Salesforce’s Einstein boosts search in its Commerce Cloud

Bit by bit, Salesforce is bringing its Einstein AI layer to all parts of its clouds.

This week, the company is launching Einstein Search for Commerce in its Commerce Cloud so that stores using its e-commerce platform can make it easier for visitors to find stuff on their websites. The company says its platform is used by 2,400 sites in about 50 countries, handling over 350 million online shoppers monthly.

In May, Einstein-powered enhancements were made to Commerce Cloud’s Predictive Sort, Order Management and other features. The company built its Commerce Cloud around its purchase last year of Demandware. Last month, Salesforce’s Sales Cloud got several new Einsteined features.

[Read the full article on MarTech Today.]

The battleground of entities & reviews

For anyone familiar with my articles, you’ll know I like to write a lot on a couple of specific topics:

    EntitiesThe future of search

Today, we’re going to look at an area where both apply: reviews.

In this article, we’re not going to dive into specific strategies for acquiring reviews, as those change over time (though I will be linking below to a couple of fantastic pieces that cover well some current approaches). Instead, we’re going to look at why reviews are important and how Google looks at them — and likely will be looking at them in the months and years to come. We’re going to be looking at business reviews, obviously, but we’re further going to consider reviews of specific products and similar areas.

What are ‘entities’?

Before we get to any of the above, we need to cover what an entity is to really start to wrap our heads around how they play their role. If you’ve not yet heard of entities as they relate to search algorithms, they are defined by Google as follows:

[A]n entity is a thing or concept that is singular, unique, well-defined and distinguishable. For example, an entity may be a person, place, item, idea, abstract concept, concrete element, other suitable thing, or any combination thereof.

This seems like a fairly straightforward concept, and it is. Essentially, an entity is a thing. It may be a specific person, like “Danny Sullivan,” or it may be a singular and defined idea, like “evolution.”

While simple, the impact of entities on search is massive — and it’s sadly one of the most overlooked areas of discussion in SEO. So today, we’ll take steps to remedy that in at least one area.

Let’s talk about reviews

We’re going to begin our discussion in an area we all tend to think of when we think of reviews…

Business entity reviews

From a search standpoint, it can be useful to think of your business the way the law does (if you’re incorporated, at least): it is a thing that is unique and autonomous. It may be connected with other entities, but it is not the same as them, nor does an adjustment of those connections necessarily impact the business entity itself (a business may change its CEO while changing very little, for example).

Let’s get a feel for how this all works — and since an image is worth 1,000 words, let’s look at a graphical representation of our business in Google’s eyes:

OK, perhaps this picture isn’t worth 1,000 words, but let’s assume this is your business. Now let’s add in some connections that are natural. Entities connected with your business will appear in dashed red circles, and blue arrows will establish the relationships between these entities.

Now we’re getting started in illustrating how entities work. Your business entity is connected to other entities in ways that define many of its characteristics. If you want to simplify it, you can think of them like links to and from that entity. We’ll get a into that further below; for now, it’s enough to understand that a business entity is connected to other entities that define what that business is, where it’s located, who and what it’s connected to and so on.

Now, let’s add in some reviews in green dotted circles…

Now we can start to see how reviews fit into the picture. They’re not simply an unknowable ranking factor that’s “good because it’s good,” but rather a simple-to-understand addition to a business entity calculation. The more reviews you have, the more trusted the global review average will be — but further, the reviewers themselves are entities that factor in. In this area, we’re just starting to witness the first implementations of the entity status of the reviewer factoring in, but this will push forward dramatically in the coming months and years.

At this point, you may be asking what I’m referring to regarding the reviewer entity status. Great questions, hypothetical you! As was reported last week, Google has changed the way they display reviews for hotels on mobile to look like:

The key part here is the information related to the type of visitor (e.g., Families, Couples).  This requires taking in entity information related to the reviewer and adjusting specific review scores based on it. So let’s look at how that fits into our graph:

This is extremely limited in its scope to include only the number of reviews someone has done and their marital status — in reality, there would be dozens or hundreds of different connections.

With just this limited example, however, we can see that if the searcher is married, they are highly likely to enjoy their experience with Acme Business Entity, whereas a single person may not like it. These are the types of expressions of entity metrics we’re seeing presently in hotel reviews, but let’s flash forward a bit.

Dave and Bill have also done a lot of reviews compared with Jane’s 2, indicating they are less likely to be spammers and they understand how the review system functions. Inevitably, other areas of their own entity metrics will factor in, such as their other reviews and ratings, age, location and so on, and many of these will invisibly influence the rating system.

The idea that the algorithm will be adjusted to weight reviews from people with similar demographic or interest-based characteristics higher is not a big reach. In the example above, does it make more sense for me as a married guy reading reviews to see the total average of 3.6/5 or the adjusted average only considering people with characteristics similar to my own, which would yield a 4.5/5?

