JERUSALEM — As a former Boston newspaper-reporter and editor who now works in Israel in SEO and Internet marketing while still writing journalistic articles on the side, I have mixed feelings about both fields because I understand the benefits and limitations of each. In two prior posts here, I wrote how social-media guidelines have changed the nature of advertising and how social-media icons have made headlines extremely boring. Here, I will elaborate on why different Google results for “news blogs” — as well as all other SEO keywords — appear for different people at different locations in different languages.
Yes, I used the same word multiple times (which is usually a sign of poor writing) to emphasize the point that Google search-results are increasingly different as a result of geographical targeting, personalization, and the prominent role that social-media today is beginning to play in organic search, SEO, and search-optimization software.
First, I searched in Google for “news blogs” in Hebrew “בלוגים חדשום (blogim hadashot)”:
Then, I searched for “news blogs” in Google in English from Israel (using an ISP that is associated with a Hebrew-speaking country — the locations of the searcher and that which is being searched are ranking factors). Here were the top-ten search-results for the term:
- The Guardian blogs, The Huffington Post, Topix.com, Fox News blogs, CNN blogs, Sky News blogs, ABC News blogs, Reuters’ Africa News blog, Google News blog, The Telegraph blogs
Next, I asked friends in various countries to tell me the top-ten SERPs that appeared for the “news blogs” search in English from their countries.
An American searching from Washington, D.C.:
- The Huffington Post, Topix.com, Fox News blogs, CNN blogs, ABC blogs, The Best of Blogs, Blogs.com, NPR’s The Two-Way blog, Reuters’ Africa News blog, Google News blog
An American searching from New Jersey:
- The Huffington Post, New York Times blogs, Topix.com, New York Daily News blogs, FOX News blogs, CNN blogs, ABC News blogs, The Best Of, Blogs.com, NPR blogs
An American searching from Turkey:
- The Guardian blogs, The Huffington Post, Topix.com, Fox News blogs, CNN blogs, Sky News blogs, ABC News blogs, Reuters’ Africa News blog, Google News blog, New York Daily News blogs
Why News Blogs Rank Where They Do
Although everyone should know that searches for a term in a given language (as in my Hebrew example) will return results in that language, there are additional significant differences between the search results listed above. The top-ranking site for people searching in English in the United States was the Huffington Post; for those searching in English outside of the United States, it was The Guardian (of the United Kingdom). British sites like Sky News and The Telegraph also appeared only to me and my friend searching from Turkey. This is likely a result of the fact that people outside the United States are much more likely than Americans to read news blogs — and news in general — from Great Britain and have those websites in their Google search-history (which influences the results that appear in organic search) as a result. (See an addendum at the bottom of the post for SEO-specific data on the results.)
First, the tool returns the non-personalized rankings for where your website sits in SERPs neutrally for your targeted keywords. Second, as the Options window of the tool shows, one can receive the rankings in the major search-engines for any country.
Still, there are even more options. To see foreign SERPs, one can add a search parameter to the URL like this to return U.S-based results while in another country (see the part in bold at the end):
(Thanks to Dennis Gal for reminding me of this method.) These were the top ten results personalized for me if I had been searching from the United States:
- The Huffington Post, Fox News blogs, Topix.com, CNN blogs, ABC News blogs, The Best of Blogs, Blogs.com, NPR blogs, Reuters’ Africa News blog, Google News blog
Now, take a look at all of these lists of top-ten search results for “news blogs” and see what is different when you go from one query to another — that will tell you how Google search-results will be different from different people in different places.
And there is one last trick. The SEOmoz SERP-Control Planner for Firefox allows for the instant viewing of SERPs with or without the desired geographic and personalized variables:
What surprised me when I first used the tool was that it allows one to see SERPs that are non-personalized and configured to someone from a specific state and city — not just a country. Perhaps I missed the latest SEO news, but is Google now incorporating city and state to a higher degree specifically within general organic-search in addition to the obvious, specific places like Google Maps PPC, Google Places, and Google Maps? For another interesting insight, compare the non-personalized search-results for a keyword in your given location to that which appears when you personally search for the same term — that will give you an idea as far as what Google “thinks” about you based on your search history, Gmail, and other factors. (And for the business, legal, and ethical implications, see our prior post entitled “Google Watch: Is Google a Monopoly?“)
So, the search industry is becoming increasingly complicated. People and companies that offer SEO-consultant services are always asked: “How can we get onto the first page of Google?” Well, it is now time to answer that question with another question: “For whom and for where?” When one analyzes SERP data, one can include any, all, or none of the following variables (among many others), all of which will deliver different Google rankings:
- personalized or not
- location — specified to a given country as well as possibly area and/or city
- personalized for what is popular in social media among one’s friends
Here is some basic SEO data from the SEO Book Toolbar for Firefox for the various sites that were listed among the results. They will also give some insight into why certain ones ranked higher than others at certain times.
- The Huffington Post (PR 8, Yahoo! link domain 16M, Majestic domains linking 516K)
- The Guardian blogs (PR 7, Yahoo! link domain 11M, Majestic domains linking 942K)
- Fox News blogs (PR 5, Yahoo! link domain 7M, Majestic domains linking 590K)
- CNN blogs (PR 7, Yahoo! link domain 31M, Majestic domains linking 2M)
- Topix.com (PR 5, Yahoo! link domain 2M, Majestic domains linking 156K)
- Sky News blogs (PR 6, Yahoo! link domain 3M, Majestic domains linking 222K)
- ABC News blogs (PR 7, Yahoo! link domain 17M, Majestic domains linking 165K)
- Reuters’ Africa News blog (PR 6, Yahoo! link domain 13M, Majestic domains linking 849K)
- Google News blog (PR 8, Yahoo! link domain 270M, Majestic domains linking 7M)
- New York Daily News blogs (PR n/a, Yahoo! link domain 3M, Majestic domains linking 352K)
- The Telegraph blogs (PR 5, Yahoo! link domain 5M, Majestic domains linking 675K)
- NPR’s The Two-Way blog (PR 7, Yahoo! link domain 5M, Majestic domains linking 530K)
- Blogs.com (PR 6, Yahoo! link domain 15M, Majestic domains linking 403K)
- The Best of (PR 5, Yahoo! link domain 30K, Majestic domains linking 3K)
- New York Times blogs (PR 7, Yahoo! link domain 23M, Majestic domains linking 2M)
Samuel J. Scott, a former journalist in Boston turned Internet marketer in Israel, is the founder and publisher of My SEO Software and Director of Digital Marketing and Communications and SEO Team Leader at The Cline Group. You can follow him at Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. His views here and elsewhere do not necessarily reflect those of his company and clients.