When it comes to SEO, everyone knows that there are many on-site and off-site factors that will determine just how well a site will rank for a certain search query. These include the quality of the site’s content, the speed at which it loads, as well as the quantity and quality of backlinks pointed to it. Many might be wondering why a site’s speed should play a role in how well it will rank in search results. The answer is simple: it provides a better experience for the user.
Nobody wants to wait almost a minute for a page to load. If a site’s speed is atrociously bad, some users will simply hit the back button and choose another one from the search results. This gives webmasters the needed incentives to optimize their sites so that they load as quickly as possible. Obviously, there are many things that you can modify on your site so that it displays faster for visitors. Getting rid of certain bloated elements, such as large image files, video and Flash is one way to start. But the place where your site is hosted will also have an impact on page load times and consequently your search engine rankings.
The distance between your web host’s server and the visitor’s computer will have a certain impact on how fast your site will load. Remember that the further away your host is from the visitor, the longer the requests will have to process, as the data will be traveling for a much more considerable distance. Even though the actual download speeds may not be significantly improved with a local host, the time it takes for the web server to receive the request for data and respond to it will be affected.
For example, let’s say you have a visitor located in Australia who accesses your page. The initial request will take 20 to 40 milliseconds if the server is also located in Australia, versus around 200 milliseconds for a server in the United States. Remember that the user’s web browser will have to make additional requests once your page starts loading, in order to fetch additional elements present on your page, such as the stylesheets, images and any scripts.
All of these delays add up and even if it may not seem like much, the majority of users will actually notice the difference between half a second and one tenth of a second, according to some experiments done by Google.
For this reason, it is always better to have your site hosted as close as possible to the place where most of your visitors are located. For example, if 95% of your traffic comes from the UK, it will make more sense to use a British web host as opposed to an American one.