Geolocation 01

NOTE: This article is out of date. An updated one can be found here: Should SEOs Redirect or Park For Geolocation? and a complete guide to Website Geolocation is in progress.

Only in Canada, eh?

When people do a search with “Canadian Sites Only”, the search engines filter out what it thinks are non – Canadian sites. How the search engines make this decision may surprise and shock you. This article also applies to people in other countries, as well.

Local Searches

When a person wishes to search for a product or service that is specific to Canada, they will often choose the “Canadian Sites Only” button on,, or a number of other Canadian search engines. Searchers in the UK and other countries do the same for their local search engines – searching only for websites from their own country. - Pages from Canada example - Canadian Sites Only example


I recently did a ranking report on a highly regarded law firm in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They ranked fairly well in Google (the most popular search engine in the world), had a nice site, and felt that they had basically no real problems, website-wise.

As part of my services, I check for local searches whenever a company is not from the US. When I did a “Canadian Sites Only” search, they did not show up! Even typing in the domain name specifically (which will show up even the most poorly optimized site) did not return their site. A few companies that had linked to them showed up, but not the firm itself.

A quick check traced their website to a web host in Florida, who no doubt is giving them a good price. Unfortunately, anyone looking for a lawyer in Canada (or Calgary) and who is looking for “Canadian” websites will never find them.

Some services, such as those requiring detailed knowledge of local affairs – like lawyers, accountants, and other professionals, are obvious candidates for these searches. It doesn’t matter to the searcher how great a lawyer from Brazil is when they have a problem in Italy. Usually they do not wish to wade through pages of  non-local results hoping that someone will eventually show up that could help them

It is critical that anyone whose job is related or derived from the government or legal system of a particular country to show up not only for generic searches, but also for country specific ones.

Additionally, many people prefer to deal with local companies either due to a desire to support local businesses, or to ensure that if there is a serious problem, that they can be found and dealt with by local courts and laws.

Both of these situations provide a great opportunity for smaller, local websites to rank highly on a search engine, since the search engine discards non-local results and presents only local ones when this choice is on.

How the Decision is Made

Most people don’t really think about how the decision is made by the search engines on where a specific website is. They assume that perhaps it looks for an address or maybe looks at the extension.

Many people in Canada have registered their domains as .com, and not .ca. If you have a .com website, how would a search engine decide if you were Canadian or not? What about foreign companies who just bought a .ca domain?

If a spammer puts the word Canada 10 times on his page or typed in a Canadian address, would he be considered a Canadian? If that worked, they could just create pages full of the names of each country they wanted to rank highly in.

Knowing this, the programmers of the major search engines have decided to use the IP address of a website as the way to find out what country it’s from. If you register a (United Kingdom) or .com / .net /.org extension but host it in Canada you will get a Canadian IP address from your web host and therefore be considered a Canadian website in this case.

Basically, the country of your websites “residence” is the distinguishing factor, not it’s owner, domain name or content.

So What’s the Problem?

The problem is that most web hosts don’t know this, and often wouldn’t care much if they did. Most purchasers of web hosting are interested in the price, performance, and features of the web server, not the location of it’s IP. Likewise, many web hosts, including Canadian website hosts, buy reseller or co-location packages from US companies due to the price, performance and features.

So it’s not uncommon for a Canadian website host to have IP’s that are provided by the US company that is providing their upstream service. In short, they are using US IP’s. The US company cannot even offer Canadian IP’s to it’s clients and resellers without opening up a physical presence in Canada.

So it’s possible that a Canadian company, selling products and services to Canadians, with a .ca domain name and a Canadian website host (who they are paying in Canadian dollars) is not considered to be Canadian, and likely be removed from any searches done looking for Canadian companies!

So how can you tell if your site has a local IP address?

Well, if you are showing up on Google during a normal search, then the same search with “Sites from Canada” chosen should display your site, as well. If it doesn’t, then you are not considered to be a Canadian site and your IP is likely the culprit.


Even if you don’t care whether or not you are considered to be from your local country or not, we strongly recommend getting a local IP anyway. The fact that a large number of the internet users use local searches routinely means that your site may be getting dropped from legitimate and focused searches.

It’s worth noting that does not offer a “US Sites Only” button, so by being registered on a local IP you get the best of both worlds – you don’t get filtered out by either US customers or those from your home country. Note: some  smaller portals in the UK (and elsewhere) filter by the country extension (like instead of IP, but I know of none in Canada that filter by .ca.- it’s always IP.

One easy way to find a web host that is using local IP’s is to do a search for a web host with “Canadian Sites Only” and only choose someone on that list. Since they may have more than one upstream server, it’s still important to check with them to make sure that they put you on a local IP address. If they don’t know what you are talking about, then you likely need a different host.

It would be a real shame to have a great website and then have your most highly qualified customers not being able to see it.

This article was also published in WebPro News and Web Pro News Canada

Recommended Reading: Should SEOs Redirect or Park For Geolocation?

Unless otherwise noted, all articles written by Ian McAnerin, BASc, LLB. Copyright © 2002-2004 All Rights Reserved. Permission must be specifically granted in writing for use or reprinting anywhere but on this site, but we do allow it and don’t charge for it, other than a backlink. Contact Us for more information.

Copyright Law and SEO Part 1

Copyright Law and SEO Part 1

What is Copyright and why would an SEO care?

