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Can city and country names hurt rankings?

     
4:34 am on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

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This is weird.

My pages do geolocation, and print in the page, near the top of the page, city and country names, using Javascript:document.write. I've done this this way many years ago to prevent bots to read city and country names as part of the content. But now, Googlebot is more "inteligent", and also read Javascript. Recently, I noted in excerpts of my pages in SERPs, "Mountain View, United States" / "Toronto, Canada", which are city and country names corresponding to GoogleBot.

So. What should I do? Never mind or avoid including city and country names at all?

TIA
9:57 am on June 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

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Your question is whether city and country names can hurt rankings - especially now that Google is crawling and reading your JavaScript.

It seems to me you are in a great position to tell us! Do you see evidence that your rankings are suffering now that the locations are showing? Or maybe it's hurting your click-through, even though the rankings are still the same?

Also, it might be possible that traffic is lower, but better targeted.
11:07 am on June 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

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When you say snippet, you are talking about the text that google displays in the serps below the title? I assume you are also seeing this text in the page preview.

If you search for "mountain view example.com" (with your site instead of example.com) do you find the pages? In other words are the indexing that text as well as displaying it?

I'm also wondering if Google would now consider it cloaking if your client side scripts detected bots and bailed out.

One possible solution for you that involves a little white hat cloaking. I worked for a site that did geo-location, but we also had a generic version of the pages for when we couldn't determine the user's location. We sniffed the user agent and made sure that bots got the generic non-location-specific version of the page. In this case, we would display products from around the country, rather than specific products available in the users area.
3:21 pm on June 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Well. Today, looking for "Mountain View example.com" made clear to me that javascript:document.write count as plain html code.

Which is very sad, because we are geolocating the client not Googlebot. Purpose is better user experience, not adding city and country name of Googlebot to every page.

Users of example.com are from Latin America and Spain, they have nothing to do with Mountain View, so I better move this feature to the footer or don't show it at all. White hat cloaking sounds good, but I can't afford it.

Thanks for your help!
8:27 pm on June 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

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White hat cloaking sounds good, but I can't afford it.

In some hair-splitting sense, what you're doing is white-hat cloaking: that is, what the googlebot sees is different from what a human would see. Unless the human happened to live in Mountain View (not likely) or Toronto (possible).

Location is only one aspect. On a few pages I've got a bit of script that detects whether the user has a specific font installed. The googlebot doesn't,* but a fair number of human readers do; it's related to page content. So the preview they see isn't what they would really see if they went to the site.

Which is very sad, because we are geolocating the client not Googlebot.

Exactly. For "geolocating", substitute any of a long list of other possible words. I don't think google has fully thought through the consequences of reading and acting on javascript.


* Except the Linux-based googlebot, because Linux yields false positives on this test. Been meaning to add a few lines to deal with the issue.
9:35 pm on June 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

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In some hair-splitting sense, what you're doing is white-hat cloaking ...


Exactly, you opened my mind. Thanks @lucy24