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Go undercover to google yourself

Go undercover

If you’ve ever google’d yourself or your busi­ness, it’s impor­tant to know that the search results you see will not be the same results eve­ryone else sees.

As a matter of fact, there is no list that «eve­ryone else» sees, as there is no longer any one list of results that comes up when people search for any­thing – inclu­ding your company.

Google uses eve­rything they know about you to pro­vide you with the best pos­sible results – tailored spec­i­fi­cally to you.

And what does Google know about you? It depends on whether or not you are logged in to your Google account, but it most cer­tainly includes your geo­graphic loca­tion, what kind of device you’re on, your pre­ferred lan­guage, your most recent sear­ches, and the sites you’ve visited most recently.

More likely, though, Google’s robots have access to a long list of sear­ches you have con­ducted and sites you have visited, going back months or years. Even if it might feel a bit frigh­te­ning, for eve­ryday usage, it’s a good thing, as it makes Google so much more useful.

There’s a lot of infor­ma­tion there, of course, but for now, there’s no one poring over your per­so­nally iden­ti­fi­able infor­ma­tion, any more than the sani­ta­tion depart­ment spend resources going through your trash to build a pro­file of you. (There might be a lot of money in mining gar­bage data, though.)

But if you’re trying to find out what other people see when they Google you, you should know that all the data Google has on you, dra­ma­ti­cally increases the like­ly­hood that you’ll see your own site on the fist page of results – even if no one else does.

So, how do you avoid get­ting your search results custo­mized, and see a more generic ver­sion? The easy but imperfect method is to use the icog­nito feature in your browser. This is good enough for most uses.

In Google Chrome (the browser I recom­mend these days – iro­ni­cally, per­hpas), you’ll find it under File > New Icognito Window. In Firefox it’s under Tools > Private Browsing Mode; in Safari go to Safari > Private Browsing, and in Internet Explorer, Safety > InPrivate Browsing. For smart phones, the Google Chrome browser app has incig­nito mode, and there are other brow­sers dedi­cated to pri­vate browsing.

The reason this solu­tion is not perfect, is that Google still knows where you are and some other unim­por­tant details spec­ific to you, if not­hing else. Also, your Internet ser­vice pro­vider and others may still be able to track you, and may in cer­tain cases give you away. If you want to avoid this, too, you’ll want to con­sider using a proxy ser­vice. It is out­side the scoope of this article to go into the various alter­na­tives, but you can find a list of free (and often pain­fully slow or rest­ricted) proxies here.

Finally, if you want to step it up to a pro­fes­sional level, there are some excel­lent, paid ser­vices, like SEOMoz, that’ll help you monitor and improve your search engine rankings.