In February 2012, Google announced the “Venice” update as part of 40 changes to improve search quality, I don’t expect you to look through all 40 changes so these are 2 important ones we are going to talk about in this post:
Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.
Improved local results. We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.
Basically, Google wants to provide the most relevant results by detecting your location based on your IP address, or their toolbars “My Location” feature, if you use the Google Toolbar.
For example if you were to just Google “carpet cleaning” with your location set as United Kingdom you would see results similar to these:
However, if you now set your location by clicking on “Change Location” on the left sidebar and enter your city, address or post code then you will see entirely different results:
As you can see, the top results are all companies in and around Leicester. This does not just apply just to very specific/localised search queries, it does apply to a lot of broader search queries too, such as seo or web design.
The Venice update is not the only factor that can affect the results that people will see. There are many other factors such as: which of Google’s data centres returned your results, your recent searches, whether you have web history enabled or not and possibly other factors that Google has not made us aware of.
You can do a few things to ensure you are not getting personalised results by disabling web history or adding “&pws=0” (without the quotes) onto the end of the URL when you search, or use incognito mode/private browsing. It’s not really realistic to expect anyone to do that and we have to assume almost everyone will just accept whatever results Google returns.
With all these changes like the Venice update, improved local results, along with web history/personalised results, multiple different data centres and possibly other factors that Google does not make public, it makes the job of accurately reporting on ranking results for our clients very difficult. We do our best in providing our clients with the most common results despite the obstacles Google throws up and we are always looking at ways we can improve the accuracy of our reports.
The most important factor that we, and our clients, can actively monitor is the organic traffic from the search engines as that gives a real picture of how the SEO campaign is going as a whole. At the end of the day, the number of visits you are getting from the search engines is what matters most as that is ultimately the end goal of any SEO campaign. Please check back soon for a post with some top tips on how to read your Analytics data.