Google Search Personalization and Local

I’ve written a very very long post at Search Engine Land about my day at Google yesterday with a group of reporters who cover the Internet for most of the major national and SF Bay Area news publications: WSJ, NY Times, Times, USAToday, AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, BusinessWeek, SF Chronicle, San Jose Mercury, among several others.

Google made several announcements yesterday:

  • The Google personalized homepage has officially been renamed iGoogle
  • iGoogle is now available in 26 languages and in more than 40 countries
  • iGoogle “themes” are being rolled out internationally
  • Google introduced Gadget Maker. Here’s the official Google post.

This coincides with other personalization efforts going on at Google.

Location is one of two data layers that Google is using to personalize search results. The other is personal Web history. If you’re not registered and signed in, you don’t get personalized results. But if you are, your results and, over time, the ads you may see will reflect your location and preferences based on Web history:

As someone who covers local and geotargeting, it’s clear that the second layer of personalization here – location – is potentially quite significant for Google. There’s empirical evidence that shows, and I’ve argued previously, that lots of local search is obscure to the engines because of a lack of geographic modifiers or other factors.

Currently Google uses IP targeting to serve geographically relevant ads in cases where no geographic modifier is included in the query. Default location targeting will help Google not only offer more locally relevant organic results but ultimately to offer locally relevant ads even when IP targeting fails to accurately identify user location. Thus both organic and commercial local search will ultimately get a big boost from personalization.

There are lots of interesting aspects to this and issues (i.e., privacy). I go into most of these things in the SEL post.

Personalization shows how Google is continuing to develop and invest in search and why it will be hard for the foreseeable future for its competitors to grab search market share — not because of personalization per se (that will be invisible to most users) but because of Google’s ongoing R&D and product development.


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