What is your view of your current website traffic and Internet marketing campaigns? Are you receiving as much traffic as you’d like or are you scoring as high on your top keywords as you had originally hoped? No, this isn’t my sales pitch; there is a point to these questions.
If you’re the average small business owner, you know enough about organic search engine optimization to make you dangerous. You know a little about SEO (search engine optimization) and you periodically check your keyword rankings to make sure you are still sitting on page one. Did you know these results are not necessarily the real results Google shares with the average visitor?
Google is now using what is called Personalized Search. Their new algorithms change search results based on what websites you have previously visited. While this is great in some cases, it proves very misleading in other cases.
I was on the phone with a prospect the other day and he mentioned he was sitting on page one for his top three keywords. Well, not so much. He was sitting on page two or three, but he thought he was on page one, because he visits his website more than other websites within the results. Thus his view of his website and his search rankings are a bit skewed and not nearly as accurate as some may believe.
As an SEO consultant it drives me crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I love Google and I all the new functionality and gadgets they offer. That being said, their little feature called Personalized Search distorts reality for many who have no idea Google is morphing results based on a user’s search history.
So how do you really know where you stand? Google’s Webmaster Tools gives you a list of your top search results and where you stand for a particular period of time. I also pay close attention to actual visitor traffic through you guessed it, Google Analytics. Did I mention I like Google? Between the two you will have a much clearer image of your current rank than what your own search can provide. There are also a variety of tools you can purchase to help keep you informed, although since I work with a lot of smaller companies with limited marketing budget, I tend to steer towards free open source packages.
The take away here is to not jump to conclusions on your keyword ranking before you’ve done a little research beyond that of Google’s search box. I start each day with a review of client keyword rank and traffic in Google’s Webmaster Tools and Analytics. Between the two I have a good idea of where we stand or what we need to work on for improving traffic and conversions. It is part of my morning coffee and a ritual I do even on the weekends.
October 2010 Update: Google now allows you to turn this feature off. Thank heavens! Just visit Google’s help article titled Personalized Search: Turning Off Personalization.