How the Wrong Web Hosting Can Hurt Your Google Ranking
Google uses over 200 ranking factors when determining how to rank websites for any particular search term. Several of these ranking factors are directly related to the type of web hosting plan you have for your website.
In this article, I’ll explain why it’s important to choose the right web hosting company for your website to avoid having your website penalized by Google.
Two Ranking Categories
There are two ranking categories (with several ranking factors in each category) that are directly related to the quality of your web host. Those 2 ranking categories are Page Speed and Site Security. Let’s look at the various factors in both and I’ll explain how not choosing the proper web host can hurt your Google rankings.
Page load speed has been a ranking factor for a few years now, especially as the popularity of mobile devices has increased. Since mobile phones are now used more often than desktop computers by users surfing the web, your website pages need to load fast. Phones and tablets don’t have the same computing power that a desktop computer has so it’s important that your website is well-optimized to load quickly on these devices.
According to Google’s own mobile page speed test, the following factors should be considered:
- Eliminate render-blocking resources
- Defer unused CSS
- Serve images in next-gen formats
- Reduce server response times (TTFB)
- Defer offscreen images
- Properly size images
- Minify CSS
- Efficiently encode images
- Enable text compression
- Preconnect to required origins
- Avoid multiple page redirects
- Preload key requests
- Use video formats for animated content
- Avoids enormous network payloads
Not all factors above are directly related to the quality of your website hosting provider, but several of them are. I’ve bolded the factors above that a good web host can help you with. Let’s look at each one individually.
Reduce Server Response Times (TTFB)
This is perhaps the most important page speed factor that directly relates the quality of your web host. TTFB (time to first byte) is the amount of time it takes for the browser to begin downloading content on your site. The faster and better quality servers your web host uses, the faster your TTFB will be. A poor TTFB will result in longer page load times and thus could hurt your Google rankings.
Defer Offscreen Images
Deferring offscreen images refers to “lazy loading” images, which is loading images on your page only as they are needed (ie as the user scrolls down to view them). There are many plugins and scripts which can accomplish this, but the web hosting company I recommend offers a free plugin for WordPress sites that does this automatically.
Properly Sized Images/Efficiently Encode Images
Having properly sized images helps keep your page size lower which can result in faster page loading times. It doesn’t make sense to load a 1920-pixel wide image if it’s only being displayed at 600 pixels wide, for example. Many people might not consider this a web hosting related issue, but the web hosting company I recommend offers a free plugin for WordPress sites that automatically resizes and optimizes images so they are served in the smallest file size possible.
Additional Web Hosting Capabilities that Can Improve Site Speed
In addition to the factors listed above, there are some important optimizations that a good web hosting company can make on the server side of things in order to help your website load faster.
A good hosting company will enable the popular Memcached system. “It speeds up database calls, API calls and page rendering by storing data and objects in the server’s RAM in order to reduce the number of times a database is queried. [source]” This can have dramatic speed improvements on any website that uses a database (which most websites do).
Dynamic Page Caching
If you have a WordPress site or other database-driven website, it can be resource-intensive to query the database every time one of your pages needs to load, even if you’re using the Memcached System. For this reason, dynamic page caching was invented so the system can store a static version of your pages and load them immediately upon request without having to parse through the WordPress scripts and query the database.
The same plugin I’ve mentioned above that my favorite web hosting company provides does this for you as well. There are many 3rd party plugins out there that can do this, but the SG Optimizer plugin is free, simple and works only on WordPress websites hosted through Siteground.
Cloudflare is a popular content delivery network that stores static files for your website on servers all around the world and serves them to your users from the server closest to them. This can help improve page speed and security and it comes free with the web hosting company I recommend.
The second category of ranking factors that can have a big impact on your Google rankings is site security. To put it simply and plainly, if your website gets hacked or contains malicious code, Google will not rank it well (they may even ban it entirely from their index).
So it’s super important your website remains secure and the quality of your web hosting company can greatly affect how secure your website is. Let’s go through a few characteristics of a secure website and how a quality web host can help you keep your website secure.
One of the simplest and most important things you can do to keep your WordPress website secure is keep WordPress and all plugins and themes updated. Updating is a very straightforward process inside the WordPress admin, but if you aren’t logging in to check for updates daily, your website could be vulnerable. A good web hosting company will have systems in place to automatically (backup and) upgrade WordPress, plugins and themes.
A good web host will manage the overall security of your application at a server and firewall level by keeping track of WordPress-related vulnerabilities and patching against exploits. The web hosting company I recommend adds dozens of such rules each year and they are able to protect your site even before the official developers release a security update.
Free SSL Certificate
Let’s Encrypt is an organization that provides free website security certificates, or SSL. An SSL allows your website pages and resources to load via https instead of the standard http. Google has recently factored this into their ranking algorithm so it’s important that your pages load via https, even if you aren’t processing sensitive information like credit card payments. A good quality web host will provide an easy way to obtain a free Let’s Encrypt SSL and will automatically renew it for you so it is always current.
My Favorite Web Host
Whether you are hosting a WordPress website or using some of the less popular CMS frameworks out there like Joomla, MODx or Drupal, I recommend SiteGround. Even eCommerce websites like Magento and PrestaShop run fast and secure on SiteGround.
I’ve been using Siteground for a while now and I love the fact that they provide their SG Optimizer plugin for free to use with any WordPress website on their servers. This plugin makes it super easy to take advantage of all they have to offer to keep your WordPress website fast and secure.
They also have a handy WordPress Migration plugin that makes migrating your WordPress site quick and simple.
SiteGround is known for its quality servers and 98% customer satisfaction rating. They have excellent customer service as well. I’m so confident in SiteGround as a web host, that I became an affiliate for them. So if you use any link in this article to sign up for SiteGround, you can take advantage of their awesome service for less than $4/mo and they’ll give me credit for the referral.
Whether you use the links in this article to sign up for SiteGround or not, you should definitely consider SiteGround to host your website, especially if you’ve had page speed or security issues in the past with your current web hosting company.
Leave a comment below if you have a question about my experience with SiteGround or with their service in general.