Is your web server’s location damaging your rankings?

I’ve been asked to do some search engine optimisation for classical guitar shop, Kent Guitar Classics. We’ve only just begun the keyword research phase, so don’t flame me for the site’s current SEO!

What I noticed whilst conducting that research, is that even for the name of the business (usually an easy number one spot unless you have a very generic business name), the site only comes second when using the “pages from the UK” option in Google. The number one result using “pages from the UK” is a page on the Venezuelan UK embassy’s website! As you would expect, Kent Guitar Classics comes first if you just search “the web” using Here are a couple of screenshots for posterity:


Kent Guitar Classics web search


Kent Guitar Classics UK search


A bit of investigation using a whois service like Domain Tools shows that the website is hosted in Oslo!

Kent Guitar Classics whois lookup


Why is this important? Well, Google’s search results are biased according to the country in which the search is being performed. This is because it knows that most searchers are looking for something local to them. Google uses lots of information to decide whether a site is in the same country as the searcher: the domain extension (e.g., the postal address on the site (if it can find one), the geographic-targeting setting in Webmaster Tools, links from local websites and quite possibly numerous other factors.

One other factor is the physical location of the web server, i.e. if it is hosted in the same country. Clearly, in Kent Guitar Classics’ case, it isn’t – it’s hosted in Norway. As a result, one of the big pointers Google uses to determine a site’s country of origin is way off. Naturally, I have advised Miles at Kent Guitar Classics to move server.


An interesting aside I noticed while researching the site’s setup is that for some reason, the deafult homepage for is index.html, but the homepage appears to be index.asp. This could be another problem for Google, as it doesn’t like “bounce”-type redirects. A quick disabling of Javascript and meta refresh tags using the excellent Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox means that I can see this page:

Kent Guitar Classics redirect page - click to enlarge
Kent Guitar Classics redirect page - click to enlarge


Examine the code, and there is a Javascript redirect to index.asp – not something that Google will take particularly kindly to. This could be because the developer originally used index.html and when the change to index.asp was made, they didn’t want to break peoples’ bookmarks, so they used a redirect to ensure everyone still got the homepage.

This is one of the problems with Windows web servers running Internet Information Server (IIS) – there isn’t an easy way to create permanent (301) redirects, because the .htaccess files used by Apache (the usual web server on Linux machines) mean nothing to IIS. Instead, you either have to code the redirect into the page using ASP, or make changes directly in IIS (or install an ISAPI filter), which on anything but a dedicated server, the host won’t let you near.

That’s a completely separate problem to the physical location of the server, but I thought I’d mention it whilst looking at that site! 🙂

3 thoughts on “Is your web server’s location damaging your rankings?

  1. Hi Mark.

    It would certainly be worth trying, but my understanding is that it’s only one part of the equation and that moving server would probably add more “weight” to the equation.

    Then there is the question of the other search engines, who don’t provide a geo-setting in their webmaster tools (not that I can find anyway!)

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