One of my clients called last week and asked why, when she searched, her site was first in the rankings but another person had her down the page a bit. If you hadn't heard the ruckus, Google has turned on personalized search results permanently.
That means that based on your search history, your results will differ. If you're checking your own sites' ranking, you'll probably find that they've all significantly improved. However, they probably only improved for you and no one else. To truly check your rank, you'll need to turn off the personalized search results.
There are three ways to turn off personalized search:
- To temporarily ensure it's off, log out of any Google application that you're logged in. As an added measure, turn on Private Browsing in your browser (All recent browser releases have it.. for IE, you must be on IE8).
- Remove any cookies from Google. This will basically log you out where the search isn't personalized. Again, Private Browsing in Safari, Firefox or IE8 should have the same impact. In Google Chrome, the feature is called Incognito browsing.
- To permanently remove your history, login to your Google Web Search History and disable it. Go to My Account and click Edit next to My Products and click Delete Web History Permanently. When your history is deleted, there's no means of personalizing your search results. You may need to do this often.
If you'd really like to make it easy on yourself, I'd recommend switching over to (ironically) Google Chrome. You can open an Incognito Window (ctrl-shift-N) and it won't access your search history or set cookies… you'll be able to stay logged in to Google on one window and incognito in a new window. That's how I took the screenshot above… personalized on the left and not personalized on the right in an incognito window.
The advantage of Google Chrome is that the Private Browsing features of other browsers make all windows private. You can't have some that are and some that aren't. Chrome has done a fine job in making this effortless.
Keep in mind that this still doesn't provide total accuracy. Your device and your location will still impact the results. For a true look at your rankings, you can view Google Search Console and I'd highly recommend you subscribe to Semrush.