I got a phone call from an excited friend the other day who insisted I take a look at a particular search on Google because his website was now #1! I duly fired up my browser, typed in his search terms and voila! His competitors’ sites were enjoying top rankings and his site was nowhere to be seen. He seemed a little crestfallen. I’m not quite sure how it’s possible to actually hear someone’s face fall while on the phone, but there was a definite slumping sound. After a few urgent suggestions from him (Have you spelt it correctly? Are you sure you’re using Google?) I asked him gently if he was logged in to Google with his account. He was.
Like many people he seemed to have overlooked the fact that Google have for some time (since 2009) personalised results based on your previous browsing history. Clearly my friend had visited his website quite a bit in the past, a fact not missed by Google. Thus when he entered the search terms Google helpfully plopped his own site right back in front of him. After he logged out and tried again the truth dawned on him. There was a little more face falling.
It’s an easy mistake to make, but when comparing your rank positions with your competitors’ make sure that the results aren’t skewed by being logged in to Google at the time. Log out, remove cookies and find out where you really stand. Better still, use a different browser.
On a lighter note, perhaps you might be interested in finding out what Google actually thinks about you. Visit https://www.google.com/settings/ads/onweb/ to discover whether Google thinks you’re male or female, and about how old you are. Personally they took about twenty years off me, although I’m not sure whether to be flattered, or embarrassed about my browsing history!