When prioritizing key success factors for an SEO campaign, web hosting probably isn’t at the top of your list, if it’s on the list at all. Nevertheless, web hosting is a very important consideration. Here is why.
- Web hosting affects user experience (UX), and UX has significant — and growing — influence on Google rankings.
- Web hosting makes expanding an SEO campaign efficient — or a costly mess.
- Web hosting either has or lacks the features that enhance technical and tactical elements of an SEO campaign.
With these general points in mind, let’s review the 10 SEO-friendly features you need from a hosting company.
1. Page Loading Speed
From an SEO standpoint, fast page loading tops the list of hosting requirements going into 2022. Google’s recent introduction of Core Web Vitals (CWV) is a significant expansion of its effort to consider page experience in Google Search results. Page loading speed, as we all know from our personal experience, is crucial to UX. Your hosting service must perform consistently well on this issue or rankings are likely to stagnate or fall over time.
Keep in mind, however, that page loading speed is affected not only by technical aspects of the hosting service, but also by other factors such as the website’s file types and file sizes, plugins, and browsers. Make sure to evaluate these non-hosting issues as well.
When a site goes down, Google has difficulty crawling the site, users become frustrated, and essentially, organic traffic and conversions are thrown away. Your hosting company should have a high uptime guarantee (99.9% uptime or better) and historical data to back up its ability to deliver.
3. SSL Support
Having HTTPS is crucial for SEO, and your web host must support it. Non-HTTPS sites not only fare poorly in organic rankings, but they also seriously detract from UX because site visitors, who are growing savvier every day, are deeply concerned about how their personal information is shared, used, and protected. They are unlikely to interact with what they perceive to be an unsecure website. Because this is such an important user issue, Google made HTTPS a ranking signal — all the way back in 2014.
Successful SEO campaigns continuously increase organic traffic and user interaction. The website being optimized will also grow in terms of traffic and interactions for other reasons, perhaps rapidly. Thus, your web host must offer multiple hosting plans to accommodate greater future demands; otherwise, you will have to find a new host, which will stall the campaign, or switch to a dedicated server, which may be difficult to support.
When evaluating hosting services, consider what hosting requirements you will need three to five years from now. Starting with a hosting service as a little fish in a big pond is better than outgrowing it at the very time your SEO campaign needs top-of-the line hosting features and support.
5. Corporate Stability
SEO is a long-term marketing proposition. Once a campaign gains traction, it often becomes a permanent part of the overall marketing strategy. For this reason, your web host must be a stable, reliable organization likely to be in business next year and 10 years from now. To get a handle on the overall strength of a hosting company, look at factors such as:
- Client retention rate
- Employee turnover
- Financial strength
- Long-term business plan
- Number of customers
- Number of full-time, direct employees
- Number of years in business
- Type of clients
6. Track Record
Sales and marketing content can be misleading. Be sure to check the web host’s online reviews, and even talk to referrals. If the web host is reluctant to provide referrals or does not provide data to support its marketing claims, these could be red flags. The key is to be thorough in your review. Reviews, for instance, can be just as misleading as marketing content (or just as reliable). No company is perfect, and one negative review is not nearly enough to pass judgment. Also keep in mind that people are more likely to share negative experiences than positive ones.
7. Customer Service
This is a huge issue: If you have a hosting problem and cannot get it resolved quickly, UX may be seriously compromised — and along with it, lead generation, online revenue, brand perception, and customer loyalty. Some web hosts have truly superior customer service support — an important feature for many organizations, but indispensable for those with SEO campaigns. Keep in mind, too, that two things go into outstanding customer service: superior ability and superior communication. One without the other exposes your SEO campaign to trouble, although ability is probably more critical than communication.
8. Good Customer Base
If your hosting service has spammers and scammers for customers and these customers share your IP address, this could cause Google to flag your domain and your rankings to plummet. You should get a read on the host’s client base during your vetting process (see #5), but be sure not to overlook this extremely important SEO consideration.
Malware attacks and other security breaches are deadly for an organization’s credibility, customer relationships, and revenue. From an SEO perspective, attacks that generate thousands of fake backlinks or spam pages expose you to Google penalties and could completely throttle your campaign. Your web host must have rock solid security to minimize your exposure.
10. User-Friendly and SEO-Friendly CMS
Some web hosts are designed to support user-friendly and SEO-friendly CMS platforms. This is an important consideration, especially if your SEO campaign relies on client/in-house personnel to make SEO-related technical changes to the website, upload and optimize content, and monitor site performance. If the back end of the website is hard for clients to use, updates won’t happen quickly enough, content will be poorly optimized, and SEO results will be slower and lower.
Need More Help Picking a Hosting Company?
Check out the article Choosing the Right Hosting Company for Your Site for more great information on this topic! The article covers the different types of web servers, how to manage your spending with a hosting company, and how to find the perfect hosting package.