Via Web Hosting Unleashed, HostGator has announced a new niche hosting service — SEO Hosting. From its hosting plan page:

Our hosting plans are designed for those who require advanced Search Engine Optimization tools. Our customers know that the key to a successful SEO campaign begins at the foundation, their web hosting provider. SEO hosting customers have come to depend on the reliable, easy to use interface that we have developed for unsurpassable Search Engine Optimization.

Now, comparing their hosting plans with HostGator’s hosting plans, there is actually not much difference in terms of usual shared hosting plan metrics (disk, bandwidth, number of domains, etc) — they are both offering more than you need. The only difference as far as I can see is, the number of IP addresses that you get on your hosting plans.

When most shared hosting providers jam multiple websites onto the same IP address using name-based virtual hosting, SEO Hosting actually gives you multiple IP addresses on different class C networks. Plans start at $35/month for 5 IP addresses, going all the way up to 50+ IP addresses.

The idea is that you can build multiple inter-linking websites on different IP addresses, so that hopefully search engines would not think that they are in anyway “related”, i.e. operated by the same person. So that the links can be counted genuine, and the linked site get a boost in popularity. An SEO would actually go further than hosting sites on different IPs. They will make sure all domains are registered with different registrars under different names. They won’t use the same template on more than one site. They will try to erase all traces that these sites are run by the same guy. They have gone through all these troubles with one goal in mind — game the search engines to bring in more organic traffic.

I am not really into all these SEO business, but I think there is currently high demands in there because either (1) it actually works, or (2) people think it would work. The assumption is obviously that search engines will discount non-genuine links if two sites are found to be related (from IP address or WHOIS records). Search engines do that (if the assumption is true) for a reason — webmasters should not game the system to fake popularity. Now webmasters, SEO specialists and now even web hosting companies try to do more of that ethically-arguable practise, wouldn’t it make sense for search engines to ban that as well?!

So I will not be surprised if Google suddenly de-valued all sites hosted on SEO Hosting’s IP addresses. They probably will thank SEO Hosting for that — now all the dodgy SEOs are tractable on one hosting company’s network!

However, what bothers me the most is, what justifies a single shared hosting account to have 5 (or 50!!) IP addresses, when another hosting company is finding difficult to source enough IP addresses for its VPS customers?