What we’re seeing with hotels is fine, but it isn’t broad enough in scope to hit the nail on the head across all sectors. It’s a proof of concept, and it’s interesting. But there is more to me than whether I’m solo or married, traveling for business or with my family — and to believe Google will not be taking this into account is short-sighted. And here’s why that’s great…

The vast majority of businesses could not (and should not) attain a 5/5 rating from every demographic. They cater to their audience, and that’s what they should do. A hipster restaurant with craft beer would suit me well now, but back when I was a starving student… not so much. Understanding who’s writing a review and what they expect and enjoy needs to factor in strongly.

This recent step with hotels makes sense, but it cannot possibly cover all the variables that would go into a review being fully applicable to me. Rather, Google can weight all the various entity information they have and come up with what they determine to be the most applicable reviews for me.

For example, let’s take a review for a Mexican restaurant and look at just a few characteristics Google might consider if I were personally searching. Some of my core characteristics include:

Male40sHas favorably reviewed Mexican restaurantsHas written and rated many locationsLives in Victoria, CanadaHas reviewed and rated various restaurants with mid-to-higher price points

Armed with this data, Google is going to know that when I’m looking up a Mexican restaurant in a new city, the rating given by a middle-aged person who tends to like good food and is willing to pay for it is going to be a lot more relevant than a review from a student who tends to hit up cheaper places to save money. Both may give a five-star review to different locations, but what they recommend is not equally applicable to me — and thus, their impact on reviews and the weight they pass to an entity needs to be adjusted.

Similarly, if both reviewed the same restaurant, and if that restaurant is known to have a higher price range, the review of the one known to visit and rate pricier locations should be weighted higher than the review of someone who may have their opinion skewed by feeling the pricing is too high (or they weight it more highly because they paid more for it, not because it’s actually good).

Flash forward in review evolution a bit, and these variables would appear in an equation that would look something like:

Rating Weight Adjustment = Gender * V + Age * W + Rated Mexican * X + Number Of Reviews * Y + Location * Z

In such a scenario, each factor is given a relevancy score (how relevant is gender to the enjoyment of Mexican food?) and then adjusted by machine learning over time to account for personal considerations and the wide array of other factors that would be taken into account on top of this very short list.

Let’s look at the following illustration (these weight numbers are examples and not indicative of what actually is in the algorithm):

We can get a feel for how much weight each of the factors has, with gender hardly impacting them at all and past ratings of Mexican restaurants factoring in heavily. Remember, we’re looking at a person here and the value of their reviews on my results. Rightfully, whether the reviewer is male or female would have very little impact on the weight of their review; however, their writing of past reviews of other Mexican restaurants, their age being close to mine and having written a large number of reviews would cause more emphasis to be placed on their review.

If I’m right, then in the near future we’ll see the review system change to place more weight on reviews where the reviewer is similar to the searcher, and where generic influencer scores will be placed on individuals (human entities). Furthermore, I would suggest it’s highly likely that not only will review weighting be adjusted as a result of personalization, but the actual search results themselves will be more personalized than they are today.

Thinking about products

I’m about to go out on a limb to discuss an area that I feel makes sense, but for which I’m just spit-balling. We’ve been talking a lot about the impact of reviewers on review weighting and relevancy of a site to a specific demographic. But I would suggest that the products a business carries — and how those products are reviewed — may well impact an entity’s overall prominence, too.

Let’s look at a simple example based on our second entity illustration above.

What I would predict we will see in the near future is that the reviews of a specific product, or “product entity,” will impact a business entity’s status if they sell that product (even if the review is from a different site). If a company were selling only products with low reviews across different sites, I would put forth that that business entity’s overall score would be diminished (certainly for queries related to those products or that product category).

One can think of this as tall-tale breadcrumbs. All of these products are understood to be under a specific hierarchy/category, and that category is understood to contain low-quality items (though, again, this could be adjusted based on reviewer demographics). And thus, the Acme Business Entity would be reduced in the value assigned to it for that category of products.

I need to stress, again, that at this time I have not seen any evidence of this. As I said above, I’m just spit-balling here. But if one simply thinks about an environment where Google wants to provide its searchers with results that will meet their needs — and assuming they have the information to connect the reviews of one product with another on a different site — it is a logical and beneficial angle to pursue.

So, what do you do?

We’ve covered a lot here about how entities and reviews can and likely will impact rankings and how review scores will likely be augmented further in the very near future to place more weight on those reviews that more closely match the searcher’s intent and interests. So let’s review what you need to pay attention to…

Who is reviewing you, and what their reviews are. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but are you pleasing your target demographic? Be clear on your site or in your business who you are catering to and what they can expect.Which of the products and services you offer are being reviewed favorably and poorly across the web. This is simply a good business move (clearing out bad products and focusing on the good); however, if I’m right, and this will start to impact your own rankings and review scores, it will be more important than ever.How your site connects with other entities (e.g., authors in your blog, companies you’re affiliated with) and how they are rated. If you’re associated with poorly reviewed and rated entities, this flow of influence (or rather, lack thereof) will impact you.

