What is a GEO IP Forwarding?
With GEO IP forwarding, the user’s location is determined by his or her IP address. A database query is used to check which distribution area the IP address is assigned to. This allows not only the country but also the location or city of the user to be determined.
If a user enters the URL of the page into their browser, a server-side query of the IP country code is made, and the user is forwarded to the corresponding directory. A user in Berlin would thus be directed to the German-speaking site and a user in London to the English-speaking site for the UK.
GEO IP Forwarding is Actually Not That User-Friendly
Firstly, the allocation of the country by the IP address is not always exact. This can lead to an incorrect country allocation of an IP address at national borders. Only the service provider can assign the preciseness of IP addresses. However, access to the correct address is only permitted with a court order.
Furthermore, users who are on business trips or holidays outside of their home country cannot be redirected to the appropriate website meaning they will be forwarded to the site of the country in which they are travelling. If the user uses a proxy server or VPN to surf the Internet, incorrect GEO IP forwarding will most likely occur.
GEO IP Forwarding Causes Problems When Crawling Pages
For Google to include pages in its index and thus in its search results, Google crawls pages which it deems relevant. So, for example, a Google crawl from America has an American IP address. As a result, the crawling of the different domains outside of the US is hindered.
So, for example, if you are a multinational firm with several domains, but are not linked to the American domain, the other countries cannot be crawled correctly. Google is, therefore, unable to record web pages or adaptations to web pages, or at least not as quick as you would like.
The fact that Google uses a crawler, also known as Googlebot, mainly from the USA has recently been confirmed in a tweet by the Google Trend Analyst, John Mueller.
GEO IP Alternatives: Preview Page and hreflang-tag
To avoid the problems of GEO IP forwarding, the user should be able to select the appropriate page using a preview page. The user can thus decide which country (domain) they want to use to view the desired page in.
By allowing cookies, the user will be automatically redirected to the correct landing page the next time the domain is opened. Furthermore, the Google Crawler can crawl all pages via the links between the different countries. A good example of a country selection page can be viewed on Nike.com.
Supporting the display in Google’s search results is the so-called hreflang tag, which should be implemented on international websites.
Conclusion: Avoid GEO IP Forwarding
GEO IP forwarding is inaccurate, can lead to inappropriate forwarding and hamper or prevent the crawling of country directories. As a solution, you should have a dedicated front-end site. For international SEO, hreflang-tags should, therefore, be used to play out the correct language version for users.
About the author
Herbert Buchhorn is the CEO of Clicks Online Business (offices in Berlin, Dresden, Cologne and Munich) and an expert in SEO. Since 2007, his online marketing agency has been successfully working for companies from a wide variety of industries throughout Germany and internationally. He regularly publishes specialist articles on the subject of SEO & e-commerce in various online and print magazines, is an acknowledged speaker at conferences and regularly holds seminars and workshops on the subject of online marketing.