In an era where personalization online has become the norm, Google’s latest announcement is actually surprising. Google admitted to CNBC that, “there is very little search personalization” in their Google search results pages.
While other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are striving to achieve even more personalization, Google isn’t. Google says that currently, search result personalize is limited to a users’ location and immediate context from a prior search.
So why doesn’t Google join the other big tech companies in jumping on the personalization bandwagon? According to Pandu Nayak, who leads ranking at Google, there just isn’t a need. After extensive efforts and testing of personalization, Google found that is rarely improved results. “ A query a user comes with usually has so much context that the opportunity for personalization is just very limited”, says Nayak.
Personalized search was a big deal a few years ago, but now Google rarely discusses it. In fact, the last time Google wrote in any detail about it was back in 2011. In 2012, their testing of personalized search results got them a bad rap and was used against them by their competitors. Since then, Google’s search engine has moved away from individualized searches.
This lack of personalization has actually helped Google escape much of the criticisms surrounding Facebook and Twitter. When US President Donald Trump recently accused Google of being bias towards conservatives, their lack of personalization in their algorithm was a shield against deeper criticism.
While Google’s search engine doesn’t use personalization, it can be found in a number of their other products. YouTube has received criticism recently for their recommendations of related videos. Google ads are heavily personalized too.
For businesses and SEO agencies, Google’s search engine’s lack of personalization is a good thing. It makes it that much easier to report on ranking successes and failures. It also makes keyword targeting easier as well, although local SEO is more important than ever.