The original version of this article was published on the iWeb blog. Read it here.
When considering where to locate your server, the best location will depend on the quality of the hosting providers available, their connection to the global communications network and the proximity to your target markets. Here’s an overview of server location factors to consider when deciding where to host your website.
When a user requests information from your server, the information has to travel from your server to your hosting provider’s network, then between several other networks, via some exchanges and switches. Make sure you choose a country with a reliable local network (local to the hosting provider) and a fast, close connection to internet exchanges that serve your target market(s).
Hosting providers’ infrastructure
Server hosting requires highly-developed technology and expertise, as well as long-term investment in power, cooling and network infrastructure. Check the hosting provider’s website closely for details of their infrastructure, data centers, the efficiency and performance of their technology, and the level of expertise in the organization.
Look out for redundancy in the network – that is to say, if one element fails can the rest of the network continue unaffected – as well as the number and reputation of upstream suppliers that connect them to the wider web.
One of the most expensive factors in running a data center is power. The price of electricity varies by location, and the cost of service in a particular area will reflect the cost of power.
New York has the highest electricity rates in North America, but some of the most important data centers are still located there. As a major communications hub, many companies choose to situate their hosting or data centers in this area.
Your server or hosting package can be affected by exchange rate fluctuations. Consider the currency in which you are billed and how volatile that currency is in relation to your own.
Proximity to market
The distance that data has to travel between your server and the user and the number of ‘hops’ between networks will affect the speed of your website. But if your hosting provider has a well-connected, reliable network that uses high-quality switches and hardware, the difference in speed will be a matter of tens of milliseconds. A global Content Delivery Network (CDN) can eliminate latency issues around server location and geographically dispersed end users. For people with international websites, this is not enough reason to host sites in different geographic locations. Moving to a better hosting company that is further away could actually save you time if their network and hardware is much better. View Internet performance in specific locations around the globe.
Server location & SEO
Server location is one of the many factors Google considers when attempting to ascertain if your website is relevant for a particular country or language market.
Many SEO professionals believe that server location has become relatively unimportant in SEO geo-targeting, and Google states that they do not count this as a definitive signal. It is not always practical to host an international website in several locations and it would be wrong for Google to penalize this.
iWeb believes that the benefits of using a single domain with language or country sub-folders (yourbrand.com/de/ rather than yourbrand.de) more than compensate for having a single server location rather than one in each market. Other simple geo-targeting techniques can improve your targeting further. These include:
- ccTLDs (country code top-level domains) – buy your brand’s domain with the country extensions that you are targeting. For example buy yourbrand.de and use a 301 redirect to send traffic and search engines to yourbrand.com/de/
- Local link-building – By being present in a country market, and building client, business and influencer relationships, you will naturally earn local links, a very strong indication that your website is relevant to a particular country market
- Use the geotargeting tool in Google and Bing Webmaster Tools to tell the search engines for which countries your content is intended (this only works if you have separate domains or subdomains for country-specific content).
- If you have physical business locations in different country markets, create local business listings (linking to the relevant ccTLD or a localized page on your website), generate address citations (in business directories for example) and leverage address and telephone numbers on your website by using microformat markup to explicitly tell search engines that this information relates to an address or location.
- Use hreflang tags to state the intended language or country market for a page and its alternatives. This may have additional ‘clustering’ benefits, where search engines apply all rank signals (like inbound links) for pages within the cluster.