Dedicated IP Addresses: Do You Need One Or Not?
“I need a dedicated IP address for better SEO, can you provide me with one?” This is a pre-sales question that comes up quite often here at FastComet.
FastComet does not offer dedicated IP addresses on any shared hosting plan offering. This may be surprising or even cause for concern to some, but not to worry. The question of whether or not you need or should use a dedicated IP address or a shared IP address for web hosting can be quite controversial.
We do believe that customer awareness is part of the few key ingredients for the overall great experience you will have with us. Today we’ll dive into some of the major differences between using Shared vs. Dedicated IP addresses, how each may affect the aspects of the hosting services provided, and hopefully, busting some of the myths you might have heard floating around the web regarding how they impact things such as email, SSL, noisy- neighborhood, and SEO.
Before we unravel the different pros and cons when using Shared vs. Dedicated IP address, let’s refer to what an IP address is.
What Is an IP Address?
The “IP” part of “IP address” stands for Internet Protocol. “The “address” part refers to a unique set of numbers that routes internet traffic to the right place. It’s often related to zip code or a postal code because different people can share the same IP address. Having an IP address allows a device to communicate with other devices over an IP-based network like the Internet. It is assigned to a website to map its address on the Internet.
Most IP addresses look like this:
Other IP addresses you might come across could look more like this:
Your IP address and domain name are both connected by what is called DNS. Domain names were developed because it is difficult to remember long IP numbers. Without the use of DNS, you could only reach Google.com by typing down it’s IP- 220.127.116.11. Huh!
At this moment there are two types of IP addresses being used on the web, IPv4, and IPv6.
- The original internet addressing system is called ‘Internet Protocol, Version 4’ (IPv4). By employing 32-bits of recombined digits, IPv4 has a maximum of 4.3 billion possible addresses. An IPv4 address is expressed by four numbers separated by dots. For example 18.104.22.168
- IPv6 uses 128 binary bits instead of 32 bits for its addresses, creating 3.4 x 10^38 possible addresses. An IPv6 address is expressed by eight groups of hexadecimal (base-16) numbers separated by colons, as in 2001:cdba:0000:0000:0000:0000:3257:9652. Groups of numbers that contain all zeros are often omitted to save space, leaving a colon separator to mark the gap (as in 2001:cdba::3257:9652). The creation and usage of the IPv6 were enforced due to the reason that the IPv4 IP addresses were severely limited in terms of numbers and the internet was expanding fast without having sufficient address space.
What Is a Dedicated IP Address?
In web hosting environments, you’re often given a choice between a shared IP address and a dedicated IP address. In shared environments, you may share your IP address with numerous other sites. Conversely, a dedicated IP address means that your domain is provided a unique address, which is not used by another domain or shared with anyone. You can have different sites that serve from that address, but it belongs to you, and you’re in complete control.
What Is a Shared IP Address?
Shared IP means that your domain is mapped to an address that is shared for all other domains on the same server. In shared hosting, we host all websites on one server mapped to one single IP address. Instead of having a unique IP address for every domain, you share one IP address with all of the accounts on your server. All of our shared hosting plans come with one shared IP address.
It is important to note that just because your site is using a shared IP address, it doesn’t mean it is necessary to set on shared hosting. Shared hosting typically means you are sharing resources with other users on a server, which consequently could include an IP address, as well. While a lot of times these go hand in hand, that’s not always the case.
Finding your website’s IP address
If you need to find your website’s IP address that FastComet has assigned, you can view it in your FastComet cPanel – Server information.
The easiest and fastest way to view the IP address your domain is resolving to online, would be to use an online tool such as this:
Having understood the difference between a shared and dedicated IP address, let’s head on to a comparison between them when referring to the services.
Shared vs. Dedicated IP: Myths Busting
Myth: Email delivery problems
We’re getting more questions from customers with large email lists about sending their campaigns from a dedicated IP address, vs. shared a pool of IPs. They want to know if their deliverability will be any better if they use a dedicated IP.
When sending emails to your customers, you need that communication to land directly in their inbox, rather than the spam folder. One of the factors that determine the success of an email marketing campaign is the sender reputation. Many ISP look at the reputation of the domain you send the emails from and at the reputation of the IP address used for sending the emails.
