We all like to have things personalized. Personalized service at a company is nice. A personalized template for your website is a great way to have a unique looking site that fits you. But what about searching the internet?
Did you realize that when you search in Google or Bing that your search results are personalized just for you?
And you may have thought Google and Bing didn’t know you so well…turns out they do.
So, what is personalization in search and how does it work? I’ll explain it all in the video below.
Hi, I’m Kurt Steinbrueck with OurChurch.com, and in this video we’re going to talk about personalization in search. What does that mean and how does that affect when you search for something?
Personalization is something that came about several years ago. What search engines have decided, for the most part, (at least the major search engines) is that the results that you get in the search results, for you to think that they’re relevant, they should really fit what your personality is. What you think is relevant might be different from what someone else thinks is relevant. So they’ve started looking at different signals to figure out what would be relevant for this specific person for the search results that might be different from someone else. They’re trying to give you specific results based off of your own preferences and history.
How Do They Do It?
1. Browser History
Some of the things that they’ll look at are your browser history. If you’re using the Chrome browser, that’s a Google thing; if you’re using Internet Explorer, that’s Microsoft, which is Bing. A lot of the browsers give access to the browser history.
There’s also cookies and a lot of different ways that the search engines have to track what sites you’re going to. So they’ll track that, and they’ll create this persona,
“Okay, these are the types of sites that this person goes to, so these are the types of sites that we want to return the search results for this person.”
2. Search History
They’ll also look at your search history; what types of things are you searching for, what links do you click on when you get the results. Things like that. Again, they put that all together and they start to create a persona for you.
One distinction that you might find is let’s say you have one person who is a Democrat, another person who is a Republican, and the search engines can kind of figure that out based off of the sites that they’re going to. So then when these two different people search for the same topic – maybe they’re searching about immigration or something like that – they’re going to see different results than each other. The Democrat may see more results that come from other Democrat-based websites or liberal media outlets, and the Republican would see results that come from Republican outlets and conservative media outlets. There’s going to be some crossover between them, but there’s going to be some pretty good distinctions between these two people. Those types of things.
The personas go into a lot of different areas. You’re looking at your religion, your politics, just your general preferences, your hobbies, all these types of things, they try to figure out what results you would like to see best when you do a search.
Another thing that they look at is where you are, and they’re trying to figure out, especially within local search, what kind of things would really be relevant for you. Because if you search for “pizza” and you’re sitting in Cincinnati, results from Los Angeles aren’t very relevant for you if you’re actually going to order a pizza. They think that’s what you’re trying to do. So what they’ll do is they’ll give you results from Cincinnati, and so a person searching in Cincinnati is going to see very different results than the person who searches in Los Angeles. And they’re able to tell your location just from your IP address. Just from where you’re searching from, they can figure that out, and so they’ll localize those search results. That’s another way that they personalize things.
Another thing they look at is social signals. What types of things are you sharing? What types of things are you liking in the social networks? They’ll take that to try to figure out that persona and figure out who you are and what you like. They’ll even look at who your friends are and what they like. So if you do a search on a topic and one of your friends has shared a result that would’ve been in those search results, they’ll move that up towards the top and show you “this person liked this page; you might like it too.” Those kind of social signals will also go into what kind of results you see.
It’s Always Happening
So regardless of the search term that you’re searching for, who you are, the history of the browser that you’re using, if you’re logged in to the search engines, then that history that you have with them, your social signals, your location, all of these things are going to determine the unique results that you see, and that is what personalization is.