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Will Google and other search engines follow links to and index sites that don't have a URL, but instead just use their IP address's (obviously they would need a unique IP) ?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

For years, I haven't seen a site ranking in Google that doesn't have a domain name. That doesn't mean it isn't possible, but few (if any) sites are doing that now. Here are a bunch of reasons that you should get a domain name:

  • IP addresses cannot be moved from one web host to another the way that domain names can.
    • IP Addresses change. It is very difficult to obtain a IP address that can be stable for a number of years. Most ISPs force IP address changes from time to time. Heck, your ISP may even go out of business.
    • You may want to change IP address, for example to move to a better host.
  • Domain names are cheap
    • You can get .com for around $10/year.
    • You can get free third level domain names (for example from dyndns)
  • Domain names give you branding. You don't want to brand yourself to an IP address, but you do want to choose a domain name that is brandable.
  • A domain name is reputable. Even if you can get an IP address site ranked in Google, it will be harder to rank well than with a domain name. Google may see the domain name as a quality signal. Even if Google doesn't explicitly have a ranking factor for it, users will trust a URL with a domain name more which can have an indirect impact on your rankings.
  • A domain name is memorable. Who is going to want to rememeber and type in an IP address?
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Google regularly crawls & indexes content under IP addresses, but like you mentioned, there's almost no reason to aim for that. I'd personally also avoid using third-level domains and instead try to get a "real" domain name of your own (that you can control as you want to). –  John Mueller Jun 19 '13 at 6:24
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