SEO Hosting

How bad hosting can lead to losing SEO rankings

Downtime of your website can lead to vastly decreased performance in organic search. I’ve been saying this for years, and have had some small examples to show for it. Now though, I’ve got a great example that I wanted to share with you. The client in this case was Independer.nl and they lost a very important ranking (for the word autoverzekering, Dutch for car insurance) for half a day due to unscheduled downtime. It’s a perfect example of why good hosting and monitoring are so important.

What happened was that at around midnight, the servers would start to run a backup. A very smart process to have in place, of course, but for the course of that backup, about 10-15 minutes, a small percentage of visitors would be redirected to a “temporarily not available” page. This page gave a 404 error, causing Google to remove the page from its index, because it thought the page no longer existed. Good thing Google checks pages that have given a 404 error again after a while, so they didn’t loose their rankings forever but just for the course of about half a day.

Several things are wrong here: first of all the page should have given a 503 status code, which means “temporarily unavailable”. If it had, Google would just have come back to it rather quickly and not have removed the page from its index. Second; the page shouldn’t have been redirecting or giving an error at all; your backup process should run without that much influence on your website. That’s the only proper way of not having your hosting affect your SEO.

SEO Hosting & monitoring

Now of course, the minute you see your page has entirely disappeared from the ranking for a word that is getting you tens of new clients a day, you shit your pants. There was something that gave away that it wasn’t a long term issue though: the listing had not just dropped a few places, it had in fact entirely disappeared. Normally, pages don’t do that, the only two ways of disappearing entirely would be either a removal by hand because of spam or a page that had been down.

yoast.com uptime as measured by pingdom

yoast.com uptime as measured by pingdom

Luckily, we were using Pingdom to track the uptime of the site, and we knew quite rapidly that they were having issues keeping their site up at night. So if you’ve ever wonder why SEO & hosting are two topics I care for so much, it’s because this example shows they’re one and the same.

This is why I love VPS.net so much, I’ve had 2 minutes of down time in August, and those 2 minutes were probably my own fault as I was tinkering too much with my live site again…

By the way, VPS.net offers an add-on service called Server Density, which monitors several aspects of your site including its uptime. You can enable this on the upgrade page, and should then after a short install process, if you have an iPhone, install their iPhone app. Then, if you notice that you need more CPU or RAM, you can now just simply add this on VPS.net without even rebooting your system!

Working on SEO? Hosting is important!

So I guess by now you’ll agree with me, that if you work hard for a client on their SEO, hosting is a very important factor that should not be underestimated. Take care of status codes for error pages, and make sure you monitor their uptime.

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48 Responses

  1. VincentBy Vincent on 15 September, 2010

    Good case and even better info! Thx!

  2. @jonnyvaughanBy @jonnyvaughan on 15 September, 2010

    I too use vps.net for hosting due to its scalability and add-on services. Pingdom is great – I prefer it to Server Density as the reports are easier to read, integrates into twitter for DMs on downtime, and it has an iPhone app too with push notifications.

    Jonny

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 15 September, 2010

      I use both :) And yeah I’m too much of a geek.

  3. Martijn BeijkBy Martijn Beijk on 15 September, 2010

    Should note that a 503 lasts for only a period time, for longer occurences you might even want to consider using 302.
    Also a webserver thats very lightweight to memory instead of hogging webservers like Apache or IIS will do magic and will ensure that a backup process should not interfere with your hosting.

    Nice background info of why we’ve seen those rankings dissappear ;-)

  4. XtenceBy Xtence on 15 September, 2010

    Indeed something to keep in mlnd, monitoring is so important you need to know your site has downtime, same with IP-adresses, i once had a site for a client on a server (shared) and there was a spammer (black-hat seo) reported with the same IP as the one from that site, all sites with that IP were blocked by Google. That’s why good hosting is hosting where you can have youre own IP’s, has monitoring and is reliable and off course fast enough.

    Great post Yoast

  5. Abhijit V. ChaoreBy Abhijit V. Chaore on 15 September, 2010

    Indeed. Bad hosting can surely influence a sites performance. I have experienced this with one of my site. Pingdom is a wonderful tool to be used for that.

  6. Gunnar AndreassenBy Gunnar Andreassen on 15 September, 2010

    Very good point Yoast! Downtime is important, but also consider server response time, htaccsess redirecting, email form redirecting/duplicate and so on. Very few focus on this.

