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Banned Shared IP Address
Is Your WebSite Guilty By Association?
By Brad S. Konia
Originally Published: June, 2003
My company has been doing search engine optimization since 1999. Several times per week we get calls from people who are looking for help and don't know where else to turn.
Banned "Tainted" IP Number?
What if you're sure that you've followed all the rules, you've established some external links to your site, and the search engines are still not listing you? In that case, it's possible that your Web site is using a "tainted" IP address.
What's an IP address and how could it become tainted? An IP address is like a phone number, but it identifies a Web site connected to the Internet. Every computer connected to the Internet has at least one numerical IP address. When someone types your text-based domain name into his or her web browser, that person's computer quickly looks up the corresponding IP address for the domain name and establishes a connection to that IP address.
This is kind of like looking up someone's name in a phone book to obtain his phone number. The phone book of the Internet is called DNS, which is short for "Domain Name Service." When you type a domain name into your web browser, your computer does a DNS lookup to obtain the IP address for that domain name.
IP addresses consist of four sets of numbers separated by periods. Each number can be between 0 and 255. For example: 192.168.0.1 would be a valid IP address. If you do the math, you'll discover that this yields about four billion possible combinations of addresses. This may sound like a lot, but believe it or not, the Internet is running out of the addresses. Consequently, the groups that regulate the distribution of IP addresses have made it somewhat difficult to obtain a unique IP address. So, instead of having a unique IP address for every website, many hosting companies will use a single IP address for hundreds or even thousands of domains. In fact, the majority of Web sites today utilize shared IPs.
This is possible due to a browser technology known as "host headers." Using host headers allows a web server to display the correct website based on the domain name that the user entered, not the IP address. So, the IP address is used to connect to the correct server and then the domain name is used to determine which website to view on that server.
If all this technical talk is making your head hurt, please bear with me just a bit longer. It's really important that you understand this if you want to prevent your website from becoming banned by the search engines. A recent
Harvard Law School
study found that 87% of all web sites use a shared IP address. The fact is that unless you've paid extra for a dedicated IP address, your website is probably using a shared IP address.
Now what happens if any ONE of the hundreds or even thousands of web sites that are sharing your IP address breaks the rules of one or more search engines? Yes, the search engines may remove or ban that website domain, but guess what...they may also remove every other website using the same IP address. Since it's easier for search engine spammers to get new domain names than it is to get a new IP, search engines often choose to ban IP addresses for abusive behavior.
This means that your site can become banned even if you follow all their rules to the letter. You're guilty by association! In fact, the April, 2002 issue of this newsletter carried an article about
AllTheWeb.Com, an engine that claimed to have blacklisted over 30 million websites based on their IP addresses.
Obtaining A Dedicated IP Address
If you've tried everything and you can't get your site listed in the search engines, my advice would be to get a dedicated IP address. In fact, I would advise that you do this even if you currently have good listings. Otherwise you're just rolling the dice and hoping that no one else using your IP address breaks any rules in the future.
Given the current shortage of IP addresses, your hosting company is required to "justify" any dedicated IP addresses that they release to their customers. The criteria for justification are somewhat vague, but many hosting companies have taken the position that your site must have an SSL (secure commerce) certificate to qualify for a dedicated IP address. If you've placed an order on a Web site and noticed the URL having an https prefix, then you're most likely on an SSL server with a unique IP.
If you're serious about doing business online, then you should have an SSL certificate anyway. This certificate assures your customers that their credit card purchases and other transaction data will be securely transmitted to your company. Depending on where you buy your certificate, it can cost anywhere from $149 to $349 for the first year. In my opinion, many of the $149 certificates are just as good as the $349 certificate from Verisign, so don't pay double the price just to have the Verisign name on your website.
Once you have your SSL certificate, you'll probably have to pay your hosting company a few extra dollars per month for the dedicated IP address, or they may include it free. In any case, it shouldn't be a major price difference.
Another method of obtaining a unique IP is to invest in a dedicated server. Most hosting services charge significantly more for your own server, but if your company is of sufficient size, then this may be an option for you.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are many reasons why search engines might remove your website, but in my experience, having a tainted IP address is one of the most common culprits. So do yourself a favor and get your website its own IP address. It will be worth it in the long run.
Brad Konia is the CEO of Market My Site, a leading search engine optimization and online marketing firm. Market My Site offers a suite of full-service and self-service solutions designed to increase traffic to your website and convert that traffic into paying customers. Visit
Market My Site
on the web.
For more on search engine indexing problems see our article's index at
Search Engine Promotion Problems And Solutions
Search Engines Indexing Problems, 22 Reasons Why Your Page Did Not Get Indexed
This article is copyrighted and has been reprinted with permission from FirstPlace Software.
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