Archives for July 22, 2019

Why are my search-results different from my customers’ search-results (and how to fix it)?

Sometimes, our clients ask us, “when I searched for my business on Google, my business appears on the top, on Google Maps. But, my customers complain that they can’t find my business at all. Why does this happen? Why are my search-results different from my customers’ search-results?”

We understand their frustration. It’s one of the most common situations that happen in search engines. In this article, we will explain why this occurs and how to fix it.

Topics

Why are my search-results different from others’ search-results?
Reason 1. Your location will influence
Google Local Pack
Reason 2. The user’s browsing behaviors influence search results.
Two Simple Solutions to Compensate for the differences
Solution1: search as an anonymous user
Solution2: add an additional search URL parameter, &near=location
Conclusion

Why are my search-results different from others’ search-results?

Every search result is slightly different based on the user’s browsing behavior and geographical location. Especially local searches on Google Maps heavily depend on the user’s location.

It’s because search engines are adopting User Experience (UX) in order to provide the best experience to each user.

The two factors that influence the individual’s search results:

1. Geographical Location
2. Personal Browsing Experiences

Reason 1. Your location will influence “Google Local Pack”

When you search for local businesses, you will see Google Maps with three chosen businesses. Google picks those three businesses on the Maps and we call it “Google Local Pack”. It’s a powerful feature to boost local businesses.

Google Maps Local Packs-Kapaa Kauai
An example of Google Local Pack

What you need to understand is that Google picks the Local Pack based on the user’s location. Therefore, the user’s search-results in Kapaa will be different than the user’s search-results in Kalaheo.

I met a few business owners who thought their business was ranked at the top on Google Maps because they only googled in their own office. So, it makes sense that Google would always pick the closest business from their office which is their business. Later, they discovered that they couldn’t find their business on Google Maps when they visited another town. It’s a big shock for them.

It’s a disappointing feeling. Yet, only when we diagnose the situation correctly, we can improve it. After the right assessment and SEO setup, they could get more customers/orders/requests. It’s a Happy ending!

Reason 2. The user’s browsing behaviors influence search results.

Each person has unique browsing behaviors and the search engines apply their browsing history to the search results. 

Your browsing behaviors don’t just mean which websites you’ve visited. They also include how long you stayed at each site, how much you scrolled down on each page, what flow you follow (behavior flow on each website), which device (desktop, tablet, or mobile phone) you’re using, and so on. 

Browsing Behavior Flow
An example of browsing behavior flow

How do they know all this information? Please read this article if you want more details: How Google Collects Data About You and the Internet (open in new tab)

Then, How does your browsing behavior affect search results?

Let me give you an example. If you visit a certain website every week, the search engine will put it at a higher rank. Yet, while you visited another website if you clicked the back button and left the site within 3 seconds, then the search engine would put that site at a lower rank in your next search.

So, Google will pick your business site at a higher rank if you have visited your own website frequently.  On the contrary, your customer may find different results because they don’t have the same preferences that you have.

Two Simple Solutions to Compensate for the differences

How can we compensate for the differences and see the same search results as our customers do?

Here we suggest two simple solutions.

1. Search as an anonymous user: Logout, Incognito, Private, or InPrivate
2. To change your search location, use an additional parameter: “&near=”

Solution1: search as an anonymous user

To be free from your browsing history, search as an anonymous user.

You can be anonymous by logging out of your browser. Yet, this could be annoying if you have several tabs and windows open since you need to log out and in repeatedly. 

The easier way to be anonymous is to use a private browser. Chrome uses “Incognito” for private browsing. Firefox uses “Private” and Microsoft Edge “InPrivate”. As marketers, we only use private browsers when we do research.

How to use Incognito Chrome
Opening a new Incognito window in Chrome

Solution2: add an additional search URL parameter, &near=location

In our previous article, we explained that Google never searches the internet in real-time. Instead, it just picks the best matching result from the Search index which was pre-sorted by the ranking system. That’s how Google can bring you more than 1 million search-results within a second.

Click here to read our article about how Google work.

By inputting the keywords in the search box on Google, you will see the search result. Another way is inputting the URL directly. By doing so, you can also access the same search index.

For example, if you are searching “Family restaurants Kauai”, you can type “family restaurants Kauai” in the search box on Google. When you see the web address bar in the browser, you will find the basic URL and the additional parameters.

Google search URL parameter
When you input keywords, the browser accesses the index by using a specific URL.

The basic search URL of Google is 

www.google.com/search?q=

In this case, the basic URL will be 

www.google.com/search?q=family+restaurant+kauai

“+” means “AND” or “Space”. And, behind of “&oq=” will be additional parameters.

Actually, you can delete the additional parameters and input only the basic URL in the web address bar.

www.google.com/search?q=family+restaurant+kauai

Now, let’s find out how we can access the search results which are requested in different locations.

For the task, we need to add a magical parameter behind the basic URL: &near=your+location

Let’s say we want to see the search result of the same keyword requested in Kapaa. Then, we can input:

www.google.com/search?q=family+restaurant+kauai&near=kapaa

(You can change the order:
www.google.com/search?near=kapaa&q=family+restaurant+kauai)

If we want to see the result in Koloa, we can input: 

www.google.com/search?q=family+restaurant+kauai&near=koloa

More examples of the parameter, “&near=”

For the search results of “Wedding Photographers Kauai” requested in Kalaheo:

www.google.com/search?q=wedding+photographers+kauai&near=kalaheo

(Again you can change the order:
www.google.com/search?near=kalaheo&q=wedding+photographers+kauai)

For the search results of “affordable rental cars Kauai” requested in Seattle:

www.google.com/search?q=affordable+rental+cars+kauai&near=seattle

For the search results of “gas station” requested in Honolulu airport:

www.google.com/search?q=gas+station&near=honolulu+airport

Conclusion

Search engines are adopting UX (User Experience) in order to provide the best experience to users. So, every search result is slightly different based on the user’s browsing behavior. Sometimes, it confusions small business owners.

In this article, we explained how it happens and how to fix it.

Using a private window with the magical parameter “&near=” will compensate for the differences. It will also save lots of money and time. (Can you imagine if you have to visit all the different locations to check all the results?)

If you have more questions about SEO or Web Design for small businesses, please contact us. We will do our best to help you understand SEO better.