Another Nail in the Coffin of “Google Ground Truth”?

So we all know that the Google web search engine famously (and not just apocryphally) returns different results from it’s different national representations (,, etc.)…

…and hopefully we all know that if you are signed in to Google when you run a search, the default settings are such that Google will record your search and search results click-thru behaviour using Google Web History, and then in turn potentially use this intelligence to tweak your personal search results…

…and depending on how much you’ve been paying attention, you may know that Google Search Wiki lets you “customize search by re-ranking, deleting, adding, and commenting on search results. With just a single click you can move the results you like to the top or add a new site. You can also write notes attached to a particular site and remove results that you don’t feel belong. These modifications will be shown to you every time you do the same search in the future.

Well now it seems that Google is experimenting with Google Preferred Sites, which let selected guinea pigs “set your Google Web Search preferences so that your search results match your unique tastes and needs. Fill in the sites you rely on the most, and results from your preferred sites will show up more often when they’re relevant to your search query” (see the official support page here”: Preferences: Preferred sites).

So the next time you give someone directions to a website using an instruction of the form “just google whatever, and it’ll be the first or second result”, bear in mind that it might not be…

(For what it’s worth, I run a cookie free, never logged in to Google browser to compare the results I get from my logged in’n’personalised Google results page and a raw organic” Google results page.)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

4 thoughts on “Another Nail in the Coffin of “Google Ground Truth”?”

  1. That’s a new Yahoo Pipe I’d love to see – comparing the two searches!


    Thanks for the Blog – it’s fascinating. I’d love to be as creative as you are with these tools.

  2. “That’s a new Yahoo Pipe I’d love to see – comparing the two searches!”

    That’s an interesting thought… I’m not sure that you can get a feed of you personalised search results though? (I’ll have a look if I get a chance.)

    Reminds me of a conversation I had with Martin Weller, where he pondered on whether our “persoanlised” search results were a valuable commodity, and whether, for example, there could be mielage in me letting other people have “search only” access to my personalised results (in the sense the links people clicked through etc would not actually feed back into further personalisation of the search engine; only things that I’d clicked through when I was logged in to Google would have that feed back effect).

    (The conversation then went on to consider the extent to which IF personalised search engines were valuable, they could become tradeable…;-)

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