Ever typed a partial search into Google just to have it offering up disconcertingly personalized search suggestions? Here’s how to turn that feature off…
Google has always been focused on offering up the best possible results for each and every search. It’s still the heart of their business, after all these years. But at the same time, Google’s engineers have also had a hard time finding the balance between individual privacy, useful search suggestions, and marketable user data. This is also a matter of personal preference too, of course, because one person’s very helpful contextualization of their search queries is another person’s creepy invasive tracking by a huge corporation.
The good news is that you can tweak and change your search settings in Google to decide just how much tracking it does and how overt its personalized suggestions are when you are using it to search. Better yet, the link’s right on the search home page…
Go to google.com and look on the lower right:
As you can see, a click on “Settings” brings up a menu with a number of useful and important options. One to check out is “Search history”, which can let you both review what searches it’s recorded and delete your search history if desired.
For our purposes, however, click on “Search settings“.
Tired of searches producing not suitable for work (NSFW) results? This can be most obvious with Google Image Search, but if you’d rather have “PG” results only, SafeSearch is where you can tweak this setting. Parental Controls probably don’t apply for most users (other than the surprising info that Google has a “Family Link” program, which very few people know). Results per Page don’t really apply anymore because Google switched to Continuous Scrolling a few years ago, so that the first page of results just gets longer and longer without ever going to “page two” of the results. You can see that is feature you can disable if you want.
Scroll down further for what we seek…
Finally, the preference we seek! “Personal results“. Click on “Manage” to adjust your settings:
You can see from the explanation, this enables autocomplete predictions based on your earlier interaction, along with recommendations based on what you’re doing in other Google properties. Yes, that’s right, if you’re editing a Google Doc about pizza toppings and then search on “lunch near me” it’ll bias the results towards pizza for you.
Prefer not to have all this happening? Simply click on the slider and you can disable personal results in Google.
There are lots of other settings you can check out while you’re exploring this area. It’s time well spent.
Wondering about personalized suggestions? Here’s how it looks when I search “university of”:
Notice that the first three suggested results, in purple, are based on searches I have done in the past, meaning that if someone else borrowed my computer and typed in “university of” they’d also see some of my search history. Beneficial? That’s something you can decide, but at least you now know how to disable this feature if you’d prefer.
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about Google for many years and have an extensive Google Tools Help area. Please check it out to find lots of additional tutorials and guides while you’re here. Thanks!