Google’s “Search Plus Your World” Combines Social, Personal, and Personalized Algorithms

January 10th, 2012 by Search Influence Alumni

Google's Search Plus Your World ExampleGoogle search results have been getting more and more personalized since the introduction of personal results in 2005, but the search engine giant’s newest feature takes on your entire world.

The new “Search Plus Your World” feature effectively erases the lines between standard search results, hits from social sites like Google+, search results that have been shaped by your personal search history, and results that are targeted at you personally.

Sound to you like Google is tightening its grip on your online life? You may not be entirely wrong. This update, while ostensibly making strides to personalize your entire interaction with what is still essentially a massive online question and answer service, collapses most of the walls that have always existed between social media and the wilds of the internet.

But only for you, apparently.

The Google You See

Search Plus Your World draws from not only the internet in general, but also from the pool of private online information that you or your friends have shared. So if someone in one of your Google+ Circles shares a picture of you, say, wearing an oversized sombrero, that image is likely to pop up in your search results the next time you search for “Cinco de Mayo.”

Why? Because that picture is tied to you on Google+. It doesn’t even matter if that picture is only shared on a limited basis to five members of your circle – it may still show up in your search and the search results of anyone else you are connected to online.

But here’s the really important part that may or may not help Google skirt what appear to be serious issues with sharing personal data: just because you and the people you have connections with see that picture doesn’t mean that it has been shared globally online.

Now, that may come as cold comfort to someone whose boss is in one of their Google+ Circles if the boss just found out that the sombrero wearing employee wasn’t really sick with the flu on May 5th  and 6th, but the fact is that the picture will remain shared on a limited basis, as its settings on Google+ stipulate.

So you may end up sharing more than you wanted to, but only to people you are connected to online. And none of us have Google+ or Facebook friends we’ve never met, right? We certainly all know every one of our Twitter followers, right? Right?

But SEO Personalization is still a Good Thing

Potential party related privacy issues aside, this update still represents a leap forward in personalizing your Internet experience. When you asked Jeeves for the name of a bicycle shop in 1998, he didn’t know or care that you were in New Orleans and not New York, at least not to the extent that Google does now.

I’d argue that most of the advances Google has made in the realm of personalized searching have faded into the background rather than sparking outrage in the average user. Seriously, when is the last time you have given up a Google search in exasperation because 30 minutes of searching resulted in exactly zero relevant results? Five years ago? Ten?

So while things that you have shared with friends may start popping up in what promises to be the next generation of ultra-personalized search results from Google, you are also more likely than ever before to find relevant information from every search.

Just don’t take pictures while wearing silly hats and drinking tequila. And if you do, don’t post them online. You never know who in your circle may be looking.