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Would it be better from a SEO perspective to launch the second website on a completely different webhost? Or, if the host provides us with hosting on another C class, will it be the same as using another host?
This means, different whois, different Class C, and ideally different nameservers. Even if your current host offers a separate Class C, it is likely that the nameservers will be the same so the absolute best solution is to use a different webhost.
This does NOT mean using the same webhost will *hurt* you, it simply means the links between the sites may not have any benefit in regards to your search engine rankings.
It gets much more expensive to host on different IP address. I host 10 websites on a single host programme. These are used for intelinking. It will not make economical sense to have them on on separate IP address.
The rules do change for high rank pages eh trying to move from 3 to 5.
I asked Matt Cutts about this specifically at the Pubcon "Meet the Google Engineers" drink-a-thon. I asked if we were being penalized in any way because all 3 of our sites were running out of the same data center, possibly sharing the same class C address, etc. It's public knowledge that all three sites are owned by the same conglomerate. I asked if this would in any way prevent all 3 of my companies from ranking on page 1 of the SERPS for the same keyword phrases.
He stated absolutely not as long as the sites truely are run as different businesses with their own unique content.
For what it's worth... :)
That does NOT mean that they don't discount the links between the sites (if there are any in your case).
Google, in the past has often made a distinction between a penalizing of a site and the devaluing of some of it's links, even though they both often have the same results.
Whether they are actually using it or not, I've read at least one Google patent that deals with the devaluing or ignoring of inbound links that originate with the same owner or from the same Class C block of addresses.
For that reason alone, I try to err on the side of caution and make sure I get the best bang for my buck when it comes to linking.