How to Switch Your User-Agent to Googlebot

Sometimes the issue with your site is right there but you can’t find it. You check code, backlinks and website architecture but can’t find the answer. What most webmasters fail to do is to try visiting the page with the user-agent being Googlebot.

By switching your user-agent to Googlebot, you will essentially see your site in the same eyes as Google, so if there is a Google specific flaw, some cloaking going on, or possibly even a Googlebot targeted hack, switching to user-agent Googlebot will help identify these issues.

1. User-agent switcher – a FireFox extension also available for Flock and Seamonkey that sends the server different information about which user-agent is requesting a file. It should be enhanced with the list of user-agent list.

User-agent switcher

2. Header detector that both allows you to change the user-agent and shows you the header response for the set user-agent:

Header detector

Use the above tools to:

  • find issues with your own site;
  • catch other people’s black-hat tactics, i.e. cloaking.

Just a couple of cases illustrating how these tools can help to solve the problem:

Ann Smarty
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing, tutorials and her guest blogging project,
Ann Smarty

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21 thoughts on “How to Switch Your User-Agent to Googlebot

  1. Hello Ann,

    Thanks for sharing some of google flaws, really its to have such information.

    But sorry i could not understand the procedure to that how i can check it from Mozilla after installing that particular extension.

    Please add a short detail of it.

  2. @Aqeel : that’s really very easy. All you have to do is to choose the user-agent (Tools => User Agent Switcher) and load the page.

  3. Hi Anne,

    Re: User-agent switcher – do you have any example sites that look different in different user agents. I’m in FF on a PC XP not seeing any difference anywhere…



  4. Thanks for the post Ann. I somehow missed those SEOmoz posts – alot of interesting stuff in both.

    @Aqeel, if by “exposing Google flaws” you’re referring to those two SEOmoz posts, they expose flaws with the websites in question, not Google.

  5. @ Ann, Thanks for guiding me.

    @ Halfdeck.
    yea i was mentioning the same.. Sorry for any misconception.

  6. Thanks for this post. I actually saw this on extension on another seo blog earlier and installed it. But then I didn’t know what it did so I uninstalled. Now I know. Thanks

  7. Good post, but cant import the xml. Have tried to disable most of the FF ( extensions and even reinstalled the User Switcher (0.6.11), but nothing. When I click import and choose the XML it simply goes back to the Option screen and does not import anything. Any ideas?

  8. The User Agent Switcher is present in Netscape latest version and the previous one also.
    If you are having any problem while testing in Mozilla FireFox, try it in Netscape.

  9. @ann: yes the option screen looks exactly like that. I click on “Import” choose the XML file click OK and it takes me back to that same Option screen without adding the additional agents…

  10. HI greatr article I installed the extension selected Googlebot 2.1 an reloaded the page I dont see anything differemt am I missing something?

    thanks in advance for any help