Searching Now Influenced By Your Friends

social-network-graphIn December, we wrote that Google had “fundamentally changed the search engine results for everyone in North America…” At issue was the notion of “personalized search”.   That’s where Google builds a dossier of people’s interests and then tries to tailor search results to meet those interests.  The entire process’ details are much more complicated than anyone except a math whiz specializing in search engines should delve into and certainly not in a blog.

But Google changed the rules.  Previously a user had to opt-in to this program. Now anyone who didn’t want to participate had to opt-out. Do No Evil takes a hit as a company grows.  The philosophy takes a huge hit when an entity completely avoids permission marketing.

Google Tries To Out Facebook Facebook

You know your friends on Facebook?  And you know your Flickr photos?  And maybe that blog or forum you frequent?   Not just you, but the people who interact with you — your social graph — will soon influence your Google search results. That process is opt-in for now and so far seems to be limited to Google Images. Then again, personalized search was opt-in until about 7 weeks ago. Google cheerily calls its announcement “Search is Getting More Social“.  That’s their name.  Our headline today is “Searching Now Influenced By Your Friends”.  Hope more than you hope for most things that Google doesn’t opt-in for everyone for “social search”. As many shots as we take at the company, their search results remain the defacto standard in North America and in much of the world.  And while I love some of my friends and like all of them, I don’t want their biases to take a valuable “page one” spot away from another source.  I think it’s bad enough that my biases can alter search results.  I certainly don’t need my friends and family altering my  results.

5 comments

  • mjfrombuffalo

    mjfrombuffalo

    Reply

    Gah. I know some of my friends and what they search for. I'm going to end up with a lot of results related to Star Wars costuming, speaking Klingon, and Euclidean geometry when all I want to find is a good sushi place.

  • George Bounacos

    George Bounacos

    Reply

    Maybe not quite that bad, but what you could very well see is recommendations from your friends about hotels they've stayed in and written a review about when you're reaching travel to the same area. There is utility in the concept. What happens though is that people may not realize the rippling effect their words have even to search. And frankly, you have to calibrate search results even harder.

    If this is from a friend named Joe who had a budget of $250/night, but you want to spend no more than $100/night to meet your company's travel guidelines, you may end up missing out on other reviews because the system will know that you and Joe have a social connection.

  • margarethines

    margarethines

    Reply

    George tell me this… if a person is a genius researcher with no friends and no connections – let's say looking for academic answers – will their search endeavors be more “pure” then someone who is doing the same thing but also talks trash all day long on Facebook? Could being unconnected yield better quality results?

  • George Bounacos

    George Bounacos

    Reply

    That's an interesting question. Facebook wouldn't really impact search results yet, but you will see Twitter feeds and photos and things like that regardless of how you use a computer. The difference is that over time those results will be flavored by what searches you've made and what choices you've clicked and stayed on. You will build a social profile of some sort.

    It's kind of like the movie reviewer we had at our local NBC affiliate for years. Seemed like a nice enough guy, but I knew that he and I were absolute opposites. So when the station pushed his reviews at me during the news, I had learned over time that I would like movies he didn't like.

    For about a week after you and I looked at someone's site recently, I saw an uptick in advertising for catering and food delivery services. I made the connection, but it was puzzling at first. I have a friend who had the same experience in the early days of a grocery chain mapping interests. After he bought groceries for Passover, he started receiving coupons for various Mexican and Indian foods. It seems that the grocer had a category for ethnic foods, but no sub-categorization.

    So sure, if you're super smart friends were off the social graph, you might not see their exploits in your search results. But you'll get social media results. If you haven't seen one of the Twitter feeds yet on a search engine result page (SERP), that's a real treat.

    Look for something trending now like “winter olympics”. Results will be at the top or the middle of the page and labeled “Latest results”. I just did that and snagged this comment from someone else as it scrolled by.

    I have to say I enjoy the winter Olympics a lot more than the summer games but 9's choppy coverage is infuriating
    JessLomas – twitter.com – 3 minutes ago

    1) I don't know Jess, who may or may not be a fine person.
    2) I'm guessing 9 refers to their local NBC affiliate. I can't imagine the affiliate mucking around with primetime coverage, but I don't care because I don't know Jess & I don't the market.

    Now if I saw a note from you or MJ from Buffalo in there, even if it was 2 days old but it said, “NBC's coverage is good/bad/whatever”, I have a reference point.

    So maybe it's not so bad after all.

  • George Bounacos

    George Bounacos

    Reply

    That's an interesting question. Facebook wouldn't really impact search results yet, but you will see Twitter feeds and photos and things like that regardless of how you use a computer. The difference is that over time those results will be flavored by what searches you've made and what choices you've clicked and stayed on. You will build a social profile of some sort.

    It's kind of like the movie reviewer we had at our local NBC affiliate for years. Seemed like a nice enough guy, but I knew that he and I were absolute opposites. So when the station pushed his reviews at me during the news, I had learned over time that I would like movies he didn't like.

    For about a week after you and I looked at someone's site recently, I saw an uptick in advertising for catering and food delivery services. I made the connection, but it was puzzling at first. I have a friend who had the same experience in the early days of a grocery chain mapping interests. After he bought groceries for Passover, he started receiving coupons for various Mexican and Indian foods. It seems that the grocer had a category for ethnic foods, but no sub-categorization.

    So sure, if you're super smart friends were off the social graph, you might not see their exploits in your search results. But you'll get social media results. If you haven't seen one of the Twitter feeds yet on a search engine result page (SERP), that's a real treat.

    Look for something trending now like “winter olympics”. Results will be at the top or the middle of the page and labeled “Latest results”. I just did that and snagged this comment from someone else as it scrolled by.

    I have to say I enjoy the winter Olympics a lot more than the summer games but 9's choppy coverage is infuriating
    JessLomas – twitter.com – 3 minutes ago

    1) I don't know Jess, who may or may not be a fine person.
    2) I'm guessing 9 refers to their local NBC affiliate. I can't imagine the affiliate mucking around with primetime coverage, but I don't care because I don't know Jess & I don't the market.

    Now if I saw a note from you or MJ from Buffalo in there, even if it was 2 days old but it said, “NBC's coverage is good/bad/whatever”, I have a reference point.

    So maybe it's not so bad after all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>