How to Change Website Hosting and Not Hurt SEO

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We live in a world where very few sites get the attention they deserve. In fact, 96.55% of all the pages out there get no traffic from Google. So, if you are lucky enough to get any traffic at all, you can’t afford to leave anything to chance — especially the switch of your website hosts. This seemingly easy process sometimes leads to costly mistakes, which can result in data loss, reputational risks, and, of course, SEO issues.

Yet, the good thing is that the change in your hosting services doesn’t have to be that problematic. It can become a straightforward procedure. The only thing you need is to know some technical details and plan your transfer strategically. How do you approach this? This is exactly what we’ll discuss in today’s guide to make sure your hosting transfer doesn’t affect your SEO.

How Can Changing Your Provider Affect SEO?

If you are reading this blog, you probably already know why one should change a hosting provider. So, let’s not focus on the benefits and get right into the possible issues that can arise. What should you keep an eye on?

  • Crawlability issues. You definitely don’t want the web crawlers to mistake your site for a brand-new one. That would be a disaster for your search engine optimization. Why? If Google sees your page as a newbie, you can say bye-bye to all your hard-earned keyword rankings, domain authority, backlinks, etc.
  • Load time irregularities. Your page load times have a huge impact on your SEO rankings. You must have heard that the top results in Google searches are pages that load in less than 3 seconds. According to Google, even when your load speed goes from 1 to 3 seconds, your bounce rate (i.e., people closing your page without performing any action) increases by 32%.
  • Location issues that lead to downtime. The location of your servers matters. Imagine that you use a service with international servers, and one of them is often overcrowded. If that’s the case, how high are your chances of ranking well in that location? Well, significantly lower than they could be. Whether you like it or not, if you switch to a server that is always overloaded, you’ll begin to have latency issues, more downtime, and eventually lower search rankings.

On the flip side, you could already have some of these issues. In this scenario, the provider change might be exactly what you need to bump up your search rankings. So, if your site already struggles with poor load speed and low rankings, transferring to a better hosting service can be your game-changer.

When you improve your users’ experience and get a lower bounce rate, chances are you will end up with better search rankings. How? Well, first of all, your technical SEO is a big part that determines your position in SERPs. Plus, all the optimization activities you do will bring better outcomes. If you publish search-engine-friendly content, it will rank better. If you build backlinks, each type of link will pass on more value than before. As a result, your DA/DR will improve, leading to more organic traffic.

What to Consider Before Switching to a Different Host

There are over 338,000 web hosting service providers in the world. Now, that is both good and bad news. The good one is that you have a great selection of companies to choose from. What’s the bad one, then? Not all of them are worthy. So, if you want to find a truly decent option, start by considering the following factors:

  • Service & customer support. There is an obvious part when it comes to choosing a provider — all things tech. But there is another thing you should keep in mind. What’s that? Customer support. You see, sometimes, your issues can have nothing to do with your host. You can use an unsupported database or have some other peculiarities on your end. In such cases, the only thing your provider can do is guarantee helpful and knowledgeable customer support that can help you resolve any issue ASAP.
  • Performance & technical compatibility. Yet, no matter how good your provider’s customer support is, you must verify all the technical specs. Where should you start? Double-check the performance the host can provide and potential compatibility issues. These are crucial not only for SEO but also for the overall functioning of your website. If you aren’t sure what those mean, website performance, basically, refers to loading speed (should be as fast as possible) and downtime (should be minimal). When it comes to technical requirements, you have to consider uptime, latency, scalability, flexibility, database support, customization, etc.
  • Location. 46% of all Google searches are from people looking for local information. As much as you can, always opt for a hosting provider in the same location as your target audience. Why does this matter? Well, Google will be more likely to push to the top websites hosted on servers in the relevant locations. Plus, pages hosted too far away from your main target geography will take longer to load.
  • Security. None of us understand how important security is until we actually face cyber threats for ourselves. While you might think that when your business is small, you shouldn’t worry about this, it isn’t quite true because, historically, half of all cyberattacks have been targeted at SMBs. There are several things you should consider – from educating your team to choosing reliable hosting. But if you’re working on your search engine optimization, keep in mind that some threats might come in the form of spammy backlinks. So, it’s also important to verify all the white-label SEO and links you’re using and check them all for security issues.

6 Steps to Switch Web Hosts Without Hurting Your Rankings in SERPs

Website owners can face many different SEO issues. So, sometimes, even the idea of switching web hosts can be scary, almost like adding another pain to your plate. But it can be a fairly straightforward experience if you know some of the basics.