In the end, the point is that we can no longer focus on simply how our business entity is reviewed but must look at how the entities it’s connected to are reviewed and who is doing that reviewing. We’re being forced into an environment where we need to look at our business as a whole, what we offer, who we partner with and who we cater to. While we need to respond to negative reviews as always, we need to be more conscious of who is doing the reviewing and whether they are part of our target demographic.

Resources

I promised above to link to some resources on how to get reviews and the risks involved, since we didn’t talk much about those specific strategies here.  Here are some of my favorite pieces on the subject:

Thomas Ballantyne Speaking On Reviews At SMX West — Search Engine LandInfo On The Consumer Review — Search Engine LandHow To Get Local Reviews & Rating — YoastCreate A Link For Customers To Write Reviews — Google

Conclusion

I hope that if nothing else, this article has given you food for thought. While a lot of this article is based on ideas not yet implemented, most are logical, and we’re starting to see some of the early signs that this is the direction things are about to take. Our job (yours and mine) is to be ready for these things when they come, and being ahead of the curve in understanding what’s happening will help us make business decisions that lead naturally to a better entity status for our companies. Fortunately, there is no downside to following the ideas listed above; it’s simply forcing us to understand the complexity (and simplicity) of the way Google approaches entities as outlined in their many patents on the subject and changes we’re seeing them make every day.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

The future of local discovery

We’ve entered an exciting time for local marketing. Big Data, digital assistants, augmented reality and beacons will fundamentally change the way users discover locations. As Bob Dylan so aptly pointed out, “The times they are a-changin’.”

As such, local marketers and advertisers need to start thinking about how they’re going to change along with the times. Here’s what you need to know about the future of local discovery.

Big Data: ‘Who’ informs ‘where’

Proximity is the primary ranking factor in local searches. That’s not likely to change. After all, what’s nearby is the fundamental aspect of local discovery.

What is changing, however, is the filter that sorts out, ranks and presents those nearby locations. What filter, you ask?

It’s you.

Going forward, local discovery will function as proximity filtered by your individual preferences. The person searching will inform what locations are shown.

In truth, this is nothing new. Google, Bing, Safari and Yahoo have been personalizing search results for some time through tracking your browsing history. What is new is the sophistication of artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics.

With the burgeoning Internet of Things, the amount of customer and behavioral data is growing by the day. Even if Congress hadn’t cleared the way for internet services providers (ISPs) to sell your data, what marketers and advertisers know about customers was only going to increase thanks to the growing data fiefdoms of Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.

For good or ill, the ability to use that information to target the right customer with the right message at the right time is maturing. In fact, even back in 2012 ,Target had the capability to use data mining to predict the pregnancy of a teenager before her father could deduce the news himself. Big Data has come a long way since then.

In the case of local discovery, Big Data will help search engines personalize local results based on a user’s preference. The more the search engines know about you, the more relevant search results and maps will be.

For example, a search for nearby restaurants might include ranking factors such as your favorite dishes, food allergies, price point, time of day and how long it was since your last visit. Meanwhile, a search for a nearby product such as shoes might be filtered by your favorite brand, shoe color, size and any ongoing sales.

However, knowing your customer and targeting your customer are two different things. There needs to be a means of surfacing local information in a unified way, and that need will undoubtedly be addressed by digital assistants.

Digital assistants and voice search

Digital assistants will serve as the connection between customer profiles and the preferred locations and products around them.

Digital assistants will be everywhere. On your phone, in your car, your house, your office — everywhere and inside everything connected to the internet.

The ultimate goal of Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri is to become that universal connection between the physical and digital worlds.

In the context of local discovery, think of a digital assistant as your very own personal Rick Steves, providing you with everything you’d ever care to know about a location — and then some.

This omnipresent assistant, part tour guide, part planner, part shopping liaison, will provide users with the most relevant and personalized local recommendations for anything you can imagine.

And thanks to voice search, digital assistants are always listening.

Google Home and Amazon Alexa operate in this mode by default, and Apple’s latest iPhone update is pushing users to set up voice activation for Siri.

In addition to enabling ambient listening, voice activation establishes voice biometrics, which will allow digital assistants to become device-agnostic.

Whether it’s smart cars, smart homes or smart offices, the ability to distinguish between users is critical to translating your personal preferences regardless of location or device. This will provide a consistent user experience without a disruption to conversational context.

In fact, Google Home recently made progress on this front by being able to recognize up to six different voices from one device. It’s not hard to extrapolate this trend to the point that digital assistants will be able to recognize who you are regardless of where or what device you’re using.

Soon you’ll be able to make dinner reservations by talking to the digital assistant embedded in your hotel room, order an Uber from the digital assistant on your phone as you walk to the lobby and check your flight from the digital assistant inside your autonomous Uber — all without breaking the conversational context with your digital assistant.

