Did you know that Google played favourites (Canadian spelling eh?) for a long time?
Its true! For the longest time, American companies were not really given a fair shake in the search results. It wasn't intentional, rather was just the byproduct of legacy infrastructure, and competing priorities. And don't get me wrong, this is in no way Google bashing. I certainly understand the problems associated with their dilemma, and why it took so long to rectify.
Let me explain. Being Canadian, we're obviously very aware of our neighbours (yes I spelled that with a 'u', eh) to the south. Until very recently, we understood that there were 3 different sets of Google search results applicable to us:
1. Google.ca (Canadian sites)
2. Google.ca (Search the Web)
3. Google.com (circumventing the redirection based on IP)
Google.ca (Canadian Sites):
The results found here filtered out what Google deemed to be non-Canadian based on:
a. IP location
b. TLD (ie. .ca)
c. and even more recently the region specified in the Google Webmaster Tools (GWT).
Sites that did not have either a .ca TLD, a Canadian IP, or were specified as Canadian in GWT, were entirely filtered out of this index, leaving only sites Google deemed to be Canadian.
Google.ca (Search the Web):
The results found in this index included all sites from across the web. Those sites deemed to be Canadian (either because of the .ca TLD, Canadian IP, of specified as Canadian in GWT) were given a boost in ranking, thereby showing more Canadian companies nearer the top of the search results.
The organic results found in Google.com were treated (at least prior to this latest algorithm update) as the single generic database, where no favourtism was given to sites from any geographic region. I've blogged about this before, saying this was a great disservice to American companies. Perceived Canadian companies were given special treatment in Canadian search results, same with the Brits, the Germans etc., but not so for American companies.
So ... What's Changed?
Well, good news for American companies. Google seems to have rectified the favourtism issue. Changes have been made in the last month or so to give good ole American companies a boost in the Google.com results, and rightfully so.
Where previously Google seems to have viewed Google.com as the central database/index feeding all its international engines, and offered absolutely no bias or boost to any sites, they seem now to have understood that most Americans view Google.com as, well, American.
Does this mean I'm pleased with it? No ... its impacted the positioning of some gold ole Canadian companies marketing their wares in the U.S., including some of our clients. I'm not concerned though as we've been explaining to clients for a long time, "we cannot control Google's search results, only affect them.".
If you're a Canadian or other foreign company who was well represented in Google.com previously, you may have seen a drop in referrals from the U.S. in the past month or so. This will possibly change the way we do business on the web going forward.
It might mean the creation of sites specifically for each country, segmentation of existing sites based on subdomains hosted at different locations, or even unique international partnering agreements.
Of course, this all will require much more testing. I'll blog about our findings when the results are in.
In the mean time, have you been impacted in any way by these changes or have you even noticed any changes that might support this contention? I have conferred with a few people, but the sample size is limited. Please do let me know.