Google loves data. And data has become much more important to Google in the past few years. Where Google used to be able to get data from the websites and rank them based on that data, in the past few years another important factor has come along: social.
In the past, if one person thought a website was good they would link to it from their own website. Google would pick that up and consider the link as a ‘recommendation’ for the website. That has now changed. The recommendations are no longer ‘just’ done via a link on a website. Most recommendations now come from social networks. Actual people sharing. And a lot more than before too. There are tons of links going around every day.
Google needed to work with this. In two ways: they needed to figure out what sites (links) are important to the ‘real’ people in the social networks. All of this to make sure they rank the right pages. But they also wanted to give back information to the people by giving them social results: personalized content. Content that fits the needs. And to figure out what content they need to give you, they need your data. They need to know what you like, dislike, what makes you tick. And for that they need more data. Your data.
But how does Google get all that data? How can they figure out what you like and make a ‘personal’ result page out of that for you? Let’s look at a few.
First of all they get the data from their products. If you use Google products you are giving them information about yourself. It is an indication of what you like. Using search means they store your search data, but using Maps means they know where you are going and what places you are interested in. If you +1 a site, or even if you don’t, you are telling Google something about that specific page. But even more important: using the products like Gmail or Gtalk gives them insight into who you are connecting with and who might be important to you.
Have you ever realized this: you are directly telling Google who you are and what you like by telling Google in your profile what your different social accounts are so they can track those.
Google has done this ever since they started: scanning the web to find information and thus find social information too. Until recently they spidered Twitter, which gave them a lot of information. They also spider other social networks, which will give them even more information. But the biggest data source they couldn’t reach?: Facebook.
It is not just you who provides Google with data about you. It is also your friends, your social circle. Google is able to find information about you through your friends. Even if you don’t have a Google Profile, Google will know a lot about you.
One huge data source for Google is mobile. Android is there for a reason. Off course it is an interesting area to be in, business wise. And secondly there is the extra gateway which Google now covers. But a very important part is the gathering of the data. There is no device more personalized than your mobile phone. Your home computer can be used by your kids, your work computer by your colleagues, but your mobile is you, only you.
And with that mobile phone they get data. Data which tells Google which places you visit frequently, which friends you contact most and what route you travel.
I once had the encounter with the future on that. For an appointment I was checking on my computer on Google Maps how long the drive was. When I saw the drive was about 45 minutes, I closed my mac, went into my car and started up my navigation. On my Android phone. Guess where it opened up on? The exact address I had just put into maps on my computer…
And finally there is Google+. They couldn’t get the data through Facebook, so why not get it directly from you? Schmidt already hinted on this at the D-Conference several weeks ago. There he said:
“Google will get social data in alternative ways”
They sure do!
The first thought here will without a doubt be that Google will sell our profiles. Put ads around them and make money like crazy. Maybe. But maybe not…
Chances are a lot bigger that Google will be using all that data to make our experience as personal as possible. Even though search results are not that personalized now as you would expect them to be Google is heading that way without a doubt. And that goes a lot further than just search. Google will be the starting point and ending point of our internet experience. And that experience will be as personalized as possible.