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December 5, 2007

Hosting Issues and SEO/SEM

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Back from lunch and back in action. We’re at the Hosting Issues and SEO/SEM session with panelists Derek Vaughan, Scott Henderson and Ben Fisher. Jake Baillie will be acting as moderator.

Derek is walking around the audience saying hi and shaking hands with everyone because there are only about 10 people in the room. Hee.

Up first is Derek Vaughan and he thanks everyone for coming. You’re welcome, Derek! My eyes are burning. I think it’s from all the smoke in the casino. I’ve actually been forced to put on my glasses.

Search engine optimization vs. search engine marketing:

Search engine optimization is way harder. With Pay Per Click, you can just buy your way in. SEO is exclusive and creates a brand halo. The processes are similar, but search engine optimization is longer lasting and more impactful.

Tools for generating keyword lists: WordTracker, Yahoo! Search Suggestions, Google’s Keyword Tool, Google Trends, and your competitors Meta tags. Derek really likes Google Trends. You can type in a set of words separated by a comma and they will show you the relative ranking at Google of those words. It showed him that "hosting" is a higher traffic word than "Web hosting".

Where do searchers look on the Google results page?

He talks about the eye tracking study dong by Enquiro and Did It and the idea of the golden triangle. Shows you’re better off ranking organically then paid.

Tips for registering domains:

  • Use the search phrase in the domain name. Dashes are better than underscores.
  • Register a ".com" domain name. Survey says that .com TLDs rule the SERPs.
  • Register a domain name that is age.
  • Register the domain for 10 years.

He disagrees with the keynote this morning where Richard said that .tv TLDs and .com TLDs are equal. The latter tend to rank better because they’re aged.

Types of Web sites and Search Engine Optimization

He’s a big fan of using more traditional sites with traditional HTML. Any site that gives you complete creative control over the architecture of the site. That’s what you need. The challenge with blogs and forums is that they set you into a rigid architecture that is hard to depart from. They’re developed to be cookie cutter. You can still rank well; it just makes your life more difficult.

Derek says you can rank well using a dedicated server or a shared account, though he recommends using a dedicated server. Avoid anything that has to do with free hosting.

Other Hosting Considerations:

Static IP: He likes them, others don’t.
Spreading the hosting around (networks)
Downtime can ruin your rankings
Bad host reputation can hurt
High host rank may indicate search engine optimization knowledge.

Your key to search engine optimization via hosting is anonymity. He quotes Jim Boykin’s Link Buying presentation yesterday where all he said was "Stay under the radar and don’t piss off Google." He said that’s the most insightful thing he’s heard at the conference.

If there is a network, whether you own it or someone else owns it, you want anonymity. Search engines are looking at your network to see what’s going on and they’re studying links. If they’re seeing that all the links are registered to the same person and they’re all on the same IP block, they’re likely to just discount those links. Better would be for everyone to be on different IP blocks, with different registrants and different Web hosts. Derek says he’s not advocating black hat, but if you have two valid content sites that are excellent, he doesn’t see why you shouldn’t link between them just because they’re owned by the same person.

Scott Hendison is next. He has 1,000+ domains.

He says to ask yourself, "What do you need for your business and your Web hosting?" Consider business requirements, developer recommendations and budgetary requirements.

True or False?

Using a separate IP address for each domain means you’ll rank better: FALSE. If you do a search for competitive phrases, you’ll find that a lot of the top results were all shared IPs, not static. Scott doesn’t think having a static IP is a huge factor.

Shared hosting hurts your search engine visibility: FALSE.

If you have multiple sites, you must have multiple Web hosts: FALSE. Unless you’re doing a lot of crosslinking and trying to hide something.

If you ARE trying to hide something, use private domain registration to hide your identity: FALSE. He says it’s a big red flag to the search engines.

There’s no cheap and easy way to keep site backups and ensure uptime: FALSE

Server response time can affect your search engine rankings: TRUE. Test your own server and if you see a return of 60ms or more, you may have a problem.

Windows Hosting is fine: TRUE – With ISAPI Rewrite. Your host should install.

Things to remember:

  • Listen to your developers and get what they need
  • Shared hosting and shared IPs can be find on responsive servers
  • If there’s a reason to hide, then you’ll have to be pretty clever, because they’re going to find you!

Jake Baillie is up.

Jake’s presentation is called Dynamic Web sites Suck. He’s being sarcastic. He likes dynamic Web sites. I feel better now that that’s been clarified.

The URL is all powerful. Jake says that the mod_rewrite changed a whole generation of SEOs. So did LSD. Um, Jake! With mod_rewrite there is no requirement that a URL has to correspond to a physical file server location. We can make the URL say whatever we want and the server will do what you tell it to do.

Things you can do through mod_rewrite:

  • Keyword specific toll-free numbers: Jake says this is good for "old people" who get confused easily. Hee.
  • Multivariate content and price testing
  • Delivering appropriate content to clients
  • Subdomain aliasing as a form of user-friendly input.
  • Mining search data.

Jake shows examples of some companies using mod_rewrite for testing purposes. These companies are serving content transparently in different ways to different devices. Jake says to be mindful of your user agents.

Your destiny lies under the hood. You have to mine search results. What mod_rewrite can do is a lot of times if you can’t find a page, you can tell mod_rewrite to pipe the click into an intelligence script. (I hope you all know what that means; I don’t.)

If you can test for it, you can act upon it. Mod_rewrite can give you the following information about your visitors:

Type of browser
Time of day
Length of visits
Number of visits
Moods

Jake talks about content lifting and scraping. He said it’s a common problem that sucks. He lists the nicknames he calls competitors. They’re all very mature, I assure you. He then spent 10-15 minutes explaining how to be a jerk and do bad things to people who are doing bad things to you. For maturity’s sake, I’m going to skip that part. No offense, Jake.

Ben is going to sum things up for us. He doesn’t have a presentation because he didn’t know he was speaking until yesterday. He says that you can use keyword-rich subdomains to help increase rankings. The reason mainly is because subdomains are treated as separate domains. He agrees with Scott that you don’t need separate IPs in order to rank well.

Another thing about dynamic sites: If you’re going to be looking for a CMS, look for one that has a separate type of navigation for every section of your site. You want to be able to customize things; this way even though it’s running off a template system, you can make changes and make it look natural. If your navigation is always the same, it’s very easy for any kind of algorithm to discount blocks of similar text.

That ends his nuggets.

Jake jumps back in and opens it up to the panelists to talk about their experiences with shared vs. dedicated IPs. What are the pros and cons of each?

Jack starts off saying that the con of shared IPs is that you have no control over who you’re sharing it with. There’s always the rumor of guilt by association. Ben says that whenever he looks at his dedicated server company, they ask once a month for a new IP. When they get it, they do a background check to see if it has ever been blacklisted. They run the IP through several different tools to see if it’s clean.

The con of a dedicated IP is the cost. If it costs a few extra dollars and you have a thousand domains, it can add up.

Scott uses a dedicated IP for competitive intelligence reasons. It gives you anonymity.

If you could recommend a host, who would it be?

Derek: HostMySite.com (his company)
Scott: [It sounded like Scott said "Webbers" but I can’t find a hosting company by that name. Can anyone help me out? – Lisa] Weberz.com (Thanks for clearing that up, Scott!)
Jake: JohnCompanies
Ben: HostMySite.com or Rackspace

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One response to “Hosting Issues and SEO/SEM”

  1. Scott Hendison writes:

    Thanks for the coverage Lisa, and it was nice to finally meet you. And FYI, the hosting company I recommended was Weberz.com – spelled with one b and a z;)



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