How I Choose, Setup And Optimise My VPS’ And Servers!

In this post, I will be going over my initial setup and optimization of a brand new VPS, this has been requested a number of times over on the GSA forum. In this particular case, the VPS in question is a Highline Windows VPS “Geek” package but my process remains the same when using dedicated servers.

As some of you may know, I have recently taken a break from the black hat side of search engine optimization meaning this particular VPS is fresh from the supplier and I have literally just received my login details. This offers an advantage as I can carry out my process in real time on the VPS while writing the article as I go.

What Hardware To Look For

As I have previously mentioned, when I asked for recommendations from friends they all either pointed me towards Solid or Greencloud. As neither provider seems to show the exact processor provided in their VPS’ I will go over my process for their entry level USA based dedicated servers and try to explain my thinking at each stage of the process.

Solidsepvps Geek package vps hardware.

The above screenshot is of the entry level dedicated server offered by solidSEOVPS. It is hosted in the USA, costs $59.95 per month, comes with 8 GB of RAM and has a Xeon E3-1240v3 processor.

Greencloudvps entry level USA dedicated server.

Now the above screenshot is the entry level dedicated server offered by GreencloudVPS. It is also hosted in the USA, costs $55 per month, comes with 16 GB of RAM and comes with dual Xeon L5420 processors.

Now I am not saying that the dedicated server from Greencloud is bad, but for my requirements, it is the worst of the two offerings. As GSA Search Engine Ranker is a 32-bit program it can only access around 2 GB of RAM by default. When I add the other RAM requirements for the other programs I will be running on the server at the same time such as Windows, GSA Captcha Breaker and potentially an automated web 2.0 tool it becomes clear that the 8 GB of RAM on the server from SolidSEOVPS is plenty for my requirements so I see no requirement to sacrifice the specifications of other hardware in order to keep a similar price for double the RAM that I will not use.

Moving onto the hard drive space, the server from solid offers 250 GB, in my experience that is more than enough for the vast majority of SER usage. I would just like to quickly say if you are building your own auto accept list as I explain in my post here using GSA Platform Identifier and its blacklisting feature then it can quickly take up your hard drive space so you may wish to request an increase in hard drive space in this specific circumstance. So again, I see no reason to sacrifice other hardware specifications to have more hard drive space that I will not use on a regular blasting server.

This brings us onto the processor, As I have already mentioned, SER is unable to take advantage of more than 2 GB of RAM by default meaning if you want increase its performance and speed, you have to get the better processor. As shown in the screenshots of the two servers above you can see that the server from SolidSEOVPS uses the Xeon E3-1240v3 processor released in 2013, here is a link to its product page on the intel website if you want to check out its specific specifications. The GreencloudVPS server uses dual Xeon L5420 processors released in 2008, here is a link to its product page on the intel website.

Now I may not know much about hardware but I know that it is advancing extremely quickly meaning the changes in technology from a 2008 processor and a 2013 process will be huge, even if you do double up the 2008 processor. Just to confirm this is the case I head over to CPUbenchmark to check their rating for the two processors.

Link To The CPUBenchmark Page

Xeon E3-1240v3 processor benchmark rating.

Link To The CPUBenchmark Page

Dual Xeon L5420 processors benchmark.

As you can see from the screenshots above, the processor in the server from SolidSEOVPS is much better than the one from the GreencloudVPS server meaning I would be able to optimize GSA Search Engine Ranker to run with a much higher link output.

Choosing Your Operating System

Depending what you are wanting the server to do will play a large part in what operating system you choose. As I currently use shared hosting packages for my web hosting I have no requirement for a Linux based server as most search engine optimization tools will only work on a windows based machine.

Choosing the correct windows for your server.

That leaves me with the choice between Windows 2008 R2 and Windows 2012 R2. The screenshot above is of a support ticket where I reached out to SolidSEOVPS for advice on what version of windows they recommend when running GSA Search Engine Ranker.

Although they said Windows 2012 R2 runs better I have personally seen minimal difference between the two and usually choose Windows 2008 R2 purely because it has the windows interface I am used to where the user clicks start in the bottom left corner to find everything rather than the newer interface that annoys/confuses me. As a Mac user, I haven’t used Windows on my home machines for years so have had to adjust to the modern layout of Windows.

Setting Up The VPS And Tools

Once you have ordered your VPS it is essentially a fresh Windows install on a new machine. Here are the initial steps I take with all of my VPS’ and servers.

  • Run Windows Update.
  • Install Chrome.
  • Install Dropbox and set the folders I wish ti sync.
  • Install GSA Search Engine Ranker.
  • Install GSA Captcha Breaker.
  • Add an OCR captcha service.
  • Add a human solved captcha service.
  • Sync a premium target list with via Dropbox.
  • Add a .txt file of my premium proxies to the desktop.
  • Set SEO tools to run as administrator.

