Turn off Search Personalization – A Beginner’s Guide


As a beginner, what do you learn about first? If you’re like most of us, it’s keyword rankings. We go and plug in some search queries, see where different articles rank, and write them down. If we’re lucky, we can keep track of them in Advanced Web Rankings or the (link) SEOmoz Pro App.

Once you’ve been around a while, though, you’ll read about and notice different people seeing different rankings for different posts. Sometimes you’ll see “So-and-so +1d this post”.

This is all fine and good, and I sometimes I think we need to quit worrying about global rankings, but unfortunately two things are true: 1) not everyone searches while logged into Google, and thus their results are not as customized, and 2) sometimes rankings are an important KPI (key performance indicator) for a client.

So how do we find out what the global rankings are, quickly, without hsving to use a (link to Moz Rank Checker) rank checking tool? Sometimes we need to check these things quickly, after all.

Here are some tips and little bits of code to append to the end of your search URLs.


This first little beauty turns off personalization in Google. It is an amazingly powerful string of 6 characters! All you have to do is attach it onto the end of a search URL string, press Enter, and SHIZAM – magic. You can watch the rankings change before your very eyes.

String before:

String after:

See? Magic.


This second little beauty turns off location personalization (no, &pws=0 doesn’t do that). You use this in exactly the same way as &pws=0, by attaching it to the end of a search URL string. Once again, add it in and BOOM – magic again.

String before:

String after:

What did I tell you? Magic again. Powerful useful magic.

Combine and automate for maximum power

Now comes the real fun. Let’s build out some custom search engines in Google Chrome that you can then use going forward in your web searching ways to better hone the results that you are seeing.

Step 1 – Click the grey wrench and select “Options”

Step 2 – Select Manage Search Engines and scroll down to the bottom.

Step 3 – Enter a name for your new custom search engine.

Step 4 – Enter a keyword to use for a shortcut (I call this one “dpz”). The purpose of the keyword is explained in step 8.

Step 4 – Enter a general Google search query. This one works great: (http://www.google.com/search?q=%s)

Step 5 – Add “&pws=0&gl=np” (without the quotes of course) to the end of the URL string. Now your string should be “http://www.google.com/search?q=%s&pws=0&gl=np“.

Step 6 – Save

Step 7 – Mouse over your newly created custom search engine and select “Make default”

Step 8 – The previous step put your newly minted search engine in the top bar, like so:

Now, click “Make Default” on the normal Google search engine, and you’re back to normal.

Step 9 – There we go! Now when you want to search using a depersonalized and location-agnostic query, simply type “dpz”, press space, and then type your query.

Questions? Comments? I love them!

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7 thoughts on “Turn off Search Personalization – A Beginner’s Guide

  1. I was aware of the &pws=0 to turn off personalization, but I didn’t know about the &gl=np for localization.

    Nice walk thru on setting up a de-personalized search engine. Very useful!

  2. hey john, nice post. although it is beginner-level knowledge, this type of info isn’t that widely written about, so its great to have it out there. you mentioned &gl=np doesn’t work, but what are your thoughts on using google.co.uk/search?q=seo&pws=0&gl=us for removing location & personalization?

    1. Hey Gary thanks for the comment. I’m not sure that doing that is what you would want to do, but this is just conjecture. Using “&gl=us” would show you the US results. It seems to me that if you are in the UK you should prefer to see UK specific results. To be honest, I think global rankings are ridiculous. I have a post coming up soon about that.

      1. Using Google UK and changing geolocation to US is a tactic Rand has talked about in the past as being the closest non- personalized & non-localized results you can get. But I agree with your new post, there is rarely any use for these rankings outside local search research

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