I wrote a blogpost a few months ago on Searchcowboys about “How to use Multiple Sitemaps on the Same Domain for Geotargetting” and got a great response. Although a few of the readers commented that the instructions were a a bit “fuzzy” and that a step by step explanation would have been great. So I thought I would share it with the SEO Chicks readers and do a step by step guide on this method for geotargetting. But first, let’s get some background info on why and so on.
Issue and why we came up with this solution?
One of our clients (as so many other companies) have a .com domain targeting the UK, but in addition they are targeting five other European countries, on the same domain. They have (to their credit) translated content in each relevant language. The way that they are displaying this content is in quite simple and straight forward folder structure, i.e:
Samplewebsite.com/FR/ and further in pages like Samplewebsite.com/FR/page
and so on..
You might assume (wrongly) that it’s a strong enough sign for Google (or Yahoo or Bing) that the content is in the relevant language and thus know that you are targeting France with the above pages, but no. It is very unlikely those pages will rank anywhere in Google.fr for anything remotely competitive. This is because all other signs is telling Google that this site is targetting and focusing on the UK.
Now, I hear a few of you yelling: they should get country specific TLDs for each country. This isn’t always that easy, and for some countries like France, there is no way you can get a .fr TLD unless you can prove you have a business address there. In some countries its even worse, in Norway for example (.no TLDs) you not only have to prove you have an address and a company but also prove you have at least £10,000 in working capita (ehm, shit!) There are also loads of other reasons why companies wants to keep everything within one domain (costs being another).
Therefore we had to try to think of something that would help Google understand that we were targeting several different countries within one domain. In essence what we came up with was very simple, uploading seperate XML sitemaps for each geographic content and setting the Geo targetting in Google Webmaster Tools to the specific country. This will only work on a TLD that is non geo specific, ie: .COM, .ORG, .INFO and so on, you can not use the below method for Geo TLDs like .co.uk or .de. Here’s the step by step instructions:
1. Create separate XML sitemaps for each country specific content. For example samplewebsite.com/FR/ and all pages within that folder was in one XML sitemap (for example samplewebsite.com/FR/sitemap_FR.xml ) You will need a xml sitemap generator where you can specify folders to include. Then you create another XML sitemap for all the pages within then samplewebsite.com/NL/ and so on..
5. Once you are within the dashboard clik on “Site Configuration” then “Sitemaps”. Now add the URL of the geo specific XML sitemap in the box. i.e samplewebsite.com/FR/sitemap_FR.xml just add sitemap_FR.xml.
Et volla, Geo targeting on the same domain! Repeat all the steps for each specific language folder, ie samplewebsite.com/DE/ samplewebsite.com/NL and so on. Make sure that you add a “new site” in the main Home Area for each country specific folder. I know that seems a bit weird, especially as you probably already have the main samplewebsite.com already on there, but you have to include each one as a seperate site.
I would also like to add that I did run the above technique past a Google engineer before I did it, and they had no objections, so be reassured there is nothing even slightly grey about this method. At the moment my own company and a few other SEO friends of mine are testing it out, but please feel free to try it and let me know how it goes. Happy webmaster tools fiddling