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Google forcing geolocation on searches?
jdMorgan




msg:3767027
 1:20 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

I just did a search, and tried to use the "Customized for <my location>, <country>. More details" link at the upper right of the results page to disable geolocation as I have in the recent past. There is no longer an option on that page to disable geolocation, and the only option offered was to log in to set my location.

So, it looks like they've taken away the option to disable geolocation, and/or they're forcing searchers to log in.

Appending "&gl=us" doesn't seem to return the same results as logging in with location set to "us" any more.
[ related thread [webmasterworld.com] ]

I'm not real happy about this, as I like to see non-geo-targeted results for sites that are nationally- or globally-targeted. So is this universal, or am I just in a Google 'test bucket' for this new "feature"?

Jim

 

HuskyPup




msg:3767081
 2:17 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi Jim

I'm in the UK and I've been finding it this way for several months consequently I am using several methods to circumnavigate them forcing their preferences on me!

I generally use Firefox for most things however I have used Opera for years and that usually shows global results. Flock's not too bad either nor is MSIE if one can force it into Google.com mode, and I mean force it!

I know we're not supposed to promote anything here however it is free for a limited number of uses per day (60 per day), enough for me when I truly want to test US Google.com results, and I use megaproxy. I know there are other such services out there however I've found that this suits me fine and it's not costly in paid mode either.

Without a doubt this geo-targetting looks as though it is going to become much more of an issue for developers and it will create those of us with global sites quite a lot of problems until they've got it more or less correct.

jdMorgan




msg:3767094
 2:29 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm not talking about geolocation generally here. I'm talking about it being non-overridable using the page linked-to at upper right on the search results page.

To be clear, you've found that the option to disable geolocation on the page linked-to by the "Customized for <my location>, <country>. More details" link has been removed? -- You're saying that this is what has been "this way for several months" in the UK?

Thanks,
Jim

[edited by: jdMorgan at 2:29 pm (utc) on Oct. 16, 2008]

HuskyPup




msg:3767130
 3:00 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

You're saying that this is what has been "this way for several months" in the UK?

We've supposedly been able to access Google.co.uk (the web) and Google.com however they have been sniffing the browser and forcing us to use their preferred SERPs subsequently the .com results are far different to using a proxy.

I can tell you that many have not even realised this as yet and wonder why they cannot find true Google.com US results when searching since, realistically, most do not know how to drill down.

Frustrating? You bet it is however I do feel that once they have it right then we will wonder how we did without it!

Next step? Google will then say to people, your question is for X in X country, would you like to search the Google.XccTLD SERPs for this information?

Ok, that's available now for those of us who know each country Google.ccTLD which is probably less than 1%, if that, however it makes logical sense to do this since it makes things a lot easier for Google and for the searcher.

YMMV!

jdMorgan




msg:3767164
 3:50 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

HuskyPup,

I think we're "talking around each other" here. In the U.S. SERPs, G is geolocating to major urban centers such as New York city or Dallas, Texas and their suburbs. They put a link in the upper right corner of the search results page, labeled as noted above.

Until recently, when you clicked that link, the resulting page provided an option to disable this geolocation and see national or global results -- I'm not sure which of these it really was, but it turned off the "major U.S. city mode" in any case. That link is now gone, and that's what I'm trying to report here, not their whole geolocation scheme.

Judging by the limited response to this thread I guess others are not seeing this yet, or perhaps it's not a big issue for most.

Jim

HuskyPup




msg:3767168
 3:59 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

In the U.S. SERPs, G is geolocating to major urban centers such as New York city or Dallas, Texas and their suburbs.

Oh, wow, I never knew that even existed!

That is obviously the forerunner of what I have suggested above for global searches:-)

Glad to know I'm still in the loop.

jimbeetle




msg:3767203
 4:34 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

G is geolocating to major urban centers such as New York city or Dallas, Texas and their suburbs. They put a link in the upper right corner of the search results page, labeled as noted above.

I've never been able to recreate this. Signed out, signed in, different browsers, I've never seen it. For very general, local-type searches AdWords serves geo-targeted ads, but organic results are from all over.

Is it possible that it's just a test?

jdMorgan




msg:3767237
 5:07 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm hoping it's just a test, which is why I asked. I *really* don't like not being able to turn off the local-area geolocation any more.

