Common issues plague the search space within the global search market. The most common of these issues occurs when a U.S.-based company expands globally. While this company may have an extreme advantage in the U.S. with both brand and search engine presence, these companies typically spend little or no time with their expansion plans overseas.
For example, adding a link to bring a user to a different database. Let's look at the UK. A cookie may be set up when a user clicks on the link, which will then bring the user to a localized session. This session may be optimal for their needs, but search engines won't accept the cookie and won't travel down such a path.
The only way a search engine can determine if a particular page or "site" should be listed within a specific country is seen by one of two options:
- The domain name or top-level domain. Most countries require address verification during the registration process in order to deliver a local domain.
- Location of the hosting environment. Each country has been assigned IP ranges. These pools of ranges are then passed down to hosting companies and providers of Internet access. Search engines are able to determine which data centers they belong to based on a check to see if they are within a given range.
Google has provided a service within the Google Webmaster Tools that helps Webmasters tag their site(s) to a specific country. This can be especially helpful if a Webmaster or company is using sub-domains that may or may not be hosted in a single country.
A few things to consider when making a decision to either keep your hosting in either a single country or multiple countries:
- Search engines like Google commonly have local data centers. They may not crawl a site completely from this location, but it's extremely likely that they'll calculate the user experience based on a local attempt. Thus, if you don't have a dedicated pipe to this market and you're competing in an aggressive space, you may want to consider other options -- especially if you wish to compete with other local companies and or services, which may be based out of the specific market you're looking at. The operations department within your company may consider this to be a low priority. Thus, research and educate these teams on what the possible upside and or ramifications of their choices may be.
- Another extremely important note: if you move a domain from one IP to another, you'll likely reset "filters" that may throw your site out of the index for a period of time. Take care in any location change and calculate a loss in rankings with any major decision you might make.
In conclusion, it's important to keep an eye on the user experience and make sure that everyone can get to the pages in a reasonable amount of time. Anything over one second is too slow, so try to keep your latency below 500 milliseconds for optimal coverage within Google.