WARNING: Please be advised that the information in this article may be out of date, as it was written a while ago, please refrain away from actioning on any of the recommendations included in this article, unless you have investigated the concerns further.
When launching a new website and you’re having to populate your to-do list, there are a million to one thing(s) that need doing in the process of deploying your site and post-launch. It’s honestly a ball ache to try and figure everything out, let alone remember to properly configure your analytics & webmaster tools setup once your site is officially on the web. It’s easy to lose track and it’s a pain in the backside to ensure that all the best practice implementations are considered in order for Google to love and favor your site.
Just to make things more difficult on your side, but for the better – it’s worthwhile taking a look at the geo-targeting feature on webmaster tools. This feature can be used to specifically tell Google what country you are looking to be ranked in. If you’re a local business serving your local town and within a 10-mile radius, you don’t want Google enrolling you in the US market. Ha. It’s a pain in the backside when a potential client gets in touch, and then you hear the disappointing news that you’re unable to provide a service to them due to their location. I’ve lost count how many stories I was told from previous clients about how they received a phone call / and or email from someone located in another country – that sudden excite of having the chance to work on new projects comes crashing down.
In some instances, it’s a bonus if your site is ranking internationally, some may think of it as “extra” traffic that may or may not convert in the near future.
There are lots of reasons why your site may be ranking in another market
- Are you using a specific country-code top level domain? If you’re a UK business, I wouldn’t register a .com.au domain or a .eu address, as they are country-specific domains. If you’re serving the UK only, I would highly suggest going for a .co.uk domain;
- Do you have a lot of links from foreign domains that primarily build up your link profile?
- Google thinks that your site is relevant to the search query that the international user has searched for.
What about server location?
Some SEO’s believe that the server location comes into play when Google considers what one of its country-based search engines to enroll you in, I don’t think this is right, at all. After some digging, I found some evidence that came to light back in 2013, please be advised that this was a very long time ago, but I think the same principle exists. John Mueller gave some advice to a webmaster regarding geo-targeting.
“For search, specifically for geotargeting, the server’s location plays a very small role, in many cases it’s irrelevant. If you use a ccTLD or a gTLD together with Webmaster Tools, then we’ll mainly use the geotargeting from there, regardless of where your server is located. You definitely don’t need to host your website in any specific geographic location — use what works best for you, and give us that information via a ccTLD or Webmaster Tools.” – John Mueller
Does GEO targeting impact visibility else where?
So, therefore, in order to ‘reduce’ the chances of your site appearing in another market, outside of your region, you’re able to configure the geo-targeting feature on webmaster tools to your preferred country. This won’t restrict your site from appearing in other markets according to Gary Illyes, but it can reduce the chances as you are specifically telling Google what country you’d like to be considered for. You’re effectively feeding more information in regards to your sites requirements to Google – which is good.
GEO Targeting in Webmaster Tools – How To Set It Up
To get started you’ll need to get to grips with webmaster tools, if you’re completely unaware of what this tool is and how it can help move your site forward, you will need to get on this asap. It allows you (the webmaster) to see how your site is performing in organic search across Google’s portfolio of search engines, it’ll tell you how many clicks you’re generating via organic search, indexing status, website errors, problems, sitemaps, and visibility. It’s a no-brainer to have your site setup on webmaster tools, remember: it’s Google’s product and they *probably* favor sites supporting their own inventions.
1) You’ll need to head on over to webmaster tools (old version), assuming that you have a property setup for your site already. A property is effectively an account (environment) for your website, it stores all of the data, history etc. You will need one of these to configure your sites geo-targeting features. Once you’ve logged into webmaster tools, click your desired website property.
2) Once logged in a sidebar should be visible on the left-hand side, click ‘Search Traffic’ and ‘International Targeting’.
3) By default, you will start on the ‘Language’ tab that will outline all of your hreflang errors, if you don’t see any then it may be because Google hasn’t indexed your site or you haven’t implemented any. The tab you’re most interested in is the ‘Country’ tab, click this.
4) Once clicked you’ll be able to see the country that’s been associated with your domain, this is the geotargeting feature in webmaster tools. Here you can set the country that you’re looking to be enlisted in, geotargeting will help Google determine what engine your site should appear in. Google may decide to select a country for you by default if you have a specific country-code top level domain (CCTLD). Below I have listed *some* of those:
- Australia – .com.au
- Canada – .ca
- German – .de
- French – .fr
- more country code top level domains here.
If you’re a UK business, then the chances are you want to be enlisted in the UK search engine (Google.co.uk), therefore I’d recommend getting a co.uk domain. Do NOT register a CCTLD just for the sake of it, otherwise, your site won’t perform as it should in the search results. This is critical.
So that’s it, folks, that’s how you can setup geo-targeting in webmaster tools. If you have any questions, please do let me know.