From France to Canada. How AirBnB Uses Geo-targeting

From France to Canada. How AirBnB Uses Geo-targeting

Here is an International SEO riddle. You are on searching for the keyword “airbnb toronto”.   Why does the .FR website appear instead of the local Canadian website?

SERP for the keyword "airbnb toronto"
After all, it goes directly against the principles of Google, which favors results for locally relevant queries (such as this one). We have seen it happening a lot: try to search for “prater vienna” and you will get local results on local TLDs (top level domains). In this case,  .AT domains, regardless of the query language or searcher’s location.

SERP for the keywords "prater vienna"

Strangely enough, we don’t get .CA AirBnB when searching for AirBnB Montréal. You get .FR website’s results. AirBnB uses TLDs to display content for local searches in the particular area. Simply said, when you are searching from France on, it will give you the .FR website regardless of the query you search, be it locally relevant or not. How did folks at AirBnB manage to do so? Here are a few challenges.

Challenge #1: Listings are in different languages tool detected English language, even though the page is intended for French users, AirBnB can not influence it, as listings are in various languages. results

Challenge #2: AirBnB offers users to change the currency on-page

AirBnB allows users to change the currency displayed on the page. Therefore, it sends weaker geographical signal: there is no fixed currency that would help search engines understand local relevancy. In other words, they have to rely on other signals to be strong enough to compensate for it.


Challenge #3: AirBnB uses a single branded Facebook and Google+ page

The company has no offices. Therefore no local NAP information which would give them an advantage in local search. AirBnB uses a single branded Facebook and Google+ page with no local details, which gives Google and other search engines zero local signals as well. Google+ and Facebook local listings are often used by search engines to determine local relevancy of a website.

AirBnB NAP info


Geo-targeting solution that goes against Google’s principles

1. Use ccTLDs and promote them locally

Place content on ccTLDs (country code top-level domain) and promote them locally. AirBnB uses .FR domain (obviously) and the link profile indicates that they do local marketing and link building targeted at this ccTLD. The same can be done for the .CA domain.

link profile

The majority of links are from France

2. Monitor your backlink profile

Regularly check your anchor texts: they should ideally contain local keywords like France and other relevant text in French. This helps Google to know that this is a French version for French users, which would then override the local character of the keywords (Montréal).

Anchor text contains keywords in French and related to France

Some anchor texts are in French and contain local keywords like France, which increases local relevancy of the results on the .FR domain. The anchor texts are a result of the company’s local marketing in France targeted at the .FR domain.

3. Nail Hreflang

This tag tells search engines the relation between different language / country versions, so the engines can serve result to users searching in that language or country. AirBnB chose to put Hreflang in the headers and it references all the related versions of the particular page so that Google has no doubt which page targets which users.

AirBnB's Hreflang tags


Search Engines will listen to you

Bottom line. Even with weak geo-signals on-page, it is possible to serve content to clients who you want to target and where you want to target them. Search engines will pay attention to the signals you will provide to them through local marketing, local link building, TLD strategy and Hreflang tags. The only thing is that these signals have to be in alignment and not contraditory.

Do you want to improve your geo-targeting? Drop us an email to see how we can better connect you with your worldwide audience.

Featured image source:

Artur Kornienko

Artur Kornienko

If you have an idea, he will put that in words and spread it.

Entries by Artur Kornienko