Top Ranking in Google Isn’t Top Rank Anymore

Googlers Talk SearchWiki

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“The top position is no longer winner-take-all,” Bryan Horling, a Google software engineer in charge of Personalized Search, told the SMX West audience in Santa Clara California. After a decade of trying to claim that prize, that may or may not be good news to some.

(Coverage of SMX West continues at WebProNews Videos.  Keep an eye on WebProNews for more notes and videos from the event this week.)

Horling spoke to a crowd looking to get a better understanding of personalized search and Google’s SearchWiki, launched last November, which allows users to customize and comment on Google search results. When logged into their personal accounts, users can move results up or down or remove them altogether.

That’s potentially bad news for webmasters who’ve earned or gamed their way to the top of the results, and probably very good news for those unable to crack the result that gets the vast majority of click-throughs and visibility.

The reasoning behind the feature is fairly obvious: Not one result works for everybody. This SMX session was opened with a Google search for “smx,” a prime example of the ambiguity associated with search. Results bring back the conference at the top of course—this is an SEO/SEM conference—and even the second result, but some users may be looking for the Santa Maria Airport (SMX on their ticket), or for Smithway Motor Xpress for freight trucking.

Bran Horling
Bryan Horling

SearchWiki manager Corey Anderson says there are other reasons Google was interested in personalized search. SearchWiki allows the search giant to conduct user studies in the field and crunch user feedback. After a few months of operation, Google has discovered that a large fraction of users are attempting to re-find websites previously visited, Anderson said. They also discovered users liked the ability to add, delete, re-rank and comment on search results.

“Many searches are inherently ambiguous,” added Horling. “Getting the right results sometimes calls for information about the user.”

There are positive and negative aspects of personalized results for the search engine marketing industry. On the negative side, personalized search makes it harder to collect metrics—personalized results are password protected, after all.

On the positive side, it makes it easier for users to find websites they like and match their intent. And that’s good for return business/visits, and, presumably, for conversions.  


Top Ranking in Google Isn’t Top Rank Anymore
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  • http://www.designed2perform.co.uk SEO

    I think it’s a great idea using information provided by users, hopefully it will clean up a few of the spammy type websites. My concerns are that bogus Google accounts will be set up. Just like digg, myspace, facebook and manipulate the results this way.

  • http://www.fromzerotoseo.com blogger

    I disagree. How many googlers use Personalized Search? It’s just another marketing article. “Use our custom search, because people like it.” I guess Google spent a lot of money on custom search. Now they need money back.

  • http://inchoo.net Toni Anicic

    I love the idea of personalized search. It will eliminate google’s spammdex and most of the black hat SEO. Also it will finally make quality matter. I’m looking forward to the time when search engines will be completely personalized. Few weeks ago I talked about these big new changes in the world of SEO on a web conference here in Croatia :)

  • http://www.sewdragondesigns.com SewDragonDesigns

    Are the search results specific to the logged in user? Or can someone create 100 different google accounts and buff up their own results??? I can see a lot of unscrupulous people doing that for their sites that have little content, but gain them money off of their google ads all over the page.

    You know the types of sites I am refering to, your looking up information on say beagles, theirs one sentence about a beagle, but google ads on the top, the bottom and both sides of the page, and the sentence is so hidden you probably missed it to start with. Those people will spam their sites all over the place for the ad revenue on people trying to get off their sites of little or no value. Then again, google probably really wouldnt care about those craptastic sites getting to the top, they get the pay per click revenue from the AD placers

  • http://www.rentals365.com Guest

    I find that when you are logged into webmaster tools (which is also the Google account), and I am looking at my rankings, I see that my website appears number one for all the search results. This must be because I gave it a ‘+’ at one time or another, and although it is great to see my site at numero uno for some great search queries – it gives me a false sense of achievement, and thus it annoys me.

  • http://www.mysolopop.com Do you love jokes find many here

    The good aspect is cool as you can always find whatver you saved all the time when u login. But this is for many that has time to spend on google. I mean when i search for something on google, i dont care about ranking the search term. All i do is just get the infomation i need and close the page and thats about that…so that feature is really for those who has time. I mean how many people really care about ranking their search term?

  • http://www.avwebnet.com/about.htm Robert Brady

    Hmm, wondering if this feature will be used subversively to create a negative feedback campaign?

  • http://www.indiesurf.com Darren Tan

    Before judging, let this feature spins for a while. Only time will tell if users like us will be using this feature for our seaching experience. 9

  • Jeff Martin

    Ive mentioned it before:

    1. How many people will make sure they (want to be) are signed in?
    2. How many people will then enable the settings to use it?
    3. How many people will then do the leg (finger) work to adjust all of these results and enter in these notes?
    4. How many people will go through even more steps to see others comments?

    Is that enough hurdles for you? Google has been talking personalized search for years. It remains to be seen whether your mom/dad/sister/brother/grandfather/grandmother..basically ANYONE who isn’t into search will know about it much less know how to use it or even want to use it.

    Also keep in mind visibility has to start somewhere and if your content isn’t optimized it isnt going to be seen. SEOs are still very much in business.

    As blogger mentioned earlier – this could just be more marketing spin from Google…we’ve seen it before.

