Google Stepping Up Personalization?
Posted 03 February 2007 - 03:56 AM
I would so value hearing the thoughts of the SEO-minded folks here on the following:
Aaron Wall just posted about this, and I am doing my best to try to understand what, exactly, this will mean. I do have a Google account, and would imagine most of the members of this forum do, too. Do you read Google's announcement as saying that you will be receiving more personalized SERPS ONLY when you are logged into your account, or rather, at all times if you simply have a Google account?
Frankly, I have been worried about this whole subject in regards to how it will relate to providing SEO services for national clients. If they aren't seeing the same results I am, I can only see confusion ahead. Please, if you've thought about this, would you share your thoughts with me?
Though I can certainly see the benefits of allowing users to personalize their own search engine (a CSE), there is something about the invasiveness of this being done 'for' the user that is not sitting right with me, apart from the fact that I am concerned about how this may affect SEO.
Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but I have never gotten to have a satisfying conversation with peers about how those personalized results will alter the way we work. Your thoughts much appreciated!
Posted 03 February 2007 - 06:13 AM
The other thing, I know websites are tracking me and all, but at least they're not adapting to me that much (apart from the odd advert being "targeted"). I already default to Yahoo as a search engine, and I will 100% stop using Google if they get too invasive.
Posted 03 February 2007 - 07:12 AM
Looking at the blank Google statement of what it's all about, it doesn't actually state that by not having a personalised account that you'll get any less of good search engine results from Google.
Not having gone out into the www to read up on all of this, my interpretation of this seems to be that they are suggesting something along the lines of the Amazon type account where they recommend items for you based on your previous "viewed/purchased/reviewed" products - but they don't stop/hinder you in doing any other searches for any other products.
Posted 03 February 2007 - 07:33 AM
Fundamentally, it's spyware tied to a Google Account. Do you have a GMail account? Do you keep it logged in while you surf? Then you're always signed into a Google Account, and so any searches are logged.
Read Aaron Wall's post and my blog post.
Edited by eKstreme, 03 February 2007 - 07:34 AM.
Posted 03 February 2007 - 08:14 AM
It also makes it harder for us to judge how any site is doing for particular searches. We already have results from multiple data centers to contend with. Add in personalized search, and all bets are off. You might delightedly see that your client is turning up #1 for his prize search term, but the client's own search doesn't bring up his site anywhere in the first 10 pages of results. But of course that's rightfully not a consideration for Google. That's our problem, not Google's.
The larger perception of "Big Brother is watching" is a negative to me, in a vague sort of way. Yes, I know that Google has a ton of data about me, my search behavior, sites listed in my webmaster console, etc. -- but seeing my search results altered to reflect Google's vast data store on me somehow makes it seem more real.
Posted 03 February 2007 - 11:15 AM
It's a fairly simple way of testing search quality and new algorithms: apply the new algorithms to known searches with known final-sites and check to see if they get the final clicks higher in the search results. This can be done on a regional level as well (and probably is).
Remember, at the moment you cannot compare search results anyway. Not only are there datacenter issues, but you have regional and language variations as well. Adding personalized results does not change that very much: you will know that they're personalized (when logged in) and you can turn it off. You can't do that with the other influences (though you can check results in other countries and on other datacenters).
Looking at my search history (I use it almost every other day to re-find things that I found ) I think personalized results could really help for some queries. My queries are generally one of several groups:
- knowledge quest: usually when I want to know about something, I want all the details, the full technical report. I don't want someone blogging about philosophical questions that tangent my query - I want *the* definitive resources (and I usually bookmark them). I usually request 100 results and often click through to the 2nd or 3rd page, with 100 results each. If Google could apply a "the real tech resource" filter to the general results, I'd be very happy.
- curiosity queries: "What the heck is ___ ? Am I spelling ____ right? Is ____ someone/something I should know of?" I usually don't even click to the results but just check the snippets in general. No personalization required, it probably wouldn't even be noticed here.
- website debugging: I do a lot of this . Why isn't this site ranking? check keywords / phrases, links, indexed pages, supplementals, uniqueness, cache, etc. This is probably the kind of query I use the most. No clicking here either and often I just check the counts. Again, no personalization required (or noticed).
Looking at those groups, I could really see personalized results make a difference, especially for the queries where I don't already know what I want to see (where I just know what kind of pages I want to see).
I just don't see the problems that people like greywolf mentioned for *my* queries. After all, I'm not looking for something generic like "food" and Google is not giving me 3 results and hiding the rest; I am looking for something specific and Google is just (ideally.... it's new so it won't work all the time) re-ordering the known results to match my profiles. If I go to the library and ask for "a book" and the librarian knows that I have taken a lot of Sci-Fi books lately, she might give me 3 Sci-Fi books to look at. If I go there and ask for a book on ancient greek architecture, I certainly won't get 3 sci-fi books. Similarly, if I go to a seafood restaurant and have been known to get seafood and I just ask for "food", I'll probably get a few seafood recommendations. If I go there and ask for "steak", I probably won't get octopus as a recommendation.
