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  • How to Enhance Your SEO with a VPN

    How to Enhance Your SEO with a VPN

    Have you considered using a virtual private network (VPN) to supercharge your SEO strategy?

    When you use a VPN as an SEO tool, you’ll get access to accurate organic search results from around the world.

    If your goal is to reach a worldwide market, this article will explain how you can add a VPN to your SEO toolbox for improving your data.

    What is a virtual private network (VPN)?

    vpn diagram for SEO
    A virtual private network (VPN) allows a user to mask his/her identity and therefore alter how Google interprets location data for particular queries.

    A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and a remote server.

    When you load a website using a VPN, your traffic flows through the encrypted tunnel, which means it can’t be read in transit.

    Encryption makes data unreadable to anyone without the decryption key.

    The unreadability makes encryption the best way to protect against data breaches. When data is encrypted, it doesn’t matter if it’s stolen because it can’t be read.

    As your traffic flows through the encrypted tunnel, it picks up the remote server’s IP address before it lands on the website you’re trying to visit. This effectively hides your true IP address.

    Without a VPN, your internet traffic is unencrypted and your internet service provider (ISP) can see all the websites you visit. However, with a VPN, your ISP can only see that you’ve connected to a VPN and can’t see any internet activity beyond that connection.

    While VPNs are promoted as the ultimate privacy tool, they have limitations.

    Thankfully, those limitations aren’t applicable to your SEO strategy.

    How using a VPN can help your SEO strategy

    To rank your website for competitive terms in the search engines, you have to know how your site is doing in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

    Are you on page ten?

    Page five?

    Are you on the first page of results, but toward the bottom?

    You need an accurate view of how your web pages are ranking in order to improve your position in the SERPs.

    However, international SERP rankings are often skewed because of factors like cookies, page trackers, personalization, and geo-restricted content.

    Search results vary depending on a variety of factors, including location. The same keywords will produce different search results for users in different locations. For instance, the top search results for a given phrase in one country might not even show up in another country.

    You can’t use your real IP address to see how your web pages are ranking in other countries. Using a VPN is the only way to get an accurate view of international SERP rankings. Your browser must believe you are actually located in a given area in order to produce accurate search results from that area.

    When you use a VPN to access international search results, you’ll also get access to the meta descriptions associated with the top-ranking web pages.

    You can use this information to further refine your own meta descriptions.

    Once you know how (or if) your web pages are ranking in other locations, you can tailor your SEO strategy to target those locations.

    Tips for using a VPN to access international search results

    Whenever you access the internet, it’s not just your IP address that gets logged. Your computer’s MAC address and browser are also recognized.

    This is in addition to cookies stored in your browser.

    The following tips will help you get around these factors and access genuine international search results.

    1. Use a different browser or go incognito

    Use a different browser or go incognito

    Your internet history will affect your search results, even when using a VPN. Your internet Cookies and cached pages are stored locally on your device and will come into play regardless of your IP address.

    To ensure you get accurate international results, use the incognito mode in your browser to avoid bringing your cookies and browsing history into play. Or, use a new browser you don’t normally use.

    For example, if you normally use Opera, switch to Safari for your international searches. This way, you can clear your cookies and cache after each international search without having to delete the cookies you actually need.

    2. Don’t sign into your Google account

    Make sure you’re logged out of your Google account before searching internationally.

    Google personalizes search results based on three main factors:

    • Your IP address. If you’ve been using a VPN for a while, you’ve probably noticed that local searches bring up local businesses in the same zip code as your remote server’s IP address.
    • The zip code specified on your Google account profile. If your account zip code doesn’t match your IP zip code, you’ll get a mix of results from both locations.
    • Your search history. Google stores your search history from the day you open your account. When you’re logged into your Google account, your search history will be used to personalize your search results, even when you’re using an incognito browser and a VPN.

    When you’re performing international searches for SEO, keep results clean by not signing into your Google account.

    3. Use a dedicated laptop for international searches

    This might seem too extreme for some, but if you really want to take precautions, use a dedicated laptop to perform your international searches. This way, there’s no chance your MAC address, cookies, or internet history will be factored into your search results.

    This is the ideal solution if you can’t download new browsers and you don’t want to delete your cookies or browsing history.

