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Geo-targeted SERPs - a hell of a BigDaddy fallout?
acersun




msg:747036
 10:37 am on Feb 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

We are located in Switzerland, german speaking part.

When doing a general search (using "The Web" Button), I get more and more German, Austrian and Swiss websites on the top SERP, even when looking for a ENGLISH term, for example women.

As this was not the case in the past, I trust the algo meanwhile compares the geographic location of the surfer's ISP** and tries to match it with the geographic location of the sites on their index. I did not investigate any further if this geo-targeting is based on the listed site's IP, TLD or even whois record. So let's call this "a sites geographic profile" (...as interpreted by Google).

If this finding can be confirmed by others, this will cause a major headache for all of us who want to have top ranks to reach an audience not limited or influenced by our site's geographic profile. For those fishing for local traffic, this is a field day.

In other words, when in the past you ranked for your keywords in the top 5 (when using "the web" button), this won't be the case anymore.

The SERPS are now being extremely influenced by the user's geo-profile. Which is in most cases different from yours.

Please try to reproduce this:

To have it language neutral, google (use "the web" button) for "ferrari".

Here i have in the top 10:

7 sites in german
1 site in italian
2 in english

If you have another mix of results, my theory seems to be valid. Google started to not only geo-target the ads it serves, but also the SERP itself.

I hope that my finding can not be reproduced by others. If you can reproduce it, take a deep breath and consider the implications this will increasingly have for your SEO efforts. Take another breath and consider the implication this will have for google itself. Me as Joe Surfer am frustrated with geo-targeted SERPS because in many cases it makes it more difficult for me to find the proper information, because the results are polluted with sites ranking high only because of their geo-profile. If i want geo-targeted results, i use the "my country" or "my language" buttons.

I can imagine that this observation is also an explanation for many other positively or negatively effects discussed in many other threads.

Any feedback on this is highly appreciated.

Thank you.

Tom

**or even worse, his/her geo-profile as determined by Googlebar/gMail settings or cookies or what ever

[edited by: engine at 5:01 pm (utc) on Feb. 20, 2006]

 

DaveAtIFG




msg:747066
 3:06 pm on Feb 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

The basis behind SEO will always be the same (to rank high no matter where you go)

Respectfully, I disagree. The basis behind SEO is to generate targeted traffic. Historically, high rankings on relevant search terms has been the most effective method to generate that traffic. That may be changing.

acersun




msg:747067
 3:09 pm on Feb 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thanks a lot to all of you for the information, knowledge and philosophical thouths you share.

Keep it coming. I appreciate the way this thread evelops from a rather narrow discussion on geo-targetting to a more broad discussion bout professional and up to date SEOing, which grants me priceless insights.

Thanks.

Tom

acersun




msg:747068
 3:11 pm on Feb 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

<< That may be changing. >>

Dave, would you mind to elaborate on this?

Thanks a lot

Murdoch




msg:747069
 3:20 pm on Feb 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

Dave,

You are right in commenting that times are changing and this relates well to Sugarrae's article about link development vs. traffic development. Consequently, I think that in years to come media outside of the internet (television, billboards, flyers, even radio) will have a greater effect on web traffic development than search engines, or they will learn to work in unison like the whole Pontiac/Google deal. But technically I would have to say that, since SEO is search engine optimization, its primary goal is to rank high, and therefore the beneficial result is traffic. Really though we are just arguing semantics at this point.

Acersun if you are interested in what Dave and I are talking about here is an excellent article post by Sugarrae.

[webmasterworld.com ]

acersun




msg:747070
 3:29 pm on Feb 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

Murdoch, thanks a lot for this link. This will be another great read for tonite.

rbacal




msg:747071
 5:37 pm on Feb 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

I disagree with seo vanishing, the average will continue to be as blandly predictable as it always has been, people still smoke marlboros and drink budweiser after all, average is average, good money in averages.

It won't vanish. It will be impossible to do it as we know it, quite simply because if one optimizes for marlboro smokers (assuming one could, which is unlikely as algos get more complex and capable of personalizing more), you would, BY DEFINITION, be unoptimizing for every person who does NOT smoke marlboros.

As it stand now, you could optimize for a number of "brands".

In terms of SEO, the WORST thing that can happen in the business is that the algos get smarter, more opaque (which will happen with smartness and complexity), and users get better results. "Good" results are OK. Fabulous results aren't for SEO, because that implies a level of "mind-reading" of searchers that no SEO will be able to do without knowing what's in the search engine black box.

