Ian McAnerin is a smart guy. On Thursday he announced a competition to help come up with the best name for his patent pending technique.
The trademark-safe name for the product is going be IPGeoTarget. It was a lucky Jill Whalen who won the prize (a hundred bucks).
We don't actually know the solution that Ian's trying to patent but we know the problem and his answer to it. The problem is fairly common in corporate SEO. If you're a dot-com and hosted in America but want to rank on engines like Google.co.uk then you'll be in trouble. Why? The initial geographic signals from your site will suggest that you're an American one rather than a British one. Sure, there are other signals that Google looks at (domain name records for example) but if your sever is in the wrong place then you have a mountain to climb.
Ian suggests three common solutions.
- register a ccTLD (not popular due to branding issues)
- host in the target country (not popular with head office, usually for political reasons)
- park a ccTLD on the .com (complicated, slow, and easy to mess up)
There are other solutions to the three Ian listed - for example, putting a proxy server in the UK and pointing that to your main server. When the search engines try and check the geography associated with the IP address they'll (likely) to get the UK. Even this solution can be complicated and messy for big corporate clients. Some of us have software solutions in place to try and make this as easy as possible.
I think I should point out that I have every expectation that Google is going to make it much easier for webmasters to signal who the appropriate geographic audience for the site (in natural search) is.
Hopefully we'll end up with a really useful service from McAnerin in the form of IPGeoTarget. Hopefully we won't find tried and tested techniques stuck behind a patent.
Update: Ian's helpfully shed some light on the patent following this post.