So when you go into work as an SEO, what you don’t want to see is all your rankings fall off a cliff. But don’t panic, be sure to check your rankings checker as in the last few days our ranking checker of choice seems to be reporting incorrect rankings.
We all use rankings checkers and I suspect many SEO’s have noticed their rankings checker of choice returning inaccurate results over the last few days.
An example this morning, a specific client’s rankings according to our rankings checker was down an average of 3 places across 12 major keywords. Not something you need on a Tuesday morning!
When looking into the issue I noticed that the results were mostly inaccurate.
A few theories as to why this was happening circled the team:
‒ Was the checker considering shopping results as organic?
‒ Was it because we were logged in to Google?
‒ Was it our search preferences?
After discussing the issue with members of our Dev team at Branded3, namely the ‘all knowing’ Julian Kay and Douglas Radburn, we eventually got to the bottom of the problem.
Let’s take the keyword ‘Leeds Digital Agency’ for an example.
Here you can see above Branded3 appear in 7th position, however our rankings checker showed us in 11th position. Let me clarify, the above results I am logged out, with Google Instant disabled and the number of SERPs is set to 10 per page.
Despite Google Instant being accused as the culprit for a momentary time, it was noticed that the Google Instant results always contradicted the Rankings checker. And this is because the Google Instant can only be used with 10 search results per page. If we did the same keyword search with 100 results instead of 10 then we found in every case that this matched the rankings checker.
You can see above to top results of the same search but with 100 results per page this time. You can see that a number of websites now show double results and in 9xb’s case 3 results pushing Branded3 into 11th position. So this is how our rankings checker was set up to scrape the SERPs.
To test this theory, I set the rankings checker only to search the first 10 results instead of the 200 it was set to previously. This time it came back with 7th position, the same as a manual search would have resulted in using the default Google Instant.
So the problem wasn’t in fact that the rankings checker was returning incorrect results, it was because it wasn’t returning results according to the default search settings i.e. only 10 results per page.
So problem solved, but why have we only started noticing discrepancies within the last few days. unfortunately we cannot contrast and compare how Google was acting days ago so it is difficult to know but it seems whatever changes Google has made it has broken how an important SEO tool normally works.
I presume this is pretty much a global problem with rankings checkers, both external and in-house so I am surprised that agencies across the land haven’t made more of an issue. Let’s see if in the next few days we hear more about this issue?