Google Bookmarks and Personalization

Imagine that you surf the Web regularly, and bookmark pages that you might revisit.

You may take those bookmarks, and organize them into categories.

As part of a personalization process, you may get to select how much influence each bookmark might have upon your future searches. The bookmarks and categories that you choose for each might act to rerank the search results you see.

The Evils of Bookmark Managers

Last December, I wrote about the newest version of the Google Toolbar, and its synch feature that enables people to log in and out of the toolbar and save their toolbar settings regardless of which computer they are sitting at.

My post covered a number of the privacy issues that might surround the use of synchronization of toolbar settings from one computer to anouther with the same login.

In 2005, I wrote a number of posts at Cre8site forums, in a thread titled If a Googler Offers you a Bookmark Manager, Punch Him. That patent application (Methods and systems for personalized network searching) provided a number of details on how a bookmark manager might work, but not ncessarily the actual personalization aspects of the process described.

That patent went beyond bookmarks to cover other factors that might be considered to serve personalized search results to someone, such as Web and search history and browsing behavior.

Google Bookmark Personalization Patent Applications

A couple of new patent applications from Google explore another aspect of the toolbar, bookmarks – how they might influence personalization, and how they might be stored remotely.

Bookmarks and Ranking
Invented by Oren Zamir and Jeffrey Korn
Assigned to Google
US Patent Application 20080010252
Published January 10, 2008
Filed: September 29, 2006

Abstract

A system receives bookmarks associated with one or more documents or sites. The system searches a corpus of documents to obtain search results and ranks the search results using the received bookmarks.

Server bookmarks
Invented by Ying Zhang and Jeffrey Korn
US Patent Application 20080010286
Published January 10, 2008
Filed: January 9, 2006

Abstract

A system receives, at a server, an action request from a client associated with bookmarks, where the bookmarks identify user designated documents. The system accesses bookmark records stored at the server based on the action request and acting on the bookmark records in a manner specified by the action request.

Reranking Based Upon Bookmarks

Someone bookmarking pages might have some control over how much or how little a bookmark might influence search results.

Reranking of search results may happen in a few different ways:

  1. If a bookmarked document is contained in the search results, then it might be promoted higher in search results.
  2. If a page from the same site as a bookmarked document is contained in the search results, then that page might move up in search results.
  3. The user’s specification for each bookmark may determine how and if the user’s bookmarks should be used in re-ranking the search results, whether it is the individual bookmarked page, or a page from the same site as the bookmarked page.
  4. The categories that are assigned to bookmarked pages may also influence rerankings of search results, when there are pages in the search results that are related to the same categories.

Conclusions and Implications

David Harry also took a look at these patent applications in Google Bookmarks the new ranking signal? He draws a nice analogy to something that we’ve already seen from Google – their ability to let people use custom search engines. Instead of selecting sites to include in a custom search, this process might allow reranking of results showing in your browser based upon your bookmark selections.

The process enables bookmarked pages and bookmark catgories to influence organic search results, and cause search results to be reranked either based upon settings that a user determines, or on the selections and categories themselves without the user setting selections.

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17 thoughts on “Google Bookmarks and Personalization”

  1. Would it make sense for Google to not show pages in search results that you have already bookmarked? For example, I’ve already bookmarked your blog. If I search for ‘seo patents blog’ will Google sooner or later decide that there is no need to include your site because if that’s what I wanted then I would have selected it from my list of bookmarks instead of typing in a search on the subject. In other words, user inaction by not selecting an available bookmark could be used to exclude pages.

    Also, are they going to decide that the bookmarks that are the oldest, at the top of the list (if not in alpha order), or that are used the most are the more relevant and thus carry more weight?

  2. I found it to be an interesting idea until of course I started to ask people what they thought. Then, my enthusiasm waned as most folks didn’t even realize the G ToolBar had bookmarks. Even when I explained such a new feature, the reception was less than luke-warm.

    I do find the BookMarks manager to be a tad unwieldy at this point, but would at least give such a feature a go as I would like to see it in action. It does remind me of the Google Custom Search engines (Co-Op) though…

    We shall see what becomes of it…..

