Google Experiment Could Spark SEO Sea Change

Allows for "unique tastes and needs" in search

Get the WebProNews Newsletter:

[ Search]

Google looks to be taking another step forward on the path towards personalized search.  Some users have been given access to a new option that allows them to identify sites they’d like to see more often on their results pages.

Think of it like this: do you regularly search for info on current events, only to sift through hundreds of sources for the same three or four you like best?  The preferred sites feature would let Google know that you want the BBC and CNN articles (for example) to be given more weight.  Or you could name a local news site that would otherwise be out of the running entirely.

Google Preferred

Google believes its concept of preferred sites can be applied to movie reviews, sports scores, and blogs, as well.  A help page implies that these wires won’t get crossed, saying, "[R]esults from your preferred sites will show up more often when they’re relevant to your search query" (emphasis ours).

So will the experimental feature be a win?  Well, it does require that users sign into their Google Accounts, which is a roadblock of sorts.  Then there’s the matter of making people take a few minutes to tinker with settings, which the average user generally doesn’t want to do.  Truth be told, even search pros might just prefer to type something like "site:imdb.com braveheart" instead of futzing around behind the scenes.

The new preferred results feature could prove attractive to a few people, though.  More importantly, it could help Google decide how to make these sorts of distinctions on an automatic basis, too.  This might lead to a sea change in the SEO industry, as Bruce Clay forecast in an interview with Mike McDonald.  Different people would see different results and traditional rankings would mean much less.

Anyway, a hat tip goes to Alex Chitu.

Google Experiment Could Spark SEO Sea Change
Top Rated White Papers and Resources
  • http://tenerifemortgages.net Tenerife Mortgages

    I would guess the emphasis is still on getting lots of back links and ranking high as you want your site to be in these peoples sites when they choose their favourite sites, that pretty much demands 1st page of google.

    After that it will be a case of relevant content and making sure your website is sticky enough that they dont feel the need to go looking elsewhere later and “favoriting” a competitors site. So, fresh content could be the key, which is good as long as it continues to be relevant and worth reading.

  • http://randomplaza.net Brave Agent Pubeit

    I’ve personally heard that google does some of that stuff to people already, but to a lesser degree. I can’t find evidence of it, but I generally clear my cookie in google after a while.

    I’d rather prefer a “sites you don’t want to see” to block them from results as the same awful cloaking sites that say “you must sign up and sign in to view this page” and try to charge you money while letting search engines crawl their whole site. It’s the same big cloaking sites are what people complained about for years that google never does anything about.

    • http://DONSCYCLEWARE.COM Don

      There are far too many usless sites. I would love to have a simple method to add them to my blocked list with a single click.

  • http://www.pr-interactive.com/website-design-portfolio.php fl web design

    I agree, it’s a great article

  • http://www.vinfotech.com/ Website Design Company

    I think personalized search is a sort of bookmarking. If a user is using personalized search then i think he/she is defeating the motive of search engine i.e to search. The aim of any search engine is to provide the user with the best results in less time. There are many sites for the same topic and new ones coming online everyday. How can we say that the site i am using today will be the best tomorrow also? It is better to bookmark the websites than to use personalized search.

  • http://pravishseo.blogspot.com Pravish Thomas

    HI Folks,

    As a SEO and Research analyst i can say that what google does is purely experimenting.

    Lets make some things clear why i support Google’s ideas

    1) If MYSPACE, Digg and other social and social network sites can use various methods like voteing, popularity then why not Google?

    2) Basic idea for Google is that it will eliminate SEO Spammers which will make more challengable for them.

    3) From my point of view google will have a Analysis of popularity for Keyword, Domains, Link and much more relevancy which it algo will get a pure idea.

    Just take example of Google insight which gives an idea of search.

    From SEO point now SEO guys should focous more on Behaviour Reserach , Web2.0 technologies and must move ahead with the time. IP targeting and making content more powerfull would be meaningfull – Yes the competition would be tough.

  • http://www.iblogzone.com ditesco

    I have to admit that I am still trying to figure out the benefit of personalized search like this one. Why on earth will I search for CNN when I know how to get there. Moreover if I like a site I just include it in my favorite list and I’m ready to go.

