Why my Google Search Results are different to yours
There once was a time when Google displayed the same results for everybody, but those days are gone and are changing at a rapid pace. There are now a range of factors which determine why my Google search results may be vastly different to yours, for the exact same search query:
Google Data Centres
Google has multiple data centres located all over the world. Any search you conduct is routed to the data centre located nearest to you, which may contain a different collection of indexed pages. Additionally, as Google makes large changes to its algorithms, it rolls them out across the various data centres which will also produce a different set of results.
Depending on where you are in the world, Google will alter your search results based on your geographic location. Google aims to return results that are the most relevant to you by including local domains or sites from servers hosted in your area. Google does this by redirecting your search query to the appropriate local search database. So, if you’re in Australia, even when searching on Google.com, your results will be biased towards Australian websites.
Personalised Search & Web History
If you’re signed into a Google Account (whether it be Gmail, Google Reader, Adwords, or any other google service you may use) your search results will be personalised according to your web search history. This is based on websites you’ve visited, past searches you’ve made and the sites you’ve visited from the search results. It also takes in to account what you’ve bookmarked in Google Bookmarks or saved to your iGoogle personalised homepage amoung other factors. Google does this to provide you with more relevant and useful results.
If you’re visiting a site or page frequently (your own business for example) you may see an improvement in the positioning of that page in your search results. However, once you sign out of your Google account, the rankings will return to ‘normal’.
Previous Search Query
Google also refines your search results based on the search you performed just prior to the current one. For example, you might search for ‘cheap flights’ followed by a search for ‘new zealand’. Google will effectively combine these two searches and return results as though you had searched for ‘cheap flights new zealand’.
This ‘previous query’ refinement appears in both organic and paid search listings, and happens regardless of whether or not you’re signed in to a Google account.
Many searchers do not realise these changes are taking place and are completely unaware of their modified search results. Google has recently given the control back to users however, with the recent addition of the ‘search customisation’ link at the top of the search results. This informs searchers when their results have been modified due to their geographic location, recent search activity or web history, and provides the option to opt out.
Annemarie Hunter – Search Marketing Specialist
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