Personalisation, Profiles & Policy – Ciaran Norris at #Searchlove

Personalisation, Profiles & Policy – Ciaran Norris at #Searchlove

25th October 2011

Good morning folks, looks like there are a few hungover folks with bleary eyes but we’re going to get started right away.

Ciaran Norris has come down from Dublin to discuss some of the changes with the internet these days. First mention of the day goes to Google and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau campaign to get people to have more secure passwords and an increasing awareness of privacy on the web.

History of Google

Ciaran is looking to talk us through not how the home page of Google has changed but how the search results pages themselves have changed. Ciaran mentioned the obvious huge change in the fact that personalisation now means that a result from Danny Sullivan over on Page 4 for a certain term is now showing in position 4 because Ciaran is following him.

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Ciaran now sharing a vision he had from 2007 where you could be in your car asking for a coffee and it could take personalisation and user history and suggest a great place based on your location specifically for you.

He jumped in to how this basically now exists in Siri. You tell it what you want to do and it is most of the way there – it understands what you say naturally so the tech is now there for potential to truly speak what you want to search without really any limitation. On the Google side however, they’ve really got the location side of things down.

Facebook Stream

What Ciaran finds the most interesting is that we’ve got EdgeRank right in front of me in the middle but we’ve also got the new stream in the top right which means they can look at what we click on from here and put a lot more information in front of us rather than just what they think we’ll like potentially taking care of the issue of search filter bubbles raised by  Eli Parser.

The Power of +1

Yeah it’s great, we can now not only get the content in front of people but we can also reduce our CPC as it becomes involved and increasingly important for quality scores.

The Present Bias

Ciaran is now talking about the danger of the echo chamber [again for those who have not done so I strongly recommend watching Eli’s Ted Talk].

Example of this:

Washington Post Social Reader- you can read stuff based upon what your friends are currently reading but, again, is this a good thing? We really want to see the future and learn about new things, not live in the present and have information biased by what’s going on now.

Who won the Twitter Election?

Ciaran asked the audience “did you think the Tories were going to win the election based on what you saw on Twitter?” and admittedly I did not… it turns out they did win the election based on Twitter conversation as well but Ciaran and myself were surrounded primarily by more liberal people and as such it didn’t look like it but this is yet again the problem with the echo chamber.

He also then cited comments on major newspapers and their biases and how we don’t want to hear anything else.

The problem with social search is that it’s people we like but perhaps with a different view or tastes, what we really for the best suggestions are people like us who we may not know.

Ciaran talks about the app “unsocial” people who you may not see or know but the app thinks you should interact with, but challenges whether this is a good idea.

What Ciaran feels like is a better tool is Hunch – finds music you’ve never heard before but actually really love. He thinks if this sort of technology could be adopted to search then it would be so much better than the filtered “friends only” feel of search at the moment.

Demand Side Platforms

Ciaran now talking about more display style marketing and other paid online media.

He mentioned the benefit of YouTube skippable pre-rolls and how you don’t have to pay if the user doesn’t watch, Twitter with their promoted tweets, and how Facebook is quickly becoming the worlds biggest ad platform and all of the scary data they might have.

TV advertising is not going to die, it’s just going to become AV advertising. Ciaran then did a very impressive walkthrough of Microsoft powered platform waving his arms about to show and select different television shows, recipes, etc. and how this will all be connected to our phone, refrigerator and so forth. He says this is all here but it’s just a question of whether and when we put it all together… really a bit frightening.

So will this happen? Cookie issues?

EU cookie act – a years grace for the UK only but the real problem is that no one else got this. But in Holland there has been a big push to stop a pop-up opt in, in Hungary they’ve done this and now had to go back and roll it back. Just because you are based in London does NOT mean that you are not under the same legislation of any market to whom you are targeting.

It wasn’t the UK, it wasn’t Germany (one member state of Germany BANNED the “like” button). Dublin is now going to review whether or not it is legal to have the “like” button on third party websites. The Irish data protection officer is going to have to make this monumental decision about whether it is legal… this will obviously have serious ramifications. Ireland is a small country and beholden to the EU so this is a very precarious one.


Want to rank? Get Social. SERPs mean nothing.

Get noticed? Social context – get your likes, tweets, and +1s- engagement will become the new currency.

Save money? Go DSP

Cookies? … Ciaran couldn’t reach a conclusion so he went to the Magic 8 ball website. He asked if it would resolve itself in a manner we would like… answer was “Do not count on it!”

That’s all for this session. I found this particular presentation really interesting and was well delivered with some very interesting ideas and thoughts although a bit disjointed at times. All told, top quality stuff.

Check back later today for more coverage!

See more coverage of Searchlove 2011



Written By
Sam Crocker is SEO Associate Director at OMD UK. Sam focuses on increasing traffic and conversions for websites whilst always keeping his eye on a company’s bottom line.
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