back to article Webmasters fume as Google profiles signed-out searchers

Google is now "personalizing" results even when users have not logged into its web-dominating search site. And SEO types aren't too happy about it. Personalization is a euphemism for a Google-controlled practice that involves tweaking your search results according to your past web history. Mountain View was already doing this …

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Stop

This is a bad idea

I don't want my search results to be fucked around with.

I want them to be relevant to what I'm searching for now, not relevant to what I was searching for ten minutes ago.

This is such a stupid idea, it'll kill Google.

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@ This is a bad idea

"I don't want my search results to be fucked around with."

Oh really? How would you know? Are you sure what you get at present is really "untainted" (or unfucked, to stay with your vernacular)? I've noticed for quite some time that even entering the literal text present in a web page you know will NOT get you that site as the first hit (under the ads, of course).

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Anything that SEO types aren't happy with

gets my vote. It's a scummy, parasitical business.

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Happy

Yes

So there is nothing like TrackMeNot to stop this? And CookieCuller? And Adblock? And anonymising VPN to Sweden (relakks.com)?

Shame ;)

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Silver badge

Whatever.

My machine room's router has been dropping all of google's IP space on the floor for about three years, with no issues when it comes to my day-to-day "work" Internet use.

The barn's DSL router (which I usually post to ElReg thru'), is about to be similarly google-proof. I suspect some of the kids will object to it, but unless my wife gets upset, I really don't care.

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Details...

of how to do this please

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@FMVK

The router in the machine room is an older Intel box running a minimal installation of BSD and Netfilter. Nothing comes in or goes out unless I allow it.

Unfortunately, the DSL modem in the barn doesn't have the capability internally, so I've shut off it's wireless, and hooked a Linksys WRT54G (running Tomato) in-line to handle the DENY tables. Yeah, it's a hack, but it works. So far, one kid[1] has noticed, but the Wife is blissfully unaffected. For more, see:

http://netfilter.org/

http://www.polarcloud.com/tomato

You can do a similar thing using your PC's HOSTS file.

Sorry for a late reply ... We have a mare who is threatening to foal six or seven weeks early, she needs constant monitoring.

I'll leave the assemblage of google's IP addresses as an exercise for the reader ... Their lawyers are bigger than mine are :-)

[1] The kids seem to think that they absolutely HAVE to upload their latest pics & vids within seconds of creating them ... We are truly living in a "I WANT IT NOW!" society, alas.

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Syd
Flame

SEO = Gaming?

Isn't 'Search Engine Optimization' really a polite way of saying 'Gaming Google' anyway. The SEOs aren't interested in YOU any more than Google is - they just want to be able to game the system to get their results above the next guy's. In other words... I have no sympathy!

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Unhappy SEO types?

My heart bleeds.

My instinctive first reaction was "Oh, no, this is bad" but, having read the article, I'm inclined to leave personalization turned on for the time being, and see if my results improve.

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Big Brother

GORG =

Google Only Returns Garbage

which I already knew, but it's good to see it confirmed.

Between SEO and Google's own results massaging, even the term "search engine" becomes ironic -- I've stopped trying to use Google to *find* things long ago - but it seems they're now actively trying to make searching even harder.

I think "Don't be evil" is only the public Google slogan. I think that deep within the Mountain View HQ, in the same inaccessible vault that houses the descriptions of all their "impartial" algorithms is the real logo - "Don't *appear* Evil"

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SEO are not my friend

The SEOs are trying to present things I'm not interested in to me, even to press them upon me. I don't like that, or them.

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Go

SEOs make money wasting people's time

With all their optimization, often using techniques to trick google and other search engines into steering human searchers to irrelevant or less relevant commercial sites, instead of the sites most likely to answer their questions.

So I have little sympathy for the plight of Search Engine Optimizers.

Go go google!

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Who is whose emeny?

SEOs are indeed the enemy of Google and other search engines, and they are the enemy of the punters, and they are the enemy of honest webmasters.

The punter wants to see the most important and relevant results, not the results from whoever has spent the most on paying SEOs to game listings.

Anyway, aren't most SEOs scammers who take money off people but don't actually deliver any improvement?

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FAIL

Oh snap!

People who make money gaming a system are upset that they won't be able to game the system as well any more. Are you sure?

There are privacy issues, but these people don't care about them. All they care about is your click, so that they get the opportunity to ruin your privacy first.

