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Thread: 3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing

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    3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing

    Recently (probably since the Possum update) we are seeing some major discrepancies in the local 3-pack. We see great variation in 3-pack results when searching in private/incognito mode vs not.

    The most concerning issue is that the local businesses that are now ranking well in private browsing modes (and in some cases non-private modes) really have no business being there...horrible websites, no reviews, un-matched GMB categories, etc. In many cases there seems to be no reason why many 3-pack listings should be ranking well.

    Is this consistent to what others have seen since Possum?

    Any feedback would be appreciated!
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    Eric Marshall
    zcreative.com

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    re: 3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing

    Thanks Eric for the heads up. Sucks that the results are not just different, but bad!

    I never browse incognito so have never noticed, but guess I should.
    I imagine lots of consumers do if they don't use Gmail.

    Anyone else noticed or care to do some research/comparison screenshots?
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    Re: 3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing

    Eric,

    It will be better if we have some examples but I found a good one for "why does this non-verified listing rank" that I included in this presentation starting at slide 10 that kind of explains why sometimes the things we look at aren't necessarily what Google looks at.

    What You Need to Know about Google My Business & Possum in 2016
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    Eric Marshall (01-05-2017)

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    Re: 3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing

    Thanks Linda...it's very curious. I'll add a bit more info and detail along with some screenshots to help paint the picture.

    We rarely search in incognito/private either, but we have noticed similarly different/bad results when using mobile phones in private mode (which produces identical 3-pack results as a mobile search with location services turned off...which is probably much more common among consumers).

    We have noticed the same issues with clients, but results for our own business produce the most glaring example that we've seen. I've attached 4 screenshots that show 3-packs for the search query "web design"...these were all done from our office from the same WiFi network (we actually see the best and probably most accurate results with a mobile search on a mobile network but for this thread we'll use WiFi searches for comparison)

    1. desktop search in normal browsing mode

    3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing-web-design-desktop.jpg

    2. desktop search in incognito browsing mode

    3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing-web-design-desktop-incognito.jpg

    3. mobile search (iOS) in normal browsing mode

    3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing-web-design-mobile.jpg

    4. mobile search (iOS) in private browsing mode

    3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing-web-design-mobile-private.jpg

    As you can see, there is great variation...and the 3-pack listings contain business in other categories (e.g. Graphic Design, Advertising Agency), while there are plenty of 'Website Designers' in our area. In addition to category issues, most of the ranking business have poor websites, little to no reviews, contain GMB violations, etc. There really is no reason why a lot of these places should be in any 3-pack whatsoever.

    And, ironically, the mobile search in normal mode is the only example that shows us (Zee Creative) in the 3-pack, but the #1 listing is for a business that is not even located in our city.
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    Eric Marshall
    zcreative.com

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    Re: 3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing

    Since this post came in over the Holiday, I wanted to bubble it back up to be sure you guys saw it.

    What do you make of it? Do you see the same thing?
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    Re: 3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing

    If it's since Possum it would make sense that, based on the private browsing, Google is using your location outside of private browsing and not in private browsing. If that's true, we believe with Possum location now plays a much greater role in ranking. That might explain this massive variation.

    Would want to hear the opinions of others as well though.
    Tutelary Marketing, Owner
    Local Listing Ninja - Business Listing Service

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    Re: 3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing

    So the city the business is in is irellevant because you didn't type in a city in your search (just "web design). According to the screenshot, PC-Solutions is closest to you (it says 1.3 miles, your own company is 2 miles). Mobile is super-hyper-local and the location trumps almost everything else, especially if you don't enter in a location name.

    When I do a search for "web design billings mt" on a computer and set my location to "Billings", you guys are 2nd in the 3-pack and first organically.

    As far as why you aren't there on mobile in icognito - notice how the distance away vanishes? Google is unable to determine your exact location but it looks like they have a general idea of where you are which is why they are still showing local businesses. However, your little blue dot (where they think you are) disappears so the businesses based on your location are bound to be different.
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    Eric Marshall (01-09-2017)

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    Re: 3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing

    Thank's Joy. That helps bring some clarity to the mobile portion...I don't think I realized how sensitive the mobile algorithm was to location.

    On the desktop, I still think those are really bad results and I can't make sense of it. In both scenarios, 2 of the 3 local results have "graphic designer" as their main category along with no or few reviews, poorly optimized sites, etc. It seems to be somewhat of a random pick from the top 20.

    Do these seem out of place to you, or is that typical to what you'd usually see?
    Eric Marshall
    zcreative.com

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    Re: 3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing

    Eric,

    I can't recreate what you're seeing but I also don't know where Google thinks you're located. The map on the first screenshot definitely looks odd as it's zoomed out to show the entire US.

    If you go to Maps.Google.com it will usually place a blue dot on the map for where Google thinks you're located. What zip code is it putting you in?

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    Re: 3-pack ranking discrepancies in private vs normal browsing

    I'm actually not seeing a blue dot...but based on the lat/long it gives in the URL, they are placing us in 59102
    Eric Marshall
    zcreative.com

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