One of the cardinal rules of SEO is to make sure you serve the same content to Googlebot that you serve to end users. Many years ago this used to be a spam technique where it would show Googlebot one version of a webpage, while sending the users to completely different version, often that had nothing to do with what Googlebot thought it did.
So if you're using geo-targeting in order to serve country-specific content to the end-user, how should you handle this? That's the topic of the latest webmaster help video.
Using Geo-detection technique is against Google, I am offering the useful information (price, USP's) to the users based on the Geo-location, will Google consider this as a Spam i.e. showing X content to SE and Y content to user.
Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts explained exactly how geo-targeting should be used by webmasters so that there are no problems from a Google penalty perspective.
Geolocation is not spam. As long as you are showing "oh someone is coming from a French IP address and let’s direct them to the French version of my page or the French domain for my business", that is totally fine. "Someone comes in from a German IP address I’ll redirect them over to the German version of my page" that’s totally fine.
He also made it clear that you shouldn't treat Googlebot any differently than you would at ordinary user coming into your website.
So if Googlebot comes in, you check the IP address, and imagine we’re coming from the United States, just redirect Googlebot to the United States version of the page, or the dot-com, or whatever it is you would serve to regular United States users. So geolocation is not spam."
Cutts also said that Google treats traffic differently based on geolocation, "so that if the user comes in, they send them to what they think is the most appropriate page based on a lot of different signals, but usually the IP address of the user."
Now comes into the gray area, when it comes to the different content you're serving to Googlebot versus the end user. Cutts said:
Showing X content to search engines and Y content to users, that is cloaking, that’s showing different content to Google than to users, and that is something I would be very careful about.
But. as long as you’re treating Googlebot just like every other user, whatever IP address they come from when you’re geo-locating, as long as you don’t have special code that looks for the user agent of Googlebot or special code that looks for the IP address of Googlebot, and you just treat Googlebot exactly like you would treat a visitor from whatever country were coming from, then you’ll be totally fine.
Because you’re not cloaking you’re not doing anything different for Google, you’re doing the exact same thing for Google that you would do for any other visitor coming from that web address. As long as you handle it that way you’ll be in good shape you won’t be cloaking and you’ll be able to return nicely geo-located pages for Google and search engines without any risk whatsoever.
So when it comes to geolocation, you'll be fine as long as you make sure that what you serve to Googlebot is the same as what you would serve to a user from the same country that Googlebot is coming from.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!