Your 'real' search results
If you use Google to search, you're not seeing the same search results as anyone else.
Google likes to be helpful, so it tailors the results it sends you to try and provide you with more of what you like, and less of what you don't. It bases your results on your previous searches, so if you've previously clicked on a site it's more likely to show it to you again. If a site was shown in your results last time and you didn't click on it then it's less likely to show up next time. Results are also based on your geographical location ( currently based on your IP address ).
This tailoring can be very helpful but, if you're doing SEO and want to track the position of your site, it gets in the way - what we really want to see is what other people are seeing. Most site owners visit their site quite a lot so Google moves it up their search results - after all, it knows they really, really like it!
What we need to do is to neutralise as many of those signals that Google uses to personalise our results as we can.
How to temporarily 'neutralise your personalisation signals'
- Sign out of your Google account ( GMail, Google+, Adwords, YouTube etc ). Visit the Google search home page and make sure it show the 'Log In' button. If it does, then you're logged out.
- Stop access to your previous searches. Most modern Browsers will let you surf anonymously
Firefox -> File -> New Private Window ( Ctrl+Shift+P )
Chrome -> Settings -> New Incognito Window ( Ctrl+Shift+N )
Safari -> Private Browsing
That should give you the 'neutral' search results. Bearing in mind that everyone else's search is also personalised and what you are seeing now reflects the un-personalised results or the results of a first time user, but it's as good an indicator of your site's positioning as you're going to get.
What we'd ideally like to do is to have the browsing profile of our potential customers that have never visited our site before and to see how we rank in those personalised results. As soon as we figure out how to intelligently skew our results at will we'll let you know!