Is Google's Geo Targeting Off In Web Search?

Apr 28, 2009 • 8:27 am | comments (1) by | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Over the past day or two, I have been hearing reports from webmasters and SEOs that Google's geo targeting technology has changed in a big way over in their international or localized search engines. I have one, possibly, two threads to point you over to with more details.

A Google Web Search Help thread has reports that over the weekend, the landscape for ranking of generic keywords in Google UK has drastically changed. Searches such as web hosting, mortgage, insurance, student loans and so on are no longer as specific to UK web sites and are now showing more US based sites.

I am told by an anonymous reader that for financial terms, such as mortgages, you would never see US based results in the top ten at Google UK. Clearly that makes logical sense, why would a UK searcher, who is looking for a UK mortgage, want to find information from US mortgage companies? They wouldn't. Of course, Wikipedia type pages were the exception. I am now being told that more and more US based sites are showing for these specific UK-type queries when searching Google UK in the UK.

When I questioned if this was new, after showing that filtering them by selecting "show pages from UK" the SEO said:

For me that shows that Google knows they aren't UK sites - but is still none the less choosing to display them on queries which should really have a UK focus (UK finance products)

There have been some US based sites in searches like this before (occassionaly one might see Wikipedia) - but for so many to pop in overnight is most unusual.

The WebmasterWorld thread that is tracking Google changes in April has a post from Tedster that relates to these findings. Tedster, WebmasterWorld's administrator, said:

I'm also getting a whiff of something that's hard to document - more search terms getting the geo-targeting treatment, and the gotargeting may not be all that appropriate. When it comes to ecommerce, I don't really care where the vendor is as long as they are in the country. I don't want to see the more local vendors getting a boost and the quality vendors a couple hundred miles away tanking. For services, just maybe - but for hard goods, no.

Today I was checking something for a client in another city. They were concerned about falling to position #8 - but for me they were at position #67 or so.

This seems to be somewhat related to what is reported in the Google Web Search Help thread but not exactly.

Is Google's geo targeting technology off a bit or is Google changing how they handle certain queries in the UK?

Forum discussion at Google Web Search Help.

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