What's Going On With Google UK's Search Results?

Aug 27, 2009 • 8:26 am | comments (10) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

There is an excellent guest article at Search Engine Land named The Curious Case Of Google's Bizarre UK Search Results. In this write up, Bas van den Beld explains some of the recent history with what is going on in the Google UK results and shows specific examples of why he is upset with the results.

Let me catch you up, because it actually goes a bit further back than what Bas explained. In April of this year, folks at WebmasterWorld noticed that the Google UK geo targeting algorithm might be a bit off. Maybe this was an early sign or test from Google, because those signals went quiet until June, when the Twitterverse went nuts about the UK Google search results. In fact, in July, Google tested removing the pages from UK radio button, which upset a lot of people.

This was such a big deal that Matt Cutts created a video about it:

In short, Matt explains that Google UK is now showing a lot more US sites (i.e. dot COMs) in the UK results. In the past, Google typically showed more .co.uk results, but now Google is "getting better" at showing relevant .com results He added that this change, Google will "likely not revert," so we might be stuck with it.

In any event, many UK SEOs are not happy about this and they have expressed this on Matt's video, via Twitter, forums and in blog posts.

Forum discussion at Sphinn.

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: August 26, 2009



08/27/2009 12:53 pm

I dont think anyone in the UK web industry believes it is anything to do with .com domains. A search such as "Bed and Breakfast Manchester" (one of the biggest cities in the UK) - will still return 40%-50% US websites, even though this is clearly a query that requires local results. These websites are all registered, hosted, and operated in the US. They know exactly what they are doing. It seems like too much of a coincidence that it happened within a month of Google allowing double serving of Adwords ads, bidding on trademarked terms and gambling ads.


08/27/2009 12:58 pm

I have heard a lot about UK Gooogle search results in DP forum too. I thought it was because of Caffeine update. I guess all of us will see the changes soon at all geo google like google.co.in / google.co.jp / google.com.my etc.

Richard Vaughan

08/27/2009 01:20 pm

Sorry but that video that Matt Cutts posted in that response (which was in fact an answer to a completely different question than was ACTUALLY asked) is a very old video, unless Matt can grow his hair really, really quickly. Many SEOs have - at the request of Matt - posted numerous examples of why the UK serps are screwed - showing lots of irrelevant US sites. It has nothing to do with .coms. http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/more-about-generic-tlds-in-say-uk-results/


08/27/2009 01:51 pm

@Richard: It was never mentioned that the video was recent...it was most likely done from April 2009, which is when the issue originally became popular. I see much more emphasis on Google Local results, which is apparent when searching for "Manchester bed and breakfast" on Google.co.uk. I did see .co.uk sites, but also .com's that were about Manchester, VT, not Manchester, England. Although the Local results are very relevant, it might seem that Google is putting the work on the searcher to add on "england" into the query.


08/27/2009 02:11 pm

I dont think anyone in the UK will be adding "UK" or "England" to their search queries anytime soon. If you are in the UK, you shouldnt have to specify that for generic local queries. Either way, why do that when they can just click on the relevant Google sponsored links at the top of the page and earn Google more money...

Gavin Smith

08/27/2009 02:24 pm

I thought we got rid of the whole "random search term + England UK" when Google took over from Altavista (@Colim) The issue has never and is not about TLD, afterall .com is a neutral TLD that has ranked in Google.co.uk for a very long time. Examples of the issue we are now facing is that since June, at least 8 foreign language sites started showing up in the top 150 results for casino related terms, and if I search for ‘Discount Mens Aftershave’ I get at least 5 results in the first 2 pages from countries half way around the world(.co.za/.com.au). How is a site relevant to me in the UK if they won’t offer their services/products to me or I can’t understand the language the site is written in? I could sit here all day reeling off examples of how the UK SERPs have broken over the last few months. The point is that the UK is Googles 2nd largest market and their search results are hideously below the standard we were seeing only a few months ago.


08/27/2009 03:29 pm

^ Amen.


08/27/2009 03:41 pm

"Google is putting the work on the searcher to add on "england"" Which defeats the point of having a .co.uk search engine really doesn't it. Unless of course Google is hoping to loose their 95% user base in the UK to the first competitor who develops a true UK based search engine?

Adam C

08/28/2009 09:18 am

What better way to test whether people will actually use the "pages from the UK" filter than to mix in some non-UK results.

Richard Vaughan

08/28/2009 11:14 am

or... What a better way to test whether people will actually use another search engine to find what they are looking for if they are in the UK?

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