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How to see Google.com USA results from a different country

Thursday, January 10th, 2008 by Matt Hopkins

Google Plus Local logoIf you or your clients have a global or international market, then it can be difficult to understand how your SEO is performing in those countries due to the localisation of search results in Google.

Over the past few years, Google has worked to “regionalise” most of its search results.  This means that with each search request, it takes into account which Google domain you are using (e.g. google.co.uk), where you are physically located (usually based on your IP address), any geographical indicators in your search (e.g. Portsmouth), etc.

We have a few clients who are marketing their services globally.  This used to be simpler.  Google.com was always the “international” or “global” search engine.  If you wanted UK companies, you searched Google.co.uk.  If you wanted to see how you were doing internationally, then you searched Google.com  – because all the results in Google.com used to be the same – no matter where you were located.  But regionalisation has changed this.

Additionally, Google now force you to use the local version of their engine, unless you click a link for the .com version. So if you type google.com into your address bar but you are in the UK you will be redirected to google.co.uk. Once on the .co.uk domain you can select a link in the bottom right to take you to google.com but this is not always automatic.

A number one ranking in Google.co.uk with the “search the web” option is not the same as Google.com.  Furthermore, if you search Google.com from the UK you will not see the same results as you would if you searched Google.com from Dallas, Texas.

This really hit home when client’s would brag to their friends in the USA about their SEO company and the number one position in Google – only to be told that when they performed the same search in the States, they were on the second page of results and not the first page, let alone in a number one spot.

Google provides a search parameter that you can use to see how the search results look from different geographical locations – “gl”.

The syntax is something like this:

http://www.google.com/search?q=your+search+term&gl=XX

Where XX has a number of options:

  • a two digit country code such as US, UK, AU, FR
  • a US zip code such as 90210
  • Longitude and Latitude such as 32.90,-97.03  (getting ready for Mobile Search!)

These results are still not exact – I’m not sure why.  I have tested several queries from our servers in the USA and compared them with results when using this option and they are always close but not an exact match.  The best option is to use the US Zip Code or Long/Latitude.  Using the country code (e.g. gl=US) still brought back UK listings that are not present when using the zip code.

Even with its flaws, this is a very useful facility.  If you are targeting foreign markets then this can be a real eye opener, allowing you to better understand where your potential customers from different countries can see your site listed.

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About the author

Matt Hopkins