Friday, December 30, 2011

Geotargeting ccTLD: ccTLD geotargets get preferential treatment from Google within their countries

Thinking locally
Content developers normally have a dilemma when it comes to tailoring their content for a particular audience and it all has to do with geography and diversity of the internet population. When producing your content, you normally have the target audience in mind; the people for whom the content would be most relevant. Most of the times, the criteria for choosing your target audience is based on shared interests but in some instances, geography reigns supreme.

A blog about hair and hair styles done by a Nigerian might not particularly appeal to a Chinese for example due to differing needs when it comes to hair care.  There are content for global consumption and content for local consumption. As a content developer, you don't want to hang all your dirty linens for everyone. right?

To solve this problem and to shield users from being bombarded with irrelevant content in their search engine results pages, Google will look at several factors to determine where your content is most relevant and rank it accordingly. One of the ways it does this is through geotargeting i.e. giving your content preferential treatment for the local audience. There are three ways to enable geotargeting of your content so that it ranks well on the localized version of Google and reach your target audience in a particular geographic region:

  • Host your website inside the country that you want your website to rank well in.
  • Try to use a ccTLD for the country i.e. 
  •  Set the Geographic Target in Google Webmaster Tools. 
  • Other signals such as local addresses, phone numbers on web pages, use of local language and currency on website, links from other local sites etc(but this is minor)
It is the webmaster's dilemma. Which method trumps the others? In theory if your website has a great content and well linked, it should rank well on search engines. In practice this is not always the case as the search engines will target those websites which are seen to be local. And the website is "seen" as local through any of the three ways listed above. 
The "localness" of the website can easily be determined by the country's ccTLD. Websites hosted on generic domains like .com, .net are normally assumed to be targeted for global audiences unless the webmaster chooses to set geotargeting for a specific country via the Google Webmaster tools. With ccTLD rebranding or "repurposing" some ccTLDs are also treated like gTLDs and users are allowed to geotarget them to any country they like. In other words, Google treats these special ccTLDs as gTLDs. If you like, you can call them gccTLDs(generic ccTLDs). They are the only geotargetable Top Level Domain Names and include:(Note that the ccTLDs for the DR Congo, Djibouti are treated as gccTLDs)


Of the three methods of geotargeting listed, hosting your content on a ccTLD is the surest way to inform Google that your content is for a particular geographical region.Whether you live in a country of 1 billion people or a country of penguins, if your ccTLD is not listed above then you cannot geotarget it. Google will automatically set a geotarget for your content based on your ccTLD and you cannot change that to point to another country.  When was the last time you saw a .pl or is your Kenyan or South African SERPs?

 With the ccTLD, you are "condemned" to your country. The search engine will "optimize" your content to rank well in your country based on that ccTLD. The ccTLD trumps geotargeting via Webmaster Tools or hosting locally and serious thought must put into deciding on which domain to host the content.

Some domains might limit the reach of your content.

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