Advantages of local hosting for multilingual sites

A few customers have recently asked me if they should host their multilingual sites locally for the market they are targeting, while others with locally hosted sites have asked me about the implications of moving to the cloud.

Reading between the lines, the premise of such questions tends to centre around SEO and so my post is somewhat more marketing-oriented than IT. All comments are welcome.

The first thing to observe is that for the purpose of SEO the benefit is negligible and there are other things you should do first that will contribute to your multi-domestic SEO. Such as:

  1. Use country-specific, local domains. If you want better rankings & more sales in, for example Switzerland, buy & use the .ch domain instead of relying on visitors to find & buy from the .de or .fr domains
  2. Include a local postal address. Virtual office addresses are relatively inexpensive and make a difference to visitor confidence; they are also key to helping you get indexed in Google local, which has increasing importance to the proximity of search.
  3. Make sure the site is thoroughly tested for localisation.

Be aware that ecommerce sites will mean you need to acquire multiple SSL certificates.

The advantage you get with local hosting is mainly down to the local IP address that gets assigned to the server. Most hosting companies have IP addresses assigned to them in a range, which they then pass on to individual clients. There are restrictions imposed on hosting companies so they can’t then sell these on. I don’t expect this to change with the move to IPv6 (the new & more secure protocol).

From an IT perspective, managing and maintaining multiple servers is administrative (and expensive if they are dedicated servers). It’s much better to have one well-managed & maintained server, than multiple ‘budget’ servers.

The main reasons you might want local servers are commercial / strategic:

Advantages of local hosting:

  • You will get a marginal SEO benefit if you are in a really competitive industry such as betting or tourism
  • If you later want to sell a part of the business (that includes the local website). If you’re not directly exporting (or setting up a subsidiary) but entering into a Joint Venture or if the website is a diversification to your core business. Being able to ‘separate’ a website can be advantageous.

Whatever you choose, uptime is essential. You should also ensure that your webmaster knows the procedure for removing malware and requesting reconsideration from Google if your server ever gets blacklisted. Fingers crossed that it won’t.

This post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include a bit on cloud hosting. Although there have been a few negative stories in the press recently such as Amazon losing data and Sony being hacked, Cloud based hosting is here to stay. Many of us are using cloud hosted solutions without even realising it. Cloud hosting is a great option for scaling a website that will grow fast or for sites that get occasional peaks in traffic volumes. The tips above can all be implemented on cloud hosted sites.

[Wearing my computing hat] Wherever you choose to locate your server(s), please be mindful about how you configure permissions and to whom you grant root access. It is also advisable to change passwords regularly. When you’re adding widgets to your WordPress / Joomla / Drupal / Magento /whatever sites, just remember that the majority of security breaches come through insecure plugins / apps written by inexperienced developers who contribute prematurely to the community. Read plugin reviews & don’t be the first to download the latest Amazon API integration module or whatever ‘enhancement’ you’ve been waiting for.

In summary, the truth is that if you’ve implemented the local domain and use a local address, then a link from the local university is likely to be of more benefit (in terms of local SEO) than using a local hosting provider.

Thanks to my hosting company Bytemark for their input. -I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for over 7 years now.