Google Uses ccTLD Over Server Location for Localizing Search Results

Dec 29, 2009 • 8:20 am | comments (12) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Whenever an SEO talks about geo-targeting your site to a specific region, so it ranks well on that localized version of Google they tell you to do a few things.

(1) Host in the country you want to rank well for (2) Try to use a ccTLD for that country, i.e. for UK (3) Set the geographic target in Google Webmaster Tools

However, instead of using a ccTLD, I often see sites deploy a subdomain or subfolder to specify a different language or geographic target. A ccTLD is best, in my opinion. Of course, there are times you want to use a localized language by target the main Google - so that does apply.

JohnMu from Google replied to a Google Webmaster Help thread stating that a ccTLD is much more powerful than hosting your site on a server in that country. Specifically, John said:

Yes, we do try to find context from these two factors (I think this article is being updated to be a bit more clear though :-)) -- however, if your site has a geographic TLD/ccTLD (like then we will not use the location of the server as well. Doing that would be a bit confusing, we can't really "average" between New Zealand and the USA... At any rate, if you are using a ccTLD like you really don't have to worry about where you're hosting your website, the ccTLD is generally a much stronger signal than the server's location could ever be.

Google will use the ccTLD over the server location to geotarget your site. This makes sense to me, but I do not think this has been covered here. We covered the overal topic dozens of times, but not specifically which factor is more important.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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12/29/2009 04:35 pm

So, what would be best when i am doing multi-language, multi-country web and i do not want to use separate TLD for every language?

BG Mahesh

12/30/2009 02:13 am

Hosting in India is expensive when compared to US. We host in the US and don't seem to have any problems when it comes to SEO. I think it is more important to have a good response time.

kelvin newman

12/30/2009 09:05 am

No surprises here, but geo location on an international level causes no end of confusion to the lay person Google really should communicate best practice a bit more clearly

mark rushworth

12/30/2009 03:02 pm

What do you do it you have a country specific tl;d but sell internationally? it seems google want to hurt older sites who are stuck for one reason or another with a country specific tld - theres no option in webmaster tools to say "my site is global"

Andy Beard

12/31/2009 12:57 am

From every indicator I have seen, .eu is treated as agnostic


01/05/2010 08:59 am

I've read extensively about this on all the usual sites as I'm working on a project now that has to serve about 10 different countries in 6 different languages. The impression I got from reading Cutts and reading around the various sources from people who currently own ccTLDs is that they're irritated because .com TLDs are outranking them on local searches. From what I read, I believe, Cutts (who is not a golden God, but is as good a source as anyone) said that ccTLD gives you a leg up on someone without a leg up, but that they had de-emphasized it. If I had to guess based on what you've got here and what I've read, I would guess (without any empirical evidence) that they de-value location for countries with high concentrations of hosting and place more value on location for countries with less hosting and that they do the same with TLDs that are restricted by law versus those that are open (e.g. versus .com). Still, that last paragraph's a total guess. The only thing I know for sure that I've researched (at least through a month or so back) is that a ccTLD will give you a leg up, but that if you have server location and content you can edge out a content relevant ccTLD for local searches in that country. Not sure if that helps, hurts or adds nothing to the discussion!


01/05/2010 11:34 am

For one of the sites im running, Im trying to target the UK market. The site is hosted in the UK and is set to be UK in webmaster tools, but currently has a .com domain which is 3 years old and had 7 years left until expiry. I also own the domain, but this has only been registered recently for 2 years. Do you think I should use the to target the UK, but wont i be penalised then for having a young domain?

Bill Hunt

01/07/2010 11:35 pm

I think everyone is misunderstanding what John said. His exact quote was "ccTLD (like then the location of your server generally does not play a role in how we view your site" This makes a lot of sense. If you have a ccTLD for hosted in the US it would just confuse the spider. Which is it? a NZ site or a US site? The two are not and do not need to be used together to make a content location relevance determination. Remember the "cc" in "ccTLD" means country code and is based on ISO 3166-1 which sets a two letter code for each country. The US has one too - .us. The hierarchy tree is as follows: If the site has a ccTLD like then engines assume the content is for NZ. The same is true for someone using a .us would mean that is related to the United States. If the site does not have a ccTLD meaning "any domain that does not end in the ISO 3166-1 2 letter code" the IP location of the server serves as the locational reference of the content. Meaning someone in NZ that is hosting a .com site in NZ is most likely serving local NZ content. Note that these two methods of designating local country content are used by most search engines and not just Google. Google added an option that can replicate the ccTLD with the adoption of the Geographical Targeting feature where you can take a non-ccTLD domain such as .com and tell Google to what country the content is relevant to. So for 85% of the Global 1000 (yes I did the research last year) that are using .com/cc and some are using for their local content you can go into Webmaster Tools and set .com/nz equal to New Zealand and everything in and under that /nz directory will be given the same weight as content hosted on a domain. I have talked to engineers from all the engines nearly quarterly about this issue and have written about it for the past 10 years and have worked with some of the largest global sites in the world. For local country versions of sites on a .com, especially when hosted in the US, the Google Geographical Targeting function is the only one that works. I have had great success with using the Google Geographical Tool on English and Spanish sites which seem to have the biggest problems. Your single language sites like Italian and Japanese typically don't have this problem since they are based on the quality of the local language content. BTW - If you used some translation tool to translate the site it will have a serious negative impact on ranking since many of the normal grammatical syntax elements used to help the engines determine local content and relevance will not be correct resulting in the engines not ranking the site very well. There are a number of other things people are talking about like proxy serving and getting a lot of links from sites that have a ccTLD on the country that only have marginal success.


02/10/2010 02:04 pm

Great post. Do you know how to get the largest exposure for a .com website in terms of Geographical Targeting feature in Google , would it be by choosing United States IP is in Canada but my services are worldwide. Thanks


02/19/2010 12:22 am

Can anyone answer my previous question I run a Business Immigration Firm to Canada and my clients are in over 100 countries. Thanks in advance


02/20/2010 05:28 pm

still waiting

Thomas Zickell

05/25/2014 11:26 am

Yes Max by not choosing a geographic target in Google if you want to target the entire world then simply do not pick any country. Hope that helps,

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