Will Google’s Expanding Personalization Help Or Hurt Businesses?

    August 20, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Google has been getting more personalized little by little for years now, but it’s happening much more rapidly these days, and not only is it getting more personalized, it’s getting more conversational, in the sense that it’s just telling you what you want to know (or at least trying to) without having to point you to third-party sites quite so much.

This presents both pros and cons for businesses, but which there are more of is debatable. What do you think? Is the direction Google is moving in better or worse for businesses? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Google is adding some new Google Now-like functionality to Google Search. Users will be able to ask Google for specific, personal information, and the search engine will retrieve it from across the various services the user uses, like Gmail, Google Calendar and Google+.

“Ever had trouble checking your flight’s status on the go because it meant digging through your email for the flight number?” asks product manager Roy Livne. “Or wanted to just quickly see whether your package would arrive on time, without having to look up the tracking info first? You’ve told us it would be much easier if you could skip the fuss and just ask Google.”

Users will be able to ask Google for information on flights, reservations, purchases, plans and photos, and get them right from the search interface. You can ask Google if your flight as time, or say “my reservations” or my hotel” to get info on your plans, including hotel/restaurant names and addresses.

“With one tap, you can get driving or public transit directions straight there, saving you lots of steps,” Livne notes.

You can say, “my purchases” and see the status of current orders, or ask “What are my plans for tomorrow?” to see upcoming flights, hotels, restaurant reservations, events, etc.

You can also say something like “show me my photos from Thailand” to see photos from your Google+ account, which will be all the more useful if you’ve enabled instant upload. It will even recognize something like “my photos of sunsets”.

Google actually added this kind of personalized photo search back in May.

The new stuff will be rolling out to all U.S. users in English on the desktop, tablet and smartphones, with Voice Search.

This all expands on the conversational search features Google launched a few months ago, but it’s also a just part of an ongoing trend we’ve seen with Google over the last couple years.

The search engine (originally designed to surface content from across the web) is continually becoming more of a personal assistant. Google has been personalizing results to some extent for years, but the company really started pushing personalization with “Search Plus Your World” launched early last year. As we recently reported, by the way, Google is no longer labeling the personalized results the way it used to.

Other personalization efforts have come in the forms of the field trial that let users opt in to include content from Gmail, Calendar, and Drive in their search results, and Google Now, which utilizes your personal information from across Google services and presents it to your when it thinks it might be of use.

Again, more personal assistant than search engine.

But Google Now, when it came out, was somewhat separate from search. Google appears to be doing everything it can these days to keep you in the Google universe, rather than truly searching the web. Searching the web (organic search) is almost a secondary thing at this point. Just an added service that Google provides when it doesn’t really know what you’re looking for.

The good news about all of this personalization and “quick answers” from the business perspective is that businesses have new avenues to get in front of users in Google search that basically sidestep past SEO strategies. With Google integrating Gmail into search, for example, businesses may be able to get emailed information in front of users when they’re simply searching. There’s no reason not to assume that Google won’t continue to expand on these features.

It’s already getting harder to get in front of Gmail users thanks to Google’s recent Gmail redesign, and additional integration into search could be a blessing in disguise. Search ads have always been attractive to businesses because they get messages in front of users right when they’re searching for that particular need. Increased Gmail integration into Google search could provide a similar effect for email marketing messages. Of course, this really comes down to Google’s implementation.

Activity on Google+ is also more likely to find its way into search. You get the idea.

The point is that the more Google integrates its various services into search, the more businesses will be able to get out of these services. Rather than trying to outrank competitors with SEO tactics, businesses could end up better off by simply being better at working the greater Google universe. As Google continues to integrate its various offerings in different ways, businesses should also look to integrate these offerings into their strategies.

Google just launched some new business features (and an API) for Google+ this week, for example. This might be a good place to start looking at possibilities.

And don’t forget that authorship, which may already be playing a significant role in Google rankings these days, is directly tied to Google+.

Do you see Google’s increased focus on personalization and direct answer-providing as a positive evolution for businesses or is it just going to make things harder? Tell us what you think.

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    Real state

  • jon

    I think its all very much open to abuse.

    Google will inevitably atttempt to monetize this and since the collation of data is processed, possibly not properly attributed to a source then its not going to be long before businesses start paying to appear higher and more prominetly with the collated results.

    At least with web pages its black and white, there is no collation other than the results list – if Google is skewing results to a particular website for dubious reasons we might stand a chance of detectinbg that bias – by the time you “mash” it all up, collate and present existing data in a new format then there is so much more opportunity for Google to disguise “paid for” results as organic results because lets face it folks – they break their own rules – what their rules really mean is that they dont want anyone else doing it.

    I dont like Google very much and I dont like Amazon either – monopolies, its not safe to have so much vested in these giants.

    I do try and fight back in my own way – when I see a Google adword and the URL is shown I dont click on the ad but instead I copy and past the URL and so save the business the cost of a click. When on Amazon, if buying from a retailer rather than an individual I always take a look at their account and see if I can work out what their name/website is called – I usually find I can locate the dealer direct and save them the Amazon cut.

    We should all be trying our best to support the small business – its just plain dumb to have these kinds of monopolies – buy your burger from a local independent outlet, support your local bookshop and do your best to deny the big G a cut of every transaction – it just aint healthy! You will miss the choice when it doesnt exist anymore.

