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How to fix it when sites show you the wrong ads and recommendations

This mantra is spread all over the internet, because services are always recommending things to you: songs, books, articles, movies, boots … even bed frames. Ads and suggestions seem to follow you everywhere. On social media, algorithms control even the news and updates you see on your screen.

But online providers can never know you as well as you know yourself. So how can you make these virtual services smarter? How can you help them appreciate your true tastes, instead of mindlessly aping your browsing history? There are ways to take control and ensure that you’re always getting the suggestions only a true friend would give.

1. Amazon

Amazon recommendations are mostly based on your purchases, but the service also uses your search history. So even if you haven’t actually bought an inflatable kids’ pool, Amazon is pretty sure you’re interested in one and can recommend 12 other models.

Tip in a Tip: Many people don’t realize they may have a public Amazon.com profile that is also tied to their Facebook or Twitter account. Click for steps to disable these profiles and social media preferences.

Maybe you like recommendations, but Amazon hasn’t quite figured you out yet. You can adjust what Amazon thinks you want to see by visiting the “Improve Your Recommendations” page. If you’re not sure where a suggestion came from, you can ask Amazon to explain itself by clicking the “Why recommended?” link below an item.

Both of these give you a chance to view and edit your browsing and purchase history. You can rate your purchases to tell Amazon whether you’d like to see that kind of product in the future. You can also rate items while browsing to tell Amazon if you want them to factor into future recommendations.

When you’re editing recommendations, you’ll see two check boxes next to every item: “This was a gift” and “Don’t use for recommendations.” Either one will tell Amazon not to factor that purchase into future recommendations.

2. Facebook

Ever wonder how Facebook guesses the most important parts of your life? The company bases this on which contacts you interact with most. But Facebook sometimes gets it wrong, and you miss important posts. That’s why Facebook added a “See First” option.

Go to a friend’s profile page and look for the button that says “Following” (on Facebook Pages, like my Kim Komando Show page, it will say “Liked”). Click the button and select “See First.” Whenever this person posts something, it will go right to the top of your feed so you don’t miss it.

But let’s say your feed is overloaded with posts you don’t care about. Click here for steps to weed them out and take control of your account.

3. Google

Google is the great digital vault of information, so you’re probably aware that it keeps tabs on almost everywhere you go on the internet. This monitoring influences your search results and display ads. If you’re signed in to your Google account, Google adjusts what you see based on what you’ve seen in the past.

This practice can be helpful sometimes, or it can keep you from finding new sites and information. If you want to get the upper hand, click here to edit what Google thinks you are interested in seeing.

If Google doesn’t remember what you’ve searched for, it can’t use it to predict what you want to see. Click here to edit your Google search history or wipe it completely.

Another option, if you ever want to see how Google is altering your search results, or if you just want to get away from it for a search or two, is to open a private browser window and run the search there. It’s the same as logging out of your Google account, but you don’t have to go through the trouble of logging back in.

4. Hulu

Hulu is one of the top video-streaming services, and its selection of currently airing shows and popular movies is impressive. But it’s easy to get lost when you’re trying to find something new to watch. Head over to the Recommendations page at to see what Hulu thinks you’ll like, based on things you’ve watched and rated in the past. You can refine these by being sure to rate everything you watch. Also on this page, you can click the “Yes” and “No” buttons to tell Hulu if the recommendation is something you want to see.

5. Netflix

If you’re watching streaming video, it’s a good bet you use or have at least tried Netflix, which reinvented movie-watching and is still the top dog in online video. I also think its recommendation system is usually spot-on. Of course, it can still make mistakes, or someone else might have used your account and thrown it off.

The way to change your recommendations is by rating what you watch. When you’re first starting Netflix, you’ll see a lot of surveys called Taste Preferences that ask you to rate movies, shows and genres you’ve watched recently.

It’s important to fill out Taste Preferences so Netflix can build your Taste Profile.

If you want to revisit your preferences, go to the Netflix site and, under Your Account, load the Taste Preferences survey. Or click this link and log in. Click here for more ways to make sure you’re getting the most from Netflix.

6. YouTube

Google owns YouTube, so it shouldn’t surprise you that YouTube’s recommendations are based on what you’ve searched for and watched in the past. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take into account whether you liked a video.

To adjust this, go to YouTube, sign in and in the left column click “History.” You can now browse your watch history. Click the “X” next to a video to remove it from your history and have YouTube stop using it for recommendations.

If you just want to start over, you can click the “Clear all watch history” button to wipe the slate clean. You can also click “Pause watch history” and YouTube will stop recording what you watch. You can click over to the “Search history” tab to do the same things for your video search history.

You can also help YouTube figure out your likes directly. On the YouTube home page, in the “Recommended” section, click the three vertical dots below any video thumbnail and select “Not Interested.”

You can also click the “X” in the upper-right corner of any channel section to remove it from the home page and let YouTube know you aren’t interested in that channel.

Want to know about a channel you’ll want to keep around? Learn about the Kim Komando YouTube Channel and how you can make sure you never miss one of our helpful videos. I bet you learn something new!

How else can you customize your settings? Be sure to listen to or download my podcasts, or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.

Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

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