incognito google search

Use Incognito or Private Searching to Get True Search Rankings

Here’s an embarrassing incident I’m willing to share with you in order to teach an important lesson. Some years back I was working hard to get one of my blogs to rank higher in the Google search results. I was just learning about SEO and the blog was only a few weeks old, so you can imagine my joy and surprise when the blog showed up among the top four or five search results for a particular keyword I queried. I made sure to tell the good news to a friend but strangely, when he typed in the same exact query my blog didn’t show up at all (at least not on the first few pages). Egg on my face! What had I done wrong?

It didn’t take me too long to discover that Google was personalizing my search results based on my search history. How the heck could they do that? Well, I was signed into Gmail, which means I was signed into Google and allowing them to track my searches and serve me advertising based on my emails and queries. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. In fact I find it helpful at times to see an ad or result which just happens to relate to what I’m thinking about at the moment. But when it comes to checking your search ranking, personalization will make you feel really happy for a moment until you realize that you’re probably the only one seeing you’re website on the first page of the search results.

I see this happen so often, and not just to “amateurs.” Just recently I read a sales pitch by an internet marketer which challenged you to Google a particular keyword and watch his company rank #1. I took the challenge and scanned the first few pages of search results, but his company wasn’t there. Hmm. It’s possible that the pitch was dated and that at some point in the past his company actually was #1 for the keyword. My suspicion is that he was searching for his company on his own computer, which explains the top ranking.

You’ve got a few of choices to avoiding the personalization issue:

1. Sign out of all of your Google accounts, including gmail.

2. Open a Incognito window (chrome) or Private Browsing session (Safari) to browse in blissful anonymity.

3. You can also erase your Google search history and disable personalized results, but I wouldn’t recommend this route because you sometimes do want personalized results, and the first 2 options are much easier to implement.

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