As you probably know if reading this site, Google use a vast set of datacenters to serve search results to it’s users, and these datacenters show different results, since Google constantly update the index throughout it’s network of datacenters. That is the reason for getting one result when searching Google in the morning and another when searching in the afternoon.
Many SEOers spend a huge amount of time watching the datacenters, and even though I must admit to being quite a devote DC watcher, I have begun wondering what we really are looking at.
Before, I thought that a DC was a DC (was a DC) and that the results coming from it would be the same for anybody watching results from that particular datacenter.
Lately however, I have seen that this is far from correct. The results vary a lot depending on a number of factors:
- Am I logged in to a Google account or not?
- Have I ever performed a search with the hl parameter set (as in hl=en or hl=es)?
- Did I clear my cookies since last searching from a local Google site (as in google.co.uk)?
- Am I using the Google Toolbar or not?
- What is my physical geographic location?
This became more obvious after using different browsers with different language settings and different Google history, but looking for the same internationally used keyword phrase.
Since I have mostly been after search terms in Swedish, this hasn’t bothered me too much, and probably not even been an issue for the searches I have performed. But when you watch for competetive internationally used keyword phrases, it becomes an issue that makes it difficult to even discuss results with other users, even when the results come from a certain DC.
So when an SEO accuaintance to me happily states that his site is in #6 for a search phrase, and I can’t even see his site in Google’s SERPs, I am not surprised at all. Probably we both have done so many searches for our keywords, tracking results coming into our sites, that our systems are tagged for different result sets. It’s strange, it’s disturbing and it is not really that surprising really. Google don’t really like us playing around with their index, and I guess this is just one way of fighting back.
In Britain, there actually are people devoted to the hobby called trainspotting. I wonder if that wouldn’t actually be more enlightning that watching the datacenters. Trains at least have a somewhat predictable behaviour.