DOING YOUR OWN SEARCH ON GOOGLE WILL SIMPLY NOT GIVE YOU AN ACCURATE ANSWER. YOU MUST DISGUISE YOURSELF.
Recently a hotel general manager and I had a conversation about his frustration that his competitor showed up above his own hotel in his Google searches for a highly competitive search term. He was frustrated by his own poor ranking and amazed at how well his competitor was doing. He wanted to know if he should replace his web agency.
I said, “not so fast. Do you visit your competitor’s site often?” The answer was yes and so begins our back story.
Google stores information about how you search, what you search, where you search and what you like. They have recently turned a great deal of that knowledge over to the artificial intelligence on top of their lauded and complicated search algorithm. When my friend searches for hotels in his city, Google uses his past searches, his location and his clicks to serve up the results Google feels he will likely click on. As it turns out, Google feels he will click on this competitor’s website and shows him that site first.
So the question now is, how can I see search results without the bias of my own past searches? Here are three ways.
1. Incognito search – FREE
In Google Chrome, there are three unassuming dots on the right of the tool bar. One of the options in that drop down is New Incognito Window. Click on that link and open a browser window that seems to disguise you (it doesn’t really) but does throw out your cookie info and effectively eliminates your historic search bias. Now do your search and see what the search engine results page (SERP) produces.
2. Google Search Console – FREE
If you’re not familiar with this tool, that’s OK. Google changed the name from Webmaster Tools some time ago. It’s also not likely that your digital agency is sharing this news with you. If they are, you have a transparent agency. GSC gives you a consolidated look at the keywords for which you are ranking and tells you their average position. Unfortunately, it lacks detail around where the searcher is located, so intel for your hotel is limited and you receive no info on your competitors. But, you might be surprised by which phrases your organic traffic produces.
3. Paid SERP solutions
There are a number of paid search solutions out there ranging in price from $30-150 a month. These provide the best SERP analysis and let you compare your position with competitors. Additionally, you get to see your movement over time. Just because you are on page 1 today doesn’t mean you will be there tomorrow. The best tools also take into consideration the location of the searcher and let you see the SERP as it would be shown in a particular city. Think: “restaurants that serve vegan food” and you’ll understand why the results would need to vary by location.