  7. Andy - Tenerife propertyBy Andy - Tenerife property on 15 September, 2010

    I keep meaning to change my host – using Bluehost at the mo and they really aren’t good when there is a problem, servers are overloaded and I have downtime, server outages, slowdowns on my sites. Definitely need to switch.
    I dont know too much about hosting but read somewhere about “reseller hosting” which appealed to me as it said all your domains would be on different IP addresses. I have looked at your recommendations but do you have a company who does reseller hosting that you would recommend? Post an aff link if you have one as I really need to move my 3 or 4 of my sites elsewhere as they make up 95% of my income!

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 15 September, 2010

      VPS.net allows for that, you can basically decide all you want to do there, have cPanel, buy extra IP’s etc. :)

    • Dave DoolinBy Dave Doolin on 15 September, 2010

      I have two hosting accounts at Bluehost. One goes up and down like a yoyo, the other is stable as a rock. Really, really annoying. I need to switch my highest traffic site to something else. It was going to be Media Temple, but I keep getting emails from them assuring me that their recent security issues have been solved. WTF!?

      Anyway, host change is imminent.

      • Andy - Tenerife propertyBy Andy - Tenerife property on 15 September, 2010

        They do the same with me. Never resolve issues. I had my account switching to go slow for about 4 hours everyday – always the same 4 hours, driving me insane as support constantly denied there was a problem. Will definitely move all money making sites away from them.

      • (mt) Travis O.By (mt) Travis O. on 15 September, 2010

        Hi Dave-

        Have you been affected by any of the recent security issues? Also, is your highest traffic site built on a CMS like WordPress or Drupal? Most of the customers affected by these security issues are running these kinds of sites as hackers are targeting them due to their popularity across the internet.

        Even if this is the case, you would be safe to migrate your site to (mt) Media Temple. We can even run a scan of your site for you to determine if there are any insecurities to fix. Let me know if you have any questions and I would be glad to answer them for you.

        • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 15 September, 2010

          Sorry to say Travis, but my experience is different. When I was on sponsored (mt) hosting, the grid didn’t work well at all, to the point where I was down several hours each month. If it hadn’t been like that, I wouldn’t have moved on to VPS.net.

        • Kevin TanBy Kevin Tan on 15 September, 2010

          I was with Media Temple’s Grid-Service a while ago. My site was down twice in a month and the second downtime was about 10 hours, as Pingdom reported.

          Furthermore, the GPU usage went overage. Media Temple emailed me saying that I’ll be charged another $10 due to over usage. Seriously, I don’t think the GPU usage limit is good for a WordPress site.

          I couldn’t believe I needed to pay $50/month ($20 for Grid-Service, $20 for MySQL Container Addon and $10 for GPU over usage) for a shared hosting plan.

          My refund request email got ignored twice, I still haven’t received a respond so far…

        • Jimmy RittenborgBy Jimmy Rittenborg on 16 September, 2010

          Their grid might suck, but the (dv) i’ve been on for about 3 years now -rocks (IT has been down once for about an hour ..but then i got pingdom.com to monitoring it).. The grid might be very affordable but if you dont have money enough to have a (dv) for your clients or a site like this, you should find yourself another job :)

          • Kevin TanBy Kevin Tan on 16 September, 2010

            Maybe I should give (dv) a try, or switch to VPS.net instead as I’ve heard nice words/reviews by Joost and many other bloggers.

        • BobBy Bob on 18 September, 2010

          I have had similar set ups on MT and VPS. I wont go back to MT. The worst by far though has been SliceHost. Im moving everything off of Slicehost to VPS. Im getting more, paying less, and CS has been excellent.

          I posted this because I just got pinged because one of my slices is down, again. 3x in 24 hours.

          Nick, is the Joost deal still good – free set up with 6 nodes?

  8. Andy - Tenerife propertyBy Andy - Tenerife property on 15 September, 2010

    Forgot to tick the notification box…

  9. Andy - Tenerife propertyBy Andy - Tenerife property on 15 September, 2010

    I´ll take another look then – I liked the look of the host where you could add additional cores – I think that was one you recommended as well.
    Must learn more about hosting! Will keep all my crappy sites for dev on a cheap bluehost accounts but move the serious earnings to something a lot more professional as I am starting to realise that downtime can not only be bad for SEO but lose me a shit load of money!

