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Google Gets Personalized

By Kim Roach (c) 2006

Have you ever become overwhelmed by the number of documents accessible via a search engine? If you’re like most people, then you probably have. There are often millíons of results and not every result is likely to be of equal importance to you.
In addition to that, there is also ambiguity of language. Words often have multiple meanings and people can have different interpretations of the same word. How does a search engine know the difference? Well, at this point, they don’t.

They certainly can’t read your mind so the only other alternative is to track your online activities in order to custom tailor your search results based on your recorded preferences.

Google is one of the first major search engines to test this new technology. They have released a total of 15 new patent applications this month in relation to this very endeavor.

Actually, I’m not too surprised that Google is taking a closer look at personalization. Google has already begun testing many of these new search features in Google’s personalized search, which is currently in beta.

Traditional algorithmic search engines have reached their peak. Personalized search is a natural and necessary progression for Google and other search engines as well. Some alternative search engines have already taken the lead in this endeavor. Eurekster is one of the main ones that comes to mind, using a searchers history to bring them more relevant results.

Here is an abstract from one of the Google patents entitled, “Systems and methods for analyzing a user’s web history“:

“A user’s prior searching and browsing activities are recorded for subsequent use. A user may examine the user’s prior searching and browsing activities in a number of different ways, including indications of the user’s prior activities related to advertisements. A set of search results may be modified in accördance with the user’s historical activities. The user’s activities may be examined to identify a set of preferred locations. The user’s set of activities may be shared with one or more other users. The set of preferred locations presented to the user may be enhanced to include the preferred locations of one or more other users. A user’s browsing activities may be monitored from one or more different client devices or client application. A user’s browsing volume may be graphically displayed.”

Now, let’s talk about all of that in English. Over time, we develop a history of search queries, selected results that were clicked on, advertisements that were clicked on, and a multitude of other browsing activities. Each of these actions reflect our preferences and interests. Other examples of user activity Google may begin tracking include ínstant messaging, word processing, particpation in chat rooms, and internet phone calls.

Talk about an invasion of privacy. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough time to get into that issue.

Within the proposed system, users are able to access their past searching and/or browsing activities to enhance their experience. Each of their online activities gives clues to what they might ultimately be looking for or related areas of interests.

In addition, users can also modify their profile information to better represent their interests. For example, a user may delete a search query from his/her history or he/she could also provide updated information as to new areas of interest.

One of the most interesting aspects of the patent filings involves the re-ranking of search results according to the user’s preferences.

After a query is made and the results are received, they are then adjusted based upon information from the user’s history.

The order of the search results can be adjusted in accördance with a history score and/or any user modified result score.

Search results can also be ordered based upon the combined search result score and the history score to come up with optimal results.

A searcher may also be shown an indication of previously visited pages among the SERPs, including information such as the date and time a page was previously visited and the number of times that the user has visited the site within a certain period of time.

A certain number of the most highly ranked results that the user has previously visited may be displayed in a region above the search results for easy access (kind of like memorized favorites). They could also be displayed in another section of the page, or even in a separate window.

These previously visited pages may be ordered based upon a number of different ranking criteria, including the history score, pagerank, time of last access, number of accesses, etc.

A user’s browsing activities may also play a part in the ranking of search results. For example, if a website was previously visited by the user, it could have its score boosted based upon the number of times the user has visited that particular website. Google may also track how long a visitor stays at any given website. A site that is bookmarked and visited frequently will almost always rank higher.

On the other hand, search results that were previously presented to searchers but not clicked through could be lowered in the results.

What does this mean for you as a webmaster and SEO? It means that your focus should be on quality. In creating your website, you must emphasize visitor optimization and content optimization over search engine optimization.

The visitor always comes first and you must create a valuable experience for them. Allow them to quickly and easily bookmark your website. Give them a reason to hang out for a while, whether it be a forum, lots of great content, or fun quizzes.

The future of SEO is about creating quality, authority sites.

About The Author
Kim Roach is a staff writer and editor for the SiteProNews and SEO-News newsletters. You can also find additional tips and news on webmaster and SEO topics by Kim at the SiteProNews blog. Kim’s email is: kim @ seo-news.com

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Camilla Todd
Camilla Todd is Head of Digital Marketing at WNW Digital and manages Search Engine Optimisation, PPC, Social Media campaigns and Brand Awareness for WNW Digital SEO clients. You can follow her on Twitter @camilla_wnw, email her at camilla@wnwdigital.co.uk or phone on 01392 349580

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