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1984, Big Brother, NSA, MSS…I have to admit that allowing Google to track my moves on the web and in the physical world can be a bit disconcerting at times. I suppose it’s a trade off for getting better search results for my queries.  Seriously: how useful would it be to get a search result for a really good Thai restaurant in Toronto if I’m surfing the web from Sao Paolo? Also, wouldn’t I’d be curious to know if my friends liked “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” while searching where it’s playing? That’s at the heart of Google’s latest enhancement to how their personalizing search results.

 

Personalized Search

Personalizing search isn’t anything new: it’s been happening since 2005. Google’s position is that they want to be your friend: if you asked your friend Bob where you can go out for dinner, wouldn’t you expect him to tell you about a place that’s you’ll love and is close to you? A combination of tracking where your accessing the web, your search history (i.e. what cuisines are often included in your search queries) and Google’s own evaluation of the results pool, relying on such things as user feedback posted online, should return some useful results for great place close to you for a memorable dinner, just like Bob would suggest.  

Search, Plus your World now goes a few steps further: it will include in the search results anything Bob posted online about any of the restaurants listed, photos taken by friends there and perhaps even tell you who’s currently checked in where so you can join them (or avoid them).

 

What about Facebook content?

Or Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn? No: content from other social sharing sites don’t appear in personal search results so it’s pretty much only Google+ content at the moment until other social sharing sites choose to play ball. (They currently don’t allow their content to be deeply crawled or stored per terms of service.)

Picasa photos, however, do appear; well, it’s a Google product after all. On the same note, I didn’t see anything from YouTube other than by on plus ones.

 

It’s ‘social’ so that means you’re part of the equation too: get out there and share!

For Search, Plus your World to work you and your circle need to share: without this information, don’t expect to see much beyond your own activity!

The first step is to get a Google account and register for Google+ where you can start building your circle of friends, family and acquaintances. Log into Google when using search. Finally, start recommending content:

  • Click the Google Plus One Icon (plus one icon) on Google search results you like (it’s their if your logged on)
  • You can also find the plus one icon on many pages
  • There are browser add-ons such as AddThis that help you post to all your social media profiles from the browser
  • Post content you like on Google+ 
  • Continue posting on your favorite social media sites: this information is still valuable to your circles on those sites and who know what the future holds!

 

Okay, this $%&@# is scaring me: how do I do to turn it off?

While it’s pretty hard to have zero personalization in Google search results because your geographic location is used in determining results (and advertisements), there are some things you can do to take everything else out of the equation such as search history, Google+ and so on, or at least try:

  1. Without logging out of Google, you can now easily toggle between personal and non-personal results:
    Toggle Google Personal - Non-Personal Results 
  2. Browse incognito/privately: all up to date browsers now have a private browsing feature that allows you to surf incognito, without divulging the information contained in your cookies, history, passwords and so on.
  3. Access the web through a proxy server.

So, get out there and share!

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4 Comments

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  1. Jon Reed
    Jason, good piece.

    one point to note: Bing integrates Facebook and Twitter into its search results (Google used to integrate Twitter, guessing G+ had something to do with that change). The issues between Google and Facebook for social search are more to do with Google and Facebook as competitors than anything else as I understand it. Here’s a recent update:

    http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Search-Engines/Google-Facebook-Trade-Barbs-Over-Social-Search-372427/

    Bing is a distant but healthy second to Google for search so that’s another dynamic to watch.

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    1. Jason Lax Post author
      And vice versa: external web search results are surfaced in FB courtesy of of Bing. When this started, I was optimistic that Bing would pickup but, as you mentioned, it remains a (very) distant second.

      It’s going to be an interesting few months watching these giants trade blows in public and in the courts/regulatory commissions if a party comes up with a good case against Google. (Nothing worthy of a movie, unfortunately.)

      Thanks for sharing Jon!

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  2. Michelle Crapo
    Sometimes all of this does scare me….  It makes me think of all the “bad” old horror movies.  And here we are.

    Ah well – I’m a child of the 80s which means I’m versatile, I’ll get there.  Working on a Facebook page now.  Lurking on twitter reading the tweets….

    Michelle

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