A question we often hear is “Why don’t I show up for insert search term here”? There are several reasons why this phenomenon occurs and we hope to shed some light on a few of them.
Location Search Filter Removed in Google
In late 2015, Google removed the ‘change location’ search filter which made searching from a location other than your current location incredibly difficult. In order to receive search results for a location other than your own, you had to include that location in your search query such as “Ford dealer in Tulsa OK”. As we know, Google is all about providing each user with the most relevant search results quickly and accurately. This was the beginning of Google providing personalized search results.
Fast forward to 2019 where search intent and local SEO top the list of many SEO strategies. Today, location plays a significant role in search engine results depending on the query. “Near Me” searches were a signal to Google that a user was looking for results relative to their geo coordinates. Google assumes the user’s intent of “near me” for thousands of local-oriented searches and provides search results accordingly. For instance, if a user in San Diego searches for “italian restaurants” and a searcher in Chicago types in the same query, we have come to learn that the search results will be different without typing the city or town. You no longer need to type “near me” because Google knows your location. However, this also means that you may not see a specific site or page rank if Google does not feel it is in close proximity to you.
This is why a Local SEO strategy is so very important to business these days. Making sure your Business pages and local citations are correct and contain consistent information plays a critical part in today’s digital presence. These search engines have also increased the importance of Local SEO as a ranking factor because voice search has exploded in popularity and most queries are largely local in nature. One could surmise that the search engines strengthening Local SEO ranking signals, which will force SEO’s to be more vigilant in adding Local SEO to their overall strategy to only fortify their ability to provide a stronger, better, and more accurate user experience for those using voice search.
RankBrain and Personalized Search Results
Additionally, in early 2015 Google introduced ‘RankBrain’ which is an artificial intelligence function that became part of Google’s core algorithm. How does RankBrain affect search results, you ask? It learns a users’ search and click patterns to better serve up the results it feels are most representative to search intent. For example, if you often search for pizza delivery and results A, B, C, and D normally come up in the first 4 positions, but you have never clicked on result B, Google may stop showing ‘you’ result B because you’ve previously shown no interest in that result. This may be the reason you are not showing up for a search you perform often to see where you rank. If you never click on your own result, Google may just stop offering you that particular result. In your mind, you feel you have lost ranking position when Google has simply adjusted your personalized search results.
Another facet in this story is Browser History. Browser History is compiled data when a user is ‘signed into’ their browser account. It saves data such as what websites you have visited, the pages you visited and how long you visited. This data then helps personalize your search results. Therefore, you may receive different results depending on whether you are ‘signed in’ to your preferred browser or not.
What Does Mean for You?
Simply put, there are many factors, including location, machine learning, and browser history that work to personalize your search results. We all have patterns and search engines are working hard to learn them to tailor search results specifically to each individual. It’s reasons such as these that can make one searcher see slightly different results than another, or in some cases, no result at all. This is something to keep in mind when discussing search results or visibility with your SEO or marketing firm — what you see may not be exactly what they see!