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Web hosting & search engine rank

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Monday July 10, 2006 )

I’ve been asked a couple of times recently by site owners located outside the USA whether it really makes a difference if you host your site with a local hosting company vs. utilizing a server/service based in the USA.

In my opinion, from an operational and customer service point of view, none at all – some of the best web hosts in the world are USA based and are often cheaper than their local counterparts; *but* when it comes to search engine rankings, there may be geographical related issues that you need to consider carefully.

Some search engines are geared towards showing sites on servers physically located in that country if a person is using the country specific search option.

For instance, if you go to

type in:

web marketing resources

…and select the “the web” radio button. Take note of the results.

Return back to the Google home page and try the same search, but select the radio button “pages from Australia “.

You’ll see the results are very different. This is because Google looks at not only the domain name (and perhaps this is only a minor factor), but also where the server is physically located in order to help determine relevancy.

I do believe that the domain name isn’t a major factor in ranking these days – for example, when I ran that particular search, there were 2 non domain names in the top 5, but a traceroute showed them both to be hosted in an Australian data center. I’ve noticed a similar pattern on various other unrelated search terms.

On-page factors, such as text mentioning the word “Australia” seem to only have any real weight when performing global searches , or at the very least, server geographical location would appear to trump relevant text for top rankings in country specific search.

By Google stating “Pages from Australia” next to that option, it really means it :)

If your target market is more likely to use the county specific search option, there will definitely be some advantages of being hosted on a server within that country, but a word of warning – many local providers outsource their network infrastructure to datacenters in the USA or elsewhere – it’s something to check on before you sign on the dotted line.

By combining the three, i.e. country-specific domain name, server location and text, then throwing in a few nice inbound links from other locally hosted related sites, plus observing basic good optimization techniques – you’ll probably have all the makings of top ranking site for searches performed with the country specific option enabled.


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Pick up some ethical search engine optimization tips


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