The Great Geographic Divide – Google Splits New Zealand And Australia!

This could rattle a few cages out there!

I am about to give away a little secret which many local SEO exponents would probably rather I didn’t…

But here goes!

When you type in your business keyword into Google you are only seeing what someone in your immediate location will see. This can be as precise as your town or city.

So, you were given those amazing global search volume figures for your keyword but after a search engine optimization campaign you were left wondering where the thousands of new customers were…

I have a bit of bad news for you!

If you are based in New Zealand, you are more than likely only ranking in New Zealand. And if you are in Auckland you are possibly only showing front page in Auckland results. Even the websites you have visited have an impact on what shows up on your front page Google results…

but that is for a separate post!

If you are based in Australia, you are more than likely not showing anywhere else in the world… just Google Australia!


Geographic modifiers are a major influencer in search. If you are based in a particular country then it is way more likely that you will be trusted by people in your own market, culture, ethnicity than some one who is across the ocean.

Specific types of businesses will trigger a range of Google Maps results if they are deemed to be appropriate. So if your business is something which only local people could use – think retail, trades, professional services then there is less chance that you will show in another city’s search results.

This has led to a bit of an explosion in consultants around the world who have very little experience in SEO but plug in to a cookie cutter training system which, once completed teaches them how to offer their services to local businesses. The Internet marketing gurus who have charged high fees for this info are laughing all the way to the bank. And fairly inept marketers are selling their services to anyone who will buy!

Anyway I digress…

Can you actually rank in other countries? Without being a massive educational, governmental or reference site?

Yes you can, but it does take a fairly specialized range of techniques and it does take time depending on the competitiveness of the keyword you are chasing.

At the end of this post I will give you an easy way to see how you rank in other countries… No! Don’t go there now – this is important! Stay with me here!

Let’s look at how this all works!

Google has an entirely different range of searches for every country they operate in. Google New Zealand’s results are way different to Google Australia which are way different to Google US and so on.

An ethical SEO practitioner will give you search volume based on what the local traffic is. And will not mislead you with claims of tapping into masses of global traffic. They should also explain what  is necessary to rank in specific international territories and set realistic expectations.

OK, that’s got that out of the way.

The real purpose of this post is to discuss a really interesting SEO phenomenon which I have been observing which relates to the huge divide between New Zealand and Australian search results.

We consult to businesses based in NZ and Australia and some of them would like to rank in the other country.

You would think that this would be a relatively easy process as we are so close geographically, culturally and economically. With the amount of trans-Tasman business and the Closer Economic Relations agreement you would be quite justified in assuming that Google search results would reflect the closeness of the two countries. And that is without taking into account ANZAC and all of our history as mates! (and sporting rivals!)

My personal experience does not seem to confirm this at all.

I find that getting traction for a New Zealand business in the US search results is actually easier than getting results in Google Australia, particularly if the company does not have an office in Australia.

Why would you think this would happen? Surely the offices of Google New Zealand and Google Australia are aware of this anomaly?

I really don’t think so – as far as search is concerned New Zealand could be as close to Germany as it is to Australia!

The other interesting observation is that search results seem to favour UK based websites to some extent. Is there a colonial historic modifier in place here? 🙂

I would welcome input from any other SEO consultants who are also observing similar weirdness in Google’s geographic modifiers. 

The interesting and somewhat frustrating thing is that it is nearly impossible to get an answer from Google themselves. Google is like a fortress and any attempts to get information is met with redirection to forums populated by bored and sometimes condescending or abusive, anonymous self-proclaimed experts.

And this is exactly why search engine optimization is partially a theoretical science. 

It is essential to follow the SEO blogs, forums, and thought leaders to be able to keep up with the play and it is also essential to be constantly testing and analysing results. Keep in mind that Google changes the famous algorithm more than 500 times a year and several of the updates will have huge implications for a large number of websites.

They do not publicise these changes – the first we know of them is when we either see a shift in the results or we begin to hear the noise in the SEO communities as people who have massive testing campaigns in place share their data to assist others.

As promised here is a simple way to look at the results in another search engine.

If you would like to see the results in the US all you need to do is add /webhp to the end of the URL.

Like this

Or if you would like to see Australian results:


And so on… as long as you know the original Google search engine URL you can check the search results for that country.

Were you aware of how strong geographic modifiers are?

Have you noticed any strange search behaviour based on location?

Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.