A common issue we face in search engine optimisation is when clients are seeing different results from the ones we see on our screens.
The no.1 reason for this is usually because Google is returning results based on their search history. Google has aptly named this method of displaying customised results Personalized Search.
So what is personalized search?
Google, in an aid to serve users better results, promotes and demotes websites based on the user’s searches that were made and on the results that were clicked on.
So any time the user comes back to type in the same (or a similar) search term, Google will then be displaying customised results based on their previous activity with commonly visited sites (in relation to that search term) being displayed higher up in the rankings, and sites that may have had no activity displayed lower down in the results.
Personalized search is stored via cookies – small text files that store data for a particular website. And Personalized Search is now employed whether you are signed in with a Google Account or not.
So how do I disable Personalized Search?
Solution for Signed Out Users
Please note: This will also affect other users who use the same browser and computer that you are on.
The key is to type in a search first to get to the Results Page.
If you have Instant Search turned on then you must temporarily turn it off. To turn Instant Search off click/toggle the ‘Instant is on’ link located to the right of the main Search button. The page will now reload with Instant Search turned off.
A Web History link should now appear, located in the top right of the page.
If there isn’t a Web History link present then there should be the new Gear icon instead. Click on the gear icon to find the Web History link in the dropdown menu.
Now, in the Web History page, click on ‘Disable customisations based on search activity’. And this will disable all the personalized customisations that Google uses to influence its results.
Remember to turn back on Instant Search if you were using it previously.
Solution for Signed In Users
Unfortunately for signed in users it appears to be a little more abrasive to disable personalized search. It is probably wiser to install an appropriate plugin/addon for your browser – a search on Google will provide some good reliable ones that work.
If you want to go the extra step, and you are not worried about your Web History, then, like above for Signed Out users, you will have to visit the Web History page, but this time you will have to clear the searches you have made and pause the app. You can also remove the app altogether for a more permanent solution (from My products in Google Accounts).
Visit this page on Google: Turning off search history personalization, for more information.