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Geolocation Via Ip Address


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#1 DarkLight

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 10:16 AM

Hi,

I am thinking of using geolocation via IP address for a large multi-national site. The idea would be that there is a link on the pages that allows users to change this selection if the geolocation doesn't work.

This is the situation:

The site is multinational and personalised, so depending on a users criteria (e.g. if they are a Student or a Teacher), and where they come from (Spain, Argentina etc) they will initially see different things on the homepage. There may also be pages that are only relevant to people visiting from particular countries, as well.

At the moment there are two possible solutions, firstly to have the homepage as a country select, where the user selects from a list which country they are from. This would then display information relevant to them, i.e. take them to their country's homepage within the domain. The other solution is to automatically detect where they come from and take them there automatically.

The second solution has advantages on pages where the page URL is accessed via a deep link, for example, and their version of the page is automatically shown.

I will post more details soon, but wondered what people's basic views were of these solutions, already I'm sure you can see the huge amount of problems with regards to SEO and usability this may cause.

My concerns are about the usability (using both ways) that people would access the site from a search engine. Also, if using the first way that users would have to choose their country when first entering the site, and also that they may have to choose their country when landing on a page via a deep link (from a search engine, or otherwise). This is because it could well effect the content that should be displayed. As an example (although a poor one), if they landed on the contact us page, it should display their local contact information.

Technically, the problems of serving content once the system knows where they are from does not pose a problem, it is really the usability and SEO problems that concern me at this time. Other problems are that some pages may only be accessed for specific languages, e.g. a particular piece of product marketing may only be relevant to someone in Spain, and therefore the page would only be linked to from the 'Spanish site'.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to reading any replies,

Andrew

#2 Black_Knight

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 11:16 AM

One thing to think about very early on is what location those search spiders are from.

Yahoo may at times during a single day get through its crawl list using spiders from server or data centres all around the globe, including Asia. Google does the same. In fact, all global search engines tend to 'spread the load' around the world, or otherwise spider mainly from one nation, yet serve results to all locations based upon that crawl.

There could be some serious issues here, especially if it leads to you needing to resort to 'cloaking' for spiders, and still being unable to make a single spider serve properly global results.

Trying to make one single URL serve a wide variety of customers can seem like a great idea, but it currently isn't the way the web works very well. It can give that one URL a lot of link popularity, of course, but it may miss out on most relevancy ranking.

#3 DarkLight

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 11:40 AM

Indeed, this is one of the problems I thought about that prompted me to post. I am hoping that the country select page, if linked to from all the pages even with IP geolocation, would act as a way for the spiders to search all the content on the site, regardless of their location. This does however pose problems, as it means that individual pages that should be country specific will probably not be deemed as relevant to that country in terms of Google's search results. In fact, I think it could mean that many versions of the same page could prospectively be served up?

#4 Black_Knight

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 10:59 PM

For international search presence, it is still pretty much essential to have the correct CCTLD (Country Code Top Level Domain) such as a .co.uk for the UK or a .de for Germany, .fr for France, etc.

How will your idea work with that, or are you already determined to ignore international search referrals?

#5 DarkLight

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 05:20 AM

The only thing I am determined to do, in all honesty, is have a highly usable site. The requirements dictate that the site should be multinational, we will be using a CMS so that departments across the world can have their own local versions of the site, as for CCTLD's I hadn't really thought about it, there is no reason we couldn't register a ccTLD for each 'local' version, but it isn't something I had thought of with all the other things going on. The site currently has a PR 7, so access to all the pages on the new site is obviously a must. At the moment, we have one person who thinks that the homepage should be a drop-down country select, something that I'm, going to have to fiercly discourage.

#6 Black_Knight

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 05:44 AM

A drop-down if made with CSS, and degrading gracefully for user-agents without CSS support isn't a no-no as such.

But the CCTLDs are pretty essential for organic search power multi-nationally, since virtually every country but the US has versions of the major engines that favour the local CCTLDs, and will even actively filter out many global sites if the user has selected "pages from my country" which many do in order to get prices in their own currency.

Here's an example, just from using different national versions of Google without selecting any special filters at all, and without changing/translating the keywords:
http://www.google.co...=french cuisine
http://www.google.fr...=french cuisine
http://www.google.de...=french cuisine
http://www.google.it...=french cuisine
http://www.google.co...=french cuisine
For me, only the UK results include the BBC in the top ten, the French results are the most different to everyone else of course, but no two results are identical just in the top ten. Imagine the differences in the top 50.

Thinking about whether you'll sacrifice a lot of international business by only having a global domain is quite fundamental, because the other way, having both, can lead to excessive duplicate content issues...

I'm not asking these questions to waste your time, but because it is impossible to give good advice without knowing which way you want to take this, and each choice opens a whole raft of other issues.

