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The Future of Google Geotargeting and ‘pages from’ Searches

Posted in: Geotargeting by Richard Hearne on July 13, 2009
Internet Marketing Ireland

In the past couple of weeks Google has been testing the removal of the geotargeting selector on their country-level search properties. This was first reported for google.co.uk by SEO Home Blog. I subsequently saw this thread over on boards.ie which also reported the test here in Ireland. The OP kindly sent me a screenshot:

Google.ie testing search without pages from Ireland selector
Google.ie testing search without pages from Ireland selector

Over the following week or two I actually saw this test running myself on two separate machines. It does seem like this test may have been a little more widespread. Some people were curious why Google would remove the radio selectors and simply add a small text link near the foot of the SERP result set. I’d hazard a further conjecture – maybe Google is going to remove this option altogether. Perhaps they’re moving towards more localised results being the default? The biggest problem I can see with this would be determining intent – sometimes I want to see global results rather than local, and I don’t always get them.

In Constant Flux

If you watch organic search, and Google in particular, you’ll know that the one constant is change. SERPs are in regular flux, but of late I’ve noticed a heightened level of flux. All I can do is guess what’s around the corner, but it does seem like anchor text weight has been lowered, or perhaps better to say that the source of the anchor text may impact the weight of that anchor text – somehow relevance weighting seems to have increased considerably. But back to geotargeting. What might be changing?

Google Webmaster Tools Geotargeting Broken?

In the very recent past Google either broke the GWT Geotargeting tool or changed considerably how that tool works. Previously when you used that tool to geotarget gTLDs you’d be able to find yourself in ‘pages from [country]‘ searches relevant to the settings you saved in GWT. And in some cases I saw that you could get the non-geotargeted root domain returned in ‘pages from [country]‘ searches, something I had put down to navigational queries. To give an example:

  • I set www.mydomain.com/fr/ geotargeting to FR.
  • Now when I search google.fr ‘Pages : France’ the pages under www.mydomain.com/fr/ may be returned.
  • If you search for [mydomain.com] on google.fr ‘Pages : France’ then Google might also return www.mydomain.com. This seemed new to me, and likely indicated a navigational query.

So that’s how things used to work.

Fast-forward to Today

For about 2 weeks now I’ve noticed that geotargeted websites are no longer being returned in ‘pages from [country]‘ searches. I’m not sure if this is across the board or isolated to sites I cover (which includes sites I work with plus a few global sites I know have used the tool). Now searching even for brand name with ‘pages from [country]‘ only returns mentions of the brand, and not the geotargeted folder of the brand’d site. Hardly relevant. So is this a ‘feature’ or a ‘bug’? And could this be related to the testing mentioned above?

The Future of Geotargeting?

Based on how Google operates, the decision to remove or retain the ‘pages from [country]‘ searches will be based on hard quantitative data. But I’m going to stick my neck out and gamble that the changes to GWT Geotargeting may be related to the testing of ‘pages from [country]‘ selector. I’m going a bit further and hazard that changes in the pipeline for Google’s search interface and the GWT Geotargeting tool.

And here’s the kicker – if the changes I suspect are going to happen multinationals and global brands are going to need those relevant ccTLDs that had made somewhat redundant by the GWT Geotargeting tool.

All of the above with the usual caveat that it’s all IMHO, and I’ll probably end up being wrong about this. I’d love to hear from anyone else who’s seen this, or has any thoughts on where geotargeting is going.

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  1. Hi Richard,

    An observation on my side:

    When logged in to my Google account, the “Show results from” buttons seemed to appear on all the domains I checked (google.ie, .de, .co.uk, .li, .pt)

    However, when I wasn’t logged in, none of the domains above showed the raduio buttons!


    Comment by Ricardo — July 13, 2009 @ 2:57 pm

  2. Correction:

    Me again – I think it was pot luck – just checked them again – and now they’re back for all previously tested domains.

    Seems very likely that it is an ongoing test.

    Comment by Ricardo — July 13, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

  3. Hi Ricardo

    Interesting. Esp. that this is still being run, but generally I think they run tests for a while to gather as much data as needed. Curious also that you saw the tests based on login status.

    Thanks for dropping by and giving your experience with this.


    Comment by admin — July 13, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

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