Personalized Search

by Dana Larson

Personalized Search is a concept that has been floating around for a few years now, but only recently became a search powerhouse, changing search results for nearly everyone who uses a search engine. By now, pretty much everyone knows what personalized search is and how it works, but for those who don’t, here is a short example given to me by Lee Odden a couple months ago:

When you are logged into your Google account, Google begins to track what you are searching for, and then refines your future searches to make them more relevant to you and your interests. For example, if I had been searching on horses about breeds, horse races, horse farms, etc. and then I were to do a Google search for the term “mustang”, it would be far more likely that the results would be about the horse, and not the Ford model.

Danny Sullivan wrote about the new features that come along with signing up for a Google account in his Google Ramps Up Personalized Search article, speaking specifically of Search History, Personalized Search and Personalized Homepages. Beginning in early February of this year, anyone who signs up for a new Google account automatically receives these features. If a new user doesn’t want their search history recorded, they have to manually disable this feature. However, personalized search stays whether you have search history enabled or not.

Could personalized search be seen as a problem? Sure. Of course it could. Well, more of an inconvenience, really. To illustrate this fact, I have to tell you a little more about myself:

I am young enough to have pretty much always had at least one computer with internet access in my house while growing up. We took computer classes as early as elementary school, and all our homework from seventh grade and up was to be typed up on a computer and/or researched using the internet. I have been very comfortable using the internet and search engines for quite a few years now, and I know that if I need a quick answer on anything, I can go to Google and type it in, and I have my answer within seconds.

I also, very recently, come from a college setting, and whenever friends were over at my dorm room or apartment, they never thought twice about jumping on my computer and looking up whatever interested them at the moment. This familiarity with others computers is just a routine that people in my generation have grown accustomed to, and we all do it on a regular basis. However, if they were searching on a topic I have absolutely no interest in, such as Minnesota Vikings football, those searches and clicks would be recorded in my Google account. Then, when I go on Google later to search football or football scores or University of Oregon Ducks football and something about the Minnesota Vikings boat scandal showed up, I would be pretty annoyed.

Overall though, I feel that personalized search is a good thing. It seems that everyone wants the best results in the quickest way, and the search engines are working to increase your satisfaction with the engine itself. They are smart. They know that if you repeatedly find what you need on the first page of their results, you will keep coming back. I visit Google 15 times a day at the very least. Google would have to do a lot to lose me as a user now.