F R I D AY, A P R I L 11 , 2 0 0 8
Previous Query Refinement vs. Search Pollutants
This morning I saw a Danny Sullivan post from SMX Sydney after interviewed Google's
VP of Search Products, Marissa Mayer during the SMX keynote. Sullivan emphasized
the importance of Mayer's announcement that "Previous Query Refinement" is coming
to web search - after that product had been tested in a limited way on Adwords ads only.
But then today Mediapost also wrote about search privacy concerns voiced by the Center
for Digital Democracy in a complaint filed with the FTC back in November of 2006,
brought to a head when public comment to FTC's proposed "voluntary guidelines" drew
objections by all major players in "behavioral marketing" ad networks . According to
MediaPost, Google's comments to the FTC, said:
"We are currently experimenting in our Search service with providing ads based on both
the current query and the immediately previous search," Google wrote. "For example, a
user who types 'Italy vacation' into the Google search box might see ads about Tuscany
or affordable flights to Rome. If the user were to subsequently search for 'weather,' we
might assume that there is a link between 'Italy vacation' and 'weather' and deliver ads
regarding local weather conditions in Italy."
So while the two issues (web search and Adwords that appear beside those search
results) would not BOTH be affected by the FTC "guidelines" it could mean that we
would see better search results and worse ads if those "guidelines" are in any way
enforced by the FTC against ads, but not natural algorithmic search results.
What an odd position to be in for a privacy advocate like me. While the search results
are bound to be better when previous queries are factored into the algorithm, the ads
may be off-limits to the same refinement. Hmmm.
A very funny kink in this story from MediaPost is the quote:
Google rival Microsoft, on the other hand, said it supports the FTC's goals and that the
proposed guidelines should be extended "to include the full array of online advertising
Umm, yea - poor search results, no worthwhile algorithm from the last place search
company MSN Live - who would never use their latest $6 Billion acquisition, aQuantive,
to serve behavioral advertising to anyone - right? aQuantive execs had to be moaning in
pain when they saw their new parent making such statements.
It's bound to be an interesting decision with lawsuits flying in both directions from
privacy advocates on one side and ad networks on the other after those "voluntary
guidelines" from the FTC are finally handed down.
I really do believe the search results using "Previous Query Refinement" would be better
in most cases, for most people. I'll probably like those results sometimes and hate them
others. I'll love them when I search for "Restaurant, New York City" and then "Italian
food, Theater District" but I'll absolutely hate those results when I'm researching
"accounting software" client keywords and decide to switch to my "plastic surgeon"
client keywords or a search for a local auto parts store right after doing a medical search
Do those of us who search constantly get different types of cookies served for "Previous
Query Refinement" searches than say my wife who searches for things only after asking
me a tough trivia question or home repair question and I say, "Why don't you Google
it?" She does two searches a day at most and I do 50 to 100 daily. Will I need to disable
cookies? Sign out of my Google personalized search? How will "Previous Query
Refinement" distinguish between those of us who want Unpolluted search results and
those who need a helping hand with "Query Refinement?"
Labels: advertising, algorithm, behavioral, ftc, Google, mayer, mediapost, query,