The impact of IP host location on your site SEO

by on 25th March 2015

Back in February I contacted WPengine to ask if we could upgrade to PHP 5.5.

With WPengine (and the way we’ve set up our DNS) this upgrade involved an IP address change in’s a-records.

Following this change, I saw a drop in SEO visibility in our UK rankings so, I investigated.

Sure enough, Searchmetrics showed a drop in UK rankings, but curiously, the US data appeared to show a big improvement. It became quickly obvious that the IP change was to blame, a location lookup revealed the problem.

I’d originally set up our hosting to serve from a UK data centre, but when we updated the IP address, I failed to check the new host location. The new IP was located in the USA.

I got back in touch with WPengine who provided me with a new UK IP address, and after changing the location back in the DNS a-records, UK rankings returned.

Given the impactfulness of the IP location change I thought it might be a smart move to repeat the change to see if the ranking flux could be repeated. That’s possible because WPengine keep a routing map of their IP changes, so for now it doesn’t matter which IP address we use, we’ll arrive at the same website.

This brief post shows the change timeline by date and the resulting ranking shifts:


Here are the key dates for changes:

  • IP changed to USA on 17th Feb 2015 (
  • IP returned to UK IP on Feb 28th 2015 (
  • Repeat Test: settings returned to USA IP on 9th March 2015 (
  • Repeat Test: returned to UK IP on the 17th March 2015 (


This is our own ranking visibility score for the UK search results (click to enlarge):


As you can see there’s a drop immediately after the first change (17th February). The drop is quite significant (we’re tracking 281 keywords that represent a number of important commercial, branded and informational search queries with search volume). Our host IP was returned to the UK IP on Feb 28th. The astonishing thing about the data is how quickly Google responds to this change. The IP change is repeated and a similar behavior is observed.

This is Searchmetrics data for the UK (click to enlarge):


Obviously, we’re still waiting for the 2nd drop in rankings to recover. That update should be the end of this week. As the previous drop and recovery matches our own rank tracking, I’m pretty positive it’ll turn out the same.

This is Searchmetrics data for the USA (click to enlarge):


Rankings went up quite nicely in the US but the drop as we return to the UK IP doesn’t seem as significant. I don’t really know what to think here as the US Searchmetrics update intervals are out of sync with the UK. I suspect we’ll see a drop in US visibility by the end of this week.

Webmaster Tools Search Impressions UK (click to enlarge):


You see a similar drop in overall impressions in the UK between 21st February to the 1st March which matches the timing of the first change. It looks like the same behavior is repeated around the 17th March.

Webmaster Tools Search Impressions US (click to enlarge):


I’m just not sure this is as significant, GWMT reports a 5% improvement in impressions but when we have 886,000 or so impressions in the USA in that period I think we need a bit more data to have any certainty. The IP address itself is located in Texas, and as we don’t have a state level of granularity in our ranking data, it’s very, very hard to see what’s happening here.


I think we see around a 15-20% flux in UK rankings caused by an IP change out of, and back to the UK. Searchmetrics rank tracking for their UK tracked terms matches fluctuations in exactly the same period, although the level of flux will be different as the keywords they track are similar, but not exactly the same as ours.

There was a rankings boost in the Searchmetrics US data set when the IP moved to the USA, but from there it’s a little difficult to unpick what’s happening. My guess is we’ll see an eventual drop in rankings, but another week or so of data would certainly help.

It’s important to note this test was carried out on a “.com” domain with a UK and US IP address. In case it’s not obvious, we use a CDN to serve static JS, CSS and images but the domain itself (and subsequently, the HTML served) resolves via a fixed location dictated by the host IP.

I’ve played with the GWMT International Targeting settings and found setting our “.com” to target the UK improved impressions in the UK but reduced impressions in the US. That’s pretty understandable. I don’t think the change had as powerful effect on UK rankings as the IP change did.

If you’re using a “” domain in the UK with a US IP address, the “” ccTLD may be a strong enough signal to make an IP change irrelevant. I’m not sure this is the case, as we had no scope to test it.

