How Badly Do People Want Personalized Search?

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Let me start off by saying that I have no problem with my search results being personalized, because I understand that search engines want to deliver the best user experience so that users will keep using them. If I get results that are personalized well, that means I don't have to look too far for what I'm trying to find. However, not all users are so thrilled with the evolution of search results pages, particularly with the personalization aspect.

This week, Google announced the launch of a new feature that lets users star their search results for ones they like. This would lead to the starred results appearing at the top of the SERP in future searches, when appropriate. The feature is still rolling out, so if you don't see it yet, you should see it soon.

Google adds starring to search results pages for personalized search

After reporting on this change, we received comments from readers like:

"I really am getting hacked off with this bloody personalised search thing... the serps are full of bloody crap for 50% of searches and ultimately less relevent than before."

"I think that if they take into consideration the stars for serps everything will be a mess..."

"I'm getting tired of Google forcing things on me. Over and over and over after I have said I do not want to be recognized for my geographical locations, it keeps asking me."

I'm guessing comments like these aren't limited to this particular instance. I doubt that they represent the majority of opinions about Google's SERP changes, but it does raise an interesting question: Is Google trying too hard to improve? To answer this with a yes, would indicate that Google's results are already perfect (or were at least), and while Google has had a pretty good reputation for delivering quality results (and the market share to back it up), I don't know if anyone would go so far as to call them perfect, including Google itself.

There is always room for improvement. Things can always get better. Some ideas work, and others don't. Sometimes you don't know until you try, and if certain concepts don't go over well with the majority, sometimes they are scrapped. In fact, the very release of this starring feature also represents the end of a less successful feature in Google's SearchWiki.

As for personalized search itself, I wouldn't count on it going away anytime soon. I wouldn't count on Google (or the other search engines for that matter) spending less time trying to improve in this area. Why would you want them to? If your results are tailored to you specifically, does that not increase their chances of being more relevant to you?

If privacy is a concern, remember, you can always look at the Google Dashboard and look at everything Google has stored about you from each of the company's products that you may use.

Do you like personalized search? Should search engines continue to innovate in this area? Share your thoughts here.

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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