How to Use a Proxy IP in Firefox

proxy How to Use a Proxy IP in FirefoxAs an SEO, you may occassionally need to use a proxy, whether you are working on multilingul projects or just keeping your identity hidden. So here you are, a quick 10-minute guide to using a proxy IP.

What is a Proxy IP?

There are computers that allow anyone to connect to the web through them, i.e. they can be used as a gateway to the internet. Some of these computers are deliberately left open or run as commercial services while others are left open by accident through poor server administration. The Proxy IP is the address of that computer.

Why Do We Need to Use Proxy IPs?

Several reasons. Maybe you are carrying out multilingual marketing and wish to test your website or PPC advertising from the perspective of visitors outside your country. You may even want to ensure that your material is not available, for example blocking poker advertising from US visitors due to current legislation. Sometimes you just want to test on an IP outside your local company network, to ensure the public have the experience you expect.

Where do we get a Proxy IP?

There are many sources for Proxy IPs, some free and some commercial. As with most things, you get what you pay for. If you need a reliable and safe Proxy IP then it maybe better to find a company who can sell you this service. Otherwise you can pick up a free one. My recommendation for free proxies is PublicProxyServers.com or Samair.ru, you can see a sample of their list below:

samair proxies How to Use a Proxy IP in Firefox

You can browse the available proxies by country to find the one you want. All proxies are listed in the following format: IP Address:Port Number. Using the first example above, 211.157.114.53 is the IP address and 8080 is the Port Number. Leave this window open and open a new window to enter the details into Firefox.

How to Use The Proxy in Firefox?

In Firefox go to Tools > Options and then click the Advanced tab.

ff options How to Use a Proxy IP in Firefox

Under the Network tab, in the Connection section, click the Settings button.

ff connection settings How to Use a Proxy IP in Firefox

Make a note somewhere of your current settings. We’ll want to be able to change these back once we finish using the proxy.

Click the option for Manual proxy configuration. In the box HTTP Proxy enter our Proxy IP address we noted earlier and put the Port Number next to it. Click OK and return to your browser.

Testing the Proxy

Sometimes a listed Proxy IP does not work. It may have been closed or the computer is currently unavailable. This is the disadvantage in using free proxies. If you can’t get any page or the connection seems too slow, repeat the steps with a new Proxy IP address until it works.

Once you can get any page to load, visit whatismyipaddress.com and see if your IP and location has changed. This is how other websites will now view you while browsing the internet through this other computer.

Important Warning: Please Read.

You must be aware of one key point when using a Proxy IP. All data that you send and receive can be intercepted by that computer and stored. Blackhat Hackers (Crackers) have been known to set up proxy servers simply to catch sensitive details and passwords from users. So remember the following two rules:

1. Never enter important passwords, credit card details or visit your online banking while connected to a proxy. Keep in mind that someone can be watching your traffic.

2. Always change back to your default connection when you have finished your session. It’s easy to forget you’re connected through a proxy. Simply reverse the steps above.

Of course paid proxy services from reputable companies will offer a greater level of security but always be aware of these issues when connecting through any proxy.

Bonus Tip

foxy proxy How to Use a Proxy IP in FirefoxGot to grips with the basics? Download the FoxyProxy plugin for Firefox. This plugin will manage all your favourite Proxy IPs and lets you switch between them from your toolbar. You can categorise your proxies by geographic location, performance or online identity. It even provides automatic proxy switching, based on URL rules or time intervals.

** 27 Jan 2007 by Ingorrr one of the artists who make their work under a Creative Commons license at Flickr – thank you!

Nick Wilsdon is the Head of Content and Media at iProspect UK, part of the Densu Aegis Network. He manages online campaigns for the UK's leading telecom, finance and FMCG brands.

25 Responses to How to Use a Proxy IP in Firefox

  1. It’s worth adding that Google do offer a form of gelocation themselves. You simply have to add the string &gl=XX to the end of the URL in your browser. XX is the 2-letter ISO country code you need, i.e. RU for Russia. However for testing websites rather than viewing specific SERPs a proper proxy setup is still needed.

  2. Nice info. Most public proxies have a very limited life (sometimes measured in a few hours, if that). Does the FF extension search for new proxies? Or does it just manage proxies you provide?

  3. @Jack

    Thanks for the comment. Yes you’re right, many “free” proxies do have a very limited life, as they are usually left open by accident. The sudden surge of traffic that follows after appearing on an open proxy list soon alerts the administrators to a problem and they are closed soon after.

    However there are other proxy servers that are left open deliberately and maintained by volunteers. These are the ones that make my “long term” lists. Have a search for these around the web. In addition to the links in my post above, FoxyProxy has a good list of proxy resources. Sometimes you just find these on open proxy lists as they present you with a welcome page when you first login.

    FoxyProxy doesn’t search for new proxies for you, as you guess, it just manages the ones you provide. However it does have out-of-the-box support though for Tor, which may be an interesting avenue for you depending on what you need the proxy for.

