Thursday, October 08, 2009

East-West: An Instance of the Natural Search Difference

Those who are steeped in doing search marketing for clients or for your companies know that having appealing visibility in all aspects, all types, of search is key with increased quality traffic being the most common goal.

But we all suffer from the East-West Coast syndrome. This is really a short-hand way of describing the situation where people are looking at Google search results, from all different parts of the world and each with very different histories of searching, trying to see where their website is ranking. [Because I focus on B2B SEM it seems it is always Google.] No matter your opinion on using ranking as a measurement, clients search to see if SEO recommendations and tactics are being successful.

The first thing I do is try to find the time early to give a basic tutorial on blended search. The second thing I do is try to get them to 'sign out' of their Google accounts. By telling them about blended search I hope to show the vast number of elements that are now part of what needs to be optimized. By getting them to logout of their Google account I get a chance to explain the levels of personalization and localization associated with natural search results today.

Here is a great example of the difference in visible results from different coasts of the country.

We are working with a non-profit organization called the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. One of their key phrases is cancer research foundation. If I am logged in to Google then the results are totally useless since I have visited a ton of cancer research sites lately so nobody's results look like mine. If the client is logged in to Google they don't see their own company very often or highly ranked since they have searched for it and NOT clicked on the natural result so many times. If you see it and don't click on it then how else would the engines interpret that except in rearranging things so that you don't see what you don't click on.

So, nobody is logged in. But results still vary in the standard natural search results. West Coast search shows one unique item that changes the view completely - Local Business Results. With local business results being highly visible the instance of Damon Runyon's website result in the search results below the fold and slowing the traffic under that key phrase. East Coast search shows no Local Business Results. [See screenshots below.]

What can you conclude? Certainly one thing: Google knows the location of the searcher whether they are logged in or not. And probably that many people on the West Coast - specifically in the Bay Area - have been clicking on the local business results when they do the same or similar searches, thus reinforcing, in the mind of the algorithm, that displaying those results is a good idea. Maybe that we have a ton more cancer research organizations in the Bay Area than in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Remember that I am not advocating this as the only way to measure success but it is a way and needs to be interpreted in a realistic manner. Realistically very few search results are now the same.

What do you see when you search for cancer research foundation?

East Coast Results:

West Coast Results:

Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has a fabulous facebook group, linkedin group, twitter feed and does regular youtube submissions, all being optimized to help increase traffic to their website. A full case study on the SEO project will be published this year.

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posted by Barbara 'webmama' Coll @ 4:48 PM     Permanent Link