For this edition of #ThrowbackThursday, I found a Daily Golden Nugget about Bad Neighbors that you can read here.
It was Nugget Number 149 back on February 17, 2011, four years ago this week!
On the internet, a Bad Neighbor is a Google penalized website that is hosted on the same IP address as your website. This happens when you are hosting your website through an inexpensive hosting company. Website hosting companies are assigned a limited number of IP addresses at a very expensive cost so they must share with between many websites. A single webserver might use the same IP address for hundreds of websites that are hosted on that server.
A bad neighbor is what we call those other websites when they are penalized by Google.
Very inexpensive hosting companies are notorious for hosting pornography, online gambling, and E.D. drug related websites. Those industries succeed because they continually create new websites properties to advertise and build off one another. Their rate of expansion requires them to host their sites at inexpensive companies on shared servers.
There was a lot of online chatter about bad neighbors in 2011 and earlier, but a quick Google search on the topic today seems to show that it's a cold topic. That doesn't means the topic is invalid, just that it's old news that the typical tech writer does not talk about often.
However, the fact remains that Google once announced that they looked at the other shared websites in your digital neighborhood as a way to measure your own credibility. Having too many bad neighbors would then impact your own ranking. I can't find any new information to dispute this old information, and I've always assumed it was internet gospel at this point.
On the other hand, there are other bad neighbor issues to worry about now in addition to Google penalties. Here are a few I can think of:
Security Issues with Unknown Software
Every website will have its own set of software and features. There's no way to know what type of special Java or PHP software might be installed on one of the other websites. A good hacker will be able to exploit the software vulnerabilities of someone else's website in order to gain access to yours.
While you might not be the intended target of a security breach, once a hacker gains access to a web server, they have the freedom to deface all the sites on that server.
IP Address Blacklisting
You might not be aware that IP addresses are blacklisted every day. Firewall companies like Barracuda and Sophos maintain active lists of IP addresses that are not safe for work or have been compromised in some way.
Even though your website might not be to blame, once your IP address is blocked by these security companies you will experience a large decline in your website traffic.
Another issue with website software is that you have no control over the other webmasters who use the server. Their actions might cause other hiccups that create website outages.
A really good example of this is when someone incorrectly modifies an .htaccess file. Those special files control how the web server runs, and once small typo could crash the whole server.
Other issue might arise if someone poorly writes a program that causes the server memory to overload and crash every time it's used.
No one worried about server speed until Google started monitoring the server response time as an ranking metric, now it's a big topic with regard to shared hosting environments.
Simply put, the more websites you have on a single machine, the slower it will run. It's simply a matter of CPU time and hard drive usage. Think how different your home computer works from the day you bought it to years later, after multiple programs you've added. Or, your phone before and after all those apps.
Sometimes it doesn't matter how finely tuned your website is for speed because other website neighbors might simply slow you down.
So Be Mindful of Bad Neighbors
Find out who else is hosted on your same web server by searching Bing for your IP address. Fist find out your website's IP address then search for "ip:126.96.36.199" in Bing. Make sure to replace 188.8.131.52 with your actual, real IP address.
Take a look at the other sites you find, and determine for yourself if you want to be associated with them.
If you don't want to be associated then take one of these actions:
1. Ask your website host to move you to a different server.
2. Change website hosting companies.
3. Request a dedicated IP address.
A dedicated IP address will hide all those bad neighbors, but it might not speed up your website. Your website host has the ability to give you a dedicated IP address even if you are still sharing a physical server with hundreds of other sites.
The only way to speed up a website that's experiencing a large neighbor slowdown is to pay for a dedicated server.
Be mindful of your bad website neighbors and take action when you don't like them.