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. Once they do they won’t care anymore. They get used to it and would miss the convenience.
How do personalized search results actually impact search, websites and the Internet as a whole or even the society at large? Here are some of the most obvious effects:
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.
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.
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.
John Doe bloggers end up marginalized. You have fewer than fifty subscribers? These people will find you on Google.
The general public won’t notice you anymore as the likes of Wikipedia, Amazon, NYT, CNN, BBC push you further down.
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.
The Web became boring. People visit more and more of the same sites. It’s increasingly difficult to find new things, original sources and small time publishers.
By now there is even a term for this detrimental phenomenon: We’re all caught up in the so called filter bubble.
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.
More group blogs 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.
Old and new social filters might re/appear. Many people want to rely on crowdsourcing rather than their own limited search habits.
What does that mean? They look after ways to determine what’s good and what not with a little help of their friends.
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 those xxx sites in case you want to keep your deviations private. Same thing applies to politics or religion.
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? At least as long the don’t hit the back button instantly.
You have to optimize for returning visitors in order to get search traffic, even first timer visitors.
This contradiction has lead to some new hitherto unknown SEO tactics. Spammers already employ clickfarms.
My head is full of 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 techniques do you employ to attract Google visitors who see highly personalized search results?
Suggestions in the comments might get used in my next blog post either here. That means a link to the source.
Last updated: March 27th, 2018: added line breaks and clarified some of the technical points.
August 24th, 2015. I mostly changed “will” to “is” as most predictions turned into reality.
I don’t plan to do a blasted thing differently.
Oh, OK, I do plan to organize my time better so that I can post more frequently across the 3 blogs that I write, but I planned to do that before the latest Google pronouncement.
My SEO methodology is to post reasonably often about topics that interest me and that I think my blog readers would benefit from and enjoy. I try to use keywords that make sense, I give thought to my post title based on how I think people might look for my info, and I SEO-optimize the heck out of photos and video.
None of that will change.
Sure, real-time sites like Twitter and Facebook are becoming more important in search, but I’m already a chatty sort and I’m already there. Holy cow, if I tweeted any more, my long-suffering husband would stop cooking, and THAT would be a disaster. :)
What I WILL do differently is to pound away on my tourism clients even more about the importance of not deferring all knowledge of search to “the IT guy” because it’s “too technical.” They have got to understand how people are finding out about their destinations/attractions, and it is not by ordering a doggone brochure. It is by search, and they’d better get ahead of it.
Thanks very much for your post (and for the tweet that brought me here.)
Her Sheila, thank you for your thorough feedback on this issue.
As far as I understand you don’t want to change much.
Don’t you think that having 3 blogs will be a drawback in the future?
Having just one flagship blog people more often click in search results might be better option search wise from now on.
Love this post… and the picture too!! You’re so right, SEO has not time to get stale. There is always something new and exciting evolving. Search Marketing Experts are in a great business when it comes to SEO because they will always have security in this arena!
I have always knew this change is something unavoidable for Google, future of search engines will be more and more user driven just like social media sites. SEO professionals will have to get more clever and do some politics to get their site up and Google will start to make more money from adwords and its a good news for adsense publishers with a popular site as they will start to see their earnings shoot up.
I think the internet will surely go through some significant changes in the very near future. It seems like many people flock to a select few giants and the rest just wait and hope they are discovered.
I dont think that personalized search is something bad. Because only thing that changes is that you find the same page easier. And it only has affect to pages that you have searched, not to pages that you have visited.
One thing I’ve wondered about personal search and the long tail. If somebody has clicked through on my site for let’s say – Cambridge parking tickets – is the website going to rank higher in his next search for ex., Cambridge restaurants? If that’s so it seems to bode well for rich content and “off-topic” posts as long as those are pulling in local readers.
this change is really unavoidable for Google. lets see for significant changes this near future
Liz: This is a very good question and I guess Google is aware of this issue. As of now I might imagine that you can get away with getting the clicks for the long tail while ranking higher for other more general terms as well.
They will tweak that soon though I guess so i’d use this technique now but wouldn’t rely on it for future rankings.
To be honest I think Google has hurried the “real time” introduction a bit so that this feature is still quite immature.
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lets see what’s next in the future . Hope Google will make it though.
they should be flexible for what might happen.
I suggest we start using different search engines. For about the past 5 months it generally takes me several hours to find the info I am actually in need of when using google. I switched to google over a decade ago because their results would get me my answers in less time. When that ceases to be the case then it is time to move on.
I don’t want to know what is popular or what everyone else is looking at.. I want specific information which addresses specific issues. I don’t care how long the site has been around or how many people like the site, or how fresh the content is! All of this is just irrelevant BS and is getting in the way of me finding my answer ASAP!
Everyone who ever thought about starting their own organic search engine, now is the time to do it. Google’s position is weak right now and they are leaving themselves wide open to getting stomped by some fresh thinkers out of left field.
Google has become a common verb (‘just google it’) but everyone uses google because ‘we’ told them to. ‘We’ being a small minority of computer people. ‘We’ are the people that all our friends look to when they want to know anything about computers. As soon as this minority decides that some new search engine does it better, the change will happen like wildfire, because everyone listens to us when it comes to these matters. Almost everyone I know who uses google does so because I told them too about a decade ago, and if it wasn’t me, then it was some other member of our minority who told them to.
Google now sees their numbers and they think they are all but unstoppable now, they imagine that their position is unassailable. Really all we need is a viable alternative because google’s huge number of users look to a very small subset of people for guidance. It is not an online minority which can be manipulated or relegated to obscurity online either. It is real world social circles who hang out together in real life and every such circle has a couple people who the rest look to when it comes to computers.
Because of change many persons get confused & because of this they never like to do SEO.
SEO has definitely become more personalised. So much so that search engine have had to embrace Facebook and Twitter.
By overlooking visitors different spaces (home, office, mobile) you miss out on a huge world of SEO.
My tip, optimise for your dad, use words and especially phrases that they would use in your content otherwise you lose.
wow man you couldn’t had put it any better i agree so much with this websites like wiki that has information on basically any subject and are always ranking in top results will now dominate the serps even more then they allready do..this was the stupidest idea ever man..they are basically making sites like wiki that have information on everything take over..and all those people who were making those small niche sites might wanna just make one big site
I think personal search is unfair to new sites that want to compete with the more established ones in the same niche. Google might be thinking “if you’re good, you’re good and you will rank well regardless.”
So much time has passed, but the paper has not lost its relevance