When using a shared IP, you and all other customers assigned to that IP address are using the mailing services of the same IP address. And in this situation, the IP address reputation is built by all the neighbors sending from that IP. There is a possibility for your email service to be affected and delivery rates reduced. You may get affected if something goes wrong. For example, a client is suddenly sending large amounts of spam may result in the IP address getting blacklisted. That would mean that there will be some time until your emails get delivered. While a shared IP address is more cost-effective, your chances of hitting more spam traps and blacklists increase with the number of companies using the IP address.
A dedicated IP address, on the other hand, is unique to the sender. No other company, organization, or individual can send from that IP address other than your brand. When using a Dedicated IP, you are solely responsible for the IP reputation; it isolates your service from the abuse consequences where others are at fault. That’s a positive aspect.
There is another good reason for using a shared IP address. New dedicated IP is just as bad as IP address with a bad reputation since it has no reputation at all. To qualify for a reputation, the IP address must send a certain quantity of email messages per month. If you send a small number of emails, your dedicated IP address may be below the reputation threshold and never earn either a positive or negative reputation. You will remain with an indefinite reputation. It’s not so bad, but it’s not so good, either.
The other misconception with dedicated IP addresses is that each one is completely independent. For instance, if one customer gets blocked, all other IPs will be fine, right? Wrong. ISPs and blacklists will monitor entire IP ranges and domains. If one IP causes enough problems, traffic from the entire subnet or domain could be blocked.
From the other side, ISPs are starting to place a lot of weight on domain reputation, not just IP reputation. This places responsibility not only on the ISPs, but on the domain owners to maintain a great reputation and to abide by the best sending practices, such as TLS, DKIM, SPF, and DMARC.
As we do understand the importance of delivering emails to your customers, we have embedded a powerful spam monitoring system, to keep track of all email communication. By implementing the outbound email filtering solution from SpamExperts, we witnessed a dramatic reduction in the amount of spam sent from our servers, a success that translated to fewer blacklisting issues and more happy customers.
The Biggest Myth of the Dedicated IP Address for SEO
Good SEO and high ranking will increase the organic traffic generated to your website. It contributes directly to your website popularity and therefore the expansion of the business. The world of SEO is a minefield of myths, the majority of which claim to help websites “get ranked on page 1 (proven, faster, quicker, cheaper, without paying!)”. The topic of dedicated IP addresses for SEO is no exception.
A lot of our present and prospect customers had raised the question of purchasing a Dedicated IP for the sole reason of preserving their SERP positions. The belief is that sites do not share the risk of being banned from sharing the same IP with another website hosted on the same server in the event that site gets banned by a search engine. This is a myth. Google understands that the website can be on the shared hosting and you can’t control websites, which share the same IP or IP subnet.
There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the effect of a dedicated IP on the SEO ranking of a website. In 2006 Matt Cutts, leader of the Webspam team in Google had plainly answered: ‘There is no PageRank difference whatsoever between these two cases (virtual hosting vs. a dedicated IP).”
In 2010, Matt Cutts made a video which validates that shared hosting is still fine.
Google handles virtually hosted domains and their links just the same as domains on unique IP addresses. As per Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, dedicated IP addresses aren’t to be found on that list of best practices, meaning that it has no direct relation to the ranking.
What is more, when transferring your domain and website to another hosting provider (therefore changing the IP address that you currently use) your Google Ranking score is not wiped-out.
But why is the question of the dedicated IP still so common even after a decade or more? Not too long ago, the “hype” in SEO was for companies to create multiple micro-websites (somewhere around 20, sometimes even 50 or more, but closely-themed content) for the purpose of flooding SERP results with as many of their own web properties as possible. The old school logic was that each of these pages had its own domain name and needed to be hosted separately.
Because of the fear of getting penalized by the search engines, webmasters started looking for SEO C-class IP hosting, where they could be allotted multiple different IP addresses. This would create an illusion of their mini-sites network not being related to each other. Since this was clearly a deception, Google managed to catch almost all culprits sooner or later, and they consequently got de-ranked.
If you are still practicing such shady black-hat SEO practices as described above and require that many unique IP addresses and Google hasn’t caught up to you yet, it’s only a matter of time until an update like Penguin or Panda penalizes you.
