One SEO professional asked John Mueller during a hangout about geo redirect issues on websites.
They know that Google recommends against using geo redirects on sites, for a number of reasons.
The fact that Googlebot won’t be able to properly crawl and index the entirety of the site, for example. They are already familiar with that.
With this argument, they are wondering if the same recommendation applies or if the situation is different for news websites?
They are asking because a number of major news providers like CNN, the BBC, the Guardian, etc., all have had geo redirects in place for a number of years.
And none of them appear to be experiencing any negative effects on the ability of their content to be indexed.
John answered that it definitely does apply to all kinds of websites. From Google’s perspective, usually geo redirects make it harder for them to crawl content, especially if you’re redirecting users from the US to a different version of the content.
In such cases, usually Googlebot will just follow the redirect. But, Googlebot crawls specifically from one location.
It’s less a matter of quality signals or anything like that. It’s more about Google not being able to see your pages: if they cannot see your pages, then Google will be unable to index them.
That’s the primary reason why they don’t recommend doing these things.
John is not sure what these news sites are doing. Maybe they are redirecting some users, others are not being redirected, and perhaps Googlebot is not being redirected. It’s possible from Google’s perspective, but John doesn’t think this would do them any favors because it would end up in a situation where you have exactly the same content in the search results.
And this puts you in a situation where you’re competing with yourself.
John’s suspicion, without checking these sites, is that Google is aware of the geo redirects and is seeing them take place. And they are, from a technical perspective, trying to crawl and index the correct pages there.
But there doesn’t appear to be anything sneaky occurring behind the scenes that he is aware of.
It’s also not the case where Google might see it as a cloaking attempt, or anything against their webmaster guidelines.
It’s really just – purely from a technical perspective – if it’s hard for Google to find and index your content, it’s going to be hard for them to do what the SEO professional wants them to do.
This happens at approximately the 53:15 mark in the video.
John Mueller Hangout Transcript
SEO Professional 9 53:15
Hi, thanks for your time, I think I can be quite quick, I know we’re short on time now. I know that Google generally recommends–Oops, did I lose? Okay, great. So I just lost my camera here. I know that Google generally recommends against using geo redirects on websites for a whole bunch of reasons.
The fact that Googlebot won’t be able to properly crawl and index all of a site, for example. So I’m familiar with that, with that argument. I’m wondering if the same recommendation applies or if the situation is different for news content or news websites?
I asked because a number of major news providers, including CNN, BBC, The Guardian, etc., all have had geo redirects in place for quite a few years. And none of them seem to be experiencing negative effects on the ability of their content to be indexed.
That definitely applies to all kinds of web sites. So from our point of view, usually the geo redirects are more a matter of making it, I don’t know, technically hard for us to crawl this content. Especially if you’re redirecting users from the US to a different version of the website, then we will just follow that redirect, because Googlebot usually just crawls from one location. And then it’s less a matter of, I don’t know, quality signals or anything like that.
It’s more that well, if Google can’t see your web pages, then we can’t index. And that’s essentially the primary reason why we don’t recommend doing these things. I don’t know if some of these sites are doing something where some users are being redirected and others are not being redirected and maybe Googlebot is not being redirected.
It’s possible. From our point of view, I don’t think that would do them any favors, because it would usually end up in a situation where you have multiple URLs with exactly the same content in the search results. And you’re kind of competing with yourself. And then it’s less a matter of, I don’t know, doing something sneaky and kind of sneaking our way into the results, but more like, well, actually, you’re, I don’t know, duplicating things on your site, we’re finding your content in multiple locations.
We don’t know which one to rank best, so we’ll kind of have to make a guess at that. So from that point of view, my suspicion, without checking any of these sites off hand, is that we’re we’re aware of these geo redirects, we’re seeing them take place. And we’re kind of from a technical point of view, trying to crawl and index the right pages there. But not that there’s anything, I don’t know, sneaky happening behind the scenes there.
It’s also not the case that we would see this as kind of an attempt of cloaking, or is something that would be against our webmaster guidelines. It’s really just purely from a technical point of view. If you make it hard for us to find and index your content, it’s gonna be hard for us to do what you want us to do.
So that’s kind of why we have these recommendations.