Aside from a love for all things local, there are some compelling reasons why you may want a local web host for your site. But will picking a local host really give your site an edge in SEO? The answer is complicated, and depends on your goals. Here is what you need to consider.
List of Top Grossing Web Hosts by State*
|Colorado||Jaguar PC||Colorado Springs|
|Louisiana||Green Fox||Bossier City|
|Minnesota||Web Solutions MN||Edina|
|Nevada||Server Point||Las Vegas|
|New Hamphsire||SmartNet Technologies||Exeter|
|New Mexico||Fat Cow||Albuquerque|
|New York||HostPapa||Niagra Falls|
|North Dakota||BTI Net||Bismarck|
|South Carolina||Carolina Hosting||Aiken|
|South Dakota||Portal Web Hosting||Aberdeen|
|Tennessee||Leaver & Co||Gallatin|
|Virginia||Web Hosting Hub||Virginia Beach|
|Washington||Amazon Web Services||Seattle|
|West Virgina||AMG Network Hosting||Morgantown|
*Revenue based on latest available data. As several companies are privately owned, in some cases revenues are based on estimates. Home state determined according to address of corporate headquarters.
Choosing a web host for your business or personal site is no simple decision. There are thousands of hosts to choose from, each offering different levels of services, making the available options virtually infinite. Which host you choose should of course be determined based on your priorities and needs. But how large of a role should the location of a hosting company’s servers play in this decision?
There are plenty of myths circulating about just how helpful it is to host your website on a local server. The answer is complicated, and depends largely on your website and business. For local businesses that primarily serve local customers, there may be some considerable advantages to be had by choosing a hosting company with servers in your area. But if your site is less dependent on local visitors for traffic, hosting with a local company still has its perks, though they are less tangible.
If you are unsure how much influence to let server locale have over your choice of webhost, here is what you need to consider:
Does hosting a site locally help it rank higher in local search results?
The answer to this frequently asked question is a resounding “sorta.”
When a site is hosted locally, it carries a local IP address. IP addresses are one of the indicators that search engines like Google use to determine a site’s relevancy to any given search query. Google the word “bakery” while in Los Angeles and the top businesses listed will be completely different than if you were to search the same term in London.
But there are other more powerful ways to let Google know where your business is located. Like making sure your address and contact information are up to date and consistent across your site. Claiming your business listings on directories and review sites is another big one. Google Webmaster Tools also gives you an option of selecting which countries your site’s content is relevant to. And if your backlink profile is robust enough, you can still outrank locally-hosted businesses while using a foreign host.
Furthermore, not every business runs out of a brick and mortar storefront, so the benefit of localization isn’t so important. Perhaps the warehouse of an ecommerce company is located in Michigan; that doesn’t necessarily mean the bulk of its customers hail from there as well. And just because a blog is written and hosted in Florida doesn’t mean it can’t have a loyal readership in Japan. Google recognizes that we live in a globalized world, so local hosting is by no means the determining factor in whether your site will rank. In fact, in international rankings, Google says that your IP address is basically irrelevant.
That said, if you run a business that primarily services locally, choosing a local host (whether on a national, region, or city level) can give you a slight edge in SEO. Because there are so many variables that determine how a site ranks in a Google search, it is impossible to say just how much advantage is derived solely from local hosting. But all other factors being equal, a site hosted locally more than likely will perform better in search engine rankings than one hosted elsewhere. For businesses for whom location is hugely important, hosting with a local company can be a great benefit.
Does hosting locally make a site load faster for local visitors?
In theory, yes. But just because a web hosting provider has servers in your region does not guarantee speedy page load times.
Your site’s speed is important. Not only does Google use a site’s speed as one factor in determining where it should rank, but site speed has a dramatic influence on visitor behavior as well. Nearly half of visitors will abandon a site that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Hosting your site on a server that is in close proximity to your target audience can speed things up. It is true that the distance data must travel from a server before it reaches a visitor’s browser influences the speed of delivery. Typically, the fewer leaps the information must make, the faster it can arrive.
However the negative effects of hosting your site on distant servers is greatly diminished if the network infrastructure in that region is reliable. It doesn’t matter how physically close a server is if the hardware and network communication in the region are generally poor. High connectivity and quality infrastructure are more important than a server’s proximity to your intended market. Sometimes the best of both worlds can be found in one hosting company.
Other, immeasurable benefits of hosting locally
Though it is harder to quantify than search engine rankings and page load times, your experience as a client is also hugely important when choosing a web host. Patronizing local businesses contributes to a close client-company relationship. The opportunity to use a local web host appeals to many for this reason.
Even beyond web hosting, a majority of customers prefer to purchase local goods and services over corporate ones when given the opportunity. Most report feeling that the quality of customer service they receive in local businesses is friendlier, and are often happier to pay more in return.
In some cases, choosing to host your website with a local company can lead to networking and partnership opportunities, both with other clients from your area and with the webhost themselves. If supporting local businesses is important to you, then it makes sense to explore hosting options from your region.
Furthermore, the reliability of a web hosting provider is closely tied to the quality of its regional network structure and other environmental conditions. The energy supply, political situation, legal regulations, and any environmental risks present in the area where a web host is located are all factors that can affect their services. There is something to be said for operating under the same external forces as your hosting provider. It could be troubling for some to have their site’s performance subject to events and regulations on the other side of the country, or even the other side of the globe.
Picking an excellent hosting provider isn’t the secret to a perfect website or excellent Google rankings. But picking the wrong host can hurt your website and its rankings – slow page load times, lots of downtime, and a poor network infrastructure can have negative consequences for your user experience and search engine performance. Your top priorities in selecting a web host should always revolve around quality service. And just because a web hosting provider is local doesn’t make them great. But if your priorities align, having a quality, local company host your website can be a great asset.
We would love to hear your thoughts! How important is it to you that your web hosting provider is based in your area? Have you ever switched from a more corporate host to a local one? What has your experience with local web hosting companies been?