Bloody scavengers.

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Terminator

The Gorg?

We are the Gorg. Your lives, as they have been, are over. Your species will adapt to service us. We will add your web searches and interests to our database. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

Yes, and we all know how that turned out last time, too. It was confounded by Data (both times) and it can be again if they get too cocky.

What, no Borg icon? Ah well, terminator will have to do.

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Slashdot has a Borg icon...

... So for El Reg to get one would just seem like copycat.

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Gates Halo

SEO Experts are parasites

SEO professionals, like lawyers and accountants, if the world had none there would be no need for any to exist. I'm not much impressed with many things Google does but I, for one, welcome our SEO-smashing overlords.

Oi scamps, get on msn, I need to talk to you about stu [-]

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Anonymous Coward

Lawyers and accountants?

I know your trying to make funny, but do you even know what lawyers and accountants do? SEOs are a waste of space and are the worst type of advertising scum. Both lawyers and accountants do useful jobs, but then when you spend all day telling people "have you tried terning it off and on" you probably woulden't know that.

Sorry if it is a joke, but then there is a joke icon for a reason.

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Anonymous Coward

terning?

isn't that something to do with small bird?

I think you meant "turning" (I'd like to thank my English teacher for that)

Both accountants and lawyers have a place in society, but sadly as a group they are resistant to change and reform prefering to enshrine arcane practices to reinforce the status quo... so they're never going to be loved

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Big Brother

Turn off Web history

I've always had their history gathering turned off - if I want history my browser can do that. It seems obvious that "personalising" your searches is going to be a negative feedback loop unless its sophisticated enough to avoid that.

SEOs are a waste of web space, though

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Paris Hilton

Oh.

To be honest I had always assumed Google did this for any passing punters, whether logged in or not, anyway. Makes sense if you have the cookies anyway.

Do I care? Not really.

Can I still get useful and obscure info from Google when needed? Yep

Do I ever click on Google adverts anyway? Nope.

Do I use the usual range of anti-cookie and pro-privacy addons? Yep.

And if SEO's are upset, do I mind? NOT AT ALL!

Paris, because she already knows what she wants anyway.

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Bad idea, good practice

While I deplore the idea on the basis that it invades privacy at the same time I have to admit that it:

1. Follows Google's philosophy - they care only about the end user and the middlemen be damned

2. It puts a large number of parasitic entities out of business. Now this money will have to go elsewhere which is bound to have an overall positive effect

3. The ability of criminal lowlife to push a rigged and trojaned website to a large audience is greatly diminished

4. It is what the rest of advertisers do anyway and it was the primary reason for the existence of the like of Phorm. This now eliminates any remaining reason for the likes of Phorm to exist. The niche has been taken by a 900 pound alligator, any small reptiles need not apply.

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Unhappy

So, which search can I use?

The politics of SEOs aside -- a lot of the moves Google is making at present are a little annoying. So, which search engine can we use?

Until someone else comes up with a search engine that works half as well as google, and doesn't use google behind the scenes, then we're stuck with them no matter how odious they may become.

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Big Brother

Actually,...

"Don't be evil" is only half of the slogan. The full slogan reads "Don't be evil, because we know who you are and how to find you". The slogan was never meant do describe Google, it is in fact a serious warning to its users.

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Big Brother

Session Cookies

Set your browser to delete cookies at the end of session. I've been doing this for years, and it works just dandy. Firefox allows you to hold on to the cookies you want (like facebook or twitter) as you see fit. Simples.

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Woohoo!

More relevant search? Pushing down sites that are trying to 'game' Google and force themselves in front of my eyeballs? Thanks Google :D

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Terminator

Can't I stop search all engines doing this...

...just by automatically clearing all cookies every time I close the browser? Surely that should be standard practice for any normally-paranoid-tinfoil-hat-wearing web user?

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No...

Thanks to Google, clearing all cookies opts you back IN to all of the tracking systems installing a cookie opts you OUT of.

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Suspected this a while back

I switched from working on a Java project to C#. I noticed that when searching for API references the MSDN documentation and C# forums started to climb the list and Java equivalents disappeared from the results, even for API names that appear in both languages.

In two minds about whether its good or not. Bad from a privacy point of course, but it is useful where I'm looking for an answer for something. However, it's probably a bad thing where you're trying to broaden search to unknown areas (e.g. shopping, etc.)

