12 Effects Google Personalized Search Has on the Web


Image: Personal Preference by Kevin Dooley.

Google gets personal: Now everybody will get personalized search results based on their search habits in the past unless they opt out in a tedious process. Most people won’t opt out or even notice at all, at least at first.

  1. The rich get richer, that is the attention rich. Those sites that have a brand and/or audience already profit from Google personal search results. The sites people already click most often rank on top.
  2. People get confused. “Yesterday it was there when I checked it at home!” became a common exclamation. People switching computers (home/mobile/work) face different results unless they use all of them in a highly similar manner.
  3. SEOs will finally focus on conversions and ROI. Lazy SEOs still stick to rankings no matter whether or how profitable they are. Checking rankings is even more pointless with personalized search. Conversions and ROI are key to measuring success now more than ever.
  4. John Doe bloggers will end up marginalized. You have below 50 subscribers? These people will find you on Google. The others won’t anymore as Wikipedia, Amazon, NYT, CNN, BBC, AOL push you further down.
  5. Social Media sites get more user generated content (UGC) as people try to get some traffic from the few remaining behemoth sites lucky enough to get clicked in search results often enough to get a push.
  6. The Web became boring. People visit more and more of the same sites. It’s more and more difficult to find new things, original sources and small time publishers. We’re all caught up in the filter bubble.
  7. SEO novices try to convince you that SEO is dead. SEO is dead all the time. Even I said so, but I meant a different thing than the people who have no clue about SEO. I meant that SEO has changed in a way that you wouldn’t recognize it as the SEO we’re accustomed to. The “SEO is dead” bunch assumes that personalized search results can’t get optimized. Of course they can.
  8. More group blogs will emerge to make sure to get at least the same attention as some big name bloggers and news outlets. Thus many companies set up whole “content marketing” teams to run their blogs.
  9. Old and new social filters might re/appear. As people want to rely on crowdsourcing rather than their own limited search habits they look after ways to determine what’s good and what not with a little help of their friends. Prismatic is such a tool I use quite often.
  10. Google gained even more power and your privacy is a thing of the past. Google knows what you are searching for but now it tells your family, flat mates or coworkers. Make sure not to use Google for that xxx sites in case you want to keep your deviations private.
  11. The sheer number of people ranking a site on top can push it for others as well. Click through data became the new Google ranking factor over time. When 1000 people click your link repeatedly in the search results you can’t be wrong can you?
  12. You have to optimize for returning visitors in order to get search traffic, even first timers. This contradiction has lead to some new hitherto unknown SEO tactics. Spammers already employ clickfarms.

Btw. Danny Sullivan expected this to happen since 2001. In an article called “Google May get Personal” he also explains why one of the personal search results startups failed though:

People “were afraid to miss something”.

My head is already buzzing with ideas on how to optimize for Google personalized search (even if it’s still just called Google). That’s the great thing about SEO. It never gets stale. You always have to come up with new things to please Google and search users. Also most people don’t get it and thus SEO will live forever.

What tactics do you plan to employ to attract Google personal search visitors?

Suggestions in the comments might get used in my next blog post either here. That means a link to the source.

Last updated: August 24th, 2015. I mostly changed “will” to “is” as most predictions turned into reality.