You may have noticed over the past month or so that Google has dropped another search tool, or filter.

Location settings used to enable you to view search results as if you were in that location. For example, if I was searching from Nottingham, but wanted to see the results for “metal finishers” in Wolverhampton, I used to be able to select Wolverhampton in the settings.

It was a useful tool for SEO specialists and for marketers working in-house who wanted to get a picture of the SERPs for a keyword in a different location. It was invaluable for those working with clients not based in their location, for companies who wanted to carry out a competitor analysis for a particular location, or even for those who simply wanted to find autocomplete suggestions for another area.

Google has made it seamless to search within your immediate location. For example, if I type “pizza” into Google from my location in Nottingham, I will of course be given relevant results for pizza takeaways and restaurants in my vicinity. Google is now adept at providing you with local results within the organic listings, but sometimes this can be frustrating if we want to find local results for a different city.

Google’s answer to this is to instruct us to simply type our search query into Google, along with the chosen city or location:

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But if I am trying to discover how my client is ranking today in York for “estate agents”, will I get the results I need by just doing a search for “estate agents York” from my computer in Nottingham? I need to be able to accurately emulate the results of searching from York.

Below are three tools highlighted by Search Engine News that allow us to emulate location-based searches:

I have decided to put them to the test, and compare the results for searches in the UK, in the hope of discovering which is the most reliable option to use on a regular basis.

As an example, I will be searching for the highest ranking digital marketing agencies in Leeds.

Below are the results in incognito mode, with me Googling from Nottingham, for “digital marketing agency Leeds”:

Top 3 local results

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Top 3 organic results

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1. Search Google by location bookmarklet

Apparently, with this handy Bookmarklet, you can search by location. It can be downloaded here, and it’s recommended that you use it in incognito mode to get the most accurate results.

It appears, however, that this tool must only work if you are in the US, or for certain search queries. When I used it for my keywords, I was given the following results – there are no local results and the organic results appear to be US companies:

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As a test I also searched for “digital marketing agency” with the location set to Nottingham, and this also delivered what looked like very unreliable results.

2. AdWords preview and diagnosis tool

This tool is easy to use – you simply select your chosen location and enter the keyword you are interested in. It is usually used to figure out why your ads might not be appearing, but can also be used to view local and organic results for a keyword in a particular location.

Top 3 local results

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Top 3 organic results

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3. Chrome developer tool

A full description of how to use this tool to find location-specific results can be found here. It’s a bit fiddly to get right – you’ll need to enter the latitude and longitude of the location that you want to search from, which can be found when you open Google maps and look at the URL. Below is Leeds as an example:

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I followed the steps in the article and found that I needed to re-fresh the page, click the “Update location” button at the bottom of the SERPs, and then re-fresh again to get the results for Leeds:

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I then ended up with the following results:

Top 3 local results

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Top 3 organic results

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As you can see, there is considerable variation in the results. Using the Chrome Developer tool appears to tie the results into a smaller radius from the exact location, signified by the blue marker in the screenshot above. On the other hand, the Ad Preview tool gives results that cover a larger area of Leeds. The results for “digital marketing agency Leeds” give results from an even greater radius again.

It’s hard to draw any solid conclusions here. From my searches I found that the Bookmarklet tool does not give accurate local or organic results for the search above, and I also tested various others, such as “estate agents” in Bristol, so personally I will avoid it in future.

As for the other tools, I’m honestly not sure which give the most reliable results, so I would recommend that to find results for your local search, you use the following methods together to compare the results you get and draw your own conclusions!

Incognito mode for “Keyword – Location”, the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool and the Chrome Developer tool.

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