International SEO

Is Google's algorithm different in different countries?

August 27, 2015
7 min
Is Google's algorithm different in different countries?

We recently published a webinar special, looking into the challenges with International SEO and how that impacts areas such as website structure, content and brand strategy.

Today we’re zeroing in on one of the topics discussed as part of the webinar: Is Google’s algorithm different in different countries?

Jump straight this question in the webinar video below:


DAVID BAIN: It’s interesting what you’re saying about you thinking that perhaps the Google algorithm is slightly different in each country. I was working in Australia in an SEO role there for about a year or so, and it was definitely easier to rank certain sites towards the top of Google for target keyword phrases. It’s really difficult to try and determine whether that’s because there’s less competition in the marketplace, or perhaps Google’s algorithm isn’t as evolved as it perhaps is in the UK or the US. So that’s an interesting one.

Michael B., have you got any thoughts about that? If you’re targeting trying to increase the optimisation of a website in another country, do you think that there might different activities you would do in that country based upon perhaps the Google algorithm being slightly different?

MICHAEL BONFILS: Yeah. These are all good questions, and everybody’s bringing up some great points. So one point that Lukasz made me think of is, I don’t know if you’ve ever asked a Polish person, ‘How are you,’ compared to an English person, so that should explain the Twitter problem, right? So there’s a character level in Twitter that Polish people probably would never really do it. [laughing] Then you ask a Japanese person, ‘How are you,’ and you get just one letter, right? So yeah, I could definitely see how it’s different.

When it comes to social, it really depends. We use social, of course, for content distribution and engagement, of course, in each market. It really depends on the market. For example, China. So China is very interesting because social is the main focus. Before you get into search, there’s no point to even get into search unless you really got down in the Chinese market.

So the Chinese, number one, they are…if you had a scale that shows the level of trust you have with one another, the Chinese are probably at the bottom, meaning that they don’t even trust their own colleagues, their own companies, their own sites. They certainly don’t trust foreign sites that come into their country. Social is a way to address this. They address it, and they speak about it, and they engage with people. So social’s huge.

When it comes to Baidu, Baidu has click-through rate as a ranking factor, and click-through rate can be driven through social. So that could increase your rankings on Baidu, just having the social impact. Of course, Baidu also has their own version of Twitter built in, and so forth. So social is definitely impactful when it comes to search. Now, you asked me another question, and I went off on my thoughts about this whole thing.

DAVID BAIN: It just related to the Google algorithm, and whether or not you thought it was different in each country. If you thought it was, how you would deal with that in terms of strategy.

MICHAEL BONFILS: So before I worked in search, I worked for a search engine. The CTO was the chief architect of three different search engines prior to me. I was like a kid in a candy store, being in SEO and having a boss who wrote search engines for a living. He’s famous for it. I’m like, ‘Okay, what’s the golden key? What’s the golden key? What’s the golden key?’

And he’s like, ‘Okay. You have to stop with that mentality, because the reality is this; you’ve got one keyword that has a competitive factor that changes the algorithm per keyword. So we come up with one plan, here’s our one design of what the perfect mathematical equation is for an algorithm. Now you’ve got all of these competitors, websites that are competing for X keyword, and you have all of these users competing for X keyword. So now both of these keywords are going into this almost chaotic formula where you cannot actually find the algorithm anymore because every keyword’s different.

Now in the US market, and UK, and many places where search is used a lot, and there’s lots of competition, the algorithm is harder to chase, but it’s a pure algorithm. If you go into Australia where you don’t have that competing factor anymore, so Australia is fresh. Now think about that one algorithm, that one mathematical equation. You don’t have the amount of keyword competitiveness, the website competitiveness. So it’s a lot more pure, or closer to what the original algorithm was set at.

That goes back with what I was talking about before, about CCTLDs and stuff like that, where if you’re getting local content, you’re getting local people to do the content, you’re getting local to do social, and you are procuring local by using CCTLDs. You are really in that primary section of the algorithm, and it’s a lot easier to rank than trying to be an American company, or a German company, or whatever, trying to get into another market. Does that make sense?

DAVID BAIN: Yes, absolutely. So in relation to what you were saying, if the amount of webpages that are ranking is high in a particular marketplace and country, then the quality of results is going to be higher based upon the increased learning that the algorithm will actually have because of that. Is that what you were saying there as well?

MICHAEL BONFILS: Yeah. Basically, the algorithm is the same across each country, but each country starts fresh. So you don’t have the same competitive factors. So in Australia – and this is a great example for English to English because you could easily see this in English versus another language – but English to English you still have the same algorithm that Google set for the US, but in Australia, you don’t have the same amount of people that are competing for the keyword. There’s two focuses here; the amount of people searching for the keyword, and the amount of people on websites that are competing for the keyword. If that factor is small, it’s easier to win.

Remember to watch the full international SEO webinar recording here.

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