As search algorithms become more sophisticated and search engines collect increasing amounts of user data, the results delivered can be more tailored to individual searcher requirements.
How Are Search Results Personalised?
When a user is signed into a Google Account, they automatically send usage information from their Google applications to the Google servers. This information includes data from the Google Search History, Google Bookmarks, a users Personalised Google Homepage and Google desktop software and toolbars. Personalisation of search results entails delivery of results that the search engine perceives to be more relevant to the user, based on all the data that is collected.
To see personalisation in action, try doing the following:
- Bookmark a page on Google
- Search for a term relevant to that page, which you know the page will rank for
- Click on our site’s listing in the search results
- Browse a few pages before moving on to some other website. It is important here not to just return to the original search page in 1 or 2 clicks as that could signal lack of interest in this site
- Repeat this daily for a few days
Over time you will see that Google ranks the webpage higher in the same search results and also for related searches, as it calculates that you have shown a preference for this site.
What Effect Does Personalisation Actually Have?
Over time, the Google algorithm understands every user’s search patterns better and better. It can then identify sites the user prefers and use clustering technology to deliver similar results higher in future searches. The problem for SEO arises in the fact that all users will have varied tastes, to some extent, and therefore the results that get delivered to one user will be different from that which get delivered to another.
Does That Mean SEO Is Useless In The Face Of Personalisation?
No. SEO should never be just about search engines. Search engines don’t buy products or services. Users do. Optimisation is just a means to reach users. If SEO agencies keep that goal in mind and help clients build websites that are search and user friendly and provide valuable content, then SEO will continue being beneficial to all businesses, irrespective of the existance of personalisation.
Search Engine Optimisation For Personalised Results
In real terms personalisation just means one thing for SEOs: Relevancy. A site that is perfectly relevant to a search result will always rank high. Even if users start developing preferences, a good site will not have cause to worry as users should by principle develop a preference for it. If users don’t prefer a site, it’s probably not that good, and doesn’t deserve to rank anyway. Webmasters can make sure that users develop an affinity for their site by doing the following:
- Provide quality content, always
- Make the site more interactive
- Prompt users to bookmark the site and return to it
- Provide a clear reason to return to the site
- Attract links to the site from other sites that your users visit
- Provide unique content that provides an incentive for others to link to your site.