How to get the clearest and most accurate picture of your Google ranks

Hello everyone,

If you’ve just tuned in, we’re discussing basic SEO mistakes people are making, even people who seem to get the game and use advanced SEO tools such as a SERP tracker. This issue came to light after we analyzed the usage patterns of some 40k users of our SERP tracker. Since we uncovered 4 basic mistakes, I’ve decided to make a 4-part series of articles about the subject. Here are the first three subjects we’ve discussed so far:

Are you abandoning your website’s mobile ranks?

The SEO basics you might be neglecting

Should you also include Yahoo! and Bing in your SEO plan?

Now onward to part 4: neglecting local rankings. Local rankings or simply “rankings,” as I like to call them, as no general global ranking has existed for many years. In my research, I noticed many seem to have a misunderstanding about how Google personalization works and what ranks are in general.

To understand the current situation, let’s go back in time to the 90’s to when shows about nothing were actually funny, baby Google was a fledgling search engine battling Yahoo! for market share, and indestructible Nokia phones with no internet access roamed the land, microwaving our brains with radiation.

A business man holding the most indestructible object known to humanity - the Nokia phone

A business man holding the most indestructible object known to humanity – the Nokia phone

During Google’s youth, as the legend goes, before personalization and many algorithms existed, there was a single rank to rule them all. For the sake of example, let’s say I had a website that made episode summaries of Seinfeld. If I searched for “Seinfeld episodes” on Google, my website would be ranked 7th. Theoretically, that would be my one and only “global rank,” and anyone in the world searching for “Seinfeld episodes” using Google would see my website ranked 7th.

Now, that was the case at the beginning, but as Google evolved and started developing their technology further, they quickly began adding layers of geo-targeting and personalization to search results, hoping to show the most relevant search result for their users. That way, a person searching for “cat food deliveries” from London wouldn’t get results in Boston, etc. What it meant was the single global rank was gone and the meaning of a ranking position started to become more ambiguous.

Nowadays, the SERP you get is influenced by factors such as Google’s geo-targeting capabilities (which are VERY accurate, to say the least), cookies, the browser you’re using, the platform (mobile or desktop), your search history, your Google profile, and others. With those factors in mind, every user that searches Google is pretty much unique and therefore tends to see their own unique SERP. The website you’re optimizing and promoting will have keywords ranking differently across different users. Many believe that using their browser’s incognito mode bypasses those checks, but the truth is it hardly changes anything—and it definitely doesn’t bypass the geo-targeting. Using a powerful enough proxy service costs money, is time consuming, and even then the proxy server itself is still subjected to the same personalization checks as a private user.

Although desktop search is rapidly losing to mobile search, it still has roughly a 50% market share, so it’s definitely not the time to stop taking your desktop ranks seriously.

Many locally oriented businesses track only a global Google.com rank, thinking that it’s their one “rank.” This misconception of rank (which I believe derives from the history of search engines and how we once perceived ranks) is what’s stumping many SEO beginners, giving them inaccurate signals which can affect strategic decisions. What a SERP tracker will show when you check for a general Google.com rank is, in actuality, the U.S. rank: a sort of average compilation that people who search from the U.S. see. When you check for a local rank (let’s say from Boston), you will see a much more accurate, high-resolution result that a specific person in Boston would see.

So, if all that is true for you, with all that ambiguity in mind, how can you actually improve your SERP tracking?

The first step is to acknowledge that you can’t get one simple, single rank for your website. The rank you should care about, though, is a rank that is most relevant for your business. For example, if you’re promoting an auto parts business that has an online store plus a physical store located in Boston, you would care about (1) the rank that a person searching from Boston would see, (2) a general US rank, and (3) if you ship to other countries, ranks for those countries as well.

There is no simple “one rank” to rule them all, and you have to start adding more relevant local ranks to your SERP tracking tool. To get a “real” rank, you actually need to figure out the assortment of ranks that are most relevant for your business, and to do that you MUST use a trusty SERP tracking tool that can bypass all of that and give you accurate, non-biased ranks for any keyword. A SERP tracking tool that can track based on location is CRUCIAL, and if your current one doesn’t do that, you should get one that can. There are several tools out there that can do that for you, and to help you navigate that market, you’re more than welcome to read my post about how to choose the right SERP tracker for your SEO agency. Remember: a good SERP tracker to an SEO expert is like a ruler to an architect or a barometer to a meteorologist.

Having said that, it’s time for you to try the best barometer around—and I mean us—Pro Rank Tracker, the most accurate and SEO-specialized tool on the market with the best per-keyword pricing!