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Written by Roger Montti –

Google’s John Mueller answered a question on Reddit about whether showing different content based on IP address of the site visitor affected SEO. His answer offered insights into Google’s crawling and indexing.

Showing Banners For Specific Countries

The person asking the question managed a website that wanted to show a banner on the side of the page with country-specific content. Their concern was how that might affect rankings in different countries.

Here’s the question:

“I got one question on how content for different geoip effect for seo?

Some marketers in my company asking me about to place side banner for users of certain geo ip – for example for UK visitors they want to show banner about event that coming in UK), but main geo for website: US.

Does it affect SEO for website overall? How Google classifies that type of placement? Is this kinda sort of cloaking (without purpose to cheat on google systems)?”

John Mueller’s Answer

The person asking the question asked three questions and Mueller limited his response to the one about how it affects SEO.

Mueller answered:

“Google generally crawls from one location – and that’s the content which would be used for search.

If you want something to be indexed, you need to make sure it’s shown there (or shown globally). The rest is up to you :-)”

Googlebot generally crawls from United States IP addresses and if it’s geographically blocked by IP address then it’ll switch over to an IP from another country.

How Google Classifies Side Banner

One of the questions that went unanswered was about how Google classifies the “placement” by which I assume the person means the content located in the sidebar.

This is what they asked:

“How Google classifies that type of placement?”

Assuming that the person is asking how Google classifies the content in a sidebar then the answer to that question is that Google identifies the main content of a page and more or less ignores the non-main content for ranking purposes.

We know that Google identifies the different sections of a webpage and one example is provided in an interview with Google’s Martin Splitt. Splitt talked about how Google identifies the different parts of the webpage like the main content, navigation, and other boilerplate so that it could score the different parts differently (“weighted” differently is how he described it).

Google then identifies where the main content of the page is and summarizes it into what he called the Centerpiece Annotation. Martin said that the Centerpiece Annotation is an identification of what the topic is.

In the context of the Reddit question Google would probably classify the banner in the side panel as not a part of the main content and consequently not use it for ranking purposes.

Is Changing Content Based On IP Address Cloaking?

Cloaking is a spam technique that in general identifies Googlebot by IP address and shows it content created specifically for Google and then shows different content for everybody else. Cloaking therefore is showing different content specifically for Google and everyone else.

That’s not the case with the scenario described by the Redditor.

Googlebot crawls from United States IP addresses so in general Google won’t crawl and index content that’s switched out for other countries. It will see and index only the United States content. Swapping out content based on the country origin of the site visitor doesn’t qualify as cloaking in the sense of cloaking for spam purposes either.

Read the post on Reddit:

Q: banners for certain geo-ip addresses? how it affect for seo?

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero



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