The silent gatekeepers of your web experience

Two weeks ago, I did an informal poll with my friends on Facebook. The question I asked “How many of you habitually click on the “Most Recent” link on your wall rather than letting Facebook tell you what’s news? I was wondering if I was the only one that was bugged by the assumption I wouldn’t find “unpopular” posts by my friends irrelevant. I wasn’t, many people responded and said they always clicked on “Most Recent”.

Welcome to the new web, which is increasingly becoming tailored to you. It’s not just Facebook, which devalues those friends whose links you never click on, Google too personalizes it’s search results too, to your location, your past history, even if you are not logged in.

I still remember seeing a client’s website suddenly appearing at position 1 for a search phrase after weeks in position 2. Why? Because I was in Las Vegas in a hotel rather than home in the San Francisco Bay Area. As soon as I returned back to California, the website returned back to position 2. Now why would that be?

The personalized web is a recent paradigm shift for the internet. Tailored for your past searching history and now bringing your friends recommendations into the mix. This is all good right? Well maybe. With these gatekeepers now personalizing and filtering your experience, how objective is your portal onto the online world? Eli Pariser raises this troubling question in the video below.

What do you think? Is the inclusion of our social activity into search a good thing? Do you mind the lengths Facebook is taking to personalize your experience with it? Do you really think Zuckerberg is right when he says that events in our social and local sphere are more relevant than tragic news in Africa? Are we doomed to a world where websites and news tailored to instant gratification and sensationalization always win?

About the Author Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.

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1 comment
Kathy Alice says June 20, 2011

If you add “&pws=0” to the end of the Google search results URL you will be turning off personalization per Matt Cutts (the “pws” stands for “personalized web search”)

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