The UK SERP’s are Fine

I know that I probably shouldn’t get involved in something that a lot of people are talking about if I think they are barking up the wrong tree – but I am. Here is why I think the UK SERP’s are fine, just fine…

Background

So, a few UK SEO’s have been talking, at length, and for some time, about the UK SERP’s being “broken”. During this time, they also seem to be getting more and more frustrated that they are not getting any response from Google on the matter. I think there is good reason they are getting no response.

An Example

A recent example of a SERP that has been highlighted would be “compare adsl broadband plans“. This query returns a lot of Australian results, to which UK SEO’s seem to be throwing their hands up in disbelief. “I am in the UK – why am I getting Oz sites in my results?!?”.

The [Simple] Explanation…

If you search for a query that is much more commonly used in another English speaking country, you are going to get a lot of results from that country. Whether or not you think this is the way it should work, that is the reality.

broadband

In the example above, Australians use the term “broadband plans” a hell of a lot more than we do in the UK. We say “broadband packages”, and this query (“compare adsl broadband packages“) returns UK results. Only people that happen to use search terms that are rarely used in their country are going to get foreign results – them and SEO’s doing search term research.

Even SEO’s needn’t really worry about this in my book, because these SERP’s are a clear indication that the search term you are considering optimising for is not generally used much in the UK. There are a lot of queries that return foreign results (try “real estate” or something equally as non-UK-ish), and I am sure that the majority of them do so because the query that is being used is most often used, and therefore associated with, the country of the sites that are being returned.

Covering my Back….

I am sure there are queries that genuinely are returning some results that are not relevant, and I am sure that if reported, these would be looked at. I just think that jumping to the conclusion that the UK SERP’s are “broken” may just be the easy option, not the correct one.

[I am also willing to accept that there are occasions when there are map results that are showing, perhaps, a US area instead of a UK one.]

Finally

I’m not saying that there are no location issues with any UK SERP’s, or that this totally explains any strange results. But I think it explains a good deal of them, and I don’t think the occasional foreign result in a (very) niche UK SERP is something that should be playing on an SEO’s mind.

Flickr image from Chris Bury

6 Responses to “The UK SERP’s are Fine”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Randip Dhesi, Rob Green. Rob Green said: My post on why I think the #UKSERPs are fine: http://bit.ly/6SLiLU [...]

  2. Adam Lee says:

    Good post Rob, it shows that more research is necessary when conducting keyword discovery.
    The only problem I see with the example above is with Google suggesting the term ‘compare adsl broadband plans’. I appreciate packages might be used more in the UK but since Google introduced suggestions in the search box as standard I would expect a lot of people would just click on the suggestion – resuling in the Australian website results.
    Google either need to change their suggestions for each region or they need to sort out the regionality in the results they display.

    On another note – I would never say the UK results are ‘broken’ because good has had this little button for years. It’s called pages from the UK and anyone that wants UK only results can easily click on that!

  3. Adam Rammond says:

    Rob – Good article and I agree with what you are saying with regards to the example you provided. I too do not subscribe to the fact that the UK Serps are broken, however, I would question the change to the algorithm to open up the SERPs to websites that are hosted in a particular country where that search term is more popular.

    Do you believe this is a good move on Google’s behalf? Take another example of ‘Rent Movies’ – i’m not too sure on the keyword popularity but using your logic (which I agree with is happening) – more US websites are returning in Google UK than UK websites because that term is more popular in the States than in the UK. No company will ship DVDs across the Atlantic. Although not as popular a search term – people in the UK still want to be able to rent a DVD. So I think this is where the frustration has come from. It is actually diminishing the searchers experience, which could be a reason for the sharp rise in ‘UK’ related search terms.

    Cheers.

  4. Rob Green says:

    @Adam Lee – totally agree on the suggestions – david naylor recently talked about that exact issue.

  5. Rob Green says:

    @ Adam Rammond – I am not entirely convinced that this is the best way for this to work, only that it is definitely happening. I think in a lot of cases (especially the DVD example), results may aften be poor – but I am sure there are also cases when this needs to happen.

    Seems to be a good indication that the localisation of results for countries that speak the same language, and have locations with the same name, is a very complex task that may not be perfect at the moment.

  6. [...] Green recently argued that the UK SERPS are fine: If you search for a query that is much more commonly used in another English speaking country, you [...]

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