Google Search Console location targeting can hurt search rankings

Using Google Search Console’s international targeting feature, also known as “geo-targeting”, can hurt search rankings if you’re trying to reach large audiences.

This topic is discussed during the Google Search Central SEO Office Hours Hangout on December 31.

An SEO named Aleem Bawany joins the livestream to ask Google search attorney John Mueller why a smaller sibling site outperforms its main site.

Bawany says the main site posts topical content for a general audience, which is sometimes reposted on the sister site.

Although the main site is the source of the news, it is the smaller site that gets the most favorable rankings.

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After viewing the site, Mueller says this could be happening due to the international targeting settings in Search Console.

See Mueller’s full answer in the section below.

How geo targeting can negatively impact rankings

Mueller has personally reviewed the site and has ruled out any major issues that could delay the site in search results, such as manual penalties or spam links.

What he noticed is that the international site targeting settings in Search Console are configured for Pakistan.

It’s fine if the main goal is to rank in Pakistan, but it might negatively impact rankings in other countries.

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Mueller states:

“The only thing I noticed is that you have set up geo targeting in Search Console for Pakistan. I don’t know if it’s on purpose, if it’s something you’re trying to do. If you want to build a general English news website, it probably makes sense to turn off location targeting. It 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.

“On the search side, if you want to target countries other than Pakistan, like a generalist English news site, I would definitely turn that off. Because it can have an effect there in that it really focuses on Pakistan and then focuses slightly less on other countries. “

Bawany goes on to ask Mueller how long it would take for the change to be reflected in Google’s search results.

Mueller says it could take from a week to a few months.

Since the site in question publishes topical content, it is likely that the change will be visible in search results more quickly than with other types of sites.

“I guess it will be anywhere from a week or two, to maybe a month or two. So that’s kind of how long I suspect it takes for something like the geo-targeting setting to change.

As for a news website, I guess it will be a bit faster than usual, just because with a news website we would be focusing on the newest content and with the content the most recent, we would see the tuning very quickly.

So probably shorter for news sites, but I’m not familiar with all of the systems involved in changing geo targeting settings.

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To listen to the full discussion, see the video below:


Image shown: Screenshot from YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral, January 2022.