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People think they hate personalized search, but they actually love it.

A new survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that preference for Google among search users has nearly doubled in the last eight years -- from 47% in 2004 to 83% today.

The same survey found that "Nearly three-quarters of search engine users surveyed say they don't want search engines to mine their personal information to tailor results to their interests, something Google has been doing since January."

First of all, that last sentence is in error. Google has been personalizing search since the summer of 2005.

Affinity for Google has nearly doubled during the same time Google has been improving personalization.

Personalization improves the ability for Google to give people what they're looking for. And that increased relevance is precisely why people like Google so much.

So the take-away from these survey results for me, at least, is not that people hate personalization, but love it without understanding the role personalization has on improving results.

What do you think?

http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-google-search-engines-pew20120309,0,7667717.story
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Bradley Shavis's profile photoMike Elgan's profile photoÇağla Ertuğrul's profile photoJordan Coeyman's profile photo
56 comments
 
Everyone wants a custom, tailor made suit but they don't want anyone to know their measurements.
 
Completely agree. If you ask people "Do you want less privacy?" they will always say "No", but if you say "Do you like better search results?" they will always say "Yes". It appears the answer is always based on how the question is asked.
 
I totally agree with you, I switched off my personalized result for two days, and when I switched it back on, the results were better and sometimes spot on.
 
I think that the words "privacy" or "personalization" are buzz words that we have been trained to get artificially upset about. Its not based in fact or actual results, just media hypnotization.
 
I would guess that if every time those surveyed searched for football they got results for soccer they'd be pretty miffed.
 
Well said. It's the ignorance of the media and need to create sensational headlines that leads to skewed articles. Google has been personalizing search for a while just not so overtly. Microsoft personalizes search - the big search engines all personalize search but that doesn't sounds as juicy.
 
People's concerns might be that they won't want details of what they themselves searched for being revealed to others. They see specific results returned and their friend's names attached to them and think the same will happen to any of their search results.

They may not realize that the only way that would happen is if they actively +1's an item or shared it on Google+. If you've got something embarrassing you don't want other people to know, just don't do that.
 
The way that the survey was presented could also have primed respondents into the mindset of aversion for any tech entity linking with personal data. (ex. do you want search engines to mine your personal information...)
 
woow.. i like when people actually know what they want.. lol
 
If you don't like it, turn it off. It is very easy to do. Problem solved.
 
I agree 100%. Personalization means I get search results better for me, but more likely means I get ads more for me. I'd rather see a tech ad than an ad to handle that "not-so-fresh feeling".
 
are those real shoes? If so, I like G+ and all, but I wouldn't be caught dead wearing those.
 
Shoes are so beautifull.
I like them.
 
+John Purvis You're saying it's prioritizing by geographical region? That seems unusual. Could it be due to the search terms?
 
To +John Purvis point - if I am doing research where I need objective, independent research for something I am writing, I turn it off. I know the results will be skewed if I keep it on. However, if I am looking to buy something, or find a restaurant, etc. I want to have the input of my social sphere. That's why I like the fact it is so easy to turn on / off.
 
+Justin Siefert But we don't know if the search personalization is as simple as 'if a friend posted or liked an article about that term, rank it higher'. There's probably plenty more special sauce behind it, like incorporating whether that person is in some way identified as having particular expertise or advanced exposure to that topic.
 
Here's a perfect example of why it works for me. I follow a good amount of people who I realized where well versed in web design or development. Now when I search for something in that field, I'm more likely get matches that +Chris Coyier, +Ryan Bates or +Ryan Carson might have previously thought was useful in my results, and not just any site that happened to SEO their results.
 
This thread is continually enhanced not only by the good discussion of personalized search but by the well-prioritized 15-20% of posters who really want to know where they can get ahold of the shoes in the picture.
 
I hope Klout doesn't think I'm an expert in shoes now.
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This has been my argument for Google all along. As with any business-customer relationship, the more both parties know about each others wants and needs the happier both are.
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Funnily enough the Google personalized search never bothered me...because it got it right very often.

Facebook though got it wrong pretty much always with the tailored advertising. A friend of mine is gay..he changed something on his profile and was then bombarded with half naked men looking like they were from cheap porno's. Why would he just because he is gay want to be sent that type of ad based on pure ignorance and no real research on what Gay men really want and buy.

I announced my engagement and was bombarded with bridal companies,holiday companies,shoe shops and jewellery stores. I have no intention of marrying in white and can't afford the honeymoon. None of it was either what I wanted it or needed.



If you use the search it's like someone is "listening" and not just assuming or guessing.
 
+Clare Cosgrove Facebook's targeted advertising is more about what other people are trying to sell you and not about what Facebook thinks you might like. It's entirely driven by the keyword algorithm that people who want to put up ads buy into.
 
1st, those shoes are AWESOME!!
2nd, I like personalized search, it gives me better results, closest to what I was searching for. But it is a bit cluttered as of now, I'm sure it will look better with time.
 
+Joost Schuur yes you're right... I forgot to add that it's because of the crap that FB have churned out that er have gotten used to, the uproar comes from the ignorance about how Google personalized search and that causes people to scream and panic.,because they think it is the same.

