Google ads chief: Personalization is the company's next big thing

Google is betting the farm on personalization, even as controversy about its privacy policies swirls

By Cameron Scott, IDG News Service |  Software

Google's top advertising executive, Susan Wojcicki, said on Wednesday that Google's biggest innovations over the next several years will be in personalized search results and ads.

Her remarks, made at a presentation at the Search Marketing Expo conference, come amidst substantial controversy about the consolidated privacy policy the company will officially adopt March 1.

In fact, both Wojcicki and Jack Menzel, a Google director of product management who addressed the conference on Tuesday, acknowledged that the Internet giant is still figuring out how exactly to handle personalized search queries and advertising content.

Asked what big innovations users could expect from Google in the next three to five years, Wojcicki recounted her own personal-best Google advertising experience. When her 3-year-old daughter announced she wanted to take Chinese lessons, Wojcicki asked all of her friends who the best teacher might be. After talking to several people, she got a name. She then realized that on the very page displaying her initial email request, the same teacher's name appeared.

"If this happened all the time, I wouldn't have to go ask my friends. I could just have Google magically tell me," Wojcicki said. "To do that, we'll have to do some of the work that we're doing now" in terms of personalization and "getting to know our users better."

Wojcicki made the same point when she discussed Google+, which earned just three minutes a month of its users' Web time in January, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article citing comScore figures.

She suggested that Google+ was the gateway to "the next generation of Google products," although users may not understand that yet. Those products will be "different because our users are logged in and are telling us something about themselves."

Wojcicki envisioned a positive user experience resulting from different users typing in the same "best vacations" search. Her results might be more family friendly, she said, describing precisely the kind of controversial type of conclusion about a user that the Internet giant could make by analyzing the combined usage data it will have on that person when the new privacy policy kicks in.

She described ads as just more information, and said she hopes Google will reach a point where it provides only ads that users "want to see."

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