Recently, I have been asked by a customer about the importance of the location of the server in the ranking of the website on search engines. I knew that back when I started my career in Digital (2007) server location used to be an indicator considered by Google in the ranking of websites for local searches. I also knew that in later years server location became less and less important. Today, server location is essentially irrelevant for the ranking of your website for local searches on Google, as stated by John Mueller on Twitter. What does Google take then into account for local searches? This is what John says about the topic:
For geotargeting we use mostly the ccTLDs or Search Console Setting, so place the server where it works best for you.
ccTLD stands for ‘country-code Top Level Domain’ and refers to the country-, territory- or region-specific domain extensions. For example, .ie is a ccTLD and so is .co.uk. What the Webmaster Trend Analyst from Google says in his tweet is that while the location of the server is irrelevant, Google uses ccTLDs as one of the main indicators for ranking your website for searches in a particular country, territory or area.
Google Search Console, former Webmaster Tools, allows you to monitor the general health of your website. Among the many options there is one that gives you the option of selecting a specific, geographical audience your content is targeted to. For example, if you provide carpet cleaning services to Irish customers only, it’s recommended that you select Ireland as your target market in the settings.
After accessing your Google Search Console account and property, you want to select ‘Search Traffic’ from the left hand side navigation and click on ‘International Targeting’. You will then be shown two tabs, ‘Language’ and ‘Country’. You want to select the ‘Country’ one and make sure the targeted country corresponds to the one you want your website to be ranked for.