Google does this crazy thing when I search. It delivers options that are EXACTLY what I had in mind—my local restaurants, my favorite online shops, a blog I love to read. What’s up with that?!

Welcome to the world of personalized search. Some love it, some hate it, but one thing’s for sure, it’s here to stay. The good news is that if you use it right, it can help your business (sign-up for our free UpCity Daily Tips newsletter to learn more about maximizing search results).

What is personalized search?

Personalized search started in the Google Labs in 2003 and since then has become a standard part of the Google algorithm (whether you’re signed into your Google account or not). The idea was to tailor a user’s search results based on browsing history, location, and social interactions. Here’s Google’s video on how personalized search works.

This meant the search engine could offer up more relevant results based on what they knew about you. The personalized results for are unique — no two people get the same.

How do you know what kind of results you’re seeing?

When searching from the Google page, you’ll see your search type in the top right corner by your ‘gears’. The world is ‘Universal’ and the ‘Person’ is your personalized results. Click back and forth to see how it varies.

What if you don’t like it?

Some people think personalized search limits their results. After all, how do you know what you’re missing if you never have an opportunity to see it? Plus, many think it’s bad news for a robot to be filtering information on their behalf. Of course, one of the biggest worries is about privacy and the collection of data about your world and the people in it.

Turn it off.

This is easy. Click on the ‘Gear’ in your Google account. The red arrows show where you turn it off for good and how to clear your search history so Google can’t use it going forward.

Why many think it’s great!

It’s speeds up your results to see what what a trusted person in your circle shared. The more you engage and interact, the more they understand that if I’m searching for SEO information, I want to see UpCity first.

How can a small business benefit?

If you are a small business owner creating quality content and engaging with customers in social media, you stand a good chance of come up in their personalized results. This is great. It rewards your hard work and keeps competitors away that may be taking less ethical paths to driving traffic.

If you are a local business, be sure you have a Google+ Business page with your local address, geography is part of personalization as well.

You can’t control the algorithms of Google so you might as well learn how to work with them. Go forth and connect, Google will like you better!