Google's personalized results are new and they will be learning from them. In their simplest implementation they could just push specific sites that you have been known to visit. In a more general implementation, they could start to use trends from the sites you sticked to; perhaps push the "technical resource" trend for me, even if I have never visited one of the sites shown. For me personally, I think it would help find things that I want to see faster. Of course, provided that it works .
And then, who really knows what the other larger engines do? Has anyone checked geotargeting? Is there a way to access specific datacenters? Are the results being personalized and we don't even know about it?
One neat thing I just noticed, they also show trends on your searches. More numbers and charts :naughty: -- and I see that I must still be logged in on my wife's computer . I wonder how long it will be until we can get a Firefox plugin to allow us to go cookie-free for specific Google-URLs?
Oh well, long story made short: I like the idea - assuming it works right (which it won't in the beginning) and they can keep the data under lock (as more or less so far). We'll see...
Posted 03 February 2007 - 03:35 PM
my interpretation of this seems to be that they are suggesting something along the lines of the Amazon type account where they recommend items for you based on your previous "viewed/purchased/reviewed" products
Paul, I have to say, I hate how Amazon does this. It makes me feel creepy. It reminds me of when I shop at a grocery store I've never been to, and after paying with my debit card, the clerk says "Have a nice day, Miriam." Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I feel like saying "Excuse me, who are you? I don't believe we've been introduced." I'm sure the feeling Amazon and the grocery store are trying to promote is that they are my friends who know me and my tastes, but to me, it feels presumptuous. It's a lot different than the clerk at my local market knowing I prefer paper bags over plastic because she actually knows me a bit as a person from seeing me a few times a week. There's something scary about a computer pretending it knows me as a person and that because I purchased Little House on the Prairie, it assumes I'm going to want some other thing just because someone else did. I'm not some other person - I'm me, and the most Google can ever do is to attain a superficial understanding of me through my behaviors and through similar actions being done by others. I just don't like the pretense of familiarity this appears to hinge on.
The idea of Google making little reminders, personal notes and recommendations appear in my SERPs reminds me of those cartoon images of fellows opening their trench coats to show some passerby a selection of genuine gold watches! "Hey, buddy, c'mere!"
I want *the* definitive resources (and I usually bookmark them). I usually request 100 results and often click through to the 2nd or 3rd page, with 100 results each.
John, your post makes me want to go a little off topic here just to ask if the above means you've noticed that real, authority sources are best found on the 2nd, 3rd page of Google. Maybe I'm reading your quote wrong. In some ways, if I am reading this right, I can see this being possible as so often the top results are commercial ones...but I'd expect to find genuine writing somewhere in the top 20...not 200 or 300. Can you clarify?
I'm still not sure if you fellows think this personalization will apply to SERPs ONLY when you are logged into Google or not. I surely appreciate your good thoughts!
Posted 03 February 2007 - 04:30 PM
yes, sometimes the results I'm looking for run around #200 or even more ... the problem is perhaps that Google is returning irrelevant (for me!) results in the top 100 but also that I often use either very generic queries to try to find specific items that I don't even know how to address directly. This is usually compounded by having to find either web-specific or just technical terms (often in form of short acronyms).
Say I am looking for a utility for PHP that can download a web-page: "download web page php" ? You can imagine the number of good results (but generally not ones that I want to see) and how it can sometimes take several runs at refining the query to get what I can really use. Or sometimes, it can just mean going through 300 snippets to find the handful that is actually what I want, from the results to the mostly generic query.
Oh how it would be nice to be able to say "I want results that apply to technical website design only" -- or to have Google know that I usually prefer those kinds of pages.
I agree with you about automated decisions made from one-off choices you have made. However, assuming that you've bought 5 "little house on the prairie" DVDs over the last year, wouldn't it be safe to assume that you might like the genre, series or actors? Assume that you ran an online store and noticed that one of your regular customers bought a certain kind of product regularly but had never something similar that you offer -- would you give them a short notice via email? How would the same situation be handled in a normal (offline) store?
Posted 03 February 2007 - 07:08 PM
How would the same situation be handled in a normal (offline) store?
A problem with algorithmic determined personalisation is that the suggested results are majority results. It becomes self limiting: defining a 'normal' result for each search term, consequently restricting returns to that 'normality' and excluding minority 'abnormal' options from prominance regardless of actual relevance or value. Opinion, aka social media, is an hinderance to (re)search.
Personalisation is simply marketers better targeting your behaviour data to their ad clients to justify increased ad rates. Personalisation is not a benefit, it is a baited hook.
Posted 03 February 2007 - 11:14 PM
Miriam - you mean you wouldn't buy Highway To Heaven....lol...
Paul, that cracked me up. But, yes, that's exactly what I mean. Ladies in sunbonnets out on the prairie, yes, interesting (to me)because of the books I loved as a child. An actor - not interesting. Hahah...you did make me laugh, though.
