Using the Google Search Console’s international targeting feature, also known as “geo-targeting”, may negatively affect your SEO strategy, according to Google itself.
According to the search engine giant, the tool can harm your site’s search rankings if your goal is to reach a large audience of viewers.
This explanation was provided by Google search attorney John Mueller during a recent hangout on Google SEO Hours while answering a question from viewers.
What does that mean anyway? And what do you, as a marketer, need to do to prevent your SEO strategies from getting hurt?
Follow me, I will explain.
First, let’s understand the issue…
During the hangout, a search engine optimization (SEO) analyst in charge of a major financial news portal based in Pakistan – but with content targeting worldwide – raised an issue related to Internet internationalization strategies.
Although the portal has good potential for Google ranking and direct exclusive content publishing, once other smaller sites with lower ranking potential started reposting the same content, it lost space among the top search positions.
“We have a story. We’ll be the exclusive, the first, everything E will be trustworthy, we’ll rank very high. As soon as other websites publish the same story, even if they spin what we see, they suddenly start to rank higher, and we immediately begin to disappear into the dark Forgetting. I’m tasked with improving SEO, and editors are getting frustrated.”
According to an SEO analyst, this happens even when the smaller sites in question correctly indicate their portal in the repost.
Why did this happen?
After examining the site and ruling out any issues that might hinder the portal’s higher ranking in search engines, Mueller concluded that the cause could be in the Google Search Console’s international targeting settings.
What is the geographic goal of Google Search Console?
Before talking about how geo-targeting can negatively affect your SEO strategy, we need to remember what this function is intended to do.
Basically, the tool allows you to display the correct version of the website for local customers from a particular country or region. For example, if you have an online store and sell only to customers in the United States, this region will be specified as the store’s destination country.
This way, when someone interested in your product searches for stores in the US or uses Google’s “near me” function, search engines will return results from sites with domains specific to the buyer’s country or region.
How international targeting can hurt your business strategy
After delving into the target location during a hangout, Mueller noticed that the location’s geo-targeting settings in Search Console were configured for Pakistan.
In other words, Pakistan is defined in the tool as the destination country for the site. This directly affects its ranking in search engines in other countries, detrimental to its reach.
According to Muller:
“When it comes to research, if you want to target countries other than Pakistan, like an English-language news site, I would definitely turn it off. Because that can have an impact, because it really focuses on Pakistan, and then it focuses less on other countries.”
In other words, if you are investing in reaching a global audience through your website, it is necessary to pay attention to the settings in Search Console and disable targeting.
Thus, your site will be able to reach a more general audience, with more views and a better ranking in search engines, as in the “sister site” of the example given by Google Hangout.
When should international targeting be used?
The answer to this question is: It depends.
To enable international targeting from Google Search Console, you will need to evaluate your current business strategy.
If you intend to invest in more local reach for your website, such as virtual stores that only serve a specific region, then revitalizing retail will make a lot of sense for your strategy and help better segment and qualify your customers.
If your focus is on reaching a more global level, such as global news sites, you should turn off targeting in Search Console. This will help your site reach audiences anywhere in the world, facilitating greater reach and better positioning on search pages.
There is no rule or cake recipe – Examine your SEO strategy, and choose the most suitable option for your business.
So, what is the best strategy for you? If you want to better understand content internationalization and how Google sees it, I highly suggest you read this article as well.