Our Raleigh SEO team gets this question a lot. Google tries to provide the best search results for individual users. They do this so you will have a positive search experience and therefore continue to use their service.
This often means that two people searching for the same thing in Google will get search result pages that look very different. What might show as a #1 search result for one person, could show as #4 for the other.
What factors go into the difference in search results?
Google Detects Your Location
Google can automatically detect a user’s geographical location using the computer’s IP address. Based on that address, it will provide customized search results nearest to (or most related to) that area. Even two people in Raleigh can have different results based on their unique neighborhood and zip code.
Location targeting is most common for searches related to B2C companies and service industries like restaurants, dental offices, retail stores, health clubs, etc.
Google Personalizes Most Results
Google provides personalized search results based on past search information accessed via browser cookies. This is the most common reason why your search results can look different than someone else’s.
For example, if you more often click on links to Amazon in your search results rather than Overstock, Google will see that website as a personal preference for your online shopping and try to show you more Amazon links in future search queries.
Pro Tip: Google stores your search queries AND clicked results for up to 180 days via cookies. If you don’t want it to remember your search history, clear your browser cookies or open a new window in Chrome using Incognito mode.
Google Considers Social Influence
Along the lines of personalization, Google also takes into account your social circles for determining which search results to show you. This means that if you’re logged into your Google+ account, your search results will factor in searches and activity from your Google+ connections.
For example, if your friend has been to the Six Forks Smiles website and/or has given the company’s Google+ page a +1, it is more likely to appear higher in your search than other dentist offices.