If you have ever searched for a hosting provider online, then you will have probably come across the fact that such companies tend to indicate the location of their servers.
While many customers ignore this vital piece of information, we are here today to tell you that you should not neglect it. As a matter of fact, the location of the servers can be quite the deal breaker if it doesn’t suit the needs of your business.
But how does server location actually mean and why is it that important when it comes to your application or website’s performance?
What is ‘server location’?
When we talk about server location, we mainly mean the region where the datacenter is located. This can be anywhere in the world. Because of this, it is important to check where your selected provider’s servers are hosted.
Keep in mind that choosing a random location will, in most cases, backfire. If for example you want to target Europe, search for an European hosting provider and vice versa if your primary target audience is within the US.
Regardless of whether you want to go for a KVM VPS server or a VDS server, there are a plethora of factors that server location does affect. Therefore, you need to make sure that the servers are geographically situated as closely as possible to the region, which you will be focusing your business intentions and efforts on.
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What does server location affect?
As we already mentioned, there are a number of aspects that can be affected by your provider’s datacenter location and in this section we are going to discuss some of the most important ones in more detail.
Page loading speed
Given that we are officially into the second decade of the millennium, people are becoming more demanding of a fast browsing experience. Pages no longer take multiple seconds to load, image formats are different and Web technologies and frameworks now make it possible for applications to be rendered on a user’s screen, regardless of whether they are using a desktop, a table or a mobile.
However, technologies and frameworks aside, server location also plays an important role when it comes to website and web page loading speed. Server requests are sent when a given page is attempted to be loaded across the Web, meaning that the more that request needs to travel, the longer it is going to take for the page to load. And while this timeframe does in most cases boil down to just milliseconds, even the slightest delay can be experienced by the user. Given that we as a community want everything to load as quickly as possible, even a time delay of a mere second can be the reason why someone clicks away from your website or application.
Consequently, this will result in higher bounce rates for your website, which can in turn, affect your search performance. Furthermore, user experience has now been confirmed as an official ranking factor and page loading speed is one such UX metric that is used by algorithms to evaluate your pages and website.
On the other hand, a high bounce rate can also negatively impact your business in terms of potential customer loss and failure to capitalize on search intent.
Due to this, it is important to make sure that user requests towards your website or app need to travel as less distance as possible, which is why you need to make sure that the server’s location is near the geographical region that you wish to target. For example, our datacenter is situated in the capital of Bulgaria - Sofia, meaning that we have superb coverage in Europe, because the city has a complex network system that makes it interconnected with many major Internet Exchange points.
Privacy & Security
It’s not a secret that different countries have divergent rules and regulations when it comes to information security and data privacy. In some countries legislation allows certain authorities to gain access to server logs and track user information about hosted websites and applications.
While in some cases, this is completely acceptable if the targeted website or application is breaching any official laws, it does interfere with ordinary users’ information security and data privacy.
Because of this, it is necessary to choose a hosting provider that can offer you maximum security and privacy protection. Make sure to go through country legislation to find out whether a given location would be suitable for you and your business in terms of data protection.
Server location & SEO
Search engine optimization, usually abbreviated as SEO, refers to the processes that you need to undertake in order to ensure that your website can be as efficient and user-friendly as possible in order to rank high in the search results pages.
Over the last couple of decades, the relationship between server location and SEO has been hotly debated with some claiming that it does have an effect on a website or application’s performance in Search, while others stated that this was purely a myth, given that the algorithm remains a secret and is also constantly changing.
This controversial topic was even addressed by John Mueller, Google’s Search Advocate, on Twitter, claiming that server location does not usually influence search results, as much of the data that is used for geo-targeting can be found in the top-level domain and in the Search Console.
Over the last few years, however, user experience has been established as a key ranking factor and we have finally understood what was meant by the term ‘usually doesn’t affect rankings’. Server location itself doesn’t directly affect your ranking position. However, the benefits of a server in close proximity to the region that is being targeted can positively impact page loading speed, making them load faster, due to the lesser distance that user requests need to travel. Remember, page load speed is a UX ranking factor in itself, meaning that you can see some positive improvements that can be reflected by your position in Search.
Although beneficial, however, this ranking factor alone is not likely to increase your position by much as you still need to carefully consider all other aspects of SEO including content, technical performance and link-building.
Ultimately, given that we don’t really know the secrets of the algorithm, it will never be fully possible to tell the extent of which server location correlates with better rankings. However, regardless of this, it is good practice to have a server located close to the audience and geographical region that you wish to target.
If you are looking for an European hosting provider, our servers and our datacenter are both located in Sofia, Bulgaria. You can check out our story and learn about our company, infrastructure and how we focus on protecting our customers’ privacy and security.