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Monday, December 14, 2009

Google Personalized Search Uses Negative Marketing Strategy

As some of you may already know, I am not a huge fan of Google and their business practices. Far too often the company will tell us one thing while secretly doing another. Take last June for example, during the SMX Advanced show in Seattle Matt Cutts stunned the attendees by informing us that Google now picks and chooses how it deals with the NoFollow tag.

While it is completely OK for the company to react to that or any other tags for that matter, what is not OK in a lot of people’s minds, is how long it took them to inform us about this change. I suppose they never really had to disclose this information but seeing as Google requested that webmasters adopt this tag in an effort to help them clean up link spam, they really should've been up front about their changing views regarding this tag, so we could make informed decisions on how to move forward with the NoFollows on our sites. So typically, webmasters were treated to another huge helping of “don’t do as we do; do as we say” from Google.

Now we find out that Google is once again up to some more shenanigans, this time regarding Personalized Search. PS has been around since about 2005 as an “opt in” service. As long as you were signed in to a Google account (in most cases from a Gmail or YouTube account) your search data and history was collected, then fed back to you in your future search results. To avoid this from happening, it was a simple matter of signing out of your Google account. That is no longer the case any more.

Recently, Google adopted a negative marketing strategy, whereby it forced personalized search results on every single user. Granted they do give us the option of “opting out” of the personalization search results, but seeing as most people are unaware that they are being force fed these types of results, why would they think they needed to “opt out” of anything. Negative marketing techniques don’t usually last very long, mainly because this tactic pisses people off, case in point Microsoft.

The Google Personalization works like this: if you do regular keyword searches for a specific topic that result in you frequently visiting the same site, that site quite possibly will now show at the top of your results. Now this may be fine for some people; however, for power users such as myself -- it blows. I don’t want to be force-fed results based upon a bunch of stranger’s social activities; I want some diversity in my results. But most importantly, I want to make my own decisions on the sites I visit based upon my mood at that moment, not what it was yesterday and or the day before.

Personalized Search is going to force some of the relevant results to page 2 and beyond. When you couple this with the so called “Universal Search," which is comprised of other Google products, one really has to wonder what the search giant’s true motives are here. To provide an unbiased service based upon relevancy -- or a service that forces us to see the Internet through Google-colored glasses.

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