When deciding where to build your bricks and mortar store, one of the main determinants is the neighborhood. If you're a toy shop, or other type of store catering to kids, you don't want to go in next to the 'adult novelty' store, or the strip club. After all, your neighborhood sets the tone for the type of clientele that you can expect to enter your establishment.
What about online? If you're not hosting your site yourself, then chances are you're going with a hosting company that's going to throw you in with several hundred other sites, a neighborhood that you have no control over. This neighborhood can affect your business. Looking at the example below, you can see my blog has another 528 sites identified as being on the same server. Out of those 528 sites two are labeled as potentially being adult oriented.
What could that mean to me, or to your business were you to see the same thing? There exists the possibility that if filters detect this issue, and decide that it really is a bad neighborhood that they'll put a block on that particular IP address, which impacts every decent site on that server, yours and mine included. Of course, there also exists the chance that someone on that server will send out spam emails, which are then identified as such, thus filtering email from every site on that server.
Unlike a brick and mortar store, when your neighbor gets lots of visitors, you don't get any spillover in an online world. In fact, a site that generates large amounts of traffic can take down the server, and in this case 528 other sites at the same time. Not what I'd call a good neighbor.
So what can you do about it? Well, the simplest solution is to go the dedicated server route, that way you don't have to worry about the neighborhood. Of course, then the dual issues of expense and maintenance rear their head. The latter can be removed by using a hosting company that provides dedicated servers, and letting them take care of maintenance. If cost is an issue ($380+ per month verses $7 per month), you can form your own little neighborhood watch committee and keep an eye on what's happening on your server. Go to You Got Signal to generate a neighborhood map like the one above, and go to DNSstuff to see if your IP is blacklisted as a source of spam. If you start to see 'bad' sites show up, contact your hosting company, and let them know about your concerns. In most cases they'd rather get rid of the spammy site and lose $7 worth of monthly revenue than upset the other $3696 worth.
Simon Heseltine is the Director of Search at Serengeti Communications a McLean, Virginia based digital marketing agency specializing in search engines, social media, word of mouth, Blogs and RSS, digital PR, and online media & advertising for a wide range of clients in both the nonprofit and commercial sectors.
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