March 29, 2004 1:30 PM PST
Google takes searching personally
The company launched a test version of its personalized search engine on Monday, part of its effort to tailor its search results to users' preferences. Google also plans to e-mail registered users of personalized search with the results of their queries.
Google claims that the forthcoming search option will let users more quickly access preferred results. The e-mail alert is meant to complement the service by tracking specific topics and sending search results on a weekly or daily basis, depending on a user's request.
Google representatives identified personalized search as an important step forward in the company's overall strategy of drawing itself closer to site visitors.
"Personalization and Web alerts are all examples of how we're continuing to innovate and provide value to users," said Jen Fitzpatrick, an engineering director at Google.
This is the company's latest personalized service, meant to draw in people by helping them fine-tune their searches. The Web search giant previously unveiled Google Local, which aims to provide geography-specific search results, and also introduced its desktop toolbar search service.
The company may also try to become more portal-like, with a "my" territory that competes with the personalized services of rival search engine Yahoo. Google recently updated a domain name registration of the Web address "MyGoogle.com" with Network Solutions.
Google's Personalized Web Search uses a series of check boxes to help users tailor their searches. Surfers can request a search on "bass" and then specify "fish" so that they do not get results related to music, for example.
Analysts welcomed Google's latest effort at personalization, pointing out that the search and e-mail alerts differ significantly from the customized pages rival My Yahoo offers. Denise Garcia, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner, called the beta "quintessential Google," observing that the company has always favored a tight focus on providing search tools rather than other forms of customizable content, such as those found on My Yahoo.
Garcia said she would like to see Google increase the complexity of personalization it offers. The company could encourage greater use of the system by adding more depth in customization, such as providing more localized options and a larger range of buttons for finding content aimed at children and teenagers, she said. The system currently lets people highlight what state they're most interested in; by taking that down to the city or town level, Google could have even brighter prospects, according to Garcia.
"I could see people using this as an alternative to existing yellow pages and directory listings, if Google pushes it to the metro level," Garcia said. "There's also a huge opportunity to attract more local advertisers when that happens, and as much as this is a tool that caters to end users, I think it plays very nicely into that equation."
Google has yet to place ads on the personalization site, as it is still in test mode, but Fitzpatrick said it will continue its companywide effort to offer greater levels of relevancy to advertisers. The company has not given a launch date for a final version of the new tools.
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