Google Personalised Search

Is This The BIGGEST Change To Google Ever?

I came across this yesterday.  It’s a quiet little change to Google that seems to have slipped under almost everybody’s radar.  But to me, this could be the biggest change that Google have ever made, especially as it has the potential to render your optimisation efforts useless.

Since 2005, Google has been storing your web browsing history when signed in.  Did you know that?

The fact is, Google store EVERYTHING about you they can.  It all goes in their database.  Many people aren’t concerned about this, but they should be – I certainly am.  For instance, spend a lot of time visiting one of your own small niche sites and doing searches on it to check its position, and it wouldn’t take a genius to write an algorithm to detect that and mark it and you (by cookie, IP address, geo-location, OS, and web browser version) as a potential manipulator of search results.

(I actually think that’s the least of your worries, but we’ll save that for another day…)

Also see my last post about why you shouldn’t use Gmail.

Well it seems that from the 4th December 2009, Google will now store your searches even if you’re signed out, and use a cookie to tag you.  They’ll then PERSONALISE your search results based on what sites you’ve already visited which they already know from you clicking on previous search results.

This actually works then to put an extra layer of obfuscation between you and what results your potential visitors will find when they do the search.  You with me?

Put more clearly, because you keep visiting your own sites by clicking on them within Google, you’ll start to see them higher and higher in the results pages.  You would falsely think that your sites are doing better and better, but everyone else may not see your site showing in the results at all.

So while you see your site going up and going up, to everyone else it may be dropping a page every day.

Then you’d get the puzzle of seeing your site appearing to rank well, but getting less or no traffic.

Ohhhh dear…

Now this is only my first take on this change, I’m certain there’s other aspects of it which I’ve not cottoned on to, but I’ll keep thinking about it.

According to Google, you can opt out, and not be cookied (which I’ve done), but I get the feeling you’ll only be opting out of the bit you can see.  I believe your click activity will still be compiled by Google, simply because they can’t help themselves.

You’ll still be cookied remember, unless you block their cookie or destroy it after closing your browser.  And even then they have your IP address and geo-location, and also know what OS and browser version you’re using, so it wouldn’t be that difficult to be 95%+ accurate.

Remember, Google don’t care about your privacy.  What they care about is compiling as much data on you as possible, and making as much money as possible.

And because this is such a quiet announcement, most people are going to be totally oblivious to it, and not opt out – it’s not obvious this change has been made, and it’s not obvious how to opt out.  Watch the video carefully on the announcement page to see how to do it.

-Frank Haywood

Posted by Frank Haywood in internet business