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Are you tracking the accurate rankings on Google?
Two ways personalized search can falsify your ranking data and how to avoid it.

Google's personalized search can turn into a real SEO's nightmare. Different cases of personalization (by location, browsing history, etc.) turn your ranking data upside down. And you risk making wrong SEO decisions based on misinterpreted SEO data if unable to adjust your rank tracking practices to this personalization.

Luckily, Rank Tracker is always here to help you dig the accurate and reliable rankings. And the short guide we've prepared today gives you a better idea of how personalization can screw your ranking data and helps you learn how to get accurate Google ranking data in the era of personalized search.

How does Google personalize your search experience?

The days when everyone saw the exact same search results are well over. Whether aware of it or not, almost every Googler out there gets a personalized search experience. Today, search engines know your story — where you are, what you like and what you've browsed — and they use it to (allegedly) help you with your search experience, making the results you get tailored to you. This is what's called personalized search.

There are two kinds of personalization — both influencing the search results you see and each requiring your SEO attention.

  • History-based personalization affects each given searcher in a different manner. So, rank tracking-wise, your best solution is to discard this kind of personalization to get averaged, the most realistic results, and not the ones tailored specifically for you.
  • Location-based personalization, on the contrary, has immense impact on large groups of your customers. And you need to carefully set up your target location for rank tracking — to see and monitor the results that your potential customers see, rather than a random person on the opposite side of the world.

Getting rid of history-based personalization

Roughly, there are 3 kinds of activities that Google takes into account when forming a custom-tailored of search results for you.

1. Your search history. Google remembers what you've searched for in the past and which search results you clicked on. Using this info, it changes the SERPs you see, placing the listings you already clicked on — or ones similar to those — higher in search results.

2. Your browsing history. Google knows which sites you've browsed and makes sure to put those higher in search results than it would for other users.

3. Your and your connections' social media activity. Google keeps track of your social media activity, and you'll probably be seeing a site you've shared on Google+ rank better in search results than users with no related social media activity. Even more extraordinarily, your connections' social media preferences also play a part. Say, your G+ connection has at some point reviewed a local pizza restaurant — then that restaurant may very well rank higher for you as you run a search for pizza restaurants (after all, if your friend likes it, why wouldn't you?).

PROBLEM You cannot rely on checking rankings in your browser.

As a website owner, you obviously have some browsing history regarding your site; you've probably mentioned it in the social media once or twice as well. Consequently, when you run a Google search in a browser, your site will appear much higher in search results for you, distorting the picture of what the listings look like to your potential customers — people who haven't visited your site before.

SOLUTION Use Rank Tracker for your rank checking tasks.

Tracking accurate ranks is easy with Rank Tracker because the tool returns de-personalized, unbiased results by default — it uses its own built-in browser when it checks positions, with no history or social media activity affecting the results in any way. This means the results from Rank Tracker are the results your potential customers (who haven't visited your site yet) will see.

Tracking accurate location-specific rankings

As Google strives to present you with the most relevant search results, it uses your location as a determining factor. Location-wise, there are two things that may influence the listings you see: your IP address and the location set under Google Search Tools.

These are two separate factors — and both of them must match your target location for you to get truly local results. And if you need to check Torino search results from Seattle, it's not enough to simply set the location to Torino.

If you aren't using the appropriate Italian IP address, it will not make Google think you're in Torino. You'll only appear as someone from Seattle searching for a pizza place in Torino — and that's it.

Using Italian (Torino) IP
Using USA (Seattle) IP

Using Italian IP/ Location set to Torino
Using USA IP/ Location set to Torino

What does it mean to you? This depends on the type of business you're running.

1. Checking rankings for your own location.

Say, you run a Boston-located plumbery and need to check Google rankings the way your neighbor John sees them.

PROBLEM This is where Web-based tools can play a bad joke.

Online SEO tools let you tweak the location settings. But they check your rankings via their own IP address, coming from some country you don't know and cannot change. This means they leave you only half the way to real local ranking data.

This may leave you with what a searcher from Tegucigalpa looking for pizza in Torino would see. As a result, all you get is a pretty distorted ranking picture.

SOLUTION Use Rank Tracker for accurate rank checks.

As a desktop app, Rank Tracker uses your own IP address by default whenever your check your ranks — thus you get laser-accurate results for the particular location you're now in.

2. Checking rankings as if from a certain location.

Here's another scenario: let's say you're a company with offices in different towns, an agency with clients all around the world, or you're simply away on holiday and need to check what you ranks are back home.

PROBLEM Web-based tools may fail again.

A web-based solution will yet again report on your rankings using an IP address you cannot influence. Thus you may once again end up with half-localized results that differ from what real people from the desired location see.

SOLUTION Track rankings for any location in Rank Tracker.

With Rank Tracker, you can set both location factors to get 100% accurate search results.

Set a proxy from your target location in Preferences –> Proxy Settings and have your check run as if you were in a city or town of your choice.

Add a localization parameter by adjusting Google's advanced settings in Preferences –> Preferred Search Engines — so that you get results near a specific location.

You just can't afford to underestimate the importance of personalization in tracking your rankings. With Rank Tracker, you don't have to do much — you can be certain the results you see are 100% de-personalized in terms of history, and 100% accurate for any location you target.

Get accurate ranking data for you and your clients — Rank Tracker will give you the data you need for informed and well-thought-out SEO decisions.