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Taking advantage of Geographic target setting in Webmaster Tools

 2:35 pm on May 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

According Google
If your site targets users in a particular geographic location, you can use our geographic target tool to provide us with information that will help us determine how your site appears in our country-specific search results, and also improve our search results for geographic queries. You can only use this feature for sites with a generic top-level domain, such as .com or .org. Sites with country-coded top-level domains (such as .ie) are already associated with a geographic region, in this case Ireland.

If you're targeting users in different locationsófor example, if you have a site in French that you want users in France, Canada, and Mali to readówe don't recommend that you use this tool to set France as a geographic target. A good example of where it would be useful is for a restaurant website: if the restaurant is in Canada, it's probably not of interest to folks in France. But if your content is in French and is of interest to people in multiple countries/regions, there's no reason to restrict it.

I have some particular cases I don't understand

A) Let's say you are interested in targetting both people in france and spain because you 90% of your sells comes from those countries. Your site is frech and spanish and it's .com . Would you leave the Geographic target just blank?
Or would be any benefit in setting one of those countries?

B) Same scenario but now you find first half of year your users and costumers of that site are french, but second half of year due to stational reasons are spanish. May you check Geographic target "France" and 6 months later "Spain"? Does that help or cofuses Google and thus affect rankings in those areas?



 7:06 pm on May 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

From the experiences reported by people who have changed their geo-targeting, I'd suggest not using it in either of those scenarios. You currently cannot target one site to both Spain and France, and changing the setting has not had a positive effect in the cases that I've heard of so far.

If I had the situation you describe, I would consider this approach:

1. create one site for each country
2. host each site in its target country
3. set the geo-targeting for each, if not using the ccTLD (.es and .fr)

However - if you're already getting that kind of geographic and seasonal distribution in sales with one site, then I also might just leave the situation alone.


 9:29 pm on May 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

I assume that your site has separate subdomains or subfolders for the different languages? (e.g. es.example.com and fr.example.com, or example.com/es/ and example.com/fr/)

If so, I would recommend setting the Spanish subdomain or subfolder for Spain and the French subdomain or subfolder for France.

I'm not sure why tedster recommends not doing anything - I've always had good results with geo-targetting the foreign language parts of my sites.


 10:10 pm on May 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

I wasn't make any assumption about dedicated directories or subdomains, WebWalla - I was thinking the question applied to just one total set of pages because there was a question about changing the geo-targeting every 6 months.

I agree with you - if a site has dedicated directories that can be geo-tartargeted separately, that's a good solution.


 5:41 pm on Jun 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

I don't have subfolders or subdomains. I assumed all in root would be better than bury content into folders. Anyway I didn't see where to set a folder of any domain. Does that really exists? I have only domains in dashboard...


 5:48 pm on Jun 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

Then I would suggest the following solution:
- divide your content into Spanish and French content
- put at least one of these languages in a sub-directory (e.g. www.example.com/fr/)
- add www.example.com/fr/ to Webmaster tools, and use the options in Settings to make the Geographic target France
- do the same for the other language or, if one of the languages is the main one leave it on the root (with sub-directories if necessary, but don't use the /fr/ sub-directory) and set the mainpage to that country in Webmaster Tools.


 6:37 pm on Jun 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

Sounds reasonable. Does the /fr have to be just like that or doesn't matter how you name your folder? ie /france or /french?
Is there any advantage in using short names as fr instead /french ?


 6:49 pm on Jun 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

Any name is OK.


 7:12 pm on Jun 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

Anyway I understand that is only usefull if user click the radion button to search only in search engine country right?


 7:24 pm on Jun 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

No, the regional Googles give a certain bias to sites from the same country. It is useful even when that button is not used.


 7:24 pm on Jun 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

Here's what Google says:

This data supplements our existing information, and setting a geographic target won't impact your appearance in search results unless a user uses Advanced Search to limit the scope of the search to a certain country.


There's also a 5 minute video from Google's Susan Moskwa on that page with more information. She specifically highlights the radio button.


 8:38 pm on Jun 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

tedstar - thanks for that official info. A local IP address does seem to show an affect without using Advanced Search, so why do you think Google doesn't want geo-targetting in WMT to do the same?


 8:49 pm on Jun 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

Before I researched this question, I also thought that GWT targeting would affect more than "radio button" or Advanced Search results. However, one issue that may get folded in here could be a LOSS of rankings in the other areas of the world that are not chosen.

I'm guessing that Google feels their "existing information" (and that includes the IP address) gives all the localization information they need for regular web search results, at leat for now.


 8:58 pm on Jun 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

Geo-location has been an issue I've been following for quite some time, even though I haven't worked on a site outside the US for a couple of years now. The search engines offer so little guidance in this area that it's no wonder that these questions keep popping up.

I would have given the same answer as WebWalla, since I continue to see the search engines give a great deal of weight to geo-location even when the user does not request a country-specific search. So I was surprised to see Google say that the Geographic Target Tool would only affect country-specific searches.

I wonder if this might not be an example of Google excluding what would be considered a ranking factor in this discussion of the Geographic Target Tool, and ending up giving incomplete, erroneous, or at least misleading information. Another quite plausible explanation is that the information from the Geographic Target Tool is, as they say, only considered for country-specific searches, and they still rely on the more traditional signals for determining geo-location in standard searches. That might explain why that tool sometimes seems unreliable.


 11:22 pm on Jun 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

No, the regional Googles give a certain bias to sites from the same country. It is useful even when that button is not used.

I saw that video before posting, and Google's official word is there is no usefull unless somebody click that radio button. I suspect less than 10% of searches must use that button. If that's the case redesigning site structure wouldn't be a great idea in order to indicate site regional feature.


 8:26 pm on Jun 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

Created a /french/ folder in a .com site and added that example.com/french/ to dashboard so now I have 2 sites
example.com and example.com/french, that allowed me to set the /french to target France for instance. But since I don't have a sitemap (sitemap.xml is on root)

I get this:

"No pages from your site are currently included in Google's index. Indexing can take time. You may find it helpful to review our information for webmasters and webmaster guidelines. Help

You have not submitted any Sitemaps. Submit a Sitemap to help Google discover pages our crawlers might not otherwise find. Once you create and submit a Sitemap listing the URLs on your site, we'll provide you with data on how Google is indexing those pages. More information"

Am I missing something?
Should I split my sitemap and put my french pages in a new sitemap in /french folder? and take those off the sitemap on root?

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