By Todd Atkins
Say what you will about Google Plus. It is here to stay. Yesterday, Google rolled out a new integrated search results that incorporates the Google+ network. If you search on something like “unicorn tears” and there are matching results that people in your Google+ circles have clicked +1, it will show you that there are some personalized results for you.
Clicking on this link displays all of the personalize results, as you might expect. I did a post on the Least Effective SEO Techniques a few months ago which used a screen grab of the serp for “unicorn tears”. Someone at Fruition clicked +1 and shared it on Fruition’s Google+ Business Page now that post is showing up under my personalized results.
In my opinion, it is too in your face and a major step backwards in user interface. It pushes results further down the page and below the fold. It’s the same reason why I hate the new looks for Google Reader and Gmail. It just takes up too much space. Google+ is failing as a social network and Google is trying to integrate it into service you use and love. You’ll either get to a point where you can’t ignore it any longer, or you will switch search engines and services. Google is hoping for the former.
You can click on the little globe icon to remove the extra special results, but your next search that matches with a personal result will bring it back. Here’s how to turn it off the feature permanently.
Go to the upper right corner of your browser window and click on the gear icon, then “Search Settings”.
Then scroll down to “Personal Results” and select “Do not use personal results”.
This assumes you are signed into your Google account. This is a good assumption because you wouldn’t get personized results if you weren’t signed in. Be aware that this will turn off all personal customized search results. If you didn’t already know, Google keeps track of every search you do when signed into your Google account. They also track which results you click on. Using this information, they often will change the search engines results page to better guess what you will find most relevant based on your keyword search. For example, if two months ago you did research on an ereader and visited the landing page for an Amazon Kindle Touch. Then today, when you search on ereader accessories, you will see more results for Kindle accessories compared to someone who did not search and visit the sites you did previously.
Some people find this a huge privacy concern. Others find it surprisingly useful. Most have no idea that Google does this. If you turn the personal results off, it will not only turn off the special results that your friends have +1’d, but you will also lose the other personalized results. This can be bad if you’ve gotten used to these results. Have you ever done a search found a really great site after digging through 4-5 pags worth of results? Maybe it was an error message you got on your computer and finally found the right solution. A year later you get the same error message and can’t remember how to fix it. Personalized results may help you find that page again more easily, especially if you visited the page multiple times from the search results.
Overall, I think integrating the pages your friends +1 into your search results can be really useful. My only real complaint is Google’s GUI implementation. Let’s say a friend was searching around for a cloud based file sharing service. She found one she really liked and clicked on the +1 button. A week later you’re having lunch and she mentions it in passing, but can’t remember the name of the service. There are a huge number of these services out there. You get home and search on “cloud file sharing” and try to find the one with the “unicorn on the front page”. Instead of searching around for 45 minutes trying to find the site your friend told you about, you see it appear in your personalized results because she clicked +1 and she’s in one of your Google+ circles. Pretty nifty.
This could also seriously backfire on you. Let’s say you are looking to surprise your significant other with an engagement ring and click +1 on a store you liked. If your special someone happens to search on engagement ring, your +1 may show up in personal results and spoil the surprise.
Bottom line: Google needs to clean up the appearance of a fairly useful feature.
Ben Smith is a Researcher at Fruition, specializing in Google's Algorithm changes. Ben is a graduate of the University of Denver’s Mathematics program, and he enjoys learning about Google’s search algorithm updates. He's a vital asset of the Fruition team, and he one day hopes to publish a book. In his free time, you can find Ben enjoying the outdoors of Colorado.
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