Does anyone know if a keyword-rich .co domain name can be listed and rank fairly highly in Google UK (assuming the content is correctly balanced and tailored for the keyword in question) ?
Does Google class it as international?
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Google generally uses the following elements to determine the geotargeting of a website (or a part of a website):
Use of a ccTLD is generally a strong signal for users since it explicitly specifies a single country in an unmistakable way.
So, if .co is specific to the UK then using it will help your rankings. If it is not, and it's not because .co is the TLD for Columbia, then it will offer you no benefits in Google UK searches. In fact, it may hurt you in Google UK related searches as that TLD says the site is targeted at Columbia, not the UK.
Google favours it! There is an article on it here: http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/021424.html
Google now views .co as a global domain (gTLD) instead of a country code (ccTLD).
Content on .co domains should theoretically be able to rank the same, all else being equal, as the same content would on a .com or .net (or .tv or .fm - also former country codes).
Second level domains such has .com.co .net.co .edu.co and others have been setup to serve as Columbia specific domains. For example, Google's Columbia search page is at http://www.google.com.co
More info is available here: http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/359704/google-approves-co-domain-for-international-use