  10. TimBy Tim on 15 September, 2010

    Now, that’s funny. I clicked on your ‘VPS.net’ link above and it took about ten minutes to load the page. Not exactly a good omen.

    Thanks for the excellent tips and information.

    • Nick NelsonBy Nick Nelson on 15 September, 2010

      I must admit, our site is built in RoR and integrated with the whole platform..quite unnecessary, and we’re having our site redesigned and restructured now. However it definitely shouldn’t take 10 minutes…if it continues to happen, can you send me a firebug screenshot maybe? We’d like to get it fixed.

      • Martijn BeijkBy Martijn Beijk on 16 September, 2010

        Hey Nick, any idea when VPS.net will be IPv6 ready? Time is kind of running out (bit over 200 days left before all IPv4 addresses are handed out) and I am looking for suitable hosting that has native IPv6 support including their (web/proxy) configurations.

      • TimBy Tim on 17 September, 2010

        I just ran a speed test on my broadband connection and the slow load problem may not be entirely with your site.

  11. AdrianBy Adrian on 15 September, 2010

    Have looked a bit at VPS.net since you mentioned it here and all looks good. Only thing, I’m based in Ireland and have my site on an Irish hosted server. What’s your thoughts on hosting sites on servers based outside of the country which they are targeting ?

    • Jimmy RittenborgBy Jimmy Rittenborg on 16 September, 2010

      From my experience you’d only become an expert of optimizing (frontend performance optimization) your sites to compensate for a bit longer ping time – now, im hosted at mediatemple and my client base is in Denmark – grab your firebug with the yslow or google page speed extension and messure the load speed of citykroen.dk – It loads faster than a lot of sites hosted on crapy and very expensive servers around here. As far as ranking (but im not a SEO expert) they also do pretty well on google – my client discotekin.dk ranks #2 when searching for “diskotek” (danish for nightclub) on google in denmark, and ranks of cause #1 when searching for “diskotek copenhagen” (copenhagen is out capital) :)

  12. AndrewBy Andrew on 15 September, 2010

    Thanks for this helpful article. I found out that there is a free wordpress plugin for pingdom: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/pingdom-status/ I’m planning to install that to monitor my site.

  13. Fran CivileBy Fran Civile on 15 September, 2010

    Interesting up to a point for me Yoast … I wish one of my sites was successful enough to warrant
    concern over a 10-15 min. daily interruption! I don’t belong in that category yet but I’m working
    on it and I’ll remember what I learned about hosting from you …

    Fran

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 15 September, 2010

      Everyone who worries about rankings should worry about downtime… It’s just that simple.

  14. Peter OluokunBy Peter Oluokun on 16 September, 2010

    Thanks a lot for this insightful post and thanks also to all the useful comments and recommended
    links, they all made happy. Right now i need to access the state of my websites based on what i have just learnt here.

  15. AndrewBy Andrew on 16 September, 2010

    I’ve used MT without significant downtime. I’ve also used Linode and Slicehost in the past. My only problem with something like that is that I had to manage everything myself. I imagine VPS.net is something along those lines as well.

  16. Fernando MartinezBy Fernando Martinez on 16 September, 2010

    I was wondering about this. Nonetheless, good article.

    I will try somethings, and if its will let you know.

  17. UI ArtBy UI Art on 16 September, 2010

    I’m using SoftLayer dedicated server, 100% satisfied:)

    BTW, I also see you are using SoftLayer DNS.

  18. Sci-Fi-SiBy Sci-Fi-Si on 16 September, 2010

    I do all my hosting myself. I can configure my system for optimum performance, combine it with a CDN and find i’m getting good results – It’s certainly a lot cheeper than having a dedicated server with an ISP and I can install and run any software I like on it.

    I highly recommend self hosting and think more IT people should give it a go.

  19. RaghuBy Raghu on 17 September, 2010

    I’m planning to move from Dreamhost VPS. I looked at VPS.net and looks like I have to spend
    more time to manage the servers.

    If you can provide some insight into setting up MySQL, WordPress in VPS.net, it would give better understanding about amount of work involved.

    Coming from Dreamhost, where One Click install takes care of setting up MySql and installing wordpress. How to get that done without managed service?

