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Variation in Google Rankings on Different Machines

14 January, 2012 by Tom Elliott

It can be frustrating sometimes when analysing rankings on key phrases to see significant ranking differences between two or more computers, especially when high rankings later turn out to be much lower when you check them on another machine. If you’re consistently seeing the same Google ranking variations on separate machines then the reason for this will usually be down to a) Personalised results or b) Different Google data centres.

Personalised Results
In most cases, personalised results are the cause of the differences in rankings on various machines. Google uses all sorts of data and signals to help determine what it thinks are the most relevant results to the searcher. Any sites you’ve previously visited on a specific machine or sites you’ve +1’d for example may boost the site or page in organic search engine results.

To check if you’re receiving skewed rankings from personalisation, and to avoid personalised results, you can try the following:

  1. Make sure you’re not signed into your Google Account – Gmail, Google + or otherwise as Google does and will increasingly (in the case of Google +) use data about you in your account to boost relevant websites.
  2. On the Google homepage, select the Options (cog icon) button from the top right, go to the Web History option and then select ‘Disable customizations based on search activity’.
  3. If you’re using Google Chrome, select the settings (spanner) button in the toolbar and open a ‘New incognito window’, or press Cntrl + Shift + N. This will let you browse without searching activity being recorded.

My preferred method is to browse in Incognito mode in Chrome, it means I can be sure trust no data about my searching behaviour is being collected and personalisation of rankings is not going on.

If you continue to see variation in SERPS on different machines then it’s likely to be a data centre issue.


Google Data Centre Ranking Differences
Google doesn’t have a single, central location to store information indexed on websites. It has many enormous data centres across the world. When someone makes a search, the closest data centre will most likely be used, but that will not always be the case. Different machines in various locations may be returning separate Google rankings from different data centres.

When Google crawls your website and updates it’s index, the change to the index can take some time to propagate across all its data centres, it could be a few hours or a few days but the difference in rankings from different data centres is a temporary one. Different results from separate machines and locations can also indicate upcoming changes in Google’s algorithm as changes are not rolled out to all its data centres concurrently.

Having said all that, there may be a few other reasons why you maybe getting variation in Google rankings. Locational based search terms for example maybe using your IP addresses’ physical location which will change from machine to machine (but is usually that same within one office block). You may also see variation in results from using Google.com compared Google.co.uk or other country specific Google’s.

Your rankings will change all the time anyway – from things you do to your site, competitor activity and search engine algorithm modifications. I try not to get too hung up over rankings (after all its clicks and conversions that are more important) but it is good to know where a website stands in rankings and we can use this information to help monitor and success to the SEO changes we make or any promotional activity we do around a site.

One Comment

  • Andy Morley says:

    I cant say i have noticed this mate, i usually test my rankings “incognito” in Chrome, usually see the same results (when manually searching) I do use a couple of rankings checkers which give a similar result.

    Cute Rank and SEO Power Suite