Google “Search, Plus Your World” Makes Google More Personal Than Ever

    January 10, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Google just announced some new elements it is bringing to Google Search: personal results, profiles in search, and people and pages. They’re billing the changes collectively as “Search, Plus Your World”.

Should Google be getting more personalized? Let us know what you think.

Now, Google has been doing personalized search to some extent for quite a while. Likewise, profiles have appeared in search results for quite some time. The new features are different in that the personal results will let users find info specifically for them. This may include Google+ photos and posts of their own and things that have been shared with them. Profiles will appear in both autocomplete and results. The “people and pages” feature comes in to enable users to find people profiles and Google+ pages related to topic areas of interest, and make it easy for users to follow these people.

“Search is pretty amazing at finding that one needle in a haystack of billions of webpages, images, videos, news and much more,” says Google Fellow Amit Singhal. “But clearly, that isn’t enough. You should also be able to find your own stuff on the web, the people you know and things they’ve shared with you, as well as the people you don’t know but might want to… all from one search box.”

Here’s a video Google put together showcasing the “search, plus your world” concept:

“As a child, my favorite fruit was Chikoo, which is exceptionally sweet and tasty,” says Singhal, sharing an example of where the new features may prove useful. “A few years back when getting a family dog, we decided to name our sweet little puppy after my favorite fruit. Over the years we have privately shared many pictures of Chikoo (our dog) with our family. To me, the query [chikoo] means two very sweet and different things, and today’s improvements give me the magical experience of finding both the Chikoos I love, right in the results page.”

Chikoo search results

Google+ Clearly Now More Important To Search

In terms of Profiles appearing in search, Google is demonstrating why it can pay off in search visibility to be active on Google+ and develop a substantial following. Before it was clear that this was beneficial, but now, you can see directly where this will help you. Not only will Google show people you are friends with, but it will show people it thinks you would be interested in.

Google says it will show autocomplete predictions for “various prominent people from Google+, such as high-quality authors from our authorship pilot program”. You can see this in action here:

Google Profiles in Autocomplete

Clearly, this is also another reason to use authorship markup.

People can click on these results and easily add the person to their circles on Google+.

It doesn’t look like brand pages will be showing up as autocomplete predictions. When asked about this, a Google spokesperson told WebProNews, “For profiles in search, you will see an autocomplete prediction for people who have Google+ profiles. These are people you’re connected to or popular people related to the query. For Google+ Pages, there’s Direct Connect (launched back in Nov).”

More on Direct Connect here.

Google is also showing people who discuss certain topics frequenty on Google+ in a special section on the right side of the search results page, when the user searches for that topic (such as “music” or “baseball”) :

Google profiles based on topic


“When it comes to security and privacy, we set a high bar for Search plus Your World,” says Singhal. “Since some of the information you’ll now find in search results, including Google+ posts and private photos, is already secured by SSL encryption on Google+, we have decided that the results page should also have the same level of security and privacy protection. That’s part of why we were the first major search engine to turn on search via SSL by default for signed-in users last year. This means when you’re signed in to Google, your search results—including your private content—are protected by the same high standards of encryption as your messages in Gmail.”

That move was a bit controversial in the SEO community, as it made referrals harder to track. Not everyone was buying the privacy explanation Google was selling, but today’s new features do make that a little more believable. Google doesn’t want to face the kind of privacy backlash it did when it first launched Google Buzz in Gmail.

Google is providing privacy controls for search, similar to those found in Google+. Personal results are marked as “Public,” “Limited,” or “Only You,” which will be familiar to Google+ users. People in results are marked with the Google+ Circles they are in, or as suggested connections.

In addition to all of that, there is a toggle that appears on the upper right of the results page, where you can see what your search results look like without the personal content:

Toggle personalized results

Turning it off will eliminate personalization based on web history as well. The toggle itself is for an individual search session, but you can also make it the default by going to your search settings and setting it that way.

Filter Bubble

While the new features will have their benefits to users for sure (at least for Google+ users), it would appear that they will only add to the “filter bubble” problem. The filter bubble, a phrased coined by Eli Pariser in a famous TED Talk (below), is this concept where the content we consume online is being more and more personalized towards us based on what sites know about us. The sites take this information that they have about us and direct us toward content that they think would be better for us.

While this may be convenient at times, some feel the filter bubble is keeping us from expanding our horizons. It’s making it harder to see things out of the box. It’s an obstacle to encountering great content that we might not see because we don’t have a direct connection to it. There are valid points to both sides of the debate (feel free to share your thoughts on this in the comments).

