Dedicated IP vs Shared IP: The Difference & What Truly Matters
When you’re searching for the perfect managed WordPress hosting partner, there’s one piece of their technology stack you may be particularly curious about: the type of IP address they offer (shared or dedicated), and more importantly, does it matter for your website?
There’s been a lot of talk about the differences between dedicated and shared IP addresses, why they matter, which one you should be using, and so on. There are a lot of opinions out there and (spoiler alert!) while there are some differences between the two, it usually doesn’t matter for most site owners.
But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves! In this article, we’ll explain:
- What is an IP address, and how does it relate to hosting websites?
- What is a dedicated IP address?
- What is a shared IP address?
- What type of IP address is best for SSL?
- What type of IP address is best for site security and performance?
- The impact your IP address has on SEO
Let’s dive in.
What is an IP Address, and How Does it Relate to Hosting Websites?
Dictionary.com defines an IP address as “a unique string of numbers separated by periods that identifies each computer using the Internet Protocol to communicate over a network.”
This is the type of IP address you’re probably most familiar with—the one attached to your personal computer.
When you do anything online, your IP address is how the web knows to send information back to you. I really like the analogy whatismyipaddress.com uses to explain this: Your IP address is like a return address on a letter you’d send out.
Like your computer, the server your website is on also has an IP address. In fact, when it’s time to set up DNS, you’ll need your server’s IP address to get everything wired correctly. You can usually find this in your web host’s dashboard.
When someone types in your website’s custom domain name, the browser actually translates it into the IP address to know what server it’ll find your site’s data on.
Here’s where things start to deviate: Depending on your hosting provider’s tech stack and server setup, your site could either be assigned a dedicated IP address or a shared IP address.
What is a Dedicated IP Address?
A dedicated IP address is a unique string that is only assigned to your website. In fact, if someone typed your unique IP address into their internet browser’s search bar (instead of your domain name), they’d be able to pull up your website.
What is a Shared IP Address?
A shared IP address is a common string that can be assigned to multiple websites. You’ll commonly find shared IP addresses with shared hosting providers or managed WordPress hosts that use a cloud-based tech stack.
To fully explain the difference between dedicated IP addresses and shared IP addresses, it’s best to compare them by the qualities that are important for site owners. Keep reading to learn how IP addresses impact SSL certificates, site performance and security, and SEO.
What Type of IP Address is Best for SSL?
Today, there’s no difference between dedicated IP addresses and shared IP addresses when it comes to SSL.
Several years ago, it was true that you needed a dedicated IP address in order to encrypt your site with an SSL certificate. Today, most hosting providers (including WP Engine) use a technology called Server Name Indication (SNI), which allows the server to use multiple SSL certificates on a single IP address.
Thanks to this technology, you can add an SSL certificate to your site regardless of the type of IP address it uses. (And you should, as adding an SSL certificate to your site is considered a best practice by Google.)
That’s why WP Engine offers a number of options for adding this layer of security, including a free SSL certification through Let’s Encrypt, an automated, open certificate authority.
What Type of IP Address is Best for Site Security and Performance?
Both shared IP addresses and dedicated IP addresses are great for site security and performance; the server your site is on matters much more!
One of the biggest myths around IP addresses is that a shared IP address = a shared server. While that is how some web hosts operate, others use shared load balancers (IP addresses) while still giving each WordPress site its own resources.
Fun fact: Depending on your web host’s architecture, your site might actually use multiple IP addresses for different services.
Since each site has its own resources, there’s no fear of a different site impacting yours, despite using shared IP addresses. With shared servers, your site could see performance or security issues if a different site on the same server experiences something like a traffic spike or gets hacked.
The important thing to note is that this is all talking about the server your site is hosted on, not the type of IP address it uses. Focus on finding a WordPress host that provides an impressive infrastructure, and you’ll be in good hands!
Finally, we’ll end with everyone’s favorite: SEO.
How Do IP Addresses Impact SEO?
Long story short: They don’t.
The type of IP address you use for your site has no direct influence on SEO and your Google rank.
John Mueller, a Webmaster Trends Analyst from Google, has verified this in this video.
“All the same IP address—that’s really not a problem for us. It’s really common for sites to be on the same IP address. That’s kind of the way the internet works. A lot of CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) use the same IP address as well for different sites, and that’s also perfectly fine.” –John Mueller
He goes on to talk about how the real problem is when sites have too similar of content—that’s a red flag for Google.
Remember that old SEO “best” practice of creating multiple domains with duplicate content to target specific keywords and build inbound links? The lower cost of shared hosting made this really easy to do, and because those sites all shared a server, they’d also share an IP address. This is likely where the myth originated that a shared IP is bad for SEO, when really the problem has always been duplicate content.
“So what I recommend doing here is really trying to take a step back and focus on fewer sites and making those really strong, and really good and unique. So that they have unique content, unique products that they’re selling. So then you don’t have this collection of a lot of different sites that are essentially doing the same thing.” –John Mueller
In other words, if you’re worried about SEO, focus on your content (and don’t worry about your IP address).
The TL;DR version is that whether you’re using a dedicated or shared IP address, it has virtually no large impact on your website. It doesn’t truly impact your SEO, performance, or security (granted, there are always rare exceptions).
So why should you care about your IP addresses? Simply put, it’s a way of identifying your website. The most important thing to remember is that as long as you have safe website practices in place, like installing an SSL certificate, and use a high-quality managed WordPress hosting provider, your IP address isn’t something you need to worry about.
Unlock the full potential of your site with WP Engine’s fully managed WordPress hosting. Our industry-leading platform and technology were built to help you achieve top performance, rock-solid security, and blazing-fast speeds. Learn more today!
Note: All photos are original Flywheel photography.