    I agree with Diego above. When I use search, I am looking for something in particular based on a specific keyword (rarely use it) or a phrase, e.g., “how to something”. If the results will be the same, over and over again, because of preferred whatever, what good will the results be? My browser just like everyone else’s has the capability of bookmarking. If I like a site, I fave it, plain and simple.

    I am not sure where this is going, but I will definitely keep track of it.

  • http://aplawrence.com Anthony Lawrence

    It’s great but I have to keep shutting it off when I’m trying to see where MY pages rank.

    I also have to shut it off when I’m having trouble finding something – I need it to branch out and get away from my “normal” sites.

    As long as it is optional, I’m fine with it.

  • http://www.snerdey.com Snerdey

    It’s very cool and to place the power at the users fingertips to make the web search more personal and not be so over whelmed with zillions of results when your looking for a few :)

    Watch out world.. here comes “Personalized Search” ready or not your website just might not be on too many users results pages!

  • http://www.goacom.blogspot.com Goacom

    Google likes to keep it simple. And the simple thing here as I see it is that Google wants the websites coming up in the rankings to have value for the user. The age old sentiment of valuably enriching the site for the human being more and less for the spiders has been translated by google into action.

    So in effect users are now empowered with a choice. They are able to excercise their own sense of ranking leaving the machines out.

    Only time will tell how much of an impact it will have on SEO and whether the focus from now on should be human beings and not the machines anymore.

    Google seems to be saying. We told you. Now we mean it.

  • http://www.firmalatter.dk Ejvind

    Once again we see how the “armsrace” is continuing.

    Google has to stay ahead of the game – like anti-virus companies – in order to keep being the most sought search engine. Google is a bit different though, since they are the ones making the rules, and everyone else have to follow them.

    In a manner of speaking Google is narrowing the eye of the needle, and everyone who wants to be found, has to be able to thread the needle.

    If you can’t do it, you are out.

    It doesn’t matter if your site is the best in the world, or the most relevant. What matters is whether you can thread into googles spiders.

    The people that will win are: Google employees and owners, as well as the new priesthood: SEO experts.

  • dan

    I don’t get it… isn’t that what “Favorites” are for? I’d much rather see them move some of their advanced search features to their main search page.



    If it is extremley easy to use I might use it. If I have to jump through hoops to access it don’t waste your time.

    At present my favorites list works fine.

    Just curious, will this impact just my search results or if many people choose a site will tend to come up more often on everyone’s search?

  • http://www.Boomja.com Buff Bowen

    People can make money with personalized search now.

    www.Boomja.com enables anyone to create their own authoritative directories on any subject or topic for free – and generate perpetual ad revenues.

  • http://www.blindmonkeymedia.com BlindMonkey

    This new Google feature is great if you have a local business because it will give them more of an edge in search results. Of course, they will still have to work on their SEO to get in the first SERP.

    The whole favorite website is good in a way since if I trust CNN and I like their news and I type “earthquake costa rica!, it will bring up the results from the CNN website first and then everyone else. So it does have advatanges to it.

    It is a pain for an SEO consultant though but hey, good consultants will find ways to make this feature work to their advantage.

  • Guest

    I think that the information coming in regarding SEO, optimization, etc, etc, becomes such an over blown brain dump !!

    It’s like going over & over the same thing from a different perspective and angle, but you still end up basically at the same place. All this becomes a big distraction to businesses after a while.

    I sense a feeling of being jerked around by who else?….Google !

    Publicity 101 !! and nobody seems to do it better than Google;(

  • Mitch Kahn

    I think this is a very dangerous precedent. It eliminates information based on value, and, instead, substitutes from a predetermined list. The user ultimately loses an opportunity for new or more valuable information. New sites or niche sites would also lose a potential audience.

  • http://www.egreatusa.com Paul Valente

    It is kind of a way to make it so that users can make “topic pages” out of the search page, rather than the current igoogle interface which is too complex for some users. It is clever, although it may have a dumbing the dumber effect on some users – it actaully makes the “search” page into the opposite, which many people won’t get – reminds me of the famous scene in the movie Spinal Tap regarding the amps that have knobs that go to 11. “But our amps go to eleven,” is all the band member can say when confronted with the fact that the amp is actually not any louder, the knob simply reads 11 instead of 10. In this way the phrase “Custom Search” is lame. “But my search is a custom search . . .”

