Personalized Search (The Death of SEO?)

    May 1, 2007

Search Engine Optimization has been a topic of debate since the concept was developed in the mid 1990’s.

Technology News Today - The Death of SEO

Some think of it as techniques to artificially inflate organic rankings, in essence, to “trick” search engines to send them traffic that they do not deserve. I am not saying that people have used techniques to accomplish this for their websites and called it SEO, however, SEO is not a deceptive practice in my mind, and I do not practice techniques to build ranking artificially. The deceptive use of SEO has been called black hat.

I know, you have heard this over and over, right? There are many that cannot wait for the search engines to banish websites that practice SEO to the dreaded supplemental results, never to be found in organic results again. There are also many that think that SEO is just a marketing approach to sell website owners something that has no measurable returns. There are also many SEOs that are scared of what personalized search can do to organic results for everyone, how this will change affect their website(s) and that the rising costs of SEM will cut into their margins at greater rates than ever before.

The idea that Google, Yahoo and MSN are closing in on the ability to personalize results for users might be a concern, but it doesn’t have to be, for everyone that is.

OK, so what is personalized search?

  • Personalized search is providing organic results to each user to create a better search experience in an effort to attract and retain users.
  • Personalize search is marketing for search engines.
  • It is not an attempt by search engines to make online companies to pay more for the traffic that they are sent by search engines.
  • Who is interested in personalized search?


    How is personalized search personal?
    There are many factors that can be used to analyze search patterns and give search engines insight into what users are looking for beyond an “all in one” result that is provided to unknown users. Here are the primary ways that they can better determine what results users are looking for:

  • Search History – this is an easy one. What have you searched for historically then add in the patterns and focus of the results that you spent time engaging with (clicking and staying on particular websites) and return personalized results that should give you the same outcome, in other words, give you the results that you would most likely want.
  • Community Results – not as easy as search history, however, by providing results that have proved to be useful to others that are within your online communities, they can isolate the website(s) that are most likely to provide a positive response. Google even offers users the ability to vote for a website via their toolbar, these votes from users could be used in ranking websites in personalized organic results.
  • Location – another easy one. When you are searching for a product or service, search engines know that you might not be looking for something online. You may be researching it before getting in your car, on the bus or hailing a taxi to go out and purchase the product or service. Once again, based upon your patterns of search and purchase, maybe even the type of device you are using (mobile phone?), to determine if you are looking for something locally.
  • OK, the cards are stacked against SEOs, right?


    This is some of the best news that could ever happen regarding SEO, why? Because this is the most recent effort from the search engines to remove useless results from search results. This will limit organic results by removing irrelevant websites from appearing high in search results.

    I am not saying that ranking higher will be any easier, of course I have never considered high ranking to be easy.

    Holistic SEO, which is what I consider white hat, is providing users with the content that they are looking for in an effort to provide a positive user experience. When a user finds what they are looking for there is a much higher percentage of desired outcomes for the user and the website. Build your website for your users and it may have greater returns than just that user.

    What does personalized search mean for SEO?
    In my opinion, personalized search results will be a performance based organic results. Provide the visitors that search engines send you a better experience, they will send more. Why, because this means that they are giving their visitors a better experience which is a Win – Win – Win.

  • The user finds what they are looking for.
  • You get the outcome you desire.
  • The engine is complimented.
  • Personalized Search is nothing more than the death of artificial SEO!