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How does website geographic targeting on Google work?

Google has a strong country bias in results that it shows on Google.co.nz, a slightly weaker country bias in results shown on Google.com as seen from New Zealand, and of course, no country bias when looking at Google.com as seen from the USA via a proxy. The same is obviously true for any country searches.

If your website is a non country domain (ie .com, .org, .info, .biz etc), then Google will give a country bias based on the country that the website is hosted in, or is set as via Google webmaster tools preferences.

One non country website can have multiple countries targeted by registering domain.com/au, domain.com/nz etc, as websites within Google webmaster tools. Normally you would only register domains against the tools, but you can register domain.com/nz domains with directories against webmaster tools as well. Each domain/directory needs to be separately verified.

If your website is a country tld ie domain.co.nz, then it can only have one country bias, being that of the tld. It does not matter where the website is hosted, it will still retain that one country bias.

Examples of Country bias

As an example, SearchMasters.co.nz is ranked second on Google.co.nz for Search Engine Optimisation, but only 306th on Google.com.au because of all the Australian websites that have a country bias on those results. SearchMasters ranks 695th on Google.co.uk given that there are so many more SEO businesses in the UK as compared to AU.

However, SearchMasters ranks 26th on Google.com as seen from NZ, given the bias towards New Zealand websites since we are looking from New Zealand. The bias is obviously not as strong as seen on Google.co.nz.

When we search on Google.co.nz, nz sites only, of course I am first. There is an absolute bias towards New Zealand websites shown on such a search.

Wikipedia Rankings

SearchMasters.co.nz is second on Google.co.nz to Wikipedia. Wikipedia does not have a New Zealand country bias, but has enough strength to outweigh the country bias that SearchMasters.co.nz has. SearchMasters is a PR4 website, with 3410 inbound links as reported by Yahoo.

The wikipedia result is first even on Google.com.au, against competition from www.roi.com.au that has a PR5 with 99200 incoming links, and www.ewebmarketing.com.au PR6 33000 incoming links.

The wikipedia result is first even on Google.co.uk, against competition from www.bigmouthmedia.com that has a PR5 with 20700 incoming links, and highposition.net PR5 65300 incoming links.

The wikipedia result is first even on Google.com as seen from the USA, against competition from www.456bereastreet.com that has a PR8 with 132000 incoming links. True - 456bereastreet.com is not particularly SEO’ed for the phrase Search Engine Optimisation. Be interesting to see if it was able to be top if it was properly SEO’ed for the phrase!

Wow - wikipedia is certainly powerful!!!


So I have a few questions that I am going to be experimenting with a website to try and find some answers to:

What difference does Geographic Targeting have on websites? How does Google rank .com websites that are hosted in New Zealand - what are their rankings on Google.com as seen from NZ and from USA. Is there any difference on rankings of .com websites on Google.com as seen from the USA when they are hosted in New Zealand, as compared to the USA. Is there any difference on rankings of .com websites on Google.com as seen from the USA when they are hosted in NZ, but geographically targeted to the USA.

Searches for his name, and the domain name: jonathan brandon

(update 2 July 2009 results are in brackets - comment in new paragraph below) Google.com from NZ - his site top (top) Google.com from USA - 7th - so there is country bias towards USA websites on Google.com, but in the other countries, since there are no other competing websites to have any country bias for, his website is able to be top. (top)

Google.co.nz - top (top) Google.co.nz from USA - top - even when searching from the USA, there is no USA bias shown on searches on Google.co.nz (top)

Google.co.uk - top (top) Google.com.au - top (top)

Now, I will change the Google webmaster tools geographical targeting for the website to USA, and see what effect it has. Lets wait say 2 weeks, and see what effect there is.

Want to know more about the country that you are targeting? Wikipedia is the obvious place to start. I have Googled for “Google countryname” to get the Google domain that people in that country use.

How well do yo know your way around the world? Try this Map Game from Maps of the World.

Results 2 July 2009

Very hard to know at the moment how to interpret the results. I consider that there was a penalty of some sort against the website for a while. When you searched for words on the home page, the website did not come up. I was not aware of having done anything wrong. I filed a reinclusion request. This penalty has since been lifted but am not sure whether it related to the reinclusion request, or just time.

The website is ranking top of everything, including top of Google.com via a USA proxy. However, it still ranks for Google.co.nz nz sites only. I am intrigued by this.

I have some client .com websites that I have geotargeted, and they are showing for each country search - ie showing both on Google.com.au au sites only, and Google.co.uk uk sites only etc. So its working.

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