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Then I noticed that I was logged in to my Google account. The computer actually logged me in automatically without me having to sign in with my user name and password.
When I signed off from Google and did the same searches, the results were back to normal, ie I wasn't ranking as high for those same key words.
I did a search and found an article from 2005 decsribing a Google patent that describes something like "Profile Rank". Google creates a profile for users and adjusts the organic results accordingly.
Here's the abstract from patent #20050240580:
A system and method for using a user profile to order placed content in search results returned by a search engine. The user profile is based on search queries submitted by a user, the user's specific interaction with the documents identified by the search engine and personal information provided by the user. Placed content is ranked by a score based at least in part on a similarity of a particular placed content to the user's profile. User profiles can be created and/or stored on the client side or server side of a client-server network environment.
Is anyone else seeing this?
Will everyone start getting different SERPS?
[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 4:53 pm (utc) on May 27, 2009]
[edit reason] added quote box [/edit]
Personalization of placed content ordering in search results [appft1.uspto.gov]
Zamir, Oren Eli;et al. - October 27, 2005
I may have recently seen what the OP describes in some results I monitor. Results appear to change when I delete my Google cookies. I haven't run enough tests for me to say that Google is monitoring the results via cookies and changing them accordingly, but on first glance it looks that way.
In the thread below, there was a recent comment similar to the OP's observation here....
New Features Now Live for Google Suggest
The best thing about new Google suggest is #2 that now it considers your previous searches while giving suggestions. That is good in a way.
But this happens for me even after I have turned off the google search history feature.
I wonder if they save the personal search history after we have disabled it.
I've thought I've occasionaly seen such effects previously, but this is the first time I've noticed a cluster of reports suggesting that Google might be doing this.
[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 5:23 pm (utc) on May 27, 2009]
"Personalized based on your web history. More details"
When you click on more details, you get the following:
When possible, Google will customize your search results based on location and/or recent search activity. Additionally, when you're signed in to your Google Account, you may see even more relevant, useful results based on your web history.
The following information was used to improve your search results for (key word):
Recent Searches: You or someone else recently searched for (key word) using this browser. Learn more
Web History: One or more items in your Web History were used to improve search results.
Manage Web History:
Remove Web History from my Google Account If you're curious, you can see what a search for (key word) looks like without these improvements.
The 'More details' link on your search results page can be used to display this page for approximately 30 minutes, after which it will no longer show this page.
So it looks to me like you don't have to be logged into your Google account to have the browser history affect some of your serach results.
Are your cookie preferences set up differently in the different browsers? Do you have a Toolbar enabled in one of the browsers?
We had a discussion on recent search history back in August that had slipped my mind. Google does change results based on information stored in a browser session. The question I had then is whether they're tracking you via cookies only. I'm inclined to believe that that's the case.
Here's the thread...
Search results based on recent search history
Here are various Google help documents...
About Web History: Web History vs. search history [google.com]
More transparency in customized search results [googleblog.blogspot.com]