Google: Personalized Search Results Are Lifting Clickthrough Rates

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Google launched Search Plus Your World earlier this year. Most Google users probably just know it as Google filling their results with a lot more results based on social connections. A lot of users complained about it, but Google appears to consider the whole thing a success (not unlike the Penguin update).

Google Fellow Amit Singhal spoke at SMX London this morning, and talked about the feature, and search personalization in general.

Daniel Waisberg at SMX sister site Search Engine Land liveblogged Singhal's on-stage discussion with Danny Sullivan and Chris Sherman. Singhal indicated that the SPYW is actually increasing search result clicks, and that the filter bubble is not much of an issue. From Waisberg's liveblog:

Amit says the key motivation behind Search Plus Your World is to have a secured search, it is the first baby step to achieve Google’s dream, and data shows that Google users like the personal results. It also gives the user one click removal from their personalized results. Google is currently analyzing and improving their personalization engine.
Chris mentions that personalization can be narrowing, as it gives people the same results and they do not discover new things. Amit answers that there should be different points of views in any search results, and Google is aware of that and they balance between personalized and non-personalized results.

Danny mentions a Pew research that concluded that people do not want personalization. Amit says “I am a scientist, when I look at researches I look at how the question was asked.” He discussed the specific research, and said that personalization is valuable for Google users. Danny asks: can you tell what percentage of personalized searches are clicked? Amit says people are clicking more than before on searches and it is lifting CTR from search pages. Chris mentions Bing Social efforts and how it is different from Google’s. Amit says: “the key challenge with personalization is that no one can judge a personalized search for someone else.” That’s why Google looks at the data about how users like their results. Search Plus Your World is the same approach as Universal Search, people have to find what they intend to find on their results.

Bing, as you may know, unveiled a big redesign last week, which appears to be the search engine's answer to Google's SPYW personalized results. Bing, of course, has data from Facebook and Twitter, which Google doesn't, which should be one of Bing's biggest selling points, if you care about social results.

There hasn't been much indicating that Google will be gaining access to the Facebook and Twitter data anytime soon. The subject was mentioned briefly during the SMX London discussion. Waisberg liveblogs: "Danny mentions the integration Bing did with Twitter and Facebook, and how this might be good for users. Will Google do that in the future? Amit said that their contract with Twitter expired. Google cannot add Twitter and Facebook right now as their information is hidden behind a wall. It has been tough to build an integration in this terms."

Google's lack of this data is extremely evident at times - particularly the lack of realtime search when big, breaking events are happening.

The good news is that at least Twitter and Google are talking frequently. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo was recently quoted as saying, "We continue to talk to Google frequently and on an ongoing basis. They are a company that’s doing several different things right now. Those conversations have a complexity to them that is different than our conversations with the company.”

Who knows where these talks may one day lead.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

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