Utilizing Google Search Console’s international targeting feature, also known as “geotargeting,” can hurt search rankings if you’re trying to reach a wide audience.
This topic is discussed in during the Google Search Central SEO office hours hangout recorded on December 31.
An SEO named Aleem Bawany joins the livestream to ask Google Search Advocate John Mueller why a smaller sister site is outranking his main site.
Bawany says the main site publishes news content for a general audience, which is sometimes republished on the sister site.
Despite the main site being the source of the news, it’s the smaller site that achieves more favorable rankings.
After looking at the site, Mueller says this could be happening because of the international targeting settings in Search Console.
See Mueller’s full response in the section below.
How Geotargeting Can Negatively Impact Rankings
Mueller personally looked at the site and ruled out any major issues that could hold the site back in search results, such as manual penalties or spammy links.
What he did happen to notice is the site’s international targeting settings in Search Console are set up for Pakistan.
That’s fine if the primary goal is to rank in Pakistan, but it could adversely impact rankings in other countries.
“The one thing I did notice is that you have geotargeting set up in Search Console for Pakistan. I don’t know if that’s by design, if that’s something you’re trying to do. If you want to make a general English-speaking news website, then probably it makes sense to turn off the geotargeting. So that might be something that can help you.”
If you want to target a worldwide audience with your website, Mueller says you should “definitely” turn off international targeting in Search Console.
“When it comes to search, if you want to target countries other than Pakistan, like a general English-speaking news site, then I would definitely turn that off. Because that can have an effect there in that it really focuses on Pakistan and then slightly focuses less on other countries.”
Bawany follows up by asking Mueller how long it would take for the change to be reflected in Google’s search results.
Mueller says it could take anywhere from a week to a couple of months.
Since the site in question publishes news content, it’s likely the change will be seen in search results faster than with other types of sites.
“My guess is it will be anywhere from a week or two, to maybe a month or two. So that’s kind of the timeframe that I suspect it takes for something like the geotargeting setting to change.
With regards to a news website, I suspect it’ll be a little bit faster than usual, just because with a news website we would focus on the newer content and with the newer content we would see the setting very quickly.
So probably more on the shorter side for news websites, but I don’t know all of the systems that are involved with geotargeting settings changes.”
To listen to the full discussion, see the video below:
Featured Image: Screenshot from YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral, January 2022.