Tag Archives: dedicated IP address

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Do You Need a Dedicated IP Address?

Today, for nearly all small businesses, you don’t need a dedicated IP address. This may not agree with what you’ve read and it may not agree with what I’ve told you in the past. Please, bear with me.

What is an IP address?

An Internet protocol address is assigned to every computer interface to the Internet. One form of these addresses is four decimal numbers, such as 213.54.125.33.

An Internet service called the domain name service translates domain names (such as webmarketingadvantage.com) into its assigned IP address. This translation happens as part of the process to access a website from a browser, or to send email, as well as applications that use other Internet protocols. You can think of DNS as a sort of worldwide phonebook for the Internet.

DNS allows the use of names that make sense to people, rather than IP addresses that are purely numeric, to use the Internet. It’s a lot easier to use webmarketingadvantage.com than having to enter the IP address every time you want to send email or access the website.

Dedicated IP addresses

If your website has a dedicated IP address, then it is the only site that is reached through that address. DNS will have just one domain name entry that gets translated into that IP address. A good analogy to this is the private telephone line, that has a phone number that only you use.

Shared IP addresses

Because there is been a shortage of IP addresses, various techniques were used to stretch the remaining supply. One of these techniques is to assign several website domain names to the same IP address. It’s easy to see that this practice can conserve on scarce IP addresses.

In the past, I have cautioned against shared IP addresses. If you share an IP address with other websites, and those websites engage in spammy behavior, that IP address could show up on various blacklists that are maintained by a number of different companies who provide various Internet services.

In addition, there was the risk that behavior of other websites who shared your IP address might cause all of you to get poor rankings in Google search results.

Some cases of shared IP addresses occur because a large number of websites are hosted on the same server. Depending on how much traffic the sites receive, and the capacity of the server, that could mean that your website doesn’t have enough CPU resource to give quick performance. That’ll make your visitors unhappy and it will also make Google unhappy enough to give you lower rankings in search results.

Shared IP addresses and website security

We all know that Google has led the charge toward universal use of SSL and HTTPS so that communication between your browser and a website is secure. Google’s Chrome browser, now the industry leader, shows a “not secure” warning if your site doesn’t use SSL, and Google also threatens lower position in search results. As a consequence, SSL has been widely adopted.

At one time, a dedicated IP address was required in order to use SSL. With the development of Server Name Identification (SNI), however, that need has disappeared. Essentially all browsers in current use support SNI, so it is not a security reason to favor dedicated IP addresses any longer.

What about shared IP addresses and SEO?

It’s important to remember that with regard to SEO, Google doesn’t tell us how they decide where your website winds up in search results. What we know is what’s been learned through experience and what has been shared in the community of people who work in the SEO field.

Google does offer a set of webmaster guidelines to follow, laying what they do and don’t want to see in a site, and shared IP addresses are not in the list of don’ts. This tells us that a shared IP address by itself won’t hurt rankings in Google results.

Quality hosting

One of the first checks I make as part of a new SEO engagement is for shared IP addresses. I usually find one of these three situations:

  • A dedicated IP address
  • An IP address that is shared by a relatively small number of legitimate sites
  • An IP address that is shared by hundreds or thousands of sites, some of which look suspicious

If I find either the first or second case, I’m not concerned. The second situation even occurs for some of the largest companies; they will have several of their sites sharing an IP address.

Often, I find the third situation. There are hundreds or thousands of domain names sharing the same IP address. Usually, just a quick scan of the domain names reveals that these do not all belong to legitimate businesses. This is a sign that my client has purchased the least expensive hosting service, that just throws huge numbers of domain names on the same IP address.

Websites can be hacked and misused, or the hosting company could just be hosting sites that are used for illegitimate activities. In either case, the IP address can wind up on blacklists maintained by various Internet providers, and it can be difficult to get off these blacklists. Trust me, that’s the voice of experience.

The hosting service that I offer has recently transitioned so that all websites are hosted on Amazon AWS, in order to provide the utmost in availability. Along with that change, and the complete virtualization of the service, now shared IP addresses are used. This takes place in an environment where the behavior of all the sites is carefully monitored.

The bottom line

If you use a quality web hosting service, you don’t need a dedicated IP address.

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Doctors, Dentists, Lawyers Victimized by Website Providers

Busy Professionals Victimized by Web Charlatans

I’ve worked with doctors, dentists and lawyers who have Web sites and wonder why the  site doesn’t enhance their practices.  They  have a perfectly good-looking site, developed by people who specialize in their very field, and the site just sits there looking good!

The problem is that these busy professionals are being victimized with Web sites that look good but are built so that looking good is all that they’ll do–they won’t help grow the practice.  And the purveyors of the site won’t give you good advice in that area, either–they are more interested in booking quick, high-profit cookie cutter jobs.

If you ask about search engine traffic, you’re likely to get an answer such as “We are not an SEO company, we are a Web site company.”   That’s certainly true; these outfits are not SEO companies.  But I think they should instead say “We will give you a Web site that looks good but will never ever bring you any visitors from search engines.”

