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QUESTION: My client originally promoted a single .co.uk domain that he owned. Recently he purchased a .com and pointed that domain to his current website. Since this change we have noticed his “pages from the UK” content has been dropped from Google UK but the .com is performing well on Google.com under the client’s target keywords. What is going on? – G.S.V.

ANSWER: I see no sure answer why this has happened without more information. First things first, the .com website will get attention from Google.com simply because non-regional TLD’s are favoured at Google.com. Also, the fact that your client’s site got excellent rankings is a testament to the quality optimization of the site (even if you do not want these rankings); so kudos to you if you were the one who optimized the site.

Understanding why the .co.uk dropped in the UK regional rankings seems the tough question. Here are some things to check on:

  1. Was the .com 301 redirected to the .co.uk? A 301 redirect effectively tells the search engines that they should pay attention to the destination domain (.co.uk) versus the domain the spider originally entered at (.com). If you were to enable a 301 redirect now you might save yourself a lot of confusion and potentially pain in the future; since this technique undeniably states which domain represents the flagship website and will limit duplicate content penalties.
  2. Did the .com have a prior history? Perhaps it was bought the .com had a significant number of backlinks or history that outweighed the .co.uk domain. You see, I expect when Google is presented with two domains pointing at the same content it will choose to rank the domain with the most positive history. That is of course, if no other directives have been stated (i.e. 301’s). A way to see if the domain had a history before it was bought is to use the Wayback Machine and see if a prior site existed. Next you should do a backlink check for the domain to see if there are any links that came with the ‘new’ domain.
  3. Is the website hosted in the USA or the UK? If the .co.uk and the .com are both hosted on an American server then achieving a ranking on google.com will be significantly easier than google.co.uk and vice versa. In other words, host in the UK and use a .co.uk domain if you want to be sure to have regional UK rankings.

At the moment these are the most prominent possibilities that come to mind but there are likely more. The fact is, if all else fails and it appears everything is normal I find issues like oddly missing rankings fix themselves over time. I hope your outcome is extremely positive and I do hope you keep me up to date.

If anyone else has experienced this issue or has some educated feedback please post a comment within this posting on The SEO Blog.

PS. Here is a great forum thread at Search Engine Watch discussing Google.com vs. Google.co.uk rankings.