Sometimes if you do a manual check of a keyword's ranking (by visiting the search engine using a browser on your own computer), the ranking position might be different than what Dragon Metrics is showing. Why is this?

Search engines use a large number of factors when returning results for a given keyword. These factors may include time of day, geolocation, IP address, device, search history, language, preferences, among many others. Search engines may calculate ranking positions in real-time for each individual query request and may be running hundreds of different experiments at a time which can affect ranking position. All of these factors can potentially result in drastically different results for two different users, or even the same user at different times of the day!

Due to this phenomenon, keyword ranking positions are an extremely difficult to observe phenomenon. From time to time, Dragon Metrics may show a different ranking position for your site than what you're seeing. This does not necessarily mean Dragon Metrics data is inaccurate or incorrect. It just means there is no one "true" ranking position for your site/keyword. (In fact, if you compare data from multiple rank tracking programs, you will typically see a fair amount of variation among them. It's not that one of these is "right" and the others are "wrong", it's just different viewpoints on the same data.)

A reminder when doing manual searches

To make sure you're looking at the data in the correct way, when you search for a keyword manually on a search engine, be sure to follow these practices:

  • Ensure you're looking at the search engine in a private/incognito mode to eliminate variations due to search history and preferences.

  • If you're looking at a different country's data, ensure you're using a local IP address by using a VPN or proxy. Simply typing in the localized ccTLD (e.g. if you're in the USA) is not enough.

  • Ensure other settings are correct, such as language, geolocation (if tracking in a specific locale) and device.

  • Search as closely as possible to the time and date that the data was collected. If you're looking at the data a few days or weeks after it was collected, it's likely to have changed since then.

Additional recommendations on how to understand ranking fluctuations:

  • Look at macro trends in keywords. Since ranking fluctuations do happen, it's best not to get hung up on single keyword's rankings if it's just 1-2 days. Look at larger trends over time and groups of keywords instead.

  • Compare Dragon Metrics rankings to Google Search Console. Note that Google Search Console displays an "average position", not a single daily snapshot like Dragon Metrics does.

  • Track keywords daily instead of weekly. More data points allow for better understanding of ranking fluctuations. If you're using a weekly ranking update account, your data may already be a few days old by the time you see it.

  • Understand that the further away from position 1 the URL is, the larger the ranking fluctuation. It's not unusual for keywords on page 3-5 may fluctuate by 20+ positions daily. This is less likely than if you're ranking on page 1, where fluctuations are generally more consistent, and tend to move less than 10 positions even when they do fluctuate.

  • Different result types fluctuate differently. News results, for example, will fluctuate greatly, as these are typically temporary in nature. 

  • There may have been an algorithm change recently. We recommend checking here to see if there have been any reports lately.

Suspect an issue?

We take ranking accuracy very seriously at Dragon Metrics. We have multiple automated and manual processes in place to ensure rankings are as close to what real users are seeing as possible. 

All this being said, if you are seeing large or sustained discrepancies, please contact Dragon Metrics support immediately (use the live chat icon in the bottom right of your screen). We're always happy to investigate further, as issues can still occur on rare occasions.

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