Personal search is the type of search that takes into account what your online friends favor. For a researcher who wants to be objective it makes no sense to have it on.
We can (and should) turn off personal results, as Google lets us.
Personal search implemented by Google is at its highest power when we are logged into Google-plus. At that point anyone who is in our circles is a big influence. But there’s more. People from extended circles, from social networks connected to the Google+ account in the about section, and the Gmail contacts all come into play to tweak the search results.
Strangely though, due to the very “social” quality of the way it affects search results, I have recently thought of a couple of scenarios when keeping the personal search on may be a good thing!
Scenario number one. Include only people in your industry and profession in your circles. (Google+ will quickly sense what this is about and will start suggesting other members “like” the ones you have included, to be added to your circles, so you could take advantage of that, too.)
This way, if you search, you will see some of the relevant items those influential people in industry have posted or shared, at which point you can a) learn from trusted sources and b) say “hi” to them by adding a +1 to the post or commenting.
Scenario number two. Create a different Google+ account and only include your target candidates and people from target industry and geography.
This will be your, shall we say, “talent community”. (For non-recruiters this would be a target audience.) Now, when you search for anything of interest, you will find what those folks had to say or what they +1’ed or shared – and it’s your chance to communicate with them by adding a +1 to the post or commenting or re-sharing.
How does this sound? I have not heard anyone suggest this.