    It should be called something else like favorites or “my results.” I personally I have not used this feature and the creation of it has lead to me staying logged out of google – I prefer to search when I want to search. If there were two buttons – a real search and a fake search, I might use it some – maybe.

  • http://www.seosean.com Affordable SEO Services

    The average user will never use this and probably never even know it exists. Most Googlers don’t have a Google account that they sign into before searching Google – in fact many of them don’t even know that they could sign up for such an account. Therefore this will only effect a small portion of the searchers but also could be have more affect on those keywords that more tech savvy searchers would be searching.

  • http://www.keepitdrycase.com CZ

    Just as Microsoft continues to create a new operating system every couple of years – just when users are very happy and used to their current version. So, Google and other companies are always creating the “next big thing.”

    IMHO, this is nothing more than a money driven occurrence. If engineers don’t create new and more complex OS’s at Microsoft for e.g. there is no need for such large staffs and budgeting.

    Consider Google’s endless changes, I see the same model at work. Let’s say for example, that everyone loves Google just the way it exists now. The need for existing staff and budget would allow for some trimming.

    I think that change is good – but not all change or constant change, so much so that one can’t keep up with all of it.

    It seems to be the need to produce “something” – good or bad – and selling it to the “suits” in the front office that drives this juggernaut of constant changes with all the bells and whistles, that aren’t needed or asked for. Job security!

  • frank

    I quickly scanned the comments, it seems no one gets it yet, when Google does not list your website anymore, because the searcher just wants walmart, you will be forced to use PPC and their by generate more revenue for Google. This is just another ploy by Google to make more money. This is not the first time Google has done things like this to increase revenue. Of course nothing in life is fair, and this is just another example of Google trying to rule the world.

  • http://www.crunchbase.com/company/genieknows Personalised Search?

    Errr, have they not heard of bookmarking? General users won’t bother with this.

  • http://www.kinderific.com Kinderific

    This is a pretty good idea, i just hope they have all the angles covered, otherwise, if the weight is added to the preferred user websites, what will stop a company from paying 2000 people in India to use several user names each and bump up listings? Like bumping up listings for our website in the children’s toys and clothing results!

    HOWEVER, it is a great idea.

  • Guest

    Predictable benefit to Google’s efforts to earn money by directing traffic to those that pay for traffic.

    Ad Worders hate seeing organic results ahead of their paid clicks and weak efforts. Customer complains, “Why did I burn a hole in my wallet using a template website/adwords and I see some newcomer website ahead of me?”

    Local results do help that specific customer. If left leaning sites, movie sites, restaurant sites, disco sites, lame sites pay for a weak pay per click ad solution when cutting costs and using a template/ weak coding solution… They get preference sometimes in certain circumstances.

    Google can tell when a site deserves placement based upon relevance. That is why Google will rule in 2009!

    It’s business as usual…

    Do yourself a favor Hire a pro to work in-house, modify original content, build and write good original content, make site codesmart and do it organically!

    The best search results come from the organic results in 90% of cases. People who cheapskate their web-budge tdo a site cheap get what they paid for in terms of results. It has always been that way and it will always be that way.

    Its simple math.


  • http://www.portawalk.com ADA Wheelchair Ramps

    In the few times that I’ve used it, it has really thrown me off when searching and it actually distracts me from what I am searching for. I vote NO.

  • http://www.elmstbandb.com Bed Breakfast Texas

    I love being able to block the content that I don’t want to see in my searches.

  • http://www.marinasompura.com/ sompura

    I think this is not a good solution… as people who are searching on search engines like google are searching in hope to get new information not the old one what they already know and whenever they find good information which they want themselves to refer later they probably bookmark such sites… and if this is what google will make such a thing with autodetection (may be according to IP or browser cache) then people will lose trust of GOOGLE (Known as THE GREAT GOOGLE).


  • http://trafficblognet.com Scott Reynolds

    Google has done extensive research on the personal search and have decided it is what people want.
    They are right! Most people would rather tune out what they don’t want to hear or see! It is not their fault! That is the way we have been programed!

