If you have a website that is served from a .com domain name then it very important to look at the Search Engine Optimisation implications of where your website is physically hosted. Google, and other search engines, deliver results that are tailored on a location basis. So, if you search for the same thing on google.co.uk and google.fr you will see very different results – tailored to the google domain you are using and the country you are connecting to the internet from, as well as various Google preference settings.
Google uses the country extension of your website to determine where it is hosted, eg. .co.uk, and preferentially serves it within that country. However, a .com extension is non-geographically based, and therefore the search engines use the physical location of where your website is hosted to determine where the site should be preferentially shown. If you host in the UK with a .com domain extension this should cause no problems, however, one example we have seen in the past involved a case where a UK national was hosted in the Netherlands using a .com name address – causing their website to rank better in the google.nl results compared to the google.co.uk results – which is their target audience; a real Search Engine Optimisation concern.
If this doesn’t match with your target audience then you have an SEO issue that you need to address.
So, what can you do about this?
1. You could change your primary domain name and redirect the .com domain name to a .co.uk variant – a fairly quick yet technical process.
2. You could change your hosting to a UK based company. We would recommend this solution in the long run because it will have additional benefits such as shorter page display times.
3. As a bare minimum – if your website is registered with Google webmaster tools – you can tell Google your preferred country and it will deal with your website accordingly.
So, what appears to be a small issue can in fact have a large impact in Search Engine Optimisation terms, and remember that even if you host with a UK company they may host your website on servers outside this country without you knowing.