As you may have noticed in recent times, when conducting searches across the major engines the results you are presented with are looking very different to those of a few years ago. Thanks to the innovative attempts of big players such as Google and Bing to provide the richest, most varied and in particular most relevant results to their users, we are increasingly seeing ‘blended results’ that incorporate rich media content, such as images and video, as well as real-time information, from social networks such as Twitter. Results can also vary depending on factors specific to the searcher, such as what they have looked for in the past.
So in a series of articles I am going to give you the lowdown on three significant developments shaping how search engines present their results. I’ll be covering Personalised Search, Social Search and Real-Time Search to ensure you can distinguish between them and understand their likely impact on your digital marketing strategy.
You will learn that these developments demand that you make it a priority in 2010 to combine tactics in social media and content with you search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy. SEO can no longer operate in isolation. Instead, an integrated strategy is needed to maximise your reach and therefore targeted traffic.
So with that in mind, let’s begin with a look at personalised search…
What is personalised search?
Google’s personalised search considers a user’s search history to deliver them with (what Google hopes to be) more relevant and useful results. So, in a nutshell, Google delivers results based on your previous search queries and the sites you’ve visited. By analysing what you search for and the links you click on the search engine results page (SERP), over time Google builds a picture of the types or themes of website you favour. Therefore, it is likely that these sites will appear in your search results more often for particular search queries. In essence, it means search results are being custom tailored for each individual.
Personalised search in itself is not a new concept. When it was first introduced users only received personalised results if they were logged into their Google account. However, Google has now updated their algorithm to deliver personalised results to all users worldwide, even those who aren’t logged into their Google account. The result is that more and more often we will each see different results when we conduct a search, even for the same query.
For example, let’s say you regularly conduct searches for the term ‘eagle’. Without personalised search Google is unlikely to tell whether you are a fan of the large flying bird, the rather beautiful Jaguar E-type or perhaps even the band of ‘Hotel California’ fame. However, you’re a bird lover, so with personalised search, over time, Google will begin to put two and two together as you click on listings that are bird related. As a result of this realisation, the bird related content you are interested in occupies more and more of the search results, sifting out, or moving down the page, information on Jaguars and the band that you have shown no interest in through your click patterns.
Therefore, personalised search has the potential to serve you very different search results than you would have received before its introduction.
If you would rather that your search results are not personalised in this way then you do have the ability to opt-out completely. You can do this quite easily by clicking on the “Web History” link positioned to the top right of the search results.
You will then be presented with the following page. Once on this page click on the “Disable customisations based on search activity” link and hey presto your results will no longer be affected by your past search history.
However, even if you do opt-out of personalised search, Google will still log what you search as it always has done. The only difference is that it won’t personalise your search results using that information.
Why has personalised search been introduced?
So why has Google rolled out personalised search to all users worldwide? The most obvious reason for this development is that Google is trying to serve individual users with tailored results which prove to be more relevant. Therefore users are more likely to see listings in the results which satisfy what they were looking for. This in turn increases their satisfaction with Google’s search experience, increasing the likelihood that Google will be first choice for their next search.
On an official level Google says:
“When you search using Google, you get more relevant, useful search results, recommendations, and other personalised features. By personalising your results, we hope to deliver you the most useful, relevant information on the Internet.”
So that’s personalised search and how it works. In part 2, I’ll explore what means in terms of your digital marketing efforts?