Does Shared Hosting Harm You?
We try to get our clients self hosting if we custom build or into a fully managed service if they opt to for a web-builder, preferably Webflow. On occasion a client will want us to design and develop a website and pass it off. They usually, say they have a shared hosting plan etc...After reading a few posts on the subject of shared hosting we came across a few warning about SEO hits, IP blocks, and performance slow downs. So, we decided to take a closer look by doing our own research to validate or debunk these claims. Our take:
We would be cautious about a shared hosting plan. Can we validate the claims? For IP blocks and slow downs we can. Validating the hit to SEO is a different matter. There is no real data to prove it or disprove it, however the arguments that it is true seem logically sound and baked into Google's own algorithms and policies.
Let's get the first two out of the way. If you are sharing a server with a bunch of websites serving up what Google considers spam, porn, or blackhat SEO you can get your IP blocked for emails by anyone using a filter or making a request through parental controls etc... This is basic fact. You are sharing an IP with every website on that server. Google only knows the request to block is referring to the IP in general, and you can be stymied by osmosis. Speed and performance slow downs. Again this is fact. Sharing a server with a more productive website can stifle your speed. It will be allocated and use much more of the resources. This can be a problem and hints at why the intuitive thought about harm to SEO seems valid. Google uses performance, especially on mobile devices, as a major ranking factor - and every millisecond counts. We think these alone are enough to have second thoughts about a shared hosting plan. There are so many other options where these are not issues. Who needs issues?
A direct substantiation can't be made on SEo harm, in fact we found a video (it's 9 years old) where Google claims it won't effect SEO. See video here on Youtube However, in our opinion Google says a lot of things that are flat-out bullshiet. They also change their ranking methods constantly. That's one of the reasons SEO is a billions of dollar industry. We know that shared hosting can slow us down. Google uses many matrices to rank a page based on performance - first byte being one. If a simple 301 redirect can harm SEO by adding 50ms to first byte how can a slowed down server have no effect? We think it must. We would bet the farm on it. As website developers we scratch and claw for every millisecond to improve a site's performance on behalf of our clients' SEO. We are told constantly and consistently about speedy performance on mobile and how it is the most weighted of matrices.
Now let's look at another ranking factor. Location. Google clearly states that it considers server location when ranking pages for general and local searches, especially where location matters...like every small business on the planet. 99% of shared servers are a gazillion miles away from a business that it hosts. Fact. Take a CDN for comparison. If my business competes with your business in Hartford, CT and I'm on a nationwide CDN and you are on a server located in Los Vegas. You are taking a hit SEO according to Google. Period. My site is cached down the street and your site across country. Why is this important? Mobile. A cached site close by loads faster and with ease. You would need to do research and find shared hosting close to your users for this not to be an issue. Who does that? No one. Is it practical? No. Having your site hosted with a dedicated managed server plan - that caches your code all over the country keeps you safe from this.
Uptime and downtime is another ranking factor. There are numerous ways other sites sharing the server with you can effect downtime. Now imagine a server hosting many other sites along with your baby. Does anyone think that all the updating of different software and configuration used to accommodate different stacks from different sites has no negative effect on downtime? Anyone?
So, we believe in our intuition on this. Sure, you can Google it and read a slew of blogs on the subject claiming otherwise. We are certain most are written by shared hosting companies or people just repeating the points already expressed by other's as fact. We do ask this: Why take the chance messing up something as important as your business' SEO? It is so easy to just host your website with a CDN like Netlify (It's usually free!!!) or a managed host like Webflow ($16 +) and never have to worry about it.