Q and A : Will changing web servers affect my rankings?

QuestionDear Kalena…

I have a query related to web server migration and corresponding effects on search engine rankings.

I have a website of my client for which I was doing SEO for quite some time and getting some pleasant search engine rankings for the same website.

Recently he migrates his web server without notifying me and instantly I observed a major downfall in search engine rankings in Google. I have lost the rankings on almost all the keywords.

My question is, is this downfall in rankings is due to server migration as that website was ranked on top search engine result pages before the server migration?

If this is the reason of downfall, then how can I retain those rankings and how long it will take??

Thanks in anticipation.

Manish

Dear Manish

There are a lot of things that need to be considered when moving a site between servers/hosts. These include (but are not limited to):

Other sites hosted on the same server
If you were to move house and relocate to a shady neighbourhood, people would start wondering if you’re associated with other people in the area, if you’re having financial troubles etc. The internet is the same. Move your site to a server that hosts a lot of gambling, pharmaceuticals and adult sites, Google may start to question the quality of your own site and if you are in some way associated with those other sites.

Server congestion and load times
Google has to index a LOT of content, so if the server your site is hosted on is overloaded, doesn’t have the necessary bandwidth available or is simply slow to respond, Google may be forced to only index part of your site, or even skip it altogether and move onto pages that respond more efficiently.

Linking patterns
Google looks at linking patterns and relationships that exist between different sites. If you have 100 links all from the same IP address, those links will generally not carry the same weight as 100 links spread across a wide range of networks. If your client’s site was moved to the same server that coincidentally a lot of your inbound links were coming from, Google could devalue the weight of these links.

Unsupported features
Server security policies can vary between hosting providers as will the features they support. I’ve seen some hosts block the use of .htaccess files causing URL rewriting and many other little issues. Some files/folders may automatically be set with read-only permissions causing dynamically generated content features to break and the more complex the site, the more chance there is for things to go wrong.

Location
While Google is pretty good at determining what geographic region a site is aimed at (through use of domain extension, where a majority of inbound links are from etc.) the physical location of the hosting server also plays a role in this. If the hosting was moved to a server in a different country, it may affect your local search results. There are ways around this through Google’s Webmaster tools, and if you’re doing everything else right, it may not have a huge impact, but it’s yet another factor to be considered.

It’s hard to say with certainty that the migration of your client’s site is responsible for the drop in rankings, but hopefully some of the above suggestions will give you a few things to start investigating. As mentioned above, these are just a few of the more common things to check and I encourage readers to add their own server-related SEO feedback in the comments.

Hope this helps

Peter Newsome
SiteMost’s Search Engine Optimisation Brisbane

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