SEO Q&A: Does It Matter Where My Website’s Server Is Located?

by John Hoff on April 12, 2009

The short answer is, yes, the physical location of the web server your website is hosted on can slightly determine how well your website will show up in search engine results.


Whoa, wait! Don’t go crazy and start changing your web hosting to other companies based on where their servers are located.

Here, let me explain.

Google Wants To Be Relevant & Knows Where You Live

When someone types a search query into Google, Google wants their search results to be more relevant to what you want and need than any of its competitors.

One of the things Google will do (as do other search engines) is look up the IP address of the person who typed a search query in their Google Search.

Your IP address tells Google where your computer’s modem is located; say Las Vegas, NV USA.

What Google also knows and stores in its database are the locations (IP addresses) of web servers. That is, the computer which your website or blog sits on which your web hosting company uses, also connects to the Internet through a modem.

So just like your computer at home has its own IP address, so does the computer (or server) your website’s files are on.

What Google will do then, from my experience, is consider that if the Google user lives in Las Vegas and is searching for a landscape company, it will take into consideration a landscape company’s website which might be hosted on a server in the same city or surrounding area.

Now most of you who run a blog probably aren’t trying to geo-target your customers in one specific location down to which state they live in. You’re probably looking more at either targeting a specific country or anyone worldwide.

And if that’s the case, I’d suggest choosing your web hosting company based on things like the services and products they provide as well as other factors like pricing and technical support.

I would, however, keep in mind that if my primary audience is located in a specific country, I would try to find a hosting company whose servers are located there. Not super important, but would be nice.

Of course if you plan to host a blog, you might want to take into consideration how well your hosting company knows things like blogging and WordPress so you can ask questions aside from the technical aspects of web hosting.

So in conclusion…

Yes the geo-graphic location of the web server your site is hosted on has a small impact on how well your website will show in local returned search results.

However, there are many other and more important factors to consider which might include your domain name, TLD, backlinks, and website content.

*Bonus Tip: If you plan to target your readers or customers by country location, you can tell Google where your customers are by using the Geographic Targeting option inside Google’s Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Tools Geotargeting

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Keith Davis December 11, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Hi John
I use Google Webmaster tools, but couldn’t find the Geographic Target settings.

Is the screenshot above and old one or have I just not spotted it?

I know that Google keep messing about with the Webmaster Tools.
.-= Keith Davis´s last blog ..The eyes have it! =-.

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John Hoff December 11, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Hi Keith,

Log into your Webmaster Tools, click on the Site configuration drop down on the left, and then Settings.

You should see it there.

Here’s a screen shot.

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Lorelei Sorells May 11, 2010 at 5:45 am

I gotta say, while searching through 100′s of blogs each week, the theme of your blog stands out (for all the right reasons). If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the name of this theme and where can I get one like this. It’s much better than the themes I use for some of my blogs ;-)

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John Hoff May 11, 2010 at 6:47 am

Thanks, Lorelei. The theme is Fresh News by http://www.woothemes.com/

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Rollie June 17, 2010 at 10:17 am

Hi John,

Thanks for the post. Do you know if it matters where I register my domains?
For instance, I live in Australia. Will it have any SEO impact if I get my domains via a US based registrar and then point at my websites hosted in different locations (i.e. AUS, UK…)?

Or would it be better to use a local (AUS) domain name registrar and local web host for local target audiences? Or does the geographic location of the registrar not matter, yet using a local web host would be better?

Also, if all other factors are the same (backlinks coming from same sources, same content, on page optimization, etc) can I achieve the same position on Google’s SERPs using a .COM domain compared to using a .COM.AU domain?

Thanks.
Have a great day!

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John Hoff June 17, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Hi Rollie.

Basically, if you want to rank on Google.com.au then Aussie hosting with a .au is the best way to go.

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Rollie June 17, 2010 at 6:46 pm

OK, thanks John. Do you actually have any evidence for this, or done some tests? (web host location and ccTLD vs. offshore web host location with the same ccTLD vs. offshore host location with non-country specific domain… vs. just using Google’s webmaster tools (geo targeting)?
Maybe my main question was slightly off topic…in relation to the registration of the domain (not web host) (i.e. registrar in USA or AUS, would it matter for speed or SEO benefits, and if so does it depend on location of my target audience)? Thanks.

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John Hoff June 18, 2010 at 5:53 am

Hi Rollie–to be clear, use the .au if you want to do well in Australia serps. If you are selling to the US and all things are equal except you have the .au domain, you will have difficulty competing in the US serps.

In general you want your site hosting and domain in the same country as your target market.

You can test this by going to different country’s versions of the search engines. For example, if I use the UK version of Yahoo or Google, most of the websites that will be returned will end in .uk, not .com.

As far as testing .com here in the states, my wife owned a Jewelry website for awhile and when it was new I noticed in our analytics program that the most people who were visiting the site found us through Google and were from the same geographic location as the place the web hosting server was located.

I found that interesting. The site at the time didn’t have really any links pointing to it. That told me the hosting must of had something to do with it.

But as far as TLDs go, the country code you use will have a major impact search engine-wise. Don’t use .au if you hope to rank in the US. I live in the US and let me tell you, I never see a .au website in Google.

I have noticed that .com seems to be the most flexible if your target customers are everywhere in the world.

I hope that answers your questions.

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John Hoff June 18, 2010 at 5:54 am

Rollie,

Forgot to say, I don’t think you need to really concern yourself who you register your domain with, it’s more important that you use the right TLD.

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Richard Robbins September 23, 2010 at 11:54 am

I’m interested in knowing whether anyone has seen any significant difference in rankings based upon which country your site is hosted in. For instance, if I have a .de domain and I have the site (with the language all in German) hosted in the United States, is there some evidence that physically hosting it in the United States as opposed to Germany will hamper my site’s ability to rank well?

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John Hoff September 24, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Hi Richard. Being that Matt Cutts is the Google SEO expert, I’d take his word for it that it does. For me personally, I have noticed that not only does the country matter, but I’ve found that even what state mattered some.

My wife had a jewelry website and the hosting was based out of Fremont California. When looking at our analytics, many of her visitors where from California.

That was when her site was new and her site in no way targeted any specific location.

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