This is a question that we get quite often, and the answer is a little bit involved from a technical standpoint.
SEO rankings can vary dramatically based on a variety of factors. Among other things, these factors can include your personal browsing history, the time of day, and the geographic location where the search is being performed.
For keywords with a hyper-local focus, results can even vary when conducted from one street to the next within a neighborhood. When searching from a standard browser window, or even Chrome Incognito mode, you're simply not getting an accurate picture of the true SERPs.
On the other hand, our software controls for these factors within our dashboard.
We allow you to choose one or more geographic locations to display SERP results from
For a tutorial on how to configure this setting, please see our Knowledgebase article on configuring rank tracking locations.
If you choose a broad location such as "United States", you'll see results that can be considered an "average" of what a user in any given locale in the US would see. If you choose a more targeted location, such as Skokie, Illinois, US, then you'll see results that will be extremely accurate for an average user searching from that city.
What's more, when you choose to see results from a country with its own Google TLD, you'll see results as they would appear when searched from that TLD site. For example, if your chosen location is Leeds, UK, you'll be provided with results as they would appear to an average individual searching on google.co.uk from the city of Leeds.
Some competitors use algorithms that strip out location data from the search entirely. The problem with this approach is that it doesn't return realistic results. Google has moved so far in the direction of providing geographically influenced search results that it's unlikely anyone would ever see SERP results in the real world without geography used as a ranking factor.
So by excluding geographic data entirely, these competitors are providing artificial results that no real-world human searching in Google would ever be likely to see, and that are useless for tracking your actual real-world rankings. For this reason, we always tie your rankings to the location(s) of your choice.
We collect SERP results that are free from any influence of your personal browsing history
Google uses a number of methods to track every search you've ever made, which results you've clicked on, your browsing history, and other information.
They use this information to personalize the SERPs that are displayed for any search that you make. This is great when you're actually searching for information because it will likely give you results that are personally relevant to you. However, this is not so great when you're trying to get accurate SERP information.
As mentioned previously, one popular misconception is that by using Incognito mode, you're able to stop your results from being personalized, to get information free from the influence of your personal search history and location-based data. However, Incognito mode does not hide who you are from the websites and search engines you're using.
Verifying your rankings with AgencyAnalytics
If you ever have a question about the SERP results displayed in the dashboard and want to independently verify them, please click our SERP verification link. To do so, navigate to the "Rank Tracker" section of your dashboard, and hover your cursor over the ranking position in question, as described here, and click the "SERP" link.
This will show you the exact SERP we saw when checking your rank, allowing you to understand exactly what the search engine was showing at that exact time. We keep the most recent SERP snapshot for all keywords, to allow agencies and their clients to easily see accurate SERPs without any personalization of results getting in the way.