lucy24 - 9:32 pm on May 17, 2011 (gmt 0)
Hmmm...ok, try using a browser without cookies and clearing the cache on a regular basis.
It makes no difference.
Turn on the computer after 8-10 hours down-- enough for my floating IP address to reset itself. It thinks I live in Oakland, which is not the case.
Open a browser I never normally use. Clear cache, history, all cookies. Quit browser. Reopen. Go to google (whose "sign on" box at this point claims not to know who I am). To be exact, google.com manually typed in, where I normally click a link to Google Advanced. Enter my experimental test string.* Pop! There I am at #5. Or, inexplicably, #4 in one browser, and less inexplicably #3 in Canada.
This is obviously bogus; I've tried the same string on the library's public terminal, which is as close to "neutral" as you can get, short of concealing your IP address. There the same string is so far down that I get bored before ever finding it. (The phrase yields around 10^9 hits, of which google won't go beyond 1000, so the page may not be there at all. Some days google eats about 30% of the results, dropping the total from 1,200,000,000 to 900,000,000, but let's try not to think about that.)
Wait, here's the scary part. If I look up the same phrase in Metacrawler, it comes up around #9 based on-- they say-- Google, Bing and Yahoo. It's nowhere (i.e. way, way down) for Bing/Yahoo, meaning that they have to be factoring in Google's personalized number. In a second-hand search. Brr.
* "they have a word for it", no exact-phrase quotes. There have got to be hundreds if not thousands of pages that use this as a title.