If you are like our clients, you are always checking out your rankings on Google. Somewhere along the way, you may have noticed that your rankings are different on different computers. Unfortunately, a typically great feature of Google may be letting you think your rankings are much higher than they actually are.
Why are rankings different on different computers?
Every computer that is connected to the Internet is assigned a unique number called an Internet protocol (IP) address. Google uses this IP address to provide you with the most relevant results possible through its Personalized Search. This feature enables Google to customize search results based on the last 180 days of your search activity, i.e. the searches you have done, results you have clicked, and URLs you have typed into the address bar. Google may also use information about your location to customize your search. All of this affects what websites you will see on your search results pages and their order. So if you frequently visit your website on the same computer, the ranking you see may be drastically different from your actual ranking.
There are ways, however, that you can opt out of personalized search to find your true ranking:
1. To do so through Google itself, visit http://www.google.com/support/accounts/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=54048 for step-by-step directions.
2. Turn on Private Browsing in your browser.
3. Remove any Google cookies from your computer.
4. Disable personalized search in Firefox and Internet Explorer with this plug-in from yoast.com: http://yoast.com/tools/seo/disable-personalized-search-plugin
5. Use Google Chrome’s incognito browsing mode: http://www.google.com/support/chrome/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=95464
So while it is imperative that you stay on top of your current search engine rankings, you must avoid personalized search while doing so or you will end up seeing different rankings on different computers and that will not provide useful insight for your SEO campaign.