Personalized Search Results

Nov 30, 2012

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google logoSometimes, it’s nice to have other people tell you what you want.  If you’re a tourist going on a jungle safari, chances are you’re going to want your guide to speak up and tell you, “No, you really don’t want to go over there—you might get eaten.”  Other times, it’s kind of annoying for people to try and tell you what you want, like a salesman trying to convince you that you want the nicest car on the lot when you really just want something sensible to get you to and from work.

Depending on your personal view, Google acts by default as the valued safari guide or the annoying car salesman.  Google personalizes your search results (again, by default) by using data that it gathers about you, like your location, language preferences, and search history.  In other words, the search results you get for “african jungle safaris” could vary based on your location and past searches that you have made.  Some people may feel like this limits or distorts the variety of search results that are returned to them, and Google’s web history tracking could raise privacy concerns with some users.  For those people, the Wall Street Journal provided a list of some ways to depersonalize searches.

If you have a Google account, you can prevent Google from storing searches or sites visited in your Google Web History.  You can also remove some or all past items from your Google Web History.  If you have a Google+ account, your search results are automatically integrated with results from the Google+ social network.  To turn that off, click on the globe in the top-righthand corner of your search results.

If you don’t have a Google account, you can still tell Google to disable search customizations based on your web history, but you would need to install a cookie on your computer to do so (for more information about cookies, see this website).

Even if you do these things, Google will still personalize search results based on location and language preference.  Users should also note that switching to Incognito mode in Google Chrome does not prevent Google from recording web history—that would still need to be turned off using the options above.

I work for ContentWatch and all opinions expressed here are my own.