It was once common for every Internet domain to have its own dedicated IP. However, exponential Internet growth has altered circumstances dramatically. Today most websites are hosted on a shared IP. While less expensive for the site operator, shared IP technology has introduced some problems for webmasters optimizing the website’s search rank.
A server neighbourhood or IP neighbourhood refers to the group of domains that share an IP. Many times a single entity will host many websites on a shared solution. However, there are also many cases where an individual site owner will be a member of a server neighbourhood with other distinct site owners.
A server neighbourhood is bad when one of the sharers damages the reputation of the IP address. For instance, you may be operating a perfectly legitimate ecommerce website. However, another member of your sever neighbourhood may be using their website to spread spam or malware. The bad reputation that that IP earns can reflect badly on your website as well.
Websites that are currently a member of a server neighbourhood should use any of the free web services that examine shared hosting providers. These tools will display a list of all known domains on that shared IP. The webmaster can then use that list to investigate each of his neighbours. However, this can be an unreliable system since the webhost may add, change or remove domains.
Webmasters for websites still in the formative stages should consider a dedicated IP. The additional layer of security will offset the additional expenses. The business’ reputation will be theirs alone. However, if those additional costs are prohibitive there are steps that a website can take.
The most important of these steps is not to link from your website to the other websites that share your IP. Most importantly, you want to avoid linking to the bad ones, but it may be best practice just to avoid them altogether.
Secondly, avoid linking to any other bad neighbourhoods. You can accomplish this by verifying all of your links in Google. If the command “site: abc.com”, for instance, returns zero results, then Google has likely banned it, and you should avoid referencing it.
Search engines like Google will ban groups of websites that take part in Black Hat SEO practices. This is the reason why we want to avoid linking to potentially bad sites. It can be difficult to get oneself removed from this type of banning, so we want to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
Furthermore, there are unsubstantiated beliefs that search engines block spammers and sources of malware by blocking the IP address. If the blocked IP address is a shared IP, then all members of a shared hosting solution are blocked in turn. However, these beliefs are, in the case of the largest search provides, false. Nevertheless, it is better to participate in safe practices in the event that some of the smaller search engines do perform this manner of IP blocking.
Due to the importance of Google and our website’s page ranks within its system, there has been much discussion within the SEO world regarding whether Google penalizes websites that share IP addresses with known malware and spam websites. There has not yet been substantiated evidence of Google’s practices, and Google has never given a formal response.
What Google has done is make available to webmasters access to all of their Safe Browsing tool’s pertinent information. By using the provided diagnostics interface, a webmaster can determine when the website was last verified, and determine if malware was found on the domain. Google also displays any flagged domains on the same network. If one discovers that their website belongs to a shared host alongside flagged domains, be proactive, and move your website to a new webhosting solution.