Google is offering a service that tailors a user's query results based on their previous searches, the search giant announced yesterday.
The free service, called Personalized Search, is in an early test phase. You can sign up for it by going to www.google.com/psearch. Those who don't have a Google account will be asked to create one, which is free and only requires an email address and a password.
Links on the upper righthand corner of Google's main search page will indicate if the Personalized Search feature is activated and give users the option of signing out or removing themselves permanently from the service.
Personalized Search includes a Search History feature that lets users review their activity and adds information to Google search results, such as the number of times the member has visited a particular page.
"This is a big breakthrough," said Allen Weiner, a Gartner analyst.
Search engine providers have reached a plateau in terms of the degree of relevance they can deliver on general web-search queries, Weiner said. "There's only so much you can do in terms of indexing and spidering and page ranking," he said. "It was inevitable someone would go down this path."
The only way for search engines to make results more relevant is to track users' search histories and factor them into the overall results calculation, which is what Google is doing with this service, Weiner said.
That way, when someone interested in Eastern Europe enters the search term 'polish' Google will deliver results about Poland ahead of results about shoe polish, he said.
Of course, this approach is controversial because it involves tracking people's activities, but ultimately it is a password-protected, opt-in service for users who are seeking more precise results, Weiner said.