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Switching web hosting providers and changing the physical location of the servers powering your site can affect it in a number of ways. One of these is SEO and you site’s position in search engine results. Although many believe that location changes only have a minimal effect on a site’s SEO rankings, here are several points that show how the effects on your search result placement, and thus on the number of visitors to your website, can be significant.

Server Location

Google, ever since its creation, has strived to create search results based on relevance – one of the factors used being the location of where the search originated. In essence, the results produced by a search in a certain country would prioritise websites located in that country.

Google initially relied on TLD’s (Top Level Domain) to accomplish this. However, they now also use the IP addresses of the website to determine its location. Doing so has improved the quality of search results dramatically (in terms of location). When changing web hosts it’s best to consider the location of the companies servers. If your site is focused on a specific country, such as the UK, your host, its servers and infrastructure should also be located there as well. If not, your rankings could be affected significantly. If you’re changing to a new host that’s in the same country, then this shouldn’t affect your site, but you’ll also need to consider other factors as well.

Server Quality

When changing to a new host, you’ll need to consider the quality of their servers. This relates not only the physical qualities, but to how they manage their servers as well. If the host has a tendency to crowd their servers with many sites and you’re on a shared server plan, your site’s performance will definitely be affected.

Page load times

Google does consider the page loading speed when it comes to rankings. If your pages take more than 2 seconds to load, Google will drop your rankings.

We host around 50 sites per server, mixing high and low traffic sites to ensure that page load times are never an issue!

When changing web hosts, you’ll need to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the new host carefully. Popular hosts don’t always mean that they’ll provide quality services, although it may look that way. In fact, being too popular can have its disadvantages as they’ll likely be hosting thousands of sites per server.

Downtime

Changing site locations can result in downtime if not done properly. This usually happens when a site is waiting for the DNS to propagate, which could take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. If your site is down during this period, then you can expect that your ranking have already been affected. The best way to prevent this is to have your site still running on the old host while you’re building an exact duplicate on the new host. Once the DNS has been fully propagated, your site will continue to run as if nothing happened.

Changing Website Structure

One of the reasons why you’ll need to create an exact duplicate of your site when moving to a new host is that, Google and other search engines have problems when it comes to changes in website structure. For instance, if you changed your Content Management System and reconfigured your site’s structure, Google may see this as a new site and this will affect your SEO in a negative manner.

When moving customer websites onto our hosting servers we always check to make sure that page addresses remain the same, or, where the site has been redesigned, we map the old addresses to their new locations (e.g. you can still get to our contact page at obrienmedia.co.uk/contact_us.html even though we’ve not used that page address for over 5 years!)

To sum up

If you intend to move your site to a new host, then it’s best that you consider the consequences. The move may affect your site’s SEO positively, but then again, it may not, depending on which host you choose. 

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