How much should we rely on the accuracy of Google’s location data? This is a question that Steve Cameron of Advent Communications wants to know and is seeking your help to find out. Cameron has set up a quick survey in which participants can share their experience with Google geotargeting.

So far the results have been mixed. While some people claimed that Google was spot on, others voiced that the targeting was within a 25 mile radius of their actual location. Unfortunately, for others the identified location was thousands of miles from the actual one. More data is needed for proper analysis and Cameron’s test is still in the preliminary stages.

geotargeting SEM

How to Partake in the Survey?

Go to Are You Hiding from Google? and follow the instructions specified on the website. There is an instructional video, as well. In order to complete the test you would also need access to your Google Analytics account, preferably for a low-traffic website to make it simpler to identify your own visit to the website.

If you’re hoping to make a change to how Google operates and let your voice be heard, we recommend you take this test.  We will update you once the survey results have been finalized and collected.

How is Geotargeting Done?

When a search engine tried to determine a user’s geographic location, it usually does it via the user’s IP address. In theory, an IP address should be associated with a physical location or address.

The accepted wisdom is that while the IP geolocation is not perfect, it is overtly accurate. Scholarly estimates reach anywhere between 60% and 95% in accuracy rates. The problem is that the actual accuracy of IP geotargeting is nowhere near the estimates being conjured.

Why is the data not accurate? To illustrate our point we use eCommerce sites that use geotargeting to serve different customers in multiple countries as an example. The problem is that Google crawlers crawl websites from an IP address based in California. As a result, some website that employ geotargeting serve only Googlebot content intended for customers in the United States. Content intended for customers in other countries do not get crawled and have no chance of being included in Google’s search results.

2015 Update

In January, 2015, Google announced its aim to overcome these challenges and enable more multinational sites to rank Google’s search results. The new configurations include the following.

  • Geo-distributed crawling, where Googlebot would start to use IP addresses that appear to be coming from outside the U.S., in addition to the current IP addresses that appear to be from the U.S. that Googlebot currently uses.
  • Language-dependent crawling, where Googlebot would start to crawl with an “Accept-Language” HTTP header in the request.

If Google’s algorithm detects that your site requires one of these new crawler configurations to more thoroughly index it, the new configurations will be deployed automatically. If Google’s efforts are not helping you, it is time to voice it

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