Google search results vary significantly depending on your previous browsing history, you past searches and many other factors. The users' who actually perform the site evals will generally be the more active users of the site. Thus, the results that they see will anyways have the site ranked up high. However, most of the traffic that comes to a SE site is from new users or users who have not visited the site before and are performing a simple keyword search. For these users, the rank of the same page will be lower. As the point of the self-eval is to judge when and where the site turns up while searching, dont the localized results make the process not so useful?

Currently, RE.SE has a self eval going. Here is one of the sample searches :

Third result when logged into Google.

It was eighth through a proxy server.

DuckDuckGo doesnt list the question at all. It instead has a result (~15th-20th) which links to the OP profile.

  • This is mildly interesting, but I can't seem to find your question. Did I miss it?
    – user206222
    Jun 1, 2013 at 5:22
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    Oh you mean logged into Google when doing the search
    – random
    Jun 1, 2013 at 5:24
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    @KnightswhosayNi I think the one of the aims of a site eval is to find how frequently the site turns up in search results. However, the people doing the eval will be the active users of the site, in which case, their results will anyways have the site's results ranked high up. This wont match up with the search results of say a user who has never visited the site, searching for a question. And it is these new users who actually form the actual traffic to most SE sites.
    – asheeshr
    Jun 1, 2013 at 5:25
  • Ah, that makes more sense. Thanks for clarifying. Yeah, a proxy is really the only way to make an accurate measurement. Even signing out of your Google account won't help much.
    – user206222
    Jun 1, 2013 at 5:27
  • @AsheeshR Search in incognito mode.
    – yannis
    Jun 1, 2013 at 5:42
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    @Yannis Incog returns almost the same as when logged in. Google uses IP to localize/rank results as well.
    – asheeshr
    Jun 1, 2013 at 5:44
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    That's a problem, however the more important part of the evaluation is to compare your site's answers with information available elsewhere on the internet. I wouldn't really waste much time trying to see where the site turns up while searching, localized results by IP are good enough.
    – yannis
    Jun 1, 2013 at 5:46
  • @Yannis I was comparing only information however the instructions on both the meta post as well as the review queue lay significant emphasis on ranking, hence this question.
    – asheeshr
    Jun 1, 2013 at 5:49
  • I guess that's true, however to me that means the wording on the meta post should change. Getting a general feel of where the site ranks on Google is useful, but it's not something I'd ask users of the non technical sites to evaluate. You and I may find a couple of smart ways to fool Google, but I don't think it's fair to ask the (for example) Anime & Manga users to do the same.
    – yannis
    Jun 1, 2013 at 9:05

1 Answer 1


There's a lot of smoke and mirrors behind the personalized search results, but the short answer that I've found is yes - they are influenced, depending on niche. We (the community team) also complete these evaluations after the community has, and the dozen or so I've done did come out quite differently using incognito mode in chrome, or a virtual machine.

I don't think this is a major problem unless your personalized results returns content that nobody but you searching for the same thing would see. The point of the evaluation is to compare the content with similar, notably ranked examples. Comparing against a major forum destination in the topic is good - comparing against page 8 of a blog nobody has read since last year might not be the best use of time.

For the most part, at least as far as I can tell, Google doesn't put much in personalized results that would waste your time evaluating, but I do recommend going incognito first to get more 'pure' results. Also, you're doing a lot of browsing while you do these evaluations, so you're actually changing what Google shows you as you evaluate, which adds even more complexity to it.

I personally just fire up Virtual Box and dig from a 'brand new' computer, but I do that any time I know I'm going to be going to lots of ad ridden sites that I don't really trust.

  • Additional note - the VM I use is a bare bones Debian installation loaded up with a few different browsers (including Chrome) and the minimal Gnome desktop.
    – Tim Post
    Jun 1, 2013 at 6:58

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