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Archive for the ‘Search Optimization’ Category

During this past summer’s beach vacation, I read an article in Wired that postulated that Facebook could possibly overtake Google as “King of Search” based on the simple premise that you trust the advice of your friends more than you do an impersonal mathematical formula (aka Google’s algorithm). Let’s say that you’re looking for a dentist. Would you give more credibility to the suggestion of a friend that you knew and trusted or a first-page search result on Google?

I’ve thought about that a lot in the intervening months – but, obviously not as much as Google has!  Google’s announcement last week that they have universally initiated “personal search” says two things to me. First, they are not about to surrender any possible search function to Facebook, or, that “upstart,” Twitter. Secondly, they buy into the concept that your past actions are a great predictor of what you are searching for.

The ultimate battle for search supremacy may come down to your past actions (Google) vs. your friend’s recommendations (Facebook).

Google states that “personalized search” is their differentiator. Before “personalized search,” each person searching on identical key words would get the same results. If you and I both searched on “Penelope Cruz,” we’d get identical search results. No more! Now, everyone gets personalized search results each and every time. (The fact that probably 95% of Google’s “searchers” are unaware of this is a whole different issue! Their “notification” consisted of a blog post.)

Penelope Cruz

Using the example above, if Google recognized that I often read People Magazine online (which I don’t!), then it would list the Penelope Cruz articles that have appeared in People first on my custom search result page.

However, if you have also searched on the films of Pedro Almodovar, but don’t read People, your “Penelope Cruz” search would most likely return those articles on Ms. Cruz that associate her with Almodovar first on your search results.

How does Google do this? It “remembers” everything that you have searched on over the past 180 days through a hidden cookie in your Google browser. Google thinks that they are doing me a favor, by cutting through the clutter and giving me results that my past actions indicate might be more valuable to me.

Maybe that’s good. But in the back of my mind, I am reminded of that every time I go to Amazon.com, they remember that I bought a Wiggles DVD for a friend’s toddler’s birthday a couple of years ago. Each time I go to Amazon.com, they keep informing me of new Wiggle’s CDs, games and videos and relentlessly ask me if I would like another, please?

Google’s cookie will remember each and every search for the past six months, with no chance of the searcher being able to say, “don’t count that one!”  What does this do to those of us who search for something one time because we are writing an article, doing research, or, those students searching for all kinds of stuff for a particular class, and those searches are not germane to their normal lifestyle? Those innocuous searches will skew the search results of that searcher for the next six months.

Here’s an example: What if you have a friend who loves Korean BBQ coming for a visit? You hate Korean BBQ, but as a gesture of friendship, decide to search on “korean bbq restaurants” so that you can suggest one to your friend. The next time you search for “restaurants,” you may wonder why Google lists Korean BBQ places at the top of your search list. Your past search activity has influenced your current search results. This whole concept has the propensity to drive SEO practitioners nuts!

Another example of how this could impact your looking for a new job is covered in this excellent blog post.

Maybe Google thinks that they are doing me a favor, but knowing some of the weird things that I have been known to search for, I could be in for an interesting ride!

What about you? What funky searches have you done recently that you think will skew your Google personalized search results?

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