The May issue of the print publication, Website Magazine, features an article on the personalization of search written by Bill Slawski of SEObytheSea. Titled, What Personalization Means to Search, Bill inspects what he feels may be the third stage of search technology – personalization.

Personalization, at its most basic level, is when search engines deliver search results to visitors based on what the engines have learned about your preferences and interests. Bill’s well-known keen insight into search technology and patents affords him the luxury of writing an overview covering a bit of history and from there; he looks to the present and future.

User interests are not the only habits studied. Search companies enthusiastically research how we use websites and the Internet. This includes eye tracking studies, how we access the Internet and how we actually use our computers. For example, many people can’t use a mouse but still wish to search online.

The intent to get to know us is not always welcomed. As Bill notes,

How do we go about learning intent when someone types a certain phrase into a search box?

Several options surfaced. You could create some type of profile for a searcher to collect information about their interests — either by having them complete a form, recording their activities and search history, looking through the contents of their desktops and emails or from both their explicit and implied interests. Unfortunately, people often hesitate to share detailed personal information about their interests with search engines. Plus, an individual’s past searching history may not be helpful in predicting their future intentions.

Eventually personalization may rely on “analyzing footprints people leave on the Web itself”. It’s not difficult to learn about people with the advent of Web 2.0 and user generated content. We mingle online quite well these days.

Bill ends his well-written article with suggestions on how to prepare for the personalization of search. The information he presents applies to both companies who do business on the Internet, as well as casual surfers.

Someday there may be a search engine ready to wait on you hand and foot and perfectly capable of reading your mind.

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Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, SEO and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, information architecture and persuasive design. She shared her passion for Usability and SEO through her site and private consulting at Cre8pc for 17 years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability testing, customer experience and conversions design.

My Online Course: Web Site Usability 101


American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)

Information Architecture Institute

Usability Professionals Association (UPA)

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