Jun 172013

User Agent Tools for Seeing Full SERPs by Device

Device Reality. Devices are widespread. Updates are never-ending.

Operating System Reality
. Ditto.

Search Reality
. SERP layouts change constantly. The engines test formats, extensions, colors, navigation, text size, you name it. There is no stasis.

The intersection of the Device, OS and Search realities can be a bear for search marketers. For example, recently, I wondered what Product Listing Ad (PLA) formats looked like on Android vs. iPhone vs. other devices. I did a search for ‘canon eos rebel’ on my Android Smartphone, and did not see any PLAs:

Performing the same search on a teammate’s iPhone 5 produced a different SERP, with PLAs:

For the Search Marketer, how do you monitor the various Device, OS and SERP changes quickly and efficiently for top keywords? Owning each device with various system versions is not an option. Luckily, there’s a simple and easy way to answer that question, already built into your Chrome browser! The secret lies in overriding your browser’s User Agent.

To change your Chrome User Agent, follow these 3 easy steps:

Step 1: Tools > Developer Tools

Step 2: Developer Settings (Gear Icon)

Step 3: Overrides > User Agent

After selecting one of the predefined options, the web behavior on the active browser tab will act as if you are running that OS, browser type and/or software version.

I can now easily take a look at the same query for 'canon eos rebel', as if I were using an iPad:

For tips on User Agent switching for other browsers here is a good reference.

I should note that Google’s Ad Preview Tool allows for much of the same functionality, depending on what you’re looking for. It won’t allow you to click through to the landing page, and it does not allow for some advanced, custom variations. However, it is a pretty capable tool, so feel free to use it as a secondary option.

That’s it! Go forth and see what your ads look like in the wild!


7 Responses to "User Agent Tools for Seeing Full SERPs by Device "
Yasir says:
Hi Matt, I have used FF's User Agent switcher agent for the same purpose. I think it is a good way to see how your site behaves for various OS/Devices. I checked in Chrome and the UA list seems to be very limited. This page http://techpatterns.com/forums/about304.html has a good list of UA list for various purposes that I have used in my testing. Thanks, Yasir
Andrea Moro says:
I do appreciate your article Matthew. It's a good attempt to help marketers and SEOers, but the time required to make this change is an overhead in comparison to some other extension directly available in the toolbar. I found particular interesting the "Ultimate User Agent Switcher" plug-in for all you said. This is available for a free download in the chrome app store. Further info here http://iblogbox.com/chrome/useragent/alert.php
Paul Rice says:
Good article, but I agree with Andrea; the plug-in is a much faster way to switch between user agents. Matthew, Is there a reason you do not use the "Ultimate User Agent Switcher" plug-in?
Eric Scism says:
Wow. that's a phenomenal idea. I use the User AGent tool all the time for my dev work, but never thought to use it for this.
Andrea, thanks for the advice re: Ultimate User Agent Switcher. It can definitely save you a few steps. Paul, I shied away from promoting one plug-in vs. another because I've used many different ones myself over the years, and have had mixed results. Andrea provided a great recommendation and it's nice to hear your approval there as well. Side note, I always forget to turn them off, then I'm surprised when I visit the next site (anyone else with me?) Ultimately, I hope the post stimulates investigations into these SERP differences (particularly in the ad realm) among search practitioners, no matter the method. Please keep the recommendations and ideas coming!
Andrea Moro says:
Yeah, I used to forget disabling the solution previously used. The beauty of this plug-in is that it adds an extra element on the toolbar icon, so unless it is not hidden because your plugins area is too narrow there shouldn't be any more problem on this regard. I tend to test and swap solutions quite easily if necessary. After all there are so many developers out of there that a choice is the last problem :) The problem is finding something that really works :)))
Well this certainly my favorite tip I have learned so far today. This is very helpful for the obsessive Google advertiser. I was right in the middle of purchasing each of these devices and you just saved me thousands. I prefer this option over the Google Preview tool. Thanks again.

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