November 29, 2011
What is geolocation as applied to SEO? It’s when a search engine identifies your whereabouts (by your IP or GSM) and serves you the search results relevant to that particular territory. Some folks find it limiting, while others are quite happy with the feature.
However, when it comes to checking rankings, geolocation is mostly bad for SEO’s, since many of them work on websites that target multiple countries, in which case it becomes rather tricky to collect SEO data (rankings and other metrics) for a particular country when you yourself are in a different location. So, how does one manage to do it? Let’s see what possibilities there are.
1. Use a Proxy Server
Proxy servers are INTERMEDIARIES between the searcher and the remote server he/she is addressing. And, being intermediaries, they can disguise a search and make it appear as if coming from a different location. Say, you are browsing from Argentina using a proxy server that’s located in Australia. So, your search will appear as if being performed from Australia.
How do you find a respective proxy server and begin to use it? Well, there are free and paid proxies available on the Web – just search for “proxy list”, “free proxy list”, “free proxies” or similar. It’s best to use the lists that also specify the country each proxy server belongs to, unless you can easily tell by the IP address. Here (http://hidemyass.com/proxy-list/) is an example of a proxy server list.
Then you need to configure your browser to work behind a certain proxy from the list (you’ll basically need to enter the IP address of the proxy server and the port number it uses). For example, here is how you set it up in Firefox:
- Go to Tools >> Options >> Advanced >> Network >> Settings
- Check Manual proxy configuration
- Enter the proxy’s IP and port
- I also normally choose No Proxy for: localhost, so that no proxy is used when I connect to the local network.
For other browsers, just search for “how to configure Chrome/Opera/Internet Explorer/any other browser proxy settings”. For instance, here (http://googlechrometutorial.com/google-chrome-advanced-settings/Google-chrome-proxy-settings.html) is a tutorial that teaches how to configure Google Chrome.
Pros and Cons
- Along with giving you a certain degree of anonymity, proxy servers also help you avoid CAPTCHAs and IP blocks, which is good.
- However, free proxies are sometimes not safe to use and quickly become overloaded, while paid proxies cost money. Plus, it’s not always the case that the proxy from the country you are targeting is available when you need it.
2. Use a Proxy Management Tool
Another option is to use a proxy management tool, which spares you configuring the browser each time you need to change the proxy server (because your free proxy server is down or you need to collect data from “a different location”).
Proxy management apps are good for those who run lots of checks targeting lots of locales on a daily basis. One such tool that I recommend is FoxyProxy. Originally, this was a proxy management browser plugin for Firefox, and now it’s also available for Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.
FoxyProxy allows you to store all the info regarding the proxies you are using in one place and right at hand, and rotate proxies easily. It also allows you to assign URLs specific proxies, so that, whenever you visit those URLs, you access them via the assigned proxy servers.
FoxyProxy also offers “reliable, high-bandwidth proxy servers in 35 different countries”.
Pros and Cons
- What’s good about proxy management tools is that they save you time and effort and allow you to switch between proxies with almost no effort at all.
- The setting-up process is probably quite difficult. Besides, the proxies need to be checked upon regularly to make sure they are alive and working.
3. Use Google’s Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool
The Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool was designed for Google AdWords advertisers to let them see where their ads show up for different keywords in different countries. However, it can also be used to track rankings in non-paid search results as well.
Pros and Cons
- A huge advantage is that the tool allows you to choose the language you are pretend-searching in, as well as specify the exact area you are targeting (region and city).
- The tool does not let you click on the results it displays. Actually, there is a warning, saying that “This page is a tool for AdWords advertisers to test their ads. For full Google functionality return to the Google homepage.”
4. Add the gl Parameter to the Query URL
Apart from working behind a proxy or using a special tool to see the results visible in different locations, one can use another trick that quite a few SEO’s are familiar with. I’m talking about Google’s gl parameter that, technically, marks the country the search is being performed from.
Where does this parameter go? It goes into the query URL that appears when you do a search on Google. You simply add gl=US (if you’d like your results to be relevant for the United States) or, say, gl=BR (for Brazil) and hit “Search” once again. Here is a full list of country codes.
5. Use SEO Rank Checking Software that Supports the “gl” Parameter
Some possibilities to overcome geolocation are hidden right inside SEO tools that help one monitor rankings. Thus, if you use SEO software to keep track of website positions in the SERPs, see if the particular tool you are using allows you to use proxies or offers other geo targeting-related options.
For example, Rank Tracker (the keyword tracker and keyword suggestion tool
we built at Link-Assistant.Com) allows one to check rankings from behind a proxy as well as manage different proxy servers.
Besides, as of late, Rank Tracker also enables you to specify what gl parameters (multiple options are available) you’d like to add to your queries while checking website rankings for different keywords. You enter them while choosing your target search engines, PRIOR to the rankings check. The results for queries made with various gl parameters (as if performed from different locations) will then be displayed side by side:
So, these were 5 quite no-brainer tricks one can use to substantially diminish Google’s geo-targeting. In fact, you can hardly eliminate it completely, since Google uses other signals to associate you with a specific country (such as your browser’s languages, etc.). But using the 5 methods described above will help you largely beat it.
Alesya is a blogger and a marketing manager at Link-Assistant.com, the company behind SEO PowerSuite toolkit. Link-Assistant.Com is a group of SEO experts with extensive SEO experience. Based on their expertise, the company’s SEO tools http://www.seopowersuite.com/ were developed, setting the SEO industry’s benchmark for technology-powered link building and Web promotion.