The Myth of the Dedicated IP Address for SEO

scott offord - seo consultantThis is a guest post by Scott Offord, the Director of Internet Marketing at Orion Group, a web marketing company with a focus on helping owners of WordPress websites make the most out of search rankings.

The Myth

There is a lot of confusion around the topic of dedicated IP addresses for SEO. Confusion about whether a dedicated IP address will provide a boost to your SEO or not still lingers, even though it shouldn’t. I want to cut through the confusion. A dedicated IP will not boost your SEO in any way. According to Google, a dedicated IP will not help your SEO rankings, and is not a justified expense for SEO.

The confusion over dedicated IPs and SEO goes way back to 2003 when Craig Silverstein was Director of Technology at Google. To address the question about the value of dedicated IPs some webmasters had at that time, Craig said, “Google handles virtually hosted domains and their links just the same as domains on unique IP addresses. If your ISP does virtual hosting correctly, you’ll never see a difference between the two cases.” In 2006, Matt Cutts, who still leads the webspam team at Google, mentions that article in his short blog post debunking the dedicated IP myth, where he says,

“There is no PageRank difference whatsoever between these two cases (virtual hosting vs. a dedicated IP).”

Being concerned about SEO is very understandable. Your business needs to drive a certain amount of traffic to your WordPress site in the same way you might need people to come through your door. It doesn’t matter if your site is large or small. For a regular, honest company looking to gain exposure for their site that’s built on WordPress, it is not necessary to be concerned about dedicated IP address hosting for SEO purposes. There are other, legitimate reasons for a dedicated IP, for example, because you need HTTPS to collect credit card information. But SEO is not one of those legitimate reasons to have a dedicated IP. If you are not convinced, read on.

The Controversy Continued

Why is the question of the dedicated IP is still so prevalent even a decade later? Not too long ago, the “trend” in SEO was for companies to create multiple mini-sites (perhaps 20-50 or more all with unique, but similarly-themed content) for the purpose of flooding search results with as many of their own web properties as possible. Each of these sites would have had their own domain name and would need to be hosted somewhere.

Because of the fear of getting penalized by the search engines, webmasters started looking for unique C-class IP hosting, where they could be allotted multiple different IP addresses that made it seem like their network of mini-sites weren’t related to each other. This was clearly deception, and among an entire category of black-hat SEO practices that Google has caught on to and de-ranked of late.

If you are practicing such shady tactics as describe above and require that many unique IP addresses, and Google hasn’t caught up to you yet, it’s only a matter of time until an update like Penguin or Panda de-ranks the scheme.

But you’re probably not running a black-hat scheme. You’re probably more concerned with growing your business, and you aren’t always sure to trust with your SEO.

Dedicated IP Addresses for eCommerce

There are reasons to purchase a dedicated IP address. You might need a dedicated IP if you run a shopping cart that requires an SSL certificate. In this case, your host would assign a dedicated IP address to your site for the security of your customer’s data carried on each transaction.

Outside of the eCommerce example, having a dedicated IP is not something to worry about. It’s just not going to affect your SEO. Take a look at Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, and you’ll notice that dedicated IP addresses aren’t to be found on that list of best practices!

But You Still Need Good SEO

If you want good SEO, the first step is to produce interesting, relevant content for your audience. That’s the first step. You don’t need to start tweaking your SEO until you have great content on your site. From there, you want a reliable managed WordPress host, your site’s speed will give you another leg up over your competition who might be on an old, slow dedicated machine. But, in all my years doing SEO for a number of companies, there is no real advantage to having a dedicated IP address just for SEO purposes.

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Scott Offord is one of WP Engine’s Finely Tuned Consultants and the Director of Internet Marketing at Orion Group, a web marketing company with a focus on helping owners of WordPress websites get their sites performing better in the search engines. Scott is available for SEO consulting.

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  1. Russ Offord says

    All good points. Perhaps the money saved can be out towards quality on-site content genration, which search engines do like theses days. ;)

  2. says

    Scott,
    I consider myself a completely whitehat SEO. And I’ll 100% agree on your dedicated vs non dedicated IP issue.
    However, I’ll take issue with one of your statements. While many people that get different IPs for their sites are building link farms and this would be considered “spammy,” there is a reason to have a different IP per site if you’re not being spammy.
    For example: I have a site about real estate technology tips. On that site in one article, I link to one of my other sites that sells a real estate technology solution. If they are on the same IP that link does not count.
    Another example: A Realtor working for a brokerage has the same IP as their brokerage website. The Realtor writes on their site information and links to the broker 100% voluntarily. No value for that link, but not spammy at all.

    It is in these cases that clients are hurt by the single IP issue. I imagine that Google will get better at figuring this out and seeing value. But as of now different IPs for non spammy sites is mandatory to get any value from all of your work.

    • Scott Offord says

      Hi Eric. Thanks for your comment.

      I agree when you say, “there is a reason to have a different IP per site if you’re not being spammy.”.

      However, if they are on the same IP, that cross link would still count. It just might not be weighted as heavily as it might if it was on a unique C Class.

      I do hope Google gets better at figure all that out too.

      ~ Scott O.

  3. says

    I have to disagree with you because of an experience I had about a year ago. I have a personal site thats been online for about 9 years. My pages were indexed and ranking well in the search engines. About 3 years after Bing came along, and after trying several other things, I requested a dedicated IP and voila, my site was indexed in 4 days. Since indexation is critical for rankings, I would argue that dedicated IP’s are still important for SEO.

