At the end of last month, Google announced that they would no longer change results based on the Google TLD used to conduct the search. Anyone that specializes in International SEO was already aware that merely changing the Google domain was not enough to see how results looked in another country (Google already included searcher location into the results), but it was still a way to at least get a look at how things might rank. With this change, Google has made it impossible to see results outside of your current location without masking your IP address to another locale.
Even more frustrating for anyone trying to get a look at results in another country, Google also closed off what I used to consider the best way of seeing pure search results without any intent or unintended local targeting. Up until last week, you could use the Google Adwords Preview tool to set the city, country, device and Google domain and then see both paid and first page organic results as they would appear to a searcher in that location. With Google’s change on TLD, even the organic results within that tool are targeted to the location of the searcher!
I mentioned this on Twitter and Google’s John Mueller did not address my question and just referred me to Adwords.
It looks like the AdWords keyword tool is hosted on adwords URLs, so I’d guess that @adwords & their forum would be better suited to help.
— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) October 30, 2017
Now anyone that wants to get any sort of preview on how Google results look in another location has to use a VPN or proxy that can change their IP address. I of course use multiple rank tracking tools to look at results at scale, but being able to manually see global results was something I spent a lot of time looking at.
There are other use cases for wanting to see results outside a region aside from marketing purposes. When I lived in Singapore, I frequently used different Google domains when online shopping for things in the US. I specifically wanted to see items sold on US only websites, and did not want to just see what Google thought made sense for a Singaporean searcher. Additionally, when planning shopping outside Singapore, I used the Google domain of my destination in order to see results as they might appear to someone in that country. This gave me a broader view of results rather than again seeing only what Google wanted to show someone outside the country.
Former Googler Filli Weise proposed a theory that Google made this change in order to head off right to be forgotten lawsuits, but even if he is correct, Google should still leave a window – even a hard to find one – that can show results outside one’s location. Needing to pay for a VPN and run it just to conduct Google searches seems like an unnecessary step.