Of the numerous hosting features and extras available from just about every hosting provider out there, the dedicated IP may just be the one that gives Web publishers the most pause. Is it necessary? Does it have any benefit? Do I really need one at all?
The debate rages on. Ultimately, whether you spring for a dedicated IP address or not is your decision, but knowing a few facts, and then throwing in a bit of opinion, may help you make an educated decision. Let’s start with the basics.
When Do I Need a Dedicated IP Address? Dedicated IP Addresses and SEO
Much of the debate over whether to incur the extra expense of a dedicated IP address comes from the question of whether or not the dedicated IP offers any sort of SEO benefit. The answer has changed over the years, but there’s a good reason why that’s happened.
It’s all Matt Cutts’s fault.
OK, not really. But sort of. Matt Cutts is the head of Google’s Webspam team. He communicates regularly with many members of the digital marketing and search industry, and often speaks at industry conferences. He also releases videos on a regular basis where he answers questions people send to him, and discusses Google updates and functions.
In August 2010, Cutts released a video in response to a question about whether shared hosting negatively affects a site’s ranking. The question and response dealt specifically with the presence of spammy websites on the same server as “normal” websites. However, a lot of people took Cutts’s response to mean dedicated IP addresses were not necessary to “protect” those regular sites, and would not offer any SEO benefit.
In a November 2006 blog post, Cutts did address the dedicated IP address question, again saying it was not a ranking factor.
However (You knew there was a “however” coming, right?), 2006 was a long time ago, and by Internet standards, so was 2010. Things have changed since then, including Google’s algorithm, and how rankings are determined. One of the factors Google now looks at when ranking sites is page load speed.
In an August 2013 video, Cutts explains that page load speed is a ranking factor, and that this is true across the board, whether sites are accessed via mobile or desktop. He also says Google will “…continue to look at ways to improve the ways that we [Google] find out how fast a site is, the page speed for a particular page, and then try to figure out whether it makes sense…OK, if we want users to be less frustrated, then maybe it does make sense to incorporate that more into our rankings…”
Now, let’s apply some logic: A dedicated IP can help increase your site’s speed. Google considers page load speed to be a ranking factor. Therefore, a dedicated IP address may be a factor in SEO for your site.
That said, a dedicated IP address is not going to magically transport your site to the number one position in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). But here’s the thing—if you’re trying to help your site rank well, don’t you want to give it every advantage possible? If there are 15 things you can do that may help your site do better in the SERPs, why would you only do 12 of them if you can do them all?
So along with creating high-quality content, ensuring that content isn’t overoptimized, building a solid site architecture, and the numerous other things you can do to make Google like your site just a little more, paying a little extra for a dedicated IP can be a good investment in your site’s future.