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Are You Scared of Personalized Search?
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Is it just me or do I keep hearing a number of SEOs complain about the idea of personalized search? The question is why? You cannot change the inevitable from happening. Think of it this way: anything that improves the search experience for the user improves the SEO industry. As search engine marketers, if you are not considering the user experience then you are in the wrong line of business. While most people do not like change, SEOs seem to take that statement to a whole new level (which is strange to me) because the one thing that is constant in our industry is change. Each and everytime one of the major search engines update their alogorithms search engine optimizers roll their eyes and begin to panic. Remember anything that improves the search experience for the user improves the SEO industry. Personalized search results will improve the user experience.

So What is Personalization?

So just what is personalization? Here are some common definitions for personalization
  • Tailoring specifically to an individual
  • Using personal information
  • Customizing something to provide an element of uniqueness
  • A process whereby small lots of individualized parts or products are produced
  • The act of tailoring products or services to the customer's specifications
Site Personalization - A feature of a website that allows visitors to select the kinds of content they want displayed when they visit a website usually through cookies or a login of some sort.

Personalized search is the process by which the search engines tailor results from previous search behavior and adjust present and future search results based on “behavioral” preferences. Google is the first search engine to introduce personalized results on a large scale. According to Wikipedia, "...Weighing a number of factors including but not limited to user history, bookmarks, community behaviour and site click-through rate and stickiness, Google is providing results that are specific to what they believe you are searching for."

Marketers have been incorporating the use of personalization on websites for years now. Using the process of tailoring pages to individual users' characteristics, behaviours or preferences. This personalization is commonly used to enhance customer service, leads and e-commerce sales. The "personalized web page" is tailored to specifically target each individual consumer.

Components of Personalization

The premise behind personalization include:
  • the use of cookies
  • filtering - where a filter is applied to information from different sites and sources to select relevant data that may apply to the specific online experience of a customer or specific group of customers
  • User profiling/behavorial targeting - using data collected from a number of different sites, which can result in the creation a personalized Web page before the user has been formally
  • Data analysis - tools used to predict likely future interactions (think semantic mapping
So why are many SEOs afraid of personalized search? The fact is because it is unlike anything that we have seen in the past. Can you imagine a unique Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for each and every one of us? It makes it tough for search engine optimizers to use traditional tactics to position their clients webpages within index of the search engines. Relevancy is relevancy. If you provide relevant and somewhat unique content on your website, you are going to be found in the search results whether personalized or not.

My advice to B2B marketers is not to fear the personalization of search, but to welcome it. While personalization depends on the gathering and use of personal user information, privacy issues are a major concern. No question that is an issue, but the fact is that personalization of search is a great benefit to the user. Personalization is a means of meeting the customer's needs more effectively and efficiently, which will make interactions faster and easier and, consequently, increasing customer satisfaction and the likelihood of repeat visits.

Personalization is sometimes referred to as one-to-one marketing and for good reason. It creates a relationship between you and your prospect and you and your customer. In an era where marketing is being driven by the consumer this is a good thing.

Previous Posts on Personalization of Search:

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posted by Jody @ Tuesday, May 01, 2007  
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