It’s nothing personal: Why you need to turn off personalised search

Stone Junction’s marketing executive, Tasha Bodger, explains why getting personal with Google can be bad for business.
Most of us would rather Google didn’t check our online search history; but for a media-savvy business owner or anyone downloading bootleg footage of the new Lion King, it can be more than just an inconvenience. Personalised searches enable web browsers to recommend top results based on your location, previous link history or even your social media profiles. With six out of ten searches being customised, how can businesses ever be sure their page-ranking or SEO results are entirely accurate?
If you’ve spent months fine-tuning your SEO campaign, nothing feels better than seeing your website appear top on a keyword search. Unfortunately, this is almost a given if you’ve not deactivated Google’s personalisation. Thanks to custom searches, if you’re sat in your business, googling your business, —  you guessed it  your business is almost guaranteed to be your top result. 
According to the Centre of Cultural Studies at the University of London, the top three URLs to appear on any given results page will vary due to personalised search. Regardless of where your website ranks on your screen, that order will most certainly differ should another person make the same search.
On the face of things, you’re all searching for the same thing, but there are multitudes of extraneous variables that have an impact on what shows up including location, time zone and search history. Therefore, the likelihood of identical search results is minimal.
With all that being said, how do you measure your page rank accurately if your results are always skewed positively toward your business?
The simple answer? Turn off personalised search.
As long as the feature is disabled in your Google settings or you use incognito mode, personalised search is history.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to impact the search results of those customers who have personalised search activated, but you will be able to accurately see how you fair on any organic internet search — and that’s a far better position than basing your SEO on misleading results.

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Richard Stone is the MD of the balanced technical, technology and engineering public relations consultancy Stone Junction. They are small, but perfectly formed. Ring up and ask why on +44 (0) 1785 225416 or e-mail

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