At Google’s Inside Search event yesterday, Google announced several new search features. One that I found particularly interesting—and one that has apparently sparked some controversy—is called Instant Pages. This feature eliminates the 5-7 seconds you wait for a page to load, by attempting to predict which results you will click on and loading that page early, so that when you do click on it the web page is displayed fully loaded instantly. Here’s a visual demonstration:
While this is an interesting development, I’ve found two interesting views concerning such personalization features. These views aren’t necessarily targeted at Instant Pages, but rather the long-term affect these features could have on web search.
Side 1: When Google and other major search engines use features like this to try to predict our behavior, it creates a tunnel-vision effect that we aren’t always aware of. Am I really getting all of the information or only the information the search engine thinks I want to look at?
Side 2: Google rightfully responds saying, “Personalization helps you find answers that are more relevant to your life and needs, whether it’s a restaurant right up the street or search results in your language.” Do you really want to sift through pages of information to find the result that is exactly what you’re looking for?
The answer for me: it just depends. When I’m doing a search from my phone to find the best pizza in Traverse City, I want the pizza parlors close to me to be right up there at the top of my results. I don’t want to waste time sifting through commercial pizza pages or get obscure results outside of my traveling limits.
On the other hand, when I’m searching for the most recent political news—or even celebrity gossip—I want to see a variety of results. For political topics I want to receive both conservative and liberal information, or in the case of celebrities, everything relating to the topic (including the crazy photographs). And as Eli Pariser pointed out, in this case I don’t want “filter bubbles” skewing my results according to what I’ve searched for in the past.
So with the search engines constantly rolling out new features like this, how do you make sure your business’ website is reaching your target audience? Is your site tailored to accommodate the ever-changing algorithmic changes of the search engines? Because that’s where we come in!
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