Google launches personalized search
By Charlene Li
It was only two short months ago that Google launched My Search History, which I said would form the foundation for their personalized search service. That promise came to fruition today with the launch of Personalized Search. Taken in combination with their personalized home page service, you can begin to see a more personalized Google taking shape.
From what I understand, the personalized search service is based on a user’s past queries. The example Google gives is that the query “bass” would show results about the instrument and not the fish if that user frequently searched for music information in the past.
Kudos to Google for launching this so quickly after laying the foundation with My Search History, but they had no choice as there’s plenty of competition from Yahoo! and Ask Jeeves coming down the pipe with their various personalized search offerings.
I haven’t had a chance to put the product through its paces yet (and besides, it’s going to take a while to build up that search history), but I suspect we’ll be seeing the following improvements made in rapid succession. The goal: to create increasingly personalized results without going too overboard and delivering results that get personalization wrong.
Improvement #1: Prioritize searching through feeds, bookmarks, and saved sites. As a user, I’ve already indicated when certain pages and sites bear greater relevance to me –their URLs and content are saved in my browser and RSS aggregator. Personalized search could leverage Google Desktop Search to provide better intelligence on what’s relevant and what’s not. I expect that Yahoo! is in a prime position to use this technique as it has millions of RSS users on MyYahoo! and also has been encouraging users to save sites to MyWeb.
Improvement #2: Add clickstream data to the personalization engine. Google should be tracking when a users clicks on a link to another site – but then quickly comes back to click on another link. The inference: that page wasn’t that relevant. One simple step would be to eliminate that link from subsequent queries with refined search criteria. More complex calculations would analyze the semantics of the referred page and eliminate similarly irrelevant pages from future searches. Google should take some notes from Choicestream, which provides personalization services for publishers (it powers the movie and shopping personalization engines on Yahoo!) by leveraging user clickstream data and grouping content into categories.
And of course, how can we discuss personalized search without bringing up privacy? Just as with any of the other personalized search services, Google provides the user with tremendous control, ranging from turning off search tracking to toggling back and forth between standard and personalized search results.
This is a major step forward in the personalization space – and Google masterfully laid the groundwork with My Search History. It will be interesting to see how Yahoo! and Ask Jeeves unroll their personalized search strategies – they took similar approaches in creating a “MyWeb” and “MyJeeves” service, respectively, rather than an automated way to track what’s relevant, what’s not. Stay tuned for more action on this front!