Google Previous Query coming to Natural Search, are we Teaching the Machine?

On Jul. 23, 2007 Barry Schwartz a blogger at Search Engine Land posted an incredible article as reference to personalized ad words ads being served based on previous search query’s, he cited a few references with screen shots – including a great example of personalized Google ads posted on the blog at Wiep.net. Ben Murphy also has an excellent example you can see here. Barry Schwartz also mentions in his post that the phenomenon was noticed previously on April of 2007 and was talked about on Webmaster World.


On July 31st of 2007
an article was written by Eric Auchard for Reuters entitled, “Google wary of behavioral targeting in online ads.” Within the article Susan Wojcicki, Google Vice President of product management for advertising pointed to Google’s concern for consumer privacy and admitted the following concerning the existence of a new ad testing feature based on a consumers previous query.

“Google has been testing for several weeks a new advertising feature that delivers ads based not simply on a specific search term, but also on the immediately previous search, she said.” A user who types “Italy vacation” into a Google search box might see ads about Tuscany or cheap flights to Europe. Were the same user to subsequently search for “weather,” Google will assume there is a link between “Italy vacation” and “weather” and deliver ads tied to local weather conditions in Italy.” (Reuters 2007)

Susan,  a top Google official also stressed again in the article that, “This effort to improve ad relevancy does not involve personal information databases.” The article also repeatedly stressed the fact that Google was not tracking consumer behavior.

So was the several weeks of previous query ad testing that Susan mentions in the article in any way related to Google personalized search and did it involve the search marketers mentioned above web history accounts – which was launched on April 19th 2007? Or was this ad testing of previous query able to have been done based on consumers who have no active Google account and do not have Google web history enabled or paused? Just wondering…. (Keep reading we get an answer)

On September 24, 2007 – Google posted a great video on their YouTube channel hosted by Maile Ohye a support engineer at Google who spoke of Google’s personalized search and stressing again consumer privacy.

<Echo – Consumer privacy, consumer privacy, consumer privacy – end echo>

April 10th 2008 – Danny Sullivan has a keynote interview with Google vice president of search products & user experience Marissa Mayer during the SMX Sydney show. One of the topics centered around how “Previous Query” refinement will soon come to natural listings on Google.

Marissa Mayer stated in the interview with Danny that, “Google’s never given this feature a formal name, but Marissa said internally the company calls it “Previous Query,” the first time to my knowledge that we’ve had some type of formal name put to it. Learn the name well, because Previous Query refinement is now coming to unpaid or “organic” search results, she said.”

Danny also mentions that SEO previous query has already been happening for several weeks for some people randomly selected. He also mentions that SEO previous query will eventually affect everyone that accepts a cookie, meaning it’s not a personalized search thing that only happens if you’re logged into your Google account. Aha! Question answered! This is unique and NOT a part of personalized search…
If your company is not equipped to manage internally your natural search engine optimization issues surrounding previous query in Google, I suggest you get ready as your consumers will now be equipped to teach the machine…

Flashback – January 31, 2007 Michael Wesch who is a cultural anthropologist and media ecologist exploring the impacts of new media on human interaction posts an amazing video Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us.” on YouTube…

PPC Tip: For SEM’s who do not want paid search ads being pulled for previous query searches that might not be as highly targeted for your ads, note that this is an enhancement of Google’s broad match keyword ad serving so watch semantic keywords. I recommend scrutinizing which terms you do set at broad match in Google Adwords. The inclusion of negative keywords in your adgroups is key here. To read more about Google’s previous query and how it works with Google Adwords ads click here.

You can see what keyword variations have triggered your ads by running a Search Query Performance Report. (This report is only available for the search network.)

Revenews blogger
Heather Paulson of PMG

About Heather Paulson

Heather Paulson is the President of PaulsonManagementGroup.com which provides Affiliate Management, Paid Search Management, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Management and affiliate video production and affiliate recruiting services.

Heather was appointed to the Affiliate Summit advisory board in 2006. In 2007 Ms. Paulson was appointed to the advisory board for Affiliate Classroom. In 2007 Ms. Paulson was elected as PPCClassroom.com’s education manager. in 2008 Ms Paulson was nominated as a FAB member of the Performance Marketing Association and is an honorary recipient of the ACC Certified Affiliate Managers Course. in 2008 Heather Paulson was invited to become a member of The Internet Oldtimers Foundation. She has passed the Google professionals certification twice. Heather also blogs at Paulson Management Group Blog. You can follow Heather on Twitter: @Heatherpaulsons.

