A Google Groups thread has a discussion about blocking a whole continent from seeing your website. This guy has a lot of African traffic that he doesn’t want (because he has no customers in Africa?) and he wants to block them based on their location.
The answer he got from the Google guy is that this is against Google’s webmaster Guidelines.
I think this is absurd. The thing about Google Webmaster Guidelines is that you can’t ignore them. If you ignore them, they will ignore you, and we don’t want that to happen, right?
Now , what can we do if we find something really stupid in Google Webmaster Guidelines? Is it safe to ignore it? I don’t have the guts to say yes, although I think that this is the right answer. If the traffic from Iran is wasting my bandwidth and I don’t want to do any business with that country, what is wrong with sending the Iranian visitors to a page that says “Your region is not supported. Good bye and have a nice day (and on a personal level – stop supporting worldwide terrorism…).
I do agree with the Google anti-cloaking policy, I think it makes sense and goes together with their do-no-evil vision.
However, on this one, I think they went too far.
update (july 5th 2008) :
A correction was posted on the google groups thread. The guy from Google was wrong, he didn’t fully understand their policy…
After a bit of double-checking, I have a clarification where I was mistaken. Sorry about the confusion!
The important part is that you do not treat the Googlebots any different than other users from that region. So if your site blocks users in the region where the Googlebot comes from (based on the IP address and your IP/Location lookups), you should be blocking it as well. Blocking users outside of the Googlebot’s region would generally be ok.