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How To See Google Search Results And Rankings For Different Locations

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How To See Google Search Results And Rankings For Different Locations

Every time someone enters a query into Google, the search engine applies a complicated equation to discover precisely what the searcher is looking for.

All sorts of factors are included in this predictive algorithm, but one of the important ones is the searcher’s location. Google has been very clear about the emphasis it puts on local search.

And that’s great if you’re a neighborhood mom and pop serving a small geographical area.

But what happens if you have multiple locations? Or if you operate on a national or even international scale? Can you still rank as highly as competitors that are local to the searcher?

For the answers to these questions and more, read on.

Why Do Search Results Vary By Location?

The reason Google factors location into its rankings is pretty obvious when you think about it: In many cases, local means more relevant.

For example, if you are hankering for a mocha latte, a Google search that directs you to a coffee shop on the other side of the country isn’t very helpful; even a result from the other side of town isn’t as useful as one just around the corner.

Google’s locating capabilities are very accurate, using several sources to estimate where you are. Depending on what’s available, it considers:

  • Your device location (via Wi-Fi location, cell phone triangulation, or GPS, which can pinpoint your location to around 20 meters).
  • Your labeled places (i.e., the names that show up next to markers on Google Maps).
  • The home address that is linked to your Google account.
  • Previous activity across Google products.
  • Your IP address.

Working together, these allow Google to determine where you are – and what’s within your local search radius. And this means you and someone living a block away could get different search results for the same exact query.

Now consider that 25% of people click on the very first search result, and the vast majority never make it off the first page, and you can begin to understand why ranking locally is crucial.

To accomplish this, your local search engine optimization must be on point, particularly if your business depends on physical traffic.

But how can you tell if yours is working? You could hop in your car and drive all over town (or the country) performing searches in various locations to check your ranking, but that would take forever.

Luckily Google lets you see how you rank without leaving the comfort of your desk. Here’s how to do it:

Add A Local Parameter To Your Search

Google provides a handy way to check the local map pack in specific locations. Simply perform your search in Google, then add “&near=cityname” at the end of the URL in the search bar.

For example, let’s imagine you’re doing SEO for a coffee shop with branches throughout the Pacific Northwest, but you live in Kansas City. Let’s call this imaginary business “Jitters.”

You want to see how Jitters stacks up to the competition in Seattle, so you navigate to Google and type in [coffee shops near me].

When the results page pops up, go to the end of the long URL and add “&near=Seattle.”

Press enter, and voila: You have performed a local search from 1,800 miles away.

Screenshot from search for [coffee shops near me], Google, July 2022

Change Your Regional Settings

You can manually change your regional settings if you’re looking for a higher-level view of search results for a given location.

This gives you search results on a country level rather than providing results from your IP address or other sources.

To perform this, click Settings on the bottom right corner of Google.com and select Search Settings. This will send you to the Search Settings page (obviously).

Change Your Regional SettingsScreenshot from Google.com, July 2022

Scroll to the bottom, and you’ll see a list of Region Settings.

Choose the region you want to use for search and save the settings. You’ll now see search results from the country you chose.

Continuing our coffee shop example, let’s say Jitters just opened a location in Lisbon. You’ll select “Portugal” as your region, allowing you to check the rankings of the new Portuguese beanery.

Note: If you don’t add the local parameter discussed earlier to the search URL, you’ll continue to see results based on your current location.

Manage Your Work & Home Locations On Google Maps

One of the great things about Google’s local search is its machine learning capabilities.

It automatically identifies places you often visit, including your home and work. And because it understands your commuting habits, it can save you lots of time and provide you with more relevant searches.

Of course, it’s not perfect. Sometimes, it doesn’t realize that you left that job at the cracker factory months ago. But setting your work and home locations is easy.

Open Google Maps, click Menu, then Your Places, and choose Locations. Pick Work or Home and enter the address. Click Save, and you’re all set.

Now you can perform local searches from either location by adding the modifier [near home] or [near work] to your query.