Depending on what I plan to do with the machine I may also do some of the following tasks.

  • Install GSA Platform Identifier.
  • Install GSA Proxy Scraper.
  • Install Scrapebox.
  • Create duplicate Scrapebox instances.
  • Install Scrapebox Automator.
  • Install an automated content generator.

I prefer to have all internet marketing based icons at the top left of my desktop, all computer based icons at the top right, Dropbox at the bottom left and the recycle bin at the bottom right. Once you have completed the above steps you should have something that looks like the screenshot below.

Fresh VPS Desktop.

Next up, we have tweaking some of the basic settings of the installed tools. In no particular order, I will start with GSA Captcha Breaker, I tweak its initial settings as shown in the screenshot below.

GSA Captcha Breaker Tweaked Settings.
  1. I turn the run as a web server setting off as GSA Captcha Breaker is cheap enough to just buy a new instance for each VPS or server I use. I also run GSA Search Engine Ranker at such a high thread count that sending captchas off to a Captcha Breaker install on another VPS would end up slowing everything down as it waits SER is left waiting for replies to captchas.
  2. I’m not 100% sure what this actually does but I have never noticed a major problem by turning it off.
  3. I don’t want human solved captchas being wasted on unknown captchas that may be unsolvable.
  4. This is totally down to user preference, although I still use OCR Captcha Services directly from Captcha Breaker I now usually run my human solved captcha services from SER as explained in this post as it offers much better user control to reduce wastage on your human solved captcha credits.
  5. This is another setting down to user preference. Depending on the job of that particular VPS you may wish to adjust this setting as you see fit.

Next up we have some basic SER setup and tweaks for a fresh install. First up the Options -> Submission tab.

GSA Search Engine Ranker Options Submission Tab Setup.
  1. I have found that 500 threads is a good point to start the optimization process for most VPS packages so I set the thread count to 500 and I will cover how I test and adjust this later in the post.
  2. I up the HTML timeout to 120 but this can be changed depending on what you are doing, the lower the count the more actions per minute SER will do but drop threads that are open to slower websites that may decrease your links per minute.
  3. Enable the use of proxies and add premium proxies to the tool.
  4. Enable the use of proxies for the submission of links.

Next up we have the Options -> Captcha tab.

  1. Add your captcha services as required.
  2. Personally, I leave the only for hard captchas unticked on this tab and do it on a project by project basis as explained in my post here.
  3. If you are using a text based captcha service add it.

Next up we have the Options -> Indexing tab.

GSA Search Engine Ranker Options Indexing Tab.
  1. Untick GSA SEO Indexer as it is a resource hog.

I don’t change anything in the options -> Filter tab so next up we have the options -> advanced tab.

GSA SER Options Advanced Tab Setup.
  1. Remap your folders if required. If this is your only VPS then you can leave them as default but I remap them to my dropbox folder. When using multiple VPS’ and Servers you can use this to auto sync your lists in real-time.
  2. I turn off the PR setting.
  3. I turn off the Yandex TIC setting.
  4. If you are using SEREngines then add your API key.

The final part of my initial SER setup is to restore open a new project and restore it from a backup of each of my main project types using the navigation in the screenshot below.

GSA Search Engine Ranker restoring a project from a backup.

Doing this adds a quick launch feature to the drop-down arrow near the new project button on the main page for each of my backup types allowing me to quickly open a template with the vasy majority of my settings already set up as required as shown in the screenshot below.

GSA SER Quick launch project templates.

As you can see I can now click the drop down arrow and open any of my main five templates as and when required to save me time.

Time To Optimize

Now that GSA Search Engine Ranker and GSA Captcha Breaker are both setup I create some burner projects to help me optimize my tool settings for the particular VPS or server. As I have recently taken a break from black hat search engine optimization I am actually going to use some list filtering projects to help me optimize the tool to help me get a list ready for live projects. I cover my exact list filtering method in these tutorials I posted here. As this is the lowest spec machine I have used in years I am curious as to what kind of links per minute it can take.

The first thing I do is open the Windows Task Manager, select its performance tab and click the Resource Manager button in the bottom right as shown in the screenshot below. If you chose Windows 2012 as your operating system then this may look a little different.

Widows Task Manager for VPS and Server optimisation.

Once the Resource Manager is open I click the threads column to organize the open processes from high to low by active thread count as shown in the screenshot below. As you can see, while idol SER is not even showing up in the list.

Resource manager to optimise a new VPS or server.

Now I just click start on SER and let the tool do its thing while set to 500 threads. One thing I have notices is that contextual link types seem to take more resources than non-contextual, I presume this is due to the additional actions required for a submission but ideally you would run SER projects with only the platforms you plan to run on live projects during optimization to help provide accurate data.

Resource manage showing the active thread count and CPU usage for GSA Search Engine Ranker.

