Let’s assume you want to have your content rank higher to just several geographic regions, or you want to deliver different types of content to people from various geographic locations; maybe you want to restrict some regions from accessing your content. Nowadays, it is possible, and it is called geo targeting. So in online marketing target audience can be divided into many additional segments, but the core criteria for segmentation is often geo location.
One of the simplest technical onsite implementations of this idea is “different content by choice” – i.e. when you let a user specify his/her location and based on this information you deliver different pieces of content. It allows audience targeting in a simple and robust manner.
A more sophisticated implementation is “automated different content delivery.” It is usually done with special geo-location software. As a result, the system recognizes the user’s geo-location (mostly by IP) and provides him/her appropriate pieces of content that best suits their needs. Unfortunately, this method is not 100% accurate because many people use proxy servers or other IP-masking tools.
In SEO geo targeting is mostly considered getting higher rankings in some particular geographic regions. Some webmasters often try to misuse it to deliver different types of content for search engine spiders and for users. This method is called cloacking and is generally punished by search engines. At the same time, there are several legal ways to improve your rankings in some particular geographic regions.
There was a time when server location was important and affected geo-targeting of your target website. Since distributed and cloud hosting solutions become more and more popular nowadays, it loses its value and importance in the current rankings algorithm.
Globally considered, there are 3 main things influencing this: your domain name, Google Webmaster Tools geographic settings and additional onsite SEO signals.
If you have a country-coded top-level domain (such as co.uk, com.au, .ca, etc.), your website will be associated with corresponding geographic location automatically. Local versions of search engines (such as google.co.uk, google.ca etc.) always prefer websites with local domains rather than generic ones, though a local domain itself is not a 100% prerequisite for high rankings in some particular region. In some niches, there is very high competition - even between local websites. Besides, for some queries, and in some niches, Google may consider bigger international websites to be more relevant and informative and will rank them higher.
For websites with generic top-level domains (such as .com, .org, etc.) it is strongly recommended to set the geographic region manually in your Google Webmaster Tools. This will help Google determine which geographic regions are most important for you.
There are also a number of onsite SEO factors that can affect your geo-targeting. These factors are currency, local addresses and telephone numbers, even providing content in a local language and links from other websites.
If you promote something to local markets – start with your target audience analysis. Check the keywords they use for searches of your product or service, and pay more attention to relevant keywords containing geographic binding, i.e. not just “pizza delivery” or “buy iPhone” but “pizza delivery London,” “buy iPhone Calgary,” etc.