Same goes for building a link network – which, really, Google doesn’t want you doing anyway. Penguin update by Google in 2012 improved its search ranking algorithm and takes into account websites participating in a link network. Still, some believe that using dedicated IPs to build a link network will prevent Google from recognizing it, thus improving SEO. That’s a myth. It only takes Google longer to figure it out. For black hat optimizers, the temporary advantage is useful, but for legitimate digital marketers and websites, this arms race is dangerous and not useful.
Myth: A Dedicated IP Address is required for SSL
In the past, in order to protect your website with encryption, you would have required having a Dedicated IP address. Over the past few years, a new technology had been developed, in order to waive this requirement. With the cPanel version 11.38 or newer, we and all modern web hosts started to support SNI technology that allows installing multiple SSL certificates on a Shared IP address. This means that our servers intelligently serve the correct SSL certificate for the domain name being requested.
SNI stands for Server Name Identicator, and it makes dedicated IP no longer needed for installing SSL Certificate. When the technology was first implemented, it had caused certain issues with browser support. Happily, those days are long over. At this moment, the only browsers that do not support this technology are Internet Explorer, running on Windows XP and Android 1.x and 2.x, which are quite obsolete. And in fact, you shouldn’t worry about, due to security issues, like the POODLE vulnerability in older browsers.
You can check global browser SNI support via http://caniuse.com/#search=SNI
The Myth of Bad Neighbours
When you hear Shared IP address, chances are the first thing that comes to mind is the concept of a bad neighborhood. The idea is that when you’re on shared hosting, you have one IP address that is shared amongst all the sites on that shared server. Now, if there are 1,000 sites on your shared server, and 999 of them are spammy blogs, porn sites, thin affiliates, and other black hat abusers, it seems like an easy thing for Google to just solve the problem by delisting or demoting everything on that IP address. You don’t need to worry about this. In fact, nowadays, the web operates on the premise of sharing IPs with your neighbor, and Google acknowledges it.
Google will not penalize your site for the SEO behavior of a “noisy IP neighbor” (e.g., a black hat SEO sharing your IP).
“I understand, and Google understands, that shared web hosting happens, you can’t really control or help who else is on that IP address or Class C subnet. The other thing is that if you were to take action just on that Class C subnet or IP address, the spammers are pretty savvy and the spammers would often migrate and go to a new IP address. So typically it’s not the most scalable way to tackle things.”, Matt Cutts
He does mention that being the one single “good” site on a server full of exclusively bad sites will tend to invite more scrutiny. Google will take a closer look at that site to see if it’s just some goober who registered on a server they had no idea about, or if it’s a spammer trying to use that page as the money site for a private blog network, or something of the sort. Basically, by being the one good site in a bad neighborhood, you’re inviting deeper investigation. Google’s mission is to provide the best search results and blanketly banning or penalizing sites because of a noisy neighbors does not improve search results because that would put the majority of sites on the web at risk of de-ranking based on criteria beyond their control.
The majority of sites on the web today are hosted behind shared IP addresses, using the widely accepted practice of shared hosting. In fact, many of the top brands on the web (Google, Target, CNN, Coca-Cola) are using shared IP addresses to host multiple domains. A simple reverse-IP lookup reveals this.
To summarize the information: as we do use the SNI technology, you can certainly have an SSL encryption applied to your domain without having to worry about purchasing a Dedicated IP address. Hopefully, this blog post helped you provide a little insight into the current status of whether or not you need a dedicated IP address or shared IP address when it comes to hosting your website.
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If there are spammy website using the same IP as mine, would this hurt my website? This is my concern.
Thanks for writing this article. I am going to be accepting payments on my wesite and I read that an dedicated IP is “A must for accepting online payments through your site” and “Some of your visitors might get a message about untrusted connection if they are using older versions of some browsers or OS. This is a limitation of the SNI technology. To make them feel secure making transactions on your website, you need to use your SSL on a dedicated IP.” What is your opinion on this? Thanks!
As mentioned in the blog post, the SNI technology actually allows installing multiple SSL certificates on a Shared IP address. It is truly correct though that when you accept online payments on your website, having an SSL is a must-have. For a while now, Google has been hard at work warning people when they’re visiting websites that may not be safe. Unless you serve your pages over HTTPS many browsers will begin warning visitors that your site is not secure.
Okay understood, thank you Elena!
Great Article, many thanks!!
Thanks! Glad it was helpful and hopefully clears up some doubts you may have had regarding the need of having dedicated vs shared IPs.