Since its inception, Google has had an obsession with providing the most relevant and most useful results to users. Over time, they realized that there are times when the usefulness of search engine results varied depending on where the people were located. For example, a person searching for a term like: “restaurants near me’, will find the results useful if they were specific to their location. In such a case, having varying Google results can be beneficial.
The problem is that there are times when attempts at personalization and localization of search results lead to a poor user experience. This problem is usually worse for people who travel to different countries to a point where they are tempted to change localization to the USA by using VPN in order to avoid having to deal with differently formatted results that are largely irrelevant. Here is what you should know about why Google results can vary dramatically, and why using a VPN can sometimes lead to a better search experience.
When you are searching for a term that is likely to be relevant and it is tied to your location, you will receive different results when you perform the results in different geographical locations. Terms like “gyms near me”, “best malls” and even open-ended questions like “who is the President” will yield different results depending on which country and which continent you are on.
Google is able to serve you location-specific results because it tracks your location based on the IP address that you are using. Even in cases where you block your IP address, you tend to always you’re your personal information when signing up for Gmail or any other Google services. If when signing up you provide your location, Google can always modify the results based on this information.
Phased Algorithm Rollouts
When it is rolling out its algorithm updates, Google normally tests it out. During this period, it rarely makes this new version of the algorithm available to everybody. Even after testing it out and confirming that it is ready for a worldwide rollout; it typically does a phased rollout where certain regions receive the update earlier than others.
Therefore, if you happen to do searches in different geographical locations, you are likely to see different results simply because one area is running on an updated algorithm, while the other isn’t. These differences occur mainly during major Google core algorithm updates.
Data Center Synchronization Delays
Google uses a large number of data centers that are geographically distributed. In order to ensure fast access to stored data, it usually serves results from the data center that is closest to the origin of the request. In cases where the synchronization between data centers isn’t yet complete, a person may receive different search engine results when they perform searches from different geographical locations.
Advances in technology have seen the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence. A portion of Google’s algorithm adopts aspects of artificial intelligence, where the algorithm learns and adapts based on user behavior. Therefore, the algorithm can fine-tune the results it serves based on the way people in a certain region respond to the search results.
Not all websites look great on mobile. As a result, if users in a particular region use mobile devices, they may have a tendency to stay longer and choose results from certain websites more than others. In such a region, the algorithm may decide to place these websites higher in the search rankings.
However, in locations where people largely use desktop devices, these websites may not experience as much preferential treatment as they would. While this effect is minimal, it can be significant enough to cause varying search engine results especially when it comes to terms that are extremely competitive.
If you are not using an ad-blocking extension in your browser, then the first results you see in the search engine results are usually advertisements. They are placed at the top of the organic results depending on how much advertisers bid on a particular keyword.
Most advertisers place geographical restrictions on their advertisements. They may limit the reach of their adverts by specifying the country, region, or continent that they want them to appear. In some cases, they can even specify regions to exclude.
Therefore, if you change your location, what you see at the top of the organic search engine rankings will vary simply because different advertisers have varying geographical location preferences. In such a case, using a VPN is the only way you can guarantee seeing Google results that do not vary.