“Search Console Says We Rank, But Then We Look, and We Don’t See That. Why?” Googler Responds

Google gives some insight into why Search Console may say you rank for something, but you check, and see otherwise.
SIA Team
September 23, 2021

Are you a webmaster or entrepreneur who has questions about your site’s search engine performance?

Well, nowadays, Google Search Advocate John Mueller frequently hosts what are called Google SEO office hours, which are basically Q&A sessions where people can submit and/or ask questions about this topic.

During the September 17th, 2021 office hours video, at roughly the 39-minute, 7-second mark, a situation was posed:

“We’re having multiple issues on our site where Search Console says we’re ranking for keywords, but when we check the rankings, we don’t rank at all.”

“Search Console Does Not Invent Rankings”

John’s response was, “What might be the cause of this [is that] Search Console does not invent rankings.  It’s not a theoretical ranking report that we show in Search Console; it is based on what people actually saw so from that point of view the data that you see in Search Console when it’s there it is based on what was actually visible in the search results.”

“Sometimes, Things Change Over Time”

John proposed another possibility: “However, sometimes the search results can be really hard to figure out in terms of where your page is being shown and sometimes these things change over time. 

“So usually, what I try to do when I look at things like our blog and wonder like, ‘Why does this page get so much traffic for this weird keyword?’ is I’ll try to figure out what the most specific setting is where this pattern is visible in the report.”

John followed that with an example, but basically, that means trying to sort by country. That is, trying to see if there are discrepancies due to which countries your search traffic is coming from.  

Maybe a One-Time Spike…or Is It Consistent?

Part of what John proposed was “…looking at the graph to see is this something that was maybe a one-time spike, or is it something that is consistently at that level…” 

The Possible Effect of Personalized Search Results

You may know that Google can provide personalized search results. John suggested that there may be a small portion of searchers who see your site on the results page. 

But, these results are personalized. It may be that, for whatever reason, your site appears to a small portion of people, which is why Search Console would say you rank (but then you open up a private browser window to look at non-personalized results, and see that your site isn’t on the first page). 

John offered a few other possibilities, but these are the ones that stood out to me. 

Do watch the video for more details.

Source: Google Search Central