Your AI, Your Way: Personalizing Google Gemini with Grounding

Leon Nicholls
7 min readMar 27, 2024

Do you sometimes feel like Google Gemini is helpful but generic? Like it’s a super-smart friend who doesn’t know you. There’s a fix for that! By learning a simple technique called “grounding,” you can give Gemini the inside scoop on your needs, interests, and even specific details for a question — making its answers way more focused and helpful.

Note: This article spotlights techniques for the Google Gemini Advanced chatbot (a paid service). While these concepts also apply to the free version, we’ll focus on the enhanced capabilities offered by the Advanced subscription.

What is User-Driven Grounding?

Consider grounding as giving Gemini a little extra info pack to accompany your question. Those details, preferences, or background knowledge help it narrow down its response and get super specific with you.

Why It Works: A Peek Behind the Curtain

Large language models like Google Gemini have a massive storehouse of knowledge. The trouble is that vastness can make it hard for them to pinpoint the exact answer you need. It’s like searching a giant library without a call number! Grounding works so well because:

  • Focuses the Search: By giving Gemini some context, you’re essentially saying, “Start searching within this section of the library, not the whole thing.”
  • Taps into Existing Knowledge: Instead of making Gemini generate everything from scratch, grounding lets it leverage information it already understands and apply it to your situation.

The Perks of Grounding:

  • Answers with Laser Focus: Gemini reduces overwhelming results and gives more tailored answers instead of broad results.
  • Less “Hallucinations”: We’ve all seen AI assistants go off the rails sometimes, right? Grounding helps keep Gemini on track by giving it real data with which to work (read my article on reducing hallucinations).
  • Personalized Like No Search Engine Can: This is where things get exciting. It becomes a customized assistant by grounding Gemini with your likes, needs, or workout stats.

Let’s Hit a Simple Example:

Say you ask Gemini, “What are some good workout ideas?” That’s broad. But add a tiny bit of grounding:

“I’m a beginner who needs a workout that’s easy on the knees.

Now, Gemini can tailor its suggestions to your skill level and needs. That’s the power of grounding in a nutshell!

Crafting Grounded Prompts

Now that you understand grounding, let’s get into the good stuff — how to do it! Think of it as packing Gemini a little suitcase of information to take on its mission of finding you the perfect answer.

Grounding Data 101

Here’s the stuff you can put in that “suitcase”:

  • Snippets of Text: Got an article about a topic? Include a relevant paragraph to focus on Gemini.
  • Your Top Priorities: Quick lists are perfect (“I need a hotel that’s pet-friendly, affordable, and near the beach.”)
  • Code Problems: Paste in the code (tell Gemini what language it’s in), and ask it to find the bug (Hint: wrap the code in “```” to isolate it from the rest of the prompt text).
  • Websites to Focus On: Enter the URL, and Gemini can summarize information or compare content specifically from that site (Note: Gemini does not visit the site to extract information; it uses cached Google Search data to respond).

Structure is Key

The biggest trick is ensuring Gemini can differentiate between your grounding info and the actual question. Here’s what works:

  • Clear Break: Separate with a blank line or use “```” to wrap the stuff Gemini should use as grounding for your question.
  • Formatting Fun: A simple markdown usually works for lists or tables.

Tips for Success:

  • Don’t Overpack: Keep your extra info relevant. Gemini’s smart, but nobody likes hauling a giant suitcase they don’t need.
  • Summarize If Needed: For big chunks of text, highlight the key points to help Gemini focus.

Grounded Prompts in Action

Let’s be real — the best way to get this is to see it in action! Here are a few ways grounding can become your new superpower for everyday tasks with Gemini:

Scenario 1: The “Smart Meal Planner”

Scenario 2: The “Tailored Travel Guide”

Scenario 3: The “Personal Movie Critic”

Grounding with a Visual Twist

Get ready to expand your grounding toolkit even further — did you know you can upload images to give Gemini visual context? This opens up a whole new world of possibilities!

How Does it Work?

The Gemini interface allows you to upload an image directly as part of a user prompt. Gemini will then analyze the image to understand the key elements before responding to your prompt.

Let’s Get Imaginative: Example Scenarios

  • Home Decor Helper: Upload an image of your living room and ask, “What kind of rug would match this style?”
  • Problem Solver: Take a picture of a broken appliance part and ask, “Where can I find a replacement for this?”
  • Plant Identifier: Did you find a cool plant on your hike? Snap it and ask, “What kind of plant is this, and how do I take care of it?”
  • Leftover Chef: Do you have leftovers in the fridge? Try asking Gemini how to include them in your breakfast creation.
  • Data Analyst: Upload an image of a data table for analysis: “Please give me a breakdown of the data in this image.

Important Note: Gemini can’t use images of people yet.

Grounding Gets Technical

OK, ready to level up your grounding game? Here’s the good news for those who work with structured data: Gemini can handle JSON, CSV, and XML! That means you can feed it neatly organized information and get precise answers.

What’s This All About?

  • JSON, CSV, XML…What?: Think of these as ways to organize information with labels and categories. Like a tidy spreadsheet compared to a free-form paragraph of text.
  • Why Bother?: If you already work with these formats (or have data that can be easily put into them), grounding this way allows Gemini to get more specific.

Example Time!

Let’s say you have employee data like this (in JSON format):

{
"employees": [
{
"name": "Alice",
"department": {
"name": "Engineering",
"manager": "Bob"
}
},
{
"name": "Bob",
"department": {
"name": "Management",
"manager": "Carol"
}
}
]
}

You could ground Gemini with that, then ask questions like:

Where to Learn More: If you are new to JSON, CSV, and XML, a quick search on those terms will yield tons of beginner-friendly resources. The structure is easy to grasp!

Potential Pitfalls & Easy Fixes

Hey, nobody’s perfect — not even super-smart AI assistants! Grounding is awesome, but it’s a skill that takes some practice. Here are a few common hiccups you might run into and how to solve them:

  • The Info Overload: You got excited and crammed a ton of information into your prompt, and now Gemini needs clarification. Easy fix: Scale back! Focus on the most important details, and give a little instruction like, “Focus on this part specifically.”
  • The Formatting Flop: Your beautifully organized table turned into a garbled mess in Gemini’s response. Easy fix: Double-check how Gemini handles different formatting. Basic markdown or plain lists are usually the safest bet.
  • Still Not Quite Right: Even with grounding, the answer isn’t what you hoped for. Easy fix: Don’t get discouraged! Refine your prompt — was the info clear enough? Did you phrase your question in the best way? (read my article on using Gemini to improve your prompts)

Troubleshooting Tip: It helps to think of Gemini as a super-eager student. Sometimes they need extra guidance to really “get” the assignment. Don’t be afraid to rephrase your prompt or adjust the grounding data until it clicks!

Conclusion

Grounding opens the door to using Gemini in more complex situations. Imagine giving it data to help you research complex topics, analyze your business reports, or even troubleshoot code. Once you master this technique, the potential is pretty mind-blowing.

Check out my reading list of other Google Gemini articles.

This post was created with the help of AI writing tools, carefully reviewed, and polished by the human author.

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