If you’re operating a multi-regional site, obviously you have href lang and the opportunity to individually target each of your subfolders to a specific location in GWMT, but there may be an additional ranking boost from serving your subfolder content via proxy in the appropriate country.

It’s pretty clear that a UK company using a “.com” or non-UK specific domain should host in the UK. I was lucky enough to be able to test this change quite easily and saw some very interesting behaviors. You should carry out your own tests before making any decisions about your hosting though!


Searchmetrics updated a little sooner this week than I expected it would – here’s the updated visibility for 25th March 2015:


As predicted, rankings have returned.


  1. Crap. I thought GWMT setting ‘won’ and overrode everything. Isn’t that the message we’ve had from Google for years?

  2. Quite. If I could optimise the physical ip location over settling for the geo target settings in gwmt I definitely would.

  3. Just wanted to add, Searchmetrics has updated in the UK and as expected, visibility has returned.

  4. Hi Richard,
    Thanks for sharing this IP change issue. Sometimes we loose sight on the forest because of the trees, TCP/IP and HTTP protocols still have their weight, and yes there is an infrastructure out there on which the Internet runs…
    It has to have an impact! But then we still need to measure at a significant degree of precision.

    I will be moving a solid ranking ccTLD ( in short from Spain to NL (AMS01), so hopefully I will be able to offer some insights and perhaps emulate your experience. What I am afraid of in terms of test conditions is the massive connectivity I get with the change, may be it does so well that WPO beats IP effect…
    And I really hope my ccTLD does the job overriding the IP location! :)

    Following your example I will start collecting some info in case I can structure a solid study case in the same fashion.
    My website does not attract a s much volumes as displayed on your graphics, but I have solid and stable positions for a bunch of SEO consultancy related search terms in 3 languages including english, so I guess I can get a measure.

    Whatever it comes to, thank you again for your time to get this post online.

  5. Hey Ricard, very cool – I’d love to hear from you when you’re done!

  6. You should check your site speed too. It is a more significant ranking factor than the IP location. I can imagine that between the US and the UK there could be quite significant server response delays.

  7. Would be interesting to run a similar test using a CDN with localised edge servers.

  8. It seems to me that you did this with Webmaster Tools Geo targeting NOT SET , so these results on a .com domain are not surprising. In my opinion it’s a pointless test doing it without having set the geo target for a .com domain.

  9. Steve, read:

    I’ve played with the GWMT International Targeting settings and found setting our “.com” to target the UK improved impressions in the UK but reduced impressions in the US. That’s pretty understandable. I don’t think the change had as powerful effect on UK rankings as the IP change did.


  10. Hi Richard

    Slightly different example but related.

    I recently moved (UK geo target and UK ip/server) to Australia. I made the move in January 2015. To maintain my ranking I tried to change as little as possible other than the DNS and the geo target. I moved ecommerce platforms (Prestashop to Shopify). I am only changing content and meta now (April 2015 – three months later).

    Given was getting up to 25K visitors via search per month during the summer months it was a scary move.

    I have managed to retain my MOZ ranking (in fact it has increased by 2 points).

    The traffic levels dropped by around 100 visitors per week for the first month or so. I recently removed approximately 50 UK/EU products and have seen another traffic drop of an additional 200 visitors per week. Given Australia is a smaller market it makes sense. Am now starting to populate the store with Australian products.

    In terms of key word rankings I have managed to retain top 3, 5 and 10 positions for med/high competitive search terms I consider important to trading. In summary I have moved from Google UK to Google AU rather painlessly.

    There is loads of data to sift through.

  11. Hi Richard, thanks for sharing.

    It would be nice if you could also share the backlinks from USA vs backlinks from UK so that we could have a bigger picture of your site. There are few more signals in game but I think local backlinks is a really strong one worth to comment.


  12. Hey Richard.

    Thanks for sharing. It’s something I’ve always suggested (hosting your site in the region you want to rank so the IP is associated with the right geography) but great to have a case study to point to. :)

  13. Thanks for all that information.

    I has the same case with a Italian hosting and a Estonian website. The IP hosting for a .com website is important for the ranking.

    Thanks again!


  14. What about the impact on state / province results? e.g. IP geo located in eastern USA being served to SE users in western USA?