    I can’t believe there are more people wanting their own little “controlled” environment online! Don’t they see this just means they have less control in their lives? I like a little variety so will not be using it. Intelligent people looking for the best deal or answers will find another way to get them.
    Google has a choice of who it wants to deal with. It looks to me like Googles new way to screw the marketer. The big Adsence boom is over and has totally messed up the internet with the crap keyword pages people put up trying to make their Adsense million. Paid inclusion of your ad in an end user controlled search (or basic bookmark page) will be their next claim to millions (or the back door in!)

    I can’t wait to see what happens!

  • http://www.newmediamike.com newmediamike

    I’m sorry but this is a dumb idea. When you search for something, don’t you usually just do it once and then bookmark the site? If you honestly have to keep searching over and over for the same things then there is something wrong with you and maybe you shouldn’t be on the internet, let alone have a part in telling others what is “good information”.

    I mean, c’mon, how many times are you going to search for “poodle groomers in Palm Springs” any way?

  • Guest

    I laughed when I saw this. It’s like defining normal. There are no average users, per se, but a conglomerate of people who use the internet to address a myriad of needs.

    But the reality comes down to this: It’s an electable feature. If you don’t like it, don’t use it.

    Seriously, people . . . if I want to design a line of clothing that is only red, will always be red, but the styles will change . . . no one is forcing you to buy it!

    Of course, my biggest laugh in reading these responses is that half the “average” people don’t know the difference between there, their and they’re. They interchange you’re and your, advice and advise, etc. And these are people who feel confident to comment on the brilliance or ingenuity of others?

    For those of us who use the internet for more than one purpose, this is a wonderful thing. I don’t have to go to my bookmarks and look for it, I can just type it in and Google (I’m always signed in!) will find it for me. Saves me time and for me, time is $90/hr.

    • Guest

      It’s great what you ARE saying, but it will be more effective if you were a little bit less pretentious about something we already know.

      • http://www.ibp.com.au John Terry

        stick it up yah top page

  • http://www.goodpracticeweb.co.uk wizs

    I think this is heading in the right direction, it will stop people trying to chase that “number one” spot and put more emphasis on conversion and locality. In fact, we already have this to an extent but I would like to see it go futher, to the extend that everyone’s results are tailored to their needs. This would go a long way to stop people trying to manipulate results and maybe they would start to make quality Web sites for a change?

  • http://www.mycatfence.co.uk Liam – Cat Fences

    is great from a user perspective and this is a great way to know when your search results are being personalized.

  • TJ

    Yes, it is true. What makes Google who they are is that they cater to the end user. They want people to get EXACTLY what they want when they enter a query. This is the basic business ethos that has made them the search engine juggernaut.
    But entertain this for a second:
    Any chance Google might be doing this to dilute the SEO industry, of which Google cannot make any money on? They hate how some people know how to optimize pages and link so they are seen more. They hate it even more because SEO guys are the birds conducting business on the backs of the Google rhino. They want to create some idealistic, utopia where nobody cares about being the best, where being buried on the 4th page of search results is okay to the struggling mom and pop store down the street who relies on OUT OF TOWN revenue, not just “local search” revenue.

  • http://www.lunavista.com Tim Grant

    I actually don’t see this as a threat to the current state of SEO. In fact, it goes toward the heart of SEO in the following ways:

    1. It all starts with a keyword search. So if you even hope to be considered by the end users, you still need to rank well for the target key phrase.

    2. It’s about relevancy. In truth, the more relevant sites will likely rise to the top in this new model – which is really at the heart of SEO now. If you have a relevant site, with well optimized copy, a strong link structure -great, you can achieve higher rankings, but if you want the conversions you have to be relevant.

    3. Like all factors Google, it will be a piece of the pie. Folks got all Page Rank crazy, and focussed solely on that for awhile, it’s important, but not the whole dessert. There will be ways to cheat this one too – and folks in our industry will figure it out. So it will be of some importance, but not all consuming.

    • http://ripsychotherapy.com Mike Adamowicz

      It wouldn’t be something that I’d personally use. Sounds repetitious of bookmarks.

  • Guest

    Massive amounts of people are going to game this system. I’ve seen it happening against too many sites, including one of my own. Black Hatters will pound the sh*t out of this on too many levels.

