Most who use Google on a regular basis, and especially those in the SEO industry, have probably come to realize that the search results they receive today are being localized by default. Even if you’re signed out of your account, Google is still going to serve you results that are relevant to your location based on your IP address. You can thank the February 27, 2012 Venice Update for that.
When we previously contributed to YouMoz, we shared our experiences with Google+ Local listings and how these appeared to have replaced our clients’ traditional rankings in Google SERPs.
The article prompted quite a few interesting questions in the comments section pertaining to local search results. One that stood out to us – something that was asked by a few readers — was how to keep track of rankings for short tail keywords in areas outside of the search engine user’s personal location. In other words, how do you bypass those pesky localized results that Google serves you to see the bigger picture?
Here are some tools and tricks we’ve found that seem to help!
Google Search Tools and Rank Checks
After you’ve entered a query in Google, you can modify the results by entering a different location under the “Search Tools” section. This can be done whether you’re signed into your Google account or not.
Want to go broad with your results? You can even enter “USA” or “United States.” For those wanting to see how well a website is ranking for a short-tail keyword nationally, this is right up your alley.
For those who use the SEOBook Firefox Rank Checker plugin for rank checks, here is handy tip: Setting your search location in Google from your Firefox browser has an effect on the rankings you receive from the rank checker plugin.
For example, a client of ours ranks no. 1 in Google for “real estate attorney” when Boca Raton is the specified location. As long as Boca Raton is set to our location, the same result appears in the rank checker:
If we change the location to “United States” in Google (again, using Firefox), we get different results in SERPs, which are also reflected in the rank checker:
Again, nothing needs to be set within the plugin itself – just change your search location in Google via your Firefox browser.
Also, speaking of rank checkers, Brightlocal SEO and Places Scout are two examples of programs that claim to help users keep track of local rankings. Brightlocal SEO happens to offers a 30 day free trial, so feel free to experiment and see what you find!
Webmaster Tools Search Queries
Here’s something handy: Google’s Webmaster Tools provides average SERPs positions data. To see it, head on over to the “Search Queries” section, which can be accessed via a website’s dashboard in Webmaster Tools. You’ll find the data under the “Avg. Position” column. Here’s Google’s explanation of this metric:
“Average Position—the average ranking of your website URLs for the query or queries. For example, if your site’s URL appeared at position 3 for one query and position 7 for another query, the average position would be 5 ((3+7)/2).”
There are a few noteworthy filtering options here. Click “Filters” and you can choose to receive results from different types of search (e.g. Web, Image, Mobile, Video, etc.). Set the filter to “Web” if it isn’t already. You can also specify a location, so if you’re not interested in factoring in queries from outside of the U.S., for example, you could select “United States.”
By default, you’re given data culled from the past 30 days. You can also view data from as far back as three months; however, Google will only show “With change” (i.e. direct comparison) data from the past 30 days.
We’ve personally found this information to be invaluable; however, it shouldn’t be relied upon as your one and only source for rankings. Take a quick glance at the Google Product Forums, and you will find quite a few posts of the, “Webmaster Tools shows X, but I see Y” variety. We’ve seen a few results that defy logic here and there, so it’s important to personally verify the information Google provides here for yourself.
In our experience, there is no one stop shop for all your local rank tracking needs. We’ve found that combining the above tools has proven to be the best way to form an accurate picture for rankings.
Do you have any tips or tricks you’d care to share for keeping track of local rankings in a post Venice Update world? Leave a comment below!