Personalized Search: Does It Do What We Want It To Do?

Darren Franks - February 16, 2009

Google says of its “Personalized Search” that, “personalization is subtle–at first you may not notice any difference. But over time, as the search engine learns your preferences, you’ll see it.” I myself never really utilize the personalized search experience. I kind of like the randomness that Google or search engines in general provide to me in regular search results.

The Search Engine Optimization industry was a little concerned about the development of the Google technology which provides relevant, useful search results, recommendations and other personalized features. Many SEOs felt that optimization efforts would be thwarted by people getting less general search results, but something specific to their needs. Matt Cutts says, “The thing that will change the most will be local search results.” Basically he is saying that certain search terms in some areas may result in different search results in others. Of course, localization is not really the same as personalization. You can turn personalization off and in most cases, people with a Google account of some sort will do that. Personally, those little icons in the SERPs that allow you to move your search results up and down are kind of redundant as once I’ve found what I’m looking for, I’m more prone to simply bookmark that page and not use Google again for the same search result.

The big question for SEOs is that down the line, how much will they have to adapt to new trends? Good, legitimate SEOs already know that there isn’t always just one general search result to target. It’s the consensus of good SEOs that it’s better to target multiple search terms for your website and increase your reach in the search engines. So, in actuality, if you follow good optimization efforts to begin with, as opposed to only focusing your website on a couple of highly placed keyphrases, personalized search should not hinder the SEO industry that much. Those that optimize their website to target for several, relevant keyphrases should certainly prevail in the personalized search conundrum.

The fact that you are able to turn the personalized search function off by simply logging out of your Google account is the overriding factor. The casual Internet surfer will simply just visit Google, Yahoo! and MSN and plug in their search result. For those that want the customized search results, it’s purely at their discretion, but it may just be a matter of time before Google or any other big search engine do a major overhaul and base all search results on one’s personalized search habits.

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