When Google Lies About Your Page Rank

I do a considerable amount of Web site copywriting, much of which involves search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. In preparation for business Web site revisions, nothing I say to new clients shocks them more than to hear that their existing site’s top ranking on Google may be a lie.

Blame it on cookies.

Browsing the Web means accepting cookies, small computer files your browser uses that contain information about Web sites visited, passwords, logins, selected Web page features, and so on. By tracking where and how a user navigates a site, cookies make sites seem smarter, often altering a displayed page to suit a user’s esoteric tastes. This explains how a site knows you love U2 or Godiva chocolates even when you are not logged in. The cookies tell them so.

Google uses cookies, too, tracking where a user surfs. When a user is logged into Google and searches, the results page now offers the option to raise the ranking of a particular search result by clicking on an up-arrow icon next to the result’s hyperlink, or a user can remove it from future results by clicking an “X” icon. That’s one way to raise a result’s page rank for that user on that local computer.

But what most people don’t realize is that much of that ranking happens automatically on a local computer. Repeatedly browsing to a site will raise its page rank in Google by way of the cookies. And since most business owners visit their own Web site often, the next thing they know, their site is number one on Google. Amazing!

Here’s the catch: The Google cookie on their local computer makes that so.

The real truth is that the site may be buried twenty pages into Google, and this is what potential customers actually see—or don’t see. The site owner sees #1; customers never find the site at all because they typically only scan the top twenty results. The customer’s Google cookie hasn’t been repeatedly biased toward the site the way the business owner’s has.

Is your Web site a top ten winner on Google for real? Or has that little cookie been feeding you false info?

See  if you’ve been hoodwinked:

  • Close any tabs/windows in your browser that may be displaying your business’s Web site.
  • Use your browser’s “Delete Cookies” function to delete all cookies associated with Google and DoubleClick. (This function varies by browser, so consult the browser’s “Help” menu for details. Be forewarned, killing cookies will delete login and password info for Google accounts.  It may even be wise, if you have not deleted your cookies in a long time, to simply delete ALL the cookies your browser has stored, not just Google’s. In addition, Google has affiliates whose cookies may also boost page rank, so a global deletion may be necessary, as these affiliations change over time. Added benefits of deleting all cookies include a possible speed boost when browsing and freed hard drive space. My advice? Delete them all.)
  • Restart your browser.
  • Go to Google.
  • Enter the search keywords that normally result in a top ranking for your site.

Don’t be surprised if your site is nowhere to be found in the results.

If your site went from hero to zero in Google after kissing cookies goodbye, don’t panic. And don’t rush to pay Google for a higher ranking, either. You can take steps to raise your site’s ranking through proper SEO techniques that won’t put a monthly drain on your income.

Ranking high in Google for your industry’s keywords means prospective clients find you. And that means revenue. Let me know how I can help you achieve better search engine results for your Web site.