Google is by no stretch the only site engaging in this filter bubble concept, but given its massive reach and enormous search market share, it is arguably the most important site on the web to be considered with regards to said concept.

Is Google moving in the right direction?

Why Google’s Personalized Search is Still Lacking

Filter bubble aside, there is a use for personalized search, and despite Google being the king of search, there are obstacles keeping Google from the best it could be when it comes to organizing the world’s information. The lack of a deal with Twitter for realtime search is a prime example of this.

If Google could provide these new kinds of search results for Twitter and Facebook content and profiles, it would be a lot better. Google+ is a solid social network, but it’s not Facebook or Twitter in terms of user numbers. That makes it inferior for access to a broader set of information. That could change in time, but right now, that’s just how it is. Even if Google+ is able to achieve Facebook-like numbers, it still won’t be complete without Facebook.

In fact, it’s for this reason that tools like those from Wajam and Greplin still have a place for those seeking truly personalized search.

Still, the features really emphasize Google’s confidence in Google+ going forward. The fact that they continue to alter their flagship product – search – so much, with an increasing Google+ flavor indicates that they view Google+ as much more than Google Buzz or Google Wave (previous social offerings). Google+ just may be here to stay.

“Search, Plus Your World” is rolling out over the next few days to signed in users searching on https://www.google.com in English.

Do you think Google’s new personalization features are good or bad for search? Let us know in the comments.

  • James Pakele

    Google tried to partner with FaceBook… FaceBook didn’t want to give Google access to their user information, that is WHY there is a Google+

    If FaceBook isn’t included in this, it’s the fault of FB, not Google…

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I wasn’t trying to fault Google for this. Simply stating that without FB data, it won’t be as good or complete as it would be otherwise.

  • http://www.patriziacorriero.it Patrizia Corriero

    Hi! It was really interesting to read this article. I opened my Google plus profile since 3/4 months. Actually, I’m not posting everyday new links and stuff because I was not seeing benefit to use it.But, now with new personalizations I think I will spend more time on Google Plus. The only thing I’m hating about Google Plus is that I can’t edit my profile URL.Grrrr..:)

  • Saffron

    nope nope nope… one of my favorite things about google is that it’s not my stuff or my mind, I’m not this self centered to want a computer to guess about me and serve my own interestes…how would I expand my mind?… it’s the great wide open, the unknown.. fresh knowledge, intelligence expansion.

  • http://www.watsons-streetworks.com Steve Watson

    Search should be completely objective. If I want to narrow my search by local, for instance, I can include that in the search criteria. I do not like what they are doing.

  • http://www.411depot.net Michael Lurie

    Google seems to be modeled after the US government.Do you really want them involved in EVERYTHING you do?

  • Dalton

    Horrible! This will give advertisers direct access not only to me, but also to my friends profiles so that we all can get a barrage of unwanted emails from websites just because one of my thousands of “friends” clicked on the “like” link for a particular website?! I don’t think so. There is such a thing as too much personalization. And it’s one thing for spammers to get my email address without my permission, but now they’ll have access to my personal profile as well as all of my friends profiles? This is too much personal information being shared with the gazillion websites out there who are already hungry for my information. Google is going to push this to the extreme and the reaction will be the end of social marketing because no one will ever want to click on the like button for any reason whatsoever. I hope Google will decide to back off of this. There are better ways to make their social media site more popular. They don’t have to rush it. It’ll get there in plenty of time.

  • http://thepsychicuniverse.com Diane Miles

    Sure, send our prospective clients to the people who can afford $1.35, show them all those sites and help them put us out of business. Just what Google has done to shrink our visitors all ready should be a crime. I am sick of software that thinks it knows what I want better than I do, starts out with limits on where the search results are located and expects me to go bankrupt to pay for click.

  • http://www.iberiantraveler.com Philip

    Google has gotten just a little too personal in my opinion, and Facebook isn’t any better.

  • http://www.mustakbil.com Ahmed Ali

    Is there a war going on for social media hegemony? I mean where is the creativity. Google is “Google” because of innovation. Google plus wouldn’t take off unless it gives users a reason to abandon other social networks like FB. After all you’ve only 24 hours in a day. How could users glue to many of them?

  • http://arizersolo.net Arizer Solo

    This news makes me yawn. In Google’s imaginary world where everyone wants to constantly connect with strangers when they are conducting searches online I am sure this makes sense but in the real world there is a definitive limit to how much “connecting” a person wants to do. I use search for information and social networks for connecting with my online people and have no interest in seeing those two platforms combined. Except for the small percentage of techies and elite blog writers that big G pals around with this is small news.

