Why Do Google Search Results & Keyword Rankings Vary?

As digital marketers working toward those big-picture SEO results, we get this question pretty frequently: “Why do I see a different Google first page than you?”

The answer, as you may have guessed, is nuanced thanks to Google’s search algorithm complexities and extensiveness. Upon searching for a certain keyword or phrase, you may see a set of links on your home computer that differ from those on your smartphone or tablet. The same can be seen when comparing results between your location in, say, Las Vegas and your pal’s home in Reno.

While these subtle differences on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) might appear like a jumbled mess—for businesses pushing their brand, it can undoubtedly be inconvenient—we assure you that everything is working as intended…for the most part.

SERP Results Different

Different Google Search Page Results: Contributing Factors

Remember when keyword rankings were cut and dry? Oh, how times have changed! A decade ago, you would likely see the same results for certain keywords no matter your location or device. Now, Google considers a variety of factors that influence the first page, including:

  • Device (desktop, mobile, tablet)
  • Location by IP address
  • Browser
  • Search history (cookies, cached data, bookmarks)
  • Google account access
  • Ads shown
  • Keywords
  • Interpreted intent (micro-moments)

This SERP personalization has arguably been beneficial to users, but it can be an SEO headache for brands and marketers looking to make waves past local geographic borders. Because we’re such nice people, here are a few SERP tips and tricks to help you navigate these somewhat nauseating waters.

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Are Gmail Promotions Tab Emails Spam?

Do you skim over those sales and marketing emails in the Gmail Promotions tab? Hey, I’m guilty of doing the same, so don’t feel judged. However, a dive into the inner workings of this tab has made me rethink my efforts to avoid its seemingly chaotic cluster of spam emails.

“Whoa! Spam? Don’t even get me started!”

Dont Get Me Started on Gmail Promo Tabs

What is the Promotions Tab, Anyway?

You’re right, Jeannie Darcy—the Gmail Promotions Tab isn’t merely spam, even if it looks like it at first glance. Rather, the promo tab stores a collection of emails that have been automatically filtered away from your primary inbox, allowing you to better focus on messages that may be timely or important.

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What’s Google Up To? (News, Updates & Changes)

“What are we going to do tonight, Google?”
“The same thing we do every night, Man in Boxers Eating Ice Cream: try and take over the world.”

Since June, we’ve seen a whole lot of movement from Google. We’ve all heard about the $2.7B fine the EU spanked Google with, but what else is new with the still-flourishing company that’s seemingly become the Brain to our Pinky?

GMB Messaging

Photo: support.google.com

Google My Business Mobile Messaging

Our auto dealers rely on the leads they acquire online, and now Google has given them yet another way to connect to potential customers. With the new messaging feature in Google My Business, companies can chat directly with customers who access their business listing page. But how does it work?

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Are Google Page Images Ranking Factors?

Here’s a quick one for all of you in SEOville. According to CognitiveSEO’s months-old post, Google has started utilizing its “automatic object recognition” algorithm to analyze images—perhaps all in an effort to ascertain the image’s category and how it relates to the content it’s complementing. But will this new process affect overall site rankings?

Not so fast. Let’s first see how this all works.

Dog with Hat Image

Photo: research.googleblog.com

Image Object Detection Methods

In Google’s infancy, keyword-rich ALT tags were like SEO arrows that pointed to what the page was about—and it could certainly affect your rank. While we’ve evolved past that point, ALT text has continued to be a tried-and-true method of organizing and optimizing a page. With Google’s new method of object detection, ALT text will definitely play a smaller part in a much larger production.

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Do Google Reviews Help Your Click-Through Rate?

TL;DR answer: Yes.

Long answer: Yes, according to recent data from BrightLocal’s Consumer Review Survey. In it, 91% of those surveyed stated that they read online reviews before calling or visiting a local business. Perhaps more telling is the fact that 56% of those surveyed base their click on a company’s star rating, meaning several 1-star reviews might be the difference between a click and a shoo.

Google Reviews CTR
Photo: brightlocal.com


Let’s dive into the deep(er) end of this pool of thought.

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Most Important Search Ranking Factors for 2017 (Part II)

In part I of this blog series we discussed the key search ranking factors to get your site in a local map pack. Today, we’re branching off into a similar territory by discussing which signals might be influencing your organic positioning in standard local-area search queries.

Ranking Factors 2017

  1. Inbound Linking – 29%

Moz’s Surveyed experts identified that links coming to your site have undeniable power in SERP positioning. Totaling over a quarter of the vote, signals like keyword-branded anchor text, domain authority, and a variety of inbound links all make a difference.

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Google AdWords Transitions to “Close Variant Exact Match” Keywords

We all know to choose keywords based on the probable intent of our targeted searcher. For years, AdWords marketers and PPC kings have labored over hundreds and thousands of keyword phrases, all for the sake of their or their clients’ businesses. We’ve run through the gauntlet, passed the “broad match” rounds, ventured into “broad match modifier” territory, and circled all the way back to the drawing board countless times. We’ve added tedious prepositions and conjunctions to our long-tail keywords, hoping to draw even a few extra visitors. We’ve typed more open and closed brackets than probably anyone in the history of the internet.

Google AdWords Changes

Is that time over? Has Google’s AdWords team become our salvation? With Google’s newly announced changes, exact match keywords will become somewhatexact match, instead—and it just might save us time and effort.

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Organic Decline Part 3: Organic Search Results Have Visually Fallen

The increased amount of ad space and additional paid search functionality features have done more than expand options for advertisers; they have physically moved the organic search results further down the page.


google-serp-changes-2016 The change in Google search engine results from January 2013 to May 2016. The red square highlights the organic listings that are visible on the first page. The yellow line represents the standard page cut off point for the average desktop browser size. The May 2016 result is the current format which shows over half of the consumers above the fold screen estate controlled by paid search advertisements.

In 2016, when a searcher types in a high volume query, i.e. “car dealer near me,” they have the potential to only see paid search results on more than 50% of their desktop screen, and 100% of their mobile screen.

The organic push further down the SERP has caused consumers to react to the information that is presented to them first, which has shifted more and more toward paid placements. The data for this trend has come into focus in the 2016 Q1 Merkle Digital Marketing Report, which shows a first-ever win for paid search over organic search in the share of mobile site visits. (“Q1 2016 Digital Marketing Report”, p. 21)

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Google Will Punish Websites That Utilize Popup Ads

Is there anything more frustrating than clicking a link on Google, Twitter or Facebook and being forced to close popup after popup just to view the small tidbit of information you were looking for? Most of the time, especially when it comes to mobile browsing, people are looking for small pieces of information (directions, hours, pricing, or an answer to a question), and they want answers quickly.

Sure, it only takes a second or two to find and click the “close” button, but in the highly competitive world of mobile Google search rankings, those few seconds could be enough to send users away from your site. Google has recognized the intrusiveness of popup ads and will be punishing mobile sites that utilize them by lowering their SERP ranking.

From Google’s Webmaster Central Blog: “Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller. To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”



Why Would Websites Ever Use Popup Ads In the First Place?

People get so frustrated and annoyed with popups that some are even willing to spend a fair amount of time and effor
t to install popup blockers, so why are websites still utilizing popup ads? Well according to Shopify.com, “They are annoying and rude and… they work. Really, really well.”

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