Why do I get two different result sets?

  • Byzantium
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Post 3+ Months Ago

Hi - not been doing this stuff for a while so I am a bit out of touch with latest developments with Google. Anyway, I have been doing some work on a site that wants to rank for 'fine furniture'. I am in the UK, the clients business is in the UK, and the clients site is hosted in the UK on a .co.uk domain.

When I search in Google for 'fine furniture', I have noticed that I get two different result sets.

One set of results shows me, as I would expect, mostly results from the UK and mostly results from .co.uk sites. This result set also identifies my location down the left hand side of the page and sometimes shows a map on the right with local search results.

The other set of results shows me, almost exclusively, .com sites which are mostly in the US. This result set does not show my location in the left hand column and never shows any local search results.

I have not been able to establish what triggers one result set or the other. I am at the same computer at the same location. Sometimes I am logged into Google and sometimes not, but there seems no correlation with being logged in and which result set I get.

Can anyone tell me what's going on here? I can post images of the different results if you like, but I have tried to make the above explanation clear.

The frequency of each seems about the same - i.e. each around 50% of the time. So is it some kind of round robin algorithm?

I can understand that some queries are global in nature (e.g. 'seo tips') and some are inherently local (e.g. 'emergency plumber') so perhaps with 'fine furniture' Google can't decide and so alternates between the two?

...but I am just theorising based on limited facts, so if someone actually knows why this is happening I would appreciate if they enlightened me.

Thanks!
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Post 3+ Months Ago

  • Byzantium
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Post 3+ Months Ago

OK - now I feel really dumb. I have realised that the reason I get two different result sets is that some of the time I was using google.com and some of the time google.co.uk.

I have Google UK set as the home page in my browser, so mostly when I want to do a search I open a new tab and click home. ...But sometimes I use the integrated Google search box in Firefox, which I always assumed (for no particular reason) was going to the same place, i.e. Google UK - but it wasn't.

As is so often the case, the process of asking the question, and being systematic in describing the problem, led me towards the solution - so it's not all bad, just a little embarrassing!
  • Bigwebmaster
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Post 3+ Months Ago

Yeah that can definitely do it using the Google page that is focused on a certain region compared to the default Google.

Also you must remember that Google now personalizes the result set. What that means is that if you are logged in then content could be fed in from your social groups.

Also whether you are logged in or not Google will also use cookies to store information on your computer about past browsing and websites you have visited which can also impact the search results order. For example, when I search "webmaster forum", for me Ozzu shows at the top of page two even if I am logged out, but if I clear all my cookies or use a different browser than for that same phrase Ozzu is located on the middle of page 2. At one time I saw it on page 4 and page 1 for the personalized set.

So numerous things can effect the result set shown, your location, the Google locality you are using, your default language set in your browser, your past browsing habits, if you are logged in then your social groups, and I am sure there are probably other things I am missing.
  • Byzantium
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Post 3+ Months Ago

Thanks for the input. I was aware that other factors could influence the result, but not to that level of detail.

However, it also strikes me that effectively Firefox is implementing Google search in a way that is not in line with Google's own approach.

For example, I have installed Firefox. I am in the UK, but the default search engine that was installed in the firefox searchbox was google.com, and I'm pretty sure I did not get presented with an option to make it google.co.uk.

I have now succeeded in changing it to google.co.uk but it took a while and was not obvious how to do it, so I would bet that 99% of Firefox users never do it. Google.co.uk was not even amongst the set of search engines I was able to choose from - I had to choose to install additional engines and then search for it.

Why this matters is that we all know that Local search is an important thing for Google, and we all know that Google wants us to get good and relevant results (because it's good for business), but if I do a search from the search box in a default install of the world's most popular browser I get a set of results that includes no local search and gives me a set of results that is pretty useless to me because it seems to be based on a US centric view of the world.

I'm not saying it wasn't my mistake - it was, but if I got caught out by that then it seems to me to have a huge impact from an SEO standpoint. My assumption when doing SEO for the UK market is that people in the UK will use Google UK to search, but if most of the Firefox users are using the default searchbox in Firefox then that is a false assumption and they will be looking at a different result set than the one I am optimising for.

It seems to me that Google should put some pressure on Firefox to install local variants of Google search as the default, in order to provide the search experience that Google seems to want us to have.
  • Bigwebmaster
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Post 3+ Months Ago

I had thought Google would do some sort of redirection depending on the IP address of your computer? I remember awhile back I had gone up to Canada for a vacation and brought my laptop. When I went to google.com it actually redirected me right there to google.ca.

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