Study: Two-Thirds of Search Engine Users Don’t Want Personalized Results


According to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, most Internet users are, overall, quite happy with the results they find with their preferred search engines. One thing they don't like, though, is that these search engines are tracking them. Only 29% of search engine users in this study say that it's a good thing that these companies are tracking their searches and other information to personalize their results. A full 65% think that's a bad thing and 73% say that it's not okay for a search engine to track their searches.

Virtually the same numbers also apply to targeted advertising, where 67% say they don't want their online behavior to be tracked and only 28% say that they are fine with this.

Google, of course, has been making a major push by integrating personalized results very deeply into its search results through its "Search, Plus Your World" initiative.

It's worth noting, though, that younger search engine users are somewhat less concerned about being tracked (56%) and about their information being used to personalize search results.

There is also an interesting racial divide here, where 70% of white users are concerned about the so-called filter bubble and think it's a bad thing for search engines to limit "the information you get online and what search results you see." Among black and Hispanic search engine users, that number is only about 50%.

Most Don't Know How to Limit Online Tracking

Even though most people really don't like to be tracked, though, it's interesting that only 38% of respondents in this survey think they know how to limit the amount of information that websites are collecting about them. Most of them, for example, have deleted their web history (81%) and used the privacy settings of websites (75%).

Enhanced by Zemanta

9:14 am

The Google Doctor Will See You Now: Google Improves Results for Health Searches


Google search is no substitute for actually visiting a doctor, but millions of people use the search engine to look up symptoms every day. Now, Google is making it a little bit easier to connect these symptoms with actual health conditions. The search engine will now automatically display a list of possible illnesses automatically when you search for a common symptom.

In it research, Google found that most searches for a symptom are followed by a search for a related condition. To save its users some time, the search engine's algorithms now automatically discover the kinds of conditions are related to certain symptoms.

health search symptoms on google

According to Google's chief health strategist Roni Zeiger, it's important to remember that this list is generated by algorithms and not authored by doctors.

It's worth noting that Microsoft's Bing, in partnership with the Mayo Clinic, has featured support for enhanced health search results for more than two years now.

10:13 am

“This Post is Sponsored by Google Chrome”


If there is one kind of blog post that makes my stomach turn, it's pay-per-post content that is just meant to deliver cheap SEO links for the "advertisers." Google, too, has generally looked down upon this kind of content. Now, however, it looks like the company is running its own pay-per-post campaign for Chrome, its increasingly popular browser. SEO Book's Aaron Wall was the first to discover the large number of posts that say "this post is sponsored by Google Chrome" today, but the news is quickly spreading across the web.

While there is every indication that these posts were indeed sponsored by Google, it's worth noting that I've asked Google for comment and will update this post when I hear back from them. It is, after all possible, that somebody else paid for this campaign to paint Google in a negative light.

Update: The Verge has learned that a marketing company called Unruly Media was hired by Google to run ads for Chrome, but Google denies that it ever "agreed to anything more than online ads" and that it "consistently avoided paid sponsorships, including paying bloggers to promote our products."

"Google Chrome helped this small business in Vermont go global."

As of now, there are about 400 blog posts that feature this text, generally at the bottom of the story. Most of them were published within the last week or so, though some are also a bit older. The sites that were apparently chosen to run these stories tend to be of the mommy-blog persuasion.

As Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan points out, Google's own Matt Cutts has said, "paid posts should not pass PageRank" and the company generally looks down upon these "sponsored conversations." These sponsored posts, though, are obviously little else but attempts to buy links. Why Google needs this, is hard to say, though.

With its Panda Update, Google has also worked hard to ban low-quality content from its index, but if you look at the results of this campaign, it's clear that it's not exactly buying high-quality posts either (though it's worth noting that some of these posts don't even feature links to Chrome). Some even reference a YouTube video about how Chrome helped a small business in Vermont go global without even linking to the video.

It's not clear, how Google approached these bloggers. While most of them have run paid posts before, they don't all seem to be affiliated with the same pay-per-post organization, but it's possible that some of them aren't disclosing their affiliation either.

You can find a more detailed analysis of this situation over on Search Engine Land, too.

Google Chrome Benefits Small Business ~ Telecommuting Moms

Enhanced by Zemanta

12:33 am

Easy Hack Allowed Anybody to Remove Domains From Google’s Index


Google’s Webmaster Tools are a collection of handy utilities for website owners to check how Google sees their sites, report moved sites and check on search engines stats for their domains. Today, however, UK-based developers James Breckenridge also found a way to use this tool to remove any domain from Google’s index with just a simple copy and paste hack. Google is already blocking this attack, so while you may be able to think of a few sites you don’t want Google to ever find again (either yours or others), it’s now too late to use this exploit.

Here is how Breckenridge explained the hack:

The process was actually very simple and just required some minor modifications to a URL, followed by a form submission.

Edit the following URL:{YOUR_URL}/&urlt={URL_TO_BLOCK}

Replace in the URL above: [list]

  • {YOUR_URL} = A URL you control within Webmaster Tools
  • {URL_TO_BLOCK} = The URL of the site you want to block:
    • You can request removal of the following:
      • Site – Provide top level domain (E.g.
      • Section – Provide URL of the folder (E.g.
      • Page – Provide URL of the page (E.g. [/list]

Given the importance of having your site listed in Google’s index, it is surprising that a massive issue like this went undetected for a potentially very long time. It’s not clear if anybody else had already found and exploited this issue before Breckenridge reported it, but given how easy this hack was, I wouldn’t be surprised.

4:04 am