Personalized search – Endless Possibilities; New Challenges

- May 8, 2007

As the scope of the Internet gets larger, personalization becomes the logical next step for search. Personalized search provides marketers with new ways to both identify searchers and target user behavior. Combined with the multiple advertising channels offered by search engines, a marketer’s dream has come to life.

The monetization opportunities are tremendous. AOL has capitalized by showing only relevant ads based on recent queries. MSN allows marketers to increase / decrease bids according to whether or not the searcher fits a certain criteria. Google offers iGoogle, where searchers create a “profile” for themselves based on what they’re interested in. Major engines are now capable of tracking user behavior, and each have applied it in a different way. Imagine what would happen if all of this was combined! You’d have an engine that knows your profile (because you’ve defined it), knows what you’re interested in (based on historical data), and is able to target you accordingly. The possibilities are endless…

Take it one step further and imagine what that means to the marketer. As the engines focus on what searchers are interested in clicking on, landing page relevancy will become more and more important. Considerations will be taken based upon how long a searcher stays on a given page, in addition to how many pages on the site were visited. These considerations are relative to the quality score that Google (and other engines) have incorporated in order to create a positive user experience.

Personalization will also have a large impact on optimizing for organic search. Presently, Google’s results are based on relevance to search queries. As the algorithm evolves, user profile could be taken into consideration when determining relevance. That being said, the infamous “I want to be number 1 in Google” statement will be null and void, because results will be user specific. Page ranks will differ, and it wouldn’t be possible to obtain the number 1 position for a keyword at all times. This presents a challenge because search marketers will then have to develop a stronger understanding of their target markets in order to capture them. Specifically, they will have to understand the interests of their customers, learn about where they like to visit on the web, and what communities they may belong to.

There is a lot of unrealized potential still to be found in personalization. In addition, there are areas which still need to be developed before this kind of search will be user friendly and provide the best results. The evolution of personalized search is definitely an interesting area to explore, and should certainly be watched closely.

What other challenges or possibilities do you see in personalized search? Are you at all concerned that this might turn out like Big Brother?

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