Thank you for clarifying what you meant. I can see, from your good example, how you'd need to do a lot of sifting to find exactly what you were looking for. I wonder if most folks would be so persistent as to go through so many pages. My guess would be that most average users would give up if they didn't see what they were looking for within 100 results (probably much less). On the other hand, how badly they needed to find the information would probably be a key issue. I really appreciated you explaining that to me.
I do completely agree that if you were running shop and noticed that a customer liked some particular kind of products, it would be a courtesy to say, "Oh, you might like to know I'm getting such-and-such in next week." So, I suppose what I've narrowed it down to is that it is the automation of this that bothers me. It can't feel real. It isn't genuine concern for my tastes, feelings, habits. It's someone trying to sell me something. Know what I mean?
Posted 04 February 2007 - 06:40 PM
- more restricted search results (The number of items on the menu doesn't change. The order is modified and the end result is under your complete control)
- stale search results - Won't happen unless you keep clicking on the same link, and if you do click on the same link often, you will not mind if it rises to the top.
- lack of choice, i.e. can't turn off personalization unless you 1) turn off history or you log off your Google account. (I see some validity in that argument).
- lack of notification (inspite of what Aaron Wall posted, Google still notifies you; just the link to de-personalize is no longer there).
No. Here's the real reason: SEOs are afraid of losing control. A year from now, 10 people searching for "search engine optimization" on Google will likely see 10 completely different results. Is that bad for general internet users? No - actually I think it's a big step forward. Is it bad for SEOs? Absolutely (but do I care? nope).
Posted 04 February 2007 - 08:19 PM
No two ways about it...I'm an SEO, and I'm worried about this because I'm not sure how we'll handle it. I'm doing as much reading as I can this weekend about the change, because I need to be able to explain this to my clients. I still don't think I'm fully envisioning how this will all play out, but I'll make no secret of the fact that, professionally speaking, I'm concerned about this. It is, after all, my job.
I really appreciated your comment, which is very to the point, and I've quoted you in the blog post I've just written about this (along with quotes from other folks who are discussing the new change):
Posted 01 May 2007 - 01:59 PM
Google is borrowing or reinventing ideas that have already become popular features on many social network sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, Bebo and Photobucket, where users are encouraged to share their own creative work with friends.... They are also intending to become Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and your mother.
Okay, I added the last line. Google is starting to look to me like a cosmic vacuum cleaner that is sucking up the ideas of other companies and google-fying them. Monopoly, anyone?
Personalization continues to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Now, if Google would only have personalization alter items searched for via iGoogle instead of the regular SERPs, then I'd think this new entity was a great invention. As it is, it is just seeming to me like more of the same aggressive stuff.
One other thought...weren't we all warned not to use "I Google" as a verb??? :hmmmm:
I am very interested to hear other members' thoughts on what the effects of iGoogle will be?
Posted 17 July 2007 - 11:14 AM
If you perform a number of searches related to something you looked for in the past, Google might try to provide better results as those appear in its index, if it believes that you are still interested in that topic and weren’t satisfied with the answers that you received.
I can't find the RANT emoticon, never the less. . . . . .
Google stay out of my head! Do not feed me results based on my behavior. Give me "virgin" results.
I don't think Google's is going to listen to that plea, they have stockholders to satisfy and ads to sell. I'm don't have to pick on Google in particular, just any search engine that uses these practices will do and it seems it's all headed that way.
If I've understood this correctly and there's a chance I haven't, it feels Orwellian to me. I want to have access to unfiltered information so that I can make educated decisions for myself, not be shown what someone thinks I should see or might want to see or have seen in the past! I resent someone else editing my access to information in any way.
It's one thing to be a SEO and have to deal with "recommended query results" in your optimization efforts but this behavior seems to have larger ramifications.
How would it be if I went into an automobile sales lot and they had previous info on my preferences and said "Here comes Donna. She likes the color blue and fuel effeciency so we'll show her only those automobiles." That's great if I'm in a hurry but what if I'm creative and curious?
I want to see everything. I might change my mind and be inspired by something DIFFERENT than I've been shown. It might open up a whole new world to me. Don't monetize my results please.
That what it is, isn't it? Editing my access to info? Have I missed something and simply gone off on some uninformed rant?
Posted 17 July 2007 - 11:33 AM
I have a thank you one for you :flowers:
I can't find the RANT emoticon, never the less. . . . . .
My only desire in this topic right now is that Google will fail when it discovers its arrogance blinded it to the fact that humans cannot be described accurately using their past behavior. They will be shocked, poor things.
Posted 17 July 2007 - 11:46 AM
If I were to ask you what a 'kiwi' was, you'd likely respond 'its a green fruit with fuzz on the outside with strawberry-like seeds on the inside.' It you were from New Zealand, you'd probaby respond differently.
The thing with words are that they can have many meanings. By better understanding you, they hope to deliver the results that mean the most to you.
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