What’s Most Effective for Geo Targeting?

We do know that for geo targeting in Google we definitely need:

  1. A country code top-level domain (ccTLD);
  2. Country specific server location;
  3. Setting Geo Targeting preferences in Google Webmaster Tools.

But what really matters (if for example the combination of all the three is impossible)?

Setting geographic target with Webmaster Tools doesn’t seem to work in most cases. At Google Groups Googlers themselves say they don’t think it might be effective (the discussion first spotted by SERoundtable):

Using the tool to target to the UK may have some effect on non-country-restricted searches, but it probably won’t be the same as having Most sites will see results somewhere between the two extremes (no effect, and total equivalence with ccTLDs).

Server location can hinder your local rankings but it is of little actual help (per my experience at least). However Google claims it does take that into account:

Google considers both the IP address and the top-level domain (e.g. .com,

A country specific top level domain is what really helps. Citing another Googler:

If a site is being hosted with a country-code top level domain, we generally take that as a really strong signal that this is the country the site is targeting.

So if you have a top level domain and set geo targeting to the US, it won’t help. It might help (though no one can be sure), if you own generic TLDs (.com or .net) which are not tied to any country.

So if you really want to rank your site with a local version of Google, make sure you own a ccTLD in the first place. Everything else you can do (server location, setting geo targeting, adding your local address to the landing page) might help but only a bit.

Ann Smarty
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing, tutorials and her guest blogging project,
Ann Smarty

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14 thoughts on “What’s Most Effective for Geo Targeting?

  1. Hi Ann!

    Thanks for bringing into notice abt the Google group thread! so for those who already have a .com domain and wanted to rank in us or uk can just register a ccTLD and redirect the old domain to ccTLD? Could this just help in any way?

  2. “So if you have a top level domain and set geo targeting to the US, it won’t help.” Not even possible to do that. ^^

    “You say server location is of little help but if you have a .com site hosted in the UK you will be totally fine with A search for car insurance on UK results only shows 9 sites out of 10 are .coms!” Funny results true, but some ofe there .coms carry UK content, also they might have set the geo tool, you dont know that. any other search does give more credits to domains even in the search the web option.

  3. Since I was the person who asked Susan the question I think it might be helpful if you read what I asked so that you get the proper context:

    “Given that gives a bias to UK sites when the user selects ‘Search the web’, is it true to say that the tool gives no additional weight to pages that have been geotargeted at (in this instance) the UK within web search results?”

    So the question was about the effects of the tool on ‘web search’ from Google’s country properties.

    The tool works as advertised. But I also think that there are some weird issues still around duplicate content filters combining with the country filters.

    The tool takes a long time to kick in (in our case it took 11 weeks), but once it does the effects can be impressive. The problem however, is that it really only affects ‘pages from’ searches. Even bigger problem for Google is that UK index has always been, and continues to be, a serious issue for them.

  4. Geo Targeting is a big issue, especially when you have a client, which has got offices world wide, and has got the same English pages adressing different countries! Apart from not addressing the correct website to the right country, we also have problems with duplicate contents.. we are far from having the right tools to provide the search engines the most appropriate web site, and therefore help them get the best SERPs they should give.

  5. 1)From my experience a ccTLD is enough to be in the Search results if the TLD is the same of the country.

    2) Google says on its pages:
    “Our crawlers identify the country that corresponds to a site by factors such as the physical location at which the site is hosted, the site’s IP address, and its domain restrict.”

    I’ve seen plenty of clearly international meant web sites appear on my local (pt) searches just because their ip is local (eg’s subdomains)

    3) I’ve used webmaster tools for geo targeting websites with .com and .net TLDs and so far they’ve worked pretty well. In fact, my very own blog is, it’s server is in Canada and I certainly appear on searches for “pages of the country”.

    I don’t own any such domain with a funny TLD (.to. .tv,) but I don’t think it should be google’s business to decide whether “” (Christmas Cards: de= portuguese for of; .de, Germany’s TLD) belongs to Germany or a portuguese speaking results when webmasters have opted themselves to target such and such countries.

  6. @Richard Hearne : thanks for clarifying the context. I thought linking to the post already gave the readers enough information on the original discussion. And many thanks for mentioning the time frame. I heard it took between 11 weeks to 6 months for the geo targeting to work…

    @BottomTurn : duplicate content of same language countries is definitely an issue and we do lack tools to held search engines handle it.

    @António : great additions! I do appreciate your sharing the experience.

    @Mercy : as far as the discussion evolves, I guess your UK server location and setting UK in Webmaster tools will work… Just give it some time.

  7. NP – the reason I commented here was that I think Barry also got this out of context over on SERoundtable. The tool does work, but we cant be sure of the impact, if any, on normal web searches from country properties.

  8. I’ve an 9 years old .com domain targeting different contents to different countries using subdomais.
    Now, I’m updatind to a totaly new version of the website at the same domain. What is better, keep the subdomains or use TLDs for each country?

    (I`ll 301 redirect all the pages of the old website to the new using TLDs or not)

  9. It surely will have an impact on normal web-searches of the geo googles, thats what an official google employee said:”
    Using the tool to target to the UK may have some effect on non-country-restricted searches, but it probably won’t be the same as having Most sites will see results somewhere between the two extremes (no effect, and total equivalence with ccTLDs).”