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 location 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 are 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 it's 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.
2. Our algorithm is able to collect SERP results that are free from any influence of your personal browsing history.
They use this information to personalize the SERPs that are displayed for any given query from your browser. Great for you as a random person browsing the Internet. Not so great when you're trying to get accurate SERP information.
As mentioned previously, one popular misconception is that by using Chrome's "Incognito" mode, you're doing the same thing, and returning results free from the influence of your personal search history and location based data.
If you ever have a question about the SERP results displayed in the dashboard and want to independently verify them, please copy and paste our SERP link into a browser window.
To do so, navigate to the "Rankings" section of your dashboard, and hover your cursor over the ranking position in question, as described here.
You'll see a window pop up, as below. Click the link that says "SERP", and it will open Google in a new browser window. The URL in the address bar will be the exact string that we're sending to Google to fetch the results.
This is the absolute best way to verify your rankings, free of any confounding factors such as search history or the location from which you're conducting the search.