This is our first in a series of Guest Blogs, written by James Cummings.
If you have ever run queries on Google.co.uk, Google.co.au, and Google.com (perhaps one after the other), you would have noticed that the results of the queries were somewhat different, despite the fact that you used the same search term on the three sites.
This happens because Google displays search results based on geography. A search originating on Google Australia will nearly always produce more results from that region than a search in the UK, whatever the search term used.
This begs the question: how can you optimise your website to rank well on Google search for a specific country or region? If you are a webmaster who owns a business in a specific region of the world, and you are wondering how to improve your search engine ranking in that region or country, here are a few steps for you to consider.
Use a country code TLD
Google uses country code top level domains (ccTLDs) to geotag the websites using them. This means that a ccTLD tells Google that the website using it is more relevant in the country associated with the ccTLD.
Use a Region-Specific gTLD (like .scot!)
If you don’t want to go with a ccTLD, the next best thing is a region specific gTLD (generic top level domain) like .scot for a business located in Scotland. Google currently treats these region-specific gTLDs like other non-region specific gTLDs, however there is a possibility that region-specific gTLDs will help sites rank higher in their respective regions in the future as Google continuously change how your website content can influence search engine results.
As well as that, region-specific gTLDs give users a hint that your business is in a specific region. Thus, when a user sees CompanyName.scot, they would automatically discern that your services or products are available in Scotland or provide Scottish products etc. A top domain provider can simplify the registration process. You can do so here, or check out .scot’s list of registrars.
Specify Your Site’s Scottish Association with Google
Using Google Webmaster Tools, you can specify your website’s association with Scotland on Google.
This helps Google to determine how to rank your site for country-specific search results and also for geographic queries. While you can do this on a domain, subdomain, or a directory level, be mindful that you are only allowed to associate your site with one country or location.
Use a Web Hosting Service in Your Region
According to Google, the geographic location of your web server matters when it comes to your search engine ranking. Some hosts, however, may have a local office while their servers are located in another region or country. Just to be sure that your site is hosted on a server located in your desired region, use this IP lookup tool to verify.
Use a Region-Specific Language
Get to understand the language of the region your website serves. The fact that people from specific regions run Google searches using local vernaculars shouldn’t surprise you. Your site’s content is in English, but you stand to miss out on searches initiated with the local language or Scottish vernacular if you completely ignore them.
Add Your Local Contact Info to Your Website
A great way to do this is by using Google maps. First, add or claim your business listing on Google My Business. That way, when your business name is searched on Google, your listing will appear on the right-hand side (for desktop), or top (for mobile), of the result. The great thing about Google My Business listing is that it will include information about your business—contact, open hours, phone numbers, address and map, reviews, a link to your website, and so on.
The next thing to do is list your contact info (local address, business name, and phone number…) on your website. Unlike Google My Business, this may not influence your ranking, but it will certainly improve your credibility as a service provider in a region.
While there are many other ways to improve your site’s SEO for a specific country or region, the above-listed will go a long way in putting your Scottish website out there for Google users in your region to discover.
James Cummings can be found on Twitter.