You are in Amsterdam, but you want to perform a Google search as if you were staying in the UK. How do you make this happen? And why would you pretend you’re searching from a different country? Does it really matter that much? Yes it does.
With the ever increasing importance of mobile searches, Google understands perfectly well that users expect tailored, localized results. On average you’ll see significant differences when comparing similar searches in two different regions (depending on query type). Google has focused a lot of attention to finding out a user’s location. And in the process, a tool to filter results based on a different location was quietly dropped in 2015.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2017
Google has changed its policy regarding regional results. “Now the choice of country service will no longer be indicated by domain. Instead, by default, you’ll be served the country service that corresponds to your location.” Check the end of this article to read more.
There are several reasons why you want to know what Google is showing in another country. Just a few examples:
- An SEO needs to assess the performance of a client’s website abroad.
- A marketer wants to know which companies are dominant in specific countries, for specific industries.
- For your next travel destination you want to find truly local information.
- A desk researcher wants to find local sources that might offer more accurate, detailed information.
If you recognize any of these situations, you definitely want to read on. Below are four solutions to the problem, one Google tool and three browser addons.
International search tools
Obviously intended for people who spend money on Google Adwords, this tool is actually open to anyone. Set the desired location, language, device and domain, type in the query and press preview! This is the only tool in the list that can truly emulate mobile results, even for specific devices. However the tool is quite elaborate and if you often do this kind of research you might want to try a quick-and-dirty approach like described below.
MOZ Toolbar Custom Searches (Chrome)
The Mozbar is a well-known tool among SEO’s – and rightly so. Is has numerous options, one of them is the ability to create custom search profiles: a combination of country, region and city. The tool can only be installed on Google’s Chrome browser, and you will have to create a login too.
Language switcher for Google (Chrome)
This browser addon has a very basic approach, injecting extra search options on the SERP which are just a click away. Currently supporting 10 different countries/languages. The tool doesn’t allow you to create your own regional combinations, but it’s quick and it seems to work quite well. So if the available countries are okay for you, give it a try. Oh, and you’ll also get Wikipedia selection boxes. Personally I don’t need them but maybe it works for you?
Redfly SEO Global for Google Search (Firefox)
This tool has been one of my long time personal favorites. First perform a search, than select one of the global search options – you can add any geolocation, based on url-parameters which are then automatically added to your search. Several advanced options are available too. Unfortunately it seems the addon isn’t as actively updated as it used to be. Results sometimes are not fully localized, and currently it’s only available for Firefox. So always check if the results make sense, and use in a private browser for best results.
To conclude, be aware that in most cases, you will probably not exactly see what a person in that particular country is seeing. Apart from language issues, there might be differences because of searcher history, and differences because of the mobile / desktop ‘divide’ (three of the tools mentioned here only work on desktop). Still , I believe you will often get a pretty good grasp of what a SERP in that other location looks like.
UPDATE GOOGLE POLICY REGIONAL RESULTS OCTOBER 2017
At the end of October 2017 Google has changed its policy with regards to showing regional results. The choice of country service used to be indicated by domain (like google.com or google.nl). Now, by default, you’ll be served the country service that corresponds to your location (Based on IP address).
Personally, I can remember manually switching from google.nl to google.com and seeing different results. But that was quite a while ago. Google was already making it harder to switch between domains for years, in most cases referring you back to your ‘own’ regional domain.
But the fact is, it doesn’t matter any more! With the new changes, you can now go to settings and select the country of your choice. Results will be tailored to that particular country, even when you’re still on your own regional Google domain (in my case, google.nl).
Please be aware that:
- For best results, in many cases it’s best to change the preferred language of Google products as well. Language is an important factor when it comes to localization of results.
- Saved settings remain persistent, even on different browsers when using the same Google login.
- So, don’t forget to turn back the settings when you’ve finished your research 😉
What’s really interesting: It seems to me that including language and location parameters (&hl=en&gl=uk) to your search query url still generates regional results. Some of the tools above apply this method which means they could still do the job in an easy way.
These two searches clearly generate different results without fiddling with search settings.
I’m curious to hear about your experiences with Google’s new regional results policy or the mentioned tools! And if you feel I missed any good ones, please add them to the comments below.
This article was originally published on avanelk.net on February 20th, 2017, and updated in November 2017.