February 22, 2011

Cayman SEO: Changing TLD's for higher rankings on Google

Just an update on my previous blog about the TLD (Top Level Domain) wars.  Last week we redirected www.cayman4rent.ky to www.cayman4rent.com because we were not showing up for local searches in the United States and Canada and the website was on the first page for major keyword 'grand cayman rentals' if searched in the Cayman Islands.  But if a user was searching in the US or Canada, they would not find us on the first page.

So we did a few things to the website...
1.  We redirected www.cayman4rent.ky to www.cayman4rent.com
2.  We changed the geographical target to "United States" on Webmaster Tools
3.  We did a 301 redirect to all the existing URLs to the new URLs.

We are very happy to announce that even if we are still not showing up for the major keyword, 'grand cayman rentals' yet, we are now showing up for 'grand cayman rental' (singular) on # 6 (right under tripadvisor) and we are actually showing up in Canada on #4 for that keyword as well.  That is a total of 5,400 monthly searches for that major keyword.  So perhaps it is working.  The pagerank of the website has not been transferred yet so that is something to look forward to!

The seamless redirect of the team from the .ky to the .com was fantastic and happened in less than 24 hours - so Congrats Team for a job well done!  More updates on this topic, especially on the pagerank of the website. 

February 17, 2011

Cayman SEO: TLD Wars: .KY vs. the .COM - which is better for my website?

A few years ago, a client asked me if it mattered whether the TLD (top level domain) of a website was a .com or a .ky for Search Engine Optimization and a couple of years ago, I answered 'No, it doesn't matter' because there were several factors that determined search results and not just the TLD.  Also it is important to note that Google's local search wasn't as strong as it is now.  The TLD informed Google where your site was located and that was a good thing.

Things have changed though and because we are a tourism destination and because we need to attract users in the US before they come to the islands, my answer then is wrong now.

Yes it matters depending on your target market's geographical location. 

If your business is in the Cayman Islands and caters to users in the Cayman Islands ONLY then it still doesn't matter - use the .ky because its FREE and available to everyone on island.  But if your business objective is to attract customers before they get to the island then it would serve you well to acquire a .com, which is a neutral domain and is not associated with any geographic location.
 
We recently redirected our website www.cayman4rent.ky to www.cayman4rent.com to address a major concern:  We wanted users in the US finding the website for Rentals in the Cayman Islands
When you search in the Cayman Islands for "grand cayman rentals" on Google, you will notice that www.cayman4rent.ky is no. 6 on the first page.
Google result in the Cayman Islands: Cayman4rent.ky is no. 6 for "grand cayman rentals"

But if you search for the same keyword, "grand cayman rentals" in the United States, you will not see www.cayman4rent.ky on the first or second page of the search results on Google.  Its actually on the third page of that search phrase.

This brings me to an important feature that Google unleashed... geo targeting or geographical targeting.  In the old days of SEO (ehem... 2 years ago) this meant that your top level domain (TLD), in this case a .ky meant that the .ky was associated with the Cayman Islands.  I use to highly regard the .ky TLD because it would automatically inform the search engines that your website should come up for searches relating to 'cayman' and it was FREE - who doesn't like free?   

It is also important to note that the IP address and location of your server is important to the search engines when returning results but that is a side topic.  Our dedicated server is located in the US so it didn't matter what TLD we took and since the .ky is free, I took the liberty of creating our website on it. 

But Google has changed its geo targeting tool and country specific TLD's (ie. .ky, .ca, .bs, .ph) are no longer welcome in Google's Webmaster Tools geo-targeting settings. This has resulted in our .ky's plummeting on search results in the US, UK and Canada (our major markets for tourism).  Because of this gigantic change, we made the bold move to redirect our .ky to a .com TLD.  Taking into consideration that our Page Rank was a 3/10 - which is pretty decent for a domain that is barely a year old.  Using proper 301 redirects, we have our fingers (and toes) crossed and hoping that our Page Rank for the .ky will transfer onto our .com.

