I've noticed, and I bet you have too, that Google is increasingly trying to "help" us. Google seems to know where we are and returns search results that are supposedly geographically relevant. It also returns results based on our past search/click activity and pulls from our social network (social circle, as they call it) including our Google Reader subscriptions.
If you search Google and find that you are increasingly faced with personalized search results from Google, you are not alone. Not only is Google personalizing your search results when you are logged in, they are also determining your location and personalizing your search results according to your location. For example, Google “knows” that I am in the Dallas area. So, when I search for “moving” I get search results that are tailored as if I am in Dallas and moving to another location in Dallas, even if that is not the case.
From Google Accounts Help:
Google sometimes customizes your search results based on your past search activity on Google. This customization includes searches you've done and results you've clicked. Since personalized search treats signed-in and signed-out users differently, the instructions for turning off search history personalization are a little different in each case.
Any big brother concerns aside, this "help" has frustrated me. I want to be able to do quick "depersonalized" checks to see where we might truly be ranking on Google on a certain search term without deleting cookies or without signing out of Google. Deleting cookies and signing in and out is too cumbersome. However, without turning off the personalization, it's easy to believe you are faring better on Google than you actually are if the personalization feature is skewing the results.
We are working hard to move up in the rankings on a few key search terms and, therefore, when I do a spot search, I don't want Google's help. (When determining search keyword rankings, we have used the tool Rank Checker from SEO Tools. See this post on it.)
Bill's post provided the key I have been looking for in how to turn off Google's personalization service:
So, at the end of the search results URL (in my web browser) I have to add “&pws=0″ to the end of the URL, hit “enter” and Google will de-personalize the search results for me.
This is how you can accomplish:
- turn off Google's Instant Search
- search Google as normal for keyword(s)
- in the URL bar, append &pws=0 to the end of the search URL
- hit enter and look for any changes in results
Let me be clear that I am NOT an SEO expert. I am merely a marketing professional who is trying to gain some understanding of how all this works. I am posting this because I have experimented with this tool for a few days and it seems to be helpful.
Give it a try and keep this in your toolbox as you do spot keyword checking.