Will it happen? Probably. When? Now that's the question. Once sophisticated behavioral targeting is in place, I guess we'd be pretty close to SEO impossibility.

Geotargeting is simply the tip of the potential iceberg.

acersun




msg:747072
 7:31 pm on Feb 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

<<because that implies a level of "mind-reading" of searchers>>

mind reading? hm..... [googleAI.com...]

;)

2by4




msg:747073
 8:34 pm on Feb 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

<< 3. From a surfers point of view, it seems that many out there don't like this new behaviour >>>

Nobody posting in these forums represents anything even remotely resembling an 'average searcher', so I tend to ignore opinions about serp quality I find here. What counts is the realworld user data google collects constantly, that's what really tells what combination of methods is really delivering what searchers want to see. Since google isn't currently losing any market share I'd say it's very safe to say that searchers are finding what they want more or less.

Re geo targetting: don't think of it as a negative, think of it as a positive, as was noted, it's easier for someone in some other country to rank a site for local consumption with geotargetting. That's not a downside for SEOs, that's an upside, good selling point for your services, it's more likely you'll rank your client for local traffic, easier too. I know when I buy online, I buy from the same country I'm in, as does almost everyone. If you want a book from amazon, you buy from the amazon 'near' you, I don't want to see amazon uk results in my search for book x or y. Same for hardware etc.

Re Google AI, same old dream, same old bad premises leading to pointless wastes of time, it all goes back to the basics, if you don't understand what you're emulating you're not going to get far.

Murdoch




msg:747074
 8:59 pm on Feb 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

I know when I buy online, I buy from the same country I'm in, as does almost everyone.

This is a good point that I missed bringing up, and yes it leans heavily towards commercial sites, but hey that's what I do so...

Consider the fact that some users (and I know this directly from dealing with clients that somehow find their way onto our international sites) only look at the price without looking at the currency it is being sold in, and then they get all huffy puffy and tell me its MY fault when they buy something in pounds and not US dollars. The fact that G is geo targeting like this saves me from some of the trouble this causes. Thanks for mentioning that 2by4. I also tend to agree that this is beneficial to users. Above average surfers like ourselves should be able to find any information we want regardless of the country we are in because we are good at search. For the others, well that kind of sucks I guess but what can you do? They're oblivious to the fact that their results are incomplete anyway most of the time. C'est la vie.

acersun




msg:747075
 9:10 pm on Feb 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hi 2b4

I agree to you in most points. I just have a different opinion on this:

<<I don't want to see amazon uk results in my search for book x or y.>>

On our local googles we do have the options "search my country" and "search my language" right next to the option "search the web". I just fail to see the logic why "bias" the search the world results in order to "give the surfer what he wants" when the surfer anyway has the option to select his own country and languge just a radio box next to the web option.

However I do agree that Google sureley better knows what the average surfer wants. No doubt bout that. Yet still I hear more and more web savy friends and collegues who used google nearly exclusive are more and more using other SEs. Bear in mind that I talk bout local googles. What we experience here is different to what you as a surfer experience with your google.com.

But this thread was never intended to discuss the QUALITY of the SERPs but to find out more bout the discrepancies in "search the web results".

If i summarzie the whole thread I see that the discrepancies do indeed take place on many non US locations. And I do see that what one poster above refered to as tip of the iceberg is on the radar of some SEOs.

paintbox




msg:747076
 9:44 am on Feb 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

<<I don't want to see amazon uk results in my search for book x or y.>>

The problem for Google is of course that with no geo targeting they would have to serve a list of all the amazons - amazon.co.uk amazon.de, amazon.fr etc. ...

I guess geo targeting is here to stay and I'm sure the SEO business will find a way around it! Geo targeting will create even more business, as it gets more complicated to target an international audience.

<<if you are big enough already to provide services on an international level, then you should be able to take the time to have an SEO strategy for each area of business.>>

It's the non-commercial, low budget, informational pages that will suffer.

acersun




msg:747077
 5:20 pm on Feb 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

<<<The problem for Google is of course that with no geo targeting they would have to serve a list of all the amazons - amazon.co.uk amazon.de, amazon.fr etc. ...>>>

Geee...

This is not the point. And I do not really want to get into another "quality of serps" or "average surfer" kind of discussion.

