce rate and ranking lower on the SERPs.

Bounce rate by rank on Google
Bounce rate by rank on Google

While not an official ranking factor, it can often be an indicator of low dwell time, which is a crucial Google ranking factor in 2022. Basically, if a large chunk of people quickly leave your site and return to Google, it’s an indication that users don’t find your content relevant to their search. And since Google wants to provide relevant content, they’ll start ranking you lower when that happens.

Improving your bounce rate and dwell time is a crucial aspect of technical SEO. A lower bounce rate means more people are staying on your page and interacting with it, which is likely to lead to more conversions.

What does this have to do with hosting? A high bounce rate can be caused by a slow site or server downtime — factors affected by your choice of a web host.

Security

Google doesn’t want to send its users to risky websites.

Back in 2014, it announced that valid HTTPS encryption was a ranking signal. HTTPS allows a user’s browser or web application to securely connect with your website. In the announcement, Google clarified that HTTPS would be a “lightweight” ranking signal, significantly less important than things like content quality. As far as we know, this is still the case today.

HTTP vs. HTTPS encryption
HTTP vs. HTTPS encryption (Source: Savvy Security)

What’s less clear is whether other security factors are ranking signals. Getting your site hacked and having content replaced with malware or spam can negatively affect your search rankings. But either way, being up-to-date with your website security is a best practice.

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Your website host is essential to your website’s security. For one thing, the web hosting company is responsible for the security of its servers. It may also provide you with other secure hosting services, like a free SSL certificate or regular malware scans.

Level of Support

With some website hosts, you’re mostly on your own if your website runs into trouble. Other hosts (especially managed hosting providers) will quickly sort out your issue.

We’ve already discussed how unexpected downtime or performance problems can affect your SEO, so you can see how crucial technical support (not generic customer support) is when it comes to hosting. Look for a web hosting service that regularly backs up your entire site environment, and can quickly resolve any technical glitch.

How To Choose the Best Host for SEO

Now you understand how hosting affects SEO, and why your choice of server is a very underappreciated SEO factor. But how do you choose a host that will boost your rankings, traffic, and conversions?

As you look for hosting, keep these factors in mind.

Type of Host

Are you looking to keep costs low with a shared host, or do you want the higher performance of a VPS provider? Make sure you know what kind of hosting plan you’re signing up for.

Keep in mind that there can be overlap between the host types we outlined above. For example, Kinsta is a managed hosting provider. Kinsta also leverages the power of cloud hosting — our infrastructure is built on the Google Cloud Platform, meaning our physical server’s capacity is shared by multiple storage devices. Because data is spread across various locations, your website will experience minimal host-related downtime.

Pricing Structure

The cost of your hosting plan doesn’t affect your SEO, of course, but it’s something to consider.

Is it worth paying a bit more for a solution that will help you climb the Google results page, or will you go for the cheapest option and invest in a different area of SEO?

Many of the major shared hosting solutions offer a very low price upfront, like $2.75 per month. Before you’re drawn in by the low price, be sure that you understand exactly what you’re getting for your money.

For example, does choosing a basic plan limit your bandwidth or cap your traffic? Do you get any other perks that can affect your SEO, like security features? Are all of the company’s support channels available to customers on the lowest tier plan?

Also, pay attention to the price after your first year on the service — it often goes up after your initial contract.

Accessible Support

It’s 2:00 AM, and you realize your website is down. You’re losing overseas sales by the minute and worried about your SEO. Does your hosting service have a customer hotline at this hour?

Better yet, do you have a managed hosting team constantly monitoring your website?

The quicker you can resolve technical issues; the better your SEO will be. Find out about the host company’s support channels and hours and how much help they can provide.

CDN

Finally, determine if your hosting solution offers a content delivery network or CDN. CDNs can be provided by a hosting company, but they’re a separate service designed to speed up your website.

A CDN works by caching static assets like images, CSS and JS files, web fonts, and more in data centers around the world. Creating this cache speeds up content delivery and makes your website load faster. It does this by shortening the physical distance required for the data to travel. It can also help lower your time to first byte (TTFB), the measurement of how long a browser has to wait before receiving its first byte of data from the server.

The result is a speedier website; as you know by now, site speed is essential for search engine optimization.

Image showing how a content delivery network works
How a content delivery network works (Source: Plesk)

A CDN also improves uptime by making the replicated content available across multiple servers at different geographic locations. If one server goes down, traffic is rerouted to another. And as yet another SEO benefit, many CDNs provide additional security features.

Kinsta’s CDN is powered by Cloudflare. It’s enabled on all Kinsta plans at no additional cost to you. Kinsta users can access the CDN through MyKinsta.

How To Switch Hosting Companies for Better SEO

Some of you are just starting out as website owners. You have the opportunity to pick a fast and reliable website host from day one.

But most of you who are reading this probably already have websites. What do you do if you realize your current host isn’t cutting it? Will migrating to a different host hurt your search engine performance even more?

Google’s John Mueller has addressed this. When you first migrate to a new host, Google will slow down its frequency of crawling your site. This could affect SEO. However, it’s temporary. Mueller says:

“Over time, once our systems can tell that going faster doesn’t cause any issues, we’ll speed up again. This is independent of the kind of hosting change you make. It doesn’t matter if you’re moving to a different provider down the road or moving to another country.”

Ready to let the experts manage your WordPress hosting?

Kinsta offers unlimited free migrations from all other web hosts. We regularly move websites from hosts like WP Engine and Flywheel to Kinsta, which often results in a substantial increase in speed.

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Summary

Most companies choose a website host based on factors like price and bandwidth without ever considering search engine optimization.

This is a mistake (as you probably see now that you understand how hosting affects SEO). Hosting isn’t often discussed as an SEO factor, but it can significantly impact your rankings, traffic, and conversions. Google doesn’t care which host you use, but it does care about factors like site speed, reliability, server uptime, and security — all of which are affected by your choice of host.

Consider a managed hosting plan to ensure your site is monitored and maintained by technical experts. Kinsta-managed WordPress hosting offers high speeds, 24/7 support, security features, a CDN, and an SLA-backed 99.9% uptime guarantee.

For more ways to boost your SEO, check out our list of 61 WordPress SEO tips to grow your organic traffic by 250%.


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  • Optimization with our built-in Application Performance Monitoring.

All of that and much more, in one plan with no long-term contracts, assisted migrations, and a 30-day-money-back-guarantee. Check out our plans or talk to sales to find the plan that’s right for you.