Earlier days Google was offering option for geographical targeting of websites in Webmaster Tools account. Google Geo targeting or geographic target setting is the option for webmasters to link targeted geographic location of traffic to their sites. This helps Google to determine the search results for a specific geographic location. However, Google changed the name of this option to “International Targeting” in latest Search Console account. Geographic setting is one of the tools Google uses to determine the top search results for a particular country hence Google search results will vary from country to country for the same keywords.
Domains and Geographic Settings
There are different top level domain (TLD) extensions available for webmasters to register a domain name. All the country specific domains like .us (Unites States), .in (India) or .ca (Canada) are by default linked to a particular country. Hence, there will not be an additional geographic targeting option required for these domains. This means for country specific domains you will not see a “Geographic Target” setting option in earlier Google Webmaster Tools. However, you may still see this option in Google Search Console.
The generic top level domains like .com, .net, .info or .org are not linked with any countries in specific. Hence Google provides an option to add a geographic target for the webmasters owning a generic top level domain.
If there is no geographic location set for a generic top level domain site in Search Console account then Google uses various other data like server location and information on Google Places before displaying it in the search result pages. If your site is not linked with any geography and you changed your hosting provider then it is recommended that you inform Google about the new location of your server through geographic target setting. This will help Google to re-determine the position of your site in the search results for geographically restricted searches.
How to Set a Geographic Target?
First, login to your Search Console account and select the site from dropdown. Remember, you can’t choose domain property for International Targeting. Search Console only supports individual domains for this setting. You need to have your site verified successfully in order to use this option.
The setting was different in old Webmaster Tools account:
- Click on the gear icon located at the top right corner of the site and select “Site Settings”.
- Set the Geographic target by selecting the country from the drop-down.
- Select “Unlisted” if you do not want to link your site with any of the geographic locations.
Below is the steps in latest Google Search Console account:
- Click on the “Legacy tools and reports” section and select “International targeting” option.
- This will open a new page showing “Language” and “Country” tabs. Language tab will show you the status of Hreflang tags on your site with errors.
- Click on “Country” tab and select the checkbox that shows “Target users in:”. It will open the dropdown for selection from which you can select the country for international targeting setting.
- Save your changes by clicking on “Save” button.
Example for Geographic Target Setting
Webmasters should remember that this geographic setting option is only used to determine the search results for Google and not used to differentiate language specific content. For example, if you have a site in Spanish it is not recommended to Geo target here for Spain or Mexico rather you can leave it as Unlisted. But if you have a real estate site in India and you think it is probably of no use to the users in other countries, then you can set the geographic target here as India.
Once you changed your geographic target settings, Google will send you a message about your change. You can also see it in “Messages” section of your Search Console account by clicking on the bell icon on top right corner.
Google will start showing the location you set in the search results. Here is an example of how a site geo targeted for US will show in the searches. It may take few weeks to few months time for Google to refresh all your indexed URLs and till the time you will see the mix of URLs without location and with location. Hence it is not recommended to change the locations frequently.
Note: Remember, Google Search Console shows international targeting as a legacy tool. Hence, you can expect Google to remove this tool in future as local searches are controlled through algorithms rather than setting in Search Console.