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Here’s Why Your Site May Rank for Unusual Keywords

In a recent Reddit thread, a user asked, “My website has clicks from keywords that I can’t find my site using them. How is this possible?”

The response from Google’s John Mueller provides helpful points to consider when looking into your website’s search stats.

Personalization and Local Targeting

Mueller mentions that the most likely reason for this digital phenomenon is personalization and local targeting. Web search personalization is search results specifically brought up in response to the user’s personal information. Location, interests, search history, etc., can all influence search results rankings.

Web search personalization has been standard for all Google users since 2009. An individual’s personal statistics affect their SERP, so your “page one” will look very different from someone else’s.

Local targeting is a similar process of allowing a marketer to optimize their content for a specific area. Depending on the searcher’s location, a search using certain keywords will yield different results.

To quote Mueller:

Usually, that’s personalization & local targeting. Often you can guess if the queries are expected to have a large number of impressions and if your site is listed as being in the higher positions, but it just gets very few impressions. You also see this when you drill in by date and see that it’s just getting very few impressions sporadically (rather than regularly).

An impression is the statistical data gathered to show how searchers engage with a page. It measures views and clicks, but the interpretation of this data can be inconclusive as bots, multiple views by one user, and search malfunctions can affect impression counts.

Use of Images

Using images in your content also affects the SERP.

Mueller explains:

Another option is from images. Some queries sometimes show image-one boxes (where you have a bunch of images towards the top of the results), and if an image from your page is shown there, you’d see that as an impression in Search Console (similarly if the image is shown in the knowledge panel part on the side). I suspect not a lot of these images get clicks, so it can appear that you have a large number of impressions, a high position, but few clicks for those queries.

If the content you’re investigating ranks high for impressions but has a low CTR, images may be your culprit. Users may view an image associated with your site during a search but not actually visit the site page.

This is disappointing but common. In general, CTR is greatly determined by your ranking on the SERP. If the content is ranking at spot zero (featured snippets and knowledge graphs) or number one on the SERP, the CTR is going to be significantly higher than that of a lower-ranking page.

Location-Based Results

Mueller’s last point focuses on digging deeper into your data. Results vary from location to location, so narrowing down the information from your report will give you a more accurate understanding of your results.

Mueller states, “When trying these out, make sure to drill down in the report to the appropriate country version, and use the appropriate advanced search settings for that country, so that you are as close to what users see as you can.”

If you are searching for your content using the unusual keyword and coming up with nothing, check your report to find the searcher’s country of origin. Adjust your advanced search settings to display a SERP that a user from that country might view. Searches vary greatly based on location. A SERP in the US will look very different than one in the UK even if both searches are identical.


Understanding the analytic reports for your site can be confusing, especially if you’re ranking high for unusual keywords. Taking the time to understand the way Google performs searches as well as considering your content and location can help clarify confusing information.