Users of Google’s blog hosting service Blogger may notice quite a significant change in the coming weeks. Instead of being able to access blogs hosted on Blogger directly, they may now be redirected to a country specific domain. A user visiting a blog from Australia for instance will be redirected to blogspot.com.au automatically whenever a blogspot blog is accessed.
Only custom hosted domains are exempt from the change. Why is Google doing this? According to a recently added help page to “continue promoting free expression and responsible publishing while providing greater flexibility in complying with valid removal requests pursuant to local law”. Google explains the move with greater content removal flexibility as they can now manage those removals on a per country base to limit the “impact to the smallest number of readers” as content removed “due to a specific country’s law will only be removed from the relevant ccTLD”.
The company notes that users who want to visit the original domain name can do so by accessing blogspost.com/ncr for that. It is not clear if this can also be attached to deep links, or if it only works to access the root domain of a particular blog.
It is definitely a confusing move both from a webmaster and site visitor perspective. Especially site regulars may think that something’s not right with the site if they are redirected automatically. Some may even believe that they are redirected by a hacked site or computer virus.
It is also not clear if users who are locked out of the country domain can access the ncr version of the site, or if they are blocked from accessing that version as well. It is however likely that Google will first check the country of origin before making the redirect, which would suggest that users would be blocked from accessing ncr versions if the blog is blocked in their country.
Blog owners on the other hand may fear that the change will impact their search engine rankings or visibility. Google will make use of the rel=”canonical” tag to prevent search engines from indexing different country versions of the same blog or post. It is however still possible that some webmasters will notice negative effects of the change.