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Does Google Personalized Search Have You Concerned?




Google’s SPYW (Search Plus Your World) certainly has elicited some strong reactions. We have heard many of them, read the long -winded diatribes and had every “expert” weigh in on the situation. That’s all necessary (I suppose) but when the rubber meets the road, just what level of impact this change in Google’s search methodology is will be determined by the Internet commonmer, not the Silicon Valley insider.

That’s why some research from AYTM Market Research that was passed through by eMarketer is interesting but I have some questions myself. First, look at this chart which measures people’s concerns about privacy and search.

My question is whether these questions were asked exactly like this and were there other options to this question (anyone at AYTM care to chime in?). Also, what kind of people were asked this question? Were they young? Old? Tech types? Regular Joe’s? This is important to know when we see things like this because it’s very easy to make sweeping generalizations when we see results like this.

The question I have that I would like to see asked of someone who has a regular job, isn’t knee deep in the online space for hours on end each day but still searches for information and even buys stuff online is “Are you aware that this kind of personalization goes on? And if you no but now do, do you care?” And lastly “Why do you go to Google?”. For large numbers of people that answer would be “To get answers to my questions”. Then ask “Do you care how they do it?” When most answer no you could ask “Do you really care how they do it as long as you get the information you need?” and most would answer “No”.

We are acting as if tech types and Silicon Valley folks and hangers on speak for the masses. They don’t. There are large portions of the US that buy stuff online that don’t care about any of this. As an industry it feels like we are majoring in the minors. Rather than figuring out the best way to efficiently and effectively reach target markets we get caught in the minutiae of what we deem to be important. It may be to us but when we get off our soap box there needs to be the realization that the audience we yell and scream at is limited. I know A LOT of smart people that don’t have a clue what Google does and guess what? They don’t care either.

Now for the second question from this article. How many US Internet users use Google+.

According to these findings 40% of US Internet users either use it or have an account. Really? I must really be out of the loop. Oh wait. I don’t live in the Silicon Valley. I just live in the Raleigh, NC area which is rather tech savvy as far as metro areas go and I feel VERY confident much less than 40% of the population here (at least the folks I know) have the slightest clue that Google+ even exists.

I’m not saying that this information is completely off base. In fact, much of what I refer to here is based on my observations only. We are not hiring folks to run out and gather survey data. It’s just that sometimes information seems sensationalistic in nature and our concern is that many will get a distorted view of the reality of the Internet space.

Will a study like the one mentioned above do that? Maybe, maybe not. I can say, though, that we as an industry need to be looking at the less sophisticated Internet user for cues as to what the mass market does online. To look at each other and assume that how we use the Internet is “normal” is not only arrogant, it’s pretty stupid.

Your thoughts?

  • MrAndrewJ

    I’m curious about how that first poll was worded, too. Does the common guy really know he is typing a keyword into a search engine? Or does he think everyone should get the same answer to the same question?

    To answer the topic question: I’m not concerned about personalized search. The industry’s reaction has been more important to me.

  • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

    @MrAndrewJ – As you picked up on, my concern or observation is not really about the industry types. We are all too far into this to see the forest for the trees. See my other post from today about how I really feel regarding the gap that exists between the Internet industry elite and the Internet commoner. This is where the industry is missing much of the equation and catering to what is essentially a very finite and relatively small (compared to the masses) group of Internet snobs or elitists rather than the regular guy.

    Over time the ones who recognize this mistake and start concentrating on how MOST people use the engines will benefit greatly while the Internet snobs will text, GPS, update and whatever else they do to each other in the echo chamber that is Silicon Valley. Oh well!

  • Jeff Kryger

    I couldn’t agree with you more Frank, and I share your sentiment that I feel that a lot of the time and effort in this space is spent in an echo chamber that no one outside of has any idea about. I am all for using the Internet to help reach the masses, but I feel that sometimes people get so bogged down in the minutiae and details and worrying over things that in reality have no real consequence in the bigger scheme.

    And I really question where people get these Google+ numbers from. I feel like most people either have no idea what it is, or signed up and don’t use it. I know of no one who uses it regularly in my entire social circle.

    Thanks for the great article