How to check your own local search rankings on Google
You don’t need a degree in computer science to check your own Google rankings. Even if you don’t know much about the web and how search engine algorithms work, you can do a few things to get a better feel for how Google ranks your small business.
As the world’s most powerful search engine, Google takes into account many different factors, such as your search history and location history, which can skew rankings one way or the other.
Why does Google display different results all the time?
Not many people know that Google returns personalized results. Those results are continually changing depending on which websites you visit, links you click, and places you visit when out and about. Those things simply became a local ranking factor.
You might find your company ranked number one for the keyword phrase “best hair salon in Houston,” but the next day, you may have slid further down the results page.
The way you see it on your end, your competitors have jumped over you on Google, yet actually, you may still have the top rank. Your personalized results don’t show it at that moment due to many reasons.
Why does location matter most for local Google rankings?
For Google, your physical location matters tremendously. Some say it’s the most potent trigger these days, and data support this assertion.
So if you’re standing on your business’s premises and Google it, you’ll probably show up as top rank not because you’re famous but because of your proximity to your company.
But if you were to perform the same search (e.g., “new hair salons in Houston”) a few miles further away, you may not even rank on page one.
For Google, the greater good is to infer your search intent by taking several factors into account, the location being number one at the time of this writing.
Does the type of mobile device matter?
Search results can vary among different smartphone manufacturers. If you’ve used an iPhone and an Android previously, you may have noticed how Google results can have stark differences on these two mobile operating systems.
For instance, Android phones and iPhones don’t use the same location technology, per se. You can also have two Android-powered phones return different results from the same location.
Try it out for yourself the next time you’re in a public space. Have a friend perform the same Google search simultaneously, and it’s highly likely you’ll see similar but slightly different results.
This situation is why some business owners check Google’s results on several different devices as a quick way to test how much Google changes.
It’s not uncommon for local search results to swing that wildly from person to person and device to device, so what’s a responsible business owner to do?
The bottom line is that you have no control over location services included with your device, even though they carry the most weight in local Google results.
Tips for checking your own local Google rankings
Even for a non-specialist, checking your own Google rankings isn’t too complicated if you know where to look and what to click. Here are a few words of advice any small business owner can try themselves:
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Clear cookies and browser data
A browser cookie is simply a small tidbit of code that websites place on your device when you visit them. How else do you think a website “remembers” your settings and log-ins?
Without cookies, browsing the internet would be much more tedious.
But when it comes to search results, cookies and other browser data can influence what you see.
Log-out of Google before searching
If you stay logged into Google as you search, you get personalized results, so the easiest way to get around that is to log-out.
After logging out, Google will presume that you’re a generic searcher and return results that are more accurate to your search intent.
Use incognito and private browsing windows
Remember to check results in incognito mode, which means your browser won’t record your search history during that particular session. The idea is to take another step to filter out personalized results.
Disable VPN clients
If you handle sensitive information or have privacy concerns, using a virtual private network service is a great idea but can affect Google results, too.
VPNs direct your search traffic through their servers first before sending your information along its way. The goal is to hide your real internet address from hackers and snoopers.
The downside is that Google will have no idea about your location unless you allow them to see it, so temporarily disabling a VPN is common.
Overall, checking your own Google rankings isn’t rocket science. Anyone can do it effectively by following these four tips.