Before starting to build any new site or blog, one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make is choosing the best web hosting company to host your site or new blog. Surely, some of the most critical aspects of choosing a host include cost, speed, level of support, control panel, and many others. But what about server locations? Is that something you normally include in your decision making process? In some cases this is not really a big deal, I mean, it is the internet and you can access any site from anywhere in the world, right? In this post we’re going to look at why choosing a web host based on their server locations is also an important factor, and how it can increase engagement on your website or blog.
Is your site’s SEO affected by server location?
Generally speaking, the answer to this is no, at least not directly anyways.
When we talk about server location as a factor in which web host to choose, we’re more concerned about the distance between the server where your site is hosted, and your target audience. A longer distance usually means more “hops” through the network of servers that make up the internet, to serve your site’s content to the viewer. These “hops” create extra delays in page loading speed, sometimes adding a few seconds to the load time. And as we know, one of Google’s ranking factors is page loading time. However, this isn’t really a concern when it comes to ranking based on speed.
The reason we’re not worried about the impact on site loading time from Google’s perspective is the site speed is usually checked from a server close to where your site is hosted. Google doesn’t know where your target audience is, so they simply check the site speed from a server that is as close to your server as possible, so the distance is no longer a factor. As a result, Google ranks your site according to this speed, and hence your ranking on Google is not affected.
Indirect SEO Impact Based on Distance from Server Location
In the section above I made it clear there was no direct affect on SEO or ranking based on where your site or blog is located. But what about any indirect effects?
Besides page speed/performance, bounce rate is another SEO factor we typically consider as important. According to SEMRush, Bounce Rate is the fourth highest ranking factor for websites out of 17 ranking factors tested. Bounce rate is defined as a visit to a landing page, say from a google search results page, and then the visitor leaves the site without visiting any other pages on that site.
Now let’s consider a case where a user clicks on a link in a search result, and the site starts to load. For whatever reason the site is taking forever to load, a few seconds let’s say. Well, “ain’t nobody got time for dat!”. So the user clicks the back button on their browser, and off to find another search result. In google’s eyes though, that user just bounced. They started to load your site, didn’t visit any other pages on the site, and the site’s bounce rate just increased. Oops!
Not only didn’t that site visitor not get to see the great content on your site, they also bumped your ranking down a notch because of the “bounce”.
But not’s the end of the story. The impact is two fold. Besides the bump down in ranking, you also lost that view/sale/affiliate click/email signup/pixel connection/ or whatever you’re after in terms of how you monetize your site.
This is one of the reasons many SEO experts will tell you to ignore the page speed test results from the various speed testers. The actual score or rating is irrelevant. Time to load, and perceived load time is much more critical.
This is why you spent hours trying to optimize your site to minimize loading time in the first place.
So, if site loading times – as far as your site visitors are concerned – increase in relation to the distance between your site and your site visitor or customer, then you’re inevitably going to increase your bounce rate. Worse, you’re looking at lost opportunities, and bounce rate becomes a secondary issue at that point.
Site Loading Time Increases with Distance Between Your Server and Your Target Audience
I mentioned those hops in the last section. Here’s how it works.
The internet simplified – a network of public computers linked together on a single platform.
This network of computers is what allows a user in Australia to connect to a site in Canada. The connection is made by passing packets of data through each network connection between Australia and Canada. The actual path can vary since there’s multiple connections creating a large redundancy. It goes without saying that the further the distance, the more connections that need to be used to connect the user with that site. Each connection adds a few milliseconds as the packets of data are processed and sent along to the next computer in the network.
So you can see that a shorter distance between the user and the intended site means fewer connections, and hence a shorter time waiting to connect.
As such, your site’s server location doesn’t affect your sites loading speed, but how long the information from your site takes to get to the user. The closer your target audience is to your site, the faster the perceived load time of your site to your audience.
Example of Server Distance from Target Audience on Loading Speed:
Let’s use the site CoverYourRide as an example. Here’s a basic blog, not overly optimized, tested from different locations. This site is hosted on SiteGround using SiteGround’s US based name servers, indicating the site is located on a server in the US.
Here’s the loading time (horrible right?) from Dallas, Texas:
And here’s the loading time from Sydney, Australia:
A definite increase in the loading time. So user’s in Australia will experience the site taking longer to load than users in the US. Of course, for this site, that’s just fine. It’s monetization strategy is targeting users in the US through Amazon’s US affiliate program, and a few other ad programs most likely based in the US as well. So they’re most likely not concerned too much about users in Australia.
Types of Sites That Benefit from Being Close to Target Audience
Naturally, not all websites or blogs need to worry about being close to your target audience. Typically these are global sites that attract visitors or do business with a global audience. In these cases, a CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a great option. Here’s the kind of sites or businesses that will benefit from being close to their target audience:
It goes without saying, a local business will want to make sure their site is located on servers close to their target audience. Local businesses generally only cater to customers in their immediate area, such as in their town/city, and maybe even state if the business is large enough. In these cases, if you’re a small business owner (or maybe even a larger business owner) having your website hosted on a server as close to your local area as possible will be give the most benefit in terms of site loading times for your potential customers.
Most eCommerce websites nowadays are extensions of local businesses, and due to cheaper local shipping costs, the closer a customer is to your shipping location, the better. Even online only eCommerce websites generally tend to be run be single person, or is a family run business. Just like the local businesses, having your eCommerce site hosted on a server location as close to your location is ideal, even if you cater to customers across the nation.
Not So Niche Blogs
This one might surprise you a bit. While many blogs, like Blogger2wp.com for example, cater to a global audience, some are not as global as you would think, and depends mainly on how you monetize your site. This site monetizes through global type affiliates for example, so our audience is truly global.
But take for example a fashion blog. While fashion is considered global, and your site may have a global following, you need to think about where your paying audience is coming from. Lets say you’re a fashion blogger based out of the UK, and you monetize your blog through clothing retailer affiliate sales based mainly out of the UK. This means your paying audience, ie your site visitors that click on your affiliate links that are able to easily purchase the products you are linking to, would most likely be in the UK. It’s not practical for your US or Australia site visitors to purchase through your local UK affiliate links/retailers. Even if they were able to complete the purchase, shipping costs and import duties wouldn’t make for a practical buy.
Since your paying audience is based in the UK, then you’ll want to make sure you select a host with a server location in the UK where you can serve your site from.
Can I Use a CDN to Get Closer to My Target Audience?
Yes, of course you can. But this is only generally practical for global sites. Setting up a CDN, even a free one like Cloudflare, can be complex and not worth the hassle, especially if your site is only serving a single location. It’s far easier to select a web host with a server location near you. It doesn’t make sense to host on a US based server and setup a CDN just to target your audience if they are only based in the UK for example.
How to Find a Web Host with a Location Near Your Target Audience
Finding a web hosting company with server locations near your target audience isn’t really that difficult. Almost all web hosts have their server locations listed on their websites, though they’re not the easiest to find sometimes.
As an alternative, you could use a site such as HostMaps.com. HostMaps.com includes most of today’s popular web hosts’ server locations plotted out on a map of the world. This makes it extremely easy to pick the web hosts with server locations nearest to your target audience. In addition, each web host listed on their site has their own map with server locations plotted, along with other helpful information to aid you in making a decision on which web host to use. Included are the types of hosting, control panel used, CMS platforms supported, pricing, and even down to the payment methods the web hosts accept. Take for example our favorite host, SiteGround’s server locations are mapped so you can easily see if they would be a good fit for your site.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this page are ‘affiliate links.’ This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we may receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you – which helps to keep the lights on, and bringing you great content.