Why You’re Not Really #1 in Google – Using Incognito Windows For SEO

Jun 29, 2015

When meeting with new clients for website or SEO work, we often surprise them when we tell them where their website is really ranking for some obvious keywords in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

“Then how come when I search it on my computer, I come up #1?” 

The unfortunate reality is that your own search patterns can inaccurately reflect your SERP rankings.


Understanding Internet Searches


When you’re using an internet browser, the searches you make and the websites you visit are noted in your browser’s history.  The cache stores a copy of the website page so the next time you go to a site, it loads faster.  Cookies are created by a web browser to store user-specific information and authentication data.

Using this and other data along with their proprietary algorithms, search engines learn your preferences and return results that are more likely to be what you are searching for.  So if you are frequently searching for a keyword relevant to your business and/or visiting your own website, the search engine learns that preference and begins to return your own website with a higher ranking in the SERPs.

A search engine’s job is to return relevant results, so you can’t blame it for doing its job, can you? Still, clients are usually surprised when they find out that they really rank much lower than they expected during an impartial search.

How can you get a better picture of your true SERP ranking?  One easy method is to use an incognito window.


How To Use An Incognito Window


To get an incognito window in Chrome, click the icon at the upper right corner of the browser and select “new incognito window.”  On Internet Explorer 10, in the top right corner choose Safety, then “In Private Browsing.”  Be sure to first log out of any Google or Microsoft accounts that you have opened or this won’t be as effective.

While in an incognito window, you won’t be storing cookies, saving to your history, or setting up a cache file.  Searches made in this mode are less partial because they aren’t looking at that data.  So your search results are more in line with what a potential customer sees.


Why Change Your Search Location?


Another tip to help you get a more realistic picture of your ranking is to change your search location.  If you are searching from your place of business, your browser is likely set to your location city.  But you are probably trying to attract clients from a wider radius than a single town.  See how you will appear in their searches by switching your location to a nearby town.  In Chrome, you can even search with your location set to a county or state.

To switch the location, first perform a search.  For Chrome, once you have the results, click on Search Tools below the search box.  Several options will appear including your current location setting.  Click on it to enter a different location.  In IE10, look for the gear icon on the right side of the results page.  Clicking on that will take you to the settings page where you can enter a city/state combination or a zip code.  The results will update based on the switch.


The Moment Of Truth


Right now, log out of any Google or Microsoft accounts and open an incognito window.  Now perform your search for your business again using a relevant keyword, and see where your business is ranking.

I’m so sorry!!  I know it’s probably dropped significantly.  But the good news is that you now have a much clearer picture of where you are truly ranking and can better evaluate if you need to get some SEO help.

If this exercise has been an eye-opener and you want some help to get you on the path to top SEO rankings, or you need any additional marketing services, please give us a call at 410-312-0081 or fill out our contact form.

— Terri Hesse, Digital Marketing Manager


IMPACT Marketing & Public Relations, LLC

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