To see oursels as ithers see us!

A lot of people think they’re doing a lot better in the Google results than they really are. This is because Google uses something called ‘personalized search‘, whereby the results are customised to what it thinks would be more helpful to you. Now, we all know that someone in Japan is going to see different results from someone in the UK, but ‘personalized search’ means that someone at the next desk may see different results from you. Google is trying to take into account geography, topicality, preferences, patterns and even social factors in ordering your results. The real implications of each of these, none of us know.

You can turn off these results by adding &pws=0 to the end of the search url generated when you type something into Google. So, for example, http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=bmon should show you a personalised search for “BMON” whereas http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=bmon&pws=0 will show you a more generalised one, more likely to be a better representation of an “average” result.

Discussion

  1. Shailendra Sial

    This is flawed because of the following reasons:

    1) Google has clearly stated, “Previously, we only offered Personalized
    Search for signed-in users, and only when they had Web History enabled on
    their Google Accounts. What we’re doing today is expanding Personalized
    Search so that we can provide it to signed-out users as well. This addition
    enables us to customize search results for you based upon 180 days of search
    activity linked to an anonymous cookie in your browser. It’s completely
    separate from your Google Account and Web History (which are only available
    to signed-in users). You’ll know when we customize results because a “View
    customizations” link will appear on the top right of the search results
    page. Clicking the link will let you see how we’ve customized your results
    and also let you turn off this type of customization”. For more details, go
    to
    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/personalized-search-for-everyone.html
    or http://www.google.com/support/accounts/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=54041

    2) The article tells us to append &pws=0 at the end of
    http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=bmon URL. This is not possible as Google
    changed its search URL structure in 2008 which can be seen if you search
    something on Google.

    3) I tested the procedure for number of general and niche keywords and it
    did not work! Though there were some changes in the results but they didn’t
    seem to be “general”. Rather, for some keywords i got the local results!

  2. Mike Iles

    Chris,

    Doesn’t this just change the display of PPC adverts? – the natural search results don’t seem to change. I’ve checked this for a range of key search phrases.

    Mike

  3. Judith Lewis

    As far as I can tell it should work, although this implies there is personalisation already on your browser. I usually use Firefox for my everyday stuff and keep a clean copy of IE which I regularly delete everything from for checking rankings.

    I checked and Matt Cutts in Dec ’09 said in a tweet to Gray Wolf (Michael Gray) that &pws=0 did still work.

    You can strip a URL back to basics as shown in the post above, and append the &pws=0 to it, or you can leave it in all its ugly glory and append the additional variable.

    It should be noted that I work at an agency and the results I see on this IP vary from the results I see sitting at my desk using a broadband stick on my laptop, which vary from the results I see at home, all on a clean IE browser for the same keyword.

  4. Shailendra Sial

    If “&pws=0” still works, then why there is no mention of this method in Google’s Turning off Personalization document? The best way is to test it and from my tests i conclude that it doesn’t work.

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