Search engine personalization: An exploratory study


  • Amanda Spink
  • Yashmeet Khopkar
  • Prital Shah
  • Sandip Debnath



Web search engines are beginning to offer personalization capabilities to users. Personalization is the ability of the Web site to match retrieved information content to a user's profile. This content can be set explicitly by the user or derived implicitly by the Web site using such user profile information as zip code, birth date, etc. In this paper we report findings from a study qualitatively and quantitatively assessing the current state of personalization on 60 search engine Web sites and the personalization features available. We examined: (1) how many search engines Web sites currently offer personalization features; and, (2) the type of features that can be personalized. Findings show that: (1) eight (13 percent) of the 60 search engines, including Yahoo, AOL, Lycos, Excite and Netscape, enabled some level of personalization; and, (2) personalization features are largely related to e-mail, business and financial information, searching of a reference tool, such as yellow pages, entertainment listings, sports, and news headlines. The breadth and depth of personalization features varied across search engines, with a mean number of two personalization features per site. "My Yahoo" had the most extensive personalization feature capability. Our findings show that despite the high level of interest in Web personalization, most search engine Web sites currently offer no or limited personalization features.




How to Cite

Spink, A., Khopkar, Y., Shah, P., & Debnath, S. (2003). Search engine personalization: An exploratory study. First Monday, 8(7).