The Death of Non-Personalized Search?
Depersonalized search is a valuable tool. Not only is it useful for those of us in the SEO community, but it’s great for everyday users that want SERPs which aren’t altered by their search history. However, Google may be ditching depersonalized search for some unknown nefarious reason.
Cyrus Shepard, a highly respected SEO, released an interesting finding via Google+ Thursday afternoon. In the post he details how he performed a non-personalized search for Vanessa Fox with the &pws=0 operator. Next he performed another search for Twitter. He found his previous click through ranking #2 for a Twitter query. As nice as Vanessa Fox is, her name is not usually that closely associated with Twitter.
Search Just Got Weird
Cyrus went on to do a couple more people related queries and followed both up with a query for Twitter. Both queries resulted in the people related click through ranking at #2. The results were the same no matter if he logged out of Google and set pws=0 or if he used the incognito function in Chrome. Non-personalized results only returned when he blocked cookies.
A few others report the same experience, regardless if they were using Internet Explorer or Chrome. Another person reported something similar, but with PPC ads instead. Still, I was unable to replicate query results like those mentioned by Cyrus Shepard. Though I don’t doubt the validity of his observations. Google will sometimes test features on a smaller scale before a full-fledged launch.
Consequences of Personal Search
I find it troubling if personalized search is the way of the future. Some of the best resources I’ve ever found came from unexpected results. Who knows if I would have found them without the freedom to break away from my previous interests.
All drama and experimentation aside, sometimes Google makes mistakes. With such an intricate system operating at such a scale, there are bound to be a few hiccups. However, if this curious search experience becomes a feature for all users, it marks a vast departure from relevancy.