The 58 Million faces of a single Google search

Let’s say you search for a “sushi bar” on Google. Google will then show you a search result page, what’s known as a SERP. Now we have a question for you – how many different variations do you reckon this SERP has to the search term “sushi bar? A hundred? A thousand? Maybe just a few? People new to SEO and your clueless clients don’t yet understand rankings might think everyone sees the same SERP, and therefore believe that a “Google rank” is just this simple uniform concept. The reality as most of us know is far from it, and the answer to how many SERP variations there are for a single search term might blow your mind. We are the first blog that is going to attempt to answer this question since we just so happen to have the best technology around to track Google – our SERP tracker – ProRankTracker. To give you a solid estimate, let’s do some math. So we won’t get lost in numbers, we will stick with the bare minimum calculations for the US:

The location number

Google will check a person’s physical geo-targeted location before presenting them with a relevant SERP that fits their location. A person searching “sushi bar” from New York will see results from their area. In contrast, a person that searches from L.A will see results that fit their area. Google generally works in “location clumps” which are sometimes as small as neighborhoods – people in the same vicinity will generally get the same location-relevant SERP. So how many these small areas such as neighborhoods and boroughs, does Google considers for ranking? Google will generate about 100,000 different SERPs for a single search term based on location alone! (probably more, but that is what they give access to)

The device number

It’s well known the device a person uses during a search will also determine which SERP they get. A person searching from their mobile device will see a different SERP then a person that searches from a PC even if they search from the same location. This is because Google’s mobile-first approach prefers mobile-friendly websites and will favor them in the mobile SERP (and eventually in the desktop SERP as well). But as we discovered with our SERP tracker, a person’s mobile OS type and mobile device type (phone or tablet) size will also change the SERP they get. Google has never revealed why they show different SERPs based on mobile OS and device type, but we know for a fact they do. We have 5 common device types that will determine how the SERP will be populated: Desktop, Android smartphone, Android Tablet, iOS smartphone, and iOS tablet. This means Google will generate at least 5 different SERPs for a single search term based on device type alone, even if the searches are from the same location!

The default UI language number

Another property which will define what search results a person will get for “sushi bar” is what their default UI language on Google is. A person might be residing in the US, but their native language is French, so they will likely have their UI language set to French. Google will then tailor the search results accordingly! So, for example, two people from the same location, searching for “sushi bar” from their desktop PC will see different search results if one has their default UI language set to English and the other French. Google currently supports 116 default UI languages, which means Google will generate at least 116 different SERPs for a single search term based on UI language alone, even if the searches are from the same location and device type!

The total number

Now we need to do some basic combinatorics to calculate all the possible SERPs for “sushi bar” in the US: 100,000 x 5 x 116 = 58,000,000 possible SERPs at the bare minimum for just ONE search term!

Know which SERPs are relevant for your website!

As we saw here, Google generates a unique SERP based on the search query. It calculates each website’s relevance to suit the searcher. The most important question you MUST ask before you even start tracking your keywords and URLs is – what is relevant for me? Clearly tracking all 58 million+ possibilities for “sushi bar” is futile and will cost you a fortune. So, what does a business that promotes the keyword “sushi bar” need to determine?

  1. Relevant location – The sushi bar will only care what people in the nearby vicinity see. If the bar is in New York City, they couldn’t care less how well they rank for people in Liberia. They will need to consider 3-5 “small areas” that are in their location, and nothing more.
  2. Device types – If you want to know if the sushi bar enjoys full SERP visibility across all common device types, you need to make sure you set up tracking for these devices.  For example, there are instances where a URL is ranked high for a search term on smartphones but suddenly disappears from the SERP entirely for tablets. It’s unclear why, but it does happen. Here are a few examples that we observed:  
    Red is iPhone, blue is iPad
    At the very least even if you don’t have a solution it’s better to know. If you experience a sudden traffic drop and can’t find the leak, this might be the cause. So to know FULL visibility, we need to track the big 5: Desktop, Android smartphone, Android Tablet, iOS smartphone, and iOS tablet.
  3. UI language – Since in our example, the sushi bar is in New York City, English would be the most relevant default UI language to add for tracking. If the bar is a designated tourist spot and enjoys international visitors, it can be wise to add some other popular languages such as French, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian. So anywhere from 1-6 UI languages need to be tracked to know if you are visible on all the relevant SERP conditions for that business.
  4. GMB Local Pack positions – While this isn’t part of an organic rank we calculated in this article. It’s still important to mention that any place that has a physical location that is listed in GMB should also be tracked with GMB specific ranks. The Local Pack is a SERP snippet and has its own organic position that is based on the conditions we mentioned in this article. For a sushi place, you will need to track the Local Pack’s position, as well as the sushi place’s inner pack position. You can also track the unique location-based map position if the person is browsing through Google Maps.

This is how it looks on our data table when you have added everything as mentioned above:

And this is how it looks if you want to see the full top20 Google SERP for one of these search terms:

*This is part of our complete competitor tracking solution that tracks not just your position but ALL the positions that are part of the top100 results for any term on all search engines, including Amazon.

Summary

Since virtually every search is unique, anyone that does SEO must use a SERP tracker and be aware of what are the ranking conditions that are relevant in every case. A SERP tracker is like a “person emulator”. It emulates the conditions of a search and shows you the position of a {keyword + UR} for those search conditions. There is no way a person can check this without a SERP tracker. Even Google themselves likely employ some sort of inner SERP tracker that can read their insanely complex and dynamic search index, which is controlled by neural networks and an ever-improving A.I.

About Pro Rank Tracker

We specialize in tracking search engines since 2012. We have a flawless record of showing our users their accurate rank even after a huge Google update hits and all other SERP trackers stagger to adjust. Professionals from all fields of marketing choose us once they experience our SEO-rich features!

  • Complete search engine coverage: Google organic & GMB | Yahoo! | Bing | Yandex
  • eCommerce tracking on Amazon (with top100 competing search results per term)
  • Video tracking for marketers: Google video carousel snippet positions (inner and outer) | Google video ranks
  • Monthly search volume is revealed for every keyword that you track
  • One of the fastest and most detailed SEO audit reports with huge crawling quotas
  • Keyword suggestion tool based on actual search volume
  • A ranking discovery tool which will tell you if you are ranked for new keywords you are not even tracking!
  • More than 16 types of white label ranking report solutions for brand recognition
  • One of the best customer support in the industry, with a Capterra score of 4.7

The BEST price you will find for SERP tracking is right here

We also currently have the best price around – with our entry-level $25 rank tracking monthly plan. You can track 200 unique terms and together with our competitor research feature, up to 20,000 search results in total! Try it out right now for FREE for 7-days No credit card needed to activate!