Has Google shot itself in the foot over UK SERPS?

As anyone in SEO knows, there has been a lot of debate and confusion about Google’s latest algortihm change (mostly confusion from Google that we have already posted about).

In short, Google now offers up a lot of foreign sites in UK relevant searches that have no right to be there. We are not by any means anti foreign sites, but if you are searching for a localised search in the UK, for example Flats to rent, you do not want results for California, Melbourne or Auckland. So let me get this straight:

1) No one has a problem with foreign web pages being offered in the SERPS if they are the most relevant result. For example if i searched for “Statue of Libery” – i would happily have American sites, infact i would be annoyed if i didn’t (try searching “Pentagon”). But if i search for “TV Guide” – why give me an American TV guide that doesn’t mention BBC, ITV or Channel 4? There are many examples of inappropriate results, here are a few:

* Southbank Restaurants – i wanted London’s Southbank, not a Melbourne map

* Motor Forum – I’m sure this is good but unfortunately i don’t speak dutch

* Pawn Diamonds – Why would we want to get our Diamonds in dollars?

2) UK sites are not just .co.uk TLDs. Many thousands of UK businesses have .com TLDs. This is not the issue. Furthermore, US company’s do not own the .com TLD. It simply means Company. So there is not an issue of just having .co.uk in UK SERPS, similarly Google should not penalise other foriegn TLDs in Google US SERPS.

Here is the very confused response from Matt Cutts when this issue was put to him. (look at the comments pages here too) UK SEO companies venting their spleen

Also he states that this question was “lobbied” by the UK SEO industry, that is untrue – and crass. This question is simply extremely important to search results for all of us in the UK and SEO companies and web users alike have independently wanted an honest, clear answer – it did not happen. Google needs to realise that we are important – the second biggest market, and this does matter to all of us.

Location Problems

So what now? Is the issue to do with how google determines our location i don’t know? This post states that Google is thinking that some Australian and American sites are based in the UK.

I personally can’t believe this is true. I mean look at this search for TV Guide which give Yahoo.com in the top 5 results, telling us what is on Fox and HBO tonight. Does Google really believe that Yahoo.com is an English site? I doubt it, unless everyone at Google is quietly laughing to themselves. Do Yahoo appear in the US results too, ofcourse they do?

Add “UK” to the Search!

Some people have suggested – “Just add ‘UK’ to the Search” or “click the UK only button”. This isn’t a solution. It’s like saying “my front door is broken, so i just use the window, i get in eventually”. We need Google to sort this problem out, not just make an extra step for us. Plus a lot of the time, the “UK Only” button doesn’t make a lot of difference, try that “Southbank restaurants” search again, this time with UK only.

People are already adding ‘UK’ to their Search! – But how long has the problem been with us. This data states it may have been longer than the mooted June update.
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So did things change in March / April 2009? The results are even starker for “shopping” and “local” searches. So Google, your localised results are not good enough, like 5-6 years ago we are having to put “UK” in our searches.

Maybe i will give Bing another go – it doesn’t seem so bad in hindsight.