  3. @ Tinkerbell —-

    Actually, you can already search your bookmarks, check it out. Then start thinking about the proposed feature set as far as what settings you can give to each bookmark. It becomes a blended search result so to speak. If they were passively using BM data, then the signal would be much weaker since it wasn’t an implicit request from the end user. It seems mostly directed at explicit functionality though.

    If you search your bookmarks today, it finds RECENT posts from your bookmarks, not merely searching the actual pages bookmarked, it searches the domains as well. So I can’t see certain sites being discounted because the bookmark is older….

    My 2c on it….

    Dave

  4. Pingback: Link Love - Friday 01/11/2008
  5. I will actually prefer if bookmarked links somehow show differently instead of polluting the search results. As I might like to check out 10 different SEO blogs for their opinions.

    If I have 5 bookmarked blogs, it doesn’t mean that all my opinions/hunger for information is limited to these 5 sites. I want to go to other 5 also.

    What do you guys think?

  6. I will be very interested to see how much this really does affect the SERP. I can see it making some small changes for some people, but as a whole I don’t think will have a big impact on SEOs. But I could be wrong I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens.

  7. Rajat

    Interesting though regarding showing the bookmark influenced results differently. I thought of the stumbleupon icons that show up next to search results while you’re logged into stumbleupon, when I read that point from you. Some additional information displayed, like those icons might be a nice touch.

  8. Hi tinkerbellchime :)

    One of the parts of this patent application that is an option they could use would be to allow people to decide whether they wanted the pages or sites from the bookmarks to be included within searches.

    I like that, because it gives the people using it the choice, and control. I don’t know if they will actually make that part of the bookmark manager, but it would be good if they did.

    Hard to tell how much weight they might give one bookmark over another if there are no user preferences selected. Should the age of a bookmark make a difference? Should an older bookmark count less because it might be something that you were interested in once, but might be no longer? Should an older bookmark count more because you’ve had time to remove it, but find it valuable enough to keep?

    Order in the list, or amount of use? I’m not sure. I know I sometimes do some research, and bookmark groups of pages around topics when I think I might want to come back to them. If those are short term projects, I may not want those bookmarks influencing my searches for long periods of time.

    It’s difficult to gauge some of the assumptions behind choices made in these patent filings.

  9. Dave,

    All interesting points – funny that many people you asked, who are using the toolbar didn’t even realize that the bookmark manager is in there.

    If they did have controls on how much each bookmark might influence a search result, do you think people would take the time to use those settings? Great illustration of them in your post.

    I do like how they can function like the Google Custom Search engines.

  10. Have you ever read anything about Google using the number of bookmarks a site or web page has to influence rankings in the same way the inbound links do? If so, I can see an open door for abuse.

  11. Mike,

    By itself, I don’t think that this would have a major impact, but it is another move towards different people seeing different things when they perform the same search. I guess that’s the most interesting thing about it. :)

  12. Hi David

    Have you ever read anything about Google using the number of bookmarks a site or web page has to influence rankings in the same way the inbound links do?

    I’m not sure that I’ve seen that, at least in these patent filings. I do know that the older patent application, that I linked to above, and wrote about at Cre8asite Forums did discuss trying to possibly use bookmark information to see if they could build clusters or communities of users who share many common sites and interests, possibly to recommend new sites to them from each other.

    There may be some language like that in some of the other patent filings about measuring user behavior and browsing, though the more of those signals used, the less impact each one might have.

  13. i am trying google bookmarking’s influence in Google serps. last 6 days beetween my 3 sites, i will write here if i have some results.

  14. Hi Lida,

    It’s interesting to speculate what kind of influence bookmarks might have.

    I haven’t used Google’s bookmarks, and don’t really use personalized search from Google that much. It would be interesting to see how much of an impact that your bookmarking pages might have upon the personalized search results that you see.

    The two patent applications look like they only apply to the rankings that an individual sees in personalized search as a result of the pages that person has bookmarked, but it may be possible that if enough people bookmark specific pages, that bookmarking activity could influence search rankings outside of personalized search.

    These patent filings don’t really address that, but we’ve seen a number of others from Google that do tell us that user data can be used, including bookmarking, to cause pages to be re-ranked by the search engine.

    Looking forward to hearing back from you.

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