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I have a client who wishes to target various subfolders to every region that speaks the language each particular subfolder is written in. The subfolders are all translations of the English version.

Assuming he uses hreflang to that effect, should he not then also geotarget the subfolder to the main territory he would wish to target for that langauge? Will doing so exclude the subfolder from showing up in all of those other regions?

I'm trying to get clear on if there's ever a benefit/point to geotargeting from GWT while also using hreflang. Why would one not, for example, just use hreflang with a region code as well?

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also geotarget the subfolder to the main territory he would wish to target for that langauge?

You can specify the region (as well as the language) in the hreflang attribute. However, whether you should or not is really dependent on your subject matter.

You say that these other languages are simply translations of the English version, so I would guess not. Are you specifically targeting speakers of that language in that region, or simply speakers of that language wherever they are located?

[geotarget subfolder] Will doing so exclude the subfolder from showing up in all of those other languages?

I assume you mean "regions"? (If a user searches in one language, they are unlikely to get results in another language.) I imagine the "region" is only a suggestion to Google, it won't necessarily prevent it from showing with other results in different regions providing Google deems the result as relevant to the user.

This is for the default "Any country" search when a user searches using their regional Google site eg. google.co.uk (UK), google.co.id (Indonesia), etc. If a user specifically limits their search to their home country then yes, results from other geotargeted regions could be omitted. (This is also covered in my update below.)

geotargeting from GWT while also using hreflang.

You can only geotarget whole domains in GWT (unless you add these subdirectories as separate "sites") and only those domains that have a gTLD (.com, .net, etc.). ccTLDs (eg. .co.uk) are already geotargeted and this cannot be changed - however, that does not necessarily prevent your "geotargeted" site from appearing in other regional searches, providing your pages are deemed to be "relevant".

UPDATE:

...say you don't geotarget. Will your e.g. French subfolder still show up in Country:France and Country:Belgium search results?

If you don't geotarget a gTLD, Google is going to make assumptions about your intended geotarget anyway, so it's not entirely clear what would happen. I would assume that if Google thinks your site is geotargeted towards France then it will show in a Country:France specific search, but if this was the case then it would not necessarily appear in a Country:Belgium search. From Google's webmaster help pages:

If an international domain (.com, .org, .eu, etc) has been used, we'll rely on several signals, including IP address, location information on the page, links to the page, and any relevant information from Google Places.

...

...here's the real question - would THEN geotargeting for e.g. France (as presumably you'd rank higher in France's results than if you chose not to do it), then PREVENT those pages from continuing to show up in Country:Belgium searches?

Yes, this would seem to be the case. If the site is specifically geotargeted to a particular region, then the site won't appear in another regions "specific" search.

As a simple test, if I do a search for the name of my site (UK target) on google.co.id (Indonesia) then it appears at #2 position in the SERPs. This is the default "Any country" search. However, if I do a country specific search, ie. Search Tools > "Country: Indonesia" then my site does not appear at all in the SERPs.

Note, however, that the default search is "Any country". How many users actually narrow their search to their own country is another matter.

  • Thanks for this. "Are you specifically targeting speakers of that language in that region, or simply speakers of that language wherever they are located?" The latter, but I thought that since hreflang is not supposed to affect ranking while geotargeting is, they may wish to target a specific country as well? "You can only geotarget whole domains in GWT and only those domains that have a gTLD" - you can also geotarget subdirectories for each country you wish to target, which is what I'm suggesting. I just wouldn't want it to exclude those subfolders from showing in same-lang diff-count results. – zakgottlieb Apr 27 '14 at 13:38
  • Yes, you are right, you can geotarget subdirectories providing you set these up as separate "sites" in GWT (and your domain has a gTLD). However, I think it should only be geotargetted if the content is only relevant to users in that country - irrespective of language. The example that Google gives is of a restaurant that is probably not of interest to users outside of that country. – MrWhite Apr 27 '14 at 14:35
  • It is also worth noting that "setting a geographic target won't impact your appearance in search results unless a user limits the scope of the search to a certain country." Reference: support.google.com/webmasters/answer/62399?hl=en – MrWhite Apr 27 '14 at 14:35
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    Thank you. So in conclusion, if you want to target the same language in different regions then it's not a good idea to geotarget as well, as this will exclude those language pages from showing up? – zakgottlieb Apr 29 '14 at 13:34
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    Thank you, I've accepted the answer. I've probably exhausted your good will at this point, but your update above left me with a lingering question that I can't help but ask. If everything you've told me is true, it suggests to me that it is in fact ALWAYS worth geotargeting (a gTLD), lest you leave it up to Google to decide which country-specific search your site shows up in? If Google makes assumptions, then I'm guessing it will simply decide which one to include you in, and therefore which others to exclude you from? – zakgottlieb May 5 '14 at 21:20

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