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Location, Location, Location - Is Your Site Located Where Your Customers Are?

Aug 17, 2007
Another thing the web hosting company forgot to tell you... An aspect overlooked by many site owners, and one that gets minimal coverage in web design or SEO articles etc, is the importance of server location to your site rankings, traffic and consequent success. Most articles are written by web design & SEO practitioners in the USA, and are therefore written from "The Inside, Looking Out." However, if you happen to be like many site owners in the world, "On The Outside, Looking In," the view is slightly different!

Location, Localisation & SEO
The problem here is the "decentralisation" of search - the way in which the major search engines have split their indexes up into country-specific search opportunities. Google (and other SE's) know where you are because of the IP address allocated to your PC. They know this because IP addresses are allocated in numeric blocks or ranges, by country. There are significant impacts on both searchers, and on businesses, of this search decentralisation process. This is both a blessing and a curse, depending on where you are, where your site is, what you offer, where your customers are, and whether you are a searcher, or a site owner.

Location & Searchers
For a searcher in United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand, you will have noticed a while back that your Google sessions automatically default to Google.co.uk, Google.com.au, or Google.co.nz, depending on the respective country in which you reside. Searchers in the USA are blissfully unaware of this phenomenon... The results of your search will also be biased towards sites physically located within your geographic area. Therefore, if you were to do the same search on the different country-specific versions of Google, you would usually get different results - sometimes substantially different, depending on the competitiveness of the particular search within those countries, and globally.

Location, Site Owners & SEO
For a business located in the United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand, you are effectively competing on far more even terms with sites from your own geographic "web space" than previously. However, if you have a focus on delivering products or services within your own specific geographic region, its essential that your site's IP address be within the specific Country's IP Address Range. This means that your site should be physically located in a server in the UK, AU or NZ web space. If you've opted for cheap hosting on a server located in the USA, or Asia etc, you have effectively shot yourself in the foot, and severely prejudiced your chances of attaining top search engine rankings in your preferred web space.

Conversely, for a business located in the United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand, with a focus on delivering products or services in another specific geographic region, you should have your web site physically located on a server in that country to gain the most traction in your search engine rankings. In so doing, you should also ensure that your offshore site adheres to local language conventions, spellings and usage. E.g. if you are selling paint into the USA, you should use the Americanized "color" and not the Queens English "colour" as would be done in the UK or NZ.

How to Win The Global Localisation Game
If you are a business who has a significant actual or potential client base in more than one country, it makes sound business sense to also register www.yoursite.co.uk under www.yoursite.com.au and the other country variants you might require. You can then build a global network of mini-sites customised specifically for those markets. By careful linking between those sites, and making them complementary by ensuring that the content is not simply duplicated (and therefore in breach of Google's Webmaster Guidelines) you should be able to generate significant additional traffic and business.
About the Author
Ben Kemp is a free-lance search engine optimisation consultant and web designer. He offers free SEO articles & web design tips, see The SEO Guys Blog

Web: http://www.comauth.co.nz
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