Which Google™ do you use?

Did you realise it makes a difference?


Published in the St Helena Independent, 6th November 2009

St Helena Independent Burgh House Which Google™ do you use?

When you call up Google™ to search for a website, did you know that it matters which Google you use? John Turner at Burgh House explains why.

Google is the established search engine of choice for most Internet users. But did you know there are many Googles? And did you know that it can actually make a difference which one you use?

Which Google™ do you use? Did you realise it makes a difference? Burgh House

Google has many domain names. Indeed it seems to have registered a Google for every area - www.google.com, www.google.co.uk, www.google.co.za (South Africa) and even www.google.sh. You might think this is simply a marketing trick, but it isn’t. The results you get depend on which Google site you use.

www.google.com is designed for an international audience, whereas the ‘national’ Googles give prominence to sites that originate in that country. So www.google.co.uk favours UK sites over non-UK sites. This can make a big difference to the results you get.

To give a concrete example, if you search for Burgh House on Google, our page ranking (i.e. how high we appear on the list of sites) varies across the Googles. On www.google.com, www.google.co.za and www.google.sh we are number 3, but on www.google.co.uk we are number 4 - a UK site for a care home in Norfolk takes the third slot.

To us this matters little, but just imagine you are searching for a car part. If you use www.google.co.uk you may find that UK suppliers are given more prominence than South African ones, who may have been able to supply the part quicker and cheaper.

When you next call up Google, have a look to see which one comes up. If your computer was imported from the UK and designed for the UK market it is probably www.google.co.uk. Indeed, some UK-originated computers are set up so that, even if you ask for www.google.com, it ‘interprets’ your wish and gives you www.google.co.uk anyway. You can override it but it takes effort. The effect is that your searches are being directed to the UK, to the exclusion of South Africa, Namibia and other possible sources. This may not be what you want.

There is no great conspiracy at work here. For most users it makes sense. UK residents tend to buy from UK suppliers; South Africans from South Africans, and so on. But living where we do, with a choice of sources for our goods, it’s useful to be able to compare options from many possible places.

So next time you use Google, remember that it matters which Google you use and make a deliberate choice to use the one that best meets your needs.


John Turner
Director, Burgh House.

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