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Google.co.uk SERP Changes - June 2008
tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 5:06 pm on Jun 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

We're going to try an experiment here. We have a lot of members from the UK or who target the UK - and it seems that google.co.uk is, increasingly, a different critter from google.com.

So this month we're going to try one thread just for google.com and general Google SERP changes, and this thread - dedicated to observations for Google's UK flavor. So what do members see going on with the google.co.uk search results this month?

 

HuskyPup



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 5:25 pm on Jun 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

This is for a 10 year old retail brochure site hosted at Telehouse in London with a UK IP that is popping in and out and yo-yoing all over the place.

Yesterday it came back in at #9 with the parked name exampleexample.com, today with a cache date of 13th June it is showing, at #9 as well, the correct example-example.com.

Of the top 20 results I see only 3 .com extensions.

Time to bring out the .co.uk?

Gissit

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 5:37 pm on Jun 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

I had a site (.com on uk based server) dissapear almost on 11/12 June for all but VERY specific terms. The site is a couple of years old and usually holds many top 5 positions for a wide variety of terms in a small but busy niche. It has a unique domain name not related to what we do and is not over optimised but has all the standard stuff in order. Today the site is back and seems to have regained most (if not all) of its previous rankings. The only significant change between the last cache dates and now is that I removed addsense.

HuskyPup



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 7:47 pm on Jun 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've spent the last couple of hours analysing keyword phrases and have come up with very confused geo-targeted results.

For instance many phrases for a 14 year old UK hosted global authority .com is #1 on G.com and is halfway down G.co.uk and some phrases not even ranked at all.

Other TLD extensions even though hosted in the UK are not even recognised even though they are focussed towards European markets however if I go to G.co.in...guess what, #1.

If G considers my .com to be focussed towards the USA, what happens if I duplicate it on my .co.uk/.eu/.etc?

If, this is a BIG IF, Google are geo-targeting based upon TLD and where THEY believe that site is focussed, then we're all in a total mess to say the very least!

M_Bison

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 9:29 pm on Jun 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Two things:

a) I think Google is using more and more click-through data and;
b) For a lot of queries, users tend to click results with local URLs (.co.uk etc)

BTW, this thread should cover google.com.au and other regional googles as well!

Receptional Andy



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 9:46 pm on Jun 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

google.co.uk is, increasingly, a different critter from google.com

A sentiment I can absolutely agree with. Increasingly, it's possible to dominate results for UK-based Google audiences, with little or no international presence, and all-but invisible performance at google.com.

A related observation: 'international' search results seem to share features in common, and it seems that there is an 'international' (i.e. a regional Google TLD) element that is not applied to google.com results. And then, of course, regionalisation kicks in ;)

frances

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 3:06 am on Jun 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have a uk hosted .com domain.

In google.com as viewed from the UK, we are number 1 for our main keyword phrase. The second site is also a uk-hosted .com.

In google.co.uk, we are number 3 and the site that is second in google.com is ranked 7. All the other results on google.co.uk are .co.uk domains.

These results have been pretty stable for some weeks. A couple of months ago, there was quite a lot of flux.

It certainly looks like .com domains are favoured on google.com and vice versa.

But when I look at our second keyword phrase, a .com site that is one below us in google.com is one above us in google.co.uk.

So I figure other factors must be at play and I assumed for no reason really that it was the geographical location of links. My plan is to get more uk links. We have a lot of US ones.

M_Bison

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 5:09 am on Jun 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

My plan is to get more uk links.

My site is ranked highly in google.com (from an Australian POV), yet these rankings don't translate into high rankings on google.com.au. This has been happening since about November 2006, when Google seems to have placed a filter on its regional sites.

Over the past year and a half, I've been building a lot of local links, but to no avail, and it seems that sites with little to no links (local and international) are ranking above mine, which is 10 years old.

This leads me to the conclusion that most searchers, especially when searching for e-commerce sites click on sites with a local extension (eg .co.uk, .ca, .com.au etc) and Google is using click-through data to adjust the SERPs accordingly.

frances

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 3:27 pm on Jun 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

For us, the downgrading in google.co.uk started a month or two ago. Until then, we were top in both.

Bad news if local links dont help.

internetheaven

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 8:35 am on Jun 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

It certainly looks like .com domains are favoured on google.com and vice versa.

