Cheap hosting providers have brought down the cost of launching an online business. For a dozen dollars a month or less, you can rent a hosting space alongside others and start promoting your products and services. That sounds good, right? Well, let’s think a minute about why shared hosting is so cheap and its potential downsides.

In essence, shared hosting is like sharing a flat or building. Living together saves money, and so does bundling multiple websites using the same server and IP address. Flatmates and neighbors, however, are not always the people you would like them to be, and their bad habits can negatively impact your comfort and well-being. It is something that you have to deal with when you are using shared hosting. If you had for instance managed cloud server you wouldn’t have to worry about this type of issue.

Similarly, neighboring websites sometimes act poorly, abusing pooled resources and engaging in illicit activities, and their behaviors can prevent you from running your business effectively. This post looks more closely at what may go wrong with shared hosting and what you can do to protect your online reputation.

Neighboring Hosts Can Damage Your SEO by…

  • Conducting fraudulent activities

Scammers often rely on cheap hosting to execute phishing attacks. For example, they may attempt to impersonate an established organization or well-known brand by launching a forged website at a low cost and deceive users into revealing their private data and financial information.

But what does it have to do with your legitimate online business? Coincidentally using the same IP address as fraudsters means that your website may get mistakenly associated to theirs. For instance, search engines might start issuing security warnings as visitors reach both your and cybercriminals’ web pages — thus eroding your credibility in front of existing and prospective users and customers.

  • Publishing inappropriate content

The activities of neighboring hosts do not have to be illegal to harm your online reputation. In fact, search engines are wary of indexing particular types of content such as gambling and adult sites and web crawlers may rely on IP filters to decide what should rank and what should not. This crawling technique could result in overblocking, a situation where regular websites get accidentally excluded from search results despite abiding by filtering rules.

  • Spamming their email recipients

Email service providers also look at IP addresses and their sending reputation to determine whether messages should be delivered to recipients. Under a shared hosting plan and IP address, your email communications can get blocked because of other website owners carelessly spamming their subscribers and prospects.

How to Protect Your Online Reputation

  • Monitor associated domains

So how can you make sure fellow hosts are good neighbors? One way is to frequently conduct a reverse DNS lookup analysis and identify all domains linked to your IP address and hosting server. The next step is then to review whether the practices of adjacent website owners are dubious, and, if so, reporting those to your hosting provider.

  • Switch hosting provider

If neighboring websites are just too bad and your hosting provider is not willing to do anything about it, perhaps the easiest approach to safeguard your reputation is to move your site elsewhere. The good news is there are plenty of options to choose from, though settling for the next cheapest web hosting service is unlikely to resolve your web neighborhood issue. Instead, you might want to monitor and compare samples of IP addresses hosted with different providers to identify the most viable alternative.

  • Use dedicated hosting and IP addresses

To avoid the potential disadvantages of shared hosting, you may also consider working with a dedicated cloud server and your own IP addresses. These services are more expensive, but they provide better control over online reputation and, therefore, the ability to drive higher sales and revenues. A reverse DNS lookup analysis can still be useful here, for example, to ensure that your resources are never allocated to anybody else by mistake or used by cybercriminals for fraudulent purposes.

Bad neighbors can be a real problem — both in real life and in a shared hosting environment. In the latter case, you can monitor IP addresses through reverse DNS lookup and identify which adjacent website owners might be negatively impacting your online reputation.

About the Author:

Jonathan Zhang is the founder and CEO of Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) — a data, tool, and API provider that specializes in automated threat detection, security analysis and threat intelligence solutions for Fortune 1000 and cyber-security companies. TIP is part of the Whois API Inc. family which is a trusted intelligence vendor by over 50,000 clients.

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