Do Search Results Vary By Browser?

Do Search Results Vary By Browser?

browsers 1About a week ago I got involved in a discussion over on LinkedIn at the Search Engine Land group that was started by someone asking the question:  “Google showing different search results for IE and Firefox. Any explanation?” I gave my opinion which was that most likely it was personalized search impacting the rankings because one of the browsers was their “primary” and would have all the cookies and history, while the other would not. But some other possible contributing factors were also presented like “were you logged in to Google or not” or “was Google toolbar installed” and a few others.

So, after following the discussion a while I decided to put the topic to the test and actually run a series of tests (10 all together) to see if in fact Google rankings are different depending on the browser (or a combination of other contributing factors). Interested in the results? Read on to find out!

The browsers and versions included in the test are:

Firefox: v3.5.7, Internet Explorer: v8.0.6001.18828, Google Chrome: v4.0.249.78 (36714) Safari: 4.0.4 (531.21.10) 

Keywords:

I needed a couple unsuspecting keywords… I figured it best to use more than 1 keyword just to make sure the results were not impacted somehow by the keyword in question.  I chose “Indian motorcycles for sale” (the bike I learned how to ride on was an Indian) and “android phones” because I LOVE my new Droid Eris.  Worth noting: I have not recently done any Google searches for either of these keywords.

The 10 Tests:

Below are the tests I performed.  For clarification purposes “as is” means my browsers in the current state they were in. Nothing changed, cleared, modified. Just open and go.  And, for the record I use Firefox 98% of the time so it had tons of history, a number of toolbars installed and lots of cookies. Also, you will see references to the “personalization query” in the tests. In this instance I appended “&pws=0” to the end of the url Google generated, manually telling Google to turn off personalization for this query.   As you may or may not know, personalization is "on" by default now. That’s why it was important for me to use this command and ensure true results.

  • Test 1:  Google each keyword using google.com on all 4 browsers “as is” signed out of Google with Google Toolbar installed, record the top 3 results
  • Test 2:  Google each keyword using google.com on all 4 browsers “as is” signed in to Google with Google Toolbar installed, record the top 3 results
  • Test 3:  Google each keyword using google tool bar on all 4 browsers “as is” signed out of Google, record the top 3 results
  • Test 4:  Google each keyword using google tool bar on all 4 browsers “as is” signed in to Google, record the top 3 results
  • Test 5:  Google each keyword using google.com on all 4 browsers “as is” signed out of Google with Google Toolbar installed, using the personalization query
  • Test 6:  Google each keyword using google.com on all 4 browsers “as is” signed in to Google with Google Toolbar installed, using the personalization query
  • Test 7:  Google each keyword using google.com on all 4 browsers with the cookies and cache cleared signed out of Google with Google Toolbar installed
  • Test 8:  Google each keyword using google.com on all 4 browsers with the cookies and cache cleared signed in to Google with Google Toolbar installed
  • Test 9:  Google each keyword using google.com on all 4 browsers with the cookies and cache cleared signed out of Google with Google Toolbar uninstalled
  • Test 10:  Google each keyword using google.com on all 4 browsers with the cookies and cache cleared signed in to Google with Google Toolbar uninstalled

The results:

Can we have a drum roll pleaseeeeeeee………I got exactly the same results every time with every browser regardless of the conditions!  Disappointing huh?  I was really hoping to have something to talk about after the tests but I don’t.  That’s it!

Conclusion:

For now,  all browsers seem to be serving up the same results in Google so rest easy at night knowing that although you may have to test your website design with different browsers you don’t have to test your SEO with different browsers.

Have you found differences in your search results between browsers? What tests have you run?

Vertical Measures
it@verticalmeasures.com