We’ve all done it. If you say you haven’t you’re lying. Everybody’s researched themselves or their business online at one time or another. It’s been 20 years since I created my first website for the company I was working for. When I registered my name as my domain name a couple of years later I started spending a lot of time looking myself and my company up to see what I could find out about us. A lot has changed since those days including how the major search engines decide what content you see when you search for something online. Unless you’re taking extra steps to protect your security, everything you look at online is tracked and that information is used to deliver what Google and your computer thinks you want to see.
The end result is you can’t see the same information about yourself that the rest of the world sees unless you’re using a very simple method that very few people seem to know about. All web browsers have a feature called “incognito” or “private browsing”. To activate it for most browsers all you need to do is type “Ctrl, Shift, P” and another window or “tab” will open, normally with a message advising you’re browsing privately. If “Ctrl, Shift, P” doesn’t work for you, type “browse privately” in your search bar and you’ll find information about how to activate it. Now if you’re able to keep 2 windows open, 1 in normal mode and 1 in private browsing mode and search for the same thing in both, you’ll see 2 completely different sets of results.
If you’d like to know more about why this happens, this is the way it works. Let’s say you’re surfing the internet looking for information to help you make a choice for a vacation destination. You type in “South Padre Island” and like lightning little switches get thrown all over the internet to make a “best guess” for what Google thinks you want to see. Google bases this on bits and pieces of information stored here and there that Google and various marketing companies have gathered about you at some point. Additionally part of the information comes from little bits of information stored on your own computer left by websites you visited lately. You posted a comment on Facebook 6 months ago that you like Mexican Food so that’s taken into consideration also. Based on your food preferences and a number of other things the internet knows or thinks it knows about you, your results for South Padre return a recommendation for the Senor Donkey Mexican Restaurant on the island. It also delivers shopping and lodging choices based on your income and lifestyle assumptions. If Google thinks you can afford $2000 a night beachfront condos it don’t show you Motel 6 ads.
If you go online to search for yourself, or your company, or if you’re snooping around on your competitors, all this stored information actually gives a biased slant to what you’re searching for. If you’ve gloated for years because your company comes up before your competitors in search results, there’s a good chance you’ve lived a while with false confidence in yourself. The same bits and pieces of information described above also help Google decide what it thinks you want to see based partly on all the buzz you yourself have created around your name and your company name on your own computer. Let’s say you run Acme Manufacturing in Brownwood, Texas and you manufacture and sell widgets to calibrate the head-space on 50 caliber machine guns. During the last few years you would have done research online for “widgets” and “50 caliber machine guns”. Now if you search for “50 caliber machine guns” Google would sort through all it’s data and get matches for your search that in some way relate to your personal interests including “widgets”, “Brownwood, Texas”, and “Acme Manufacturing”. It’s very likely it will show you at or near the top of search results even though some military collector in Parsons, Kansas looking for a head-space widget sees XYZ manufacturing (your competitor) at the top of his search results.
If you would like more information or a further information about private browsing Give me a call.
Larry Bartley • 325-647-6066