Delete Location History In Your Google Account Activity Controls

Some people find it a little Big Brother-ish, but Google tracks your location, even when you’re not actively using a specific product from the search engine.

It does this because it uses your location history to help it improve accuracy.

For example, if it notes you repeatedly visit a martial arts gym, it’s more likely to respond to queries about boxing with pugilism sites rather than blogs about cardboard boxes.

This is useful in many ways, but it can complicate the process of examining search results from different locations.

In 2020, Google announced it would delete users’ location history after 18 months, but if you can’t wait that long, deleting it or turning the service off is easy.

Go to the “Location History” section of your Google account, and you can toggle it on and off.

If you want to use location history on one device but not another, you can change that from this page. You can manually delete all or some of your location history from your browser or Google Maps.

You should be aware that if you delete this information, you’ll lose some personalized information like recommendations based on places you’ve been, traffic reports, and automatically generated Google Photo albums.

Override Your Location With Google Chrome Developer Tools

If you’re more tech-savvy, you can also check search engine results by overriding your location using developer tools in the Chrome browser.

To do this, open DevTools and then open a command prompt. Select Show Sensors and hit enter.

From the “Geolocations” list, choose one of the preset cities or choose “Custom Location.” If you opt for the latter, you can enter longitude and latitude coordinates for precise positioning.

You can also select “Location Unavailable” to see how your site works when a user’s location is unknown.

Change Location Settings On Your Device

Some mobile devices allow users to change their location under the Settings tab. Others require you to be a little cleverer.

The easiest way to check search results from a different location is to use a GPS-changing app.

Several of these are available on both the App Store and Google Play. Most work by using a network operator to change your GPS location, thus letting you perform searches from your location of choice.

Experiment With Google Ads Preview And Diagnosis Tool

Google’s Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool is a great way to see how your paid ads appear in local searches, but did you know you can also use it to view Google searches from different locations?

Open the tool and select Location in the dropdown menu. Now enter your desired location. You can view by country, city, or zip code, so you can get a high-level or precise view, depending on your needs.

You can also change the type of device to check if you’re performing as well on mobile as you are on desktop.

View Local Search Results With Valentin.app

Valentin.app is a free online tool that lets you check search engine rankings from an exact location without any additional tools or data sources.

It’s extremely easy to use. Type in your keywords, select your region and language, and enter an address.

View Local Search Results With Valentin.appScreenshot from Google search, July 2022

Your address input will then be converted into geolocation and sent to Google (along with your other inputs).

Valentin.app then opens a localized search engine results page from Google in a new tab.

Use A VPN To Change Your Location

Another way to remove location data from the search equation is by changing the location setting on your device.

One of the most common and simplest ways to do this is with a virtual private network (VPN).

Long used by pirates (the virtual kind, not the swashbuckling ones), VPNs mask your IP address by routing it through secure servers located elsewhere. (Please note: Search Engine Journal in no way condones intellectual property theft or breaking the law in any way, so don’t call us if you need bail money).

VPNs have legitimate uses, of course, including protecting you from hackers, securing your data, and circumventing those annoying YouTube blockers that restrict certain videos in your country. And they’re also an excellent way to get search results from a different location.

The drawback to doing this is that most VPNs only have a handful of IP locations to choose from. So, if you’re looking to see exactly how your coffee shop ranks in Vancouver-based searches, you may be out of luck.

Automate With Local Rank Checking Tools 

Tracking local search results pages for a business with two locations is quite manageable on your own. But what if our pretend coffee company gets acquired by a company that wants to take Jitters global?

You’ll drive yourself nuts trying to manage local searches at each of the company’s 315 worldwide locations. No need to worry – platforms exist to solve just this problem.

Called rank checking tools, they can automate local searches and generate reports so you can decide where your SEO efforts can be best applied.

Some of these you may be familiar with include:

Location Is Everything

Google results are different for different people in different locations on different devices. And this means it’s incredibly difficult to take a one-size-fits-all approach to search engine optimization.

