Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Change in Google search results

I thought I'd pass on something I learned from a colleague in Reference, in case you haven't heard about it.

Google has made a significant change to the way it searches and presents results.

As of December 4, 2009, Google has made "Personalized Search" the default search. This means that the search results are no longer based on Google's normal algorithm. Rather, search results are now customized based on 180 days of search activity linked to a cookie on your computer's browser.

Quoting from an article in Search Engine Land, "By watching what you click on in search results, Google can learn that you favor particular sites. For example, if you often search and click on links from Amazon that appear in Google's results, over time, Google learns that you really like Amazon. In reaction, it gives Amazon a ranking boost. That means you start seeing more Amazon listings, perhaps for searches where Amazon wasn't showing up before." (Sullivan, Danny, 2009, "Google Now Personalizes Everyone's Search Results," http://searchengineland.com/google-now-personalizes-everyones-search-results-31195)

Here's a link to Google's announcement about the change: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/personalized-search-for-everyone.html

Here is a link to information about how you can turn off the personalization on your own computer, if you wish: Turning off Personalization.

This has interesting implications for researchers who are unaware of this change in how search results are displayed.