#1 Preparation Is Your Game-Changer

Moving from one host to another can cause some downtime — one that lasts anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. But in that time, how do you make sure your SEO rankings are not impacted by the host shift? According to Google’s Gary Illyes, you simply have to go by the book, make the website stay resolvable, and keep the actual downtime to a minimal level. Sounds good but how does it look in practice?

First of all, prepare and make sure you know what to do every step of the way. This prep will simply leave less room for errors. You can create a step-by-step checklist of things you have to do. When creating that one, make sure you pay attention to these details:

  • Don’t cancel your old web hosting plan before the transfer is completed. Until your DNS records are tweaked, your website can load from both the new and old environments. This is what will help you avoid (or at least minimize) downtime. Plus, you won’t lose your data, which is another vital pro.
  • Share your URLs, link sources, new hosting location, and other technical information beforehand with the search engines. This will help you reduce errors.
  • Switch at night or any other time when you have the least traffic.

#2 Choose Your Hosting Provider Like It’s Your Last Chance

Yes-yes, choosing a reliable provider might sound obvious. But you’d be surprised how many businesses don’t pay enough attention to this. Let’s say you’ve already done your research and have a couple of options for your web host provider. Which one should you choose?

Go for the one that has a lot of positive ratings and a proven record of quality service – all without surpassing your budget limits, of course. Besides, pay attention to security. Your host needs to take measures to protect your website from cyber threats. Still not sure? Check the reviews to know what issues other users have with your potential provider. No one wants to take any chances and end up with a new issue every other week, right? 

#3 Back Up Everything (We Mean It)

Take this step seriously as it could be the costliest mistake ever. You don’t want to switch web hosts and then lose your business-critical files. What is the best approach here? Use the 3-2-1 golden rule for your backups. This requires you to make three copies of your data on two different media types, one of them kept off-site.

Want even better data protection? Go for the more modern 3-2-1-1-0 rule. It means doing all the same as for your 3-2-1 backup, but in addition, you should keep at least 1 of your data copies offline. As you might have guessed, this air-gapped backup is particularly useful for ransomware protection, as it can’t be accessed through the network. In addition to the offline copy, the improved backup standard requires you to check that all of the copies have 0 errors because it is the only way to restore your data correctly.

#4 Don’t Rush to Change Your Domain Name and Update DNS Records

Remember what we said earlier about your structural tweaks? You definitely don’t need to adjust your URL structure and domain name unless that’s what you want (e.g., when doing rebranding). If that’s the case, consider registering the new domain name in several popular extensions (e.g., .com, .co, .org, .net, .us, .uk, etc.) to make sure your brand stands out and no one mistakes you for someone else.

When your data is replicated, you also want to ensure that your domain name system (DNS) records are updated and point to the right hosting provider. This way, you will move all incoming web traffic to the new server without having 404 errors. That’s how you can also make sure that your newly transferred website is visible to search engines without affecting SEO.

#5 Set Up 301 Redirects if You Change URLs

A 301 redirect lets both your visitors and search engines know you have changed your website’s location. So, when a user types in (or finds somewhere) a link to your old website, they will see the new address. Apart from the usability, you will also help Google’s bots crawl your updated domain correctly.

 

Plus, this helps pass any link juice you had on your old website to the new one. This is an essential step for anyone who did their optimization because the last thing you want is to lose years of your hard-earned link equity. So, if you worry about retaining your SEO rankings, start with setting your redirects properly. While it is a big chunk of work, if you do it well, you’ll have fewer potential errors and issues.

#6 Monitor and Track Every Step of the Process

Even if you followed the best practices for switching website hosts, there is still that tiny chance that something can go wrong, especially when you are DIYing it yourself with no prior experience. Even if you aren’t a newbie, monitoring your website performance with an SEO tool can’t be a bad idea. Do a sitewide audit and pay attention to load speed, functionality, mobile friendliness, etc.

This will help you quickly spot any issues that might affect SEO rankings. Remember to keep a record of everything. The best part is that you don’t even need a fancy, paid tool for this. Excel allows you to structure your data just as well as any modern-day software. Simply check any site that explains how to use your Excel for SEO and save both your budget and time.

Conclusion

Switching website hosts seems like a painful task. Yes, it could be. But after reading this guide, you understand that it doesn’t have to be like that. At the end of the day, it’s hard to know how everything will turn out only when you aren’t sure what to look for. Our advice? Do things the right way, and don’t rush the process, especially your preparation stage.

And, of course, only work with professionals. You can always reach out to us, and Domain Name Sanity specialists will guide you.

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