In this issue, I’ll tell you some things to look for if you’re a professional looking for the development of a new site.  I’m not an artist so don’t do site designs myself, but I do advise clients who are having a new site developed.  If you’re getting a new site you can engage me to help you through the cycle, reading and evaluating proposals, helping choose a vendor, giving them some guidelines and evaluating and testing the result.  But these guidelines will give you a good start at it.

WordPress

The first question to ask:  are they using WordPress to build the site, and can you host the site that’s built on any hosting service of your choosing?

There are many reasons why a small business site should be built with WordPress.  Most of them stem from its popularity–more of the world’s sites are hosed on WordPress than any other platform.  So you can always get someone to work on it, and if you want to add function to it, someone has probably built a plugin to do just what you want.  And because it’s free, even the best add-ons that you have to pay for are cheap.

If the developer doesn’t propose WordPress right away as their first choice, choose someone else.  You don’t want to force them into using a development platform they don’t like or aren’t  not familiar with.

Hosting Service

Usually these folks will provide hosting service for the site after it’s built.  That’s a good thing, actually, because you need hosting service, and it’ll be convenient for them to make any changes to the site you may decide you want.

However, there are two issues that you should verify about their hosting service:

HTTPS

First, Google gives an edge to sites that use HTTPS, the secure version of the Web protocol HTTP.  If you’re getting a new site, the time is ripe to start with HTTPS.  Leading edge companies are using it now.  The developer may not propose it, but they should not resist at all a request from you to implement it.  Here, too, if they don’t want to do it, don’t waste time with them–move on.

It’s worth using HTTPS just for the Google search position bump you’ll get.  But it’s also timely because it protects site visitors’ communication with the site.  The FCC is now toying with rules that may allow users’ browsing data to be sold.  In that environment. competitive factors dictate that we keep that information to ourselves through use of HTTPS.

Dedicated IP Address

Your IP address is the numeric Internet address of your site.  If your hosting service shares your IP address with other sites, then if one of those sites behaves badly, your shared IP address can end up on one of the lists of banned IP addresses that are shared among Internet service providers.  The more other sites share your IP address, and how they are connected, has a lot to do with how much risk there is.

This subject has some complexity to it.  I’ve written a post about it, that includes an easy way for you to test whether your IP address is shared by any other sites.  You can also use that same method to look at the IP address strategy of major companies.  I suggest looking at the IP address sharing strategy for IBM, GE and GM.

If your developer tells you that there’s no reason to have a dedicated IP address, then they’re not telling you the truth, and you should move on.  You may decide, after reading my post, that you don’t need a dedicated IP address.  Certainly, though, you don’t want your IP address shared by a large number of sites.  If your IP address is shared by, say, six sites, with companies all well known to the site provider, than maybe that’s OK.  But if your IP address is shared by 100 sites, then that’s an issue.

Duplicate Content

If the content of your site duplicates another site’s content, then Google will decide which is the original and not index the other.  That is, you risk getting zero referrals from Google for any of your content that’s duplicated elsewhere on the Web.

Ask your site developer whether they guarantee uniqueness of the content they will supply.  Then, when the site is delivered, check every page for uniqueness.  To make the check, copy a sequence of about 15 words from the middle of a paragraph and paste it into a plagiarism detector such as Copyscape.

If they’ve provided a significant amount of duplicate copy, after promising unique content, don’t ask them to fix it–find someone else, and don’t pay the bill.  You’ve been deceived and cheated.  They’ll cheat you again.

Reviews

Some of these site developers provide a service to help you get reviews.  Typically this is simply a request that you email to a client or patient and ask them to do a review.  However, more than one of these companies doesn’t do the extra work required to make it easy for the person who’s being surveyed to write a review on a recognized review site; instead, they offer a review that’s posted only on your own site, or is posted on a review site that they own.

You want some help in getting genuine, favorable reviews from your real clients and patients–but on a popular review site, not just your own site and not some obscure site owned by your Web site provider. Today, your prospects are searching reviews in Google, Yelp and other important review sites,  If you have 50 to 100 good reviews on these sites, they will bring people to you.  For more detail, see the post that I’ve written on this subject.

If they offer a review service, you want a live feed of reviews on your site, so that recent reviews are shown, and there are links to the reviews on the review site.  This gives the display on your site great credibility with visitors to your site.

Your developer may not offer a review service; that’s fine.  You can use my service–or another service.   But if they service they offer doesn’t meet the requirements outlined here, they’re trying to sell you something that will actually hurt you, by wasting perfectly good reviews that, if located on review sites, would be helping you.

The Bottom Line

Use the criteria I’ve given here to test what’s being offered to you.  Or, if you’d like, get in touch with me and provide me links to a couple of sites that the developer you’re considering has developed.  I’ll be happy to look at them for you and give you my opinion.  I don’t develop sites, so have no stake in which developer you choose.