Google UK SERPs update from Matt Cutts


Looking for information on Google’s Panda update in the UK? Check out our latest blog on it.

Having been blessed by scorching sunshine over the past week in Lanzarote, I returned home last night to find that Matt Cutts had delivered yet another Google Webmaster entry that discusses the state of Google’s UK SERPs. Back in June 2009 there was a major shake up in the Google UK that saw the inclusion of non relevant foreign websites that were ranking ahead of UK specific website. The timing of the video could not have been any better, considering only last week I noticed a number of strange results in the Movies sector..

The chart below is the original chart that clearly identifies the surge by a number of authority websites (IMDB), however for a completely irrelevant audience:

Foreign IMDB websites ranking in Google UK

For those of you who aren’t familiar with our charts – the image above highlights five URLs for the keyword term Movies from March 16th 2010 to April 19th 2010 in Google UK. As you can clearly see there has been a sharp rise for the Italian, Spanish, French and German URLs in this time period. I even documented on my Twitter account that I’d noticed five IMDB results on page one in Google UK! If we take a look at a more up to date chart, we can see that the URLs have dropped from the top one hundred all together:

Up to date IMDB chart

It would appear on April 25th something was effectively ‘turned off’ or most probably ‘turned back on’. The main issue appears to be that the Geo filter that Google applies for its country specific search is ‘weakened’ now and again – meaning that websites with authority can rank within Google UK, however the content that some of these websites offer up aren’t relevant to a UK audience. If you don’t believe me or anyone else in the SEO community, why not take a look at the trends over the past six years:

Google insights for UK

So up to mid 2009, there was a declining trend of seaches using the term ‘UK’ within their search queries, something that you would expect as search engines get better at determining your location. However, since we first reported the major change in Google’s algorithm, which opened up the UK SERPs to non relevant foreign websites the use the keyword ‘UK’ has shot up dramatically. Of course there will be search terms that use the keyword ‘UK’ based upon current events (i.e. ‘UK election’), although I am fairly confident in saying that the rise in ‘UK’ related search terms are due to the irrelevancy of the current crop of results. Matt Cutts stated that ‘you shouldn’t always expect to see only UK results in your queries’ – something I totally agree with but this is a question of relevancy and ‘how useful’ (as Matt has stated) these websites are to a UK audience.

So what are your thoughts on the matter? Are Google actively looking to improve the UK SERPs or is there a hidden agenda behind all of this? You may even believe there is nothing wrong with the UK SERPs, I know our clients do considering all the traffic we help to send their way!

Further reading:
SEO Roundtable – Google UK drops UK country filter?
Matt Cutts – Addresses Google UK SERPs issue
Webmaster World – Discussion on changes in April within Google UK