I don't want to get obstinate. But....

The facts:
-----------

Past and current GUI for local googles (googles other than google.com, such as google.co.uk, google.ch, etc):

Right below the search field you have:

"google search" // "I feel lucky"*

Right below of this, there are 3 radio buttons:

"the web" "pages in my language" "pages from my country" **

"The web" is preselected.

The confusion with parts of this thread for some US readers:
---------------------------------------------------------------

Maybe a cultural problem. If you do not understand what this poster is writing about:

Take a deep breath and imagine for a second that:

a) you are an US American
b) your native language is English
c) Now lets further imagine that not English, but Swahili is the Linga Franca of the world
e) Even worse, lets assume that some 75% of all the documents published on the web are written in Swahili
f) Google.com offers you the follwowing main options:
"search the web" "search pages in English" "search pages from USA"
g) you have a command of Swahili to some degree

What results do you expect when searching for "ferrari" using the "the web" button?

I would say: 75% results in Swahili (see above point e)

I beg to say that you would expect other results when selecting the other radio buttons:

"in english" you expect most probalby a majority pages from US webistes, some from Uk, some from Australia

"in english" you expect pages from US-Websites, most probably in English

You agree?

Fine, welcome to some aspects of this thread.

The reality begs to differ from the logical expectation:

Google France: "ferrari"
"the web": 8xFrench 2xItalian
"in French": 10x French
"from France: 10x French

Google Germany: "ferrari"
"the web": 8xGerman 1xItalian 1xEnglish
"in German: 9xGerman 1xEnglish
"in Germany: 9xGerman 1xEnglish

Thus, your expectation was only accurate when searching "your country" or "your languge". Not so when searching "the web".

So, please.... please:

Stop arguing "geo-targetting is good because "you don't want foreign sites in your SERPS when you wanna shop", or "else they would need to list all local sites of amazone".

This thread is not about SERP quality. Nor about surfer behaviour and such. This thread is not even about google geo-targetting SERPs is good or not. Not at all. They do what ever they deem appropriate.

This thread is about to

a) establish if they really do geo-targetting and to what extent
b) what this means to SEOing

No offense ment, but

<<I don't want to see amazon uk results in my search for book x or y.>>

<<<The problem for Google is of course that with no geo targeting they would have to serve a list of all the amazons - amazon.co.uk amazon.de, amazon.fr etc. ... >>>

was just a tad too much to ignore.

Tom

---------

* In German google this button will read "Auf gut Glueck" which means when translated back to englisch ""on the off-chance / at a venture / hit or miss"".

------
**my language / my country of course is not what is written there, its generalized. In fact, to stay with
the german example, but on the swiss google GUI:

"Seiten auf Deutsch" "Seiten aus der Schweiz" (Pages in German // Pages from Switzerland)

Got confused? What is this Euro weirdo talking bout? German / Switzerland? I always thought Switzerland is

Sweden ;)

Just a short digression:

In Switzerland, we have for official languages: German / French / Italian / Romansh. Whereas the Swiss version of German is not really understandable to Germans. And Romansh is spoken (and understood) by less 1 % of our total population. Interesting language though, wikipedia it ;)

acersun




msg:747078
 6:34 pm on Feb 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

<<"in english" you expect pages from US-Websites, most probably in English>>

of course this is a typo, i meant in this paragraph "pages from USA" you ....

Tom

paintbox




msg:747079
 7:57 pm on Feb 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

acersun, you must have misunderstood my post. I did not want to discuss whether geo targeting is good or bad, merely stating that I believe it's here to stay. Just like you I'm trying to deal with the consequences of it for SEO.

Your example with searching for a book title was good, because it illustrates very well the problem Google is facing when serving serps on a "web" search. An American book title (in English) will be available for sale from all local amazons, so when someone searches the "web" from some location in the world, Google will need to decide which version is the most likeliest to be the most useful. Since the “my country” or “my language” box hasn’t been ticked, which one should should they select? -.com? .uk? Should they pick one of the English language amazons just because the book title is English? Tricky question - Google decided we probably want to buy the book from amazon.de if we are in Germany. This can be good or bad depending on what we're looking for, but it sure has consequences for the way I need to SEO my site.

