Getting your pages indexed in google’s local search – a case study

There has always been plenty of debate about the importance of choosing an appropriate tld (top level domain, like .com, .ie, etc), and choosing a hosting service based in your main target market.

Until recently the common wisdom was that, if you wanted to rank well in a specific local search engine index, like for example, your best bet would be to have a server based in the u.k, and a tld.

It runs against the logic of the web though, as many companies wish to have a .com tld as it is still the most popular and open of tld’s (many tld’s cost a lot, and require a large amount of bureaucracy to prove your entitlement to use them), and many companies operate in a number of different markets. Also choosing a host in your market country might not be economically advisable (for example, a number of years ago many web-site owners in places like Australia chose to host their sites in the States because of the considerable savings available due to competition).

Google has a great track record for focussing on useful results for visitors, so it’s no surprise that they’ve been making efforts to clean up the geo-targetting issue. Matt Cutts discussed it at some length on his site, explaining why increasingly .com results are being returned in local indexes like

So, one of the big questions of the moment is ‘how do i get my site included in the local index?’ – or to put it another way, using as the example index, ‘how do I get my site included in the results from a search where the user has clicked ‘pages from the uk?’

I helped out a site owner last week on this very issue, so can happily report that it isn’t as difficult as you might think. In a forum this particular site owner described his situation – he has a .com site that is performing well in the main search from, but when searching in ‘pages from the uk’ index he was nowhere to be found (and we did a check, searching for some unique text on his site, so it wasn’t – as often is the case – that his site was indexed but not performing well, which is a separate issue). ┬áThe solutions posed in the forum included
1) Change to a domain – something which is best to avoid, particularly if your site is already doing well under a .com tld. If you change you’re looking at correctly implementing 301 redirects to avoid losing links and page rank.
2) Change to a host in the UK – switching hosts is one of the most traumatic things a webmaster can go through, and should be avoided if you’ve already found a good value/service host.
3) Change the site from flash, because it’s not seo friendly – this was a bit of a red herring, given that only a small part of the site was built in flash. In any case, while the search engines have always advised using flash only where necessary due to indexing issues, this would be a big change, when the real solution was much simpler.

So? What did we do?
We did what all webmasters should try first, and that’s follow google’s advice. We set the site up in google webmaster tools and, in the site configuration / settings section, we set the geographic target to the uk. A couple of days later the site was appearing in local searches.

Some caveats:
1) Your site should realistically be appropriate to that geographic market – if you’re a Russian spam site and you set your target market as in webmaster tools don’t expect it to work
2) Consider whether you actually want your site to focus specifically on one market. Depending upon what your business is, it may maker more sense to leave things open. The site in this case was a hairdressing salon, so obviously they want to do well in local searches – but if you sell goods online, and your physical location is largely irrelevant, then why bother focussing on local search.

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