Facebook are responsible for huge amounts of unrest, insecurity and misinformation about the rest of the Internet.
 
Forget about the article, let's talk Shoes...well... I so want to like these... but all I can think is "Clown Shoes"...
 
Even before the recent changes in privacy the ability of google search to return results that used prior context improves my ability to find obscure code examples instead of matching other meanings of my search terms.
 
+clare Cosgrove comments about Facebook ring true. Yet, even though people are concerned with privacy, they continue to use the service more and more. I ache when I see a friend, who has signed up for a social reader program (from Washington Post, or Yahoo), inadvertently most likely, exposed after reading a controversial topic. Yuck! Facebook doesn't look out for their users, it exploits them. Google can take a different approach and leverage the concerns about privacy. Will Google do it? The strict controls involving profiles in Gaia are a step in the right direction, albeit an inconvenient one for me, but only one small step. Circles are another, but socializing on G+ is still not the reason why most use Google. We've done a lot of research that points to the possibility. Will Google seize the "privacy" opportunity?
 
The difference between correlation and dependency. I like it when people talk about their features without understanding the math behind.
 
Why do people worry about Google being able to "mine" their "personal" information??? If its that personal why is it even online?????
 
+Mike Elgan > First of all, that last sentence is in error. Google has been personalizing search since the summer of 2005.

But isn't this article only referencing "personalizing search" in relation to Google Search+ Your World?

What sorts of personalization existed in Google Search results before GSPYW?
 
People don't hate good search performance, they hate the loss of their privacy and not being in control. If it's users had more trust in Google to do the right thing and to watch out for their well being, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.
 
My opinion matches with the 50/50 people. Personalization produces admirable results but I do still turn it of when researching. Gibes me the feeling of more control because the topics I look up for university strongly differ from the daily life stuff.

Plus, I don't worry about the privacy thing. I trust Google to do the right thing as much (or maybe more) as my government (and the latter gets hacked more often)
 
I think it's FUD by people that don't understand or haven't thought it through. I want highly personalised results. Only showing me things that match my interests is relevant, if it's a topic with some debate then the algorithm can be tweeked to identify such topics and interject results from all sides of the argument not just the one's I'm likely to agree with. That's a fascinating problem for search to overcome not an inherent flaw in using your history to increase relevance. Ultimately it comes down to whether you trust Google to not bias the algorithms in their favour, if they rock the boat to much people will defect. I have to think Facebook will build a search engine soon, that could damage Google heavily. Ironically it'll be done with a highly personalised portal with all you friends updates relevant sponsored stories and a new shiny search box in the middle, with all ads being biased to apps in the Facebook community.
 
I like the idea or personalized search and its many benefits like time saving and bringing more relevant results etc. But while I don't mind one or two companies having databases of information on me, I don't allow third parties to have access to my data. I also don't want companies operating in countries with little or no regulation having access to my info. Even if a company is based in the EU or the states but has my data stored in some unheard of country with cheap servers or some failed state I won't accept that.
 
To me it's like a survey asking people if they like bread and cheese and having 83% say "yes," then asking of people want bacteria in their food while it's being made, and three-quarters saying "no."

Well, guess what? The thing you think you don't like is the very thing that produces the thing you do like.
 
Wouldn't the simplest solution be to allow people to chose if the want personalized search or not. I'm all for personalized search, but nothing's wrong with giving users a little control over the data collected and who can access it. I mean these companies are already profiting from my data and I'm not asking for a cut of the profits but just a chance to keep it accurate and occasionally edit it.
 
That is double talk. Your point is based on the assumption that the growth of popularity of Google as a search engine is voluntary, as in it is sought to be used as a search engine whereas the reality is that most people don't know that they even have an alternative. Other search engines simply do not come preinstalled on most computer browsers, whereas every computer I have bought over the last ten years has had Google on the standard browser as the default.
I am fully aware of the alternative browsers and use Google rarely specifically because I don't want to get results that edit out things I may possibly want to know. This reminds me of an argument I had with a professor in college who told me, when asked a question, "I don't need to know that". It is not up to anyone else what we may or may not need to know, and using marketing methods (one of the contributing factors to the dumbing down of the US population) is certainly NOT a way to aid in the search for knowledge. I had a very high opinion of Google until I learned of this, and now I am considering dumping ALL my Google aps, from youtube to Chrome as a result.
age dly
 
As a G+ user since the beginning, I would find socially personalised results extremely useful... except I don't have them! Seach Plus Your World popped up for me once, for a few hours, weeks ago, but other than that I've seen no trace of it. What gives?
 
+Mark Penter Of course they do. If a search engine better than Google came along, users would abandon Google in huge numbers.
 
Mike Elgan, I still disagree. Among the tech geeks that I know, none use Google since this came out as their default search engine, employing Google as a secondary tool. Focused search results limits our vision, and with it our horizons.
 
I love the personalization. Big G just has to remain squeeky clean with the data...and insure it stays in the hands of the good guys. If Big G gets hacked and somehow the personal data gets releases, then Google loses marketshare and stock price instantly.

As an investor, I would be very wary of this risk.

I do trust, however, that Big G understands this risk and is a huge priority to keep things clean.

Do no evil!
 
those shoes are beast
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