Yesterday morning I was going through the Google search engine results pages, creating a bi-monthly online reputation management report to send to one of my clients. This client is a large company that’s been around for over two decades and has about seven years’ worth of negative posts from disgruntled customers floating around the internet. It’s a big project, to say the least.
When I was searching and creating my report yesterday, I was glad to see that two of our sites that we created, optimized and have been posting positive content to are ranking on the first page. I happily reported to my client that one site was in the #3 position, and another was ranked #6, pushing two pages with bad stuff down to the second page… or at least from what I could see on my computer.
About 30 minutes after I sent the report over, I got an instant message from my client saying that she was on Google, but she wasn’t seeing our sites rank for the positions that I reported.
It’s never a good time when your client thinks you may be lying to them. I immediately sent over some screenshots that I couldn’t have possibly photoshopped that quickly to show her what I was seeing. I also tried to explain some of the possible reasons why SEO rankings vary from computer to computer. Here are some of the most common ones:
This was the most likely culprit, as search results are personalized. Google doesn’t forget about the sites you’ve visited in the past and often shows them higher in search results. The search engine is simply trying to customize results to give you what it thinks you may be looking for.
Google shows different search engine results based on your location. In this case, I am in Florida and my client is about 9 states away. Search engines try to provide the best results based on where you are, and the results will be slightly different and the order may change. I have even noticed differences in results from my office to my house (which are about the miles apart).
Google tries to custom tailor results, so if you have a different IP address from another computer or phone it’s possible that you may get different results.
Twitter has been known to influence search results for some time, and now it appears that Google Plus is as well. The little +1 buttons that you see all over the web are similar to “liking” something on Facebook. These +1 buttons could affect what you see in search results because Google remembers what you “plused” and will likely show these sites ranking higher. There are rumors that these “pluses” not only affect your search results, but having a lot of them could also help your website rank higher.