The SEO rank of a website/web page refers to where you rank on the search results page (SERP) of a search engine. To determine your SEO rank and location, you just need to type in the exact keywords you have optimized your site for into the Google search box (or any other search engine) and hit enter.
Now, the search results are going to give you a fair idea about your rankings (for your geo location), but those results can never be considered the absolute measure of your SEO endeavors.
Why worry about SEO Rank?
Unlike PR (page rank, which is a measure of global link popularity), the actual SERP rank of a website is dependent on three different factors:
- Search engine data centers
- Geo location of the user
- Browsing history
So, the Google rank of a website is anything but absolute (unlike page rank) and one or all of the above factors can have a tremendous impact on actual rankings no matter how solid your SEO strategy is. That being said, it is possible to remain unscathed by the above factors and as long as you understand how the above factors impact rankings, you don’t have to surrender to the ordinary nuances of the search algos!
So, How Do These Factors Affect SEO Rankings?
- Data Centers:
Every time a user hits the search button, a search query string hits a particular data center that returns results based on its own binaries (read data crunching abilities) and algorithms. The fact that Google literally has a boatload of these data centers across the globe makes things really difficult for webmasters.
In a recent interview, Google engineer Matt Cutts said that different types of data are always being tested in different data centers and every time a new filter is added or an algorithm is changed, search results might get affected.
How To Bypass Those New Filters and Algos:
The short answer – you cannot bypass them. But, you can definitely stay glued to your search engine position if you follow the thumb rule of “ideal” SEO:
Content – Create content for humans, not search engines. Perfect content would have primary keywords and LSI keywords, but it should, first and foremost, appeal to your targeted readers. Any attempt to trick the search bots by stuffing your pages with keywords could have detrimental effects.
Organic Links – Google simply hates paid links. Even the slightest hint of “unnatural linking” is going to set the Pandas and Penguins free and it’s only a matter of time before those beasts start nibbling away at your SEO ranking!
Social Media Marketing – If your content is likable, it’s going to be liked! The search bots are more inclined to sites that have a heavy social media presence.
Bottom Line: If you try to trick Google, you’d end in a big puddle of filth! Don’t do it unless you have the right shoes for it!
- Geo location of the user: If a user from Atlanta searches for a service on Google, his search results are going to be a bit biased towards businesses in Atlanta offering that particular service. Google does this all the time in the name of “enhanced user experience” and unless your site is optimized to show up in location based search queries, the local businesses are always going to win hands down.
How To Fix The Problem: If you want to achieve location specific rankings, you’ll have to treat your business as one belonging to that place, even if you don’t in reality. Content targeting local users would certainly help. Backlinks from related websites targeting users from the same location would also help you secure a position in location specific listings.
But, a single static page would never rank in the same position across the globe, unless of course it’s an authority site on the topic and there’s feeble competition.
- Browsing History: Even though a bunch of SEO pundits lambast the “browsing patterns” contingent, it is actually a good practice as far connecting the right products with the right customer is concerned.
Google closely takes note of the browsing patterns and history of users and the search results it presents to that user are always influenced by that browsing pattern. For example, if someone frequents a particular site offering information on “Acne”, chances of him seeing that particular site high on the search results page for a related term (eg – get rid of acne scars) are very high even if there are better websites on the topic.
Google strives to present with “what a user wants to see” rather than “what the webmasters want to present”. This is a good practice because your website would easily reach out to people having an inclination for similar information or products.
But, such results could be deceptive for web masters.
If you are looking to determine your SEO rank and location and are also signed into your Google account, the search results would most likely rank your site higher than it actually is. That’s attributed to your numerous visits to your own site (in the course of updating information or something else) in the recent past.
How To Determine Your Actual Rankings: If you want to see the real results, you’ll have to log out of your Google account and check your rankings for a keyword on the search engine. Clearing your browser’s cache would also help.
Some Common Myths Busted
Hosting server location cam impact search rankings: That’s a myth. Your site could be hosting anywhere and as long it’s a decent hosting provider, your rankings are not going to get affected. In some rare cases websites hosted on shared hosting with other sites that exist for the sole purpose of spamming, fishing and scamming etc. might get affected but the problem can be easily solved by switching to a reputable host.
Domain name extensions can impact rankings: That’s a myth. Extensions have nothing to do with rankings – they are more about user preferences. However, .info domains are usually a bit more difficult to rank because that particular extension is commonly used by Blackhatters and spammers to trick users and search engines. But, once the trust has been established and a site has started ranking, the domain name extension completely ceases to be a ranking factor.