At least two major new features are arriving in Google’s webmaster tools console according to information from the SES San Jose conference and the official Google webmaster tools blog.
The latter has announced support for the Internationalizing Domain Names in Applications (IDNA) and a series of further enhancements are expected. IDNA enables webmasters to use domain names which exist outside the original 26 characters used for the English-language – but not for too many other languages since many have odd accented characters. Additionally, this brings greater support for asiatic and arabic character sets.
The other new development which is currently being looked at, according to a senior Google source, is the addition of a tool within webmaster tools whereby you can specify the country your site relates to. The countries will be listed in a drop down list – and you’ll almost certainly only be able to choose once country per site.
For a long time it has been a problem if you site was a .com site with no history of activity in a country for Google to pick out the right ‘bucket’ in which to list your site. For some this was an embarrasment – for others a major business hurdle. Matters were worse for those .coms hosted in a country other than the one they were targeting – perhaps for business political or content management system reasons. The result was you might be targeting France with a site hosted in Norway – but not end up appearing in the ‘Pages Francophones’ of Google.fr – even if the language of the site was French.
The simplest way of solving this problem has always been to have local country domains in which case – contrary to what one SES panelist advised in San Jose, the hosting location becomes irrelevant. For many, this isn’t practical – hence the reason why some have chosen to host locally to get around the problem.
These two developments combined will help international SEO specialists manage their projects with less frustration!