First Google brought us "social search" which was an interesting - kind of fun - idea. It helped "find more relevant public content from your broader social circle . . . including blogs, status updates and tweets."
But that heady experience pushed Google fast-forward to "personalized search" - which many people disliked. Why? THIS is what it offered:
"For example, since I always search for [recipes] and often click on results from epicurious.com, Google might rank epicurious.com higher on the results page the next time I look for recipes. Other times, when I'm looking for news about Cornell University's sports teams, I search for [big red]. Because I frequently click on www.cornellbigred.com, Google might show me this result first, instead of the Big Red soda company or others."
But that wasn't the kicker - this was:
"Previously, we only offered Personalized Search for signed-in users, and only when they had Web History enabled on their Google Accounts. What we're doing today is expanding Personalized Search so that we can provide it to signed-out users as well. This addition enables us to customize search results for you based upon 180 days of search activity linked to an anonymous cookie in your browser."
Hmm. So they planned to show results based on what I found (and clicked) previously (which no one really wants, let's be honest - HORRIBLE idea) and even if I'm not signed in, this hooha will still apply? Argh!
And then they changed it up a bit and brought us "search plus your world" . . . which made people livid. You'll have to check out the link to see everything creepy about it, but it's a "search that truly knows me" - that's for sure.
But let's zoom forward to today. Surely Google knows by now that folks aren't interested in these tailored searches. And they aren't giving items relevant to YOU and your search history first billing in your results anymore, right?
Well, I'd like think I'm the most fantastically Google-worthy "Mary" out there, but I'm guessing that isn't the case:
But, hold the phone. You can turn this off, can't you? Sure - in theory. But even though I turned my search history OFF long ago, I still got the result above.
How did that happen? Well, unless you're checking what Google is gathering about you regularly and making sure you haven't inadvertently flipped that OFF switch back to ON (which is distressingly easy to do - and who has time to constantly check THAT?), know that Google is gathering info about you regularly. And it affects your online search results in many, many ways.
So if your digital strategist suggests Googling your business (or they Google it for you) to show you how well you're doing in search results, best to ask to see your analytics instead.
Beware social charlatans, my friend. They're everywhere these days!
*This post originally appeared on LinkedIn's publishing platform.