Best Practices

Published on June 16th, 2013 | by tomaspuig

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The Myth of the Dedicated IP Address for SEO

scott-offord

Scott Offord, Director of Internet Marketing at Orion Group, cuts through the confusion once and for all.

By Scott Offord | February 20, 2013

The Myth

There has been a lot of misunderstanding around the topic of dedicated IP addresses for SEO. Misperception about whether a dedicated IP address will provide a boost to your SEO or not still lingers from the false notion that Google penalized virtual hosted sites. It was a misunderstanding that should have been cleared up back in 2003, but it still clouds public perception, 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.

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 any 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, if you need HTTPS to collect credit card information. But SEO is not one of those legitimate reasons to have a dedicated IP.

The fogginess about dedicated IPs and SEO goes way back to 2003 when Craig Silverstein was Director of Technology at Google. In an interview with Slashdot, he was asked a series of shrewd technical questions, among them the following:

“Why, in this day and age, does Google continue to penalize sites that are virtual hosted? With IP addresses becoming harder to get/justify every day, why does google discount the relevance of links that don’t come from a unique IP address? Please don’t deny it, I think the Internet community deserves an explanation.”

Craig’s response was:

“I can’t just deny it? What are my other choice?  Actually, 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 these two cases. We do see a small percentage of ISPs every month that misconfigure their virtual hosting, which might account for this persistent misperception – thanks for giving me the chance to dispel a myth!”

The myth should have been dispelled right then and there, but sometimes misinformation is tough to squelch—especially online— and it continued to perpetuate for years to come.

In 2006, Matt Cutts, who still leads the webspam team at Google, refers back to that Slashdot interview in his blog post titled Myth Busting: Virtual Hosts vs. Dedicated IP Addresses, where he says:

“There is no PageRank difference whatsoever between these two cases (virtual hosting vs. a dedicated IP) … I’m happy to affirm that this statement which was true in 2003 is still true now. Links to virtually hosted domains are treated the same as links to domains on dedicated IP addresses.”

The Controversy

Why is the question of the dedicated IP is still so prevalent even a decade later? Support teams often receive questions from customers about this misconception to this day. It’s become part of the collective unconscious of the internet, and we want to put an end to that right now.

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 (misinformed) 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 your scheme.

But you’re probably not running a black-hat operation. You’re probably more concerned with growing your business, and you aren’t always sure who to trust with your SEO.

Dedicated IP Addresses for eCommerce

There are reasons, other than SEO, 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.

Outside of the eCommerce example, having a dedicated IP is just not going to matter. And it’s certainly not going to affect your SEO. Take a look at Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, the SEO Bible, 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, there isn’t a shortcut! The first step is to produce interesting, relevant content for your audience. That’s not complicated, but it’s not easy either. 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, because 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.

About the author:

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.


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