Personalized Search or Prima-facie Search?

On 4th March 2008, Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google blogged about the privacy and how search is being improved day-by-day at Google by “learning from crowds” by analysing billions of search logs and experimenting with people’s data and delivering better results. I thought, as a marketer I should learn something from it, you never know I might need to profess something similar in my job, sometime in future!

When you read his blog entry, initially, the history of search is given, to divert attention from the topic and build a story around it and sweep away the readers mind with emotional touch by talking about “how two poor chaps doing research” started this company, as other search companies didn’t buy their algorithm…Alas, they must be cursing themselves now…

Then the actual pitch comes, talking about how user information is “protected” and “leveraged” only for user experience improvement purposes!

Hal says: “We’re constantly experimenting with our algorithm, tuning and tweaking on a weekly basis to come up with more relevant and useful results for our users.
Very interesting unsolicited experiments which are not explicitly explained and subjected to you and only after some time when you realize the ads are getting more and more personalized is when you realize that you are part of the experiment!

After watching the cool Support Engineer chick presenting the videos on privacy at Google by explaining how Cookies work and how Web History works it’s really interesting to analyze how Google professes its neutrality and customer oriented approach. (I love you guys from a marketing perspective, everyday I learn new words and sentences in English language and how to use them in a politically correct manner whenever it’s needed, Thanks again!)

The website on which these videos are posted is owned by Google along with the ability to post comments (obviously it’s moderated). The web history is “definitely helpful” (pun intended) to give more relevant search results as well as more relevant ADS. How does Google earn revenue? Ads, I guess! (why can’t you admit it?)

If you want to learn and better the user experience, ask the people to voluntarily participate in your search experiments instead of the way you do it by choosing on your own!

Maile Ohye, support engineer at google says an IP address doesn’t say who you are or exactly where you are…Are you sure? Did we hear Webtrends and Visual Sciences or even better Google Analytics along with email marketing solutions with web tracking saying we provide tracking of visitors on your website and did we hear Akamai saying we provide directory of companies hosted on each IP so that you can track who visited your website?

Though I like the innocent face of the support engineer and the simplicity with which she mops up things! Great job keep it up! BTW: stop giving Cars, Carss, Bass examples. What about examples like my buying behaviour or my healthcare searches?

Though the interesting thing to notice is that in coming 18 months, google is going to cut out the last 3 digits from the IP log display. As well as the preference ID from the cookie like below:

This would be an interesting move to watch, this hasn’t been attempted by any search engine till now. This step on one side might annoy Web tracking companies a bit, on the other side would be a consolation for common man.

Having said all this, my simple questions to Google are:

“Did the users ask you to provide more relevant search by picking their information?”

“Did users say that I am not getting relevant search results and now I am moving to a new search engine?”

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