I have a Canadian web site that is focused on US customers only. I am in a constant battle with my chief competitor for position 1 on our key industry term on Google, so I watch it regularly.
When I search the entire web from Google.ca, I'm in position 1. When I search it from Google.com, I'm in position 2. Yesterday, when I searched from my Canadian home computer using Google.com, I was in position 1, but if I used an IP cloaking service to change to a US IP, I fell to position 2. I dropped also if I used the URL paramter gl=US to see the US ads.
Does anyone know if there are supposed to be differences between the Canadian and US SERPS when the user DOES NOT select "Pages from Canada". I'm concerned that I'm monitoring my position, but that it's not really my position, and that I'm appearing much lower in the SERPS for my actual customers. Is Google actually serving from a different index based on sniffing your IP?
Since nobody seems to have replied, I think I can answer part of your question.
"Does anyone know if there are supposed to be differences between the Canadian and US SERPS when the user DOES NOT select "Pages from Canada"."
I don't know if there are supposed to be differences but this would match what happens in other countries. Have seen it consistently for some of our terms on .co.uk .fr etc. A few local results get thrown into the mix and I think I have read elsewhere that this is openly the policy.
I have the same problem because google is convinced that I am from the UK (I'm in Ireland) and sends me to google.co.uk
When searching .com you seem to be seeing the same effect based presumably on your IP.
I couldn't confirm that this is the case but our site is a .com hosted in the UK and several little things have lead me to suspect over the years that I sometimes see higher rankings for our site on google.com than US visitors do.
Forgot to mention that you might just be seeing a minor difference between two different Google datacenters depending on the IP address you query from. If that were the case then they would both be "real" .com results just from different datacenters.
Once you take the fact that there are different datacenters serving (sometimes) different results, there are quite possibly always people scattered throughout the U.S. that will see your site in slightly different positions in the results (depending on which datacenter Google directs them to).
As far as I know the data center Google directs you to can and does depend on your IP address (they try to find the nearest) along with other factors including their need to balance loads.
Thanks, alyseo. With all the mirroring and IP sniffing / cloaking that Google does, it's often difficult to figure out exactly what's going on. I've been concerned that Canadian sites have been bubbling up to the top for me even when I search Google.com for a while.
We're planning on setting up a system to monitor our results on our top keywords regularly and record the competitive environment in order to evaluate our SEO efforts. Looks like we'll have to use a US proxy service to be sure of the results.
Chances are it's a datacenter issue in which case one IP is likely to be as indicative as any other. You could query a particular datacenter directly if you are concerned that the one you are directed to is bumping up .ca sites. (don't know if Google has any problem with this but I assume if you do it manually it is ok).
My guess is that with the &gl=us param you probably have what you need to monitor US results. Perhaps test it versus your proxy idea for a while and see how the results match.
As far as I understand it there are always possibilities of different datacenters serving different results (within the US) so in some senses there is no "real" position.