Does the personalization of Google search results annoy you as much as it annoys me? For example, when you try to determine the actual ranking of a website for a certain keyword or, when you are target by the "personal" advertising ads that are shown to you because of it? Maybe you just do not like the feeling of being manipulated and spied on.
Then there are already two of us feeling that way. And I am sure there are more of us sharing our opinion.
In our agency for search engine optimization in Vienna we sometimes just want to quickly check the ranking of a client's website and not necessarily open one of our SEO tools for that.
The secret to achieve it: the neutral Google search (google anonymously).
I went on a search and found 8 ways for you and me to start neutral Google searches and google anonymously. Without getting annoying, personalized search results.
The best thing about it: It doesn't cost you a cent.
You know what PWS is?
No, I'm not talking about the Prader Willi Syndrome.
When I mention of PWS, I mean Personal Web Search.
And I'm talking about a short addition (6 characters) that you can add to the address line in orderto prevent the output of personalized search results (PWS).
But before I show you how to use these 6 characters, let's talk briefly about neutral Google search in general.
If you don't want that, click on the 8 ways to avoid personalized search results.
HOWEVER: You will then miss a very interesting test that I have performed. Continure reading here if you want to see the test "How much does Google affect your search results''?
Neutral Google search vs. Google personalization - the advantages and disadvantages
Admittedly, the personalization of Google search has its advantages. To understand them, let's first take a look at the factors that Google takes into account in its personalized search results. Generally speaking, the following is assumed:
- The location (local search)
- The search history so far
- Your Google+ login status and thus your interests as seen in Google+
- Your SafeSearch settings
- Activities in social networks
- Clicks on specific search results
Why does google personalize there?
To be able to provide its users with individual and suitable search results. This is good.
- In order to be able to show you "personal" advertising. This can be annoying.
- To get to know you better and collect (spy on) your data. Not good at all.
- At least that's what you hear.
Provided that the assumption of total personalization is correct. But there is justifiable doubt about this, at the latest since a tweet from Danny Sullivan (formerly Search Engine Land, now Google) on May 15, 2018.
If you believe this statement, personalization is therefore limited to the language setting and the respective location.
The SEO industry breathes a sigh of relief. At least breathing is a little easier again.
For the Google user this "Personalization Light" is definitely an advantage. For example, if you are on vacation and looking for a restaurant or the nearest Apple Store. The Italian restaurant around the corner at your place of residence won't help you as a search result. In this case, including the location in Google searches is a clear advantage.
From an SEO perspective, this means: Don't forget local SEO when you optimize your site or the site of a local service provider or vendor!
But let's take a look at the "Personalization Light" to see if this is really true.
Test: How much does Google manipulate your search results?
Since I am currently on vacation in Bulgaria, I am testing the ranking of one of our blog articles in the German search results. To do so, I enter the keyword - in my case it is "seo trends" - into the search mask and start the respective search.
First try: Normal search in google de, location Bulgaria
Browser: Google Chrome
Our article ranks fifth.
Second attempt: language-cleaned search (limited to German language search results)
Browser: Google Chrome
Our article is on position 3.
Experiment no.3: language- and cookie-cleaned search
Browser: Google Chrome (incognito)
The contribution is in second place.
Next try: language-, location- and cookie-cleaned search
Browser: Google Chrome (incognito)
Our article ranks on place 1
Whether this ranking is correct, I test in our professional keyword tool XOVI:
Last try: I go back to the normal search on google de, click on our article in the search results and then search again. I will repeat this procedure several times.
If cookies, clicks or my search behaviour are not important, the ranking should not change. Remember: Our article was on position 3 in the normal, language adjusted search
Browser: Google Chrome (not incognito)
Our contribution is still in 3rd place after the procedure.
This was not an extensive study, but it seems to confirm the statement of Danny Sullivan. If you have other experiences, please write it in the comments for me and our readers.
Disadvantage of the personalized search - advantage of the neutral Google search
We now know that the personalized search has its advantages and that it is apparently less influenced by search behaviour, cookies, etc. than feared.
What are the disadvantages of personalization and the advantages of the neutral Google search?
In short: With the neutral Google search you get a neutral, unadulterated search result.
If you don't care, fine.
But if you want to find out your exact Google ranking, this is an important factor.
Why should you determine your ranking? Maybe to keep an eye on your SEO agency ?????.
Or you optimize your website for Google yourself. You don't have to buy a tool just to find out your position in the SERPs.
There are several ways to avoid personalized search results from Google. Let's take a look at them together now.
8 ways of neutral Google search
#1: The search in incognito or private mode
Every common browser offers you the possibility to start a search query without influencing cookies or your search history.
In Google Chrome this is the incognito mode.
