How are my search engine rankings affected by personalised search?
When trying to assess how well your website is performing in search engines, it's important to remember that Google personalises the search results it presents to you. So if you have performed similar searches previously and clicked on some of the results, Google will tend to present these "clicked-on" results higher up next time you search. So what you see when you do a search can be very different from what someone else (such as a potential new customer) might see.
The rationale behind this is understandable. Google feels it allows them to give more emphasis to the search results you've found helpful in the past. But, personalising search results in this way can make the whole issue of search engine optimisation (SEO) very confusing. Google's personalised search can mislead you into thinking your website is performing better or worse in Google than it really is. If you often click on your own website result in Google, your site may appear higher up in the search rankings next time you search. Conversely, if you often click on competitor's results in Google, their sites may appear higher next time - and your site may appear lower! Because of this effect, you are likely to see different search results from a new customer searching for your type of business for the first time.
How can I see "real" search results?
You have a couple of options if you would like to see unpersonalised search results:
- Google offers this advice on how to opt out of personalised search: see https://support.google.com/websearch/topic/3037039?hl=en&ref_topic=3036131
- you can install an "unpersonalised" search plugin in your web browser