Server location and geotargetting/SEO

Published on November 20, 2012 by Frederik Denkens

Many people think that server location is still key for reaching a local market through the search engine. The truth is a bit more nuanced.

Google and other search engines attempt to make their search results as geographically relevant as possible for the visitor. A person searching from Belgium will mostly get hits from Belgian sites. An algoritm allows them to determine the target, geographical, market of a website (geotargetting).

Still being the dominant search engine, let’s take Google as an example. To determine the geotargetting of a site, it will try the following steps in descending order:

  • 1. The TLD that serves the site (.BE, .FR, etc)
  • 2. Google Webmaster profile for the site (the default in case of generic TLD’s like COM, ORG, etc)
  • 3. Location information on the website
  • 4. The IP address of the server (linking the server to a location)
  • 5. Other meta-information like Google Places, etc

Google doesn’t make it very clear what takes priority from step 3 onwards, but it is clear that server location (determined by the IP) is not the most important factor. Especially if you have a country-specific TLD and/or Google Webmaster profile for the site, server location is absolutely of no importance to SEO.  A similar mechanism exists at Bing and probably others too.

Off course there is another aspect to be considered with SEO that IS affected by server location: website loading performance. If you put your server infrastructure too far away from your visitors, performance will suffer. So will your search engine ranking. But this consideration is generally only relevant at a continental level.  For example, for Belgian visitors you can perfectly host from UK, Ireland, Amsterdam, Paris with negligible impact on site performance and thus search engine ranking. The choice of a reliable and high-quality infrastructure still remains off course.


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