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Personalization of Search - Focus on the User
Friday, June 01, 2007
Personalization is tailoring something such as a product or service to a user based on personal details that you have compiled from feedback and past experience.

Personalization in terms of search is the process of tailoring pages to individual users' characteristics or preferences.

The idea behind personalization is an age old marketing philosophy known as the one to one marketing model. In essence this is how marketing began. The customer (or consumer) indicated what they wanted and the merchant sold based on this need. The problem is that this model allowed the merchant to sell to only one person at a time.

Fast forward to today and marketers look to reach the masses via search and search engines. Yet the latest trend is to revert back to the "one to one model" through personalization. Why is that? The answer is simple enough, it is because we are experiencing a major shift in marketing from push to pull. The consumer is in control. Marketers are slowly catching on to the fact that they really need to understand who they are selling to and that in order to be successful they need to given the consumer what they want.

We are seeing this in the online space as the popularity of user generated content continues to increase at amazing levels. The use of social communities that are frequented continues to rise. Users of Internet search are feeling liberated and engines such as Google and ASK understand this. You see these engines are looking to provide an experience that is personalized for each and every user mimicking the one-to-one marketing model as mentioned earlier. I'll now state the obvious and that is that personalization must focus on the user. Personalization must focus on:
  • the user
  • the user's intent
  • the user's behavior
Each and every user have motivating factors for using search. When researching to make a purchase, determining factors include:
  • Pricing - price is always a factor in any purchase decision (even if you can afford to pay any price)
  • Benefits - the benefits must directly relate to the perceived needs of the user. With personalized search , do they expect to see video results or are they looking for News Results? Are they looking for a social community to learn more about the topic of interest?
  • Reliability and Trust - brand recognition and top of mind awareness is important. If Google cannot provide the most relevant personalized results and increase the perception of reliability, trust and relevance, the user may frequent a vertical search engine like a business.com or may look to other media to get their information.
  • Convenience - keeping the attention of the search user is critical. If you add a widget to your personalized Google page, you may not have to go any further to obtain the information that you seek.
  • Personal Taste - some people/users are simply creatures of habit and are set in their ways as to how they search. Do loyal users of Yahoo use ASK or MSN? Probably not, but if you continue to get everything that you are looking for out of Yahoo, then why would you change?
  • Prestige - the hype of search engines such as Yahoo and Google have an impact on the usage of each and on the lack of usage on other properties such as a business.com or the like. Consider the recent surge of popularity with Facebook and MySpace over other social communities such as MyBlogLog or LinkedIn.
Personalization, to be effective, starts and ends with the user. Understand what they want, and give them what they want. If they want competitor comparisons, online demos, pricing breakdowns, provide them with this information. Personalized search is going to mean that you will have to work that much harder to establish online content that is relevant to the masses. Focus on your target user and the rest will fall into place


posted by Jody @ Friday, June 01, 2007  
  • At 8:27 AM, Blogger Bonnie C. Carroll said…

    We are lookng for an expert on the "personalizaton of search" to speak at a workshop in Washington DC in November. Can anyone recommend/volunteer to address this topic.

  • At 8:37 AM, Blogger Jody said…

    Hello Bonnie,

    Can you please send me more details of the event as I do have access to the leading expert on personalization of search. Please email me at jnimetz@gmail.com.

    Thank you.

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