I have a .com site hosted in the UK, main language English, with a local language version situated on the same domain. The local language version does quite well on searches in that language. But Geo targeting means my English version fares worse on "web" searches in the English language in the local Google than on both Google.com and Google.co.uk. This is problematic, for in the country I target people tend to search for my kind of sites using English and "web" rather than the local language.

acersun




msg:747080
 8:54 pm on Feb 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

Paintbox,

<<Your example with searching for a book title was good, because it illustrates very well the problem Google is facing when serving serps on a "web" search.>>>

The Amazone book example was not mine but 2by4's i guess.
Msg 34 or something like that. I just quoted him.

Right now, its quite late here, I need some rest. I will be only in a position to comment on your posting tomorrow.

Tom

acersun




msg:747081
 2:52 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Paintbox says:

<<<< This is problematic, for in the country I target people tend to search for my kind of sites using English and "web" rather than the local language.
>>>>

That is why I have started this thread.

Every SEO'er taking care for sites with a substantial Google traffic originating from countries different from their own sites' country AND having English keywords should pay attention to this current development.

Munster




msg:747082
 4:05 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've always found the results more UK biased in google.co.uk than google.com even when I sont select the local search. I think its always been like that.

sore66




msg:747083
 4:45 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Solutions?

URLs with country tld's...ie; co.uk, co.au, etc.

Can these URLs still be hosted in the US, or do they need UK, Australia, etc. hosting to be most effective in ranking?

We can also address the need for the URL content to vary to avoid duplicate penalty. Bit I think it's unfair to have a duplicate penalty if google is geo-targeting...and

...while I'm at it....

Google is shrinking the web experience for all of its users. It's just too bad, eh?

acersun




msg:747084
 5:08 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

<<<Can these URLs still be hosted in the US, or do they need UK, Australia, etc. hosting to be most effective in ranking?>>>>

Interesting question. I have not yet started to investigate which elements of the webserver's profile they use to match query and index.

Considering their patent, I could imagine they will sooner or later try to go all the way ->language and/or ->tld ->geo-location of the IP->location of the registrant in whois (if available).

Gee, I am just a newbie.

Any seasoned AND non-US traffic oriented SEOer out there to comment and to tell me if this thread should find its rest in peace or should be followed?

Tom

Pico_Train




msg:747085
 5:20 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Country specific domain names, co.uk, .ca, .co.za can be hosted in the US. It's just a question of switching the nameservers IPs.

You do have to use a country approved/accredited/whatever it is, Registrar to register those domain names though.

That help?

acersun




msg:747086
 6:00 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Not really.

Actually this thread is not about finding help but to discuss something I consider a new development.

Once this geo-targetting SERPs is confirmed to really happen, and it is established that this has an effect on intl g-traffic for english keywords THEN it is time to discuss solutions.

Whether or not it helps to have a target country's tld depends on G's current methods of matching.

[Edited for clarity]

[edited by: acersun at 6:09 pm (utc) on Feb. 23, 2006]

Pico_Train




msg:747087
 6:03 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well then, go do some research cause it is pretty clear.

acersun




msg:747088
 6:23 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Pico, I said I am a newbie. So please elaborate on what is being clear.

Murdoch




msg:747089
 6:29 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Once this geo-targetting SERPs is confirmed to really happen

Confirmed

and it is established that this has an effect on intl g-traffic for english keywords

If the above is confirmed then this is established

I tend to believe that G would get more complaints if the "search the web" section wasn't somewhat geo-targeted. I bet you that 95% of the people that use Google, in whatever country, are even hardly aware that the "search only pages in this country" button even exists. To tailor it per country is hardly a crime.

Also, the Ferrari example isn't exactly the best one to use, because Ferrari is a brand and is the same whether you search for it in German, French, English or whatever. So obviously in this case it will pull more pages from the appropriate location. Now if you type "Ferrari car" you will get more English sites, and if you type "Ferrari voiture" you will get more French sites. Hardly a stretch of linguistic capabilities for G.

Curious actually if you have tried logging in to [google.us ] from over there. I would imagine this would give you better English results than the generic Google.com.

dauction




msg:747090
 6:52 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

No one replyed but I posted on this new individual serp awhile back .. the place we are heading too ..

a different serp for everyone in effect

[webmasterworld.com...]

I believe it will expand far beyond just geo targetting ..

acersun




msg:747091
 7:03 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

<<<I bet you that 95% of the people that use Google, in whatever country, are even hardly aware that the "search only pages in this country" button even exists.>>>

That is why this effect has an effect on your international traffic for english keywords.

