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Google’s Search+ Your World Personalized Hides Local Results

John Doherty —  January 12, 2012
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As everyone knows, and a lot of people have already written about, Google recently launched “Search, Plus Your World”. Danny wrote a great piece over at SearchEngineLand and Jon Henshaw from Raven wrote his take on the matter. Both of those are worth reading, as Danny’s gives a lot of insider knowledge, and Jon’s is a great opinion that I think is pretty accurate.

I want to point out an intricacy I have seen that is already bothering me about Search+, as I am going to call it from here on out. I guess someday it will become “Search” once again, but not anytime soon.

Hiding Local Results

Personalized results actually hide a lot of content.  Take for example searching for “steakhouse NYC”. In the completely personalized, it actually helps if I want a recommendation from a friend:

Personalized results are good here. Friends FTW.

But notice that the local results are gone. I don’t see those until I switch to the mixed or universal results:

Here’s the result from a search for “Boston steakhouse”:


In the above case, I want the local results, because it provides the best experience when I search for “steakhouse NYC”. I don’t just want the opinions of my connections. I want to see what my friends recommend WITHIN what you already have. But this is not the default.

Some people may say “this isn’t a big deal, because you can always change the view.” The problem comes when when anyone outside the search world tries to use the new features! We know to switch it, but will my mom? Will my Dad? What will they see? If they’re on the personalized results, they’re never going to see the local results! This is a problem.

Google has, as AJ Kohn said to me today, “turned up the dial on social to 11“. Instead what they need to do is learn, as they have with other verticals, what people want. In normal Recipes search, you see a lot of images and stars and helpful information. I don’t need word counts for blog posts, or my own results for a search on “longtail SEO”. But I do need these personalized results on restaurant searches and hotels.

Google has long tried to find ways to surface the best information, but “best” is a relative term. What is best for me in one SERP (steak) is personalization, while in another it is universal (longtail seo). It almost seems like Google is giving up trying to surface content across the board, and instead is letting us choose.

I appreciate that move, Google, and it was obvious you were heading in this direction. But I did not know that it was going to be so drastic. Honestly, I think it hurts the overall search experience. Local results are buried because of personalization as we see, I have to switch back and forth to see universal or personalized.

For being a company that apparently has a lot of data and is always talking about “intent”, this new search is not very good at figuring out intent. I think they can get there, and they will, but for now I find the experience to just be awful. In fact, I now primarily search in an incognito window. I can’t stand to search in a personalized window.

When’s Wiredoo launching again?

John Doherty

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I'm the Senior Marketing Manager of HotPads.com, based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

13 responses to Google’s Search+ Your World Personalized Hides Local Results

  1. John, agreed and corroborated with my own tests too. The SPYW launch has completely wrecked search results. And I am not hopeful it will get better.

    Why?

    Because I don’t trust my WHOLE network for recommendations about restaurants, I trust only a FEW people. The social postings by the rest of the network are not only irrelevant, they are noise which make search results worse, as seen in your screen shots and mine — here: http://bit.ly/yw4ulg

    Will be keeping an eye on this for further developments.

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