Top Online Retailers Not Showing Up in Google!

Google GlobeWhat?!! It’s true. Many of the biggest and most popular online retailers with fat SEO budgets are not showing up for their own names or valuable keywords in Google search results. Most don’t even know it. How can this be?

All the major search engines offer a .com search engine and a number of country-specific engines, like Google.ca, .co.uk, .com.au, .fr, .de and so on. These are local search engines, and often use geo-IP targeting to show the local search engine as the default when a searcher lives outside the United States.

If you’ve never seen a localized search engine, this is what it looks like:

Google.com.au

As you can see, a searcher has the option to restrict search results to only pages from his or her country. This is particularly helpful for searchers who are performing transactional searches – they’re looking for products to buy. Using the general “search the web” will often deliver US sites which requires the shopper to dig through the sites looking for shipping information and costs. Searching only pages from their native land, searchers can save time and discover online stores they purchase from over and over again.

Not only that, but if searchers are looking for your store name and can’t find your domain, you will lose traffic and conversions to pay-per-click ads, shopping engines and affiliates, reducing your profit margin. This should be a big concern for Zappos, who runs a Canadian version of its site. Despite it’s stellar word-of-mouth success, it does not appear in Google.ca “pages from Canada” search for “Zappos” or “Zappos Canada”:

Zappos Search Results - Canada

Zappos Search Results - Canada

Canada.zappos.com should appear #1 for both terms, as it’s considered a “vital” result for its brand name.

It does show up #1 or #2 in regular “search the web” results (users do not restrict to only their own country). But the issue is it’s not included in the “pages from Canada” database, so it will not appear for unbranded product searches, either. And according to Netconcepts research, unbranded search happens 40 times more often than searches for a specific store or brand.

While we’re at it, let’s pick on Apple too.

Apple Store Canada

D’oh!

But you don’t have to suffer the same fate. Google has provided a way to target your site content to different countries when you use:

  • different TLDs (top-level domains like site.co.uk and site.ie)

  • subdomains (canada.site.com, australia.site.com)
  • subdirectories (site.com/en/us/, site.com/en/uk/)

It’s easy, just sign up with Google Webmaster Tools if you haven’t already, and go to “Tools” and “Select Geographic Target”:

Choose Geographic Target

If you are using TLDs or subdomains, you will have to add and verify each separately. If you are using subdirectories, you can add them one by one and they will be auto-verified so long as your .com domain is verified.

Here’s more information on how to do this:

Please note that if you have a country-specific TLD like site.co.uk, you can only target to that country. If you want to target more you will need to set up subdomains or new TLDs for your brand. Keep in mind your click through will be lower if you use canada.site.co.uk – because the .co.uk tells searchers you are located abroad.

This is probably the only time you’ll hear me tell you “don’t be a Zappos.” Enjoy it while it lasts.

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7 Responses to “Top Online Retailers Not Showing Up in Google!”

  1. Ed Reeve says:

    Great article as ever.

    Is the same true of the other major search engines?

  2. n245 says:

    I am far from a top online retailer and more into the debt and debt management field, we have setup webmaster tools to alert google that we are a uk focused business and we were ranked in there at 7 on our keywords and the same position on the .com search but recently we dropped out of the uk rankings. Tbe address is a .com and hosted in the US because its cheaper, does anyone have any idea if there is any chance of us coming back into the UK rankings of should we take an action to do this like registering a co.uk address too?

  3. Hi n245,

    I would first double/triple check that your Webmaster Tools set up is correct.

    The .com/US hosting is likely your problem, though GWTools is supposed to circumvent that. I had an SEO client a while back that dropped out of .ca because it was hosted in the US. Switched hosts, boom, back in .ca.

    Best of luck.

  4. [...] other issues with your site so you can fix them well in advance of the holiday season. You can also geo-target your stores for better visibility in country-specific search [...]

  5. [...] or subdomain for your local sites (e.g. yoursite.com/canada or canada.yoursite.com), you can geotarget them through Google Webmaster Tools. But so far, Google’s the only search engine that allows you to do this. It won’t help you [...]

  6. Martin E says:

    Thanks for the tip on the Google Webmaster Tools geo-targeting.

    I wish I could select multiple countries. I have a web site that needs regional targeting for the north-east of Canada and the US.

  7. Try using geo meta tags too. Google have said that they don’t place much weight on geo tags which when analysed translates that they do actually recognise them. Other search providers such as Bing however are believed to take notice of them. With the Panda update affecting search results and bringing more directory listings onto page one Bing has increased it’s market share dramatically as end users feel that Google is delivering less relevant results. It’s worth making sure that you are appearing in the Bing search results and installing Bing Webmaster tools also.

    Geo Tags aren’t difficult to insert along with your other meta info. Do a search for Geo tags and you’ll find a couple of simple tutorials.

    Good luck

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