It is no secret that search engines (Google in particular) are obsessed with speed. In fact, Google decided early on to display the actual time it took to process your search query and return the valid results. The speed with which search results are returned by Google are still displayed to this day. You can see them at the top of the search results pages in the text that reads something like this: ”Results 1 – 10 of about 122,000,000 for [search term]. (0.52 seconds)”. Google and other search engines achieve their speedy results by constantly engineering and re-engineering their search code and just as importantly, they are continuously adding data center hardware to keep up with the ever growing mountain of information that we all now constantly access via the Internet.
So it comes as no real surprise to learn that Google recently revealed that the speed of your website is now a factor in how highly it ranks in search results. Here is exactly how Google puts it in their Official Blog post on the subject:
”Today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.”
So what that means is essentially that the faster your website pages load up for each site visitor, the more positive the signal that Google gives your website to influence your search engine rankings. That begs the obvious question – what can a webmaster do to improve site speed and gain an SEO edge on the competition? Besides the rather simple steps of reduce the weight of each page and constructing and using databases correctly (that means efficiently) – Here are a few ideas to think about related specifically to your website hosting provider.
Ensure that your web hosting provider is delivering the goods. It all starts here, with your web hosting provider. There are a few other general suggestions below, but without having a great web hosting provider as the base of the pyramid, those other tactics will be for naught. Here are the key items to focus on to ensure that your hosting is up to the task – as provided by website hosting firm 34SP.com in Manchester, United Kingdom.
1. Host your website on servers in the geographic location you wish to rank in. Besides the already established fact that local websites rank higher for local searches in any given geography, your site will simply be faster to come up (everything else being equal) if your servers are closer to your site visitors. So if you want to rank well in the United States – house your website on savers based in the U.S. If you want to rank well in the United Kingdom, use servers based in the U.K. This can be quantified by using a great online tool at Alertra.com. Alertra describes their service as follows: ”Our website monitor service goes beyond simple web monitoring and server pings by checking shared and dedicated server availability, performance and security externally from our worldwide network of monitoring stations located in carrier-class data centers.” If you visit the Alertra site you can enter your own web page into the ”Spot Check” box at the top of the page. The amount of time for the page to load is then displayed from a variety of countries where Alertra maintains web servers. The further away your data has to travel, the more slowly the page loads. Get as close to your audience as possible for maximum speed.
2. Strive for the lowest ‘Contention Rate’ you can afford. Web hosting companies will often place as many websites as possible on their shared web servers. That means that all of the resources for that server – RAM, disk space, and processing power – are all split between the sites residing together on that server. Contention Rate refers to this metric: if there are many websites on the server all vying for the same resources then the Contention Rate will be high. Conversely, if your website resides on a server with very few other websites vying for resources then the Contention Rate is low. The lowest Contention Rates of all will be dedicated servers – which are an entire web server devoted just to your website. However, these types of hosting accounts will be offered at a higher price point than shared server plans. The best approach is to query your webhost and ask which hosting plans offer the lowest Contention Rates. Select one that is in your price point for maximum speed.
3. Host your website on a great network. One of the primary functions of a web hosting company is to provide a connection for your website to be accessed by the greater Internet. The faster and more robust that network connection is, the faster your website will load. Most reputable hosting providers are using multiple network providers in a ‘multi-homed’ configuration which provides complete redundancy for the connection. You should look for a hosting company that has diverse fiber connections brought into their data center via multiple long haul Gigabit Ethernet providers for the fastest and most reliable network connection. One other item to pay attention to in the network: a good network that is well connected is important, but it needs to be a well maintained and monitored network that doesn’t get overwhelmed by malicious traffic. Even the best networks will get surges caused by malicious traffic, so it is important to know that your hosting provider has safeguards in place to identify and thwart such activity quickly.
4. Check to see that the DNS software is up-to-date. Domain Name System (DNS) protocols determine the time required for your website to get ”looked up” by the Domain Name System. DNS protocols are part of the core Internet standards and specify the process by which one computer can find another computer on the basis of its name.
BIND is now by far the most widely used DNS software on the Internet, and the most current version is BIND 9.7. It is worth checking to see that your web hosting provider is up-to-date on DNS software as this can increase the speed of page loads by up to about another half a second. This could be the critical edge in competitive search ranking terms.
By using the suggestions above you can ensure that your website is the most competitive in speed, and is viewed by search engines as a leader in this critical new signal for search rankings. Good luck in getting the website and search results you want!
Derek Vaughan is a web hosting industry veteran and expert. Mr. Vaughan has architected the marketing growth of several prominent web hosting success stories leading to acquisition including Affinity Internet, Inc., Aplus.Net and HostMySite.com. Prior to his entry into the web hosting industry, Mr. Vaughan was responsible for online marketing at The Walt Disney Company where he marketed ecommerce for the ESPN.com and NASCAR.com brands. Mr. Vaughan received his M.B.A. from Vanderbilt University and currently serves on the HostingCon Advisory Board.