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Personalized Search: Google Rolls Out Personalization to All
Monday, December 07, 2009
Original Post:  ASK Enquiro

On Friday, Google announced that they are rolling out personalization to all. Personalization, aka personalized search results, means that the results that you receive will be based on your searching habits as Google will be customizing the search results based on six months of search activity linked to an anonymous cookie in your browser. Personalization of search is meant to provide a richer, more relevant search experience. This "customization" includes searches you've done and results you've clicked.

Previously when Google launched personalization back in 2007, it only impacted users who were signed into their Google (iGoogle) account. In addition, they needed to have web history enabled on their Google accounts for personalization to take place. So how will you know if Google has personalized your results? According to Google, "...You'll know when we customize results because a "View customizations" link will appear on the top right of the search results page..."

Oddly enough almost a year to the day, I wrote a short piece over at Marketing Jive entitled Search in 2009: Personalization and Blended Search where I touched on how the major search engines will be looking at providing richer search results through personalization and blended search.

Some facts about personalization:

If you're signed into personalized search
  • Google pulls data from your Web History
  • Google uses the data from as far back as they have it, until you remove it
  • only signed-in search activity and only if you are signed up for Web History impacts what searches are used to customization 
  • can be turned off by removing Web History from your Google Account
If you are not signed in

  • Google pulls data from Google's servers linked to an anonymous browser cookie
  • Google pulls data from and up to 180 days (6 months)
  • only signed out search activity are the types of searches that are used to customize
  • you can sign out by disabling search customizations. To disable history-based search customizations while signed in, you'll need to remove Web History from your Google Account.

 Google on the Personalized Search Experience: http://www.google.com/support/accounts/bin/topic.py?topic=14121
How Google Customizes Search: http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?answer=93704

The Impact of Personalization on SEO

Of course some online marketers and SEOs are freaking out a little with this announcement about personalization by Google. The fact of the matter is, while there may be less opportunity to "control" what users see in the search results collectively, the need to produce and create rich content is still there. Think about it, why is Google so hard on sites that:
  • have artificially inflated external link inventories (via purchase of links)
  • have blatant duplicate content issues
  • have non-search engine friendly URLs
  • make it difficult for spiders to crawl a site's content
The answer is simple... because Google is trying to provide the most relevant results possible. They are trying to ensure that the user finds the information that they are looking for based on intent. While personalization is one means of doing this, there are other factors such as the timeliness of the resource and real-time search that Google should also be focusing on.

As marketers, personalization enforces the need for creation of relevant content and providing the information that the user or prospect is searching for. From an SEO perspective, the game does not change as drastically as some are making it out. You will still need to:
  1. Create rich content relevant to a theme
  2. Leverage on-page optimization efforts specifc to that page of content
  3. Work on creating content that other sites and blogs will naturally want to link to (read: build quality links)
  4. Leverage blended search - to provide rich and timely content to the user
Organic search marketing is all about content, keyword placement and link popularity. Personalization just means that you need to be an authority on a given theme related to your business. If you are the most relevant resource on a given topic or theme, you will do fine. If your site is full of fluff and your content is not easily found by the search engines, you are going to have a tougher time with personalization, because you may not factor in as part of the consideration set.

Google's announncement about the full roll out of personalized search results.

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posted by Jody @ Monday, December 07, 2009  
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