Does Setting Your Geographic Target In Google Webmaster Tools Work?

May 9, 2008 • 7:37 am | comments (21) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Missing The Target?Back in October of 2007, Google launched Set Geographic Target in Google Webmaster Tools. It basically allowed you to tell Google if your site is based in a certain geographic location. For example, let's say you had a UK site, using a .com domain - Google would often not give the site any preference in the Google UK search results, unless it had a TLD. The Set Geographic Target option was suppose to give Google more clues about the site and help it rank better in the local that was specified with the tool.

A Google Groups thread leaves me to believe that it might not be the case. Susan Moskwa, an official Google representative said:

Using the tool to target to the UK may have some effect on non-country-restricted searches, but it probably won't be the same as having Most sites will see results somewhere between the two extremes (no effect, and total equivalence with ccTLDs).

Wait, so are you saying setting your geographic target may or may not have an impact on how your rank in a localized version of Google? Let me bold Susan's response, " Most sites will see results somewhere between the two extremes (no effect, and total equivalence with ccTLDs."

Hmm and I not understanding the response? I am not sure. I have seen dozens of posts complaining that the tool doesn't improve their ranking in the localized Google version. In fact, respected SEO, David Naylor just posted a blog post with the title, Google Webmaster Tools smoke n mirrors. In that post, he expresses his dissatisfaction with the tool and describes how it simply doesn't work for him.

Does it work for you? Please do comment with your feedback, if you have any.

Forum discussion at Google Groups.

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David Eaves

05/09/2008 01:02 pm

I know of 1 very large website that has it's UK sub-directory which is hosted in the states. The directory ranks very well on Google UK including UK only pages. They have set this up purely through the webmaster tools. I think large international websites were the reason they introduced the feature, so it sort of makes sense that it has started working for these sites 1st. I am really hoping that this tool does work and that the one that I know about is not just a one off.

Carlos F Munoa

05/12/2008 02:09 pm

Well, it doesn´t work for me either. When looking at top search queries the different results based on SERPs are gigantic, not to mention if I select other country than USA. I totally agree with David, the only thing that I really take care of in webmaster tools is the sitemap analysis.

Susan Moskwa

05/12/2008 10:24 pm

The tool does do what you said--it gives us more clues about the site. However, it's not the only factor we consider when determining which geographic region a site is most relevant to. For example, if you had a .com that was all in Russian, talking about Russian geography, and had a ton of incoming links from .ru sites, but you set its geographic target to Colombia, we might be skeptical. As mentioned recently on our blog (, you should also see results in country-restricted searches: e.g. if a site uses our tool to target Colombia and a searcher restricts her search to "only pages from the UK," that site shouldn't appear in her results.

Shockley Au

05/15/2008 05:55 am

Geographic targeting through Webmaster Tools hasn't had any effect on my blog. Perhaps I'll need to get a dotCA and hosting on Canadian IPs to get geographic targeting to work. "[...] if a site uses our tool to target Colombia and a searcher restricts her search to "only pages from the UK," that site shouldn't appear in her results." Doesn't that mean that geographic targeting alone through Webmaster Tools will only remove my site from other local SERPs (i.e., from the U.S./U.K./etc)? If so, I don't really see a practical use for setting geographic targeting (without the TLD/IP counterparts), other than saving on bandwidth...

Richard Hearne

05/19/2008 04:03 pm

I asked the original question on Google Groups. You need to go back and read the question - it relates to 'web searches' not 'pages from X' searches. And I can say that the tool very much works. Global site, US servers, .com, 15 languages, all ranking nicely in 'pages from' searches.


05/30/2008 12:05 pm

We run a fairly big site that is set-up to target 3 geo locations. (set to Germany) (set to Russia) (set none) I used to have the German version on and set the geo-target pretty early when the webmaster tools released. At some point I got great rankings on the geo Google (de), but I didn’t track how long it took. We have reworked the site for some reasons and introduced the domain structure as above. We have great results on but no-results on Geo-Google. I think that is typical as for geo-targeting reasons. I have set Germany as our geo-target on the 25th of April, until today no effect, but I have read it takes about 6 – 11 weeks for this preference to work out. For us, this tool is very valuable (especially if it does what it is supposed to do). I am going to bookmark this thread and drop by later to share my experience. All the best to all of you, Ivo