Interesting notion and one I had not considered. I had assumed the problem was geo-location but maybe there is nothing actually wrong with either Google.com or Google.co.uk. Check these options out:

- They has been some commotion recently about .biz's, .info's etc. being lowered in value. Maybe every tld has except for .com on Google.com?

- As well as weighting the google.com algorithm based on the geo-location of the searcher, they could adjust the results based on the geo-location of the actual search terms used. This would account for not seeing a difference in the results even from different IPs across the world.

That last one would make sense as many people here are reporting no.1 rankings on google.com for their term but nowhere in .co.uk - such would only really occur if the product/service you are marketing is not something aimed at the US or something US people generally enter otherwise your US competition would definitely rank above you (with them having more US inbounds and US servers). Google certainly has the capability to make such distinctions and has a huge array of data to decide which terms are used UKians and which are used by USians.

This would mean that ranking high in Google.com for your terms but being nowhere in Google was not some sort of penalty or bug, but the correct results. Your .com domain with only a few US-based inbound links would beat your competitors with their .net's, .co.uk's etc. and UK-based inbound links on Google.com BUT NOT on Google.co.uk

Receptional Andy



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 12:02 pm on Jun 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

A scenario I see fairly commonly: many sites have .com and .co.uk versions - often pretty much a duplicate. While the .com will usually outperform the .co.uk in any general-purpose search (the regional site is buried in results as a result of similarity/duplication), the local site will normally be returned for brand-based searches.

An easy specific: Google.co.uk is the first result for 'Google' in Google.co.uk.

Now, this could be as a result of clickthrough data, however I don't think it's that simple. Google.com results do not list google.co.uk in the top 10 at all, and so where would the clicks come from?

I think a factor may be the 'regionality' of a search - i.e. how likely it is that the visitor is looking for a region-specific resource.

M_Bison

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 12:18 pm on Jun 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

Now, this could be as a result of clickthrough data, however I don't think it's that simple. Google.com results do not list google.co.uk in the top 10 at all, and so where would the clicks come from?

From google.co.uk - if Google sees one site being clicked on more on google.co.uk, they will increase the rankings on google.co.uk and NOT google.com. In fact, the site may not even rank well in google.com.

I think a factor may be the 'regionality' of a search - i.e. how likely it is that the visitor is looking for a region-specific resource.

Definitely. You won't see any US based firms on google.co.uk for searches relating to things such as insurance or finance, and increasingly for searches relating to e-commerce (eg where the searcher is looking to buy). However, for searches like "second world war", you'll get a mix of results from UK, US and other countries.

Receptional Andy



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 12:29 pm on Jun 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

In fact, the site may not even rank well in google.com

But it has to rank somewhere for it to attract the clicks in the first place. It seems to me that in some instances, Google decides to show a regional site, where it is unlikely user behaviour has favoured it in the past.

As another data point, Yahoo UK is not top for 'Yahoo' in either .com or .co.uk results, although it would seem natural that it would attract a high percentage of clicks from UK users.

[edited by: Receptional_Andy at 12:34 pm (utc) on June 21, 2008]

internetheaven

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 1:40 pm on Jun 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

I think we should lower the tone considerably regarding clickthrough data! Such could only be a very small percentage of the ranking algorithm, you're making it sound like the be all and end all of rankings.

For the problems being described for UK sites ranking on the two tlds I would say that clickthrough rates are probably having almost no bearing at all on the ranking issues.

Yahoo UK is not top for 'Yahoo' in either .com or .co.uk results, although it would seem natural that it would attract a high percentage of clicks from UK users.

Kinda steps on your own clickthrough rate theories then doesn't it? It would attract more clicks yet does not rank at the top, demonstrating the very small percentage of weight that is given to clickthroughs as part of the algorithm.

Receptional Andy



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 1:47 pm on Jun 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

Kinda steps on your own clickthrough rate theories then doesn't it?

Not my clickthrough rate theory, IH, hence why I gave that example ;)

It certainly looks like .com domains are favoured on google.com and vice versa

Personally, I think the increased occurrence of, say, .co.uk sites in google.co.uk results, is a symptom rather than cause. Certainly I've not seen any greater difficulty in obtaining UK rankings for a .com site as opposed to a .co.uk.

M_Bison

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 12:21 am on Jun 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

I think we should lower the tone considerably regarding clickthrough data! Such could only be a very small percentage of the ranking algorithm, you're making it sound like the be all and end all of rankings.

Click-through rate is one of the primary drivers determining you position on AdWords, so it makes sense for Google to optimise the organic results in the same way.

