How to Personalize Web Search

When you perform a search on one of the major search engines for a particular query, and when I perform the same search, chances are that we will see the same pages appearing on the search results pages. Then again, we may not. Chances are also good that in the future, the results that each of us sees will be different.

One of the areas that many in academia, and at commercial search engines are exploring is how to personalize web search.

We see that most visibly in the personalized search pages that the major search engines have released. They explain how to receive personalized searches on the following pages:

Google Help Center – Personalizing your search results

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Content Planning for Search Engine Optimization

This post doesn’t describe the actual creation of content for a site, from an SEO stance, but it does detail some of the planning and steps that can be taken to help in the process.

It also doesn’t discuss some of the technical aspects of SEO that should be planned for to make a site easier to be found by search engines. But it does provide a number of questions that may make it easier for someone who is considering optimizing their site for search engines as they are putting together content for the pages of their site.

One of my favorite articles of the past few years on design is a Digital Web article from 2003 by G.A. Buchholz, titled A Content Requirements Plan (CRP) helps Web designers take a leadership role.

I think that part of the planning of the content of a site also should include an awareness of search engines, and a knowledge of some SEO goals. Those goals aren’t too difficult to keep in mind when it comes to creating the words for a site, but are definitely worth considering:

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Should Search Engines Help Searchers Avoid Malicious Sites?

How safe are search engines? One recent answer might surprise you.

Back in May, Ben Edelman wrote about Search Engine Safety. In part, he was writing about how search engine paid advertising for some products, like screensavers, may lead to sites that would put spyware on the computers of visitors who download the screensavers. He wrote more on that practice in a January post titled Pushing Spyware through Search

He was also announcing a study that he had worked on with McAfee, about The Safety of Internet Search Engines. If you missed this report in May, it’s worth a visit. It discusses the safety of organic results through search engines, as well as paid results.

What’s a search engine to do?

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SEO by the Sea First Anniversary

SEO by the Sea was created in the heat of last year’s summer, with a breeze blowing off the Chesapeake Bay, and an idea to try to get a few marketers to join together to share a few stories, a journey out on the Chesapeake, and some good food and drink.

The early days, and early pages of the blog are about the event, and places to see and stay at, and things to do in Northern Maryland. Once the event ended, the web site was probably going to go into hiatus, possibly for another gathering this year.

Posting was slim in the months following a cruise on the Chesapeake, but an occasional post made it on to the site, and as the weather turned colder, a few more started appearing. A post about Google Acquisitions drew some attention from a few thousand people at Digg, and a nomination from Search Engine Journal (thanks, Loren) drew some more readers to the site.

I had been watching out for new patents and patent applications, and whitepapers on search for a while, and it made some sense to start writing about some of those here. The response seems to have been pretty positive, and I was invited by Danny Sullivan to speak at the Search Engine Strategies Conference in New York this past spring, and surprised by him there when he asked me if I would like to write about search patents and search research for Search Engine Watch. I’ll be traveling to San Jose for another SES in August, and I’m looking forward to a visit to the west coast. Thanks for those opportunities, Danny.

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Mining Searchers’ Queries for Information

Search engines, and the people who constantly improve and update them are getting smarter and smarter when it comes to finding ways to make the results of those search engines more relevant.

One area they are paying more attention to is in search engine log files, watching how searchers interact with the search engines. I wanted to do some more research on how researchers might be looking at queries, and collected some citations to a number of pages involving that type of research.

This is by no means the canonical list of search engine/user behavior papers, but it’s a start…

More on Deletion Predictions

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Google Autolink Patent

A patent application filed at the end of last week appeared to describe how Google Autolink worked – Providing useful information associated with an item in a document.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office assignment database shows that this document was assigned to Google in December of 2004, but, as close as it seemed to describe how autolink worked, I wasn’t completely convinced.

At least until I looked closer at the “figures” filed with the document. Note the “autolink” button on the bottom toolbar in the picture of a browser window below.

A browser window, with a Google Autolink button from the patent application.

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User Behaviour: Deletion Predictions

Many of the searches conducted on a search engine involve using more than one word in a query, and search engines pay attention to which words are being used. And, it’s possible that they are tracking and counting those words used in queries, as well as which pages are selected as a result of that search.

But search engines can pay attention to more than just the words being used. They can also look at user behavior from one search to another.

The Importance of Deleted Query Terms

Imagine that a Yahoo or a Google is watching and connecting how a searcher acts in a string of searches. Someone performs a search that involves more than one word, looks at the results, and then deletes one of the search terms, and searches again. The searcher then selects a result from that second search. What does that tell the search engine about the original search query, the deleted term, and the result chosen?

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Thanks to David Laws

You may have noticed some tweaks to the design of SEO by the Sea over the last day or so.

I have David Laws, of 1 Cog, to thank for doing some fine tuning of the CSS file here. David graciously volunteered his services to make those changes primarily to make links stand out a little more than they had in the past.

He also made some changes to colors for parts of the blog. I’m not sure that I initially liked the highlighting on links that had been visited, but they’ve been growing on me this morning.

Thank you very much, David.

On a related topic, I updated the version of “Did You Pass Math”, which had at least two important changes. One was that it now allows trackbacks, which were broken under the old version. The other is that it moves the question and the field for an answer to the top of the comment form.


Getting Information about Search, SEO, and the Semantic Web Directly from the Search Engines