Here is what Google has done under Webmaster Tools for our domain, www.cayman4rent.ky thats why it shows up highly for searches in the Cayman Islands but does not show up for searches done in the US, Canada or the UK.
Google's new settings include Geographic Target that automatically targets .KY TLDs to the Cayman Islands

When we validated the .com's site on Google Webmaster tools, here is the screen shot: 
We can now Target searches in the United States because we are using a .com or a neutral TLD

Will redirecting our .ky to a .com change our position in the United States?  We  hope so.  We don't know for certain even if Google says it does - Google sometimes has puzzling views.  They have provided 3 reasons on how your website is categorized for location searches: 
1. Your Top Level Domain (TLD) tells them what country you belong to
2. Your Hosting location 
3. Your IP Address

If a website owner does not change the setting on Webmaster Tools, the Search Engine crawlers will use hosting location and IP address in determining the geo target.  If it is changed, as we have done, will our ranking in search results in the US be better?  We will update this blog in 3 months to see if this experiment paid off.  

In the meantime, just to be safe, if you are registering a domain - depending on your target market.  Use a .com for neutrality if you are targeting other countries.  Use a .ky if you don't care about the Search Engines. It will be easier to geo target a .com than to change the geo location of the .ky because Google does not allow this function. 

When and if Google changes this function, you will be the first to know.

February 2, 2011

Cayman SEO: On Bing copying Google Results

I just read about this on Danny Sullivan's blog and then followed the link going to the official Google blog and both times, I couldn't believe what I was reading.  But at the same time, its hard not to believe it. 

So here is the scoop:  Google's team created fake searches like 'hiybbprqag' - hiybb-what?  Yes. That word that's not a word. It didn't mean anything but the assumption is that when you search for a term that doesn't really mean anything, the search results of two different (rival) search engines differs.  It is a solid a assumption since both search algorithms supposedly operate separately.  But more than that, the Google Team inserted websites that had nothing to do with the search query.  They tested these synthetic queries and inserted websites that had no relevance to the search term whatsoever.  (gasp!) Google returning wrong results! 

Surprise, surprise! Google and Bing had the exact same results.  The Google team tried it on many-a-keywords and it really does seem like Bing is pulling results from Google.  Please read the official google blog for the full story.  The entire sting by the Google Team was brilliant - from using Explorer all the way to posting the last line on the blog, "what do we want out of this? The answer is simple. We'd like for this practice to stop."

I don't normally react to search engine news, I don't normally react period.  I am too busy trying to implement the latest search engine algorithm and dealing with all the web development and SEO contracts we have in the Cayman Islands.  But this time, I needed to react.  If what Google says is true and it seems that they have proven it through their experiment, it means that Bing has been faking it.  They probably spent all their money on Advertising instead of product development. 

The silver lining for me as an SEO is that I don't have to worry about optimizing websites for Bing.  I optimize it for one website and bam!  Two search engines with one click.  Yes!  But the implication of Bing copying Google's result don't stop with me.  What about the future of search and the search market monopoly?  Is no one capable of matching the search giant that is Google?  Well, Facebok perhaps but that is another blog altogether. 

Everyone seems to be going nuts about Bing copying Google but a bigger question at the back of my mind is this:  Google can insert results for search terms! If they can insert results for fake searches then they can most definitely insert results for real searches.  That is probably why they have never revealed their search engine algorithm.  To keep SEO's, like me guessing and to keep Clients, like you - paying for more.

It kills me whenever I am working so hard to optimize a website (given budgetary limitations) and I have to keep buying links and having to get my client to pay for them.  Not only that - because the cost of getting to first page is so high, this cost is probably absorbed by you - the user who buys products and services online.  Yes, you are affected by this whole hullabaloo as well.  

So Bing copies Google results and Google can insert whatever website they want on search results. No wonder the big corporations are getting bigger and the small companies who try to make a decent living, don't stand a chance.  

Kung Hei Fat Choi Everyone!  Thanks for reading my rant that just uninspired me to keep on fighting the good fight.  I use to think Google was amazing but now because of this incident, I am now questioning Google's integrity in returning search results.  Bing never mattered before and it certainly doesn't matter now.