Personalized Search And Why It Sucks

by TheMadHat on August 1, 2007

I recently had a guest post on 8 Ways To Optimize For Personalized Search over at Search Engine Journal so I figured I would follow that up with why I think it’s not good for users, marketers, and the search engines alike.

1. Personalized Search limits the discovery of new sites and new information. The higher placement of sites you have visited and browsed before pushes anything new that you may have not seen before down the page. Users will have to start finding new content in other ways than search; through blogs, news sites, etc. The users don’t like this and the search engines certainly don’t want people finding content in other ways. If the result sets are filled with things I’ve already seen I’m going to look elsewhere.

2. Personalized Search does not equal more relevant results. Simply because I’ve visited and browsed through a site once or even multiple times doesn’t mean that I think it’s more relevant. In some cases it might be, it others probably not. Google will never know what is more relevant based on my browsing and search history. Take this fairly old post from Graywolf for an excellent example. They might have some decent indicators but their accuracy in this area isn’t even going to be as close as the relevancy of their current results, which we know are filled with search pages from authority domains and edu’s selling Viagra.

3. It’s the most invasive spyware known to man. Google records everything you search for, everything you look at, and probably everything you think about. Imagine a massive database filled with every search you’ve ever done and every web page you’ve ever seen. It’s not very appealing is it? Sure, I don’t mind if it will actually give me something useful in the long run and if I can turn it off and on at the flick of a switch. That way, when I’m searching for [how to infiltrate the Googleplex] no one will be the wiser.

4. Entering the market just got much more difficult. New (legitimate) sites are going to have problems without experienced and professional help that will be very costly. If Google does not have data on your website, even if you go out and purchase an old domain with some already established trust, you’re still up shit creek. Without any users looking at your site then you won’t have new subscribers to your feeds, you won’t have any click-through data, and you will be pushed down the results in favor of something “more popular”…like craigslist.

5. It won’t put a dent in spam. I keep hearing over and over how this is going to eliminate spam. I said in my article over at SEJ that they will be working with very large data sets and filtering out the majority of the automated spam, and they will. The majority of it. Much like they do now. The other 2% of spammers are the ones that are good enough to hijack botnets and fill the world with edu spam and everything else imaginable. Very quickly they will figure out ways to spam personalized search and the flood gates will once again open.

6. They will never be able to determine intent with any accuracy. Ever The engine reps always bring up the “Jaguar and Jaguar” example about how to deliver searches to a biologist and a car enthusiast. WTF? Maybe the freaking biology teacher wants to drive a Jaguar and maybe the rich guy already driving a Jaguar wants to go on a safari? No search engine will ever know. That is until Google finishes SkyNet and they take over with their mind reading robots. You will be assimilated, or they’ll make you go work for Wikipedia.

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