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Analysis / eCommerce

How Server Location Can Impact International SEO

SEO

When people start implementing an international SEO strategy, few think about things like a server. While server location can impact a website’s international SEO results, it doesn’t always do so in the ways people expect. Let’s look at the ways server location can affect international search engine optimisation. We’ll also discuss techniques to improve a web page’s SEO with regard to each of these factors.

Server location settings’ impact on local SEO

Server locations, along with other cues, are used to determine local search engine optimisation or local SEO. For example, if a server’s IP address is located in France and the domain ends in .fr, the search engine will give it a higher ranking in search results for French customers than it would for a site from the UK. This is especially true if the user was searching through google.com.fr instead of google.com.

Someone in the UK would see the opposite scenario; the French server with a .fr domain will show up below the UK site if all other factors are equal. In either case, someone searching for a service is only going to see results for businesses search engines think are in the same country. This happens because search engines want to show you the most relevant results for the query and based on the likely demographics of the searcher. However, this isn’t an absolute.

The webmaster console could be used to specify that a website or parts of the website are relevant to a country. Another option would be changing the geographic location of the web server, though this would likely change your IP address. However, websites using a country TLD cannot choose a target country. Conversely, if your business’ website ends in .org or .com, the country target must be entered, or else search engines will determine it based on their own criteria. They use factors like local SEO cues in the content, back-links to the website, and location references in the contact information and structured data about the site.

These local SEO cues are still important since a server based on the UK intended for a French audience will not rank well if the server settings say France, but it doesn’t have good SEO for French customers’ searches. In this case, it would be wise to work with an SEO consultant France to enhance your site’s SEO. You can get SEO in French on clicksfromfrance.com.

Load times

Research has shown that 53% of mobile users abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. Moving servers as close to the consumer as possible could increase the percentage of people who click on the link in the search results choosing to stay on the page. That, in turn, is read by search engines as an endorsement of the content, while a high bounce rate is seen as a vote against your content. If people leave the page almost immediately, search engines will start to downgrade your website in the search results. That is aside from the fact that page load time is a factor in search engines’ determination of a site’s mobile friendliness.

In short, slow load times hurt you, and anything you can do to improve it will directly or indirectly increase your site’s search engine results page ranking. If most of your customers are in a particular country, then the best solution is to have your server there. Note that you can have servers in more than one country to maximise delivery times, though this does add to the cost of hosting the website.

This isn’t practical for websites targeting customers all over the world. For these businesses, a content delivery network or CDN can achieve the same results. Content delivery networks use data centres in different geographical areas to load files from the nearest data centre of the CDN you’re using, reducing latency and delays that customers experience when loading a website. A side benefit of using a CDN is that it shifts traffic to the CDN, reducing the potential performance degradation that can come when traffic spikes. Content delivery networks improve the reliability of content delivery, too, since if one server isn’t available, requests are sent automatically to the next available one.

Server performance

The location of a server can end up undermining its performance with regard to the user’s experience. Something businesses may need to consider is the infrastructure of the country where the web host is located. A server in a country with poor internet service is, by definition, going to struggle to deliver a website in a timely manner. This may or may not be offset by utilizing CDNs. There’s the option of paying for the best hosting, maximising delivery speed, and minimising downtime. However, having a web host give your website traffic priority won’t necessarily offset slow internet connections to and from the server. Likewise, locating a server in the same country as your customers doesn’t make up for poor server performance like slow pings, system outages, and high latency.

Conclusion

The location of the server can have an effect on both the page’s SEO and search engine results page ranking. Knowing the right mix of server settings to local SEO on-page to technical solutions can make the difference between showing up near the top of the list and being buried.

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Christian Harris is editor and publisher of BCW. Christian has over 20 years’ publishing experience and in that time has contributed to most major IT magazines and Web sites in the UK. He launched BCW in 2009 as he felt there was a need for honest and personal commentary on a wide range of business computing issues. Christian has a BA (Hons) in Publishing from the London College of Communication.