Google Explains Location Targeting Via URL Subdirectories

Google search attorney John Mueller explains how websites can optimize content for search results in specific countries by using subdirectories strategically.

This topic came up on a recent Google Search Central SEO Hangout during business hours.

A person named Hazel Wwrong joins the livestream to ask Mueller how Google recognizes when website content is geotargeted, other than looking for the hreflang implementation.

In response, Mueller describes how Google looks for patterns in URLs indicating which country a page is for.

You can use this information to structure your website to target multiple countries with the same domain.

Keep reading the section below for more details.

How to target multiple countries with the same domain using subdirectories

When asked what signals Google looks for to recognize when content is optimized for a specific country, Mueller replies:

“We try to group URLs into clear patterns that we can recognize. And this is, for example, per subdomain or per subdirectory.

So if you have the country in the subdirectory, higher up in the path, it’s much easier for us to say everything under that path is for that country, everything under that other path is for another country.

And you can also check the individual paths in Search Console and specifically say this path is for this country, or this path is for another country, which makes it a bit easier for us.

The URL pattern described by Mueller would look like this in practice.

Suppose you have a store in the United States that ships products to other countries around the world. This is what the URL pattern might look like:

  • United States:
  • Canada:
  • UK:


Mueller notes that this use of subdirectories probably won’t make much of a difference if you’re already using hreflang and Search Console to target specific countries.

So if your website is not set up this way, you don’t have to change anything.

It’s just one more signal that Google is looking for in addition to other geo-targeting signals.

“In practice, I don’t hear a lot of comments from people saying it makes a big difference. So I’m not sure if this is something you actually need to do, especially if it’s a more complex setup.

But I would try to make it as clear as possible which country is relevant for individual URLs. Kind with a clear path in the URL.

I think someone also asked about using the country as a URL parameter at the end. Theoretically you can do it. I think for our systems it is much more difficult to recognize which URLs belong to which country. So I think it’s less likely we’ll go back to geo-targeting.

Obviously if you’re using hreflang it’s less of a problem because you can do it by URL.

Listen to Mueller’s full response in the video below:

For more information on location targeting, see:

Feature image: Nikolay Klimenko/Shutterstock

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