OK, so you’ve translated your website, performed your multinational SEO, building localized links, and are ready to test the results. But why is your French page not popping up in Google? You did everything there is in the book, yet the results fail to come. Disaster!
Well, perhaps not. The issue might be that you are looking into the “wrong” Google! Surprised? You should not be. Google identifies your location, and the language of your browser, perhaps also your language preferences in Google Webmaster, and tries to localize the result for you. So, if you are based in the US or in Germany, the results would be different than if you searched in France. Actually, if you are not the US, when you write http://www.google.com, Google will redirect you to your country-specific Google, say, http://www.google.de for Germany or http://www.google.es for Spain…. and http://www.google.fr for France.
So if you want to test your Google SERP for your French pages, type the address of the “French” or “Canadian” Google (www.google.fr and www.google.ca respectively). The funny thing is that you will get a page in YOUR language, with an option to switch to the local language (French and English for Canada). Skeptic? Have a look at the next screenshot, when accessing Google with a Spanish locale:
In this way, you can actually test your French pages in the same way as French (in the above example: Canadian) users would do.
But wait: Let’s assume that you ARE in France, and want to test Google Canada. Does it work? Yes, it does. And Germany. And Spain. And every single Google there is…. except Google.com, which will redirect you back to Google France. But do not despair if you want to access Google.com for global testing, there is a solution, simply add “/ncr” after the Google address, and it will NOT redirect you anywhere. Thus, if you type http://www.google.com/ncr, you will NOT be redirected.
It is always important when you perform SEO translation to check the results in the local markets you are targeting, because Google (and many other search engines) try to provide you with geo-targeted results because they think those are most relevant to you. That is obviously not always true, but it might be true for your customers. And even if they are not, those are the results that they will see, like it or not. So do not think that your SEO campaign is a total failure because your French keywords don’t pop up in Google when you’re based in Germany… check out Google.fr and google.com/ncr, perhaps you are there already on the first page!
Oh, and by the way, a curious side-effect when you use the /ncr attribute is that Google stores a cookie in your machine, and when you type again the .com extension you will NOT be redirected!