It’s really easy to get tunnel vision when we’re doing technical SEO. We spend so much time within the WordPress dashboard configuring every little detail that we often forget to zoom out and consider where the WordPress site is hosted. You see, a host can be all the difference between a great-performing website and a mediocre-performing one.
You see, when it comes to SEO performance speed is what really matters. According to Google, over 50% of visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. And if we’ve done everything we can on our optimization efforts, it comes down to our web host. How quickly can they deliver the content from the server to the user? So much goes into the speed of that process.
There’s the actual server hardware. It could be shared hardware, meaning there are lots of other websites on that same piece of hardware, therefore everybody is slowing it down together. You may have dedicated hardware, which gives you complete free reign of all of the needs of that server. Additionally, there’s the way the server’s configured. For example, PHP is the language that WordPress runs on. And PHP 7.3 is far faster than older versions of PHP. So it’s important that your server is operating the latest version of PHP.
Now, the database that contains all the information that WordPress is using is on MySQL. And a later version of MySQL will also increase performance so it’s important that your web host is running MySQL 5.6 or greater. And you want to make sure that you have HTTPS support. That’s to say that you’re running a secure environment.
Now, there are all kinds of considerations that become trade-offs, whether you need customer support, how much things cost, what the uptime guarantees are on the server. And that’s all going to be very specific to your use case. And so if you’re chasing after the best SEO you want to be chasing after the best hosting environment.
Important of The IP Address of Your Server
Now, another important piece to consider with your SEO is the IP address of your server. If you’re sharing that IP address, it’s similar to a neighborhood. And Google’s going to evaluate whether your site is safe and secure depending on the neighborhood it’s in. So if on the same server are a lot of spammy websites then your site is, unfortunately, going to be brought down by that. However, if you have your own dedicated environment then you’re not in a neighborhood with anyone else and therefore you’re independently graded based on just you. A great way to look at your neighborhood, quote end quote, is using viewdns.info/reverseip.
Let’s do a search for
saltandsimple.com. So here we can see that there’s only one domain hosted on this server.
And that’s because for this IP address Salt and Simple is the only website. And that’s because this site was built with a dedicated IP address.
Let’s try a different domain. Let’s try
example.com. You’ll see here that
example.com shares an environment with these 5 domains.
This means that if these domains are all poor performers and spammy websites then my domain is being brought down by that. You can evaluate your neighborhood to determine whether or not you need to move your IP address. If the neighborhood is great, then you’re probably doing just fine.
One of the most popular web hosts for WordPress is WPEngine. WP engine bills itself as being focused on WordPress only. And they set up their web servers to be fast, reliable, and secure specifically for a WordPress environment. They also have incredible customer service and the pricing isn’t terrible for what you’re getting. As you can see here, it starts at $25 a month and goes up depending on the size of your website.
Now, this is great if you need a lot of hand-holding but if you want a bare-bones, quick, dedicated, and inexpensive web host, I recommend Amazon Lightsail. If you’re running a small WordPress site, Lightsail makes it easy to quickly install WordPress and connect to a load balancer, a content delivery network and set up HTTPS. You get all of the performance that is AWS with Amazon and you can deploy a dedicated IP with one click which gives you your own quote-unquote neighborhood to have your site hosted on. Furthermore, Amazon Lightsail is reliable, it’s fast, and it’s going to serve the most common WordPress needs. That said, Amazon doesn’t have full-featured support. So you’re going to have to navigate a variety of help docs for self-service.
That said, there’s an incredibly robust community and it’s worth giving it a shot. Take time to really think about what you’re getting out of your web host and whether switching or upgrading can further increase the performance of your technical setup.