    4. Use a VPN to preview your pay-per-click (PPC) ads

    Google AdPreview Tool

    Most people use Google AdPreview to check on their ad positions for various searches. This tool was created to avoid skewing your click through rates (CTRs) by running regular searches and not clicking on your ads.

    While you can set your location before searching, Google Ad Preview doesn’t always provide accurate results. Sometimes it skews the order of PPC ads and displays organic rankings incorrectly.

    You can bypass this dilemma with a VPN. Using a VPN to check on your PPC ads will show you the actual order of organic search results and paid ads as they display in your target location.

    Prepare your website for targeting various locations

    Once you know how to check on your international search rankings, you’ll want to revisit how you create content for international visitors.

    The first step in launching an international SEO strategy is to prepare your website for international traffic. Content wise, you’ll want to create location landing pages.

    Location landing pages are individual web pages with content crafted to reach an audience in a specific location. For instance, when a business has seven locations in separate cities, they’ll create seven individual web pages, one for each city. The general content will be the same, but the copy will be tailored for each city. For instance, the content will contain the city’s name, the state, local nicknames for the communities in the city, and other keywords that provide a clear context for search engines.

    You can use location landing pages to capture international traffic.

    However, publishing content for international locations will require more than just creating landing pages.

    Upgrade your website to accommodate international traffic

    To ensure your local visitors don’t end up on your international pages by accident, you’ll need to create a separate section on your website for your international customers.

    The best way to do this is to create a multi-national website that detects a user’s location before displaying the proper version of your website.

    You can also buy a domain name for the country you’re targeting, since most search engines favor country code domains.

    When you have a website on a country code TLD (top-level domain), that website is more likely to show up in search results for people who live in that country.

    However, it’s not entirely because the search engines favor country code domains. That plays a role, but the main reason is because of search personalization.

    Take advantage of personalized search results with country code TLDs

    Have you ever visited websites built on country code domain names, only to find more of those same country code domains showing up in subsequent search results?

    For example, say you’re located in the United States and you’re searching for cat food. You stumble across a specialty kibble made in France and you visit the manufacturer’s website, which happens to be a .fr domain name. You go back to Google and search for cat food again, but this time you get more .fr domain names in your search results.

    The fact that you visited a .fr website tells Google that .fr domain names are relevant to your searches. If you keep visiting websites on .fr domain names, you’ll continue to get those domains in your search results.

    People who live in France regularly visit websites built on .fr domain names. If you have a target market in France, you’ll benefit from owning a .fr website because it will be easier to get that website into the search results for users located in France.

    Country code domain names have one drawback with SEO

    There is a downside to launching a new website on a county code domain.

    Since it’s a new domain, you’ll need to start your SEO efforts from scratch and it can take a long time to rank.

    However, in the long run, it’s worth the investment.

    VPN recommendations

    Whether you’re new to VPNs, or you’re wondering if there’s a better option, here are the top 3 VPN services that will help you with SEO.

    1. Proton VPN

    Proton VPN doesn’t have a large number of services, but it’s secure in ways other VPNs lack.

    For instance, it’s a Swiss provider, and they don’t log user activity or share any data with third parties.

    It’s also supported on Linux and has a built-in ad blocker.

    2. Express VPN

    Express VPN has more servers in more locations worldwide, which helps with speed.

    This service is perfect if you just need it for SEO-related research.

    3. Nord VPN

    Nord VPN

    Nord VPN has earned a reputation for having the best encryption, plenty of servers, and high-speed connections.

    If you rely on a VPN for more than SEO, this is a great option.

    Start using a VPN to supercharge your SEO strategy

    Do you have an untapped international market?

    It’s time to reach out to those people.

    Expanding your reach is a high-level marketing strategy that not all small businesses pursue.

    Start using a VPN to see how your website is ranking in other countries.

    If you’re not ranking at all, don’t worry – you can always hire a professional marketing team to help.

    Get your website ready for international traffic

    Are you ready to start reaching international markets? We can help you reach your goals.

    Need to expand your existing website? We’ll do that for you. Want some new location landing pages? We’ve got you covered.

    Need a full international website or to acquire a domain name with a particular country code? We can help.

    Our full-stack developers can build any web project you need. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you reach your international market.

    Chief Marketing Officer at SEO Company
    In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International. As a technical SEO strategist, Sam leads all paid and organic operations teams for client SEO services, link building services and white label SEO partnerships. He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.
    Samuel Edwards