Cloud is the latest buzz in the world of website security, and just like with every new technology, the initial excitement is followed by a healthy dose of caution, especially evident amongst the SEO community (which I'm a proud member of).
As a result of past experiences of seeing weeks and months of work go down the drain due to domain name changes, “old” URL removals, Pandas & Penguins; we tend to be somewhat cautious and “test the waters” before diving head first into the pool.
So here are some common myths and misconceptions about the negative impact that cloud-based website security and CDNs services have on SEO:
Myth #1: Many sites on a single IP = bad for SEO
For years I`ve been hearing about the negative effect of hosting several websites on the same IP. If this were true, then at least from a SEO point of view, CDNs would indeed be a bad idea, since they use a set of proxy servers to serve traffic, thus putting all sites on the same IP range.
Fact: As the late and great Douglas Adams would say: “Don`t panic”
The rumor about the negative SEO aspects of shared IP is just that – nothing but a rumor. Ok, maybe it was true back in 2003, when websites were few and IPs roamed free, but in todays crowded “no 7 letters domain name available” world, such an idea is simply no longer feasible. In fact, way back in 2008 Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam Team and one of the world’s most trustworthy SEO gurus, dispelled this myth by telling us all: “I wouldn’t worry about being on the same IP address and I definitely wouldn’t worry about being on the same server that is something what everyone does…”
Those who are still unconvinced can check out this more recent discussionon Google Webmasters official forum in which a Google official representative clearly states “We generally do not treat sites hosted on CDNs any differently…”.
Myth #2: CDN networks create duplicate content
CDNs use proxy technology to minimize the “distance” (ping time) between a website and it`s visitors. This is achieved via a network of high-end servers, each holding a cached copy of the said website’s content. Some SE Optimizers think this may be considered as “duplicated content”.
Fact: This has nothing to do with the redundancy found on CDN networks
The term “duplicated content” describes a scenario in which similar texts appear under two (or more) different domain names, or on two (or more) different URLs under the same domain. True, Google dose penalize sites for this violation, but all this has got absolutely nothing to do with the redundancy found on CDN networks. Just think about it, when Google’s indexing bot visits your site, it will see it just like any other visitor - as a single version of unique content. Nothing on your CDN will spawn new URLs or new domain names and populate them with existing content.
Myth #3: Bot blocking will stop Google from crawling my site
Website security services, like Incapsula, provide security features that include bad bot blocking. Website owners fear that these protective measures may also prevent access of Search Engine bots.
Fact: Incapsula identifies search engines bots
Incapsula has developed very robust technology that identifies Google’s (and other search engine and good) bots and allows them to reach your website, uninterrupted. These bots are constantly monitored by Incapsula’s security team and their signatures and profiles are kept current to ensure that they are never blocked.
Myth #4: A CDN will hurt my localization
This is, probably, my favorite one of all. The basic premise here is this:
A) Local sites rank better for local users
B) Google, and other Search Engines, use server IP address to determine your website’s Geo-location.
C) In theory CDNs should disrupt this localization mechanism since they will always direct SE bots to their closest proxy. To put it simply, let
s say Im a French service provider who hosts his website in Paris. If I use a CDN, for a Google bot visiting me from Mountain view CA, it will look like I`m hosting my site in the US (because my site will appear to be served from the closest, US based, Datacenter).
Fact: IP address is just one of many localization signals, and it`s not even one of the “major” ones.
For example, Google will first look at your Web Masters Tools setting and TLD country code and only if these provide no solid clues it will use IP to determine your Geo-location. Check out this Matt Cuttz Q&A session.
Notice how, while suggesting different localization signals, he's not even mentioning server IPs.
Having said that, just to be on the safe side, most CDN providers (like Incapsula or Akamai) will go one step further and have their IPs manually whitelisted in all popular search engines, leaving absolutely no room for error. For such CDN users, this means higher Trust rank as well as zero localization issues.
I truly hope this SEO Myth Busting session helped you separate the hard facts from the half-truths.
In our next blog post I'll cover the SEO advantages of using a Cloud based website security and CDN services.
Igal Zeifman, Incapsula's Community Manager (and SEO veteran)