  15. John Mueller has verified that Hosting location have no impact to the search results. This is proofs otherwise…. I’m still curious very curious about a more detailed case study… In any way…Thank you for sharing.

  16. Wow – I’ve had suspicions – but this is fantastic to visualize it! Thanks for outlining this so clearly.

  17. Wow! This is really nice.

    I checked our website’s server location and I found out it was in the UK while we target The Netherlands, using a ‘.nl’ domain.

    Changed hosts yesterday and now the webserver that serves the webpages is located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands :-). Also it loads faster now!

    Hope this will boost rankings of Woontrendz.

    Thanks again. Great post!

  18. This article is great example of how IP is important. Frankly speaking I’d expect some visibility decrease after the IP change but not to that extend. This is another sound reason why you should correlate your hosting with the country your target and have several websites instead of a one, multi-lingual website. That was a good read. Thanks!

  19. I def think now that Google is letting people see the local results based on IP that it is very important to have your IP within the area that your targeting. Even hosting in different countries I think it is very important as well.

  20. Hey Richard,

    big THX for this great article.

    We are currently expanding our business from Germany to the US and use an .com adress for this.

    We will use hreflang-tags, gwt-options and all the other stuff, but I am really thinking about changing our IP-adress too.

    A real IP-change to a server physically located in the US is much effort, so I wonder if you can give me a hint to change IP adress without moving any data physically. I read a lot about proxy, resverse proxy and virtual or cluster IPs.

    Do you think that using such no-physical ways to change the IP adress, also gives a ranking boost? I think proxy and reverse proxy might cause problems because they affect page speed. So i really wonder what to do.

    Greetings from Germany


  21. I have a site that is Melbourne and Sydney orientated. The site initially only had 2 links pointing to it. 1 from a Sydney host and the other a Melbourne host. The Melbourne site was rebuilt and in this process it was moved to a Sydney Ip. The Melbourne rankings then plummeted and have not recovered. Since that was the only real change I had suspected this was the cause. I wonder if Google treats Australian states like they do as mentioned in this post… I suspect try do.

  22. Hi Stephen – fascinating + thanks for commenting. Similarly, I found this article today discussing the impact of cloudflare’s service on SEO - – take a look because I suspect it’s a combination of shift in location *and* bad neighbourhood.

  23. This post is just what I’ve been looking for. Somehow everyone has eluded themselves into believing that the hosting location is not important and then they went and wrote a thousand posts on that. I can understand that the change would have minimal affect on an very high authority such as That minimal effect would probably be seen in their deeper pages.

    But for a site that’s small and targeting a niche with a couple of hundred backlinks these minimal changes can have a large affect.

    I’m currently busy with a client who was targeting RSA with hosting in DE. The hosting had minimal effect on the rankings but the hosting was with which could have a positive affect on the rankings for that region.
    A few months ago the client moved business to USA – the hosting remained the same and I trusted the all the inconclusive articles on the topic so I recommended that we leave it as it.
    A few months have gone by and here’s what I’ve done – Updated WMT region target, built more authority .com links than authority links with all the necessary relevance etc, updated site info that mentioned ZA to USA, a few other changes and then I waited and waited.

    I’ve now read this post and a few others:

    And to have to say that having your hosting in your targeted region can make a difference. I’ll be recommending the client to move hosting locations and hopefully make my way back here with some positive results.

  24. Refreshing to get real evidence backed up on real research not some scrapped data from somewhere else. Very interesting and I can think of 1 client of ours this will effect.

  25. Hi Richard,

    Thank you for sharing this useful information. My website is hosted with godaddy and I don’t know why they hosted my website in USA when I went to register to their UK site. However I was wondering is it worth it to call them and ask to relocate my host to a UK hub. Your information helps me to decide.

    Thank you

  26. Great post – just what we were looking for. With our .dk-domains, then we will now be able to look for better and faster servers outside Denmark.

    Best regards,
    MLM, Denmark

  27. 100% correct, IP Host Location affects SEO because I faced same thing My site was hosted in India and When I moved my site to US servers then my country views reduced and the number of Views increased from US traffic. Thanks for clarification.

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