A Little Too Personal – Personalized Search
Dan Marino: Hey, Ace, got anymore of that gum?
Ace Ventura: That’s none of your damn business, and I’ll thank you to stay out of my personal affairs! –Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
When Google rolled out personalized search results, the more paranoid members of the SEO community thought it might turn SEO on its head. During a presentation at Pubcon in November 2008, Bruce Clay cryptically declared, “Ranking is dead.”
Now that we’ve had an opportunity to experience Google “behavior-based search” for a few months, this question needs to be asked: Have Google personalized search results become a little too…personal? Are the search results from Google limiting what we have access to and therefore limiting our awareness?
The premise behind personalized search is that Google will serve up different results to end-users based on their previous search history, geographic location, and other personally identifiable factors. Let’s say you’re a car connoisseur who obsessively looks up information about automobiles from the same IP address. In theory then, if you searched for the keyword “beetle,” Google might be more inclined to make the top result a link to a website about the Volkswagen Beetle and less inclined to show you a result related to the insect. Obviously, this would change the face of the SEO game for you if you have a fixation on your rankings, rather than a fixation on your overall search engine traffic, which is what you should have.
Personalized search has also caused some end-users to express concerns over their privacy. For these ignorantly blissful people, behavior-based search results shattered the illusion that Google wasn’t tracking their every keystroke. For the already paranoid, personalized results reaffirmed their conspiracy-driven premises and gave them another reason to lie awake at night, too scared of Google to sleep.
If you dislike Google personalized search results and wish to opt out of them, then you might like this plugin created by Dutchman Joost de Valk.
But just remember, Google is watching.
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The SERP snippets in this comic were generated using the Google snippet optimization tool. Thanks, Darren.