At the end of October Google made a huge change that had an enormous ripple effect on international SEO. No longer can you enter a specific Google ccTLD in order to see how search results appear in different countries. Meaning, you can no longer enter a country-specific Google search engine URL into the browser with the hope of seeing the SERP for that country. Google is now showing you results for your location, no matter what. Thus, you would need a VPN in order to see Google SERPs from various countries... or do you? Here's how you can easily view Google search results internationally without using a VPN.
How to See Country-specific Search Results - A Google Geolocation Workaround
The process to work around Google's new domain policy is pretty straightforward. In fact, the only thing you need is a list of Google's country codes and URLs. I'm actually going to show you two ways, or rather variations, for how to go about seeing country specific results when sitting somewhere halfway around the world.
Amending the Google Homepage URL
The first way to avoid using a VPN to see international results is by amending the URL on the Google homepage. So let's do this together.
1) Open a new incognito window and go to google.com/ncr and hit the enter button. You'll notice at the bottom of the page, Google is showing you your geo-location. Meaning, despite the US URL showing, the results you get will be country-specific regardless.
2) Now add on /?gl=us at the end so that the URL shows google.com/?gl=us and press enter (technically speaking you don't need to add the "/", Google will throw it in automatically upon hitting enter). You'll notice at the bottom of the page, that Google has removed the country previously shown.
What did we do here? First we told Google to totally forget geolocation by tacking ncr (as in no country redirection) onto the URL. Then we simply told Google to change the geolocation to be the US, as in gl=us. The same formula works for any country. Meaning, if I wanted to see UK search results, I would tack on /?gl=uk.
Let's see how this actually plays out on the SERP. After tacking on /?gl=uk to the Google homepage I searched for theatre tickets and received:
You'll notice, that despite not being in the UK I was shown sites that either ended with .co.uk or that directly related to the London theatre.
Moving to Hong Kong now (by tacking on /?gl=hk), I searched for movies and lo and behold a SERP that contained a Hong Kong movie theatre Local Pack displayed:
Another Way to See Country Specific Results
The other way to workaround Google's recent geolocation resection is to finish amending the URL after executing a search. The upshot here is that you can actually see the results change by amending the URL.
So let's start by opening a new incognito window and again entering in your google.com/ncr, but this time entering the query right into the search box without further amending the URL. Now, once you've entered your search and are on the results page, head back up to the URL and enter &gl=us, or &gl=uk, or &gl=se, etc., etc., at the end of the URL.
A Simpler Solution to Try
Now, you could go right to your Google homepage, directly enter your query, and amend the URL once you've executed your search. Note, this generally works, but can be a bit inconsistent. That being said, here I ran a search for craft beer. Without any URL amending we get the following US results:
Now, at the end of the URL, tack on &gl=se (this is Sweden's country code, but again, it's the same formula for any country). Now we get the following results for the same query:
Yes, Google did leave some of the same results, but that's because I searched in English and the query was vague, it therefore left those sites that explain what craft beer is on the SERP. Once you move down a bit, you see Swedish sites that either have URLs that ends in .se or that end in .com but are in Swedish.
In fact, if we scroll to the bottom of the page, Google lists the location as Sweden, thereby indicating we have successfully circumvented the recent ccTLD restriction.
International SEO Lives!
Despite a bit of a scare, there is still life in international SEO. Though you do need a workaround, it certainly beats purchasing a VPN. Truth is, it's not much different than before, where you had to enter a country's specific Google domain anyway. Of course, you could just track international keywords with Rank Ranger, and let us do the work for you!
I hope you've found this little trick helpful, and as always, let me know if you have any questions.
Mordy is the CMO of Rank Ranger as well as the host of The In Search SEO Podcast. Despite his numerous and far-reaching marketing duties, Mordy still considers himself an SEO educator first and foremost. That's why you’ll find him regularly releasing all sorts of original SEO research and analysis!