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ROBERTSON: Just Business: How to understand Google's results

Imagine this: You check your company’s organic ranking on Google and you are the top one on the page. Maybe not.

Go online today and you will find more differences than similarities because many factors can affect search results.

Three main factors that cause varying results and could give a “false positive” to your business search engine ranking are personalized search, geographic location and device preference. Let’s take a look at each of these three factors.

 

Personalized search

If you are searching for the same products provided by your company, your website will display higher in search results because you previously visited it, leading you to believe your website is performing better than it really is.

That’s because Google’s personalized search feature uses browser cookies, web history and account data to manipulate search results.

For example, User A may prefer to shop for books on Amazon, so that user will see more search results from Amazon.com when searching for book titles and authors. User B may frequently visit Barnes & Noble, and will be more likely to see that site on their first page of results.

Google your own business name and you may notice a message underneath that says, “You’ve visited this page many times.” Such a message is based on your account history and cookie data.

It is important to know that Google also harnesses the power of social media by looking at your Google account associations and bringing in their influence. There have been bumps in search results positions for users who have friends on Google+ that have +1 or shared a webpage (based on the idea that people are influenced by your “inner circle”).

 

Mobile device preference

If your website is responsive and/or mobile friendly, Google is more likely to push your website higher in mobile search results. That’s because Google also gives preference to different types of devices based on a website’s code.

 

Geographic preference

Google often serves up local businesses for queries that they have determined to be helpful for the user. For example, if you Google “best restaurants,” Google will assume you’re looking for local restaurants, not the best restaurant in the entire world. Google My Business pages primarily dictates these results, yet website data such as addresses and phone numbers can also have an impact.

This can provide a false positive for local, national and international businesses because Google may give preference to a national business owner simply because he or she is located in the same state as his or her business headquarters. The situation becomes even more varied if you examine international businesses because Google has more than 100 supported languages in more than 100 countries.

 

Where your business ranks

Every time you search, Google is collecting data. That is why business owners frequently searching for their industry keywords or visiting their own website are giving preferential treatment to their domain, which makes them think they are higher in the search results for customers and the general public.

How do you address this issue?

No solution is 100 percent accurate, but a keyword rank analysis with a keyword tracking software program, which professional SEOs (Search Engine Optimization Specialists) use daily will help you track rankings as they vary. However, these programs can be expensive and may not be a viable option for business owners.

If you are looking to gauge your existing performance at a surface level to decide whether to hire a professional SEO, there are several steps to analyze your standings. These include installing a new browser on your computer, clearing your cookie data, searching your industry keywords on Google, taking note of your rankings, performing the same process on a mobile device and analyzing your performance.

 

This column was compiled by Karen Robertson, director of public relations and client development at Robertson & Markowitz Advertising & Public Relations, Inc. She can be reached at karen@robmark.com or 912-921-1040.

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