With Google’s emphasis on local search, it’s crucial that you’re showing up to people in the neighborhood, whether you’re managing a single location, doing SEO remotely, or running a website for a business with multiple locations.

Luckily, you don’t have to actually be in that neighborhood to see what local searchers are getting on search engine results pages. There are several ways you can see how you’re ranking from different locations, each with its own advantages and drawbacks.

No matter which one you feel is best for your needs, the ability to adjust your SEO to target customers within a specific area is something you can’t afford to neglect.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock



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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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Google’s Statement About CTR And HCU

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Google's Statement About CTR And HCU

In a series of tweets, Google’s SearchLiaison responded to a question that connected click-through rates (CTR) and HCU (Helpful Content Update) with how Google ranks websites, remarking that if the associated ideas were true it would be impossible for any new website to rank.

Users Are Voting With Their Feet?

Search Liaison’s answer was to a tweet that quoted an interview answer by Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the quote being, “Users vote with their feet”.

Here is the tweet:

“If the HCU (Navboost, whatever you want to call it) is clicks/user reaction based – how could sites hit by the HCU ever hope to recover if we’re no longer being served to Google readers?

@sundarpichai “Users vote with their feet”,

Okay I’ve changed my whole site – let them vote!”

The above tweet appears to connect Pichai’s statement to Navboost, user clicks and rankings. But as you’ll see below, Sundar’s statement about users voting “with their feet” has nothing to do with clicks or ranking algorithms.

Background Information

Sundar Pichai’s answer about users voting “with their feet” has nothing to do with clicks.

The problem with the interview question (and Sundar Pichai’s answer) is that the question and answer are in the context of “AI-powered search and the future of the web.”

The interviewer at The Verge used a site called HouseFresh as an example of a site that’s losing traffic because of Google’s platform shift to the new AI Overviews.

But the HouseFresh site’s complaints predate AI Overviews. Their complaints are about Google ranking low quality “big media” product reviews over independent sites like HouseFresh.

HouseFresh wrote:

“Big media publishers are inundating the web with subpar product recommendations you can’t trust…

Savvy SEOs at big media publishers (or third-party vendors hired by them) realized that they could create pages for ‘best of’ product recommendations without the need to invest any time or effort in actually testing and reviewing the products first.”

Sundar Pichai’s answer has nothing to do with why HouseFresh is losing traffic. His answer is about AI Overviews. HouseFresh’s issues are about low quality big brands outranking them. Two different things.

  • The Verge-affiliated interviewer was mistaken to cite HouseFresh in connection with Google’s platform shift to AI Overviews.
  • Furthermore, Pichai’s statement has nothing to do with clicks and rankings.

Here is the interview question published on The Verge:

“There’s an air purifier blog that we covered called HouseFresh. There’s a gaming site called Retro Dodo. Both of these sites have said, “Look, our Google traffic went to zero. Our businesses are doomed.”

…Is that the right outcome here in all of this — that the people who care so much about video games or air purifiers that they started websites and made the content for the web are the ones getting hurt the most in the platform shift?”

Sundar Pichai answered:

“It’s always difficult to talk about individual cases, and at the end of the day, we are trying to satisfy user expectations. Users are voting with their feet, and people are trying to figure out what’s valuable to them. We are doing it at scale, and I can’t answer on the particular site—”

Pichai’s answer has nothing to do with ranking websites and absolutely zero context with the HCU. What Pichai’s answer means is that users are determining whether or not AI Overviews are helpful to them.

SearchLiaison’s Answer

Let’s reset the context of SearchLiaison’s answer, here is the tweet (again) that started the discussion:

“If the HCU (Navboost, whatever you want to call it) is clicks/user reaction based – how could sites hit by the HCU ever hope to recover if we’re no longer being served to Google readers?

@sundarpichai “Users vote with their feet”,

Okay I’ve changed my whole site – let them vote!”

