Your chance to help Google, and help yourself

If you read the various blogs coming out of Google, as I do, you’ll know that the folks at the world’s biggest search engine are really trying hard to “localise” their results – so if you’re looking at Google from the UK, for example, even if you type in “www.google.com” you should automagically be redirected to the UK version, www.google.co.uk (because they can detect where you are) …and the results in the UK version should be ones which are relevant to us here.

To demonstrate where they’ve got it right, this is what you see if you search for “Cambridge” from the UK, and this is what you see if you search for “Cambridge” from the USA. However, even Google admits they’ve still got work to do, and they’re asking for our help.

The problem, as you might have guessed, is that it’s hard for Google to tell which sites are relevant to a particular country. The bit at the end of the website address, called the “TLD” (e.g “.co.uk”) is a good start, but the difficulty comes with generic worldwide “.com” or “.org” sites. Google has to work out which countries those sites are relevant for, and that seems like an almost impossible task to me. That’s why I’d suggest that if your website is only aimed at one country, and probably only ever will be aimed at one country, you use that country’s TLD. Our consultancy uses bmon.co.uk for just that reason. If you want to appeal globally, go for “.com”, which – although US companies seem to use it by default – is not the American TLD, but is a worldwide one. However, if you have a “.co.uk” site but want to show up in overseas searches, don’t rush to change to a “.com”, because Google is starting to get this local stuff right.

What Google wants us to do is to find examples of searches made in the UK which are dominated by non-UK results, specifically sites which have no relevance to the UK. An example might be if you type in “blue widgets” into Google from a PC in the UK, and one of the top results is “Tex’s Widget Shack, Nowheresville, TX – we deliver anywhere in the USA”. If you know of anything like this, go to the blog of Matt Cutts from Google, and leave your observations in the comments. This is a good way to get Google to look at your particular set of results, and who knows, if they “fix” it, you could find your site catapulted up the UK results as others are removed. Or let me know and I’ll pass on your thoughts to Matt.

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