Geotargeting is the method of determining the location of a site visitor and delivering relevant content through their IP, Wi-Fi or GPS data. This article examines how different factors can aid the site to rank in its target country.
A country-specific top level domains (ccTLD) is a well-recognised method of making sure your website ranks in that specific country. Using country endings in the URL (www.example.ru for Russia) by default can indicate locations to search engines, helping it to rank higher in the local versions of search engines. It also provides an increased trust factor for the visitor. However, there are also disadvantages, as maintaining separate top level domains for separate countries can get very expensive.
If creating ccTLDs is not the best option for your business then you can use gTLD (Generic Top Level Domains) and create subdomains for your country-specific websites, for example ru.example.com for Russia. By using this option you are able to have a separate local IP for each subdomain. It is easy to set up and can be hosted from different server locations. If you are targeting a specific country, then make use of the country code of your targeted country, so .fr for France, .de for Germany and so forth.
Another option is to use subdirectories, for example www.example.com/ru. These are also easy to set up. By using a subdirectory, rather than a subdomain or a separate website (ccTLD), you will capitalise more on any incoming links, as they will help to raise the overall trust of the whole domain.
If subdomains or subdirectories are used instead of ccTLDs then your search engine’s Webmaster Tools (Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, Yandex Webmaster Tools) will have an option to geolocate them to target their specific country. If you are already using ccTLDs then you won’t be allowed to use this feature, but there is also no need to geotarget this site as it is already considered that the domain targets the specific country.
Also, there is usually no need to geotarget sites that are aimed at a global audience or for those sites that have a language that applies to multiple countries at once. For example, there is no need to target a specific French section to France if it is also applicable to Switzerland or Belgium audiences. If you are you are using Bing Webmaster Tools then you can actually geotarget at page level, so for example a single Russian page can be designated to target a Ukrainian audience.
This Webmaster geotargeting feature is effective for boosting the rankings of a website in the targeted country. However, it should only be used if the website wants to target users from that specific country and if it makes no sense to attract visitors from other countries worldwide.
Hosting your site locally in the targeted country of choice is a good way to indicate to the search engine that the content is locally appropriate and will also speed up the loading times of your sites. The issue with this is that it is not always possible to do so however this is now less of a problem as search engines now prefer better local ranking signals rather than server location.
Using a content delivery network (CDN) can also be used to speed up your website and direct search engine bots to the location of the server and in turn of the site’s targeted country. CDN has a data center at different geographical locations and therefore the site is served from the nearest data center.
Local ranking signals
If there is a local address for the targeted country then it should be displayed on the respective landing or contact pages and should be assigned schema markup to make the address readable by a search engine bot. If there is not a local address then you can register with a local account on social media sites that are popular in the targeted country.
IP detection and automatic redirects
There is an option to detect IP addresses and automatically redirect the visitor to the country-specific page and language. This can be very user friendly as there is no need to search through the site to find the relevant page and also you are not faced with a foreign language and the inability to find your preferred page. However, the visitors that want the general English page will be faced with the hassle of redirection without choice. Best practice would probably be to provide the visitor with a list of languages at the start for them to choose themselves.
It is important to make sure that you earn links for your specific country sites from other sites in the same country. For example, a www.example.com/ru site should have quality links from sites in Russian with a .ru domain.
It is important that the content on the site is relatable and in the correct language. It is important to use writers from that specific country as they will be able to localise the content well and make sure it is all grammatically correct. Your content is a good indication to a search to determine which country you are targeting. The relevant keyword research should also be done for the country that you are targeting.
Google uses hreflang tags to identify the language and the country of the targeted page to make sure that the right content is being presented to the visitor. Therefore it is important to add the hreflang tag to every local site with the correct language and country code.
There are many ways to geotarget your website to achieve best results for your business. Depending on your budget and preferences you can pick and choose the best options for your website and its ranking in their specific countries.