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Does it matter where your website is hosted?

By John - January 18, 2010

There’s a bewildering array of things to consider when trying to optimise your website for search engines like Google. One that gets overlooked – and yet is easy to influence – is the location of your web hosting.

This can be important in determining how your site ranks in country-specific results (like when you click the “pages from the UK” option on Google).

globeSEO blog Web Toastie has a good post explaining how this works. In short, Google primarily uses your website’s domain name to determine which country your site is most relevant to:

“…if your ccTLD is relevant to your targeted country, then Google will not take the location of the webserver into consideration”

For instance, if your domain name ends in .co.uk, Google will generally assume your site is most relevant to a UK audience. Your site should therefore rank more highly for UK-specific searches.

However, if your site’s domain name isn’t country-specific (maybe you have a .com domain) the physical location of the servers hosting your site comes into play. In this case, having your site hosted within the UK may give you an advantage over sites hosted in other countries.

Load speed matters too

The location of your hosting matters for another reason too. It can affect your website’s load speed. The further away it is from your target audience, the longer your pages may take to load. So if your visitors are in the UK, it’s good to have  your hosting there too.

Again, Web Toastie puts it nicely:

“…if your files are hosted on a slow server in Australia (for example), then Google may also judge your site to be slow and therefore penalise your rankings because of that.”

Now, at the moment, it doesn’t seem like Google puts a great emphasis on page load speed. But the word is that’s going to change soon. As reported by Search Engine Land:

“Google’s co-founders want searching to be real fast, as if you are flipping through a magazine. Part of this is making sure faster web pages rank better than slower ones.”

Having fast-loading pages fast isn’t good just for your website’s search engine ranking. Your visitors benefit too, because they don’t have to wait so long for the pages on your site to appear. In these days of ever-increasing broadband speeds, seconds count – especially when competing websites are only a click away.

Our advice? If your website is aimed at people in the UK, make sure you choose hosting that’s UK-based too – like our own hosting packages, which are all located on servers in a UK data centre. Need more assistance? This guide answers the question “what is a dedicated server?