Search engine optimization is a multimillion dollar industry. Businesses ranging from the tiniest mom and pop stores to the largest worldwide corporations invest in it in an attempt to pull in new, ready-to-spend customers to their website.
The problem is that they often neglect one of the biggest things that they have control over: their computer server’s performance.
Here are five ways that your servers’ performance can affect your search engine rankings.
1. Page Load Times for Bots
The speed your page loads can directly influence how favorably search engines treat your website when it comes to rankings.
Pages that take a longer time to load around bots tend to receive a lower ranking.
Most search engine spiders focus on loading a “bare bones” version of your website. They ignore HTML, graphics and other things while focusing on just the content of your page.
The easiest way to deal with long load times and to prevent them from becoming an issue is to ensure that your website can handle serving up.
2. Traffic Overloads
There are quite a few situations where you may find that you have a surge of unexpected traffic coming to your website.
If your website gets featured on the front page of Reddit, Slashdot or a major news website, your web server may be inundated with visitors. If you don’t have a robust server or a content delivery network (CDN) solution set in place, then your website will likely go down.
If this happens for a prolonged time, search engines may declare your website dead. This can lead to the same kinds of problem that a 404 error brings with it. In other words, your website may be de-indexed or see a drop in rankings.
3. 404 “Page Not Found” Errors
The most common error that search engines encounter is the 404 “page not found” error. It’s usually the reason that search engines end up lowering the ranking of some web pages and removing others completely from listings.
There’s a few reasons as to why this error might come up, all of which stems from performance issues that are created by a poorly maintained or configured web server.
Here’s some reasons as to why this error might be produced:
The content doesn’t exist. This is rarely the case.
The content can’t be located by the server so it can be served up to the visitor. This can come about from anything, but it usually is caused by an improperly configured mod_rewrite rule set.
The server timed out. It may have found the page, but it likely was unable to serve it up in a timely manner.
In cases where you website is heavily interlinked, this error can cause certain sections of your website to be drop in rankings, which is obviously detrimental for your business. In other cases, this can result in entire portions of your website being de-indexed
4. Time to the First Byte
There’s two metrics that bots can use to measure how fast your page loads. You already know about the first, page loading time, but you likely don’t know about the second.
The amount of time that lapses between when a bot first sends its request and when the first byte of your server’s response is received by the bot is called the “Time to First Byte”, or TTFB for short. You can check it for free here.
Contrary to page loading times, this is a metric where the small it is the better your search rank position is likely to fare.
What makes this statistic more valuable to search engines versus total page loading time is that TTFB represents the network latency of your server. The only way to improve it is by getting a host with less network delay.
5.Page Loading Time for Human Visitors
The last way that your computer server can affect your website’ search ranking is by how long it takes for users to load your web page.
Search engines can monitor this by use of browsers like Google Chrome and toolbars. This lets them see just how long it takes the average user to load your website, which includes all of that rich content like images and videos.
There is another way that page loading time for your human visitors can affect your website’s search rank. If a user visits your web page and hits the back button, then they are considered to have “bounced” back to the search engine.
Search engines monitor your website’s bounce rate and, as that rate increases, your search rank tends to drop.
The best way to guard against this factor is to ensure that your website is capable of delivering content as quickly as possible. This means you need a low delay network connection and a server that has more than enough power to handle serving up your content.
Computer Server Performance Matters for Your Search Rankings
The most important aspect of any building is its foundation. Without one, it will eventually crumble. A reliable and robust computer server is the foundation that any website needs to be successful in search engines.
Before your consider spending more on off-site search engine optimization, consider just how well your own web server performs first.