Results Don’t Always Say They’re Personalized

Aaron Wall and Graywolf reported that Google is turning off personalization notification:

In the past they typically placed a turn off personalized results whenever your results were personalized, but now they do not disclose when they are personalizing the results - Aaron Wall

If Aaron’s correct that they are increasing personalized search and turning off notification, and I have no reason to doubt him… - Graywolf

Has Google gone completely mad? I ran a few searches while logged into my Google account. Here’s a couple screenies of what I found:

Google personalized search

A search for “search engines” returns personalized search results. You can see the text “Personalized results 1-100 of about…” above the digg subscribed link. The text “Turn off Personalized Search (Beta) for these results” is gone.

Google personalized search turned off

A search for “paris hilton” returns ordinary results. Notice the usual text “Results 1-100 of about…” above the results.

After having run a few other searches, these are personalized:

‘mysql tree”
“wired magazine”

These aren’t personalized:

“britney spears”
“how to bake cake”
“is baking cake easy”
“is seo easier than baking cake”

It’s true that personalization used to be an option I could opt out of while remaining logged into my Google account, but now its no longer optional. Like Sep says on Googeblog, “If you don’t want to see personalized results, just sign out of your Google Account.” I do think that personalization should remain optional; I shouldn’t have to log out of my Google account to get rid of personalization. But Google still does tell you when results are being personalized. Of course, if you use Google alot, after a while more results will be personalized than not.

Is Google being Evil?

First, repeat after me: Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right; greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.

But seriously, Google isn’t restricting your choices by personalizing results. Google is just shifting the order of items on the menu, moving down sites you hate, and ranking sites you like slightly higher. So saying personalization is like being force-fed by Google is like saying Paris Hilton is the best woman I’ve ever seen.

Still, I don’t quite get why search history is dependent on personalization. Like Danny Sullivan says, personalized results is dependent on search history, not the other way around. Technically, search history doesn’t need personalized results option activated in order for it to work:

“Creating a Google Account will enable Search History. Search History is a feature that will provide you with a more personalized experience on Google that includes more relevant search results and recommendations.”

So How Does this Personalization Stuff Work?

This Personalization-is-the-enemy-of-all-SEOs-either-living-or-dead debate got me kind of curious about my search history and how it relates to personalized results. Here are some of the queries I used since yesterday:

“wikipedia long term” personalized
“javascript get element TD” Not
“david bowie changes lyrics” Not personalized
“fire hydrant ” not personalized.
“fire hydrant” personalized. WTH? But this effect disappeared after I submitted the query a few more times.
“Modified Preorder tree traversal” nope
“Modified Preorder tree” personalized
“Modified Preorder posts” personalized
“Modified Preorder algorithm” personalized
“Modified Preorder algorithm posts” nay

Does Google not like queries longer than 3 words when it comes to personalization?

Let’s try this again:

“wikipedia long term” personalized
“wikipedia long” personalized
“wikipedia long term memory” niet

“half life 2 entanglement” nicht personifiziert
“half life entanglement” personalizado

last none:

“google base” персонализировано
“google base store” personnalisé
“google base store help” ordinary results.

Ok, my head is starting to hurt.

Interested in digging a little deeper? A few personalization patents.

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3 Responses to “Results Don’t Always Say They’re Personalized”

  1. Just turn off search history. No history - no personalisation.

  2. It’s a natural progression towards Google taking control of all our information (and eventually our life). Yay…

    Btw, why do you nofollow links out of your site ? :)

  3. Hey,

    Read a few more posts and you’ll realize not all links are nofollowed. If you want to know what kind of links I nofollow, read my about this blog page. On this particular post, I went out of my way to nofollow because those two posts I linked to were misleading, and both Aaron and Michael are too smart to spread misinformation accidentally.

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