Thursday 30 Aug 2012
“One of these things is not like the other, one of these things is kind of the same,” says the vintage classic Sesame Street tune, and this ditty sprang to mind when a thread came up recently in the Q&A Forum at SEOmoz. A member pointed out that a simple search for the word Kolea was bringing up Adsense and Organic results for a Hawaiian destination, but a map of a city in Algeria.
In fact, if you refine your search and look up hotels kolea, you get another amalgam of results including some pinned local results for hotels in Africa, mixed organic results for both Africa and Hawaii, some Hawaii-centric AdSense, and most oddly of all – a Google offer for a hotel stay in Washington DC.
And, in fact, if I change my location to Honolulu, Hawaii, I am still being given this blend of Hawaii, Algeria and Washington DC. So, changing my own location didn’t help in this scenario of identical location names.
This isn’t something to waste a lot of worry over, though. Presumably, anyone planning a vacation to Kolea, Hawaii or Kolea, Algeria coming across this hodgepodge will understand they need to refine their own search terms. And sure enough, as soon as you add ‘Hawaii’ to the search (hotels kolea hawaii), Google stops showing you the Algerian results. This works if you add ‘Algeria’ too, though that Washinton DC offer keeps coming up. Maybe Google is counting on you saying, “Hey this is too confusing about Hawaii and Algeria. Let’s just stay in DC instead.”
This thread coming up in SEOmoz Q&A made me curious about other name-sharing locales in the world. I’d run into a similar issue with a client of ours in Dublin, California who was having to share his results with Dublin, Ireland unless a state name or country name was added to the search language.
Interestingly, Google seems more confident when we turn to the example of Memphis. This is a city in Tennessee and also in Egypt. But, searching from the United States, I receive Tennessee-only results. Google doesn’t believe I’m considering going to Egypt until I add ‘Egypt’ to my Memphis search.
The United States is ripe for city-based confusion as well, what with there being 49 Greenvilles, 30 Franklins, 29 Clintons, 28 Springfields and so on from sea to shining sea.
Searching from California, Google seems to think my search for ‘hotel greenville’ may either refer to lodgings in North Carolina or South Carolina but what about those 47 other Greenvilles? And, yes, that Washington DC Google Offer is still showing up.
If I want a hotel in Greenville, Alabama, I’ve got to specify Alabama and then Google is a little clearer about what I want – though I am getting one Mississippi Adsense spot and, yes, the Washington DC Google Offer.
Somewhat oddly, though, if I set my location to ‘Greenville AL’, and search for ‘hotel greenville’, Google becomes less secure about my intent. This search is again bringing up a combination of results from North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama…as well as Washington DC. This is the part I find a little strange. If I’m in Greenville, Alabama, searching for a hotel in Greenville, what part of the algo is hinting to Google that I’m planning a trip to the Carolinas?
So, what to do if your local business is located in a city that shares its fame on a national or international scale? Don’t worry too much about it. The Internet trains all of us, and I’d bet that if your neighbors are presented with mixed location results enough times, they will learn to add further modifiers to make their intent clear to Google. Two taps of my fingers and that little AL, or HI, or CA goes a long way.
But, maybe we’d just better go to Washington DC instead.