Augmented reality

With the rise of voice search, it’s also necessary to replace the traditional screen on your phone and monitor. A picture is worth a thousand words, so it’s unlikely that even a sweet-talking digital assistant will replace our need to visualize what’s in front of us.

As I outlined in a previous article, the solution to traditional screens is to replace them with augmented reality — your smartphone transforming into smart glasses. Based on Facebook’s recent plans for augmented reality, this indeed seems to be the direction we’re heading.

In my mind, augmented reality is likely to be one of the more exciting and less privacy-invasive developments of local discovery. You’ll be able to scout out a local restaurant, visualize the precise location of a product on a shelf or interact with custom location-based content triggered with beacons. Which brings me to the final trend you should be keeping an eye on.

Beacons

Proximity targeting will flourish with the rise of augmented reality and digital assistants.

Beacons are perfect for surfacing content in a user’s immediate proximity. The challenge right now is alerting users to beacons. However, if everyone has a digital assistant embedded in their augmented reality glasses, it will be easy for users to discover beacon content and have that content personalized based on personal preferences.

Whether it’s triggering a coupon for a customer’s most likely purchase as he walks by a store entrance or promoting a fast food restaurant as a vehicle exits the interstate off-ramp, the potential for beacons is tremendous.

Start preparing now

Many of these developments might seem too far out in the future. However, technology is evolving at an exponential rate. The time to start preparing and laying the groundwork for these marketing developments is now.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

The rise of personal assistants and the death of the search box

On March 1, Behshad Behzadi, Google’s director of conversational search, gave a keynote address at SMX West in San Jose. This keynote was loaded with insight into Google’s perspective on where search is today, and where it’s going.

In today’s column, I’m going to provide a review of some of the things I took out of the keynote, then offer my thoughts on what the future holds. In short, I’m going to outline why this spells impending doom for the concept of a “search box.”

We actually got some initial insight into this right at the beginning of the keynote. Google’s goal is to emulate the “Star Trek” computer, which allowed users to have conversations with the computer while accessing all of the world’s information at the same time. Here is an example clip showing a typical interaction between Captain Kirk and that computer:

Behzadi also showed a clip from the movie, “Her,” and noted that “Star Trek” was imagining a future 200-plus years away (the show originally aired in the 1960s), and “Her” was envisioning a future just over 20 years away. Behzadi, on the other hand, believes that this will unfold in less than 20 years.

Google timeline

A quick history review will show us just how rapidly Google has changed over the years:

In addition, the growth of Google’s Knowledge Graph has been prolific:

Another key driver of change is that we will continue to get more and more devices to speak to at home:

As a result of this, users will get increasingly comfortable speaking to computers, and this will drive an increase in natural language usage in search queries.

Another thing driving this increased natural language usage is the improvement in speech recognition quality. According to Behzadi, today, the speech recognition error rate is down to eight percent, whereas two years ago, it was at 25 percent. Note that for more than 30 minutes of his keynote, he was continually doing voice demos, and not a single recognition error occurred.

Some other key points about the growth of voice search:

    Voice search is currently growing faster than typed search.There are many times where voice is the best way to interact (driving, cooking).It’s becoming more and more acceptable to talk to a phone, even in groups.

During the live video keynote event I did with Gary Illyes, he told me that the number of voice queries in 2015 was double that in 2014. Illyes also told me that voice queries were 30 times more likely to be action-oriented than typed queries.

The other major implication of the move to voice search is that it takes search out of the standard practice of going to a web page and typing in a query. Access to voice search needs to be ubiquitous, not require you to go to a special place to do it.

The future of search is to build the ultimate assistant

This is what Behzadi told us, and this idea that search should be the ultimate assistant is a fascinating conceptualization of where things are going. It has many, many implications.

Here is how Behzadi characterized some of the ways that Google thinks about this in a mobile-first world:

Mobile Attributes:

Knowledge About the WorldKnowledge About You and Your WorldKnowledge About Your Current Context

Your Assistant Needs to Be There:

Whenever You NeedWhenever You AreTo Help You Get Things Done

In case you’re wondering how well people will adapt to this notion of living via their personal assistant, my college-age children are already a good part of the way there, as is my 81-year-old mother-in-law. As more capability comes along, they will go right along with it.

Illustrating with examples

Behzadi is confident that Google is making great strides toward these goals, and he provided a whole series of interesting demos of the progress Google has made.

Parsing complicated natural language

He provided many examples of this, but the one that stood out for me was this query:

“Can you tell me how is the, what was the score of the last game with Arsenal?” You can see the result here:

As you can see, during the query, when I repeated it on my phone, I changed the direction of the sentence in the middle. Google was able to parse that down to an understanding that the real question started in the second half of the malformed sentence.

App integration

Another interesting demo was of the degree of App integration. At one point, Behzadi opened Viber, which is an instant messaging and VoIP app, and showed a dialogue that he was having with coworker about dinner.

One restaurant they referred to in the dialogue was CasCal, which is a tapas bar in Mountain View. So then he said, “OK Google” and asked, “how far is it?” Google provided the answer.

