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False Search Rankings – How To Know If Your SEO Is Working

Not a day goes by when there isn’t something upsetting to learn about Internet scams, infiltration of personal information, hacking into financial, crédit card or corporate accounts, and more. But what I am about to discuss is something different altogether. It has to do with how your search engine rankings may be affected by a number of different issues which may give you a false reading on the true picture.

As a website developer, it is my responsibility to make sure the SEO I incorporate is achieving top billing when searches are made using applicable terms. Likewise, I am sure anyone with a website, businesses or otherwise, would like to know how to tell whether their search rankings are true.

One of my clients recently added a new attorney to his firm and agreed it was a good time to address the presentation of his entire website to incorporate this new information in a long-overdue modernization of his ten-year-old web presence. Although the original site was quite informative, it lacked much of today’s necessary SEO content both visible and invisible, as well as a more technically sophisticated navigation system, etc.

As part of a regional network of available attorneys in New York’s Hudson Valley, my client experiences fierce competition to gain top billing in search results. Having come to the realization that most of his new business is a result of online searches as opposed to the older methods of yellow page listings or newspaper advertising, he expressed intense interest in our SEO expertise which became a prime focus of this exercise.

Shortly after completing the website work, submitting a site map to Google and registering his site with Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics, I began to investigate how his site was appearing within search results when a variety of search terms were used to find him.

What I found prompted me to conduct a full-fledged study of three subjects of interest on a mix of the various browsers, search engines and platforms. It seems that depending on the search engine used, results can vary widely, but most especially if the person conducting the search is signed into an account with the company of which the search engine is a part. Specifically, I am shocked to say, that it was Google who was most guilty of skewing search results in favor of the person signed into their Google account, in comparison to searches conducted when not signed in.

How did I discover this? With my husband in another room on his older Mac laptop computer’s Safari browser, I called out in surprise that when I searched “top NY advertising agencies” on my new iMac’s Mozilla Firefox, my own website came up on page one of the search results. Arguably one of the toughest, most competitive categories out there, considering that the most famous agencies in the world should come up first, I was flabbergasted with my ranking…until my husband said he saw no such listing when he conducted the same search. It occurred to me that maybe because I had a Google account or maybe because I was signed into my Google account, my search results were affected. Sure enough, when I signed out, my position in the same search was now on page 8, as the sixth listing, among 33,900,000 results. While not an impressive ranking, it certainly seemed a lot more realistic, considering that I am a single-person agency competing with many very well-known internationally established agencies with sometimes hundreds of employees worldwide.

That made me wonder about all search engines and all search results. I decided to do a scientific study of my own using tough categories for my client and my own company. For my client, I searched “Bankruptcy Lawyers in Poughkeepsie NY.” For myself, I chose two of the most difficult categories because of so many competitors: “Web Design Poughkeepsie NY” and “Top New York Advertising Agencies.”

Here are my results: My client’s website showed up on page 1 as the first or second listing when searched on Bing, Yahoo, Google, and Ask on both Mac and Windows platforms and browsers, whether I was signed into any related accounts or not. For the two searches I conducted for my own website, the results were a little different. For the “web design” search, my company was listed on page 1, page 2, page 5, page 8 and page 10, (among millions of results) on all the various browsers and platforms, pushing me about one page further from the front when not signed into any related accounts. For the most competitive category of all, “Top NY Advertising Agencies,” my company was listed on page 1 and 2, page 8 and 10, and nowhere to be found with the Ask search, (from hundreds of millions of results) with the less impressive returns coming when signed out of any related accounts.

Clearly, my client has much better rankings in his category than I do for the two tough categories I chose to analyze for myself.

About The Author
Marilyn Bontempo, president of Mid-Hudson Marketing since 1975, has extensive experience guiding business leaders, directors, and professionals with successful strategies for business growth and sustenance. Long-term relationships have been established with law firms, medical practices, pharmaceutical companies, real estate executives, and a variety of other trade, corporate and industrial specialists. Her professional writing, editing, photographic, design and aesthetic specialties provide clients with proven methods of achieving successful branding and public image. Mid-Hudson Marketing is a top New York advertising, marketing, website and graphic design firm located in Dutchess County’s Poughkeepsie area specializing for more than 35 years in the creation and management of high quality branding for business success. With numerous prestigious awards to its crédit, the firm’s services include full scale advertising programs; expert website development and search engine optimization; professional writing, editing and ghostwriting; blog setup and management; e-commerce and emáil marketing; outdoor and online billboards; trade show and point-of-purchase displays; sell sheets, posters, flyers, brochures, and catalogs; logos, tag lines and trademarks; photo enhancements; direct m@il marketing; newsletters; public relations; and more: call (845) 493-0070. For more info, please visit:

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