Impact of Google’s Personalized Search on Search Engine Optimization

By Scott

Google always keeps you honest. Just when you’ve found a good set of tactics to get high rankings in their search engine, they add another twist.

The latest major twist is Personalized Search. Google has been talking about this for a couple of years, and they’re working hard to implement it (it’s in Beta).

The big question is what kind of impact personalized search will have on search engine optimization.

These screen shots illustrate the issue quite well:

Results on a Google search for Internet Marketing Blog with personalized search turned off:

Results on a Google search for Internet Marketing Blog with personalized search turned on:

Notice how the top 5 results for this search term are very different based on whether you have personalized search on, or off.

At a high level we know how to influence rankings in Google. You build a great, content rich website and get relevant links, but personalized search complicates things because soon you’ll have to consider the dynamics that Google considers as it personalizes rankings.

For example, if Google measures a user’s click-thru rate to determine their preferences, and then matches the more popular sites with the “similar” sites that they associate with each listing (a feature of the Google search engine), then one tactic a search engine optimizer may employ is some how associating their website with very popular websites through co citation linking (See Jim Boykin’s post on Co Citation). Sure, you can employ this tactic now to improve your rankings as part of a good SEO campaign, but it could become even more important for a different reason.

Does Google think that way? Who knows… but what we do know is that if users take a liking to personalized search, optimizers will have to adjust their tactics even more.

Bottom line – My quick estimation is that linking strategies and copywriting (marketing speak, not depth and breadth of content) will become that much more important. At the very least, things will change once again. No longer is it simply about having a great website and getting tons of relevant links.