Choosing a hosting provider for your UK WordPress website is probably one of the first decisions you will have to make before launching a project. This decision should not be taken lightly as the wrong choice of hosting can have continuing detrimental affects upon your websites SEO effectiveness. When considering which hosting provider to choose you should consider a number of factors, particularly if like me, you live in the United Kingdom.
If money is no object then choose a hosting provider that is as close to your intended audience/market as possible and opt for at least 4GB of server RAM and, if possible SSD storage. This will ensure lightening fast response times and a great user experience. If this is you you can stop reading this article here. However, if expenditure is a consideration, then you need to weigh up a number of factors in deciding which hosting provider to choose.
There is considerable debate in online forums about whether you should choose a hosting provider whose servers are actually located in the country in which you are located. There is some merit in choosing a server in you target country, namely latency speed (the time it takes for your website to respond to any given user input). If your hosting provider is based on the West Coast of the USA and your user is in the UK, the response times of your website is going to be slower than a similar website hosted on a similar server in Milton Keynes. But latency is not the only factor in influencing your websites user friendliness.
Having used many different hosting providers, both UK and internationally based, there is a great deal of difference in the amount of ‘bang’ you get for your ‘buck’ in terms of server quality and hardware. In my experience this has a greater effect on your websites SEO effectiveness and load speed then just latency. It is a sad fact that many UK based hosting providers are not particularly up to date or competitive in terms of hosting infrastructure. They tend to be more expensive and have inferior server architecture to foreign providers, particularly US based ones. What £15 per month will buy you in the UK is not very much compared to international providers. US hosting providers tend to have more advanced servers and better prices. This is why many website designers host their website on American servers.
When it comes to WordPress websites they work best when you have a decent amount of dedicated RAM and a decent server hard drive, the bigger your WordPress website is, the more of these resources it will need. In the UK you could be paying upwards of £300pa for 4GB of server RAM and SSD storage. It may only cost you half this if you choose a US based hosting provider. And many of these US based companies operate servers in Europe. Quite simply the more dedicated RAM you have and the faster your hard drive response time is, the faster your website will load.
Webpage load speed has become an increasingly important metric for search engine providers such as Google and Bing. Simply put, the faster your website loads the better your page rank will be. The distance your server is from your users can cause a longer response time (latency – see above). However, if you are using a shared hosting provider in the UK with 1GB of RAM and a standard SATA hard drive, you may find that your WordPress website loads slower than one based in the US with 6GB of RAM and SSD storage. If your websites homepage takes longer than 5 seconds to load in your target country and you currently host it abroad, then it may well be worth considering moving your hosting server closer to your target audience and sucking up the additional cost from a local UK based hosting provider.
One key point to remember is that hosting server location is not the ‘be-all and end-all’ when it comes to SEO effectiveness. WordPress websites have many ways to identify themselves as geolocated in a particular location. SEO plugins like Yoast and their addon “Local SEO” can help target your website on a specific location. Search Engines, such as Google and Bing use your top-level domain suffix (e.g. .co.uk) to associate your domain to a geographical location (in this example, to the United Kingdom). So where the website is actually hosted is not as important as it might seem at first. So when it comes to choosing your hosting provider, consider first the quality of server infrastructure and go for the best you can afford, irrespective of its location.