Posted January 19, 2009 12:59 pm by with 11 comments

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In an effort to move more and more towards personalized results, Google began testing a new feature called “Preferred Sites” yesterday.

The idea behind Preferred Sites is that you can tell Google which sites you trust most and want to appear more often in your search results. Google will also recommend sites to include in your list based on your search history.

Google’s help page for Preferred Sites explains:

The preferred sites feature lets you set your Google Web Search preferences so that your search results match your unique tastes and needs. Fill in the sites you rely on the most, and results from your preferred sites will show up more often when they’re relevant to your search query.

Google Preferred Sites

Alex Chitu of the Google System blog did some experimenting with the new feature and found very interesting results. The most interesting result came after adding IMDb and the New York Times to his Preferred Sites.

After adding IMDB and New York Times, the results for [how to lose friends and alienate people] were changed dramatically: two pages from were promoted to the top 3 results, but they weren’t in the first 30 results for a regular search.

Results from Preferred Sites are marked as such.

Not all users will have the option to participate in the experimental feature right away. Should Google decide to push this change live, it should give you even more ammunition in your case to stop providing ranking reports for clients.

If you were selected to try Preferred Sites, give it a test run and let us know what you think. To enable Preferred Sites, simply login to your Google account and turn it on via the preferences page.

  • I guess this is another addition to the new Search Wiki feature which allows users to have ‘favorite’ sites which are promoted… This just gives a few more options.

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  • I have a few thoughts on this. By doing this Google is essentially taking a lot of pressure of its algorithm to determine the most relevant results for a given search. Even though the results are going to be user specific, I wonder how this info will be used in future index updates, if at all. I’m thinking it has to come into play somehow. This is going to go against most SEOs that are gaming the index by generating backlinks. I also wonder why Google didn’t also allow users to tag sites that they prefer.

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  • These personalized search features just don’t make sense to me. Kinda sorta seems like they’re making search less important. It seems silly to use a search engine to search websites you’re familar with and that you already know about? Maybe I’m missing something…probably am, usually do.

  • Is Google opening up Pandora’s box?

    Will these new personalized search results affect paid results? (My guess is no).

    If widespread adoption takes place, the SEO game is sure to change. Then again, perhaps being able to find even more relevant information will ‘democratize’ the distribution of well written information.

    Whatever the case, I love how Google keeps us on our toes!

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  • Very interesting. I think it’s cool, but… Glad this is still in “beta”, lol.

    This will definitely make SEO harder. But it’s the same stuff we’ve been saying, you need good content. Give your readers a reason why they would want to say good things about you and come back. Also means that diversifying traffic sources will be important.

  • As long as it’s optional there’s no harm. I hope this won’t impact overall rank though. I don’t want to see turn into a ratings system with everyone fighting to get people to put their blog on. Though that might happen regardless.

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  • This could be a nice feature, but the biggest problem is SEO as some suggested. It will be hard to make it in top search results for smaller sites just because they are not considered preferred.

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  • Saurav

    If I knew where to go to find the information I am looking for, I would go there instead of going to Google to find the info. But then it could just be me.

    When SearchWiki came out I asked a lot of my friends if they knew “what it is?” To my surprise most of them said “NO”. Preferred site feature could go the same way with many user not actually being aware of this additional feature. If we have only a handful of people using these personalized features then the overall impact it has on mainstream search is minimal. If this be the case, then the situation remains the way it was before these features were introduced.

  • Debbie

    Hey Jayson

    Totally agree with you. Everyone I have spoken to who is not a webmaster or involved in SEO says they will not use this option. They want to see what results will come up for their search not the sites they already know about.

  • google web2.0 is scary, if people start to use this, is seo will still work?

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