Where do you rank for keywords related to your business on Google? It can be difficult to tell. Or, at least, it can be difficult to tell if your only method for determining your rankings is to plug your keywords into your own browser. Google results are not the same for everyone.
Here are 5 reasons why Google’s personalized search results can vary from person to person.
1. Being Logged in to Chrome and Your Search History
When a searcher uses Google Chrome they have the option to log in. This is convenient because it syncs bookmarks across devices and saves search histories. To do this, Google collects a fair amount of data on each user so they can offer a personalized search experience.
Over time, Google learns the searcher’s preferences and syntax. You can even go into your browser to find out what Google thinks it knows about you, a method described in detail by Business Insider.
The impact on search results is subtle, but Google does try to predict who and what you mean based on your previous search history and known interests. This can come up when a search term could mean two different things.
Even if someone isn’t logged in they may see different search results based on the history stored in their current browser session. Google will have less data to draw from here, but it will continue to do its best to show what it thinks are the most relevant results for that customer.
2. Your Location
Google uses geolocation data to show the searcher results that are closest to them. There’s not much you can do about this. For brick and mortar businesses, Google will nearly always show results on the map that the searcher is one block away from before it shows a business that is a mile away.
However, having an optimized Google Business Profile listing can give you visibility in the Maps pack (the three local search results you get when you search for a brick and mortar business) even when you aren’t the closest if you have better reviews than your competitor. Learn more about why reviews are important.
Customers can opt out of sharing location data with Google, but few do. Most who are searching for local businesses really are looking for the closest and most convenient options. In most cases, it doesn’t do them much good to see options that will take a long time to travel to.
3. Your Device
Customers see different results on mobile than they do on their desktop or laptop. Location data gets an even higher priority on a mobile device, because customers are assumed to be “on the go” or “ready to go” when they use their phones.
If a searcher is on their phone Google will also prioritize mobile-friendly search results. If you don’t have a responsive or mobile-friendly site you could lose out on a great deal of business simply because you won’t be prioritized.
4. Your Language
The customer’s device and browser language can impact the search results they’re shown.
5. The Time of Day
Ranking can change multiple times per day. See here for a visualization of hourly rank tracking.
What Can You Do?
Engage in best practices: make your content relevant to the audience you’re trying to reach, make your site mobile-friendly and fast, ensure your Google Business Profile data is correct, and track your traffic.
Stop Googling Your Keywords
Just because you don’t see your business ranking when you search for your target keywords on Google does not mean you aren’t being found by other searchers.
That’s why we analyze data from Google Analytics and Google Search Console on a regular basis for our clients. These tools show us how people are finding your website and show any changes in traffic over time.