Why Do Different Browsers and Devices Show Different Search Results on Google?
by Mike Khorev
Search Engine Optimization can be challenging even for the most experienced digital marketing experts. It requires careful analysis, quality content creation, and an understanding of the latest search engine algorithms. But with the right skills, it is possible to push your page to the top of the search results efficiently.
However, sometimes you might face a different challenge in your SEO strategy. Your page might show up in the first position when you search for it, but it may appear lower down when someone else does a search for the exact same phrase. It’s vital to understand why two users searching for the same term can receive a different set of results. Knowing the factors at play in the background is part of developing the ultimate SEO strategy for you and your clients.
The New Era of Personilized Search Results
The “search” part of SEO usually refers to Google, who continues to utterly dominate the field of search engines. Understanding this problem involves understanding Google itself and the ins and outs of their search algorithm. Google has a massive appetite for data, collecting huge amounts of personal data about its users, which it harvests from search histories as well as their core products like GMail and Chrome. The reason Google tries to assemble this profile of each and every user, is so that it can tailor search results giving more accurate responses to queries and helping to target AdWord messages for each specific users search preference.
This is why you may notice a discrepancy between the search results you see and the results someone else might get for the same query. It’s also why you might see differences depending on whether you’re logged into Google’s services or through browsing anonymously. So exactly what kind of personalized tailoring takes place when someone does a Google search? Here are a few of the key factors:
All websites, including Google, can tell your whereabouts simply by examining your IP address. Logged-in Google users can also use the My Location feature to specify wh ere they are in the world, or choose to see results from a particular locale by adjusting the search options. Manually configured location data is stored in a cookie on your browser and picked up again the next time you perform a Google search.
Search results relevant to your location will always be given preference, especially if the search is for something that varies from area to area such as restaurants or hotels. If possible, Google will return a Google Maps result for the highest-ranked search, allowing you to browse your neighborhood for whatever it is you’re looking for.
You can also access local versions of Google simply by changing the domain suffix. For example, Google.co.uk will take you to the British version of Google.
Your personal search history has a big effect on future search results. If you use Google when logged in, your full search history is stored and relevant previous searches will be offered by Google’s autocomplete function. Even if your search term isn’t in your history, information stored about previous searches will still influence the results displayed. For example, if you frequently click through to Wikipedia entries, Wikipedia search results will get pushed towards the top of your search results. Even if you’re not logged in, the search history for your browser is stored locally as a cookie, and this will have a bearing on the results produced.
Did you know that your friends’ searches could also play a role in your search results if you or they are a Google+ user? The histories of those you have in your Circles will have a small impact on the search results you receive. This is totally anonymous however so there is not a huge concern associated with it, as your Google+ friends won’t be able to see your search history, or vice versa.
Google Data Centers
Behind the famous search engine, there are dozens of data centers all over the world working hard to process user queries and produce search results. Your Google query is automatically routed to the closest available data center and the results are returned from there. In theory, it shouldn’t matter which data center you use; in practice; updates between data center servers can occur at different times, giving a slight variance for users in different regions. This is not one of the biggest factors, but it is still worth considering. Google even has an internal team that provides support services so its data centers function at peak capacity 24/7/365.
Google is constantly striving to improve its performance and fine-tune its search algorithms. As many as 40% of Google queries may be used in different kinds of testing behind the scenes as engineers work to optimize performance. These tests tend to be relatively minor but, again, they can cause some variance between search results. Even running the same query twice in the same browser might produce some variance.
These are the key factors in search result variance. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to influence them from an SEO point of view, as these are all either features of the Google user experience or technical constraints on Google’s side of things.
There are some steps that can be taken to mitigate the effect of different search results in Google. The most important thing is to factor this into your testing when trying to assess the ranking of your web content. Many people forget that their browsers will return results personalized for them, meaning that your own content is going to be highlighted in a way that it won’t be for external users. When performing test searches, make sure you have fully logged out and wiped all cookies from your browser. Better yet, keep a clean testing environment used solely for the purpose of SEO assessment.
It’s also worth considering that virility is now built into Google’s algorithms somewhat, with Google+ playing a part. Although this social network has a much smaller uptake than Facebook and Twitter, engaging with G+ users may reap benefits in terms of search. It’s also worth remembering that YouTube has now been assimilated into the Google+ network, so your original video content (if you have some) is also helping your search results.
But most importantly of all, you should remember that Google’s own advice, as with all things SEO-related, is to produce high-quality, relevant, original content. This remains the best SEO strategy of all; publishing content that people want to read will ensure that you are pushed to the top of everyone’s search results in an organic fashion.