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Your own search results go through personal filters

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Are we still getting exactly we are asking for when we search online?

How many of us, outside of those in search engine optimisation, are truly aware that search engines are filtering our search results to make them more personal to us? If they did, how many would have a strong opinion on what signals are being used to manipulate our results?

Nowadays, Google uses a growing list of signals that are used to make our results “personal” so that every search result is specifically filtered to the exact user who has performed the search. The days of everybody getting the same result for a given search are behind us, but the question is whether this is a good thing, a bad thing, or a bit of both? Either way, it’s always good to remind ourselves what we are seeing and why.

Your “personal” search results are filtered based on a large number of unknown factors, lost in the abyss of magical algorithms locked in the search engines vault. Some of them are obvious, and some of them less so, but the following examples are a reminder of the type of signals that are affecting our search results.

What Personal Information Are Search Engines Using?

  • Our search history
  • Our location, language and time of search activity
  • Our computer, operating system and browser
  • Our behaviour such as whether we use the autosuggestion, or spell correction
  • Time delay factors including the time to type a query, or when selecting a result

Recently published reports suggest that there are as many as 50 (or more) factors that filter our results and this raises the question of how many people know about this and how many of them would care. To the search engines, the concept is a fairly simple one – to quickly give us more accurate search results that we feel are more relevant to us. The answer, on the other hand, is not so straight forward.

By filtering our results (by whatever signals the search engine feels appropriate), information is being reprioritised, withheld or removed from our very own eyes. One school of thought is that it’s likely that the omitted (or downgraded) information is not of any use to us, but should we be given the choice whether or not to have our searches filtered? Many would say that this is another invasion of our privacy, whilst others would agree that the search results are indeed more accurate and assist us in finding what we are looking for.

This debate will roll on and on……

About Adrian Britton

Sometimes I will talk about things that are interesting, and sometimes I won’t. Sometimes it will be a bit of a laugh, and sometimes it will just be a downright rant about something going on in the world – I’m often accused at moaning a lot, and I consider myself quite good at it !!

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Discussion

2 Responses to “Your own search results go through personal filters”

  1. Well, there’s no correct answer to this one, as you rightly put. However, this is inevitable, given the personalization of internet as a whole what with social media, blogging and everything else being touted as a platform for a personal voice. So is it with search now – results that suit your tastes. Well, this is good and bad in a way. For example, if you are logged into your gmail account while using google search, and if any of the contacts in your email have a site/post that is relevant to your search keyword, that result will show up. So, how much of that is good for you, well can’t really say…

    Posted by contentbloggers | 05/05/2012, 4:03 am

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