Geotargeting Location by IP Address = SEO Death

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by andrewsho

Off Target

If you’re not a provider of local search services you may want to skip this one as it’s very inside baseball.

When I see someone blogging about geotargeting it usually refers to making sure that a site provides relevant information for the user’s physical location. However, some sites use a technique called “geotargeting location by IP address” to serve up different content to a user based on where the geotargeting software thinks the user is. The idea is that if the software thinks you’re in Tuscon then it will serve you Tuscon content. For the user it can make them feel like the page or site is tailored specifically to them.

This is all well and good except that I have seen this kind of implementation wreak havoc on site optimization, particularly on local search optimization.

The problem occurs when the geotargeting occurs on a single URL (i.e. the person in Tuscon is on the same page as the person in Fresno except each sees content specific to their location such as “best restaurants in…”). Search engine spiders tend to enter a site from a variety of different IP addresses/locations. So one day Google may think a URL is about Tuscon (because it entered via a Tuscon IP address) and another day it may think the URL is about Fresno (because it entered via a Fresno address). This causes two major issues:

  1. Google will rank the page (and probably the entire site) for the last location it identified since each page can only have a single location for any given session. So the site may have content for the entire country but it will likely only rank for one city at a time (usually Mountainview, CA – home of Googlebot’s main IP address).

  2. Users who click on a link from a search engine to the site and are not in the last location identified will have a jarring experience (e.g. someone traveling to Tuscon but living in Los Angeles will click on a Tuscon link in Google and might get Los Angeles content).

So if a product manager suggests you do some geotargeting by IP address you may want to make sure he/she thinks through this issue before proceeding. As you can see on Insider Pages, when we implemented geotargeting we did it only in the search box to avoid this issue.

If you are having problems with geotargeting on your site please drop me a email at localseo at


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