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Google rankings and geographic association 

Is your site geared towards people in your country, you have a non-country specific domain extension and your site is hosted on a server outside your region? Having trouble ranking on country-specific Google search, or perhaps even just getting listed? 

It's a common problem; but this new feature from Google may help you out.

Here's an example of the issue. I live in Australia, Taming the Beast.net is a non-Australia domain name and is hosted on a server in Canada. 

If you run a search on Google.com using these terms: 

web marketing adelaide

..the site should be listed on the first page; well it was at the time of writing anyway :). Now try the same search via Google.com.au, selecting the "pages from within Australia" radio button. TTB is not in the top ten results, not even in the first 100 results. 

This is because Google weighs the domain name extension and where a site is physically hosted as part of calculating ranking in country-specific searches. The term "adelaide" just doesn't have any real ranking power in this type of search unless it's associated with a local domain name (.com.au) or the server is located here.

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Google has recently provided an easy to use tool so you can manually flag which country you site should be associated with, even if you don't have either of the above. 

To flag the geographic association, you'll need to log into Google Webmaster Tools, click on the "tools" tab, select "set geographic target" and choose your country from the list. If you haven't come across Google Webmaster Tools before, it's a free service provided by Google to help you diagnose potential problems, see how Google crawls and indexes your site and find out more about the visitors who arrive on your site via the search engine.

Important points to consider

Only apply feature this site-wide if your online business caters only to the local market as it may have an effect on rankings in the general Google results. Notice I stated "site-wide". More on that in a minute.

An aspect to consider is how many people are using region specific Google search currently; i.e. does your target market use the general Google search first and then only switches to the "pages from within X" if they can't find what they need? 

If you have good rankings for a chosen term in the general Google search, you may do yourself a disservice as you're not guaranteed the same placement in the "pages from within" results. 

To my way of thinking, I'd only do this if I wasn't ranking well on either and Australia was my primary market; which it isn't.

.. but there's another interesting feature of this tool that would help me if I did want to change that; without me needing to host locally or grab another domain name. 

While you can't specify more than one country for a site using the Google Webmaster Tools feature, you can choose a different country for each subdomain or folder; so an alternative and perhaps less-risky approach may be to create some new, unique and very targeted content in a new folder; then flag with Google that folder as being x country specific.

Before switching web hosts..

Geographic association is something you need to be wary of when moving to another web host. If you service a local market and you're outside of the USA, just because a web hosting company may have an office in your country, it doesn't mean the servers are located in the same country. 

While this is worth checking into before making a change of hosting provider; Google's safety net of being able to manually associate a site with a geographic region is a welcome addition.

Pick up some more search engine optimization tips

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
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In the interests of transparency and disclosure, please note that the owner of Taming the Beast.net often receives goods and services mentioned in reviews for free, or may receive payments or affiliate commissions for advertising or referring others to merchants of products and services reviewed.

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