Google's latest rollout utilizes both content shared with you privately along with matches from the public web to create a single set of mixed listings. In the Official Google Blog, Google states, "Google Search has always been about finding the best results for you. Sometimes that means results from the public web, but sometimes it means your personal content or things shared with you by people you care about. These wonderful people and this rich content is currently missing from your search experience...Today we're changing that by bringing your world, rich with people and information, into search."
As a searcher, what does this mean for you?
On the plus side, life might be much easier with results that are customized explicitly to the type of content that has been shared with you privately as well as material from across the web all rolled into one search result listing.
At the same time though, the new rollout by Google does pose some privacy concerns since your private content may appear as if exposed publicly (it is actually not though). Additionally, it can cause further concern with friends and family whose privately shared content may become more visible than initially intended.
Since June 2005, Google has personalized results from across the web by giving certain rankings a boost because they were deemed especially of interest to someone. These boosts were determined by the users personal behavior and interests. "Without the boost, these results might not have made it into the top listings for a particular search" states Sullivan.
In 2007, personalized results were expanded and presented in a new format. And in 2009, you no longer even had to opt-in to receive personalized results. Google enabled them for everyone, even when you weren't signed in to Google, to some degree. And since October 2009, Google has even had social results. Also a style of personalized results but moreso based on the people you know rather than your personal behavior. Initially separated these social results were seamlessly blended into regular results in February 2011 and expanded to include "not just content created by those you know but also content shared by them through a variety of social networks" (Sullivan).
Google Now: Personal, Private and Public All Blended Together
With Search Plus Your World, you now have a "personal results" view. Your "personal results" view "personalizes the listings you get based on both your own behavior and social connections, similar to what previously happened. In addition, content that's been shared with you through the Google+ social network now also appears" (Sullivan).
Amit Singhal, who oversees Google's ranking algorithms, states the following about the new features: "The social search algorithm, and the personal algorithm, and the personalized search algorithm are actually one algorithm now, and we are merging it in a way that is very pleasant and useful."
How will you know when you are receiving personalized results? The graph below highlights (by the 2 arrows) the indicators you will see notifying you of your personalized results.
Private Content in Your Web Results
To summarize, Sullivan lists the following what your personalized web results can include:
- Listings from the web
- Listings from the web, boosted because of your personal behavior
- Listings from the web, boosted because of your social connections
- Public Google+ posts, photos or Google Picasa photos (all of which are also listings from the web)
- Private or "Limited" Google+ posts, photos or Google Picasa photos shared with you
Private or "Limited" posts are considered the most radical change since it will seem that private content is now visible across the entire web. Below is an example of what some of the "shared private content" looks like.
You can see via the arrow how one of the photos is showing with the note "You shared this - Limited." The world "Limited" indicates that this has been shared on a limited basis rather than with the entire world.
Prior to the change, this type of photo wouldn't have been found on Google search results because since they were shared as "private" Google couldn't see them. And while Google is accessing some privately shared information, they are still not privy to the content shared on Facebook so you will not see that content in your search results.
In fact, Search Plus Your World doesn't include content from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or any social network or place where content might be shared to a more limited audience. As Sullivan states, "currently, 'Search Plus Your World' would be better described as 'Search Plus Google+'."
Why is content from the other social network sites not showing?
Singhal tells Sullivan, "Facebook and Twitter and other services, basically, their terms of service don’t allow us to crawl them deeply and store things. Google+ is the only [network] that provides such a persistent service."
Personalized has now become the new norm.
What are your thoughts on these changes to how search results at Google will be displayed?
To learn more about these changes, check out Danny Sullivan's article Google's Results Get More Personal with "Search Plus Your World"
Images and partial content from Danny Sullivans article above.
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