Chuck of Chuck St. John Photography asked me the following question by email:
“I don’t seem to have a static IP. When I did your test, and used the IP # given, It did not take me to my web page but the to hosting
companies’ web page :-( ”
My answer was:
“Yeah, that happens a lot. It means your website has a ‘dynamic, shared IP address’ which saves the web hosting company a ton of money.”
Chuck is talking about the process of figuring out whether your website has its own static, dedicated IP address. The way you can know this is to open up a command prompt (the good old DOS prompt), and typing in the following:
(inserting your real website name there.)
Let’s try it for this website, www.jmblog.com:
The result will be a reply an IP address.
In this case, that IP address is 184.108.40.206.
If you take that IP address and copy it into your browser window, it will return my website, www.jmblog.com. That means that my site has its own, static, dedicated IP address. It doesn’t change. It’s been at the same IP address for about 5 or 6 years now.
The following is a gross oversimplification, but it will give you the idea:
I host about 50 clients on my dedicated server. Each website on my server is set up with a static, dedicated IP address. It’s better for search engine rankings. It helps a litle bit at Google to have a dedicated, static IP address. (Bruce Clay has proven this definitely — and I trust Bruce’s data above what Google says, which is that it doesn’t matter. It does matter.) That’s why I offer static IP addresses to my SEO and web design clients when I wind up hosting them.
But it costs me about a dollar per IP address per month.
Most web servers are set up to handle 2000 or more websites. (Remember, this is a GROSS oversimplification I’m giving here.) As I understand it, most of those websites are sitting idle most of the time, with no one visiting them (sad but true). But when someone does visit them, a normal server will dynamically assign an IP address from a small pool of IP addresses, and so for the duration of the visit (someone looking at the site in his browser) the site is assigned an IP address from the pool. When that session is over, a visitor to a different website hosted on that server will be given the exact same IP address from the pool. So the IP address is dynamic (happens whenever there’s a request) and it’s shared, and its somewhat random. A server can handle 2000 websites or more, while using less than 100 IP addresses, most of the time. So that’s what most web hosting companies do. (There are lots of exceptions to this, but you get the idea.)
Your website could be sharing IP addresses with known spammers, with porn sites, or with drug or gambling sites, and you’d never know. But Google will know.
And since IP addresses are in a dwindling supply (they are talking about implenting a new six-number IP address scheme in the next few years after we run completely out of IP addresses using four numbers), the cost of them is going up and it’s hard to get any more. I can’t get any more IP addresses from the company where I lease my dedicated server; they won’t sell them to me because they need them to set up new servers.
However, there’s usually a back-door kind of way to get an IP address from your current web hosting company. Just buy a security certificate for your website. Tell them you’re going to be setting up a shopping cart and need a secure server and your own security certificate. When they sell you a security cert, it has to be assigned to JUST ONE IP address. So you’ll end up with a static, dedicated IP address for your website when you buy a security certificate.
Which helps a little bit with your Google ranking. Not a lot, but some.
To prove it to yourself, do this little test. It won’t take 10 minutes:
Go check the websites ranking in the top 10 at Google for your keywords and see how many of them have their own static, dedicated IP address. Then go to page 10 of the Google search results for that same keyword and see how many websites have their own static, dedicated IP addresses. Whenever I’ve done this, it’s shown a distinct lack of static IP addresses for those on page 10, and an abundance of static IP addresses on page 1 of the Google SERPs.
Is it a causal relationship? Or Coincidence? Sites that rank well tend to be selling something, which means they have a security cert, which means they have a static, dedicated IP address. And they tend to be better optimized, more focused, have better content, and so on — in other words they have been actively driven to the first page of Google search results by someone like me.
Either way, it still relates: sites with a static, dedicated IP address tend to do better in the Google search results.
Is having a dedicated, static IP address as important as having tons of relevant content? Not even remotely. It is as important as having tons of links to your site from relevant web pages that also have their own PageRank? Nope.
It’s just barely important enough that we make it a requirement for our SEO clients to have a static, dedicated IP address. And we’ll help them get one, one way or another. It’s usually easy.
If your content is sparse and stale and you have few links to your site, which by the way is built entirely with Flash, then don’t sweat the fact that you’ve got a dynamic IP address. You’ve got MUCH bigger problems to worry about.
But if you’re duking it out on page 1 of the Google search results for your main keyword, and you can’t seem to make it up past the 4th position, getting your site a static IP address may just boost your site that last little bit to get you to position 3. There are dozens of minor points, each of which may help. Having a static IP address is just one of them.
I use a proprietary checklist of about 60 points that we know make a difference to Google, based on our experience doing search engine optimization for more than a decade. We were doing this back before they were trying to figure out what to call it and eventually settled on “SEO” and “SEM”.
Many points of SEO technique have come and gone from that checklist over the years. Meta keywords tags, invisible text, stuffing keywords in table summary tags, stuffing keywords in comment tags, reciprocal link directories, etc., have gone the way of the dinosaurs.
We give away free consultations where we try to give you one concrete thing that you can do to make your site rank better in the Google search results; no one will twist your arm to buy our SEO audit services but if you want to know what your site needs to rank well, feel free to contact me.