Nowadays, very few people see exactly the same Google results as each other. The most important differences come from “personalized search“, which everyone signed into a Google Account has turned on by default. This promotes sites you’ve previously clicked on up the rankings (but only for you!) on the basis that you’ve found those results more relevant to you than others. If you see a Google result in maroon rather than blue, indicating it’s a page you’ve been to before, then if you previously went there from Google it might now be showing higher than it does for most other people.
One way in which people will definitely see different results is based on their location. That doesn’t just mean the actual local Google service they’re using (e.g google.co.uk, google.com, google.com.au, etc) but where they actually are. It’s not hard to detect that, which is how Google can deliver AdWords ads targeted to town-level. Here in Cambridge, England, if I type in “pizza delivery” I’ll see very different results from people in Cambridge, Massachusetts or Cambridge, Tasmania. It doesn’t matter whether or not I’m signed into a Google Account, it will just happen.
So, how do you simulate what people in other places might be seeing? There’s an easy way, but first, let’s do the hard one. This is to force the Google search to be localised. To do this, you need to know a little about the format of a Google query. So, if you type “insider programme” into Google, and take a look at the URL once the results are showing, you’ll see it looks something like this:
There’ll be some other stuff too, but that’s not important right now. That URL says “search Google UK (the .co.uk bit), using an English language search (the hl=en bit), for the term insider programme“. So, to simulate a search made from another country, we just need to play around with the URL. Here’s what you need to type in:
Substitute four things: the Google domain you wish to query for “XXX”; the language of the search for “YY”; the country where you’re pretending to be for “ZZ”; and the search itself for “whatever”. If it’s a multi-word search, separate the words with a “+”, e.g “insider+programme”. The order of the parameters doesn’t matter. You’ll end up with something like this:
Google uses the standard ISO 2-letter codes for country and language.
Now the easier method. If you have an AdWords account, take a look at the “Ad Preview Tool” under “Reporting and Tools”. Apart from being easier to work out, it enables you to preview results down to town and city level. Obviously we’re going to have to work harder to get some links from Australian sites if we’re to score more highly in Cambridge, Tasmania!