    Also, what is the difference between VPS Nodes and Daily Nodes?

    • Nick NelsonBy Nick Nelson on 17 September, 2010

      Hi Raghu,

      I would recommend you add cPanel to your VPS (just like Yoast does) – in this case, you’ll have the same control panel and same easy of setup/maintenance as Dreamhost!

      VPS nodes are monthly nodes, while daily nodes are charged on a daily basis. So $1 day vs. $13-20/mo (depending on how many you have)

      It’s important to note though that our Monthly nodes are pro-rata minutely, so if you cancel one through the month you receive credits back equal to the amount of time left in that month.

      • RaghuBy Raghu on 17 September, 2010

        Hello Nick – Is cPanel included in Monthly node pricing? I use Google Apps to manage email which is free with Dreamhost. How do I continue to use them after moving to VPS.net?

        I believe changing MX records will do, but not sure if I have to pay to Google.

        • Nick NelsonBy Nick Nelson on 20 September, 2010

          cPanel is not included in the node pricing, cPanel is a monthly fee of $10 (That’s their fee..)

          We could definitely set up google apps for you afterwards, just takes changing a MX record and a few cPanel settings.

  20. Andy - Tenerife propertyBy Andy - Tenerife property on 17 September, 2010

    I had a look around the VPS setup – the core part looks easy – I need one! But the rest of it is a bit over my head. Will Customer Services set this up? I´d like to run it the same as my bluehost set up with C Panel and have 3 or 4 of my sites transferred over (is migration included in price?) plus also have them all on a separate IP´s so any links between them carry more weight (I presume it is beneficial to have different IP´s when interlinking?)

    • Nick NelsonBy Nick Nelson on 20 September, 2010

      As part of the “Yoast recommended setup” we will set up your server for you 100% with cPanel and migration. Separate IPs are available, no problem. In the end, you will be managing a server with cPanel, just like on Bluehost :)

  21. Jimmy RittenborgBy Jimmy Rittenborg on 17 September, 2010

    I think its sad that no one mentions http://wiredtree.com although im hosted with media temple i’ve had an eye on those guys, especially their hybrid’s plans which they’ve just upgraded with to include more ram and discspace :)

  22. Darren CronianBy Darren Cronian on 18 September, 2010

    Having just moved over to a VPS I have had a few periods of downtime. The host tells me that it is my site not their hosting that is a problem, yet, they cannot tell me, what the problem is. I have removed two plugins that I felt could be causing the problem, and monitoring the situation.

    What is bizarre is that I have been on shared hosting and had exceptional service, but they informed me of high CPU usage, so advised me to go on VPS. A few people have recommended VPS.net to me today, so will be keeping a check of performance.

    Thanks for mentioning Pingdom, because I hadn’t heard of it until now. Going to sign up.

  23. Gap Year BrayBy Gap Year Bray on 20 September, 2010

    Good post you beautiful man. our website is consistently going down due to a script error, no i can check how bade this is. keep up the good work

  24. ChlameBy Chlame on 22 September, 2010

    Nice advertorial :0)

  25. ZaneBy Zane on 24 September, 2010

    I think I might give this VPS.net a go. I am based in Australia and have a few Aussie sites so I am just concerned about hosting offshore and it affecting my rankings. I rank extremely high in this country so I just don’t want to jeopardise that in any way as the Aussie site is my cash cow. On the other end of the scale here in Australia our hosting is disgustingly expensive and really poor.

    I applied Pingdom tracking to my sites and this month so far have had close to 10 hours of downtime running on an IIS server. I have stuck with the IIS cos my partner doesn’t know Linux as intimately, but I have just had enough of this downtime and think it’s time to ensure I won’t be penalised by Google for a slow site.

    Thanks for all this useful info Joost, it’s really very helpful. Are you going to be at A4U Expo in London this year? If so I’ll attempt to say hi!

  26. MikeBy Mike on 26 September, 2010

    I visit this website everyday to find out the best way to do SEO for my web http://iexplorevietnam.com
    I wondering if any of you could visit my site and let me know what more I should do to improve it.
    Thanks
    Mike

  27. tienhoangBy tienhoang on 29 September, 2010

    thanks for your info.
    Now I study SEO, i Hope we’re share info all.