    Of course some people have made searching for proxies a bit more automated by scraping the provider sites and delivering it to your desktop or an FTP site. Mark over at DigeratiMarketing.co.uk is offering a script to help with this approach but I’d recommend looking further afield than just Samair.ru.

  4. Any experience with proxies you pay for? I’m not happy with public proxies because they’re more often than not too slow.

  5. Hi Marios

    NickW over at Threadwatch used to recommend http://www.theproxyconnection.com/.

    My testing is country specific so I just use the free ones but performance is an issue. If any company out there sells a package of country-specific high speed proxies at the right price, I’d definitely be interested. Add your details/offer here in the comments or contact me and I’ll update this post to help people.

  6. Really great write-up here, Nick. Thanks very much.

    About to download FoxyProxy – will certainly help testing ranks in other countries.

    Cheers,

    Ben M

  7. Just been playing around with FoxyProxy Nick – really grateful, thanks.

    Ben

  8. Hi Ben,

    Glad you found this useful. Yep FoxyProxy is an amazing plugin and really makes managing proxies easy. One of the best features for me is the note on the browser window letting me know who I’m connected through. Stops me forgetting to turn it off!

    I’ve seen other people write about this subject before online but they didn’t seem to mention the security aspects. I hope this post gives a more complete picture for people.

  9. Hey Nick,

    Great article, gave you a good sphinn on it. Here is also a great list of public proxies I have used in the past.
    http://www.publicproxyservers.com/

  10. Hi Nick,

    Once, again, really great post, I wouldn’t expect anything less from you :D

    I usually use the ad preview tool to view international SERPs and test PPC ads etc, does this Proxy method work better/offer more functionalities? Or is it something completely different my wee brain cannot understand?

    DL’ing Foxy Proxy as I speak! :D

  11. @Eloi

    Yes the APT is very useful for this, it lets you view the PPC and organic SERPs for different countries in Google. In fact if this is all you wish to do then I would recommend the APT tool over using a proper proxy as it doesn’t count the views towards your CTRs.

    However there are tests where a proxy would be the more appropriate tool to use, for example:

    a) Testing if your server admins have blocked or limited site access to country level IP ranges. Some admins are rather over-zealous in their spam/hacker protection and take this path. Of course this can have distasterous effects on your marketing efforts. As a side note, you should also check for email blocking if that is a required part of your conversion process.

    b) Testing if content is correctly banned from a specific country IP. I gave the example of blocking US users from your poker domains to avoid legal action but sometimes sites choose to limit bandwidth-intensive video content to their own market etc. or competition access.

    c) Testing user redirection rules based on IP. Some sites employ this tactic in their multilingual strategy to direct users from different countries to the appropriate language version of their site.

    d) Testing your own site’s ad serving when using geolocation rules.

    I’m sure you can think of other uses along these lines. In summary, APT is really only useful for testing Google. You need a proxy to test your own site, other search engines or PPC/advertising providers.

    Not to mention the uses of proxies to keep your IP hidden. I’m not suggesting you use this technique for anything naughty but when working on social media entries for clients it is prudent not to reveal your agency IP. For example, there would be fewer embarrassing Wikipedia revelations if users knew how to change their IP before editing pages.

    My interests though, as you would expect, are soley in the area of multilingual marketing /smile

  12. Great proxy list. Claims to have the highest percentage of active proxies. Hasn’t let me down yet.

    http://www.mrhinkydink.com/proxies.htm

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  15. Hi Nick,

    Just had a thought. …as IP’s run at different speeds, do you have a preferred method of testing speed, as my IP speed tester seems to fail eah time I use it with a proxy…any thoughts?

    Cheers Nick,

    Ben M

  16. @Ben

    Yes, my preferred tool for checking that is the Hardware Geeks Speed Test. First link in that section. It can quite happily test through several proxy jumps.

    HTH

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  18. Thanks for that! Didn’t mean to seem rude by asking a question and not thanking you for the answer!

    Cheers, Ben

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  22. Exceptional information. I was banging my head again & again until I saw something like this. This helped me in my business much … thank you for all this.

    ps. I went for voting but it seems it is closed.

  23. @Sunny

    Thanks for the response, glad it helped. I came second place in the competition and lost out to arguably the most technical SEO in the industry so I can’t complain ;)

    I’ll have to try harder next year!

  24. Thanks for this great how to! I saw a couple of youtube videos about proxy IP lists but it’s more clear how to do it in your article, I prefer reading than watching videos.

    I’m using your method with IP addreses from http://proxy-ip-list.com/ proxy list and is working great! Even with United States IP addresses.

  25. I agree regarding the short life of free proxies. The solution I found, more a workaround than a solution, is a website that has proxy lists with the IP addresses of proxies from all over the world: http://proxy-ip-list.com/

    There the proxy IP addresses are contiuosly refreshed with new checked ones.

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