Why do your search results look different from mine?

By Envano

Published: October 23, 2014


Gaining a top Google ranking is probably important to your digital strategy, but how do you explain that ranking when the results may be different for everyone searching?

Google was founded in 1997 as a way to index the Internet, with the goal of “ranking searches based on the number and quality of incoming links.” But since then, the company has changed the Internet by continually adapting and evolving to make your experience as personalized as possible. Yahoo and Bing are also in the game, but Google remains in the lead with a 65 percent market share — likely due to their PageRank algorithm.

“First, Google crawls the Web to collect the contents of every accessible site. This data is broken down into an index (organized by word, just like the index of a textbook), a way of finding any page based on its content,” according to Wired Magazine. “Every time a user types a query, the index is combed for relevant pages, returning a list that commonly numbers in the hundreds of thousands, or millions. The trickiest part, though, is the ranking process — determining which of those pages belong at the top of the list.”

If you are worried you aren’t No. 1 in search under a certain search term, remember that it doesn’t mean everyone is seeing that same ranking.

Back in 2009, Google began personalized searches. This meant that your result will be different from my result — with factors like location, previous search history, active browser, computer being used and language configured all coming into play. In 2010, Google used more than 200 signals to determine page rank.

“The new generation of Internet filters looks at things you seem to like-the actual things you’ve done, or the things people like you like-and tries to extrapolate. They are prediction engines, constantly creating and refining a theory of who you are and what you’ll do and want next,” said Eli Pariser in his book The Filter Bubble. “Together these engines create a unique universe of information for each of us, which fundamentally alters the way we encounter ideas and information.”