Personalized Search Mistakes

When you run a small business you need to make a lot of decisions.  Hopefully, if you consistently make more right decisions than wrong decisions, your business will continue to exist and perhaps even thrive and grow.

I’ve made both good and bad business decisions in my time.

Rather than talk about the good decisions, I want to discuss one of my bad choices.

I was wrong on personalized search.

I didn’t get it at all.

It didn’t make any sense to me that people would give up their online privacy and anonymity for a little browsing convenience.

Why would someone want to sign in to a browser and have that browser track their every move? No one is going to that — or so I thought.

Individual site cookies I understand. You visit a website and they drop a cookie that tracks and usually improves your experience on that site. I get that. But why would someone want a browser to know and share so much about them and their web usage.

As someone who made their living from the search engines, maybe I was just too paranoid. I really didn’t want any of the search engines knowing too much about me. What if they found out something about me they didn’t like and used it to punish my websites?

The mistake I made was to take my own opinions and preferences and project those over the rest of the online public. I was just sitting in my office thinking about how everyone else was going to think just like I was thinking. I was really wrong.

I didn’t understand how important speed and convenience was to the average online user. ¬†I also completely missed the future connections that personalized search would have with social media. And my mistakes with social media — well, that deserves a long post all on its own.

In retrospect, being wrong on the importance of personalized search and how it affects search engine results pages and individual search behavior wasn’t really a big deal. But I still think about it from time to time and I try to remember this mistake so that I don’t make a similar judgment mistake in the future.