Why Google’s latest change is another nail in the coffin for manual rank checking
We’ve mentioned on numerous occasions that manual rank checking is less reliable, less effective and less accurate than using a good SERP tracker, and it’s actually useless for certain types of rank tracking. But Google’s recent change further solidifies the ineffectiveness and unreliability of manual rank checking for just about anyone. Although a self-serving statement, it’s based on facts and the reality of how Google’s personalization and ranking algorithms work.
So, what was this change? On October 27, 2017, Google announced it was “making search results more local and relevant.” What that means is personalized ranks got a geo-targeting boost. Before the update, to find the rank most people from a certain country would see, you would have to go to the Google page associated with that specific country. For example, if you were in the US and wanted to know the general SERP from France for “cup holders with Bill Murray’s face” (since your company sells those), you would go to “google.fr” and search for that keyword from Google France to see how well your Bill Murray Cup Holders business is generally ranked in France. Today, however, you will see the unique SERP of whatever country you are physically in at the moment you search regardless of what Google ccTLD you use. Local search results have been optimized to display relevant results on the local pack and beyond.
To do a manual check, the process is now more cumbersome (and unreliable in most cases — I will soon explain why). Let’s say you’re still checking for those cup holders to see how you rank in France. Here are your options:
- You can physically travel to the location you want the SERP from. This isn’t realistic, especially considering how much plane fare to France would cost if calculated by Bill Murray cup holders.
- At the bottom left of Google’s search results page, you can view the location Google is detecting, and you can change that through Google’s search settings.
- You can use a proxy with an IP from France.
Google says that about one in five searches is a locally targeted search, so this change makes a lot of sense and will be more relevant for a large percentage of its users and provide them with an improved search experience. However, it makes manual rank checking more unreliable and inconvenient for website owners and SEOs, who will need a good rank-tracking tool to show them clean, ‘depersonalized’ ranks.
If you’re running an SEO agency, a business website, or own a local business with branches in multiple locations, you need new SEO tools capable of monitoring local search rankings. While you can get a free local rank checker online, it usually provides inaccurate volume data on local rankings.
While Google continues to stride toward targeting and monitoring your every move, the truth of the matter is, manual checking has been unreliable for the last few years anyway. Google has been tailoring search results for a person’s location for a long time – most obviously seen with the Snack Pack results, which are all in the vicinity of your location. One of the basis of Google for local searches is the information on the Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business). Google’s algorithm returns search results based on their relevance to the local keywords used and the data from Google Maps.
The mobile SERP is even more heavily localized, and the local Pack results will be pinpointed to a few miles from your phone. The same is for your ‘regular’ organic search results, too – they’re influenced by your search location.
Good SERP trackers have become necessary for SEO experts because they show ‘personalization-free’ ranks, removing the time and effort of going physically to a particular location or searching for an appropriate proxy server, but most importantly, differentiating between desktop and mobile ranking types. Nationwide brands need SERP trackers to show ranks from several locations, to see areas where their brand is leading the charts and where it might require additional local SEO strengthening. SERP trackers are equally important for small businesses that focus strictly on local search engine optimization and benefit from location demographics (such as what ranks a user in the delivery radius of a restaurant will see). Those small businesses will see their website ranking high where it matters. If you’re still not convinced, or you just want to read further about the inaccuracy of manual rank tracking, you can check out our in-depth posts on the subject:
How to get the clearest and most accurate picture of your Google ranks
Clearly, manual checking is outdated in our modern SEO world. Industry-leading SERP trackers must override all the personalization and geo-targeting filters with 100% accuracy and show websites’ real ranks. (By ‘real ranks’, we mean the unique, geo-targeted ranks that people see from virtually any location on the planet where there is an internet connection). For that reason SERP trackers are needed more than ever —not just because of the technical aspects of getting relevant ranks, but also due to the incredible productivity boost that comes with having all the data neatly collected in one place and displayed in an easy-to-read table.
Pro Rank Tracker is the only SERP tracker on the market that offers future-proofed resolution of local rank tracking, accurate down to a geo-targeted neighborhood level. It can be used as a local rank tracker to assess your website’s local search performance. However, it can do more than just track local rankings, because it can return accurate keyword rankings not only from Google but also from other search engines, making it a vital tool for your SEO strategy. In addition, to being your local keyword rank checker, ProRankTrack also has awesome bonus features such as white label ranking reports and solutions, keyword search volume reveal, keyword suggestion and ranking discovery tools and so much more. Be set for the present AND future with PRT, and take us for a spin, starting with this awesome free plan! (No credit cards required.)
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