Does your online business target countries other than your own? If it does, you probably know that promoting a website in a foreign market can be challenging for a number of reasons. First, each country is a unique search ecosystem with its own search engines, mobile Internet penetration rate, etc. Second, in a foreign country, people search in a specific linguistic environment.

Hence, to adjust your campaign to a particular search market, you have to:

  • Be familiar with the means of achieving visibility in the local search engines you target (ranking algorithms, paid ads policies, etc.);
  • Speak the language of the target country (or hire someone who does) to do keyword research and perform other language-related marketing tasks;
  • Create a language-specific website/content;
  • Adjust your Web marketing campaign to search results personalization.

Out of these four points, the trickiest one is probably search results personalization. Today, search engines customize search results based on the user’s location, browser language, Web history and other specifics, making it hard for marketers to see the same search results as their clients.

Imagine that you ship a product to a customer but, when it arrives, there’s something else in the box.  In the same way, due to personalization, the search results you see may be quite different from what your client will see. Thus, if you don’t take personalization into account while shaping a marketing campaign, it’ll equal to playing blind and will make your promotional efforts ill-targeted.

Your target audience uses Google… Which one?

An SEO campaign targeting France may sound like a piece of cake to a marketer who is poorly versed in the intricacies of Google search. The country’s search market is almost entirely dominated by Google:  90.6%. So, one is dealing with a familiar search engine, familiar ranking algorithm, familiar AdWords service, etc. The only challenge seems to be the language.  But is it really the only challenge?

Let’s perform a simple test and search for “doors” on and on Google .com using Google’s Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool. The app lets one set the preferred location, language, the regional variety of Google as well as the type of device one is using.

I set these parameters and hit “Preview”:

The results for Google U.S.:

As we see, the results differ drastically. The webpages that appear to have gotten into the results due to personalization are marked blue on the screenshot. But even the results that both pages have in common show up at different positions. It looks as if I’ve used two different search engines to search for “doors”!

Now, where do these differences leave us, Web marketers? How do we target a particular foreign audience if they see something quite different from what you and I would see? I guess travelling to Paris to check your site rankings is NOT an option. 🙂

Using the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool

A solution that first comes to mind is to use the already mentioned Google’s Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool. However, this free tool is primarily meant for AdWords advertisers. At some point, it will ask you to log in, so, you’ll have to set up an AdWords account to continue using it. Also, it doesn’t let you click on the search results it provides, as they’re only for preview.

This way of checking personalized rankings would probably suit someone whose promo campaign is small enough to be carried out manually. However, if you need to check ranks for dozens of keywords daily, a more capable SEO tool would be required.

Using a proxy server

Some rank checking SEO tools work with proxy servers. A proxy server lets you pretend that you’re browsing from a particular location. There are public (free) or private (paid) proxy servers. Which ones you choose to use would depend on the number of keywords you need to track and how often you need to run checks.

This method also has some drawbacks, and namely:

–  You’d need a separate proxy server for each new location;

– A proxy server only camouflages your real location. You’d need an extra tool to change browser language accordingly;

– A proxy server does not let you pick a specific region or city.

Using an SEO tool that supports personalization settings

Another option is to use an SEO tool that lets you set the preferred city, region, country, language and other parameters without a proxy server. Such SEO software would normally ask you to enter these details PRIOR to a rank check.

(a screenshot of our in-house SEO tool, Rank Tracker)

This option is great for those targeting a big number of keywords and/or providing Web marketing services.


If you promote an online business in a foreign market, you’re facing the problem of your target audiences seeing different search results than you due to their search results being personalized for location, language, search engine regional variety, etc. It is necessary to find a way out of this predicament if you want your marketing campaign to be well-targeted and effective.

You can do it by using:

– Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool (for Google only)

– a proxy server

– a rank tracking tool with personalization settings.

The choice of a tool would depend on the scale of your marketing campaign. The above options let you see the same search results as your foreign clients and hit the bull’s eye with your promotional efforts. 😉