Talking about organic results only, the bigger picture is that this local geo-location makes it easier for local mom-and-pops to compete against big national corporations that do not provide a separate site (or at least a prominent and easily-reachable --and spiderable-- page) for each of their city/town locations or franchises.

The downside is that if your site provides non-location-specific information, then you get displaced by all the geo-rank-promoted local commercial site results.

And of course, all this client-location-based tinkering with the order of results makes it hard to check, assess, or even ascribe meaning to ranking, because the ranking varies wildly with your location. Therefore, it's rather annoying to me that I can no longer turn it off. I've cleared cookies, flushed cache, and all that, but nothing has changed. If very few people are seeing this, then it may in fact be controlled by just how confident G is that they can locate you, rather than by a "test-bucket" cookie.

Jim

HuskyPup




msg:3767261
 5:37 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

then it may in fact be controlled by just how confident G is that they can locate you, rather than by a "test-bucket" cookie.

I know this has been possible for a while since I live in a small town in "the middle of nowhere countryside" UK and I have often seen ads flash up with "Want to see whatever in "the middle of nowhere countryside"?"

I was quite shocked the first time that happened to me and especially so considering I do not use one of the mainstream broadband providers...however whether that would make any difference I have no idea?

Obviously what it immediately meant to me was that the site I was on could immediately tell where I was.

Has this privacy implications or is it just a generic ad targetted at visitors from a specific "the middle of nowhere countryside" telecoms "box"?

I have no idea, I'm not clued up on it whatsoever but the idea that ad targetting can now be as precise as this is pretty impressive to say the very least.

jdMorgan




msg:3767336
 6:59 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

The geolocation you experienced was tied to your IP address and possibly to your reverse DNS -- for example, it's possible your reverse-DNS is something like: cpe-192-168-0-10.mid-nowhere-countryside.your-isp.co.uk

If the ad you saw was from Google or one of the other big ad players, then it was likely geo-targeted by them and not by the site itself.

On the other hand, we have all U.S. users of AOL geo-locating to Sterling, Virginia, where the AOL proxy servers are located.

So the "size" of the ISP doesn't really matter, but rather, whether that ISP uses proxy servers and whether their reverse-DNS "system" allows the rDNS to be used to geolocate the user. This is what I meant by "how confident G is that they can locate you" -- meaning their "confidence in geolocation accuracy to the city level."

You can bet there are companies out there doing IP address and reverse-DNS research to aid in geo-location. While the big players may do their own research, you can bet this will become available to many ad brokers --big and small-- over time.

The privacy issue is that you are located to "one hop" from a personal address, in that only an "incentivized information leakage" from your ISP would be required to identify you personally from an rDNS entry such as the "cpe-192-168-0-10.mid-nowhere-countryside.yourisp.co.uk" hostname I mentioned above. A bit of wedge to the right person in that ISP's NOC, and they've got you sussed. However, this is true now -- without regard to ads, search geo-location, or anything else: If anyone can sniff your IP address, they might be able to get your personals in the same way. But that's always been true -- a few bob'll do.

But again, I still wish I could turn off Google's geolocation-based SERPs tinkering, as I could yesterday or the day before...

Jim

tedster




msg:3767341
 7:04 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

I also see the same thing as jdMorgan. All I see now is the option to change the location, not to turn off geolocation altogether.

I guess the idea is that results for certain query terms must be localized, eh? I'm not sure how this will or won't affect any clients I work with, but it does make me wonder how those search terms are chosen for forced localization. I hope there's a human reviewing the selections regularly.

rustybrick




msg:3767353
 7:11 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

This is staying and is something official since end of July. Here is Danny's post on it: [searchengineland.com...]

jdMorgan




msg:3767355
 7:16 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yeah, and all of this is because many searchers type the single search term "pizza" and expect to see results for only their local neighborhood... Clearly we've all failed to educate them as to how search works... Hey, try "pizza Bronx" or "pizza Dallas" please! :(

If you're a subject-oriented information provider rather than a location-based business, this is fairly bad news.

Jim

tedster




msg:3767362
 7:28 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

rustybrick, thanks for that kick in the memory banks. The option to override is for results that are weighted by the previous search, not weighted by geolocation.

jimbeetle




msg:3767364
 7:33 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

I guess the idea is that results for certain query terms must be localized, eh?

Yeah, seems logical, though I've used a few handfuls of around-the-house local-service type queries and still don't get what you and Jim are seeing. The closest I come to it is a "Looking for local results for...? onebox wit a ZIP entry.

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