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Friday, September 22, 2023

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Bing Results Get Localized & Personalized

The idea of “normal” search results died a little more today, as Bing has begun delivering personalized listings depending on a searcher’s location or past search history. Google has already been doing the same for several years.

Local Results

Until today, everyone searching at Bing within the United States generally saw the same results. Now, the city you’re searching from can make a difference.

For example, the search on the left below is where Bing detected my location as being near Los Angeles. On the right, I changed my settings to simulate being in New York:

You can see that for the Los Angeles-area results, the Los Angeles Zoo is listed higher than in the New York listings (you can click to enlarge the image). Similarly, in the New York listings, the Bronx Zoo comes higher than in the LA listings.

Outside the US, Bing has long been showing different results considered more relevant to the country of the searcher. However, everyone within those countries will still see the same results, regardless of what city they are searching from, Bing told me.

Google has been localizing results in this way Bing is now doing since at least April 2009, and the insertion of local results became even more dramatic in October 2010. Our past articles below have more about this:

Personalized Results

Bing is also now using past searches to reshape results for about 30% of queries that are “navigational” in nature, where a searcher is trying to find a specific web site.

For example, if you often went to Bing, searched for SMX and selected Search Engine Land’s SMX conference site from the listings as opposed to the SMX Convention Center in the Philippines, Bing would learn that you probably want the SMX conference site to be shown first — and it would start boosting it in the results.

I can’t show you an example of this in action, because the system has only just gone live, and I don’t have enough of a search history to easily trigger it. But you’ll know when it happens if you see a notification at the bottom of your search results:

The “Learn more” link leads to more information about how Bing’s search history feature works, which you’ll find here. Even if you’re not logged in, search history will work off your computer’s cookie and potentially change your search results, unless you’ve disabled the feature. You can also learn more about Bing’s search history feature in our past articles below:

Notifications don’t show when results are localized, only personalized, Bing’s director Stefan Weitz told me, when we talked about the changes yesterday,

Google’s Personalization

Google also makes personalized results based on past searches and has been doing so extensively since 2007. But unlike Bing, this might happen with any class of searches. Bing may also expand when it does personalization, but Bing told me that right now, the service wants to try it in situations where it thinks it makes the most sense, as with navigational queries.

As with Bing, Google also notifies searches at the bottom of its results when listings have been personalized — or customized, as it calls this:

Unlike with Bing, if you click on the “View customizations” link, you can see how the “regular” results would appear if they hadn’t been personalized, via a new page that appears:

Of course, the idea of “regular” results is — as I said in my opening paragraph — continuing to die. With Google doing extensive reranking based on location — not to mention on prior searches, fewer are really seeing the “normal” results that overriding customization can produce.

Personalized is the “new normal” as I wrote in one of the articles below. See them for more information about how personalization works at Google and hints at how it will likely expand at Bing.

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