Recommended Alerts From Google

How would you feel if you arrived at Google, and it suggested some recommended Web pages for you before you even entered a query in the search box?

I wrote about a paper a little over a year ago which discussed that possibilty, in New Papers at Google Labs.

That post is primarily about one paper, Retroactive Answering of Search Queries (pdf). A new patent application from Google, available at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), describes a very similar process for a search engine to recommend alerts to searchers.

The inventors listed in the patent filing, and the authors of the paper are different folks, but there’s a great deal of overlap from paper to patent application.

One addition in the patent that isn’t in the paper is a user’s Web History to help identify a searcher’s standing interests.

Recommended Alerts


A method of providing content to a user is described. A set of one or more key terms is identified in accordance with user history information. The user is provided an invitation to receive content on an ongoing basis. The content is related to the set of one or more key terms.

The patent application refers to this type of recommendation as a “push” technology:

Many users would like to have information or content that is of interest to them automatically provided to them, with little or no effort on their part. Such an approach to distributing information is sometimes called a “push” method of distributing information, as opposed to information retrieved in response to explicit user commands or queries, which is sometimes referred to as a “pull” or “on demand” method of distributing information.

A article quoting Sep Kamvar, Google’s technical lead for personalization, also refers to push technology – A Conversation With Google’s Personalization Guru, and mentions these types of recommendations:

Web History also gives Google the power to make recommendations through a browser toolbar button, an iGoogle tab or the actual Web History page.

Sounds like a possible new use for the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button on the front page of Google.

6 thoughts on “Recommended Alerts From Google”

  1. I don’t think I really want Google telling me which pages it thinks I should visit. I go to a search engine to find something I’m looking for, not to be told what I should be looking for.

    I understand the benefit from Google’s point of view, but my search history isn’t always the best indicator of what I’m looking for at the moment.

  2. Hi Steven,

    I understand your apprehension. To a degree, this is a little like the recommendations that are made when you visit, and they tell you that they have recommendations for you based upon your past searches and purchasing history.

    The idea isn’t so much to help you find something that you are looking for now, but rather to give you information that they have identified based upon “standing interests” that they think you may have.

    The paper that I mentioned from last year had me looking at a lot of papers on recommendations systems. I think that’s something that people doing SEO have to pay more attention to these days.

  3. Hi Ryan,

    The patent application from Google is titled “Recommended Alerts,” thus my title, “Recommended Alerts from Google.” 🙂

    Right now, I don’t believe that Google is recommending any alerts to people, but it’s not too hard to envision them recommending News Alerts, or Web search alerts to people, based upon those folks’ Web histories.

    I do use some of the Google alerts myself, to track some of the things that I am interested in, but those are based upon keywords that I submitted to Google. I find them convenient.

  4. I agree with Stephen when I am searching for things on Google once I have found what I am looking for that is it I do not want to go back there in most cases.
    I suppose in certain areas this might be applicable but in most I do not think it will take off.

  5. I’m not sure how popular these recommended alerts might become, Terry.

    Most things that I search for, I don’t revisit after finding an answer either. And the things that I have a “standing interest” in, I usually keep on looking until I find an answer, or try to find someone to ask whom I think might know of an answer.

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