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Geo-Targetting

Owen Jones

Geo-Targetting

It seems that everything on the Internet is geo-targetted these days. Just in case you are not sure what I am talking about, I mean that advertisers (and others) first check where your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is located by reading IP address in the message header and then assume that you are a national of that country.

They then tailor the message or its advertising content based on the geographical location of the IP. This means that if your ISP is in France, you will receive adverts in French or about France. Not only that, but search engines like Google will reroute your searches through the search engine of that country resulting in the delivery of different content.

So, If you are French doing a search on a Spanish city over the border, you will not be allowed to use the Spanish form of Google, you will have to use the French version, which will have different priorities (it will favour businesses located in France).

This is bad enough, but if you are an International user of the World-Wide-Web trying to do research on the, say, American market, from, say, Europe, you will not be able to use Google.com, you will have to use your local version. If you are trying to find out how your website ranks on Google.com, you cannot, you will have to check it on your local Google.fr or .de or .co.uk or whatever and the results will be vastly different.

Google has also said that it reads the suffix of a web site and assumes that that web site targets that country. However, that is not necessarily true. I have a web site called http://welsh-products-online.co.uk which is meant to provide information for Welsh people living abroad. Why would it want to reach Welsh people living in Wales? They can just walk down to the shops!

Now that site will rank very low on foreign search engines. In order to rank highly in the USA, it would have to be welsh-products-online.com and in France, it would have to be welsh-products-online.fr etc. This is a ridiculous situation, which has been brought about by geo-targetting.

Google says that you can edit your Google profile and turn geo-targetting off, but it does not work well. Firefox offers users the chance not to tell others where you are, but that does not work either. I hate geo-targetting. You may have noticed the following effect.

I live in Thailand, but do not speak Thai, I am British, but no matter which suffix I use on Google (.com, .co.uk), I get results in Thai, which are of no use to me. Geo-targetting and geo-location are very frustrating. However, it is not only users who suffer. Advertisers do too.

Most of the web sites that I use are American or British, but most of the ads that I see on those sites are in Thai, which I cannot read and so they sell nothing to me at all.

Geotargetting is here to stay and no matter what Google or Firefox says, the genie is out of the bottle now and no-one can stuff it back in there again.

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