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Monday, 4 August 2014

Personalised Google Search Results and how they affect your website

It might surprise you to hear that no one sees exactly the same search results even if they type identical words into a search engine. The search results we see are personalised to suit us 'better'.

To Google, the accurate tailoring of search results to each user is a huge part of being the 'best' search engine and it's has been the driving force behind Google Now.

Many users will see very similar results, but there will be differences due to factors such as search history, location, device and even someone’s social contacts.

How much does personalisation change search results?

A 2013 study showed that:
  • 73% of personalised #1 ranked results originated from position #2.
  • 93% of personalised #1 ranked results come from the first page - in other words the top 10 ranked websites.
  • 82% of original rank 1 results remain somewhere on the first page of personalised results.

Google doesn't throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to personalising results. Websites that are ranked high up in Google will still be ranked high up in personalised results but their position is not absolute. This is reassuring considering the hard work that goes into achieving a #1 ranking.

What factors are used to personalise our search results?


Personal search history

The primary way that Google personalises your search results is by using your search history. Put simply, Google will rank websites you've visited and found useful higher up in search results as they think that you will find them useful again.

It’s important to note that your search history is used by Google whether you’re signed into a Google account or not. If you’re signed out Google can still see up to 180 days of search history collected using anonymous cookies stored on your web browser.

Location

This is the most obvious and understandable customisation, we’re all shown results depending on country and locality. Google uses your IP address to tailor your results when you search for keywords associated with places such as ‘restaurant’ or ‘zoo’.

These types of search queries will bring up Google maps and Google+ local business pages according to where Google thinks you are located. This creates a great opportunity for local business owners who can set up a Google+ business page and more easily appear in local search results.

You can easily see and change your location by clicking on Search tools, entering a location and clicking ‘Set’.



Additionally, some keywords mean different things depending on your location. For example, ‘football’ would bring up American Football in the USA but in the UK we would expect to see results like the premier league.

(What’s an IP address? – Your IP address identifies the location of your computer. Check out What's my IP to find out your IP address.)

Type of search query

Different categories or types of search terms have a higher degree of personalisation. We’ve already mentioned personalisation due to location. Brands are another category for which search results can differ dramatically depending on the above factors, whereas factual queries starting with ‘what is….’ are far less personalised.

Justin Briggs tells us that 82% of results for ‘what is…’ queries are identical, while only 43% of results for ‘gadgets’ are identical. Politics, places, gadgets and brands are all types of search queries which show a high degree of personalisation.

Device

Google also recognises when you’re searching with a mobile and will favour responsive websites and local search results for the mobile user, different to the results that a desktop user may see.

Social signals

Finally, since 2012 Google has been personalising your searches to be influenced by what your friends on Google+ are saying. Who you know, what they’ve shared and what you’ve shared - these ‘social signals’ are used by Google.

When commenting on Google collecting of data to personalised search results Fast Company said this:
“Some might call that a creepy amount of shared data. Others might call it the future.”

How do you stop your search results being personalised?


By now you’ll probably be thinking how am I supposed to know where my website is positioned if my results are personalised.

Well, Google has provided these instructions themselves:

Pause your Google account history

You can pause or delete your web history. Start by going into your Account Settings > Account History and then click ‘Pause’.


Delete and turn off your Google search history
  • Visit your Search History page at google.com/history.
  • In the top right corner of your Search History page, click the gear icon then Settings.
  • Click Delete all, then click the Delete all button to confirm.
  • Finally click Turn off to stop future searches being stored.

Delete your browser history

Your searches may also be stored in your browser or the Google Toolbar. Learn how to delete your history on Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Firefox.

Turn off results customisation 

  • Sign out of your Google account. 
  • Go to google.com/history/optout.
  • Click Disable customizations based on search activity. This will turn the setting off for anyone who uses the same browser and computer as you until someone signs in.



Use ranking software

If you’re an angelfysh client, the easiest way of seeing non-personalised search results is to sign into our SEO ranking software at clients.angelfysh.com. If you've lost your logins, just email us and we’ll send you new logins.




Hope we've helped you to find out where your website is really positioned in Google search results. If you’d like to speak to someone about getting your website ranked higher up in Google, that’s what we do - it’s called SEO and we have a 100% record of success. Give us a call on 0191 276 6904 or drop us an email to hello@angelfysh.com.

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