    • http://arizersolo.net Arizer Solo

      Oh and let me add, I LIKED the fact that Google was impersonal. Keep making changes like this they might just allow some “new Google” to gain a foot hold. Change it too much and people will leave and look for something similar and familiar.

  • http://dianemckinney.com Diane

    I really am not interested in yet ANOTHER social media. And I trust google as a search engine. I have tried the others and the results are terrible. It is just going to make searching more convoluted. Not happy about it. And as a website owner I have one more thing to maintain? REALLY? If they do it then they need to partner with posterous or one of the other companies that let you post from one source to all these crazy social medias. And by the way, love facebook, hate LinkedIn, myspace and all those others that I feel like I ‘HAVE TO” participate in but thankfully posterous helps me. All I can say is GOOGLE try to place nice with others and make our lives easier.

  • http://www.cencir.com Vegard Vevstad

    When I search, I’m not looking for what I like or do, I want to know what others do or like. I want an objective assessment of importance, not my subjective preferences. I want a sanity check, not a reminder of my habits. Personalized search is like inbreeding: a warped view of the world.

  • http://www.shoeboxdesign.co.uk Web Design Cumbria

    In theory this may seem like a good idea to the users who mainly use the internet as a form of communication. However, when it comes to search I can’t really see how this would be of benefit. When people search for Florida holidays if signed in to Google+ the results displayed will be of any social communication regarding the term. So in fact if you want serious results you would have to sign out? I use a dictionary to find out the definition of words I do not know, like wise I use Google to find out information I don’t know about. If I was to then search for this term while logged in I would see pictures and comments from my social group about their “Florida holiday” experiences, not the kind of information I was actually after!

  • Allison

    Bad, bad, bad idea. I already thought it was too limiting to get search results based on your location (I even hate it when sites automatically re-direct you to your country’s version of their webpage). As I use Google much more for research and information, than for personal issues (ok. maybe once in a while I’ll look for something in my city, like once a month), this new Google search seems like it’s cutting me out of expanded knowledge and access to information.

  • Bill

    EVIL is the word. Young people are duped into thinking this is all alright while their lives are completely documented by strangers with no scruples for profit. Forget about all the talk about relevance and usefulness. This is a rip off of your personal privacy and NOTHING good will come out of it. Cancel your facebook page. Delete your google+. Dump twitter and linkedin. Don’t use any site that uses disqus.com. It is all garbage designed to control your destiny. I’ve been in technology since the early 80’s. None of this is good for you.

  • http://www.isearchsmart.com David Hoffman

    While I don’t like it because I feel the “filter bubble” continues to dumbs down the info we get from the web (“news my way”), Google really doesn’t have a choice – they can’t crawl Facebook and searchers apparently want this info in their search results. Reason to be even more careful about what you post on Social Media.

  • http://www.stansgeneralstore.net Stan Chudzik Jr

    I’m not thrilled about this. Google is great for research and is a viable tool for promoting our business. Google basically replaced the library, or at the least, made information more accessible. If the brain trusts are worried about competing with other social media entities they should expand on Google+ and leave the traditional Google as it was.

    • http://pcmousehouse.com/ PCMouse

      I don’t like this at all. I don’t like any of this “social networking”. All it got me was an evil, psychopath stalker I haven’t been able to shake for almost 6 years.I liked it when the Internet was the REAL info super highway. Not when Suzy’s dogs name was the be all and end all info of my day…

      I just deleted my Google+ profile. I’m done with all this crap. It’s dangerous, senseless and nothing but a waste of time.

      Where can one even search for REAL and USEFUL information any more??? (sigh)

  • http://www.found.co.uk Keith Horwood

    Basically, Twitter and Facebook seem to be against giving Google more power by allowing them access to their data, even though this would be better for users generally. Facebook have joined up with Bing instead, right?

    I kind of miss the twitter real-time search feature of Google, I found that really useful.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Me too. That’s why I’m baffled to see Twitter complaining about this now, rather than this being an issue when the two companies couldn’t come to an agreement on realtime search last year.

  • Frank

    Oh what happened to the good basic Google? now filled with trash on every corner of the screen.

  • Lois

    Whoa, there seems to be a lot of people trashing a free service, that they have no obligation to use. If you don’t like it, delete your Google + account, and use Yahoo from now on. Google is just a compilation of other people’s property – showing you where to find what you need is a free service to you, and don’t underestimate how much work goes into programming and coding – time costs money. Advertising is everywhere you look.

    Personalised advertising is not new, direct marketing is old news, and ads have always been targeted to potential customers based on any data available, either freely or paid for.

    Just for the record, I don’t like personalised search results, but you know what I did? I went into my search settings and turned them off.