Last Updated on June 8, 2022
GEO IP Redirects aren’t a good idea for SEO.
They are against Google’s Indexing and Crawling advice, and can result in de-indexation, reduced organic visibility, and at the end of the day, lost revenue for you or your client.
The better option is to provide users from different IP addresses with prompts to switch urls.
Bad Advice on Geo Redirects
As of 18th April 2019, the top ranking article on this topic is from a company that provides GEO Redirecting services, who seem to have cherry picked some old Google quotes about Geo Redirection to support their argument.
The #3 ranking article from the SERoundtable uses an eye catching headline claiming that GEO redirection is ok, but then has to back track in the article to clarify that the advice was for “state level redirects, not geo redirects”.
The other 2 articles below that are also from SERT telling you to avoid it, however as they are much older publish dates, some people skimming would assume that Google had changes their guidelines on the topic, which is simply not the case.
The Truth – It’s Not Smart… or Pretty
Google explicitly tell you to AVOID geo redirects.
As of 18th April 2019, in their official webmaster support guidelines here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/182192
Under the heading “Let the user switch the page language”, quote:
Avoid automatic redirection based on the user’s perceived language. These redirections could prevent users (and search engines) from viewing all the versions of your site.
John Mueller has also talked about how it can negatively impact indexing (tweet link):
I’d avoid redirects by IP location in most cases; it’s easy to break indexing & frustrate users.
Let’s See how it hurts…
Here is what can happen when you implement geo redirection on your website:
That’s the trailing off click data of organic search presence.
In this particular example, the entire UK site was de-indexed, and replaced with the USA website.
Great for their USA ad conversion data, not so great for their UK organic sales.
Updated November 2019 Example – Epic Fail
Here is another example of what a GEO IP redirect does to your organic traffic:
Yes that’s 1/4 of the traffic, keywords and traffic value lost overnight – not exactly SEO best practice!
How to check if your site redirects Google Bot?
Over the last few months I’ve seen a few sites doing this, and here are a few examples of how to find it:
- Run a url through the Google Structured Data Testing Tool OR
- Run a url through the Inspect any URL feature in Google Search Console (new version)
In these two tools you can check the source code / canonical url / other on page elements to verify which language version of the site you’re serving to the Google crawler.
If you’re seeing another language showing for the url you entered, you may have a geo redirect problem.
Here are some visuals of how it looks:
If you want to improve or even maintain your SEO visibility, avoid GEO IP redirects like the plague.
This is just one of the findings that my SEO audit service can identify, learn more about that here.
If you have any questions or need some help, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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This Post Has 8 Comments
Interesting article. But what if each ccTLD has a sitemap containing the correct cross-referencing hreflangs for all domains/langs and Search Console has each ccTLD set up and assigned. Google should know then every page, on every domain, and for which geo/lang each page is intended for, despite any issues the bot encounters due to redirect.
Even in this scenario would you advise avoiding country-level redirects?
These days we have to have a cookie warning, so to have an additional prompt to guide the user to change to a different domain can really start to make the experience awkward on first load of the site.
The issue is the discrepancy between what you tell Google, and what they see when they crawl the site.
I would always advise against it, but feel free to test and report back.
If the TLD is redirecting based on Googlebot’s IP it won’t see the sitemap
YOU’RE A LIFE SAVER !
I have been literally WHACKING my brains as to why I see my international site ranking on Google when I type my brand name on Google.
The code was right. The force redirect was leading to all these issues.
I believe a POPUP wouldn’t hurt, urging visitors to go to the local store. No ?
And also – how is it that companies like Microsoft and Hotels.com have force redirects yet manage to do fine in local searches ?
I’m glad it helped Harsh.
Yes a pop-up would be appropriate here.
A lot of the big brands are using a 307 redirect on the homepage (such as Airbnb.com). For the rest they often use traditional urls and hreflang tags without redirects.
Thanks for this sanity post. I have been around the houses with tons of clients on this issue over the years and stumbled upon the SERoundtable article and thought the same as you. In my experience working with international clients, I’ve recommended several times that they take down user agent detection rules that effectively cloak and have not always been persuasive. In practice, Gooogle seems to tolerate geo-IP redirects where it has been made an exception (they must know what is going on with local tests) – but I would always advise strongly against it. The only acceptable geo-IP redirect for SEO in my view is redirecting non-US users to their localised site if they hit the .com, but even this is undesirable.
There are many UX reasons why I think pop ups work much better.
Thanks for the post! But what is with Airbnb and other big international sites? And how would you solve the issue when you have the following case: French page (main business is in France as well) with the URL website.com/fr + a Dutch version website.com/nl – when you visit the page in Netherlands and use the URL website.com in your browser, you receive the French page. What is the best way to redirect to the Dutch version?
Airbnb does a 307 temporary redirect for their English language sites based on the country of origin, but doesn’t do it for any of their other languages. Most large sites use a geo-based pop-up to help direct users to the right version of their site, and I recommend doing the same.