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Situation: I run a tree farm in Alberta, Canada.

I sell mail order seedlings all over Canada. Lately I'm getting lots of calls from the U.S. This is a nuisance, as the paperwork for cross border plant shipping is unreasonable.

Is there a way that I can tell Google's robot that my page is to NEVER be given first page status to requests outside of Canada? E.g. I want to geo-untarget the rest of the world.

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    What is the last part of your domain? If its a .com, switching to a .ca can be a powerful signal to Google that your target market is in Canada.
    – davidgo
    Mar 31, 2022 at 22:47
  • It's .com. At the time I set it up, .com was tried by default. .ca required that a user add it explicity. Apr 1, 2022 at 23:03

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Targeting a country in Google Search Console

Using Google Search Console, you can indicate to Google that your website should target a specific country rather than targeting visitors globally.

  1. Log in to Google Search Console

  2. On the left, under "Legacy tools and reports", click "International targeting". Google may inform you that "Legacy reports and tools are not available for domain properties", so you may need to add your site to Search Console as a URL-prefix property (you won't need to remove the domain property). Be sure to use the www/apex and http/https variant of your domain that the website actually loads from after any redirects.

  3. In the International Targeting settings of that property, click the "Country" tab, then choose your desired country from the list (Canada) and click "save". As far as how long the setting takes to take effect, according to John Mueller, "My guess is it will be anywhere from a week or two, to maybe a month or two. So that’s kind of the timeframe that I suspect it takes for something like the geotargeting setting to change."

Does it restrict traffic, though?

Google has said conflicting things about whether the International Targeting setting actually restricts traffic from other countries, or merely boosts traffic from the targeted country.

Perhaps it does

Google's documentation seems to hint that the International Targeting setting can be used to "restrict" websites to a particular region:

A good example of where it would be useful is for a restaurant website: if the restaurant is in Canada, it's probably not of interest to folks in France. But if your content is in French and is of interest to people in multiple countries/regions, it's probably better not to restrict it.

In 2021, when performing a review of a website that was losing traffic to a competitor, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller noticed that the website had been geotargeted to Pakistan and shared that targeting a country could cause Google to focus slightly less on other countries. John recommended turning off the geotargeting in hopes of improving the site's ranking in those countries:

When it comes to search, if you want to target countries other than Pakistan, like a general English-speaking news site, then I would definitely turn that off. Because that can have an effect there in that it really focuses on Pakistan and then slightly focuses less on other countries.

Perhaps it doesn't

In 2017, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes seemed to suggest on Twitter that the tool doesn't affect your site's performance in regions other than the one you target:

Martin Kilarski: Hi @methode @JohnMu Does targeting users in a specific country with the Search Console decrease website's visibility in other countries?

Gary Illyes: no

Gary reaffirmed his stance on Reddit in 2020:

romanadamita: AFAIR, u/JohnMu said "geotargeting doesn't restrict a site only to be shown in that location" - in this case, the US. Google will still show your results on the relevant search queries in the US and other geo-locations.

garyillyes: This is correct. All you do with that doing is to very strongly hint us that your content is more relevant to users in the region you've set. This may help a little in that particular region, but won't affect your site in other regions.

FurnitureRoutes: If this is the case then businesses should definitely choose a region, right? Since selecting this option makes you slightly better off in one region, without making you any worse off in any other region.

garyillyes: The quality of the traffic may be impacted negatively if you misuse it though.

In my opinion, we are getting conflicting information from Gary, John, and Google's documentation about this.

If your website is actually geotargeting Canada, then it could only help to turn on geotargeting for your site in Search Console.

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  • The conflicting advice is because the way it works has changed over time. At one point geo targeting to a country prevented it from showing up in other countries. Now it will show up in other countries at least some of the time. Apr 2, 2022 at 11:07

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