06/16/2008 07:22 pm

i do have the same experience with my site. the site is .com and we use sub-domains for countries so that de.nysite is the German version of the site. it's more than 2 months since we updated the geo graphical info in google webmaster tool but nothing! gurnisht! in all other countries it tooks us 2 weeks and it work great


06/20/2008 12:23 pm

8 weeks have passed and nothing. The fact that this tools takes such a long time is understandable on one hand (since people would mess around with the index on a daily basis if this tool worked immediately).and on the other hand I am losing my whole business because of it. We invested a fortune (time and money) to build our website and to produce good content and now we cannot target our markets for TLD reasons. It took me month to understand that Google is not ranking our site because of this. Now I need to wait for this tool to work out :( We rank 1 on yahoo for competitive search terms and 0! on Google Germany. But apparently 99% of the Germans use Google and worse (for us) Google.DE. Facts to the site: Server: Germany Language: German 80 % Inbound Links from .DE sites PR 5 Overall I love Google and all their services but this tool (situation) is driving me mental.


08/13/2008 05:03 pm

Been waiting ages for Google to recognize the site as being for a UK market. I don't understand why they have this tool if it isn't actioned.


11/04/2008 02:01 pm

I am managing 2 sites. and Both have very similar content so I thought duplicate content could be an issue. I set geographic target to United Kingdom for and results for improved a lot (top 5).

No Name

01/24/2009 03:09 pm

I am also set geographic location for sem infotech. Now my website is ranking well in local search results.


06/09/2009 08:49 pm

Created a /french/ folder in a .com site and added that to dashboard so now I have 2 sites and, that allowed me to set the /french to target France for instance. But since I don't have a sitemap in there (sitemap.xml is on root) I get this: "No pages from your site are currently included in Google's index. Indexing can take time. You may find it helpful to review our information for webmasters and webmaster guidelines. Help Help You have not submitted any Sitemaps. Submit a Sitemap to help Google discover pages our crawlers might not otherwise find. Once you create and submit a Sitemap listing the URLs on your site, we'll provide you with data on how Google is indexing those pages. More information" Am I missing something? Should I split my sitemap and put my french pages in a new sitemap in /french folder? and take those off the sitemap on root?


09/16/2009 09:54 am

Hi there. I have a fun domain that ends with .ru and google automatically associated it with Russia but it has nothing to do with Russia, the content is english. unfortunately in the back end I can't change the association, pelase see screenshot :-( Please help, how can I get rid of this ridiculous association?

Andrew Keir

07/04/2010 12:05 am

I changed my .com to target Australia several months ago. Doesn't seem to work? I'm receiving about 12% of my visitors from Australia only.

Mark Miner

12/31/2010 04:57 pm

Any updates on this?


02/22/2011 12:21 pm

I have both .co.UK and .com domains, but I decided to use the .com despite being in the UK and only really operating in the UK. As I thought it was the done thing I set the geographic Target to the UK. Months went by and the traffic was tiny. I then released it back to global and hey presto traffic within a week increased. My take on this is that users hardly ever select 'results from the UK' which I was showing under... instead they just type in a search and click go. Being amongst the general community really helped. I now have a local listing and plenty of traffic. So, no, I don't think it works from a businesses perspective.

Rakesh Kumar

09/06/2011 02:20 am

I was thinking to use Geo-targeting but thanks to you for positive guide.

Reji Kumar

03/11/2013 03:28 am

Better to select targeted users as Unlisted. It will help to get site visitors with every country


07/02/2013 09:45 pm

IT doesn't work at all for me. I set it to new zealand ages ago and my .com domain is not listed on NZ google AT ALL. NEVER BEEN.


02/23/2014 05:17 pm

I do web work for a global manufacturer. I noticed our international visits were low. I always had the geo-targeting unselected thinking it was the best option. I decided to try changing the settings to unlisted. Hopefully this will help. Anyone have a clue as to how long it takes to go into effect?

Christopher Labbate

07/15/2014 05:19 pm

Our e-commerce store is auto-set to Canada because we have a .ca domain, however we do business internationally and would like to continue to do so. I have no check box to switch to UNLISTED???!! can anyone help me with this? Check the Geographic target checkbox and choose your country target.

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