SEO Question: So here is my question. I have followed a good deal of your advice and am thankful for it as I see myself sitting pretty for some of my keyword phrases. However, my friend in Idaho sees different results and my friend in Saudi sees different results - and I wanna know - does Google index differently according to geographical locations?
Assuming that you mean where you rank in the SERPs (also known as the search results page) and not PageRank - which is a rough estimate of global link popularity, there are a number of factors which may show you different search results than what your friends see when they search Google. The 3 major factors are:
- data center
Google's Data Centers:
Google has a boatload of data centers around the world. In fact some of them even be running in shipping crates. They usually route search queries to the data center that is nearest you. In a recent interview Google's Matt Cutts said:
In fact, even at different data centers we have different binaries, different algorithms, different types of data always being tested.
If they roll new filters or make large changes to their algorithms you might notice different results as you hit one data center or another.
A friend of mine owns a site in a hyper competitive market that used to be owned by a person from Australia. While the site does not yet rank as well as my friend would like on Google.com it ranks for amazingly competitive single word queries in Google Australia (Google.com.au) due to having many links from websites that are located in Australia.
Within Google's local search they allow people to search for all websites or just local ones. You can appear in local databases by hosting your site there, using a domain with a local extension, or having many links from sites that are deemed local in nature.
If you are in Canada even if you search on Google.com those search results will be biased toward Canadian websites. If you are located in another country but want to see what Google's search results look like in the US you can search Google from a proxy.
If you are logged into a Google Account they will bias your search results based on websites you have visited, especially those you have clicked through to from search results.
If you visit a site or page frequently they will improve the positioning of that page in your personalized search results. If you visit a page occasionally just rank checking, and then sometimes clicking onto your result then clicking back nearly immediately Google will demote those pages in the SERPs.
You can turn off Google personalized results by clicking a link on the results that says something like Turn Off Personalized Results
Free Google Keyword Rank Checking Tools to Use:
There are a number of free tools that make it easy to track where you rank.
I like tracking some core keywords using Rank Checker. It is free and stores historical results, offering data refreshed however often you would like it refreshed. And since it sits on your desktop you don't have to worry about others spying on and aggregating your data to compete against you.
If you just want to check where you rank in Google I have a few rank checkers in the tool section on my website as well.
Keep in mind that many of the rank checkers will set the number of results per page to be a different number than the default 10, and that will cause a slight ranking skew. Also if you wanted to check your rankings on different data centers McDar has a free tool which makes it easy to check your rankings across a number of data centers all at once.
Paid Rank Checkers
If you need to track rankings in some search engines outside of the core global search engines (Google, Microsoft Bing, & Yahoo! Search) say like Baidu or Yandex then you might want to give Advanced Web Ranking a look. In addition to storing your rank data they store the entire top 50, and allow you to create graphs with it and provide many different useful reports that give you various looks at ranking trends amongst competing sites.
Server Logs & Tracking:
It is easy to get hung up on where you rank for a specific term, but it is far more important to try to rank for a diverse set of terms. See what terms are driving searchers to your site and track which of those terms are converting. From that data you can create more content around what converts or spruce up the top performing pages by adding a few modifiers or making the content more compelling to human visitors, and thus further increasing conversions.
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