Personalizes the Web
Search Engine Watch
Say goodbye to bookmarks: Google has rolled
out a seriously cool search history feature
that automatically keeps track of all of
your web searches and every page that you
view from search results
Google My Search History
feature is a beta application launched in
Google labs. To use it, you need to have
an active Google account (Gmail, Google
Groups or Google Answers—registration
From that point on, all of your queries
and search results are logged by Google
My Search History differs from the automatic
caching feature in the Google Desktop application,
which saves copies of web pages you've viewed
on your personal computer. My Search History
doesn't save web pages; rather, it saves
your search behavior, and makes it easy
to rediscover both your past queries and
the search result pages you've viewed.
"We view this product as a complement
to the desktop search," said Marissa
Mayer, Director of Consumer Web Products.
Unlike personalization options from Yahoo
and Ask Jeeves that are hidden away and
have their own interface, Google's My Search
History integrates directly into the main
Google search and result pages. And you
don't have to do anything special, such
as explicitly select search results, to
make it work.
Using the application is easy. Simply enter
your query in a Google search box and click
the additional "Search History"
button that is installed next to the familiar
"Search Web" button. Results are
displayed in what Google calls the Main
View for your search history.
Results on this view are ordered by date,
with your most recent searches appearing
at the top. Each of your search queries
is displayed as a linked, boldfaced term.
To re-run a search, simply click the link.
Beneath each search term is a list of results
that you viewed from that search, along
with the time and number of times you've
viewed each page.
A calendar on the right side of the result
page allows you to access the searches you
did on a particular date. Color on a date
box on the calendar shows the number of
searches you did on that day. White means
zero, and shades of green from lighter to
darker indicate heavier usage.
As you build a search history, Google begins
to cluster results from related queries
together, making it easier to find conceptually
similar results even if you can't recall
the exact search terms you used. "We're
running some interesting clustering and
related algorithms to understand whether
you've searched for topics like this in
the past," said Mayer.
The more search history Google has to work
with, the better the related results, at
least in theory. "The interesting thing
about these products is that it really does
take a while to build up enough history
to be useful," said Mayer.
My Search History also integrates with Google
web search. If relevant results from your
history are available for a Google web search,
you'll see My Search History results in
the "one-box" area at the top
of the result page. Google also displays
one-box results when it finds relevant links
from Google News, shopping, local or desktop
How does Google determine when to display
one-box results? If you're running the Google
Desktop application, these results from
your own computer will override My Search
History results. In other cases, it's less
clear whether you'll see one-box results
"We're actively tuning our one box
triggers to deliver the most relevant results
possible," said Mayer, adding that
she saw a query that returned four sets
of one-box results and she felt that was
Editing Your Search History
To enable My Search History, you need to
activate it and start searching. Google
has not saved any of your previous queries,
so you'll be starting with a clean slate
the first time you use the application.
What if you don't want some of your search
history saved? Google provides several mechanisms
to control what's included in your own history.
A "pause" link displayed at the
top of search results serves as a toggle,
temporarily halting the recording of your
search results until you enable it again.
You can also edit your search history, deleting
queries and search results that you don't
"I personally think the right way to
control what's in your search history is
to go in and retroactively remove items
that bother you," said Mayer. "That
way you don't have to worry about it ahead
Of course, you can
also simply sign off and use the standard
Google service if you don't want your search
activities recorded. You can also delete
the service entirely via the
settings for your Google account.
If you opt to use
My Search History, you should take the time
to review Google's
terms of service.
Google is quite upfront about the types
of information it collects and how it's
used, as well as the safeguards it has in
place to protect your privacy.
Google says it will not disclose the personal
information it collects to other companies
or individuals, with a few exceptions. Nonetheless,
you should read the policy yourself to decide
whether you're comfortable with these disclosures.
Google vs. Other Personalized Search Tools
Google has set a new standard for usefulness
and ease of use with My Search History.
Ask Jeeves and Yahoo introduced personalization
features last year, and AOL Search added
a nifty search history feature with its
recent upgrade. But none are as compelling
as My Search History