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Is SEO Hosting with Dedicated IP Addresses Better for SEO?

Does a dedicated IP address make your site rank better in search engines & should I use SEO hosting? Learn about the truths & myths of SEO hosting for Google.

SEO hosting & dedicated IP addresses

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about showing your best side to Google. Trying to trick the search engines is the worst approach and will damage your site’s reputation. Focusing on sending all the right signals to search is the best approach to building good SEO reputation.

A myth has persisted for too long in the SEO community about a need for a dedicated IP address for every site you own and it’s time fix that.

Dedicated IP addresses differ from shared hosting IP addresses in that the first is constant while the latter change over time.

For a long time now, some SEOs have perpetuated the notion that Google downranks sites that are in a shared hosting environment. The assumption was that shared hosting was common among SEO “spammers” who would register many variants of a top-level domain and host the same content on each of them in order appear more prominently on search engine results pages (SERPs).

There was a concern among these unscrupulous site owners that they were being punished by search engine algorithms for hosting so many sites on a shared host with the same content but different domain names, so they sought out dedicated IP addresses for each site. The hope was to insulate each site from downranking and trick Google into thinking that they were owned by separate owners and completely unrelated.

However, Google employees intimately familiar with its ranking algorithm has said as far back as 2003 that Google does not downrank sites that use shared hosting with shared IPs. At all.

Craig Silverstein, who in 2003 was Google’s Director of Technology, answered this question in a Slashdot interview, saying:

“Google handles virtually hosted domains and their links just the same as domains on unique IP addresses. If your ISP does virtual hosting correctly, you’ll never see a difference between the two cases. We do see a small percentage of ISPs every month that misconfigure their virtual hosting, which might account for this persistent misperception – thanks for giving me the chance to dispel a myth!”

In 2006 it was re-confirmed by Google employee Matt Cutts. For anyone not familiar with Matt Cutts, he wrote the first version of SafeSearch, which is Google’s family filter, and has been involved with search quality and webspam at Google for the last several years.

Need more proof? Google’s Webmaster Guidelines make no mention whatsoever of using a dedicated IP address to improve PageRank scoring.

But, what about site speed? Isn’t a dedicated IP address faster than a shared hosting situation? The truth is that while site speed impacts SERP rankings, dedicated IP addresses don't mean enhanced site speed. The speed part comes from the hardware and network capabilities of the host. The IP address is just the “phone number”. And, as mobile phone customers know, just changing one’s phone number is no guarantee of better call quality.

So, there you have it. Apart from the fact that having a dedicated IP does reduce risk that your site will be flagged as risky due to bad behavior by others on a shared host, there is no SEO advantage to running your site on the sole basis of having a dedicated IP address.

However…

Shared hosting is great for most websites when they start out. As time goes on, you might experience a few other problems if you stick with shared hosting because, as mentioned before, you share the same IP address with all the other sites hosted on that server. The behavior of “bad neighbors” on your IP address can affect SEO.

Dedicated vs Shared Hosting

There are two main areas where shared hosting can let you down:

  • You may find that your site is slow. This happens because there are hundreds of sites on the same server, and one site could hog resources and cause the others to slow down. This is unlikely though because most web hosts put countermeasures in place for this kind of scenario.
  • Your site shares the same Internet Protocol (IP) address as these other sites, which could cause you some headaches, including a rare, but possible SEO down-ranking, if anyone on that server misbehaves. However, most web hosts flag customers who are misbehaving and will most likely disable their hosting account before it affects other customers on the server.

There is actually a neat trick you can use to find out whether you’re in a “bad neighborhood” on a shared server: Use a reverse IP lookup service to figure out who else is hosted in your shared hosting. There are several but http://www.yougetsignal.com/tools/web-sites-on-web-server/ is a handy one. If those sites look sketchy to you, your site will look sketchy to search engines because your IP address is the same as their IP address.

Furthermore, at least for sites that rely on secure transactions for ecommerce, a dedicated IP address is the norm anyway. Most hosting companies will require it when you enable an SSL certificate to handle secure transactions.

Dedicated IP addressing also helps your mobile customers whom you require to enter a password for login on your site. That’s because those customers at Starbucks or the library likely use public WiFi, which transmits passwords in clear text. Enable SSL on a dedicated IP address on all sites requiring a password for login to better secure your customers’ passwords.

The Solution

To avoid being caught with a bad crowd and to better serve your customers, it is best to give your site its own IP address. However in most cases, using a dedicated ip address wont affect your rankings.

Getting Dedicated IPs from Your Web Host

Most hosting companies offer dedicated IP addresses as part of their hosting plans. Sometimes, you will get one free dedicated IP bundled with your hosting plan. Occasionally, your host will provide two free. It’s rare that you’ll be offered more without paying. Ask your current web host how you can get a dedicated IP address from them. If they don't allow it, you could switch your hosting to one that does, such as InMotion Hosting. HostGator also provides 1 free dedicated IP on its Business hosting plan. Furthermore, HostGator has a sister site of SEOHosting.com, which is known for allowing webmasters to host dozens of sites on unique IP addresses (up to 125 dedicated IPs on 1 shared account).

Conclusion

So should I really get a dedicated IP address then? You dont need to, but you should. We know it's confusing! A shared IP address does not cause your website to go up or down on Google. So in theory, your site should rank exactly the same on a shared or dedicated IP address. However, if someone else on the same server is really misbehaving and gets blacklisted, sharing the same IP address could potentially get you in trouble as well, which is why a dedicated IP is recommended.

About the author


  • Rob Watson
  • Rob Watson is a seasoned hosting professional who has been building and hosting websites since 1995. He met and married a woman who had once dated a founding programmer at Netscape who had helped to build Mosaic, the first Web browser. Through that connection, Rob met the person who wrote the first Apache web server software and was able to rub digital elbows with him in getting help with configuring the revolutionary and, now, ubiquitous open source web server software for his own projects.
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