Does local website hosting help SEO?

This morning I was listening to an interesting Works Media SEO podcast, which raised an argument within the discussion.

The argument was spurred by the question, “Does hosting your website in your target country help SEO performance?”. A great question which appears there is no exact answer to but several opinions and views.

Within this debate we also heard discussions about whether bounce rate, site speed and time on site are also SEO triggers.

What is Bounce rate?

The percentage of visitors visiting a landing page then leaving the site. The reason this could be an important factor is it may suggest that if a visitor only views one page of your website, your user experience may not be that effective, leading to visitors leaving. However on the other hand if a visitor does bounce but they have spent 10 minutes on that one page, it must be relevant to engage them for that period of time, hence the SEO and quality of the page must be good. There currently seems to be no real answer to this question, just collective assumptions we can try and draw conclusions from.

What is Site Speed?

This is the time your server takes to load each page of the website. There are several tools to test this including Google Page Speed Insights or Pingdom.

If the site takes a long time to load – e.g. over 5 seconds then this could have a negative impact on your sites SEO performance. Google announced back in 2010 that site speed would begin effecting SEO ranking, exactly what the impact or guidelines are have never been completely clear. They do benchmark and report these figures in their tools.

What does Time on Site mean?

Time on site is a gauge used to measure how long a visitor remains on your website. E.g. I may visit a website and read a blog then leave the site. This would be classed as a high bounce (as I have left the site after only one page view) however I may have spent 10 minutes reading the blog which suggests it was a relevant page for me. The challenge arises when the time on site data include those opening new pages and browser tabs whilst some webpages remain open in the background.

The points above can all be perceived in certain ways and it is unclear which of them Google does take into account or not, however generally as a rule of thumb if the metric suggests a good user experience then you can assume that Google like it. If it is a negative user experience or in any way looking to manipulate Google’s algorithm then potentially Google don’t like it.

So back to the question in hand, Does hosting in a given country help SEO? The debate took two views on the hosting.

Local Hosting – the benefits could be due to speed of site loading time within the target country

Non Local Hosting – better hosting platforms which allow stronger SEO performance via site speed, trust etc..

After much debate the consensus seems to be that hosting your website within the target country you’re targeting is not likely to improve SEO performance, or even if it did it would have very little impact in relation to other SEO factors. Rather than wasting time focussing on this model, it is more important to make sure you are implementing quality and relevant SEO techniques overall to improve user experience and that you have a reputable hosting provider which supplies quality hosting services. The combination of these should far outweigh the need to host locally.

Rachel Mepham
With over 15 years’ experience in Digital Marketing, Rachel heads up the team at Digital Clarity. With a deep skill set in the Paid Search, Social Media and Analytics, Rachel is regarded by both clients and peers as one of the most experienced and prolific women in the UK digital space. Her approach and application to digital strategy planning has been used by some of the biggest brands as well as leading advertising and marketing agencies.