<<< Now if you type "Ferrari car" you will get more English sites, and if you type "Ferrari voiture" you will get more French sites.>>>

Come on.. This is obvious. That is why I used a language neutral term in my example. Use some internationally used English terms which are NOT a brand, and you'll get similar results. (Try "computer").

<<<<Curious actually if you have tried logging in to [google.us...] from over there. I would imagine this would give you better English results than the generic Google.com. >>>

Did't come to my mind, but interesting!

Try by yourself. You will find there are differences between Google.com and Google.us SERPs. Less dramatic differences than compared to other local googles, granted, but that is not a surprise. It's quite logical. But even here you have differences. If your operation is US oriented, this is hardly a problem, because I trust only by mentioning google.us in this forum you have skyrocketed their .us traffic.

However, if you are outside the US, and you have a local google in your country, you land automatically on google.ccTLD. What happens in the States when entering Google.com? You end up on Google.us and need to find a link "Go to Google.com" if you want to search with Google.com? Here you have to.

acersun




msg:747092
 7:08 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

<<<<
No one replyed but I posted on this new individual serp awhile back .. the place we are heading too ..a different serp for everyone in effect
I believe it will expand far beyond just geo targetting >>>

Did not see your thread, dauction. I share your opinon.

This is just the top of an iceberg some SEOers dont see on their radars. That's why I am so obstinate with this thread.

Murdoch




msg:747093
 7:52 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

That is why this effect has an effect on your international traffic for english keywords.

Absolutely. Not disagreeing with you there.

Come on.. This is obvious. That is why I used a language neutral term in my example. Use some internationally used English terms which are NOT a brand, and you'll get similar results. (Try "computer").

Sorry about that, I was reading this part of your original post:

When doing a general search (using "The Web" Button), I get more and more German, Austrian and Swiss websites on the top SERP, even when looking for a ENGLISH term, for example women.

And then when I got to this part I read it but for some reason didn't put two and two together:

To have it language neutral, google (use "the web" button) for "ferrari".

I'd like to think that if a user has trouble with a language neutral term they would enter longer search terms using more of their own language, but I'm probably wrong. Most people are idiots.

I know this discussion didn't begin on whether or not it was a good or bad thing, but are we agreed on the fact that it seems to make sense for the average user?

Maybe Google should make a domain where they don't do any type of geo-targeting, but I happen to think it would go relatively unused.

However, if you are outside the US, and you have a local google in your country, you land automatically on google.ccTLD.

By design I'm sure, since most people are unaware of how results are tailored altogether. Luckily people like you and I are far more discerning in our taste for proper results ;)

Tip of the iceberg I'm sure. Will it change SEO forever? Already has. Webmasters now have to engage in multilingual efforts to retain any type of international traffic. Honestly I think we could all see this coming from a mile away. Personalized results regarding the effectiveness of cookies will be the future, so now more than ever top rankings in the SERPs are important, because if someone clicks on a site and it isn't yours, chances are they'll probably never find it (due to click through favortism / bookmarking, which I believe is the key to personalized search).

Just make sure that you hook 'em the first time ;)

europeforvisitors




msg:747094
 8:32 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Will it change SEO forever? Already has. Webmasters now have to engage in multilingual efforts to retain any type of international traffic.

I haven't seen that at all. (But then, I have a topic--European travel--that's international by nature.)

acersun




msg:747095
 8:36 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

<<<Personalized results regarding the effectiveness of cookies will be the future,.... >>>

Do you mean by this "personalized results based on searchers cookies"? English is not my nativ language so I am not clear on your sentence.

If my interpretation is correct, then..

<<<<<....so now more than ever top rankings in the SERPs are important>>>

is for me a contradiction. If the SERPS are more and more personalized, there won't be anymore such a thing like a top ranking in the general meaning. Says one SEO'er to the other "Hey, I am ranking no 2 for Ferrari!" replies the other "Cool. Me too! Seems that we optimized not for the same searcher."

But as I said, maybe I did not understand your posting properly because of a language barrier.

:)

acersun




msg:747096
 8:43 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

EfV:
<<<<<I haven't seen that at all. (But then, I have a topic--European travel--that's international by nature.) >>>

Where is your Google Traffic comming from? .com or various ccTLDs? You consider the ranking of your keywords important in terms of traffic to be gained from this ranking?

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