People love to talk about whether you Web page is in the search index. The search index. Like there’s one. If only it were that easy. First off, there is at least one search index for every search engine, so Bing has one, Google has one, and so does every search engine in every country around the world. But it’s even more complex than that. Google and Bing have a separate search index for every country. And, in fact, they sometimes have multiple search indexes for a single country, when a country has more than one popular language. (I am looking at you, Switzerland.) So what does a search marketer do about making sure a Web page is in the right country index.
The language stuff works fairly well–Google and other search engines generally detect the proper language from the words on the page themselves, but country is another issue entirely. Most languages are spoken in multiple countries and it’s not possible today for a computer to correctly detect the language frequently enough–the search engines need our help.
In the old days of search marketing, this was a vexing problem. Search engines generally looked at only two things when deciding to put a page in a country index–the domain name of the site and the location of the server that hosted it. So, if your page was ibm.de, then it would correctly put it in the German index. Or if the Web server of that page was located in Germany, that worked, too.
But when I worked at IBM, there was no page for ibm.de–it was ibm.com/de–and it was located in a central server hosting site with 20 other country sites. And we were mostly out of luck if we didn’t want to change one of those things. Most multinational companies were in the same boat.
All this was brought back to me as I was preparing for my hands-on search class for Rutgers in December, because there is a whole new way to solve this problem that too few companies take advantage of. A few years ago, Google, Bing and the other search engines added a feature to their fabulous Webmaster tools software that allows you to identify what pages belong in which country indexes.
You can actually give it a pattern, such as ibm.com/de and it can categorize all pages that start with that pattern as belonging to the German search index. Most Web sites are designed to use such URL patterns, so this is not very hard to do, but still I see many sites whose pages are in the wrong index because they haven’t taken a few hours to update Google and Bing with the right information.
Ten years ago, people had to sometimes go to great lengths to get pages indexed and they did so because they knew that if they weren’t in the search index they would never be found. Well, if you’re not in the right search index, you won’t be found by the right people.
If you don’t know if your country pages are in the right search index, this is the perfect time to find out. Every day you are missing is more business you aren’t getting.