Personalised and real-time search – let me turn them off!

Call me an old Luddite if you will, but to me – as a user rather than just as an SEO – personalised search is a faulty concept. The whole point of “search” is that I’m looking for something I usually don’t know much about – so why would I want sites that I already know about appearing in search results? If they had what I wanted I wouldn’t need to do a search! Personalisation only really makes sense if you use search engines merely as a navigation tool rather than a search tool. Ok we know some people do that but are we really restricting¬† the capability and functionality of something as important as search on the habits of people who can’t be bothered to learn to use bookmarks?

As regards real-time search I only see the point in it for news-based queries – otherwise being new doesn’t make something any more relevant or carry any quality signal, so why focus on it? And it seems I’m not the only one to think so according to a new study summarised here.

The appearance of Twitter or Facebook entries in search results is completely irrelevant for the sort of searches I make, and most of the time so is video. I’d like to be able to turn them off and only include them on the rare occasions when I think they are relevant. I already use a Firefox add-on that kills Adwords for my personal searches since I *never* use PPC ads and they’ve become progressively more annoying. Sadly Google seem determined to show me what they think I should see and not what I want to see, and they resist all suggestions to allow us flexibility. They insist on devoting all their visible efforts to these increasingly complex layouts and features that push real organic results further down the page, yet the quality of the organic results is probably worse now than it was 5 years ago and they seem to be unable to filter out obvious spam of a type that they claim to hate and we ethical SEO’s have been railing against for years.

The end result is a low quality experience for many users. I would say to them to concentrate on quality and simplicity – which was what made them popular in the first place – and give us a choice of what we want to see in the results rather than foist unwanted “features” on us. Because if they don’t then they really are risking losing users to someone else that will give us what we want. The online world is littered with once-popular sites and companies that have died the death, and no-one, not even Google, is immune from changing public preferences.


Personalised and real-time search – let me turn them off! — 2 Comments

  1. Bill, I totally and utterly agree.
    I sell printer cartridges and most people will go to a search engine to buy them via mail order because of their small size and ease of posting.
    Why would you want to see results for your local area, sites you have already looked at or worse still someone’s inane tweet about the subject.
    I nearly fell off my chair two weeks ago when I saw my site at No.1 for a competitive term.
    I had to cancel the expensive holiday, when I saw that the results had been customised from my earlier clicks!!
    I’ve now switched off all these customisations, I didn’t know that there was a firefox addon that produced results less the adword adverts. I’m off to search for it now… I’m guessing that it won’t be provided by a company based within 5 miles of where google ‘thinks’ I’m based, which is something else they’ve got drastically wrong.

  2. Glad to hear I’m not the only one John.

    The extension I’ve been using is called CustomizeGoogle 0.76 but it appears that it’s no longer being developed and someone else has started a very similar one called OptimizeGoogle 0.77
    It has a lot of other options too like removing ads from Maps and making Gmail secure (not that I’ll ever use Gmail)