Using the international targeting feature in Google Search Console, also known as “geo-targeting”, can hurt your search rankings if you’re trying to reach a wide audience.
This topic was discussed during the Google Search Central SEO Business Hours Hangout recorded on December 31st.
An SEO named Aleem Bawany joins the live stream to ask Google search attorney John Mueller why a younger sibling site is outperforming its main site.
The main site, Pwani says, posts news content for a general audience, which is sometimes republished on its sister site.
Although the main site is the news source, it is the smaller site that achieves better rankings.
After looking at the site, Mueller says this could be caused by Search Console’s international targeting settings.
See Mueller’s full answer in the section below.
How geotargeting can negatively affect rankings
Mueller personally looked at the site and ruled out any major issues that might hinder the site’s visibility in search results, such as manual penalties or spammy links.
What he noticed is that the site’s international targeting settings in Search Console are set to Pakistan.
It is fine if the primary goal is to rank in Pakistan, but it may negatively affect the ranking in other countries.
“The only thing I’ve noticed is that geotargeting is set up in Search Console for Pakistan. I don’t know if it’s by design or not, if you’re trying to do that. If you want to build a general English language news site, maybe it makes more sense to turn off Turn on geotargeting. So that might be something that can help you.”
If you want to target a global audience with your website, Mueller says you should “definitely” turn off international targeting in Search Console.
“When it comes to search, if you want to target countries other than Pakistan, like a general English-speaking news site, I would definitely stop that. Because that can have an impact there in that it really focuses on Pakistan and then it focuses a little bit on other countries.”
Bouani follows up by asking Mueller how long it will take for the change to be reflected in Google search results.
Mueller says it can take anywhere from a week to two months.
Since the site in question publishes news content, the change is likely to appear in search results faster than other types of sites.
“I suspect it will be anywhere from a week or two, maybe a month or two. That’s kind of the time frame I think it takes for something like changing your geotargeting setting.
In terms of the news website, I suspect it’s going to be a little bit faster than usual, just because with a news website we’re going to focus on the newer content and with the newer content we’re going to see setup pretty quickly.
So maybe it’s more on the shorter side for news sites, but I don’t know all the systems that are involved in geotargeting settings changes.”
To hear the full discussion, watch the video below:
Featured image: Screenshot from YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral, January 2022.