For the past couple of years Google has increasingly become a personalized experience. It started back when Universal search was first released and has continued down a much longer and more in depth path. We often hear people say:
“I logged out of Google and found my website ranking #3 for [Insert some search term]! I rock!”
You do rock, but we need to talk.
Google has taken the direction of geo-locating you in order to provide those relevant local searches which are so convenient, so if I am in St.Louis and I search pizza restaurant my listings will be significantly different than if I am in San Francisco searching for the same thing.
A couple of things to consider when you’re determining your rankings and their effect on your business.
Search results require context.
Universal #1 rankings are becoming less and less prevalent as Google and all search engines continue to push forward personalized results.
Search term tracking.
When Google implemented Secure Search or SSL Search the ability to track all of your keyword traffic took a significant hit. No longer would we see all search terms, typically we see approximately 50% of all searches hidden from analytics. There are some hacks you can implement to find out which of your pages are receiving traffic and make some educated guesses about the search terms that may have led to those visits.
If you’re curious about a particular ranking and would like to try to get as neutral a view as possible then follow these simple steps:
- Go to http://google.co.uk
- Make sure you’re not logged into your Google account.
- Search for your term and get the results.
- Go to the address bar in your web browser.
- Go all the way to the end of the Google result URL.
- Add this to the end of the string: &gl=us&pws=0
- Hit enter.
What does this do? A few things:
- You are forcing Google to use the UK version of Google which ensures you won’t be hitting a regional Google server.
- By specifying &gl=us you are explicitly asking Google for its US results rather than letting Google determine which set of servers you might be getting. Obvious Tip: you can enter any country code you would like to view country coded regional results.
- &pws=0 is explicitly telling Google to deliver impersonal results. This is recommended even if you are logged out, Google makes a number of assumptions unless you tell it otherwise.
This will give you as neutral and unbiased a view as you can get. Remember: Google results are becoming further personalized and as Google+ matures we will only see more of this type of behavior. It might also lead to a complete shift in the way online marketing and search optimization is viewed by many businesses.
I’ll be writing more on that in the coming weeks. Until then, happy searching and good luck!