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Google Explains Geotargeting Via URL Subdirectories

Websites can optimize content to target searchers in specific countries through a strategic use of URL subdirectories. Google explains how this works.

Google Explains Geotargeting Via URL Subdirectories

Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller explains how websites can optimize content for search results in specific countries by using subdirectories in a strategic way.

This topic was discussed during a recent Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout.

An individual named Hazel Wwrong joins the livestream to ask Mueller how Google recognizes when website content is geotargeted, other than looking for hreflang implementation.

In response, Mueller describes how Google looks for patterns in URLs indicating which country a page is intended for.

You can use this information to structure your website in a way that targets multiple countries with the same domain.

Continue reading the section below for more details.

How To Target Multiple Countries With The Same Domain Using Subdirectories

When asked what signals Google looks for to recognize when content is optimized for a specific country, Mueller says:

“We try to group URLs by clear patterns that we can recognize. And that’s, for example, by subdomain or by subdirectory.

So if you have the country in the subdirectory, in a higher place in the path, then it’s a lot easier for us to say everything under this path is for this country, everything under this other path is for another country.

And you can also verify individual paths in Search Console and specifically say this path is for this country, or this path is for another country, which makes it a little bit easier for us.”

The URL pattern Mueller describes would look something like this in practice.

Let’s say you own a store in the U.S. that ships products to other countries around the world. Here’s how the URL pattern might look:

  • USA: your-website.com/products
  • Canada: your-website.com/canada/products
  • UK: your-website.com/uk/products

And so on.

Mueller notes this use of subdirectories likely won’t make a big difference if you’re already using hreflang and Search Console to target specific countries.

So if your website isn’t set up this way you don’t have to go and change everything around.

It’s just one more signal Google looks for in addition to other geotargeting signals.

“In practice, I don’t hear a lot of feedback from people saying this makes a big difference. So I don’t know if it’s something you actually need to do, especially if it’s a more complex setup.

But I would try to make it so that it’s as clear as possible which country is relevant for the individual URLs. Kind of with a clear path in the URL.

I think there was a question someone submitted as well about using the country as a URL parameter at the end. Theoretically, you can do that. I think for our systems it makes it a lot harder to recognize which URLs belong to which country. So I would see that as being less likely for us to pick up for geotargeting.

Obviously, if you’re using hreflang, then that’s less of an issue there because you can do that on a per-URL basis.”

Hear Mueller’s full response in the video below:

For more information about geotargeting, see:


Featured Image: Nikolay Klimenko/Shutterstock

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Matt G. Southern

Senior News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt G. Southern, Senior News Writer, has been with Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a bachelor’s degree in communications, ... [Read full bio]

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