For all of you SEO people out there, whether you are in house or work for an agency, check out this Google blog post.
Personalised (or customised) search is not new and Google have been doing this for a while now. This development mixed in with their use of Universal Search in their results means that the rules of (results tracking at least) in SEO have been changing pretty dramatically.
In essence, this post confirms a few things and also gives the searcher a chance to opt out of what Google thinks the searcher wants. However, the amount of searchers who will use this ‘escape’ button, I guess, won’t be more than 10%.
The main ways that Google have been personalising search and will be more and more are:
By Location – Basically, where your IP address is based. However, Google will also use your location information from your Google account if you are logged in.
Recent Searches – If you just typed in ‘france’ and then the next search is ‘holiday’ Google will slant the ‘holiday’ search towards ‘france’.
Web History – If you are signed in with you Google account and you have enabled Web History, then Google has a pretty good idea of the sites you like, etc. Google will also slant your search results towards this.
All of the above applied to natural search and (and particularly so) paid search.
Now, for many, many searches (and more searches from this region rather than the states), this won’t make a great deal of difference. In any case, different subsets of results, different cashes of results and different data centres have always served a slight variation of results from one person’s to another’s. However, (unless, Google changes strategy in a massive way) the trend has been set.
So, for a while now I have been using the term ‘traffic’ optimisation rather than ‘search engine’ optimisation (I am not suggesting we change the common term of reference any time soon though; life is confusing enough, right?) and this is certainly the way I have been communicating with clients.
Traffic optimisation is the whole deal. Everything that you do should try to bring targeted traffic to the site you are working on. From the comments on blogs, to relevant directory and resources entries, to content that is loved, read and linked to. If you know what you are doing then this will lead to better exposure on the search engine landscape. Ultimately, your web analytic will tell you which way the curve is going and your clients cash till (or similar metric; but remember you need to make them do this bit) will decide success. Just remember to set SMART objectives, or you are destined to fail either way.
So the next time your clients says “we are not number one anymore” or “fantastic, work we are now number one”, you probably need to do a bit more on your monthly reports to highlight what the ‘real deal’ is.