Why (& How) Everyone Should Use Private Browsing For Googling

by Lacey Gattis
Forecasting, SEO, & Growth

Key Takeaways

  • Googling in a regular browser window will always give you search results influenced by your personal browsing history
  • The Private (in Firefox & Safari) or Incognito (if you use Chrome) window option solves this problem by letting you browse anonymously
  • So to see what search results the average person actually gets when they Google something, you have to use private browsing
  • You also have to use Private browsing to see where your own stories truly rank on Google search results pages — otherwise, since you visit your own site a lot, Google is more likely to show you articles you’ve written
  • Google Shopping results are also influenced by your search history, so using Private Browsing can often help you see more (or at least different)  e-commerce options than you’ll get in a normal browser window

Ever tried to see how high one of your posts ranks in Google search? Or tried to find out which articles come up on the front page for a particular search? Or even just Googled yourself (it’s ok, we’ve all done it)?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’ve already encountered a situation where using Private browsing can make a huge difference.

Why Use Private Browsing?

The reason is pretty simple: If you’re not using a Private browsing window, all your results are skewed. Why? Search engines like Google use what they know about you to tailor the results they show you.

This is normally helpful, & less creepy than it sounds. Curated results mean Google can surface links or show you Google Shopping products you actually care about.

But nice as that is when you’re shopping for yourself, it’s counterproductive if you want to know what the average searcher gets back when they look for a product, your site, etc.

Notes On Opening Private Browsing Windows in Chrome, Safari, Etc.

All the most common internet browsers have Private Browsing (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, & Internet Explorer), so you have plenty of options!

My only caveat is that the Private Browsing feature’s name varies from browser to browser; Chrome calls it an ‘Incognito Window’ while Internet Explorer uses ‘InPrivate Browsing’, for example.

Also slightly annoying? Each browser has a different way of turning on Private Browsing. The mobile apps are usually totally different from the desktop versions, too.

Clearly, Bill Gates & Sergey Brin need to grab a coffee & work things out, but until they do…

How To Open Private Browsing Windows In Your Browser


How to start private browsing mode with a Google Chrome Incognito Window

In Chrome, the Incognito Window feature is in the top menu bar under ‘File’. If you click ‘File’, you should see a ‘New Incognito Window’ option in the dropdown menu. Click that & a new window with a background that says ‘you’ve gone incognito’ should appear. Congratulations — you’re browsing privately!


In the Chrome app on your phone, tap the ‘More’ icon in the top right corner (it looks like three gray dots on top of one another). Then just tap ‘New Incognito Tab’. If a window opens with a little gray icon that looks like a fedora with glasses underneath, you’re browsing privately.

You can also open any link in an Incognito Tab by long-tapping (aka keeping your finger on a link) until a menu pops up with the ‘Open in Incognito Tab’ option.


How to open Private Browsing Window mode in Firefox  on desktop & in Firefox app

In Firefox, just click ‘File’ in the menu bar at the top of your screen, then choose ‘New Private Window’ from the dropdown. You should have a new window open with a background that says ‘you’re browsing privately’. You can always identify a private window in Firefox because the favicon in the top lefthand corner of your tabs will be a little Phantom of the Opera mask.


Tap the three gray dots icon at the top right of the screen, then tap the option that says ‘New Private Tab’.

Firefox also makes it convenient to open links in a Private Tab. Keep your finger on any link for a couple of seconds & a menu should pop up with the option ‘Open link in Private Tab’.


How to open Private Browsing Mode in Safari  on desktop & Safari app

In Safari, go up to menu at the top of your screen & choose ‘File’, then click on the ‘New Private Window’ option in the dropdown list. A new window should pop up with a caption at the top that says ‘private browsing enabled’. You did it!


In the Safari app, tap on the New Window icon in the bottom right corner of your screen (it looks like two overlapping blue squares). A bar should appear at the bottom of your screen with the word ‘Private’ on the left. Tap that & you should be browsing privately. Tap the plus sign in the bottom center of the screen to open a new tab & go about your business.


Internet Explorer calls its version of the feature ‘InPrivate Browsing’, & there are three different ways to get to it in Windows 10. The easiest option is probably just going to the ‘New Tab’ page & choosing ‘InPrivate Browsing’ there, but you can also open it up by hitting Ctrl+Shift+P on your keyboard or by selecting ‘InPrivate Browsing’ from the ‘Safety’ menu.