Next he said, “Call CasCal.”

For demo purposes, he then hung up, as he really didn’t want to chat with CasCal in the middle of his keynote, but he then followed that with the query, “book a table for 8 p.m. Friday for five people,” which launched the OpenTable App.

Lastly, he asked the Google app to “navigate to CasCal restaurant,” which opened up Google Maps.

This type of integration goes through some very complex interactions to address a fairly basic human need. Currently, Google is only integrated with about 100 apps currently, but the number is growing.

Google is clearly focusing on the most popular apps, too. For example, Behzadi did another demo showing integrations with Facebook and WhatsApp that was pretty cool.

Understanding context

There were also a few interesting demos with regard to understanding context. In one, he started with the query “how high is rigi.” However, given that he was standing in San Jose at the moment, this was heard as “how high is ricky,” and something like this screen shot came back:

He tried it again, and then got a result for “how high is reggie,” which was still not what he wanted. So to help the system along, he then tried the query “mountains in switzerland,” which produced a carousel result:

After that, he tried the “how high is rigi” query and scored paydirt:

I promised myself not to put too many sequences in here, but I couldn’t resist including this one. It starts with the query “pictures of Wales.” I spoke this query into the Google app, but I got results related to the animal (whales) instead of the country (Wales), which was what I was looking for.

So, I clicked on the microphone button in the Google app and spelled it out: “w-a-l-e-s.” And Google got it right:

Remembering context throughout a conversation

I have one last sequence I’d like to show before I dig into my thoughts on the meaning of all this. This is a sequence related to a famous building, and it is a modified version of one that I’ve demoed many times. The sequence of queries is as follows:

    “where is coit tower”“i want to see pictures”“how tall is it”“who built it”“when”“what are the opening hours”“show me restaurants around there”“how about italian”“actually, i prefer french”“call the second one”

Almost unbelievably, at the end of this sequence, Google has managed to maintain the complete context of the conversation:

What does all of this mean?

Google has clearly made great strides toward being a more complete personal assistant and in understanding natural language. It also has a very long way to go from here. We don’t have the “Star Trek” computer yet, and it’s definitely more than a decade away. Behzadi believes it’s less than 20 years away, and he may be right.

As I suggested in the title of this piece, over time this will spell the end of our dependence on the search box. Ultimately, the notion of searching is really about gaining access to information. In the long run (say 10-plus years from now), we’ll view that as a utility that must be integrated into everything we do.

Instead of going to a search box, all I’ll need to do is go to a device that has access to my personal assistant. That could be my smart watch, my TV, my phone, my tablet, my car or any other device that helps me manage the world around me.

Wherever I am, or whatever I’m doing, I’ll want the information I want, even if it does not fit the current context. Ideally, the personal assistant I use should consider my current context but be ready to get switched to a different context if I guide it to do so (consider the “rigi” and “wales” examples I shared above).

We’ll also get used to hearing people speak to their devices, and some of the stigma we feel about that today will fade. You can already see that happening, as more and more people are developing the expectation of voice interaction with their devices.

I don’t see the keyboard going away entirely, though. For example, I’m not likely to ask my personal assistant to buy hemorrhoid medication using a vocal command while sitting in my office with others around.

I think that we’ll continue to have some situations where keyboard entry remains a better way to do things for some time to come. But I also think that the usage of the keyboard will decline at some point in the future (probably in the next five years).

Of course, one of the big issues that people will raise about this is the lack of privacy. I agree that this is a critical issue that deserves a lot of attention.

On the flip side of that is that people will get a lot of leverage from being able to better manage their lives by using smart technology like tomorrow’s personal assistant. I hope that as all of this unfolds, the privacy issues, and the trustworthiness of those who hold all this information about us, is dealt with sensitively.

Google is not the only company investing in this technology. Apple (Siri) and Microsoft (Cortana) are making big investments in personal assistant technology as well. One sure thing is that this is coming toward us fast!

Videos

See the full keynote speech below, as well as the Q&A.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

How To Localize Google Search Results

In late November 2015, Google removed the location search filter from the (shrinking) list of search tools available to refine queries. As search results have become increasingly localized, this significantly limits consumers’ ability to see results for any other location than their own.

Whether you’re a search pro who needs to see clients’ search results as returned within different localities or a normal consumer who wants to see results localized to your next travel destination, the removal of this search tool significantly limits the ability to see the SERP world beyond your own city or country.

Today’s post will provide ways to show localized search results despite Google’s removal of the search tool.

What Does Google Say?

As Google told Search Engine Land, the company maintains that the location search filter “was getting very little usage,” so they removed it. Could it be they removed the search tool but retained the ability via an advanced search screen or something similar? A quick search for “change Google search location” may give you a little hope; there’s an answer box, and even a support article entitled, “Change your location on Google.” Problem solved? Unfortunately, no.