#7 DarkLight

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 07:37 AM

OK, I was thinking about it over lunch, and I am convinced that each of the local sites should be set up on a ccTLD, so I will ensure that the provider of the CMS software can cater for this. Thanks for the advice, it is also great because I can 302/303 the current ccTLD domains to the new ones.

So, assuming that the different local sites sit in their own ccTLDs, I'm still faced with some of the problems mentioned in my first post, such as whether or not to use IP geolocation to direct visitors of the .com site to their respective ccTLD and have a 'change your country' page, or to make the front page of the .com site a portal to all the ccTLDs (bearing in mind, this could be 100 or so). I'm already glad I asked this question here, but like you say this still opens a whole raft of other issues.

#8 Black_Knight

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 08:34 PM

My own temptation would be to have a 'global' domain page that offered all of the choices. This gives one very strong, linkworthy domain to be the central focus, which in turn lends its unified and consolidated strength to all the country-specific and sub-sites the company may have, both now and in future.

Automatic redirection would still cause spiders issues with missing certain countries at times, and makes it harder for visitors to just grab the central address from their browser.

What might be far better is to use IP-based geo-location to make the link to their own regional content highly prominent on the page, like a suggestion. I think that enhances the ease for the user, gives direction, without adding extra hurdles to the potential customer accessing the site while abroad on business, or otherwise over-ruling their ability to choose.

How does that idea sit with you?

Afterthought afterthoughtDon't forget that allowing a user to set their own 'preferences' can be a useful incentive to encourage more users to accept cookies, or create logins, meaning you can track more data and use that to further refine your entire web strategy. Google's search preferences are a great example of the simplicity and usefulness of such an approach.


#9 DarkLight

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 10:21 AM

That's an interesting idea, I'm still not sure how it could be implelented, you mentioned a CSS dropdown, I may have to investigate this... Still I personally prefer the auto-redirection on IP address, I think it makes one less thought process for the user (providing it works, in which case it maybe introduces one extra thought process). Maybe, with this respect it is more of a question of usability, I'm confident that the search engines would be able to crawl all the sites, as every page will have a link a to the page that has links to all the country sites. As for being able to grab the URL, I'm not sure if it's really important, as the country specific websites will contain all the information the user would need to know.

#10 DarkLight

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Posted 15 June 2007 - 07:38 AM

Thanks for the afterthough, by the way, it is one of the key features we are looking at, is having personalisation of pages dependant on preferences set. We may even have areas implicitly set by user activity, much like Amazon or the BBC do. I had a look at what some other big companies do with regards to the selection of user geolocation:

http://www.dell.com/
http://www.sony.com/
http://www.expedia.com/

http://www.lge.com/ / http://www.lge.com/html/gate.html
http://www.fujifilm.com/

The top three are auto-direction via IP options, the bottom two offer something more interesting, and possibly more user-friendly than the old drop-down solution.

Cheers.

Edited by DarkLight, 15 June 2007 - 07:39 AM.


#11 A.N.Onym

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 05:26 AM

Upon choosing a domain name, we (as in, the boss) have (hopefully, temporarily) decided on using a .ru domain for a US-targeted website. Since we plan to have two versions (English/Russian), redirecting visitors per IP addresses seems like an obvious decision.

How safe is this?

Will there be problems with missing some IPs of the spiders to mess up the SERPs/SE traffic altogether?

Thanks.

P.S. I know, I am now trying to convince the decision maker(s) to start with the .com domain.

#12 iamlost

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 10:38 AM

How safe is this?

Will there be problems with missing some IPs of the spiders to mess up the SERPs/SE traffic altogether?

* a lot safer than url sniffing for dotcom and dotca :) The geolocation difference should be great enough that sniffing should work well.
* the SEs still exempt different language sites from duplicate content so there may be some direct competition in language neutral SERPs.
* clear language rediect option available on all pages would help alleviate any misses.

However:
* I am greatly surprised that a site aimed at Americans would start with a cctld, especially one many Americans view with suspicion - cold war, pr0n, crackers, etc. - they are a surprisingly insular bunch (not those in our business, but generally). IMO a very bad critical ROI decision.

* I trust 'the boss' at least has the dotcom registered and ready for whenever. Be highly embarrassing and painfully expensive to neglect that.

#13 A.N.Onym

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 09:28 PM

The .com domain, matching the company name, has advertising on it. Last time we contacted the owner they said $50k.

I don't fear duplicate content, but G placing the English language site in G Russia. Considering the domain is .ru, has and will be getting Russia-located links, we have all the chances to get there, even if geolocation works fine. The only cure is a huge amount of US-based links, but I think a .ru domain might cause a problem here.

A link to redirect per language selection is good, but a) doesn't solve indexing issues and B) isn't a very user-friendly way to present language-specific information. Ideally, we'd want .com for US and .ru for local audience, but that's ideally.