Here is SearchLiaison’s response:

“If you think further about this type of belief, no one would ever rank in the first place if that were supposedly all that matters — because how would a new site (including your site, which would have been new at one point) ever been seen?

The reality is we use a variety of different ranking signals including, but not solely, “aggregated and anonymized interaction data” as covered here:”

The person who started the discussion responded with:

“Can you please tell me if I’m doing right by focusing on my site and content – writing new articles to be found through search – or if I should be focusing on some off-site effort related to building a readership? It’s frustrating to see traffic go down the more effort I put in.”

When a client says something like “writing new articles to be found through search” I always follow up with questions to understand what they mean. I’m not commenting about the person who made the tweet, I’m just making an observation about past conversations I’ve had with clients. When a client says something like that, they sometimes mean that they’re researching Google keywords and competitor sites and using that keyword data verbatim within their content instead of relying on their own personal expertise and understanding of what the readers want and need.

Here’s SearchLiaison’s answer:

“As I’ve said before, I think everyone should focus on doing whatever they think is best for their readers. I know it can be confusing when people get lots of advice from different places, and then they also hear about all these things Google is supposedly doing, or not doing, and really they just want to focus on content. If you’re lost, again, focus on that. That is your touchstone.”

Site Promotion To People

SearchLiaison next addressed the excellent question about off-site promotion where he strongly asserted focusing on the readers. A lot of SEOs focus on promoting sites to Google, which is what link building is all about.

Promoting sites to people is super important. It’s one of the things that I see high ranking sites do and, although I won’t mention specifics, I believe it feeds into higher rankings in an indirect way.

SearchLiaison continued:

“As to the off-site effort question, I think from what I know from before I worked at Google Search, as well as my time being part of the search ranking team, is that one of the ways to be successful with Google Search is to think beyond it.

Great sites with content that people like receive traffic in many ways. People go to them directly. They come via email referrals. They arrive via links from other sites. They get social media mentions.

This doesn’t mean you should get a bunch of social mentions, or a bunch of email mentions because these will somehow magically rank you better in Google (they don’t, from how I know things). It just means you’re likely building a normal site in the sense that it’s not just intended for Google but instead for people. And that’s what our ranking systems are trying to reward, good content made for people.”

What About False Positives?

The phrase false positive is used in many contexts and one of them is to describe the situation of a high quality site that loses rankings because an algorithm erroneously identified it as low quality. SearchLiaison offered hope to high quality sites that may have seen a decrease in traffic, saying that it’s possible that the next update may offer a positive change.

He tweeted:

“As to the inevitable “but I’ve done all these things when will I recover!” questions, I’d go back to what we’ve said before. It might be the next core update will help, as covered here:

It might also be that, as I said here, it’s us in some of these cases, not the sites, and that part of us releasing future updates is doing a better job in some of these cases:

SearchLiaison linked to a tweet by John Mueller from a month ago where he said that the search team is looking for ways to surface more helpful content.

“I can’t make any promises, but the team working on this is explicitly evaluating how sites can / will improve in Search for the next update. It would be great to show more users the content that folks have worked hard on, and where sites have taken helpfulness to heart.”

Is Your Site High Quality?

Everyone likes to think that their site is high quality and most times it is. But there are also cases where a site publisher will do “everything right” in terms of following SEO practices but what they’re unaware of is that those “good SEO practices” that are backfiring on them.

One example, in my opinion, is the widely practiced strategy of copying what competitors are doing but “doing it better.” I’ve been hands-on involved in SEO for well over 20 years and that’s an example of building a site for Google and not for users. It’s a strategy that explicitly begins and ends with the question of “what is Google ranking and how can I create that?”

That kind of strategy can create patterns that overtly signal that a site is not created for users.  It’s also a recipe for creating a site that offers nothing new from what Google is already ranking. So before assuming that everything is fine with the site, be certain that everything is indeed fine with the site.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Michael Vi



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