  • http://computerizedspirit.com Tatiana V

    ads on google mail. All of it is simply comerce and has nothing to do with a better expirience for the users. And Black Hatters will find another way to spam SE results.

  • http://potpolitics.com POTPOLITICS@DO FOLLOW

    Why ruin a good thing? It’s annoying doesn’t make any sense.
    We all know we want the REAL front page not some whacky
    readout Google cancel that immediately DON’T ruin the best thing you got.

  • http://www.cleversolutions.eu JeffreyR

    the move towards personalized search will in my opinion only make SEO even more important. it is doubtful that users of google will personalize all of their first 10 results for a particular keyword. only 1 to 3 results will be personalized meaning that now it will become even more important not only to place in the top 10, but in the top 8!

    furthermore, having personalized search might encourage people to go beyond just searching the top 10 or 20 results and searchers might get accustomed to searching even deeper.

  • http://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Remove-Pregnancy-Stretch-Marks&id=1365084 Lara Austin

    if it’s not broken why fix it. google changes so much that they are now changing things that don’t need it.

  • http://www.orangedwarf.com orangedwarf

    Is there any background stuff out there to read? Wonder what this means to my personal situation?
    Always wondered how i could get a higher ranking but am afraid that whole strategy is down the drain now with these new developments…do i alter my strategy for http:www.orangedwarf.com ?

  • http://www.mobilephonesfyi.com/ Mobile Phone

    Unless the searcher searches for the same keyword over and over for a long period time, I don’t see them changing anything for a quick review or something along those lines. Personally, if a website that I visit didn’t come up google, then I might have to use that feature for my keyword search. Would you agree?

  • http://www.packagedhosting.com Packaged Hosting

    As has already been said, the effect will be determind by how many people adopt it or not. I watch my wife and older kids when they are searching to see how those not working in the industry do things as I have forgotten.

    Not one of them even knows Google has a personalised search option and if they did I highly doubt they could be bothered. When they hit Google to search they simply type the term in, press enter and away they go.

    To be honest if it wasn’t for Analytics and Webmaster Tools I wouldn’t even have a Google account myself and I only log in when required. I really don’t like the idea of Google keeping track of what I do to simply ‘try’ and improve the results I’m shown.

    More to the point though, it is a bad idea, it will be heavily abused and Google will just have to find something else to counter that.

    What strikes me though is that by Google saying, “Hey, we need some of your personal data to make it better (not necessarily get it right) for you”, they are by omission telling us after 10 years they still don’t know how to make it work the way it’s mean’t to.

    The perfect search engine should not need user data to know exactly what you mean and then return the correct results. I think personalized search may be nothing more than a shortcut to that ideal.

  • http://www.storbyferieguiden.dk Storbyrejser

    Another prove that conent is the king…

  • Rick

    googles does not like your mothers site as the hompage has no content! its one large image!!!! there is nothing to index!


  • Wellnow

    They are going to get spammed with bogus accounts, its just an easier way than building links…

  • http://www.webpronews.com/comment/reply/48945 a7lameza.com

    love the idea of personalized search. It will eliminate google’s spammdex and most of the black hat SEO. Also it will finally make quality matter. I’m looking forward to the time when search engines will be completely personalized. Few weeks ago I talked about these big new changes in the world of SEO on a web conference here in

  • toto

    Lol! It won’t help. I don’t see anybody but webmasters and really Google savvy users getting an account. Google will just open another market for blackhatters.

    There is an effective weapon Google could use and they don’t use it, SHUTTING THEIR TRAP!

  • http://howteensmakemoneyonline.blogspot.com/ makemoney

    This whole idea is basically a non-issue as it would be virtually impossible to effect the search engines overall. With each user having to manually move sites up or down the list, how long would it take one person to get the web search results to their liking? About 62 million years. And that is assuming that you would search for the same term over and over. Lets say I do a search for “make money online” and there are 198,000,000 results. Now I want to move one down or up so that I can customize my results? Waste of time. Unless my ranking would also affect what others see then this is a giant waste of everyone’s time. BTW, you can’t have it affect other people’s results or else people will obviously abuse it.

  • http://www.vennercorp.com black lion

    I don’t think it will make any difference to the core results in the short term, but may affect the ranking of certain sites that once they have built up enough data.

  • http://www.direito2.com.br Ruben Zevallos Jr.


    I already have some impact of those new Google features… my stats before december what better than today, I

  • http://www.Click-Metro.com Steve

    Google may say they would like to move towards “personalized” results, but Google is about the statistics.

    If a small percentage of people actually use this service, Google still gets a small army of people to manually evaluate websites…they can then adjust normal SERPs based on feedback from user responses.

    One more variable to add to their algorithm.

    • http://www.byfchat.com Jay

      If you move your own page up its always on top when you search for your keywords to see where you’re currently ranking. This forces one to use other tools to see where you really rank versus just typing in keywords in the search box. It would be nice if there was also a reset option.

  • http://www.seo-angels.co.uk Marketing preston

    Google announced that SearchWiki was created to allow users to personalise their own individual search results and experience, but really, how long are they going to sit on the SearchWiki data without acting upon it? As “SEO” above has said, this will leave search results open to manipulation by using fraudulent accounts to remove or re-rank businesses as they see fit. I hope it doesn’t come to that…

    Thanks for the Post…


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