Correctly Measure Google Rankings

We have been measuring the SEO success of websites in Google search results for more than 10 years. The best possible data quality was our top priority right from the start. This article shows why there may be differences in the rankings and explains the background.

The rankings of individual keywords may differ from the results that users see in their browser.

In the SISTRIX Toolbox, we have always relied on the evaluation of a big database with millions of keywords and billions of ranking results in order to make SEO success reliably measurable.

This Big Data approach is the basis on which we are able to deliver results that compensate for individual measurement differences: In total, this data can deliver a better and more accurate picture than individual rankings for a keyword.

We apply high quality standards to the measurement of ranking results. Below is a list of possible reasons for a difference in the measured organic results against those in your browser, and how we deal with them.

Google Everflux – SERPs in constant motion

The name Google Everflux is used to describe the regular, ongoing process of SERP fluctuations. In 2016 alone, Google made over 1,600 changes to the search algorithm. New websites are regularly added to the Google index, others are removed and internal evaluation standards change.

As a result, there is a permanent movement among Google search results. Organic rankings can differ just a few minutes between two searches.

By summarising SEO success in the Visibility Index and by deconstructing a large keyword data-set, the effects of individual ranking shifts in the context of Google Everflux in the toolbox are negligible and offset each other.

Localisation: The place makes all the difference

Localised results are obtained by taking into account the location of the searcher in the search results. A search for hotel in London delivers significantly different organic hits than the same search in Glasgow.

In Google SERPs, the localisation is clearly measurable and also visible. Depending on the locality of the search, the organic results can look significantly different.

In the SISTRIX Toolbox, we generally measure search results without localisation. The SERPs for the keyword hotel refer to the respective countrywide result, and not to a specific city or location. The measured, non-localized organic results thus represent the average over all localisation SERPs. A direct comparison with the SERPs, which most users have in the browser, is not possible because they are subject to localisation.

The SISTRIX Optimizer offers the possibility to measure localised search results. For this purpose, the desired city must be specified in addition to the country when creating the keywords.

Personalisation: Almost never occurs

Personalisation describes the process of adapting search results to the specific searcher. Person A therefore receives different results for the same search as Person B.

Google itself has stated that Google SERPs are only rarely, and lightly affected by real personalisation. According to Google, there is also no individuation of the search results based on demographic profiles.

We can confirm this statement in the organic SERPs. Although there are individual additional boxes for logged-in users that indicate, for example, future flights or hotel bookings, these have no effect on the organic search results.

Device: Desktop vs Mobile

As part of the switch to Google’s Mobile-First stance, Google SERPs differ depending on the end-device used: Pages that are not well displayed on the smartphone are less well ranked there on the desktop.

The most important keywords are measured and evaluated in the toolbox for both the desktop and the smartphone. As a result, we offer the smartphone and desktop visibility index to make differences clear.

All that glitters isn’t organic

Google search results have become significantly more diverse over the years. What used to be the proverbial “10 blue links” are now results from many different sources, which Google pulls together in the SERPs depending on the search intent of the search query.

The distinction between a result there as an organic result or one that comes from another source is not easy at first glance.

In the toolbox, we differentiate according to the source of the ranking. In addition to organic rankings, we also measure Google Ads, numerous universal search integrations such as Google Maps and also featured snippets, the knowledge graph and other types of results. However, only those keywords that rank based on the organic Google index are displayed as organic rankings.

Refresh rate and – deep into the Toolbox

All keyword rankings are updated either daily, weekly or monthly. The division into these three update classes is based on the relevance (search volume, recency, demand) of the keyword. No keyword is updated less than once a month.

Shortly after updating the keyword, you will see the new search results in the Toolbox when you enter the keyword in the search box. The inverted view (keywords in a domain) is updated daily or weekly. Between those times, there may be differences between the SERP view of a keyword and the keyword view of a domain.

We traditionally measure the first 100 organic rankings. In order to record even more longtail keywords at a reasonable cost (and therefore without increasing costs for our customers), we also record many hundreds of million longtail keywords. We only measure the first Google results page for these. Keywords that gain (or lose) relevance can switch between the two types (10 or 100 hits). During this change, there may be differences between the keyword and domain view.


The correct measurement of organic Google rankings is more compex than it might look. We have over 10 years of experience in ranking measurement and strive to provide you with the best possible data quality for your decisions. If you have any further questions, please contact our support team.