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My concern is that being hosted in canada somehow affects how high we rank with certain keywords on google.com.
Any input would be greatly appreciated thanks in advance.
Their crawling datacenter is located in Mountain View, California, so the closer your hosting is to this point, the more pages you will have crawled.
Can the heavy webmasters comment on this speculation?
I fully agree.
It doesn't matter what connection speed you have to the internet. Google actually does a location search on your ip and crawls more pages the closer you are to their datacenter because the closer servers must have better content. Everybody knows it.
I currently have a couple of sites hosted in the US and they rank pretty well for english terms. For german terms I tend to see better rankings after moving to german hosting. That's just my experience and nothing I can prove by tests though.
I am also wondering how/if mirroring my site hosted in canada on another server hosted in the US might affect this?
You will rank in a 'local site' search if you have the relevant country domain or hosting in that country. The reason you may do better in a local search rather than .com is because of less competition.
I just want to make sure I understand, because if I am penalised I will look into moving to a new hosting company. It never occured to me that this could be an issue.
I use a host in canada because of the price and the support, better than any I have found for coldfusion hosting in US.
Not really proven by tests so far, so just speculation from my experience
Lets say you have a UK domain/hosting linked to by 10 sites. All these linking sites are US hosted and ,com domains.
In the .com search, when hilltop is applied, you get credited with 10 links and appear on the first page. If a search is done on 'UK only' these sites do not appear ... so the links are not counted.
I think this example can work indirectly, through hilltop, on types of words used in a search. It all depends on the sites that are also appearing within a specific search that also link to you. If a search is done on .com for 'Cor blimey mate that's brilliant' then even though it is a worldwide search, a lot of sites that are very UK focused will appear... these may be on US hosting and .com. If they link to you, you benefit. However, do the search on 'UK only' and these sites, although relevant, will not appear (or at least not rank well) because they are not qualifying for the search, so their links do not count as much. Thus a very UK focused search phrase does not help your site, despite you being hosted in the UK or having a UK domain ending. People sometimes think that they should always rank better on a local search, just because they have UK hosting/domain ending, but its not as simple as that, you need other UK hosting/domain ending sites that link to you to appear in the search as well.
How Google knows the country of a site?
First, the language of the site must be the language of the country. If not, all the other variables are ignorated
Second, it looks the domain name (.br, .fr, .uk, .au, .ca)
Third, it looks your IP. So you can have a .com domain name, but as your IP is from Brazil, you are among the 'Pages in Brazil' google results, as my site.
Fourth, and most important, even if you don't have a country specific domain name, even if your server is abroad, you CAN still be listed among your country results. Just use the correct and specific (sub)language meta tag. For a Brazilian site use 'pt-br'. For a site from England, use 'en-gb'. For a Canadian one, use 'en-ca' or 'fr-ca'.
For instance: [some domain]. It is located in a US data center. The domain name isn't country specific. But it uses the correct sub language meta tag, br-pt, so Google can know it is a Brazilian page and list it among the 'Pages in Brazil' results.
Other Instance: Brazilian blogs on [non .br domains]. Google can see they are portuguese (the brazilian language) pages, but as they not have the .br domain name, the server is located in the USA and they don't have the specific meta tag, they don't apear in a 'Pages from Bazil' google search results.
[edited by: ciml at 4:03 pm (utc) on Nov. 3, 2004]
[edit reason] No specifics thanks. [/edit]
For people here in Brazil, even if you go to www.google.com, Google redirect you (by you IP)to de Brazilian Google page, and than your search will have a option of be language (only portuguese) and country (only brazilian pages) sensitive. It is Google default.
Similar redirects, and the consequent language/country search options, occurs to almost every country besides USA.