Whatever you've got against Google, it's difficult to hate them when the service they provide is so much better than everyone else's.

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NB

titles are so last year...

lol?

yes, yes I think that will do nicely.

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Jobs Horns

# 2746354

>"GOOGLE IS NOT YOUR FRIEND. THEY VIEW YOUR BUSINESS AS AN ENEMY and ONLY have their OWN interest at heart," says one SEO.<

LMFAO. Exchange the word 'Google' for any company and that statement still works. I think there's a word for that, but can't be bothered googling it.

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely (or the staring into the abyss thing).

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Grenade

Third-party SEOs protest end-user SEO? Pot, meet kettle

This might actually be a useful feature for many people (myself probably not included, admittedly), and at least I can turn it off. It's not like Google doesn't already know what you search for, anyway.

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You still get all applicable results, right?

I'm assuming here that what's affected is result ranking, not result contents - except when results are suppressed on the grounds they appear to be different web pages with the same contents, such as a zillion copies of the GPL or something. I mean, if I frequently click on Google Wikipedia links then it'll be listed first (when did they start this feature?), but if I'm a habitual Encyclopedia Britannica user then that will be number one result, but both will always appear? (Unless I'm after, say, the "Never Mind the Buzzcocks" episode guide. Britannica only covers up to the first Simon Amstell season...)

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Brilliant

With a bit of luck these new 'personalised' results will actually return more relevent searches to the user and this is good for the SEO of real websites with actual content rather than sites that do nothing but provide listings of links.

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FAIL

Snowball

I would have thought that the undesirable feedback effects would have been obvious. In the end, Google will be only presenting searchers with the results the searchers expect to find. Not good.

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JCL

I agree

While more relevant results is a laudable goal (and I'm no fan of SEO), by concentrating results on sites that you already use Google is effectively narrowing down the references that you have access to. There are jobs/tasks out there that can be aided by "happening on" a site with a different point of view or a different way of presenting information. This can help produce more creative work or get around a mental block. I'm guessing that this creativity will be made more difficult in the future.

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Big Brother

What evil lies below the surface ?

Ideally everyone wants the most relevant results first and it's not easy to say what the criteria for that should be. Google page ranking ( however it works ) seems to at least go most of the way to achieving that in practice. SEO's simply set out to distort the results I see which is a bad thing IMO.

What I do know is that my previous search history usually has very little bearing on what I'll be searching for today, no matter how much Google think it does. I typically find I have to exclude terms to bring the more obscure but more useful results to the front anyway.

Google is still the best search engine I've used and probably will be until they stop delivering what I need to find. As long as I can turn their 'helpful additions' off I don't particularly mind, but you cannot ever know what scheming - and to what ends - is going on at Google HQ.

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Anonymous Coward

SEO is not all bad

We seem to have an ill-informed witch hunt going on here. Apparently anyone who provides SEO services is a keyword stuffing devil!

SEO is not all bad, I know there are a lot of spammers and nefarious types out there who spend their entire time trying to trick Google but there are also a lot of us who don’t.

A recent example of SEO that I provided for a client was to reduce the number of times the words “Services and Solutions” appeared on their website and to increase the occurrence of “XML Typesetting” which is what the company actually does.

Their Sales and marketing guy had come in and re-written the copy so that services and solutions appeared over 37 times on the site whereas our key word only appeared 7 times.

Is this bad? Are we trying to cheat the system and skew results for the uses? I don’t think so, in fact we were just trying to make it easier for the user to find the site based on what the user would be searching for.

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Stop

SEO is all bad

Optimising a site in the manner you described is not generally considered SEO... just improving the content.

The difference is that SEO is purely to improve search engine rankings; improving the site (navigation and/or content) is primarily to improve the experience for a visitor... search engine rankings will generally improve as a result of good design.

Just as an example of how crap the SEO industry is, I heard someone the other day recommend that you put lots of very small white text on a white background at the top of the page. I can only imagine what the search engines would do to that!!!

If you stop referring to yourself as an SEO, you'll probably do much better in business AND get more respect from your colleagues.

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Happy

NOT all bad

Having worked with some SEO types I can say that, like hackers, they come in different flavours.

Remember when all hacking was a bad word? Now we're wiser to the distinction and have given them names, Blackhat and Whitehat. The same can be said of SEO, the background-coloured-text types are evil whereas the removing-unnecessary-keyword types are good. Yes everyone wants higher ranking results but some are sympathetic with their targeting.

