Bad Reputation by Association – Hidden Dangers for International Search Marketers


Motoko Hunt

Although many business owners diligently follow common international expansion best practices, they need to make sure they do their homework in order to avoid unnecessary headaches, which could mean the end of their business abroad.

This is not a typical tale of reputation management that was caused by your own misconduct of buying links or creating a link farm. This is about how simple choices you make when going global could give you a bad reputation in search, and how some of those choices could end your international business before it even gets started.

The option of geo-targeting is one of the important action items for the international SEO. There are various ways to set the geo-targeting, and using local domains (ccTLDs) or hosting your website locally are two of the most popular and well-known ways to send the right geo-setting signals to the search engines. So how could anything go wrong, when you follow this most basic of international SEO best practices?

Hidden Danger 1: Buying Domain for Your Website

You want to do it right, and you look for a ccTLD for a new international site to have the right geo signal. Luckily, the domain you want is available for sale. You purchase the domain and launch the website, but nothing happens. The pages are not being indexed or not ranking well, and through research it looks like the domain you purchased is on Google’s blacklist.

It’s always good practice to check a domain history before you purchase it. One of the easiest ways is to search for the domain name to see what comes up. Search for “link:yourdomain” to see who is linking to your website. You can also search for “site:yourdomain” to see if any Web pages are indexed in the search engine.

If the website is penalized for bad link-building practice, you can use the “Disavow” tool in conjunction with hard work to clean up the bad links. Then, you can submit a reconsideration request to Google. Here’s avideo about a tip for domain research by Matt Cutts of Google.

Hidden Danger 2: Hosting Your Website

Another way for your website to have the right geo signal is to host your site locally in the country. You search for hosting services, and find one that looks good in terms of the services, the pricing, and the ease of use. What you didn’t know was that your website now has lots of sketchy domain IP neighbors. You wonder if your website’s poor ranking performance is due to the domain IP and the domain IP neighbors.

There are a number of tools (many of which are free) that you can use to check the local domain’s IP to see what kind of a neighborhood it is. Here’s a list of some of the well-known IP checker tools:

  • Neighborhood Checker by Majestic SEO
  • Reverse IP Domain Checker by YouGetSignal
  • MyIPNeighbors

Note: This is not a discussion about whether a dedicated IP is better or not. It’s about understanding who your domain IP neighbors are, and if you are set up in a bad neighborhood.

Hidden Danger 3: Local Office

Sometimes, the problem could come from where you least expect it. You do all your domain and IP research and all are clean. And since you believe in great locally focused customer service, you found a great partner in local market. What you may not have known is that your local agent set up their office using a shared virtual rental office space. Everything seemed to go well until one day you received a notice for closing down your merchant account from the e-commerce host for violation of local entity registration laws.

If you can’t think of anything you’ve done wrong for your account to be terminated, you should definitely talk to the help desk, and try reinstating the account. If that doesn’t work, you may be sharing the bad reputation of another rental office tenant using the same office address, but more commonly a shared Internet access IP. In this case, moving to a new office space, and creating a new merchant account is the only way to reopen your business.

Especially if your business depends on selling through someone else’s website, you should check to see if anyone else is doing business with that website from the rental office you’d like to use. It’s best if you could find an office space where you are not sharing with anyone else, especially e-commerce companies.

Many countries have organizations, such as JETRO for Japan, which provide support for setting up the office in their countries. They may have a better solution for your local office than what you find yourself in the search results.

Business owners diligently follow these common international expansion best practices with good intentions, specifically wanting to do it right the first time. Unfortunately, your good intentions don’t matter to the search engines; what matters is only what they see in bits and bytes. Do your homework so that you can avoid unnecessary headaches, which can put your business on hold, damage your reputation, or worse, could put an end to your business abroad.