Yes. Which company you choose to host your website with does have an affect on where your website ranks in search engines. Choosing the right web hosting company doesn’t guarantee a rankings boost, but it does mean you avoid the consequences, and they can be significant ones, of choosing the wrong host. Therefore, you need to choose carefully and not base your decision on price alone.
2 of the 3 web hosting factors – uptime/downtime and speed – that affect SEO can fluctuate significantly from month to month, and so you need to regularly review them. As soon as you notice a problem you should contact your web hosting company immediately. Don’t just assume they know about the problem. Even if they do know about the problem, they might not really care. Therefore, it’s wise to not lock yourself into a long-term web hosting contract.
Paying month by month instead of for 1 year, or even 3 years, upfront means that as soon as a hosting company drops its standards you can move your site to another one. If you have signed up to a long-term hosting contract and are having problems, you should write-off the money paid and move to another host anyway, as losing a couple of hundred in hosting costs is better than doing long-term SEO damage to your website.
Now, a look in detail at the 3 web hosting factors that can affect where your website gets ranked:
Downtime means the amount of time that your website is inaccessible due to problems with the server it’s hosted on. Search engine spiders will probably try to visit your site several times a day. If they visit your site during periods of downtime then they record that it’s inaccessible and move on to the next site. If this happens repeatedly then your site gets flagged as unreliable and your rankings may be downgraded. Search engines don’t want to display unreliable sites highly in their results because it reflects badly on them if searchers click on a result they provide and then can’t access the site. Even 99% uptime means that over the course of a month your website will be inaccessible for around 7 hours in total. Ideally, you want your website to accessible 100% of the time, however, some amount of downtime is inevitable, even on expensive web hosting plans. However, it’s not unreasonable to expect a web host to provide – and to guarantee – 99.9% uptime, so don’t accept anything less.
Search engines are normally very secretive about the factors that are part of their algorithms, however, in 2010 Google explicitly said that the speed at which a page loads is one of those factors. It’s only one of over 200 factors, and so it almost certainly has a less than 0.5% affect on your rankings, but it’s still worth paying attention to. You can check the loading speeds for pages on your site here:
A slower than average loading speed isn’t necessarily the fault of your web host though. The configuration and coding of your site could instead be causing the slow down, but if you’re sure that the technical set-up of your site is optimised as well as it can be, and you’re still getting poor page loading times, then you should ask your web hosting company to move your site to another server. It’s not uncommon for a website to be sharing server resources with hundreds of other sites, and the more sites there are on a server, and the more resources those sites use up, the slower your website will load. By moving your site to a less busy server, or even a private/dedicated server, page load speeds will be instantly improved.
In addition to a variety of other factors (content, backlinks, etc.), to display the most relevant search results, search engines also assess the location of a website when deciding where to place it in their rankings. For example, if the person searching is based in the UK, then search engines will normally display sites based in the UK higher up in their search results. To determine where your website is based, they use a number of indicators, one of which is the IP address of your site. That IP address is assigned to your site based on the location of the server that it’s hosted on. So, hosting your website with a company with servers in the UK should result in higher rankings for your site when people in the UK search for your chosen keywords. The flip side to that is that your site will rank lower in the search results when people search for those same keywords in other countries. You can still rank your website well in one country if it’s hosted on servers in another country, however, it makes it that little bit harder to do, and there’s no point making extra work for yourself if it can be easily avoided.