Search Engine Optimization – Impact of Hosting Location

There are many articles and books that discuss the basics of Search Engine Optimization. As a result, we already know that Search Engine Optimization can be broken down into two parts, namely a) on-page optimization and b) off-page optimization.

On-Page optimization is concerned with page structure, choosing the right keywords and supporting words (for Latent Semantic Indexing purposes), placing these words and phrases in the right places and with the right density, optimizing the title tag, meta tags, alt tags, image names, and so on.

Off-Page optimization refers to tasks that are performed external to the web page. The most important task is often said to be getting a high Google PageRank (PR). To achieve this, a search engine optimizer will try to get as many links as possible from other sites (whose contents are relevant or related to the contents of the page to be linked to) that themselves have a high PR.

However, PR alone is not sufficient for off-page optimization. The text on the incoming links – the anchor text – is very important too. If anchor text does not support a search term, then it is possible for a lower PR page to rank higher than a high PR page, even if on-page optimization has been done for both pages.

Recently, though, I came across another factor that has an impact on search engine ranking. It is something that does not seem to be written about much. At least, I have not seen any book or web site that mentions it.

Impact of Hosting Location on Search Engine Ranking

It is often said that domain extension can affect search engine ranking. A domain name with a country extension (such as .co.uk or .net.my) tends to do well in that country’s version of the major search engines, but not as well in the main search engines. Similarly, a domain that does not have a country extension will not do too well in that country.

But what about hosting location?

Our company is located in Malaysia. Our website used to be hosted in North America and we were getting some good rankings for many of our major keywords in the three major search engines – Google, Yahoo and MSN Live Search. However, our site was not indexed by Yahoo Malaysia.

Then a few months ago, we relocated our website to a hosting provider in Malaysia.

Following the relocation, we noticed some major drops in ranking for pages from our site on Yahoo. For example, what was on the first page of Yahoo before the relocation dropped to about number 200 after the relocation. Our ranking on Google dropped slightly. Our ranking on Live Search did not seem affected.

Then we noticed something else: our site started to appear in the SERPs for searches on Yahoo Malaysia, and has been ranking very well since then. Our ranking on Google Malaysia has improved, and recently, our ranking on the main Google site has improved too.

This seems to indicate that Search Engine Optimization should take hosting location into consideration, since it can have an impact on ranking.

Obviously, we cannot come to conclusions based on a single example. However, for us, the result of the hosting relocation is real enough.
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