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Does Geographical Location of Ip Address affect SEO?

     
7:43 pm on Nov 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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So I currently operate a number of different store views on my dedicated server. They all work with a single Magento shopping cart that has multiple store views. The server itself is located in the Netherlands but I use CloudFlare to hide it's location and protect me from attacks.

My list of domains are as follows: .com, .us., .ca, .co.uk, .in and .com.au.

Most of the international ccTLD's rank well in their respected search engines. In other words, .ca dominates Google Canada and .co.uk does find in Google UK. The problem I'm having is with Google.com because I see a lot of my .com and .us results bundled together.

I've been told that the geographical location of the server's Ip Address affects SEO. Now when I run reports, all my sites appear to be in the USA. I think this is because of CloudFlare and how it uses Anycast to globally distributes DNS information. So that being said if I was using a Toronto ip address to look up the location of my .co.uk site, it would say Toronto since CloudFlare allows local Toronto users to use a cached version of the site through their Toronto data center?

I guess my question is, does Google override this and know the server is really in the Netherlands? If Anycast takes into account the location of the ip address accessing my site, wouldn't Googlebot's ip address (in the USA), then believe all of my sites were in the USA too? I think in some cases sites like my .ca and .co.uk site get away with the listed geographical location of the server because of the assigned ccTLD. In other words because mysite.ca has a Canadian ccTLD it will rank well in Google Canada, even if reporting on the server's geographical location doesn't confirm the site is Canadian.

In other words, you don't see a lot of .ca sites appearing in Google.com results but instead at Google.ca even if the .ca site is again, hosted outside of Canada.

My fear is with the .com site because .com has no defining location like .com.au or .in. So if .us is seen as USA because of its ccTLD and .com is also labeled as USA, isn't there a conflict there?

Thanks.
9:11 pm on Nov 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Geographic location is a major ranking factor in that, as you noted, it overwhelmingly limits the results to those sites that match the geographic location of the user. The major search engines rely on two primary factors to determine a site's geographic location: (1) Country Code Top Level Domain names ('ccTKD' like .ca, .au, .uk, etc.) have a fixed corresponding geographic location, (2) for generic TLDs (ie. .com, .net, org, etc.) they rely primarily on location of the server that hosts the site based on its IP address. This can be influenced somewhat by the geographic location of incoming links and by the content of the site, but the effect is small and generally difficult to reliably influence or predict.

So, sites with a ccTLD can be hosted anywhere in the world with no effect on geographic location. ccTLDs have a fixed geographic target that never changes. The only exception is that a handful of ostensibly ccTLDs are treated as generics. You can find a list of those domains online. For generic TLDs, Google and Bing's webmaster consoles allow webmasters to set geographic targets with the further capability of setting different geographic targets on subdirectories and subdomains. Again, the server's IP address only affects generic TLDs and only when the webmaster has not selected a geographic target in the search engines' webmaster consoles/tools.
10:21 pm on Nov 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Again, the server's IP address only affects generic TLDs and only when the webmaster has not selected a geographic target in the search engines' webmaster consoles/tools.


Is this really still the case with many websites hosted on CDNs (e.g. Cloudflare, Fastly)
10:37 pm on Nov 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Yes. A Country Code Top Level Domain has an automatic, fixed, unchangeable geographic location. Only generic TLDs have changeable locations.
11:14 pm on Nov 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Levo, so should the target geographic location of my .com domain, according to Google Search Console, be UNLISTED? According to Google UNLISTED is suggested, "If you want to ensure that your site is not associated with any country or region," [support.google.com...]

I would assign .com domain to a specific country such as the Netherlands but then I'm afraid of any countries I don't have a domain or site to target with, will prevent me from ranking in those countries? In other words my .ca site covers Canada, .co.uk covers UK, etc. I would like for anything left over or remaining, to fall under .com. I'm afraid if I mark .com as Netherlands, than I loose out on any traffic that .com is bringing me at Google Brazil or Google Norway. Is this true?
5:58 am on Nov 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If you select "Unlisted" (which is the default), Google will automatically target the site based on the server's IP address. Although other factors may allow such un-targeted sites to be shown in the results for users in other countries for which Google has detected some relevance, it is a fairly limited occurrence. Setting a specific target country doesn't alter a site's performance in other countries. It just overrides the default target.

In other words, if you don't want to target the country where your site is hosted, you really need to select a target in the webmaster tools. If you want to add geographic targets to a site with a generic TLD, use a subdirectory or subdomain and target it/them separately in the webmaster consoles. You won't have any duplicate content issues and it's the only practical solution.
7:26 am on Nov 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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onlinesource, which country do you want to produce your best traffic?

I ask because if it is the US, I would consider keeping the .com... not because .com receives favored treatment, but because .com generally is considered the "default" type-in TLD in the US.

If I were targeting the US, I certainly wouldn't waste the .com on the Netherlands.

So if .us is seen as USA because of its ccTLD and .com is also labeled as USA, isn't there a conflict there?
If you were to target the USA with the .com, you might consider 301 redirecting the .us to the .com. There are other factors I'd consider before doing this... but I've often had clients who've wanted brand protection and who can afford the other TLDs to get .net and .us, as well as close variants and redirect them to the .com. These redirects aren't for SEO... they're for brand protection.
11:19 pm on Nov 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Robert,

The majority of my traffic comes from the USA. I use to rank very well in the USA or on Google.com using my .com domain (which was created back in 2007) BUT due to toxic links we sort of fell off the map after Penguin updates.

In the end, I moved my site to the Netherlands and started to clean up my .com link profile. The process seemed to take forever and no matter how many links I removed, we never got back to where we were on Google.com and it was then that somebody on this board, suggested that I invest in a .us domain assuming the .com site was holding me back. I thought it was a good idea because my .ca site was ranking in Google.ca and co.uk was kicking butt in Google.co.uk. It made sense that .us could save me at Google.com.

All of the sites used the same shopping cart, as I had mentioned before, so I figured my SEO problems had little to do with my cart's structure and more than likely due to the domain itself poisoning the waters. The way I saw it the .com domain was toxic still to Google.com and going with the .us domain couldn't hurt me.

Thing is, the .us site worked. Within a month I was back on the first page of Google.com with my .us site. What is strange is that around the same time, my .com site started to make a comeback on Google.com. It had been dead but all of a sudden it was popping up and I was seeing both .us and .com results in Google.com and I began to me worry.

I noticed today that FedEx for example was sending people from fedex.ca to [fedex.com...] so more than likely purchasing that domain as brand protection. I understand where you are coming with that.

I'm debating about doing that and just using my international domains to forward traffic to different store views setup as subfolders.

Would it be wise to setup multiple store views as individual subfolders such as mysite.com/brazil/ and mysite.com/norway/ and then in Google Search Consuls assign /brazil/ to Brazil and /norway/ to Norway? The same could be said for /united-states/ and maybe that could target the USA? I would save a lot of money on SSL's for every site plus CDNs for every domain and firewalls for each site since everything would be tied into the .com domain.

It would be a massive project to take on with 196 countries that have to potentially be accounted for but could be worth it and solve a lot of problems that I'm facing.