What Is Copyright?

Copyright is a legal right granted to the authors of certain artistic or creative works. I’m sure that wasn’t very helpful, so allow me to explain: it literally means “the right to copy”. This “copying” can be in the form of translated or derivative versions, reproductions, public or private distributions, displays, or broadcasts.

SEO’s encounter copyright issues all the time. One of the most important things we bring to a client – unique, effective, keyword rich content – is the very thing copyright law serves to protect. A computer can’t just spit it out. It is this creative element that helps to make a site stand out well on the search engine rankings. Google isn’t interested in indexing the same content over and over again, and it also removes computer generated “landing pages” whenever it finds them from it’s results.

By offering fresh, informative content to the search engines and the visitors, the SEO (and SEO aware copywriter) helps a website achieve high rankings without the costs of pay per click, banner ads, and other forms of advertising. This translates into more money in your clients pocket for the same (and often better) results and traffic. Naturally this content is worth a lot to your client, and by extension, you.

Unfortunately, there are many persons in the world who do not respect basic principles of fairness, sometimes due to issues of moral bankruptcy or deliberately criminal behavior, and sometimes due to an inability to understand what the big deal is.

Rather than coming up with their own content, they would rather steal yours. Even worse, once they have stolen your content, it’s no longer “unique” and therefore not as likely to be ranked highly – in some cases you could be dropped off the results all together, if the infringers site is older than yours.

Copyright infringement has become even more prevalent since the beginning of the computer generation. In the past, the copyright violator had to go through some effort and expense in order to, for example, copy a painting or record a musical number. Today a perfect digital image of an original picture, literary work or sound recording can be copied and transmitted to millions of people almost instantly. The ease of this transmission, along with it’s high quality, has lent itself to a whole new generation of people who seem to feel that anything that can be found on the internet is or should be free for the taking.

How Do I get a Copyright?

Easy – do something creative and original and commit it to some form of recording. An oral speech is not copyrightable, but as soon as it’s recorded or written down, that recording is automatically copyrighted. There is no need to register something in order to obtain copyright protection.

You can’t copyright: ideas, equations, thoughts, names, data, or things that should instead be patented, trademarked, or registered as an industrial design.

You can copyright: web copy, articles, musical recordings, video recordings, photos, designs, computer programs and most artwork.

How Do You Prove Your Work is Your Own?

One way is to register it. This is a method by which you take a copy of your work (for example, put your website on CD) and register it with a third party who can provide proof that you had this information as of a specific time.

There are several reasons to register your copyrighted material — first, you have proof on file. Second, registration creates an automatic assumption in the courts that your copyright is valid and that all your statements in the application for it are true. Third, in the US you are then able to take advantage of several statutory advantages that are not available otherwise.

If you don’t register it, your options are more limited, but they are available. Some people use the Wayback Machine to show an approximate publication time, but if your site is new or not indexed it may not help you. You can also point to file dates and so forth, but as you can imagine on the internet these things are easy to forge.

Some Popular Misconceptions

In the old days, if you didn’t have a copyright symbol and date on your copyrighted work you were in trouble. This is no longer the case in most countries. The format is usually:

Copyright © 2003 Your Name. All Rights Reserved.

It’s really hard for an infringer to stand up in court and say he didn’t know it was copyrighted when this notice is at the bottom of the pages he stole the content from. In order to receive protection under the Berne Convention, you were originally required to use the © symbol, but most countries have changed that requirement. I would strongly recommend using it though.

Remember that if you become aware of a copyright infringement and choose not to enforce your rights, you may find yourself prevented (“estopped”) from complaining the next time. Always defend your rights. Even if it’s minor, at the very least tell them you want permission asked for the use.

Fair Use and other Defenses

There are times when you can legitimately use someone’s copyrighted materials. But since this is also one of the automatic defenses infringers use, it’s important to know what fair use is, and isn’t.

Fair use (also called fair dealing in Canada) basically covers the ability to make copies of a work for “legitimate” purposes. This includes the ability for you to print off a copy of a web page at home for personal research purposes, and for public review, criticism or news reporting.

It does not cover the copying of all or substantially all of a work for public display. In short, if you rip off an article or artwork from someone else’s website, and then make some minor formatting changes and perhaps alter a byline and a bit of text, and then post it as your own, you are clearly and obviously infringing copyright.

There is a very fine distinction between fair use and infringement, and there is no specific amount or percentage that is “safe”. Quoting a few lines is safe, quoting the whole article is not. In Canada, fair dealing for criticism, news, or review requires a full citation to the original author. This is not required in the US, but I would recommend it anyway.


If you want effective copyright protection on your work, do this:

  1. Create an original and creative document – web copy, website design, or artwork.
  2. Once you have created this work, place a © copyright notice on it.
  3. Register the work in your home country (if available), and perhaps the USA as well.
  4. Defend your rights consistently and vigorously

In the next article, I’ll discuss what to do if you find out someone has been infringing your copyright.

This article was first published in the High Rankings newsletter.

Unless otherwise noted, all articles written by Ian McAnerin, BASc, LLB. Copyright © 2002-2004 All Rights Reserved. Permission must be specifically granted in writing for use or reprinting anywhere but on this site, but we do allow it and don’t charge for it, other than a backlink. Contact Us for more information.