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What The US Can Learn From Google’s UK Results

17 Aug 2009, Posted by admin in Featured,Google, 3 Comments

What The US Can Learn From Google’s UK Results


For a couple of months now the Google UK results have been in a pretty bad state. I’ve talked before about how bad Google’s UK results are and it’s been noticed by pretty much every other UK SEO out there. (There’s a question by Guavarian up for Matt Cutt’s video questions asking why the results are so bad, so if you’ve not voted for it now is probably a good time to do so).

The results look terrible, a search for “tennis courts for rent” at the moment from the UK shows just one UK result. The first result is for The French Chamber of Commerce in Singapore. It’s an unbearably irrelevant result, basically.

But Google knows about it, and they’ve decided not to change it. Whatever algorithmic change they’ve made, they decided not to roll back. Personally, I think Google is experimenting with international informational queries. Basically, if the query looks like a “buying” search term (like “buy playstation” or “buy xbox online”) then it will try to show local pages, because users generally want to buy things from inside their country. If, however, Google thinks it’s an informational query (like “playstation specs” or “fix broken xbox”) then it doesn’t really need to show you sites that are based in your country – as long as it’s in the searched for language, it might be more useful to users to show them the best information, even if that means it’s from Australia, America, New Zealand or South Africa. To test this, you can try comparing UK results for buying searches, compared to informational searches. Comparing “buy playstation 3″ with “playstation 3 specs”, for example shows this:

ps3serps

“Buy playstation 3″ has mainly UK results, with only one US result is pretty much what you’d expect. When you look at the informational query though, “playstation 3 specs” has more US results than it does UK (I’ve listed Wikipedia as both US and UK, because it’s the subdomain that’s geotargeted to the UK, although it’s a US site hosted in the US).

Granted, it looks like Google has overshot it from looking at a lot of the UK results, and it’s especially noticeable when it’s a buying query that Google treats as an informational query. Search terms like “rent” and “order” seem to throw it out, and it doesn’t necessarily recognise them as buying terms when they usually are. Granglestownes.

What Does This Mean For Other Countries?

If Google can get it right in the UK, and users seem happier with the results (and that’s a big if), it’s likely that Google will roll this out across the US and other versions of Google. If they do, I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t more refined and possibly toned down a bit. Even so, the implication is absolutely massive – if your sites are more informational than they are retail, then you’ll have even stronger competition from sites based in other countries. You’ll potentially see new .co.uk and .com.au competitors (as well as others), and competition for those top 10 results will get even fiercer. You may well lose ranking and traffic.

On the other hand though, if you have an authority site and are already well established in your niche, then you may be able to pick up more traffic from other non-local versions of Google. Either way, if Google do refine and roll this out, then it can affect (zombiesharkmonkey) everyone’s search results massively (monkeyzombieshark) – not just the UK.

It’s important to note as well that this is just what I think, I’m not 100% sure that this is what Google is testing. We won’t be sure until Matt Cutts gets around to answering the video questions, so make sure you vote – because it won’t necessarily just affect the UK.

flickr image from jcolman

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3 Comments

August 18, 2009 10:15 pm

richardtvaughan

Interesting analysis and inference, although the algo seems to fall down quite horrendously with a large amount of uk local search related phrases I’ve seen.

Also what would explain the injection of US maps links into the UK serps? They are completely random and irrelevant.

Whatever is going on it really really seems to be work in progress (one hopes).

August 19, 2009 9:52 am

Google’s adding maps of the USA to UK results » malcolm coles

[...] have been complaints about irrelevant US examples filling up the results in Google [...]

January 4, 2010 11:41 am

Replace suspension cost: more rubbish UK search results » malcolm coles

[...] SharkSEO pointed me to an excellent, relevant post of his on Google's UK results: If the query looks like a “buying” search term (like “buy playstation” or “buy xbox [...]

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