Looking Across Your Google Border

Google is based in the U.S.  It has servers around the world, in undisclosed locations.  If you use Google outside of the U.S., you will typically be redirected to your geographically “local” Google domain:  .ca for Canada, .uk for the United Kingdom, .in for India, and so on.  This is not just a visual difference.  The searches you perform will be weighted towards your geographic location so that a search run on google.ca may retrieve different results from the same search in google.com.  For example, search for legal information on Google.com, and your first search result is the Cornell Legal Information Institute.  Run the search again, and your first result is the Legal Line consumer law site in Canada [these results may change with time].

Many Canadian companies have .com domain names, though, and may not be hosting content entirely on Canadian-based servers.  The same goes for other information providers outside the U.S.  In that case, it may be better to use the Google.com Web site as your primary site and use your geographically-local site when you specifically want to look at results from that perspective.

Force Google to Google.com

One way to do this is with the Google Toolbar, which can be installed on both Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.  Go into the Toolbar options after you have installed it, and you can set the default search site to Google.com.  Note that this is different from the recent addition of My Location, which is a geopositioning service based on you, not just the country in which you want to search.

The method I have used, since it works on all browsers, is to force Google to stop doing a country redirect.  For example, if you are outside the U.S., type in Google.com and it will probably redirect you to Google.ca or your local version.  You can stop that by typing this address into the browser:


for no country redirect.  This will mean that any time you use Google in the future, it will default to Google.com.  If you want to use  a different country, you can type in that URL and search just on Google.ca or Google.co.uk.

Global View

This may give you some other possibilities.  Mozilla Firefox users can install an add-on from Red Fly, an Internet marketing company, called Google Global.  Once installed, it gives you a drop down menu so that you can get a preview of what your search would look like run on a geographically-specific Google, in addition to .com.

Changing your default Google site may seem like a small thing but it can change what you retrieve and how you find legal information online.

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.