Search Engine Optimization

What Personalized Search Results Mean for SEO

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Google first introduced personalized search results in 2005 for signed in users with Google accounts. In 2009, personalized search was expanded to all users. However, new research on consumer sentiment on Google shows that 43.5% of respondents do not realize that their search results are personalized.

In this blog, I’ll cover the key factors you need to succeed with personalized SEO results as well as the best way to optimize.

Personalization Factors

In reality, it has been almost ten years since all search results were the same for everyone. There are a number of factors that influence a user’s search engine results page (SERP).

  • Country: Location is a major factor. Users from different countries will see different results for the same search terms. One example often given here is that if a user searches for “football” in the U.K., they will be shown results that relate to what the United States refers to as soccer and the English Premier League. If a person in the United States searches for “football”, they will be presented with results that relate to American Football and the NFL.
  • Locality: Google goes much deeper than simply country level. Results are tailored to the user’s location right down to local city level. Most people will be familiar with searches like “best pizza near me” making it somewhat surprising that our recent research showed nearly half of respondents were unaware that Google personalizes their search results.
  • Web History: The goal of Google’s personalized search results is to provide users with the most relevant and useful information possible. By factoring previous searches and viewing history into account, Google can present users with results from their preferred sites which they are most likely to visit.
  • Device: People who use Google to search on their mobile device will see different results than the same search on desktop. Google uses a different algorithm for mobile ranking with increased focus on user location.

Keyword Tracking

One way personalization has changed SEO is that it makes keyword rank tracking more difficult. Personalized search results mean that tracking where your site ranks for keyword search terms is not always crystal clear. Depending on the personalizing factors we have outlined above, users will see different results for the same search terms. That means you can never really get a 100% accurate representation of your keyword ranking.

Rank tracking your non-personalized search can help you establish a baseline, and this data can help you see how changes on your site have impacted your ranking. However, it is not advisable to spend too much time obsessing over keyword rankings. Your site traffic is a much more important data point than your keyword rankings.

How to Optimize for Personalized Search Results

The fact that 43.5% of respondents to our survey didn’t realize their search results were personalized leads us to believe that many businesses are not optimizing their sites for personalized searches. There are some steps companies can take to give them the best chance of ranking today.

  • Think Local: Make Google’s location settings work in your favor. Take care as you compose your meta descriptions and title tags. If you get onto page one of Google, you have one chance to impress so make it count by using your allotted characters wisely. If you want to dominate the local market, it is a best practice to put the name of your locality into your meta descriptions and/or title tags. You should also make sure that the most up to date and accurate business details are added to all online directories like Yelp and, most importantly, Google My Business (GMB). Claiming your GMB page is easy, but the business owner must claim it. Simply log on and verify your business. Remember to make sure your details are added to all online directories and not just the major players like GMB and Yelp. Bing Places for Business and others are low hanging fruit that can really help your site’s performance in local search rankings.
  • Focus on Long-Tail Keywords: It is estimated that up to 80% of searches are long-tail keywords. The reason that SMBs should focus on long-tail keywords is that competition is lower so they are easier to rank for and user intent is much more targeted. By working out the long-tail keywords that can drive conversions and revenue, you can start to see real ROI from your SEO efforts.
  • Mobile Optimize: It goes without saying that you need to optimize your site for mobile visitors in 2017 and learn to thrive in Google’s mobile search index. Having a low click through rate can harm your ranking. If you manage to get onto page one, you don’t want to undo all your good work with a site that does not meet user expectation on mobile.

How have you used personalization to appeal to your target audience? What do you plan on adding to your SEO to improve your personalization? Tell me about it in the comments!