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Search Engine Optimization: Static IP vs. Dynamic IP Addresses

This is a hotly debated topic. Some Search Engine Optimizers (SEOs) claim that sites with a static IP address rank higher while other SEOs claim that shared hosting is just fine… that it would be stupid for search engines to penalize shared hosting since we are running out of IP addresses and so many sites are currently using name based hosting.

First, let's define what we are talking about when we say "static IP" vs "name based" hosting. Here are some synonyms:

For "static hosting", the following all mean the same thing: static IP, dedicated IP, http/1.0, non-shared hosting. For "dynamic hosting", the following all mean the same thing: dynamic IP, name based hosting, http/1.1.

Let's take a brief history of the Internet to put things more in focus. Once upon a time, every host on the Internet had a unique IP address. It is usually expressed as 4 numbers from 0-255 separated by dots. An example would be 207.44.161.131. There are billions of such IP addresses possible… however, there is a finite number.

An organization called ARIN hands out IP addresses in the western hemisphere while another organization handles Europe and another Asia. Those organizations noticed several years ago that we were going to eventually run out of those IP addresses because of the proliferation of websites. At the time, every website had it's own dedicated IP address that was associated with it's domain name.

The solution? A new protocol was developed called HTTP 1.1 (to replace HTTP 1.0). The new protocol allowed more than one domain/website to share the same IP address. In fact, hundreds of websites can now share the same IP address. The new type of hosting is called "name based", "shared IP", "http 1.1", etc.

Some SEOs theorize that your choice of dedicated hosting vs. shared hosting might affect your rankings. Some others claim that is ridiculous because all hosting will eventually be shared in order to preserve IP addresses. Which is correct?

I decided to run it through our statistical analysis engine to get the facts. Here is the methodology I used to answer this question. I gathered the results of the queries naturally performed last month by myself and three associates using Yahoo and Google. I then pinged each site to get its IP address. I then tried to visit the site using the IP address. With shared hosting, this isn't possible. You get some kind of generic page instead of the specific site you want. I tallied my results for each of the first eight rankings.

On the Y-axis, you will see the number of sites found that use a static IP (do not use shared/name based hosting). On the X-axis, we have rankings from 1 to 8. Here is the graph showing Yahoo and Google results:

Search Engine Ranking: Static IP vs. Dynamic IP Addresses

First, it is interesting to note that the number of sites using shared vs. dedicated hosting is just about half and half. We expect that as time goes on, more and more sites will be using shared hosting.

The second thing to note is that there is no trend for either Yahoo or Google that would indicate any preference for either type of site. Google might show a slight preference for static IP. Yahoo might show a slight preference for shared hosting. The net effect is null. The correlations for both are very close to zero (on a scale of -100 to +100, Google's correlation was a +35 and Yahoo's was a -21). I generally consider anything from -35 to +35 to be statistically insignificant.

Notes:

1. Over 1,000 queries and over 10,000 sites were examined for this study.

2. There was no exercise to attempt to isolate different keywords. I merely took a random sampling of the queries performed by three associates and myself during the prior month.

Conclusion:

Sites using static hosting do not rank significantly higher or lower than sites using shared hosting on both Yahoo and Google.

This is merely a correlation study, so it cannot be determined from this study whether the leading search engines purposefully entertain this factor or not. The actual factors used may be far distant from the factor we studied, but the end result is that both of these search engines do, in fact, rank pages with a "window.open" command higher on average.

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Share your comments

Re: Search Engine Optimization: Static IP vs. Dynamic IP Addresses Webcoder  –  Jun 16, 2004 11:34 PM PDT

This finding is really intersting.
However, I am not too clear on the conclusion.
What exactly is meant by "window.open"?
Further clarification on this will help.

Regards
WC

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