The trend in search is moving towards personalization–it has been for a while. But it also seems like it’s trying to move towards clairvoyance at the same time. Google specifically is putting steps in place to attempt to read your mind. Under the claim of personalization in search, the Freshness update last November was a large step forward. The update impacted approximately 35% of searches (almost 3x the impact of Panda). The update was all about fresh content–they mask the attempt at clairvoyance by claiming that you are interested in more recent events and care less about history. While this is largely true it is another step by the search giant to attempt to read your mind. Is this a positive trend, or are there concerns about this? For a search marketer, it makes it increasingly difficult to operate in the industry–but this trend isn’t new. Long gone are the days where meta keywords could catapult your site to the first page for random keywords. Now search and social are moving closer together and your task as an online marketer is moving towards increasing visibility through relationships. Links are still important–and will be for a long time. But now you also have to make Google think that your site is what everyone thinks they want. Google Plus launched “Find My Face” in December which allows Google to use facial recognition to auto-tag photos. Is this simply convenient for users that they can learn to recognize the faces of over 50 million current users (with an estimated 400 million users by the end of 2012) or is it additional information that Google can use to identify information about people and what they think and what they want. Probably both. Another
step was taken towards this trend last week with the “Search Plus Your World” update by Google. Again, increase in personalization by offering . . . you guessed it . . . personalized results. Perhaps, to accomplish this personalization Google simply needs to attempt to read your mind in an algorithmic way. They are still trying to guess what you want to see–in this case they are trying to decide if your friends know what you want more than traditional search results.
So in order to provide all of the personalization, Google has to get more and more information about you and your family and friends. Then they need to be able to process the information within their search algorithm and spit it back out in a meaningful way. But the important factor for users is the amount of data necessary to be able to provide any meaningful results.
In the end, when people start to think that Google is invading their privacy, most people will probably scream foul just like they did with Facebook over and over, but will ultimately accept it, move on and thoroughly enjoy the completely customized search results because Google did such a great job identifying exactly what they were thinking. Nobody really wants to think about all the information that Google has access to, and while it might be scary to think about, few people are willing to give up the benefits of allowing them to have it.