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Google’s View on Geo-Based Redirection and Geolocation SEO | Blog | IP Geolocation API

Google’s View on Geo-Based Redirection and Geolocation SEO

Geo-based redirection is a much-debated subject in the realm of search engine optimization (SEO).
The majority of experts see no problem with the practice; however, a small minority believe that
geo-based redirection could lead to de-indexing and thus impact website rankings.

This post aims to clear up the confusion over these opposing views. Read on to learn more about
Google’s advice on geo-based redirection (also known as “geolocation SEO”), as well as the
search engine authority’s recommended best practices.

What’s the Concern with Geolocation SEO?

Geo-based redirection or geolocation SEO, also known as “cloaking” or “IP delivery,” is the
practice of redirecting users to another website version based on their IP address or
geolocation. The debate lies in the fact that when search engine bots or spiders crawl a
particular page on your site, they may occasionally see a different version than what humans
will.

Now, Google has explicitly mentioned that you would want to show consistency in the way you
display content
. More specifically, it wants site owners to treat bots the same way they treat
site visitors.

What does Google mean by this statement? Like user agents or devices, bots have their respective
IP addresses, too. Most bots that Google uses to crawl sites come from the U.S.; thus, their IP
addresses are mostly associated with IP ranges from the country. If you prevent users from a
particular country, say, the U.S., from accessing your content, then your server should
automatically also block bots from the same source.

Examples of IP-Based Redirection

Cloaking is generally frowned upon, however, it is necessary in some cases. If you don’t know
your users (i.e., when they don’t allow you to set cookies), the only way that you can identify
them is through their IP address so you can redirect them to their desired pages. Many big-name
companies do this
, from The New York Times to Amazon and even Google for different reasons.
These include the following scenarios:

Cloaking has a bad reputation because many blackhat SEO specialists abused the tactic to make
sites rank in the past. Rogue SEO users utilized the technique deceptively to show bots
keyword-padded content, often fabricated and plagiarized, to boost their site rankings. It
stopped working, however, when Google rolled out algorithm updates in 2011 (Panda) and 2012
(Penguin).

However, Google’s new search filters don’t necessarily penalize sites that implement cloaking. As
long as the goal falls within whitehat territory, such as improving user experience (as opposed
to pointing users to a malware-ridden site), geo-based redirection is fine so long as users
stick to best practices.

Geo-Based Redirection Best Practices

It’s best to err on the side of caution by sticking to established geolocation SEO practices that
major brands also observe. Here are some best practices from Google and other industry experts
for site owners that host locale-adaptive pages or smart content:

Where IP Geolocation API Fits In

IP Geolocation API allows marketing professionals and web developers to gain deeper insights into
their target users with location-based intelligence. With it, they can pinpoint the geographic
location where users are from to enhance their experience. The API lets users identify visitors’
country, region, city, time zone, postal code, and geographic coordinates by using their email,
IP address, or a domain as search terms. It can also help with:

1. Dynamic creatives: With a creative management platform (CMP), marketers
can create localized dynamic ad banners for their sites by using a visitor’s IP address as a
touchpoint. IP Geolocation API can retrieve the location data to choose the right banner
settings. A meta tag or script only needs to be added to an individual page to show the
right banners to users; you don’t need to point users to other page versions.
2. Behavioral prospecting: Marketing professionals can also use location
data derived from IP Geolocation API to show dynamic creatives to profile users. This
experiment has many benefits, such as let consultants trace the path users took to land on
their sites and find out what they were searching for. They can also use the data to attract
new audiences and focus on the ones who are likely to convert.
3. IP-based redirection: Your business operations need to be capable of
redirecting users based on their IP addresses. You can do that using a third-party
geo-redirect tool. IP Geolocation API can be integrated into this tool to automatically
determine your site visitors’ IP addresses and show them the intended smart content for
them.

Geo-based redirection or geolocation SEO rules can baffle even the most seasoned marketer. IP
delivery is very tricky, and unless you know the ins and outs of IP-based redirection, you will
have to redirect users the conventional (i.e., Google’s) way. Should you have any questions on
the subject and the use of IP Geolocation API in that context, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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