Geotargeting with Google Webmaster Tools
With SEO there are a million-and-one things to remember with each project you undertake.
It’s so easy to get lost in all the endless tips, advice and ‘best practices’. Keeping up with the latest fads and buzz words in SEO can be a full-time job in itself. However, there are some things that remain a constant and every now and again I like to remind people about the basics.
So, here’s one for you – ‘Geotargeting’.
It’s well documented that Google places emphasis on local results for local searches. They will also recognise where you are in the World and, depending on your search settings, will usually give you results that correspond to your location.
Google will also help out ‘local’ websites by nudging them up the rankings (when I say local, I mean websites that are either physically hosted or are targeting the country in which you are located).
So, if your website’s content or offering only applies to a single country or territory, it’s a good idea to use geotargeting to make sure that Google gives you a little boost in the local searches.
Here’s how to do it
We can set up geotargeting very easily in Google Webmaster Tools. If you aren’t currently using Webmaster Tools, you should be. It’s extremely useful for anyone doing any sort of SEO work on their website.
Setting up a website in GWT is very easy and these days you can just link to your Google Analytics account to verify your ownership. Here’s a good little tutorial on gettsing started.
Setting up geotargeting is just as easy. To set a geographic target you need to select the website you want to work with. Then just follow these steps:
- Under Site configuration, click Settings.
- In the Geographic target section, select the country you want to target.
- If you want to ensure that your site is not associated with any country or region, make sure the Target users incheckbox is un-checked.
- This screen allows you to change your website’s geographic location and its preferred canonical URL which Google will use in its indexes.
- Select the country or region that you wish to target or leave the box un-checked if you don’t want to target a geographic location.
Now, depending on what kind of domain you have, you may be restricted to only one country or territory. For example, if you have a .co.uk domain, the drop-down box will default to ‘United Kingdom’ and you won’t be able to change it. This raises a very interesting debate about which domains are true, global TLD’s (top level domains).
For example, .CO domains we re-released in July 2010 and marketed as International TLD’s. However, .co domains were originally created to serve as a country-specific domain for Colombia. When using a .co domain with Google Webmaster Tools, you are able to geotarget any country in the World. The same goes for your .com’s, .org’s, .net’s etc.
You are not obliged to geotarget any region or country in GWT. If you decide not to check the Target users in checkbox, you are simply leaving your options open so that Google doesn’t particularly associate you with a geographic location.
I use geotargeting on a few of my personal websites and I can’t say I’ve noticed too much of a difference in ranking or in traffic but the tool is there for a reason and, because I’m an immense geek, I tend to comply with Google as much as I can in the hope that I’m rewarded with brownie points.