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Stuff About SERPs

Mark Kawabe - Sunday, January 03, 2016

3D MazeIf you haven't come across the acronym SERP before, don't worry. It likely means you're not a geek, or not heavily invested in your website. If you're the former, feel free to celebrate. For those who fall into the latter category, let's talk.

SERP stands for "Search Engine Results Page". When you are talking about your site showing up in the top 10 listed sites in Google, you're talking about how well your site shows up in the SERPs. You'll notice I started right away with Google when talking about SERPs. Despite other search engines claiming to be more accurate, Google is still the "go-to" search engine for most people. So, I'd like to discuss a peculiar characteristic of Google's SERPs.

You may be surprised to learn that multiple searches for the same keywords may differ when using Google. There are several reasons this can occur.

Personalization

Google wants to provide you with the most relevant information it can. There is a difference between "relevant" and "accurate". What you consider relevant is unique to you, so your Google search may turn up different results than someone else.

If you are signed into any Google service (like Gmail, YouTube, Analytics, Maps, Google News, Calendar, Google+ etc.), Google knows it's you doing the search. The results you get will reflect your preferences. More accurately, it will reflect what Google thinks your preferences are. If you exit all Google services, your search results may change.

Your IP Address

If you use Google from the same computer, chances are you IP address is the same most of the time. Google tracks queries made from each IP address, so unless yours changes, Google probably knows it's you and your SERP results will be presented accordingly.

Data Center Differences

Google has over three dozen publicly-reported data centers. There are probably more. Depending on which data center you connect with for your search, you could get different results. Different updates to Google's algorithms (the "secret formula" they use to determine which pages are most relevant for a search) can be in effect at different data centers.

What Can You Do?

If you're the kind of person who wants results that aren't personalized to you, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Sign out of all Google services.
  2. Clear your search history.
  3. Use Incognito (or Private) browsing mode.
  4. Use a VPN to disguise your true whereabouts.
  5. Add "&pws=0" to the end of the search results page you're presented with and refresh the page.

I hope this glimpse into the world of Google's SERPs has been helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know! I welcome your feedback.