    A dedicated IP doesn’t protect you from link spamming and sharing a server doesn’t keep you from ranking. As I like to say, there’s too many always/never statements in SEO. Every page/site should be treated as an individual entity and every measure should be tested. We want to have a perfect answer to everything but we should approach our campaigns with curiosity and the belief that nothing Google tells us can be substantiated without testing.

  4. Scott Offord says

    Ah Buckles, it is interesting that your site had an increase in indexation like that. I’d be interested to see if you have Google Webmaster Tools or Bing Webmaster Tools data for that.

  5. says

    I had several sites on a server using the same ip, and my email accounts were always getting blacklisted because of spam activity (I guess) on other sites on that server with the same ip. Isn’t that a legit reason for a dedicated ip?

  6. says

    What about DDoS attacks? I see it with some of my clients whose sites go down because they are on shared hosting and shared IP. If they had a dedicated IP address, would their site go down?

  7. Jim says

    Hi Scott,

    I have four websites all built on squarespace. The four sites are in the same niche. Some are linking to each other.

    Would this be seen as being black hat seo? It’s not meant to be, i just like using squarespace.

    • Scott Offord says

      Hi Jim,

      I’m not sure how squarespace uses IP address blocks. You might want to check if they are all on the same IP or not. Perhaps try a tool like this: http://www.tinybigideas.com/browser-extensions/website-ip/ to check that out.

      I think you should be ok with only 4 sites interlinking to each other, however, it depends how similar the content is. If each website provide value to the visitor and they aren’t just “feeder” sites that point to one main site, I don’t think it would be a problem.

      I hope this helps.
      Scott O.

  8. Seb says

    Conclusion of the discussion: So in certain cases a dedicated IP is more favorable than a shared IP. Some of the comments from Scott and others go against the grain of the original intent of the article… to say that “dedicated IP, doesn’t affect SEO” when clearly there are practical reasons for it expressed in the commentary. So to clear some confusion is it safe to say that it will NOT affect SEO so long as you are cross linking dubiously … ? Then it becomes a question of “where” is the line with cross linking websites sharing the same IP address?

    Thanks

  9. says

    I have hosted around 10 websites in one shared IP. All sites are just information sites and there is no confidential data or payments activities. Is there any benefit if I use dedicated IP address for my websites?

  10. says

    With shared hosting (true shared hosting – where not only my sites – but sites from people I do not know and on different Cpanel accounts at the hosting provider are kept) I have run into som e serious issues.
    I have had “IP bans” when joining forums, trying to join Twitter and a site which sets out to prevent email spam by logging the use of Cpanel created email account suffixes has started to also log the IP that the email is registered to and “blanket banning” all those sites on the same IP – whether they are owned by the same person or not.
    Bluehost is my provider and my “unlimited” account shares IP with at least 9 other people and 40+ websites – some of which have clearly been used for spammng purposes. Many anti-spam applications (like Akismet) refer to these anto spam services to do a domain and URL check and will ban sites associated with the same IP.
    While this may not strictly be SEO – it can seriously restrict the social media site of website promotion as it is then virtually impossible to use you domain name to create social media accounts or leave your domain name as a link anywhere.
    In other words – Google may not care – but others do – and the result in terms of website promotion is the same.

    Loretta

  11. says

    Good points made in the article. I guess people only decide to look into this topic when they plan to interlink their own websites in most cases.

  12. says

    a dedicated IP address on its own won’t boost your rankings, however getting many links from the same IP will get you penalized. Google may take that as a footprint for a blog network.

  13. says

    Our company manages a portfolio of law websites for an array of law firms. These firms are not the ‘same firm’ splintered amongst multiple sites in a local rank result. They are, in fact, legitimate competitors of one another, and we try to help everyone to succeed in converting as many eyeballs into phone calls, as possible.

    Our host solution at Rack Space doesn’t allow for unique IPs by site, so….we have all of these guys in the same local market, talking about the same thing, on the same WordPress template, and the same IP.

    How much rank value am I going to get from paying up and putting them all on separate IPs – any?

    Side Question: In your opinion, how negative can a replicated site template cause for local rankings?

    • Scott Offord says

      Trevor,

      RackSpace should give you unique IP addresses for each site…. but you’d probably have to tell them that the reason you need it is because you are going to use SSL. That’s probably the only way they will be willing to give you Unique IPs. You don’t have to go through with the SSL request, just use it as an excuse for needing new IPs.

      It’s hard to say what the pros and cons would be in your exact situation, but it would be worth a shot to try.

      Regarding the template, I’d say you are fine there… but if the text content is not unique enough from page to page or site to site, you might run into duplicate content issues. Try something like http://plagspotter.com for that.

      Hope this helps!
      Scott O.

  14. says

    In my mind, there are a number of key benefits of to multiple IP hosting. First, it will help with international SEO because it makes it easier for sites to rank in the relevant geographical area. The same goes for local SEO. Additionally, when many sites are hosted on the same IP like with shared hosting, if other sites using that IP are penalized by the search engines for spamming or distributing malware, the innocent sites can be hit to. Finally, there are many legitimate reasons for having multiple interlinked websites. For example, a company might prefer differently branded sites to appeal to diverse market segment and using them on the same IP address could hurt their link power.

    • Scott Offord says

      Hi Daniel

      International SEO sounds like a valid reason to use a separate IP address, but wouldn’t you be able to solve that by using a proper TLD domain or by targeting the region in Google Webmaster Tools?

      Scott O.