I don't believe google's latest change will be harmful to the sympathetic types in the long term. They will adapt the site's phrasing to better match the kind of person who might be interested in their business. That means less frustration for the ordinary people and a happier internet for all.

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There is worse then SEOs

That just shows that marketing people who write meaningless buzzword filled crap that looks like they stole it from the Dilbert mission statement generator are even more useless then SEOs.

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"Services and solutions"

I preferred the honesty of the unoptimised version. If a company's sales folks (and their managers who approved the web site) think it is sensible to say "services and solutions" that many times, they are not the kind of company I want to do business with, not even if they were one of the only two companies in their field.

But thanks for fixing their web page for them, now all they need is a new sales manager.

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Happy

Good to get rid of SEOs

In the beginning of the Internet, for those old enough to remember, there were a few indexing/search services. Basically, there were two kinds of services: Yahoo-like, who indexed things BY HAND (would you believe that today?) and AltaVista, who crawled the interwebs and collected some keywords for you to search later.

Nobody was quite pleased with the results, and then came Google. Their success was largely due to mouth-to-ear, not because they did any kind of huge marketing campaing. Quite simply, Google won because they were delivering the most useful search results. And they retain their leadership today because, let me repeat, they deliver the most useful search results.

But riding on Google success, or more exactly happening at the same time, came the massive monetization of the internet. All of a sudden, it became clear that one of the most direct ways of making money on the Internet was to have your sites appear in the first places of a Google search result. Note that this does not need to have any connection to wheter this is useful for the user that is searching, most of this revenue will be assumed to come from people that believe that Google is the internet and they cannot type an URL in the address bar. So out of the simplest and the stupidiest an entire industry was born catering for those who wanted to be at the top of the Google results page.

Link farms, blog farms, spam forum posts, duplicated but not exactly the same content all over the place, and everything in between, plus a lot of people getting paid for making sure this was constantly updated and tweaked to counter Google's constant efforts to avoid those results and give some useful information to the users.

In the meantime, sites with original content and/or useful services for the masses will continue to thrive, if only because their success is based on the same premises that made Google a success, not because some shady types are constantly polluting the Internet and Google's results to keep themselves on top.

And now Google announces something that makes the shady job of SEOs more difficult and they enrage. Personally, I'd glad if they finally made them completely unnecessary. Let the user decide what is interesting for them, thanks.

If you don't like Google's search results, you have Bing, and even Altavista is still around there. If you're making a living out of cheating Google so that searching with your keywords appear first in the results page, you're not improving Google's results or the usefulness of the search in any way. Get out of the place, and get your mistyped URLs, your false blogs, your link farms, your spam posts in forums and everything else out of the way.

Go away, SEOs. You have been making our lives much more difficult, and are parasites of Google success.

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FAIL

Hmm...

I am not sure I like Google optimizing my search for me. The reason a search egnine is because I could not find the information in the places I would usually look.

Google (or SEOs) poisoning the results it pretty retarded. Google's will not help as I will have already looked in the places I normally goo; SEO's will not help as their efforts are going to be largely irrelevant to my search.

Crudely put - they are both pissing in the pot they drink from.

Now...CookieCuller....how's that work.....

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Flame

SEO

Sorry

Employment

Over

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Silver badge

might enable it

Google searches have been steadily degrading for years now, now damn near useless most of the time. Though I hate the idea of letting Google massage my results it seems clear most of that degradation is from the SEO's that are already massaging my search results with increasing success.

Going to turn on their tracking and see if it helps because the SEO's have made searching like finding a needle in a cesspool.

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Anonymous Coward

well

Hmm on one hand, haha to the SEO I hate them as they mess my results up.

On the other hand, google are now taking it upon themselves to mess my results up. By making my search more "relevent" to me increases the chance of me not seeing something interesting that I wouldn't have found otherwise.

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Bronze badge

clear cookies?

Doesn't clearing cookies interrupt this?

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Go

Mr.

It's a good idea - after all, they've been collecting the data anyway, and a lot of people are none the wiser.

Now, people will see more personalised results, wonder how, and maybe find posts on the subject - empowering them to start deleting cookies etc. if they are worried.

Ignorance isn't bliss!

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Big Brother

Not really relevant to me

Firefox, No Script, Better Privacy, Google Cookie permanent opt out.

That is all.

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