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Is Personalized Search Better?

At SMX’s Personalized Search: Fear or Not? session, Michael Gray suggested that Google highlight the results in personalized SERPS that are “personalized.” After all, he argued, if they’re so much better, why not show them off?

I may have found one reason why they wouldn’t want to. I was checking my rankings for a term. My posts on Marketing Pilgrim ranked well for the term [blog stickiness]–#1 and #7 (but as a grouped result, it showed up at #2). My post on my personal site, MamaBlogga, was also in the top ten, at #10.

I thought, perhaps, this might be the result of personalization. Surely my little 3 month old, PR 3 site wouldn’t really be in the top 10. And after all, in my Google Web History, I have 66 searches/results/clicked sites for MamaBlogga. (And, for example, 82 to Marketing Pilgrim. Considering this goes back nearly a year, apparently I’m not as much of a vanity searcher as I thought.) (Okay, since you asked, I’ve searched for myself like 50 times.)

Or not. According to my Web History Trends [jordan mccollum] is my #1 search term and [mamablogga] is #2. Of my “Top Sites,” after Wikipedia (sadly), Answers and WordPress, MamaBlogga is #4. Marketing Pilgrim is #10. (Okay, cue Carly Simon if you must.) And in my [Top Clicks] list is a page from my website.

You would think that Google could figure out that I like results from MamaBlogga. They seem to understand that I like Marketing Pilgrim.

Because I wanted to know, I turned off personalized search using the trick Matt Cutts shared at the same SMX session: appending &pws=0 at the end of my search string. Here’s how the bottom half of the list changed:

Before (Personalized)
MamaBlogga at #10

After (Not)
MamaBlogga #9

That’s right. Not personalized results, it’s #9. Personalized, it’s #10. No, it’s not a huge difference, and obviously this is highly anecdotal, but haven’t I given them enough data to figure out that I would want to see that ranked high?

I guess I’d better start clicking.

  • http://seo87.blogspot.com seoz87

    take a look at that post..

    http://wwww.squidoo.com/predictions

  • http://www.thevanblog.com Steven Bradley

    Which page moved up when Mama Blogga moved down from #9 to #10? Is it one you click often?

    I tend to think Personalized search will eventually lead to everyone seeing an ever shrinking corner of the web. Sites I visit a lot I know how to get back to and don’t really need to see them get ranking boosts.

  • Jordan McCollum

    The results are different today, of course (with MamaBlogga at #9 personalize and #8 not personalized), but the site that moved today was WebProNews. According to my web history, I’ve clicked on them once, ever. (And I didn’t bother clicking on them this time, like most times, because it’s just a syndication of my post that’s at #7/#2.)

  • http://www.wolf-howl.com graywolf

    Curious are you using Google toolbar or google reader?

  • Jordan McCollum

    Toolbar, no. Reader, yes.

  • http://www.wolf-howl.com graywolf

    and which are you subscribed to in the reader?

  • Jordan McCollum

    Of the last 5 results on those pages, I’m only subscribed to MamaBlogga.

  • http://benmurphydesign.com Ben Murphy

    Jordan – I just blogged at my site about a related relevancy issue. I was doing some local searches, and found that I was getting ads served for previous searches on subsequent ones. Seemed like a glitch at first but I put it to the test and Google is definitely doing some post-search ad targeting.

    I didn’t think about personalized search immediately, but it kept going after I logged out. Still, it seems unrelated since these were random recent searches and not closely related.

    I’m just getting started blogging but I think this is kind of interesting so I thought I’d poke for your opinion.