5 Responses to Google Previous Query coming to Natural Search, are we Teaching the Machine?

  1. Pat Grady says:

    Glad to see this being talked about more. I've had quite a few merchants and other marketers contact me because they thought they were doing something wrong with their PPC. I do wish G would let their advertisers know about these things with more detail (or allow opt out). For the folks that contacted me, I've told them exactly what you said… inspect your broads and add negs to offset this.

    Regarding the feature itself, I dislike it. Sometimes a follow-on query is related, sometimes it's not – knowing the difference is very difficult (if not impossible) to figure out as an observer. And since search is a tool, the user should be told how it works (meaning label it as different and explain why) or the data retrieved (and used to implement and tweak the idea) will be skewed. Further, if there's an apparent randomness to the PPC results, people won't place as much trust in them.

    Just finished my ham and cheese sandwich… honey smoked ham sure was yummy, think I'll grab a solo slice and woof it down… When I open the fridge and slide out the meat and cheese drawer, looking for that slice of ham that I hope is still in there… I don't want my cheese drawer to rearrange things, putting a slice of cheese on top of the pile, because I just finished making a ham and cheese sandwich the last time I opened the door. And if it shoves a jar of mayo and mustard up right next to the drawer, I'll look at this idiotic contraption and think of the absurdity of a machine trying to anticipate my desires, based on past sequences and NOT WHAT I DIRECTLY EXPRESS TO IT AS MY PRESENT AND IMMEDIATE NEED… and I'll pine for the good old days when meetings between me and my fridge, were simpler and more efficient… and the labels all over the inside of her, didn't feel like ads being shoved at me based on guesses and algorithms gleaning fallibly thru the data it collected while it watched me and took notes, but more like information I wanted to be there and chose to put in front of me.

    If search and its PPC & SEO matching were nearly perfect today, delivering results that are so fantastic that we're each fulfilled with nearly every search, I suppose I'd be less resistant to mind reading efforts, but if they can't reliably deliver what I told them I wanted, I think their guessing, to improve things, is a sign of arrogance. And one that ills serves the consumer as well.

    Having seen expanded broad match go wonky to try and show irrelevant ads, I think adding a guessing layer to it all, is a real step backwards.

    As evidenced by the number of emails and phone calls I've gotten asking me to explain what the heck is happening in the SERPS, I'd say I'm not alone in some of my views of it.

    But giving it a name, talking it up in the press, others mimicking, means like other behavorial marketing "advancements" yearned for today, this one's got legs, not thru effectiveness, but thru the promise its surface seems to hold.

    Time will tell if this is Sh%t or Shinola.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinola

  2. If search and its PPC & SEO matching were nearly perfect today, delivering results that are so fantastic that we’re each fulfilled with nearly every search, I suppose I’d be less resistant to mind reading efforts, but if they can’t reliably deliver what I told them I wanted, I think their guessing, to improve things, is a sign of arrogance. And one that ills serves the consumer as well.

  3. Hello Pat,

    "Glad to see this being talked about more." Thanks Pat, I think this is an important issue..

    Susan stressed in the article that “This effort to improve ad relevancy does not involve personal information databases.” However the examples from the bloggers within my article do not show relevancy within their screenshots, just a garbalation (My new word for the week) of ad serving based specifically on their previous search behavior.

    What concerns me is Google’s authority here and power in delivering natural search results for web pages that have not been optimized with the previous query keywords, what is the criteria on these web pages that Google determines as relevant to display these sites in natural search as a previous query, current query combination? This throws everything we know about site optimization out the window.

    "Google builds up a detailed profile of your search terms over many years. Google probably knew when you last thought you were pregnant, what diseases your children have had, and who your divorce lawyer is."

    “It sets a tracking cookie on your computer that does not expire until 2038. This means that Google builds up a detailed profile of your search terms over many years. “

    — BBC technology commentator Bill Thompson, Feb. 21, 2003
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2786761.stm

    Organic query results must be pulled from something, if not previous query current query optimized web content, then perhaps from consumer search history? Oh-Snap!

  4. Add to this list this crap

    http://www.searchenginejournal.com/adwords-automa

    Also interesting Bill Slawski's post and comments from November 2007 regarding "Google on Generating Statistics from Search Engine Query Logs (Hot Trends and More)". The discussion goes then into personalized search as well.

    http://www.seobythesea.com/?p=913

    Carsten

  5. Thanks for the reference Carsten