Google’s idea of being helpful is telling you how to change the auto-detected search location (usually by IP) to a “more precise” location they select for you, usually based on search history. For me, that meant my location changed from New York City (by corporate IP address) to Columbia, SC (my actual location). But I need to see how my Dallas, TX, client is showing in SERPs localized to that area.

Following are four ways to show localized Google Search results.

1. Google AdPreview

It may be intended for use by Google AdWords participants, but Google’s AdPreview tool is actually available whether you’re logged in or out, regardless of whether or not you have a Google AdWords account.

In my opinion, this is the easiest and most accurate way to emulate a search from a locality other than your own but also emulate from different devices, languages and countries.

2. ISearchFrom.com

Another simple method is to use the www.isearchfrom.com website. It works a lot like Google’s AdPreview tool but allows a few additional search parameters like Safe Search settings (and a few others that don’t seem to make a difference in the results).

The site’s footer does say it is not actively maintained, so who knows how long this utility will work.

3. Location Emulation In Google Chrome

There is a feature within Google Chrome’s Developer Tools that allows you to emulate any latitude and longitude. Hat tip to the Digital Inspiration blog for this method:

    Open the Chrome browser.Press [CTRL]+[SHIFT]+I to open Developer Tools.Click “Console” and then the “Emulation” tab. If you do not see the Emulation tab while in the Console, press the [ESC] key and it will appear.Within the Emulation tab’s navigation, choose “Sensors.”Check the box next to “Emulate geolocation coordinates.”Open a new tab with a utility like http://www.latlong.net/ to look up the precise latitude and longitude for a locality.Copy and paste the latitude and longitude over to the “Emulate geolocation coordinates” input boxes.Go to Google.com and submit your query to get results that match those you’d get if you were actually in that locality.

4. The &near= Search Parameter

There is a URL parameter you can append to your Google search to return results near a certain location — just add &near=cityname to your query string, where cityname is your desired locality.

For example, after searching for “cowboy boots,” add &near=Dallas to the query URL, like so: https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=cowboy+boots&near=Dallas. There’s actually a bookmarklet available online to make this even easier.

With that said, I have noticed the organic search results are slightly different when using the &near= parameter than when using AdPreview and Google Chrome Location Emulation. I don’t totally trust this method.

Final Thoughts

So there you go — four ways to show localized Google search results even though the search tool has been retired. I think it’s clear the AdPreview tool is the easiest, most accurate option, but perhaps you have a method you’d like to share?

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

The Future Is Intelligent Advertising

In its earliest form, the Internet represented a land of boundless opportunity. Fire up MSN, ask “the Internet” a question, and back comes the answer. Interested in garden gnomes, Japanese cuisine, or classical guitar? No problem; just open up your web browser, and there’s a selection of websites for you to browse for hours on end.

Recently though, the ever-expanding, limitless nature of the Internet has ceased to excite us and started to intimidate us. In part, this is due to the nature of our relationship with it. Although we still go out to “discover,” we also spend large percentages of our time online “receiving” information, notifications and alerts that (on the face of it, at least) should keep us better informed and more productive.

Overwhelming Instead Of Empowering

The problem is that the 21st-century consumer now uses so many digital services — and is connected to so many different devices — that technology is overwhelming them rather than empowering them. It’s a distraction, not a shortcut. Little wonder that according to recently-announced data from Microsoft Advertising, 63% of consumers are “interested in future technology that automatically filters content or messages so they only see or hear what they need to at any one time.”

This trend is part of a wider sense of frustration amongst consumers that, despite the amount of personal information they regularly supply online, technology isn’t keeping its end of the bargain. If we take the time to educate a brand about ourselves — our behavior, habits, tastes, and turn-offs — we expect them to filter their messages to us accordingly. Microsoft’s study revealed that over a third [39%] are open to sharing their data with brands, but only in exchange for better experiences.

The message for brands is clear: Less is more. A consumer doesn’t just want, but expects you to use the data they have provided to replace the barrage of aimless marketing messages with fewer, more targeted, and more relevant experiences.

Context is important, too. Consumers need brands to understand when and where they want to engage, then select the right place at the right time. If you do, they’ll provide you with more information for you to refine again and again.

Personalization Is Key

Need more evidence that personalization is the way to go? A recent paper by Econsultancy and RedEye revealed that 92% of global company marketers reported an uplift in search engine marketing (SEM) conversion rates after implementing personalization, with 32% characterizing this lift as “major.”

Understanding to whom you are serving an ad, the context of that ad (across devices, time of day, location, etc.), and the experience you provide once they click on that ad will ultimately set the tone with the customer. The more specific the message, and the more relevant the resulting experience, the more open the customer will be to take action. Advertisers who understand this — and act upon it — are in the best position to maximize customer opportunities.

Search ad platforms, such as Bing Ads and AdWords, have taken notice as well, making large investments in infrastructure and ad products that give advertisers more flexibility in providing better consumer experiences.

