I’ve been meaning to write about this for quite some time. In my opinion this has the potential to really rock the boat for multi-language, multi-country SEO. In fact had this feature rolled out fully last year it would have been high on my personal ‘Top SEO Stories of 2007’. It is the new Geotargeting function within Google Webmaster Console.
Google Geographic Target Tool
What is Geo Targeting within Google Webmaster Tools?
Released with little fanfare in late 2007, the Geotargeting tool has the potential to change the way companies plan their multi-country SEO strategies. I briefly mentioned the Geo Targeting tool previously, but from the official release:
Starting today Google Webmaster Tools helps you better control the country association of your content on a per-domain, per-subdomain, or per-directory level. The information you give us will help us determine how your site appears in our country-specific search results, and also improves our search results for geographic queries.
So whereas before you had to either use ccTLD or server IP location to inform Google of your preferred country level index, now both of these requirements have become redundant.
WebProNews Video sheds light on goals of tool…
If you watch Mike McDonald’s video interview with Vanessa Fox and Matt Cutts at the PubCon there’s an interesting discussion about the Geo Targeting tool. Here’s the two most relevant lines:
VF:…and a lot of sites have been really wanting this, especially global brands who aren’t able to have a separate domain or a separately hosted site in each country, you know they’ve just got one site that maybe they em, have you know -en, -de, -es, whatever. So now they can go in an specify each of those for their individual countries…
MC:Yeah, we definitely hear, especially big sites that have lots of presence in different countries, but all on one domain – it’s a huge help, because there really wasn’t a solution for that before and now they have a good alternative.
But they neglected to mention one very important issue with the new Geo Targeting tool.
Not Just Beta… Broken Beta
At PubCon Google hosted a ‘Meet The Engineers’ event. I managed to track down not one, not two, but three individuals who work directly on Google Webmaster Tools. I mentioned the bug reports I’ve left on the Google Groups, and mentioned that the tool didn’t seem to be functioning as promoted.
The response? Depending on who I spoke to the tool was either ‘slightly’ broken or ‘really’ broken. And I think this fact is borne out by the complete lack of chatter from people who’ve successfully benefited from the Geo Targeting tool. Of course no official proclamation on this from Google as of yet.
I fully believe that this tool will become fully operational, and when it does it will have profound affects on many organic niches, most especially so in Google’s country level search properties.
How To Use
I’m pretty sure that this tool will become immensely important. I’m going to put together a small tutorial that explains both who can use the Geo Targeting function (it’s not available to everyone), and how to use the tool to best effect on your site. If you’re interested in this tutorial you can sign up to my feed and be alerted as soon as it’s published.