The following is a guest blog post by a friend an SEO expert, in response to a rant I made on facebook a few months ago. It was related to a pre-sales question we see. “I need a dedicated ip address for better SEO, can you provide me with a dedicated ip address”?
Back in December my friend and ZippyKid owner, Vid Luther and I had an interesting discussion on Facebook regarding dedicated IPs and SEO.
The discussion stemmed from the original thought provoking post by Vid:
“Dear ‘SEO consultants’, Please stop telling people to put their sites on different IP’s. Every time I hear this, I tell our customers to find different SEO consultants.”
Being an SEO Consultant myself, I took offense to Vid’s post and wanted to clarify how SEO, & Dedicated IPs work together. From our conversation on Facebook, Vid invited me to share a few thoughts on the ZippyKid Blog.
Now, I respect the point Vid is making and it’s correct most of the time…BUT there are scenarios where a dedicated IP for hosting your website makes sense. These scenarios are what I want to highlight and review to help you make an informed decision before requesting a dedicated IP from your hosting provider.
Three Considerations of Hosting and IP addresses for your website.
The ip address that’s assigned to your website, depends on your hosting provider. Providers are assigned IP addresses by ARIN, and astute users can figure out where things are hosted by just looking at the ip addresses of some popular providers.
Performance & Speed
There is a good possibility that your website shares the ip address of another high traffic website. If you’re hosting your site on a shared hosting platform that does not do a good job of allocating resources, your site could be slow. You may ask, “Why does site speed even impact SEO?” Well, it’s because the speed of your site impacts your SERP (search engine ranking position) with Google. Keep in mind, a unique ip address does not mean your site will load faster.
Your website could share the ip address with another site that has been marked as malware. Some network security programs will “null route” requests to those ip addresses, which would make your website unreachable. Some anti-virus software may mark any website with the same ip address as malware, this may raise false alarms against your website. Most modern browsers may display an alert which reads, “This site may harm your computer” next to every link for that website which appears in search results. You can learn more about what to do if you are infected on this Google answer.
SSL encrypts traffic to your site, it’s usually used by e-commerce sites, and sites where personal information is shared. The latest version of SSL doesn’t require a unique ip address, but due to older browsers ( mostly on Windows XP) not supporting this, it’s still safer/best practice to get a unique ip address. This doesn’t affect SEO directly, but is too large of a reason not to mention.
editors note: I recommend SSL on all sites, your password can be seen in clear text when you log in from a public wifi network. So, WordCamps, Starbucks, other conferences. There are also things done with SSL that make your website faster.
The Facts on SEO and Shared IP addresses
Now let’s assume you have gone with a reliable and trusted shared hosting provider for your site. You’re down to really one concern that you have to take into account: Google penalties due to links or malware.
So, first off let’s review a fact that Matt Cutts clarified back in 2006: “… there was recently a discussion on a NANOG (North American Network Operators Group) email list about virtual hosting vs. dedicated IP addresses. They were commenting on the misconception that having multiple sites hosted on the same IP address will in some way affect the PageRanks of those sites. There is no PageRank difference whatsoever between these two cases (virtual hosting vs. a dedicated IP).”
In 2010, Matt Cutts made a video which validates that shared hosting is still fine. But now there are situations where you could be at risk. In the event your site is hosted on a server with many sites that are considered “spammy,” then yes, your site could be negatively impacted. Here is the video Matt Cutts made that clarifies Google’s position on shared hosting:
Let’s put this new found knowledge to work in a practical example. Say you have a site named abc.com and it shares a host and IP with a large WordPress Multisite that is being used as a “link farm” to generate backlinks to “spammy” sites to try and gain position in the SERPs. In this scenario, your site is in jeopardy of being penalized for sharing the same IP as this “link farm” because of the poor quality and violations in which the other thousands of sites on the network have partaken.
In 2012, Google released their Penguin update which improved their search ranking algorithm and started to take into account sites participating in a link network. There is a great post on the YouMoz Blog by Ethan Lyon that covers how to check if you are part of a link network.
How to Monitor Your Website for Issues
Utilize a Reverse IP Lookup
It’s easy to look up and see who else is hosted on your site. There are plenty of free tools out there to do a reverse IP lookup. I personally use http://www.yougetsignal.com/tools/web-sites-on-web-server/.
Let’s take a look at a few sites using this tool to see what their hosting configuration is:
- zippykid.com – the only site hosted on their IP (also all SSL)
- iamMIKE.co (my personal blog) – has 41 different sites hosted alongside it.
- ESPN.com – Has 999 other sites hosted with it.
Bing also provides another trick to look at what sites are hosted with you. For example, in a Bing search enter “ip: 50.116.59” and you will see results of all the sites that are hosted alongside my personal site at another premium WordPress hosting company, WP Engine.
Monitor Google Webmaster Tools
Make sure you have your site added to Google Webmaster Tools and email alerts are turned on. This way you will be sure to be alerted by Google Webmaster Tools if they send you a warning. Search Engine Land has a nice example of what your warning from Google will look like if it does happen.
How To Resolve Link Warnings
In the event you discover a problem or are notified by Google in Google Webmaster Tools take the follow two steps:
- Notify your host and ask to be moved to a new server with a new IP.
- Prepare and submit a Reconsideration Request in Google Webmaster Tools.
Conclusion on Shared IPs and SEO
At the end of the day, most websites will not need to be concerned about shared hosting and not having a dedicated IP negatively affecting their SEO. There are exceptions to the rule, but in general, do not feel that you must have a dedicated IP address. Always be on the offense and protect your site frequently by checking Google Webmaster Tools and monitoring your co-hosted sites.
I reached out to one my most trusted SEO Expert friends: Scott Offord. In Scott’s expert opinion there are so many more things you should concern yourself with first before focusing on a dedicated IP address.
“Having a dedicated IP is not something to worry about in regards to SEO. There are other more important things to think about. Just take a look at Google’s Webmaster Guidelines for example.”
If you feel that having a dedicated IP address is a must have, make sure you understand WHY so that you and your hosting provider can work together to put a solution in place that works for you.
Keep in mind that if you’re reading this after the day it was written…something could have changed. SEO best practices are always changing. Feel free to reach out on twitter and let me know what’s going on.
About Mike Zielonka
Mike Zielonka is the Director of Web Strategy and Co-Founder at Tuna Traffic and a Satisfied ZippyKid Customer. You can continue the conversion with Mike on twitter at @mikezielonka. He spends a significant portion of his time coaching Tuna Traffic customers on web strategy and building custom client web presences. Mike’s expertise is concentrated in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Media and WordPress Development. In addition, he is well versed in the development of PageLines, a leading edge WordPress Theme Framework. One more thing…Mike LOVES pizza with extra cheese.