  • http://atticdiggers.com WAHM

    I no longer use just google for searches since it is sometimes shocking how irrelevant their search returns can be, though sometimes they’re fine.

    I suppposedly turned off personalized search but . . . I can’t find now where it says it’s turned off. Which could explain why google’s results are often very different than any other search engine’s results . . . and much more big-business/corporate in its slant. Sheesh, you have to scroll 2/3 of the way down the page to even see the organic results on the first page! And then they’re often useless.

    I think there are two camps of people. Those who know what google is doing and those who don’t care and just wanna watch another celeb get carted off to rehab.

    I don’t want Google to be my “push” media and tell me what to think, what to want, what to buy. I don’t want Google building borders around what it perceives to be my little corner of the web. I want the WORLD WIDE web. Not the Googleverse.

    And I agree with Jon. We need to support the little guys. They’re the ones doing the fun and unusual stuff and offering great service, instead of the same ol’ same ol’ crappy chinese knockoffs with indifferent service.

  • Rob

    I’m done with Google. I’ll use it for business & that’s it. Gmail gets worse with every change they make. They’re scanning everything you type in an email or someone types to you & for searches etc. they are robbing me of a world of information I don’t know because GOOGLE thinks they know what I WANT more than I do.

    I know of no one that likes the new gmail & this last week they made it worse. We’re all done. Gmail will now be the spam & newletters exclusive. No more business or personal correspondence will go through it.

    I’d rather pay & be free than to have free & pay with my privacy & inability to think & search what I want – not what google tells me.

  • http://www.cofeeteaespressomaker.com George Barbu

    it is a wrong direction
    3 from 5 websites are broken (baned) based on google Webmaster Policy

  • http://www.solusunus.com Don Noehr-Roberts

    Actually it is not interesting if Google is moving in a direction that is good for business. What is important is if Google is moving in a direction that is good for the ordinary user. If Google will still be of the same value search-wise or not. If the ordinary user begin looking for alternatives, and flee from Google, then what use is Google then to businesses? That is a dual bladed sword.

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  • John

    It’s all sounds pretty useful, and in an ideal world one would want to use it. But Google has proved beyond doubt that it can’t be trusted with your own private data. Let me summarize avoiding vulgarity. Google sucks. I’m not going to use it.

  • Mike Taylor

    I live in UK so why do I get Google search results from USA, Australia, et al, which are of absolutely no use to me? It’s time Google stopped believing they’re some unassailable deity, and got back to reality. If they don’t they are going to lose their share of search traffic, and seerve them right. Another thought: just because they find it’s technically possible to do something doesn’t mean they have to adopt it.

    • http://www.miguelangelvargascruz.com Angel

      Use a Proxy.

  • eggsonthesmile

    I farted very very quietly because I am the growling onion and I go GRRRRRR!!! It’s all about strategy and fart placement. Convenience and location are key as well.

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  • http://www.sunshineworks.com Ron Castle

    I cannot tell that anything Google has done with the last year’s changes has improved search results. What I see for several of my key targets is more garbage on page 1. If you are into personalized garbage then I guess this will be a BIG help.

    A question: If I have good Google rankings will the NSA be more or less likely to come put me in a FEMA camp? Since we have no privacy any longer why do we need personalization?

  • unconvinced

    Hate it and now hate Google.

    They’re making the web not fun or educational any more. No more natural results in searches just because a site has what you want to know or buy or learn about. Google is a waste of time – and not to be trusted IMHO.

    Now ask me about the trolls and bots on most sites’ comments sections. :>)

    What happened to unbiased data and a level playing field?

  • George Robertson

    What you call personalization has been going on for a long time and It has always been a terrible idea. It degrades the objectivity of search.

    Google is isolating everyone in their personal cocoon of narcissism and making us smaller more ignorant and provincial every day we remain under their personalized protection. We used to use the internet to embark on a voyage of discovery. As smart curious and adventurous people, we enjoyed the exhilaration that comes with changing our search plan to explore unexpected pathways and places. Wandering broadens and educates us, it makes us better every time our search takes us into the unfamiliar realms outside our comfort zones.

    Google is getting rich caging our searches and selling us as a semi-captive market to vendors who pay for the privilege of knowing we will see only them, or at least them long before most or all others.

    That makes us lesser individually and as a nation and as a world to whatever degree Google dominates the global national and local search space with their “personalization” scheme. I noticed a decade or more ago that my Google searches were becoming less precise and much less objectively related to the search strings I was typing to seek things on the internet. Not only were the “advanced search” features dulled down the tool set available for our attempts to narrow the aperture of any search.

    The amount of way off-target material returned has gotten so large it has become a major time sink whenever I have to use Google. It is so bad I try not to use Google. Google however dominates the search space so thoroughly that one cannot avoid it. (The best argument ever for restoring the Sherman Anti-trust act protections to enforce real competition) Worse every other general search tool relies on Google content and models their personalization selling business model to some degree, for the same reason Google does it.

    It is time for an open source entirely public search tool developed, owned and controlled by the worlds public librarians. A search capable of laser sharp search targeting that is not designed to reflect the users recent searches in the response to his or her next search. A search engine that collects nothing about it’s users, that is designed to be not easily gamed