Tag Archives: country versions

Google makes it harder to change location for country specific research

Google has made a major change to search and it does not bode well. Results are now based on your current location. So what’s new?  Google has always looked at your location, even down to city/town level, and changed the results accordingly. That is fine if you are travelling and want to find the nearest Thai restaurant via your mobile, for example. Presenting a list of eateries in my home town of Reading is no good to me if I’m away in Manchester and getting very hungry!

The problems start if you are researching a person, company or industry based in a country other than your own – let’s use Norway as an example – or just want the latest news from that country.  The trick used to be to go to the relevant country version of Google, in this case www.google.no, run your search and Google would give preference to Norwegian content. It is a great way to get alternative viewpoints on a topic and more relevant “local” information on a subject. Now, regardless of which version of Google you go to, you will see the same results tailored for your home location.

In a blog posting Making search results more local and relevant Google says:

Today, we’ve updated the way we label country services on the mobile web, the Google app for iOS, and desktop Search and Maps. Now the choice of country service will no longer be indicated by domain. Instead, by default, you’ll be served the country service that corresponds to your location. So if you live in Australia, you’ll automatically receive the country service for Australia, but when you travel to New Zealand, your results will switch automatically to the country service for New Zealand. Upon return to Australia, you will seamlessly revert back to the Australian country service.

This confirms that mobile search is what Google is concentrating on. After all it is, one assumes, where Google makes most of its money but it does not help professional researchers.

There is a way around it but it is rather long-winded. You need to go to Settings – use either the link in the bottom right hand corner of your Google home page or the one near the top of a search results page – and click on Advanced Search .

Google Settings Menu

On the Advanced Search screen scroll down to “Then narrow your results by…” and use the pull down menu in the region box to select the country.

Google Advanced Search Region

I ran a search on Brexit in google.co.uk, google.no and a few other country versions of Google. All gave me essentially the same results.Google UK results for Brexit

Using the region filter and selecting Norway as the country I am given the following by Google:

Google Norway Region Filter

Notice, though, that Google is giving me English articles or English versions of them. Google has decided that I would prefer English articles and I have to scroll down to number 10 and beyond to see pages in Norwegian. To get a  broader view of what is being said in Norway about Brexit I have to go back into settings, click on Languages and choose Norwegian/Norsk.

Brexit search with region and language filter on

Oh – and you get slight different results if you go through a VPN and set Norway as the country.

What worries me even more is that Google could do away with the advanced search screen and the region filter with it.

Google says:

We’re confident this change will improve your Search experience, automatically providing you with the most useful information based on your search query and other context, including location.

No, Google. You have just made things more difficult for those of us who conduct serious, in-depth research. The way I feel about this change at the moment is that if you were a person I would take a baseball bat to your head!

UPDATE: In response to David Pearson’s comment and reminder below.
Including a site command e.g. site:no in the search works relatively well for this particular example (Norway) and gives good but slightly different results. It will, of course, miss Norwegian sites that are registered as .com or other international domains. The amount of overlap (or lack of it) will vary depending on the country. It’s another one to add to the list of strategies, which I am sure will become longer,  for dealing with this problem.

Google still thinks coots are possibly cats (or cows)

I have been dining out on the ‘Google thinks cats are lions’ story for several months but decided that its inclusion in my presentation at INFORUM 2011 in Prague should be its last outing. (See my blog postings at http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2011/02/12/google-decides-that-coots-are-really-lions/ and http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2011/02/21/update-on-coots-vs-lions/ for the details on this story). Towards the end of my talk I pointed out that Google has now abandoned coots=lions and carries out what I consider to be a normal search for coots mating behaviour, or as normal as any Google search can be. I had checked in Google.co.uk, Google.com and Google.cz a couple of weeks before the INFORUM conference and coots were definitely black, medium sized water birds and not large furry mammals with huge fangs and claws. As I concluded my presentation, though, I saw a few people in the audience staring at their laptops and shaking their heads. One of them came up to me during the break and pointed out that Google Czech Republic was offering cats instead of coots for the first two results. This prompted a quick review of the Google coots/cats/lions situation.

The search: coots mating behaviour

Google.co.uk gives a reasonable set of results but having blogged and included details of the search in so many presentations and newsletters my own pages are taking over the top positions in the results.

Google UK coots search

Google.com gives similar results.

Google.cz however has different ideas. It offers me three articles from Google Scholar and then says “Did you mean cats mating behaviour” in Czech and gives me two results on that subject. The rest of the results are all about coots, so at least Google.cz is giving me my original search as an option rather than unilaterally deciding I really meant cats.

Google Czech Republic and Coots

Looking at other country versions of Google, Google.no and Google.se came up with similar results. Google Germany, however, thinks coots are cows and even throws in a Youtube video:

Google Germany Coots

I am not going to even begin to try and work out what is going on. Three of us nearly went mad attempting to get to the bottom of the original coots=lions oddity. But it does make one wonder even more whether Google can be trusted to come up with even a handful of useful results.