SEO guide for Developers – GEO Targeting

If the website’s target audience is country-oriented it will be good to use GEO targeting to achieve better results in the local Google results. There are several tips you could use to implement easy GEO targeting, which sometimes are hard to impossible for implementation at a later point.

FOLDER TARGETING

The easiest way for GEO targeting is to implement structure that holds different country-dependent pages in different folders. Let’s say you have website that has 3 language versions – English, which targets your Ireland audience, French, which targets France and Spanish which targets Spain. The best structure for your website is to put the different language pages in folders, like: example.com/en/, example.com/fr/ and example.com/es/. Afterwards it is easy to target the pages from the webmaster tools panel. First – add and verify every folder version in Webmaster Tools. Afterwards, for every language version of the website go to the settings menu and choose your preferred target country:

Webmaster Tools GEO targeting

For even better results is good to create separate sitemap for every language version, instead of creating one sitemap for the whole website.

There are two other, more complicated cases, for which you may want to have GEO targeting – website targeted in one country with different languages, and website with one language but different countries. Still, with the same method you could target these specific cases and even mix of them.

For the first one let’s say you have a website which targets Canada, but you have French and English languages. In this case you can create the language versions in folders, like: example.com/fr-ca/ and example.com/en-ca/.

For the second one – proceed the same way; for example – if you want to have 3 English versions for 3 different countries, let’s say Canada, UK and Ireland, you could locate them in folders like example.com/en-ca/, example.com/en-gb/ and example.com/en-ie/.

In both cases afterwards you need to verify them in Webmaster Tools and attach the targeted country from the settings menu. Often happens that at a time of website development there are not so many options available and you just create one /en/ folder, afterwards when the website expands you need to add more options. That’s why it is good to implement that type of structure from the beginning.

If there are several versions with one language but different countries they must have different unique content. Otherwise Google still see them as duplicate pages (whenever if they are GEO targeted or not), which could hurt your SEO! Even simple rewriting of the content is better than duplicate.

CONTACT DETAILS RICH SNIPPET

Beyond improving the presentation of your pages in search results, rich snippets also help users find your website when it references a local place. By using structured markup to describe a business or organization mentioned on your page, you not only improve the Web by making it easier to recognize references to specific places but also help Google surface your site in local search results. That’s why it is good to use Microdata / Microformat markup to your contact details.

For example – you have the following contact details:

<div>
My Company - Street name, Postal code, City - Country <br>
Phone: 01 234 5678
</div>

Instead you can use Microdata markup and wrap up the contact details like this:

<div itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/Organization">
<span itemprop="name" title="Name">My Company</span> - 
<span itemprop="address" itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">
<span itemprop="streetAddress" title="Address">Street name</span>,
<span itemprop="postalCode" title="Postal Code">Postal code</span>, 
<span itemprop="addressLocality" title="City">City</span> - 
<span itemprop="addressCountry" title="Country">Country</span>
</span><br>
<span itemprop="telephone" title="Phone">Phone: 01 234 5678</span>
</div>

This type of markup assures that Google knows which country your page targets. Adding contact details in your footer of every page seems small addition but it could have a huge impact on the Local Search.

For more detailed documentation on Organization Rich Snippets check here: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=146861.
Also you could check this Online Rich Snippet Generator, it’s a great tool.

Don’t use IP detection to list the address by visitor’s IP address. It could confuse the search robots and they could think, for example, that your Ireland pages are actually USA pages! Add the contact details as static content.

ALTERNATE TAG

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”X” href=””>

This method is relatively new but it gain popularity and Google suggest implementing it. The basic idea is that you must add a link tag in the section of your page, which point to the other versions of that page. This tag is used on a page level, so you must add it to all of your pages and list as many of them as different country pages you have of that page. It works for all case scenarios: generic language versions, “same language – different country” versions and “different language – same country”. However you must list every single variation. The method is not exactly GEO Targeting, it won’t help you to improve your rank, but it will help Google to serve the proper page in the results. Also it helps lowering the duplicate impact when there are several versions of the same page with same language, but targeting different countries.

Example use:
Let’s say we have page with 2 English versions, one Spanish and one French. The Spanish version target all Spanish speaking countries, one of your English versions targets Ireland, and the other one, together with the French versions targets Canada. If you implemented the folder structure described earlier your URL’s will look something like:

  • example.com/es/page1 – Spanish version
  • example.com/en-ca/page2 – English version for Canada
  • example.com/en-ie/page3 – English version for Ireland
  • example.com/fr-ca/page4 – French version for Canada

If you want to use the rel=”alternate” than you should include the tags in the following way:
In the Spanish version’s (example.com/es/page1) you need to add the alternate versions:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-CA” href=”http://example.com/en/ca/page2”>
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-IE” href=”http://example.com/en-ie/page3”>
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”fr-CA” href=”http://example.com/fr-ca/page4”>

Note that you should include only the alternate versions, but not the page on which you add the tags. At the same manner you should add the alternate links to all pages – in the English – Canada version you should add:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=”http://example.com/en/es/page1”>
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-IE” href=”http://example.com/en-ie/page3”>
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”fr-CA” href=”http://example.com/fr-ca/page4”>

And so on…

The hreflang attribute supports all ISO 639-1 codes for language and ISO 3166-1 alpha2 codes for country.

OTHER NOTES

There are several minor notes, which implemented could help even more for good Local Search Listings:

  • Use local slang in the content – Google is very good at refining local searches and even that small detail, as different using of the same word (like optimization vs. optimization for US vs. UK) could lead to better recognition of which page targets which country.
  • Use country keyword in the Title – The title tag is taken very seriously by Google, so if you include the country name within it this could lead to better local listings.
  • Use the same address format everywhere – No matter if it’s on your contact us page, on your organization rich snippet, somewhere in the content or in the social networks – try to use the same address everywhere. For example – don’t use “str.” on some places and “street” on other and without on third. Google is good in connecting these things, if it understood the targeted country on one of the places it will understand faster and easier that this applies for everywhere.
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epetkov

Founder at FortSEO
SEO Specialist, Web Marketer, part-time WP Design Freelancer. Otherwise regular guy who loves beer.

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