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Personalized Search Pollutants

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I’ll start by saying Thank you Google, for the web history and personalized search idea – which is great in theory, but plain sucks in practice! At least for this searcher.

Danny Sullivan did an amazing overview and critique of Web History over at Search Engine Land, so I’ll refer you to that if you want more details or analysis. Gord Hotchkiss has some interesting thoughts on the topic today as well.

I’m going to stop short of a review and simply complain about an idea that may be wonderful for Google or some imaginary simplistic searcher Google has imagined – but for me it just plain sucks! Oh, did I say that already?

I don’t even know where to start on this rant. But PLEASE turn it off! Yes I know that I can turn it off, but I actually want some portions of it without affecting my search results and without it tracking my web travels. I have search history enabled but definitely NOT web history.

And don’t get me started on the idea of all this affecting my search results. NO personalization please! I’ve got a serious aversion to Google providing personalized search results based on my web history. Why? Let me count the reasons – some hypothetical:

  1. I search from three computers – work, home desktop machine, personal laptop
  2. I manage Google accounts for clients and log in to review analytics, Adwords, Webmaster Central stats, etc. Did I sign out of client accounts before starting personal searches – or work related searches for other clients?
  3. Which machine am I using, which account am I using?
  4. I log into my account on public computers to review gmail, did I log out before leaving? Aarrrgh! I’ll never visit that public Kiosk in the Vegas Airport again – can I hire someone to go there to log out of my gmail account for me! Those searches don’t belong on my history!
  5. A friend’s son logged in to his Gmail account on my computer and didn’t log out – Oh! Look at those searches! Should I tell his parents? Maybe the police?
  6. My wife uses my computer sometimes and I use hers sometimes – Did I sign out? Did she sign in? Did she sign back out? Have I signed in again?
  7. What about that Google Desktop Search feature "Search across computers" that I heard about, did I disable that? Can a savvy criminal see my hard drive contents from those public machines I forgot to sign out of?
  8. I have multiple Google Accounts – am I using the right account for THIS search?
  9. I search for dozens of different reasons

    • Family & friends "Mike, I know you are a search expert, can you find fill in the blank for me?
    • Stuff I needed answers for that I’ve resolved and don’t want to think about any more
    • Clients in a dozen different industries for which I have no personal interest in their topic
    • Work related searches (as an SEO that means all day long)
    • Private and personal searches related to health, finances, hobbies, etc.
    • News related searches connected to current events
    • One-time use searches on zip codes, phone numbers, names, definitions, directions, etc. that I don’t ever want to know about again
    • Stuff that mattered to me for five minutes that I no longer remember or care about
    • Stuff related to a place I’ve moved away from and no longer care about
    • Vanity searches
    • Competitor quotes
    • Due diligence for business deals long past lost
    • Due diligence on people or businesses I am considering employing
    • Clumsy searches using nearly irrelevant hazy search terms
    • Dumb searches I have no idea what I was looking for
    • You get the idea – this is a serious nightmare of convoluted search results

Yeah I love the convenience and yes I still want to use those features – but OMG don’t pollute my search results with this stuff and don’t show me a history that actually represents bits and pieces of all my multiple computers, family members, friends, strangers (from public computers I forgot to sign out of), clients and who knows what else into my history.

I suppose I could resolve all of this by simply giving up – or never logging in without penalty of death if I forget to log out. But maybe this could be the one thing that makes me change search engines as Andy Hagans suggests over at "Tropical SEO" blog. Maybe MSN Live or Ask.com have an opportunity here for a comeback – to become known as the "Privacy Search Engine" although IXQuick.com is already trying that approach.

I guess I just can’t stand the idea that my search history (past) will affect my current search results. I want pure search results – no history, no other peoples’ history, not multiple computer history, not irrelevant searches mixed in. Just pure unadulterated search without pollutants – please! Yes, yes, I know this is all in my control. I just don’t want to have to filter my search tap water by having to remember to turn the filter on and off or having to resort to bottled water – anonymized search.

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About the Author

Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.

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