Personalized Search – The New Average Position

With the advent of personalized search, (or the auto opting-in of anyone with a Google account to have their search behavior screened) the game of search engine optimization will begin to change. As search engines strive to produce relevant search results for the searcher, pages with relevant products and fantastic optimization dance in a battle for rank…head to head, toe to toe, <title> tag to </title> tag…these sites and their webmasters or SEM firms furiously rush to optimize the metas, add unique content and generate relevant inbound and reciprocal links to improve the site’s organic rank.

Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land notes:

“Beyond your search history, Google also looks at the content on your Google Personalized Homepage – what gadgets you have there, feeds you are reading and so on — in order to shape your personalized search results. This is a new signal they’ve just started to use.”

So this will go beyond just the nature of the sites you click through to…they’re screening you as a person. From the news you read, to the sites you frequent, your search habits, and who knows…perhaps your IP and where you live.

But what are the implications of this for SEO? This question begs to be answered. No longer will you be able to run a Web Position ranking report and have an accurate read if Google is serving mixed search results! Of course, for certain categories there may be little variance, (i.e. if you need masking tape, I doubt the personalized search algorithm will see that you subscribe to some sports RSS feed and give you different results than your neighbor who seems to be a weather.com buff). But there are numerous instances where I’m sure Google’s interpretaiton of your needs and wants will upset the “natural order” of things. I slay myself…

Further, this will have implications to paid search strategies. If on average your natural rankings are being tossed, you may be so reliant on net driven business that you have to shift more resources into PPC advertising. In any event, it’ll be good for Google.

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paid search expert, sitecatalyst/omniture consultant, professional search engine optimization

Posted in Google, Personalize Search

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