    Not going to work…

  • http://www.danielmolano.com Daniel Molano

    Its funny when someone posted this in a forum I frequent everyone took as it wasnt a user only tool and that it was everyone was rating and dropping up an down in the results pages! People finally came in and said it was a user only feature but the conversation rolled on like it wasnt even mentioned? like it would work anyways! it would be pretty abused and there would be no control that I can see from google’s end..they need a better way to make a better user experience that is for sure but this is unfortunately not the answer. I hope to see lots of improvements though because I am tired of looking through pages of crap to find what I am looking for!

  • http://www.diamondonnet.com/ Diamonds

    No different to bookmarking a page, why would someone even use this feature?

  • Guest

    So when I heard about this I decided to check it out. Unfortunately I did it with my own site. I can’t remove the action though. I can only send the site up or remove the site completely from the search. I cant put it back to normal. So, now to see my actual Google ranking I have to Log off of Google and then search again. So, I think it sucks. Maybe there is a way to remove it but it is not easy or user friendly as it should be.

    I do think that if people use it correctly they can educate their own customers to push your site up top. It would be easier then to get back to you. It would prevent the competition from advertising everytime that your customer looks for you. This would also mean less customers clicking on my Google Ads to come back to my site. So I guess I like it for saving me money on Google ads. But, I would have to start a major education campaign for my customers.

    Fix it first Google

  • Phill

    Another covert money making scam “He who pays the most gets the best ranking.”, If some one is really interested in a particular site, then they will (if they have any sense) use the, “Bookmark facility,”
    From personal experience I have found better, more informative web sites on pages 10 – 20 + than on some of the web site on page 1 of Google.
    Personally I do not want the same web sites coming up every time I do a search, I want a variety even if it is hit or miss.
    I want to view a web site where the information is from people that know the subject matter and not just good at optimization or can afford to pay some one to get them onto page 1 of Google

    • http://vardhamangems.webs.com Jyoti Kothari

      This is little controversial. Some people may like it some not. It looks like book marking or google will use it as a vote for the site?
      Jyoti Kothari

  • http://www.donmargolis.com Don Margolis

    This feature is wonderful for megalomaniacs like myself. My blog and my website http://www.repairstemcells.org are always #1 in my search results. Perhaps Google is doing this service for the benefit of mankind to make us feel good about ourselves?

    • http://organicbabe.com.au Pam McLennan


      We love Google and they have been so helpful and we are on the first page of Organic Baby Clothes.

      We have grown to rely on them and trust their knowledge and as a small business that is vital as there are some sharks out there.

      We have another business www.chocolatedownunder.com.au and employed SEO Company – big name company at that and was recommended by our Bank Manager. What a disaster. They forgot to put the word chocolate in the SEO.

      Just wished we had paid out the money to google as at least we wouldnt be starting from scratch now.


  • http://www.submitinme.com Gunaseelan Nadar

    I don’t think its a wise move from google.. Why search google if you have already decided which is your preferred result (site) . And is there any guarantee that Google will not use the prefered sites in their general SERP algorithm? In the case of inclusion it will lead to SPAM . We can see several gmail accounts created for the purpose of “preference”

  • http://robert-seo.blogspot.com Robert

    Actually I don’t see a change at all. Lets face it, if you run a search for something for the first time you have not personalised it all. So top spot is still top spot. Also, you have to actually move the listing up in the results, so anyone that clicks through will actually have to click back in order to mark it up… if anything they will remove it from their results. This if anything shouldn’t mark the sites which are regarded top but rather help weed out the spam or un-related sites.

    If anything I welcome this, but honestly don’t see it actually having any real impact in SEO. While Google supplies 90%+ of all traffic to my larger sites I’m willing to bet that less than 5% of those visitors are logged into a Google account at the time. I bet that even less than that have even paid any notice to this new addition to the SERPS.

  • Gary Taylor

    It seems pointless that Google would want to pursue this idea, if you have a preferred site, such as the bbc.co.uk you would just go to it directly or probably already have it bookmarked. Having a preferred sites option seems to defeat the object of having a search engine in the first place…

    Also how many times would you actually search for a current event, for example “inauguration day” only to find that cnn or someone like that didn’t come up on the first page.

