Search Gets Personal

Starting today, Google will integrate Social Search deeper into its main search results and will highlight whenever your friends shared this link on Twitter or Buzz. Even more importantly, Google will use these signals from your friends to personalize your search results if appropriate. If your friend shared a story about Google’s new Social Search feature on Google Reader, for example, this link will climb up in Google’s search results.

Until now, Social Search was relegated to the bottom of the search results page and only showed items that your friends actually created. Now that it also takes links your friends shared on Twitter and Google Buzz – but not Facebook – into account, it has become exponentially more useful. My old colleague Mike Melanson describes how this feature works in more detail on ReadWriteWeb. Google plans to roll this feature out over the next few days.

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Across the Web, Search Gets Personal

The big trend here goes beyond the integration of social signals into search results, however. Today’s update to how Google displays its search results is part of a wider trend towards the personalization of search results. Here are a few examples: Just a few days ago, Bing announced that it will personalize results based on location (something Google has been doing for a while) and the links you have clicked on before. Earlier this week, Google announced a Chrome extensions that allows you to selectively block sites you don’t want to see in your ten blue links. With its slashtags, upstart search engine Blekko is making custom search engines the backbone of its service. Bing highlights likes from your Facebook friends when a relevant link appears in the results. All of the search engines now take your location into account when deciding which links to present to you.

For better or worse, companies like Google continue to learn more and more about our personal habits and those of our friends. It makes sense then, that this knowledge will sooner or later lead to completely personalized search results that aren’t based so much on the collective wisdom of the Internet (Pagerank), but on a sophisticated understanding of which links will likely be most interesting to the individual user.