The Filter Bubble

I take pride in not only developing a usable website – and hopefully an attractive one – but also one that generates revenue. This means that it has to appear on the first page of Google.

It’s a battle between me and Google. In South Africa, it’s not too difficult to get websites on to the first page, sometimes within a week but for reasons unknown, others struggle.

Doing the Google Check

Part of the search optimization routine is to check that you’re having some effect, that your clients’ sites are marching, however slowly up Google’s results pages.

I generally check every couple of months to see that these sites either continue to do well or are improving. The trouble is, Google remembers all your searches and and assumes you’re really searching for whatever is on those websites.

Of course you’re not. You’re looking to see where the sites are positioned for various search strings. You already know what’s on the websites – you created them but Google doesn’t know this, simply that you continue to search for them.

Bein’ a smartass, it gives these websites priority over other websites. If your website of interest is on page 5 of Google and you keep checking up on it, you notice to your great satisfaction that it slowly percolates up. But only for you. This is the ‘filter bubble’.

Being Just a User

This isn’t of much use. You want the search results that someone searching for the site for the first time would get.

The way to get around this is to constantly delete your browsing history. There are several addons to Chrome (which I use) and I assume for other browsers. Chrome allows an anonymous search which collects no information and deletes all traces when closed. You may find that your chosen website is not so well positioned as you thought but these are the pages that first time visitors to that site will get.

A Google Alternative

Another option is startpage.com which claims to be the most private search engine.  It uses Google’s database so the results (as far as I can make out) are identical to those achieved by searching Google itself but without the predictions. Another option is gibiru.com.

Using several browsers also helps to overcome the ‘helpfulness’ of Google and Chrome permits the deletion of browsing history – but I don’t trust it.