Google: The UK’s Dominant Search Engine
A search engine is designed to seek out information and pages on the World Wide Web that are relevant to your search query and present the results to you.
The goal of most search engines is to make your search experience as good as possible and to deliver the most closely related pages to your search term.
Searches are conducted by adding a word or key phrase to the search bar. The engine then fetches back the pages and orders them according to their perceived relevance to your query. The exact factors used for evaluating the relevance of a website for a specific term is a closely guarded secret and the algorithmic code used to do this is continually being updated.
Most Search Engines have the ability to filter results to the region you are in, so they have a UK specific site, as well as having a ‘radio button’ allowing you to limit to results to pages from the UK only.
In October 2012, for the first time in five years, Google’s UK search market share dipped below 90%, possibly marking the beginning of a new decline in Google’s search dominance but more likely just showing a minor blip in their search monopoly.
The UK’s Favourite Means of Search
As Google is the market leader in terms of search volumes most of our analysis and strategies focus on these results.
Google is striving to give the best user experience possible and unless you are careful it will personalise your search results pages based on your search history and interests you’ve expressed in Google+, Gmail, and YouTube.
This means that you will not necessarily see the same results as someone else running the same search query. While this can be helpful for the individual, as a business owner this feature means you will be seeing a different set of results to your potential clients. To get a true picture of how your website ranks you will want to see search results that are unbiased because of your usage.
What is Personalised Search?
In essence Google will record your search history and subsequently personalise your search results if you are logged into any of their services. This feature is easy to disable and your search history can be deleted if you are concerned with your privacy.
Firstly you need to check if you are logged into any of Google’s services. In the upper right hand corner of the Google homepage or a search results page you’ll see the words ‘sign In’ or your Google account name. If you are signed in it is simple to sign out by selecting the ‘sign out’ option from the dropdown menu next to your account profile image.
However this will not remove the search customisation preference or your search history from your account. To do this you need to login to your account and go to your ‘web history’ page. Select ‘account settings’ from the dropdown above and then scroll to the bottom of the page. Under ‘Services’ click on the last link ‘go to web history’. You may be prompted to enter your password again at this stage, depending on your recent activity, and then you will be presented with one of 2 options:
If you have never been here before you will be offered an explanation from Google about why ‘Web History makes search better’ and then asked if you want to ‘turn Web History on’ or not.
If you select to ‘turn Web History on’ then you will see a page that offers you a ‘pause’ button and the option to ‘remove’ your web history. If like me you have been here before, then you may well get a message saying your web history is already paused and the button is to ‘resume’ web history, however the other elements of the page are the same.
If you are not signed in to a Google account your search results can still be personalised if you request it. From the Google search results page, click on the cog in the top right hand corner and from the drop down select ‘Web History’. To switch between personalised or not personalised search results you need to select either ‘Disable customisation based on search history’ to remove personalisation or ‘Enable customisation based on search history’ to activate personalisation.
As Google’s head of web spam Matt Cutts puts it in this video, ‘if we know where you’re located, whether you’re using a mobile phone or a web browser, we can return you better results. If you’re typing pizza, yoga instructor or plummer you’d much rather see the ones that are close by than something that’s located in San Francisco if you’re in New York.’ In other words the more information you are willing to give Google then the more relevant the search results it can give back to you.
To remove or change your location personalisation, go to your ‘search settings’ (a dropdown option from the cog on a Google search results page) and then select ‘location’. You now have to be at least country specific. More information on how Google uses and stores location information can be found here.
Sometimes your browser will apply further personalisation. Click here for more information on testing for and removing this.