That's what I said (even in more reserved words) about using .ru for the US audience, but he countered it with "we have great relationships with our clients, they understand the whole thing, etc". That might be true, except that the other half of the US still relate Russia with barbarians.

#14 iamlost

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 09:47 PM

That might be true, except that the other half of the US still relate Russia with barbarians.

Not just the Russians; we Canucks live in igloos and drive our dogsleds to work...

If the .com is impractical then why not cheat a bit and pick up a .ca or .co.uk? Americans expect both to be in English and have a reasonable tolerance for us. I see a slightly less type-in drop off rate than to .org or .net because they (Americans) are already thinking 'foreign' with Canada and the UK negating some of that automatic .com addition.

Good luck.
Internationalisation knowledge is a rare commodity. You are positioning yourself well for the future of the web.

#15 bobbb

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 10:48 PM

we Canucks live in igloos

...and those of us south of 60 live in teepees. I was once asked if we had electriity but that was a while ago eh

#16 A.N.Onym

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 12:07 AM

iamlost, thanks again. I didn't think about .ca or co.uk at all, though they don't particularly relate to anything specific we offer (though US is our primary goal, we can serve anyone else). I am still shooting for a short verb .com that is targeted at our customers, but the boss doesn't like it for one reason or another.

Yeah, international search optimization is fun, but I don't see anything complicated here. Maybe because I haven't created an UK or Austrlian site and matched the culture, I guess.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 15 April 2008 - 12:08 AM.


#17 JohnMu

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 05:06 AM

Hi Yura
Personally, I would think that if your main market is in the US, a domain with a .ru TLD is probably not the best choice.

Google generally handles geotargeting based on the following factors:
1. If the domain has a country-code top-level-domain, this will generally determine geotargeting.
2. For generic TLDs we check where the server is located based on the IP address and use that as a factor.
3. For generic TLDs you can also set geotargeting manually with our Webmaster Tools. You can also use them to set geotargeting for subdomains and subdirectories.

If your main domain is on the .ru ccTLD, that would generally give us the signal that you are mainly targeting that country. This is also something the foreign novelty domain names may have problems with.

Also from a user's point of view, I would probably prefer to see a site on a generic TLD than one on a foreign country-specific TLD when searching.

I also see some potential issues regarding your choice of redirecting based on the user's IP address: assuming a user in Russia finds your English page in the search results, would he be automatically redirected to the Russian versions? That could be very confusing to the user -- not to mention a search engine crawler. If a user finds your pages through a search, I feel he should be directed to the pages that he has searched for, not to a different version. We can generally expect a user to click on the search result that best matched what he was looking for - if he wanted a Russian page, I feel fairly confident that he would have searched for one :infinite-banana:. Living in multi-cultural Europe, this is a bit of a pet-peeve of mine: I want to see the result I click on, not something else. If the site has various versions, let me choose when I get there.

Hope it helps & good luck with your endeavor!

John

#18 A.N.Onym

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 05:17 AM

Hi, John :infinite-banana:

You only forgot for a second that for ccTLDs you can't change geolocation, at least according to Google FAQ.

With redirection, I thought that SEs would serve the right version anyway. That would cover the most of the visitors, at least. Then again, you are right. A visitor from Russia can go to Google.com and use English language to find something (esp. smth that isn't that spread in Russia or a programming language).

Frankly, I don't know how to deal with this. It can get very complicated.

Offering an option to choose the language, though obvious, will be detrimental to the non-primary (Russian) visitors. I'd rather get a second .ru domain just for the Russian audience, frankly speaking.

#19 JohnMu

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 08:34 AM

Hi Yura

If you have enough localized content, I think using two domain names (or subdomains/subdirectories, eg: www.domain.com vs www.ru.domain.com or www.domain.com/ru/) is a good way to go. I personally prefer to be able to change between the different language versions by clicking a link, many sites use little flags in the header somewhere.

Regarding the redirects: Just recently I followed a link on someone's blog to an electronics manufacturer which I thought might be interesting. However, instead of taking me to the (English) product page, it redirected me to the entry page of the website for Germany (I'm not even in Germany) -- where the product I was interested in wasn't even available. How can that be good for business? Now imagine it the other way around and remember that most search engine crawlers are based in the US: should they all visit the generic US-page instead of a high-quality German product page? It's never good to confuse your visitors :infinite-banana:

John

#20 bwelford

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 09:28 AM

It sounds like a tough one, Yura. I think John is clearly the real expert here as far as Google goes and there are some good suggestions in the above.

One thing I think your boss should be aware of is the power of the Internet to bring prospects to your website. These prospects may know nothing at all of your company. If the totality of impressions they get is favourable, then they will do further exploration and may move down through the sales funnel. I would think a safe assumption is that the volume of such prospects is a significant multiple of your existing customers. So look at all the assumptions you will make about domains, etc. through the eyes of these attractive prospects.



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