The Beginning Of Search Audience Marketing

Tagging and measurement tools, such as Universal Event Tagging (UET) on Bing Ads, create the foundation for remarketing. This allows for audience-based buying scenarios and provides advertisers with the ability to better customize the ad experience to the customer. With UET, this can extend across search and display ads, for example.

And this is just the beginning. Looking into the future, as Bing Ads and AdWords continue to innovate through data and data sharing across first- and third-party resources, you can expect to have more tools to enable delightful customer experiences and deeper customer insights.

While a deep understanding of your customer is essential to kick-starting this virtuous circle, consumers do expect brands to be completely transparent about data collection. In fact, according to internal Microsoft data, 83% of consumers expect brands and advertisers to ask for permission before digital information is used.

Filtering Is Essential

Another key learning is that consumers will reward the brands that help them to control the constant flow of information thrown at them day-in, day-out. Companies that offer ways to filter out the irrelevant and surface the golden nuggets will win out. Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant, Cortana, is an example of a solution that is capable of slicing through the clutter and guiding consumers in their decision making.

Looking ahead, the emergence of machine learning and anticipatory technology will also play a part in vetting the information flowing to consumers via digital channels.

The future is “intelligent advertising” — advertising that understands individual consumers and can deliver tailored content at the right place, at the right time, and on the right platform. Brands capable of bringing the right content from the Internet to the fingertips (or even wrists) of consumers while intelligently avoiding “information overload” will be handsomely rewarded.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Yandex Turns Up The Dial On Personalized Search

The Russian search engine Yandex has announced changes to how it presents personalized search results, saying that personalization is now based on what’s happening within a single search session.

When the company launched personalized results late last year, it was based primarily on looking at a user’s search history within the previous few weeks/months. Now, the personalization happens within seconds and is based on the current search session.

More than half of all searches on Yandex, however, are about something that interests the searcher at the very moment of searching and stops interest them the moment after. To be able to cater to such momentary searches, we now analyse search sessions in real time.

Search queries begin to influence search results within seconds. The search engine can figure out whether a person is looking for a book or a film even before they have finished typing [The Great Gatsby] in the search box.

Yandex says this change to its algorithm means it can offer personalized search results to searchers that have never used Yandex before. The company says it’s available now on all Yandex domains worldwide.

This company video explains more about the changes to personalized search on Yandex.

Foursquare Responds To Facebook Nearby By Tapping Facebook's Friend Graph

Foursquare has made a quick response to Monday’s announcement of Facebook Nearby, with its own announcement today that Foursquare Explore is cranking up its personalization.

The irony? It’s going to use Foursquare activity from a user’s Facebook friends to improve the recommendations in Explore.

Think of it as Foursquare judo: It’s using Facebook data to battle against Facebook itself. Touché!

Here’s Foursquare’s explanation of how it’s using Facebook to turn up the personalization dial:

When your Facebook friends do public things on Foursquare, like write a tip, like a place, or take public photos, we’ll now use that to help power your recommendations when you search in Explore.

That new level of personalization happens even if the Facebook friend isn’t also a Foursquare friend. Foursquare says it’s rolling out on Foursquare.com and, more importantly, on both its iPhone and Android apps. Foursquare account holders will need to connect to their Facebook account to see more personalized recommendations.

It’s a response to Facebook Nearby, the new local search-esque feature that Facebook announced on Monday. Nearby, said by many to be a Foursquare and Yelp competitor, lets Facebook users get local business recommendations based on Facebook user activity.

DuckDuckGo's New Video Targets Google's "Filter Bubble" Of Personalized Results

DuckDuckGo’s ongoing mission to challenge Google (and other search engines, but mainly Google) on privacy issues has taken another turn with the recent launch of a video that accuses Google of putting searchers in a “bubble” of personalized results.

The video hits on a few of DuckDuckGo’s consistent talking points in its ongoing battle to educate searchers on privacy issues and, more specifically, what it considers to be the benefits of using its own search engine instead of Google. Almost two years ago, DuckDuckGo launched DontTrack.us, a website that details how Google tracks its users and how DuckDuckGo doesn’t.

As TPM reported today, DuckDuckGo recently did a small study with 131 volunteers, asking them to search for three current U.S. political terms — “abortion,” “gun control” and “Obama” — and then comparing the results. The results are highlighted in DuckDuckGo’s new video.

“Filter bubble” is a term that author Eli Pariser coined in his book of the same name last year. Pariser keynoted our SMX East 2011 conference; you can read a recap of that here: SMX East Keynote: A Conversation With Eli Pariser.

DuckDuckGo’s usage is a tiny fraction of the major search engines, but it’s gaining traction. The site’s public traffic page shows that it’s currently getting about 1.3 to 1.4 million searches per day.

Pew Report: 65% View Personalized Search As Bad; 73% See It As Privacy Invasion

Personalized search? Both Google and Bing will tell you that it provides better results. But two-thirds say they don’t care. They view personalized search as a “bad thing,” a new survey finds. Nearly three-quarters also view gathering data to personalize results to be a privacy invasion.

