Around the SEM World – Personalized Search

    March 26, 2007

"Around the SEM World" is a new monthly series I am starting in which I will ask professionals around the SEM Industry their thoughts on the hottest topics during the given month.

March’s topic was all about personalized search and its effect on search engine marketing strategies.  I asked Bill Slawski of SEO By the Sea and Li Evans from Search Marketing Gurus about their thoughts on SEM in relation to personalized search.

Bill Slawski: I think that ultimately personalized search is going to require site owners to know and understand the interests of their targeted customers better, learn about where they like to visit on the web, what communities they may belong to, how the site owners can get involved in those communities, and what will convince customers to become evangelists for a site. Search marketers can be an integral part in creating that conversation.

Search marketing should never just rely upon traffic from search engines, or rankings of a few strong keywords, regardless of personalization. Conversations with customers across the web, and business relationships with other sites that complement the offerings of a site will play a stronger role, and taking efforts to make a site a desired destination will payoff. Many more searches are informational in nature than transactional, and being perceived as a place to go to get honest and objective information can only help. Being seen as responsive to the interests of individuals, and willing to talk with them can be even more important.

Li Evans: Personalization on it’s own will have an “medium” affect on the industry in general – in all areas, PPC, SEO, Affiliate and even Social Media. Each will be affected in different ways, and some more than others. The major two being affected are PPC and SEO. As the search engines try to tailor what the searchers are really interested in clicking on, it’s going to become more evident that sites that have relevant content and ads are the sites they searchers are clicking on. Companies with websites, in my opinion, will need to focus on creative copy for ads, Title Tags and Meta Descriptions and actual relevant content on pages more than ever. It’s not only about what’s going to make those searchers not just click into their websites but if stay on the site and for how long.

I’m thinking some of the search engines might even start to measure “pogo sticking” (if they aren’t already) into this personalization mixture. If someone clicks on a link and it’s not relevant to their search, they click back within a second, that’s another signal to the search engines to personalize the search for that person because they are essentially saying, “hey don’t show me stuff like this again.” If you take into account, everything that Google’s doing in the past few months (personalization, affiliate marketing and possibly limiting PPC ads) it will become extremely important that websites are relevant to their users. By that I mean, not just a catchy title tag or copy in a ppc ad that gets you to click into a page full of ad links, but that the site’s got relevant content. However, focusing in on personalization alone as a “problem” isn’t wise for any SEO/SEM – a more holistic view of the market needs to be done to understand how it affects websites, and that’s what we as search professionals do best.

Both Bill and Li make excellent points and I agree that search marketers will really have to develop a strong understanding of their clients’ target market so they can fine tune the website’s messaging. Internet marketing is already initiated and driven by consumers, therefore with Search Engines giving the power to the hands of searchers it further strengthens this paradigm. It will also be very important for organizations to know their competitive landscape so that they can differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Personalized Search Resources
Personalized Search Brouhaha
Google Relaunches Personal Search – This Time, It Really Is Personal
The Pros & Cons Of Personalized Search
Your Google Search Results Are Personalized
Search Personalization and SEO
Cutts: Google Personalized Search to Get Bigger – to Black Hat SEOs’ Chagrin
Official Google Blog: Search gets personal
iMedia Connection: Personalized Search
Yahoo Launches Personalized Search