31 Aug 2010

Geographic target and your website Rankings (Google Webmaster Tools)

I have been wondering about how the “geographic target” setting (under site configuration, settings) in Google Webmaster Tools might affect a website’s search engine rankings (if at all) for a good nine months now. And I have finally reached the conclusion that the “geographic target” can influence Google SERPS quite drastically.

Keyword Ranking Graph from sheerseo.com

I was working on Search Engine Optimisation for a company that wanted to perform well in the US rankings (Google.com) and so I set the “geographic target” to “United States” on December 8th (1). By the 21st of December I had seen a massive general improvement across my keyword set for this website in the Google.com rankings. We had also just completed a very aggressive back link building campaign so it was impossible to isolate a clear cause and effect.

However, on the January 29th (2) I was instructed by a company director to remove the US reference from the Google SERPS. Google was appending "(us)" to results from this website and the director was concerned that leads from non-US regions would not click through. So, I removed the “geographic target” setting for this website from Google Webmaster Tools.

By early Feb, rankings for the keywords in my set had plummeted on Google.com. I suspected that the drop was caused by the “geographic target” change but there were other confounding factors (we lost links from a high authority site through down time on their side). On explaining the situation to the directors I was instructed not to revert the “geographic target” setting.

I continued with every day SEO but on the 11th of August (3) I “secretly” reset the “geographic target” back to “United States”. By the 30th of August the Google.com rankings were way up again! Fortunately, it seems that Google is not appending "(us)" to the results any more, so I should be able to keep my secret ;) I certainly don’t want to fiddle with the “geographic target” again, even though it would be an interesting exercise to challenge these "findings".

Note: “geographic target” can not (does not need to) be set for country specific domains such as .co.za .fr etc

Log data from Google Webmaster Tools

19 Aug 2010

Edit your Blogspot / Blogger Post Title Tag for Search Engine Traffic

It has always bugged me that my Blogspot title tags took the format of "richelectron: Blog Post Title" because this is not best practice in terms of SEO. Most relevant keywords should be grouped more towards the left of a title tag for best results to generate traffic from search engines. This means that Blogspot blogs are optimized more for their blog name rather than their individual post title keywords by default. i.e. A better title tag for this blog post in terms of SEO would be "Edit your Blogspot / Blogger Post Title Tag for Search Engine Traffic | richelectron" which is exactly what I have changed it to, and here is how to do it:
  • Login to your Blogspot dashboard
  • Click the Design tab, followd by "Edit HTML"
  • Click Download Full Template (as a backup)
  • Delete the following line from your template code

  • And replace it with this:

    <b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == "index"'> <title><data:blog.title/></title> <b:else/> <title><data:blog.pageName/> | <data:blog.title/></title> </b:if>
Click "SAVE TEMPLATE", followed by "View Blog" and you will notice that your blog post titles use a new format that should help to improve your search engine traffic.

p.s. Isn't it interesting that Blogspot is owned by Google and yet the blog post title tags are not optimized for search engines by default? Have you ever noticed that Blogspot posts do not have a meta description tag either?