Google search is the ultimate “yes-man” – it always tells you what it thinks you want to know. Whether Google gets it right or not is a matter of opinion, but there’s no doubting the strength of feeling evident on related blogs and forums. Over the years, Google has introduced various features that personalize search results, often to the extreme annoyance of users that don’t know how to disable them.
Not all features customize search results in the same way. Here’s how to turn off some of the more irksome examples
You may like to see suggested results for the as-yet-incomplete search term that Google believes you are typing, but many users do not. Google Instant is the offending feature, and disabling it is straightforward. Navigate to the Google home page, click the gear icon at the top right and then select “Search Settings.” Scroll down the “Preferences” page that appears and check the “Do not use Google Instant” radio button. Save your preferences, and you have disabled Instant permanently- provided you have enabled cookies in your browser. If not, the feature will reappear when you start a new browsing session.
Google Suggest, recently rebranded Autocomplete, presents you with a drop-down list of commonly used search queries that match whatever you are typing at the time. Until it became Autocomplete, Suggest had an “Off’ button; now, Google believes that it is “appropriate to have it always on for all of our users”. Disabling Autocomplete requires a little ingenuity – setting your Google home page to “google.com/webhp?complete=o” does the trick.
Personalization is Google Instant’s younger brother- or rather, brothers. One version recognizes signed-in Google account holders, while the other customizes results for all users on an individual computer. In either case, Google promotes results that it deems to be more relevant to your past activity. Disabling these two flavors of customization requires a little tinkering.
If you are a signed-in Google account holder, you get personalized search results based on your Web History; removing your history is not difficult. Open your Account Settings page and select “Web History.” Click the “Remove all Web History” button and confirm your action when prompted. This also pauses the history function until you next clear cookies from your browser.
Results for signed-out users or those without a Google account are influenced only by past search activity. Start from your Google home page if you want to turn off the customization. Click the gear icon and select “Web History,” then click “Disable customizations based on search activity.” Remember to repeat the exercise whenever you clear cookies.
When Google integrated local search with its regular results, it upset many users, particularly those searching for information from overseas sources. There is no way to opt out; Google “hasn’t provided a way to turn off location customization” as it sees this feature as a key component of a comprehensive search experience. You can reduce the impact – a flawed solution, but better than nothing.
After entering any search term on the Google home page, select the option “Change location” from the sidebar menu. Enter your country- “USA,” “United States” and “America” all work here. Check the “Remember my location” box and you’re done. If you want search results from another country, visit the appropriate Google home page; for example, searching on google.co.in will give you results from India.
Exactly what Google has up its sleeve for the next 10 years is not yet in the public domain. If you believe Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, people “want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.” If you have a mind of your own, you might just think that Schmidt has got it wrong. Sadly, unless you have a crystal ball, you’ll have to wait to find out.