As an example, website A is ranking position 10 and website B ranking position 100 on google.com, but website B outranking website A on a regional Google such as google.co.uk.

Amongst other suggestions, the most popular suggestion is that the amount of local links determines the ranking on local Googles. However, through my own experience, I simply have not seen any evidence of this.

A more sensible explanation is that Google is using click-through data.

For example, if I am looking to purchase a new computer, then when searching, I personally am more likely to click on a .com.au result or a TLD result with a local location in the title/meta tags - given I don't know the brand already, hence why yahoo.com may outrank yahoo.co.uk. I also know from my own AdWords experience that click-through rates more than double when using a .com.au domain vs a .com domain in the ad copy.

frances

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 2:27 am on Jun 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

From the set of results I talked about above, the argument doesn't seem to hold that users favour tlds and google measures click throughs.

The keyword is wierd in that it means different things to the US and the rest of the english speaking world. It also has another meaning which is global.

Google has fully accounted for that in that the google.com results shown to the UK, australia etc are utterly different from the results shown to the US and are completely targeted at the local country.

So if click-throughs are ordering the serps and users favour local tlds, it should follow that the uk google.com results should show .co.uks.

But they don't. The .co.uks are driven to the bottom of the page. The .coms sit on top.

M_Bison

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 3:17 am on Jun 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

The main point I'm trying to get across is that you have a title, snippet and a URL which includes a domain name, all of which need to be used to make your site attractive to searchers of the specific keyword or phrase you are trying to target.

Websites targeting a specific country are facing an ever increasing challenge - that is, if you have a TLD (ie not a country specific domain), you run the risk of searchers thinking you're from the US and not clicking on your site in the SERPs.

The way to get around this is to put local words like "London" or "UK's Best" in the title, or perhaps the meta description, in order to make searcher recognise you are in fact local.

In fact, I just did a search for "London widgets" (not really widgets) and the top five results were .com's, but all had the word London in the title tag. In fact, all of the results on the first page had the word "London" in the title tag.

Of course, appealing to local searchers mainly works for e-commerce type searches, not encyclopedic type searches where the searcher is purely after information.

inbound

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 11:17 am on Jun 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

Having had reason to do a lot of comparison between US and UK results recently I would say that Google.co.uk does very well in terms of localisation.

There are sites that scream out that they are from the UK (UK cctld, UK IP, UK Spelling, UK geo identifiers - postcodes, towns, telephone number format etc) so they are easy enough to identify, but there are sites that are less obvious than this that Google.co.uk consistently ranks well but there's little sign of on Google.com.

I believe that Google must put additional effort into the UK market as it sees it as important. It has built up a huge lead in search percentages and makes a lot of revenue from the UK in comparison to other (non US) markets.

An interesting side note is that Microsoft seem to be over-localising results in the UK. I tried searches for a particular type of business in a big US city on all of the majors and was amazed to find Live.co.uk giving results pretty much only from the UK - hence results that were completely incorrect (the city in question shares one of its words with a small city in England).

As for comments suggesting a non cctld domain as bad for click through, I don't agree, or at least it does not matter to many people - most users don't pay attention to URLs from the stats I see, they are just interested in getting the information they want.

Receptional Andy



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 11:39 am on Jun 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm in full agreement that appealing to local visitors with the aspects you can control (title/snippet/url) is an important factor in encouraging clickthroughs. However I think there are sufficient counter-examples (sites with no regional identifiers in serps whatsoever) to suggest that this is not a significant factor in ranking - or at least, not a big part of the reason sites get a 'regional boost'.

For me, the question is what causes sites to enjoy this 'regional boost', and why do some sites get it more than others.

The basics still seem to be most significant: UK hosting and/or a UK TLD. I work mostly with UK sites, and I pretty much take for granted that if they feature in 'pages from the UK' results, they will also do much better in worldwide Google UK searches as opposed to at .com.

The question remains as to why some sites enjoy much more of a boost than others (or put another way, why some sites enjoy less of a boost than others ;)). Certainly, I have difficulty in correlating on-page factors with this.

There seems to be more emphasis on authoritative resources (i.e. an on topic page at an off-topic site) on Google.com - so, bigger, more established UK sites have better relative performance at Google.com as opposed to Google.co.uk, and poorer relative performance at Google.co.uk. Of course, there are a number of things that might explain such an effect, if it is even widespread.

jaffstar

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 12:10 pm on Jun 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

a) I think Google is using more and more click-through data and;

Agreed. This explains why a site of mine that has a team working on it every day ranks in the local country I am in, but not in co.uk/.com.

