The fact that Google personalises search results is not exactly a secret, although it is something that works so well, most of the time, that end users forget that it is happening. The issue of confirmation bias is something that is becoming increasingly problematic online. By surrounding ourselves with people that share our interests on Facebook and Twitter, and reinforcing our views with the websites we see in search, we can shape a rather skewed online world view.
Understanding how Google’s personalised search results work can be helpful both for users themselves and for online marketers. In 2012, Google filed for a patent for personalised search, and on August 27th 2015 that patent was granted.
What’s In Patent US 2015/0242512 A1?
The patent describes an algorithm which will receive the query and user information, and then serve up search results that will be of interest to the user – based on things that the user has already expressed an interest in. This means that users will see more results that they like, and see less of the kind of website that they dismiss.
Personalisation could come down to places that the user is likely to want to visit, articles they may be interested in, and the context of the information.
Location and Past Behaviour
This is a learning algorithm, and it pays attention to everything from the user’s location to the sort of information that they are interested in. So, someone who searches for the name of a store, but who doesn’t add the location they are interested in to their query will see the nearest version of that store.
Someone who searches for articles about heart rate monitors might see lifestyle magazines writing about such things, if those websites are the kind they usually visit. However, if they are a personal trainer or a medical student then they might see more scholarly articles instead.
As a webmaster, you can use this knowledge to guide the content that you create for search engines, because it gives you the confidence that any organic traffic you acquire will be high quality. Users coming from organic search results pages are self-qualified as being interested in what you have to say. If your website represents an online store, then they are either interested in your area or local to it. This makes them a highly valuable audience for any seller.