Ever get the feeling that the search results Google displays seem to include the websites you often frequent? Ever wonder how that is possible with trillions of web pages and billions of websites? Can your special corner of the Internet and your search topics be that small? Welcome to Google Personalized Search. Think of it in similar fashion to the shopping behavioral algorithm that Amazon uses for their shopping “Recommendations” when you are logged into your account. However, there is one major difference. Google provides this feature for users that are logged into their account and users that are NOT logged into their account. Yes, Google is tracking your search activity and based upon your activity tailors the search results of future search queries.
This certainly is not a new feature, but is not widely known amongst the public. I have mentioned Personalized Search to many Social Media and Digital Marketing experts and they had no clue about this. So I decided to crank out a quick summary about Personalized Search and how to turn it off.
If you are logged into your Google account and search using Google your Personalized Search results are impacted by your Web History. If Web History is turned on then Google collects exactly that; your web history. They know the sites you are been on and the search queries you enter into Google. In order to stop Personalized Search you need to turn Web History off.
You cannot simply log out of your Google account to avoid Personalized Search. Google also accomplishes this feat for non-signed in users by analyzing the last 180 days of your search activity that is recorded by an anonymous cookie in your browser. I bet you did not know about that little nugget of knowledge (Privacy experts love this feature; it is one of their favorites).
There are two ways to stop Google tracking your activity when signed out. You can delete all your browser cookies, but this is a massive pain and inconvenience. The other way is quite simple:
- Go to www.google.com
- Enter a search query and search
- Locate the gear icon in the upper right corner of the search engine results page
- Select Web History
- Then select “Disable customizations based on search activity
My preference is to turn off Personalized Search. I do not want to see the same websites in my search results. I know there are billions of websites out there and I want to see the very best sites for my query. I like diversity and discovering new websites. Personalized Search does not impact every result in the first 10 results displayed, but impacts enough that I turn it off. I never go beyond page one so I want the first 10 results to be untainted or skewed by my Web History.