Bennie

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 2:32 pm on Jun 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hubs and 'trusted' sites are very different to those in the .com (same for .com.au) Google seem to have these mapped out nicely, esp in .com.au. From my notes, .co.uk and .com.au different beasts.

Where your site is hosted plays a large part, certain domain extensions help, others don't have the same effect, ie. .net.au vs .com.au.

Backlinks play a large part and to rank on competitive terms you are going to need to pay close attention to what G are considering hubs and trusted sites. A little in depth analysis and you can reverse engineer this.

It interesting to watch all 3 algos grow and go their seperate ways. It's a good exercise to watch what Google are doing. .com.au is a a really interesting 'local search' case study. It's also interesting to watch guys in the .com market try and target .com.au serps. It seems Google keep a close eye on this and change the factors to tweak them back out.

Hope that makes sense.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 2:42 pm on Jun 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

Might this be part of the way Google works the "pages from..." algorithm?

My idea is that they would first hand pick a collection of trusted "seed" websites that they know are UK. Then fold in some variation of LocalRank [patft1.uspto.gov].

LocalRank is often thought of as a "theme relevance" factor. But pages-from-a-country is really one kind of "theme", and the seed sites would build in some accuracy off the bat - and probably some quirks, too.

Joff

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 3:49 pm on Jun 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

A scenario I see fairly commonly: many sites have .com and .co.uk versions - often pretty much a duplicate.

Which is how a number of my clients have it.

However how would Google treat this?

UK company, US servers. Majority of their market is in the UK but they do have an overseas presence.
Own the .co.uk and .com, with both having the same content (configured as an alias on the server), with the .com being the URL they advertise and 90% of inbound links are to.

They don't suffer from any real issues in the SERPs, but it's something to keep an eye on.

Also, maybe it would be preferable to host the site only on a UK server using the .co.uk and then 301 all other TLDs to that.

Receptional Andy



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 3:58 pm on Jun 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

Joff: the two approaches are to make the sites sufficiently different (IMO the best approach from both a user and search perspective, but requires more resources) or failing that permanently redirect everything to one host. Even if you don't see performance problems, you're likely to be suffering from 'link dilution'.

g1smd

WebmasterWorld Senior Member g1smd us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 5:36 pm on Jun 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

One change in the last week.

I have been dealing with a site that has a number of typing errors for the name of a product or service, where there are misspellings as well as incorrect word-ordering to contend with.

The typing errors have been corrected, over the last 3 or 4 months, and slowly the number of results in the SERP has been declining towards zero. This is for a "quoted" search, for the exact, but wrong, words. Those words always showed in bold in the snippet for each entry.

However, a few days ago, the number of results has started to go up again. This time, the search term does NOT appear in the snippet, and no words are shown in bold.

It's as if the "exact match" as defined by the "quotes" is being ignored.

What has triggered these pages into now appearing for that search term? Is it the now the lack of "real" results for those searches?

Joff

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 6:12 pm on Jun 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

Good point Andy. So in that example above then, would you plump for hosting it as a .co.uk or .com? (on a US server)

Receptional Andy



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 6:25 pm on Jun 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

hosting it as a .co.uk or .com? (on a US server)

We're heading off topic ;)

If it's a UK audience, I almost always opt for .co.uk. It's a guarantee of being seen as targeting a UK audience (e.g. it wasn't so long ago AOL and Yahoo only showed .co.uk for UK-only results!). See also How to tell Google you're a UK site [webmasterworld.com].

Note also that a US-hosted .com is not going to appear in 'UK only' results, and is unlikely to enjoy a regional 'boost' in search engine performance. And take more care if the majority of traffic and search engine performance currently goes to the .com, as you need a planned domain migration [webmasterworld.com]. Or just consider UK hosting for the .com ;)

Joff

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 7:29 pm on Jun 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

Cheers for the tip and yeah as it's a bit OT for this thread, lets end it here :)

vincevincevince

WebmasterWorld Senior Member vincevincevince us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3678803 posted 1:42 am on Jun 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

Don't forget that page load time is now a factor in much of Google's ranking. If we see US hosted sites dropping in ranking it could be a reflection of their slow page load from the UK. Question: does Google crawl, ping or otherwise assess load times from non-US locations?

This 48 message thread spans 2 pages: 48 ( [1] 2 > >
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