Marketers and bloggers need to be aware of the interconnection of website hosting and SEO. The correlation of strong website hosting and SEO is many times overlooked and even I’m at fault of this oversight.
Or I was at fault. I was reminded of it this month when I moved a website from one hosting company to another.
My Recent Experience With Website Hosting and SEO
In late 2015 Liquid Web announced the release of their managed WordPress hosting offering. I’ve been following Liquid Web and their movement in WordPress because they are based in my home state of Michigan and because they offer technical support that far exceeds that of other hosting companies.
While I’ve been watching them and rooting for them, I had not yet tried their WordPress hosting. Well that changed this month when I moved SEObootcamp.com from WP Engine to Liquid Web. I needed to give their hosting a try and our SEO Bootcamp website was the perfect website to test.
After signing up for Liquid Web’s hosting, I was quickly given a number of getting started emails to help onboard me in a quick and efficient manner. It worked and the process was pretty darn painless.
As part of my hosting package, I was also given a free SSL certificate to apply to the website. I needed this, so I was eager to accept this bonus offering.
We migrated the website, set up the SSL, and updated our DNS. We had one minor snag along the way, but the Liquid Web support team took care of it quickly. They certainly lived up to their heroic support claims.
As soon as I pulled up the website, I knew the DNS propagation was complete and the website was now live on Liquid Web’s managed WordPress hosting service.
How did I know? I could tell the site was faster. A lot faster.
The website wasn’t technically slow before and WP Engine did had solid performance, but the move to Liquid Web was apparent on the first page load. I could tell and I knew others would as well.
I wanted to check the performance in a third party tool just to make sure I wasn’t making this all up in my head. It wasn’t just a figment of imagination and the data below illustrates the change.
Here is an interesting piece of data: within just a few days I noticed a change in the organic SEO ranking of SEO Bootcamp’s website. A shift from the bottom of page one on Google to number three position for one term alone. The only thing that had changed was the website host and SSL certificate.
That might not seem like a big shift, but when you consider the domain is brand new and we are just starting to build the ranking for it, five or some positions is actually a major improvement.
For me this was a huge reminder of the importance of website performance and speed. I knew website hosting and SEO were correlated, but I had forgotten just how much strong website performance could help SEO efforts.
Why Website Performance and Speed Matters
Site speed is part of Google’s algorithm, which means it is one of the factors that will determine where you rank in Google. While site speed hasn’t historically been a high ranking factor, this is changing and the importance of fast websites is a growing concern to Google and other search engines.
A slow website has a negative effect on a human visitor and it will create technical challenges for search engines.
Let’s start with humans and real live website visitors:
A fast website will help produce a positive user experience because the website visitor can view and process content quickly. Research shows the slower the website, the less happy the user is, the fewer chances there is that they will stay on the website.
Now let’s look at how website performance makes search engines happy:
A slow website will also result in a slower crawling rate, which means Google and Bing will be forced to index pages on your site at a slower rate. In other words, new content like pages and posts will take longer to show up in the search results.
The search engines know fast websites are good for them and their users, so they give priority and better ranking to high performing websites. If your website or blog is turtle slow, fix this before working on SEO. It’s really that importance.
Check to See if Your Website Host is Hurting Your SEO
There are a variety of tools available to check your website speed. I’m a fan of Pingdom and used it for the above test. But Pingdom is only one tool and there are many tools you can utilize.
Here are a few options you can use to test the speed of your website or blog:
My Tips for Improving Website Speed
- Remember Mobile – Don’t just check and/or review desktop performance. Pay close attention to mobile usage as well. Google has more searches done on mobile than desktop so mobile is very important to search engines.
- Consider a Cache Plugin – There are some WordPress plugins available to help with speed and performance. Choose one that has lots of users, strong reviews, and good support. W3 Total Cache is a popular one, but you can find many more by using the tags in WordPress.org. Consider tags such as speed, performance, and cache.
- Themes Matter – If you pick a bloated theme from Themeforest.net, you will have performance issues. No matter what you do, you won’t be able to compensate for the massive code base and slowness. It is the nature of the “multi usage” themes sold at Themeforest. The developers try and make theme very easy to set up and customize and in doing so the code becomes massive. Massive code drags down and website hurts performance and kills SEO. Consider using a solid framework like Genesis and a child theme from a reputable developer.
- Hosting Matters – No matter what you do with plugins and themes, you won’t be able to compensate for an underperforming website host. And before you blame everything on the hosting company, remember you are the one selecting the host and the hosting package. The cheaper you go, the worse your performance, and the more it will hurt your SEO efforts. Pick a high quality hosting company so performance won’t derail your SEO efforts.
- Install the Right Plugin for the Job – Over the years, I’ve noticed people tend to want to migrate to popular plugins like WishList when all they need to do is protect a few pages. They look for the biggest and best plugin when all they need is something simple. This is a classic example of plugin overkill. I’m an advocate of highly functional premium plugins, but I do try and make sure I pick the right plugin for the job. To keep performance optimized, don’t select a huge plugin with the functionality you “might need” five years from now. Pick the lightest plugin that meets your needs and make sure it is from a reputable developer.
- Delete Unused Plugins – In the land of WordPress, we have lots and lots of users that are plugin junkies. My favorite clients fall into this group. They get an idea and then try out a plugin (or five) to see if it can meet the needs of their newfound idea. When the plugin doesn’t perform like expected, they go to the next one. Unfortunately, they forget to delete the first four they tried and these plugins sit in the WordPress admin panel active, hogging bandwidth, and maybe even conflicting with the right plugin. Carefully choose your plugins and delete any plugins that are not being used.
- Keep WordPress Up to Date – Nothing screams come hack me like WordPress software from 2004. Nothing slows a website down faster than PHP code that was written ten years ago. To protect your website and to keep it humming along smoothly, keep your WordPress core files up to date.
- Keep Your MySQL Database Optimized – Don’t panic at this suggestion. There are plenty of easy to use plugins to assist in this task. These plugins will quickly remove overhead while optimizing the database tables and reducing excess and useless space.
- Watch Your Image Sizes – The bigger your content images, the slower your website will load. Whether you’re uploading an image to a slider or adding it to a blog post, upload the size you need and not the largest size available. Users just need to use some basic common sense when uploading images. I say common sense because once I explain this to someone, the users always express complete annoyance that they didn’t think of it sooner.
Do You Need to Revaluate Your Hosting Provider?
If you’ve checked your website performance and it is below par, now is the time to take action. Google is already focused on performance and speed and this will only continue to grow as Google moves to a mobile first mentality. That day is not just coming, it is already right around the corner.
Remember that you get what you pay for and website hosting applies to this old saying. You will not have strong website hosting and SEO if you are paying $5 per month. High quality managed WordPress hosting will cost much more than the regular shared hosting account, but it will be worth it ten times over.
Head on over to Liquid Web and check out their awesome WordPress hosting packages. Not only will you have excellent speed and performance, you’ll having an amazing team of technical support personnel to provide assistance when you need it.