The findings come out of a survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Around 2,000 adults in the US were questioned between January 20 and February 19 of this year as part of a wide-ranging poll about search engine use, though fewer may have answered particular questions.

Personalized Search: A Bad Thing

People were asked how they’d feel if a search engine tracked what they searched for, then used that information to personalize their future search results:

Rather than a straight yes/no option, the choices gave some context. From the chart above about views on personalized search:

65% said it was a “bad thing” since, as the response said, “it may limit the information you get online and what search results you see”29% said it was a “good thing” because “it gives you results that are more relevant you.”

By Demographics

The survey also broke down responses to the question about personalized search by age, income level and race:

Generally speaking, the older someone was, the less they agreed with personalized search. The percentage of those who said it was bad by age group:

18-29: 56%30-49: 67%50+: 70%

A similar pattern was true by income group. The more you earn, the more you’re likely to consider personalized search to be bad. The percentages disagreeing with it by income:

Less than $30,000: 45% (the most favorable of all groups)$30,000 to $74,999: 68%$75,000: 75%

Whites were far more likely to disagree with it than Blacks/Hispanics as a combined group (70% to 50%).

Invasion Of Privacy

The survey also asked the same question but with a different set of possible answers, these designed to tell if tracking searches was deemed a privacy invasion:

Again, rather than a straight yes/no option, there was context to each choice:

73% overall said they were “Not OK” with personalized search, since they felt it was an invasion of their privacy83% of those 50+ viewed it as a privacy invasion69% of those 18-29 viewed it as as an invasion68% of those 30-49 viewed it as an invasion

Some History & Perspective On Personalized Search

There’s no way to tell if all the attention personalized search has had lately is generating more negative views than in the past. That’s because Pew hasn’t surveyed views on personalized search before, to my knowledge. But those surveyed now clearly did not like it.

The new findings will likely give fresh ammunition to those who oppose personalized search, especially as conducted by Google. It follows on another survey last month that found largely negative views.

However, it’s worth noting that personalized search has been the norm at Google for over two years and at Bing for just over a year. Even if you’re not logged into either search engine, they’re personalizing your results.

The fact that most people haven’t objected, or gone out of their way to prevent even logged-out personalization from happening, probably means that they really don’t understand the ways that personalization can be helpful. Last November, Google had a very good post explaining some of the benefits.

Yes, I know — it’s Google, of course they’re going to push the benefits. But so does Bing. Yes, I know, Bing wants to personalize results just to make money off searchers in the same way as Google. True.

But it’s also true that some personalization can indeed be helpful, especially in a web full of crud. Just over a year ago, people were screaming that Google’s search results were being overrun by garbage, which resulted in the Panda Update. But filtering can only do so much. Personalization is also a useful signal.

Preventing Fears From Becoming Real

The challenge is when the search engines go to far. Google’s Search Plus Your World launched earlier this year dramatically increased the amount of personalized results that were visible (though ironically, it also made it far easier to turn off the personalization that had been happening since December 2009).

Google faced pretty severe backlash in the mainstream and tech press, though regular users really didn’t seem to notice or care about the change.

My view tends to be that no one likes the idea of personalization. There’s fear that you’ll be stuck in what Eli Pariser calls a filter bubble. Or that you’ll be in that bad feedback loop like at Amazon, where you get terrible recommendations based on an odd one-time purchase. And there are real privacy worries about having all your searches — some of which can be intensely personal — recorded.

I think when you ask anyone about personalization, the reaction they have will be far more negative than in their actual routine. If they’re educated more about it, if you give them more context, a knee-jerk “it’s bad” response can often turn into a “maybe.” I’ve seen this happen when I’ve spoken with people on the topic.

That’s not to take away that people do have real concerns. It just remains to be seen if those concerns on paper turn into walking away from Google and Bing to the likes of Duck Duck Go or other “private” search engines we covered recently. Certainly if the major search engines don’t show care to these concerns, that may increase the odds.

More From The Survey

We’ll be breaking down different aspects of the complete Pew survey in the coming days. So far, here’s our other coverage:

Pew Survey: 68% View Targeted Ads Negatively; 59% Have Noticed Targeting

More On Personalized Search

And here are some related background pieces on personalized search:

Search 4.0: Social Search Engines & Putting Humans Back In SearchGoogle Now Personalizes Everyone’s Search ResultsGoogle’s Personalized Results: The “New Normal” That Deserves Extraordinary AttentionBing Results Get Localized & PersonalizedA Conversation With Eli Pariser Of “The Filter Bubble”Study Asks, Can You Trust Google’s Personalized Search Results?Survey: People Largely Negative About Google’s Personalized Search ResultsGoogle’s Results Get More Personal With “Search Plus Your World”Two Weeks In, Google Says “Search Plus Your World” Going Well, Critics Should Give It TimeFAQ: What’s The Debate About Google’s Search Plus Your World?Scroogle’s Gone? Here’s Who Still Offers Private Searching