As you can see from the screenshot above, SER is now at the top of the processes when arranged by active thread count with 519 threads currently active. The top right chart shows the CPU usage for the machine in real time and although it is fluctuating with some highs, the majority of it is below 50% so I up SERs thread count to 1000 threads and leave SER to run.

Resource manage showing the resource usage with SER running at 1000 threads.

As you can see from the screenshot above, even 1000 threads is too much for this particular VPS. The VPS is almost constantly running at 100% usage. One thing I would like to add is that this VPS can run SER at over 1000 but links per minute would actually drop due to the active threads having to wait longer before the CPU can action them.

I will hold onto this VPS for now as the concepts I want to test shouldn’t require a very high daily link output from SER but if my tests prove successful then I will be upgrading to the Wizard package as a minimum or most probably a dedicated server.

Ideally, I want the CPU usage sitting at around 80%. In my opinion, this will produce enough link output for this particular machine while still offering a 20% buffer space if required. I have split the difference between the 500 and 1000 thread tests and went with 750 threads for this third phase of testing.

Resource manage with GSA Search engine ranker running at 750 threads.

The above screenshot shows the resource requirements when running SER at 750 active threads. Although the CPU is now fluctuating it is closer to what I would be happy running live projects with I will leave these projects to run overnight to produce a clean list and then retry a full burner campaign at 750 threads to see how the VPS performs.

Resource manage SER not running at full speed.

So I have just woke up and checked my VPS, as you can see from the screenshot above SER is only utilizing 627 of its available 750 threads. This is because my projects have been running for around 12 hours now and most of them are running out of targets to process so they are going into a verification loop of checking over the submitted targets over and over again.

As you can see the CPU usage appears steady averaging around 50%. This is a trap that I used to fall in, SER maybe using 627 threads but very few of them are doing the heavy lifting tasks such as posting content. When verifying a submission all SER does is go to the URL it thinks its link should be at and scan the page for your backlink, an easy task requiring little to no system resources.

On the flip side when the majority of the threads are being used for submission it may have to go to the domain, find its account creation page, make an account, complete the account creation captcha, check for the verification email, find the submit content page, unspin an article, gather media for the article, blend the article and media togeather, submit the article, complete a submission captcha, and save the potential URL to its submitted bank. This changes depending on the platforms you have selected but you can see there are many more tasks required meaning it is much more resource heavy when submitting.

I have just completed my list filtering process with these initial projects so I have left SER with a 750 thread upper limit and built some projects based around a real campaign targeting contextual targets along with profile and forum platforms turned into contextuals using the method I explain here to see how the VPS reacts. I am also interested to see what kind of links per minute a low-end VPS can actually churn out when set up correctly as my knowledge has developed a ton since I used systems with lower specs.

Resource Manage showing system usage for a full project.

The screenshot above shows the system resources for SER when running a clean filtered list at 750 threads. As you can see, Resource Manage shows that SER currently has 818 active threads. This is because each project in SER set to live takes up one thread on top of the 750 I have allocated it to use for its tasks. I also have a theory that if a thread becomes unresponsive SER will drop it and start a new on to replace it and it takes a while for Resource Manager to detect this when running at a high thread count. Additionally, the CPU usage for the overall system seems to be hovering around the 80% mark suggesting that this could be the ideal settings for this particular VPS.

Time For The LPM/VPM

I have left SER to do its thing for a few hours now running the exact same test projects from above to see what kind of links per minute and verified per minute this $35 per month Geek Package can get to and the screenshots below show its potential.

GSA Search Engine Ranker Links Per Minute.
GSA Search Engine Ranker Verified Links Per Minute.

As you can see, after being left to run for a few hours it managed to pull almost 650 links per minute while achieving almost 500 verified links per minute! These are all contextual based links where the link to my site is surrounded in a niche relevant article to help build further relevancy rather than a blog comment on some random blog that has nothing to do with my niche.

Ideal Layout For Future Monitoring

Finally, I will leave you with this little layout that I use to assist me with the on-going monitoring of the system as well as its performance at a glance.

HUD Layout to show resources, captcha rates and links per minute.

As you can see from the screenshot above, Resource Manager is at the bottom of the pile of tool windows with its real-time graphs visible to the right of the main SER window. Next up, I have positioned GSA Captcha Breaker ontop of the Resource Manager window below the main SER window to enable me to monitor the solve rate of its captchas as well as that of any secondary OCR captcha service I maybe using. Finally, we have GSA Search Engine Ranker positioned on the very top of all three allowing me to check its links per minute or verified per minute count as well as its do follow to no follow output ratio with ease.

I hope this post has helped you understand how to better select your hardware and optimize your tools to run more efficiently on it to maximize your link output and hopefully help your sites rank higher in the search engines.


MBA candidate at @tuckschool of business at dartmouth. lover of huskies, the ocean & boston sports. hoya saxa!