We have a very sophisticated proprietary infrastructure we use for obtaining keyword ranking data and run millions of keyword ranking checks each week. We therefore have extensive experience in obtaining ranking data from various search engines. We also support local ranking checks for over 40,000 towns and cities worldwide.
It is very rare for us to be blocked from obtaining a result, due to the way in which our infrastructure works. Whenever you compare what you see in the platform, you will need to take into consideration the following factors:
- The effect of personalisation! This is a big one! if you're searching for terms from your own PC and if you are logged into a Google account, then you are going to get returned personalised results based on your Google+ activity, your browsing history, your location, the search term, etc, etc; and the effect of personalisation can vary from person to person and from keyword to keyword). On the other hand, the platform is returning "vanilla" results to give you an indication of a generic result for that search engine. Personalisation can often move results up or down 2 or 3 places, but this will vary from person to person and from keyword to keyword. PLEASE NOTE: simply going into a private window or icognito mode and logging out of your Google account does not stop Google returning results based on your IP and so is not an adequate reflection of what our infrastructure is doing - before you email us saying the results you see from a 'local check' from your desk are slightly different to what we're showing in the platform or via our APIs, try changing your IP using a service like hola! or Tor to get a much more anonymised result.
- How you have set the campaign up - are you looking at UK only results, but you've told us to return "Whole Web" or "Any country" results, or vice versa? Are you being redirected to google.co.uk at your end and have you asked the platform to check google.com (or vice versa)? In google.co.uk, click on Search Tools to change the results from "Any Country" to a specific country and vice versa.
- If the domain has had a redirect put into place recently - this is a common occurrence; a domain URL changes, but you forget to update the platform (see this article on changing domain URLs), so we're still looking for rankings for the old domain name. The system won't check each domain in every SERPs for redirects (this would take forever!), so you need to ask us to amend the domain in the platform and then re-run the ranking job.
- Are you universally ranked, but you're looking at organic results? - we show both in the platform, but the Keyword Rankings module will only look at organic results. You can compare organic and universal ranks in the Universal Search module or the detailed monitoring task table (click on the green Manage Keywords button from the Monitored Keywords module and ensure you have both columns visible by clicking on the grey Select Columns cog icon).
- Are you definitely looking at the right domain or sub domain? - if you've set a site up on the platform as example.com, we will check for that domain appearing in the SERPs for your monitored keywords, along with the standard sub domain (www.example.com) and the standard mobile version (m.example.com); however, if, for whatever reason, the domain is actually showing in the SERPs as anothersub.example.com or sub.sub.example.com, the platform will not consider that to be the same domain. We have to allow for this, as some customers will have language or market specific domains (en.example.com, de.example.com or fr.example.com) and will only want to see rankings for that specific sub domain. In the same way, that the system isn't telepathic in relation to re-directs having been put in place, it also won't assume that it should show ranks for every variation of a particular domain. NB: An exception to this is if you're asked us to switch on 'domain alias' tracking for account, in which case we will check for all sub domain variants.
- Are the rankings for these keywords usually particularly volatile? some keywords will typically have fairly stable SERP results - the top two places for "car insurance", for example, reputedly only changes once every two years. Remember, although the Keyword Rankings module will say we have updated the ranks on a particular day, this will have been run at a particular time for each keyword we check and you may be looking at slightly different results at a different time of day (Google may changes results depending upon the time of day).
- Google's "200 ranking factors" - no-one knows exactly how Google determines how to order the results for a particular keyphrase, although, of course, the SEO industry has various theories on the ranking factors which are being taken into account each year. We do know, however, that personalisation and localisation get taken into account.
- Google Decision Trees!! - some SEOs have speculated that the results you see may fluctuate due to the effect of the way Google's infrastructure route your query and serve your result: http://www.seobythesea.com/2011/06/how-google-might-classify-queries-differently-at-different-data-centers/. Research we've conducted here into the results you get from simple Google 'hacks' can vary, depending upon the location you run this query from, so this explanation would make a lot of sense.
- Google's testing - this is rarer, we feel, in practice, but it is possible that the result we've obtained or you have obtained may be due to some experimentation Google's engineers are running.
- Google is not consistent! Not always, anyway. Sometimes you'll see 10 organic results on Page 1, sometimes this gets squeezed down, often due to Google expanding the number of PPC ads at the top or including blended local results in the listings (organic results with a Places indicator directly underneath and a postal address). Remember to check the Universal Order column in the Keyword Research module, as this will give you a breakdown of the types (and number!) of results on Page 1.
If you are ever in doubt about the accuracy of keyword ranking data, please raise a support ticket and provide us with some specific details. We just need to know:
- the site this ranking is for
- the keyword(s) you're comparing
- when you compared the result
- how you compared the result (desktop PC, through a proxy, using another piece of software, comparing to GWT data, signed in/out of a Google account, whether you have a toolbar installed)
- if you obtained any screenshots of the results (in which case, please copy these to your ticket)