In this picture you can see how to switch to incognito mode in Google Chrome. You can also use the key combination CTRL+SHIFT+N.
In Mozilla Firefox it is called private surfing.
In this picture you can see how to open a private window in Mozilla Firefox. Or, you can use the key combination CTRL+Shift+P
Microsoft calls it "InPrivate" for its Edge browser (formerly Internet Explorer)
In this picture you can see how to open an InPrivate window in Microsoft Edge (Internet Explorer). The key combination CTRL+SHIFT+P also works here.
The Apple browser Safari also offers this possibility.
In this picture you see how to open a private window on Safari. Or, you can use the key combination Control, Shift and N
You search and surf in all browsers in private mode now.
Now you still have the problem that Google knows your IP address and assigns you a location. If you want to avoid this and choose the region for your search, you have to go to the search settings.
To do this, click on Settings in Google search. From the drop-down menu, select Search Preferences.
The following page will then open:
Scroll all the way down and click on "Show more". The "Regional Settings" area will expand. Here you can now select the desired region and save the setting.
Now you search not only in private mode, but also in the region of your choice.
PS: Additionally log out of your Google account.
Anonymous googling can be that easy.
#2: Disable Web Protocol
If you want to use the neutral search with a logged in user account, you must first deactivate Web History.
1. start a search query in incognito mode
2. select "Settings" and then "Protocol
3. in the following window you can disable the web protocol
Your search results should now be displayed neutrally and without personalized content.
#3: delete cookies and search history to be on the safe side
To be sure that you use the neutral Google search, you can also delete all cookies and your search history.
Here you can see how it works in Chrome:
Go to the advanced settings of your browser and select the last item "Delete browser data" under "Security and privacy". The following window appears:
Select what you want to delete here. For our purposes, this is "browsing history" and "cookies and other site data". Then click on "Delete data" and restart the browser.
You can also permanently disable cookies in the respective browser. But this has the disadvantage of disabling some pages and services.
#4: Bypass Google Personal Web Search
Another way to google anonymously, i.e. to use the neutral Google search, is to bypass the personalized search by entering the address line. To do this, add the following addition after the Google URL. This looks like this: https://www.google.at?pws=0
pws stands for "Personal Web Search".
Then you start your search, just like you always do. If you would like to change the location as well, proceed as described in #1.
I often use this variant in connection with the incognito mode. Then, when I want to find out the rankings of some websites in different countries. For this I need reliable, neutral search results. Personalized search results are not useful.
#5: Use a neutral search engine
Give it a try!
#6: Let Google help you
On its support page, Google says:
Private search and surfingYou can decide for yourself which information you want to make available to Google in a search. If you want more anonymity while surfing the web, you can use private browsing mode, sign out of your account, change your custom search results settings, or delete past activity.
I've already described most of it to you, but for the sake of completeness, take another look at what Google says about private searching and surfing.
#7: Use VPN services
In order to show you all the possibilities, I do not want to deprive you of the ones that cost money.
VPN services allow you to surf the web anonymously and therefore also search without sharing any piece of information
The advantage: You save all the previously described settings and adjustments in the browser and in the search query settings.
The disadvantage: The services are subject to a charge. At least those that provide satisfactory and extensive functionality. The slimmed down, free versions are usually not sufficient.
More information about the functionality and the wide range of VPN services can be found in a contribution from Netzwelt.
Bypass personalized search results during the Ranking Check
If, like me, you are mainly concerned with determining your Google rankings, you have much easier and more effective ways to get around Google personalization.
Here is the easiest one:
#8: Ranking check with seorch.de
My favorite habit is to do a quick Google ranking check using the online tool from seorch.de
Go to the page of seorch.de
Insert your keyword in the field provided, select your destination country (Google version) and click on Check.
You will then receive neutral search results that are not personalized by Google.
I do this with our keyword "seo trends" and...
...I'm happy that our article is number one on Google ????
More providers of such free Google Ranking Checks:
The way it works is always the same: Enter keyword and check.
These were my tips for using the neutral Google search and avoiding personalized search results.
How to set your browser preferences and settings in the Google search engine to trick Google personalization.
- How to use the addition ?pws=0 in the address bar of your browser to avoid personalized search results.
- You now know which neutral search engines you can use (my favorite is Startpage).
- I also showed you the possibility of VPN services and how you can perform neutral ranking checks.
- For private use you will most likely not care about the neutral Google search. It might even be an advantage to get personalized search results.
However, if you want to determine your ranking in the search results (SERPs) for a certain keyword, or for any other reason want to avoid Google personalization, you are now well equipped with tips and possibilities.
Which of the 8 tips for the neutral Google search appeals to you the most?
Which method do you use to google anonymously?
Write it in the comments. I am very curious about it.