Three Easy Ways to Geotarget Your Search Results

by on 04/02/2009 • 7 Comments | SEO

We’re here sitting in sunny (read: humid) Ft. Lauderdale and the subject of geotargeting came up. Why? Because we’re trying to find a spa to go to later, a place to go eat, cute places to shop…and all our results are different. Google knows we’re in Florida.

It’s not such a big deal for us, but let’s look at it from a different angle. Ready for some fun?

You’re an SEO (congrats on your recession-proof career!) living the high life in Los Angeles and you have a client in Phoenix, AZ who wants to rank for [pool contractors]. You SEO his site, bust your butt and get him ranking in the top five for [pool contractors]. You’re stoked. Even better, you know that he’s going to be stoked. You call him all excited and he practically trips over himself to go check it out for himself. He looks…and he’s not there. Now he’s mad.

What happened?

What happened is that he’s looking at a completely different set of results because Google considers pool contractors to be a local service. As a result, they’ve localized the results. Makes sense.

Google’s goal is to serve users with the most relevant results possible. That means bringing in personalized and geotargeted results for every query that it works to do so. And service-type queries absolutely match that description. They’re geotargeting results so that they’ll be catered to someone in the city they’re in because they know that’s what a user is ultimately looking for. They want contractors in their area. They want a plumber in their town.

It’s great for users, but for you as an SEO, it may pose a problem. If you’re doing SEO for a small company, you need to set the results so you know what their target market is seeing. And chances are, that’s a pretty small radius right around where they’re located. It’s not where you’re located.  You’re seeing completely different results…unless you change your location.

There are a few ways that you can do this.

  1. Poor Man’s Geotargeting: Simply log into Google and manually change your location to that of your clients. The problem with this is that if you’re searching Google while logged in, Google will be tracking and customizing your results for you. To make sure they don’t, add the parameter below to your search string:

    &pws=0

    Once you do that, you’ll be able to get results like you’re in that city without “messing up” the results with your search history and personalization.

  2. Use a Proxy Server: Use a proxy to change the IP address of your computer. If you don’t know how to do this, you can read up on how to set up a proxy. Once you’ve got that under your belt, plugins like SwitchProxy for FireFox will allow you to switch back and forth between proxies.
  3. Use a Toolbar: Use a toolbar like the SEM ToolBar offered by Bruce Clay that will allow you to easily specify what proxy server should be used to access the target search engine. It’s a quick and easy way to analyze search results from a preferred location without having to get your hands dirty in the technical stuff.

If you’re an SEO dealing with clients, especially on a local level, being able to see the same results your clients see (and their customers) is absolutely imperative. If you don’t know what your client’s target audience is seeing, then you can’t help them compete.

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

7 thoughts on “Three Easy Ways to Geotarget Your Search Results

  1. Good article. Geo (IMHO) represents a large portion of who needs the most help (small local businesses). Nice points on making sure you are seeing what G is showing locally.
    ~ Jim

  2. What do you think about the &gl=us operator for those living outside USA. I have done that on multiple occasions checking rankings with US clients chatting online with me, and we get the same results almost 90% of the times, and a variation of maybe 2-3 rankings in the remaining 10% or so.

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