According to reports, Google recently experimented with allowing users to filter searches by personal results like information that could be pulled from a Gmail account if said user was logged in while searching. And then, just like that, the feature disappeared.
A Google spokesperson said, “We are always experimenting with ways to make Google search more useful for our users. At this time, we have no further plans to announce.”
For its part, Search Engine Land likened the feature to Google’s Search Plus Your World, which surfaced in 2012 and “has come out from time to time since then.”
Personalization has long been part of the overall Google search experience, which taps into data like location and search history to deliver the most relevant results for each user. But as Google faces strong competition from other platforms in voice and visual search, it has a vested interest in furthering its mission of ensuring the best possible user experience. And a Personal-tab-like feature may be a key to doing just that – and it could breathe new life into the email marketing industry at the same time.
Even more personal
Indeed, Peter Olesson, founder of SEO service provider SEO Venator, said a Personal tab extends Google’s efforts, making the search experience even more personal, accurate and convenient compared to other search engines.
Ahmed Khalifa, director of WordPress consultancy and training firm IgniteRock, agreed it’s another way for Google to personalize a user’s search experience.
“There are a couple of examples that this could be used for. If you have recently ordered a new Playstation 4 and want to know your order details, you can search for ‘Playstation 4’ or ‘PS4’ on Google, switch to the Personal tab [and] you will be able to see results which will list your order details, presumably from your connected Gmail account,” Khalifa said. “[Or] if you have purchased a [trip] to New York and [are] looking for your itinerary, your Personal tab will list the emails that mention New York and you will find your itinerary within Google.”
Olesson surmised Personal tab results could also include information about, say, recipes due to recent search behavior.
However, Bob Clary, director of marketing at software training company DevelopIntelligence, said he thinks a Personal tab is less about search result personalization and more about “Google attempting to be the hub for all your activity,” adding, “For a while now, Google has been pulling bits from Gmail into your search results like your flight information, and this seems to be an expansion on that.”
And David Erickson, vice president of public relations at PR firm Karwoski & Courage, said it’s possible this functionality could extend beyond Gmail and Google Photos to include YouTube and Google Docs as well.
Ryan Raplee, CEO of Legal InSites, a digital marketing firm focused on lawyers and law firms, agreed Google Drive searching is likely “well underway in development.”
Email marketers, rejoice (potentially)
Not surprisingly, a feature that pulls directly from email has the most potential impact for email marketers.
“Right now, email marketing specialists don’t have a lot of opportunities to be heаrd and seen — [you’re] just sending letters and they may get lost in your customers’ inboxes,” said Yulia Khansvyarova, head of digital marketing at digital marketing software firm SEMrush. “Even if a customer is still interested in your proposal, he or she is spammed by great amount of irrelevant emails and can…lose [an] important one. [If a Personal tab is implemented], as far as I understand, customers who look, for example, for [a] new dress will be able to find relevant [emails] from…online stores.”
Erickson agreed a Personal tab makes it much more convenient to find email content.
“While Gmail has sophisticated native search capabilities, I imagine most people do not take advantage of them. Helping people find their own emails through a search interface with which they are already very familiar will likely increase the frequency with which people search their [inboxes],” Erickson added. “I personally subscribe to a lot of newsletters and I often email myself articles and websites so I can find them later. For people who use their inbox as I do, adding the Personal tab makes it much easier and more convenient for me to retrieve that content when I need it.”
As a result, Khalifa said marketers have yet another reason to make sure their emails and newsletters are readable and contain schema.org, a markup vocabulary that can be embedded into email marketing and provides data to help improve user engagement via Google.
“This will make sure that the information is more available to Google and this will add to the consumer’s Google experience,” Khalifa added.
Indeed, Erickson said if the frequency of users searching their inboxes increases, the Personal tab will likely create more engagement with email newsletters as users find this content more frequently.
“Email marketers should now think like search engine optimizers by considering what are the likely queries someone might use in the Personal tab in relation to their content,” he added.
Better ads, too
In addition, Erickson said a Personal tab means search advertising based on email inbox searches has the potential to get much better.
“The ads in Gmail are tiny compared to the much greater screen real estate and more powerful features of Google AdWords ads that you [could theoretically] place in the Personal tab,” he said.
Raplee agreed marketers would have a new way to get highly targeted ads in front of users with intent.
And Olesson said he sees potential in Google using this information for future retargeting purposes as well.
Ryan Kh, CEO of SmartData Collective, which calls itself “an editorially independent, moderated community providing enterprise leaders access to the latest trends in business intelligence and data management,” too, said he expects Google will allow marketers to use this data to target customers by gender, age and other demographic variables.
“These options are already available, but they haven’t been very accurate,” he said. “They will be much more accurate if it can connect with Google accounts to learn more about the users. Unfortunately, this is something Google has yet to confirm.”
In addition, Kh said he thinks Google will start to make educated decisions about user interests and other behavior, but he noted “the accuracy of those options may leave a lot to be desired for the first couple of years.”
Not everyone is so optimistic about a potential Personal tab.
“If it works, it could represent a fundamental change in the way that people use Google,” Clary said. “My prediction, however, is that people won’t accept the functionality and it’ll eventually go away.”