This 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.
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. (this is no longer needed as of Feb 10, 2016)
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.
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.