For those of you in the SEO world, you'll have known for some time that Google has been planning some major new changes, and has recently started to implement them. The full-blown Google Caffeine is coming soon, so this is just the start...
However if you are just a regular user of Google with little or no knowledge of SEO, you may not know that Google now personalises your search results, based on sites you have clicked on before!
Now, in the past, if you'd been logged into a Gmail account, or other Google service which required you to login, then Google would have already been personalising your search results. To stop it from doing so, you could just log out .
However, now the new changes have taken effect, you'll notice a couple of subtle changes...
1. When you mouse-over the very top of the Google search home page, you will see that there is a menu bar which auto-hides itself.
New Standard Google Search Page:
Now move your mouse:
Okay, not much new here, but now do a search for anything you like, and look at the new option in the Top Right-Hand side...
Now click on the Web History feature (see arrow above), and you'll see the following option:
You can now select: "Disable customisations based on search activity".
Doing so will (for this browser session only), leave your SEO search results unaffected. If you have a Google account, you can sign in and change the settings by selecting "Web History" at the bottom RHS of the above screen, and logging in. This way, if you have a Google account, then it will mean that you can disable Web History whenever you are logged in.
So what does this mean for me?
Well if you are doing some SEO or having some done, and want to check your Google position, don't get excited unless you have disabled Web History - you haven't shot to #1 overnight!
If you are a Google user who finds it hard to remember the URL of your favorite sites, and doesn't bookmark them, then Web History can be handy. Say you search for Car, and click on a specific site, next time you search for Car that site may appear closer to the top of the results - in a nutshell that's what Web History does. However this will skew your results so that if a super new Car website appeared that is cheaper and otherwise superior to your old favorite, it could take you longer to notice it exists. It also means that Google knows exactly what you search for, and gathers data from your every move, using it to manipulate the data it provides you with...
So we've at least told you how you can opt-out of this service if you want it.
Other changes which have been happening for the last six months or so, are where US, Australian, and other non-UK English-speaking sites appear in the SERPs. For example, searching for Sandwich Shop Cheltenham (despite that fact that Google know's I'm in the UK), brings up results of Sandwich shops in Cheltenham Australia, amongst those in the UK - oops! How could that be even remotely relevant?
OK, so this could be useful for those of us in the UK for specific information-related searches, but if you are looking for a product or service, then this is highly irrelevant and makes the likes of Yahoo, Bing or another top search engine perhaps preferable?
Google deny there is any fault with this particular change, however the internet jungle drums say otherwise.
Only time will tell as to whether this is a permanent change or a temporary blip, but it's good to know that with Bing's popularity on the up, we do have other options, if we aren't happy with what Google are up to. However for the time being, Google is still THE Search Engine of choice for the masses, the question is, how long for?
And finally, one of the largest factors in the pipeline due to affect the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) is the forthcoming "Real Time" update. This will heavily focus on breaking news and social media sites like Twitter, (you can already see News results creeping into the top of some searches).
Google used to do it's update or "Google Dance" monthly. Now it's getting faster, and is soon headed for real time searches. Ultimately this means that businesses will need to move some of their focus from SEO to Social Media in order to stay ahead of the game.
You can find our more about Google Caffeine here...