    I think it would be more valuable for Google to provide result based on the geographical location of the user who has searched rather than the end user having to define what they actually like. If an end user has to to tell a search engine what they like it may as well be just a link directory.

    I personally use search engines to find things I don’t have time to find on the sites I usually visit. For example if I wanted to find an electrician, I would want google to know that I live in Lincoln, in the United Kingdom and tell me that there is an electrician 2 miles away, give me a map and their contact details.

    if we put this into the context of current events, I would like to see Google be able to return results based on a.) what ever they deem most relevant, b.) the most relevant result in my country and c.) the most relevant local result to my location.

    I agree with the above comment that using predetermined info, would mean new sites or niche sites may lose their audience based on an assumption

  • http://www.joaoleitao.com Joao Leitao

    This subject is something very important to start thinking about as many people rely on SEO to move up their own websites. i think we have to wait and see what happens with this new move from Google. Greetings from Sahara Desert!

  • http://www.seoptimisation.net.au Eran

    I will keep this short and simple like some of the other comments . Ever heard about book marking, that is what this is a glorified user friendly book marking system. Hoiw many users log into google account and surf the net at the same time? Google has great ideas but they should leave this one alone.

  • http://www.nettelligence.nl/zoekmachineoptimalisatie.htm Silvan Kuipers

    I think it’s bad, because:
    – the web is changing constantly, using this new option will put a brake on your experience of that.
    – we had Favourites already, does Google think it is obsolete?

    I think Google is just trying to remain the main search engine by becoming everyones browser homepage. But I don’t look at it as a valuable addition to a web search.

  • http://www.it-green.co.uk Richard Tanfield-Johnson

    It’s got it’s merrits, but these only come to the fore if people using the system are perfectly honest. The problem is that it can be mis-used. I’ve voted down a site that I found to be full of spam- it’s a competitor’s site, and posted a comment against the site to that effect. My issue- as I see it is that Google has to tread very carefully if it wants to stay top of the search engine leader board. I think that they’re getting a little ahead of themselves and could permanently damage the way the internet is used.

    The internet is currently experiencing a growth in online sales that appears to be approximately 16% year on year, whilst highstreet sales are declining. Google may be top of the leader board for sales and advertising, but in this dog eat dog world, web designers are going to start wondering what the point of SEO is? Take nofollow for example- Google’s using this to target outbound links that web designers don’t want Google’s spider to follow. It only applies to Google and this is in effect leading to some very nasty tactics in SEO. You can now get to the top of other search engines by posting on blogs and review sites- automatic inclusion of rel nofollow is not recognised by msn or yahoo????- so it lures many website/ blog owners into a false sense of security and they let any joe post to their site with links. Similar tactics on google’s search preferences/ comments could seriously damage Google- webmasters and SEOer’s are out for themselves- they’re going to devalue the competition wherever possible and this could be a great way of doing just that.

    Google’s overstepping the mark now and could see it’s search use being hit, simply because- in applying too many control measures to filter spam and black hat techniqes, it’s going to start inadvertantly catching good, honest sites and sandboxing them.

    Be careful Google. The internet’s a free resource for everyone and for many website/ business owners, desperate times call for black hat techniques and the yellow pages may come back into fashion.

    Richard Tanfield-Johnson
    Web designer

  • http://www.pr-interactive.com fl web design

    only problem is that google will always rely and use sponsered results. i am not sure what data they are trying to gather with this.

    check out my florida web design company

  • Guest

    I’m pretty sure the “favoriting” of sites are only going to shut out the up and coming sites that will never see the traffic they could have if the search results were only rated by content and keywords.

    If we let the search results be tainted with favorite only sites, where will a new site get exposure?

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/clarktaylor Clark Taylor

    I have Google’s personal search and I agree that it is nothing more than bookmarking. But I bet Google has plans to use the data (ie the number of people bookmarking the site) to determine where to place sites organically.

  • Jonathan

    I think this is a sign, that it’s only a matter of time until systems like this shut out the small businesses trying to compete with the big dogs.

    Better establish yourselves as authorities on your subjects ASAP, or the dream will die with the implementation of more things like this.

  • Join for Access to Our Exclusive Web Tools
  • Sidebar Top
  • Sidebar Middle
  • Sign Up For The Free Newsletter
  • Sidebar Bottom